Thomas Nelson Adds Self-Publishing Imprint

As reported today in the Wall Street Journal, Thomas Nelson, a major independent Christian publisher, is adding a self-publishing line to its business.

Books from the new imprint, West Bow Press, will be designed, printed, and distributed by Author Solutions, the self-publishing mega-company whose brands include AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, and WordClay.

Per the WSJ article, “Thomas Nelson editors won’t edit the self-published manuscripts, but they will monitor sales to identify potential big sellers. Specific terms of the arrangement weren’t disclosed.”

Certainly this is an indication of the ambition and clout of Author Solutions, which over the past couple of years has acquired several rival companies, and attempted–in my opinion extremely misleadingly–to reinvent itself as an “indie publisher”.

But might it also be a sign of things to come in the commercial publishing world? According to the WSJ article, Nelson is “searching for new revenue as the book industry continues to struggle.” And that potential for new revenue is large indeed; in 2008, according to PW, the number of on-demand and short-run titles (the bulk of which represent offerings by self-publishing companies) jumped by 132% (total growth since 2002: 774%), outstripping books produced by “traditional production methods”. Not only does adding a self-publishing line allow a publisher to cash in this trend, it presents the possibility of monetizing rejections. By the same token, the self-publishing service’s connection with a major publisher will be a major attraction for authors–especially if the publisher suggests that it may take the better-performing books commercial.

I’ve speculated before about the possibility that more commercial publishers may add self-publishing divisions in order to keep their core publishing business afloat, as has Jane Smith at her How Publishing Really Works blog. I don’t often prognosticate about the future of publishing–but I have a hunch that this is something we’ll see more of in coming years.

Edited 10/14 to add: Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson has written a long blog post about West Bow Press.

It appears that there will be a referral fee component to the program. Nelson is looking “to work with agents and consultants as ‘WestBow Press Affiliates,’ so that they can help more authors realize their dream of getting published. Rather than simply send a rejection letter, they can now offer a legitimate alternative and earn a referral fee in the process.” Given the potential for abuse inherent in such referral programs, this is a dismaying development, and I hope that Nelson will reconsider.


  1. As always a fascinating discussion. I agree principally with two remarks by posters: 1) true self publishing is when you order your own ISBNs. That makes YOU the publisher. Then continue in that vein: create an imprint, hire yourself a good book editor (and listen to him/her), hire a good cover & interior designer who also does typesetting, go through a genuine book printer (IngramSpark, Lightning House will do, Amazon has left people wanting more; i like BookMobile in Minneapolis–first rate). You can get your own book(s) on Amazon, and if you have done the above (editor, designer, printer), your local bookstores may well be happy to have your books and welcome you for signings (when the pandemic lifts). 2) The second remark I agree with is editing makes the difference, and I mean starting with developmental editing, then going through the rotation–line editing, copy editing, and after a proof run, miss-no-glitches proof reading.

    If you want help, research quality hybrid presses. I ran one myself for more years than I care to remember. The company name was Publishers Place but our books carried one of three imprints–Mid-Atlantic Highlands, Beau Soleil Publishing, or (for Christian books), Bon-Fire Press. Our books won national and regional awards and on average sold in the range of 1800 copies (though sometimes up to 6,000 copies). Some of our books were endorsed by nationally known authors (who actually read the book before allowing their name and comment to appear on the back cover). See on Amazon: "Fathers Troubles" by Carter Taylor Seaton, "Witness at Hawks Nest" by Dwight Harshbarger, and "Purpose and Passion: Bobby Pruett & the Marshall Years" by (nationally known sportswriter) Bill Chastain.

  2. "I was so burned I will not pay another cent to try to publish again."

    That's a shame. Try IngramSpark, becoming your own publisher: very low cost, no nonsense of the kind you describe.

  3. I had a horrid experience with Westbow. I wrote a magnificent book (according to those who have read my manuscript) about caring for my very ill husband for our whole marriage and how I discovered the reality of God in the process. I paid Westbow $1300 up front just to have it printed, not edited (I am an editor myself), and they took my money, and proceeded to censor every other word, words like "crazy" and "freak occurrence," and many more. I could not mention people even by just their initials; I could not mention place names (including the church where we married or organizations that were crucial to our support). I immediately told them I'm not continuing; they returned $900 of what I paid, per their contract. I really thing the "reader" who read my book was a computer. I was not allowed to talk to the "reader." I cried for two days after they tried to destroy the work of my lifetime. I was so burned I will not pay another cent to try to publish again. For now, I am sharing my pdf with interested parties whom my book can help. I don't need to make money. I just wanted my message out there. DO NOT USE WESTBOW. They are a wolf in sheep's clothing with their Christian veneer.

  4. Unknown 6/01,

    WestBow Press is run for Nelson/HarperCollins/Zondervan by Author Solutions. The names of the publishers are used to promote WestBow to aspiring authors, but apart from Nelson etc. collecting a percentage of the profits, that's basically the only connection: if you sign up with WestBow you are totally in the Author Solutions ecosystem, which is completely separate from the purported parent publisher.

    Pay-to-publish companies don't care about your content. You are a customer buying a service, not a writer being chosen by a publisher. WestBow does have a bit more content curation than some others, because it caters to the Christian market–but that's all about the guidelines, not quality (which, by the way, is no judgment on your work: they will as happily publish a great book as a poor one). That's why they took your order, and only later looked at your work.

    They should certainly provide some sort of disclaimer indicating that they do this. I'm sorry you lost money to this outfit. As you pursue publication, be aware that there are many scams in the Christian market. For more on self-publishing, as well as links to helpful resources, see the Self-Publishing page of Writer Beware:

  5. The second, non-Westbow, edition of my spiritual autobiography is now out in six formats as follows:–

    ISBN: 978-1-7751062-1-0 (hc 6 x 9)
    ISBN: 978-1-7751062-0-3 (sc 6 x 9)
    ISBN: 978-1-7751062-9-6 (hc 8 x 10.88)
    ISBN: 978-1-7751062-8-9 (sc 8 x 10.88)
    ISBN: 978-1-7751062-2-7 (sc 5.25 x 8)
    ISBN: 978-1-7708499-4-5 (e)

    They all sell! And when I want to give copies away, my publisher's price is very economical.

    1. Who is your publisher? I’m down 17,000. dollars. and it’s still not published. I need help.

  6. You say Westbow represents Thomas Nelsin and Zondervan? Wish you luck with tracking that down Both Nelson and Zondervan have been acquired by HarperCollins.Nelson was doing some author-subsidized publishing previously and possibly under a Westbow imprint. Sounds as if they should have warned you on advance of the $400 reading fee
    Assume rest of your money was refunded.
    Don't know Christian fiction market. Suggest you explore publishin with Amazon Create Space. Lulu also does that sort of publishing (both will be author subsidized).

  7. Hi folks, just wanted to touch base with everyone out there that is writing books. I have been writing books for years but only lately decided to publish them. So I sign up with Westbow Publishing they want $864 up front I gave it to them. They then wanted another $786 I gave it to them with all the promises they were giving me on my book not to mention they represent Thomas Nelson and Zondervan! A month goes by, I have not heard anything from them. I email them and they call me today and say they can't publish my book. A Christian Fiction and I explained to them all about my book and what it was about and they said they would be very interested. If they had read the first chapter of my book I would not have qualified so it took them a month, I guess to read the first chapter of my book. They said I do not qualify and they're going to keep $400 because they read the first chapter of my book!!

  8. I have chatted with one of their managers at Westbow who tried to manipulate me into using them. Thankfully I'm not an idiot.
    They don't have authors interests at heart, they have their wallets.

  9. Arithmetic still weak I fear. The no. of pages of illustrations is just 34, with an average of two photographs on each page.

  10. By way of an update on my big ‘Westbow’ book, I decided that the prices, always too high, had skyrocketed with the decline in the Canadian dollar to the point where they were beyond a joke. In addition I had taught myself Adobe’s InDesign, which is the best word-processor for book creation. There were still some minute slips in the text. I no longer saw the need for some of the fictionalisations, for instance the names of schools, colleges and churches. There were one or two matters of fact to be corrected, for instance the place where one of my cousins twice removed was killed in 1942. The narrative could be made more vivid with B&W illustrations. All this added up to a second less expensive and better distributed edition. The book is otherwise unaltered, and because of much more sophisticated kerning, ligatures and spacing both horizontal and vertical (which can all be done in Word if you like for your final .pdf) it is actually no longer in spite of an extra 64 pp. of photographs. I obtained new ISBNs, free here in Canada. I have processed the new edition for publication in both softcover and hardback with jacket using LS’s IngramSpark. It’s lots of work, and the website takes some navigation, but at least you are not paying someone to do virtually nothing. You set your own prices and IS distribute worldwide. LS is in fact the distributor outside the USA of all CreateSpace product.

    For eBooks in all the usual forms I have paid some dollars to a local business with very intelligent people. I saw proofs. This has given me precise control over every jot and tittle, fonts and font sizes and all.

  11. The discussion around subsidy publishing is complex, to say the least. Some iUniverse authors have indeed done well and have pronounced themselves quite satisfied with return for their money. iUniverse, I believe, has a list of editors that they suggest to their authors, with no percentage on the editing coming to iUniverse; in other words, the editors are totally independent and set their own fees. Whatever cover design an author may come up with, working with his/her own graphic artist, iUniverse will happily use. Thus if you get a good editor and a good cover designer, you're more than halfway there. Good editors will argue with you—plenty!–about word choices, sentence crafting, coherence, tone, the whole nine yards. And you'll pay for their time. Same with good graphic designers; they will not (and should not) let you do any kind of cover you want, but should argue and cajole you into a quality cover design.
    Once you have gotten that far, iUniverse can offer you pretty fair distribution options through Lightning Source's full-service, opening up Ingram, B&T, Amazon and other good outlets. From that point you need a great publicity and sales campaign, which will be, believe me, on you & on your dime. See John Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Book or Levinson's Guerilla Marketing for Writers.
    One caveat: Barnes&Noble used to have a rule that went, "No more than 10 iUniverse books in any of our stores at one time." Don't know if that rule still holds.
    Here and there you may find small boutique publishing operations that go under the rubric "Co-op Publishing" or "Hybrid Publishing." My own company is one of these. We share publishing expenses with authors and do a fair amount of gratis help with the marketing of their books, and also give our authors the lion's share of returns from Amazon, trade bookstores, etc., and a very, very good deal on books they sell on their own (just 18% to us, 82 per cent to them). We are NOT open to taking on a flurry of new authors, as we are a not-for-profit regional publisher publishing authors from West Virginia and adjacent states, narrative nonfiction and fiction based on true personalities or events. We are set up to publish only five to seven books a year. We do however provide our authors with high quality editing and quality book design, both cover and interior, and yes, we do argue with them, a lot, about all the critical issues of editorial development and book packaging. If you look around carefully, you'll find more companies like ours, with their heart in the right place. Go for it! Much better than doing everything on your own with no professional consult.

  12. Talking of editing … For "cost" read "costs".

    I should have included in my note the fact that all printers want a .pdf. This is easily made in a 'no frills' way in Word. Or there is Adobe Acrobat. CreateSpace will assist you to choose the size and shape of your book.

  13. True self-publishing is when the author takes control of the whole process. That ought to include getting a really literate friend/relative to run through the offering for slips such as "sight" for "site". This individual (or better still you will enlist more than one such person) will have read a very great deal of the genre, and will have loved reading for a very long time. Otherwise you are likely to get an unqualified reader/editor however much he charges. You do not want your book to sink without trace in the mass of similar bad books.

    I myself was reading untaught at three-and-a-half, and parodying what I read both in verse and prose, in French as well as English, by the time I was seven. I hold an Oxford doctorate, and my book was scrutinised by two other PhDs. (Between us we knew, and had published scholarly books and articles about texts in, several languages living and dead.) It is written under a pseudonym; I now have two other books out published with CreateSpace, including my doctoral dissertation. I say “with” rather than “by” advisedly.

    You may want to have a designer make your cover.

    If you care about distribution, use CreateSpace. Cost are moderate, the royalty reasonable. If all you want is some copies for local friends and family, a decent local printer will give you even better value for money. My Westbow book is now costing c. CAD42.00 delivered by Amazon where I live. I can get it produced here in British Columbia and bulk-shipped to me for a little over CAD10.00 a pop. That shows how much money ASI make out of me, supposing they ever sell any copies at their high prices.

  14. Lord,have mercy on my soul. I have been looking for a sight like this one but couldn't find it until now. Unfortunately, I have just paid WEST BOW my first payment on their online package to get my book printed in 4-6 months. I have read all their promotion promises but I am aware that authors must advertise their product. I was aware that asking for money before seeing my work was strange. My teen age son thought it was strange. My gut also
    felt it was strange but I went ahead knowing that I will find out soonest if they were legitimate. Their recruiting consultant was . Their other managers are not efficient.I still have my manuscript. They have sent me PDF information to complete and return. I don't understand them. As a first time publisher, I feel they should be more helpful. This suspicion has driven me to continue my research on them and has led me to this blog/ site. Well, I wonder… after reading all this about them…which self publisher I can transfer my work to for satisfaction? Any suggestions?

  15. Anon, if you have handed over any money basically it's all over as far as 'Westbow' is concerned. You have paid ASI, a huge conglomerate which sells printing to aspiring authors who believe they have a book inside them, to make a digital file and print it. On top of their fees, you have paid Thomas Nelson extra for a 'Christian' label on ASI's services. No literate Christian person evaluates your writing, for grammar, spelling, content, coherence, factuality, good sense, spirituality, saleability or anything else you may think of. No-one cares if you never sell a single copy. Any of their 'editors' whom you may employ will not necessarily know a Christian book from any other book, and may well be a non-native speaker located in some Third World country.

    The one thing which will keep coming is offers of expensive extra deals for publicity, exhibition space etc. etc., plus personal testimonies about 'self-publishing' from others who have done the same as you. If you ever read to the end of one of these, you will note that the testimony is frequently sincere but un-proofread. If you ever get a copy of the whole book, it will usually be on the same literary level.

    Attempting to "resolve issues" will I fear be akin to writing to Uncle Joe Stalin when one of your beloved relatives has been arrested and disappeared into a camp …

  16. I'm frustrated beyond belief with WB. Anybody have names/contact information for higher-ups that might be able to resolve issues?

  17. Thomas Nelson is a "Christian" publishing company. I am Christian and know how they think. They will not permit your vocabulary because uber Christians reject it. In a new group of Christian youth – the old use of the English language will change. For now, by gosh and all such terms will be rejected by the bots. Thank you for the heads up. Stay encouraged.

  18. The basic error is to suppose that Westbow is a publisher. No human being evaluates your writing, only a programme looking for certain items of vocabulary.

  19. Avoid WestBow at all costs. They're a fraud. They'll tell you they get $400.00 and in some cases more then that, by keeping your payment and not publishing you. I'm in legal dispute now. I've taken the matter up with the attorney general's office in their state and plan to sue them. They are criminal!!!!!

  20. I wanted to get a children's book published, by WestBow and definitely avoid them like the plague. They rip writers off. They told me I had to pay first, which isn't the norm. Other reputatble publishers will evaluate your work first, then see if it can be published–I should know, been there and done that! Not so with WestBow. They want you to pay first, so they can begin deducting money, here's a for instance. I went through the process and paid, had my work evaluated only to have one of their reps tell me I'm using inappropriate language. This was the language I wrote: "What the heck!" and "Oh my God." These were the ones I remember. Well, since it wasn't going to be published, I asked for a refund. I was told there would be no refund and was hung up on. Now I have contacted my credit card company, the attorney general's office in their state and I plan to take them to court if need be. They are thieves, plan and simple.

  21. I worked with Christian Faith publishing, spent a lot, got very little for it. Presently, working with West Bow and so far, it just costs a lot! In the future I will be going to create space for other projects. Do your research!

  22. I lost over $600 in my first installment with Westbow Press. My project manager royally screwed up not relaying key information to the evaluation team for my manuscript. I told my pr. manager that I used two pseudonyms for two of my novels and that my cover page and the maps inside were of my own design since I'm a graphics designer as well. The evaluation team came back with all sorts of items about my having to get copyright from the other authors [which were me]and that I needed written permission to use such materials. The whole evaluation was invalid and mismanaged, including objections to the words "pee" [a bodily function and to the description of the police officer in the story as a "hard-assed cop." I backed out of my contract considering they mismanaged key information about me and my two novels. Terrible, terrible experience with Westbow. They kept most of my first installment because there were umpteen penalties for not following through with the contract. The project manager was useless.

  23. Well, I have read all of these comments. I have written a book of Christian poetry. I have chosen WestBow to do an e-book. I am just looking for a platform and hope to be picked up by a traditional publisher in order to have an actual book published. I do not want to pay such large sums as noted for the other WestBow packages and have found the e-book to be the most value priced package. Maybe Thomas Nelson will take note of my book. I don't want to have to format myself as you have to with other "free" self-publishing companies. I see this as an opportunity and the e-book seems to be the best less risky option. Also, it could take months or years to be taken on by a traditional publisher. At least I will have set in motion the first production of my book. That is something. I will get a sense of self-satisfaction. My family and friends can read it. If others take note of it, then that will be a bonus.

  24. Well this is just lovely. I am just starting with WB, I turned down Author House, two subsidies and a traditional publisher. Fool me once……

  25. Please help! I wrote a children's book that I need published by July. If anyone can give me recommendations to a reputable publisher I would aappreciate it. DESPERATE AND FULL OF VANITY!!

  26. My book, Mirror Images, won the 2012 Women of Faith writing contest and was recently released by WestBow Press as part of the prize package. Since I am not a typical customer, I have no comment on the vanity press debate or Thomas Nelson/WestBow/Author Solutions motives. I can say that everyone I worked with at WestBow was extremly helpful and professional. I had considerable input on the cover and interior design and couldn't be more thrilled with the high quality end result. BTW–I had several opportunities to speak with Kevin Gray and I found him to be a sincere and thoughtful man who clearly loves books, authors, and the Lord. I suspect the success of any self-publishing journey, much like life, will depend on your calling and your long range goals.

  27. I have been working with West Bow for one year. I paid for a very expensive package right up front. They were very aware I was the plaintiff in the largest religious discrimination suit against a major airline. My case was covered by national and international press. I was told my book would be released this June. The production manager had sent me an email it had passed content evaluation. Another employee told me it was in editing and would take 3 weeks. I received word after 1 year of this company knowing this book was a whistleblowing book on corruption with facts to back it ( legal documents, transcripts, etc) they were not printing the book. I am shocked! I feel I was mis-lead among many other feelings. They had full knowledge of what the book was about.I hope they enjoyed getting the interest in the bank from my large sum of money!! This is a captivating and astounding "true story" of one young flight attendant's courageous fight to protect her U.S. Constitutional right of religious freedom in the work place. She and her religious liberties were put on trial in Dallas Federal court and displayed on the world's center stage throughout the media. In the end, Southwest Airlines and their "puppets" had temporarily succeeded to sweep them both under the carpet. They used over-powering collusion, corruption, greed, perjury, intimidation, threats, coercion, obstruction of justice and betrayal as their tactics. They were weaved together by the threads of a sinister and twisted plot, which was perpetrated by Southwest Airline’s C.E.O., a Federal Judge, a Senator, and others. The intended purpose of the conspiracy was to propagate unconstitutional corporate policies and silence the righteous employees by suppression and unlawful eradication of their constitutional freedoms.
    Many lives of the just were shattered and some were even lost, as the evil ones had prospered, until now when the TRUTH is FINALLY exposed!
    I have personally heard the damning and corroborating testimony from the lips of Ms. Mary McDonald, who is one of this story’s WHISTLE BLOWING JURY MEMBERS featured in this real-life thriller.
    Passengers’ "fasten your seat belts and secure your oxygen masks!" You are in for one turbulent flight of David vs. Goliath that you will never forget! Our Creator is He who wears THE ROBE OF SUPREME JUSTICE!”
    Dr. Tony Andrew Wilbeck
    Wichita, Kansas

    “I support the leading of Vanessa Alexandra McCauley that is from the Lord for her to write this book. The American court system has failed justice in this case. The truth must be told, evil must be exposed and ALL of those responsible for this travesty will be held accountable for their respective roles in “throwing” the case as well as their part in conspiring in the subsequent cover-up.”

    The Rev. Gloria Gillaspie
    Burleson, Texas

    I think it was clear up front what this book was about!!

  28. In mitigation of some of my earlier criticisms, I have now persuaded Westbow to provide me with a fresh round of corrections to text and cover in lieu of the missing marketing. The changes would have cost me several hundred dollars if I had been paying for them at this stage. I suggest to anyone who feels shortchanged that they press for some substitute service.

  29. I published a book from WestBow press. My recommendations are as follows:
    1. Don't use their editorial services. They miss many and obvious mistakes.
    2. Don't purchase their press release package. They didn't give me feedback as promised AND their release generated no responses. Additionally you can get the same service at half the price other places.
    3.Don't purchase ANY package from them. I received a "package deal" from WestBow for a review from Kirkus. The price of the package $475. When I went to Kirkus directly I got the same review for $450

    You can check out my blog about the latest deal they sent me here:

    There is no doubt in my mind WestBow's business model assumes their books won't sell, so the idea is to milk the authors for as much money as possible both before and after publication. It's sad, I expected more from a "faith-based" company.

  30. I used WB for my first book and will not be returning because of the following reasons (i have a new book coming otu)
    1. No marketing support and frequent calls to sell me marketing support, SELL.
    2. No return policy at my level. I spent a lot of money and couldn't get it in any bookstores but had the expense of selling it myself.

  31. Priscilla, thanks for the update. Would you be interested in turning your experience into a guest post for Writer Beware? Contact me at beware [at]

  32. I am really very frustrated with Westbow at this point. No amount of letter-writing about the missing marketing elicits any meaningful response. I have just tried to post this on their blog, where they had started a thread on marketing:–

    "It is truly refreshing to see an open and honest admission that Westbow, which I now know to be ASI, does no marketing for its authors. I have sought over many months to obtain this. Why? Because in the package which I bought nearly two years ago one element which differentiated it from any ASI offering was “Book Representatives Working to Sell to Christian Book Buyers”. Wisely you no longer offer this, because there is not and never has been any actual substance in it.

    Having already investigated ASI and rejected it, I chose a more expensive package which plainly promised handling of my book by Christian people plus targeted Christian marketing by Christian staff. Without these extra Westbow features I could not justify the extra expense.

    As long ago as New Year’s Eve 2012 I wrote to you in a personal letter “I have already suggested several ways in which you should think about making up to me the deficiency in your business practice to date. I am still waiting for some positive practical response. Appropriate to my current situation would be 25 hardback copies delivered to me here free of charge. That, enabling me to donate copies to many libraries in this vicinity, the large conurbation of Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, would represent something concrete for my money and time, as well as helping you out of an untenable position.”

    There has been no response at all. By now 50-75 such free hardbacks would be fairer and more courteous."

    But predictably they haven't accepted this posting.

    I am at the point where I may take my cover and book .pdfs to CreateSpace, who have done a lovely job on my scanned doctoral dissertation. By now I have a handful of newer corrections successfully incorporated into my text.

  33. I have just had my historical novel "go live" after sending in a professionalally edited manuscript to Authorhouse in July, 2012. It's true , they outsourch to a third world country with all of the language ideosyncracies and lack of, as they try to understand what you have written in your explicit instructions to them. It has been a very negative experience, unlike writing the book. I will market it myself and have several Power Point Presentations ready. Prayer got me through the publishing!!! I will look elsewhere on book two.

  34. As someone considering self-publishing in an industry whose doors are shut as tight as a studio or record label, I believe this is an evolutionary proposition.

    For doubters, I refer to our current newspapers floundering to stay afloat and competitive.

    Social Media revolutions have spawned hope that there is a way to create your own publishing house online, Market it, and provide the product all at very little expense.

    So who will be come the next YouTube sensation of the publishing world? I can only hope with my silly American Dream, it will be me.

  35. Nancy,

    West Bow (like other Author Solutions brands or imprints) won't market your book in any meaningful sense. It'll do a good job of production and make sure the book is put into wholesale distribution, which will make it widely available online and available for special order in bookstores. But self-publishing services don't really do book marketing, and the add-on services they sell to authors at an enormous markup are often pointless (such as New York Times ads or Hollywood pitches) or ineffective (such as electronic press releases or email blasts). With ANY self-publishing service, it's going to be up to you to get the word out about your book.

    In true self-publishing–where the author handles or contracts out all aspects of the publishing process him/herself, as opposed to buying a publishing package from a service provider like West Bow–the author buys and owns his or her ISBN, which identifies the author (or whatever publishing company the author has set up to publish his/her books) as the publisher. With packaged self-publishing services, the service owns the ISBN, and the service is identified as the publisher. Unless you want to take on the challenge of true self-publishing, there's no particular advantage to owning your ISBN.

  36. Actually, Nancy, with Westbow you will own your ISBN; but marketing will not amount to anything. I don't think that they really gave me value for money one way and another.

    I have just published my Oxford doctoral dissertation with CreateSpace, and if your text is in order they are quite a good deal.

  37. All your comments are very helpful. I've already declined Tate Publishing and now it looks like West Bow may be a no-go as well. If I don't have the patience to wait for an acceptance from a traditional publisher, then it seems LuLu our Create Space is the best way. My fear is the marketing aspect. I'm a poor salesman, as evidenced by my blog. At least West Bow would start the marketing process and I could take it from there. But what's the issue of not owning my own ISBN?

  38. Was hoping for happier stories.
    Thought they would be more helpful.
    Was told that Westbow does not do Vanity publishing.

    Does anyone know who can publish better?



  39. I recently published a book with Westbow Press and was thoroughly impressed with the customer service and quality of the book. I hired an editor and between the two of us, created a fairly clean, accurate manuscript. I designed my own cover and submitted it. Westbow did an exceptional job at every turn including delivering a high-quality final product. My issue is that they have no way to accurately track how many books are sold through,, etc. I tried to get numbers of books printed by Author's Solutions, Inc. (the actual printer of the books) but Westbow told me they might print books for bookstores to stock and those are not counted as books sold. So, I could be selling 100,000 books a month and getting zero royalties because no one can track anything. I would have been far better to choose a POD printer and retained control over order fulfillment. Be warned! If you pay Westbow Press to "publish" your book, you will never know how many books are sold outside their website.

  40. It turns out that "Reps Working to Sell to Christian Book Buyers" means no more than that your book will get listed in the Westbow catalogue which goes to booksellers in the USA …

  41. I'm now into the home straight with my Westbow book: I'm not displeased with the final product. Given that the book is long, the 'free' copies amount to a significant chunk of the initial payment: a shorter book would be priced lower and so those copies would be less worthwhile.

    I have had to work very hard in order to get the presentation that I wanted. "Keep a dog and bark yourself" has often been an apt description of an overlong process. Next stage is to obtain action on the "Reps Working to Sell to Christian Book Buyers" part of my contract.

  42. I have a childrens prayer book illustrated. ther eis only one prayer designed for around 4-5 yr olds. Tate publishing wants almost 4k to to the publishing and calls it a retainer. Why does it seem no notable agent, much less publisher wants to touch a first time author?


  43. Westbow is yet another subsidy imprint.
    At $999 to start they are pretty high priced. I recommend real self publishing instead, as described in many books on the

    John Culleton

  44. I am in the end-stages of publishing a long (500 pp.) spiritual autobiography with Westbow. It has meant six months of unremitting effort on my part, with a long series of proofs and plenty of waiting in between whiles. They did not edit for me: I was too unimpressed with their initial sample. The book is at last clean, give or take the odd bit of italicised punctuation where it shouldn't be, and looking quite presentable in print.

    It is my verdict that you can get accuracy out of them, but not combined with speed.

  45. Thank you all for this eye-opening info. I am also a (greenhorn, newbie – pick one) per-author with a manuscript. In the last two days I have seen the "ocean" of publishing pitfalls in this and other blogs and do not know if I have the fight in me to make the swim! Prayer – good idea!

  46. It's so very sad that a "Christian" company would resort to this kind of dishonest publishing. It's a sign of the end-times. Therefore, a Christian author must enter into getting their book published the right way and with much hard work and prayer. WestBow appears to not be the right way. I am an unpublished author, and reading this blog has opened my eyes.

  47. [proschI published my book with West Bow but I hired an outside professional editor who has worked for Zondervan, so my manuscript is clean. My husband is a professional book reviewer, contracts with some of the major companies, and is doing some indie books now and find errors in them all the time. I think it is a travesty but I suspect the author had no editor, West Bow will sell you services without editing as will most other indie publishers.

  48. I found this blog wandering around a search engine looking for contact information on West Bow Press. I have been impressed with Thomas Nelson in the past and bought a book published by a friend by West Bow.
    My daughter, a college junior and I are having a very difficult time reading the book because of an exponential amount of typographical errors. I am up to page 53 of a 106 page book and have upwards of a hundred marks in the book. I am not a professional proofreader. Indie publisher or not I would think some sort scrutiny should be given to the presentation of a published manuscript. I would also think that anyone can do what West Bow did with this book. It appears they simply took a first draft, put it into print and let it fly.
    Primarily, it reflects poorly on the author in most people's minds. Maybe among professionals in the business there might be criticism of a publisher for allowing this to happen, but by and large the author takes the hit.
    Let me float an idea, might West Bow have intentionally done this as the book is a treatise on belief in the Gospel and a Reasonable Faith?
    Nelson should have looked in bed perhaps before they climbed in with West Bow. This has me questioning the judgement of Nelson as well. Did they just take the money and run?
    Anyone else with similar experience?

  49. I am using West Bow right now, too old and impatient to wait for a traditional publisher. I have been extremely happy. Bought a small package with no marketing except the "inside the book" feature on Am doing my own marketing after a 30-year marketing career. I also hired a profesional editor outside of WB; she works for another Christian publisher and edits on the side.
    No complaints so far. Things have changed just in the two years since this blog post went up.

  50. Are there any reliable and reasonable editing service that I can use? I am a new author planning to publish.

  51. PDW asks:
    I have three completed, unedited manuscripts that I would like to publish. I have no name recognition so it does not appear that a traditional publisher will be picking up my manuscripts any time soon. I have looked at many POD services, and could not find one that seemed to be able to deliver on it's advertising. Now after reading these posts I am really convinced that there are no POD services that can truly deliver. Is there another alternative? I am about to review http://www.lightningsource as suggested in one of the posts. I am really looking for some guidance here.

  52. Nice service, and thank you. As a new author, I have been scammed on my first try. Makes me wish I had found this site sooner.

    My book was published and I am quite satisfied with the quality. Overlooking a few minor flaws, the real problem was with the "book consultant".

    I had bought the publishing package that included 60 soft covers and 20 hard covers. Before receipt of those that consultant called with a hot deal. I specifically told him that I do not need any more soft covers because my contract covered 60. And I would be interested if he had a deal on hardcovers.

    The deal seemed to be very good (too good) for hard covers, so I ordered 150 plus 10 complimentary. It was too good, and you can guess what I received after paying for hardcovers.

    Yep, paperbacks which I had specifically said I did not want. Any recompense? The only concession has been a mythological 5% above usual discount from cover price for the books I wanted at the beginning.

    I have offered every opportunity to make some sort of adjustment, but that meager 5% which anybody could get anyway was the only offer. So, I'm stuck with over $1,800 of inventory I did not want. I need cash flow to get started. I offered to have them sponsor a large book-signing, but they don't do that.

    To be fair to WestBow, the final net price of all books and shipping is just under 50% off cover price. Under the circumstances, that is insufficient.

    I cannot say if any other publishers deal in such a manner, because I don't know. If anyone has an alternative suggestion for next time, I would appreciate it.

    I have recently reviewed two extensive works for other first time publishers, edited one of those, and wish to refer to honest self-pubisher if there is such.


  53. Regarding editing, I'm not so impressed with what I see from "professional editing" these days. The only way you know if you are reading a good book is to read the book, regardless of whether it is self published or not. Look inside, browse it, and make up your own mind instead of making decisions based on a variant of ad hominem fallacies.

  54. Self-publishing is a scam from the get-go. I used to work for FirstBooks/AuthorHouse. The business model is how to separate the vain from their money. Any book not professionally edited is not worth the paper it is print on. Formatting services are done in a third-world country (India has become too expensive), and once the experienced staff (except sales people) reach a certain wage point they are terminated. Writer Beware indeed!

  55. Avery, I discuss Crossway (briefly) in this post. It's another Author Solutions-driven venture, similar to West Bow Press and Harlequin's DellArte Press.

    I invite you to spend some time poking around the blog archives, which may give you a better sense of we're all about. Also see the Self Publishing Services page of Writer Beware for a full discussion of POD self-publishing, including the pros, cons, and potential pitfalls.

    The more writers know, the more informed their choices can be.

  56. Victoria,

    The way I see it is that you don't want self published authors around. Why are you not writing blogs about other self publishing companies that are not under Author Solutions? If you have any, can you post the link so I can read them because it seems to me that you hate the Author Solutions brands so much.

    You have absolutely pointed out the clear benefits of not publishing with these publishing houses, but what about authors who doesn't have names yet? Are you willing to read my manuscript and edit and proofread it for free and help me get to a traditional publishing?

    What do you think will happen to aspiring authors if theres no self publishing? Have you experienced frustrations of waiting for a publisher to finally get your book and would not even get any feedback from them?

    It seems that you know a lot about the publishing world and that you're keeping an eye to the activities going on. What about CrossBooks? What can you say about them? What do you call these authors who publish with them? Are they on the wrong track as well?

  57. Yes, again, wonderfully emotive language. But as I have said, Hannibal is cooking away in the corner of the publisher room. We can either pretend we don't smell some author's brain cooking away, or we can choose to rewrite the cookbook.

  58. Kenneth,

    Money flows TO the writer. Not the other way around.

    This is vanity press, pure and simple. No matter how you try and dress it up or validate the business model, it's a vanity press.

    I don't think Victoria or anyone here – those who carefully assesses what is happening in the publishing business – are trying to dress up anything. The reality is – whatever you think of vanity presses – they are a part of the overall publishing industry and are used by authors, albeit, many inexperienced authors. To ignore this is simply to ignore the elephant in the room.

  59. Money flows TO the writer. Not the other way around.

    This is vanity press, pure and simple. No matter how you try and dress it up or validate the business model, it's a vanity press.

  60. Janny wrote:
    What's even sadder is that West Bow Press used to be a regular publisher itself. So how does that affect people who are published with West Bow (or Westbow) already? Do they have to then overcome the vanity-press label? Do they have to spend a lot of time explaining how they aren't with "that" Westbow?

    If I were a former WestBow author, I'd be really annoyed. Many bookstores still have backlist titles with the WestBow imprint on the shelves. This is going to lead to confusion once the newer titles come out. People might buy one of the self-published books "Because they pubished Ted Dekker" or whatever author they like. Once people have been burned, backlist sales of those existing WestBow authors could suffer unless those titles are brought out under yet another imprint.

    I don't buy many Christian novels (except some historicals lately), but even I recognize WestBow and the cute little logo. So fans of Christian novels will be sure to at least look at one of the new WestBow books, thinking they will get a guarantee of the level of quality they expected from that imprint in the past.

  61. What on earth is a reader to do? Just because a book is published near a big publishing house or on the same planet as a big publishing house or the book is written in English (the same language used by a big publishing house in the US, Canada, or UK) doesn't mean that the book is *any darn good*. I am so sorry but I don't *care* about the writer's dream — I care about reading a good book.

  62. Hello Victoria,

    With all the blogs and comments buzzing through the blogsphere, I would say this is a change of earthquake significance – 7.5 on the Richter scale. What remains to be seen is whether this "seismic activity" brings any actual value – with the new(?) brand – to Thomas Nelson's bottom line. Check back with them next year to see if it made any significant difference.

    "May we all live in 'interesting' times." ;>)

    Be blessed,


  63. Actually, I hesitate to call this self-publishing at all. If you don't own the ISBN and you pay-to-play by someone else's rules, with the lion's share of whatever profit there is going to the house…that's vanity/subsidy.

    Calling it indy-publishing instead doesn't really turn it into something roguish and trailblazing.

  64. Kevin Gray said,

    The indie movement in films, and later music, has been led by artists who've been rejected by the large studios, or chosen not to work within their restrictive framework. These artists believe in their works, thus they choose to finance the production of their films and music or books rather than accepting no for an answer…That's where we draw the parallel with the "indie" movement.

    In my opinion, this isn't an accurate parallel. True self-publishing–where the author does everything him/herself and keeps 100% of the sales proceeds–is comparable with these indie artists. But the kind of self-publishing provided by Author Solutions and similar companies isn't like that. As I pointed out in my post Why You Are Probably Not an Indie Author, writers who publish with a self-publishing company grant limited licenses to their work, are dependent on whatever choice of services and distribution the company provides, do not own their ISBN number, and must give the lion's share of every sale to the company. In other words, they are not truly independent.

  65. Adding linkage to Mick Rooney's blog post on Nelson, West Bow, and Author Solutions. Mick comments that "This is a shrewd and significant move by Author Solutions—perhaps one of the most significant moves ever in the relatively short modern history of author solution services globally." I agree.

    Mick also lists the hefty prices for West Bow's publishing packages.

  66. What's even sadder is that West Bow Press used to be a regular publisher itself. So how does that affect people who are published with West Bow (or Westbow) already? Do they have to then overcome the vanity-press label? Do they have to spend a lot of time explaining how they aren't with "that" Westbow?

    There is NOTHING about this arrangement that sounds, or smells, good…from the name on down. I'm astonished that TN would resort to this kind of foolishness.


  67. BTW. If Thomas Nelson picks up a book this way, will they refund the author's initial outlay?

    An excellent point Erin, though somehow I can't see TN refunding the author for their self-publishing expenses paid to Author Solutions. After all, TN must be getting some form of commission from Author Solutions for giving them more business in the first place.

  68. Kevin A. Gray:

    It will give more authors the chance to have their works exposed…

    I'm sceptical of this kind of verbiage. It's vanity-house speak, this time with the added incentive of being offered to "go commercial" with a respected house.
    Careful consideration is in order here. If the manuscript really has enough commercial appeal for Thomas Nelson to pick up and reprint, you can probably sell first rights for a better deal elsewhere, without first having to shell out for the self-pub.

    BTW. If Thomas Nelson picks up a book this way, will they refund the author's initial outlay?

  69. The news that a reputable publisher is taking this move saddens me.

    Vanity presses (no matter what they call themselves) offer the worst of both worlds: 1) the author pays up front (meaning no risk to the publisher – and no reason for them to make the book sell) and 2) the publisher then pays pitiful royalties (on the off chance a book actually sells) to boot.

    I suggest any would-be authors reading this go straight to (the company most vanity presses use anyway), click the publisher option and become a publisher.

    If getting an ISBN worries you then believe me it is easy – pop me a message and I'll tell you exactly what you need to do – free of charge!

    Doing this you'll see just how much of a markup the vanity presses make. Plus you will then be able to buy copies of your book at a reasonable price and keep any profit from sales.

    Joe Gregory
    co-author of The Wealthy Author

  70. I guess it is inevitable, in a way, especially in such a digital age, age of computers and things like that. And from a dollars and cents point of view, perhaps it makes sense.

    If I were a publisher, I would likely be very tempted to have a "print on demand" division… sure, why not? It may very well help my bottom line and keep the company afloat when other authors' sales are down.

    Interesting topic… vanity presses are not going to go away (and I'm not saying they should), so perhaps publishers (as well as authors) need to find a way to turn them into a win-win situation.

    Thanks, Jill

  71. I don't get these vanity presses? If the authors aren't even going to get basic editing, why don't they just use Lulu or CreateSpace?

  72. Lehcavjt,

    If this is the only real motivator for authors to chose the TN imprint over another imprint, then what TN is doing is putting a dollar sign on dreams.

    That is certainly one way of looking at it, but this model of business for publishing has been tried with various companies with mixed success. Publishing companies have crossed the fence from both directions commercial publishers offering publishing services, and a publishing service offering a traditional contract.

    I'm not sure there is anything wrong, as such, with these approaches – it is simply a reaction to a business which is changing very quickly.

  73. Lehcarjk,

    I wonder at price though. Is it cheaper to self-publish through this new imprint than any other Author Solutions service or is the sole draw the idea of being picked up on a more traditional contract?

    The prices being quoted by WestBow Press for a multiple of different packages start at $999 right the way up to $19,999. The base package at $999 is exactly that – pretty basic and delivers the bare essentials, though at the moment it is hard to judge book cover quality and interior layouts until we start to see the first few titles coming out. One can only assume these will be at the standard offered by AuthorHouse, Xlibris and the like. I would not consider them particularly competitive compared with other author solution services. But then authors will be drawn in on the reputation, not of Author Solutions, but Thomas Nelson.

    The press releases and my perusal of both company sites (Thomas Nelson and WestBow Press) make it clear that Thomas Nelson are merely performing a watchful eye. Their editors, designers or marketeers will have no input into the self-published product.

    What authors will be hoping for is that their opus flourishes under WestBow Press and catches the eye of a Thomas Nelson editor.

    also, I do notice that many of the packages from the $2700 mark upwards mention 'reps' directly selling books. Now that can't be through Author Solutions – so one can only assume that Thomas Nelson may be providing some kind of indirect assistance or push on distribution. They don't acknowledge this – in fact they push this responsibility all over to ASI. But I wonder how much Thomas Nelson will sit on the fence and simply count the dollars as they come in.

    Its a little like having a Ferrari and watching someone else drive it around all day. But then, self-publishing was never meant to be a Ferrari – maybe a beat-up old pick-up, but Thomas Nelson's beat-up old pick-up none-the-less!

  74. Joining traditional publishing with self-publishing is interesting.

    If I want to be published by XYZ big publisher, I self-publish using their services & then do my darnedest to move my product and catch their attention.

    It definitely takes the risk out of the equation for big publisher as I've already proven I can make money before they even look at me. On the other hand, I've now put all my eggs into one publishing basket.

    For me personally, this isn't attractive, but for those already dong the self-publishing thing I can see why going through a big publisher might be desireable.

    I wonder at price though. Is it cheaper to self-publish through this new imprint than any other Author Solutions service or is the sole draw the idea of being picked up on a more traditional contract?

  75. Victoria,
    Obviously, we are very pleased to join with Thomas Nelson to offer this opportunity to a wider range of authors. It will give more authors the chance to have their works exposed to one of the world's greatest publishers.

    Additionally, I'd like to address our positioning as an "indie book" publisher. The indie movement in films, and later music, has been led by artists who've been rejected by the large studios, or chosen not to work within their restrictive framework. These artists believe in their works, thus they choose to finance the production of their films and music or books rather than accepting no for an answer. They choose to get their work to the marketplace and let audiences decide on their quality.
    That's where we draw the parallel with the "indie" movement.
    Our authors have either not been accepted by a traditional publisher or want complete control of their works. As well, they believe in their work enough to finance it and tirelessly market it. I think most can agree this is a fair comparison.
    Thanks for the platform.

    Kevin A. Gray
    Author Solutions, Inc

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