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April 12, 2005

From correspondence
Posted by Teresa at 04:19 PM * 22 comments

This in from Jim Macdonald, chief perpetrator of Atlanta Nights, and a tireless raker of PublishAmerica’s muck:

Normally I don’t spam Making Light, but I couldn’t get the announcement about the consumer report in Philly today to show up in either of the [Absolute Write] Atlanta Nights threads. [T]he consumer report about PublishAmerica will run on Channel 6 in Philly today at around 5:30. It’ll be on the Five O’Clock News, and they usually do the consumer report then.
Thanks, Jim.
Comments on From correspondence:
#1 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Is this a good place to put a link about PublishAmerica, then?

The Only Thing You Need to Know About PublishAmerica

(It's been Sidelighted, so I didn't like to drop it in an Open Thread, but since we're talking PA here anyway . . . )

#2 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 05:33 PM:

Kate, thank you very much for the link! I have several folks with whom I'd like to share it. :)

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 07:08 PM:

Details here.


...put up the PA website and highlighted the "picky" and "we read each ms. carefully" parts, then showed you
[Atlanta Nights]. And read the first paragraph of Chapter 34 out loud.

Chapter 34

Bruce walked around any more. Some people might ought to her practiced eye, at her. I am so silky and braid shoulders. At sixty-six, men with a few feet away form their languid gazes.
#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 07:46 PM:

And here's the whole story.

Controversial Book Publisher

April 12, 2005 A group of writers has started a crusade against a controversial book publisher. And even if you're not a budding author, you can learn an important consumer lesson from this debate.

If you have a book you can't get published - we've found just the company willing to put it into print. But before your sign over the rights - take a look at what we found....

#5 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 07:38 AM:

Don't suppose anyone made a digital recording of some kind?

#6 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 12:36 PM:

Graduate students at MIT created an An Automatic CS Paper Generator and got a paper accepted at SCI, "The 9th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics." Don't miss the references in the Related Work section.

#7 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 05:43 PM:

I see that the plan to present the paper as the conference now has sufficient funding.

Should they "succeed", will this qualify for a Dramatic Presentation Hugo?

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2005, 09:51 PM:

The PublishAmerica authors themselves notice the story.

#9 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 12:55 AM:

Just FYI (and almost on topic), I noticed this ad, today, on San Fracisco Craigslist for "Temma Publishing." They sound a bit like PublishAmerica, but with even more author-to-publisher money flow schemes.

#10 ::: Sue ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 07:36 AM:

About Temma ... don't confuse self-publishing, where the author owns the rights to his/her work, and vanity presses, where the publisher owns that right (and you pay them for that privilege.)

The first "scheme" from Temma is self-publishing pure and simple. It's a business plan. The second, well, since they don't spell out who owns the rights or the details in that regard, I couldn't tell you what I think, but they are in line with X-Libra, and others of that kind, as far as cost. This doesn't make them evil; this doesn't make them a scam.

The bottom line as I see it is this: as a writer you need to understand the marketplace, know what the options are, know which options are questionable from a publishing standpoint and THEN make an informed decision.

#11 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 10:12 AM:

My local independent bookstore just sent me an invite to a signing by a Publish America author. Yet they claim to have book sense. The store is about as big as my living room, and has a whopping shelf and a half of SF/Fantasy, mostly YA.

I really try to support independent bookstores, but this one's giving precious shelf space and a little launch party to a PA title, while turning up their noses at "Genre fiction" just makes me like Borders even more.

#12 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 10:34 AM:

So That's How PA Does All Its Editing Dept.:

Microsoft Word Grammar Checker Are No Good, Scholar Conclude

The Chronicle of Higher Education
15 April 2005

"... But how much good does the grammar checker actually do? Precious little, according to Sandeep Krishnamurthy, an associate professor of marketing and e-commerce at the University of Washington...."

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 11:22 AM:

Sue, you can own your rights to your own work and still be published by a vanity house. The real tests are whether (1.) they make their money from selling copies to people who aren't the author's friends and relations; and (2.) their willingness to publish a book is a function of the author's ability to pay for publishing it. There's also John Savage's analysis of the question.

And here's Savage's definition of a commercial publisher:

Releases books on a regular basis, ordinarily at least 25 titles each year; listed in Literary Marketplace ("LMP"); pays both advance and royalty, or one-time fees in excess of $20,000. Must also actively market products, have a distribution agreement with one of the major distributors, put ISBNs on every product, maintain a backlist, maintain reasonable communications with authors, and actually market their products (however minimally) beyond simply listing in a catalog.
JVP, I agree with Prof. Krishnamurthy, but it took him how long to figure that out? I have yet to see an automated grammar checker that was worth a damn.

Mary Dell, there are some wonderful independent bookstores out there, but I'd hate to think what the genre market would look like if we didn't have Borders, B&N, and the other chains.

#14 ::: Sue ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Teresa, perhaps our definitions are at odds. I define self-publishing "as" owning rights as well as "owning" the entire production process (read: overseer. Not unlike the person who builds their own home becomes the general contractor when they oversee all the business/construction details.)

A print shop which also provides "polishing" services could easily be part of the self-publishing business model if the person doesn't trust themselves to do all the upfront work of editing, proofreading, etc, and the shop fully discloses their practices and pricing.

This is a business model and must examined in that light.

As for entities like PA, they are definitely in the vanity press category as THEY own the rights to your work and no monies flow your way without shenanigans (read: sales to self and family and friends)

However, some vanity presses serve a purpose, if that purpose is stated upfront. Entities like x-libris can be fine for the person who has compiled a cookbook of favorite family recipes and expects a small market among acquaintances or neighbors. Of course, they do the marketing and sales and x-libris shares in the profits.

Again, I believe all this means is that a writer needs to know more than the mechanics of writing/story telling. They need to understand the business of publishing and then decide where they fit into the scheme of things. (I say this as someone who is amazed at the number of my own acquaintances who fall for schemes and scams, yet was able to find the truth well before I went on my own actual search for answers.)

#15 ::: CEP ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2005, 04:41 PM:

Legally—as a lowly lawyer, obviously I am not allowed to have any literary opinions; just look at some "good" legal writing—the distinction among a commercial publisher, a vanity press, and self-publishing is best expressed in a two-step sievelike test:
(1) Who has legal title to the books as they come off the press? If it's the author, you're dealing with self-publishing, and don't need to go to the second step.
(2) Is the guaranteed direction of capital flow toward the author at the moment the first copy comes off the press? If yes, you're dealing with commercial publishing; if no, you're dealing with a vanity press. (Capital flow includes all of the necessary concomittants of publishing, like copyright registration for US books, advances, actual guaranteed nonreturnable sales, rights payments, the value of the author's labor in creating marketing materials/lists for the publisher, and a plethora of other considerations.)

My earlier comments (cited by our Gracious Hostess) don't define a commercial press so much as attempt to capture what a commercial press becomes.

#16 ::: Sue ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2005, 09:45 AM:

Charlie, can you define "legal title" for me? (Since that is the crux of your definition of self-publishing and I want to make sure I have it right when I spout off.)


#17 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2005, 11:35 AM:

Apologies if y'all have seen this already -- Lee Goldberg on an exciting new
reality show

#18 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Sue & Charlie:

In the State of California, according to
"This article discusses the risks posed to developers and owners of intellectual property under California law when they share their trade secrets with others, including employees and third parties."

"Intellectual property takes many forms. Those that typically come to mind include trade names or trade marks, service names or service marks, logos, business plans, computer programs and designs, marketing information and/or business ideas...."

"4. When entering into License Agreements, the owner of the Intellectual Property must make sure that you never loses [sic] legal 'title' to the intellectual property and your agreements address all possible legal issues."

"It is very typical that the licensor of intellectual property, will be asked to include a warranty that they have legal title to the underlying intellectual property, free of any claims by third parties of infringement. The owner may also be asked to protect the user from any claims by third parties alleging that the intellectual property infringes upon another's title. If for any reason employee agreements, independent contractor agreements, and other agreements with third parties are not properly drafted to protect from possible loss of title to intellectual property, then the owner or licensor of intellectual property may later suffer a breach of these representations of title."

"Agreements that seek to protect intellectual property and trade secrets cross-over into several different areas of law. These include: (i) Copyright laws intended to protect marks and logos, as well as printed art and words; (ii) Trade secret laws that are intended to protect the owner of the trade secrets, but typically only if the owner exercises due diligence to protect themselves; and (iii) Patent laws that are intended to protect those who first conceive of inventions and those who develop them into working prototypes or practical devices. These bodies of laws operate separate from each other. However, in the area of intellectual property, these legal areas will intersect each other and cross-over into other areas of law, giving rise to confusion and disputes, that the courts have solved by developing equitable legal doctrines. In most cases properly drafted agreements can solve and eliminate confusion and disputes. A very general discussion of these areas of law follow..."

#19 ::: Sue ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Got the answer on "legal title" and, Teresa, I now understand what you were saying. Thanks.

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:28 PM:

And the PAers have found the comment thread on that story.

#22 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 10:33 PM:

On an only tangentially-related subject (i.e., not about a scam), Tim O'Reilly just weblogged his thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional.

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