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Just before a trip, I went into Wally World to get some stuff, and was thinking of getting a book to read while I was on downtime. Lo and behold! There was a man in a pirate suit selling a pirate book called, wait for it, “A Pirate’s Tale”. The man with the eye-patch is Gertjan Zwiggelaar, the author. Of course, fancying myself a writer, I struck up a conversation.

“Wow, self published, eh? That’s got to be expensive. I looked into it a while back.”

“No, not really. I found a publishing house that published it for free, and just takes a portion of the sales.”

“Really? That’s awesome! Who does that?”

PublishAmerica.com. Here’s my card with the address on it.”

So I bought the book. It was awesome! Best pirate book I’ve read since Treasure Island. Okay, it’s the only pirate book I’ve read since Treasure Island, but I still recommend it.

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I walked away with dreams of publishing that one book that someone said resides in all of us. PublishAmerica, you must be too good to be true. How can it be possible to publish your own book for free? But then I went to the site.

Here’s what I found…

PublishAmerica Logo

You write your book. You e-mail or mail it in to PublishAmerica. They review it for quality and grammar and see if it will garner some sort of market. If that’s all good, they’ll talk to you about a contract. You sign the contract. They design a cover for the book. They market the book on their website and to different booksellers such as Barnes and Noble, Ingram, Borders.com and others. They also give you some advice on promoting the book yourself.

Your book sells and they send you royalty payments. No, really, that’s it! All of that and more for free,  while you retain complete control over their intellectual property and rights to it, for say, movie deals or what have you.

“But Guy, I can get my book vanity published or hire an agent to take care of that? Isn’t that easier?” you ask with smugness dripping from your disdainful face.

Well, vanity publishing costs a lot of money and unless you are a superstar marketer with a genuine bestseller on your hands, your odds of recouping what you paid to self-publish are pretty slim indeed. You have to take care of getting your own ISBN, or copyrighting the book as well as the cover design and art work. Or you can pay the vanity publisher more to do that for you.

If you choose the literary agent route, then you’re looking at trying to find an agent who will take on an unknown author, and will actually work hard to get you published. Then they take a slice of what you make on the book, on top of everyone else traditionally involved in publishing taking their slice. That might work out if you sell 4 million books, yet the odds are slim on that as well.

“Okay, Guy,” you inquire with some trepidation and eagerness, “so what’s the downside?”

Well, I don’t know exactly what the percentage is for royalties. They also do not accept manuscripts from outside Canada or the United States of America. Oh, and they don’t accept books in the genres of coffee table books, screenplays/scripts/movies, theses, text-books, gift books, or books of quotes.

While they don’t publish every manuscript that comes to them, they do take more risks than other traditional publishing houses. They have published over 40,000 authors since 1996. Some of those authors have gone on to make writing their career, have movie deals and receive some pretty significant critical praise.

Really, in the years that I’ve spent trying to find a way to publish that great Canadian novel I have in my desk drawer, this is by far the simplest and least expensive route that I have found.

Have you self-published a book? Do you know of any other publishing houses like PublishAmerica? I’d love to read about it in the comments. Put your literary skills to good use and leave us a note.

Don’t think your writing is good enough? Then check out 7 Online Resources To Help Improve Your Writing 7 Online Resources to Help You Improve Your Writing 7 Online Resources to Help You Improve Your Writing Read More .

  1. Mark
    August 2, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I was going to note this article for future reference, but then I read the comments. A couple of years ago I compiled a cookbook for my work location of over 200 pages. We made it available as a PDF file, but some people wanted the option of getting it in print. The fastest, easiest, most cost-effective way was to put the cookbook on CafePress. Viola! They only print on order, so absolutely no money spent by us, and they did a really good job on the printing.

  2. Guy McDowell
    July 24, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Yep. My article is poop. I admit it. I didn't dig as deep as I normally would.

    I'll have to look into this WOT add-on you speak of.

    • Abizern
      July 27, 2009 at 8:33 am

      Guy,

      You say it's poop, but you haven't updated your article with this revelation.

      • Guy McDowell
        July 27, 2009 at 6:32 pm

        I can't update the article. Best I can do is say so in the comments.

  3. davidbowiefanforever
    July 23, 2009 at 5:34 am

    WOT firefox add-on went off as soon as I entered the website check out the WOT scorecard for this site: http://www.mywot.com/en/scorecard/publishamerica.com

    I've also heard tons of bad things about this site. There are WAY better websites for DIY book publishing, and even other stuff.

    Here are a few:

    lulu.com/
    blurb.com/

    Never really looked into these sites, but it seems my WOT firefox add-on likes the sites... LOL

    iuniverse.com/

    wordclay.com/

  4. Trina A. Ross
    July 20, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    From my research, and in speaking with other writers, when someone mentions Publish America, I cringe, start to sweat then I haul butt and run the other way. Here are some other resources you might want to check out:

    http://www.sfwa.org/BEWARE/general.html#PA
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10211
    http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2005/01/the_publishamer.html

  5. Patricia Fry
    July 19, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Ditto! Always check to see if there are any "warnings" about a company before getting involved or recommending it. When it comes to "self-publishing" companies, I recommend Mark Levine's book, "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing." He rates and ranks 45 companies from "Outstanding Publishers" to "Publishers to Avoid." And he tells you why he has given them the ratings.

    As the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) spawn.org, I meet many authors who are disgruntled with their self-publishing company. Most of the time they've misunderstood the contract (hire an intellectual properties attorney).

    Read more about your publishing options and how to choose the right publisher for your particular project in my book, "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book."

    Patricia Fry
    matilijapress.com
    Visit my informative blog often: matilijapress.com/publishingblog.

  6. Guy McDowell
    July 18, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Wow. You folks are right. Drat. Gertjan seemed quite happy with them and recommended them highly. Of course, the website didn't let on about any of this either. I probably shouldn't have gone on the recommendation of one person and a website without researching further for this article.

    Gertjan must have had a good experience since he published 7 books I think he said. Nonetheless, his A Pirate's Tale book is really quite good.

    Sorry folks, lesson relearned about doing more thorough research.

  7. Joseph Hayes
    July 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Don't drink the PublishAmerica Kool-Aidâ„¢, Guy! There are better ways to go.

  8. Writch
    July 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Pop open Google and start typing in "Publish America"
    the first two Suggestions are "Publish America Scam" and "Publish America Complaints"

    This company's strategy is to sell the published books back to the author, who has to buy their own books and promote them without the use of an agent.

  9. Rebecca
    July 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I have heard TERRIBLE things about Publish America. They are NOT a reputable publisher, but are viewed as a print-on-demand vanity press: there's no real editing offered to make the book better, they don't put any real effort out to publicize your book, they don't do anything but take your manuscript for a pittance, then take a cut of whatever you make. A friend of mine worked for them and said that they basically will publish ANYTHING and prey off of first-time authors. Several deliberately bad manuscripts were sent to them and promptly gushed over and "published". A search for "Publish America review" will turn up many links to people who had bad experiences with them. Such as this one and this one and another commentary here. The Washington Post panned them here.

    If you're looking to self-publish a book, you can put something up on Lulu.com all on your own and have it print-on-demand. Going the Publish America route won't net you anything more in real terms, and they've been known to charge you for things that a traditional publisher won't (like filing your copyright).

    If you go with them, read the contract VERY CAREFULLY and don't kid yourself that you're actually being published: you're contracting a vanity publisher who has no real interest in making sure that your book is any good. And booksellers, libraries, and other folks in the book biz will know that.

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