Self-Publishing Warnings

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.

Author Solutions’ Keith Ogorek to Be Added to Panel at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

22 July 2014

From Booksworld:

Author Solutions, LLC, a Penguin Random House company and the world leader in supported self-publishing services, announced that Keith Ogorek, senior vice president of marketing, will join industry leaders on a panel titled “Methods to the Madness! The Latest, Coolest Developments in Indie Publishing,” at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference Saturday, August 2 at 1:30 p.m., in New York.

Ogorek and a group of publishing experts will discuss the future of self-publishing and how continued growth and changes will affect authors.

“The self-publishing movement continues to expand author and reader opportunities at an astounding rate,” said Ogorek. “Even so, there is a lot of potential for additional innovations and enhancements to help improve authors’ publishing experiences.”

Link to the rest at Booksworld

In case anyone wonders where Writers Digest stands when it comes to exploiting indie authors.

A Publisher of One’s Own

18 July 2014

From Inside Higher Ed:

Self-published books are on the rise, to the dismay of onlookers who wonder what to expect from a sector where E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey – originally published as online fan fiction by a tiny Australian e-book company – appears to be the best of the lot. More than 391,000 self-published titles appeared in 2012, according to Bowker, the official ISBN-issuing agency for the U.S. The self-published titles appear to be selling. In 2012, a quarter of Amazon’s top 100 bestselling Kindle books had been self-published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. And in 2013, readers in Britain bought 18 million self-published books, a 79 percent increase in market share compared to the year before.

Academics, meanwhile, inhabit a parallel publishing ecosystem: a constellation of university presses and journals that publish slowly, offer few economic returns, and subject all work to painstaking peer review. Scholars and publishing experts in the U.S. and Britain say self-publishing by academics remains a rarity. A handful of scholars, however, have turned to self-publishing to produce pet projects, such as blistering critiques of academic life. And others have struck away from the publishing mainstream in other ways: by founding journals, establishing independent presses and writing on blogs.

. . . .

Almost no active scholars have eschewed conventional publishing entirely. Educational technologist Martin Weller, a professor at the Open University in the UK, argued in a blog post that “external prestige is probably the greatest factor” spurring academics to chase book contracts rather than publish their own work.

“Self-publishing is seen as rather sordid,” Weller wrote, “the last recourse for the demented author who couldn’t get published anywhere else.”

. . . .

Academic books are almost never bestsellers, but a book that becomes a required text for a university course can be quite profitable.

“You do all the work, and the returns are very low,” Weller said. “You sign away a ridiculous amount of rights – the form includes future TV rights, merchandising, etc., but you take all the risks … if someone sues because of the book’s content it is your liability.”

. . . .

In 2011, Rojas self-published a book called Grad Skool Rulz: Everything You Need to Know about Academia from Admissions to Tenure. The book emerged from an online advice column he had written for graduate students.

“People for years kept saying, ‘You should write this as a book,’ ” he said. “And I thought, no press would ever publish it, because I’m blunt about academia.” (The title’s fast-and-loose spelling might not have passed muster at a scholarly press either.)
The book now sells for $3 online. Rojas said the ability to charge a low price was another advantage self-publishing offered.

. . . .

Roger Whitson, an assistant professor of English at Washington State University, said he thought self-publishing books was, on the whole, an activity that only already-tenured professors could afford to undertake.
“Part of the reason why academics publish pre-tenure is that they want to receive credit for becoming a specialist in the field, and one of the main ways they see that happening is through peer review,” Whitson said. “For pre-tenure people who haven’t established a name in the field, academic publishing is really important.”

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions

23 June 2014

From David Gaughran:

I have some huge news: Writer’s Digest has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions.

Abbott Press – the imprint launched by Writer’s Digest, parent company F+W Media, and white-label vanity press provider Author Solutions – is still operational, but all ties to Writer’s Digest have been cut.

It appears that Abbott Press will now be run directly as yet another Author Solutions brand but Writer’s Digest and F+W Media will have no further connection with it.

. . . .

Writer’s Digest and F+W Media refuse to comment, despite being given several opportunities, but I’ve had this news confirmed by multiple sources. As Author Solutions only tends to allow early termination of partnership agreements if the partner signs a series of non-disclosure agreements, a formal announcement or comment is unlikely.

However, it’s clear from the websites of Writer’s Digest and Abbott Press that all links between the companies are in the process of being severed.

. . . .

Author Solutions aggressively pursues strategic partnerships to lend credibility to its scammy practices. More importantly, these partners help keep the pipeline of email addresses and phone numbers flowing. As I detailed two weeks ago, Author Solutions needs huge numbers of leads because it only converts 5% of queries into customers.

Author Solutions first floated a partnership in 2010, but Jane Friedman – then publisher of Writer’s Digest – was unhappy with the idea and the direction the company was taking in general, and resigned.

. . . .

This is a huge partner for Author Solutions to lose – the biggest so far by some stretch.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

I Was a Digital Best Seller!

20 June 2014

From The New York Times:

FIVE months ago I published a short book called “Boom.” Commercially it was a bust. No news in that: Most books lose money and are quickly forgotten by all but their wounded authors.

But this experience wasn’t just a predictable blow to what’s left of my self-esteem. It’s also a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers.

Last fall a new online publication called The Global Mail asked me to write about the Keystone XL pipeline, which may carry oil to the United States from the tar sands of Canada. The Global Mail promoted itself as a purveyor of independent long-form journalism, lavishly funded by a philanthropic entrepreneur in Australia. I was offered an initial fee of $15,000, plus $5,000 for expenses, to write at whatever length I felt the subject merited.

At the time I was researching a traditional print book, my seventh. But it was getting harder for me to feel optimistic about dead-tree publishing.

. . . .

 In giddy calls and emails from Sydney, editors said that the first installment I had sent was “a ripper” and that Byliner thought we might sell up to 75,000 copies, with me getting a lofty cut of the profits.

. . . .

If I were writing for a traditional publisher, I’d have to wait months to see my work in print. This time, I’d be read within days, right on top of the news!

Exhausted but exhilarated, I headed to the liquor store for a celebratory bottle and returned to an urgent call from my editor in Sydney. “Mate, we’re [bleeped],” she said. The Global Mail’s backer had had a bad financial setback at his firm and evidently decided he could no longer afford a folly like quality journalism. He’d abruptly pulled the plug just hours before I filed my copy, making The Global Mail a dead letter.

Worse still, for me, Byliner hadn’t yet inked its deal with the Aussies.

. . . .

 At this point I called my literary agent, whom I’d foolishly failed to involve in the project. (Another fantasy of the digital world: Writers can do it themselves and dispense with all those middlemen.) Late that Friday my agent brokered a deal between Byliner and me. The advance was only $2,000, but my work would be available by Monday, for $2.99, and I’d get about a third of the proceeds once my advance was paid off.

. . . .

I was familiar with the stately ways of old-school book publicity: readings, dwindling print reviews, praying for a call from Terry Gross. Surely, Byliner’s tech-savvy team would move at light speed and deploy new tools like guerrilla marketing.

Except there didn’t seem to be a “team,” just an outside publicist who was busy on other jobs. She circulated a hasty press release and wrote a glowing review of “Boom” on Amazon, the main retailer of Byliner titles. Byliner urged me to “game the system” by soliciting more such “reviews” from friends and relatives, and issued a few tweets touting “Boom.” Then silence.

Physical books live on physical shelves at physical bookstores and can catch the eye of browsing shoppers. “Boom” was floating in the digital ether with millions of other works. How would anyone even know it was there? So I went to work hawking it myself, like a pushcart peddler: calling radio producers, sending “Boom” to big-mouthed friends, boring my tens of followers on social media. I wrote online articles for major sites, for which I wasn’t paid, since it’s generally understood in online journalism that we scribes are “building our brand” rather than actually making a living.

. . . .

I asked Byliner for sales figures. It took them a while to respond — because, I imagined, they needed the time to tally the dizzying numbers pouring in from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers. In fact, the total was such that Byliner could offer only a “guesstimate.” In its first month “Boom” had sold “somewhere between 700 and 800 copies,” the email read, adding, “these things can take time to build, and this is the kind of story with a potentially very long tail.”

It was also the kind of story that could bankrupt a writer. I’d now devoted five months to writing and peddling “Boom” and wasn’t even halfway to earning out my $2,000 advance (less than the overrun on my travel). The cruelest joke, though, was that 700 to 800 copies made “Boom” a top-rated seller. What did that mean for all the titles lower down the list? Were they selling at all?

Byliner couldn’t be making money from “Boom,” yet made no discernible effort to sell it.

. . . .

 But now that I’ve escorted two e-partners to the edge of the grave, I’m wary of this brave new world of digital publishers and readers. As recently as the 1980s and ’90s, writers like me could reasonably aspire to a career and a living wage.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Suzanne and several others for the tip.

Bait-and-Switch for Self-Published Authors

5 June 2014

From Writer Beware:

Recently I heard from a self-published author (let’s call her Author) who received an alarming email from a reader–or at least, someone claiming to be a reader (let’s call her FauxReader).

FauxReader said she loved Author’s book, but was distressed by the large number of errors in it–wrong tenses, mis-spelled words, and grammatical mistakes on nearly every page.

. . . .

Author was shocked. She works with an editor, and carefully prepares her manuscripts. She didn’t think it could be formatting glitches, because those wouldn’t insert mis-spellings and grammar snafus. All she could guess was that she’d uploaded the wrong file.

When Author asked FauxReader where she’d purchased the book, and to provide a few examples of the mistakes, FauxReader became cagy. She did eventually offer a retailer’s name, and also identified a few typos–but nothing like the major errors with which, she’d claimed, Author’s book was riddled.

By this time, Author was suspicious.

. . . .

Author was being set up; if she’d continued interacting with FauxReader, she probably would have received an offer to fix the “errors”–for a fee, of course.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

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