Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You pays your money, you takes your choice ...

The Book 2 Book newsletter that I subscribe to today has two snippets in the form of press releases from Authorhouse, the largest print on demand operation in the UK, if not the world. The first of these announces two new publishing packages for hard and paperbacks respectively, each of which includes professional one to one support, custom cover design, ISBN registration, online distribution, custom interior layout, and what they term as "more services". The hardback package also includes personalised back cover and 5 complimentary copies.

The second press release states that the company have launched a new and improved UK website. The new site, which they claim is easier to navigate (anything would be an improvement on the old one) will in their own words "improve the experience for the increasing number of authors choosing to publish a book with AuthorHouse UK".

New features include a special savings and offers section with the latest offers for saving money on publishing packages, marketing services, and books, an author resource area with tips and advice from fellow authors, plus an updated bookstore which makes searching for and purcahsing Authorhouse titles quicker and easier than ever before.

I went to the new site to have a look myself and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find your way around and to obtain information (if not prices) on the various options available. The prices for the publishing packages are there for everyone to see, and at first look compared to my own publisher Authors OnLine Ltd do not appear unreasonable, but the service that Authorhouse provide, judging from what I saw at the seminar that I attended (which admittedly was three years ago), and from talking to those who have published with them, does not begin to compare. I remember when I first spoke to Richard, the boss at Authors OnLine Ltd and mentioned that I had considered Authorhouse, he said to me that everything they could do, he could do better, and probably cheaper, and I believe he was right.

The clincher for me is the Borders and Waterstones packages that they like to tout around. The sum of £999 buys you a basic Borders or Waterstones package whereby they guarantee that 3 copies of your work will be on display for 10 weeks in selected Borders or Waterstones stores (if the Borders ones are still there - one of those in the programme is Dublin). The books are displayed on a special Authorhouse stand - lumped together with all their other titles and therefore advertising to the world and his second cousin twice removed that the books are self published. This stand is not genre specific and is placed slap bang in the middle of the fiction area - fine for fiction writers but not so good for non fiction (of which the majority of self published books are). If you want to add either of these 2 options to your exisiting Authorhouse package you can do so, for £204 for Borders and £175 for Waterstones (why Borders costs more is not stated - perhaps because they demand a higher discount).

My point is though that you do not need to pay extra money for this service - all you need to do is prepare a few publicity materials (information sheet, reviews and so on) and a bit of professional sounding spiel, and ring the stores up. If you say the right things in the right way then they will order copies. It is as simple as that - these copies will be displayed where they belong, in the section that is relevant to your book, if they sell, for considerably more than 10 weeks.

Of course if you really want book stores to stock you, then the books need to be returnable, and this is where the Authorhouse returns package comes in - for the sum of £599 for the first year, you can buy an insurance policy that allows Authorhouse to place your book on sale or return with Gardners, the largest wholesaler in the UK, making it much more attractive to book stores. The problem is that very few if any self published titles make this kind of money - I would have to sell around 450 to 500 books to make this worthwhile - the same number that I have sold in the three years since publication. The sums for the majority of self publishers just do not add up.

Of course if the authors who are stupid enough to sign up to this package (which can be renewed after a year for a further fee of £249) had published with Authors OnLine Ltd and worked as hard as I did, then Richard would have put their books on sale or return for free. This is once again a lesson for would be self publishers to research the market and understand how things, in particular the supply chain works, which most that I encounter fail to do. You pays your money, you takes your choice - I know which one I would make, every time.


Mick Rooney said...

"...each of which includes professional one to one support, custom cover design, ISBN registration, online distribution, custom interior layout, and what they term as "more services". The hardback package also includes personalised back cover and 5 complimentary copies."

Funny, June, there was I thinking AuthorHouse were suppose to be doing most of this with their original packages!

Slim said...

Having set up my own publishing co - everything that AH offer on their 'basic' package - and printed and distro'd by LSI. I would suggest that their first package at £795 is somewhat exorbitant.