It’s been a busy month for publisher warnings!
From author Brian Keene, a warning about a small publisher called Spectacular Productions. Authors report long publication delays, missed pub dates, lack of communication by publisher Christian Hanner, lack of payment, and work accepted but contracts never received.
It’s amazing how many small press implosions feature this exact same litany of complaints. As Keene observes,
Sadly, this is an all-too-common occurrence within the small press. A start-up publisher emerges, announces a bold list of titles, issues contracts, and then crumbles after publishing a few or none of the books, leaving authors to sort out their rights reversion and customers frustrated with the small press in general. This isn’t always done maliciously. Sometimes, the publisher is just woefully inept or ignorant of the business or finds they ran out of start-up cash quicker than they thought. Other times, there is clear malfeasance on the part of the publisher. In this case, I’m not sure which applies (as Hanner had not responded to my requests for comment by press time) but I suspect that it started out the former and has now segued into the latter. And that is unfortunate.
Keene also provides a good set of tips for submitting to small presses. Also see my blog post, Precautions for Small Press Authors–it’s a few years old but the advice is still current–and Writer Beware’s Small Presses page, which includes a list of cautions and links to many helpful resources.
Balboa Press / Author Solutions
Like other such ventures, Hay House’s self-publishing arm, Balboa Press, is outsourced to Author Solutions Inc. I’ve blogged quite a bit about the problems at ASI, as have David Gaughran and Emily Suess, and I’ve seen a lot of complaints from authors who’ve used various ASI “brands.” ASI and its parent, Penguin Group, are currently the focus of a class action lawsuit, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Even knowing as much as I know, however, I was shocked by this writer’s account of her nightmare experience publishing an illustrated book through Balboa. Illustrations that couldn’t be gotten right (despite the detailed information the writer provided), multiplying text errors, corrections that were promised but never made…the list goes on.
After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received
“dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD [Required Art Directions form, filled out by the author] and characterization forms…
Excuse after excuse mounted by the CIAC [Custom Illustrations Accounts Coordinator] who offered, “the illustrator is sensitive, he’s young, he draws like that; it’s a difficult project.” My response to the CIAC, “I appreciate that, but this is this is a children’s book. This does not take place in a bombed out trailer park in Beirut. There is no consistency in colors…” In my mind, I understood I paid for “intricate design” [the author paid $3,444 for an “Intricate Design” illustration package] and the CIAC maintains, “it’s a difficult project.” Why? If it was so difficult, then why accept the project? It was now apparent that there was no professional oversight.
I think that some due diligence was lacking here. The author says she didn’t realize Balboa Press was associated with ASI; however, if you Google “Balboa Press,” my blog post about Balboa and ASI comes up on the first search page, along with a review by Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine that mentions ASI in the first paragraph. The information is definitely out there for those who seek it.
The author is correct, though, in saying that the Balboa Press website is not transparent about the connection. ASI is mentioned, but the mention is deeply buried in a place where most people are not likely to look. To the casual visitor or aspiring self-publisher, there’s nothing to suggest that Balboa isn’t run by Hay House; indeed, everything on the website is geared to encourage visitors to believe it is.