Thursday, March 28, 2013

Self Publishing? Buyer Beware



My wife and I decided to go the self-publishing route with WestBow Press because we were writing a faith-based book.  Our experiences with WebBow Press were both positive and negative. Reading this article will provide helpful tips and useful information that will save you your hard-earned money.

The first decision to make was the type publishing packages to purchase. My immediate advice is NEVER pay full price for a package from any company. Wait for a package to go on sale or be discounted. If you are patient, you will save hundreds or thousands of dollars depending upon the packages you intend to purchase.

Sadly, even with a “Christian” publishing company, I learned the goal of the self-publishing company is very different from the goal of the prospective author. The author is interested in publishing a book that will reach as many people as possible. The self-publishing company is in the business of selling you as many expensive and not necessarily effective publishing packages as possible. You can expect many phone calls or e-mails suggesting you buy additional publishing packages. My advice is to say no to every marketing call you receive to purchase additional packages.

I didn't follow this advice. Therefore I purchased two additional packages that I should not have purchased. After making these mistakes I refused the most recent push to purchase a package which was a Kirkus Review.  The marketing Representative at WestBow didn’t know I’d already purchased a Kirkus review directly from their website. When a Representative at WestBow offered me a “Kirkus Package” which was MORE money than I paid on my own, I found myself angry that WestBow and I had different goals. There goal was to extract as much money from me as possible. My goal was to use my money wisely to sell more books. We have conflicting goals.

Early on,  I mistakenly still thought that WestBow and I were on the same team. That they would use their muscle and power in the market place to get me discounts and good deals. The very opposite is true. I found that WestBow’s packages and/or deals, even when they are discounted were more expensive than I could find on my  own. Another example of this came when I foolishly purchased a Press Release Package.  I thought I did well because I purchased it with a 20% discount. After I did some research on the web I discovered a number of companies offering the same exact service for half the price I paid. How do you spell sucker?

My advice is this, before you purchase any package and that includes an Editing Package, check on-line. It’s more than likely you  will find a similar service with similar quality for 25 to 50% less than what a package costs. Don’t buy the line “you get what you pay for” meaning you’ll get better and higher quality services if you pony up the money for an expensive package. It’s not true.

A very important thing to know before buying any package is to get an understanding of how the publishing company you work with will determine the retail price of your book. If the price is set too high, you will not sell any books. WestBow was great with helping me keep the price point below $20.  Amazon currently lists my book at $15.56  To reach my price point  I had to cut some chapters and change the font to a smaller size. As far as the e-book went, I had total control over that price and I chose $2.99.  I’ve heard of some self-publishing nightmares were books were prices were set above $30. This price point made it impossible for authors to sell their books.  Make sure you know the price point you want your book to sell, and that your publishing company will work with you to achieve that goal.

WestBow was great in asking me for feedback throughout the entire process, but asking for feedback, and doing something with the feedback are two different things. There were many times there were some problems that were not resolved to my satisfaction. In fact never did I think my satisfaction was that important in the process. Following the rules and guidelines took precedence over my satisfaction as a customer.

It’s been estimated the average book that is self-published sells less than 150 copies. I know why. Unless you are willing to purchase additional packages, you are left to your own devices to sell your book. Call me foolish, but I thought WestBow would help me obtain book reviews, or to get my book into bookstores. I was wrong. If I wanted to get into bookstores I could purchase “Berean Christian Store Signing and Placement Package” for a mere $5,999.00. That’s the cost of getting WestBow’s help to get my book into bookstores.

They did not provide any help or links to Independent book stores who might carry my book.  In other words you get no practical, or useful help. You are on your own. My advice if you are serious about selling a book is to have a marketing plan in place before spending the money to have your book published.

From a positive direction, I’m delighted with the quality of my book. I like the layout. The cover design is first class.  The way the book was set up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble with a look inside the book program was fantastic. Would I use WestBow for a second book? Yes I would, but I wouldn’t buy an editing or press release package. I’d find those services myself outside of WestBow.

Now it’s up to me to market our book:  I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
                           Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Sexual & Spiritual Aspects of Prostate Cancer

I will do so proudly, knowing we’ve published a first class book with useful information for men and couples coping with prostate cancer. I make it a point to say “no” to every sales call from WestBow offering me another expensive package to help me sell books. I wish every self-publishing author much success as they navigate through the tricky and expensive world of self-publishing.