When HarperCollins’s manuscript display site Authonomy announced last month that it was going to add a self-publishing option to its site, there were some people who were not pleased. Authonomy’s implication that self-publishing could be a stepping-stone to commercial success was seen by some as misleading because, while it’s true that some writers have done well by self-publishing, the majority of self-published authors flounder in relative obscurity and fail to make any significant sales.
What wasn’t picked up on was Authonomy’s odd choice of bed-fellow: the POD provider Blurb.
Blurb first came to most people’s attention when it teamed up with Chronicle Books in 2007. Chronicle is a well-regarded mainstream publishing company with exacting standards: I know, I’ve edited for it (and we all know how good I am, right?). I was astonished when I heard that Chronicle was directing some of the books it rejected towards Blurb, as this seemed to me to represent a direct conflict of interests.
Blurb was set up to produce heavily illustrated books: showcases for illustrators and photographers, collations of photojournalism, and personal collections. Its focus on quality is admirable: but combine that with its bias towards full colour printing and you end up with very high unit prices which, while only to be expected for full-colour books, are simply ridiculous when applied to novels and memoirs—which is what makes up the bulk of Authonomy’s members’ books. And while it’s recently set up a text option for the books it produces, I’m still waiting to be convinced that it’s the best option for Authonomy’s many members.