Biggest laugh of the day…no…the month

I haven’t had a lot to laugh about over the past couple weeks, but reading Victoria Strauss’ blog post this morning brought me right out of my funk: Publish America is entering the literary agency business. They promise to “market” your book to one and all. But hey ho, keep in mind it’s gonna cost you. $199 – for ONE title. So guess that means if you have two books, it’s gonna cost you double.

I have to admit that it’s a brilliant profit center.

For those unfamiliar with PA, they are the lead dog in unusual publishing modalities. I have up close and personal experience with them. They are the backstory to Behler Publications. A lifetime ago, I got caught in this particular nightmare. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I didn’t research, I didn’t travel the internet, I didn’t know about the Absolute Write Water Cooler (there is an entire section on nothing but PA) or Vic Strauss. So I bought their line of, “We treat authors the old-fashioned way – we pay them.”

Yes, by golly gosh, they paid all right. One dollar. My tale is as sad and pathetic as they come. Suffice it to say that I smelled a rat before my book left “editing” – which was nothing more than a spin and rinse cycle of Spell Check. I was so bereft, I complained to Sweetcheeks about how I could do a better job than these yahoos.

He looked at me. I looked at him. Oh  no. Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking? He grinned. Probably. And so with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears…and money…and the fabulous kinship with experienced experts in the publishing industry, Behler Publications was born.

PA caught wind of it and took it poorly, which is odd because I know lots of editors whose books are pubbed with other publishers. It’s done all the time. But PA didn’t see it that way. They publicized my husband’s name and where we live on their message boards via gent named HB Marcus (who admitted to working for them). He passed along my information to their message boards, along with as many lies about me as they could think up – like I was “stealing” authors and such.

It was a horrible time, and I had gut-wrenching moments where I feared for my safety after they revealed my home town. After all, PA had called the cops out on one of my fellow PA friends after accusing him of theft. What could they do to me? I believed I really had to watch my back. These are not people who tolerate dissension among the ranks, and I still retain all the proof and screen captures.

Why would a publisher behave like this?

Many years have passed since that horrible time. We’ve never looked back. Instead, we have award-winning books, bestsellers, and some lovely sales – and stellar distribution. And of course, fabulous, important, meaningful, entertaining books that enrich readers’ lives.

But seeing Vic’s story today brought back those surreal memories of my short tenure with PA. I can say firsthand that they don’t have authors, they have profit centers. And now they want to charge authors $200 to “market” manuscripts that I’m willing to bet won’t sell or even be read. And if they don’t sell, what are the odds they will offer the poor hapless author a contract with PA?

Always remember: Real agents do NOT charge money for their services. EVER. It is against the AAR, and is widely viewed within the publishing community to be an illegitimate, highly questionable practice. And real publishers don’t behave in a predatory manner by frightening you or blasting your personal information to a public forum.

17 Responses to Biggest laugh of the day…no…the month

  1. Digital Dame says:

    Wow. I knew they were scum, but I had no idea they were this bad. After reading this I don’t understand how they’re even still around. Can nothing be done to shut them down? Between the harrassment and filing false charges against authors, you’d think there would be some legal grounds to pull their plug.

  2. They are scary folks. Wee Willie Meiners is gone, and I think he was the brains behind the scare tactics. But they still know how to take a page out of his playbook.

    As for closing them down – not a chance. Some have tried, a couple have won damages. But unless you can prove criminal intent, it’s terribly hard to go after someone because it costs big money. PA is very slippery, and the best anyone can do is spread the word.

    The other way to cut off the head of the beast is if no PA author ever bought any of their own books. That’s how they make their millions – and I do mean millions. They jack up the retail price of the book, then give a pathetic “discount” to the author, who quickly realizes they must buy their own books in order to sell them because PA doesn’t have store presence. The best an author can do is sell books out of their trunks or arrange a private consignment deal with a store.

  3. I wouldn’t wish your terrible experience with PA on anyone, but it’s thanks to people like you having such experiences – and doing something about it – that people like me won’t have the same trouble. So thank you!

  4. Digital Dame says:

    I’m just so appalled that there are enough creeps in the world to start and succeed at these kinds of dirty businesses. It makes me despair for the human race.

  5. Thanks, Sarah. That’s why I speak at writer’s conferences so much. It’s my pay it forward thing. After everything I’ve been through, I don’t want anyone else to be ignorant about the industry.

  6. Digi, don’t despair. There will always be slimeballs who are looking to prey on the innocent for financial gain. I’m a big believer in karma and am convinced they will eventually bump up against all the things they’ve done to others. I don’t worry about it anymore. Besides, there are far more wonderful people in the publishing industry who genuinely care about their authors look for the win-win proposition.

  7. Mags says:

    But don’t you see what they’ve done: It’s fantastic! There’s no need for writers to endure any more of that pesky querying, or even to demonstrate that they’ve got a salable manuscript. If we want a literary agent, we can just pay our $199 and “add to cart.”

    Oh, holy hell. I believe I’ve officially seen it all now.

  8. Mags, when it comes to PA, I don’t think there is a ceiling for “seeing it all.” They are the most inventive folks I know.

  9. Lauren says:

    I’ll offer up one of the beagle’s cover art purses for free if PA sells a book to a solid publisher.

    Lynn, if you like you may also add (to your generous offering) a $100 gift card to Powell’s Bookstore, courtesy of BiblioBuffet.

  10. LOL, Lauren. You know your money is safe.

  11. I’ve only recently learned about Publish America. I’m so glad I followed all the advice when I went about querying my book and that I got myself a proper publisher.

  12. I’m happy for you, Paul! Anyone who is saved by reading a blog post or writer’s site is cause for celebration. Now go out and sell a million!

  13. Thanks, Lynn, here’s hoping. Roll on 2012!

  14. Nancy Mehl says:

    Hey, Lynn! We went through those dark, dark days together. Glad we both came out of it stronger. Great blog.

  15. Boy howdy, Nancy. Look at you now – a successful author with multi-book deals with a fabulous publisher. Tis better to make lemonade, right?

  16. Chris L. Allen says:

    My wife finally got me straight. She said “Honey, all you are doing is sending them money. They are not selling your book: Only to you!” I have five copies left because I ended up giving the first batch I bought to family and friends. I wish I had read this “stuff” before I signed up with them.

  17. ШИК Галичина…

    […]Biggest laugh of the day…no…the month « Behler Blog[…]…

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