August 15, 2007
POD Secrets Revealed: Hard Core Sales Tactics of Some POD Publishers By Angela Hoy
Wow! That nice POD publishing house rep wants to hear "more about your book!" Is it finished yet? Did you have it edited? Are you going to included pictures? What's your target market?
Do you think that "nice" POD publishing house rep really gives a hoot about your book? Don't fool yourself. Some of those reps are working on a commission. Like any effective salesperson, they'll likely say or do anything to get you to sign up and fork over as much money as they can get out of you.
Last week, we discussed how some POD publishers upsell (nickel and dime) authors on services that should already be included in their incredibly high setup fees - like expedite fees, including photos/images in a manuscript (even though those are supplied by the author), the use of an index, endnotes/footnotes, and more.
This week, we're going to look at the hard-core sales tactics of some POD publishers. Think you can send them one question by email, and expect them to answer you and then go away? Think again!
One new author approached the most popular POD publishers with the same questions, seeking precise quotes on author discounts, shipping costs, and more. Here are some of his experiences.
AuthorHouse was, by far, the most aggressive marketer. First, they mailed him a marketing package, without first asking permission. After the author asked the same questions, over and over again, without receiving precise answers on pricing and royalties, AuthorHouse, without even bothering to respond to some of his emails, kept sending him sales pitches.
June 6th: In response to his initial email, AuthorHouse sent the author a form email providing information to him to read while he waited for the sales packet to arrive by mail (the packet he never requested). Also, on the same day, despite asking for specific pricing for a 248-page, 6 x 9 paperback book, a rep emailed him, saying, " I can only assume by these questions that you have talked to at least one other publishing concern. I could not really answer any of that by e-mail without much more information from you." She also said, "I personally believe that what we offer our authors is a dynamic and cost effective process. Please give me a call." She did not answer his very specific and easy-to-answer questions.
June 12th: The author emailed AuthorHouse, asking, "Can you please give me the list prices with accompanying royalty percentage options for my 6 x 9, 248-page paperback? Forgive me but it still seems like I'm still waiting for you to answer my original questions."
June 12th: The AuthorHouse rep responded by once again evading the questions and saying, "I think you're selling yourself short." She then gives him a price that is not the minimum and once again fails to give him their list prices with their respective royalties.
June 21st: The author once again asks, "Still waiting for an answer to the question below?"
June 21st: AuthorHouse responds by giving the "average" price for a 6 x 9 paperback book (never does provide the minimum list price). She then explains that books are priced about $4 higher when listed through Amazon and other bookstores, as opposed to the price listed on AuthorHouse. (Are authors aware of this practice when they sign up?). This was also the email where she said, "Royalty is really not a part of our lexicon." What that means is royalties aren't part of their vocabulary. We're still reeling over that one! Hey, AuthorHouse, royalties are very much a part of an author's "lexicon!"
She then said, "I know you are not trying to be a 'difficult' author. However, I must confess I feel like I'm trying to answer a math story problem like the ones I had in grade school and I was not very good at that."
On the very same day, she sent him a form marketing email, which appears to be the second email (I call it spam) they send to authors who haven't yet signed up. Even though she had already been corresponding with the author, the email again introduces her as his contact there and goes on with the same drivel, "I would like to know more about you, your book and your motivation to publish..."
July 3rd: While never having answered the author's question, she sends an email saying, "Hope your research shows you how competitive and 'author friendly' the publishing options here really are." And, "you have my number and my e-mail. I would love to hear about your book and help you navigate your way through our publishing process."
July 6th: She sends another form email, obviously meant to be the third email they send to authors who haven't yet signed up. It's titled, "Have you found a publisher for your book yet?" It again introduces her as his contact person and asks the same form questions as the previous email. Since the same email is apparently sent out automatically to authors they're trying to recruit, it makes it very difficult for us to believe that they give a hoot what the author's book is about, what computer program they used to write the book, etc.
July 11th: Surprise! Another form email from AuthorHouse!
July 14th: The author again emails the rep, saying, "How can I possibly see if you're competitive if you can't answer one simple question, which I have sent to you repeatedly? Below is my last email, which has again gone unanswered."
July 18th: The rep sends a quote from her manager, which once again fails to answer the author's very specific question. It only gives a pricing example.
August 5th: And, once again, AuthorHouse sends a form marketing email to the author.
As of this writing, his questions have still not been answered and he gave up.
June 6th: The author submitted his question to iUniverse. They sent a form email saying someone would contact him. A rep emailed the author and provided a price for his paperback ($25.95-$29.95 for a 248-page 6 x 9 paperback!) and a shipping estimate of $0.50-$1/book. His other questions were answered clearly and included only a bit of sales jargon.
When the author tried to email the rep back to get a more precise shipping estimate (he'd already provided her with the address and the book size and length), the email bounced. It seems you have to contact them through the website only (the author was starting to feel like a number at this point). He emailed their support and asked to be put back in touch with that particular rep. She did, indeed, write back to him, saying, "You did not provide an address from which to figure shipping charges.
I'm sure I don't have to tell the salesmen and women in our readership why they want you to call instead of write!
June 12th: The author again emailed, requesting the quote be in writing. The rep did answer the question. The answer was about $1 per book to ship if the author ordered 100 copies. (Incidentally, that is way too expensive and far more than UPS charges for an identical shipment!). Her email closes with a repeated request for him to visit their website and request their publishing guide, saying, "You will be assigned to someone who can assist you with your questions."
The author didn't hear from them again. He was *not* added to a spam list and they DID answer his questions.
June 6th: The author sent the same questions by email to xLibris.
June 8th: After not receiving a response, the author sent the email again, with this note, "I sent this to you earlier this week but haven't heard back from
June 13th: Somebody finally wrote back. The first paragraph of the email is a sales pitch, offering the author a special deal. She then goes on to answer his questions. And then more of the sales pitch: "I would love to know more about the book you plan to publish and your publishing plans as well." And "Please do email me back your contact number so that I can give you a call..." She then mentions their installment plan. Boy, if a POD publisher offers an installment plan, you KNOW they're too expensive!
June 14th: The author requests clarification on the shipping fees (USPS vs. UPS charges).
June 27th: The xLibris rep does not respond to the author's email, instead sending a sales pitch that says, "I am sending you this email to inform you that I have a requested a publishing kit to be sent in your mailing address so that you will know the services and packages that we can offer in publishing your book."
The author never requested a publishing kit be mailed to him.
June 27th: The author responds with "That's fine but...I'm still waiting for you to answer my questions below."
June 27th: The rep responds with, "I have already responded to your question last week." She then answers the questions. The author did not receive a previous email with the answers, nor did the rep forward a copy of a previous email.
July 25th: xLibris sent a form marketing email to the author, indicating he is now on their marketing (we call it spam) list.
Incidentally, xLibris has spammed WritersWeekly in the past and their emails make it clear they were harvesting email addresses online. (i.e. "We are sending you this email because we have either learned about your passion for writing or we have had the pleasure of coming across some of your work.")
Good luck getting a real human being to exchange emails with you at Lulu. However, their prices are clearly stated on their site. Their live help chat is useful, to a certain extent. However, the author couldn't get a shipping quote. The chat representative said he'd have to start the ordering process to see how much shipping would be for 100 books. But, the system requested his credit card number before shipping costs were calculated. He was not willing to provide that information. Lulu claims to be a "free" service. However, they refer authors to a variety of third party service providers and Lulu then profits from those referrals. If you want formatting, cover design, or even distribution, Lulu is NOT free! Far from it!
Incidentally, at Booklocker.com, if an author asks us a question, we answer it. We don't hold their email and then dog them repeatedly with sales pitches. We don't contact them again unless they respond, requesting additional information. We don't mail out "publishing kits", nor do we maintain a list of potential authors who are ripe for spamming. We just don't do business that way. If an author's manuscript is accepted and they don't sign up, we will forward the email one more time, a few weeks later, just to ensure their spam filter didn't eat our email. We then do not contact them again - ever.
Next week, I will probably take a break as we'll be doing some touristy stuff. I'll continue this series after that.
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