Thursday, March 15, 2012

Authors Should Get Full Information

On a regular basis I speak with authors that I've met at conferences about the publishing program at Intermedia Publishing Group where I work as a publisher.
In recent weeks, I've talked to a few authors who decided to publish with other companies. One novelist told me, “I'm going with CrossBooks Publishing because they are part of Lifeway and I'm a Baptist.”
Another author told me, “I'm going with WestBow Press because they are a part of Thomas Nelson.”
What would-be authors may not know is that “publisher” may not really be a part of those companies, but rather what turns out to be quite a money maker for that entity. Would-be authors need to take a hard look at these companies and who is doing the actual customer service, production and marketing for these books. 
I suspect these authors will be shocked when they discover the truth. Many authors are putting their trust in a referring company without looking closely at the details and receiving the full picture.
I encourage you to read the details in this March 7, 2012 article in Publishers Weekly. The article is about the parent company for 12 different publishing brands and how Author Solutions is looking for a buyer. 
A careful reading of this article shows the huge amounts of money being generated from this entity that published more than 27,500 titles (that's different books) in 2011 with an estimate of each author generating $5,000 for the company—or spending that much money with them. 
Here's the previously hidden information revealed in this article about Author Solutions. “Its workforce totals 1,565 full-time employees with by far the greatest number, 1,215, located in its facilities in the Philippines which handles not only production but sales and marketing as well.”
Authors who have worked with the “brands” of different publishing entities report that their customer service person changed with each call. One author who published with CrossBooks told me she was unsure if a person of faith even edited her book or not. Her concerns were valid because unknown to her, she was working with people in the Philippines.
I've been on the phone with the customer service people from one of these brands. When you fill out an online form, you start what they call a “lead” and the customer service people begin to telephone and email you. I asked one of them where they were located and they responded, “Bloomington, Indiana.” (The location of the parent company Author Solutions.) I suggested they were in the Philippines and the customer service person denied it and said he was in the United States.
Why do the authors go with these companies? They believe that it gets them attention from a company like Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publisher, or Lifeway, the large Baptist publishing arm, or Guideposts or Writer's Digest or Hay House. The truth is something different.
During the last year WestBow Press (Thomas Nelson’s Author Solutions arm) did 1,000 new titles. I understand on average an author spends $8,000 to get a book produced. I do not know the percentage of revenue for Thomas Nelson from those authors but it is significant because of the volume.
Under the Author Solutions model, they set the retail price of the book and then the author buys the book at 60% off the retail price. The company makes their income from printing so they set a high retail price. Some would call it inflated. I spoke with an author this week who had a hardcover novel with WestBow. This first-time novelist had a retail price of $33.50 for a hardcover book. Yet the establishment of the price was outside of the author's control.
Recently one of my friends published through Inspired Voices, a service of Guideposts. She wanted to send me a review copy of her book and it took several weeks and multiple emails and telephone calls before it happened. Again this author was unaware that she was communicating with someone in the Philippines. It explains some of the communication challenges.
Authors need to get full information before they plunk down their money and begin working with these different entities. They have dreams of getting picked up with the referring entity—which has happened once or twice in the midst of thousands of other books being produced. The chances of it actually happening are about as good as winning a lottery or maybe you have a better chance with the lottery in my view. Yes, it is that slim.
There are twelve (an even dozen) of these publishing brands in the marketplace and authors need to fully understand what they are doing before taking the leap in this direction.
Why do these respected companies like Thomas Nelson, Lifeway, Guideposts, Writer's Digest and others join forces and produce these titles? It's not hard to understand. They are in business, and businesses need to make money. You as an author are in business as well. As such, I encourage you to look carefully at the company you are partnering with. 

Yes, you may be promised that you will be connected or helped. Look beyond the promises to look carefully at who is doing the work. and their results. How much knowledge of the American marketplace can you really expect from a company based offshore? This is the company that’s setting the prices and deciding on the marketing. 
As with any business venture, buyer beware. Make sure you will get your money’s worth and that the promises will be kept. 
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4 Comment:

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Diane Eble Left a note...

Terry, thanks for alerting authors to what's really going on with the publishers they may be signing with. $5-8000 is a lot of money to spend; authors would want to be sure they're getting real marketing help and publicity for that kind of money.

I hope that people will click on the PW article and also read the comments, which are very telling and come from authors with experience with those publishers.

Diane Eble
"Your Book Publishing Coach"

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Diane, thank you for the affirmation. I too believe writers need this information to make an informed decision.

After I posted this article, I received an email from the director of publications at WestBow complaining about the inaccurate information in my article.

Immediately I wrote back and said as a respected journalist, I wanted my article to be accurate. Tell me what is inaccurate and I'm open to changing it.

He has never responded to this email with the details about what was not accurate.

The lack of response from this director of publications at WestBow is a response and very telling to me about the truth in my article.

These 12 brands and the 27,500 titles or books produced last year are rooted in issues of making money--not serving and helping writers. Would-be authors need to count the cost before they publish with such companies and not be fooled by the "branding."

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Mike Cipolla Left a note...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have inquired about both WestBow and Abbott Press. WestBow has been much less 'pushy' about when I wanted to publish, but they still keep calling or e-mailing about every month. And of course they and another company are always offering specials on packages.
Was curious about who actually does the back room work for InterMedia. I'm guessing it isn't Author Solutions.
Think I'll look at my almost finished work a little closer and that will give me time to decide how to get it out to other than friends and family.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Good question about Intermedia. We are a US based company. Our editors, designers, marketing people, etc. are all based in the U.S. Our printing is also based in the US.



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