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Thomas Nelson Forms Self-Publishing Partnership With Author Solutions

Reprinted from Mick Rooney’s blog.

Thomas Nelson was originally founded as a Scottish bookseller in Edinburgh in 1798. The company began selling second-hand religious books but quickly developed the Thomas Nelson publishing imprint. Throughout the nineteenth century it continued to publish both religious and non-religious books until close to the turn of the century when non-religious books accounted for 94% of published material. The American division of Thomas Nelson began in 1854 in New York and by the 1870s was one of the city’s most important firms.In 2000, the UK wing of Thomas Nelson was acquired by Wolters Kluwer and became part of the educational imprint Nelson Thornes. The American wing remains a large independent publisher based in Nashville, Tennessee and it is currently the sixth largest American trade publisher and the world’s largest Christian publisher. Thomas Nelson is the publisher for many leading Christian authors, including Billy Graham, Max Lucado, John Eldredge, John Maxwell, Charles Stanley, and Ted Dekker. In 2003, Thomas Nelson USA launched the fiction imprint WestBow Press. It is with this imprint that our story continues today.

Thomas Nelson has decided to step into the author solutions arena and is offering publishing packages for authors wishing to self-publish their books. Some month’s back—at the start of the year—I predicted that before the end of the year there would be very significant moves from two behemoths in the publishing and book retail industry arenas—Author Solutions Inc and also Amazon. I’m still waiting for the Amazon story of this year, but let’s take it one story at a time.

Thomas Nelson’s announcement to enter into self-publishing services is not so much the story, but rather the fact that Author Solutions is the company who Thomas Nelson have decided to enter into what is described as a strategic partnership. Author Solutions Inc will manage the running of WestBow Press which will include the responsibility for the design, print, and distribution of the imprint. Like a commercial vacuum cleaner, Author Solutions has busied itself over the past few years acquiring AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, WordClay, and most recently, Trafford Publishing. A nice collection of author solution companies for the trophy cabinet, even if I do say so myself.

Kevin Weiss, President and CEO of Author Solutions Inc, believes the WestBow Press partnership will serve as a blueprint for other publishing alliances.

‘We are very excited to join forces with Thomas Nelson in this partnership, We believe the tradition and extensive segment leadership that Thomas Nelson brings, along with ASI’s cutting-edge sales, marketing, and production capabilities will help to revolutionize the publishing industry.’

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, said;

‘At Thomas Nelson, our purpose is to inspire the world. With the creation of WestBow Press, we will be able to help more authors realize their dream of being a published author while discovering more diamonds in the rough to add to our roster.’

Here is how Thomas Nelson describes the service WestBow Press will provide authors looking to use an author solution service for their self-published book project.

‘At WestBow Press, A Division of Thomas Nelson, we help authors self-publish books of all genres, specializing in books with Christian morals, inspirational themes and family values. Whether you have goals of commercial success or simply desire to publish a book for friends and family, WestBow Press can help you create your book in your vision. WestBow Press titles will be regularly reviewed by the parent company. For authors who hope to one day be signed by a traditional publisher, this is an opportunity to get your foot in the door. While there is no guarantee of the number of titles to be signed each year, Thomas Nelson will monitor the WestBow Press catalog for talented authors that rise to the top.’

According to a news article in today’s Wall Street Journal, ‘Thomas Nelson editors won’t edit the self-published manuscripts, but they will monitor sales to identify potential big sellers.’ One assumes they mean their editors will cast a watchful eye upon any potential commercial money-spinners with a view to offering those authors full contracts. Any editing will reside with the author and their decision to employ the services of a freelance editor or pay for a publishing package from WestBow Press which includes an editing service.

I am actually not adverse to this kind of partnership but it does always put me in a quandary about commercial publishers who decide to plough the furrows of self-publishing services, and whether it is because they truly see it as the shape of future publishing or simply see it as an answer to the latest economic global downturn. My own opinion if a publisher acts on the latter reason is that they see self-publishing in a very short-sighted way—in effect—they see it simply as a means to an end, rather than where self-publishing actually is. While self-publishing is not at the core of the publishing industry, it certainly has progressed enough to be considered a part—though small it may be—of the greater publishing industry.

This is a shrewd and significant move by Author Solutions—perhaps one of the most significant moves ever in the relatively short modern history of author solution services globally. In some ways this is Author Solutions first attempt at check on the self-publishing industry, and though the king may find its path of escape this time, one feels that Author Solutions or some other such entity in the not too distant future will declare checkmate. There will be no escape and author solutions services will finally subsume themselves within the publishing monolith for good and the determinable lines in the sand between what publishing is and what publishing services are will become indistinguishable.

A quick look at the publishing packages on offer from WestBow Press suggests that little will come cheap for the discerning author and there are a myriad of packages and services to choose, ranging from $1000 to $20,000.

Publishing packages:
Essential Access – $999
Pro format – $1799
Bookstore Advantage – $2799
Online platform – $3999
Video Plus – $6499
Video Premier – $9999
Pro Launch – $ 13999
Premier Publicist – $19999

I won’t for the purposes of this article drive in to the finer details of the publishing packages, but suffice to say, no prisoners were taken during the making of these packages. Even at the bottom end two packages, an author is getting pretty basic stuff for a hefty fee, but then, this has not stopped Author Solutions from producing the largest turnovers in author solution services through charging such fees with their own imprints like Xlibris, AuthorHouse and Trafford. So what do I know? Time then to watch this space and see where the quality lies in this partnership, and more to the point, that it will rise to the surface and prove a successful business model others in the industry will quickly look to adopt.

Other websites and threads of interest to this story are Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent, who blogged here and has had some great reader feedback, including comments from Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson. You can also read Michael Hyatt’s own recent blog entries on this storyhere.

Victoria Strauss, on WritersBeware, continues her comment and analysis of the Thomas Nelson/Author Solutions news story today focusing on Nelson’s system of fee referrals to agents and other parties.