Thursday, 30 April 2009

POD Self Publishing & Independent Publishing Forum - Launched

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It is the week for launches, and without further ado, hot on the heels of POD TV here yesterday, comes POD Self Publishing & Independent Publishing Forum.

While the site here remains a tremendous resource (I hope) of information for authors, the format simply does not allow for the free-flowing debate and comment on the subject which I am sure has put some posters off. The structure of the forum is up and running, but is open to suggestion and refinement, so your input is welcome (on the Welcome forum posts).

From discussion with other site owners and administrator in the area of self-publishing, these forums are the most difficult to set up and build momentum and membership. I will be cross-posting as many links as I can, and the forum will also allow me to spark debate as well as posting information which may not sustain an article or posting here, but may in fact derive very specific responses and questions on the forum.

The Forum follows much of the pattern I have tried to look at publishing, from traditional through to subsidy, partnership, vanity, and true self-publishing, as well as the technical areas of book preparation, promotion and marketing of your book, and all the wider issues.

Your support is greatly appreciated and sign up to the forum is of course entirely free.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009 Article - The ONE Thing Big Pub Must Change In Order To Survive

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April Hamilton has an excellent article over on on what commercial publishers need to do to survive as a business.

Article Here.

POD TV - Program 1, Launched Right Here

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POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing today goes visual with POD TV. We hope to make this a weekly event and I am currently looking into a series of webcasts and podcasts which I hope to launch over the next few months. For now, I am trawling the oceans to get things going.

Our first program, courtesy of our friends on features multiple self-publishing author, Jackie DeGroot, speaking with Stacey Cochran. This is a highly in-depth discussion (1 hour) about many of the issues which self-publishing authors stumble upon when they enter this area of publishing.

Topics discussed in the program:

Lightning Source
Self-Publishing Costs
Cover Design
Book Formatting
Marketing & Selling Your Books
Relevance of using POD Publishers
Aaron Shepard
Radio Interviews
Dot Com and Internet Business
Google Adsense
Value of Local Community
Writing a Good Book
Audience Questions

This is a stunning program to launch POD TV, and in many ways sums up so much of the articles which have appeared on this site and many of the wonderful posters who have commented here.

Sit back, turn up the volume, push right HERE, and sit back. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Espresso Book Machine - Daily Telegraph Test Drive Gazumped by

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Matthew Moore, writing for today's Daily Telegraph, was one of the first to test the Espresso Book Machine in Blackwell's Charing Cross Road shop. It took just eleven minutes to produce a bound edition of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic novel, Crime & Punishment.

The book is just one of 400,000 titles available to print at the shop with the Espresso Book Machine (EBM). This Is the start of a three month trial of the machine and it is hoped it will be a success and the machine will become a fixed feature in the store.

The machine can be used to print any 'out of stock' book instore as well as a useful utility for unpublished writers to load and print a single copy of their own tomes.

The printing costs are expensive, a minimum of £10 plus 2 pence per page.

You can see the full Daily Telegraph article here.

It seems Matthew Moore of the Daily Telegraph must have been going shoulder to shoulder with Nicholas Clee of as he suggests that the first book off the press from the Espresso Book Machine was The RSC Shakespeare's Sonnets and Other Poems (Palgrave Macmillan). And what's more has a photograph on their website to prove it, right here!

Watch the EBM in action here.

Amazon Acquires Lexcycle for Mobile Download Future

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We have talked much in the past few months about ebooks and ereaders, but not touched upon the potential dowload of electronic product to iphones and mobile touchpads. It seems Amazon has kept its eye focused on this area with the aquisition of Lexcycle, producers of the ebook application, Stanza.

The Stanza application gives iPhone users access to a library of around 100,000 books and electronic magazines for the iPhone. Clearly with the epub format in mind, Amazon see just as important a future in portable on-the-go downloads as ereaders.

Lexcycle is only in existence for just over a year, nevertheless, the purchase price of the company by Amazon has not been disclosed.

“It’s very early days for e-books, and we believe there is a lot of innovation ahead of us...Lexcycle is a smart, innovative company, and we look forward to working them."

Cinthia Portugal, spokesperson for

Monday, 27 April 2009

Fastprint (Printondemand - Worldwide) - Reviewed (updated Jan 2010)

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The review for this company has been withdrawn as they have merged with a company in the UK which we believe has links with a notorious vanity press.

Irish Independent - Lifetime Reads Collection

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This weekend the Irish Independent Newspaper launched its Lifetime Reads collection. Every Saturday readers can avail of a quality 5 x 8 hardback of some classic books of literature, post 1950. There are 20 books in the collection, starting this weekend with Ernest Hemmingway's 'The Old Man & The Sea'.

Each book will be available at €4.99. The 20 titles in the Lifetime Reads collection were compiled together with advice from the Irish writer Colm Tóibín, twice a shortlisted Booker Prize author.

"Inspirational, engaging and entertaining, these novels are sure to keep book lovers enthralled and should prove popular with our readers," according to Geoff Lyons, Brand Manager at Independent Newspapers (Ireland).

The Books
The Old and The Sea - Ernest Hemingway
Schindler’s Arc - Thomas Keneally
Breakfast at Tiffany’s - Truman Capote
One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest - Ken Kesey
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alex Solzhenitsyn
A Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
The Human Factor - Graham Greene
The Ice Age - Margaret Drabble
A Home for Mr. Biswas - VS Naipaul
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
The Late Bourgeois World - Nadine Gortimer
Beloved - Toni Morrison
Freind of my Youth - Alice Munro
Jeeves in the Offing - PG Wodehouse
The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith
Age of Iron - JM Coetzee
The Day of the Jackall - Frederick Forsyth

Readers of the Irish Independent each Saturday need to cut out the single token plus €4.99 and take it to their local shop for each week's new book.

The books themselves are of very high hardback quality and are published through Paperview UK, a marketing publisher for newspapers.

Here is a preview of the first book in the series.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

POD, Self Publishing Reviews Part 2 - Vanity & the Typewriter

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A vanity publisher is:

"any company which charges a client to publish a book; or offers to include short stories, poems or other literary or artistic material in an anthology and then invites those included in it to buy a copy of that anthology."
(British Advertising Standards Authority Advice Note, Vanity Publishing, July 1997)

When I first began writing at the age of fourteen or fifteen, having a book published was akin to the kids in my school getting a professional contract with an English football club. In fact, several pupils did travel during the summer months to take part in trials for clubs like Leeds United, Manchester United and Arsenal. Of the six or so school pupils, only one ever made it as a professional footballer. Though he did not go on to succeed in obtaining a contract with a big English club, he did spend nearly fifteen years as a professional footballer in the League of Ireland for Bohemians, including several matches against top European opposition in the UEFA cup. These matches must have been the highlight of his professional career—the stuff of boyhood dreams. For me, there were no other kids I knew of in my school, or on my street for that matter, who wanted to earn their living as a professional writer and novelist. Yet, I felt the idea of becoming a professional writer had to be far more attainable than the challenge and remoteness of becoming a professional footballer. I think I was right—so fair play to you Maurice O’Driscoll.

Even at the age of fifteen, I was already very familiar with those vanity publishing ads in the Sunday newspapers. I remember writing off to Vantage Press for their brochure—getting it a few days later in the post and spending many nights in bed browsing through it and dreaming away about my future life as a novelist. Around then, I started buying the Writers & Artists Yearbook and other books on writing and publishing. I came across writers like Peter Finch who dared to write about self-publishing at a time when it was frowned upon by the literary establishment.

Finch may be a fine Welsh poet, but his greatest achievement was concisely presenting the alternative face of publishing with his compilations of small and large poetry publishers for Macmillan's annual Writer's Handbook and the self-publishing articles he wrote for A&C Black's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. They delivered a reality check for me regarding the costs that vanity publishers like Vantage Press were charging its authors back then—anything from about $5,000 to $20,000. Those early dreams of being a novelist were quickly shattered. No fifteen year old earned that much in pocket money.

“Yesterday, a jury in Manhattan granted their wish, awarding a total of $3.5 million in damages to 2,200 authors of Vantage Press, the largest ''vanity press'' in the nation. The judge said it was the first time that a jury in New York State had decided a class-action fraud suit.

Vantage, its authors argued, had duped them into believing that their books would be published, placed in bookstores and advertised to the book-buying public. ‘'Vantage operates a sham operation rife with fraud and phantom editors,’ said Arthur J. Jacobs, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.”

NEW YORK TIMES, April 7th, 1990.

The UK had its own burgeoning vanity publishers. Many of these have gone by the wayside; Excalibur Press, Avon Books, Minerva Press and Adelphi Press; their vanity publishing operations ended by industry watchdog and campaigner, Jonathan Clifford as well as investigative journalists Andrew Penman and Nick Sommerlad of the Daily Mirror.

These vanity publishers promised much for unsuspecting authors and did very little beyond printing and registering a book for publication. Yet, they charged exorbitant fees for editing, marketing and promotion, with little or none of it being carried out, and together with a print product which often was of substandard quality compared to professionally published books. Few spoke of fees in their adverts in Sunday newspapers and writing magazines and their fraudulent model of business was based on the ‘bait and switch’con. You know the deal—guy offers you a laptop for 50 quid at the side of the road, sells it to you with a bonus carry case, and you end up going home with a carry case and a phone directory hidden inside. What you see is certainly not what you get. These vanity publishers effectively lured the author into the scam under the pretence that they were dealing with a tradition publisher—praised the author’s work to the hilt—up sold a range of gimmicky non-effective promotional services, and did very little beyond the printing of the books which the authors ended up paying for and selling themselves.

Have these old vanity style publishers gone away, and have we reached a new dawn of author solution companies? Well, yes and no.

No, because we have newer more subtle forms of vanity publishing in the shape of companies like PublishAmerica.

And no again because companies like Excalibur Press, Avon Books, Minerva Press, Adelphi Press are run by people; business people. They do not disappear away with their companies. They re-invent their business under new company names. As an example, just this week, I had planned to review a leading print on demand publisher in the UK. However, I discovered in the past few weeks that this company had merged with another author solutions publisher with direct links through owners, financers, directors and senior staff who had direct connections with two of the above named UK vanity presses from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sometimes the official records of company directors and owners can tell you more about a company’s quality of service than picking up the phone and speaking directly to them. So much so, that I have had to start a spread sheet on my PC listing company personnel who I consider unscrupulous from their own business failures and legal prosecutions in courts because of so many ‘red flag’ names I am encountering.

I sense a gloomy outlook from my written words. Yet, I am actually incredibly hopeful about the various forms of publishing which exist for authors, whatever path they choose for their work. For every gangster and scam artist I have encountered over the past three years of direct research into the publishing industry; from trade shows, one to one meetings, correspondence with authors, printers and publishers connected with every facet of the publishing industry—I can show you many dedicated business entrepreneurs with writing and publishing experience who are making a difference with their companies, but for the few damaging scam artists I encounter.

Just this week, I spoke to a CEO of a leading Partnership Publishing company and asked him about the current strains of the economic recession and the effects on his business this year. His reply:

“Yes, I’m worn out. We all are. I’m finding it difficult to pay my own bills and mortgage. I couldn’t come here today and negotiate a print deal with a company without believing that we can deliver a quality service and a product to the authors who are paying for this deal. Without them, we’re nothing.”

Authors as well as author solution companies are becoming more scrupulous. We all have to if we are to go forward. I think author solution companies are actually more worried now than at any time before, that is, the reputable ones. Vanity and greed will always flourish in any area of business. What has changed in the past few years is not necessarily the developments of print on demand products, but rather more, the ability for the producers/publishers of those products to reach a greater global audience more easily and cheaper and through direct viral marketing.

And for the future?

Traditional publishers are still working on a production timeline for an average book of twelve months or more to publication. That simply cannot work. Digital format sales will increase, and this was my main criticism of 50% of publishers at the London Book Fair this week. Just as self-published authors know; if the book is not widely available, then people don’t know about it and cannot buy it. I think it is on line freedom which scares many publishers and their lack of understanding that that is where readers as well as authors meet and engage. The growing issues with Google and Amazon have underlined this over the past couple of years. Publishers are no longer comanding the entire field of play.

My own son came to me this week when I got home and said, ‘Paddy doesn’t know what a typewriter is.’ Paddy, like my son, is ten years of age. ‘He thinks we do everything on the computer and it all goes off into space.’

My son knows what a computer is. Yet, the typewriter will always remain a curious novelty to him. I can show him everything on my PC and laptop and all it can do, but he still harps on about the old typewriter in the shed and says to his friends who come and visit, ‘Oh, it’s just like an old printer!’

Friday, 24 April 2009

POD Best Practices - Angela Hoy with Wise Words

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"The reason so many large POD publishers have bad reputations, and the reason they rarely respond to public criticism, is because they don't care. They really don't. Their business model is to cram as many authors through their doors as they can, and to squeeze as much money out of each author as they can. That's it. If this was not the truth, they would screen submissions, they would reject bad manuscripts, and they would teach authors how to market their own books for free (instead of selling them garbage that doesn't sell books)... So, it's to that POD publisher's financial best interest to squeeze the author for even more money than to help them market their books for free."

Angela Hoy,
of and Writersweekly, writing this week about POD Best Practices.

There is nothing more you could add or say about the above comment from Angela Hoy that could more eloquently illuminate the points she makes.

The full article is here.

POD, Self Publishing Reviews Part 1 - 'Your Name's Not On The List'

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I have noticed a particular rise over the past few months from readers of POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing asking me to review specific author service companies which they have not yet seen on the site. The array of author service companies is vast and I am slowly working my way through the ones I wish to include—meaning—there are already quite a number I have looked at but have decided not to review. There are many reasons why I decide to pass over a particular author service company—some of the reasons can be entirely innocent, but unfortunately there are also more serious reasons why I have omitted them.

I have always seen these reviews as much for the companies themselves to see their services highlighted and compared in one area, as well as being a resource guide and benefit for authors looking at the business of subsidy and self-publishing. I say business, because that is exactly what it is. These companies are primarily supposed to be supplying author services for a fee, and secondly, ‘adopting’ the role of publisher. For some, this ‘adopted’ role is borrowed far more loosely than others, rendering services which vary from excellent and reputable to out and out scam merchants preying on unsuspecting authors. For the authors using these companies, it is also a business. They are paying out three to four figure sums of money to companies—even with the best intentions and print quality offered in the world—they are not traditional publishers and most of them operate with a business model lacking a hard and fast distribution plan to high street stores and personnel without true publishing experience.

One recent email from an author asked me if I could offer some guidance on a UK company they had come across on the Internet. Here was my reply:


Odd you should ask me about XXXXX & XXXXXXXXXX Publishing. I actually submitted a sample quote on a 200pp B&W interior with colour cover, paperback, set-up with the PDF ready files, registration..etc and 100 author copies. This is a standard quote I sometimes use if I am considering doing a review on them. Was looking at a review after I spotted the ad. They came back with £890, which disturbs me. Not only is it £209 more than they quoted you for a similar quote, but XXXXXX who owns the company claimed the EAN barcode insertion was included.

Look FWIW, theres only two of the four titles listed on his online catalogue on Amazon as of today and they are all his own books. This is a one man band and not what you’re looking for. He’d have been better doing a few free books for his mates and family before he put ad in Writers Forum. That must have cost a few hundred alone!

This is no Harper Collins or even Basement jacks Publishing. Try Pen or Authors on line. There linked on the site.

Keep in touch and let me know how you get on.


I could not possibly review every company I come across and if I am considering a particular company which had not come under my radar, I normally wait at least six to twelve months. Most of the reviews on the POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing are generally on companies which have been in business for several years.

For the first part of this article I want to highlight some of the reasons I pass up on reviewing an author service company. Usually it is for a multitude of the below reasons which bars them. I will try as best I can to list the points I pass up on a company based on importance.

1. I have direct knowledge through court records, company directories, author testimony, recognised writer forum warnings and alerts of fraud, criminality, business corruption/collapse or such impending court actions lodged in the names of authors.

2. Lack of communication, obstinacy and lack of information disclosure by a company when I make an enquiry about their services. This is often combined with a ‘send us your MS or we’re saying nothing’ about what we will provide or charge.

3. Not offering a ‘Non Exclusive’ contact to authors.

4. Poor website and/or misleading information about their services and publishing in general.

5. Exorbitant service charges to authors or promises made to authors that they have neither the structure nor experience to deliver.

6. Pretending to be a traditional publisher until you dig deeper into their services and website.

7. Not supporting an online Bookstore and linking to all their books advertised to Amazon.

8. Pretending to be a publisher when they are nothing more than a glorified printer of books and offer nothing outside of this.

9. Taking a discount on author’s books sold from their own online bookstore (double-dipping).

10. Presenting a service as premium when it is poor or available elsewhere for free or part of a standard service. (Template covers, charging for copyright or a listing on their bookstore page etc) I call it, ‘offering mutton as lamb’.

11. Bombarding me with emails/spam after I request information on their services.

12. Mentioning Walt Whitman, Poe, Fitzgerald, Joyce, et all, as examples of self-publishing on their website.

13. Referring to their company as a publisher or ebook publisher when all they do is display your book on their website.

14. Saying they love my book while they squeeze my leg and roam their hands up towards my wallet.

15. Not providing direct telephone/support contact.

16. Playing the ‘green’ eco card as a primary selling point of their print services.

17. Not displaying the authors and books they have helped to publish on their main web pages.

18. Getting their staff shills to post on writer forums about their author services as if they were bona-fide satisfied customers and posting links back to their employers website.

19. Eschewing the royalty maths for authors.

20. Not displaying a full and detailed list of senior staff and their experience on their website.

Feel free to post a comment and I will gladly add any others not included here.

Let me now digress to a little history of the POD and the Vanity Publishing industry in the past and how this has impacted on where POD and self-publishing is now. We will look at the vanity scams in the UK during the 1980’s and 1990’s, how this has diversified the business, but ultimately for the better, and how a new breed of self-publishing author is dealing with the challenges and what may lie ahead. For now, I will leave you with Jonathan Clifford’s words, the man who coined the description ‘Vanity Publisher’ way back in 1959.

“In 1959/60 when two American companies were advertising widely throughout the UK offering to publish individual poems in anthologies at £9 and £12 each respectively, I coined the phrase "vanity publishing". Since 1991 I have campaigned unceasingly for truth and honesty in the vanity publishing world and have become recognised as the authority on the subject.”

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

London Book Fair 2009 - Final Day - Boris in Book vs Playstation Wars

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Our report headline is about as exciting as it got. Plenty of deep discussion in huddled corners of trade stands and some agreements reached, but it was a quieter London Book Fair than previous years. The emphasis was on quality of content and discussion rather than the amount of trade stands or footfalls.

In the coming weeks and months we may be able to better gauge the quality of these agreements - the ones signed - as well as the ones sealed with a handshake. Publishing has very much arrived at an age of digitisation, and it formed the core of many formal and informal debates throughout the three days.

Boris Johnson, London's Lord Mayor, fittingly gave the Fairs keynote speech this morning and underlined the challenges for publishers in these changing and recessionary times. It was pretty much a 'fear not, but go forward and don't mind them lads in Google' kind of speech. Boris had his own ideas on who the enemy was. "I don’t think the Internet is the threat it is supposed to be. I see only one threat, only one real challenge to the importance and attractiveness of books, one common foe...The Playstation!"

I don't think the guys and gals from Sony were too happy!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

London Book Fair 2009 - Ebook Discussion, Tuesday, April 21st

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Torin Douglas, BBC media correspondent hosted a discussion this morning at the London Book Fair in Earls Court on ebooks with contributions from Gail Rebuck, CEO Random House, Tim Hely-Hutchinson, CEO Hachette Livre UK, Victoria Barnsley, CEO HarperCollins UK and John Makinson, CEO Penguin Group.

Getting these publishing CEO luminaries together did not achieve wholesale consensus - more mixed levels of enthusiasm and caution. There was agreement that ebooks are becoming steadily more important and publishers need to seriously look at electronic sales and beyond the sacred sale of the paper product.

In fact, you walked away from the discussion with more questions and the feeling, certainly from UK publishers, that ebooks seem to represent a real challenge for them, particularly in the area of pricing and piracy. There just seems to be a sense of a development 'timelag' with publishers on this side of the pond in dealing with the ebook market and they seem content to sit back and watch their US counterparts make what positive running there is. Granted, technology and the availability of particular e-readers in Europe and less percentage download sales have had a strong bearing on this inertia.

The self-publishing fraternity in the UK may already be looking upon the departing masses from the Cromwell Hall at Earls Court this lunchtime with a wry but laboured smile on their faces. They have had to grapple with ebook sales by necessity rather than pure sales invention.

UPDATE - WED 22nd - Digital Zone & Sony Ereader Format

see Ohmynews International Science & Technology widens debate about UK Choice.

And also IBS Bookmaster's poll of publishers about book digitisation reveals only half of publishers have any such plans as reported by

Monday, 20 April 2009

Melrose Books - Reviewed

Print Friendly and PDF Titles – 200+ Titles – 200+

Melrose Books is a division of Melrose Press, who, for many years, published biographical books through the International Biographical Centre. Melrose Books is their imprint for their system of partnership publishing between author and publisher.

“Melrose Books is a new venture from Melrose Press, the renowned international biographical publisher.

Melrose Press has been publishing biographical titles from in or around the University City of Cambridge since 1969.

Melrose Books works on a shared partnership between publisher and author and we value the input of the author at every stage of the publishing process to fulfil their aspirations.

If you have a manuscript that you would like to publish, our Commissioning Panel would be delighted to appraise it for possible publication.”

“From in or around the University City of Cambridge.” Now that is like me saying, ‘I’m a rock star, coz I live next door to Bono!’ The innuendo and implication about the University of Cambridge is deliberate and clear. I am not sure what bearing their location to the University of Cambridge or the city has to do with the business of publishing. We might understand it if they were called Cambridge Books, but then we already have a Cambridge Press. Is there some allusion being made to famous university presses in England? Bad, bad start Melrose Books and this on the company’s main website introduction page. State what you are and not what you would like people to think you are.

“We are proud to be a traditional publishing house where the emphasis is on personal contact with the author and attention to detail is paramount.

Melrose Books works on a shared partnership between publisher and author and we value the input of the author at every stage of the publishing process to fulfil their aspirations.”

There are a number of tradition UK publishers who also offer partnership publishing services. Normally publishers choose to have the self-publishing service set up as an entirely distinct imprint with a different name. Melrose has chosen to make their distinction of the two entities with the words ‘Press’ and ‘Books’.

Melrose has a separate trade site for the sale of their books to retailers and customers which goes under the name Melrose Books.

Their site is well laid out and bears an emblem, ‘35 years of publishing excellence’, though I suspect this badge is a self appointed badge and is not linked to any publishing body or organisation.

Authors are invited to submit to Melrose Books by sending their books to the Commissioning Panel who will individually appraise the quality of the manuscript.

“Headed by the Commissioning Editor, the task of the Commissioning Panel is to appraise manuscripts sent to Melrose Books for possible publication. The Panel considers the merits of each manuscript based on its subject matter, the quality of its content and its marketing potential. The Panel is comprised of publishers and editors with experience of both sides of the author-publisher relationship who are sympathetic to the requirements of authors. Those manuscripts with sufficient merit are recommended to the Commissioning Editor who will make an offer of publication to the author...

If the Author decides to publish...”

This is where things start to become murky. If an author sends their manuscript to Melrose Books, then surely they have already made that decision to publish their book if they can through Melrose. Noticeably, Melrose does not refer too often to self-publishing, and instead, throughout their site, refer to themselves as a traditional publisher. The suggestion here is that Melrose has a screening process for manuscripts and do not accept everything sent to them. In fact, the whole Commissioning Panel system says that the publisher makes a proposal for publication to the author based on quality of work. You know what—this is neither self-publishing with an author solution service, nor is it traditional publishing.

“Q: What is Commissioned Publishing?

A: Melrose Books is a pioneer of Commissioned Publishing. We work on the basis of a shared partnership between publisher and author. If we feel that a manuscript has sufficient merit and can be promoted successfully we will make an offer of publication.”

Ah, so this is commissioned publishing. This is a new one on me. A nice subtle turn on what happens in the traditional system of publishing, where a publisher commissions and pays an author to write a particular kind of book for them. Melrose Books, being a pioneer, have turned this on its head. The author commissions the publishers, Melrose Books, to, effectively, allow the author pay them for publishing his/her book. This is brilliant, absolute genius. This is also the greatest fete in commissioning gymnastics I have ever come across.

“Our authors receive 50% or more royalties on each book sale.”

This is in line with other publisher’s partnership deals. This figure is usually based on net sales, that is after retail and printer costs have been subtracted and not the full retail price.

“Q: What is Royalty Publishing?

A: Royalty Publishers include many big name companies such as Penguin and Random House. Royalty Publishers aquire[sic] rights to your manuscript and are responsible for all of the costs associated with publishing and marketing. They take all of the financial risk and as a result are extremely conservative in what they are willing to publish, only considering manuscripts with guaranteed commercial potential from proven authors in mainstream subjects.”

This ‘royalty publishing’ term is a complete misnomer. There is no such term in publishing. All publishers, reputable, whether they are an author solutions company, traditional publisher, or for that matter a partnership publishing company, pay royalties on the books they sell. There is a pattern developing here with Melrose Books.

“Q: What is On-Demand Publishing?

A: On-Demand Publishers print a copy of your book to fulfil each sale they make, and hold no stock of your book. This is done on equipment similar to office laser printers. The resulting books are of a correspondingly low quality and will not be stocked in bookshops or libraries. Typically they provide no editorial or design services and little or no marketing beyond availability on their website. On-Demand Publishers will typically publish any book regardless of content because they have no interest in its eventual success. On-Demand Publishing is not an option for authors serious about having their work professionally published.”

There is some fair and reasoned comment in the above statement from Melrose Books. However, it is also laced with inaccuracies which seem deliberate to play upon an author who knows little about the print methods used in the industry. Firstly, Cambridge University Press, a prestigious university press based not far from Melrose Books, have for several years used print on demand technology very successfully for books they may otherwise have been unable to publish a new edition by using off-set print methods. No, modern print on demand machines are not like the quaint old office laser printer. Pop along to the London Book Fair and take a look at Lightning Source’s stand and you will see a machine in operation. This is state of the art digital technology which in less than five years is going to completely replace offset print machines. Try buying one of these on your average office budget and see how far it gets you. To the average reader and author, there is virtually no difference in quality. The most prohibitive thing about print on demand technology is the unit cost. At the moment, it costs the same per unit for a print run of one or a thousand. But that will change.

“Q: What is Self-Publishing?

A: If you decide to self-publish you must be prepared to undertake every aspect of publishing your book yourself from writing, financing, editing, typesetting, layout, design, printing and binding, marketing, warehousing, copywriting, advertising, sales, distribution, accountancy and legal consulting.”

Yes, the above is beyond the expertise for many authors wanting to self-publish. But, thankfully, that is why we have printers and author solution companies. This is why we have companies like Bookmasters, Booksurge, Amazon’s self publishing program, Thor’s self-publishing program for distribution and print and fulfilment companies like Lightning Source.

Melrose Books partnership service says they will take an authors manuscript, fully edit it, and provide full marketing and promotion. If this is the case, then it is the first partnership program I have come across to offer so much...and all at ‘no extra cost.’

“All marketing and promotion work is provided at no extra cost.”

Melrose Books do present much material on their website about their publishing process. However, some of it is misleading, and at times, entirely inaccurate. I wish publishing was the way Melrose Books describe it. But it is not. Should you wish to look at them closer, and even consider using their partnership program, then you have much to learn about self-publishing and paying to be published. My two cents—keep your fists firmly dug into your pockets.

RATING: 02/10
(Old Style Vanity Press)

Domtom Publishing - Reviewed

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Titles on – 9

Titles on – 7

Domtom Publishing is a recent newcomer to the author solutions scene. They are based in West Sussex in the UK. They describe themselves as ‘…literally a breath of fresh air to book writers’ and were founded by people from the ‘print industry’ with over 30 years combined experience.

“At domtom publishing we have the knowledge, we will supply the effort, act diligently and keep our fingers crossed!”

Domtom Publishing delivery plenty of ‘mission’ statements on their website about their author services and knowledge of publishing but give little away to the perspective self-publishing author that actually backs this up. When a publishing company of any kind makes these kind of statements they really need to demonstrate this. An ‘About Us’ page on their website would not go a miss here. Domtom Publishing do feature their own on line bookstore, which as of April 2009, lists just ten titles.

“Here at domtom our mission is to offer a new and innovative approach to the traditional methods of getting a book to print, breaking free from the restrictive practices often found in the publishing world.”

While self-publishing is certainly very different to the normal path of traditional publishing—it is hard to see what exactly Domtom offers as an ‘innovative approach’.

“There is no guarantee of success, but we assure every author that each publication will be produced to the highest standard and marketed with continued zeal and enthusiasm. Our method of direct marketing and cutting out the distributor ensures a bigger slice of cake to share, a policy which is fast becoming the future of book supply. You will find our royalties generous and we offer industry leading settlement terms.”

This is a fair and honest statement, but ‘cutting out the distributor’ simply means that Domtom, like many author solution companies, do not have a book distributor in place beyond the normal book data listings provided to online retailers and book wholesalers such as Gardners in the UK. Having a dedicated sales team of representatives to sell your catalogue of books to high street stores is not something you decide to ‘cut out’. Domtom Publishing’s strategy is to rely on in-house direct marketing, but again, they need to clearly show to perspective authors how exactly this forms part of their business and the self-publishing services they offer.

Domtom Publishing offer a self-publishing service which includes book layout advise, ISBN and barcode allocation, and Amazon listing. Book cover design and editing/proofreading are offered as additional services. Domtom do have the advantage of having all their book production facilities in-house. However, many of their UK counterparts offer cover design and legal registration in their basic packages, rather than as an add on service.

Domtom Publishing needs to back up much of their website statements. While they may have staff with knowledge and print/publishing experience, they remain newcomers as an author solution service and authors should contact them directly for service costs, royalty and contract details.

Domtom Publishing may have started with great intentions, but clearly, since its inception in 2007, it has become little more than a home for Sue Allan's own books. It takes a lot to self-publish - it takes even more to become a publisher for others.

RATING: 04/10  

London Book Fair 2009 - April 20th to 22nd

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The London Book Fair 2009 at Earls Court starts today and runs through to this Wednesday, 22nd April.

You can find full details of the event and itinerary at the official website on the link below.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

A. H. Stockwell (Printers) - (updated Dec 2010)

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It is not too often we have a company in our review section which can boast that it was first established in 1898. A. H. Stockwell can. They have survived two world wars and all the changes that have happened in the traditional publishing industry. Things have indeed changed considerably now. Their website strikes you as any traditional publisher would. They host their own bookstore and take direct orders externally, but do not indicate the presence of a distributor to high street stores. Probe and this long-surviving company very much reflect the times we are in.

“The firm of Arthur H Stockwell can look back with pride to over a century of book publishing. The business was established in 1898 and has remained a flourishing concern run by the same family.”

Stockwell give much pride of place to books in their catalogue on war, religion and general reference books. This is a publisher who has changed with the passing times. Within a few sentences of introduction on their website, they talk about books and provide links to books, rather than the necessary business of books. Their model of business may be subtle, but they are by no means misleading.

“In order to consider your work and submit our proposal we will require actual sight of the complete manuscript or disk, which will be read with a view to publication as an attractive independent book as a quality paperback or hardback edition. This service is completely free of charge and you are under no obligation as your manuscript will be returned to you should you so wish, on receipt of your remittance for return postage.”

Stockwell mean that their manuscript appraisal is a free service and that they deal with each submission on an individual basis.

“Once we have had the opportunity to consider your manuscript for publication, a fully detailed proposal will be sent to you with our suggestion for the style of production and all other relevant matters.

If you wish to proceed further at this stage a publication Agreement will be sent for your consideration.

Payment may be made in three instalments; one third on placing your book in our production schedule, one third when the proof is returned after your approval, and the balance when the copies have been printed and are ready to be bound.

Alternatively, payments may be made over a six month period at no extra cost, although production will proceed as and when payments are received.”

Stockwell on acceptance of an author’s manuscript and a signed agreement will commence the pre-publication process. This will include ISBN assignment and complete interior and cover design. However, authors may need to consider the depth of editing they need for their manuscript before submission to Stockwell. This does not come as part of the ‘proposal’ from the publisher.

“Our Editorial Department will revise your manuscript in respect of spelling and punctuation, taking into consideration any special wishes you may have. On request your manuscript will be returned to you after revision for your approval before we proceed further with production.”

Authors can provide their own cover artwork but Stockwell have their own in-house facilities from design, printing and bindery.

“We have our own artists who are able to provide suitable black and white or colour illustrations if required. It is important to mention that we also have our own printing and binding facilities and therefore will enjoy full liaison with you throughout the production process.”

Stockwell approach marketing in a local and centralised way. We are not dealing with HarperCollins here and as with any self-published book where the author is financing the production of their book—they will have to take on a significant amount of the promotion themselves. Stockwell do take on more than many of their self-publishing counterparts.

“The title of your book will be included in our catalogue, and we will submit copies of the book to the review editors of local publications issued in the centre or centres where you are well known. A copy of any review we may receive will be sent to you.

We will also invite orders from booksellers in such centres, and we will welcome your suggestions for this publicity when the book is ready. Your book will also be available to purchase from our on-line book store. The title and author name of your book will be posted to major Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo.”

Stockwell will also look after legal registration of an authors’ book.

Authors would do well to ascertain exact details of royalties and full contractual rights on anything they sign with this publisher. Stockwell are independent and a family owned firm. Some of their older catalogue is part of their traditional publishing business, and much will be in the proposal this company sends to each author. They are no Bloomsbury or Canongate, and authors need to be fully aware of this before entering into any kind of agreement or signed contract, but they do offer the tradition and experience many other author solution providers cannot provide for their authors.

UPDATE: Dec 2010:
If there is one single thing AH Stockwell need to address - it is the poor standard of cover design. It was as it was when I first did this review. and sadly it has not improved.

RATING: 06/10

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Espresso Book Machine - Poetry in Motion

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Felicity Woods, editorial assistant at the has written a nice piece today about witnessing the Espresso Book Machine up close and personal at Blackwell's London book store.

"Up close and personal it is as if the Gutenberg Press met with Willy Wonka, and the chocolatier come out on top."

You can read Felicity's full Espresso experience here.

Lightning Source have also just launched a pilot program for publishers to use the Espresso Book Machine.

Lightning Source clients who will use this service include Simon & Schuster, John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, McGraw-Hill, Macmillan, University of California Press and Norton. The pilot program will make 85,000 titles available at Espresso Book Machine locations across the country, starting next month.

The machine will be on display at Lightning Source's stand at next week's London Book Fair.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Blurb And The Little Box of Sunlight

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I submitted my order for a first proof of Thais on April 6th. On Tuesday, this week, I got an email from Blurb support to say that the order had shipped. Today, when I got back from the office, I was delighted to find a parcel from Holland with Blurb's insignia on it.

For any author, no matter what method they chose to publish through—be it traditional or self-publishing—the experience of opening the first physical copy of a published book is something to savour, even if that moment is tinged with trepidation, happiness, or both. Perhaps this is more so with self-publishing. After all, the author is so much more involved with the mechanics and production of the book. It is a moment, even for the most prolific of authors, which only comes, at best, once or twice a year. This was my first new book this year. And though Thais is a reprint, 1999 is a long time ago since I had the first edition of this book in my hands.

You never open those packages quickly, do you? It’s always done slowly, with relish. Your mind fills with giddy thoughts of how this or that will look or turn out in the physical copy. No matter how good your PC applications are, you never quite know how that shade of red will work, or how the font you chose will work.

Well, neither do I! Blurb’s horse fell at the first post-production fence. As I pulled the book from the cardboard, I had mused on the fact that the book seemed a little lightweight, and through the bubble wrap that red shade wasn’t so red. In fact, that red was kind of yellow. Yellow like the rays of sunlight on a summer’s day. I slipped the book out of the bubble wrap and admired this ‘Little box of Sunlight’. This, this...wonderful...’Little Box of Sunlight’, well, it wasn’t exactly, ‘My Box of Sunlight’. In fact, this wasn’t my book at all!

Now, how the hell did that happen!

So Burb have sent me the wrong book (or perhaps the right one, see below). An email to Blurb Support, with the noted proviso that customers should allow one business day for a response left me re-jigging my plans for the book over the next few weeks. To be fair to Blurb, I had a response within fifteen minutes, and before I had a chance to open that email, another one. An apology, and an immediate reorder has been processed by Blurb’s Support team. Not the most audacious start, but a professional and speedy remedy nonetheless. I’ll just have to put up with the ‘Oh, there’s another package all the way from, er, Holland for you’ jibs, followed by exaggerated winks as I shuffle away back to the laptop and the security of the author’s den.

Indeed, perhaps I did receive the right book today.

‘There is no such thing as coincidence in life’

What is The Little Box of Sunlight? I will let its author, Martin O’Donoghue tell you in his own words.

“Its an initiative to help those who are suffering from terminal cancer and those who care for them. It is designed to complement the excellent care that is offered by hospice teams. It is dedicated to the memory of Aoife Halpin who's determination, spirit and love inspired all those who knew her during her life.

The box is designed to act as a counter balance for the real stress, grief and sadness of this difficult time and show that even in the depths of such apparent darkness there is also the possibility of love and closeness. I found that those around us felt an initial sense of helplessness, family and friends want to help but don't know how. The Little box of sunlight is designed to give practical ideas and tips enabling a significant increase to the level of care and comfort.

The Little Box of Sunlight was an idea I had near to Aoifes last days - I discussed it with her and explained how her life and her experience with cancer would make a difference to others. It is my hope that it can and will.

Since then I have been gathering various items and working on the concept. Now it is being evaluated and I hope to launch it in May 2009
Slán go foil”

Martin O’Donoghue intends launching his ‘The Little Box of Sunlight’ in May 2009.

I wish him my thoughts, strength and all the success in the world for his project.

If you are a carer for someone affected by cancer, you may wish to visit Martin’s site and learn more about his work for cancer carers and his ‘The Little Box of Sunlight’ project.

Self-Publishing Book Expo - November 2009

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With the London Book Fair almost upon us next week, it is fitting that Self-Publishing will get its own Book Expo for the first time this year. The project is the brainchild of Diane Mancher, a publishing professional for twenty years, and Karen Mender, who served as VP Associate Publisher and Marketing Director and Publicity Director at Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster).

"The SPBE will bring together many of the key players who make this universe the thriving area it has become, while simultaneously exposing both the houses and the authors to a greater audience of other publishing professionals, booksellers, media, and consumers."
From SPBE Website

The Book Expo is scheduled to take place in New York on November 7th, 2009 and it is hoped that the event will become an annual affair. The Book Expo will bring together both self-published authors as well as self-publishing companies, sales, marketing and many experts from the wider publishing industry.

Your can check out the official website here.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Lulu Poetry Launched - Reviewed

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Hot on the heels of Lulu's recently introduced assisted publishing packages, Lulu today launched Lulu.poetry. Built upon Lulu's successful tools and widgets platform, Lulu.poetry offers many of the same publishing options, including their 'Publish by Lulu' and 'Publish by You' options.

"Whether you're a professional writer compiling your magnum opus, a talented weekend poet sharing years of verbal experiments, or an editor looking for a new and interesting way to help your authors, Lulu is your secret ingredient for succesful results. Publish your poetry book today."

Budding poets have the choice of loading their files with Lulu Poetry Studio and designing their books using Lulu's design templates or loading up their own completed PDF/word files.

Nick Popio, Social Networking Team Leader with Lulu, says, "Whether you write poems for your own enjoyment or to entertain and educate others Lulu Poetry is for you. We’ll be handing out prizes to poems selected as winners by the hundreds and thousands of poets who are part of the poetry community. When you win we’ll send you a cash prize, and a certificate for you to print and hang on your wall to remind everyone of your accomplishment."

I'm not sure why Lulu have choosen to launch a specific poetry site under the Lulu brand, though the aquisition of the domain name is a particular coup despite its deceptive and dubious past. It seems strange when the main Lulu brand site facilitates books of poetry just as easily and comfortably. Lulu's thinking may be to create a poet's corner or 'one stop shop' to avoid such a niche area becoming subsumed by the vast Lulu machine. It remains to be seen if this venture will be a success or whether it will slip silently back under the Lulu umbrella in the coming months of 2009.

Lulu - New Publishing Packages

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Lulu has launched some new assisted publishing packages which they say are aimed at the authors who wish to focus their time on promoting and marketing their books rather than the nuts and bolts of putting their book together with Lulu's on line tools.

This does suggest a subtle change on Lulu's publishing strategy. The packages range from 333 euro to 1115 euro. The packages include varying degrees of 'Author Support', 'Custom' and 'Premium' covers, and 'Advanced' and 'Ultimate' formatting, as well as an author sample book.

I will digest and look and these packages over the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, you can take a look for yourself at the link below.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Eprint - Reviewed

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Eprint is a printer and offer author solution services for authors who want to self-publish. The company is based in Blanchardstown, Dublin, Ireland and has been in business for 14 years. Eprint support their own on line bookstore and feature several tiles on the main webpage.

“Whether you want to publish a book to give to your family and friends on a special occasion[sic], or for general release eprint can help you to fulfil this dream and guide you every step of the way”

What struck me quickly about a company who offer print solutions was the lack of definition and resolution to the images of books on the website. Some of the images are poor and that is never a good sign to start with. The website of any company trading and advertising on line is their own shop window and the place where a company makes its first impression.

“Eprint limited is located in Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, Ireland. We are an Irish company providing an all- inclusive print & self-publishing service to the public, allowing your book to be produced, sold online and distributed, with royalty payments made to you.

Eprint offer a complete self-publishing service and can produce professionally printed and bound paperback or hard cover books in quantities from as little as 50. We also provide assistance with design and layout and will produce a suitable cover to suit your budget.”

Files submitted to Eprint should be in Word, Quark or PDF format. Ideally, if submitting PDF files, they should be in the final trim dimensions of the printed book. Eprint can provide a unique full colour cover if the author has not provided one. Eprint can also provide an author with ISBN allocation, legal deposit, full internal layout, royalty payments, online listing and online database listing, as well as a choice of several bindings;

“Our bindery department is capable of producing any binding style you might need. Quality and strength are the cornerstones of all the bindings we produce.”

According to company director, Barry O'Brien.

"We are first and foremost a producer and printer of books, and we also offer a general printing service to our varied customer base. We don’t do “packages” as offered by other companies, as we feel this leads to confusion. We like to be as flexible as possible in our offering to our clients, as their familiarity with technology and file creation, and their individual needs vary considerably. Our emphasis is on producing a high quality product at a reasonable cost, whilst supporting and assisting the author. We supply ISBN/Barcode as part of the service, at no additional cost."

Authors should note that Eprint is not a publisher offering print on demand author solutions—it is a print solutions company. While the company will assist, guide and advise an author on their book, it will not provide editing or manuscript evaluation services. The company will produce your printed book in a variety of bindings and sizes; make it available for purchase at on line retailers, but it is not in business to market an author’s book. This is reflected in the fact that the self publishing service is relatively recent and the company has just three books listed under Eprint on Amazon, though many authors now approach author solutions companies with their own ISBN's.

For 20% of the retail price of a book, Eprint will list the book on their website and process orders and effect payment and distribution of copies worldwide. For orders in excess of 100 books, the company will design and supply posters and bookmarks free of charge for an author to aid the marketing and promotion of the author's book.

Barry O'Brien adds;

"Getting your book into print with eprint will first and foremost be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The control of the process is with the author. The ownership of the book produced is with the author. All rights, etc. remain with the author. Most importantly, the author will have a book that reflects the time and effort that has gone into it, so that it can stand comparison with any quality produced book in the market."

Authors considering using Eprint should contact the company detailing their book project and request a quotation as not prices or examples are provided on their website. Authors should also request details of their royalty payments.

RATING: 6.2/10
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Filigree & Shadow - POD People Review

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You can see a review of Filigree and Shadow at POD People at the below link.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Chandler Book Design - Reviewed

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Amazon Titles – N/A (Bespoke Book Designer & Printer)

Chandler Book Design is based in Norfolk, England. Their core business is book design, but they offer authors intending to self-publish several different book service solutions. They do not support an on line bookstore of their own, but their main homepage does feature some of their recently published titles. However, these featured titles have no links to outside on line retailers like Amazon and emphasis that Chandler’s business expertise is book design and not book sales.

“Chandler Book Design is a book production services company offering typesetting and cover design to self-publishers and first time authors. We are NOT a publisher.”

This is a welcome, honest and important acknowledgement which authors should note. There are too many author solution companies who profess knowledge, understanding and even expertise in publishing which they simply do not possess.

“Chandler Book Design will help you fulfill your self publishing dreams without costly royalty agreements or contracts. We are professional book designers who understand the business of publishing and help hundreds of authors every year achieve their dream of printing and selling their titles.”

Yes, the reality is that book design is a crucial part of book publishing and presenting a quality product, but only that—a part of the business of publishing.

Chandler separate their services into three distinct areas, ‘The Full Works’, a full book design service; an internal text layout service for authors who already have a fully designed and print ready cover; and a PDF full cover design service. Quotes can be obtained from Chandler for any of these services or authors can discuss any specific requirements they have. Prices for their services start at £499, but exact costs are dependent on what the author’s requirements are. For the purposes of this review we are just going to focus on their ‘The Full Works’ service.

‘The Full Works’ service includes a full unique cover design using stock artwork or images supplied by the author. It also includes internal layout design (to a maximum of 400 pages before an additional charge is levied) and the incorporation of the author’s own ISBN. Chandler requires authors to have their own ISBN’s before submission of a Word Document, though they can assist and advise an author wishing to obtain a block of ISBN's from Nielsens. Once the final proof is ready, Chandler say they can produce books for the author after three weeks.

The following quotes are from their website FAQ page.

“Why do I need an ISBN number and where can I get one from?
An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. If you wish to sell your publication through major bookselling chains, or internet booksellers, they will require you to have an ISBN to assist their internal processing and ordering systems.

“ISBNs can be ordered from the UK ISBN Agency which is the national agency for the UK and Republic of Ireland.”

“When you purchase an ISBN for your book from the UK ISBN Agency, which is part of Neilsen Bookdata, it will automatically be entered on to their database and thus it will be listed on Amazon etc.”

The author will have to carry out much of what other author solutions companies provide as part of their standard service. This includes legal deposit copies, on line search inside programs, and there is an implied reliance on Nielsen’s listing to ‘automatically’ have books listed on Amazon etc. Many self-publishing authors may not feel this to be enough to make their books available if their book project is a serious profit making business and Chandler’s ‘The Full Works’ package may need to be married with many other important author solution services elsewhere.

“Chandler Book Design is based in the offices of one of the UK leading book printers, MPG Biddles, which means that we really can manage your project all the way through its production cycle from our initial design concepts to the finished books on their way to you.”

For a self published author undertaking true self-publishing and requiring a quality printed book that they can have considerable input on—Chandler Book Design are ideal, in particular because they have in-house print facilities and open and available advise for self-publishing authors.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Grosvenor House Publishing - Reviewed

Print Friendly and PDF Titles – 293 Titles – 298

Grosvenor House Publishing is based in Surrey, England and one of its directors is successful self-published author Graham P. Taylor. The English vicar self-published Shadowmancer in 2002, a children’s novel, and in less than a year, Taylor had signed deals with Faber UK and Penguin Putnam USA. In many ways, Taylor followed the blueprint that all self-published authors should follow. He started selling his work to his local church-goers and after doing public signings and appearances locally, the success of his book slowly grew into a national story itself. His own life is a book in itself, and it must surely have helped in the intrigue of the media and success of his books worldwide.

“Graham states that the main reason for becoming a director in Grosvenor House Publishing was because of his own experience of self-publishing his first novel, Shadowmancer.”

Grosvenor House publishing offer authors a single publishing package priced at £795. Its aim is to include all that is necessary to set-up a book using print-on-demand digital print technology and the author services to make it available to on line retailers and book wholesalers. The package is fully detailed on their website and there is plenty of information available there for an author with questions. There are links to ‘why self publish’, book costs, royalties, costing calculators, as well as a downloadable copy of their publishing contract. The information provided is concise and well-laid out. If I have one qualm, it is, yet again, the lack of books on their website. Authors should also note that Grosvenor do not have an on line retail bookstore facility.

“Whilst we are definitely not guaranteeing you sales in the thousands or financial success like Billy Hopkins or Graham Taylor, the fact is you never know what you and your writing can achieve unless you try. With most publishers refusing to even look at unsolicited manuscripts and literary agents either increasingly deciding not to take on any new un-published authors or because of the sheer volume of unsolicited manuscripts they are sent each month (over 1,000 per month in some cases) they are simply overloaded, is it any wonder that the Billys and Grahams of this world slip through the net?”

What I like straight away about Grosvenor House Publishing and the way they present their services is the balance they have struck with selling author services without overly engaging in the ‘publishing dreams’ hard-sell. It seems that author solution companies consistently fail to get the balance right on their websites and publishing guides when they advertise their services. Far too often in my reviews I encounter companies who decorate their services with unrealisable dreams and promises of success to the author and a general and concerted attempt to make the process of publishing seem austere and complex. There is also the other extreme, where a company will disclose as little as possible about their services, costs and contract details in an effort to present their publishing model as that of a traditional royalty-paying publisher.

“Finally, the only person who can truly decide whether or not your work should be published is you. If like Billy or Graham, some friends and friends of friends have read your manuscript and given you positive feed-back, those comments might well be an indicator that your work is worth pursuing. If on the other hand their responses have been luke-warm at best, maybe your manuscript needs more work done to it, or possibly your talents lie in other areas other than writing.”

Grosvenor House Publishing includes full cover design in their publishing package. The author can submit their own cover or images if they wish and these can be incorporated in the design. Part of the cost saving for Grosvenor is the fact that they allow the author to go on line and use a module to design their own cover. This is something similar to Lulu or Createspace. The 2000 image library seems a little limiting, but the author can upload their own images. To be fair, when I used Lulu last year for one of my books, I certainly do not recall seeing anything like 2000 images available for an author to use. Full interior layout is provided, though interior images come at an additional cost. For a technical book with illustrations, this may be restrictive, and the author would do well to properly cost out the additional charges per interior image.

If you want your book to contain pictures, we can insert these within your interior text. We charge per picture we insert on the initial book set-up and this is a one-off charge.
1-30 images - £5 per image inserted
31-50 images - £4 per image inserted
51-100 images - £3 per image inserted“

Again, the emphasis here is on Grosvenor being at least upfront and open about these charges and not delivering a whammy after the author submits a manuscript and signs the contract. The package also includes the usual PDF proof, ISBN number (registered to Grosvenor), internet distribution for one year, and also wholesale distribution listing with Bertrams and Gardners. In addition, the author gets five free copies and legal registration.

"**We aim to deliver your book within 3 weeks from approval of copy**"

Importantly, this is an aim and not an absolute guarantee of publication of an authors work in this time frame. It also commences from the time the author approves their PDF proof. The package does not provide for proofreading or editing. These services are available for an addition charge. Proofreading is available at £4 per 1000 words and editing at £6 per 1000 words.

Grosvenor does provide what they describe as marketing packages, but author should be aware that this is confined to the printing of posters and postcards and a unique domain name and website. The website package is priced at £299 for just two years hosting space.

“GHP offer every author the chance to purchase their very own website. Choose from 6 styles and simply supply your own text – then leave the rest to us.
No other self publishing company offers this fantastic service.

£299 for 2 years”

Clearly Grosvenor has not been looking at two many other competitors. Quite why any author would pay any author solution company for a website facility at this price is entirely beyond me. These services are available from network providers at a fraction of this price and with user-friendly software tools. Grosvenor and their authors who have taken up this ‘offer’ should bear in mind that authors are not getting a publisher’s book page or a publisher with their own on line bookstore.

Our pricing structure for a paperback book is simple; £1.20 for the cover, and 1p per page. Therefore, if your book is a paperback 5"x8"and has 170 pages, the cost to print one book is £2.90 (£1.20 for the cover, 170 x 1p = £1.70) plus P&P. *Please note there is a minimum print cost of £2.28 per book and the minimum pagination for a paperback is 48 pages.”

Compared to many UK author solution companies, these prices are pretty competitive and only just marginally above Lightning Source’s prices. The math alone already suggests that the Grosvenor author is doing well on the royalty front.

“If you'd like us to post you a sample copy of one of our printed books,
please send a cheque for £5 and we'll gladly post you a copy.
Should you decide to publish with us, we'll refund this amount!”

You can also find more detailed costs for bulk print orders for books on Grosvenor’s website.

"Paperback Hardcover
Retail Price £9.99 £16.99
Retailer discount @ 40% £ 4.00 £ 6.80
Balance £ 6.00 £10.19
Costs of printing * £ 3.72 £ 8.02

Author royalty £ 2.28 £ 2.17

* Based on a 252 page book sized 198 x 129 and the price is the same for 1 to 5000 copies of the book. Delivery is an extra cost on top of the above prices.
As you can see from the above example the royalty you receive is 22.8% of the retail price of the paperback book and 12.77% of the hardback book. However, the retail prices (especially the paperback book) are quite a bit higher than you would find for the average book."

Grosvenor House Publishing is taking nothing based on these examples of book costs. I have seen several author solution companies claim the above royalty as a 100% royalty, but Grosvenor explains royalties the way they should be explained, that is, based on the percentage of a book’s retail price. For authors wishing to order larger print runs, Grosvenor do also use litho offset printing and will quote on this.

A copy of Grosvenor House Publishing’s non-exclusive contract is available and can be downloaded from their website.

Grosvenor House Publishing has a lot going for them. There is no publisher, whether tradition or an author solution service, where an author can say they are a perfect match to their needs. Grosvenor is no different. They really do need a bookstore available to the general public to purchase books and not just for their authors needs. They provide no actual true marketing packages, bar marketing materials for an author to purchase, but they clearly state this on their website and in their contract. Where Grosvenor really does score highly is their retail pricing (on average, between £6-£10 for the average paperback), their royalties, and the fact that they do not attempt to cream money from the author on author book sales when the author has already paid for these services. They do not up-sell, nor charge extra for hardback editions as part of the set-up costs. It is small things like this which really do count to swaying an author in their favour.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Eoin Purcell's Article - Self publishing as a threat to niche

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Eoin Purcell has written an excellent article today on his blog about the effects self publishing is having on small and medium sized traditional publishers, particularly DIY services like Blurb and Lulu.

"Eoin Purcell works and lives in Cork where he is Commissioning Editor with one of Ireland’s oldest independent publishers Mercier Press. Prior to that he worked at Nonsuch Ireland. He writes regular blog posts and columns on the Irish book trade for The Bookseller magazine."

You can read Eoin's article at the link below.

Adventures with Blurb - Part Four (Come on Eileen)

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Blurb is a solution for self publishing authors, and yet, it can also be a frustration. I cannot fault Blurb for their accessibility of their on line software, Booksmart, and the results it produces in book form. For what it is worth, you get more flexibility with their software than with many other DIY self-publishing solutions available, and that includes Createspace and Lulu. Granted, an author needs to be strong on the graphics and images they can provide to use with Booksmart, but once that is in place, the chances are the author will have a pretty well-designed book to finish with. The fact is, many author solution companies advertise an original cover design in their basic package, but when the author reads between the lines, they either end up with a pretty ordinary template-designed cover, or they are expected to provide the full photographic artwork. Blurb have used their grounding in photographic books very much in the options provided in their text interior novel format, used for my own book, Thais, for this review.

'Thais' was loaded up to Blurb's server from the down loaded software in about 25 to 30minutes. I actually thought this would be quicker considering Blurb have been so used to graphic-heavy books up till now. Much like Lulu, you are prompted to update your author profile and book information before you set the 'profit' you want to make on each book sold from Blurb's bookstore. You must order a proof copy, otherwise, Blurb warn that the book will be deleted from their server after 15 days. I ordered one proof to check and you then have the option to click 'private' or 'publish' on your book project. (You can see the full results of my book project in the right column of this blogsite)

For the true self-publisher, Blurb gives you an on line bookstore, but, ultimately, if you use your own ISBN and have registered this with Nielsens/Bowkers, you still have to promote your book. You will have to subscribe to Amazon Advantage, have your own supply of books which you can keep them going with, as well as the entire marketing on your shoulders. As yet, Blurb offer nothing more than their bookstore facility for author promotion, and one feels that this is sufficient enough for Blurb at the moment.

For the author, Blurb provides, at no cost, everything but the things that are critical to an author when publishing a book. So come on Eileen: your authors need ISBN's, library registration, on line book data registration (retailers and wholesalers), and then Blurb can really start to be taken seriously. At the moment, there is not a single book listed on Amazon.

When it comes to book production, Blurb have it all, strong software (apart from a few small glitches), a good on line network profile, a quality print product, a fun attitude, a growing catalogue, tremendous on line tutorials and support backup, but now it is time they stepped properly up to the plate with their service and grasp the opportunities which are there for both publisher and author.

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