For the most up-to-date version of this list, visit the Writer Beware website. We’ve left this post in place, despite its age, because of the very long comments thread.
Well, here it is, the Valentine’s “gift” we’ve been promising our faithful readers for what seems like a long time now: the companion piece to our “thumbs down” list of agents–Writer Beware’s “Two Thumbs Down” publishers list!
Keep in mind that this list is far from all-inclusive. And remember, when in doubt, you can write to Writer Beware and ASK us if a publisher or agent is okay BEFORE you sign on that dotted line. The service is free. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
So…read and enjoy, while you nibble your Godiva truffles. Oh–and if you want to disseminate the list, please link to this post rather than copying and pasting.
Writer Beware’s “Two Thumbs Down” Publishers List
Below, in alphabetical order, is a list of the currently active publishers about which Writer Beware has received the largest number of complaints over the years, or which, based on documentation we’ve collected, we consider to pose the most significant hazards for writers. All have two or more of the following abusive practices:
1. Fee-charging–whether for the actual printing/production of the book, or for some other item related to the publishing process, such as editing or publicity. Some publishers require authors to buy bulk quantities of their own books. Fees range from a few hundred dollars to more than $25,000. A nominal “advance” in the face of other fee-charging practices does nothing to legitimize them.
2. Author-unfriendly contracts–including rights grabs, taking copyright, restrictive option clauses, sub-standard royalty provisions (including reverse-accounted royalties), inadequate reversion clauses, draconian “defamation clauses,” and a host of other inappropriate and abusive contract terms.
3. Deliberately misleading advertising--including directly soliciting authors, misrepresenting services to authors in an effort to masquerade as commercial publishers, hiding the fact that they are vanity operations, and making false claims about distribution and bookstore presence.
4. Conflicts of interest–some of these publishers are the vanity “arm” of (or otherwise under common control with) a fee-charging literary agency, which directs clients to the publisher under the guise of having made a “sale”–often without revealing the financial and personnel links between the two businesses.
5. Lack of editorial gatekeeping–as befits vanity operations, many of these publishers have few, if any, standards for the books they acquire. Some don’t even bother to read the books they accept for publication.
6. Poor or inadequate editing. Some of these publishers don’t even pretend to provide editing. Others do little more than run the text through a spell and grammar checking program, or employ unqualified, inexperienced staff.
7. Repeated breach of contractual obligations–such as nonpayment of royalties, refusal to provide royalty statements, incorrect accounting, publication delays, ARCs not sent for review as promised, failure to ship books or fulfill orders, failure to make author changes in proofs, and failure to respond properly to author queries and communications. Some of these publishers have been the focus of successful litigation and other legal actions by authors.
Writer Beware gives two big “thumbs down” to:
- American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Archebooks Publishing (Las Vegas, NV)
- Helm Publishing (Rockford, IL)
- Hilliard and Harris (Boonsboro, MD)
- Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)
- Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press)
- PublishAmerica (Frederick, MD)
- Royal Fireworks Press/Silk Label Books (Unionville, NY)
- SterlingHouse Publisher (Pittsburgh, PA–imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books)
- SBPRA/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Boca Raton, FL–formerly known as The Literary Agency Group and AEG Publishing Group)
- Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK)
- Whitmore Publishing Company (Pittsburgh, PA)
[Edited 12/31/11 to reflect closures and name changes]