EDITED 11/19/14 TO ADD: Jerry Jenkins has shut down Christian Writers Guild. A new group called BelieversTrust will be taking over some of CWG’s operations, but the future of the publishing program described below is unclear.
Earlier this week, a press release caught my eye: Bestselling Author Jerry Jenkins Announces Innovative Publishing Firm. Since “innovative” in publishing press release-speak often means “charges a whopping fee”, I decided to investigate.
Per the press release,
To help aspiring writers achieve their publishing dreams, Jenkins is launching Christian Writers Guild Publishing (CWGP). He says it will be different from other custom publishing houses in that it features Published, a six-month course mentored by an experienced author. When students with works-in-progress complete the course, CWGP will publish their books — providing a copy editor, proofreader, cover and type designer, eBook formatter, printer, and a free package of promotion, marketing, and social media materials, everything the writer needs for a successful book launch. “This is different from self-publishing,” Jenkins says. “It’s mentored, coached, and educated publishing. We come alongside through this course and surround them with seasoned industry professionals.”
Despite the best efforts of his guild’s training, he said, not enough new authors have been able to land deals with traditional publishers, in part because houses continue to insist that authors have a significant “platform.” As a result, “good, passionate authors are ignored because they’re unknown,” Jenkins told PW.
I have a feeling that the epiphany had at least as much to do with dollar signs. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
CWGP’s required 6-month Published course consists of 12 lessons with titles such as “Presenting Yourself as a Professional,” “The Writer and the Creative Process,” “Characterization,” and “Writing in Scenes”–all, by the descriptions, very basic stuff aimed at beginning writers. Course participants are paired with mentors, who are described as “published author[s] who will come alongside and walk you through our Published course, showing you how to turn your manuscript into a book that will keep readers turning the pages.” (Novelists take note: of the seven mentors, only one is a fiction specialist.)
At the end of the course: publishing! Before you get too excited, the services included in the CWGP “Premier” publishing package really don’t look much different from the lower-end packages offered by most self-publishing service providers. True, there are some extras–copy editing, a book on social media marketing–but the basics–ISBN assignment, design and formatting, cover art, ebook creation–are standard-issue.
So how much does all this cost? According to the Registration page, publishing through CWGP will set you back a cool $9,995. And that’s just if your book is 75,000 words or less (for longer word counts, there’s a surcharge) and you don’t want custom interior design or “substantive content editing” (also extra). It’s also not clear to me–either from CWGP’s own description of the package or the contract, which can be seen here–whether any distribution is provided. In fact, the wording of the contract kind of suggests it isn’t (my bolding):
The Author is responsible for the marketing and distribution of the Work, though CWGP will provide free helps and optional resources to aid in this effort.
Can CWGP really be expecting authors to pay nearly $10,000 for a path to publication that doesn’t even get their books into retail channels? Even the dreaded Author Solutions imprints do better than that. (I contacted CWGP to pose this question; as of this writing, I haven’t heard back.)
Even with distribution, $9.995 is a hell of a lot of money. You could buy a similar publishing package from Lulu for around $1,600, or put together an equivalent suite of services a la carte from CreateSpace for around $1,000 (assuming you don’t just go ahead and use Lulu’s or CreateSpace’s free services). As for the writing course, there are cheaper alternatives there as well. The Long Ridge Writers’ Group, for instance, offers a similar beginners’-level series of lessons–with a much wider array of qualified instructors, and more course materials–for around $1,200.
As always, the important thing when choosing a path to publishing is formulating your goals and thoroughly researching (and understanding) your options. Always remember that when you pay for publishing, you’re a consumer purchasing a service–not a writer submitting to a publisher. Consume wisely: don’t be swayed by hype, or by the presence of famous names.
EDITED 8/10/13 to add: CWGP’s URL has changed; it now has a dedicated website. It also now offers a “Master” package for $7,995 and an “Elite” package for $9,995, both of which provide access to “expanded distribution.” Writers can also choose 2 (for the Master) or 3 (for the Elite) Author Solutions-style “marketing” options.