Continued from “My Horrible Xlibris Xperience”
This part of the story takes up at my last and final heated phone call with Miguel, the Marketing Consultant from hell at Xlibris, and my continuing research at Mill City Press and other publishers. I will talk about how I found Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self Publishing and the 30 min call that helped me figure out how to turn things around.
Investigating Mill City Press
At this point and time I was through with Xlibris. I was ready to try out a new publisher, but my publishing finances were scarcely low at this time due to Xlibris’ pillaging and no books sold. My books had only been out a couple months and I was already ready to leave them and go elsewhere. It didn’t take me very long to learn I had been stuck with a lemon—a green one at that. I didn’t cancel out yet because someone may want a copy of the book and I didn’t know how long it would be before I could republish. I almost felt stuck, and I would have to wait a year before I could start again. I decide to look at the Mill City Press website a bit closer and start planning my next move. I was happy with my free phone consultation with Rosey Cashman the Marketing Coordinator at Mill City Press and what I had seen on the website so far.
I flipped through the site and found a comparison of printing costs and royalties with several companies against Mill City Press—Xlibris included. It reminded me of the Progressive insurance commercial with the remote control and screen with Progressive’s price compared with other top insurance companies. They also include the source of the information which you can go to and see for yourself. I remembered that an order for 25 books for Escape from Ancient Egypt cost me $300 which I thought was steep. I had to place an order because Xlibris cheated me out of my “free” books that came with the package. That also ticked me off—definitely after I saw this!
I can see that MCP’s printing costs were really low and their royalties were really high—the highest you can get: 100%. Their printing costs are wholesale and Xlibris marks up the printing costs at 150+%. It didn’t take me too long to figure out this was a total ripoff and I thought back to my expensive order for just a handful of books. Furthermore, my royalty percent at Xlbris is only 10-25% and that depends on where my book is sold. At MCP it’s 100% across the board. Now I found somewhere I can receive 100%? Wow! Coming here seemed like a no brainer (at least for me), but I needed to look closer to make sure they had everything else I needed.
I look around on this webpage some more to find more information. All of their information was on the site in plain view, and I didn’t have to go on a scavenger hunt for anything. They even put their contract on the homepage. For Xlibris I had to go to the Site Map to find it. As I am looking around, I find a link for more information on a book that compares publishers. This is where I find the bombshell.
I click on this link, and it gives me a demo of where publishers fall into a category: Outstanding, Pretty Good, Just OK, and Avoid. I find out where my publisher falls…in the “Avoid” category (it has changed a little in 2 years). I want to know why, but for more information I had to buy the book The Fine Print of Self Publishing in its 3rd edition at the time. At first I got the ebook only, but my computer kept messing it up. I wanted a physical copy for easier reference to each publisher’s website when I find a new one I want to investigate. I find a great lump package to get the physical copy and other stuff. The packet had: the ebook, the physical book, and the free 30 min phone consultation with the author Mark Levine. I liked this option. I don’t know of too many authors who make themselves available to chat with people.“Well, I’ll talk to this guy and see what he has to say, and maybe I can learn something or get some advice,” I think to myself. I’m already confused and at loss for words from what little I’ve seen so far.
I wondered why Mark Levine was featured on this company’s website. Was he their best selling author or something? I couldn’t wait to find out. I definitely couldn’t wait to find out why Xlibris was in the Avoid category. Could this explain why my publishing experience was so horrible at Xlibris?
I took a risk and bought the packet since it was a much smaller cost than a service or republishing. I took it as an investment into my publishing future. What did I have to loose? I was already at my wits end and I needed help—desperately—from anyone who would offer any help whatsoever. I already knew I had nobody else to talk to about my issues and offer any help or advice. Everyone I knew didn’t understand anything about what I was doing. So I wait impatiently for the book to arrive.
The Bombshell in The Fine Print of Self Publishing
I received the book on a Friday. I opened up my mail package, but I find more than just a book. There was the publishing information for MCP and a personalized letter addressed to me from Mark with his signature with a business letterhead called Published.com (I still have this today). “What’s Published.com?” I wondered. I also thought it was a nice touch. The letter was a “thank you” note and instructions on how to get in touch with him to set up the chat. I wondered why MCP had enclosed the publishing booklet, but then I thought that was because he was their bestselling author. Well, I didn’t have to request one now since they had sent me one.
My husband and I are leaving for the weekend, so I take the book with me to read in the car or during downtime. I read the entire book in a day and a half. When I cracked the book open, I found out that he owns and founded MCP. I had to go back and reread that a few times. That made sense of why the MCP packet was there. He didn’t review his own company and “pimp it out” (Mark’s favorite phrase of all time) in his book when he could have easily done it; he doesn’t say this phrase in the book. He says, “I don’t review my own company because that would be unfair.” So it was up to me to review the company for myself and I choose whether or not they were for me. Comparing MCP to other companies was just made easier for me since all of the information was in my lap.
When I read the book, all the companies were already compared for me so I didn’t have to do it. This saved me a lot of time. He also translated all the legalese in all the featured contracts and broke down what every author should know before they self publish. I wished I had found this book so much sooner. I learned what I was doing right and what I wasn’t doing right. I had to read Xlibris’ section after reading the front matter. The front matter taught me my ‘bill of rights’ and the other great information that was great to know before I proceeded.
After reading the front matter and the Xlibris section, the fog of lies was finally lifted and everything came together. I learned that my situation was so much worse than I had ever dreamed. I learned that there are publishers who lie to authors to get them in a contract! He had proof in his book of where Xlibris tried to do it to him, but he had the industry knowledge to counteract the attack. Ordinary authors like me aren’t so lucky, and that was the point of the information. He recorded everything his book and showed me where they lied and why it was a lie. I thought about the incidences that I had caught them in lies in my own situation.
We then get into the steep printing markups, fat publisher royalties, inflated retail prices, and me overpaying for my author copies. He interpreted a clause I had misinterpreted that was going to make leaving them very difficult, but not impossible. This was the one clause in their barebones contract that was going to cause trouble. It was written ambiguously on purpose to trap people and to make fleeing authors’ lives a living hell.
Other than that this contract was not as bad as some others in the “Avoid” section, but that didn’t make me feel any better. I used Mark’s simple equation to calculate the print costs for both my books. What I find was appalling. Escape from Ancient Egypt had a much bigger markup than Neiko’s Five Land Adventure; it was over 100 pages shorter and it was listed at the same retail price. Neiko’s Five Land Adventure was already overpriced so Escape from Ancient Egypt was GROSSLY overpriced! I thought both books being the same price was a little weird in the beginning; I thought EEE would have been less. But, I thought I was working with experts. Boy, was I wrong!
I wondered how I would ever get out of this hell with my books, artwork, and sanity intact! I wondered how in the world I ended up here. This is what I tried to avoid in the first place. I tried to carefully research. I didn’t jump into anything. It’s really hard to research a lie when you don’t know where to look. I find out later that this happens to a lot of people, so I wasn’t the only one. This is mentioned in the book as well and this was the main reason why the book was written.
My Cry for Help to Mark Levine
After reading the book cover to cover, I send the email to ask for my consultation and wait. He responds with some dates and times to choose from. I pick one and I send him my response along with my background, so I didn’t have to go through that. We only had thirty minutes and I didn’t have time to waste on intros. I thought it could help him better prepare in how he could help. I wait for the day to come.
I had my phone consultation with Mark a few weeks after reading his book. I wanted to use every second to hopefully find some solutions to my problems so I could construct an escape plan. I wasn’t sure of what was going on at Xlibris anymore. I second-guessed and was confused about everything. Nothing made sense any more. Everything Xlibris said was a lie as far as I was concerned. I was also dreadfully nervous and I hoped that he wouldn’t think I was a total dope because sometimes I can feel so awkward when talking to a new person and because I was so confused.
After the first few minutes of the call, I was on the verge of tears. After talking to him ten minutes, my situation was so much worse than ever before (when I didn’t think it could get any worse) than when I began the conversation. He asked me simple questions, and I no longer able to answer them because I didn’t know anymore. All I could tell him was, “They say this, but I don’t know if that’s true anymore.” I admitted to him that I was completely dazed and confused, and they have lied to me so much I don’t know what the truth is and what isn’t. I couldn’t tell him who owned the website because I really didn’t know. He said, “That’s the way it is with these people,” as he punched in the keys to check the site whois. I didn’t know much about tech stuff like that. I tell him, “They say I do, but how do I know they aren’t lying to me because they have lied about everything else so far,” I say. “I hope he doesn’t think I’m a total idiot,” I think helplessly since that was how I felt about myself at the moment.
I knew editing was important from reading his book, but I always knew that. He reiterated this during the call. He asked me if the books were edited. I say yes. He pulls up my website and looks at the excerpts. Then he told me that my book was probably an editorial nightmare by looking at the excerpt. There were five mistakes on the first page! My editing wasn’t even done right, and it was not a quality edit. I had to have a real professional tell me that because I didn’t notice. Bam! Another lie busted. All the exposure stuff I wanted to do would get me the wrong attention with my books the way they are, and their bloggers would judge it very harshly if I submitted them to them the way they were. Everything would have negative consequences. I was defeated before I had even begun! I’m glad he was candid and told me what I needed to know before I really screwed up.
Everything so far was a waste, and I had to start over—from scratch. My cover and illustrations were fine, but everything else was crap. I was even more furious at Xlibris. I am very sad at the same time since my dreams were in jeopardy. He let me recognize that anything I do doesn’t benefit me at this present time; it only benefits them until I cancel. I can’t do anything to salvage the situation in my favor until I get out. I had to recognize that for myself, and I tried out different plans to save face and money, but I was only able to cut my losses and get what I could. Any little thing helps.
Mark told me to cancel all the services I can and get what I can. I can still fix this and turn it around, but I needed to listen to him and act. He told me what to do step by step. He had already established his credibility as far as I was concerned. This is when I found out that little clause I misinterpreted came back to bite me in the butt; I couldn’t have my books’ print ready pdfs which would have saved me a lot of time and money. I had to redo the editing anyway, and I don’t think you can edit a pdf. I don’t think it would have mattered too much at this point. The formatting was atrocious. He didn’t actually see the formatting, but he could guess if everything he sees sucks, it must suck too. I asked him what editing level I needed so I know exactly where to start when I signed on at Mill City Press.
He told me to cancel the email campaign service as soon as I hung up with him. I can get better services and get more services for that $2500 amount. I have more services to cancel besides that one. I calculate how much I would be getting back and what the dollar amount would be for publishing and editing at Mill City. I can republish Neiko’s Five Land Adventure at Mill City with some money to spare with the included edit. I couldn’t get everything I wanted, but I had enough to republish and start getting out! Escape from Ancient Egypt, on the other hand, had to wait.
The problem wasn’t resolved in one call; I had to email him a few times after that, and he wanted me to keep him informed on each step.
After our talk is when I cancelled all the services. It took me a couple days to do because I had to play phone chase, and I was being passed around like in the latest Discover commercial where Peggy and his coworkers pass the phone around and say “Transfer!” and nothing gets resolved. I was ready to grapple; I was determined. It takes me a while to get my money back. I cancelled the author video, a bookstore return service for Escape from Ancient Egypt, and what I had paid on that dumb Email Campaign and stopped it just in the nick of time. If I had waited until the next day, I would have been too late. I was glad I listened to Mark and did it when I did. I tried to get my publishing fees back just for spite, but I didn’t win that round. That left a scar.
I try one last menial service for $199 with a new consultant with some of the money I got for Book Expo America showcase for their last chance. They flunked out; no books were sold. Game over. I go to Mill City without any hesitation. I wasn’t looking back at Xlibris ever again.
After getting my money back I asked for my CD archives for both books that had my high resolution illustrations. I didn’t have to pay extra; they came with the packages. Xlibris reps started asking if everything was all right and I say yes, and I quietly step out even though I could have made a scene. If I would have said no, they would know something was up or try to talk me out of it. They wouldn’t have succeeded if they had tried.
After this point is when my publishing experience with Mill City Press begins. I also keep in touch with Mark about what was new with the book because I thought he might like to know, and he also asked me to.
This is now where my publishing experience with Mill City Press begins. Now to “My Mill City Experience”.