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Unhappy authors file class action suit against PublishAmerica

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A trio of authors dissatisfied with the services of the company PublishAmerica have filed suit in Maryland against the company; they have asked the court to certify them and other authors as a class.

PublishAmerica is a major source for authors seeking to get published; on its website, it claims it has published books by 50,000 authors, and it maintains that it is a traditional publishing house, that it does not charge its authors fees. Yet it is untraditional in that it is print-on-demand -- which sounds a lot like a vanity press, or self-publishing. There's not anything wrong with that -- in fact, self-publishing is booming -- but a model that combines self-publishing features and traditional publishing can lead to some unmet expectations.

The Frederick [Maryland] News Post reports:

The plaintiffs claim the company misrepresents its services in its contracts with authors, which gives PublishAmerica the rights to their work for between seven and 10 years. Fees that authors paid ranged from less than $30 to several hundred dollars.

They allege that the publisher, among other things, charges for services that traditional publishers perform at no cost to promote and sell books, misrepresents the company's ability to get writers' work on bookstore shelves or into the hands of larger publishers or celebrities, and publishes books with little or no editing and then charges the authors to have corrections made.

One notable, unfulfillable promise involved J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter and one of the wealthiest writers in the world. PublishAmerica promoted a delegation's visit to Rowling's hometown and asked for $49 for the following:

“We will bring your book to the attention of Harry Potter’s author next week while our delegation is in her hometown, and ask her to read it and to tell us and you what she thinks. Tell her what you think: in the Ordering Instructions box write your own note for JK Rowling, max. 50-100 words. We will include your note in our presentation for her!”

Rowling's lawyers issued a cease and desist letter to the company and told Publishers Weekly that the claim of PublishAmerica having any involvement with Rowling was "completely false."

That is not the only time that PublishAmerica's offers to its authors have been the cause of concern: 267 were filed with the local Better Business Bureau in the last three years; the BBB has given PublishAmerica an F grade.

PublishAmerica responded to the Frederick News Post in a statement:

"Plaintiffs' claims are without any basis and we are confident that they will not hold up in court," the statement reads. "Plaintiffs' claims are directly contradicted by PublishAmerica's contracts, websites, its performance under its contracts, and the fact that 47,000 authors have happily joined PublishAmerica over the past 12 years, almost 15,000 of whom have also chosen PublishAmerica as the publisher of their next book.

"The claims distort the facts, omit relevant information, and in some cases are just plain false," according to the statement. "However, PublishAmerica will not litigate these claims in the media. Accordingly, it will respond to each allegation in due course during the litigation to the extent required by court procedure.

Which means for those curious about the fate of PublishAmerica and the unhappy authors, keep an eye on the court proceedings in Maryland.

RELATED:

J.K. Rowling and PublishAmerica's unfulfillable promise

The origins of "50 Shades of Grey" go missing

Self publishing for the 1%

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Logo from the PublishAmerica website. Credit: PublishAmerica.

 
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