Monday, July 30, 2007

7-10-2010 Take another look at Publish America: as predicted, they have lowered their prices on all books. A hardcopy can now be purchased for less than $15 bucks and a paperback for less than $9. Kentucky Justice is now competitive. Go for it!
The following was posted several years ago
So many of the authors on the public message boards at PA have been debating the issue of whether Publish America is a vanity press that I decided to give them the benefit of my publishing knowledge. I posted, knowing that I would be censored as soon as the administrators saw the post. They wasted no time. One person got to read it, and zapow it was gone. So here it is again.
Hello out there, I say with cupped hand to ear. Haven’t you figured it out yet? Why do you suppose our books are so overpriced? (I’ll probably get blacklisted for this—but truth will out.) Publish America is most certainly a vanity press, but with a Madison Avenue twist: a dollar advance and a contract. A contract and a binding advance, huh? That signals non-vanity press, right? Ok, the dollar didn’t send you into orbit but the contract was an immediate ego massage.

PA has invested in that very word, VANITY. It counts on you, your family, and your circle of friends buying the book at the exorbitant price. Any further sales is just gravy. When your book came out, do you remember how excited you were? Of course, you do. You were ecstatic. So, how many of you rushed to order 10, 20, 50, even 100 copies? Most of you, right? I don’t know what PA’s break even number is, but it’s not very high, because it costs them very little to produce a book.

Push the ego aside and look at the situation objectively—then get on with promoting your book.

1) PA has very little invested in your book, since you did all the work in writing it and, yes, even editing it. If it needed heavy editing, it wouldn’t have been accepted in the first place. (Bubba and his treatise on night crawler ‘ketchin’ is just too costly to unsnarfle. It’s a sale lost but a major embarrassment and bad pub avoided.) They may scan your book for typos and misspellings but there are no major artistic changes made. In many cases, you even designed the cover. (A book cover can be designed and laid out ready for print by a professional in a couple of hours or less, even I can do it.) For the entire book, we’re only talking about a few hours work for PA since everything is done digitally on the computer. Ok, the book is formatted and the cover is ready.

2) The book goes to a print-on-demand digital press where any number can be printed on the cheap, from one to the max. (This is another economy factor. There does not have to be a thousand-book press-run with hopes that the book sells, perhaps be left with a printing bill and 998 pads of toilet paper.) One hundred pound cover stock is less than ten cents per, and sixty pound bond paper & ink is less than, or right at two cents per page. A 300-page book will cost less than $4.50 to produce in materials and ink. If you have your calculator out, a 300-page book has only 150 actual sheets of paper since the print is on both sides.

My point: nobody has given you anything, big break or otherwise. You deserve to be in print. You wrote the book; you did the WORK, and I’ll say it again YOU did the WORK, no matter what PA is. Don’t spend one more moment debating being worthy. You’ve shown determination and spirit in getting this far—and I am amazed at the resourcefulness in promotion found here. So, go kick ass and fugitabout it.

Direct all hate mail to yours truly, LW Fugett. I can handle it****

PS. (If you want a better alternative to Publish America for your next book, drop me a note and I'll show you the way. The means are right here on the net, and you can control everything, especially price.)
Question: Hi there, Just read your spill om Publish America. What is your opinion on Outskirts Press? Tell me more about what I can find on the internet. Where did you get most of your work published and were you satisfied. Curious to know, (Name withheld as a courtesy to author.)
Answer: Hi H-----, sorry for the delay. Outskirts Press is as good as any on the net if one wants to pay to be published. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with paying except the stigma, not of being ripped off by a publisher or anything so nefarious, but of having to pay to get one's work into print. Actually there's nothing wrong with Publish America but the contract and the outrageous retail price demanded. (I have a main line publisher who wants my book, Kentucky Justice, and it's locked up with PA for 7 years. I screwed up, big time.) A first time author trying to promote a 20-dollar book is probably going nowhere except to friends and relatives. Even if the book were to magically make it to the bookstores, no one is going to take a 20-dollar chance on an unknown and buy it. They may if it were half that price and it was a good book, properly promoted, but even then, it would be doubtful. The best option is Lulu publishing. It's free and you get the same promotion on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and others on the net. You will have to do all of the work, formatting, editing, book cover, etc., but those things are simple to do with their instructions. Best of all, you are in control--and you get to set the retail price, above cost, of course. There's no contract. You can have an audio made if you wish, an e-book, promote Look Inside on Amazon or anything you choose. By the way, the latter two are not permitted with PA. I am currently with Tainted Coffee Press, a new company, with which my company, Noir Publishing is an affiliate. Take a look at the price of Murder in the Bluegrass on AD. It’s the right price. I just got the book placed with a few bookstores, and it’s moving at 11-dollars per. If you decide to go with Lulu for your next book and need any help, give me a yell. I’ll help you with any stumbling blocks—even the cover. Thanks for the note and don’t be a stranger** LW Fugett
Question/ Statement: If PublishAmerica is running such a good racket as you imply, where are all the me toos? I guess the vast majority of PODs must be uninformed or unconvinced because the PA model is almost never copied. The way to get rich with a POD is not by giving something for nothing! My contract doesn't bind me to anything except that they have the rights to a book nobody wants. They get nickels and dimes compared to the gold mine in pay up front publishing. Also not mentioned in your article is that some PA authors can sell movie rights without giving anything back. (Name withheld)
Answer: Hi E-----. Thank you for the rebuttal. I would have expected as much from PA when I posted rather than to have been censored. However, the point to my article was not to expose PA as a “racket”, but to inform its authors of the misnomer they were marching to. The controversy at PA among the authors (because PA’s design was to intentionally promote an impression and set PA apart) was, is, and always will be whether the potential buyers of their books consider PA a vanity press, especially the book store owners who do not want to stock PA’s books, number one, because they are so over priced, and number two, because they are non-returnable (except for a select few that do sell). Let’s be realistic. Like any other vanity press out here, PA has some real dogs in print that are nothing more than drivel. Bookstores are in business to make money, not to stroke our egos.
As far as the seven-year contract is concerned, consider it a seven-year annuity for PA. If only four books per year are sold per author at twenty dollars a book, (this is a conservative estimate with 20, 000 authors under contract, and PA states up front that they fully expect you to promote your book for the entire seven years) Pa will gross 11, 200,000 dollars. For those four books, what will the author receive? A few dollars and an ego massage. Of course, that may well be payment enough.
A movie deal? Another come-on. It’s only mentioned to implant the notion of possibility. The odds are astronomical.
FYI, there is a better alternative here on the net, and it’s free, but, sad to say, it’s also a vanity press.
E-----, I’m only the messenger and I fully expect to be shot. Thank you.
LW Fugett
Question: Hi L Fugett: Please tell me what is the internet alternative to PublishAmerica? If you mean Lulu.Com its a total rip off. I dont understand why a publisher doesn't charge $ is a Vanity Press. (Name withheld)
Answer: Hey, E-----,** Publish America is a vanity press simply because the powers in charge play to our vanity, our ego, the burning desire to be a published author, willing to sign away our book rights and huckster our brains out for only a remote or a non-existent chance at the brass ring, not because of monies being or not being exchanged from author to publisher. (The contract replaces the up-front money, guaranteeing payback and profit.) The hallmark of a main-line publisher is quality of writing and editing, of sales, of competitive pricing and promotion. Our books were not accepted because our work is stellar compared to “up-front” vanity presses. For the most part, they are not superior. Bookstores want quality and value—books they can move—and they picked up on the big lie immediately.
PA’s publishing model is nothing short of brilliant, counting on our egos to make the suggestion that non-payment equals mainline publisher. (The contract is a part of this, and parcel to the lie.) “We don’t want your money, just your work.” The “payment” comes in on the backside, not the front. At least, the up-front presses are truthful about it, and one understands what’s coming about. The “touch” of sinister is the false dream promoted and the letdown when we hit the brick wall after we’ve bought our books and try to promote an overpriced, sometimes poorly written, under edited, vanity press production. Lulu is also a vanity press, but it is free and one does have some latitude with the price—and no binding contract.
Since the author is doing all of the promotion anyway, one would be better off going to a digital press that specializes in the printing end and having his/her book printed and then consigning the book to bookstores. It’s an option, but a lot of work. (Bookstores will do this most readily if the procedure is handled right and the marketing is acceptable, e.g. graphics display box.) At least the retail price would be more competitive. Of course, one can do this with Lulu or Publish America, (buy the book and consign it.) but the retail price would be prohibitive, especially with PA’s books. Who knows, after PA gets its digital press up to speed and their annuities in overdrive, perhaps they’ll lower the price of their books and give us a better shot.
LW Fugett


Tricia said...

Now that's a day in the trenches.

But what's life if you don't get censored at least once? It means you never said anything that really mattered. I think what you said mattered to 'someone'. A lot.

Just remember what Groucho Marx said, 'I wouldn't want to belong to a club...'

Michael K. Willis said...

Informative and fascinating post. Thanks.

Square1 said...

I checked out PA a couple of years ago for my poetry. I sent my mom a copy of the contract, as she's an attorney and she advised against it. Knowing that I'm a bit rebellious she also advised that if I chose to go forward to only put in my least favorite works so that my better works would not be tied up.

As I did research I found out that the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America performed a sting on PA. Since I belong to, headed by their VP, Andrew Burt, I already had a relationship of established credibility with them. They set about writing the worst novel ever in order to prove that PA would accept and publish it. And guess what... they did. It was called "Atlanta Nights by Travis T. (A look at the author's name should have been a clue to them.) The link above will take you to the site where you can read it. And because PA was actually idiotic enough to publish it, you can order the novel also, if just to say you own a copy of the worst piece of literature ever written. Though I think such bragging rights aren't really worth the expenditure.

Square1 said...

Sorry I had to come back and correct my mistake. PA sent them an acceptance letter, but then caught their mistake. Apparently PA pissed of some Sci-fi writers by telling other authors not to trust the advice of Sci-fi/fantasy writers because "they have it easier" than other types of authors. Still the page I linked to makes for good reading.

Chris G. said...

Good looking out. I've been saying this for years, you're much better off just submitting to legit publications and roll through the rejections.