Today’s off-day post came as a surprise, but I thought it should not wait and some of my Mondays are already booked for guests. At any rate we are in a wild ride! In some ways this surprise kind of sucks, but I have some blog material and I have been able to meet some new people and make some connections by a mistake I didn’t catch earlier. So there are silver linings somewhere.
Last night I was contacted on my business page for my new upcoming publishing imprint Soaring Eagle Books about another publishing company by the same name. When I set up the page, I had mistakenly put the website URL I had HOPED to obtain, but forgot to change when I found out the URL was taken. I’m as human as the next person, so mistakes happen. Presently, I don’t have a website, and my company isn’t operational yet–I just have the social media channels built and branded and the logo. Of course, when it is time to go public all of those details will be sorted out, especially when I am open for clients. I am still curious about how they found my page since I haven’t been trying to promote it at all since the company is still in the making. Anyway, I am glad they did, so they have saved me some grief on down the road and helped me fix something that needed to be pronto.
I don’t ever plan on being a big company or a small press of any kind whatsoever. I will be the one to help out with formatting, cover design, and distribution. If the author uses one of my ISBNs and are published under my imprint or their own, the author will own everything I create for them and it will be theirs to do with as they wish, including their accounts which they will be paid directly from the retailers and distributors and they will have direct access to their accounts. I don’t plan on doing all that, but I will help people who want it though, but it won’t be in my own account. I won’t take any royalties and they will print their books for wholesale through their own IngramSpark account or CreateSpace free platform account. Since the authors will have their own accounts, they can continue to upload to these accounts whether or not they use my services again. They will be free to use their files at a local printer and just use IngramSpark or CreateSpace for their distribution. They choose; it’s theirs anyway. They just pay me to package it for them just like they would a formatter or a cover designer, it’s just I help them with all that and since I know where the good ones are and I know the lingo and I hire out what I cannot do. Been around the block a few times ;). I am working on putting together a couple marketing packets, but they will be services that work, and they will guarantee exposure, not sales since no one can guarantee that if they say they can, you might want to reconsider publishing with them. I am still carefully researching that :).
I will not own any rights to the author’s work except the limited rights to print and distribute should they use my ISBN. The agreement is still a work in progress, but I plan on it being easy to read, no legalese (since this is not my 3rd language, and it makes me twitch), and no author unfriendly clauses. No unpleasant surprises or fees. Everything will be discussed up front.
I do all this since I have dealt with the dark side of publishers and self publishing. That’s one of the reasons why I have this blog. There are some nuances of even the best pay-to-publish companies that are beginning to bug me, so I plan on doing things differently. Maybe for some authors the things about these companies will be okay–they were when I was trying to get back on track and learn the ropes. Some things may work for some people, but I will be for the authors that going that route may not be quite right and going at it totally alone is not either, so I am providing the middle road as it were or just what they need. But now I have outgrown them and I know there are others who want that helping hand that are getting slaughtered out there, which also the other point of today’s post.
Penelope “Penny” Fletcher’s Soaring Eagle Books
The individuals in question that visited my page were a former partner and a former author who parted on some very unpleasant terms which I will share in a moment. To visit the site of this publisher to poke around Click Here. Please note before clicking: This is not my publishing company! At the time of this writing there is no website for my company, nor do I recommend or am affiliated with this publisher. More on that in a moment.
Here are some links for your viewing pleasure to the author’s website where she has quite an array of posts with screenshots about her ordeal with this publisher–so scroll through and look for yourself as well as a post on a forum (also read the comments). I will summarize it all in a nice little bow for you and what I think about it. The former assistant in question is a guest on her blog, so check it out.
Author Gen Griffin’s Blog/Website
This company tries to come off as a traditional small press. Please note, a traditional small press in any shape or form, new or old, doesn’t charge you money up front for editing, formatting, cover design, or marketing. Some hybrid presses, pay-to-publish companies, or vanity presses do this though, so what do we have here?
From what I have gathered from the website and from the posts and proof by Gen Griffin, and my own harrowing experience with Xlibris, I have drawn the conclusion that this publisher is a vanity publisher masquerading as a small traditional publisher, and when this happens, run away as fast as your proverbial feet will carry you. It is not a hybrid press, and it is not what I call a reputable pay-to-publish company either. The term “self-publishing company” is going out of style, and the term has since became tarnished because of publishers like this and Author Solutions and Publish America. To be sure, I’m sure that Author Solutions companies masquerade as traditional publishers ever since they partnered with Penguin.
As per Rachel Thompson’s quote of the hour, “Let’s deconstruct.”
On the website there is the talk of “services for fees”, but as you can see here and here there is no fee structure, so the author doesn’t know the risk thereof or has any indication to know what to expect here or any means for planning. From the forum post above and the posts on Gen Griffin’s blog, she had been approached with a contract as if this company was a traditional publisher, plus this publisher retains exclusive rights to the work for X amount of time like a trade publisher–from what I ascertain from the posts it is 3 years for this company. Not bad, well… at least it isn’t for the length of thecopyright (that’s the rest of the author’s life+ 70 years–which is BAD by the way–AKA “forever” in publishing). I also see that the publisher takes a 50/50 split from the royalties while the author is still paying for marketing services from what I can guess from the website and from the posts. Total vanity press tactic. Then there is the age old tactic from the posts that the author has to buy X amount of books for the initial print run and X amount of books yearly if the book doesn’t sell to “make up some sort of difference”.
Mark Levine would wonder why this publisher is entitled to 50% of the royalties when they aren’t REALLY doing anything to promote your book, and you still have to buy services or left to do it on your own? He would also advise to dodge any evasive or vague terms or language about the things in the former paragraph or in regards to fees. Again, traditional small presses don’t charge fees for publishing or marketing. They just give tiny advances or none at all and their budgets are small, so the marketing would be up to you–it’s just that you wouldn’t be paying the publisher so to speak.
Then there is the question about pricing of a so-called “trade paperback”. Here is the paperback listing for Gen Griffin’s Book on Amazon and the pricing (do not buy–the author will not see a dime). If the pricing was for the regular paperback that we indie authors usually produce the pricing might be okay, but since this is supposedly a “trade paperback” or a mass market paperback, this price quite high. Why? Trade paperbacks are usually printed offset, a smaller trim size, with a cheaper paper quality, and in large quantity. All of these things drive down the printing cost per book, and that’s why you can get a 600 page book for $4.99 as opposed to ~$18. Usually, when a small press has a paperback and/or a trade paperback they have a hardcover edition available which is not too hard since the press should have the cache of ISBNs available as well as making the necessary tweaks to the cover to create the hardcover edition. Just a thought :/.
From the posts, we can see that the marketing tactics used by this publisher breaks social media rules and annoys people since it’s spam. Vanity press violations! All of the vanity presses that I know of use tactics like these that don’t work, and they just annoy people. They simply spam people and call it marketing which you pay them for. #faceplant Then there is the sad tale of missing sales reports, missing royalties, yadda yadda. When reading all this I had terrible flashbacks and memories like I did when I had my experience with Xlibris.
What makes Gen’s story even worse is that she can’t get the rights back to her book, so it had to be left to die, and she had to redo the entire series because this woman wouldn’t do the right thing and give the money owed or her rights back. I became physically ill reading about all this. Penny Fletcher has enough stuff against her to be sued by people. I would almost guess she learned from Kevin Weiss of Author Solutions or from whoever runs Publish America. They would be proud.
After looking at the website, I was not all that impressed. It was barebones at best. Not forthcoming on information and a lot of information is just plain wrong. Traditional publishing still works for some people and there are still some good small presses both old and new that would be great to work with. Evolved Publishing is one of them. Some hybrids like Booktrope are also good, so check them out. Of course there is no contract and I hope to see one soon. If I ever do, I will post about it!
Amanda Taylor’s Soaring Eagle Books
Above is the logo for my company, and you can go to the above site to see Penny Fletcher’s logo. I have purchased the domain for the company, but there won’t be anything there since I have no site. It will be soaringeaglebooks.org I will eventually have a kick butt site and I have a designer in mind. I have rectified the blunder on my associated social media sites with my publishing imprint and removed the links from Penny Fletcher’s company. MY URL will be crosslinked on all my sites and social media channels for Soaring Eagle Publicity and my author stuff. This URL will be on the copyright pages of any book that is published there as well as the logo. All roads will travel back to the above URL.
MY Soaring Eagle Books will not masquerade as anything. I will not be pretending to be a small traditional press. This is my own independent imprint that will be open to clients where I will be the go-between or provider of cover design, file formatting, and upload, and more all fees included for all work entailed by me or anyone I work with. If the author wants me to create their stuff and use their own ISBNs, no problem. My imprint will be on the book only if the author doesn’t have their own, and they use one of the ISBNs that is registered under my imprint. The books are still theirs though. I talked a bit about how things will work earlier.
My purpose of opening up to clients in the future is to not be the next big thing, the next big publisher, or any kind of traditional press or whatever. I don’t guarantee any bestsellers, but I will try to do my best to provide the best service and quality as possible at a reasonable price without all the hassles or nasty surprises. Been there, done that, so you don’t have to. I hate it when publishers say they understand what authors go through and they turn around and do the exact same thing. Another definition of insanity. Practice what you preach, people. Somebody please slap me if I don’t; I will try my best as humanly possible to NOT do crap like the aforementioned publisher or any of the other rogues that are out there.
Of course you might be wondering why don’t I just start over after this discovery? I have too much time and money invested to turn back now. I’ve spent time on branding and accounts of more than just social media. Why do I have to sacrifice my dream and hope because someone else didn’t want to do the right thing? Since this other company is not that old, it would seem that it should fall by the wayside and reputation and word of mouth should prevail. So should doing the right thing as well as faith and trying to do good by people in a world that a good name and a good reputation are hard to come by. I will keep people updated on this blog on how things progress as well as on my author and sister company streams. Amanda Taylor’s Soaring Eagle Books will be safe. I am not going to grade my own company. That’s not fair. I will let other people like clients do that for me.
Penny Fletcher’s Soaring Eagle books is not. Stay away. STAY FAR AWAY. If I was grading this company for a company review it would get a Sucks 🙁 rating. An F. Mark Levine would give it an F. Anyone I know would give it a thumbs down. Rachel Thompson would nail it for social media violations.
Point and clarification made. The end.