February 27, 2013

Don’t get conned!

We have had such a huge response to the Self publishing rip-offs post that we have decided to do a couple of follow ups on the subject, using some of the comments that we received. So, although we have always stressed that The Publishing Café is a blog for everyone who loves books, and the last thing we want to do is use it as a vehicle to plug YPS, this response from David Zelder has such sensible advice for all authors, that we decided to run it…despite his last paragraph!

A Guest Post by author, David Zelder

The published book
I retired from business to start my writing career. So, as early as 2008, I started investigating the market, looking at agents, publishers and reading such publications as “Writing magazine”.  I started sending off for brochures, both hard copy and electronic to find the route I would need to pursue to get my work out into the public domain.

Thus I soon began to view the information contained in the brochures with an enquiring mind, some might say suspicious mind (yes, I’ve got the song by Elvis, thank you).  I bought a copy of The Writer’s Handbook and started writing to agents and publishers listed in there.

All this time the words in the novel were creeping up to my target level of around 90,000 and I was still fishing in the dark looking to get it published.  Then I read a copy of Writers' and Artists' Yearbook and my attitude changed, I became more focussed and realised that I needed to look for the dolphin swimming against the tide in a sea full of sharks.  I read the exposé on vanity publishing by journalist Johnathon Clifford, who won the Daily Mirror good service award for exposing the sharks in the industry.

By the time I had got to this point I had already received several 4 page letters from the many sharks who pretended to help those authors who wished to self publish.  The letters were usually 3 pages of fulsome praise for my work, and then the 4th page requested a cheque for amounts ranging from £6,800 to £3,000.  Up front payments for work of unspecified quality and you end up with a truck load of books with no marketing support and no means of order fulfilment.

I met many authors and talked to them about their publishing experiences.  It was like reading a horror story by Edgar Allan Poe.  Some I spoke with were earning 20-30 pence for each book sold. Others had books that were produced in a fashion that they looked home made, and yet had cost the author a fortune.  In most cases, the company who had printed the book kept most of the money from book sales, despite receiving £000’s from the writer up front.  Yet the naïve author believed they had self published. How wrong they were.

So my mind was made up, I would be in total control and maximise the earning potential.  So here in summary is the route I took:

• I sought out a publishing services firm that did not ask for up front fees.
• I only signed an agreement on the basis that I was the publisher.
• I own every book that is printed and keep the £8.99 retail price.
• I insisted on visiting the premises and meeting all the key staff.  I looked at printing presses, guillotines, packing, and storage capability.  I did a search on the company at Companies House to see if they were clean.

So after a year searching I found what I was looking for with YPS.

• No up front fees.  I pay when the work is done.
• First class book design and formatting by the company’s own in house department.
• No pressure to order 10,000 books, or 1,000 or 500.  Honest discussion and advice on a reasonable quantity to order.
• Long established and well respected in the industry.
• Whatever professional marketing support you need is provided on a menu basis.  You choose and pay for whatever elements you need.

February 26, 2013

A response to the last post

James Daunt: at the helm of Waterstones

I witnessed the closure of yet another local independent bookshop this month, this time just a few miles away from us in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire.

Books, Books, Books has been a little haven of literary delights in the high street there for many years, until recently owned by Diana Ryan, a wonderful lady who knew her customers and, more importantly, was passionate about books. It was almost impossible to leave there without buying one of her recommendations.

Such places are now an endangered species. Where once upon a time almost every town had its own bookshop, now we are left with Amazon and a chain of Waterstones branches found only in cities and large towns. The rate of closure of truly independent bookshops selling new books has reached almost epidemic proportions.

Amazon’s domination in the market is truly monopolistic; so much so that it’s now quicker, easier and invariably cheaper to order both new and secondhand books from them than it is to go to the nearest bookshop.

Waterstones, on the other hand, is attempting to ride out the Amazon storm with James Daunt at the helm, trying hard to capture that ‘independent’ quality that the fast-disappearing smaller bookshops have – or had. Sometimes it works: their Truro branch for example, is an exemplar where the staff know and care about their customers. But the same cannot be said for all branches of Waterstones sadly. My recent experience with one of them (which shall remain nameless) suggests that, where the manager had been parachuted in from outside the area and many of the staff don’t know enough about the area and interests of their customers, they are unlikely to succeed in the long run.

Jerry Johns
Managing Editor

February 25, 2013

73 UK bookstores closed in 2012

The Booksellers Association in the UK released its latest membership figures for the year 2012 with the following results. In 2012, among BA membership:
  • 73 bookshops closed
  • 39 bookshops opened
  • 1,028 independent bookshop members
  • 3,580 bookshop members in total

Tim Godfray, CEO, The Booksellers Association, noted, “Closures are always painful and we were saddened to see many bookshops closing last year. The balance of risk in bookselling has changed for good and now sits disproportionately with the bookseller. We are committed to helping booksellers work closely with publishers to explore new business models to ensure that bookshops continue to have a lively presence on our high streets. Bookshops are important community and cultural hubs, which also provide an important educational resource for all.”

In the UK, libraries have been closing all over the country. Now we are losing our high street bookshops too. Soon the future of reading will be almost entirely online. Is this a good thing? Is it an opportunity for Indie and self publishers? Will we just look back nostalgically, or will we regret their demise? There are interesting times ahead.

February 20, 2013

Oscar worthy reads - books that inspired this year’s nominations!

The Hobbit
By J. R. R. Tolkien

The definitive edition of Bilbo Baggins’ adventures in middle-earth, this classic bestseller is this year’s biggest movie. The Hobbit is a tale of high adventure undertaken by a company of dwarves in search of dragon-guarded gold. A reluctant partner in this perilous quest is Bilbo Baggins, a comfort-loving, unambitious hobbit who surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and skill as a burglar.

Life Of Pi
By Yann Martel

One boy, one boat, one tiger . . . After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orangutan, and a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and best-loved works of fiction in recent years.

The Silver Linings Playbook
By Matthew Quick

Pat Peoples has a theory: his life is actually a movie produced by God. And Pat’s God-given mission in life is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure the movie is a romcom, complete with happy ending. For Pat, this means the return of his estranged wife Nikki, from whom he's currently having some 'apart time.' It might not come as any surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental-health facility. When Pat leaves hospital and goes to live with his parents, however, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends now have families; his beloved football team keep losing; his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.

Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
By Doris Kearns Goodwin

In this monumental multiple biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, studies Abraham Lincoln's mastery of men. She shows how he saved Civil War-torn America by appointing his fiercest rivals to key cabinet positions, making them help achieve his vision for peace. It is a thrilling piece of narrative history.

Argo - How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History
By Antonio Mendez & Matt Baglio

Tehran, November 1979. Militant students stormed the American embassy and held sixty Americans captive for a gruelling 444 days. But until now the CIA has never revealed the twist to the Iran Hostage Crisis: six Americans escaped.
The escape plot was run by Antonio Mendez, head of the CIA's extraction team, and a master of disguise. Mendez came up with an idea so daring and potentially foolish that it seemed destined for Hollywood...and indeed it was. He invented a fake sci-fi film called 'Argo' (from the actual name of the CIA mission, a reference to Jason and the Argonauts). After announcing the production to the movie industry, Mendez put together a team of real 1970s Hollywood actors, directors and producers - along with covert CIA officers. They would travel to revolutionary Iran under a foreign film visa, and while 'scouting locations' throughout the country they would track down the six Americans who were hiding out. After giving them false identities as part of the film crew, they would spirit them back across the border.

Les Miserables
By Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo's tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty.

February 19, 2013

Self publishing rip-offs

Self Publishing - don''t get ripped off

Trawling through the Amazon blogs, it appears that we are not the only ones warning authors about unscrupulous self publishing companies. I came across an excellent piece written by Maria Murnane, an award-winning author as well as publishing consultant, warning authors about the dangers of predators in the self publishing industry.
I'm a big fan of self-publishing because it gives anyone the opportunity to fulfil his or her dream of becoming an author. However, authors must watch out for the unscrupulous types who prey on unsuspecting writers who are so eager to see their work in print that they get, for lack of a more gentle term, ripped off.

Here are some of the types of predatory behaviour to watch out for when selecting a self publishing company to work with. Run for the hills if you encounter any of the following:
1. Promises of success: Any self-publishing company that guarantees it will make your book a bestseller is lying. No one can predict the future.

2. Purchase requirements: Many indie authors end up working with self-publishing companies that require them to buy thousands of copies of their own work.

3. Exclusivity: Before choosing a company to help you publish your book, make sure that if someone were to call you tomorrow and offer you another publishing opportunity, you have the option to accept it and walk away cleanly. Don’t sign away your rights, especially your electronic rights.

4. Lastly, before committing to anything, type the company name into a search engine and see what others around the web are saying. You can usually tell if they have a good reputation or are out to rip you off.
- Maria Murnane 

February 13, 2013

Hatchet job of the year

Bad reviews are obviously one of the worst things to happen to any author. But, as readers, we love them! It’s far more fun to read a waspish turn of phrase than a fawning reproduction of a book’s back cover blurb.

Founded by website, The Omnivore, and only in its second year, the Hatchet Job of the Year award is given to the writer who pens the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past 12 months. It aims to raise the profile of professional critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism.

This year’s honours go to Camilla Long of the Sunday Times for her delightfully scathing review of Rachel Cusk’s memoir, Aftermath. She writes the novelist off as a brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist who exploits her husband and her marriage with relish.

And the runners up…
  • Craig Brown described Richard Bradford’s The Odd Couple as a triumph of ‘cut and paste’.
  • Ron Charles described Martin Amis’ meandering novel Lionel Asbo as full of class mockery that curdles into a misanthropic vision of human suffering.
  • Richard Evans wrote that A.N. Wilson’s new biography of Hitler was a travesty — a collection of stale, unoriginal material, banal, cliché-ridden historical judgements, written in a lame, tired narrative style by a repellently arrogant man.
  • Claire Harman called Andrew Motion’s novel a boring and implausible sequel to Treasure Island.
  • Zoë Heller said Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, is written with lordly nonchalance by a man who portrays himself as an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting.
  • Allan Massie wrote that The Divine Comedy, by Craig Raine, is a wearisome, self-indulgent, affected, mannered, rather silly sex-obsessed novel.
  • Suzanne Moore couldn’t stand the utter drivel and dumbed-down feminism of Vagina, by Naomi Wolf.

February 12, 2013

What's all the fuss about horse meat?

horsemeat in lasagne
One of the very best and most informative author blogs currently on the net, is Zoe Harcombe, nutritionist and prolific author. With her usual down to earth, common-sense approach to food and dieting, this is Zoe's opinion of the current UK horse meat in burgers 'scandal'.


February 11, 2013

Do you really need an ISBN number?

ISBNs cause authors and self-publishers a great deal of concern. They shouldn’t because it is all really quite straightforward. ISBNs simply record 3 pieces of information.
  • Who the Publisher is
  • Information on the book
  • Where to order the book from
In the UK, ISBN numbers are obtained from and allocated by Nielsen Bookdata. The simple application form and guidelines can be downloaded from their website.

The question that we are most often asked by self publishers, is ‘should we have our own ISBN number?’ We think the answer is a definite Yes!  It is the publisher of a book that holds the ISBN for that title. As a self-publisher, you are both the author and publisher rolled into one. Therefore, if you do not have your own ISBN, you are not the publisher! 

This is a vitally important distinction, because it is the publisher and holder of the ISBN number, that holds all the ancillary rights to a book – things like translation rights, foreign rights, serialisation rights and, most importantly in this age of the eBook, electronic rights!

Jonathan Clifford writes
a very informative article in
The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook
If a company provides you with an ISBN, it will be their ISBN, so they are the publisher. As such, unless you have a written agreement that states otherwise, they will own all the publishing rights to your book.

Jonathan Clifford, who writes for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook states…
For a book to be genuinely self-published, a name designated by the author as his/her publishing house must appear on the copyright page of the book as ‘Publisher’ and the book’s ISBN must be registered by the ISBN Agency to that author as publisher. Any company that publishes books under it’s own name or imprint cannot, by definition, claim to help authors to self-publish.”

February 07, 2013

A new book for dyslexic children

The Monkey's Fart has a foreword by Charley Boorman
If you love reading, then you’ll love this book. If you don’t like reading, or are dyslexic, then this book is still for you! Sometimes irreverent but always funny, The Monkey’s Fart is a serious attempt to interest children in poetry and reading. The book has a foreword by Charley Boorman and is supported by Dyslexia Action.

"As a dyslexic himself, the author, Mike Skyner, understands the battle many kids have to master language. His poem My Left Brain demonstrates the frustrations many dyslexics have with the process of writing poetry. I applaud Mike's attempt to present kids with the toolkit to be creative, to get writing and have fun."

- Stephen Edden, 
Author of ‘The Wordsmith's Tale’

February 05, 2013

Neil Gaiman & Blackberry team up to tell stories

Novelist Neil Gaiman and BlackBerry have teamed up to create a year-long storytelling project called A Calendar of TalesGaiman will write a new tale every month this year, drawing inspiration and illustrations from his millions of online fans.

What’s happening to your library?

Government Response to the Report of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Library Closures – The main thrust of the response is that libraries are “not a service in crisis” and that it is highly unlikely that the Government will intervene in particular local authorities. Rather, it sees its role as limited to providing guidance and best practice.

On the Government Library Closures Inquiry - Response by Phil Bradley, president of CILIP, the official librarian’s body, notes the complacency of the report at a time when “library closures reaching almost one per working day according to our figures, with a similar dramatic reduction in staff numbers.”

Saturday 9 February 2013 is National Libraries Day, a culmination of a week’s worth of celebrations in school, college, university, workplace and public libraries across the UK. Join in by visiting a local event or tweeting with the #NLD13 hashtag.

February 03, 2013

Backup and data storage

Running out of space for your writing and want to back up all your work someplace safe? Social Times has rounded up the top 8 free, cloud-based file sharing sites - enough storage to save every bit of digital work you have ever created. More than just external storage, many of these sites also let you share documents.
  1. Box: gives you 5 GB of storage for free and lets you organize your files into folders in the cloud, just like you would on your desktop. You can share links or entire file folders with others and see when they’ve been viewed.
  2. Dropbox: is a secure place to keep photos, documents, and videos that you can access from your computer, smartphone, or tablet. You can share the files with your social networks as well. It comes with 2 GB of free storage (or up to 18 GB if you refer a friend).
  3. Evernote: saves all of your notes, web clips, files, scanned documents, and images. You can search for the documents by keyword, access them from any device, and share them with friends. The storage process here is a little different: free users can store up to 100,000 notes (up to 25 mb each), 250 synchronized notebooks, 10,000 tags, and 100 saved searches.
  4. iCloud: is just for iOS devices, but it syncs all your music, photos, apps, calendars, documents, and other files and makes them sharable with friends. It comes with 5 GB of free cloud storage. Bonus: the photos in your Photo Stream and whatever music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books you buy from iTunes don’t count against your storage limit.
  5. Google Drive: syncs documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and videos from your computer and mobile devices. It connects to Google+ and Gmail for collaboration and sharing. It has a free storage limit of up to 5 GB that’s shared between Google Drive and Google+ Photos.
  6. Mega: Internet outlaw Kim Dotcom released this service one year after the U.S. government shut down its predecessor, MegaUpload, for facilitating copyright infringement. The new tool promises “state of the art, browser-based encryption technology” and a whopping 50 GB of free cloud storage.
  7. SkyDrive: offers 7 GB of free cloud storage for photos, documents, and other files and works on any device. Windows 8 users can log in with their Microsoft accounts to view photos and files, edit and share Office documents, and share the files with friends.
  8. Bitcasa: stores up to 10 GB worth of free files, photos, playlists, videos and docs that can be accessed from any device (and reportedly goes up to infinity for paying customers).

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