The Fine Print of Self-Publishing fifth edition

NOTE: Below is the entire review of Trafford 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 Trafford’s website for the most current offerings and pricing.  Also, none of the links below are live as many have changed.

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

TRAFFORD PUBLISHING

http://www.trafford.com

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

GENRES ACCEPTED: All

PUBLISHING FEES: Trafford Publishing offers seven publishing packages for books with black-and-white interiors, as well as several additional packages for full-color and children’s books (which will not be discussed here). A side-by-side comparison of the seven packages can be found at http://www.trafford.com/Packages/BW.aspx

Prime Package: This package costs $799 and includes:

  • ISBN
  • Template-based custom cover: Includes one free round of corrections. You can supply your own artwork if you wish, or select images or ideas from their image library.
  • Book design and interior layout
  • Worldwide distribution through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com
  • Personalized page in the publisher’s online bookstore
  • One round of proof corrections

Watermark Package: For $1,299, this package includes everything in the Prime Package, plus:

  • Fifteen free copies
  • Listing through publisher’s online store
  • Copyright registration
  • Inclusion in Google Book Search and Amazon Search Inside!
  • Cover copy polish, where editorial staff turns your ideas into “intriguing cover text”

Elite Package: For $1,899, this package includes everything in the Prime Package, plus:

  • Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Twenty free paperback copies
  • Fifteen hardcover copies

Signature Package: For $2,499, this package includes everything in the Elite Package, plus:

  • Thirty free paperback copies Fifteen hardcover copies
  • Barnes & Noble’s See Inside program
  • Book marketing program: According to the Trafford representative, “Marketing kits generally involve bookmarks, posters, postcards that you can give to anyone in your area. Internet marketing is also done through Trafford’s website and making your book available to Amazon.com and other book sites.”

Signature Bookseller Package: For $2,999, this package includes everything in the Signature Package, plus:

  • Forty free paperback copies
  • Twenty hardcover copies
  • Bookseller’s return program
  • Book buyer’s preview, allowing retailers to preview your first chapters before ordering

WebBlazer Package: For $4,999, this package includes everything in the Signature Bookseller Package (including the free copies), plus:

  • Social media setup (profiles on Facebook, MySpace, and other more book-focused communities)
  • Standard publicity: This is a press release and a list of three hundred targeted media outlets based on your topic and location. The way the description is worded sounds like you simply get the press release and a list of addresses, but in an email the publisher assured me that they send the press releases out themselves.
  • Personalized WebBlazer website, which is separate from the page on Trafford’s bookstore and contains information about your book
  • Multiple book email campaign

Editorial Connoisseur Package: For $7,499, this package includes everything in the Signature Bookseller Package (and does not include the WebBlazer additions), plus:

  • Fifty paperback copies
  • Twenty-five hardcover copies
  • Book-signing kit
  • ForeWord Clarion book review and ForeWordMagazine ad
  • Content editing, up to 70,000 words (after which add $0.035/ word)
  • Newswire Plus, which makes your press release available to over 17,000 media

The most shocking thing about these packages is that book returns aren’t included until you spend $2,999. Also, the content editing fee of $0.035 per word is higher than most.

OTHER SERVICES OF INTEREST:

Author Website: For $399 down and $29 per month, Trafford will set up and host your website. Trafford is owned by Author Solutions, Inc. (the same company that owns AuthorHouse) and has the same deal with AmericanAuthor.com to provide this service. The rep from AmericanAuthor.com 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.

Email Marketing Campaigns: Trafford has several options, described at . You can send an email to an opt-in list of 500,000 people up to 10,000,000 people. The prices range from $1,596 to $9,996. There are also packages where four books by four different authors are marketed in the same email, reducing the cost for each author. The problem with these emails is that the recipients aren’t necessarily interested in a book like yours. You have to read what Trafford says on its website carefully here. It says that emails are sent to people who “have already opted-in to receive news about the book industry.” If your book is a coming-of-age novel, can there really be 500,000 to 10,000,000 people in the U.S. who have expressed interest in receiving emails about your specific genre? Not likely. People who’ve signed up for some list to receive emails about the “book industry” will make up a pretty broad list. The percentage of people who open these emails is likely small, and the percentage of people who take action once they’ve opened them is even smaller. A good open rate would be 2 percent and a great action rate would be 2 percent (of those who open it). Assume Trafford sends an email to 500,000 people and 10,000 open it (2 percent). Assume 2 percent of those people (200) buy your book. You won’t get close to making even a third of your money back. Without a highly targeted opt-in list, email marketing is simply not effective. Trafford is doing nothing wrong by offering this, but new authors see these huge numbers and assume that such volume will turn into sales. It rarely does.

BookTrailers: Trafford has offerings from $19,999 to $1,859 at http://www.trafford.com/Servicestore/ServiceList.aspx?Service=CAST-977. I can’t comment on the “Hollywood” book trailers with “Hollywood” producers and actors, but I wouldn’t pay $20,000 for one. As for the basic book trailer, you can get something comparable for under $1,000.

RETURN OF DIGITAL COVER AND INTERIOR FILES: File ownership is not covered on the Trafford website or its author agreement, but I emailed the publisher, asking who owns production files for the formatted book, and received this reply: “You will be sent PDF proofs via email to approve or fail. If you want electronic files, this would be the only way to keep them. We do not sent [sic] electronic files of your book to you. They are property of Trafford. The content is absolutely yours, but the files are ours. We send them to the printer to create your book.”

RETAIL PRICE OF AUTHOR’S BOOK: When my research assistant emailed Trafford, a representative informed her that the base retail price for a 200-page paperback with a black-and-white interior would be $15.04. An author can raise the retail price of his book if he “believe[s]the content of the book warrants a higher price than the average.” There do not seem to be any restrictions or requirements pertaining to raising the retail price.

PRICE AUTHOR PAYS FOR BOOKS: 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.trafford.com/FAQ/BookSalesOrdering.aspx#Discount, the discounts are as follows:

trafford.jpg

 

For large print runs, I am assuming that Trafford prints the books offset, which is much cheaper than print-on-demand, hence the asterisks. If you went to any online book printing site you could get one thousand copies of the mythical 6″ x 9″, 200-page paperback for around $2.50 per copy. The cost for two thousand or more would be around $1.75 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: The author selects a royalty of either 10 or 20 percent for print copies, calculated as follows: retail price less the trade discount to booksellers and less the single copy printing cost. With a 20 percent royalty, the discount for online retailers is 36 percent. Let’s base our example on a 200-page book priced at the minimum retail price with the 20 percent royalty. The math would look like this if the book were sold from Trafford.com:

$15.04 Retail price

–$5.41 Trade discount (36%)

$9.63 Net profit

x 0.20 Author royalty

$1.93 Author royalty

Trafford makes $7.70 on this sale. Back out the printing cost of $3.90, and Trafford earns $3.80, almost 100 percent more than the author.

If you select a 10 percent royalty rate, the trade discount offered to retailers (both brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers) is 46 percent. In this situation:

$15.04 Retail price

–$6.92 Trade discount (46%)

$8.12 Net profit

x 0.10 Author royalty

$0.81 Author royalty

Trafford makes $7.31 on this sale. Back out the printing cost of $3.90, and Trafford earns $3.41, more than four times what the author does.

If the book is sold through the Trafford website, the author presumably earns 10 or 20 percent of the retail price, so in the examples above, either $1.50 or $3.00 per book. Those numbers might look good, until you look closer. Back out the actual printing cost of $3.90 and Trafford makes $12.03 to $13.54 per sale, while the author earns a tiny fraction of that.

You should know that if you choose the 20 percent royalty option, the chances of ever having your book ordered by a brick-and-mortar bookstore are practically nil. This type of retailer demands at least a 40 percent trade discount. Online retailers will accept much lower trade discounts.

NOTABLE PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLISHING AGREEMENT: The publishing agreement can be found at http://www.trafford.com/Trafford_Terms_and_Conditions_11_02_09.pdf.

Section 1.4, under “Agreements,” states that Trafford has no obligation to provide the author with any submitted materials or production files for any reason.

Section 5, “Pricing and Royalty Agreements,” states that Trafford makes royalty payments on a quarterly basis, assuming you are owed at least $25 for that quarter; any outstanding royalties are then paid in full within sixty days of December 31st.

Section 13 says that the agreement is nonexclusive and that either party may terminate it at any time, without cause, with written notice. It also says that the agreement is subject to the laws of Bloomington, Indiana, and that any arbitration will take place there. Also, per the contract, the arbitrator is required to award costs and attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party in any arbitration. This section also waives the Supplementary Procedures for Consumer-Related Disputes, instead making the standard business disputes from the American Arbitration Association applicable. The AAA decides whether the case is a consumer or business case, unless there is a clause like this one that precludes them.

Guess what the principal difference is between a business and consumer case? The fees. Consumers who file cases under $10,000 pay a $125 filing fee. For a business dispute, the filing fee is $750 plus another $200 if a hearing is held. The Trafford contract requires a hearing, so if you have a dispute and want to arbitrate, you’re $950 down before the case is even heard. These guys don’t miss a beat. Wow.

AUTHOR-FRIENDLY RATING: The old adage “A fool and his money are soon parted” comes to mind when I think of the author who chooses this publisher—especially after reading this review. Trafford charges a premium for many of its services, yet it still triple-inflates the printing costs and has a royalty structure where, in every scenario, it ends up with most of the money from the sales of a book.

Trafford’s business model will bury you and your book. You will pay more up front than you need to. The printing costs are so overinflated that the retail price of your book will make it uncompetitive. Finally, after all the money you paid to publish, Trafford will be making most of the money each time you sell a book. And, if you have a dispute that requires arbitration, you have to pay $950 just to start the arbitration proceedings. It’s a bad deal and keeps getting worse.