At BookLocker, we sure are tired of our competitors giving Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing a bad name! From poor quality books, to horrible customer service, to unnecessary costs in the thousands, to refusing to answer new authors’ questions about prices, enough is enough!
After receiving frequent complaints from authors about hard sales tactics, unanswered questions, bad books, worse customer service, and unexpected “surprises” they had to pay for using “the other guys”, a “new author” contacted our competitors with specific questions. And, let me tell you, getting information out of some POD publishers is like pulling teeth.
Namely, this author was curious about:
1. Shipping costs: How much are the “other guys” padding the UPS and/or USPS charges for profit?
You think this isn’t really happening? Oh, yes it is!! Would it surprise you to know that one POD publisher charges authors a flat rate for shipping plus more than $1 per copy in “handling” fees? Ack! You probably didn’t think to ask that question when submitting your book to you’re POD publisher, did you? And, we couldn’t find disclosure of this fee anywhere on their website.
Watch out for statements like this: “We help our authors with shipping costs by subsidizing those costs for our higher packages.” What the heck does that double-speak mean? They’re charging you more up front for lower shipping rates later? Why not just charge for shipping when it occurs instead of giving the author double-talk, and making them pay for shipping up front, when they may never choose to order copies from the publisher anyway?!
2. Author Discounts and Royalties: How much are they charging authors for copies of their own books and exactly how much are authors going to earn when their book sells through different channels?
While some publishers were honest and gave us real numbers immediately on request, others pointed us to online calculators for their services and encouraged us to buy the most expensive publishing package, thus lowering the final cost of each book in the future, but increasing the author’s initial expenses by up to $1,000…or more! I guess they can afford to give you a break later after they’ve gouged you in the beginning! Why not charge authors a fair setup fee up front instead of offering you a (not so great deal) deal later?
3. What is the minimum list price for the book?
One POD publisher in particular gave the author a really hard time and finally stopped responding to his emails, essentially refusing to give him a firm answer about his list price and royalties.
Would it surprise you to know that you can get all the way through the sign-up process with one of the biggest POD publishers and still not know that your 6 x 9, 248-page paperback book will retail for, are you sitting down?, almost $30.00?!
We’ll be compiling the information the author collected and will be publishing it right here in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, before you EVER pay a POD publisher one red cent, ask them these four questions, and demand firm and immediate answers:
1. “EXACTLY how much will it cost to ship 100 copies of my 5.5 x 8.5, 300-page paperback book via UPS Ground to [a specific address]?”
Give all the POD publishers the same size and length of book and the same address. It does not need to be your real address. You can give them a sample address. If only takes a minute or two for them to do a test-order…and if you give them your real address, you may be bombarded with marketing materials over the coming months. Tell them later that the address was just an example so they don’t add it to their junk mail list.
2. “How much EXACTLY will you charge me if I purchase 50 copies and 100 copies of my book?”
Again, give all the publishers the exact same book size, length and type (paperback or hardcover). They can easily and instantly give you this information…if they want to. Don’t let them drag you into a long email discussion. If they don’t answer your question exactly in the first email, you’re being played.
3. “What is the absolute MINIMUM LIST PRICE I can sell my 5.5 x 8.5, 300-page paperback book for and what will my exact royalties be for that book when sold through the publisher’s website, and when sold through other retailers/wholesalers/distributors like Amazon.com?”
Many POD publishers will not give you this information without a hard-sell fight and will instead try to talk you into pricing your book higher – sometimes right out of the market! Remember, if your book costs too much, it will NOT sell, despite their promises of such a high royalty rate (which, in most cases, isn’t that high at all).
They may also give you a lot of double-speak about different royalties associated with different list prices, etc. instead of just answering your question. AGain, if they don’t answer your question and instead change the subject or ask you more questions, walk away. There’s no excuse for not answering this question with real numbers. They DO have this information! They just don’t like to give it out.
4. “What country will my books be printed in and shipped from? How will this affect the shipping costs for my book for me and for my customers?”
One POD publisher in particular uses three different printers from different countries and the quality of the books varies from one printer to another. Another large POD publisher does not ship books from the U.S., but you have to ask this specific question up front.
5. What country will my author representative be in? (Some POD publishers outsource their customer service to third-world countries and may even assign the editing of your book to someone whose first language is NOT the language your book is written in!)
WATCH OUT FOR THESE!
LIES, LIES, LIES One POD publisher is claiming their author prices are far less than what you’d pay through “any other publishing service!” They then claim to save you hundreds to thousands of dollars.
We checked, and their claim is NOT TRUE! You may think these types of claims must be accurate because they’re in writing. But, it’s pretty obvious that some companies have no problem putting lies in writing!
HARD SELL – INSTEAD OF ANSWERS Pay special attention to the hard-sell responses you receive. If a publisher evades your questions and tries to convince you to price your book higher (one actually told the new author to “not sell himself short!”) to earn more money, or if they try to get you to buy a bigger publishing package, instead of answering your questions, run the other way as fast as you can!
FALSE INTEREST AND PRAISE Also beware of the ones who repeatedly insist you tell them all about your book and who claim they are so “excited” about it! I can assure you these smoothe-typing, professional salespeople are far more interested in their commission than they are in your book. They’re setting you up for the hard sell.
“SIGN UP NOW AND SAVE!” – INSTEAD OF ANSWERS Also beware of the ones that try to get you to sign up “NOW!” to save “Hundreds!” or even “Thousands!” Trust me. Those sales are ongoing. Never, ever spend hundreds or thousands TODAY just because somebody made you feel like you’d lose out if you didn’t.
Also beware of the ones that tell you to sign up today (no payment needed yet!”) so you can get your own “author representative.” Some tell you that you MUST do this just to have your questions answered! They simply want your contact info. so they can start the hard-sell and so they can prove you’re “their author” so they can get their commission. One “rep” asked the author to sign up for account to have future questions answered. He refused and was angry, but not really surprised, when his email response back to her bounced. He had to go to their site just to communicate with her again, and that was only after he asked someone to have that specific person contact him!
“WE OFFER A PAYMENT PLAN!” or “SAVE OVER $1,000 TODAY!” – INSTEAD OF ANSWERS~ Holy cow. If they offer a payment plan or a $1,000 savings (gulp!), you can bet that you’ll probably spend far more in publishing fees than you’ll EVER earn in book sales.
REMEMBER – THEY’RE PROBABLY EARNING A COMMISSION ON HOW MUCH YOU SPEND! Remember that many sales reps, despite their smooth words and excessive praise about your work, are earning commissions on how much they can talk you into spending! Don’t be fooled!
Remember this. If someone doesn’t answer your questions, or asks you more and more questions while confusing you, or tries to get you to sign up before answering ALL your questions (without making you ask the same questions over and over again), you’re getting the run-around
If someone does not answer these very basic questions with very basic, firm answers, they are going for the hard sell and they may have something to hide!
At BookLocker, we don’t have “sales reps.” All potential and new authors correspond directly with Angela Hoy. And, she’ll give you firm answers for all your questions. Just ask!