Many new publishing companies are offering “partnership” agreements or Hybrid Publishing contracts, where they ask for a financial contribution to publishing costs often in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but what are you really getting for your money?
Traditional Publishing companies don’t ask for a contribution because they are compensated through royalties from the book. It’s not a crime for a publishing company to want to expand or make money by providing author services. This can be a good thing. In fact, I know of a couple very good assisted Author Services who offer quality services and care about you and your book.
What I’m opposed to is the lack of transparency from some of these companies about outsourcing their services to lesser quality providers, what they will actually do for the author (especially around marketing) and the predatory approach to securing payment.
Money seems to be well spent on fluffy copy and telemarketers enticing people to part with their well-earned cash but you must ask – WHAT AM I REALLY GETTING FOR THE PRICE I’M PAYING.
It’s important to research and understand what’s involved in publishing your book, no matter where you are at during the writing or publishing journey.
If money is not an issue and you don’t have the time to educate yourself about self-publishing then using a HYBRID publisher or Assisted Publisher is a good idea. Also, if you only want to write one book and don’t want a career in writing then the time saved would be worth it. However, if you want to write a number of books it would be more cost-effective to learn the business of writing and publishing. Outsourcing is a good business decision as long as you do your homework and find the right people or organisations for you. Shop around and get recommendations from other people.
There is a difference between traditional, hybrid, print-on-demand and self-publishing however most new or emerging authors don’t know what questions to ask themselves or the publishers when deciding which publishing option is right for them.
Note: You can self-publish your books by organising the printing yourself, but this is not really recommended if you want to reach a global audience. Even if you want to publish a few books for your family or personal reasons, sometimes the Print-on-Demand Services are more cost-effective than getting a small print run from a local printer. It’s a matter of doing your homework and relating it to your why.
Years ago, I used an Assisted Publisher/Vanity Publisher and had a very bad experience. This company didn’t disclose to me that they outsourced their work, therefore the quality was poor and they took six months and not the six weeks they promised.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have my book to sell at the back end after a workshop I conducted, which was very disappointing. I was so frustrated with the lack of communication, the lack of knowledge and care factor, and eventually removed my book from the company. I was surprised to hear from many people who had similar experiences with that company.
Last year when searching for a traditional publisher for my epic family story, I sent a query letter to an international publisher who traditionally and hybrid published. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw an email from them offering me a book contract. Unfortunately, it was an invitation for a “partnership” agreement. With an open mind, I read through the Agreement and came up with pages of questions about the contract.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE QUESTIONS I ASKED THIS “TRADITIONAL/HYBRID PUBLISHER” FROM MY EMAIL:
I want to know what I will get for my contribution to the publishing process and what you will contribute? I have self-published so have an understanding of what’s involved. I know that it takes less to get a cover design, edit, format, and proofreading done. So, if the bulk is to be used for marketing:
1) I would like to know how you intend to market my book prior to signing an agreement. I’m happy to sign any non-disclosure agreements. I would be taking a huge risk if I didn’t know how you were going to market my book.
2) Your contract states that I cannot submit anything potentially defamatory or libellous, however, at present my book is potentially defamatory as you must surely be aware. Would your editors take out anything potentially libellous and would your legal team review the book first or would I be expected to get legal advice at my own cost prior, rework the book and then resubmit it to you?
3) As a “partner” how much say do I have in the editorial process, with the book cover design and marketing?
4) When would the proposed publication date be set for my book? I note in your contract that it states you could have 290 days to hold the book and then it could take 3 months to get my copyright back?
6) What effort would you put into translation, and film/TV rights? What statistics do you have in relation to this?
7) What statistics do you have in relation to your sales and authors success?
8) Would I be allowed to talk to some of your other authors as part of my due diligence?
I have more specific questions related to the contract but I’d like to start with these first. I appreciate your time in answering my questions and providing any necessary information so I can make an informed decision.
Unfortunately, the company couldn’t give me the information I needed to make an informed decision. I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to part with large sums of money first without disclosing all the information. The information they did provide was too general. I felt as if they just cut and pasted a standard contract or information off their website instead of providing me with facts and figures. It didn’t feel like a “Partnership” at all. It felt like a traditional publishing deal where I had limited say or control but had to pay a lot of money for it.
Get legal advice and a review of your contract before signing anything.
Check out Helen Sedwick’s book,(The Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook) and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s book, Closing the Deal…On Your Terms: Agents, Contracts and Other Considerations.
Below is a Case Study I did for a client who was considering paying for an Assisted or in this case a Vanity Publishing Deal from a well-known company. Their prices/packages started at US$1000 up to almost $10,000 depending on which package you chose.
I was surprised to see how this company tried to justify the price of their publishing packages because many of the services below are free or of a minimal cost if you know anything about self-publishing. When I calculated the actual costs or time involved, I believe that the charges were greatly inflated.
(In gold is what the company was offering as part of the package and underneath is my comment.)
You can choose paper quality, colour/Black &White, and various sizes with all PRINT ON DEMAND publishers. This is nothing special.
This is free if you use Amazon for ebook or KDP Print and they add it to your cover free of charge. Many people use the free version including high profile authors. However, if you’re using their ISBN they by law own that ISBN. So technically they do have the rights. The only way to have full rights is to own your own ISBN which you can buy separately or in bulk and get a formatter to insert in the cover design.
Ingram Sparks is another good PRINT ON DEMAND company who distributes print books to libraries, bookshops, and schools as part of their extended distribution. It costs $53 to publish your book and ebook with them.
You must buy your own ISBN if you print with them. In the US you can buy your ISBN through a company called Bowker www.isbn.org
In Australia, you buy ISBN from Bowker Thorpe for $44 or a batch of 10 for $88
https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/Get-your-isbn-now For every different version you need a different ISBN e.g. hardback, audio etc
Note: You can print using Amazon KDP Print and then use Ingram Spark for EXTENDED DISTRIBUTION.
This is a way to protect the copyright of your work. Legal Deposit is where you can send a copy of your book to the National Library in your country to protect you in case of copyright infringements. Most people don’t worry about this because if you are the author you have copyright but for those who want added protection, there’s no harm in sending it in.
Wikipedia’s article on Legal Deposit lists each country’s library or organisation in which to send your published work.
“In the United States, any copyrighted and published work must be submitted in two copies to the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. This mandatory deposit is not required to possess copyright of unpublished works, but a copyright registration can give an author enhanced remedies in case of a copyright violation. The Library of Congress does not retain all works.”
In Australia, we send it to the National Library in Canberra https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit
This is just the cost of sending your book in.
These occur on all platforms, nothing special here. All Print On Demand companies offers discounts to the author to buy their books. You can compare these rates with Amazon KDP and Ingram Sparks or the Print-on-Demand Publisher company you are considering.
This happens for free with other platforms.
You don’t own the rights to this cover if an Assisted or Vanity Publisher designs it for you. This is something you should negotiate first. If you leave that company you may need to get another cover designed and all the artwork and thumbnails.
I can’t believe the company offer this as it is done with the Front Cover. You don’t design a separate front and back cover, it comes as one.
You are also going to have to write the author bio to give it to the Assisted/Vanity Publisher anyway unless otherwise stated in your agreement.
Find out the credentials of the person providing the marketing copy or ask to see some samples. Or research some of their titles yourself and see if the copy is compelling.
You usually must find and submit the reviews of your books to the company anyway. Check to see if the agreement states that they will provide the reviews. Some companies may get reviews for you.
You will have to submit this anyway.
The cost of this depends on what sort of book you are writing and publishing. You need to clearly communicate with the Assisted Publisher whether your book is an illustrated book or how many images you use as they have a set amount you can use as part of the package. You pay more if you go over that.
Book formatters charge a few hundred dollars depending on the sort of book you are publishing.
There are free templates for standard textbooks but I would get a formatter to format for an ebook or print book if you have a number of images or tables to be included.
Check that you don’t have to set any margins yourself or do any formatting yourself.
I noted in this Agreement that the company advised the client to have edited and proofread their work prior to submitting, so clarify if this is included in the deal or not.
This is offered for free on Amazon anyway so don’t know why this company are offering this as something special.
This happens automatically as above.
You can order a Proof of your book anyway. This would be worth the price you will charge for your book.
I’d be asking about the experience of the person who will be your author support.
How long have they been working for the company?
What qualifications and experience do they have?
What is their timeframe to respond to emails especially if you live in a different time zone?
I would also get something in writing to clarify your timeframe or deadline. For example, three months’ maximum. It shouldn’t even take six weeks if they are organised and have everyone working on cover design and formatting at the same time.
This is nothing special. Other platforms offer this too.
You get this on other platforms also. This is nothing special. No one will see it unless you direct people there. Most people buy from Amazon anyway.
If the company offers a certain number of free copies, this is great but they may charge you for shipping, so clarify the number and what the shipping and handling would be.
This looks good on paper but how effective is it in practice. This company will send to “undisclosed” media outlets. Does this mean they don’t tell you who they send your media release to? This is not good. It’s like spam and media outlets receive these all the time and they never go anywhere. Is it just a standard list?
You need to be specific and target your outlets. You should have the person’s name right when contacting them and so you can follow up with them. How are you going to do this when you don’t know who they are?
It sounds like a mass spam list and I doubt the effectiveness of this.
Is this part of the package or do you have to pay extra for this? Check and research other printers such as Vistaprint to see if you can make it more cost-effective.
Check if an Editorial Assessment is part of the package or costs extra. This can often be misleading in advertising.
I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you. You may think that it’s worth the cost to go with a Hybrid or Assisted Publisher or you may decide that you can do most or part of the process yourself. It really all depends on your WHY, WALLET and TIME as I said before.
The intention for this blog is to get you to think about and question which publishing option is best for you and to be smart about your choices. Ask the right questions and feel comfortable knowing that you have researched and done everything to get the best results for your book.
Below is a list of resources and articles which may also be useful:
Need some guidance for writing your book?
Download my free ebook, Guide to Write and Self Publish Your Memoir with a Printable Checklist: HERE
Book in a free 30 minute consultation with Leeza: HERE
(Please note that I am not a lawyer and encourage you to seek legal advice before signing anything.) This blog is based on my personal experiences.)
(images by pixabay)