More Warnings: Spectacular Productions; Balboa Press/Author Solutions

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

It's been a busy month for publisher warnings!

Spectacular Productions

From author Brian Keene, a warning about a small publisher called Spectacular Productions. Authors report long publication delays, missed pub dates, lack of communication by publisher Christian Hanner, lack of payment, and work accepted but contracts never received.

It's amazing how many small press implosions feature this exact same litany of complaints. As Keene observes,
Sadly, this is an all-too-common occurrence within the small press. A start-up publisher emerges, announces a bold list of titles, issues contracts, and then crumbles after publishing a few or none of the books, leaving authors to sort out their rights reversion and customers frustrated with the small press in general. This isn’t always done maliciously. Sometimes, the publisher is just woefully inept or ignorant of the business or finds they ran out of start-up cash quicker than they thought. Other times, there is clear malfeasance on the part of the publisher. In this case, I’m not sure which applies (as Hanner had not responded to my requests for comment by press time) but I suspect that it started out the former and has now segued into the latter. And that is unfortunate.
Keene also provides a good set of tips for submitting to small presses. Also see my blog post, Precautions for Small Press Authors--it's a few years old but the advice is still current--and Writer Beware's Small Presses page, which includes a list of cautions and links to many helpful resources.

Balboa Press / Author Solutions

Like other such ventures, Hay House's self-publishing arm, Balboa Press, is outsourced to Author Solutions Inc. I've blogged quite a bit about the problems at ASI, as have David Gaughran and Emily Suess, and I've seen a lot of complaints from authors who've used various ASI "brands." ASI and its parent, Penguin Group, are currently the focus of a class action lawsuit, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

Even knowing as much as I know, however, I was shocked by this writer's account of her nightmare experience publishing an illustrated book through Balboa. Illustrations that couldn't be gotten right (despite the detailed information the writer provided), multiplying text errors, corrections that were promised but never made...the list goes on.
After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received “dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD [Required Art Directions form, filled out by the author] and characterization forms...

Excuse after excuse mounted by the CIAC [Custom Illustrations Accounts Coordinator] who offered, "the illustrator is sensitive, he’s young, he draws like that; it’s a difficult project.” My response to the CIAC, "I appreciate that, but this is this is a children’s book. This does not take place in a bombed out trailer park in Beirut. There is no consistency in colors…" In my mind, I understood I paid for “intricate design” [the author paid $3,444 for an "Intricate Design" illustration package] and the CIAC maintains, “it’s a difficult project.” Why? If it was so difficult, then why accept the project? It was now apparent that there was no professional oversight.
I think that some due diligence was lacking here. The author says she didn't realize Balboa Press was associated with ASI; however, if you Google "Balboa Press," my blog post about Balboa and ASI comes up on the first search page, along with a review by Mick Rooney of The Independent Publishing Magazine that mentions ASI in the first paragraph. The information is definitely out there for those who seek it.

The author is correct, though, in saying that the Balboa Press website is not transparent about the connection. ASI is mentioned, but the mention is deeply buried in a place where most people are not likely to look. To the casual visitor or aspiring self-publisher, there's nothing to suggest that Balboa isn't run by Hay House; indeed, everything on the website is geared to encourage visitors to believe it is.

32 comments to More Warnings: Spectacular Productions; Balboa Press/Author Solutions

  • Tony

    I was considering using Balboa, but not anymore–thanks for all the input (and my sympathy) to the many persons who shared their experiences. I’ve used Dog Ear with some success and no problems, but their cost keeps increasing, and I’ve self-published chapbooks with Diggy Pod, and have been highly satisfied with those projects, although they are not set up to help authors market their works.


    They misrepresented themselves to me..and did not edit my book..sent it out with multiple errors..double chapters..sent ictures out that were supposed to be deleted…I am livid! Consider me in your class action law suit!

  • Jo

    Daniel Lissett, you can count me in on a class action. My experience was a nightmare and would you believe they still continue to contact me with what they say are amazing offers. Each time I explain what happened in 2014 and send the entire email trail to an apparent manager only to never hear from them until they are trying to yet again sell me something. My initial comment on this post can be seen under – Jo April 8, 2014 at 8:38 PM

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your post. I signed a contract to publish my book with Balboa and was told the cost would be about $2000. I had submitted the rough copy of the book , illustrations, and all the instructions for printing prior to sign the contract. The day I submitted the manuscript I was told they would need outside printing for the illustrations and when I inquire about the cost the agent Told me someone else will call me with an estimated. After waiting for 4 days I called back and she said the same thing when I pressed her for the price quote, she said “maybe about $4000″ but she had to leave and attend a meeting so we had to cut the phone call short. I then called he finance to get a refund. They kept referring me back to the agent and had no idea nor gave me information about the refund. After couple of days of calling and being hang up on or transferred to different people in financial department I was first told they will deduct 20% and later the person said 10% will be deducted for breaching the contract. But I signed the contract based on $2000 quote not an additional $4000. They finally refunded about $1000 of $1450 that I paid so far. I can’t even find a corporate office to complain. Every complain goes straight to financial department. I wonder what would Louis Hay do if she knew this about her company. I was naieve enough to sign a contract based on her name and didn’t know it is just a big SCAM. I am still looking for a contact number to call their corporate office.

  • Abbie Grant

    Balboa Press offers excellent PR, but offers very little in the way of quality control over their work. In the self-publishing world, where the author has to do EVERYTHING, I would expect them to follow instructions that I HAVE PAID FOR IN FULL. Production occurs in the Philippines, and so are the individuals with whom you would interface. I am experienced in the professional world as a writer and production coordinator, so I had a small advantage. But, I will never use them again! Just because they are associated with Hay House, do not assume they have the same level of ethics.

  • Daniel Lissett

    Addendum – sorry I meant a group of us put through hell (Did not have unrealistic expectations just that they would deliver editorial, and design in a reasonable period instead of 3 months past promised deadline!) forming a group to take Balboa Press (Author Solutions) to a USA lawyer and file for a pro bono (or fee on win outcome) class action. I have worked 20 years in corporate Sydney and never dealt with such inept, arrogant, poor communicating, non-customer focused bunch of employees. Lets go after them, get compensation and get their shonky business closed down for good! For the authors who had good experiences it was sheer luck not the norm!!

  • Daniel Lissett

    My experience with Balboa has been an utter nightmare. From account management, appalling errors in editing, adding my own comments to the poems, long delays, inept design team, poor writers, awful PR, and not based in Australia nor the USA but Asia somewhere. I am Sydney-based and was wondering if people were interested in aproaching a US lawyer for a group transaction? Please comment if you are interest.

  • Anonymous

    Many of my books sold that I know of and Balboa kept telling me none sold. Scam I reckon.

  • I have a beautiful book entitled “Stillness of Spirit” containing reflective writings paired with my art. I, too, have spoken with Balboa Press. Now I don’t know which way to get my book “out there”. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Jeffrey

    I wouldn’t recommend Balboa Press. They did a good job of formatting and publishing, but that was all. They promoted themselves as an Australian site but they are not based here at all. Some of the issues I had were: Marketing: nothing unless you pay much more. Charging me in AUS $ for printing copies of my book, when it would be much cheaper for me to pay the US $ price. Not allowing me to pick up the printed copies, even though the printers were nearby. Dubious sales figures: people I know have bought my book, yet the sales don’t appear; used copies being offered for sale yet these have never been sold. Royalties: the formula used is unattractive to an author (for example, for one of my paperback which was recently sold, I received 4 cents!); royalties have to get to $75 before they are disbursed. The IRS: not Balboa’s fault but it was never explained that I would have to submit a WEN form and be threatened with a $50 fine if I didnt. To submit a WEN is a lengthy process by mail and requires a copy of my Australian passport certified by the US Embassy, as a cost of around $55. In the meantime the IRS take 30% of any royalties, so they took 1.3 cents out of the recent 4 cent royalty!

  • Victoria Strauss

    I usually suggest that authors start by investigating the free or low-cost services with good reputations in the self-pub community: Createspace, IngramSpark, and Lulu if they want to do print as well as ebooks, and Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and the direct-to-ereading-device services (Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, and Kobo’s Kobo Writing Life) if they want to do an ebook only.

    I generally advise authors to avoid the Author Solutions self-publishing services (iUnverse, Xlibris, Trafford, AuthorHouse, BookTango, and the self-pub services Author Solutions runs for major publishers, including Thomas Nelson’s WestBow Press and Hay House’s Balboa Press), since I’ve received many complaints about quality, price, and high-pressure sales tactics.

    Some self-publishing services claim to specialize in particular genres (such as self-help) or markets (such as the Christian market). This really isn’t meaningful Self-pub services do no targeted marketing (unless you buy it a la carte), and they all use the same distribution channels.

    For information to help you comparison shop, a rundown on the benefits and challenges of self-publishing, and links to helpful resources, see the Self-Publishing page of Writer Beware:

  • Rebecca Shrake

    So bummed to hear about balboa press! I am just starting out with a half written manuscript. Any recommendations of self publishing companies that are good?

  • Ruth

    Thank you very much, Victoria.
    I do want to publish. Am almost at the point where I’m wondering if I should just look for a good printer and do the final editing and layout myself.
    I know very clearly in my mind what I’d like to present and I’d hate it messed up by someone else.
    My first wish is for a traditional book with eBook being a secondary option.
    If you can direct me to someone reputable, it would be much appreciated.
    Thank you once again
    Kind regards

  • Victoria Strauss


    For self-publishing, I usually suggest that authors start by looking at the free or low-cost services, including Createspace and IngramSpark if they want to do print as well as ebooks, and Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and the direct-to-ereading-device services (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo) if they want to do an ebook only. I also suggest that authors avoid the Author Solutions imprints (AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, and the imprints AS runs for publishers, including Balboa Press) since I (Writer Beware) tend to get more complaints about them than about other self-publishing services.

    Some self-publishing services claim to specialize in particular genres (such as self-help) or markets (such as the Christian market). This really isn’t meaningful, however. Services of this type do no targeted marketing (unless you buy it individually) and they all use the same distribution channels.

    There’s more info at the Self-Publishing page of Writer Beware:

    If you’re interested in traditional publishing, the route is very different. Email me (use the contact form) and I’ll give you some general advice.

  • Ruth

    I am extremely thankful for the warnings about Balboa Press. I have just finished a book that I would like to publish and contacted Balboa via Google.
    Within 2 days I got numerous calls and finally connected to their publication consultant.
    She explained the publication process and then proceeded to ask me for $650 over the phone by MasterCard.
    I was just enquiring and the fact that the very first talk I had I was asked to pay a substantial amount if money made me wary straight away.
    My book details the horses that I have been involved with ( most of them are rescues) and the valuable lessons I have learnt from these magnificent animals as well as the highs and lows of rescue work.
    It’s a very personal account and I am so wondering how to go about getting it out there as I know that people in the equine sector as well as the racing and breeding industry will enjoy it.
    Maybe someone can assist ( but it will definitely not be Balboa)

  • Balboa are rubbish.. I sent a completed manuscript which was formatted perfectly.. they changed spelling incorrectly, made me take out my illustrations and then put them back in in the wrong location, and are trying to bully me into only having Amazon and Balboa on the advertising which I have paid for.. and NOT my website…

    I will NEVER use them again and have formally complained to Hay House, which they ignored completely.

  • Tanya

    Hi, I learnt my lesson with Xibris who is under the wing of Penguin House they were over the top with praises but got nothing right they didn’t follow any of my instructions for my artwork or cover the didnt edit my manuscript as I paid $3500 for and received delay after delay after 8 months which they promised 6 weeks and my book would be in my hand and on shelves, I pulled the plug and cancelled payments through my bank and received all my money back I sent all 9 consultants emails on my termination of our contract due to their unprofessional ism and prying on new authors Plus I sent 9 written termination letters as stated in their contract I now have learnt research every publisher outlet in legitimacy saves on the heartache

  • Michelle Drought

    Oh nooo, I too am experiencing the total ‘no response’ from Balboa. email after email and phone call after phone call from me to them goes unanswered. I told them 3 weeks ago I had decided to cancel the publishing and under the agreement I was due to get 50% of what I’d paid back now no one will return my calls or email me! Not sure what to do from here – have already paid them 3 instalments ($3000) thinking I will have to close my credit card before they get their hands on the final $1000 instalment due at the end of this month! I’m glad to see that Donna has had positive experiences with them however I cannot say the same.

  • I have published two books with Balboa Press in the last two years (The Love of Being Loving and The Love of Devotion). Both took numerous years to write. And preparing the books for publication was just as much work. I started to create an author platform after hearing about what an author platform was at the 2013 Writers Workshop in Melbourne. Before that I didnt even know that word. My experience with Balboa Press has been very good. I was realistic about what they would and wouldn’t do. They delivered everything they said they would in a professional manner. I did buy the basic package in both cases which is good value for money. I have only attended one event and it was in my own city. I think if you spend a lot of money on the more expensive packages then you have to take with a grain of salt what any self-publishing house can realistically do to help an author. Its a lot of work and one would have to feel that one wanted to spend a great deal of time on it. I feel that way.

  • Victoria Strauss

    Author Solutions (which runs Balboa Press for Hay House) is based in the USA, but outsources a lot of its work to the Philippines–so they aren’t trying to make it easier for Australians; that’s just where most of their solicitation phone calls come from. If you’re considering using Balboa, I suggest that you do a websearch on Author Solutions first; there are many complaints online about the various imprints of this company, and I’ve received many other complaints via Writer Beware.

  • Don’t mention Balboa press to me, or Hay house, I had so much trouble that I had to threaten to sue them.
    As far as I an concerned they thy can go to hell and back before I have anything to do with them again.
    Harry Jones

  • Antuantte

    Has anyone been contacted by a lady via mobile which comes up as a 000111 etc number but not a US one and says she is a representative of Hay House and Balboa in the Phillipines to make it easier for us here in Australia?
    Also wanting to pay them before we finish the book so it can be published for Christmas?

  • Victoria Strauss


    The copies you see on your page are not new books sold by Amazon, but are likely from Marketplace sellers–third party vendors that list their stock on Amazon. In most cases, these vendors don’t actually have copies of the books they list–they just list ISBNs and then figure that if someone places an order, they can try and get hold of a copy. The bizarre pricing has to do with Amazon’s algorithms–for instance, see this blog post:

  • I have now had Balboa press remove my books from Amazon. Unfortunately they have placed two copies on my page for my book “The Spirit Within” and priced them at over £4,000 each. They now say they did not put them on there, and Amazon says they cannot remove them. It’s become ridiculous. As I see it they must have sold plenty of my books and are making sure I sell none.

  • I had Balboa press print two books for me, they also placed both of these books on Amazon Kindle. This was two years ago. So far no monies have been forwarded to my account. When contacted regarding this, the answer I get each time is that they only send money to Authors when there is $70 in the kitty. This represents approximately £44 Sterling. One of my books has been selling well and although I have instructed them to remove sales of my books, they are still selling them. It would appear that Amazon is more inclined to be making money than they are about ensuring that those that sell on amazon are not being cheated by unscrupulous companies such as Balboa press.
    Advice be wary of companies that say they are publishers, because your hard work could be for nothing.

  • Jo

    Going with Balboa has unfortunately also been a very poor choice for me.It appears the best staff they have are the sales team.

    I purchased a few of there very expensive packages and even went overseas (from Australia to Canada and the USA) to attend book signings at the ICDI events. A 12 week global marketing package was also purchased with the promise that media, speaking engagements would be arranged for each destination. This package was subcontracted out to Bohlsen. Not a single thing was arranged.

    I had started to write a letter of complaint expressing my respect for Louise Hay and the fact that I believed Hay House was built on Spiritual and Ethical foundations and that it was sad to see what it had become. I soon changed my tune about those beliefs too. I by chance found myself with an opportunity to speak with Louise and was going to ask if I could be in touch with a few concerns but then noticed a few people coming our way and out of respect chose not to say anything at that time. Instead I asked if she wouldn’t mind having a photograph with myself and my latest book…..keep in mind that I was at her event and about to begin a book signing there at any moment which cost thousands to attend. Her reply was “No I don’t do that”

    Sadly I lost a lost of respect and I only hope that I always remain the person that I am no matter how successful I become.

  • Victoria Strauss

    Peggy, Charlie, Kit–I’m so sorry for your experiences with Balboa. I know it’s no comfort, but you’re not alone. There are a lot of unhappy Author Solutions authors out there.

  • Kit

    Hoping my book series, Beyond Your Potential, would be picked up by Hay House and blast off to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. This did not happen–at all. I was simply furnished with printed copies and was not marketed at all through them. DO NOT go with Balboa Press, a waste of money. Here are my books

  • charlie

    Balboa press have been the biggest nightmare of my life!!! They dont return calls, dont listen to anything and have absolutely bastardized my book. Heart breaking.

  • Julie

    Peggy, I too received the personal telephone call after merely downloading a ‘free publishing guide”….obviously not that free after all. Fortunately, I managed to waffle my way off the phone, but it does throw you to receive a call from a publishing house when you’re a newbie writer, but one thing I’ve learnt…..if they’re asking for money, walk away !!

    I do still receive emails from their sales department, but at this time I just treat them like spam.

    Good luck with your book. Any message that is meant to be ‘out there’ will be successful.


  • Peggy

    Sadly I have just paid the second instalment of three payments for my publishing package to Balboa Press. I am only part way through my manuscript and many months off a finished product. I got caught up in the whole thing by applying for a “free publishing guide” that I saw on an online advertisement. I was telephoned personally, which threw me, and then convinced by the sales pitch that I could be the next Hay House author. I am a first time writer and had not done any research. With a lack of confidence at the root of my belief system that self-publishing might be the only way for me, coupled with the “25 years of experience” I would have backing me, I began to be swayed. I suggested that I be given time to think about it and to raise the money so that I wouldn’t be under too much financial pressure but the persuasive argument was too powerful for me. I realise I’ve made a mistake and I am struggling to get the funds together to pay the third instalment. If I don’t pay it I’ll be charged an additional fee. The book I’m writing is important and has a message that I would like to share with as many people as possible. The good thing about my situation is that I opted for the lowest costing package and I can submit any manuscript I choose to Balboa. Therefore I’ll probably hold back on the book I’m writing and wait until I have completed it before exploring my options and looking for a publisher. I have lots of other ideas for another book I can self-publish through Balboa and I will probably pursue a more personal project with them. Thanks for the informative blog.

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