POD, Self Publishing Reviews Part 1 – ‘Your Name’s Not On The List’

I have noticed a particular rise over the past few months from readers of POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing asking me to review specific author service companies which they have not yet seen on the site. The array of author service companies is vast and I am slowly working my way through the ones I wish to include—meaning—there are already quite a number I have looked at but have decided not to review. There are many reasons why I decide to pass over a particular author service company—some of the reasons can be entirely innocent, but unfortunately there are also more serious reasons why I have omitted them.

I have always seen these reviews as much for the companies themselves to see their services highlighted and compared in one area, as well as being a resource guide and benefit for authors looking at the business of subsidy and self-publishing. I say business, because that is exactly what it is. These companies are primarily supposed to be supplying author services for a fee, and secondly, ‘adopting’ the role of publisher. For some, this ‘adopted’ role is borrowed far more loosely than others, rendering services which vary from excellent and reputable to out and out scam merchants preying on unsuspecting authors. For the authors using these companies, it is also a business. They are paying out three to four figure sums of money to companies—even with the best intentions and print quality offered in the world—they are not traditional publishers and most of them operate with a business model lacking a hard and fast distribution plan to high street stores and personnel without true publishing experience.

One recent email from an author asked me if I could offer some guidance on a UK company they had come across on the Internet. Here was my reply:

Ravi,

Odd you should ask me about XXXXX & XXXXXXXXXX Publishing. I actually submitted a sample quote on a 200pp B&W interior with colour cover, paperback, set-up with the PDF ready files, registration..etc and 100 author copies. This is a standard quote I sometimes use if I am considering doing a review on them. Was looking at a review after I spotted the ad. They came back with £890, which disturbs me. Not only is it £209 more than they quoted you for a similar quote, but XXXXXX who owns the company claimed the EAN barcode insertion was included.

Look FWIW, theres only two of the four titles listed on his online catalogue on Amazon as of today and they are all his own books. This is a one man band and not what you’re looking for. He’d have been better doing a few free books for his mates and family before he put ad in Writers Forum. That must have cost a few hundred alone!

This is no Harper Collins or even Basement jacks Publishing. Try Pen or Authors on line. There linked on the site.

Keep in touch and let me know how you get on.

Mick.

I could not possibly review every company I come across and if I am considering a particular company which had not come under my radar, I normally wait at least six to twelve months. Most of the reviews on the POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing are generally on companies which have been in business for several years.

For the first part of this article I want to highlight some of the reasons I pass up on reviewing an author service company. Usually it is for a multitude of the below reasons which bars them. I will try as best I can to list the points I pass up on a company based on importance.

1. I have direct knowledge through court records, company directories, author testimony, recognised writer forum warnings and alerts of fraud, criminality, business corruption/collapse or such impending court actions lodged in the names of authors.

2. Lack of communication, obstinacy and lack of information disclosure by a company when I make an enquiry about their services. This is often combined with a ‘send us your MS or we’re saying nothing’ about what we will provide or charge.

3. Not offering a ‘Non Exclusive’ contact to authors.

4. Poor website and/or misleading information about their services and publishing in general.

5. Exorbitant service charges to authors or promises made to authors that they have neither the structure nor experience to deliver.

6. Pretending to be a traditional publisher until you dig deeper into their services and website.

7. Not supporting an online Bookstore and linking to all their books advertised to Amazon.

8. Pretending to be a publisher when they are nothing more than a glorified printer of books and offer nothing outside of this.

9. Taking a discount on author’s books sold from their own online bookstore (double-dipping).

10. Presenting a service as premium when it is poor or available elsewhere for free or part of a standard service. (Template covers, charging for copyright or a listing on their bookstore page etc) I call it, ‘offering mutton as lamb’.

11. Bombarding me with emails/spam after I request information on their services.

12. Mentioning Walt Whitman, Poe, Fitzgerald, Joyce, et all, as examples of self-publishing on their website.

13. Referring to their company as a publisher or ebook publisher when all they do is display your book on their website.

14. Saying they love my book while they squeeze my leg and roam their hands up towards my wallet.

15. Not providing direct telephone/support contact.

16. Playing the ‘green’ eco card as a primary selling point of their print services.

17. Not displaying the authors and books they have helped to publish on their main web pages.

18. Getting their staff shills to post on writer forums about their author services as if they were bona-fide satisfied customers and posting links back to their employers website.

19. Eschewing the royalty maths for authors.

20. Not displaying a full and detailed list of senior staff and their experience on their website.

Feel free to post a comment and I will gladly add any others not included here.

Let me now digress to a little history of the POD and the Vanity Publishing industry in the past and how this has impacted on where POD and self-publishing is now. We will look at the vanity scams in the UK during the 1980’s and 1990’s, how this has diversified the business, but ultimately for the better, and how a new breed of self-publishing author is dealing with the challenges and what may lie ahead. For now, I will leave you with Jonathan Clifford’s words, the man who coined the description ‘Vanity Publisher’ way back in 1959.

“In 1959/60 when two American companies were advertising widely throughout the UK offering to publish individual poems in anthologies at £9 and £12 each respectively, I coined the phrase “vanity publishing”. Since 1991 I have campaigned unceasingly for truth and honesty in the vanity publishing world and have become recognised as the authority on the subject.”

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