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Thread: Xpress Yourself Publishing

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Xpress Yourself Publishing

    Quote Originally Posted by Momento Mori View Post
    Going through those credentials:

    - Jessica Tilles's novel 'Anything Goes' was published by Xpress Yourself Publishing. I haven't heard of this publisher before. From their website, it doesn't look too different from a self-publishing outfit (they don't guarantee to put books in stores and expect authors to be heavily involved in marketing). They won an award as 2008 AALS Independent Publisher of the Year, which isn't an award I've heard of before but again, I'm not that up on African-American publishing, and it claims to have published a number of bestsellers (again, not authors I've heard of but I don't know the market).

    MM
    Hi there, MM...Your researched facts are incorrect.

    Xpress Yourself Publishing is not a self-publishing "outfit." In fact, we are a small traditional publisher, with a moderate staff, publishing a variety of titles in all genres. To date, we have published over 50 titles and by the end of 2009, we hope to double that number, as well as double the size of our author roster. And, although we are African-American owned, we do not discriminate with the titles or authors we publish. We do not, in any way, shape or form, charge authors to publish and we pay royalties that are competitive with the publishing industry. Our only request is that our authors are very active in promoting their work, which is to be expected of any author--whether self-published or traditionally published. A publisher cannot attend author signings for an author. It is the expectation of all authors to conduct book tours, attend literary events, non-literary events, etc. After all, if I (the publisher) am putting 100% of my finances behind an author's project, then I expect 100% participation from the author. I make this very clear on my Submissions page, as to weed out those authors who are only interested in having their book published for hobby purposes, or simply to see their names on a published book. I am not in the business of publishing hobbies.

    Second, I do not know of any publisher that will GUARANTEE a title to be shelved in every bookstore. It would be idiotic for a publisher (one that is worth its salt) to make such a guarantee. If this was a viable guarantee, then it would be etched in an author's publishing contact. I've not viewed every publisher's contract, mind you, but the many publishers that I've conversed with does not and will not make such a guarantee. I'm not sure if you're an author or on the publishing side of the business, but if so, then you should be familiar with the process of getting one's title into bookstores. It's not as easy as one would think. Especially for African-American titles. I'm sure you've ventured into Borders, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, etc., and have noticed the extremely small selection of African American titles showcased on one or two bookshelves, out of the 50 plus shelves in the store. However, with the state of the economy and Amazon.com, bookstores are tightening their straps when it comes to placing titles on shelves, no matter who publishes it. Further, and this is practically the case across the board (and with any business), the author (as well as the publisher) must create a demand for that title. This involves heavy marketing and promoting on both the author and publisher's part.

    As the publisher, I make no claims that are not true. It's not necessary. On September 26, 2008, in Harlem, New York, Xpress Yourself Publishing was awarded the 2008 African American Literary Award for Independent Publisher of the Year, beating out Urban Books (which is an imprint of Kensington) and Triple Crown Publications, a very well-known and prosperous African American-owned publishing company, of which I hold in very high regard. I take much pride in that award and because you have not heard of it does not mean that it holds no validity. In addition, we have several authors who have graced the ESSENCE Magazine (a national publication with a reach of well over 1.5 million readers) Best Seller's List, as well as authors who have been up for nomination for the NAACP Image Award, an Emma Award-winning author, and other award-winning authors. Because you've not heard of an award is not cause to discount it.

    I browe Absolute Write regularly, becuase I do find great advice given, and I look forward to reading more great advice!

    Warm regards,
    Jessica Tilles
    Publisher, Xpress Yourself Publishing
    www.xpressyourselfpublishing.org

  2. #2
    Tired and Disillusioned Momento Mori's Avatar
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    Hi, Jessica and welcome to AW.

    Jessica Tilles:
    Hi there, MM...Your researched facts are incorrect.

    Xpress Yourself Publishing is not a self-publishing "outfit."
    Firstly, I was expressing an opinion and asking questions rather than trying to assert "facts". I stressed that Xpress Yourself was not a company I'd previously heard of but was also at pains to point out that this is because I am not familiar with African American publishing companies.

    Secondly, I didn't actually say that Xpress Yourself Publishing is a self-publishing outfit. I said that from the website it doesn't look too different from a self-publishing outfit.

    Jessica Tilles:
    We do not, in any way, shape or form, charge authors to publish and we pay royalties that are competitive with the publishing industry. Our only request is that our authors are very active in promoting their work, which is to be expected of any author--whether self-published or traditionally published. A publisher cannot attend author signings for an author. It is the expectation of all authors to conduct book tours, attend literary events, non-literary events, etc. After all, if I (the publisher) am putting 100% of my finances behind an author's project, then I expect 100% participation from the author.
    Are you able to tell us whether Xpress Yourself pays advances to its authors and how royalties are calculated (i.e. on the cover price or on net)? The reason I'm asking is because although I agree that authors are increasingly requested by publishers to get involved in marketing their books, it is normal for publishers to organise at least some events such as tours rather than authors. Author-organised events are usually designed to supplement those organised by the publisher.

    Jessica Tilles:
    Second, I do not know of any publisher that will GUARANTEE a title to be shelved in every bookstore.
    You're right - guarantee was the incorrect word and I apologise for the poor terminology. Perhaps undertake would have been better. My point however was that a commercial publisher is one that is geared towards selling books through book stores rather than through author-arranged sales.

    Jessica Tilles:
    I'm not sure if you're an author or on the publishing side of the business, but if so, then you should be familiar with the process of getting one's title into bookstores. It's not as easy as one would think. Especially for African-American titles. I'm sure you've ventured into Borders, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, etc., and have noticed the extremely small selection of African American titles showcased on one or two bookshelves, out of the 50 plus shelves in the store. However, with the state of the economy and Amazon.com, bookstores are tightening their straps when it comes to placing titles on shelves, no matter who publishes it. Further, and this is practically the case across the board (and with any business), the author (as well as the publisher) must create a demand for that title. This involves heavy marketing and promoting on both the author and publisher's part.
    I understand how difficult it is to get stores to take books from a small publisher and I don't doubt at all that for African-American fiction (regardless of whether the label applies) it's particularly difficult.

    Just to clarify, are you saying that at present Xpress Yourself Publishing does not have a distribution contract in place with any book store?

    Jessica Tilles:
    I take much pride in that award and because you have not heard of it does not mean that it holds no validity.
    Again, I was not attempting to cast any doubt on the validity of the award - I merely stated that it was not something that I had heard of. I apologise for any offence that this has caused.

    Unfortunately (and as I said in my original comment), being a Brit, I don't know a great deal about African-American publishing and therefore raised the questions to see if anyone else knew about the area.

    Many thanks for the clarification and congratulations on the achievement.

    MM

  3. #3
    I've Got An MFA In LEO smcc360's Avatar
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    Hello, Ms. Tilles, and thank you for coming forward with your information and insight.

    What's your opinion of Ms. Dean's editing services?
    "There is only one basic human right: the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty: the duty to take the consequences."
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  4. #4
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    Thanks, Momento, I love great dialogue. Looking forward to more dialogue with you, and everyone else on AW.

    You said:
    "Secondly, I didn't actually say that Xpress Yourself Publishing is a self-publishing outfit. I said that from the website it doesn't look too different from a self-publishing outfit."

    How exactly does one look like a self-publishing outfit? I'm not quite sure I understand that one. Does my site look like Authorhouse.com, Xlibris.com, iUniverse, etc.? I sure as heck hope not. If so, I'm going to brainstorm with my webmaster to change the look. LOL


    You said:
    "Are you able to tell us whether Xpress Yourself pays advances to its authors and how royalties are calculated (i.e. on the cover price or on net)? The reason I'm asking is because although I agree that authors are increasingly requested by publishers to get involved in marketing their books, it is normal for publishers to organise at least some events such as tours rather than authors. Author-organised events are usually designed to supplement those organised by the publisher."

    In the beginning, I offered advances, however I put a stop to that when I realized it was killing my business. Paying authors advances that I was unable to recoup was not financially feasible. In fact, there are many publishers that have "sidelined" offering advances for now, especifically for those authors without name recognition. Royalties are offered on net sales. Also, we have an in-house publicist who schedules all signings and events for our authors. However, there are events that are literary that authors will have to fend for themselves (i.e., book fairs/festivals, shows, etc.) unless Xpress Yourself Publishing decides to vend for those events, which is quite often.


    You said:
    "You're right - guarantee was the incorrect word and I apologise for the poor terminology. Perhaps undertake would have been better. My point however was that a commercial publisher is one that is geared towards selling books through book stores rather than through author-arranged sales."

    Apology accepted. Listen, let me be frank with you. When it comes to black literature, unless you're Terry McMillan, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosely, and any other black author with name recognition, or have sat on Oprah's couch, we simply are not represented in bookstores like white authors. Period. If Barack Obama had not won the Presidency of the United States of America, his face would not be plastered in the windows of every Barnes & Noble, Borders, and any other chain bookstores. As a black author, I accept that fact (without any choice) and recognize it. Unfortunately for us though, we have to take other routes to get the word out about our books. Carl Weber, publisher of Urban Books (which is an imprint of Kensington) caught hell getting his authors' titles into bookstores. So, you know what he did? He opened his own bookstore that showcased titles he published, and now he's the largest African American book chain in the United States with at least 20 or more stores.

    It is unfortunate, but that is how the cookie crumbles. As I said before, there is one or two bookshelves alloted for African American literature, and there are up in the extreme high thousands for African American authors in the US.

    Sure, I am geared towards bookstore sales as well. Would love them, highly recommend them. But, I've also experienced authors not showing up at arranged bookstore signings, thus the books being returned. This looks poorly on the author as well as the publisher. I have authors who aren't interested in doing in-store signings. They recognize this as a business and feel they get more money by buying their books and selling them, than they would get from royalties. They'd rather get their "hustle" on and buy cases of books and sell them wherever they can.

    You said:
    "Just to clarify, are you saying that at present Xpress Yourself Publishing does not have a distribution contract in place with any book store?"

    Yes, all of our titles are distributed by several distributors (including African American distributors) who place orders regularly, as well as those who place orders from time to time. Our titles are also available in major department stores.

    Thanks again for the dialogue!

    JT

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    Hi Jessica. Welcome to AW. There are a number of points you made that compel me to comment, so I hope you bear with me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    In the beginning, I offered advances, however I put a stop to that when I realized it was killing my business. Paying authors advances that I was unable to recoup was not financially feasible. In fact, there are many publishers that have "sidelined" offering advances for now, especifically for those authors without name recognition.
    A publisher who pays no advance is one who has little faith that the book is going to make any money. From your comment that paying advances was killing your business tells me there is a disconnect in your business plan. The only publishers I know who don't pay advances are those who proscribe to the Print on Demand business plan. These are companies who have very little cash, do very small print runs, require the author to be an unpaid sales force in selling their books, and they have no distribution.

    What I mean by distribution is that you either have your own sales teams who pitch your catalog to your corporate accounts, indies, and libraries, or you have signed with an independent distributor whose in house sales teams perform the same duties. Saying that you are "distributed" by Ingram and B&T only means that your books are available to order by stores and libraries. It's misleading. Unless your authors are out there actively pitching their books, few know your books exist.

    I have authors who aren't interested in doing in-store signings. They recognize this as a business and feel they get more money by buying their books and selling them, than they would get from royalties. They'd rather get their "hustle" on and buy cases of books and sell them wherever they can.
    This is the mark of a POD publisher; they make most of their money from authors buying their own books. Most of us have it right in our contracts that authors are to make themselves available for book events. If an author refuses, this is a breach of contract.
    Yes, all of our titles are distributed by several distributors (including African American distributors) who place orders regularly, as well as those who place orders from time to time. Our titles are also available in major department stores.
    I looked up your titles in Ingram iPage and could find no listing of a distributor. When a publisher has a distributor, their contact information is listed in iPage as the source for purchasing books. No distributors are listed on your website either. Ingram and B&T don't count since they're warehouse distributors.
    we are a small traditional publisher
    I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place and that you're trying very hard to do great things for your authors, but "traditional" publishers pay advances, have sales teams, and can pretty much guarantee that, yes indeedy, books will reach the store shelves.

    Sorry, I just realized this is off-topic from the original post. Might want to split this off into its own thread, eh?
    Last edited by priceless1; 06-08-2009 at 05:19 AM.

  6. #6
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    Hi there, Priceless...

    Please bear with me as I'm not familiar with selecting quoted sections, etc. So, I'll indicate with "you said." Hope you don't mind! This is going to be a long one. :-)

    First, I would like to say that it's okay if you do not want to classify me as a "traditional" publisher. They said Jesus could not heal the sick, but He fooled them, didn't He?

    You said:
    A publisher who pays no advance is one who has little faith that the book is going to make any money. From your comment that paying advances was killing your business tells me there is a disconnect in your business plan. The only publishers I know who don't pay advances are those who proscribe to the Print on Demand business plan. These are companies who have very little cash, do very small print runs, require the author to be an unpaid sales force in selling their books, and they have no distribution.

    My reply:
    You're right, my faith does not lie within the title, but within the author. I run a business, and I do expect authors to do their share just as they have high expectations of me as their publisher. It could be the next Great American Novel, and not get any sales if the author and publisher are not appropriately and effectively promoting the book. If I am approached by an author to publisher (i.e., use my funds to produce their book from paying a cover designer, typesetting, editor, publicist, etc.), then I have expectations of that author. I, too, am an author of nine novels. My novels sit on the shelves of many bookstores, but it wasn't because it was pitched to the bookstores. I hit the ground running as an author and understood that the word was not going to get out about my book unless I put a lot of effort and hard work behind it. That's the business. Heck, that's with any business.

    Your analysis of "advance paying publishers" and "non-advance paying publishers" is not completely accurate. However, I do understand you're speaking based on the publishers you know. I know of several publishers who do not offer advances. And, if they do offer advances, the amount isn't worth much ($1,000 to $1,500, if that much, which is spread out over the course of a year or so, or based on a two-book deal). My decision to no longer offer advances had to do with signing authors who were ONLY interested in receiving an advance and nothing more. It had absolutely nothing to do with my business plan. As a business owner, like most business owners, I annually assess my business and cut those areas that are losing money for me. So, instead of offering advances, I offer marketing and promotions, a publicist, an author relations rep, a title manager, etc., as well as seeing that my authors participate in many major events (that I foot the bill for). I choose to put those funds where they would be better useful.

    I own my own printing equipment and produce my own books, as well as books for other small publishers. If that's considered print on demand, then okay. Print on demand is simply another form of printing, it has nothing to do with the publishing company and how its run. I simply think people in the industry use the whole POD as an excuse for what, I don't know--a smoke screen, if you will. I could be wrong though, but that's my perception. In fact, there are many major publishers who use POD companies for short runs (Penguin Books and Simon & Schuster to name a couple). I will never understand why people "knock" the whole POD industry. It truly doesn't matter if the title is POD or PIBY (print in back yard), there must be a demand for that title and it's up to the publisher and author to create that demand. Period.

    You said:
    What I mean by distribution is that you either have your own sales teams who pitch your catalog to your corporate accounts, indies, and libraries, or you have signed with an independent distributor whose in house sales teams perform the same duties. Saying that you are "distributed" by Ingram and B&T only means that your books are available to order by stores and libraries. It's misleading. Unless your authors are out there actively pitching their books, few know your books exist.

    My reply:
    My titles are distributed by Ingram Books, Baker & Taylor, Afrikan World Books, and other African American distributors. Why does saying "distributed by Ingram Books and B&T" is misleading? So, are the thousands of publishers who use Ingram and B&T as distributors being misleading as well? That makes absolutely no sense to me at all. Also, and this is said to say, but not all "white" distributors will distribute many titles written by black authors. Isn't that sad? Even in the year of 2009, and with a black president running the free world (Do your thing OBAMA!), we still have to struggle and overcome obstacles, and defend ourselves when we're trying to play the same game. Hell, we can't even sit on the same shelves as white authors. We're experiencing segregation by being placed on shelves by ourselves. Thank God for independent African American bookstores and distributors!

    You said:
    This is the mark of a POD publisher; they make most of their money from authors buying their own books. Most of us have it right in our contracts that authors are to make themselves available for book events. If an author refuses, this is a breach of contract.

    My reply:
    I assume you're an author, right? Do you not buy your books? Do you not have books on hand? Your publisher outright gives you cases of books when you need them, without you paying for them? For free? If this is the case, then I find that hard to believe, since so many of my author friends are published by "traditional" publishers and they buy their books from their publishers at a discounted rate. A publisher makes their money a few ways: bookstore sales, author sales, serial sales, and media sales. Probably other ways, but I've yet to tap into those. Oh yes, foreign rights.

    Thanks for the tip. I will surely include in my contracts, going forward, that it is mandatory for authors to make themselves available for book events. I will have to pass this on to my attorney. You know, because I had several authors in 2008 to have us schedule signings and then reschedule, and then not show up...all 10 of them were released.

    You said:
    I looked up your titles in Ingram iPage and could find no listing of a distributor. When a publisher has a distributor, their contact information is listed in iPage as the source for purchasing books. No distributors are listed on your website either. Ingram and B&T don't count since they're warehouse distributors.

    My reply:
    Wow...well you've taught me something. I was sure Ingram and B&T were distributors. I'll have to add the other African American distributors. Thank you, I'll pass this on to my webmaster to add on the site. Well, if they don't count, then they owe me money, because not only are they taking 55%, they are charging other fees as well. I don't know anything about iPage, and have no problem admitting so. I do not handle the distribution issues. I hired someone to do that. Now, whether Ingram and B&T are warehouse distributors, then that's fine as long as a bookstore can place an order through them for our titles, which they do on a regular basis. :-)

    You said:
    I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place and that you're trying very hard to do great things for your authors, but "traditional" publishers pay advances, have sales teams, and can pretty much guarantee that, yes indeedy, books will reach the store shelves.

    My reply:
    Well, that's not completely accurate either. Not all "traditional" publishers pay advances. I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record. If I do not do anything on a daily basis, I research and read about the publishing industry. There are thousands of titles, published by "traditional publishers" that do not make it to the bookstore shelves. In fact, I personally know of many authors who have been picked up by mainstream or "traditional" publishers and their titles have not seen the light of a bookshelf unless they pushed the hell out of it and built the demand. Some of us are priveleged, some of us have to work like "slaves," excuse the "pun," to get our books noticed by "mainstream." But I'll bet you one thing, if ALL of those titles make to the bookshelves, I'm confident to say that the publisher has an extremely HIGH return rate. A bookstore will return a book, regardless of who the author is, that's not selling.

    Also, I know for a fact that if an author's sales does not meet the dollar amount of that advance, the author is dropped from the roster and is invoiced for the remaining amount due. This I know to be true due to one author (who happens to be my very best friend) who received an advance from a "traditional" publisher. The author did not do much promoting (and the "traditional" publisher did not put marketing dollars behind the book). After six months, the publisher dropped the author due to low sales and invoiced her for the remaining amount of the advance due. The advance is a loan. It is not a gift.

    While I have a fantastic team of folks working behind me, as with any other publisher--whether traditional or not--there's always room for growth, and there's room for me, as well as many other African American-owned publishers. As always, we're making our niche, which is a fantastic thing!

    Hey, thanks for the iPage tip. I do 'preciate it. I will check on that tomorrow. You learn something every day. While I've enjoyed the dialogue, it's taking entirely too much time out of my schedule to respond, and, as you can see, my responses tend to be LONG-winded.

    You have a fantastic week, and I'll peek in from time to time. It's been great. Much success to you all!

    Jessica Tilles

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    I'm sure priceless will have her own comments, but I wanted to address two points. (For the record, I'm an author with her first novel coming out next year from a commercial publisher.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    A publisher makes their money a few ways: bookstore sales, author sales, serial sales, and media sales. Probably other ways, but I've yet to tap into those. Oh yes, foreign rights.
    My publisher is sending me a number of free copies. If I buy more, it's to give them to friends and family. I do some promotion, yes--signings, conventions, etc.--but I don't plan to work as a salesman for my publisher. I don't have time because I'm too busy writing more books.

    Also, I know for a fact that if an author's sales does not meet the dollar amount of that advance, the author is dropped from the roster and is invoiced for the remaining amount due.
    Wrong. Authors do not pay back any part of their advance.

    I don't know where this bit of misinformation comes from--possibly there are micro-presses that include such a clause in their contracts--but it's definitely not standard in the publishing industry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    In fact, there are many major publishers who use POD companies for short runs (Penguin Books and Simon & Schuster to name a couple).
    Those publishers use POD to produce ARCs which they give away.


    That's because while POD technology is very useful, it does not produce books that are anything like those produced by high-end Web presses and industry-level presses.

    The paper, inks, resolution, glue, and covers stocks are all less durable, and lower quality.

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    Time/Warner also uses POD for some of their deep backlist titles.

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    It disturbed me to see that this publisher was paying royalties based on "net."

    In my experience, commercial publishers (Writer Beware prefers this term to "traditional publishers," because PublishAmerica and other vanity publishers have co-opted the term) pay royalties based on cover price. Paying on "net" greatly reduces (or can greatly reduce) the amount of an author's royalty check, because paying "on net" can essentially halve the stated royalty rate. I don't know of any commercial publishers that pay royalties "on net."

    Ms. Tilles might want to consider this, especially in light of her not paying any advance.

    Other posters have already noted the other things that struck me, such as the comment that authors may have to pay back their advances if they don't have a good sell through. Commercial publishers most assuredly do NOT do this, (unless the author defaults on delivery of the book or otherwise breaches the contract).

    -Ann C. Crispin
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    Last edited by AC Crispin; 06-09-2009 at 08:26 PM.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by AC Crispin View Post
    It disturbed me to see that this publisher was paying royalties based on "net."

    In my experience, commercial publishers (Writer Beware prefers this term to "traditional publishers," because PublishAmerica and other vanity publishers have co-opted the term) pay royalties based on cover price. Paying on "net" greatly reduces (or can greatly reduce) the amount of an author's royalty check, because paying "on net" can essentially halve the stated royalty rate. I don't know of any commercial publishers that pay royalties "on net."
    It is really just different ways of slicing the same pie. So long as the slice is substantially larger -- around double the royalties you'd see from a commercial publisher -- and so long as net is defined in the contract as cover price minus booksellers discount, it should work out to be about the same.

    On the flip side, I can't think of any non-ebook publishers with solid distribution that pay royalties on net -- not saying there aren't any, I just can't think of any -- so it's definitely a warning flag if just by association.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    You're right, my faith does not lie within the title, but within the author. I run a business, and I do expect authors to do their share just as they have high expectations of me as their publisher.
    Yikes. If your faith isn't in the title, then it doesn't really matter what the author has written as long as they can get out there and market. This is not how commercial publishing works. The author can be the next marketing guru, but if their writing can't support those efforts, it's worthless. The book would be incinerated at reviews, and genre buyers wouldn't touch it. The only thing left is for the author to hock the book to nontraditional marketplaces.

    Commercial publishers avoid this scenario like the plague by buying books they feel very sure the public will buy because they understand reader trends, are well-connected to the marketplace, and genre buyers. They also put their marketing and promotion dollars behind that title by ensuring it gets out to all the right places. They send out hundreds of ARCs to all the appropriate media outlets and get their books reviewed in the big trade magazines.

    Your analysis of "advance paying publishers" and "non-advance paying publishers" is not completely accurate. However, I do understand you're speaking based on the publishers you know.
    Well, yes, I suppose I am talking about the publishers I know because they are all commercial trade publishers. This is where I dip my feet every day. I have many fellow editor friends and agent friends, so I know of what I speak.

    I know of several publishers who do not offer advances. And, if they do offer advances, the amount isn't worth much ($1,000 to $1,500, if that much, which is spread out over the course of a year or so, or based on a two-book deal).
    To an author, $1500 on a one-book deal is more than nothing.

    My decision to no longer offer advances had to do with signing authors who were ONLY interested in receiving an advance and nothing more. It had absolutely nothing to do with my business plan.
    Forgive me if I sound dubious. There is a big span between authors who are looking strictly for a payday and serious writers who know their worth. Those who are looking for a big payday are noobs who think the minute the ink is dry on their manuscripts that the money is going to begin flowing in like rain. They are in for a big education.

    The other type looking for an advance are authors who have a great manuscript, are knowledgeable about the industry and realize that commercial publishers pay advances. These are not the authors who are going to query you in the first place because you're a Print on Demand company. You don't have the commercial clout and financing to put into their title to get them large print runs, send out hundreds of ARCs, or do any marketing and promotion. So I can't help but find your logic a bit thin.

    So, instead of offering advances, I offer marketing and promotions, a publicist, an author relations rep, a title manager, etc., as well as seeing that my authors participate in many major events (that I foot the bill for). I choose to put those funds where they would be better useful.
    Let's say you generally offer $1,000 advance for a one-book deal. Instead of paying that out, you put the money into a publicist, marketing, promotion, author relations rep (whatever that is), a title manager (?), and footing the bill to get authors into major events. This sounds great, but I know for a fact that this all costs thousands more than the one grand advance. With all you're putting into a title, you're still not making enough money to pay an advance to your authors?

    Print on demand is simply another form of printing, it has nothing to do with the publishing company and how its run.
    Yes, I was expecting this because I hear it all the time. I'm not talking about digital printing - everyone uses the digital process. We use it for our ARCs and our backlist titles where the demand is lower. I'm talking about the Print on Demand business model, which operates with a much smaller cash flow. They don't have the money to do offset print runs in the thousands. They don't want to either because there is no guarantee that those books will sell. Since you have your own printing company, you're in a different boat. Way cool. But it also comes down to the lack of distribution.

    My titles are distributed by Ingram Books, Baker & Taylor, Afrikan World Books, and other African American distributors. Why does saying "distributed by Ingram Books and B&T" is misleading?
    As I stated before, it's misleading because authors who don't know better believe that your books will be on the store shelves, that you have a sales team who is pitching your catalog to the genre buyers. These companies are warehouse distributors; they fulfill orders placed by bookstores and libraries. That means that those bookstores have to have a demand - or an order - for them to know the book exists. You don't have a sales team who has established relationships with the genre buyers of the chains, library buyers, and indie store owners.

    Yes, every publisher worth their salt has their titles listed with the wholesalers. That's a no-brainer.
    Also, and this is said to say, but not all "white" distributors will distribute many titles written by black authors. Isn't that sad?
    Oh please. This is just bunk. Have you talked to the major book distributors and can make that claim? I know of five major distributors who all carry the catalogs of black publishers who specialize in black lit. What they demand is a quality product, a solid business plan, good financing, and print runs in the thousands. My own distributor has a very successful black publisher whose books are all over the place, so let's not go there.

    I assume you're an author, right?
    I think if you looked at my sig line, you'd see that I'm a publisher. But yes, I also write. Many editors do.
    Do you not buy your books? Do you not have books on hand? A publisher makes their money a few ways: bookstore sales, author sales, serial sales, and media sales. Probably other ways, but I've yet to tap into those. Oh yes, foreign rights.
    I do keep a box of books on hand, yes. Many of my authors do. Many of them don't. I don't give a rip because contrary to your assertion, author sales are NOT a revenue source. Selling to the bookstores and libraries is how I keep the lights on.

    I was sure Ingram and B&T were distributors. I'll have to add the other African American distributors. Thank you, I'll pass this on to my webmaster to add on the site.
    I recommend that you don't add this to your site because it's one of the signs authors look for when trying to figure out whether a publisher is POD or not. Most small commercial publishers who actually have distribution - meaning a sales team who represents their titles and sells them to the genre buyers - state on their site, "Our books are distributed by IPG, Consortium, Blu Sky Media Group, MidPoint, etc." Or they'll simply have the address.
    Well, if they don't count, then they owe me money, because not only are they taking 55%
    Well, yes, we have to discount our books in order to do business with them. Warehouse distributors don't pay retail. Distributor also take their cut, so that's why publishers need to be on very solid ground in order to make good money. And that is why we don't put our faith solely in the author - but the book.

    Not all "traditional" publishers pay advances.
    Yes they do.

    There are thousands of titles, published by "traditional publishers" that do not make it to the bookstore shelves. In fact, I personally know of many authors who have been picked up by mainstream or "traditional" publishers and their titles have not seen the light of a bookshelf unless they pushed the hell out of it and built the demand.
    Then I question their abilities. Even a small fry publisher like me can guarantee that our books - every single one of them - do make it to the store shelves. Yes, the author needs to have a solid promo plan because the genre buyers ask.

    It's a given that an active author is much more capable of creating demand because they're out there in the public eye, but the book has to be fabulous - hence my faith in the book before the author. My reputation as a publisher depends on it. The more our books are out in the public eye, genre buyers and reviewers are more apt to pay attention to our upcoming lineup because they see our track record.

    Some of us are priveleged, some of us have to work like "slaves," excuse the "pun," to get our books noticed by "mainstream."
    There are no "gimmes" in this business. We all work like dirty dogs. There is no such thing as privilege in publishing.

    But I'll bet you one thing, if ALL of those titles make to the bookshelves, I'm confident to say that the publisher has an extremely HIGH return rate.
    It's always a risk, so what's your point? The idea is to match the purchase order to what you really believe will sell. If I have a very active author and the PO is for a thousand units, I will talk to the sales teams and ask the buyer to bump the order because I feel they'll run out of books at a critical moment. The reverse is true as well. I may ask the sales team to rewrite the PO for fewer books because I'm not entirely certain the author will be as active.

    Also, I know for a fact that if an author's sales does not meet the dollar amount of that advance, the author is dropped from the roster and is invoiced for the remaining amount due.
    Nope, I don't believe this for one minute. No reputable commercial trade press ever requests a return of the advance. The advance is not a loan. It's money paid out against future earnings - or what the publisher believes will be future earnings. If the publisher blew it and the book didn't earn out, they do not ask for the advance back. Who is your friend's "traditional" publisher?

    Hey, thanks for the iPage tip. I do 'preciate it. I will check on that tomorrow.
    It won't help you because they are warehouse distributors. Now if you signed up with Ingram Publishing Services, they are distributors with very good sales teams who represent your catalog and such. Then your iPage would reflect that company as being your distributor.
    Last edited by priceless1; 06-09-2009 at 09:03 PM.

  13. #13
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    I think that Priceless et al have covered just about everything but here's a point which I don't think everyone has addressed:

    Also, I know for a fact that if an author's sales does not meet the dollar amount of that advance, the author is dropped from the roster and is invoiced for the remaining amount due.
    We've already dealt with the myth that advances sometimes have to be repaid: to reiterate, this is simply NOT TRUE. What I'd also like to point out is that publishers usually get into profit on a book a while before the advance is earned out, and so even if the advance isn't earned out (I think about 70% of books earn out, but I could be wrong) the publisher is still likely to make a profit on that title. At least, when I was editing we did!

    Then there's this point about net royalties:

    It is really just different ways of slicing the same pie. So long as the slice is substantially larger -- around double the royalties you'd see from a commercial publisher -- and so long as net is defined in the contract as cover price minus booksellers discount, it should work out to be about the same.
    The thing is that net often isn't defined as that; and your suggestion doesn't account for bookclub editions, for example, which are often priced much lower than the retail edition and then very heavily discounted to the bookclub, too. Which can make the author's cut miniscule on a net deal.

    Net deals are becoming more common: but they're not nearly as desirable for an author as a deal which gives a percentage of cover price. And I've seen a couple of contracts now which don't define net, which allows all sorts of costs to be taken away before the author gets their cut. Not good.

  14. #14
    aka Sadistic Mistress Mi-chan M.R.J. Le Blanc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eqb View Post
    My publisher is sending me a number of free copies. If I buy more, it's to give them to friends and family. I do some promotion, yes--signings, conventions, etc.--but I don't plan to work as a salesman for my publisher. I don't have time because I'm too busy writing more books.
    QFT

    If someone wanted to be a salesperson that badly, they'd go into the appropriate field. To be honest I find it disappointing that you have more faith in your authors' abilities to sell rather than write.
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  15. #15
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    There are expectations in distributing/marketing Urban/Hip-hop genre novels that really are different from distributing/marketing Romance genre novels.

    Not right, or wrong, but certainly different.

  16. #16
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    It's very curious that my ex-publishers, who imploded without notice, used to tout the same mantra to us authors. "We don't sell your book--we sell you."

    Translation: Story doesn't count. Your sales stamina does.

    Take away author-arranged book signings and tours, along with self-purchases, and 99% of every POD publisher out there would collapse. The exceptions are those with distribution, returnabilty, major reviews and books that regularly land on shelves, clubs and libraries via the publisher's efforts. I have yet to see any strickly POD company pull this off. If someone has a list of them, it'll be an awfully short list.

    Tri

  17. #17
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hello Everyone!

    I thank you all for the dialogue. However, this will be my last posting as I see this entire thread going down a very nasty road, which I no longer wish to participate. So, here are my final words. :-)

    I am an entrepreneur, a successful businesswoman, and a publisher. A successful publisher. Although XYP may not fit into the mold of your "definition" of publisher (call me a backwoods publisher if you'd like), I am still a publisher nonetheless. My experience, as well as anyone esles, should not be discounted. I have published 50 plus titles, all of which sit on bookshelves. This, in itself, is a huge undertaking, as I'm sure the publishers on this forum can relate to and appreciate. Do all books published by XYP sit on every bookshelf in the United States of America? No, and neither does yours, and you will not be able to convince me otherwise unless you can show me a report of every bookstore shelf that physically holds your title. Will I guarantee that all titles published will sit on bookshelves, absolutely not and I never will. However, I will, as I do every single day, work my behind off and try my very best. I do, however, find it quite amazing to hear authors on this forum indicate they are too busy to promote their books. I guess this will be a topic in which we will agree to disagree. I run my businesses the way I see fit and works for me and my authors. And, considering the status of the economy, sales have not waivered at all.

    Someone mentioned that they were "troubled" by my paying royalties based on the net sales. While major publishers are paying 5% to 8% royalties, I pay 12% to 15% royalties.

    As far as giving free books to my authors, they all receive complimentary copies, and often times they receive free books beyond the contractual agreement. I'm always giving free books because I understand how tough times are and want my authors to be successful. However, as with any publisher, an author can buy books, if they so choose (this is not mandatory) at a discounted rate.

    Also, as far as the "faith in authors rather than the title" is concerned. Call me "crazy" but I believe in having faith in my authors, rather than the book. You all can say whatever it is you wish, but if that author does not have faith and stand behind their book and promote it, then it will sit on that shelf. Yes, I have great faith in my authors, because that is where it all begins. This is something that I would hope all authors would want, is for their publishers to have faith in them. I've spoken to many authors who appreciate the fact that I am hands on with my authors and available to them 24/7. There is nothing my authors can request that they not receive. I suppose I'm a different kind of publisher and I like it. :-)

    I do not publish books that are poorly written and not marketable. I stand behind every single author and title I publish. Is that wrong or backwards? Maybe, but that's how I prefer to do business and it works for me. Because of this, I have great authors who are excited and inspired daily. Actually, we're like a family. Everyone promotes everyone. When an author has a signing or attends events, they are promoting other XYP authors as well. I think this is a good thing, don't you?

    Lastly, I have not, in any way shape or form, committed any kind of "misleading acts" as I am upfront with anyone who submits to XYP, as I have been with this forum. I find these accusations from this forum offensive and slanderous, and politely ask that I not be slandered in this forum any further. Obviously, our facts differ quite a bit, which is fine. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I will, however, continue to do business the way I've been doing, which has been with honesty, integrity and very forthcoming. I've never misled anyone, whether it be authors I publish, or authors who seek me out for advice.

    With that said, I wish you all nothing but the best and great successes!

    God speed!

    Jessica Tilles

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW
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    Questioning is slander? I see people asking question about what you have posted here. And it was you that started this thread.

  19. #19
    I write novels
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    I do, however, find it quite amazing to hear authors on this forum indicate they are too busy to promote their books.
    Sigh. No one said that. What *I* said was that while I do promote myself and my books, I'm not a salesperson. To be more specific, I don't plan on buying my own books in order to sell them myself.

    And no one libeled you or your company. What people have done is discuss the disadvantages of POD publishing and royalties based on net.

    I'm sorry you won't be back, because I did want to find out which publisher has/has that contract requiring authors to repay the advance. It's definitely not standard, and it would be good to let author know not to submit there.
    Last edited by eqb; 06-10-2009 at 06:50 AM.

  20. #20
    Worst song played on ugliest guitar Libbie's Avatar
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    From a totally outside perspective, I as a writer would be inclined to think Xpress Yourself is not a traditional publisher because of the name of the company alone. Fair or unfair, the impression I get from the company's name is "vanity press."

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    I find these accusations from this forum offensive and slanderous, and politely ask that I not be slandered in this forum any further.
    Actually, the correct word is libel, and no one has done this. As a commercial publisher, I felt within my rights (since this is a bewares forum) to comment on what you insisted is "standard practice" among commercial presses and to set straight some of the points that continually confuse authors every day.

    My feeling is that when we put ourselves out into the public domain - as publishers do - then we must be able to answer basic, standard questions without falling apart at the seams. Anyone who can't stand a bit of scrutiny and throws a tantrum tends to make people's eyebrows reach for the north. How does this benefit your company in the long run?

  22. #22
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica Tilles View Post
    Someone mentioned that they were "troubled" by my paying royalties based on the net sales. While major publishers are paying 5% to 8% royalties, I pay 12% to 15% royalties.
    Royalties at larger commercial publishers range between 6%-10% for mass market paperback, 7.5%-10% for trade paperback, and 10-15% for hardcover (the higher royalty kicks in after certain sales benchmarks have been reached)--paid on cover or retail price.

    Paying royalties on net is not uncommon among smaller publishers. While it's much less advantageous for authors than paying on retail (and therefore something that needs to be taken into account when evaluating a publishing offer), it isn't necessarily a sign that a publisher is questionable.

    - Victoria

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by priceless1 View Post
    My feeling is that when we put ourselves out into the public domain - as publishers do - then we must be able to answer basic, standard questions without falling apart at the seams. Anyone who can't stand a bit of scrutiny and throws a tantrum tends to make people's eyebrows reach for the north. How does this benefit your company in the long run?
    I agree with your sentiment, but I can also understand how she could take the words here personally. After all, most of us are writers, and I bet most of us have taken a critique a bit too personally -- even if we swallowed any defensive remarks and kept them exclusively in our brains. It's hard to take a critique of something we've poured ourselves into, though all good authors must learn to not only accept this, but relish the fact that it makes the writing better.

    The one thing I dislike is the use of the word 'slanderous'. I haven't seen anything close to libel in the thread, and I think it's a bit too close to the "I'll sue you if you say anything else!" that we've seen before.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by herdon View Post
    I agree with your sentiment, but I can also understand how she could take the words here personally.
    I'm not talking about her family or her dog; I'm talking about her business, and the idea is to make sound business choices that will ensure its viability and sustainability - hence my clarification of a few points. I see no reason for her to take her marbles and go home. Heck, my feet have been held to the fire any number of times when we opened our doors years ago, and I found nothing threatening about having questions fired at me from all directions. It's to be expected.

    This is a bewares forum, and it exists in order to make clear exactly how agents or publishers in question operate. If Jessica is going to be upset at my and others' comments, then what does this say about her company? This is not a business for the weak of heart or easily bruised.

    After all, most of us are writers, and I bet most of us have taken a critique a bit too personally -- even if we swallowed any defensive remarks and kept them exclusively in our brains.
    Authors are not publishers. Yes, I've had a fair share of responses from those unable to accept rejection, and like Jessica, I feel it says something about their ability to withstand a bit of scrutiny. After all, what would these same authors do if PW gives them a scathing review? Would they write them a nastygram telling them they couldn't find their taste if was plastered on their forehead? Seen it; pinky swear.

    The end result is that it's unprofessional. As publishers and authors, it's unwise to behave poorly. If one can't take comments or questions, it might be a good idea to find a climate better suited to their personality. Personally, I think authors deserve better answers than "quit 'slandering' me."

  25. #25
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Run away, Jessica -- you can't please them if you're POD. Even my publisher, who offers 40% royalties, an advance and free copies (I learned after the contract) wasn't good enough. Unless your name is Samhain, that is.

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