Authors who have gotten sucked into a vanity press contract often get their first inkling of problems when they review their “edited” manuscript. It’s often riddled with errors – many of which have been introduced during the “editing” process. And if they complain, they’re pointed to a provision in their contract that states they need to pay extra for extra rounds of editing.
We talk a lot about Author Solutions because they’re a big outfit. But there is a whole host of other vanity publishers out there. I ran across this page of complaints about Tate Publishing while researching this post. And of course, there’s America Star Books, which used to be called PublishAmerica until criticism of their business practices got to be too loud.
(A caveat: I’ve linked to a website called Consumer Affairs above. The website operators apparently accept Google ads to help pay their bills – and Google matches its ads to content. If you’re tempted to click through on any of the ad links on those pages, please first check David Gaughran’s list of scammy operators in his post from last week.)
It’s not only vanity presses that create editing messes. The IU admins heard from an author from Moldova several months back. (I’m not telling tales out of school here, by the way. She said it was okay if we talked about her situation.) She had worked as a journalist, but wanted to come to America to study. So she quit her job to promote her novel in order to raise money for the trip. English is not her first language, so she paid FirstEditing, a company she found on the internet, $760 to give her book the final polish. In short, they didn’t. We minions did a quick online search and discovered several complaints against the company for fraud. When she contacted them about the errors in her book, they offered to give it a free second edit by another editor on staff. She took advantage of it. Then a couple of us looked it over. The verdict: the book still needed a lot of work. At that point, she gave up. She is still in Moldova and the book is still for sale.
Authors with vanity-press contracts sometimes hope that they can convince their editor to do a proper job of it. After all, they’ve paid these people a lot of money. Shouldn’t they be willing to make things right?
Victoria Strauss runs Writer Beware, a scam-spotting service sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has heard countless tales about vanity publishers since co-founding the blog with the late A.C. Crispin in 1998, and she doesn’t hold out much hope of getting satisfaction on this score. “In any of the scenarios that I can think of where an author might have to consider pursuing the publisher to do a proper job of editing, the publisher has already proved itself incapable of editing to professional standards and it’s a waste of time and energy to try and force it to do more,” she said. “If your publisher’s editing process has filled your book with errors; if the editor it gave you tried to re-write all your colloquial dialog; if the promised ‘content edit’ turns out to be a light copy edit; if the publisher promised editing and didn’t edit at all – all of these things demonstrate that it can’t or won’t do the job, whether because it’s incompetent or disreputable. Going after it to try and force it to do the job better will probably get you grief and stress, but not a better book.
“Also,” she said, “if the publisher can’t manage the job of editing–which is basic to a publisher’s function – then odds are good it can’t manage other aspects of the publishing process either.” Or in other words, don’t expect your book to have proper formatting. Or even an error-free cover.
Strauss said you may have one useful course of action: “If your publisher has done a crap job of editing, my suggestion is to seriously consider trying to get free of the publisher. (This is also why I strongly recommend that authors buy a book from any publisher they’re considering, to see if it’s adequately edited, designed, etc.)”
Of course, getting your book back has its own host of issues. I’ll talk about those in Part 3 next week.