The Thumbs Down Publishers List

Writer Beware

What indie writer trying to juggle the demands (and costs) of cover design, ebook design, print book design, and possibly a full time job as well, hasn’t been tempted to toss the lot to one of those publishers who promise to do the whole thing for you at a reasonable cost—and also get your books into book stores?

Next time you’re feeling like this, Joel Friedlander, suggests you type the following into your search engine:

(company or person’s name) + Scam

(company or person’s name) + Problem

(company or person’s name) + Complaint
(company or person’s name) + Fraud

(company or person’s name) + Rip-off

(company or person’s name) + Lawsuit

(company or person’s name) + “Better Business Bureau”

In other words, do the research. God knows, it’s easy enough these days.

Beware signThe other day I was approached by a client who’d gone with one of these publishers. Turned out the contract she’d signed did not include the fee for copy-editing, which this publisher rightly claimed  – after she’d paid her money — would cost an extra $1,300.00. This set me to wondering if there might not be out there somewhere a concise list of publishers indie writers need to watch out for.

Lo and behold! there was. Reprinted below with Victoria Strauss’s kind permission is the latest list of Thumbs Down publishers. Keep it handy, fellas. Study it, and pass it on to your friends.



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Below, in alphabetical order, is a list of the publishers (not all of them currently active*) about which Writer Beware has received the largest number of complaints over the years, or which, based on documentation we’ve collected, we consider to pose the most significant hazard for writers. All have two or more of the following abusive practices:

  1. Fee-charging–whether for the actual printing/production of the book, or for some other item related to the publishing process, such as editing or publicity. Some publishers require authors to buy bulk quantities of their own books. Fees range from a few hundred dollars to more than $25,000. A nominal “advance” in the face of other fee-charging practices does nothing to legitimize such publishers.

Note that we do not include admitted vanity publishers (even very expensive ones such as Dorrance) about which we’ve gotten no other complaints, or self-publishing services (even much-criticized ones such as the Author Solutions “imprints”). This list includes only fee-chargers that present themselves as publishers, and actively conceal their fees, try to pass them off as something else, or claim that fee-based publishing is not the major part of their business.

  1. Author-unfriendly contracts–including rights grabs, taking copyright, restrictive option clauses, sub-standard royalty provisions (including reverse-accounted royalties), inadequate reversion clauses, draconian “defamation clauses,” and a host of other inappropriate and abusive contract terms.
  2. Deliberately misleading advertising–including directly soliciting authors, misrepresenting services to authors in an effort to masquerade as commercial publishers, hiding the fact that they are vanity operations, and making false claims about distribution and bookstore presence.
  3. Conflicts of interest–some of these publishers are the vanity “arm” of (or otherwise under common control with) a fee-charging literary agency, which directs clients to the publisher under the guise of having made a “sale”–often without revealing the financial and personnel links between the two businesses.
  4. Lack of editorial gatekeeping–as befits vanity operations, many of these publishers have few, if any, standards for the books they acquire. Some don’t even bother to read the books they accept for publication.
  5. Poor or inadequate editing. Some of these publishers don’t even pretend to provide editing. Others do little more than run the text through a spell and grammar checking program, or employ unqualified, inexperienced staff.
  6. Repeated breach of contractual obligations–such as nonpayment of royalties, refusal to provide royalty statements, incorrect accounting, publication delays, ARCs not sent for review as promised, failure to ship books or fulfill orders, failure to make author changes in proofs, and failure to respond properly to author queries and communications. Some of these publishers have been the focus of successful litigation and other legal actions by authors.

While the publishers listed here account for a substantial number of the complaints we’ve received, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on hundreds of questionable publishers, both active and inactive.

We do update the list from time to time, as questionable publishers sometimes change their names, clone themselves, or go out of business. Be sure to check back regularly.

* Why do we continue to list publishers that aren’t currently active? Because bad publishers often return under new names.

        America Star Books (Frederick MD) (formerly PublishAmerica)

American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT) (may no longer be active)

Archebooks Publishing (Las Vegas, NV)

Artemis Publishers Ltd (currently under common directorship with Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie) (London UK)

Ashwell Publishing, d/b/a Olympia Publishing (has shared staff with Austin Macauley) (London UK)

Austin Macauley (has shared staff with Ashwell Publishing) (London UK)

Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)

Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press) (may no longer be active)

Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers Ltd (currently under common directorship with Artemis Publishers Ltd (Cambridge UK)

Raider Publishing International, also d.b.a. Green Shore Publishing (former names include Purehaven Press and Perimedes Publishing) (uses various addresses, but probably located in Newark, NJ)

SterlingHouse Publisher, also d/b/a as International Book Management (Pittsburgh, PA–imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books) (may no longer be active)

Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency (SBPRA)/Publish On Demand Global (PODG) (uses various addresses, but located in Boca Raton, FL–formerly known as Strategic Publishing, Strategic Book Group, Eloquent Books, The Literary Agency Group, and AEG Publishing Group)

Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK)

Copyright © A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss



About Danielle de Valera

Award-winning Australian author. Editor, mentor. manuscript assessor since 1992.
This entry was posted in advice about writing, advice for writers, Australian manuscript appraisers, Danielle De Valera, editing, editors, getting published, indie publishing, manuscript appraisers, manuscript assessments, manuscript assessors, Patrick de Valera, publishers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Thumbs Down Publishers List

  1. Ronald Kennedy says:

    I have an issue with America Star Books. Per their email, they threatened to send my book to some other company unless I paid them $79.00 (administration fee?) to release me from their contract (which I paid).

    They also said; “You own the unformatted text only, and you can do as you choose with that alone. America Star Books continues to own the ISBN number, the cover design, and the layout design of the text.
    Any use of any of these items would be a serious and very clear case of infringement. Therefore, you can use the same design only if we transfer the rights to you, or to your new publishing company.”

    America Star Books wants me to pay for the cover design would cost $500, and/or the text layout would cost $250.

    (BOTTOM LINE: They’re holding my book for ransom and charging me to pay for the return of my own original works).

    Are these folks on crack!?!

    (My images are on their cover design. And the ‘layout design of the text’ is my design, which was presented on my manuscript when I submitted it.)

    Again, ABS says at the end of their email; “you own the unformatted text only, and you can do as you choose with that alone.”

    But I own the copyrights to my text and images, which are on file at the Library of Congress and have been since 1990 (maybe even longer). My main questions; is this legal? Can they claim rights to something I already own? Who can I contact for more help? (maybe involve my book in a class action law suite?)

    Even giving them Exclusive rights was only granted during the term of the contract, which they have released me from. (my calls and emails to them go unanswered)
    Ronald Kennedy


  2. You can most certainty add the unpronounceable Eleusinian Press to the list.
    Failed to meet any of their eye popping claims and haha,but not so funny, broke their own contract repeatedly.
    Yes,they published my book, full of spelling mistakes and procured two decent reviews. But my name was initially misspelt both on the cover,spine and when I threw a fit and managed to have those pathetic errors changed,they still screwed it up on the inside page as well ad on their website.
    Then they couldn’t afford to send me my 10 x author’s copies to South Africa,I had a friend post them to me from the UK instead.
    Nasty,inefficient and hysterically arrogant ” publisher”.stay well clear of this grubby tyke.


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