Writer Beware: Creation House / Charisma Media

Before I go into what I think writers should be aware of before working with Creation House / Charisma Media, let me give you a bit of background. (You can skip to specific discussion of Charisma Media if you’re not interested in the background.)

As a writer of a specialized kind of Christian literature (one that I call “theological thrillers,” by which I mean sophisticated, adult, page-turning novels written from a Christian worldview), I find few publishers where I can submit my novel-length work. Secular publishers are often not interested in Christian fiction (sometimes explicitly so in their guidelines), while Christian publishers are not really interested in thrillers, especially if they contain scenes that can be considered “edgy” (forget for now that you’d have to throw out half the Bible under those terms).

This was a serious problem for me until quite recently, when self-publishing became a viable path, especially for this kind of niche fiction. In the last year, as part of educating myself about this new world, I self-published two books, both collections of previously-published short fiction. It was a low-risk way to learn the ropes. The results have not been stellar—I’ve only sold a handful of copies of each book. I’m not discouraged, though; as part of my education, I’d learned that self-publishing is a marathon, not a race; that an author shouldn’t expect to make very many sales with only a few books available; and that the best marketing and promotion an author can do is to keep releasing high-quality work.

So I was ready to graduate and self-publish my novels. Some hesitation, however, was expressed by my highly intelligent wife-to-be Kirsten, who comes from an academic background where self-publishing is still very much a dirty word. Kirsten had not read any of the blogs or authors that I was reading (authors who were venturing into this new world of self-publishing with greater success and joy than they had with traditional publishing); she was still thinking about the old world, where self-publication usually meant one had been rejected by every publisher great and small, and where distribution entailed the author carting boxes of books from street to street and trying to hand-sell each one out of their car’s trunk (the internet and Amazon changed all of that, of course). I decided the safest course was to look around for traditional publishers who might want to consider my work before I jumped with both feet into self-publishing.

The first problem I encountered is that many of the Christian publishers I considered belong to a service called “ChristianManuscriptSubmissions.com.” This service costs $196 per year to have one’s manuscript placed in their database, where it will be available “for review by our member publishers.”

That immediately eliminates me from the running with any of those publishers. I’ve never paid a reading fee, and don’t intend to start now. My feeling is that publishers should make money by finding great novels and bringing them to market, where they can sell them to eager readers; if a publisher’s business model is based even a little bit on selling anything at all (including space in a database) to hopeful writers, I don’t want to work with them.

That brought me to Charisma Media. They didn’t charge a reading fee, which was good. There were red flags on their submission form, though. First, they ask for the full manuscript, which I found odd. Usually publishers want a synopsis (Charisma doesn’t) so they can get a quick sense of the overall story, and a sample chapter so they can get a sense of your writing ability; only after reviewing those will publishers request the full novel if they’re interested. Next red flag on Charisma’s submission form: they ask you how many copies you’d be willing to buy, and the number starts at 2000. That’s as strange to me as if I applied to work at a grocery store, and they ask me how many apples I expect to buy from them.

With some trepidation, but feeling that I owed myself this attempt at traditional publishing, I uploaded the full manuscript of my novel, ticked “other” for how many copies I’d be willing to buy, and filled in “50.” At least that was honest; I could definitely buy 50 and give them as gifts to loved ones.

A reply was waiting in my inbox less than three weeks later. Here’s the email I received:

Dear Mr. El-Koura:

On behalf of Charisma Media, thank you for giving us the privilege of seeing your work and considering it for publication. We’re very excited to be able to offer you the opportunity to co-publish your book through Creation House.

In a co-publishing collaboration, the author agrees to purchase—at a deep discount—a number of copies from the first printing of his book. In every other way, the model is the same as traditional royalty publishing. The co-published book becomes a Charisma product and bears our imprint. We print copies of the book at our expense for our own inventory, market it, distribute it, and pay royalties to the author for all the copies we sell. The author, in turn, sells his own copies and keeps all the profits. It’s that simple, and it’s a win/win strategy.

Creation House has been an industry leader for more than 40 years and has earned a reputation for quality and integrity. Our books are not only produced with excellence and stand among the finest in the industry, but are also distributed worldwide and given a real chance for success. A number of our co-published books have done very well and have become best sellers. We’re hoping that you will become our next best-selling author.

The email then asks me to consider their five publishing options, including a premium, standard, and basic co-publishing package.

What are the other two options?

From the email:

We believe that your book deserves to be co-published, but if co-publishing isn’t feasible for you, our two self-publishing options—POD or e-book—are offered as affordable alternatives.

You can download the PDF of the options as I received them.

Setting aside the fact that I submitted to what I believed was a traditional publishing house (i.e., one that pays me the author, rather than the other way around), I decided to look at the options rather than dismissing them out of hand (my first instinct). The premium package would set me back $19,360 to $39,100, depending on how many copies I want to try to sell myself (up to 10,000!) and whether I want to go with the hardcover or paperback option. The standard package costs $12,590 to $33,100, while the basic starts at $7,960 for 100 copies.

Before considering the last two options, let’s see what I would get for these princely sums. If I pay premium prices, I get cover design, formatting, editing, copy-editing, ISBN, proofing (does that mean I get a proof copy or that they’ll hire a proofer? not clear), and e-book publishing. There’s also “premium marketing,” which they describe in their marketing plan below the quote (it mostly consists of group ads, ads in their own magazine, and cross-promoting with other authors who also decided to pay for the privilege—notice they won’t provide “reciprocal advertising” with their other Charisma Media books, just with the Creation House ones).

Almost $20,000 (at the minimum) seems a bit steep. What do I lose if I opt for the standard package? The only real difference seems to be that they cut out the editor (but keep the copy-editor), the embossing on the hardback or paperback covers, and some marketing. The embossing I can do without, and the 30-second trailer I can definitely scrap to save almost $7,000, but the editor? Are they really so disposable?

OK, what about the basic package? Now it seems I’d lose the ability to customize my book’s formatting and cover design. Well that doesn’t sound very good, but the basic package would still set me back at least $8,000, which still seems kind of steep.

Their email did warn me that I should look at the next two options if I couldn’t afford the first three.

Unfortunately, the fourth option is basically the third option with a smaller number of minimum copies I’d have to order. One is called “co-publishing” and the other “self-publishing” but Creation House slaps their imprint on both versions anyway (more on that later). Instead of 100 copies for $7,960, I can order 25 copies for $4,857. That still seems steep, especialy since when I submitted to them (I can’t say this enough times), I was expecting them to pay me an advance (the way it works in traditional publishing), rather than the other way around.

One more option to go, and since it’s an ebook option, I guess it’ll be much cheaper, right?


The fee is $3,665. So what does that get me? Cover design, basic typesetting, one round of copy editing, then proofing (still not sure what this entails), e-book formatting, and uploading to major e-book distributors. And again, “typesetting is done with a basic template (industry standard with no customization), and the front cover is a basic design composition selected by the author (with no customization).”

$3,665 is a lot of money. I’ve been learning to do cover design myself, and feel like I’m getting better at it, but if I wanted to I could hire a good cover designer for under $500, and they’ll work with me to design the cover I want (none of this “no customization” business). Kirsten, my brother, and my sisters (who often read my work before I unleash it on the world) have eagle-eyes for typos, but if I wanted to I could hire a copy-editor for another couple of hundred dollars, especially if it’s to go through my manuscript and make sure everything matches up with The Chicago Manual of Style. Ebook formatting is a cinch if you have a bit of tech know-how, and uploading to the different major e-book distributors takes five to ten minutes per site, once you get used to them. (Or you can just upload a Word document to Smashwords and let them do everything else for you, without any upfront costs.)

Having said that, I don’t really think $3,665 is egregious. By my calculations, it’s inflated by a factor of two or three for what you get, but I’d call that a very healthy profit margin Charisma Media takes for having to go to the trouble of hiring cover designers, copy-editors, and formatters for you.

And even suggesting a retail price of $16.99 for the ebook (same as the paperback) is not egregious to me, though it does show a lack of savvy in this area (even a neophyte in publishing like me knows that few readers think it’s fair to pay the same amount for a paperback as for an ebook, and that Amazon, with all of its customer data, has figured out that $9.99 and under is the optimal price for an ebook). It’s just a suggested price, after all, and it’s not their fault if you take their suggestion and don’t sell a single copy (it’s also no skin off their nose—more on that later).

What is egregious in my mind is that after I’ve paid them all kinds of money to publish my book (i.e., taking all of the risk and putting up all of the money), they still keep a large share of the proceeds of each sale. On paper book sales, Creation House’s royalties are 12% to 15% (depending on the volume of books I’d move), and on ebooks their royalties are 50%. Half. Wait, for what exactly are they taking 50% of my profits? I wrote the book after all, and I paid them to do everything else from cover design to editing and formatting. That wasn’t enough? I need to continue paying them for those one-time services? (And for how long? It depends on the contract. In the email, Charisma Media’s representative tells me “If you would like to take this to the next step, we would be delighted to send you a contract to look over. Just let us know which option and quantity you desire.” The thought popped into my head to reply that I was interested just to see what the terms of the contract are, but I can’t help but feel that would be unethical. Besides, reading their options made me upset enough, I can hardly imagine what their contract would do to me.)

So the way I see it is that if I spend $3500 on editing, cover design, formatting, and uploading by hand-picked freelancers, I’ll come out ahead and I get to keep my rights! I don’t have to pay Charisma half of my profits! Otherwise, I take all of the risk and they get half the rewards? Does that sound fair? (After all, if Charisma Media and I are “co-publishing” my book, why aren’t they putting up half the cash investment? Fifty-fifty, right, partner?)

But there is one point from the email that I haven’t addressed yet. “The co-published book becomes a Charisma product and bears our imprint.” That’s worth something, isn’t it? Having an imprint on the spine of your book?

I agree with some of the self-published writers I follow that readers don’t really care about the imprint on a book. They care about the author (if they’re familiar with the author’s work), they care about the cover and blurbs and descriptions while browsing, they care about reviews, and they care about what their friends are suggesting they read. But assume that’s wrong and readers do want to see a publisher on the book–think about the imprint you’re getting in this case. It’s stated as “CHP”, which is “Creation House Press.” So anyone who is familiar with them will know that you paid to put that imprint there. It would be much cheaper to start up your own imprint and stick its logo on your book’s spine. And probably safer, too. Remember that they reviewed my 100,000 word book for less than a month before offering to “co-publish” it with me (enough time to read it? Discuss it? Make a decision on it?) What else are they offering to co-publish? Remember too that they’re happy to do no editing beyond copy-editing before sticking their imprint on a book. Do you want to have your book associated with incoherent drivel, because both you and the author of said incoherent drivel were willing to pony up the cash? I don’t. (If I had the time or inclination, I might, as a piece of investigative journalism, submit to Creation House a really poor (but not obviously bad) novel and see what would happen. I’d bet good money (but not as good as Creation House wants me to pay for their services) that they “would be very excited to be able to offer [me] the opportunity to co-publish [my] book through Creation House.”)

The important question to ask is this: who does a publisher consider to be their clients? Most publishers consider readers to be their clients; publishers will take a risk on the author, invest time, effort and money in that author and their book to bring it to market, and hope that readers reward them by buying lots of copies; if that doesn’t happen, they could stand to lose thousands of dollars. Charisma House, on the other hand, can never sell a single book to a reader and still make loads of money. Think about that, a “publisher” can make a hefty profit without ever selling a single book to a single reader!

Writers are easy prey. We want our books to be read, sometimes desperately so. We want to focus on our writing and not be bothered by other stuff, sometimes obsessively so. You can find stories on the internet of all kinds of publishing scams and unethical behaviour to steer clear of (years ago I had an agent offer to review my manuscript (of my now-abandoned first novel) on an “expedited track” for a small (ha!) reading fee). I’m saddened by this kind of behaviour, but perhaps it’s to be expected when there’s easy money to be had.

I consider Charisma Media’s offer unethical because they pulled the bait-and-switch on me (I submitted my manuscript explicitly to Charisma House, their traditional publisher, but they replied from their vanity publishing side, Creation House); because I believe the cost of their services is inflated; and because I think it’s taking advantage of writers who don’t know any better to offer that they pay a minimum of half their royalties to Creation House when Creation House did nothing for them that they weren’t paid by the author to do.

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, this is the reply I sent to Charisma Media:

This is to decline your offer of “co-publishing” my book. If you are interested in my reasons, I’ve posted my thoughts in an entry on my blog at http://www.ootersplace.com/writer-beware-creation-house-charisma-media/. I believe that writers will submit to you under the assumption that you are a traditional publisher (as I did, considering I accessed your submission form at www.charismahouse.com), and that they may mistakenly think that this is how traditional publishing works when they receive your offer to vanity publish their work. I hope that my post shows up if they decide to do a bit of searching before signing a contract with you, because those writers deserve to be warned before they pay several thousand dollars for services that can be had much cheaper (and for much greater control over those services) and—what’s far more important—without those writers having to tie up their rights with you and give away at least half their royalties (after taking on all of the risk themselves).

Please delete my manuscript from your drives and servers, and please reply to confirm that you’ve done so.

Thank you,

Karl El-Koura

Update July 25, 2012: Charisma Media has requested that I post their replies to my emails, which I’ve done despite continuing to have deep reservations about this company.  At least this way potential Charisma Media writers can see both sides and make up their own minds.

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Karl El-Koura was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and currently lives with his beautiful editor-wife in Canada’s capital city. More than sixty of his short stories and articles have been published in magazines since 1998, and in 2012 he independently published his debut novel Father John VS the Zombies.

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74 comments on “Writer Beware: Creation House / Charisma Media
  1. j.n.duncan says:

    Nice info, Karl. Hopefully other writers will see this who are thinking about vanity publishing. I’m sure the company will bitch at you about posting, but I hope you don’t let that deter you. This kind of info is good for writers to have. Best of luck with your writing!

    • Thanks, J.N. That’s my hope too–or at least to save some writers a lot of grief and time from submitting to Charisma House and hearing back from Creation House. Yes, they would like me to take down the post, but I see no good reason to do that. I’ve offered to amend anything that is factually incorrect in my post, and I’ve invited them to come out publicly (on my blog, if they wish) and argue against my opinion that they are engaging in unethical behavior by pulling a bait-and-switch on writers, let alone charging inflated prices for a vanity house, and let alone expecting to keep a minimum of half the royalties on top of that. I doubt they’ll take me up on the offer, though, and I’m pretty certain they don’t want too much light shined on their business. I believe Christ has something to say about those who prefer the darkness.

      • Judy Rekola (judyrekola.com) says:

        I appreciate the warning and your honesty about Charisma. It is disappointing to learn that about them when I think so much of Steve Strang as a Christian leader. I have a book that I published through Page Publishing. I thought they were charging a lot at $4,000 to publish my book but there is no way I could afford to do what you described. As marketing is about 90% of the success of a book, it cannot be underrated. That is the very thing they did not help me with. Since my contract with them is nearly over, I had decided to explore the Charisma option after seeing the ad in their magazine. I think I’ll pass.

    • Wendy Anderson (Mrs) says:

      So, Folks I came across this by accident, I wonder?, thank you, but how do you publish a book then? I am new and not even a writer, I am writing my true story as Jesus has kept encouraging me to do so, but I do not know how to proceed other than going to Editorsfirst.com and I have to do this on the smell of an oily rag unless the lord directs or provides something else? All advice greatly received, I am not a computer buff either! Haven’t got much going for myself really except the
      David and Goliath story and most importantly Jesus,now that is excellent. Help please in Jesus Name Amen. Wendy

      • Hi Wendy,

        You need to start by looking at your end goal. Is it to get your story out into the world? Then the easiest thing is to put your work up on a website/blog or even Facebook.

        Do you want a physical book you can hold and/or do you want to be paid for your work? Then that requires you to do one of two things:

        Option 1 – Submit your work to a professional, reputable publishing house (they’re professional and reputable when they pay you, never the other way around);
        Option 2 – Self-publish.

        Option 1 can take a long time (years and years) with no guarantee that your work will ever see the light of day. Option 2 requires you to spend some time learning how to format ebooks and print books, or hire someone (on a contract) to do the formatting for you (and maybe even uploading to the different sites, but I suggest you do that part yourself.)

        Both options have their pros and cons and you’ll have to decide what works for you (to help you decide, you may want to look at this post by Randy Ingermanson: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2014/02/13/publishing-your-novel/). The good news about Option 2 is that there are a ton of resources available online, most of them for free – you just need the time and energy to tackle them. Good luck!


  2. I stand corrected on one point at least. Charisma has asked that I publish their replies, which I will do.

  3. Brenda says:

    Hello Karl,
    I received that same letter word for word from CharismaHouse/CreationHouse. I did the leg work but could not find any negative information on them. I was trying to find out more information on publishers and discovered Author/House and there was so many negative things about this company it was unbelievably. I never submitted any money to CH but I was going to. I knew it seemed too good to be true. I even asked a lawyer who said it was, or seemed legal. Thank you for your site. It still seemed odd to me that I had to pay 8,000 and would not own the book. Are there any honest God Fearing People in the World. Thanks Brenda

    • You’re quite welcome, Brenda, I’m glad this helped. That money is far better off in your pocket than theirs – if you decide to self-publish, you could hire professionals to do editing, cover design, formatting, etc., for much less money AND not hand over any rights to your book, or if you want to pursue a traditional publishing deal, you could find a legitimate publisher who’ll invest in your book and pay you an advance. There are good people in this world, but there are also lots of bad ones. Christ did say, “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents.”

      Good luck, I hope you’re able to find a good home for your book.


  4. Brad says:

    I think Creationhouse is a bad idea for 99% of the authors out there. That said I thought your surprise at the fact that Charisma passed on your manuscript and 50 book offer is seems a bit naive. Of course a publisher isn’t going to dole out an advance plus invest heavily in a book when the author comes to the table and basically says they can roughly sell 50 copies.

    Creationhouses offering is crazy, but I can’t blane Strange Communications (the moths company) for trying to offer something more than just a rejection letter from Charisma.

    • Brad, a traditional publisher would expect the writer to buy zero copies of their own book from them, and some publishers will even give (not sell) the writer a handful of copies to hand out to family and friends. A publisher’s job is to sell copies, and sell them to someone other than the writer! To a legitimate publisher, how many copies a writer is willing to hand-sell shouldn’t even factor into the equation. And for the record, a straight rejection letter is what legitimate publishers respond with when they don’t feel they can sell a book to the public at large. Trust me, I’ve been rejected by some of the best!

      I would be interested to know who you think the 1% of writers for whom Creation House is a good idea, though.

  5. Tina says:

    Karl, thanks, I was so sure I wanted to go the CH…OMG I would have been so devestated as I am on a fixed income and never thought that an astronomical price such as $8,000 would ever be placed on publishing a book. God I feel soo stupid. Anyway, question: Could you take a moment to list some of the traditional publishers that you are aware of for comparison sake.

    • Tina, no need to feel stupid, outfits like that are designed to separate you from your money. Just remember that money always flows toward the writer. As for other Christian publishers, that’s part of the problem – very few take unagented submissions as far as I know. Some smaller ones do, like Marcher Lord Press (but only if your work falls in the speculative fiction genres) and Kirkdale Press (which is new). The big ones (Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, Zondervan, etc.) typically only accept submissions from their own stable of authors or through agents. Zondervan encourages authors to post their work on HarperCollins’s Authonomy site, but I don’t know enough about that forum to recommend it or not.

      Have you considered self-publishing? (In which case, you set yourself up as your own publisher and may have to spend your own money if you need to hire an editor, cover designer, book formatter, etc.)

      • Dr. Allan says:

        Thanks Karl. I was in the process of sending my manuscript without the knowledge of costs. You have saved me a fortune. Any recommendations for submission? Thanks.

        • Only what I said in my reply to Tina above. I don’t think there’s lots of (legitimate) publishing houses out there for Christian fiction … which is why self-publishing is one of the most viable paths for a writer these days, especially a Christian writer. As big publishing houses have demonstrated again and again lately, they’ll be only too happy to offer any writer tons of money for the rights to a book that writer self-published successfully. And learning the ropes of self-publishing is time better spent than chasing down an agent (most big publishing houses won’t consider your manuscript unless you agree to work through an agent). Then let the big publishers come to you if your work catches an audience.

  6. Trisha says:

    I have published via another self-publisher and CH prices are in line with typical self-publishing companies. I broke even on my first book and I will probably go with CH for the second book because above and beyond the books that I choose to print, they will print and distribute copies of the book returning a royalty. It is the same cost as the self publisher with the potential of a greater distribution than what I can do for myself.

    Having been in business myself, I understand the fact that a company needs to be able to make a bit of a profit. After all that is the American way.

    • Thanks for your comment, Trisha. I have a few issues with it:

      First, it’s only self-publishing when you are in control of the publishing process (that’s where the self part comes in). When you pay someone else to publish your book, that’s called vanity publishing. Charisma House is a vanity publisher.

      Second, of course a company needs to make a profit. No one is arguing with that; the issue is how a company makes its profits. Traditional publishers make their profit by selling books to readers. Vanity publishers make their profit by selling services to writers. Traditional publishers and self-publishers risk their own money to bring the writer’s book to market; vanity publishers risk nothing (or risk the author’s money) to bring a book to market.

      Third, you say you will go with Charisma House for your second book. Why have you decided to go straight to a vanity publisher? If you’re focused on large print distribution (I assume this is what you’re referring to, since in digital distribution everyone–self-publishers, traditional publishers and vanity publishers–has the exact same reach), why not go with a traditional publisher that pays you an advance and royalties? Is your book not good enough for a traditional publisher? If that’s the case, why should it be good enough to pay a vanity company to publish it?

      Think about this: if a book is brought to market and fails completely, the traditional publisher and the self-publisher would each suffer a loss. If a book is brought to market and fails completely, the vanity publisher still turns a profit (I’d argue a nice profit), and would be more than happy to keep working with that writer, even if every single one of their books is a total flop, because the vanity publisher is still making money (without selling a single book to a reader).

  7. Rehana Bacchus says:

    What do you think of Xulon a christian publishing company. I am considering sending a manuscript to them. In fact, I did send it to Creation house, but I never followed through. Got a similar letter to the one you received. I would appreciate your insight into Xulon.

    • I took a very quick look at their page, Rehana, and they seem to be very up-front about what they’re offering, which is nice to see (especially from a Christian publisher). They’re very clearly a vanity publisher, though – you as the author have to pay to be published by them. But why would you want to? (To repeat the point I made about Creation House: if a “publisher” can make a healthy profit without selling a single copy of my book to a single reader, they’re not a “publisher” I want to work with. It really is that simple).

      If you want to pay someone to help you self-publish a book (for things like formatting or cover design or uploading to the various retailers), pay someone who charges a fixed cost and leaves you alone after that (and you’ll get charged orders of magnitude less than the thousands of dollars I see these vanity publishers charging).

      Again, my philosophy is to either work with a publisher who pays me an advance and royalties (i.e., money always flows towards the writer as in traditional publishing) or to be my own publisher (i.e., hire contract help if and when I need it, but control every aspect of the publishing process myself).

      Does that help?

      • Rehana Bacchus says:

        Thanks for such a speedy reply. It does and I see your point very clearly. I would love to save the thousands, but I am wondering if my book which is strictly christian, but contains wisdom for all kinds will get better publicity with someone such as Xulon. For instance like getting it at book shows etc. On my own I don’t think I will be able to access those resources which they already have at the tip of their fingers. I guess I am paying for their help in a way. My one concern is that if I am paying for what they say they are going to give me I get it. How do you always know you get what you pay for. Oh I am sure they make a smiling profit on these deals which I don’t begrudge them. I guess it might also be the question of do I want to go true self publishing or what I guess they call “co-publishing” aka vanity publishing. Am I making sense here?

        • I think if you only want PR services, you should only pay for PR services (I didn’t look into them too carefully, but my cursory glance led me to believe one has to pay Xulon to publish one’s book to access their other services?) You could very easily self-publish and then hire a PR firm to help you market the book and get it into things like trade shows, if that’s the kind of expertise you’re looking for. Why pay them for cover design and formatting and so forth? As for how to make sure you’re getting a fair deal, it’s the same process as with any other contractor you’d hire: shop around, compare prices, ask to speak with customers, search for information about them on the internet, etc. (Actually, after writing that I decided to google Xulon and complaints and … oh boy. Try it if you haven’t yet).

          • Rehana Bacchus says:

            Hi Karl, thanks again for your quick reply. I did google complaints regarding Xulon and I did come up with some. I also read Mark Levine’s comments regarding them and it was extremely positive. I have decided to go with Xulon and I do appreciate the comments you made and it enabled me to ask some questions I would not have considered. For that I am grateful. Thank you for taking your time to respond. I am glad I discovered your site.

          • You’re welcome, Rehana, and thanks for keeping me updated. Looks like you made the right decision for you. Good luck with your book!

  8. Anthony says:

    Thanks for your warning you sent out. It was bold and right of you to do so. You have taken a bold stand as a Lighthouse to warn others from making shipwreck in their bid to publish their books. That is being Christ Like, in spite of what others may say. Weldone and thanks again. Now its up to the readers of your blog to take caution, do their research on the same, and act appropriately.
    By the way your writing of the blog also showedyour gift of writing. Keep developing it. BY the way have you ever thought of filling in the vaccum and starting your own publishing company for service to the Body of Christ, especially those who write your same genre? Anthony

    • Thank you, Anthony, that’s very kind of you to take the time to say so. I’m amazed and saddened by how many Christian writers (who have contacted me on the blog and privately) are paying to have their books published. I wish they’d realize that they can maintain control of their work by “sub-contracting” only what they need help with and self/indie-publishing. No, I wouldn’t want to set up my own publishing company anytime soon, I’m still learning the ropes myself. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Michael says:

    Whoa! Thanks for saving me from making a mistake I’d regret.

  10. Mary says:

    Thanks for the information iam preparing to publish a book and i had gotten a call from Author houseand I was considering Creation but after reading the comment iam going to self publisher thanks for keeping me for going the wrong way

  11. Bob says:

    Same thing here – I find a publisher, I think “oh, boy, this is it!” Next I Google the company. Phooey! The money doesn’t flow to me. However, I have found that local printers charge less than $3.50 per book for 500 or more. I plan to get an ISBN and try to get a good deal from a PR firm. Thanks for the education.

    • Very smart rule to follow, Bob. Money always flow to the writer – if more writers followed that, a lot of heartache (and money!) would be saved.

      Have you compared your local printer to Createspace? Might be competitive, especially if you need a smaller print run. And don’t neglect ebooks!


      • Judy says:

        Thank you for your great post!! I am an Indie author and have used Create Space for the last two of my four books and will use them for my next one. I highly recommend them as they are connected with amazon and have Cover Creator to help you design your book cover and have templates for your book. Oh, yes, I did consider Charisma House at one time and actually met with one of the managers, who I won’t name, at a writer’s conference. Attending one of those conferences even for one day was a great eye opener to the publishing industry. I highly suggest to everyone to buy a good book on self-publishing. Worth millions…well, not that much but anyone can do it. Microsoft Word, Paint,and Create Space have become my closest friends.

  12. Vivian says:

    What Creation House is presenting reminds of the Pharisees, hypocritical and self-serving. No need to apologize for wolves in sheep clothing. That is an outrageous price and presented in a highly deceptive manner to make a newbie author believe it is a traditional consideration for author publishing.

    Then they have the nerve to tag on high royalties after you have paid ridiculously high prices. Worse off, they take your full manuscript, leaving you frozen for weeks while you believe a traditional publishing house is considering your manuscript, then you get hit with a shark vanity publishing offer, with prices so high to be right out sinful.

    Well, go to createspace, Christian brothers and sister. That logo Creation House is trying to sell to you for $3000 on up, is not worth the ink it is printed with, and certainly not the hostage-high prices they are demanding. Shame on them. Get your prices in line with sensible low cost for printing 25 books (which should be no more than $20 for color of average length, and $5 for black/white average length), then your company won’t reveal yourselves for being rip-off artists preying on Christians, hiding behind the cloak of religion for your scam presentation.

  13. Faithe says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with Charisma’s Creation House and their scam. I read your article right on time and really appreciate your honesty and fairness in reporting story. Grateful, Faithe

  14. Steph says:

    Hi Karl, I have two questions for you – what do you think about Creation House’s marketing package? Do you think that it’s worth anything? Is it fair? Does it actually accomplish anything? Also, I wanted to know your thoughts on excel publishers, the new self-publishing company from Charisma and Xulon.

    • I have no idea, Steph. I wouldn’t touch Creation House with a ten-foot pole. But if you feel otherwise, before you fork over any cash to them, ask for a list of client references. Call (don’t email) those authors and make sure they’re a) real people and real clients of Creation House and b) ask them what good the service did for their books (then look up those books on Amazon and verify the ranking).

      I’d never heard of Excel before, but it only took ten seconds on their site for me to decide they’re another company I would apply the ten-foot-pole-distance rule to.

      It really isn’t that hard to learn to format an ebook and and upload it yourself to the different retailers–you’ll feel good about yourself and you’ll have a lot more control over everything. If you don’t want to mess with ebook conversion and uploading, look into sites like Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/) and Draft2Digital (https://www.draft2digital.com), which will convert a Word document for you and upload it to lots of different sites. You can easily learn to format a print book, or pay someone a small (one-time) fee to do it for you, then upload the formatted file to a site like Createspace (https://www.createspace.com/).

      Before you upload your work to any site, just make sure you’re clear on what agreement you’re entering into. Smashwords is established, and it’s easy to see which books they’ve published and easy to contact their authors. I see no such list on Excel’s site. If you’re entertaining using them for your book, just make sure you ask lots of questions, like what rights you’re giving up by uploading to them, what rules they have around you taking down your book if you change your mind, etc.

      Hope some of that helps.


  15. rsram says:

    I thank God I’ve come across your comments.
    I’m planning on writing and (now) self publishing.
    Charisma was my first choice.


  16. Grace says:

    Many thanks for exposing Creation House and Charisma Media. I received the exact e-mail, word for word, that you posted. I thank God I prayed before responding. I then found your post. Where are the righteous publishers?

    • Unfortunately, they are few and far between it seems. Even seemingly reputable publishing companies are now partnering with vanity presses (see here for an example: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/a-victory-against-author-solutions/). In others cases authors are suing their publishers (e.g., http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/) over unpaid royalties.

      My answer has been to test out the self-publishing waters with one of my novels so far (Father John) and a small handful of shorter work. I’ve just finished work on the sequel to Father John and intend to self-publish that when it’s ready because so far my experience with it, though far from lucrative, has been great – I like the control I have over my work, from cover design to pricing to marketing. I like that I don’t have to wait for someone else’s green light to put my work out there. I highly recommend it as an option to look into.

  17. mark evans says:

    Thanks for saving me the head, heart and financial ache of getting mixed up with this company. It is little more than a printing company under the guise of a publisher. I totally change my mind and will never go near them.

  18. Lea Starling says:

    I had a book published with Creation House and I was very disappointed with my experience. It is very difficult for writers to recoup their costs because Creation House does absolutely nothing to promote or sell the book. The only sales I have made is selling the books I had to buy myself. And even the sales I have made on Amazon etc were sales generated by my own promotional work (even though Creation House gets 90% of the profits). I have recently been invited to appear on a television program to promote the book and Creation House won’t even pay my flight, even though it’s to their financial advantage for the book to be promoted. I am starting to think they’re not really interested in selling these books because they make enough of a profit on the “co-publishing” agreement. The contract also stated that the book would be available as an e-book and that is yet to happen even though the book was published over a year ago. Also, if I ever write another book, Creation House has the right of first refusal on my next two books.
    In the end, Creation House did produce an attractive book and did all the publishing work (ISBN number etc), but did very little to edit the book (there were tons of typos after they’d reviewed it) and nothing to promote it. It does seem like they are in a hurry to crank out as many books as they can and cash those cheques. So if you want a book published quickly and you have money to spend, it’s worth considering. But don’t expect anything you would get from a legitimate publishing house.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Lea. I hope it serves as a warning to other writers. I think the key point is this: “I am starting to think they’re not really interested in selling these books because they make enough of a profit on the “co-publishing” agreement.” I think that’s exactly right.

      I was sorry to hear that Creation House has right of first refusal on any future books you write – traditional, legitimate publishing houses are now putting that kind of language into their contracts and I think it’s really unconscionable. You may want to approach Creation House and ask if, given your dissatisfaction with their services, they will agree to mutually void the contract.

  19. PETER AZAARE says:

    Hi karl God bless you.You have really opened my eye,the truth is i nearly sent my manuscript to creation house,in fact the option was for me to sell all my family members in other to accept that contract.Look i have written several books that all ready to be published,but my fear is,where to start.
    tell me what is the way out for my books.thank you.

    • Hi Peter,

      You may want to take a look at my response to Grace further up in the comments.

      Good luck! There are definitely better options than a press that charges its own authors money.


  20. I was just checking out Charisma House to find out what kind of publishers they are. They state right on their submissions page that they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries and that Creation House is where you can co-publish. After reading their info I clicked back on the Google search page and found your post. I have heard of co-publishing before and what I have read indicates that the book is paid for partly by the author and partly by the publisher. This would be reasonable, but I am amazed to see the figures you quoted. I don’t think any book is worth spending that much money to publish. I can’t imagine forking out over $20,000.00 with the possibility of selling zero books except what your family and friends purchase out of loyalty to you. They would end up being terribly expensive books! It would be cheaper to take the ms to a local printer and pay them to print 50 or 100 books.

    We have a Christian publisher in Canada who is very selective about what they publish and the best option is between $4,000 and $5,000. You can choose an option around $2,000. I believe you are required to purchase 50 books as well. And they have a contest every year for a free contract. (It is only for Canadian authors.) You get your own editor to work with you – I believe for all options. I know several people who have gone this route, some more than once, and are very happy with them. They do produce excellent books. But I’m afraid I don’t have even that kind of money to hand out to publish a book I have no guarantee would sell. My faith in my manuscript is in no way a guarantee to future sales, and I definitely would never go into debt over publishing. I’m heading towards CreateSpace as the most viable option for me at least. Unfortunately some writers are so desperate to be published they are willing to do or pay just about anything to see their work in print. I hope your post will enlighten at least a few and save them a lifetime of grief. Thank you for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Diane. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts as well.

      It seems Charisma has updated their policies, because they definitely took unsolicited manuscripts when I submitted to them (to their Realms imprint).

      I’m glad that your acquaintances are happy with the co-publishing deals they found, but I remain unshakable in my conviction that publishers should pay writers, not the other way around.

      Good luck with your book!

  21. Laura Shinn says:

    Karl, I’m an author, cover designer, formatter (no longer an editor due to time constraints involved) and I work for 3 Indie Publishers, two as their Chief Designer and one as the Executive Assistant.

    I received an email yesterday from a nice Christian gentleman regarding his book title and become published. He forwarded to me an email he received after his submission to Creation House/Charisma Media. It read verbatim to the one you posted up above in your article/post. The author also sent me the attachments that were sent to him of their various packages and pricing options. I can’t say I was shocked. More like angered. I’ve seen this so many times with so many “publishers” that are nothing of the kind. You are correct in saying they are scammers. And to be promoting themselves as a Christian company….? Well, all I can say is, one day they will have to stand before Christ and try and explain themselves and what they do and don’t do for people. I think it’s shameful.

    Before I responded to this man’s email, I wanted to do a search first for “reviews” and ironically, your article/website was listed first, praise God. I pray that anyone searching under the Creation House/Charisma Media name will read your post before agreeing or submitting anything to these people.

    I have several full-length books self-published via Amazon’s Kindle program, Smashwords (which goes out to multiple distributors as an ebook), and Createspace (print). I STRONGLY recommend these three for anyone wishing to self-publish. For those interested only in a print option, Createspace is the best printer for the money. NO upfront fees at all!! You get a free ISBN-13 and ISBN-10 number that you need to place on your copyright page, and they’ll place the actual barcode on the back cover at the time of printing. Even their Expanded Distribution is free, including overseas retailers. Your book will go out to multiple distributors and be available as a paperback (only) book with online retailers.

    For those wanting info on how to format and marketing, Mark Coker (owner of Smashwords) has a free download of the SW Style Guide (in formatting) and Marketing Guide (2 ebooks), loaded with helpful info. I recommend authors who wish to self-publish download these free ebooks from SW.

    Also at SW is “Mark’s List,” a compilation of ebook formatters and cover designers. Many on this list will also do editing upon request. Many also offer ebook and print formatting and cover design. I’m on this list as well: Laura Shinn Designs. However, there are quite a few very talented cover designers and formatters also on the list who can work for YOU at a very reasonable cost. And by reasonable, I mean $35 – $150 for an ebook cover design and $50 – $200 for ebook formatting. Print costs might also be within those price ranges, maybe a tad more for others on the list. But either way, those costs are WAY below a 5-figure fee!! Even the fee of a full comprehensive edit of a 250,000 page manuscript shouldn’t exceed more than $400.

    My best advice is….do your homework! A good author ALWAYS looks into multiple options before making a final decision. Most publishers these days are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. So many folks are self-publishing these days. But if you want your book to be available to more than friends and family, you will need to put the time, effort, and minor costs into preparing your manuscript and cover for publication at whichever online retailer you choose.

    Another excellent resourse is http://ebookcrossroads.com. In the left column you’ll find nearly everything you’ll need to become published. NOTE: Some of these companies and individuals may quote higher prices than what I mentioned above…but nowhere near a 5-figure fee.

    Good luck to you all, God bless, and thanks to Karl who cares enough for newbie authors to offer this helpful post so others don’t fall into the “traditional publisher” trap.

    In Christ, Laura

  22. Bob Kirchman says:


    I appreciate your overview of the Traditional Publishing/Vanity Publishing/Self Publishing world. Having approached another Christian Vanity Publisher, I was a bit put off by the high cost of entry.

    In the end, it was Charles Dickens who convinced me to go another route. Dickens was the king of serial publishers in the Nineteenth Century when books were relatively expensive. People first read his weekly installments in papers before buying his beautifully illustrated books. Dumas serialized his work too. Jules Verne did so with the Voyages Extraordinaires.

    Being a realist, I decided to serialize my first work on my blog. That meant at least three people would… ummm… actually read it. If readers asked for more, there would follow a perhaps more mature autograph and eventually a real publisher might be handed a manuscript that bore their scrutiny.

    In the meantime I will have enjoyed the process with a handful of friends who can be trusted to provide good feedback.

    I, along with a colleague, provided the illustrations and ‘cover’ art ourselves. While not every writer can do this, think! Surely you have a young niece out there who has just finished a graphic design course. If she’s pretty handy with Photoshop you can share your money with her instead of the big publishing house.

    You’ll have to promote yourself, but there is amazing power in the one-on-one interaction… (didn’t Jesus do something like that)?

  23. Tendayi says:

    thank you for such an informative dialogue here. Ready to publish and Authorhouse have been hounding me since I showed interest but self publishing seems the way forward. I am a motivational speaker so will promote the book along my travels and allow God to do the rest. I only wrote it because he instructed me to anyway so clearly no need to spend too much money for nothing, better spent on promotion as you mentioned Karl. May God bless you richly for your sound advice.

  24. Lu Ann Youngman says:

    I’m looking to self-publish a Bible study book. I already have pre-orders for the book, I have taught it, and had good comments. Some have sponsored me to help with the publishing. This is my first book, and you know how hard it is for a first time author to get with a traditional publisher. Westbow has offered me a contract, but I have not accepted it yet. I need both my book online and in bookstores due to the teaching aspect. People need the book in hand. Any suggestions to what may be my best option for a publisher? Creation House offered me a contract as well, and I have not accepted their offer to date.

    • Yes, my suggestion is to self-publish your book … yourself. Really — it isn’t very hard and you can use an aggregator like Smashwords or Draft2Digital to get into all ebook retailers, and something like CreateSpace for the paperback (you can get your book into libraries and bookstores). It won’t cost you a penny (unless you pay someone to help with formatting or posting — which should be a one-time fee only) and you don’t have to split the royalties with anyone but the retailer, or get into questionable contracts with a vanity publisher.

  25. Hi Karl, thank you for the Information. What are your thoughts on Tate publishing? It seems they fit the vanity publishing method you have described so eloquently.

    • Hi Chad,

      I’d never heard of them before (although according to the banner at the top of their website they are “AMERICA’S TOP PUBLISHER”!) But yes, after less than a minute on their website, there’s no question they’re a vanity publisher, and seems very similar to Creation House.

  26. Claire says:

    I’m seeking to publish a devotional, not usually a great seller but making a ton of money is not my goal. I went ahead recently and paid $98 for six months to Christianmanuscriptsubmissions.com to act as a broker to have a sample of it reviewed by a possible publisher. Are they legit?? It’s only been a few days and after editing it three times, the changes did not appear on the proposal. I e-mailed them today and waiting for a reply.

    I have a feeling this is a waste due to a few comments one of their staff e-mailed to me.

  27. Carol Mills says:

    Karl, I am so glad that I came across your blog. I had read an advertisement in their magazine about submitting manuscripts to be published. I had checked their submission form and was surprised to see the same request for how many books you wanted to purchase. I was going to call and ask a few questions that were not answered by their FAQ page. However, you saved me the time…. I was able to glean some very important information that will be quite helpful in publishing my manuscript. Please do not pull this blog. It’s been 4 years since this was first written about and yet it still continues.

  28. Tina Meyers says:

    Thank you – Thank you – Thank you.. I have been reading the information list here, and it was an eye-opener… I am shocked, that this christian publishing company would misrepresent themselves… I have written a book about prayer, and am interested in publishing it. The Holy Spirit spoke to me to write this book.. I know it was supernaturally inspired, because I could not have written a word own my efforts alone.. I’ve taken notes regarding ebooks Smashword or Draft2Digital, and CreateSpace for paperback books… Karl, is their any other resources that you would recommend for a newby like me..

    Thank you again,

    Tina M

    • I’m glad, Tina. Start with this blog post as a general introduction:


      If you like what you see, you can download David’s book on this topic, “Let’s Get Digital” (I believe the ebook is free everywhere).

      Good luck with your book!

    • Laura Shinn says:

      Tina, I’m an author, designer, formatter. I work for a publisher and do freelance work. I just wanted to say you’re on the right track! Self-publication in most cases is a good direction to go. Uploading to Smashwords and Amazon will cover a vast majority of the ebook distribution outlets. Createspace, in my opinion, is the best of the POD printer options. Yes, it is paperback, but this makes it affordable for you and your reader. I wouldn’t worry about Draft2Digital. Our publisher placed many of our books there and we haven’t sold a one! Sales are way better at Amazon than at D2D.

      You probably know this already, but be sure to check out “Mark’s List” at Smashwords to locate a knowledgable formatter and designer. Many can do print as well, and some even edit! I personally know a lady in Mark’s List who offer’s editing and she’s very good.

      Good luck with your book of prayers! My mother wrote one too. She passed on before she could publish it, but I’m hoping to put it together and upload it for her to SW and Amazon. I know she’d be so happy to have those out there for folks to read. *gg* God bless….


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