Writer Beware: Publish America Now America Star Books

danger sign dog

Writing can be like swimming in shark-infested waters.

I’m likely writing and preaching to the choir here, but when sharks start circling, it bears repeating especially for the folks who may be treated like chum. It’s not fun being targeted by the sharks, and even experienced writers and authors fall prey to some of the crappiocca floating around these days.

Yes, there is DANGER out there for the unwary and eager authors. Certainly, you can choose your own path to publication, and far be it from me to say what is the best choice for anyone but myself. That said, PLEASE be informed. There are some well known companies that have earned either a great or abysmal reputation and when you spend all your blood-sweat-and-tears on your baby-book, it’s important to know the difference.

Publish America has been around for many years. Once self published writers took the reins of their own careers and learned they could accomplish more for less $$ on their own or by hiring pros, such companies turned to advertising and marketing packages to make money. Sure, it’s fine to hire help to market and promote your work–but again, be informed. High price does not equal high quality.

I love the Writer Beware site and strongly urge all writers to bookmark the site. It’s sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and founded by A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. So when I got the (below) letter last week, and it didn’t pass the sniff-test, I visited the Writer Beware site and found out this is old news but new to me. Here’s their post on the subject.

Take a look at the email I got yesterday, copied below. I found it interesting that this company that used to do nothing but publish (for a high fee), now says it publishes for free–and offers to promote my indie book for free.

Except my 1st Aid book is NOT an “indie” title.

All they want is to add my name to their marketing solicitation list–but they’ve already GOT my email and sent that letter in a marketing blast. So why reach out? Why do you think? Baiting the hook? Hmnnn.

Or do they want permission to use my pet 1st aid book in their marketing at this event? GAK! no-no-no-no-no!

My name is Jackie Velnoskey. I saw that you have written The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats. My question for you is: may I promote the book at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando in June? It costs you nothing. All I’m asking you in return is if we may add you to our book marketing email list. 

Amy’s Note: American Library Association is a legit organization, as is its conference. Anyone can pay to exhibit there.

We would like to include your work in the Hot Indy Author Guide that we’re displaying and distributing during the ALA event. This option is free. Check out our Facebook page (URL REDACTED) when we report live from Orlando where over 150,000+ are expected to attend.

At America Star Books we have a book promotion department that does nothing but offering book promotion at the lowest fees in the nation. We attend all of the big fairs and festivals: Book Expo America, London Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, Miami Book Fair International, the American Library Association mid-winter and annual Conferences, Baltimore Book Festival, and so on.

All I am asking you at this time is if we may add you to our email list when we issue our next book promotion offers. You may at any time unsubscribe, and we will promptly cease sending you any further emails. America Star Books has been around for more than fifteen years, serving over 60,000 authors. Participating in book promotion is entirely optional.

 Thank you for considering this opportunity. I am looking forward to hearing back from you.

Jackie Velnoskey
America Star Books Special Services, manager

rattle snake striking

Snakes cannot help their nature…steer clear!

Hey, it’s complicated and can be hard to recognize some of the bad actors because…well, because some of them have joined forces with other well known publishing houses to give themselves legitimacy. Another of my favorite writing blogs is written by author David Gaughrin, and he has a take-no-prisoners approach to calling out the bad actors. Check out his post here about Author Solutions (another infamous example). 

I realize this is not an in depth explanation or recommendation for what you SHOULD do. Others have written with more detail and insight, which is why I encourage you to check out both David’s and the Writer Beware blogs. Also, subscribe to email lists so that when something like this comes up, simply ASK if anyone on the list can tell you anything about the company. The indie community of writers is one of the most generous and giving I’ve ever seen, and those with more experience typically will offer feedback and help to those who genuinely want help.

Your turn–what do you think? Any horror stories you’d care to share…or even better, success stories? I love celebrating writer-ly success because DANG, it’s not an easy path to get published.
It’s up to all of us to watch each other’s backs and call FOUL when someone sets out to prey on the unwary.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Monday Mentions: Amazing Cat Agility & Writer-icity CAUTION!


Maurice-the-Dragon breathes FIRE when writers get dissssssed!

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo writer links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Check out the SQUEEE! cute pet-astic videos at the bottom, too. If you’ve ever wondered whether cats can be trained…just get a load of 8-month-old Suki in the video. For new followers to the blog, welcome! and you can expect more cat and dog specific schtuff later in the week on Wednesday and Friday.


Visit me THIS WEEKEND at the OWFI Writers Conference, I’ll be speaking on The Reinvented Writer and signing books. Gots my sparkle-icity all lined up.

Argo Navis & Lazy Literary Agents?  Wow David, tell us what you REALLY think! LOL!

What the Hell Is A Hybrid Author? an irreverent (and spot-on) discussion from Chuck Wendig *warning language…and warning, you’ll snort beverage. Just sayin’

Harper Collins Enhanced E-books now this is way kewl!

 How To Break Into Magazine Writing

Publisher Jailed for Defrauding Authors Scam publisher Peter Campbell-Copp, of Historical Pages Publishing

Leaf Books In Trouble according to Writer Beware there’s been no update since last August and publications/payments still delayed.

In Defense of Emoticons, Asterisks, Etc  BOL!!!!!!!!

Dramatic -$$ for Authors, Yikes! from my colleague Patricia Fry, a major Authors Beware fee-paying moment.

DIP Press Beware: Spam Emailing Authors I got a note a week or ago as did several of my colleagues, as follows:

“Hi there, I am an independent literary agent contracted by my client; DIP Press, to target potential Authors for publishing.  This is not an offer for self publishing; there are no fees of any sort required from chosen Authors. Manuscript submissions are currently being accepted for a limited number of slots.  If you are interested please email myself or the editor at one of the addresses below: Editor:  Ron (me): agentronnie@usa.com  Booksubmissions@usa.com “

The note came to me via a writers BBS that I had not visited in over two years, so I asked Ronnie Pherson why I received the note and he answered:

“Hi Amy, Thank you for your message on this side! Concerning the message I sent to you, DIP is looking for authors for summer and fall schedules. This year’s budget was set for the purpose of growth and expansion, giving DIP the ability to bring on more authors and produce and promote them effectively.  My job is to bring authors to the table, however, decisions to publish are made by the lead editor, Jason Fisher. If you have specific questions please ask and I will be glad to answer them for you or find the answer as soon as I can. Thanks, Ron 

So I asked for details, as follows:

  • Since you are the “agent” contact would you be the author’s agent/advocate or are you advocating for the publisher?
  • What are the DIP Press terms? (royalty rates, duration of contract, etc)
  • Who have you published? (titles/authors)
  • Where are books distributed? (amazon, iTunes, Kobo, B&N, Diesel, etc)
  • Detail what “marketing” is included?

Ronnie answered (somewhat incompletely):
“Great questions! In response to your questions; I would be considered the Author’s Advocate.” (This is odd–since he’s been hired by DIP and one assumes is paid by them, how can he then negotiate with them to the benefit of a client? Does he get a flat fee for bringing authors to the table? And on top of that, an agent percentage? Or a cut of books sold? or what?…and when I google the editor James Fisher, there’s not a lot of info. Yes, I’m a weee bit suspicious).

“Terms vary from Author to Author, however, an agreement will be sent with that information in the event you are selected. (So DIP declines to share details until/unless you’re picked). I know that the rates are very good, among the best in the industry among traditional publishers. (Sorry, but that’s not saying much…if it’s for Ebooks, when I can make 70% royalty on my own why would I go with DIP at a 26% royalty…which is just a tick above the “traditional publisher” standard). I have seen contracts for as short as a year and as long as 5 years. This, like many things in the agreement, can be negotiated. (Okay, that’s a positive that terms should be open to negotiation–again, with a strong advocate agent intent on rep’ing the author without potential conflicts of interest).

“You can see more titles here:  www.dippub.com  -DIP is also known for its high profile/celebrity Authors. (Really? What celebrities? Folks, please look for some DIP authors and point me to the celebs, because I didn’t find any or I’m clueless and didn’t recognize ’em as famous). In terms of Marketing, DIP has a sophisticated system to promote books and get sales. Activities consist of interviews, press, ads, and a host of other avenues. (Again, please point me to some books from DIP doing well in terms of sales/ranking). I hope this helps! Ron 

I’ll give big props to Ron and DIP for responding and offering some answers. The website lists a good-size list of author names, although most of the links do not yet have live info. After a search of my go-to resource Writer Beware I found one 2011 list of similar spam-mail messages soliciting authors. That situation offered a innovative publishing program that required $$ to participate, but wasn’t necessarily seeking to rip-off anyone. If interested in DIP I’d urge y’all to do further investigation. There are LOTS of opportunities these days to publish–and there be sharks in them-thar waters.


 A Different Kind of Smart — fascinating look at tool use and cognition in animals (crows, elephants, chimps, etc).

Laser Treatment for Dogs from the perspective of one super-special pooch!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Monday Mentions: Thriller Unveil, Chicken Soup-icity & Writer Beware!

COVER UNVEIL! You like? Boy, I do too–and click on the cover to learn more about the book as well as the ongoing NAME THAT DOG and NAME THAT CAT contest. By the way, a special shout out to the Magical-Dawg’s breeder Gillian Salling for sharing her gorgeous cover dog, USCHI VON FERNHEIM, TD. (That “TD” stands for Tracking Dog title this dog acquired at six months of age.)

LOST AND FOUND is about the future. My nonfiction books are the present, of course. But today’s blog also revisits the past.

Several years ago I was fortunate to be a co-author on two books, Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul with awesome peeps Dr. Marty Becker and Carol Kline. These books were incredibly popular and sold extremely well–authors LOVE books like that with great royalty payments! Unfortunately for the authors, though, the founders of Chicken Soup decided to sell the brand–the company became Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing (CSSP) in 2008. And when that happened–POOOOOOF!–all the co-author royalties suddenly disappeared. That’s because the first publisher Health Communications Inc (HCI). decided to sue CSSP, and so CSSP returned the favor–to the tune of millions of dollars spent on attorneys.

The kicker? They decided that the co-authors should foot the bill for their lawyerly shenanigans. In other words, instead of continuing to earn substantial income, suddenly our royalty indicated each co-author OWED the new publisher in excess of 5 figures. No, we didn’t have to pay them–this just meant they didn’t have to pay US as long as that column remained in the negative column. Funny how a simple contract can be re-interpreted the way they want. My friends Marty and Carol have many other Chicken Soup books, and there are a number of other authors in the same soup-y situation.

So I was pleased to see that the two companies finally settled their dispute. And I quick-like-a-bunny emailed ’em to find out what this means for the co-authors. I first emailed Kim Weiss, director of communications for HCI and she said they’d been told to have us direct questions to Amy Newmark, the publisher of CSSP, and here is Ms Newmark’s reply:

Hi Amy.
We received no money in the settlement.We will start publishing the backlist books with new ISBNs in July and we hope to generate royalties for the coauthors later this year as a result.

I’ll give you three guesses (and the first two don’t count) how long I’ll hold my breath to see income on THAT new deal. The settlement means nothing for the co-authors. Nothing. It means NOTHING. It only means CSSP now owns the HCI backlist and gets to publish it and continue to perform creative bookkeeping to keep any/all income made possible by the blood-sweat-teeth-gnashing of co-authors.

Bitter, much? Uh…yeah. So from me to you–WRITER BEWARE OF HCI AND CSSP. They have in the past and most certainly will in the future interpreted contracts any which way that pleases them, to the woe of those who trust them to be ethical.

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Some of this “schtuff” can be hard to categorize and may fit more than one topic so I urge you to at least scan them all.


Book Passages Mystery Writers Conference July 19-22, with some awesome speakers including the awesome Doug Lyle, forensic specialist

Types of Social Media Users–what type are you? (“Sparks” here…)

Publishing Syndicate call for submissions

5 Ways to Promo Your Books

Amazon Buys Dorchester Pub Assets


Our Animal Natures asks (and answers) the question, Why don’t we human doctors routinely cooperate with animal experts?

Pedigree Canned Dog Food Recall little blue plastic pieces in the food could choke your dog, please be careful!

Winn Feline Foundation Announces  2012 Media Award presented to awesome pet writer/author Darlene Arden!

6th Annual Planet Dog Foundation Fundraiser to Benefit Maine Medical Center’s Therapy Dog Program. I love this company! Not only does Magical-dawg love their products, they do good schtuff for dogs…check out the video, below.

How Animals Talk–Vocal “Matching” in Animals and a related article on how goat moms recognize kid bleats even after they grow up!

Responsible Dog Ownership Day turns 10 Celebrate with your dogs on September 22.

Planet Dog Offers $25,000 In Grants. Since 2006, PDF has contributed over $875,000 dollars in cash and in-kind product donations to exemplary canine service programs. $25,000 in grants go to this year’s grant recipients:  Austin Dog Alliance, of Austin, TX; Central Lakes Search and Rescue, of Garfield, MN; Champlain Valley Search and Rescue K-9 Unit, of Keeseville, NY; Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, of Norfolk, VA; Freedom Service Dogs of Englewood, Colorado; New Jersey Search and Rescue, of Mahwah, NJ; Service Dogs of Virginia, of Charlottesville, VA; and Susquehanna Service Dogs, of Harrisburg, PA. Check out the awesome video.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter . Don’t forget to check out the NAME THAT DOG/CAT character in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Tuesday Tips: Dragons, Mountains & Publishing

Last week I was in the mountains of Colorado–BLISS!–communed with nature, beverage, bling, friends, and fictioning (not necessarily in that order). The past several week’s Tuesday Tips have been a great help for me sharing insight from best-selling thriller authors. And I harvested a bumper crop of all-things-writerly and meant to include them in yesterday’s Monday Mentions but there were just too dang many. So you’ll find ’em here. But first a little introspection.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”500″ caption=”Meet Maurice, my dragon muse who keeps my fictioning ass-ets on target.” .


Like many bookworm rabid readers I thought that I could write a novel. And I tried, oooh how I tried! My first agent told me my work was wonderful, awesome, spectacular and that when the movie-of-the-week came out, I should play the lead. Wow! Of course, that was long ago in a galaxy far away when I’d only just fallen off the writerly turnip truck and PAID said agent for those glowing reviews. (See WRITER BEWARE blog listed below). Four novels later that agent got dumped–hey I was a slow learner!–and I’d begun selling articles while I searched for another agent for the fiction.

Low and behold, the articles garnered my first book contracts when an editor from Nooo Yawk contacted ME to write The Cat Companion followed by several other pet books–all without an agent. The search for an agent continued, and one in particular turned down the fiction but wanted to see nonfiction efforts–together we sold probably 15 pet care titles. I guess you could say the fiction gave me my book career, yet that success shoved novels and article writing aside.

Fast forward to the present–Nooo Yawk no longer calls or even picks up the phone or opens the email for pet books unless the author also has a network TV show or has slept with the wrong famous person. Print magazines that launched my own and others’ careers are gone or fading fast. Online writing for pennies a page or for the “glory” of a byline has begun the new paradigm. Agents can’t sell books because editors are afraid to buy.

Ebooks are the (current) king! Scary crappiocca but exciting, too. Never before have writers and authors had so much control–IF they take that leap. Once I’d finished pounding my head bloody against the wall and gnashing teeth over the changes, my books took that Ebook plunge and Internet articles became my bread and virtual butter. So how are you managing the changes in your writing life? Still angsting over schtuff that you can’t change or taking the bull-hocky by the ballz and making a difference in your career?

Oh, it’s still scary. Y’all know that now I’m the Puppies Guide at About.com, and they’ve just announced ABOUT.COM LAYOFFS, YIKES!  The “contributing writers” program at About.com (a New York Times company) was summarily dumped last week with little more than a week’s notice to the freelancers providing 12 or more pieces of “content” per month to various guide sites. In addition, 15 “channel editors” were laid off as well (see the link). After working for nearly a year as a contributing writer (CW) to the cats.About.com Guidesite before creating the spanking-new puppies.About.com Guidesite this comes as a shock to me and others working for the company. CWs are encouraged to apply for open Guide positions or the new “Topic Guide” program.  And any other writer with the credentials may also apply and find it a rewarding venue.

I’ll be releasing new nonfiction pet books in the months ahead but there’s never been a better time to return to fiction. I’m taking a fun Email course from Lawson Writer’s Academy from Tiffany Lawson Inman on the Triple Threat Behind Staging A Scene. I won the course (YAY!) from my blogging buddy Jenny Hansen. See? you can find all kinds of kewl schtuff reading, sharing and commenting on other folks’ blogs! Speaking of blogs and other writer-icity tips, take a look at the following for some great insight, tips and inspiration.

BLOG DESIGN 101, some helpful tips on color, font and more

8 TIPS FOR WRITING THE PERFECT BLOG from Lorie Huston, great writer and animal lover (she’s a vet, too!), all about keywords and tags and more.

PLEASE SIGN MY KINDLE!  here’s how...


AWESOME NOVEL DIAGNOSIS TIPS, a peek inside the head (wowie!) of Kristen Lamb

REVISING & POLISHING YOUR NOVEL, guest blogger Jodie Renner at DP Lyle’s blog.

AMAZON’S KINDLE FIRE (TABLET), blog discussion from David Gaughran, and another great post on the topic from Jason Pinter

WRITER BEWARE! Aspen Mountain Press and also a great post on BAD CONTRACT CLAUSES

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Tuesday Tips: Pix, Tricks & Writers Fighting Dirty


Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo links and blogs and writer-icity crappiocca. But I collected so much great stuff over the past week, yesterday’s blog concentrated on furry content and today’s Tuesday Tips catches the writer-icity spillover.

What are some of your favorite writer tips? Do you have a blog you love to visit? Or maybe there’s a book on craft that you can’t live without and made all the difference in your success. Add ’em in the comment section. Heck, if it’s your own tip, blog or book that rocks the world, you have MY PERMISSION for today to shout-about-it here in the comments. Spread the word, and we’ll make today’s Tuesday Tips a lasting resource.

My colleague Andrea Dorn always shares great writer and grammar tips with Cat Writers Association members (see her blog here). She shared that if you’re planning to use photos as news (that is, for the purpose of reporting on what happened at your event in newspapers, magazines or websites), permission isn’t necessary. However, if you intend to use photos in promotional or commercial materials, you need written permission from all individuals who can be identified in the photos. Publishing the art of a living artist on a web page, newsletter or brochure requires the artist’s permission. These and other questions related to “Can I use that photo?” are answered by Iowa State University experts.


Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware recently posted that she’s received questions about a new awards program: the IndieReader Discovery Awards for self-published authors. Is it legit? What questions should you ask about Indie opportunities? The blog has some tips and insights you won’t want to miss.


. . . or subscriptions to newsletters or whatever else you want to share with your readers. I’ve done some of this but may add to my list. Derek Halpern offers tips for seven places on your blog where you can place sign-up forms to increase your chances that people will actually sign up and thus build your email list. I wouldn’t go with the pop-up box, though–that really hisses me off.


I love Jenny Hansen’s “More Cowbell” blog and today’s Techie Tuesday offers GOLD for fiction writers wanting to escalate tension between characters. Learn how to use dirty fighting to your advantage!


Did you know that you can get autographed E-books on Kindle?  You need to have a Twitter account, but I am SO going to look into this!


Full disclosure–I’ve not submitted my books for review to any of these sources, but they have received favorable comments from other authors on KindleBoards. I know that some are authors themselves, others simply avid readers and book lovers. They also review “traditionally” pub’d books. Check ’em out and read some of their reviews before submitting your own book. Report back about how it worked for you. And hey, you just may discover a new fav Indie author!

Red Adept Reviews:   Because Red has a team of reviewers, her site covers a variety of genres, including nonfiction.

Grace Krispy  reviews mysteries/cozies/thrillers, some fantasy, some urban fantasy and women’s fiction.

Books and Pals mostly reviews Indies.

E-Bookworms appears to review mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy.

www.DailyCheapReads.com mostly offers “bargain books” but sometimes also reviews them.

So what are your fav review spots for books? How do you judge if a new book is worth opening your pocketbook? Do you have a terrific writerly tip or resource to share? Add your comments and share the blog today with others and let’s get lots of stuff posted–I’ll do a recap later on all the goodies (and YES, include a shout-out to the submitters as well).

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!