Publish Anything: The Saga of a PublishAmerica Author By Lisa Maliga
My story is that an author who’d done online writing for such dot gones as Themestream, Written By Me, and The Vines, someone trying hard to have fiction, poetry and nonfiction in print for real, recommended PublishAmerica. She claimed it was a traditional book publisher. I was struck with their slogan, “We treat writers old fashioned way – we pay them.” Wasn’t that what publishers were supposed to do?
But since my novel was just sitting on DiskUs Publishing site and doing nothing but supplying me with enough money to buy a pair of skate laces every three months, I thought maybe it would have a better chance over at PublishAmerica where it would be available as a trade size paperback both on and off-line.
So this author, Ellen Du Bois, had a big thing on her Geocities site about books being available in brick & mortar bookstores & they’d have ISBN numbers and be online and all that stuff. Also had her full size book cover up so I sat there for 5 minutes waiting for damn thing to appear. Not impressive, but she liked it. Ellen was a cheerleader for her book and sent reviews from a weekly community rag and she bulk e-mailed several pieces of correspondence during those heady days when her book was in prerelease, then release stage in summer of ’03. I broke down and bought a copy from Amazon – took almost 3 weeks to get. And I struggled to read all 176 pages. Tripe. Clichés abounded. Spelling/grammatical errors weren’t there at least. But writing was thin. The story moved too quickly. The main character was most realistic as it was most likely based on author. The dialogue was okay. The descriptions were minimal. Had there been a real editor, book could’ve been very good. I wrote to Ellen and told her positive things about story, avoiding negativities. She’d been an online correspondent for almost two years, yet after I didn’t review her book on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble she didn’t contact me. Almost a year later she sent me another e-mail – to promote a book of her poetry. I was just someone to sell a book to and she was only interested in sale and hopefully a glowing write up.
A Future PublishAmerica Author Since I’d already signed contract with PublishAmerica, I wanted to cancel it after reading that trash. Now my book would be affiliated with a company that put out just about any piece of writing that came its way. I wasn’t expecting much what with my dealings with extinct eNovel and RJ’s eBooks, along with a tiny eBook publisher named Crafts Across America where I wasn’t paid monthly as promised. And my novel and short story collection languished at DiskUs, home of alleged Number One Best selling eBook author of all time, Leta Nolan Childers.
PublishAmerica sent me an author’s questionnaire where they asked for basic biographical information; cover art suggestions, and a long list of people who might want to read my forthcoming novel.
“Please prepare a list (names, and addresses,) of people who know you well enough to be interested in your success as a writer: personal friends, colleagues, relatives, etc., to receive a book announcement…Please limit your list and your labels to a maximum of 100 contacts. Also, please do not include businesses or organizations of any kind, including bookstores, media contacts, or government organizations. Include friends and associates only.”
The editing process of my manuscript took two weeks over Christmas holidays. I was able to ascertain that first few pages had been read as some minor alterations had been made, but no changes followed for another 50 or so pages. One of errors that occurred was clearly result of a spellchecker on part of PublishAmerica as a question mark appeared after end of a statement. I’d read of real authors receiving instructions to change chapters, alter endings, delete numerous pages, in other words, really struggle to rewrite a book. Why so much effort? Names. Reputation. The publisher wanted to put their name on best quality book that they had invested in. The author wanted a book that was saleable but also well written and something they were proud of. PublishAmerica’s editing comprised neither ideal as all they did was put computer program’s spelling/grammar checker into action.
My two free author’s copies arrived in early March and it was nice to see my trade paperback book in print sans a cheesy cover and stapled spine. ‘North of Sunset’ actually had decent looking stock cover art of a few silhouetted palm trees, a noticeable font, and a spine where book title, publisher and author’s name was apparent. It would look good on bookstore shelves, I imagined.
Reviews – What Reviews? What was Publish America doing to make sure my book was reviewed? Nothing. I decided to contact local daily and weekly newspapers by e-mailing a press release. The only responses I got were two e-mail autoresponders announcing editors were on vacation.
I spent $40 on copies of my book’s galley and mailed them to three national newspapers and Library Journal magazine. Then I phoned a book reviewer at ‘San Diego Union-Tribune’ and asked if he’d be interested in reviewing my book but before I could even describe what it was about, he asked who my publisher was. I told him. “We don’t review books by that publisher,” he stated.
I called all local bookstores and spoke to managers and/ or community relations people about my book, including a couple of stores who were physically located on street I’d written about. An independent bookstore owner told me that since PA didn’t have a return policy she was unable to stock my novel. Another said that I could sell my book on consignment. The chain stores of Borders and Barnes & Noble said my book would be available through Ingram if anyone chose to order it.
Tried getting PublishAmerica to send review copies out and it took them weeks to do so. Had to call and make sure on two occasions that books had been mailed. Maybe quoting one of their enthusiastic promoters on message board, a guy with a natural genius for marketing and budget to back it up, got three books sent to reviewers.
Then I sent my book to Piers Anthony, noted sci-fi and fantasy author of more than 100 books. I’d been in touch with him since 2000 when I alerted him to fact that eNovel was a rip-off. Although action in his books usually took place in alternate time periods/universes, he didn’t mind reading a mainstream Hollywood novel. He did so. "North of Sunset by Lisa Maliga. She's one listed in my Survey as I'm a Published Novelist Ha Ha! Ha!, a pertinent warning for starry-eyed aspiring writers. Her web site www.lisamaliga.com is worth checking similarly; she tells it as it is. If you took a few decades off my age and changed my gender, result might resemble Lisa. North of Sunset is fun, about a Hollywood producer and his temporary secretary, showing a good deal of what I presume is reality. It is written with omniscient viewpoint, which I dislike, but it held my interest regardless. "