Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

December 8, 2017

Alert: Blue Deco Publishing, Christian Faith Publishing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

BLUE DECO PUBLISHING


Writer Beware has received multiple documented complaints from authors at Blue Deco Publishing.

Problems cited include late or missing royalties and royalty statements, broken marketing promises, and difficulty reaching or getting responses from the owner, Colleen Nye. To explain these issues, Ms. Nye has reportedly offered bizarre and elaborate personal excuses that authors tell me they believe are either made-up or exaggerated. (For an example of the kinds of complaints I've received, see here.)

Frustrated with the situation, a group of seven Blue Deco authors took the unusual step of creating an online petition to demand payment and reversion of their rights. (Given that Blue Deco only had 16 authors, including Ms. Nye herself, that's a big hit, over 40% of its list.)


I'm told that attorneys from the Authors Guild also contacted Ms. Nye. To her credit, she has been responsive. All the petitioning writers have received rights reversions, and all but two have been paid (both believe they have sales, but Ms. Nye says they don't; they've decided to chalk it up as a loss and move on).

To any regular readers of this blog, all of this will be very familiar. Blue Deco's shortfalls aren't unusual; in fact they're endemic to the small press world. Often the problems don't stem from dishonesty or malfeasance, but simply from the fact that the people in charge don't know how to run a business.

The Blue Deco story also illustrates why it can be risky to get involved with publishers that are primarily one- or two-person ventures. With the best will in the world, a single personal crisis or health problem can derail the entire company.

CHRISTIAN FAITH PUBLISHING


I get a lot of questions and complaints about a lot of different pay-to-play publishers and publishing services. But there are certain companies I hear about over and over--all of them savvy, well-packaged outfits that aggressively recruit authors with slick websites, print and digital advertising, and direct solicitation. One of these is Christian Faith Publishing.

As its name indicates, Christian Faith Publishing targets Christian writers: "to discover and market unknown Christian-based authors who aspire to craft the greatest spiritual impact imaginable via the written word." It describes itself as "a full-service book publisher"--a misleading claim because, in fact, authors must make "a minimal investment". How minimal? Well, that's not really explained.
While the investment required of our accepted authors to bring a book to the world-wide market varies based upon the intricacies of each book, all of our authors are fortunate enough to undertake the production, distribution and marketing of their book via a short-term, affordable monthly installment plan which is to be recovered by the author from book sale proceeds before we are entitled to any royalty compensation whatsoever!
Writers be warned: this kind of coyness on pricing nearly always indicates excessive fees. I've heard from authors who were asked for anywhere from $3,500-$5,000 up front; for $495 up front plus installments of $295 per month for 10 months; for $950 up front plus installments of $380 for 10 months. Marketing is an add-on: for instance, $3,400 for a package that includes a "High-Definition Video Trailer", a press release, and a page on CFP's website. (This is not marketing. It's junk. It's not worth one cent, let alone four figures.)

What do authors get for these enormous fees? Basically, an assisted self-publishing-style service that's little different from the packages offered by companies like Outskirts Press or the imprints in the Author Solutions family. Naive writers may not realize this, though, because CFP is careful not only to style itself a "publisher", but to promise that it is "very selective" and that authors will have "availability" in "retail...sales outlets". Its salespeople call themselves "Literary Agents." Its TV commercials and web ads never mention money. And though its website does disclose that authors must pay, this is buried in the FAQ section and thus easy to miss. Put these misleading elements together with the fact that Christian writers are more likely to trust a company that self-identifies as Christian, and you have a perfect honey trap.

Does this business model remind you of anything? Maybe a certain Oklahoma-based Christian vanity publisher that recently went bust amid thousands of complaints of non-payment and other malfeasance, and whose owners were subsequently charged with multiple felony counts, including embezzlement?

If so, it may not surprise you to learn that CFP's founder and President, Chris Rutherford, is a Tate Publishing alumnus. He has held various titles with the company, the most recent of which, per his LinkedIn profile, is Chief Business Development Officer (though note the strategic omission of Tate's name):


Rutherford seems to have left Tate in the fall of 2013--at which point there were plenty of complaints and indications of problems at the company, though nothing like what started coming out in 2016--and started CFP in 2014. CFP doesn't seem to have published anything until mid-2015; it put out just eight books that year, according to Amazon, but ramped up production in 2016, which is when I started getting questions about it.

Unlike Tate, CFP seems to deliver what its clients pay for. Authors searching for positive reviews will have no problem finding them: at the BBB, for instance, or the abundant testimonials on CFP's own website.

However, like all vanity publishers, CFP relies on misdirection and ignorance to recruit authors who may not realize they're not actually signing up with a "full-service book publisher", or that they could get what CFP offers elsewhere at a lower cost, or that, whatever else it may be, CFP's declared Christian mission is a form of advertising to which Christian authors are uniquely vulnerable.

Christian authors, take note: there are as many schemes, scams, and deceptive services in Christian publishing as there are in other markets. Just because an individual or company proclaims its faith doesn't mean it will treat you fairly or offer you a worthwhile service at a reasonable price. In fact, in terms of marketing and distribution, faith is beside the point. Companies like CFP offer only junk marketing, and use the exact same distribution channels as everyone else.

10 comments :

Desertphile said...

Christian Faith Publishing has a "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau. That just cracks me up!

Victoria Strauss said...

You get an A+ by default if you become a BBB accredited business (which CFP is). Pretty much all you need to do to maintain it is to respond promptly to complaints.

Louisa Bauman said...

I very nearly signed up with these guys. They are very, very smooth-talking and talk about God and all. I sent them my manuscript, because they said they are selective about what they publish, they have Christian standards. no cursing, violence etc. Of Course, they accepted my ms, then sent me a contract to sign, for a lot of money. But I didn't go ahead with it, because I had 'bad feeling' about it. Intuition, I guess. Too bad, because they really were very kind and helpful, I had a long conversation about my book, and they seemed genuinely interested.

robin walton said...

I ended up going with Westbow Publisher. I chose them over CFP. Does anyone have experience with Westbow?

Lester said...

" Marketing is an add-on: for instance, $3,400 for a package that includes a "High-Definition Video Trailer", a press release, and a page on CFP's website. (This is not marketing. It's junk. It's not worth one cent, let alone four figures.)"

My book has just been released by CFP and all of this was included for no charge on the contract. When you calculate the pricing against what you would have to pay to hire professional editors and designers, their pricing isn't really that far off. And they are careful to make sure you know everything up front.

For me it was worth some money to go through the experience with them and see how it works. I think I could now go to Create Space or Ingram Spark and do it myself. But I have not found the experience to be like you describe here. The internet has brought a new era upon us and the old assumptions of the past are falling by the wayside. I know that some people have been taken for a ride by vanity publishers. But it isn't really fair to paint everyone with the same brush. Time will tell where they go, but I own all the rights to my book, and even if they went under, I would just carry on.

I suspect that some of the earlier difficulties were growing pains of a new company trying to get into the right slot.

A lot will depend on your publishing specialist, of course. If you hit a deadbeat, then you will have problems. Mine was okay (Brian Greenwalt) and I have no complaints.

adr67 said...

I am about 1 month away from my book being printed by CFP so far no complaints. Everyone has to start somewhere with their publishing and for the services they provide I think its worth the cost.

Anonymous said...

My experience with them was depressing sad, n unthought off.

M Barreto said...

How was your experience with them? Additional hidden fees? Did they do what they said they would??

Unknown said...

Anyone know if S.T. Shaw Publishing in Portland, Maine, is legit?

Anonymous said...

You might take another look at CFP's BBB's customer complaints again (9/12/2018).

 
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