One of the better imprints supporting self-published authors is WestBow Press, a subsidiary of Thomas Nelson, perhaps the largest Christian publisher in the world. I would not call this a “vanity press” for it has the same editorial standards as the parent company. They will not publish a work that will detract from their image. But an author that goes to any non-traditional publisher, even if it is a subsidiary of a traditional publisher, must understand that these new and rapidly expanding types of publishers will not take a chance on losing money. They want you, the author, to support the initial costs. Over a thousand authors a year do just that at Westbow, including established authors, in order to maintain complete control over their “product.” Still, if you expect to write a book and have WestBow or any other non-traditional publisher distribute it at their expense–forget it.
To give you an example of what I mean, here is how Pete Nikolai, Director of Publishing Services at WestBow puts it:
We consider WestBow Press to be our “farm club” (to use a baseball analogy), and we look at several factors when considering which titles to call up to the Nelson imprint. We monitor sales of all WestBow Press titles and combine that data with other information, including Amazon rank and reviews, Twitter and Facebook reputation (Klout score), and author platform and commitment (speaking, marketing, etc.). Once a title seems to warrant consideration, the primary determinative factors are the quality of the book and the level of projected sales.
To put his words another way, once you have proven that your book can be successful, the parent company, Thomas Nelson, will review the text of the book to evaluate its quality and potential to sell. If they can be assured that it will earn a profit, they will offer you a contract. You, the author, must sell the book initially and be successful, or the parent company will not be interested in “evaluating” it. There are many ways to be noticed of course. One can win a contest, gain a television interview, maintain and use a large database of contacts. Whatever platform you, the author, choose to utilize is something you and you alone decide. Of course, in a way, this gives the author control over his product; he is not stuck with a 35 year contract with a traditional publisher giving that traditional publisher say over every aspect of the work’s future. Most authors simply want to write and therefore the traditional publisher is preferred. Still, for those authors who are into self-promotion, the tendency is to keep control and to do so by self-publishing.