The Fine Print of Self-Publishing fifth edition

NOTE: Below is the entire review of CrossBooks 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.  CrossBooks’s contract terms, printing markup percentages, and royalty amounts are likely close to where there were a few years ago. 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.

 

CROSSBOOKS

FORMAT OF BOOKS: Paperback and hardcover (ebooks are included in some packages)

GENRES ACCEPTED: CrossBooks is a division of Lifeway Christian Stores and only accepts books that are in line with its “Statement of Faith,” which is found at http://www.crossbooks.com/AboutUs/SoF.aspx.

PUBLISHING FEES: CrossBooks offers a variety of publishing packages. The standard packages range from $1,099 to $6,999. A full description of them can be found at http://www.crossbooks.com/Publish/PublishingPackages.aspx. CrossBooks also has color book packages and “Pro” publishing packages ranging from $11,999 to $36,999 (http://www.crossbooks.com/Publish/ProPackages.aspx).

Classic: This package costs $1,099 and includes:

  • ISBN
  • Template-based custom cover
  • Book design and interior layout
  • Distribution through Ingram’s Lightning Source (which includes Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com)
  • Ebook creation and distribution
  • Ten complimentary copies

Classic Plus: For $1,899, this package includes everything in the Classic Package, plus:

  • Twenty free paperback copies and five free hardcover copies
  • Copyright registration
  • Cover copy polish
  • Editorial review

Publisher’s Choice: For $2,999, this package includes everything in the Classic Plus, plus:

  • Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Listing on Google Books, Amazon Search Inside!, and BarnesandNoble.com’s “See Inside”
  • Author website
  • Returns Program
  • Three hundred bookmarks, postcards, and business cards

Marketing Plus: For $4,299, this package includes everything in the Publisher’s Choice package, plus:

  • Inclusion in CrossBooks’ catalog
  • Social media prep

Home Life: For $6,999, this package includes everything in the Marketing Plus package, plus:

  • An ad in Lifeway magazine
  • Expanded promo (which, according to http://www.crossbooks.com/Publish/AdditionalServices.aspx?serviceId=126, is creation of a press release and then distribution to the media in five cities of the author’s choice)
  • Foreword Clarion book review

OTHER SERVICES OF INTEREST:

Author Website: For $479 plus $32 per month, CrossBooks will set up and host your website, through AmericanAuthor.com (http://www.crossbooks.com/Publish/AdditionalServices.aspx?serviceId=148)—essentially the same deal that CrossBooks’ cousins, Trafford and AuthorHouse, have with AmericanAuthor.com. Interestingly, the same package at Trafford is $399 plus $29 per month. My guess is that the additional amount is the cut taken by CrossBooks/Lifeway. The $32 per month for hosting is expensive. You can get hosting for $5—$10 per month.
Email Marketing Campaign: This service is also similar to the cam­paigns offered by Trafford (so read Trafford’s review in this book for more details). There are several options here. One campaign sends an email to 500,000 people, and costs $1,915 with CrossBooks (http://www.crossbooks.com/Publish/AdditionalServices.aspx?serviceId=179). Yet, the nearly identical program with Trafford costs $1,596.

A complete list of all additional services can be found at http://www.crossbooks.com/Publish/AdditionalServices.aspx.

RETURN OF DIGITAL COVER AND INTERIOR FILES: Like its cousin iUniverse, CrossBooks allows authors to purchase the text and cover digital production files for $750 each if the request by the author is eighteen months or less from the book’s release date. If it is after eighteen months from the release date, it’s $150 per file. It should be obvious that producing the files in the first eighteen months doesn’t take any more time or effort on the publisher’s part than providing them after eighteen months.

RETAIL PRICE OF AUTHOR’S BOOK: The publisher has final say over the retail price (which is a good thing). I took a random sampling of some of CrossBooks’ titles and I found:

  • A Pastor’s Guide To Conducting A Funeral: Things Every Pastor Needs To Know, But May Have Been Afraid To Ask (116 pages/paperback/$12.99)
  • Bill Wallace of China (256 pages/paperback/$16.99)
  • Rocked: How to respond when life’s circumstances rock you to your core (140 pages/paperback/$11.95)

PRICE AUTHOR PAYS FOR BOOKS: CrossBooks says up front

that it prints its books with Lightning Source (www.crossbooks.com/help/printondemand.aspx#where). Authors receive a 50 percent discount off of their first order, provided it is more than 150 books. After this, as shown at http://www.crossbooks.com/help/royalties.aspx#volumediscount, the discounts vary based on volume ordered and are calculated at a discount off of the retail price. To get an example, I used The Day the Chicken Cackled: Reflections On A Life in Pakistan, which is a 232-page paperback and retails for $16.99. Lightning Source charges $4.38 to print this book in very small quantities.

crossbooks.jpg

For large print runs, I am assuming CrossBooks prints the books offset, which is much cheaper than print-on-demand—hence the asterisks. If you went to any online book printing company you could get 1,000 copies of the mythical 6″ x 9″, 200-page paperback for around $2.50 per copy. The cost for 2,000 or more would be around $1.93 per copy. However, offset pricing can vary a lot; so again, the printing markups for the big runs are estimates only.

ROYALTIES PAID TO AUTHOR: This publisher pays a 50 percent royalty equal to what the publisher earns on each book sold after backing out print costs and trade discounts. Here is an example directly from the website at http://www.crossbooks.com/help/royalties.aspx/. After reviewing the site, it was unclear to me what the COGS (cost of goods sold) was based on. It is the “cost” to print the book. A sales rep emailed me that it was based on a 200-page, paperback, 6″ x 9″ book.

If we price our book at the suggested retail price ($17.95), sold through a retailer, the math looks like this:

$17.95 SRP (suggested retail price)

–$8.62 Retail discount (48%)

$9.33 Net retail discount

–$4.97 COGS (cost of goods sold)

$4.36 Net COGS

x 0.50 Royalty rate percentage

$2.18 Author royalty

The math for a web sale looks like this:

$17.95 SRP

–$4.97 COGS

$12.98 Net COGS

x 0.50 Royalty percentage

$6.49 Royalty earned

A few notes of interest here. The COGS for this 200-page book is actually $3.90, not $4.97, thus CrossBooks has marked up the printing by $1.97, or 27 percent (one of the lowest markups on record). In the “Retail Sale” example, the author doesn’t truly make a 50 percent royalty because CrossBooks’s $1.97 printing markup is hidden in the print costs. In that example, the author makes $2.18 and CrossBooks, with its printing markup, makes $4.15.

The same holds true for the “Web Sale” example, when the book is sold through the CrossBooks site. Here the author makes $6.49 per sale and CrossBooks makes $8.46.

Another big question for me is: why is the cost to produce the book (used to calculate royalties) so much less than the cost to produce the same book, should the author want to buy a copy of it for his own use? It shouldn’t be.

NOTABLE PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLISHING AGREEMENT: The publishing agreement is only accessible after you start the publishing process. So, if you want to see one prior to actually paying CrossBooks any money, you’ll need to select a package and begin the ordering process.

The first thing you will need to agree to is the “Statement of Faith.” You agree to the following: “By checking ‘I accept’ and initialing this page, I accept that CrossBooks only publishes books that uphold the Statement of Faith. CrossBooks will perform a Theological Review to verify that my book upholds the Statement of Faith, and I accept that the $150.00 cost for the review is nonrefundable.”

It is unclear if that $150 is a separate fee or included as part of the package. Once you’ve accepted the Statement of Faith, you move on to the contract itself.

Section 6 states that the term is for three years from the date the publisher first sends the files to the printer for the first print run. But, per Section 7, the author can terminate by giving thirty days written notice.

Section 11 gives CrossBooks up to 180 days to publish the work. Section 12 gives CrossBooks control over the details of publication, including price, online presentation, whether or not to use DRM (digital rights management) on any ebook version, and so on. These are generally good ideas. While it’s important for authors to have control, so long as the publisher is doing things (such as retail pricing) in a way that helps the project, this control is better left in the hands of the publisher.

One portion of Section 12 worth noting is that the author is prohibited from utilizing “all, or portions ofthe WORK, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and identical or similar cover with any other PUBLISHER.” I emailed CrossBooks and asked what this meant. I received the following response: “The content remains always yours. You can reuse your own artwork as well. The only thing we do not release are [sic] the files we created with our process for the final design and formatting of your work. So.. .no problem, sir.”

Now, that isn’t exactly what the contract says. Clearly, another cover with the same image on it could be interpreted as being “similar” to CrossBooks’. If I were you, I’d get email confirmation about this clause if I were considering this publisher.

Section 18 gives the publisher to the right to terminate and refund all fees less a $150 setup fee.

Section 24 allows the publisher to amend the agreement at any time, with thirty days written notice. If the author doesn’t object in writing and terminate the contract within thirty days, the terms are deemed accepted. The only thing an author can do if she disputes the amendment is terminate the contract. So, the publisher could change the royalty structure, and if you don’t like it, all you can do is terminate the contract.

Next is Schedule A.

Section 1 sets forth the royalties, as described previously. It also includes ebook royalties, which are 50 percent of the actual payments CrossBooks receives from the sales.

Section 4 sets forth that CrossBooks has final say over the retail price of the book and that all ebooks will have a default price of $9.99.

Section 5 sets forth a refund schedule, should an author back out during any part of the process. This is a nice touch, and not many companies do it.

Section 6 outlines the author discounts for purchase of their own books. That schedule is set forth within this review.

Section 8 sets forth that authors who terminate can purchase their production files (interior and cover) for $750 each if the termination is within eighteen months of the release date of the book. The files are $150 each if the termination is after eighteen months from the release date. This is contrary to the email I received from the sales rep about return of production files.

AUTHOR-FRIENDLY RATING: It sort of feels like Lifeway wanted to get into self-publishing and either approached or was approached by Author Solutions, Inc. So, they created CrossBooks by taking Lifeway’s existing Statement of Faith and slapping some publishing packages around it, then marked everything up more than the comparable services in Author Solutions’ other companies (like iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse). And, voila—you have a publishing company. The packages are okay. They’re priced bit high for what you get, but I’ve seen worse. The printing markups are shameful, but not much different from Author Solutions’ other companies.

Judging by the example of the royalties, it appears that CrossBooks doesn’t mark up the actual printing costs for the purpose of calculating royalties as much as the other Author Solutions companies do. That’s a good thing. CrossBooks also has a fair refund schedule, something the others don’t either. But, like with other Author Solutions companies, just when you think something is getting better, there’s the whammy from left field. This one is the $1,500 to get back the production files you already paid to have created.

If you really want to use CrossBooks’ services, it’s cheaper to use one of Author Solutions’ other companies. If you really want a Christian publisher, there are better ones. Since many authors who read this are probably also looking at WestBow, you should know that both CrossBooks and WestBow have the EXACT same address: 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403 (http://www.crossbooks.com/ContactUs/Default.aspx and http://www.westbowpress.com/ContactUs/Default.aspx), because they are both being operated by Author Solutions, which is also at 1663 Liberty Drive in Bloomington, IN.