Book Guild Publishing – Reviewed (UPDATED, October 2013)

Book Guild Publishing is a UK Independent publisher based in East-Sussex. It has been in the publishing business for thirty years. Headed by MD, Carol Bliss, Book Guild impressively list full details of staff and roles in the company. That’s a big plus and something many established publishers in both conventional and service publishing don’t do. It was acquired by Troubador Publishing in July 2015.
“At Book Guild Publishing we give as much attention to the books published under our Partnership Publishing programme as we do to our conventionally published titles, and this is what makes us unique in the UK book publishing arena.”
Book Guild Publishing is a publisher offering conventional publishing as well as partnership and print-production-only contracts for authors and companies. Part of Book Guild Publishing’s strength is that it has proper distribution channels through Orca Book Services in the UK and a number of other overseas distribution services, allowing them a global network to get books to high street stores. The BGP website also has an online bookstore to support catalogue with plenty of book links on some webpages, though, I’d like to see more.
Book Guild Publishing is one of the few independent publishers to have a dedicated team of sales reps on the high streets, meeting with, and presenting all new titles to booksellers face-to-face. Sales are important, more than ever! We have the machinery and network behind us to ensure that a book is more than simply available – it is actually ordered by bookshops and online retailers. Sales reps are still the backbone of the publishing trade, and our team are experienced professionals. We are in touch with our sales reps every day, and we present our new titles twice yearly to the team at the sales conference, held at The Oval cricket ground. 

Book Guild Publishing titles can be bought or ordered from any bookseller in the UK, including from websites. We have accounts with all the key UK bookshop chains, wholesalers and library suppliers, with whom our experienced reps have long established relationships.

What is notable about Book Guild Publishing is the fact that it has not stood still as a publisher over twenty-five years in the industry. BGP began as a traditional publishing house but has developed a modern perspective on a changing industry and married it to core publishing methods. Book projects are tailored to around the author, new or established, and constructively involve the author in the process of book production and marketing. The partnership publishing program is part of this strategy as well as basic book production services.
“We offer an eclectic mix of quality books: novels and stories to enchant and engage both adults and children, vivid memoirs and biographies that give insight into remarkable lives, past and present, and timely books on current affairs. We publish around 75 books a year so that we can maintain our high standards and we pride ourselves on offering an effective and efficient service to a wide range of authors, both established and new. We are committed to bringing quality books to their potential readers, and to maximising every book’s potential. Many Book Guild titles find both critical and sales success.”
Book Guild Publishing’s conventional form of publishing is intended for books it evaluates and considers ‘will sell well in the mass market’. All publication costs may be paid, with an advance to the author. The ‘may’ here is important to note, and some critics would argue that this qualifier means that a ‘no paid advance’ is not in fact traditional publishing at all. However, in recent years, more and more independent and small publishing presses are not guaranteeing an advance payment to an author. Despite the mainstream media headlines about million pound advances to authors, the reality is very different. Many authors are paid in very low four figures sums (even hundreds). More a cursory and respectful gesture on behalf of a publisher for an author’s efforts.
“Book Guild Publishing provides an individual service of great quality. Printing is only a small part of the publishing process, and our selection procedures are rigorous. From the thousands of manuscripts we receive each year, we publish a select number of books each month – keeping our standards high, and ensuring that all our authors receive the attention they deserve.”
Book Guild Publishing provide four different options of publishing contract – partnership, conventional, print production only, or sponsored publication. Publishing options are subject to manuscript submission and evaluation.

1.Partnership Publishing

This is a full publishing package, just as you would have in conventional publishing, but towards which an author contributes towards the costs and retains creative control and a high level of involvement. Unlike self-publishing, partnership publishing provides the full service, as detailed above. If we publish your book, you will be asked to pay the costs of the first edition.

Partnership Publishing offers a higher royalty rate:  On each book sold you will receive 30% of the full retail price of the book, which is the equivalent of 80% of the net revenue – this is a higher royalty rate than mainstream publishing, which offers between 7-10%. The fact we receive 20% of the net revenue ensures that our incentive to sell your book is maintained. This is why we represent you for two years after publication.

There are no additional hidden costs; any subsequent reprints are paid for in full by the Book Guild.

2. Conventional Publishing

Also known as mainstream publishing, this is where the publisher will pay for all costs and may pay an advance to the author.

Due to the high level of risk in conventional publishing, books generally have to be considered to have mass market potential. At present, this means that the focus tends to be on “dead certs” – previously published authors with a successful track record and/or well-known names, particularly from celebrity culture.

Every year Book Guild Publishing brings out conventionally published titles that we think will sell well in the mass market, and we have an excellent record of sales. Conventional publishing enables us to maintain a position in the marketplace that benefits all the books we publish.

3. Production only

This service includes the full editorial, production and design of your book to provide you with finished copies for your own distribution and use.

4. Sponsored books for companies and charities

Providing the publishing expertise for company-backed books according to your needs.

Book Guild Publishing describes its partnership program as ‘the middle way’ option for authors who wish to have a considerable say in the production and publication of their book, while at the same time having the support of a traditional publishing house. BGP do not disclose the percentage costs an author will have to contribute, and that itself may lead the author to paying much of them if the exact figure is not specified prior to the signing of contracts.
This royalty share is 30% on retail list price for the partnership program, and that’s probably equivalent to about 50/50 net other UK partnership publishers offer. Guild Publishing says its partnership option includes everything a full publishing package should include from any traditional publisher. That includes a rigorous editorial service, high-quality production, professional jacket design, publicity, marketing, a UK sales force, global marketing where appropriate, warehousing, distribution, accounting, representation at the London Book Fair, inclusion in their catalogue, website bookstore and on, and two years representation after publication.
Book Guild Publishing also provide a ‘Production only’ service which includes full editorial, production and design of your book, through to finished copies for the author’s own distribution and use.
Book Guild Publishing has been in the UK publishing world for some years. It represents a reasonable option for an author considering self-publishing on paper, but I don’t feel BGP is the fit for an author wishing to take complete control of a book project (with their own imprint, ISBNs and directions). BGP will perhaps argue that fits more into their sponsorship program, though, details appear to be pretty sketchy on this. This sponsorship publishing role looks more an option for a commercial organisation or company. Authors who consider using BGP should first ascertain (as a priority) the kind of contract (exclusive or non-exclusive) on offer. This page on BGP suggests to me that contracts include the concession of subsidiary rights. I’d prefer if BGP made their full partnership contract available online. With partnership publishing, it is often an exclusive book rights contract. Likewise, authors should seek quotes on author costs (including print wholesale and marketing expenditure) and a full detailed proposal before signing a contract. Partnership publishing is a serious commitment and investment on the part of an author.
On balance, for what Book Guild Publishing offer, I’d consider them only an option for experienced authors, convinced they have a highly marketable book and a sound and proven belief they can recoup any financial investment. Expect partnership deals to cost an author several thousand. This alone, in my opinion, will preclude most authors (and rightly so) from including BGP in their ‘ideal’ list. I must reflect that in the overall rating for this company and also ask anyone reading this review to also note the attached comments below. Take into account that these comments were amassed on this review over several years, first review in 2009, and now revised for October 2013. I would like to give BGP a higher rating based on their distribution and industry partnerships, but the reports of regular 4-figure, and even 5-figure fees (in UK sterling), their focus on offset print runs, leaves the rating at a less than satisfactory  6+.

RATING: 7/10

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