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the best ways to start a flame war on a writers' message
board is mention PublishAmerica.
Rather than begin a flame war, however, our
Editor-in-Chief decided to review a funny, enlightening
book, accepted for publication by Publish America. You
can read Lee's review here. The intention
behind the review was to point out the less-than-sincere
business practises behind some of the publishers out
purpose of this article isn't to condemn anyone who has
chosen to publish with PublishAmerica. My sole intent is
to help new writers understand the differences between a
"traditional" publisher and the way
PublishAmerica does business. After all - the staff at
Fiction Factor are dedicated to helping writers establish
credible and professional writing careers.
begin by taking a look at PublishAmerica's website.
There's certainly a lot of hype on the PA site. Most of
it declares that PublishAmerica is a "traditional
publisher". In fact, their own 'catch-cry' is "We Treat Our
Authors the Old-Fashioned Way - We Pay Them". This catchy slogan is
emblazoned right below their corporate logo. Yep. They
pay them. They offer their writers a $1 advance (that's
not a typo).
First, giving an advance does not mean the publisher
follows a "traditional" business model. It
merely means they're paying their writers in advance of
any sales. This can be a risky venture for the publisher.
There's a chance the book won't sell through its advance.
This happens quite often to large NY publishing houses,
especially with first time novelists. However,
PublisherAmerica is not assuming any risk. With only a $1
advance, they're sure to sell through their advance the
moment the author purchases the first copy. How many
authors aren't going to buy a copy of their own novel?
Apparently more than 1,000 according to an article citing
PA's CEO, Larry Clopper: He said more than 1,000
PublishAmerica titles have not a sold a copy;
PublishAmerica released those books at a loss.
There are a lot of small publishers that do not offer
an advance, yet are still considered
"traditional" publishers. My own publisher,
Dragon Moon Press, did not pay the authors of The Complete Guide to Writing
Fantasy or The Fantasy Writer's Companion an advance. But Dragon Moon Press
does follow a "traditional" business model.
Both books had to be approved by an editor before a
contract was offered. Both books went through a laborious
editing process before they were printed.
Yes, PublishAmerica pay royalties on sales. This means
that for every book that sells, you receive a kind of
commission called a royalty on the sale price. PA offers
8% royalty on the first 2000 copies sold. This percentage
increases with the number of books sold. On their own
website, they state that this is above the industry
standard for royalty rates.
Simple research tells me that the industry standard is
the Washington Post printed a great article about Publish
America not so long ago. In fact, during this article, a
PA spokesperson boasts annual sales between $4million and
$6million. That's a lot of book sales!
What a good thing for us Lee's a numbers-person! Let's
use some of Lee's mathematical skills right now, shall
$6 million in annual gross sales, divided by 11,000 very
happy authors, divided by 8% royalty = not enough money
to buy dinner for two each year! Did you catch that?
6,000,000 / 11,000 / 8% = $43.64
An average of $43.64 per year in royalties paid to each
author? My goodness. Their average trade paperback sale
price is approximately $19 per book.
Once again, it's a good thing Lee's a numbers person.
Lee's done those same numbers in reverse, too!
$6,000,000 x 92% = $5,520,000 that
doesn't have to be shared by PA with pesky authors...
Of course, any 'good' business person can tell you that
the overheads and staff costs eat into those 'profits'
and of course the authors are the most important part of
any publishing house and the costs of marketing expenses
and insurances and .... you get the idea.
or Vanity Publishing?
Publish America has a very nicely written FAQ page and
they even have a Facts and Figures page. Let's take a
look at what some of it says:
Fact #5: PublishAmerica
is NOT in any way a POD, vanity press, or
subsidy publisher, and has nothing in common with them
Okay then. We're not dealing with a publisher who uses
Print-On-Demand technology, according to their own
fact-file. I assume this must mean they print up
thousands of books at a time and hope that they sell.
FACT #7: The only area where the
acronym POD comes in sight, is the printing stage of a
book. Among printers, POD means
print-on-demand, a digital technology that
enables the printer to manufacture a book one at a time.
Oh Golly! Now they ARE admitting to being Print-On-Demand
publishers - only two 'facts' later! I'm confused!
FACT #11: We assign an editor who
goes through the text line by line. Let's put this in
perspective. We don't touch style issues, we don't edit
the author's voice, tone, or delivery. We edit for
spelling, mechanics, grammar, typos, and trust us, that's
a vital and time consuming job. Together, our editing
staff makes more than 35,000 (!) corrections, each day,
to the books they work on that day.
um... I guess I don't have the room to begin with this
'fact' - but Lee's already done it. You can see her take
on PA's 'editing' here: http://www.fictionfactor.com/reviews/atlantanights.html
All traditional publishing houses require the manuscripts
they accept to go through a submissions and acceptance
procedure. PublishAmerica claims to do the same thing.
However, a group of professionally published science
fiction writers decided to put this assertion to the
test. This story was covered by Scott Martelle, a Los
Angeles Times Staff Writer. http://www.lisamaliga.com/AtlantaNightsLosAngelesTimes.htm
visited PublishAmerica's website, I took a look at their
FAQ page. There were several things that bothered me
about what was written there. http://www.publishamerica.com/facts/index.htm
among all traditional book publishing companies,
PublishAmerica counts more than 11,000 happy
authors. Each day, an average 7 of them ask us to also
accept their next work, 38 second-book authors per week,
more than 145 per month.
stop and think about those numbers for a moment. How can
PublishAmerica promote their writers if they're producing
that many novels? 11,000? Check the cost of running a two
or three line ad in a major magazine. Most large
circulation magazines are going to charge $200-300 or
more for a very small ad. Times that by 11,000 and you're
looking at $2,200,000.00. Somehow I don't see
PublishAmerica's budget going that far. But then, they
don't claim to market your book, so I can't find fault
there, right? Wrong. While they don't claim to market
your book, they do claim to edit your book. If they're
accepting over 145 novels per month just how many editors
do they employ?
to this article: PublishAmerica has 35 full-time editors
and published 4,800 books last year, which means that
each editor worked on more than 100 books. Editors
typically spend just two days on a book, Clopper said,
primarily checking for grammar and spelling.
editor myself, I can tell you that even if a book is well
written, it takes a lot of time to do a through editing
and proofreading. Earlier this week I finished editing Not
Your Father's Horsemen by Valerie Griswold-Ford (due
out this summer). Val is a very talented and skilled
writer. She didn't need a lot of editorial assistance and
the number of typos in her book was minimal, but it still
took far more than two days to go over all 330 pages of
text of Atlanta Nights is any indication, PublishAmerica
needs to employ either more or better editors.
a quote from another website reads differently: We
publish approximately 1,100 new titles per year. Of those
titles, about 800 are first time authors.
number is right? 145 novels per month equals 1740 novels
per year, not 1,100 new titles per year.
On the Science Fiction Writer's Association website (SFWA), their Author
Beware section tells us the following:
mill"--a company that publishes a very large number
of authors in the expectation of selling a hundred books
or so from each (as opposed to publishing a limited
number of authors in hopes of selling thousands of books
from each, as commercial publishers do). Author mills
don't require authors to make any financial expenditures
at all, hidden or otherwise. However, they do rely on
their authors as their major source of income (through
books purchased by the author for re-sale, or sold to
"pocket" markets the author him/herself is
responsible for identifying), and so can be defined as
vanity publishers, despite the lack of upfront or other
charges. Also, author mills tend to share a business
model with vanity publishers: no editorial screening of
submissions, no meaningful pre-publication editing, no
meaningful post-publication marketing or distribution.
I personally find this description quite apt,
considering our current topic....
found this quote particularly interesting: Consequently,
our books can be found at numerous online vendor sites,
and through each and every brick and mortar bookstore
from coast to coast.
time you're shopping at your local (or national chain)
bookstore, ask if they have any PublishAmerica books in
are some links to read more about PublishAmerica and what
the publishing world thinks of their business practices.
Lots of links to articles and information about
PublishAmerica, scroll through their alphabetical listing
until you get to PublishAmerica
A quick search on Google turned up more negative links
than positive for PublishAmerica. NOT the kind of
publicity you want for the company you're trusting to
produce your novel.
If all else fails and you're still tempted to look into
publishing with this "publisher" - then I
strongly suggest you read the following:
Publish America - Yes or No?
Preditors & Editors (Scroll down to
© Copyright 2005 Tina Morgan. All Rights
(additional information and research courtesy of Lee
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