Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Is this a legit publisher?

 In my eternal quest to seek out a publisher, I managed to stumble across a company called TCK publishing that looks to be some sort of combination of a vanity press and a marketing company. Ostensibly they take queries like any small press, but they also charge a $500 fee and make the author pay for editing services. In exchange, they would assist the author with marketing, covers, formatting, all that, and split the revenue with the author 50/50.

The mere existence of the infamous Publish America company has made me wary of anyone that asks for my money, but this one makes me arch an eyebrow because some of its authors seem to be doing fairly well and the owner doesn’t seem to be a dream vampire. My question is, of course, what do you and the blog readers here think of this model? Scam? Legitimate publishing company? Still better than self-publishing?

Be careful about throwing the word scam around. Scam implies they are doing something illegal. They are not. They're very clear about what they're doing and it's all legal. 

The same is true with literary agents who charge you a monthly retainer: it's perfectly legal, it's not "a scam"

Neither of them however are what I would consider a legitimate publisher or agent.

The guiding principle is this: do they add value to your work?

In exchange for a serious chunk of your earnings, a publisher provides the value of access to the marketplace; something you'd find very tough if not impossible to do on your own.  Before the advent of e-marketing, getting books in front of readers involved sales people going to bookstores. For an author assembling  a list of bookstores in his/her city, let alone state, let alone nationally was a DAUNTING task.

Now of course, it's much easier to access readers: Amazon and other electronic sales venues.

This company makes no mention of how they help your books reach readers.  A survey of six or seven of their authors reveals the books appear to be only on Amazon.

YOU can put your book on Amazon and keep ALL the money. The question to then ask is: what are you buying for that $500 and 50% of the royalties?  I don't see the answer on their website.  

My guess is that what you're buying is "I'm not self-published" which certainly has some merit.
On the other hand, anyone who doesn't review or acquire books that are self-published probably does what I do when confronted by an unfamiliar publisher name: I look em up.

The website is so geared to signing writers up that I would instantly discount it as a real publisher. And any kind of sleuthing about reveals they don't provide editing which is one of the MAJOR values a publisher brings to the table. Reviewers and book buyers don't ignore self-published books because they're self-published. They ignore them because as a rule they're BAD books (badly written, badly designed, badly printed.)

And of course I just love their comment they don't work with literary agents very often because they want the author to keep more of the royalties. That may be true; it certainly sounds good to writers. My guess though is that it's really the other way around: they don't work with lit agents cause no lit agent would send them a book.  I'd advise an author considering this venue to simply form their own company, hire an editor and book designer, and publish their work themselves. That way you control the pricing, and you keep the dough.

If however you want your book in bookstores, and libraries, and at B&N.com, you'll probably need a company that publishes, rather than just prints books. 


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I have a printer, some pretty card stock and a box of Crayola 64. I will print and publish your novel for 19.99. But wait, if you act now I'll sell your second novel for free, shipping and handling extra.
BTW, as a bonus, I'll sell the books myself. Saturdays only when it doesn't rain. I painted over my Lemonade sign.

kathy joyce said...

My elderly aunt has worked on publishing her memoir for several years. By the time I found out and got involved, she had lost all kinds of money. (Trust me, that $500 is just the beginning!) But, this is her legacy and nothing else matters but getting it published. I'll spare you the details, except to say that I've done extensive research, and my conclusion is that self-publishing through Amazon is the best of a very bad lot. And yes, I am now doing that with her manuscript, (on a very aggressive timeline, she turns 90 this spring!) Good luck!

InkStainedWench said...

Kathy, good for you helping your aunt with her memoir. A 90-year-old's recollections are worth recording, even if she doesn't sell that many copies.

Colin Smith said...

I don't think anyone here will judge you for being tempted by this, Opie. It sure sounds good, especially when you compare $500 to how much you can pay for good editing services, legal services, book design, etc. But tread carefully. If you really believe your novel is that good, then do what's best for your novel. If you believe it deserves to be traditionally published, then query it and get a good agent for it, and take nothing less. If you believe it deserves to be self-pubbed, then save up your pennies and do it properly (hire an editor--or two, hire someone to do the cover art, etc.). Whatever you do, don't short-sell your novel out of a desire simply to be published.

Janet: Good catch on "scam." So true. Not every business out to make a buck off the backs of the undiscerning is doing so illegally, so it's inaccurate to call such schemes "scams." And great advice, as usual. :)

Donnaeve said...

I can't help but wonder how many other variations some publishing "entrepreneur" will come up with to take hard earned money and make it sound like a good deal for the both parties. I'd steer clear of this, if I were in OP's shoes.

(sidenote: I like that QOTKU points out the difference between scam and legal - albeit "fishy" practices, IMO.)

OP, I was thinking the same thing QOTKU advised - if you're going to spend that kind of money (likely not the only $500 you'd fork over)and perhaps consider self-publishing. Then I had the thought, but where are YOU exactly in your publishing journey? How did you come across this company? Have you queried 200+ agents (or more?) and can't get a foot in the door, or was this just a random encounter, and piqued your curiosity enough to want to pose the question here?

Inquiring minds wanna know...

InkStainedWench said...

As a shy woodland creature, I am hesitant to toot my own horn, but I wanted to mention my own "publishing journey."

After ALMOST succeeding in getting an agent, I turned to approaching publishers directly. Four out of five either Norman'd or rejected, leaving me with one that had the manuscript for what seemed an eternity.

Like Kathy's aunt, I wasn't getting any younger, and decided the time had come to self-publish. I was drafting an email withdrawing the book when -- bing! -- I received a message from the publisher with A CONTRACT ATTACHED!

It's been a long slog, but my mystery will be published next year by a small, but legit, press.

I'm not quite ready to go public with the title and my actual name, but will let you all know when the time is right.

Keep the faith, my fellow woodlanders!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I pretty much do exactly what this “publisher” claims to do for my beta readers, apart from marketing which sounds suspect to me in this context. When I complete a book, or think I have finished a book, I hire an unbiased editor (I have a school district full of English teachers who all need a few extra $).

The editor sorts out all the glaring grammatical infractions that would cause an agent to blanch or at least I hope they catch those kind of things – commas, word usage, inconsistencies in tense- the big stuff.

Then I clean up those errors and take the book to Kinkos to be printed and bound to be distributed to my beta readers along with red pens as well as an email address in case they don’t feel like defacing my precious creation. (I do need to sort out the correct number of beta readers I should have because loads of random people volunteer – I think this is so they can use my books as criteria to have me committed). Worrisome.

At any rate, it sounds like a writer would be better off self-publishing than going with the we charge for our services publisher that can’t put you in a bookstore anyhow.

Me, I will continue to torture myself inside of the Query Pit because I am determined to give at least 15% of my earnings to a worthy agent in hopes my books will find their way onto bookshelves somewhere between David Eddings and Brandon Sanderson.

To me this is worth the time and agony and the larger than normal possibility of failure, but even should I die before realization of this dream, I do get unmitigated joy from writing. Yes, I have a rather severe Don Quixote complex – I am a sucker for the Impossible Dream. But that’s just me, and I have it on authority that I am weird with all sorts of delusions of grandeur along with a stupidly high threshold for unnecessary pain.

InkStainedWench Please keep us posted. That is an amazing story. Congratulations.

Brigid said...

I'm sorry to have been so AWOL lately, but I come bearing gifts: a story for you from my new job. Said job is the reason I haven't been active in the comments, but this may make up for it.

I work for a trucking company. Today's buzz: a driver got to Walmart with half his load missing and the seal on the truck broken. Originally claimed he suffered a hijacking, then claimed simple breakin. But he also said he bartered it to a prostitute for services rendered. The real question: Who pays a hooker in two pallets of off-brand kitchen appliances?!

Colin Smith said...

Brigid: Sex in the Circuit City... :)

Lennon Faris said...

This sounds fishy, but I am a skeptic and cynic with no personal experience of this place so I'll just keep my mouth shut now.

InkStainedWench - that's awesome!! yes keep us posted for sure.

OT - I am sitting in a coffee shop by a window while it rains on an unexpected day off, listening to some new music and writing. My own personal Heaven. Hope you all have just as good a day.

RKeelan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Colin Smith said...

InkStainedWench/Wretch/Wrench/Ranch/Please let me know when I can add you to the List of Published Works of Janet's Blog Readers. Congratulations!! :D

Reminder: If you are a regular to these comments, and you have been published, whether flash fiction, short stories, or novels, please let me know. This includes, print, ebook, and online. I'd love to include you in the list. Email me (address in my Blogger profile) with the title of your work, and where it can be found to read/purchase.

Oh, and if you haven't already noticed, I've updated the Writing Contest Spreadsheet to reflect Mallory's win yesterday. Congrats again, Mallory! :)

InkStainedWench said...

Colin, you forgot Retch!

Yes, I'll let you know as soon as I get confirmation of title and how my name will appear (first/last or initials/last). Thank you!

DLM said...

Legality and ethics make a fascinating study in juxtaposition with creativity and aspiration. Not necessarily a pretty one ...

InkStainedWench, HUZZAH! Cannot wait to hear, please definitely keep us posted.

Brigid, that's splendid plot bunny material indeed. Colin, Circuit City was headquartered in my hometown. That being Virginian, we all miss it in a very Virginian way, and shop at Best Buy only with regretful memories of what once was.

"How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?"

Five. One to change the actual bulb, two more to stand off to one side shaking their heads and tut-tutting about how much better the old light bulb was and worrying the new CFL will give them migraines, and two more to write the history of the original bulb with maps and Civil War footnotes.

Colin Smith said...

InkStainedRanch--I like that one, actually. Suggests some literary shenanigans of the Julie Weathers variety... or literary shenanigans with salad dressing. Whatever floats yer boat! ;)

Diane: Ha! Excellent stuff. :) We had a Circuit City in Raleigh that, I must say, was not renown for its customer service. I would often avoid the sales staff because I usually knew more about what I was looking for than they did. The fact the sales staff often avoided the customers helped greatly. I wasn't too surprised when they closed. Mind you, Best Buy wasn't a lot better back then, though I think they've improved the quality of their help in recent years.

kathy joyce said...

I just looked at this "publisher." By my read, it's a guy who's made a lot of $$ self-publishing on kindle, and making a training video about it. Looks like he only works through kindle so far. You'd still be self-publishing, albeit with possibly better editing and cover graphics than you'd do on your own. So in answer to the question, "Is he a legit publisher," he's not really a publisher at all.

BJ Muntain said...

Ah yes. Legitimate vs Legal. For instance, Publish America, though scum, is not scam. Not completely. There are have been some court cases, may still be, but if they were illegal, they would have been shut down by now. Who knows? We can still hope.

Scam: Illegal means of taking your money.
Scum: Legal means of taking your money.

So what's legitimate? Remember the golden rule: In traditional publishing, the money flows TO the author. In self-publishing, control remains with the author.

Scum will take your money AND control. And that's how you know they're scum.

Lennon: (OT) It's been a crappy week so far, but I'm looking forward to my own slice of Heaven this afternoon - singing for senior citizens. The music is fun, the seniors are appreciative, and life just glows at those times. We have more performances at seniors homes next week. This is what makes the stressful weeks before Christmas liveable.

Julie Weathers said...

I'm glad the OP has a manuscript ready to go. That's a huge accomplishment.

I would be very leery of this publishing company. I've had some small publishing companies ask me to submit Far Rider via various contests. Some are legitimate and others are a bit shady. It always pays to research. One got irked at me when I declined him several times and was pretty snippy.

In the end, if I have to pay for editorial services, I will self publish. All the shady ones I looked at spent more time promoting themselves and getting more fish than they did their authors. It was like they thought slapping a author's picture on a page with their book was all they needed to do to promote the author and that was almost an afterthought.

This publisher may not be scamming people, but you can do better.

Kathy I'm glad you got involved with your elderly aunt, but how sad she's lost that money over this stuff. It happens so often. That being said, it will be good to get her memoir out there.

I can understand her panic about getting published. A friend and I were talking about this the other day and the subject of age came up. When you're looking at the back end of the tunnel, you realize your options may be running out.

Inkstained That is marvelous news. Congratulations. That is wonderful and exciting and what a great time of year. Keep us posted.

Brigid Wow. I used to work for a large distribution center in the transportation department. We would very occasionally have a load turn up short, but thankfully most of the guys were very conscientious. Most of our shorts I tracked down to sloppy loaders. I'm so thankful I never had to have a discussion with corporate about hookers and small appliances.

welcome back and congratulations on the new job.

I wasn't able to make it to NY for the conference this year and hopefully to see Miss Janet, so I'm sending her a gift. My middle son has a bull heading to NY for the Professional Bull Riders show. When he told me about sending a bull to NY, I asked, "All in one piece? He's not wearing the golden arches brand, is he?"

"No! He's going in one piece and you're not funny."

So, Miss Janet, be looking for a visitor from Oklahoma.

Julie Weathers said...

Carolynn Do you do art like this with your crayons? If so I might reconsider this self publishing thing.

Lennon Faris said...

BJ - awesome. Senior homes have the most appreciative audiences. In the last place I lived, I used to visit a retirement home and just pound out tunes on their old dining hall piano. Once I played 'O Danny Boy.' A old gentleman tapped my piano as he was exiting, said he was a veteran and the music was beautiful and had made him cry. Oh the stories I'm sure they have. Hope you touch some lives this week!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie, Wow, what detailed, intricate work that crayon artist does.

Inkstained-congrats!! That's wonderful news. Yes, keep us posted.

Opie, what everyone else has been saying. If someone wants $500 and 50% of my sales up front, my gut says nuh-uh.

I'm finally home after attempting to go to work. My car was involved in a parking lot accident last Thursday but the passenger-side back bumper was bumped back into place (say that real fast) and held its own. Until today's blustery winds. Eight miles out of town on the freeway, the bumper bumped loose and would not be put back together again. Stopped at the local golf course (they're planning a Christmas event because there's no golf in Minnesota in winter) and even though they could not find duct tape, my car was frankensteined-enough that it could crawl back home. After spending the rest of the morning with insurance companies, my car is now in the body shop. And I'm enjoying a well-earned cup of cappuccino.

Beth said...

Congrats, InkStained! OP, hope you find YOUR best path to publication and sell a million. Good luck.

splatteredgrey matter said...

Julie Weathers, thanks for the Bob Mayer shout out. I just started reading Duty, Honor, Country trilogy. Thank you.

Mark Ellis said...

Brigid: If by any chance you live in Nevada, I would check the Mustang Ranch for your missing appliances.

Janet Reid said...

Depending on the services required, I can be had for a stove.
And a waffle iron.

Donnaeve said...

I am losing my mind. I felt certain I had posted twice today, but where my 2nd comment went ...........well. I might have somehow forgot I was posting b/c I got distracted by who knows what, and shut down the window.

Geez. FIRST, congrats to Mallory for her FF win!

SECOND, congrats to InkStainedFillinwhateveryouwanttocallthispersonuntilweknowtheirrealname!!! How exciting!

Personally, I will be glad when we know Ink's real name so we can quite destroying it with our own idea of how our eyeballs see it.

Joseph Snoe said...

Wow, Julie
I wonder if Don Marco does book covers.

Exciting time for InkStainedWench. I like positive real-life stories.

Carolynn, I may use your services. I know I can trust you. Do you take electric can openers as payment?

Julie Weathers said...


I'm pretty sure I lost mine. My mother just called to thank me for her office chair. Now I had planned on buying her one, but I don't remember ordering it and frankly, I think I did so by accident since I was still shopping for the best deal.

I'm swearing off all shopping sites until after the New Year...2018.

Theresa said...

Big congratulations to ISW! Can't wait to learn the details.

If we all pitch in for a stove and waffle iron, I wonder what we can get Janet to do. Something legal, of course.

Donnaeve said...

Julie boy, can I relate. I put in a pretty big order on Amazon, and when it all finally showed up, I realized I'd ordered one item twice - on two different days.

Back it goes. Already doing returns and it's not even Christmas.

Casey Karp said...

InkstainedW*: Congratulations! Wonderful as it is, signing that contract is pretty darn scary, isn't it? But you've got your foot in the door, and there's no looking back now.

If I can toot my own horn a little, I know whereof I speak on signing.

My father (Larry Karp; feel free to Google him) had several mysteries published over the years. He took a break from fiction to write a biography, and then when he came back to fiction, he decided he needed wanted to do something new to him, involving bringing in some elements from outside the genre. He asked me to collaborate with him because (a) I'm a longtime SFF reader and (b) I've got two novels finished, even if I'm still shoving them in front of agents.

The result: our collaboration will be published next summer, from a well-regarded small press.

Signing that contract was especially bittersweet as Dad passed away after the publisher accepted the book, but before we had signed. So I've got that foot inside the door too, and quite dizzy with the mix of anticipation and sheer terror!

InkStainedWench said...

Casey, what a great story! Hope things go well, both for you and for your father's memory.

Colin Smith said...

Theresa: I don't even want to imagine... fluffy bunnies fluffy bunnies fluffy bunnies...

Casey: That's both sad and awesome. I wish you well with the project. Don't forget to let us know when it's published. :)

Ardenwolfe said...

Remember this mantra: Money moves toward the author. Not away. If anyone asks for money to read or publish your work, you move on.

MA Hudson said...

OP - It's that bit about paying the publisher $500 that rings alarm bells. Sounds totally dodgy. And why bother anyway? As everyone else is saying, you could do just as good a job yourself without losing control or money.

Julie - those crayon drawings! I never knew crayola were capable of such fine applications. Makes me want to buy a set again.

Casey - I understand how bittersweet your situation is. On the sweet side, it's so lovely that you were able to share the experience of authoring a book. Such beautiful (and soon to be tangible) memories to hold onto.

Casey Karp said...

Colin: Absolutely. And I'm trying to be a more active commenter, instead of just passively soaking up the awesomeness around here. FWIW, it's starting to show up for pre-order. Currently waiting on the cover. I have a sneaky feeling that's when it'll start to feel "real".

MA Hudson: I wish he had gotten to sign the contract with me--oh, who am I trying to kid; I wish he had gotten to finish the next book as well (and several dozen more that we had ideas for)--but I'm forever grateful he knew the book would be published. Lifetime of memories, oh yes.