Writer Beware

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post, as you can see from my two week absence. For part of that, however, I was recovering from the removal of four wisdom teeth. By recovering, I totally mean milking it. Hey, don’t judge me. When I see an opportunity for a break I’m taking it. I used that break to formulate a post about the publishing experience my mom and I had with our cookbook.

A vanity press is a publishing company that requires payment from an author to publish their book as well as little to no selection criteria. A solid publisher won’t require payment to publish your work; your book is supposed to make the money. They’re also going to be particular about what they choose for that reason.

Our “publishing company” was able to dodge that label (vanity press) by calling the $3990 requirement a marketing retainer. It was supposed to go towards a team that would actively promote our work.  They also wrote on their page and in initial e-mails that they were selective with acceptances. Keep this in mind as you read on.

Once they got the $3990 and our book was completed and entering the production phase, things started to go south. Right off the bat we submitted everything; photos (we paid our own photographer to take pictures of food we made and the author picture), completed manuscript, author information and everything necessary for the publication of the book. It took about two months for their “editing” team to go through the work and get it back to us. When we got it back, there were several errors to fix, but once those were fixed it advanced down the production line.

At that time they began to ask us to re-submit several things (although, they asked for submissions not re-submissions), pictures in particular. We had to submit pictures three times. Each time we let them know it had been done already, yet it remained unseen. It took another two months to get our completed book back for approval.

When we got it, we found even more mistakes than we’d originally corrected. When we made our correction notes on that, they would partially correct them and return the book with even more errors. It was almost like they changed things around on a whim. Because they kept changing items we didn’t authorize or ask for, this was the longest step of the process. It took about four months. Once we got those errors fixed (as much as we could), they sent us the agreement for the price and look of the book.

We didn’t agree with their price point (almost double what it is currently), so we had to fight to get it lower. We had to ask repeatedly for the price and appearance options available. After a week or two we finally agreed on a look and price and they began to send us physical copies to approve. First, the book came in black and white when it was supposed to be color. It also came non glossy when it was supposed to be glossy, as well as not including pictures. When we notified them of the problem, they would fix one issue at a time and tell us the printer was making mistakes, not them.

We didn’t receive a final physical proof, but after four proofs and written documentation, we mistakenly thought we were on the same page. In June of 2015, we ordered our first hundred books and the book was for sale through the “publisher.” My husband got his purchased copy before our books came and it was wrong. They were printing, selling and distributing books of lesser quality for a higher price. When we notified them, they said they had it in the system as something different but were unsure of why. So they “fixed” it.

When we got our books, not only was there a four week delay (without a word  or reason), but they were all wrong. Because they were wrong (and extremely late) we had to cancel signing events and wait another two months to get the correct books. On the national release date (9-8-15), the press release spelled one of our names wrong. The book was also unavailable on Amazon until February 2016. We wrote multiple inquiries and requests  fighting for their fulfillment of the contract to no avail.

Nothing changed until we got the BBB involved. Even then it was minimal at best. We’ve just finished our sixth quarter of sales with them, half of which we got sales reports for, and have yet to receive a single royalty check. In July they gave a false excuse as to why we hadn’t received it and stated they would create and send them that week. That was three months ago. We have, however, gotten something from them so they do have our address.

We are also our own marketing team. Although they gave us a three page marketing questionnaire, to which we gave an additional five pages of information, none of it was used. We were scheduled for an event but not notified of it (we found it on a Google search of our title), forcing us to cancel and look bad. The one event they scheduled for us in 15 months was two days in Canada. The businesses (two owned by one person) never agreed to two signings. In addition, we couldn’t even bring our books into Canada for sale.

We got radio silence from our author service representative from November 2015 to July 2016 with the exception of one e-mail. Our e-mails and phone calls went unanswered from February until July.

Now, the predicament is we’re not being allowed out of our contract unless we are able to financially and physically go to where our publisher is located and enter arbitration. So we’re unable to get our $3990 returned (because we can’t get there to legally terminate the contract), and we aren’t getting paid for any sales.

This process has put us through the ringer, so to speak, and is the reason for writing this. Prior to signing the contract, we had a lawyer look it over. He found it very author friendly, especially considering the clause allowing a termination of the contract if either party is found in breach. Unfortunately, there’s also a clause stating we have to go to them for legal action, making it very difficult to attain.

This post is longer than I usually make them, I know, but if you are an aspiring writer, I encourage you to keep putting yourself out there. If you have to pay to get your work published, let it be to a printer or a legitimate publisher. I want to warn you off going the path we took because we are not alone in this predicament. As a writer, you will experience rejection, but that doesn’t mean your work isn’t good. Keep pushing and keep looking. Don’t settle, and don’t make the mistakes we’ve made.

Writer, beware who you give your trust to. Has anyone else experienced this? Let us know in the comments!

 

UPDATE 3/19/17 – Tate has closed their doors as of January 17, 2017. Wanna know who didn’t get notified by them?  Yeah, we didn’t. I mean, a boat load of others didn’t either, but I’m still pretty ticked. I’m putting a link here to the public complaint I filed. Be aware that there are many typos. I was angry, what can I say?

 

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2 thoughts on “Writer Beware

  1. Authors have 3 choices: 1. Land an agent and a traditional contract (very difficult to do); 2. Hire a publishing services company, which will handle all design, fulfillment, etc.; 3. Hire freelancers to do the design and then have the books printed themselves. Not all firms are like Tate. Suggesting that all authors should avoid all publishers hurts the legitimate, good publishers that have excellent reputations, like BookLocker. And, it’s often easier and faster to go through a good company. BookLocker gets a book to market within a month of the author sending their final files to us. Tate was running a horrible operation but the warning signs were there. There have been numerous complaints about them online for years. And, their prices were incredibly high. Any time a company touts their Christianity in their marketing materials should be a huge red flag. You can see a price comparison of publishers at the link below. Of those, BookLocker and Dog Ear have excellent reputations.

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    • I am certainly not discouraging anyone from signing with a publisher. What would be the point of being a writer if the only option was to fork over money and do everything on our own or not at all? I think you’ve missed the point of this. The point of this was to tell writers to beware. To not send money to get a book published. Although it’s hard to get an agent and a traditional contract, it’s not impossible if you’re dedicated to what you’re doing and you’re good at it. Self publishing gets the work out there, yes, but it’s often harder to make a good portion of money that way. For those who want to make this their life and livelihood, self publishing is not going to be what they hope it to be. I don’t think it’s fair to say that anyone declaring their faith in the publishing world is a sign of ill will. Yes, it makes it easier to go with them which could be dangerous, but that’s true of any company really. The complaints that were widely available online were more of a marketing/number of sales nature, which could be chalked up to many things. When we signed with them it was right around the time things changed. We had our attorneys look over the contract we had several in depth discussions with Tate, all which proved to be comforting if it all held true. Unfortunately, Tate lied about almost everything. I think it’s unfair to lay blame all at the hands of the authors for those reasons. You may not have intended your response to be negative, but that is how it came across, in addition to an advertisement. This post was meant to shed light on vanity presses and how we need to be very cautious of a company that is not up front and honest about what they’re doing.

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