Author Mills and a Request for Contact

by Victoria Strauss

Writer BewareUnlike commercial or trade publishers, whose business model is based on book volume (selling as many books as possible from a limited number of authors), author mills’ business model is based on author volume (selling a limited number of books from as many authors as possible). The most famous example of an author mill is PublishAmerica, but there are others, such as VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller, an academic author mill.

Unlike vanity publishers or self-publishing services, author mills don’t charge upfront fees–which is why they can convincingly present themselves as “real” publishers–but they often do their best to turn their authors into customers, heavily encouraging them to buy their own books, or incentivizing self-purchases with special offers and discounts. Because of the need for author volume, editorial gatekeeping is lax (though many author mills, knowing how much authors crave validation, claim to be selective). Author mills protect their profits by doing everything on the cheap, with minimal or nonexistent editing, interior and cover design that’s straight-from-template, and no meaningful marketing or distribution, resulting in tiny sales for the average author mill book. They also often have exploitive, nonstandard contracts.

Because author mills are typically deceptive in the way they present themselves, many writers believe they are signing up with real publishers, and are bitterly disappointed by their publishing experience. Author mills may also be ineffectual, haphazard, or grudging about fulfilling their contractual obligations–so even writers who go into the relationship with their eyes open may not receive what they expect.

I’m currently writing an article on author mills, and as part of my research I’d like to hear from writers who have published with an author mill. I’m interested not just in writers who had problems, or whose expectations weren’t fulfilled, but in writers who chose an author mill specifically for what it could do for them, and were satisfied with the result.

Please email me at beware@sfwa.org. In accordance with Writer Beware’s policies, I’ll keep all information completely confidential (it will NOT be shared) unless you specifically give me permission to quote you (which I can do without using your name, if you prefer). Don’t worry if you get my autoresponder–I’m away from home at the moment, but will be back early next week and will reply then.

Thanks so much!

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