A new wave of Canadian book companies taps in to the popularity of self-publishing

From The Globe and Mail:

A new wave of Canadian publishers is looking to tap in to the popularity of self-publishing and help authors do it in a more professional way.

“Everything we do is totally customized for the author and their book and their audience,” says Trena White, principal and co-founder of Vancouver-based Page Two Strategies.

Her company offers a variety of services to authors, such as editing, design, marketing and distribution support on a fee-for-service basis. In other cases, it acts as a traditional agent, representing authors to publishers.

“We felt that there are a lot of authors with really great book ideas that deserve a market that just are not getting picked up by traditional publishers,” Ms. White says.

. . . .

For self-published authors, standing out from the crowd is a challenge. After all, even big publishers don’t always get the marketing right, says Chris Hall, the co-owner of McNally Robinson, a Winnipeg bookstore that also has a location in Saskatoon.

“The vast majority of self-published authors sell to friends and family,” says Mr. Hall. He says that authors who use self-publishing services are often setting themselves up for disappointment. “They end up with hundreds of copies of their book and, realistically, most of them don’t get sold,” Mr. Hall.

He is wary of marketing services aimed at self-published authors and says writers should be careful they’re not getting taken advantage of. “People want to believe that their book is the best,” he says. “I hate to be the person to bring the realistic news, but the chances of success are very low.”

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail

21 thoughts on “A new wave of Canadian book companies taps in to the popularity of self-publishing”

  1. I just have to come on here and say “Ugh”.

    “The vast majority of self-published authors sell to friends and family,”
    “They end up with hundreds of copies of their book and, realistically, most of them don’t get sold,”

    I wonder if they believe this is true (scary thought) or just continuing the lie to get more customers (more likely, I think)

    • Nothing, Mitt.

      Oh, wait. They’ll take your money. You don’t need it, right?

      Just what the world was waiting for: more vanity presses and companies offering “services” at inflated prices for little to no ROI.

  2. “The vast majority of self-published authors sell to friends and family,”
    Wow, I didn’t know I had that many friends and family.

    They seem to be confusing modern self-publishing with those who got suckered by Vanity publishing and now have a garage full of expensive books.

    • A well-known aspect of telemarketing scams is that once someone falls for one of them, they are bombarded with follow-up calls, because what the perpetrators have found is a ‘mark’ — bluntly, someone stupid enough to fall for a telemarketing scam. Scammers know that someone who is suckered once is very likely to be suckered again.

      Thus, if you’re looking for someone to sell “self-publishing marketing services”, you want to look for people who have those “hundreds of books that don’t get sold” in their garage.

      They just call it “self publishing” because the term “vanity press” is universally toxic.

  3. Everybody likes to think the work they perform is valuable and universally necessary.

    Nobody likes to think they make buggy whips.

    • Maybe.
      Maybe they do believe their ways are necessary and indispensable.
      Maybe they believe their cost structure is the most efficient.

      Maybe they’ll be disabused of those notions. 😉

      As they say, it’s not necessarily malice; it might simply be ignorance/incompetence.

      • You’re far more gracious than I am. I see stuff like this, and I shout out “Scam!”. And yes, it does startle the kids and the pets, but it’s ingrained reflex by this point.

        • Well, now…

          In some circles incompetence and willful ignorance are bigger sins than malice. After all, malice causes harm on purpose, usually for gain; incompetence causes harm for no reason, usually out of carelessness.

          “They don’t know any better” can be a pretty nasty insult.
          Kinda like the southern “Bless your heart.”


    • One last thing: these companies are not publishers. They’re service providers, and bad ones at that, if history is any judge. Publishers do the work and take the risk. This sort of company might do the work, but the author takes the risk. Think of Harlan Ellison!

  4. Isn’t there something ethically dubious about an agent offering paid editing and other author services?

    Especially given they’re only going to charge authors they know they’re not going to be able to make money off in the traditional way i.e. by selling their books.

    • Not more so than practicing law without being lawyers, which most agents seem to do without a second thought.
      Just sayin’…

  5. The article is worthless, the quoted experts even more so, but there is a small kernel of value buried in there, and I wish there was more reputable attention to it.

    If you want to go self-pub route, I think there are some things you can contract for individually:

    – substantive editing
    – copy-editing
    – e-formatting
    – cover design

    And on a group that I am on, there is a very busy professional woman who basically has a small stable of people that she sub-contracts those services with if someone wants to deal with her. Her main business was the e-formatting in the beginning, but some people wanted the extras too. Kind of like providing a freelance market of curated sub-contractors. Sounds great, right? Do it yourself or contract it for a flat fee, all self-publishing paths.

    Yet, here is the rub. If I were to open a company, and offer to do those same things for a fee, and maybe even handle the upload, and even set people up with marketing “experts” (however defined or curated) if they want, does that make me a self-publisher’s assistant or a vanity press?

    I’ve seen lots of articles that basically say “Unless you’re paying advances, you’re not a publisher” yet the flat-fee people are said to be all vanity presses doing the same thing DIYers are doing through individual contracts.

    Where’s the middle ground?

    I don’t disagree that the Neanderthals in the article are vanity-like, but the services aren’t a lot different than what some professional writers want?

    So what’s on YOUR list that distinguishes self-pubber’s aide from vanity scammer?


    • There is a middle ground: the honest broker approach where you are upfront about your role and transparent about your fee, whether it be a flat rate or a percent markup.

      The problem with most of these “service bureaus” popping up these days is both the high (usually exorbitant) prices and the lack of transparency. And both are probably due to the players’ background in tradpub where those functions are bookkept with an overhead chargeback built-in. So instead of open market rates, they price the services at internal tradpub rates or, worse, they look at vanity press prices and take those as a baseline, thinking the open market will bear them.

      At that point they fall, intentionally or not, into vanity territory. If they price like a vanity press (and/or market like one) they will become one.

      The middle ground is sticking close to prevailing rates and transparency.

      Not sure how many are actually trying it but surely somebody has figured it out. It’s not exactly brain surgery…

      • I like it as a starting point — transparency, market rates. But is it enough to move someone from vanity press to self-publisher’s partner? Particularly as both of those terms are somewhat subjective. We know what hidden fees and extortion look like, but there are many levels of transparency, and market rates depend on the quality of services provided too. Certainly there are lots of publishers who are far from “transparent”.

        Part of the reason I ask is once upon a time, I was trying to figure out what an “ideal” self-publisher partner would look like if they grew into being a publisher, part of a blog entry I was trying to research. And it seemed like a no brainer to say, “Sure, offer them multiple options for the publishing”, such as:

        a. Yes, obviously curation, my ideal publisher wouldn’t take just anyone, there would need to be some vetting;

        b. For “contracts”, the multiple options could be:

        – Set advance, say $5K or $10K…not gigantic to start, but would answer many people’s views about not being a publisher, earn that back through various sales over time;

        – Pure percentage — Say 70%/30% to the author from the get-go (like Amazon does in some cases) or 85/15 once the initial costs are recouped (but some people then see that as being like vanity presses);

        – Pay back faster — 100% to publisher until fully-transparent and negotiated costs are recouped, and then a 90/10 split from then on.

        I don’t know what the numbers would actually be, I’m not savvy enough to calculate that, but I was thinking that was a viable, open, transparent, respectful business model. Except some of those vanity presses offer similar packages. The only difference is there is no curation — they’ll sell anything anyone wants to print. Is that enough of a distinction? Curation/vetting?


        • You seem to be thinking in terms of a publisher contract rather than a service bureau.

          A service bureau would be a source of specific services on one-time fee terms, not an ongoing relationship. For the latter, take a look at the terms of the Kindle Scout contract. Those are open and there is little carping over the terms.

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