Posts Tagged 'vanity publishers'

Everyone has an Agenda

Have you ever noticed how there are two sides to every issue? The decision to royalty publish or pay-to-publish is no different.

You’ll find royalty publishing advocates who assert you aren’t “really” published if you pay to publish. They say you need an outside party to deem your work worthy of purchase (yes, you are selling your intellectual property, so  no longer own your own writing when you royalty publish).

I don’t disagree that you should have some third party (writers group or volunteer readers qualify) honestly tell you about the quality of your writing, but too often the criteria royalty publishers use to determine whether or not someone should be published is how much money the author can make for the publisher rather than the quality of writing. That’s why the two primary questions royalty publishers ask are (1) What will you do to sell this book? and (2) What is your platform (meaning how well known are you)?

If selling your intellectual property and doing the marketing to earn about 7 percent of the net (which is typically 25 to 35 cents per book SOLD) works for you, I’m all for it for you.

Authors who pay to publish (whether that’s self, subsidy, or equity) invest in themselves and, depending on the choices they make, keep all the profits from sales or share some of the profits with the publisher or get minimal “royalties” back when they sell books they’ve already paid to publish.

A book is self-published when the author actually owns the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) since ISBNs are issued to publishers. Expert Publishing owns its ISBNs, thus our authors are not self-published and we don’t represent that they are.

With so many publishing options, books are flooding the marketplace as never before. The biggest challenge an author has today is not getting published–it’s in attracting readers. Authors have to do more than ever to get noticed by readers and sell books. And that goes for all publishing options because, frankly, most readers don’t pay attention to how a book is published as much as how clearly it is written, how professionally it is designed, and how easy it is to get.

As you plow through the publishing options available to you, be mindful that everyone has an agenda. Royalty publishers dislike self-publishing. Pay-to-publish publishers dislike royalty publishers. I think there’s room for both and publishing is a business decision each author must make individually. Just remember to do your own thinking because everyone–even you–has an agenda. Stay mindful of that and you’ll make a better publishing decision.

Happy writing!




Self-publishing Blues

One of the most common misconceptions about independent publishing is that if you pay to publish, you are self-published. That’s simply not true UNLESS you own the publishing company. So, who is the publisher? The owner of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is the publisher.

Thus, if you purchase the ISBN from Bowker, you are the publisher of your work and thus are self-published.

At Expert Publishing, we purchase the ISBNs, which means we are the publisher of record and none of our authors (except me) are self-published. It also means all the negative connotations associated with the term self-publishing disappear.

Unfortunately, too many puppy mill presses confuse the marketplace by continuing to misuse the term self-publishing.

Another confusing term the puppy mill presses use is print-on-demand publishing. Print-on-demand isn’t a type of publishing. It’s a type of printing technology. Specifically, it’s the term used for digital printing technology.

The last term I want to alert you to is vanity publishing versus pay-to-publish. Vanity publishers charge high fees and do little or nothing to improve your book. They are not discerning in what they publish. If you’ve got enough money, they’ll publish you.

Pay-to-publish options are springing up all over, including in royalty publishing houses. In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Thomas Nelson, a major Christian book publisher, added West Bow Press as an imprint. The article alerts the reader that Thomas Nelson editors will not be editing manuscripts published in this imprint, however.

Another pay-to-publish enterprise is Harlequin’s (yes, the royalty romance publisher) venture, Harlequin Horizons. In November 2009, an email interview conducted with to Malle Vallik, Harlequin’s Digital Director, revealed that books  published in this imprint won’t enjoy “traditional Harlequin distribution” nor “carry traditional Harlequin branding.”

Book publishing is business, not dream fulfillment. It’s up to you, as author, to make the best business decision for your publishing goals. Expert Publishing only publishes business, self-help, and inspiration books. Yes, our authors pay for our expertise, and we’re discerning about what we publish since our name is on the book too. If we don’t think the author’s manuscript is ready for the marketplace, we turn it down.

Before you decide how to publish your book, do your homework. If you decide to sell your intellectual property to a royalty publisher, good for you. If you decide to keep your rights and own them once published, good for you. But whichever way you go, be sure you’re getting good book design, good book editing, and book publishing expertise you trust because books are in print a long time.

Happy writing!


Ask the Right Questions

We often get requests from authors about how to work with us to publish their books. The first thing the potential author asks is “how much?” That’s the wrong question. If you’re only interested in pricing, go to one of those online puppy mill presses–they publish the prices of their packages and the a la carte add-ons (like editing) and you can crunch the numbers and get your pricing.

But do you know what your pricing includes? Now that’s a right question.

Here are some more right questions.

  • Can you get the files, including the cover design and page layouts if you want to?
  • Do you get editing that follows Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard)?
  • Do you get to keep all the profits from the book or do book orders need to go to the publisher so the publisher gets a  piece of the action on every order?
  • Do you have to store your books with them or do you have choices on where to store any books you’ve paid for?
  • Does the publisher publish anything (read: vanity press), or is it discerning in what it publishes (even if you  pay)?
  • Do you have a human contact point you can rely on or is it hard to connect with the same person through your project?

Your book is in print a long time and you really can’t afford to link your name (read: credibility) with publishers everyone recognizes like those puppy mill presses. They may work okay for novels, but they aren’t a good investment if you’re expecting your book to highlight your expertise or show off your good business acumen.

Which brings me to another right question. Why are you writing your book? If you’re writing it because writing a book is on your bucket list, any publishing option will fill that purpose. But, if you’re writing your book to show off your expertise (speakers, consultants, doctors, lawyers, experts, etc.) or to increase your potential for business, then you need to make a good business decision regarding your choice of publisher.

If writing a book were easy, everyone would do it. But most don’t start by asking the right questions–they only think about price and we all know you get what you pay for.

Happy writing.


What’s the difference between music and books?

I attended an event last week, and the program included a singer/songwriter who used to record in Nashville but has decided to pay to record his own stuff rather than go through an old-fashioned record label. Why? He wasn’t getting any marketing help from the record company in Nashville, and his small royalties were paid annually. He discovered he could pay to record himself, market himself, make direct sales himself, and make more money faster.

People come to his website and use his shopping cart to download his songs and cha-ching! He sold a lot of CDs that night and didn’t have to share any of the receipts with anyone else.

Many musicians are going this route and no one seems to be bashing them for it.

Yet, when authors decide to pay to be published, the old-fashioned purists come out in droves bashing both the author and publisher. So, what’s the difference? Why the double standard?

I think it’s because there have been so many publishers who chase the author’s dollar without providing the author with a quality book. They provide publishing packages that seldom include editing, original designs (they use templates), or much else except the requisite ISBN, LOC registration, etc.

They charge the author to publish, but use print-on-demand technology so there aren’t any printed books available unless someone pays to have one or two printed. That means these publishers don’t provide the author any inventory to enable the author to sell the books and keep the profits from the direct sales (as the singer/songwriter did last week). NOTE: The cost of the package is over and above the cost of the printing, so the first book doesn’t cost just the printing fee of $5.00–it cost the price of the package PLUS $5.00!

Many publishers require all book orders come through them so they can keep charging the author, then  “pay royalties” back to the author on money the author continues to spend with them to have their books printed.

Small wonder paying to be published gets such a bad rap.

We at Expert Publishing, Inc. believe if an author pays to have a book published, the author should have the inventory of the books so he/she can sell them and make all the profit from direct sales. We also believe that since our name is on the book too, it needs to be a quality book that we’re just as proud of as the author is. It’s a simple concept, and it’s been working since 2001.

Happy writing!


Why Are You Writing Your Book?

I participated in a teleseminar a couple of weeks ago and one of the topics covered was the reason people write books.

Reasons listed were:

  • To gain credibility
  • To attract more clients/business
  • To create additional income (new revenue stream)
  • To share information people can use
  • To fulfill a dream

All of these are valid reasons, but the last one (to fulfill a dream) is the one that most puppy mill presses/subsidy presses/vanity presses zero in on. They’ll happily take your money and make publishing with them sound like a dream come true. In reality, you may be walking into a nightmare.

Some of these publishers offer levels of packages (labeled by precious metals or jewels or some other delineator). Be sure you examine each package.

  • Do you get original designs you can keep or just templates that belong to the publisher?
  • Do you get editing or does that cost extra?
  • Do you get proofreading or does that cost extra?
  • How many copies of your book do you get for the hundreds of dollars you’re spending up front?
  • Where do orders for your book go? If they’re required to go to the publisher, do you pay extra for that service?
  • Do you pay for the printing of your book when the books are ordered (print on demand), only to have the publisher pay you a kickback (disguised as a royalty)? If so, what are the chances that royalty was jacked up into the printing price in the first place so you’re simply getting your money back?
  • Does the publisher keep a percentage of every book you pay to have printed when you order it? If so, why since the printing is probably already marked up to include profit? And, is that percentage paid in addition to order fulfillment fees?

Do your due diligence and really think through your publishing options. Why are you writing your book? If you simply want to fulfill a dream of being published, any publisher will do.

But if you’re writing your book for any of the other reasons listed, you want to make sure your publisher does quality work that follows the conventions of book publishing. You can do it yourself  if you’ve got the time  to find good book designers, good book printers, etc., but for most authors who are writing their books to gain business and credibility, that isn’t the best use of their time.

Why are you writing your book? When you know the answer to that, you can find the right publishing option for you.

Happy writing!

Successful Authors Establish Their Presence

Almost every media talk show interviews authors. It’s a win-win. Authoring a published book establishes the author’s credibility, which positions the author as an expert and is good for the show. Being interviewed offers free publicity for the author’s book and could increase sales, which is good for the author.

I don’t have any statistics, but my thinking is that most people don’t have a pen and paper handy to jot down the name of the book when it’s mentioned. Thus, the name of the book could often be lost.

However, if the interview goes well, people will call or email the show and ask about the author or the name of the author’s book. Thus, authors establishing their presence in media can be a good thing if the author does a good job on the program.

Another way authors establish their presence is speaking to groups that are interested in the author’s subject matter. It helps if the author happens to have books at the speaking event to sell. It helps, that is, if the author is an engaging speaker and audience members want to “take the author home with them.”

Writing for periodicals,  blogs, etc. is another way authors establish their presence. Whether sharing an excerpt from their book or sharing new but related information, it’s important authors write something so people begin to recognize the author’s name.

If you’re writing your book to establish (or reinforce) your credibility, it’s important you select the right publisher. Going with an Internet “puppy-mill press” could undermine your credibility rather than enhance it. Everyone knows who these presses are, so being published by them screams desperation, not credibility.

At Expert Publishing, we pride ourselves on the quality of the books we publish because our name and reputation is on the line just as much as the author’s. We believe if we compromise our standards, we negatively impact every book we’ve ever published, and that’s not acceptable to us.

Whether you’ve already published your book or are looking for a publisher, give some thought to establishing your presence so people recognize you and your expertise. There’s an old question that asks, “Would you like to do business with the person who talks about the subject or with the person who wrote the book on the subject?” You can answer that for yourself.

Happy writing!

Sorting Through the Book Publishing Maze

I received an email from a puppy-mill Internet publisher this morning trying to interest me in publishing with them.

Granted, puppy-mill publisher isn’t an official book publishing industry term, but it’s my term for those publishers who publish just about anything sent into them.

They like to sell the dream of being published (rather than the business it really is), and they start out with low prices that include

  • someone who will talk with you about your project (aka one-on-one author support or representative)
  • a discount on books you purchase from them
  • a book cover (I wonder if you know most covers from puppy-mill publishers are template and the design remains the property of the publisher)
  • an ISBN (which every book needs if you intend to sell it commerically somewhere other than your own website or trunk of your car)
  • world-wide book distribution (isn’t that called a website?)
  • interior formatting (again, typically done in template and the design belongs to the publisher, not the author)
  • digital printing (I agree digital printing is much improved, but it’s still done on a photocopier on steriods and most quality books are still printed using offset printing)
  • author sets retail price
  • publishing house pays  you “royalties” on books you pay to print (which seems odd–if you own the copyright on the book and pay to produce it, why is the publishing house keeping some of your money and expecting you to be happy to get what’s left after their cut and they call that a royalty?)

Of course, you’ll note they’ll have to upsell you if you want editing, proofreading, LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number)–just a few things you might like to have if you’re putting your name on a book and you want that book to be professionally published.


According to the Independent Book Publisher’s Association, to be self-published, you must own the publishing company. If you do not own the publishing company, you are not self-published. Yet, the puppy-mill publishers continue to use the term, perhaps hoping potential authors will feel they won’t have to dig deeply into the offering–they already know what it is.

Unfortunately, most authors don’t.

Vanity Press

Everyone knows that a vanity press should be avoided with every fiber of one’s being. But what’s the definition of a vanity press? A vanity press is one that publishes anything sent to them–no discernment (and, in most cases, no improvement either). If you’re willing to pay, you’re published!

Subsidy Press

Subsidy presses typically make all orders come through them, so they get a piece of the action on every order. They hold your inventory and pay you “royalties” on books you’ve already paid to produce.

Subsidy presses became synonymous with vanity presses a few years ago, so now almost  every one calls themselves “self-publishers.”

Equity Publisher

We at Expert Publishing struggled with how to label our publishing house.

We don’t publish everything (we publish business, self-help, and inspiration).

We are proud of the books we publish (our name is on the book too, after all), and we use professional designers who do original (not template) designs. We use book editors. We proofread. We do both offset printing and digital printing.

We don’t pay royalties because we believe that when our authors pay for publication, they automatically own their inventory and should keep the money when they sell books. That’s a lot better than royalties.

Since we didn’t fit self-publishing, vanity publishing, or subsidy publishing, we needed a new term. We selected the term equity publishing because we don’t charge extra to include books we publish in our “world-wide distribution catalog,” which you would call a website. We don’t charge extra to show books we publish at book trade shows. We even help authors set up their own accounts and don’t charge extra for that. Equity publisher seems to sum it all up.

You have so many book publishing options available to you that you really need to do your homework and select the best option for you. Of course, being published is a dream for many, but don’t let it become a nightmare.

Wherever you are in the book publishing process, I hope you’ll find this post helpful in sorting through the book publishing maze.

Happy writing.