When I first signed on with PublishAmerica back in 2004, I did so with my eyes wide open. I read all the chatter about how bad they were. How they were a POD/vanity publisher. How they didn’t have much in the way of submission standards and would take any old author, just look at the experiment those sci fi authors did. (Supposedly well established sci fi authors got together and threw together a crap book that PA accepted for publicatlion, even though it was ripe with all kinds of errors.)
I agreed they were POD…as in Print on Demand in the form of using that for their publishing method. But they never charged me a dime to produce my book, so they weren’t vanity. But, as people still do, they associate POD automatically with vanity.
However, I decided to take my chances. I looked at it as a learning experience.
Here’s what I learned:
- The importance of editing. PA had a sort of editing process, but, no, it was neither very good nor very elaborate. I was assigned an editor, but they didn’t do much in the way of editing my work. When Beneath the Morvan Moon was released, there were at least five errors of various proportions (mostly typos or left out words) that readers pointed out to me. One or two I see even in the big New York publisher books. Five was too many.
- The importance of price point. The price was too high. Upon release PA offered special pricing, $18.95. For a trade paperback book that was 80,000 words long (250 pages), that was about $4 higher than what most trade paperbacks were going for. But the $18.95 was a special price. It was a new release discounted price from the real price of $21.95. Well, that’s just ridiculous but…
- I’m my own worst enemy. I learned I could talk myself into believing my book would be different. Somehow it’d become a hit, I could negotiate with them to lower the price, and I’d work my butt off to sell, sell, sell. Well, that all sounds nice, but what it boiled down to was I wasn’t being realistic. I talked myself into believing something other than the facts that were at hand. Which was PA’s pricing stunk and…
- Publisher’s have reps –some better than others. If a publisher isn’t listed with Ingram or Baker & Taylor, or they don’t accept returns, booksellers don’t take the author seriously. When I first published PA didn’t accept returns. It’s hard enough for a first time author with an independent press to get bookstores to agree to a signing, but PA made it even harder.Which leads to my next revelation…
- Promotion! The harder an author has to work doing promotion, the less time it leaves for the writing. I fully understand that I have to do some face time when marketing and promoting my own book. But when I have to spin my wheels finding all sorts of other avenues to do that because regular avenues are closed down to me…it wastes a lot of valuable time.
- Back to the importance of price point. But the number one thing truly is the book’s price point. Not only did PA’s stink, but their pricing methodolgy didn’t make an iota of sense. Instead of lowering my book’s price after 4 years and way slow (okay, void) sales, PA ended up raising my book’s price from the ridiculous amount of $21.95 to the completely ludicrous amount of $27.95. Come on, for a trade paperback? Who the hell is going to buy that?
- Integrity with royalities. Not that I’d made much in the way of royalties (thanks in part to their crap pricing), I’d had no trouble with receiving royalties statements. Even when I’d sold no books, I got my statements on time telling me as much. But last year I attended Southern Festival of Books and the organizers ordered a bunch of copies. I never saw a royalty check from that. However, almost a year later I received a royalty statement saying I owed $30 for the return of my books. I called PA immediately to cry foul. “How can you ding me when you never paid me to begin with?” No response. I emailed and asked the same thing, “Hey, you’re trying to say I owe you $30 but you never paid me that to start with! What’s up?” Again, no response. So I learned that, yes, PA is pretty shitty about screwing authors out of royalties if they find a way to do it.
- A lesson in desperation. The number one thing I learned is I’ll never get desperate enough to use PA ever again. Their products are way too overpriced for the marketplace. They know how much they expect each author to sell to friends and relatives to make a profit. And if you happen to sell beyond that and have a hit on your hands, great! They’ll do even better. But overall their concept plays on author emotions and on the kindheartedness and support of friends and loved ones to buy an author’s book.
Overall it was an excellent learning process. However, I hope to find a different publisher for one of my next books and have a better, more positive learning experience!