Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Adventures with Blurb - Part Two


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The very mention of the word ‘Blurb’ seems to send authors into an immediate comparison with DIY author solutions service, Lulu. While it is understandable, I still see one highly established company pitted against a young pretender. These modern day forces in the author solution world have emerged from different corners of the DIY self-publishing ring. Lulu offers everything from calendars to DVD production, to the next great novel, while Blurb’s roots lie with photographic and artistic production since 2006. Both offer accessibility and ease of use with author-friendly production tools and the ability to produce a quality product for fun or serious endeavour. Lulu have offered a publishing platform for the serious author for quite some time, whereas, Blurb has only recently tailored their Booksmart (TM) software to accommodate authors with text-laden books.

What grabbed my attention about Blurb straight away was the quality of their internal book layout, the costs of their books to authors, and significantly, they choose to hand over the tools of book production to the author by way of software download of Booksmart. This free software is the engine of Blurb’s whole business itself. Since 2006, it has continued to be a ‘work in progress’, with continued upgrades and updates in an effort to iron out glitches and make the hands-on publishing process for authors as easy as possible. It still remains an ongoing ‘work in progress’, and some of the issues I experienced myself seem to have been hanging around for the past couple of years.

For authors, Blurb is not like Lulu. It is a different experience, first and foremost, and with benefits as well as deficiencies. The attributes of the final book are different and present their own advantages as well as challenges for a self-publishing author. It is clear from the start when you browse the Blurb site that you are dealing with a company who can present a highly visual, glossy and polished book. Coffee table books come to mind instantly. The skill of the author using the Booksmart software is to convert their manuscript into a presentable quality book with the facilities, wherewithal and avenue to market to the family, friends and crucially to the general buying public.

This is where we encounter the first critical hurdle with Blurb. They do not provide ISBN’s, nor do they provide distribution—on line or brick ‘n’ mortar. Blurb simply offers their own on line bookstore and on line community to market to. I could be harsh and say Blurb simply give you a cheap and friendly version of a book design package such as ‘InDesign’ and an on line platform to display it. That would be unfair and belie the potential power of a sleeping giant. This is what we are dealing with here. How the author using this completely free service decides to properly utilise what is available—how they best use their own guile and ingenuity—sums up Blurb’s strengths and weaknesses.

Every tutorial on Blurb’s site emphasises the fun involved in the publishing process, but that is one of their weaknesses. It is a weakness because Blurb are sophisticated enough to offer a viable book product, through their authors, which can actually compete in the retail world of books, given a proper chance. I suppose I am saying Blurb need to take a leap of faith and realise that many of their authors and artists are serious individuals, whether designers, photographers, architects or novelists, and offer them a full author solution service. You just want Blurb to match the professionalism of their clients with a like-minded service.

Once you peruse the Blurb site and see what is on offer, you are invited to download Booksmart (TM) and try out the software. It takes a minute or two to download to your PC or MAC and there are plenty of tutorials to also view on line before you dive in.

http://www.blurb.com/help/tutorials

I decided to take a previously published book from my own publishing imprint (Aquarius Communications Publishing) to use to test out the software. ‘Thais’ was published ten years ago and it seemed a perfect time to re-issue it for publication as a single book again. It was part of my last published collection of fiction, Filigree & Shadow, and was consistently a highlight of many reviews of the book.

When Booksmart launches on your PC you are given the option to upload a word document or a series of photographs for inclusion in your book. You decide upon the trim size and format of your book and proceed from there. It is not hard to see that the text/black/white interior option has only recently been added as it has the least layout choices available. Immediately the cover, copyright and title/chapter pages are there, but you can edit these pages to your own specifications. I chose simply to drop and paste the interior of my book in to the pages and play around with the fonts and styles. You effectively get all fonts available in word and the freedom to customise as much as you want or import your documents on to a themed template. What I like most is the flexibility it gives you. Having said that, using the copy and paste method seems to highlight some glitches in the Booksmart software. You have got to be very careful with text ‘justification’, ‘centring’ and in particular, words like ‘don’t’ and ‘martin’s’ where the ‘’s’ can often be separated from the main word and centring and justification can be completely lost. The real headache comes with artwork. Something Blurb should actually be strong with. The cover can be a nightmare if you have not selected the correct format you want with the book. Booksmart does not allow the import of PDF document pages or graphics, so every image has to come in as a bitmap or jpeg, with a 300dpi resolution.

It is worth spending an hour or so on the tutorials. All Blurb books default to having a copyright page and back page with the Blurb insiginia on them. Once authors start getting hands on with the software—they may be tempted to decide that Blurb is not the one for them. In my next article, I will tell you ways of using Blurb as an full author publishing tool for true self-publication, and the ways you can circumvent the Blurb engine and publish a book under your own imprint by actually using Blurb in the way ‘Our Eileen Gittins’ should allow it to be used. That includes designing your own pages in PDF and dropping them into Booksmart.

All will be revealed in my next article.

Friday, 27 March 2009


Five Steps to Self Publishing - Guest Author - Gang Chen


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The following is a contributed article by self publishing author Gang Chen. He is the internationally acclaimed author of “LEED AP Exam Guide” and “Planting Design Illustrated and has written for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register. The opinions and conclusions in this article are those of the author. Clearly, Gang Chen is an advocate of Outskirts Press' publishing services. There are some excellent points on book preparation and marketing.

Here is my review last year of Outskirts Press.

Outskirts Press - Reviewed



The economy was not so bad when I started thinking about self publishing my first book, *Planting Design Illustrated*. I had gotten some interest from traditional publishers but they wanted to make quite a lot of changes and add a co-author. These were changes that would have made me dislike my own book! So, I turned to self publishing. At the time, making a lot of money was not at the top of my priorities. I simply wanted to publish my own book in my own way.

Things change. Sure, I still want to have all the control and keep all my rights, but the royalty checks have a way of becoming more important, especially with the economic climate that we’re in. I self published my second book, *LEED AP Exam Guide* with Outskirts Press in September of 2008. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most important trend in development and is currently revolutionizing the construction industry. My book had the benefit of being published at the right time, at the right price. In one month (January 2009), I earned over $30,000 in royalties ($31,207.68, to be precise). I earned even more in February.

These are the steps I followed:


1. WRITE A VALUABLE BOOK

This step is easily overlooked, but it is Number One on this list for a reason. Your book must provide some sort of value or benefit for the reader. In my case, my books are both non-fiction, and fairly niche. I earn the lion’s share of my royalties from my LEED AP Exam Guide, which provides a mock exam, study guides, and sample questions for the LEED AP Exam, required to obtain one’s title of “LEED AP (Accredited Professional).” Did I say it was niche? It is – and for people seeking the information contained in my book, it is also invaluable.

I don’t think I’m saying anything revolutionary when I say that publishing non-fiction is an easier proposition on the self publishing front than fiction. But even fiction books are valuable, if they provide the type of “escape” your reader is seeking. Whether you write non-fiction, fiction, poetry, or something else entirely, the book must deliver on its promise. You might do everything else on this list, and you might even find some short-lived success, but ultimately, the success of your book comes down to the strength of your book and the marketing efforts you put forth.

2. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE

Who is your reader? If your answer is “everybody” you need to reevaluate your goals and recalibrate your expectations. Even the bestselling book of all time appeals to less than 1/5 of the planet’s population. You know the book? The Bible. No book is meant for everybody. In fact, perhaps counter-intuitively, the smaller your audience, the more success you will find. Look at my books: *Planting Design Illustrated* and *LEED AP Exam*. That small, target audience is precisely the reason my books are well-known in the proper circles. Do I care that someone who reads Harry Potter has never heard of me? No. Is it incredibly important to me that students and professionals in the field of green building design and construction have heard of me? Yes.

Who do you think it is easier to find and market to—a person who reads Harry Potter, or a student/professional in the field of green building design and construction? Exactly. The smaller your pond, the bigger your fish. Or something like that.

3. RECOGNIZE THE TYPE OF BOOK YOU ARE PUBLISHING

You should be realistic about the type of book you are writing, and the type of publishing you are doing. If you are self publishing your book (regardless of whether you are doing it yourself or through the publishing services of a POD company like I did), don’t try to force your book to be something that it’s not. Your book is not a mass market paperback like those you find in a grocery store. Nor is it the latest hardback, discounted 80%, like those you find at Costco. As a self publishing author, both of those scenarios are too risky, and to be frank, you probably don’t possess the means to take on that kind of risk. So why try? Self publishing authors publish trade paperback and hardback books that can be available regionally (perhaps), locally (probably), and online (definitely).

4. PRICE YOUR BOOK APPROPRIATELY

No, this does not mean you should simply make your book as affordable as possible. It means you should do market research to determine the prices of similar books in your category. Look on Amazon.com for similar books (you’ll need to be aware of these books anyway, when it comes to marketing yours) Examine their page count and price point. Make an honest assessment of your book in relation to the other books in your category. Does your content justify a higher price? Does your page count suggest a lower price? Your method of publishing should be considered but should not play a definitive role in the price of your book – the marketplace should. It doesn’t matter where you published your book if no one is buying it (just like it doesn’t matter where you published your book if *many* people are buying it!). Just be sure you are comparing apples to apples (see #3 above).

5. PUBLISH YOUR BOOK WISELY

My main consideration when choosing my publisher was not how much my royalties were going to be. That only became important to me after the book was published. But they say hindsight is 20-20, so I’m going to share with you one of the main reasons my royalties are so high. The publisher I chose, Outskirts Press, pays me 100% of the profits of the book and lets me set my own pricing. iUniverse pays 20% of the profit. Xlibris pays 10% of the retail price. But by paying 100% of the profit, Outskirts Press allowed me to set the retail price to whatever I wanted, and now I earn the entire benefit of increasing my price.

Here’s another way to look at it: If I had published my same exact book with iUniverse at the same exact retail price, instead of earning $31,207.68 in January I would have earned approximately $5,300. If I had published my same book with Xlibris, I would have earned approximately $4,600. Yes, without knowing any better, I would have still considered myself a successfully self published author, but probably not enough to write this article.

Self publishing is working for me. My royalties are increasing every month and I’m working on my third book, which I will also publish with Outskirts Press. If hindsight *is* indeed 20-20, I can only imagine what my royalties will be for book #3! Wish me luck, and I do the same for you.



About the Author

Gang Chen is a LEED AP and a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He is the internationally acclaimed author of “LEED AP Exam Guide” and “Planting Design Illustrated.” Gang Chen holds a Masters Degree from the School of Architecture, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, and a Bachelors Degree from the Department of Architecture, South China University of Technology.

He has over 20 years of professional experience. Many of the projects he was in charge of, or participated in, have been published extensively in Architecture, Architectural Record, The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, etc. He has worked on a variety of unusual projects, including well-known large-scale healthcare and hospitality projects with over one billion dollars in construction costs, award-winning school design, highly-acclaimed urban design and streetscape projects, multi-family housing and high-end custom homes, and regional and neighborhood shopping centers.

Visit Gang Chen's author link here.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


Best Practices in POD Publishing - Writersweekly


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Angela Hoy over at Writersweekly has posted an excellent article on 'Best Practices' for POD publishers and companies offering author solution services. I have touched on a lot of these best practices here, but Angela has a lot more too, particularly on the issue of royalties.

Here is the link to that article:
http://writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/005273_03252009.html

Also, my own Standards in POD publishing:

http://mickrooney.blogspot.com/2008/02/pod-publishing-standards-recent-blog.html

Adventures with Blurb, Part 1-(I’m Eileen Gittins—who the hell are you?)


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She is bright, a successful business woman, having worked across the globe with Kodak and Vice President at Wall Data as well as Board Director at Qbiquity and Popular Demand. She studied photography in her younger days and is founder and CEO of Blurb.com, an on line self-publishing solutions company for photographers and authors alike. In spite of all her success, she says Blurb is the most fun thing she has ever done.

And, here’s Eileen speaking to John Shinal, of Vator TV, last March about new developments for Blurb......

http://vator.tv/news/show/2008-03-31-vator-exclusive-blurb-rolling-out-high-end-service-for-photographers

From the interview, you can get a little picture (ouch, no pun intended) of where Blurb were a year ago. In 2007 Blurb produced 80,000 titles, with much of this output being a mixture of ‘coffee table’ photographic albums in book form ranging from the humble personal wedding album to the glossy corporate book brochure for high- flying architects and graphic artists. This is where Blurb wanted to pitch their business as a self-publishing alternative to the norms of ‘Aunt Maple’s Cookbook’ and ‘College Graduate’s Great American Novel’. Their last reported turnover was $30m, so we are not dealing with small potatoes here.

At the moment, I have firmly strapped myself in and I am embarking on the re-issuing of a previous book I published through my own publishing imprint Aquarius Communications, using Blurb’s BookSmart downloadable software. Before we journey on that particular adventure in Part 2 of this little voyage, let me take a general appraisal and overview of Blurb at the moment.

I came across Blub about a year ago but did not start seriously looking at their services until late last year. Blurb is surfing in the Lulu market, and perhaps much more so now than they have previously been. Blurb’s initial pitch and investment was into the high end corporate market which would attract in photographers, architects, graphic designers, as well as the general consumer exploiting the advances in digital technology brought to the family home. Even in the time I have followed Blurb, there has been a subtle change in how they market their services. They are now openly pitching directly to the common man and woman in the home and the self employed graphic artist and photographers, all highly technologically aware, but ultimately they are looking to present a personal visual representation of their lives, or a small artistic business product or brochure for a captured audience. This is the key to what Blurb have on offer at the moment.

Visit Blurb’s website and you will quickly see that their cornerstone is the quality of an individuals artistic endeavour (personal or corporate), but without real worldwide or wholesale distribution beyond Blurb's own bookstore window. For example, at the moment, Blurb do not provide ISBN’s for their published books, nor do they provide third party distribution such as Ingrams or Amazon.

Following the forums on Blurb’s own site tells a story in itself as to where author’s want Blurb to be, and where they actually are at the moment. The key forum criticisms directed at Blurb from their own users is the ability for the user to load highest quality images quickly and efficiently; the expanded adaptability of Blurb’s BookSmart software to import, export and provide full functionality with PDF documents; and the end Burb product to be flexible, adaptable and available for distribution worldwide, and that means channels like Ingrams and on line retailers. I believe that Blurb will catch up and resolve many of these issues and allow themselves to properly compete with companies like Lulu, CreateSpace and other print on demand solution providers. While it is just a matter of time--Blurb do need to start putting their best foot forward.

In my next article, I will look at Blurb’s specific service solutions offered for self-publishing authors.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Blurb.com - The Coming Adventure


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Over the past year the 'Adventures with Lulu' articles have drawn some of the widest and most sustained interest from visitors to this site. On a personal basis, they also provided me with plenty of enjoyment and experience of my own self-publishing journey, notwithstanding the fact that they directly led to my last two books, Filigree & Shadow and Academy.

I have been carrying out reviews on this site of many author solution companies who provide authors throughout the world with much needed services and an avenue to see their books published. It is one thing for a reviewer to analyse and compare all these services, but it is far and away a greater and more valid challenge and experience to actually use the services of these companies.

In light of this, and the success of the 'Adventures with Lulu' articles, I have decided to focus on Blurb.com with a new series of articles entitled—wait for it...'Adventures with Blurb'! These articles will look at my experiences using Blurb as I re-issue a previously published book of mine, Thais.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Value of UK Publishers' Sales 2008 Down Just 0.2%


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Sales for UK publishers were down just 0.2% for 2008. This is in spite of the current economic downturn in retail sales towards the end of last year. In total, UK publishers sold an estimated 855m books, with an invoice value of £2990m. The Publishers Association, who is preparing the forthcoming Statistical Yearbook 2008, compiled these figures. The figures also show that unit sales were marginally up. Interestingly, export sales of books are up to 38% of total sales, a 4% increase on 2004.

The Publishers Association will hold their AGM on 29th April this year and they hope to have the Statistical Yearbook 2008 published just before then. The yearbook should also feature the results of surveys carried out on digital sales and book production. Company CEO’s will receive complimentary copies of the yearbook while participants in the PA Sales Monitor will have online access to an electronic version of the report. All other copies will be available to purchase at £100 (or Trade, £50.00) plus post and packing.

You can view the Publishers Association’s news release at the following link:

http://www.publishers.org.uk/en/home/news/detail/index.cfm/nid/B8CEFCC1-B0CB-4817-B19B83DB9B000543

Dolman Scott - Reviewed


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Amazon.com Titles – 31

Dolman Scott are based in Berkshire in the UK. I have come across them in trade publishing magazines and Google ads on the Internet, which is why their low volume of titles listed on Amazon surprised me. Their titles cover a span of approximately eighteen months, right back to November 2007. Again, Dolman Scott’s on line ‘portfolio’ page only features eight titles and they do not support their own on line bookstore. This is not a good sign in spite of the strong presentation of their website with built in flash media.


“We publish books as hard backs and paper backs, in full colour and black and white and in a wide range of sizes. We also have E book and Audio book options with world wide distribution.”

These are very favourable options, particularly the Audio option, which is not something offered by many author solution companies.


“Publishing
Dolman Scott gives you the widest range of options available in how to self publish a book. You can choose to have a traditionally printed book or, you can choose print on demand self publishing. If you wish to take advantage of new technology and distribution we will create an E book and even an Audio book from your manuscript.”


Dolman Scott suggest that authors should have their books reviewed and edited and consider using their services, particularly if they intend making their books available beyond just family and friends. The manuscript can be submitted in word file form or as an already edited and proofread print ready file (PDF) provided it conforms to their required format specifications.

There are two packages on offer from Dolman Scott; the Standard service and the Premium service. The Standard service is priced at £450.

“Our Standard service deals with an author's already proofread manuscript, which is then formatted for printing and fully prepared cover image. Authors receive a sample copy of their work to check for printing errors before the book is released for retail sale. Authors are then given 5 review copies of their book free and thereafter these are available at print cost plus 25% of the retail price (PoD only).”

This service requires the author to submit completed PDF files, cover and internal files. Dolman will supply paperback publication, ISBN allocation, one sample proof and five free author copies, on line and database distribution with royalties paid on any copies sold. Again, Dolman seems at pains to stress that the book must already have been edited and proofread.

The Premier service, priced at £990, deals with a submitted manuscript which will be proofread and have a cover designed by them. Authors receive all of the services in the Standard package, including one proof to check, ISBN and on line distribution, plus ten author copies, further author copies available at print cost plus 20%, and legal registration. Authors should note that the proofread is limited to 80,000 words and books beyond this will be subject to a £3.50/per 1000 words charge.

Dolman list other additional services including cover design, basic and full design services, various depths of editing, proofreading required above the 80,000 limit, and costs for additional photographs/illustrations.

Dolman Scott does also offer digital short prints runs and litho printing. Authors should contact the company directly for quotes on these print runs. Dolman does have further format options including hardback and combination print runs. More expanded details are available on their FAQ page.



“What about Marketing my Book?

We do not judge submitted books on their commercial merits, so consequently we cannot afford to market them. We do, however, offer help where we can. Marketing is down to the Author and we will give you basic tips on how to go about this, and give you the names of organisations which specialise in marketing books, including PoD books.
Most sales will have to be made as a result of your own efforts. If you are not prepared to market and sell your own book we would advise that you are unlikely to see a return on your investment.”


Dolman Scott pay royalties at 80% net of the retail, meaning that print and wholesales discounts subtracted before that percentage is applied. Dolman do not give any examples of print costs, but authors should bear in mind that there is already a 20% to 25% mark up on copies sold to authors, so that author profit is based on 80% of what is left after all deductions are made. On a book retailing at £10.00, if we take away the average minimum wholesale discount of 40%, we are left with £6.00. Based on Lightning Source’s POD prices of £2.70 for a 200 page paperback—add Dolman’s 20% mark up—that leaves £2.76, with the author getting 80% of this (£2.20), and the remaining £0.56 going also to Dolman.

Dolman Scott is up front about the fact that they do not market the books they produce for their authors. There are many author service companies who are not so up front and lead the author down an avenue of assumption about the success of their books once they are made available. While Dolman Scott is far from the most expensive service, they may not suit all authors’ needs. An author with PDF files might find a use here with Dolman Scott, but much of the work and expense still remains for an author to promote, market and reach their buying public. An author also does have the flexibility to use their own ISBN’s or Dolman’s if they wish.

The fact that Dolman Scott has so few titles listed with Amazon may reflect the fact that many author’s using this author solution company choose to use their own registered ISBN’s and publishing imprints, treating Dolman more as a intermediary print solution provider than as an actual publisher.

RATING: 05/10

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Trafford Publishing - Reviewed


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“Success in Publishing
A dream of publishing a book as you envision it can never become a reality unless you find a company that believes in making dreams come true.”


http://www.traffordpublishing.co.uk

Trafford Publishing is one of the largest author solution service companies in the world using print-on-demand digital print technology. They are a Canadian company but with a considerable presence in the UK and USA. You cannot browse the Internet for ‘self-publishing’ and not come across companies like Trafford and AuthorHouse. They are the Behemoths of the industry.

Unlike other smaller author solution companies, Trafford openly welcome direct contact with them through email and phone calls because they have a skilled team of direct sales representatives who can deal day to day with queries from authors. Email Trafford and you will continue to be solicited by adverts for their services until you click their unsubscribe button. That is the nature of the way they do business. It is not ‘hard sell’, but ‘direct sell’.

“In the past, authors determined to publish had only two choices: do-it-yourself publishing involving countless hours of research and labour, or pricey vanity presses that left them with stacks of books and no way to sell them.”

One would assume that Trafford, from the above quote, see themselves as offering something for authors somewhere in between the vanity and true self-publishing author. Actually, the above quote is misleading authors. There are more than the ‘do-it-yourself publishing’ and ‘vanity press’ routes which Trafford refer to. There is of course the route the vast majority of writers pursue; the traditional route, whether through an agent or direct to a commercial publishing house. The intimation in Trafford’s quote is that they are a part of the non ‘vanity and DIY’ route—somehow rendering them part of the traditional publishing industry.

“Trafford supplies book orders to Trafford’s online bookstore, tesco.com/books, waterstoners.com, bookshop.blackwell.com, whsmith.co.uk, amazon.co.uk, and many other online retailers that are changing the way books are distributed.”

There is nothing earth-changing about the above as many author solution service companies offer the same distribution plan as part of their packages, and while Trafford may claim to have been the first, they need to focus on what it is they believe they offer above their rivals.

Trafford provide packages with grand, romantic and dreamy names as the Entrepreneur, The Novelist, Best Seller, Signature—it is important for the perspective author to sort beyond the stars and clouds and grasp a full comprehension on what it is they want and what it is they are actually getting.

The Entrepreneur package starts at €499 for PDF print ready files from the author and offers the very basic production of the author’s book and four free copies, but without any kind of distribution. If the author does require layout services and distribution, then, they are included for €989 with 10 free author copies of their book. For a free round of revisions and a text template, Trafford will charge you €1179. For all these packages, an author is strongly advised to supply their own cover image as the prescribed covers are template based and pretty basic.

“The Novelist is a value-loaded package for authors of fiction and non-fiction books without images or other components.”

The Novelist package provides a variety of cover and internal templates, layout, ISBN, legal registration, a Trafford website, a book release announcement, six month listing in Trafford’s catalogue, promotional materials, and twenty free author copies. This comes at a cost of €1239 and is seems the first real practical package for authors to work with if they are serious about promoting and selling their book.

The Best Seller package includes distribution, design and a few marketing options. The €1049 package is for authors with print ready files; at €1419, a book fair option is added as well as full colour promotional materials. The premium Best Seller package includes layout of fifty internal components as an ad on, and, well, little more than you got for €1419. Yet, this is the first comparable option that Trafford have available for many of their opposition.

What is their Signature package about? It is about €4129.

“Unparalleled in the POD publishing industry, the Signature package is for authors ready to take they book world by storm.”

This package provides interior and cover consultation and design, layout, a Trafford webpage, one round of basic copy-editing proofing before going to print. Prominence at three international book fairs (difficult for an author themselves to properly evaluate), distribution, full colour promotional materials, advanced distribution (Ingram Distribution Catalogue), and fifty author copies of their book.

“Do You Dream In Colour?
Welcome to our colour publishing done the right way.

...if you can dream it, we can publish it.”


Trafford have recently added colour and other ‘print ready’ options to their packages and authors considering Trafford would be advised to discuss their specific needs before committing to one of their services.

Trafford present many additional options for the self-publishing author, from propriety classes to specific options. In quick detail, a hardcover option is €129, and an ebook is €99. A Trafford login in on their site provides the author with royalty statements, FAQ’s, reports on book sales, and placement of author book orders.

Trafford clearly states that their retail price is based on a 2.1 x print cost to accommodate the trade discount applied to each sale. But according to their chart a standard 200 page paperback has a minimum retail price of €10.97 with a €5.23 sale price to the author for one copy or €5.07 for fifty plus copies. Either way, again, we are over the amount a printer will charge Trafford to carry out most of their print costs in-house. In fact—one could argue that Trafford should be the one to offer the best cut price deal. Alas...nothing could be less true.

Trafford have an on line author calculator which allows you to play around with it until you reach a conclusion on pricing. Based on perfect bound, 20lb white bond (75g/m), 200 pages, no colour sheets, and a trim size of 5.5 x 8.5, the print cost will be £3.99. The profit for the author is 60% (net), and again, this is after retail and print costs have been taken away. Unlike many other author solution companies, Trafford own their own in-house printers, so it makes their profit take all the more amazing. Authors should always be aware that any sizeable or significant percentage given to the author will always be taken on the price of a book, less print and retailer discount costs. In general, the retail prices for Trafford books are expensive, though it is hard to critically evaluate this without taking into account what the author sets as their final retail price. All in all, it is hard to see how an author is going to be able to keep their book at a competitive and marketable price and gain a reasonable profit. The fact is that Trafford are charging authors for a print service with some additional options, and taking the vast majority of profits when the author’s books are sold.

For an author to make any of the packages work, they would need to be spending far in excess of £1000. That said, they are still not getting proper promotion. Trafford do offer a lot of packages, but simplify their packages, and it becomes clear that the opposition, who entered the industry long after them, have more competitive and flexible deals to offer.

If you want top quality books from author solution providers, look hard and you will find them. However, I am not convinced you will find it with Trafford. For much of what Trafford offer can be found for half the price elsewhere. Their mark ups on print costs are a serious concern and that has a significant effect on the royalties offered to authors. This author solution service company indulge in far too much of the dream of being published, and far too little in the needs of authors.

I am not in the business of either recommending services to authors or steering them away from services offered. In this case, authors need to look long and hard at the strengths in publishing their book through Trafford Publishing. If they can find reason and a good service that suits their particular needs with Trafford; please let me know.

RATING: 4.5/10

Friday, 20 March 2009


Derwent Press - Reviewed (UPDATED OCT 2012)


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The Derwent Press is a small author solution service based in Derbyshire, England. They began in 2005 and have produced quite a small output of books (32 listed on Amazon.co.uk). Their last produced book is listed as a new release from June 2008. Books are actually well represented on their website from the main page to pages devoted to the authors as well. All their ‘buy’ links are directed to Amazon pages, which suggests they do not sell books directly for their authors.


“The Derwent Press has published over 40 books for clients in UK. We are interested in fiction, non-fiction, poetry… in fact any work which reflects a passion for writing, and the author's desire to see their work offered to the public. We offer a partnership publishing service, whereby for a small fee we will transform your manuscript into a professionally produced book, which can then be ordered worldwide on Amazon or at your local bookshop.”


While browsing through what Derwent have to offer, you can help but get a certain localised feel about the list of authors who have used their publishing services. This may very well be the appeal Derwent have for their authors.

“We work in conjunction with major book distributors (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Whitakers/Bookdata, Gardners etc.) which means that your book can be ordered at almost all real-world bookshops (sadly, we cannot guarantee that any particular bookshop will stock your book, but they can order the book via our distributors).”

An honest self-appraisal of what Derwent Press can offer authors with no hard sell or marketing spin. Derwent deal with each book submission individually and provide author with a non-exclusive contract and a four to six-week turnaround.

Royalties are set at 40% of the retail price less the wholesaler’s discount (normally 40% to 55%), though, they do not mention if the print costs are also subtracted. Unusually, Derwent Press offer a full refund if authors are not happy with the quality of the book. They refer to their service as partnership publishing and it is priced at £595. This fee includes ISBN allocation, database and distribution listing, colour custom designed cover, and internal layout based on a submitted word file. Editing is available, but at an additional fee on request. Authors should also enquire about the cost of books they might want to order from the publisher as this fee does not include a print run or author copies.

Book retail prices are reasonable for their paperbacks and range from £7 to £9.

“There are no additional charges or hidden fees whatsoever!”

There are no marketing and promotional services with this deal and much of this work, as with any self-publishing project, falls squarely with the author.

Derwent Press presents what they do extremely well and concisely. The product of their services—the author’s books—are given large prominence on their website. Authors interested in Derwent Press would be advised to firstly follow their own offered advice.

“If you have any questions, or would like further details, please send an e-mail to enquiries@derwentpress.com. We will e-mail you our full contact details, including address and telephone number, so you can discuss any additional points or requirements you may have.”

The Derwent Press is a small operation—almost a cottage business—at times this can work in an author’s favour. If I have one reservation—and it is an important one to take note of—it would be their low output over four years since their establishment, and in particular, the fact that the last book they have produced and advertised dates back to June 2008.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Man Booker International Prize 2009 - Final 14 Authors


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The final 14 authors for the Man Booker International Prize have just been announced. Unlike the English award, the International prize is awarded every two years and celebrates an international author's contribution to fiction over their entire career, rather than just a single book. The award was previously won by Ismail Kadaré and Chinua Achebe.

The 14 nominees are:

Peter Carey (Australia)
Evan S. Connell (USA)
Mahasweta Devi (Bangladesh)
E.L. Doctorow (USA)
James Kelman (UK)
Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
Arnošt Lustig (Czech Republic)
Alice Munro (Canada)
V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad/India)
Joyce Carol Oates (USA)
Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Ngugi Wa Thiong’O (Kenya)
Dubravka Ugresic (Croatia)
Ludmila Ulitskaya (Russia)


The winner will be announced in May and recieve the award in person at a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland on June 25th, 2009.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


The London Literary Press - (Update Feb 2010)


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Amazon.co.uk Titles – 000

Amazon.com Titles – 000

http://www.thelondonliterarypress.co.uk/

This publisher has changed their name in the past year and the previous review as of March 2009 is no longer valid. They are a publishing service looking for financial backing from 'new' authors and provide few details or clues to their full program. There are no books listed on their site nor are there any links to books or references made to books they have published.

Therefore, POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing has decided to pull the original review in an effort not to mislead authors about their services.

Should any authors have any recent information or experiences of them - feel free to post in the comments section.

Ah...they are back...

Sunday, 15 March 2009


Better Book Company - Reviewed


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Amazon Titles - N/A

http://www.thebetterbookcompany.com/

The Better Book Company is located in Chichester, West Sussex, UK. They were founded in 1999 with the specific intention of assisting authors who wish to self publish their own work.

“The Better Book self publishing Company is committed to a policy that offers a straightforward and open working relationship. This means that our editors and designers work directly with you from the initial assessment of your manuscript, through each stage of editing, design, and printing ending up with a well-produced and attractive book that we can all be proud of.”

The Better Book Company operate an open door policy and welcome authors considering using their author solution services to visit their premises and discuss the design and production of their book.

“We are a self publishing company who aim to produce your book to high commercial standards and to an agreed budget.”

“We work as a partnership with our authors.”


The Better Book Company look at each author’s book as an individual project, speak with the author until it is agreed by both parties what services will be employed by the author and the agreed number of books to be printed. A contract will be drawn up which will specify the overall costs to the author and it will be signed by both parties before the book project begins.

The Better Book Company provides a ‘Complete Guide to Self-Publishing’ brochure and a free copy can be obtained by contacting them through their website.

“Writing a book is a demanding and emotional experience but save some vitality and creativity for the next big exciting step - getting it published.”

The Better Book Company very much provide a bespoke service to authors. They offer a list of services intended for the ‘true’ self-publishing author. This includes registration of ISBN’s and the imprint name chosen by the author for their book. All editorial and design services are available from cover to interior files and layout. The Better Book Company will also provide the author with a CD with their book files on completion of the book project. The company also provides legal deposit and registration of the book details with on line wholesalers as well as on their own bookstore website. Marketing and consultancy services are also available as well as promotional materials the author may want to utilise to drive awareness and sales of the book in local bookstores.

Part of the Better Book Company’s services is to provide standard copy-editing and they believe that along with the design of an author’s book—they are the most important factors that contribute to the success of self-publishing projects. Their standard copy-editing covers the following areas:

Spelling
Grammar
Punctuation
Direct Speech
Capital Letters
Verbs
Singular and Plural

A more comprehensive and in-depth editorial service can be provided by Better Book if they or the author feel it is required.

“We will agree the most appropriate course of action with the author.”

The Better Book Company can deal with anything from typewritten document right up to completed PDF files for a book. The author will be provided with two proofs before the book is finalised and sent to print.

“Our designers, working with the latest computer programmes, are briefed by your editor and design the whole book, cover and contents. Two sets of proofs are sent to you for checking and comment prior to printing. We design and print high quality books, traditional and modern printing.”

The Better Book Company are a highly modernised company and pride themselves on the quality of their print products and services to authors. They utilise all forms of printing from tradition offset to digital print methods. The better Book Company will liaise closely with each author to identify what is the best print method for their book project.

As part of each contracted package agreed and offered to authors—the company early on in the book project will offer a Marketing Planning meeting and advise the author on their publishing imprint, ISBN and cover price, putting together a press release, flyers and order forms, promotional mail shots, copyright libraries, media interviews, talking on radio, using the Internet for marketing and promotion, selling directly to bookshops and other outlets, and bookstore distribution.

“If you intend to organise a marketing campaign that includes, for example, a Book Launch and advertising in the various media, we suggest that you formulate a plan to guide you through each stage of the production process. The Better Book Company will work with you to ensure that these formative steps of your book are a success. There is no substitute for a good plan.”

The Better Book Company do not advertise costs for an author on their website, simply because they deal with each author’s book as an individual project, and will only quote a cost when they have fully appraised all the details. While I agreed to a certain extent with this general philosophy—I do think that the Better Book Company would serve them better if they at least provided some example quotes on their website.

Significantly, the Better Book Company do not describe themselves as a ‘publisher’, and rightly so. They are a printer who have expanded into offering design, editorial and marketing services for authors considering self-publishing. They very much see themselves as providing a service. All books designed by them are published under their author’s imprint and the files for the final product are given to the author on a CD.

The Better Book Company would best suit the needs of an author who has some previous grounding in writing and publishing books, perhaps even a group of writers from a writer’s workshop or some form of community group considering publishing a book with a defined local market. This is not the kind of company a writer who simply wants a few copies for family and friends should try. It is a company for a writer or group who have a defined idea of the kind of book they would like published.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


Author Solutions Article by Keith Ogorek - Analysis


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In life, certain things have a way of happening just at the right time. This week’s book publishing news was no exception. I have two quotes below from two senior principles from very diverse areas of the book publishing world, who in their own right believe they are making a difference. Here are the quotes. Follow the theme.

Quote One:
"We regard ourselves as independent in the sense of independence of third-party corporate ownership and feel at home with the other members."

Quote Two:
“Now, through indie book publishing companies like AuthorHouse and iUniverse, authors can let the readers decide if their book is any good or not.”

The first quote is from Nigel Newton, CEO of Bloomsbury Publishing, talking about their newly acquired membership of the Independent Publishers Guild in England. Newton worked for a number of publishers during his career, and went on to start Bloomsbury Publishing in 1986. The company went on to great successes and was floated on the stock market in 1996. They have over 12,000 titles listed on Amazon, including J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books.

The second quote is by Keith Ogorek, Vice President of Marketing at Author Solutions, an author solution service company for self-publishing authors. They own AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Wordclay and Xlibris. They have 50,000 titles listed on Amazon and over the past twelve years have published 100,000 titles and 70,000 independent authors.

Earlier today, I posted a link to Keith Ogorek’s article released to the media entitled, ‘The Next Indie Revolution’. I would like to look at Keith’s article in a little more detail and discuss the observations and points he makes.

Readers of this site will already know that I have worked in music management and promotion during the 1990’s and I have touched upon my frustrations as to the way self-publishing seems to still have a stigma, while the self- production model which bands and artists have pursued in music has long been accepted. Keith Ogorek in his ‘Indie Revolution’ article makes some distinct similarities between what has already happened in the music industry and the changes happening now in the publishing world. I have no actual problem with Keith’s general comparisons in his article, but rather some of the conclusions and assertions he reaches.

Let me continue to quote from his article.

“That success led to other mainstream indie hits, including 1997’s ‘Chasing Amy’ and 1999’s ‘The Blair Witch Project’, and the independent film became as much a part of our entertainment culture as Warner Brothers or MGM.”

The assertion begins throughout this article of how author solution companies are following in the footsteps of the great independent film industry. What Keith does not point out is that the above films would never have been made without the considerable backing of private investors outside of the major studios which amounted to very considerable financial backing. He does not point out that his own ‘indie’ author solution companies offer services which are paid entirely by their authors, that is, author, singular, not authors. What he also does not point out is that any independent film would never have seen the light of day without guaranteed international distribution deals in place. Xlibris, iUniverse and AuthorHouse, effectively, if they were ‘indie’ film makers, would make the film available on a reel of film but have few deals in place that had someone sell and distribute that reel of film to every cinema house worldwide, big as well as small. It’s a late Saturday night movie without the beer and popcorn. It’s Warner Brothers without the ‘Warner’.

“The music industry has followed a similar path. Bands once dependent on major labels to produce their work now employ new technology to make their own music, and ultilize the Web and social media sites to promote and develop a following.”

New technology in publishing through Print-On-Demand has made publishing more affordable and accessible for the average author, but authors always had the option of self-publishing, albeit, previously having to use many unscrupulous vanity publishers. The technology has created more self-published authors because the reduced investment has introduced a larger pool of authors, who otherwise would have considered publishing a book as something entirely and financially out of their reach. The bands most successful with the ‘indie’ music approach, as Keith describes it, are from the traditional field of music; artists like Radiohead, Wilco and Barenaked Ladies. When James Patterson, J. K. Rowling and Jodi Picoult start getting into ‘indie’, I’ll give you a call Keith, and we can ‘network’.

Just for the record, Keith, as well, ‘indie’ in music actually refers to a music genre, rather than anything to do with some kind of ‘business model’. It came about during the 1980’s, about when Nigel Newton was ‘getting down’ and setting up Bloomsbury, and it refers to music labels like Rough Trade, Factory Records, 4AD; music labels held with a great deal of respect who were investing their own money in artists and bands to produce a genre of music entirely different than what was being produced by mainstream record companies.

“The Time for indie book publishing is now”

Really, Keith? Well, let’s get on the dance floor, eh? There is nothing ‘cool’, ‘indie’, ‘hip’ about selling book publishing dreams or presenting a ‘business model of independent publishing’ to a naive author as some kind of bona fide publishing plan for their book.


“For most, this system [traditional publishing] resulted in stacks of rejection letters and never reaching their goal of becoming a published author.”


The ‘goal’ of most serious authors is to hone their craft and become successful, respected, well read, and not just to ‘publish’. Nowadays, anyone for nothing (Lulu) or a small fee can be ‘published’. The real work for an author only just begins when a book sees the light of day.

“...less than one in twenty manuscripts actually gets published, which is why this system [traditional publishing] is so frustrating for writers seeking to become authors.”

One in twenty? Try one in a thousand and you will be closer to the truth.

“And what about discovering new talent? How does that happen?”

Eh...same way it always did, Keith. By perseverance, hard work; not by ease of publication. That can never be the answer, and least of all by any author solution service that cannot provide physical shelf space as well as on line availability.

“Let the reader decide”

Sure, but they have to know a book exists first. Getting it on to a wholesaler or retailers database is fine for the booksellers, but they are not the readers. So we are back to the core of what separates many author solution companies from traditional publishers. Traditional publishers have distributors, that is, dedicated companies with trained and skilled sales representatives who know how to sell books direct to retailers.

“Over the last decade, as new technologies have emerged, the obstacles that once loomed in front of perspective authors have all but vanished.”

How have they vanished, Keith? Print-On-Demand is a print technology; it does not put books on store shelves or scream at the top of its voice or give reviews or critiques of books. Having an on line presence for a book may open the viable network, but ultimately someone has still got to do something.

“Supported self-publishing is not the same as vanity publishing”

Please, not another label Keith for self-publishing. We already have POD Publishing, Self-Publishing, Vanity Publishing, Subsidy Publishing, and Partnership Publishing, now, it is Supported Self-Publishing; I’m worn out with all these tag lines! Hang on; I thought we were doing ‘indie’ publishing...

“Authors have two options when choosing indie book publishing.”

Keith goes on to explain that these are a vanity publisher or an author solution service like AuthorHouse or iUniverse.

In my experience, no author goes out to choose a vanity publisher. Actually, there are three. The author can approach a mid-range publisher like Bloomsbury, a smaller independent publisher (pursuing a traditional contract), or they can self-publish. And in self-publishing, they can undertake everything themselves, or choose to go with an author solutions company (which they need to ensure is not a vanity publisher); be it AuthorHouse, Lulu, Mill City, Infinity, or whoever.

“True, an author has to make an investment in getting his or her book to the market, but for many, the cost is around a thousand dollars. However, with that investment, authors are assured their book will be in the market, and if the book is any good, they will start to recoup their losses pretty quickly.”

The reality is for many author solution companies; all the author is getting is a book set-up with a printer and on line availability. OK Keith, let’s see how much marketing you get with a thousand dollars with AuthorHouse, iUniverse and Xlibris for your next book. Looking at the author royalties from these companies, even at $2 per book, the author would have to sell 500 copies to break even. The vast majority of self-publishing titles through these publishers rarely make above a hundred copies sold.

“The reality is today, even if your name is Clancy or Rowling, you will do your own marketing.”

Yes, the authors will be part of the marketing strategy and presence, but they are not the marketing for their books alone. There are considerable budgets made available for authors like Mr Clancy and Ms Rowling. Not traditional publisher is going to take on an author’s book, whether they are new or previously published, spend several thousand on editing, proofing, design, layout without investing a similar amount of money in marketing that book.

“Readers and book buyers get a vote now equal to the acquisitions editors of major publishing houses.”

Yes, but most readers would like to know that the book they have purchased has passed before the editor eyes as well as his big red pen.

To be fair, there is a lot that Keith Ogorek has got right in this article about the changes in publishing. Author Solutions need to address those changes. Instead of thinking about their next author solution acquisition, they need to focus on what separates them from the traditional model of publishing and not what makes them the same as the traditional model. If Author Solutions want to show that they understand the changes in the publishing industry, then they should try acquiring some bookstore real estate, or perhaps buying some Espresso Book Machines and leasing them out to bookstores. Now there is an idea, Keith.


Here is the original Author Soulutions link to the article by Keith Ogorek.

http://www.authorsolutions.com/uploadedFiles/TheIndieBookPublishingRevolution.pdf

Friday, 13 March 2009


AuthorSolutions - Indie Book Revolution Article


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I have not had time to digest this article on AuthorSolutions main webpage, written by Vice President of Marketing, Keith Ogovek, but there are a number of newspapers and media outlets picking up on it since yesterday. I will post when I read the article in full.

Author Soultions own AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris and Wordclay.

You can view Keith Ogorek's article at the link provided.

Here

Blackwell Espresso Book Machine For All Print On Demand Books


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Blackwell booksellers will take ownership of the latest version of the Espresso Book Machine in April and showcase it at this year's London Book Fair on April 17th.

Blackwell, who sell academic books, will have the Espresso Book Machine in their Charing Cross store as part of a pilot test commencing on the last week in April. If successful, they plan to introduce machines to other Blackwell stores.

Blackwell's plan will focus on testing the machine as well as gauging the market and demand for POD produced books. Blackwell recently announced plans to launch the Espresso Book Machine and this is now the first confirmation of a timeline roll-out.

Customers will be able to visit their Charing Cross store and request and pay for the printing of any Print-On-Demand book available for purchase. This will come as excellent news for self-published authors whose books are published through Print-On-Demand databases. Blackwell believe this will present an unlimited selection of books to the general public.

The lastest version of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM), which Blackwell's will showcase at the London Book Fair next month, can print off a POD book in just three minutes. Customers will also have the benefit of being able to load files from their own discs.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


Spire Publishing - Reviewed


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Spire Publishing first began life as UK based PABD (Publish And Be Damned). It was renamed Spire in late 2006 and although a Canadian company, it has still retained a significant presence in the UK.

http://www.spirepublishing.com/

“Welcome to Spire Publishing where self publishing a book is simple and affordable.

Your book is published with the same care and attention that it took you to write it. When you publish your book with Spire Publishing it can be designed, published and available for purchase worldwide within six weeks.”


Spire Publishing do have three on line bookstores, (UK, USA and Canada), but all their ‘buy button’ links are directed to Amazon affiliate sites. There is just one featured book link on their main webpage, suggesting that they are very much author-traffic driven. They also feature a publisher’s blog and forum, but these are infrequently updated and visited suggested by their low title range (see Amazon title totals above).

Actually, the closer you look at Spire Publishing, the more and more they seem to offer as an author solutions service. They provide four distinct packages, the Professional, Essential, Print Ready, Poetry, as well as a bespoke service where authors can utilise each individual service.

“Bespoke book publishing is also available, priced individually. Please contact us for a quote.”

What I like about Spire Publishing is the presentation and description of their packages. They are clearly and concisely laid out according to their suitability.

http://www.spirepublishing.com/home/prices_and_royalties.html

Their most basic package is the Print Ready one. This is priced at £399, provided an author is prepared and skilled enough to create a print ready pdf or InDesign file for the cover and internal parts of the book. These templates can be downloaded for both file formats from Spire Publishing's website.

“The Spire Print Ready Package is ideal for authors who are either book designers themselves or have their books designed privately. You need to be able to deliver to us a ready for print pdf file. This package is recommended for those experienced in print ready pdf creation.”

Spire Publishing will provide a design assessment, an ISBN and barcode for the author to include on their own created cover files, legal deposit and registration, title set-up with Lightning Source, non exclusive rights, an option for a paperback or hardback edition, bulk discounts on author copies over 50, and five or three author copies (depending on paperback or hardback edition). This package does not include distribution, but for an additional £80, an author can avail of the Print Ready Plus package which adds in on line distribution, wholesale database registration, as well as library cataloguing, biannual sales and royalty reports.

Next up, Spire has their Essential package at £549. The book is created from the manuscript that the author submits.

“This popular package is for authors who just want to publish a book for family and friends or who wish to take control of their own sales, for example from their personal website. There is no wholesale or on-line distribution included in this package.”

The final line of this quote was actually added to the website when I was reviewing their service, suggesting there may have been some confusion regarding whether the distribution was included. Clearly it is not. You get the same services as the Print Ready package, but with book design and interior and cover layout added. There is also the addition of author support and one round of proof corrections provided.

“Two hours design time for a custom designed cover, incorporating your own images. Library images may be purchased for a fee.”

This is perhaps the key point that authors should be aware of. The author still has to provide his or her own cover image, with stock images coming at an addition cost. For a book intended as ‘a book for family and friends’ and without distribution, this does not seem good value, though, it could be argued that an author might be happy with supplying their own images. Still, it seems to stretch what the interpretation of ‘a custom designed cover’ actually is. To other author solution service companies—this would mean an in-house designed cover with the author not being required to supply images.

The Professional package is priced at £699 and authors may use their own images or library stock art at no extra charge. All the standard services described above for the Print Ready Plus are provided, as well as design, layout, one round of proof corrections, reports and distribution.

“This package is for authors who want their book to be available through the book trade and access to international distribution.”

Effectively, this is Spire’s all-in package.

Spire Publishing’s Premier package is pretty much the same as the Professional package with the addition of ebook.  The package is priced at £899.

There are individual editorial services which can be utilised, such as proof reading (contact Spire for a quote); amendments to a book after submission; requesting a hard copy proof, 2nd edition set-up; additional hardback/paperback edition; ebook version (£40) and additional images if a print ready file has not been supplied.

Based on Spire Publishing’s examples, there is a mark-up from the print costs for author copies.

Author's Price - softcover books:
No. of pages UK Pricing
Under 200 £4.39
200-300 £5.39
300-400 £6.39
400-500 £7.39
500-600 £8.39


The equivalent book direct from Lightning Source for the ‘under 200 page’ example costs less than £3. The author prices remain better than the costs from many of Spire Publishing’s competitors. In our example, if the author were ordering more than 50, but less than 150 copies, the unit price to the author would be £4. Spire Publishing give full bulk discount details on their website.

Books sold through distribution leave the author with a pretty low return profit. Here is Spire’s own example (in dollars!).

“Retail price $10.99 deduct trade discount of 30% ($3.30) = wholesale price of $7.69. With an author price of $6.95 (200 page count or less) this will leave you with a profit, per book sold via the book trade, of $0.74.

The above is for calculation purposes only, you can, of course, set the retail price to your liking as long as print costs are covered.”


All in all, Spire Publishing is clear and concise about their services. The Print Ready Plus package seems to offer the best deal provided the author can supply their own files. The author would be best served having their own website to drive sales of their books as this is a significant area not provided for. At the time of this review, their ‘Promote Your Book’ marketing link was not working, and that in itself is not a strong sign.

As of June 2012, this publishing service was no longer accepting work from authors who have not already worked with them.

RATING: 05/10

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


AuthorHouse UK - Reviewed (Updated, March, 2010)


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Amazon.co.uk Titles – 50,000

Amazon.com Titles – 44,100

http://www.authorhouse.co.uk

AuthorHouse are one of the largest flagship author solution services with 50,000 plus titles available on Amazon UK. AuthorHouse was founded in 1997 and is owned by Author Solutions US who also own iUniverse and Wordclay. Further expansion in 2009 for Author Solutions has led to the acquisition of Trafford Publishing and Xlibris making them a real powerhouse conglomerate in the author solution service market.

There are a handful of books shown on their main webpage, but these books are linked to AuthorHouse’s packages available to authors. From the outset, it is clear that selling author services and directing perspective authors through these links is the primary drive of traffic. Anyone who has searched the Internet under the key words ‘self-publishing’ will have come across links to AuthorHouse. One of AuthorHouse’s strongest points is its corporate reach and primary placement in the author solutions market.

There is plenty of information provided on their website about their available packages and numerous add-on services, as well as their on line bookstore, the terms and conditions of their author contract and service order forms. There is also a secure password ‘Author Centre’ for registered authors intending publishing with them to follow the progress and production of their book and to monitor their royalties and account.

AuthorHouse make it very clear that they accept most books without any real detailed quality checks beyond the usual libellous and offensive material. The interior detail of your book will be published the way it is and the responsibility is on the author to utilise the available services for ‘pre-publication’ (editing and design) or have the manuscript as near to published standard when it is submitted to them.

AuthorHouse offer three basic packages for the self-publishing author to start with; Paperback & Hardback Publishing, Children’s & Colour Publishing, and Retail-Focused Publishing. The starting prices for these three packages range from £795 to £999. The Paperback & Hardback Publishing packages include the following:

Design consultation
Custom interior and exterior design
ISBN assignment
Ten black & white image insertions
Electronic proof
Online distribution
Bookstore availability
Marketing consultation
One author copy of book

To upgrade to hardback publication, the author will have to pay £1045, and for that, all that is extra is some back cover description, an author photograph and biography, and five hardback author copies of the book.

The Colour Package offers paperback publication offering much the same as the Paperback & Hardback Publication option, but with the addition of 50 images. Again, for back cover detail and five author copies, the author will have to stump up £1045. This kind of book is specifically tailored for a children’s colour illustrated book.

These two packages do include a custom covers, but many of the covers I have looked at give the appearance of AuthorHouse’s own stock art and I would suggest an author seriously consider using their own front cover image. It is authenticity and originality which separates a book out from many of the other stock art covers.

The Retail Focused Publishing Package is a service which includes what AuthorHouse describes as ‘Bookstore Positioning’ as well as expedited book production, US copyright registration, and a standard press release. The prices range from £999 to £2199 depending on whether the book is a standard paperback or colour book. Having a package called ‘Retailed Focused’ almost seems to me to be an acknowledgement that their other packages are not intended for the retail market.







“AuthorHouse shall send three advance copies of the Work to one of the following stores, to have guaranteed shelf space for 10 weeks.”

These are specific arrangements AuthorHouse have with a select list of Borders and Waterstones bookshops. On the whole, it is a promising addition to the basic packages, but authors would need to ensure the placement of books is with their local branches.

On face value the packages may seem competitive, but it should be remembered that there is no real standard editing or proofreading with these packages. To purchase a simple edit as an add-on service from AuthorHouse ,based on their rates, this could cost the author almost double what they might pay from an independent freelance service. Their author website domain name service is a perfect example of this. Similarly, their direct marketing material is way beyond the standard prices for business cards, bookmarks and postcards that other competitors offer with these deals. To print 1000 of each of the above will cost the author £875! For this price, the author could go and register with Lightning Source and have 200 copies of their book printed.

AuthorHouse says that royalties are in the hands of the author and they can set the percentage at between 5% and 50% for books sold through retailers and 10% to 50% for books sold through the AuthorHouse on line bookstore. Looking at AuthorHouse’s retail prices, authors would be advised to keep this royalty below 20% if they are to keep the book’s retail price in any way competitive.

AuthorHouse supply some guidance about royalties and author discounts. From the examples provided on their website, AuthorHouse make an addition profit by marking up books from the print cost. Even an author familiar with actual POD print costs and retailer discounts would struggle to glean a clear picture of what their profits per book would be so convoluted and muddied are the examples. There are so many variable here that one can only look at Amazon to get a guide retail price on a typical 200 page paperback book of between £11 and £13. A typical 200 to 300 page, perfect bound paperback from Lightning Source, the leading UK POD printer, costs between £2.90 and £3.50 to print. AuthorHouse’s retail prices are above some of their competitor’s prices, which makes it harder for their authors to market and sell books. Whatever way you look at it AuthorHouse are charging their authors well above the print costs for copies of their own books and the publishing profit far exceeds what the author makes by a minimum of three to one. Far more transparency is needed from AuthorHouse in this area so their authors can make clear and valued comparisons with competitor companies.








“As an AuthorHouse author, you can also purchase copies of your book from us at a discounted price. The exact discount is determined by your page count, book price, and the quantity of your order. Orders for quantities of 50 or more are considered volume orders and receive a greater discount determined by the total number of books ordered.”



In short, what you get from AuthorHouse can be got far cheaper by other author solution services. AuthorHouse are far too expensive for someone looking for a bargain or have humble and personal goals for seeing their book in print. They overcharge for additional add-on services to the nth degree. They engage in heavy direct marketing and promotion of their add-on services to authors. The brightest service they have is the Bookstore Positioning with Borders and Waterstones, but even these have their limitations and benefits for the additional costs to the author.

AuthorHouse claim they are ‘author-centric’, but if they put as much ingenuity into the authors who pay for their services, 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. At best, AuthorHouse are may find a home for authors who are ‘green’ about self-publishing and find the nuts and bolts of publishing a book on their own daunting. I suspect, by the volume of authors and titles published by AuthorHouse, this is the case for many authors.

Having said that, you cannot argue with an author solutions service that boasts 50,000 titles on Amazon.co.uk. But as with all other companies in this area—it is very difficult to evaluate a company’s success and effectiveness regarding their promotional and marketing services unless we know what services the authors of their top-selling titles chose. On the whole—it strikes me that AuthorHouse is a successful and well-oiled machine, but much of its success is bringing in authors to their service rather than selling their author’s books.

RATING: 6.2/10

UPDATE: March, 2010.

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

Sunday, 8 March 2009


Janus Publishing - Reviewed


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Janus Publishing, based in London, England, describe their company as a co-partnership publishing house.

http://www.januspublishing.co.uk/

“After more than forty years in the publishing trade, our founder established Janus Publishing Company in 1991. We currently publish more than forty titles a year, many by previously unpublished authors.”

“Our Approach

At Janus, we look to nurture new and rare talent. That aim has gained us our widely recognised position as one of the leading co-partnership publishing houses. The strength of our company rests on the satisfaction of our authors and the quality of the books we produce.”


‘Our founder’ is not actually revealed on their web site, or the exact details of her publishing experience, but it is Jeannie Leung.

“Why? It's precisely because you are an unknown author, that the vast majority of publishers are not interested in your work. Now, in the increasingly account driven world of publishing, there are only two certainties: guaranteed best-sellers or guanteed library and university sales.”

This kind of verbiage worries me from a publisher offering author solutions because it is not entirely accurate. The fact is that there are traditional publishers who are interested in new authors, Penguin, HarperCollins, Macmillian, Canongate…the list goes on and on. Bestselling authors were new authors at some stage so they had to start out somewhere, and for most new authors who do get published, they do so through traditional channels of publisher and/or agent. The vast majority of books from a traditional publisher do not become ‘guaranteed best-sellers or guanteed library and university sales.’

I should also at this stage point out that the above spelling errors are deliberate and come from Janus Publishing’s own website. This is something else which worries me about this publisher. A website for a publisher is their shop window, whether they are selling author services and/or books to the public, this is the place to present your best possible image, after all, publishing books for authors at a fee, is also a facet of representing their work and image in the best possible light. The copyright tag on the bottom of every webpage also reads ‘2006’.

Let us get down to what Janus Publishing has to offer authors. The home page of the website does not feature any books; instead, a single featured author, and a breakdown of book categories in text. Janus Publishing separates their packages into three areas or descriptions, Subsidy Publishing, Non-Subsidy Publishing and Self-Publishing.

Janus Publishing describe their Subsidy Publishing as:

“The Author contributes the manuscript and a subsidy; the publisher provides all administration, promotion, public relations, wholesale, website, shop information, retail and mail order expertise, warehousing, accounting, rights selling and so on.”

“We undertake to print as many copies as the market requires, and to keep the book in print for a minimum of five years or more. All reprints are undertaken at our expense.”

Janus do not disclose the method of printing they use, print on demand or standard off-set, so it is a little difficult to fully evaluate their or the author’s investment.

“Authors like Jane Austen, Poe, George Bernard Shaw, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Wallace, Kipling, Edward Fitzgerald. The list goes on including to most people's surprise, Beatrix Potter.”

This is another worrying sign for me from this publisher. There are a number of publishers offering author solutions who quote such lists as the above. These lists are usually inaccurate and misleading and many of these ‘self-publishing’ myths have long been debunked. I referred in a previous article review to the idea of some companies selling the ‘dream rather than the book’, well, posting this kind of list as a way to pull authors into your service is one example of this.

“If your manuscript is found to be acceptable, we will provide a completely personal service, planning and seeing your book through all the various facets of production.”

The Subsidy package includes copy-editing, proofing, layout, typesetting, cover design, data and legal library registration, ISBN allocation, press releases sent out, ARC’s sent out, and consultation with the author. Janus says the process pre-publishing/production will take ten months. Janus publishes just 40 titles on average per year, so you can take what you will from that. Either Janus operates a screening process for submitted manuscripts and their acceptance guidelines are strict, or they do not get a huge amount of submissions.

“After publication, details and review copies are sent to the local and national media and to specialist magazines and journals.”

Now I really am getting worried about this publisher. ‘After publication’? What kind of publisher sends out review copies and order detail sheets after a book has been published? Whatever happened to advance sales orders? Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Janus seems to be trying to put forward the tradition model of publishing, but with the Subsidy template. And you know what? The more I look at things; the more I am seeing the old publishing template of a vanity publisher. Say just enough to interest, but not enough to frighten off the customer.

“You will receive a royalty of 30% on all sales receipts of your book until your entire subsidy is recouped, and thereafter 20%. In addition, you will receive 50% of all subsidiary rights that we may negotiate on your behalf. Royalties are paid every six months. Contracts may vary according to terms offered.”

I can only take it without an available contract on line that the 30% royalty is based on the retail list price and not 30% of the remainder after print and wholesale discounts has been taken off. If the former is the case, then this is reasonable. Authors should also be aware that it would seem that you are entering into an ‘exclusive’ contract with Janus and I would also be concerned that the author may also be signing over ‘negotiating’ on subsidiary rights. This is an area an author’s agent or lawyer should be involved in.

Janus Publishing offer Non-Subsidy Publishing through their ‘Empiricus Books’ imprint. Quite why Janus decided to call what is, in effect, traditional publishing, ‘Non-Subsidy Publishing’, baffles me.

“At Janus, as well as our subsidy and self-publishing, we have slowly moved into conventional publishing with our 'Empiricus' imprint.”

Janus Publishing’s third option for authors is their Self-Publishing service.

“If you are on a budget, then maybe self-publishing could be the option for you. Normally, as a self-publishing writer you would need to find or become:

• an author
• an editor
• a designer
• an artist
• a print buyer
• a book finisher
• a publisher
• an accountant
• a distributor
• a stock holder
• a sales person
• a publicist

“Should you wish to discuss the self-publishing option in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact us.”


Thank you, Janus Publishing, but no thank you.

I am not in the business of recommending any self-publishing company or service and those of you who have read other reviews will see that. I certainly do at times highlight strengths and bargains and excellent service ideas.

There is simply far too much missing from Janus Publishing’s web site, prices and quotations for example would help. They make no attempt to go into any real detail about their printing methods, digital or offset, specifications for books. I am sure an email, letter or phone call to Janus might provide some or all of this information, but you know what; if a company selling a product can’t be bothered to provide this information in their on line ‘shop window’, then I for one have to wonder if I would place my book with Janus or Empiricus Books, fee or no fee. On the plus side, Janus books are well designed, competitively priced, about £8 to £9 for a 200 page+ paperback, and available on line with Amazon and from their own bookstore at the same price.

Even after reading Janus Publishing’s own Q & A page, the perspective submitting author is no wiser.

http://www.januspublishing.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=45

“Q: WILL YOU PUBLISH ANYTHING?
A: Of course not. We have a reputation to uphold and we will only publish those titles that have a reasonable chance of success.”


If the above is the case, one also wonders why this publisher even offers any kind of author solution service.

“Q: WHY DO I WANT MY WORK PUBLISHED?
A: Having your work published gives you a platform as a first time writer to have your work judged and assessed by many.”


Now, this is taking the biscuit. How many authors approach a publisher asking this question? And who is really selling to who now?

“Q: WHY SHOULD I HAVE MY BOOK PUBLISHED BY JANUS, AS OPPOSED TO OTHER PUBLISHERS?
A: We'll let our authors answer that question.”

Err, ok…where?…and when?

Ah,…here, testimonials!

http://www.januspublishing.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=30

Janus Publishing wants the success and satisfaction of their authors to sell them as a publisher; that is admirable, but unfortunately a publisher has to do a little more than that, particularly if they are charging a fee to some of their authors. The bottom line is that while Janus Publishing seems open enough about what they say about publishing with them--it is how little is actually presented and the way it is presented. Perspective authors are going to be more interested in the 90% we do not find out about from Janus at first port of call. If Janus are one of the top author solutions companies with the best deals in England, and there own traditional trade imprint, full brick and mortar store distribution for their author’s books, then they should be shouting it from the rooftops. The fact that they are not is...well…as I said earlier…baffling.

RATING: 6.0/10

http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com/p/t.html/

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