The process of publishing my novels would be so much smoother and less stressful if I could find a company that would do it all — the website, the book covers, the uploads to ebook shops, and so on. Maybe a little help with my social media promotion too. Wouldn’t that be grand?
A couple of days ago I found a site that promises exactly that. I’m not going to name them, because I don’t want to get into a wrangle. Sadly, what at first appeared to be a great option is starting to feel a little flimsy. Let’s look at a few details.
Their basic price for a do-it-all package for your book is about $1,600. Since some companies charge $2,500 or more just for a website, this seems like a good deal. Their sales rep phoned me and we had a nice chat. He seems to know his stuff — I didn’t get a sense that he was ducking and weaving. He then sent me an email with a few more details, such as potential cost savings if I use their service for a four-book series.
Their site has a page describing their book cover design services. On this page are thumbnails that open to reveal collages of dozens and dozens of book covers. Wow — a busy, active company, right? So I jot down the names of a few authors and books and head out to Amazon to take a look at their books. Yes, these are real authors with real books. Last week I did the same thing with another company and found that the “book covers” were actually mock-up designs for nonexistent books. So far, so good.
I use a search engine to look at the authors’ websites. I send messages to five of them asking about their experiences with this company.
The email from the sales guy mentions that his company will be the “publisher of record” of the novel(s). This is a phrase that has a legal meaning, which I have asked him to explain. Being curious by nature, I went back to Amazon and looked at the front matter of those novels using the Look Inside feature.
Curiously, none of them mentions this company as the publisher. However, three of the half-dozen I looked at did mention a cover designer in the front matter. Their covers were designed by a different company.
Then I get a reply from one of the authors. He has never heard of the do-it-all company. How interesting.
I look at the site of the company that is credited with those cover designs. Aha. Their pricing for covers is exactly the same as the pricing of the do-everything company I’m considering. What I’m guessing is that the do-everything company farms out their cover design work to the specialty cover designer, and is using the cover designer’s work on their own site without being clear that that’s what they’re doing.
But wait — there’s more. On the do-everything company’s page explaining their website design service, there are only six thumbnails showing individual sites. Only six, when there are dozens of book covers? That’s odd. Of the six, one is under construction and one seems not to exist at all. So in reality, as far as can be determined, this company has engineered a total of four websites.
That’s two strikes. They only get one more. One of the follow-up questions I asked the sales guy was this: His company collects royalties for the books they handle, and then passes the royalties (100%, they say, with a $49 per year charge for the service) to the author. So I asked him, what happens if his company goes out of business or is perhaps acquired by a larger company that decides unilaterally to change the terms of the service? How exactly would I go about withdrawing from this arrangement and receiving my royalties without an intermediary?
This is likely to be a tough question for him to answer. I’m betting it will be Strike Three. We’ll see.
It’s all about due diligence. In order to find a company that I want to work with, I have to know which cup has the pea under it. What fun (not).