For these articles, I am going to concentrate on the most important and popular service used by authors using POD publishers, a 200pp black and white paperback/hardback edition.
In Xlibris’ publishing guide, available to download from their site, they state that, “you are entitled to a 100% refund at any time throughout the production process.” This clause has started to become more the norm with POD publisher contracts in the past few years, but a word of warning. The refund generally covers the period prior to the author’s final file proof approval, and not thereafter.
In their publishing guide, Xlibris do the usual ‘self-published’ name dropping of well known authors who pursued this route, but many of these authors self-published in the truest form, that is, under their own name or personal imprint. Xlibris offer a standard ‘non-exclusive’ contract, granting the author ownership of all rights, and allowing them to move to a traditional publisher. It should be borne in mind that if an author opts out after publishing with Xlibris, then the cover work and all layout files remain with the publisher, meaning, should the author move to another POD publisher, they are effectively starting from scratch. This still remains the norm, and I personally believe it is something that must change with the leading POD publishers. After all, the author is paying for the ‘publishing service’ and the author should be allowed to take all files concerned with the production of their book with them at the time the period of the contract ceases.
One strong point for Xlibris is the fact that they have a direct phone query line, which is something many POD publishers seem to avoid like the plague.
Xlibris offer seven different packages;
Starting with their Advantage package, online availability, 1 author paperback copy, ISBN, a very basic cover template, author homepage and bookpage. Many other POD publishers charge for the author webpage at the entry level pack.
The Basic pack adds in more interior templates, ability to supply your own custom cover, 5 free paperback copies, Ingram distribution and 50 business cards and bookmarks. Not much extra when you consider you are paying an extra 200 bucks.
The Pro pack offers additional, again, more interior and cover templates, a hardback edition, some customisation input to interior elements of book, 5 posters, and again, my feeling is that the extra 400 bucks is a lot for what you get added on.
The Custom pack adds on a design consultation and cover, a step up in the amount of graphics, 50 postcards, the starter personalised website with domain and er….well your starting to see where I’m going with this. The extra bucks are now $700 and I’m starting to wonder why Xlibris did not just stick with the initial three publishing packs they had on offer last year! At least the add-ons were more bulked together in the available packs.
The Premium pack adds on full interior and cover customisation, (for $2999, I’d expect it and more!), author alterations, paper galleys, indexing, full industry registration, including Library of Congress and US copyright. Many of these services are available for 50-100 bucks with other POD publishers and are included in far more basic packs. Finally we get something really worth it, copyediting! Also a CD archive (I’m not sure what the benefit of this is, Xlibris could simply give you ownership of all the book files instead), a press release and opt-in email campaign and pro book review campaign.
The Executive pack adds on ‘set your own price’, author copies significantly step up to 75 paperback and 25 hardback copies, a step up on the marketing materials and the press release outlets. We are now at $5999 bucks!
The Platinum pack offers additionally, book returnability, New York Review of Books and Newswire advert. Free author copies are set at 250 paperback and 25 hardback, again, there is an increase in the press and marketing outputs. The price, $12999.
The Xlibris website is well developed and reads and runs well with most information easily accessible. There are plenty of charts and graphs to view when you are comparing publishing packages. For June 2008 Xlibris are offering a number of deal discounts, including a 2 for 1 publishing offer.
Overall in the scheme of POD publishers, Xlibris would be one of the bigger players. Like many of the leading players, their income comes directly from the sales of author services. They offer a wide range of book options including full colour picture books and specially leather bound books.
Where Xlibris really fall down on the opposition is their book retail prices, with the average paperback coming in at $15.99 to $19.99 and hardback books at $20.99 to $29.99. Also, by standards, author royalties are on the low side.
“On all sales made directly through Xlibris, you will receive 25% of the retail price as your royalty. If the book is sold through one of the channels like Amazon.com, you will receive a 10% royalty based on the retail price.”
Author discounts are as follows;
“Xlibris offers author discounts ranging from 30% to 60%, reseller discounts up to 48%, and discounts on direct sales. We try to make it as easy as possible for you, your customers, and book retailers to purchase copies of your published book.”
While Xlibris offer a wide range of marketing add-ons, as part of their packs, as well as purchased individually, I think the move to expanded service packs has not been a step in the right direction. It really is hard to warrant a publishing fee of $5999 to $12999 for what you actually get. The lower end Advantage and Basic packs are at least reasonable value for money, but there are other POD publishers who offer the same at a cheaper price.
It is worth pointing out that Xlibris come with a strong reputation. They topped this sites POD publisher poll. I said I had a forthcoming book of prose that I was considering placing with a POD later this year, and on a personal basis, Xlibris would not suit my own needs. Just to get paperback and hardback publication, I’d be looking at shelling out $899, and another concern for me was the limited cover templates on offer. For this kind of money many POD’s offer custom covers. You have to shell out $1599 for that service with Xlibris, unless of course you have your own pre-prepared and designed cover.
I think for the less experienced authors, publishing for the first or second time, they may feel that Xlibris fills their needs. I cannot help feeling that the experienced POD author who likes to get involved with the real nuts and bolts of ‘self-publishing’ would choose a different publishing service provider.