Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Few Thoughts on PublishAmerica

I am supposed to be working, but instead I'm goofing off. I don't really know why - it's been a rainy, godawful weekend and I think my brain's gone to mush. Yeah - that must be it...

No. That's just an excuse.

I wrote in my last post that my book really wasn't a book. It was a string of events broken up by sex scenes. Good for a porn movie - not so good for a romance novel. So, I did a little free-thought (you know, you let your mind just kind of wander here and wander there and hope for a eureka moment). And now I'm almost four chapters into the rewrite. Ok.

So why am I not working?

Well, every so often, I wander over to the PublishAmerica website and browse their forums. I don't know why. Probably because I hear so much about this company on other writing-related blogs and I've learned so much from these blogs, that I just pop over to see how right they are.

It would be funny, if it wasn't also kind of sad.

Now, I have nothing against self-published people. That's fine. Not everyone can find a home for their book, be it too niche-specific, or whatever. Some people just want a book to give to their friends or family (like, say, a family history) and that's perfectly fine. That's what self-publishing is for and there isn't a thing wrong with it.

I browsed through the author forums - which anyone can look at, you just can't post anything, which is probably just as well because I kind of have a big mouth and would probably get into trouble.

There are posts about this and posts about that, some more interesting than others, and it probably isn't a whole lot different than any other publishing house (and I use that term generally speaking) message forums.

But what got me, was that it's pretty much a given that no reputable agent or 'traditional' publisher, wants anything to do with a book put out by PA. Most agents and editors do NOT consider it a publishing credit. In fact, it's regarded as little more than a joke. And that isn't mu opinion - take a look at agent blogs, or editor blogs. You'll see it for yourself.

Most self-published books cost more than trade paperback or mass market paperback books. A paperback PA book will run anywhere from $15 to $25 dollars. Now, maybe I'm cheap, but I am not about to lay out $25 for a paperback book. I looked up a few, around the $15-$20 range and what I saw boggled me. One book was 87 pages long. That's not a typo. Eighty-seven pages. That is barely a book, never mind one worth paying over $5 for.

OK - the cost factor aside, I've heard a lot of less-than-stellar things about PA. iUniverse, another self-publishing company, makes no bones about the fact that they are a self-publishing company. But PA touts itself as a unique publisher with over 10,000 authors. They insist they aren't self-publishers, but what they don't tell you is that most brick-and-mortar stores won't stock PA books, or that good many review outlets won't review PA books, newspapers won't accept PA press releases. The burden of marketing seems to fall squarely on the author. Now, any writer knows that they have to learn to market their books. The RWA chapter I belong to has 'Featured Author' signings, and we do a lot to promote our books in our area at bookfests, street fairs, etc. And yes, the more well-known authors (and NJRW has quite a few) get great publisher support. But most of us are not as well-known yet, so we have more to do.

I am e-published, my books are available in trade paperback. They are also available on B& and Fictionwise is huge. And there I am. Last week, my book was the #3 best seller for my publisher. And I have to admit, I do very little marketing. I'm not a salesperson.

But what really fried me while reading these posts, was that if you dare say anything negative about PA, or a PA book, these people are so brainwashed, that it immediately becomes a case of 'they bash PA because they are afraid of them.' Or, my personal favorite 'well, so-and-so gave your book a bad review simply because he/she is a bitter, failed writer who couldn't get anything published. S/he is just jealous.'


Still curious, I read a few of these reviews written by the failed, bitter, wanna-be-published-but-sucks-too-bad people. They seemed fairly literate and I don't know that everyone who writes a review wants to be a writer. If I paid $19 for a 100 page paperback and it was awful, I'd be pretty pissed, and so were some of these reviewers. But the authors have such an 'us against them' mentality, they don't stop to think that maybe, just maybe, their book isn't as great as they thought. One PA author mentioned that the book he'd sold (and I use that term loosely) to PA received almost 200 rejections. 200! I think that, if I'd gotten that many on one of my books, I'd take a real close look at it and ask why? Sure, everyone knows the story about John Grisham's A Time to Kill, and I'll admit, I didn't read the PA book (again, that much dough for a paperback??? I'd have to be nuts), but it's probably a pretty safe bet that it wasn't A Time to Kill. And I don't know if Grisham was rejected 200 times on it.

My newest book was rated by 4 people its first week out. I got a Great (yay!), a Good, an OK, and a Poor (eek!). Yes, I'd love to know who thought that and why, and I did obsess over it a bit. But I don't think it's because the person who didn't like it was a failed writer with obviously no taste (ok, maybe I did think that, but only for a moment). Someone didn't like it, but hopefully I can win them over the next time. There. Done. It's nothing personal.

But then again, maybe with PA it is. A while back, SFWA (forgive me if that's wrong, but go over to Writer Beware if you want to check it out) members got together and wrote the absolute worst book ever (Atlanta Nights - I think it's still on their website, if not, check out Preditors and Editors, I think they've got it. There's a whole section devoted to PA). And I mean this thing is awful. But it was supposed to be and SFWA proved their point that PA will publish anything. This book was offered a contract. Another writer wrote 30 pages, photocopied them about 10 times, shipped it off to PA and got a contract for that. This is why PA is a joke to publishing. They will take anything. I've thought of doing the same thing, but why bother? I've got way too much going on to begin with to trouble myself.

So if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, guess what? And that is what was so sad about these threads. These people don't seem to get that. It isn't that traditional publishers are afraid of PA. Agents aren't afraid of PA. PA isn't a threat. It's simply a case of not laughing with them, but laughing at them.

I think some of them get it - P&E has a whole section about former PA authors who are now kicking themselves because no regular publisher or agent wants anything to do with them. And as I went through the threads, I saw names pop up repeatedly, only to disappear within a few months. Not all of them, but a good number of them.

I wonder if they read over these forums and sigh, and shake their heads, or are they too busy kicking themselves?

1 comment:

ORION said...

It is heartbreaking to see writers being taken advantage of but yanno ya gotta do your research. I don't know why people think being published should be easy...Very interesting blog. I followed you from the rejecter...