Monday, August 31, 2009

Beckham — the Pegasus of publishing

Some types of publishing are like the Pegasus, Unicorn, Loch Ness monster, or Big Foot.

“Joint venture publishing” and “co-publishing” are so hard to find that they may not exist.

Beckham Publications Group says it provides joint venture publishing, where “two parties decide to invest in a project and share in the profits generated. The investing partners are the author and the publisher.”

Authors pay Beckham a fee to design, edit, manufacture, and deliver a specified quantity of books for the author to resell. Beckham also prints copies to go to booksellers and pays a royalty on each book sold. The company can provide extra-cost promotional materials and services such as press releases.

Beckham says, “Larger houses take 12 to 18 months to produce a book… However, your joint venture self-published book can be produced in half the usual time commercial publishers take.” If Beckham takes six to nine months to put books on the market, it’s slower than most vanity presses and MUCH slower than REAL self-publishing.

Beckham is pleasantly candid and honest about the prospects of its writers, and its advice applies to most customers of vanity presses and many self-publishers: “Do not expect to receive reviews in national media; your book probably doesn’t have so large an audience. Most of our joint venture publications will not attract a large reading audience. Therefore it is unlikely that it will attract the interest of the big chain buyers.”

Beckham’s fees are determined by how much work needs to be done, book size, artwork, and number of books printed. The author must buy some books to sell or give away.

Beckham gets a copyright for you and assigns one of its own ISBNs. If you use Beckham, they — not you — are the publisher. With Beckham, you are NOT self-publishing, despite what they state.

Company boss Barry Beckham said that an author who might collect $2 per book in royalties from a traditional publisher could collect $9 from his company. But since the author makes a big investment, he will not get back his investment until about 500 books are sold (which may never happen).

The Beckham website says, “Our editors are prepared to correct textual matters like grammar, punctuation and spelling.” They may not be adequately prepared. The website mis-identifies Virginia Woolf as “Wolf” and Stephen Crane as “Stephan.” Virginia with the extra “o” was a writer. Virginia with just one “o” is a sculptor. The site also says “trims size” instead of “trim size.” My own websites are imperfect, but I’m not trying to impress publishing prospects with my editors’ abilities.

Following Beckham’s instructions, I submitted 10 sample pages of manuscript to find out if I was good enough to meet their publishing standards and how much they would charge me to do a joint venture with them.

After nearly four weeks I received this email: “Attached is our estimate of $4,555 that includes our services and 100 copies delivered to you.” That price is so high it seems like the investment formula for the “joint venture” is 100% for the author and 0% for Beckham.

Beckham provides a lot of services, but their price is thousands of dollars more than what a real self-publisher would pay. And in order to make back my investment and earn a tiny profit, I’d have to sell those 100 books for about FIFTY BUCKS EACH.

How many would you like to buy?

I wouldn't like to buy any books from Beckham.


  1. ... $2 per book in royalties from a traditional publisher could collect $9 from his company.

    There is no such term as "traditional" publisher. Publish America made this term up. You either have trade/commercial publishing, Print on Demand (the business plan) publishing, or vanity/subsidy publishing.

  2. >>There is no such term as "traditional" publisher.<<

    You may prefer that the term did not exist, but you can't stop the evolution of language.

    Google shows about 62,000 links for "traditional publisher" and 121,000 for "traditional publishing."

    That's pretty widespread use of a "no such term." (GRIN)

    The are many links for the phrase "we are a traditional publisher," so even publishers are using the TP term to define themselves.

    I certainly have no love for PublishAmerica or any vanity press, but I think the term makes sense (and I'm not certain that PA was the first to use the term).

    The meaning is pretty clear when used to discuss types of publishers with people outside the publishing business.

    People in the business may prefer to say "trade publisher," but that is industry jargon that needs explanation to be understood by outsiders.