Last May, Amazon attempted to muscle out other print on demand outlets by declaring that only Amazon-affiliated books released through BookSurge could be printed via Amazon. The warning declared that unless books printed via BookSurge, the “buy now” button would be deactivated. This unsurprisingly sent ripples through the entire self-publishing universe, as anyone with a POD book through Lulu or other outlook would not be able to sell books through the largest online book outlet. Booklocker.com, a print on demand outlet, filed an anti-trust suit against Amazon, a case which is still pending.
As terrible as this move was by Amazon, people will still be interested in what BookSurge has to offer. In fact, people will potentially be more interested, as writers don’t want to risk being delisted by Amazon. Currently, other print on demand outlets still do carry the buy now button, but the long term future of Amazon’s action has yet to be determined. Regardless of this action by Amazon, how does Amazon measure up to other print on demand outlets?
Unlike other print on demand publishers, books printed via BookSurge will automatically be listed in Amazon. With Lulu and other print on demand subsidy publishers, authors need to pay for an additional distribution package to be listed in Amazon – so going straight to the source does have its advantages.
BookSurge Publishing Packages
However, BookSurge offers publishing packages as well, similar to those offered by iUniverse or AuthorHouse. These publishing packages include: cover design, ISBN (so the book can be listed in outlets beyond Amazon), editing, and other features. The cheapest package via BookSurge is $299 – which requires PDF-ready files for the cover and interior and does not include widespread distribution beyond Amazon. The base package, which includes ISBN and cover design is $799, which is decidedly more expensive than those offered by other print on demand publishers. The cost of BookSurge’s most advanced package is near $6000, well more than similar packages offered by Outskirts Press or Mill City.
Authors get 35% royalties, which is pretty good: for a $16.00, the take is $5.60. This far exceeds what authors can earn via other print on demand publishers. For example, an author may earn $5.00 for a book when bought via Lulu.com, but when the same book is bought via Amazon, it can be $1.00 or less due to Amazon’s huge markup for print on demand books – something that existed long before the anti-trust lawsuit.
One of the better features of BookSurge is their “Buy X Get Y” pairing program. If you’re familiar with Amazon, on each Amazon page it will list another book (or other product) in a similar category – normally another book by the same author. A self-published book being paired with a bestselling book is a major avenue for marketing and sales. The program is pricey: $1000 a month for three months, or comes with the most extensive publishing package.
If you search through Amazon, the quality of BookSurge book covers is good, not great. The SPR has reviewed one BookSurge book, To My Senses, which has a professionally-designed cover and the book is well-made on professional paper stock – similar to the quality of other major POD publishers.
The main argument against BookSurge – aside from them strong-arming of other PODs – is the price of the packages. For the price, SPR recommends Mill City Press, which for $2000 less offers more-unique covers and marketing programs. Don’t assume that just because your book is published via Amazon that this guarantees better Amazon sales – you will still face the same marketing problems faced by other self-publishers.
About the Author: Henry Baum
I’m the author of The American Book of the Dead. The novel won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." I'm also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Visit henrybaum.com for more information. I’m the editor of Self-Publishing Review.