I tossed my manuscript on a shelf to collect dust. I didn’t know how to find an agent, and I didn’t expect to hear from Publish America (PA). The pain of no longer having a place to teach subsided to a dull ache when the possibility of teaching a class opened. I had forgotten about the query I’d sent to PA when I received a contract from them in the mail.
Publishing didn’t interest me, but I read the contract and did some research on traditional, Print on Demand (POD) and self-publishing while I waited for my class to start. The difference between the three types of publishing is who bears the loss. Traditional publishers purchase the author’s manuscript with an advance payment and then print thousands of copies to keep printing cost low. The author does not see a penny in royalty until the publishing house recoups the advance they paid the author. If the book does not sell, bookstores return the books for a refund. The publisher bears the loss and the author does not see another penny. That is why traditional publishing houses invests additional money market the book they purchased the right to sell. They want to make a profit on the rights they purchased. When an author self-publishes, the entire cost of producing and marketing a book is the burden of the author. POD produces the book for, in most cases, a nominal fee, but will not market the book they produce.
Publish America billed themselves as a traditional publisher because they did not charge the author a fee to produce the book. Multitudes rejected by traditional publishers now had an affordable way to be published since PA turned down few, if any, manuscripts. Many cried “Scam” when they failed to receive the perceived pampering of a traditional publishing house. In my opinion, the slander was not justified. Their website and contract clearly stated that marketing was the author’s responsibility. They were not a scam but a new way of doing business that threatened the guardians of publishing.
When the time drew near for me to teach, I picked up the church bulletin and saw the Pastor’s wife listed as the teacher of the class promised to me. No one bothered to tell me that I had been replaced. Depression reared its ugly head. I needed something to keep me sane.
There was nothing to lose if I signed the contract with PA, so I did. True to their advertising, PA produced a book comparable in quality to books produced by traditional publishing houses except for editing and formatting. Whatever program PA used must have removed my formatting before their editor received the manuscript. I had written a teaching book with many scripture references. In places too numerous to count, the editor failed to separate my words and Bible quotes. She also decided to capitalize pronouns that referred to God but could not tell which pronouns referenced God. I had fifteen pages of corrections that didn’t include the pronoun disaster. There were too many pronoun problems to find them all in the two weeks I was allotted to review the manuscript.
I sent PA the corrections and told them the pronoun problem could not be fixed. They did not apply any of the corrections I requested. I ended up with a nice looking overpriced book that I could not, in good conscience, market. In my opinion, PA shot themselves in the foot. Why bear the cost of producing a book the author cannot sell? Based on the small royalty checks I received, I doubt enough copies sold to recoup what it cost them to produce it. I did little to market the manuscript that became A Reason to Believe, which is no longer in print.
PA was barely three years old and breaking ground on a new way of publishing when I dealt with them. The company has been much maligned via the internet but have many satisfied authors. The problems I experienced could be attributed to a young company struggling to establish and define itself. Except for editing and formatting, I received a book equal to one produced by a traditional publishing house.
At no cost to me, I became a published author. In retrospect, the editing disaster that prevented me from marketing the book was an angel in disguise. Learning how to write was the next step in my education. More about that in my next post.