Last year, giant publishing services firm Author Solutions Inc. contracted with two major commercial publishers to create publishing service (a.k.a. self-publishing, a.k.a. vanity publishing) divisions: West Bow Press for Thomas Nelson, and DellArte Press (formerly Harlequin Horizons) for Harlequin. ASI also, at some earlier point, set up a similar operation, Cross Books, for Christian publisher LifeWay.
While West Bow Press produced barely a ripple of concern, DellArte Press created a tidal wave of criticism and debate, not just among authors but among professional writers’ groups. Was it unethical for commercial publishers to run pay-to-publish divisions, drawing in newbie writers with the lure of the publisher’s name and the promise that successful books might make the transition to a commercial publishing contract? Or was it a pragmatic move on the part of cash-strapped publishers–a way to tap into a highly profitable business model and monetize the slush pile, and use the profits to support their other publishing programs?
Ultimately, the criticism forced Harlequin to change its publishing service division’s name. But it didn’t cause either Harlequin or Thomas Nelson to re-think the divisions themselves.
At the time, I speculated that Cross Books, West Bow Press, and DellArte Press were just the beginning–that other publishers wouldn’t be able to resist the potential profits of adding publishing service divisions. And it seems I was right. According to a press release issued today, commercial self-help publisher Hay House has contracted with ASI to establish a publishing service division called Balboa Press.
“We receive thousands of manuscripts annually, but we can publish only 100 products a year,” said Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House. “Our self-publishing division, Balboa Press, has been formed to allow many more people get their message out. While these books won’t be published by Hay House, Balboa Press will be monitored for success, and hopefully we’ll find the Hay House authors of the future,” Tracy added. “This is the legacy of Louise Hay-25 years later-she wants to help the next generation find their voice.”
Although attributed to Hay House’s CEO, this appears to be ASI’s standard marketing pitch for services like Balboa Press. At any rate, it’s the same trinity of enticements–greater access for authors, possible transition to commercial publishing, and the blessing of the parent publisher–that West Bow and DellArte employed.
The Balboa Press website lays it on even thicker: “With Balboa Press, you have the freedom to self-publish your book in order to help others as well as achieve your own aspirations…” chart your own course and shape your future…” “Balboa Press is your gateway into the world of publishing…” “…explore the new opportunities that await you as a published author…” Canny use is also made of the fact that Hay House was originally established as a way for Louise Hay to self-publish her own books. And then there’s this, from the About Us page:
As a division of Hay House, Balboa Press titles are monitored regularly by the parent company. Hay House is one of the fastest-growing self-help and transformational publishers in the world and hopes to find through Balboa Press new inspiring authors that display their potential to add to their catalog.
For PR purposes, Hay House will probably have to pick up a title or two. Beyond that, I’m not holding my breath, and neither should aspiring authors. Publishing service divisions aren’t about finding fresh new voices; they’re about making money for the parent publisher. But I’m sure that for writers who are unfamiliar with the publishing industry, who’ve bought into the prevalent mythology about self-publishing as a starting point for a commercial career, or who just don’t think a major publishing house would lie to them, this will be a major inducement.
Balboa’s publishing packages range from $999 to $7,999–at the top range, more expensive than the standard packages for either DellArte or West Bow (though West Bow’s prices for its top-range packages are truly jaw-dropping). You can also buy marketing packages, some of which will cost you an arm and a leg. There are some similarities among DellArte, West Bow, and Balboa packages, but each company offers a different mix of services–presumably, ASI gives the parent publishers an a la carte menu of services, and the publishers pick the ones they want.
It’s also interesting to compare all three websites, which differ in the details and tailor their information to the parent publisher’s genre or focus, but all contain similar basic information, author inducements, and overly rosy views of self-publishing’s potential for commercial success.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I understand the attraction of publishing service divisions for publishers, especially in this time of economic pain and seismic change. Why not tap into a growing, profitable field as a way to support core publishing operations? But there has to be a way to do this ethically, without overstated promises and misrepresentation, and without exploiting the ignorance or innocence of aspiring writers.
So who’s next?
I too went with Balboa Press as they told me they are with Hay House. Once I signed up I kept getting offers to advertise which was never mentioned in the original deal. Then I keep getting phone calls telling me that the marketing is essential to sell the book. They did the covers on the two books I went with and they are fine. They even sent me thirty copies that was in the original deal. Then I get emails saying I should go with an Audio book which would cost around eight thousand dollars. As this was out of the question I declined. They said they were going to send me a list of where the book would be offered but have heard nothing back. On the two books I have probably spent close to six thousand dollars but if I had known about them then I would have declined their offer. It looks as though they are dishonest and only want your money. The books are up on Amazon so I will have to wait to see what happens with them.
Please read the recent comments about Balboa Press. Also know that since Kevin Gray posted his comment in 2010, self-publishing options have greatly expanded, and there are now even more reputable alternatives available to Author Solutions and other high-cost services. There's more information and advice at the Writer Beware website: http://writerbeware.com/.
Also feel free to email me if you have questions or need advice: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for posting your comment. As an inspiring writing looking into self publishing and at publishers her post was rather frightening especially since I had just received a voicemail from someone at Balboa Press. Although I do appreciate the “writer beware” information it does end leaving a new writer feeling ever more terrified so your comment came as a break in the clouds.Thank you.
Though, it is now 2019, Reid Tracey, CEO of Hay House recently held a Q&A, where one popular question was about the ability for an author to make a living writing. He surprisingly answered that authors only get 10-15% of the retail for each book! So, yeah, I'd say the publisher makes a bundle, not only from aspiring writers, sucking all they pay to "self-publish" but also any profits the author might possibly make from their efforts.
Really enjoyed this reply as one who is taking the Balboa route for the first time
From what I have been able to glean, while the self-publishers push the marketing component of their self-publishing packages, the extent of what they actually do doesn’t seem to go much beyond putting your book on a list of books that they send out to bookstores! I agree with you, that if they were actively marketing the books, that would be worth quite a bit. But, unfortunately, the experience of those who have published with them, doesn’t bear that out.
A big complaint that I’ve seen, too, is that they price some books so high, that they don’t have a chance of selling. One author mentioned that their book was priced at $89, for an average length book; far more than other, similar books. That even puts books out of the reach of many of our loved ones, never mind strangers!
The hard sell you were given by this sales rep is typical of the imprints run by Author Solutions. "4 slots left" and "passed initial qualifying test" are nothing more than marketing pitches designed to make you feel you've been specially chosen and have to decide fast. Neither are true. Knowing nothing else about Balboa, this should be enough to make red lights flash.
As to improving…Balboa is still run by Author Solutions, which as far as I'm aware hasn't made any changes to its business model, sales tactics, or customer service. I think the comments here are a good preview of what you might experience.
Always be wary of solicitations. This is a growing pitfall for authors, especially with all the Author Solutions copycat companies started up by former AS call center employees from the Philippines.
I have been approached by Balboa re my book and felt in the light of the hard sell, 'this is a time limited offer, we are getting a group of authors and there are only 4 slots left, and we need your signature in 4 days…' I need to do some research. I found this site and I notice the comments start in 2010 and continue 'til late 2017. I am wondering if Balboa have improved since they started up. I have noticed the same pattern of speil from them in the comments here as I got yesterday from the rep. He could have taken the trouble to look at my book which is already online, as he was the second Balboa rep to contact me, and had had plenty of time to look it up, but he knew nothing about it. He told me I had passed their initial qualifying test, and so I could be given this marvellous offer, yet he knows nothing of the quality or subject of my writing as far as I could tell. The experience reminded me of the conservatory salesman who came round and spent 6 hours in our house doing measurements and calculations and then told us he could give us a time limited special offer which was about to be withdrawn in 24 hours. Ha.
I'd love to think they were really genuine, but I can't believe it at the moment.
Thanks for the reports people, though slander is a pastime with some evilutionists, it does have one dig a little deeper into the maze of today`s increasing deception.This is quite a learning curve for sure. If nothing else, having written my Autobiography has helped my gratitude level daily. Balboa`s presentation is smooth but Utube etc yourself sufficiently could do close to their efforts maybe and only time no money. Life is relationships after all so spending time sharing something worthy will increase that if charitable, not haughty.
I had the local copy shop make me a copy for starters and make you laugh,they did it in A4 when I had said A5 size, A4 and chop into two books. Confused maybe and did not check with me.
$ 36 for 250 A4 pages bound. Anyway nice to easy read and re edit. (Again :-))
I have a self-published book with CreateSpace.
I was lucky enough to have had someone hire me to do a keynote speech based on my book and commit to buying a book for everyone at the event before I wrote a word. I had one year to write it and get 100 copies in her hands. Self-publishing was my only option. I was smart enough to hire a designer who took the pressure off of me getting it ready for print (and have it look professional).I also hired an editor who helped with grammar and spelling (as I had no time for re-writes!) I also already had the experience (and an LLC) doing websites and social media so I was able to set up my own "platform."
My book, Activate Divine Creativity: The Life-Changing Magic of the Mandala – MagicoftheMandala.com is about the creative power of mandalas. I decided to illustrate a mandala for each chapter and create a companion workbook.
It came out in October 2015, just as the coloring book craze hit it's peak! This is good and "bad." Good in that I hired a PR person to get me press and it worked. I was written up in several local papers, on TV and featured in business blogs (as I used to own a large tech company – so we leveraged that). It is "bad" in that a lot of people think it's just another mandala coloring book – which is very far from the truth.
Since then I've been sending it to publishers. I have had some even contact me to say "It's great, but not for us, why not try, XYZ publisher?" I almost had a contract in hand with another self-help publisher only to have them change there mind when our current president was elected because they "didn't want to try anything new this year." BOTH of these publishers told me that my book looked great, not like it was "self published" which gave it more credibility.
I have been told not to expect to make any money on my book. Ha!
I DO expect to make money on my book. I love it. I teach classes based on it (everyone buys the book), and I am getting ready for the 5th retreat / conference where I am hired to do classes and other community building activities based on my book, AND each time they buy a book for everyone attending. Since I now have a few of these events under my belt, I ask for all expenses paid, payment for my time and and the books. (FYI I am not making much money yet, but it's growing!)
I am doing everything I can in the time I have (not a lot) to get the word out about my book. I've heard other successful authors say to get out and network. Do free talks, go to trade shows, put a picture of your book and link in your email sig file, build a website and social media (I recommend paying someone to do that).
I will continue to network, send to publishers and use social media to connect with and find influencers. I am paying for advertising (as I can afford it). I have sold a few hundred on Amazon and several hundred at events. I make about $7 a book when they sell on Amazon and about $5 a book when I purchase and resell them from CreateSpace. I have not made more money than I have spent on this yet, but it's getting closer.
Because I talk about my book all the time, I had a friend read it who unbeknownst to me reviews books and music for a major spiritual magazine (Science of Mind), and guess what? She wrote a glowing review for it and it will be printed in the magazine in November, just in time for Christmas!
With all that being said, I am here because I was thinking of signing up for an online course from Balboa (partially due to the alluring promise of the possibility of getting published by Hay House) – EVEN though I did contact them a year ago (all excited), and like others here I was immediately contacted and almost harassed daily by a rep. I was pretty close to pulling out my credit card both times but it felt off so I did more research today and will not be signing up for the class.
My first book I published with CreateSpace. Well done, but no marketing. I read somewhere they do not even inform libraries. For the next book I turned to AuthorHouse, well done, but I am not happy with their marketing, hardly any sale in one year. Now balboa has turned to me wanting to publish the same book in Spanish. Now I am better informed. I realize there is no publisher for me esp. in a language for a strange readership. I ought to give up and relax.
I am truly grateful to everyone who took the time to share your experiences and perspectives with Balboa. I have a nearly completed non-fiction manuscript based on my workshops, and have a platform for my work, and was thinking of taking the Hay House Writers conference this weekend. Much of it seemed to be information I already have, so i was on the fence, and just thought I'd research a bit online to see feedback about the conference, and found this site. I was exploring Balboa as one possibility for Self-Publishing. The avalanche of consistent, negative feedback here, much of it intelligently and thoughtfully written, regarding Balboa, is most convincing. Thank you everyone for sharing your experience and saving many of us the financial losses and poor experiences you have gone through. Egads. Next!
It's almost like Hay House thought…wait we are getting the juice, great, but let's not waste the pulp…let's squeeze every bit of juice we can out of it as well. So they created Balboa Press, the sieve for Hay House that filters all the 'other stuff' and ofcourse occassionally checks to see if any valuable drop did not get retained in the sieve by mistake, plus added benefit…it will make the perfect carrot at the end of the stick.It is a shame to take advantage of writers in this way.
Boy am I glad I found this forum. I was just about to sink 3,000 into Balboa Press. I don't have that kind of money to waste. Thank God a friend on Facebook recommended that I do some research on Balboa before signing an "agreement" (not a contract they say). I'm a starving author and I need to be confident that my hard-earned money is going toward an honest self-publishing company. I think I found one but I'm going to check out CreateSpace. Thanks to all of you for opening my eyes and helping me see the light before I lost 3,000.
I am greatly disappointed by BALBOA PRESS! I am glad I came across this forum, and maybe now I can alert a few writers to beware of this publishing company. I came across it 5 years ago, through the Hay House website. As a first-time writer I had very basic understanding of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Yes, knowing that Balboa is a sister company of Hay House really lures a first-timer, and the promise of many other benefits…mainly the I Can Do It Conferences, their marketing plan and that Hay House keeos an eye out good books to take up, makes it all the more exciting.
So you come to their website, and everything is very neat and orderly. And living in Africa, I wanted everything to be taken care of in the US market so I did not need to run around. I published my book with Balboa in 2011. It was a lot of money, but I thought it will be worth it because I am in good hands. As soon as the payment was done, I noticed that everytime I called, despite my customer reference and told that I have my personal agent, a new agent was on the line. Every single time. None if them knew what I had discussed with the others prior, and everytime I would need to explain it all again. The process started slowly and excruciatingly frustrating. First the book took ages with the editing. The editing was quite pathetic. After the book was finally done, it had mistakes and that took more time and money. Everything was about money. There was no feeling of personal service, nobody cared, I was just another reference number and not a name. I realised I might be talking to a call center,that is how random the agents sounded. Every time I spoke to a new person. It was all very mechanical and impersonal. After the book was done, everything was as confusing as ever. I was not told on what is happening, and random people contacted me that had no interest in my book but only in my money. I have emails that can show this interaction, but there were just as many phone calls from Africa to US that I have no record of. Then came in the first check, the amount was sonething like a few dollars. I was shocked. What happened to the costly marketing plan I paid for, where are the books gone and what was happening. Worse, when I went to cash the check ( it was my first check no matter what) bank said it was expired. I spoke to Balbia saying that the check is expired because maybe of the time it is issued abd time it takes to travel here in post. Till this date I have not cashed a single check. It all got so frustrated, I had my book rights taken back from them, and now sitting with the book. I have written my second and third book but it is worth waiting and working on author platform for even 2 years than self publishing it. Because it is not worth it, unless you gind a better self-publishing company, that I am certain there are. If you need your message out there, and have a smaller audience, or another reason then you should self-publish. Balboa Press have their packing so perfect and present themselves in such an inticing manner,but beware because this is what happened to me. I am not sure if they have improved or was I just very unfortunate, but I am happy to share my horrible self-publshing experience with Balboa if it can deter even a few of you from falling in their trap.
I am sorry you are having such an awful experience with Balboa. I have had an excellent experience with Amazon's Create Space. I opted out of choosing any of their consultants and designed the book myself. (I am really not a design person, but the cover came out fine with a modified template they supplied for free). The only cost involved, other than my own time, is around $3.50 per completed book in the quantities of 25 that I buy. If Amazon messes up a book, they replace it no questions asked. So I have been very pleased and have sold my fair share on Facebook. A major author has said she would write a Forward for me and if this happens I hope to sell more.
So many accounts that I have since discovered are terrifying in not only the realities of dealing with the shoddiness of publication with Balboa (down to truly poor quality books that look thrown together), but many have claimed they can see their book is selling copies, but they've yet to recieve one single royalties cheque. It really is criminal.
So in the end I chalked it up to an extremely costly experience, but am forever grateful that the final copy never made it to their offices, so that, although I am still unpublished in any way, that everything I've worked so tirelessly for has not been an absolute waste by throwing it away, which is what would have happened if I'd gone through with publishing with Balboa. I can't speak for the lack of distrubution (the idea of which barely surprises me) but I can say, every plug I've read by Balboa for other titles they are selling, isn't it concerning to these authors that whoever is writing these bios can't even spell? And that their punctuation and literary expression, let alone their basic English, is often appalling? Too many unprofessional and dodgy elements to this scam to let anyone else fall for it.
My advice? Run away – avoid Balboa Press like the plague. And frankly, Louise Hay, you should be ashamed of yourself. As disappointed as I am in wasting $6000, I am eternally more disappointed that you could sell your soul in such a way as to see so many of your genuine fans be ripped off in the name of drumming up business. For shame.
I could write all day about the awful, dishonest and dubious (frankly downright criminal) way in which Balboa Press operates. In the very first instance, same, I stupidly trusted in Louise L Hay's association. In exploring self-publishing I came accross Xlbris. However there were dozens of sites laying complaints against them. So I fell for the charm of Balboa, especially when they cited that if I were to pay for the most expensive package ($6000 Aus) that I could finally relax and let them take care of the rest. Obviously I was naive, but when experienced authors tell you you shouldn't expect vanity publishers to do any of the work for you, I'm telling you that's the exact marketing ploy they use.
So I signed up, and lo, the very first payment on my credit card, not to Balboa Press no no – for some absolutely, unexplainable reason, the payment was made to Xlbris. What the?? There was absolutely no transparency as to why these two seemingly seperate publishing agencies were suddenly now linked in such an inextricable way. It was beyond me, and frankly I was too frightened to ask why, given what I'd just signed up for. This was also before Author House purchased Balboa, and way before Balboa had stooged anyone enough to have any bad press.
So I kept making payments, and sent them my manuscript, only to have it handballed back to me at every turn, lest I incur further hidden costs of, gosh, I don't know, editing and the likes, all of which I had so gullibly fallen for as being included as a part of the monstrous expense I had paid in purchasing the most expensive publishing package. No no, all of these hidden extras were going to set me back thousands more. Which I just didn't bloody well have.
So in my pathetic attempt to match their non-existant deadline ("Take your time" "Is it ready yet?) I worked as hard as I could to polish and edit my manuscript as best as I could myself. Luckily for me, in the meantime (as this was taking me years!) enough bad press was coming to light on how shonky Balboa are, and how false so many of their claims are, so that once they have the rights to the ISBN you're in a real bind, even though they claim that the rights of the manuscript will always remain with you. By so many accounts, simply not true.
Lulu.com. it's a self publishing for just the cost of the book.
I agree! In my case I was hoping Hay House would pick it up, but I was naïve. My latest books self publish with Create Space all the way!
I self-published my book for free on Amazon's Create Space. Now that the book is done, it costs me under $3.00 per book if I want to purchase them and I can get as many as I want. I sell them on my website and at Amazon. I even put up a Kindle version. All in all it has been a very good experience. I don't see why you have to spend $1,000 to self-publish a book.
I am getting ripping off from Author House Indiana USA for 8 years now as I haven't getting paid yet, despite the book Hades and Persephone selling/renting well.
I tried to stop them since 2007 but I can see my book until now in more than 100 countries advertising.
It's regretable that such a big country like USA allowing top publishers to exploit
authors rights in order the publisher to have an ongoing steady income without the government take an action.
I do agree. To get my self help and inspirational book out, im paying a shit load out of my pocket and pray i make it back.
Its hard. I dont have that money just laying around. Could take me years to self publish.
Whats this Lu Lu you mention.
Id love to put a book to print and the money come right back to my pocket.
Im litterally paying for people to poke holes in my book. Before its printed. Bit costy.
Anonymous, that kind of relentless solicitation is a hallmark of Author Solutions. Once they get your contact info, you're done. (I have some personal experience with this–I was the contact person for my uncle, who published his short stories with one of the Author Solutions brands; he has been dead for five years, but I'm still getting calls from AS marketing people.)
I know Hay House well, and am impressed with them, but since an initial online enquiry to Balboa…..they won't leave me alone. I get emails, and phone messages. I have tried being subtle, and polite but it just doesn't work….I do not like being unnecessarily nasty to people, even telemarketers.
I have no issue whatsoever with self-publishing, and may use Balboa at some stage but I do have an issue with the 'water-dripping-on-a-stone technique.
I have mentioned a couple of times to a publishing consultant that; I will contact them when I'm ready, but they just keep trying…..they're very persistent, I guess that's an admirable trait, but it also turns people off.
My wife published a book using CreateSpace about 8 years ago, and we have been happy with the experience. She comes from a family of English professors from major universities, so we understood the differences between "vanity publishing" and "real publishing." I think many people on this blog have the expectation that Balboa, CreateSpace, and similar companies are going to do all the same editing and promotional work that a "real" publisher would do…clearly unrealistic. You create and edit your book, upload to the POD house, make sure it's on their website, pay your money, and see what happens. Maybe you'll make money, maybe not – for most of us who have been through the experience of "vanity publishing," making a profit would be nice, but it's more about putt our stories out there to share. As someone observed previously, all publishing is "vanity publishing," it's just a matter of degree. As a writer, you feel you have a message, and you want to get that message out to the world, whether in a blog, POD, or a "real book." The only reason to pass judgement is because of the reader's ego.
I think there may be a difference between vanity publishing and self-publishing. Assuredly, some people just want to publish their poems and will not mind being "taken" or having to market their product. On the other hand, some authors, frustrated by the often-closed doors of the "legitimate" publishing industry, find that self-publishing is their only viable alternative. As a college and high school teacher of forty-four years, I published a book, part memoir of my experience and part analysis of American education. It is noteworthy and valid, but when I approached firstly, agents, and secondly, publishers, I got little encouragement. Maybe I did a poor job of presentation, but more often, I kept getting the paradoxical message "we prefer to work with publisher authors." It is pretty hard to be published unless someone is willing to take a chance. Eventually, I used CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon. I was able to do my own cover, my own editing (my wife and I were English teachers), and my own layout and kept the total cost, including an application for a Library of Congress number, to less than $120. On the flip side, however, is that promotion lies solely with me unless I were to pay CreateSpace for their assistance. That I haven't done, and most of my sales have been through former student and colleagues. I certainly have gotten back my investment, but I am not going on cruises with my proceeds. Ideally, the book, entitled (unabashed plug here and quotation marks in lieu of italics) "Teacher Let the Monkeys Out," would be used in a introduction to education classes in colleges as a springboard for discussion. But, for the moment, I just have to be satisfied with the trickle of sales of a book that made me feel good to publish.
Balboa press is doing unfair trading. they lead you astray. all the hype and its going to be great and WE will publish you and do YOU want to write a book for US. Writing the book was fun and good but now they dont carry through on the deal THEY DO NO MARKET YOU!!! they simply supply the name of the book to the different companies. they may send a press release to the TV, radio stations etc but they dont follow up and they do not do anything else. And then they offer no explanation. It's downright dishonest and manipulative.
I would avoid Balboa Press. They ended up being horrible. Never mind that they're going to try and squeeze as much money out of you as they can. They are unprofessional and horrible to deal with. You have little to no control. If you want to change anything, this will cost you hundreds of dollars. They are not worth it. They lure authors with the possibility that Hay House will pick your book to be published by them. This is like playing the lottery, meaning it likely won't happen. I wanted to change the Kindle price of my book and they came back and said, "You can only change it once in a lifetime." And that I had already had it changed. However, when they changed it the first time they neglected to inform me that once they change it that they will not be able to change it again. I said if they cannot change it, then discontinue my book – which they did. This was at the hands of the author's assistance over there, Cori Blatchford and Ashley Delp. I'm happy to be free of Balboa. I discovered that I do not need them at all. What they offer, I can do better and for far less money.
In looking for a vanity book publisher I discovered a number of so called publishers all under one roof and even complicit with Readers Digest.
THE GROUP IN QUESTION:
Trafford Holding Ltd
Life Rich (Readers Digest)
In calling them once the receptionist had to scramble to find just who to forward my call to
in order to get the right person on the right extension & right title.
Very chaotic and unstable to know who was on first, totally out of control. The staff turnover must be ongoing with basically no knowledge as to what was going on.
I come from a family of published authors, please read my advice…
Do you want to be a writer, or do you just want to be published? I feel too many people sit around waiting for a large company to dignify their efforts before they feel justified in their work. The core of authoring is sharing your work – not profit, that is merely a consequence of popularity. If you want to write, write. Share what you have to offer and let it have its intended effect on whatever audience you can find. If what you have to share is important/interesting/helpful your audience will grow. It can't NOT grow because this world is literally begging for more help/entertainment/drama, etc. Just write your book and get it out there however you can. If it's meant to be big, you'll get the attention you need.
Self publishing is of course a good option – and although some argue with the fees, think of all the grass-roots marketing and promotion they save you the trouble of. Most authors (back in the day) had to fight tooth and nail to get their work in front of eyes, they had to call around and beg for speaking arrangements and interviews, they had to sacrifice a lot and it was always a gamble.
A publisher is a business first and foremost. Most are corporations and if you know anything about them, they are legally obligated to profit. That's the backbone of capitalism, like it or not. When you submit your work to a publisher understand that they are not only judging what they read, but they also have to make a determination of marketability. To take on a new contract is quite an investment and undertaking that most new writers seem to overlook. The publisher has to pay an editor, an art department….printing and distribution…and once your book is on a shelf (or the digital equivalent) they need to know someone will want to buy it. If you're not out there getting your work the needed popularity because you're stuck and too focused on the 'contract + advance' what good are you to them?
Most modern publishers are nothing more than distribution houses. They want a piece of your action, and nothing is more interesting to a publisher than a submission with an audience.
In today's connected world it is almost foolish to worry about publishers at first. Protect your work with some sort of copyright and then share it. When people demand what you have to offer, you'll get your contract. If that's too much work for you then pay a self-publishing company to promote and distribute it for you. What they offer is actually pretty darn good if you know ANYTHING about getting out there.
Thank you so much I was ready to get on board with Balboa until I was informed I'd HAVE TO PAY. Say what?? Red flags as I've always read if you have to put money out of pocket for such services stay away….
A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have shared on this thread. I had self-published a book 10 years ago and was "sold" to go with Balboa Press this time. The seeling feature for me was that is was with Hay house and I truly admire Louise and many of the other authors there. Little did I know about all the "hidden" fees and the connection to Author Solutions. When I read the postings from "Leadership Lady" I was finally convinced to get out. To this point Balboa has not been involved in any of the process,other than 3 or 4 emails, and I never did the written contract with them, so I am hoping to get a full refund. Cross your fingers for me.
Why is Hay House getting away with this? Someone should file a class action law suit. In my mind they are worse than the other publishing companies because people truly trust them as representing a set of greater values in the world. I think preying on unsuspecting authors who trust in the "spiritual" values your company supposedly represents is genuinely disgusting and vile.
I too attended the hay house writers conference. I felt it was more marketing for balboa press. by offering one winner many sign up. the info they give about publishing can be found through books or online- most is common knowledge. i did use the deadline for the contest for myself to get my proposal done , which i did. I am sending it to agents and have gotten interest. I feel hay house is doing all these workshops to drum up business for balboa- but i am grateful for the deadline because i now have a professional proposal. i would never publish through balboa. i once wrote them and they call me every month to market to me.
Don't know if anybody noticed, but the address for Balboa Press is the same address for Author House which is a POD self publishing company in Indiana. I thought that was odd that they are both the exact same address.
Balboa Press is located at the address 1663 S Liberty Dr in Bloomington, Indiana 47403.
Author House: 1663 Liberty Drive. Bloomington, IN 47403
The world of publishing books has changed the same way producing any art has changed. Many singers and music groups now create their own labels and do it themselves. Not all movies are made by a major studio and in fact the better movies tend to have been made out of the independent houses. This is the same deal for writers and authors who are also doing it themselves.
I'm stunned to see so many on here praising traditional publishers as the real deal and that if one publishes via any other means, then that author isn't actually a real author in their eyes. Considering that this article was two years ago, no one seems to have predicted the rise in sales by self published authors over traditional authors. This is because book stores are mostly gone and everything is online. These self published authors are ahead of the game, while everyone on this page seems to be waiting for some agent to hopefully see them as gold and sell their material to a real publisher. Meanwhile their manuscript sits in the drawer for decades collecting dust.
However, I see the flip side of this too and understand the allure that some of these self-publishing companies put on their websites to entice innocent clients. Some of these self publishing companies are ripping you off by charging you more than it would cost for you to do it yourself. Balboa Press? $1k-$8k! You need to find a happy medium. You cannot be blind to assume that ONLY publishing via a major publisher means your legitimate. Nor can you assume that someone who self publishes doesn't have a better book than a traditional publisher put out. It's all about word of mouth and marketing the book to the right audience. In the end, the average consumer could care less about who published the book. Trust me no one looks at that except snooty and snobby writers come off like publishing know it all's, but who cares about them when it all comes down to it.
Cannot thank all of you enough for opening my eyes. Balboa nearly had me
Where do I find a reputable, honest,
Publisher who won't rip me off?
I'm glad that I spoke with a friend & found this site before I signed up with Balboa (who I was specifically told by Balboa was the "self-publishing arm of Hay House." I have a friend that experienced a nightmare of shoddy work with Balboa and earned $.25 for a $25+ book. When he questioned this matter, he was shocked to learn that "publishing" is no longer really accountable for how many books are sold. For instance, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc. receive the electronic version of the book from the publisher and then they use their own printer and paper and replicate the cover & the book & then they sell it on their websites. The first day of book launch, my friend knows that he sold 20 copies on Amazon to family members, yet Amazon only "registered" one sale. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, as it appears any self-published author is facing a rough go. But it did crack me up to read how "rah rah" and dismissive of others Leadership Lady was when she thought she would be one of the two authors picked up by Balboa–only to turn rather pissy when it didn't happen! I am very thankful for all of you sharing your thoughts and experiences as I'm definitely going to need to think about this a lot more. Maybe I should set a goal to win the lottery so I can start a CLEAN, HONEST publishing house that truly promotes authors needing to get their work out in the world! So, best of luck to all of you as I don't plan to return to this site as it would be far too depressing for me to be reminded of what I've learned here…AND Leadership Lady has probably now got me in her sights & I imagine (though I'll never know for certain) that I'll be on the receiving end of pissy comments created in anger by someone who clearly didn't exhibit any sympathy for her fellow authors on this site when they were simply sharing their thoughts or feelings…until she realized she, too, was duped. Leaving positive vibes for all, as it very much appears we need it.
Hello Leadership Lady: I am deeply sorry to hear about your 'investment loss' of $5,350.00. Like you, I was taken in by Tate Publishing. I paid the investment, which was a mistake. I was at my weakest moment when they offered me a contract. I did not have an attorney review the contract prior to signing it. What aspiring writer would not be thrilled to receive a phone call and say "We are going to publish your book!" I have learned my lesson. I have written my manuscript and I am now researching the industry. There is much to learn. I suggest this to any inspiring writer; first do your research first! Find out everything you can about industry standards, the parts involved with printing a book, marketing, promotions, publicity, etc. I am now doing what I should have done a year ago. That's ok. Lesson learned. Never again. I will wait until a publisher pays me to write a book and not the other way around. Heed my warning everyone! DO NOT PAY to have your book published.
Hi leadership lady, I just was contacted by Balboa and revealed about my idea about my book unfortunately it is about my life and struggles that were very painful to share, I trusted to share, I want to write in hope to help others, and I just read the "contract" and I am so glad I cam across this site. I am embarrassed i feel for this ruse and wonder on the other end if it was just a 25 year old sales rep. hmmmmm
Hi Victoria Strauss
you can google Author Solutions BBB and you will see Balboa is under Author solutions Alternate Business Names.
Is Balboa, Author Solutions? Is Author Solutions, Hay House? Who is in bed with who?
Ya, I thought I would get picked up by Hay House so I paid the extra to self publish with them. I believed! I mean we are talking Louise Hays, for god sake! She is good like mother Teresa, right? My book was on Bullying strategies and half the time I got Author House when I rang Balboa? I paid, I can't remember how much to get my books displayed with other Hay House Authors. It was a lot of money. I also volunteered at the You Can Do It conference in Pasadena so I could keep track of my books progress. The first thing that was upsetting was my book was not with other Hay house authors. It was up stairs with Balboa authors. I said something and they moved them. Next, They had only five books out and they were gone by the afternoon on Saturday. I asked if they had more to stock, which they didn't so I offered to give them more that I had brought along. They said, only 5 were allowed to be displayed. I would have never paid the $700.? to have only 5 possible books sell. I complained when I got home. I showed them the email I had been sent with the promotions information. They apologized, and said they would send 5 books to the next You Can Do it Conference. Big Deal! Also I was told for $3,500. if I paid for the publicist they suggested, I would make enough to be able to pay her the following months as well. It would be well worth my investment. It wasn't I have spent, 900.00 publishing, 250.00 re sending, 3,500. for a publicist,and 700.00 ish for the 5 book rip off. They got me good!
I entered the Hay House fiction contest, not realizing it was a marketing vehicle for Balboa. The grand prize winner (there will, allegedly, be one) gets a publishing contract with Hay House. The runner up gets a free promotion package with Balboa and THIRTY runners up get a "discount" package with Balboa. I didn't realize what was going on until I officially registered online and a Balboa rep called me the next day to chirpily talk about my "visions of my publishing future." When I told her in no uncertain terms that I'm not interested in self publishing she said that even J.K. Rowling had to self publish the first Harry Potter book. Later, I investigated that on the Net; took just a couple of minutes to establish it was BS. I emailed this info the rep who'd called me; she was a little snarky in response. "I must confess I'm impressed by your tenacity in researching a service you're not even intending to use." but she acknowledged she had been mistaken and thanked me for correcting her, and said that from now on, she and her reps would tout the big list of other famous authors who originally self published, such as Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, John Grisham, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. I went ahead and did quick google searches on the latter two, since they're contemporary (I don't know what the publishing world was like ub Twain and Poe's time)–turned out that those were false stories too!! Neither "Chicken Soup" nor Grisham had ever self published! So I think Balboa Press is a shoddy, shady, shitty (sorry) operation and it bugs me that their pop up ads now plague me on pretty much ever website I go to, and on every youtube video I watch. I tried Spybot but they haven't disappeared yet. Tenacious! Grrrr . . .
Anonymous, do you have any documentation (such as emails) for Balboa denying they were part of ASI? If so, I'd be interested in seeing it–email me at beware [at] sfwa.org. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.
You can find information and resources to help you in researching self-publishing on Writer Beware's Self-Publishing page.
I've thought a ton on whether to self-publish or not. I think the publishing game has changed and continues to evolve, like most fields of work. I worked for "free" when I completed a 12-month internship at 30 hours per week; then was hired for my current job. In fact, few professional jobs anymore hire without some concrete proven ability or internship. Furthermore, in the movie-making world, more and more directors are are making "independant" films and hoping a large studio will pick them up. Think Sundance, Toronto, etc. I don't see how writing is any different. Writing is so competitive, the publishers have the ability (and luxury) to put more of the "burden of proof" on the authors. It's a logical step in 'publishing evolution'; like it is in most fields of work. People are being forced to almost prove themselves first, before large companies will take a chance on them. We're living in a real life version of "The Apprentice." Therefore, it makes sense to me to publish it, generate some buzz about it, and try and get a major to pick you up. Like an internship, you've done all the "training"(work) yourself, which it appears, is what the big pub houses prefer. They want their job to be as easy as possible. With editing services/software, writing coaches, 'how-to' books, intense writer competition, and many other author tools available, can you blame them? I've looked at Balboa and a couple other "assist" companies, and find that none of them have made any outrageous claims or promises. All they're doing is providing a service. I don't get all the issues with them? If I contract them to publish my book, get the ISBN #, and print them, etc, I'm not sure where the confusion is. Maybe they are embellishing the potential – I just haven't seen it. I guess as long as they do what they say they're going to do, it's a pretty straight forward proposition.
I got past the 'discouragement' stage of writing after reading some of the mainstream-published books. Frankly, I agree with scooter; mainstream publishing is no automatic validation of writing worth. I also don't feel like burning another couple of years waiting and will probably move forward with the self publish. Since I have a job, I don't have the time to do all of the marketing and will hire an 'assist' company to, 'assist'. I look at it simply as another option to authors. If the writing is junk, it'll be abundantly clear to the readers.
I too am thinking I have been duped by Balboa as things are not adding up. I fell for the Hay House thing and they actually denied to me that they were part of Author Solutions Inc – I was told it was negative writing on the web – yet, I have now found them mentioned by ASI themselves! Trouble is, I have paid and once they have done anything with the inside of your book you are ony entitled to 25% back!!I think if they deny being part of ASI then what standards do they have, this is a huge concern for me. Any ideas? Thanks very much
Ps I am sure there was a link on here of how to become your proper own self publisher but cannot find it – does anyone have good links to help guide me that way?
As someone who fell for the Balboa press scam after going to a Hay House writers workshop, I can say that both are a huge rip off and waste of any good writer's time and money. The writer's workshop gives almost nothing of value and I have taken many much better writing courses for much less offered through extension programs at local universities. It is an obvious recruitment ploy for unsuspecting authors to get them to sign up with Balboa press. This company did awful shoddy work on my book and after a nightmarish level of frustration I finally demanded my money back which luckily I did get back but only after I threatened them with fraud for passing themselves off as part of Hay House when they are really Author Solutions. I then decided to take a risk and send it to a few real publishers just to see what would happen. Turns out my book was picked up by one of the top publishers in my field and I am now working with real publishing professionals who care about my book, are doing a wonderful job, and are actually paying me good money. I am so happy and so lucky that I saw the light and left Balboa press when I did. Shame on Hay House for creating this lousy company.
I have heard about how Hay House is going to pick up authors from Balboa. Apparently they are offering select authors a contract of 1000.00 payment for the rights to their book. No future royalties, nothing beside the 1000.00 bucks. I am sure from that point they will try to sell the author all these services from Balboa such as an hour long book signing at an I Can Do It for a few thousand dollars, a few thousand to create a video, and other overpriced rip offs to promote the book. This is a win for Hay House, pay out a thousand bucks and own the rights for life, plus earn thousands off the author on marketing crap! Outrageous!
Keep in mind, as with all markets, there is always bad information out there, bad people, bad companies, this relates back to the saying "you get what you pay for" there are so many ways to get a book out there but from what I have seen, the easiest and cheeper ways are the 'problem children" your all refering to. Keep in mind there are a handful of good companies out there like Balboa Press and a few others that take a person who may not know a thing about publishing and they help you throught, so that at the end of the day you look polished. Create space isn't terrible, one should use them after a "successful" launch. There is no real second chance in publishing, if you lose your first launch, it is so hard to recapture that fire, so do it right the first time and if all your worrying about is upfront money, then you have little faith in your own creation and you should stop writing now. I encourage you to get out there and live real life, if you want to be a successful writer then , do your homework but for the love of God, stop using face book and the internet dictate your knowledge, that is plain silly and short sighted.
Good luck to all of you, but remember, don't listen to the masses, many people are so fast in reporting negative information.
I have to say as I have viewed all of this I am shocked. Let me be the voice of reason and give this blog something it is missing;facts!
Last month Reid Tracy has stated on Hay House radio that Hay House is going to try and pick up 1 new author per quarter. Questions?
-the book titled "written in the ashes", Balboa Press, was picked up for a TV series.
The key is as a new author to have a major publisher on the back of your book, is the number one thing you can do to improve sales……period!
Hay House is a close knitted bunch along with Balboa Press(it seems). That helps!
One last fact, and then you can all debate till your blue in the face.
Many major news publications have come out and reported that no longer will ANY large publishing houses review a manuscript to be picked up, if your book isn't already published.Ask yourself this. Why would a publishing giant choose to spend 50k to 100k on your "idea" when you don't believe in your book enough to spend a few grand? The answer is NO?
And forget about an agent, not going to happen, they only look for books that are just like 4 more "the help"
Please come down off your stools of self rightousness and think. I know most of you will try to buck the facts, that is how many of you are,but remember to be a "real" author, you must learn to listen, and many of you lack that one feature.
Sure they may pick up a book or two but what about the harm being done to everyone else by ripping them off and offering poor quality shoddy work? Not to mention all the other pitfalls of POD publishing which they make sound like the ultimate dream. So sad, what an awful way to tarnish Louise Hay’s image.
Well, if there are only two a year that Hay House picks up from Balboa Press, I plan on being one of them. Words Hit Hard as A Fist, With 18 Tips on how to STOP being Bullied, Balboa Press
I signed up to work with Balboa Press because I really believed they were a part of Hay House which I thought was a reputable company that shared my values. After having a very bad experience and receiving extremely shoddy work from them, I Googled "Balboa Press Complaints" and found this website as well as many others and was shocked to find out they are really not part of Hay House but a alias for Author Solutions which appears to be a very disreputable company. I have now invested thousands of dollars and my life's work in a company I want nothing to do with and would have never chosen to work with had I known their real identity. I have difficulty understanding how this is not considered false advertising and why this type of misleading deception is not illegal?
At a Hay House seminar that I attended on how to publish your book, the audience was told that today's writers require an on-line following of at least 20,000 people before Hay House will consider publishing a book. It was made clear that today's writer must do all the work, from writing, to social media marketing, to distribution. The publishing house will only expand on the distribution once the book's already in demand. When considering new authors, this certainly this lowers Hay House's risk, and increases their chances of reward. Though this practice doesn't serve new authors, from a business standpoint, it makes a lot of sense for the publisher. On a positive note, by the time I figure out how to be my own writer, my own promoter, and my own publishing house, I will have my own business and be much further ahead. Louise Hay is a case in point since she started her own publishing house to get her books out there. When you have an important message to deliver, a little faith and tenacity can go a long way. Good luck and best wishes! Elizabeth http://www.diamondlantern.com
The comments are interesting to read, but never address the fundamental chicken-egg issue for most, if not all, new authors…traditional publishing houses generally will not accept submissions from previously unpublished, self-published, or POD authors. What is an author, even one with a spectacular book, supposed to do and where to begin?
Well, I maybe optimistic but I believe if what you have to say is important to the times Hay House will want a piece of it. Writing comes from an internal urge to share ideas and thoughts but it is a business. This is my third book that I have published. My biggest Daydream is that Reid Tracy will pick it up and want it to go viral with Hay House. Balboa Press is working on it as we speak. It's called, "Words Hit Hard as a Fist, With 18 Tips on How to STOP being Bullied." I believe I have a chance and it is not just hype that Hay House picks books up from Balboa Press to show that it's real, when it is not likely. Louise Hays is a good person and is not out to manipulate people. In fact, I was able to place my first book, The Secret Daydream, A Guide to Your Child's Future," at a conference I attended, on the table with the other Hay House authors. I only had 12 – 15 books and they all sold in 4 hours. I was honored to be given the chance. Good People at Hay House!
Wow! I'm having my first book professionally edited and stumbled onto your blog while considering next steps. Yikes! Horror stories and rants galore. Can't wait until it's my turn to start knocking on the publishers doors. Your thoughts, comments and experiences are most appreciated. My takeaways: First get going on Kindle and Amazon (Michael Sheridan will Kindle books for a modest fee: http://www.kindlegurus.com/); Next, knock on the doors of at least 100 traditional publishing houses; last but not at all least, self publish, self-promote and self-advance. We all have our MOs. Mine is the message. Good luck to you all and many many thanks for the education! Elizabeth Rose http://www.diamondlantern.com
Thank you Victoria . I believe I am in your target audience. As a floundering beginning writer I was sent a link from my brother. I think he was trying to tell me about Tarot Cards but I zoned in on the link to Balboa Press which led me to a sign up page and "chart your own course and shape your future" were pretty enticing words. I have to find out about everything though so I used a search engine and found your informative article (and a lively debate!). I did need a nice dose of reality at the moment before I set up my first book signing. I will probably be able to read your fortune at the same time! Kimberly
Now that I have read all the comments I am more confused then ever. I am new to the game of publishing, not new to writing, but publishing is so exciting, and someone reading my books, and poems, and everything else, is also, so very exciting. But paying a company to print and sell my book seems out of whack. Why shouldnt they get paid from the sales, just as I am, why should I pay upfront???
I almost paid for a self publishing package, and I still may, but I really dont want to be in the business, I just want to write, so what do I do? The thrill of having my writings be read, is the best ever.
Having worked for a publishing company, I can tell you that most books did not sell over 3,000 copies, some didn't even break 1,000 book scans.
On a business perspective, traditional publishing is an investment that publishers make, self publishing is an investment the author makes. With any investment there is a risk, though some what greater for authors who aren't truly self publishing by setting up their own publishing company. With any company, there are business expenses that can be written off to decrease overhead.
I don't see the sense in bashing self publishers, there are adults out there making decisions to purchase their services. Unless any of you are putting up the money or time to offer authors an alternative solution to their means, I don't see the purpose in your bashing.
If people will just go for Lulu or Createspace? It makes me sick when fellow writers get in PublishAmerica and other scams without researching first! Thanks guys for showing fellow writers what to watch out for! 🙂
If I wrote fiction instead of nonfiction, a few years ago I might have agreed with you, because it is definitely harder for a self-publisher to target an audience for fiction. Although note, publishers are expecting authors to do a lot of marketing these days.
But, in the current age of aggressive e-rights and POD rights grabs by publishers and other entities such as Google, I'm not so fast to agree. It seems as if many publishers are trying to gain rights in perpetuity, giving writers little recourse if the publisher does a bad job of selling those books. Also, if the publisher fails to protect your e-files (thereby leaving your work vulnerable to reader piracy), and/or distributes your older works free to promote other authors' works without paying you, well, this is not good.
I recommend a very hard look at all publishing contracts that are offered to you.
Don't forget one other factor. Getting commercial fiction published by a major house is the hardest way to go. While there are quirks and missteps by such publishers, their willingness to put money into a book is a sign that you've become good enough to join the small percentage of writers that make it past the moats and the dragons and plant your flag in the castle. In other words, I want to go the commercial route because it's hard. If I make it, I'll know I've gotten good enough to stand out from the sea of submissions. It's not about the money or holding a book in your hands. It's about honing your skills and persevering until you attain the highest level of respect for your chosen craft.
I agree with a lot of what Frances has said (and would probably agree with all of it, if I knew anything about being a publisher:)
Well said Frances!
>So, although it's a great feeling to have a book published by a commercial publisher, there's no greater chance it will sell more copies than if you self-published it.<
Scooter, this may or may not be true but the difference would be that an author/illustrator published commercially does not have to sell/hock the book once out there. They can do a certain amount of promotion (often paid) but they can then go on to write/illustrate the next.
Another thing is, if a commercial publisher puts their money into a book, you can be assured that they will work fairly hard to at LEAST get it back and hopefully make themselves and you a profit.
Self publishing is a crap shoot and all up to one individual to judge what will sell and then sell it.
Actually, I was an editor for midsize publishers back in the 80s and publishers and agents were not out to hurt authors' feelings even then. It is immature to think that everyone who rejects your work (or your job application) is out to get you.
Like it or not, all reviewers and bookstore buyers recognize the names and ISBN blocks of all the vanity presses. Using a vanity press almost always spells commercial death for a book, no matter how good the book may be. It's typically dreck. True self-publishers out to make money recognize they have to attain a high level of quality to sell the book. If at all possible this should be higher than that of books from competing large publishers, because large publishers inherently have more clout in the market.
I don't think writing or publishing dreck is an achievement–except as part of the learning process. We all write some awful stuff as part of the learning process, but writers who want to be pros should have the sense to confine it to their private files, the classroom, and the writers' critique group.
Although some magazine reporters, etc., call all self-publishing "vanity publishing," and vanity presses try to confuse the issue with aspiring publishers by falsely calling __themselves_ "independent publishers," the more often and clearly genuinely independent publishers can enlighten everyone as to the very real distinction, the better geniunely independently published books sell.
Again this is a business issue, relating to the quality of the book, how it is marketed, and whether the publisher sets up his/her truly independent business. It has nothing to do with "shame."
I'm not looking for approval. If I just wanted to publish for approval, I could set up a website with free information and add a voting button. Or publish an e-book, let everyone download it for free, and count the downloads. Both of which routes are certainly a lot cheaper than using a vanity press. Approval doesn't pay my bills. I need to make money, and using a vanity press is a sure route to business failure.
When I first set up my business over 15 years ago, there were bookstores who seemed worried about its financial stability, whether I could afford to give credit for returns and so forth. My books have been ignored by the large pre-publication trade magazines (and that's what I mean by larger publishers having more clout), but they've been well reviewed in some not totally trivial magazines and academic journals. None of these entities, however, have showered me with "shame" or questioned whether my books should have been published. Shame is in your head.
continued from scooter's previous post…
Unfortunately, here's where the moral significance comes in. If you decide to hire someone to publish your book, or hire yourself to publish it, that is "bad." It's "vanity publishing."
It's ALL vanity publishing! What Steven King and John Grisham and F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck and James Joyce and all the rest do is no less vanity publishing than the insurance salesman who pays a "vanity press" to produce his book.
What this all comes down to for me is that I will teach my children to take upon themselves FROM THE START the responsibility to publish their own work and not look for the approval of some gatekeeper somewhere, whether it's an agent or an editor or a publisher. Do your writing and your art or whatever it is you do and take responsibility for the BUSINESS of publishing it.
If we take the "sin" out of self-publishing, we take it out of the shadows and shine a light on it. We allow people to do it out in the open without feeling shame for it. It's that shame that makes people vulnerable to charlatans and con artists, because they offer something their customers desperately want: recognition. Approval. Things the writer deserves for having written a book in the first place!
Take the shame out of the equation and you're left with… a business decision. which is exactly what publishing is and ought to be. Once you're there, then you can shop for the best deal. Maybe it will be Random House, maybe it will be Booklocker or Createspace or whoever your favorite villain happens to be. Or maybe it will be the writer herself.
Frances, I think you and I agree more than we disagree. Our resumes are similar. My criticism of conventional publishing tends to be more emotionally intense because my expectations of the publishing business as a young writer were extreme and unrealistic. Your description of the way things are changing is reasonable and accurate.
I've thought a lot about this and I've tried to figure out what is really driving my rantings on this. I think it's the way we seem to attach moral significance to the way in which a writer's work is published. In other words, if a conventional publisher decides your book is worth publishing, that is morally good. But if you publish it yourself, that is morally bad. There are gray areas and various qualifiers, depending on the situation, but there is also a point where you're either on the good side or the bad side. I'm not saying that editors or publishers are any more responsible for this than writers and readers. It's just the way the whole thing developed.
That moral significance is what I would like to see disappear. I think writing a book, even a clumsy, badly-conceived, stupid book, is an achievement. But we've shifted the point where it becomes a real achievement to when somebody other than the writer decides its worthy to publish. That IS an achievement, but the more significant achievement, to me, is writing the book in the first place. HOW the book is published is not a moral decision, it's a BUSINESS decision. What is the best way to publish this book, for me? The writer gets to define "best." Best could mean obtaining the approval of a gatekeeper. Or it could mean hiring someone else to take on the publishing responsibilities. continued in next post…
I was reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Devil in the Manuscript" last night, and I had to laugh at how so many of the complaints about editorial gatekeepers – and getting "acceptance" letters asking for money – sounded exactly like the ones that pop up in the comments on this blog. As well as how authors back then also didn't do their research about finding a suitable publisher (a character in the story had tried to submit a novel to a textbook publisher). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I've not only self-published, I've worked as an editor for midsize books and magazine editors, as a freelance journalist, and as a freelance editor. I've known many other people who worked in publishing in various ways.
This is business. Manuscripts are rejected because they are not right for that publisher or agent. Yes, people sometimes make mistakes. Some books are published that do not sell well, and others that might sell are rejected. I'm sorry, but sending rejection letters ceased to be universal/automatic back in the 1980s. As with job applications, you can assume that no answer means no.
All this does not mean that publishers or agents have the slightest desire to emotionally hurt writers. Nor do editors. I not only had good relationships with all my authors, it was a source of great personal satisfaction to me when an author's book was successful. And when an author whose first book I had nurtured went on to write more books.
As for "fraidy cats," new technology (e-books and print-on-demand) is enabling anyone (and possibly everyone) in the information business to publish books. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are now not just bookstores, they are publishers. Google is attempting to become a heavyweight publisher. Other businesses are entering the fray.
Traditional publishers are doing their best to carefully asses the impact of these changes on their bottom lines and to adjust their own businesses accordingly. That's just business: Not being "fraidy cats."
As well as realizing that there is nothing personal about having a manuscript rejected, authors need to realize that self-publishing is also a business–if they intend the book to be read by anyone but a few relatives and friends. They need to be very clear on that. It is hard to be ruthless about your own work but it needs to be done.
Personally, I suggest mentally dividing writing, versus submitting or publishing the work, into two categories. For example, I enjoy writing. I write a fair amount of prose I later need to delete. So what? I had the personal satisfaction of writing it. I don't have to preserve it for posterity or try to get the world to read it. I used to tell my authors, when I urged them to delete a big hunk of prose, to "save it for another book." Now I'd tell them to post it on their blog.
In my case, and in the case of many self-publishers, they'd have to "see the money" first. In other words, there is a price at which I will sell my book to Random House, but it's higher than they would pay. The benefit of "acceptance by a major house" is of little value to me. I've been accepted and published by major houses and that was fine for then, but now I want to see the money. I write for a living AND because I love it. I am serious about this and, frankly, the conventional publishing business strikes me as rather badly run. They are afraid of Amazon, which is nothing but a glorified department store, and Apple, which manufactures portable TVs and music boxes. (I own several, plus some stock.) These fraidy cats are the people we entrust with the most important medium human beings have to transmit culture: the written word. These are the people we allow to tell us who is a writer worth reading and who is not? I'm opting out of that, thank you. They'll have to pay me, a lot, to opt back in.
It's a different world today than it was even five years ago, ten years ago. Now, the gatekeepers are guarding something that is less and less relevant. Writers don't need them anymore. Yes, they can still serve a purpose to writers, but there are other ways to get those services performed. Those alternate ways to do what we call publishing are in an incredible state of flux. The vanity press model, in which a writer pays a hefty sum for "services" is just one model now. As Frances suggests, there are now ways to self-publish that are fairly straightforward and business-like. These self-publishing avenues will evolve. There will be con games aplenty. But there will be resources like this website to warn of them. There will also be new and better ways to publish and self-publish. Personally, I think it's incredibly exciting. This is a good time to be a writer. Maybe not so good a time to be Random House.
In my experience, ignorance and impatience are common reasons for just about everything at one time or another.
I think you're painting a slightly too rosy picture of conventional publishing. It's not called "the second oldest profession" for no reason. It's always been a business, but I think it's gotten nastier in the past couple of years. Whereas a writer could always depend on at least a polite, if printed, rejection from an agent, nowadays many, if not most, do not even bother acknowledging receipt of something. They're not even ashamed of advertising this fact, by way of a warning, on their websites. "We will respond only to queries we're interested in."
I don't think it's impatient, ignorant, or sad for a writer to decide he or she would rather self-publish and hold a finished, printed book in his or her hand in a matter of weeks instead of sending out agent queries for months and months, maybe years and years, dealing with the nastiness and rudeness of the business, and then waiting another year or two before the book is published, assuming you can get someone at an agency or publishing house to read it. At some point that process becomes destructive to the writer's confidence and creativity.
Yes, for sure there are people waiting to take advantage of the writer's ignorance. But some of those people are conventional publishers. There's enough ignorance to go around, here. As a culture, we're pretty ignorant of how nasty a business publishing can be. We see the business as depicted in the lives of writers at the top of the game, the ones getting big advances from editors and agents and being treated like important people.
I'm not defending companies that take money from writers under false pretenses. I'm just trying to make the point that there is a transaction taking place here regardless of who publishes your book. If Random House does it, then you get the benefits of "acceptance" by a major gatekeeper plus whatever advance is offered. Most writers would take the offer and they'd be right to do it.
It's sad when anybody spends too much for something, and plenty of writers spend too much to self-publish their books. But though that writer might not have gotten everything he thought he was going to get, he got something. He got a book with his name on it. Lots of conventionally published writers get less than they thought they were going to get, too. It's the human condition.
Marian Perera provides a detailed response to Kevin Gray's comment at her blog.
But most writers are not successful in securing such an advance. They're getting harder and harder to come by.
Scooter, this is a common idea, especially in the self-publishing world, but it really isn't true. While advance amounts may be falling (at least for midlist writers–at the upper end they seem to be as bloated as ever), they aren't getting harder to come by. For writers who publish with trade publishers, they are still standard.
Sadly, I find that ignorance and impatience are at least as common reasons for self-publishing as enthusiasm and heart.
You do not have to use a vanity press. You can do true-self publishing, with your own business name and your own ISBNs. You can hire freelance editors, graphic artists, and marketers directly and be sure you get what you pay for.
The problem with vanity presses is not that they provide print-on-demand and low-budget cover design services, but that their marketing about their services is misleading. The last salesman for one who spammed me pretended to be a bookstore to get his foot in the door. If these outfits are truly offering good services at a good price, why are they not straightforward?
I agree with FG's statement. And for most writers, even the smallest advance from a publisher would be more than a self-published book would earn. But most writers are not successful in securing such an advance. They're getting harder and harder to come by. Does that mean fewer people have fewer things to say worth reading? Does it mean that if I can't get an agent to return my calls or answer my queries that my writing isn't worth publishing or reading? I have chosen to answer that with a firm No. There's a survival of the fittest situation here. Someone who self-publishes refuses to accept the judgment of the so-called gatekeepers. There's a lot of ego involved, for sure. But there is also a lot of heart and enthusiasm and determination, if I do say so myself. Money is always a factor. But there ARE times when something just MUST be written and then MUST be published, regardless of the cost. Sometimes the cost is financial, sometimes social, sometimes political. Sometimes it's a life or death question. If you love it, you'll do it.
A problem with "it's great to hold your book in your hands" statements is that creators of works are expected to accept pride in their accomplishments and praise from others _instead of_ payment. I would hope that most people in most professions enjoy most of the work they do all day, and that they feel it makes a valuable contribution to society. But, to pursue writing or anything else as a profession, requires adequate payment by some means in addition to satisfaction with the work. That payment does not necessarily have to come from another publisher, but for professionals, it does have to come from somewhere.
There's only one question you should ask: Do you love books? If you answer Yes, then it's just a question of what you want to pay to feel a book in your hand that YOU wrote. Find the best deal and DO IT, any way you can, even if it means paying an author services company to do it. Or… spend months, maybe years, trying to get a commercial house interested.
The folks who are the most critical of self-publishing seem to believe that commercial publishers are God's gift to writers and they can do no wrong. I once thought that, too. Then I started publishing books.
I have published with major publishers, like Doubleday, Warner (are they still around?) and others. I have had bestsellers. I have had flops. I have had moderate successes. I have made a living as a writer for 35 years. Just as a writer, not a writer and something else. It's a great feeling to have a book published. It's a great feeling to have a top literary agent hold an auction for a book proposal and sell it to the highest bidder.
Our culture has appointed agents, editors, and publishers to be the gatekeepers. But you know what, they are just human beings, not gods, and on that job I would give them maybe a C- on a good day. They miss LOTS of good books. And they publish LOTS of rubbish. Some of it makes money, some of it doesn't. It's a business, like selling cars or toilet paper. Do you let the used car salesman tell you what car to drive? Maybe you do.
I don't think it's a good idea to give ANYONE such power over you that you would accept ONLY their opinion of what is worth reading and what is not. Especially if it were something you wrote!
Getting a book published by a major publisher is nowhere near a guarantee that anyone is going to read it, or that the book will be promoted. Even books that get high advances are quite often not adequately promoted.
Things are changing now. The major publishers are trying to control the ebook business model because it threatens their own outmoded one. If you do the math, a writer gets the same royalty from Amazon on a self-published Kindle book that sells for $3.00 as a commercially published book that sells in the store for $20.00! No wonder the publishers are scared of Amazon and ebooks! No wonder some commercially published and successful writers are deciding to self-publish! Duh!
So, although it's a great feeling to have a book published by a commercial publisher, there's no greater chance it will sell more copies than if you self-published it. Find the best deal you can, but I can tell you that when you hold that book in your hands, it won't matter where it came from. That is, if you love books.
Thanks for the sobering look at the self publishing industry. I had been a fan of Hay House for many years; they've turned out a lot of wonderful works with heart and soul. But the last couple of years, things seem to have taken a decidedly different bend around there. I've noticed a number of my favourite authors leaving and materials that once seemed aimed at nurturing and inspiring the soul, now appear to be more directed at draining the wallet – for the same material – republished – again.
I understand that traditional publishing as we know it is fast becoming a "sunset business", but it would be so nice to see people and companies display positive growth rather than desperate expansion. (particularly companies who profess their business to be positive growth)
Again, thank you. Interesting and informative, and for that I am appreciative!
Warmly, Hunter Phoenix
When I sold my first book, I thought, "Wow, my book's getting published!" Not, "Wow, I'm getting an advance!"
Funny, the money/advance/royalties was the FIRST thing I thought of when I received my first publishing contract, that's why I studied the contract itself soooo carefully:)
To be honest it was more like 40% excited to know I would finally see my work in bookstores and 60% thrilled to think I could perhaps make a living at this.
Money is VERY important to publishers, it's equally important to me, especially as the preceived glamour of the industry is reduced to the reality of the job (but it's still cool to occassionaly be recognized by kids:)
but they also provide opportunities for authors.
Kevin, I realize you are addressing Victoria but… what "opportunities" does Author House provide a self publisher that Lulu does not? Or, for that matter, any of the other established printers? I, for one, am never against a person self printing their book. I had a good friend/neighbour who did just that when it came to printing a lovely hard cover book of his families history. He then was able to distribute it to Uncles, cousins etc at a reunion. A lovely gift, very precious to them all.
He went to a local printer, it was expensive but he KNEW all the costs involved going in to the project AND he knew he was not producing it with any hint from the printer that he may become the next Steven King.
"Our self-publishing division, Balboa Press, has been formed to allow many more people get their message out. While these books won't be published by Hay House, Balboa Press will be monitored for success, and hopefully we'll find the Hay House authors of the future,"
What a load of crap (and you said it in a much nicer way Victoria:)
All the charges to writer Vanity press's use similar lines in their justification for taking money from hopeful writers (with that little glimmer of hope and the hook of… but you MIGHT get picked up by us and be published via our commercial imprint)
There's not really a lot of difference here between them and Pub Amer. In fact, having a "traditional" publishing name behind them makes this all the worse in my opinion!
There has to be a more ethical way for these publishers to support their business then to take advantage of writers who do not know the industry well. Yes, we can make your dream come true, we can get your book, your story, your VOICE out there (here's the bill)
Re the comment about Pocket Books: Well, I assume they know how they run their own business. However, judging from my experience working for other publishers, you'd think they'd have so many submissions that there would be no need to trawl the net for yet more material.
I would advise anyone who wants to self-publish to consider it as an end in itself, rather than as a stepping stone for offers from other publishers which often, do not materialize.
As someone who has self-published for over 15 years (and worked for larger publishers for 10 years before that), I object to the implicit distinction between books by larger publishers as "legitimate" and self-published books as "illegitimate."
I'd never remotely consider using a vanity press. I produce commercial books. I've worked very hard, cycled several hundred thousand dollars through my business over the years, and made a profit. My books are carried by Ingram and other wholesalers. They are sold through brick-and-mortar as well as online bookstores, as well as through some other kinds of retailers such as museum stores. (Actually, I sell very few books directly to consumers.)
A commercial self-publishing model may not work for every author or every book, but it is not "illegitimate." A book published that way may or may not be a book you want to buy, but it is not inherently a bad book.
From that same NY Times article you cite:
Louise Burke, publisher of Pocket Books, said publishers now trawl for new material by looking at reader comments about self-published books sold online. Self-publishing, she said, is “no longer a dirty word.”
Certainly, one can self-publish on their own. Just as one can remodel a kitchen or build a new deck. However the majority of us would probably hire a professional to do this work. That's the niche we fill in the self-publishing world.
I'm appalled at this "greedy trend" wherein legit publishers are joining forces with "self publishing" money makers. I think the quality of writing is going to suffer greatly, and legit writers will suffer, too. I'm boycotting Hay House. I've asked my agent never to send my proposals to them in the future. I'll not buy any more Hay House products. As my friend and agent says "People who publish their books via vanity publishers and call themselves 'published authors' are no different from people who print up their own diplomas, hang them on the wall, point them and claim to the everyone they have a university degree."
Different authors have different goals. For me, I happen to want some extra income. And so, Kevin, the contention that if I can't get a contract with a commercial publisher, I should give up on publishing that particular books is spot-on. The usual figure I've heard for sales of a POD book is around 100 copies. Even selling ten times that would hardly break even for many of the packages Author Solutions offers. I don't expect to make Rowling sized levels of money… but at least I can be certain I won't lose money, either.
If my goal were to say something important and get people to read it, I'd probably post it on the Internet and let everyone read it for free before I went the POD approach. POD doesn't have the same marketing muscle as a commercial publisher, either.
I don't see subsidy publishing as a good stepping stone or training ground, either, particularly not for nonfiction. Magazines provide more of a chance to work with editors and improve your writing skills… and get a bit of money.
So the growth of print on demand may be an opportunity for some… but not the right opportunity for many.
Kevin, I've talked with many vanity published authors at numerous writer's conferences, and I'm well aware of the other side of this publishing option – the side your websites fail to disclose.
The usual story is that authors receive X number of rejections and see vanity as their only option. They read websites like yours and believe the press.
You attract a lot of authors because they don't know anything about the industry, and they believe the joy-joy picture you paint on your website. They don't realize they won't have distribution, their books will never be stocked in bookstores, or even be properly edited.
I've talked with authors who tell stories of handing out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a "distribution package," which consisted of being put in an obscure catalog that genre buyers will never look at, and spamming thousands of email accounts.
As Victoria said, there are times when vanity publishing may be appropriate, but those decisions are based on the author going into the relationship with their eyes wide open.
If you are as transparent as you're claiming to be, then why don't you update your website and those of your partners so that it offers a clear, concise picture of the vanity realities?
Kevin and Victoria,
Actually, publishing through a subsidy/vanity press is just that. It is NOT true self-publishing. True self-publishing is setting up your own company, with your own business license and your own ISBNs. It is either directly choosing and hiring your (probably freelance) editor, indexer, graphic artist, marketer, etc., or doing some or all of the work yourself.
I can attest that true-self-publishing is very hard work, and if you do much of that work yourself you need to learn a number of skills besides writing at a professional level. Although some stigma is still attached to true self-publishing by reviewers and bookstore buyers, there is not nearly as much as with a vanity/subsidy press. If you publish with a vanity/subsidy press, your books are very unlikely to be reviewed by mainstream publications or carried in bookstores. Furthermore, vanity/subsidy presses do very low quality editing, cover design, marketing, etc.
If you want do to this, and to produce a book you really want to sell (rather than, say, memoirs to be read only by your family and best friends), you are better off using the several thousand dollars you'd pay a vanity/subsidy press to hire a freelance editor, graphic artist, etc. who will do genuinely commercial-quality work.
I didn't self-publish eight books (with two more coming out this year) because I could not find another publisher. I have in fact had offers, and since I worked as an editor for larger publishers for ten years before starting my own business, I know that I produce professional-quality books. Over the past (almost 16) years, I have invested several hundred thousand dollars in my business, and made back all the money with a profit. But it has not been easy.
Anyone interested in true self- publishing (or even authors helping to market books published by other publishers), is welcome to visit this Yahoo group:
This e-group is open to everyone and it is absolutely free. Among much other information, you will see plenty of posts regarding the difference between vanity/subsidy press publishing and self-publishing, including posts by people who were ripped off by vanity/subsidy publishers.
Just to throw in my 2cents … I know of several local authors (two of whom I know personally) who have been published by subsidy/vanity press (and one who was published by a brand new publisher. Her book is their first title) Of these three, two had to give me a copy of their book so that I could read it. I could not find their books in the store.
I do not want to be merely a published author. I want to be read. By as many people as possible. And that won't happen with vanity press, not by a long shot.
If the only people I wanted to read my work were friends, family and a handful of random strangers, I would print copies out myself and pass them around during the holidays. And if my work isn't good enough for someone in Detroit to pick up while I'm working my lily-white ass off in Texas, I don't want to be published.
In effect, "You should let people do whatever they want" = "You should let people settle for second best, even if it's not the best for them."
And pardon the french, but that's bullshit. Or sociopathic. Whichever floats your boat.
Kevin, I don't understand why you're talking about "advances", as if those were an incipient author's goal. Most of the writers I know want to get published, not to get an "advance".
When I sold my first book, I thought, "Wow, my book's getting published!" Not, "Wow, I'm getting an advance!"
Is it because by referring to major publishers in terms of "advances", you deflect attention from the fact that they are actually arbiting quality?
Hey, everybody–let's keep it civil.
Kevin, describing my views on self-publishing as "vitriol" is seriously hyperbolic. I've said many times, here and elsewhere, that self-publishing can be a good option for some writers in some circumstances (see, for instance, the Pros and Cons section of Writer Beware's page on POD publishing services). And I don't in any way dispute that there have been self-publishing successes, for every definition of "success" that writers can come up with, from selling a lot of copies to trading up to commercial publishing to just having a book to hold in one's hands.
What I object to is the presentation of self-publishing as a viable alternative for all authors, no matter what (if you write fiction, and your goal is commercial publication, it's probably one of the poorest choice you can make), as a viable way to establish a foothold on a career (for most writers this simply isn't true, given the very limited sales that most self-pubbed books achieve), and as something that succeeds (in commercial terms) more than rarely. All of those things are stated or implied by the wording on the websites ASI has set up for Balboa and others, and there's no mention at all of self-publishing's potential downside–low visibility and small sales. In a New York Times article published last year, your own CEO, Kevin Weiss, admitted that sales from any of ASI's brands averaged around 150 copies. But that information can't be found on the websites of Balboa, DellArte, and West Bow.
Authors have a number of alternatives to major publishers and large advances (advances may be getting smaller at the midlist level as a result of economic panic, but they most certainly are not "becoming fewer and fewer")–of which self-publishing is just one. For instance, smaller publishers that pay smaller advances, smaller publishers that pay no advances, epublishers, and true self-publishing. It's not an either/or proposition: you either go with the big guys or you use a publishing service.
Here's a proposition. How about adding a link to Writer Beware's Print on Demand Publishing Services page to the Helpful Links sections of Balboa and the others? That way, writers who are considering using these services will have access to both sides of the discussion.
Bullshit, Mr Gray. You are full of it.
You're smooth man. You really are. With some patience and talent, anyone who deserves to can get into the traditional publishing business. Self publishing does NOT gaurantee any money at all; there aren't any more options for money than traditionally published authors recieve. In fact, someone who gets a deal to publish traditionally is gauranteed to be paid; self published authors are not. Traditionally published authors don't pay to be published; self published authors do. Stop misrepresenting stuff.
For people who have the personal dream of seeing their stuff in print and don't care about getting it out to people, they can self publish it. But why do they have to pay 5-20K? Ridiculous! They can go to Lu-Lu and pay nothing but the cost to have the book made and printed, which is like ten bucks depending on the contents of the book. Lu-Lu isn't technically publishing, but it's still a way to get it in print and sell it at little to no cost.
I get it. McDonald's is your idea of a fancy restaurant. That makes sense.
Don't attack Mrs. Strauss's integrity just because she doesn't support your business. She supports writers who *strive* to become better, who can push to the top of the slush pile because they have talent and skill. She does a great thing helping writers from spending money they shouldn't.
I continue to be disappointed by your vitriol toward self-publishing and the opportunities it can create. We are the first to say, if you can get a large advance from a major publisher; do it! Quickly! But, as you know, those advances are becoming fewer and fewer as the industry changes.
These partnerships do indeed create revenues for publishers (most that I'm familiar with aren't set up as non-profits), but they also provide opportunities for authors.
Is it your contention that if authors can't get an advance from a traditional publisher, they should just give up on publishing their books?
No one is forcing anyone to self-publish and no one is guaranteeing that if an author does self-publish he or she will reach Rowling, Palin or Grisham sales numbers.
But there have been many successful authors who've self-published with Author Solutions. I've repeatedly offered you the chance to speak with and profile them.
Also, understand that authors' personal definitions of success vary as much as the books they write. Some want the NY Times Best Seller list. Some publish to support a business. Some to support a cause. Some for very personal reasons.
If an author has a book they believe in than they should publish it.
You as a writer's advocate should encourage all writers to explore their publishing options and publish their books if that's what they want to do.
Opportunity is not a bad thing; and Balboa is just another opportunity for authors.
Always enjoy the dialog.
Kevin A. Gray
Author Solutions, Inc.
kgray at authorsolutions dot com
I wonder if the commercial imprint could be held liable if any of the self-help books printed by their for-pay division cause harm to a reader. Seems that implying you're a for-real publisher and then publishing any piece of crap that crosses your desk with a check attached is opening yourself to liability.
WV: unotters – n. Any species of creature that is not an otter.