Saturday, 28 February 2009


York Publishing Services (YPS) - Reviewed


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http://www.yps-publishing.co.uk/

Amazon Titles – Not valid as company provides true bespoke services

I came across York Publishing Services in the ‘Writers & Artists Yearbook 2009’ which I got a hold of in January. No matter how much research you do in this business, week by week, you are always uncovering something or someone you never came across before. YPS is one of the most established companies in the UK, operating for more than 30 years in the print and publishing service industry. YPS provide everything from design, editing, fulfilment, warehousing and distribution of books from the large publisher right down to authors with a just single title. I have talked a lot on this site about Lightning source, and in many ways, YPS are a smaller version of this kind of publishing service.

“Let us say right from the start, YPS is not a vanity publisher; we make no extravagant claims about how many copies you will sell. We produce books on high quality publishing papers for many of the mainstream publishers. Our aim is to offer this same high quality, professional look to small or first-time publishers. We will give you help, advice and assistance and provide competitive quotations in advance. If you decide to commission us to transform your manuscript into a book, then effectively you become the publisher (with your own publishing name or imprint). This means you will have complete control over all stages of production, you will own all the books you publish (and the copyright) and the revenue from the sales.”

The above quote comes from the YPS publishing guide aimed at self publishing authors.

http://www.yps-publishing.co.uk/documents/self-publishing-guide.pdf

Readers of this site will know that a big thumbs up always goes to those companies who are upfront about what they do. There are no vanity mirrors here; no smokescreen either. YPS have been around far too long for that kind of nonsense. Critically, the accounts this company have in their repertoire give them no reason to ‘indulge’ themselves on authors looking to self publish for monetary gain alone.

“You do not have to use all our services, just the ones you need. It is up to you.”

I’ve being paying particular attention to UK and Irish based companies who offer publishing services, and I have to say, the market for self publishing authors on this side of the Atlantic pond is looking decidedly more refreshing and open, far more than even I had expected.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. According to YPS, what exactly do they offer the author looking to self publish?

1. You are the publisher and you will be designated as the publisher and author on the copyright page of your book.
2. You will be registered as the publisher with the ISBN agency and all copies of the printed book will belong to you. The stock can be delivered to you, or we can store it for you. Even if the stock is in our warehouse, it still belongs to you.
3. We print and charge for the number of books you request. We will advise you as to how many copies we feel you should print. More often than not we will suggest to authors they print fewer copies than they had in mind.

You can already see this company are not working to the standard ‘POD Publisher’ model of business. This is very much the old traditional printer who offers both offset and digital print on demand methods of book production and as they have developed as a company have expanded into further packaging, fulfilment and distribution services. YPS remind me a little of selfpublishing.com’s operation, in particular since they launched their Thor Distribution Program.

“Once your book is printed, the work really starts. You need to make sure as many people as possible are aware of your book, and convert that awareness into sales. YPS can help you with the promotion and marketing by giving you advice, suggestions and the tools for you to do it yourself.”

Again, frank and open information about their services from their downloadable guide. What is different about YPS to the standard POD publishers which I have being reviewing up to now is that they do all the normal on line availability, but they are already established and set up to deal directly with wholesalers and the UK book trade. We are dealing here with a company tailoring their needs and opening up channels to self publishing authors which are not generally offered by POD publishers. In effect, an author has the ability to pay for a partial or full bespoke service.

I chose to review YPS now, in light of the 10 or so POD reviews I have already done on this site to demonstrate that this is the next step in the ‘self publishing model’ beyond the standard POD publishers I have reviewed so far. Lulu and Createspace, as well as Lightning Source are the closest to this we have looked at from the US standpoint.

“YPS is an established book distributor for mainstream publishers, and we have accounts with the book wholesalers and bookshops. Every day we are processing and supplying orders to UK bookshops (including Waterstones), wholesalers, libraries and library suppliers.”


“The YPS Amazon Marketplace account provides a cost effective alternative.
We have an Amazon Marketplace account and will be listed as an alternative supplier, with a delivery time of 2 days. If customers choose to order from YPS, Amazon will forward the order to us. (They will also take 17.5% commission, but this is better than 60%).”


For the UK based self publishing author YPS has a lot to offer. How the author chooses to best use the service is up to them, but importantly, it is an open service, and they are not going to find themselves being sold services they do not need. Again, the YPS model is sound; their business is not solely based around driving author traffic to their site, nor is their revenue. What we have here is a printer/fulfilment service company developing upward and bridging the gap from the humble printer to the mainstream publisher.

YPS’s distribution charges are £10 per month for the first title and £10 for additional titles, and 10% of retail sales to the trade. If an author has choose to print a run of books, the first pallet storage is free and £8 per pallet thereafter. I work in logistics. In effect, YPS are saying your first 1000 books are free to store if they can be fitted on a single pallet. Sounds expensive, but if you can sell that first 1000 books, then you can afford the £8 per month thereafter based on your profits.

I cannot cost out a service provider like YPS, simply because it is relative to the authors needs. From looking at their publishing guide their estimates provided; an author is looking at £1500+ to £3000. A lot of money, but again, for whatever YPS claim, they offer a serious package to an author, they are a professional organisation who offer all the basic needs of publishing a book and far more than most POD publishers, in that their business model and success is not hampered by the ‘POD/Vanity’ stigma.

York Publishing Services is not for Aunt Maple and her cookery book. It is for serious authors who have the marketing where-with-all and business savvy to market and make their books a success and YPS has the business publishing model to provide that channels needed.

YPS is for the seasoned self publisher who knows the business and can fully invest and ultilise what this company has to offer, and it stands out head and shoulders above many others. They are clear in what they have to offer an author, small publisher, and those who have publisher in the US market and are looking for a more direct means to drive their books into the UK and european market.

RATING 8/10

Thursday, 26 February 2009


Wil Wheaton's Interview with Lulublog.com


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There is an interesting interview with author, actor, social commentator and BBC correspondent, Wil Wheaton about his new book 'Sunken Treasure' on Lulu.com's blogspot.

Wil Wheaton is an author who was previously published by a tradional press but choose the avenue of self publishing with Lulu.

You can catch Nick Popio's interview with Wil Wheaton at the following link:

http://lulublog.com/2009/02/24/lulu-author-interview-wil-wheaton/

You can also check out Wil's Virtual Bookshelf here:

http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/books/

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Publishing Basics Magazine - Change or Be Damned Article


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Publishing Basics is a monthly magazine which I subscribe to. It is owned and run by publishing guru Ron Pramschufer who also owns RJ Communications.

In this month's edition I have an article which was published on this site last year entitled 'Publishing Industry - Change or Be Damned'.

mickrooney.blogspot.com/2008/10/publishing-industry-change-or-be-damned.html

You can get a free subscription to the magazine at the following link.

http://www.publishingbasics.com/

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


AuthorHouse USA - Reviewed (Updated, March 2010)


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http://www.authorhouse.com
http://www.authorhouse.co.uk

USA & UK based

Amazon.com titles – 42,000
Amazon.co.uk titles– 49,700

Standard Package starts at $599++

AuthorHouse have been providing self publishing services for authors for many years. They remain one of the heavy-hitters of the self publishing industry, are owned by Author Solutions, who also own iUniverse, and have the largest slice of self published titles in the market.

So why do many self publishing authors decide to use the services of AuthorHouse?

I’ve been familiar with AuthorHouse for many years. They are one of the strongest and widespread advertisers of self publishing services in the publishing industry. Their strengths are accessing and marketing to authors and presenting the scale of services they have to offer. They are easily contactable and will positively remain in communication with you long after you have dabbled with the idea of publishing with them. Their staff are strong on selling services, but like many POD publishers, their sales staff have a limited knowledge of selling books and the way the book industry works, from the perspective of a traditional author and publisher. A POD publisher who understands these differences from the outset, sets themselves apart immediately.

AuthorHouse books, from the samples I have seen, are physically good quality books. This is very much down to Lightning Source and Booksurge, the printers they use. Like all other POD publishers who print most submissions outside of pornography and sheer gobbledygook, the published books are open to the standard in editing and level the author has chosen to submit their manuscript in, or the degree of editing service they have chosen to buy. AuthorHouse are no different to any other POD publisher in this regard, and provide a wide range of add on services, but these clock in at the more expensive end, and an author using AuthorHouse's Standard publishing package would be better advised to shop around for additional services like editing and promotion. Where AuthorHouse let themselves down, and their authors, is the perceived idea they that try to sell about self publishing as a whole.

Let me be clearer. A good digital printer can advertise as a POD publisher offering self publishing services but also acknowledge quickly the fact that they are offering a print-come publishing service. They will not practice as a printer and pretend to be a publisher. This is where I differ with AuthorHouse's philosophy. Authorhouse are a POD publisher offering self published authors a range of services to publish a book. My biggest concern with AuthorHouse is the manner in which they attempt to present themselves as part of the 'traditional' publishing world and their model of publishing is the norm. It is not the norm, and although I am a supporter of paid publishing, under certain circumstances; that it can also be fruitful, viable, and a serious business avenue to peruse, is all made the lesser by misleading quotes such as the following from AuthorHouse's own author guide.

“Completing your manuscript is quite an accomplishment. Now it is time to publish and we’re ready to help you reach your goal. With AuthorHouse, you don’t need to hire an agent, spend months or years pitching your manuscript or endure numerous rejection form-letters. Instead, we offer you the personal attention, control and experience you want for publishing, promotion and selling your book.”

To be fair, you can find similar verbiage in the promotional literature of other large self publishing companies. AuthorHouse are one, if not, the largest self publishing company, and there are certain responsibilities which I believe should inherently go with that status. The fact is, if you want a credible way to go about getting your book published, then you need to approach agents and traditional publishers to consider taking on and supporting your work. These people will ensure that the author is properly represented and will play a strong hand in the future of you and your work. Crucially, agents and publishers ensure that money flows towards the author. For a first time author, there can be nothing more educational and critical in the development of them as an author and the quality of their work than the experience of dealing with tradition publishing avenues.

AuthorHouse have over the past year started approaching agents and some small publishers requesting that they will pay a fee for referrals of any author's who sign up with AuthorHouse. The unscrupulous agent and small publisher will refer any idiot who thinks they can write to AuthorHouse for the fee of $100.

One can suggest that this may be a way of welcoming in self publishing to the more traditional structure of publishing, but the fact is, that most of AuthorHouse's clients are first-time authors. I said earlier that AuthorHouse were the strongest, probably spend the most in advertising, promotion and marketing themselves the most; and if they were to put a tenth of that same effort into their authors, then, they may actually start to turn heads in the business and make a difference.

You get a very limited amount for the basic package at $599. Online distribution, a basic cover, no ownership on PDF files, double dipping on royalties (AuthorHouse charge you considerably more than what they pay the printers for author books - $9 per book for a copy of a book the author has already paid a service fee for!) AuthorHouse do offer additional services for a fee such as colour illustration books, editing, marketing packages and a myriad of other services. The reality is that an author considering self publishing should not touch them. They are excessive in fees, to the point of being extortionate. An author’s website is charged individually at $500, book copyright at $170, $75 for domain registration. All these fees are way in access of what they actually cost and should be. That in itself is a red flag warning sign. All in all it is a great pity, because AuthorHouse, like iUniverse, with their financial turnovers, are in the best possible positions to offer authors the most cost-effective and competitive deals in the self publishing print industry.

Looking at AuthorHouse's packages made me squirm; from $599 to $948; look hard, and in reality, all you seem to get is a bloody ebook and hardback option for the extra $349, and the ebook can be created from the same files as your original paper book! Lots of work involved there! Their $1298 package seems to add in a personalised back cover blurb as well as the further interior and exterior options. Again, at an extra cost which far outweighs the extra money an author is charged.

In short, what you get from AuthorHouse, at the fee charged, can be got far cheaper somewhere else. I would always try to engage discussion with self publishing companies and direct and advise authors to particular ones if I think an author is suited to a POD Publisher. AuthorHouse are far too expensive for someone looking for a bargain; they overcharge for additional add-on services, supply an unfriendly author contract, limit the author royalties by double-dipping on royalties, and engage in marketing and promotion in the wider publishing industry which is less than satisfactory.

If AuthorHouse put as much ingenuity into the authors they take on, as they do into their own self promotion of their services, then their business would be far stronger and their reputation in self publishing would be second to none.


UPDATE: August, 2009.

AuthorHouse have update their colour publishing packages by introducing the Portfolio and Masterpiece.

Details on them here.


UPDATE: March, 2010.

Author Solutions announce their publishing brands will have all new books featured as Kindle titles.

Details here.


UPDATE: August, 2010.
Author Solutions introduce Author Education Program

Monday, 23 February 2009


POD & Self Publishers Reviewed So Far


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I have assemble all the articles together on the right of this page for all the reviews I have completed on POD and Self Publishing companies.

As I complete additional reviews, I will post them to the link list.

Saturday, 21 February 2009


Waterstone's New Voices 2009 List Released


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Waterstones, the hight street English retailer, has announced its list of literary 'New Voices' for 2009. The books are all from new and emerging literary talent which the retailer believes will develop and flourish over the next year and beyond. A considerable amount of the titles are released from Independent publishing houses.

Waterstones believe these authors and their books will feature heavily during 2009 in many of the literary awards.

Janine Cook, in charge of Waterstone's fiction lists, and was also part of the selection panel to choose this year's titles said; “This is an invaluable opportunity for these authors to reach the widest possible audience. The Outcast and The White Tiger have gone on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies between them since inclusion in New Voices 2008, so the rewards can be very high.”

The Waterstones New Voices List for 2009

A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth (Arcadia Books)
Ablutions by Patrick DeWitt (Granta)
An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)
Black Rock by Amanda Smyth (Serpent’s Tail)
Days of Grace by Catherine Hall (Portobello)
Guernica by Dave Boling (Picador)
The Street Philosopher by Matthew Plampin (HarperCollins)
Ten Storey Love Song by Richard Milward (Faber)
The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan (Canongate)
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y K Lee (HarperPress)
The Rescue Man by Anthony Quinn (Jonathan Cape)
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li (Fourth Estate)


From March 5th, Waterstones will launch an in store and online campaign to promote the featured titles.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Snowbooks Publishing & Lulu.com


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I have mentioned a number of times in my articles that small and independent publishers do utilise some of Lulu.com’s book set-up services. Small publishers can choose to use Lulu.com to complete their finalised PDF files for their digital printer, or use them for an initial ‘test’ proof before committing to an off set print run.

Snowbooks, a successful independent publisher in the UK has taken this one step further. Here is what Emma Barnes of Snowbooks says on their blogsite today, February 20th, 2009:

“In what I shall call An Interesting Experiment, we are making available some books and samplers waaay before publication via Lulu. Yes, Lulu - the self publishing company. ….I discovered that their prices aren't too bad, their quality is very good and they print in runs of one - perfect for proof copies to send to endorsers and key buyers.”

http://www.snowbooks.com/weblog/

And you can peruse the Lulu store page of Snowbooks to see the kinds of early book proofs, sample books and marketing material they have for hardcopy and download sale.

http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=3628978

It is a quirky idea that reminds me of the kind of stuff 4AD records and their art designers at 23 Envelope used to do during the 1990’s. It can work particularly well with a company who has a very strong, independent and distinctive identity. Using Lulu, they could of course expand into offering calendars, posters, bookmarks, etc. I do note Emma’s comment about prices on Lulu not being too bad. However, I wouldn’t entirely agree. At 15.00 euro, I’m not sure how many readers and fans of Snowbooks will fork out that much for a sample book containing as little as 30 odd pages. But, again, it’s a quirky idea and worth seeing how successful it is. Ultimately, I think they can get this kind of POD service cheaper somewhere else, perhaps with Lightning Source direct in Milton Keynes, or someone like York Publishing Services, based in the UK and also specialist in this digital print area.

You can visit Snowbooks site at the link below.

http://www.snowbooks.com

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


David Jones - Self Publisher, Jobless and Proud


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I’ve touched quite a bit on this site about the effects of the economic downturn on publishing. Well, today is a new and optimistic day for self published author David Jones. Just a few weeks ago, David Jones was working away in a furniture company, oblivious to the changes about to occur in his life.

David moved from London to Ireland in 1986. He lives in County Meath, is separated and has three children. David has had a varied working career including jobs as a factory manager, a building worker and a part time counsellor. In January 2009, without warning, his employers told him there was no more work. He had never been unemployed before. And so, while the bills piled up and he signed on for unemployment benefit, a change of events began.

Today, David Jones self publishes his ebook "Oh No: I've Lost My Job What Am I Going To Do? – The Survivors Guide to Unemployment.” under his own imprint ‘Jones Press’ to help people like him who have lost their jobs and become unemployed. To help with the marketing and push on sales, he has spent the past three weeks setting up a website, blog and forum on the issues and challenges facing people who find themselves unemployed. He also hoped the book might earn him some desperately needed money. He had always had a dream of writing. Unemployment simply gave him the avenue to do it.

http://www.joblessandproud.com/blog/

http://www.joblessandproud.com

On Tuesday 10th, February 2009, David Jones appeared on the Breakfast Show on Newstalk Radio and spoke about this book he had written in just four days and four nights. He mentioned that he was planning to set up his own website to help distribute his self-published book. Several publishers were made aware of the 12,000 word self help book on unemployment, but Maryrose Lyons of Brightspark Consulting was one of the first to act. She contacted the show and offered David Jones her help.

So moved and inspired by David’s story of writing a book on a complexed self-help area much neglected in just four days, she decided that she could deliver him a free website in the same amount of time. Others quickly came on board the ebook project with equal free generosity.

Things are becoming pretty fast-paced for David. At lunchtime today, Irish TV broadcaster, TV3, is also interviewing him.

David’s inspiration for writing the book came from an innate will to help people who find themselves unemployed, particularly for the first time. His ebook is filled with self-help tips from coping mechanisms, dealing with rising debt, resources and guidance on seeking another job. Just for today, the ebook is available for free download for his site, and thereafter for 4.99 euro.

In struggling economic times David Jones is a testament in turning adversity into adventure, and hopefully, for him, success.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Dan Poynter Interviewed by Smashwords


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Smashworlds, an on line ebook seller has just done an interview with self publishing guru, Dan Poynter. He has just published his acclaimed "Self-Publishing Manual - Volume 2".

In the interview, he discusses the future of publishing and how self published authors may have the upper hand on the traditional publishing world through their active use of social networking.

Poynter predicts that we will see a publishing future where there are smaller advances, the elimination of book returns and a continued rise in ebooks. Interestingly, Poynter believes that the economic downturn will not be responsible for these changes, but rather, force publishers to re-examine their approach to the 'paper book' being sacred and the manner in which publishers promote books.

You can read the full interview at Smashwords here.

Dan Poynter's own Para publishing site can be found here.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Mick Rooney - Author Page


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I have just set up my author page at the following link. I am still developing it, and over the coming days I will add in the appropriate links and finalise the layout.

http://mickrooneyauthor.blogspot.com/

Friday, 13 February 2009


POD, Self Publishing and Independent Publishing


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I've very much let this site development into what it has now become; a site that authors and people interested in Self Publishing, Digital Print on demand and Independent Publishing can check in on for news, advice, publisher reviews and resources about the industry and process of publishing. Over the past two years of writing many articles and news postings for this site; I've moved further away from the subject matter of my own books and the actual craft of fiction writing.

While I may once in a while touch on these areas in the future here, I have decided to separate the business and personal end of things. There will shortly be a new site which will deal exclusively with articles and the promotion of my own books of fiction and will include more 'writing based' material from book extracts to articles dealing with the subject material of my books.

To reflect this, the more eagle-eyed will have noticed that I have now dropped the 'Mick Rooney (Official Author Site)' from this site's name.

Publishing World: On The Money


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"The once genteel world of publishing is going through a huge transformation with constant advances in technology and an increasingly competitive market."


"More than 200 million books were sold in the UK in 2008, but both the types of books sold and the way people buy them are changing."


By Sarah Murch, BBC Money Programme.



Last night BBC's popular finance programme did a feature on the publishing world, entitled, 'Media revolution: title fight'. You can find a synopsis of the programme and some quotes at the link below.



Thursday, 12 February 2009


AuthorHouse Courts The Establishment With Referral Program


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Over the past few months I’ve noticed that AuthorHouse has been making a particularly worrying use of their Referral Program. This type of program is used by a number of large self-publishing service providers using digital POD (print on demand) to authors. Here is AuthorHouse’s own description of the Referral Program. The following links are from AuthorHouse’s US and UK websites.

https://secure.authorhouse.co.uk/AuthorCenter/ReferralProgram.aspx

http://www.authorhouse.com/AboutUs/AffiliateProgram.aspx


Let me be quite clear. I have no problem with any business, let alone a POD publisher, paying a customer (one of their own published authors) a fee for bringing in new customers. After all, if we want to get hold of a good plumber or carpenter to do some work for us—we will often place a heavy weight on ‘word of mouth’ referral. Sometimes this can be the best recommendation before we hire someone and part with our hard-earned money. Pod publishers’ web pages are after all full of so-called ‘author testimonial’ letters espousing the virtues of the particular publisher.

Now, let’s go one step further than an author receiving a fee to recommend their POD publisher to another author. How would you feel as an author if the recommendation and referral was coming from a royalty-paying traditional publisher?

Recently, Chronicle Books, a tradition publisher, began referring rejected authors to self-publishing provider Blurb. You can read the Newsweek article on this story here.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/41208

Well, it seems AuthorHouse’s corporate marketing department is starting to court quite a number of companies in the book publishing business, and not just traditional publisher Osprey. From following a number of forums, blogs and online book trade magazines—it is not only publishers, but literary agents that are also picking up a fee from AuthorHouse when it passes on rejected authors. Here are a number of links you might find interesting as well as an ongoing discussion on AbsoluteWrite’s forum and some other links referred to above.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3280975&posted=1#post3280975

http://www.ospreypublishing.com/

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/77243-osprey-launches-self-publishing-offer.html

http://www.objectiveent.com/

While the traditional and self-publishing worlds are indeed merging—some traditional publishers have started various forms of partnership publishing, where either the author invests a percentage along with the publisher in the publication of a book, or they for-go an advance for increased royalties—we are seeing a number of interesting changes in the ‘business model’ of publishing. The actions of AuthorHouse in courting traditional publishers and literary agents raise some ethical implications. Why should a traditional publisher earn money by referring an author they have rejected to a self publishing company? That’s like your neighbour saying ‘hey, use this plumber for your leaking pipes—he’s not good enough to do work for me, but he should do you fine!’ I hope this is not a desperate sign that traditional publishers are going to use to tide them through difficult financial times.

I wrote some articles over the past week for Selfpublishingreview which discuss the types of self-publishing providers available to authors and the standards needed in the industry to protect both parties. Make no mistake; I’m all for an integrated model of publishing, where an author can go to a publisher and discuss their book and investments are made by both, if that is what is agreed, so long as the pathway is clear and the model of publishing is not shrouded in deceptive practices.

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/2009/02/12/self-publishing-standards-part-one/

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/2009/02/12/self-publishing-standards-part-two/

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/2009/02/07/the-types-of-self-publishing-peeling-away-the-layers-of-confusion/

While some may say the case above with AuthorHouse could be good for self-publishing—in the long term—it gives the business of self publishing a poorer reputation if these referred authors have a first-time bad experience with the POD publisher. Who is to say AuthorHouse or any other POD publisher offering author publishing services are the best or right choice for all authors? Every author has different needs and aspirations for their work. What makes my blood boil particularly is literary agents involving themselves in this referral system. An author who approaches an agent with their manuscript is clearly serious about writing and their intention is to follow the traditional path of publishing. A literary agent is there to represent, promote and look after an author’s rights, not make a quick $100 on the ones it shows where the door is. I already know of one literary agent who last year launched a self-publishing service to authors!

I have no genuine axe to grind with AuthorHouse, but rather with this method of attempting to engender a company into the established, tried and trusted pathway to being published, when in fact, it is anything but a traditional publisher. It is a disingenuous way for AuthorHouse to add a traditional air of legitimacy to its model of publishing, simply to increase business and clasp onto a reputation that must first be earned in the publishing business as a whole.

If traditional and self-publishers are to stand side by side, and even merge together, then fine. But it is critical that the business of publishing as a whole does not become mystified for any aspiring author. We are quickly reaching a stage when self-publishing is starting to be taken seriously. I don’t think this case helps matters and it would be a shame if in taking one step forward—we have just taken two steps backward.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Kindle 2 Launched By Amazon - The way forward for the e-reader? (Updated)


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It seems the gathered publishing fraternity who turned up at the unveiling of Amazon’s new Kindle (Version 2) in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York city on Monday were more intrigued and quizzical, than necessarily bowled over by the new electronic edition to the Amazon family. Even host, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, and author Stephen King---there to read his novella, Ur---did not cause any major earthquakes or even tremors.

I have not written too much here about ereaders, but more about the impact and future of ebooks in traditional and self publishing. While I believe ebooks will grow in popularity---and all publishers should be looking at developing strongly into this area---the fact remains that ebook sales still only represent, at best, around 1+% of all book sales, and I don’t see growth taking sales too far beyond the 3% mark over the next twelve months. I could of course be wrong and find myself eating every word of this article in a year’s time.

Before I take a full look at the specifics of the Kindle 2, one significant thing did come out of this grand unveiling in New York. The new version features audible voice facilities (text direct to speech) allowing a user to listen to their latest ebook read back to them in a male or female voice while painting the ceiling or doing the washing. Last year Amazon bought the company, Audible, an audiobook vendor, and one wonders how Amazon feel the success of the Kindle has actually been. Jeff Bezos boasted about the fact that Kindle format ebooks now available have risen from an initial 90,000 to 230,000 titles. Are Amazon perhaps hedging their bets in the ebook market with the Kindle reader? Will they cast it aside once we have some form of combined electronic, handheld and portable gadget capable of downloading the most sophisticated graphics and photographic laden books, not to mention the multitude of music formatting, using built-in camera picture facilities, and, of course, phoning Aunt maple. With the availability of downloadable ebooks by mobile phone, the mass popularity of the ipod and phone; things are beginning to merge for better or worse.

The Kindle 2 itself is thinner, more rounded and streamlined, (I think they call it improved ergonomics). Some annoyances with Kindle 1 have been ironed out, like extended battery life; now up to two weeks. There is a massive 1.4gb storage memory (about 1500 average sized books), improved page-turn speed, and better button functionality. The kindle 1 suffered from users accidentally hitting the page-turn button when holding the device. The improved button functionality seems to have resolved this. The Kindle 2 also features a USB port and cable, allowing full PC connectivity. The screen visibility has been improved by increasing the range of greyscale, but the device still struggles with readability in dim light. You still have to go online to convert your own documents and transfer them via the USB connection to view in the reader. The screen is much the same, and as with all readers, text is basic enough.

Overall, the Kindle 2 is a moderate improvement on the first version, but ultimately, not enough for someone to fork out another $350 in the space of 15 months. It can be ordered now, but only starts to ship on February 24th.

Let’s not beat up the Kindle 2, or indeed Sony’s ereader, and other models on the market; the ereaders are limited by their own technology itself. Until these devices can take any kind of published book of artwork, graphics, tables, graphs, etc (and publishers make at least 50% of all titles available), the devices will always remain of limited use and appeal, and only to the ardent techno reader on the move, rather than the reading masses. The challenge is not with the technology---that will be met one day soon. The real challenge lies with the publishers who filled Morgan Library on Monday.
UPDATED TODAY 5pm
As an interesting aside on the Kindle ereader, Plastic Logic has announced its own ereader device due for release in 2010. They will be partnering with the Ingram Group for ebook distribution. As Lightning Source printers is owned by the Ingram Group, that could be good news for self published authors. It also seems anothor salvo fired off in the Amazon/Ingram wars!

Monday, 9 February 2009


Original Writing - Interview with Garrett Bonner


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When I started out two to three years ago researching the area of self publishing, it didn’t take me too long to discover a vast amount of companies in the USA and England—from the business powerhouses of iUniverse, Lulu, Xlibris, Authorhouse, Createspace, Infinity and Wordclay—right down to the great many small micropresses offering self publishing services to authors. Around the time I was beginning my research and preparing to amass material to launch this site, an Irish company called Original Writing had just set up business and launched in the Republic of Ireland.

My attentions over the past few months have turned to Irish based publishers using print on demand technology. What has already struck me very soundly in a short space of time—while Ireland remains a small market, a hotbed of literary talent, and self publishing here, like the USA and England, is growing ever-stronger—there are still only a handful of companies in operation.

I caught up recently with Garrett Bonner of Original Writing, one of the few publishing companies operating in Ireland and providing Irish authors with self publishing services. In the following interview, Garrett talks about the place Original Writing has in self publishing, what it offers authors, and some of the reasons why there remains only a few companies in Ireland.


Garrett, let me first thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the site and sharing your experiences and views on self publishing with Original Writing.

Q1. Can you tell us about your position with OW and why, as a publisher, you chose to enter the self publishing area of the industry rather than focus on a more traditional publishing model of business?

I am the Sales and Marketing manager in Original Writing. Before I took up this position I had not worked in publishing but when the job was offered to me I felt that I had to take it as it seemed like a great opportunity to get into a growing section of a very interesting industry.

Q2. Self publishing companies and authors who choose this publishing path are often tarnished with a negative ‘vanity published’ tag. Many author guides and yearbooks are filled with warnings about submitting manuscripts to vanity publishers. Several US vanity publishers like Vantage Press, Dorrance and British publisher, Excalibur, came to particular prominence during the 1970’s and 1980’s filling many inches of small-ad columns in newspapers and magazines. However, along with this new found prominence, came the stories of authors remortgaging homes and ending up with a garage full of unwanted books. How do you feel that self publishing has developed since then and what stigmas have you encountered in the Irish publishing industry, book retailers, and traditionally published authors?


{Matador, a British self publisher and partnership publisher became the first ever to be included and endorsed in the annual ‘Writers & Artists Yearbook’ a few years ago.}

It is true to say that Self publishing has been seen in a negative light over the years but I feel that this tag is starting to disappear. In today’s world it is getting harder and harder to get published by a “traditional” publisher, they are not willing to take a risk any more. They are looking for celebrities and well known people that will guarantee sales and profits. As a result of this you can now find many quality titles out there that have been self published.

In relation to authors having to spend a fortune to self publish, that is just not the case. We charge a fee of €1595 that includes 100 copies of your book as well as the design, layout and other aspects of publishing. If the author wants to purchase additional copies of their book then we will make them available but we will never advise someone to buy more books that they think they can sell and if they are talking about ordering crazy numbers of books we will advise against this.

Q3. What do you believe sets OW as a self publisher apart from other companies who offer author services?
The quality of the books we produce is excellent and the backup and advice that we give to our authors is excellent.

We will not publish everything that is sent in to us. If someone comes to us with a book that is not in a proper state and will not look good on the market we will tell the author to get it proofread and to come back to us.

Q4. In the US and the UK, self publishing companies seem to ‘pop up’ ten to a dozen every few months and then quickly vanish. Aside from actual digital book printers and book packaging companies – why do you think there are so few self publishing companies operating in Ireland?


{Two other recognised self publishers in Ireland at the moment are Choice Publishing, based in Co. Louth, and Checkpoint Press, in Achill, Co Galway.}

I would say that the main reason is money. It is not an industry that can sustain too many companies because we have a relatively small market and the fact that there are a few established companies makes it a relatively unattractive industry to enter.

Q5. Your website explains that you use digital print-on-demand technology to produce your books. One of the world’s largest digital print-on-demand printers is Lightning Source US & UK providing 80% of all print and book fulfilment services to self publishing companies. Do you use their services or indigenous Irish printers?

We use an Irish printer for all of our paperback books and an English company for our hardback books. I would prefer to use an Irish company for the hardback books but unfortunately the prices being charged in this country are not competitive and I was not too pleased with the quality of the couple of hardback books we did get done here.

With paperback books we could get them produced for a cheaper price in the UK but I would prefer to deal with an Irish printer.

Q6. Does OW exclusively concentrate on online distribution channels (Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Powells, Waterstones, Eason online, etc), or do you also consider pursuing more traditional ‘brick ‘n’ mortar’ retail placement on behalf of the authors who publish through OW?

We send out information on all of our publications to bookshops and libraries throughout the country and as a result we do get quite a few orders from these. Some of our titles have been picked up by Easons Distributors and some others are in Hughes and Hughes. You can never guarantee that books will be picked up by traditional bookshops but we do try to get them in there.

It is usually easier to get books into shops that are located close to where the author is from and as a result we normally target these shops more than others.

Q7. Do you employ screening of manuscripts which arrive into OW, and as part of your author publishing packages – do the manuscripts undergo any form of editing?

We do look through the book but we do not offer any editing service. We will not put out a book that is riddled with mistakes as it will not be bought by the public and it will not look good for us or the author.

Q8. OW’s company motto is:
Your book. The way you want it.

How much input do you actually allow an author into their book from design to production? There could be a danger in allowing an inexperienced author too much say and control on critical production decisions like graphics, illustrations, font type and size and overall layout – rendering the final book product expensive and beyond a profitable selling price.

We do allow the authors to have a large say in how the book will look but we also let them know if we think that something that they are suggesting is not going to work. It can be difficult to do this as a lot of authors come to us with a firm idea of how they want the book to look and we always try to explain that we have published quite a few books in the past and we know what works.

We find that the authors that have crazy ideas for their books are normally not trying to sell large amounts of the book and just want it for family and friends.

Q9. Do you encourage signed authors to pursue instore book placement and marketing enterprises to further their sales? What kind of pre and post production support do you provide authors in regard to marketing and selling their books?

We do try to help authors as much as possible, but in truth, most of the marketing and publicity has to be carried out by the author. We normally advise them to start locally and see if they can build it from there. There is no point in self publishing a book and expecting to be invited on to the Late Late Show to publicise it. If you want national exposure, then you will have to start with the local newspapers and build it up from there.

Q10. Is the contract you offer to authors a non-exclusive contract, allowing them to retain future commercial book publishing, film, dramatisation rights etc? Do you allow authors to retain ownership of the finalised print ready PDF book files?

The contract is non-exclusive. If someone is lucky enough to get a massive offer from a traditional publisher then we will not stand in their way.

Q11. OW launched ‘Write4all’ in 2008. Can I take it that this forum is intended for writers to exchange views on writing and showcase or test new work for feedback?

You can indeed. It is a new service that we felt was needed in this country. There are a few similar sites out there but none of them are Irish and it is good to get feedback from people from a similar background not just someone from the other side of the world.

Q12. What development plans can we expect for OW this year? Has OW considered ebooks or any other additions to their services to authors?

We are going to offer more marketing facilities to our authors and each author will have a new page on our site where they will be able to put more information about themselves and extracts from their books.

We have not offered ebooks in the past but it is something that we are looking into.

We are constantly developing new relations with bookshops around the country and this means that more and more of our books are finding their way on to the shelves of shops.

Q13. In the current economic climate, how do you see self publishing and broader traditional publishing changing, in particular those who publish through print-on-demand methods?

The current economic downturn is difficult for everyone but we hope that people will always feel the need to get their material out to the general public. Writing can be a great form of escapism.

I would say that traditional publishing will become even more celebrity driven as the publishers will not be willing or able to take risks on unknown authors.

Over the coming months, I intend doing a comparison of Irish self publishing companies which I will post on this site. Again, thank you to Garrett for the interview.

You can check Original Writing and their writing forum out for yourself at the following link.

http://originalwriting.ie/

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Self Publishing Review


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There is an excellent site on the web called Self Publishing Review. It offers numerous articles, features, daily news stories, author and publisher interviews, a discussion forum, as well as a wealth of helpful resources for writers. The site's editor, Henry Baum, recently asked me to become a contributor. I gladly accepted and you can find my first article at the link below.

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/2009/02/07/the-types-of-self-publishing-peeling-away-the-layers-of-confusion/

Hughes & Hughes End T5 Airport Bookstore - (Updated on Feb 10th 2009)


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Irish retail booksellers, Hughes & Hughes is closing their outlet at Heathrow's T5 terminal next month. It is believed that BAA, who run Heathrow and Gatwick airports maybe considering moving these book concession outlets to WH Smiths. While many airport terminal bookstore space is quiet limited, Hughes & Hughes was considered to be a more independent book retailer. Borders, who have been streamlining their business during the current recession are not also not expected to renew their leases which are due up shortly across several UK airports.

In a recent article I myself had visited a Borders in Dublin, Ireland and noticed a distinct reducting in titles across the board. Running a small bookstore in an airport is a challenge in itself, but I cannot help feel that this again is an ominous sign for smaller independent bookstores like Hughes & Hughes if we see Borders cutting back. It's not something which is limited to just bookstores. I've seen a similar trend in Ireland in supermarket chains like Dunne Stores and Marks & Spencers. You walk into the store and immdeiately get a sence that stock levels have been drastically cut back and the aisles even seem wider.

UPDATE-Feb, 10th 2009
BAA, operating British airports confirmed on February 10th, that Hughes and Hughes and Borders leases for the bookstores in their terminals will not be re-newed. They have completed an exclusive deal with large bookstore and stationary outlet, WH Smith.
http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com/p/t.html/

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