Friday, July 17, 2009
The latest from PublishAmerica
I enjoy reading about vanity presses, but there’s little to be said about many of these since they’re honest about what they are. They also tend to adopt a single method of being paid by authors (e.g. up front, through book sales, etc) and stick to that more or less faithfully.
In contrast, PublishAmerica frequently attempts new tricks and tactics. Most of these are fascinating from a psychological perspective, and I have to give PA credit for sheer inventiveness; there is nothing that this author mill seems unwilling to try when it comes to getting money out of the unfortunate writers who sign up with them.
PA’s business model revolves around selling books to writers, which they do by sending weekly emails offering discounts on bulk purchases of these overpriced books. The shipping and handling for the first book is $4.99, with $2.99 for each additional book. As a PA author puts it,
But it's $4 book shipping. The shipping is a killer.
And it by no means stops there. First there was the auction for advertising space in the backs of other books.
Then there was the sale of framed royalty checks.
Then PA offered hardcover and large-print versions of books. Naturally, many authors were delighted at this news and eager to order copies, especially since hardcovers were the same price as paperbacks. Their joy didn’t last for long, though.
Well I tried ordering a few hardcovers of my book today and was told that I couldn't order any unless it was 9 or more!I think this is a big mistake because,I know everybody would buy at least one of each of their books!
It’s not as cost-effective to PA to sell one or two books at a time. That’s also why there were (and probably still are) problems with ordering hardcover books directly from PA.
On another note, has anyone noticed we can't get to the hardcovers on the PA site? I could yesterday, then when i tried today, it seemed to have disappeared. I'm hoping the site is just "under maintenance"
Let’s not get into what the shipping and handling costs for hardcovers might be. PA claimed that the prices of hardcovers will go up this week, though whether this is true or a ploy to make writers rush to purchase copies isn't clear. Authors do get regular emails offering them a small number of free hardcover books if they order paperbacks in bulk – s & h not included, of course. But then came the most recent twist.
Did anyone get the PA message about changing to a 1-900 to order books? Have any ideas of the $ $ $ that is going to cost? I have never used such a number- very disappointed.
PA’s response was that they would now have a help desk with a 1-900 number, so authors will have to pay to speak to a real person. However, authors can still order books for free.
Future book purchases can be made online, at no phone cost at all, using a special code that will be made available to all authors.
Why won’t this special code be made available to bookstores and readers? Because PA doesn’t want to sell to bookstores and readers, only to authors, and will use any opportunity, no matter how small, to force authors to buy books.
I am in the middle of working on trying to get someone to buy out my contract. The only problem is, I have to retype my book because I lost my original and PA won't send me a new electronic file. They will if I purchase more than 8 copies and then buy the e-book. I don't want an e-book.
I think of this as the vanity press version of the Death of a Thousand Cuts. In and of itself, each individual email or tactic might not result in mondo profits, but put them together and multiply them by the number of writers on whom PA preys, and it amounts to a lot. And since writers don’t even get the two free copies that they used to – PA has discontinued this practice – they nearly always end up buying copies of their own books just to see the product of their labor.
By now there are numerous warnings about PA. Writers still sign up, though – partly because they may not be aware of these problems and partly because the idea of seeing their work in print so easily and at no (initial) cost to them is too strong to resist. But that worm is on the end of a very sharp hook. And PA will keep coming up with ways to bleed whatever is caught on the end of that hook.