A Word of Warning

I’d hoped to stay away from the whole Borders debacle today, but something’s come to my attention that I feel I have to mention.  I can’t decide whether to be flabbergasted or appalled or something in between.  While blaming e-books for being a major cause of their financial problems, Borders entered into an agreement with BookBrewer that is, in my opinion, unconscionable on several different levels.

A little background.  On October 15, 2010, Borders announced it had entered into an agreement with BookBrewer to “publish and sell ebooks”.    Okay, in and of itself, that doesn’t seem any different from the DTP program through Amazon or Pubit through Barnes and Noble.  However, as you read further, you find this:

BORDERS – GET PUBLISHED™ Powered by BookBrewer gives authors a choice of two publishing packages: the $89.99 basic package and the $199.99 advanced publishing package. Under the basic package, BookBrewer will assign the book an ISBN (a $125 value), and will make it available to all major eBook stores at a price set by the writer.  Royalties will be based on sales and will vary with each retailer. Authors who choose the advanced package will receive a full version of their ePub file, which they will own and may share with friends, family or submit on their own to eBook stores.

Wait a minute!  Authors have to pay to get their e-books listed?  What if they already have an isbn for their book?  And why does it cost so much more to get an isbn through this program than, say, Smashwords?  ($9.95 for their premium package)

More than that, you can use Smashwords to distribute your e-book to the very same stores, including Kobo, Borders is advertising it can get you into.  In fact, when you look at the Publishers and Artists Overview page at Borders.com, all it says is that to be listed in the e-book catalog, “[a]uthors and publishers should contact Kobo at the email address below to add titles to the Borders.com eBook catalog.”  Nowhere on the page does it even mention the BookBrewer program.

Now, with Borders in bankruptcy and there being no guarantee it will emerge, I can’t help wondering what it was thinking when it announced this new program.  Folks, we’re talking an announcement that happened only a few months ago.  It happened just a month before Borders announced it would not be paying certain publishers (Nov. 2010).  I don’t want to think Borders was hoping to financially benefit off of authors desperate to get their books into print.  But I have to wonder.

Here‘s an article by Michael Stackpole about this situation.  According to him, “this is the worst major deal being offered to writers.”

I won’t lie.  Publishing is a hard industry to break into.  That’s especially true right now.  But there are alternatives.  If you can’t break into traditional publishing, there are small and micro presses to try.  There are digital house like ours you can try.  Or you can self-publish through programs like those offered by Amazon and Barnes & Noble that don’t cost you, the author, a cent.  There are programs like Smashwords that also allow you to self-publish and do not require any money upfront — unless you use them to acquire an isbn.  Even then, it is a very minimal amount.

Run, run fast and far, from BookBrewer and remember the rule that money flows to the writer, not from him.

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