Friday, October 16, 2009

Thomas Nelson is adding Subsidy Publishing to its Imprints

You may have already heard the announcement Thomas Nelson, one of the largest Christian publishers, made the other day. In an announcement on October 13th, Michael Hyatt announced that Thomas Nelson is opening a subsidy publishing division called WestBow Press.

If you'd like to read some comments from agents in the industry, you can read Rachelle Gardner's comments and the October 14th post from Sandra Bishop.

I have a few thoughts, too:

First, there is a difference between "subsidy publishing" and "self publishing," which Mr. Hyatt seems to use interchangeably.
  • Self publishing is when the author pays all of the expenses to publish her book.
  • Subsidy publishing is when the author pays part and the publishing company pays part. From my brief review of the new WestBow Press, this appears to be a self publishing package. I don't see any indication that Thomas Nelson or WestBow is going to foot part of your publishing bill.

Secondly, Mr. Hyatt says self publishing has carried a stigma with it for a long time, and it has. However that stigma is and has been fading fast. With self publishers hiring professional editors and companies that create professional book covers, design, etc., many self published books are hard to tell apart from traditionally published books anymore. While the comments I've read so far show there is still a stigma against self-published books within the publishing industry, it gives me more the feeling that the traditional publishers hold this view far more than anyone else. That makes it feel to me that these traditionally extremely slow-moving publishers are just way behind the times.

Third, Sandra Bishop said it in her post: I, too, think a big reason for Thomas Nelson to offer a self publishing (I won't call it subsidy publishing) opportunity is because it is very popular right now, many authors are going that way and doing well with it, and there's money to be made (off the authors--which is how self publishing companies make their money--as opposed to making money off the sale of their books).

Finally, before you go with WestBow be sure to compare their packages with several other self-publishing companies because their package doesn't offer everything I'd want in a company. One thing I will demand from my (self) publishing company is order fulfillment, which I find missing in the WestBow package. Order fulfillment means the company will handle taking orders for you, collecting the (credit card) payments (for the book and S&H), and shipping the book to the customer. For comparison, look at and .

I have a whole list of services I will demand when I self-publish my Deliver Me book. I told God if You want me to do this, then I want this and this and this. I call it my "I Want" list. I'm not usually so demanding. (Especially to God!) But if I'm going to make this book work financially and in every other way, I have to be. So either God can work these things out to make my self-publishing venture feasible, or I'm not doing it.

I plan to tell you about every item on my "I Want" list as soon as I finish the "How to Write a Book Proposal" series of posts. I can't do it now. I'm supposed to be working on my Deliver Me manuscript! I just had to give my thoughts and comments on this announcement from Thomas Nelson.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my manuscript!


Unknown said...

Actually WestBow is a subsidy publisher, not a self-publisher:
Subsidy means the author is footing the bill but they are the publisher of record (they own the ISBN).
Co-op is when both the author and publisher pay to bring a book to market (they own the ISBN).
Self-publishing is when they author pays and is the publisher of the book (author owns the ISBN).

When you're ready to shop for your "I want" list, come over to BelieversPress - we offer true self publishing (including real Christian book distrbution and order fulfillment, among many other services).

Dianne E. Butts said...

Thank you, BelieversPress, for these definitions. I'm not sure I understand why anyone would "subsidy" publish--foot the bill for publishing and then let someone else be the publisher of record and own the ISBN. Just doesn't make any sense to me.