Be Careful Where You Publish
Ten years ago, I wrote a longer than usual short story. Many of my family and friends read it, liked it and recommended that I should try to have it published in a book form. I took their advice and last December (2011), my book was published. It was published at no expense to me. In fact the publisher, PublishAmerica, paid me a small “symbolic” advance ($1.00) once the contract was signed.
I felt good. I felt like my dreams of becoming a published author had come true. I felt especially good that the publisher found my work to be good enough to publish it at their expense. I was walking on cloud nine. My wife was so proud of me, and my extended family was buying up the book as fast as they could to support my efforts.
Now I feel like a complete rube.
Before I signed the contract with PA, I researched them. They were an American company out of Baltimore that had been around for several years, and had published several thousand authors. I looked at their website and browsed through the books, many of which I had heard of. Some had even been made into movies. “That’s good enough for me!” I thought as I signed a ten year agreement on the dotted line. “Duh, dopey, dopey, doe! I’ll just sign it right here!”
Once the book was out, I began getting emails from PA telling me how to buy my book for a reduced rate. “Buy my own book? WTF?! I should get complimentary copies!” The price that they charged was moderate, but in minimum quantities of 10, plus $5.99 shipping per book!
Then I began to get numerous emails telling me that if I wanted my book merchandised in any way, I had to pay for it. If I wanted a book signing, I would have to set it up myself. If they did it, it would cost me a lot of money. If I wanted the help of their literary agent….more money. I decided to do a little more research. What I found was heartbreaking, literally. I was stunned.
There were hundreds upon hundreds of people all complaining of the same things: never getting paid, always being siphoned for money, receiving false sales reports from PA that showed “no sales” to avoid payment to the authors, the complaints just went on and on. The Better Business Bureau got involved and did a thorough investigation. “No wrong doing” is what they came up with, due to a very carefully worded contract between PA and its submitting authors.
I also discovered that author’s submissions are not read or edited by the PA. They accept everyone! There is a disclaimer in the front of the book that reads:
“PublishAmerica has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended, verbatim, without editorial input.”
That is their safety net for producing an unedited book. Again, it is apparent that PublishAmerica does not read the submissions that it accepts.
It took me several days to get over the shock. As Chevy Chase puts it, “It was like a bag over the head punch in the face!” It was a punch in the stomach. I was embarrassed to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to tell my wife about it for several days. Here I am, a student of law, excelling in contract negotiations no less, getting the shiv in a literary scam. So I contacted one of my old law professors, an intellectual property attorney in California. He was familiar with PA, and had dealt with them before. He told me how to deal with the situation and move on with my life, and I am taking his advice, never to do business with PA again.
It was a tough and humbling lesson learned. My book is still out there, and I am going to leave it out there on the market until the contract runs out…when I’m 64. Until then, I will not send PublishAmerica one red cent.
©2012 by Del Banks