Friday, April 9, 2010

Blogger Comment: Should I use Exlibris?

Hey Everyone. From time to time, I will address questions and issues from a poster when I think my response might benefit other folks following the blog. This was posted on the blog today. I'm deleting names to protect the innocent.

Hi All!
May I just say once again how useful I find this blog and I dive into it more and more these days as if I were visiting my personal reference library!
I feel that I am getting closer to publishing my children's play and am flirting with the idea of going with Exilibris but I'm picking up that it's not all good with them from some comments here and there. I'm tempted because their offer seems reasonable-for the professional package £799 you get all of the below:

· Choice of eighteen book cover templates – if you are having difficulties in making the design of your cover this will help you, you can actually choose from these and you have 18 to choose from The same 18 they offer to everyone else, meaning your cover will almost certainly look self-published.

· Choice of nine interior templates

· Allowance of cover art (up to 3 images) and author photo (supplied by author) Likely stock photos...the same they offer everyone else.

· Ability to customize certain elements of the interior templates (for $37 you can buy book design wizard and customize everything)

· 20 allotted interior graphics and 5 tables – if ever you will have illustrations inside the book then you can put as many as indicated here (You can do the same for only the cost of printing the book with other services)

Production features: (You can get the same through lightning source for ONLY the cost of a proof of each book--the print cost--probably less than $30 each)

· Availability of your book in paperback format

· Availability of your book in hardback format

· Availability of your book in eBook format

· One paperback and one hardback author copy – these will be given to you after approving the galley or draft (every company gives you proof copies)

· Ability to track book production progress through our website – you will be given a unique user name and a password for your access to this (this is a benefit???)

· Author Service Representative who provides support throughout the publication process – a particular person will be assign to you all throughout the production stage

Post-publication features:

You will only received 10 copies in paperback and 1 copy for hardback, you can make it 5 copies in each book for paperback and the hardcopy on the 1st book
· Assignment of ISBN (See my post on Maintaining Control - The second post for this entire blog)

· Registration with Books In Print database – this database is viewable by bookstores

· Worldwide distribution – this means through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waterstones,and other 2500 online resellers

· Registrations with online booksellers through national distributor

· Online book sales and royalty accounting

· Book and author webpages in the Xlibris online bookstore – you control the content – this is the part where your book will be posted in our site, and about you as the author as well

· Quarterly royalty payments

Marketing Features: (This is so overpriced and overrated it's not even funny)

· 50 bookmarks – these are printed materials which includes photo of your book cover, information about you, about the book and ordering information

· 50 postcards

· 50 business cards

· 5 posters

which doesn't seem half bad for the price. The rep is also a hard seller and even though I'm not giving in to her shpeel, I asked about the barcode which she said would be mine for the taking even if I left?? The info on the website seems to offer a good deal. Or am I missing something? ANY input, advice, assistance is welcome as I am very very green!!

My Response:

Let me just say that I am not against anyone using one of these book services but what I am against is getting these packages without really understanding what you're getting. Unfortunately, most authors don't take into account the business aspects when they are looking at these packages.

For example, is it your goal to get into bookstores or just to sell online? What wholesale do they offer? Is the discount 40% or greater (really needs to be 50%)?Do they allow returns? If so, is there a cost to let them accept returns? If so, how much does that cost? I believe with Exlibris, this option costs $699. And you MUST offer returnability to get into bookstores.

Secondly, let's look at the cost. We'll compare the DIY cost with the cost of using a bare bones POD.

Exlibris - With Exlibris your package (with returnability if you want to get into bookstores) is $799 + 699 = $1500 Total Cost: $1500

Lightning Source -
To set up your files with Lightning Source it costs $117 - It may cost a little more if you're setting up a hardcover, but not much more. So, I we'll estimate $150 to go on the high end. This includes: uploading your files book files, interior and cover; a proof copy of your book, your book listed with online booksellers and available through brick and mortar bookstores, the ability to set your own wholesale discount at 50% and the ability to make your book returnable. Book listed with Ingram and Baker and Taylor.

Your own ISBN number and price-encoded barcode - $150 (might be cheaper now, prices were supposed to drop this year); book listed in Books in Print.

Interior design - $37 for Book Design Wizard (only takes a couple of hours to format your book)

Fully Customized Bookcover -- We'll set this at $500 (will probably be MUCH cheaper if you're not using a custom illustration)

PDF Software - Use Freeware (Listed on this site)--FREE

Total cost: $837. With most of the cost going into the bookcover.

Now if you add the marketing--You could use my favorite printer. Design your own postcards on Microsoft Word (very easy--they even have templates you can just plug your picture into) and you could get color front and back--500 business cards ($15), 500 postcards ($38), 500 bookmarks ($51) ($104 total I think)

My point? Well, in the second scenario you maintain full control over your book. You can set terms acceptable to major retailers. When you indie publish, it is imperative that you not forget what happens after they make your book all pretty. Some people find out the hard way that when they walk into a bookstore retailers won't sell them because they aren't returnable and the discount isn't high enough. They list all these seemingly great services as if they are something really complicated and complex---but nine times out of these are things you can do yourself for a fraction of the cost.

So, long story short--this isn't a deal I would accept given what I know today. And do you notice something missing? I do--editing! All that money and they don't even edit your book? Again, if they aren't going to edit it, they aren't doing anything you can't do for yourself.

With that said, you may still choose to go with Exlibris or one of the many other services out there--but just understand what you're getting into. Make sure you're asking the right questions!

That goes for everyone!

That's all I have for today...

Keep it real...and keep it real cheap!


  1. Karla,

    Many thanks for this breakdown, it's very useful. You've really laid things out for me. I definately want to sell in bookstores, the ultimate aim with this book is to get it onto the national curriculum for primary schools and so my first steps to publishing and marketing are so important. I intend to sell directly to schools and educational establishments too. I guess this is why it's taking me so long to decide which way to go, I'm doing so mucy research it feels like I'm back at uni!
    It seems that LS has a lot to offer, would you say they are the leading company to go with for indie publishers? I think you published with them-was there anything that you did not like about them?

  2. Lightning Source is one of the bare bones companies I discuss. If you use them, you are required to lift the heavy load in terms of getting your files prepared to upload. With that said, getting your files ready isn't hard, it just takes time. If you're willing to invest your time, then it will save you money and will allow you to maintain the most control over your book--increasing the likelihood of getting into bookstores and libraries.

    In using lightning source, you must really change your mindset and approach your business as if you are an indie publisher, not just an indie author. With that said, the BEST thing you can do for yourself, if you want to approach public schools, is visit a few school librarians, ask them where they purchase their books, what kind of discounts they expects, which distributors or wholesalers they regularly work with, etc. etc. Do you research and then you can determine which company will suit your needs. Don't publish your book first and then find out later that if you use Exlibris they can't buy it because it's not an approved distributor. You must keep these things in mind. Don't operate in a bubble--do your research. If you don't, it could cost you more money in the long run.

    Hope that helps.

  3. It helps plenty! Thanks so much.

  4. Here's a discussion on my blog about the same and a comment from someone who has the benefit of comparing Xlibris with other companies and not just the one experience:

  5. Who is Folake Taylor, MD? Your competitor echo? Your blog is AWESOME, you've done all this research and are willing to pass it along to us for FREE. You certainly don't need her piping in comments about her blog after every post. She's ruining this experience for me! Same for Arthur and the fat guy trying to push their books on us!

  6. LOL Karen! Thanks so much for your support. We do welcome alternate opinions here. LOL I don't claim to know everything and someone else may come up with a way to do things better than I have. But I'm glad you're getting so much out of the blog. And please pick up a copy of my novel if you're so inclined. You support is always welcome! :)

  7. Hello, I realize I'm way behind in this thread, but just in case anyone else checks in: I am working with a client who went full-tilt with their publishing and marketing package. The result: not that great of a layout, ugly bookmarks, biz card and postcard. The company keeps saying their social marketing is driving people to her website, but no sales to back it up. All of her sales have been local and due to her direct efforts.

    Now that she wants to leave, they won't release anything: her artwork, the layout is all "owned by them." Essentially, they're holding her stuff hostage. I told her to ask for a PDF and they won't provide one. They have arm-twister written all over.

    1. Trying to sort out who to go with is a full time job by itself! Your comment and others makes me think that a bare bones POD would be best. Has anyone out there tried Smashwords? I've heard you do it yourself...with their easy instructions and it's free. I'd like to do print and e-books. Mostly the print I'd like for my own use to give to certain family/friends so a low volume printer would be great.

  8. I would suggest bare bones POD for print. And I use a combination of Kindle and Smashwords for my ebooks. When you own your ISBN, you can use them all. Just know that for Apple and Sony, each ebook will require its own ISBN.

  9. Can I not just download my (superb) novel on to my blog and just wait for a publisher to pick it up. Or am I being slightly naive?
    Buck Shackle

  10. If you have a regular monthly readership of 1million or more--you MIGHT have a chance somewhere just beyond slim and none.

  11. Ex Libris is really business. They call authors all over the world to publish their own books but only 1/4 of the books are only successful and the rest are just garbage. They are quite expensive too to market the books.