What Professional Writers, Editors, and Agents Say About PA

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JennaGlatzer

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One of the rumors PublishAmerica likes to float around is that all the people who speak out against PA are just disgruntled writers who were rejected by PA, or whose books failed because they didn't do enough promotion.

That's not reality at all, and Old Hack suggested that we should collect here posts/quotes from publishing professionals who have no "relationship" to PA, so people can see that the publishing industry is strongly opposed to PublishAmerica's misleading tactics.

So, let's keep this a very focused thread.

Here's what belongs in it:

-Short comments from professional writers, editors, and agents about why they oppose PA, and a statement to the effect of "I never submitted a manuscript to PA."

-Quotes (with links) from websites of pro writers, editors, and agents to that same effect.

No commentary in this thread, please. Use rep comments or PMs to comment, or comment in the NEPAT Overflow. This thread's strictly business. ;) Thanks!
 

JennaGlatzer

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Agent advises against PublishAmerica

This is Jenny Rappaport at Folio Literary Management.

Say that you've just written this great fantasy novel, and now you want to get it published. But you're at a loss to how to do this--you don't want to go with a vanity press, you don't want to self-publish it, you don't want to go anywhere near PublishAmerica (avoid them like the plague), but most of the really big-name publishing houses only take agented submissions. So what are you supposed to do? How do you get your great manuscript in front of the editors at the big publishing houses, so that they can offer you a publishing contract?

You get an agent.

http://litsoup.blogspot.com/2006/04/...gents-101.html
 
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JennaGlatzer

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Agent advises against PublishAmerica

Literary agent and blogger "Miss Snark" speaks out:

Everything on this website smacks of the amateur hour.

Bottom line: it's a publishing mill. If they automate enough of the work, they can make money on the 85% they gross off your work.

So, if you want a book that is about Grandma's recipes, or poems about your relationship with your cat, or something else of sentimental value and limited marketability, these guys will be glad to benefit from your work.

http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/01/publishamerica.html
 

JennaGlatzer

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Publishing lawyer opposes PublishAmerica

Charlie Petit, an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law (and posts here as Jaws), speaks out against PA in numerous places on his website:

Sometimes vanity presses try desperately to avoid being so labelled, particularly when they can't even be bothered to comply with their own contracts. One of the primary examples of this is PublishAmerica ("PA"), a vanity press based in Frederick, Maryland that preys on its authors.

http://www.authorslawyer.com/l-publishers.shtml
 

JennaGlatzer

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Peggy

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John Scalzi is a successful columnist, freelance writer and book author (both non-fiction and fiction). His debut novel, Old Man's War, was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in March 2006.
Anyone who looks at PublishAmerica's practices gets the idea pretty clearly that the publisher is not in the business of selling to a mass market; it's in the business of selling to the writer and to the writer's immediate friends and anyone the writer can convince to carry the book. And of course there's a phrase that fits those kinds of publishers: Vanity publisher.
His response to a commenter who praised PublishAmerica as "a deal that many small presses can't beat.":
PublishAmerica is rotten for aspiring authors, for reasons amply noted above. If you say otherwise, you're either ignorant or a PublishAmerica shill. The good news is that being ignorant is correctable, so let's hope that this is your condition.

If one decides to publish on one's own, one should do it through Lulu.com or Cafepress, which do not charge to set up a publish-on-demand situation, and do not oblige one to such ridiculous contractual obligations as does PublishAmerica. It's a far better option.
http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003418.html
 

Maddog

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Writer Beware warns against PublishAmerica

From Ann Crispin and Victoria Strauss

The Great PublishAmerica Hoax

[SIZE=-1]A number of SFWA members (including me) have perpetrated a diabolical hoax upon PublishAmerica, a print-on-demand-based vanity publisher that poses as a "traditional" publisher in order to ensnare thousands of gullible first-time writers.

Most of the writers' advocates providing warnings about this company are speculative fiction writers. After PublishAmerica posted a venomous screed against science fiction and fantasy writers at its AuthorsMarket.net website ("...writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters"), a bunch of us wretched hacks decided to see how high a bar the supposedly selective PublishAmerica sets for its own books. Over the course of a weekend, thirty professional science fiction and fantasy writers and editors sat down and each banged out a chapter of a deliberately unpublishable opus entitled Atlanta Nights. Guess what: PublishAmerica accepted it.

The press release and other information (including links to a downloadable version) are here. A list of known contributors is here. Sample a snippet of Atlanta Nights' immortal prose here.

Writer Beware has received more than 100 complaints about PublishAmerica over the past few years. One PublishAmerica author recently won a judgment in an arbitration proceeding against PublishAmerica; the difficulties he experienced are typical of the complaints we've seen.
[/SIZE]
 
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icerose

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A few more

http://www.authorslawyer.com/l-publishers.shtml

Sometimes vanity presses try desperately to avoid being so labelled, particularly when they can't even be bothered to comply with their own contracts. One of the primary examples of this is PublishAmerica ("PA"), a vanity press based in Frederick, Maryland that preys on its authors. At least its scheme is a little bit inventive: the authors end up paying for copies of their books, because virtually nobody else will buy them (or even can, as all but a handful of PA titles are nonreturnable and thus not stocked in bookstores).

http://www.fictionfactor.com/alerts/pa.html

http://www.todays-woman.net/poetry-scams-71.html

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/publish.html
 
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JennaGlatzer

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Author opposes PublishAmerica

Sherwood Smith is the author of more than 25 novels. (See her bibliography here.) She says:

I should say that I have no objection to vanity presses--the ones who are honest about the goods and services they offer. A vanity press, in fact, is perfect for some projects, where writers of niche books need a printer so they can take the product to an audience they know is waiting: a friend did this with a book about the life of an early twentieth century car designer. She had it printed by a reputable vanity press, took the book to rare car shows, and make a tidy bundle--so successful I believe she went back for a couple of printings before her market tapped out.

What I loathe and despise about PA is that their advertizing tries to suggest in every way possible short of actual promises that they distribute the book--that going with them will get your book into the big book chains.

They also claim that they reject a lot of books, and only pick publishable books. Oh yeah?

http://sartorias.livejournal.com/65204.html
 

JennaGlatzer

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Author opposes PublishAmerica

My name is Jenna Glatzer, and I've never sent a manuscript to PublishAmerica or had anything rejected by PublishAmerica.

I have written books for McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, Thomas Nelson, Andrews McMeel, Penguin Putnam, and others. I am a full-time writer and editor.

I oppose PublishAmerica because they purposefully mislead new writers, pretend to be selective, pretend to have real bookstore distribution, send abusive letters to their own authors, lie about how the publishing world works so they can get their authors to fork out more and more money buying their own books, etc. (You can see more of my thoughts on the "Condensed" thread.)
 

aruna

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I'm Sharon Maas, and I've had three novels published by HarperCollins, London. I've never submitted a manuscript to PublishAmerica, and I utterly despise their methods.

Their website is targeted towards members of the public inexperienced with the publishing business, and sneakily worded to make them believe that their work might be ready for publication. This is very often far from the case. It took me many years of working at my writing before I was publishable - but it was well worth the wait.

PublishAmerica doesn't want your book - they want your money!
 

mdin

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Neil Gaiman mentions PublishAmerica a couple times on his blog.

(in response to a letter from a PA author about self promotion:)

Well, there's nothing wrong with authors promoting their own work. One of the advantages of working with more traditional publishing models is that publishers have people who will do things like write catalogue copy, and write press releases and send them out, while books from traditional publishers are several thousand percent more likely to be picked up and read by book reviewers than books which are perceived as being self-published. Most authors are better writers than they are publicists, for a start, and are, as you note, better off spending their time writing than publicising, especially when, as in your case, even if they do succeed in publicising the book, people will have real trouble getting it. As the CEO of Barnes and Noble explains in this Washington Post article about PublishAmerica, "if authors want their books in stores, they need to go the traditional publishing route." There are other problems with PublishAmerica as a way to get your book into people's hands -- I'd point you to http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10211 for a useful summary.
 

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There is an informative thread in the Usenet group alt.writing.scams from 2003, that includes the above mentioned Teresa Nielsen Hayden (senior editor at Tor), AW's own James D. McDonald (novelist) and John Scalzi (non-fiction and fiction writer)*
T. Nielsen Hayden said:
I'm sorry. It's a vanity publisher. They've just figured out how to charge for publishing the book at a different point in the publishing cycle.

The trick is that authors =always= want a bunch of copies of their books. Between the author's copies and the friends-and-relations copies, you can figure an average of about 75 sales per book. If the publisher does a dead-cheap production job, and sets a very high per-unit price for the book, they can make a profit even if the book never sells to readers outside the friends-and-relations group.

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.writing.scams/browse_frm/thread/a5d525a012af4d80/73e8c1ca26b44e92

* While it's true that you never can be sure of the real identity of a Usenet poster, TNH cites this thread on her own blog, in a post titled "Sneaking Out Under the Literary Radar". Also see TNH's Atlanta Nights post linked above and "Follow the Money" (and be sure to read the comments - several of the commenters are successful published authors).
 
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Peggy

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Brian Keene horror novelist:
Many fine publishers use POD to produce their books: Wildside/Prime, Raw Dog, Eraserhead, etc. This does NOT mean they are self-publishing.

Self-publishing means that you pay someone money to print and publish your book. Sometimes it is a vanity-publisher, such as iUniverse or Publish America. Sometimes it is a printing company, such as Cafe Press or Lulu.com. In any case, YOU PAID MONEY TO GET IT OUT THERE, RATHER THAN THEM PAYING YOU FOR THE RIGHT TO PUBLISH IT. It's that simple, really. It has nothing to do with POD, other than the fact that most vanity presses (publishers who make a living enabling authors to self-publish) use POD technology.

Are we clear? Do you understand the difference between Raw Dog and iUniverse or Wildside and Lulu.com? I hope so, because I grow weary of explaining it every few months. In a nutshell: Eraserhead good. Publish America bad.
http://worlddomination101.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_worlddomination101_archive.html#114236056729998025
 

T. Nielsen Hayden

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Peggy said:
There is an informative thread in the Usenet group alt.writing.scams from 2003, that includes the above mentioned Teresa Nielsen Hayden (senior editor at Tor), AW's own James D. McDonald (novelist) and John Scalzi (non-fiction and fiction writer)*

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.writing.scams/browse_frm/thread/a5d525a012af4d80/73e8c1ca26b44e92

* While it's true that you never can be sure of the real identity of a Usenet poster, TNH cites this thread on her own blog, in a post titled "Sneaking Out Under the Literary Radar". Also see TNH's Atlanta Nights post linked above and "Follow the Money" (and be sure to read the comments - several of the commenters are successful published authors).
I am Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and I confirm that I am the author of the posts made under my name in the thread you cite.

I will furthermore confirm here something that I've said in conversations elsewhere, which is that Follow the Money is primarily about PublishAmerica. I didn't say so at the time because my good friend Jim Macdonald persuaded me to be prudent. PA was less beleaguered back then, and could put more resources into retaliating against individual attackers.

I've also posted extensive remarks about PA here.

Some credentials:

I started working in the mid-70s as a typesetter for various newspapers. I have also worked as an editor, line editor, copy editor, proofreader, slugger, researcher, copy writer, managing editor (trade fiction), comic book editor, literary criticism reference series editor, and consulting editor.

The only work I've ever submitted to PublishAmerica was one of the chapters of Atlanta Nights; and everyone knows how that came out.
 
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janetbellinger

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It's so good to see you here, Teresa. It adds an element of official endorsement to our campaign. Usually when you feel like you've been slimed, you're not wrong. That's exactly how I feel about my experience with Publish America.

T. Nielsen Hayden said:
I am Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and I confirm that I am the author of the posts made under my name in the thread you cite.

I will furthermore confirm here something that I've said in conversations elsewhere, which is that Follow the Money is primarily about PublishAmerica. I didn't say so at the time because my good friend Jim Macdonald persuaded me to be prudent. PA was less beleaguered back then, and could put more resources into retaliating against individual attackers.

I've also posted extensive remarks about PA here.

Some credentials:

I started working in the mid-70s as a typesetter for various newspapers. I have also worked as an editor, line editor, copy editor, proofreader, slugger, researcher, copy writer, managing editor (trade fiction), comic book editor, literary criticism reference series editor, and consulting editor.

The only work I've ever submitted to PublishAmerica was one of the chapters of Atlanta Nights; and everyone knows how that came out.
 

T. Nielsen Hayden

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Thank you, Janet, but you truly don't need my imprimatur to know you've got heavy-duty backup in this forum. Along with much-published authors like Jim, Jenna, Victoria, and Ann (emphatically not a complete list), you've got all kinds of industry pros here. I'm not just talking about all the editors, though they're a mainstay of the forum. Christine Norris, to take just one example, genuinely knows her stuff about marketing and distribution. That makes her a real rarity in online writers' forums, and a valuable resource.

BTW, in case you find this reassuring: I'm morally certain you have more industry professionals participating here pseudonymously than the general readership is aware of. (I don't mean HapiSofi; she's out of the closet.) Respect their anonymity. They're extremely useful to have around.
 

James D. Macdonald

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I'm Jim Macdonald, and I've submitted a manuscript to PA (via a proxy).

It was accepted, of course: The infamous Atlanta Nights, purposely written to be an uneditable, unpublishable mess. To no one's surprise, PA offered a contract.

While it is true that PA eventually withdrew the offer, they only did so after we announced the sting in public. The date/time stamped posts that prove this are still here on AW.

Is it fair to send an unpublishable book to a publisher? Of course it is. Writers do it every day. Publishers routinely reject those books.

What PublishAmerica's offer of a contract means isn't that they'll publish everything -- there aren't enough hours in the day -- but rather that they'll publish anything. That's beyond dispute.
 

aruna

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This is from the Wylie-Merrick Lit. Agency blog:

In the past, some authors who have found a publisher on their own have asked us to work the contract for them. This concept would work fine, except in most cases the publisher found was usually PublishAmerica or some other similar entity. If some of you aren’t familiar with PublishAmerica, let me just say this: If you are turned down by them, you must have done something to make them angry, because, otherwise, you would be published. The advance for this venture would get these writers a check of $1.00, and our take for working their contract would be a whopping 15 cents. Oh, did I forget the royalties? Darn. There’s probably a couple of bucks there, too, if the writer has a huge family and a large circle of indulgent friends.

http://wyliemerrick.blogspot.com/2006/05/totally-biased-response-dont-say-we.html
 

Christine N.

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I'm bumping this, so that anyone swayed by the recent "expert" on the PA boards will find it easily.

That, and there are quotes here by John Scalzi, who was not only nominated for a Hugo, is now a WINNER!

Ok, sorry. Didn't win that one, but did win a Campbell. My bad.
 
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