Thursday, 31 December 2009

2010: Through The Wishing Glass

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So, 2010 is but moments away. Where is the publishing industry going and where does independent and self-publishing see itself in the twelve months ahead?

To be frank, the industry as a whole remains very tentative as to what lies ahead. Expect further caution and much consolidation. From what I have seen so far from sales figures from Nielsens on this side of the Atlantic pond, book sales figured far better than was expected, and proved that books will always remain a core seller over the holiday period as gifts.

Here is a thought for 2010. The industry needs to perceive and present books as a special gift beyond just holiday periods when sales normally increase. Sparkling Books, a new UK hardback independent publisher this year will enter 2010 with this as a core business and marketing strategy. We are in a time when the humble paper book has to compete in a market of digitalised products from ipods, gaming software, and multiple online content download. If the traditional book industry still believes in the paper product they sell, then it is time they indulged in more individual and esoteric ways of selling that product. What I am thinking of, in particular about first printed hardback editions, is offering the customer something more. Some publishers in 2009 have seen ebooks as a serious threat to hardback sales. I see this actually as an opportunity to link the formats. What I envisage is hardback books launched and packed with everything from DVD film tie-ins, to music releases, to access codes releasing exclusive online content about the book or features about the book’s content – trailers, author interviews, extracts online of future works going to print etc. The software games and console market has long exploited bundle packs. Publishers need to explore and develop this area. In many ways, the dilemma which publishers face about hardback and ebook releases may present the real solution in 2010, and not the headache some present it as.

Whatever the fuss about ebooks in 2010, they will continue to remain a significantly small percentage of overall books sold. I believe the figure is not far off 6% in the US, and this is the most developed market. I will give it a ball-pack figure of about 10% by the time we close out 2010. That is pretty decent, but it will remain at moderate levels. Yes, much of the economic climate has lead to publishers being less than enthusiastic about committing to any real long-term plans, but ebooks will be the presiding future one day, probably gleaning up to 40% to 50% of book sales. That’s something we can’t ignore now or in the future, and we must make plans for an industry being part paper and part digital. There will be little room, even for the independent minded, to try to operate in the in-between. Just as with the proliferation of different ebook formats emerging, we must ultimately, as an industry, adopt a standard format – 2010 is the time for this and this topic should be the lead debate in the London and Frankfort Book Fairs. I’ll stick my neck out and say the epub format will win out, and all may continue with their own formats, but have to accommodate the epub format in the end

In all industries, there are monoliths; publishing is no exception. Whether we like the Google Book Settlement or not, Google will go on with their digitalization program, just as many universities across the world are doing with their own databases. Of course, no writers’ rights should be infringed upon, living or dead, but it remains our collective duty as writers, publishers, universities and researchers to preserve what is written and recorded in this world. To do anything less, to lose anything of value to us as a society, culture and race, is tantamount to throwing what is in jeopardy to the fires and dust of history.

Amazon, being Amazon, still has a few surprises up their sleeve. I still believe we can expect something exceptional from them in 2010 – I expected it to come this year. So expect some form of global partnership or buyout in the first six months of the New Year. Amazon, like Google, and many other large corporate entities see themselves as above and beyond being new global retailers, but publishers and distributors of products. Sadly, this is where our largest kingpins in the publishing world have missed the boat. Muse too long and you become the amusing. Book publishing is no longer the preserve of the book publishing industry alone.

How will independent publishers and the self-publishing fraternity fair? Pretty well I think in 2010. As in all economic downturns, the most fluid, robust and open to change models of business will react quicker to change and new methods of approach. I think we will see a few top-notch authors jump ship from the mainstream publishers and join ranks with the more established independents. Expect a lot from Canongate this year and a few real heavy-hitters to join the Scottish publishers list. Will we lose a few publishers? Yes, of course we will. January and February will be painful months when a few will look at the balances and go to the wall. We will be less together for their losses. Like last year, we will see a few high-brow editors jettison ship and form their own independent outfits. Orbooks seem to be doing a pretty good job by all accounts from 2009. And self-publishing? It looks like it’s not going away, but then, wasn’t it always there? Thomas Nelson and Harlequin embraced and accepted it as part of what publishing is and has become. The debates will needlessly go on. I’ve already gone on record as saying there are two to three other major publishers going the same route, and not all with the partnership of Author Solutions. January through March will tell a few tales we will thrash out here. Bring it on.

Let me finish by indulging for just a moment. This was my own personal highlight of 2009. It was a story that had everything and encapsulates what writing, publishing and recording what it is we all experience. I will leave you with Christopher Herz, and my favourite story of 2009, The Last Block in Harlem. I hope there are many more like this in 2010.

Happy New Year.

Author Advances End 2009 Debate

Print Friendly and PDF today took another look at a debate much talked about throughout 2009, choosing to highlight the views of Bob Miller and MJ Rose.  I think it highly relevant that the last key news story of 2009 should be author advances. It may be the area in publishing where we will see most change in 2010. I think the new year will be a tumultuous year in every aspect of publishing, with consolidation in the industry being the marker in the first few months, leading to great change - good as well as bad - as we see out 2010.

"I tend to lean more to Miller’s view on the future of author advances. We need to have publisher and author working together, rather than the author feeling isolated from the publisher’s marketing machine.

I have a lot of time for MJ Rose’s take on the publishing industry, but I think she is barking up the wrong tree here. Extracting marketing expenditure on a book release from the author’s advance seems only relevant to mid and top-listed authors. For most authors, their advance is so modest–rarely amounting to an annual wage–an advance minus marketing expenses would result in virtually no advance at all. I don’t think it is viable for most authors, and if anything, would have an adverse effect, with agents and authors at the bottom end following their bestselling cousins by looking for hugely inflated amounts. And that’s not where we need to be going right now.

Miller nails it more on the head. He at least recognizes many authors are getting involved in publicity and marketing of their titles like never before. And that should not go unrewarded by way of an increased royalty share."

My own comments on 'What is the Future of the Book advance?' over on PublishingPerspectives

Our final post of the year, later tonight, will provide a crystal ball view of 2010, both serious and lighthearted.

Thanks for all your support in 2009.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Are Amazon Doing Porkies For Christmas?

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As a follow up from our previous news story on Amazon's reported Kindle sales over physical sales. Mediabistro/galleycat reports some rather raised and questioning eyebrows across the blogosphere this evening. Are Amazon telling porkies, or eschewing the figures over Christmas?

Amazon E-books Outstrip Physical Books For Christmas Sales

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According to, their Kindle ebook sales outstripped physical book sales this Christmas. The top Amazon seller was Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, followed by Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol.

Monday, 28 December 2009

2009: The Year That Was (Sept - Dec)

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Bob Miller, President of HarperStudio, shared some pertinent views in September on the future of publishing with on how he saw 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)."[...]

You can read my views on Miller’s perspective here.

Global online retailer, Amazon, formally lodged their objection to the Google Books Settlement in the US courts. The objection comprised of a substantial document detailing Amazon’s specific points of legal argument against the Settlement. You can see those objections here. Judge Denny Chin decided to extend the objection deadline into early October. We also saw the first signs of Google being a little unsteady on the feet, with the first of several concessions.

The ebook publisher that was, but actually wasn’t, Quartet Press announced in September that they were ceasing operation without having published a single book. Kat Meyer did not initially explain what brought about the sudden demise of Quartet Press. The naysayers suggested Quartet Press did not present a business model of digital publishing which really set them apart from the crowd, but then, their business model never actually saw the light of day and it was a little disingenuous of some 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.

“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."

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

Twenty four hours later, Meyer did disclose in an interview to Publishers Weekly some of the reasons and struggles for the Quartet Press.

“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.”

And more candid comments from Quartet co-founder, Kassia Krozser of Booksquare.

The end of a much more distinguished and long-serving publishing odyssey came in the same week in September with the announcement that Marion Boyars, a maverick British independent, had reached the end of the financial road and were commencing the winding down of their commercial operation in the early half of 2010. Only one further release followed 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.

Google, like a heavy weight boxer in the ring taking a few well-targeted blows to the head, continued 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 like confetti to the gathered crowds.

Not to be squeezed out of the action and faux pas, Amazon tried to blow their toes off with a well-aimed shotgun by contact publishers and informing them of a new policy requiring them to participate in SITB (Search Inside The Book) 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).

We looked at story that seemed to slip by many publishing watchmen with news of Lulu’s new partnership program. The Lulu Publishing Partner program had actually been in operation since August and two of Lulu’s significant new partners were The Expert Knowledge Network and Authorsden. It was noticeable that any news service or commentary on Lulu’s program had been very circumspect and adhered largely to the detail contained in the press release without any great appraisal.

The details of the Lulu Publishing Partner program were 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 were not specific about who they were aiming this program at, but they were certainly succinct about whom it was not intended for.

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

The US Department of Justice dealt the Google Book Settlement, in its then form, the final and fatal blow in a carefully considered and timed statement. In no uncertain terms, the Department of Justice declared that the Google Book Settlement should be soundly 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."

CreateSpace decided to follow Lulu’s lead and go down the avenue of publishing packages, rather than primarily focusing on individual services to authors. While CreateSpace said the packages offered significant savings to authors when compared to their individual prices for each service - they remained on the higher expense column when you compared them to their competitors.


Maybe October’s early news was a sign of the times and a forewarning of what was about to explode in publishing, but the fact was the borders between publishers offering author-publishing services blurred even more. Apex Publishing was showing real intent on dramatically increasing its output of traditionally contracted authors with the announcement of another autobiography of journalist and TV presenter, Garry Bushell. This followed the previous announcement a week earlier of David Van Day’s autobiography and six other signed contracts, including Charles Bronson and Chas Hodges of Chas and Dave musical fame.

Hot on the heels of this news was Legend Press’ New Generation Publishing offering an unpublished author a traditional contract to the bestselling title from their next 300 submissions. The NGP title that sells the most copies by June 2010 will be offered a traditional contract with Legend's imprint Paperbooks.

It was widely predicted since the London Book Fair during the summer, but finally Amazon confirmed a wireless version of the Kindle would be available to order for the international market.

Judge Denny Chin acceded to request from lawyers in the Google Book Settlement case that a revised settlement should be presented to the courts in November.

The Romanian-born German writer Herta Muller was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for literature. The Nobel Committee at the Swedish Academy honoured Herta Muller for her lifetime work and described it in the following way.

‘the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.’

In October we took a look at what was going on throughout the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Sara Lloyd, Digital Director with Pan Macmillan, provided the Fair’s real highlight when she spoke at the conference about the need for publishers to embrace the changes and challenges ahead in regard to business relationships with companies like Google and Apple. She stressed that these new relationships had ‘no established terms’ in the new digital publishing environment.

Thomas Nelson, the fifth largest trade publisher in the US, and one of the world’s most successful publishers of bibles and Christian books, dipped its big toe in the waters of self-publishing. They did what for many was the absolute unthinkable. They dived in. Thomas Nelson decided to step into the author solutions arena and offer publishing packages for authors wishing to self-publish their books. Some month’s back—at the start of the year—I had predicted this happening before the year’s end.

Thomas Nelson’s announcement to enter into self-publishing services was not so much the story, but rather the fact that Author Solutions was the company who Thomas Nelson decided to enter into what was described as a strategic partnership. The partnership meant Author Solutions Inc would manage the running of WestBow Press, Thom Nelson’s self-publishing imprint. Like a commercial vacuum cleaner, Author Solutions had busied itself over the past few years acquiring AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, WordClay, and in 2009, Xlibris and Trafford Publishing.

It was a fascinating week to follow the many nuances and threads of this news story and it has quintessentially for me summed up so many of the challenges and changes we are on the cusp of in publishing. Publishing, and all its peripheral models of business, all show signs of merging in the center. If you like, we might describe this as the first signs that two distinct models of publishing, who once cast steely eyes, aspersions, cries of elitism, cries of scam merchants, and a general attitude of disdain for each other, may be about to concede that they both have their own inherent weaknesses, but combined, they can provide a greater more creative and dynamic service to all authors.

Some further reflection and analysis below.

Barnes & Noble announced the launch of their own e-reader at a press conference in Manhattan in October. The new e-reader would be called the Nook. Don’t ask; perhaps Barnes & Noble executives will reveal the reasons why they chose such an odd name for the device.


The first Self-publishing Book Expo took place in early November in New York City.

Harlequin, one of the world’s leading romance and women’s fiction publishers launched Carina Press, a digital-only imprint trading independently of its parent publisher. First e-book titles are expected from Carina Press in Spring 2010. Initially, Carina Press will focus the romance and erotica genres. They will not be adopting the traditional advance –paying terms of contract and it will sell its e-book titles direct to book readers through its web site and other third-party e-book vendors.

Amazon announced that Booksurge would merge into Createspace.

The revised Google Book settlement was finally presented to the US Courts. According to a statement from the plaintiffs, the new agreement would only include books registered with the US copyright office and only those countries which share a common legal heritage and similar book industry practices.’ The countries included will be USA, UK, Australia and Canada, with other European countries now excluded.

Significantly, new books on sale internationally will be considered commercially available and cannot be used by Google by default. This is very much an agreement considerably watered down from the original settlement, so much so, that the Publishers Association in the UK has lodged a letter of support for the revised Google Settlement with the US District Court with the understanding that proposed revisions now agreed will be implemented in 2010.

Harlequin proved that the aforementioned unthinkable act for a commercial mainstream publisher was no longer the unthinkable act many thought it to be. They became the second major publisher to announce the launch of a full-scale paid-publishing venture in partnership with Author Solutions. This came hot on the heels of Harlequin's new e-book imprint Carina Press and Thomas Nelson's launch of their paid-publishing imprint, WestBow Press, announced at the end of October. Here was our own take on this much discussed news story with plenty of externally linked discussions.

Continued pressure from US writers’ organisations and publisher watchdogs resulted in Harlequin announcing a change to the name of its new paid-publishing venture, Harlequin Horizons. The imprint would be known as DellArte Press. Preditors & Editors changed its listing for Harlequin to Vanity Publisher and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) revoked Harlequin’s rating and benefits, and the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) who stated;

“Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is deeply concerned about the troubling conflict-of-interest issues created by these ventures, particularly the potentially misleading way they are marketed to aspiring writers on the Harlequin website.”

What fascinated me most about this whole debate was how the news of Thomas Nelson to launch WestBow Press was dealt with so differently at the time, and, yet, barely had the print dried on Harlequin’s launch of DellArte Press, when the publisher found themselves lambasted on high from pious writers and their guilds and national associations. It’s funny how when the debate heats up in publishing and the road map changes, authors have a particular knack of taking ownership of everything in sight, from the moral high ground to things which are not theirs, nor, god forbid, should ever be theirs. Where does an author get off in this day and age referring to the publisher they have a contract with, as ‘my publisher’, the underlying implication is the author has some inherent say in how the strategies, services and development of that business should operate. It’s ‘your book’ – their business, or better still...get your own publishing business, then you can have your ‘my publisher’. Ever thought of self-publishing?!

In November, a long self-publishing saga finally reached a legal conclusion. It is one, which on and off, since this site began, we have chosen to cover because of its fundamental relevance to authors looking to use various companies offering what I call author solutions services. Frankly, this paid-publishing nightmare for some authors of Diggory Press became a sordid online reality show. We all played our part, me included. I'd like to think I've learned something from it beyond the obvious publishing pitfalls. There were very important issues at stake, and in the online quagmire, they were consistently blurred and booted around the debating field.

On November 9th, at Torquay & Newton Abbott County Court in the UK, the final remaining three claimants in the action against Diggory Press gathered to bring closure on events. Two of the three claimants won their case against Diggory Press. You can read the full article here.

Borders UK formally entered financial administration in November with the appointment of MCR who began a period of assessment before reporting to creditors. The 45 Border stores in the UK continued to trade until December 22nd when the chain closed for good.


"At its most basic, however, publishing is not a question of maxims or appraisals or even authorial merit. It’s a question of cash money. Which brings me to my criticism of Yog’s Law, my criticism of the industry for exploiting Yog’s Law, and my general exhaustion with the idea that all the bad people are on the outside of the publishing industry and all the good people are on the inside praying to Daniel Webster. Because nothing about Yog’s Law deals with the fact that a pay-you-later publisher can screw authors as effectively as a pay-us-now subsidy or vanity publisher.

To begin, it’s worth noting that Yog’s Law fits quite nicely with the publishing industry’s own propaganda of love and reverence for books and authors. 'Look,' the publishing industry says, 'we’re not taking money up front! We’re gambling on you because we believe in you! We have faith in you! We’re not like those scummy people who ask for money in advance!'"

And hats off to Mark Barrett of Ditchwalk who wrote one of the best publishing articles of the year. You can read his article, The ‘New Money Flow in Publishing’ in full, here.

CreateSpace announced the introduction of full online distribution to authors who opt for their PRO plan offer. This had been long overdue and brought CreateSpace into line with many other author solutions services. Historically CreateSpace has only offered online distribution through their ebook store and parent company Amazon. Here is the full press release.

The Harlequin debate rumbled on with the MWA (Mystery Writers of America) following the RWA (Romance Writers of America) by to removing all Harlequin imprints from its approved publisher listings.

And I started to bang my head off the wall about the Harlequin/Thomas Nelson stuff–

Author Solutions CEO and president, Kevin Weiss, didn’t bang his head off the wall, he just released a snazzy ‘that ‘ill shut ‘em all up’ video press release.

In short, it was a fascinating year, and, yet, so many of the Book Fairs, Expo’s, and seminars never quite seem to ignite the way the publishing news did. We remain in heady times which look to continue changing well into 2010. Maybe in a few days, we will have a look into the crystal ball...

Wasteland Press - Reviewed

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Wasteland Press is an author solutions service based in Shelbyville, Kentucky. I might stand corrected, but I think this is the first company we have reviewed from the state of Kentucky. Timothy Veeley is their CEO and he started Wasteland Press in 2000. I thought it a rather disparaging name for an author solutions service, but according to Veeley, it was named after his favourite T.S. Eliot poem, The Waste Land. Their about us snippet from the website claims they specialize in ‘publishing poetry, short stories, religious/inspirational, fiction, and non-fiction novels for writers trying to get noticed.’ Unless I find serious grounds and evidence to substantiate an author solutions service making such ‘specialized’ claims by way of proven marketing and promotional packages or actual sales history of books in these genres, then I find it hard to take such statements seriously.

"Not many people can say they make dreams come true. I made my dream come true seven years ago and now, I get to make people like myself dream's come true. I can't tell you how good it makes me feel to have someone e-mail me or walk up to me and tell me how long they have always wanted to publish their book and finally their dreams come true."

Again, this all comes from the same website page—I’m worried, really worried—more needless dream-speak, and also the ‘I get to make people like myself dream’s come true’ looks pretty editorially shaky to me as a constructed sentence. To be fair, the page is actually tucked away on their contacts link. Their main traffic webpage is a author-driven, but does push their bookstore and author book links—so something positive there to start with. You can request a publishing guide to Wasteland Press’ services on their contact page listed on the previous link.

“We are a customer service oriented company. When an author inquires about our services, we provide information and we allow this information to sell itself. We will never follow-up with unwanted phone calls, e-mails, or any other means of contacting you about your intentions to publish with us. We want you to feel confident that you made the right choice in publishing with Wasteland Press by giving you honest answers to all your questions. We take pride in being an ethical business who fully discloses the entire publishing process.”

Wasteland Press do back this up by providing full phone, email and live support chat facilities and do not indulge in needle-in-the-haystack customer services or sending a spam promotional email every other day to perspective authors who have enquired about their services. So, what are Wasteland Press offering in regards to publishing packages. They make a good pitch here. We will see if it all rings true shortly. From the FAQ’s:

“Why should I choose Wasteland Press?

Wasteland Press makes money from your book—not you! The prices you are quoted are for printing services only! Thus, it is our job to market your book in order to make money. So, we work for you, not against you! Additionally, you can sell your free copies and earn your investment back. No one in the self publishing industry offers you such services as well as a chance to earn your initial investment back. Also, we provide full-service publishing at no extra charge! Our publishing plans include all of the following at no extra charge: cover design (we design your cover from scratch and DO NOT use cover templates), formatting service (we format your book by adding headers, pagination, and even footnotes/endnotes), one-contact Customer Service (no dealing with several individuals), and we even include editing services for most of our plans! We challenge you to find a better deal and if you do, we will match or exceed our competitor's offer!”

So, if the pitch is right, we should be expecting pretty low package prices. We already know any author can register with their own set of ISBN’s and get going with Lightning Source for about a hundred dollars.

Basic Plan - $195
This is pretty limited as a package (up to 275 pages). No ISBN, and online distribution is solely through the Wasteland Press bookstore. A cover design is provided, but authors can only change what is presented to them by Wasteland Press. Five paperback copies for the author are offered and the author may upgrade to including an ISBN and Amazon listing for an additional $50. You get a 15% royalty with this package, that is, retail price minus trade 55% discount.

Silver Plan - $350
As above, with a 20% royalty and 25 paperback books.

Gold Plan - $650+
The ISBN is included on above packages with 75 paperback books for the author. The real shit-kicker here is that the money you pay only gets you a book up to 125 pages. A 275 page book will actually cost $1015! The page increments result in staggered increases in cost. For me, even with the added marketing service of 1000 media alerts, two review copies, full online distribution and database availability to bookstores, 25% author royalties, returns program, 5 hours copy editing; unless you have a moderate page count, which keeps the price in the 750 – 950 marker—for all you get—I really don’t see the value here. Potentially, for a 400 page paperback, you are looking at $1325. I have looked at the LSI costs for page counts and these incremental rises from Wasteland Press just don’t add up or seem warranted.

Platinum Plan - $995+
Again, at the risk of forcing the point unfairly against Wasteland, we are dealing in the realms of a book up to 125 pages for this cost, with increments thereafter quite sizeable. The author gets 150 paperbacks, 10 hours of copyediting, a 30% author royalty, as well as 5 review copies sent out.

Titanium Plan - $1250+
Dual paperback and hardback published editions and 15 hours of copyediting.

Ultimate Plan - $1995+
500 paperback copies, 25 review copies sent out, and 20 hours of copyediting.

The author gets 50%+ discount on additional books they wish to buy directly from Wasteland, but having checked out their retail prices, I’m again deeply uncomfortable about the deal an author actually gets. A typical 100 page book clocks in at $10 - $12, a 200 page book reaches $18 - $20, with any larger book stretching far beyond what I would consider a competitive retail price. Remember, the author, for 1 to 99 copies bought, is paying 50% of that retail price! That is a hell of a large slice of the pie Wasteland Press is cutting when the same 200 page book is costing about $4!

At times like these, I always worry I’ve given the reviewed service provider a hard time. Let’s cut some slack. There is a lot going on here for Wasteland that is good. Very significantly, they do not take ownership of book files from authors; they offer full non-exclusive rights making it easy for the author to go elsewhere with their book. If an author has a slim volume, then certainly some of the packages could be of great value for money. They offer defined hours of copyediting, which is critical in self-publishing, and they run an open, transparent and customer-orientated service (for the author) and they offer free shipping on author copies offered through their packages, though, this is not stated if it applies to overseas authors.

My final qualms are that they need to drop the added ISBN and distribution charges and limits for their bottom two packages. That, I believe, is where their bread and butter is. They also need to allow the option of authors to use their own ISBN’s that they have already procured through Bowkers. Wasteland Press did say at the beginning of this review that they specialised in poetry and short stories, among other genres. I can perhaps now see why. This might be an ideal publisher for those two genres for slim volume outputs, but beyond this, I have explained my reservations.

RATING: 06.5/10

Saturday, 26 December 2009

2009: The Year That Was (May - August)

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Amazon announced the launch of its Kindle DX in May featuring a larger 9.7 inch screen, more memory and wireless facilities. It will be available later this summer.

We got the chance to interview Eileen Gittens, CEO of Blurb, on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing, and you can read that interview here.

Amazon continued to act the teapot with publishers with changes to the Amazon Advantage Program, and many small publishers decided to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

June Austin provided a great article on what real distribution is for self-published authors on her site, Podding Along Nicely. Sadly, June doesn’t post as much as she used to and her insight and experience on self-publishing is sorely missed.

I concluded my ‘Adventures With Blurb’ in May with the publication of Thais.

If Author Solutions was much in the news for the first part of our year review, then, Amazon were holding the torch during the Summer of 2009. They fully launched Amazon Encore with teenage author,Cayla Kluver, from Wisconsin, USA, selling the rights of her debut self-published book ‘Legacy’. The book became the first for Amazon Encore, a new publishing program set to focus on self published books as well as traditional out of print books.

It was OSCARS for Independent publishing with the winners of the IPPY’s announced.

Eason the Irish book retailer ended its commercial interest in the UK with rocky times lying ahead later in the year.

Bowker’s announced for the first time ever that print-on-demand books had outstripped offset printed books. Many self-publishing purist and author solutions services jumped on this news and wrongly skewed the true realities and challenges of this method of publishing. Are you listening Author Solutions Inc?

Lulu decided to join forces with Amazon and also act the fucking teapot by placing every book that wasn’t nailed down in the Lulu database vault into Amazon’s Marketplace. This was a major faux pas which the DIY self-publishing provider would sorely rue.


Hachette Livre kissed and made up with Amazon after a long running dispute which had seen Amazon remove buy buttons on lead bestselling titles. Sounds like a shade of the print-on-demand/Booksurge dispute from 2008. Strange how Amazon uses the threat of ‘buy buttons will be removed’ in so many disputes they walk themselves into. It reminds me of the sulky boy I played football with as a child who always insisted we play with the ball he owned and then threatened to take it home if we didn’t play the game by his rules!

Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos spoke about plans to expand the Kindle reader across other ebook formats. Bezos spoke to Wired magazine’s ‘Disruptive technology’ conference held in New York and also to the New York Times newspaper.

Lulu launched Lulu Lens in an effort to improve their service and address adverse some growing disproval and negativity about where the strategy of the company was headed.

The debate on ‘indie’ publishing continued and exactly what it meant. It certainly struck a chord with many of you, and indeed the debate raged on over on Writers Beware blog, becoming quite heated at times, particularly regarding the benefit of Publitariat Vault and IndieReader. It should be borne in mind that these sites are new and only time and the testimony of self publishing authors will tell the true story of their use and success.

I tackled the issue here in this posting.

In another wonder observation on where publishing is and the comparisons about what is happening in the publishing world and the music industry over the past 15 years continued to be made. Here is an insightful perspective on the issue from Susan Piver following her attendance at an O’Reilly’s Tools of Change in Publishing conference in June.


One of the biggest criticisms of self-publishing services is the lack of real brick and mortar distribution. One of the UK’s leading self-publishing services, Matador, launched a direct sales representation to sell their self-published titles to retail bookshops in the UK. Star Book Sales represents 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 in June 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.”

Borders UK signalled the start of what was to be a sad and predicted end to the independent bookseller with the closure of five flagship stores amid rumours of a complete sale, and the takeover by management before the end of June.

If you had an Amazon Kindle in June and bought an ebook version of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' or '1984', then it is likely you your ebook went missing. You see, during a balmy summer 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 were eventually paid back via your credit card. Yes, Amazon’s Big Brother faux pas delivered home to us all just how publishing of the future could work. The full story is here.

Cold Tree Publishing, one of the pioneers, innovators in self-publishing services finally pulled down the shutters and turned out the lights after a brief foray into traditional publishing in July. We reflected and profiled them here.


We also looked at self-publishing success Sally Bee and her cookbook. It really does help if Michelle Obama is on your side.

Another publishing innovator, Bruce Batchelor, rightly called for an end to the ludicrous retail book returns policy operating in the publishing industry with this wonderful and insightful article.

In a blaze of much media hype and anticipation ebook publisher Quartet Press arrived. So began much analysis of ebook publishing and Quartet’s own business strategy. Bold, confident, even brassy, but Quartet never published a single book, and it all ended in tears, disappointment and philosophical discussion.

Trevor Dolby, in an article on Bookbrunch, once again this year revisited the thorny issue of advances for authors and how the whole contract between publisher and author needs to be revised and the share of responsibility and involvement needs to change.

And boy, if you thought Trevor’s article was testy, well, Tom Matlack wrote in the Huffington Post and really bared his teeth to the publishing industry.

Lulu really shook things up in August when they announced further changes to their publishing process and distribution service. The core change was the announcement of the removal of the popular ‘Publish By You’ service. Here is part of the news release below their from Social Networking Team Leader, Nick Popio. But as with many Lulu announcements, they have to make a further one to clarify the first one. Bad year lulu guys – bad year.

Not to be outdone in the acting the teapot stakes, yes, Amazon were back again. This time, a fine to publishers for rejected deliveries. Here is what we thought.

“While the threat of fines collected through publishers’ inventory payments may be directed more to smaller independent publishers – the crack of flexing muscles will still echo through the industry as a whole. This is a constant reminder of the extent publishers have lost control of their industry, in particular, to the retail sector. Amazon argue in the email that this is all about improving customer service quality and making the vendor processes as efficient as possible.”

Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. tells Amazon to get on their bicycle and start pedalling. He refuses’s motion to dismiss's Antitrust Lawsuit against them. The lawsuit stems from actions and communications by Amazon early last year to instruct some publishers using print-on-demand digital printing to use Amazon's own printer, Booksurge.

Smashwords announce an expansion in their ebook distribution network with online retailer Barnes & Noble. Ebooks included in Smashwords 'Premium Catalog' will be made available for listing and sale from the giant online retailer. This will come as a huge bonus to self-published authors who have signed up to Smashwords. authors should be aware that there are specific formatting criteria for listing as part of Smashwords 'Premier Catalog' and details can be found here.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas To All

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Our journey this year takes us to Christmas, a time for cheer, joy and happiness. May you all have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones, family and friends. Thank you for your visits, your comments, your support and inspiration.

Strength through joy...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

2009: The Year That Was (Jan - April)

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So, here we go, 2009, the year that was in publishing. This is by no means a conclusive round-up, but the stories and events that caught my eye.


The year began with a lot of anxiety in the publishing world. There were already plenty of rumours and murmurings of editors walking the plank, staff layoffs, and publishers dramatically cutting back on their title commitments for the coming twelve months. We always knew 2009 would be a year of pain and change, whether we liked it or not.

In January, Author Solutions, owned by equity investors Bertram Capital, continued its strategy of development and expansion in the digital print-on-demand publishing world by purchasing Xlibris, a leading publisher in self-publishing services to authors. The purchase was announced on Thursday, January 8th, by Author Solutions CEO, Kevin Weiss. Little did we know in January that Author Solutions would stay firmly in the news, give us plenty to talk about, and ultimately, provide us with the biggest story in publishing later in the year.

The judge presiding over the Amazon/Booksurge antitrust lawsuit requested both legal representatives to attend court in Bangor, Maine. Amazon & Booksurge filed for the lawsuit against them to be dismissed in August 2008. The Judge would eventually rule that Booklocker’s action was valid and Amazon/Booksurge had a case to answer.

The case was taken by last year following moves by Amazon to cajole some POD publishers into using their own print-on-demand company, Booksurge, for books sold through in the United States. For a period of time last year some POD publishers had their 'first party' buy buttons removed by Amazon from their online site. The strategy of Amazon was seen as an attempt to monopolize the POD book market.

I mentioned in an article last Christmas that book retailers in Ireland had performed marginally better in 2008 than on previous profits for 2007. However, the early figures presented in January for the completed trade period suggested that the UK book retail trade recorded profits that were marginally down. This was to be the continued trend throughout the year with layoffs and store closures.

Newsstand beat Blackwells by getting their hands on the first UK Espresso Book Machine. They were confident that they could create a demand for ‘on the spot’ printed books and planned to charge £10 for a standard paperback version and £14 for a large print book. Blackwell Books, also based in the UK, had hoped to be the first company to install these machines, but following delays their first installed machine did not appear until April in their bookstore in Charing Cross, London.

“The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them.”

And so wrote Motoko Rich in the New York Times, January 27th, 2009. It was one of the most widely discussed articles for a long time in publishing. Rich was writing about the rise in self-publishing and the changes the publishing industry faced. It was nice to see a well established newspaper cast a cursory eye over an area of the publishing business which has long exploded into life. You can reflect back on that article and read my own thoughts on it.


Amazon unveiled the new Kindle (Version 2) in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City in February. Those who gathered were more intrigued and quizzical, than necessarily bowled over by the new electronic edition to the Amazon family. Even host, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, and author Stephen King---there to read his novella, Ur---did not cause any major earthquakes or even tremors. You can find out about the unveiling of Kindle 2 here.

Smashwords, the on line ebook seller gave us an interview with self publishing guru, Dan Poynter, who had just published his acclaimed "Self-Publishing Manual - Volume 2".

February seemed to be the month for interviews, with author, actor, social commentator and BBC correspondent, Wil Wheaton, talking about his new book 'Sunken Treasure' on's blogspot to Nick Popio. Wil Wheaton is an author who was previously published by a traditional press but chose the avenue of self publishing with Lulu.


Independent book publisher Faber is always one of those to watch for new trends and different approaches to publishing. They announced in March that a forthcoming ebook release in April, ‘What Price Liberty?’ by Ben Wilson, would be sold to buyers at whatever price the customer was prepared to pay, even if that meant the download going for free. The book itself deals with the historical attacks on civil liberties in Britain and how we need to carve a different kind of liberty for today’s modern Britain.

In an effort to further expand their digital book business, US Book chain Barnes & Noble bought the ebook seller Fictionwise for a reported $15,7 million. Fictionwise continued to be run by its former owners. Here is a link to the official press release from March.

In life, certain things have a way of happening just at the right time. Keith Ogorek published an article declaring Author Solutions to be at the forefront of the indie publishing scene. You can read the article and my own reaction to it below. I was none too pleased!

In March, I began my series of 'Adventures with Blurb' articles, with the re-publication of Thais. These articles looked at my experiences using Blurb’s services.


Author Solutions continued its acquisition of another author solution company with a deal in early April to buy Canadian based Trafford Publishing, adding them to a large stable of companies including, AuthorHouse, iUniverse and their January acquisition Xlibris.

Lulu launched some new publishing packages which they said were aimed at authors who wished to focus their time on promoting and marketing their books rather than the nuts and bolts of putting their book together with Lulu's on line tools. The announcement suggested a subtle change on Lulu's publishing strategy and one that continued throughout the year. Lulu also launched the curious Lulu.poetry in April.

Felicity Woods, editorial assistant at the wrote a nice piece about witnessing the Espresso Book Machine up close and personal at Blackwell's London book store. You can read Felicity's full Espresso experience here.

The London Book Fair 2009 at Earls Court ran from the 20th to the 22nd of April and you can read some interesting discussions on ebooks below.

We talked a great deal in 2009 about ebooks and ereaders. Amazon kept its eye focused on this area with the aquisition of Lexcycle, producers of the ebook application, Stanza. The Stanza application gives iPhone users access to a library of around 100,000 books and electronic magazines for the iPhone. Clearly with the epub format in mind, Amazon see just as important a future in portable on-the-go downloads as ereaders. Lexcycle was only in existence for just over a year.

April Hamilton, creator of wrote an excellent article on what commercial publishers need to do to survive as a business.

“You think you are curators of literature, and both authors and guardians of culture, but those functions cannot possibly be performed by any organization being run with a primary profit motive. You are no more curators of literature than Nike is a curator of shoes. If you wish to remain solvent, you can only be authors and guardians of culture to the extent that it helps (or at least, doesn’t harm) your bottom line.”

You can read the article here.

Stay tuned for the Summer of 2009...

Ingram Group CEO Interviewed by The Tennessean

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Skip Prichard is the president and CEO of Ingram Content Group. For those not in the know, Ingram run the largest book wholesalers in the US, as well as owning Lightning Source, the digital printer used by many author solutions services. Prichard was interviewed this week by The Tennessean and he discusses, among other things, the future of books and publishing and the challenges for the Ingram Group.

Monday, 21 December 2009

2009: The Year That Was - Coming Soon

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Things have been extremely quite over the past week with people tied up with some big, red, fat guy arriving in a few days. With the month of December and the year drawing to a close, I will shortly be posting a review, in several parts, for the publishing year that was. And what it year it was. Over the coming weeks, into the new year, we will also have some more reviews of author solutions services. It's also that time of year when we make some predictions for the year ahead. So, stay tuned...     

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Borders To Close For Good Amid Hachette Court Action

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The 45 Borders UK stores will close for good next Tuesday with it looking increasingly unlikely that administrator MCR will find a buyer for the book retailer. Events have become sadly acrimonious in the past week with Hachette Livre taking Borders/MCR to the courts because of non-payment of stock already sold by stores. Over the past few weeks, since Borders UK entered administration, they have been heavily discounting book stocks for sale to the public in an effort to maximize cash intake before Tuesday's closure. Hachette Livre's court action has forced Borders to pull the publisher's titles from their shelves with Peter Roche, Deputy CEO of Hachette Livre claiming other major publishers will follow their lead against the ailing book retailer.

As an aside, Wesley Owen, a Christian bookstore chain in the UK has also gone into administration following the collapse of parent company, IBS-STL.

POD TV - Program 21: The Future of Reading

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For this week's POD TV, courtesy of TVO in Ontario, Canada, Empire of the Word takes a look at the future of reading with a host of experts to discuss the issues.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

UK Author Advances Slump To New Low

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There is a piece today in the about the monetary decline in advances paid to authors by UK publishers for literary fiction. The article reports that some advances have actually dropped as low as £500, with £1,000 to £2,000 being the common marker. According to one quoted publisher, we are a long way from the days when anything less than £10,000 was considered 'unacceptable'. Clearly the was  predominantly speaking to mainstream and mid-sized publishing houses. I think the above decline has long been the case with smaller independent publishers and presses, and not just in the UK, but on both sides of the Atlantic pond.

I have long argued, here and here, the need for a serious look at the whole issue of paid advances to authors and its long-term sustainability in the publishing industry. While I do not see advances entirely disappearing - we may have to look at a model of publishing which pays advances only to mid-selling and bestselling authors, where an advance on royalties is exactly that, an advance earned out by the sales of a book. So often, book sales never achieve the heady heights that allow an advance to an author to be earned out fully. Of course, authors not receiving an advance must be compensated by far greater royalty shares.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Macmillan US Announce Enhanced Ebook Editions For 2010

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Macmillan US will commence selling enhanced ebook editions of what the publisher expects to become bestsellers. The limited editions will appear from 2010 and will include enhanced features like author profiles, interviews and reader guides. They will sell for a slightly higher price than the inital hardcover version but will be available simultaneously. The enhanced ebooks will be available for a limited period before being replaced by a standard edition ebook.

This news comes on the back on some large publishers announcing that they are holding back the release of ebooks of some titles due to claims of a negative impact on their hardback editions. Macmillan's announcement does appear to be also a reaction to the ebook/hardcover debate, but takes a more innovative approach to the thorny subject.

Borders US Launches Ebooks With Shortcovers Partnership

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While Borders UK stores will pull the shutters down on all of its stores next week, Borders in the US has invested in Shortcovers and that has resulted in the re-branding of the successful e-retailer. Shortcovers will now be curiously known as Kobo and they will power the new Borders ebook stores. Here is part of the press release.

Borders Group Inc today announced a strategic investment and commercial partnership with Kobo, Inc., a global eReading service that is the newly named spin-off of Toronto-based Indigo Books & Music Inc.'s Shortcovers digital reading initiative. Through the partnership, Borders will launch a new eBook store integrated into and powered by Kobo. In addition, Kobo will power a Borders-branded eBook store for multiple mobile devices. Sales through these Borders-branded eBook stores will be booked by Borders. Kobo's mobile applications are device neutral, which will enable consumers to purchase eBooks from Borders on popular smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Android, as well as other devices. Borders and Kobo plan to launch these new services within the second quarter of 2010.

Kobo is an innovative company that as Shortcovers has already, in a matter of months, provided eBooks to customers from over 200 countries who have downloaded its reader application over one million times online and through devices including smartphones, desktops and popular eReaders such as the Sony Reader. As a leading book retailer with a strong customer following--including over 35 million members of its Borders Rewards loyalty program--Borders Group shares Kobo's vision of providing consumers any book on any device. Other investors in Kobo include Indigo, Instant Fame, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. of Hong Kong and REDGroup Retail Pty Ltd. of Australia.

"Our partnership and investment in Kobo is a significant step in our digital strategy of providing eBooks however our customers want to consume them," said Borders Group Chief Executive Officer Ron Marshall. "Kobo's global, device neutral and open approach will allow Borders-branded software applications to be downloaded on a variety of devices and is the right move for Borders as the digital market continues to evolve. We look forward to building on this key element of our digital strategy as we address the growing eBook opportunity while also remaining committed to improving our brick and mortar superstore business."

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

When Is a Book Not a Book?

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They say seeing is believing. It’s just that our instinct is also to check once, check twice, before we truly accept what we see before us. They say a millionaire passes at least one dollar bill dropped on the street every day. A pauper never misses one. Why? Because the pauper is always looking for the next dollar bill and they appreciate, far more, the true value of it.

When Random House signed many of its older publishing contracts with authors, like many publishers, they never envisioned that the book was going to one day become more than the humble paper product it once was. Here are some recent news reports and discussions on Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette Livre’s current business and marketing philosophy on the arrival and impact of ebooks in publishing and the wider book sales market.

There is a dichotomy here, isn’t there? Yes, but large publishers seem to be saying, ‘ebooks have arrived, but let’s curtail the effect they are having on book sales and preserve what is sacred’—in this particular instance—it is the beloved hardback format they are worried about. The hardback format is the doyen of the academic and literary world and the lovechild of The Book Club, burgeoning with MILF’S and modern-day stay-at-home-dads.

In a far and distant galaxy, long ago, the hardback format was the lead trumpet to the publication of a book. Many large publishing houses still persist with the misspent philosophy that a new work, particularly fiction, should first appear in hardback format three to four months prior to the paperback publication. The two formats—ebook and hardback—stand at opposite ends of what the publishing world perceive a book to be. Our hard cousin is the reliable granite-mass foundation, and the ebook is the spawn of some half-formed electronic book foetus, prescribed for those young people with their new-fangled ipigs, lambtops and tablets. The two, somehow, cannot co-exist.

Let me put my cards on the table here. I love hardbacks. I have never published a book without a hardback edition being an option or part of the deal. It is a personal aesthetic wish as well as being a practical route to exploit and maximise book club and library sales. To suggest for a moment that ebooks might be damaging hardback sales for large publishers is like blaming candle-lovers for global warming. The readers who buy hardback books will buy them because they want the first edition of a book by their favourite author—NOW, IMMEDIATELY—be that in hardback or ebook format, and whether they are paying $10 or $25 is not the issue. Therein, we come to the nub of matters. Publishing is a business, just like any other. Yes, the hardback market is declining, but it still remains lucrative, by definition of being the first print edition. Large publishers, through a combination of not being fully prepared, or wishing more to the point, to maximise their profits in a declining global economy, see ebooks as a developing irk and complication on a business which has changed little in 100 years, or a new honey-pot of profit. Consider the advent of compact disc to the music retail market in the 1980’s against cassette tapes. What killed cassette tapes was its inferior quality compared to digital recordings—not even the strength of portability could save it. The arrival of ebooks doesn’t have the initial expense factor or lack of platform that CD’s had back then. Much the same can be said for DVD over video tapes in the 1990’s.

Consider the news of Random House contacting the literary agents of authors they published many years ago to claim first ebook rights, and add to that Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette Livre choosing to delay ebook releases until the hardback edition of a book have run their retail sales course. Have we heard a great tumult of horror, repulsion and recoil—similar to the raucous and wildly emotive debate we had over Thomas Nelson and Harlequin stepping into the self-publishing minefield? No. We Haven’t. So when is a book a real book?

I found a dollar today at the side of the curb on my way to the bus stop. I had to stop to pick it up. I examined it carefully, only to find it was a piece of green paper that looked just like a dollar. When I finally looked up, I realised I’d just missed my bus.

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