Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tate Publishing

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked to give an opinion of Tate Publishing (legally, Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC). When I was originally asked, I had very little basis to form an opinion, other than from what I could find online and that left a bad taste in my mouth. According to their website, Tate Publishing claims to be a traditional publisher. This is interesting because authors who have used them mention a $4,000 fee. By definition, that fee makes them a subsidy press rather than a traditional publisher. I don’t like it when companies hide stuff.

I began to understand them a little better when I had the opportunity to look at the contract they ask their authors to sign. The $4,000 fee is actually a $3,990 fee that they classify as a publicist setup fee. Essentially, they require their authors to have a professional publicist. If they don’t, Tate Publishing will charge them $3,990 to use one of theirs. They claim that the publicist is valued at $20,000 per year, but they will absorb that cost. They also claim that they budget $27,000 for editing, production, marketing, etc.

Consider, if their claims are true, $3,990 is a very good deal. It is a little higher than most people are paying for a subsidy press to publish their book, but Tate Publishing functions more like a traditional publisher. Besides, once you sell 1,000 copies of your book, Tate Publishing will refund the $3,990. I may be coining a phrase, but I want to call that a reverse advance, since the author is paying the publisher with the option of getting it back once the publisher earns enough money from the book.

But the problem I see with Tate Publishing’s claims is we have no way to verify that they are accurate. First, the contract states that Tate Publishing is under no obligation to tell the author how the $27,000 allocated for the book is being spent. For all we know, the bulk of it could be allocated toward printing books as the orders come in. That would allow them to allocate the funds on paper, but it would be a very low risk because they wouldn’t spend it until the orders come in. That is just one possibility. It is also quite possible that they are actually spending that money.

Consider also the $20,000 annual publicist fee. This appears to be going to another company called Key Marketing Group. According to the Tate Publishing website, Key Marketing Group is providing six people. Three and a half of these people have the title of “Publicist”. For good or ill, that appears to be the smallest department Tate Publishing has. Their editing department does appear to be quite large, which speaks well for at least part of the $27,000 going toward editing. But Tate Publishing says they absorb the $20,000. My question would be, where do they get the $20,000 from. Are they getting the $20,000 from the $27,000, in which case only $7,000 would go toward everything else? Are they actually allocating $47,000 per book (which would put them more in line with traditional publishers)? Is the $20,000 the result of creative accounting? It isn’t clear.

But consider this: a search for books published by Tate Publishing yields 8,131 results on Amazon.com. Let’s assume that Key Marketing Group is charging Tate Publishing $100,000 per man-year. With six employees allocated to Tate Publishing, that works out to $600,000. Divide that by 8,131 and you are looking at about $75 per book per year for publicists. Those are rough figures, but they are enough to tell us that they don’t have the staffing level required to do what they claim they are doing. It isn’t proof of anything, but it smells a little off.

So let’s look at editing. Traditional publishers budget around $5,000 for editing. Tate Publishing has 32 editors (not including acquisitions editors). These are in-house people, so let’s assume a rate of $50 per hour (salary, benefits, LOE, etc.). Amazon.com indicates that Tate Publishing published 1,496 paperbacks last year. There are approximately 2,000 working hours in a year so 64,000 hours for the editorial staff. So on average, each book published was allocated 40 hours of editorial time. Or approximately $2,000. It would appear then, that Tate Publishing is providing editing, but it is still along the lines of what you would expect from a subsidy press rather than a traditional publisher.

Let’s look at it another way. Tate Publishing as about 165 employees. At $50 per hour, that means their staff costs them about $16.5 million per year. That works out to be about $11,030 per book they publish each year. By the time you throw in equipment cost and other overhead, I could see them making the claim that they are allocating $27,000 per book. I think the $20,000 publicist fee is bogus and I don’t really care whether the $3,990 goes directly to Key Marketing Group or if it helps pay down the $27,000.

While Tate Publishing is a subsidy press and is less selective than most traditional publishers, it appears that their structure forces them to function somewhat like what we would expect from a traditional publisher. The amount authors are subsidizing them will not cover their expenses, so they must rely on the income from book sales to stay in business. Whatever problems Tate Publishing might have, the need to sell books in order to make a profit is a good thing for the authors who choose to use them. I still feel that they are less honest than a self-proclaimed Christian publisher should be and I fear that some of the books they are selling are not what a Christian publisher should be publishing, but I imagine that authors who are willing to spend $4,000 to get their book published could do a lot worse.


Iola said...

I researched Tate last year after offering to review one of their books, although I didn't go into nearly the detail you have - well done!

What concerned me was that Tate shows up on the list of Christy Award publishers - and the list of Writer Beware! publishers to avoid. This, to me, just doesn't send a good message.

I pretty much agree with you - if someone can't get a 'traditional' royalty-paying publisher, then you may as well self-publish. But if they are going to self-publish, they need to get professional help with the editing and proof-reading.

However, I note that Thomas Nelson is now actively promoting WestBow as their self-publishing arm. I have less of a problem with this, as they are being up-front about it and you get the benefit of a known Christian brand.

But authors will have to weigh up, for themselves, if that branding is worth the cost, because the author will still need to undertake the bulk of the marketing themselves.

Anonymous said...

According to author and editor Kristine Kathryn Rusch, "The average cost for a mass market original is about $250,000 (with a $5,000 advance to the author factored in)"


So Tate's claim to put up 37K of their money on a book means they can't possibly do a mass printing + distribution to stores. Their books are laughably underfunded with that number.

Therefore, one might conclude they are strictly Print On Demand, but want potential customers (writers) make the assumption they'll get a big print run and have bookstore placement. (Not happening.)

According to a former employee, they accept 20+ books a month. Business must be astonishing if they can toss out 740,000.00 bucks every month on unknown new writers with no track record of sales.

Or maybe that's just sales pitch wordage so Tate can snag another 4 grand from an unsuspecting new writer.


Anyway, stores refuse to stock vanity published books, a detail you won't find on any vanity website.

Pay to publish operations are out to get money from writers, NOT sell books to readers. At best, they offer a questionable service, there's no oversight, the writer just has to trust that they're being told the whole story.

Since vanities are the hookers of the publishing world (your book is sexy so long as you have cash) one should take their claims with a fifty gallon container of salt, not just a grain.


I'd sign under my own name, but Tate has threatened me with legal action for sharing the these links about them. I'm fond of my home and would rather not lose it. :(

Trinity Tate said...

My name is Trinity Tate-Edgerton, Exec Director of Acquisitions at TATE PUBLISHING, LLC. I would be honored if anyone who has questions about Tate Publishing would contact us directly at
(888)361-9473...you can even ask for me directly or I am number 1 on our phone system if you want to leave me a message. I would be happy to speak with you to help you get a better idea of how, if possible, we can meet your needs. I may even be able to sway you in the direction of what you may be searching for, if it is not a good fit with us here at Tate. We may not be the answer for every author but we do work very hard to meet your needs and make this an affordable option for you to get the publicity and marketing that your book truly deserves. I also would be happy to get you in touch with any of our Tate Publishing Authors if you would like to speak to anyone directly about their experience with us! Thank you for this forum too! I love that authors and literature lovers have a place to come to get support and feedback from people who care about giving advice and opinions on where authors can go! Hope everyone is ready for a great 2014 and I hope to hear from anyone who wishes to speak with us further!