Thursday, 31 March 2011


The Fine Print of Self-Publishing (Fourth Edition) by Mark Levine | Reviewed


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Since I dispensed with short trousers, Lego and dreams of becoming a Formula 1 driver, I’ve always immersed myself in the book and magazine publishing world. When I put the Lego away and hung up my fantasy helmet—all l wanted to do was write and see my books published. It took many years to achieve that, filled with a lot of pretentions, false starts, elation and disillusion.

I took a good hiatus from publishing after the 1990’s and returned to writing and publishing to find a very changed industry from the one I had once known. Around 2006, I realised I needed to start researching once again an industry I was going to have to grip firmly around the neck—stare into its eyes—so I might know something of what it had become. Maybe that’s the way attorney Mark Levine felt when he engaged with authors and looked at where publishing was ten years ago. It certainly made its mark on him and by 2006 the first edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing emerged. Around 2007, I came across one of Levine’s websites for his book, and as I was contemplating self-publishing, I downloaded the ebook version of The Fine Print (second edition) for…a dollar! It was probably the best dollar I ever spent having self-published five books up to that point.

Throw any lawyer a typical contract from an author solutions service—as well as a handsome fee—and they will happily go at it with red pen in hand and the kind of gusto you’ve never seen before. Their conclusion, when the red pen runs out of ink, will be along the lines of ‘are these guys taking the piss?’

Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self-Publishing has taken equal balance in exposing those self-publishing services that take the piss out of naive authors and gouge them out of money with inflated print mark-ups and pointless marketing services, as well as celebrating the companies that deliver what it says on the tin and are committed to offering authors a fair and transparent deal. It’s important when authors grasp a copy of this book in their hand that they are not buying a ‘how to self-publish’ book, or expansive reasons why they should or shouldn’t self-publish, but rather a book that guides them through the common trappings and pitfalls of selecting a self-publishing service once they have decided self-publishing is right for them. Levine does offer some guidance on whether the self-publishing route is right for an author, but it is not the book’s primary focus.

If I have a single gripe early on with The Fine Print of Self-Publishing—it comes in the introduction. By way of explaining the extraordinary explosion in the growth of self-publishing over the past few years, Levine indulges in the much quoted figures of R. R. Bowker from a report in 2010, and like many established industry analysts confuses ‘non traditional’ publishing with self-publishing.

“The biggest growth area in book publishing is in self-publishing (and short-run titles, which may or may not be self-published). The number of self-published titles has exploded since 2002, when there were only 32,639.(11) In 2008, for the first time, there were more self-published titles (285,232 POD and/or short run) than there were traditionally published ones.(12) In 2009, the number soared to 764,000.(13)”

For the purposes of this book review, I won’t explain here, but instead, direct those interested in how the figures really break down to this article I wrote, and what the more accurate amount of self-published titles was in 2009.

I’ve read other reviews of The Fine Print of Self Publishing over the past few years and many of them make the mistake of seeing the book as some definitive compendium of self-publishing services. It isn’t—and not by a long, long way. No book could live up to that. What Levine sets out to do is explain the basics of what self-publishing is; what to look for in a contract and how to spot a good one; and by way of twenty-three self-publishing service reviews, he demonstrate what is ‘outstanding’ through to those services that should be avoided and why. This is a mental toolkit for the serious and astute author—not a dummies guide to self-publishing. Levine lists what he considers the nine qualities of a good self-publishing company in chapter five of the book:

• A good reputation among writers
• Fair publishing fees
• Generous royalties without any fuzzy math
• Low printing costs and high production value
• Favorable contract terms
• Fair policy regarding the return of your book’s original production files
• Fairly priced add-on services, such as marketing and copyright registration
• A standard offering of an ISBN, EAN bar code, and LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) as part of any basic publishing package
• Availability through at least one wholesaler, and listings on major online retailers

I seem to remember a lot more company reviews in previous editions of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing and Levine does disclose that he omitted Mill Street Press for this one because of his business connection with Click Industries, a company owned by Levine, which invested in Mill City Press. Levine also points out that Mill City Press uses a different model of publishing than many of the companies reviewed in the book. Indeed, most of the companies reviewed are predominantly users of POD (print on demand). Therein lies the crucial caveat. The better ‘self-publishing companies’, like Mill City Press, are moving their publishing models to digital short run, because they realise to properly market a book from the get-go, you have to have upfront physical stock to be taken seriously by wholesalers and retailers. For that reason, I’d like to have seen a broader spectrum of self-publishing services. There are also other companies that have ceased to exist or merged with other companies, but I couldn’t help feeling that there were companies Levine really needed to cover that reflect a changing area of publishing—companies like Vantage Press, transformed under the direction of David Lamb, and there was limited mention of ebooks and platforms like Smashwords which may become the initial first step for self-publishers in the near future.

Levine is at times brash but fair in all his analysis and reviews, and critically, he is not afraid to admit to calling it wrong at times. Tate Publishing (review coming soon) gets a serious elevation of status in this edition and Levine explains throughout the book that information for the reviews was gathered by contacting and engaging with the companies and even visiting their facilities when possible.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is an exceptional book that every author looking to self-publish needs to get hold of, and it is written by someone who is a qualified attorney, someone who has invested and got involved in the publishing industry, and knows the ins and outs of marketing. Levine takes just the right approach and attitude with the book – the voice is ‘show, not just tell’—it shines through on every single page. The attention to detail in some of the services reviewed is remarkable and thorough. He is not afraid to point and say ‘look at that crap’, ‘watch out for the puddle or dog shit’ or ‘take a good look at these guys – they’re outstanding’. If you are seriously considering self-publishing, then you won’t go far wrong by ensuring you have Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self-Publishing as a companion before you grab your hat and coat and set out on the self-publishing path.

[The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine is published this month]

(Adobe Reader required) 


Mark Levine is the president of Hillcrest Media Group, Inc.  Hillcrest provides book publishing, marketing, printing and distribution services for authors and independent presses.  Sites owned by Hillcrest include.

Mark was one of the founders of Click Industries, Ltd. an online company that provides products and services for small business owners, writers, musicians, and other artists.  The company was sold in 2009.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing is in its 4th edition.  In addition to The Fine Print, Mark has published scholarly works and two novels,  Saturn Return.

Currently, Mark is working the relaunch of Fiction.com, a domain name Hillcrest purchased in 2010.  To learn more about what’s going on with Mark, read his blog Publishing Revolution.



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POD TV | Some Shorts From Publishing Revolution


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I'm currently working through a review of Mark Levine's The Fine Print of Self Publishing (Fourth Edition) and came across his blog, Publishing Revolution. So, while the late night candle burns and I continue to tap away tirelessly, enjoy these:





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Wednesday, 30 March 2011


SELF-PUBLISHING INDEX - April 2011


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The SELF-PUBLISHING INDEX for author solutions services is something we have been working on for most of 2010 and June 2010 marked the first month of flotation. Here is the latest index, April 2011.

(Click image to enlarge)






The most asked question we get at POD, Self-Publishing & Independent Publishing is often along the lines of; 'What self-publishing service should I go with?'; 'Is so and so a good service to go with?'; or 'Is so and so a scam?'

In some cases, that is an easy question to answer, cut and dry, but in other circumstances, the answer is entirely arbitrary. We are not here to review and run down a company's name, nor are we here to endorse a company's services. If we were only to review author solutions services according to every point in our ideal list of what an author should get from a company offering publishing services; we would have very few reviews to share with you. In truth, no company has ever attained a 10/10, and only a few have recorded more than 08/10. In the autumn of 2010 we will be posting all our reviews with a rating, and any new reviews since February 2010 have automatically had a posted rating at the bottom of the review.

The reality is that some author solutions services begin in a blaze of glory and we might rate them favourably  at the time; others, frankly, are just poor, and yet, they improve (sometimes in response to our reviews) to offer reasonable services for authors. We are constantly updating our reviews, but this takes considerable time, and so do the initial reviews.

We get a vast amount of information from authors and the companies selling author solutions services every day - good and bad. We get a great deal of information from monitoring services week by week against the experiences of what authors report back to us. Simply put, and truthfully, we cannot reflect all of this information through the reviews. That is why the comments section under each company we review is so important. It is your recording and dealings with that specific company, and a positive or negative flag to subsequent authors considering using the same company.

So, how do we reflect the changing ups and downs with services?

We believe the SELF-PUBLISHING INDEX will help to guide authors to services on the up, and those, gradually on the down. If you like, what we are proposing is effectively, a kind of stock exchange for author solutions services.

The SELF-PUBLISHING INDEX was first launched in June 2010.         
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Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Time We All Took The 'Self' From Self-Publishing


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In 2010 I wrote an article about Lulu, and in the title for the article, I suggested that It May Be The Time For Lulu To Drop The Self From Self-Publishing. At the end of that article I wrote the following as an explanation as to what I meant. On reflection, and in light of the following Lulu Forum posting by author Julie Ann Dawson, which was cross-posted by Emily Veinglory on POD People, I would like to expand on that original article I posted here in January 2010. Having re-read the post again, I think there is a danger in believing I was being somehow entirely supportive of the direction Lulu where taking their marketplace and business as a whole. If anything, I have subsequently being calling for Lulu to get back to the core values of what they are; a DIY self-publishing services company - at least that is how I still see them - but their attempt last year at diving into the Canadian stock market in an effort to raise investment finance may suggest something quite different.

Here is what I wrote at the end of my article in January 2010:

"They [Lulu] already recognise from a standpoint of five years, when you could use the slogan self-publishing, and that in itself was enough to set them apart as a strong flagship in the world of DIY publishing services. A lot has changed in the last year. Yes, the competitors of Lulu like CreateSpace have really caught up, and others like Blurb will also make significant gains this year if my research and understanding is correct. But more significantly, the flagpole itself of self-publishing is steadily moving closer to the monolith that has always been the publishing industry. The adventurous offspring is soon to return home under the protection of the family umbrella we all know to be called publishing."

Indeed, and that movement and protection under the umbrella of publishing is what Lulu is quickly trying to embrace by expanding their marketplace to include mainstream books for purchase, as well as recently trumpeting the arrival of John Edgar Wideman, presented as the exasperated renegade from the traditional world of publishing. It is this fairytale renegade story of disillusioned author that Lulu wants to sell us. Wideman is among the self-publishing masses - equal in our kinship of self-publishing and its empowerment. For the most part, Lulu still remain in the business of selling self-publishing services, but authors crossing over the self-publishing/publishing divide are what helps Lulu sell their services to the ordinary masses.

Let us pause for a moment and consider what Julie Ann Dawson has cited for her decision to remove her books from Lulu. Incidentally, there is not one thing that follows I do not disagree with...

Julie Ann Dawson on the Lulu Forum:

"So now Lulu is not only selling ebooks by traditionally published authors, but it is also selling print books by traditionally published authors. Now I don’t particularly care about Lulu printing these books themselves. How the books get printed is of no concern to me. But what IS of concern to me is the preferential treatment these books are getting as opposed to OUR BOOKS.
Referencing The Last Song for points:
Preferential pricing: This is a 413 page book, selling for $10.94. Do you know what my cost to print a 413 page book is? $12.76! It costs me almost $2 more to print than this book sells for! And if I went through retail with the book, with NO ROYALTY the book would sell for $19.52. WTF!!!???
Preferential tools: Notice that this book has a “retail” price and a sale price? Well, I have been asking for this FOR YEARS for US, and Lulu has systematically refused, claiming that they couldn’t let us sell the books on Lulu for less than what the book retails for due to contractual agreements with Amazon and other vendors. I think this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt Lulu was LYING."

Dawson refers to traditionally published authors getting preferential treatment from Lulu, and that rules and limitations imposed on self-published authors, which Lulu previously advised could not be broken, are now being freely broken to woo (my hypothesis) authors with books printed and published by mainstream publishers over to Lulu's marketplace. This flirtation also extends to wooing experienced authors with a mainstream publishing background to move their latest books to Lulu's new VIP publishing service.

The example Dawson gives in her forum posting on Lulu is Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song. Dawson comments; 'How the books get printed is of no concern to me.' Well, actually, it should, because it would explain why your 413 page book retails at $19.52 and Sparks' book retails at $10.94. Lulu have a deal with Ingram as their 'available' distributor for POD books, but The Last Song is published by mainstream publisher Grand Central Publishing, and you can bet your bottom dollar it ain't being printed POD, but rather sourced from printed stock Ingram hold in a warehouse for Grand Central. And that will be likewise for all books from mainstream publishers Lulu has in its marketplace. So, yes,  we can go on comparing apples with oranges, but they will always be uniquely apples and oranges.

Looking at the deal John Edgar Wideman did with Lulu; if any author believes, like the multitude of authors who sign up with Lulu each day, that Wideman somehow decided one evening over a coffee, 'ah fuck it, I'll sign up with Lulu and self-publish my next book', they are being naive - deeply naive. Wideman was negotiating with Lulu and using their VIP services. From an article I wrote on Wideman's publication with Lulu:

"...but fellow Lulu authors (myself included) who might be quick to trump the line ‘Hell, yeh, I’m published by the same publisher as John Edgar Wideman’ might pause for a little reflection before they go dancing on the streets. This is the first release for Lulu by an author using their VIP service, specifically set up to attract established authors like Wideman. As the Animal Farm Literary Adage might go:

All authors are equal, just some are more equal than others!


If you think Lulu see all their authors in the same light; think again. This is akin to DellArte Press authors (Harlequin’s self-publishing service) thinking they are operating in the same field of publishing dreams as all of Harlequin’s traditionally contracted authors. The Lulu VIP program offers everything to try and lure an established author to the lulu brand, every turn of the drive shaft and spark from the Lulu engine—pre-production and post-publication—is being directed towards the sale of the author’s book. It is notable that the press release to go with the book was not released by Wideman, but Lulu themselves. While Lulu right now needs Wideman more than he needs them, there is no doubt in my mind; the experimental nature of Wideman’s Briefs made it a difficult sell to Houghton Mifflin, and as the author freely points out, he is no writer of literary blockbusters."

There is a dichotomy at the heart of this discussion, and it can lead us to make an inaccurate assumption about self-publishing and mainstream publishing. Lulu has taken a step closer to the traditional world of publishing by taking on the wider marketplace, and the traditional world of publishing has begun to re-evaluate its own publishing models and taken a step closer to embracing some of the components of the self-publishing fraternity. Some might say never the twain shall meet, but it is discussions like this which come from the inevitable collision and consummation of all publishing into one entity. We are seeing the Lulu marketplace as a platform where self-published author collides with traditional author. The glare of the headlights shows us that an author is an author and a published book is a published book. It is just that some authors and their books are more equal than others. There is nothing new in this - it has being going on in the traditional world of publishing for decades.  

This is also one of the reasons why I believe self-published authors should be careful not to be so quick to adopt labels like 'indie author' or 'indie publishing' when so many authors happily label themselves with these convenient monikers as badges of honor when actually they have little experience or knowledge of what it is they perceive themselves to be independent of; in abhorrence of; or dislike. I have pointed out before the label of 'indie' is a complete misnomer, Faber and Canongate are strictly 'indies', but they puch way above their weight in the publishing industry.

It seems to me that what this whole discussion is simply here to remind us of the fact that self-publishing is still publishing a book in essence, and now that self-publishing is broadly accepted as it is; it is still reluctantly part of the whole publishing industry. Self-published authors must realize and accept that they shelter under the same umbrella of the book buyer, book reader and industry. They must accept that in any form of aspiration, commerce or even faith, there comes an ordained hierarchy whether it is perceived or imposed.

No publisher or agent, in their heart of hearts, believes all their authors are equal. They may humanly treat them as equals, but as business people they will not act equally and accordingly.

Whether the above is accepted or not, self-publishing affords the author the latitude of not accepting any compromise - that is - total control, but that comes at a price, and a greater price than the ones Lulu or CreateSpace charge if self-publishing is truly to be executed properly. More importantly, it also comes with a responsibility and presents the author with The Publishing Road Less Traveled. Complain as we may, we are all in this together.

It is time we all took the self from self-publishing.

How many are really up for that journey?

[This article is a reposting and originally appeared in April 2010]
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Monday, 28 March 2011


Ingram To Open Lightning Source Plant in Melbourne This June


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The Ingram Content Group today announced that it would be opening a Lightning Source plant in Melbourne, Australia this June. Ingram confirmed in September last year that they would open an Australian plant but had not at that stage chosen the exact location.

From the press release:

NASHVILLE, TN – Ingram Content Group Inc. today announced Melbourne as the location for its forthcoming Lightning Source print-on-demand book manufacturing operation in Australia.
The Lightning Source operation in Australia will be Ingram Content Group’s fifth networked book manufacturing facility. The location was selected for its proximity to a large concentration of major publishers and book distributors and to key metropolitan regions in the country. Ingram’s Lightning Source will occupy a building at the Scoresby industrial park in the southeastern suburb of Melbourne.
“The addition of a new manufacturing facility will have a significant impact on publishers, the retail book trade and ultimately consumers,” said David “Skip” Prichard, President and CEO, Ingram Content Group. “At Ingram, we are pleased to expand our leading print and distribution network to the Asia Pacific market, helping more content reach more destinations around the world. We will continue to make investments that fit the future of book distribution, whether traditional, print on demand, or digital.”
The response from publishers since the Australian Lightning Source print-on-demand operation was announced last September has been overwhelmingly positive. Leading content providers welcome the benefits and flexibility that virtual inventory through print-on-demand affords: driving additional sales while at the same time reducing or removing the need to warehouse local inventory, lowering transportation costs, and dramatically increasing the number of titles on hand in the region.
Publishers are submitting new content and growing their digital libraries with Lightning Source in preparation for the launch of Ingram’s Australian in-market book manufacturing facility.
Lightning Source North American facilities include its headquarters in La Vergne, Tennessee, and operations in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Lightning Source international locations include a large-scale operation in Milton Keynes, UK, (central to London) that serves the European region and a facility in Maurepas, France, a joint-venture with Hachette Book Group.
Ingram Content Group’s Lightning Source facility in Australia is expected to begin operation in June 2011.

About Ingram
Ingram Content Group Inc. provides a broad range of physical and digital services to the book industry. Ingram’s operating units are Ingram Book Company, Lightning Source Inc., Ingram Digital, Vital Source Technologies, Inc., Ingram Periodicals Inc., Ingram International Inc., Ingram Library Services Inc., Spring Arbor Distributors Inc., Ingram Publisher Services Inc., Tennessee Book Company LLC, and Coutts Information Services. For more information, visit www.ingramcontent.com
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Sunday, 27 March 2011


Three truths that publishers should try to understand about readers | TeleRead


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This is a terrific piece by Joanna over on TeleRead called 'Three truths that publishers should try to understand about readers.' I particularly agree with her point about publishers needing to understand the shift between bookstores as customer and the reader as customer.

"The big shift that ebooks are bringing to the market is not necessarily the paper to pixels one—it’s the shift between the bookstore as customer and the reader as customer. The problem many print publishers seem to have today is that they don’t really understand who the reader is and what they want out of a purchasing experience. Well, time to educate them! Each of these reader ‘truths’ is arguably debatable, but this is a summation what I’m hearing—over and over again—on message boards, in comment threads and in blog replies. This is where your new customer is at, publishers! Understand, and you can sell to them better. Fail to understand, and you have no one to blame but yourselves…"
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Thursday, 24 March 2011


Aventine Press - Reviewed (Updated, March 2011)


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Aventine Press is one of those publishing services I continually keep coming across when I read about self-published books, particular in online magazines and self-publishing reviews. It's like stumbling upon a sheepdog in a country cabin in the mountains sprawled out in front of a roaring fire. You know you are home and you don't have to keep looking over your shoulder for the wolves. Mind you— didn't the uni-bomber live in a log cabin in the mountains?


"When you do the math and compare, Aventine Press clearly stands apart from the crowd as a self-publishing company. Whether your book is a novel, poetry book, memoir or technical manual, we place your interests first."
  •  Author Discount: Most self-publishing authors purchase numerous copies of their own book for marketing giveaways, reviews, to sell or to distribute to friends and family. Our authors pay only the actual printing and shipping cost plus 10% - with no quantity restrictions and no minimum purchase requirements.
  •  Author Royalties: Our royalties are paid quarterly and are substantially larger than the royalties paid by most book publishers. We pay you 80% of the payments we actually receive from sales of printed copies of your book.
  •  Trade Discounts: Some book publishing companies offer booksellers minimal discounts on titles already overpriced for the marketplace, a practice that can doom your book to obscurity. Aventine Press will price your book right and attract booksellers with generous discounts up to 55% off the cover price.
  •  Highest Quality: No self publishing company offers you a higher quality print-on-demand product or faster service and fulfillment. Our trade paperbacks and hardcovers are printed to order usually within 72 hours and are printed on premium quality, acid-free, book-grade creme and white paper stock (must be 108 pages or more). Paperback covers are printed on a bright white 80# cover stock.


The pleasure in revisiting Aventine is that so little changes with the core services offered to authors—unlike so many other author solutions services who choose to chop and change prices and packages. That's actually the way it should be. Be wary of author solutions services who continually changes their packages and services. It's a sure sign that the company got it wrong from the start—or bluntly—are hiding something and really haven't a clue what they are doing. The reason why Aventine has no need to indulge in a re-jigging of their services is because the company got it right from the start—provide a basic publishing package at an affordable price that produces a high quality print product with a very low print mark-up (10% over print cost) and a royalty rate (80% net) which actually favours the author for a change.

Actually that log cabin in the country is like a breath of fresh air when you escape the websites of so-called ‘good’ companies offering self-publishing services to authors in the big city. And that’s the difference with Aventine Press—no fuss, the services are not muddied in market speak or commercial complexity sold to the author at a serious, fashion-conscious mark-up. Rather more, Aventine Press is a strong glass of comfort to sharpen the senses.


Aventine Press makes self publishing fast, easy and affordable for today's author. Aventine Press has helped authors with books that have been accepted by traditional presses. Our technology allows you to get your book into print quickly, while distributing through Ingram and making it available for sale as well as achieving high sales ranks with the world's leading booksellers:
  •  Barnes and Noble.com
  •  Amazon.com
  •  Booksamillion.com
  •  Buy.com
  •  and many, many more

The Aventine Press contract is pretty straightforward and like most author solutions services using POD (print on demand), it offers a non-exclusive contract; within that contract are particular occurrences resulting in Aventine Press providing a disgruntled author with a full refund. What is also key to the ‘holding rights’ of Aventine Press is the fact that the company  is one in a few who give back the production files on a cd when the fee has been paid, the book designed and set up and made available to online sales channels and listed for distribution. In a nutshell, if the author decides to go elsewhere, all their investment in their book is not lost, leaving them to start from scratch with another company.

Aventine offer a basic starter package and allow the author to add on additional services:

Aventine Press is a service organization. We provide the author who has decided to invest in his or her own work, the tools to bring it to fruition quickly, expertly and economically. Our services encompass everything you'll need, start to finish, in the book publishing process while making it an easy, step-by-step experience. It's both an extremely practical and efficient method for today's author to get into print with the best possible results.


Our Basic Service Package Includes:

  •  Your choice of cover design; use our professional custom covers (as low as $295.00), our cover templates ($175.00) or supply your own design.
  • Your choice of styles from our Interior Templates.
  •  International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
  •  Inclusion of author photo and cover photos.
  •  Inclusion of author biography.
  •  Electronic proofs.
  •  UPC bar-code.
  •  Indexing, up to 25 keywords free. (On request)
  •  Two free trade paperback copies of your book.
  •  Listing of your book with online booksellers.
  •  Your completed book (final proof) plus cover art on CD.
  •  Quarterly royalty payments and accounting.
  •  Submission to Ingram's Ipage Registration and Database Listing
Basic Service Package Fee: $399.00  

There are basic templates which go with the $399 fee, but I would suggest, an author considering this service, design and submit their own PDF formated print ready files. I have always been wary of publisher templates, and while there is an option to supply your own cover art and photographs—I would still suggest for the price the author is paying—they submit their own artwork at least, if not the finished PDF files.

The costs to an author to purchase any of the books are again pretty straight forward. For a 200 – 300 average page paperback book, selling at $14 – 16; the author gets 80%. That is, 80% of the list price less the print cost and a 10% taking by Aventine. That, again, averaging about $5+ per book. Regarding royalties for the author; it is the list price minus the print cost and the additional amount a third party seller like say Amazon might take; that can be anything up to 55%. With Aventine, the books, by most standards, are competitively priced because Aventine has not chosen to inflate the costs of book production and printing. The profits are actually small for them. In fact, so far, I don’t know another author solutions service that comes to mind making so little on the books they publish. On this note; if you are thinking of going with Aventine, be aware; they do not have an online bookstore. All your books will be sold through third-party sales.

If anything, not having an online bookstore might lead you to believe that Aventine Press’ site is heavy on the author services sales and pretty scant on the highlighting books. Actually it's the opposite. The main website landing page displays plenty of their successful books with links to third party sellers and author sites. As well as perhaps going to Aventine with a PDF ready book, another would be to already have your own website and a paypal facility to sell your own books. If you are to make the most of publishing with Aventine Press, you really must already have a website and web presence. They do offer a marketing program for $995, which includes a website, Ingram Advance Catalogue Listing, a press release, LCCN (library cataloguing) and copyright registration. The copyright can be a misnomer with several companies regarding the true costs. They build it into packages but do not disclose how much it is costing an author. The truth is–it should only cost the amount of books which are being sent as deposits to the national libraries, as the rest is simply form-filling. Publishers in POD services are skilled at making things like this seem burdensome for the author and then charging the author an arm and a leg to take the ‘burden’ off their hands.

We're a small book publishing company, but you wouldn't know it by the quality of services we provide or in the results we achieve. We take a personal interest in understanding your goals, then work hard to help you accomplish them. Among independent reviewers, we are ranked among the best book publishers in the industry!

Aventine Press is by no means the most advanced or sophisticated publisher going. But you know what? This is a company, the more you look at them, the more convinced you become that what is offered and at the price it is offered, sets them apart from much of the competition. The critical things Aventine Press says it will do is comprehensively delivered as part of the terms of the contract offered to authors. Aventine make reasoned and responsible comments on the website about what an author can expect from self publishing books. Their website does not display the heavy handed ‘author-marketing’ concepts so familiar with many companies. Their business operation model does not survive on a template entirely driven by selling author packages. In fact, Aventine and their team would do well to look at ebook sales and a fully driven in-house print facility. They have an awful lot in common with Infinity Press and seem to have a similar homespun value. That is not me being twee, but rather, emphasising the fact that I have found a company which does what it says, properly, and for a reasonable price. And the things it does well are in the absolutely critical areas, set up price, contract, ownership of book files, retail book price, quality of book product, contact accessibility and royalty share.

Additional service add-ons offered:


Because we work with authors of varying self publishing experience and needs, we offer additional services for you to achieve the personalized look and feel you want for your book. These services and fees are in addition to our Basic Service Package:
  •  Custom Cover Design: $295.00Statistics show that eighty percent of what goes into selling a book is the cover design. A professional cover designer will create your cover for you with your input. Please take note of the book covers you'll find through-out our web site, we have a reputation for producing quality covers that grab attention and sell more books!
  •  Hardcover Edition of Your Book : $295.00 (Includes separate ISBN and sales reports)Your book and cover will be formatted to be produced in a hardcover version, complete with full color dust jacket and durable cloth-style (patriot blue or slate gray) cover with gold foil stamped title on spine.
  •  Copyediting Service : $0.015 / per wordEven world-class writers benefit from good editing. Your manuscript will be copyedited for grammar, punctuation, and spelling to ensure quality. (Yes, we know that self-publishing and print-on-demand are misspelled on our web site. But due to the vagaries of search engines, it cannot be helped.)
  •  Interior Images : $5.00 / per imageIf you choose to add interior pictures or illustrations to your book, there is a $5.00 per image processing fee. Interior images and graphics will be printed in grayscale (black & white).
  •  Image Scanning : $7.00 / per imageProfessional image scans of your photo's or artwork for use in your book's interior. We can accommodate photo's or artwork up to 8.5 X 11 inches in size.
  •  Alteration Fee: $50.00 per hour $75.00 / per hour for webIf you decide to make editorial changes (author’s alterations) or cover design changes to your submission during the production process, we may find it necessary to charge you an alteration fee to defray the additional expense. An alteration fee will also be charged for web changes if we find it necessary. We define an alteration as an authors change to text or template while your book is in production. These fees will be charged to your credit card (a credit card number must be provided in the event that you request changes with the applied fees).


One of the few criticisms I had from my previous review of Aventine a couple of years ago was their lack of advancement into ebook services. Aventine has rectified that, and while this service is not undertaken in-house, it did not surprise me to find that Aventine had partnered with eBookit to provide multi ebook format options for authors. This is a classic case of one outstanding company recognising and affiliating with another of equally strong reputation.

If you plump for Aventine Press - you won't go far wrong. In fact, you will do far better than that. This small author solutions service is absolutely exceptional in its field, for competent self-publishers as well as those new to this chosen publishing path. My single remaining bug-bear is Aventine's lack of in-house sales platform. That is critical at this level of self-publishing, and something Aventine Press need to address in the next stage of development and when I revisit for an updated review.

RATING: 8.1/10

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Lulu CEO Bob Young on The Telepathy Standard


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Lulu CEO Bob Young on The Telepathy Standard for authors imparting content to readers.

Learn why telepathy is the gold standard by which authors transfer content to their readers and how we are getting closer to that standard every day using the internet.



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Google Books Settlement Statement


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Google Books Settlement Statement

Reaction from the Association of American Publishers...


Washington, DC, March 22, 2011 —Speaking on behalf of the publisher plaintiffs (The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.; Pearson Education, Inc; Penguin Group (USA) Inc.; Simon & Schuster, Inc.; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; Association of American Publishers, Inc.; Harlequin Enterprises Limited; Macmillan Publishers Limited; Melbourne University Publishing Limited; The Text Publishing Company), John Sargent, Chief Executive Officer, Macmillan, issued the statement below.

It references the Judge’s decision which noted: “…The motion for final approval of the ASA is denied, without prejudice to renewal in the event the parties negotiate a revised settlement agreement.”

“While the March 22 decision of U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin on the Google Book Settlement Agreement that was filed on November 13, 2009 is not the final approval we were hoping for, it provides clear guidance to all parties as to what modifications are necessary for its approval. The publisher plaintiffs are prepared to enter into a narrower Settlement along those lines to take advantage of its groundbreaking opportunities. We hope the other parties will do so as well.”

The Settlement has the potential to unlock online access to millions of out-of-print books in the U.S. and expand it for titles in-print while acknowledging and compensating the rights and interests of authors and copyright owners and enhancing our ability to distribute our content online.

Sargent noted publishers’ commitment to providing content in digital form is not tied to the Settlement.

“For more than a decade, publishers have been making substantial investments to enable and enhance online access to content in accordance with copyright laws and we will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of the litigation. We believe that the provisions of the Settlement would give these efforts a tremendous boost and would open a world of opportunities for readers, researchers, authors, libraries and publishers for decades to come.

“For that reason, publishers are prepared to modify the Settlement Agreement to gain approval. We plan to work together with Google, the Authors Guild and others to overcome the objections raised by the Court and promote the fundamental principle behind our lawsuit, that copyrighted content cannot be used without the permission of the owner, or outside the law.”

Contact: Andi Sporkin, Vice President, Communications, AAP – asporkin@publishers.org and (202) 220-4554
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011


US Circuit Court Judge Chin Rejects Google Book Settlement


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US Circuit Court Judge, Denny Chin, late this afternoon, sensationally rejected the merits of the Google Book Settlement as it stands, deciding in favour of plaintiffs, The Authors Guild. Following the previous Fairness Hearing more than a year ago, it did look as if Judge Chin would side in favour of the Google Book Settlement in its ASA form (Amended Settlement Agreement). Judge Chin delivered his opinion judgement to the Circuit Court saying:


The question presented is whether the ASA is fair, adequate, and reasonable. I conclude that it is not.
     While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far.  It would permit this class action - - which was brought against defendant Google Inc. ("Google") to challenge its scanning of books and display of  "snippets" for on-line searching - -  to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

     Accordingly, and for the reasons more fully discussed below, the motion for final approval of the ASA is denied.  The accompanying motion for attorneys' fees and costs is denied, without prejudice.




DENNY CHIN 
United States Circuit Judge
Sitting By Designation 





UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  -X 
THE AUTHORS GUILD et al., 
Plaintiffs, 
GOOGLE INC., 
-  against -  OPINION 
05 Civ. 8136 (DC) 
Defendant.



The full official court judgement is here.

Significantly in his opinion judgement, Judge Chin suggested agreement could be reached if the ASA was presented in the future as an opt-in settlement rather than an opt-out one.


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Xulon Press - Reviewed (Updated, March 2011)


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Xulon Press was founded by author and publisher Tom Freiling in 1999, and the company is part of the large media and communications group, Salem Communications Corporation, based in the USA. Salem is a Christian communications media group with commercial interests in radio, the Internet, and magazine publishing, and not surprisingly, Xulon Press claims to be the ‘leading Christian publisher in the United States – title for title’.

Xulon Press present a very corporate image and I have to say operate one of the best publisher websites that I have seen (commercial publishers included). The website is packed with self-publishing information, FAQ’s, news, blog pages and author pages. In fact, much of the Xulon Press website is geared entirely toward  authors and the Christian community as a whole rather than the offensive ‘in your face’ hard-sell marketing push of self-publishing services. It is very much corporately slick, but not a low end sleazy corporate slick. There is nothing hidden away here like the elephant in the corner of the room, practiced by so many other author solutions services. Immediate links to royalties, guidelines and book pricing hits you square in the eyes on the top menu of the main web page. This is a large global self-publishing services operation and the company chooses not to engage in the bluff or dreamboat marketing many companies offering author solutions services companies of this size engage in.




"Looking for a Christian self publishing company? Are you a Christian author or writer searching for the best Christian self publishing company to self publish your book? For one low price, we can publish, distribute, and market your book for you. We utilize lightning-fast print-on-demand digital technology to publish your book fast. Then we get your Christian book into the hands of readers through our reliable network of 25,000 bookstores, plus online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. In less than 90 days, your Christian book will reach a readership of thousands, making you a leading author in the field of Christian self publishing! And with our 100% royalty rate paid to authors for all bookstore sales, you keep most of your hard-earned money!"





The answer is six! The question of course was ‘how many times does the word Christian appear in the above paragraph?’ We get the message. We do get the availability in ’25,000’ bookstores' line common to author solutions services—read available and not that an author will have their books stocked in stores. This is one of the many misleading statements propagated by author solutions services. However, we will let this go; just let’s hope this doesn’t all go pear-shaped after such a good start from Xulon Press. We will look at the 100% claim on royalties paid to authors shortly. Are Xulon Press doing another 'Mill City Press' on royalties? Xulon Press are actually better on royalties than many others, but again, the statements from the company are still slightly misleading. We’ll see.

http://www.xulonpress.com/downloads/pdf/XulonGuidelines.pdf

From the online guidelines, it is clear authors can send or upload a word format file which Xulon say will be  formated with all paid packages. If authors intend to load PDF files (print ready), then they would be advised to make themselves familiar with Xulon's guidelines for completed book layout and page formatting before submitting through their ‘Author Centre’ facility. Images (max 50), photo images and rear cover book description are also submitted separately at this stage. Clearly Xulon Press - at least at this stage of the process - have a limited series of format options and seem quite particular about using Times Roman Numeral as a default font.

These are the basic core elements provided by Xulon in their publishing packages.

Book cover design (author can supply images)
Professionally formatted interior text (TRN font only used!)
ISBN for bookstore availability
Marketing and advertising programs
PDF Proof
POD printing process
No minimum book order necessary
Hardcover and paperback editions available (hardcover is $149 extra)
Author-friendly non-exclusive self publishing contract
100% royalty paid directly to you quarterly
Strong Customer Service Support




“We understand the tight finances that accompany being in the ministry, raising a family, or living on a fixed income. So we designed comprehensive publishing, distribution, and marketing programs to fit the budget of almost any author.”





Xulon offer three publishing packages, Premium $1299, Best-Seller $2299 and Elite at $7754 (at the time of this updated review, Xulon had the Best-seller and Elite packages on a time-limited sale of $1699 and $4099 respectively.



All the above include the following:

Book Cover Design (Gallery templates)
Back Cover Design
Interior Formatting
Electronic Proof
One-on-One Support Team
Author Center Account
Free Books – 1 or 2
ISBN Number
Choice of Trim Sizes
Nonexclusive Contract
Huge Book Discounts (up to 70%)

Thankfully Xulon Press has dispensed with the Gold package, which did not include distribution, and at the $799 price mark, was way overpriced for what is actually delivered.

The Best-seller also adds more to the basic service:


Marketing Specialist
Amazon.com Affiliate Programs
100% Royalties
Toll-free 24hr Order Service
Christian Bookstore Distributor/Promotion
Books-In-Print Listing
US Copyright Registration

This package is a significant saving grace. My faith in humanity is restored. I am going to honestly say that I considered calling it a day for Xulon Press when the company previously offered the Gold package. Xulon Press would not have been the first author solutions service where I invested many hours of research, only to discover I was dealing with a duck’s egg parading as the golden nugget. Well, Xulon Press, you ran this one really close to the wire! Fortunately, the company saw the light of day and perhaps my first review in 2009 pushed them in the right direction.

The Premium service is the cavalry on the horizon. Proper POD listing and availability, a real sales distribution service (rare in POD Publishing), the 100% royalty, the immediate toll-free order service if you are on a book tour, the Amazon Affiliate programs and multiple specialised Christian store catalogue listings, all mean Xulon Press push to the head of the pack. There is a God!

The Best-Seller package adds on:

Bookstore Catalog
Tradeshow Placement
Online Bookstore Page
Google Book Preview
Marketing Plan
Espresso Book Machine Database
Overseas Book Distribution

This package is where I believe Xulon’s connections in media is really brought to bear on the author’s behalf. The Xulon media connection alert and Christian bookstore catalogue listings carry very serious weight. In any direct community marketing – this kind of direct marketing identification really does make a difference to getting the word out about an author’s book. You will forgive me if I use a worn cliché – this is preaching to the converted - already a captured audience for Xulon Press.

At its full price, $7754, the Elite package is pretty abusive on the wallet, though the current sales price of $4099 is far more attractive, including:

Hardback Edition
Book Trailer
Returns
Ebook Edition
Trade Catalogue listing
Press Release
Unlimited Graphic Fees

Authors also have the option to load print ready files, (the guidelines are here). The concern I have here is that Xulon expect to charge the same fee even though the author has done most of the work!

http://www.xulonpress.com/authors_only/book_order.htm

http://www.xulonpress.com/imgs/global/service_agreement.pdf

Now, about that 100% royalty question. Yes, Xulon do a ‘Mill City Press’. It is a 100% royalty to the author, but only after print costs and Xulon’s mark-up on books are taken into consideration. Still, the author profits more than many other author solutions services – probably closer to 60 – 70%.

Xulon provide a number of other services which are all competitive. See their site for details.

This was a tough one to call, probably the hardest review to date. Overall, Xulon Press is not an author solutions service I would recommend if you are looking in the bargain basement of services with a few hundred dollars to spend, or you have design skills and the ability to produce your own print ready book files. Xulon has a specialised area of sales-targeting - and more to the point - has the where-with-all and services to do it using the top two packages. In most of my reviews, I find the basic or standard packages are the best. Xulon is a rare and welcome exception. Even at the $4099 end, you are getting more than most POD author solutions services claim to provide and deliver to the author.

Don’t be overly put off by the Christian book tag. My own book out for submission with commercial publishers would easily fit Xulon and I am sure many more authors’ books would. I still have peeves about Xulon; the print mark-ups on books is above other good author solutions services, allowing authors to submit print ready files and charging them the same fee for the publishing packages. But what Xulon Press do well, is executed exceptionally well, in particular the marketing and promotional services, and for that and what is on offer, Xulon hit the gold star.

RATING: 7.5/10
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