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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.

UPDATE 1/28/21: I've heard from a Novum author who filed a court action in the UK for return of their fees, due to non-performance by Novum. In keeping with that (the non-performance), Novum failed to respond to the court, and the author was awarded their money back. Getting Novum to pay it, of course, is a whole other ballgame.


UPDATE 3/4/21: You've got to laugh.


The submission fee is still £34.99.

45 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.

Luther 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 RP 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 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.


office@novum-publishing.co.uk
Attachments
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: z.kuti@novum-publishing.co.uk



I look forward to working with you.

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

Anonymous 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.

Fenger said...

So, I experienced exactly the same as Unknown above, and received exactly the same standard answer. A higly skilled scam. Thanks for the warning.

Unknown said...

I'm very grateful to this website for the warning about Novum. But does anyone have any advice about legitimate websites where I can submit a manuscript? The only publishers I can find on-line have all turned out to be the vanity variety.

Thanks again.

cborg@markem-imaje.com

Victoria Strauss said...

Unknown 12/24,

One of the best places to find reliable publishers is at the bookstore, since one of the things that distinguishes professional publishers is the ability to get books onto store shelves. You can also use a good market guide, such as WRITER'S MARKET from Writers Digest Books (for the USA) or Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (for the UK).

Other good resources include the review lists in trade magazines like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus (reviews always cite the publisher), and the membership lists of professional publishers' trade associations, such as the Association of American Publishers or the Independent Publishers Guild (UK). Writers' groups may also provide publisher information, and there are a number of these, such as the Horror Writers' Association or the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, that allow writers to join even if they haven't yet been published.

Here are links to a number of reasonably reliable publisher listings (bear in mind that if you want to sell fiction to the larger independents, or to any imprint of the Big 5, you really should be looking for a literary agent):

American Association of Publishers: http://publishers.org/about/member-list
Independent Publishers Guild (UK): http://www.ipg.uk.com/
The Complete Review: http://www.complete-review.com/links/publinks.htm#pubus1

Also see Writer Beware's Small Presses page, which discusses the pros and cons of working with smaller publishers, and also provides a lot of links: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/small/

I would discourage you from searching for publishers online--at least to start--because as you've discovered, there are so many predatory companies out there. The best advice I can give you is to educate yourself about the publishing industry: the more you know, the easier it will be for you to recognize and avoid the scammers and the dodgy outfits.

Anonymous said...

As a first time writer with dyslexic problems, I thought they were my only hope, so sadly I fell for the trap, my wife used £6000 of her pension to publish the book, I should have realized it was a con, but like many others I was desperate t be published, by the time I realized the net was closed, the asking price for one of my books is so exorbitant that no one would buy them, I brought this up with novum, and they suggested that I pay a further £2000 so they could bring the cost down, they new that, that was the only way that my books would sell. does any one know out there if it is only my book title, or further new work too, I would appreciate any help that you may have, thanks.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/25,

I'm so sorry for your experience with Novum. I'm not sure what exactly you're asking--are you asking whether Novum has a claim on any new books you might write? If so, I don't see anything in Novum's contract that would do that--it doesn't mention future works at all.

If that's not what you're asking, or my response isn't helpful, please email me: beware@sfwa.org.

Rev. George A. Pryor III said...

I too fell for the Novum trick , could not afford their cheapest package and was referred to United P>C.
accepted their free package and did not go for any of the extras. They did publish my book with an inflated price that won't sell many copies other than those bought by myself, family and friends. It is available at their web store, Amazon & Barnes & Noble, but they have offered No promotional assistance, and I have not been made aware of any additional placement.

Rev. George A. Pryor
revgap@gmail.com.
Book title is: "Prayers that get through to God"

Unknown said...

I live in Iran, I sent my story to novum publishing company,they told me they will publish my book by their'money, because I told them I can not pay them to publish my book, now they send me emails to correct some mistakes, when they publish my books, it means they will not pay me?

Anonymous said...

I thank this Website for warning me of the dangers of publishers whose websites cleverly obscure the fact that are Vanity Publishers in all but name. Novum Publishing generously offered me a premier contract for £8,000. I declined, saying that whilst I understood a Publisher had to make profit, I felt that should be with me, rather than out of me.
Carry on your good work WB!!!

Alberta Sequeira said...

Thank Heavens, I came across this site. A few minutes ago, I got a reply on how Novum was interested in my manuscript after reading my query. All of your remarks about this company are the same complaints I had going with PublishAmerica with my first book. This will be my 5th book after 3 handbooks. They never seemed upset that this wasn't my 1st book.

I went online and keyed in reports from the BBB about Novum Publishing and this came up. I got sick. Why is it we pray for an honest publisher to want our work and we get these users of authors to answer us?

I sent them a reply that I just got representation from an agent.

Again, thank you for your honesty about this company.

Unknown said...

Oh boy am i glad i found this site.
. it took me 12 years to finish a book on behalf of my dad and his memories about apartheid the 1960s and his beloved teacher Imam Abdullah Haron who was tortured and killed for his resistance against injustice and laws. i was going to send them my MS (what now ;(

Group Captain Parvez Mahmood (retd) said...

I too got an email from Novum about acceptance of my manuscript for publishing. I was ecstatic till a reading of the contract raised my alarm bells. The discussion on this forum has put a dampener on my racing heart. Thanks for this information. This also puts me on to the road of search for a genuine publisher.

Bryan D said...

Thank you so much for this - it is EXTREMELY necessary for us to see the criminal intentions of others - you've done us all a very very good deed.

Sylvia Groves said...

Thank you. What you wrote about Novum matches up exactly with my own instincts about this publisher. I read their website carefully and my gut feeling said that it looked very much like a gorgeous red shiny poisoned apple.

My instincts also hitched at their choice of font for the website! A very bad font indeed, partly missing in places, or at least with ilegible downstrokes, which made me feel there was something about the whole set-up which was not transparent.

Yet I was interested, and almost sent an inquiry. I am already a published author (twice); first time, with a publisher many years ago, and second time with a self-published Amazon Kindle "Dog book" which has first-class reviews but sales are not brilliant. So I was about to ask if they would consider re-publishing my Kindle book as a paperback and helping me to get it out there a bit more.
(I am not great at that skill!)
I didn't expect they would, but thought it might be worth a shot.

So I decided to research them.
It's nice to know my instincts are operating pretty well.

Unknown said...

I almost fell into the Novum trap but I became suspicious when I learned that they wanted a very exhorbitant upfront payment of 7,200 pounds Stirling. I refused and was offered an alternative of free publishing which I later discovered had many strings attached. Firstly I would have to pay over 200 pounds for the digitalization of my book and then on promotion of my work I would have to pay hundreds more for each country in which the book would be promoted and marketed. All in all the whole business was a con with Novum getting all the profit. Ignore glib promises from these unscrupulous tricksters and keep your money in the bank. Sadly these practices are prevalent and I feel after my experience with two publishing companies that I have very little if any chance of achieving success. Disheartening isn't it?

Unknown said...

Ready to publish my three part suspense mystery book. Now going to wait, (uh)thanks for the information.

Unknown said...

I just send two books to Novum Publishing, first they ask me for money to pay for publishing, after that I said I could not pay for publication, they said, they publish restricted version of my book by their money, after month , they said , we did not say anything, I don't know, they tell lie, due to rejecting of my book, I was complled to send it to be published by them too, I don't know what to do, I did not pay any money to them, and they did not pay any money to me? please tell me what to do?

Anonymous said...

From an upfront victim:

Thanks God that I came to this site. Like many as mentioned here, I also received the same letter from Novum and was asked a substantial amount of money for premium publishing. But I still haven't sent the contract yet and am exploring some other potential publishers. However it's now definite that I'll not go forward with this company in any way. Thank you.

Carol Griffin said...

I recently sent a copy of my manuscript to novum in New York. When I realized all they wanted was my money and had no real interest in publishing my work, I asked for the return of my ms. and was told to send $10 for postage. The check came back "return to sender--- no such number. All I want is my work back--- I hate the idea of it being destroyed or just floating around out there somewhere. Any ideas as to what I should do?

spike1 said...

I was almost bitten by a different one.
Austin McCauley I think they're called, so I always double-check when something like this drops into my inbox.

Note: I didn't fall for it, but god, I was on a high until I did a little digging. A publisher was interested!

An hour later it was like all the air being let out of a balloon.

They're scum. Why this kind of scam isn't illegal I have no idea.

spike1 said...

It wasn't your only copy, was it?

People have word processors these days!

For god's sake, use one and back up regularly.

It doesn't matter if they retain it then, they can't legally do anything with it and if they try, you can sue them for copyright infringement.

That's probably the only way to get any money out of these leeches.

Thomas R. said...

A friend published a book with novum publishing.
The subject was far too special for the other publishers; he had not found a publisher. The publishers simply did not want to publish his book, even though he had shown them exactly that there was a demand for it. It was about agriculture and how to control a particular pest. He could not and did not want to publish by himself, he simply needed too much help to complete the book: editor, graphic artist, ... he was very helpless with the many pictures. He is not a "real" author and certainly not a graphic artist. Finally, he published it with novum publishing and, as he predicted, it was a great success. He was helped wherever he needed help and finally completed the book. Now other publishers have requested and also want to translate the book into English (his book was in German) Apparently this pest also causes a lot of damage in America and South America. I can understand that you take a certain risk as a publisher, but if you look at the people who publish a book nowadays, you have to ask yourself who can publish a book and why exactly this Person. There are very good reasons why you should contact service publishers and in some cases, unfortunately, you have no other choice. I just think you should take a close look at each case, each case is different. And in some cases it makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Today I received a letter from Novum just the same as the others. My Wife wrote the book and we were so excited we nearly fell for it... We had never heard the term"Vanity Publishers"..I rang a wise friend who I have known for 50 years, and told him I was about to part with £6,000. including VAT... He said "For Gods sake check on the internet first"... Boy oh Boy are we glad we did... By Christ there are crooks absolutely everywhere nowadays...How do we avoid them? Thank God for this web site and as for Novum they can ride to Hell in an Ox Cart.

Unknown said...

Novum are not the only ones of that ilk! I sent my manuscript to other publishing houses here in UK and they mostly came back with the idea of a hybrid contract, thus asking for money in advance. I rejected all their proposals after doing some research (God bless the Internet!). I strongly believe that if a publisher is genuine, he/she believes in you and your story. Not all new writers are wealthy men/women and able to afford what those sharks ask for. If that was the case, we wouldn't have new writers or new books!
The problem is I have self published before and the biggest obstacle for us new writers is self promotion and marketing. Therefore, that's the reason why one approaches publishers.
I would love if there was a directory of good, bona fire publishers!

Anonymous said...

My Wife and I sent our manuscript to Novum BEFORE we found this site. They were impossible get hold of and then sent a contract asking for £5,000 (UK) plus VAT to publish and give us five free copies..(very generous for £5,000.) we were warned by a book seller about them and all Vanity Publishers. We found a very very good book editor and designer by word of mouth...She is amazing and keeps in constant contact. So far we only paid £500 part payment.. The total cost will be no where near what Novum quoted.. We asked Novum by e-mail to return our manuscript, and they said pay £12.00 for that. We sent a large pre-paid envelope for our manuscript that was four days ago and they have not returned it.... I would urge everyone to avoid this company they are Crooks.. Go to your local independent book shop for local advice that's what we did and it works. Forget NOVUM you will get nothing except demands for money.

Anonymous said...

My Wife e-mailed Novum back in the middle of October 2020 to ask for them to return her manuscript as she would not use them... She then sent a large post paid self addressed envelope for them to return it in....Nothing... She then e-mailed to ask why they had not sent it back..They e-mailed her back to say they would only send it back if she paid £20 into their bank account as they use a special delivery company...What a load of rubbish..They are crooks, and I wonder how they get any business at all.. They should write a book themselves called "How to tell one hundred lies on the internet".. I am so glad we found this site. Does anyone know how we can recover our property from them? Should we go to the Police?

Anonymous said...

I've been caught too. I paid up front, they sent me a copy which I had to check and then return. It looked good, but no marketing at all as far as I can see, so no sales.
Can I approach another publisher, as I have my corrected text in my email memory.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 11/20,

The Novum contract is exclusive, so as long as it is in force, I'm afraid you can't approach another publisher. The problem isn't that Novum would care if you did, but that any new publisher won't be interested in a manuscript whose rights aren't completely free and clear.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11/20 Thankyou Victoria.
My contract says "..... the work which is named on page 1....." and there is nothing else to identify it.
Suppose I change the title to something different and approach another publisher?

Victoria Strauss said...

You could do that, Anonymous. But what if your new publisher found out--for instance, with a websearch? Or by Amazon's algorithms flagging the new edition as plagiarism? (That would be a problem for self-publishing, too as it could result in the removal of your account.) How would readers react to two apparently different books by you (based on the titles) turning out to be the same book? Get ready for some bad reviews.

Lots of authors who are stuck in bad contract situations consider this very move. It's a terrible idea. Don't do it.

For more on this theme, see my blog post: https://accrispin.blogspot.com/2014/12/dont-do-this-wrong-ways-to-try-and.html

Anonymous said...

Anonymous
Thank you again Victoria.
One last thought . The book was published under a nom de plume, which I would also change to something totally different

Thomas R. said...

I'm sorry if a few people seem to have had bad experiences here. Of course, I can't say what went wrong and why everything went smoothly for my friend. He read everything carefully in advance and also obtained information. He knew what was included in the offer from novum publishing. In the end he got it that way. For example, he didn't need any marketing, it all went through his own website and the many conferences he was at. Of course, he also gave many lectures on this topic and is one of the leading scientists in this field. Basically he only needed someone to correct the book, edit the pictures and then print it when a book was sold. Everything was done that way and he had a success with it as expected. Unfortunately, I haven't seen my friend for a long time, there are currently no conferences, so I can't ask him now how things are going with the translation of his book. The most important thing here is an accurate translation of the technical terms. English wouldn't be the problem, he also gives lectures in English. But of course there is also Spanish or French. He cannot speak these languages himself. It will be difficult to control them. However, I am sure that his book will be successful in other languages as well. The demand is certainly there. Of course, I think it's a lot easier when you know in advance that there is a demand. I don't know what else he would have done differently than other people who published this way. I think a lot of people think it's too easy. Even if a book is printed and has a very interesting story, it doesn't mean that the book will sell. There are so many books on the market that it is more than lucky to be successful here. Unless you have a large PR agency behind you, as many well-known authors have

Anonymous said...

Well the excuse from Novum for non return of our manuscript is that "It has been sent to Germany"... "What for?" we said, "We never told you to send it anywhere"... They have said they will not return it unless we deposit £12. in their bank account.. Funny that. We sent full postage and a large jiffy pad envelope for the return of our manuscript, then they e-mail and say it and the envelope has gone to Germany.. Yeh right, of course it has. They obviously think we are as stupid as they look, and reading this blog they sure do look like a bunch of stupid idiots... Anyone wanting to publish should keep well clear of NOVUM.

Thomas R. said...

A publisher as large as novum publishing will also have employees and offices in other countries. It is therefore not so absurd that you might send the book to another editor who has time to edit it. However, you cannot blame the company for charging shipping costs. Many other companies do the same if it is not damage that has caused the company. If I order a pair of pants and I send them back just because I don't like them, then you often pay for them. If the wrong size or color is sent to me, the company will pay the shipping cost. I can understand criticism, but you have to be fair, these are normal terms and conditions. Many other companies do the same. So I don't think it's worse just because we're doing this company now. Why do you want your manuscript back at all? It is cheaper to reprint the manuscript.

 
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