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The next day PublishAmerica rescinded the contract, with a wink that they’d caught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 www.lulu.com, with proceeds going to the Science Fiction and Fantasy
Writers of America Medical Fund. Or you can download it for free .