|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 getting your book in stores. 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 you for a synopsis and three sample chapters, and if the powers-that-be are impressed, they’ll request the complete manuscript, and this is what had us thrilled. “It looks legit!” my wife said, after looking over the company website and checking out their book covers, many of which are quite professional looking. That company is Olympia Publishers, based in the U.K.
At one point, I thought, “Hey, all the best writers are from the U.K.!” 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 examination 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 often too 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, the print quality of their books is superb, and in many cases superior to those sold in stores. But the headliner on their website reads, “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 a 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 that people profit off desperation, earn money from the remnants of 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? 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 visit 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 listed in the 4 millionths! It is an unusual situation when a POD book is outselling a “legitimately” published book.
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 writers’ disease. And, god dammit, Ages of Aenya is a good book.
It looks like this article finally made an impact on Olympia Publishers! After helping steer hundreds of people from getting scammed (or soft-scammed), Olympia sent me a number of e-mails trying to win me over, and asking me to remove this post … If you would like to read our exchange in its entirety, head on over to Exposing the Scammers 2: URLinkPublishing.com, where I also expose yet another disreputable company.
and while you’re at it …
PLEASE HELP SUPPORT INDEPENDENT AUTHORS
A great alternative to Olympia is CreateSpace. They make no promises regarding fame and fortune, but provide aspiring authors the basic tools to achieve success. They helped me design the layout of my book, using artwork I provided them. All that you pay is for printing and delivery. And if you’re an aspiring writer hoping to break into the business, I can’t tell you how important it is to support other writers. The more independent creators earn respect, the more opportunities open up for everyone. So if you have not done so already, please visit the first in the Aenya series, Ages of Aenya at www.nickalimonos.com.