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Writer Beware: Publish America Now America Star Books

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: 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 PUPPY CARE must knows, 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: 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. 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 PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

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