Monday, April 11, 2005

Writer Beware

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware. But that also extends to writers. If you haven't heard about this yet, it's time you did.


Atlanta Nights, by "Travis Tea," was offered a publishing contract by PublishAmerica of Frederick MD

What in the world could induce thirty professional authors to spend hours writing the WORST prose they could produce? They did it to prove a point—that a Maryland-based company called PublishAmerica is lying when they claim to be "selective" and reject "70-80%" of the manuscripts submitted to them.

Over a holiday weekend last year, some thirty-odd science fiction writers banged out a chapter or two apiece of Atlanta Nights, an original "novel" about hot times in Atlanta high society. Their objective: to write the most awful tripe they could and submit it to PublishAmerica, a self-described "traditional publisher" located in Frederick MD. PublishAmerica claims they aren’t a vanity press, but these authors proved their point when the print-on-demand (POD) publisher accepted the book and sent a publishing contract. Vanity presses don’t read what’s submitted to them before accepting it—real, traditional publishers do.

The project began after PublishAmerica posted an attack on science fiction authors at one of its Web sites ( PublishAmerica claimed, "As a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction ... [Science fiction authors] have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories and how to find them a home." It described them as "writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters."

The writers wanted to see where PublishAmerica puts its own "quality bar"—if the publisher really is selective, as the company claims, or if it is a vanity press that will accept almost anything, as Writer Beware, the watchdog committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) on writing scams, asserts. (

Atlanta Nights was completed. Any sign of literary competence was removed, even more mistakes and computer-generated nonsense were inserted, and the resulting atrocity was submitted to PublishAmerica.

They accepted the book.

From: PublishAmerica Aquisitions []

Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Subject: Atlanta Nights

As this is an important piece of E-mail regarding your book, please read it completely from start to finish.

I am happy to inform you that PublishAmerica has decided to give Atlanta Nights the chance it deserves ...

Welcome to PublishAmerica, and congratulations on what promises to be an exciting time ahead.


Meg Phillips

Acquisitions Editor


Writer Beware revealed the sting on a public writers message board on January 23, 2005, knowing that PublishAmerica was known to monitor that board.

Within hours, PublishAmerica withdrew their offer.

From: PublishAmerica Acquisitions

Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005

Subject: Your Submission to PublishAmerica

We must withdraw our offer to publish Atlanta Nights. Upon further review it appears that your work is not ready to be published. There are portions of nonsensical text in the manuscript that were caught by our editing staff as they previewed the text for editing time assessment pending your acceptance of our offer.

On the positive side, maybe you want to consider contracting the book with a vanity publisher such as iUniverse or Author House. They will certainly publish your book at a fee.

Thank you.

PublishAmerica Acquisitions Department

So that aspiring authors can see for themselves just what literary "standards" PublishAmerica maintains, the writers decided to make the novel available online at Sting Manuscript

Ironically, several authors and instructors wanted physical copies to illustrate how not to write a novel. SFWA elected to print up copies of the manuscript at a reputable POD publisher,, a company that does not misrepresent its services. All proceeds from the sale of Atlanta Nights by "Travis Tea," will be going to SFWA’s Emergency Medical Fund, a charity which helps authors who have no health insurance. To find Atlanta Nights, go to:

For more information about PublishAmerica and vanity presses, see:

Publisher's Weekly


Washington Post


Science Fiction Writers of America -- Writer Beware

Preditors & Editors

For more information about SFWA or Writer Beware, visit the SFWA Web site: or Writer Beware:, or contact Ann Crispin at or (301)274-9489.

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