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Positive comments were made about my Friday night class, so the associate pastor decided I should teach the pastor’s Sunday school class when he had to go out of town. The pastor listened to the recording, and asked Rod and I to meet with him. He was impressed. I had the same gift for teaching he did. They were making some changes. No more meetings on Friday night. They wanted Rod to lead children’s church and me to teach a class on Sunday morning. Rod would begin next Sunday. My class would begin at the end of the summer.

I had forgotten about the query I’d sent to Publish America when I received a contract from them in the mail. Publishing didn’t interest me, but I read the contract and did some research on traditional, Print on Demand (POD) and self-publishing while I waited for my class to start.

The difference between the three types of publishing is who bears the loss. Traditional publishers purchase the rights to the author’s manuscript with an advance payment and then print thousands of copies to keep printing cost low. The author does not see a penny in royalty until the publishing house recoups the advance they paid the author. If the book does not sell, bookstores return the books for a refund. The publisher bears the loss, and the author does not see another penny. That is why traditional publishing houses invest additional money to market the book they purchased the right to sell.

When an author self-publishes, the entire cost of producing and marketing a book is the burden of the author. POD produces the book at no cost to the author and recouped their expenses when the author bought the books wholesale. Some charged a fee to produce the book. The fee covered their cost to produce the book. Having no investment, they had no reason to market the books they produced. 

Publish America advertised themselves as a traditional publisher because they did not charge the author a fee to produce the book. Multitudes rejected by traditional publishers now had an affordable way to be published since PA turned down few, if any, manuscripts. Many cried “scam” when they failed to receive the expected pampering of a traditional publishing house. The slander was not justified. Their website and contract clearly stated that marketing was the author’s responsibility.  They were not a scam but a new way of doing business that threatened the guardians of traditional publishing.

When the time drew near for me to teach, I picked up the church bulletin and saw the Pastor’s wife listed as the teacher of the class promised to me. No one bothered to tell me that I had been replaced. Depression reared its ugly head. Once again, I needed something to keep me sane. There was nothing to lose if I signed the contract with PA, so I did.

True to their advertising, PA produced a book comparable in quality to books produced by traditional publishing houses except for editing and formatting. Whatever program PA used must have removed my formatting before their editor received the manuscript. I had written a teaching book with many scripture references. In places too numerous to count, the editor failed to separate my words and Bible quotes. She also decided to capitalize pronouns that referred to God but could not tell which pronouns referenced God. I had fifteen pages of corrections that didn’t include the pronoun disaster. There were too many pronoun problems to find them all in the two weeks I was allotted to review the manuscript.

I sent PA the corrections and told them the pronoun problem could not be fixed. They did not apply any of the corrections I requested. I ended up with a nice looking overpriced book that I could not, in good conscience sell to others. In my opinion, PA shot themselves in the foot. Why bear the cost of producing a book the author cannot sell? Based on the small royalty checks I received, I doubt enough copies sold through their website to recoup what it cost them to produce it. I made no effort to market the manuscript that became A Reason to Believe, which is no longer in print.

When I dealt with Publish America, they were barely three years old and breaking ground on a new way of publishing. They had been much maligned but also had many satisfied authors. The problems I experienced could be attributed to a young company struggling to establish and define itself.

At no cost to me, I became a published author of a useless book.


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