Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Author Solutions & Smashwords Sign Ebook Distribution Deals With Sony

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Sony Electronics has signed deals with self-publishing behemoth Author Solutions and ebook platform Smashwords to distribute their ebooks through Sony's own online epub portal. This has the potential to be a huge step forward for self-publishing authors using the family of companies owned by Author Solutions. They include iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Wordclay. Exact details of how the new deal with Sony Electronics will work regarding the companies owned by Author Solutions has yet to be disclosed.

“We’re thrilled to help power the new Sony Publisher Portal. The free Smashwords service makes it easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to distribute their eBooks via the eBook Store from Sony. Authors and publishers simply upload their manuscript to Smashwords as a Microsoft Word document, select the price, and then we manage the conversion and distribution.”

Mark Croker, CEO of Smashwords.

“Author Solutions is pleased to work with Sony to make our titles available through the Sony eBook store. ASI is the leader in the fastest-growing segment in book publishing — bringing to market more than 20,000 new titles annually. To best serve our authors, it is imperative that we make their content available digitally to a multitude of readers."

Kevin Weiss, CEO of Author Solutions Inc.

This news is a further indication that Sony's epub format is the growing choice in electronic books.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

CreateSpace Launch Self-Publishing Packages

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It seems CreateSpace have decided to go down the same avenue of marketing their services as Lulu. Although CreateSpace offered many individual services to authors - their focus has shifted to the familiar self-publisher packages. While CreateSpace say the packages offer significant savings to authors when compared to their individual prices for each service - they are on the higher expense end when you compare them to their competitors. For example, their 'Total Design Freedom Essentials' has the following at $1658.

Total Design Freedom Essentials Includes

  • Basic Copyediting (1 Round)** – Let a professional editor review your manuscript and provide suggested corrections for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency.
  • Unique Book Cover – Collaborate with our design team to create an eye-catching cover with a single image, plus cover text, fonts, and your author photo.
  • Custom Interior – We'll incorporate your ideas on typography, text layout, decorative accents and chapter style into a professional, custom-designed book interior.
  • ISBN assignment (if you don't have your own) and barcode placement.
  • Online distribution through sales channels you select, including Amazon.com and your own eStore.

A basic copy edit for the average book of 60 - 80 k words should hit the $500 - $600 tops mark, so that is a lot of bucks for what remains on offer, custom cover and interior and ISBN, and online distribution.

You can check out the full details of the packages here.

Google Book Settlement - When Fairness Becomes Status

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As widely expected Judge Denny Chin has acceded to the request of the plaintiffs in the Google Book Settlement case and agreed to put back the date for the Fairness Hearing scheduled for October 7th. However, in its place, Judge Denny Chin will instead preside over what is now being declared as a 'status conference' on the same date.

Judge Chin said his decision to pursue the status conference were 'to determine how to proceed with the case as expeditiously as possible, as the case has now been pending for four years.'

It is hard to say if the Fairness Hearing will actually ever see the light of day. In effect, the Google Book Settlement has now been sent back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Apex Publishing Land David Van Day Autobiography

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Apex Publishing, a UK based subsidy/partnership publisher, say they have acquired the autobiography of singer and reality TV star, David Van Day. The autobiography, entitled 'Another Day, Another Dollar' is due for release in hardback next June and was co written with Derek Clements.

Van Day came to musical prominence in the 1980's with British pop groups Bucks Fizz and later Dollar. He more recently competed in the reality British TV show, ‘Celebrity Jungle - Get Me Out Of Here!’ and has led a colourful career from the highs of European chart success and celebrity status to the lows of cocaine use and bankruptcy.

Although Apex Publishing did not disclose details of the publishing deal with Van Day, it is certainly another coup for the subsidy publisher whose particular strength is in the genres of sport and autobiographies.

Opposition Group Declare Google Book Settlement 'is dead'

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Lawyers representing the US Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers in the Google Book Settlement have formally requested the US Federal Court to postpone the date for the Fairness Hearing scheduled for October 7th. This follows last week statement by the US Justice Department that the Google Book Settlement should be rejected.

Instead, lawyers for the US Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers, backed by Google, have proposed that there be a 'status conference' on November 6th. Lawyers argue that the plaintiffs now need time to address the concerns expressed by the US justice Department.

As of yet, Justice Denny Chin has made no response to these latest developments in the case or how all parties should proceed. The Open Book Alliance, an opposition group to the Google Book Settlement, which includes both Amazon and Microsoft, has stated that the 'settlement, as we know it, is dead'.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

US Department of Justice Kicks Google Book Settlement Into The Ditch

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The US Department of Justice may very well have dealt the Google Book Settlement, as it stands in current form, the final and fatal blow in its statement released late yesterday, Friday, September 18th. In no uncertain terms, the Department of Justice declares that the Google Book Settlement should be rejected.

"As presently drafted the proposed settlement does not meet the legal standards this court must apply. This court should reject the proposed settlement and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws."

Google themselves say they will address the findings of the Department of Justice in the up and coming October hearing. It is hard to see Judge Denny Chin of the Federal District Court veering too far away from the sentiments and wishes of the Department of Justice and we may find all parties on both sides of the argument in for some long months of re-negotiations.

Friday, 18 September 2009

On Demand Books Add Google List to EBM

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On Demand Books, the company behind the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) have announced that they have now added Google's public domain list to their database of available books. On Demand already have 1.8 million titles available through their POD database including most of Lightning Source's listing.

On Demand Books continues the roll out and promotion of The Espresso Book Machines and they will appear in select bookstores over the next two months in Michigan, Massachusetts, Washington and Vermont.

Locations of Espresso Book Machine in North America.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Federal Court Judge To Decide on Google Fairness Hearing Format

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Federal Court Judge, Denny Chin, presiding over the Google Book Settlement fairness hearing, scheduled for October 7th, has received in the region of 400 objection submissions to his office up to the deadline last week. With this amount of objections, Judge Chin has indicated he may have to consider imposing limitations on the amount of speakers and strict time controls during the hearing in Manhattan.

In light of this, he has requested those wishing to speak must submit a written request to his offices before a deadline of Monday, September 25th. Submissions can be made directly to googlebookcase@nysd.uscourts.gov

Hachette Livre Form POD Partnership With Lightning Source

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Lightning Source, the global provider of physical and digital services to the book industry, are teaming up with Hachette Livre France to create a large print on demand operation based at Hachette’s distribution. The POD service will have the potential to provide any books on their database to the French book market. Hachette hope to have the new operation up and running in early 2010 and will mean in theory French bookshops will be able to order previously out of print titles.

Initially, the service will be limited to publishers from the Hachette Group and customers already using the French distribution centre, but there are plans to extend the service to any independent publisher in the second stage of development.

"The joint venture with Lightning Source in France is a strategic move that will allow Hachette to make leading edge digital technology available to all its business partners, no matter how small. Its implications are considerable. No book entered into the program will ever be out of print. The turnaround between incoming order and shipping is so short that copies can be delivered to point of sale as fast as if they were pulled from inventory, and mint-like in terms of quality. It is the perfect solution for low volume backlist and out-of-print books. At a time when "out of print" books are the subject of much attention, POD offers a convincing solution. I am delighted we could partner with the world’s leader in this technology, and look forward to a long, successful relationship."

Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and CEO of Hachette Livre.

Hachette Livre, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lagardère SCA, is the world’s second largest trade book publisher with sales of €2,159 million ($3.175 million). It is #1 in France, #1 in the UK, #2 in Spain and #5 in the USA. It publishes over 17,000 new titles a year under more than one hundred different imprints in a dozen languages, but mainly in French, English and Spanish. It covers all segments of trade publishing: General fiction and non-fiction, mass market pocket books, books for young readers, illustrated books, travel guides, school books, as well as partworks. Its headquarters are in Paris, France. Visit the web site at http://www.hachette.com/

Lightning Source Inc. is part of Ingram Content Group Inc. which provides a broad range of physical and digital services to the book industry. Ingram’s operating units are Ingram Book Company, Lightning Source Inc., Ingram Digital, Ingram Periodicals Inc., Ingram International Inc., Ingram Library Services Inc., Spring Arbor Distributors Inc., Ingram Publisher Services Inc., Tennessee Book Company LLC, Coutts Information Services, and Ingram Marketing Group Inc. For more information, visit http://www.lightningsource.com/ and http://www.ingramcontent.com/

The full press release can be read on Authorlink News here.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Lulu Publishing Partner Program – Marriage of Convenience or Masterstroke?

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I try to keep updated with as many newsworthy items and developments in the self-publishing world as much as possible, but occasionally something comes across my desk and either gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ pile or slips by in the quiet of night. I remember a couple of weeks ago coming across the headline to this Lulu press release while looking at Reuters business web pages and making a mental note to return to it that same day. It actually took Brian Scott’s posting today at Bookpublishingnews about the same press release to kick-start my recollection of it. In fact, I’m a little taken aback that baring the normal on line PR Web sources for these press releases like CNBC, Newswire, Yahoo Business and the like—very few have picked up on it or read any significance into it.

Here is the start of the original press release from the first day of September:

"RALEIGH, N.C., September 1 — Lulu, the marketplace for digital content on the Internet, today announced a new partnership program designed to maximize revenue for partner organizations while expanding the availability of its feature-rich tools and services for authors seeking hassle-free publishing.

‘We want to build mutually beneficial relationships with true partners,’ said Harish Abbott, Lulu’s Senior Vice President of Products. ‘Helping authors succeed is what Lulu is all about, and we’re excited to partner with groups that share the vision.’

The Lulu Publishing Partner Program supplies participating U.S. organizations and companies with a branded Web page to register members and customers with Lulu and a branded online marketplace to sell and promote their works. Lulu Publishing Partners can share in the success of their associated authors for a lifetime, receiving a portion of revenue from all services purchased and books sold.

The program lets partners expand their offerings while helping authors overcome typical sales and marketing challenges to reach a wider audience. And it’s all backed by Lulu, which has deep expertise in technology and the online marketplace.

‘We were astounded to see the Lulu Publishing Partner program was crafted to meet all our requirements,’ said Bruce May, CEO of The Expert Knowledge Network. ‘Needless to say, we are extremely satisfied with the Publishing Partner Program and look forward to future success as we grow our own publishing business with the support of Lulu and their fantastic team of professionals.’"


The Lulu Publishing Partner program has actually been in operation since August and two of Lulu’s significant new partners are The Expert Knowledge Network and Authorsden. It is noticeable that any news service or commentary on Lulu’s program has been circumspect and adhered largely to the detail contained in the press release without any great appraisal. This lack of appraisal is understandable in a new business extension and the past twelve months have brought their share of economic challenges, staff cut backs, software and application improvements, and a general realignment of their author services—not to mention a few of ‘faux pas’ along the way which has not always endeared them to their self-published band of authors.

Lulu lists the selling points of the program to potential publishing partners as follows:

Make Money.

Up to 15% commissions

Lifetime revenue sharing on author sales and purchases

Engage your authors

Help your authors publish and sell

Build a more connected author community

Expand your capabilities

Free print publishing platform

Custom branded marketplace

Exclusive partner discounts on Lulu.com

Custom Marketplace

Promote and sell your authors’ books in a unique, dynamically-updated marketplace

View a live partner marketplace

Encourage your members to join your program. Any member who has not published with Lulu and/or joined another Lulu program is eligible to sign up with your program

Partner Author

80% creator revenues from book

Free ISBN and listing on Amazon.

Exclusive coupons and discounts on Lulu.

Access to Lulu's diverse range of premium publishing, marketing, and distribution services

All revenue generated by qualified partner authors is shared with the partner organization. See details below

Revenue Sharing

The details of the Lulu Publishing Partner program is described as a ‘mechanism’ for organisations to register members as Lulu authors and earn a share of the lifetime revenue generated by those authors' book sales and the services the authors purchase. For me—while Lulu may mean any organisation from government departments, corporate bodies, to a workshop of local writers—it is more likely the ‘organisations’ who will most avail of this program will be small presses and independent publishers. It is no secret that a number of small presses already use Lulu as a print service for their books, and while the platform is not ideal, it serves its purpose for a publisher with a handful of titles per year. Lulu may not be specific out who they are aiming this program at, but they are succinct about whom it is not intended for.

"*Currently, this program is open to U.S. companies only. Individual authors are not eligible."

My understanding from reading the information provided by Lulu also indicates that it is not intended for authors already using Lulu’s publishing services. Quite how the exclusion of these authors will work, I’m not quite so sure, particularly if they sign up to a service like say, Authorsden. This program also looks like a renewed effort by Lulu to bring in more authors through a third party and strengthen their Marketplace branding. If I could nail this program down with a definitive description, I would say it is a combination (and reaction to) Amazon’s Marketplace and Amazon’s POD printer/publisher, Booksurge.

Time will tell how successful a move this will be for Lulu, but I believe it to be one of the most significant developments in the self-publishing industry this year, and as far as new partnerships and opportunities go—it could prove to be a masterstroke for Lulu


Infinity Publishing US - Reviewed

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There is one factor which singles out Infinity Publishing from many other author solutions services. From the very beginning, in 1997, Infinity Publishing did all their POD printing in-house and offered authors a non-exclusive contract. They describe what they do as ‘originated book publishing’, but the self-publishing industry and the world at large doesn’t really need another way to describe an author solutions service.

I do like Infinity Publishing’s basic premise that the author pays a one-off fee to have their book file set up with them for print, distribution and sale. Whatever service the author chooses to avail of and add on is at their own discretion.

"We offer professionally designed and quality printed promotional materials for our authors as well as highly respected marketing books that will help you find your audiences. Our newsletters, author advocates, conferences and wealth of online articles featuring expert advice and successful campaign strategies focus on teaching authors how to be effective in their efforts to promote and market their published books. Infinity is responsible for publishing and distributing books on demand to fill orders generated by the authors' efforts."

The last line of the above quote from Infinity Publishing is the most important for me and should be for any author considering using an author solutions service—be it Infinity or any other service. Infinity can provide the printed product, accompanying marketing materials; perhaps even help with an author’s own promotion and networking, but ultimately, Infinity are an aid to self-publishing authors, and not a replacement to all the facets of commercial publishing.

Infinity say they keep a replenished ‘micro’ inventory of books printed and can ship no later than 48 hours to customers and all of their books are ‘guaranteed returnable from bookstores’. Many POD author services do not include a returns option of physical books from bookstores, and the few who do, charge a fee in the range of $400 to $800. Infinity pay royalties on a monthly basis (again, highly unusual for other services) on the selling price, 30% of retail price sold directly to customers through their own bookstore, 15% on sales to wholesale and on line sales, and 10% on purchases by the author at a 40% discount.

For the package above, Infinity Publishing includes the following:
Custom cover and internal template (author may provide artwork/images)
ISBN assignment
Books in Print listing
On line distribution and database listing
Web page on Infinity’s bookstore
Returns facility
1 author copy
Micro inventory held (at least one copy)
Monthly Royalties

It should be noted that the above package does not include listing with Ingram, because by default, unlike most other author solutions services, Infinity do not need to use Lightning Source/Ingram, so they do charge an additional fee of $149 for listing with them. Infinity includes other additional add-on services which you can check out here:

The retail price of Infinity books are competitive—I would expect nothing less from an author solutions service who do their own printing, however, when you look at the discounts and math, on an average 200+ page paperback priced at $12 to $14, authors are still being charged $6 to $7 per book they buy for their own needs and distribution. That is pretty steep if you are planning to be a self-publishing millionaire!

Infinity Publishing offers a cd insertion option (useful for children’s illustrated books and business books) as well as an audio book option and editing services.

Infinity Publishing’s website is very much the site of an author solutions service and there is no real advertising of books themselves. In fact, it is real struggle to get to the website which actually sells Infinity books direct. I don’t like that one bit and it is a serious mark against Infinity Publishing.

While Infinity Publishing provide plenty of contact details on their site from email and phone numbers, the site itself is at times difficult to navigate and get straight to the information you really want. I don’t like that either. All in all, Infinity Publishing is a sound and innovative company approaching author solutions in a creative and thoughtful way.

In some ways, Infinity are ahead of the opposition, and yet, in others, they lag behind with on line distribution and listing, royalty complexity, and difficult site presentation.

RATING: 6.6/10

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Don't Panic - Maintenance Over & Full Service Restored

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Apologies for the unscheduled downtime and maintenance on the site. Some 'spanner' in the office decided to 'try out' some alterations on our template and source coding resulting in the loss of more than half of our files and many of the site links.

We have loaded our back-up files and about 95% of the site is now restored and working fine. The 'spanner' in question is currently being strung up from the nearest tree and won't be doing any more 'testing' for quite some time!

Blurb - Reviewed (Updated - May 2014)

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I have re-edited the Blurb review and updated some separate material not originally included.

Blurb was founded by Eileen Gittens, a highly successful business woman with US global companies Kodak and Wall Data amongst others on her CV. She studied photography in her younger days and set up Blurb as on line self-publishing solutions company to serve the needs of both photographers and authors. In spite of all her success, she says Blurb is the most fun thing she has ever done. Fun is probably the best description of Blurb itself.

In 2007 Blurb produced 80,000 titles, with much of this output being a mixture of ‘coffee table’ photographic albums in book form ranging from the humble personal wedding album to the glossy corporate book brochure for high-flying architects and graphic artists. This is where Blurb wanted to pitch their business as a self-publishing alternative to the norms of ‘Aunt Maple’s Cookbook’ and ‘College Graduate’s Great American Novel’. Their last reported turnover was $30m, so we are not dealing with small potatoes here.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Are Amazon Overstepping their Mark with New SITB Policy? - GalleyCat Report

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There is an interesting report today over on GalleyCat which says they have seen a copy of an email sent out by a book distributor to its publishing clients informing them of a change in Amazon's policy on their Search Inside the Book (SITB) program. The new policy will require publishers to participate in SITB for all new books, with Amazon wanting PDF files to be loaded up to their database a minimum of 3 - 4 weeks in advance of a release date (if not sooner). As of yet no offical or wider communication has surfaced beyond this client email.

While many publishers participate in Amazon's SITB program, Galley Cat's Ron Hogan rightly points out that not all publishers may be so enamoured with the idea of this poilcy being compulsory or having previews of books available to the general buying public weeks, if not months in advance.

While some may consider it a small issue in the broader concerns at the moment for both publishers and authors, companies like Google and Amazon are having greater and greater control on the digitizing and availability of books. I for one see it as another step in the dominance on line and high street retailers are having in their efforts to seize control of books away from where they belong - that is - with the book publishing industry itself.

Google Will Allow Access & Resale To Retailers of Digital Database

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Like a heavy weight boxer in the ring taking a few well-targeted blows to the head, Google continues to defend its position and the strengths of the Google Books Settlement, while at the same time clarifying detailed points and casting out its own interpretation and concessions to the gathered crowds.

Yesterday, at the US congressional hearing on the settlement, Google confirmed that it intended to allow online retailers access to their database of out-of-print digital books. These retailers would be able to resell and keep ‘more than half’ of the proceeds from any sale after the deduction of the 67% share paid first to authors and publishers.

Gary Reback, an antitrust lawyer, representing a coalition of opponents to the deal, argued that this offer changed nothing in principal. ‘Other retailers will sell them, but Google will set the price at retail, so nothing changes. They still retain control, that’s the objectionable part–it would just extend their monopoly.’

The US Department of Justice will file its report and opinion on the settlement next Friday with the Federal District Court and Judge Denny Chin who is currently reviewing the submission of objections received this week.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Challenges & Future of Digital Publishing: Kassia Krozser of Booksquare

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In the publishing world, when a new venture goes pear-shaped, you might understand its founders making an about turn and scrambling for the seclusion of the nearest forest for 'quiet time'. Not so, Kassia Krozser, one of the founders of the now-no-more digital publisher, Quartet Press, and proprietor of Booksquare.

Today, she writes candidly and with great illumination on her summer with Quartet Press, the reasons for its demise and the future and challenges ahead for publishers embracing the digital platform. Hats off to her to hold her head up high and care enough to share her experiences. We might all learn something.

"...there is a real struggle between people who make books and people who buy books. The former haven’t worked out the logistics of the digital business. In their defense, ebook sales remain at the blip level on the financials. But they are growing, faster than any other segment of the book market.

The latter group, however, consists of savvy early adopters and newcomers who are developing expectations about pricing and quality. These new-to-ebook people are also learning about DRM, portability, and the loss of reader rights. As I’ve said before, it’s never a good thing for an industry when your customers are savvier and moving faster than you are. Publishers need to experiment, but they need to listen to customers."

You can read the rest of Kassia Krozser thoughts here.

POD TV - Program 15: Google Book Digitizing Debate

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This week PODTV features a fascinating discussion on Google's project of digitizing books and the ensuing objections to the Google Book Settlement.Hosted by the Computer History Museum, this discussion is entitled 'Information Technology and the Future of Books'.

Daniel Clancy, Engineering Director of Google Books, gives us the argument from Google's perspective and the implications he foresees for the business, publishing and academic communities.

John Hollar is CEO of the Computer History Museum and a former senior executive in the publishing industry. He draws upon his experience in books and online media to examine with Clancy what the Google Books agreement means for users' ability to access content online and the future of publishing.

In October 2008, Google and a broad class of authors and publishers announced an agreement to settle the lawsuits brought against Google Books. The lawsuits alleged copyright violation for scanning pages of copyrighted works for purposes of indexing and providing snippets.

If approved by the Federal District Court, the agreement, it is argued by its supporters, will offer unprecedented opportunities for users to access the wealth of information found in books and opens the door to greater information for users as well as introducing greater competition and innovation in the digital print market.

Its largest corporate opponents are Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as many publishers and authors, who argue that the agreement will give Google an unfair edge in selling books, in particular, out-of-print books.

In October 2009, the Federal District Court will hold a hearing to consider objections and determine whether the settlement is to be approved or not.

Here is the subject debated in July at the Computer History Museum.

Marion Boyars Publishing End Their Independent Odyssey

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Hells bells! It's turning out to be a grim week for independent publishers with news this morning that distinguished British publisher, Marion Boyars has taken the decision to wind down their operations and will finally close its doors in the middle of 2010. There will be just one further release in October from the publisher who brought us literary classics like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ by Ken Kesey and ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’ by Hubert Selby.

Catheryn Kilgarriff, who took over as Managing Director of the publisher from her father in 1999, announced the news this week to their trade customers. In recent times, Marion Boyars Publishing has become a two-person operation, with Kilgarriff running the company alongside senior editor, Rebecca Gillieron. Kilgarriff cited the modern demands of discounts to book retailers and the increasing costs of marketing new titles. Kilgarriff felt their independent spirit of publishing was being compromised and ‘in the end we were lucky just covering costs.’

Kilgarriff took the difficult decision to close Marion Boyars Publishing on a planned basis rather than seek outside investment or apply for funding from the British Arts Council because ‘I am independent in spirit.’

Marion Boyars Publishing began life as Calder & Boyars in the 1960’s before splitting from maverick publisher John Calder in 1975. Marion Boyars Publishing was known as a publisher of international independent and challenging fiction and non-fiction titles for many years. Their lists of classic titles have now been acquired by Penguin Classics and will be published in new editions throughout 2010 and 2011.

Quartet Press Concede 'financial structure flawed'

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Kat Meyer has spoken in an article late yesterday with Calvin Reid of Publishers Weekly and shed more light on the sudden closure of new digital publishing venture, Quartet Press.

Meyer, one of the founders of Quartet Press, conceded that the financial structure of the business was flawed and ultimately would not work, and rather than struggle, it was agreed to disband the company. The realisation of these inherent flaws came about following discussions with digital vendors.

"…we didn’t want to compromise and lower the quality. We’re all a little shocked but we knew we had to do this now or it would have been even more disappointing."

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Quartet Press Close Before The Door Opens

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Early last month we took a look at one of the most exciting and audacious new independent press ventures in digital publishing with our feature on Quartet Press. I think it is quite some time that a new independent press was greeted with such interest and general enthusiasm. Sadly, this within the last few hours...

“For a variety of reasons large and small, Quartet Press has decided to discontinue operations. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, a hard-working team, and the support of the community, things just don’t work out. This is one of those times. It’s disappointing to all of us, but it’s reality and we will all move on.

We are truly grateful to all of you who have wished us well. Your support and enthusiasm for our venture was humbling, and we hope you will not see our company’s disbanding as an indication that any of us doubt the viability of digital publishing. Far to the contrary — if nothing else, we have learned that the future of digital publishing, while overwhelmingly complex, will be bright indeed, and we will each be working toward that bright future via our individual efforts.”

Kat Meyer, Quartet Press, September 9th, 2009.

There is a lesson in this for everyone supportive and involved with Quartet Press, maybe even a lesson for those who chimed in on the ‘let’s wait and see the quality of books’, (Mrs Giggles Blog, Karen Knows Best), but now is not the time for finger pointing or singing the ‘told-ya-so’ chorus with a brimming smile. Setting up an independent press at any time brings with it uncertainties and no guarantees of success for publishers or authors—let alone attempting to establish one in a changing industry and in less than advantageous times.

Kat Meyer does not explain what has brought about the sudden demise of Quartet Press before a book has seen the light of day. The naysayers will suggest Quartet Press did not present a business model of digital publishing which set them apart from the crowd, but then, their business model never actually saw the light of day and it would be disingenuous to suggest this was the reason for their demise without knowing the full facts. More often than not, the success of most new businesses is based on the replication of an already tried and successful model—not the daring embracement of an untried one.

It will come as a hammer blow to the much respected Angela James who left her position as executive editor at Samhain Publishing to join Quartet Press as editorial director just last month. I wish the founders Kat, Kassia, Don and all their staff the best in their future endeavours. Spare a thought as well to the authors who may have been invigorated and excited about their projects with Quartet over the coming year. I’m reminded of what I wrote about Quartet early last month.

“I think for authors this is a case of wait and see, but above all I want Kassia and her publishers to succeed. We desperately need independent publishers at the moment in a world of magnolia publishing corporations!"

Guess we’ll find ourselves painting the place with magnolia once again this month. Some colours never look good no matter what light there is.

Dial 999 For Lulu Today!

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Not wanting to let a good marketing opportunity slip by, Lulu are offering a promotion for today (9/9/9). The offer is a $9 discount off 9 books ordered from them.

Long Nights in Frisco For Judge Chin in Google Settlement

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The deadline has passed for objections in the Google Books Settlement to be lodged with the US Fedral District Court in San Francisco. By the volume of objections submitted up to yesterday, it looks like Judge Denny Chin may have some long nights sifting through this legal minefield between now and September 18th, when the Justice Department weighs in with its own considered views.

Among the Google Settlement’s supporters in the past two days are the Sony Corporation and several civil rights groups, not to mention luminaries from the world of academia. Microsoft and Yahoo, who formed the Open Book Alliance, have lodged their own objections to the settlement.

A full hearing on the Google Settlement is due to take place on October 7th with the possibility that Judge Chin may look for some form of commitment from Google that they will license their digital database to third parties, and while that remains one possible option, whatever happens, this one could run and run for years to come.

Man Booker 2009 Submissions Guilty of 'sloppy editing'

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Here is an interesting aside from this week’s announcement of the shortlist for the Man Booker prize. We all know that self-published books often come in for some fair criticism about the standard of editing and at times the complete lack of editorial input. But according to the chairman of the Man Booker prize and BBC Radio 4 journalist, James Naughtie, books from prestigious publishing houses do not hold the moral ground entirely.

Naughtie described the submissions for the Man Booker award as a ‘vintage’ year, but criticised some books for ‘sloppy editing in some very good books’, and submissions also included ‘some bad books, and some awful books’. Naughtie was speaking after the announcement of this year’s shortlist.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Man Booker 2009 Shortlist Announced

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The shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize has just been announced with the betting favourite Hilary Mantel included in the six selected books. Never without its surprises, Colm Toibin and William Trevor have not made it into the final selection.

Chairman of the Man Booker Prize commented:

"We're thrilled to be able to announce such a strong shortlist, so enticing that it will certainly give us a headache when we come to select the winner. The choice will be a difficult one. There is thundering narrative, great inventiveness, poetry and sharp human insight in abundance. These are six writers on the top of their form. They've given us great enjoyment already, and it's a measure of our confidence in their books that all of us are looking forward to reading them yet again before we decide on the prize winner. What more could we ask?"

J M Coetzee is in line to win a remarkable third award should he prove successful when the winner is announced on Tuesday 6th, October at London’s Guildhall. The winning author will receive £50,000 and can look forward to greatly increased sales and worldwide recognition. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives £2,500 and a designer bound edition of their own book.

The six shortlisted books are:

A S Byatt, The Children's Book, Random House, Chatto and Windus
J M Coetzee, Summertime, Random House, Harvill Secker
Adam Foulds, The Quickening Maze, Random House, Jonathan Cape
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, HarperCollins, Fourth Estate
Simon Mawer, The Glass Room, Little, Brown
Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger, Little-Brown, Virago

Monday, 7 September 2009

Google Waver on Book Settlement in Europe

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The Google Corporation is a little unsteady on its feet at the moment and this weekend we have seen the first signs of a concession on the Google Book Settlement. The Financial Times is reporting that Google have agreed to a concession to European publishers and authors to have two non-US representatives on the board of the registry that will administer the settlement. The Financial Times claim to have seen a letter sent to 16 European Union publishers' representatives over the weekend.The letter is also believed to include a commitment from Google to consult with publishers before going ahead with digitalisation of European books. The letter also includes a commitment to deem books available in Europe, but out-of-print in the US, as still 'commercially available'.

This news comes on the back of a week that has seen Google come under extraordinary global criticism for their decision to continue with implementation of the Google Book Settlement reached in October 2008 with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers.

Financial Times Article.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Google Book Settlement Objection Date Extended by US Court

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San Francisco US District Court Judge Denny Chin has announced an extension on the deadline for objections and amicus briefs in the Google Book Settlement case to be filed with their administration system. The court cite system maintainance from today till Tuesday morning as the reason with several impending filings still to be lodged. The deadline for these will now be Tuesday 8th September. Quite how the court did not take into account 'scheduled maintainance' of their filing system account is a little puzzling and one wonders if this is simply so the court can be seen to be fair on outstanding objections. Publishers and authors will still be expected to have opted out of the settlement by today. Amazon lodged their objection with the court earlier this week.

The final hearing for the Google Book Settlement is still scheduled for 7th October.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Authors Guild Release Stinging Rebuke To Amazon Objection

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The US Authors Guild has released a stinking rebuke to Amazon's formal objection to the Google Book Settlement lodged earlier this week with the US courts. The statement comes on the eve of the deadline for authors to opt out of the settlement. Here is the Authors Guild statement in full.

"September 2, 2009. Amazon made it official today, filing a brief in the Google case claiming that someone else might gain a monopoly in bookselling. It seems we're compelled to state the obvious:

Amazon's hypocrisy is breathtaking. It dominates online bookselling and the fledgling e-book industry. At this moment it's trying to cement its control of the e-book industry by routinely selling e-books at a loss. It won't do that forever, of course. Eventually, when enough readers are locked in to its Kindle, everyone in the industry expects Amazon to squeeze publishers and authors. The results could be devastating for the economics of authorship.

Amazon apparently fears that Google could upend its plans. Amazon needn't worry, really: this agreement is about out-of-print books. Its lock on the online distribution of in-print books, unfortunately, seems secure.

The settlement would make millions of out-of-print books available to readers again, and Google would get no exclusive rights under the agreement. The agreement opens new markets, and that's a good thing for readers and authors. It offers to make millions upon millions of out-of-print books available for free online viewing at 16,500 public library buildings and more than 4,000 colleges and universities, and that's a great thing for readers, students and scholars. The public has an overwhelming interest in having this settlement approved."

History of Google Book Settlement (from Wikipaedia)

On September 20, 2005, the Authors Guild, together with Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman, sued Google for operating its Book Search project. According to the Authors Guild, Google was committing copyright infringement by scanning books that were still in copyright. (Google countered that their use was fair according to US copyright law.)

On October 28, 2008 the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google announced that they had settled Authors Guild v. Google. Google agreed to a $125 million payout, $45 million of that to be paid to rightsholders whose books were scanned without permission. The Google Book Search Settlement Agreement allows for legal protection for Google's scanning project, even though neither side changed its position about whether scanning books was fair use or copyright infringement. The Settlement also establishes a new regulatory organization, the Book Rights Registry, which will be responsible for allocating fees from Google to rightsholders. The settlement is subject to approval by a federal court.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Amazon Lodge Objection To Google Book Settlement

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Global online retailer, Amazon, formally lodged their objection to the Google Books Settlement in the US courts yesterday. The objection comprises of a substantial document detailing Amazon’s specific points of legal argument against the Settlement.

The main points of Amazon’s objection to the agreement reached is:

1. Arguably unlawful
2. Stretches the Court’s power beyond its lawful limits to create a business arrangement of perpetual duration.
3. The agreement releases Google from claims of copyright infringement.
4. The agreement is unfair to both authors and publishers whose work becomes the subject of compulsory license for the life of copyright.
5. It contravenes antitrust laws and is anti-competitive.
6. It provides Google with a monopoly in the scanning of works for digitisation whose copyright owners cannot be contacted or do not wish to be involved in the class action.
7. The agreement effectively creates a cartel of authors and publishers through the Books Rights Registry who are free to raise book prices and reduce output to consumers from new authors and publishers.

Amazon is also a member of an anti-agreement coalition including Microsoft and Yahoo called Open Book Alliance who intend filing their own separate objection later in the week.

The Amazon objection lodged with the court yesterday can be read in full below.

(Amazon Court Objection Document)

Google Books Settlement - Deadline is Friday

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The Google Books Settlement is a highly complexed debate and it is one that POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing has deliberately not chosen to examine as we believe this should be be an informed and personal choice for published authors outside of influence from author solution services, intimidation from peers or writing workshops, or what happens to be the general mass opinion. However, authors cannot be unaware that this Friday, September 4th is the deadline for authors to opt out of the agreement which Google has legally agreed, though this still remains under further judicial challenges.

As an author, I have made my own decision on what I should do. If you are still confused, as I know many self-published authors are, then have a browse of Teleread's latest posting for some varying takes on the issue and surrounding debate.

Here is Wikipaedia's definition of what the Google Book Agreement means.

Some further sources of discussion:

Some further respected sites,

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

HarperStudio - Overview

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Bob Miller, President of HarperStudio shares his views this week with PublishingPerspectives.com on how he sees the need for the relationship between publisher and author to become more of a partnership of commitment.

[...]"I believe that publishers and authors should be equal partners, sharing profits fifty-fifty, as we are doing in all of our deals at HarperStudio. The author brings their creative work to this partnership, and their commitment to do everything in their power to help their book succeed. The publisher brings their financial risk (under our model, the publisher puts up the publishing costs, including the advance to the author, from which the author can decide to help the marketing effort if they’d like, or not), their passion for the project, and their staff time (we don’t charge any overhead to the profit split; the authors don’t charge for their time spent marketing the book either)."[...]

The cynics will say that a 50/50 share of profits should also mean a 50/50 share of expenses in the publishing relationship between author and publisher. This is a fair and reasoned argument and in fact there are publishers pursuing this model of business like Matador and Pen Press in the UK, Moorsgates, an imprint of the now defunct Cold Tree Publishing tried it in the US (see article). Partnership publishers existed long before HarperStudio's arrival in 2008, and it should be remembered that they are only just starting to publish the first of their imprint titles this year. But where HarperStudio and Bob Miller's business philosophy and modus operandi differ to many preceding partnership publishing models is that the author is spared from reaching for the wallet, pulse or credit card. This is the first time partnership publishing under these kind of terms have been adopted inside the family home of 'traditional' publishing (HarperStudio being an imprint of HarperCollins).

Bob Miller, and much of the publishing fraternity, might baulk at the idea that paid-for partnership publishing is actually part of the traditional publishing industry--if perhaps, at best, being on the outermost peripheral--then, is all publishing not a partnership of a kind to greater or lesser degrees? Miller is content that the author keep their credit card tucked away in their jackets, but encourages and looks for perspective authors who have a unique book and voice and an understanding of how to sell both. Some of the debate following Miller's piece in PublishingPerspectives.com centres on the shared responsibility between author and publisher. There are publishers with--shall we say--less than 'nouveau' ideas about the place for the modern author in the marketing and promotion of a book - believing they still know best. The changing world of publishing and a reeling global economy may soon see the last of the great publishing pretenders.

Sometimes a business model and philosophy can be easier to change and re-invent than a strident and steadfast attitude. There is a 'call to arms' in publishing at the moment, and change is often most directly coming from smaller, independent publishing houses who through sheer want of survival are exploring every publishing niche; maximising all they can from what e-publishing will yield; deep-mining regularly the estuaries and flowing waters of communication which have become the sea of social networking. The responsibility lies equally with author and publisher because the once viral highways of business must now share the opens roads with the new forward-thinking commuters as well and the inexperienced Sunday drivers out for a view of the scenery rather than the road ahead.

My own thoughts are that the borders of the publishing industry are seeing two distinct types of authors. Those who are naive and have little understanding of the industry and how it works, like adolescent teenagers--they look the part, speak the part, but their writing and actions show a distinct lack of streetwise nuisance. They may learn, but then, they may also continue to make the same mistakes and misjudgements over and over again. Then, we have the the new breed of self-published writers--versed in the dreams as well as the realities of being an author. Some of them--just a few--will not tire of the frustration and the rejection and every step along the way will be a seed and something more learned. This paradigm is not an ideal for being an author, but rather a framework to elevate and educate an author enough to become a part of what the publishing world is not at the moment--should be--and one day will be.

One of the strongest points brought up by the comments on Bob Miller's piece for PublishingPerspectives.com is the analogy that publishers and authors do not approach the imminent launch of a book in the way a new film might be promoted. Certainly there is a strong argument that a film has a greater 'wow' factor due to its inherent visual medium, but then, that is the imagined vision, as, like all expectations and Christmas presents, we will only have been indulged in the snippets and teases of what is beneath the wrapping. The reading public is on a par with the cinematic-going public, and given so many crossovers, it is hard to see why publishers do not explore this kind of pre-publication promotion a lot more. When a forthcoming film is promoted, we are indulged in directors, producers, screen writers as well as actors doing their all in partnership for the good of the 'product'. How might this work with a book? Can we see the day, when, in partnership, author, publisher, book designer, hell, even the editor and literary agent get to herald their stamp on the book project? What is so alien about this to us?

Publishing has become too 'departmentalised' over the years and through tradition rather than inspiration, we authors, publishers, designers, editors, marketeers, clink to 'our piece', 'our offering', never once seeing the creation and publication of a book as a wholly glorious partnership for us all. Ask any truly self-published author who has acted as business entrepreneur, played all the roles above, and they will pay testament to the critical part each and every one of them has to play in the writing, production and publication of a book.

What is important about the idea of author/publisher partnership that Bob Miller puts forward is not necessarily who does what or who pays for what, but that there is a fundamental understanding that the relationship of author/publisher goes beyond the 'you do this bit and I will do that bit', and never the twain shall meet. Good business doesn't work that way. It is time both publisher and author looked beyond the confines of contract and tradition to a new understanding and partnership for the good of publishing, but more importantly, they should do it for the books and their readers.

Borders UK Launch Second-hand Book Sales

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Borders UK have linked up in a partnership with Alibris Books to sell second-hand books through its online store. The new service is targeted at ‘cash-strapped’ customers and will provide access to hard-to-get, out-of-print and out-of-stock books. Borders UK are planning to offer up to nine million titles in an effort to provide their customers with the greatest range of books possible. The titles will include academic and school books and greatly strengthens their place on the online market against Amazon UK. Blackwell Books in the UK previously linked up with Alibris in a similar second-hand book service.

The service was actually introduced in early August but should now be fully up and running to accommodate the new academic year.

Penguin Group Launch Puffin Ireland

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There is some positive news on the publishing front for a change as Caroline Walsh, Literary Editor with The Irish Times reports today on news that Penguin Publishing is setting up Puffin Ireland, their children’s imprint. Michael McLoughlin, Manager of Penguin Ireland, believes there is a wealth of talented children’s writers in Ireland and best-sellers are sure to follow when the first of the titles are published next year.

Former editor of Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) magazine, Paddy O’Doherty, with a master’s degree in children’s literature, will run Puffin Ireland. Some of Puffin’s most famous titles include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardbrobe by CS Lewis; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

The Penguin Publishing Goup as a whole will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year.

Puffin Ireland is happy to review manuscripts directly from Ireland’s next generation of children’s writers at 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, Ireland.

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