It has been awhile since we’ve had to do a post about what to be on the lookout for when it comes to publishers. But I came across a link to a publisher — and I use that term loosely — last night that made me think it might be time to do just such a post once again. The reason? This particular publisher isn’t new to the game. Even though it is a small house, it has been around for seven years or so and has actually put out some pretty good titles. It had a pretty good reputation, from what I can tell. But in September it sold and it appears that things have changed.
So, what is this press you ask? New Pulp Press. I’ll concede right here that there may be no intent to act as a vanity press by New Pulp Press and its principals. However, there are things about its site that raise red flags for me and I want to discuss them.
So, I clicked and started reading and the red flags started multiplying.
To start, they tell you that your work should be fully edited before being submitted.
If you’re anal retentive by nature, this may mean you can do this yourself. Otherwise, before you submit your manuscript it should be edited by a professional. We are a small press and do not have the resources to provide any material amount of editing of your work. So if your submission does not arrive carefully edited, chances are it will get rejected out of hand.
So, you pay for editorial services before you submit to New Pulp Press to be “published”. Hmmm. Red flag.
They are a “small press and do not have the resources to provide any material amount of editing”. Red flag again. If you are a small press and your resources are so limited, you either sharply limit the number of books you bring out so you can offer your authors the services they deserve as members of your “publishing house”.
But let’s continue looking. Maybe there is something on other pages to ease my concerns.
There is a full page on manuscript preparation. Okay, after having seen submissions come in in different fonts, line spacing, etc., I can see that. So maybe things aren’t as bad as I first thought. I’ll keep reading.
For the most part, the requirements are industry standard. One thing that had me scratching my head was the requirement that there not be headers and footers or page numbers on submissions. If there was a requirement for a cover sheet, I missed it. So not having a header with the title and author name in it could become problematical if the attachment is separated from the accompanying email. But maybe these guys are more organized that I am from time to time. The flag is pink, not quite red.
Then we get to the how to prepare your manuscript subsection and my head starts to spin. First off, we are told to know the mechanics of our craft and that is defined as knowing “how to prepare a document on your computer.” Uh, no. That is not the mechanics of my craft as a writer. I can be a writer without knowing how to format a manuscript. Not to mention how that one statement marginalizes so much of what we do as writers and is more than a bit condescending. Red flag.
Then we get to the real reason for this requirement:
In order to publish your ebook, the manuscript will be converted into various ebook formats (mobi and epub). So it’s important how you prepare your document for submission to New Pulp Press.
Reading this between the lines and with what was said about editorial services in mind, my guess is these folks don’t want to do anything more than they have to in order to convert an accepted manuscript into digital formats. Let’s throw another red flag for not wanting to do what legitimate presses, large and small do.
The rest of their formatting requirements are pretty generic. I might not agree with all of them, but there is nothing glaring. Still, I’m starting to wonder if New Pulp Press is a publisher or more of an aggregator or clearing house in the way of Smashwords or Draft 2 Digital.
So let’s keep looking. There is still that troubling tab about possible surcharges to look at.
Ookay, now we are finally getting to the meat of some of my concerns. According to the first paragraph of the Possible Surcharges page, New Pulp Press is a traditional third-party publisher. Of course, it doesn’t give a definition for what that means. So we could be looking at the definition the gaming industry uses or something else.
The very next paragraph starts out by saying New Pulp Press is not a vanity press and authors don’t pay to get published. Well, that’s a good thing — if the rest of the page holds true to that statement. So let’s see.
It will do simultaneous publishing of ebooks and print books. Standard. It will provide, free of charge, ISBNs for the print books but not for ebooks. (waggles hand). That could possibly limit the venues in which it publishes its ebooks. But maybe not. We don’t know because we haven’t seen — yet — where they publish their e-books. Of course, now that I think about it, I haven’t seen anything about what royalty rates they follow either. Hmmm. Possible red flag.
There are no charges for reading, light editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, promoting, fulfilling, etc. However, there can be charges for certain additional services or fixes.
Okay, here is where my blood starts to boil. How generous that they don’t charge for “light editing” or formatting. You are required to submit an “error-free” manuscript and it is recommended you hire an editor before you submit. As for formatting, you have already done basically everything for them. Yeah, I can see where they are really helping me as an author — not. But let’s keep looking
Oh goody, there are no charges for publishing my book. How kind of them. Isn’t publishing the book what they are supposed to do? Or is that clause how they are justifying their claim not to be a vanity press?
I won’t even talk about not charging for marketing, promoting, fulfilling, etc., because we don’t know anything about what they do in any of those activities beyond having a website and Facebook page.
If your manuscript needs major editing, something New Pulp Press doesn’t do, they will be happy to recommend outside editors who will do so for a fee. Hmm. Red flag and my suspicious mind wonders what sort of arrangement they have with these outside editors.
Manuscripts are both Spellchecked and carefully proofread by New Pulp Press editors, however the Publisher is not responsible for any errors not caught.
Thanks, but if that is all I want, I can do it myself. By the way, what is the publisher responsible for?
In most (not all) cases the Author will get an opportunity to proof/approve the formatted manuscript.
What this means is that if you don’t get a chance to proof/approve your formatted manuscript and you find errors after publication, you will be charged for the changes, something they tell you in the next paragraphs.
Corrections after publication (either as an ebook or as a paperback) will be made at no charge if a significant PE. Changes that are the fault or a revision of the Author will be made at a cost listed below.
Now you tell me, what are significant Publisher Errors if the publisher doesn’t do edits? (At best they do minor copy edits but only commit to doing proofreading.) If an author doesn’t get to see the formatted manuscript, how do you know if previous revisions were made? How do you know if there were any issues in formatting? If you are still continuing to consider New Pulp Press as your “publisher”, you’d better be sure these questions are addressed in the contract and that they are answered in your favor.
The next thing that bothers is me, in the list of possible charges, is an entry for paperback cover.
Paperback cover (front cover from ebooks plus back cover and spine to fit format). $200
To me, that means they are going to charge for the creation of a cover for a format they say is a standard publication stream for them. So my question is simple: do they only publish a title as an e-book unless the author pays to create the paperback cover? Red flag!
So I have a lot of concerns about New Pulp Press and it all stems from the fact that they are making it all too easy to charge the author for the right to publish with them. There is no reason for that to happen, not if you are calling yourself a publisher. If you are simply a packager, say so and then list your schedule of fees. Be upfront and it will avoid a lot of misconceptions and ill-will. Writers, if you are considering these guys, make sure you have your contract vetted by an IP attorney before signing it. Money is supposed to run to the author, not away from him.