The announcement was made earlier this week through the Wall Street Journal and the blog of the publisher’s CEO, Michael Hyatt, that one of the giants of Christian publishing, Thomas Nelson, will be publishing a new list under an imprint to be called WestBow Press. The books will come from Author Solutions, the provider of self-publishing services, which will, according to the story, share the fees paid by the funding authors with Nelson.
Here are some very pertinent questions that weren’t touched by Hyatt or the WSJ reporting.
1. How many such titles will they do per season or per year?
2. How will access to Nelson’s (always limited, as is any publisher’s) sales and marketing bandwidth be allocated to this imprint?
3. Will the books be vetted as suitable for Nelson’s Christian mission? And, if so, how and by whom?
4. Will the books be vetted at all for quality? Or will an author just choose the WestBow option and, if that’s the case, how much extra will be they paying and what will they be told they’re getting for their money?
5. The story says that Nelson editors won’t touch the books but will “monitor sales to identify potential big sellers.” What’s the pre-monitoring launch plan? What’s the plan if Nelson editors actually identify a “potential big” book?
Hyatt discusses the initiative on his blog and says he sees real revenue in it. But he doesn’t answer any of the questions above.
I am not alone in anticipating that publishers may change things around in the future with big authors, sharing more risk (less or no advance in this case, not cash for services) for more reward. But it is a more radical step than I would have imagined for a publisher with an industry brand for quality to allow authors to buy their way onto the list. Their must be some controls here, one would think. But we certainly don’t know what they are yet.