Sunday, July 18, 2010

PublishAmerica and the never-ending special offers

Different fish take different kinds of bait. Plus, the fish which may be wary of the fly you use today may fail to recognize the worm you’ll use tomorrow. That’s the modus operandi of PublishAmerica, a deceptive vanity press and author mill which is endlessly creative when it comes to separating its authors from their money. It charges for:

* correcting mistakes
* fixing problems in cover art
* allowing authors to use their own cover art
* resending the PDF to the author if the author’s copy is ever lost
* galleys
* shipping - $3.99 per book
* keeping one's book free of inappropriate advertisements (e.g. erotic romance in a children's book)

Auctions for advertising space seem to be passe by now, though PublishAmerica is still selling $19.95 frames for the authors’ royalty checks (which tend to be pittances). Then in November of last year there came a new deal :

Dear Author:

PublishAmerica will put your book in your local bookstore!

As many copies as you determine! Imagine, Christmas shoppers flocking to bookstores, and the book they find displayed there is yours!

With the holiday sales season around the corner, we are ready to donate your book to your bookstore.

“Donation” means the author won’t get paid if the book sells. “Donation” also means that the book won’t be listed in the store’s inventory. Though it might mean that the company which is donating the books can claim it as a tax write-off.

We're not waiting for them to order it. They may put up your book for sale any way they want, highlighting you as a local author, stacking it on a front table, selling it next to the register, or any other way they choose.

The cleverness of this is that no actionable claims are made. If the books are never displayed, perhaps they never arrived or perhaps the staff at the local B&N didn’t know why they received this box of books and deposited them in the local dumpster. They’re not going to sell the books, because how do they record the sales? How to handle refunds or exchanges?

Oh, and about the front tables and the register? Publishers pay to have books featured there.

Now, here’s the catch. With PublishAmerica there’s always a catch, and it nearly always involves buying your own books, preferably in bulk.

Here's how we do it:

If you want to have books on hand, you may now order any number of books you need, and PublishAmerica will match the order. We will donate the exact same number of books to your local bookstore. In fact, we won't even charge the bookstore for the shipping!

Because if you did, the staff would either laugh uproariously or point out that they didn’t ask for the delivery. Maybe both.

But PublishAmerica was only getting started. A week later came a similar email offering to donate books to authors’ workplaces.

Maybe your office, your company, your organization wants to reward employees by giving them a copy of your book... Or perhaps HR or the boss simply love to highlight you as your job's very special resident author.

Special in every sense of the word, if you risk jeopardizing your job in this way.

Then the floodgates opened and deluged authors with emails offering to donate their books to Wal-Mart, Oprah, Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks, the military, as a Christmas present for soldiers abroad (this email was sent on December 8 and the deadline for mailing packages to APO/FPO 093 was December 4), Starbucks, the Today Show, Disney, Target, the bookstores at authors’ local airports (because airport personnel love receiving mysterious unsolicited packages), local hotels, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, the New York Times Book Review, Stephen King (“We will send it for his review, two copies, so that Mrs. Tabitha King, herself an author of nine books, can take a look as well.” Don’t forget to send a third copy for Joe Hill, their son!) and Random House.

Every writer dreams about becoming a published author. Once they have reached that goal, as you have, many dream of the next step up: to become a Random House author...

We will submit not one, but up to five copies of your book to Random House's acquisition editors, so that they can also pass the book around their imprints if they want. They may do anything they choose with the books.

Italics in the original.

As well as claiming they would donate money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti if authors bought books, PublishAmerica offered authors a chance to personalize their books.

Dedicated to someone special, for only $9.95, on the front cover! Remember, the holiday season is only weeks away! Offer expires this weekend.

Personalized books make unique and unforgettable gifts. You can dedicate them to your husband or wife, your children, parents, or friends, anyone you choose. Could be even your boss, your favorite bank teller, or Oprah!

If the cover is filled with text/images, wouldn't that get a bit cluttery? Then again, I suppose the rationale is that Oprah will be so delighted to see a book with her name on the cover that she won't care about the aesthetics.

Either way, though, these are books that most likely cannot and will not be sold, meaning that the authors will never recoup their investment. Also, they won't get royalties.

Once we print their name on your book's front cover, together with yours, you have their attention. They will show it to others, guaranteed. --> Link

So the book alone didn't catch the attention of family members and friends. They didn't bother showing it to others. However, printing their name on the cover changes everything!

Having PublishAmerica’s stamp on it, though, didn’t seem to result in a lot of sales, so authors were offered a way out of this.

Sometimes a book deserves a new start.

Not labeled in book vendor databases as POD.
A low list price.
A new publisher.


Independence Books.

Independence Books is our new subsidiary. It is treated as an independent publisher. Not registered as POD in vendor databases. Not registered as PublishAmerica.

Can you imagine Harlequin offering selling its authors the chance to not have the Harlequin name on the covers of their books?

Go to, find your softcover, add to cart, use this discount coupon: IndyBooks40. Minimum volume is 7 softcovers…

PublishAmerica's online bookstore will re-list the book as an Independence Books title generally within 24 business hours. Other vendors may do so at their discretion.

In other words,, B&, etc. will list the book if they feel like it.

And the latest try for cash was an offer to put authors’ pictures on the front covers of books. PA already puts authors’ pictures on the back covers.

We encourage you to do what the celebrity authors do. Let's change your book's cover and put YOU on it!

It will make the book look even better, whether it's fiction or nonfiction.

This is a ridiculous appeal to vanity. If the author's photograph automatically makes any book look better, why don't other publishers use those for the covers of their books rather than spending money on cover art?

And your readers will recognize at a glance that you're that book's author. A book with the author's picture on the front also makes for a very personal gift.

Imagine your book in a bookstore

That won’t actually happen unless you beg the manager to take it on consignment, but you can imagine it!

and you walk around, and suddenly people start whispering to each other, "There's the author.."

Oh, I can imagine people whispering to each other about this. I just can't imagine them whispering anything complimentary.

We'll make the change for totally free, if you do the following. Go to, find your softcover or hardcover, add to cart, use this deep discount coupon: MyPhoto50. Minimum order volume is only 5 copies.

Little wonder that PublishAmerica now sells writers the opportunity to get their rights returned.

Image from :


CatSlave said...

Those PA people are lunatics.
But they are getting SOMEONE'S money.
Tsk, tsk.

Nice work, thank you.

Marian Perera said...

Happy to do it - seeing all those "special offers" grouped together really brings home to me the intensity of their marketing towards their own authors.

Marie Pacha said...

Regarding the Random House offer:
"We will submit not one, but up to five copies of your book to Random House's acquisition editors, so that they can also pass the book around their imprints if they want. They may do anything they choose with the books."

This is Random House's submission page:
They don't take unsolicited manuscripts or books.
You would expect a publisher to have some clue as to how things are done in the publishing industry.