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October 2, 2018

Contest Caution: Waldorf Publishing's Manuscript Contest


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Waldorf authors:
Thousands of Waldorf books appear to have been acquired by a liquidator, which is seeking to get those books back to authors. See the updates at the bottom of this post

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 book 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 for services). 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--which are not mentioned anywhere on its website or in its contest guidelines--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.

UPDATE 4/17/19: I'm hearing reports from Waldorf authors they they aren't getting paid royalties due, and also aren't receiving marketing services they paid for (such as Kirkus Indie reviews). Apparently Ms. Terry is claiming that she's having problems with her distributor.

UPDATE 11/15/19: Today, Waldorf Publishing informed its authors via email that "We will no longer be charging for publishing - instead we will require Authors to purchase 100 books from first printing to ensure us that Authors are participating in marketing and actively promoting their book."

So there is no longer a fee-free option at Waldorf. No word, either, on how much of a discount authors will receive on these orders (if any at all), or any estimate of the average fee that might result. Nor does the Waldorf website reveal the book purchase requirement.

Required book purchases--often justified by the same tired "investing in your own success" excuse--are as much vanity publishing as upfront fees, since authors must hand over cash to the publisher in order to see their work in print.

UPDATE 12/27/20: Is Waldorf in trouble? That's certainly suggested by this comment left here yesterday:

I've contacted the email address, and will post more information as I receive it.

UPDATE 12/28/20: I've been given permission to share the following information from the liquidation company that left the comment above.
Recently we purchased a storage unit that was in default. This storage units has approx. 10,000 to 15,000 books published by Waldorf Publishing.

As our business model we plan on liquidating the assets as soon as possible and are always looking at every avenue to do so.

After reading the post and comments on your website, I figured there might be authors that may want to secure their books.

As of today I do not have a complete list of titles and quantities. However from a very quick assessment we do have several titles with at least 500 copies, and approx. 40-50 titles all in new condition

Please feel free to reach back out to me if you’d like further information, or pass along my contact info to anyone interested.

Best
Chris Legowski
714-552-3354
C.Legowski@yahoo.com
CMBOUTLET@yahoo.com
UPDATE 1/10/20: Waldorf Publishing has changed its name:


Here's the page that describes the marketing and PR add-on. My guess is that it means more fees for Waldorf authors.

Waldorf's new PR angle appears to be an outgrowth of Waldorf owner Barbara Terry's eponymous media/PR service, Barbara Terry Media, Conspicuously absent on both websites are any client lists,  portfolios, or successful campaign examples to back up Ms. Terry's claims of expertise and success.

25 comments :

Allen F said...

Thank you, one more clown car of doom that you've nails the doors shut on so those clowns will have trouble attracting others. ;-)

Unknown said...

The cover of that panda book in their store is the stuff of late night cheese snack induced nightmares... clown car is right!

Anonymous said...

Why don't you get in touch with some of the Waldorf authors and see what they have to say before you trash a new and growing publishing house? You'll find you are only making assumptions, and arrogant, misguided assumptions at that. First of all, if authors get 10% of the royalties, they publish for free. Why make a snarky comment about that? Second of all, Barbara Terry is actively promoting all of her books in every way she can possibly think of, including book fairs and book displays. And they are selling. Her publishing house is doing well and so are her authors, but all you are doing is scaring writers away from one of the more hard working and genuine publishers that are out there. Writers beware of Writer's Beware and their ridiculous witch hunts.

Victoria Strauss said...

Hello, Anonymous 12/04,

I stand by my assessment of Waldorf Publishing, including its sizeable fees, of which I have ample documentation. "Genuine" publishers don't charge fees.

Anonymous said...

Waldorf does the same thing as a traditional publisher, with free publishing and 10% royalties (as you pointed out yourself in your blog) for those who choose to not do the other options. If another option (completely up to the author to take it or leave it) is to give an author 40% of royalties I'd imagine there would be a need to offset the costs in some way in order for the publisher to stay afloat? Many large, traditional publishers don't do enough to promote their authors' books (and this is in addition to only offering 10% of royalties). I have one friend who has been discouraged after publishing with one to the point of giving up on writing as a career. I realize there are a lot of vanity presses out there (and worse) and if you're a serious writer you don't want to waste your time on any of those and hurt your integrity. But what I'm saying is maybe try to be more open-minded to the small, independent presses- like Waldorf- that are dedicated to their authors and dedicated to the success of their publishing house. The ones that think outside the box and find creative ways to promote and sell books (ie book fairs, book displays, getting educational books into school curricula), well above and beyond just Amazon/Barnes and Noble. Waldorf has been an excellent guide and has strongly encouraged me to get reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and has also (at no cost to me) gotten my book reviewed through NetGalley and Amazon Vine. I have received extensive lists of e-mail addresses and contact information from Waldorf (at no cost to me) so I could reach out to libraries and bookstores, and this has helped tremendously with book promotion. My books have received positive Kirkus reviews and other editorial reviews and nominations to "best of" lists on Goodreads. In addition to me, I'm sure you could reach out to another 50 or so Waldorf authors (at least) who are happy with Waldorf as their publisher. I sincerely hope you post this because there are good opportunities out there that people are being dissuaded from pursuing because of misinformation and biases. Thank you.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/6,

Waldorf does _not_ do the same thing as a traditional publisher, because traditional publishers don't charge fees. Yes, Waldorf offers a "free" option with measly net royalties (per Waldorf's contract, it's 10% of net on _all_ editions, which is unacceptably low for ebooks)--but it's really just a loss leader for the higher royalty options, which require four-figure fees. This is not how traditional publishers operate.

A publisher that charges an upfront fee has made a profit before the book is ever published. This substantially diminishes (if not entirely eliminates) their incentive to spend effort and money getting books into the hands of readers--so they really don't need to worry about "offsetting" higher royalties, because any book sales are gravy. As a corollary, they don't have an incentive to invest in high-quality editing, design, marketing, and distribution (the many substandard covers on display at Waldorf's website testify to that)--not only because they don't want to cut into that initial profit by spending a lot of money on the actual publishing of the book, but because readers' opinions don't much matter.

Many of the things you cite as pluses with Waldorf--NetGalley listing, email lists, book fair display--are identical to what you could get through many self-publishing platforms that might cost you less and give you a better share of your book's income. Did you pay for the Kirkus review through the Kirkus Indie program? If Waldorf were a traditional publisher, it might have gotten you that review at no cost to you. Also, on the Royalty Presentations I've seen from Waldorf, they pledge to print "at a minimum of 1000 copies of the book as the first order from the printer." Have you ever attempted to verify that this was actually done?

I'm sorry to be blunt. You're happy with Waldorf now--that's great. I hope you do well, and that you're as happy a year from now. Please come back and let us know.

Anonymous said...

Profit or no profit, incentive or no incentive, Waldorf is highly motivated and is doing all of the things I mentioned. I can't speak for other Waldorf authors but I know Waldorf submitted my title to Kirkus. I'm not interested in self-publishing since despite all the perks you claim that are identical to what Waldorf offers, I'd have to promote the book completely on my own (which thanks to Waldorf is not something I need to do). Sorry you don't like the cover quality of the books, but numerous libraries I have been in touch with have given me good feedback. I don't know exactly how many copies of my book have been printed but the book has been selling on Amazon and I have yet to see it go out of print.

Thanks for the invitation to revisit in a year. So far it's been a couple of years and I'm still very happy with Waldorf Publishing. Thank you as well for posting my comments and let me say what I needed to say.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion in general, not just regarding Waldorf. I would say that, regarding incentive, that is entirely dependent on the personality of the publisher and, as in many aspects of life, probably shouldn't be generalized. I would also say that there are many negatives associated with larger, "genuine" (your word) publishers. A big one: it can be very, very difficult to be published by such places. As to self publishing, this is, unfortunately pretty stigmatizing. Hopefully small but legitimate publishers that use a variety of tools to help their cash flow (and therefore their authors potentially as well), will not likewise be stigmatized by unfounded and harsh reviews.

Claire G. Coleman said...

As Victoria said: ""Genuine" publishers don't charge fees.".

I will go one step further than that. Genuine publishers pay advances to Authors.

Anonymous said...

As someone who worked at Waldorf Publishing, I will say that the company as a whole is downright messy. Their marketing team is years behind on the promotion of books, and needed someone to help with the promotion of books published in 2017. It's currently 2019. Not only that, but by promotion, all they wanted was a single post on social media with whatever information they can gather from the book jacket. There's no social media campaign for any of their titles, and they wanted 5 posts a day. Given that their social media following is relatively low and the fact that they have very little brand loyalty, if any, writers are better off finding another publishing company.

Anonymous said...

Interesting information. I actually have a phone interview with Waldorf Publishing and this information is great to have going into it. The thing that is killing me is that it is often easy to google and find out negative information on Vanity Publishers. This is pretty much the only negative thing on the damn internet for Waldorf. You would think a disgruntled authored would've aired their dirty laundry on the net somewhere. It just makes it hard to make a decision if it comes to that. Anyone have any other experiences or seen other articles about Waldorf?

Victoria Strauss said...

Writer Beware has gotten complaints from Waldorf authors who say they haven't received royalties and allege that Waldorf under-reports sales. I've also heard from multiple authors who cite four-figure fees (and I've seen Waldorf materials and contracts that confirm the fees). Last but not least, Waldorf is deceptive in that there's no mention at all of author fees on its website, encouraging writers to think it's a traditional publisher.

Authors who choose vanity publishers often don't realize they've been taken advantage of, or are so small that little shows up online. I have complaint files on scores of vanities that look "clean" in a google search.

Anonymous said...

This company is highly questionable. Barbara Terry owes my company $7,600 from two years ago. She has been putting off paying my company and is highly irregular with communications. She has had excuse after excuse about her payment plan and to date has paid NOTHING. In a moment of charity we helped her out and after that she has done nothing but delay and not pay. I would think twice when doing business with this group.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad I stumbled on this post while doing research. I nearly applied for a publishing internship role there, but after seeing this, I think I'll pass.

Anonymous said...

I have 2 books with Waldorf. Would not use them again. With the first book, they did not submit to Kirkus, Amazon Vine, or other book review services as promised. When I called them on it, they did refund the money I'd paid for that promotion (note: I paid for those promotions, rather than them, the publisher). Also, with the first book they scheduled only a single book signing, but none for the second. They scheduled the release of the second book on a Sunday when no one was in their office to do social media promotion. I have done all the promotion for both books myself (except for the previously-mentioned book signing). With the second book, the review copies arrived two weeks after the release, hardly in time for pre-publication reviews. Waldorf have recently started putting out Scholastic Book Fair type books, so adult fiction is getting short shrift with them. Their books are apparently printed in China, so if they order a small print run and Amazon runs out, it's not a simple matter to order more without an 8-12 week delay on getting them shipped here.

Anonymous said...

Victoria,
If my last comment about the failings of Waldorf was not anonymous, please make it so. My reCAPTCHA expired, and I had to recheck the robot button, but failed to check to see if my comment remained anonymous.

Denis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Denis said...

The anonymous in this thread, I have discovered, is Barbara Terry, the publisher at Waldorf Publishing. Barbey threatened legal action unless I took down my former post here. I regret doing so. Barbey is semi literate, poorly educated, and its emails are sloppy, often with basic spelling errors. It and its staff are unfamiliar with some pretty basic publishing terms and concepts. The fact that Barbey defends itself anonymousl says a lot about its terrible alleged publishing house. Barbey should quit publishing and resume learning how to read. Don't go anywhere near this atrocious printer of trash.

Anonymous said...

Waldorf Publishing are a sham of a publishing company, they appear to be set up to scam money from the author’s love of their books. Do not sent them money for any reason no matter how good they make it sound. All they will do is send you a few copies of your book printed on low quality paper and put it up on their inadequate website. Some of the best book contests require current year’s books being entered and my books arrived so long after the publish date that I couldn’t enter them. Any pre publishing promotion was impossible. Waldorf Publishing are just incompetent.

Anonymous said...

I was an intern there as an illustrator in 2019 and this is spot on about the amateur covers. I should’ve know better when I was told I was the only “illustrator” they had that actually went to school for it - but alas, it was my first internship and I was just excited and naive. I did 3 or 4 whole books for free as an intern, and then was “hired on”. They were paying me less than $100 for an entire book. When I told my professors, they were so appalled by this company taking advantage of me that they straight up said to ghost them. I was also supposed to get copies of the books I illustrated and I never did. I looked on the website and my name isn’t even credited on the books I did.

Bottom line - don’t associate with this company. They take advantage of naive people.

Anonymous said...

I found this thread and thought it would be a good place to announce that our company has secured a large number of Waldorf Publishing books.
I understand that posts here have expressed concern about Waldorf, and per their website "Waldorf Publishing is not accepting book submissions at this time."
With that being said if there are any authors that are looking for copies of their books please feel free to email us. We are a small Texas based liquidation company that can be reached by email at: CMBOUTLET@YAHOO.COM

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 12/26,

Thanks for your comment (I've added your info to my post). Would you be willing to contact me directly and give me more information about how you came into possession of the books? All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. My email is beware@sfwa.org. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

How can authors find out if Waldorf Publishing are in liquidation?

Anonymous said...

Waldorf Publishing's website seems to have vanished!

Victoria Strauss said...

I just checked, and Waldorf's website is still online--but it has been re-named "Waldorf Publishing and Public Relations."

Troubled small presses rarely go into formal liquidation or bankruptcy--which costs money and requires accountability. They more typically just vanish. The delinquent storage unit full of books is not a good sign, and I do suspect that Waldorf is in trouble--but there's no indication that I can find (at least publicly) that Waldorf is shutting down. At least, as of this writing.

I am actively monitoring the situation, and will update my post with any new developoments.

 
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