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Thread: PublishAmerica's Business Plan

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  1. #1
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
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    Arrow PublishAmerica's Business Plan

    I can tell you exactly how PA stays afloat; or rather, I can refer you to an article that explains it. There's just one problem: they don't identify PA as the publisher they're talking about. What makes it even more irritating is that the article's from Making Light, which is usually pretty up-front about identifying scammers. I don't know why they dodged that time, but I'm morally certain it's PA they're talking about.

    The meat of the explanation starts where it says "So, when a writer armed with this wisdom encounters this new scam, it doesn't look like a bad deal."

    Here's a summary of their explanation:

    1. Ongoing developments in imaging, printing, and binding have made it much cheaper and easier to print up books in small quantities.

    2. Naive authors think "publishing" consists of putting a book into print. That's only one sense of the word, and it's not the most important sense. In fact, it's just the tip of the iceberg. The real sense of "publishing" is making a book public: all that complex, expert work that goes into selling the book: marketing, promotion, publicity, distribution, warehousing, sales, returns accounting ...

    3. Authors love their books. They and their friends and relations will buy copies, come hell or high water. Magic fact: the average number of copies sold per title by "publishing companies" that don't bother with all that sales & distribution stuff runs a consistent 73-74 copies.

    4. Back before the internet, vanity publishers didn't pretend to function as booksellers. Selling books takes hard work and costs a lot of money. However, once Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and Powells.com came along, vanity publishers could get their titles listed by Ingram (which does not take hard work or cost a lot of money), and thereby pretend that they were functioning as booksellers.

    (This is like the difference between the two different senses of publish. In this case, the difference is between selling (doing everything you can to get the book onto bookstore shelves, and from there into the hands of the reading public) and selling (agreeing to let copies be sent off, if people absolutely insist on buying them). PA means the latter sense of the word, but they count on their authors thinking they mean the former sense.)

    5. Since PA is nominally functioning as the book's seller, they get to set the book's cover price.

    6. PA keeps their costs down to the absolute bare minimum by doing as little editorial and production work as humanly possible on the book, and by dispensing with all that expensive sales, marketing, promotion, publicity, and distribution stuff. This badly hurts their books' sales prospects.

    7. PA puts noticeably higher cover prices on their books than the legitimate publishing industry, including the legit POD houses that use the exact same print & bind suppliers. This also hurts their books' sales prospects.

    8. Remember point #3? The average 73-74 copies per title sold by "publishing companies" that don't bother to market their books? By stripping their costs to the bare bones, and setting an unnaturally high cover price, PA gives itself a profit margin so generous that those 73-74 sales are enough to guarantee that they'll make money on the deal.

    And that, dear friends, is how PublishAmerica stays afloat. It's also why we keep calling them a vanity publisher. As the article in Making Light sums up the scheme:
    This is moderately clever. It relocates the sting to the point of retail sale, where it's never been before. Further camouflage is provided by the author's tendency to see that transaction as a book sale, a good thing, not as the vanity publishing on a per-copy installment plan that it really is.
    They point out a couple of further implications:

    A. By setting their cover prices so high, PA is betting against their own books. They don't care that readers aren't going to pick up a book by a new author that costs significantly more than comparable books by authors they've heard of. PA happily sacrifices their authors' chances of selling books to the general reading public in favor of gouging a larger per-unit profit out of copies sold to their authors' friends and relations.

    B. Sales success is unwelcome at PA. When a book starts selling, you have to scramble to supply it to the market. You have to get it printed and shipped when the public wants it, and ship it to lots of different addresses -- bookstores and distributors -- rather than just shipping it to the author on your own schedule. Doing all that is a lot of trouble if you were never set up in the first place to sell books in quantity to the general public.

    I strongly suspect this is why, before PA started its recent round of reversions, the only known instance where a reversion was PA's idea, rather than something the author (and the author's lawyer) demanded, was when a book actually started selling.
    Last edited by HapiSofi; 04-22-2006 at 10:20 PM.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

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