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Friday, July 03, 2009

Publish America

Yesterday I had a little run-in with an individual over on the Absolute Write Horror forum who was advertising for a horror writer to write a third novella for an anthology he and another writer are putting together. I checked out this person's blogsite and noted to him that there were several typos and misusages in the first couple of paragraphs.

Needless to say, while I might have been a little more tactful (tact hasn't always been my strong suit), the poster became a wee bit upset with me and sent me a nastygram that essentially boiled down to "How dare you criticize me. I'm a published author".

Now, this didn't make me think much of the person's ability to perform professionally in a collaboration so I checked him out a little further. It turns out that his publishing credits are largely through an outfit called Publish America and a couple or three of what appear to be non-paying online 'zines, only one of which is even mentioned on Ralan's Webstravaganza and which is long dead.

Now, as anyone who is even reasonably connected with the professional writing field should know, Publish America is a scam outfit that has been involved in numerous lawsuits involving its editorial practices and the way its business model operates. Essentially, PA offers to publish your book - for a price - and it's usually a steep price. They hold absolutely no legitimacy as professional book publishers. Their books are overpriced, undermarketed (if they're marketed at all it's at the author's expense), and of extremely low quality. No legitimate brick & mortar bookstore stocks PA books.

PA charges their authors to produce their books. They pay a token $1 advance when and if they pay an advance at all. They have a habit of going after anyone who criticizes them in any manner (and I'll probably get hit for posting this, but there's nothing they can get out of me and this is free speech so "What the hey") and of sending their authors to harass people who criticize them. PA also has the habit of trying to lure more and more new writers to their side of the playing field stating that they're leveling it for everyone by challenging the business model of the bigger and more professional publishers.

Yog's Law, coined by James D. MacDonald, states "Money should flow toward the author". PA reverses this process. With them, money flows toward the publisher, right out of the author's pockets. The author receives a crappy product, no marketing services, no ability to get their work into legitimate bookstores or online markets (for the most part - Amazon does advertise some PA books for some silly reason, probably profit-based), and no legitimate publishing credit.

Essentially, PA hurts mainstream/legitimate publishing by convincing gullible or unknowing writers to spend tons of their own money getting their work published by an illegitimate and unethical publishing company. For some reason they've also managed to convince hundreds or thousands of writers that their model is legitimate and that, if the rest of us would only get out of their way and give them the chance they deserve they'd be a huge success. PA has also managed to convince these people, who are generally probably good people themselves, that they are in fact legitimate authors and to go out en masse and counterattack anyone who attacks PA as illegitimate. They tend to be a bit belligerent about their writing and their association with PA as well. PA convinces them that their the best thing since sliced bread and some of them take it to heart, unfortunately.

Jim MacDonald has almost made a profession out of chasing these scammers in an effort to try to protect writers from themselves.

Publish America has zero professional standing in the legitimate publishing world. Advertising a PA work is nearly the proverbial "kiss of death" for your work if you mention it. No legitimate agent or editor is going to credit you for anything done through Publish America. In fact, it's probably going to get your manuscript summarily bounced to the rejection pile unread if you mention it. All the while, PA is lining their pockets with your money.

Writing is hard work, folks. It takes time, learning, education, and more time to hone your craft. Most professional writers will tell you that they're still learning the craft. You spend weeks, months, and sometimes years working on a manuscript, writing and rewriting it until your baby's perfect. You then spend more time finding an agent or publisher and then you have to work with an editor and do it all over again. You deserve to be paid for your work. You deserve to work with professional editors who know the markets and the language usage far better than you probably do, even if you've been in the business for years. You deserve to be treated better than receiving a $1 advance or no advance at all) and then having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars of your own money getting your books printed.

Don't fall for the PA scam. Don't let PA authors tell you how wonderful their relationship with PA is and how much they love them.

"Money flows toward the author" not the other way.

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