June 18, 2012

Class action launched against alleged ripoff publisher, PublishAmerica


PublishAmerica, they of the tagline “we treat our authors the old fashioned way — we pay them”, is accused of not paying their authors, amongst other things, in a new class action lawsuit.

Victoria Strauss, writing on the blog for Writer Beware!, a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America that aims to publicize literary scams, reports that on June 11th, a class action summons and complaint was filed in Maryland District Court in Baltimore against PublishAmerica.

The complaint says that,

“Defendant PublishAmerica is a book publisher that portrays itself as “a traditional, royalty paying publisher.” But unlike traditional publishers, which profit from the sale of books, defendant profits from its own clients, i.e., the authors who submit works for publication by defendant. Defendant lures these authors in by promising to publish their book at no cost, and it makes false and misleading representations that it will promote their books and support the authors’ efforts to sell their own books. But this is not the case.

Instead, once the authors sign the contract, which gives defendant the rights to their book for seven to ten years, defendant does nothing constructive to promote their books, but instead offers various promotion packages on a fee-for-service basis….These services, which are either misrepresented or never carried out, are not reasonably designed to promote class members’ books….

Defendant provides very poor editing services, is slow to respond to book orders, and it routinely overprices the books it publishes. This is no accident. Defendant will only lower the price of its clients’ books to a competitive rate for a $399 fee. These practices make it difficult for even the most enterprising authors to promote their own books.

 Defendant is not responsive to inquiries from its clients, or worse it is dismissive or belligerent.”

Google “PublishAmerica complaints” and multitudes of incidents result. One author, Memory McDermott, apparently published with PublishAmerica and wrote to Barnes & Noble to investigate how her books were being sold there. She received a letter back from Marcella A Smith, Director of Small Press & Vendor Relations at B & N, that said,

“The terms for Publish America titles are not competitive in the trade bookstore marketplace: the books are non-returnable, the discount is not favorable, and most of the titles including Tea for Two Nature’s Apothecary are about $5.00 over the going price for titles in the category. These factors in combination inform our decision not to stock the titles in the stores, and for the stores to decide not to do an event with the titles.”

Judging by all this, there will probably be a multitude of disgruntled authors willing to become involved in this suit. You can find out how to join here.


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.