The Ugly

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

The Ugly Publisher not only treats authors badly, but does so with malice aforethought. The Granddaddy of ugly publishers is Author Solutions. Our August post Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, made it clear that discovering the underlying publisher is not always easy. Author Solutions has a gazillion imprints, and many of them are associated with otherwise legitimate publishers.

Dr Judith Briles, in her excellent blog The Book Shepherd, says the following: “Author Solutions has gotten into bed with Hay House (Balboa Press), Thomas Nelson (Westbow Press), Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing packages start at $1599 and can go up to $24,999), Guide Post/Writers Digest (Abbott Press) and others. With Penguin recently acquiring Author Solutions, who knows what Penguin will turn over from their slush/pass piles to Author House to ‘follow up’ on.”

http://thebookshepherd.com/ripsoffs-scams-and-authors-oh-my.html 

According to Publishers Weekly, the class action suit filed against Author Solutions in spring of 2013, “alleges that Author Solutions misrepresents itself as an independent publisher, luring authors in with claims of ‘greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors,’ and then profits from ‘fraudulent’ practices, including ‘delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate correction fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.’

In the initial complaint, three named plaintiffs (Kelvin James, Jodi Foster, and Terry Hardy) detail their experiences of paying thousands of dollars, and being upsold into ‘developmental’ packages for editing and marketing services which either “did not materialize, or provided subpar service, while generating fees for Author Solutions.’” http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/62144-pretrial-schedule-proposed-in-author-solutions-case.html

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, called Author Solutions one of the companies that put the “V” in vanity. Author Solutions earn 2/3 or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors’ books to readers. http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/smashwords-founder-criticizes-penguin-author-solutions-acquisition/55998 For anyone not familiar with Smashwords, Bowker named Smashwords the largest publisher for indie e-books in its latest report “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2007-2012,” after publishing about 90,000 e-books in 2012. http://www.teleread.com/smashwords/smashwords-named-top-indie-e-book-publisher-createspace-tops-in-combined-print-and-digital/

In conclusion: DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you choose a publisher.

NEXT: WHERE TO LOOK FOR ANSWERS

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Small Publishers: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 2)

© 2009 Travis Balinas, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

© 2009 Travis Balinas, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

It is the beginning of a new year and time to take another look at small publishers. This month we will discuss the BAD and leave the Ugly for the shortest month. Don’t want to look at them too long.

BAD IS A RELATIVE TERM

What is meant by a “bad” small publisher? Probably every person who reads this blog will be able to give a definition of a “bad” publisher, and there are good odds that no two of those definitions will be the same. To our mind, a bad publisher is one who treats the author badly. What does this mean? Here’s where things get relative and we are reminded of the old adage that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Before you can define “bad,” you must be clear in your own mind what you want from a publisher. If all you want is an imprint on the copyright page and bragging rights of having a publisher as you wave your book in front of (possibly) envious friends and relatives, then you don’t need to read any more. Read Part 3 next month for the straightest and easiest path to get there.

If you are serious about writing, or even serious about the one book you have finished, you need to dig deeper. Joe Konrath wrote a full page bulleted list of what it means to treat an author badly in his blog Do Legacy Publishers Treat Authors Badly? Yes, legacy publishers treat authors badly, but so do many small publishers. After all, they aspire to be big boys one day.

Adding to all the unkind ways legacy publishers treat authors, small publishers have a few more bullet points, chief among them being taking the author’s money to publish his or her book. Small publishers of an entirely new breed are multiplying–fee based publishing. Granted that small publishers have small budgets (otherwise they’d be big publishers), there is some justification for that. It is the individual author who must decide what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. Unfortunately, all too often the author gets the crumbs from the royalty table–and pays for the privilege.

When looking into small publishers, consider which points you consider bad treatment, and search the publisher’s website to see how they treat their authors. Contact one of their authors and ask about their opinion of the publisher. Does the publisher treat the author as a colleague or a product? Ask questions. Do your homework.

For more insight on publishers treating authors badly,

Roz Morris, author of Nail Your Novel, wrote: Why do authors get treated so badly?

Jane Friedman’s blog: Climbing the walls

NEXT Month: THE UGLY

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

2005 Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio