CONTINUED FROM ePublishing 2

Publish Anything: The Saga of a PublishAmerica Author

My story is that an author who’d done online writing for such dot gones as Themestream, Written By Me, and The Vines, someone trying hard to have fiction, poetry and nonfiction in print for real, recommended PublishAmerica. She claimed it was a traditional book publisher. I was struck with their slogan, “We treat writers the old fashioned way – we pay them.” Wasn’t that what publishers were supposed to do?

But since my novel was just sitting on the DiskUs Publishing site and doing nothing but supplying me with enough money to buy a pair of skate laces every three months, I thought maybe it would have a better chance over at PublishAmerica where it would be available as a trade size paperback both on and offline.

So this author, Ellen Du Bois, had a big thing on her Geocities site about books being available in brick & mortar bookstores & they’d have ISBN numbers and be online and all that stuff. Also had her full size book cover up so I sat there for 5 minutes waiting for the damn thing to appear. Not impressive, but she liked it. Ellen was a cheerleader for her book and sent reviews from a weekly community rag and she bulk e-mailed several pieces of correspondence during those heady days when her book was in prerelease, then release stage in the summer of ’03. I broke down and bought a copy from Amazon – took almost 3 weeks to get. And I struggled to read all 176 pages. Tripe. Clichés abounded. Spelling/grammatical errors weren’t there at least. But the writing was thin. The story moved too quickly. The main character was the most realistic as it was probably based on the author’s life. The dialogue was okay. The descriptions were minimal. Had there been a real editor, the book could’ve been very good. I wrote to Ellen and told her the positive things about the story, avoiding the negativities. She’d been an online correspondent for almost two years, yet after I didn’t review her book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble she didn’t contact me. Almost a year later she sent me another e-mail – to promote a book of her poetry. I was just someone to sell a book to and she was only interested in the sale and hopefully a glowing write up.

A Future PublishAmerica Author
Since I’d already signed the contract with PublishAmerica, I wanted to cancel it after reading that trash. Now my book would be affiliated with a company that put out just about any piece of writing that came its way. Of course I wasn’t expecting much what with my dealings with the extinct eNovel and RJ’s eBooks, along with a tiny eBook publisher named Crafts Across America where I wasn’t paid monthly as promised. And my novel and short story collection languished at DiskUs, home of the alleged Number One Best selling eBook author of all time, Leta Nolan Childers.

PublishAmerica sent me an author’s questionnaire where they asked for basic biographical information; cover art suggestions, and a long list of people who might want to read my forthcoming novel.

“Please prepare a list (names, and addresses,) of people who know you well enough to be interested in your success as a writer: personal friends, colleagues, relatives, etc., to receive a book announcement. If you would like a copy of the flyer sent to you at the time of the mailing, please don't forget to include a self-addressed label. Please furnish as an e-mail attachment for our files, or print the addresses on white address labels for our direct-mailing use. We will inform your contacts about the upcoming release of your book. Please limit your list and your labels to a maximum of 100 contacts. Also, please do not include businesses or organizations of any kind, including bookstores, media contacts, or government organizations. Include friends and associates only.”

Sent in a few dozen names of small literary agencies on both coasts when it came time provide labels for the required list of family/friends. Figured maybe PublishAmerica could pay for it and they probably just tossed the names or else the agents did that when they saw the envelope with that return address.

The editing process of my manuscript took approximately two weeks and happened during the Christmas holidays. I was able to ascertain that the first few pages had been read as some minor alterations had been made, but no changes followed for another 50 or so pages. One of the errors that occurred was clearly the result of a spellchecker on the part of PublishAmerica as a question mark appeared after the end of a statement. I’d read of real authors receiving instructions to change chapters, alter endings, delete numerous pages, in other words, really struggle to rewrite a book. Why so much effort? Names. Reputation. The publisher wanted to put their name on the best quality book that they had invested in. The author wanted a book that was saleable but also well written and something they were proud of. PublishAmerica’s editing comprised neither ideal as all they did was put the computer program’s spelling/grammar checker into action.

My two free author’s copies arrived in early March and it was nice to see my trade paperback book in print sans a cheesy cover and stapled spine. North of Sunset actually had decent looking stock cover art of a few silhouetted palm trees, a noticeable font, and a spine where the book title, publisher and author’s name was apparent. It would look good on bookstore shelves, I imagined.

Reviews – What Reviews?
What was Publish America doing to make sure my book was reviewed? Nothing. I decided to contact local daily and weekly newspapers by e-mailing a press release. The only responses I got were two e-mail autoresponders announcing the editors were on vacation.

I spent $40 on copies of my book’s galley and mailed them to three national newspapers and the Library Journal magazine. Then I phoned a book reviewer at the San Diego Union-Tribune and asked if he’d be interested in reviewing my book but before I could even describe what it was about, he asked who my publisher was. I told him. “We don’t review books by that publisher” he stated.

A month before the April release date I called all the local bookstores and spoke to the managers and/ or community relations people about my book, including a couple of stores who were physically located on the street I’d written about. An independent bookstore owner told me that since PA didn’t have a return policy she was unable to stock my novel. Another said that I could sell my book on consignment. The chain stores of Borders and Barnes & Noble said my book would be available through Ingram if anyone chose to order it.

Tried getting PublishAmerica to send review copies out and it took them weeks to do so. Had to call and make sure on two occasions that the books had been mailed. Maybe quoting one of their enthusiastic promoters on the message board, a guy with a natural genius for marketing and the budget to back it up, got three books sent to reviewers.

Then I sent my book to Piers Anthony, noted sci-fi and fantasy author of more than 100 books. I’d been in touch with him since 2000 when I alerted him to the fact that eNovel was a rip-off. Although the action in his books usually took place in alternate time periods/universes, he didn’t mind reading a mainstream Hollywood novel. He did so. "North of Sunset by Lisa Maliga. She's the one listed in my Survey as I'm a Published Novelist Ha Ha! Ha!, a pertinent warning for starry-eyed aspiring writers. Her web site www.lisamaliga.com is worth checking similarly; she tells it as it is. If you took a few decades off my age and changed my gender, the result might resemble Lisa. North of Sunset is fun, about a Hollywood producer and his temporary secretary, showing a good deal of what I presume is reality. It is written with the omniscient viewpoint, which I dislike, but it held my interest regardless. "

Knowing that on the PublishAmerica web site they had dedicated quite a few megabytes to promoting their authors new websites, successful booksignings, mentions of celebrated personages [Laura Bush, Marie Osmond, the Pope], touting their authors, and 5-star reviews, I e-mailed the praise from Piers to them. Maybe they didn’t receive that e-mail as nothing happened. Nor did they add the announcement of my vastly improved web site onto their page dedicated to such things, even though they did this for other authors. The only time they were really helpful to me over the phone was when I called to buy 10 copies of my book. Those were the only copies I ever ordered. I sold one and just gave the rest away as I realized I’d never recoup my investment.

Meanwhile, I’d discovered through an upset PA author on the messageboards, which I read on occasion, that someone was complaining about PublishAmerica. Discovering the Absolute Write Background Check area I spent several hours reading, at the time, more than 40 pages of complaints about PublishAmerica. Authors not receiving books in time for booksignings that they set up themselves. Bookstore owners/managers refusing to stock their shelves with unedited PublishAmerica titles. Writers unable to get their books reviewed.

Doing a search on LexisNexis, the reputable online legal research system, for all PublishAmerica books receiving newspaper reviews, I saw that from July 2002 to June 2004, only 24 books had been reviewed nationally. Papers in Syracuse NY, Tulsa, OK, Fort Pierce, FL, Wilmington, NC and Lakeland, FL were represented. Only Salt Lake City’s Deseret Morning News, the Tulsa World, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the suburban paper, the Chicago Daily Herald were actually major newspapers. Evidently, The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times were not reviewing anything by PublishAmerica’s authors. According to the PublishAmerica site in the Facts and Figures section, “Fact #3: Again, unparalleled among all traditional book publishing companies, each day an average 15 times a PublishAmerica author appears in the news media, in newspapers, magazines, radio or TV.” Yet even mathematically challenged folks can determine that by using the LexisNexis search statistics, we learn that the average is a paltry once a month that a PublishAmerica book gets mentioned in a newspaper somewhere in the United States.

Editing – What’s That?
I’d also happened to notice this gem of a post on the PublishAmerica message board: “When it came out in book form a month ago, my friends mentioned the editing problems in it, so a friend of mine with a masters in education went through it for me. It had close to a thousand editing errors in a 182-page book. So, have some who actually knows what literary content should be in a book, go through your book for you before you send the final draft back to PublishAmerica. Because the final draft, IS!, how the book will be when it comes out.”

I began visiting the PublishAmerica message boards at least once a day and discovered that through the misspellings, grammatical errors, and general bad writing that just about anyone was publishable through the ‘traditional’ publisher located in Frederick, Maryland. Such postings as: “I too am not the best editor LOL! I did get my finished books. And when I met with a lady that is huge in the marketing field, she told me that my book at it's length of 132 pages needs to have chapters.” A couple of PublishAmerica authors discussed editing. “I felt like you did when I found errors, but then I realized, hey people read it for the story, not looking for mistakes in typo land! LOL Now I just keep on a keepin on!”

Somehow I didn’t feel published anymore. My book wasn’t in those brick and mortar stores as promised on the PublishAmerica website. Reviewers shunned my title. While it showed up on the online bookstores, the price, $19.95, wasn’t discounted and, for a 189 page book, was considered pricey.

Sales Figures
Question: I’d really like to know how many copies I’ve sold.
Answer: Buy all of the books yourself and then count them.
No matter how naïve PublishAmerica authors appeared, they will eventually come to the realization that PublishAmerica isn’t really a traditional publisher, especially when those twice-yearly royalty checks arrived. Every few months or so PublishAmerica sent them an e-mail extolling their success, bragging about a big name author they’re negotiating with, or, more recently, doing a deal with the New York Times. On August 17th, an e-mail bearing the proud subject heading ‘Advertising Our Topsellers in the New York Times’ appeared in author’s online mailboxes.

“Dear author,
We are proud to announce PublishAmerica's monthly topseller list in the New York Times!
At the initiative of the New York Times, we have secured a half page in the newspaper's world famous Book Review section, where PublishAmerica will announce its top ten bestselling books for the previous month.
For now, we plan to make this announcement every month, in the New York Times Book Review. We will re-evaluate this marketing strategy after three months. This is yet another absolutely free benefit of PublishAmerica.
The list will be determined by the number of sales in the preceding four weeks. Cut-off date is the last day of each month. The first next cut-off date is August 31. The ten PublishAmerica books that by that day have sold the most copies in the past four weeks will make it to PublishAmerica's monthly topseller list in the New York Times. All sales will be counted, since publishers don't distinguish between bookstores and individuals buying their books. Even books bought by the authors count!
This will give our winning authors a unique and much-envied exposure to the world's most determined and sophisticated book reading audience. The ad will include an image of their book's cover, the title, and the author's name.
So, if your book becomes one of this month's bestselling PublishAmerica titles, expect it to show up prominently in the New York Times soon thereafter. Winners will be informed in advance.
We are proud of our future winners, and we thank the New York Times for approaching us.”

Even books bought by the authors count! Imagine Stephen King being asked to purchase copies of his books by his publisher?! Or even a new, unknown author being asked this by their small, literary publishing house. It reminded me of the letter they sent me along with my two free author’s copies – the only free copies I’d ever receive. The enclosed letter had a congratulatory tone to it, and it was my introduction to the sales pitch e-mails I’d receive in future months. The fifth paragraph reads:

“However, we find that many authors prefer to have some copies on hand, for an array of reasons. If indeed this applies to you as well, let me add just a little to today’s celebration by offering you a time-limited, one-time 50% discount on your first order of 50 or more copies. And if you choose to take advantage of this offer, you may also order your own copy of ‘The Published Author’s Guide to Promotion at a 50% discount, for $9.95. This very helpful book, written by 90 of your fellow PublishAmerica authors, is subtitled ‘Marketing Tips by Published Authors’, and it deals with virtually every aspect of being a published author in the spotlight.” It gives a 10-day time limit and a phone number located in the 301 area code.

It leads me to wonder how the PublishAmerica authors are handling these urgings to purchase copies of their own work? Many will laugh it off, but even if a small percentage falls prey to the siren song of the equation more copies = more sales, isn’t it possible that bills will go unpaid, children’s college funds depleted, bankruptcies filed, second and third mortgages taken, cars sold, credit cards maxxed out…all to support not the author, but the greedy company? All for the mistaken delusion that people see that book in the New York Times advertisement and scurry out to buy those books? Imagine the author in search of fame and sales having a discussion with his/her spouse convincing them that this publishing multi-level marketing scheme to buy their own title, will allow them to double or triple their investment of approximately $50,000. And another competitive author will see their name not listed and be determined that next month they will be there even if it means robbing their child’s college fund and that child is a junior in high school…the stories are easily imagined, and the results? In a year’s time, where will those “best selling” authors be? Bankruptcy court? Divorce court? Skid row? The morgue?

PublishAmerica was well named in that they want to publish anyone in North America who has churned out a manuscript, regardless of quality. They claim to have anywhere from 9,000 to 12,000 “happy” authors and they want more and more of them as that obviously means more money for the greedy owners, namely Willem Meiner and Larry Clopper.

The PublishAmerica name and logo is seen as a complete joke to those in the media, bookstores and libraries. Books can’t be returned. All PublishAmerica titles lack the necessary CIP [Cataloging-in-Publication] data, which is necessary for libraries to order titles, and who wants to read unedited and overpriced tomes other than the author’s cronies? Oh yeah, and while PublishAmerica claims that they’re a ‘traditional publisher’ why on earth do they have in their main page keywords [which are necessary to get a higher page ranking and into all major search engines like Google and Yahoo] list the term ‘self publishing’ three times? And in their site’s description, they brag: “PublishAmerica, Inc., a traditional publisher, accepting and publishing manuscripts and books at NO CHARGE to the author. Royalties paid to writers, books sold in stores. Manuscript submissions by mail and online"

In the beginning of September I received my first royalty check. To my surprise, I was not only able to afford to buy a pair of laces for my skates, I shelled out the $12 it cost to sharpen my blades. Who knew that this company would provide extra income enabling me to continue participating in my recreational skating hobby? But it cost me more than the $160 in author-bought books, the $40 for galleys, which were probably plunged into a recycling bin, the $87 color business cards, $20 press release -- and the countless hours building and rebuilding my website so people would happen across it and buy a book that was only available online--like any other eBook.

PublishAmerica allows the myth of being a ‘traditional’ publisher, a term not used before the advent of the Internet, to fester. The lie is perpetrated in those HTML source codes that search engine spider robots deliver; the future authors led to the promised realm of publishing, an internet web of woven myths fanning across cyberspace. PublishAmerica resembles most other ePublishing companies promising tales of bestselling books and authors. PublishAmerica is just another scam, just another future dot gone.

If you are a PublishAmerica author, or know of one, who is unhappily published and will tell your story, please contact:

Federal Trade Commission
attn: CRC - 240
Washington, DC 20580
FTC Consumer Complaint Form

Frederick County Board of County Commissioners
Winchester Hall
12 E. Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701
Telephone: 301-694-1100
Fax: 301-694-1849

John L. Thompson, Jr., President
Winchester Hall
12 E. Church Street
Frederick, MD 21701
Telephone: 301-694-1028
Fax: 301-631-2333

Mention the following points:
Your book is not available in brick and mortar bookstores and libraries
Your book is not returnable if a bookstore owner/manager should stock it
7-year-long contract is considered in improper amount of time
Your book is published by a vanity press
You had to pay for your own copyright
PublishAmerica will not apply for the CIP, which allows books to be bought by libraries
PublishAmerica overprices the books
PublishAmerica offers a nonstandard discount
PublishAmerica’s business model is to sell to their own authors
PublishAmerica's books are NOT edited--certainly not line-by-line as they claim on their web site. In the November 22, 2004 Publishers Weekly article, the executive director admits: ["unlike a traditional house, the company does not edit for content, only for grammar and spelling."]
PublishAmerica accepts approximately 80% of submitted manuscripts [most publishers reject 99% of their submissions]
PublishAmerica will only accept credit card orders over the phone when booking for one of their seminars or to purchase your own titles

NEW! PublishAmerica sent me a Settlement Agreement and Release form which, if signed, enables me to say nothing about this vanity printing company. This is being presented to you in full, so that you can see the ludicrousness of this document. And no, I'm not signing it.

To reprint this article on your website, please contact Lisa Maliga and include this byline:

Read and learn at Lisa's Library of Writing. Discover the diverse writings ranging from free soap and bath & body recipes to fiction, figure skating, aromatherapy, herbal hints, and helpful publishing advice. Boost your own site’s rankings by reading of web design and promotion. This is the literary home of Lisa Maliga, owner of EverythingShea.com Link to: http://www.lisamaliga.com

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The Preditors & Editors site is highly recommended for those of you in search of a legitimate publisher and/or agent. And you can learn more about the PublishAmerica scam.

preditors&editors fights publishing fraud
As Featured on ArticleCity.com


Authors' Allege Publisher Deception read the article by Publishers Weekly staff writer Steven Zeitchik. Here's the first sentence: "A little-known Maryland publisher with a large author list is provoking an outcry from some of those authors, who claim the company engages in practices both gouging and misleading."

Ed Williams Warns About PublishAmerica Ed Williams is a published Southern humorist who actually cares about helping other authors with his sage and heartfelt advice. Of course he's also a gifted writer as you'll find out if you read his books! Read his article PAvidians

Frederick News-Post article entitled PublishAmerica: A Friendly Biz, Or An Author's Nightmare?

Monique B. Kenray Visit this author's site and learn how PublishAmerica messed up her book cover. Monique also has a good sized section of links to other sites opposed to PublishAmerica's fraudulent practices.

Please Publish This Dud! The Los Angeles Times has finally reviewed a PublishAmerica book -- oops, it almost was but then the "management" got wind of the fact that Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea was the worst book ever written! Scott Martelle reports on this travesty of American literature!

PublishAmerica Is Really PrintAmerica Read another article about PublishAmerica.

Publish America Scams Thousands of Authors Read the quotes from the authors who didn't sign the contract and also from those who unfortunately did.

Ten Percent of Nothing The case of the literary agent from hell is the subtitle of this book which is a MUST READ for any author or potential author. While this isn't about PublishAmerica, it is about fraudulent "literary" agents who ripped off many writers.

Contact Lisa Maliga

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