Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review: WestBow Press

Today, I’m writing a book review unlike any I have written before. Actually, I’m going to I’m reviewing two books and I haven’t read either one. As you may recall, some time ago, Thomas Nelson announced that they were entering the vanity press market, using the imprint WestBow Press. The first books out of that arrangement are making their way down the pipeline, two of which you can see here.

The first thing I noticed when they arrived was the size of the box. I arrived home and saw the box sitting on my front step. My first thought was that they had only shipped on of them. The box is the same sized box Amazon.com uses to ship individual copies of my novels. I opened it up and found both novels stacked neatly, one on top of the other. Both books have the dimensions 6” x 9”, a fairly standard size for non-traditionally published books. Publishing a book with that dimension simplifies the process when a book will be published both as a paperback and a hardback. One of the books is printed on bright white paper and has 135 pages. The other is printed on ivory paper and has 203 pages.
I looked for e-mail addresses for the authors, but I didn’t find them. I had hoped that I could ask them which publishing package they went with. I think it’s safe to assume they didn’t choose the same one because the covers are noticeably different. The one the The Faraway Land has what I’ll call the fifteen minute cover. It has a generic stock photo on the front, the title and the author’s name, with some text on the back. I’ll call the one for In the Unlikely Event the thirty minute cover. The photo on the front looks like it might have been taken in western Arkansas, which is where the story takes place. The image extends to the back and the title on the front has a little extra special treatment than the title for the other book. Also, there is a picture of the author on the back, adding just that much more work for the cover designer to do. The spines are disappointing. Place the books in a bookcase and all you will see is the title, the author’s name and the WestBow trademark, all on a dark, one color, background.
Upon opening the books and thumbing through them, the first thing we notice is that the text seems small. A point size of 9pt will give you a good approximation of the text if you are trying to duplicate it in Microsoft Word, but that may be a little too large. There are 41 lines per page with margins set at one inch at top and bottom, 0.75 in the gutter and 0.625 on the edge. But don’t let that put you off. It is approximately the same sized font that Thomas Nelson used for Eric Wilson’s Field of Blood. But his book was over 400 pages and had they used larger text it wouldn’t have fit within a reasonable number of pages. Robert Liparulo’s House of Dark Shadows, in contrast, has 26 lines per page, which you would duplicate with a font size of more than 13pt. Needless to say, WestBow Press has no intention of wasting pages.






Actually, that’s not true. Open the cover of both books and the first thing you see is a blank page. It isn’t just blank on one side, it is blank on both sides. After that comes the title page. In the back, you will find additional blank pages. Some of those may be explained away by saying they kept the page count evenly divisible by some number and the last page can be explained by the printing process. The POD printing company has some information that they need for their purposes, so they add one more page, that way, they don’t have to tell the publisher to add the information.
Overall, I’m not displeased with the interior design. The margins are at a comfortable place. The tops of the pages look nice. The page numbers don’t look cramped. The chapters all begin on an odd numbered page with no overrun from the previous chapter. There graphics highlighting the chapter titles and they aren’t the same for both books. I half expected that I would open both books and see the same graphics or none at all.
But the interior design isn’t without its problems. Aside from the unexplainable blank page at the front, the next thing we notice is that the book is numbered incorrectly. This tells us that though Thomas Nelson puts their name on the copyright page, the book itself is not up to the quality standards of the company. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, page one is to be the beginning of the text. It’s a little more complicated if we’re dealing with a second half-title, but we aren’t, so we can simply say that for a novel the beginning of the story should be numbered page one and anything before that should be numbered with roman numerals. Thomas Nelson did this correctly in House of Dark Shadows as well as in Field of Blood. In both cases, the story begins with a prologue. The first page of the prologue is numbered page one. The Faraway Land and In the Unlikely Event also have prologues, but they are not treated as part of the story. Instead, they are treated like a preface and numbered with roman numerals, which will do nothing but encourage readers to skip the prologue, which I have heard many readers do already.

I have also noticed by thumbing through In the Unlikely Event that some of the text is indented incorrectly. We can probably blame that on the author, but its actually the typesetter’s responsibility to check for things like that and not just dump the text the author gives him into the book.
My overall impression at this point is that I would not want to publish a book through WestBow Press. I realize that there are limits to the services they can offer for a reasonable price, but when we hand our work off to someone else to publish, we hope that they can produce something better than what we can produce on our own. The weak cover design along with the quality problems in the interior is enough to make me question spending so much money to get a book into print. I hope that Thomas Nelson will do something to improve the quality of these books. They may not be able to do anything about the covers. They may not even be able to do anything about the odd appearance to the indenting, but they can certainly educate the typesetter on how to number the pages. We can only hope.


Pick up Book Cover Design Wizardry: For the Self-Publishing Author today.

164 comments :

Anonymous said...

Isn't the cover picture up to the author? I thought when publishing with Westbow, the author had the choice of cover design... yes...no?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

Sorry for not responding sooner, but I e-mailed WestBow Press to get their take on this and they haven't responded, even to say that they aren't going to respond. I'm not sure if my e-mail went to someone at Thomas Nelson or the other company, but nonresponsiveness is not good. So here's my take on this. WestBow has what they call "Standard Cover Design." I take that to mean that they have a standard that they have defined and you're stuck with it if you use them. For some people, this is probably a good thing, since some of the artwork I've seen on the cover of self-published books is terrible. But at the same time, WestBow is likely to stick to stock photos and the time they spend on the cover may depend on how much the customer/author is paying.

Ally said...

Thinking about sending a manuscript to WestBow. Wasn't excited about your descriptions of the final product. Brand, spanking new Christian author, researching what to do with this childrens's book I've got half written, partially illustrated and burning a hole in my heart to see it published properly and read with purpose. Any advice?

Timothy Fish said...

Ally,

For full color illustrated children's books, your best option will be a publisher or printer that utilizes offset printing. While POD technology will do color, it may give you results that are less then desireable unless someone spends time optimizing the images for the technology. Because of the setup costs of offset printing, publishers won't produce a book unless they believe they can sell a significant number. If you're willing to self-publish, you can take it to a print shot and walk away with a few boxes of books. If you can find a traditional publisher that will publish it, that is certainly your best option.

Anonymous said...

If Ally goes with offset printing how will she market and distribute the book for a REASONALBE price. Off set printing may have somewhat superior print quality but people want to SELL books, not just have them printed.
Did you tell her that an offset printer is going to require some sort of print run and a certian $$$ per book. An offset printer, or true vanity press, is usually terrible expensive and is lacking in distribution.
Did you mention the ease of which you ordered the books and the fact they were delivered to your doorstep - is that a feature that cna be accomplished with offsetprinting without a boat load of work going into it.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 3:11,

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear enough in my comment. For color quality, there is no current substitute for offset printing. To get that quality we have two options. We can either go with traditional publishing (the best option) or we can self-publish using an offset printing company. For distribution we have the option of going with a traditional publisher, using a POD printing company or signing up with a distributer. With a traditional publisher, as long as the author can sell enough books, everyone is happy. With self-publishing there is a risk involved and only the author can determine what risks she is willing to take and how much of the work she wants to do herself.

Anonymous said...

You mention traditional publishing like it is a viable option for a new author, but you have to know that is not a reality right?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 12:30,

While it may be unlikely that a new author will be picked up by a traditional publisher it is still one of the options out there. In terms of viability, self-publishing has its own problems. While anyone can self-publish, that doesn't mean that people will buy the book after they do. For some authors, having a book isn't enough.

Anonymous said...

WestBow is a scam. Their business model is based on the assumption that no title will ever sell more than a 100 copies. They are just looking to suck money out of the mutlitude of desperate aspiring authors out there.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 7:30,

While it is not my intention to defend WestBow Press, I also have no intention of calling WestBow Press a scam on my blog without proof. Saying that it is a scam implies that they are being dishonest in their claims. I've seen no evidence of that. Certainly, they are trying to make money from the hopes and dreams of aspiring authors out there and their business model does appear to be structured in such a way that if all of their authors sell fewer than 100 books WestBow Press will still make money, but their website clearly states what their customers get for the money they pay. If there is dishonesty involved it would appear to be in that WestBow Press doesn't make it clear to authors that most self-published books don't sell more than 100 copies and they imply that their customer may be able to break the trend. Then again, I haven't seen many authors who are easily convinced that their book - their baby - will sell fewer than 100 copies, even if we talk till we're blue in the face.

As for making money off of aspiring authors. Yes, I expect that is WestBow Press' goal, but if that's a crime, then we must also call writers' conferences out on the carpet as well. The fact is that aspiring authors is one of the big customer bases in the publishing industry. I don't think we can expect the publishing industry to look at that market and not try to capitalize on it. The big question is whether the products and services they are offering are of significant value to authors.

Debra said...

Mr. Timothy Fish,
HI! This is Debra. How are we suppose to know of a good self publisher if we hear so much negative? I have one book published with Xlibris. I am not quite satisfied. Do you have any suggestions? I was not satisfied with the book cover or the royalties of the book.
Thanks,
Debra

Timothy Fish said...

Debra,

The unfortunate truth of self-publishing is that we get what we pay for. When a book is traditionally published, the publisher pays in the neighborhood of $50,000. Self-publishing companies realize that most people aren't going to willingly spend that kind of money, so they cut corners. The best results I've seen from self-publishing are the books that were either put together by an author who knew how to produce the results he wanted or who had friends who could produce the desired results. The best results can only be acheived with the options that allow you to submit a print ready file, whether that is to a POD printer or to an offset printer. But that is not without risk because the worst results are acheivable through that method also.

Anonymous said...

I am currently finishing up a novel I have been working on for about 4 years. I hope to have it published by first of spring. I have been talking with WestBow Press and a local publishing company Warwick House publishing, they to are a selfpublishing but not a POD. Trying to figure out what is the best way to go. I have two children's book published using offset printer and very happy with that but it has no ISBN num. any thoughts

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 10:04,

In the United States, Bowker is responsible for registering ISBNs. For a fee, you can purchase a block of ISBNs from their ISBN website at https://www.myidentifiers.com/. Most of the self-publishing companies provide ISBNs for free because large blocks of ISBNs have a very low per ISBN cost, so it is often more cost effective to use their ISBN, but by purchasing your own you have the option of getting the book printed anywhere or even by multiple printers and you will still be able to place it into the distribution channels that are available.

Anonymous said...

Is it better to go with a Print on Demand or try and get a offset printer to do it. I have a book ready trying to find out which is more cost effective and I get get a profit.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 8:18,

It depends on a number of things. If we're talking about black and white book similar to those shown in the pictures included with this post and if the author is able to do all of the typesetting and if the author goes with the low cost options available through companies like Lulu or Createspace, POD is the better option for most authors because they can produce the book for very little cost and can recover that cost with very few book sales. However, if the author knows with some degree of certainty that he'll be able to sell several hundred or more books, the most cost effective printer is the offset printer. Offset printing has high setup fees, but once the machines are running it doesn't cost much to keep printing books. But the more books you print the more you have to store. One of the great things about POD is that the book isn't printed until it is sold, in many cases. But when lookings at companies like WestBow Press, the initial cost is so great that most authors will not make a profit.

Anonymous said...

Pretty impressed by your informative responses to the questions so far. I am considering Tate or Yorkshire Publishing if I go the co-publishing route, of course there is a 4 to 5K initial fee if I go that route. While searching for a Publishing Agent, WestBow got my number and called about self-publishing. I was told to avoid self-publishing because even if I sold 5000 self-published books, I would still not help my chances of landing a traditional publisher in the future. Would love your thoughts on this and also would love your thoughts on how to find a publishing agent. Do you need to find an agent in your region, etc..?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 3:20,

I'm not sure how much I trust the figures, since they have the feel of something someone pulled out of a hat, but literary agent Rachelle Gardner stated on her blog a few weeks ago that publishers are offering contracts on 1-2% of the manuscripts they receive (including those sent by agents), but she gave the figure 1-5% for the number of self-published books that are eventually picked up by a traditional publisher. If those numbers are anywhere close to right, what that means is that a self-published book is twice as likely to be picked up by a traditional publisher as a manuscript going the traditional route. Of course to be one of those 5%, your book will have to sell a significant number of books. My theory on this is that when a publisher sees that a book has already sold 5,000 to 10,000 books the publisher sees the book as less of a risk because it has already proven that people are interested. In this market, publishers are looking for any way they can reduce risk.

Tim Martin - Writer/Author said...

It really is frustrating. Trying to decide what to do with your finished manuscript. I keep hearing that if you go someplace like WestBow Press, you can forget about seeing it on the bookshelves or getting reviews. On the other hand, more and more authors are going this route due to the complexity to break into the traditional route. Only 1-2% accepted manuscripts and you're expected to take it. Self-publish and you're a blacksheep in the industry.

http://timmartinwriter.blogspot.com/

Timothy Fish said...

Tim,

Thanks for your comment. At one time I had the same fear that you did that by self-publishing I would become "the black sheep" of the publishing industry. I've since changed my mind. Most of the self-published authors out there aren't well enough known to be the black sheep of the industry. As far as the industry is concerned, they might as well have never published a book. To be the black sheep, you've not only got to self-publish a book, but it has to be so terrible that people make fun of it. So I say that if you want to self-publish, go for it. If your work is so bad people talk about it, you won't make it on the traditional side anyway. You might even sell a few books. But if your work is good, people might still talk about it. You might make it on the shelves of a bookstore. You might get a traditional contract.

Tim Martin - Writer/Author said...

Thanks Tim. And what I meant by "blacksheep" is not individual self-publishers, but those who use companies like WestBow Press are. Personally, I think if you're able to market your book on your own, and go through one of these companies and know what you're getting then there shouldn't be anything wrong with it.

sarahfinnigan.com said...

Just wondering what your thoughts are concerning American Book Publishing. I am also wanting to publish a book and currently have material for that but have had a bad experience with another publishing company and am now a little leery about all publishing companies.
Sarah

Timothy Fish said...

Sarah,

I don't have personal knowledge of American Book Publishing, but in just taking a quick survey of what I see on the web there are enough red flags that I would be afraid to go with this company. According to some of what I've seen, in the past, American Book Publishing required their authors to sign a contract that would penalize them as much as $10,000 for posting anything negative about the company. Supposedly, this clause has since been removed. Whether it has or it hasn't, it causes me to question the ethics of the people running the company.

Pete Nikolai said...

Thanks for the review of the packaging and layout of two of our books and for the healthy discussion here in the comments section. We’ve had our book design team take a look at those books in light of our Nelson Style Guide and here are the standards we are reinforcing:

Page numbering of front matter: We usually don’t start numbering pages with roman numerals until after the TOC as the TOC indicates what is to follow, so we avoid page numbers on title pages, copyright, dedication, epigraph page, or even 1st page of TOC though we do put a running head and page number on 2nd page of TOC.

Order of front matter:
1. Presentation page [recto - if it exists]
2. Blank [verso] following presentation page if it exists, otherwise start with half-title
3. Half-title [recto]
4. Other books by [if it exists] or blank [verso]
5. Title page [recto]
6. Copyright page [verso]
7. Dedication page [recto]
8. Blank or epigraph [verso]
9. Contents [TN standard is to just call it Contents, not Table of Contents] [recto]
10. Acknowledgments [recto]
11. Foreword [recto]
12. Introduction [recto]

Page 1 of body text: Prologue if it exists (because it’s part of the story) or first part page if it exists or first page of chapter 1 [recto].

Recto or verso: We usually start fiction chapters where they fall, recto or verso, but prefer to start nonfiction chapters recto.

Inconsistent indenting on In the Unlikely Event: We’re not seeing any issues. Will you please provide specific examples?

Blank page at beginning: Required by POD/short-run printers.

Ellipsis: Our standard is ‘space period space period space period space’ unless quote mark before or after and then the space is removed [e.g., “. . . Text” or “Text . . . Text cont” or “Text. . . .”]; the main thing is to be consistent rather than going back and forth between 3 periods together with space after and 3 periods with space before to 3 periods together with no space.

Title page logo: We need to place Illustrator EPS [not Photoshop art] so the text in the logo doesn’t bitmap or break up.

Initial letter or drop caps with opening quote mark: We usually delete the opening quote mark rather than having a large quote mark and a large initial letter.

Letter or block quote (The Faraway Land page 77): When we set a letter as a block quote we don’t usually put space between paragraphs but use 1st line indents instead on all the paragraphs except the first. We do use a line space as seen after the opening and before the closing.

Number of lines of text on last page of a chapter (In the Unlikely Event page 59): We usually have no fewer than 4 lines on the last page of a chapter.

Thanks again for taking the time to critique the design of these books. We strive for consistent high quality and you comments were helpful!

Mark said...

To the individual who plans to use Tate or Yorkshire, those are the two I am considering as well. The good news about Tate (and likely many others) is that there is indeed a decent chance of a quality story getting picked up by a traditional publisher. Cliff Graham's "Day of War" was put out by Tate, but is now under Zondervan. Also, it has become much of a Cinderella story because now it is a five-book series with 3-D major motion pictures being made by folks who have had their hands in Spider Man, Narnia, Hidalgo, etc. Cliff and Tate worked together on the book's marketing, as that can make a huge difference in whether a book is expected to sell 100 copies or less. I think that once the quality options are discussed with any vanity/subsidy press, much of the rest is on the shoulders of the author (often with the help of the publisher) to market their work. Tate and Yorkshire do offer various marketing services, and you can always buy certain options that increase your exposure. Facebook and Twitter are also great ways to have a greater presence and advertise your work. Anyway, I hope this helped a little.
- Mark

Timothy Fish said...

Mark,

Thanks for you comment. From what I've seen, most self-publishing companies like to talk about the books that were later picked up by a traditional publisher. I've seen people in the industry give figures as high as 5% for the number of books that transition from self-published to traditionally published. I see no reason to think that any particular self-publishing company will significantly increase the chance of that happening since self-publishing companies are very similar in the way they operate. I think you will find that Amazon.com sales rank plays the most significant role in that happening. When a book has a proven track record of sales, a traditional publisher will be more willing to take the risk than they are with manuscripts by authors with no sales history.

Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about PublishAmerica.com? Is this a relatively good company to go with for publishing?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 4:40,

Let me first say that I have author friends who went with Publish America and seemed to be happy with the results. As for the quality of the physical book, the copies I have seen leave something to be desired in terms of the typesetting. The actual printing is done by one of the POD printers. Most likely it is done by Lightning Source or CreateSpace, so the printing will be the same as any other POD book. I haven't looked at their contract recently, but there are quite a few horror stories being told by authors who decided to go with Publish America. The scary thing is that Publish America allegedly took more than one of their authors to court when the author expressed displeasure with the service.

Publish America has claimed to be a traditional publisher, but it appears to me that it is little more than a POD reseller with a long contract by which they try to recoup their losses from printing the book. I’ve seen no evidence that they do anything edit books. Based on what I’ve heard of the company, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. In fact, I would recommend you stay away from them. I sometimes wonder if I should be worried they’ll sue me just for writing stuff like what I’ve written here. I don’t trust them.

Alden Swan said...

I've just gone through the publishing process with WestBow, though I haven't received my initial copies yet.

The main issues with Westbow is that the real work is outsourced to Author Solutions (aka Trafford Publishing). So, while people are using Westbowpress e-mail addresses, they are really Author Solutions employees (occasionally they use their AS or Trafford e-mail addresses...).

My main issues have been consistently poor communication (it seems as though nothing happens until I send or call twice), and turnover. A.S. seems to have a lot of turnover, and every personnel change meant delays and miscommunication.

For Thomas Nelson to really succeed here, they need better communication and oversight; however, that would likely increase the costs significantly.

I am hoping to be pleased with the quality of the book; the proofs looked quite nice. I provided some pretty specific ideas (as well as the front cover design), and they followed my wishes fairly closely.

Timothy Fish said...

Alden,

Thanks for posting your take on the WestBow publishing process here. I'm sure it will be helpful to the people who are finding this post in their search for more information about WestBow Press.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of http://www.instantpublisher.com? If so, what are your thoughts?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 7:50,

Without doing more than taking a quick look at the website, it appears to me that the site you mentioned is nothing more than a service repackager. For a few extra dollars, they'll forward your project to one of the POD printers. There's nothing particually wrong with a company repackaging services but it does push the price up and in this case there is a minimum order of 25 books. My personal preference is to cut out the middle man unless the middleman adds something of value.

Thinking Tom said...

Thanks, Tim, for posting this review of Westbow Press. It has helped me to become very cautious about using them for my yet-to-be finished non-fiction manuscript. In fact, it has helped me to very cautious about using any POD publisher for my manuscript. The more I learn about the pros and cons of POD publishing, the less it appeals to me. And yet, if I can't land a TP contract, I'll have no choice but to go POD. So, I'd like to ask you what you think of an opportunity to publish with a TP that would require me to buy 3000 copies of my book from them at 70% of retail as part of the contract? This is my first book, and the TP will be interviewing me and fifteen other wannabe authors in a couple of weeks, so it's possible my book won't be selected. But what should I do if it is?

Timothy Fish said...

Tom,

While I can’t say if that publisher is acting unethically without additional information, the kind of contract you describe is not a traditional publishing contract. A publisher that is using a contract like that can afford to publish every manuscript that comes through their doors.

Suppose the retail price of a book is $10. When a customer pays that price, the retailer keeps about 30%. To keep our figures easy to work with, let’s say the author gets a 10% royalty and the publisher gets 60%. We’ll assume that 10% of retail is the publisher’s profit. With the author being forced to buy 3000 copies of his own book, the publisher is making a 20% profit, guaranteeing the publisher $6,000 just from sales to the author. The publisher has no incentive to sell more books because he’s already made his money and can move on to the next project. The author, on the other hand, has several boxes full of books sitting in the living room, the garage, or a storage shed. The typical author in this situation will sell less than 100 books. If he is lucky, he may sell 500. In any case, he has more than $17,500 worth of books in his possession that he probably won’t sell.

Thinking Tom said...

Thanks, Tim, for your prompt reply. The reason this publisher wants me to purchase 3000 copies of my own book is for me to sell them to the people in my own circle of influence while the publisher promotes my book through its normal book promotion channels. For example, if I was a pastor of a church who also had a well-established internet following, I should be able to sell this many books without any problem. In reality, though, I'm just an aspiring author who has never published a book before. So, in one sense, this is an opportunity for me to land a TP contract without going through the normal manuscript submission process. In another sense, this is almost like using a vanity publisher because of the 3000 books I have to buy. However, I'm getting the benefit of my book being promoted by the TP to thousands of bookstores in the US and around the world. So, now what do you think of this opportunity? If you want to know more about this opportunity (along with the name of the publisher), send me your email address. My email address is net bids at hotmail.com (remove the space between net and bids). I'll send you a link to a 5 minute video.

Thinking Tom said...

Tim, I found your email address on your profile page, so please disregard my request for you to send it to me. I will email you the video link and a word document that explains the process.

Timothy Fish said...

Tom,

I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t ring true. To put this in perspective, if they pack the books in the size of box that hold ten reams of paper, we’re talking about 57 boxes of books. That’s 1.44 tons of books. (Yes, I said tons.) Most authors will be doing good if they sell 57 books. That’s a little more than one box, if you’re curious. But let’s give this thing the benefit of the doubt and assume that you really aren’t like most authors. Your book is better than most and you’ll get out and work harder than most. 3,000 books is still an awful lot of books. But let’s say you sell all of those books. The publisher has just made $3,000 more than they otherwise would have because they aren’t paying a royalty on those books.

Now I’m going to venture off into some speculation. Based on the information you sent me, I think what’s going on here is that this particular publisher is looking for authors with a particular kind of doctrine. In this case, they appear to be looking for full gospel authors. If you happen to subscribe to the full gospel doctrine (which I assume you do), that’s not such a bad thing since they’re trying to filter out all authors except for authors like you. The problem they face is that by making their selection process to tight, there is little chance of selecting an author who can make them a profit. To make up for this, they require the author to pay for the seminar and purchase enough books that they are guaranteed a profit. They can then publish as many books that support their doctrine as they can find.

If you are an author that supports their doctrine, the publisher will probably promote your book. Even so, I would be cautious. Based on the price of their books on Amazon.com, you would likely have to come up with $33,600 to purchase the 3,000 books. It’s highly unlikely that you will sell that many books. There are cheaper ways to accomplish the same thing. With a $33,600 entrance fee, I don’t really see with publisher as a traditional publisher.

Troubled Tom said...

Thanks, Tim, for reviewing the info I sent you. I was hoping that your response was going to be a bit more positive. Besides the fact that a sister recommended this path to me and even paid the $150 fee, my only reason for even considering this "opportunity" is not that the publisher (or, rather, its founder who will be doing the interviewing) believes in the full gospel but rather that he likes controversy and new ideas. My book is both. In fact, my book is so controversial that it will be very difficult for me to find a TP that will be willing to publish my book (think Galileo and the stationary vs. movable earth controversy). But putting out $30K isn't what I had in mind. (Actually, I was looking at about $15K based on a paperback retail price of $15, but even $15K is a lot of money.) So, if I don't go with this publisher (assuming, of course, that they like my book and want to publish it) I'm basically back at square one, which is being forced to go POD.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim,
Where is the best direction to go if one is trying to publish a non-fiction book? Where would you advise one goes?

Deb'

Anonymous said...

What do you think about trafford publishing?

Timothy Fish said...

Deb,

“Best” is such a moving target that it’s hard to say. It partly depends on the nature of the book and it partly depends on the person. I’ve been involved in publishing books in many different ways. For Church Website Design: A step by step approach I used the company that is now CreateSpace. For D. F. Magruder’s A History of the Cane Creek District Baptist Association of Southeast Missouri I used Lulu. The last time I published a minute book for our association, I used FedEx Office. I’ve published books using an offset printing company. So, it shouldn’t surprise you when I say that each self-publisher must make a decision about what will work best in their situation.

I tend to be more hands on. I like being the one who did the typesetting and designed the cover. Some people don’t want to be that involved with the publication process and that’s where companies like WestBow Press and the more expensive packages offered by CreateSpace come into the picture. If you want someone to edit you book and/or do typesetting, you will either have to hire someone on your own or use a self-publishing company that provides that service.

For POD, the most hands on you can get is by using LightningSource or CreateSpace. Both of these companies actually own the machines that are used to print your book. LightningSource markets more to publishers while CreateSpace markets more to authors. Most of the other companies you see out there, Lulu, WestBow Press, etc. are middle men who resell the services of companies like LightningSource and CreateSpace while tacking on services such as editing and typesetting. It is through these services that they make their money.

For me personally, CreateSpace tends to be my company of choice. The thing that makes me deviate from that is when I need something that CreateSpace doesn’t provide. What I like about CreateSpace is that it is owned by Amazon.com. Anyone who hopes to make money at self-publishing needs to be friendly with Amazon.com. Because they are part of the same company, I have less reason to worry that communication will break down and my book won’t be available on Amazon.com. Another thing I like about CreateSpace is that every time I’ve done a comparison between it and other companies, it has been the most economical. If you’re willing to provide a print-ready pdf, CreateSpace will allows you to publish a book for next to nothing. I typically add on a few features that I’ve found pay for themselves, but since most self-published books don’t sell very many copies, the less money you spend up front the more likely you are to make a profit.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 7:05 PM,

Trafford Publishing is now just another name used by Author Solutions, so using them will give you a service similar to what you would receive by using WestBow Press, whose product I reviewed on this post. My understanding is that Author Solutions purchased Trafford Publishing in order to have a POD printing facility. But in terms of what the author gets out of it, you’ll get about the similar service no matter what Author Solutions company you go with. What I don’t like about them is that even though they have the POD technology they won’t sell a package that give the author direct access to the technology. Instead, you have to pay a starting price of $799. I have a hard time saying that the services they offer aren’t worth that, but most self-published authors will never sell enough books to recover the $799 starting price.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Tim. I was really leaning towards Createspace and hearing you refer them make me more comfortable about them! Appreciate your time in breaking it all down for me! God bless you.

Deb'

Anonymous said...

Tim and all,
Thank you Tim for your honest thoughts and thanks to all others for the enlightening questions and comments. My wife and I are first timers in this publishing thing and the info and facts(?) represented in this blog have given us a lot to think about. Especially since we are thinking about using WestBow. I would also be interested in hearing thoughts on Zondervan and/or High Way Publishing? Again, we are rookies that don't even understand what a POD publisher is or an off set printer. Any help is appreciated.

David

Timothy Fish said...

David,

I hadn’t heard of High Way Publishing until you mentioned it. After looking at the website, it appears that High Way Publishing is the imprint Doc Carson (whoever that is) used when he self-published his book. Self-publishing enthusiasts often create their own imprints when they self-publish so that it doesn’t look like they self-published. That is always an option, but I doubt it helps sales all that much.

Zondervan is a well known Christian publisher that is a subsidiary of News Corporation. Zondervan is a traditional publisher. They do not accept unsolicited manuscripts in most categories, so if you have any interest in them, you will have to have an agent.

The terms POD and offset refer to the printing process. POD is an acronym for Print On Demand. Books are printed one at a time using high speed laser printers and a robot that trims the book to size. These machines can print approximately three books per minute and are about the of your living room. Offset printing is a process that is use when hundreds or thousands of books are needed. After the machines are setup, they print books on big rolls of paper that are later cut and bound into books. It is called offset because the ink is put on a roller first and then tranfered to the paper. Traditional publishers make use of both methods. Self-publishers use POD much more frequently because of the small print run. POD uses higher quality paper, typically, but it also costs more per book. The setup fees are much higher for offset printing, so think POD = small print run and Offset = medium to large print run.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tim,
It is quite incredible to have someone take time to help others like you do, thanks a million you'll never know how helpful you have been to many others like me. I have read almost everything posted,but here is my question, I think I might be able to sell more than a hundred of my books, I have an almost finished manuscript and I have been debating which way to go. I was first introduced to Xulon press few years ago, but I am somewhat hesistant to go with them based on some of the reviews I read. Your comments and advise will be greatly appreciated.

MOLAT

Timothy Fish said...

MOLAT,

My take on Xulon Press is that though they have some complaints against them, that is par for the course and there’s nothing particularly scary about them. Yes, they have some dissatisfied customers, but most of those appear to be people who didn’t know what to expect from a company like this. In looking that the Xulon Press contract, it appears that the author has the right to back out at any time with all right intact. That is an absolute necessity. Some authors have signed up with companies that had more restrictive contracts and were disappointed. The worst case with Xulon appears to be that you’ll lose you money, but you won’t lose your book.

A more realistic expectation with Xulon Press is that for your money they’ll do the work of taking your book from the manuscript stage to a bound book. They will not do editing. They won’t do any meaningful marketing, no matter how much extra money you pay them.

While I can’t make a recommendation one way or the other on whether you should go with Xulon Press, if I were going to use them, I would go with the $1,199 Premium package with no extras added on. The Basic package will get you a book in print, but it won’t be available for sale through Amazon.com. The only books sold would be those you’re able to sell out of your trunk. I don’t have enough information to do more than guess, but based on the list prices I seeing, I would guess that you might make $1 per book on royalties, so you would have to sell 1,200 copies of your book to break even.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tim,
I stumbled across your blog today and I’m so thankful I did! My question has many parts to it. First, let me start by saying that I was at the Women of Faith conference in Hartford, CT this past weekend. In the program is an advertisement from West Bow Press for a writing contest. I became so excited because my first book is about a month away from where I would be willing to someone else to take a look. Now, reading your blog is making wonder about the intention of the contest.
Also, my book has a couple of ways it can go. It’s a devotional study. It can be written for a reader to pick it up and follow. It can also be written for a teacher or discipleship mentor (small group study) with teacher/student handbooks. Beyond that, I also have a passion to write (and will start the first of the year) a series to complement it. I have also started research on a children’s book series and curriculum series.
The other component to my writing is speaking at conferences/churches. I spoke at a Baptist conference two years in a row and will probably be asked to speak again. I also gave my personal testimony (which can be written into a book) and the sermon at my church quite a few times. I say all this to ask if the speaking engagements and other “pending” material help my chances of getting started and making a career of this.
In short, I would like your thoughts on the writing contest and advice as to how to navigate from here.
You are appreciated, greatly!
-Nicole
wwwlifeonpurpose.blogspot.com

Timothy Fish said...

Nicole,

I’ll try to address all of your questions. First, concerning the WestBow Press contest. I say go for it. While contests, in general, aren’t for everyone, they can be fun and even if you don’t win, it is a good learning experience. But for the winner of this particular contest there is the possibility of a Thomas Nelson contract. That’s only if they deem the work good enough. If not, they’re still going to give the winner a $2,800 publishing package from WestBow Press. There’s not a down side here. The winner is looking at a good deal with the possibility of an excellent deal. Of course, I’m sure everyone else will get all kinds of promotional material from WestBow Press, but that’s a contest for you.

You’re already speaking at churches and conferences? That’s music to my ears and for publishers too. It doesn’t guarantee you a publishing contract, but it’ll help sweeten the deal if your writing quality is at that level. Even if you end up going the self-publishing route, you’re in a better position to succeed than most of us. Self-publishing works best for people who do speaking and are able to sell copies of their books at the back of the room.

Ideally, you should stick with books that are closely related to the topics you are speaking about. The people who listen to you speak are people who are interested in the topic, so they’re more likely to buy the book. Also, if you should happen to mention the book while you are speaking, people are more likely to stop by your table to purchase the book.

No one cares what you are planning to write. There are plenty of people who are planning to write all kinds of things. The only thing that matters is the experience you already have and the things you have already accomplished.

Anonymous said...

I have been researching publishing companies for a few months including Xulon, Winepress and now Westbow. My manuscript is ready for submission however my primary concerns are more with the quality of the final book, ebook, and having a well-known publisher name. From the comments is appears that the name on the back doesn't matter much. Westbow only offers 50% royalties which is less than I've seen. My contact encouraged me to get the cheaper package but alot is extra (i.e. editing, copyright, book return service, etc.) Winepress will take 10 months to finish the book and I am not comfortable with Xulon's bad press. I am willing to pay for a good editor and a nice looking book (inside and out) that will attract the market. I am concerned that if I get out of a contract (i.e. with Westbow) I'd have to pay for a .pdf of my manuscript and "buy back" my own book. When we hire one of these publishers, do we really give up our rights to our own work. I am so glad I did not rush into anything. Also, if we submit unpublished work to a contest, how are we sure it won't be taken? Any feedback on Winepress? What can and should I do on my own before releasing my manuscript to anyone?

VCB

Timothy Fish said...

VCB,

No matter what publisher you go with, the best advice is to read the contract and understand it before you sign anything. The same is true of contests. Contests generally want permission to do things such as make copies to distribute to the judges and other contest related things. There are unscrupulous people out there but most contests are harmless. What you should be looking for in contest rules is wording that indicates they can copy your work for use outside of the contest. If it is in there, don’t give them anything. For the most part, I wouldn’t worry about it because it is too much trouble for the people running the contest to take the material you send them and convert it into something worth selling.

As you mentioned, some vanity presses have a reputation of taking people’s work and either not giving it back or making it difficult for the author to get it back. When a contract allows you to retain the copyright, you have the option of walking away, but I wouldn’t expect them to give you the pdf when you do. If it isn’t spelled out that you are paying them to produce a pdf then I would expect them to charge for the pdf or outright refuse to give it or any other working files to you. The problem they face is that the only reason you have for needing the pdf is so you can hand it off to someone like Lightning Source, CreateSpace or some other printer. Even though they have produced the pdf, they would not make money from any of those sales. Depending on their pricing structure, they may be expecting money from book sales to cover some of the costs that aren’t covered by the package fees.

Concerning Winepress: without coming out an actually endorsing them, I’ll say that I’m somewhat impressed with them. A pastor acquaintance of mine used them for a book he wrote and they did him well, though I wouldn’t assume the treatment he received is typical. Whatever faults they may have, I can say that his book is better than most of the traditionally published books out there.

What should you do before releasing your manuscript? First, before releasing your work to anyone, consider the integrity of the person or company. Copyright issues aside, if the person can’t be trusted, you don’t want them having access to your intellectual property prior to publication. Another thing you should do is make sure your contact information is on the manuscript. Don’t give anyone an opportunity to mistake it for someone else’s work. Third, make it clear what they are permitted to do with the manuscript. You can include a statement on the coversheet with that explanation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

Thank you for the information. It is extremely helpful and I appreciate wise counsel. Have a great Thanksgiving.

VCB

Sue Dent said...

Tate is a vanity press marked so by AbsoluteWrite.com. Google vanity presses to find out what those are and why most authors avoid them. Publish America is a vanity press and a scam. Google that to learn more. In fact they are under so much scrutiny I'm surprised no one as pointed this out.

Westbow is Thomas Nelson's attempt to cash in on the POD craze because no author can get published through traditional means. They throw the label "Christian" around as if this means your book will have some clout in the "Christian" market which is a market defined by CBA and ECPA affiliated publisher who produce targeted fiction for one particular denomination only.

Your book won't have any help reaching CBA readers. Lighting Source is a fantastic print on demand publishers. Absolutely wonderful. Make sure and mark your books non-returnable though so you can actually make money and not lose money when they sell. ;D

You can visit my blog at www.suedent.blogspot.com to learn more. Hope this was helpful.

Timothy Fish said...

Sue Dent,

Thanks for joining the conversation and providing your opinion. I've heard good things about Lightning Source, though I haven't used them myself. I would like to point out however that Lightning Source is not a publisher but is a printer. Their customers are publishers (yes, that includes self-publishers) while companies like WestBow Press target authors. The big distinction is that while Lightning Source is an excellent choice for the self-publishing enthusiasts, many authors are would prefer to let someone else do the actual publishing work and they are willing to pay for it. In reality, after the author pays one of the vanity presses, the vanity press may hand the book to Lightning Source for printing.

Danielle said...

As a new author I am researching all of my options. My question is this; if you self publish through companies such as Westbow and you do all the marketing, does Westbow still get a percentage of all sales on your books? or do you keep all the profits earned?

Timothy Fish said...

Danielle, each of these companies structure thing slightly different, but what you will typically see is that the author will receive a percentage of the retail price in the form of a royalty payment. What percentage of the “profits” the author is receiving is dependent on how we define profits.

I think the best way to look at this is that there are setup fees that cover the expenses the company has while the book is being prepared for publication. Then there are ongoing fees that cover the expenses of the company during the time that they are printing and making the book available to readers. If we could break down the ongoing fees into their component parts, we would see things like printing, website maintenance, administrative overhead, etc. Because these companies are in business to make a profit, I believe we would also find that they had tacked on some percentage that is above their actual expenses. What is left of the wholesale price goes to the author. With some companies, that may be 10% of the retail price or less. With others it may be significantly higher. In some cases, the author has the ability to set the price, so the author has some control over how much of the retail price he keeps. The author’s share would then be somewhere between 0% and 60% of the retail price. The store selling the book gets 40%. If the author will typically receive that 40% discount, so if the author is selling the books at the back of the room at speaking engagements, he would receive even more for a book selling at the retail price.

Allison said...

Dear Timothy,

Thank you for the valuable information on the current publishing industry. I currently work with the Ministry of Education, Jamaica, educational publishing section and have written a series of activity books for children. The books include: Go A to Z with the Bible (A new and Biblical Approach to Phonics), Go Counting with the Bible and Go Deep and Wide with the Bible. The books are integrated with the Early Childhood programme of schools and teach initial letter sounds, counting, colours, shapes etc. I was thinking of using West Bow Press as I do not have the distribution links but now I am reconsidering. POD is out of the question as I think offset it better, although expensive. My island's population is far too small to target so I was thinking US. Your advice is requested. Thanks in advance

Timothy Fish said...

Allison,

I’ll tell you right up front that you are asking about an area of publishing that is beyond my expertise. There is something of a tradeoff between POD and offset. Offset will give you better color print quality, although you may find it is acceptable for non-photographic images. One of the big disadvantages of offset printing is that of distribution. If you print enough books, the cost per book is lower for offset printing, but all those books have to be stored somewhere. If you are targeting people in the US, you will want someone in the US to warehouse those books for you, so that will have some fees associated with it.

Since you are considering several books, what you might want to consider is using a company like Westbow Press or Createspace for one of them, just to see whether the quality is high enough for you needs and also to give you a chance to see what kind of demand you have for your product. If the book begins to sell well, you might then consider offset printing in order to take advantage of the lower per unit costs and the higher image quality.

Allison said...

Thank you so much Timothy for your prompt and excellent response. I will look seriously into your suggestions. My area is Christian education, in particular linking the public school curriculum with the Bible.

Anonymous said...

I was on the verge of submitting my work to WestBow but something held me back, I LONG to get my work published, but am so unsure as to were I should turn to. Who is real and who isn't. Who is genuine and who will rip you off.
I am so clueless when it comes to the Publishing world...

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 7:56 PM,

You are not alone in the feeling. Nearly every day, I encounter authors who express that very same feeling. There are so many publishers like WestBow out there that it is impossible decide which one is the best one and nearly all of them have at least one dissatisfied customer who is quite vocal online. It is hard to sort through the noise.

Please don’t take anything I have said to imply that WestBow is a rip off. While there are aspects of how WestBow Press does things that don’t meet the standard of quality I would like to see, I think they are one of the better companies out there. I think that if we authors scale back our expectations for our work and don’t expect more than the services they are providing from a company like WestBow Press that a company like this can provide a satisfactory solution.

If I were in search of a subsidy press for a book, the reason WestBow Press would make my short list is that they are backed by Thomas Nelson. I have personally met Michael Hyatt, the chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson and I have interacted with him on numerous occasions online. While I don’t recommend that WestBow Press customers go to Michael Hyatt every time WestBow Press doesn’t met their expectations, from my interaction with Michael Hyatt, I believe that if WestBow Press failed to fulfill their promises Michael Hyatt and the team over at Thomas Nelson would do what is necessary to make it right in order to protect Thomas Nelson’s good name.

Michael Hyatt said...

Timothy, you are right: we are committed to making sure WestBow fulfills its promises. If anyone has a bad experience, we will make it right. You have my word on it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fish:

I certainly appreciated coming across your blog, and the even-handed way that you have discussed the self-publishing topic, and the different self-publishing options. With all of the different options out there, I know what I am going to ask will be a tremendous task. What do you feel should be the rule of thumb of what authors should expect from any self publisher, and what should make us run the other way?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 2:33PM,

At a bare minimum, a self-publishing company should provide printing and distribution. With some authors, that is all they require. Other services, such as cover design, typesetting and editing are added on top of that. These services require a body in a chair for some length of time, so the author should expect to pay extra for this, but any company that accept manuscripts rather than just print-ready files should offer the editing option. Another thing I think is very important is that the contract be structured in such a way that the author be able to stop the process at any point. The author shouldn’t expect to get money back from the company (though sometimes they will), but the author should be able to withdraw his book at any time and have the freedom to take it to another company.

So, one of the things I don’t like seeing in a self-publishing company is a contract that locks the author in for any length of time. That doesn’t necessarily mean the company is bad, but it makes life difficult if they are. Another thing I look at is how the company handles disgruntled customers. Every company will have a few disgruntled customers if it has been in business for a while. But if a company isn’t making an effort to resolve those issues then we are wise to avoid them.

I’ve answered your question with a very broad brush because there are so many variables. Many authors make the mistake of assuming that if they pay more their book will be more successful, so when their book doesn’t sell enough copies to recover their expenses they are dissatisfied. Services that are beneficial to one author may be of no use to another. It is the author’s responsibility to know what will help him and what won’t. He should look for a company that offers him a publishing package that includes only those things he needs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your input. I understand that it was a vague question, and your answer was excellent. A couple of other questions please. As far a royalties are concerned, what should an author that is self publishing expect, and which companies do you feel are offering the best opportunities for an author to make a profit on their work based on what the publisher is offering the author in their packages? I thank you again so much!

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 7:21 AM,

The questions you ask are difficult to answer and certainly don’t have an answer that applies to all people who might read this post, but I think it may be just as helpful to you to understand why their isn’t a good answer.

Your first question concerns what royalties self-publishing authors should expect. Let’s first consider what an author might expect from a traditional publisher. There is much variation, but authors receive about 8% of the cover price or about 16% of the net (give or take a few percentage points and depending on how the publisher calculates their rates). That’s about as standard as you can get and it is far from standard. The waters are much murkier when we look at self-publishing.

If we look at a company like Westbow Press, they will set a minimum price for the book based on their own expenses including a profit. The author is then able to set the final suggested retail price of the book and anything that is received over and above what the company has claimed is paid out to the author. These companies seem to be moving toward that pricing structure. In the past, we saw more of these companies that set the price of the book and paid a percentage to the author. BookSurge, before it merged with CreateSpace was paying 25% and then it became 35%. Now it pays the list price minus printing expenses and a percentage discount given to the store that sells the book. Then there is the question of a percentage of what. Some companies, in order to give their customers a higher percentage will push the retail price up.

You also asked about making a profit. The answer to that depends largely on the author. Most self-published books sell fewer than 100 copies. With no hard data to back us up, let’s assume the average is 50 copies and let’s suppose you are making $5 on each copy you sell. If you spend more than $250 getting the book into print, you are in the red. But that will require you to do all the work of putting the book together. Some authors don’t feel comfortable doing that. So they turn to a company like Westbow Press, which will do the work, but will charge several hundred dollars. Part of that is returned to the author in the form of printed books. To recoup the rest, the author has to get out and do the work of selling the books. Authors who are on the speaking circuit sell more books because they are able to sell them at the back of the room. If you speak fifty times a year and sell an average of 25 books each time, that $6,250 will more than cover what you gave the subsidy press.

Anonymous said...

Timothy,

What do you think about Authorhouse? I know that it's another self publisher that's also connected to Author Soulutions.

-Carissa-

Pete Nikolai said...

Thank you for the ongoing dialog! We find it very helpful as we continue to strive to meet the needs of aspiring authors.

Please keep in mind that we offer and provide publishing services to authors who are publishing their books (self-publishing). The author is the publisher, controls the copyright, and functions as the manager for their book. We compete to provide the services the author seeks, and we believe that we are the best provider for many of those services. Our packages start at $999 and are customized to meet the needs and requests of each author. We provide a full range of services and are not limited to POD printing (we use offset printing when appropriate).

I am not aware of any other publishing services company that monitors the sales of each of their books to identify titles with substantial and widespread sales so that those authors can be offered a traditional publishing contract with a top trade publisher. We are doing just that—in fact that is one of my responsibilities. If and when the sales on a title are substantial and widespread then we will contact that author to discuss a traditional contract with Thomas Nelson—doing so just makes good business sense.

But not every author is trying to make it to the big league. Many want professional books to use in their ministries or businesses. Others want to share their work with just their family and friends. Others feel called to capture and share a message in book form so that it can develop a life of its own and remain available for the generations to come. We are glad to help each author meet their goals and perhaps even achieve their dreams.

Gussiecat said...

Hi there from Canada: I just discovered your blog. Great stuff. My question is this: Once having sent a manuscript to a traditional publisher for review as to its potential for publishing, how long is reasonable, in time, to get an answer?
Second question: With self publishing, are costs to publish associated with novel length? Thank-you very much. Regards, Patricia

Timothy Fish said...

Patricia,

There are several schools of thought on how long a publisher should take before responding. In general, I think that if you receive a quick response it will be something along the lines of “thanks but no thanks” or “thanks but we need time to evaluate your manuscript.” In some cases, you will not receive a response at all, but I wouldn’t expect any meaningful response anytime within the first couple of months or even longer. If you’ve heard nothing after two months, you might want to send a short e-mail requesting a status update. If they haven’t shown any interest with six months, I would assume they have rejected it.

Page count does make a difference in terms of pricing and fees, but what impact it has is highly dependent upon how you choose to self-publish your book. With a company like WestBow Press, I wouldn’t expect to see a difference in fees based on page count. The $999 Pete Nikolai mentioned allows significant variation in page count. Where you can expect page count to make a difference is in things like editorial services and suggested retail price. WestBow Press charges $0.035 per word (≈$11 per page) for line editing or $0.042 per word (≈$13 per page) for content editing.

The cost of printing also is impacted by page count. With POD printing, they use high quality laser printers. The per page cost is probably about $0.01 a page (though you shouldn’t quote me on that). At that rate, there is a $1 difference between a 200 page novel and a 300 page novel. That may not seem like much, but it is significant enough that some companies will design their books with tight margins and tiny text to reduce page count. In determining how much money they need for each book sold, most of the companies involved will multiple the page count by some number and tack on some per book overhead.

We see graphics more in non-fiction than we do in fiction, but there can be additional fees if you include more graphics in the book. That is loosely related to page count. If you want a particularly fancy letter at the beginning of every chapter, for example, you might have to pay more for the handling of the graphics. You might wish to include images of previous books at the end of your book to encourage readers to consider reading them or you might have an agreement with an author friend to include pictures of each other’s books. If someone at the company you are working with has to place those graphics, there may be additional fees associated with them.

Anonymous said...

Do you know anything about this company: http://www.christianpublish.com/index.html?

I am wondering whether they are reputable. I recently went with one company that is not paying the royalties on sold books so now I am very skeptical.
Thanks!

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 10:24,

I don't know anything about the company you mentioned.

Allison Hall said...

I have done quite some research on the Print and Demand Publishers/Distributors and have stumbled across Lightning Source. So far I have not seen any complaints online. Can you offer some advice regarding this company? Are they the best or one of the best in the business now?

Thanks in advance.

Timothy Fish said...

Allison Hall,
Lightning Source is essentially a printing company. They do both POD and offset printing. They cater to publishers (including self-publishers). They are a favorite among self-publishing enthusiasts, but they also work with medium and large publishers. Many of the subsidy presses use their services rather than maintaining their own printing equipment.

To use Lightning Source, you must have your own ISBNs. In the US the agency responsible for ISBNs is Bowker. The website is https://www.myidentifiers.com/. It is recommended that you purchase as many ISBNs as you expect to use within the next five years. Lightning Source (similar to the CreateSpace print-ready PDF option) has specific requirements on the formatting of the files publishers provide for printing. I’ll refer you to their website for that information, but you will need Acrobat Distiller and some kind of page layout software to produce the PDF files required. Lightning Source wants images to be in CMYK and will accept images as low as 72 dpi, but recommend at least 300 dpi. This is different from CreateSpace which kicks back images below 300 dpi, but will accept either CMYK or RGB.

They provide an only cover template generator which will make it easier for you to do the layout work for your cover. I won’t go into detail on how to do that here, but using a template to design a cover is covered in sufficient detail in Book Cover Design Wizardry: For the Self-Publishing Author. The nice thing about Lightning Source’s template generator is that it will generate the barcode for you. This is different from CreateSpace which will superimpose the barcode over the artwork you submit.

Once the book design work is completed and the files are submitted, there are several options for how the books are printed and distributed. They offer print on demand, so you don’t have to order more books than you need, but they also offer the more traditional printer features that will allow you to have them print some number of books and ship them to you or your distributor. For the self-publisher, this typically means you have several stacks of boxes in the guest bedroom, the living room of the garage full of your books.

Having given you an idea of the work involved to go with a company like LightningSource, if I haven’t scared you off, they seem to be one of the best that offer that kind of service.

Janet S Williams said...

I have been reading the comments below and would like to add my own. I have recently published a book through Westbow Press and am very pleased with the outcome. Our Pastor is also a professional printer with his own business, and after giving the hardcover and soft cover books a very intense look over, he concluded the books were done very professionally and were excellent quality. I chose the cover design and all of the graphics from thousands made available to me and everyone who sees the cover feels that it is very dynamic and eye catching. The font in our books is very easy to read. I had the ability to create exactly what I wanted the book to look like throughout and reviewed proofs and made corrections as I chose. My books are selling on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble and we are also offering the books for sale ourselves. (E-book is also available on both online sites) We have received rave reviews and our book is already impacting lives in 3 prisons! My husband and I are very please with Westbow Press and would use them again. We are already writing the next book! God bless, let Him lead.

Allison Hall said...

Dear Timothy,

Thanks for the information regarding Lightning Source. Yes it is indeed a bit scary but financially it seems a bit better than Westbow's returns. You want your books out there but you also want the best return financially.

I will examine the options very carefully and hope that I will make the best decision.

James "Jim" Elstad said...

I'm finally ready to publish, I happened on your blog and found your dialogue on WestBow very interesting.

I entered the writing contest they sponsored with the Orange County Christian Writer's Club.

In the recent past I had been talking to one of their sales reps. He called me the other day and wanted me to commit to publishing that day. When I told him I didn't have the money then he was off the phone in less than a minute.

I e-mailed him that I might have the money soon, just couldn't commit today. That I'm looking for someone who will work with me on my work and not just want me to help them make a quick buck.

My question is: "Am I expecting too much?"

Timothy Fish said...

Jim,

I think that sounds a reasonable expectation.

Anonymous said...

hi there
thanx for all ur comments. i have been looking for the best publisher and I have contacted most of the above mentioned but I havent signed any contract with them and I dont think I will sign any with them. I am considerering Ouskirts press. Im facinated by their services. Do you know anything about them?

M.....

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 5:03,

I don't know enough about Outskirts Press to say one way or the other. They appear to function like most subsidy presses and their prices appear to be in the same ballpark as everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Good morning. I just completed a manuscript and I was ready to submit it to WestBow press. I posted a self-publishing question on LinkedIn and received a variety of comments.
I see that last year you posted some comments on their services. Do you have any updated information or feedback that you could provide? I appreciate any help before moving forward.
Thank you.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

Sorry I didn't respond sooner, your comment got caught by the spam filter for some odd reason. As for additional comments, most of anything worth mentioning appears in the comments to this post. Some of the people who have commented include people who have used the service as well as people associated with the company. I realize the comment list is long, but you may find it helpful to skim through what has been said.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your information on West Bow. Thank you for taking the time to help beginning authors like myself. It has helped me to make the best decision in choosing a publisher for my latest book. I had previously used Xulon Press and Christian Living Books (A division of Pneuma Life Publishing) and was not completely satisfied with either company. I now feel like WestBow will probably meet more of my expectations.

Rebecca Fussell said...

I stumbled onto your blog...Wow... I feel like I've just found a trusted friend. Thank you for your input and research! Has anyone ever gone to a local printer and been able to produce a professional looking book? I'm hoping to publish a gift book, so I really want the cover to be appealing. I can provide an edited manuscript etc... but need help producing the cover I'd like. Any thoughts?
Thanks again!
Rebecca

Timothy Fish said...

Rebecca,

While I've used local printers before, I've never used one for that type of book. The first thing I would do is choose the printer. Some may have the ability to design a cover you like, but even if you choose to have someone else design the cover, the printer will have to provide you with the dimensions for the cover. Even the kind of paper used in the book can change the dimensions significantly. Once you have that, there are many people who would like to design a cover for you. I can't make any recommendations, since I've never used them and because it is artwork and artwork is subjective. You can do a websearch and find some. Or sometimes, the person or company that designed a book cover will be credited on the copyright page of a book. If you see a book with a style you like, you might contact the cover designer. The better designers will give you several choices and continue to make any changes needed until the book is published, so budget a few hundred dollars for book cover design.

Rebecca Fussell said...

Thank you. That is very helpful. I appreciate it :)

C.G. said...

I just stumbled on your blog and thought I would ask you a question. I have also recently been talking with Westbow, but my situation is quite different. I would love your opinion. I have written and self-published a series of 6 books that are primarily for the homeschool market, but could also be in the Christian children's market. I pay a printer to do runs of 4000 books at a time. Then I market them myself to homeschool companies. Between the 6 books, we are averaging sales of 8,000-10,000 books a year. I have not been able to get my books into large Christian books stores or Barnes and Noble, etc. We are also struggling with storing and printing these quantities. That is why I started looking to a more traditional publisher. That is when Westbow started talking to me. They were very excited with our numbers (I know why after reading your responses) and assured me that they could get my books into larger retail stores. What would you reccomend? If I don't go with them...how do I get a traditional publisher to notice us?

Timothy Fish said...

C.G.,

Based on the numbers you gave and the sample page on your website, I think your books have the potential of being noticed by a traditional publisher, if you can get them in front of the right publishers. I don’t know which publishers those are. You may have a better idea than I do, since you probably have similar books around the house that were created by other authors.

I can understand Westbow Press being interested in your product, but I’m doubtful that a subsidy press will be your best option in a situation like this. Your product is aimed at a niche market that you appear to have an ability to market to. Unless a publisher is already focused on a particular niche, taking on such a project is high risk. Subsidy presses are designed in such a way that the publisher assumes almost no risk, so I doubt Westbow Press will do much more for your books than they would do for any other book that comes through.

I think the best choice would be to present the project as a package to a publisher that is marketing similar books. You would provide the publisher with a file that is ready to send to the printer and all they would have to do is make it available to their customers.

CG said...

Thanks! I appreciate your input. The only reason I was even considering WestBow was that somehow I got the impression that my books had a better chance ending up in Barnes and Nobles and Lifeway Christian Stores, etc. by going through them. Is this true? That is the part of the market that I can't seem to get into.

CG said...

I did just agree to have Amazon carry my books too....I thought that might help. Other vendors had posted my books for sale on Amazon, but Amazon itself had not carried my books up to this point.

Timothy Fish said...

CG,

The decision to place a book in a store comes down to a person or people within the store's organization. It's hard to say whether that person would be more likely to choose your book if it were part of the WestBow Press selection or not, since there are many things that could influence that decision. Given that you've already been doing more for your book than I would expect a company like WestBow Press to do, I don't think they would significantly improve your chances.

If you're looking for that "one thing" that has the best chance of getting your book in stores, success on Amazon.com will result in more placement in stores. I've found with my own book sales that in times when my books have done well on Amazon.com, I've sold more books to stores. In times when my Amazon.com sales have been down, the store sales have declined. Book industry people pay attention to Amazon.com.

Anonymous said...

I have just published a book with WestBow Press, and for the most part was satisfied. There were a few hurdles, but we got over them. Earlier comments I read about blank pages seem to be a tradition with WB. Mine was full of blank pages. The earlier comments about the indents are true, and authors need to carefully proof their final format before printing, even though it means reading the book one more time. The real problem I have found is in the pricing. I was told in the beginning I would pay a certain price, and the bookstores would pay a certain price. Once I ordered the books, and set up a book signing I found I had to pay such an enormous price for the book plus S/H that I couldn't order the books. The bookstores have to pay such a high price for the book that they can't afford to carry the book. Now I am faced with my dream sitting on a shelf. I seem to recall Author House had a similar deal. So be careful who you publish with, whether self, or regular.I asked all the right questions, but was still deceived by WB's lies. I have a beautiful book but can't market because it is too expensive compared to some other publishers. WB also takes 50% whereas others are 60/40 or better. Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Hi, My name is Graeme. I am from New Zealand and I am also an aspiring Author wannabe. Though primarily a businessman, I love writing and would like to be well published. This blog is the best I have read because the honesty is so refreshing. I think somewhere down the corridor of history, Christian leadership lost its honest voice, it was traded for cheap commerce and sales tactics, that for the most is kind of needed in business, but shouldn't have crossed over into the precious work of Salvation. So thank you Tim, this has been awesome. And just if you get time, do you have any ideas as to what the keys are to successful authoring is. What is it that separates the 1% from the 99%, how does an author by choice, cross over that line? Blessings Graeme

Timothy Fish said...

Graeme,

Thanks for the kind words and concerning the topic you suggested, I'll certainly enjoy providing my perspective on the subject, though I'm sure there are many people much more qualified to speak to the topic than me. I'll try to post the article as the Monday July 18, 2011 blog post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Timothy, you are such a gem! Thank you so much for your expertise and guidance. I would like to know more about createspace by amazon. Do they have distribution to the major suppliers such as taylor and Ingram? What about being offered on Barnes and Noble online and the other online book stores and also can you produce a book from cover to cover by using Createspace. I already do public speaking and have a large following to sell books. I have been talking to Westbow but I am a little turned off by some of the promises on their website such as the claim of reps working to get your book in the brick and mortar book stores. Please shed some light on create space. thank you

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous 9:25 PM,

You asked: Do they have distribution to the major suppliers such as taylor and Ingram?

Yes. CreateSpace books all have an ISBN and any book store, whether online or brick & mortar has the ability to order copies for about 40% less than the cover price. But the decision about which books they choose to stock is completely up to the store. Barnes and Noble is notorious for listing books and saying they are “currently unavailable.” Interestingly, they’re willing to sell a used copy of my book Church Website Design: A step by step approach for just under $50, but they won’t sell a new copy for $19. But they will sell Mother Not Wanted and my latest book Book Cover Design Wizardry: For the Self-publishing Author at a discount from the List Price.

At its lowest price, CreateSpace serves as a printer/distributor. For the more expensive packages, CreateSpace functions more like Westbow Press. In other words, they’ll give you as much handholding as you want (for a price). If you need someone to produce a paperback book from a manuscript, they do that. And if you’ve got the means to provide them with a print ready PDF, well, they’ll produce a book from that for even less. Once it is in their system, your book will be available worldwide. And in your case, since you may be able to sell several books at the back of the room, they’ll give you deep discounts on any books you buy direct and you can make even more money on those book sales than from those sold through stores.

Anonymous said...

I am considering WestBow Press for a book I am about to finish. I have read all the comments about WestBow, but have also been contacted by Friesen Press. Do you know anything about them?

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

I've never heard of them. These days, there are plenty of people who are starting similar companies. Most are simply repackaging services offered by companies like Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Sometimes that can be a good thing because they offer additional services. In other cases, they really are just a middleman.

Shannah B Godfrey said...

Westbow Press sounds no better than using CreateSpace yourself. It has templates for covers. You send in a pdf of your text, so no one is checking the grammar, spelling, or setting the type. And it only costs $39.00 per book. Personally, I use CreateSpace for all my books, now.

Anonymous said...

We wanted to communicate our recent experience with WestBow. The publishing consultant that was assigned to us was rude and condescending. When we asked him to email us the packages that are available for publishing, he said that it's available on the website and refused to send the link to us.

He then wanted to know how much we were willing to spend then he ranted for a full minute about having to know how much we wanted to spend before he would even talk to us about the publishing packages that are available.

We have been in contact with five different publishing companies and WestBow was by far the most unpleasant experience to date.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

I'm sorry to hear of your bad experience. Perhaps someone from that company will see your comment here and try to learn from it.

Titus 101 said...

Keith,
Okay, So I already wrote my first Book, and was extremely excited that WestBow actually contacted me back.
They pursued me for 6 months giving me plenty of time to come up with a payment plan. In the end they held true to a (what I thought was a reasonable rate) price for publishing my Book. I have already paid in full, and am finishing making the appropriate changes WestBow suggested. One of which was to indent all my starting paragraphs.
which I read as one of your frustration's with this professional publishing company.
Though WestBow has not responded for comment, my point is maybe they have taken your critique as literal? I'll soon know when I get my paid for end result.
Ill let you know

Anonymous said...

I thought it might be helpful for you all to know that the unresponsiveness spoken of in several of the previous posts extends to the customer service offered consumers. I paid for a download...and was sent a completely different book. Thinking I had made a mistake first...I double checked. I have emailed several times and have had no response...even replying from the invoice sent from the company to my email. Of course, the payment appeared on my credit card within 24 hours. I would not be comfortable ordering anything from this company again.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience. Both Michael Hyatt, Chairman at Thomas Nelson, and Kevin Weiss, Author Solutions, have said that there are the occassional customer service hiccups at WestBow. Obviously, you should try the normal path first, but Kevin Weiss has said that if you feel the system isn't working for you that you can contact him directly at kweiss@authorsolutions.com. AuthorSolutions is the company that has partnered with Thomas Nelson to create WestBow Press.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you guys use Lulu.com? It's an online self-publishing website/company (POD). You create your own book, you design your own cover (they have an awesome cover designer program) and you format the text yourself (they give you a pre-formatted Word Doc Template). All I did was edit my text the way I wanted it (chapters start on odd numbered pages) and off to the press your text goes. Besides, after all of the work, Lulu offers you a free personal copy. One way or another, you spend a couple hours (no more than three--editing) and you get a free book. It's a win-win situation and if nobody buys it, you have a book.

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

That is certainly an option that I've used before, but I think most of the people who choose to go with a company like WestBow Press are looking for less hands on work. In fact, it is my understanding that the company that implements WestBow Press actually has a do-it-yourself option that is similar to what Lulu and CreateSpace offer, but their emphesis is on the more expensive options.

Priscilla Turner said...

My long (over 500 pp.) spiritual autobiography is now live on Westbow's site. It has taken almost ten months, and I have had to do a pile of work on the design side in order to get it looking as I want. I have to say that it has been worth the effort. The finished product is really handsome.

There are still some hurdles to get over. Listings on the several national Amazon sites, B & N etc. are quite messy, with partial and inconsistent data all over. Apparently nothing happens automatically, but there is no consistent human intervention either. I haven't seen any sign so far of "Reps. working to sell to Christian people". That is part of all the packages that they sell. I still lack a Tax ID which as a non-US citizen or resident I need to avoid withholding tax on royalties.

The Westbow site is not hugely literate: it has never been spell-checked or proofread, and sports such gems of Huck Finn dialect as "based off of". More fundamentally, I still don't know what exactly is Christian about Westbow: is it and its 'staff' more than an enticing label for ASI?

Mike said...

Does CreateSpace provide indenting and manuscript clean-up services like the ones that you mentioned as important in their total design freedom interior package ($379)?

Timothy Fish said...

Mike,

I do not know. If you have questions, I highly recommend that you direct your question to CreateSpace. I believe their policy is to reply within two business days.

Mike said...

I have done so and am awaiting their response. I was wondering if you had any information to provide. Thanks. I would like to know your opinion of Tate Publishing, as well. I was offered a contract by them and am wondering which direction to take.

Timothy Fish said...

Mike,

Since you've actually requested a contract, I probably know less than you. If you can, I would love for you to send me a copy so I can see what terms they put in it.

My impression of Tate Publishing is that they are a subsidy press that is trying to pass themselves off as a traditional publisher. My understanding is that they ask their authors to make a "$4000 investment". I don't like it when a company hides something like that. It makes me wonder what else they are hiding. True traditional publishers take on the risk of publishing the book. They frequently pay royality advances. They give their authors some number of copies of their books to give out. They do not charge their authors for services. For all I know, Tate Publishing is a very good subsidy press, I just wish they would be upfront about it.

Anonymous said...

I sent you an email.

Fred said...

I have been in communication with someone from Westbow Press and they seemed pretty eager in the hunt to get me to publish with them. As an unpublished author this seemed gratifying (at least on the surface). I asked, albeit not cautiously, if I should be concerned about the association they have with Author Solutions and my hesitancy to even begin such a courtship. Since that email I haven't had a reply. Undaunted, I have still employed a private editor to review my manuscript and am engaged in the kind of arduous process of rewriting as much as needs to be rewritten. I have a publishing company in mind that has information up front in so comprehensive a template it makes it a little hard for me to understand how some vanity publishers can lure and land some authors into such confining contracts, to say nothing of requirements of huge quantities of books ordered. I'll reply with a link to this company (it's in Canada so there should be even better deals for you who live in the U.S.)
Until I get through this process I just urge anyone reading that there are many viable alternative ways to get your words out at a reasonable. I really like the dialogue across so many topics that are forefront in so many writers' minds being discussed here

Sonya said...

Ran across this site just by chance..or maybe not.I searching for a publisher for a short book of poetry(less than 100 pgs)inspired by the Holy Spirit. I can honestly say that making money has never been much of a thoughtas I feel this is something that has been entrusted to me by GOD for His people and I am proud and honored to do it for no other reason for allthat He has done for me.I have just have had such a hard time trying to find someone reputable and honest who is not just after my money...,which is very little. I only have $1,000.00 to invest in bringing this book to fruition I possibly cld come up with a couple hundred more if need be but not much more as I have been unemployed for quite some time.I have submitted it to one co(R.H.Boyd)are you familiar with them.Just from my communications with them via phone I have asked that they return my manuscripted unread in the pre-paid envelope provided and even that has been a problem. I have spoken once with Westbow who did not keep a scheduled return call to discuss this further.From these comments I am going to take a closer look at Create Space and Winepress...ant preference between the two? Thank you in advance.You are a blessing Tim

Timothy Fish said...

Sonya,

Since staying under $1,000 is a major, Createspace remains an option while Winepress doesn't even have a seat at the table. I'm not sure how they compare if you were to select the same services at Createspace that you would use at Winepress, but Winepress starts at $2,800. The lowest price for Createspace works out to be the cost of printing and shipping one book, if you do the typesetting yourself, and it is around $400, to let them do it. If you want someone to edit your work, it will cost you extra. Lulu is another option. Their pricing is similar to Createspace.

anonymous said...

I really appreciate all the comments about West Bow. I am big on customer service and have been hesitant about taking the final plunge to publish with them. Lack of call backs and they say they can't predict what the price of my book would be, bothers me. I published with publish America back in 2001. I sold 1,700 books, and dropped the marketing ball because I was furious over the price of the book. They were trying to sell my book for 24.95 on Amazon, when comparable books were retailing for 14.95. If someone out there is firm on a great publisher, please, let me know. Thanks.

Priscilla Turner said...

Anon, the Westbow pricing structure for a 6x9 book is as follows:--

Paperback

$ 9.95 (48-96 pages)
$11.95 (100-144 pages)
$13.95 (148-192 pages)
$17.95 (196-240 pages)
$19.95 (244-288 pages)
$22.95 (292-336 pages)
$24.95 (340-384 pages)
$27.95 (388-432 pages)
$30.95 (436-480 pages)
$34.95 (484-560 pages)
$38.95 (564-640 pages)
$40.95 (648-720 pages)
$42.95 (724-740 pages)

Hardcover

$28.95 (108-144 pages)
$30.95 (148-192 pages)
$33.95 (196-240 pages)
$35.95 (244-288 pages)
$37.95 (292-336 pages)
$39.95 (340-384 pages)
$42.95 (388-432 pages)
$43.95 (436-480 pages)
$44.95 (484-560 pages)
$45.95 (564-640 pages)
$48.95 (648-720 pages)
$51.95 (724-740 pages)

For my 500+ pp. book, with Amazon discounts in the US and UK, and thebookdepository.com in Canada, the prices are not half bad, given that I have been really fussy about formatting and general presentation. I had to be really insistent about font sizes and the number of lines to the page.

Timothy Fish said...

Thanks, Priscilla.

doris said...

I am ready, I think, to publish my book of reflective poems and am considering the e-book option. Do you have any thoughts on that process? I have looked into both WestBow and Inspiring Voices (affiliated with Guideposts). They seem similar. I also wonder about BookRix for self-publishing. I would appreciate any thoughts on this type of publishing route.

pamfranksalmon said...

Dear Timothy Fish, Our son has trustingly put into our hands the task of finding a publisher for his book. He has not had a book that has been published. We are completely "uninformed" in this area! Babes in the dark woods, so to speak. His book is comparing the various stages and incidents of dieing to that of birthing labor. It is a very inspiring book with a fresh new look at what is a very difficult experience with a Christian slant. Anything you can do to enlighten us would be very much appreciated. God bless you for all that you do so unselfishly in helping others in this area. Pam and Frank

WritingDoctor said...

Thanks Timothy. So helpful to read all of this blog tonight. I have writing in boxes and boxes and it is time to get a book or books published. This motivates me. I was running a writers group but now I just need to write, write, write and get my work out there.
My first call from WestBow was pleasant.
But I will look into Lulu and CreateSpace and even lightningsource.
Thanks for offering your valuable time.

Anonymous said...

My sentiments are like many on here. Thanks Tim. I have never published before and am a novice to publishing. Having filled and online form, WestBow called me today. The agent was very pleasant and gave some good thoughts on what to do with my concept. He was keen to offer the second level package with a promise that it would get to Amazon, etc.
Nothing was said of sales numbers, royalties, what I should expect to make; but he was clear that I would need to set aside an extra $1000 for editorial and up to $1,500 for marketing. Was a bit confusing as I thought the $1,900 or so covered that.
Must admit I was buoyed by the phone all and now since reading this blog a huge sense of realism set in. I figured that WestBow would push my book, but seems like I would still need to do a lot of the promotional work. Some of the PoD providers you mention may be my best option in the flight that I really want to spend $2,000-$3,000 as an initial investment.

I just need to figure out realistically, with and sel publishing deal, what type of return will I get and after what period of time

Priscilla Turner said...

Anon, I found that Westbow's Bookstore Advantage package approaches a good deal only because my book is really long and substantial, and I did piles of work myself. Their sample edit was truly pathetic, a complete job to their 'expert' standards would have cost thousands; and they effectively make no publicity for you unless you pay lots extra for one of their additional packages.

Recently I got an offer to pay them money for my book's being shown at some Christian trade show. This would have meant being lumped in with everything else which comes out under the Westbow label. A glance at the site shows that you do not want your literate, well-planned and proofread product associated with some of their list. You need to have or create your own platform that sharply differentiates your writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Priscilla

Chris Miller said...

Hello,

I currently work for WestBow Press and I was just doing some side research, checking out the general buzz and such and reading through blogs.

One thing I have noticed is that a search for WestBow doesn't bring up very many complaints, but maybe just some appointment's?

Anyways, I am more than willing to field any questions you might have and I am confident that we really are the best choice out there... of course there is a conflict of interest in me sharing my opinion, but I am more than glad to substantiate it!

Also, a lot has improved since this initial review in 2010 and I would be curious as to what Tim would say now.

Chris Miller said...

eh hem.... some disappointments... I meant disappointments.

Priscilla Turner said...

I have had something to say about my experience with Westbow Press on two other blogs as follows:–

http://accrispin.blogspot.ca/2009/10/thomas-nelson-adds-self-publishing.html

and http://behlerblog.com/2011/01/24/writers-digest-jumps-in-bed-with-author-solutions/

Brittney Perillo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mellow roc said...

Tim, I have learned much in reading your blog and collectively the sentiments echo a friend's advisement that can be summed up as , buyer beware. Westbow, CreateSpace and Xulon are of interest for my 80 typed page novella, and am leaning toward Westbow for both the print and
E-book option.
I am sight-impaired and so am sensitive to the fact there are bookworms who use other media than print.
Like some others, financial constraints are limited to about 2 grand at most for everything. If one hires a private editor and purchases their own ISBN, will companies like Westbow knock the price down? Or, is it best to go through the editing, proofing, production process with a publisher?
Thanks so much!
David
http://graftedinandonthejourney.blogspot.com

Timothy Fish said...

David,

In a way, yes, but I need to explain. Since you are leaning toward WestBow Press, let’s look at it in particular. My understanding is that you can pick one of their predefined packages and add services from there, or you can start from scratch and pick the services you need—a build your own package kind of deal. Their Essential Access package is priced at $999. One of the differences between the $999 Essential Access Package and the $1,899, Pro Format Package is a service called “Editorial Review”. That is a $342 service. For the fee, they promise to edit about 1,700 words (the first chapter or so) and some general comments about the rest of the manuscript. If you were to hire your own editor, it would be pointless to pay the $342 for the WestBow service.

But here’s the kicker. The “E-book Format and Distribution” service is not available as an add-on, so since that is one of the things you want, you are required to purchase one of the packages that has it. The Pro Format Package is the lowest priced package that has it, so you would end up paying $342 for the editorial review anyway.

As for the ISBN, it’s a good thought, but you will not save money by acquiring your own ISBN. Because WestBow Press is able to acquire a large block of ISBNs, the fees amount to about $1 per ISBN. It makes no difference in their budget whether you use one of theirs or you provide one of your own. But it would cost you a significant amount of money to acquire one ISBN.

Priscilla Turner said...

David, I see from your blog that yours will be a Christian book. I feel the need to say that in all my experience with Westbow, I could discern no Christianity at all. The sample edit showed terrible ignorance, as though I was effectively dealing with ASI under a Christian label and with Westbow's middleman price added. In fact I am left wondering whether Westbow actually exists.

mellow roc said...

Hello Timothy and all.
I took a few deep breaths over the last 24 hours and told the rep from Westbow, not at this time, I need a couple more weeks to settle on what will work for me; that a respectful reply to her initial email after our phone conversation of Thursday evening.
Gleaning what is here, I got the same feeling about Xulon. So am back to square 1 with a burning desire in my heart to get this novella edited, published and distributed in E-book and print, hopefully this summer.
I tried to navigate Creative Space but it doesn't seem to work well with screen reading software as it may be highly graphical.
In Westbow's favor, they have an easy site to navigate, offer print and E-book combo.
The price I was quoted for everything was $2090. That included 10 complementary books once ready. I like that.
Considering I may work with a yet to be discovered self publisher, I did send an email to the English Department at our local CC to see if someone there would work with me for hire on editing the 80 page novella. Ms. Turner's comments were what put the flag up for me with Westbow, and the summation that Xulon would give me a bound book period, told me oops I need more than that.
Again, I am sight-impaired so need the trust factor to be pretty high, and have about 2 grand to work with and cannot afford much or any, oh by the ways, beyond that.
I have been advised to not settle for any hidden extras a publisher may try to tuck on once the ball is rolling so to speak.
If there are other small
self publishers you can recommend that will work with folk on limited budgets, please do so. Again much thanks to you for prolonging this topic!
You may well be the Dave Ramsay of the writers' world, Timothy..
Have you considered talk radio?
David or Mellow Roc which is my blog name

Timothy Fish said...

David,

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but no, I don't think that's for me. If people find something I've said helpful, I'm glad of that, but for the most part, I'm just a guy trying to figure it out like everyone else.

Pete said...

Tim: It is amazing to see the dialog continue! Thank you for persevering and providing so much information. Will you please let me know at any time if you have any specific or ongoing questions to which you would like an official answer?

Pete Nikolai
Director of Publishing Services
WestBow Press

mellow roc said...

Timothy, I don't wish to belabor things and thus ware out my welcome but just wanted to check in and say I am looking at crossbooks.com which sounds very similar to Westbow Press, so if nothing else, I am learning how the market works which is a
great awareness!
One week ago I was clueless about all this but thankful for the wise counsel I had and have received through collective folk including you and those here. You are sooo right on with the phrase, trying to figure it out.
Yet we are promised wisdom from our Creator if we but ask. I would suggest to Mr. Nikolai and any other publisher types reading that what is needed for some of us is some type of demonstration that your service is reliable, dependable and trustworthy.
It costs a lot to publish a book, 2 grand basically, and if some of us feel called we are like Noah or Moses being called, totally reliant on
the Great I Am to show us the next step in the process.
I cannot imagine standing on a strip of land, holding a rod, having it turn into a serpent, than back into a rod so God is demonstrating his presence with me in the call. For first timers, it feels much like that same dynamic in my opinion.

I therefore, would voice the following to those in the publishing business to think well and long about:
Trust is earned not just advertised.
BTW that concept was from the Minnirth Meier Clinic whom I think published with Thomas Nelson some years ago.
Timothy and all here, Thanks so much, I and many are indebted
to you!
If you were here I would offer you a strong cup of coffee.. :)

Anonymous said...

I recently finished my Christian manuscript and contacted West Bow via email. The ONLY way they would communicate with me was over the phone. I emailed back and explained that I am at work when they call and am not near a phone at work (nor can I make time then to discuss my book).
They wouldn't listen to me so I gave up on them.
Any ideas on a reliable publisher or literary agent who handles Christian books?

James Castellano said...

I didn't read through all the posts. I have two questions:

1. Did you ever get a response from them on the covers? I've had constant communications with their sales staff, although I have not yet decided to use them.

2. What is your background? Are you in publishing?

Priscilla Turner said...

James, one can search for “cover” in order to save time. It’s quite enlightening.

I provided my own covers, designed by me using one of my own negatives from long ago, scanned and then manipulated in Photoshop. The book needed this image of a real place at particular time, because of its high significance in the narrative. Apart from finding the Old Gold on my first specimen copies to be a bit weak, and so having to ask for some more saturation, I had no problems getting what I had envisaged. It was, like everything else, lots of work, but worth it to get what I wanted. Nobody has said that it looks bad, front or rear, and the people that understand my book appreciate the allusion.

You can see it on the WestBow site. The book came out late last fall. If I could blow my own trumpet as designer and author without blowing my own cover (!!!) as a pseudonymous writer I’d do that; but I can’t, and I trust all of you not to betray me. Read some of the Google preview and you will understand.

On a different note, WestBow have sent me yet another invitation to pay lots of money for representation at the same big fair. I’d be in there with all the other authors who could pay, regardless of the merits of the book. I still want to know why I was promised “Reps. Working to Sell to Christian Book-buyers” in my contract when this is all that actually happens for my money.

Priscilla Turner said...

I ought to have written “to Christian Booksellers” in my last.
Come on, Westbow, no reaction? How much good publicity you’d get from me, and probably others, if you honoured your contract by automatically featuring books at such a fair for nothing! As it is, the rave review that I have from J.I. Packer (Google “J.I. Packer” and “Westbow Press” to get straight to it) has never rung any bells with any of your staff. Who’s left to grant such an imprimatur now that J.R.W. Stott has gone? Another indication that “WestBow” is just a label and the Christianity notional.
Don’t ask me about Westbow’s apparent ignorance of the largest Christian book outlet in the Pacific Northwest, I might tell you …

Priscilla Turner said...

Fascinatingly, the “Reps. Working …” clause of my contract has now vanished from the description of all Westbow’s packages. Instead I see that, for the Bookstore Advantage package that I have paid for, “30 Free Bookstubs” have been substituted. It’d be nice to have those at this stage. Or representation at the upcoming Youth Leaders’ Conference for free, instead of Westbow’s wanting to charge me US$500.00.

Tillie said...

Timothy, Wow! Thank-you for the great communications. I have just finished my manuscript on my daughter's trip to Heaven, "Mommy, Mommy, I went to Heaven" and Westbow is one of the lead publishers I was looking at. You have helped me rethink that. I have been offended by publishers claining thier editors get picked up by traditional compnaies but Westbow really has only had 8 and is very proud of it. Others may not even have that. I am very impressed with all the information ookstand Publishing provides and wonder if you have any experience or thoughts regarding hat company and their claims? Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Timothy thanks for the info. I now know my plan of attack. It is very useful and you answered questions I would had never thought to ask. May God bless you... PS: I think Ms Turner's welcome is over extended... she really needs to get her own blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
I am working with Westbow Press on publishing a children's book. I have bought their plan, submitted my script and illustrations, and have just received my proofs to go over. They were sent to me in portrait position and I called to tell them that they were supposed to be in landscape. I was shocked to find out that they don't offer landscape! I never saw anything in their information that said that. I feel lost as to what to do now that all my plans have been made for a landscape position book. Am I stuck with something I don't want????

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your information. It was very enlightening to me. Have you had any dealings with Dorrence Publishing, they are like s subsibsy company, what does that mean in details. Do you know enough about them to comment or give me some information in plain talk what I should look out for or expect?

Anonymous said...

Hey Timothy
I have written a book, and i am leaning towards publishing with xulon press because they are giving me a 7 book deal with my own website. what do you say about that.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me if you have already answered this question for anyone. Is there any self publishing company that you would recommend? Perhaps one that you have seen put out good quality work? I am working on a childrens picture book.

Susy Matthew said...

Hi, I am an author from India,and have recently published my first book - In a Bubble of Time. Its a historical novel and done fairly well in the subcontinent. WestBow has contacted me to get the book into USA. I was so excited, but now having read all the different comments on WestBow, I am hesitant, and nervous. What am I getting myself into? The most scary part of the contract is that should things not work out, I would have to buy back my own book from them...Ouch! Do you think I can ask them to alter the contract...will they agree to? What do I do?

Pat Gilliss said...

I did do a book with westbow.I was very unhappy with the way almost everything was handled.
I had bought the 4000.00 pkg on sale for only 3200.00
I pulled out of westbow press and am now self published with Create space.com.
If you know how to put your own book on there it is only 25.00. If they have to do it for you or help you it is about 275.00 what a difference! The quality of my book is very nice. It has a crease down the left side for folding the cover open,no extra blank pages,and it is automatically put online with Createspace, Amazon and Barnes and Noble! Available all over the world.
The cost for me per book is so much cheaper than westbows' prices.
I could not afford to buy in bulk from them so my books cost alot. Now they only cost 3.01 including shipping each! I had to have the cover redone, but you can see a wonderful difference.
The book is now corrected... It is now a book I am proud of. I could not afford another 1500.00 to get it corrected the first time.
I would reccommend this company Createspace to everyone! I am now working on my next book.
You can feel free to go online to see the different covers on amazon WHAT A Difference!!
You Asked God For WHAT?! By Pat Gilliss.
As for not finding the email in the westbow book that was left up to me. I had mine put in it. Have a great Day! Pat Gilliss

Anonymous said...

Tim: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the thoughts of others on your blog. I am completely new to the world of publishing my first book. It is a scary world, one that I have so little information about. I contacted Westbow a couple of weeks ago about publishing my first book with them. I was drawn to them because of their Christian parent - Thomas Nelson Publishers. The information you have shared is very helpful. The sales rep I am dealing with at Westbow has been very professional, and has told me that I will not sell any books if I publish with Createspace. He may be right, I just don't know. Last night I asked God for wisdom in this decision, and today I came across your blog. Awesome! I still don't know which way I will go, but I certainly appreciate the new information from you and others in this blog. God bless you, keep up the good work! BN

Timothy Fish said...

Anonymous,

Obviously, there is already a great deal of information in the original post and in the comments that so many people have left that you may find helpful. I do want to say, however, that if someone told you that you won't be able to sell any books if you publish through Createspace, he is mistaken. But whichever company you go with, success is largely dependent on how well you market your book.

Anonymous said...

I have been receiving calls from Author House who told me today she would have Westbow contact me, that was after I told her my book was Christian. Westbow called and for some reason I decided to google Westbot and came across this blog..I am thankful for doing that, my eyes are open now.

FREEdom from MEdom Project said...

I've read a boatload of comments on Timothy's Thoughts blog dating back to 2010. WestBow Press has been communicating with me. Alicia insisted that she is a publishing consultant and NOT the sales person that she is. She gave me a homework assignment between phone calls to go through e-documents she sent me. I gave her a homework assignment to view my writing on my website, FREEdom from MEdom Project (www.freedomfrommedom.com). Guess who didn't do her homework assignment?

She emphasized that the WestBow Press contract is an agreement in principle, more or less, and not an exclusive binding contract. So I asked then why all the legal language, and Alicia (who did a good job being professional and supportive about my ideas) spun a savvy response.

A pastor friend of mine, Francis Leeman published on Create Space and his book is awesome. The cover art is fantastic. Anyway, I'd like to know if you have a Create Space experience; editing costs, who you used for editing, etc.

Create Space so far appears to be the option to pursue.

Timothy Fish said...

For the books I used CreateSpace for, I did the design work myself and used them for printing and distribution. I don't know that that approach is ideal for everyone, but it works for me and it keeps my costs low enough that it is easy to make a profit.

nathan Banda said...

I just have authored my book 'Moments That Shaped My Life: Life of an ordinary Malawian Boy' through Westbow Press. Below is my timeline:
March 2013 - Manuscript Sent
June 19, 2013 - Title live
July 7, 2013 - Ordered books arrived

I am ver pleased with Westbow Press. I worked with professionals and they were timely in there responses throughout the journey. I should express here that there has been no time when I have felt being pressured into a decision.
I am impressed with the quality of the book and how quickly it has come out. I would not have asked for any thing better.
My book is already making a very good impression on the market.
As I speak more that 65 copies are already gone. I have scheduled events this month end in the local library and at Chapters Book store.
I have had two interviews with local radio stations, and one with the prin media.
If one would ask me where I would be taking my 2nd novel for publication, without hesitation I will answer, Westbow Press.

Anonymous said...

Hello Everyone~

I'm finding the posts here very interesting. I'm in the process of publishing with Westbow Press.
First, let's look at a term used in sales: ROI (Return On Investment). To me, this publishing issue is about balancing 2 thins- the ROI and my faith. At 62, I feel like I have an advantage of 20+ years in sales and a 12 year business I founded and directed. My sales were driven mostly from word of mouth after about 6-8 years. But it was extremely tough to get to this point. Also, my business was highly successful, also being driven by word of mouth. But I invested a ton of time and resources to get started. So, I see a couple parallels with the book. Understand marketing (exposure of who you are and what you do) and sales (the result of good marketing). I think we (as authors)better have a good elevator pitch, but that's not all. Check your motive. What is it? Money? Or touching others through the written word? Or both? My goal is to encourage and comfort as I write. I believe the money will follow if my motive is right. I know I have not only the skill-set but gift to write that GOD gave me. In conclusion-be practical. Know yourself. Know your Publisher. Trust God. Do your part.

Jey Ruffin said...

I am excited that there are so many Christian writers or hopefuls like myself. I am also excited about this blog. Like another writer said, I had just prayed for direction and almost immediately came across this blog. Thank you Timothy for your insightful, informative and apparent unbiased and honest opinion. Your and your followers have helped me a great deal. I am asking for the prayers of those who know the power of prayer to pray with me that my writing will be completed this year and that Sunday schools across the nation will take advantage of the years and labor of love and devotion that I have poured into this handbook as I believe that it will truly be a blessing to the Kingdom of God.

Thank you and may God continue to bless your ministry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, I have read all the comments on publishing and continue to be confused. I spoke with WestBow Press, looked into them. but after reading all what you said I don't think I will go with them. What are your thoughts on Crossbooks and on Tate? Please let me know what you have found out on them. I need to make a decision soon. I don't know who to go with.
thank you

Michele Kunz said...

Hello Timothy, I found your Blog infomative and helpful however it left me with questions? I am ready to publish my first book and while I would love to do it completely on my own and use CreateSpace or Amazon for my publishing needs, I am not ready to tackle all the responsibilites associated with using these services. I know that when using these companies the author is responsible for taxes and liabilities, and as a new author the process itself is overwhelming. I am ready to move forward and understand that I still have the responsibilty of marketing and because money is a consideration, I am searching for a company that is honest and can produce a proper book. Can you please suggest a company that offers new authors peace of mind when trying to move forward. Thank you in advance - Michele

Michele Kunz said...

Hello Timothy, I found your Blog infomative and helpful however it left me with questions? I am ready to publish my first book and while I would love to do it completely on my own and use CreateSpace or Amazon for my publishing needs, I am not ready to tackle all the responsibilites associated with using these services. I know that when using these companies the author is responsible for taxes and liabilities, and as a new author the process itself is overwhelming. I am ready to move forward and understand that I still have the responsibilty of marketing and because money is a consideration, I am searching for a company that is honest and can produce a proper book. Can you please suggest a company that offers new authors peace of mind when trying to move forward. Thank you in advance - Michele

Priscilla Turner said...

Unless you are really stuck on HB, which CreateSpace won't do, my suggestion is that you go to Goodreads and the Christian Fiction Devourers group and appeal for beta readers. I've handled a couple of texts for Christian people there and eliminated very many proofreading errors for would-be authors. That way they published without that 'indie' look.

A Nurturing Moment said...

Just finished reading all comments. About 6 years ago my agent got Thomas Nelson interested in my book and called me excitedly. She said they were discussing marketing etc. however a couple of weeks later she called me to tell me they were going to be cutting about 1/3 of their backlist. My book ended up not making it. I later found out that was about the time they were creating a self- publishing option. I was discouraged and just let the contract with my agent run out (she had 3 years to try to find a publisher, but after Thomas Nelson falling apart, she gave up). I am convinced that now is the right time. We are actually creating a promotional line of products to go with the book. I have been talking to Westbow for about 3 years. I plan to use a crowd-funding site to raise the money for publishing and will be offering front cover, back cover and other picture opportunities in the book. I guess I'm still not 100% convinced that Westbow is right for me, especially because my book is so clearly designed for a Christian market. But I do like the bookseller return because I am in a network with about 150 baby stores that may very well be wiling to stock it if we have that clause. I am really open to suggestions here!

Priscilla Turner said...

The bookseller return will expire after a time and you will have to pay to renew it.

I am not personally convinced that it did a thing for my sales: getting your book into bookshops in the first place is the basic problem.

Tim Perior said...

I have worked with photography and design clients for 35 years and have never had an experience so terrible as with WestBow Press. I had written a 160 page book of poetry and short stories with a finished manuscript and I had finished artwork for the cover. WestBow Editorial took it and completely changed text, titles and punctuation, but I thought fine that is their suggestion. I specified I did not want the text changed, not the fonts or interior text design and it went to WestBow Design. They altered every page and changed my cover design, scrapped my spine (when I had told them I would adjust it according to the width they would specify). This went on and on for 7 months until they refused to allow me to submit a brighter color cover (because RGB to CMYK had dulled the images). I had no choice but to walk away without any refund. I have never in all my professional photography, graphic design and writing career had to deal with a company like WestBow.

Priscilla Turner said...

Tim, you must have contracted with their 'editors' for any disruptive changes to be made to your text. I never paid for any such work, after their sample edit proved to be illiterate, both technically and spiritually. It was clear that if the people were even native speakers at all they were incompetent. I therefore kept my text entirely in my own hands.

As for the cover design, yes, it can be a long battle to get what you want.

The basic problem is that you are simply a paying customer in the hands of ASI under a misleading label. 'Westbow' is not a press at all. Nobody there is interested in your book as such.