1. Kylo
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    Kylo Member

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    Considering Xlibris

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Kylo, Aug 27, 2008.

    I was recently contacted by a representative from Xlibris publishing who says they are interested in my story. Although they're really expensive, I think I could manage to work up the money (if I can just get my stuff to sell already) to get published with them.

    But before I make a commitment, I want to know from those who have experience with this company, are they any good?
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't have experience with them, but I would caution against working with publishers who expect you to pay for anything but the paper your submission is printed on and postage. If I had the money, I would only work with a company that is upfront about why the writer has to pay and allows the writer to be active in the process, acting as much like a service provider to writers as they are publishers.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kylo,

    Whether you should choose this, or any subsidy publisher (or vanity publisher) would be heavily determined by the goal you intend to achieve through the process.

    If the goal is to simply have something in print and available to the public, there are less expensive ways, but you would have to do more of the work. It won't count as any sort of publishing credit--you paid to have it done, instead of the work being accepted on its quality/merit.

    Indicated in another thread you started, you were seeking ideas on how to cheaply advertise to sell "stuff" to raise money to pay to publish the book. That is fine, but if you hope to sell many copies of your novels (beyond the circle of friends and family and co-workers), you'll have to become quite astute at advertizing and marketing and salesmanship, and even then it will be an uphill struggle.

    Before you go with them, I would recommend ordering a copy of one of their books. Pick one you'd be interested in reading (and in your genre/similar to what you intend to publish). Look at the quality of the print, layout, binding, cover art, actual cost to purchase compared to traditionally published novels, and the quality of the story--including grammar, spelling, storyline, plot consistency, etc. Find out if the local bookstores are even willing to carry a title from this company on their shelves.

    It will help you make a more informed decision.

    Terry
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    DO NOT PAY ! ! ! ! (Maia! Come help!)

    This is no different than modeling companies who promise to make you the next Naomi Campbell if you just leave a deposit of $2500....
     
  5. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    You should never pay to have your work published. It’s an insult to your creative skills as a writer. I learned this lesson the hard way. I know how tempting it is to want to see you work in print…and so do they. They feed on that emotional need. They have harassed me for about a year now even though I told them no. I still get phone calls and e-mails from them at least by-weekly. Now ask yourself why? Who is the big winner here? Is it really you? Just think about this and talk to Maia.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Penhobby is totally, 100% correct! They play on your vanity, and your wish to see your name on that paperback book cover. We all have that same wish! That’s why we are here.

    Going with a vanity press can black-ball you with regular publishers.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    ¿Es verdad? Why would they care, and how would they know (unless you tell them, of course)?
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    :redface: Just going off other stuff I've read......
     
  9. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    You know Wrey, I don't see how it could get you black-listed either. Publishing co's only know what you tell them. I just told them too much. LOL

    Still, don't do this. You will not like the way it feels afterwards.

    Instead, do this the right way. Do as much research as you can into What PC is right for you and start submitting polished manuscripts to the PC's. Follow all publishing guide lines to the letter...and most importantly, and I can't stress this enough...talk to Maia.
    She is usually on every night around 6pm est.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry! :D I let the mob mentality against vanity presses overcome me. I was looking for my pitchfork and torch and getting ready to storm the Vanity Press castle gates! :p
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    TWErvin2 - "If the goal is to simply have something in print and available to the public, there are less expensive ways, but you would have to do more of the work."

    Kylo - Terry's right. You can set up a POD contract for 1/8 to 1/4 what it would cost to do a significant printing (500-1000 books) with a vanity press like Xlibris. This will give you a "book in hand" to enjoy and provide for your friends, satisfying that emotional need at a reasonable cost. But, the book will not be regarded in the publishing industry as credible from a literary standpoint. It's just to satisfy ego.

    TWErvin2 - ". . . Find out if the local bookstores are even willing to carry a title from this company on their shelves."

    I am currently negotiating a contract with Barnes & Noble to distribute my book. Their literature says that they automatically reject POD books and most books printed on vanity press copyrights.

    Other distributors like Amazon will accept POD/vanity press books but they demand 55% of the book's retail price leaving very little for the publisher and author, in fact, if the printing costs are average, Amazon's "discount" will cause the book to LOSE money if it is priced comparably to most paperback novels. Amazon even set up their own POD company called BookSurge. (IMHO - it's for sucker-writers.) By the time they physically produce your book, it is priced about double what a similar book costs in bookstores because PrintOnDemand is an inherently high-cost way to produce a book . . . there is no economy of scale that comes from large print runs. With Amazon taking 55%, plus shipping & handling of $4-5/book, there's no way your book is going to sell beyond dear old mom, dad, gramma, and any sibling(s) who might still like you.

    Vanity press (Xlibris) can produce a physical book for lower "cost" than POD but after you factor in their profits at many levels (editing, ISBN assignment and registration with RR Bowkirk, cover graphics and layout, print layout and printing, binding, shipping) they make a profit on every aspect of producing a book, all at YOUR expense. The only participant in a vanity press arrangement who is NOT guaranteed to make a profit is YOU! After all these costs and profit centers are added up, most vanity press publishers do not produce a paperback book for less than $8 per book. That means the book must be priced around $17 per book to make ANY profit. How many people are willing to pay $17 for a $10 book? Again, simple economics of vanity press almost assures marketing failure.


    Now, let's talk about the traditional publishers and distribution systems.

    Traditional book stores take 40% plus their book wholesaler/broker takes 10% so even traditional bookstores consume 50% of your book's retail cost before you and the "publisher" get a dime. But, there IS an important difference . . . a traditional publisher can "build" your book for less than $3 per book. They have long standing contracts with large print shops that specialize in building books in volume. Same thing with graphics artists and editors who are usually in-house employees. After printing a couple thousand "first editions" of your book, they can price the book "at the market" for your genre and still have $1 or $2 per book left for profit and to pay author royalties AFTER the distribution system receives their 50%. POD and vanity press simply can not match the economy of scale in producing a financially viable book.

    Now, before you get excited about all that "profit potential", its not quite as easy as it sounds. Book stores demand a guaranteed "buy back" policy, i.e. if your book does NOT sell, then they have the right to send it back to the publisher for a full refund. This means that a publisher must hold back some of your commissions (and their own profits) in a reserve against un-sold books. That reserve can be quite significant and deprive authors of a lot of royalties. (By the way, this is one of those areas where a good literary agent is important. That "reserve" is time limited and a good agent will negotiate a clause in your contract that reduces the size of the reserve and sets terms for distribution of those "held back" funds after a set period of time.)

    To make matters even more difficult, traditional publishing companies might talk about how much money they put into "marketing" on behalf of their authors, but the ugly little truth is, you ain't gonna see any of that advertising as a new author! It goes to promote the big names. The real grunt-level selling of a new author's book is done by . . . you guessed it - the author him/herself. Book signings, attending reader club meetings, getting time on radio talk shows, promotional booths at book fairs, glad-handing - these are the new-author "tools" for building sales. It's not enough to write a book. You must be willing to "sell" the book.

    As proof of this theme, one only has to consider the industry term used to describe all the books in a book store that are lined up on shelves with their spine showing. Those long rows of colorful titles are known as "wallpaper". The only books that really sell much are those placed cover out on shelves or in special displays. And, you actually have to negotiate that kind of placement with the bookstores, especially the big chain stores. If you fail to secure such advantage, then your book just becomes part of the wallpaper.

    Well, I've probably told you way more than you wanted to know. But it is important for any aspiring author to understand the issues BEFORE submitting a manuscript to a POD, vanity press or traditional publisher. It is important to understand the value of a literary agent in securing such things as contractual guarantees on methods of distribution, media rights (US, Foreign, movie, on-line ebooks, posters, action figures, etc.) reserve fund limits and distribution and much more.

    There is another option. Build your own traditional publishing company. This gives you the economy of scale, access to all markets and freedom to make all the decisions about such things as book layout, cover design, pricing, marketing avenues, etc. If you look into this approach, be prepared to invest $10,000 starting up the company before you see a dime of profit. I can tell you from first hand experience, building a business requires an enormous amount to time . . . time that could easily have produced sequels to your first book. I did it. I had to hire an editor, purchase several expensive software programs, contract a graphic artist for cover design, negotiate with printers and binders, set up the business infrastructure (business licenses, register with the state sales tax collectors, pay for a block of ISBN numbers, pay for a SAN number for the business, establish a website/email accounts) and when all this is done, then begins the marketing. Contracts with Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Yahoo-Books.com, etc. Purchase lists of book clubs and start sending mailers advertising the book(s). This whole process take you completely OUT of your passion - writing. You're now a business owner.

    In summary, there are good reasons to set up a POD book. My dear Aunt Ruth, loved to raise Geraniums. She won every Geranium show in her area and plant lovers crowded around her for advice on how to "force" blooms on their plants. She had picture albums with hundreds of pictures of her prize winning plants. One time, as I sat patiently next to the old woman, feigning interest in her pictures, she began telling me the entire process from beginning to end of how to produce such wonders. She lamented that before she died she would love to get all her notes together for the benefit "the world". I suggested a book - four color, with detailed instructions and featuring pictures of her best plants.

    Well, Aunt Ruth got to see her "book" before she died. I put it together for her and had 100 copies printed and spiral bound. It was a Christmas gift to her. Did it have any profit potential? Yeah right - it made no economic sense whatsoever, but the smile it put on that old girl's face was priceless. Yes, every member of the family received "Ruthy's Geraniums" for their next birthday. And, she did manage to sell a few copies each year at the county fair.

    There are only three reasons to produce a book. Ego gratification. Commercial success. Literary acclaim. They can overlap and there IS a place for the POD low volume "book" in one of those categories. Just make sure that your objective is clear before you spend a dime on a POD or vanity press.
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wreybies,

    Vanity presses are bad news for an author in almost every instance...I guess there could be examples where they're beneficial, but I can't think of one when there are other alternatives that are better.

    Normally when, as Kylo is doing, they ask around instead of giving into the sales pitch and glossy brochures and promises, they come away looking for something better. Sometimes I think just telling, "No, don't do it." isn't enough. That's why I suggested looking into it...get a book from the vanity press...they cost way more, the quality is very poor (I am sure there are exceptions, but not the ones I've come across) and the final price the author would have to pay is determined too much, especially since the chance of earning back the payout isn't going to happen.

    Sticking with facts and straight forward arguments against works. Throwing in a false statement such as "Going with a vanity press can black-ball you with regular publishers" undermines the urging against going with a vanity press.

    Oh, one thing I guess is true about going with a vanity press: It does impress people who don't know anything about books or publishing, and don't examine the final quality of the product. If an author who paid to have his book printed shows it to family and says, "See I'm published!" did get something for the investment. I am not sure if it balances out for the thousadns of dollars in cost--especially since there are other, better, less expensive options available to accomplish the same thing if that's all that is being sought with a work.

    The saddest thing, I think, is that for the labor of the author (especially if the novel is really good--or almost just there) it will be wasted, if not lost-- Published poorly and nobody will read the work, other than the previously mentioned family and friends and coworkers willing to shell out more than they should.

    Terry
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm here, wrey!

    kylo...
    if all you want is a few copies to give to family and friends and can afford the high cost per copy, go ahead and use one of the pod's like xlibris [see p&e warning below]... but if you want to go that route, check out the company very carefully first... i understand lulu is said to be the best of the bunch...

    if you want to make money with your book, instead of spending it, then none of the vanity-publishing options will do that, unless you've a built-in market and/or have exceptional marketing skills and unlimited energy, time and funds...

    terry and others here have given valid advice, so i can't add much of anything new... as for the idea that you'd be black-balled, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that once you've self-published a work of fiction, you won't be taken seriously by most agents and paying publishers... and yes, they may find out, even if you don't mention it [which you should never do, unless your self-pubbed book sold a million copies!]...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  14. Kylo
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    Kylo Member

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    OK, I hate when people say "vanity" publishing because of two reasons:

    1, I am easily confused. Are you talking about self publishing or larger firms?
    2, It seems like you're talking down on people who use said publishers.

    So are you saying I should just go with a self publisher like Lulu or something?
     
  15. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Under there.
    Actually, I recently attended a writing seminar featuring several writer/editors (among others, Michael Stackpole, Jean Rabe, John Helfers, if anyone knows them; they're not huge, and they're sci-fi/fantasy, but they are professionals.) The advice there was actually very close to the "black-ball" comment.

    Vanity publishers can be parasitic and unethical in many ways. Getting a book published is, to a large extent, about your contacts and the people you (or at least your agent) know. If your name is associated with a company that is known in the industry to be "shady," then you are far less likely to be taken seriously as a new author. It can especially hurt your chances with agents.

    This is from the horse's mouth, as it were. Authors and editors who said flat-out that vanity publishing is generally a bad idea, and especially so with the less ethical ones (i.e. the ones that hound you and pester you to get you to pay.) You end up guilty by association.

    So perhaps not quite "black-balled," but it can certainly affect your professional reputation.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Vanity publishers are publishers that you pay to produce your book, and with whom all the work and expense to market and sell the printed copies is also on you.

    If you want to take issue with the term, fine, but that is what they are referred to. It's not just a label made up here. They exploit customers' desire to see their name in print, regardless of how it gets there. The only criteria they are intersted in is, can you afford to pay for what they are selling. They have no investment in your writing, and you could publish 500 pages of "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" if you so wished.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... 'tis so, whether you like it, or not...

    all companies that you have to pay to see your book in print are known as 'vanity publishers' to those in the literary world...

    and once you've gone that route, agents and paying/traditional publishers are most likely not going to take you seriously, if/whenthey find out...

    plus, no one in the world outside vanity publishing circles [except maybe your family] will consider you a 'published author'...
     

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