There’s been a number of articles on various sites about publishers who hook unwary authors into contracts that give nothing in return. Many indie authors have fallen into this trap—I include myself, unfortunately, in that number.
When I was working on my first book length manuscript, a book on leadership that I was encouraged to write by a young man who worked for me as my speech writer when I was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia (2002-2005). After slaving over the manuscript for nearly three years, I went searching for a publisher.
I encountered an ad from PublishAmerica, a Maryland-based small imprint that, unlike the many vanity publishers advertising at the time, touted the fact that they PAID authors for their work instead of asking for payment. Knowing, or at least suspecting, that the book I’d written would have limited appeal, it didn’t sound like a bad deal, so I submitted it.
A few weeks later I received an email advising me that my book was accepted for publication. Attached to the email was a contract. Naïve in the ways of publishing, I unwisely didn’t have that contract read by a lawyer before signing it. From what I’d read, it didn’t seem to bad – the advance was paltry (a mere $1.00), and I was locked into an 8-year commitment. But, the book would be published, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
It was published, but from that point on, it was a nightmare. The cover was somewhat amateurish—even then, just learning the art of designing book covers, I could’ve done a better job. The price was a bit high, I thought, but again, I was new to all this and didn’t know any better. I was encouraged to buy copies for myself at a measly discount from the inflated cover price. The royalties were also small; something like 8% of the cover price (compare that to the 75% you can get publishing it yourself through the Kindle Direct Program, or even the rather generous percentage you get when you publish a paperback through CreateSpace). They did, at least, list it on all the major book-seller sites; Amazon, etc.
Surprisingly, there were a few early sales, and I even got it included in a couple of libraries (The U.S. State Department Library, and my college library, to name two). A few people I met at conferences, who had read it, also informed me that they’d purchased copies to use in their management training programs. Despite this, my royalty checks over the past eight-plus years have yet to exceed $50. Looking back, when I compare this to the $100 per month I get through KDP, and an average of $30 per month through CreateSpace and other sales of paperbacks, I can see that what seemed at the time to be ‘too good to be true,’ in fact was just that.
The eight years in the contract are up now, and you would assume, as implied in the contract, my book rights belong to me. Guess again.
PublishAmerica changed its name to AmericaStar, in an effort, I believe, to attract foreign indie authors, but its practices remain the same. It does nothing to promote the books it accepts, beyond importuning the author regularly to buy copies, and lately it has done something that seals its fate as far as I’m concerned.
Over the past 60 days, I’ve been getting emails from AmericaStar nee PublishAmerica, informing me that the company is getting out of the publishing business and going full time to book promotion. In doing so, it plans to sell the rights to the books it holds to another ‘Indie’ publisher, but I can get them assigned to me for a modest fee of $199—it said in the initial emails that this was to cover the cost of removing it from selling platforms, etc.
At first, I couldn’t believe they would have the gall to do something like this, so I just ignored the first four or five emails. Then, they said, if I couldn’t afford $199, for a few days I could get my rights back for a mere $149. Again, I ignored them. A week later, another email, informing me that I had only two days to BUY my rights back, and they were doing me a big favor by reducing the cost to $99. Thoroughly steamed by now, I just filed the emails away and went on to other projects.
The latest are . . . funny, pathetic, I’m not sure how to characterize them. I now have 24 hours to obtain the rights to my own work for $79. If I fail to do this, someone else (as yet unknown) will own the rights to my book, and they can’t promise what the buyer will do with these rights.
Thankfully, I’ve self-published scores of books since my first mistake, and while I’m not on any best-seller lists, and not getting rich from it, I’m enjoying fairly regular sales, and getting some pretty solid reviews. As for buying the rights back to my own work—I’m in wait-and-see mode. If the last email is correct, I will probably be hearing from the mysterious new publisher someday soon with a request that I buy my book, or something equally ridiculous.
I’ve written that book off as a lost cause, and a lesson learned. Never were the words caveat emptor more appropriate.
Eighteen-year-old Jai a squire in 14th century England, in a time of magic and mystery, is best friends with Lady Amelie, daughter of the ruler. When he starts to have visions, such as a yellow door in the woods that only he can see, Amelie takes him to the kingdom’s mage, who informs him that this is a sign of his fate—that it implies things both positive and negative. Jai is then faced with a dilemma. There are things that he knows, about Amelie for example, that he cannot reveal. His faith and courage are tested to their limits.
Jai’s Vision by noted author Pairas O’Cionnaorth is a short tale for younger readers that is filled with wise and sage advice that is subtly inserted in a tale of mysticism and valor. My only complaint about the story is that ending sort of leaves things hanging insofar as Jai’s future is concerned, but it is still a fascinating little read.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book, and found it quite entertaining. I give it four stars.
British journalist, Neil Ingleby, goes to Greece to do research for a book, and to get as far away as possible from the woman who dumped him. He meets Dutch sailor and vagabond Pieter Van Loon and French agent provocateur Charles Pol, who is also a barbouze, or ‘false beard’, and quickly finds himself caught between an army of French defectors and an angry army od Arab nationalists. The line between objective journalist and revolutionary participant becomes blurred, and Ingleby’s life is on the line.
Barbouze by Alan Williams is a riveting thriller in the style of John LeCarre that will keep you glued to your seat, as the action builds inexorably to a surprising climax.
I received a complimentary copy of this book, and give it four stars.
Addison Shaw inherits a strange pen with which he can write (ink) himself into the consciousness of anyone at any time in the past, and when he dies, he returns to his body. With his fellow inker, Jules, he’s pitted against the machinations of an ancient tyrant who is bent on controlling the world. When Julies is trapped in the body of an ancient Incan princess, Addison realizes that the only way to save the world might be to destroy it.
Die Back by Richard Hacker is a time travel story with an interesting twist, and with enough suspense to make it worth plowing through the dense text.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it three stars.
After Bree Walker’s younger sister, Alissa, goes missing, she gets a chilling note. The kidnapper will release Alissa, but Bree must trade her brother, Tyler, in exchange.
I Know You by Erik Therme is a chilling thriller that follows Bree as she realizes that the kidnapper knows her family’s darkest secrets, and that her brother is involved in something that is far too big for him to handle. The more she discovers, the worse her situation becomes, and to make matters even more complicated, she must deal with her sister’s best friend who she’s sure knows more than she’s telling, and who insists on being involved in Alissa’s rescue.
A heart-stopping story with more twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster, this one will keep you turning pages until the ‘out-of-the-blue;’ ending that you won’t see coming. Sorry, I’m not telling. You’ll have to read it for yourself.
I give the author four solid stars for a good story.
When a man seems to be admitting to a murder while talking in his sleep, his wife hires PI Ray Courage to investigate. As Ray digs deep into the man’s dark past, more things come to light than he expected.. R. Scott Mackey hits another one out of the park with Courage Betrayed. Though shorter than previous offerings, the author still manages to pack a lot of punch in the few pages. Don’t miss this one.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. It gets five stars from me.
Josh Johnson finds himself on a flying bus, and he must find his way back to his reality. But he’ll have to fight to win. GameNite, Episode #01 by Bec J. Smith and Cassy Josh is an action-packed, illustrated romp inspired by the Fortnite story from Epic Games. It is designed to entice young gamers away from the screen for a period of reading. Though written for ages 8 – 12, it’s even interesting to older readers, and you don’t have to be a fanatical gamer to appreciate it.
I received a complimentary copy of the book. I give it four stars.
Seeking respite from his hectic calling, Pencheval, a Silver Lion Adept, travels to the Emerald Refuge, but serenity soon becomes boring. Therefore, when a patrol disappears on the far side of the valley, he accepts a contract to determine their fate. In pursuit of his mission, he encounters deadly goblins bent on conquest, and he is tested to his limits.
Refuge Ending by Gene Herington is the first book in The Stonemaster series, and is an entertaining read for fans of stories with swordplay and odd characters.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. It was quite enjoyable, and I give it four stars.
I don’t usually post non-book related items, but this one is important.
In the year 2050, a class of androids have been created to make people’s lives easier, but greedy rogue programmers and Russian thugs have reprogrammed the androids to kill their wealthy owners, take their place, and siphon off their wealth. Former navy SEAL Patrick Jensen and his wife, Leah, discover this, but also learn that the crooks have unwittingly created a new race of androids with a desire for survival. The Neuromorphs now threaten humanity’s survival. With help from his former SEAL team members, Patrick must stop the seemingly unstoppable evolution of what could be Earth’s new dominant species.
The Neuromorphs by Dennis Meredith is part futuristic military action, part sci-fi, with plenty of action to satisfy thrill junkies. The science behind the Neuromorphs is not as strong as sci-fi fans would like, but the author keeps the action going fast enough that most will probably not notice.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars.
Killer Space Clown by Eli Taff, Jr., is a collection of short stories about things that bump and grind in the night. If you like your horror stories with a twist, you’ll like this wacky collection. I received a complimentary copy, and found it weirdly interesting. I give it four stars.
Mark Sanders, an IT security consultant just wants to live the quiet life in Berlin with his wife and daughter, but when a plan by the president of Poland to break the stranglehold the Russians have on the international coal market goes awry, and Russia invades the smaller country, Mark finds that he must make a choice. He can run away, or he can throw in his lot to help the brave, but outgunned Polish stay-behind forces fighting for their lives against Russian hit squads of spetsnaz. While his Polish-born wife feels for her former countrymen, all she wants is for her family to be safe. Mark knows, though, that running away will not guarantee their safety, so he joins the fight.
Another Man’s Freedom Fighter by Joseph Carter is a day-by-day, sometimes moment-by-moment account of the conflict between Russia and Poland, with the specter of NATO and the US being drawn into what could become a global struggle ever on the horizon. While the kinetic battles are well done, it is the struggle taking place in cyber space and on social media that is the most compelling element of this story.
While I found the ending a bit conclusive, I still enjoyed the ride. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars.
Seeking the love and approval of her father, Theresa, beset by alcohol addiction and a poor self-image, decides to follow in her father and brother’s footsteps and go into commercial fishing. At times feeling depressed and wanting to quit, she nonetheless perseveres, and in a torturous journey that takes her from the tuna fishing grounds of the east Pacific to the frigid waters off Alaska, facing the dangers of the elements and fighting for acceptance her male shipmates, she finds healing in an environment that is, for most, as alien as the dark side of the Moon.
Daughter of Neptune by Theresa Wisner is undoubtedly autobiographical, but it reads like a novel. The author makes the alien environment come alive, populated by an astonishing cast of characters, the most compelling being the narrator.
Humor, pathos, danger, and discovery. A well-told tale. I received a complimentary copy of this book, and found it educational as well as enjoyable. I give it four stars.
Tim Boston and Samantha Turner are working on Francis MacKenzie’s signature project, MedOps, a scheme to provide free medical treatment, essentially immortality, to people in exchange for their willing participation in polls that allow massive data mining. Though they have misgivings about MacKenzie’s true motives, the monetary rewards keep them quiet. Then, they receive a strange message from somewhere in Neptune’s orbit; a race of beings calling themselves the Ankor, warn that Earth is about to be bombarded by gamma rays, and in exchange for following their enigmatic directions, they will help save humanity.
Immortal by Nick M. Lloyd is a sci-fi novel of humanity’s first contact with an alien species that is not your usual ET invades earth story. It combines some current-day issues, such as invasion of privacy and government misuse of personal information for profit with the all-too-human reactions to the unknown, in this case, a mysterious race of beings who it turns out want 50,000 human brains to help their species survive.
This story has more twists and turns than a Coney Island rollercoaster, and it will keep your pulse racing from page one. I received a complimentary copy of this book.
I give it four stars.
Four days after ten-year-old Danny Madsen goes missing, Jesse Carlton begins his own search for him. On an icy road late at night, he sees the boy, too late to avoid him. There’s a crash, and the body goes flying into the dark. The car crashes. When Jesse regains consciousness, he has no memory of the events, but there’s a witness who, instead of going to the police, begins to psychologically terrorize Jesse.
A Broken Reality by Rob Kaufman is a compelling psychological thriller, pitting a mentally tortured man against a sociopathic kidnapper, in a story that will suck you in like an undertow. The rollercoaster of emotions, false leads, and dramatic twists, you’ll find it hard to sympathize with anyone but the poor unfortunate Danny, a pawn in a game of mind twisting horror.
If you’re a fan of stories with a macabre twist, this is highly recommended reading. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give Kaufman five stars for a thoroughly gripping thriller.
A painting, lost during WWII when it was taken by a Nazi officer, comes up for auction. The son of its original owner, along with Jack Rogan, an Aussie investigator, played a large role in bringing this event about. The Forgotten Painting is a novella by Gabriel Farago that introduces Rogan and some of the author’s other works. A great way to get to know this iconic character, but also great stand-alone reading.
Highly recommended. I received a complimentary copy of the book. I give it five stars.
In Letters from my Attic, best-selling Aussie author, Gabriel Farago shows readers his creative process through the memories of a grandfather he only knew from the memorabilia left in a trunk in the attic. In this charming little book, Farago details a journey that most writers can identify with. A quick read that will stir your creative juices if you’re a writer, and just entertain you if you’re just a reader.
I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it unreservedly five stars.
After a messy divorce, DC writer Della Kincaid moved to Laurel Falls, NC and bought a failing general store. With the help of the former owner’s developmentally challenged son, Vester ‘Abit’ Bradshaw, she gets it up and running, and is beginning to slowly become an almost accepted part of the community. Then, while out walking one day, she finds the body of a young woman and her world starts to come apart at the seams. The sheriff calls it suicide, but she’s not so sure. When she and Abit start to snoop, things get even dicier.
A Life for a Life is the first of Lynda McDaniel’s Appalachian Mountain mysteries, and it’s a keeper. Told alternately from Della and Abit’s points of view, it walks and then runs through North Carolina’s mountains and small towns at a not-so-leisurely pace that will leave you breathless. The author has an eye and ear for her subject—locale and people—that will plunge you into the scene in a big way.
A series to watch for. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four stars.
Kelley Kay Bowles’ Down in the Belly of the Whale is the story of Harper Southwood, a young woman dealing with angst and abuse, love and loss, as she navigates the tricky waters of her teen years. Uncomfortable with herself, and her ‘gift’ of being able to sense when others are ill, Harper nonetheless retains a deep empathy and desire not just to ‘fix’ her own life, but to help others.
This is not your usual ‘coming of age’ novel, but a profound, at sometimes funny, look at some of the most serious issues of our time. The author tackles teen mental illness and child abuse head-on, but without preaching or burdening the reader with excessive detail. What you get instead, is the magnitude of these problems through the eyes of a teenager who must cope with them.
This is a book that will forever change your life. I received a complimentary copy.
I give this book four stars.
Cassie Clearwater, a Seminole, has forsaken the traditions of her tribe for science and has won the position of science officer aboard the interstellar exploration ship, Far Traveler. When they arrive at a dark, forbidding planet many light years from earth, which they name Obsidian because of its blackness, Cassie learns the wisdom of things her grandfather told her just before his death, things like ‘travelers to strange lands must keep an open mind,’ and ‘trust your heart when your brain is confused,’ when they encounter strange plants and animals which she suspects are intelligent.
The Scent of Distant Worlds by W. D. County is a deep science fiction novel that explores the complexities of encounters between entities whose systems of communications are incompatible, and how intuition and the intangible elements of trust and love can succeed where hard, objective fact fails.
A thoroughly riveting and interesting book, particularly when the author switches to the alien (non-human) point of view. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four stars.
Half-goddess Alexandra Shaw is only days away from attaining her full goddess status, but things are not looking good. Demonic and vampire incidents are on the rise, and her nemesis is still after her—only, now, it’s her magic he wants. Can she and her sidekick, the fae Kagan Griffith prevail?
Read Infernal Curse by Antara Mann and find out. Book two of the Half-Goddess Chronicles picks up where book one left off, and keeps the magic flowing. Exciting from beginning to end. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four and a half stars.