Trouble at Tate: Could It be the End of Days for America’s Most Prolific Vanity Publisher?

10 December 2016

From Writer Beware:

It’s hard times lately for “America’s Top Publisher,” a.k.a. Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a.k.a. one of America’s most prolific vanity publishers.

Tate has been on Writer Beware’s Thumbs Down Publishers List since the list was created. Not just because it charges enormous fees (an initial $3,990, with the option of paying hundreds or even thousands more for extras such as video trailers, custom websites, self-ordered books, and the like), but because it presents itself as a “mainline publishing organization” and doesn’t reveal its fees anywhere on its website or in its promotional videos.

In fact, Tate’s website specifically promises that authors do not have to pay to publish: “Tate Publishing does not charge a fee for publishing and absorbs all the cost of production and distribution of a book.” But this is classic vanity publisher doublespeak. Deeper into the submission process, when Tate finally gets around to asking authors to pull out their credit cards, they are told that the money is for a publicist.

. . . .

We’ve also heard from many Tate authors who don’t feel their money was well spent–and we aren’t alone. In 2015, Tate was the second most complained-about company to the Oklahoma attorney general. Many more complaints–not just about Tate Publishing, but about its vanity recording subsidiary, Tate Music Group–can be found online. They make for terrifying reading–bad editing, shoddy production, constant staff turnover, books ordered and paid for but never received, delayed pub dates, non-payment of royalties, “marketing” that mostly consists of urging writers to buy their own books…the list goes on

The Better Business Bureau, which as of this writing has logged 134 complaints over the past three years, yanked Tate’s accreditation earlier this year.

That’s a lot of chickens, and they are now coming home to roost. This past May, Xerox Corporation filed a $1.7 million lawsuit (since increased to $1.89 million) against Tate, alleging defaults on service agreements and promissory note payments, and seeking re-possession of $450,000 in leased equipment. Tate has not had good luck with its attorneys in the case; the first withdrew in September, saying he was retiring, and the second is also seeking to withdraw, in part, apparently, because Tate hasn’t paid him.

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

Authors, Check Your Nook Sales

5 December 2016

From The Digital Reader:

If you are an indie author with ebooks in Nook Press then you might want to check your dashboard.

Numerous authors are reporting over on KBoards that sale records are appearing and then disappearing from the Nook Press dashboard. For example:

On the “Sales” dashboard page in the upper left it’s got a box for “Units Sold” and “Royalty” for This Month and Last Month. Below that is a “Recent Sales” summary that shows “Today” and “Yesterday”. When I looked at it yesterday, it showed 2 sales with the corresponding royalty under Yesterday – which would have been 12/1 (one each of the two books that follow on after my permafree). I wondered why the top of the page sales box still showed zero under “this month”, but figured it was a lag in reporting.

Today I checked it…and there are no sales reported…at all. Now I wish I’d captured a screen shot to show the sales that were listed yesterday. I’ve downloaded the sales spreadsheet to see if someone bought and returned both books…or something weird. But the spreadsheet is blank. There’s no trace anywhere of the two sales…

Another author concurred, writing “I had a bunch of sales on B&N on 1 December. On 2 December, they all disappeared.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Chair of BAME prize slams UK publishers after lack of submissions

19 November 2016

From The Guardian:

The chair of the judges for the inaugural Jhalak prize, the author Sunny Singh, has branded British publishers “pathetic” after the award created to recognise black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers received only 51 submissions so far.

The £1,000 prize was set up to recognise “[authors] who feel that their work is often marginalised unless it fulfils a romantic fetishisation of their cultural heritage”. Despite the deliberately broad entry requirements – it is open to BAME writers based in the UK working in any genre, regardless of whether they are self-published or with a publisher – the award has received startlingly few entries, with only two weeks to go until submissions close.

“It is not that we won’t be able to award a book that is deserving, but that there are obviously not enough books being published by BAME authors,” said Singh.

. . . .

The Jhalak prize was announced in February after the 2015 Writing the Future report found that the best chance of publication for writers of colour was to write literary fiction conforming to a stereotypical view of their communities, addressing topics such as “racism, colonialism or postcolonialism, as if these were the primary concerns of all BAME people”. At the time, the co-founder of the prize, the author Nikesh Shukla, said that “a perfect loop-de-loop of blame” existed in the industry, where publishers blamed agents for the lack of diversity, while agents blamed a lack of available talent and writers blamed publishers.

. . . .

“This suggests there is a serious problem in the bigger publishers,” she said. “We’ve got loads of stuff from tiny publishers, really tiny ones. But where are the big ones? The fact is that they’re not publishing.”

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

PG says KDP is happy to permit writers of colour to publish books on topics they choose.

How Publishers Can Build On Self-Publishing’s Victories

16 November 2016

From Digital Book World:

In recent articles, I have pointed with optimism to the green-shoots of recovery for the book industry after a bruising and challenging seven years.

Print sales are on the way up, or at least finally not falling, depending on whom you speak to. Consumer ebook sales are dropping, but likely to be stabilizing against their huge initial growth, and non-consumer ebook sales are on the rise. The threat of the super-markets are no longer as strong as they look increasingly elsewhere. We have finally accepted digitization, and it is now a core part of most publishers’ businesses. The often acrimonious divide between self- and traditional publishing has quietened, as they sit, with caution, alongside each other. And with Amazon—though still challenging—we understand the pros and cons and are learning to work with or around them.

It would be wrong, however, to think that all is now rosy. There are still fundamental issues with the traditional publishing business model; we’re not going to see a surge of new bookshops filling high-streets any time soon, and the all-powerful customer will continue to demand more for less, or preferably for free. We are long past any return to the past. But we do now have a brief time to exhale while moving toward the future.

. . . .

Many self-published authors have taught traditional publishers an ego-puncturing lesson over the last few years. From being close to the customer, building fanbases, tireless and innovation promotion, through to metadata, pricing and even just business-sense, some self-published authors have led the way and made millions in the process. At times they have made the traditional sector appear what we are—an industry dreamed up by English graduates—and we should be grateful for the embarrassment

That said, one of the most dangerous things traditional publishers could now do is simply replicate what the self-published authors did successfully, while adding nothing else. While this would generate an ego-reinflating uplift, it would only be temporary. Ultimately, without book publishers actively showing the value that they can add, there is no need for them to exist.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Karen for the tip.

What’s Amazon Cooking Up Next for Indie Authors?

14 November 2016

From BookWorks: is continuing to evolve. Some of the changes currently underway, like its big push into India and its new app for children’s stories, may not affect you much as an indie writer and publisher. (Or, if you’re in a specific niche, maybe they will.) But if you are one of the many authors who use CreateSpace to print your books and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to develop your eBooks, another Amazon development may affect the way you bring your books to the world.

It is called KDP Print. It is now in experimental development, and it may change the way authors use CreateSpace and Kindle. It seems intended to help writers create print and eBooks at the same time, or produce print books from eBooks.

I say “it seems” because Amazon has released little information about KDP Print.

. . . .

When I called support at CreateSpace to ask about KDP Print, I was told it was intended to help authors who want to publish easily in eBook and print formats at the same time, and that CreateSpace was expected to continue operation as it has. But I was also told the new program was still very much in development.

. . . .

When in 2005 Amazon’s executives decided to start printing as well as selling books, it bought two companies, Booksurge, an early provider of on-demand books, and CustomFlix Labs, which produced on-demand DVDs. They were merged and renamed CreateSpace. That new division of Amazon established a system and user interface—dashboard and related pages—vast numbers of indie authors have used ever since.

Amazon’s launch into eBooks started with the 2004 directive from CEO Jeff Bezos to beat the competition in creating an e-reader. In 2007, soon after the Kindle reader went up for sale and the Kindle Book Store began stocking books, Kindle Direct Publishing was launched to allow authors to convert their manuscripts into eBooks.

Since then, the two services have had only a limited connection with each other. Authors who develop a print book through CreateSpace do encounter a page near the end of the process suggesting they convert the book into Kindle format and make it available in the Kindle store.

. . . .

A notice from Amazon shared by one KDP user says, “We’re excited to offer the opportunity to publish paperbacks in addition to Kindle eBooks. We’ll be adding even more print-related features in the future, like proof copies, author (wholesale) copies, and expanded distribution to bookstores and non-Amazon websites. Publishing a paperback can help you reach new readers. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties, so you don’t have to pay any costs upfront or carry any inventory.”

. . . .

The process for using the new system seems to be similar to CreateSpace too, with a big exception that only PDF files, and not Word documents (which CreateSpace allows), would be accepted for processing into print books.

Link to the rest at BookWorks

PG has long-wondered (!? wondered for a long time) why KDP and CreateSpace were not more tightly-integrated. The CreateSpace UI and publishing process has always felt like an afterthought (at least to PG’s long-wondering mind).

Digital publishing is a lifeline for writers outside London

8 November 2016
Comments Off on Digital publishing is a lifeline for writers outside London

From author Shellie Horst via The Bookseller:

There’s no wrong way to write. Countless blogs, workshops and lectures tell us that every writer’s journey is unique. Whether your story belongs on a shelf or the digital page, writing is a process of fumbling along, wrangling with self-doubt, second guessing and ploughing on anyway.

Knowing where to go once you’ve found your way through the platitude minefield with what you’ve written is just another part of that. The process of getting noticed in the publishing industry is a minefield all its own.

. . . .

The fresh voice the publishers were looking for wasn’t the tone I found in the books I’d been reading. The call for diverse stories was only being answered by the small press magazines and novels I’d picked up. I couldn’t find anything like these in my local Waterstones.

. . . .

You see, the further away from the consolidated heart of publishing you go, the harder and more expensive it becomes to put what you have learned into practice. Young authors are told ‘use the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook.’

. . . .

It doesn’t help to be so far removed that your voice is alien to what publishers in the south want or know how to market. Alien doesn’t sell, unless it’s military and travels at light speed. This was a discussion, I was pleased to discover, which ran throughout the day.  In the ‘Changing the Climate: Tomorrow’s Publishing’ panel, the consensus was that publishers are hunting for a more diverse representation, which should make them more approachable. Alas, for it to sell it must be commercial, identifiable, and relatable. A work needs to fit the London-centric expectations of voice to sell. That lack of diversity wasn’t the answer I was looking for, nor was it the one the panel was willing to accept.

The north does not begin and end with coal and sheep any more than the south starts at the M25. The stories and experiences found in each are appreciably different. Divided. Distant. Because of this distance I, like many, turned to the internet. I discovered the fact that conventions and workshops are fabulous for highlighting opportunities, networking, and discovering how the industry tiers work from the outside. These events are also brilliant at emptying your bank account.

. . . .

Perhaps it isn’t mere physical or cultural difference, though. Perhaps the problem lies in unfamiliarity, the great unknown? Its human nature to avoid what makes us uncomfortable. New Writing North’s Read Regional Project Manager Will Mackie sees the barriers we create for ourselves represented in the diverse geography across regions which identify as ‘Northern’.

. . . .

Must a writer work within London if they want their work to be read, heard, or watched? Rather, are potential readers avoiding what is on offer in Waterstones because it doesn’t relate to them?

. . . .

Which leads me to the next measure. Value. It’s well established within the arts that creativity doesn’t fit in a spreadsheet. As a society we measure success in monetary terms. An author is successful if they secure even a two or three figure advance, but their work may never break even. How is that a sustainable business model for the industry? How is that a secure future for an author?

. . . .

And so digital print has grown roots. The need to look beyond what has always been done and the demand for stories and experiences not readily available on the high street drives a vibrant market. Teens and adults alike can find narratives they are able to relate to, be that emotionally, demographically or on the simple level of enjoyment. When does a form cease being experimental and become part of the established and recognised routes?

Disruptive and digital publishing isn’t limited to what you can download on your Kindle or that infernal insistence to read what you’re told to. Outside of the cost, the core drive is the value of being read.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG was able to find only one listing on Amazon (American version) for Shellie Horst, but here’s a link.

Books-A-Million partners with Silicon Valley self-publishing firm

5 November 2016

From The Birmingham Business Journal:

Books-A-Million has partnered with a Silicon Valley tech firm to help build out its self-publishing platform.

Birmingham-based Books-a-Million’s BAM! Publish and FastPencil, a software platform and publishing engine for authors, will offer tools like ebook formatting and royalty tracking free of charge.

. . . .

 For premium prices, authors can snag a spot on Books-A-Million bookshelves.

. . . .

 “Providing a self-publishing platform that includes the opportunity for in-store distribution is a great way for us to enhance our customer’s experience and support authors who choose the self-publishing path.”

. . . .

The lowest priced paid subscription offers authors a professionally designed book cover, a hardcopy proof and distribution on BAM’s online store.

More expensive packages, priced at $1,799 and $2,799, offer authors in-store placement of their books, marketing kits and website creation.

Link to the rest at The Birmingham Business Journal and thanks to Hannah for the tip.

Here’s a link to the BAM Publish pricing page.

PG is trying to discern how the BAM/Fast Pencil deal is any different than a number of different vanity press operations. If any visitors to TPV see something PG doesn’t about this program, feel free to explain in the comments.

Why I Self-Publish My Literary Fiction

4 November 2016

From Reedsy:

So much of what we read from traditional publishing houses feels safe or sanitised. In 2014 I collaborated with hybrid author Joni Rodgers on a multi-author box-set. She shared my frustrations: ‘As a voracious reader, I was overwhelmed with the over-editing and lack of creative risk that had come over so much of the fiction I was being fed by the marketing machine.’

. . . .

I already had some idea of how much creative control is relinquished by authors when they’re under contract, but the process of sanitisation starts far earlier, with the literary agent.

My first novel earned me the services of an agent, but not a book deal. My agent hadn’t had time to read my second novel when I entered it in a national competition for unpublished authors. I only admitted what I’d done when my entry was shortlisted at which point my agent said, ‘I think I’d better read it then.’ She absolutely hated it. On her advice, assuming I could never win, I totally re-wrote one of the main characters.

When I was told that I won the Daily Mail First Novel Award, the publisher insisted on my original version (the judges had loved the character my agent so objected to), but here are examples of the changes that were imposed on me:

Re-structure so that big reveal came in the penultimate chapter/ new end chapter.

Title change.

Great cover, but totally inappropriate for the book.

In other words, when I held the book in my hands, it never felt as if it was mine. It was as if I was selling someone else’s book!

But worse was to come. Without any discussion about my long-term writing plans, the book was published under a women’s fiction imprint. Speaking for myself, I share Joanne Harris’s view that ‘women’s fiction’ isn’t a genre. All it does is reinforce the idea that books written by women are not for men. At a time when bookshops have been asked to do away with ‘boys’ fiction’ and ‘girls’ fiction’, this category seems outdated, not to mention inappropriate. Not only had I been I pigeon-holed, but my publisher exercised their right of refusal on my follow-up novel because ‘it isn’t women’s fiction’.

. . . .

Cornelia Funke, who writes a hugely popular fantasy series, had demands from her American publisher who told her ‘We want you to change the first chapter and to turn the ending into an epilogue’. Her answer was, ‘This is a published book. That is the book.’

It’s not a question of not wanting to be challenged – far from it. But, with self-publishing, I can choose to collaborate with professionals who understand my visions and values, and who will work to help me make the book the very best it can be. As Joni Rodgers said to me, “If I go down in flames, I’d rather go down for something I believe in, something I’m proud and happy to have in my body of work.”

Link to the rest at Reedsy

Horror Authors Take a Stab at Self-Publishing

22 October 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Every literary genre has its subgenres, but there is perhaps no genre so packed with niches as horror fiction. You’ve got your supernatural horror, postapocalyptic horror, fantasy horror, sci-fi horror, comedy horror, and then all the vampire, werewolf, and zombie horror. It’s a long list of genres for the long list of authors who self-publish in this increasingly fractured and versatile category.

Some horror writers are making a killing at self-publishing, but that’s far from the norm. More likely, self-published horror writers are seizing independence to get out work that isn’t finding a home with traditional presses—and many of them are passionate enough to keep going despite making little profit.

“[Horror] is a genre with rabid, but small, fan bases and obsessive authors; it’s a hard genre to sell,” says Martin Kee, who has self-published several horror works that also tie in elements of sci-fi and fantasy, including A Latent Dark, The Umbral Wake, and Bloom: Or, The Unwritten Memoir of Tennyson Middlebrook, all exclusively on Amazon. “Horror isn’t for everyone, and I think a lot of people who might enjoy horror steer clear because they think it’s just gore. Other people just don’t want to feel scared or anxious. They just don’t want that stuff in their head. I respect that, but there’s such a broad spectrum of horror out there, I think people would be surprised what they end up liking. I’ve even been told by readers of Bloom that they didn’t even know it was the book they wanted to read until they read it.”

. . . .

To be clear, no one is claiming that gore is dead, but rather that the playing field has opened tremendously, and that’s thanks in part to self-publishing. Many indie horror writers find that, had it not been for self-publishing, they’d never have been able to get their “hard to sell” ideas out into the world.

. . . .

“I lost track of how many agents I queried,” says St. Germain, who recently signed a book deal with the small publisher Black Rose Writing. “I thought I’d have more credibility and grow my audience if I found a publisher. But now that I look at things, and the more reading I do online, it feels like the lines are more blurred between self- and traditional publishing, though with self-publishing you keep most of the money.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The latest marketplace data would seem to say publishers are as strong as ever

19 October 2016

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

This post began being written a couple of weeks ago when I recalled some specific misplaced expectations I had for the self-publishing revolution and started to ponder why things happened the way they did in recent years. It turns out a big part of the answer I was looking for provides clarity that extends far beyond my original question.

For a period of a few years that probably ended two or three years ago, we saw individual authors regularly crashing bestseller lists with self-published works. Some, like Amanda Hocking, parlayed their bootstrap efforts into significant publishing contracts. Others, like Hugh Howey, focused on building their own little enterprise and tried to use the publishing establishment for what it could do that a self-publisher couldn’t. (In what was certainly a very rare arrangement of this kind with a major indie author, Howey made a print-only deal for his bestseller, “Wool”, with Simon & Schuster. And he made foreign territory and language deals and Hollywood deals as well.) And we know that there were, and are, a slew of indie authors who self-publish through Amazon and don’t even bother to buy ISBN numbers to get universal distribution under a single title identifier, effectively keeping them out of bookstores.

All of this was enabled by three big changes to the historical book publishing and distribution ecosystem. One was the rise of ebooks, which simplified the challenge of putting book content into distributable form and getting it into the hands of consumers. The second was the near-perfection of print on demand technology, which enabled even print books to be offered with neither a significant investment in inventory nor the need for a warehouse to store it. And the third was the increased concentration of sales at a single retailer, Amazon.Between print and digital editions, Amazon sells half or more of the units on many titles and, indeed, may be approaching half the retail sales overall for the US industry.

. . . .

What the rush of indie bestsellers told us a few years ago was that things had changed to the point that a single person with a computer could achieve sales numbers that would please a big corporation going after sales with the tools provided by tons of overhead: careful curation and development, sophisticated production capabilities, teams of marketers and publicists, legions of sales people, and acres of warehouse space. This had not been possible before ebooks. And the market reach of the amateur publisher was extended even further asAmazon’s share of print sales surged as a direct result of retail shelf space declining with Borders’s passing and Barnes & Noble’s shrinkage.

For a period of time that was relatively brief and which now has passed, agents and publishers worried that self-publishing could be appealing to authors they’d want in their ecosystem. The author’s share of the consumer dollar is much higher through self-publishing. And the idea of “control” is very appealing, even if the responsibility that goes with it is real and sometimes onerous.

. . . .

I’d suggest that the biggest reason this activity was so feverish 2-to-4 years ago and isn’t so much now was revealed first in a vitally important post by hybrid author and helper-of-indies Bob Mayer and then reiterated by the latest report from the Author Earnings website.

Mayer built an impressive business for himself by reissuing titles of his that had previously been successfully published and gone out of print. He spells out clearly what has changed since the days of big indie success and the plethora of entity-based publishing initiatives.

The marketplace has been flooded. An industry that used to produce one or two hundred thousand titles a year now produces over a million. Nothing ages out of availability anymore. Even without POD keeping books in print, ebooks and used books make sure that almost nothing ever disappears completely. And Mayer’s sales across a wide range of titles — his and other authors whom he has helped — reflect the mushrooming competition. They’re down sharply, as are the sales of just about everybody he knows.

What Mayer wrote tended to confirm that the breakthrough indie authors happened far more frequently before the market was flooded. Authors who struck it rich in 2010 and 2011 (like Hugh Howey) were lucky to get in before the glut. Recommending that somebody try to do the same thing in 2013 or 2014 was telling them to swim in a pool with water of a completely different temperature.

On the heels of Mayer’s piece, Author Earnings made discoveries that seemed to startle even them. For those who don’t know, AE is a data collection and analysis operation put together by indie author Hugh Howey teamed with the anonymous analyst “Data Guy”. The AE emphasis is on what the author gets, (“a site for authors by authors” is what they call themselves) with less interest in what publishers want to know: how topline ebook revenues are shifting.

According to the industry’s best analyst, Michael Cader, the most recent AE report shows, for the first time since they’ve been tracking it, a reduction in earnings for indie authors and an increase for published authors. (Cader may have a paywall; here’s another report from Publishing Perspectives.) But even more startling is the shift in revenue. Publishers have booked 65% of Kindle revenues and Amazon Publishing has 10%. They put self-published authors at 20%, which is down from 25% previously.

. . . .

What this is telling us is that, whatever deficiencies there are in the way publishers are organized for publishing today, they clearly are able to marshal their resources more effectively for book after book than indies can.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG says it’s interesting that Mike and others associated with Big Publishing debunked Author Earnings for its methodology (which, in PG’s distressingly humble opinion, they took way, way too long to understand) and its results.

Beginning in October 2014, as AE released report after report showing indie authors capturing a larger and larger share of the ebook market, the same criticisms continued.

Now, when the latest AE report shows an interruption in this trend, AE has suddenly become a reliable basis for saying this self-publishing thing is just a fad and Big Publishing will be fine after all.

While he doesn’t have any inside information or amazing predictive powers, PG says market data, particularly sales data, flucutuate.

While AE is a brilliant idea, it is a snapshot based on one day’s sales ranks on Amazon. A series of eight AE reports from October 2014 to May 2016 showed that indie authors were capturing a larger and larger portion of ebook sales. With each report after the first, a trend emerged and its reliability strengthened. The first AE snapshot was not a fluke, created by a single day’s fluctuation. Neither was the second, etc.

While PG was as surprised as anyone that the latest AE report showed a reversal of the previous trend, sales data fluctuate. We’ll have to see several more AE snapshots to understand what, if anything, is changing.

However, the economics and technology that underlie indie authors and their success with self-publishing haven’t changed.

  • Large numbers of people who become more and more accustomed to spending their days and nights reading emails, texts, news, etc., etc., etc. from their phones and tablets are unlikely to suddenly decide they really want to read a physical book.
  • The aggressive pricing of ebooks practiced by indie authors is not going to lose its power to attract new readers and retain existing ones.
  • We are not going to see a larger number of physical bookstores opening than are closing. A bookstore is a lousy financial proposition.
  • It’s not going to become easier for traditional authors to support expensive traditional publishers operating in high-cost cities.
  • As time goes by, readers will continue to discover that indie authors produce books that equal or exceed the quality of those created by legacy publishing. Once that discovery is made, it is not forgotten.
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