Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blue Ash Publishing: New Self-Publishing Service from Writer's Digest

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware


As many of you may know, earlier this year Writer's Digest terminated its involvement with Abbott Press, the white-label self-publishing imprint created and powered for it by Author Solutions, Inc. Although Abbott Press remains online, all reference to Writer's Digest and its parent, F&W Media, has been removed. (Interestingly, there's no reference to Author Solutions, either, unless you dig pretty deep into the Abbott Press website--deeper, probably, than many authors will go--and Abbott Press does not appear anywhere on AS's list of imprints.)

Now Writer's Digest has re-entered the self-publishing services space with the just-launched Blue Ash Publishing.

This time, WD is partnering with Bookbaby, a self-publishing service that, unlike Author Solutions, has a decent reputation. As with Bookbaby itself, the emphasis at Blue Ash is on ebooks rather than print--a change from print-centric Author Solutions. Also unlike Abbott Press, Blue Ash Publishing doesn't keep a commission; authors get 100% of net sales.

At $417 and $842, Blue Ash's two lowest-cost publishing packages are less expensive than the cheapest Abbott Press package. Sticker shock does start to set in with the Prime and Ultimate packages--$1,230 and $3,137 respectively (ouch). However, when I contacted Phil Sexton, Publisher of Writer's Digest, he emphasized that "all of the various components of each package are optional. There's a 'customizer' function that allows you to get only those things you want...so you can get a mix that meets your price vs. benefit requirements."

Marketing and promotion add-ons can be major profit generators for self-pub companies, because so many are cheap to provide and all can be sold at a premium. As a result, authors who sign on for publishing packages can expect to be subjected to relentless solicitations to buy services that are often overpriced, frequently ineffective, and sometimes downright exploitive (such as the Hollywood packages offered by some self-pub service providers).

Blue Ash does offer a modest suite of marketing tools, some of which involve extra expense if writers choose to pay vendors. The tools themselves, however, are included in the publishing packages rather than offered a la carte, so hopefully writers won't be subjected to upselling pressure. I do take issue with the inclusion of Reader's Favorite as a review source; Reader's Favorite is one of those high-entry fee "awards" programs where the principal aim is for the awards sponsor to make a profit, and the reviews it provides (and sells) are often not of professional quality. I've mentioned my concerns to the WD folks, and I'm hoping they'll take a second look.

Many in the self-publishing community believe that any fee-based self-publishing service is "vanity" and should be avoided. I believe that fee-based services have their place, as long as they're transparent, reliable, reasonably priced, and don't send writers to Spam Solicitation Hell. It's much too early to judge the reliability and value of Blue Ash Publishing--but what can be said is that it's a big improvement over Abbott Press.

12 comments:

Mick Rooney said...

Agree, Victoria. It may not be ideal for some self-published authors, but it's definitely a step in the right direction for WD.

David said...

Blue Ash Publishing just launched this week and of course the blowhard of the publishing industry (or pimple on the butt of the publishing industry, depending on how you look at it) already has to have a comment about them. I would say you should spend more time writing books if it weren't such a waste of paper and ink!

Anonymous said...

I have a great read if any of you cronies are interested... It's titled "21 Reasons to Not Trust Victoria Strauss"!

Oh Victoria... Your next book should be titled..."I Reap what I Sow"

Anonymous said...

David....You are so right! "Blowhard"..is pretty close! But I'm thinking....."Washed up writer who's books are God Awful"! Sorry God.....I know!

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous, your use of ellipses gives you away.

Folks, this blog is under a bit of a comment thread attack (not just here but in several other posts). I don't like deleting comments--and rarely do so--but silly stuff like the three comments above just clutters things up, so I'm going to be removing any other attack comments that appear.

mariedowd said...

Other than lacking substance and reasons for the venom, I have to wonder why this person(s) bothered to post. Raw insults don't carry much credibility when anonymous.

Blue Ash sounds like a step up, and I can's see why anyone would want to attack you for that cautiously optimistic summary. Thanks for doing these summaries and homework for the rest of us. Here's your gold star!

ChulaSlim said...

All of the prices mentioned represent more than I've ever paid for services for any of my novels. And I've written and published eight of them, all in less than four years.
Of course, I have a writer’s group. I do my own book covers. I format my own books and upload the results myself. I hire an editor I trust, but only for content editing. Copy editing I get for free from my readers just so they can read the next book without paying for it.
I’m no mental giant, just an ordinary person. If I can do it, so can others and without paying high fees to outfits like Blue Ash.
These companies prey on fear, the fear that you’ll make a mistake, that you’re computer challenged, that you don’t know what you’re doing so why try? Well, I started out that way, but I used the most powerful tool a writer has in his or her arsenal.
I learned. I educated myself, sometimes through trial and error. I joined up with other writers on the net and exchanged ideas and services. You can too. You don’t need expensive writing packages. You can and should do it yourself. You’ll learn so much about what writing and publishing is all about, you’ll be astonished.

0b400678-28aa-11e4-ad7e-7742a7528bbd said...

I’m hoping to provide an objective 3rd party voice or at least an independent perspective about this. It’s important to note that writing is not my profession but more of a hobby.

Regarding 2 companies that have been written about on this blog, I have done business with both Abbott Press and American Writing Association. I will say that my experience with both companies has been positive. Am I a famous or award winning author because of either of them? No. But I have self-published with Abbott Press and know for a fact that my work has been reviewed by 3 reputable literary agents because of American Writing Association.

My self-publishing experience with Abbott Press provided me with 100 books that I was free to sell on my own or use for promotion. They also made my work available to be sold online. I never sold much but also didn’t think that was due to a shortcoming of Abbott Press. With self-publishing I expected to have to do my own marketing and promotion. To be honest, I do not have much experience with marketing and promotion, and when I actually tried it was quite challenging and frustrating.

When I found American Writing Association, they told me that they would do a free evaluation and critique of my material, basically in exchange for listening to their sales pitch, which was that they could get my material in front of a literary agent. The prospect of having a literary agent do the promotion work for me was intriguing. Plus I wanted the free critique and evaluation. It took about 5 days but when I finally got the results I was surprised to find the quality of what their editors produced at no charge. It contained both constructive criticism and positive reinforcement, and it was obvious they spent time reading my book. Their literary consultant educated me about the query process and told me that for $699 they would write a query letter and get my material in front of 3 literary agents. He didn’t put a lot of pressure on me to buy; he even said that I could try the query process on my own and come back if I wanted to try their program. I hadn’t even considered writing a query letter before, and figured that there was a certain style or technique that goes into it. Since I found value in what they had done for me so far I paid the money. I was glad that their editors wrote my query letter as I felt it was more honest and professional than something I would have written on my own. Plus, now I have the letter should I choose to do more querying on my own. American Writing Association started submitting on my behalf back in April, and within 4 months I have received 2 responses and am still waiting on the 3rd. The first response was a rejection and the other was a request for a proposal. Their team seemed genuinely excited that I got a request for a proposal from a literary agent and even did my proposal for free, which was also high quality work and greatly appreciated.

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve been following Victoria’s Blog for a long time now but in this case I do think Victoria may have jumped to some premature conclusions or had negative preconceived notions about both companies. From my dealings with both companies I’ve learned a lot and think that it’s made me a better writer. I have no experience with Blue Ash Publishing but they are new with some of the same people at Writers Digest so it’s too early to tell and their fees don’t seem unreasonable. American Writing Association is also a fairly new company that’s only been around about a year but speaking from experience they are good people. Be careful out there and know what your goals are as a writer but don't be afraid to take a chance!

Also ChulaSlim, that is amazing that you have written and published 8 books in 4 years, congratulations! Sounds like you are one step ahead of the game, I tried to do my own cover and ended up hiring it out but was pleased with the results. I agree that the most powerful tool a writer can have is learning.

That is all, God Bless Everybody!

Author Tom

Victoria Strauss said...

Author Tom,

Your comment seems more genuine than others I've received over the past day or so (part of an ongoing comment thread attack organized by the American Writing Association, which wasn't pleased by my very critical blog post about it or my mocking of its petulant response)--so I'm going to leave it up, even though a couple of things make me a mite suspicious.

For instance, it seems odd you didn't just post about your AWA experience on my AWA post. Could that be because I have comments moderation enabled on any posts more than 30 days old? AWA and its trolls have been attacking this post in particular, probably for that very reason.

For another instance, I'm a little dubious that you really published with Abbott Press. None of its packages ever offered anywhere near 100 free books.

If indeed you're real, would you share the names of the three literary agents you say AWA contacted on your behalf?

0b400678-28aa-11e4-ad7e-7742a7528bbd said...

Victoria,

My intention was not to get in the middle of your dispute with American Writing Association but it just seems like they have a lot of bad things being said about them due to your blog post that I thought were unfair and inaccurate based on my dealings with them. I used to regard you as somewhat of an objective reporter of information but now it just seems like you have an ax to grind with most any company, publisher or author in the space - like questioning the validity of my comments.

I should point out that you jumped to another conclusion based on your inability to accurately read my comments by stating “I'm a little dubious that you really published with Abbott Press. None of its packages ever offered anywhere near 100 free books”. If you actually read what I wrote, it says “Abbott Press provided me with 100 books that I was free to sell on my own or use for promotion.” But to be clear, I paid for those 100 books as part of my self publishing package.

Much of what you wrote in your post about American Writing Association is assumptive at best and probably inaccurate. I have personally dealt with some of their people who’s names you have no problem publishing on your blog in a negative light. To me they seem like hard working people working to earn a paycheck (who isn’t?) and I understand that what I paid goes toward their paychecks, which I was fine with. To me - the feedback I’ve gotten in my rejection, and the way they have presented my material in both my query letter and the proposal they created for me, was well worth the $699. I would tell any author if you can’t afford to pay their fee, then don’t, but if you have the money and don’t mind taking a chance (and they were clear that there is no guarantee that you will get an agent as a result of their program, so it is a chance) – then why not.

I am indeed real but am going to decline your request to provide the names of the literary agents that AWA submitted my material to. You would probably just have negative things to say about them too and if they saw that I posted their information on your blog it could hurt my chances at being offered a representation agreement. And ask yourself this – why would I post information that was obtained as a result of hiring a firm to query on my behalf in a public forum where your audience could just grab it for free and start querying these agents? I would have to be an idiot to start creating competition for myself just so you can further your agenda.

Author Tom

Victoria Strauss said...

Author Tom,

I'm not surprised you won't name the literary agents.

This is the end of the off-topic discussion in these comments.

JOHN T. SHEA said...

Bravo Ms Strauss! Keep up the good work!