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July 12, 2018

Vanity Publisher Alert: Novum Publishing, United P.C. Publisher


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Novum Publishing is an Austria-based publisher that has expanded into several countries, including the UK and the USA. It also does business as United P.C. Publisher, and is incorporated in Florida as WSB Publishing Inc..

Novum describes itself as the "publisher for new authors," whose purpose is to provide newbies with "a fair chance" in a publishing market that's rigged against them. It touts its service, quality, innovation, and experience. It claims to be a European "market leader".

This is not the whole story, though the inexperienced authors who are Novum's target of choice might be hard-pressed to figure that out.

What Novum goes out of its way to obfuscate is that it is pay-to-play. Its website includes just a single phrase acknowledging this fact. Its brochure is more forthcoming--but only in aid of encouraging writers to believe that because "[n]ew authors are ignored for the most part" by large publishers, and smaller publishers are "inundated with manuscripts," newbies' only chance "is in the form of publishers with cost sharing for the author."

First of all, this isn't true. Finding a publisher is hard, but that doesn't mean you're doomed to pay. Secondly, whether it's "cost-sharing" or "partner-publishing" or some other label meant to imply that your fees are only part of the cost, it's far more likely that what you're being asked to pay has been carefully crafted to cover not just the entire expense, but the publisher's overhead and profit as well.

And Novum's fees are substantial, running from just over $2,000 (for a "pocket-size" book) to more than $8,000 (for a "premium" package with a hardcover book). Novum does promise a full refund once 750 books are sold (not, of course, including copies that authors buy themselves)--but as with most vanity publishers that promise refunds, this number has likely been chosen because it's comfortably above the lifetime sales of the average Novum book.

Novum's contract, which is printed in a tiny font that's a strain to read, is terrible. It demands an exclusive grant of rights (even the much-maligned assisted self-publishing services offered by the Author Solutions imprints have non-exclusive contracts), and claims a huge swath of ancillary rights (I could find zero evidence that Novum is capable of either exploiting or licensing such rights). There's also a "cancellation fee" for early termination (always a warning sign, because publishers can and do abuse such provisions).

The summary page included with Novum's contract indicates that royalties are paid on retail price--but if you read the (very) fine print, it's clear that they're actually paid on net income.  Novum also doesn't have to pay royalties at all until 500 books have sold (as with the refund benchmark, there's probably a good reason why they picked this number).


Also, royalties are issued just once a year--and though the language isn't clear, it looks to me as if authors have to invoice Novum in order to get them.


How many authors will read this miniscule print carefully enough to understand all of this? Certainly some of the unhappy Novum authors I've heard from didn't.

Unlike Novum, United P.C. Publisher (it's not clear to me whether this is a subsidiary or a d.b.a.) claims to provide its services "free of charge." However, in 2013 this claim got United P.C. in trouble with the UK's Advertising Standards Agency (my bolding):
The ASA noted that [United P.C.'s] ad used the terms "publish" and "publishes" and stated that that service would be free of charge. We noted that the complainant reported being asked to pay for corrections, designing the front and back covers and the additional cost of publishing an e-book. We asked United Publisher to comment on that and for details of the proportion of respondents who kept to the free of charge contract and the proportion that chose to pay for additional services, but that information was not forthcoming....Because United Publisher had not supplied information that showed other respondents had not incurred similar costs, we concluded that the claims that United Publisher published books free of charge were misleading.
Online complaints that post-date the ASA's finding suggest that United P.C. hasn't changed its ways.

Novum's moneymaking efforts aren't limited to publishing books. It also publishes anthologies that charge by the page.



 And at one point, it was attempting to sell franchises, at a cost of between €75,000-125,000.


Writer Beware, indeed.

6 comments :

JOHN T. SHEA said...

Many thanks for this. Once again, the moral of the story is do no significant publishing business without checking out the organization (publisher, agent, etc.) on Writer Beware at least!

There's also a wise old adage that, if something looks too good to be true, it probably isn't. But a latter-day publishing variant would suggest writers be wary of any business that paints a dreadful picture of publishing and offers their 'services' as a solution.

Unknown said...

Thanks again for your insights and information on publishers. I don't need a publisher yet, but hopefully one day I will and I will turn to you to help me.
Luther

Anonymous said...

Interesting their use of "cost sharing" over and over. In addition to "cost sharing," these vanity presses are co-opting the term hybrid authors for themselves as "hybrid publishers."

I've seen a lot of folks close to falling for this but thankfully they asked in the writer communities before signing anything.

Hybrid authors are a real thing (they self-publish and have signed with a traditional publisher/small press). And their publisher is legit meaning the money flows to the author, not the other way around.

So please be on the lookout for these "hybrid publishers" and run the other way. They're nothing but vanity presses with "author packages" that cost thousands of dollars.

Jennifer R. Povey said...

And they charge $10 for paying your royalties...which at that point are unlikely to reach $10 a payment period. No legit publisher would do that. No legit BUSINESS would do that.

Iola Goulton said...

Invoicing for royalties? How does the author know how much to invoice? Do they trust the publisher to tell them? If the publisher can tell them, why not just pay out?

Well, I guess you answered that in the rest of your post.

Victoria Strauss said...

Plus, authors aren't even entitled to get royalties until 500 books sell, and most Novum books probably never get near that benchmark.

 
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