Balboa Press is the paid-publishing division of self-help book publisher Hay House Publishing. All their packages and services are administered and powered by Author Solutions (ASI), a global provider of self-publishing services and solutions. ASI has similar partnerships in place with other mainstream publishers and these types of self-publishing service divisions look set to become more commonplace in the publishing industry.
“Today is the day for you to pursue your dreams and discover the author within you. At Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, we're committed to helping you start your journey in book publishing.”
This is part of the headline on the main webpage of Balboa Press—not a great start—and evidence Balboa Press are inviting new and potentially inexperienced authors into a dream world rather than introducing them to the down-to-earth practicalities and realities of self-publishing a book. I really do wish paid-publishing divisions like Balboa Press would refrain from indulging in this sort of rose-tinted marketing of their services. They are not the first to do it and they will not be the last. It is clear ASI has had a very strong hand in how Balboa Press is marketed for Hay House Publishing. We have become pretty familiar with the ‘pursue your dream’ market tool with ASI’s own stable of author solutions services like AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford and Xlibris.
“At Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, we help authors self-publish books that empower and improve the lives of others. Specializing in the mind, body and spirit genre, Balboa Press is your gateway into the world of publishing. By relying on our publishing, design and marketing services, you can achieve your goals and explore the new opportunities that await you as a published author.
As a division of Hay House, Balboa Press titles are monitored regularly by the parent company. Hay House is one of the fastest-growing self-help and transformational publishers in the world and hopes to find through Balboa Press new inspiring authors that display their potential to add to their catalog.
Our books are printed using print-on-demand technology so we print each book to order. Not only is this method of printing mindful of our planet because no books go to waste, but it is mindful of our authors too. As an author, you are never required to shoulder the cost and hassle of printing, storing and transporting large quantities of your book. When a book is ordered by a reader, a retailer or the author, it is printed and shipped in a matter of days.”
The inference here is that Balboa Press wants to be consistent with the types of books published by parent company Hay House Publishing and they would seem to suggest they do not envisage Balboa Press as an all-out self-publishing service. But to achieve this, Balboa Press would have to employ a submission filter that tells Aunt Maple that her submitted book of great American recipes will not find a home at Balboa Press, and nor for that matter will any author submitting the next great American novel. I do not see ASI putting any filters in place. If they did, it would be the first for this kind of partnership.
A quick look at the Editorial Standards for Balboa Press reveals that Aunt Maple, her recipes and the great American novel can all rest assured that they will live on, even under the Balboa Press imprint.
“Balboa Press is committed to helping authors publish books with a positive slant that help people improve their lives and are conducive to healing planet Earth. Based on this mission, we have established these editorial standards for our titles.
We publish books that are related to the mind-body-spirit subject matter and that are in line with our core values: to help people improve their lives and the Earth. While we do specialize in self-help books, we publish a wide range of genres that adhere to these standards, including children's, photography, fiction, poetry, cookbooks and more.”
'Photography, fiction, poetry, cookbooks, including children’s'—(children’s what?)—add this to a list of 'astrology, alternative health, angels, pet care, finance, nutrition, parenting, psychology, sociology, meditation, spirituality, numerology, color therapy, feng shui, business, autobiographies, social commentary, memoirs and more.' What an absolute cop-out! This is no mission statement or core value. Throw in sport and politics and we are ready to open a Barnes & Noble store! This is pretty much as open-ended an editorial/genre policy as you can get. It would have been quicker for Balboa Press to tell us they don’t accept, like horror, crime or pornography.
While Balboa Press seem to want to express a caring attitude to their potential authors, it will be interesting to take a close look at their publishing packages and actually see if ‘you are never required to shoulder the cost and hassle of printing, storing and transporting large quantities of your book.’ The new and inexperienced authors Balboa Press are appealing to could perhaps be forgiven for assuming they won’t have to pay for any printing costs regardless of how small an amount of books are printed. Balboa Press is of course referring to the fact that all books will be printed on demand. Nothing is coming free here.
“BALBOA PRESS PUBLISHING PACKAGES
Your journey begins here with one of our nine versatile and affordable publishing packages. Each package offers a wide suite of services designed to help you fulfill your destiny and give you the book you deserve. Your book is destined to go forth and touch the lives of people and our planet Earth, but you don’t need to walk that journey alone. Explore our various publishing packages and find the one that helps you meet your destiny.”
The language is now starting to become a little tiring—‘fulfill your destiny’, ‘Your book is destined to go forth...’ and ‘find the one that helps you meet your destiny.’ If you are not already dizzy with the dream and destiny speak from Balboa Press—let me bring you crashing down to earth. The nine packages on offer range from $999 to $7999 and in case you are still in seventh heaven, you the author are paying for these services out of your pocket.
ISBN Assignment – (Balboa Press registered ISBN)
Author Volume Discounts – (see chart)
Channel Distribution to 25K Retailers – (standard online listing and distribution availability)
Cover Design - (Author may submit customised material – otherwise Balboa will supply cover using their stock artwork)
Personalized Back Cover – (Author supplies text copy which will be proof read)
Interior Book Design – (Author advised to set their margins!)
Image Insertions/Text Treatments (10)
B&W Interior, Color Cover
E-book Formatting and Distribution
Complimentary Author Copy – (First production POD proof copy)
Sold on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com
Personalized Balboa Press Bookstore Page – (Basic page listing, author supplies text – not an author webpage as described)
Included in Balboa Press Catalog
U.S. Copyright Registration
Author Copies (10 with Embark package)
All the above are part of the Embark Package ($999), and the following are what is added to each package.
Connect Package ($1599)
20 Free Author Copies – (Why do self-publishing services insist on calling these ‘free’. They are not. They are paid for by the fee charged to an author in the package price)
Hardcover edition of your book - (5 author copies provided)
Library of Congress Control Number - (Free government service – 1 copy of book required to be lodged with library)
Barnes & Noble See Inside Program - (Free load-up service to publishers)
Amazon Search Inside - (Free load-up service to publishers)
So, let us reflect here. The author pays $600 more than the Embark Package for the Connect Package and gets a hardback edition (files already created with paperback edition, so the only additional outlay for Balboa Press is the cost of the ISBN and print set-up), an LCCN and search inside programs with two online retailers (free services). Estimated cost to publisher - $150app. Cost to author $600 (ching-ching)!
Discover Package ($2299)
Book Buyers Preview - (an expanded industry database preview listing for trade – individual cost $119)
Bookseller Returns Program for 1 year - (individual cost $799)
100 business cards, bookmarks and postcards – (individual cost $240)
Inspire Package ($3499)
30 Author paperback copies
10 Hardcover copies
300 business cards, bookmarks and postcards
Dedicated author website - ($399)
Social Media Set-up - ($799) includes:
A blog using WordPress – an easy to use, popular and professional blogging platform
A Facebook profile for your identity as an author
A Facebook page for your book
A MySpace page for your book
A Flickr account integrated into your social network
A FeedBurner account to help you deliver your blog to the masses
A Shelfari social book account
A Goodreads account for book lovers
A LibraryThing account for social book-cataloging
A Twitter account for micro-blogging
Press Release & Complimentary Review Copy (if requested by media outlets) - $360
All of the Media Set-up package comprises of free social media services. Cost to publisher – about two hours of their time. Cost to author - $799 (ching-ching)! Bluntly put—if you are too lazy as an author to set-up these social network sites yourself, and would rather part with $799 of your own money, quite frankly, you really have more money than sense.
Empower Package ($4999)
40 Paperback copies
15 Hardback copies
Book Signing Kit – ($360, includes 10 posters, 30 fliers and 100 invitation postcards)
Radio/TV Interview Report Ad – ($895, a half-page ad for you are your book in RTIR, trade media publication)
Editorial Review – ($349)
“The Balboa Press Editorial Review examines a portion of your work (typically the first chapter or about 1,700 words) and gives you a specific sample edit. This edit includes changes you can make to improve your book as well as a general overview of your manuscript with constructive comments for improvement. To be clear, this is not a full manuscript edit and should not replace the rest of Balboa Press’ editorial services.”
Master Package ($7999)
80 Paperback Copies
25 Hardback Copies
Index Service Up to 1000 words – ($480, author must select what the key words are!)
Video Voice Trailer – ($4799, 60-90sec film)
“Make the words and stories within your book come to life with a Video Book Trailer with Voiceover. A professional filmmaker will take the words of your book, shoot live footage that fits your book and combine creative and informative dialogue to overlay over the live footage. The result is a high-quality video book trailer readers will be drawn to as they anticipate your reading your book.”
Are we still in dream world after all that?
...didn’t think so.
Balboa Press offer three color packages and pretty much offer similar features as the Core Packages.
Authors receive discount off the retail price on books they order, however, these copies exclude royalty payments and cannot be included in the Book Returns Program. An author’s first book order qualifies for a 50% discount, but only if that order is for more than 150 copies. Otherwise, discounts start at 20% for 1 to 24 paperback copies, and 30% for 1 to 24 hardback/color copies continuing on a rising scale up to 65% for 2000 copies.
“You will receive 50 percent of the payments received from the sales of your e-book, less any distribution and technology fees, taxes and returns. Royalties will not be paid on copies provided free of charge or sold to the author.”
“Here's an example of a common sales transaction:
The cover price (list price) for your book is $17.95. Your Balboa Press royalty rate is 50 percent. A retailer places an order for your book through Ingram Book Company, a wholesaler. Ingram, in turn, purchases your book from Balboa Press at a 48 percent discount (our standard discount to wholesalers). Ingram then resells the book to the retailer. Your royalty on this sale of your soft cover book will be calculated as follows:
Retail Sale Example:
$17.95 (SRP "Suggested Retail Price")
- $8.62 (48% Retail Discount)
= $9.33 (Net Retail Discount)
- $4.97 (COGS "Cost of Goods Sold")
= $4.36 (Net COGS)
x 50% (Royalty Rate)
= $2.18 (Royalty Earned from a retail sale)
Web Sale Example:
$17.95 (SRP "Suggested Retail Price")
- $4.97 (COGS "Cost of Goods Sold")
= $12.98 (Net COGS)
x 50% (Royalty Rate)
= $6.49 (Royalty Earned from a web sale)”
I only hope the retail book example used by Balboa Press is not reflective of a common retail price for their books, because if it is, it is way over the market competition. Likewise their ‘Cost of Goods Sold' does not reflect whether this is just the print cost or there are other production costs built into that figure. While I appreciate there is different wholesaler and retailer discounts offered, depending on the channel of sale, I would prefer to see a little more transparency. Mainstream publishers generally offer author discounts based on the percentage of the retail price, usually 6 – 8% on paperback books.
Royalties are paid four times a year, but only when the total royalty amount for the due period exceeds $75.
Balboa provides individual services that can be viewed here and here, though we touched on some of those services as part of the breakdown of the publishing packages.
“By choosing to publish with Balboa Press, you not only align yourself with a publisher that shares your values, but you also receive benefits you won't find with any other self-publishing companies. Our professional staff works with you to ensure your book meets industry standards, but that your vision is communicated clearly.”
Actually, the reality is you are not aligning yourself with Hay House Publishing whatever the above quote might suggest or allude to. You are aligning yourself and your book with Author Solutions (ASI), the author solutions company who run and provide the publishing services for Balboa Press.
Overall, Balboa Press, as a paid-publishing service, needs to be more transparent about this operation. Nowhere do they mention the involvement of Author Solutions, and the continued implication is that an author is paying for services and work carried out by staff aligned directly with Hay House Publishing. That, or Hay House Publishing are suggesting Author Solutions share the same core values and are equipped with the same publishing experience as Hay House.
Beyond the Embark package at $999 (already priced at twice its true value), authors are being asked to pay for services which are either free or inflated beyond their true value. The Social Media Set-Up service is a case in point, and frankly, it is outrageous to charge authors—even those foolish enough to pay for it—$799 for the setting up of what are ordinarily free social media accounts.
Balboa Press does not do a good enough job of persuading authors who wish to self-publish to use their imprint. Authors might be just as well going directly to one of the Author Solution group of companies and thereby cut out the additional inflated charges which seem to be built into the Balboa Press packages.
Balboa Press has a great deal of work to do with the first few books that come out under their imprint. Right now, I do not see any real evidence that I am going to see anything more than another book by Author Solutions (ASI) and that is not what Balboa Press claim to be selling authors.