Here is a reader’s counterpoint to the article titled “A Look Inside Publishing with Publish America“.
Once again, this is one point of view, and not the necessarily the opinion of the owners of the Fiction Forum.
So, let’s see what this reader has to say about Publish America:
Publish America has stated pretty firmly that they are in no way a POD, vanity press, or subsidy publisher. What type of publisher is Publish America considered to be and why?
PublishAmerica (PA) calls itself traditional. However, that’s not a standard publishing industry term. The terms used in publishing include self-publishing, which PublishAmerica clearly isn’t, university press, which again, PA isn’t, commercial publishing, which once more PA isn’t, and vanity publishing which is what PA invented the term to separate themselves from in a statement made by Larry Clopper, company president. Of course, if PA was anything other than a vanity publisher, there’d be no need to invent a term for describing PublishAmerica within the hierarchy of publishing.
They also claim to be an advance paying publisher. Advances typically represent the number of copes of a book that a publisher believes it will sell. PA’s advance of one dollar seems to say a lot about how many copies it believes an author will sell through the sales channels available to PA books. However, advances do not set apart publishers from one another as there are numerous commercial publishers that pay no advance at all, but still manage to make a profit for their authors by selling their authors’ books to the reading public and paying royalties.
Likewise, royalties do not set apart publishers as even other vanity publishers are known to claim to also pay royalties to their authors. What really sets these publishers apart are whether they get their books out to the reading public or target their authors for sales. In this, PA follows the mold of vanity publishing because that is the one thing that separated vanity publishers apart from all other kinds of publishing. Furthermore, Willem Meiners, company CEO, stated under oath in arbitration with one of its authors that PA market is its authors.
When it comes to POD, which PA claims is a type of vanity publishing, the truth is once more distorted. POD, known both as print-on-demand and publish-on-demand, is a business methodology, not a type of publisher though PA has figured prominently in giving the term an unsavory taste in the mouth of the reading public. POD is simply a method of producing the books and may be one of the more important developments in the history of publishing for what it means to books that would otherwise go out of print.
Who are your editors, what special qualifications do they bring to Publish America?
While PA makes claims about their editors’ publishing backgrounds, they are not the editors for all of PA’s books. They simply don’t have enough time to devote to editing the number of books that PA generally produces each week. Editing requires real skill and takes more time that what they can allocate in a week to the large number of books PA puts out. Consequently, the truth be known, PA uses many individuals who do not have any editing or publishing credentials. In fact, their most significant credentials appears to be that they are warm breathing bodies who need a paycheck and are willing to put up with the environment at PA.
In your submission guidelines Publish America asks for “an outline of why you believe your book would be marketable”, this isn’t a guideline you often see. Can you tell us a little bit about this guideline and what affect it has on the acceptance?
It’s not something seen asked by most publishers because those publishers have expert marketers on staff to develop and implement those. In fact, real publishers are already aware that authors believe in their books. Otherwise those authors wouldn’t have written those books to begin with. And again, since “traditional” in the way PA has admitted using it, PA is comparing their requirement to other vanity publishers, many of which don’t even care about a marketing plan since they target the authors of the books they publish as their market. Furthermore, acquisitions in commercial publishing are actually driven by the quality of the writing because quality is what the reading public expects to find in books it purchases.
After searching through your website we were unable to locate guidelines on the required length, does Publish America have a set length requirement?
Actually, novels are considered by much of the publishing industry to have a minimum word count of 40,000 words. Only picture books, many for children, tend to have short lengths. Sure, there are also novelettes and novellas, but very few print publishers want those, though that length is considered optimum for online publishers using electronic formats. Otherwise, 7,000 generally falls within short story length and those are typically found in magazines and anthologies.
When a new submission arrives what process does it go through in order to determine its potential as a publishable title?
While PA claims that all submissions go through a review, it’s been proven time and time again that PA usually does not read through submissions. About the only review the manuscript goes through, according to former PA employees, is to search out whether certain names are used. If PA actually read through all submissions it receives, it wouldn’t find itself in the embarrassing position of accepting sting manuscripts and works that have been plagiarized.
Where does your cover art come from and do authors have any say in the design of the cover?
Though PA has some cover designers, they’re not artists who create customized covers. Commercial publishers have real artists who create original artwork for covers to all books their publishers put out on the market. PA’s artists use and reuse clipart to create covers.
It’s stated in your FAQ’s that “all successful marketing begins at home” how does Publish America encourage its authors to promote their work? What role (if any) does Publish America play in the marketing and promotion of each title?
Unfortunately, PA fails to target the real market for selling books. That’s the retail sector. Commercial publishers don’t waste their resources targeting sectors with only a hundred or fewer possible sales. Additionally, commercial publishers provide their own expert marketing teams because authors generally do not have that kind of expertise. Commercial publishing marketers go after the entire market, not just minor segments. As well, commercial publishers actually attend trade shows, something which PA claims it does but seems to never show any results from.
While PA claims that its efforts lead to book parties, signings, and readings, it’s been proven time and time again that those are not set up by PA. Instead, PA’s authors are responsible for accomplishing those events. The same is generally true of any media stories involving authors signed with PA. This is known because PA authors have stated this to be the case. There aren’t any testimonials from PA authors claiming that PA set up any such events on their behalf.
Where can customers find Publish America titles for sale? Is the publisher or the author responsible for listing the book through these channels?
Full distribution through the major distributors isn’t the same as accomplishing placement on retailer shelves. At best, PA books are available only at some online vendors and by special order through brick and mortar retailers, some of whom won’t even accept those because of abuse of the ordering system by PA authors desperate to get their books on the shelves of numerous retailers.
Who are you leading authors at the moment and what has been the key to their success through Publish America?
The truth is that PA’s best selling authors have sales in the triple digits at most. Those are not considered best selling numbers outside of PA. Though some PA authors have claimed sales in greater numbers, those books were self-purchased for resale by their own authors so that makes them invalid for best selling statistical purposes.
Publish America appears to have an extensive list of titles, can you tell us about how many title you carry and of those how many are first time authors?
There’s no argument with the large number of books that PA claims to publish each year. In fact their claim only supports the fact that PA is an author mill and further supports the fact that it’s a vanity publisher because PA needs large numbers of self-purchasing authors in order to support itself.
What kind of author or story would be best suited for Publish America?
Actually, no author or story is best suited for PublishAmerica. Each and everyone of those deserves a chance to get into the actual retail market where readers can find them.
Is there any other news you wish to share about Publish America?
When it comes to claims, PA often makes claims that cannot be independently verified. Frequently, in the case of those that can be independently verified, it turns out that the story isn’t truly like what PA claims. However, because too many of the authors PA attracts are unaware of how publishing operates, they tend to accept such claims as truthful because they believe that the FTC and other organizations wouldn’t allow such statements if they weren’t true. However, that’s not the case. PA skirts the limits of what’s allowable and what isn’t by deceptive wording. It’s an area of abuse that has resulted in at least one legal ruling against PA in arbitration. Likewise, it’s not something that the FTC and many other agencies are prepared to deal with since authors are considered businesses. Therefore, the FTC, BBB, and others are helpless since PA authors are not considered consumers.
All in all, PublishAmerica isn’t a good choice for anyone. It simply doesn’t target the true reading public so it’s not good for readers. Because of that, it’s not a good choice for authors wanting their books to be read.
Dave Kuzminski, Editor
Preditors & Editors ™