Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Meager Publishing Experiences/Wisdom

Publish America has received some very bad press and not all of it is justified. However, some of it is.
The good things:
I got my fist book published.
There was no cost to me.
I learned valuable lessons:
- The writer is the first and most important editor. Trust no one else with this task lightly.
It's so important it bears repeating.
- The writer is the first and most important editor. Trust no one else with this task lightly.
- It provided me with a real life publishing experience that I didn’t have to wait for years to have.
The book is available and does have good qualities.
They did do everything they said they would, unfortunately for some authors this has not been the case.

The not so good things:
It won’t be in bookstores no matter how hard you try (I believe). I was shocked to find out (because they never told me) that bookstores (at least in Canada) get a five percent discount on the books. This doesn’t cover shipping, so they can’t/won't bring the books in.
Authors outside of the US are at a disadvantage because Publish America won’t accept returns from other countries.
There is confusion about whether Publish America is a vanity press. It’s not in the sense that it doesn't charge fees, but it is POD.
Publish America does not have good author support.
There are many disgruntled Publish America authors because they feel they should have received more. This might be true.
Note: I did look this company up with the Better Business Bureau and what they said is that this new company has had no more startup problems than any other new company has. They have actively dealt with issues that have arisen. A further note: issues on the web tend to be written in stone, one disgruntled individual can seem to knock around forever, stirring things up. There are a half a dozen people who have been so angry and frustrated that they’ve posted on many different forums – and still do.
They should have two departments and don’t. They should have one department that accepts only serious manuscripts with a solid support staff for these authors. The second department should be for those people who have a very small audience – like family and friends – who never intend to be serious authors.
Further Note: If I ever publish with Publish America again, I would not bother with their editing department. They failed miserably at this task (spell check, and not even a good job at that). I should have never let them touch the manuscript.
As a Publish America author, you are a part of a very large group of writers, many of whom are mediocre at best. (I may be one of those, but you can decide that for yourself.) Because they do not have high standards for acceptance, it affects the reputation of all other authors published under their name.

How to decide:
If you’re a serious author and have high expectations, don’t choose Publish America for your book. There is little support, cover prices are set high, there is little respect from the writing community (though few of these critics form part of your readership), and there is no exposure in stores or promotions that you don’t organize yourself. However, this has been a good learning experience. I’m finished my second novel and working on the final draft. This is probably true only because I’ve been through the experience once and have learned some meaningful things about the publishing industry. I wouldn’t have any experience if my book was still a manuscript under the bed.
If you have a cookbook, a book of poems, a family heirloom, or anything that is not mainstream literature, this might be a good option that does not cost anything.

One other lesson:
Never before published authors don’t realize that a publishing or agent contract is a two way street. They might be eager to publish and any cost. Becoming a published author should not cost you your reputation or your bank account. There are many publishers and agents who have few scruples. Learn about the industry and what the standards should be and do not enter a contract that is not going to serve you well.

I got a lot from having been published. I AM an author - something I didn’t really believe I could do before. That by itself has been worth it.

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