Thousands of Waldorf books appear to have been acquired by a liquidator, which is seeking to get those books back to authors. See the updates at the bottom of this post
Another contest! I seem to be writing about these a lot lately.
This contest is from Waldorf Publishing, which is “is always seeking new talent to add to our extensive roster.” I’m going to count the red flags that are evident just from the contest and Waldorf’s website–plus the secret one that you’d never know was there because Waldorf actively conceals it.
Red flag number one: the contest rules. These don’t look so bad, until you get to this:
Entrants retain copyright, but so does Waldorf? Say what? They can’t both be true. If Waldorf is this confused about its rules–or, perhaps, about the difference between rights and copyright–it is not a good sign. (I suspect the latter: I’ve seen Waldorf contracts, and they don’t claim copyright.)
Red flag number two: Here’s what you can win. Reads like a self-publishing package rather than traditional publishing, doesn’t it? Complete with junk marketing.
Red flag number three: the entrance fee is $49. This isn’t as high as some profiteering contests, which can charge $100 or even more; but it’s still high enough to suggest that Waldorf has an eye to making a bit of cash from this contest.
Waldorf’s “focus is not only on producing unique, quality reading for a wide audience, but also to help our authors gain the recognition they deserve.” Waldorf touts the many media opportunities it supposedly has assisted its authors to obtain–CNN, the BBC, NPR, The Guardian, and many more; however, there’s nothing on Waldorf’s website to confirm any of those claims. No links to articles. No author testimonials. Not even a Press page.
Unverifiable claims: that’s red flag number four.
Red flag number five: the covers. A few are OK. Others are so obviously amateurish they must be author-created (or if not, Waldorf employs really bad illustrators). Many are actually inferior to the “custom” covers designed by assisted self-publishing services. Clearly there isn’t a lot of quality control going on here.
Red flag number six: Waldorf has released 75 books so far in 2018. That’s up from 49 in 2017, 23 in 2016, and just 14 in 2015. Not only is that a major ramp-up year to year, it’s also a really big release schedule for 2018. Unless Waldorf maintains a large staff of editors, illustrators, and publicists, there’s no way these books are going to receive careful production or publisher support….
…Which brings us to red flag number seven: who the heck is running the company? The only staff member discussed on Waldorf’s About page is the owner, Barbara Terry, who appears to have had no professional book publishing or writing experience before establishing Waldorf in 2014 (her one book, How Athletes Roll, was issued by the now-defunct Comfort Publishing, which charged fees for services). She claims to be assisted by “a small team of talented individuals”–but who are these people? What are their qualifications? Do they exist? It’s a mystery. A reputable publisher should provide this information.
I’ve gone into detail on all these red flags to demonstrate that, even without being aware of the most pertinent information about this company–information it keeps secret from the public–there is a lot to question about Waldorf Publishing and its contest. You really don’t need this secret information at all to recognize that both are best avoided.
So what’s the secret information? You’ve probably already guessed. Red flag number eight: Waldorf is pay-to-play, though authors won’t discover this until they receive a contract offer (unless they contact me, of course). This is from the “Royalty Presentation” it sends to authors:
This is one of the sneakier examples of the lengths vanity publishers will go to in order to be able to claim that they’re not vanities. The carrot of the higher royalties (which are paid on net, by the way) is intended to make the fees seem more palatable (and it’s a very small carrot, given the absolutely dire Amazon sales rankings of most of Waldorf’s recent books). Maybe some authors do choose the 10% “industry standard” (ha!) royalty and publish for free–but it’s clear that Waldorf’s business model is built on author fees, and a publisher that makes money before a book is even published has little incentive to cut into that up-front profit by providing high-quality production services and promotional support to the books it releases.
Red flag number nine: by concealing the fact that it charges fees–which are not mentioned anywhere on its website or in its contest guidelines–Waldorf is deceptive.
All things considered, winning a free publishing package in a contest from a stealth vanity publisher is not much of a prize.
UPDATE 4/17/19: I’m hearing reports from Waldorf authors they they aren’t getting paid royalties due, and also aren’t receiving marketing services they paid for (such as Kirkus Indie reviews). Apparently Ms. Terry is claiming that she’s having problems with her distributor.
UPDATE 11/15/19: Today, Waldorf Publishing informed its authors via email that “We will no longer be charging for publishing – instead we will require Authors to purchase 100 books from first printing to ensure us that Authors are participating in marketing and actively promoting their book.”
So there is no longer a fee-free option at Waldorf. No word, either, on how much of a discount authors will receive on these orders (if any at all), or any estimate of the average fee that might result. Nor does the Waldorf website reveal the book purchase requirement.
Required book purchases–often justified by the same tired “investing in your own success” excuse–are as much vanity publishing as upfront fees, since authors must hand over cash to the publisher in order to see their work in print.
UPDATE 12/27/20: Is Waldorf in trouble? That’s certainly suggested by this comment left here yesterday:
I’ve contacted the email address, and will post more information as I receive it.
UPDATE 12/28/20: I’ve been given permission to share the following information from the liquidation company that left the comment above.
Recently we purchased a storage unit that was in default. This storage units has approx. 10,000 to 15,000 books published by Waldorf Publishing.
As our business model we plan on liquidating the assets as soon as possible and are always looking at every avenue to do so.
After reading the post and comments on your website, I figured there might be authors that may want to secure their books.
As of today I do not have a complete list of titles and quantities. However from a very quick assessment we do have several titles with at least 500 copies, and approx. 40-50 titles all in new condition
Please feel free to reach back out to me if you’d like further information, or pass along my contact info to anyone interested.
UPDATE 1/10/20: Waldorf Publishing has changed its name:
Here’s the page that describes the marketing and PR add-on. My guess is that it means more fees for Waldorf authors.
Waldorf’s new PR angle appears to be an outgrowth of Waldorf owner Barbara Terry’s eponymous media/PR service, Barbara Terry Media, Conspicuously absent on both websites are any client lists, portfolios, or successful campaign examples to back up Ms. Terry’s claims of expertise and success.