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Electronic Subsidy Publishing: An Inexpensive Alternative
by Moira Allen
While many authors and publishers advise against
any form of subsidy publishing, electronic subsidy publishing appeals to many
writers for a variety of reasons. It can, for example, provide many of the
advantages of self-publishing (including complete control of the product) for
less hassle and at a greatly reduced cost. Books can remain "in print" as long
as you're willing to pay the registration fee, and you don't end up with boxes
of unsold books in your garage.
Following are some of the advantages of subsidy
* Lower costs. The fee for electronic subsidy
publishing usually ranges from $300 to $500.
* High acceptance rates. Many subsidy publishers
will accept any manuscript as long as it does not contain offensive material. In
most cases, therefore, "acceptance" is virtually guaranteed.
* Higher royalties. A reputable subsidy
publisher will offer similar royalties to a commercial e-publisher -- usually
40% to 60%.
* Fast turnaround. A manuscript may be accepted
within one to two weeks of submission, and go online in as little as a
* Author-friendly contracts. Reputable subsidy
publishers demand few, if any, rights to your work. Some may request a limited
grant of electronic rights; others leave copyright entirely in the hands of the
author. Subsidy publishing contracts are usually time-limited, and can be
renewed (or terminated) by either party after a specific time.
* Availability. Like any e-book,
subsidy-published books are available world-wide, both from the publisher's
website and through online bookstores. Nor are subsidized books "dropped" from
inventory for lack of sales; it is usually the author's choice to keep a book
"in stock" or to withdraw it.
The "advantages" listed above come with
corresponding disadvantages, including:
* Lack of quality control. Since subsidy
publishers "accept" nearly any manuscript, such sites offer little or no quality
screening. Consequently, while your book may be of high quality, it may be
sharing "web space" with other books of much lower quality. Consumers who buy an
inferior product are less likely to take a risk on another book from the same
* Lack of editing. Subsidy-published e-books
rarely receive any editing (a fact many sites declare up-front). This means that
not only will you not receive any editorial feedback on your material, but that
your book will not be copyedited or proofread; it will be posted "as is." Be
sure you know how to use a spellchecker! (Some subsidy publishers offer
editorial services for an extra fee.)
* Lack of promotion. Most subsidy publishers
offer few promotional services; they do not place ads for books in trade
magazines, or send out advance copies for reviews. The responsibility for
promoting and marketing a book usually rests entirely with the
* Lack of respect. Subsidized e-books are held
in extremely poor regard by the majority of the publishing industry (including
genre organizations). Most writing organizations will not consider a subsidized
book as a qualification for membership, or for industry awards. Many consumers
have also learned to avoid subsidized books, due to the lack of quality
Watch out for scams!
While most subsidy publishers are reputable,
this aspect of the business also lends itself to abuses. When considering this
form of publishing, watch out for the following telltale signs of
* Excessive up-front cost. The standard
"registration" rates for subsidy e-publishers range between $300 and $500 per
title. Be extremely cautious if a publisher asks for a significantly higher
* Excessive renewal fees. Some subsidy
publishers request annual renewal fees in addition to the initial "registration"
fee (and to the profits that a publisher is earning, theoretically, from the
ongoing sale of your book). These fees may range from $100 to $500 per
* Additional "production" costs. Your
registration fee should cover the costs of production, including translating
your book into the appropriate online format. (Most subsidy publishers insist
that a manuscript be delivered in a specific electronic format, which means that
transferring it into the final "published" form is a very simple matter.) It
should also include the costs of obtaining an ISBN, copyright registration, and
a Library of Congress number. Beware of any publisher who charges an additional
"formatting" fee (usually per page) on top of the basic registration
* Low royalties. The standard commercial
e-publishing royalty rate is between 40% and 60%. Most reputable subsidy
publishers pay similar rates. Beware of any publisher that offers a lower fee
(10% to 20%). Some publishers claim in their contract that a 10% royalty is
"standard" for the industry -- but this is simply not true. While 10% is
standard for many parts of the print industry, it is not standard for the
e-publishing industry, and makes no sense whatsoever for an e-publisher who is
already receiving a fee to produce your book in the first place.
* An excessively demanding contract. Most
reputable subsidy e-publishers use contracts that enable either party to
terminate the agreement easily after a period of one or two years. Some,
however, impose a considerably longer limit (e.g., seven years), and may ask an
additional fee (or share of royalties) if the author manages to sell the book to
another publisher. Also, watch out for any contract that asks for a transfer of
additional rights (such as print, translation, audio, or movie rights). By
transferring these rights, you enable a publisher to claim a percentage of any
rights you happen to sell.
* An incomplete contract. Most reputable
publishers post their contracts online. Some, however, post a "sample" contract
that includes terms "to be negotiated." This prevents an author from determining
in advance what those terms (often involving rights or royalties) might
* Inflated hype. Reputable publishers are
up-front about the difficulties in placing e-books in traditional bookstores.
Beware, therefore, of any publisher who claims to offer "bookstore sales" or
makes a big deal about getting your book into Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.
Inclusion in the Amazon.com catalog happens automatically as the result of
obtaining an ISBN; it is not the result of any "special effort" on the part of a
Holding a disk in your hand (or downloading a
file) may not seem quite the same as having a "printed book" to share with
friends and customers. If your goal is to be read, however, subsidy e-publishing
may well prove a viable alternative for authors who haven't found a commercial
publisher -- and who don't wish to pay thousands of dollars just to put their
words into print.
Fee-Based Electronic Publishers:
Electric Works Publishing http://www.electricpublishing.com/index.htm
OmniMedia Digital Publishing http://www.awa.com/library/omnimedia/aboutus.html
Tara Publishing http://www.tarapublishing.com/publish/authpubinfo.mhtml Offers
subsidy and commercial publishing.
Xlibris http://www.xlibris.com/html/publishing_your_book.html Offers both electronic and "books on demand"
For more publishers, see Yahoo's Guide to
Electronic Publishers http://dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Companies/Publishing/Electronic_PublishingElectronic_Publishing
© Copyright 1999, Moira Allen
Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com
Other articles by Moira Allen :