Once again, Publishers Weekly's annual overview of fast-growing independent publishers features not only innovative indies, but a publisher whose business model is largely built on author fees: Morgan James Publishing.
Billing itself as "The Entrepreneurial Publisher", Morgan James requires its authors "to commit to purchasing, during the life of the agreement, up to 2,500 copies [of their book] at print cost plus $2." (Reports Writer Beware has received indicate that writers are asked for a "deposit" of up to $5,000 on contract signing; we've also had reports that additional fees may be due for editing and PR, with a potential for conflict of interest in MJP's "approved" PR firms, one of which, Media Connect, was founded by MJP's Publisher, Rick Frishman.)
To make this sizeable outlay of cash seem more palatable, MJP falsely claims on its "compare" page that "Many major houses require authors to purchase 5,000 copies, or more, of the book upon its release", and that even with self-publishing, "[the a]uthor is expected to purchase however many copies required to sell to the general public."
Despite all of the above, MJP declares--also on its "compare" page--that "No Publishing Fee [is] charged, hidden or otherwise."
MJP has made PW's fast-growing indie publisher list several times, including last year, 2013, and 2008 (when another pay-to-play publisher, Greenleaf Book Group, was also featured). At least this year, PW mentions MJP's purchase requirement, though it doesn't go into detail about amounts:
Morgan James has always specialized in publishing entrepreneurial authors, offering small advances and higher royalties, and having authors commit to buying a certain number of books at an author rate.In previous lists, this outlay of cash got no mention at all.
There's no doubt that MJP has published some successful books. Clearly it puts marketing and distribution muscle behind certain of its titles. But of the 150 or so titles it releases each year, the majority don't appear to receive that kind of support (and at longer lengths, many of its print editions are uncompetitively priced, bespeaking MJP's reliance on print-on-demand). I suspect it's the exception, rather than the rule, for authors to recoup their "investment."
I think it's a shame that PW, once again, is helping an expensive pay-to-play publisher to present itself as an innovative independent press.