Sunday, July 8, 2012

Caveat scriptor.

First, our weekly news roundup.

SwanSong love:  The picture to the right might look familiar to you, but take a better look -- that's the word "FINALIST" at the top.  Yup!  SwanSong is one of three finalists for the 2012 Global Ebook Award for Classic Fantasy Fiction.  I'm pretty darned excited about it, and am (somewhat anxiously) awaiting the announcement of the winners next month. Stay tuned....

Seized love:  The Paranormal Romance Guild gave Seized a lovely 4-star review.  Check it out! 

Spread the love:  Don't forget that both Seized and SwanSong are free at Smashwords all this month with coupon code SSWIN. 

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Capitalism is a wonderful economic system -- don't get me wrong.  But it has its drawbacks,  one of the worst being the fact that any shyster can make money from naive, unsuspecting people with a dream, and largely get away with it.

In the old days, that meant someone who dreamed of being a "published author" could send his or her manuscript to a vanity publisher.  For a hefty fee, the publisher would format the manuscript into book form, print several hundred copies, and send them to the newly-minted author -- who then, typically, gave away a few as Christmas gifts and then stored the rest of them on a shelf in the garage.

As you might expect, when print-on-demand (or POD) publishing was invented, the charlatans moved in.  One of these companies, PublishAmerica, has been operating a vanity POD press for a number of years.  They've gained a rating of F from the Better Business Bureau due to their shoddy business practices.  But yet, people with a dream of being published are still sending them money.

All that may soon come to a halt.  Three PublishAmerica authors filed a class-action lawsuit against the company last month, alleging the company misrepresents itself as a legitimate publisher and fraudulently charges its authors for services that legit publishers provide for free.  One of the law firms representing the plaintiffs is Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, which was also involved in the price-fixing litigation against Apple and the traditional Big Six publishers, so they know what they're doing.

If you, or someone you know, has been burned by PublishAmerica, I would urge you to go the Hagens Berman website here and join the lawsuit.  And if you haven't ever done business with this company, for gods' sake, don't start now.

So okay, authors should steer clear of PublishAmerica.  What about places like iUniverse or AuthorHouse?  Are they okay?

It's interesting that you should ask, because I stumbled on the news about the PublishAmerica lawsuit while doing a little checking on these two companies.  Guess what?  AuthorHouse and iUniverse are owned by the same company, Author Solutions, which also owns Xlibris, Trafford Publishing, Wordclay, AuthorHouse UK, AuthorHive, Palibrio, and Hollywood Pitch.  Many of Author Solutions' subsidiaries have also been sued over the years for the way they do business.  Authors complain about the publishers "editing" their work by introducing numerous errors that the author then has to pay to have fixed.  And that's even before they charge you for the boxes of your own books that they will never help you sell.

Author Solutions is owned, in turn, by a company called Bertram Capital.  And who or what is Bertram Capital?  It's "a private equity firm that partners with management teams to fuel the expansion of lower middle market companies."  If that sounds similar to the mission statement of Mitt Romney's former company, Bain Capital, you're not far off the mark.  Bertram's other holdings include Extrusion Dies Industries (a "leading designer and manufacturer of extrusion dies, coating heads and related products for producers of cast film, sheet, coatings and laminates"), Sanare (a "leading provider of care management solutions that improve the health and reduce the medical costs of people with diabetes"), and Spireon (a "leading provider of location based services and risk mitigation products, most notably GPS tracking solutions and payment protection systems for the subprime automotive finance industry").  Doesn't sound like the folks at Bertram know much about writing and publishing, does it?  Do you suppose Author Solutions is in business primarily to help authors, or to take their money and run?


Seriously, folks, if you're desperate to be published, don't waste your time and money with these shysters.  Hire an editor, get somebody to make you an eye-catching cover, and upload your book to Amazon, Smashwords and/or PubIt.  None of them will charge you a dime for publishing and selling your work.  In fact, they will pay you.

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