Jerry Jenkins tramples Yog’s Law, starts ‘Christian’ pay-to-publish vanity racket

Yog’s Law: Money always flows toward the writer.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has been writing about this for years. Here are some wise words of hers from 2003:

For years now, we’ve been dinning Yog’s Law into young writers’ heads: Money always flows toward the writer. Alternate version: The only place an author should sign a check is on the back, when they endorse it. Most of them are now clear on the idea that if a publisher wants you to pay to have your book published, or subsidize your book’s publication as a “co-investor” (a.k.a. subsidy, joint-venture, or co-op publishing), they’re a vanity operation.

… The sheer number and variety of schemes for putting the bite on aspiring writers is why Yog made his law so simple. No matter what anybody tells you, no matter where in the process you’re asked to cough up the cash, no matter what they call their program: if money is flowing away from the writer, there’s something wrong.

And now, today, from Publisher’s Weekly,Jerry Jenkins Launches Self-Publishing Company“:

In an about-face, bestselling Christian author Jerry Jenkins, a long-time critic of do-it-yourself books, will help authors publish their works through his new Christian Writers Guild Publishing.

Co-author with Tim LaHaye of the blockbuster Left Behind series, and someone with more than 150 other books to his name, Jenkins said the new venture was the result of an “epiphany.”

… Though having long discouraged new writers from self-publishing because “for too many years so [many self-published works were] awful — poor writing, little editing, sloppy proofing, bad covers” ― Jenkins said he realized his school could help. The goal is to help authors “produce books that don’t look self-published, and at the very least could compete in the marketplace without their having to apologize for them.”

Jenkins described the CWG initiative as “[coming] alongside” writers rather than self-publishing, with integral educational and mentoring components. Those applying to the guild’s Published program must submit part of their manuscript for evaluation. If accepted, they follow a six-month course — costing just under $10,000 — that includes mentoring by a published author. Copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, custom cover design, marketing advice, printing, digital formatting, and e-book file creation in all formats are included in the package. There will be a surcharge for manuscripts over 75,000 words.

The kindest possible interpretation is that this is, as Teresa says, “a vanity operation.” But at a cost of nearly $10,000, plus surcharges, it sounds more like an outright scam.


"We all have our own nostalgias. Maybe you remember Full House well enough to let ..."

‘A kind of resentful nostalgia’
"They are, however, slowly losing hope and withdrawing from the system as they see their ..."

‘A kind of resentful nostalgia’

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ima Pseudonym

    I would like to believe that King praised Jenkins out of a sense of professional courtesy–that he saw that as truly awful as Jenkins’ work is, there was an eager market for it and that since Jenkins and LaHaye were able to make a living writing it, from one writer to another, they deserved at least that much respect for it.  Or that he was being both exceedingly polite and diplomatic.

    The alternative is that Mister King is suffering from some sort of severe neurological disorder. 

  • Turcano

    I might not have made it clear from the first post, but Tate Publishing is in that bubble too.  In fact, the reason I know about it is because my mom has a friend who used that particular press to publish a Christian children’s book (that honestly isn’t very good, which is why I wasn’t really surprised when I found out that it’s a quasi-vanity press).

  • Münchner Kindl

     Ah sorry, I misunderstood that.

  • The_L1985

     This sounds AWESOME.  I’m not sure which version I want to get. :3

  • …at the very least could compete in the marketplace without their having to apologize for them.”


  • Given that one can self-publish cheaply and easily using a plethora of companies (I have used Amazon’s ‘Createspace’ arm to publish the bicentenary history of the Church where I serve), and that there are good, free online guides to typesetting and so on (or the writer could, I don’t know, look at a professionally published book and slave away until his or her PDF resembles one, like I did), this is surely a scam! I mean, ten grand is extortion. But I’m sure some idiots will pay anyhow.

  • Carstonio

     I thought of three other alternatives. One is that King was simply paid to praise Jenkins. Another involves politics in the publishing world. A third is that Jenkins threatened to launch a boycott of his readers against King’s publisher.

  • I think King is known as somewhat of a ‘soft touch’ when it comes to giving testimonials. 

  • DorothyD

    Well if he thinks laptops cost 20,000 dollars, it can only be expected he thinks it costs 10,000 dollars for a book.

    That’s not just any old laptop. That’s a mega-laptop.

  • Ymfon

     …I’ve been living on this hellmouth too long. I got to the fifth paragraph before realizing it wasn’t the CWG’s actual summary.

  • Carstonio

     You too, huh?

  • LL

    Jenkins charging 10 grand to “mentor” writers … that’s as ridiculous as Donald Trump mentoring people in business …

    Wait … 

  • fraser

     I’m pretty sure I’ve seen multiple glowing cover blurbs from King with “he’s the future of horror” or “he’s better than me!” for several different writers.

  • aunursa

    Jerry Jenkins wouldn’t even begin to consider King’s motives.  All that matters to him is that Stephen King lavished praise on his work.

    As for criticism from this blog, I imagine that Jenkins’ would consider the author of this blog the way Steven Spielberg considered Austin Powers’ criticism in Goldmember.

    Austin Powers: Having said that, I do have some thoughts.
    Steven Spielberg: Really? Because my friend here … [points to his Academy Award®] … thinks it’s fine the way it is.

  • Persia

     I also like the hyperlink to ‘sloppy editing, bad covers,’ etc.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

     Yeah, I know a YA writer who self-publishes her series, and I’m pretty sure she spends somewhere between $3k and $5K for copyeditng, developmental editing, and cover art in total. I think she does all the e-pub conversions herself. The effort shows, too. Her books are professional, and her cover art looks as good as anything you’d find on the store shelves. (No exaggeration. I’m pretty sensitive to cover art, and hers are genuinely good).

  • Si

    Man, sometimes I wish “Leverage” was real.

  • ReverendRef

      Does he read any blogs on Patheos?


  • The Other Weirdo

     That’s actually illegal, at least in Canada. A couple stores got caught doing it a bunch of years back.

  • GeniusLemur

    Bad covers?
    Produce books that don’t look self-published?
    And custom cover design is one of the things you get

    Does Jenkins think people will buy a crappy novel as long as it looks good enough?

  • GeniusLemur

    If they’re dumb enough to think Jenkins might conceivably have something to teach them, they’re dumb enough to fall for this hook, line, and sinker.

  • GeniusLemur

    Anyone else suspect that Jenkins swiped that list from someone else, and never actually read it?

  • Boidster

    Does Jenkins think people will buy a crappy novel as long as it looks good enough?

    <cough>Fifty Shades<cough>

  • The_L1985

     It worked for the Left Behind series, didn’t it?

  • Jenora Feuer

    I think it was Sears that actually got charged up here at one point because some of their items had been shown to be ‘on sale’ for more than half the time over the previous year…

  • SergeantHeretic

    Folks, Brothers and sisters. Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaLay are con men. They are confidence artists of the very old school of “Elmer Gantry” style revival tent hucksterism

    All this Vanity publishing scheme tells us is that in regard to mister Jenkins he has grown tired of the masquerade and simply elected to line the sheep up and fleece them naked, to steal as much money as fast as he can.

    I am frankly in absolute awe of the sheer size of the balls needed for Jerry Jenkins to claim the amility to teach anyone how to write anything, and charge them ten grand for the privelidge of, not even a straight out vaninty publishing scam, but you sumbit your stuff for hat passes for his scrutiny before he fleeces you naked.

    The sheer chutzpah that this requres is just staggering.I have read Fred Clark’s heroic bite sized assesments of the I LEFT my cash BEHIND me when I bought these horrid books” series, and the idea of this guy teaching anyone how to write a phone book just blows my fuckin’ mind.

  •  Is Last Stand a standalone book, or does it require a separate rulebook for the Fortune System?

  • hidden_urchin

    Friends, I- I have a confession to make.

    *hangs head*

    I was actually inspired to write a story by the Jenkinian love for telephones and, more accurately, by some of the discussions here.  The central plot point to my story involves, yes, telephony. 


    It gets worse.  One short story wasn’t enough to encompass the glories of communications logistics and equipment.  I’m currently working on a second.

  • Madhabmatics

    It’s standalone, Ragnarok and Dungeon will be standalone too when they come out.

    edit: The author is also going to be putting a Fortune system SRD up on his website.

  • Lori


    Man, sometimes I wish “Leverage” was real. 

    Only sometimes?

  • Self-publishing can be legit, so I wouldn’t be dogmatic about Yog’s law.

    Self-publishing is in no wise an exception to Yog’s Law. But this can be easy to forget because in self-publishing, the author and the publisher are the same person.

    Yog himself explicates here (emphasis mine):

    Yog’s Law is true here, too. Self-publishing is the part of the map where the author hires the editor, hires the cover artist, the typesetter, the proofreader, contracts the printer, buys the ISBN, arranges distribution, promotion, marketing, and carries out every other aspect of publishing. What you need to recall is that while the author is the publisher, “publisher” and “author” are separate roles. One of the classic mistakes I see with self-published authors is that they don’t put “paying the author” in their business plan as an expense. The money still needs to move from one pocket to another. Those pockets may be in the same pair of pants, but that movement must be in the business plan, and it has to happen. Here too, Yog’s Law is completely true, and will help the self-publisher run his/her business as a business.

    Avoid unhappy surprises. Live by Yog’s Law.

  • Another thing that Uncle Jim likes to say on occasion is that there is no one, anywhere, who is so wise in the ways of the world that they cannot be taken by the right scam, at the right time, for the right price.

    It is so comforting, I’m sure, to call victims of scams “idiots” for falling for them. We are not idiots. Therefore, we are scam proof. Y’all, it’s just the just-world fallacy all over again. It’s just blaming victims for being victims while reassuring ourselves that bad things will never happen to us because we are too smart to fall for it (and thus don’t deserve to fall for it, like those “idiots” do).

    Please recall that one of the things that keeps scammers in business in the shame their victims feel at being conned. Getting help, calling out the scammers, reporting them to authorities–victims don’t want to do that, because that would mean admitting they’ve been victimized by a scam. And why wouldn’t they want to admit to such a thing? Because there is no shortage of people to call them “idiots” for falling for a scam.

    GeniusLemur and Gervaise Charmely, you are part of the problem. YOU are helping scammers get away with it by being two more voices in society shaming and blaming scam victims.  You are not on my side, you are not on victims’ side, you are not on the side of justice, and you need to shut up now.

  • “for too many years so [many self-published works were] awful — poor writing, little editing, sloppy proofing, bad covers”

    I love that Fred stops the link before the “bad covers” part.  Honestly, the covers for the original run of the series are pretty cool.  If nothing else, they give the impression to other people on the bus that you’re reading a legitimate thriller.

  • Hey! *wavewave* are you on alternate history dot net, by the way? :D

  •  Well now, let’s think about this. For ten thousand dollars, you get Jenkins’s imprimatur, and an inside track to placement with an audience so captive that they’ve Stockholm Syndrome’d Left Behind into a work of literary genius.

    Say what you like about Jenkins, but this doesn’t sound like an entirely unreasonable way for an aspiring hack writer to make money by exploiting christian audiences.

  • It may not be unreasonable per se, but the sheer chutzpah it takes for him to adopt what is fundamentally morally indefensible (taking advantage of lack of information about the way authoring and publishing works) as a business strategy is deplorable.

  • PatBannon

    The mere fact of writing a story about telephony and communication doesn’t make that story bad. What’s bad is writing a story that’s nominally about the apocalypse and the Antichrist and actually writing a story about telephony and communication.

    And do you have a link to this story?

  • Carstonio

    Very good perspective. A huge reason that I deeply resent scammers is I know damn well that I could be taken in by the right scam. I perceive myself as having more vulnerability in the world because of my lack of understanding of people. I refuse to gamble as well, partly for that reason and partly because I know I’m vulnerable to the temptations of false dreams.

  • Carstonio

     Heh. Perhaps a true apocalypse for Rayford and Buck would be worldwide landline and mobile service being destroyed. I imagine these guys picking up the receiver about 20 times a day to check for a dial tone, or repeatedly checking their mobiles and still seeing the No Service icon.

  • aunursa

    I thought a scam is a defrauding in which the victim is tricked into paying for something that he does not receive — including receiving something that is not what he was promised, especially something that is inferior to the promised item.  If he receives the product or service for which he is paying, even if it’s overpriced, I don’t consider that a scam. 

  •  I very much doubt JJ’s “customers” are receiving anything that’s actually worth $10,000 by any reasonable standard of measurement, “what the market will bear” be damned.* To my mind, they are definitely being scammed.

    *”What the market will bear” as a rationalization for fleecing people is just one more bit of evidence that the free market ain’t.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

      It’s the same reason that if I see “fish on the business card”
    advertising, I’ll go somewhere else; the chance that it’s a genuine
    expression of faith is much lower than the odds that it’s “fishing for

    Wait, you mean that fish-and-cross in an ad doesn’t mean that Jesus has personally certified their plumbing business?

    Well, great.  Now who am I going to call the next time my plumbing is demonically possessed?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Who was it who said to Jack Kerouac “That’s not writing, it’s typing”?

    I think Isaac Asimov wrote more than 150 books, and his research was generally pretty good.

  • Turcano

     Occasionally it’s not an expression of faith at all.  My dad once hired a handyman to fix our garage door who had an ichthys on his ad and it turned out he didn’t even know what it meant; he just saw other people use it and thought it looked cool.

  • Some Guy Who Hates Pants

    Ghostbuster of course.

  • Some Guy Who Hates Pants

    Do you have to pay anything to submit your manuscript?  Because I think an interesting experiment would be to submit a non-RTC manuscript and see if it was accepted. 

  • hidden_urchin

    I think the worst is that telephony could be used to highlight the wrongness of the apocalypse and how it affects not just physical life but also social and cultural elements… and then to not use it.  My God, it’s the perfect symbol to reinforce the narrative and Jenkins blew it.  I weep for what could have been.

    I haven’t posted my own story online yet because I want to see if it’s good enough to sell first and most of the publishers want first electronic publication rights.  I’m just going over it a million times for typos and waiting for submissions for a couple of the online magazines to open up. 

  • PatBannon

    Hell, send it to me, and I’ll copy-edit it free of charge.

    For typos, mind, not for tone. I don’t have the skill or experience to edit for tone, though I can give suggestions. And, just warning you, I love commas SO MUCH. I’ll probably throw in a jillion of them. If you’re still interested, let me know and I’ll send you my email address.