Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And now, another kind of sleazy publishing

I just read an article called "Options expand for authors," written by Jane Laskey and published on sctimes.com -- the website for the St. Cloud, Minnesota, Times newspaper.

Jane terrified me with mentions of authors who paid (gasp!) $20,000 and (OMG!) $25,000 to publish their books.

I was disappointed to read about North Star Press in St. Cloud. Jane wrote that it "is one of many small presses giving new writers a chance." They don't have much of a chance. After 40 years, the family-owned business is going over to the dark side of publishing. Just like Harlequin and Thomas Nelson.

The company has an interesting business method. Jane pointed out that PublishAmerica requires its authors to be editors, proofreaders and designers, but North Star requires authors to be book peddlars!

Jane wrote, "North Star Press now asks its authors to pitch in with marketing. Each is required to buy copies at wholesale prices and sell them."

The North Star website says, "while each author receives traditional royalties, each is now also required to buy a minimum of 100 copies of their books at a 50% discount for re-sale [sic] into nontraditional venues."

  • "I'd like a large peperoni pizza with extra cheese, but I'll buy it only if you buy my book."
  • "Sweetheart, you are my true soulmate, the love of my life, and I want to spend my life with you. I want you to be my bride, but only if I can sell books to the wedding guests, the minister and the caterer."
  • "I need an oil change for my Toyota Corona, but I'll get it only if you buy my book."
  • "Hi, Handsome. I'll be glad to spend the night with you, and I'll show you tricks your wife never dreamed of. My price is just $1,000 for the sex, plus $19.95 for a copy of my book."
  • "I need a seat in first-class to Tahiti, but I'll  buy the ticket only if I'm allowed to sell books to the other passengers and the flight crew.
  • "I need a haircut and a perm, but if you won't buy my book, I'll get my hair done somewhere else."
  • "I have a terrible toothache. I'd like you to check it -- if you'll buy my book."
  • "Yes, I'd love to attend this college, but only if the library will buy my book."
  • "Welcome to Walmart. I'll be glad to let you use this shopping cart if you buy my book.
  • "Hello, 911. I think I'm having a heart attack. Please send an ambulance, but make sure the paramedics are willing to buy my books."
Let's assume that those 100 books have a cover price of $20. North Star brags about its experience and its ability to produce books at "a reasonable cost." OK, a reasonable cost to print books might be $2 each. A 50% discount from the cover price comes to $10. An author pays $1,000 for 100 books that North Star paid $200 to print. North Star nets $800, which likely covers its cost of designing and editing the book, and provides a bit of profit. Maybe North Star convinces the ecstatic author to buy 200 books -- or 2,000 books. Maybe the cover price is an inflated $29.95 but the printing cost is still two bucks.

With their costs covered by the author (who is even financing her own advance and royalties), there is little incentive for North Star to try to sell books to bookstores. All the company needs to succeed is a parade of eager and ignorant writers ready to be plucked.

And, by the way, if an author is not good enough for a not-quite-conventional advance-and-royalties contract from North Star, the company will be glad to provide "Guided Self-Publishing." The website says, "the author is still directly responsible for all costs related to the production of the book and promotion."

That sure sounds like vanity publishing to me, and North Star is doing the same thing as Harlequin and Thomas Nelson, with their new vanity operations. I'm not sure who copied whom. Writers who are not good enough to be paid by the publisher, are good enough to pay money to the publisher.



  1. Another day, another publishing scam.

    So sad.

    What hath Gutenberg wrought?

  2. what a lovely company they sound like ( not!)

  3. What do they say? "A fool and his money..."

  4. Here's another marketing opportunity: Go into a local bookstore and pick out a bunch of books, and tell the cashier that you won't buy them unless the store buys an equal number of your books.

    Or, an author who's been published by North Star Press can offer to buy books written by other North Star authors -- IF they'll buy her books.

    At Christmas time when people are collecting for the Salvation Army in front of Walmart, tell the collector that you'll be willing to donate $5 if he'll buy your book for $20.

    Or when your mayor/governor/senator/dog catcher is running for re-election, say you'll be glad to vote for him -- if he'll buy five copies of your book.

    The possibilities are endless.

  5. Unbelievable

    And new authors will fall for this crap too


  6. It's not a scam, not a vanity press. NStar is a long established, legitimate royalty press that produces fine, high quality books that are distributed through standard distribution channels. This site is a scurrilous attempt to damage a legitimate enterprise for personal questionable reasons.

    1. (1) How much profit have you made via Northstar?

      (2) What do you think are my "personal questionable reasons?"