Home / Blog / Zondervan Publishing: An In-Depth Zondervan Review For Faith-Based Authors

Zondervan Publishing: An In-Depth Zondervan Review For Faith-Based Authors

Written by

Patrick McNulty

https://selfpublishing.com/author/patrickmcnulty/

Published on

2020-05-06

Are you looking for the lowdown on Zondervan Publishing?

Known amongst the faith-based author community, Zondervan Publishing has two main publishing imprint companies that you should be aware of.

You’re passionate about sharing your story with the world… but is Zondervan the answer for you?

In this complete review, we’ve gathered together everything you need to know about Zondervan’s services, the books they offer, their reputation, and who they’re suited for. 

A Note To Our Readers:

We want you to make informed decisions when it comes to how and where to invest your money. That’s why our mission is to help educate authors on the various self-publishing companies and services that are on the market today.

Our reviews are meant to be unbiased, 3rd party reviews. In full transparency, we are part of the Self-Publishing School family, an online education company for authors and entrepreneurs looking to write and publish a book.

With the abundance of publishing companies in operation, it’s important to make sure you know exactly who you’re dealing with and how (or if) they can help you. 

Our guide to Zondervan Publishing will help you determine exactly that. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this Zondervan review:

  1. What is Zondervan Publishing?
  2. Zondervan Publishing Services and Prices
  3. Is Zondervan Publishing For You?
  4. Zondervan Review: The Pros and Cons
  5. Other Zondervan Reviews
  6. Alternatives to Zondervan Publishing
  7. Final Rating

New call-to-action

What is Zondervan Publishing?

Zondervan Publishing is a Christian book publisher operating out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company’s main purpose is to release various Bibles, but a range of academic and contemporary Christian books are also offered. 

If you’re looking for a Christian publisher with a prestigious history, Zondervan might fit the bill. Originally founded in 1931 with the release of Women of the Old Testament, Zondervan expanded and became the only company in America licensed to release the New International Version of the Bible.

Who owns Zondervan Publishing? 

Since then, Zondervan Publishing was acquired by Harper Collins, and today exists as an imprint of their Christian books division. 

But what about Zondervan’s relevance today? Do they still have something to offer Christian authors and readers, or are they best regarded as a legacy company?

Read on to discover exactly what Zondervan has to offer in the here and now.

Zondervan Publishing Services & Prices

So, if you’re an author (or an aspiring one), what does Zondervan have to offer you, and how much will it set you back?

Related: How to Become an Author

Broadly speaking, you have two pathways open to you as an author: submitting to Zondervan Publishing on a traditionally published basis, or opting for one of their self-publishing imprints.

We’ll cover both, explaining exactly how each option works, as well as the pros and cons to consider.

Related: Self Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

First, let’s take a look at how to offer your manuscript to Zondervan on a traditional basis.

Zondervan Traditional Publishing

If you want to become a Zondervan Publishing author, there are two imprints you can submit your manuscript to:

  1. Zondervan Reflective. If you have a manuscript for a Christian book that explores themes like the traditional aims of the faith, or the contemporary challenges it faces in today’s world, Zondervan Reflective might be the right place to submit to. Zondervan states that you need to have genuine experience and expertise in any area you write about, so be prepared to demonstrate that.
  1. Zondervan Academic. Authors of more academically-inclined Christian books should turn their attention to this imprint. Examples of the type of book suited to Zondervan Academic include Christian reference books, Bible commentaries, and college textbooks. 

Now that you know your options for submitting a manuscript to Zondervan, let’s consider the submission criteria. 

Here’s the submission criteria for Zondervan’s traditionally published route:

  1. Book description. What exactly is your book, and what does it contain?
  2. Uniqueness statement. There is an abundance of Christian writing today. Why is yours different, and what value does it bring to the table?
  3. Table of Contents. List the chapters your book will contain as well as a couple of sentences describing the contents of each.
  4. Ideal reader. Who do you intend to read your book? How will they benefit from it?
  5. Resume. Who are you and what makes you qualified to write the book you are submitting to Zondervan?

If you put all that together in a five-page submission, you can send it into Zondervan at [email protected].

So, you know what your traditional publishing options are when it comes to Zondervan. But, seeing as you’re reading this on SelfPublishing.com, what relevance does Zondervan have to you?

Zondervan Self-Publishing

If self-publishing is the path you’re looking to take, and there are many reasons that it should be, then the company has two avenues open to you, each offering different services to self-published authors. 

#1 – WestBow Press

WestBow Press has been in operation for over a decade and has an excellent reputation, currently holding a 4.3 score on TrustPilot after more than 200 reviews.

So how can WestBow help you as a self-published author, and how can you decide if your book is a good fit for the company?

First, WestBow states that they are interested in publishing books that fall under the banner of ‘Christian morals, inspirational themes, and family values’. If your book meets that description, WestBow might be the right fit for you.

So what exactly is on offer in terms of services and help?

At this time, WestBow advertises three different categories of publishing services:

  1. Standard Publishing Packages
  2. Color Publishing Packages
  3. Canadian Author Packages 

Standard Publishing


$1,099 - $6,099

See what’s included below.

Color Publishing


$1,499 - $6,499

See what’s included below.

Canadian Author


$3,799

See what’s included below.

Let’s take a look at what’s available in each category and how much it will cost you. 

#1 – Standard Publishing Packages

WestBow Press offers six different publishing packages at the standard tier, available at the following price points:

  • Essential Access. $1099. This package gets you an ISBN, book distribution, book cover design, 5 free paperback copies of your book, and a few other extras. 
  • Pro Format. $1995. Everything in the essential access program as well as copyright registration, an editorial assessment, and a hardcover copy. 
  • Bookstore Advantage. $3299. The main feature of this program not offered in the lower tier is inclusion in the booksellers return program.
  • Online Platform. $4399. Opting for this tier helps you promote your book online through an author website and social media set up service. 
  • Video Plus. $6999. If you’re looking to promote your book through the medium of video, this package gets you everything in the online platform tier, as well as a book video. 
  • Premier Connection. $12999. The key attraction of this package is the inclusion of a social media coach to help you promote your book through the major networks. 

#2 – Color Publishing Packages

If you have the type of book that relies on attractive visuals, WestBow offers three tiers of color publishing packages for you to consider. When describing these, we’ll focus on the visual content they have to offer. 

  • Color Essential. $1799. Similar to the Essential Access package in the standard tier but also includes 40 image insertions. 
  • Color Pro. $3299. Everything in the Color Essential package as well as a personalized back cover, book signing kit, and package of promotional materials like bookmarks and business cards.
  • Color Premier. $6499. Gives you everything in the Color Pro package as well as 10 color illustrations and a press release. 

We’d strongly advise you not to take up any of these packages without considering what the cost of the services would be if purchased on their own. For example, how much could you purchase 10 color illustrations for? Don’t blindly assume these packages are the best value out there.

#3 – Canadian Author Packages

WestBow also has a series of packages available for Canadian authors. So if you happen to be a Christian author north of the border, what’s on offer at WestBow?

  • Chapters Indigo. $3799. A package consisting of various publishing services such as cover design and image insertion, as well as listing on the Chapters Indigo online webstore, and a sell sheet to help your book get considered for listing in physical bookstores. 

If you’re a Christian author based in Canada, and like the sound of being featured by Chapters Indigo, the above package might be worth weighing up against alternatives that are out there. 

#2 – Elm Hill 

The other self-publishing imprint of Zondervan relevant to self-published authors is Elm Hill. So what exactly is Elm Hill, and what can it offer you?

Elm Hill is described as a hybrid publishing division of HarperCollins Christian. Like many similar companies, it offers a menu of different publishing services, as well as combination packages.

At this time, Elm Hill offers the following categories of publishing services:

  • Editorial. Services including print-to-digital file conversion, content evaluation, mechanical editing, substantive editing, ghostwriting, page design and layout, book cover creation, illustration, ebook conversion, and audiobook production and distribution.
  • Footprint. Printed copies, a Library of Congress Control Number, book trailer, author royalty management. 
  • Promotional. Website creation, video trailer, press release, Google Books preview. Amazon preview, promotional materials. 

To access the above services from Elm Hill, you need to pick from one of their publishing packages. 

Elm Hill offers the following options:

  • New Leaf Package – Tier 1A. $1,399. You get a content evaluation, standard book cover, and page design and layout services. 
  • New Leaf Package – Tier 2A. $2,499. Upgrading to this tier gains you a basic manuscript edit as well as a simple author website. 
  • New Leaf Package – Tier 3A. $3,799. Tier 3A offers a full mechanical edit and a deluxe book cover. 
  • New Leaf Package – Tier 4A. $4,999. Everything from the lower tiers plus a deluxe website and some extra promotional services. 
  • Gold Leaf Package – Tier 5A. $7,799. As well as Elm Hill’s services you get access to professional author training material. 
  • Gold Leaf Package – Tier 6A. $9,499. Additions to the previous tier include a video trailer for your book. 
  • Gold Leaf Package – Tier 7A. $13,499. The most complete services package offered by Elm Hill. Some of the key extras here include 50 ARC copies as well as a prelaunch campaign marketing playbook.  

If you’re choosing between WestBow and Elm Hill, you might be wondering what the difference is.

Overall, we’d say that Elm Hill seems to offer more for your money – although the price is still very steep. However, WestBow might be the better choice for Canadian authors.

Is Zondervan Publishing For You?

So how do you know if Zondervan, or one of its self-publishing imprints, is the right choice for your book?

New call-to-action

You might want to choose one of the Zondervan imprints if:

  • You’re a Christian author.
  • You have a sizable chunk of money to invest in services upfront. 
  • You’ve researched your alternatives and feel the services on offer represent good value for money. 

However, please allow us to sound a quick note of caution…

Often, when companies present a package of services, it sounds like good value on paper. But what a lot of newcomer authors don’t know is the services they are paying for can be obtained for free or a much lower cost elsewhere

Related: Self-Publishing Costs

Zondervan Publishing is NOT an education program that teaches authors the entire book writing and self-publishing process (which empowers you to publish multiple books on your own).

Related: How to Self-Publish A Book

With Zondervan’s imprints, you are basically paying for publishing service, so that you can publish your book under Zondervan’s name.

At its core, this is the same model many vanity publishers use. 

If you want to pay to publish and have the funds to do so, then this might be a good option for you, provided you are happy with the quality of services provided. 

Typically, at SelfPublishing.com, we advise authors to choose the route of learning for themselves. This ultimately leads to more revenue staying in your pocket as an author, not to mention the acquisition of valuable skills. 

At the same time, we know you might not want to take the time to learn it all. If you are certain that paying someone to handle your book creation for you is the right path, you could do a lot worse than a Zondervan imprint. At least you know they are backed by a major name like HarperCollins Christian, unlike many of their less-reputable rivals. 

Zondervan Publishing Pros and Cons 

So what are the pros and cons of publishing your book through Zondervan?

Pros

  1. Reputable. Zondervan is backed by HarperCollins Christian and its imprints are members of the better business bureau, giving customers a clear path to complaint resolution.
  2. Acquisition. If having your book acquired by a major publisher is a goal, HarperCollins will consider high-performers on these imprints. However, if you have a high-performing self-published book, you’re probably better off keeping it for yourself!

Cons

  1. Investment. By spending on one of the packages mentioned here, you will need to recoup a big outlay before breaking even or making any profit on your book.
  2. Lack of need. Many of the services on offer here, which you will be paying a lot for, don’t actually help your book that much. For example, a book video trailer for your book isn’t going to help much. If you doubt this, try and remember the last time you purchased a book based on a video trailer!
  3. Restrictive. If you choose a package of services here, you are sacrificing your freedom. Rather than being able to choose a book cover designer of your preference, for example, you will be limited to those available through Zondervan and its imprints. 
  4. Value. Although not the worst value out there, you can obtain the services offered by Zondervan cheaper if you bought them separately. 

Other Zondervan Publishing Reviews

When you’re researching something as significant as the company to entrust with your book, you can’t afford to read only one review!

To save you the hassle of hunting around the net, here are some of the things people are saying about Zondervan Publishing as well as WestBow and Elm Hill.

First, a breakdown of the reviews for WestBow.

Reviewing the relationship between Elm Hill and Author Solutions, David Gaughran sounds a note of caution about their business practices in the past. 

As you see from the below image, Elm Hill has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2019, currently has no complaints, and holds an A+ rating. 

Prior to its accreditation, there were several negative reviews for Zondervan’s Elm Hill, so it’s likely the company started a brand management campaign to clean up its online reputation. 

zondervan vanity press

Alternatives to Zondervan Publishing

So what other options are available to you if you decide that Zondervan or one of its imprints isn’t the way to go for your book?

You can check out our guide to other self-publishing companies here.

However, rather than going for another company that will provide services for a price, we’d like to suggest a different route – learning to self-publish on your own.

Zondervan VS Self-Publishing School

Let’s make one thing clear – we are affiliated with Self-Publishing School. However, we strongly believe that author education programs offer far better value for money. 

If you opt for Self-Publishing School over a Zondervan imprint, you can enjoy the following advantages, and for LESS cost to you:

  • Community. Self Publishing School membership grants you access to a supportive community of fellow authors. If you choose Zondervan, there is no such communal aspect.
  • Coaching. Often, it’s not just knowing what to do, but having a helping hand as you do it. Self Publishing School will provide you with a supportive coach to help you every step of the way.
  • Knowledge. If you spend money on a company like Zondervan, you learn nothing. You will have to pay them each and every time you want to release a book. On the other hand, if you invest in education, you give yourself the skills needed to release books without any outside help in the future. 
  • Advancement. Rather than merely releasing a standalone book, Self Publishing School will give you the info needed to parlay a first release into an author career, as well as how to offer other paid products such as courses. 

For example, if you’re a faith-based author looking to publish a nonfiction book, our Become a Bestseller program can equip you with the tools, knowledge, and support you need to write and publish your book…for LESS investment than a Zondervan publishing package.

Here’s a visual comparison…

We strongly suggest choosing the self publishing route as it will give you a better return on your investment in the long run, providing you put the work in and stick with the process. 

Our Final Rating

Our Rating
We give Zondervan and its imprints 2.5 stars out of 5.

So how does Zondervan Publishing measure up with all things considered?

Although we can never really recommend a company such as this, due to the many advantages of self-publishing, we recognize that some are better than others.

At least with Zondervan you know HarperCollins are involved, giving this option more credibility than some of its less-prestigious rivals. 

Like this review? Read these next!

If you’ve published through Zondervan’s WestBow, or Elm Hill, let us know your experience!


New call-to-action

Patrick McNulty

Patrick McNulty is an author from London currently making his way around the world. He writes for sites including The Good Men Project and is working on his debut novel, due for release in Summer 2020. You can catch Patrick in an independent coffee shop with an iced Americano and his trusty Moleskine notebook.
Patrick McNulty