Phyllis Scott Publishing--Scam or God-send?

Diane M. Davis By Diane M. Davis, 7th May 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Web Sites

There are many companies out there ready to take advantage of aspiring authors who are anxious to get published. This article relates my experience with a new one on the market, Phyllis Scott Publishing aka Phyllis Scott Enterprises.

The bait: a free contest

I found the ad on the writer's site FanStory where I'm a member. It sounded too good to be true: monthly short story contest, free to enter, winners guaranteed publication.

Here's the rundown copied from their website:

First Prize (1 prize guaranteed)
· $50 cash
· Guaranteed Publication
· 1 free copy of the final book
· 5% royalties on new book sales (paid annually in increments beginning at $10)

Second Prize (2 prizes guaranteed)
· Guaranteed Publication
· 1 free copy of the final book
· 2.5% royalties on new book sales (paid annually in increments beginning at $10)

Third Prize (7 prizes guaranteed)
· Guaranteed Publication
· 1 free copy of the final book
· 1.5% royalties on new book sales (paid annually in increments beginning at $10)

Fourth Prize (Up to 12 prizes)
· Guaranteed Publication
· 1 free copy of the final book

At first glance, this all sounds wonderful. But let's do a little math.

Total cash prizes: $50
Total royalties: 20.5% (which means they keep 79.5%--more on that later)
And the cost of up to 22 free copies of the book

Every author is a salesman--even the ones who aren't getting royalties are going to tell people about the book their story got published in.

Yeah, I took the bait

My interest was peaked. I couldn't see a downside, no matter which way I looked at it, so I decided to give it a shot. I sent one of my stories for their first contest in February. It wasn't what I consider one of my best. Light entertainment, cute and humorous--a fun read. I didn't really expect to win. I've entered many writing contests, placed in a couple, but never won.

I got the email at work--"CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YOU WON. First place!"

What a rush! I barely managed to stay in my seat. My skepticism tempered my excitement. Was there a catch?

Then my free copy of the book arrived

I told some of my friends and family the good news. I just couldn't keep it to myself. At the same time I tried to keep my expectations at an even keel so if there was a let-down, I wouldn't fall quite so far. Good thing I did.

The book arrived. I tore open the envelope. I couldn't contain a grin at the sight of my story headlining a published book. I opened it and there was my story with my byline. All the years of working at my writing had come to fruition--I'm a published author. A dream finally realized.

Then I read the other "winning" stories and my high took a major hit. According to PSP, they edited the stories before sending them to the printer. If that is true, they need to fire their editing team.

The stories were riddled with punctuation and grammar, spelling and syntax errors, passive voice, etc.

As for the quality of the stories--plot, characterization, pace, dialogue--all I can say is, no wonder I won. With all modesty, I assure you, I'm not exaggerating--not one of those stories came close to the quality of mine.

How disappointing. I can't bring myself to promote an anthology of short stories that only has one story worth buying, so I have stopped all attempts to sell the book.

In the end--scam or God-send?

The way I see it, it's a rip-off, which is halfway between a scam and a God-send. Only first gets money for their story and the royalties are tiny for the top ten stories. The rest of the "winners" get absolutely nothing.

PSP gets 79.5% of the royalties. What do they do to earn that? According to a winner in their March contest who just got his free copy, the quality has improved a great deal. So maybe they did a better job of editing, or they got better quality entries. They compile the stories, create a cover and write an introduction, then send it to CreateSpace for POD. And sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

I thought sharing my experience with Phyllis Scott Publishing would inform fellow authors who are considering entering their monthly contest. You may be willing to take a shot just to get published, but at least you'll go in with your eyes open. Since I entered the first contest, I didn't have that advantage.

Update July 8, 2013

For whatever reason, PSP went out of business. IMO, their business model was doomed to failure. Readers aren't going to pay for anthologies full of poorly written stories. Writers don't like being duped. In the end, right won out.


Contests, Publishers, Publishing, Publishing My Book, Writing Contests

Meet the author

author avatar Diane M. Davis
I'm am a middle-aged mother of two grown kids, AZ native. I love cats, crocheting, and reading. I have five years of writing and editing experience. I've had 10 short stories published in e-zines.

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author avatar Songbird B
7th May 2011 (#)

I am so sorry to hear that this was such a disappointment, Diane...I love the stories that you write and am well aware of the quality of them...Thanks for such sage advice, and trying to warn others through your own experience of this... A great writer such as yourself will get the recognition you deserve eventually...

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author avatar Diane M. Davis
7th May 2011 (#)

That is so sweet of you, thank you so much.

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author avatar LB McGill
29th Jun 2011 (#)

Hi Diane,
Funny I actually tried to read this article before I sent my story in, but I couldn't get to it. I took fourth place in May's contest. As far as I can tell there are no first place winners in the publication my story came out in unless I missed it. I expected the stories to be very very bad, but I looked at it as an alternative to self publication so my hopes were not that high. I did not go over my story with a fine tooth comb, one I never expected it to actually get published and two- surely they would have an editor do the obvious. but no- my story has errors in it as well as others. And I'm no editor, if I'm catching mistakes- there are plenty! I will say this though- I found most of the stories entertaining and how many copies of this book are actually going to be sold? 100? at best? I don't think this little contest of there's is going to make anyone rich, but I do know that marketing myself has been given a small boost and it didn't cost me anything but the 5 or 10 copies I'm going to buy for my own personal use and probably the copy your story is in because now I'm curious! lol. My advice to future submitters would be to edit your story thoroughly because it will get printed and it will get printed as is!

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author avatar Patricia Crandall
30th Jan 2012 (#)

LB, I agree with your comments concerning PSP. I, too, have been published in the anthologies. Some stories were better than others and I cringed at some of the language used. However, I did enjoy most of the stories and the books were nicely printed. Actually, I have been going back to the site and it seems to be shut down. No activity. Any thoughts?

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author avatar Patricia Florio
8th Feb 2012 (#)

I'm so glad I decided to check google. PSP publishes some rather good stories of mine. Then asked for a longer piece, which I retooled from my MFA thesis and it was published Aug. 2011. When I wrote them a few days ago, I wondered why they didn't write me back, as they are so diligent. Now I know! I needed more books to sell at my next book signing, oh, well, live and learn!

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
21st Sep 2011 (#)

Thanks for sharing. It should be an eyeopener for all wannabe writers. GVR.

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
21st Sep 2011 (#)

Thanks for sharing. It should be an eyeopener for all wannabe writers. GVR.

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author avatar BamBam
2nd Oct 2012 (#)

I'm another one of the writers that took the bait with PSP. I am wondering if anyone know how to contact these people or their representative...?

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author avatar Charles Howell
16th Feb 2013 (#)

First of all, I don't know how to respond to the sentence, "no wonder I won." As I was one of the co-authors.

I had just joined Fanstory and submitted a story for a contest. I saw the ad below and sent my story off. I mentioned in my letter that it was probably in more need of editing than a read was worth, but was reassured that they had editors.

When the book came out, I was stunned to see that not only had they published the first draft I sent in (before I had fixed some SPAG) but that they had left it in the non-indented Fanstory format.

I never got any royalties.

I apologize for the lack of editing in my story, but I would hope that you can understand that I would not have put such an unedited, poorly formatted, story in print, and I hope you enjoyed reading it at least somewhat

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author avatar Diane M. Davis
8th Jul 2013 (#)

I'm sorry if my honesty upset you, Charles. I personally never send out a story that hasn't been edited a dozen times, by me and a few of my trusted readers. It's hard enough to get published--why handicap yourself?

Anyway, I will have to dig out my copy of the book and see if I can find your story. To be honest, I didn't read every story from start to finish. Maybe yours was a diamond in the rough I just skimmed.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Jul 2013 (#)

So many scams, so little time! I have actually wondered about setting up a contest like this to help authors in my community get published. We have a lot of talent, but it can get hard to separate the wheat from the chaff and seems like $$ is the only thing that talks here sometimes. A way to level the playing field is needed. I didn't know about PSP, but fell for (submitted and "won", didn't send in any money for the book) nearly 15 years ago. And I see so many people with skills I consider less than mine saying they write/blog/compute for their full time living, and it really frustrates me. Anyway, I hope you got PSP all figured out, and wish you success with your writing adventures!

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author avatar Amy Radford
23rd Sep 2013 (#)

I'm generally skeptic about sites like this too!
I thought was legit, though! This is an eye-opener for me. There's also this new site called Tallenge doing the rounds - it's not just writing though, they have different contests for dance and music and photography...and literature is one of them.

One of my friends, Jon, won their literature contest - that was a few months ago, and he actually got the prize money he was promised, so I know it's legit. But I don't think too many people know that it exists!

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