The Fine Print of Self-Publishing fifth edition

NOTE: Below is the entire review from 2011 edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.  It is provided ONLY for informational purposes, as the service offerings and publishing packages LIKELY have changed since 2011.  The contract terms, printing costs, and royalty amounts often don’t change significantly, HOWEVER, you should check the publisher’s website for the most current offerings and pricing.  Also, none of the links below are live as many have changed.

Updated information on this publisher’s printing markups and royalties can be found in the  2014 edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

 

AUTHORHOUSE

FORMAT OF BOOKS: Ebook, paperback, and hardcover

GENRES ACCEPTED: All

PUBLISHING FEES: AuthorHouse offers a variety of publishing packages, including children’s books and poetry, but only the standard paperback and hardcover packages are discussed here. (Visit http://www.authorhouse.com/ServicesStore/ChoosePackage.asp for details.)

Foundation Package: This package costs $599 and includes:

  • Custom-designed, full-color cover
  • Custom interior design
  • Electronic proof
  • One copy of the book
  • Ebook in PDF format
  • Listing with online booksellers (i.e., Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Borders.com)
  • Professional marketing consultation
  • Bookstore availability (meaning that a bookstore could order a copy—this doesn’t mean that a bookstore will have a copy)
  • ISBN

Legacy Package: This package costs $799 and includes everything in the Foundation Package, plus:

  • Ten image insertions
  • Copyright and Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Five complimentary copies

Legacy Hardcover Package: This package costs $1,099 and includes everything above, plus:

  • Personalized back cover
  • Ten complimentary paperbacks
  • Five complimentary hardcovers

Discovery Package: This package costs $1,399 and includes everything above, plus:

  • Book-buyer’s preview and Barnes & Noble’s “See Inside the Book”
  • Marketing kit, including bookmarks, postcards, and business cards
  • Submission to Google Book Search and Amazon Search Inside! programs
  • Fifteen complimentary paperbacks
  • Ten complimentary hardcovers

Pinnacle Package: This package costs $1,999 and includes everything in the packages listed previously, plus:

  • Booksellers return program
  • Book-signing kit
  • Forty complimentary paperbacks
  • Twenty complimentary hardcovers

OTHER SERVICES OF INTEREST: AuthorHouse offers a host of optional services, including everything from copyright registration to editing and marketing services, but at a higher price than you’ll find elsewhere. For a complete list of services, see http://www.authorhouse.com/Services/default.aspx . For the sake of comparison, here are a few of the services:

Line Editing: Includes grammar, syntax, and spelling for $0.029 per word. This is about double the going rate for this level of editing by an experienced editor.

Developmental Editing: Includes grammar, syntax, and spelling, plus an in-depth review of the work’s character development, content, and flow. The editor works closely with the author during the course of the editing process. This service costs $0.064 per word, which is about 50 percent higher than you can find elsewhere.

Custom Cover Illustration: The author works with a design consultant and illustrator to create original artwork for the book’s front and back cover. Up to twenty-five changes are included.

Stock Art Placement: $12 per image

Image Scanning: $5 for black-and-white images

Image Insertion: $5 per image

Library of Congress Control Number: $75 (The LCCN registration is free and takes about five minutes to do. You are simply paying for the service of having it done for you.)

U.S. Copyright Office Registration: At $170, this is overly expensive. Also, the sales rep emailed my researcher and implied that AuthorHouse can register a copyright faster than one could on his own. That is absolutely false. The rep stated that if you register a copyright on your own, “it can take up to one year! AuthorHouse is able to do this as we publish your book project, which can be as fast as ninety days or even thirty days with our Rapid Release service.” Since an expedited registration from the U.S. Copyright Office costs $760 per work filed, I doubt AuthorHouse is expediting registration and charging only $170 for it. AuthorHouse cannot make the process go faster, unless they (or you) are paying the $760 to expedite the copyright filing.

Rapid Release:For an extra $500, AuthorHouse promises to have your book in your hands within thirty days.

Hardcover: For $350, you can add an embossed spine and dust jacket.

Author Website: For an initial $399 and $29 per month, AuthorHouse will set up and host your website. The publisher wouldn’t provide any information with regard to whether or not this fee entitles the author to ownership of the website and/or the domain name. I emailed the same question to AmericanAuthor .com, the company that provides this service for AuthorHouse. The rep from AmericanAuthor.com responded quickly and told me that the author always owns the content on the site, but doesn’t own the website layout. So long as the author continues to pay $29 per month for hosting, the author can continue to use the layout. Also, the author can supply his or her own domain name. The $29 per month for hosting is expensive. You can get hosting for $5—$10 per month. However, the best part of my experience dealing with AuthorHouse was the response of its third-party website provider.

RETURN OF DIGITAL COVER AND INTERIOR FILES: The AuthorHouse contract states: “You acknowledge that you may not utilize the formatted Work, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and cover with any other publisher.” When asked whether a departing author could pay a fee for the files, the AuthorHouse representative said, “We will not be able to release any sort of master file of the book to you.”

If an author leaves to seek a more affordable and profitable self-publishing alternative, then the author will have to pay to have everything recreated, even though he or she has already paid AuthorHouse to create these files.

RETAIL PRICE OF AUTHOR’S BOOK: AuthorHouse does not publish the exact pricing chart for its books, although it has a sample structure here: http://www.authorhouse.com/GetPublished/BookSales.aspx .

AuthorHouse allows its authors to set the royalty for their books at 5—15 percent for books sold via retailers like Amazon.com, and 5—50 percent for books sold via AuthorHouse’s online bookstore—books will be priced accordingly. AuthorHouse has a minimum price scale and, obviously, a low-priced book equals a low royalty.

Although the sample chart shows slightly different page-count increments, an AuthorHouse representative quoted me the retail price spread for a 178—271-page paperback book sold on AuthorHouse.com. The retail prices ranged from $9.90 for a 5 percent royalty to $18.70 for a 50 percent royalty. (One should also note that AuthorHouse’s online bookstore doesn’t publish the page count of its books!) While a 50 percent royalty sounds great, it’s doubtful that a 200-page paperback will sell for $18.70, especially one written by an unknown author.

PRICE AUTHOR PAYS FOR BOOKS: Author discounts are based on the size of the book and the quantity ordered. No pricing chart is available on the AuthorHouse website. My researcher had to request the information three times via email before she got someone to send her details. For a 200-page, 6″ x 9″ paperback, the discount would be:

authorhouse.jpg

So, why all the asterisks? Well, at quantities like these for the book described above, I’m assuming that AuthorHouse is not printing them digitally, but rather using an offset printer, which is much cheaper. You could get 1,000—1,499 books printed almost anywhere for around $2.00 per book. You could get 1,500—1,999 copies printed for about $1.78 per book. If you ordered 3000—3,999 copies, you could get them for $1.46 per book. For runs of 4,000—4,999 the print cost would be around $1.36 per copy. And for 5,000 books, the cost per book would be about $0.99.

Now you know why AuthorHouse doesn’t have the pricing chart available on its website.

ROYALTIES PAID TO AUTHOR: AuthorHouse calculates its paperback and hardcover royalties from the retail price of the book. It allows authors to choose a royalty rate between 5 and 50 percent for books sold on retailers like Amazon.com, and between 5 and 15 percent for books sold on the AuthorHouse website. This is explained at . The author can also choose to set the royalties at different percentages for sales on the AuthorHouse website versus third-party sales. Authors receive their payment scale, which is determined by the size of the book, after they sign the publisher’s contract. The royalty for ebooks is 25 percent of the purchase price.

Because AuthorHouse uses a 250-page, 6″x 9″ paperback to demonstrate its royalty structure, so will I (remember, I usually base these calculations on a 200-page paperback). The website page on royalties is very confusing. At first glance, the dollar figure under the royalty amount looks like the actual royalty, but it’s actually the retail price on which the royalty is based. The AuthorHouse profit is calculated after backing out the actual printing cost of $4.65 per book (250 pages x $0.015 per page + $0.90 per cover). The royalties for selling this 250-page paperback on the AuthorHouse site are as follows:

authorhouse2.jpg

For books sold through third-party retailers, the book prices go up to accommodate a 40 percent wholesale discount. Even though AuthorHouse wouldn’t disclose the trade discount, it was ascertainable from the example given on the website. The royalty paid to the author is based on the retail price of the book. So, for the 250-page paperback that retails for $14.99 (as detailed on the publisher’s website), the author makes $0.73 per copy sold, while AuthorHouse makes $3.35, almost five times more than the author. Here is the math:

$14.49 Retail price

—$5.76 Trade discount (40%)

—$4.65 Actual print cost

–$0.73 Author royalty (5%)

$3.35 AuthorHouse profit

The more accurate depiction of the royalty chart for sales through third-party retailers on http://www.authorhouse.com/GetPublished/BookSales.aspx should look like this:

authorhouse3.jpg

In every sales scenario above, AuthorHouse makes a lot more money on each sale than the author does. What is AuthorHouse doing to sell your book? Nothing. If it’s providing marketing services, it’s because you’ve paid for them. Almost all sales that result will be because of your efforts. So, when you get someone to purchase your book, why on earth should this publisher make so much more than you do?

NOTABLE PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLISHING AGREEMENT: A copy of the contract can be found at http://www.authorhouse.com/AH_Terms_and_Conditions_10_16_09.pdf

The printing markups and royalties aren’t pretty. The contract isn’t either. Sections 1.4 and 1.5 make it clear that the author will not receive the production files (book cover, layout, etc.) from the publisher upon termination: “We will have no obligation to provide to you any submitted materials or production files at anytime [sic] or for any reason.” Further, “You acknowledge that you may not utilize the formatted Work, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and cover with any other publisher.” Section 1.5 also gives the publisher the final say in your work’s appearance, price, style, and formatting.

Section 1.6 gives AuthorHouse 180 days from the date on which it receives your work to have your work published. This does not include copyediting or the time that the work is in your hands for any reason.

Section 1.8 makes it clear that AuthorHouse provides no promotional assistance unless the author purchases those additional services.

Section 5.6 is particularly troubling. AuthorHouse will not allow the author to transfer ownership interest or royalty rights to someone else without the express, written permission of AuthorHouse, which can be withheld at its “sole discretion for any reason.” My guess is that this clause exists to prevent disgruntled authors from transferring their rights to a third party and is held like a club over the disgruntled author’s head.

Section 6.1 is also fierce; it severely limits the author’s legal remedies. You will either allow AuthorHouse to fix the problem (“use commercially reasonable efforts to cure”) or to return your fees for the service at issue. Any author claim must be made within thirty days of the problem occurring. An author who is ready to make a claim or threatens legal action probably wants to get his money back and walk away from the publisher. My guess is that in 99 percent of the cases, AuthorHouse will “fix” the issue instead of refunding you a dime. If you plan on signing a contract with AuthorHouse, reread this paragraph many times. The drafter of this contract has anticipated author lawsuits and has tried to prevent the types of suits and claims authors can make. The last sentence says, “To the fullest extent legally possible, you agree not to allege that the remedies in this Section fail their essential purpose.” Even though there is an arbitration clause, given the language in 6.1, the only way you could initiate an arbitration action would be if AuthorHouse failed to fix the problem or return your money for that particular service. Since Section 6.1 doesn’t provide a time period within which AuthorHouse will act to fix the problem, you are basically screwed.

Section 7.2 is the bright spot in an otherwise dismal contract. It allows the author to terminate the contract with thirty days written notice. The author, however, won’t be entitled to a refund or to the book’s interior and cover production files.

Even if you are unhappy, the most you will ever get back is what you paid for the services. You will not receive lost profits or damages for pain and suffering (see Section 4, “Disclaimer”). Such a clause is standard. The author who decides to sue, however, must file the claim for arbitration in AuthorHouse’s hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. The prevailing party will be awarded legal fees.

AUTHOR-FRIENDLY RATING: If after reading this book you are still considering AuthorHouse, then good luck. While the publishing fees are not unreasonable, the printing markups and low royalties are egregious. Further, any disagreement with AuthorHouse is a lost cause. The publisher’s contract makes it difficult to complain and see results. In fact, nothing about the AuthorHouse contract favors the author, with the exception of being able to terminate the contract quickly.

If you don’t mind paying a 139 percent markup on printing and receiving puny royalties, then AuthorHouse is probably okay for you. But before you choose this publisher, rent the movie Boiler Room. Almost every email inquiry was answered with some type of request to speak on the phone, despite repeated explanations that my research assistant is unavailable during business hours. Why so eager to speak on the phone? Because it’s easy to sell the sizzle that way with no accountability. Don’t be fooled by the hype and slick sales techniques. The numbers don’t lie.