Pyjama Press was founded by Irish photographer Steve Walsh and is predominantly based in the UK and France where he spends much of his time. Offering a wide variety of publishing and design services, from book publishing, website design, editing, critique, mentoring and consultancy, the Pyjama Press deals with book projects submitted on an individual basis. Walsh identified an untapped potential for an author solutions service on the continent of Europe and set up a workshop in Talmont sur Gironde with professional artist, writer and editor, Avenda Burnell. So taken by the beauty and historical location, a collection of Walsh’s photography of the place became the first published book for the Pyjama Press.
“This is a collection showing one of the most beautiful towns in France, officially. Only 15 km south of Royan on the biggest estuary in Europe, Talmont sur Gironde was granted its founding charter by Edward I of England in 1284 AD. It is almost an island and renowned for its hollyhocks, the church of St Radegund, narrow streets, artists and artisans, fishing huts on stilts and traditional boats in the little port.
What Steve loved at Talmont was the intensity of the ever changing light.”
Pyjama Press present three distinct publishing options for prospective authors, Hand Held, Ready to Set and Ready to Go.
“Print on demand does exactly what it says on the tin. You email your word document to Pyjama Press where it is set professionally in book format, the cover is designed for you and the file is sent to and stored digitally at a specialised book printer. Each book is then printed to order at the touch of a button and sent direct to the customer. You order for yourself at author discount.
Amazing advances in technology mean your book can be available at over 30,000 bookstores online and around the world. You have a unique ISBN number, and a copy of your book will be registered with the British Library.”
This is all pretty much standard fare for POD publishing services – you get a published book ‘available’ to purchase in various online databases. Pyjama Press also indulge in something I have said a number of times in reviews and overviews that irks me a great deal. It is easy to rattle off a list of historical writers from Beatrix Potter and Ernest Hemmingway, all the way through to Stephen King, and waft lyrically about how ‘author publishing’ is as old as the trees, but a number of these publishing myths have been debunked, or as I tried to do in my own book on self-publishing, placed in a sounder and realistic perspective. I’m not going to rehash the argument I put forward, other than say it is a red flag to me as a publishing consultant.
“So look in that shoebox for those children's stories, or dig out that family history you researched, and decide if you would like to see your work in print. If it is a thesis or dissertation then consider how it will look professionally printed.”
Modesty here at least reflects that Pyjama Press is not promising the sun, moon and stars for an author and their book. I’d rather the modest approach of getting your book to print than some of the overinflated promises of stardom some services can indulge in. Pyjama press is by no means a publishing service backed up with staff with no publishing experience. Walsh himself has worked in the design and photographic industry and Burnell as an editor for publishing houses. Both also have extensive experience in marketing in the visual and print media industries.
The Hand Held publishing package (£600) includes all of the following:
You will receive one-on-one author support from your dedicated book designer
Your manuscript will be copy-edited and proofread professionally
You will have approval over all suggested corrections and amendments
The manuscript will be set to industry standard and an electronic proof sent to you
One round of author proof corrections is included for late changes
The full copyright information verso page will be inserted into the manuscript
A full colour cover will be designed for you, incorporating your own images if you prefer
Your book will be allocated an ISBN number and all the administration done on your behalf
Your book will be set up and held at a leading digital book press printer
The copies needed for legal library deposit will be printed and administered on your behalf
You book will be available to purchase from over 30,000 on-line booksellers worldwide
The wholesale availability will be arranged for you through our global distribution partners
Any royalty payments due to you will be paid bi-annually
You will keep all rights to your work
You will receive 10 copies of your printed book
You will be able to order more books at author price, with discounts for orders over 50
The delivery will be 3 to 6 days, or 5 to 10 days for colour and hardback books
Our printers operate in both the UK and the USA, making worldwide distribution easier
The next package is the Ready to Set (£400), essentially the same as the Hand Held, less the copy-editing and proofreading.
The third package is the Ready to Go (£250) and does not include any kind of editing, sales or distribution support.
We can summarise about these packages and their suitability shortly. Firstly, the ISBN is registered to Pyjama Press and their quality of book covers is reasonably strong coming from a publisher with an in-house artist.
For their marketing services, Pyjama Press use London-based agency, Authoright PR, a five year-old company specializing in working with independent authors.
“Historically, media marketing has been the preserve of large publishers with celebrity clients and big budgets, making it difficult for traditionally published authors with small print runs, smaller publishing houses with limited budgets and author publishing houses and their authors to gain a platform. But, with strategy, first time and independently published authors can achieve excellent exposure in the media.
A comprehensive network of industry contacts means a new book, its author and the back-story can be pitched to journalists across broadcast, print and online press. Authoright P.R keeps a physical presence in both the European and North American book markets, regularly achieving a level of client exposure normally enjoyed solely by established best sellers. Raising a literary profile can build a writing career.”
Pyjama Press also offer a Mentoring Service (£600 for a year), a Critique Service (£199), as well as a separate Copy-Editing Service.
Overall, Pyjama Press is no Penguin or HarperCollins, but right now what it does offer is the ability to work closely with an author from manuscript through to printed and published book. It provides a one on one relationship with the author through the publishing process and beyond. The services provided remind me a great deal of Cold Tree Studio and I think this company would be particularly strong working with authors of both written and illustrated work – artist portfolios, children’s illustrated books – and this may be an area that should be primarily focussed on.
There is a sense I get of Pyjama Press also being a strong, passionate cottage-styles small press, and this should be seen by its founders as a strength – meaning – it is all too easy to expand quickly and loose the attention to detail. I’ve seen it far too often with young companies. They expand and the quality of product suffers in deference to output. That is the one thing Pyjama Press need to keep site of as they develop through 2011.
Regarding the publishing packages; the Hand Held is an attractive package, so long as the author is getting proper and thorough copy-editing and proofing, and not just a casual eye thrown to a billboard advert proof. Small companies like Pyjama Press can provide a thorough service because they are dealing with few manuscripts – the real acid test is providing such a service at £600 when the publishing service is receiving manuscript submissions tenfold in six to twelve months time. Authors should always look for a 1000 word sample of editing or a six page sample before committing.
The Ready to Set and Ready to Go represent less of an option for authors in my opinion. Simply put, at £400, there are more competitive options offering as good elsewhere, and the Ready to Go is a non runner straight away. Any author able to submit print ready files without sales or distribution is going to get a far better deal going to Lightning Source, CreateSpace, Authors Online or Lulu at a significantly better price.
Steve Walsh was right to identify the English-speaking self-publishing market on the continent as an untapped potential, but I think there is more of a complexity here than meets the eye and as Pyjama Press develops, it needs a little more fine-tuning and dare I say, a little more aggression as to staking a place in where it perceives it belongs. Walsh himself says as much on reflecting on the culture in France to publishing:
“The French have a somewhat shocked reaction as to why anyone would even try to publish themselves. In their culture, everyone is segmented into their career box and out of it they will not step. ‘But why would you want to do that?' they ask, 'That is what the publishing houses are for'. It is a very traditional way of looking at things. However, they do have a great deal of respect for authors and publishers, no matter how humble.”
Indeed, Walsh is correct. But for Pyjama Press to flourish, perhaps even just to find its own small identity, it may have to step on a few French toes to fully establish itself.