Scamming PublishAmerica

Novelist Richard Wheeler pointed me to a Los Angeles Times article about a group of science fiction writers who decided to stick it to PublishAmerica, the self-publishing scam that takes advantage of aspiring authors. Professional science fiction writers have long derided the PA scam, urging aspiring writers not to submit their work to the company.

"They are the biggest and most obnoxious author mills of them all – and one of
the most successful, I imagine," said Ann C. Crispin, chair of the Science
Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams.

PublishAmerica responded by calling their detractors  "literary parasites" who "looted, leeched or plagiarized their way to
local stardom."  So the science fiction writers decided to strike back.

They gathered together to write the worst book ever written. Thirty writers each took a disconnected chapter, writing the worst possible prose they could, and not bothering to read the chapters that preceeded them.

To further test PublishAmerica’s standards, [they]
left Chapter 21 blank because one writer missed deadline.[They]  included another
chapter twice. And [they] took portions of two other chapters, ran them through a
software program that randomly reordered the words, then accepted all the spell
check and grammar fixes [their] software recommended.

The result is Chapter 34,
nine pages of disconnected gibberish that begins: "Bruce walked around any more.
Some people might ought to her practiced eye, at her. I am so silky and braid
shoulders. At sixty-six, men with a few feet away from their languid

They called their book  "Atlanta Nights" by Travis Tea, the nom-de-plume alone should have sent up a warning sign with the morons at PA, but apparently they not only don’t read manuscripts, they don’t read the title pages, either.  PublishAmerica accepted the book and sent the authors, through their front man, an acceptance letter.

"PublishAmerica has decided to give ‘Atlanta Nights’ the chance it deserves," it
reads. A contract followed, which the hoaxsters decided not to sign after a
lawyer advised it could lead to a fraud complaint. Instead, they confessed the
hoax on a writers website.

The next day PublishAmerica rescinded the contract, with a wink that they’d caught
on. Upon further review, it  appears that your work is not ready to be published," the e-mail reads, citing  "nonsensical text in the manuscript that were caught by our editing staff as
they previewed the text for editing time." It suggested the author of "Atlanta
Nights" try a vanity publisher. "They will certainly publish your book at a

So they did.  "Atlanta Nights" can be ordered over the print-on-demand
website, with proceeds going to the Science Fiction and Fantasy
Writers of America Medical Fund. Or you can  download it for free .

33 thoughts on “Scamming PublishAmerica”

  1. I haven’t read it, but this is more proof of just how bad Publishamerica is. I doubt it will, as I hoped for quite some time, put them out of business. They seem to just thumb their noses at all critics and folks like the former and current PA authors at will continue to buy and review the books. Business as usual.

  2. I think the fact that Publishers Weekly, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and now The Los Angeles Times have all written about the scam, PublishAmerica will have rocky days ahead. Any aspiring author who submits their books to PublishAmerica after all that has been written about the company deserves what they get.

  3. I was a source for all but the last article. I hope you are right. When we started this clearly wasn’t the case, so progress has been made in the last two years. Thanks for the link and for your writing on the issue. When credible writers such as yourself speak out, the scam artists can’t help but falter. Stagger, and fall to come.
    I didn’t realize you wrote with Lewis Perdue. I like his work and his gumption to take on Dan Brown.

  4. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have heard any of this if it weren’t for reading your blog. There are still millions out there who have no idea what they’re signing up for.

  5. Mark that’s why many still fall for it. The point is it takes less effort to find out now than it did two years ago. That’s progress and all of those mainstream news stories are big even if they still have a he said she said, view from nowhere angle of the sort that sunk John Kerry’s swiftboat. Wrongly so.

  6. Then you’d lose. I might add that your insistence in not knowing about the nature of PA is typical of that arm of political persuasion. It’s the MO: Gullible, and eaily taken based on a baseline of belief over reason. Them’s the facts and all of the ducks line up accordingly.

  7. Mark,
    Of course I’d investigate anything before submitting. I’m not gulible. I’m just saying that there are still many people out there who won’t have read those articles and still won’t know. This isn’t going to die for a long time yet, I’m afraid.
    Don’t feel lost. I’m not sure I understand what’s happening either. I was only warning Mark not to bring politics into it.

  8. Warning me? Really? This is about a mindset and lack of knowledge. The mindset at Publishamerica is mid-west conservative Bush voter publishes novel. Usually a christian novel or memoir concerning faith. That’s the demographic. There are exceptions to this rule as always but that is the persuasion of the majority.
    Here’s the deal for Mark: if you can do a google search negative information about PA will flood the screen now. It wouldn’t before. I trust that’s simple enough to be understood.

  9. There are a lot of reasons to revile the scammers at PublishAmerica…but to say there’s a political motivation behind their swindle is ridiculous.
    They are con men taking advantage of aspiring authors. This has nothing to do with politics or religion. It has to do with MONEY.
    I don’t know why you are attacking Mark…why should he be expected to know about PublishAmerica? Self-publishing scams aren’t exactly on the general public’s radar. My wife doesn’t know anything about it and she’s married to a novelist…and a guy who has been a PublishAmerica critic. I bet I could knock on my next door neighbor’s door, and he wouldn’t know anything about PublishAmerica either.
    Mr. York, I know the PA scam is something you’re passionate about, but please cut everybody else, for whom PA means nothing, a little slack.

  10. People read way too much into these online posting discussions. I mean really. I don’t spend too much time on this compared to the sci-fiers at absolutewrite but being attacked for my politics isn’t necessary. It was an analogy about the equivocation of truth and lies in journalism for which I’m qualified to comment on as a blooger with a journalism degree.
    I’m sure it is they that feel attacked as is usually the case. My only point is there is ample information available to deflect the lies now, and anyone can find it whether they know anything about PA or not. Some posters can get by with issuing edicts to others without worrying about the bill. Nice work if you can get it.

  11. I’m someone who knows about this subject. I know who you are Mr. Montgomery and real writers don’t use exclamation points when they think they’re clever. Rules of writng my friend. A question to Lee. Is is proper to call posters insane?

  12. I’m just trying to get a grasp the rules of etiquette here. It is improper to engage in debate on any proposition offered in the discussion? If someone does they’re called insane and told to get the politics out of here?

  13. Absolutely not. It’s much more fun to call them crackers, drooling nutjobs, blithering idiots, stinky knobheads, or to proclaim “Is that brain matter I see coming out of your ears?”
    Not that I am referring to you that way, of course.

  14. He makes fun of me for using an exclamation point, and then writes “Rules of writng [sic] my friend”? As Nero Wolfe would scornfully interject, “Phooey!”
    Furthermore, I resent the implication that I am an imaginary writer. My corporality is well documented.
    If you’re going to engage in backblog bantering, you really ought to develop a thicker skin. It’s all in good fun.
    To which I add: !!!

  15. So the exclamation points were a carpal tunnel spasm? I see. Gentleman, I have an extremely tough hide for this sort of thing. It was I that was chastised for coming down too hard when nothing of the sort was occurring. Which is it? And to whom does it apply?

  16. To Mark #2 or anyone else, if I gave you offense, I apologize. My comments were intended to be a bit of gentle teasing, all in fun.
    Evidently my comments came across as harsher than I intended, for which I am sorry.

  17. You called me insane after I was chastised by Mr. Goldberg for strong-arming about Publishamerica, a subject I’ve devoted two years to in the interest of altruism.
    I offered a legitimate anaolgy of the stories as well as a profile of the type of people that get taken in by the crook.
    I was a source in both the AP and WP stories and responsible for the evidence that developed the angle of the stories. I’m not some nutbag that blogs. No offense. I don’t take orders from conservatives on blog comments as they are want to hand out. Get the politics out indeed.
    Apology accepted.

  18. Atlanta Nights–novel of the moment

    The Atlanta Nights juggernaut continues to roll, although people seem more inclined (as they will with bad books) to read it for free on the Internet than to buy a hard copy. The most detail I’v…

  19. A couple of things the LA Times article got wrong:
    1) The manuscript wasn’t submitted under the name “Travis Tea.” That name was selected when the book was made available on Not that it would have made a difference at PublishAmerica.
    2) Atlanta Nights was not published “for a fee” after PA pulled the offer. doesn’t charge fees to make books available. I strongly suspect Mr. Macdonald chose Lulu to show people that there are alternatives to PA other than mainstream publishers or fee-based vanity presses, if all an author wants is to make the book available to the public at no cost to himself.

  20. Lulu does offer some services (like ISBNs and custom covers) for fees, but authors don’t need to purchase these services (or purchase them through lulu) to get printed by lulu. Basically, lulu is a job printer. Jim used royalties from the first 30-odd copies of Atlanta Nights to buy an ISBN so the book could be ordered through bookstores in addition to the lulu site*, but the book was selling before it has an ISBN.
    AFAIK, the name the manuscript was submitted under hasn’t been released. Someone unknown to the PA crew offered to send it under his/her name so it would be treated the same way a typical manuscript sent to PA would be treated.
    *Since the royalties go to SFWA’s Emergency Medical Find, he wanted it to be as easy as possible for people to order the book.

  21. A few notes on the timeline:
    1) The book was submitted by a person who has not been publicly identified, and won’t be. That individual used his/her real name on the submission. All the information he/she sent to PublishAmerica was true. The manuscript was submitted as you’ve seen it.
    2) The title of the book, and the identity of the individual submitting it, and the date of submission, weren’t known to any of the authors of the work, other than myself.
    3) PublishAmerica accepted Atlanta Nights on 07DEC04.
    4) On advice of counsel, the contract was not signed.
    5) Revelation of the submission was delayed until after the AP and Washington Post stories were printed.
    6) The hoax submission was publicly revealed on 23JAN05.
    7) PublishAmerica revoked their acceptance on 24JAN05.
    8) The edition was released on 25JAN05.
    9) The cover price was set to give a per-copy royalty equal to the royalty a PublishAmerica author would earn on a typical $19.95 paperback.
    10) By 28JAN05, the book had earned enough royalties to purchase an ISBN.
    11) The press release came out on 28JAN05, with the ISBN listed.
    12) The Los Angeles Times story came out in 05FEB05.
    13) To date, Atlanta Nights has sold over 200 copies, earning more than $200 for the Emergency Medical Fund (even after subtracting the cost of the ISBN).
    It was good for a laugh, got a few bucks for a worthy cause, and revealed that PublishAmerica will offer a contract on a very poorly-written book. That last isn’t a big surprise, but up to now the mainstream press hadn’t had any reason to notice.
    There are four different print versions of Atlanta Nights out there: The first was a straight text-dump-to-pdf with stock covers. The second had the same interior, but the back cover had blurb quotes. The third was the same, but with the ISBN added to the back cover. The fourth has the same cover as the third, but has blurb quotes in the interior and an afterword describing the hoax. The text was re-formatted to keep the same pagecount.
    In addition to the for-money hardcopy version, free download versions are available at

  22. Mr. Montgomery:
    You are free to insult anyone you want in any language you want. You may also use as many exclamation points as you choose. There is only one rule here. Unfortunately, you have grievously violated it.
    You have misquoted Nero Wolfe.
    Nero Wolfe never said “Phooey.”
    Having adapted a half dozen of his novels and stories for television, I can tell you without a trace of doubt that what he said was:
    Please don’t repeat this error.
    Thank you.

  23. What’s facinating is the number of people who violently hate this publisher. Absolute Write’s message board is filled with vile rage at not just the publisher but the authors as well. Oh they pretend that they care about authors and have simply taken it upon themselves to “worn” everyone … But they are hurting people. I personally have received more than twenty hateful book reviews on Amazon.
    My friend wrote a book about the deaths of two of her daughters. She wrote it to work through her grief and to bring attention to drunk drivers. She’s older and doesn’t have another 10 years to find a better publisher. Does she deserve mean reviews from people who haven’t bought her book, just because someone has a grudge against her publisher?
    She’s just one example of hundreds of people who don’t deserve this kind of hatefulness. I hurt for her. If you don’t there’s something wrong with you.
    Marti Talbott, author of:
    Colorado Cold Case – the Botham/Miracle Murders

  24. No one should “review” a book based on anything other than the book itself. That’s dishonest and, it sounds in this case, downright cruel.
    Nobody around here is doing anything like that, though.

  25. None of the AW authors are doing that Marti. Lulu is a better publisher that PA. Reviews are based on the work, and in most cases these are poorly presented books by a poor sub-par vanity publisher. I suspect legitimate bad reviews are warranted just like in the real world.
    If you or anyone else is afraid of bad reviews you’re in the wrong business. The problem with PA is PA it’s a scam, and they’re crooks. The victims are many you included. Don’t blame the truth-tellers in this.

  26. I am not afraid of a bad review if it’s honest. These reviews were fake and written by someone who wanted to vent against PublishAmerica instead of talking about the book, which they obviously didn’t read. Often the same bad review appeared under several different PA books at the same time. Amazon is aware of the problem and they quickly delete the bogus reviews. Tell me, is it normal for reviewers to trash the publisher and hardly mention the contents of the book except for what they can learn from the summary?
    I am well aware of the complaints against the publisher and I agree with most of them, but hurting individual authors is not the way to solve the problems.


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