February 4th, 2010


Today's Publishing Industry Embarrassment

Remember PublishAmerica, the scam publishing company at the heart of the Atlanta Nights sting operation? You might also remember that as a result of this sting, PublishAmerica decided to label all science fiction authors as vicious tricksters intent on confusing new writers about how publishing "really" work. They're a class act.

For those not in the know, PublishAmerica basically accepts any manuscript sent to them for publication, pays the author $1 in order to claim that they're an advance-paying publisher, willfully ignores actual distribution so they can just sell copies to the authors themselves instead (ask any PublishAmerica author how their booksigning went), and price-gouge those authors so that the "author discount" is actually closer to the full retail price of other books. The way Harlequin did by partnering with vanity press Author Solutions, PublishAmerica is bent on monetizing rejected manuscripts for their own benefit, not the authors'. That this company is still around is a travesty, and that there are authors who were duped by PublishAmerica and yet still continue to rabidly defend them is even more of one.

I thought the PublishAmerica story ended there, but today's industry news informs me that I was wrong. In particular, this press release:

Baker & Taylor Inks Deal with PublishAmerica for Digital Printing, Distribution


Niche publisher? That's one way to put it. Sort of like saying Al Capone was a niche businessman.

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Baker & Taylor Inc., the world's largest distributor of physical and digital books and entertainment products, today announced it has signed an agreement for its TextStream Digital Print Service to print and fulfill orders for PublishAmerica's catalogue of more than 40,000 titles. PublishAmerica's titles – largely fiction and non-fiction stories of triumph over hardship – will also be available to Baker & Taylor's worldwide network of library and retail customers.

Stories of triumph over hardship? Where exactly is that little bit of information coming from? A quick glance at PublishAmerica's online catalogue shows novels about alien abduction, a war between werewolf tribes (called "Lycans"!), African-American romances, and yes, some self-help books, including one that promotes a chocolate milk diet. This is not a niche publisher of transformational titles, this is a publisher who will--and does--publish anything, regardless of quality, salability or category.

"This collaboration illustrates Baker & Taylor's position as the trusted go-to provider of print and electronic products and services for publishers," said Tom Morgan, CEO of Baker & Taylor. "TextStream enables publishers to operate more efficiently and more quickly deliver the books that readers want when they want them."

The word "trusted" is a bit of a stretch when used within fifty feet of the name PublishAmerica, but the truth is that Baker & Taylor is one of the biggest book wholesalers in the country, right up there with Ingram. And speaking of Ingram, all TextStream is is Baker & Taylor's own version of LightningSource. If they were having trouble getting some name recognition in the shadow of the behemoth LightningSource, I'm surprised they decided to go with announcing their partnership with PublishAmerica in this manner. But even the best companies make bad decisions when they get dollar-signs in their eyes, and this is really a no-lose situation for Baker & Taylor.

Of course, this works perfectly in PublishAmerica's favor too. Now they don't even have to print their titles themselves, they can go the POD route through Baker & Taylor instead. Don't hold your breath for the prices of your books to come down, PublishAmerica authors. Get ready for them to go up due to the per-unit pricing nature of POD printing.

Its deal with PublishAmerica is Baker & Taylor's latest step in expanding TextStream's presence in the publishing community. TextStream provides publishers with a full range of print-on-demand/print-to-order services, with the widest variety of formats and other options in the industry. TextStream's flexibility and industry-leading customer reach is especially advantageous to PublishAmerica's authors, who are aiming to get their books noticed – often one or a handful of copies at a time.

Unfortunately for PublishAmerica authors, they won't actually get any more notice for their books this way than they were before. The only difference now is that there won't be warehouses full of their books gathering dust somewhere. But once again we see PublishAmerica claim something is good for their authors when really it doesn't do squat for them, only for PublishAmerica's own bottom line. Color me surprised.

"We chose Baker & Taylor because of its extensive distribution network, its incredible ability to manage the logistics of shipping and handling a large number of small orders to multiple locations, and the completeness of its printing package," said Willem Meiners, PublishAmerica co-founder.

Listen up, you primitive screwheads: There won't be any orders, large or small, except for the orders there have always been, namely authors ordering copies of their own books for events, or to give out to family and friends. This partnership is all about PublishAmerica trying to save money to increase the profit it already makes on the backs of its authors.

PublishAmerica is a leading U.S. publisher whose specialty is working with and bringing to market unknown authors. Its partnership with Baker & Taylor for TextStream Digital Print Services and consumer direct fulfillment will give PublishAmerica's clients access to Baker & Taylor's more than 44,000 retail and library customers worldwide. This provides an extensive new audience for PublishAmerica's authors and titles.

Yeah, good luck with that. Because what the dying bookstore industry needs now more than ever are more books nobody wants by unknown authors printed with POD techonology and selling at overinflated prices. That's gonna work.

PublishAmerica is the home of 40,000 talented authors. PublishAmerica is a traditional publishing company whose primary goal is to encourage and promote the works of new, previously undiscovered writers. Like more mainstream publishers, PublishAmerica pays its authors advances and royalties and makes its books available in both the United States and Europe through all bookstores. PublishAmerica offers a distinctly personal, supportive alternative to vanity presses and less accessible publishers.

Pays its authors advances? Makes its books available? Personal and supportive? Is there an emoticon for pointing and laughing?

So what does this entail for the future of publishing? Nothing, really. It doesn't change anything. PublishAmerica will go on being PublishAmerica (and use this new partnership to attract more unsuspecting and gullible new authors), Baker & Taylor will go on being a major wholesaler, Borders will go on closing stores, Amazon will go on flexing its muscles uselessly in the ebook wars, and the world will keep spinning around the sun. But on principle, I find this partnership odious to the point of righteous indignation. It lends a legitimacy to PublishAmerica that the company doesn't deserve, and sullies Baker & Taylor in the eyes of those who know the truth about PublishAmerica.