Year in Review: Writer Beware’s Top Blog Posts of 2013

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Welcome to 2014! (I’ve been hibernating for the past week, working on revisions for my latest novel, so this is actually the first time I’ve written out the date.)

Every January, I look back over this blog and pick out what I think were the most useful, interesting, and/or important posts of the previous year. Here goes.


Vanity Publisher Vantage Press Closes its DoorsFounded in 1949 as a classic print vanity publisher, Vantage attempted to adapt to the 21st century by re-branding itself as a self-publishing service, while still charging the same enormous fees. But at the end of 2012 it did a bunk–closing its doors without notice and leaving authors, who in some cases had paid thousands of dollars for books that were never produced, high and dry.


Second-Class Contracts at Random House’s Hydra Digital Imprint: Launched with much fanfare in late 2012, Random House’s digital-only genre imprints (Hydra, Alibi, and Flirt) seemed to offer new opportunity to writers with their willingness to consider unagented manuscripts. Unfortunately, the deal terms of their contracts were exploitive. Writer Beware broke this story, which subsequently went viral, causing Random House to revise the contracts and offer considerably better terms.

Solicitation Alert: Close-Up TV News: This faux news show charges thousands of dollars to produce “news segments” that aren’t actually broadcast anywhere that anyone is likely to see them. It’s currently soliciting authors to pay $5,000 to appear on its “talk radio show.”

Christian Writers Guild Publishing: Best selling author Jerry B. Jenkins ventures into vanity publishing with a service he dubs “come-alongside publishing.” Give him credit for inventing a new euphemism for pay-to-play. CWG will set you back a cool $9,995.


Another Class Action Lawsuit Launched Against PublishAmericaLike the first, ill-fated class action suit against infamous vanity publisher PublishAmerica, this one alleged fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract. Initially it looked as if it might have more teeth than the first suit, but in the end it, too, fizzled, with PublishAmerica agreeing to settlement terms. I’m still gathering information on this (very difficult, because gag orders are involved) and hope to have an update soon.


Class Action Lawsuit Launched Against Author Solutions Inc.: The same firm that took on PublishAmerica also launched a class action against Author Solution and its parent, Penguin, alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and various violations of business laws. As of this writing, the suit is still ongoing, with both sides wrangling over procedural matters.

Outrageous French Copyright Grab: ReLIRE, a massive database of out-of-print works in French, went live in early 2013, the result of a new French law that, under the guise of dealing with the pressing issue of orphan works, implements a truly massive transfer of rights from authors to the state. This doesn’t just affect French authors; the law covers any French-language books, including books in other languages translated into French.


Author Concerns and Complaints at Crimson RomanceTrouble at another digital-only imprint, with authors citing late or missing royalty payments, hasty editing, and the launch of a subscription service not included in the contract. See the comments for examples. Crimson has pledged to address the problems.


Publisher Storm Warnings: There were lots of these this month, including Spectacular Productions and Author Solutions’ Balboa Press Noble Romance Publishing, Vanilla Heart Publishing, and Eternal Press/Damnation Books; and Iconic Publishing/Jonquil Press/Red Lizard Press.

Sandpiper Publicity: A ripoff PR agency, which in an earlier incarnation posted fake testimonials from well-known authors, returns under a different name.

American Book Publishing/Alexis Press/All Classic Books/Atlantic National Books: Long-time deceptive vanity publisher American Book Publishing (the subject of an Alert at Writer Beware) branched out in 2013 with a network of satellite publishers, bogus industry organizations, and fake personas. Luckily ABP’s owner, Cheryl Nunn, wasn’t smart about it, enabling Writer Beware to unmask her. Exposed, she ran for cover, folding the publishers and making a last attempt to hit her authors up for cash.


Ann C. Crispin, Writer Beware co-founder and my dear friend, passed away in September after a long illness. Her tireless work with Writer Beware on behalf of writers everywhere stands as an enduring legacy. I miss her every day.


The Great Erotica Panic of 2013: A media expose of self-published rape and incest porn ebooks precipitated a media frenzy in the UK, causing online retailers, including Amazon, to pull titles from their stores (sometimes in error, based on too-inclusive algorithms). There are many lessons to be learned from this, but it also is, or should be, a reality check for self-publishers who think they’re launching their work into a sphere of unlimited freedom.

Early Termination Fees in Publishing Contracts: A Cautionary Tale: A publisher that tried to hold unhappy authors hostage with the threat of huge termination fees if they pulled their books early, and also attempted to use the fees to make a quick buck on the back end. Good reason to avoid publishers whose contracts include termination fees.


The Horror Writers Association Adds its Support to Writer Beware: We’re very proud that HWA is now one of our sponsors, along with the Mystery Writers of America. Our principal sponsor, as always, is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Awards Profiteering: The Book Festival Empire of JM Northern Media: I’ve written a lot on this blog about fake awards and dodgy contests, but this network of faux book festivals, which relentlessly solicits writers to enter its high-entry-fee competitions, is one of the most insidious and prolific.


Crowdfunded Anthologies: Concerns for Authors: Anthologies are pretty much dead at the big publishing houses, but they continue to thrive in the small press world and with genre readers, at least judging by the number of anthology projects that appear on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. If you’re thinking of submitting to–or supporting–one of these, there are a number of cautions to consider.

Writer Beware lost its co-founder, Ann Crispin, in 2013, but we also gained a wonderful new member: author and two-time SFWA President–and Ann’s husband–Michael Capobianco. With Michael on board, Writer Beware is poised to enter 2014 stronger than ever.