PublishAmerica is also an "advance-paying book publisher" with a company banner motto that reads We treat our authors the old-fashioned way — we pay them.
Except that the old-fashioned way it pays authors an advance is — hold
onto your hat — a whopping total of $1. Now, I made twenty-five
thousand times that as the advance for the last book I wrote, but hey,
maybe I’m just ridiculously overpaid.
PublishAmerica states on its web site
that its titles "are available through most major bookstores." Except
for this one little thing: "Availability is not necessarily the same as
bookstore shelf display." Translation: you can’t get them in the store,
but you can order them through the store’s computer. Assuming you have
psychic power and can envision the titles, because they’re not on the
shelf. Have I got this right?
The Post managed to get Larry Clopper, president and co-founder of PublishAmerica to speak on the record about his company’s approach to publishing. He should have kept his mouth shut.
To Larry Clopper, the
company, in relying on its authors to largely sell their own books, is
"revolutionizing" an elitist industry. It has, he says, "always
operated on the highest principles of honor and integrity."
PublishAmerica’s authors often knew "decades of failure, dozens of
rejections and life-changing disappointment," adds Clopper, who twice
failed to find publishers for his own books. "Now they hold their books
in their hands, and they are sneering down at the publishing industry
that shunned them."
It’s not the industry they’re sneering at Larry, it’s you. The Post article goes on to discuss the pitfalls of Print-on-Demand publishing, the latest evolution of vanity press.
Because there have always been more would-be authors than mainstream
publishers are willing to sign up, writers can turn to a variety of
do-it-yourself alternatives. The major difference is that, one way or
another, those writers wind up paying, instead of being paid, to be
POD companies like iUniverse and vanity presses in general
don’t appear to generate much public rancor, however, because they make
it quite clear that the author bears the expense. Besides, such
publishers do serve a purpose. The Authors Guild, for example, has an
arrangement with iUniverse to keep its members’ out-of-print books
available. For a PTA planning to sell a cookbook, or a family elder
passing her memoirs around to the grandchildren, a vanity or POD press
But it’s very unlikely to lead to a career. Once in a great while, a highly entrepreneurial author gets lucky.
A few POD books have sold well enough to lead to a deal with a mainstream publisher. But if your book comes out through PublishAmerica, that’s not going to happen to you. You sign over your publishing rights for seven years. So if Random House comes knocking, PublishAmerica negotiates your deal and keeps
half the proceeds. Not a bad trade off for your $1 advance, is it? Larry Clopper says that his detractors represent a "miniscule faction" of the authors published by his company.
But the fact remains that his authors
can’t join the Authors Guild. Having heard complaints about
PublishAmerica for years, the guild doesn’t recognize its titles as
membership criteria. "There’s a long history of vanity presses and
others taking advantage of the hopes of would-be authors," says
executive director Aiken. "This might fall in that noble tradition."
True, too, many major book review sections (including Book World) won’t
review POD books. "Some of our proudest moments come when authors are
not allowed into certain exclusive clubs," Clopper retorts.
Those who petitioned the Maryland
attorney general seeking "an investigation into this massive scam" had
a different understanding, however. They weren’t interested in sneering
at the exclusive club; they thought that, at last, they were being
invited into it.
Now that the mainstream press — like Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post — are picking up on the PublishAmerica scam, maybe people will finally stop falling for Cloppers clumsy con.