Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Question of Tate

So, have you gotten out of the boat yet?  Have you found some publishers and submitted that manuscript?  Well, if so, now you are probably getting phone calls from every self-publisher and his brother.  While you are trying to sell your book, they are trying to sell their service.  As I said in the last post, there are situations in which you may want to self-publish, and if you are willing to do your own marketing, it could give you a foot in the door in the publishing world.  That is, in fact, what every one of them told me.  Self-publishing was not the way I wanted to go, however.  For one thing, I did want my book marketed and sold in bookstores, and I did not have the connections to do that on my own.  A contract with a publicist would be expensive.  For another thing, I wanted the satisfaction of knowing that a publisher thought my book was worth publishing.  I knew they'd publish it if I paid them to do it.  I wanted someone to WANT to publish it.  If I couldn't get that, I would go back to the drawing board with this book or another one and keep trying for that golden apple.

One afternoon in June, as I was getting ready to take my kids to karate class, the phone rang with a number I didn't recognize.  Being in a hurry, I normally would have let that go to voicemail, but because my husband was out of town, I wanted to answer in case he needed to call me from somewhere other than his cell phone.  I answered, heard the word "publishing" in the greeting, and almost tuned the rest out.  Thinking it was yet another self-publishing company, I explained that this was not the best time, as I was in a hurry to get my kids somewhere.  As the gentleman said he would call back and hung up, I realized that he had not said one word about self-publishing.  He had said he was from Tate Publishing and that he wanted to publish my book!  But there seemed to be a small catch - or was there?

As I drove my kids to their karate class, I thought back through the things I had already researched about Tate Publishing.  (I had spent quite a bit of time researching all the different publishers at this point.)  Tate was trying to help new authors get published, but of course they wanted to minimize their own risk at the same time.  One of their marketing strategies is to require that every author has a publicist and is willing to do things like book-signings to help sell their book.  If you do not have a publicist, you can sign up with Key Marketing Group, which has a partnership with Tate Publishing.  Tate pays the publicity fees - quite substantially, actually.  They do, however, require first-time authors to pay a one-time setup fee of $3990 to Key Marketing Group.  This lets them know that you are in it for the long haul, that you are committed to making your book a success.  Hmmm.  Was this just another blanket for self-publishing, calling it by a different name?

The answer is "no."  From what I can tell, Tate actually has a pretty good business model, and I will explain why I think so.  First, let me debunk a few things I've read on the Internet.  When I first tried to Google Tate Publishing, I started finding entries about "Tate Publishing Scams."  So I read them.  I certainly did not want to send in $4000 and be taken in a scam.  None of what I read, however, convinced me that there was a scam.  I saw several arguments:

1.  Some people felt the cost was exorbitant and that no publisher should be asking you for money to publish your book.  While it is true that that's not how traditional contracts have gone, we are looking at a new model here.  This money, according to the contract, goes to Key Marketing Group for publicity.  If you look at the costs of marketing and publicity, whether you self-publish or hire an agent, they are steep.  This fee of $4000 is actually quite low for the amount of publicity that is being promised in the contract.

2.  One person complained that the $4000 fee was a "secret," and that Tate did not reveal it openly.  I did not find this to be the case.  It is not advertised on the front page of their website, which I can understand.  This would make them look like a self-publisher, and many people would turn away without finding out what the fee covered.  As soon as I submitted my query, I received a list of things to expect should my manuscript be accepted.  It included the amount and the purpose of the fee.  The Acquisitions Editor who called me also made sure I knew about all the stipulations of the contract, including the fee, before I made a decision.  Far from trying to hide it, they seemed to want to make sure I knew what I was agreeing to so that there would be no problems later.

3.  Some writers seemed to simply be upset that their books did not sell well.  Well, no publisher can make any promises about how your book will sell.  It's not a "scam" unless the publisher fails to do what they have promised to do in the contract that you sign.  If that happens - if Tate does not do what they've said in my contract and provide the publicity we have agreed upon for the fee - you will certainly find that out in this blog!  Tate Publishing has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, with only 6 complaints in the last 3 years, which were resolved.  If they are scamming people to the tune of $4000, those people need to start filing complaints with the BBB!

4.  One writer complained that Tate claimed to sell a lot of books with Barnes and Noble bookstores, but that he had not found any of their books at that store.  Well, check it out for yourself.  Go to Barnes and Noble's website and put "Tate Publishing" in the search box.  Today I pulled up 6,540 titles, which is several hundred more than they had when I checked last month.  These include both titles on the shelves and electronic downloads.  Every Barnes and Noble store does not carry every title.  To make sure your book is physically carried in the stores near you, your publicist should call them and set up a book-signing!

So now to dispense with all the negatives, I did also find people who had positive things to say.  And these were people who had actually worked with Tate, not people just observing from the outside.

RRBookwyrm has several posts dedicated to "The Tate Publishing Question."  She started out skeptical but changed her mind after some research and interviews.

Jennifer Pereyra is a recent Tate Author interviewed in the RRBookwyrm Blog.

New Tate author Patricia Kubus.

Tate author Kathy Truitt.

Tate author Nancy Dane.

Jerry B Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series, visited Tate Publishing and agreed that what they were putting forth was a good model.  Having sold 70 million books, he still hires a publicist and is actively involved in promoting his own books.

In conclusion, from all my research, I really haven't found any reason not to trust Tate.  Some people may simply not want to pay the $3990 fee.  If that's the case, they should keep looking.  If you are trying to decide between self-publishing and traditional contracts, though, I think it is important to understand the difference with Tate.  They are starting a new business model, creating their own little niche.

Here's Tate's business model in a nutshell.  They accept 3-7% of the manuscripts they receive each month.  Each new author either provides documentation that he already has a publicist, or pays a fee of $3990 to get set up with Key Marketing Group.  Once the book is published, the author works closely with the publicist on websites, book signings, speaking engagements, even television commercials if they wish, in order to market the book.  The book is sold in physical form in bookstores, as an audiobook, and as a PDF download.  Tate and Key Marketing try to find the niche markets that are most likely to purchase this book and saturate them.  They seem to be doing everything they can to help their authors succeed.  (Incidentally, once you sell 5,000 books, you get the $3990 fee back, and you may or may not have to pay it again on getting future books published.  This is worked out on a contract-by-contract basis.)

I've cast my lot with Tate Publishing.  I signed a contract on my children's book with them in June, got everything properly formatted and accepted, and production started this month.  Production should take about six months, after which I should be able to purchase some of the books, and it will take about another 90 days to get them printed en masse and distributed to bookstores.  If you've followed me this far and are still interested in the process, follow this blog as I take you through the journey to publication with me.

Next we'll be talking about Copyediting.  Ooo, it gives me chills just thinking about it!!  :)