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.