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Monday, June 27, 2011

Xlibris is ruining self-publishing by not providing the help its authors need

Self-publishing companies make most of their money by selling services to writers. If a self-publishing company rejects a book, the company makes no money. That's why self-publishing companies accept nearly every book submitted to them, except for books that appear to be obscene or libelous.

The lack of selectivity is the prime cause of self-publishing’s bad reputation. Even though traditional publishers make many bad decisions, their selectivity and financial commitment provide a powerful endorsement for the writers and books they choose to accept.

Self-publishing companies try to evoke an image of quality and service.

Xlibris says, "you can count on Xlibris' extensive experience to provide dependable, long-term, individualized support through the publishing process and in the years that follow." The company boasts about its "proficient team of publishing professionals" and says it has a "comprehensive range of publishing, editorial, add-on and marketing services."

Xlibris is one of several former competitors including iUniverse, Wordclay and Trafford which were absorbed by Author Solutions, Inc. "ASI" is also the private-label service provider for some traditional publishers such as Thomas Nelson. ASI says it publishes "one of every 15 book titles published in the US every year."

At last year's Self-Publishing Book Expo, marketing director Joe Bayern told me that ASI's best editors work on Xlibris titles.

Xlibris says, "One of our founding principles, dating back to when we were newly incorporated and making books out of a basement office, is that authors should have control over their work. This principle still stands today as we help hundreds of authors every month publish their work in the manner and form that they envision," and "When you publish with Xlibris, you completely control the book design."

That's not necessarily a good thing. If an author has bad ideas for a book's design, or is simply a bad writer, crap gets published. The "proficient team" and "best editors" don't control the quality of what gets published with an Xlibris label on it.

One of the best examples (i.e., one of the worst books) that shows the failure of Xlibris is the awkwardly named, physically ugly, poorly written and unedited The Truth and the Corruption of the American System. The 95-page hardcover sells for (OMG!) $24.99. There are also paperback ($15.99) and e-book ($9.99) editions.

The author has some important things to say (more later), but her message is diluted and distorted by bad presentation, and lack of help from Xlibris. The company wanted to collect money for the publishing package they sold her, but made no effort to improve the book.

Sales are probably infinitesimal. Did I buy the only copy?

After more than two years, there is not even one review on Amazon.com or the Barnes & Noble website.

Author Eunice Owusu tells us on the back cover, and inside the book, and on multiple websites: "I was born in Ghana and came to America about twenty-five years ago. I was married for twenty years and now separated with one child, who is seventeen years old. He lives with me in Houston, Texas. I attended Northern Virginia Community College and graduated in the year 2002 with Associate Degree in Legal Assisting. I transferred to George Mason University in Virginia, Texas Southern University in Texas, and now I am in my final year at the University of Houston in Texas, major in Political Science and eventually transfer to Law School."
  • Does any of this provide a reason to buy a book about what's wrong with America?
  • Do we care about her bad marriage?
  • Do we care about her bad writing?
  • Are we impressed by Northern Virginia Community College?
  • Do we care about the age of the author's son?
  • Do we know or care how old he is now, or that at one point he lived in Houston?
  • Should we have to do research to determine if the author graduated from the University of Houston and went to law school?
Xlibris says it offers "seven comprehensive publishing packages, each with a unique combination of marketing, editorial and publishing services."  It appears that unless an author pays $3,299 for the "premium package," the unique editorial service is no editorial service.

Five of the packages do not include editing, but the company says that "Writing that is worth publishing is worth a careful edit. Your message deserves it, and so do your readers. It is what distinguishes a professional book from an amateur one."
  • That's very true. Xlibris knows what's right, but lets its author customers do what's wrong.
Xlibris would rather sell a package for $649 with no editing and publish a crappy book, than lose the sale because a writer won't pay $0.12 per word for editing. (The charge to copyedit the Owusu book would have been about $600.)

The book badly needs copyediting. Problems include lots of improper punctuation, non-sentences, wrong tenses, wrong words (e.g., "having ends meet" instead of "making ends meet"), missing words, misspelling, missing possessives, improper uppercasing, inconsistent uppercasing, inconsistent time designations (e.g., "6:30" and "six-thirty" in successive sentences, "seven sixteen" and "7:20" in the same paragraph), repeated words ("do do" and "on on"), singular nouns that should be plurals, plural verbs that should be singular, sentences that should be two sentences, paragraphs that should be three paragraphs, unattributed quotations, numbers stuck in the middle of paragraphs for no discernible reason, unnecessary italics, etc.

There is lots of just plain crappy writing, such as:
  1. "The state Capitol is in Washington D.C. where Congress and Senates meet."
  2. "Something I did not understand about John McCain, when he was running for president, he run in favor of veterans."
  3. "Excuses are not accepted as there will also be an excuse."
  4. "I belief there are many homeless..."
  5. "What can kind of normal person will eat and drink from trashes..."
  6. "I make complain to..."
  7. "...he was asked to do sports physical done."
  8. "...doctor run a series of tests."
  9. "...this was her respond."
  10. "I had to taken all my problems to bed..."
  11. "It has to start from home, yes, and to schools."
  12. "Third ward in Houston don't even have head start."
  13. "...here me out."
  14. "...unplanned pregnancies that want to have an abortion."
  15. "Who will want to put their selve in..."
Eunice was born in Ghana and came to America as an adult. I know little about the schools in Ghana, but Ghana was a British colony until 1957 and the official language is English. Apparently, Eunice's English was good enough in her native country, but I am horrified to read what she writes now.

The book contains a lot of criticism of American schools. Eunice attended at least four colleges in the United States and intended to become a lawyer.
  • Didn't any of her instructors or professors notice her bad writing? How did she get her diplomas?

The design and production work done by Xlibris is also substandard. Page margins are much too small. It's silly to have the author's bio in two places. The author's photo on the back cover is awful. The text on the back cover is nearly illegible. There is no title on the spine. (The spine is small, but has room for a title.)

The copyright page includes this absurd notice: "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental."
  • Oh, come on! Is this sentence fiction: "A fixed interest loan is a loan where the interest rate doesn't fluctuate during the fixed rate period of the loan." Did the author invent Houston or the State Department? Is it a mere coincidence that the author conceived of a presidential candidate named John McCain?
 
Didn't anyone at Xlibris read -- or even skim -- this book?
 
The promotional work for the book is confusing, inadequate and incompetent.
 
The author says: "Our leaders are so blind to the truth and instead of searching for the truth or the things that will bring peace and make America a better place to live, they go on, on a wild goose chase which brings nothing but destruction to our country. This book also deomonstrate [sic] how we can keep kids off [sic] jail and minimize the high school drop off [sic] rate. How we can provide shelter for our return [sic] soldiers and civilian homeless. How we can make our streets and our community safe."

Somehow, this book of social and political commentary is classified as "JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Emotions & Feelings" and the reading level is "Ages 9-12."

There are many other things wrong with Xlibris which should keep potential customers away. For example:
  • Xlibris charges $99 for a Library of Congress Control number. You can get one yourself in a few minutes -- for free!
  • Xlibris charges $249 for a copyright registration. You can easily register a book yourself for $35.
  • Xlibris charges $99 for a CD-ROM of you book's interior and cover files. The disk is worth about 25 cents and the file copying is done with a few mouse clicks.
  • Xlibris says, "When you publish with Xlibris, you are essentially self-publishing in the most efficient way possible." Grossly overpaying is not efficient.
  • Xlibris has a very strange system for pricing books. A book with 108 pages sells for $4 more than one with 107 pages. Page #108 must be very special. However, if you want to determine the price of your own book, you'll pay Xlibris $249 for the freedom of choice.
The New York Times said, “Xlibris charges no­thing for its basic service, but because of the fees it charges writers for things like galleys and copyediting, its chief executive, John Feldcamp, says the company will be profitable even if it never sells a book.” I believe him, because his company’s publishing packages can cost as much as $14,999!

Xlibris says, "you will be treated with professionalism and courtesy and provided with all the self-publishing help you need." That's simply not true. Eunice Owusu was not treated with professionalism, and Xlibris did not provide all of the help she needed.

As an immigrant and a single mother, Eunice Owusu has a special perspective. She has seen aspects of America that many Americans are unaware of -- or care little about. Her outrage at shortcomings and inequalities is justified. She has important things to say. She deserves to be heard. She has experience and passion and provides needed recommendations. She may be a powerful public speaker, but she is not ready to write a book by herself. Maybe she needed a ghostwriter or a co-author. At a minimum, she needed editing, but she got none from Xlibris.

That is a tragedy, and Xlibris and its parent, Bertram Capital Management, should be embarrassed by the terrible book they published for Eunice Owusu.
  • Self-publishing companies have to stop behaving like crack whores who will provide service to anyone who can pay the price.
  • Xlibris's press releases start out with "Xlibris Publishes Book About . . ." The Xlibris website says, "Xlibris is a book publishing company," but it also says, "Xlibris is not a publisher. We are a publishing services provider." Authors and readers would be better served if Xlibris would decide exactly what it is, and acted more like a publisher, not just a provider.
  • Xlibris says, "At Xlibris, the writer is the publisher." It also says it will "assign an ISBN number." If the writer is the publisher, the writer -- not Xlibris -- would assign the ISBN.
  • Self-publishing companies need to develop some pride, and to grow some balls. They need to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but your manuscript is just not good enough to be published unless it gets professional editing." Some manuscripts are beyond help.
  • There is no solution if Xlibris and AuthorHouse reject books, and the penurious or egomaniacal author then goes to Outskirts Press or Lulu and they don't enforce editorial standards.
  • Until and unless ALL of the self-publishing companies develop and insist on high standards, readers will be buried in crap and writers' dreams will never come true.
  • It's time for self-publishing companies to develop some pride in their products. Lulu boss Bob Young told Publishers Weekly that "We publish a huge number of really bad books." Did Bob make Xlibris boss Kevin Weiss jealous? Are the companies competing to publish the greatest number of really bad books?

29 comments:

  1. I really hope that Xlibris sues you. The trial will make them look even worse.

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  2. Wouldn't it be nice if these companies worked to have the best reputation and produce the best books -- instead of merely being the biggest or offering the least-expensive publishing packages?

    What good is a well-known brand name if it signifies crap?

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  3. Even the major New York publishers produce imperfect books, but this crap is WAY beyond the acceptable limit.

    Are the bosses looking only at the balance sheet but not at the company's products?

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  4. This is pretty terrible. I wish people/companies could be committed to quality instead of money, and that was such a pitance to pay for editing, I can't believe it wasn't done.

    Why don't some authors understand that if a book is to be professional it must be edited before publication?

    My take on this here.Let's get the message out there, so we don't see so much of this kind of thing.

    http://tahlianewland.com/2011/04/02/indie-authors-please-pause-before-you-publish-for-all-our-sakes/

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  5. Michael, thank you again for providing the kind of information worth reading. I am a newbie to your site and often to search for past articles you have written and still find them with timely information. Xlibris reduces itself to a whore of whores vanity presses that will take anything and publish it. The author sounds like many people who come to America, benefit greatly, and at the same time hate the country. Xlibris makes Outskirts look better and that is damn hard to do.

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  6. Would have been better if you did not mention another self-publishing company's name, with the link, at the end of the post.

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  7. To the Second Anonymous: (1) why would it have been better? (2) why are you afraid to reveal your name?

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    1. Mr. Marcus, I recently published a book, (Xlibris was the company) it was my first book. And now that they've had by book since Febuary I havnt gotten anything from them. Seeing as that they are a fraud, what do i do, to well, Re-do my book Sir?

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  8. Thanks for all the info Michael. I am a novice writer and contacted Xlibiris for a "free" consultation. They called me last night (from the Phillipines where they've outsourced their "reps") and while they gave me lots of info, they could not answer a single question properly. They were more interested in my investment of $3299 for a "Premium" package with an automatic free upgrade to "VIP".. So again, being a novice to the publishing world I am wondering what exactly I get ? My book is a cookbook, which is ready to go - the most important to me at the moment is the editing service and a huge book launch. There are tens of thousands of cookbooks out there - naturally I need somehow to make mine stand out from the crowd. I am reasonably certain that XLibris can't do that. So then, who ?
    Lynn

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    1. did you even look at the marketing services even though they are a little pricy on the xlibris website. They even have a promised New York Times Sunday Book Review - that is - if you pay the money for it

      Delete
  9. Thanks for all the info Michael. I am a novice writer and contacted Xlibiris for a "free" consultation. They called me last night (from the Phillipines where they've outsourced their "reps") and while they gave me lots of info, they could not answer a single question properly. They were more interested in my investment of $3299 for a "Premium" package with an automatic free upgrade to "VIP".. So again, being a novice to the publishing world I am wondering what exactly I get ? My book is a cookbook, which is ready to go - the most important to me is the editing service and a huge book launch. There are tens of thousands of cookbooks out there - naturally I need somehow to make mine stand out from the crowd. I am reasonably certain that XLibris can't do that. So then, who ?
    Lynn

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    Replies
    1. did you even talk to your publishing consultant, talk to him!!!

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  10. I'm really appalled to have read this. Since i signed the contract from xlibris, i constaantly edited my manuscript, helped by my friend/corrector/teacher. I don't know now if i made a great discision by paying so quickly, and the way they reacted was so unproffessional upon receiving the full amount. They just asked me a few question on how did i get the idea of the book and things on how long will it take before they receive it. I asked a few questions on how efficient the copyediting would be but the only answer i got sounded like BLUHBLUH. she went on telling me the same thing, it's almost like I was talking to an android. So I told myself it couldn't be that bad since some of their books had great covers, I imagined mine so. Yesterday, I had decided to send it out because of the World Book and Copyright Day, and the way it would symbolize my first books publishing.
    Well I guess, I should become very exigent of them and if they ever disappoint me, I'll call off, the contract and demand a refund; before it turns out to be too late.
    Thanks again for this insightful review of their work.

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  11. Hi, my name is Annie and I've created a blog comparing some of the prices of the various Self-Publishing Companies. But in regards to Xlibris, You might want to take a look at my blog and compare the different reviews I've gathered online. Thank you.

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  12. I used to work at Xlibris and can tell you from experience it is a horrible company. The reason that these books come out like this is because Xlibris is not hiring qualified editors/author consultants. Honestly, the people that are providing the work are the same exact people that you talk to when you get customer service support from Time Warner in the Philippines. They have left the call center they were at and have moved across the street to work for Xlibris as customer service reps. (Yes they are literally across the street). After about 2 - 8 weeks they are forced to move into a publishing assistant role without any actual training. ( They are not informed that this would happen upon hiring they are only told they will be in customer service). I really felt sorry for the authors when I saw how the company was being run and how they are just after a quick buck.

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  13. Alright already...so I screwed up royally by doing bizz with these bimbos in the Philippines whose Hindquarters office is in Bloomington, Indiana. I am the author of Emeraldine Sanctuary of the Damned and when X got through with it they completely gutted the entire manuscript so badly that i knew in advance I wouldn't be able to donate a copy to a prison library. Any event, I am not only done with the X, but all self-publishing racket houses in general. I paid my dues in Hell.

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  14. Alright already...so I screwed up royally by doing bizz with these bimbos in the Philippines whose Hindquarters office is in Bloomington, Indiana. I am the author of Emeraldine Sanctuary of the Damned and when X got through with it they completely gutted the entire manuscript so badly that i knew in advance I wouldn't be able to donate a copy to a prison library. Any event, I am not only done with the X, but all self-publishing racket houses in general. I paid my dues in Hell.

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  15. Please log onto

    https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/nature-of-complaint/

    from anywhere in the world, to lodge a complaint about Xlibris ripping authors off by not releasing correct sales figures from distributors. The more of us that lodge complaints, the more chance of matters being corrected.

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  16. After learning so much about this group of idiots and bimbos I will be retracting my sequel in double time and going with a proper and professional publisher and demanding my money back pronto. I am prepared to tell them what I think about them too. My book is edited and well written and much too good to be handled by such a loser team of uneducated zombies. Thank you for telling us but for some it's too late. I got a better offer and I will be going with them. After purchasing 100 copies of my book to sell to my family and friends I was promised a free deal of marketing and promotion and then some bimbo calls me demanding a sum of over a grand. After I said no many times and the contradictions from her I took action only the bimbo I started with in the first place is on vacation so I have to wait till Thursday before I can give her the news that I have sacked them all. If she has anyone to thank for that she can thank her marketing representative very much.
    I can say more but why go on, you have all been treated the same way. I'm staying away from them. Good luck.

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  17. Kristina A. LarsonJune 29, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    As for myself, I recently (2011) have had a children's novel published w/XLibris. They've offered me personal discounts on their 'promotional deals', as I've explained to them that I'm on a low budget, and in that respect they've been very agreeable. (I pay in installments; however there's a one time $30 surcharge for installment fees) But it's when they take the money from my account: If it's at the beginning of the month when I have a considerable amount of cash, I don't mind so much, but when it's near the last week/last few days and I'm running on empty, it doesn't really work so well--and that's the time when they offer their writers their bargains: Near the end of the months, when people are not likely to have much money. Then their deals expire at the last day of the months/beginning of the next months, when people will likely have more money--that's when the company should offer their deals. But evidently they think everyone has a money tree orchard in their yard.

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  18. I to used this company and have paid around 15 thousand dollars, they have done a really bad job never got any of what I paid for except my be the book tour with a book that has not been edited, and a video that has been put on you tube very disappointed. and have lost a lot of money . they call and ask for more money every so often even though I tell them they did not edit my book as promised and I have no more money maybe I should sue them.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe you didn't pick the right marketing services. The New York Times Book Review should be the top of your list. With crappy marketing, you can't really get exposed like that. You need lots of newspaper reviews, and interviews. That is the big part of selling books.

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  19. I agree this company sucks I published with them and they did nothing for me

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    1. The main way to sell lots of books is through sending out lots and lots of press releases to newspapers, magazines, tv shows like the local news and radio interviews and word of mouth and since this is self-publishing, it comes from your pocket. Traditional publishing is way different, and charges none on the pocket. The publisher markets the books they publish themselves so maybe you should had sended your book to them

      Delete
  20. Kooked into using this company two years ago. I got involved with them before I did any homework. I did some research a few moths later and quizzed my agent about it. He became hateful and disrespectful in his email traffic(wish I had saved them). I declined to contour using their service and asked to be removed from their contact list. They continue to to contact me. I am sharing an email I sent them in response to their continued badgering. I can only hope others take heed and do their homework before using this company.

    Joan
    I have advised your organization multiple times over the last two years that I have no intention of using your services. I have also requested that you remove me from your contact list, both phone and email. You have continued to badger me against my wishes and constant affirmation that I am not interested in using your services. So much so that I have begun to share this with other authors that I am associated with. I assure you that at this point in our relationship you are hurting your business. The best thing you can do is to leave me alone as I have repeatedly ask.RespectfullyClydeSent smartphone.-------- Original message -------- Subject: Mr.Clyde - Are you still interested in publishing your book? (Courtesy Response Needed) From: Joan Myers To: "oclydeo@ CC: 10/22/2013 Dear Clyde, I trust this email finds you well. My name is Joan Myers your Publishing Consultant from Xlibris Publishing House. We would like to ask how you wish to proceed with your books publication? We received an inquiry from you about your plan in taking the route of self-publishing your book and it has been sometime since we received an update/progress from you, what happened to your book project? Furthermore, we would like to know as to your advice for your books publication? Therefore, we can update as well our records. Or if you are no longer taking this positively and seriously, please advise so we can either update your account or for the meantime focus our attention to those authors who seriously need our time and help for their publication. Thank you for your time. I will be waiting for your response.Sincerely, Joan Myers PUBLISHING CONSULTANT - PUBLISHING SALES Xlibris 1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403 P: 888.795.4274 ext: 7486 F: 812.355.4079 Joan.Myers@Xlibris.com Author Solutions LLC, the parent company of Xlibris, is a member of the Penguin Group. Read full press release here.

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  21. I'm suing xlibris.withholding my royalty checks,misspelling words in the book.I'm definitely going to sue for like 750k

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  22. I'm waiting to get copies of my book as they made a mistake on my address. They don't wish to arrange fast delivery. I'm very disappointed.

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  23. Oops, just paid $560 first instalment, better change my credit card so they don't take out anymore. Very grateful. For your views and warnings. Maybe I've got off lightly losing $560!

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