As many readers know, I had a book published about six months ago, entitled Happily Godless: A Young Adult's Guide to Atheism. It can be ordered from most bookstores, or online at places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at a discounted price directly from the publisher.
Speaking of the publisher, some people are curious to hear about my experiences because of past controversies regarding them.
The publisher of my book is Publish America. After I signed with them, I began hearing stories that they are kind of scammers. If you google, you'll find several stories of lawsuits against them. At first I thought I had screwed myself. But then I did further research. Here's what I found:
There were several complaints against the company:
1. It was an author mill that took any manuscript and approved it without looking at it. There were several hoaxes perpetrated to prove this.
2. They did no editing of manuscripts before printing them.
3. They did no publicizing or special effort to get books on actual bookstore shelves.
4. They cheated on paying royalties.
5. Authors must buy copies of their own book.
6. The books are priced higher than they should be.
The first thing I noticed about these claims that the most recent of them was from 2005. There have been no new allegations or news in at least 3 years. Also, despite looking like a widespread problem, I kept noticing the same names (or forum posters) over and over again.
Here is my experience of the four allegations above:
1. I have no idea. My book was a real book, and they approved it. That's what's most important for me.
2. This one seems to be true. They said they edited it and sent it back for my approval, where I found a good number of additional typos.
3. This one is true. However, they said that before I signed with them. They did not promise to do any ad campaigns, did not promise that my book would be on physical shelves. They emphasized the online presence of my book and said that it would be listed on all major book websites. This happened like they said.
4. I don't know about this one yet. They pay royalties twice a year. I will receive my first royalty check in September. There doesn't seem to be any way for me to check their numbers - I'm going to have to trust them. This makes me a little uncomfortable, but I'll wait and see how it plays out.
5. This is basically true. I got two free copies of my book upon publication. After that I must buy additional copies. However, I do get a discount of up to 50%. And there is no pressure to buy copies. I can buy or not.
6. This one is true. They priced my book at $19.95, where I think it should be something like $12.95-$14.95. They have probably priced it out of the reach of some young people, who I wrote the book for.
I have also found the publisher to be very communicative. The people I've spoken with on the phone are friendly. They respond to my questions promptly.
So, on the whole, so far I'm happy with them. It didn't cost one penny to get published. No matter what my royalties are, they're basically pure profit. I've bought copies of my book, but that was my decision. I've never felt any pressure to buy anything.
So do I recommend using Publish America to get published? Yes, with reservations. You need to be sure on your own that your manuscript is in good shape, and find your own editor if you're not. You need to be ok with the fact that it's an independent publisher and will not do your advertising for you.
Of course, Publish America is not as good as the big guys. But it was much easier to get my book in print, to get my message out. That's what's most important. And in 7 years, my contract with Publish America expires. Perhaps I can use this experience to get noticed and picked up by the bigger guys after that.
Perhaps Publish America really was bad, and did some cleaning up of it's act over the past 3 years. But personally speaking, a lot of the complaints against Publish America have more than a little smell of sour grapes. These may be people that are pissed off that their books didn't turn into instant best-sellers and want something to blame other than the fact that their writing was probably pretty terrible (I've read some other books from the publisher, and they do seem to have pretty low standards for acceptance. A lot of the writing is crap).
I hope I'm not deluding myself into thinking that my writing is better than most of those other books.