Sunday, July 25, 2010

#219: We Treat Our Authors the Old-Fashioned Way....

On October 3, 2005, I signed my first book, Harter Union, away and while I wouldn't regret it at first, or even two years from then, I now regret it as does a good percentage of other authors signed by PublishAmerica. My book, which I feel could have actually made it with a publisher--even a small one, with some editing and expert input, was hastily manhandled into production by PublishAmerica and myself. I have to slightly blame myself because I know how publishing worked and am wondering how I let something like this happen to me but I've seen far smarter people taken in by PA's shenanigans.

But I am not just an upset author who is mad at himself for not having a book on some sort of bestseller list, I am just one of many tired of PA's deceptive half-truths. Even their own message board is beginning to turn against them. If you're lucky to have your post get past Infocenter and not be banned from posting then you can air your grievances all you want but more than likely any post bashing PA or making them look stupid will be deleted and the poster probably banned. Luckily, the good people at Absolute Write try to grab those posts from the message board before they are deleted. It's a tedious job and kind of depressing because the "I'm not happy with PA" posts don't just cover one thread. They cover three. The main complaint people seem to have with PA is not receiving what they ordered which brings me to the barrage of emails PA coaxing their own authors to purchase copies of their own books. 20% off here, 45% there. Another one is 60% as long as you purchase X number of books. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to buy your own books, and I never have because I know how publishing works. Books should be sold to readers--not authors.

Lately, the wheels seem to falling off of PA's wagon. The emails to buy your own books have become a daily nuisance as opposed to a monthly or weekly one. Infocenter seems to be getting more testy and PA has created an imprint called Independence Books, apparently to shed the stigma of the PublishAmerica name. All the same rules apply though. PA or Independence Books will still accept just about anything as long as they haven't reached their quota for the day and your manuscript doesn't include any outright or subtle references to PublishAmerica or the Three Stooges (Willem Meiners, Larry Clopper and Miranda Prather) who run the company. One of the things that was brought to my attention was that PA uses stock images for their covers and that they are prone, now more than ever, to using the same cover--just resizing and recoloring it. I was lucky that my cover looks pretty normal for what my book is about (although the original draft had a bikini-clad blond girl sitting on the word "Union"). But some people weren't so lucky. Consider the novel Night Travels of the Elven Vampire by Lavern Ross. The cover features a horribly pixelated and differently colored photo of Orlando Bloom portraying Legolas from The Lord of the Rings with cherry lollipop-colored "fangs". From what I read, Orlando Bloom's people had some things to say about using this picture. PA then swapped it with another picture of generic tombstones in a cemetery but the story inside is still just as awful.

But it's not the author's fault that her book has been a sort of Internet meme. It's PA's fault because any legitimate publisher would either not publish the book, say "revise and resubmit" or tell the author to get an agent and the agent would either accept the market the book to a publish or say "revise and resubmit". I know my book could use a sixth, seventh and possibly eighth rewrite, maybe more. PA has in its stable of 50,000 authors a few decent books--books that could've actually been accepted by a true publisher if they just had some professional editing input. But the Stooges just want your money. They themselves are failed authors who have become bitter and terrible human beings.

PublishAmerica was founded by Willem Meiners and Larry Clopper in 1999 although there have been incorporation papers saying Meiners and someone else started the company. The current executive director (and Infocenter matron) is Miranda Prather, who was accused of faking a hate crime at the Eastern University of New Mexico in 1997 although she would accept a plea bargain and receive no jail time. Meiners has recently left PublishAmerica to engage himself in his hobbies of sailing a yacht and flying a helicopter. Miranda apparently has a stable of horses and I don't know what hobbies Clopper has but I am sure they are expensive too. It's sad the way these three make money. PA authors only receive a royalty statement of 8% per book but they do not receive royalties on books they purchase themselves (unless there is a special offer). Since my time with PA, I have made a whopping $14 or so. My largest royalty check being my first at about $8. I've received three royalty checks and one email saying I have made nothing in royalties. As of March 2010 I should have received eight royalty checks (or email equivalents). Whether or not, PA has my current email or mailing address is out of my hands. I sent them the information to change it but they never got back to me or confirmed it.

My contract with PublishAmerica expires on October 5, 2012 and I don't plan on renewing. I plan on writing a newer and better book and using my experience to help others caught in PA's trap.

Until next time, I remain...