Publish America

PublishAmerica: Now With 67% More Poodoo!

Fun fact: did you know that back in 1997, Miranda Prather (Executive Director of PublishAmerica) was arrested for faking a hate crime?

This doesn’t really surprise me. After all, this is a company widely reviled by anyone with the slightest clue about publishing.  It’s the company that accepted the deliberately and brilliantly awful book Atlanta Nights, the same company that published Night Travels of the Elven Vampire with a horribly Photoshopped (and illegal) cover of Orlando Bloom. The Absolute Write boards have a great deal of info on PA, everything from their $1 advance (so they can claim to be an advance-paying publisher) to advice on how to get out of a PA contract. Here’s a summary at AW about why they don’t recommend PA.

Apparently it’s now reached the point where even PublishAmerica wants nothing to do with PublishAmerica. From Writer Beware comes PA’s latest “offer” — PA authors can get their books relisted with a new imprint called Independence Books with the following benefits:

  • Not registered as POD in vendor databases.
  • Not registered as PublishAmerica.

That’s directly out of PA’s letter to their authors. I’m suspicious of the PoD designation thing, but it’s the second part that gets me.  I wish I could have been there for the meeting where they decided the best thing they could do to sell books was to try to disguise them as non-PA titles.  Just for fun, I’m imagining the conversation with various Star Wars characters doing the voices.

Emperor: “It appears that we’ve so thoroughly destroyed our reputation that bookstore staff spontaneously burst into sickly green flames at the mere mention of our name. Something must be done!”

Rookie Stormtrooper: “Hey, what if we tried producing better-quality books, and maybe started trying to sell those books to readers?”

::Flushing sound as the new guy is dropped into the rancor pit::

George Lucas: “We should hire that Brittany Spears guy to produce a video where he cries and says ‘Leave PublishAmerica alone!’  Better yet, I’ll create a CGI alien to do it in a really bad accent.”

Emperor: “Implement this plan immediately.”

Vader: “Perhaps it’s time to offer another ‘deal’ to our authors. Our prices are 50-75% higher than other publishers’ titles, so we can let our authors buy books at 40% off and still the Empire shall profit.”

Emperor: “Inform our authors that we are displeased with their lack of progress.  That should frighten them into buying more copies. But it still doesn’t fix our reputation.”

Jabba the Hutt [Translated (badly) from Huttese]: “Dude!  You should, like, totally change your name.  Like when you were sayin’ ‘I’m Senator Palpatine,’ but then you went all ‘I’m Darth Sidious, fool!’  Because nobody saw through that one!”

Emperor: “Excellent. Be sure to make them pay for the privilege…”

Jabba the Hutt: “And you should totally call it ‘Imperial Poodoo!'”


Seriously, when things are so bad that you’re offering your own authors the opportunity to hide their association with you, maybe that should be a clue that it’s time to give up and go home.

PublishAmerica’s Twittery

If you’re bored by publishing talk, go learn how to build TRON lightcycles out of LEGO instead.

PublishAmerica has been around for a while.  You might remember them as the publisher who offered to buy Atlanta Nights, an educationally awful book designed to demonstrate that Publish America would accept just about anything.  Nor does PA pay much attention to things like cover art, as you can see in one of my old LOL books.

PA claims to be a traditional publisher (a term with no actual meaning).  They emphasize that they’re not a vanity press; they pay an advance (generally $1.00), and they urge writers to avoid self-publishing.  From their FAQs:

PublishAmerica adheres to the traditional publishing concept … we earn our income by selling books.

So who do you think they’re selling those books to?  You’ll find few if any PA titles in bookstores.  They’re listed on Amazon like everything else, but an Amazon listing by itself doesn’t sell books.  As far as I can tell, PA appears to make most of their income by selling books to their authors.

PA recently joined Twitter as @publishamerica.  They’ve already protected their feed.  For those of you who don’t want to follow PA, let me sum up.

There’s a note about a 66% discount for online orders, which is cool.  I’d love to be able to sell my books at 2/3 off.  (But my publisher doesn’t sell horribly overpriced books, so that kind of discount is difficult to pull off.)

Reading on, I see a few tweets about individual authors … and a ton of tweets talking about how great PA is.  Canadian libraries stocked seven of our books!  Our authors have booksignings in 50+ bookstores this weekend!  A bookstore in NY just ordered some PA titles!

This isn’t advertising intended to sell books to readers; it’s aimed at selling PublishAmerica to new authors.

Compare this to @dawbooks, my own publisher’s Twitter feed.  DAW also uses Twitter for marketing, but almost every post includes an author’s name and/or a book title.  The goal is to sell books to readers.

From the PA stream:

one cool element of PA’s success is that it drives the opposition nuts. they keep writing about us, fortunately spelling our name right.

Opposition?  That implies that PA has any impact whatsoever on serious publishers.  But they’re right about one thing.  PA does drive me nuts.  It pisses me off when people take advantage of new writers.  I spent years trying to break in.  I remember that feeling of desperation, of wanting someone, somewhere to validate my work.  Of wanting to finally be a published author.

If all you want is to be published, PA might be the right choice.  You’ve got almost zero chance of rejection, and they’ll create a book with your name on the cover.  You’ll probably even get that $1.00 check as a bonus.

If, on the other hand, you want to be read–if you want people to seek out your book, to read and enjoy it–well, there’s a simple test.  PA claims to have 35,000 authors, orders of magnitude more than any commercial publisher I’m aware of.  How many PA books do you own?  How many PA writers have you read?

So how does PA stay in business?  I’ll toss out one final tweet to answer that one:

one twitterer just purchased 200 books, using his ‘twitter’ coupon. his savings: over $3000.

Why worry about selling books to readers when you’ve got authors willing to shell out thousands of dollars for copies of their own books?

There are no shortcuts.  Frustrating as this road can be, I’m very happy to have waited until I could sign with a publisher who would get my work out to readers and fans.

Jim C. Hines