I recently read a blog post from a writer who had submitted her first book to PublishAmerica.
Now I've written quite a bit about PA on this site (and I will finish that article some day!) but what struck me about the blog post was that the writer realized she had made a mistake by signing up with PA. However, she felt that this should not prevent anyone from buying her book. After all, she was as much of a writer as anyone else, and PA has published a lot of talented authors. Therefore, she appealed to readers, asking them to take risks and buy books without checking who the publisher was first.
I agree with her on two points. Firstly, she is a writer. Being published with PA can't take that away from anyone. If she produced a book-length manuscript, that is a wonderful accomplishment and she is a writer. Secondly, PA has indeed signed up many talented authors (and I'm not even counting Atlanta Nights here). No disagreement with that.
The problem is that while you can be a writer without submitting anything, or with a manuscript printed by a vanity press like PA or AuthorHouse, when you want to sell books it's a somewhat different ball game. Firstly, a book put out by PA will be unedited. Secondly, it will be overpriced. The vast majority of PA-printed books are sold to authors, who need to buy the books to sell them to readers and who aren't likely to unfavorably compare the price of their own book with that of one published by Random House. Finally, the book won't be readily available for a reader to look through beforehand.
All that amounts to quite a risk for readers, and I hope the author knows this, because what she's asking for looks like either a gamble or a gesture of charity to me. And considering that PA has put out a lot of books which sank without a trace, that's a big gamble. The dice are weighed in favor of the house. How am I, a reader with limited finances, to know which of PA's supposedly "30,000 happy authors" is a good enough writer that their book transcends's PA's lack of editors and copyeditors? The PA logo on a book is a warning sign that tells you this book was not screened for quality. You buy at your own risk - maybe you'll get something good, maybe you won't. But personally, I'd rather buy something I knew was good.
Unfortunately, realizing PA is a bad choice doesn't negate PA's stamp on a book or make the book any more competitive in the market. Better to take the energy and passion that might have gone into marketing and selling that book, and pour it into writing another, better book. Then keep that one far away from vanity presses.