When I first started researching companies who provide author solutions services some years ago, Virtualbookworm (VBM) was one high on the radar. About four or five years ago, had you dropped ‘self-publishing’ as a keyword into a Google search or visited many self-publishing resources looking for information on self-publishing, you can bet VBW would have been pretty high up there in prominence. Try the same now and you will have to do far more extensive searches before you come across the name, VBM.
“Then he [writer and founder] discovered self publishing and the endless opportunities it presented. However, such a venture requires countless hours of research of printers, proofreaders, artists, etc. And after publication, even more time is consumed trying to market the book.
So, Virtualbookworm.com was established as a "clearinghouse" for authors, since it offers virtually everything under one roof. Although we now charge setup and design fees, those costs are kept to a minimum so as to cover all expenses. And, as with "traditional" publishers, we carefully review each manuscript and only offer contracts to authors who truly have exceptional manuscripts. We don’t print garbage, and we want our authors to proudly say they were published by Virtualbookworm. If we accept your book for publication, you can rest assured that it will be sold next to other quality books, and not just work that had enough money behind it. And, you’ll receive some of the best royalties in the business!”
I have never once thought that a writer founding a service for self-publishing is entirely a sound foundation, unless of course that writer has had considerable experience in all the critical areas of the industry—sales, marketing, editing and production under the umbrella of a traditional publisher. I also do not think authors of any savvy will take to the description of VBW as being a ‘clearing house’ when it first was established.
“What makes Virtualbookworm.com different than other POD providers?
Well, first off, we won’t print garbage. You must follow the submission and genre guidelines … and each manuscript must be reviewed and approved before we will accept your order. If we do accept the order, we will give you as much personalized support as necessary until the project is complete. This means your book won’t be selling on the same site as a book that has tons of errors just because the other author had enough cash! Plus, Virtualbookworm.com is one of the most established POD publishers in the industry, having been in business since 2000.”
“Have a question or comment? Need help ordering or with the publishing section? First check our searchable Knowledge Base for Frequently Asked Questions. If you didn’t find the answer to your question, please click the link below to go to our Support Center, which is on a separate server to save resources. After registering, you can submit a trouble ticket (which can be used for any question, etc.) or check the status of a ticket.”
VBW do offer a downloadable publishing guide to their services, an online bookstore, a latest release link at the bottom of their web pages, and a recently launched author community, which turns out to be essentially links to their Facebook and Twitter pages. However, for the first real time, we get a glimpse at a number of published titles with links directly to their online bookstore.
“How much of a discount does the distributor and/or bookstores receive?
This is a tough question since it depends on a number of factors. We usually list our books at a 30-35% discount. This keeps the retail price low and is acceptable by Amazon and the other "big boys." However, some small bookstores want a 40-50% discount. Since it is your bottom line that is affected (royalties), we let YOU decide on the discount (however higher discounts will raise the retail price).”
Taking the retailer discount at its lowest, for books sold through distribution networks like Amazon, the breakdown is as follows:
“Since some authors think true self publishing is when you do all of the setup, etc. yourself, we’ve decided to just put all of the services under one roof (er, website) for you. Instead of having to search for a cover designer, layout artist, editor, printer, etc., you can simply do it all here. Just let us know which services you need and how many copies you would like in your original order and we will send you an estimate.
Please note that you will be sent the master files of everything, so you can always go elsewhere to get the books printed if you prefer.”
VBW offer their authors a non-exclusive contract, though it should be noted they require exclusive distribution rights for ebooks—meaning you cannot make your ebook for sale outside of VBW’s distribution channels. The contract contains a cancellation term of 90 days for the author, but this is subject to a $50 fee before the author can move their book to another provider/publisher. The term of the contract is for two years.
“The Author also agrees that he/she will hold Virtualbookworm.com, its distributors, and any retailer harmless against any recovery or penalty arising out of his/her breach of this warranty. Author will also reimburse Virtualbookworm.com Publishing for all court costs and legal fees incurred.”
Heck, I don’t fancy paying VBW’s court costs even when I’ve won a judgement! I am not sure how this term would play out with a judge in a court of law, but technically, I have signed the contract and I am bound by its terms.