Self-Publishing Warnings

IndieGogo’s Fraud Problems Are a Good Reason to Avoid the Site

7 April 2014

From The Digital Reader:

With lower standards than Kickstarter, Indiegogo has always been (in my mind) an iffy site where I couldn’t really be sure that crowdfunding campaigns supported a real device or simply a fake mockup.

I’ve been concerned about Indiegogo ever since I noticed that the PopSlate iPhone case launched in November 2012 but still hasn’t shipped, but now that I see they have actual fraud going I will be avoiding the site completely.

. . . .

In spite of the complete lack of medical credentials, work history, scientific research, or any other background details which would back up or verify the claims made by the device’s maker, Indiegogo has yet to pull the campaign. They haven’t even suspended it or added a warning message.

This campaign is about to reach the million dollar mark and Indiegogo’s only response was to change their FAQ:

What’s the right thing to do if your crowdfunding platform guarantees to detect “any and all” cases of fraud, but then is shown clear evidence by Pando of a near-$1m fraudulent campaign happening right now?

If you answered “suspend the fraudulent campaign,” you’re right.

If you answered “quietly delete the no fraud guarantee from our website,” you’re Indiegogo.

I’m not joking. Following a week of reporting by PandoDaily in which we exposed the junk science, corporate smoke and mirrors and flat lies behind Moscow-based Healbe’s Indiegogo campaign, Indiegogo finally took action yesterday. Not by suspending the campaign to protect its users, not by doing anything at all to ensure that thousands of people aren’t about to be swindled out of close to a million dollars… but by deleting the reference to their foolproof fraud detection from their support pages.

While I don’t expect Indiegogo to be infallible, I do expect them to correct their mistakes and not simply cover their own ass by changing the rules. This is a tacit admission that they know the claims made about the Healbe Gobe are questionable at best, and rather than pull the campaign they’re going to pretend there is no issue.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Publishers Weekly Ignores The Real Scandal At LA Times Festival of Books

9 March 2014

From David Gaughran:

Publishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books, resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal.

Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon.

. . . .

The reaction was predictable:

The LA Book Festival is a place where book publishers, booksellers, and book lovers come together as a community to celebrate their shared values. Those values are far removed from Amazon’s. Giving Amazon such a prominent role is, to say the least, inappropriate and insensitive.

Give me a break. This is the same LA Times Festival of Books that has been welcoming Author Solutions for years without a peep. And aside from scamming writers in general, Author Solutions has also been scamming authors at the event.

I reported last month that Author Solutions is selling $3,999 book signing packages to appear at the LA Times Festival of Books, and that by Author Solutions’ own figures, they screwed authors out of over $900,000 at last year’s event alone.

This book signing scam has been going on at the LA Times Festival of Books for at least five years. Where’s the outrage? It’s pretty hard to miss the giant row of Author Solutions booths at the event. Why didn’t all these indie booksellers and publishing professionals threaten a boycott over Author Solutions?

. . . .

A media organization, and the editors and journalists that work for it, makes subjective choices all the time. They choose to run a story about Amazon’s partnership with the LA Times Book Fair. They choose to print six negative reactions to the news and zero critical analysis. They choose to make this their headline story. And they choose to cover the Amazon angle and ignore the much worse Author Solutions story. Objectivity, as always, is a fig leaf.

While Publishers Weekly is strangely reticent to cover the Author Solutions story, it’s more than happy to take its money. Author Solutions sells six different Publishers Weekly advertising packages – costing between $2,599 and $16,499. These are pushed by its huge team of sales consultants, who are famous for putting the squeeze on inexperienced writers and making false promises, behavior which has led to a class action suit for deceptive business practices.

Author Solutions makes two thirds of its income from selling crap like this to writers (instead of making money with writers by actually helping them sell books). And you can see the full list of companies who have such dealings with Author Solutions – a virtual Who’s Who of traditional publishing – at the bottom of this post.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible and thanks to Pamela for the tip.

PG says nobody in the traditional publishing ecosystem becomes upset when organizations make money at the expense of authors. However, when they make money at the expense of bookstores or pubishers, it’s a scandal.

Cyberstalked

26 February 2014

Passive Guy received the following from an author.

The identities of the people involved are obscured.

PG has not investigated any of the matters described in the post and, with some additional obscuration and editing, is presenting the story as he received it.

As a long time freelance artist and writer; with many years under my belt navigating through the publishing world, I was thrilled at the prospects of becoming an author of indie fantasy. After being a member of the freelance and publishing communities for so long, I had developed a long list of colleagues, many of whom I hoped I would have a chance to work with.

One such chance cropped up about a year ago. During the Winter of [date omitted], I was shopping around for a cover for my eBook, [title omitted]. I had known [artist name] for many years. He/she was (and remains) a relatively underground and unknown artist. However, I had always admired his/her work. Although, there were some red flags that painted the picture of an unsavory personality, I let all of that slide due to his/her immense talent.

I contacted [artist name] to see about licensing one of his/her works. He/she let me know that the price for licensing the specific painting that I was interested in was $6,000.

Something about this didn’t jive with me. I felt some bad juju. So, I contacted a few friends who design covers for the Big Six for a living. They all had the same story… Licensing a painting should never cost more than $20 – $100 if it’s from an artist who’s relatively unknown. And still, the Big Six never pay more than $5,000 – $6,000 to the biggest names in the business for a 100% completely original work of art for a cover. The general consensus was that [artist name] either was self-aggrandizing or that he/she simply had no interest in licensing his/her artwork, but that really remains to be seen, as no one but he/she can really attest to his/her motives.

I had decided that $6,000 was much more than I felt comfortable spending. [Alternate artist's name omitted] licensed artwork to me for commercial use, free of charge as it was already Creative Commons- licensed material and I decided that I would design my own cover.

After knowing [artist name] for many years and out of respect for him/her, I decided that the professional thing to do was to not leave him/her hanging. I contacted him/her and let him/her know that I would be licensing artwork from someone else as $6,000 was outside of my budget and that I hoped that he/she and I would get to work together in the future. At the same time, my spouse had purchased all of [artist name]‘s digital art tutorials for me. I also e-mailed him/her telling him/her that my spouse had purchased his/her tutorials for me and asked for a simple product recommendation. At that point, I received a file from him/her. I assumed that it was a product recommendation.

The day after I had opened the file I received from him/her, all of my social media profiles were hacked and deleted. I was able to salvage everything. Until, two weeks ago… When he/she started hacking again.

I have my Apple ID and Facebook setup to alert me if someone logs into my accounts using a device other than the ones registered to my accounts. In fact, my Facebook had been deactivated. I received two e-mails from Facebook. One that my account had been reactivated and another that my account had been accessed by a computer other than one of  the devices registered to my account.

I logged into my Facebook account and brought up the log of devices. There is was, in black and white, my Facebook account had been accessed by someone living in the area where [artist name] lives. The next day, the same thing happened with my Apple ID.

Then it happened with my computer. Someone had bypassed my Firewall and succeeded in corrupting the documents for [title omitted], which I was editing to enter into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

My external hard drive was connected at the time and my backups of those files were also corrupted. The person who did this, knew exactly what to do to destroy the files. [artist name] is the only person with a motive to do such a thing.

I also started receiving abusive e-mails from [artist name]. He/she started slandering me online. It was obvious that the things that he/she was saying about me were fabrications.

I have since discovered that, while using many different aliases, [artist name] posted books that were in direct competition with mine. Mine have been much more successful then his/hers. His/her sales ranks are all the way at the bottom of the pile and his/her books don’t even have any reviews after being on the market for a long time. So, mine is faring much better. He/she started posting fake negative scam reviews on [book title omitted]‘s Amazon and Goodreads pages. These reviews have been removed as both Amazon and Goodreads deemed that those reviews violated their review policies. This whole ordeal has negatively impacted the sales of my eBook.

I recently ran a virus scan on my computer. The file [artist name] had sent me tested positive as malware. I deleted both the e-mail and the file.

I’ve filed reports with my ISP, my local police, [artist name]‘s local police, the FBI, the Department of Law Enforcement for my state, the registrar of [artist name]‘s website, as well as all of the social media networks involved.

Of all of the social media networks I contacted; only Goodreads, TimeRepublik and 500px have responded and are willing to assist me. The only agencies who have responded are my local police and the Department of Law Enforcement for my state. The Department of Law Enforcement sent me a list of state statutes that [artist name] is breaking and they let me know that my local police need to handle this. Yet, my local police refuse to handle this.

However, my local police did tell me to do the following:

1. Close all social media/networking accounts and never create new ones.

2. Be completely anonymous. Change my handle/pen name (for everything already published and anything that will be published in the future) to something gender-neutral that doesn’t use anything identifiable, including my website.

3. Delete all pictures and video of myself from the internet and never post any pictures or video in the future. No one can know what I look like, nor my gender.

4. Contact all bloggers I’ve worked with and have them remove anything identifiable from their posts.

5. Become 100% private and secretive, not sharing any information, even in interviews.

6. Never ever do any appearances, ever.

7. Do not do a podcast. No one can know what I sound like, since then they’ll know my gender.

The obvious problem with following this advice is that I would have no platform. I think of it like this… If a politician is running for office and I don’t know what this politician looks like, nor if it’s a man or a woman because they don’t make any appearances, there’s no photos or videos to be found anywhere. I have no idea what this politician’s platform is, because they’re secretive about it. This politician isn’t going to be receiving my vote. There needs to be a certain amount of disclosure and trust between public figures and the public they’re reaching out to.

The same thing applies to the author-reader relationship. That’s really only the tip of the iceberg. I’m an extrovert by nature. Being private and secretive aren’t a part of who I am. Nor am I comfortable with the idea of needing to behave in such a manner. As such, I’m wondering what options are available to me.

A Victory Against Author Solutions

14 February 2014

From David Gaughran:

It should be clear to everyone now that Penguin Random House has no intention of cleaning up Author Solutions.

. . . .

I’ve been covering the Author Solutions story for a while now – particularly since the Penguin purchase, which was met with disbelief in the author community.  It’s a frustrating beat, especially when faced with a wall of silence from the many companies and organizations in traditional publishing who have links to Author Solutions and its subsidiaries.

Documenting the links between Author Solutions and the rest of the publishing world is depressing work. The list reads like a Who’s Who of traditional publishing. Getting them to discuss their links to Author Solutions has been near-impossible, let alone taking any action with regard to those links.

One exception has been The Bookseller.

criticized The Bookseller when I learned it was carrying advertising from Author Solutions. Those ads were being re-sold by Author Solutions to its customers at insane mark-ups (prices up to $10,500). Price-gouging aside, I felt that Author Solutions being able to offer such advertising to its customers bestowed legitimacy on its scammy operations.

That post led to a dialogue with Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller. Last week, he told me that The Bookseller is no longer accepting such ads. Here’s the money quote, reproduced with permission:

The Bookseller is no longer taking advertising from Author Solutions or its subsidiary companies. We’ve previously asked them to update the information they display about us on their websites, and have now asked them to remove it entirely.

. . . .

This week I discovered another prestigious literary festival which has been welcoming Author Solutions for several years. From figures in their own press release regarding the 2013 LA Times Book Fair, Author Solutions hosted 80 book signings and showcased 1,100 titles.

By their own price list – where they charge $3,999 for the former and $599 for the latter – this netted Author Solutions $658,900 for “showcasing” those books and a further $319,920 for the book signings. That’s a total of almost one million dollars. From one event!

It’s great to get a victory against Author Solutions, but it’s time to increase the pressure on the companies and organisations which still have links with the company. I’ve been asked by readers to compile a list of such links, and I’ve copied that below.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Visible

The Gospels of Publishing

10 February 2014

From author Jim C. Hines:

Look, I’ve been the author who got crapped on by a major publisher, and I’ve been the author who got book deals in the mid five figures. I’ve hung out with New York Times bestselling authors. I’ve hung out with self-published authors who have moved hundreds of thousands of books. I’ve watched friends move from self-publishing to traditional publishing, and I’ve seen traditionally published authors move into self-publishing.

This whole Us vs. Them thing? It’s bullshit. Traditional publishing isn’t Evil. (Certain individuals within that system, well, that’s another blog post…) Self-publishing and e-books aren’t asteroids coming to wipe out the Dinosaurs. And there’s no One True Path to success as an author.

I’m doing rather well as a mostly traditionally published author, but I’ve had people come along to tell me how stupid I am for not self-publishing. They lay out math full of ridiculously flawed assumptions and generalizations to “prove” how much more I’d be making if I published my own e-books. It’s possible they might be right — maybe I would do even better — but it’s in no way a sure thing. They assume everything my agent and publisher do for me, either I could do just as well myself, or else it isn’t really necessary.

. . . .

You want “the real truth”? Here’s some truth for you.

  • There are authors doing ridiculously, amazingly well with traditional publishing.
  • There are authors doing incredibly, mind-blowingly well with self-publishing.
  • There aren’t a hell of a lot of people in either category.
  • Being a writer is hard work, no matter what path you choose.

It’s that last bit I want to stress. There are plenty of paths out there, which is wonderful, but it’s also nerve-wracking. Which way is the right way for me? What if I make the wrong choice? What if those people are right, and I really would be doing better if I’d self-published all of my stuff instead of going through a traditional publisher? What if I self-publish my stuff and nobody ever finds it?

. . . .

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read what Maass or Konrath have to say. Just don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s One True Path. We’re all figuring this out, and the path that’s worked for me might not be the right one for you. In fact, it probably isn’t, since mine started almost two decades ago.

Link to the rest at Jim C. Hines and thanks to SFR for the tip.

What Your Friends Can’t Tell You About Your Self-Published Book

5 February 2014

From The Huffington Post:

When watching an audition of an American Idol wanna be who can barely carry a tune, one wonders who told her that she could sing well, encouraged her to audition, and assured her that she would be successful. Knowing she will never be the next Kelly Clarkson, she sadly (and sometimes angrily) leaves the audition room without the yellow ticket to the next round and tearfully falls into the loving embrace of her supporters. You can almost hear her supporters saying “you got robbed” through the television screen. These well-meaning friends are not insincere in their assessment of her singing ability. Their assessment is just based on the fact that they know and love her. To them, her singing sounds like joyful noise and they are convinced others will experience more of the joy than the noise when they hear her sing.

As Creative Director for Authors in the House, a showcase for new authors (particularly self-published) that promotes books through entertainment, I read a lot of self-published books. Some of them are very good reads, but the majority of my reading experience resembles watching a bad audition for American Idol. Not being a friend or even personally knowing these authors, I wonder who suggested they should publish their writing. Just as those who love to sing but can’t carry a tune should belt it out in the shower, in a church choir or at a karaoke bar, those who love to write but cannot put words on a page that do not make sense to anyone except those who know and love them, should share their works in notebooks or journals.

. . . .

To self-publish a book to approach the standards of a traditional publishing company will cost at least $5000, and more if your book requires more than two rounds of professional editing (traditionally published books go through as many as five rounds of editing). Professional editing is particularly important for e-books. Amazon, Google and Apple track how long it takes to readers to complete a book and although it would require deeper analytics, we could make an obvious guess that bad writing causes readers to shut down their e-reader.

A customized book cover that is vetted with targeted readers is also part of publishing a successful book. Alex Meriwether, Marketing Manager of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA which houses its own on-demand publishing services, tells me that paying attention to the cover is extremely important to book sales and that self-published authors often “mess up” when it comes to a selecting a good book cover.

. . . .

With over 400,000 self-published titles a year, getting a self-published book noticed is a challenge even for professional book promoters. Book promotion requires traditional marketing, social media marketing, guerrilla marketing and a bag of chips. An even greater challenge is that promotion must be done within a limited time frame. Providing advanced copies to booksellers can be problematic for self-published titles, especially with publishers like Createspace that do not offer pre-distribution copies. Booksellers, book reviewers, notable book bloggers, radio and newspapers require advance copies to promote a book. A successful book campaign begins six months prior to the book release and continues for at least another three to six months after the release.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

The Last Word on Winepress Publishing

31 January 2014

From MacGregor Literary:

So faithful readers will recall that a couple years ago, the woman who started vanity press success story Winepress Publishing, Athena Dean, had announced the business had basically been taken over by a cult, and was being run by a guy who had bullied her into handing over her business  to the church.

. . . .

It’s fascinating reading — a seemingly normal woman sucked in by a group of true believers, she lost her family and business over it, and eventually woke up to the fact that she was the victim of a manipulative group of religionists. I made one comment on it on Facebook (my exact words were:“Holy cow. I mean… WOW! This will blow the socks off of anyone who’s been involved in CBA publishing in recent years. Wow…” ) and that was enough to earn the wrath of the  guy in charge of both the church & the publishing company. They sent me a cease and desist letter, complete with really cool bible verses and a laughably funny “thou shalt not” tone that sounded right out of a 1950′s biblical epic movie with Charleton Heston. Bullying and obfuscation is their stock in trade, so of course I blogged about it . . . I figured if they were doing this to ME, they were doing it to others in publishing, and somebody needed to say something.

Sure enough, it turns out those wacky folks at Winepress had been threatening and cajoling people with their legal letters and threats for a long time. But a funny thing happens when you shine a little light on darkness — people begin to see the problems. And LOTS of people saw the problems at Winepress.

. . . .

I’ve seen some crazy stuff in my years in Christian publishing, but never anything like The Winepress Follies. They kept up the “We’re So Holy” act for a long time, and included a good bit of “We’re Also Not Being Treated Fairly,” but one quick look at the websites is all most normal-thinking people needed to see what they’re like. Check out the Sound Doctrine Church and what people have had to say about them over the years, or look at their “HardTruth” website, or at the laughably slanted “news reporting” they’ve created at Enumclaw.com.

. . . .

Anyway, Winepress Publishing has closed their doors. Not because they couldn’t find more suckers to pay them money to publish their books (from all appearances, business was still good). Church members are telling whoever will listen that the company shut down because of all those evil attacks from nonbelievers.

Link to the rest at MacGregor Literary and thanks to David for the tip.

David also says check out the numerous comments.

America Star Books: PublishAmerica Plays the Name Change Game

29 January 2014

From Writer Beware:

What’s in a name?

Quite a lot. Reputation, for instance. And where reputation is bad, scammers often try to cloud the issue with a name switcheroo.

PublishAmerica, one of the most notorious of the digital vanity publishers*, is the latest in the name-change parade**. Its new moniker:America Star Books. The PublishAmerica URL (www.publishamerica.com) now defaults to the America Star Books website, which is registered to PublishAmerica’s co-founder, Willem Meiners.

. . . .

America Star/PublishAmerica’s new gimmick: translations. That’s right–America Star Books will turn your foreign-language book into an English-language masterpiece!

. . . .

Like its spiritual cousin, SBPRA, America Star/PublishAmerica seems to have discovered that gullible foreign authors are the new growth market for publishing schemes. With its reputation for (ahem) quality, one wonders what kind of hash the company will make of these poor authors’ books.

. . . .

Unfortunately, America Star Books has a clean profile on the Internet at present (which of course is the whole point). If indeed “nothing has changed,” that won’t last long.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware and thanks to Iola for the tip.

Self-Publisher WinePress Goes Out of Business

28 January 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

WinePress Publishing, a Christian self-publishing company, has closed its doors, according to an announcement yesterday on the company’s Web site. The house had been plagued in recent years with accusations of fraud, complaints from authors and former employees, and financial problems. WinePress itself had filed a number of lawsuits against its critics and unhappy authors.

. . . .

Athena Dean–who started WinePress with her ex-husband, Chuck Dean, in 1991—accused Williams of brainwashing and manipulating her into leaving the company. Dean was also a member of Williams’s church, and she says he convinced her she was not equipped to operate the press and it would have a negative effect on her spiritually. Williams bought WinePress in 2005 for $10; at that point it was doing $2 million worth of business a year, according to Dean.

In an accounting role at the press, Dean had discovered Timothy Williams was drawing a six-figure salary, as were both of his sons; his wife, Carla Williams, drew a salary as well. “When I found this out, I asked why employees, editors, and vendors had to wait to be paid, but he’s flying first class and not taking a pay cut,” said Dean who eventually left the company. Since then, some WinePress authors have complained of poor work, excessive fees, hostile letters from Fraser, and threats of lawsuits.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.

PG notes that Publishers Weekly just can’t bring itself to use the correct term — vanity press — perhaps because vanity presses are among its most faithful advertisers.

The Passive Voice had a post about Winepress almost two years ago.

PG will also note that, in his dealings with small publishers, he finds some to be perfectly reasonable and sound businesspeople and others to be more than a little crazy and disfunctional.

If he may be permitted to borrow badly from Tolstoy, large publishers are all alike in the contractual and non-contractual treatment of all but mega-selling authors; every small publisher is naughty or nice to authors in its own way.

As long as he’s borrowing, he’ll include Matthew, without editing. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

Agent Morty Mint ventures into self-publishing

11 January 2014

From Quill & Quire:

The Mint Literary Agency of Nelson, B.C., is the latest convert to the realm of digital self-publishing. Run by former Penguin Canada president Morty Mint, the agency will bring self-published books to the Canadian marketplace through a new relationship with eBound Canada.

While publishers have typically made use of eBound’s distribution and epub conversion services, Mint is the first to sign on as an agent.

. . . .

Under the agency’s contract, authors are responsible for all upfront costs, including editing, design, epub conversion and distribution, as well as fees for eBound’s services. Mint, who helps clients navigate the process, estimates that, on average, authors can expect to spend between $2,000 and $5,000 to publish a work of non-fiction.

. . . .

For his part, Mint takes a 15 per cent commission on all sales. “I only make my commission on the basis of if they sell anything,” he says.

. . . .

Mint, who represents authors such as Anne DeGrace, Cyndi Sand-Eveland, and David Weedmark, saw an opportunity to represent clients who aren’t able to ink traditional publishing deals but want to avoid the high costs of author-services companies.

Link to the rest at Quill & Quire

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