Xlibris Get it In The Neck From Publishing Perspectives

Dear, oh dear. Xlibris really did get it in the neck today from daily online publishing magazine, Publishing Perspectives. They featured in the lead and accompanying articles by Edward Nawotka. You can read the two articles, A Cautionary Tale about POD, and also, Bonus Material: Is Xlibris Profiting More from Selling Publicity than Printing?. A little detail first before I digress.

Joanne Gail Johnson lives in the Caribbean and she set up Meaningful Books in 2008, initially, to self-publish Pink Carnival, a children’s colour picture book. It is the story of father and son who attend a colourful parade in Trinidad, and the son is taken by the wonderful colour pink of the surrounding rain trees. Dad balks at the idea of his son been taken by the colour pink and so ensues the story until Dad appreciates the innocence of childhood and agrees – hell, pink is ok! This was the first title by Johnson’s, Meaningful Books.

“Meaningful Books leverages the opportunity that print-on-demand offers to take risks in our still grossly under published market. Using picture books as care-giving tools intended to open doors to more meaningful conversations between children and their guardians, the imprint is partnered in Trinidad with a Non-Governmental Organization, Creative Parenting for the New Era.”

Johnson outlines how she looked at publishing options for many months and came across Xlibris, buoyed by the tenuous association with Random House. In short, she paid for a publishing package – problems occurred with quality and format errors, her single requested change, and the errors Xlibris introduced themselves in the proof process. Ultimately it delayed the book publication to the point she struggled to see it as a viable commercial publishing project for Meaningful Books.

“However, to date of this writing, November 2, I cannot capitalize on this demand for my book”

In the article by Publishing Perspectives, it is stated, Johnson first submitted her project in September 2008. She refers to several key promotional dates in February and April 2009, but it is never stated if the above ‘November 2’ refers to 2008 or 2009. Clearly, if it is 2009, then Johnson has endured a period of unacceptable delays by Xlibris – in effect, more than a year of six rounds of proofs, which, for any author solutions service, would leave any book dead in the water and impossible to promote for its author. If it refers to November 2008, and this is effectively supposed to be an unsatisfactory story of self-publishing author meeting with less than best service – then it’s entirely erroneous of Publishing Perspectives to dredge up a year old story. Frankly, I’m a little confused. At best, it is poor editing and article continuity by PP. Have a read of the two above articles. Am I the only one to spot this, or am I being dumb and missing something?

“Other legitimate questions have arisen as well: Why is it that when I require any changes I must pay a US$50 base fee each time just to get started, but when Xlibris creates errors there is no real compensation? And why do I now feel like I am working unpaid for Xlibris, helping them with quality control?

I had asked for and received a full-color children’s picture book sample which was, indeed, beautiful. But I was never told to expect some “acceptable variation”—an excuse that cropped up somewhere between round four and six of my author’s review copies.”

Joanne Gail Johnson.
While Johnson goes on to say that her experience with Xlibris and her book was frustrating and unacceptable, she says the staff were always courteous and apologetic. In the second Publishing Perspective article, Johnson was offered compensation in the form of a marketing package.

“As part of the compensation for her troubles with Xlibris (outlined in our feature article), Joanne Gail Johnson was offered what appeared to be a generous marketing plan, including an offer to send press releases to 100 media outlets (valued at $349) and promoting the book to 100 Web sites (valued at $299). But Johnson felt this was little more than an ‘inflated promise.’”

The compensation marketing package, in essence, consisted of much of the synopsis and book copy Johnson had already supplied to Xlibris – leading her to believe that the marketing plan was nothing more than a copy and paste job by someone who had never set eyes on her book. This is sadly consistent with many basic and even expensive marketing packages provided by author solution services.
I’m still trying to appraise this whole curious episode. Much depends on how long Johnson has been dealing with Xlibris and the final publication of her book. Her book does not exist on Amazon and her own site was last updated in April 2008!
I will leave you all read the articles, and make your own minds up. My instinct lies with the fact the book does not exist anywhere, and Publishing Perspective have underlined the misfortune and pitfalls of using an author solutions service. Somehow, there is a missing link here, and things just don’t add up to the full story. My two cents.


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