Monday, 21 June 2010

Austin & MacAuley UK - Reviewed

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I have been following Austin & MacAuley for the past three years. They offer ‘both Traditional Mainstream and Partnership Opportunities’ and are based in London. Unfortunately Austin & MacAuley were not always entirely transparent about the fact that their publishing model included ‘fees’ or as they also refer to them in some parlances—contributions from the author. For a long time Austin & MacAuley persisted with a policy of not disclosing the possibility of requiring a ‘contribution’ until an author had submitted a manuscript for appraisal. Authors unfamiliar with Partnership Publishing models may still be unaware that a fee is involved and I still believe Austin & MacAuley could do more to clarify this point. This was the fundamental reason we previously declined to review them.

“In the world of publishing it is becoming desirable for new authors to get on the publishing ladder and attain success with their books. The current economic climate has opened many avenues in publishing which has allowed us to take on a large number of new writers through both Traditional Mainstream and Partnership Opportunities, which includes a full editorial, production and marketing plan. We understand new writers can become disheartened when rejected by publishers. Our view is, and always has been, that as one door closes another opens.”

Actually, in early 2009, their website FAQ’s hinted at self-publishing by listing ‘famous authors’ who had travelled the self-publishing path over the last century. Needless to say, some of the cited authors did indeed self-publish, but many others did not—certainly not in the manner Austin & MacAuley presented the cited authors. The FAQ’s on their website in 2009 hinting at Austin & MacAuley’s fees for publishing a book disappeared by 2010. Let us just say if D. H. Lawrence, Beatrix Potter and James Joyce were doing the rounds of publishers today, it is unlikely they would be calling to the doors of their Canary Wharf offices in London along with the morning postman.

“We are an independent trade publisher based in the heart of Canary Wharf along side other world famous media and publishing groups. We publish quality literature which will form the new platform from which twenty first century writers will be discovered. We are therefore searching for authors with excellent writing skills which accord with our high standards. Our lists contain a wide range of subjects both fiction and non fiction, and we produce a variety of interesting and readable books for all ages and tastes.”

And, from the above—the open invitation to new authors comes with no qualification that they may have to contribute financially to the publication of their book.

“Our view is, and always has been, that as one door closes another opens. Some of the most successful writers were once in the exactly same position as you are in now so there is always hope for new writers. Please view our submission guidelines page on how to submit and which genres are most commonly accepted to our editors.”

Actually, if the truth be known, I do like the Austin & MacAuley website. It screams books and trade publisher in the way any publisher’s site should. They advertise books from the word go, and they have an updated news feed on current author events and releases. The cover artwork on their books is pretty good and is up there with many UK trade publishers. One glaring error that did catch my eye on the scrolling book adverts on the header of their website does bring cause for reflection and the presence of attention to detail. Norma Lloyd Nesling’s, The Regis Connection is an author who caught my eye because she previously published through Troubador Publishing. Her book is listed in the scrolling header and it would help if Austin & MacAuley spelt the name of one of their own authors correctly in the advert—Lloyd is misspelt ‘Llyod’ in the graphic. It is details like this that raise a red flag for me.

Austin & MacAuley describe themselves as an independent trade publisher, but unlike many of the other trade publishers located in London and anywhere else for that matter, we are not told who their editors or senior personnel are (nor their background or experience), nor how much publishing skills they bring with them—and more to the point—what history and experience Austin & MacAuley actually has as a publisher.

[Addendum: after much effort and through the links (here and here), we have ascertained that Annette Longman was listed as Chief Editor and James Carter as Assistant editor.]

From their shipping and returns link on their website the following:

Book Shops, Please apply to us, via the contact form, for information regarding orders.”

This is certainly not the way a trade publisher should deal with book orders from the retail trade and it begs the question why Austin & MacAuley do not have a direct link on their website to a sales distributor. Of course, they may have their own in-house sales team, but ‘send us an email’ is no way for a trade publisher to take orders.

Submission guidelines are standard with enquiries taken by email and manuscripts and SAE accepted by post. In the first instance authors are requested to send three sample chapters, a synopsis and covering letter.

Austin & MacAuley list their marketing and promotional plans for books here. Much of it appears to involve their own direct marketing efforts through press releases, advance information and offering review copies on request from retail buyer departments and bookstores. Interestingly, I could not find a direct link to this on the Austin & MacAuley website and I only came across the page while doing an online search.

Overall, on first impressions, Austin & MacAuley hit the early marks with strong cover artwork, a slick website and some marketable titles out of the 100+ listed books over the past four years, but scratch much below the surface, and it becomes a struggle to join the dots up here. Their website has a number of grammatical errors and lacks real detail and substance regarding the kind of publishing they offer and their ability to distribute books to the trade.

I also want to believe Austin & MacAuley demonstrate a strong editorial hand and are selective about what they take on, but the information available through the links and correspondence with authors does not belie this (sources here, here and here). Their lack of transparency on providing specific details on their Partnership Opportunity program until the author has submitted their book for consideration is still troubling.

I am not convinced Austin & MacAuley are offering anything more (at best) than the better author solutions services, and that is giving the benefit of the doubt to an ‘independent trade publisher’ willing to ask perspective authors to ‘contribute’ a four-figure amount to the publication of their book. Austin & MacAuley are attempting to operate Partnership Publishing like Pen Press (PPS 233.13), Epic Press (EPS 186.09), Derwent Press (DWP 194.02), Book Guild Publishing (BGP 218.05) and Matador (MAT 256.20). As publishing develops new models to move forward, this model of publishing is coming more to the forefront, and I actually believe UK publishers are ahead of their US cousins on this. But when Partnership Publishing is on the table as an option, the author must at least know from the outset that this is potentially one of the models on offer to them and more importantly that it will come at a cost. It must never be introduced to the author/publisher partnership after submission. When a publisher does this, and suggests a financial contribution is required, it renders the idea of a partnership between author and publisher as the poor cousin of publishing, rather than a reasonable and viable alternative for a book.

If there is one single thing Austin & MacAuley could take on board; it is you cannot ride on two coattails. Most publishers who adopt Partnership Publishing models, and actually make them work, do so by defining a distinct identity between their trade imprint and their partnership imprint.

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RATING: 6.1/10
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  1. As independent booksellers, our only knowledge of Austin & MacAuley's publications is through badly written stock letters where they fill in a few details about the book in question. They usually say "the author is well known & from your local area" wherever in the country they are actually from.
    They say we can order them through the wholesaler Gardners, but at a very poor 25% discount and they are non-returnable.
    Also, their Canary Wharf address is actually a vanity, "virtual" address. It's little more than an expensive P.O. Box with a forwarding service.

  2. Anonymous,

    A lot of what you say as an independent bookseller regarding this author solutions service, can be applied to many other service providers. And yes, 25% discount on non-returnable books is not going to attract any bookseller, independent or not.

    The links provided in my review do point to Absolutwrite's thread on this publishing service, which alerts prospective authors to the fact that their address is indeed simply a 'virtual' posting address for manuscripts forwarding on.

  3. I actually used to work for Austin Macauley myself until september last year, and I have to say I do agree with some of the comments. However the company was taken over by new management in 2010 and since then changes were made to improve the company image. They did start off as a virtual adress but with new managment injecting cash into the company they obtained permanent office space at canary wharf where the senior members sit. The production office is elsewhere, though, which is where I used to work. I have to say since the take-over they have turned their priority into selling and promoting books. The staff now are extremely focussed on that aspect of selling books with lots of good ideas, and I know they are selling books as ebooks too.

    The reason that I am actually defending them is because, having worked for a publishing company, I was able to get a better job in a much larger publishing house.By the way, the discount they offer to wholesalers and bookshops is actually 40% and above and the stock is on sale or return.

  4. Thanks Anonymous for some of those clarifications. The change in ownership in 2010 was one of the main reasons I decided to do the review. I had been aware of them for about three years, and when the site was updated and improved and a great deal of transparency introduced to their services.

    I agree, it is approaching the time the review could do with an update and I work on that over the coming months. Their direction certainly changed by late 2010, and it is clear from my own monitoring of them and also through communications on their Facebook page which I follow, that there is now a committed focus to selling books rather than just publishing services.

  5. I have used Austin & Macauley for my book and it has done fantastic! I think it depends on your writing style and will power. I worked with the head of marketing Brett Sanderson he was so helpful and got me on numerous radio stations and book signings. Also with my input on top I had done talks at local libraries as well. Part of being a new or unknown author is also to do some self promotion too; it’s not going to sell thousands of copies by sitting on your backside. Publishing is a risk but if you are motivated and dedicated to your work you will get places! I am glad I used Austin and Macauley as there dedicated team have helped me come along way. Not every book is successful; it is business at the end of the day.

  6. I read all these comments with interest. My book has been accepted by Austin Macaulay on a fee paying basis. At Face value I like them. The but for me is do I trust them? When your paying for your own work to be published, it is vanity publishing. Being approved to be published by a vanity press, does not really endorse your work. Speaking as a writer, I want that Kudos. I want someone to look at my work and approve it. Looking at my work and then saying well done, now hand over £3000.00 isn't really the well deserved pat on the head I was waiting for. I had no idea they (Austin Macaulay) offered fee biased publishing until the offer arrived. My other concern is, this review was easy to find, why is there not a plethora of happy Austin Macaulay Authors here bursting with personal endorsements for their publisher.
    If anyone has answer contact me

  7. It's part of the issue I have with this publisher, Gerry. Most authors submitting manuscripts still don't realise that most books are accepted on a contribution basis.

    Regarding your point on positive reviews of AM from authors: most authors are more focussed on promoting their book and shy away from publicly reporting on experiences with a publisher - good or bad. The bulk of feedback I get on this publisher is negative, rather than positive, but it should be noted that feedback comes from authors declining the fee-based offers.

  8. It's interesting to read the comments about Austin Macauley. I received a traditional publishing contract from them about a month ago. Because of the negative comments on AbsoluteWrite, I almost laughed off the offer because I thought there had to be catch. But since signing with them they've appeared thoroughly professional and the book is going through the production process. It would be interesting to know how they decide to take on a book for a trad-pub deal and also what percentage get published that way.

    1. I'm glad it's shaping up well for you, David, but it's early doors in the process. They definitely appear to be doing a lot more for authors on the promo side in past year. I'd say the split trad/self is less than they might claim, but it would make sense to offer a trad based on the submission being strong and the author has a reasonable sized readership base already built and a very marketable book.

    2. Interesting to read David Ellis comment. I have no reason not to believe him. Just wish there were more valid endorsements of A&M to be found...I have not come to a personal conclusion about A&M yet. It would look like their business model aims to deliver 20 new publications per month. If those authors all paid £2000 the business would be worth £40,000 p/m £480,000pa without royalty interests added. Writers Net is another site that doesn't offer a good word about A&M
      But that does not mean A&M are not Bonafide. I have to say the people I have spoken with at A&M, all seem nice.
      However Diy publishing on Amazon or LULU does look an interesting alternative.

    3. Having just read 5 minutes with A&M it seemed far, far, far, to contrived to be plausible..

    4. If you are a first time author let me say well done.
      It must not of been easy to get all those words on paper and you have done it, so reward yourself. Well done.
      Now it would seem comes the really hard part getting yourself read by paying clients.
      You know you can count on your family and friends, but they are not going to be that keen on actually having to buy a copy of your book, after all your not Andy Mcnab or J K Rowling, are you.
      So here lays the first questions? How many books can you sell?
      Let us say 500.
      Now at what retail price?
      Let's guess £8.99
      Let now look at the sum and see if your a millionaire?
      Gross £4495.00 looks good but printing charges for the book have to be subtracted first. 500 books@3.50 per print.£1750.00
      Suddenly £4495-1750 = £2745.00
      Unfortunately there is another deduction if you have signed a contract how much did it say was your percentage was ?
      40% ?
      40% of 2745 = £1098.00
      Now if you paid your publisher £2000 up front, they have made £3647.00
      Your minus £902 plus the cost of writing your book
      The publisher is up £3647.00. minus any promotional expenses.spent out on your book.
      Your writing one book per year? The publisher listing 20 books per month.
      It does begin to look like your on the wrong end of the quill.
      But at least now you can call your self a published author on job application, (you are going to need a job because your £902 in the Red) Also it is probably best not to tell anyone you had to pay to have your book published, or they may say. 'Your not a proper author then', and chuckle as the actuality of their words hit you.
      But personally as I stand in the same shoe's as you. I say to you well done for writing that first book and I hope it will be successful for you and sell millions. As indeed I hope my own will also be.

  9. Things to consider.
    Who judges the judges.
    A&M is supposedly owned by an Arab business man.
    Who are the panel of editors that judge your work and what qualifications do they hold to do this?
    If A&M is a production line vanity publishers, then at one end they will be turning out books. At the other feeding new authors, it will be done on a cycle and have a time frame. The excitement you feel in the build up to A&M excepting your work, will in fact, only be part of the marketing strategy. IF ! It has already been decided to except a target of 20 manuscripts per month to meet A&M production line requirements then your work will automatically of been excepted on the first day of your works arrival. The game of making you wait for their decision, is just to heighten your desire for their acceptance of your work and make you more acceptable to the concept of paying to have your work published.
    But I have no evidence of this other than the fact A&M advertise for new authors, the most vulnerable type of author, and the established publishers have no need of this form of recruitment.
    The other thing that now concerns me is the atmosphere that is built around your work, it almost feels like it is saying, 'You know what, your not quite good enough, but pay our fee and we can slip you in, sort out your editing, fix your spelling and grammar make you look like a professional.' You already are a writer, you have written a book, that is a big achievement. A really talented big achievement. Many people talk about wanting to write a book, but you climbed the mountain and you did it. Remember, apart from the mass market of publishing there will always be readers for every genera. Liken it to lots of boxes of Cornflakes get sold, but some people eat caviar.
    When you sign a publishing contract you sell your writes to your book, You sell everything you have just worked so hard on to write down. For me it keeps coming back to, you now want me to pay you to buy my book, so your business can make a profit.

  10. It is probably fair to say I am over blogging on this subject BUT!

    As a kid I never really asked to many questions.
    Example.. What's that Mummy?
    It's a Cow darling, it goes Moo.
    That answers is good enough for me then..
    As I got a little older my questioned changed.
    What is the strongest beer you have got barman? 'Wadsworth 6x.
    That will do for me than.
    When the TV cop's & robbers program came to the end with the words 'Your Nicked !
    I just excepted that the bad guys go to jail and didn't ask my self, did the bad guys get their Miranda rights properly?
    And as a first time author myself I never asked any questions about
    Publishers? Why should I ? You write a book send it in to a publisher, if they accept your book lucky you, Job done, isn't it?
    What is a publishers?
    It a business, set up to make a profit out of selling books, and if the big cheese at Penguin is on a minimum 80K pa before 1st class executive flights and all the other essential expenses,
    Then that publishers needs to be making a pretty penny.

    My Point!
    And I think it is time I made one, is that you should be asking more question than I ever did.

    Your book doesn't go in the post and land on the desk of the big cheese. It hit the desk of the lowest pay grade sub editor. You can call this filter number one.

    A profit making business can not leave the process of finding a good book to chance, or a sub editor that may pass your book on a whim, they need protocols and this I am told takes the form of a check list which regardless to how well written your work is, decides whether your in or your out.

    Another thing for you consider is how quickly can you read a book?
    Given there is 40 hours in a working week, if your job was to be a sub editor, how many books could you read in that time?
    How many sub editors can the publishers that you have sent your book to afford?

    If I was a sub editor, rolling into work on a Monday morning after a good session on the pop at the weekend and yours was the first book I picked up, don't take it to heart if I rejected you. After my ten o'clock cup of coffee you would of passed with flying colours.

    Now to bury my comment deep in this post where it won't be seen.
    I can't say anything bad about Austin Macauley, they have always been very professional, and one of the girls I met there is a right little cutie, but that can't influence my final decisions. When there acceptance letter arrived about 5 weeks after submission, I was over the moon. Wow! I loved Austin Macauley especially the cute one, but then I started to think with my brain and not with what a man normally uses. The folder their letter arrived in was emblazoned with other companies logo's. BBC, W.H.Smith etc, so I picked two at random and emailed them for there opinion on Austin Macauley. After all A&M was using those logo's as an endorsement of themselves. Nada, not a word back from anyone. So I tried contacting two of A&M authors through facebook. No reply to date. This in it's self is not a reason not to use A&M. But the offer they made me was fee based, and I wasn't ready for that. A&M had never warned me that they where/are not a traditional trade based Publishers.
    As the offer was fee based I then started getting prices from other vanity publisher or fee based publishers so I could compare like with like what A&M was offering me, and I found out that prices for fee based publishing start from as little as £500.
    My real dilemma right now is, am I any good as a writer?
    How do I know when it fulls upon me to pay for the publishing of my own novel?
    I have to acknowledge I owe Austin Macauley a debt. They gave me the final push I need to write.
    But now I feel foolish, in my excitement of getting Austin Macauly's acceptance letter I told my friends I am going to be a writer. If I now have tell them I am only a writer because I paid for it, their laughter will be greater.

    1. Hello. I have been reading this thread with a great deal of interest. I'm a first time novelist and I too have just received a 'contribution contract' offer from Austin Macauley. I've been trying to research them but not really getting anywhere. I've found a lot of online comments about them but they seem to date from around 2010/11. My initial instinct is that if they offered me a fee paying contract then they don't actually believe in the book and while they may fulfil the letter of the contract it is difficult to sell a product in which you don't believe. I noticed that you gave your email address earlier on. I was wondering if anyone has been in touch with you to offer any further thoughts about their experiences with them. Thank you.

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  12. Anyone who wants to contact me about Austin Macauley are most welcome to do so. I think it is good that genuine people should post here any experiences that they may of had with Austin Macauley.
    My opinions are never fixed in stone, if I find out anything good about (AM) I will share it here with you.
    But for now personally, I feel upset that at the beginning of my personal relationship with (AM) I was never told that they were a fee based publishers or that they offered fee based contracts along side traditional contracts. To me fee based Publishers are the same as Vanity publishers. (You pay to see your book printed). Vanity publishers have to advertise to get new business. Traditional publishers don't have to advertise they always receive authors manuscripts.
    If a traditional publisher offers you a contract it is an endorsement of your writing skills.
    If a Vanity fee based contract is offered to you, it because they want your money.
    My opinion is for all the tantalizing publicity Austin Macauley generate about wanting to encourage new writers, I think they just want your money, and see new writers, who are vulnerable and have no idea how to get their book published as revenue stream to line the coffers of the Ltd company that is trading as Austin Macauley.
    Austin Macauley use other companies logo's like W.H.Smith, BBC on their own literature . This would imply to me, that these logo names endorse (AM). However, when I wrote to these companies to ask if they did indorsed (AM) I got no reply from W.H.Smith or the BBC. I would be interested to know if anyone else has done the same as me, and if they got a response from the companies they wrote to?
    Logos are protected by copyright, the use of such material by unauthorized persons in some cases, can be illegal.

  13. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, Austin Macauley offered me a trad-pub contract for my novel which I've signed after having it checked over by a lawyer. I'm absolutely clear that there are no fees to pay and the contract stipulates five free copies of the book and a small advance, which I've received. They've also requested to see my next book. Thus far, the only thing negative I can say is that the time from signing the contract to actual publication can seem inordinately long (a maximum of 190 days is mentioned in the contract) when one's had experience of going the self-publishing route. Given all the negativity that exists on the web about AM, it would be good to hear from authors who've had a similar experience to mine.

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