Saturday, September 20, 2008

PageFree Publishing: One Author's Experience

In March, 2006 I contacted Pagefree to publish my novels Awakening the Dragon and Dragon Domain. They were highly recommended by another author, Janet Elaine Smith, which is why I chose them. The price we agreed on was 350.00 per book for the formatting and cover along with a one year listing with Ingram and Baker & Taylor; this price included a free level one edit, which is spelling, punctuation and grammar

I received the proof for Dragon Domain on March 16, 2006. They had the wrong title. They added a table of contents; it was not in the original and isn't done in fiction novels. They added blank pages to unnecessarily inflate the cost of the book. The editing was inconsistent and poorly done. Basic spelling, punctuation and grammar errors that a simple spell check were missed. Letters at the beginning of sentences were left out. They changed words that changed the meaning of the sentence. Kim tried to convince me that "horses" is a two symbol word that could be hyphenation: I had her change it back. There were 40 corrections that I sent back in from the proof, most of which should have already been corrected by the level one edit. Pagefree attempted to charge me for 30 of them. I refused.

Before Pagefree received my payment they were helpful and easy to contact; however, that changed once I made payment. It took longer and longer to get a phone call or an email. They claimed to have computer and email issues.

On March 20, I sent Awakening the Dragon. On April 18, I finally received the proof for Awakening the Dragon. Although they claimed to do a basic level edit, there was no evidence of it. In fact, there were more mistakes in the text than when I sent it to them. Again it was spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes that a simple spell check would have caught. When I complained, Kim sent me this email on April 20.

Good morning, Theresa,
As most companies do, we monitor many of the popular discussion lists for customer satisfaction comments. We never clarify any situation publicly on those lists as we feel that is disloyal to our customers – our goal is to improve issues, not aggravate them.
I believe that you are feeling misled with regard to the Basic Edit which was included freely in your publishing package. I fear you may have been under some mistaken impression as to what that includes and have relied upon it too heavily in the production of your books. I wanted to point this out for you as it may help you in your review edits.
The Basic Edit was advertised as such:
For a limited time, all new book submissions placed with PageFree will receive a FREE Basic Edit as defined in our Data Form. For books which have already been edited, this is an excellent opportunity for a last “once-over” before your book becomes public. If you feel your book is a better candidate for our In-Depth Editing services, consider this newsletter as a coupon for a 15% discount from those services. Submissions must be received between February 8th and March 15th to be eligible. If your book isn’t quite completed and you would like to take advantage, we recommend you submit the completed Data Form or use our Online Submission to reserve your spot in production.
From the Data Form:
Basic Edit - Includes basic spelling, grammar, and punctuation utilizing professional editor and automated software.
Both books were given the aforementioned edit and this should only be done on books which were in-depth edited beforehand. While many things were corrected (I, myself, in fact are responsible for the outed to ousted substitution – they are roughly interchangeable words), the frequent internal thoughts requiring italics issue you had with Dragon Domain are not subject to discovery in anything less than an In-Depth Edit. However, I did not charge you for those amendments you submitted, you will remember.
On your second book, “Awakening”, I corrected not only those problems brought to light by the automated edit – but recognizing your tendency to overlook the internal thoughts issue, I searched for any occurrence of “he thought” or “she thought” – and corrected them if there was a problem. I also noted that you tended to confuse when to capitalize the initial letter in Mom or Dad – and did a search for these issues as well. There is one additional tendency which I felt it important to bring to your attention now – and this is, again, very unlikely to be caught in an automated edit as there is no way to sort out the incidence. You have a tendency to use punctuation incorrectly in dialogue – as example –
“Get out of the way of the fire.” Julie said.
Naturally, in this case, “Julie said” would not stand alone as a complete sentence, so the two must be combined with a comma.
“Get out of the way of the fire,” Julie said.
I’m sure you are aware of this, and in your writing haste, perhaps were more intent on communicating your thoughts.
We hesitate to point out these issues with authors – it has many times come back to haunt us as the author becomes offended and attacks. Unfortunately, it is the nature of our business that we are often blamed for problems that have nothing to do with us – generally arise from misunderstanding of information. I hope you will accept the aforesaid in the vein it was intended.
A good rule of thumb for relying on the basic edit is: is the incorrect text actually “correct” in another instance? If so, then the software will not recognize the error. Only the In-Depth Edit which is a complete read through by a professional editor will pick up on that.
My last comment would be that if you have some problem with PageFree, I would ask that you address it to me and not post it publicly where I, out of respect, will not differ with you. Self-publishing authors have enough difficulty overcoming the prejudices the traditionals spread through media channels and we need to keep our ranks close and professional. It’s also difficult for us when we are the second or third attempt company – we are often expected to make up for issues which arose before us. I’m not sure you are aware of it, but there are some author groups, and I will not specify because it is an upcoming case with the Federal government, which are being run by those with an interest in seeing digital publishing fail. They are used to encourage irrational, stampeding sort of misinformation. I am not suggesting that the list I saw your post on is one of these – but there is a group of individuals who are about to approach the Federal Trade Commission to seek an injunction against the groups which are, expose and stop the behavior. We were not interested in such a legal action, but always believe it is far better to handle communication issues privately.
I thank you for taking the time to read through this as I know your time is limited with your upcoming new job. I believe if you will check your dialogue for the sort of issue I mentioned above, that should help considerably. Your books are well-written and I know authors are often forced to self-edit due to the expense of hiring a professional external editor. Books of your size would take 2-3 days each to completely read through and correct – and that is an expensive proposition.

Late on April 20, I received the updated proof of Awakening the Dragon. I didn’t have a chance to look at it for a few days.

On April 21, I received the revised proof of Dragon Domain. I chose to believe Kim when she said that the those edits as well as others were made. I approved the proof without looking at it. My mistake.

A couple days later I started looking through the proof of Awakening the Dragon. Not only didn’t their basic edit, catch my errors, Pagefree added new ones. On May 1, I received the following email from Kim.

Theresa, not sure what to write here… I feel I’ve gone above and beyond to help you with the errors in your book. The Basic Edit is intended as a “once over” and doesn’t recognize words as incorrect, if they are correct when used in another context. Example, you have on page 197, “Now your blaming” changed to “Now you’re blaming” – both your and you’re are words so it’s not going to pick up on that. I went beyond the free edit and made well over a hundred changes in each book (in-depth edit kind of changes) as it is – now you’ve sent 112 more, ten of which are included in your package. I know last time you went rather public and accused us of mistreatment – but the fact remains that the manuscripts both needed in-depth edits and the free edit was never intended or advertised to fix these problems. Making all these corrections is too much – it’s not fair to folks who order in-depth edits.
I’d like to hear your thinking on this.

If they had done the basic edit, it would have caught “your” instead of “you’re”. It proves that they did not even do the basic edit. Kim again replied with their definition of a basic edit, which again included basic punctuation, grammar and spelling.

On May 2, I sent the following email:

It was my understanding the basic edit included running it through the spell check to catch punctuation, spelling and grammar errors. If that had been done many of the errors would have been fixed. The predominate problem with Awakening the Dragon was punctuation. and grammar.
Yes, you have been very helpful. Yes, this is a business for both of us. As I see it we have three options. The corrections can be made and we go from there. I pull Awaken the Dragon, make the corrections and resubmit under the same agreement. Or I pull both books and your company reimburses me.

Kim responded:

Hi Theresa ~
Your books WERE run through the spell check. It DID catch many errors – and I personally caught a few hundred more. It does not, by definition or ability, if you understand automated spell checkers, catch words which are of themselves proper words – just improperly used.
As I said, I will make those corrections which come under the definition – but this will not fix your books – many errors remain. (and I’m referring to those which you haven’t listed)
If you wish to pull Awaken the Dragon, there is a $99 new layout fee, which may be your best bet.
As for your third choice, there are no refunds, per Publishing Agreement, and, given the amount of work and generosity of spirit demonstrated, I am saddened that you would even consider this an option.
I will move forward with making qualifying corrections.

My response:

Once I realized my new computer hadn't been doing the grammar check, I reran it. I'm running XP; nearly all the punctuation, spelling and miss-used words came up to be fixed. Part of editing is also fixing the errors; it doesn't matter if it's one or four hundred that is part of the job. I'll resubmit it, but I will not pay the extra fee. We are both partially responsible.
As for pulling them all together, I would only do this as a last option and would truly hate to do it. But I've already been taken advantage of by two other publishers. Both of which claimed to do a full edit. Dragon Domain was to be published by Spiral. It had a gone through the edit process--most of which I had to go back and repair. He changed spurted to spirited--so Maxie had blood spirited from his lip. Publish America never put the edits into the final product.
Let me know your decision. I will be able to resubmit by Monday at the latest.

On May 4, I received a second proof for Awakening the Dragon. I immediately contacted Kim. Her response was to ask for an additional $99.00 for a new layout. I printed out the proof and sent it back; I was going to pay the 99.00. However, instead of accepting the changes, Kim asked for more money. On May 8, I received the following.

Good morning, Theresa ~
As I mentioned and you’ll see from a previous email – to get the $99.00 new layout fee – you have to work from an extracted text we send you from the InDesign file. That’s because when you make your corrections, and haven’t changed the formatting, we can substitute the text with far less re-working – hence the reduced fee. If you submit a whole new MSWord .doc that wasn’t an extraction, we can’t do that and then the book carries a $299 new layout fee.
So – I have attached two things for you:
1) The extracted text from the InDesign file. You’ll want to make your corrections in it and not do ANY re-formatting, such as alignments, adding tabs or spaces for alignment, etc.
2) I took a look at the Word .doc you sent for substitution (which would not be useable for the $99 new layout fee) and highlighted in yellow quite a few corrections you might have missed just in this section (document named “Needed Changes”). If you can include these in your re-submission of the extracted text, you won’t have to pay to have them corrected down the road – just trying to save you some money.

I flatly refused and threatened legal action. On May 8, I received the another proof. This one contained formatting errors. Paragraphs that had been combined, sentences were cut off.

On May 9, I received the correct proof--again. I checked that the previous errors were fixed. However, it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t go back a restructure the book to accommodate the changes and I approved the proof. My mistake.

On May 24, Kim told me I’d have my covers in five days.

On May 31 and June 1, I emailed Kim asking about my covers. On June 1, Kim emailed me and said they were coming. Both were sent on June 1. They weren’t the best but I approved them.

June 28 I received my copies. Chapters of Awakening the Dragon 7, 12, 13, 14, 15 and the Denouement were all mis-formatted. On all these chapter the next chapter started at the bottom of the page of the previous chapter. I immediately emailed Kim. She initially tried to blame the printer. Then it was my fault for not triple checking their work.

On June 29, I sent the following email:
You know they did. I trusted you. That was my mistake. I checked for the error corrections that I found, not realizing that you weren't professional enough to make more. I just sent the first proof. The paragraph errors were not there, so why would I check for them in the second. Fix the problem you caused. and replace the books.

To which Kim replied:
You signed two releases based on the proof of 05/09. When we furnish proofs, it is the author’s responsibility to view it completely – you understood that by the release you signed. Your releases indicate that you approved the book proof it accompanied. Earlier proofs have no bearing in the matter because you did not release the book at that stage. Your additional changes caused the misalignment. Regardless, this is what you signed:

I hereby accept and release the text and cover for the above book as being
correct and ready for printing. I understand that changes from this point on
will most likely entail additional charges. Furthermore, I am advised that I
should order a paper proof of the book (see the Data Form for current
pricing on proofs) prior to releasing it for sale and by my failure to do so
I acknowledge that any printed copies with errors are my responsibility.

We will be happy to help you process an amended text block, but the responsibility, as you acknowledged above, is yours. There is an $80.00 new text file fee. As a customer service gesture only, we will split that amount with you. Book replacements are not our responsibility.
To proceed, please indicate you wish to amend the text file for the book, provide a method of payment for the $40.00 and please indicate the heading pages which need to be amended. We will send you an electronic proof, and you will need to sign a release of the amended proof.

I refused to send them any more money, especially when the mistake was beyond my control. I was to later learn that the printer charges 40.00 for correction. In short, they were only offering to drop their 40.00 profit.

On July 30, I was contacted by the owner of Higher Self. She was sponsoring a book signing; however, she had been trying for weeks to order books. Pagefree refused to return her phone calls or email. The book signing was set, but they books had not been ordered. I contacted Pagefree immediately.

On July 31, Gary contacted me, saying that he needed 10 lead time to send the books. The original contract said 24-48 hours. The books did not arrive on time and I had to use my promotional books to do the signing. They copies eventually arrived.

November 14, I started asking about royalty payments

Similar requests were made on:
November 30, 2006

December 1, Kim told me I had yet to reach the 25.00 threshold to receive payment. Higher Self bought 7 of each and the local boarders bought 5 of each. My royalty on Awakening was $2.16 per book and .97 on Dragon Domain. In addition, I was cold calling bookstores; 40 told me they would be buying one or two. Plus, I bought one of each from Amazon my self in order to give it ranking. I had sold more than enough books to receive payment.

Kim’s response:

Theresa, I checked the Ingram numbers which are reported but not finalized until we receive payment from them which is 90-120 days after reporting.
According to them, you have not earned $25.00 in royalty for either book yet. As of November (for which we have not yet been paid and won’t be until into next year) you sold 7 copies of Awakening and 8 copies of Dragon Domain. Your royalty on Awakening is $2.16 per book and .97 on Dragon Domain. These figures also do not include any returned books, which would still be deducted.
Hope that helps.

My novels weren’t returnable; therefore there was nothing to be deducted.

On January 10, Kim informed me that royalty requests needed to be sent to I immediately emailed him. He asked me to give him a few days to settle in his job.

January 21, 2007, I sent a follow up email and was told that royalties would be sent out in the next 3 weeks.

On February 9, 2007 I sent another request and was told the statements were being prepared.

On March 7, I received the following email.

Find attached a current statement on your sales. Please be advised that in the future we will only be able to issue statements when you have earned the requisite $25.00 in royalty and the statement will automatically accompany your royalty check. Our policy does not include interim updates unless you have sold at least 25 copies in a month’s period, which is an indication of active marketing. This policy allows us to keep our administrative costs down.
Thank you,
PageFree Publishing, Inc.

The statement that said I was due 12.94 for Awakening the Dragon. However, my contract stated that the base amount to receive royalties was 25.00 not copies.

Pagefree’s response:

You did not read the statement below correctly, re-read. The statement is completely accurate and includes payments received during the period noted from Ingram, who also provides the sales through Baker & Taylor.

March 8, 2007 from Pagefree
Higher Self did not pay for their books until after the applicable quarter. Rankings mean nothing. They are a sales tool from Amazon. They do not send us money based on rankings.
I believe the bigger issue here, ma’am, is that you A) are not reading what is in your Agreement and the detailed explanation on our website, therefore you are not absorbing its content and are arguing based on your misconception; B) have demonstrated that you consistently harbor suspicion and even though have been, in every instance from what I can review, proven wrong – you persist in misinformed argument, confrontational demands and threats; C) seem to be missing the overall point that you are not promoting your book successfully; your sales are far below average and you would be much happier with your publishing project if you invested time in marketing your books. PageFree offers a free eBook entitled “30 Days and Ways to Market Your Book” which is available by emailing with your request.
Please keep in mind that your archival fee renewal of $15.00 per book will be due on June 5, 2007. If you do not wish the Ingram distribution renewal, you must inform us by following the procedure outlined in the Publishing Agreement. Unless otherwise informed, PageFree will by default deduct the archival fees from any unpaid royalties.
I am sorry, ma’am, but we simply cannot spend any more time on this matter. We wish you success in your efforts and suggest if you doubt Ingram’s figures you should provide receipt copies of attributed sales to PageFree and we will be happy to take this up with Ingram on your behalf. As stated before, however, you must factor in the amount of time between sale to the store and when the actual payment is received by Ingram, and consequently PageFree.

After this email, I realized that I had been conned again. I started doing research. The more I learned, the more foolish I felt. I contacted Lightning Source and made arrangement to publish myself. Per the contract, I sent certified letter terminating the contract. I sent two letters. One was returned unopened. The other sat in the mailbox for weeks.

On Oct 17, I sent the following email:
From: Tirgana ah Athena []
Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 4:43 PM
To: R. Catton PageFree Publishing, Inc.; KD Blagg - PageFree Publishing Inc.
Subject: Our contract
I have been attempting to contact you by certified mail both at your post office box and at the 109 S. Farm Street Address. As you can see below the letter to the PO Box hasn't been picked up. The second letter was returned with a notice that it needed to be forwarded to the PO Box.

Label/Receipt Number: 7006 2150 0004 1007 5798
Status: Notice Left

We attempted to deliver your item at 8:50 AM on October 9, 2007 in OTSEGO, MI 49078 and a notice was left. It can be redelivered or picked up at the Post Office. If the item is unclaimed, it will be returned to the sender. Information, if available, is updated every evening. Please check again later.
Whether or not you pick up the letter, I am terminating our contract immediately and all royalties are due on receipt. You service is unreliable and substandard. If I do not receive full payment of my royalties by October 26, I will not only be contacting an attorney, but I will be filing a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau. After the 26Th, I will not be satisfied just the royalties due me, but I will sue for the entire cost of publishing both my books.
Ignoring my complaints will not solved the issues or bring it to a close. The termination of our association invalids your minimum royalty clause. Payment is due immediately.
Theresa Pachesny

On the same day, Pagefree acknowledge receipt, but did not make payment. January 27, 2008, I sent another email asking for payment. Pagefree never responded.

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