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.
David Niall Wilson
September 14, 2009 @ 10:41 am
Amen, and double from me. What a joke these people are. It really is sad, but there are as many levels of scams on the road to publishing as there are people willing to circumvent the training, work, and pain of actually getting published.
Even if all you want is a cool looking book with your name on it, there are much better vendors of this sort of service than Publish America, who are right near the bottom of the heap. I wish they’d follow me so I could block them (lol)
Jim C. Hines
September 14, 2009 @ 1:43 pm
I’m still new to Twitter, but I think you can block them even if they aren’t following you 🙂
And I definitely agree with you. I’ve used Lulu.com for personal projects a few times. I ended up with pretty nice books without any of the slimy feeling I get from PA.
September 14, 2009 @ 4:09 pm
Yes, you can block someone you aren’t following on Twitter. The plus to that is that if Twitter gets a chain of “blocks” for one account, it flags with the PTB that the account is Spam. I think they qualify.
The saddest part of the whole thing is reading not only the DESPERATE tweets of people who think they’re on their way to fame and fortune, but reading the message board at the PA site which is only open to their authors. It’s routinely scrubbed of any questions about PA’s shortcomings, and the posters are frequently berated/banned for asking such questions. Anyone who doesn’t know what’s been removed will only see the happy posts that say how awesome PA is. There are people who say they can’t afford their books because they’re disabled and out of work, others who say all they wanted out of the deal was to share a wrenching life story with the world to help someone in a similar situation to the one they survived. This is more than dashing dreams; it’s a matter of destroying someone’s lifeline in some cases.