Self-Publishing Warnings

Author Solutions Steps Up Global Expansion, Penguin Random House Integration

21 November 2014

From David Gaughran:

Penguin Random House is speeding up the international expansion of its vanity press operations, while also seeking to integrate them more closely with the traditional side of the business – hoping to counteract flat growth for Author Solutions at a time when self-publishing is booming.

Author Solutions launches a new self-publishing service company for the Spanish market next Tuesday – MeGustaEscribir – which contains the usual mix of crappy publishing packages and ineffective, overpriced marketing services, as well as some extremely questionable practices such as reading fees (more on that below).

. . . .

How Author Solutions Squeezes Newbie Writers

Customers are captured through a variety of deceptive means – such as fake “independent” websites which purport to review all the self-publishing options available to writers (but only compare the various Author Solutions imprints); fake social media profiles pretending to be writers or “publishing consultants” (who only recommend Author Solutions companies); and, a “bounty” to various unscrupulous parties to deliver Author Solutions fresh blood.

Obviously, Author Solutions needs to use such deceptive measures because authors who have used its services aren’t recommending it to their fellow writers. Instead, they are warning them away.

Once Author Solutions has a writer’s contact details, it moves fast – endlessly harassing them by phone and email until they cave and purchase an overpriced publishing package. When the publishing process is almost complete, an Author Solutions sales rep then contacts the writer to let them know some exciting news: they have won a fake award – invented by Author Solutions.

The catch is this. To receive the award, the writer must purchase one of Author Solutions wholly unsuitable, completely ineffective, and crazily priced marketing packages.

. . . .

Using high-pressure sales tactics, and careful targeting of the most inexperienced and vulnerable writers, Author Solutions squeezes an average of over $5,000 out of its customers, who then go on to average sales of just 150 copies (from Author Solutions’ own figures) – obviously coming nowhere close to recouping that staggering outlay, despite the accompanying overblown promises from Author Solutions sales reps.

. . . .

This new Spanish imprint from Author Solutions also continues the trend of very close integration with the local Penguin Random House operation – one aspect of the merger and subsequent reorganization that doesn’t receive any attention in the trade press.

. . . .

This strategy of closer integration was flagged long in advance. When Penguin Random House Chairman John Makinson appointed company man Andrew Philips as CEO of Author Solutions in May 2013, he said that “a new chief executive from within Penguin would connect the business more closely to Penguin’s curated publishing activities.”

This shows how central Penguin Random House views author scamming to its future. Partridge India shares offices with Penguin Random House India, and touts its connections to its parent company all the time. The other two international imprints launched since the Penguin purchase – Partridge Singapore and Partridge Africa – are also keen to highlight the Penguin Random House connection. And all three Partridge imprints disingenuously dangle the possibility of a traditional publishing contract in front of newbie authors to get them to sign with Author Solutions.

. . . .

MeGustaEscribir goes one step beyond, firmly embracing an unethical practice which had been consigned to the dustbin of publishing history: reading fees.

Heavily touted on the MeGustaEscribir site is the Recognition Program – where customers will be recommended for review by an editor from Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.

. . . .

Here’s the really shocking part. Consideration by a Penguin Random House editor is contingent on writers undergoing an Editorial Evaluation Report by MeGustaEscribir. The only publishing packages which contain this Evaluation Report are priced at 2,899 Euro (approx $3,600) and 3,999 Euro (approx $4,970).

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Jim for the tip.

Here’s a link to David Gaughran’s books

How Readers can Avoid Buying Bad eBooks by Indie Authors

13 November 2014

From Good Ereader:

Digital Readers come in all shapes and forms. Some of them are brand new to the process of reading eBooks and just picked up their first Kindle. Others, are a more tech savvy bunch who have been reading on their smartphone, tablet or e-reader for years. We have all been looking for new books to read and stumble across numerous titles that are poorly edited, have abysmal cover art and overall are a wretched read. These certainly do not come from big publishing companies and instead are written by anyone who clicks submit on their Microsoft Word Document. As a reader, how do you avoid falling prey to indie writers and what can you do about it?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo all have self-publishing programs where any writer can submit an eBook and have it instantly visible in their stores. There is no editorial curation or anyone vetting out books that have overt sexual themes, bestiality or are rift with spelling mistakes, or poor grammar. Unsuspecting customers are duped into purchasing them because they might have a similar name to a bestselling title, or come up in the “if you liked book X, try book Y and Z.)

Indie titles are stocked side by side alongside books that are submitted by traditional publishers. There is no way to actually vet out “books” written by indie authors and companies like Kobo say that they do not want to implement policies of segregation. Segregation is what we need, but many authors have been crying foul saying that if there is a dedicated indie author section in major online bookstores, no one would browse it. They are right.

. . . .

Indie authors traditionally rely on bargain level pricing in order to appeal to readers. The average indie title ranged from .99 to $3.99, whereas the average price of traditionally published material is $9.99 to $18.99. My advice, if you are looking for new books is try and browse from the most expensive books to the least. This might not work in all cases, but should avoid the hundreds of thousands of self-published titles on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader and thanks to Richard for the tip.

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing: What’s The Best Route For Entrepreneurs

5 November 2014

From Forbes blogs:

Have you ever read a business book and thought, “I could write that,” or imagined publishing a business book that would catapult you to the front of your industry? You are in good company. Whether to help lift their business profile, get more speaking opportunities or become an industry trendsetter, many entrepreneurs wish to publish.

If you ever decide to take it a step further, you’ll likely compare self-publishing and traditional publishing as I did a few months ago. I checked in with fellow entrepreneur Dan Emery, of New York City Guitar School, who has self-published several guitar books. “I decided to use my own lesson plans instead of published lesson plans and somewhere around student one thousand, I decided to turn it into a book,” says Dan.

He was eager to design a curriculum that reflected the school’s uniquely friendly and positive approach to learning guitar that combines having fun with the science of deliberate practice. He quickly found out, however, that no publishers were interested in the book. That’s when he decided to publish it himself, which has turned into a successful endeavor for him.

When I first decided to write a book — about women entrepreneurs who are running multi-million dollar businesses — I wasn’t going to consider traditional publishing. But I went for a run with my old friend Paul Greenberg, who is an award-winning published author. He expressed outrage at my plan while we jogged along the Hudson. “You can’t to pay to write a book! You should get paid!” he admonished. I protested that I was not an actual author, like he was, and would never get a meeting at a publishing company, but he insisted I should at least try the traditional way before going the self-publishing route.

Paul put me in touch with his former editor, who was took a personal interest in my topic. She then offered to connect me with three of the top literary agents in New York. To my delight and surprise, all three said they wanted the book.

. . . .

Dan’s process was, of course, different from mine. His enthusiasm for his decision to self-publish is clearly apparent when he describes the process. “One of our students who is a Grammy award-winning album art designer designed the book; a teacher who also writes for Guitar Player magazine edited; another teacher who is an amazing photographer took the pictures; and students and teachers looked over everything and gave us comments. We printed on super high-quality paper and created not just a book but an art piece. We sold a couple thousand copies on our own through Amazon and then we signed a distribution deal with Carl Fischer Music, which enabled our book to be placed in music stores, as well. It’s now one of the best-selling beginners guitar books in America. The book has turned into a whole new business for us. We now have four books, and other schools and teachers are using our books in their classes.”

Dan’s determination to self-publish was also strengthened by his discovery that printing his own books could be very inexpensive per unit. Dan’s advice to those interested in self-publishing is to first ask the question, “What does a publisher provide?”

. . . .

But for me, it was the traditional route. Zoe set up a series of meetings for me with editors and ten days later, two of the publishers offered me a contract with an advance.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs

The Proof is in the Proofreading

1 September 2014

From TPV regular JW Manus:

My biggest gripe with ebooks is a lack of proofreading.

. . . .

When I produce an ebook I have two hard and fast rules, Number One: squeaky clean text going into production. Number Two: the ebook must be proofread post-production. I charge people to proofread their ebooks for them, and a lot of clients take me up on it, but I’m more than happy for the writer to do it him/herself or hire a third party.

. . . .

Even though proofreading is essential, some would like to argue that they can skip it. They’ve already polished the manuscript to a high gloss, even had a professional editor have a crack at it, and, in some cases I’m sure, they are sick to death of that particular project and want to get on to something else. I get that. Been there. Even so, it’s part of being a publisher and it must be done.

Before I continue, let me explain what proofreading is NOT:

  • It’s not copy-editing
  • It’s not line-editing
  • It’s not editing at all

What proofreading IS:

  • Format checking
  • Typo searching
  • Error seeking

Link to the rest at JW Manus

You can try to be the next Hemingway — for $6,000

28 August 2014

From The Guardian:

The clock is ticking down: it’s only two months until National Novel Writing Month kicks off. Wannabe Stephen Kings and John Greens are sharpening their pencils, dusting off their ideas and booking vacation time for the month of November.

Literary agents already are bracing themselves for a deluge of mostly unpublishable manuscripts that they’ll start receiving weeks after that from authors dreaming of repeating the success of Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants.

But if agents and publishers turn up their noses at your deathless prose, these days you can bypass them entirely and publish independently. Indeed, Amazon reports that self-published books represent as much as a quarter of the top-selling list of titles on their Kindle e-book platform. Some authors are even opting to bypass the group of firms they refer to, somewhat disdainfully as “New York publishers”, in favor of going indie.

But if going solo gives you the chance to thumb your nose at the naysayers and hang on to more of your royalties, it comes with a big price tag. Instead of a publisher paying you thousands of dollars for the right to publish your Great American Novel – and footing the bill for printing and distributing it – you need to be prepared to fork over thousands of dollars to cover those costs yourself.

. . . .

Editing: $4,000

Most other expenses are about transforming your work of art into something that looks and feels as if it has just been handled by the same team that publishes the likes of Donna Tartt or John Grisham. You’re a professional, and your work should reflect it.

The crucial expense – and the one you shouldn’t even think of ducking if you want to have your book read and appreciated – is editing. Not just proofreading, or even copy editing, but content editing, starting early in the process.

“It’s like building a house; you don’t want to go back and tear it down and start from scratch after you realize the foundations were badly designed,” says Lisa Renee Jones, who published her first novel in 2007 and who calculates self-publishing (in conjunction with working with mainstream publishers) has helped her earn as much in a month as she once did in a year from her writing.

Expect your editor to quote an hourly rate ($50 is a good figure to bear in mind) and give you an estimate of the number of pages he or she will tackle each hour.

. . . .

Reviews: $825

There are two ways that a self-published author can get their magnum opus into a reviewer’s hands. If you’ve already decided that you’re going to make a physical book available, using a service like CreateSpace or Lulu, you can simply order author’s copies (at a small percentage of the price a regular reader would pay, perhaps $5 for a $14 book) and mail them to the bloggers who have promised to review the novel.

It all gets a little more complicated if all you have to work with is an electronic file, however. An easy option is making your book available to interested reviewers and bloggers on NetGalley, which MacLennan warns will now set you back about $400.

The alternative can chew up a lot of time and energy, though, because you’ll have to make sure that your novel is available in whatever format the prospective reviewer prefers. Telling someone who reads on Kindle that you can’t deliver for that format will be the kiss of death – as will be delivering a garbled text, with sentence breaks, capitalization in strange and unusual spaces and other hallmarks of amateurishly-formatted e-books.

Options include paying for pre-publication reviews on sites like Kirkus, which can be as high as $425, or submitting your e-book for review by bloggers at NetGalley (another $400), in hopes that those reader reviews will spur sales.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Barry for the tip.

Scam Alert: Editors Beware

20 August 2014

From WGB:

Iwas con­tacted by a not-so-articulate per­son who requested my ser­vices as an edi­tor for an arti­cle. I looked at his doc­u­ment and found a ten-page para­graph that needed plenty of help. I wrote a polite response explain­ing that this piece would be time-consuming and expen­sive to edit, but the author seemed intent on hav­ing me rewrite it. He read­ily agreed to my price, explained his 30-day dead­line and told me he’d send a check.

If this doesn’t sound sus­pi­cious to you, it should.

Pay atten­tion and stay safe.

In a relationship-based busi­ness like edit­ing or design, a new client is almost always a referral.

“I saw the work you did for Jim Smith. I was won­der­ing if you ….”

If you pub­lish a web­site or blog, intro­duc­tions invari­ably start with,

“I read the arti­cle you posted about ….”

This client vol­un­teered no point of reference.

. . . .

Real clients want to know what they’re get­ting for their money. They don’t want to spend it; they want to invest it. In this case, the client showed lit­tle inter­est in the piece being edited. He vol­un­teered no infor­ma­tion about the type of pub­li­ca­tion, audi­ence, or intended result of the piece. He agreed to a high price with­out ques­tions or negotiation.

I work with clients all over the world. The far­ther away they are, the more likely it is they’ll pay me elec­tron­i­cally. I get paid by check about 10% of the time; the rest is PayPal. If your check doesn’t clear, my bank charges me—the victim—a $35 fee. I accept checks from trusted sources only.

. . . .

The next day, my “new client” wrote to tell me the pay­ment was on its way, but that it had “acci­den­tally” been writ­ten for an amount much larger than the agreed price. Would I be so good as to deduct my fee and send back a check for the difference?

Here’s how the scam works:

The oper­a­tor sends a fake check—one that looks authen­tic. You deposit that check and it clears quickly. With cash in hand, what do you have to lose? You send the oper­a­tor his “refund” (less your gen­er­ous com­pen­sa­tion) and move on with your life. Weeks later, the bank detects the fraud and pulls the money out of your account. You’re offi­cially hosed.

I politely explained I’d be happy to return the check and wait for a new one to be cut for the cor­rect amount.

Link to the rest at WGB and thanks to Elka for the tip.

PG encountered this same technique when he was selling an item on eBay. It didn’t work on him either.

Inkshares Looks to Marry the Old with the New

19 August 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

In early 2013, Thad Woodman, a manager at an economics consulting firm, reached out to Larry Levitsky, previously the publisher and general manager of the computer book publishing division of McGraw-Hill, about developing a startup that would combine the services of a legacy publisher—editing, marketing, design, and distribution—with the ever-growing model of crowdfunding. That company, Inkshares, was incorporated in April 2013, with Levitsky as CEO and Woodman as chief product officer.

“It occurred to Thad that there had to be a better model [than traditional publishing],” said Adam Gomolin, who joined Inkshares shortly after Levitsky, as chief legal officer, “one that is more remunerative for authors, more sensibly disperses risk, and does not diminish quality in an age of already abundant digital content.”

. . . .

Inkshares functions on an “all or nothing” model—a project doesn’t move into publication until it has raised the critical mass of funding, determined by Inkshares, required to cover the costs of editorial, design, and an initial 1,000-copy print run. If a book isn’t funded successfully, contributors are fully reimbursed.

. . . .

Gomolin described the Inkshares concept as an amalgamation of two popular platforms for independent authors. “If we can’t help you crowdfund, we’re CreateSpace,” said Gomolin. “If we can’t edit, market, or design, we’re Kickstarter.”

. . . .

Inkshares sets the price of the book, and, once it’s published, writers receive 70% of net receipts, for both physical and digital titles. Inkshares will release titles in print and digital, and writers can opt to publish in digital only, which has a lower funding floor. The company is currently negotiating with Ingram Publisher Services on a distribution agreement.

. . . .

All of the money raised by authors on the platform goes to editorial, design, production, and marketing. “We don’t make money unless a book sells,” said Gomolin. “Just like a traditional publishing house.”

Inkshares sets the price of the book, and, once it’s published, writers receive 70% of net receipts, for both physical and digital titles. Inkshares will release titles in print and digital, and writers can opt to publish in digital only, which has a lower funding floor.

. . . .

Though Gomolin said that Inkshares will inevitably hire more editorial staffers, at present, the startup utilizes a team of freelance editors, many with experience at traditional publishing companies.

. . . .

Goldenberg worked on children’s lists at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Clarion Books, and designed and directed art for five Caldecott Medal–winning titles. “I am a dyed-in-the-wool printed book devotee and once vowed never to get involved with anything that lived online,” said Goldenberg.“But working with Inkshares has been exciting.”

Keller also worked at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for nearly 10 years, as both a children’s editor and managing editor. Speaking to Inkshare’s different acquisitions model, Keller said that she “liked the challenge of making a book the best that it can be, knowing that it already has readers behind it.”

With a traditionally published author penning its first title, editorial and support teams made up of industry veterans, and the potential for a major distributor to handle its list, the aim of Inkshares, according to Gomolin, isn’t to abandon all that has been built by the existing model, but rather to integrate new ideas into what works in legacy publishing. “We’re not going to boil the ocean,” predicted Gomolin. “And we’re not out to overthrow publishing. Everyone [at Inkshares] has a very romantic conception of reading that was incubated by the great writers and the great editors of legacy publishing. But there is a clear need that has been validated by crowdfunding.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

So, Inkshares utilizes Kickstarter, freelance editors and designers and Ingram – resources that are already available to indie authors and have been successfully used by many – to publish a book and keeps 30% of the revenues the book generates (or perhaps more, read this contract carefully).

PG also expects that Inkshares will keep all the money from the Kickstarter campaign, ostensibly to pay for “production costs”. What could go wrong with that?

PG didn’t excerpt a paragraph in the article mentioning that one of the financial backers of Inkshares is a rap star.

PG has heard that the model is based on the author doing all the work to promote the Kickstarter campaign and raise the money. And of course the author also has to write the book.

PG suggests this project is one of the answers to the question, “What happened to all the people who have been downsized by tradpub?”

The Inkshares website explains it all:

Our model is simple:
Authors pitch,
the crowd funds,
we publish.

PG suggests a better model:

Authors pitch,
the crowd funds,
the author publishes
and keeps all the money.

However, the author will have to do this without a rap star.

Publishers Weekly Launches PW Expertise

17 August 2014

From Book Life by Publishers Weekly:

Publishers Weekly today launched PW Expertise, a new set of services that provides authors with feedback and guidance about their writing.

With PW Expertise, PW’s reviewers provide written critiques that highlight a writing project’s key strengths and weaknesses to assist authors with the compo

sition, editing, and publication processes.

“For years authors have been asking for detailed feedback from Publishers Weekly reviewers, so we created PW Expertise to meet that demand,” said Publishers Weekly President George Slowik.

PW Expertise currently offers two services, First Read and Manuscript, both of which are accessible via BookLife, the magazine’s website dedicated to self-publishing.

First Read offers quick, insightful feedback on an in-progress writing project. Similar to what an author shopping a project might receive from an agent, First Read assesses a 1,500 word excerpt and project outline/summary and provides an instructive response that analyzes the project and offers feedback on how it can be improved.

. . . .

First Read is available for $79 with written feedback returned to authors within 10 days, while Manuscript ranges in price from $499 to $599 depending on project length and is returned to authors within six weeks.

Link to the rest at Book Life by Publishers Weekly and thanks to Cora for the tip.

PG says this could be legit, but to his cynical eyes, it looks like a gateway into vanity publishing and all its scams. He’s assuming the “reviewers” here are the ones who will provide a PW “review” to anyone who pays them to.

The Persistent Stigma of Self-Publishing

31 July 2014

From from author Dario Ciriello via Fiction University:

[W]hatever anyone tells you, self-publishing is still heavily stigmatized. True, things aren’t as bad as they were, but we’re still viewed by many as wannabes and second-class authors who aren’t good enough to interest a “real” publisher.

. . . .

It’s not hard to understand the root causes of this prejudice. Before self-publishing mainstreamed with the advent of POD, we had vanity presses (we still do), a derogatory term for publishing houses that charge desperate authors stiff sums of money to produce and print small runs of books, typically in the 1,000 to 2,000 copy range. There was no screening, no editorial process, no proofreading (though some vanity presses would offer these for a price). Like the early rush of POD books that we began to see in 2009 or so, the vast majority of these books were truly awful, and their authors usually and deservedly ended up with a garage full of unsold books.

Five years later, the overall quality of self-published books has improved enormously. This happy event is largely the result of (i) the very lively and ongoing dialogue between self-publishers made possible by the internet, and (ii) competition in the marketplace. A handful of celebrity self-publishers, along with the growth of interest and coverage the field has received in the mainstream media, have helped.

But the stigma among the media, the reading public, and many of our fellow writers persists, and this legacy of prejudice against self-published work manifests itself in ways both obvious and subtle. Almost all mainstream reviewers (and most book bloggers, who ought to know better, given that they are self-publishing their reviews) still have firm policies against looking at self-pubbed work; many trad-pubbed writers still look down their noses and (openly or behind your back) sneer at their self-published peers; and bookstores—even those who brag about supporting local authors—rarely want anything to do with us. And of course publishers and agents have a strong vested interest in perpetuating the stigma.

. . . .

So task number one is to continually raise our game. Good writing aside, self- and indie- pubbed books don’t have to look as good as what the Big Five are releasing, they have to look better. We need to produce books that show an artisanal level of pride in every aspect of production, from editing to formatting to cover design. This needn’t break the bank, but it does require time, study, and thought. If we’re not prepared to do that, we only perpetuate the stigma.

Link to the rest at Fiction University

Here’s a link to Dario Ciriello’s books

PG says indie authors should worry about what readers think of their work and forget the other stuff. Readers vote with their money. Critics, reviewers, etc., vote with their words. Which do you prefer, money or words?

Readers buy books and authors, not publishers. Nobody says, “I have a complete collection of everything Random House published in 2002,” or “I’m so excited to hear there’s a new Simon & Schuster book that was just released.”

The “self-published stigma” just doesn’t matter to the business of writing. If someone asks why you self-publish instead of getting a traditional publisher, PG suggests a response something like, “Because I wanted to be a professional writer instead of a real estate agent who writes on the side,” or “Because I wanted to drive a new Mercedes instead of an old Hyundai.”

If you think it’s pretty stupid to sign a contract with a traditional publisher and that smart authors self-publish, show some attitude.

A Marketing Pitch from Author Solutions

30 July 2014

From Writer Beware:

I’ve written before about Author Solutions’ relentless efforts to get authors to buy the company’s “marketing” services. Here’s an example that was recently passed on to me (with the author’s name and other identifying information redacted).

Note the poor quality of the English (a lot of AS’s staff are in the Philippines; English is a second language), the implied specialness of the offer (50% management discount, just for you!), the “hurry up and buy” pressure (supposedly only eight books will be able to get in on the deal; first come, first served!), and the…um…optimistic way the service that’s being sold is presented (“endorsement” implies something tailored to the product, but in fact all it means in this case is a listing in Ingram’s print and online magazines). It’s all directly out of the junk mail marketing handbook.

Note, finally, the tiny-print disclaimer at the very, very bottom, under “Paul’s” signature: “This email is an advertisement.”

Bottom line: the author is being asked to shell out over $2,000 for a couple of magazine advertisements and returnability for a book no brick-and-mortar establishment is ever likely to order.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware and thanks to AD for the tip.

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