Amazon.co.uk Titles – 50,000
Amazon.com Titles – 44,100
AuthorHouse are one of the largest flagship author solution services with 50,000 plus titles available on Amazon UK. AuthorHouse was founded in 1997 and is owned by Author Solutions US who also own iUniverse and Wordclay. Further expansion in 2009 for Author Solutions has led to the acquisition of Trafford Publishing and Xlibris making them a real powerhouse conglomerate in the author solution service market.
There are a handful of books shown on their main webpage, but these books are linked to AuthorHouse’s packages available to authors. From the outset, it is clear that selling author services and directing perspective authors through these links is the primary drive of traffic. Anyone who has searched the Internet under the key words ‘self-publishing’ will have come across links to AuthorHouse. One of AuthorHouse’s strongest points is its corporate reach and primary placement in the author solutions market.
There is plenty of information provided on their website about their available packages and numerous add-on services, as well as their on line bookstore, the terms and conditions of their author contract and service order forms. There is also a secure password ‘Author Centre’ for registered authors intending publishing with them to follow the progress and production of their book and to monitor their royalties and account.
AuthorHouse make it very clear that they accept most books without any real detailed quality checks beyond the usual libellous and offensive material. The interior detail of your book will be published the way it is and the responsibility is on the author to utilise the available services for ‘pre-publication’ (editing and design) or have the manuscript as near to published standard when it is submitted to them.
AuthorHouse offer three basic packages for the self-publishing author to start with; Paperback & Hardback Publishing, Children’s & Colour Publishing, and Retail-Focused Publishing. The starting prices for these three packages range from £795 to £999. The Paperback & Hardback Publishing packages include the following:
Custom interior and exterior design
Ten black & white image insertions
One author copy of book
To upgrade to hardback publication, the author will have to pay £1045, and for that, all that is extra is some back cover description, an author photograph and biography, and five hardback author copies of the book.
The Colour Package offers paperback publication offering much the same as the Paperback & Hardback Publication option, but with the addition of 50 images. Again, for back cover detail and five author copies, the author will have to stump up £1045. This kind of book is specifically tailored for a children’s colour illustrated book.
These two packages do include a custom covers, but many of the covers I have looked at give the appearance of AuthorHouse’s own stock art and I would suggest an author seriously consider using their own front cover image. It is authenticity and originality which separates a book out from many of the other stock art covers.
The Retail Focused Publishing Package is a service which includes what AuthorHouse describes as ‘Bookstore Positioning’ as well as expedited book production, US copyright registration, and a standard press release. The prices range from £999 to £2199 depending on whether the book is a standard paperback or colour book. Having a package called ‘Retailed Focused’ almost seems to me to be an acknowledgement that their other packages are not intended for the retail market.
“AuthorHouse shall send three advance copies of the Work to one of the following stores, to have guaranteed shelf space for 10 weeks.”
These are specific arrangements AuthorHouse have with a select list of Borders and Waterstones bookshops. On the whole, it is a promising addition to the basic packages, but authors would need to ensure the placement of books is with their local branches.
On face value the packages may seem competitive, but it should be remembered that there is no real standard editing or proofreading with these packages. To purchase a simple edit as an add-on service from AuthorHouse ,based on their rates, this could cost the author almost double what they might pay from an independent freelance service. Their author website domain name service is a perfect example of this. Similarly, their direct marketing material is way beyond the standard prices for business cards, bookmarks and postcards that other competitors offer with these deals. To print 1000 of each of the above will cost the author £875! For this price, the author could go and register with Lightning Source and have 200 copies of their book printed.
AuthorHouse says that royalties are in the hands of the author and they can set the percentage at between 5% and 50% for books sold through retailers and 10% to 50% for books sold through the AuthorHouse on line bookstore. Looking at AuthorHouse’s retail prices, authors would be advised to keep this royalty below 20% if they are to keep the book’s retail price in any way competitive.
AuthorHouse supply some guidance about royalties and author discounts. From the examples provided on their website, AuthorHouse make an addition profit by marking up books from the print cost. Even an author familiar with actual POD print costs and retailer discounts would struggle to glean a clear picture of what their profits per book would be so convoluted and muddied are the examples. There are so many variable here that one can only look at Amazon to get a guide retail price on a typical 200 page paperback book of between £11 and £13. A typical 200 to 300 page, perfect bound paperback from Lightning Source, the leading UK POD printer, costs between £2.90 and £3.50 to print. AuthorHouse’s retail prices are above some of their competitor’s prices, which makes it harder for their authors to market and sell books. Whatever way you look at it AuthorHouse are charging their authors well above the print costs for copies of their own books and the publishing profit far exceeds what the author makes by a minimum of three to one. Far more transparency is needed from AuthorHouse in this area so their authors can make clear and valued comparisons with competitor companies.
“As an AuthorHouse author, you can also purchase copies of your book from us at a discounted price. The exact discount is determined by your page count, book price, and the quantity of your order. Orders for quantities of 50 or more are considered volume orders and receive a greater discount determined by the total number of books ordered.”
In short, what you get from AuthorHouse can be got far cheaper by other author solution services. AuthorHouse are far too expensive for someone looking for a bargain or have humble and personal goals for seeing their book in print. They overcharge for additional add-on services to the nth degree. They engage in heavy direct marketing and promotion of their add-on services to authors. The brightest service they have is the Bookstore Positioning with Borders and Waterstones, but even these have their limitations and benefits for the additional costs to the author.
AuthorHouse claim they are ‘author-centric’, but if they put as much ingenuity into the authors who pay for their services, as they do into their own self promotion of their services, then their business would be far stronger and their reputation in self-publishing would be second to none. At best, AuthorHouse are may find a home for authors who are ‘green’ about self-publishing and find the nuts and bolts of publishing a book on their own daunting. I suspect, by the volume of authors and titles published by AuthorHouse, this is the case for many authors.
Having said that, you cannot argue with an author solutions service that boasts 50,000 titles on Amazon.co.uk. But as with all other companies in this area—it is very difficult to evaluate a company’s success and effectiveness regarding their promotional and marketing services unless we know what services the authors of their top-selling titles chose. On the whole—it strikes me that AuthorHouse is a successful and well-oiled machine, but much of its success is bringing in authors to their service rather than selling their author’s books.
UPDATE: March, 2010.
Author Solutions announce their publishing brands will have all new books featured as Kindle titles.
UPDATE: August, 2010.