Friday, 31 October 2008


Doubleday Sheds 10% of Staff


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Recently on this site I have been reporting on the general downturn the global economy is having on the publishing world. Just a couple of weeks ago I reported on job losses at Lulu.com and unfortunately those losses continue as reported in the New York Times and many other news organisations.

The NYT story is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/29/books/29book.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

What is of interest to me about the current trend, is the manner in which I have seen the publishing industry set itself up like a house of cards. When I was a kid, I used to sit in front of an open fire and spend hours carefully stacking multiple decks of cards up, one upon the other, like a gigantic triangle. The further you built this complex triangle upward, the more care you had to take with the higher levels of the great pyriamid. No matter how well you built the bottom level; no matter how many cards you used, or how careful you were, the top tiers were always the most precarious. In many ways, this is how the publishing industry has built itself. This precarious structure is built in a way that does not take into account the 'thermal drafts' of a fireplace, the unwanted grandmother, parent, brother or sister walking swiftly past. Anything can upset the balance in a house of cards.

Doubleday is a unit of Random House, which is, in turn, owned by a large German media group. Each tier passes down its own misery when the time comes. You can look at the structure in any business and see parts which are performing very strongly and parts which are, shall we say...weak at the knees, liable to tremble when grandmother shuffles past on her way to the toilet or the drinks cabinet. We can examine the surface of the playing cards all we want, the stiffness and quality, but ultimately, we cannot escape the shape of what we have created, and decide that it is time to ask why.

Possession is a measure of control in business, and control is a measure of weakness, doubt, and ultimately, foresight and limitation.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Google Book Search Settlement Agreement


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Google have finally settled their lawsuit with a group of authors and publishers. Below is the full statement released.


Today, Google and the group of authors and publishers who were plaintiffs in the US Google Book Search lawsuits announced a groundbreaking settlement agreement. This settlement, on behalf of a broad class of copyright holders, opens new opportunities for everyone - authors, publishers, libraries, Google and readers. You can learn more about the settlement and how it may affect you and your authors by visiting the copyright settlement site ( http://books.google.co.uk/booksrightsholders/). Because the settlement is awaiting court approval, we're limited in our ability to discuss it with you. However, you are encouraged to contact the Settlement Administrator or Class Counsel, whose contact information is on the settlement website, for further assistance. You may also be interested in reading our blog post to users ( http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/new-chapter-for-google-book-search.html). The proposed settlement covers books that were digitised as a part of the Google Book Search Library Project ( http://books.google.co.uk/googlebooks/library.html). The relationship we have with you under the Google Book Search Partner Programme does not change, although you will be entitled to the benefits conferred on you under the settlement, if and when the settlement is approved by the court. You will continue to be able to market your books through the Partner Programme exactly as you do today and we'll be in touch about new features and opportunities for maximising the benefits of the Partner Programme for your books. Because the settlement is awaiting preliminary approval by the court, there is no specific action you need to take, although we encourage you to visit the copyright settlement site ( http://books.google.co.uk/booksrightsholders/) and read the material there. You will also be able to sign up on the site to be announced when more information about the settlement is available. Of course, if you have any questions about the Google Book Search Partner Programme, please don't hesitate to contact us ( http://books.google.com/support/partner/bin/request.py). Best regards, The Google Book Search Team

Friday, 24 October 2008


HarperStudio's '26thstory' & The Biting Edge


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Last week I posted an article on the current state of publishing and the challenges ahead. One of the more innovative publishing imprints is HarperCollins' HarperStudio. I have been following their blogsite for some time now and always find their posts and views to have a real edge and reality on what is going on in the publishing world.

This week their blogsite did a short interview with agent and former publisher Larry Kirshbaum. What the interview lacks in brevity, it makes up for in Kirshbaum's open and refreshing views about the publishing world.

You can find the interview at the link below, and by all means explore and view the rest of the blogsite. See what you think....


http://www.26thstory.com/

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


Lulu UK Sheds 24 Jobs


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The credit crunch continues to bite deeper with news from New Media Age that Lulu are to make 24 workers redundant from their uk offices. That represents a 25% reduction in staff, including Cristel Lee Leed, European Vice President, and six other senior employees.

You can read the full New Media Age article at the link below;

http://www.nma.co.uk/Articles/39955/Publishing+site+Lulu+to+cut+quarter+of+employees.html#ContentContinues

Monday, 13 October 2008


Amazon Finally Moves on UK Print on Demand Market


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It looks like Amazon has finally made their move on the UK market for books published by digital print-on-demand technology. This very much follows what Amazon has done in the United States in conjunction with their own printer Booksurge. At the moment, there is already a court action in process by US POD publisher Booklocker against Amazon's moves.

Amazon plans to operate their POD book fulfillment from their plant in Marston Gate close to Milton Keynes. Interestingly, Milton Keynes is also the base of Lightning Source one of the world's largest printers of print-on-demand titles.

It is believed that HarperCollins, Faber & Faber and Cambridge University Press are already some of the publishers to have signed up to Amazon's plans.

The Bookseller news article which features Amazon's announcement can be found at the following link.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/68379-amazon-uk-plans-pod-service.html

Also, here is the Amazon press release.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/press/pr/20080710

While large publishing houses in the uk may seem eager and willing, it will be interesting to see how the uk owned and based POD publishers react to this news.

Saturday, 11 October 2008


The Fine Print of Self Publishing (Third Edition) by Mark Levine


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About two years ago when I started researching self publishing and subsidy publishers, I came across an interview by Ron Pramschufer with a lawyer called Mark Levine on Global Talk Radio. I think this must have coincided with Levine's first edition of 'The Fine Print of Self-Publishing'. I was fascinated at the time that someone had actually bothered to write a whole book on the area I was researching. I think I eventually found a site and downloaded the ebook for about three or four dollars. Reading it was like climbing a ladder and someone shoving you four or five rungs up the ladder after you had only taken a single step yourself. Come to think of it, this was the first ebook I actually bothered to purchase and download!

That says a lot about where POD publishing and Self-publishing actually is. Levine's book for me is the foremost book in this area because he has done so much of the research which new and unfamiliar authors have to do when they look at the area of self-publishing. I'm not sure that Levine sells many books outside of the captivated audience of alternative publishing (read, I'm sick of bashing my head against the wall with agent and traditional publisher submissions).

I am still currently reading the book and what strikes you is the way Levine has had to constantly re-appraise every publisher all the time, suggesting that the publishers are in a state of flux themselves.

Mark Levine is a maverick. Not because he hasn't rolled up his sleeves and taken on by letter, email and 'in your face' techniques, the POD/subsidy publishers, but because he has not fawned at their doorsteps or taken and regurgitated the political marketing speak of so many companies he has researched for his book. As an example, iUniverse, a publisher he ranked as exceptional, now ranks as a publisher 'to avoid'. Like all of us following the macinations of AuthorSolutions buying out this publisher, Levine leads with his experience and reputation, rather than pay sop to anyone.

The strength of Levine's editions of 'Fine Print of Self-Publishing' over the past three years is that he has encouraged companies to revise their contracts and make themselves more 'author friendly'. His book only highlights more the need for a proper POD/Subsidy publishing charter, a code of conduct for these publishers. But then, because the industry does not accept these companies into the 'publishers family', they can opperate as they choose.

Mark Levine has his work cut out for the fourth edition. This area of publishing is throwing up new publishers to be appraised by the month, just as the current economic climate is resigning quite a few to the business dustbin. The world of Self/Subsidy publishing is changing. Even writing this article, I struggle with the label we place on the mode of publication and how it should be properly be refered to.

If I have a criticism of Levine's book, it is that he is not reflecting the changes already apparent in the business. I actually don't see far beyond a fourth or fifth edition of this book, simply because the 'model' for publishing is rapidly changing. I think Mark Levine knows this and something is brewing.

You can purchase/download Mark Levine's excellent book on Self/Subsidy publishing on the link below.

http://www.book-publishers-compared.com/

Friday, 10 October 2008


Publishing Industry - Change or be Damned?


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Over the past month, there has been considerable debate about the current state and future of the publishing industry across the internet on writer’s forums and blogsites. Some of the discussion was sparked by Boris Kachka’s recent article in the New York Magazine.

A lot of the criticism of Kachka’s article seems to centre on his depressing analysis expressed from speaking with industry insiders about the current predicament in publishing across the globe. One of the key quotes he uses in his article is from statistician, Philip Roth;

“...there were at most 120,000 serious readers—those who read every night—and that the number was dropping by half every decade.”

Many avid readers will naturally disagree with the Roth quote, and, in fact, I also disagree, but with this caveat. There are perhaps more people reading now, than at any point in the history of mankind. It is time that the publishing industry started to more accurately look at ‘what’ is being read, and more to the point, ‘where’ and ‘how’ it is being read.

Let me digress for just a while before returning to Mr. Roth’s quote.

I think before we can access what state the publishing industry is in right now, we must first look at where it has been and the reasons why it has reached such a pivotal and directionless state. It is not surprising that the industry, like many, has pedalled along and mirrored the rises and falls in the standard of living and economic recessions.

Let us not forget that some of us still living can remember when competent literacy was not always the accepted given that it is now. Let us also not forget that the vast amount of information we take in on a day to day basis is through the written word. Whether that is reading the morning newspaper; the billboards and road signs on the way to work in the car or train; opening our work emails; reading countless memos, reports; studying the lunchtime menu in the cafeteria; browsing the evening newspapers; the recipe for our dinner in the evening; our favourite websites and blogsites; not to mention the countless text messages we receive every day on our mobiles; right to the very point when we fall into bed with the latest bedtime read; they all confront us as part of everyday life.

The fact is, day in, day out, we are reading to overload point. Much of it may be seen as a chore, and some of it may be seen as pleasure. True, pleasurable reading, whether it is Barbara Cartland or James Joyce, Raol Dahl or Stephen Hawkins, will always have the common denominator of shared experience and the identification of a writer to his true reader, and the reader to their favourite writer.

You cannot accurately define the relationship of author/reader in any theoretical form or publishing model. This is even beyond the best publisher’s entrepreneur or even the greatest and most entertaining of writers, because it is fluid, ethereal, and constantly affected by public trends and the personal moods of mankind.

This is not to say that the publishing industry cannot set itself up in a way that gives it the best chance of flourishing, rather than floundering aimlessly amid its printed words and marketing blurbs.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the industry inherently began to seriously change in the economic recession of the 1980’s. The book publishing world followed the mark of the newspaper empires of Murdock and Maxwell, where a handful of media companies controlled the entire national world newsprint output. Throughout the 1980’s, large commercial publishers consumed smaller commercial and independent publishers. We watched large publishers dance around like politicians, desperate to tell us all how different they were from each other, yet, all the while, the centre stage became evermore crowded and the publishing model they used became steadily narrower.

The following are the reasons why I believe the publishing industry has reached its current state of being.

1. Consumption of smaller presses/publishers by large internationally owed publishers.
2. Inherent conservative nature of the commercial business model.
3. Economic recession of the 1980’s and the current impending recession.
4. Explosion of the ‘celebrity status’ writer, perpetrated by commercial publishers trying to find the winning marketable book every time.
5. The increased trend for enormous advances and bidding wars between large publishers for the most sought after writers.
6. The growth in the internet as an information resource and the rise of social networking.
7. The expanded saturation of multi-channel TV and digital entertainment products.
8. The development of Print-on-demand technology allowing printers to become publishers.
9. The slow, but steady development of E-Books and E-Readers.
10. The continued use of the ‘Traditional Model’ of the publishing industry.
11. The increasingly crowded arena for market space and consumer attention.

Let me return to the Roth quote. Why does he feel that readers are declining by the decade? I think to be fair to Roth, he is perhaps referring to what he sees in his eyes as the ‘true’ reader. He may even be tending toward what would be considered the ‘literary reader’. And if he is solely referring to the ‘literary reader’, then, he is probably correct. Yes, our poor literary reader is like most general readers—punch drunk from an industry publishing more titles that at any time ever before, and trying to market and reach out to its consumer in a media market saturated to the brim with messages and products we can’t live without.

A little more subtly may be required. Imagine our avid reader in this sorry publishing mess, not as a reader, but a skilled hunter of wild and exotic animals. At the moment, most traditional publishers still follow a rigid model of business, and so, they will more often send our hunter to the zoo to quench his or her needs, rather than send them out into the wild plains of Africa or Asia. At heart, I don’t blame large publishers for pursuing an already captivated audience, but it does demonstrate how far removed their ‘model’ of publishing has become over the years. It also demonstrates how in reality they have removed themselves so far away from the common reader that they can no longer define who the reader is or what makes them excited about the experience of reading.

From the writer’s point of view—and most publishers seem to have forgotten that all writers are first and foremost readers—publishers will not read unsolicited manuscripts; they will expect an agent to deliver an ms as close to the publishable book as possible; give the author little input into the design and production process; give many of their published books less of a print run and lifespan than is really needed. More and more new writers to a publishing contract, even many of the major publishing houses, expect the new author to take on much of the marketing and promotion for their book with little recompense to their time, energy and effort expended. The comparisons between traditional publishing and self-publishing/subsidy publishing are becoming far more blurred. There is still a stigma attached to publishing through any method other than traditional publishing, and the greatest slight on subsidy publishing is that it is purely driven by vanity, hence the tag of ‘vanity presses’. Perhaps the truest form of vanity is the arrogant author who lands a traditional publishing deal and boasts about his grand success while the self published and subsidy authors hawk their few copies from store to store without an arse in their trousers. I think I know where true vanity lies, and it is not with the alternative methods of publishing. The music business got over this stigma of ‘self recording/publishing’ many, many years ago. Traditional publishing has a lot of catching up to do.

If anything, the digital technology which has lead to the growth of self/subsidy publishing--print-on-demand (POD)--has now been utilised by some traditional publishers to revitalise their back catalogue of books which did not warrant a large offset print run. Many publishers still remain lacklustre in embracing new online marketing ideas, electronic formats via e-readers, e-books and the use of blogsites and writer forums. Publishers have spent more than a century viewing the physical format of a book as sacred.

For the past two decades, publishers have allowed wholesalers, distributors and retailers to dictate the terms of their own industry, from pricing agreements, wholesale discounts of 50% and a ludicrous returns policy that should only exist in the industry of fresh food manufacturing and supply. At heart, from top to bottom, the industry needs to learn how to properly and fairly regulate itself and think beyond its own imposed confines.

It is for many of the above reasons that we have seen the rise and growth of the online retail monolith Amazon. Amazon has come in for much criticism particularly over the past year among authors and publishers alike, and while I am not a fan of their strident and heavy handed business conglomerate tactics; who can blame them? The publishing industry has provided the platform for Amazon wanting to be ‘all things to all mankind’, excuse my tongue being firmly embedded in my cheek! Amazon want to be publisher, printer, distributor and wholesaler all rolled into one. True self publishers cast the first stone in a landmark change to the publishing industry decades ago by eliminating ‘the publisher’. While online sales of book formats still remains in its infancy, time and technology marches on to a point in the not too distant future when the traditional publisher as we know them now finally bolts the last door on their brick and mortar houses.

If things continue without a refreshing change in the current ‘publishing model’, then all authors alike may be dealing directly with online businesses like Amazon--self published authors are already doing it--and I do not believe this is the best path forward for publishers or authors.

So where should we go from here?

There is a chink of light ahead already. There does seem to be a minor shift at the moment, both by smaller traditional publishers and their imprints and some subsidy publishers. It has to do with their ‘publishing models’. If you like, we are seeing publishers move a little both ways. Earlier this year HarperCollins appointed Bob Miller to head up a new imprint, HarperStudio. This eclectic imprint offers authors advances of no more than $100,000, but offsets 'the pain' by offering a much larger royalty. The imprint involves the author in the process of the book from production right through to hands-on marketing. Effectively, we are looking at a kind of partnership publishing. On the other side of the coin, we have subsidy publishers like Cold Tree Press who are now moving away from out and out subsidy publishing toward the traditional model of publishing. Troubador in England are another example. They operate a sister imprint called Matador, (run by Jeremy Thompson, one of the most successful self publishing authors in the last twenty years) who self/subsidy and partnership publish depending on their evaluation of a book. I believe long term success lies somewhere in between self/subsidy and partnership publishing, and several publishers are starting to see this, both in the UK and United States. I would be nice to believe that this change is driven by entrepreneurism and independence, but the reality is economics.

I think there is also a lot more going on as well in the marketing of authors by these independently thinking publishers. They realise if you are a large traditional publisher you cannot warrant small print runs of books destined never to be best sellers, nor can you try to market lesser known authors globally. For that, you need a global budget and even some luck. The new independent thinking publishers, be they an imprint of a large publisher or reputable subsidy publisher being selective about what they take on, are taking a leaf out of the self publisher’s manual. You market new and lesser know authors at grass roots level, in their local or online community. You invest and build slowly with your author alongside you all the time. You invest for the medium to long term over several years with your list of authors. It is a partnership which does not leave too much room for the Manhattan or Mayfair agent. It is low volume distribution which does not necessarily require large companies like Baker & Taylor or Ingrams to be involved. It is a band of authors from one publisher who ‘tours’ their publishing wares throughout the country(s). It is the publisher who can feel their reading and buying public at the ends of their fingertips.

Some of these changes will grow in the book publishing industry, but for any new model to succeed, we must take back some of the control given away. Writers must accept that the days of advances from publishers are numbered and that the real ‘work’ of a book is only born when it is printed and they cannot run and hide to pen their next magnum opus in the shed at the end of the garden. This is not too big a price to pay. The reality is that less than 90% of authors receive an advance of $10,000 or less.

It is time for large publishers to stop paying out exorbitant advances to fading TV celebrities for a quick return. It is time for publishers to start reconnecting with the reader as well as their authors. It is time the publishers took back the business of publishing from the hands of wholesalers and high street retailers.
It is time our retailers stopped selling books on a ‘no risk, sure we can return them to the wholesalers in three months’ basis, and, perhaps then, they might invest more time into the buying needs and comforts of the public when they enter a bookstore to experience the gift of reading.

And to the readers...let us all not forget we are also the authors, publishers, and retailers as well.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


Adventures with Lulu - Part 3 Filigree & Shadow


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Yesterday I received the book proofs back of my latest book Filigree & Shadow from Lulu. Although you are advised by the Lulu site to order just one proof copy of your book before you finalise and approve any revision, like Academy, my last book with Lulu, I actually deliberately ordered five proofs. The choice is open to every author how many they initially order of each revision, but from experience, I have found these proofs to be useful in actually fine tuning the final revisions before I approve the book. I've gone through my own proof as well as 'farming out' the other proof copies to colleagues and skilled readers I know I can rely on to spot format and generals errors. This approach lends plenty of pairs of eyes and speeds up the revision process, as well as spotting things I will inevitably miss no matter how often I go through my own proofs.

Again, the delivered proofs (5) were of exceptional quality from Lulu and shipped and packed well on arrival. As I ordered them through Lulu, I still suspect they are using Lightning Source in the USA for orders through the publishers, but Booksurge for orders received through Amazon. I still can't be sure of this, but that is my suspicion. I only ever ordered one copy through Amazon of Academy, and I have to say that I found the binding to be a little loose on that copy, as well as the colour on the cover being very slightly duller. If my suspicions are correct, then it would seem that the book quality from Booksurge (ordered and received in August of this year) is still questionable long after the whole POD/Amazon debacle.

Anyhow, that is a whole different story. For the cover of Filigree & Shadow I chose some stock art from a website I came across earlier this year, which I felt immediately suited the theme and feel of the book. On my previous books during the nineties, I designed my own book covers very much in the old style of book design, meaning I did not have the sophistication of a PC with Photoshop et all. I made do with bog standard stencils and mechanical drawing layout pasted onto a white board for the off-set print runs. I had mixed results, and when it came to Academy, through Lulu, I used their own cover templates. Regular readers of this website and the previous articles I have written on POD/Subsidy publishers know that I am not a fan of these cover templates. It is not so much the quality, but, rather, the simplicity and sameness a template cover gives a newly published book. It is difficult enough to market and promote any book, but the reality is whether the book is visible online (most often with POD/Subsidy published books) or visible on a store's physical shelf, it is the book cover which is what initially grabs a potential reader's attention. 'Never judge a book by its cover'; I'm afraid this saying only counts if you are talking about anything, other than a book itself! I chose the Leonardo da Vinci 'anatomic man' picture from Lulu's cover gallery for Academy simply because it perfectly suited the themes of the book. Unless you are very lucky, you are destined to end up with something far less than perfect if you are restricted to your POD/Subsidy publisher's own template covers. This was my first experienced of designing a cover using my own supplied artwork with Lulu. I think once you ensure you have artwork above the '300dpi' quality and roughly the correct size, the result should be extremely good.

The internal layout for Filigree & Shadow did provide me with some new challenges this time round concerning chapters, section breaks and headers and footers. I still have a few things to iron out, but having gone through the process with both hardback and paperback files with Academy, I'm getting far more proficient this time round.

Again, I can only reiterate to those using Lulu's services that the proof and revision stage is absolutely critical to get everything working and looking just right if you are to avoid the frustration of approving the book and still finding the book filled with errors. This crucial stage should not be rushed for the sake of quick publication. Get all your revisions done no matter how many it takes.

My latest amendments to formatting and the internal revisions are available to see on my Lulu store page on the link above. I think I'm up to revision number four with one or two more to come when my trusted colleagues come back to me with their marked up proofs.

Your comments are welcome on your own POD/Subsidy publishing experiences. I will post when I have the final revision of Filigree & Shadow approved and it is available for general release and purchase.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


POD MAGAZINES FROM MAGCLOUD


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We have grown used to POD Subsidy and POD self-publishing over the past 15 years. Well, now a company called MagCloud are offering a print-on-demand service at no set-up charge. Purchase costs on each magazine are set at 20 US cent per page for submitted PDF files.

This is the first time I have come across a company offering POD with this kind of quality and costing and specifically aimed at the magazine/periodical. With strictly US shipping and the fact that it is print on demand, I suspect this would not be ideal for a weekly subscription magazine, but would seem ideal for a monthly issue, considering that MagCloud look after subscription payments as well.

Here is some of the detail from their 'About Us' webpage.


About Us
MagCloud enables you to publish your own magazines. All you have to do is upload a PDF and we'll take care of the rest: printing, mailing, subscription management, and more.

How much does it cost?
It costs you nothing to publish a magazine on MagCloud. To buy a magazine costs 20¢ per page, plus shipping. For example, a 20-page magazine would be four bucks plus shipping. And you can make money! You set your issue price and all proceeds above the base price go to you. Shipping is a flat $1.40/copy (USPS first class mail) for quantities 1-9, or a flat $13 for quantities from 10-100 (per box of 10-100).

How are they printed?
MagCloud uses HP Indigo technology, so every issue is custom-printed when it’s ordered. Printing on demand means no big print runs, which means no pre-publishing expense. Magazines are brilliant full color on 80lb paper with saddle-stitched covers. They look awesome.

What do I need to do to participate?
You’ll need a PayPal account or major credit card to buy magazines, and publishers will need a PayPal account so we can pay you earnings. To create a magazine, you’ll need to upload a PDF, which means you’ll have to create your magazine in a program that outputs high-res PDFs like Adobe InDesign.

During our Beta orders must be sent to a US shipping address.

Do I need to join?
Anyone can browse magazines on MagCloud today. During our Beta you will need a MagCloud account to purchase magazines or subscribe to notifications. Create an account! »

Publisher accounts are by invitation only during our Beta. We have a form for you to request an invitation ».


MagCloud's website can be found at the following address;

http://www.magcloud.com/home

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