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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 e-publishing:

* 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 month.

* 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 publisher.

* 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 author.

* 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 control.

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 rip-off:

* 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 fee.

* 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 year.

* 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 fee.

* 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 be.

* 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 publisher.

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:

BookLocker.com

http://www.booklocker.com/cgi-bin/comish2/click.cgi?awoc

1stBooks http://www.1stbooks.com

Electric Works Publishing http://www.electricpublishing.com/index.htm

FatBrain http://www.fatbrain.com

HyperBooks http://www.hyperbooks.com/submit.html

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" formats.

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 :

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