Why Thomas Nelson Opened A Self-Publishing Press

WestBow Press

If you haven’t heard yet, Thomas Nelson rebranded their WestBow Press imprint as a new POD publisher that is open to any author who has an extra $1000 or so.

Yes, this is expensive, especially when you consider that some of the publishing packages go up to $20,000. Yikes!

Why would anyone pay to be published at WestBow? There are three lures:

  1. Your book gets stamped by Thomas Nelson as “approved for the Christian Market”. This is big, as Thomas Nelson is the 800 pound gorilla in the Christian publishing world. It will still be difficult to get your self-published book into a Christian bookstore, but it will at least be somewhat easier with Thomas Nelson’s stamp.
  2. You get access to editorial and marketing services at Thomas Nelson. (For an added fee!)
  3. You get on Thomas Nelson’s “farm team”. They will be monitoring sales weekly, and if your book looks like it will take off, they just might offer you a legitimate publishing contract.

Since I personally am not considering self-publishing at this point, I honestly wasn’t going to chime in on this new venture, but I am motivated by the doubt fueled over at Chip MacGregor’s blog concerning the “farm team” idea. Sandra Bishop thinks its not true, and she has some ideas on how to do it right. These are legit ideas, and you can check them out here.

But I for one, believe Michael Hyatt when he says:

Publishers aren’t omniscient. We miss numerous opportunities every year. Finding the next bestseller is like searching for a needle in a haystack. WestBow Press provides us with a kind of “farm team.” We intend to watch the sales of these titles carefully. We will offer traditional publishing contracts to those authors whose self-published books begin to gain traction.

Now, I don’t know Michael personally. Sure, he and I have emailed back and forth a few times about a book marketing idea I pitched to him. But I don’t know him, so take my words with a grain of salt.

Michael Hyatt

I personally believe that not only is Michael looking for a new revenue stream for Thomas Nelson, but that he really, really, really wants to find the next “big” author that everyone is missing.

I can imagine him laying awake at night wondering just how a book like “The Shack” (whether you agree with it or not) passed them by. After all of their efforts to find the best books—the one’s with the best potential for selling well—they miss books like this. The agents miss them. The editors miss them. Everyone misses them.

And up until now, there has been no alternative like WestBow Press. Sure there are lots of small time, or non-Christian, or stigmatized outfits—but not any connected with the likes of Thomas Nelson.

Michael Hyatt is a genuine person, and he speaks from his heart. The farm team idea is legitimate. Mark my words … there will be books from WestBow that are offered publishing contracts with Thomas Nelson.

But here’s the rub … without the full marketing support it will be hard for any book to get real traction. If an author chooses to go with WestBow, they better know that the odds are against them.

But then, aren’t they always with self-publishing?

At least with WestBow someone is looking over your shoulder checking your sales. No self-published author has that, and has to approach publishers like a beggar after the fact and “admit” they self-published a book and try to justify it. Agents won’t even sneeze at a self-published book.

What this does is legitimize self-publishing. It takes away the stigma a bit.

And with the way things are going, I wonder … will the day come when WestBow Press will one day become larger and more lucrative than Thomas Nelson, the parent company? Will the tail swallow the horse one day? The digital revolution is upon us, and this is just the beginning of changes.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment so we can discuss this change in the publishing landscape.

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7 thoughts on “Why Thomas Nelson Opened A Self-Publishing Press

  • I’m decidedly ambivalent on this subject. I considered self-publishing at one time, but rejected it and decided to keep on butting my head against the stone wall of getting published by a royalty publisher. In God’s time, I cracked through (the wall, not my head, although there’s some difference of opinion there). I suspect I’m not alone in the frustration I felt for so long.
    Maybe this will be a great step forward. Maybe it won’t. But I’m afraid it will encourage people who are tired of fighting to spend money they can ill afford to self-publish without fully realizing the struggle they can face when it comes to marketing and publicity.
    I’m glad that almost every post I’ve seen on this subject includes the same caveat–go into this with your eyes wide open.

  • I think your post probably expresses the sentiments of many people. Mr. Hyatt is a very savvy exec and amazes me that he’s able to tweet, write, and run such a large company all in the same day. I can’t dispute him for wanting more revenue for the company in these hard times. My hope would be that they tighten the integrity in the books they publish for both Thomas Nelson and WestBow. Thomas Nelson was always a publisher I could trust for the content of their books but the “worldview” phrase used along with Christian publishing puzzles me. However, I wish them luck in this endeavour as well as those who will invest their $ to fulfill their dream.
    Glad I was directed to your blog also.

  • Thank you for a well thought out and well written post. I too am sort of ambivalent about this venture. With one book published by a tradition publisher, knowing the time and frustration of getting through the process, I have just published my second book in entirely electronic format, believing that if it does well I will eventually publish it in print. There are many options today and things are changin rapidly in publishing. Old concepts are hard to overcome and new ideas are challenging.

  • I’ve gotten behind on the bevy of comments and visitors, so here’s my various responses:

    Richard—I’m glad you were finally able to break through and get published. And amen to having your eyes open with this or any self-publishing venture.

    Eva—it is true that agents can be cut out of this process, especially with the industry leary of the “referral system”. But there is some legitimacy to the concern that writers will abandon the long, hard road to establish their craft first.

    Lucille & Charmaine—thanks for stopping by! :)

    Forrest—yes, things are changing. While I am looking for a traditional publisher, my daughter is like you in being comfortable self-publishing in electronic format. She sees the wave and has jumped on. Thomas Nelson is just trying to be an early adapter.

    Theresa—I’m glad I could be of help in your process to understand the options out there. WestBow Press does present a new angle on it, doesn’t it?

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