Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Buyer Beware

Publishers Marketplace recently pointed its readers toward an article in the Indy Star about yet another literary scam, this time based in Indiana. The Indiana Attorney General's office says at least seven written complaints have been received in recent days from authors who say they paid money to New Century Publishing, owned by David William Caswell--but didn't receive printed copies of their books.

The authors, who include several prominent Hoosier politicians and first-time writers from around the country, generally claim they lost between $1,500 and $10,000 in dealings with New Century and Caswell. Unfortunately for them, this is not Caswell's first run-in with the Indiana Attorney General. The State sued him twice, in 1990 and 2005, over consumer complaints related to his employment service companies. In both cases the courts ordered him to pay a total of $99,000 in restitution and fines. As of the date of the article, he's only paid $600.

The sad thing is that the red flags were out there. A Google search on New Century Publishing turned up a link to Yahoo Answers where a writer had asked for help. The response:

Red flag, a huge one, popped up when I read their website. They have a clear conflict of interest. While they insist they are not a self publisher or vanity press, because they offer all services of a traditional, mass market publisher, their authors are required to pay for their editorial and design services.

If that's not enough to convince you to avoid them (and it should be), I checked two of their featured titles and neither is sold at Amazon or Barnes & Noble's websites.
One of the first things I learned about publishing is that the money should flow TO the writer, not FROM the writer. (Yes, yes, there are some things a writer must pay for--website services, marketing, giveaway items such as pens, bookmarks, etc. Sometimes a writer may elect to pay someone to edit their manuscript--though I'm not sure that's the right step to take. A good critique group would serve you better and cost you nothing.) But to pay to actually get the book published...not a good idea. If an author is required to pay the publisher for any part of the publishing process--editing, design, marketing, distribution--then the publisher is NOT a traditional, mass market publisher. They are a vanity press, plain and simple.

For more on this, Victoria Strauss blogged about this last Monday on behalf of Writer Beware here.

Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.


Colleen Love said...

You know, this is just so sad, Sherrill! It seems we have to be suspicious of everything anymore! But I guess researching every aspect of your writing career is what has to be done.
A FB friend just announced that she had been picked up by an agent and named the agent. The first thing I did was Google the agent's name to see if she was legit. It's kind of sad that that has to be the first reaction one has, isn't it?

Well, I hope things can be resolved with this.

Hope you have a great week, Sherrill.

Sherrill Quinn said...

Yeah, it's sad that we can't just rely on people to be honest and ethical. But even just one disreputable publisher or agent taints the rest, so we have to do our due diligence in order to protect our careers.

Have a great weekend, hon!