BAM! Publish: A Vanity Press?

#PublishingFoul Logo Indies UnlimitedIt’s a common dream among first-time authors: you walk into your favorite local bookstore and there’s Your Book, sitting on the shelf for everyone to see – and buy. Alas, it’s unlikely to happen if you’re an indie author. If it happens at all, it will require a lot of hard work and persuasive energy on your part, as well as a store manager who’s willing to take a chance on an unknown author.

Books-A-Million, the second-largest bookstore chain in the United States, has developed a route for indies to get their books onto store shelves – but there’s a catch.

BAM Publish logoFirst, some background: Books-A-Million was a Johnny-come-lately in the self-publishing business. It launched BAM! Publishing DIY in April 2015, six years after Kindle Direct Publishing opened its virtual doors, and four years after Barnes and Noble launched PubIt (which later became Nook Press). BAM’s initial idea was to allow indie authors to print their books on Espresso Book Machines in one of two BAM stores – one in South Portland, Maine, and the other in Birmingham, Alabama. Authors could then make arrangements to pick up their books. You can see the problem with that business model for authors who live nowhere near either store.

This past November, Books-A-Million launched a revamp of its self-publishing platform. It’s now called BAM! Publish and it’s reportedly operated in partnership with FastPencil, which calls itself “the world’s largest publishing platform with hundreds of thousands of members worldwide”.

To be honest, I think Books-A-Million is only using FastPencil’s publishing software, and has contracted author services to somebody else. Here’s why: I gave up my email address to get a BAM! Publish bookstore marketing guide. When I immediately unsubscribed, it turned out the mailing list to which I’d been added belonged to Infinity Publishing – a vanity press in Pennsylvania with a 100 percent negative rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Prices for BAM! Publish’s services sure look like a vanity press is involved. It’s free to set up your book on their platform, but even if you only plan to release it to friends and family, the link for ordering copies costs $59. Global distribution costs $299 ($349 for print and eBook). Editing services are similarly pricey, and marketing services run from $279 to $569.

Anyway, as I said earlier, BAM! Publish offers authors a route into their brick-and-mortar stores. But the catch is that you either have to buy one of their service packages – prices range from $699 to $2,799 – or order 1,000 copies of your book. (By the way, the $699 package doesn’t include the bookstore option, but you can add it for $399.) Only after you’ve made the initial cash outlay will they vet your book for possible inclusion in their program. If you’re accepted, BAM picks the stores that will feature your book. You pay for shipping your books to those stores, and any copies that don’t sell get shipped back to you. If your book sells out, however, the store can order more copies at its own discretion and expense.

I guess if you’re desperate to see your book in a store, you might think it’s worth throwing upwards of a thousand bucks at Books-A-Million and hoping your book is deemed worthy. But between Infinity Publishing’s record of complaints, and the stories I’ve heard from indies who have lost money to other vanity presses over the years, I’m planning to steer clear of BAM! Publish.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

29 thoughts on “BAM! Publish: A Vanity Press?”

  1. “Here’s why: I gave up my email address to get a BAM! Publish bookstore marketing guide. When I immediately unsubscribed, it turned out the mailing list to which I’d been added belonged to Infinity Publishing – a vanity press in Pennsylvania with a 100 percent negative rating from the Better Business Bureau.”

    Good work finding that; I had thought BAM was still working with Fastpencil.

    1. Thanks, Nate. 🙂 They may very well be using FastPencil’s software platform for uploading, editing, and submitting eBooks for publication. But as a number of other operators have done, it looks to me like they’ve contracted out the author-assisting part of the business to a vanity press. In fact, based on the package prices, I assumed they were in bed with Author Solutions. I’d never heard of Infinity Publishing until I got the confirmation screen that I’d unsubscribed successfully from their mailing list.

  2. Thank you very much for the warning and con job alert, sounds like BOOKS A Million never did it’s due dilligence with the BBB. I wonder what they will do when they start getting complaints from those who sign up, or worse yet possible legal actions.

  3. Dang! Talk about needing to spread knowledge and warning Indies. Thank you for this. You’re doing a service. I mean, Createspace will distribute your book into bookstores, including making it available for Barnes and Noble to order, with the click of a button. You get less royalties than sales on Amazon or the Createspace store, but I’ve had two book signings in two Barnes and Nobles now through my local RWA chapter. So, it’s possible to get in if you just nicely talk to the local authors/outreach manager. Plus, Indie bookstores are open to authors a lot of the time too.

    It’s good to get the knowledge out there so people starting out won’t sink thousands of dollars into their “dream” when some simple research and finding out the facts will help them. Reading articles like yours is a great service. I can’t believe they were charging prices like that for TWO stores. Hilarious! Good of you to get the message out there and save future Indies some serious cash.

  4. This is not a viable option and screams of vanity publishing. This sounds like the sort of thing indie authors should be warned against, where a company is preying upon one’s desperation. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. LOL! Thanks, Elisabeth. What I didn’t mention in my article was that I’d already received an auto-email from them by the time I unsubscribed. And I unsubscribed immediately.

      To be fair, though, they haven’t bugged me again since.

  5. Great sleuthing, Lynne. I wonder if there will ever be a bonafide company that’s prepared to take a chance on Indies [apart Amazon and a few other online giants].

  6. Vanity publishers are getting sneakier, it seems.

    Thank you for the research, Lynne. By the time a mark found out about the onion-layers of charges they would probably be so far in it would be hard to pull out.

    Interesting about Author Solutions, too.

    1. Thanks, Judi. The good news (for us!) about Author Solutions is that they’ve been losing money steadily for the past five or six years. So the word is getting out about vanity presses — which may be why these companies are now looking for “shadow” deals like this one.

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