This is a letter I have received from South African author – Francois* - and is published with his consent. It details his experience as a first-time author dealing with the publishing company Partridge Africa. I will leave the letter as unedited as possible and add only comments and clarity where I think they might be needed. (Dave.)
For those looking to educate themselves, click here for further reading on the dubious practices of Author solutions and other vanity presses.
The letter from Francois begins:
Let’s start from the beginning
My journey began about 10 years ago, in my quest to strive for virtue, better my life, put my life into a positive light, get myself out of a detested work and life environment, that was just making me miserable.
In order to accomplish this I needed a challenge. A challenge that was considered impossible. My initial challenge was that, I was going to climb and conquer Mount Everest, but due to serious health conditions it was realistically going to be a bridge to far. My next challenge was to write a book. This was going to be a difficult, but not impossible challenge.
The first draft
After completing the first draft of the manuscript, pride got the better of me. I jumped the gun, and started advertising all over the world and social media that I am about to publish a book. Needless to say I had no idea how I was going to do this, especially after constant rejection from hundreds of publishing houses/agents. (Dave – I think authors know this feeling well!)
Enter Partridge Africa
All hope of redemption came when I approached a “renowned” publishing company: Partridge Africa. I think they found my details on the internet. Mary Aqualos from Partridge Africa was assigned as my agent. I sent her my manuscript and asked her for an honest opinion and evaluation on the contents before I commit myself to any sort of package/payment. The very next day she contacted me, and told me the book has good potential (I later discovered she had not even come close to reading the manuscript and had no idea what the book was even about) and convinced me with her amazing sales pitch (she was good-brilliant- well rehearsed and trained) to purchase their most expensive package. (Dave: Authors, beware of high-pressure sales pitches from potential “publishers”.)
THE PLATINUM PACKAGE I was sold (Dave: $5999/ R 85 000, as seen from the Partridge website) -- with discount- as I was I first time author and I need this package to achieve my goals and they would definitely publish my book. I fell for it hook line and sinker. Then the money game began. She told me that this process takes five months and in order to get published you need to pay finished within five months…without fail. When it was time to pay, Mary and the financial team hounded me for payments almost constantly.
The money games start
During these five months of payment, I sacrificed my full monthly income to meet their demands (especially with the weak ZAR ) and constant unknown ridiculous ‘penalties’ costs, and ended up paying almost double, than what the original price was for the package-even with a ‘sales pitched’ discount I signed for. I did however succeed in paying in time, never to hear from them again for about 40 days.
After constant nagging/follow-up from my side, asking about the project status, I was informed that April Ross has been assigned as my book/project PA…and that it. Then 2 months later, stressing about the time clause limit in the contract, that gives them the right to discard/ eliminate and discontinue publication, I received an email that I have failed the evaluation content and because of the content they are no longer able to publish my book. They even go as far as asking me for another manuscript. Naturally I disputed their findings and asked why Mary did not inform me of this when I originally sent her the manuscript for content for evaluation. I had evidence to support this, so they changed their ‘song’ and asked me to make corrections and give me more time to do so.
No matter what time consuming corrections I made, I could not pass their ridiculous, stringent evaluation guidelines. Eventually I gave into their demands, I re-wrote my manuscript-totally annihilating my original story- even changed the original title to conform to their guidelines (now know as ‘FLAWS OF ATTRACTION’). They were still not happy with the content, but due to my persistence they APPROVED OF THE CONTENT-IN WRITING, and forwarded the book for editing.
(Dave: Re-editing is always a good thing, however it is important for the reader to know that each “evaluation” by Partridge meant that Francois was paying additional fee over and above his original “Platinum Package” cost.)
The book was given to a Kim Stacey and her editing team. I was content with the work they did and received the signed and delivered final editing document. I got on the social media, posted my cover with and began marketing again and told the world again that my book will be launched in about 3 weeks. Surprise surprise, the next day, I receive an email telling that they cannot publish my book due to new sudden/random content evaluation guidelines.
After the fact
After I had been through the process with them I then carried out some intensive research. I discovered that, they invested millions in paying webinars and creating false book agents/ sales personal (Mary Aqualos, April Ross, Vanessa Diaz and others of Partridge Africa are actually based in London)
They trap innocent authors (especially from third world countries) into paying large amounts of money. They rehearse their sales pitch to con authors into buying their expensive publishing packages, with guarantees that they will get the book published and guarantees to provide you with the tools to help you market and sell the book...coincidentally all connected to their groups by the way-another scam to further enrich themselves.
A note from the water-cooler
I am really grateful that Francois was brave enough to share his story. How many authors get scammed and remain silent out of embarrassment? Please share your stories with us of experience with unscrupulous vanity publishers. Lets aim to better educate and protect African authors from being taken advantage of.
Interestingly, I see that the Partridge Africa Facebook group has had user-reviews and user-posts removed from the page, wonder why that might be?
Remember to protect yourselves using these 3 simple steps.
- Stay abreast of scams within the publishing industry by regularly visiting the Authors Beware blog.
- Unsure if you can trust a publishing company promising you the world? Just Google them. For example: “Is Partridge Africa a scam?” yields some very insightful results.
- Ask other authors for advice. There are numerous groups for authors on Facebook and LinkedIn. Taking a few minutes of time to pop off a question could save you money. ($5999 to be exact.)
Have you had a bad experience with a publisher? Email Admin[at]MYeBook.co.za with the subject line of: Unhappy Author.