Friday, 30 July 2010


Callio Press (BookForce UK/Discovered Authors) - Reviewed (Updated May 2011)


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Discovered Authors (now Callio Press) is a UK publisher and provider of author solutions services since 2005. I have been aware of them for the past three to four years. The company was one of the earliest UK author solution services I took a look at, but consistently, I have had to put off reviewing them for a number of reasons I will touch upon later. At a certain point, when I review a publisher or author solutions service, I have to decide when it is an appropriate time to go live with it. For this particular review—it is now or never.

On balance, there is more to learn by completing this review than simply filing it away for another year. So, let us begin...

“Here at Discovered Authors we have a close knit team of dedicated publishing professionals to look after you and your book.

Headed up by ex-Random House Director Graham Miller, Discovered Authors is at heart a family business and we pride ourselves on giving authors the utmost personal and professional service.

Why not meet the in-house team below – and if you have any questions for any of us we'd love to hear from you so please get in touch.”

http://www.discoveredauthors.co.uk/Contactus.html

The company was founded in 2005 by Graham Miller, formerly a director at Random House, and he set about presenting a model of publishing to prospective authors that combined elements of mainstream publishing, partnership and self-publishing. Importantly, Discovered Authors is also a part of parent company, BookForce UK, a small POD print service and distributor.

“BookForce is a global publishing services company offering a dedicated service to publishers, authors and booksellers. Our expertise encompasses pre-press, printing, distribution, book and cover design, editorial, marketing and sales. Based in London, BookForce shares an electronic warehouse with partners in other key global locations including US, Australia and Europe. Using Print On Demand technology, BookForce virtual distribution provides a profitable and environmentally friendly method of keeping slow selling titles in print. The BookForce solution avoids difficult reprint decisions which often result in expensive storage, handling, shipping charges and pulping of unsold stock.”

Statements like ‘BookForce shares an electronic warehouse with partners’ cuts little ice in reality. BookForce describe the company as ‘a global publishing service’ dealing with pre-production, printing and post production services of books. I would like to know specifically what BookForce actually do, and what they contract out to global forces through partnerships and what companies are behind these partnerships. For me, BookForce is a facilitator and provider of publishing services on a small scale in the publishing industry, be that printing books or virtually distributing them. While the company has a marketing sales force for distribution, its focus is primarily through online strategies and direct market selling as opposed to a sales force actively engaging, meeting and gaining shelf space within bookstores.

Ideally, I would like to see a list of Bookforce’s clients, specifically overseas affiliates, but I can only find client connections to the company's own publishing imprints; Discovered Authors, DA Diamonds and Four O’Clock Press (and also now Callio Press - 2010). The BookForce website could also do with a great deal more transparency and far less broken links.

I alluded to several reasons why I have not reviewed BookForce at the beginning of this review. The following is a trade newsletter of April 2008 from one of their former clients, Kima Global, a South African Publisher; Robin Beck writes:

“We had a real set back with the apparent demise of BookForce in the UK. We had been dealing with them as a production house for more than a year and things went well, then as a result of our meeting at Frankfurt last year we signed up for Virtual Distribution in November, which meant that from then on orders from UK Wholesalers went direct to them instead of via ourselves. We continued to send them orders which we received via our website, but around Mid-January this year we started to get complaints of non-delivery of orders. BookForce became creative with excuses (even up to MD level) as to why they didn't deliver despite having been paid for orders. In the end they 'disappeared' not answering phones or emails. We also lost three months of sales in the UK since we had been used to sales of around 250.00 Euros a month, but never received any payments from BookForce for November, December and January.

We have now found a new Virtual Distributor in Lightning Source. The up side is that they are owned by a very substantial USA distributor and offer distribution in both the USA and the UK. We are now quite far with them in that three of our most export oriented titles have been uploaded and new orders placed to replace those poor people who never got books from BookForce. We have yet to find a supplier for Australia, formerly covered by BookForce.”

Discovered Authors is the publishing wing of parent company BookForce and it comes with five different imprints, as well as the ambiguous sixth tag ‘Associated Publishers’, of which many links to books are broken or lead to just one other publisher called ‘Literally Publishing Ltd’ based in Oxfordshire, England. One previous imprint operated by Discovered Authors was Undiscovered Authors which functioned as a national competition aimed at seeking out new literary talent on any subject. The reason why Undiscovered Authors ceased was because it was funded by Dialog Group, an Austrian based company which went bankrupt in 2007, and also provided Discovered Authors with its accounting systems.

“In 2000, one of the key pioneers of this new charity fundraising method, Dialog Group Chairman, Andreas Leitner, decided to expand the concept in the UK, with the launch of Oxford-based, DialogueDirect UK. As well as providing face-to-face and door-to-door recruiters, the company decided to widen its services to include an in-house data processing and customer relationship management facility.”

What disturbs me greatly is though Undiscovered Authors is defunct; it is still live even though it ceased activity in 2008, in spite of the more recent suggestions by Discovered Authors that they intended resurrecting it in some form or another.

The existing Discovered Authors imprints are DA Diamonds, DA Horizons, DA Revivals, DA Classics and Four O’Clock Press.

Discovered Authors describe their four imprints below.

DA Diamonds is their mainstream imprint:
Fully funded by DA, this is a traditional publishing imprint with a twist. Instead of using agents to source submissions for us to publish, potential Diamond manuscripts from amongst our Four O’Clock Gold range are put forward by our in-house critique team for the shortlist, from which we publish a limited number each year.

We also take on a small number of titles per year sourced from submissions to all of our imprints and have regular in-house editorial meetings to review all of our titles and monitor those achieving good reviews, sales and feedback for potential upgrade to DA Diamond status.

Initially, our nationwide literary competition – Undiscovered Authors – used to act as our in-house agent to source the majority of the works we published as DA Diamonds, and there are plans to revive this scheme in the future, so watch this space!”

DA Horizons is described as a business imprint.

“DA Horizons, our business and corporate publishing imprint, can help you with getting your work out into the commercial marketplace or simply with printing and distributing your company's internal material for you. “

DA Revivals attempts to help mainstream authors to re-publish works which have gone out of print.

“The dedicated imprint for mainstream authors to get their out-of print titles back into print and onto bookshelves. We have created a range of options based on feedback from our friends in mainstream publishing. Our offer ranges from a simple back-into-print deal to a complete re-design and re-launch.”

DA Classics is a reprint on foreign books out of copyright. Their take (or twist should I say) on the imprint.

“...but DA being DA, there is once again a twist to the story. Rather than just churning out a run-of-the-mill version of what everyone else is doing, we have added some extra features which we hope will make life easier for all those who are faced with the prospect of reading classics at college, university, or even just for fun. But watch out! At DA, we don’t do translations – so if you choose a title in one of our foreign language series, you will find yourself working your way through the original. Though fear not – our competent editors have helped you with a few annotations on some of the more obscure expressions…”

The meat of Discovered Authors is their ‘assisted publishing’ imprint, Four O’Clock Press and from what I can see, it is the imprint generating most of their book output. This is their bread and butter imprint, and while Discovered Authors profess to engage in various models of publishing described by them as mainstream publishing, partnership and self-publishing, Four O’Clock Press is the one that will define them—rightly or wrongly.

“Within our Four O’Clock imprint, we have three divisions. Which of these your book fits into is determined by a number of factors, such as the quality of your original manuscript, the amount of extra work you are prepared to put in, and of course your personal goals. One of the first questions our consultants will ask you is: Why have you written this book?

Once we have established what your ambitions are as a writer – do you simply want to see your words in print? Are you aspiring to make a living writing books one day? – we will create a unique publication pack for you that will take into account both your aims as an author and our requirements as your publisher.”

I am not going to dwell on DA Horizons, a business imprint, DA Revivals or DA Classics. We have explained these above and their relevance. I want our focus to be on DA Diamonds and Four O’Clock Press—the core of the Discovered Authors programs in respect of submitting authors pursuing alternative methods of publishing. If Discovered Authors cannot get Horizons, Revivals and Classics right for works which have been previously published, well, then there is little hope for this ambitious publisher.

Four O’Clock Press offers three packages, bronze, silver and gold. Interestingly, DA suggests it is the evaluation of their publishing consultant who will determine the ideal package for a submitting author. In principal, this arrangement makes sense, provided the consultant has the author’s wishes and best interests in mind. What makes me uneasy about such an arrangement is when the author is paying for publishing services. It requires more than a modicum of trust from the author and buckets of ethical and honest judgement from the publisher. The theme of promoting the author who produces quality work and is prepared to invest a great deal of effort into making their books and their potential career as an author a success runs through all DA’s publishing programs. If you like, this approach is a kind of reversed risk for the publisher, and may only even out fairly when the author can maintain steady or increased book sales on one of DA’s paid-publishing programs. The enticement is a contract with DA Diamonds, the traditional publishing program.

The Four O'Clock Press Packages:

GOLD
AI Sheet
Press Release Service
Catalogue Advert
Marketing Design Pk
Author Website
Hardback Upgrade
Marketing Support
Mentoring Program
Amazon UK/US
Wholesaler
Prime Content Online Author Page
Bookshops
Enhanced Catalogue Listing

SILVER
AI Sheet
Press Release Service
Catalogue Advert
Marketing Design Pk
Author Website
Hardback Upgrade
Amazon UK
Wholesalers
Website Listing
Catalogue Listing

BRONZE
Marketing Design Pk
Author Website
Hardback Upgrade
Amazon UK
Website Listing
Catalogue Listing




“If you are looking for a rapid route to publishing and want your words out there swiftly and with minimal input, Four O’Clock Bronze is for you. This division is geared towards online marketing and distribution and leaves you in full control over cost and timing, retaining some elements of the traditional idea of self-publishing but under the DA umbrella.

Four O’Clock Silver is our traditional assisted publishing division, and we expect the majority of submissions we receive to fall into this category. An extremely well-written manuscript which will benefit from a fresh pair of eyes before publication to ensure consistency and eliminate minor blunders, your Silver book will enjoy professional bespoke text and cover design to create a unique look tailored to its theme and audience.

As a general rule, you can expect us to apply much stricter criteria both in terms of format and content when considering a manuscript for our Four O’Clock Gold division, as the titles that make it to the top will receive just that extra bit of marketing and publicity which can make the difference between a cracking read and a potential bestseller. Gold titles are mainly those which are of a quality, mainstream standard – indeed, Gold level manuscripts will automatically be short-listed for our traditional mainstream Diamonds imprint.”

Nowhere specifically are costs linked to packages, and, yet, Four O’Clock Press do offer a menu of al-la-carte service prices, but it is unclear as to whether these refer to the services on offer at Four O’Clock Press. Again, this does not help with transparency.


Discovered Authors Publishing Services Price List 2010/11
Editing
Up to 80,000 words
Per further 5,000 words
Proof Read
£150
£8
Basic Copy Edit
£299
£14
Enhanced Copy Edit
£599
£18
Full Edit
£999
£21
Design
Charge
Service
Template Text Design
£99
Choice from a range of templates; includes initial consultation; £3 per further 5000 words
Bespoke Text Design
£199
Includes initial consultation and free changes after sample chapter; £4.50 per further 5000 words
Template Cover Design
£199
Includes initial consultation and free changes after first draft; further changes are charged at £49 per hour
Bespoke Cover Design
£399
Includes initial consultation, free changes after first and second draft; further changes are charged at £49 per hour
Production
Charge
Service
File Upload and Registration
£99
Includes UK ISBN, Nielsen BookData registration, Amazon.co.uk upload, essential UK sales and distribution, British Library Legal Deposit copy, website & catalogue listing; includes print proofs and 2 final copies
Perfect Scan
£99
Requires hardcopy; up to 400 pages - extra pages £0.10 per page
PDF Conversion
£199
up to 400 pages - extra pages £0.20 per page
Typing Service
£4 per page
-
Marketing
Charge
Service
Advanced Information Sheet
£99
Includes retail and wholesale notification
Press Release Service
£299
Requires author questionnaire; includes free changes after first draft; further drafts £49
Catalogue Advertisement
£99 (half page)
Requires cover artwork; to include initial consultation and free charges after first draft; further charges charged at £49 per hour; includes 10 catalogue copies
£149 (full page) 
£249 (double spread)
Ongoing Marketing Support
£599
Includes AI and Press Release Service; Enhanced Catalogue Listing; Prime Content Author Page

(Gold Only)
Marketing Design Pack (Poster, Flyer, Bookmark)
£99
Requires cover artwork; includes initial consultation and free changes after first draft; further changes are charged at £49 per hour; print quotes available separately and depending on volume
Author Website Design
£249 (5 pages)
Requires website/ hosting contract; Includes initial consultation; updates charged at £49 per hour
£399 (10 pages)
Hardback Upgrade
£99
Print quotes available separately and depending on page count and order volume
US Distribution
£199
Includes US ISBN, Amazon.com upload, essential US sales and distribution; includes text and cover file adaption
All prices are subject to UK VAT - Prices valid as of 1 February 2010


If ever there was a case of chaos in motion, then you are witnessing it here. The quoted prices are subject to VAT, and keeping things simple, the following costing would apply on a basic package:

Basic Copy Edit - £299
Template Text - £99
Template Cover - £199
File Upload and Registration - £99
Advance Information Sheet - £99
Press Release - £299
US Distribution Added (Online and Availability only) - £199
TOTAL - £1293

Using bespoke design options, thorough editing and more marketing tools could push this up to £2295. The PDF conversion and Author Website fees are outlandish when these services can be purchased at far cheaper rates elsewhere. Indeed, there are a number of free PDF converters available online.

Authors do have the option to use Four O’Clock Press entirely as a bespoke service, allowing them to choose their own imprint and use their own registered ISBN. The Four O’Clock Press contract is non-exclusive and provides 15% royalties based on net sales (after trade discounts, print costs etc).

DA Diamond is Discovered Author’s flagship imprint—meaning—authors do not have to pay a fee for publication. However, publication comes by way of an in-house critique team who evaluate books submitted into the Four O’Clock imprint (Gold package only) as well as consideration given to all manuscripts submitted to other DA imprints. Authors signing up with DA Diamond are doing so as per standard mainstream contract and permitting exclusive publishing rights for a period of five years. Royalties to authors are due at a pretty disappointing 10% on net sales.

Discovered Authors and their parent BookForce UK have had their ups and downs over the past two years, nevertheless, they have persevered. Companies House list one incarnation as being dissolved on 28/7/2009 and BookForce Distribution Ltd being incorporated on 31/7/2009. The Bookseller (see below links) has also covered their troubles over the past two years with two features, and it would be foolish if I did not disclose that the UK Society of Authors has received a series of complaints about BookForce.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/57583-discovered-authors-responds-to-critics.html
http://www.thebookseller.com/news/54045-discovered-authors-survives-black-hole.html

“To take our cutting-edge role one step further, we have recently teamed up with our long-time partner, Blissett Bookbinders. Established in 1920, this third generation family-owned firm is the third largest specialist library bookbinding, restoration and conservation company in the United Kingdom, renowned for high quality hardback bindings.

Operating from our joint premises in West London, you can now find Discovered Authors in a strategically unique position: with offices, printing and binding facilities all under one roof, we have optimized the publication process in terms of time and resource management, making book production an exciting, tangible experience for you as an author.

Above all, our ambition is to support writers everywhere who have a passion and desire to see their work in print, whatever their aspirations; and to help people to understand the world of publishing so that they are able to take it into their own hands and define their own corner of it; to democratize and create the freedom for people like us to do what we love – that is to write, read and generally wallow in beautifully and imaginatively crafted books.”

I attempted to do this review on four different occasions over the past two years, and consistently, every time my fingers tapped my keypad, I discovered something was going 'tits up' at BookForce UK. I admire their resolve and the fact that in spite of their financial and logistical ups and downs, essentially, Bookforce has managed to produce some beautiful books of quality. Pop over to their website and books are the first thing that hit you head on in the face—not publishing services. We are avid listeners in our household to BBC radio, on FM and the Internet for local BBC stations. I can at least recall six different DA authors on BBC radio talking about their books and mentioning the DA name over the past two years, more than I can say for many larger mainstream and independent publishers. And all this when it seemed the roof was falling in on DA and BookForce.

Why I persevered with a review of this company over the past three years, I’ll never know. DA even ignored my own book submission back in January 2008, despite several emails to them! But then, over time, due to the nature of the work I do, I am used to publishers scattering in all directions—waving cloves of garlic and crucifixes in the air—when my name pops up in their inboxes!

Over time, Discovered Authors - but in particular BookForce - has got things badly wrong. It should not be forgotten that the company has also got a lot right. Running any business that combines various forms of publishing options is a tough one to pull off; few companies are deft and equipped enough to run a print and distribution service, as well as operate and market four publishing imprints. You will recall earlier in this review I cited a newsletter from former BookForce client, Kima Global. It was interesting to discover Kima Global switched to Lightning Source’s print and fulfilment services. What it does reveal is the level BookForce were trying to aspire to—real dream stuff. I admire the ambition, but reality can deliver some powerful kicks to your nuts.

This year I have seen some perfection to the Discovered Authors website. Gone is the dream stuff and whimsical allusions to self-publishing classical giants of yesteryear—Beatrix Potter, D. H. Lawrence et all—to be replaced with a much more grounded take on the modern publishing world. Let us not pull any punches here. BookForce did not do their publishing imprints any favours. Bridges were burned and DA inherited their share of disgruntled authors. I know of two authors in the past month who are no longer published by DA but have settled their dues and differences.

What DA need to do is engage directly with the Society of Authors and resolve any outstanding issues from last year and BookForce also need to rebuild a few commercial bridges. Without doing that, they cannot and will not move forward. In turn, that would harm a great program of publishing the company has clearly demonstrated worked with the right authors and books and the right approach. DA need to nail a web designer to an office chair and instruct them to fix every broken and wayward link they find or they will walk the plank.

Here is the nub of this review, bluntly. Somewhere buried in this publishing company is a staff of people who care about books, the physical quality of the product speaks for itself. No matter how ambitious you are or whatever highs you have scaled—never forget about the small detail—often that is what matters most to ordinary souls.

I used to grab the evening newspaper in the local shop in Walkinstown on the way home from work during the 1980’s. The shop would always be packed with kids buying gobstoppers—huge balls of hard-coated chewing gum. The shopkeeper, Michael, insisted placing the five or ten gobstoppers they got for their few pence into a small brown paper bag. The kids just wanted to pay their money, grab the gobstoppers and head off into the summer sunshine outside. Michael would insist that each kid waited until he put the gobstoppers in a brown bag from a large plastic container he kept on a high shelf. If any kid protested about the delay, he would always say:

‘You pay your money and get what goes with the service—no more and no less, mind. The bag goes with the gum. That’s the way it is around here. Now get lost and play.’

The kids every day still jumped up and down at the counter and protested about his insistence on detail. You’d get pretty pissed off if there was a herd of kids ahead of you and all you were in for was a newspaper. People either liked Michael's straight ways or did not. Michael didn’t seem to care either way what we thought. Why would he? It did him no harm. Michael now owns and runs the largest airline company in the world.

[I did not forget to include book discounts to authors in this review. DA do not actually disclose what price books are printed and then sold directly to authors at. Part of my point on transparency.]


[In late May 2009, DA launched a dedicated blog for their authors and also began making some improvements to their website. You can also find them on Twitter.]


RATING: 0.0/10 (not recommended)

UPDATE July 2010
This publisher has now changed its name to Callio Press. Further updates and details when available.

UPDATE May 2011

Callio Press Closes London Office and Ends Self/Assisted Publishing Services



Callio Press has vacated its London office in Regents Street, and in a recent email to the company’s authors, MD Graham Miller explained ‘that the business can no longer afford to operate an office in central London nor full time staff.’ Callio Press (formerly Discovered Authors and defunct Bookforce UK) is a publishing service in the UK offering bespoke self-publishing services and assisted publishing packages, as well asmainstream publishing contracts through its Callio Crest imprint.



Citing a downturn in book sales for the trade, a difficulty in ‘finding new titles’ and the ‘shift in reading habits from the printed book to e-book equivalents’, Miller announced that Callio Press will no longer take on self or assisted publishing books outside of their current list of authors and will instead focus itself as a mainstream publisher. I have to say I’ve never heard of a publisher complain about the difficulty of ‘finding new titles’, most are buried under a deluge of them! Current estimated market share for ebooks runs at about 5% in the UK, so that means 95% of sales are still print books. (CLICK HEADLINE LINK ABOVE FOR FURTHER READING)

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3 comments:

  1. They have changed name and premises again...They are now called Callio Press and there are still DA authors waiting for royalties....they are not holding their breath!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wasted money on these guys 4 yrs ago....whatever name they go by, now or in the future, I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I 'won' a Discovered Author prize in 2006. Never received my £1,000, received royalties, never received marketing advice - and the most irritating thing is my book is still for sale on the net and I cannot do anthing about it - remember the owners name and avoid like the plague

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