According to a New York Times article published on
January 28, 2009, Xlibris, along with AuthorHouse, Wordclay, iUniverse, Inkubook, and
Trafford are now all owned and operated by a single company, Author Solutions
Inc. Author Solutions is capitalized by
Bertram Capital Management. They seem intent on buying up as many POD
publishers as they can. They use "economies of scale" to provide self
publishing, which basically means the work is outsourced to the Philippines,
India, and other third world nations.
Trafford is primarily a printer. Their publishing packages
start at $699.00 and go up to $1399. The $699 package does not include
distribution; their middle package at $999 includes distribution on their own
site. To get full POD distribution, you need to pay for the premium
package at $1399. Layout and typesetting is considered an additional service and
costs $550 for standard novels and more for other types of books. This means
that a basic POD package with typesetting and no distribution costs $1249.
A premium package including typesetting, distribution and layout costs $1949.
Lamination of the cover is also considered an additional cost. These are US
dollars, not Canadian dollars.
Trafford does not screen books, and they'll print anything
that comes in. This means potential booksellers cannot count on the quality of
books produced under the imprint. The retail
prices of their books is high (they recommend 2.5 times single copy printing
cost). For example a 200 page black and white novel with a laminated cover would retail for $7.47 x 2.5
or $18.67. Compare this to $15.95 from another publisher (who offers
higher distributor discounts). Trafford doesn't offer marketing packages;
however, their premium package does include some promotional materials such as
postcards and an email announcement of the book's release. Many items that they
list as benefits are automatic with most publishers such as a listing in Books in Print (if you have an ISBN it has to be listed
in Books in Print).
The fact that you can
purchase your books "at cost" is a red herring because cost for Trafford
includes the printing profit. The "cost" of their books is, in fact, about
the same as the price of books purchased from some POD publishers, which includes
printing cost, the printer's profit, and the publisher's profit.
Royalties are 60% of "gross margin." This is the retail
price less the discount (to bookstore, distributor, etc.) less the single copy
printing cost (which as we've noted includes the printer's profit). Using
the same 200 page book as above sold to a distributor at a 50% discount, this
amounts to 19.25 - 9.625 - 7.02 = 1.925 * 60% = $1.56. So 60% of gross
margin on this book is $1.56. According to their contract, Trafford pays
this same price (Retail-distributor discount-print cost) *60% on sales off their
own site as well.
On the upside, they have a great website. Their contracts are
non-exclusive, and if you go on their site you can find out who the publisher
is. Setup for color printing is expensive, but color book prices are reasonable.
On the plus side:
-Includes storage of print files (for how long is
-Sends two copies to the National Library
-Offers color printing
On the negative side:
-Royalties are low
-Don't screen for quality
-Retail prices are high
-Print prices are high
-Shipping from Canada to the US is expensive
-Marketing packages non-existent
-No returnability option
Overall: Focus is on selling publishing packages not on selling books.
Prices are high.