Vanity Publishers

As some of you may know I’m a bit of a writer and I want to talk about Publish America (aka PA) or America Star Books (ASB).

I was part of a writing forum called AW (Absolute Writer – still am) and the consensus there, despite PA’s claims at the time, is that PA is a pay to play publisher – more accurately it’s a vanity publisher and a bad one. They’ve been sued several times by people who have been scammed by them from what I understand. If you look around, even the BBB in Maryland (where they operate) has many complaints about them.

Maryland BBB

To Quote the BBB:

Based on BBB files, this business has a BBB Rating of F on a scale from A+ to F.

Reasons for this rating include:
Failure to honor commitment to arbitrate or mediate disputes.
103 complaints filed against business
2 complaints filed against business that were not resolved.

And:

BBB processed a total of 103 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 103 complaints closed in 36 months, 63 were closed in the last year.

These complaints concerned :
7 regarding Billing or Collection Issues
49 regarding Contract Issues
10 regarding Customer Service Issues
13 regarding Delivery Issues
8 regarding Product Issues
2 regarding Refund or Exchange Issues
3 regarding Sales Practice Issues
11 regarding Service Issues

These complaints were closed as:
57 Resolved
2 Unresolved
44 Administratively Closed

Then the owner or supposed owner of PA (current) Miranda Prather has this in the Wiki files about her:

Miranda Prather is an American woman who gained national attention in July 1997 after police arrested her for faking a hate crime. A lesbian, Prather was a graduate assistant and president of the campus gay and lesbian support group at Eastern New Mexico University.

Is this seriously a company that any author wants to get involved with? They are worse than a vanity, pay to play publisher. They treat their “authors” like customers and their customers like crap. There is no level they don’t seem to stoop to in the way they treat people. It’s pretty amazingly disheartening to watch authors be treated to “Nonsense, stop the crap” when asking for simple feedback on a question in the PA forums and in email. They have consistently sold their authors their own books, degraded the level of quality compared to pricing of those books and have even claimed they put their books on the shelf in the past but never delivered.

They hold your book “ransom” for 7 years, rarely ever releasing it before hand at request of the author. I know it’s hard to get an agent, to get a publisher. It can be infuriatingly frustrating but I promise you this – PA isn’t looking for your work except to exploit it and you as an author. Please don’t get taken in by these alleged scam artists. It’s not worth the heartache or the headache. Value yourself, your work and the time and effort you’ve put into it. Rejections from real publishers and agents are not personal, they are just the journey to the ultimate goal – being legitimately published.

I want to add that ripoff report has 44 reports on Publish America in their ripoffs complaints database. That’s 3 pages so far – PA Ripoff Reports

Then there is the Atlantis Nights fiasco that had PA out themselves a few years ago. The official website is called Travis Tea : Atlantis Nights

Now Publish America changed their name to America Star Books. After that, they went defunct. The previous owner, Miranda Prather gave way to co-owners Lawrence Clopper & Willem Meiners. After a lawsuit, multiple BBB complaints, Writer BewareSFWA blogging about multiple warnings and Absolute Write members posting thread upon thread about them – they disappeared.

I’m, as a publishing industry professional and a writer, very grateful to people like Victoria Strauss and groups like SFWA for the deep dive research that they do.  It’s amazing what some companies go to at length for to prey on others. What is it exactly that they prey on? The deep desire for a new author to be “legit published”. That feeling of someone wants and likes my work. That exhilarating high of “send us your manuscript, we want to publish you”.

There is one thing that I do disagree with about Publish AmericaAmerica Star Books. They are not, were never and well… will never be a true “POD publisher”. Not in the sense that I and many others see the definition as today because POD is a tool and not just a “type of publishing”. POD publishing then and now are very different. POD or publish on demand is now a main staple and huge market tool (thanks Amazon) both to smaller publishing houses such as The Three Little Sisters Publishing and Indie authors alike.

Publish AmericaAmerica Star Books only used the tool as a vanity, pay to play publisher to line their silver pockets. There should be a distinction between what a publisher is and what publishing tools they use are. Just like InDesign, POD is a tool not a type of publisher, of course this is my opinion, I don’t expect others to agree with it and some will, some won’t and some will say explain further.

Keep your eye on the blogs at TLS for an expose on how our experiences a few months ago went with other traditional publishers and retrieval of publishing rights. We will be talking about how the publishing industry reacts to a request of publication rights back, what the difference between copyrights and publication rights are, what you can possibly do when dealing with a belligerent publishing house who is refusing to cooperate or how to track down a literary agent when the agency has folded (that one was fun – note sarcasm). We, Larisa and I, will both be writing about this experience and probably vloggingpod casting about it in the future as well.

For now, I applaud you Victoria ET AL for the job well done and helping to inform the writing community to keep them safer than they might have been navigating this crazy little publishing world we all live in. I appreciate the hard work that you folks do.

Sheal Berube

Executive Co-Ordinator

Hi! I’m Sheal, I’m the executive coordinator of Three Little Sisters LLC (and publishing). I am a traditionally published and Indie published author. I’m also a college educated document technician.

What do I do at Three Little Sisters? I curate, I liaison, I edit, I layout and I art around. I am a Jane of all trades and run a tight office ship to keep everything running smoothly between our staff and authors.

I am also the owner and operator of the document tech business Black Cat Editing & Design. If you have a question about our publishing house and LLC, I’m the girl you want to see!