Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Irish Novelist Maeve Binchy Has Died

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|| RIP || Maeve Binchy || A TRIBUTE ||
|| RIP || Maeve Binchy || A TRIBUTE || (Photo credit: C.C.)
The celebrated Irish novelist Maeve Binchy has died following a short illness. She was 72 and a prolific writer of novels, novellas, short stories and books of non-fiction. Several of her novels were adapted as Hollywood films, including Tara Road and perhaps her most loved novel, Circle of Friends. News of her death was announced appropriately by Irish Times columnist, Vincent Browne, just before his TV3 programme on Irish television late last night. Binchy began her career in journalism for The Irish Times after a period of time as a teacher.

Binchy's author website has yet to reflect the author's passing. Her husband, Gordon Snell, was at her bedside in a Dublin hospital yesterday when she died.

Binchy sold more than 40 million copies of her books which were translated into 37 different languages. Many of Bincy's novels are set in Ireland and deal with the tensions between rural and urban society and the contract between Ireland and England.

Not long before her death, Binchy had spoken to The Irish Times newspaper and remarked:

“I don't have any regrets about any roads I didn't take. Everything went well, and I think that's been a help because I can look back, and I do get great pleasure out of looking back...I've been very lucky and I have a happy old age with good family and friends still around.”

She read from her most recent short story last month at the Dalkey Book Festival, close to the home she shared with her husband Gordon, and conceded then that it would probably be the last work.

In the below video, she shares her philosophy on life...

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Monday, 30 July 2012

Good Housekeeping: TIPM and TIPM Media

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I'm not a great lover of writing rants or berating readers and correspondents of The Independent Publishing Magazine. However, the time has come to tighten up on some guidelines on submissions to the magazine and the work I do at TIPM Media.

Firstly, The Independent Publishing Magazine is open to people who would like to submit articles on publishing, service reviews (unbiased) and personal experiences of your indie/self-publishing journey. We also consider interviews with authors who have interesting or unique experiences in the book publishing world. No subject or theme is off-limits as long as it will prove interesting to readers of TIPM. It's always important to field as wide an opinion as possible. Click the 'Submit to TIPM' if you would like us to consider your submission.

After five great years for TIPM, I'm still baffled by the number of erroneous and misplaced submissions we still receive. Let me be very clear on what we do not want...

  • We ARE NOT a publisher of books of ANY kind. We publish a magazine for authors and independent publishers which focuses on all aspects of the publishing industry, but with a particular emphasis on self-publishing and publishing service providers. Please DON'T send us your next novel for consideration or your 400 page book on '100 Years of Political Turmoil in Syria' because we WON'T read it, let alone publish it.
  • We ARE NOT a distributor of books of ANY kind. Please DON'T send us an order for Thomas Mann's, The Magic Mountain because you saw an edition of it published by CreateSpace or Lulu and you are Faculty Director at the University of Michigan and are looking for a copy of the book for 'Professor Snoggins' as soon as possible. Go look on Amazon to get the book and DON'T ask us to supply you with a copy because you 'happened' to see the TIPM review of CreateSpace or Lulu on Google.
  • Please read our submission guidelines fully, as well as becoming familiar with the content of TIPM, before sending us your article for consideration. No. We ARE NOT interested in your article about the game computing world, online educational courses, dog grooming or how to get the best holiday bargain, no matter how you think you can 'tweak it' for TIPM.

For the record, here are our guidelines in full...

The Independent Publishing Magazine (TIPM) is open to the submission of articles, features and interviews. Submissions are open to authors (published and unpublished), publishers/publishing service providers or writers who can clearly demonstrate an interest and understanding of the issues concerning authors, self-publishing, independent publishing, digital publishing and ebooks, as well as the wider issues in the publishing industry. Please ensure you have familiarized yourself with the content of TIPM and the suitability of your article before submitting.

Failure to adhere to the above guidelines will result - at best - to a form rejection reply.

We cover a great deal here, from expanded news stories, opinion pieces, author profiles, author service reviews and industry analysis. In all cases, we try to be objective, fair, but firm in editorial style.

We are also happy to receive press releases from media outlets and public relations' representatives, but we cannot guarantee magazine space in full or part. Every submission will be appraised on suitability, value and context.

We are a small and resourceful operation, but most of the time, run off our feet! Unfortunately, as much as we would like to, we simply cannot pay for any submissions. However, should your article be accepted, we will provide space for appropriate links and author biographies. In the event of several articles being accepted from one author for publication in TIPM over a period of time, you will be added to our writers' role call in the magazine.

Please make email contact in first instance, outlining in a few succinct sentences your intended article/feature submission and use the word 'submission' in your email subject line.

All submissions and press releases should be emailed to this contact link.

Secondly, as editor of TIPM, and as a publishing consultant for TIPM Media (the parent company which publishes The Independent Publishing Magazine), I receive a great deal of correspondence every day. Aside from putting together the magazine and providing much of the content, TIPM exists out of pleasure and dedication on my part to provide a strong resource for independent authors and publishers. It brings in little remuneration through advertisement in comparison to the time and energy I invest in the magazine. My bread and butter comes through working as a full time publishing consultant at TIPM Media.

Balancing my time as editor of The Independent Publishing Magazine and running my consultancy at TIPM Media is a tricky but rewarding business and I have to ensure the lines between the two are not blurred. Unfortunately, not everyone - readers and clients sometimes - always appreciate this. Over the weekend I have rewritten some of the submission guidelines for TIPM as well as updating the contact information to make a clear distinction between my dual roles.

Please respect the fact that contacting the magazine, and contacting me directly as its editor, should purely be confined to matters relating to the magazine and its content, and not a way of obtaining free advice or a free consultation session in regards to your own publishing journey. I consider this practice by correspondents as lazy, opportunistic, and, at times, highly unprofessional. If I need the services of a plumber, mechanic, doctor or solicitor, I don't email or call them and expect their services free of charge. I expect to pay for professional advice and any of the services they offer.

TIPM Media is a publishing consultancy for authors and publishers. It operates separately from The Independent Publishing Magazine and you can find the website and contact details there should you wish to avail of the services. I'm currently expanding the services available at TIPM Media and the website will be continually updated this week.

I can appreciate that some correspondents may have been somewhat confused that both magazine and consultancy may have been one in the same but I don't believe that is an excuse for opportunism at times. As from today, correspondents contacting the magazine directly, seeking consultation and advice, will be referred to the TIPM Media website with a FORM reply. Please do not take this as a rebuff. I'm genuinely happy to work with you on your book project, and at TIPM Media, I will do all I can to make your publishing journey a success.

Just call it better housekeeping...      
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Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Future of Publishing 2020: Control, Coker and ASI

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This is a pretty thought-provoking post by Smashwords' Mark Coker. There are a number of strong arguments he makes for the control and advantage indie authors may hold over traditionally published authors in regards to ebook pricing.

"One surprise, however, was that we found $2.99 books, on average, netted the authors more earnings (profit per unit, multiplied by units sold) than books priced at $6.99 and above.  When we look at the $2.99 price point compared to $9.99, $2.99 earns the author slightly more, yet gains the author about four times as many readers.  $2.99 ebooks earned the authors six times as many readers than books priced over $10."

...and Coker goes on to suggest...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Publishers Lunch | ASI-Pearson Deal - Related Links

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Publishers Lunch » Penguin Acquires Self-Publishing Service Author Solutions For $116 Million

One significant area this Publishers Lunch coverage does raise is the argument that the POD bubble may be on the wane. ASI has put a great deal into the launch of Booktango, as an ebook self-publishing platform, and the sale of ASI may also be another contributing reason for Bertram Capital feeling the time was right to sell.

Another big strategic question is whether Penguin has jumped on the model of the future, or has ASI's premium-price, print-centric self-publishing focus peaked. Weiss said they "have been competing with free options for a long time" and noted that in their analysis of their recent BookTango platform--which emulates other free or low-priced ebook publishing and distribution services--"we have not seen any cannibalization" of their other services. Weiss noted, "we have not felt any price pressure thus far from the free publishing market" and suggested that "the market for authors is segmenting itself."

Further related links below from wider media sources... 
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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Opinion: Pearson Acquisition of Author Solutions - Change, What Change?

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There is certainly nothing out of place with today's acquisition by Pearson - Penguin's parent company - of the largest self-publishing service provider, Author Solutions (ASI). While the purchase of ASI might raise a few furrowed brows in the established publishing industry, the sale by ASI's parent compant, Bertram Capital, has been on the back burner for the past year. It wasn't too long ago that I felt we might see ASI dabble in the second-hand publishing market and pick up a few small presses, but instead, the strategy of ASI has been to woo some of the established players like Thomas Nelson, Hay House and Harlequin into self-publishing partnerships.

Wherever you personally place ASI and their stable of self-publishing imprints like iUniverse, AuthorHouse and Xlibris in the scheme of publishing - be it as vanity house in disguise or a slick corporate marketer with promises of self-publishing dreams made true - ASI has developed an engine room efficient and quick to turn manuscripts into print and ebook products for authors, whatever arguments you make about the literary quality of many of the books published. I've heard far too many within and outside of the industry take an easy swipe at ASI over the years - just as so many are quick to take easy pot-shots at Amazon - but both companies got where they are by seizing opportunity, providing services to customers willing to part with cash, and, crucially, had the resources to develop and deliver their services to a global market. In today's world - salesmen aren't paid to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They are paid to sell services and products. The buyer often says yay or nay dependent on how informed he or she is about what is needed. Both companies have also developed their fair share of innovative tools and services - Amazon with it's most recent move to deliver some products on the same day of ordering, and ASI has turned a lot of heads with it's ebook platform, Booktango, and even more recently, with BookStub, a loyalty card complete with a QR code for gifting books. But the real jewel in the crown for  Penguin today is immediate access to the ASI production engine.

Everyone directly connect with this decision will be happy. Bertram Capital has shifted a marque they needed to and trousered $116 million, ASI CEO, Kevin Weiss, makes the board of Penguin Group, and Penguin gets the keys to the ASI engine room and the resource of 1600 employees. That will help nicely with digitizing a lot more of the Penguin back catalogue, provide a further financial revenue stream, and who knows, maybe provide a very few new authors to the mothership which hitherto went under the radar of Penguin. Of course, we shouldn't forget that self-publishing is enjoying something of a vogue status however many stuffies we still hear throwing their toys out of the established publishing cot over the perceived watering down of traditional publishing brands. If anything, this purchase by Pearson is proof that even Penguin is not the brand it once represented and the average book buyer won't give an iota about this deal and future implications for the industry - that's if most will even be aware of it.

For me, it's at least another step forward in the right direction - to a day in the book industry when we focus entirely on the quality of content (as providers not publishers and authors behaving as separate entities guarding their nests and interests) and not who paid for a book to be published or whether self-published books are lined up on one side of the room and traditionally published books on the other side - and that's when they are allowed in the room! The biggest lie in publishing at the moment is that traditional/legacy publishers - call them what you will - have nothing to do with self-publishing and fear nothing from their lesser brethren. The truth is traditional publishers have been knee-deep in the self-publishing world for several years - and I mean the big six we hear so much about. Did you know Random House once held part ownership in Xlibris nearly 12 years ago, before it eventually became part of the ASI self-publishing mothership? Did you know that some writers who emerged from MacMillan's New Writers' program were self-published authors? Did you know that HarperCollins' Authonomy has been a breathing ground for many self-publishing services, and regularly fields advertisements from companies like CreateSpace? Penguin may have been the first of the big six to launch a full-blown self-publishing service with Book Country, but believe me, the traditional courtship with self-publishing began many years ago. Eoin Purcell, on his blog today, also rightly pointed out that even Bloomsbury, following its acquisition of A&C Black, have subtly been dabbling in the author service arena.

"Some companies have been busy creating product suites that cater to the diverse needs of authors.
A really good example of someone who is moving into the space in a measured and clever way is Bloomsbury through their  Writers & Artists Yearbook site. What was once  a staid old handbook of contacts has, over the last number of years, been recast as something entirely different, something very impressive."

We should not forget the big independents. I've spoken enough about ASI's previous partnerships with Harlequin, Thomas Nelson and Hay House. Faber also run the respected Faber Academy for writers, using it as a workshop and school for the next budding Faber talent - all additional revenue streams for what we may soon stop describing as traditional or legacy publishing. And it work's both ways - author solutions providers have long developed hybrid models of publishing where the investment from the author is not measured in finance, but time spent on marketing and exploiting their social networks. A few disgruntled authors - after years within the traditional world of publishing - would argue that that's the way it work's for many authors signed up by large publishers.

I've no doubt we will see more deals like today's between Pearson and ASI. It is what it is. Publishing - and what it once meant and how it's executed - is changing in process as well as the myriad of developing e-markets. Earning a living crust from the sale of books alone for most authors was never a reality, in spite of what the book-buying public's perception might be. It seems now that running a publishing house in New York may also not pay enough of a corporate crust without the help of some self-publishing friends.

We may hear rejoicing in some circles this evening - and not just in the Weiss and Makinson households - but a few ardent and dedicated self-publishers raising a glass or two that their voices may be heard just a decibel higher from now on. Though many may greet this news as welcome - that self-publishing has somehow come into the fold of publishing for good - I don't really see too much changing, because it already has. It's easier for a publisher or agent to watch the Amazon ranking list or look at the latest Nielsen BookScan reports to tell them what is selling rather than sifting through the mountain of slush piles. The future is now, and it isn't in those slush piles. Instead, it's about taking a deep breath; learning your writing craft through a good writing workshop; informing yourself and learning about the industry as it is now; building a fan base and actively engaging with your readers; finding champions of your work; believing in yourself and persevering; and putting yourself out there.

Many stalwarts of the industry will still rely on the old adages - Yog's Law, and How Publishing Really Works. I'd say the difference now is that the responsibility is squarely on the shoulders of the author to ensure money flows to the author through the decisions he or she takes. Traditional publishing and self-publishing are both risks - the personal and financial value is learning how to wager those risks sensibly. It has always been about How Publishing Works - just How Publishing Really Works Now!        
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Breaking: Pearson Acquires Author Solutions Inc From Bertram Capital

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The breaking news this afternoon - and probably this year on the self-publishing landscape - is the announced acquisition of the largest global self-publishing provider, Author Solutions Inc, by Pearson, who own the Penguin Publishing Group. This could well represent the sea-change in the publishing world we have been expecting for quite a while. I have to say, I expected it to happen a little differently - with perhaps Author Solutions taking full control of a medium-sized traditional publishing house. Nevertheless, the implication and result is the same, and maybe more so now that one of the world's largest publisher indirectly owns the largest self-publishing solutions provider.

I'll have more on this later as I digest the full implications of this news and what it really means.

"In a move that can be traced to last year’s launch of Book Country, Penguin’s writer community and self-publishing venture, Pearson has acquired Author Solutions Inc.,one of the largest self-publishing ventures in the world, for $116 million from Bertram Capital. In a conference call from ASI’s headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., Penguin CEO John Makinson and ASI CEO Kevin Weiss, said the deal marks the “mainstreaming” of self-publishing, will provide Penguin with “scalable” data and expertise on self-publishing and offers opportunities for global growth and wider distribution to selected ASI authors through Penguin’s channels."
"Last year Penguin was the first conventional publisher to launch its own self-publishing service, Book Country, and they’ve followed that landmark venture with the acquisition of Author Solutions, a self-publishing firm with around 1,600 employees, revenue of just under $100 million in 2011 and that that has published nearly 200,000 books by more than 150,000 authors in print and e-book formats. The company has net income of $4.2 million laat year. Author Solutions also partners with about six other houses—Thomas Nelson and Hay House among them—to provide “white label” self-publishing services and both Makinson and Weiss said those ASI partnerships will continue. Bertram Capital began looking for a buyer for ASI this winter."

Here is the full ASI press release:

July 19, 2012 - Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, is today announcing the acquisition of Author Solutions, Inc (ASI) from Bertram Capital for $116 million in cash.
Formed in 2007, ASI is now the world’s leading provider of professional self-publishing services. It has enabled 150,000 authors to publish, market and distribute more than 190,000 books in print and electronic formats and benefits from several powerful growth trends including user-generated content, eBooks and digital publishing and marketing technologies.
Self-publishing is a rapidly growing segment of the consumer books market. According to Bowker, 211,000 titles were self-published in 2011 in either print or digital form, an increase of almost 60% on 2010. The self-publishing sector has also become an important source of talent and content for the publishing industry, producing several bestselling authors including Lisa Genova, John Locke, Darcie Chan, Amanda Hocking, Bronnie Ware and E.L. James.
The acquisition gives Penguin a leading position in this fast-growing segment of the publishing industry and brings significant opportunity for the two companies to collaborate. Penguin will gain access to ASI’s expertise in online marketing, consumer analytics, professional services and user-generated content. ASI will benefit from Penguin’s design, editorial and sales skills, and its strong international presence as it looks to expand outside the US.
Penguin’s chief executive John Makinson said: “Self-publishing has moved into the mainstream of our industry over the past three years. It has provided new outlets for professional writers, a huge increase in the range of books available to readers and an exciting source of content for publishers such as Penguin. No-one has captured this opportunity as successfully as Author Solutions, which has rapidly built a position of world leadership on a platform of outstanding customer support and tailor-made publishing services. This acquisition will allow Penguin to participate fully in perhaps the fastest-growing area of the publishing economy and gain skills in customer acquisition and data analytics that will be vital to our future.”
In 2011 Author Solutions generated revenues of approximately $100m, growing at an average annual rate of 12% over the past three years. Its business is split broadly evenly across three key areas: publishing, marketing and distribution services, with revenues generated primarily from services to authors.
The company has approximately 1,600 employees, located primarily in Bloomington, Indiana and Cebu City, the Philippines. Pearson will be expensing integration costs relating to Author Solutions in 2012 and expects the acquisition to enhance adjusted earnings per share and to generate a return on invested capital above Pearson’s weighted average cost of capital from 2013, its first full year. Author Solutions will be integrated into Penguin’s back office and technology infrastructure but will continue to be run as a separate business.
Kevin Weiss, Chief Executive of ASI, said: “Over the past 75 years, Penguin has demonstrated a commitment to bold and fresh thinking in the publishing industry. We are thrilled to be a part of its vibrant culture, and look forward to accelerating the pace of change the industry is experiencing. As part of Penguin, we will be on the front-end of that change and have the broadest set of offerings of any publisher today. That means more opportunity for authors and more choice for readers.”

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NovelScribe Launches Search Tool For Self-Published Authors on Amazon

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NovelScribe, launched earlier this month, is an archive of direct links of books by self-published and small press authors hosted on Amazon. The idea for NovelScribe came from founder, Tracy Leach. Below, Tracy introduces us to NovelScribe and how it works. 

One day while trawling Amazon's forum for tips for my own writing journey, I came upon a post that said: 'Self-published authors, help me find you!' It then dawned on me that while Amazon had neatly sectioned their books in categories such as 'Action & Adventure' and 'Romance,' these were the ONLY categories Amazon allowed for books. Additionally, I noticed that Amazon, living up to its name, was a literal jungle of stuff: books by big-name authors, movies, music, electronics, toys, clothing, etc. If a potential reader went to Amazon to search for a book, they were easily sidetracked by all the other various items on display. Hence, the purchase of a book was likely to suffer when a video-game or a flashy mp3 player drew the attention of a buyer. So, with the help and encouragement of my parents (Florry Leach, a senior programmer who specialises in database languages (Microsoft Access, MySQL, SQLite) and SSL's and knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) - NovelScribe was created and launched on July 4th 2012.

How does it work?

NovelScribe's 'Find A Book' page is comprised of eight (yes, EIGHT) searchable fields. By selecting any of these fields, a reader can easily search for and find a book of their choosing. This type of search helps to narrow results to benefit not only the reader, but the authors of the specific fields the reader has searched against. An example of how it looks:

Media: This specifies what is the type of the book. There are 4 listings in this drop-down field: Audio, E-book, Print, Video.

Category: This specifies what 'category' the book falls under. There are 7 listings in this drop-down field: Fiction, Graphic Novel/Comic, Movie Script, Non-Fiction, Play, Poem, Short Story.

First Genre: This specifies the main theme/genre of the book. There are 40 listings in this drop-down field.

Second Genre: This specifies any additional theme/genre of the book. There are 40 listings in this drop-down field.

Rating: This specifies the age-group that should read the book. There are 4 listings in this drop-down field: Adult, Children, General, Teen.

Max Price: This specifies the maximum price that the book should be when searched against. There are 10 listings in this drop-down field - the lowest price at $2.00 and the highest at $100.00.

Max Size: This specifies the maximum size (in kilobytes) that the book should be when searched against. There are 9 listings in this drop-down field - the lowest size range at 100kb and the highest at 5000kb.

Title or Author: This field is for searching books by the title or author's name. It can work on its own or with the listings selected in the drop-down fields above.

By selecting a few, or all of the fields, a user can find a book of their liking with ease. This search is a great improvement upon those regular searches you find with Amazon or any other book selling/searching sites. Whereas sites like Amazon gives you a singular text field that brings back thousands of results (most of them irrelevant to you, anyway), NovelScribe's search only brings back the results for which you explicitly searched. So, if you wanted an E-book that's Non-Fiction and with a maximum price of $50.00, the results returned are going to be exactly what you requested. If you want to see ALL of the books in NovelScribe's database, just click the 'Search' button without selecting any listings from the drop-down fields.

Any self-published/small press author can post any and all of their books on NovelScribe once it is hosted on Amazon. Adding a book on NovelScribe is found through the 'Add A Book' page. Here is a snippet of the 'Add A Book' page of NovelScribe to showcase its simplicity:

Title: State the title of your book.

Author: State the author of your book.

Media: Select what is the media type of your book. There are 4 listings: Audio, E-book, Print, Video.

Category: Select what category your book belongs to. There are 7 listings: Fiction, Graphic Novel/Comic, Movie Script, Non-Fiction, Play, Poem, Short Story.

First Genre: Select the main theme/genre of your book. There are 40 listings.

Second Genre: Select an additional theme/genre of your book. There are 40 listings.

Rating: Select the age-group that should read your book. There are 4 listings: Adult, Children, General, Teen.

Summary: A 500 character summation of your book. Why only 500? Because we believe that the quicker a reader is launched to your Amazon's book page, the better. 

Price: State the price of your book.

Size: State the size (in kilobytes) of your book.

ASIN/ISBN-10/ISBN-13 #: This is the most important field on NovelScribe. We use this alphanumeric number to launch directly to your book's page. The ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) is Amazon's identification number for Kindle books (as well as their other products), and should only be entered in this field when a Media type of 'E-book' is selected from the drop-down list. The ISBN-10 or ISBN-13 should only be entered in this field when a Media type of 'Print' is selected from the drop-down list.

Email: State the email address that should be associated with your book. This is required in the event we need to contact you concerning your book.

Book Code: A generated alphanumeric number that is emailed to you once a book has been submitted successfully. It can be changed to whatever is easiest for you to remember. It is needed for you to make edits to your book.

Author Remarks: Any additional information you would like to say about your book or yourself. A hyperlink to your website can be posted here as well.

Once the required fields (the ones with the red asterisk beside them) are filled out, and the book submitted successfully, it will show immediately if anyone searches for it. There is no waiting period for your book to show. This is the simplicity and speediness of NovelScribe.

But why only self-published and small press authors? Well, simple: self-published and small press authors need exposure, too. Currently, published works by big-name authors such as Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Jodi Picoult are firmly in the limelight. They have the means for aggressive and prominent advertising, while many self-published/small press authors do not. Many self-published/small press authors have to struggle to be recognised, and for their works to be appreciated. Therefore, we hope that by using NovelScribe and its Forum as often as they choose, self-published and small press authors can receive the recognition and appreciation we rightly deserve.

If you'd like to find out more about us, our email address is: info@novelscribe.com

To contact Tracy Leach: tleach@novelscribe.com
To contact Florry Leach: fleach@novelscribe.com

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