The Discern Products Approach to Publishing

The primary goal of Discern Products is to spread the gospel through service to authors promoting the message of Jesus. This traditional publishing service relieves authors of most of the business-related burdens of publishing, freeing them to concentrate on writing and promoting their work. Discern Products also provides free advice to Christian authors for books that it is not publishing. 

Authors face several problems when dealing with traditional publishers. These include difficulties in getting a manuscript evaluated and accepted, the time involved in getting their book to market, the loss of control over the final product and the publisher keeping most of the revenue. The Discern Products model addresses these issues, while still producing a professional product.

Problems with traditional publishing lead many authors to self-publish. In doing so, they face a complex maze of service providers. And there are legal issues to be considered as outlined in attorney Helen Sedwick’s 202-page book, The Self-Publishers Legal Handbook. The industry keeps changing and so a self-publishing author needs to keep up with the changes. Finally, it is more difficult to promote your work if it is self-published.

A third alternative is hybrid publishing, whereby the author pays some or all the costs and the publisher still receives a share of the sales revenue. Often, the author ends up paying hidden costs. The largest hybrid publishers spend heavily on sales and marketing and these costs flow to the author. Further, the quality of the work is of concern with some hybrid publishers. There are many hybrid publishers, both large and small. Any generalization does not apply to all of them. The time an author should spend in evaluating which hybrid publisher to use is not trivial.

To address the publishing problems that Christian authors face, here is the Discern Products approach:

Manuscript Evaluation
Authors put considerable time into submitting their work. Discern Products recognizes this and is committed to a proper evaluation, a prompt reply and giving the reasons in the event of declining to publish. This approach is contrary to industry practice. Discern Products will work with agents, but does not require authors to have one.

Advance Payments
As a traditional publisher, Discern Products pays a modest advance to authors. It does not follow the business model of paying a large advance and then keeping most of the revenue from book sales.

It is now the industry standard that copyright is retained by the author. An author should consider it a red flag when a publisher markets copyright retention as a significant reason to sign with them. Further, copyright is automatic and there is no need to submit a government filing for copyright protection.

While Amazon/Createspace will provide a free International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for self-published authors, this approach limits the sale of books through other companies. Discern Products issues their own ISBN’s for both print and e-books to maintain flexibility. The cost for a US self-publishing author to purchase a single ISBN is $100 and it is less expensive if multiple ISBNs are purchased at one time.

Editorial Review
All authors require an editor. If extensive editing is needed, Discern Products will generally encourage the author to find a third-party editor. All books that it publishes will also have an in-house editorial review to ensure quality standards are met. As well, books will be reviewed to confirm that they are consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

Interior Book Design
Discern Products designs the interior of the book to ensure professional quality. This includes details such as fonts, margins, spacing, gutter margins, widows and orphans, headers and front matter. The author will have options regarding interior design as long as it is in keeping with professional standards.

Front Cover
Discern Products is associated with international experts to design a cover that presents that important first impression. It breaks with most traditional and hybrid publishers by allowing the author to be actively involved in decisions regarding the front cover design.

Back Cover
The back cover offers key information for marketing and sales. Discern Products works with the author to make this an effective platform, as well as ensuring a professional layout that is integrated with the front cover.

Preparation of Cover Files
Book printers vary in their cover file requirements in areas such as spine width, bleed and trim marks. Discern Products will use the print-on-demand services of Amazon and Ingram as well as a traditional printer for a successful book, which requires producing more than one cover file.

While e-book sales have shown a small decline over the past two years, they remain an important part of the industry. A June 17, 2016 report in Publishers Weekly stated 32.4% of book sales are e-books.

It is easy to create an e-book using online tools, but a simple conversion produces many quality issues. Items that play an important role in the interior design of a print book, such as drop caps, line spacing and section breaks will not translate well for some e-book reading devices. A professionally designed e-book requires the same level of care and effort as a professionally designed print book.

The industry standard for e-books is the EPUB format, but Amazon uses MOBI files instead. There are differences in the e-book creation. For instance, MOBI generates a table of contents from the Microsoft Word table of contents links while EPUB requires the creation of hyperlinks. Discern Products creates professionally designed e-books in both formats and lists e-books through Barnes & Noble, iStore and Kobo as well as Amazon Kindle.

Review Copies
Discern Products wants to ensure that the author is fully satisfied with its work before the book is released. Both print and electronic versions of the book are sent to the author for final review.

Author Copies for Sale
The mark-up on author copies is the largest hidden cost in the publishing industry. Some publishers even require authors to purchase a large number of books to increase their revenue. It is fair for a publisher to charge something for their work when author copies are ordered, especially for a traditional publisher that is paying all the costs. Authors should consider this cost in their decision on whether to hire a publisher or to self-publish.

For a self-published author, the cost to print a quality 150-page 6 by 9 book through Amazon Createspace is $2.65. In comparison, the website of hybrid publisher Dog Ear Publishing discusses how their charge for the 150-page book of $4.28 is much lower than their competition. They claim their major hybrid competitors charge: Outskirts Press $6.37, Infinity $6.45, Trafford Publishing $6.74, Wheatmark Book Publishers $6.78, Wordclay $7.31, Lulu $7.41, iUniverse $7.67, Author House $7.82, Book Surge $7.98, Xulon Press $8.39, Xlibris $13.99 and Publish America $15.16. And sometimes the quality of the printing that is delivered is questionable.  

Discern Products charges 10% of the retail price plus printing costs for author copies. In the above example, if the book retails for $9.99, Discern products would charge $3.65 per book. This is substantially less than the cost charged by both traditional and hybrid publishers.

Set-up and Promotion with Online Booksellers
Amazon is the dominate player in online bookselling so preparing the Amazon individual book page is an important part of the publishing process. This includes technical aspects such as keywords and BISAC codes plus submitting editorial reviews for special Amazon approval. Discern Products also makes sure the e-books are listed on Barnes and Noble, iStore and Kobo.

Distribution to Bookstores
The big five major publishers along with most other publishers use Ingram for distribution to the traditional bookstores. Their distribution arm for Christian books is Spring Arbor. So, it is somewhat misleading for a publisher to claim access to 25,000 or 40,000 booksellers when it is actually one account.

Distribution to bookstores and getting on the shelves are quite different. Bookstores are simply unwilling to stock most books because of the limited shelf space. Further, when a bookstore takes a book it is on consignment and there is a cost for books that are returned.

Government Regulations
Discern Products ensures the legal requirements of publishing are met such as legal deposit.

Revenue Sharing from Booksellers
Discern Products pays significantly higher royalties than industry standards. This is intended to help spread the gospel message and provide more resources for authors to do so.

Sales Tracking and Royalty Payments
Authors are frustrated by the standard industry delay in getting paid for books that have been sold. Most of this delay comes from the booksellers, but some publishers are also slow. Discern Products reports monthly sales within 20 days from month end and sends quarterly payments.

Marketing Support
Publishers sometimes promise or imply significant marketing support, but the industry no longer works that way. To be successful in selling books, authors must develop their own brands. Hybrid publishers who charge extra for marketing services often do not deliver good value for the money spent.

Discern Products has been successful in helping authors through general advice and by making connections for authors. However, it does not create false expectations.

Provision of Files
Discern Products breaks with industry standards by providing the final software files to the author for both the print and e-book versions. It does so in a spirit of trust that the author will not attempt to undercut Discern Products’ share of the revenue.

The author may terminate the publishing agreement without cause with 10 days written notice without penalty. Discern Products simply trusts that the author will be fair. Upon termination, the author may not use the Discern Products name, logo or the ISBN number issued in its name. If Discern Products wished to terminate an agreement, 60 days notice is provided to allow the author time to make other arrangements.