Buying Your Own Book: A Question You Don’t Want Your Publisher to Ask

This post has been updated (see below)

Here are eight words you never want to hear from a publisher that is considering your manuscript for publication:

“How many books are you planning to order?”

Many writers are aware that it’s a major red flag when a publisher’s contract includes a clause requiring authors to buy their own books, or to commit to some kind of sales guarantee. Since an outlay of cash is a condition of publication, this is vanity publishing–what we at Writer Beware call “back-end” vanity publishing, since you’re buying into the end of the publication process (finished books) rather than the beginning (paying for the book to be produced).

One example: Black Rose Writing, which recently moved from just asking about authors’ purchase plans, to actually including a purchase requirement in its contract.

Stealthier back-end vanity publishers rely on pressure and encouragement, rather than contract clauses, to get authors to purchase their own books. They may produce “author manuals” that extol self-purchases with promises of huge profits, or employ “publicists” whose sole job is convincing authors that buying their books for re-sale is essential to success, or offer frequent special deals and discounts (buy 50 books, get 10 free!) to make self-purchases as attractive as a sale on canned soup at the grocery store. Since inexperienced authors may not know a lot about how publishing is supposed to work, they can be easily ensnared by this kind of deception.

Still other publishers that focus on author self-purchases are well-intentioned amateur efforts run by people who have no professional publishing experience, little or no financing, and, often, no concrete business plan. Because of their lack of capitalization and marketing expertise, it’s very tempting for such publishers to settle into a business model where they rely on their authors as their principal customer base and sales force. This creates a closed loop, in which published books are marketed mainly to the books’ creators–all but eliminating the publisher’s risk, and even, possibly, guaranteeing a small profit. It’s this kind of publisher that’s most likely to ask you the question with which I began this post, rather than surprising you with contractual purchase requirements or bombarding you with special offers post-publication–since its intentions are basically benign, and it’s not consciously trying to deceive or screw you.

Intentions aside, the author is the loser in all three of these scenarios. A publisher that relies on its authors as a main or major source of income is considerably reducing–if not entirely removing–its incentive to market and distribute the books it publishes. Why should it bother trying to sell books to the public, when it can turn its authors into customers? Why should it expend money and effort on getting books into the hands of readers, when it can persuade writers to function as an unpaid sales force, buying their own books and then re-selling them?

In each case, the publisher is failing to do what publishers are supposed to do: get books out into the world. While it’s certainly true that authors nowadays are expected to self-promote, the self-promotion an author can do and the marketing a publisher should do are two different things–and without your publisher’s active marketing and distribution support (I’m not talking here about writing press releases or getting books listed on Amazon), you have very little platform on which to build your self-promotion efforts. You’re likely to wind up in much the same position as if you’d self-published–except that you’ll probably have a more restrictive contract, a less professional product, and, in the case of the more unscrupulous back-end vanities, a considerably smaller bank account.

So if a publisher asks you about your plans for buying your own book, be on your guard. Even if the publisher isn’t obviously a vanity, even if it assures you that it’s only collecting preliminary data and declares that your answer will have no bearing on its decision, the mere fact that it’s thinking about author self-purchases at this early stage of the game is reason enough to move on.

UPDATE 7/21/13: Black Rose Writing now says that it no longer requires its authors to buy books, and has sent me a sample contract that does not include a book purchase clause. I’ve received emails from authors confirming this, and there’s also confirmation in the comments on this post. Nevertheless, the general caution applies: if a publisher asks you whether you plan to buy your own books, be on your guard.

UPDATE 9/12/19: Although Black Rose has removed the book purchase requirement from its contract, it has found other ways of extracting money from its writers. Newly contracted authors receive a copy of Black Rose’s Cooperative Marketing Catalog, which lays out a smorgasbord of pay-to-play marketing and promotional services. Here’s a sample:

You can view the whole catalog here. Worth noting: there’s no mention at all of fee-based services on the Black Rose website, which claims that authors are “paid traditional royalties without ever paying any fees to be published.”

To be fair, the a la carte listings (which include things like Kirkus Indie reviews and placement on NetGalley) don’t appear to upcharge and even offer a small discount. The packages, however, do look like moneymakers for Black Rose. In any case, most of what’s on offer are things that other publishers–even very small ones–do for their authors free of charge, as part of the publication process.

This really is the very definition of back-end vanity publishing. It may be optional, in that it’s not contractually required–but how likely is it that writers who choose not to pay will get much (if anything) in the way of marketing support? Recruiting writers with free publishing and then pushing them to buy services is exactly the strategy used by the late, unlamented PublishAmerica (a.k.a. America Star Books), which “didn’t charge to publish” but bombarded authors with (entirely worthless) pay-to-play promotional offers. When you consider that Black Rose’s founder published his own book with PublishAmerica back in the day, and that the Black Rose contract is heavily based on the old PublishAmerica contract (believe me, not a good thing), the similarity doesn’t seem so coincidental.


  1. This is why I shelve my work for years at a time… I rewrite a manuscript, get online to search for publisher/agents and the first thing that pops up is BRW. I send query, they reply immediately to send whole manuscript, I get pumped up then scratch my hairy chin and say I do research and read all of this. Well, I am thankful to BRW because I sat down and edited AGAIN… but not going to send them squat.. a real publisher gonna enjoy my efforts

    Yeah, thank you all for the input. T

  2. This is a correction of my comment on July 10, 2019. I mistakenly referred to the authors' comments on this blog in the year 2016 as being both positive and negative. In fact, much of the thread that goes as far back as 2011 and forward contains mixed comments, positive and negative, about experiences with BRW. The majority, though, strikes me as negative. I so much appreciate Victoria's comments as a ballast.

    July 11, 2019

  3. S.R.,

    I haven't seen or heard anything to persuade me to change my assessment of Black Rose Writing, as expressed in my most recent comment above.

    It sounds like they decided to accept a number of submissions at once, and instead of writing personal emails to each author, did a bulk email to a bunch of recipients at once. On the one hand I can see the appeal of saving time (especially with a short-staffed small press). On the other, it's not awfully professional. Also–if they can't be bothered with individualized attention at the acceptance stage, what does that say about your prospects for individual attention in the future?

  4. It's Tuesday. July 9, 2019. I just received an acceptance email for my YA novel from Black Rose Writing. However, it's a generic acceptance and doesn't cite the book's title or address me by name. The email address line says "undisclosed recipients." The message said I would receive a contract within 3-6 weeks.

    The acceptance seems odd. I've read the many author comments about BRW, and as they are very mixed, I'm wary. Though the later comments are fairly positive and suggest BRW has shifted from being a covert vanity press to an independent press. I also checked their website and it seems legitimate with legitimately published books, some of which BRW claims to be award winners. I plan to check these out, but on appearance, the website is encouraging.

    Have there been any recent developments with BRW that can support or warn against their legitimacy as a trustworthy, independent publisher?

    Thank you!

  5. My first Novel will be coming out May 2019- My publisher is BRW- I do not have to purchase any books. I am thankful for this opportunity- as it was said in an earlier comment- 'It gets your foot in the proverbial door'- what you personally do to assist in your own success depends on YOU-I was not willing to self-publish for 2 reasons- Cost being the monetary reason- 2nd reason, I am not that vain- yes I want to see my name in print- but I wanted someone to like my work and give me a chance- BRW has done that.

  6. I turned down a contract with Black Rose, and I now deeply regret my decision.

    My interactions with Reagan were fine: he negotiated the terms in the contract with which I was uncomfortable, and while I was a bit nonplussed that he wouldn't reveal his insurance conditions, I was mostly satisfied with his response.

    Based on advice here and elsewhere, I nonetheless decided that I wasn't comfortable with the publisher's reputation. While this is sound logic, I have since lost count at 168 of form rejections from agents for submissions of three of my novels, as well as having innumerable short stories turned away. Black Rose was my chance… my only chance, it seems… for a foot in the door. Even if it had resulted in a published novel that sold zero copies, I currently have no published novel at all, my unpublished novels are also selling zero copies. With Black Rose, I would, at least, have had a publication history to cite.

    My advice to first-time novelists: take any chance you are offered, as soon as you've done your due diligence. People on forums like this will advise you otherwise, but they are probably published, and have the luxury of feeling that way. If you feel you are suffering later from the publisher's reputation, practice this phrase for agents and other publishers: "I'm not happy with my current publisher."

  7. Black Rose will completely deny up front that they charge for their services. But after the contract signing, you get a steady stream of advertisements which amount to extortion. They'll post your book, but if you want it promoted and displayed, you have to pay big.

  8. Black Rose writing was extremely interested in my novel. That is, until I brought it to their attention earlier today that the Black Rose Writing contract and the PublishAmerica contract are virtually identical. All I asked Mr. Rothe was what his ties were to PublishAmerica and for proof that my entire manuscript was read (I had reason to doubt this because of the fast turn around time for a 79,000 word novel and also the fact that his 'acquisition editor's notes' gave me the impression that only the first few pages were actually read). When I have asked him for other acquisition notes before, he said they were for internal use only and overall he had a very secretive approach when it came to my story's content when on the other hand most publishers love to talk about things like inspiration for a story and the themes woven into it. I wake up today to find that Mr. Rothe has filled my spot on the 2017 calendar and that my contract has been withdrawn, just for bringing some legitimate contract issues to his attention. This guy is really shady and is trying to hide something (like the fact that he hasn't read my entire manuscript before making an offer and that the contract is PublishAmerica's contract verbatim). Glad I have other publishing options.

  9. Lawrence Clarke
    Hi, Victoria,
    I agree with your post but, hey, what ya goin' to do? As I said, it's a start, and I'm not looking to become a Robert Ludlum or a Stephen King. If the publisher (BRW) does request, or push, me to send money for editing, buying books, marketing and so on, I'm out of there, quick smart and will return to the United Kingdom's Feed-A-Read, where I have multiple novels listed.
    Thanks for this site, and I'll keep you posted as to what happens over the next six months.

  10. Hi, Lawrence,

    Thanks for your comments and for the offer. I've seen two recent Black Rose contracts, and–as I've acknowledged repeatedly–there is indeed no pre-purchase clause. That's not to say the contract is without problems: bizarre royalty terminology that makes it impossible to know what royalties will actually be paid, to name just one.

    I'll also note that even though there's no buying requirement, Black Rose's author purchase discounts–which start at a measly 25% and reward bigger purchases–are designed to incentivize larger book buys, something that benefits the publisher, not the author. Author discounts should be in the 40-60% range, and should apply regardless of the number of books bought.

  11. Black Rose is no longer a vanity press.
    As regards the contract, nowhere does it mention forking out to buy books. It will send you a free copy and the ball is in the author's court as to whether he or she wishes to order extra copies at large discounts.
    Commission, as was claimed, is not 10%. It commences at the standard 20 % and rises as far as 30%, depending on sales.
    The company may be small, not vanity (maybe vain)but for the many good unpublished authors out there, it is a beginning of sorts.
    My contract is dated 25th May, 2016, and I am not affiliated with Black Rose except as one of their authors.

    Lawrence Clarke.

  12. Lawrence Clarke – writer.
    Concerning Black Rose Writers.
    The only clause I found concerning having to purchase my own work is Clause 10.
    'The Publisher agrees to deliver to the Author one (1) copy of the said literary work, on publication, without charge. Should the Author wish to purchase additional copies of the said literary work directly from the Publisher, the Publisher agrees to supply the Author with such copies at the following discounts:
    25% – 0 to 24
    30% – 25 to 49
    etc, rising to 55% discount on 250+ books.'
    Nowhere else in the contract does it mention the author having to outlay any money.
    As regards royalties, Anonymous needs to check his or her facts. BR royalties commence at 20% (first 5000 copies) and rise to 30% (15,000 copies and above).
    I have read the contract carefully and like the contracts in my building company, I find no fault with it. (and definitely, no request for the Author to buy books)

  13. Please do not sign with Black Rose. This vanity publishing company does not follow the legal contract they send to authors. You will receive no editing services, marketing, or copyrighting, even though those things are clearly stated in the contract. In addition to not following their contract, they hide sales that you as the author can clearly track on Amazon and find the differences between their sales records and yours. Also, they only provide a 10% royalty. Most small publishers offer at least 20%.
    Please, do not fall under their trap. You will find yourself out precious money and your reputation as an author tarnished.

  14. Anonymous 4/29–

    When did your friend sign with Black Rose? Would he be willing to contact me? beware [at]

  15. I have a friend who signed with Black Rose Writing against my counsel, and he had to buy books. He went for the 150 quantity so he could get them for a 50% discount, so they have lied to you Victoria. And I saw his contract.

  16. Just saw this blog…Black Rose Writing (BRW) has published four books for me. The contracts have always conformed to industry standards relative to publication specifics, payment of royalties, promotions, etc. Never, not once, have I been asked how many copies of your book are you going to buy. In fact, included in the contract is how many complimentary copies BRW is going to give me as the author. This is usually six but I have on one occasion negotiated for 10.

    Black Rose Writing is not a vanity press. They do have two imprints available for those who wish to self publish but BRW itself is a traditional independent publisher.

    Those interested can check me on my Amazon Author's page or bring up my last book Guardians In Blue on any major retail site and go from there.

    Ken Bangs

  17. I have written four children's books and a novel with a local publisher. I am new at this and trusted them. I have paid the publisher over $600. each book for Ingrams, ISBN fee, copyright fee, website setup etc, library of congress control number, book layout design cover, printer setup, project mang & gen Admin. It sounds like I am one of those who paid for my own books, like around $700. or more for 100ea books. The publisher started out helping me sell my books at a couple local books store and at events around town. But now they are no longer helpful. And my questions is they input my books on Amazon; however, I have no way of knowing how many, if any sold nor do I ever get any monies from them. Also one local bookstore request number of books from somewhere, where is my monies? I paid $60.00 each for copyright and only received one certificate. I have asked this publisher for the other copyright certificates? I feel I have been taken. I enjoy writing children's books and love reading to them. Any help would be appreciated. It would helpful if you can let me know if there are any comments as I am 75 years of age and forgetful. Thank you, Mary

  18. I am reviewing a book recently published by Black Rose. The book is good, but it hasn't been edited well. This alone would stop me in my tracks if I were ready to shop my work. The errors (more than a few) detract from the book.

  19. Kathy–

    As noted in my blog post and the comments, Black Rose no longer requires authors to buy their own books. However, its contract has some problems–see my comment above.

    I'd suggest that, if you're seriously considering proceeding with Black Rose, you order at least one of its books in your genre to make sure you're satisfied with the quality of the production and editing. I'd also suggest that you check Amazon sales rankings for the other children's books it has published, to get an idea of sales. (Any ranking higher than 100,000 suggests minimal sales.)

  20. Black Rose has expressed interest in my children's book. I started some research and found this thread of comments. While they concern me, the more recent posts seem more favorable. Does anyone have recent experience or information about Black Rose? This is my first book, so I'm very cautious.

  21. Anonymous,

    If a "vendetta" consists of exposing an exploitive practice by a publisher–of which I have abundant documentation–and then acknowledging it when the publisher changes that practice…I guess I have to plead guilty.

  22. Hello, just published with Black Rose. While BR did start as a vanity press, it is no longer a vanity press. They are attentive to questions and provide excellent feedback as well as a publicity and marketing plan. They are the real deal, and I am looking forward to publishing my second novel with them. Ms. Strauss, some of your negative comments regarding BRP were correct years ago. No longer. This publisher has transformed itself into one any writer should be proud to publish with.

  23. Yes, the Black Rose contract says they will give the author one free copy of the book. Yes, this can be negotiated. Yes, the ebook rate is on the low side. Yes, this can be negotiated.

    Trust me. Been there, done that.

    The vendetta Ms. Strauss has against Mr. Rothe because, horror of horrors, he made the rookie mistake of publishing a book through PublishAmerica has to come to an end at some point. He learned from it. He learned his original contract was garbage. He's moved on to better contracts (with, admittedly, some room for improvement) and produces high quality books.

    For the record, I know authors who have been rejected by Black Rose and I know authors who have been accepted. A vanity publisher wouldn't reject anyone. There's no profit in that. Someone mentioned expectations for the author to participate in the marketing process. Well, welcome to the real world. That's a sign of the times, not a sign of a scam.

    Honestly, the things people expect. Black Rose has a production team, a promotion team, and a high quality product. As small presses go, they aren't bad at all. Some improvements could be made, but that could be said of any publisher.

  24. A few weeks ago I received a contract from BRP. Though there is no clause requiring me to purchase copies of my book, it does offer one free copy. After checking with an editor friend, I was told that a legit publishing house would not require me to purchase ANY copies of my own book. In fact, he said that they would normally comp between 10 and 20 copies. Anyway, I am still hesitant to sign the contract. I don't want to get caught up in a bad situation, but in this business, how is a new author to know. I'm going to order one of the books on the website and see what it looks like.

  25. Sent letter of query to Black Rose just the same as I did to other 'traditional' publishing houses. Three responses. Chose Black Rose because of the communication process. Very open, very direct and very professional. Never any mention of purchasing books, in fact part of the contract included the number of books they, Black Rose, would comp me the author. Boiler plate contract to include the twice yearly royalties, etc. Release date on Rosco Jack of Gateway Farm is May 15th. Great experience.

  26. Hi all, my name is Ian Purvis; 17th of April 2014 Black Rose are publishing my book Just Jake and guess what I don’t have to buy any copies. I don’t know if it was because of a recession or they are always like that but I got sick of literary agent’s photocopied replies. My father-in-law himself a published author with over a hundred titles on Amazon mentioned a friend of his had had some luck with a small outfit in Texas. I liked the irony having just moved from Colorado back home to the UK. Sent them an e-mail and 30 pages, week later they asked for the MSS, ten days after that I got a contract which we showed to a friend of mine, a partner in a local law office, showed it to my brother-in-law only because he is a businessman in the USA and my father-in-law who said as a jumping off point for an unknown author in this market with over a million people worldwide submitting manuscripts… you get the drift. Since then I have worked with Dave King an editor at Black Rose, way I went on he should have been a midwife. No, I’m happy, to date they have been straight with me. Am I going to make a fortune, no but there again that’s not why I write. I know it is easy to be negative piss and moan, hard to get off your arse and be bothered but I did and I do, and so should you. So let’s go on this journey together; see if I get screwed and you can laugh… or 2 books from now I have Black Rose to thank I’m still in the business. Read the first 14 pages free at my blog………

  27. KWB–

    Thanks for confirming that Black Rose no longer includes a pre-purchase requirement in its contract.

    I have to note, though–Black Rose's contract (I saw the most recent version this past July) really is not a standard publishing contract. It's heavily based on the PublishAmerica contract (Black Rose's owner published a book with PA before starting Black Rose) which is poorly organized and worded, and includes author-unfriendly provisions. For instance, ebook royalties are just 20% of net–less than the major houses pay, and much less than most reputable small presses pay. The author discount is really stingy–a major consideration for small press authors, who often buy their own books in bulk for resale. The contract exempts the publisher from any responsibility to alter or correct a book post-publication–but what if there are formatting or other errors? There's a Revised Edition clause that could enable the publisher to avoid royalty escalations.

    I could go on, but I think that's enough to make my point.

    Minus the buyback requirement, the Black Rose contract is not the worst small press contract I've seen–but it's not a particularly good contract, either.

  28. Have a Black Rose contract on my desk…nothing in it about my having to purchase copies of the book, no questions about how many I expect to purchase. There is a clause concerning the discount to me should I choose to purchase a copy of the book. Had contract reviewed and found that it is a 'standard' contract used by 'traditional' publishers.

    Summary: I write. They design, format, publish, distribute, promote. Cost to me…nothing, period.

    What's to complain about here?


  29. My mother published her first book through Black Rose, and while it is true that she did much of her own marketing, it was a small price to pay to see her dream come true. Her book is available at the big name stores such as Barnes and Noble, so no complaint there. For some authors just starting out, this may be a good option if you have the passion to market yourself.

  30. It was a year ago when a publisher asked me to send my manuscript and only a month later offered me a contract. I was so elated at having my book published that I became a victim of my own naivety by actually expecting editorial help from the publishing house.
    In the publisher’s defense, its people did ask me to review the block print and send a list of needed corrections; however, it should have been a clue to me that there were no editing marks or border comments from the publisher in the returned manuscript.
    The publisher turned out to be a prep for printing outfit. Thus, I am a ‘self-published’ author and not a ‘published’ author with a two year contract that gives me little flexibility for further revisions in my first novel.
    The paperback and e-versions of my book appeared on and B& with some errors not corrected. None of the errors impact the story but the process has been a real lesson for me. If being accepted by a minor publisher without editorial suggestions for revisions or corrections before publication seems too good …
    Yep! Yep! And I thought the offer to sell me books at a discount was good because I wanted to have gift books for family, friends and donations to a charity auction.

  31. William–Most publishers make it possible for authors to buy their own books at a substantial discount. But they don't require authors to buy books as a condition of publication. The bottom line here is that, even though you get finished printed books for your money, you have to pay to see yourself in print. That's simply back-end vanity publishing.

    Unless you're self-publishing, you shouldn't have to pay anything or buy anything in order to be published.

  32. An author purchasing agreement seems to be of more financial sense to the author. Instead of getting your avg. industry royalty, you are able to profit 25-35% more off an author order, using books for a book release party or family and friends who you know are already going to buy the book regardless. I don't know about everyone else, but it makes sense to me if I can have more money to use to promote while my publisher also promotes, using NetGalley (another limit to self-published authors) and National Book Shows like Black Rose Writing has done.

  33. I actually recieved a contract from Black Rose….then you opened the second attachment where it clearly states you need to purchase at least 50 copies of your book (at a 15% discount of course) either in a lump sum or you can set up a payment plan. Of course at the same time you have no idea how much your book was going to cost! This is crazy! Thanks so much for the heads up- glad I joined and get the newsletters!

  34. As I am writing this, I am looking at a contract from a publushing company. I was asked if I was willing to purchase my own copies for self promotion. This was part of my marketing scheme prior to recieving this contract. No where in my actual contract does it require me to purchase copies and it also has a clause stating that I may resell my Author Copies and keep all the money I make from them. This contract happens to be from Black Rose Writing. I invite all people to check their sources before posting potentially harmful views.

  35. I used to work at a Barnes & Noble. That was a while ago, but I think you can get a book or two on the shelves of an individual store if you're local and make personal connections, because they often have a Local Interest section.

    You can also get any book covered in a local newspaper if you know whom to approach and do it right (and, yes, it sure helps to have a great, professional-looking book and know your market). I found this post because someone wrote me about reviewing a Black Rose title. So, be assured, book reviewers who know their stuff will look up your publisher. That doesn't mean I'd ignore a BR book — I judge books on their merits. But I wouldn't view it as traditionally published, either.

  36. I don't know anything about Black Rose, but I do want to say that you CAN get your self published book in Barnes and Noble, at least, I did. I self published and created my own publishing company (for myself alone). My book is also in the local Coles, I've had book signings, and local media coverage. If you have to do the work yourself, you may as well do it for yourself, instead of for a semi-vanity publishing company.

  37. LOL! Self publish–that is a great alternative. Instead of having a company helping you get it out there like into Barnes and Noble and on etc. you will be working for yourself and by yourself. NO LARGE BOOK CHAIN WILL CARRY YOUR BOOK IF YOU ARE SELF-PUBLISHED.

    I am author of The Sea Kings of Rome: Champions of the Naumachia.
    Honestly–I had a great experience with BR, but it does not mean you will to.

    I've had dozens of book signings at Barnes and Nobles, given several historical lectures at colleges, met dozens of authors and sold hundreds of books. I am not on the NY best seller list, but lets be honest, few people are. I honestly don't know what some people expect from a small publisher.

    BR was never deceiving; they never lied to me; they were easy to work with; and MY BOOK IS IN BARNES AND NOBLE! I am meeting authors, speaking at forums and doing something I love.

    But lets be mature and not go around calling people jerks–it is not professional.

  38. I sent a manuscript to Black Rose after reading about them on their website. I asked several questions. When the only response I received was how many copies do you intend to purchase–my interest in doing anything with them flatlined. A member of my writing group suggested I check out absolute water cooler. I'm glad I did. You have confirmed what I suspected. Always go with your first instincts. This place didn't feel right, so I'll be holding out for a traditional honest publisher or maybe try self-publishing. I do want my work published, but not at the cost of me being cheated. I have a contract from Black Rose in my inbox. I can't decide whether to just delete it or send it back as spam. I'd like to tell Reagan Rothe something, but some things are best left off of paper and out of emails. I've wasted four months on these jerks thinking they were legit. At least I'm not out any $'s!

  39. I have to follow up on my last comment, since I received Reagan Rothe's response first thing today.

    It is a (paraphrasing here) "Hey, how about you buy 30 discounted copies?". He followed a short paragraph with two copy-and-paste items from his FAQ page of his website, estolling the virtues of Black Rose's marketing efforts.

    My temptations are to either not reply at all or reply saying, "See my email of yesterday". Any thoughts?

  40. Wow, what a help all these comments have been to me! Black Rose Writing has my full manuscript, and just contacted me with their attempt to intimidate me into a copy number commitment.

    I was a little creeped out by the email they sent, and even moreso when I researched them beyond what I did before sending my query or ultimately my completed book. I replied that I thought this was a premature request, suggesting we talk about it in context of their proposal to me after their evaluation of my work.

    I am interested to see what their response is. Obviously, within these posts are some positive experiences with them. I am hopeful that mine will be, too, perhaps because I'm a little scared of the fact they have my full manuscript.

  41. Anonymous, there's a long thread about Black Rose at Absolute Write that has more recent entries.

    I've also heard within the past few months from writers who received contracts with book purchase requirements. Expect your next contact with Black Rose to include the question I wrote about in my post.

    Never assume a publisher (or agent) you find in a market guide is reputable just because the guide lists them. Many of the guides make an attempt to screen out questionable people, but they often slip through even so.

  42. Last post about Blackrose Writing is dated 2/13/10. Sea Kings…and Wayne (published by BR) said they've had a positive experience. Has anyone else out there had any positive experiences (or negative for that matter)? I ask because BR currently has my manuscript under review. I had not seen any of these posts until AFTER I submitted the MS per their request. They did not mention anything about purchasing any books when they requested my MS and since I found them listed on Writers Market assumed they were legit. Now I'm a little skeptical. Any feedback would be welcomed.

  43. Yeah, just got an email from Black Rose Publishing saying they were reviewing my novel for publishing and, bottom line, how many authored copies did I plan on buying? Wow. I replied that I did not know how they could "review" it if they only had the query and no manuscript. Not nice reply…and that's that…I called them on their fraudulent approach and Reagan didn't like that. Best to find out now rather than later about this sort of thing.

  44. My name is Wayne Skarka. I am the author of "The Sheriff's Son", which was published by Black Rose Writing. My experience has been very good with this publisher. My book in on all the WEB sites and available at several houses. I did not pay Black Rose a dime to have my book published. I receive 10% of all books sold. If I CHOOSE to buy books myself, for my own website, I get a discount of 40% if I buy 100 copies. The publisher held many book signings and arranged both a Radio interview and a TV program, (Great Day-SA) for next month. Before you critize, ask one of us. Sure Black Rose is a regional publisher, so this many limit some exposure. We have sold about 2,000 copies thus far. I am happy.

  45. I published through Black Rose and I have been very impressed at everything that they have done. My book is available through Barnes and Noble and I have had several book signings–where I continually to sell between 10 and 20 books. My book is also available on Kindle and a dozen other sites.

    I am talking to people about my book and having a great time doing. I've met dozens of authors while pursing my passion and have been having a blast. I honestly don't see where the paranoia comes from–but that's just me.

    If anyone publishes with Black Rose, I will say this: you're going to do a lot of the leg work (ae sceduling book signings, making signage, and getting sales) but if you do believe in your novel, then it is all worth it.

    As far as the clause in purchasing books, there was a clause in my contract to purchase between 25 to 50 books in my contract. But instead of just the 25, I purchased 100–because I believe in my book. And since then, I have sold that hundred and several hundred more.

  46. You are spot on! I used to work for an academic publisher who did the "front end" version of asking authors for a subvention to help publish their books. It was a small-time operation that did virtually no marketing and relied on the subvention to cover the cost (using print-on-demand, but not informing authors of this fact). I routinely saw books selling less than 50 copies. They would be listed on Amazon, but no effort was made to promote the books that would require any financial risk on the part of the publisher. Unfortunately it is indeed a "writer beware" market. Thanks for your excellent post!

  47. Chris, did you have to buy a quantity of your own books as a condition of publication?

    The bottom line with Black Rose is that authors have to pay for publication.

    The one Black Rose author I know of who got his books stocked in brick-and-mortar stores arranged it himself.

  48. Black Rose Writing has never charged any other for cover design, editing, or any other fee-based service. Authors get their books at a discount, a product in return for their dream, and Black Rose sends out review copies and promotes actively. Black Rose has hosted many author book signings and scheduling, including Wayne Skarka and Butch Campsey on GREAT DAY S.A. coming soon to talk about The Sheriff's Son.

    They continue to work with new authors on a personal level, something you won't get at most houses. Black Rose rejects 95% of queries without "an author purchase" even discussed, based on merit.

  49. I see that Black Rose gets some of its authors into Barnes and Noble, Borders. I heard that vanity presses cannot accomplish that. Does this change anything about Black Rose?

  50. I have heard such things about self publishing. My dilemma is that I write fiction that must generate an audience and not appeal to one, so I feel as though I have an extra mountain to climb before I begin the process of publishing(I suppose all writers feel that way, but I believe the above circumstances appeal especially to my case).

    I researched a bit about books published by Black Rose Press and their authors have found themselves in Borders, Barnes and Noble, …etc. I read that a vanity publisher cannot accomplish such a feat. Is that any sign that their image is improving, or that they are not charlatans?

    And thanks.


  51. I've seen recent copies of Black Rose contracts. (Black Rose's owner, Reagan Rothe, originally published his book with PublishAmerica, and much of the contract has been borrowed from the (problematic) PA contract.)

    Every contract I've seen includes a book purchase clause, requiring the author to buy a specified number of books at a minimal discount. So Black Rose doesn't just ask the question–they use the answer to create a purchase obligation. This is back-end vanity publishing: you aren't paying at the outset for printing and binding, but you still must pay to see yourself in print.

    Publishers that turn their authors into customers have little incentive to spend time, money, and effort on reaching readers.

    If you used a publishing service such as CreateSpace, you'd pay nothing upfront. Buying books to re-sell would still cost you money, but you wouldn't be tied to a restrictive contract, you could control your pricing and profit, and you'd get about the same level of distribution and have the same level of marketing responsibility.

  52. I am in the process of talking to Black Rose publishing. I understand how it may seem like vanity publishing when an author is asked how many books they will purchase (it scares hell out of me), but consider the market these days (and notice that I said "market"). Is it really so awful that they ask that question? The clause in their contract (if actual) seems counterproductive for them, since it leads to discussions like these, so they may in the least be faulted for creating bad publicity for themselves.

    It seems to me that Rothe is well-intended and I do not write the kind of fiction that will be "marketable" to a large readership. I have published two books in a ten-book series and I am hungry to publish again, as is every other writer. I do not want to sell like Steven King; I want only that my work gets out among the reading public.

    Just wondering what comments you now have.


  53. I also have published with BR. I found the quality of the book to be a high caliber.

    My book was just placed in a major book store and I am now doing book signings. For me, it is a start. I am getting exposure from local newspapers, and spots on radio stations.

    Here is the the thing with BR. If you are a motivated and dynamic person, who really believes in the book that you have written, then BR is not a bad option.

    But you are going to have to put in A LOT of hard work to get your book where you want it to be. I've been featured in seven papers, and had two radio spots, and I will be attending several book signings. My book will also be available through Kindle. BR just gives you an opportunity, it is really to you what you do with it.

    So, I guess you have to weigh the decision: Do you have the energy, and commitment to marketing your book, or do you keep wanting to read query rejection letters until a publisher picks you up.

    I, personally, have had a very positive experience.

  54. I just recently received an offer from Black Rose and Reagan Rothe and in their contract is a clause that requires the author to purchase at least 100 books. There is no mention as to having to pay for editing, but this clause alone may be enough to scare me away.

  55. Please, someone, tell me more about Black Rose Writing. But only the facts, not your speculation. They're highly interested in my novel. I'm a brand new writer with no agent or any other finished book, would this be okay for my first book? I've already told them that I don't plan on being the one to market my book. And how about their cover and pages? Are they okay? Not too thin?

  56. I can't speak to the physical quality of Black Rose books, but based on info I'm receiving, Black Rose is still asking writers whose manuscripts it is considering how many books they plan to buy.

  57. jlnn: I hate to disagree, but I have to say that the quality of the book I have published through Black Rose is actually not bad at all. The cover work is great, and it appears to be a high quality construction with the paper, font sizes, etc. Enough so that a major bookstore chain in Canada is now stocking my book. I was also never charged for editing, or forced to buy 75 books. In fact, I have not purchased 75 of my own book in total since starting. They may not be the best choice, or even a recommended one, but please make sure you've done a little more research before posting negative blogs that don't accurately portray the product.
    It may not be the most reasonable choice for many, but it's not as bad as you've suggested.

  58. Black rose writing is a complete scam. They charge for editing they make you buy 75 of your own books. There covers look loke garbage and the paper they use is practically transparent.. stay away!!!!!

  59. I'm so glad I read this! Just last night I received an email from Black Rose. After querying many agents, I did a search on good young adult publishing companies. I queried the two that were most recommended on the particular site I was on. Black Rose was one of them.

    Now they've asked for my manuscript, which I've sent. But when I began reading through their most asked questions page, I began to get nervous. I wondered why I would need to know so much about how to purchase my own book. I do plan to share my book with friends and family, but I don't plan to buy 500 copies for myself!

    I was reassured when the searches I did about Black Rose just revealed previous books they had published. But then I found this discussion thread. I'm so glad I did. Now I can be fully informed when, and if, they approach me with an offer.


  60. Hello Victoria, as always we writers are so greatful for your presence! For those of you who don't know, I have actually kept Victoria on the email line while I waded through some nasty scam artists in the process of negotiating the publication of my first book. One of the scams was a man who contacted me from what he referred to as a "Publishing Conglomerate" of sorts. As I am a spiritual writer, he wet my palate by proclaiming that his company was being funded by some investors to create a virtual spiritual world-in which he wanted to place my book. Now, although the offer sounded fantastical in nature, he made reference to entities with which I was familiar. It was one of those types of scams that creates the thought process "Who could even make this up!?"

    Victoria was there to keep me on the path and be my sounding board. We are truly blessed to have a resource like 'Writer Beware' available to us writers!

  61. Nicola, it does. In my case, the business is already in place, up and running, and selling products that relate to the topic of the book. Would the business, acting as an LLC, not count for contract purposes as the authors buying their own books?

  62. Adding linkage to the article mentioned above.

    This is an article about why one writer (with an existing platform and a nonfiction book on a subject-of-the-moment) chose not to use an agent or a publisher. The article also discusses the topic of the book, which is about how artists in various media are using social media and other online marketing tools to boost their careers.

    Obviously I haven't read the book, which sounds interesting. But I think it's simplistic and naive to infer, from one person's publishing choices, that "we" should all be doing the same.

  63. Mad Scientist – my publishers let me (if I clear it with them) sell using my 50% author discount, in certain circs. If I was going to do it more as a business (as opposed to some extra to offer schools when i visit) they would want me to set up an account with them in the same way as a shop would, with a discount but not as generous as 50%. I find that, as with so many things, being open with publishers pays dividends and makes everything much easier. They will want to help if they can see it's fair and reasonable and sells books, but they won't want to seem to give you a bigger discount than eg a chain or other shop. Does that help?

  64. Michael Larsen's book HOW TO WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL, he suggests you put into a book proposal how many books you intend to purchase for your self-promotional efforts. It's a sign of how intense your own marketing is.

    As a publisher, I couldn't disagree more with that advice. It's not the author's job to sell books, but to promote them – to let readers know about their book in their local area. They don't require a trunk full of books to accomplish this.

    The venue hosting the event orders those books. The author's job is to smile and be charming.

    It's my job to sell books by getting them into the bookstores and libraries.

    Lastly, I am not at all comforted by the author who tells me they're willing to buy 1,000 units of their own book upon publication. How does his buying a ton of his own books create demand? How does this help my sales teams pitch that title to the genre buyer?

    Sorry, but that is about the worst advice I've seen all week.

  65. Victoria, this is a great blog. Thanks for all the info—I think so many times, writers are so anxious to get the book published they scan over those words—-only to regret it later.

  66. Vanities can also sugar-coat the "buy fifty books" suggestion or requirement by claiming that they will fork out for as many books, for review purposes or otherwise.

    Not only is that a potential guilt trip for the authors, it makes them believe there will be actual marketing efforts on the publisher's part.

  67. That's something I have been wondering about… my co-author runs a retail website where it would make sense for us to sell copies of our book through the website. I've got a signed copy of Candymaking for Dummies that I bought at the authors' candy store. When the author has legitimate reasons to think they can sell a book, how is this typically handled?

  68. Unless you plan to buy thousands of copies (which would be prohibitively expensive, even with a good author discount), I doubt it would make much of a difference to a commercial publisher, which will likely be looking for sales in the five-digit range. The fact that they could count on you for, say, 2,000 copies wouldn't cut much ice if the P&L projections didn't project robust sales from other sources.

    Also, as Nicola pointed out in the first comment in this thread, commercial publishers typically prohibit authors from re-selling their books–so any books bought would have to be for gifts, giveaways, and the like. There's a limit to how many books one could (or should) give away, so even if buying enormous numbers could impress the publisher, it might be counterproductive for the author.

  69. Not sure this is 100% the case. Authors purchasing some of their own books can be a sign of how large their platform is. In Michael Larsen's book HOW TO WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL, he suggests you put into a book proposal how many books you intend to purchase for your self-promotional efforts. It's a sign of how intense your own marketing is. I agree that a number shouldn't be incorporated into a book contract, but authors should be prepared (particularly in nonfiction) to tell a publisher through a book proposal if he/she plans to purchase any books for personal use.

  70. Now I feel bad. Just yesterday I was whining because my publish is only offering me 10 free books. What a wuss.

  71. Another great post for my pics of the week.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Jon Gibbs

    PS: Your OpenID link thingy isn't working – at least, not for me 🙁

  72. Great post. I actually read most of the thread about "Black Rose Writing". The founder of that "publishing company" is just some guy with a computer uploading files to Lightning Source. Which basically anyone could do themselves, if they just spent a few hours reading "Aiming at Amazon". (Sorry about all the quotes– I can't figure out how to format text in the comment boxes).

  73. Now I've heard of everything! It seems slimy to build a clause into a contract requiring authors to buy their own books… I would run from this kind of a red flag if I cam eacross it. Unfortunately, there are so many writers out there who may indeed have GREAT STUFF that just hasn't yet found a home – and for some of them this may seem like a workable solution.

    Beware indeed.

    Cheers, Jill

  74. Just reading the about us page, they sound like a vanity publisher not a traditional publisher. I'm a tiny little publisher and I get more submissions than I can publish. While I am happy to publish new writers, I have no need to advertise for them. *shrug*

  75. Incredibly important point, as always. "back-end" vanity publishing – beware indeed! "the author is the loser" – so important for authors to retain control. If they actually want or are able to do the selling, fine, but it must be a free choice, entered into with eyes wide open as to the normal behaviour of mainstream / traditional (whatever) publishers. In fact, "trad" publishers usually have a clause saying you can't sell your copies bought at author discount – another way of knowing that it's the publisher who plans to sell the books. Which is what publishers do and is how they earn back the advance they paid you.

    Good one, Victoria.

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OCTOBER 6, 2009

Thoughts on Self-Promotion

OCTOBER 13, 2009

Thomas Nelson Adds Self-Publishing Imprint