Sunday, December 03, 2006

PublishAmerica - Selling dreams at $20 a pop...

A week ago, I sent the first few chapters of my novel, Adventure Eddy, off to a publisher. I addressed the envelope to one of the finest editors in the country, who has given breath to some of the biggest fictions titles of recent years, and crossed my fingers.

I think Adventure Eddy is a great book, with a great concept and a real market out there... But I'm not going to kid myself. As Miss Snark pointed out on her website, out of 500 queries, publishers will normally contract only one. So my chances were 500/1.

And that's with an agency, let alone one of the best publishers in the UK.

But apparently, there is a publisher out there willing to take on new, untested talent. They're called PublishAmerica and they proudly declare that they are America's number one publisher.

I took a look at PublishAmerica, because I was curious about the chances of getting my book in print. What they offered seemed very exciting.

They will take a look at your book and, if it's acceptable, 'take a risk' and publish it. In return, instead of giving you a big advance like most publishers do, they will give you a 'nominal' advance of $1 to offset the financial risk they face backing your work.

Once PublishAmerica take on your book, it will be available in bookstores and online - but they make it clear that the investment of marketing the book is left to the writer. After all, they're only giving you a $1 advance!

So in theory, your book is published, available in bookshops and on Amazon, and you're a published author. Way to go you!

Except further research into PublishAmerica reveals that this isn't quite the real picture.

Because PublishAmerica will publish ANYTHING. I mean, seriously, anything. Several independant 'studies' have been done on this subject, including sending PublishAmerica the same thirty pages of script repeated ten times. And they accepted it.

In fact, it looks like PublishAmerica will publish anything - hence why they're America's number one publisher. Because they have more published titles than any other publisher in the USA.

Why on earth would a 'traditional publisher' (like PublishAmerica claims to be) publish any old crap? I mean, publishing is a really tricky business. There's not much return on the investment of printing books. To make it cost effective, you need print hundreds of the buggers and expect a dollar profit on each, at best. So if they print total, unmitigated crap (like PublishAmerica do - and google 'Atlanta Nights' if you don't believe me) then who is going to buy them?

The truth is, PublishAmerica don't publish the books they accept.

When you look at the organisation closely, you discover that they actually resemble Lulu more than a 'traditional publisher.' They are basically a 'print on demand' company.

Because when they tell the author that marketing is left up to them, that means all forms of marketing, including getting the book into the bookstores, is left to the author.

Bookstores, like Waterstones or Barnes and Noble, accept books with a 35% discount and the safety net of being able to return them if they're not sold. Publish America offer no discount on books (sold at high end prices of $20 each) and because they only print books when they're asked for (so they don't rack up the costs of unsold books) they don't accept returns on the books. So if your book is published by PublishAmerica, the author first off has to get Barnes and Nobles interested in stocking the book in the first place.... and then explain to them why they're not making any money on each copy they sell (on an $18.95 book a bookshop can expect to make $6.63 on each copy sold. Publish America give them .94 cents.) Then, if they have stocked a few copies of your book and they don't sell, the bookstore has to suck up the costs because there is no return policy.

Basically, PublishAmerica make it impossible for the books to even find their way to the bookstore. They are available online. That's about it.

So PublishAmerica don't print these books and they don't stock them in bookstores and they don't invest in any form of marketing. So far their outlay is $1 to the author... But where do they make their money?

The sad truth is, PublishAmerica exist almost entirely on the money made from the author, and friends of the author, and family of the author, buying copies of the book. PublishAmerica invest a couple of bucks that they recoup tenfold on the two or three copies of the book the author and his friends/family buy.

And the sad truth is, because of the way they're set up, they're the only sales PublishAmerica authors can expect to get. And that's how the company operates. They're basically an author mill.

It's horrible. As a writer, I know there is no better feeling in the world than getting your book in print. It's something you're hungry for and desperate for. And that's what PublishAmerica count on. They exploit that need to get published and milk poor, hopeful writers for money they can ill afford to spend. They take your dreams and charge your for them.

Finding out about PublishAmerica at least reassured me. Even if I am rejected by the publisher I've sent Adventure Eddy to - that rejection's far less to deal with than exploitation by unscrupulous companies like PublishAmerica.

If you know any aspiring writers (apart from me) then please tell them to steer clear of PublishAmerica.


Marti said...

I absolutely agree. They are horrible. Not only do they attempt to scam authors into this fantasy that they are beng published by a big house, but the quality of their merchandise is awful.

An author frined of mine got her young adults series published through them, and the books are just plain shabby.

Thank you for getting the word out about this bad company.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Do keep spreading the word every chance you get. Good luck with finding a good publishing home for your manuscript.

jodi said...

i'm really pulling for you and eddie. it would be fabulous if you got published. you'd be a WRITER IN NEW YORK!! you'd have to wear jackets with patches on the elbows. oh and your british accent will only enhance the dreaminess of your existence.

Alice M rooker said...

I think their booka are beautiful and the covers as well as the printng are well done. Who wants their book in a bookstore anyway--I buy my books online at Amaazon so does nearly everyone. I am published with them and very pleased and happy with my book. Some folks simply like to gripe.

Alice M Crooker said...

Come on--who on earth cares who published a book? This is snobbery, pure and simple, if the book is interesting, the cover attractive, and the print legible, then that is what matters. Publishamerica did my book and I am very glad. They provided a beautiful cover and the book is great.

James Macdonald said...

How are your sales doing, Alice?

Have you earned more in royalties than you've spent on promotion?

How many copies did you buy yourself, at what dollar cost?