book promotion, Literary Agents, publishing, scams

Your Publisher May Not Be A Publisher

computer-virus-rev-1-300x200 Each and every day brings an exciting pronouncement that so and so has been published. It’s a thrilling announcement, one which envisions a bright future for the impending literary scion, and one that is, so often the percentages died aborning, wrong.  I’m not going to slam self published authors – at least not today – rather I’m going to help clarify some terms. They are important ones to know if you’re serious about your craft. The word “publisher” dates back to the 1500’s. It originally meant “one who announces in public.” which makes complete sense even today. The more modern interpretation,  “one whose business is bringing out for sale books, periodicals, engravings, etc.” dates back to 1740. Whether or not a publishing company pays an advance to a writer they do, or are supposed to, provide certain services for a fee based on sales, or, to be clear, work on commission. No legitimate publisher charges an author up front monies for anything.

Those services, in a nutshell, are promotion of the work, marketing, licensing (when possible), and distribution. Included in that will be the arrangement of some interviews and other forms of personal publicity which are designed to sell the author just as much as the book.

Should sales, or projected sales, warrant it the publisher may suggest the author ascertain the services of an agent. That person will take over the job of selling you and all your intellectual properties to the unsuspecting world all while trying to get you a better publishing deal than that piece of shit you signed (every agent just laughed here, every author just whimpered).

Good news, no reputable agent will charge an author any upfront fees either. Bad news, like unicorns and South American hockey teams, they are difficult to wrangle. If, as noted in the previous paragraph, you find yourself in need of one many publishers will offer suggestions but no more than that. It’s in their best interest for you to succeed, not to interfere  or micromanage your life. They have other shit to do.

Consider all of the above bullet points to refer to when you’re talking to publishers.

Now, which companies aren’t publishers?

Amazon KDP
Book Baby
Create Space
Ingram Spark
Liberio (recently out of beta testing)

All of the above use the phrase “publish your book” but use it very carefully. They mean the phrase literally. They are all, with a variety of different options available to writers, print on demand services. They do not vet your writing in any manner, other than for formatting or decency standards (if they have those). If you write a book claiming that Iron Sky, my favorite movie series involving space Nazis, is a documentary, and that numerology proves it, no one stops you. You just hit send and off it goes to the Internet. Where it goes after that depends on how much money you want to spend. None of the companies listed above are going to have a single unpaid intern lift a finger on your behalf. That means all of the tasks I noted above are now yours.

Which means, and you need to understand this, you are the publisher. It is now on you, and nobody else, to present your work to the wider world.

Now, for some help. since the majority of writers reading this blog are involved in sci-fi or fantasy, I’m going to share a list of scams sited on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website.

As you cringe through the many instances of fraud, all of which have been adjudicated, you’ll note some common themes.

  1. Film deals were based on getting talent signed first, all you need to do is provide a little “seed money.” Just FYI, there is no such animal in the film industry. It’s financing first and then that money attracts names. If an actor or actress likes the author they may “attach” their name to the presentation, but they are under no obligation go appear, support, or otherwise do a damn thing. At least not until they have a contract and money. Not “or” but “and.” That’s important to remember.
  2. Authors were charged fees for services unrelated to, in wildly in excess of, what they needed. Yes, editors charge fees. But agents and publishers are not editors. At least not exclusively. When you’re ready for editing hire someone who does that, and only that, and you’ll save yourself agita and money.
  3. Celebrity endorsements. Be extremely wary of these. The number of faux agents I’ve seen touting them is amazing and, always, a lie. Just last week I reached out to someone I know to ask if she was really “cheering on an amazing author.” Her response, edited for profanity, was “no.” Unless you have evidence, photographic is best, you could end up getting a wonderfully threatening “cease and desist” letter from a lawyer who makes in an hour what you earn in a year. That said, they do happen. I have gotten them from Rosario Dawson and John Fuglesang, for example, but even then I’ve been careful not to use them in advertising or any other commercial venue. You can post them on social media, as I have, but anything else requires a contract. Simply put, “don’t worry about it, they’re friends” is bullshit.
  4. Reading, evaluation, and/or marketing fees. These are where your money goes to die. The SWFA has a litany of reasons why you should run screaming from the room if they’re mentioned. Simply put, they are designed for people to make money no matter what happens to you. And, far more often than not, nothing happens that benefits you in any way.

As a point of reference, all of these publishers have been deemed scams.

  • American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Archebooks Publishing (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Helm Publishing (Rockford, IL)
  • Hilliard and Harris (Boonsboro, MD)
  • Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)
  • Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press)
  • PublishAmerica (Frederick, MD)
  • Royal Fireworks Press/Silk Label Books (Unionville, NY)
  • SterlingHouse Publisher (Pittsburgh, PA–imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books)
  • SBPRA/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Boca Raton, FL–formerly known as The Literary Agency Group and AEG Publishing Group)
  • Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK)
  • Whitmore Publishing Company (Pittsburgh, PA)

The list of disreputable agents is too long to recreate here, so click on the list to see if the person who claims you’re the next J. K. Rowling is there.

So what to do? This part is absurdly easy.

  1. Ask for, a minimum of five, references with direct contact information. Make sure you can reach every single one.
  2. If a celebrity is attached contact their management. All that info is listed on any authorized web site.
  3. Use this new fangled Google thing to search for whoever has made you this amazing offer, you need to act on now – NOW! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!, and add the word “scam” after their name. You’ll be amazed how much time and money that little trick will save you.

Just like having a blind date at an S&M bar, caution is your friend. Be careful out there.


So Ewe Wants to Rite da Book?

Corey Bradshaw - tentacles-of-destruction

Corey Bradshaw – Tentacles of Destruction

Due to the emergence of self publishing there has been a rise in people who maintain a series of beliefs which, heretofore, would have been considered untenable. I mean they would have gotten someone laughed out of a junior high English class. These people believe, and foist proof of those malignable beliefs on us at every opportunity, there are no rules. That all writing is valid if the author claims it is. That all petunias are squids if they say so. To those of you who ignore grammar, punctuation, structure, coherent plotting, logical thought, or other silly fads of the past, I have one simple thing to say to you… STOP! Just stop. Stop writing, stop wasting Create Space’s server space, stop wasting our time. Just come to a full halt and then step to the side. Because I know what’s coming.

I was in the music industry for many years and saw what happened at i-Tunes and CD Baby. When those services went live anyone with a digital recording device and some free time could call themselves a musician. Within five years each company had built in restrictions, and limitations, to weed out the hobbyists. And, let’s be honest, most of the self published stuff is done by people as a hobby. Very few put in the years learning to write, experiencing rejection, or being crucified by their, oh so cruel yet supportive, peers. They just bundle up their Word Doc, or Open Office thing, and hit send.

Self published comics used to have a shot at being distributed by Diamond, the company with the monopoly on U.S. comic book distribution but, thanks to the wealth of “great ideas” matched with poor execution, now face a labyrinth of restrictions and fees. In Diamond’s case, if you don’t have a minimum of $2,500 per release available for promotion, don’t even bother ringing their doorbell.

Before you tell me I’m being a curmudgeon, and hating on you fun loving literary iconoclasts, know that Create Space has already dropped all support services for self published authors. The last marketing article they published is over a year old, the rest are almost three years old and no longer valid, except in the abstract. Within two years they will have enough barriers in place to stem the flood of drivel and then they can begin sifting for gems.

To be clear, Create Space will continue to exist. If you want to publish your book, and buy copies for your friends and family, nothing will stop you. But your path to a wider readership will be greatly narrowed. If you haven’t been already you will be encouraged to join KDP Select, until you have no choice, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. However, this will keep you out of many other markets. This will allow Amazon, and the rest, to develop a self publishing ghetto.

Oh, I know, this doesn’t pertain to you. You are a serious practitioner of your craft. You’ve seen two or three memes and your mom thinks you’re the bee’s knees. Plus, and this is the super really important part, you have a story you never saw in any of those memes.

Since you don’t know me, and probably wouldn’t like me anyway, allow me to crush your silly dreams.

Writing, like neurosurgery, is a craft. You don’t want some wanna-be brain surgeon, who just saw something on YouTube they think they can handle, operating on your loved one. The same, minus the life threatening implications, applies to writing.

It requires years of study and practice. If you think Strunk and White is a rap group, you should not pretend to be a writer. If you think On Writing follows On Dancer, On Dasher, et al, you should not pretend to be a writer. If you think a subjunctive clause is an alien Santa, you should not pretend to be a writer. If you think a dangling participle is something on a stripper’s outfit, you should not pretend to be a writer.

I could go on but, by now, you’re either laughing your ass off or pissed at me. If the former, congrats, you can write. Or, at the very least, read constructively.

You see, what happens is, the flotsam and jetsam of drek clogs up the pathways and prevents readers from being able to find works worthy of their attention. To that end Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others, are tweaking their search engines. As Create Space has less and less influence over the next couple of years you’ll see self published books eased out of rankings, search results, and so on. Publishers, even if they’re just indies, will be given preference, just like they are in the music and comic book industries.

It’s simple economics. When something has a failure rate of nearly ninety-five percent the market adjusts. Vanity presses might seem like a viable resource for some, but they come with their own baggage. Often they buy reviews, inflate social media numbers, and are generally shunned by distributors, both digital and traditional. Worse, they tend to hand out meaningless awards, for a fee, to inflate an author’s ego and confuse the market.

Please note, there are a couple of vanity presses tied to traditional publishing companies. They exist to make money and, if something catches the eye of an editor, present new authors to the parent company when their book released. It’s still going to cost you, but at least they’re honest about what they do and what your chances are. Slim is a word heard often. Also, they don’t flood the market with crap posts and fake links.

Since I can already hear the “They’re out to screw the little guys” chants allow me to rebut them here. No, they’re not. Self published authors screwed themselves. Badly and without lube. The plethora of drivel dumped out each day is whelming, to say the least.

While there are self published authors who release high quality stuff, and generate sales from same, they are the minority. And, good news for them, there are safeguards already in place to ensure they don’t get caught up in the swirling cesspool that will soon drag many into blissful oblivion. Those in the minority already receive email updates from Amazon, et al, explaining the future so I need not go into them here. If you haven’t gotten such a missive, well, I hope you know how to swim.

For the rest they will be required to treat writing like the business it is. Have a plan, a marketing budget, clear sales parameters, and a professional package to present the world. In other words, treat the product of your craft with respect and your potential readers with the esteem they deserve.

If you must have a hobby that wastes everyone’s time, and your money, CLICK HERE to accomplish all your goals.