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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." United P.C. appears to be Novum's fallback position: authors who've balked at Novum's fees report that they are told their book will be "recommended" to another publisher, after which they hear from United P.C. with a free publishing offer--"free" being a relative term given that the United PC contract has the same 500 sales exclusion on royalties, and involves the offer of many high-priced extras.

In 2013, the free publishing 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.

UPDATE 10/11/18: I've heard from a number of authors who balked at paying Novum's fees and then were offered a "free" contract from United PC Publisher. I would guess that even if the basic contract is free, you'll be offered (and possibly pressured to use) add-on services for a fee; I would also imagine that the contract will include the same or similar problematic language that I've identified above.

Just as important--Novum and United PC are the same company, and vanity publishers--which make their profits from author fees and self-purchases, rather than from book sales to the public--are not set up to provide high-quality editing, design, marketing, or promotion (because that would cut into their up-front profit). At best, you'll get a service equivalent to self-publishing, only with a much more restrictive contract.


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.

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.

V.M. Sang said...

Thanks for the warning.

Unknown said...

Something told me to do research glad I did. Thanks been burned before by publisher and never again.

Unknown said...

Just offered their contract. My gut said "no". Thanks for the warning.
Sep 13, 2018, 12:41 PM (23 hours ago)
to me

Dear Mr Kane,

I thank you once again for the submission of your manuscript!

Our publishing manager and I chose your work as one of those which we give a chance and would like to publish successfully. During our cooperation, we will work with you to optimise your text or suggest improvements.

As you may already know, novum publishing is THE expert for first-time authors.

Our commitment is to encourage new authors and to build a long-term partnership. We are always on hand with help and advice for you.

Attached is your publishing contract with three different publishing packages – I recommend a publication with the pro or premium package.

You can find our brochure with further information under the following link: publishing folder

Please return your signed publishing contract promptly by post or by e-mail, so we can start working on your book as soon as possible.

Once your contract arrives at our office, we will immediately start with the preparatory work and send you further documents, the invoice and your countersigned contract.

We can resolve your questions over the phone, by e-mail or by post.

I ask you in any case – even if you cannot accept our offer – for a response within 3 weeks after receipt of this letter. You can contact me by phone at +44 (0) 203 766 0850 or via e-mail:

I look forward to working with you.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me.

John de Haas said...

I just got the same mail, they offer to work with me and tell me they can edit and alter my texts. I just had an editor(an American lady from the university I work) edit the complete text so why does it have to happen again.

The price of an invoice of 10 GPB ex vat made me go look online about them.

So thank you for your warning, we will keep on looking.

Mrehwa said...

Yow...we can never beat these guys without help. Writing is hard, mind bursting work. And then someone wants to squeeze us and leave us hanging high and dry..shame on those who wish to take advantage over hard working writers.
May all those who do this kind of thing be publicly exposed and shunned into bankrupcy.
Am really saddened to know that all my efforts have been wasted...

Atlantic Publishers said...

I totally agree with Victoria on this. I also work in a publishing company and I have heard issues like this. Research is necessary for choosing the right publishing company. If one encounters any of the fraud company, then a legal action should be taken.

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