Friday, December 28, 2012

The Business of Publishing

What do I really know about business? Nothing really, just the logic of following the money. My first book was published through AuthorHouse - they are a subsidy publisher. Until recently, I always concentrated on the 'publisher' part of that label, and that was further helped by the 'Author' in the company title. Recently, I learned that I may have been grossly mistaken in my assumption. I never really could understand why they never did any advertising. I mean, they already had this awesomely long list of email contacts, all they needed to do was send out a monthly newsletter, but that's not what AuthorHouse concentrates on; they are merely a service agency.

Five years ago, I paid them nearly $12,500 for my book. I knew from the start I was going to have trouble promoting so $4,000 of that was for the best advertising valet (that's how they promoted it on my contract) AuthorHouse had to offer. For my mega$$$, I got a single mass email notification to all the people on their awesome list - yeah, I said single. To her credit, she also turned me on to Facebook and Twitter, but she did nothing else to help me get my book sold.

Am I being strange when I expect some sort of results for my $4,000?

Logic tells me to follow the money. They do it on TV all the time. Want to solve a crime? Follow the money. So, for $12,500 I got a cover (I recently paid $100 for a cover), I got a copyright number (I got one for free a while back), I got an ISBN number (I found a place where I could get one for like $50), My book was edited (yeah okay, that one costs a bit - my editor would do this book for $1,119.34 as it stands today), and my finished document was converted to a publishable gallery pdf. So, for all that, my $12,500 was a bit pricy, but it's the $4,000 price-tag I'm having such an issue with.

$4,000 for sending out a single mass email - the rest I got only because I got no results from that email so I called and complained, only then did she suggest Facebook and Twitter. She didn't tell me what to do with those sites; I had to figure all that out myself.

Why am I complaining about a five-year-old business decision? Recently, AuthorhHouse contacted me - they do that from time to time - about once a year or so - My new advertising 'valet' wanted to tell me all about this new thing he had to offer me. AND he was offering it to me for the discounted price of only $7000. Since I have already invested $12,500 into my book, for only and additional $7000, he would guarantee my book would be read by no less than five agents. Did you catch that incredible offer? He was going to guarantee that five agents would read my book - that's all. Well, actually that's not all for the $7000, but that was all when it comes to the agents. There's no way anyone can guarantee that an agent will take me on and promote my book to a big publishing house.
I would also get:
1 - A professional query letter writer would write up the query to those agents.
2 - I would get a one-time listing in two of the biggest book distributor's catalogs (one of them is Ingram where I should already be listed).
3 - I would get a single multi-author slot on the New York Times Sunday Book Review (I just looked them up and didn't see much there from AuthorHouse. Don't get me wrong, there were some listings, just not much, and I had to do a word search to find it)
4 - I would get a radio interview by Stu Taylor (I'm really bad with names so I don't know who this guy is). His radio programs are Equity Strategies on the Business Talk Radio Network, Equity Strategies (a different show) on the Radio America Network, and Stu Taylor on Business aired in Boston. Hmmmm Maybe he does a regular author interview thing, but I certainly never listen to those kinds of programs, though I suppose a lot of people do.

Now, I know advertising costs money, and sadly I just don't have any money to spend. However, the way I see it, if you're going to invest money in an advertising company, it is reasonable to expect some kind of return on your investment. A total of 21 books were sold through AuthorHouse during the five years of my book's life. 20 of those books were bought by my sister when I sent her the link after it was finished and available; she bought them for Christmas presents that first year (2008). Outside of that, despite all my advertising, AuthorHouse sold no more books of mine - 0 sales - whereas 69 books were sold from probably Amazon, but my statements don't specify. Now I didn't have internet until 2010, so other than those first 21 books, only one other book was sold before 2010. From then until now 13 more books were sold.

Early this last spring, AuthorHouse released my book as an eBook (without informing me, but that's minor). Also early this last spring, I had another book come out through Bucks Country Publishing with a much better cover, if I do say so myself. My second book was a pretty good hit, though sales were mostly eBooks. Since I also advertise my Amazon Author page where both books are listed, I believe people who liked my second book decided they could afford the $3.03 for my first book in eBook format. 38 of those sold during the last quarter, and not through AuthorHouse.

Follow my logic. Do you think AuthorHouse has shown me enough return for my $4,000 in advertising to warrant another $7000 investment, whatever they offer? I don't. The offer is good, the plan is good, but the price is simply too much - I can't afford it anyway. The guy I talked to kept saying that it wasn't the money, that it had nothing to do with what I'd already paid, and that advertising costs money (I'm paraphrasing), but all I can do is follow the money. I paid them $4,000 specifically for advertising and over the last five years they made me just a little over $40. Or we could look at it this way; if I pay myself a round figure of $2 per book (I get less than that for sales through Amazon, and I get a little over $1 for an eBook) and include ALL sales, I made $180 over the last five years. Break it down and that means I pay them $22 so I can make $1. In case you hadn't guessed yet. I'm firing this advertising agency. Wouldn't you?


S.M. Carrière said...

I've heard terrible things about Author House in the course of my research. I'm glad you're not going with them any more. You could do a much better job of getting the word out on your own.

Good luck!

Shell Flower said...

I am so glad to hear you are not spending, no I mean wasting, the $7000 on that scam. I've heard a lot about Amazon-specific advertising, Kindle Nation and stuff like that, that is way cheaper and way more effective. Your own self-promotion has landed you more sales than that silly Author House.

Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

I've learned some hard lessons during my publication journey. I chose to go with a small publisher because I was too afraid to self-publish. If I had to do it over again, I'd give self-publishing a shot. I wish you luck with all your books.

Joe Lee said...

I'm completed with my ebook, but the challenge is not writing the book, but promoting the book. I've a lot to learn on promoting books.

But no way I'm going to take that $7,000 advertisement without any form of guarantee returns.

SherryGLoag said...

That was a hard lesson to learn, and an expensive one. I wish you the best of luck with your projects in 2013.

Unknown said...

I've heard of Author House and can't say any of its been good. When it comes to having $4,000 for advertising you're probably better off sending out Google Ads. You can probably throw in a few ads on different blogs also.

Sandra Tyler said...

gosh what a story. But I think ebooks is the way to go; focus on that. Sadly, my books are not in any kind of electronic form; when they were published by Harcourt Brace, that was long before I had an electronic file. My husband keeps encouraging me to get the books scanned but as time does not allow for everything I'd like to do, i'ts not at the top of my list. Writing, new writing, is.

William Kendall said...

A good warning, Anna.

Author House screwed you over. They deserve to get blown out of the water.

Ebooks are definitely the way to go.

@Sandra: scanning books takes time, and requires someone to look over for computer glitches- sometimes the computer misreads a word- but it can be done.

Jacqui said...

Well documented, Anna. Me, I do it all myself. The investment is minor (ISBN's are cheap). The return excellent. No worries.

I was always suspicious Author House would be a flop. Now I know.