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ALLi Watchdog Report: Motivational Press

Headshot of John Doppler

ALLi Watchdog and indie author John Doppler

In recent months, many authors have received email solicitations from Motivational Press inviting them to submit a manuscript for publication. Does the company live up to its own hype? Our Watchdog reporter John Doppler has been investigating and shares his findings here.

 

MPLogo

Motivational Press has been in business since 2007

Background

Founded in 2007, Motivational Press is an assisted publisher targeting authors of business, motivational, religious, and self-help books. Promotional materials present the company as “one of the world’s leading mid-tier publishers.” The CEO and prime mover of Motivational Press is entrepreneur Justin Sachs.

The Hard Sell

The Motivational Press website declares that self-publishing is “a prescription for no sales, no credibility, and no success,” and that without a “high-end publisher to market and distribute your book, you are no longer considered to be a credible author.”

Professional authors currently enjoying success as independents would take exception to that dubious advice. And as we’ll see later in this report, MP’s interpretation of “credible” and “high-end” are slippery, at best.

Instabook

Photo credit: Dreamstime.com

Sachs sums up the company’s offerings in a 2014 interview: “Packaged, published, distributed, marketed, promoted; all the core components they will need are all taken care of for them.” MP will even write your book for you, according to Sachs’ LinkedIn profile.

The company doesn’t provide a list of services they will offer, and does not disclose pricing or terms online. Features they have advertised elsewhere include:

  • cutting edge publishing and distribution services
  • international distribution in print, electronic, and audio formats
  • massive industry promotions to independent bookstores, libraries, book reviewers, and awards
  • immediate placement in 50 brick-and-mortar stores throughout the world
  • corporate sales opportunities
  • cover design
  • an in-house PR firm
  • expert interviews
  • promotional and marketing support and guidance
  • billing and accounts payable support

Note how some of these features closely parallel Amazon’s Expanded Distribution options. It’s not uncommon for assisted publishers to repackage KDP or Createspace services (sometimes with a tremendous markup). In a response to a complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau, the company explains that “Motivational Press distributes our titles through [redacted], the largest distributor in the world.” (Although the distributor’s name has been redacted by the consumer watchdog charity that published the complaint, it most likely rhymes with “ham is on”.)

The same complaint alleges that MP charged $1,802.00 for a “Publishing and Distribution Package” that included “promotional opportunities” that never materialized. The complainant also accuses MP of not paying royalties due, despite seven requests for a formal accounting and the company’s eventual admission that payment was due. Motivational Press denied that their marketing opportunities were inadequate, but did not refute the accounting issues.

Redefining “Best Sellers”

Many of the books promoted by MP are identified as best sellers. This, presumably, is part of the credibility they speak of in their sales pitch.

But not all best seller lists are equal. There’s a huge difference in the effort needed to reach the top of Amazon’s Top 100 Paid rankings as opposed to briefly topping a niche category. As Sachs said in his 2014 interview: “There’s no such thing as an overnight true best seller. I’m not talking about an Amazon best seller campaign, because we know you can do that and in 24 hours be a best seller. I’m talking about a real best seller that’s selling millions of copies. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

So which kind of best seller does Motivational Press specialize in?

One author inadvertently answered that question in her blog. “Our goal was to have our title be a best-seller in its category by the end of the day,” she wrote. “And guess what? It climbed the charts and we reached our goal by end of day! How cool is that?”

It seems Motivational Press titles are “best sellers” only in niche categories on Amazon. I could find no evidence of the company’s books securing a slot on any major best seller list.

Even within the Amazon ecosystem, Motivational Press books seem to fare poorly. Of their 200 most recent titles, few hold Amazon sales rankings better than 1,000,000. The CEO’s own books published through MP fall primarily into the 1,000,000–2,000,000 range on Kindle sales rank and under the 6,000,000th rank in print sales.

Only one of Sachs’ books published through Motivational Press had gathered more than ten reviews. Most had zero. That’s not a glowing endorsement of the company’s marketing abilities.

In counterpoint, MP customers often praise Sachs by name in their books’ acknowledgments, citing Sachs’ moral support and the ease of working with MP’s staff. That’s encouraging, but only tells part of the story. These acknowledgments were written before the book was published and before the cost-effectiveness of MP’s services could be determined.

Significantly, few authors have gone on to publish a second book through Motivational Press.

Conclusion

There are predictable hallmarks of a predatory publisher. Money flows the wrong way, from the author to the publisher. Services offered are vague, or prices are not disclosed up front. High-pressure sales tactics are employed. Accountability and transparency are lacking. Promises are not fulfilled to the client’s satisfaction.

In this Watchdog’s opinion, the allegations made in the BBB complaint warrant caution. If true, they meet nearly all the criteria of a predatory publisher. However, even if those accusations are proven false, the lackluster performance and near-invisibility of MP’s promoted titles suggest marketing services that are ineffective at best, and which ultimately funnel money away from the author.

If the sales rank and visibility of Motivational Press titles are indicative of the “sales, credibility, and success” the company offers, authors are better off self-publishing.

Have you worked with Motivational Press? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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21 Responses to ALLi Watchdog Report: Motivational Press

  1. Thomas M Hill September 19, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    John,

    Thanks so much for this blog post. I was very surprised when I received an email from Motivational Press over the weekend, and then when I read that they wanted to publish one of my books, I thought, But how do they even know I’m trying to publish a book? I had not submitted any type of book proposal to them and yet they were inviting me to publish with them.

    I run a book production services company and I have assisted nearly 100 authors with publishing-related tasks. We don’t dabble in marketing books and such because it can be such a slippery slope (kudos for addressing the top-sellers in a specific category, by the way!). But we do aim to publish the best books possible. We make the client aware of all fees upfront and don’t make any promises where “bestseller lists” are concerned, although we have had a few success stories. Our approach is to make each book as professional as possible (like any book you’d find in a bookstore), and then let the author or his or her representative handle the marketing and promotion (though we do offer some pointers).

    As someone who works in the industry, this is certainly an affront to the hard-working professionals who aim to assist authors, who are often extremely vulnerable to scams and empty promises. Your report highlights the ways in which Motivational Press errs on the side of “predatory publishers,” and I hope that your readers will think twice before publishing with them. I look forward to reading more of your posts soon!

    Thomas Hill
    Lampas Books

  2. Kama Linden August 30, 2016 at 11:42 pm #

    Hi
    So what do you suggest? Book baby? I have one fitness book with photos, and another novel ready to go.
    thanks John
    Kama

  3. Abha Iyengar August 23, 2016 at 4:36 am #

    Thanks for this, John. They have aent me an offer similar to Lealie’s and it sounded too good to be true. I realize now that there is a catch. I have published 5 books of fiction and poetry and have never had to pay anyone for the publishing. I would not like to do this now.
    Your facts and the follow-up comments have been an eye- opener.
    Thank you for your good work.

    • Kama Linden August 30, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

      HI Abha
      Who did you eventually publish with?
      I have a fitness book and a novel ready to go
      thanks!
      Kama

  4. Peter Danish June 27, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    Hi John –

    I’ve had two books published by Motivational Press in a purely traditional manner, and I have to say they have been terrific. They worked with me thru the editing process for months to get the manuscript just right and then they printed lovely books. I was never asked for a penny. I find some of these assertions here EXTREMELY dubious. If I have had one reservation about MP, its that they are lacking in the marketing end. For my first book, they set up literally dozens of radio and blogger interviews that had terrific impact on my book sales. My second book didn’t get the same kind of “hands on” attention as the first, but it was a novel and not a self-improvement genre book. I have had another novel published by another traditional publisher and I had a horrendous experience with them. By comparison, MP has been a breath of fresh air.

    • John Doppler August 4, 2016 at 5:22 am #

      Hi Peter,
      Thank you for your input! Contrasting opinions are always welcome.

      We have several accounts — including comments on this page — of authors being asked to pay substantial fees, so I’m curious about why your experience differs from theirs. May I ask when you contracted with Motivational Press?

      As for the marketing, that’s a central concern expressed throughout this report. There’s little evidence that MP’s marketing has been effective, especially not for the fees complainants state they were charged.

    • Kama Linden August 30, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

      Peter,
      About to publish through motivational press on an 80/20 deal where I pay $5000 and they take care of the rest

      Please contact me….did you do the regular where you receive less royalty?
      thanks
      kama
      angrichik@aol.com

  5. Hogan Hilling June 8, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

    I have been very pleased with Motivational Press’s service and have published four books with them and also debut another book in the Fall of this year.

    Motivational Press never charged me to print, design the cover and publish the book. However, they did offer in-house services for promotion of my book. Services an author would need to pay for elsewhere. I have paid for only two of their services that totaled about $2,000. But it was my choice to pay MP instead of somebody else.

    As an author who published his first four books with three different traditional publishers from 2002 to 2010, I also feel this article doesn’t honestly portray the publishing industry as a whole. A publisher’s job is to print the book not market it. If any publisher spent time marketing every book they publish, they’d go bankrupt and wouldn’t be able to service other authors.

    The main marketing responsibility falls mainly on the author and the publicist he/she hires. Not the publisher. And no publisher can offer any guarantee an author’s book will sell.

    The bigger question a person must ask is “Why am I publishing this book?”

    If it is for the money, you will make a grave mistake. If it is because you are passionate about your writing, then you increase your chances of earning some revenue from book sales and/or speaking engagements.

    In the end it is the author’s choice to decide which publisher is the best fit for him/her.

    • Kama Linden August 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm #

      Hogan,
      About to publish through motivational press on an 80/20 deal where I pay $5000 and they take care of the rest

      Please contact me….did you do the regular where you receive less royalty?
      thanks
      kama
      angrichik@aol.com

  6. Rick Jetter May 27, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    I need to respectfully disagree with your article and perception of Motivational Press. MP is a traditional publisher. Period. Not a vanity publisher. Not a self-publishing scheme. They do not require any fee, whatsoever. They create incredible cover art, perfect formatting, fair royalties, and high quality books. They also set authors up with radio interviews and so many connections to other authors and markets all over the world. My book was readily available overseas even before its formal launch. They want to help authors succeed and create a platform for speaking engagements and the like. I would recommend MP to both new and veteran authors.

    • Bineta June 4, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      Hi Rick, my name is Bineta and I really want to publish my book. I talk to Justin and want your insight about his business, is MP a good and fair publisher and can I make money with them?
      Thanks

  7. P. J. Booker April 25, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    I received an unsolicited e-mail from MP, saying that as an “emerging thought-leader” that they want to consider me for a publishing deal. I was invited to join a 10-week Write Your Book course that was limited to only 25 people.

    As flattered as I am to be considered a thought-leader (tongue firmly planted in cheek!), I am not an author and not currently looking to write a book. I am a newly minted coach, and that was the hook. Their pitch was that a book could help grow my coaching business.

    I admit to being interested in writing a book at some point; however something about this e-mail didn’t feel quite right, so I decided to do some research which led me to John’s post. I’m glad that I did.

    Thank you, John for the insight.

  8. Leslie A. Paramore April 7, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    John…. Hi I came across your article while doing research on Motivational Press. I am a motivational author, meditation recording artist, teacher./speaker, among other things. I have been a motivational author for over 25 years, never have had an agent and have never paid any publisher to publish my works. I have over 70 children’s book published in Korea for their educational system, over 150 motivational greeting cards published, various works in anthologies, a middle grade novel and an inspirational book for women. I stumbled across motivational press, seeking a publisher for my new self-help book, “A DREAM-MAKER’S JOURNAL From Dreams To Reality.” They contacted me after I submitted an online form. I had a telephone interview with Justin which went well and he said he would get back to me after looking at my manuscript. Less than 24 hours later he contacted me and said that they would like to move forward with my book at the fee of $3000! However tempting this may seem to have my book brought forth into publication, I felt uneasy about it. Again I have NEVER PAID to have my work published. For someone looking to self publish, it could be an option. I am holding out for the RIGHT publisher. Keep your fingers crossed. Please feel free to contact me.

    • Bineta June 4, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

      hi Leslie my name is Bineta Ngom and I’m looking to publish my book. Justin ask me to pay 5000 dollars in monthly payments and get my book published. I don’t mind paying but can an author be successful with their work?
      what do you think of MP?
      thanks
      my email is bngomlaye@gmail.com

  9. Bibi Shane March 3, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

    Thank you, John Doppler, for keeping a clear approach to the ‘creative agents’ fishing for naïve – perhaps also innocent – minds not only of writers aiming to become authors.

    I admit that my personal experience as a would be self-publisher has veered me from trust to scepticism. Having lost 3 years – forget about the money – to promises, I now intend to begin again by trusting myself.

    So, yes, John Doppler, all credit to you for keeping our minds concentrated on not, without research m accepting offers of service from what could appear credible publishers of indie authors.

  10. Gloria Antypowich March 3, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

    Another group that I would like Alli’s Watchdog check out is ParaDon Book publishing and their associate Indie Writer Support (IWS)

    • John Doppler March 3, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

      They’re on our radar, Gloria, and an expose is in the works! ParaDon’s founder is the same individual behind IndieWriterSupport.com, and he operates under a number of aliases and phony identities.

      He currently has two warrants out for his arrest.

  11. Jon Faust March 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    Most of the boutique presses are a scam and this is just another scam. But will they go to jail or be beheaded, no they will be left to scam the unfortunate!

  12. Raymond Cook March 3, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

    Independent authors will always be targeted by the unscrupulous because they know we want to see us be successful.

    Raymond

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