Sunday, February 02, 2014

You Can Change a Name All You Want, But ...

About fifteen years ago, (and likely earlier), plenty of midlist authors were losing their publishers. In those days, traditional publishers ruled the publishing world and used technology to track a writer’s sales. An author’s success was measured by the number of sales rung up at bookstore cash registers. The strategy (still in use) seems almost antiquated now, doesn’t it? Anyhow, authors who weren’t selling many books found themselves without a contract and their careers pretty much over. Even if they found another publisher, the marketing people would take a look at their sales numbers and give a big thumbs down to bringing the author on board. Keep in mind, this was years before the self-publishing boom really took hold. Self-publishing wasn’t even considered an option by many writers back then. In order to keep writing and stay published, some authors changed their names and started over, perhaps writing in a different genre. I don’t know if their strategy worked, but I do know that authors aren’t the only ones changing their names.

The Writer Beware website has posted an announcement stating that the controversial PublishAmerica (which has been around since 1999 and produced tons of angry authors) is now called America Star Books. The name change apparently occurred after January 4th. Any links to PublishAmerca now go directly to America Star Books. Their Facts and Figures page has been moved over and the company has apparently expanded its service by offering to do translations into English.

On a reverse note, the once highly popular Kirkus Reviews, a publication librarians had used since the 1930s to decide which books to purchase, closed its doors in 2009. As the author of the piece in Indies Unlimited notes, the reviews had become less than stellar, amounting to a plot summary and only a couple of lines of praise or condemnation.

In 2010, Kirkus resurrected itself and began reviewing books again, only here’s the catch. They review traditionally published books for free, but charge self-published authors $425. Yikes! The new Kirkus justifies this by saying that the traditional publishers pay for the $199 subscription, and buy ads. Indies do not. Is this good business? Well, for Kirkus, maybe. Kirkus states that they publish 7,000 reviews from traditional publishers and 3,000 from self-publishers annually. You do the math. However, the article also notes that Kirkus is rumored to have a print run of under 3,000 copies. So, is it good business for the self-published author? I don’t know for certain, but the answer is probably no.

Name changing is nothing new in the industry. What’s important is the reason for a name change. Some of those reasons could be quite legitimate and necessary. The point is that we’d all do well to learn what that reason is before jumping into business with Mr. New-Name.

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