Richard S. Hartmetz's Blog: Secrets to Writing Well - Posts Tagged "publishing-scam"

Author Alert #2 - Follow Up!

A few days ago, I sent out a warning about AuthorHouse/Xlibris/iUniverse/Abbott Press/etc. being investigated for fraud and subject to multiple class action suits, as well as the outrageous prices that they charge and the poor service that they offer. We have received a slew of emails from readers, telling us about THEIR experiences with some of these disreputable publishing companies, and wanted to share some of the less explicit ones with you. I was then informed that Lulu, a once reputable company, has also been purchased by the same AuthorSolutions.

I was surprised, when I received a response from one of our readers, that PublishAmerica is also being investigated, and sued in Maryland District Court. I have to admit, I hadn’t heard about that one, so I decided to investigate, so as not to spread false information.

Apparently, they are in trouble for multiple reasons, such as promising to publish books for free and misleading consumers. PublishAmerica then takes the rights to your book away for ten years, attempts to force authors to purchase expensive extras which are never actually provided, overprices books, so they will not sell, forcing the author to pay $399 to lower the price, refuses to provide adequate customer service, and has actually threatened people who blow the whistle on them. And once the contract is signed, you have no choice but to comply, or abandon your book! Yikes!

Apparently they are in trouble for violating the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) for deceptive trade practices, and have purposely introduced errors into books, so that the authors would be forced to pay to have them fixed. They are also in trouble with representatives of J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, as they have been selling a service that promises to meet with her and promote their books for $49. Ms. Rowling says this is “completely false” and is taking “appropriate action.”

The Better Business Bureau has received several hundred complaints, to which PublishAmerica has refused to respond. Here are some quotes from actual PublishAmerica customers:

“Publish America is a fraud and should be properly investigated and closed. They attract naïve people to publish their books, but they never ever sell any of the books. What they do is to offer their own books to themselves with false discount. They increase the shipping hundred times and you pay higher price of your own book. They take advantage of the authors and sell their own books to them. They have a Forum page and all negative emails are deleted immediately. They publish your book for free but you wait two years for that. Stay away from this scam. They never answer emails or questions that make them feel uncomfortable. They do whatever they want and treat the authors offensively. Don’t mislead yourself. They are greedy and fraudulent!”

“By getting writers to sign a seven year contract, I think Publish America seeks to make indentured servants out of creative people. In contrast, some other on-line publishers allow the writer to retain all rights to the book, so it could be placed with another publisher at any time...I don't savor the thought of being lured in the beginning only to get the shaft later.”

So then, I decided to check out some of the other independent publishers. The next on my list was Lulu. Lulu charges $3,199 to publish, which only gets you five paperbacks, $599 for the cover, 6 cents per word to proofread, adding up to $3,000 for a 50,000 word manuscript, $219 for an eBook, $499 for their cheapest marketing package, $7,199 for a book review, $4,999 for a book trailer, and $1,199 to market it in Hollywood. That’s almost $21,000, for doing practically nothing!

Apparently, Lulu used to have a somewhat decent reputation, but have now partnered with guess who? None other than AuthorSolutions, owner of AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Abbott Press, etc., who we discussed in our last alert! Apparently they have sold themselves to the devil of the independent publishing industry! And now, it appears that Penguin has been acquired by them as well. And as for quality, here is what their customers think:

(I want to point out, that most of these comments come from Lulu’s own forum pages!)

"It is a (expletive removed) pain in the (expletive removed) trying to publish via Lulu! I've spent WEEKS at this and I have all the time in the world...but didn't expect it would be consumed by this. Hell, I could write three new 3-Act plays with the time I've spent on here."

"HORRIBLE support from Lulu.”

"Just had postman deliver 4 books and what a blinking nightmare. In one book, there is someone else's two pages."

"I have been trying to request a refund for services unrendered, as my uploading issues have gone unresolved for days. Nobody has responded to repeated e-mails sent to repeated addresses, for days."

“I had never before received books that had glue stains (that's the brown stuff bleeding up from the spine) on the edges and unevenly compressed quires (the gaps between the pages). I sent a complaint to Lulu to call this to their attention. Lulu responded that this was not a 'workmanship or manufacturing defect.' What do you think? Would you be happy?”

"Filed with Better Business Bureau, Lulu still refuses to refund my money!"

"With the headache I've gained. I will be relieved not to go the Lulu route next time."

So, who does that leave? Are there any of the top independent publishers that are reputable? I decided to find out.

Outskirts Press charges as much as $5,979 for publishing, $699 if you want an iPad version, $199 for a Nook Version, $199 for a Kindle version, meaning that it costs $1,100 just for an eBook version, in addition to the $6,000 you just spend on a paperback. Want proofreading? $210. Cover design? $499. ISBN? $99. How about marketing? $1,299. Want to be listed on Amazon? Of course you do. That costs $119 alone! Or, $149 if you want to make it searchable! $699 for a book trailer, $219 for a press release, $329 for a book review, $499 for a spot on their Facebook page, and for $35, you can talk live to a customer service representative. Wait, what? $35 just to call them?

Of course, if you only want one copy of your book, with no ISBN, cover, or anything else, after having done everything yourself, they will print one up for you, for only $199. Almost $200 for one book that you can’t sell? The Better Business Bureau has received more than two dozen complaints about Outskirts:

“The 9 months experience of deception, delay, needless repetition, waiting, so-called misunderstanding, lack of consideration for my input, and intent to do harm, all seem to be an attempt to have me give up on the publishing of my book.”

“I was promised a professionally created book through Outskirts Press, and after weeks of hassle I received a sub-par production. The layout of my book is also terrible. I was also told, during my initial phone interview, that my book would be available on Kindle and Nook with the publishing package that I had purchased. It turns out that this is not the case. Had I known this I wouldn't have published with Outskirts in the first place. While all this is going on my book is sitting around not being sold, because I won't attempt to market it because of how embarrassing it is to have such a messed-up looking product.”

“If you are an independent author and considering self-publishing do not use Outskirts Press. They appear to be a great publishing company from the cover but inside there are fraudulent practices. I was victim of the fraudulent practices and thought I should write to warn others.”

“The Outskirts Press contract promises publication (not a defective galley proof) within 90 days. And, the galley copy had 314 mistakes in the first 100 pages.”

Apparently someone named Michael N. Marcus wrote an actual 138 page book about Outskirts, called, “Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy: The Strange Story of Vanity Publisher Outskirts Press. How Do They Stay in Business. The link to the book is here.

The next “publisher” on our list is Blurb, which has received more than 300 complaints on the Better Business Bureau site, one of the highest of any company. They seem to be more of a printer and don’t appear to have publishing packages per se, but instead, charge a per book fee based upon the number of pages and copies required. If you want a standard black and white, 6x9 book of 200 pages, the cost to you would be around $11 per book. For a color version, it would be around $30 per book. The books can be sold from their online store, but are mainly sold by the authors themselves. The complaints about Blurb seem to center on the quality (or lack thereof) of the books themselves:

“I have to be done with Blurb now -- this is ridiculous.”

"I just received my first order from Blurb and I am so disappointed with it.”

“Uninformed staff who don't know their product and are unwilling to admit there are issues. Unhelpful. Software that is not fit for purpose and is glitchy, crashes and cannot complete the task it is set. And (!) my key grumble on top of this is the attitude of the staff and company towards wasting my time. They couldn't care less and persist with pointless generic suggestions that when implemented by yourself become immediately clear they haven't tried themselves or alternatively haven't listened to your point in the first place.”

“I will most definitely start looking for somewhere else to print my books!”

“Blurb is demonstrating a failure to respond to the customer, which in my experience can be a harbinger of corporate decline, which in turn usually results in a decline in its product. So concerned am I by this, that I will put on hold all future orders and seek other avenues for ‘self publishing’.”

“Also, no customer support phone number? Are you kidding me? I'm really annoyed, and I haven't even BEEN ABLE to order yet! Guess I'll be taking my money elsewhere.”

“Blurb Books are completely hit-or-miss in the quality of the final product.”

“I paid a few extra bucks when Blurb introduced its high quality paper option and was very disappointed in the results.”

“I have always felt ripped off when ordering from Blurb.”

“How does the saying go?…”Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”
In the real world of printing you only get one shot, if they can’t turn it around and deliver, you move on to somebody who can.”

“I’ve used Blurb once in the past. I had the cover arrive with glue smeared across it and some pages completely off in color as though the machine had run out of ink. I’m grateful that people are sharing their issues with companies such as Blurb – I find it’s not worth it to work with them and take my chances. If I pay for a product, I expect it to arrive in perfect shape. That being said, I contact their customer support team who was not very helpful an in fact, downright arrogant. Way to build a business…

“Blurb - Terrible book print quality - poor customer service”

“I advise anyone doing business with this company to read all reviews they will screw you over be aware they will not let you speak with any one in management at all as if no one started this worthless company do your research sucks can't believe they are still in business!”

"Horrible Customer Service & Product."

"Poor service, late shipping, mediocre print quality."

"Poor printing quality, overall bad experience."

“I have returned the books to blurb but they have come back exactly the same – bad print quality, so far I have had awful customer service and awful quality products.”

Xulon Press charges up to $3,999 for a publishing package, $399 for an eBook, $199 for copyright, $199 to place your book for sale online, $599 to place your book in a catalog, $399 to display it at a tradeshow, $699 to write a press release, $299 to get it printed in less than 45 days, $199 to get it on a distribution list, $499 to advertise it on THEIR website, $299 to write text for the back cover, $499 to pick keywords for the book, and they won’t even reveal the cost of their proofreading services, which is kind of scary. And that is for black and white books, color will cost you a lot more! When it comes to Xulon Press, they claim to be a “Good Christian Business,” but are definitely drawing some very non-Christian responses:

“I am a good Christian who has dealt with Xulon Press and had an absolutely awful experience! Please be very wary before dealing with this company.”

I have recently used Xulon and I'm overall disappointed. I found the language of services offered for the bestseller's package was very misleading (bordering on dishonest).”

“I searched this company and found there are several complaints concerning this company’s bate and switch policy and the cancel order policy. I placed an order and called the next day requesting cancellation. The company refused. I and my husband expressed our complaint concerning the fraudulent practice of this company. I was not surprised to find several had also complained about this company’s trickery when it comes to its wording in advertisement. As one stated in another complaint, "their wording is dishonest" I agree. I am surprised they consider themselves to be a Christian company, with such horrific practices. They lure you in, offering giant discounts and free books, only to over charge you and then discount the outrageous price.”

“Considering 10 complaints have been filed, this is reason for concern and precaution before using the publisher. Publishers doing outstanding work and providing authors exceptional service don’t get complaints filed against them in the first place.”

“It seems Xulon Press is not scoring good marks with the general public, neither with the Better Business Bureau.”

“See the official Better Business Bureau note on the status of Xulon Press. They are suspended due to failure to resolve complaints.”

“I will note that when people do try to note their complaints online, someone (I assume Xulon Press) writes a very nasty, nasty response back, bullying whoever posted the complaint. Again, not a Christian way to do business.”

And then comes Friesen Press, which charges up to $5,199 for their publishing package and only give 30% royalties, even though they advertise 50%. They also require Book Return Insurance, at a rate of $699 per year, just so they will list the book as returnable. Huh? Cover design is $249, an evaluation is $499, and editing costs $2.00 per 100 words, meaning a 50,000 word manuscript would cost $1,000. The complaints are typical ones:

“Lied to by sales staff.”

“I signed up for Book and e-Book was told by sales staff that the Royalty on e-Book was 50%. Later told by Book Production Manager that the e-Book was 30%. Apparently the 55% only applies to trade books sold through their own online bookstore, which is not spelled out beforehand.”

“The number one scummer in Publishing industry. In the final edited PDF file, they added around 140 mistakes and the author account officer called me and said to remove the mistakes would cost me additional $1484.00.”

“Book Production Manager kept telling me that if I didn't go along with their program that she would cancel the contract and I would be out the $1200. approx. money that I had already given them for doing the book. In my opinion, it felt like extortion; not a business doing business.”

Let’s take a look at Tate Publishing, who won’t even advertise the prices of their packages on their own website. This is what their customers have to say:

“Don't sign a contract with them. They are a vanity press with a $4,000 price tag and not a commercial publisher, and many unsatisfied authors with complaints about crappy editing among other things. There is a thread at AbsoluteWrite about them in their Beware & Background Checks forum. They are listed as "not recommended" by Predators & Editors website too.”

“They will sell you on all kinds of services. Their editing is a joke and their covers are mostly stock images slapped on. Poorly done.”

“I signed with Tate in 2011, and it's been a nightmare ever since then.”

CreateSpace was formerly known as BookSurge, and is a company owned by reputable Amazon. It is technically free to publish using their service if you are willing and able to do everything yourself. Complaints about them are few, and mostly revolve around the difficulty involved in figuring out how to properly format and submit your files. In fact, using their system can be so difficult that many people hire others to do it for them, or pay for one of CreateSpace’s services. Here are the costs involved: $149 to prepare your PDF file, $349 - $679 to design an interior for your book, $399 - $1,199 to design a cover, $225 per picture to create illustrations, $470 to proofread up to 10,000 words, then 5 cents per word after than, bringing the cost to $2,470 for a 50,000 word book, $199 to evaluate your work, $139 for a Kindle version, $249 for a press release, $199 to write back cover text, $549 for a book review, $2,199 for a book trailer, or $5,024 for a publishing package. So, as good as they are, unless you are an expert with Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, and graphic design, it’s going to cost you. If you think it will be easy, here are some comments from people who have tried to do it themselves:

"I'm more than irritated at the level of frustration involved in the process. I know intimately how the process actually works with other publishing firms, and it is not as frustrating as this."

"Requesting the person to purchase (a) proof copy every time a minor alteration is made to the base objects is not common in any form of industry. The only company to do this is There's no justification for it except to gouge the consumer and user."

“CS seems to have set a new gold standard for abysmal support. I've been trying to get a revised proof. Files were accepted immediately. Yet, despite repeated support tickets, after 17 days no one can answer the simple question, 'Why haven't you shipped?'"

"CS seems to have set a new gold standard for abysmal support."

"It is quite a concern that an Amazon owned company can be so highly incompetent and treat people so very badly. They often respond to me with nonsense emails."

Infinity Publishing charges $5,199 for a publishing package, $599 for black and white paperback, $699 for a color paperback, $949 for a hardcover, $349 for an eBook, $179 to “evaluate” your manuscript, 3 cents per word to proofread it, making a 50,000 word book cost $1,500 to check spelling, punctuation and grammar, and $249 for distributing the book. Here are some of the complaints about them:

“Infinity Publishing is infinitely pathetic, hopeless, out-of-date, incompetent and uncompetitive.
Why would anyone use them?”

“I am disappointed to say that I am an Infinity author, and the experience has been terrible. Book prices are outlandish. The options are small. Marketing is nonexistent. Sending them email is useless--it goes into a black hole, never to be replied to. this has been an awful process for me. I'm planning to pull my book and go elsewhere, but I'm already preparing myself for the hair-pulling, teeth-gnawing experience that will surely come with that.”

DogEar Publishing charges $3,699 for a publishing package, $250 to “critique” your manuscript before they publish it, 2 cents per word to proofread it, costing $1,000 for a 50,000 word manuscript, or $2,000 for a 100,000 word book, $99 to write text for the back cover, $899 to include it on Facebook for three months, $799 for a book trailer, $1,999 for a press release, $425 for a book review, and $15,000 to promote it in Hollywood. Here are some of their reviews:

“Dog Ear publishing is the most unprofessional, uncaring, lazy, haphazard, funds hungry, bungling group of miscreants, each and every to call themselves publishers. Their advertising plan will only take your money; you'd do better to write your story on a notepad and try and sell it on a street corner than to use Dog Ear Publishing.”

“I’m writing this warning in order to avert potential authors from employing Dog Ear publishing. I did not know it, but at the time of my troubles with them, they had not less than seven bad complaints from the Better Business Bureau on file.”

“Dog Ear Publishing is based on lies and hides behind mistakes! Not only do they ignore you as their customers, they also know how to go around Copyright laws. I do not recommend this Publisher at all.
Once you pay for their service, everything will change.”

“Once the "Payment" is received and that "Author Publisher" contract is signed, the reality will be an eye opener. To see that "Dream" was actually a "Nightmare" and all those "Flashy" claims were nothing but shallow soap bubbles!”

Mill City Press charges $5,997 for their publishing package, $99 to submit to search engines (which, by the way, costs nothing...), $199 to write text for the back cover, $199 to protect yourself against book returns, $1,299 to get on Ingram’s distribution list (which only costs $25), $499 to sell your book on their website, $799 for an eBook, and 5 cents per word for proofreading, which would cost $2,500 for a 50,000 word manuscript. It’s $4 per image, if you want pictures, or illustrations included in your book, $699 to include your book on Amazon, $299 to include it on Facebook and $599 to write a press release.

“Worst business experience ever. One star is too high for this company. Don't expect personalized service or timely customer service. I am currently writing to the Better Business Bureau and the Minnesota Attorney General's consumer protection division with complaints about this company. I wouldn't pay them another dime or recommend them to anyone.”

“Mill City is not completely truthful. The company says you'll get "10 complimentary books." They're only complimentary if you ignore the fact that you'll pay Mill City as much as $3,798 to get the free books.”

‘These guys are really unprofessional – the owner Mark Levins is the rudest guy on earth. He accuses customers and threatens them through out the publishing process. I agree with the earlier comment – you cannot reach anyone over the phone. Stay away from this publisher. They are a big rip-off!!!”

“They do not do any marketing for you unless you pay big bucks, a lot extra.”

“I’m having a hard time with Mill City Press. Every time I have a revision I have to pay them $50 an hour. The formatting is terrible and they are making me pay the formatter every time I need it revised. I am so stressed out right now. They have had my book for 8 months now. I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

“I too, was duped into buying their Premium Package. What a rip off!!! Basically they did NOTHING they said they would to promote my book. In fact, when I asked about some of the things it says on their web site about what the Premium Package provides they told me that they no longer provide those services and that their web site was “out of date”…What kind of business charges for something (in the thousands of dollars) and then does nothing for that money? They are really nice to you while you are paying them money and through the publishing process. After your book has been published they are extremely rude, unprofessional and hard to get a response from.”

Bookbaby is really more of a printer than a publisher. They won’t list their printing prices on the site, but ask you to request a quote. They do have a book publishing package that starts at $299, but requires many add-ons to create a complete book and also requires a quote. Cover design is $399, interior design starts at $399 and goes up from there, also requiring a quote, proofreading requires a quote as well, and I understand is quite expensive, but according to Book baby: “Think you can release a great book without having a professional editor help you out? Think again.” They charge $19 for an ISBN, and an annual fee to keep your book in print, which again, costs nothing. It is more of an effort to remove it, so this amounts to little more than extortion. Here are what their authors, or former authors have to say:

“Their production team was a nightmare. They could not get the basic formatting for my simple 100 page book right after three attempts. Worst of all, after each attempt, I found new formatting errors that did not exist in the previous proof. In other words, their team would fix one error in the manuscript and introduce a new one upon each revision. Compounding all of this was the fact that I had to wait two full weeks in between each revision.
So at the end of six weeks after, many hour spent patiently working with Bookbaby, and waiting for their team to get the manuscript right; I finally, asked for a refund.”

“It turns out that Bookbaby charges a whole lot more in fees than it first appears. First, the basic conversion doesn’t cover working from PDF, InDesign, or a couple other formats – just Word, rtf, html, &c. The other formats cost extra, but that’s okay; they probably require more work. The problem is that while there’s a $99 fee for a basic conversion, there’s also a $19 fee for an ISBN (so your eBook can be sold in iBooks). What this means is that the real price of the conversion is actually $118, not $99. Oh, and do you know how they like to pitch the service as not charging a commission on eBook sales? While this is technically correct, it’s not the whole truth. But you’d have to take a closer look before you would know that. While Bookbaby doesn’t charge a commission, they do charge a $19 yearly fee for each title. That’s not a commission, no, so they aren’t lying. But they are splitting hairs.”

Starry Night Publishing doesn’t charge $15,000! We don’t keep you waiting for months, or years! We don’t charge extra for ISBNs, front covers, back covers, distributing on Amazon, or anything else. Our package plan is simple: We give you everything we offer for one low price, that’s all we offer. The only reason we have separate packages for paperback and eBooks, is that customers who already had one, or the other, requested it. Why do we charge at all? It costs money to purchase ISBNs and get included on distribution lists. I would love to be able to afford to do it for free, but I can’t. We’re not charging to publish, but for the services we provide. If you are comfortable doing it yourself, then by all means... We are only here to help you, and every author who has published a book with us, realizes that. Here are some of our reviews:

“I chose you and Starry Night and I could not be more pleased with the results. I received my copy of ‘Mistletoe’ on Saturday and everyone I show loves the paper edition. The illustrator, Danielle, loves the way her artwork is showcased. Why would anyone not use Starry Night Publishing?!”
- Rick Wolf - Author of “Mistletoe.”

“If you have a love of writing and want to be published BUT don't know how to get published, get in touch with these people.”
- Wade Blackman - Father of Author J. S. Blackman - “Forever-Immortal.”

“My name is Eveline Sandy and I published my book with Starry Night Publishing in November of last year. I will have 2 more books to get done. I am so very pleased in the work that was done on my book. The cover came out just right and the photos were done extremely well. This changed my life, making my dream come true, so, others could read my true story and find hope and faith in there own lives. I recommend if you are trying to get your book published, please go with this company you will not be disappointed whatsoever. Follow your dreams as well and give them a chance, to make this happen for you as well.
- Eveline Sandy - Author of ‘What Did I Do Wrong?’”

Sadly, this is just a small sample of the complaints that are out there. It is fraudulent corporations like this, that give an entire industry a bad name. Some people are using this as an excuse to bash the entire independent-publishing industry, recalling the old days, when it was considered incorrect to pay to get published. Let me say however, that many of the “Big Six” publishers are in the process of going bankrupt, have stopped paying advances, won’t accept first time authors, and are no longer marketing their books. So, what exactly is the advantage of doing business with a dinosaur company that takes the rights to your work and only pays 10% royalties? Hmmm...

We also throw in one free copy of your book, and sell you copies at our publisher price, even though we’re not supposed to. There are no other hidden costs, or packages to buy. We include everything upfront, such as proofreading, front and back cover design, formatting, file conversion, copyright, ISBN, table of contents, worldwide distribution, royalty payments and anything else you need, such as writing tips. We don’t charge extra for anything, or try to sell you anything, ever, and we never will! We also don’t take any of your royalties!

So, if you want to pay up to $15,000 to get cheated, by one of the AuthorSolutions, shell companies, then have at it and good luck. But, if you want to do business with a reliable company, that really is out to help you get published, for a minimal fee, 100% of your royalties, then contact Starry Night Publishing! We can have your book selling on Amazon within two days!

As always, we hope that you find this information useful.


Richard S. Hartmetz
4 likes ·   •  4 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on October 25, 2013 14:36 Tags: abbott-press, author, author-solutions, authorhouse, iuniverse, publishing-scam, xlibris

Secrets to Writing Well

Richard S. Hartmetz
Welcome to the "Secrets to Writing Well" blog. We will be covering a whole host of topics here, that will hopefully help you on your quest to becoming a world-renowned author. We hope that you will jo ...more
Follow Richard S. Hartmetz's blog with rss.