Olympia Publishers and the Art of the Soft Scam

Nobody has time for yours.

This post was going to be something else entirely, a celebration. My wife and I received a positive response from a publisher, and the other night, we made a special toast at P.F. Chang’s, “To passing the second gate!” See, there are three main obstacles to publication. First, your query letter has to catch the eye of an agent or publisher. This is the first gate. If they are interested, they will ask for your synopsis and three sample chapters, and if the powers-that-be are impressed, they’ll request the entire manuscript, and this is what had my wife thrilled, even though I had my doubts. Now my wife isn’t gullible. “It looks legit!” she said, after looking over their website and checking out their covers, many of which are quite professional looking. The company is Olympia Publishers, based in the U.K.

At one point, I thought, “Hey, all the best writers are from there!” Which, for me at least, is true. I went through my shelf, picking out my favorites, originally published in the U.K., like Harry Potter and Cloud Atlas and Never Let Me Go. Yessir, I thought, the British know good literature when they see it! 

A cursory look into their company revealed a small press, which rang a few alarm bells. But I rationalized, “Hey, they’re taking a chance on an unknown, so why not give them a chance? Maybe I can help put them on the map.” After all, smaller companies are more willing to take risks, whereas the mega-publishers, like Tor and Bantam, are homogenized, afraid to try new and different things. Ages of Aenya isn’t your typical rogue/elf/dragon story, and I needed a company with the balls to sell it. Then, when I sat down with my wife to print a hardcopy to send to them, I decided to do a little more research.      

The thing about scams these days is that they don’t look like what you see on TV. Nobody is going to sell you a box of rocks and run off laughing with your money. Just like consumers, scammers have wizened up. They know how easy it is to Google them before you give out your credit card, and so now we have the soft scam, and the best (or worst) part is, it’s not illegal, because what you hope to be getting is never explicitly stated, only implied. I experienced this in 2000, after exhaustively researching self-publishing, and a company called Xlibris. Now, it’s not as if Xlibris gave me nothing in return for my money. In fact, their print quality is superb, and in some cases superior to many books sold in stores. But the headliner on their website read, “Write your success story!” They imply fame and fortune, but what they don’t tell you is that none of their authors have ever managed it. Could it happen? I don’t doubt it, but the chances are so unlikely, it might as well be a scam. 

Olympia Publishers isn’t doing anything illegal, but I put them into a category below Xlibris. At least self-publishing houses have the good graces to admit what they are offering. Small presses like Olympia pretend to allow for success, to do what publishers are supposed to do: promote your writing and profit from readers, but they work in reverse. They ask you to send in a query and synopsis, and after a few tense weeks, ask for the manuscript. If it passes the scrutiny of their editors, you become a published author! If not, there is a second option, a pay to play option. After a little Googling, I found dozens of heartbroken writers tricked by this scheme, who were told they would be published, only to be asked to cover costs of up to 3500 pounds (nearly $5000)! 

With the advent of free Internet media, free e-books, and the sheer glut of crap novels making the rounds these days, it must be difficult for any publisher to survive. I wouldn’t doubt whether many small presses started out in earnest, only to realize they couldn’t cut it the traditional way. Inundated with desperate would-be authors and totally indifferent readers, it was only a matter of time before someone got smart and reversed the flow, profiting off of writers instead. After all, making money is all about supply meeting demand, and the demand writers have for recognition is palpable!  

Still, it sickens me to know people will profit off desperation, from crushed hopes and dreams. My wife was so visibly shaken by the experience, I ended up feeling worse for her than for myself. 

But, what if we hadn’t found any bad press about Olympia Publishers? What if we had been the first to be duped? Well, there’s an easy trick to finding out who’s legit, and who isn’t. Just go to Amazon, under the Book department, and search by Publisher. Olympia has many books listed, so at least they’re not a total scam, but not one of their titles ranks above one millionth in sales! If you want to be ranked a millionth, by all means proceed, but that isn’t any publisher I want representing my fifteen years of passion! Heck, one book was ranked in the 5 millionths, worse than my own The Dark Age of Enya, which is in the 4 millionths! It is an unusual situation when a POD book is outselling a “legitimately” published book.    

Being a writer these days is to court insanity and despair. My honest advice to you is: choose another profession, because there is more heartache and disappointment in this field than in any other. Not only do you spend thousands upon thousands of hours working at something without getting paid for it, but the people in your life don’t even consider it a job. Add to that the total lack of moral support from friends and family, and mix in, as a special bonus, all of the scammers trying to take advantage of you, and well . . . that’s the industry. The only reason I haven’t quit, can’t quit, is because it’s a part of me, my writer’s disease. And, god dammit, Ages of Aenya is good book. 

 

2017 UPDATE! A great alternative to Olympia and other scam-publishers is CreateSpace. They make no promises regarding fame and fortune, but provide aspiring authors the basic tools to achieve success. With CreateSpace, everything is up to you. They helped me design the layout of my book, using artwork I provided them. Best of all, you decide how much or little to charge. All you pay is for setup, printing and delivery. Today, I am reaching more readers than ever through my author site, http://www.nickalimonos.com.

AoAFrontCover

NOW AVAILABLE!

 

10 thoughts on “Olympia Publishers and the Art of the Soft Scam

  1. While I feel bad that your KS failed, it wasn't difficult to foresee the failure.

    I'm sorry man, your pitch was… awful. Especially the removing-the-shirt bit. It was damn near painful to watch. You're unattractive, you looked awkward, and you just droned and droned and droned on. You could have been pitching the last Game of Thrones book, and the KS would still fail. The failure has nothing to do with the book and everything with the video, sadly.

    I'm sorry to say this to you, but it's the truth. I'm an ugly bastard myself and I know I don't have the face for public speaking or sales pitches. The good news is that there are video artists online that would cut a video with a script for you for a fairly decent price… maybe give that a try next time if you try again? A semi-professional video with perhaps a montage of Aenya illustrations just might do the job.

    Like

  2. Wow, well you're kind of a passive aggressive asshole, huh? I think I'd greatly prefer a direct insult than this pretending to be a nice-guy routine. But what annoys me more is that you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, so let me make it clear, so you can understand:

    1) YOU DON'T READ BOOKS BASED ON HOW GOOD LOOKING THE AUTHOR IS! I am not auditioning to be an actor or a singer, and when people read books, they typically aren't staring at the author's face the whole time. Both George R.R. Martin and Stephen King are pretty ugly looking dudes, but I'd never consider NOT reading them because of it. You'd have to be pretty god-damn shallow to think that way, and I don't write for shallow people.

    2) THIS ISN'T A GAY PORN SITE. Hey, if you want to ogle guys with their shirts off, there are a lot of gay websites you can visit. Sorry, I didn't remove my shirt to tickle your fancy, but to show solidarity with the nudist movement. I typically don't even wear clothes at home, so just be glad I didn't canter waist down in front of the camera.

    3) NUDISM IS NOT ABOUT JUDGING PEOPLE. That kind of prejudice is a recurring theme in my book! I was born with a cleft-palette, which disfigured my nose and teeth and lips. Growing up, I was constantly teased and bullied because of it. When I turned 17, I underwent surgery to have much of it corrected. Blood poured from my nose like a faucet for two weeks, my eyes swelled shut, and I had to take a lot of pain meds. It took a whole year for the swelling to go down. My self-esteem issues will hound me for a lifetime. The last thing I wanted to do was get my ugly mug on camera, but you know what, I didn't do it for shallow fucks like yourself.

    4) BUT THE VIDEO WORKED! After posting that video on YouTube, I got the biggest boost in supporters, most especially from Lady God1va. If you don't know her, she is a bit of a celebrity among nudist circles, organizing the World Naked Bike Ride in London every year. She pledged $100 to the book and advertised it to her 15,000 Twitter followers.

    5) THE FIRST THING I DID WAS MAKE A BOOK TRAILER!: I need to come up with a special 'word' for someone who visits a blog, looks at a single post, and without any knowledge on the subject, proceeds to offer his ill-informed opinion. Because if you had bothered to look at the Kickstarter page, or my 'Ages of Aenya' page, or really just about anything, you would have seen the BOOK TRAILER VIDEO I produced years ago, with dozens of illustrations made over the course of ten years. But guess what? THAT video didn't help nearly as much as my 'ugly mug' video, and do you know why . . .

    6) IT WASN'T A PROMOTIONAL VIDEO! I made that video to INFORM my backers that I was upping the rewards. Yes, I tend to drone on and on (I am a writer) but if you would have bothered to watch the damn thing, you would have seen what I was offering. I needed TO SHOW THESE REWARDS on camera, to help give people an idea of dimensions and quality. And you know what? It helped. A lot!

    7) I DON'T NEED FANS LIKE YOU: Do me a favor and don't ever visit this blog again (I won't even respond to this thread, so don't bother). If you see my book for sale someplace, please, don't buy it. My fans are usually insightful, intelligent and considerate of others. If I had fans like you, it would seriously tarnish my reputation!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for posting this. I have made the decision to give this particular publishing house a big miss.

    As for the hater….wow. There’s a clear case of a “should of been swallowed” LOL.

    All the best – and don’t give up. As a Writer losing my mind, I won’t be. I’d rather continue to fight for my dreams than walk away. Much love from Australia xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Emily. I really appreciate it. As for the hater, I probably overreacted a bit there. I know it would have been better to ignore him, but I had just come off the double whammy of my failing Kickstarter and getting scammed by this publishing house, and I really just let my frustrations loose on this guy.

      Hope my final paragraph wasn’t too disheartening. The last thing I want to do is discourage another writer. But if you have the writer’s disease, like I do, nothing anyone says will dissuade you. You’ll realize you have no choice but to write, because it’s within you—a universe swelling in your head—and that you need to write it down to keep your sanity.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hello. First of all, this isn’t a spam comment. We are a new publishing house who are accepting submissions. We have four imprints of which Stone Cold Fox Press is actively looking for fantasy novels. I can’t promise we will publish your book but I can promise we don’t take any money from the author and will treat you and your MS with respect and consideration. Have a look at our website and if you like what you see then you could send 3 chapters and a synopsis through our Submittable portal. Tabby Stirling

    PS I only saw this thread because a friend of mine was approached by Olympia and was deeply hurt when he realised it was a ‘soft’ scam. Very useful post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m between a rock and a hard place. I published my book Outback Blues pilot book 1 with Xlibris and they just want money after money, and although my books are in online stores world wide Xlibris have made no sale but forever want my money. As to Olympus they have just looked over my second book Lost in the Outback and have offered a contribution based offer for the book and I’m in the process of looking over there contract. So is it a scam, am I again looking at throwing good money after bad? In the letter I received its states this is a one time finite figure (unsure if they mean I pay or their contributing)goes on to say any further cost of marking over the lifetime of the book will be covered by Olympia. Again I’m not sure should I at least look there offer over.

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    1. Quite honestly, I would choose Xlibris over Olympia. At least Xlibris is being forthright with what they are offering. It isn’t up to them to sell your book, that is YOUR job. If you sell zero copies, that is a failure on your part. Either way, both companies have proven to be “scammy” when it comes to the implied success of their authors. I suggest doing what I did, look up some of their titles and see their sales rank numbers on Amazon. In most cases, authors are ranked in the millionths, which is really bad. Currently, I am using CreateSpace, because with them I can at least choose my own prices. But they are not offering any way to promote the book. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you need to get into the shameful promotion/selling business.

      Like

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