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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tread carefully...

The Amazon-Hachette negotiation has occupied a lot of screen space over the last few weeks, pretty much since I started slotting a few bits and pieces together about how you might get your work out to an appreciative public.

The situation regarding the self-publishing arms of the big traditional publishers show them in close formation with the Vanity Presses, and with Author Solutions, owned by Penguin Random House in a pincer movement to grab the best via the traditional path and shuffle the rest towards the shearing sheds of the Vanities.

The door to self publish remains open.Yes; despite every negative thought and dismal sage advice about how many, or few, self-published books sell well; your readers are waiting, but you need to be careful. I've loosely touched on the issues regarding Vanity Press in general; and Author Solutions and its many subsidiaries in particular XLibris. (Xlibris.co.uk is the local branch of this multinational conglomerate) and a couple of days ago I nipped across to David Gaughran's blog Let's Get Visible and his latest piece The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1 The numbers, looks at the methods and figures involved in the operation of this scammy company and how they saturate the internet with cleverly baited traps to snare the unwary writer. Thankfully, the majority of writers who stumble on the shiny new toy adverts look deeper and see what lurks beneath the surface, but not all. Some go down that road, at their peril and great cost. The way the adverts are designed and located is to catch the writer before they look further and find the many stories with unhappy endings at the hands of this Hydra like company.

I touched on the same point a couple of weeks ago in Come into my parlour... with my variation of the six degrees game, clicking the links and finding Author Solutions long before the count reached six. It was where I found the adverts, pumped out through GoogleAds, and sliding onto the screen with the Oxford English Dictionary and the Gutenberg Project among so many others that seemed unexpected at first, put then the GoogleAds follow their own track. It's the saturation level that is startling, the number of places the ads must be placed to proliferate at this level. David Gaughran explores this too.

The trick is to be very wary, it is a cliche that anything that seems to be too good to be true usually is, yet the independent author has tricks and traits tucked away. Observations picked up by Jim Devitt over at Indies Unlimited earmarking five distinctive traits found in many indie authors, have a look for yourself, and take them to heart, work with your imagination, check where you are in your journey towards publication and see what's around the corner you were going to walk past. Check out a website,, and then look at a handful covering the same area.

I am currently working  on the draft revisions of What You Ask For, as well as completing The Obedience of Fools, and further down the list is putting Iceline into print, and the search is to find a way of doing this without breaking the bank.

Starting with 'book publishing' as the search parameters, as simple as that, and a number of options pop up, some are more helpful than others. A few offer a free quote (this may involve providing an email address, not always) based on the size, the type of book, number of pages, hard or soft cover and the sort of finish you want on the cover. The prices on the quotes can be wildly different but they give an idea of what price you can pass on the book to the customer and calculate your return on the investment.

The precise details vary from printer to printer, depending on whether they put out print run or print on demand. A UK based website that offers print on demand and distribution is FeedARead. A publishing platform funded by Arts Council England where you can sign up and publish for free, have it available to purchase through the site or for a distribution fee make it available elsewhere. Click the link and have a look for yourself; yes, there is a fee involved to cover the administration costs to set up your book for distribution. The end product is a good quality paperback, well made and a match for bookshop quality. FeedARead is available to writers of all nationalities, not just UK based.

Similarly, Completely Novel, is a print on demand service offering a variety of options for the publishing author, well laid out website with a free quote option and a series of reasonably priced packages starting with Free (and able to sell through the Completely Novel website) and monthly subscriptions offering access to distribution on line and through Bricks and Mortar stores. The finished product is good quality, suitable for a bookstore. The benchmark is that degree of product quality and the reader, quite rightly, should expect no less a quality product from the Independent author than any other source.

Shaun Allan over at Flip and Catch is looking at Print On Demand and brings CreateSpace, Lulu, Ingram Spark and Lightning Source to the list. As with FeedAread and Completely Novel each one has its own criteria for accepting a novel and adding it to thei list.

CreateSpace is part of Amazon, offering a Print On Demand platform for authors and content creators in other media and offers distribution through Amazon.com, Amazon Europe, CreateSpace eStore and ebook for Kindle, and working with on-demand printing, means that your book is always available and ready to ship. I am hoping to explore the details offered by the print on demand companies (If you have any information that might be useful why not drop me a line either through the comments box here or through the contact at www,cheekyseagull.co.uk, I would love to hear from you,) then put the comparisons together in one place as an easy reference. That may take a couple of weeks, in the meantime I'll stick with my comparisons with the packages offered by the Vanity Press.

Now and again I'm stuck with the idea that writing the novel is the easiest bit, the words flow out on to the screen, paper or whatever medium you are using, they are shuffled around in the edit and proof-reading, then after final polishing the novel is formatted and published (over-simplified, but you gett the drift). Then comes the marketing, finding places to post and generally get the word out there letting the world know that your latest work is heading their way. Not as much fun as writing, but the hard work can pay off...play with your ideas, use the imagination that created your book and see where it can take you.

Dip your toe into the marketing pool and paddle around...

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