Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Book Making: Just what the world needs: yet another sleazy, sloppy, egomaniacal pay-to-publish company

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Book Making: Just what the world needs: yet another sleazy, sloppy, egomaniacal pay-to-publish company

Michael N. Marcus gives an in-depth review of new kids on the self-publishing services block, Self Help Publishers, and it ain't pretty!
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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Novelled: A Brief Overview

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Novelled is a new ebook website for self-published authors supporting PDF, Mobi and ePub formats.

According to founder, Perter Ibrahim speaking to Teleread last October...

"… the website will allow any budding author to instantly convert their Word documents into various eBook-compatible file formats and make them available for purchase. Obviously, mine won’t be the first website to try this and we certainly won’t be the last, but I think it’s different enough to some competitors to be worth visiting. As long as sites promoting amateur fiction continue to sail somewhat under the public radar and don’t provide authors with quite the same exposure that musicians and filmmakers have then the opportunity is always there…"

And from the Novelled website...

A world of eBooks at $1.50 each.

Ever dreamed of sharing your story with the world? Don't have the foggiest idea how to get a publisher to look at your work short of locking them in the basement and prodding them with a big stick? Ever wondered why the internet has changed the way we think about music and video and yet has left books back in the age of print?

Novelled is a place where anyone, anywhere can sell their novels in eBook-compatible formats. You simply give us your work in Microsoft Word format and we'll take care of everything else. It really is that simple.

We offers eBooks from anyone with a story to tell, from up and coming authors to those just writing as a labour of love, in a range of formats compatible with all major eBook readers. All for the low price of $1.50 - less than the cost of a Sunday newspaper, most common brands of dental floss or an ex-rental bargain basket DVD. Why not browse some customer reviews, read some samples and then give one of our authors a try? Not even the best floss is going to broaden your horizons or capture your imagination.

Make yourself heard. Non-orally.

Whether you want simply to share your work with the world or you're looking to gather feedback and reviews to try and land a print publishing deal, Novelled is the outlet you've been looking for. Provided your work meets our Submission Guidelines (this includes a minimum standard for spelling and grammar) then the only thing stopping you reaching your potential readers is your imagination. Possibly also an internet connection."
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The Truth About My Time, Part I: Queries & Requested Material | Confessions From Suite 500

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The Truth About My Time, Part I: Queries & Requested Material | Confessions From Suite 500

"In 2010, I was open to queries from January 1st to November 15th.

Here's what my stats look like:


Queries Received: 5530

Rejected: 4803

Requested: 727"

Literary Agent Suzie Townsend on what came in the door this year!  

Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #3 — The Book Designer

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Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #3 — The Book Designer

Featured Posts

blogs for self-publishersJane Friedman presents When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books posted at There Are No Rules. “Social media is about developing relationships and a readership over the long term that helps bolster your entire career (and sales too). When people claim that social media hasn’t worked for them, I can usually guess why—because I see it used wrong EVERY day.”
blogs for self-publishersMick Rooney presents Democratization or Be Damned posted atPOD, Self Publishing and Independent Publishing. “The only way true ‘Democratization of Publishing’ is going to happen is when the old ‘traditional’ publishing aristocracy takes on and embellishes what is good outside and around it – all that it currently fears.”
blogs for self-publishersThomas Burchfield presents The Thrill of the Hunt posted at A Curious Man. “I gasp and sprawl on my back upon the cold terra-cotta tile floor, struck down by the reality of my actions. . . Everything can go wrong. Nothing can go wrong. The book is great. The book is terrible. . . The book will sell a million copies and be despised. The book will sell zero copies and be loved.”

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Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas to all

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Our journey this year takes us to Christmas Eve, a time for cheer, joy and happiness, as well as reflection on those who left this world. May you all have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones, family and friends. Thank you for your visits, your support, your comments, your friendship and inspiration.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may we all go forward together safely into 2011.

Strength through joy...

A modest proposal for book marketing – The Shatzkin Files

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A modest proposal for book marketing – The Shatzkin Files:

A proposal to publishers on book marketing backed up with a sound principle and suggestion from publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin...

"There are two questions big publishers need to be asking about all of this. One is “does it scale?” The other is “does it adequately replace the stack on the front table of a highly-trafficked bookstore as a way to generate attention for a new publication?”

If marketing efforts don’t scale, then a newcomer or a smaller press isn’t handicapped competing against a major. And if the new techniques don’t compensate for the lost front table spaces, then publishers are going to need something more. And effort that doesn’t scale takes time, which costs money. Publishing margins have never been robust enough to allow publishers to increase the percentage of revenue allocated to marketing and remain profitable."
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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Book Making: You never know where a book idea will come from. My newest book is Barbara Barth's fault.

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(from Michael N. Marcus' Book Making Blog)

"Sadly, many customers of self-publishing companies are disappointed in their books. You can minimize disappointment if you are properly prepared — and this book will prepare you. Don’t buy services and trinkets that you don’t need. Pay the right prices for what you do need. Let the publisher do what you don’t want to get involved in, and concentrate on the creative process (perhaps with independent editors and designers) to make a good-reading, good-looking book which you can be proud of and maybe make money from."
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Friday, 17 December 2010

Andrew Sullivan Turns Again to Blurb

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Image representing Blurb as depicted in CrunchBase
Andrew Sullivan Turns Again to Blurb

"For the second time, author, editor, and blogger Andrew Sullivan has taken reader content on his 10-year-old Daily Dish blog on the Atlantic Web site and created a crowd-sourced printed book published by Blurb and sold through its online bookstore. Last Friday Sullivan blogged about how the book, The Cannabis Closet, grew out of an extensive e-mail of Daily Dish readers writing candidly about their pot use. By early this week, Blurb had sold 1,000 copies of the print-on-demand paperback priced at $5.95."
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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Curtis Brown Books Department MD Geller Responds to CBC Criticism

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The benefits of being Creative |

Extract Quotes:

"Frankly, not the debate I anticipated. Should a writer write with the industry in mind? Will we be grooming a new breed of formulaic writers? These are the questions I expected to debate."

"Paying for access? No. We still are one of the few agencies that accept and welcome unsolicited manuscripts - 200 a week is our average. We are committed to discovering new talent, supporting our authors and providing career management. We have an incredible track record with new writers; this year we represented the best selling debut novel by a UK writer, Rosamund Lupton's Sister."

"With less time spent on editing, publishers are taking on fewer debut writers every year and there is less chance of publishers buying books that are not 100% perfect. We recognised that many manuscripts were falling at the first hurdle. So, why not get involved earlier in the process?"

"So, the fee. It will cover our tutorial costs. Our fee is comparable with the other top courses available (20% VAT has to be included too which pushes cost higher). In fact, authors seeking editorial advice can pay upwards of £400 for a one-off report. This is not a money making venture."

"Will writers be compelled to be represented by CB? Of course not. The agent/author relationship is based on mutual trust and a deep bond between author and agent. The agency and the course are separate and distinct.
Publishing is often viewed as a closed door. With this course, we are opening it."

Jonny Geller, Book Department Managing Director, Curtis Brown UK.
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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Curtis Brown UK: Revenue or Reason?

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The news this morning that Curtis Brown – one of the top literary agents for authors – has decided to launch Curtis Brown Creative, a writing workshop, offering authors writing novels tutoring services and the possibility of representation by Curtis Brown left me scratching my head. Let’s take a look at what Curtis Brown say:

Curtis Brown Creative is the first and only creative writing school to be run by a leading literary agency. We launch in 2011 with a 3-month novel-writing course, drawing on our expertise to help 15 new writers shape vibrant debut novels for today’s competitive marketplace

Our novel-writing course will run from 5th May – 21st July 2011 at Curtis Brown’s central London offices, with weekly writing workshops on Thursday evenings and 5 extra evening sessions featuring external speakers and individual mentoring.

Curtis Brown Group Limited is one of the UK’s leading literary and talent agencies. The Course Director and lead tutor for our 3-month novel-writing course is Anna Davis, a Curtis Brown book agent and 5-times novelist. Her co-tutor will be Jake Arnott, acclaimed and bestselling novelist.”

I read this news when the Bookseller in the UK understandably reported it this morning. Curtis Brown is now a global agency with offices in England and the USA. This is an entirely UK based initiative. Why would a literary agency launch a very significant initiative like this in the UK only? Curtis Brown says that it is the first of its kind. Maybe, rightly, they are testing the waters, and if successful, they will move this to their other offices overseas – considering the writing courses take place in their UK offices, and are not farmed out to hotels or writers’ community groups. I see no links to the people mentioned about what their teaching credentials are – outside of being writers.

“We welcome applications from writers working on or just starting writing a novel, 15 applicants will be offered places on our course on the basis of quality of material submitted to us.”

This is the critical piece for me in the application guidelines. This is not a case of ‘you pays your money – you gets your chance’. No, this is a process of selection to ascertain the best fifteen candidates. Fifteen candidates, if we can call them that, who will fork out £1600. But Curtis Brown by selecting them has already admitted that they see great promise in them as authors. So what’s the deal going on here?

Here is my personal beef and why I have grown steadily more and more uncomfortable with this throughout today. This course is meant to run for pretty much an annual quarter period of a year. If Curtis Brown deems it successful – they may extend it to the full year. Fifteen times £1600 is £24,000, and over a full year - £96,000. I don’t know about you, but that still seems small beans to me for an agency the size of Curtis Brown. Here is my take – and I may be wrong on this – but I’d prefer to go with my instinct. I think this initiative came externally – perhaps as a partnership with Arvon or another writers’ workshop. The workshop supplies the tutors, administration and week to week business, and the agency supplies the authors.

This whole thing brings to mind HarperCollins and their Authonomy project, where authors battle it out with each other over the period of a month to get the chance to get their manuscript on to an editor’s desk. Ultimately, Authonomy authors lose nothing more than a few friends when the battle dust settles, but here, with this, authors are out to the tune of £1600, and while authors may genuinely benefit from tutoring – it comes cheaper elsewhere, and more importantly, there is still no guarantee of that lucrative publishing deal.

I can’t help feeling that this is just another way large publishers are thinking of to deal with the slush pile and generate revenue from it, while ensuring that the message sent out to authors is – if your novel (book) isn’t sure-fire, needs some editing, isn’t going to light up the bestseller lists, then, don’t bother us, because we are agents and publishers. And like the past twenty years, we are all in this with our brethren, committed to getting books to the market with all of us doing as little as possible to the submitted book. And you wonder why agents and publishers are described as gatekeepers? Here is my philosophy. If you want to sleep in the nicest bed in the castle in the kingdom – earn your fucking keep!! Publishing is a business, and in business, there are calculated risks taken, not for an exclusive 5% of the commissioned work, but across the board - 100%.

Intrinsically, I have no problem with Curtis Brown setting up their writing workshops, but I have a very big problem with an agency taking money off authors when they might or might not invest in them further down the road – solely at their discretion. This is a case of money coming out of the author’s pocket and straight into Curtis Brown’s coffers.

Consider it this way - seeing as we are talking about the UK market. This would be like Manchester United or Arsenal football clubs turning to the parents of a promising 14 year old football player and saying – we think your child has great potential – even making the first team by the time he is 18 or 19. We are so sure; we’d like YOU to write a cheque TO US for £1600, so he can enrol in our academy - if you don’t mind.

Thanks, Curtis, but I think I’ll sit on the money for now, pay for my own workshop during the summer in Arvon, or just head off to Cyprus and write that ‘great novel’.
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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Raider International Publishing - Concerns

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I am reposting this piece from almost one year ago. Simply, because the continued feedback I am receiving from authors who have used, or are in the process of using this publisher's services, have continued to be negative. I see no evidence through the communications I have had with Raider authors, who have contacted me, that the promises made from this publisher to address the issues they highlighted  - this time last year - are being properly addressed. This is the very first time in the three years of POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing that I am personally not advising authors to use their services.  

Some recent correspondence prompted me to check back on Raider International Publishing. In fact, over the past two years of this site's existence, the Raider publisher review and linked postings have actually recorded some of the highest visitors here. Just for all those surfers who opened Google and typed in 'Raider Publishing Scam', or some such variation, no, Raider International Publishing are a successful subsidy publisher for authors and not some vanity publishing scam that takes authors to the cleaners.

The most recent news from Raider International Publishing is their recruitment of additional staff to their New York offices and the continuing innovation in ideas and marketing they demonstrate. They have continued to develop their Raider Broadcasting Network with podcasts of new release books, also their Writers Forum show, an online and print magazine, and their latest venture; a bona-fide retail outlet for Raider titles. Their CEO Adam Salviani and team assures that further details and developments will come in the new year.
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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Writer Beware™ Blogs!: More Contest Alerts: Brit Writers' Awards, Amazon Studios

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Writer Beware™ Blogs!: More Contest Alerts: Brit Writers' Awards, Amazon Studios

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Authors Now Able to View Sales Through Amazon Author Central

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Some good news for authors today who use Amazon's Author Central service. Authors will now be able to view Nielsen BookScan's weekly geographic sales data for their books through their Author Central account.

From the Amazon press release: (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that authors who use Amazon's Author Central service ( can now view Nielsen BookScan's weekly geographic sales data for their print books for free. Author Central is a free service provided by Amazon that helps authors promote their books and reach more readers. Also announced today, Author Central has added a feature that shows authors past history on the Amazon bestsellers rank for their books.

"Authors are an important community for us," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Amazon. "We're really happy to make it easy and free for them to see geographical BookScan data updated weekly, as well as historical Amazon bestsellers rank, for their books. We hope this creates an improved feedback loop for authors and enables them to develop more effective methods for reaching the widest possible audience."

For the first time anywhere, authors can access timely geographic sales trends aggregated across retailers by Nielsen BookScan, widely regarded as the best source for industry print book sales. The new "Sales by Geography" feature displays a map of the continental United States, highlighting the areas where copies of authors' books have been sold. The new "Sales by Week" feature displays a bar chart of an author's sales recorded over the trailing four weeks. Authors can also see how many copies of each title were sold by print-edition type, e.g. hardcover or paperback. Digital book sales are not included in BookScan data. Nielsen BookScan estimates that it tracks 75 percent of print trade books sold in the United States, collected at more than 10,000 online and offline locations.

"I love the new sales information features on Author Central, especially the interactive sales map," said Sarah Mlynowski, author of "Gimme a Call." "Seeing retail sales by city allows me to effectively target my offline and online promotional efforts -- and track their impact."

The new Amazon Bestsellers Rank History enables authors to see their bestseller rank over time, without needing to frequently refresh their books' pages on

"Authors hate to admit it, but checking our Amazon bestsellers rank can become nearly addictive," said Karen McQuestion, bestselling author of "A Scattered Life." "Author Central has made it easier for me to track my rankings over time. This feature, along with others on Amazon Central, saves me time which is better used for writing."

In addition to these new features, authors who use Author Central have the opportunity to share the most up-to-date information about themselves and their work with readers. Authors can view and edit their bibliography, add a photo and biography to a personal profile, upload missing book cover images, add video, information about speaking events, and use a blog to connect with readers. Authors only need a book listed in Amazon's catalog to be eligible to join Author Central. The Author Central service is also available in the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

Authors can learn more about Author Central and these new features at

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Choice Publishing - Reviewed (Updated Dec, 2010)

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Choice Publishing is one of the few Irish author solution services and was founded in 2005. The company is located in Drogeheda, Co. Louth.

“Set up in 2005 by Deirdre Devine and Michelle Bradley, who, having worked in the Publishing industry and witnessed the frustrations of local authors, decided to take the publishing sector in Ireland to a new level.”

Choice Publishing utilise print on demand digital technology to publish their books and they make it clear from the offset that sales and distribution are focussed through on line availability and sales. They have their own on line bookstore and take orders directly through their offices. I have been aware of Choice Publishing for the past two years and have seen them steadily grow to a point where they can boast a larger catalogue than similarly sized UK companies. They do not advertise books on their main welcome page, but give plenty of space to new releases and forthcoming titles on their bookstore pages. Curiously, though, their main page features ad-banners for other author solution service companies!

“We are open to new suggestions from our authors and hope that every new author to join us will bring with them their knowledge, experiences and pitfalls, which in turn will help us build a reputable and successful Company.”

That is a pretty open and honest comment from their website, but, again, curiously, they have already told us that their founders come from the publishing industry. Ok, we can all learn no matter what stage our careers are at.

“all aspects of publishing and printing is carried out in Ireland.”

An entirely indigenous Irish operation, which tells us that they do not use the preferred POD print option of Lightning Source UK. This will mean that there may be incurred shipment costs to fulfil book sales in the UK and further afield overseas, and suggest that many authors using their services are actually based in Ireland.

“Choice Publishing offer a choice of publishing packages: 

Choose the Publishing Package which best suits your needs, click on below links to view details of each:

Gold Package, Silver Package, Basic Package, Full Colour Picture Book”

Choice Publishing packages range from 990 euro to 1750 euro. The basic package provides for a standard (basic) book layout, limited to just 200 pages, but with no distribution or promotion. An author can submit a completed cover file or Choice will produce a text only cover. This package comes with 40 free copies, however, authors should be aware that further author copies are restricted to a minimum 50-unit order. There is a restriction on trim sizes too, 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9. ISBN allocation and legal deposit are also included, but it is hard to see many authors who choose this package really wanting these, unless they are considering upgrading later to a higher level package.

The Silver package is suitable for those authors who have the ability to submit completed PDF files. The package includes ISBN, distribution, legal deposit, search engine submission, one proof copy, 150 invitations cards, 100 business cards, 10 posters, a webpage on the publisher’s site, three Irish book review submissions, 40 free author copies and royalty payments.

Their Gold package for 1750 euro adds on a full colour cover and internal book design and layout with up to ten inserted photographs or illustrations included. The submission file should be in a word document format.

Choice Publishing also offer a full colour book package suitable for illustrated books such as a children’s book, but there are limitations to this package. The cost for this package is 1395 euro and includes the all the previous options.

“Note: All Picture Books are saddle stitched and are based on a maximum of 28 pages. (Extra pages can be added but at an additional charge)”

Authors should be aware that this form of binding is not the familiar perfect binding used on standard paperbacks, and combined with the maximum page count of 28, makes this offer seem pretty excessive.

Choice Publishing also offer additional services, including typesetting, book cover design and they provide a list of recommended editors and proofreaders.

Royalties are set at 60% but only after the cost of print and retailer discounts have been taken off.

You set the retail price of your book, which in turn determines the royalty amount paid. Your royalty amount is calculated at 60% of the gross margin. (This means that you earn 60% of the online retail price of your book less all related costs, including the single-copy print cost, appropriate trade discounts [15%-50%] and 1euro handling fee).

I cannot help feeling that any perspective authors looking at Choice will be continually put off by the restrictions placed on most of their packages, from page amounts allowed through to the binding on their Colour package. Even the basic package has a limitation of a minimum 50-unit book order for the author. The harder you look at what is on offer, the less choice an author will find.

Overall the costs are not competitive for an author looking at Choice Publishing and with so many limitations, this company might be far wiser looking at some form of author bespoke service. This is disappointing as there are simply are not enough Irish companies offering a wide range of services to authors. Choice Publishing does have a lot going for them, but a serious revision of their packages is needed.

RATING: 05/10

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Sue Collier: "Author Solutions is NOT indie publishing, folks." | Self-Publishing Resources

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Author Solutions is NOT indie publishing, folks. | Self-Publishing Resources:

"To start, we have “ indie book publishing leader Author Solutions.” Say what? Authors Solutions is NOT — I repeat, NOT — an indie book publishing anything, let alone “leader.” Authors Solutions is a vanity press (aka subsidy press). It is a pay-to-publish service wherein authors pay to publish their book under the Author Solutions name, then must purchase their books back from the publisher."

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Seth Godin and Amazon Launch The Domino Project

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International-bestselling author Seth Godin and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that Godin's new publishing imprint "The Domino Project" will publish an initial list of six titles using Amazon's new "Powered By Amazon" publishing program. Powered by Amazon enables authors to use Amazon's global distribution, multiple format production capabilities, including print, audio and digital, as well as Amazon's personalized, targeted marketing reach.

Godin will serve as the lead writer, creative director and instigator for a series of "Idea Manifestos" under his new imprint, The Domino Project, which will include books by other bestselling authors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. These books will be made available for sale in print editions via and as audiobooks via and, at bookstores nationwide and as e-books exclusively in the Kindle Store (

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to break ground and help define what a new publishing model can become," said Godin. "We all know that ideas that spread win, and this new publishing house will enable my colleagues and me to create, write and spread ideas that matter. At the same time, we can leverage Amazon's strength in what they do best: fulfill to a global audience, across all formats, and help me reach my core audience while increasing discovery among brand new readers. A book that isn't read doesn't do anyone any good, and too often, the structure of the book publishing industry gets in the way of books reaching people who can benefit from them. Amazon knows what to do to help these books get read."

"Our goal with Powered by Amazon is to give authors like Seth full creative and editorial control while offering turnkey support for their publishing vision - from distribution to tailored marketing that simply works in getting books out in all formats to customers quickly, efficiently and globally," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. "We're proud to have Seth's 'Idea Manifestos' as the first books in this program."

Starting today, interested readers can sign up for free updates at Included with the updates will be announcements of free Kindle books and updates about other exclusive content once the books are published in early 2011. Print and audio editions will be available on's global sites, as well as at bookstores nationwide. Additionally, audio editions will be available on Like all Kindle books, these "Idea Manifestos" are Buy Once, Read Everywhere: Kindle customers can purchase these books and read them on the $139 third-generation Kindle device with new high-contrast Pearl e-Ink, on iPads, iPod touches, iPhones, Macs, PCs, Blackberrys and Android-based devices. Powered by Amazon is a brand for titles published by Amazon Content Services LLC.

About Seth Godin

Seth Godin has written 12 books - all bestsellers - that have been translated into more than 30 languages. He has long been a provocative proponent of changing the way books are created and marketed. Godin writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. American Way Magazine calls him, "America's Greatest Marketer," and his blog is among the most popular in the world written by a single individual. An entrepreneur since the age of 16, he founded Yoyodyne, his first internet company, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1998. It pioneered the use of ethical direct mail online, something Seth calls Permission Marketing. He was VP of Direct Marketing at Yahoo! for a year. His latest company,, is ranked among the top 90 sites in the U.S. (by traffic) by Quantcast. It allows anyone to build a page about any topic you're passionate about. The site raises money for charity and pays royalties to its million plus members.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

Writers Forum Magazine: ADSL Print Advertisement!

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I spend quite a bit of time looking at companies who offer self-publishing services to authors, both online and in print magazines. So, naturally, my eyes and ears were perked when I came across a company I hadn't heard of before: 'Advanced - Book printing and self publishing made easy', in Uxbridge. Their web address is and yes, like you, I'm also confused as to what the company's name actually is - ADSL or Advanced Print? You tell me!

Well, it didn't stop them taking out a full-page advertisement in the January 2011 edition of Writers Forum on page 24. So. along I popped to be greeted by this. Is this company for real, and actually want to be taken seriously? They take out a full colour page ad in one of the UK's most widely read writers' magazines, and they couldn't get a webpage constructed before they went live with their company online?

'ORDER NOW FOR PRE-CHRISTMAS DELIVERY' claims the colour page in Writers Forum!

You're all right lads, I think I'll leave it if you don't mind!  
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CPI UK Antony Rowe - Reviewed

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Antony Rowe is a UK printer, book manufacturer and provider of self-publishing services, and part of the CPI Europe Group, which has operational bases in the UK, Holland, Czech Republic, Germany and France. As well as Antony Rowe, CPI UK includes five other book manufacturing companies, William Clowes, Mackays, Cox & Wyman, Bookmarque and White Quill Press – all working with some of the UK’s largest and smallest publishing houses and independent small presses. All of the companies in the CPI UK Group have the resources to produce books at print run lengths of one or one million. Antony Rowe is specifically marketed by CPI as the company to cater to self-publishing authors and their book publishing needs.

CPI Antony Rowe specialise in high-speed, short to medium-run monochrome book manufacturing - using digital sheet, digital web, and lithographic presses. They can produce single copy and ultra-short run, monochrome, two-colour and four-colour books.

Rowe offer four packages to the self-publishing author:

An author can simply start with the Base Package and add individual services on as they require.

Base Package
The base package includes an ISBN and barcode (registered to the author or their imprint), registration with Nielsen BookData, Legal Deposit of one copy (this is the basic legal requirement, but authors really need to ensure a copy of their book goes to all deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland). Pre-press set up from your PDF files (author needs to provide these files), and Rowe will provide an imprint page template for the author.

Additional services like typesetting, cover design and use of FSC paper can be provided at further cost, as well as marketing, PR, warehousing, distribution and online bookstore services. However, none of these (including the online bookstore services) are included.

It strikes me that the Base Package would really be more suitable for someone running a very small press than it would be for a self-publishing author, unless you can provide print ready files.

Design and Distribution Package
This package will take the author’s manuscript and convert it to a suitable interior layout and also provide some cover templates the author can choose from (author must provide the cover image).

“As part of the design and distribution package, we can typeset your manuscript from a Word document into a PDF at a reduced rate. We’ll lay the text on the page in book format number the pages, presenting the finished file in a printable format.”

Rowe does host an online bookstore to list an author’s book, but the following piece from their website on this package could be a little misleading.

“ is the online bookstore for small publishers. Thousands of books are sold online every day on sites like Amazon, with books published in the UK available to readers all over the world. allows you to sell your book directly to the public, meaning you keep control and keep more of the profit. Using our online bookstore saves you the fees normally paid to distributors and middle men, making it the most profitable way to sell your books worldwide. A listing on is included in the design and distribution package.”

This is exclusively an in-house bookstore of Antony Rowe’s and their publishing clients and not a full distribution channel, though the package does offer wholesale stocking of five copies with Gardners Books for 12 months.

“Gardners Books is probably the UK’s largest book wholesaler – as part of the design and distribution package, Gardners Books will keep five copies of your book in stock for 12 months. What this means for you and your customers is high street availability at major chains and independent booksellers alike. If your book is not on the shelf of a local bookshop, a customer can order it at the shop and collect it, usually the next day.”

Again, we are back to the old chestnut of ‘availability’ over shelf space. This will make your book available to order, but not necessarily put it on a bookshelf. The bookseller must still decide to order it in. Nevertheless, this is more than some author solutions services provide.

Marketing Package
From the Rowe website:

“The marketing package is for those who’ve already written and designed their book but need a help in launching the book into the public eye. Creating a great book and making it available is only half the story – the marketing package can help raise the profile of your book and bring it to the attention of your potential readers.

The marketing package includes a number of printed marketing items:

52 leaflets – includes a template design, pre-press set up and 52 printed leaflets.

20 posters – includes a template design, pre-press set up and 20 printed posters.

50 bookmarks – includes a template design, pre-press set up and 50 printed bookmarks.

56 postcards – includes a template design, pre-press set up and 56 postcards.

50 advanced information sheets – includes a template design, pre-press set up and 50 printed copies.

For those wanting extra marketing support who feel they would benefit from the services of a public relations consultancy specialising in book PR, we are able to introduce you to reputable providers.”

Right, so we get posters, bookmarks and leaflets. This is not a marketing package as I understand marketing – rather an array of printed products to help sell your book. I’m still in two minds about the benefit of these kinds of packages from author solutions services. I consider them more complimentary tools you use at book signings, include with ARC packs sent out; things you leave on tables at conferences and workshops, but ultimately they have a very limited affect on sales of your book.

The real giveaway here is the admission that those ‘who feel they would benefit from the services of a public relations consultancy specialising in book PR, we are able to introduce you to reputable providers.’ There is a great deal of difference between marketing and promotion, and the critical part of what sells books is what Rowe refer you externally to.

Full Publishing Package
In addition to what you get in the Base, and Design and Distribution packages, you get a choice of two of the options in the Marketing Package, as well as 50 AI’s (Advance Information sheets). I suspect you ‘get them’ as well – meaning YOU send them out, not Rowe.

I would not describe this as a full publishing package by any means. Frankly, this package sums up a lot of what CPI Antony Rowe offers self-publishing authors. What they offer is important and well executed in quality of print, essential details of book production, but it is in no way a full or complete publishing package.

CPI Antony Rowe provides a simple author’s guide to self-publishing, and it is exactly that – very simple, and lacks a great deal of substance and depth to what can be a big endeavour for an author. Retail book prices vary from looking at their bookstore, but what is very striking to me is that audio and large print publisher, W. F. Howes, consumes a considerable amount of their titles in the bookstore.  

Rowe also provides ebook conversion as a service as well as workshops for self-publishers.

Overall, Rowe are essentially a book manufacturer, who offer what I would regard as a limited self-publishing service, suitable more for the proficient self-publisher than the novice in this area. There are a lot of holes the author will be expected to plug and look after themselves, but as a book printing option, with warehousing and fulfilment services, they may very well suit the needs of a small press or experienced self-published author in the UK. What I really do like about Rowe is their ability to interact with authors through their partnerships with Winchester Writers’ Workshop and I think it’s an area they need to expand on much more to strengthen their growth and reputation as a path for authors wishing to self-publish.  I would also like to see a few print sample estimates made available on their website as well as more links to author and publisher partnerships. I think Antony Rowe need to step a little outside of the shade of the CPI mother ship, and create their own brand with the self-publishing community and that is something Geoff Fisher and his team need to work on.   

RATING: 6.9/10

About Antony Rowe
Antony Rowe is the UK’s leading short run and print-on-demand book printer. Since its inception in 1983, Antony Rowe has been a pioneer in book manufacturing – always taking the latest technology and developing it beyond expectations. We were the first in the UK to use the Xerox Docutech for short-run book printing.

Part of CPI, Europe’s largest book manufacturer, Antony Rowe produces case bound (hardback) and limp (paperback) books in a range of sizes and extents. As well as our work with small and self publishers, Antony Rowe manufactures books for many of the UK’s most well known publishing houses. Our short run and print-on-demand manufacturing is based at two sites: Eastbourne in East Sussex and Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Antony Rowe Eastbourne
At our Eastbourne site, we specialise in single copy and ultra-short run digital printing and binding. Our ability to produce just one copy of monochrome, two- or four- colour books, including tints, half tones and line drawings, provides customers with the only true, print-on-demand (PoD) service available in Europe. Using our print-on-demand facilities, publishers are able to respond to every single customer order and to ensure that titles remain in print indefinitely.

Antony Rowe Chippenham
At our Chippenham site, we specialise in short to medium-run digital and sheetfed litho print production (generally printing from 300 to 2000 copies) and various styles of binding.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Democratization or Be Damned

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Keith Ogorek is the SVP of Marketing for Author Solutions (ASI). And who you might ask are Author Solutions? Well, regular readers here will be familiar with the paid-publishing services offered by companies like AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford and Wordclay. ASI own all these companies and they also operate and provide the publishing engine for Westbow Press, Balboa Press and DellArte Press – the paid-publishing imprints of mainstream publishers Thomas Nelson, Hay House and Harelequin.

So now you know ASI is a serious global heavyweight when it comes to publishing solutions for both authors and publishers.

Late last month Keith Ogorek wrote an article entitled, ‘The Democratization of Publishing’. You can find the article in full on the link provided by ASI here. Try opening the PDF in Google Reader (that worked for me), because I could not get the PDF file to open correctly on the host’s link.

“Since its inception, the publishing industry has operated like an aristocracy. An elite few held the power to essentially determine if an author’s work would be allowed in the public square. It was publication without self-determination for authors. For no matter how passionate or motivated an author was about his or her work, the fate of the book rested entirely with a few publishing houses. Those days, however, are over. Everything has changed.”

While I’m in agreement with Ogorek’s basic points above – that the early formation of the publishing industry was an aristocracy and perceived by the working classes as elitist. It is worth noting some important points as to why this is the case before we fire off the canons and let every self-determining author charge onto battlefield. Many of those early publishing houses began life as printers, and over time as the book industry developed, they made the transition to publishing houses while maintaining their in-house print facilities. It is interesting that we are seeing a similar transition by printers over the past fifteen years to paid-publishing services – Thomson Shore (USA) and Anthony Rowe (UK) and A. H. Stockwell (UK), who were, and still are, very well established printers for mainstream publishing houses. Strained economics have certainly played a big part in these transitions.

The other point to bear in mind regarding early publishers being elitist and part of an aristocracy is that illiteracy was still commonplace for ordinary working people and the modern education system was really only in its infancy. So while I agree with Ogorek – the real change is not so much the advancement in print and media technology – but that the democratization he speaks about in his article has occurred in society. The common man and woman have grown up and they are often well educated, highly literate and independent minded.

“In the mid-1990s, the convergence of three emerging technologies laid the groundwork for a revolution in publishing. First, desktop publishing replaced traditional typesetting, which meant an individual could design a book more quickly and cost effectively. Second, the debut of print-on-demand (POD) technology meant copies of a book could be printed individually at costs comparable to traditional, large offset runs. Third, the Internet became a retail distribution channel. This levelled the playing field for authors who wanted to distribute their books broadly and cost effectively. These technologies, all developing at the same time, meant the elite no longer held the power. Authors now had it.”

The above is what I don’t like about claims made by paid-publishing services and vanity presses. Firstly, ALL of the above technologies were used by the ‘traditional’ publishing world long before self-published authors ever used them. Publishers have been utilising these three technologies (desktop, POD, and more recently, the Internet for communication, marketing and retail) since their emergence and it did not lead to any revolt in the publishing world. In fact, as Ogorek has already stated in his article, publishing is pretty much still run the way it was a hundred years ago, despite the ‘revolution’. This all seems to feed the desire by paid-publishing services and vanity presses to suggest to the public (and their customers) that the mainstream publishing world is under some form of apocalyptic attack from self-published authors armed with these new-found ‘technologies’.

POD (print on demand) is not comparable with the costs of offset printing, though the emergence and availability of short digital printing has made it cheaper if an author is prepared to print a few hundred books at a time (200 – 750). Beyond this tipping point, offset printing remains the competitive choice for publishers AND savvy self-published authors. POD is a method of print to order for very low unit amounts. Savvy authors who have slipped into the trap of believing they can promote and market a book that is ‘available to 25,000 retailers’ but doesn’t physically exit as a book until it is ordered, have learned the hard and expensive way that you need stocks of books and a distribution channel that can put books on bookshelves – not virtual shelves. This is the other above misnomer – the vast majority of books sold in the world occur when a customer goes into a store and buys a book from the shelf. The vast majority of books sold by online retailers, including Amazon, are offset printed books that are physically warehoused. That is the reality of publishing as it is now. Will it change? Yes, of course it will. But this is a gradual development and not the ‘revolution’ being suggested by Ogorek.

“While this revolution has been taking place over the last decade, this year marked a milestone. Publishers Weekly, the leading industry periodical, published an article titled 'Self Publishing Titles Topped 764,000in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped' essentially declaring victory. Reporter Jim Milliot states the latest Bowker data, the industry measuring stick, shows “the number of ‘non-traditional’ titles dwarfed those of traditional books.”

Ogorek is well aware that article in PW was debunked and criticised in many quarters. I am an avid reader of PW and I appreciate the time and space they devote to the growth in self-publishing and its successes, but like ASI, they have also indulged on the euphoria on the self-publishing/indie peacetrain. No one in PW thought to question those figures reported by 2009 Bowker. As it turns out, only about 76,000 of the 764,000 so-called self-published titles could be claimed as self-published. Bowker simply include all titles POD published (non traditional), and that includes titles in the public domain that are POD published by three such companies who have nothing to do with self-publishing services. From my article back in April, 2010, on the figures:

“The Bowker statistics do show another significant growth area in the non-traditional category—the role publishers like BiblioBazaar (272,930 titles), Books LLC (224,460) and Kessinger Publishing LLC (190,175 titles) are playing in the publishing industry. Take out just these three publishers from the non-traditional equation, and the resulting 76,883 does not look quite so dominating for all those author solutions services. What remains a factor, which cannot be ignored, in spite of the three noted publishers above, is the extraordinary rate of growth in the non-traditional category—a 181% increase on the 2008 figure.”
Ogorek continues his article citing the success of Seth Godin:
“Take Seth Godin for example. Mr. Godin is by all measures the type of talent a traditional publisher covets. He has authored twelve books, is considered a thought leader in his field and has a large and loyal following. His last book, “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” has sold 50,000 copies since its release in January, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 75 percent of the retail book marketplace. Until last week, that title and his previous books were published under the Portfolio imprint, which is owned by Pearson PLC’s Penguin Group (USA), but according to The Wall Street Journal that has all changed. In the article, “Author to Bypass Publisher for Fans,” WSJ reported Mr. Godin “ditched” his traditional publisher and will self publish his next book and sell directly to his avid readers. In other words, he is taking his message directly to the people.”

What Ogorek doesn’t tell us is that the vast majority of authors self-publishing through any of ASI’s companies are no Seth Godin’s. Godin, like another very successful self-published author, Joe Konrath, cut their teeth and earned their platform and reputations in the mainstream world of publishing, no matter how they may be disillusioned with it now.

Now the question remaining is how many other authors like Mr. Godin will follow his lead. Is he alone rebel or the first one to take advantage of the new freedoms afforded authors? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: The walls have come down. Publishing is no longer a closed society. As Mr. Godin stated in a recent interview, “[After the fixed costs of an editor and book formatting,] your idea is packaged as you want, and it can then be put on sale next to other potential best-sellers on Amazon and elsewhere.”

All Godin did was move an already established platform under his own control. There is nothing isolated in this empowerment. Paulo Coelho has been making several of his ebooks free to download, struck a deal last year with Amazon, exclusive of his publishers for ebook sale and distribution. The real proof to Ogorek’s assertion that the ‘Democratization of Publishing’ has occurred is when we see authors, week after week, month after month, year after year, self-publish successfully, having created their platform solely using those ‘three technologies’ and can compete with authors from mainstream publishers.

I’m all for Ogorek’s ‘Democratization of Publishing’, but I don’t think we are there yet by any current measure and I have said before that ASI, as the leading global author solutions company, need to lead that initiative by default of their market position. Kevin Weiss, head impresario of ASI, went a long way towards that by realising he had to get inside the beast he was up against, and he did so with the deals with Harlequin, Thomas Nelson and Hay House. You cannot change publishing from the outside, you have to reach out and ‘Meet the Fockers’ eye to eye.

We all want to rant and rave and use statistics against the traditional publishing beast as we know it, but kicking it from one end of the street to the other might give us a temporary sense of empowerment and vent our frustrations against the gatekeepers of the beast, but whether we like it or not, we are only going to fix publishing by becoming a part of it. It is time we forgot about the cosmetics of labels like ‘indie’ and championing personal platforms and commercial interests. If ASI really wants to do something constructive, then they should look to fully empowering their authors to do what Seth Godin and Joe Konrath do – let your authors take full control – provide them with a service that makes them own their ISBN and imprint name. Provide them with real distribution channels to high street bookstores. Strike a deal that offers your publishing engine to one of the big six publishing houses. And for the love of god, drop the ‘Achieve your dreams’ talk. I’d like to think that kind of sell is something for the true vanity presses.

The only way true ‘Democratization of Publishing’ is going to happen is when the old ‘traditional’ publishing aristocracy takes on and embellishes what is good outside and around it – all that it currently fears.

If we wish to indulge in revolutions in the extreme, and we don’t find ‘fix’ publishing, we may wake up one day and find the only publishing paths for authors are Amazon or Google. Do we really want that?

So, yes, let’s democratize, but let’s do it openly and fairly...

[The article quoted here was written by Keith Ogorek. He is the SVP of Marketing for Author Solutions ( and writes a blog at]
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