Publishers Weekly Moves Into Self-Publishing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the launch of PW Select, an online supplement to the regular PW magazine. PW Select, which is published quarterly, allows self-published writers to buy brief listings (author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description, and ordering information) for $149. With every issue of the supplement, a limited number of books–around 25%–are chosen for review.

This would certainly seem to be a moneymaking proposition for PW, but what it does for self-pubbed authors is less apparent. $149 is a lot to pay for a listing, on the off chance of receiving a review (especially since the reviews appear to pull no punches). As for promoting to PW’s readership–agents, booksellers, publishers, librarians–here’s one librarian’s reaction. And here’s one author’s experience, which points up a known risk of using any sort of listing service: unwanted solicitations.

Now PW is venturing even deeper into self-pub territory, partnering with Vook to offer its very own self-publishing option, PW Select Plus. (The service actually rolled out in April, but this solicitation only came across my desk last week.) Here’s how PW describes the service:

Under PW Select+, authors will receive all the benefits of PW Select as well as a host of options for using Vook’s e-book creation and publishing platform. Those benefits include conversion of authors’ manuscripts to an e-book format acceptable to B&, Apple iBooks, and; automatic distribution within those three sales channels including full reporting; a distribution-ready EPub file for the author’s use in his or her own channels; an ISBN number (if needed); and seamless registration and integration into both PW Select and Vook.

The cost? $199.

The predictable reaction will be that PW is–again–trying to make money by exploiting authors. But I wonder about that–the moneymaking part, at any rate.

Vook charges subscription fees ranging from $9.99 per month to $199 per month. So getting the Vook service for a flat $40 (the dollar difference between PW Select and PW
Select Plus) would appear to be a bargain for authors, and a money-loser for either Vook (if it doesn’t expect PW to make up the difference) or for PW (if it has to pick up the shortfall or some portion of it).

Which raises a couple of questions. Is self-publishing via PW Select Plus indefinite–i.e., are authors free to use the Vook service for as long as they like? Or is there some sort of time-limit, beyond which they’ll be expected to pay subscription fees? And are there any additional or hidden fees? For instance, per Vook’s Terms of Service, “There are additional fees for use of the VOOK distribution partners and other value-added services.” Will PW Select Plus authors be subject to those?

PW Select’s literature doesn’t address these issues–or even say which of
Vook’s three plans authors receive–and there are no Terms and Conditions on the PW Select/Select Plus registration form to provide further information (including about important things like payment plans). Autors can certainly find out more about Vook’s services by visiting
Vook’s website–but will they bother, much less read Vook’s Terms of Service? Even if they do, they won’t find answers to the questions I’ve raised above.

Surely there should be fuller disclosure of these and other specifics at PW. As it is, authors who choose PW Select Plus are signing up–and paying–for a service based only on a very broad description, which lacks many of the specifics authors should carefully evaluate before signing up for any self-publishing option.

One Response

  1. Shelley Lieber

    I asked many of these same questions when the announcement of this combined service was posted in PW Daily on April 6, 2012.–pw—vook-team-up-for-self-publishing-package.html

    Matthew Cavnar of Vook responded to my questions in the comments.

    I’m not jumping up and down about this yet and don’t think I’d recommend it, but I do think authors should know what is available to them and make their decisions based on their own individual needs.