My first book was published through Xlibris. They have reported no sales from numerous authors, so no one is receiving royalty checks. They are ignoring my calls and emails, to get back my original work. I would like for a new company to publish the book. Can I legally take my book to a new company for printing? Can I just change the cover, since my kids did the artwork for the interior? I do not know what I need in addition to an ISBN for each book. Is a UPC necessary? What else is mandatory? Any help is greatly appreciated, as I have 3 series to get into print and refuse to let Xlibris touch them.
Typically when you self-publish, you retain all rights to your manuscript. The printer is just performing a service for you, there is no contract, so you should be able to take everything with you, no questions asked.
The only exception would be if --as you seem to indicate --you used an Xlibris template for your cover art, in which case, that would stay with them. If they obtained an ISBN for you, you might have to get a new one.
However, please be aware, your situation may not be much different with another printer. When you self-publish, you are basically responsible for all the marketing and selling of your own book --Xlibris may not have reported sales because there were none to report. If you do want to self-publish again, I highly recommend buying and reading The Self Publisher's Manual -- it will answer all the detailed questions about things like ISBNs and UPCs.
Xlibris is not a publisher. They do not consider themselves publishers, but publishing services providers. They do not select manuscripts, but offer publishing services for any author who pays them, indepenent of the quality of their work. They do not make money through sales (as a publisher would, who selects marketable manuscripts and rejects those they find unsellable), but through the author's payments for printing and distributing the book. Xlibris considers the author to be the publisher. It is the publisher's (and in the case of Xlibris, the author's) task to market the book and generate sales. If your book did not sell that is because you failed to fulfill the responsibilities of a self-published author, first and foremost among which are marketing your book. Xlibris is not at fault, but you are for choosing a vanity publisher instead of (writing well enought to) find a real publisher. Changing from Xlibris to some other vanity publisher won't increase your sales.
As an author, there are a number of ways to get your work in front of readers, such as:
- You can submit your manuscript to a reputable publishing firm
- You can submit your manuscript to an agent and hope they can place you with a reputable publishing firm
- You can self-publish (in print) using a service like CreateSpace (Amazon) or Nook Press (Barnes & Noble)
- You can self-publish (e-books) using a service like Kindle Direct Publishing or Nook Press
- You can use a vanity publishing service
With options 1 and 2, your chances of getting published are extremely low because the "reputable" publishers are very selective in the manuscripts they choose to publish. If you are going this route, you should make sure your manuscript is polished and written to the best of your ability. Even then, your odds of being selected are pretty slim. However, if they do select your manuscript, they will likely pay you an advance on earnings. They will also print, distribute, and market your book. In exchange for this, they will likely have you sign a contract that grants them exclusive rights to publish your book for a certain period of time. You still own the copyright, but you can't print the book yourself or offer it to another publisher while you are under contract. I believe this is what you had hoped for with Xlibris, but unfortunately, you were wrong. (Read on)
If you choose options 3 or 4, you will be able to publish the book yourself, in whichever format you choose. Each of these services will make your book available in their respective catalogs, but they do not do anything to promote your book. That is ultimately your responsibility. However, each of these services is available basically for free. With either of these options, you are under no obligation to remain with the "publisher", you maintain ownership of your copyright, and you can choose to go to any other company to publish your book.
If you choose option 5, then you are expected to pay a service fee in order for the "publisher" to print your book. This service fee can be anywhere from $500 to $3500 (using the prices from the Xlibris web site). In exchange, you will get a certain number of books for yourself, and they will add your title to their catalog. They do NOT do anything to market or promote your book (unless you choose the Platinum package, which costs over $15,000.) Here again, you are ultimately responsible for promoting your book. However, just as with options 3 and 4, you are under no obligation to remain with the "publisher", you maintain ownership of your copyright, and you can choose to go to any other company to publish your book.
It's unfortunate, but you appear to have selected the least desirable of the options listed here. The good news is that you don't have to worry about being able to publish your book elsewhere, because you are under no contractual agreement with Xlibris as an exclusive "distributor", which is really all they are. If you go with option 3 or 4, you won't have to worry about an ISBN or a UPC, because they will provide one for you. (You won't be able to reuse the one that Xlibris provided.)
You might want to take some time to do some research on self-publishing and educate yourself on the different options available to you. There is a wealth of information out there, but you'll need to take some time to really understand what it's all about and how to work it to your best advantage.