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View Full Version : The Function of Publish America



Bartholomew
01-02-2007, 11:56 PM
I really wanted to entitle this thread:

Publish America--The Best Thing To Happen To Men Since Women!

But I resisted in the interest of having an actual discussion.

#

PA's business practices have been underlined, outlined and drawn out six ways to tuesday. Most of the regulars here are aware of how PA makes money. The question I pose is this:

Does PublishAmerica serve a function in the publishing industry, or are they outside of it altogether? Do they fill a niche, or are they wasting space?

WildScribe
01-03-2007, 12:01 AM
Seriously, I've heard that they sop up the worst of the slush, lightening the load for real publishers.

Bartholomew
01-03-2007, 12:04 AM
Seriously, I've heard that they sop up the worst of the slush, lightening the load for real publishers.

I've heard that too, and I wonder if its a blessing or a curse.

On one hand, PA is doubtlessly catching thousands of unusable manuscripts that real publishers won't have to look at.

On the other, they're thugs. Thugs are bad.

imagoodgurl4
01-03-2007, 12:17 AM
PA offers no benefit to the publishing world. The only purpose they serve is for themselves. Yes, the amount of unsaleable manuscripts on real publishers' desks may be less, but it's not right to scam people out of their money. If they were upfront with their contract: "Hey, you have to buy your own books, because we're really nothing more than a printer." Then they'd be more POD like LuLu and people would at least know what they were getting themselves into. The fact that they must be deceitful about it is just plain wrong.

Okay, that's my two cents. :)

J.S Greer
01-03-2007, 12:23 AM
I think that aside from the slush pile thing, the real purpose that they serve is to dilute the literary pool, and make other self pub/vanity/and POD houses seem more legit.

Also, dilluting the pool of "Talent" serves to kill the self pub business as a viable option in most cases. I mean, as with anything, going the non traditional route works in some cases and for some people based on what they want published and their reasoning for doing so.

Any way you slice it, it seems that PA's purpose is dilution.

Marian Perera
01-03-2007, 12:32 AM
On one hand, PA is doubtlessly catching thousands of unusable manuscripts that real publishers won't have to look at.

But they must be snagging some good manuscripts as well, or least manuscripts that might have a chance to be excellent novels - a chance they won't have with PA.

And they're sapping a lot of authors' time and talent and money. The creativity that goes into those "how can I market my book?" threads should be going into "how can I make my next book even better?"

PattiTheWicked
01-03-2007, 12:34 AM
If PA dilutes the pool of manuscripts in the slush pile, that works out nicely for the rest of us.

When a herd gets culled, it's usually the better beef that's left over.

*Briefly edited so that no one will mistakenly believe I'm dissin' other writers.

MMcC
01-03-2007, 12:36 AM
What puzzles me is how they are in business when there are legitimate and LOGICAL alternatives.

I have never published a book through a POD or Vanity, but I think Lulu is great. They offer a service (one I have even considered for a combo photography and poetry thing just as a personal project). They aren't ripping people off, and if you REALLY want to chase the dream you can purchase your own ISBN and amazon that bugger.

Why go with these dingleberries?

Bartholomew
01-03-2007, 12:36 AM
But they must be snagging some good manuscripts as well, or least manuscripts that might have a chance to be excellent novels - a chance they won't have with PA.

And they're sapping a lot of authors' time and talent and money. The creativity that goes into those "how can I market my book?" threads should be going into "how can I make my next book even better?"

A valid concern. Writers need to be given nourishment, like a plant, or they whither and die. :(

Gravity
01-03-2007, 12:45 AM
This was kind of brought up in another AW thread, and this is what I answered (and it brings me little joy to say it, I might add)

You want to hear something horrible? A nasty little thing I've found out by attending (and speaking at) national writers' conferences these past few years? Psst, here it is: commercial publishers and agents are starting to LOVE PublishAmerica.

Yes, I can hear the gasps of disbelief, but I'll tell you exactly what some of them have told me. Since PA has made such a presence in these last few years, the quality of the manuscripts these editors and agents are recieving has increased dramatically. One editor put it this way. "PublishAmerica is the literary equivalent of a lobster," he said (and I'm paraphrasing here). "Not because it tastes good. But because it's a well-known fact that lobsters are really nothing more than sea-going cockroaches. They'll eat anything, and leave the ocean floor in a better condition. So it is with PublishAmerica. They deal with the crap, so we rarely see it. That leaves us free to seriously consider the submissions we do ask for. For good writers, that's a win."

PA lurkers, that's something to ponder, ain't it?

tlblack
01-03-2007, 12:47 AM
It's really bad that PA exists at all with it's illusions of grandeur for first timers to be thinking they will have a best seller or at the very least a good seller. It would be much better to tell them up front they can't write; they don't write well; they need a lot of work; or the work is okay but could be much improved, than it is for PA to publish whatever they send in, no matter it's condition - then leave them for the wolves. As long as PA makes their money on what books it's authors are buying, they don't care. It won't matter how many figure it out, there will always be more unknowing ones to take their places as long as there is a PA.

Bartholomew
01-03-2007, 12:51 AM
This was kind of brought up in another AW thread, and this is what I answered (and it brings me little joy to say it, I might add)

You want to hear something horrible? A nasty little thing I've found out by attending (and speaking at) national writers' conferences these past few years? Psst, here it is: commercial publishers and agents are starting to LOVE PublishAmerica.

Yes, I can hear the gasps of disbelief, but I'll tell you exactly what some of them have told me. Since PA has made such a presence in these last few years, the quality of the manuscripts these editors and agents are recieving has increased dramatically. One editor put it this way. "PublishAmerica is the literary equivalent of a lobster," he said (and I'm paraphrasing here). "Not because it tastes good. But because it's a well-known fact that lobsters are really nothing more than sea-going cockroaches. They'll eat anything, and leave the ocean floor in a better condition. So it is with PublishAmerica. They deal with the crap, so we rarely see it. That leaves us free to seriously consider the submissions we do ask for. For good writers, that's a win."

PA lurkers, that's something to ponder, ain't it?
Yeah. Thats what prompted me to start this thread. >_<

icerose
01-03-2007, 12:53 AM
What puzzles me is how they are in business when there are legitimate and LOGICAL alternatives.



It's about validation. When you realize that all things become clear, including the authors' (while getting fleeced) defend PA with an admirable but missplaced passion.

Once the author gets past the need for validation or at least realizes they aren't getting it, they either slip into the shadows and disappear or come here, or start the fight somewhere else.

Bartholomew
01-03-2007, 12:56 AM
It's about validation. When you realize that all things become clear, including the authors' (while getting fleeced) defend PA with an admirable but missplaced passion.

Once the author gets past the need for validation or at least realizes they aren't getting it, they either slip into the shadows and disappear or come here, or start the fight somewhere else.

Its the initial misconception that PA uses to garner all of their business. Authors coming to them are generally ignorant about publishing--that, or they know just enough to be dangerous.

icerose
01-03-2007, 01:04 AM
Its the initial misconception that PA uses to garner all of their business. Authors coming to them are generally ignorant about publishing--that, or they know just enough to be dangerous.

From what I can tell there are five types of PA authors:

1. The Ignorant one who knows nothing about the industry and chances are high PA is the first one they submitted to or the first one who responded back. (I was in the first catagory.)

2. Those who tried for a bit, failed, submitted to PA hurrah, PA saved them from query hell.

3. Those who just want to have a copy to hold. *tear* This catagory chances are they will forever be happy, they always wanted their book in print they got it. What else could a person want?

4. Those who believe there is a conspiracy in the publishing industry and PA is the only one who isn't part of it.

5. Sour grapes. "I'll show you all!" Types.

The last two are the scary ones, the first three have a high chance of coming to their senses and quickly.

Bartholomew
01-03-2007, 01:07 AM
3. Those who just want to have a copy to hold. *tear* This catagory chances are they will forever be happy, they always wanted their book in print they got it. What else could a person want?


Vanity publishing does serve an important role. I've used vanity services to make religious texts to hand out, and the like. Things I need to look pretty

James D. Macdonald
01-03-2007, 01:49 AM
PublishAmerica is separate from, and has nothing to do with, the publishing industry. If they vanished tomorrow no one would notice.

imagoodgurl4
01-03-2007, 01:51 AM
I'm crossing my fingers they do vanish tomorrow...but I don't have a lot of hope.

icerose
01-03-2007, 02:41 AM
PublishAmerica is separate from, and has nothing to do with, the publishing industry. If they vanished tomorrow no one would notice.

Except us. We'd have to have some kind of a party.

Bartholomew
01-03-2007, 05:07 AM
If they vanished tomorrow no one would notice.

And I'd be the prime suspect.

TsukiRyoko
01-03-2007, 05:18 AM
What puzzles me is how they are in business when there are legitimate and LOGICAL alternatives.

I have never published a book through a POD or Vanity, but I think Lulu is great. They offer a service (one I have even considered for a combo photography and poetry thing just as a personal project). They aren't ripping people off, and if you REALLY want to chase the dream you can purchase your own ISBN and amazon that bugger.

Why go with these dingleberries? This is true. I know a lot of artists on deviantart.com who have published through LuLu and have sold pretty damn well. LuLu at least has the potential to give a little success if you work hard for it. PA is just a crock of shit.

Celia Cyanide
01-03-2007, 08:32 PM
That leaves us free to seriously consider the submissions we do ask for. For good writers, that's a win."

That's one way to look at it. Another is that all good writers were bad at one point, and all those writers with the bad manuscripts are being told their work is publishable, when it's not. They are being denied the chance to learn from their bad manuscripts and become better writers in the process.

aruna
01-03-2007, 09:13 PM
I have never published a book through a POD or Vanity, but I think Lulu is great. They offer a service (one I have even considered for a combo photography and poetry thing just as a personal project). They aren't ripping people off, and if you REALLY want to chase the dream you can purchase your own ISBN and amazon that bugger.

Yesterday I published a book through Lulu.

I have a commercially non-viable manuscript. I consider myslef a totall nincompoop as far as anything with PC's is concerned, so I was going to ask for help publishing through Lulu. But yesterday I went to Lulu just to have a look. It was scary, how quick and easy the process is.
The only thing that took any time was choosing a cover from their selection. I couldn't help it, I went all the way through to the end and got myself "published". But since the manuscript isn't quite ready to go, I deleted it again.
Five clicks. Less than five minutes. No cost. It's scary, how easy it is!

Sheryl Nantus
01-03-2007, 09:50 PM
Another is that all good writers were bad at one point, and all those writers with the bad manuscripts are being told their work is publishable, when it's not. They are being denied the chance to learn from their bad manuscripts and become better writers in the process.

which to me is the bigger sin - that all these writers then go out into the world and claim to have perfected their craft (as evidenced by the latest PA visitor) and have reached the pinnacle of their craft.

I can honestly say that I'm a better writer than I was, but not as good as I can be. And the day that I can say that I've learnt it all will probably be the same day I die.

PA gives them false hopes and false expectations of the writing life specifically and of life in general - that anyone can be an author and heck, why take those classes or read those books or go to the workshops?

bah.

a pox on their house.

CatSlave
01-03-2007, 09:50 PM
Any way you slice it, it seems that PA's purpose is dilution.

I think their purpose is to con as many writers out of a contract as quickly as possible, before the writers find forums like this and educate themselves. A signed contract means a captive buying audience.

Unfortunately, the number of naive writers who are easy pickings for PA appears to be endless. Regardless of how many disillusioned PA writers bail out, for each one there will be three to replace him/her. As PT Barnum said...

icerose
01-03-2007, 09:59 PM
At least the overall quality is going down so that those who are close to actually making it aren't falling for PA. Those serious about their writing and themselves for the most part are avoiding it. In that I find comfort.

MMcC
01-03-2007, 10:08 PM
I know a gal on another board who published with them and is thrilled. A few academics I know published their theses with them, since it's often not worth sending more unusual or borderline stuff out, and it's a quick and easy way to have it in a form students or other academics can get their hands on.

It's not where I'd put a novel but I would consider doing something else with them just for the hell of it.

Jamesaritchie
01-03-2007, 10:16 PM
This was kind of brought up in another AW thread, and this is what I answered (and it brings me little joy to say it, I might add)

You want to hear something horrible? A nasty little thing I've found out by attending (and speaking at) national writers' conferences these past few years? Psst, here it is: commercial publishers and agents are starting to LOVE PublishAmerica.

Yes, I can hear the gasps of disbelief, but I'll tell you exactly what some of them have told me. Since PA has made such a presence in these last few years, the quality of the manuscripts these editors and agents are recieving has increased dramatically. One editor put it this way. "PublishAmerica is the literary equivalent of a lobster," he said (and I'm paraphrasing here). "Not because it tastes good. But because it's a well-known fact that lobsters are really nothing more than sea-going cockroaches. They'll eat anything, and leave the ocean floor in a better condition. So it is with PublishAmerica. They deal with the crap, so we rarely see it. That leaves us free to seriously consider the submissions we do ask for. For good writers, that's a win."

PA lurkers, that's something to ponder, ain't it?

I've heard agents and editors say the same thing about all the self-publishing going on today, and there's a lot of truth in it. Anything that helps weed the slush pile is good for everyone who has to reach being published by wading through it.

Jamesaritchie
01-03-2007, 10:17 PM
I know a gal on another board who published with them and is thrilled. A few academics I know published their theses with them, since it's often not worth sending more unusual or borderline stuff out, and it's a quick and easy way to have it in a form students or other academics can get their hands on.

It's not where I'd put a novel but I would consider doing something else with them just for the hell of it.

There are much quicker, better, and cheaper ways.

icerose
01-03-2007, 10:20 PM
Yeah, PA takes over a year, they are expensive, there is no guarantee on availability.

Go with lulu, in 5 minutes you are through the process, you set the price, you control everything, no contract, no abuse, no BS.

There is no and I repeat NO reason to go with PA.

Gravity
01-03-2007, 10:55 PM
Regardless of how many disillusioned PA writers bail out, for each one there will be three to replace him/her.

Very true. And with the Internet, it's a never-ending stream. I think outfits like PA usually have lifespan of just a few years or so; the Stooges have been going at it longer than most, simply because they haven't yet scammed somebody with the funds to put an end to the farce. That day will come, of course; it may very well be "happy author" #20,001--whoever that it--a person with deep pockets and an aversion to having them picked. But it'll happen, and PA will be no more. What even more insidiously-slick scam will then fill that void I hate to imagine...

LloydBrown
01-03-2007, 11:09 PM
That day will come, of course; it may very well be "happy author" #20,001--whoever that it--a person with deep pockets and an aversion to having them picked.

I like to picture a real-world Cutter from the show House. It's an awesome character who can oppose the very strong House as well as he does, and Cutter is downright scary.

Celia Cyanide
01-03-2007, 11:21 PM
which to me is the bigger sin - that all these writers then go out into the world and claim to have perfected their craft (as evidenced by the latest PA visitor) and have reached the pinnacle of their craft.

I just thought of...well, something I hadn't thought of when I posted last.

Maybe a lot of the commercial publishers and agents like to see PA soaking up the slush pile. But there is another thing PA does, and that's spread misinformation about the publishing industry. Sooner or later, that's bound to come back and haunt them. A lot of PA authors probably think they'll start out with a "small publisher" like PA and work their way up.

Sheryl Nantus
01-03-2007, 11:24 PM
A lot of PA authors probably think they'll start out with a "small publisher" like PA and work their way up.

of course they do.

there's a plethora of posts on the PAMB and on other "writing" boards (meaning those owned and operated by PA authors and usually only visited by other PA authors) who trumpet this as Only The Start of their Great Writing Career as they leap from PA to Tor, Penguin, etc.

the sad thing is that even if they beat the odds and sell well at PA their credit means relatively nothing to the real publishers who will view the author with very different eyes than if they had legitimately self-pubbed their book and recieved the same success.

sad.

DeadlyAccurate
01-03-2007, 11:24 PM
which to me is the bigger sin - that all these writers then go out into the world and claim to have perfected their craft (as evidenced by the latest PA visitor) and have reached the pinnacle of their craft.

I can honestly say that I'm a better writer than I was, but not as good as I can be. And the day that I can say that I've learnt it all will probably be the same day I die.

PA gives them false hopes and false expectations of the writing life specifically and of life in general - that anyone can be an author and heck, why take those classes or read those books or go to the workshops?

bah.

a pox on their house.

I nearly panicked the day I realized that my writing wasn't growing as fast as it had been. It took a while to sink in that it was only because I'd ramped up fairly fast (fast being about three finished manuscripts), so the changes after that had to be smaller; all the major learning steps were already passed (past? OK, except for knowing when to use past and passed.)

I still get very worried if I read my older work and don't see mistakes and flaws. When I finished my last book, I thought it was great. It was, without a doubt, the best book I'd done. I got my query in working order and managed to snag some requests. One ended as a rejection on the full, but only because she didn't like the ending. She wanted me to revise and resubmit. So I did. My revision included quite a bit of the entire book, because I kept seeing things to improve. The book ended up much better than it had been.

So there was a book that was the best I could do, and it suddenly got better. I recently got another request for a partial. Agent loved what she read, but she thought it needed editing (for redundancy and extraneous detail). She suggested I take a little time to edit before I send the full. So I did. And damn if that book didn't get just a little tighter! Even if she had rejected it, I would've gotten a better book out of the deal for the next agent to read. I look back at the first version and think, "Whoa, what utter crap! I can't believe I thought that was ready to go."

I simply can't imagine thinking that being published means I've learned all I need to learn.

DA, who indulges in her love of adverbs here so they don't overwhelm her books

James D. Macdonald
01-03-2007, 11:29 PM
It's not where I'd put a novel but I would consider doing something else with them just for the hell of it.

Why lose your publishing rights for seven years? If you just want it in a form that students can get, why not go with Lulu or Cafepress? The text will be available sooner, without having any errors added to the text, and the price will be lower.

HapiSofi
01-06-2007, 03:24 AM
Jim's closest to the bullseye: PA has next to no impact on the real publishing industry. Most industry professionals don't know PA exists, and wouldn't notice any difference if it vanished overnight.

I don't think PA is doing that much to thin the slush. Most writers still submit to several publishing houses before they self-publish. Statistically, from the industry's point of view, that's indistinguishable from a situation where writers submit to several publishing houses and then stop submitting that manuscript.

I don't believe that fellow who said that PA was the equivalent of lobster. During the period of PA's ascendance, NaNoWriMo has been encouraging thousands of new writers to write and finish novels. If all he sees is the slush pile, he's not going to be able to differentiate the effects of those interacting forces. I think that when he said that, he was just putting on airs.

If PA's having any impact, it's this: writers who previously would have collected rejection slips and kept writing are now getting mispublished early in their careers, and are subsequently putting all their effort into "promoting" these unsaleable books. Not only does this interfere with their development as writers, but many of them become exhausted, lose heart, and stop writing altogether.

MMcC
01-06-2007, 05:37 AM
There are much quicker, better, and cheaper ways.

I was actually referring to LuLu in the comments but either lost a portion of it or was unaware I didn't quote the person to whom I was responding.

PA couldn't pay me to publish with them... if they paid... and I were in recovery from a recent, severe brain injury. :D

NicoleJLeBoeuf
01-06-2007, 03:16 PM
But there is another thing PA does, and that's spread misinformation about the publishing industry. Sooner or later, that's bound to come back and haunt them. A lot of PA authors probably think they'll start out with a "small publisher" like PA and work their way up.All of us start in a state of ignorance. As would-be writers, that ignorance can take several forms:

* believing that the writer is the publisher's customer, rather than vice versa
* believing that rejection letters mean the system is broken, rather than that their writing and/or marketing skills need improvement
* believing that all writers re-sell their own books by hand
* believing that it's impossible to get commercially published as a first-time novelist
* & et.

PA specializes in attracting would-be writers in their state of ignorance and arresting their development.

There may be publishers/editors/slush-readers pleased to have PA provide this "service," but I'm not sure I'd want to get to know them.

HapiSofi
01-08-2007, 07:08 AM
PA specializes in attracting would-be writers in their state of ignorance and arresting their development.
Yes! That's it exactly!

I'll add this bit from TNH's unsympathetic revision (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/008497.html#008497) of S. L. Viehl's "Devil's Dictionary":


Self-publishing: How authors who are slow learners find out about marketing and distribution.

batgirl
01-08-2007, 07:30 AM
If PA's having any impact, it's this: writers who previously would have collected rejection slips and kept writing are now getting mispublished early in their careers, and are subsequently putting all their effort into "promoting" these unsaleable books. Not only does this interfere with their development as writers, but many of them become exhausted, lose heart, and stop writing altogether. mispublished.
Okay, I found my Word For the Day.
-Barbara

HapiSofi
01-10-2007, 08:50 PM
"Mispublished" is generally used to indicate a passage or datum that's been published (that is, made public) in an erroneous or broken fashion, as in "Mispublished pricing will be amended per our discretion," or "The trial version of the website has been mispublishing the customer's mother's maiden name as their street address." The underlying sense of the term is that it's an error generated automatically by a malfunctioning interaction between the data display system and an underlying database, rather than a handmade human error of the more normal sort.

I don't know whether I'm the first person to have used "mispublish" to describe what happens when an operation like PublishAmerica ingests a manuscript and spits out a book, but I think it's an accurate extension of the original sense of the word, and a useful term to have in these discussions. Normal publishing operations will sometimes make normal human miscalls on a book, such as overestimating or misidentifying its audience, or using a cover that doesn't speak clearly to its natural readership. It can happen.

Books from publishers like PA are broken from the start. PA is deliberately set up in such a way that the people with the power to make decisions never have to interact with the books. Their failure isn't caused by people mishandling individual books. It's a property that's built into their bulk processing systems.

PA's books aren't chosen for their quality. This in itself guarantees failure, since it only takes one or two encounters with thoroughly bad books for readers and reviewers lose all faith in an imprint. Their books aren't edited. The packaging is perfunctory. There's no publicity, no marketing, and no in-store distribution. There's no CIP data, and thus no library sales. They don't send copies to the major review venues two months in advance of publication, so that's out too. The cover prices are too high, the retailer discount is seriously wonky, and their nonfunctioning returns system only exists so they can say they have one. Finally, they're abominably bad at filling reprint orders; so even that force of nature, word of mouth sales momentum, is balked.

Could their operation be redeemed, if someone else took it over? It could not. All of the necessary functions whose absence I've noted require paying a lot of thoughtful attention to the individual books. You can automate book production processes, as Lulu.com does, but you can't automate publishing itself. All you can do is turn out books that are automatic failures. Thus, mispublished: incapable of success.