PublishAmerica Changes Its Name, but Can It Change Its Stripes?

americastar2Recently, Victoria Strauss wrote a post for Writer Beware about a change at PublishAmerica. If you’re not familiar with PA, they are one of the most seductive of vanity publishers, primarily because they promise so much and require no up-front payment from authors, blurring the definition of vanity publishing just enough to make it sound good. When I first stumbled onto them over a decade ago, they blared in very large type across their webpage, “We don’t want your money! We want your book!”

And they did, and were very happy to have it.

I won’t lie; I fell for it. While I had had several books traditionally published by then, I still had several unsold manuscripts and uploaded one; they gobbled it up. It sure seemed like a win-win. It didn’t take too long before I was disabused of that notion.

I only found out later what the scam was. They priced my book three times higher than it should have been, and their only marketing plan, aside from loading the book up on Amazon and B&N, was to sell to me. I got 2, 3, 4 e-mails a week announcing new sales, where my book was now only twice as expensive as it should have been, and urging me to stock up. Ugly reality was starting to set in, and I began doing the research I should have done before I ever signed with them.

One piece of serendipity was that I did not succumb to their editing service. I had gone over my book with a fine-toothed comb and was completely confident in it, therefore I signed a waiver saying they were to print the book as is with no editorial input from them. Turns out that was a good thing. When I began to research complaints online, I saw over and over that authors who had paid for the editing found it to be no more than a once-through with spell-checker. If that weren’t bad enough, many of those authors found that PA had accepted all the changes suggested by the spell-check, even if it meant using words the author never intended and even changing the names of some of the characters!

Dodged a bullet on that one.

Fast-forward to now. PA has become America Star Books. Along with the new name there is also a new focus, it seems. Apparently they are aggressively going after foreign authors with an offer to translate their books into English for free. As before, it sounds like a gonga deal. As before, I can’t help but think that their service will be little more than a fast and dirty mechanized translation done with the click of a button and with little if any actual oversight by human eyes. I can only cringe when I imagine what some of those books will look like when they are thrown onto the market.

As always with something that sounds too good to be true, caveat emptor.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

26 thoughts on “PublishAmerica Changes Its Name, but Can It Change Its Stripes?”

  1. I, too, fell for one of these publishers. Unlike you, I paid for the editing which was such a farce. I should have done research but was so new at all this I believed they were the way to go.
    Hopefully, your blog will make more people aware os these companies.

    1. Sandy, I think most of us want to believe that people (and businesses) are honest and will do what they say. It’s always a shock to find out there are those who won’t or don’t, but of course now we know there are plenty of those out there. If we can save one newbie from a similar fate, it’s worth admitting the naivety. Thanks for sharing your story.

      1. I hope so, too. You are welcome. We need more people to share their stories so we can hopefully keep other from the same mistakes. I now we will never put a stop to them, but we can surely cut down on the people they cheat.

          1. I was like you. I fell for their spill and had them published my books, five of a fact before I started realizing something was wrong.I was constantly paying for my books to be presented to such and such Ie: amazon, Barnes and Noble and Walmart to name a few. Then I attended one of their conventions, there I saw what presented meant. Nothing but setting them up on a table for people to walk by and see. No one around if they wanted to buy one. Right after that, I had a book signing at Hastings. I had paid for my books to be placed there. They had not a single book on their shelves and told me they didn’t stock their books. Luckily for me, I brought a bunch of my own copies and sold them there. After that, I started doing research on PublishAmerica and joined a discussion on LinkedIn learning all about them and their methods. Sadly to say those books can sit on their computer until the contract is over, another five years. After that I self published everything. So I hope some of the newbies to writing learns something from your fine article. A.G.

  2. I made the mistake of issuing a book through Publish America, and now they want me to pay them $200 to get my rights back. Not a chance!

    1. If you hold out, you can bargain for less; I did. I know some who refused to cave no matter what, but I wanted my rights back. For me, it was worth the pittance to get them.

    1. Ralph, excellent post; I’m guessing there are many, many of the same kinds of stories out there, but with so many of us telling those stories, maybe we can save someone some grief. I was with you–it was worth it to me to buy back my rights so I could publish my book myself. Thanks very much for sharing your story and backing me up.

      1. It was my pleasure Melissa. I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time and your post sparked me to action finally. Others should be made aware of the hoax that company has become. I have all my books under my own label now except for the one under Pro Se Publications, which is an excellent pulp fiction outfit. I think Publish America may have started out with good intentions and slowly denigrated into what it is today. When my novel came out and was a complete wreck I knew I had to get it back from them. They were doing me no favors. Thanks for posting this article.

  3. Just one of the benefits of the ePublishing revolution is that fewer writers are getting desperate enough to be sucked in by those predators, Melissa. Also more of those who were around at the height of the predator’s heyday and – indeed suffered at the hands of not only those predators but also some of the so called traditional publishers, who were their kin and, if truth be known, from which source those predators probably sprung – have elevated platforms from which to shout their warnings from the rooftops.

    Excellent post, Melissa.

  4. I posted my comment in the wrong spot, whoops! A.G. I also want to mention they offered for me to buy back the rights of my first book for ninety-nine dollars. I have five books on their computer, now way am I going to pay them another cent.

    1. Thanks for adding your info about the “presentations.” I had never even considered that and, of course, glad now that I didn’t. Hard lessons learned, but once learned, never forgotten.

  5. I have a question if anyone knows…. I have a book with them for 3 more years under contract… since they changed their name without as Much as contactimg us can we void our contract since they changed names BC I have a contract with publish America not American star books

    1. The only thing I can say about this is that I decided to take back my first book from them a year ago. This is after I re-published ‘Redemption of the Sorcerer’. I had never done any digital publishing with them and just published the book on kindle and nook myself about a year and a half ago. Last January I decided I could do a better job of it than them and just re-created the cover on my own, changed fonts, added a few sections and photo’s inside and re-wrote a few sections adding and revising content. Then I published the book myself as a second edition. They recently tried calling me to ask if I wanted to buy back the rights for the edition they published, I never returned their calls. Now I noticed it is no longer listed on their site.

  6. I am another who was duped by PA. That was back in 2003/4 before there was a lot of info out there. My book, too, was way overpriced and when I remarked about the fact that it only cost them $3-4 to print a book, and that $17 was way too high for retail, they said I didn’t know what I was talking about. It is a very thin book, and shouldn’t have been priced at more than $10. I received some very rude e-mails from them. Actually “nasty” would be a better word. Very unprofessional. At the time I published with them, there were no options to pay for editing. Even then, they changed a passage in the ms and it ended up meaning something very different from what I had written. When I proofed it, I pointed it out, and they had to change it back. I cancelled my contract with them before they charged to do that, but I was never really certain if it was cancelled as the letter I received (snail mail) had no signature. Anyway, I have almost doubled the size of the book, changed the title and will change the cover before putting it on CreateSpace. But it is still being offered on Amazon – both new and used copies. And the prices are below PA’s retail price. They finally took my book off their site, though. And I have seen my book being sold elsewhere for exorbitant prices – over $100. I’m sure no one would ever pay that – unless they are crazy. And, unless PA is still printing the book and making all the profit, it wouldn’t be available anyway. I have heard complaints that they do continue printing and selling books even after contracts have been cancelled.

    1. I understand from Amazon that they will continue to show books like this (cancelled PA, for example) as long as they have a stock. Once they sell the last book in stock, then the listing will be discontinued. I’ve got a couple books that have 2 listings, either with 2 publishers or with 2 editions, covers, etc.

      1. It seems they do sometimes keep your book listed even when there are none available. You can order, but when you try to submit the order, it comes up “out of stock”. My friend has had the same experience. And she has contacted Amazon to ask them to remove the listing but they don’t.

  7. It’s sad to see how many people have the same kind of problem with companies like this. I, too had problems with PA (quite a while ago now-almost eight years) and couldn’t get over how disrespectful and awful some of the emails I received from this company were. Simple questions and complaints were met with outright hostility several times and the ‘editing’ they did-what a joke… Publishing with PA put me off trying to get my books out there for a long time-I was so terrified something equally horrible would happen. Thankfully now I have learned and evolved in my writing and I am proud to be a self-published author! Unless the company proves itself in a really compelling way, I think posts like this can do nothing except help those that might end up in a bad situation far too many of us have shared with a publisher like PA.

    1. That’s the great thing about IU and similar sites; with luck we can (1) help people avoid the scams and (2) help folks find a satisfying way to be productive and successful. There’s no one right way, but people have founds lots of good ways to get the job done and do it happily. Thanks for sharing.

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