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PostPosted: June 20th, 2004, 1:45 pm 
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Joined: June 20th, 2004, 1:07 pm
Posts: 3




1) Durban House Publishing Co., Inc. of Dallas, Texas advertises in Writers Digest that it pays up to $2,000.00 up front to any author with whom they sign a contract.
2) I submitted my novel to them over a year ago. Then, in May of this year, I was surprised to receive a personal call from Durban House President, Mr. John Lewis, saying how much his editor liked my 3 sample chapters and synopsis. He requested I rush my manuscript to his chief editor, Robert Middlemiss, in Vienna, VA.

In the course of the conversation, Mr. Lewis promised Durban House would develop:
A) My personal web page
B) Dust Jacket
C) Create and mail brochures to alert the trade.
D) Develop artwork and send to leading online's (B&N, Amazon).
E) Promote title at Book Expo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and run trade adv. in all mags.
F) Send review sample to leading book reviewers.
G) Sending signed first-edition samples to leading indepndent booksellers.
H) Contact libraries, radio talk shows, National
Public Radio, and collectors of signed first editions.
I) Pay royalties of 50%, less reprinting and warehousing costs.

I hurriedly talked to Editor, Robert Middlemiss, confirmed his enthusiasm for what he'd seen of my book and mailed off my manuscript.

Meanwhile, I received a packet containing three free copies of recent Durban House releases (including one of Mr. Lewis') plus a letter confirming the offer, a Publishing Agreement, plus a Service Agreement.

Where's the catch? I found it on Page One, Paragraph Three, of the Service Agreement:
"In exchange for Author paying Publisher $25,000.00 in Dallas County, Texas, Publisher shall provide...."
Need I go on?

I can provide originals of all the documents mentioned above.

Bill Barnes
Author of "Nonesuch Chronicles"(Published) and (Unpublished) "Just One More Boom, Lord", and "Running Slim Buffalo Woman." :evil: :x :!:


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PostPosted: June 24th, 2004, 6:54 pm 
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Joined: October 30th, 2003, 12:39 am
Posts: 3
Apparently Durban House is a subsidy publisher. Also called a vanity publisher because they appeal to the author's vanity. They take advantage of the fact that an unknown author has difficulty getting his/her book commercially published. For that reason they tell you that they will publish your book for a fee. The problem is, when they first contact you and tell that they like your book, they don't tell you how much your fee will be. You think it will be in the affordable area of like $100 or something. However, it's always in excess of $5,000 or more. It's usually $10,000 or more depending on how long the book is and how much editing, etc, they have to do on it.

I once had a book published by a subsidy/vanity publisher. It was Dorrance Publishing Co. in Pittsburgh, PA. This was way back in 1992. That's the year it was published. It was a short novel--a novellette--of only 56 pages. Yet, they requested a fee of $6,900 for this short novel! They also determine the amount of the author's fee by how much the selling price of the book will be. Anyhow, Dorrance allowed me to finance the book so that they could publish it.

However, after only three years they withdrew the book from publication because it didn't sell as much as they thought. It was part of the contract. The book had to sell at least $3,000 worth within three years of publication or they withdraw it!

My advice to you, William, is: don't have anything to do with subsidy publishers. Try an online print-on-demand instead. They don't charge anywhere near as much.

Barbara R.


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 Post subject: Durban House Publishing
PostPosted: June 24th, 2004, 9:20 pm 
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Joined: June 20th, 2004, 1:07 pm
Posts: 3
Good advice, Barbara. Thanks.
Except Durban House didn't advertise they would publish me if I paid THEM. They advertised they would pay ME.
I wasn't looking for a vanity press or a print on demand..
This was "Bait and Switch" plain and simple.
Bill Barnes


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 Post subject: Durban House Publishing
PostPosted: June 27th, 2004, 1:51 am 
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Joined: October 30th, 2003, 12:39 am
Posts: 3
I don't think anyone wants to publish with a vanity publisher. Apparently you were taken. Durban didn't tell you that you would have to pay them until after you submitted your manuscript and they said they liked it.

Barbara


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 Post subject: Durban House
PostPosted: July 26th, 2004, 6:47 pm 
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Joined: October 8th, 2003, 6:33 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Bill:

I'm the director of a large writing conference and would like more info on Mr. Lewis and Durban House. Would you email me at militarypubs@earthlink.net for a private conversation. I also would like a copy of the contract page that you noted.
Al


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PostPosted: August 24th, 2004, 1:02 pm 
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Joined: August 23rd, 2004, 4:47 pm
Posts: 1
Apparently Mr. Barnes misunderstood or misinterpreted our conversation, and became angry over our editor-in-chief rejecting his submission. Here’s what happened. A Durban House editor, looking for books with western themes, ran across a sample of Mr. Barnes’ manuscript (submitted September, 2003) in the slush pile. After reading the sample, I called Mr. Barnes to discuss his book that was set in New Mexico. I told him Durban House planned to do several books with western themes. After a short discussion, I asked Mr. Barnes if he would be able to carry out usual things authors are expected to do, such as promoting his book through book-signing tours in key markets, talks to book clubs, libraries and civic organizations, attend book festivals, and writers’ conferences. He said because of his age he was unable to travel very far from Conroe, TX, the town where he lives. I told him for his book to have a chance at success it was essential for him to promote it, and that Durban House would have to pass. He asked if there were any alternative ways he could get his book published, given the fact he was unable to provide physical promotional support. I told him since Durban House planned several books with western themes, we might be able to do a cooperative effort, or joint venture, giving him a 50% stake in his book, if it was accepted for publication by our editor-in-chief, Robert Middlemiss. I reemphasized that before we could move forward Mr. Middlemiss had to first agree his book would be a good match for Durban House. Also, I explained if we moved forward this would be a comprehensive marketing strategy aimed at building a platform to introduce him to the book world in lieu of his ability to help market his book. A strategy that included: developing an author webpage; helping arrange television and radio talk show appearances, mailing hundreds of advance reading copies to primary and secondary reviewers, independent book stores, libraries, and foreign publishers; entering his title in appropriate contests; trade advertising; full color catalog mailings twice a year to bookstores and libraries throughout North America; promoting his books yearly at the Book Expo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and London Book Fair, the largest book fairs in the world. I estimated such a campaign would cost around $25,000.00. We discussed how his joint venture contribution would be returned if the project got launched. Fifty percent of the wholesale cost (less reprint costs) would be paid back to Mr. Barnes on each of his books sold. Mr. Barnes asked to see some material. I agreed to send, for his information only, a letter summarizing our conversation, several DHP books, catalog, sample postcards, a modified blank publishing agreement, and a service agreement I would prepare the next day. I told him based on my and our editor’s initial read of his sample material I thought his book would make a good fit. However, as a caveat, I warned Mr. Barnes again that I was making no promises and his book first had to be accepted by our editor-in-chief, Robert Middlemiss, who had final say on all titles Durban House published. Mr. Barnes said he understood and sent a copy of his manuscript to Mr. Middlemiss. A short time later, Mr. Middlemiss informed Mr. Barnes and me that his book would not be a good match for Durban House because the western theme books he had in mind involved cowboy characters, which were not part of Mr. Barnes’ title. Shortly after receiving Mr. Middlemiss’ rejection, Mr. Barnes made his posts on the internet.
After three and a half years of selling books, Durban House has achieved some remarkable results. Among them are: international distribution; recognized by Booklist as one of the top four new mystery imprints; a Ben Franklin book of the year award, seven titles selected as finalists for book of the year awards, and numerous Booksense76 recommendations. Durban House writers have appeared on national and regional cable news programs, multiple regional and national radio and television shows related to books and travel. The company has had a dozen titles licensed for foreign rights. This kind of success could not have happened without total dedication from Durban House writers, editors, and promotional people to achieve excellence. Hardly the track record of a vanity press.
It has never been a Durban House policy to accept books based on an author’s ability to provide promotional consideration. Every title considered for publication is carefully vetted for originality and consumer appeal. Once a title is accepted it goes through a comprehensive editing process, insuring the highest quality of writing before going to the printer.
Placing fiction in today’s market is a daunting task. Here is but one indicator about how bad conditions are: If you took the top 100 bestselling fiction (not necessarily best written) books between 1986 and 1996 you’ll find that 63% of these titles were written by six writers. A recent television book show talked about the “Crisis in Publishing.” Mid-list writers spoke about how their publishers gave them little or no promotional backup. Many hired publicist to promote their book(s), and most had to pay their own expenses to booksignings and book shows. Buyers at major chains increasingly look for hard hitting marketing plans to support titles they order. So, in reality, it doesn’t matter how good a book is if it winds up as a spine out in a genre section. It could be the best written book of all time, but it won’t sell if no one knows about it.
The staff at Durban House passionately believes in producing quality books that connect readers with new, exciting writers. Durban House is proud to have launched more than 40 outstanding writers’ careers; some with two, three and four books to their credit. We have fought to overcome obstacles of payment and distribution that plague the entire entertainment industry. I invite you to see the quality of a Durban House book, inside and out. Email info@durbanhouse.com and you will be sent a complementary copy. If anyone wishes to directly discuss the prose and cons of this post or our mission statement, please feel free to call me at (214) 890-4050 and I’ll be happy to speak with you. If for some reason I’m out of the office leave a convenient time for me to return your call.
Sincerely
John Lewis
[/size]


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: September 1st, 2004, 8:59 pm 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2003, 1:04 pm
Posts: 595
So, Mr. Lewis,
Mr. Barnes didn't fire you, you quit?
From what I've seen, phrases like "joint venture contribution" crop up more frequently in subsidy press literature than in traditional presses. If you would like to distance yourself and your company from subsidy presses, perhaps you can rephrase the terms of your proposal in order to avoid unfortunate comparisons.
Also, although you state that it has never been a Durban House policy to accept books based on an author's ability to provide promotional consideration, it sounds like that may have been a factor, based on your account of the events which led to Mr. Barnes' dissatisfaction with your company. I take it that the book would have been a good fit with your company, just not with the series which could have been promoted without his appearance? Also, do you mean "consideration" as in only the monetary sense, or do you also mean in reference to the time, effort, travel and possible repercussions on health, family, and current employment?
Perhaps in the future, if you come across a book you would like to accept but the author is unable to travel far, you could arrange a regional tour to coincide with a large local event which brings tourists to the area? After all, the people who want to experience the charm of the West firsthand are likely to want to read about it when they go home, too.
Of course, these are simply my opinions, and none of it is intended to provoke anybody. However, an author can't be too careful when it comes to checking contracts and agreements, and I'm glad that you both found out that the contract would have caused problems before you signed.
Sincerely,
Paula Richey


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 Post subject: Durban House Publishing
PostPosted: September 1st, 2004, 10:05 pm 
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Joined: June 20th, 2004, 1:07 pm
Posts: 3
Thanks, Paula for your kind input.

Despite this man's impassioned and convoluted explanation, the truth is I simply refused to pay his ridiculous request of $25,000 upfront, which he substituted for his offer of $2,000 bonus TO ME.

Yes, I fired him. He had sent me a contract ready for signing before his editor even saw my manuscript. Sound like Publish America? At least they pay you a dollar up front!

All this talk about me being unable to travel and promote my book (hence his dreamed-up excuses for charging me such an outrageous fee) is rubbish! Anybody who knows me will tell you I am perfectly able and ready to go out and promote my book if only I had an honest publisher to deal with!

I strongly suspect he carefully picks his "marks" at intervals in between legitimate deals with authors in order to present the appearance of legitimacy. I have personal reasons to believe he makes his selections through cultivated associations with certain CRM's for major booksellers, who are in a great position to spot vulnerable writers.

If you want to know just what kind of publisher this guy really is, check Absolute Write and read Victoria Strouss' analysis of his contract.


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 Post subject: Regarding Mr. Lewis
PostPosted: September 4th, 2004, 8:43 pm 
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Joined: September 4th, 2004, 8:22 pm
Posts: 117
Location: http://anotherealm.com/prededitors
His response to an editor about this was entirely different. I have serious doubts about his side of the discussion as he states it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: September 5th, 2004, 5:47 pm 
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Joined: February 5th, 2003, 5:44 pm
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Location: Georgia
Whose response? Mr. Lewis or Mr. Barnes?

Wordchick


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 Post subject: Clarification
PostPosted: September 5th, 2004, 6:32 pm 
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Location: http://anotherealm.com/prededitors
I meant Mr. Lewis. I've seen two responses from Mr. Lewis that don't match.


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 Post subject: I don't buy it, either
PostPosted: September 8th, 2004, 11:16 am 
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Joined: October 1st, 2003, 10:39 am
Posts: 17
Quote:
A Durban House editor, looking for books with western themes, ran across a sample of Mr. Barnes’ manuscript (submitted September, 2003) in the slush pile. After reading the sample, I called Mr. Barnes to discuss his book that was set in New Mexico. I told him Durban House planned to do several books with western themes.
Quote:
Mr. Barnes said he understood and sent a copy of his manuscript to Mr. Middlemiss. A short time later, Mr. Middlemiss informed Mr. Barnes and me that his book would not be a good match for Durban House because the western theme books he had in mind involved cowboy characters, which were not part of Mr. Barnes’ title. Shortly after receiving Mr. Middlemiss’ rejection, Mr. Barnes made his posts on the internet.

Okay, so a publisher receives a "sample" of a ms in the slush pile. The author and a representative of the company have a discussion. The ms is ultimately rejected "because the western theme books he had in mind involved cowboy characters, which were not part of Mr. Barnes’ title!" Certainly Mr. Barnes included more than a "title" in his "sample!" (Could we mean "book proposal" or "partial ms" here? "Sample" sounds so, professional, doesn't it?) And even if Mr. Lewis is using the term "title" to replace the word "book," does he really expect us to believe that never in the "sample" or the discussion did Mr. Barnes describe the overall action of the book, which certainly would have included the cowboy characters to which Mr. Lewis refers?

I'm sure that the western-themed books that Durban House plans will do well without a single mention of cowboys, truly I am. Just as I'm equally certain that it was ethical to mention both Mr. Barnes' apparent age and geographical location to all and sundry in an open post on a widely-viewed writers' forum. I'm going to run right out and send a "sample" of my next three books to Durban House and propose that my writer friends do the same! Yeah. Please Note: The preceding paragraph registers 7.6 on the Sarcasm Scale.

I generally tend to take complaints about mishandled contracts with a grain of salt. Usually, when someone is complaining about someone else, you only get one side of the story and need to read between the lines. In this case, it's readily apparent that the incident was a mere bait and switch, especially in the way that Mr. Lewis felt the need to come here and "spin" the whole thing. *sigh*


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: September 9th, 2004, 9:26 am 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2003, 1:04 pm
Posts: 595
Greywolfe:
I agree. I've seen better spins, too, by the way. If Mr. Lewis must come here and give his side of the story, at least he could do it right. Company jargon is a definite red flag, and when you get it all translated into plain English, it says "Yes, I did want the author to pay the publisher," among other things. Haven't we all been warned enough that we should be paid for our writing, and not pay publishers who will profit from sales as well?
Really, in the "joint venture," who has more resources, the writer or the publisher? If the publisher pays for half the publicity and gets 50% of the profits from retail sales, and the writer pays for half the publicity (after possibly mortgaging his house and borrowing against retirement and his kids' college funds) and gets 50% of the wholesale price, which one is in the hole? In addition, the nonstandard nature of the contract makes it likely that some mistake will be made in the payment proccess, and the writer will be paid the standard royalty instead of the 50%, possibly resulting in litigation which is covered by the publisher's insurance but not the writer's. Makes a great word problem....
Overall, I consider this one a trap.
Sincerely,
Paula Richey


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: September 17th, 2004, 11:41 pm 
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Those with an interest here may want to look into the business practices of John Lewis's wife, Karen Lewis, she of the once rather well-known Karen Lewis & Company literary agency.

The couple have been running agenting/book doctoring/publishing endeavors of what would seem to be arguable integrity for years.


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 Post subject: Repy to Mr. Barnes
PostPosted: September 25th, 2004, 4:32 pm 
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Posts: 4
While obviously I wasn't part of the conversation between Mr. Barnes and Mr. Lewis, I can comment about my own conversations with Mr. Lewis and since I found them very convincing and signed based upon those conversations, they may make for interesting comparisons.

I found Mr. Lewis hid nothing from me. We discussed the investment fee in the first conversation and in several others thereafter. He was up front with me about the amount and what it is for. These conversations took place in Spring.

Let me state a few things about this. My brother in law had a book published last year with a big house, both hardcover and paperback. The Big House gave him very little support. He had to pay for his own editing and for his publicist, the latter costing him $10,000/month for about six months. He was agented for this book and has another in the works. His book did well, selling over ten thousand copies in hardback. He and I have talked about his experience many times. He has been told by both his former agent and his new agent that the big houses don't want to invest too much in a new author, so the first book is usually unsupported. Subsequent books may be supported if there was success with the first. And indeed, he's discovering this now.

Another thing I should mention is the tremendous support I have received from Roibert Middlemiss in editing the book. Middlemiss has helped me make significant improvements and has mentored me in the way the big houses used to do. He has not only helped me with my manuscript, but the lessons he's taught me are helping me with my second book which is now being polished for submission yet again.

Durban House has also done an outstanding job on the cover art, working with a graphics firm which has given me personal attention. I wlll soon begin working with the Durban House publicist, an effort which will require several months work. Without the mutual investment, I would have to bear these costs on my own.

Very few authors catch the big time with their first book. Most successful authors build their following with each successive book. Lisa Scottoline, a friend, told me it took her five years to get published, then three books before she made it into hard cover. Durban House is working with me to build readership for my books, and if that requires a little investment to do it right, so be it.

I have found Mr. Lewis and Mr. Middlemiss both to be nothing but up front and honest in all their conversations with me. I found no surprises in their contract documentation. All of which goes to Mr. Barnes' comment. I tend to believe Mr. Lewis on this because I was contacted by him at about the same time he contacted Mr. Barnes. I find it hard to believe that his approach to two different authors at about the same time could be so different.

Durban House has been working aggressively to increase its distribution and marketing reach. They have recently concluded new distribution agreements. I tend to believe Booklist's comments about them more than Mr. Barnes'.

For any new author, I would suggest you contact Mr. Lewis. Judge for yourself who is the more accurate: Mr. Lewis or Mr. Barnes.

My book will be out in Spring.


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