Know who is really the publisher of your book

There’s been quite a lot of hoopla over the announcement by Jerry B. Jenkins that his Christian Writers Guild is getting into the author services business. Victoria Strauss but together a great analysis of CWG Publishing over at the Writer Beware blog.

Illustration by Emiliano Hernandez • http://www.sxc.hu/profile/josterix

Illustration by Emiliano Hernandez

Meanwhile, over on the Lost Genre Guild e-mail loop, we started discussing just what sort of person pays for this kind of service. It pretty much comes down to two types: people who understand that $10,000 is a lot to pay for a publishing package but pay it anyway because it’s Jerry B. Jenkins (squee), and people who don’t understand that $10,000 is a lot to pay for a publishing package.

That said, I’ve seen quotes for more expensive packages. It all depends on how many people are going to handle your manuscript and how much you have to pay them based on their levels of experience. Line editing and cover art are both huge expenses when done at a top-notch level.

Thinking about it reminded me of the time my husband, who worked his way through college at a high-end menswear shop, told me, “I never pay more than a thousand dollars for a suit. Any more than that, and you’re just paying for the label.”

Some people can sew their own clothes, but not all of us have the skill set to do that. Some will go to Sears and buy the hundred-dollar suit, some will go to a specialty store and buy the thousand-dollar suit, and some will go to Armani and pay ten thousand dollars for a label.

“Jerry B. Jenkins” is a label. Some people will buy CWG Publishing just to wear that label. The real problem is that those buyers may believe that “Jerry B. Jenkins” is their publisher. He’s not. They are self-publishing and hiring CWGP to do the work.

I have met too many people who don’t understand how publishing works. Most of them are businesspeople who only know that a book is a good way to promote their business, but they don’t know who to write or publish one. But I’ve met plenty of aspiring novelists with the same blind spot. The problem is exacerbated by author service companies calling themselves “publishers” and authors referring to their service providers as “my publisher.”

If you paid him, he’s not the publisher. You are.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

5 comments on “Know who is really the publisher of your book

  1. That last line sums it up perfectly. And that is my issue with this particular program. It compares itself to traditional publishing (from the Writer Beware article you cited): “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.”

    So, authors taking his courses still can’t get *traditionally* published, and this is the solution. But it’s NOT traditional publishing if they’re paying for it. ANY author who can’t get traditionally published can pay a company to publish their book. What Jenkins is offering is self-publishing packaged with the classes he’s already giving that *aren’t* helping authors land traditional publishers..

    He blames it on platform. But the reason platform is a barrier in publishing is because the publishing house sees it as a hindrance to *sales* (not to the editing and printing process). Traditional publishers know that the greatest writing in the world won’t sell books if no one ever hears about those books. Publishing through CWGP isn’t going to guarantee sales no matter how great the writing is. The CWGP website says it will educate authors on self-marketing, but it does not promise CWGP will market the books.

    So yes, I believe aspiring authors in this instance are just buying a label.

    Great post—thanks, Kristen!

    • You got it, Kat. Platform is an obstacle because big big publishers have huge overhead costs, and pay professional editors and cover artists big big money. The top publishers are surely investing way more than $10,000 in each book, which explains why so few books reach the break-even point.

      But small presses and self-publishing authors need to be realistic about sales potential, and scale investment to preserve profit margin. Golly, I sound like a business journalist or something. 😉

  2. I think you have made some great and important points. In today’s world authors can’t afford to not understand basic business principles. You have to run your writing and platform like the business that it is. Even if you get a good publisher who just happens to be one of those diamonds that will do “everything” for you, understanding how businesses run will help you understand them and hopefully keep you from being “scammed”. Note, you can be burned by even an honest business if you misunderstand what’s going on. It’s easy to do, painful to face and hard to justly lay blame.

    There is no “wrong” way, but do your homework and know well your choices and the path you intend to go. Plan.

    Oh, and by the way, the idea that you just need to yell louder (or pour money into it) until that magical person picks up your book and the next day you have thousands of hits on your site…
    … is not a plan. It’s a daydream that lots of us fantasize about but next to never actually happens. At least not yet for anyone I’ve personally talked to.

    Thanks Kristen.

  3. […] Jenkins may be valuing the education component more highly than I do. It’s also possible that he’s paying in the thousands for cover art, or hiring additional proofreaders, which would be a truly valuable investment. Unfortunately, since we’re not getting a line-item breakdown of his services, we don’t know where the money’s going. It is entirely possible that he is simply charging a $3,000 premium for the value of his brand. […]

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