Elm Hill Books: Another HarperCollins Vanity Press Bewares

HarperCollins now has another Christian vanity press subsidiary with five-figure publishing packages, but this time the Big 5 publisher is also pimping out its sales reps and distribution network to sell the idea to novice authors. Elm Hill Books was launched last year and is the brainchild of Pete Nikolai – the longtime Director of Publishing Services at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. And both have form when it comes to exploiting writers.

In 2009, Pete Nikolai was working for HarperCollins subsidiary Thomas Nelson when, together with its CEO and Chairman Michael Hyatt, he partnered with Author Solutions to create WestBow Press. WestBow is a white-label Christian-flavored vanity publisher, pretty much the same any other Author Solution vanity imprint, just with a few crucifixes dotted around the place.

While Michael Hyatt subsequently reinvented himself as some kind of greasy life coach, Pete Nikolai ran WestBow as its Publisher, overseeing the sale of sub-standard publishing packages and countless, worthless marketing packages costings thousands of dollars. These marketing packages were sold using high-pressure sales tactics to unsuspecting newbies who had no business purchasing them, and little chance of recouping their investment. Read More…

Giving A Voice To Indies Bewares Writing

A new organization is being formed which is aiming to give a voice to indies – the Indie Author Support Network. The idea was proposed by indie author Marie Force, and it’s still at the very earliest stages, but what I’ve heard so far is very promising indeed – particularly that it will be exclusively focused on high-level advocacy and interfacing with retailers on issues which concern indies.

I’m not a member of any writer organization. I joined one here in Ireland when I first returned home, but didn’t renew after they wouldn’t even take the most basic stand against a local publisher who wasn’t paying his authors.

I know people join organizations for lots of different reasons, whether that’s continuing education or competitions or even just the social/networking aspects at conferences, which are desperately needed in such a solitary profession, and I think those needs are pretty well met with the various genre-focused organizations out there, and NINC too. However, advocacy has always been of most importance to me and I think there is a critical need right now for a very focused group which specifically speaks to the rather curious set of issues that indies are dealing with in 2018. Read More…

Michael Hyatt Has Something To Sell You Bewares

Michael Hyatt has successfully reinvented himself as an author and speaker – one of those quasi-experts on marketing who slowly morph into a life-coach type guru. It’s a well-trodden path and these guys all tend to present themselves in similar ways. Here’s Michael Hyatt reclining among soft furnishings. Here’s Michael Hyatt enjoying a tender moment with his dog. Here’s Michael Hyatt projecting success with a shiteating grin for the ages. It’s almost easy to forget what he did. Almost. In 2009 when Michael Hyatt was CEO of Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, he was instrumental in the creation of WestBow Press – one of the first white-label vanity presses operated by Author Solutions on behalf of an established publisher. The Naming Read More…

This Is The Modern Publishing Business Bewares Publishing

Scammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial. An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters. With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities Read More…

The One Where An Author Steals Text From My Book To Sell Pirated Software Bewares

In today’s episode we are going to out a two-bit huckster who tried to put one over on yours truly, take a quick detour through the verdant fields of copyright law (and the slightly plainer meadows of moral rights), and then end with an example of how to handle a scammer. Sound fun? Strap yourselves in! A helpful reader – who will remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious – emailed me yesterday morning. I was just about to start work but the subject line caught my attention: Did You Give Permission For This? Uh oh. I started reading the message he had forwarded. It had originated from a domain called IndieWriterSupport.com (you can cut-and-paste that address or Google it, Read More…

FYI: Penguin Random House Is Still In The Vanity Business Bewares

Penguin Random House announced the sale of Author Solutions on Tuesday, leading to headlines stating it has exited the self-publishing business and various commentators congratulating it for cleaning house. Unfortunately, neither of those things are true. Four Penguin Random House-owned vanity presses will remain in operation – Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa, and MeGustaEscribir – and will be run as Partner Imprints. You can read more about how Partner Imprints work here, but the short version is that Author Solutions will operate these four vanity presses on behalf of Penguin Random House, and PRH’s job will be to provide leads (aka newbie writers), lend its name and brand to the effort, and then sit back and collect its commissions. This Read More…

Publishers Weekly Ignores The Real Scandal At LA Times Festival of Books Bewares

Publishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books, resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal. Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon. I’m not so sure that charge sticks. Either someone at the event buys the book in front of them or they don’t. Read More…

Word on the Street Festival Doesn't Care About Author Scam Bewares

I wrote a post last month about Author Solutions’ relationships with The Bookseller magazine in the UK, and The Word on the Street Festival in Canada. Since then I’ve been in touch with the editor of The Bookseller. I’ll share more about that when I can, but suffice to say that the discussion has been encouraging. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my exchange with The Word on the Street Festival. To recap, last month I discovered a new Author Solutions scam – using their booth at a Canadian literary festival to get even more money from their customers. From that post: I received some spam recently from Xlibris (yet another Author Solutions brand), touting a literary event – the Word Read More…