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PublishAmerica: Now With 67% More Poodoo!

Fun fact: did you know that back in 1997, Miranda Prather (Executive Director of PublishAmerica) was arrested for faking a hate crime?

This doesn’t really surprise me. After all, this is a company widely reviled by anyone with the slightest clue about publishing.  It’s the company that accepted the deliberately and brilliantly awful book Atlanta Nights, the same company that published Night Travels of the Elven Vampire with a horribly Photoshopped (and illegal) cover of Orlando Bloom. The Absolute Write boards have a great deal of info on PA, everything from their $1 advance (so they can claim to be an advance-paying publisher) to advice on how to get out of a PA contract. Here’s a summary at AW about why they don’t recommend PA.

Apparently it’s now reached the point where even PublishAmerica wants nothing to do with PublishAmerica. From Writer Beware comes PA’s latest “offer” — PA authors can get their books relisted with a new imprint called Independence Books with the following benefits:

  • Not registered as POD in vendor databases.
  • Not registered as PublishAmerica.

That’s directly out of PA’s letter to their authors. I’m suspicious of the PoD designation thing, but it’s the second part that gets me.  I wish I could have been there for the meeting where they decided the best thing they could do to sell books was to try to disguise them as non-PA titles.  Just for fun, I’m imagining the conversation with various Star Wars characters doing the voices.

Emperor: “It appears that we’ve so thoroughly destroyed our reputation that bookstore staff spontaneously burst into sickly green flames at the mere mention of our name. Something must be done!”

Rookie Stormtrooper: “Hey, what if we tried producing better-quality books, and maybe started trying to sell those books to readers?”

::Flushing sound as the new guy is dropped into the rancor pit::

George Lucas: “We should hire that Brittany Spears guy to produce a video where he cries and says ‘Leave PublishAmerica alone!’  Better yet, I’ll create a CGI alien to do it in a really bad accent.”

Emperor: “Implement this plan immediately.”

Vader: “Perhaps it’s time to offer another ‘deal’ to our authors. Our prices are 50-75% higher than other publishers’ titles, so we can let our authors buy books at 40% off and still the Empire shall profit.”

Emperor: “Inform our authors that we are displeased with their lack of progress.  That should frighten them into buying more copies. But it still doesn’t fix our reputation.”

Jabba the Hutt [Translated (badly) from Huttese]: “Dude!  You should, like, totally change your name.  Like when you were sayin’ ‘I’m Senator Palpatine,’ but then you went all ‘I’m Darth Sidious, fool!’  Because nobody saw through that one!”

Emperor: “Excellent. Be sure to make them pay for the privilege…”

Jabba the Hutt: “And you should totally call it ‘Imperial Poodoo!’”


Seriously, when things are so bad that you’re offering your own authors the opportunity to hide their association with you, maybe that should be a clue that it’s time to give up and go home.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 19th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, Jim, you slay me...in the best way!

"Fear will keep these authors in line. Fear of these pants."
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
Ha! Love it :-)
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:51 pm (UTC)
LOL! Yes, I agree. The sad thing is, some people will fall for their "new" crap.
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know. Much as I despise and mock them, PA is very good at what they do. (Manipulating new writers, I mean -- not publishing books.)
Jul. 19th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)
...offering your own authors the opportunity to hide their association with you, and charging them for the privilege!

I don't have time to read PA's schlocky page, but I wonder if they are intimating that this move will at last get you into bookstores. It would prove that the people they take advantage of are caught because they are unclear on how books go from printer to bookstore.
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
The initial letter doesn't say anything about bookstores.

"It will receive a new ISBN and the new $14.95 list price. It will not show as POD. It will not list as PublishAmerica. ISBN-fed databases will show that your book is an Independence Books book, readily available from Independence Books."

I love the bit at the end, though...

"PublishAmerica's online bookstore will re-list the book as an Independence Books title generally within 24 business hours. Other vendors may do so at their discretion."

So they can't even guarantee that the new, PA-free listing will actually go through for other vendors.
(no subject) - sartorias - Jul. 19th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
I feel bad for people who get suckered in. Belive me, I know what it's like to be the writer who's been trying for years and getting nothing but rejections, and to feel so desperate for that validation. I came pretty close to signing with another vanity press at one point. PA in particular knows exactly what to say to feed into those feelings. It's one of the reasons they piss me off so much.

I just figure the more people talk about them, the more likely those new writers are to catch on before they get stuck in the web. (Or fall into the sarlaac pit, to continue with the metaphor.)
(no subject) - lianemerciel - Jul. 19th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 20th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
Jim, one word about the persistence of people who run PA: Enzyte.

Ol' Smiling Bob is still around, even after the people who originally created Enzyte were sent to prison.
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
Huh. I wasn't aware that the founders had been jailed. Interesting reading...
(no subject) - mtlawson - Jul. 19th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
Clearly PA has a clue-proof forcefield erected around them at all times. Besides, there isn't any profit in just giving up. There are still more suckers to be fleeced.
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
So we need to send a small force down to deactivate the force field. Hm ... we're going to need to order a batch of Ewoks.
(no subject) - wulfsdottir - Jul. 19th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
I once had to review a book published by PA. It was just terrible--there were Mormons and stagecoaches and they were all in Boston in the 1700's. And there was a graphic rape. A month or so ago, I looked the author up and she'd decided to give up on writing and publishing because she'd had such a terrible experience with PA--and right up to the end, she believed they were a real publisher.
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
I don't know if that's more or less depressing than the ones who continue writing and publishing multiple books with PA.

One of the most painful things about PA is that they happily publish your early and almost always horrible trunk novels. I started sending out the first book I wrote. Thankfully, nobody published it. I can't imagine what it would be like trying to build a career now if I had one of those early manuscripts out there in published form with my name on it...
(no subject) - apis_mellifera - Jul. 19th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 19th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - apis_mellifera - Jul. 19th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - txtriffidranch - Jul. 19th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - txtriffidranch - Jul. 19th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marycatelli - Jul. 19th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - txtriffidranch - Jul. 19th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
PA were one of the first horror stories that reached my ears when I started looking into self-pub and POD. They send fliers to my P.O. box every so often. I dump them directly into the recycle bin and warn everyone I know not to have anything to do with them.

Sadly, not everyone takes the advice. A lady I know who fancied herself a writer (this sentiment was not echoed by some others I knew) used them (or maybe they used her) to publish her dark urban fantasy trilogy. That was my best recollection of what the story was, but I suspect she didn't know what she was getting into either.

And judging from Prather's background, it seems she's simply gone from one kind of mythomania to another.
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
I've come across a number of people who signed with PA. Often it's because they don't know any better (which is why I try to blog about them from time to time). Sometimes people have heard the horror stories, but are so desperate to be published they choose to ignore them. I can understand the desperation, actually. But I hate seeing so many people get suckered in.
(no subject) - mzmadmike - Jul. 20th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
It makes me wish there were an easier way to communicate to young (and even older) writers who are desperate to succeed and explain and have them truly understand what a horrible trap this is. It's the same with young artists, say those that desire to create comic books, who get suckered in while they're still in college and bound into unfair contracts that steal their beloved works and stories for a price that not only isn't fair, it'd laughable by real publishing standards.

But it's harder still because I do personally understand that drive and that desire-- the willingness to give up -everything- just to have a printed copy of your work in your hands and feel like you're getting somewhere. I slaved over illustrations for someone's self-published book, knowing full well I'd never make more than a handful of dollars from royalties. It was, perhaps, better that I walked into that situation with my eyes open and completed the task for my pride and as a challenge to myself rather than to slave on, believing I would be rewarded by money or prestige.

That desire to have your work published, even by a vanity press, even by yourself just to have something to hand to people who are curious, can't be denied-- I'm just curious if there aren't better ways, these days, to channel that drive into something with more successful results. Getting picked up by a publisher seems to be more like auditioning for movies or plays-- you need an agent who knows people who can give you the chance to show off your stuff and best pray you're up to snuff or what they're even looking for...

Would you have advice to aspiring professional writers on what to do in the interim, before they may or may not get that lucky break? I don't personally feel like talent or skill is going to be the most important factor-- goodness knows I've seen what gets thrown out on big-chain bookstore shelves-- but what can (or should) people do to avoid getting suckered into traps like PublishAmerica?
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
I certainly understand the desire. I came awfully close to submitting to a different vanity publisher when I was starting out.

Part of it is learning the difference between being published and being read. If all you want is the former, spend a few bucks on Lulu.com and voila -- you're published. But if you want your work to be read and enjoyed, you have to figure out which route will be most effective, and I guarantee you it ain't Publish America.

"Would you have advice to aspiring professional writers on what to do in the interim, before they may or may not get that lucky break? I don't personally feel like talent or skill is going to be the most important factor-- goodness knows I've seen what gets thrown out on big-chain bookstore shelves..."

Um. Okay, I don't believe this was intentional, but as someone who has six books on those big-chain shelves, I can tell you this comes off as a little insulting.

Luck has very little to do with it. Every agent and editor I've ever spoken to or read has said the same thing: a good story trumps all. It's not about connections, it's not about luck, it's about writing a good story.

Trouble is, most writers don't know how to do that when we're starting out. I certainly didn't. Even worse, I couldn't tell the difference between a good story and a bad one, so I read my stuff and decided it was just as good as the stuff being published.

It wasn't. Not by a long shot.

Breaking in is a long process, and often an incredibly frustrating one. Nor is publishing a perfect industry. Not even close.

But my best advice to someone wanting to sell a book would be:

1. Write the book, and make it the best you can.
2. Write a query letter, and make that the best you can.
3. Submit the letter, and then hopefully submit the book.
4. In the meantime, start writing the next book.
5. Repeat until you sell your work.

The advice would be pretty similar for someone looking to sell directly to a publisher, or someone wanting to publish short fiction.

The other piece is to do your research. Learn Yog's Law (money flows toward the writer). Read Writer Beware and similar blogs. Check Preditors and Editors to see who's recommended and who's not.

It took me four books and 500+ rejections to really start to break in, and from talking to other authors, that's not at all unusual.
(no subject) - shadrad - Jul. 19th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barbarienne - Jul. 19th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jul. 20th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 20th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mzmadmike - Jul. 20th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jul. 20th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 19th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
So it is. Thank you. Should be fixed now.
Jul. 19th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
i've seen the brownstone itself when i lived in Maryland. never have i wanted to vandalize a building so much than at that moment!
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
I've seen some very well-done print on demand titles ... but not from the publishers you mention. Producing a good book, whether print on demand or in large print runs, requires paying people who know what they're doing. For a vanity press, where you're selling to the author, that's just a waste of money.
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
We should be so lucky. I have a friend who years ago had her AGENT recommend these idiots. Not only did she not make any money off the books, they actually own the rights to them, so she can't possibly get them published for real. And that was apparently back in the "they're not that bad" days.
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
Well, I sure hope the agent got his/her 15% commission on that $1.00 advance!

Ugh. That doesn't even make sense from a scammer perspective. I know there are agents who work with vanity presses and book doctors, getting kickbacks for referring authors. But I haven't heard of PA teaming up with scammy agents, and an agent working from commission gets pretty much zilch from PA.

Brain go boom now.
(no subject) - deborahblakehps - Jul. 19th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
In a strange, warped, thoroughly sick way, I think this is absolute brilliance. For PublishAmerica, anyway. Nothing will convince the hordes of PublishAmerica fanboys trying to sell their Absolutely Fabulous/Farscape slashfic that this publisher is toxic. However, going with a new name means that the fanboys aren't subjected to the involuntary snarl by Barnes & Noble employees when they see the publisher's name. (I have several friends working at my local B&N, and they tell me all sorts of interesting stories about PublishAmerica writers. The idiots demanding signing events are the minor ones. Now you have so many PA "authors" desperately hoping to see their books on a shelf in a big chain store that not only will Barnes & Noble only order POD books if payment is made in advance, but those orders have to be delivered to the buyer's address. While PA authors have no problem with spending their own money to get their books into a store, sometimes multiple copies, the chain is collectively sick and tired of having to clean up stacks and piles and pallets full of unwanted orders "accidentally" dropped off at local stores.)
Jul. 19th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Pallets? Seriously? Wow. I had kind of assumed that in most cases, PA is making money from authors ordering copies piecemeal. A few here, a handful there ... maybe 50 or even 100 for a big signing. But I suppose there are going to be authors who invest in thousands of copies of their books, thinking that's the key to finally making it.

It makes me cry a little...
(no subject) - txtriffidranch - Jul. 19th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - txtriffidranch - Jul. 19th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mzmadmike - Jul. 20th, 2010 06:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Why would they give up? I'm sure they're getting money out of this deal already.


I'm sad now.
Jul. 19th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't seriously expect them to give up, short of legal intervention. That's mostly just wishful thinking on my part.
(no subject) - kehrli - Jul. 19th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jim C. Hines


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