Monday, 30 November 2009

POD TV - Program 19: Back Channel Press

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POD TV has been on a short hiatus, but returns this week with Joe Smiga's Living Your Passion, a local TV Network program in Manchester, New Hampshire. Here, he interviews husband and wife, Nancy and John Grossman who run Back Channel Press, a local company who provide publishing services for authors. The company's services are aimed at the author who has no hands-on skills to produce print ready book files and a limited understanding of the book publishing world. Nancy herself is an editor and she describes succinctly what Back Channel Press do.

"We help authors to self-publish - we are not traditional publishers."

I think Nancy and John Grossman are heart-warming folks and they run a really worthwhile and genuinely needed service for authors. It's not the service for all authors, nor perhaps even the right path for their book, but, I suspect, the authors who didn't find Back Channel Press would have ended up in the clutches of the vanity presses. I do have to say,at times during these interview segments, I felt less than entirely convinced Nancy and John themselves fully understood the publishing industry as a whole. John's take on vanity presses and how they worked more than intrigued me. Still, this is one take on author solutions services. Grab a beer, sit back and chill out for the next half hour or so.

About Nancy and John Grossman, Owners of Back Channel Press

Nancy Grossman's successfully self-published Placenames of Portsmouth led to the formation of Portsmouth's newest publishing house. A complicated book with more than two hundred images, Nancy had hoped to sell it to a national publisher specializing in photo-rich local histories as the prototype for a new series. When they weren't willing to veer from their established format to serve the needs of this particular book, she and her husband, John, decided to put his twenty years of educational publishing experience to work. The two set to work mastering the ins and outs of self-publishing and on-demand printing. Placenames arrived on the scene in 2005 to immediate local acclaim. When word of their self-publishing success made its way into reviews, other writers started knocking on their door and Back Channel Press was born.

Nancy brings a lifelong fascination with the vagaries of the English language in general and writing in particular, a degree in psychology with a minor in English, and the eye of a self-trained artist to bear on the editing and design of books. A compulsive proofreader by nature, she's discovered she was born to be an editor. Ten years in specialized retail plus a somewhat briefer exposure to the world of advertising contribute to her eye for detail and passion for creativity. She is equally at home writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, stage- and screenplays. She has had four young adult novels published with Tor Publishing and also enjoys writing for children.

John brings a lifetime of computer expertise (he helped install the first computer in the US Army!), the above-mentioned twenty years of experience in educational publishing and a Harvard MBA to the enterprise. His level of experience, ability and fascination with computers is well matched by his knowledge of the worlds of both traditional and digital printing. A compulsive comparative shopper, he guarantees you the best price and printer for your book and expert project management from the day you submit your manuscript to the day we deliver. When he isn't busy pestering printers for quotes and shepherding each project through the many steps it takes to turn a manuscript into a book, he develops and maintains websites for Back Channel authors, local organizations and friends.

Borders UK Stores To Close By Christmas

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The 45 Borders stores in the UK will enter a final phase of closure in the four weeks of retail business leading up to Christmas. This is the final blow for their 1150 staff who have, until late last week, held some forlorn hope of the stores being taken over at local and regional levels. MCR, the administrators of Borders UK, have appointed primary creditor, Hilco, who earlier this year funded a management buyout of the retailer, to liquidate the assets of the retailer. While, perhaps, a few outlets may remain as bookshops, in the event of a localized purchase, and staff could be retained by a new owner, it does look evermore likely that the retailers high street presence will be sold as vacated retail units.

What will be interesting, considering Borders stores already have many of their key quarter 4 titles, is the impact heavy stock discounting by the administrators will have on rival high street book retailers as they attempt to recoup as much cash into the failed business as possible.

UPDATE: Monday 30th Nov, 5pm.
The is reporting late this afternoon that up to 36 staff members in the Borders Charing Cross Road head office have been made redundant. Administrators, MCR, have focused staff redundancies on the buying department with just two buyers remaining.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Write Lines: BBC Radio Oxford

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Came across this BBC Radio Oxford program called The Write Lines via Jane Smith's excellent, How Publishing Really Works. It is presented by the BBC's Sue Cook and focuses on writing, publishing (commercial and self-publishing) and literary agents. The program runs for four episodes and broadcasts on Sundays, 9pm to 10pm and features many established industry experts. For global listeners, it is of course available for online download. You can go to The Write Lines official site here and listen in.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Borders UK Formally Enters Financial Administration

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Borders UK formally entered financial administration this afternoon with the appointment of MCR who will carry out a period of assessment before reporting to creditors. However, the 45 Border stores in the UK will continue to trade and its 1150 staff will be paid their wages.

Some news networks jumped the gun a little early this morning when Reuters reported that they had seen court documentation to support the claim of administration. It is believed the delay on formal administration being declared occurred when  BDO informed Borders UK management late yesterday that they had discovered 'a conflict of interest' which prevented them from being declared administrators.

It is not known how long Borders UK will be in administration, but the likelihood is that the business will be sold off in several parts rather than as a single going concern.

DellArte Press (Harlequin Paid-Publishing) - Reviewed

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In future months, that is—beyond November 2009—authors who drop by the DellArte Press site will probably be oblivious of the furore which occurred when romance publisher Harlequin decided to sign up with Author Solutions and utilise them to development a paid-publishing services. Harlequin is not the first, nor will they be the last. Author Solutions already provide a partnership association to run Thomas Nelson’s WestBow Press as well as providing similar services for Accent Press.

Straight away the DellArte site strikes a perspective author as being clean, crisp, well presented, and certainly big on words like ‘dreams’ and ‘aspirations’. We should be familiar now with this author solution services speak, after all, DellArte is run by the same company who now own such illustrious author solutions services as Xlibris, Trafford, iUniverse and AuthorHouse. In fact, looking through DellArte Press’ web pages, I’m sure I recognise some of those aspiring authors used in many of the advertising graphics. Seems, Author Solutions may have had a strong hand in the design and presentation of this site—so it makes sense the male and female models are the same!

When Harlequin first launched this self-publishing service (their description), they called it Harlequin Horizons. It was a huge error of PR and marketing management. It left Harlequin open to a backlash that was heavy and swift and publishers’ organisations were quick to let Harlequin know they were trading on the Harlequin brand to mislead authors into thinking they were getting more than they were. Make no mistake, DellArte Press offers nothing more than the average author solution service and Harlequin has no more affiliation with their self-publishing wing than Pepsi has with Coke Cola. Harlequin has suggested they will monitor self-published books which prove successful with a view to acquiring them for their traditional publishing imprints. Take such promises with a pinch of salt and know, at best, DellArte Press titles will have no more than a casual and curious eye of Harlequin editors looking for potential acquisitions.

Harlequin has not entirely dropped the Horizons name. You will find it in one of DellArte Press’ publishing packages ranging from $599 to $1599.

Basic Book Publishing Standard Package $599

Horizons Standard Self-Publishing Package $799Self-Publishing Aspirations Standard Publishing Package $999Book Publishing Marketing Plus Standard Package $1,199Self-publishing Booksellers Standard Package $1,599
Basic Standard Publishing Package More InformationHorizons Standard Publishing Package More InformationAspirations Standard Publishing Package More InformationMarketing Plus Standard Publishing Package More InformationBooksellers Standard Publishing Package More Information

ISBN Assignment
Complimentary Author Copy
Softcover Format
E-Book Format, including Amazon Kindle & Sony Reader
Channel Distribution to 25K Retailers including
Free Paperback Copies55152025
Author Volume Book Order Discounts
Personal Assistance & Customer Support
Standard Book Interior Layout
Standard Cover Creation----
Enhanced Cover Design-
Google & Amazon Online Book Search-
Editorial Review of Manuscript--
Standard Publicity Program---
Book Signing Kit---
U.S. Copyright Registration----
Hardcover with Dust Jacket Format----

The above packages pretty much follow along the lines of AuthorHouse packages with an editorial review not kicking in until the author parts with $1000 and not sign of a hardback unless the author goes for the top package at $1599.

“The Editorial Review is not a full manuscript edit, nor is it a replacement for the Dellarte Press full range of editorial services. Rather, our trained editors take a portion of your work—typically the first chapter or about 1,700 words—and give you a sample edit. The sample edit is designed to pinpoint areas that need improvement and give you, the author, constructive comments, areas that could be strengthened, and a general overview of your work.”

“Pique the interest of editors across the country with a professionally scripted press release about you and your book. Our writers will create a single-page news release and send it to a list of 100 targeted media outlets based upon your book’s topic. Radio stations, television stations and newspapers are all included in our comprehensive media database. You will also receive a copy of the media recipients for your records.

Additionally, should someone from the media request a review copy of your book we will send your press release, a complimentary copy of your book and notify you of this request.”

“In the Enhanced Cover Design package your book's cover will create a unique cover according to your ideas and industry standards. Instead of relying on templates as used in our Standard Cover, your designer will create an original cover by incorporating your photos, graphics and ideas.”

In short, the editorial means Jack Shit, and is merely an invitation to spend more money on editing services with Author Solutions, and the enhanced cover simply means DellArte Press will use the materials you supply at your effort and expense!

Further services available here.

According to DellArte Press, royalties are 20% on the net price (after discounts to retailers). Here is an example from their site.

"A retailer places an order for your book through Ingram Book Company, a wholesaler.
Ingram, in turn, purchases your book from Dellarte Press at a 48 percent discount (our standard discount to wholesalers). Ingram then resells the book to the retailer.

Your royalty on this sale of your softcover book will be calculated as follows:
List Price - 48% Discount = Net Sale x Royalty Rate = Royalty Earned
$15.95 - $7.66 = $8.29 x 20% = $1.66"

Not the worst I have ever seen from an author solutions service, certainly far from the best. Their example suggests a retail price above average for a paperback. This is in line with print on demand technology and the relayed mark-ups from the provider/service.

The most intriguing part of DellArte Press is the fact they are a publisher of romance and women’s fiction, but who is filtering and deciding what goes through the DellArte imprint? It is an interesting point. If this is truly a profit making venture for Harlequin, then it really doesn’t matter what genre passes across their desk. If they want to keep the imprint strictly romance/women’s fiction, then surely some kind of cursory editing will have to be done at least to define the genre of manuscripts submitted for publication. I can’t see Author Solutions pass up the business either way.

OK, how do we call this one? If I was an author and wanted to use an author solutions service – push me, and I think I would go for DellArte Press than say, Xlibris or AuthorHouse. But only because of what I know. Most authors visiting this paid-publishing service in the future will be oblivious to Harlequin, and perhaps, Harlequin will also be oblivious to them. It will be interesting to see how many are fed into DellArte Press through the Harlequin slush pile.

RATING: 5.5/10

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