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.

October 2, 2018

Contest Caution: Waldorf Publishing's Manuscript Contest


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Another contest! I seem to be writing about these a lot lately.

This contest is from Waldorf Publishing, which is "is always seeking new talent to add to our extensive roster." I'm going to count the red flags that are evident just from the contest and Waldorf's website--plus the secret one that you'd never know was there because Waldorf actively conceals it.

Red flag number one: the contest rules. These don't look so bad, until you get to this:


Entrants retain copyright, but so does Waldorf? Say what? They can't both be true. If Waldorf is this confused about its rules--or, perhaps, about the difference between rights and copyright--it is not a good sign. (I suspect the latter: I've seen Waldorf contracts, and they don't claim copyright.)

Red flag number two: Here's what you can win. Reads like a self-publishing package rather than traditional publishing, doesn't it? Complete with junk marketing.


Red flag number three: the entrance fee is $49. This isn't as high as some profiteering contests, which can charge $100 or even more; but it's still high enough to suggest that Waldorf has an eye to making a bit of cash from this contest.

Waldorf's "focus is not only on producing unique, quality reading for a wide audience, but also to help our authors gain the recognition they deserve." Waldorf touts the many media opportunities it supposedly has assisted its authors to obtain--CNN, the BBC, NPR, The Guardian, and many more; however, there's nothing on Waldorf's website to confirm any of those claims. No links to articles. No author testimonials. Not even a Press page.

Unverifiable claims: that's red flag number four.

Red flag number five: the covers. A few are OK. Others are so obviously amateurish they must be author-created (or if not, Waldorf employs really bad illustrators). Many are actually inferior to the "custom" covers designed by assisted self-publishing services. Clearly there isn't a lot of quality control going on here.

Red flag number six: Waldorf has released 75 books so far in 2018. That's up from 49 in 2017, 23 in 2016, and just 14 in 2015. Not only is that a major ramp-up year to year, it's also a really big release schedule for 2018. Unless Waldorf maintains a large staff of editors, illustrators, and publicists, there's no way these books are going to receive careful production or publisher support....

...Which brings us to red flag number seven: who the heck is running the company? The only staff member discussed on Waldorf's About page is the owner, Barbara Terry, who appears to have had no professional publishing or writing experience before establishing Waldorf in 2014 (her one book, How Athletes Roll, was issued by the now-defunct Comfort Publishing, which charged fees). She claims to be assisted by "a small team of talented individuals"--but who are these people? What are their qualifications? Do they exist? It's a mystery. A reputable publisher should provide this information.

I've gone into detail on all these red flags to demonstrate that, even without being aware of the most pertinent information about this company--information it keeps secret from the public--there is a lot to question about Waldorf Publishing and its contest. You really don't need this secret information at all to recognize that both are best avoided.

So what's the secret information? You've probably already guessed. Red flag number eight: Waldorf is pay-to-play, though authors won't discover this until they receive a contract offer (unless they contact me, of course). This is from the "Royalty Presentation" it sends to authors:
This is one of the sneakier examples of the lengths vanity publishers will go to in order to be able to claim that they're not vanities. The carrot of the higher royalties (which are paid on net, by the way) is intended to make the fees seem more palatable (and it's a very small carrot, given the absolutely dire Amazon sales rankings of most of Waldorf's recent books). Maybe some authors do choose the 10% "industry standard" (ha!) royalty and publish for free--but it's clear that Waldorf's business model is built on author fees, and a publisher that makes money before a book is even published has little incentive to cut into that up-front profit by providing high-quality production services and promotional support to the books it releases.

Red flag number nine:  by concealing the fact that it charges fees, Waldorf is deceptive.

All things considered, winning a free publishing package in a contest from a stealth vanity publisher is not much of a prize.
 
Design by The Blog Decorator