Friday, 31 July 2009

Amazon's Orwellian Gaff Results in Filed Lawsuit

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I suppose it had to happen. Well, following Amazon's 'hand of god' reaching into the homes of Kindle owners last week to take back ebook copies of George Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm', the website reports yesterday that the first case of someone filing a class-action lawsuit against Amazon in the US District Court in Seattle has been made. The claimants are Justin D. Gawronski, 17, a student at Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township, Michigan and also Antoine J. Bruguier, an adult reader in Milpitas, California. Quite what an 'adult reader' is, I'm not so sure.

Gawronski claims that his notes on the book were useless because he no longer had the referenced parts of the book. What brought a real chuckle to me this morning was's blunt and to the point reading of the lawsuit.

"A high school student is suing after the online retailer deleted pirated copies of e-books purchased by Kindle owners, saying his electronic notes were bollixed, too."

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Man Booker Longlist Announced

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This year's Man Booker Fiction Award longlist has been released and features just one book published by an independent publisher, Sarah Hall's 'How to Paint a Dead Man' (Faber). Random House and Penguin have done particularly well with five and three books respectively, although Penguin's three books featured include a first from their Penguin Ireland imprint with Ed O'Loughlin's 'Not Untrue & Not Unkind'.

This year's long list looks particularly strong with regular shortlisted authors, Colm Toibin, A S Byatt, J M Coetzee and William Trevor.

The list will be reduced to six for the shortlist and these will be announced on September, 8th. Although, if the long list is anything to go by - the dozen turned out to be thirteen - don't be surprised if we have seven books in the shortlist!

The overall winner will be announced on October 6th.

The full Man Booker Fiction Prize longlist:

A S Byatt - The Children's Book (Chatto)
J M Coetzee - Summertime (Harvill Secker)
Adam Foulds - The Quickening Maze (Jonathan Cape)
Sarah Hall - How to Paint a Dead Man (Faber)
Samantha Harvey - The Wilderness (Jonathan Cape)
James Lever - Me Cheeta (Fourth Estate)
Hilary Mantel Wolf - Hall (Fourth Estate)
Simon Mawer - The Glass Room (Little, Brown)
Ed O'Loughlin - Not Untrue & Not Unkind (Penguin - Ireland)
James Scudamore - Heliopolis (Harvill Secker)
Colm Toibin - Brooklyn (Viking)
William Trevor - Love and Summer (Viking)
Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger (Virago)

Man Booker website.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Salt Publishing Diversify To Move Forward

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Salt Publishing is an English based independent publishing company I have a lot of time for. With continuing recessionary cut backs, they had their arts council grant cancelled and that has made trading difficult to say the least in 2009.

They launched a 'Buy Just One Book, Right Now' campaign in May and while this has helped, they still need to hit budgets to see themselves safely into 2010. Deciding to pitch poetry as your core publishing business at any time, let alone under the current shaky economic outlook is brave and shows the commitment which has placed Salt Publishing at the forefront of poetry publishing in the UK.

However, today, Salt Publishing has wisely chosen to expand its publishing program into literary fiction as well as children's poetry and a number of other development programs including audio and ebooks. At a time when publishers are choosing to grab their shells, hold them over their heads during the economic downpour, and run headlong for the sanctuary of the hills - Salt Publishing are showing what has made them one of the leading poetry publishers in the UK.

When the shit hits the fan, be brave, diversify, tweak your publishing model and go forward - never hide.

Salt Publishing's 'Just Buy One Book, Right Now' campaign...

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Publishometer or Spin The Wheel?

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Time for a bit of fun? Ever wondered how an author can evaluate if what they write is truly publishable? Well, Editorial Anonymous think they have the answer with their Publishometer as part of their posting 'How To Tell Whether a Manuscript Will Be Acquired'. Have a look and see how you score, whether you are the latest bimbo model of 22 years of age with a life story to tell the world or you think you are the next Stephen King, the Publishometer has the answer. Give it a whirl.

Booksurge US - (see CreateSpace)

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Booksurge has now merged under the CreateSpace brand.
Announcement news.
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Thursday, 23 July 2009

Other Press - Doing it The Other Way

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Recently I've been spending quite a bit of time looking at UK and US based independent and small press publishers in the hopes of placing my last completed novel 'Trees'. One of the biggest challenges for any author is finding the right publisher for their work. Often the strength of an independent publisher is that they have more of a distinctive identity than larger publishing houses.

Other Press is a good example of a strong independent press who define their identity perfectly. Here is a snippet from their 'About Us' web page followed by a video they have posted to Youtube.

"Other Press attracts authors who are guided by a passion to discover the limits of knowledge and imagination. We publish novels, short stories, poetry, and essays from America and around the world that represent literature at its best. Our nonfiction books--should they be history, current events, popular culture or memoir--explore how psychic, cultural, historical, and literary shifts inform our vision of the world and of each other."

If only all publishers could as easily and definitively present their publishing ethos as well as Other Press - the publishing world would be a better place. In times when editors and publishers alike are quick to berate the lack of authors who can define their books and their message when submitting manuscripts - its good to know there are publishers who can do this for their business impeccably.

Here are two Other Press authors and their recent publications.

We have spent much time over the past two years on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing looking at author solution companies, and while we will continue to do this, our reviews and insight will expand much more to small presses and independent publishers.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Blackwell UK Launch eBook Store

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Fresh on the heels of Barnes & Noble announcing the launch of an ebook stores, Blackwell, the UK retailer and publisher has also entered the on line ebook sales market. Blackwell will offer 45,000 titles for its customers to download directly to their own BeBook reader which supports many ebook reader formats including Adobe PDF and ePub.

Their BeBook reader will be launched in August in partnership with Endless Ideas.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Diggory Press Court Case Moves Forward To November 2009

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The remaining few claimants in the Diggory Press court case, which was previously scheduled to go ahead in March 2010, have now been requested to appear before a senior judge for a hearing in November this year. This follows several unsuccessful orders from the court for all parties to pursue Alternative Dispute Resolution. ADR requires the commitment and full co-operation of both parties to be productive. It often includes the processes of arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, and conciliation. With the growing court queues, pressures on the court system, rising costs of litigation, and seemingly inordinate time delays for claimants and defendants, more judges have begun experimenting with ADR programs. Some of these ADR orders of the court are voluntary and in other cases must be acted upon. ADR does come at a cost—a mediator for example could cost either party a minimum of £250 + VAT for just a half day of work.

Despite the provisions of free legal aid and the processes of the Small Claims Court in Britain—many claimants are put off legal redress and this has been one reason for some claimants in the Diggory Press case not pursuing their claims. Certainly, frustration, bewilderment and lack of understanding of a convoluted court system, as well as weak cases have been other reasons why this case no longer consists of the original seventeen claimants.

It is hard to know if this new hearing is a positive sign of conclusion in an at times deeply unpleasant dispute played out across writer’s forums and blogs across the internet for nearly three years. Bloggers, Site Administrators and commenter’s on the impending case have had their views and identities subjected to acute scrutiny and objection only a debate on the Turin Shroud could warrant! While the appointment of an experienced judge is not unusual in an impending case—this is at least the third different judge in this case (including hearings in Bodmin, Bristol and now Torquay) and it must be seen with some form of significance as regards bringing the case to a conclusion for all parties concerned.

We trust it will happen now, sooner than later, for all our sakes. Whatever the outcome, what is certain is that this whole affair has not been pretty for anyone.

Barnes & Noble Set To Enter Ebook Market

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Barnes & Noble, the largest bookseller in the USA is set to go head to head with Amazon in the ebook market. The ebookstore launch is set to go ahead later this summer with a standard price rivalling Amazon’s $9.99 marker.

First year sales projections for the retailer are aiming at one million titles and the ebooks will be compatible with the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and Blackberry phones as well as Windows and Mac PC’s. There are no plans for the ebooks to be viewed through Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s Ereader. The launch follows on the heels of Barnes & Noble’s acquisition of Fictionwise, an electronic retailer, and their new partnership with Plastic Logic, a business ebook company. Plastic Logic themselves plan to launch an ereader in 2010 featuring a large screen and touch interface.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Amazon Revise Systems After Big Brother Debacle

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Amazon have been forced to revise their systems which allowed them to removed purchased and downloaded copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from customer's Kindle devices. The big brother styled swoop of Amazon's arm happened last Friday and has led to a considerable on line debate and backlash against the giant internet retailer.

First reports suggested the move occured because the publisher and rights owner had decided to withdraw the Kindle editions of the books from sale, but Amazon has confirmed that the publisher uploaded books which they did not have the rights for.

Much of the debate centers around whether Amazon's 'Terms of Service' actually allows them to remove purchased books from customer's Kindle devices with The New York Times suggesting the move is at odds with their customer agreement and the terms make specific reference to the purchase of a 'permanent copy'.

Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener said:

"We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers' devices in these circumstances."

Friday, 17 July 2009

Amazon Thought Police Leave Their Calling Card

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Have an Amazon Kindle? Bought an ebook version of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' or '1984'? Chances are you will not find those books on your Kindle today. You see, during the night, when you were tucked up safe and sound in bed, the Amazon Thought Police crept into your electronic world and snatched these books back. The Amazon Thought Police are decent sorts though, and you should find that your credit card has been reimbursed.

If you are thinking this posting is a humourous take on an Orwell plot line - think again! This is exactly what happened to hundreds of ebook buyers who bought a copy of these two books from Amazon. The reason - it seems - Orwell's publisher had second thoughts about making the books available as ebooks on the Kindle format and informed Amazon they were withdrawing the titles forcing Amazon into this embarrassing faux pas.

At the time of the launch of the Kindle there was talk of such a situation occuring, but Amazon insist this is and will be a 'rare' occurance.

Oh, by the way, George Orwell told me to tell you anyone who has also noticed they are missing bicycles, microwaves and toasters overnight should have them all returned by Monday at the lastest. Thanks for the loan!

Let Publishing Be Damned - Richard Nash Article

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Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull Press has written an interesting article for Publishing Perspectives this week, entitled, 'Why Publishing Cannot Be Saved (As It Is)'. Nash pulls no punches here and his arguments remind me of the criticism of banking at the moment, that is, rather than pour money into a financial structure which has consistantly made poor business decisions - let it sink or swim.

"The question increasingly arises in today’s media: can publishing be saved? No. It cannot and should not. There are plenty of non-profit publishers that exist to create and distribute the un-economic content. For-profit publishing should not be saved — it should figure out new business models, ones that offer services that both readers and writers want and are happy to pay for. We cannot wait for a deus ex machina to descend. (In other words, neither MySpace, nor Twitter, nor price-fixing, nor some new piracy-inducing extension of copyright law will save publishing — we simply need to start doing business better.)"

You can read the full article here.

Richard Nash's own website.

Display Sites - The Future Ahead?

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There seems to be a developing hoopla in the past month about what are broadly defined as ‘Display Sites’ for self-published and unpublished authors. There is nothing new about these sites in regards to the basic premise of a specific on line place where writers can load up their work and display it to be read by others. Whether that site is an author’s own webpage, blogsite, social networking site or self-publisher’s ‘bookstore’ window – the same benefits, motivations and reasoning (broadly speaking) can be applied to them all. The author wants recognition, feedback, increased sales if the book is printed and available, and the chance to become more successful and significantly ‘independent’ of what the author sees as the ‘forces’ limiting them.

Phew, that took a while to pull together without feeling I was disenfranchising someone or missing the point of ‘Display Sites’. It remains a broad term and with the proliferation of such sites, borders on becoming a dysfunctional term. There are two sites recently which have come under particular scrunity, IndieReader and the recently launched Publetariat Vault. I am constantly asked on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing to look closely at these sites/services and comment and review them. I have deliberately chosen not too – not because I do not feel they have something to offer—rather more because few of them are proven and have been round long enough to evaluate their benefit. When I review author solution services like Lulu, iUniverse, Blurb, Createspace, AuthorHouse, Mill City Press or however, I at least have a barometer, a tested template of experience of authors over the past twenty years to build an expectation and marker of standard performance of a service to guide me. This cannot be said of Display Sites because they remain at an infant stage, many still defining what they are, and more importantly, the use authors, readers and publishers of any kind can place upon them.

Rather than take examples of ‘Display Sites’ and fire critical analysis at them, it would be easier to define what a good ‘Display Site’ is and the elements which define it.

1. Free listing for an author’s work initially
2. Filtering of submitted work for basic editing and comprehensibility (done by site editors)
3. Implemented fee for work after filtering – nominal (say $10 per year, per work submitted)
4. Review and categorisation of work by general visitors/readers or site editor
5. Beta forum and rewrite/reload facility
6. Site editor recommendation and ‘top chart’ for site
7. Forwarding/review or ‘top chart’ for subscribed publishers
8. Contract & Advisory facility for acquired works
9. Acquired authors social network facilitated on site
10. Bookstore offering publisher discounts/promotions/exclusive bookclub editions

Now, let me explain how our ideal ‘display site’ works.

1. Self explanatory – no author pays to subscribe and load their work to the site initially
2. Basic typo/spelling/grammatical editing is done by a site editor. If a work does not come up to scratch it is rejected and deleted from the site for resubmission/load-up
3. A small annual fee is applied per work for authors passing the initial faze
4. The work is exposed to general readers/subscribers to the site. (subscription free)
5. Site readers critique and ‘work’ with suggestions on rewrites in the Beta forum
6. Site editors monitor the beta forum and select work for review and top of the pile
7. Selected works forwarded to subscribing publishers
8. Legal and contractual advice and support provided to authors
9. Site host official blog, tours, networks of published authors
10. Bookstore should be acquired author and driven with promotions, audio readings, interviews etc

If we study the model above – what we arrive at is more of an on line Literary Agency/Display Site. This is what I am driving at and where ‘Display Site’ evolution should aspire to. The benefits to literary agents and publishers alike are enormous. The potential is endless. Combine like-minded agencies or publishers together who share a general philosophy/tastes for books. We could eradicate paper submissions to publishers and agents and demonstrate more clearly the suitability of book submissions to authors, defined by the ‘Display Sites’ social network. Publishers would continue to acquire their own submissions through literary agents but ultimately have no unsolicited slush piles.

The publishing world would be a better place and more accessible without the submission burdens publishers now face.

For me, Authonomy offers the best example of this with their link up with HarperCollins, but this is change and power to the ten!

Your thoughts...

As an interesting tangent on this general issue, Zoe Winters has written about author sites and networking on her website:

"There are many sites out there, both regular social networking sites and sites meant for authors to promote themselves and their work. General sites would include Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Author Specific sites would include: Author’s Den, Red Room, Nothing Binding, BookBuzzr. There are many more, but I can’t possibly list them all. In addition to that there is the marketing power of Amazon itself. Where you can have an author page and blog as well as participate in many forums on the site itself."

You can read her full article here.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Management Buyout Secures Borders UK Future

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The not surprising news has broken late this afternoon that Borders UK has been sold in its entirety to a management led investment group headed by current Border's Chief Executive, Philip Downer and Financial Director, Mark Little.

The management group will be funded by Valco Capital Partners and should go a long way to securing the short to medium term future of Borders. The terms of the deal will include an injection of capital. Just this week Borders was forced to sell the leases of five of its stores, two of them the flagship stores of Oxford St and Blanchardstown in Dublin. This is the second time in almost as many years Borders has changed ownership. Downer are cofirmed that he did not envisage further staff cuts in the short term.

Financial details of the deal have yet to be disclosed.

Amazon Look To Christmas 2009 For Kindle UK

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Amazon is putting the final pieces in place to allow a launch of the Kindle ebook reading device on the UK market. Amazon is understood to be in 'advanced' negotiations with a UK mobile operator according to this article in Mobile Today Magazine. This deal if completed will provide connectivity allowing users to download on line books and services to their Kindle readers.

Amazon is believed to already concluded a deal with Qualcomm to manufacture the Kindle device as well as several book publishers for content, and the on line retailing giant is eager to launch the Kindle on the Christmas 2009 market.

According to Mobile Today:
"The retailer wants customers to be able to download books through PCs or over Wi-Fi, but also to have the option to regularly download newspapers, magazines and journals while on the move, via a mobile network."

In the past year both Apple and Google have made considerable strides in the battle for supremacy of the electronic content download market and Amazon will be keen to launch the Kindle in the UK on this side of Christmas rather than later in 2010.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

AuthorHouse On The Double And With Improvements!

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Quite why AuthorHouse UK chose to release two separate press releases to highlight recent improvements to their services puzzles me. It would have made far more sense to combine these for what they are worth and emphasis their impact. One press release deals with their website and the other with their publishing packages. Overall, the one which strikes me as the biggest step forward is the improvements to the website.

According to Tim Davies, Managing Director of AuthorHouse UK:

"This new web site is part of our ongoing efforts to improve the publishing experience for all of our authors."

The new changes make it a little easier to get to the information you want on the site and provides a better depth to the index and services. There is a new 'Special Savings and Offers' section with all the latest offers for saving money on publishing their publishing packages, marketing services, and top-rated books. The discounts and special offer promotional codes you often get posted to you in emails are becoming a crucial part of author solution services this year. Times are hard everywhere and many of the leading companies like AuthorHouse, iUniverse and Trafford (all owned by Author Solutions US) are pushing these with blanket marketing month to month. If you are seriously considering using these services then certainly it may be worth the additional spam emails (technically not spam as somewhere along the line you gave these author services your email) if it means getting a promotional code that knocks off $100. Better still keep updated with their websites, though the codes seem to come more often in the marketing emails.

The second press release deals with improvements to their service packages. Here is Tim Davies, MD of AuthorHouse again;

"By adding new paperback and hardback publishing options, we are providing our authors with increased flexibility – which is the primary attraction of self publishing. The offerings allow authors of all genres to publish their books quickly and professionally."

Their new 'Basic Paperback' publishing package at £795 includes the following features:

Professional one-on-one support
Custom full-colour cover
ISBN assignment
Online distribution
Custom interior design
More services if required

The 'Premium Hardback' publishing package at £1045 includes the following features:

All of the basic paperback services as well as a personalized back cover and five free hardcover copies, which in keeping with previous older packages by AuthorHouse seems very little for the extra £250 on the basic paperback.

My thoughts on what is now offered in the 'new' basic package begs one question. Wasn't AuthorHouse supposed to be giving their authors all that in the original packages?

Oh, well!

Borders UK Moving Closer To Complete Sale?

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James Thompson is reporting in this morning's Independent that struggling UK book retail chain Borders is in discussions with equity firm, Hilco, with the target being the aquisition of all 46 UK stores. Valco Capital, part of Hilco, intent maintaining the book retailer as a going concern. The aquisition would include Books Etc and Borders Express stores.

We reported yesterday on Border's decision to sell the leases of five stores including their flagship Oxford St store to a fashion retailer New Look.

This is unlikely to be the last word in the speculation about the sale of Borders UK and their are believed to be at least two other companies behind the scenes also in dicussion with the retailer.

New Publishers In Hard Times

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You would be forgiven for thinking in these hard-pressed times that anyone starting a new commercial publishing venture must be on something stronger and more refreshing than tea or coffee. The current economic challenges to the publishing industry have been covered here and in many other places, ad nauseam, so you will be glad to know for a change we won’t be going down that much-travelled road. But yes, there are new publishing ventures at the moment, in spite of the current climate which suggests if you have a business of any sort, no matter how strong your core client lists are – it is still time to batten down the hatches for a long dry summer.

Colin Robinson and John Oakes didn’t feel this way and back in April we covered their new publishing venture OR Books which is set to be launched shortly. Their basic premise is to stick to modest print runs, viral marketing, print on demand production and ebooks to help increase the capital they have available to market each title – they are talking in the ballpark of $50 – 75k, and even recession aside, for a small publisher, that is impressive. Only yesterday someone emailed me about the OR Books article and suggested I was being a little cynical and harsh on these new ventures. Perhaps I was, but it is borne out of a genuine concern for all involved — as much as I wish any new publisher or author service well – these things have a knack of going belly-up after a year or two and leave many disgruntled authors in their wake. There is nothing worse than a well-meaning publisher to take on authors, rally a decent initial salvo into the world of independent publishing, only to fall flat on their faces, looking undignified, with their new business model stretched to the point it is in tatters. Outside their windows, a mob of desperate authors gather to try and regain their books publishing rights so they can move on from the sorry mess.

I said at the start of this piece that the natural thought is to assume new publishing ventures do not happen at times like these. Well, actually, nothing could be further from the truth, that is, if you follow the logic through. There are a lot of publishing personnel at the moment kicking stones in the morning on their long walks with the dog in the park. You can only feed the ducks so much and pretty soon the kids and grandkids get sick of the sight of you calling round for a bun and a chat even when you bring the buns!

Yes, we might have cast cursory slights at those out-of-work editors and marketers when they toiled away in publishing houses beyond the burly shoulders of their gatekeepers, but the fact is many editors and founders of small press publishers started out at large commercial houses, beavering away with trays of tea until they earned their studs and were allowed to tackle the slush piles of manuscripts. They earned and got their wings before they flew. Some went on to start literary agencies, PR marketing companies, a few grew old and retired to the seaside to stoke long-haired pussy cats and dream of the day they opened a manuscript on their desk and saw the name Hemmingway, Heaney, Patterson or King. Others, when they feel the hobnail boot of the recession kick them out of their established publishing nests, pause for a moment and contemplate the shower of rain upon them, smell the aroma of the side street gutter, dust themselves off and start afresh. Rediscovered passion married with a sharp inventive mind and the love of books, just for the sake of books sometimes does that to a fellow or a gal.

Liz Calder lived over her family's grocery in Edgware until she was eleven years of age. She began travelling around the world and became a model and journalist in Brazil before returning to England and getting into the publishing industry. She quickly demonstrated a gift for identifying outstanding writers and carved out a reputation at Jonathan Cape Publishers before she became a co-founder of Bloomsbury Publishing; ultimately spotting the talents of J. K. Rowling and launching the Harry Potter series on the world. She has also launched the careers of Rushdie, Barnes and Brookner, and she was the first UK publisher to snap up John Irving. So, why do I mention Liz Calder?

Calder has started a new publishing venture called Full Circle Editions in the UK. The venture is being founded by Calder, her husband, Louis Baum, a former editor at thebookseller, and two TV producers, John and Genevieve Christie. The first book to be published by Full Circle Editions is a book of poetry called ‘The Burning of the Books’ by poet George Szirtes and artist Ronald King. This first offering is meant to cement Full Circle Editions as a publisher of physically beautiful books inside and outside. The book itself comes in a slipcase and is printed on high quality cream paper with fold out sections. You feel Full Circle Editions are reflecting back to book publishing a hundred years ago when it seemed each published title was unique physically as well as by its content.

It is difficult to say how esoteric and indulgent an offering Full Circle Editions will prove to be, and when we discover this, it will perhaps tell us how long the venture will last. Ultimately, if it is to be successful, it must at first embrace the tastes and delicacies of its founders, carve its mark, but like all endearing and lasting imprints, it must develop its own identity as defined by its authors if it is to survive and raise its head above the mainstream publishing mulch. Liz Calder’s reputation goes before her and there is no one in the industry that deserves to be more indulgent and original in the industry with a new publishing venture, yet, Full Circle Editions faces the same challenges as all new publishers will face this year and any other year.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Boyd Morrison - Self Publishing Success

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The internet is a flutter today about the news that self-published author Boyd Morrison with the help of his agent has landed a two book deal with Simon & Schuster. Boyd Morrison has been selling his books on his website and also through Amazon's Kindle. What is very clear about Morrison is he is a deft hand at promoting his books and has an excellent on line presence and website. The deal includes his current book, The Ark, which he was previously giving as a free ebook earlier this year, and another adventure book based on a character called, Tyler Locke.

The Ark will be published in hardcover in 2010.

His announcement from his website

"Now the big news: Today I received confirmation from my agent that The Ark will be published in hardcover in summer 2010 by Simon and Schuster’s Touchstone imprint. I couldn’t be more excited! The two-book deal is for The Ark and the next book in the Tyler Locke series, so Locke’s adventures will definitely be continuing. I also have book deals in seven other countries so far. We’re still working on The Palmyra Impact and The Adamas Blueprint, but those will be back in readers’ hands at some point."

...when it comes down to the bottom line, you have to have faith that your work will speak for itself. You can’t force or plan positive word of mouth. It just has to happen, and I was lucky enough to experience that with my books."

Boyd Morrison, from his website and his own words.

And I am reminded tonight of John Lenahan, by April Hamilton, for his latest book sold to Harper Collins last week.

2010, Galleycat Interview.

Author Advances Come Tumbling Down?

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Back in May on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing I wrote a couple of articles about publishing advances and the reasons why they might one day be a thing of the past and the implications if more publishers continue to reduce or suspend paid advances altogether.

Well, Jack Malvern, writing in the entertainment section of The Times reports that authors are starting to see their advances reduced by anything up to a quarter of what was paid to them two years ago.

“Among the hardest hit are historians, who have found that books that would previously have earned them an advance of £120,000 are now commanding only £30,000. Some academics have turned from serious history to historical fiction to earn more money.”

In light of the downturn in publishing, it does seem a risky business for our academic writers to move from historical texts to the mainstream of historical fiction. While the financial kudos may remain more attractive at the moment – this may not continue for much longer with more publishers trimming back on scheduled titles and in some cases suspending any more commissions and even closing their doors to any kind of submissions for 2009.

The implication in Malvern’s piece from The Times and some of the authors he quotes is that publishers could use the recession to take advantages of authors. One writer quoted states:

“I know a very successful female historian hawking a book on a very marketable topic who was only offered £25,000 for three years of work. It’s pretty serious when something like that happens. There is no reason for it, because book sales are only down by about 5 per cent, which compared to shares and so on is hardly anything.”

The same seems to go for large chain stores now centrally ordering as much as a quarter of what they may have ordered on a new release title a year or two ago. The fact is that both publishers and retailers are holding back on any long-term committals and this may not change for a year or two.

Borders Closing Five Stores: Oxford St And Blanchardstown Included

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Borders are closing five of its stores in the UK and Ireland. The stores closing include its flagship store on London's Oxford Street and also its Irish store in Blanchardstown, Dublin. The other three stores closing are Colney, in London, Swindon and Llantrisant in Wales.

Borders confirmed late on Monday, 13th July that all five stores will have large stock stock clearance sales in over the coming weeks and they have relayed some of their stock plans back to publishers in an emailed communication.

It is not known at this moment how many staff would be affected by the store closures or whether all staff can be moved to other operating stores. The dates of the closures have yet to be announced but all the leases have been sold on to a well-known fashion outlet. Clearwater Corporate Finance had been brought in by Borders management in the past few weeks to find additional investment in the company.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Legend Press Takes Control of New Generation Publishing

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Publisher Legend Press has taking control of print-on-demand publisher, New Generation Publishing. New Generation Publishing had been administered by the writer's website YouWriteOn. New Generation Publishing operating this free publishing service for unpublished writers but the service has been dogged by delays and criticism that the publishing service was in some way connected to the English Arts Council and receiving financial sponsorship. Much of that criticism was shipped in the direction of YouWriteOn.

Clearly the take over of the service by Legend Press has been in the pipeline for quite a while as Tom Chalmers, MD of Legend Press, confirmed that a number of changes had already been made in the service to improve it.

The service originally administered by New Generation Publishing offered a free POD print service for unpublished authors and included listing on The first books were published just before last Christmas.

PODTV - Program 10: London Book Fair 2009 - Digital Book Publishing Discussion

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For our tenth program in PODTV we return to a news item we covered in April. Hosted by the BBC Media Correspondent, Torin Douglas and a panel of Gail Rebuck, Chairman and CEO, The Random House Group Limited. Tim Hely-Hutchinson, Hachette. John Makinson, Chairman and Chief Executive , The Penguin Group. Victoria Barnsley, Publisher and Chief Executive, HarperCollins.

This was one of the most talked about debates over the entire London Book Fair.

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.

So sit back and make your own mind up on this illuminating discussion.

Part One,

Part two,

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Lulu's Faux Pas & WritersWeekly Article

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Angela Hoy over on has posted in this week's edition on Writersweekly about the growing concerns some authors are experiencing with Lulu's quality of service and shipping charges. While Angela does not go into a great amount of detail in her article, she does carry links from Lulu's own forum from many disgruntled authors. Her article title very much sets the tone - 'Has Lulu Gotten Too Big For Its Britches?'. She also reports an increase in the amount of authors requesting to move books over from Lulu to Booklocker, that maybe a little gamesmanship on her part in the ruff and tumble of POD publishing, and I also have experience of this turnabout, but I suspect far more authors are moving their books over to Createspace.

We have touched a number of times on this issue and even got some direct responses from Nick Popio of Lulu, here and here and here and, eh, once again, here. It is a personal concern to me as well as many authors. I have posted numerous positive articles over the past two years about my own books with our series 'Adventures With Lulu'. Only recently I purchased several copies of my own books for a book club promotion and to my horror discovered they were cheaper to get from than directly from Lulu.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with Lulu, but with the recent changes, staff layoffs and technical 'faux pas' - that is shooting yourself in the foot in English - hand on heart, I'd have to draw a serious reservation under Lulu if I were to bring out another self-published book. This from an author solutions company I would have considered 'Grade A' material up till a few months ago. I will finish with a few more of Angela Hoy's thoughts;

"Lulu used to have a pretty good reputation. Heck, I even used to refer authors to them. No more! Since they've grown so large, started using different printers, and laid off a chunk of their staff last year, things appear to be not-so-rosy at Lulu these days. Have they grown so big that they can't keep up with their authors' needs anymore?"

Angela Hoy, July 8th, 2009 - 'Has Lulu Gotten Too Big For Its Britches?'

Your own comments and experiences are welcome here.

Matador Launch Sales Representation For Books

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One of the biggest criticisms of the self-publishing service model of business is the distinct lack of direct sales representation to high street stores for these kinds of books, rendering few self-published books real shelf space. While the stigmas of self-publishing may be gradually lifting over the past few years, book retailers are more comfortable with the tried and trusted method of dealing on a weekly basis with a sales representative. Their purpose is to ‘sell in’ the latest new releases and back catalogue listings to the retail trade’s book buyers from the largest chain stores like Borders and Waterstones to the small family-owned independent bookstores. The sales representative is at the front-line of the publishers business and is key to the success of any kind of publisher who is serious about the business of selling books rather than services to authors. This is of particular importance when those book titles are specialised non-fiction and a distribution sales team can bring expertise beyond just the knowledge of book publishing itself. Some distributors are set up just to deal with self-help/spiritual books or academic titles and a distributor will often represent a dozen different publishers but all dealing in specific genres.

Many, if not most self-publishing services publishing books for authors concentrate their attentions on book sales through on line mediums like, and through their own on line website store. While the growth in on line sales and ebooks continues to increase year on year, it remains considerably less than 10%, even in the United States of America. So when a self-publishing service can put in place a dedicated sales team to sell books to brick and mortar stores—that is something self-publishing authors need to take serious note of when choosing a service, particularly if they have a book with wide appeal. Writing a good marketable book is one thing and a great achievement in itself, but getting it to the attention of your potential reader is an entirely different hurdle. Yes, there are media reviews, particularly newspapers and magazines, but there is no hard and fast way to tell what benefit reviews have on furthering the sales of a book. The strongest method the publisher has is media advertisements and their sales distribution team. No serious publisher can stand much hope of achieving large and significant sales of a title without these. There are of course exceptions—a well run and targeted viral campaign can work, but it takes expertise and an author with a strong on line presence.

We reviewed Matador, the self-publishing imprint of Troubador Publishing some months ago—you can see the review here. They have launched a direct sales representation to sell their self-published titles to retail bookshops in the UK. Star Book Sales will represent 150 of Matador’s leading titles with a team of eight professional book representatives up and down the UK each year. Based in Exeter, Star Book Sales already represent a number of other independent publishers including Cadmos Books, Redcliffe Press, Evans Mitchell Books, Parker House Publishing and Leonardo Publishing. Troubador Publishing’s Managing Director, Jeremy Thompson, contacted POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing today to tell us about this new development.

“This really is excellent news for us and our authors, and is an important step in our commitment to provide quality self-publishing services under our Matador imprint. The retail industry has always had sales reps, whatever sort of product is being sold, and for good reason. A sales rep knows the product, can sell one-to-one to a retailer, and has the logistical back-up to ensure orders arrive promptly. I don’t think the influence that a sales rep has on what a retailer buys for stock should be underestimated.

The problem of course is that retailers don’t like taking risks and, historically, the stumbling block for self-published authors has been that retailers have been reluctant to stock self-published titles. This has been partly because the quality of many self-published books has been poor (content and presentation), and because people have erroneously assumed that all self-published books are printed ‘on demand’ – certainly not the case for most of Matador’s titles. But attitudes to self-publishing are changing, and companies like Matador are demonstrating that good quality self-published books can hold their own in the books trade.

People have erroneously assumed that all self-published books are printed ‘on demand’ – certainly not the case for most of Matador’s titles. But attitudes to self-publishing are changing, and companies like Matador are demonstrating that good quality self-published books can hold their own in the books trade.”

Matador already use Orca Book Services for its book distribution and with the addition of Star Books for its sales representation. It sees them well placed not only in the self-publishing book market, but the book market in general.

Matador is a selective self-publisher in what books it takes on and in 2008 published 150 new titles, with 200 titles scheduled for 2009. They recently celebrated 10 years in the business at the recent London Book Fair in April and continue to test the boundaries of self-publishing, including bucking the trend with many more titles produced through off-set print runs rather than the print-on-demand digital set-up used by many other author solution services. In researching author solution services, I’ve found the off-set print runs more common with UK companies than those companies based in the USA.

You can see the Matador press release here about the launch of their direct sales distribution to bookstores.

Apex Publishing UK - Reviewed

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Apex Publishing Limited is an independent international book publisher based in the UK. They were first established in 2002 and offer an ‘author subsidy service’ to established and new authors. Their list of published authors very much reflects this, and thought they published a wide variety of books; they have a notable interest and commitment to books in the sporting, biography, lifestyle and true crime genres. This in itself sets Apex Publishing apart from many other ‘anything published but the kitchen sink’ variety of author solution companies.

Mike Gray, published by Apex Publishing on Sky News in April 2009 discussing his book on Ronnie Biggs

I cannot emphasise enough in these reviews how important first impressions of a publisher are to a discerning author. The quality and professional appearance of the book product as well as the publisher’s website are critical. Writers, nor agents don’t go trouping around knocking on the door of publishing houses in the high street, so the publisher’s corporate image is the website—the shop window if you like. A writer, whether they are on line browsing Penguin, Random House or even the most dedicate independent small press operation, do not expect to reach a company’s page and see neon lights and arty flash media advertisements offering the latest, ‘we can’t be beaten’, ‘50% off our basic author package this month’, and ‘Prices slashed on our Gold Program’. They want to see books first and foremost. They want to believe that a company offering author services is still interested in books and the sale of those books to the general reading public. It is an expectation that does not need to reach the dizzy heights of rocket science to be easily understood. My biggest concern with Apex Publishing is that they do not make it clear enough to perspective authors that a fee may inevitable involved if they have a manuscripted accepted.

The Apex Publishing website is plentiful with links to author appearances, latest author news, events, interviews, reviews, and yes, books—available as well as those forthcoming. The Google blurb when you search and find their site immediately alerts you to the fact that we are dealing with an independent subsidy publisher, and on the website itself displays links which explains Apex Publishing’s process of submission and book publication from the point of view of the author. Apex Publishing made sure this was included in the meta-links when they designed the website. I take the opportunity to place great emphasis at the start of this publisher review only because Apex Publishing demonstrate how it should be done without compromising their own process of publishing using the author subsidy method, though, as I have said above, the message of fees is simply to watered down and has the potential to mislead authors inexperienced with publishing that no fees are charged.

“Let us help you to smooth the publishing pathway from manuscript to bookshop shelf and fulfil your dream of seeing your book in print.”

This is the first ‘slip’ by Apex Publishing. I am not a lover of the ‘dream about your book in print’ method of advertising by author solution companies.

“We hope you find all the information you require on our website, but if you have any other queries about becoming an Apex Publishing Ltd author, please do not hesitate to email us at: or telephone: 01255 428500.

They redeem themselves quickly by not indulging in the ‘don’t call us, just email and preferably on any day of the week with the letter ‘x’ in it.

“Who are we?

Apex Publishing Limited, an independent international book publisher, was established in 2002 by a team of professionals with many years in the publishing industry behind them. We have grown from strength to strength and have quickly gained a firm footing in a competitive marketplace, now specialising in publishing and promoting the works of established, well-respected authors as a result of our excellent reputation, professionalism and dedicated customer service.

Our overall aim is to create best-selling books, maximise sales and continually build on our success through the maintenance of high publishing standards.”

Nice punt, but it does vex me a little when companies talk of ‘professionals with many years in the publishing industry behind them’ without actually telling us who exactly, when and where. Names and professional credits would have greatly helped their case here.

“Please note that, in terms of works of fiction, certain areas of this market (e.g. poetry, short stories and children’s books) are already saturated with established names and thus can prove a harder market to penetrate as an unknown novelist. Debut authors should therefore set themselves realistic and achievable goals in this respect. That said, a truly talented and skillful new writer has every chance of succeeding in placing him/herself on the ladder as one of the crème de la crème of published authors, and we will do everything in our power to turn your work into a polished piece and actively promote it in every way we can.”

Sound, honest advice we are more used to hear from large traditional publishing houses, but the proof will be in the service Apex Publishing actually offer and the success they have had with previously published books. A look at their lists suggests there is some validity in their claim, but where the effort and expense comes from—we shall hopefully discover in this review.

“We also provide all administration, marketing, public relations, shop information, warehousing and rights selling, and have access to professional editors, cover designers, printers and, most importantly, distributors.

In addition, most of our publications are reviewed by the famous and well known and many include forewords written by them. An initial print-run of books typically stands at 500 copies. Future runs will incorporate any favourable review comments on the back cover to assist in increasing book sales.”

Apex Publishing’s YouTube Link.

Some of their books have been reviewed and included forwards by established writers, broadcasters, reviewers and journalists. This is not just impressive, but is, in effect, publishing as any form of traditional publishing goes. The sceptic in me is waiting for the clanger, the skeleton in the cupboard, the naked lady, the £10,000 subsidy price tag, thank you very much, ching, ching.

The submission process is pretty much a formal one. Email submissions are not accepted and manuscripts are mailed along with a submission form which can be found at the link provided.

Effectively, Apex Publishing do not accept all manuscripts, and make any ‘offer of publication’ based on their review of the manuscript. The offer can vary, and that means the costs the author will be expected to contribute.

“We offer all kinds of contracts, and these may vary according to the terms offered.”

The offer of publication will include editing, pre-production, print, promotion and marketing, as well as full distribution.


This covers:
• copy-editing
• review of proofs
• typesetting
• proofreading
• cover design
• back cover synopsis
• printing and binding
• cover lamination
• bar-coding ready for retail sale
• ISBN registration
• forwarding complimentary copies to the author

Marketing, Sales & Distribution:

This covers:
• distribution of flyers/advance information sheets to agents and booksellers
• contact with booksellers and overseas distributors and agents
• distribution of copies to reviewers and as required by the Copyright act to:
o The British Library
o The Bodleian Library, Oxford
o The University Library, Cambridge
o The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
o The Library of Trinity College, Dublin
o The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
• distribution to local and national libraries
• sending review copies to local/national newspapers
• sending review copies to local/national radio/TV shows
• providing information to press Internet sites
• follow-up on local newspaper coverage
• approaching local bookshops to stock and arrange a book signing
• placing on worldwide Internet sites
• providing information to ordering systems in most bookshops
• providing author with book information cards, flyers and covers
• submit books to television production companies
• submit books to various book competitions/awards

I am seeing a potentially lighter wallet for the author after all this if an offer of publication is made and it is a subsidy contract, and I have to say, the sceptic in me is also saying vanity in a quiet voice. If an author is going to have to subsidise the publication of their book—I’d rather the publisher be open about how many noughts are coming out of my bank account if I am to believe all the above detail is going to be implemented by my subsidy publisher.

“12. What about my royalties?

Authors receive royalties on all books that are sold, initially amounting to 20% of all money received from book sales.”

If an author is going to pay a four figure sum for the publication of their book, then there are two ways of looking at their expenditure. To a reputable subsidy publisher—the 20% seems low if the author’s financial input ranges much beyond £1000. A more appropriate model of publishing is partnership publishing discussed in reviews of Pen Press UK and Matador UK. The royalties with these companies are considerably higher than 20%, often as high as 50%. The other way of looking at this outlay is that of old style 1980’s and 1990’s vanity publishing models. Apex Publishing are not in the vanity game, but much will sway for their potential authors dependent on what financial outlay they are going to invest in their book and the belief they hold in it to sell well and recoup the financial input.

My last impressions of Apex Publications are of a sound subsidy press who will charge more than many other subsidy services, but in their specific specialised genres, particularly sports, there is no doubt that they have a proven track record in being able to market an author’s book. They fly in the face of those who say author solution companies cannot specialise in certain genres and will simply ‘publish anything’. This is not the case here, though I would suggest to authors considering them that their financial outlay may be more than they expect, and that the fiction genre would not be ideally suited here.

RATING: 6.2/10

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