Amazon POD Update: Raves for Sale!

Last month I posted a brief item about Amazon’s Print-on-Demand services, offered in partnership with BookSurge, suggesting it might be “worthy of consideration for potential self- and micro-publishers.” On Friday, Slate posted an interesting article entitled “Raves For Sale” that reveals one of the options available to its customers is “a personally crafted review written by ‘New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh.'”

Amazon.com’s recently acquired print-on-demand division, BookSurge.com, offers several tiers of publishing programs with menus of services starting at $99.

The most interesting add-on BookSurge offers is, for $399, a personally crafted review written by “New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh.” (Ellen Tanner Marsh’s bodice-rippers Reap the Savage Wind and Wrap Me in Splendor graced the New York Times trade- paperback bestseller list in 1982 and 1983.) Not surprisingly, many BookSurge titles boast enthusiastic reviews by Marsh. “For anyone seeking a health program that really works … a motivating and significant book,” Marsh gushed about The Beer Drinkers [sic] “Diet”.

The article includes a scan of a letter one of its customers received in response to suggested edits for Ms. Marsh’s review of his book, which Marsh agreed to and offered a rewrite!

The book — ironically titled EXPOSED Turn Up The Heat — is listed on Amazon with Ms. Marsh’s “review”. Interestingly, the publisher is listed as BookSurge Publishing (is one of the “add-ons” the ability to use your own publishing imprint? — which, if it wasn’t a red flag to booksellers before, probably is now — and as I type this, the book is currently ranked #11,946 in Books!

A quick Google search turns up a few comic books I’ve never heard of published through BookSurge, including work by/from Dick Briefer, Donna Barr and Open Book Press.

I never did get a response to my email querying BookSurge about their services, but needless to say, my opinion of it has changed rather dramatically as it’s clearly no better than the usual scammy vanity publishing outfits, and perhaps much worse, thanks to its association with Amazon and the rather purposeful implication that books published through them have a better shot of selling via Amazon than those of other vanity publishers.

As always, caveat emptor.

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