Wheatmark Publishing – Reviewed

Review_Wheatmark_6

wheatmarkWheatmark Publishing is a service company based in Tuscon, Arizona and was founded in 1999 by Sam Henrie, a publishing entrepreneur. Henrie’s goal was to provide independent authors with a viable alternative to the traditional publishing route. He set about combining new advances in digital print technology and Internet-based distribution channels with the expertise of book publishing professionals.

The company operates on the principle that what makes a book successful is not who publishes it, but the quality of the book, that the author has access to the ‘apparatus’ of publishing and the book it supported by sound and savvy marketing.

Wheatmark can help you write, edit, design, publish, and distribute an exceptional book or eBook. We publish fiction and nonfiction titles in paperback, hardcover, and the six most popular eBook formats: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iPad, Google Play, Sony Reader, and Kobo eReader.

Since 1999, Wheatmark has published more than 1500 titles for authors and built up an established team of publishing professionals. You can check out the Wheatmark team by visiting this link on its website.

We help our clients sell their titles on Amazon.com, BN.com, Apple’s iBookstore, and all the other major online retailers. We also support them in their “back-of-the-room” sales and, where applicable, their sales to physical bookstores.

Unlike many other publishing services, Wheatmark says it first considers each submitted book project based on its quality and market viability. It does not accept all publishing projects and authors are advised to have their manuscripts professionally edited before submission to any publisher. While the company provides an optional professional evaluation service ($499) called a Reader Report, authors are invited to first read a specially prepared report, The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service, and review it before sending a manuscript for consideration. This guide is a free 66 page PDF e-book and I have to say I found it very helpful advice for authors. It is — for the most part — written without a bias towards Wheatmark’s services. Regardless of whether you intend using Wheatmark or not, the e-book guide provides some invaluable pointers when choosing a publishing service and it highlights the pitfalls and misleading information provided by many companies when it comes to royalties, distribution and marketing services.

I do feel the next step might be perceived as something of a hurdle (or even double hurdle) for some authors. Wheatmark invites authors to fill out an online form outlining their book publishing project, and ‘invest in one or more of the three services’ on offer. This process is just the starting point in the submission process. However, a read of its The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service suggests the author could go straight to choosing a Wheatmark ‘Blueprint’ for publishing or marketing (or both). I think the process could be better clarified.

 

Book Publishing Blueprint ($97)

When you work with us on a Book Publishing Blueprint, we’ll set up a phone interview with you (or invite you to visit our offices […] where we’ll ask you a series of questions designed to help you clarify your goals for your project. Perhaps the most important is, What is the ideal outcome for you with this book? That’s how we begin with the end in mind.

Your answers to these questions will help us guide you to select the appropriate formats, trim size, and publication methods for your title. We’ll also be able to recommend what steps to take to get your manuscript into the best shape possible, as quickly as possible.

You’ll dramatically increase the effectiveness of your publishing plan while significantly decreasing the amount of wasted time, effort, and money that you invest in your project moving forward.

Book Marketing Blueprint ($97)

Each year, thousands of high-quality titles slip through the cracks of the public’s consciousness. These titles could inform, […] and entertain if only they could find their audience, but they never do.

Why? Most of the time it’s because the author or publisher didn’t do enough research into the book’s market (or audience) before publishing it—and even more important, didn’t do enough to start connecting with that market before the book was published.

Your Book Marketing Blueprint will help you zero in on the niche your book will sell into with laser-like precision. These days there are more opportunities than ever to start connecting with your target audience via the Internet.

You’ll discover what to start working on now so that when you’re ready to publish, there’s a hungry audience ready and waiting to gobble up what you write!

Book Publishing and Marketing Blueprint ($194 – currently reduced to $147)

If this is your first publishing project, this blueprint is for you. Having a detailed roadmap for how to publish and market your book will save you hours upon hours of time and potentially thousands upon thousands of dollars on your project!

If Wheatmark and an author decide to work together on a book project, the author’s fee paid for the blueprint session will be credited towards the future costs of services for publication and marketing. If Wheatmark or the author decides not to work together, then there is a 100% money-back guarantee on the blueprint fee.

I think Wheatmark could do a lot more to present the process of submission, assessment and consultation better on their website — certainly in a clearer, chronological order. I also think Wheatmark may have placed itself at a disadvantage when you consider that many rival publishing service companies will provide free consultations by phone or Skype to prospective authors.

Combine this current process with the fact that Wheatmark will only advise authors on the broad costs of publication before submission. This is a change in policy because it wasn’t too long ago that the company openly supplied costs and breakdown of publishing packages on its website. At the very least, Wheatmark would be wiser to at least provide a costing menu of individual publicity and marketing services. I get it that every book is different and will require various levels of editing, and print costs will vary depending on the content, design and format of the book, but many other publishing service companies have no problem providing examples of typical costs for book projects. Wheatmark’s guide to costs comes in the following couple of paragraphs from its website:

Unlike other publishing services companies, you will not find a list of our services and their corresponding prices on our website. This is not because we’re sneaky—it’s because we’ve seen firsthand that well-educated clients publish superior books that sell many more copies than the average title from a competing publishing service.

Right, I’m not really following the logic here. So Wheatmark believes its author clients are so well-educated that they wouldn’t like to be able cost a book project and compare Wheatmark’s costs with other competitors upfront? It’s an odd thing to convey and perhaps easily misconstrued. The real point is that Wheatmark believes its process of submission places the author in a well-prepared position before publication.

Wheatmark publishes books based on custom publishing proposals designed to meet the specific needs of each project. The investment for a typical publishing project with us is between $4,000 and $6,000. This investment includes everything our clients need to properly edit, publish, print, and sell their books and eBooks.

I actually think Wheatmark could and should have used a great deal of the content in its The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service on the website because it actually does a better job at providing convincing and detailed reasons why Wheatmark takes a different approach to selling its services.

Wheatmark is essentially a marketing company that publishes quality books with a strong marketing campaign, and for many authors looking at the traditional route or true self-publishing, this simply isn’t the right choice for them.

Wheatmark is a by-invitation-only publishing service. Due to the professional-level quality of the services we provide and the investment in time and money necessary to achieve the goal of publishing a book that competes with any other in its genre in the marketplace, we are not the right option for most publishing projects.

But when Wheatmark talk about the risks and the way the traditional world of publishing works (in its free e-book guide), it kind of glosses over the fact that while selective about the book projects it takes on, much of the financial risk still sits squarely on the shoulders of the author, regardless of Wheatmark’s will to invest time and marketing effort to sell books to the trade and readers.

I get the fact that Wheatmark has its online application form for submissions. I get that it wants to assess each book project on its merits, and that it offers both a consultation and optional Reader Report, but these already come at an upfront cost to the author before his/her book project is costed by the publisher and a cent handed over for publication.

If I go to a doctor, plumber, car mechanic, printer or lawyer; I’m not expecting them to say, ‘Hey, read this e-book first, then we can talk about the serious stuff.’ I just feel Wheatmark has taken a plus and turned it into something of hurdle. Let me stress that Wheatmark is an entirely open and approachable publisher by phone or email.

For some authors, Wheatmark might be the best publishing service in the world to work with. But if I pop by the Wheatmark website and browse for critical information, which some of its competitors make easily available (like the cost of services and a copy of its contract or terms online), there is a strong chance I will walk straight back out the virtual front door if I don’t have immediate answers to critical questions. It’s like Wheatmark has shifted its business model from being transparent about publishing costs and decided it’s only interested in those ‘well-educated clients’ and not the normal author. It’s rare I come across what I genuinely think is a good publishing service, yet it uses its strengths almost as a barrier. I get that Wheatmark want seriously dedicated authors with good marketable books.

Somewhere, Wheatmark has gone from the extreme of budget, mid-range and expensive publishing packages a year or two ago, to almost placing itself into the traditional publishing sector.

In light of what I have said, here are some of Wheatmark’s terms from their website and some author feedback to TIPM.

  • The contract is non-exclusive
  • The publisher will not take secondary rights; film, translation etc.
  • Marketing is a partnership between publisher and author using the publisher’s Authors Academy and its own in-house resources
  • The author is involved in all aspects of the publishing process
  • The publisher actively sells books and doesn’t abandon the author after publication
  • Distribution is through Amazon, B&N, Apple, Google, and other major online retailers
  • For agreed and suitable book projects, the publisher will try and secure physical shelf space with booksellers
  • The author may cancel the contract at 30 days notice

However…

  • The publisher sets a minimum retail price and the author may price above this point
  • Author royalty is set at 25% of the wholesale price
  • The wholesale price is 80% of the retail price

Without knowing print costs, and the fact that the retail price will vary, the above percentages still make it hard for an author to know what royalties he/she will earn.

Whatever way you look at it, everything is predicated on the retail price, and again I would like Wheatmark to have provided far better transparency and examples in this area. It’s like telling you everything, but actually using percentages to tell you absolutely nothing!

Let’s take it one step further.

Wheatmark says it has published 1500 titles over 15 years.

For our part, we’ve published more than 1,500 titles and sold more than $5,000,000 worth of books in our company’s history.

Granted Wheatmark has had a progressive development and it is publishing more books now than at any other time in the company’s history, but $5,000,000 worth of 1,500 titles is frankly very little. The $5 million figure, even at wholesale price (and these figures are usually quoted on full retail price) means the royalty revenue to authors is 25% of this. Divide $5 million by 25% and you will get $1,250,000. Divide that by 1500 books and you will get about $833 per book — a lot lower than the $4000 – 6000 investment by authors on a book project. Remember as well, for every publisher, it’s the top 10% of books earning the most revenue and royalty for both parties.

Wheatmark also operates a Great Expectations program which is designed to encourage and reward author clients who achieve certain sales figures (my bold).

The Great Expectations program has three levels of benefit to reflect your book sales achievements: […] At 1,000 copies sold, we’ll welcome you into our Great Expectations program, and you’ll receive free membership as an Authors Academy Gold member, with all the benefits of membership. […] When your book reaches 2,000 sales, we’ll issue you a credit for $2,000. At 5,000 sales, we’ll issue you a credit for $5,000. You may use these credits for any of Wheatmark’s publishing services, to order additional copies of your book, or both.

No, those credits are not rewards or free money, more an incentive to take the profits you worked hard to achieve and pour them back into Wheatmark marketing services! I think Wheatmark could do a great deal more to better incentivise this for their authors.

 

Overall

Actually, I like Wheatmark Publishing a lot, and maybe this review does not entirely reflect that. This is a company with the right philosophy and approach to what makes a book successful and how a publisher and author can work together to achieve that. It’s free e-book The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service is something every author looking at alternative ways to publish should read. It shows a clear grasp of the realities facing the modern author and the pitfalls of some self-publishing services. I’m just not entirely sure Wheatmark has transferred this entire message into its set-up.

Wheatmark assess every submission on the basis of what it can be as a successful book. The framework for every book project is tailored on how both author and publisher get there. So, in essence, Wheatmark has built its marketing and publishing plan around ticking all the boxes in the process. It’s not a bad plan. I suspect many traditional publishers think this way, but reject most books because of what is required to get from A to B is not commercially sustainable for publisher or author based on the initial submission. With Wheatmark, I think the right books stand a chance in the assessment and consultation process — books that simply would not make it with a traditional publisher unwilling to work with an author in the way Wheatmark want to.

Wheatmark has departed from the packaged approached of publishing services it had a year or two ago. This is not going to suit a lot of authors who want to self-publish. This is for the entrepreneurial author willing to invest time and money in a book with a solid market potential, looking for more input and control than the traditional route allows, and yet feels ill-equipped or uncomfortable going the hands-on DIY self-publishing route.

 

PROS

  • Strong and enthusiastic publisher support for book projects
  • Assessment procedure in place for book submissions
  • Publisher provides helpful webinars and resources
  • Book design and cover quality – reasonable to good
  • Non-exclusive contract offered
  • Author can cancel contract (30 day notice)
  • Author is involved in production process
  • Transparent information provided on traditional publishing industry and other options

 

CONS

  • Author is required to pay for initial consultation
  • Publisher’s bookstore does not facilitate direct sale (Amazon linked)
  • Submission process could be off-putting to some authors
  • Royalties are low when compared to some self-publishing services
  • Publisher sets minimum retail price (author can raise price)
  • Distribution reach could be greater
  • Could do better to provide cost breakdown of book projects
  • Contract not available for review on website
  • Outside of blueprint and consult fees – no costing displayed on individual services

 

RATING: 7.2/10 (PROVISIONAL)

Authors

5 Comments

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  2. Sam Staley said:

    This is a very balanced review, and, as a user of Wheatmark’s services, I think its very consistent with my experience. I have published five novels, two through Wheatmark, and the others through a traditional publisher. I have published five nonfiction books through academic trade pressses, including Greenwood Press, Transaction, and Rowman & Littlefield. One of the reasons I went with Wheatmark for my fiction was that they were committed to high-quality production, hit their deadlines *and* were upfront about the importance of author marketing to make a book a success. Based on my experience, I am a fan of Wheatmark.

  3. Pingback: Publishing Service Index: January 2016 | The Independent Publishing Magazine

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