In an age where the collapse of one financial giant can bring down the entire financial system, it may seem odd that one self-publishing conglomerate is able to buy up the competition. This is what is happening with Author Solutions, which has bought Trafford Publishing on the heels of buying Xlibris a few months earlier. Author Solutions is now in control of some of the major self-publishing players: iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Wordclay, and now Trafford.
The main subsidy publishers that offer competition to Author Solutions remain Lulu and the Amazon services: CreateSpace and BookSurge. The trouble with one company owning most of the subsidy market is two-fold:
- Less innovation because there is no need for these companies to compete with each other to offer a better product.
- Costs remain static and don’t come down because companies do not need to compete by lowering prices.
On the one hand, this is potentially good news for companies like Dog Ear Publishing, as they can compete with the Author Solutions’ companies by fulfilling the above two requirements. However, because they’re a small company and Author Solutions has a greater share of the self-publishing market, a smaller company cannot necessarily afford to lower prices – especially in this economy. As of now, the smaller subsidy publishers are more expensive than the larger firms and those owned by Author Solutions are generally priced the same: there is a minimal different in cost between publishing with iUniverse or AuthorHouse.
So all told this is not the greatest development for the self-publishing community. One of the marks against print on demand is that it is more expensive per book than a large print run. Though there are alternatives – such as publishing straight with Lightning Source, rather than using a subsidy service – when you add the cost of professional cover design, editing, and marketing, you are very possibly going to pay more than you would with a subsidy publisher. Book design and editing alone costs – conservatively – $800 for a standard book-length manuscript.
Author Solution’s purchase is not a guarantee that costs won’t come down or innovation will stay in place, but one company owning the lion’s share of services is often not a positive development.