The Biggest Vanity Predators: PublishAmerica and Author Solutions

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14 thoughts on “The Biggest Vanity Predators: PublishAmerica and Author Solutions”

  1. when I had my first few novels published, indy publishing wasn’t known or around. I was so green. I didn’t know about researching on the internet. I got hooked up with iUniverse. The only good thing I can say about them is that they made all but one of my books available as e-books and didn’t charge me. I published an e-book of Can You Hear the Music? but had to fight them to take their version down. It was after a threat from Amazon that they finally did. I want to withdraw my books from them one at a time and republish with Amazon. I can see a fight now because they haven’t answered my e-mail.

  2. But self-publishing is not really free. The publisher, whether it’s you or a traditional publisher, pays for editing, artwork, layout, formatting, and printing. The problem with the vanity presses isn’t that you are paying for those things–that’s self-publishing–the problem is that you are paying a “general contractor” to provide all of those services with significant mark-up and no incentive to provide quality services and still, the general contractor takes the lion’s share of the profit.

    If you go online and find the best possible people in editing, artwork, layout, formatting and printing–not the cheapest or even the most expensive, but the best for your specific book–you won’t pay half of what a vanity press will charge you just to get started and you’ll end up making a much bigger profit, not just because you aren’t sharing with a general contractor, but because you end up with a higher quality book that will actually sell at a price people will actually pay.

    1. E-books have neither layout nor printing costs. 😉

      And I think that by calling vanity presses “general contractors,” you’re giving them way too much credit. If you hire a general contractor to put in a new kitchen, he’s going to hire an independent electrician, an independent plumber, an independent carpenter, etc. — and you, as the owner, have some input into the final price. If a subcontractor screws up and the general contractor goes over budget as a result, you can refuse to pay. As a last resort, you can fire him.

      Not one of those things is true when you sign a contract with a vanity publisher. Not one.

      Vanity presses are predators.

  3. An added bit – Author Solutions has numerous (read lots and lots) of ‘subsidiaries’ with different names to catch you unaware. The one that caught me when I was new and naive is iUniverse. One good place to do your research is Preditors and Editors.

  4. As someone who was lured into publishing her first book with one of these predatory companies, Trafford, I can testify that everything this post alleges is true. These companies are both mercenary and incompetent, and, to this day I still get calls from their sales people offering me services at exorbitant prices. For example, they offered me their services as an agent to try to get my book picked up by a trad publisher. Proposed cost: $8000. Given that they are owned by a trad publisher, Penguin, all they would have to do is to endorse it and submit it. They expect me to pay 8k for that?
    Naive authors don’t realize when they sign with these companies that their books are printed on an “on demand” basis, in which a paperback sells for $20. Who is going to buy a paperback from an unknown author for $20? What bookstores will buy your book when they can’t sell it at a profit. When people ask me if they should contract with one of these companies I give them a two word answer in Latin: Caveat Emptor.

  5. I wish we had a way to broadcast this message to everybody who has ever had a fleeting thought about writing a book. Even now, it’s too easy for naive newbies to get sucked in. How do you tell someone to do their homework when they don’t know there’s homework they need to do?

  6. What is amazing about PA is that they can read an over 80,000 Ms in one night, send you a contract to sign for 7 years and pay you $1.00 advance. Then they ask from you addresses of every aunt, uncle, cousin, brothers, sisters, grandparents and friend you’ve ever had so they can send a flier to them advertising your book is ready to be published with an way over the top price. Its the tell two friends and so on scenario to also make money off you. I almost had them hooked that id sign with them, could just see them salivating to get me to sign then got smart and told them where they could go and put it where the sun doesn’t shine. Thank goodness I got my niece out of their clutches.

    Just wish their was some way to educate anyone who has an aspiration to be a writer about these crooks. Sad they are allowed to operate at all.

  7. Publish America is even worse: they want $200 to give back your rights to your work.

  8. As an independent publisher who has more than 30 years in this business, both with traditional houses and independents, I have to say that many aspiring authors and self-published authors particularly, tend to tar all publishers with the same brush. But wanting (not to mention needing) to earn a living in a thriving industry is not a scam per se. “Vanity” publishers by and large, PublishAmerican and Author Solutions included simply operate on the much touted “abundance model” that traditional publishers have always used. Sign enough books, throw them out there and depending on how hard the author works for his or her own success, you might squeeze out a bestseller or two.
    It’s worth mentioning that many authors, too, work that same model, cranking out book after book, without real regard for the quality.

    Some of us, my own company included, operate on a different model. We offer services that are desperately needed, editorial, design, publicity, how to write a query, how to use social media, etc. I don’t sign up anything for my list that I don’t feel can compete in a very crowded market and I do charge for my editorial and other services;I give solid, honest real-world advice to each and every author based on the best possible shot they can give themselves in the current atmosphere– those who want to self publish, those who want to go tradish, and those who don’t have the faintest idea what they want or need, save to get their books out there. Unlike those publishers who see prospective authors as little more than cannon fodder, I evaluate EVERY book on an individual basis.And I’m not doing that to exploit anyone. I do that because nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see good books get published. If that’s what being a “hybrid” publisher means? I’ll take it!

    1. Dude, I totally agree…I once even had a gig (hey, I needed WORK, OK?) with Xlibris, and their business model for editors was “the form”. I did one, and quit.

      I also worked for “the oldest and largest editorial firm” but again what started as a really wonderful job where I got to work with really talented people, evolved into selling the soup, escalating service after service. When one editor took a project as far as it would go, they just sent it to another editor…I don’t work there anymore, either, and sought to found a company that was not about screwing anybody out of dollars they really didn’t need to invest.

      But that doesn’t make all publishers the enemy, either, I have 30 years in this business as both an Acquisitions, Senior Editor and packager,with BOTH in TRADISH and INDIES, plus 30+ published books of my own to boot. But realistically?,ALL authors are “Vanity” authors. And say that to applaud us all. You don’t work it up to publish your stuff unless you believe in its value, and that’s just fine with me.

      But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to compete or that partnering with professionals who are SINCERELY interested in helping you realize that dream is the enemy, either. Publishing is a business, and if an author doesn’t know this business, it remains in their best interests to find somebody who does. And yes, sometimes to invest in yourself.
      Mere marketing and good intentions does not an Amanda Hocking make. You are competing and you are competing with the best talent out there.

      Lordy, I have so much to say about this topic, I actually need to up[date my blog. Look for it. .

  9. PA published my book in 2004…ever since then I have had no support and all they seem to want is $’s for every little service they offer. You should see my royalty cheques..hilarious! They did very unprofessional job of printing my book…a the photos are sub quality.

  10. Thought I’d mention that David Gaughran wrote a post about vanity press predators this week (as he’s been wont to do lately). He had a great suggestion: if the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America threatened to de-list Penguin, maybe New York publishing would wake up to who they’re doing business with. I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a great idea.

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