Checkpoint Press – Reviewed (Updated, Oct 2019)

Checkpoint Press is an Irish publishing service based on Achill Island, off the coast of County Mayo. The company was established in 2005 by self-published author and academic, Stephen Manning. Checkpoint Press have a primary focus on non-fiction books with a catalogue of academic, research, instruction & education, inspirational, philosophical, poetry, religious, and autobiographical works, but they will also consider any work that is of strong quality and ‘has something to say’.

 

“Centred around ‘books with something to say’ our intention is to build a solid, high-quality library of unique and interesting titles that will appeal to thinkers, educators, and discriminating readers worldwide.

 

Accordingly, all manuscripts are pre-screened for editorial quality, content and theme, and finished books must pass strict quality controls before going to print.

 

A Checkpoint Press book is a book to be proud of.”

 

Clearly Checkpoint Press does not see itself simply as a company offering author services to all-comers. A further early clarification at the start of their free authors’ guide indicates we are dealing with a publisher offering various paid and ‘no-fee’ services, rather than solely an author solutions service.

 

“CheckPoint Press aims to utilise the best of traditional publishing standards with the advantages of modern technology. Accordingly, we offer two forms of quality services: (i) No-fees traditional contracts for deserving authors (see pages 21-23), and (ii) low-cost self-publishing services for quality manuscripts.”

 

The Checkpoint Press website is smooth, clean and informative about their aims, services and provides a scrolling window of their catalogue of titles. While I would still like to see a few more books prominently displayed on their main page, the site itself is structured more like a publisher’s website than the familiar sites by author solutions services, which place a heavy emphasis on driving in authors rather than book buyers. It is still an area of improvement for Checkpoint Press and some more book links as well as author links could actually improve their business focus rather than diminish or hinder it. Notably, there is a side link for Bookstore/Trade where customers purchasing single copies are directed to find-book.com for the cheapest online pricing and trade enquiries directly to Checkpoint Press. Authors purchasing bulk copies of their books are charged the print cost plus shipping and 20% (net) mark-up. I am not a supporter of companies taking a mark-up, but Checkpoint Press are at least being upfront, not complicating authors with math about gross and net profits, and their set-up fees are relatively low to what is on offer from other competitors—particularly Ireland—where some we have reviewed are operating publishing services four to five times what Checkpoint Press charge and offer little more of a service to the author.

 

“Royalties

As an ethical business we see no justification in taking additional royalties from self-publishing clients who have already paid us for a book-production service. However, we do levy a 20% administration charge over pure printing costs for each book sold. To ensure absolute transparency, actual printing costs invoiced to us are made available to our authors, and comprehensive book-sales statements can be forwarded to you annually upon request. Coupled with our quality service, we believe this to be quite probably the best author-publisher compensation deal to be found anywhere.”

 

I am not going to start with the Checkpoint Press publishing services for self-publishing authors, but instead, their traditional ‘no fee’ contract, because I believe if Checkpoint Press are trying to follow the business model of traditional as well as author services, then the traditional contract should be their core area to develop further, with the revenue from their publishing services supporting this ambition. We saw in late 2009 Thomas Nelson and Harlequin in the USA introduce self-publishing services to provide extra revenue into their businesses by signing partnerships with Author Solutions Inc and launching WestBow Press and Del Arte Press respectively. One caveat here, and one Stephen Manning and his Checkpoint Press should not take lightly; digital is also a critical part of the future model of publishing and I saw scant if any reference to ebooks at all from Checkpoint Press. Initially, Checkpoint Press reminded me of the now defunct Cold Tree Publishing who operated a similar model of publishing services in the USA, but augmented it with traditional publishing contracts. It is time to look harder and be a little more exact about what we have here.

 

“Our new ‘traditional’ publishing agreement is an attractive option for certain authors. If accepted, CheckPoint Press will cover all costs associated with the setting up of your title. In return, instead of retaining all rights and royalties as per the Basic, Standard, or Custom self-publishing packages; the author releases the production and distribution rights, and a percentage of the royalties to CheckPoint Press – for the term of the agreement.”

This…

“What Are The Advantages..?

 

No payment required from the authorPrestige of being published on ‘merit’

Manuscripts get professionally edited and proofread

Avoids ‘self-published’ or ‘vanity published’ stigma

50% net royalties paid on all retail sales

Low, low author’s rate (only 10% over publisher’s cost) for author-direct purchases

Optional buy-out clause if author wishes to terminate contract early

No penalty if publisher terminates contract early

Original materials returned to the author at contract’s end”

And this…

“Author shares royalties on sales at 50%-50% with publisher (or as otherwise agreed). Author surrenders selected rights for term of contract. Author may also need to be active in own book promotion.”

 

Using the term ‘traditional’ can be misleading. This is not strictly traditional publishing by Checkpoint Press by any means. At one end of the process of publication, there is no indication of an author advance, and at the other, there is no commitment by the publisher to execute a marketing and promotion plan or offer a dedicated sales distribution channel for physical books beyond the standard online distribution through Ingram catalog listing. What is provided is assisted marketing where Checkpoint provide the tools for an author to effectively execute their own marketing plan. What we have here in essence is more akin to what is called in the industry ‘Partnership Publishing’, or something very close to it, operated by author solutions services in the UK like Matador or Pen Press. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this form of publishing, in some cases, with the right book project, it can be greatly rewarding for both author and publisher, but it requires a unique kind of dedication and commitment from both parties.

Checkpoint Press is contractually committing to paying for set-up fees and book design, but with an expectation from the publisher that the submitted manuscript will already be edited to a professional standard. The really significant costs in publishing a book are expended on marketing and promotion, supplying adequate stocks of review books and media profile, creating advertising space and promotional materials at physical bookstore level. Much of this expense and responsibility will still have to be borne by the author. I would suggest Checkpoint Press seriously consider a different term for this ‘no fee’ service. It is closest to the Partnership Publishing model, and while manuscripts qualifying from their strict appraisal program means the author is not placing their hand in their own pocket for acceptance, expense will still be incurred by the author to firstly produce and submit a well-edited manuscript and any subsequent investment in time and energy to promote the published book.

“Our main concern is that any author who publishes through CheckPoint Press will be genuinely proud of the finished article, and that anyone buying a CheckPoint Press book will not be disappointed. Therefore the standard has to be high. This way, we stand a better chance of developing and maintaining trade awareness of CheckPoint Press books as being some way above the bar – of genuinely having ‘something to say’ – and the author in turn can be confident that their work is in good hands.

 

As to commercial promise; we also have to assess the sales potential of any given title before deciding between offering a self-publishing service, or a traditional contract. For obviously, we cannot as a rule invest time, money and resources into titles that may not be able to cover their costs in actual sales. Sometimes we will publish a book purely on principle – simply because we feel it deserves to be in print. But we must also remain practical, so as to ensure our continued high standards and the survival of the business.

 

To this end we must emphasise the importance of submitting work that is already edited, because any work that is liberally peppered with basic punctuation or grammatical errors will not meet our standards, and will therefore not qualify for our services.”

It can be very difficult to apply this model of publishing when the publisher is primarily printing books through POD (print-on-demand). Most successful models of Partnership Publishing choose offset print runs and for very good reasons. Their are digital printers like MPG Biddles in the UK who are starting to offer economical short-print runs of as low as 100 copies. This allows a publisher or author a small inventory of stock to place into the physical marketplace for the purposes of promotion and review or actual bookstore shelf placement. Checkpoint Press do point out that if a book achieves a strong sales record they will switch to a standard offset print-run.

As an interesting aside here regarding offset print runs versus POD (print on demand) for book printing; there was a time, not long ago, when the commercial ‘tipping’ point for an average 200 page paperback was about 1000 print on demand units. Now it is closer to 500 units – meaning if an author/publisher project and decide on a 500 unit POD day one order after digital set-up, it can often come in at a similar cost for an offset short print run.

Now, onto the Checkpoint Press publishing services, of which there is three, Basic, Standard and Custom.
The Basic package (€300/£200/$400) offers a bare template (two colour, author and title), no ISBN or distribution, and is really for private and personal keepsake books rather than any commercial interest or profit.

 

“You only need to produce a few non-retail copies of your work (an academic thesis or dissertation, research projects etc..)

 

You only intend to produce a handful of copies of your book to give to friends and family (personal memoirs, poetry, a family history etc.)

 

You already have a definite market you can sell to without using our distribution service (teachers-to-students, lecturers-to-attendees etc)

 

You have no interest in putting your work into the international marketplace (e.g. an internal instruction manual for your employees etc..)

 

You are considering upgrading to the Standard or Custom packages at a later date “

 

Even at this basic level, Pen Press offer a similar deal with 5 free books for £50 and 10 books for £100. The standard package (€400/£270/$500) adds a Checkpoint Press ISBN and full online retail distribution as well as adequate cover design and interior formatting. Ideally, I would suggest the author create and submit their own cover as the covers on display on the Checkpoint Press bookstore page are fine, but lack real eye-catching uniqueness. Seven free books come with the standard pack but depending on legal deposit requirements in territories, the amount of lodged copies will be taken from these free books.

 

“Seven Free Copies

This is our ‘thank you’ for using our Standard service. Seven copies are usually enough for most authors to send out as review copies, as a legal deposit for national libraries (see below), or to share with family and friends. If you then wish to purchase more copies for yourself—either for resale or as gifts—you can do so directly from CheckPoint Press at the very low author’s rate, which is a fraction over printing costs.

Legal Deposit: Certain countries (including The UK and USA) require publishers to lodge copies of all produced works with National Libraries or other registered authorities (usually between 1 and 5 copies). Depending on legal requirements, these copies will be deducted from the seven free author copies (above), and sent directly by CheckPoint Press. Residual free copies will be sent to the author at the time of first printing.”

 

The Custom package (starting at £250 – US and euro prices not listed) is for those books requiring more than is including in the basic and standard packages, outside of a 80-200 page count, requires more than 4 pages of interior graphics, colour interior colouring, or a published edition outside of a paperback 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9. Prices for custom books start at the above quoted price but are subject to the individual needs of the author.

Perhaps the best publishing service Checkpoint Press offer is the very one they don’t highlight and market enough! Many authors are becoming a lot more savvy and skilled with the tasks involved in book design and can competently put together their own electronic book files for set-up, (PDF’s). Checkpoint Press charge authors £99 if they can provide completed print ready files.There is a strong argument that such authors should just go directly to Lightning Source and set up their title there, but some may be unwilling to embrace and commit to setting up an imprint and signing off on commercial contracts with LSI.

Another strong service offered by Checkpoint Press is their Recovery Book Program, where they charge an author set-up charges only to re-publish a book they have had with another publisher service, but the author has been subjected to maltreatment and fraud and has taken action through small claims court, trading standards, police report etc. Please see the criteria here to qualify.
Checkpoint Press stress their preference is for authors to submit fully edited manuscripts, though they do offer their own editing service. I will say no more than present you with the figures.

 

“1. Editing @ €100 Euro per 1,000 words (substantive and line editing combined). Checking the overall ‘flow’ and structure of your manuscript, including syntax, grammar and general composition; and making corrections.

2. Proofreading @ €5 Euro per page

This is an intensive search of the final book text that uncovers any punctuation, spelling, or formatting errors.”

 

Let us crunch the numbers. A 200 page book will cost €1000, about $1430, and most freelance US editors will quote you a rate of $500 – $850, or about €590 at the top end for basic proofreading. We leave the human stratosphere when we move to content and line by line editing. Please make sure you are in a seated position. A 200 page manuscript hits on average about a moderate 60k in words; a not to long average non-fiction book. Cost to the author for editing – €6000, or for our US freelance editors if they want to see what profits our Irish editors are making, a cool $8633! I think I’ll become one of those Irish editors, edit about 10 books over a couple of months and then put my feet up for the rest of the year. In simple terms, Checkpoint want you to use an editing service which will charge you €1 for every 10 words you type for content editing, or $1.43. Something tells me Checkpoint Press is either going overboard about warding off unedited manuscripts or someone has made a hell of a cock up here!
This is a difficult one to call; simply because the integrity of the services Checkpoint Press offers is sound. They have one of the most detailed author guides in the business and their openness is exemplarily. Globally, as an author solutions service, I can think of many who would beat Checkpoint Press pants up or down, notably, CreateSpace, Lulu and Booklocker, they are some of the strongest companies in the area of cost-effective self-publishing services. And that even takes into account the Checkpoint Press deal of £99 for authors with completed PDF’s.
Checkpoint Press do point out that they provide marketing support in their Standard and Custom packages, but that is what it is, support, though many author solutions services do charge outrageous prices for the items listed below.

 

“Free advice on book promotion strategies

Promotional flyers for reviewers and resellers

Your book details forwarded to all the major booksellers

Automatic placement on dozens of international booksellers’ websites

Placement in our international direct-distribution system

Standard trade discounts offered to bulk buyers

Placement on the CheckPoint Press website

Referrals to professional book promotion agencies at discounted rates

Your book lodged with national libraries”

 

Overall, Checkpoint Press need to be more detailed in what is on offer per package—authors are far savvier now and know what it is they are looking for. The devil is in the detail. At times, they actually undersell their strengths as a solutions provider. They need to be more dynamic and re-think their traditional contract and present it for what it is, or formulate a proper non-charging option for authors who are either Partnership Publishing or pursuing true commercial publishing, simply without a paid advance to the author. To do that, Checkpoint Press needs to negotiate, at the very least, a national Irish distribution deal to brick ‘n’ mortar stores with a dedicated sales team. To be fair, Checkpoint Press are still ahead of many of their Irish competitors, but they undersell their strengths in author solutions services, and oversell their global competiveness and distribution reach.
Throughout 2010, Checkpoint Press have extended their guidelines and criteria for books qualifying for their no fee Traditional Contract as well as general submission guidelines for all authors considering a submission to them.

“1. Have I read the FREE Author’s Guide?

 

2. Is my manuscript well researched and well written?

 

3. Has my manuscript been properly edited?

 

4. Are my expectations realistic?

 

5. Am I prepared to collaborate in marketing efforts?

 

If you can answer ‘yes’ to the above, then please send in your manuscript for appraisal – by email attachment. 

 

You will receive an automated receipt email, and within 5 working days an advice on when to expect a full appraisal decision.

 

In the event your work does not meet our quality standards upon first submission – please don’t be discouraged, as your personalised appraisal will contain notes and advice on how you can improve the quality of the manuscript before resubmission.”

As of April 2010, Checkpoint Press are also pursuing negotiations to fully develop physical distribution for books selling well and for books by authors under their Traditional Contract program. This has the potential to place Checkpoint Press ahead of the competition and establish them first and foremost as a publisher of quality non-fiction.

UPDATE: OCT 2011
Checkpoint Press continue to develop a broad range of quality books, particularly their academic and business range, with several titles coming in from mainstream houses in Asia. Secondary and territory rights success has been a real boon for this partnership publisher.

RATING N/A (REMOVED FROM INDEX – OCTOBER 2019)

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