Monday, July 9, 2018

A quick critique of Page Publishing

Last night I saw a commercial on CNN for Page Publishing. It's one of dozens of companies that have appeared and disappeared during recent decades to serve authors who are unable or unwilling to be published by conventional/traditional book publishers.

Originally they were known as "vanity" presses or publishers, and then "self-publishing companies," "publishing-services providers," "hybrid publishers" or other things.

One thing they have in common is that they make most of their money by selling services and overpriced trinkets to wannabe authors—not by selling books to readers.

Book quality from those companies varies from excellent to abysmal, and pricing ranges from fair to confiscatory. I've analyzed a bunch of these companies over the years and found most to deserve a STAY FAR AWAY warning. (The worst are probably Outskirts Press, Xlibris and America Star Books, formerly PublishAmerica.)

I was intrigued by Page Publishing for two reasons:

  1. I had never heard of the company before.
  2. It was advertising on television. This is undoubtedly extremely wasteful. Despite the legend that "everybody has a book in them," the TV audience desiring publishing services is much smaller than prospective purchasers of cars, food, vacations, clothing, movie tickets and medication. If a publishing-services company advertises to a mass audience it must be (a) extremely profitable, (b) extremely foolish, or (c) both.
So, I took a look at Page's website, and here's what I found (and didn't find):
  • The company doesn't seem to offer anything significant that its competitors lack. It does have ties to a New York City radio show with possible publicity potential—if your book's genre appeals to the folks who happen to be tuned in at the right time. (It's possible that the show is aired elsewhere. The website does not make this clear.) A much-more focused PR campaign would probably be more fruitful for selling books.
  • Page says: "We publish and distribute our books through online platforms such as Apple’s iTunes store, the Amazon Kindle store, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble." While Amazon Kindle is mentioned, are Page's printed books sold by Amazon? Prospective authors should be told the answer on the website. (I found some Page p-books on Amazon.)
  • Page says "We are located in New York City" and shows its address as "101 Tyrellan Avenue, Suite 330, New York, NY 10309." While out-of-towners might think that's in Manhattan, it's not. The company is based in (on?) Staten Island. That island is part of New York City, but it is not in the heart of the world's foremost media center. I worked in publishing in Manhattan in a previous life, and it was no great joy. I'm sure there are real advantages to working in Staten Island. It would be better to mention some of them rather than trying to hide reality.
  • I could not find any price list on the site. That's very unusual. Is this an effort to hide the fact that authors have to pay for publishing by Page? The site mentions "a manageable investment" and "a minimal investment on your part and 20 cents per book sold," but what is that investment? One person's "minimal" may be someone else's "HUGE."
  • The top of the website says, "get published today." That's not realistic. The FAQ page says, "We strive for a maximum timeline of 8-10 months, but most authors see their books available through major print and online distribution channels within 6-8 months." That's a loooooooooong time. Three months is definitely doable.
  • The site displays a press release prepared for a new book. The brief release includes FOUR mentions of Page Publishing. These plugs are unusual and unprofessional. The author paid Page to promote the book—not the publisher. Page says that the press release "was disbursed to over 8,501 newspapers, magazines, radio shows, web blogs, and journalists" and provides a poorly edited partial list. That 8,501 number is meaningless. Zillions of press releases are distributed to media every day. The number of media sent-to is not meaningful. What counts is how many and which of the media provided useful publicity because of the press release—and an ad for a publisher disguised as a press release for an author does not help the author.
  • The company has a blog—last updated in 2015. This lapse does not inspire confidence.
  • The "news" page, however, is up-to-date. That's a good sign that someone is paying attention.
  • The company's Twitter and Facebook pages are also up-to-date. Good work!
  • Some of Page's cover designs are very appealing. Most are at least adequate. None are terrible.
  • Page can provide a "Custom Author Web Page" "hosted on the Page Publishing website." I think it's much better for an author's website to be independent of a publisher. The author needs to control her or his media platform. I don't know how much Page charges for web services, but better deals may be available. I use for my book websites.
  • Page warns that " We know that authors need to be free to create—not bogged down with complicated business issues like eBook conversion, establishing wholesale accounts, insurance, shipping, taxes, and the like." I established my own Silver Sands Books ten years ago. It was not difficult and I have not had to do ebook conversions, establish wholesale accounts or deal with shipping. Insurance and taxes are not big deals.
  • Page touts a "FREE Author's Submission Kit (we'll send some information immediately via email)." I waited about 40 hours so far. That's not "immediately."
  • Some book prices seem too high, and are possibly noncompetitive. Will people pay $14.95 for a 143-page paperback from an unknown author, or $9.99 for the ebook version? Maybe. Maybe not.
  • The website has typographical problems including oversize spaces from non-hyphenated full-justified text, and some very strange characters. I hope Page's books don't have these problems.  
I looked at some of the books online and found no fatal signs (but "first originally published by ..." in several books is an inexcusable lapse in editing).
I read a comment by one author who is a happy Page customer.

(UPDATE) I received two follow-up mailings from Page, but no prices.

Without knowing the cost of publishing with Page, I can't make a definitive recommendation or warning. The company is far above the worst in its field, and maybe that's all that authors need. If you want to get published, Page is worth investigating. The more companies that compete for authors' dollars, the better it is.

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