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.

 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Clearly, he couldn’t convince people to write as badly as he does with his $1000 a pop author training programs.

    As a result, he has apparently decided the remedy is to go all-out on the shamelessness and shake down authors for even more money.

  • Cradicus

    Jenkins.jpg is the ultimate in-joke for this site. I love it!

    Though also I feel like we’ve heard about this program at some point during our journey through the books. Is this a new one or is this just restating it, because either way it’s a good point!

  • aunursa

    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.

    Why does this image come to mind?

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    You’re right, this reeks of scam, and a really ballsy one at that. Most agency and publishing scams only clip the victim for a few hundred bucks, maybe a grand if they’re working together. Ten thousand is crazy, even given what they’re offering. The services listed? I’ve priced most of them. Professional copyediting will run you two or three hundred dollars, maybe more if your novel is especially epic in length. Cover design runs a little more, though if you have some talent in PhotoShop you could commission the art on its own for half that or less (or really cheap out and go with royalty free stock art, which most self-pubs do). Some people offer file conversion services, though I’m not sure why as any fool can do it with Calibre. I’ve never bothered pricing formatting services, but I can’t imagine it being any more expensive than everything else. Everything else is provided by the publisher.

    So if you splurge and hire professional-level freelancers to do everything, your final tab really shouldn’t run much past a thousand dollars. In exchange for all that, you still keep all rights to your own work and generally net royalties of 60-70% or more. Oddly, the article doesn’t mention IP rights or royalty rates, which is not a good sign.

  • vsm

    Are there really enough American Christians with a spare $10,000, a desire to be published and not enough sense to recognize a scam for this to be profitable?

  • AnonymousSam

    Wow. I just planned on getting my book published through Amazon when and if I can finish it (almost done with the prologue…)

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    You know what else isn’t mentioned in that article? Distribution. That’s rather important – a classic indicator of a scam service is that is has no distribution, forcing you to buy and resell your own books.

    Let’s look at CreateSpace, a legitimate POD service. With their free package, CS distributes to Amazon, sets up an e-store and will produce a Kindle version (although I’d recommend doing the digital version separately). For a $25 fee, it will also distribute to bookstores, libraries and other online retailers. It will also sell copies to the author at marginally above cost.

    Where does CWG Publishing distribute? Does Jenkins have a deal with any Christian retailers? Will it set up an e-store, which every other self-pub outfit does? These are things he should really make clear if he’s going to charge $10k.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    $10000? Sheesh!

    That’s a scam alright.

    For reference my friend Meilin just successfully crowdfunded another novel and listed her costs in her pitch (look under risks and challenges to see I’m being accurate http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meilinmiranda/the-machine-god-the-drifting-isle-chronicles ).

    $200 formatting

    $380 cover

    $600 editing

    $100 estimate for coffee fulfillment

    $220 estimate for paperback fulfillment

    (The coffee fulfillment is because one of the perks involved coffee).

    So, huh, yeah…. scam…

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     Oh and we’re talking a proper developmental edit not a copy edit – she didn’t get fleeced before anyone says $600 is a bit steep for copyediting. :-)

  • Ian

    I doubt he’s even read the 150 books that have appeared under his name.

  • ReverendRef

    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.”

    Like the “epiphany” the LDS had over Pepsi?

    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”

    As Fred pointed out with his link, this pretty much describes the LB franchise.  I’m guessing the words “Self Aware” aren’t part of LaHaye’s vocabulary.

    If accepted, they follow a six-month course — costing just under $10,000 —

    So much to say here.  I’m not sure whether to be angry at LaHaye for willingly screwing other people (in all Christian love, of course), or if I pity people who fall for this sh**.  Tell you what — you send my parish $10K and I’ll figure out a way for my parishioner-who-is-a-writer to help you out.  I may not even add the surcharge for manuscripts over 75,000 words.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    If accepted, they follow a six-month course — costing just under $10,000 — that includes mentoring by a published author.

    I guess that for people like Jenkins, scamming tribal Christians with crappy sales is kind of like Lay’s potato chips…

    … you can’t fleece just one.  

  • Dogfacedboy

    You know, if I were Jerry Jenkins, and I’d made a bazillion dollars writing embarrassingly crappy books, I’d wonder how I’d gotten so lucky, and go off and quietly count my undeserved money.  I wouldn’t be out there fleecing aspiring writers for more money.  Unless…do you suppose he has a gambling problem?

  • aunursa

    He doesn’t think they’re crappy.  He thinks they’re great.  And with total sales exceeding 65 million books, and being praised by the likes of Stephen King, why would he think otherwise?

  • Fade Manley

    Actually, I was going to say that $600 sounds very, very low for a professional edit. But if it’s not a standard novel-length manuscript, that might well be a good and reasonable price.

  • Fade Manley

    Actually, I was going to say that $600 sounds very, very low for a professional edit. But if it’s not a standard novel-length manuscript, that might well be a good and reasonable price.

  • Hth

    You seriously go to hell for this.  *Ten thousand goddamned dollars?* 

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Here are a few more nuggets. Jenkins has an interview over on the CWG YouTube account that explains a little more. A few tidbits: Jenkins claims that his service is actually a bargain because it would otherwise cost $40-50k, a comment that confirms that he’s targeting this service to people who lack both business and Internet savvy. Also, it sounds like the ten large is just a baseline – there are further charges for things as basic as inserting images into the book. Oh, and still nothing about rights, royalties or distribution.

    He also left a comment over on Publisher’s Weekly, where he suggests that he’s running the Christian Writer’s Guild out of the kindness of his heart as it doesn’t turn a profit. No, he’s just trying to “restock the pool of writers,” a phrase he repeatedly uses in the interview as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    Well. it’s all in the name of the LAW-erd GAWD Hall-MY-tie, so that makes everything A-okay, HAY-men!

  • WalterC

    Convenience store robbers will pistol-whip you until you open the register so that they can steal the $63 in small bills you have on hand.

    But at least they don’t ask you to be grateful for the experience or to recommend their service to others. It’s an honest, straightforward, arms-length transaction. It’s hardly pleasant but at least you’re not asked to participate in a sham. 

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    I would absolutely bet that there are. The question for me is whether Jenkins’ marketing will be adequate to reach them all.

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    And with total sales exceeding 65 million books, and being
    praised by the likes of Stephen King, why would he think
    otherwise?

    I dunno. Does he read any blogs on Patheos?

  • Joshuas

    Here are a few more nuggets. Jenkins has an interview over on the CWG YouTube account that explains a little more. A few tidbits: Jenkins claims that his service is actually a bargain because it would otherwise cost $40-50k, a comment that confirms that he’s targeting this service to people who lack both business and Internet savvy.

    You walk into a store seeing a widget for $9.99, accompanied by a sticker that says that the price represents a sharp discount from the ‘normal’ price of $19.99. You don’t realize that the ‘normal’ price of $19.99 was set only a few weeks ago solely to create the illusion that the actual normal price (10 bucks) was some kind of huge deal. 

    This is kind of the same shell game, except Jenkins doesn’t even bother to create the illusion. He just flat out makes up a number (“Normally, you could only get a 1997 Kia Sephia like this for $500,000 but I’ll let you have it for just $100 grand…”

  • P J Evans

    I’ve seen post at Teresa’s place on self-publishing: what you need in the way of software, and where you can get it free. It still doesn’t get you good editing, and you might want to check Lulu for their pricing and services, but you sure aren’t going to pay ten grand for someone else to do it for you, and you get to keep your rights.

  • Jessica_R

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

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Another legitimate POD service is lulu.com, as well.

  • Worthless Beast

    Holy crap that’s expensive! 

    Trust me, this is something I’ve looked into for my fantasy work that the big houses and agents don’t seem to want to pay attention to.  Sick of getting form letters, well…  I’ve thus far avoided vanity outlets because of my desire to become a “legitimate” writer but I am thinking of going through Amazon/Kindle for at least one of my projects.  Not really knowing how to self-promote, I’ve looked in casually at package-vanity places (’cause face it, pride is something I’ve never been able to afford), and they generally charge something like a few hundred dollars for e- and print publishing, maybe one hundred and fifty or so for just e-publishing packages. 

    Upwards of ten-thousand dollars… well, I can’t afford *not* to have pride in that case!  I smell a predators and editors story.  

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Not to monopolize this thread any further, but can we make fun of this next? It’s the CWG Publishing lessons, and it reads like a list of things that Jenkins clearly doesn’t understand (research, subtle messages, character arcs, describing locations, etc).

  • Launcifer

    Maybe he does, in fact, understand them and people like us have been his targets all along. See, he’s really Yog Sothoth, feeding us misinformation by presenting his appallingly written books to the world, all the while just waiting for that moment when someone who’s been highly critical of his garbage digs that little bit deeper and goes mad from the revelation.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Jenkins claims that his service is actually a bargain because it would otherwise cost $40-50k

    This is, beyond a doubt, an intentional scam.

    We’ve normally thought Jenkins believes in the books he flatulates, haven’t we? That he believes in RTCism? Personally, I just re-thought that opinion. 

  • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

    The guy is a clown.  Jesus hasn’t come back in all the years he said he would. FALSE PROPHET.  BUT BIG MONEY FOR BEING WRONG.

  • Dogfacedboy

    CWG Summary of Lessons

    Presenting Yourself as a Professional:

    Formatting can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.  Make sure margins are extra wide.  White space is key!  Helps maximize page count, too.

    Researching Your Novel:

    Discover details to create a believable storyworld.  But don’t let research interrupt the flow of creation.  Research is best done once you’ve finished your manuscript.  If there’s time.

    Self-Edit to Make Your Work Sparkle:

    If you’re using a word processor, there may be a spell check function.  Utilize it!  Once the manuscript is done, you may wish to reread it before submission.  If there’s time.

    Message Fiction:

    Readers will be put off if you’re heavy handed.  Have your saved characters witness to unbelievers no more than three times per chapter.

    Implication and Resonance:

    Learn to write fiction with significant depth.  Don’t just show your protagonists taking action against the homicidal villain.  Discover the rich subtle emotional tapestry of characters NOT taking action against their evil adversary.  Your readers will thank you.

    Showing Versus Telling:

    Which is better?  The conventional wisdom says “show, don’t tell.”  But that robs the reader of their power of imagination.  Best approach is to have the action happen “offscreen,” and then just summarize what occurred, ideally in a snippet of phone dialogue.  Let your readers visualize it in their own way.

    Your Synopsis and Structure:

    Create a working synopsis to serve as your novel’s guiding light.  A checklist works just fine for this.

    Plotting:

    Make the most of conflict to keep your reader engaged.  And by “make the most,” I mean stretch it out for 12 to 16 volumes.

    Character Arc:

    Characters should grow and change naturally, and emerge at the end a different person.  Unbelievers can come to accept Christ as their savior, for instance.  Or they can die.

    Point of View:

    Learn to establish POV quickly, and keep POV consistent during exposition.  This is especially important if you have two male protagonists, as they can take turns conveying the story from their perception.  Ambiguous POV establishment can lead to confusion over which righteous manly man’s thoughts are being presented.

    Dialogue:

    More direct and intense than real speech, especially when conveyed in the form of a phone conversation.  Or voice mail message!  And don’t be afraid to have a character rehash a conversation they had with another character in the previous pages.  Readers may have missed important details they can pick up the second time around.

    The Beginning:

    Your story’s opening pages are critical.  Those first words and pages must engage and grip readers.  An effective technique is to quickly introduce a drop-dead gorgeous flight attendant.

    The Finale:

    Beginnings are not easy, but endings are even harder.  Try to put it off as long as you can.  Somewhere between 12 and 16 volumes should be long enough for you to think up an ending.  

    Location, Location, Location:

    Be sure to describe the routes your characters take when traveling about.  Readers love to know these sorts of details.  And if you haven’t been to a place where your story is set, you can still write about it masterfully by relying on what you do know.  Manhattan in New York, for instance, is a really big place, so if your character is there, they will need to travel dozens of miles to get to midtown from, say, the Lincoln tunnel.

    Revision and Self-Editing:

    How many times should you revise?  If you have time, you could skim through it once.  And don’t forget the spellcheck!

    Sign up today!  Have your credit card ready.  Operators are standing by.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

     To be (perhaps unduly) fair to Jenkins, I think his real problem is that he’s out of touch. You can tell by listening to him that he’s basing his impressions of self-publishing on how it worked twenty years ago when his career started to take off. For instance, he keeps describing the self-publishers as “send them a check and they’ll print your book.” For whatever their faults, POD and e-publishing have reduced the financial risk on the companies enough that they can give away their basic services for free. There are printers that do charge, but in those cases you pay for quality – they use traditional printing techniques, which tend to produce a more consistent product – and even then the setup fee is small, generally less than two hundred dollars. But how was Jenkins know that?

    The same is true for the services he’s offering. The only reason you can get editing and cover design for as cheap as you can is due to freelancing, and that’s a fairly recent phenomenon. I don’t even know if there were freelance editors in the 90′s, nor do I know how much they might charge. $40k to finish a book may well have been reasonable then.

    So while I do maintain that CWG Publishing is a scam, Jenkins comes across as more of an idiot. My suspicion is that this was cooked up by someone else.

  • stardreamer42

     It isn’t “not enough sense to recognize a scam” so much as it is “no fellow Christian would do such a thing to us!” 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 marks”.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Jenkins is at the very least criminally negligent in endorsing a service which is a scam.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Nothing like the L&J school of authorship to make a mockery out of actual writing. :P

  • Matt in PDX

     I was going to comment on that. “More than 150 books to his name”, though a figure of speech, is particularly apt here. Even if Jenkins actually produced all of those books himself, it would be overly generous to say that he “wrote” them (given the normal understanding of what is required to write a book).

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

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

    Waitaminute… maybe Jenkins’ publisher actually did charge him that much per book, on top of all the other expenses.  And Jenkins was dumb enough to fall for it.  

    Personal experience counts as intensive subject research, right?  

  • Madhabmatics

    Speaking of self-publishing, one of my buddies kicked a start and has started to publish his tradgame RPG, “Last Stand,” which is like Earth Defense Force. It’s a game about men and women fighting giant, building-sized aliens and monsters and using their gigantic bodies to get neat powers + suits of armor, with an almost gambling-based resolution system.

    It’s on Amazon right now and is pretty cheap and has a kicking rad cover so go check it out:

    http://www.amazon.com/Last-Stand-Fortune-Brandon-Schmelz/dp/1480108774/

    Two fantasy versions and a Norse-myth version are coming out later, all the systems powers are going to be cross-compatible. All I will say about Ragnarok is that it’s got an Icelandic dude  and a Heathen working on it and for a game about Ragnarok, it is super diverse and it’s going to own.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Maybe he does, in fact, understand them and people like us have been his targets all along. See, he’s really Yog Sothoth, feeding us misinformation by presenting his appallingly written books to the world, all the while just waiting for that moment when someone who’s been highly critical of his garbage digs that little bit deeper and goes mad from the revelation.

    No, no, that would be entirely too interesting.  Based on what we have seen so far, I cannot imagine that Jenkins is constitutionally capable of being as interesting as that.  If it was buried somewhere deep in his writings, a signal that would send us all mad as the vast knowledge of the infinity of space and time pour into our minds, then this community would have found it by now.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Maybe he does, in fact, understand them and people like us have been his targets all along. See, he’s really Yog Sothoth, feeding us misinformation by presenting his appallingly written books to the world, all the while just waiting for that moment when someone who’s been highly critical of his garbage digs that little bit deeper and goes mad from the revelation.

    No, no, that would be entirely too interesting.  Based on what we have seen so far, I cannot imagine that Jenkins is constitutionally capable of being as interesting as that.  If it was buried somewhere deep in his writings, a signal that would send us all mad as the vast knowledge of the infinity of space and time pour into our minds, then this community would have found it by now.  

  • Madhabmatics

    What makes Fortune System neat?

    Fortune is all about gambling. Players construct their characters from a
    card draft, gamble away tokens and HP and dice, accept bribes and push
    their luck. The mechanics are fast, the math is (hopefully) solid. Each
    new game also includes a unique mechanic you can add to the other
    settings.

    The Games

    Last Stand

    http://i.imgur.com/T2bIa.jpg

    Last Stand is the flagship Fortune game. You might have heard of its successful Kickstarter.

    Last Stand is all about fighting giant insects, wearing cool Bio-Armor,
    ripping out your enemy’s body parts to gain new powers. Its unique
    mechanic is Collateral, a way to gamble with the party’s HP.

    Last Stand is [totally available to buy but don't email Brandon Schmelz and tell him Amazon put it up early. >:P]

    There will also be a 13th Age version of Last Stand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

    This. Self-publishing can be legit, so I wouldn’t be dogmatic about Yog’s law. But rah hiring freelancers.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Professional copyediting will run you two or three hundred dollars, maybe more if your novel is especially epic in length.

    *raises eyebrows*
    *dons freelancer cap*

    FYI: I’m a member of Editors Victoria (an Australian society of professional editors). They recommend that freelancers charge a minimum of $70 an hour for copyediting work.

    If I do a thorough copyedit on a novel, it’s going to take about 10 hours. Anything under $700, you’re getting me cheap. $300 is damn cheap, and probably won’t get you anyone who knows what they’re doing.

  • reynard61

    “Are there really enough American Christians with a spare $10,000, a desire to be published and not enough sense to recognize a scam for this to be possible?”

    Well; I would imagine that there are quite a lot of people within each of the individual criteria, and that the number that fit all four is substantial enough that Jenkins will make a tidy — if utterly undeserved — profit.

  • flat

    oh boy,if you sign up they are really going to rip you off.

  • Turcano

    Add “did no research” to that list because CWG has a major competitor in Tate Publishing & Enterprises, which will only take you for four grand, and that appears to be more like a deposit than anything, and they explicitly offer distribution.  They also claim to offer editing, but from what I’ve seen, the quality of their editors is suspect at best.

  • Münchner Kindl

     I really like how you combine real advice with the terrible execution in Jenkins work….

  • Münchner Kindl

     You’re thinking in terms of “people doing research”. This is not Jenkins target market, going by e.g. his inaccurate description of Manhattan didn’t cause any reaction by his readers (or a change in his style).

    Obviously, as Fred has often pointed out, the buyers and reades of these books live in a bubble, where little is allowed if fiction, contact with the outside (heathen) world is discouraged, and most important, where A Guy in Authority says something and it’s true (and of course, Christians are all virtous, so no Christian could scam a fellow RTC).

    Therefore, he will get thousands of marks falling for this scam, who don’t know other companies offer better service for less.

  • flat

    I realised that al bundy tried such a scheme before:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISfdjN1aTE4


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X