Monday, January 25, 2010

A "landmark day" (like 9/11/01?):
WestBow Press releases its first vanity book

Today, WestBow Press, the vanity publishing partnership (or "strategic self-publishing alliance") of Christian publisher Thomas Nelson and mega-vanity-press Author Solutions, has announced its first book. (Actually, it was published over a month ago.)

The book is Mustardseed Thoughts, by Ron Edmondson -- a pastor from Tennessee.

Edmondson said, “I am delighted, after years of writing online devotionals, to finally see some of them in print. My online readership has been patient with me about doing this, but the timing was right with WestBow Press. Their affiliation with Thomas Nelson and the positive reputation that brings assures readers a quality print that will hopefully be used for God’s glory for years to come.”

It's likely that Edmondson's book was rejected for a standard royalty-paying contract from Thomas Nelson, and he was directed to WestBow to pay to be published. With WestBow books, Thomas Nelson has no risk, and has guaranteed income even if no books are ever sold.

Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt said, “I first met Ron through his blog. I became a fan immediately.”

Apparently Hyatt is not enough of a fan to offer an advance and royalties, and printing without payment.

The 376-page paperback is priced at (gulp) $24.95. The hardcover version is priced at (BIG GULP) $39.95.

At those absurd prices, there will be plenty of money for the publishing partners (if any copies are sold).

Unfortunately, the book prices are so high that it's likely that few books will be sold and there's a good chance that Edmondson will lose the $999 to $6,499 he paid to publish. Of course, the publishing partners don't care if no books are sold, because they got their money from Edmondson before they did any work. WestBow and Author Solutions make most of their money by selling services to writers -- not by selling books to readers.

Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss said the release of WestBow’s first title marks a landmark day for the publishing industry. Yeah, just like the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and 9/11/01.

Note to Kevin and Michael: It's not necessary to print the word "By" and put a colon before the author's name on the front cover. A real publisher should know this. Also, the front cover of the book spells "Mustardseed" as one word. The WestBow website and the press release and the information on show it as two words. The back cover of the book spells it both ways.

There's more sloppiness inside the book.

  • The first page of text addresses "you, the reader." Who could "you" be, except the reader?
  • Lower down on the same page is: "if you are already Christians" -- strangely slipping from addressing a single reader into the plural form.
  • Another page refers to a "gospel track." It should be "tract." A pastor should not have made the error and an editor should have fixed the error.
  • There's also sloppy justification.
  • And this strange construction: "Being an older home when I bought it and having been previously owned by an elderly widow, I have plenty of...." That's an interesting reincarnation -- the pastor used to be a house!  Maybe this book could lead to a sequel to "My Mother the Car."
The Westbow website brags: "you also have an entire staff of experienced industry-professionals on your side.... We help your book live up to industry standards and take care of all the details."

Well, maybe not all of the details.

What a bunch of idiots!

Sadly, the author's expectation of "the positive reputation that...assures readers a quality print" is not justified.

For its important debut, Westbow has clearly demonstrated what's wrong with vanity-published books. I hope that the book's inept production will serve as a warning to potential victims of both WestBow and the Author Solutions brands.

P.S.:  To me, a mustard seed is the beginning of a jar of the tangy yellow-brown stuff that I slather on Hebrew National hotdogs. I have no idea what the author means by "mustardseed," or "mustard seed." I guess the book was not intended to be read by people like me. Still, it would be nice to have an explanation.



  1. How could they be so stupid? Oh yeah -- it's a vanity press.

  2. Gee. If _I_ was launching a new product, with many skeptics observing me, I'd be absolutely sure that I did things right, at least at the beginning.

    Of course, vanity publishers don't work that way -- either because they don't know what's right, or because they would not recognize a properly made book if it bit them on the nose.

  3. Whoo boy-- this is bad. I like mustard on my hot dogs, too! And I only buy Hebrew National-- even though I'm not Jewish. Because I feel like they are "cleaner" hot dogs, somehow.

    But how clean can a cow anus really be?

  4. I wonder if Pastor Edmondson realizes that the promised "free books" from WestBow may have cost him thousands of dollars.

    I hope he didn't use church money to finance his vanity publishing escapade.

    Previously, Edmondson was reaching people online for free. Now he made a deal to produce books that are so expensive that very few people will buy them. He should have stayed with the web, or done an eBook.

    Also, the $15 difference between paperback and hardcover is absurd!

    I hope Edmondson wasn't planning to retire on the book income.

  5. To Christy:

    Since you've decided to call yourself a maven, I'll ignore your first name and allow you to be classified as an honorary MOT (Member Of the Tribe).

    Also, as the diagram at shows, kosher meat doesn't come from anywhere near the ass-end of the cattle. It's all from the forequarter.

    An article in the NYTimes at talks about the increasing number of non-MOTs buying kosher food.

    I love HeebNat hotdogs and many kosher foods, but there's no way I'll give up lobster and clams.

  6. Oh, yeah! I forgot that Jews aren't allowed to eat shellfish. I can't really give up eating crab or clams, either. The great part about being Catholic is that you get to eat whatever you want, as long as you always feel guilty after sex and don't use condoms.

    So it all evens out.

    I have a feeling that WestBow is going to be the next Outskirts here on BookMaking.

  7. To Christy:

    I can't live without clams. either. See Hmmm. I've been looking for a West Coast correspondent, if you're interested.


    Aside from being persecuted for thousands of years, we do have a few advantages over you folks.

    (1) You say you're sorry for sinning once a week, but we only have to do it once a year.

    (2) As Adam Sandler said, we have "Eight Crazy Nights" of Chanukah instead of just one Christmas eve.

    Allegedly a Jew became Pope in the middle ages, and it's even possible that the present Pope is Jewish (under Jewish law). See

  8. Vanity presses don't you love them?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    Loved your story about the delayed action curry!
    Here looks even better, we get lobster served up with cow's anus!

  9. Here's another error on the cover (toward the bottom): "... spur the reader onto spiritual maturity." It should be "... spur the reader on to spiritual maturity."

    "Onto" means "to a place or position on" or "on top of." The context requires two prepositions, not just one.

  10. Oops. Should have quoted as "the believer" not "the reader." But the point remains valid.

  11. True not all subsidy/self publishers produce anything near quality books. there is the occasional glimpse of some sort of borderline brilliance in the content and ideas if not in the execution (and no not the sense of getting rid of someone) Though sometimes it seems like the book and whoever wrote it might be better off without having birthed a "final" published version by that method.

    As to the errors that is the author's issue not the publisher's in this case as subsidy/self publishers rarely if ever provide an editor (which costs money from somewhere) As well books generally sell as much by promotion and passing the word from person to person (good or bad publicity is still publicity. No publicity effort at all is also the author's problem. Even the large publishers often contract out for publicists or expect the author to be the one "selling" books through whatever means they can devise.

    Without word of mouth starting in some fashion a book will die a very quick death in terms of sales and become nothing more than a worthless trophy in the form of several pounds of paper.

    Also as to Mustard Seed there is a Biblical allegory referring to the size of the seed and someone's amount of faith. Mustard seeds are
    minuscule and scripture says that even such a small faith as that is powerful. IOW the amount of faith isn't as important as actually living out that faith.

    The title and reference of that word are definitely a Christianese usage but this book is likely oriented toward that audience so the usage would be understood clearly by the intended audience.

    What someone chooses to do with their own money is up to them. However I tend to shy away from reviewing self or subsidy pubbed books because they prove to be such a chore to read due to inconsistencies and mechanical problems that could have been solved by simply taking the time and effort to have the book edited before publishing. Unless the author is using a large traditional publisher however all the responsibility falls to them for everything in the process of getting the book to "final" quality and getting it out to readers to make sales. IOW they pay for the time and materials involved in printing and publishing the book as well as however many they order from the "publisher" which really should more correctly be termed "printer".
    Yes they receive a pittance per book sold but either way recouping the money paid into the "printer" at the start of things would take several years or more to recoup and books rarely have a productive shelf life longer than a few months to a year. Most traditonally published books receive little to no advance and that must be earned out by the author's share of the profit (which again is next to nothing) that unless a book sells huge quantities earn out itself takes as long as a book the author contracts with a printer to produce for them. IOW the major difference between the traditional large publishers and a "printer" hired by an author is the quality because the author doesn't put forward effort to produce to the high standards of the industry or to sell their books. Ok well I'll step down now just wanted to say I've seen both sides of the coin as a reader and yes there is a difference but the contract with the so-called publisher will state what services they agree to provide for the price the author pays in most cases it is little more than just printing and binding the books.