Monday, July 14, 2008

Reflections on getting published by Publish America

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.


14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You'll find out.I had a book published by PA in 2004.I haven't recieved a royalty statement in 3 yrs. and I can't find out how many copies have been sold on amazon.com I have contacted the BBB in Fredrik,MD and the states atty. for that area.They wouldn't help me.I have contacted several lawyers but they are too expensive to pursue the problem.I did recieve about $7.00 in royalties the first year.After that,nothing.I know a substantial amount of my books were sold by amazon and other book stores.These people are crooks.

ctc7752 said...

I recently published with them and they priced the book out of the mainstream so I see a bestseller lost. The book is extremely well done and would be an immediate sensation if they would learn to price and it has set my writing career back at least two years because they are a vanity publisher.

AdamH said...

Paul, they want 21.95 for your book and Barnes and Nobel.

No way, Jose, it aint' that great.

I could get a remaindered Dawkins AND Hitchens book for less than that.

I am not complaining really, though.

It means less young people will read your superficial book.

Marian said...

Hi Paul,

I noticed that your book is now on sale on Amazon for a minimum of $24, not counting shipping and handling. Do you feel that this has affected sales?

Thanks,

Marian Perera

Paul Donovan said...

Marian -

Yes, Publish America raised the price of my book to about $10.00 higher than I think it should be. They are pricing it out of the range of its intended audience.

As far as it affecting sales, however, I really don't know. I suspect that not many people buy from Amazon, because they make it look like it's out of print (due to a war in the independent publishing industry).

I get my royalty checks every six months, and they've always been between $40 and $50. So I'm not going to retire on the money from this book, but a few people are buying them.

Anonymous said...

OWE YEAH, WELL THEY TOLD ME THAT IF I PERCHASED 10 COPIES OF MY BOOK THEN I COULD HAVE CHANGES MADE TO THE COVER BUT THE BOOKS WOULD NOT SHIP TILL THE CHANGE WAS MADE. WELL THEY TOOK MY MONEY RIGHT AND NOW THEY HAD THIER NUMBER CHANGED WHERE I CAN'T CALL THEM AFTER REFUSING TO CHANGE THE COVER OR REFUND ME OR EVEN SEND THOSE COPIES I PAID FOR. THEY STOLD MY MONEY BASICALLY THAN EMAILED ME THREATING TO GET ME FOR HARASSMENT WHEN ALL I WAS DOING WAS ASKING FOR EITHER MY BOOKS OF THE $160 THEY HAVE OF MINE. WHAT SUCKS IS TWO MORE OF MY BOOKS ARE ALREADING IN THEIR CLUTCHES IN COVER DESIGN NOW AND THEY ALREADY HAVE FOUR MORE OF MY BOOKS IN THIER STORE ONLINE. HOW'S THAT FOR CROOKS?

Anonymous said...

The company sent back my text proofs admitting that there was no editorial input or editing done at all. It was my words completely verbatim, and I tried to write back, telling them that it would be embarrassing selling a book with this many errors. They never responded. I never cared about money or fame. I just wanted a book with my name on it to have memories, but this company just takes your words, and throws in on crap. A book is like a complete dud if the grammar and punctuation is a mess. Publish America spells unprofessional and ruining dreams of aspiring writers, not making them. On their website, it states that they will assign a professional editor if needed to look over and correct grammar issue. My proofs were just what I sent them put on a acrobat file. I wrote a short story, I can't even imagine how bad they would mess up a novel. I will never go with this company ever again. If a book publisher doesn't have a editor employed, then they should be out of business.

Anonymous said...

I had a book published with them as well it has been a nightmare. I got my proof and it was full of typo's and mistakes more than i sent in I was told that they would edit my book as well. I sent emails to tell them that i would have it fixed and resumit it they sent it on to the next level I have tried and tried to stop the printing of it yesterday i resent in my corrections talked to sydney she said she would put it on hold and today i recieved an email saying they are shipping me a copy of my book the one that was full of mistakes I don't know what to to and its on the website to be ordered like this. I need help getting this fixed can someone tell me how to get to the bottom of this problem or if anyone on here ever had there problem fixed

Meg McC said...

I am a newly published PA author and all of the scam websites certainly left me feeling like I had made a bad decision. BUT, I am, so far, content with the company. I sent my manuscript to several well known publishers before "settling" on PA. This doesn't change the fact that I am still entirely satisfied and proud of my work. PA didn't promise me anything other than to be "published" and to be able to own a copy of my illustrated children's book. Maybe I am not out for the same things as some others who have expected instant success or huge payoffs. In reality, I am sure that PA is a relatively small operation with their hands full. They eliminate the stress of rejection from publishers who may or may not even review our manuscripts and allows us to accomplish what we set out to do, put our book in print so that it is available to be shared. Isn't that the point? Besides, if a larger publisher REALLY wanted my book, I am sure that a silly PA contract isn't enough to keep them from grabbing it. We are not celebrities nor do we have some automatic claim to notoriety, so we are going to have to take some responsibility in getting our works noticed. Few people get a free ride, it is delusional to think that you are owed one. After reading some of those previously mentioned websites, it just reconfirms how lazy and entitled people can be. I am pleased with Publish America and will send them future works.

Meghan McCarrick

Meg McC said...

I am a newly published PA author and all of the scam websites certainly left me feeling like I had made a bad decision. BUT, I am, so far, content with the company. I sent my manuscript to several well known publishers before "settling" on PA. This doesn't change the fact that I am still entirely satisfied and proud of my work. PA didn't promise me anything other than to be "published" and to be able to own a copy of my illustrated children's book. Maybe I am not out for the same things as some others who have expected instant success or huge payoffs. In reality, I am sure that PA is a relatively small operation with their hands full. They eliminate the stress of rejection from publishers who may or may not even review our manuscripts and allows us to accomplish what we set out to do, put our book in print so that it is available to be shared. Isn't that the point? Besides, if a larger publisher REALLY wanted my book, I am sure that a silly PA contract isn't enough to keep them from grabbing it. We are not celebrities nor do we have some automatic claim to notoriety, so we are going to have to take some responsibility in getting our works noticed. Few people get a free ride, it is delusional to think that you are owed one. After reading some of those previously mentioned websites, it just reconfirms how lazy and entitled people can be. I am pleased with Publish America and will send them future works.

Meghan McCarrick

Anonymous said...

Whatever Paul said about talking to someone at the company has to be in his imagination. I called and asked to talk to Emily and was told that the reps don't take phone calls. I can only communicate with them via e-mail. The are deceptive and suck you in to get you to buy a book that you wrote. When they first contacted me, they promised an editor who would read my manuscript and get in touch with me. Then, after I got the contract and signed it, I was told that the manuscript had to come to them error free. They ARE scammers! I wrote to Emily and Caroline, and have yet to hear from either one of them. I filed a complaint with the Maryland FBI and a couple complaint boards. I am also filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania state attorney general and will do the same in Maryland. These people are scum!

K. Geesey - Pennsylvania

Anonymous said...

I want my book published... I have not signed the contract with PA...yet...should I? Help me out there

Paul Donovan said...

Three years later, and I still stand by my original post. I still get royalty checks, although they are sometimes less than a dollar now, lol.

They keep coming up with new schemes to get you to pay extra for services, such as making it available as an ebook, or for quicker customer service. But I haven't been forced to buy anything, and the things I did pay for, I got.

Is it a great company? No.
Is it better than not being published? Yes.

I can't recommend whether to be published by them or not - I'm just letting you know my experiences.

Ekko Johnny said...

The most insulting issue at hand, I believe, is that the credibility of being a published author is null and void. Some managers of bookstores are just that-- managers, but a publishing industry aficionado will reject a PA submission without even reviewing the work. The look in their eyes could be compared to watching a child in a village, that skips and plays and dances about--unaware that the villagers see him as the child of a thief or murderer. It's a 'you poor child' stare.

If you can sell your $24.95, unedited, print on demand book, you might receive about .80 cents. It's quite possible that PA's goal is to make a bundle on the initial excitement and determination of a new author. You will hear of people buying your book, but when the statement arrives...no sales. PA will claim that Amazon is a 'bad' company and they are in litigation. Really?

I initially took my contract to a lawyer for review, where he advised me to adjust the royalty rates and increase the amount of free books I was to receive. He also suggested shortening the length of the contract.

The only adjustment PA made was to allow more free copies of my book. Eager, inexperienced, and impatient...I signed.

Their announcement letter to 'Friends and Family' was about the most embarrassing thing ever. It was nothing more than a cheesy sales letter. Again...no pride.

I don't believe that postings against PA are made by 'bad authors', or people that expected to get rich overnight. (ok, maybe ctc7752 is a exception) I believe the postings have been made after people realize that PA will not help you in any way, shape or form. When an author expresses any type of frustration; they are quickly banned. That's soooo not cool.

If these postings are able to persuade any author from falling into a time trap, then they have done some good. Another time trap would be to Sue PA. They have changed names and citizenship so many times that you lose track of who you're after. Being from another country to begin with, they have manipulated the American system to the farthest extent..and then some.

If you are stuck with them, be patient. After the initial flow of income, they will send you a letter stating that your sales have dropped and for $150.00, they will return your rights. Give it another thirty days and the price will drop to $99.00. That's when I LEAPT at the opportunity to cut the strings. While that action went against every ounce of moral fiber I have, it also eliminated years of frustration and time I would have spent trying to justify, what is basically- my mistake.

I now submit Copyright infringement complaints as the book is still available for purchase. When I see my book for sale, I simply write a review - stating that the book is out of print, I am the author, and the book is being sold illegally. If that doesn't prevent a purchase, then, well...can't help anyone there. I have had Google search postings removed as well.

You'll never get your money back from your advertising efforts, and you'll never see your book go anywhere.

Be patient; it's like a bad haircut. Eventually, your hair grows back and you learn that some barbers shouldn't be in the grooming business.