Previous installments of this series can be found HERE.
At BookLocker, we are frequently contacted by authors who say they are surprised by our candor. We never tell authors their book might become a best seller…because it probably won’t (most traditionally published books never become best sellers, either). We don’t twist our words around to make it appear an author’s book will be stocked by “25,000” bookstores. It won’t. And we don’t publish verbiage that makes an author think we do something we don’t. We just don’t do business that way.
Authors appreciate our honestly because they have read so much confusing blurbage on other POD publishers’ websites.
Here are a few examples of what we believe is “hot air” on some POD publishers’ websites. Of course, this is our opinion. You can form your own.
XLIBRIS.COM (owned by AuthorSolutions) says:
“Why Are We Different? Xlibris offers an extensive list of marketing and publicity tools to support our authors toward the ultimate goal of selling books.”
REALITY CHECK – Almost 100% of the POD publishers on the market do the same thing…which is actually UPSELLING authors on expensive marketing products and services that in some cases (we believe most cases) cost more than any resulting book sales.
“Why Are We Different? With Xlibris, you retain complete control of your work. We are nonexclusive, which means you can self-publish with us and still offer your work to agents and publishers. We’re not interested in taking your rights away from you after all, we didn’t write it.”
REALITY CHECK – None of the reputable POD publishers, including all the major ones, takes rights from authors. Xlibris isn’t “different” in this way at all.
AUTHORHOUSE.COM(also owned by AuthorSolutions) says:
“Find out why you should trust us as your book publisher.”
REALITY CHECK – There are NUMEROUS complaints posted about AuthorHouse online. There are lists of and links to additional complaints HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. There are many more negative posts online as well. Remember, AuthorHouse is owned by Author Solutions, which also owns Xlibris (above) as well as iUniverse and Trafford (below).
“It will be available to over 25,000 bookstores and online retailers.”
REALITY CHECK – This does NOT mean your book will be stocked by 25,000 bookstores! What they really mean is your book information will appear in Ingram’s database, which most bookstores use to order. Almost every other POD publisher has their books in the same database.
“Your book can be in print within three to six months of manuscript submission.”
REALITY CHECK – Not sure why they brag about this timeline as it’s pretty darned ridiculously slow! Other companies, like BookLocker (which is owned by the author of this article), can get a book to market within a month while charging no additional fees. AuthorHouse charges $500 extra (on top of their incredibly expensive fees) to get your book to market within a month.
“On a regular basis, AuthorHouse creates a multiple-author ad that puts your book in front of the NYT Sunday Book Review’s impressive audience of book buyers, reviewers, traditional publishers and book enthusiasts.”
REALITY CHECK – This tiny ad costs (are you sitting down?) $5499!!! Problem is, AuthorHouse also promotes their own company in the ad, in a much larger font than the blurbs about their authors’ books, so 1. AuthorHouse is profiting directly from ads being paid for by their authors and 2. People reading the ad know that each of those authors paid to have their book published.
We’ve never heard of any author who bought that tiny $5K ad who then sold enough books from the placement to pay for that ad.
iUNIVERSE.com (also owned by AuthorSolutions) says:
“Have you always wondered what would happen if your book was showcased in book fairs and trade shows across the globe attended by literary agents, book buyers and other industry professionals?”
REALITY CHECK: Agents and traditional publishers are NOT out hunting for self-published books produced by firms that accept pretty much anything and everything (most of the publishers featured here do, including iUniverse). They are much more interested in 1. high quality, unpublished books or 2. self-published books that have a proven, remarkable sales record. Paying a firm to have your book stacked on a table next to dozens (or even hundreds) of other books isn’t going to get your book recognized, nor is it likely to sell many (if any) copies. For more info., read Book Fairs – Worth The Effort?. Peddling your book to an agent or traditional publisher who is being hounded by hundreds of other authors at a trade show isn’t likely to lead to a contract, either.
“What sets us apart from other self-publishing companies is that our services are developed and managed by industry veterans.”
REALITY CHECK: There are plenty of industry veterans working at other POD publishing firms.
“New York Review of Books Ad – $875”
REALITY CHECK Just like AuthorHouse, they charge authors for a small ad that also promotes their own company, thus telling anyone who actually reads the ad that you paid to have your book published.
“Once your book is published, we will make your book available for order online and in more than 25,000 retail outlets worldwide.”
REALITY CHECK: No, your book will NOT be stocked by 25,000 stores! Read it slowly once again. Your book will be available for special order from bookstores, but it won’t be stocked IN those bookstores.
TRAFFORD.com (also owned by AuthorSolutions) says:
“Self-published authors have long suffered the stigma of condescension from the world of traditional publishing. Although this stereotype has been weathered in recent years, with people starting to sit up and take notice of the quality of work produced by many self-published authors, these preconceptions sadly still abound within our industry.”
REALITY CHECK: One of the reasons many people turn their noses up at self-published books is because so many of them are just plain awful. POD publishers like Trafford that publish pretty much anything and everything invite criticism of the entire industry by putting bad books on the market. So, they help propagate the bad opinions some in the public have toward self-published authors.
“Our Gold Seal of Literary Excellence rewards books of exceptional merit…”
REALITY CHECK: If a book isn’t excellent, why is Trafford publishing it? Because they get money out of each author regardless of how bad the book is, that’s why.
“From the look and feel of your book’s cover and interior to the quality of the prose cradled within, Trafford sets new standards for the indie publishing industry.”
REALITY CHECK: Cradled prose? Geez! Do authors really fall for this stuff?
“With a full range of affordable fee-based professional quality publishing services…”
REALITY CHECK – Affordable?! Trafford’s packages range from $999 to (gulp!) $11,999!!!
“Since its inception in 1995, Trafford lead (sic) the independent publishing revolution. ”
REALITY CHECK: Trafford is not considered the POD industry leader. NOTE: This is from a press release they distributed far and wide last year. (Oh, and I pointed out that typo on their website back in 2008. Unfortunately, it appears they’re still cutting and pasting the error into new documents.)
“Trafford has formed a strategic partnership with Ingram, America’s largest book marketing and distribution company.”
REALITY CHECK: Almost every POD publisher also has an account with Ingram. This is nothing unique.
“Reviews are a wonderful way to generate interest in your book.”
REALITY CHECK – Trafford wants you to pay (gulp again!) $500 to $1799 to get your book reviewed! WHAT?!?! When people find out you paid for that book review, you can LOSE credibility! And, do you really think that one book review is going to lead to $500-$1799 in profits from book sales? We think NOT!
NOTE: Lulu’s site isn’t laden with over-the-top “get rich quick” and “you’re gonna be famous!” verbiage, which is quite refreshing.
“It’s true, authors who use Lulu professional services are likely to sell on average twice as many books.”
REALITY CHECK: They must be comparing authors who pay Lulu vs. authors who do it on their own. It’s not surprising that authors who invest real money in their books will also be more likely to promote their own books. This comparison likely has more to do with the authors’ professionalism and marketing efforts than in the work done by Lulu. Lulu’s prices range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. There are less expensive options available through POD publishers that don’t have as many customer service and quality complaints posted by their authors online.
Lulu has teamed with Combined Book Exhibit to showcase your book at the hottest book marketing events all over the globe. These book fairs and trade shows are attended by a variety of marketing professionals, from agents and editors to librarians and book store buyers.”
REALITY CHECK: Again, agents and traditional publishers are NOT out hunting for self-published books produced by firms that accept pretty much anything and everything (most of the publishers featured here do, including Lulu). Paying a firm to have your book stacked on a table next to dozens (or even hundreds) of other books isn’t going to get your book recognized, nor is it likely to sell many (if any) copies. See: Book Fairs – Worth The Effort?.
Lulu is honest on their site when promoting their marketing services when they say, “As with any marketing service, there is no guarantee on book sales.”
“one-time setup fee of $499 – no hidden costs”
REALITY CHECK – Ahem…if you want Ingram distribution – considered imperative for most online and brick and mortar bookstore sales – you must pay an extra “extended distribution” fee of $149, which is a small link not appearing on their homepage. So, the cost is actually $648. For many POD publishers, Ingram distribution is automatically included in all their packages, even the least expensive ones.)
“We are one of the few print-on-demand publishers that still own all the equipment necessary to publish, print, bind, store, and ship your book. Most book publishing companies do not and contract third party printers that can yield lower quality and less reliable fulfillment.”
REALITY CHECK: Most POD publishers use the same printer (the largest POD printer in the world), which is owned by Ingram, and Infinity uses them to print some of their books, too.
“Most other book publishing companies can produce only a 5.5″ X 8.5″ book…”
REALITY CHECK: This statement is bizarre and absolutely WRONG. The fact is most other POD publishers (including the ones mentioned in this article) offer MANY more sizes than just 5.5 x 8.5! In fact, we’ve never heard of any popular POD publisher offering only one size. Not sure what Infinity was trying to accomplish with that ridiculous statement.
“You set your price…”
(Many POD publishers allow you to “set your own price”, provided it’s above their minimum. Contrary to how you may interpret this statement, this does not mean you can price your book at any price you want.)
“Upgrade your book to our Pro Plan”
REALITY CHECK: They’ll give you a slightly higher royalty rate and lower book costs…if you pay them an annual fee. Is that weird or what? Why don’t they just give all authors the higher royalties and lower book costs? If it’s something they’re charging for, you can bet it’s benefiting CreateSpace in the end! A likely scenario is that large numbers of their authors aren’t selling many (if any) books and CreateSpace is upselling them on the Pro Plan to get extra money out of them up front, before those authors grow tired of promoting their own book.
“A book review from a respected source is a powerful marketing tool, lending credibility both to your book and your reputation as an author.”
REALITY CHECK – CreateSpace wants you to pay (gulp again!) $495-$549 to get your book reviewed! If people find out you paid for that book review, you can LOSE credibility! And, do you really think that one book review is going to lead to $495-$549 in profits from book sales? We think NOT!
“No setup fees for the Standard Program.”
REALITY CHECK: In our opinion, this is a classic marketing maneuver. Bait the customer with something “free” and then upsell them on expensive services later. Their file requirements are technical and confusing for the layperson and they then upsell you on their own expensive design services, which cost hundreds to thousands. Click HERE for information on how expensive these types of “free” services can be.
Here just a sampling from CreateSpace’s specs pages:
“Transparent objects are flattened.”
“Spreads and printer’s marks are disabled.”
“Downsampling, or decreasing resolution, of images is disabled.”
“…(I) get the following rejection: ‘.. a live element may be trimmed on the front cover that is part of the image that was uploaded.'”
“….you can import XML into CS3. It converts XML tags into CS3 paragraph and character styles.”
There are also numerous complaints about CreateSpace appearing on their forum. Click HERE for examples.
“You keep 100% of your royalties”
REALITY CHECK: This statement is becoming quite popular on crafty POD publishers’ websites but it’s NOT WHAT YOU THINK! This does NOT mean you are getting 100% of the list price of your book! The definition of royalty is “an agreed portion of the income from a work paid to its author”, so you would naturally keep all of “your” portion. Confused by this statement, we dissected Outskirt’s contract for clarification. Their contract actually calls it “royalties profit.” It says: “Royalties profit is defined as the difference between the Base Price and the Wholesaler’s Price.” What is the Base Price? Is it the List price? What is the Wholesaler’s Price? Is it the Outskirts price or the distributor’s price? Do you understand what any of this means? It means they pay you the list price less printing costs less their cut…which is what every other publisher who pays on a Net basis does.
It later states, “Outskirts Press set the Base Price”…but that price is based on the book package, book type, length, etc. Why don’t they just tell authors up front how much they’ll earn on a book priced at a certain dollar amount, along with the minimum list price for all book lengths? Why does it have to be so confusing? Any publisher who uses confusing verbiage and math should be avoided.
“Only Outskirts Press supports authors before, during, and after publication.”
REALITY CHECK: All reputable POD publishers do this! This statement is untrue and absurd.
“Keep 100% of your rights…”
“REALITY CHECK: Almost every other POD publisher lets you keep your rights as well. Making this look like a special deal is ridiculous.
“Only with Outskirts Press can you set your own retail price, author discount, and Price Plan.”
REALITY CHECK: Several other POD publishers allow authors to set their own retail prices and discounts as well!
“Imagine a full-service self-publisher where quality book design is included”
REALITY CHECK: Many POD publishers include quality book design in their packages.
“Our Amazon Search Inside the Book marketing option will allow you to take advantage of Amazon’s online equivalent to browsing a bookstore. Books that participate in this program feature a ‘Look Inside’ icon over their Amazon cover image…” (Cost is $135)
REALITY CHECK: Anybody can submit their book to Amazon for free for this program and it’s Amazon that puts the little icon on the book covers.
You can read more opinions about Outskirts Press here:
And, Michael Marcus wrote this book –
Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy: The Strange Story of Vanity Publisher Outskirts Press. How Do They Stay in Business?
Don’t be fooled by fancy marketing verbiage that appears to be saying one thing but that can mean something entirely different. Just because somebody publishes something online doesn’t mean it’s true. Some companies will say or write just about anything, including outright lies, to get your business. When in doubt, get on a writers’ forum and ask questions. You’ll get plenty of insight about the company, often from their present and past customers (authors like yourself).
Angela Hoy is the Publisher of WritersWeekly.com and co-owner of the POD firm BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”
Angela’s P.O.D. Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers “disgruntled author discounts” to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker’s publishing packages.
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