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Tuesday 29 December 2015

Getting down to business

Further reflections? Clear Water production has eased, the word count has slowed from the furious outpouring during November it is now meandering gently through December. The flow curtailed slightly by the regimen of the day job and feeling mentally knackered after the thirty day gallop of the previous month.

The more relaxed pace has given me chance to catch up on a couple of things, read a few blog posts and have another attempt at proving Iceline for print, (word of caution, if you don't already know this, PDF is good for uploading to print.) I tried it with a doc. file and the dog's breakfast that came back as the printable PDF was disappointing to say the least.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Where have I heard that before?

A lighter touch this time, a bit of fun for the festive season with a glass of something at your elbow to lift the spirit? I love playing with words, twisting their meanings to shift the context of a sentence so when I stumbled on the post at The Passive Voice recently it sent me scurrying through the bookmarks on the computer for a couple of websites I have played with in the past.

Never quite sure about the sincerity of the sites, are they really the humour stations they claim to be; or does the end product find its way into the real world?

Tuesday 8 December 2015


NaNoWriMo packed away for a another year, chalked up the fourth win with Clear Water, a look at the beginnings of the Grange and its residents and visitors, still very much a work in progress and unlike earlier NaNo novels, this one is strictly off line.

The word count was posted regularly so visitors to cheekyseagull could keep tabs on how the challenge was progressing through November, but the actual writing was behind the scenes. It has meant that things have been quiet here for the last month, and thanks to all who dropped by during that time.

Sunday 1 November 2015

NaNo2015: Clearwater

Clear Water, the provisional title for this year's attempt at NaNoWriMo. by the time you read this the starting gun will have fired and the crack of the shot been drowned in the clatter of keyboards

So what is it all about, not the jaunt through creative mayhem and abandon but the book. The page is booked at NaNoWriMo and the coin is still spinning as to whether or not I do it with constant uploads to smashwords NaNo page or post the word count and keep the suspense to myself until I reach the fifty thousand  mark.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Job Spec...

What do you call a fledgling work in progress, where the title is provisional and the story-line is embryonic? Where everything about is insubstantial and ephemeral? An idea!

Daylight saving has run out of time, spent for another year, the ghosties and ghoulies are hanging around the shops, vying for space with the advance guard of Santa's legions and writers, aspiring writers, dreamers,  scribblers and the literary foolhardy are braced for a mad dash through November; burning their way past Guy Fawkes on this side of the pond and stuffing as much in as they can before Thanksgiving on the other side.

Friday 23 October 2015

The Train Now Standing...

The complete text of The Obedience of Fools went through auto-vettor earlier tonight (22 October) and is now being processed for Smashwords Premium catalogue in preparation for distribution, retailing at $3.99, and for a limited period with the discount of 25% by entering the code BE23Z. (Valid until the 30th November).

The book cleared Premium Catalogue selection just after midnight Friday and will be on its way through distribution in the next few days, Follow the  trail at smashwords and further down the line when The Obedience of Fools appears at the online retaillers. Direct links from cheekyseagull to the online stores will be installed as and when the book appears.

Enjoy, keep up with the action at The Grange at smashwords!

Monday 19 October 2015

Proof of Obedience

The Obedience of Fools; text completed and undergoing an edit and proof read to nail down the obvious glitches and grammatical goof ups. The updated and formated text should be uploaded to smashwords within the next few days, I can't say exactly when at the moment, watch this space and @MartynSeagull for the latest news. The text will then go through the Premium catalogue selection and once that hurdle is cleared it should appear in the retailers shortly after. If you already have a copy and want to finish the story, please help yourself.  New readers on the Premium channels will find there is a tag of $3.99 and it will take its place as the fourth in the Grange Series at smashwords for the same price.

A funny thing happpened the other night, Thursday 15 October 2015, as I wrote the final pages. The last scene had a particular engine waiting on the platform at Goathland on the North York Moors Railway, heading the train to Pickering. The LMS Stanier Black 5 45428 "Eric Treacy" is the type of engine in some versions of the myth of the Strategic Steam Reserve  that were hidden away and is unique in the class. Very few Black Fives were named (barely half a dozen)during their service with the London Midland Scottish Railway or later with British Railways;  45428 "Eric Treacy" was named after she was retired and went to work the Heritage Railways

The scene has "Eric Treacy" waiting to depart, and just to make sure I had the details spot on, for dramatic effect, I checked the website of the North York Moors Railway and discovered that "Eric Treacy" was heading the working locomotive list for that day. Even as I wrote the last words of the text, drawing The Obedience of Fools to a close, the locomotive in the book may have been standing at the station waiting to depart!

The locomotive honours the former Bishop of Wakefield, Eric Treacy, a noted railway photographer who recorded the last days of steam and published his photographs in numerous books. In the introduction to "The Lure of Steam" (pub: Ian Allen 1966, reprinted 1967) he describes sitting in Church House at Wakefield and watching a sleek Deltic, the largest diesel electric locomotive on British Railways at the time, crossing the viaduct with the London train and below it, running under the arches a Stainer Black 5 belching smoke on the Yorkshire to Lancashire line with a string of coal wagons. His powerful images evocatively recall the changeover to diesel and the demise of steam made more poignant in monchrome.
The medium lends itself to the sense of things past.

One of the strongest arguments against the existence of the SSR is the feasability of maintaining it over the long term, preserving the skills and knowledge and the basic infrastructure to ensure its viability, even down to simply running the engines and carriages.

A government reserve would require masses of support and maintenance, and always be at the mercy of policy changes; perhaps that is what happened. The policy changed, the designated engines were shunted around, and the counter strike brought it down, but another level, driven by a passion for the engines themselves swung into action and in the confusion of move and counter move brought enough engines and rolling stock to where they could be kept safe.

A collection of locomotives and rolling stock scattered across the length and breadth of the countryside, so widely dispersed that it couldn't be crippled during an attack instead of locked down in a handful of easily targeted locations. Free of government policy and the meanness of bean counters entrusted to those who knew its value and its worth...

Manned by volunteers who shared their passion for the beauty and splendour of steam, harnessing the nostalgia for a better time, passing on the intricate knowldge and practices of running steam on the railways and out of the dark shadows of the Cold War came something that leaves a warm glow.

Tell me it doesn't happen to you; when you breathe in the smell of the loco, feel the warm touch of swirling vapour and hear the rasp of the smoke and steam from the chinmey. The pistons start to lift the pulse from resting and the steel sinews of the drivng rods and cranks turn the wheels as the train begins to movel the whole thing comes alive - and there's that lump again, stuck in your throat!

Friday 9 October 2015

Working the numbers...

The countdown is under way, NaNoWriMo have rebooted the website ready for a fresh assault on creativity and a 30 day jaunt through imaginative abandon. Professional and amateur writers alike are sharpening pencils, stockpiling notebooks, caffeine loaded (and some none caffeine) drinks are being brought in, batteries charged and ideas shuffled into some sort of order on bits of paper across the globe.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Where does it all come from?

I wonder myself sometimes, most of the posts on this site, and perhaps many others are a link in a chain reaction, someone posts on the net and the search engines lob it down the line to a feed and a new reader picks it up. Maybe the post fits a sequence of thought already trundling through the reader's mind and away they go...

Fingers dancing like dervishes across the keys, totally confusing the spillchucker with obscure elements of language, or simply dreadful spelling because the words are tumbling out faster than the keyboard can cope.

(Do you ever think it would be a good idea to think straight on to the machine - knowing what goes through my head at times, definitely not!)

A lot of the posts are sparked off by something I have read or picked up across the Internet. Feel free to comment on anything you see or read, drop me a note via the contact here or at cheekyseagull.co.uk. Grab a sample of the books at smashwords or from the linked retailers. Be daring and buy the entire book(s) (Resists urge to plead and grovel to generous nature of lovely reader!)
Give it a review, tell me what you like about it - OK, yes, tell me what you thought was totally crap too.

I tell myself there are no bad reviews, some I will like, others maybe not so much. Oscar Wilde famously remarked there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the Duke of Wellington is remembered for publish and be damned. The context may not be exactly the same as ours, but the risk is the same.

Positive thinking helps, but negative reviews go with the job. I publish (self-publish) and you read, and review.

I write the books, you, dear reader, write the reviews. I scribble down the stories I want to write, there is no-one leaning over my shoulder telling me what to put down: and I acknowledge and respect your freedom of expression, even when it smarts a bit!

Enjoy the books and the blog, I'm off to write some more...

Thursday 10 September 2015

Cheap at Twice the Price?

E-Book sales fall after new Amazon Contracts; the article in the Wall Street Journal (and posted at The Passive Voice) examines the recent sales figures in the wake of the recent negotiations between the corporate giant and the major publishers.

All is not well, the initial results show a downturn in sales, with books from the big five averaging over $10 compared to all the other 2015 e-books marked up at $4.95.
I'm having to do a bit of guesswork here, working the calculation that the reaction to spending $5 as opposed to $10 is similar to that between £5 and £10 in GB pounds. I'll quite cheerfully dug into the pocket for a £5 purchase, but £10, calls for a bit of thinking about. It is possible to find e-books priced the same as hardback, and higher than the paperback. The latest top 100 on Kindle shows no books priced above $10.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Drop it in the the mail

I woke up to an email on Sunday from West Cumbria Writers, not all of them obviuosly, but one of their number and after reading the mail over a mug of Yorkshire Tea chased up the website and the blog. I recommend you have a look for yourself.

An interesting collection of short stories for adults by Susan Brice is featured on her website  www.lakestay.co.uk, under the title, Returning Back & Other Short Stories. The brief introduction mentions a few of the topics covered in the book, and one title particularly set me thinking, Is your wardrobe watching you? The idea of a shifted perspective. The header for cheekyseagull.co.uk came to mind.

Monday 10 August 2015

Something in the air?

Behind the front page of this blog is a list of blogs I follow, one particular favourite is the Passive Voice, that  puts out something to chew over on an almost daily basis. Running through the recent posts I came across Self Publishing is Completely Corrupt.

That's a pretty blunt statement and had to be explored further. The article originally on GoodEReader (posted 5 August 2015) starts well, explaining the benefits of trade publishing and the advantages offered by the army of people involved in moving the book from the writer's imagination to the bookshelves, all valid and worthwhile points but then the tenor changes and the character assassination of self-publishing comes into play.

He cites Tracy Hickman's experience of going to the other side,  published by Penguin and joint creator of the DragonLance series, New York Times bestseller and having enjoyed the experience of people queueing around the block for his work. He chose to self publish and now his books are no longer in the bookstores, he laments, "I have a 6 million following, and they don't remember me!" (The Dragonlance Chronicles are available at Amazon).

The writer comments, if a bestseller cannot make it in self-publishing, how can anyone?

He starts the way we all do, learning the craft of self-publishing. The army of invested people employed by the trade publisher aren't there anymore! We all have the same tools, it's how we use them that makes the difference!

The argument is postulated that the self-published author knows nothing of the system, fails to do proper marketing and spam social media with #hashtags #buymybook and even, shock, horror,  buy friends and likes on social media; the same social media used by the trade to promote their books!

Indie writers are apparently lazy, not even bothered to fork out the price of an ISBN number so their books can be found and spend their time whinging about research and how the data is skewed by not accounting for indie books. Is a level playing field asking too much?

Okay, so an opinion is valid, but behind the opinion, what about the reasoning, why does the speaker believe that self-publishing is completely corrupt. Consider it, the phrase is unambiguous, not hedging its bets, but saying it straight out!

How much of the animosity is really petulance: and I was foolishly beginning to think the attitude towards the self-published was beginning to a bit more adult and less of the petulant child. Here it comes across very strangely, on the one hand they complain that what is being self-published is rubbish, unutterable drivel, and -  you can probably recall a whole list of other adjectives that fit the scenario - and then complain that we are not using the system.

We are told self-Published authors are trying to game the system, to work out the easy advantage, but who doesn't look for a way ahead, especially when the odds are stacked?

Fake and paid for reviews are dragged out and added to the supposed mire of self-publishing; yes, there is a problem and the self-published author is generally aware of it and the policy of eBook distributors toward such things. We work with the situation; but asking your friend to tell the world what they think of your book, is that really corrupt? Have you ever seen a trade review where the reviewer thinks the work is garbage?

The image I see is Ivory tower myopia, and the villains are at the gate.
A baying sweaty mob hammering at the portals? No, a long  line of pissed off writers who have had that same portal repeatedly slammed in their faces, because the inmates considered them unworthy of making a profit for their company!

The bottom line is profit, every time, the system is geared to maintaining the hold of the trade publisher, and rightly so, it's their system and it keeps them going, but remember, slam the door too often and an alternative will be found.

We know that not every book is rejected because it is bad; some are not considered commercial enough for the publisher to invest in. The bottom line again. The article quotes Andrew Franklin at a recent London International Book Fair talking about the quality of self-published books, the link to the page was broken when I tried it but I did stumble across an earlier interview with Mr Franklin, quoting Stanley Unwin, the original publisher of Tolkien, "The first duty of a publisher to the author is to remain solvent."

Get off the money, but how can we?

What is the real basis for this animosity, is it truly about quality, or driven by the sales figures. Every successful self-publisher says it can be done, and how do you stop a self-publishing success story, buy it out!

The argument then moves, what is self-publishing, the article mentions two recent phenomena, E L James and Cassandra Clare, whose writing began in fan fiction (Miss Clare deleted her fan fiction from the Internet shortly before the first volume of her Mortal Instruments series was published by a trade publisher) and moved into trade/commercial publication once they had established a fan base! Fan fiction is written and published (posted on the site) by the author, there are purists who don't consider this self-publishing?

The twist in the tale here is the offer of a way forward. The aspiring self-pub sees the trend. Do it for yourself and generate a solid fan base and the trade will come looking for you. (It may be the new mythology of authorship, but in every myth there is a truth,) or even set up a portal where they can monitor your work and sign you up; Harper Collins and Authonomy, virtually a trade in-house self-publishing facility.

Here we drift towards the ultimate blurring, the scenario that undermines trade publishing's claim to any form of high ground, moral or otherwise, the labyrinthine connections (and not always hidden) with known vanity publishers. To stand there and declare self-publishing corrupt while nurturing the most exploitative form of publishing within their own bosom! How do you do that!

Shades of Kettle and Black?

What am I seeing, an industry going through a series of changes over which they have little or no control and using a form of social manipulation to reinforce and enhance their position - you are not a proper writer unless we say so and give you our approval, (until we publish you)!

So who says so? Simon Pegg has a discussion with a self appointed authority in the closing minutes of "The World"s End" demanding of the alien presence "Who put you in charge?"

So who really is in charge, the publisher or the public?

Ultimately, why we write and who for determines the path we take, it isn't about the right or wrong way, it is a choice.  Hammer at the gates of Trade, sign up for Authonomy or something similar, weave your magic on Wattpad, strew dollar bills and pound notes along the corridors of vanity or go it alone; self publish!

I self publish, but I'm not alone, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands self-publishing their own work on a daily basis and revealing one self-evident truth. Readers who enjoy and love the written word don't just love reading it, we love writing it!

Friday 10 July 2015

Smashwords summer event - discounted ebooks

The Mid Year event at smashwords, all through July ebooks are discounted for hours of holiday reading.
Control Escape and What You Ask For are down to 50% of their new price, $2.00 each with the code SSW50 at the checkout. at the end of the month they revert to $3.99, grab a piece of the action and what else is on offer at the July Summer/Winter Sale.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Website update at cheekyseagull.co.uk - smashwords links

At the other place where I occasionally hang out on the web at cheekyseagull.co.uk. I've plugged in a few modifications to the book pages. Each of the Grange Novels now has a direct link to smashwords to make life easier. Simply click on the button that says download or buy now on the home page or on the individual book page and grab your own piece of the action.


Monday 22 June 2015

Disruptive Behaviour

Discussion ranges widely about changes in the landscape of publishing over the last decade, and the Passive Voice ran a couple of posts recently about how publishing as we know it wasn't going anywhere.

The biggest shift has been the meteoric growth of self-publishing;not through it's long standing derided Vanities but via the more direct self-publishing across the Internet.

A comment that the Big Publishing House (BPH) would survive, albeit by merging into larger conglomerate has some merit, Penguin Random House have already acquired their entrée into self-publishing via Author Solutions and the links between other publishers and the vanities have been extensively chronicled here and on other blog sites.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Independent Means

Self publishing; a straightforward enough phrase, not complicated, and yet the very words generate confusion. I tried to explore what it means in my last post, along with definitions of Traditional, Hybrid,Vanity and a couple of other types of publisher.

The Passive Voice posts a blog post from The Creative Penn on Happiness and the Self Published Author, and the comments generated an interesting level of discussion around the meaning of self publishing and the continued blurring of the distance between vanity and true self publishing.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Close to the mark!

How close can you get to the ideal of someone else footing the bill for publishing your magnificent opus? The traditional publisher will do that, but what if you decide, or have no other choice and decide to walk the walk yourself.

The traditional/commercial/trade publisher buys the rights to publish, and occasionally the subsidiary from the author. The largest publishing houses and the bigger independents will pay an advance on royalties, which the smaller presses may not. They are highly selective and only a small fraction of the submissions ever reach the bookshelves. For the select few who make it down that road  every aspect of editing, publication, marketing and distribution is taken care of by the publisher; at no cost the author!

A very small number reach the public this way and to read the various offerings in the "How to Get Published" genre - we're looking at a scenario of such improbability you might as well pack up, throw the manuscript in the shredder and grow rhubarb instead.

Yet the manuscript is intact, not mulched for rhubarb fodder and our author is up for the challenge, and the heartache, so where do we go from here?

Sunday 31 May 2015

Looking on the bright side

A lot of the chatter lately has been about the pitfalls facing independent self publishers, but what about the positive aspects of the challenge. How do I get my book out to the world, and I may have briefly touched on this in earlier blog posts.

No apologies for going back to it, whatever the pitfalls and snare that lay in wait for the unwary, the mission remains the same, to transfer the manuscript from the dusty shelf on the bookcase to the reader somewhere in the world, everywhere in the world.

A time worn piece of advice to writers slides along the lines of write about what you know, I'm not gainsaying the advice but letting the imagination run riot and extrapolating beyond what you know can be useful - research helps to spread the story base a bit further.

I'm working more on what happens after the story is written, and as mentioned earlier, the negative stories are rampant across the Internet, and bloggers like myself spread the doom and gloom. Ostensibly to pass on the wisdom of others, but honestly, there is always a feeling of there but for the grace of God...

I have so far escaped the clutches of the predators for a very simple reason. I haven't the money to chuck at the situation and I say so far deliberately. I am not immune to the wiles and machinations of the predatory characters out there.

My money is as good as anyone else's and just as vulnerable; and cold calling, hard selling and
mis-selling are the stumbling blocks in my way as much as any other writer, and it doesn't take long to stretch the bank balance beyond its limits.

A colourful statement may look pretty but there are some things, and my bank statements is one that ideally should be black and white.

I'm doing it again, slipping down the slope of negativity,

The book is done, editing and proofreading are sorted and the cover image is ready to proclaim your work to the world, so where do we go from here... the road to publication starts, actually, scrub that, the road heads off in a new direction.

Research is the key, always, check the details, follow your hunch and never, never disregard that feeling in the pit of your stomach. You know the one, it goes flip-flop and gurgles embarrassingly at quiet moments.

The choice is becoming wider, the traditional road is always there, via an agent or direct to the publisher,
Follow the submission guidelines and go for it, The Vanities (still awaiting the bonfire that will commit them and their charlatan ways to history) remain to snare the unwary, and the myriad variations of Assisted, Hybrid, and Supported publisher are waiting in the wings, and beyond them is the independent self-publisher.

Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking have been instrumental in changing the perspective, the established view that the self-published author is the lost, lonely desperate soul with book sales that reach out to friends, workmates and whatever surviving generations of the family remain, or digitally as a free download are hoovered off the web in their hundreds (but do the downloaders ever read them?)

The Internet has definitely thrust the power of publishing into the hands of the people,The argument against the democratisation of publishing was that a torrent of badly produced rubbish would swamp the literary world and it is true, up to a point, 

There is also spirit, courage and sheer bloody minded determination. To write off all the self-published as unworthy is itself unworthy. The tradition of self-publishing has its own luminaries among the greats of literature (and who the put the naysayers in charge anyway?)

The Self published author is in illustrious company, the epitome of the DIY publisher is the poet William Blake, who self-published some of his best known works, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Songs of innocence, Songs of experience. He wrote the text, designed the illustrations and engraved them on to copper plates for printing. Jane Austen suffered rejection by publishers and after reworking Sense and Sensibility went the vanity route and paid Thomas Egerton to publish the book.

They are not alone; Mark Twain, Marcel Proust, Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allen Poe, Anais Nin,   Beatrix Potter self-published the Adventures of Peter Rabbit, Joyce Joyce did the same with Ulysses. Charles Dickens followed suit with A Christmas Carol, after a dispute with his traditional publisher over the sales of Martin Chuzzlewit

Virginia Woolf, and her husband, Leonard Woolf solved the problem by becoming their own publishers and established the Hogarth Press, a road followed by some of their contemporaries.

There is always dross around the gold, and the idea that the traditional publishing has a monopoly on the gold is ridiculous. They have no more guarantee the material they publish is gold than the rest of us. I always find Mark Coker's analogy of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, a useful image. The stacks of remaindered books, and bookshops is a testimony to the unpredictability of the literary world.

There is a strange alchemy involved in a successful book, and sometimes the missing ingredient is time, giving the book time to reach out and make contact. An advantage the eBook has over the traditional print format, and the hybrid, the print book that survives the frequent purges of the book shop shelves. Print on Demand.

Traditional print requires an immediate reaction, if the marketing fails to hit the sweet spot and the copies are not flying off the shelves as fast as the books are stacked up then the slide to oblivion can begin within weeks of publication, shelf space is so tight.

Print on Demand requires no shelf space, the storage is counted in Kb or Mb, not inches or centimetres. There is no limit to shelf life, so the book remains permanently available. For the independent the marketing can be an ongoing process, tweaked and adjusted to suit the current circumstances.

We are not restricted by the physical shelf life of the bookshop, where the current best-seller is always on the point of being nudged out of the way by the next best thing. We have time; to build our platform and develop our strategies.

Monday 18 May 2015

New Kid on the Block?

The newbie author entering the world of writing and publishing must feel like the new kid who's just arrived at a new school half way through the term, All around are people who know people,,cliques of friends and shared interests. Unlimited agendas, some up front and in your face, others tucked away hiding like dark secrets, revealed only by the results of action, never spoken.

A bewildering array assaulting the senses, and somehow, somewhere, the newbie has to start establishing themselves in the midst of this apparent chaos. Chaos it is, the dynamics of the relationships are spinning beyond the newbies reach, then after a few tentative steps the first contact is made.

Sunday 10 May 2015

The Target for tonight!

It's what you are aiming for, the target is to find a publisher, someone who will travel with you and share the journey from manuscript text to published novelist.

Sounds straightforward, and it should be, but as ever there are the unscrupulous, devious and downright nasty characters in the big bad world out there!

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Missed that one!

Wrapped up and put to bed, but with more to come, and for a moment I thought it might be while longer before I unwrapped the Author Solutions saga again, until I realised I had missed a couple and David Gaughran posted the Inside story of Author Solutions and Friends. Alongside a timely reminder of some of the practises listed in a blog by Emily Suess; the list below is by no means comprehensive;
  • Non-payment of royalties
  • Making out-of-print works available for sale without the author's consent
  • Excessive mark-up on advertising and review services
  • Failure to deliver marketing services as promised
  • Breach of Contract
  • Informing the customers that add-ons will cost hundreds of dollars and charging their credit cards thousands
  • Shaming and banning customers who go public with their stories

Friday 24 April 2015

Wrapping up

Lynne Cantwell pulls together the loose ends and links in a resume post at Indies Unlimited, rounding off the #PublisherFoul series for the time being

The whole series generated a fascinating insight into the trials and tribulations of independent authorship and publishing in an ever changing world. Where the predators lurk behind the glossy adverts and enticing promises, sadly often without foundation, and grief and sorrow may be no more than a click away.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Saint or Skimmer, 2 - Black Hat White Hat!

Times change, the days when the good guy wore a pristine white hat are gone, today's hero is likely to be grey, muddy, washed out, and tired.

The last few weeks have seen Indies Unlimited exploring the experience of authors at the hands of the Vanity Presses, and the same familiar names crop up with an unnerving frequency. Part of the explanation is revealed in the list of subsidiary imprints under the umbrella of Author Solutions(see Saints and Skimmers). If any company has donned the black hat and cape of the villain of the piece it is this one.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Saint or Skimmer?

Every good story has a villain, the fouler and blacker the better, for a dramatic narrative, and the easier it is to identify the black hats the better, it helps the story unfold and the underlying moral to be revealed through the words and action.

In the not too distant past the giants of publishing held sway over the road to print and the way forward lay through the Gatekeepers of tradition, the literary agent.
Theirs was the only way and any other option was left to the desperate and deranged. That somehow failing to acquire the support of a traditional outlet was to be deemed unworthy, or sub standard.

There are frequent comments made about the changing landscape of modern publishing, primarily brought about by the revolution in self-publishing made possible by the spread of the Internet and the ebook. A landscape changing so quickly it has led to partnerships and alliances that would have been unheard of fifteen, or even ten years.

From the apparently lofty heights of traditional publishing some great names have plunged into the mire of the Vanity press. David Gaughran has explored this on a number of his blogs, and the word of caution to all who seek to put their words out into the great wide literary world is buyer beware. The saints are found among those who will skim the money from your bank account to maintain their business model. If I may quote David from the linked blog; "it’s much harder to tell the scammers from the legitimate organizations when they are owned by the same people. (emphasis is mine).

Penguin Random House are widely known as the owner of Author Solutions, (the footer on the Author Solutions webpage bears the stamp "Author Solutions, A Penguin Random House Company) who have acquired the role of black caped villainy in the self publishing world, and with some justification. Lynne Cantwell left a comment on the post "Weathering the storms" ; the new class-action suit against Author Solutions was filed in U.S. District Court in southern Indiana, where Author Solutions is located. The complaint is harrowing reading. The two named plaintiffs are both elderly, and they both gave these scammers thousands of dollars to "promote" their books. The complaint can be downloaded and is worth reading. The best cautionary tale is often the one heard first, or as close to first hand as is humanly possible.

Goskan Solotaroff describe Author Solutions as "more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves." Where a traditional publisher makes money for its authors;  Author Solutions make their money by selling books back to the Authors, (not publishing to a general readership,) and expensive publishing, editing, and marketing services (“Services”) that are effectively worthless.

Author Solutions is the tip of a very large iceberg with their US based imprints, 
Trafford Publihsing
and XLibris.

International imprints;
Authorhouse UK
and the UK, Australia and New Zealand imprints of XLibris

International partnerships with 
Balboa Press AU;
Partridge, Africa, India and Singapore (Partridge is a Penguin Group Author Solutions development since the takeover by Penguin in 2012 - so any ideas that Penguin's acquisition would clean up the stables were  ill founded, they simply added to the pile)

The links between the big publishers and Author Solutions are there in open view; Simon & Schuster's self-publishing arm, Archway Publishing, declares from the head of the page "Operated by Author Solutions."

There is more to come, the information is out there, and it may take some finding, but the due diligence is worth the effort, and the question. The Question! How, why, do we still manage to fall for the patter and the slick marketing.

David Gaughran sums it up beautifully, he asks can you remember when you were new to all this, how naive, and badly you wanted your book published, and every avenue towards that goal seemed impossible. 

When you feel that everything is working against you, you start to get desperate, crazy, and on top of all that - you don't know who the good guys are anymore!

Saturday 4 April 2015

Weathering the storms!

March is traditionally supposed to come in like a Lion, roaring with the wintry weather blasting out of February and slowly slip into April, quiet as a lamb.

Indies Unlimited kicked off March Madness with a roar and the storm continued; pain, disappointment and anger has run with the thread through the month and shows no sign of abating, either at Indies Unlimited or further afield as the month draws to a close.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Here Be Monsters!

Old maps fascinate me, the elaborately decorated charts and drawings from the sixteenth and seventeenth century when the world, to European explorers, still possessed vast tracts of Terra Incognito and the empty spaces were embellished with fanciful designs and interpretations of fantastic creatures and the monsters of the deep.

Starting out as a published author, launching Iceline on Smashwords back in 2012  felt like heading out with such a chart. There were more gaps on my knowledge than anything as travelled a learning curve so steep it felt like the ascent of a rock face.

Little has changed, the curve is still steep and the landscape like the old maps appears to be changing as the blanks are filled in: and the monsters?

They are there, the slick marketeers and professional twisters eager to sell their version of your dream - where you do all the work and are relieved of hundreds or thousands of pounds/dollars for the privilege of seeing your book published.

Indies Unlimited's, March Madness continues and a couple of days ago RJ Crayton ponders why, despite the bad publicity writers still fall for the Vanities and authors cheerfully sing their praises, and comes up with an interesting answer; Stockholm Syndrome. Authors believe publishing a book is an expensive process, so the exorbitant fees are expected, what she finds puzzling is the enthusiasm.

How, why, do we fall for the same old story? The smooth patter, the glossy brochure and the baggage that goes with it? In the traditional publishing world, the publisher speaks with unquestioned authority.

The Traditional publishers never describe themselves as traditional, and the vanities never use the V word in describing their publishing activities. Both are simply identified as publishers, so they apparently 'speak' with the same authority.

Authority requires obedience, often unquestioning; do they actually get it?

Signing up with a publisher puts you on their side, and the subtle threads of authority and obedience tie the two parties together with a requirement to toe the line. The higher the cost the more compliant or enthusiastic the author may become; up to a point!

The point is not fixed, the tipping point varies from person to person and the circumstances of the arrangement, a relationship explored in the 1963 at Yale University by Stanley Milgram. The result of his experiments helped develop his Agency Theory regarding behaviour in a social situation. With the modifications on the original parameters (636 partiicipants in 18 variation studies) he identified different reactions and conditions of compliance.

The degree of obedience is supported by the moral or legal legitimacy of the authority figure, and many aspects of  our upbringing support this compliance; perhaps this suggests an explanation why authors taken by the Vanity Press enthuse about their situation when the overwhelming data suggests it's not a good place to be.

This may be a form of dissonance reduction, where the product continues to be sold after the purchase is made and the customer, (a favourite reference among the Vanities) sees the other brands which may be as good or even better. The sales patter continues to reinforce the original action and affirm the buyers choice, confirming the wisdom of their decision. Their enthusiastic support for the Vanity Press helps to support this belief and turning against this level of pressure calls for real courage, to admit that a costly mistake has been made does not come easy.

Writing involves everything, the head and the heart working as allies. The process comes out of the head, but the passion and the drive is from the heart and there lies the strength and the weakness.

No one wants to see the thing they have nurtured, cherished and loved bashed around and knocked up in the harsh world outside our imagination and we know that the route to publication can be a difficult one, almost impossible - I said almost - without the backing of the publishing house in not too distant past.

The changing landscape means that the ancient stranglehold is slowly being weakened and more routes to publication are available than have ever been possible. The landscape is changing rapidly but how the author is seen changes more slowly.

The stigma of the self-published author as lesser being is fading, not as quickly as it should, and a trawl of the Internet reveals literary greats who originally self-published, but the image has been tarnished beyond measure by the Vanity Press, a business model designed to produce a book at the author's expense and the company's benefit.

The reasons they succeed are complex, as involved as the personality and character of the people they target, and that is exactly what we are, targets. Everything about the market is designed to catch you out, sneak under your radar and suddenly they have you, caught on the hook and like an expert fisherman they know how to play you, and play you they will, for ever penny/cent they can, so what is the best protection?

Imagination, the power of the mind you used to write your story, use it to work out the angles of the deal you are being offered, if it sounds too good to be true, tell yourself that it is, and look at it closely. You may be a single click away from a shedload of trouble!

The available resources are the greatest limitation to any course of action. Working with the traditional/trade publishers doesn't cost the writer, your obvious talent has been recognised, snapped up and acknowledged and the cost to you is minimal. the publisher puts their money into the project.

Without the backing of a traditional or the burden of a vanity publisher; how close to that figure can we get?

Friday 20 March 2015

Boot and Other Foot?

The madness continues at Indies Unlimited, the #PublishingFoul features reached the halfway point in the month with an update on the story so far.

A quick way to catch up with the information gleaned from the four corners of the Indies world is to click on the referee image on the right hand sidebar. The link takes you to the #PublishingFoul index page and posts directly related to the March Madness.

It doesn't make for easier reading, but highlights the frequently asked question, why do we, (writer's) fall for the scams? The simple truth maybe that they are better at the dark practises of scamming and fleecing than we are at spotting the same. Knowledge is the answer, and the greatest defence, and one of the strongest elements I've discovered among Independent authors is a willingness to share information. This month's features on Indies Unlimited supports this. 

We all want to sell our books, of course, but that doesn't mean we have to compete with each other when it comes to steering away from trouble. Any one of us may have narrowly avoided the pitfalls by  way of another author sharing their experience.

The update offers a review and links to a couple of useful pages; How to avoid a scam and  Resources for Authors, for legal advice and tips on where and how to research the useful details for avoiding the scammers.

The stakes are high! David Gaughran's posts at Let"s Get Digital, and his research on AuthorSolutions, reveals some of the figures involved. A new piece in the story appeared today with an appeal from David to spread the word to writers everywhere:  AuthorSolutions are sponsoring the Bay Area Book Festival; a very profitable ground for their activities, to the cost of many authors!.

Victoria Strauss offers more information at Writer Beware and one particular link discussing Vanity/Subsidy Publishers caught my attention. A lengthy piece worth taking the time to study, especially the case histories and the custodial  jail sentences given to publishers. The owner of Northwest Publishing, a Vanity Press based in Utah, received thirty years for cheating authors out of millions of dollars. (Some of the details may seem dated, but the page has been checked recently - Dec 2014.)

Labyrinthine, yes it may be, chasing the links between the sites offering information, but and it's a big but; taking the time to work your way through the links may save you a lot of money and of heartache.

Following the links proffered by the Vanities may drag you along at the same pace; however the end result may be very different to the one you wanted or expected to find.

Tread carefully, there are plenty of people out there who will trample your dreams without finding that we've been doing the same, to our own dreams!

Saturday 14 March 2015

Still treading on dreams!

Earlier this week ago I posted about Indies Unlimited March Madness, the feature of the month being experiences - usually bad - of independent authors at the hands of predatory publishers, Predominantly the vanity presses and new material has been posted on the site since my piece was published here.

The big player in the field is Author Solutions, but they are not alone and the predators aren't always the size of the proverbial Great White. Some are smaller, akin to the Piranha but the methods and principles are the same.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Site Update - contact notification glitch

I had to apologise to a reader Down Under this afternoon. They had popped off an email and the message was held up in my in-tray. The notifications settings on my smartphone needed adjustment. Problem now rectified.

So, Dear Reader, Down under, thanks for the email and I hope the next time you drop me a line the response will be a lot quicker.

The email was asking about The Obedience of Fools, and what happened?

The story hit the buffers so to speak, and needed a good dose of looking at, and other stuff had to be dealt with.

I Should have it back on track before long.

Best wishes

Monday 9 March 2015

Don't tread on my dreams!

"He wishes for the cloths of heaven" by W.B. Yeats describes how the plaintiff desiring to gift the glories and splendour of the skies has nothing to offer but dreams, and laying them out asks for care lest they be trampled under foot.

Yeats' writes of love, but how does it feels as a writer; clutching the completed manuscript, edited and proofed, and searching for the agent or publisher who will lift it and send it soaring into the wider world?

Dreams indeed and for some the trampled shards remain. This month, Indies Unlimited are featuring those who who have a story to share about the pitfalls of publishing. The first post by Lynn Cantwell "Fouled Part1: Taking on Scammy Publishers" reveals how the focus came about, an email from a writer revealed a hole in the coverage and offered the invitation to anyone with a story to tell. Guest posts by David Gaughran, well known for his work in revealing the predatory world of vanity publishing and his ongoing exploration of Author Solutions in particular - a Hydra of classical proportions if ever there was one- and its nefarious alliances. He offers a useful list in "How To Avoid Publishing Predators" joining the traditional with the vanities; comprehensive and illuminating in the connections he highlights.

Offerings by TD McKinnon recall "Surviving The Scammer Minefield"  among the smaller "independent" presses and the consequences of partnership publishing and Sophie Jonas Hill reveals ten ways to prevent being scammed, and speaks from her own experience.

One of the valuable assets of the self-publishing community is the willingness,  the enthusiasm to share the knowledge we have gained on our own journeys. Why, why retread old ground. it's old ground to us, but those who follow are stepping into unknown territory and our insights and knowledge are their map.

If you have a story to tell, check back on Indies Unlimited and see how the month unfolds or share your own story via their contact form.

I've often found the posts on Indies Unlimited useful, entertaining and friendly. Click the links, use them as signposts on your journey, and good luck.

Friday 6 March 2015

Cautionary tale from Becca Mills

It popped up in a tweet by David Gaughran and had me clicking the link to a jaw dropping story.

The-active-voice is the website of the author Becca Mills, a writer of speculative fiction, and from the subject matter of a recent blog I don't think her speculative musings could have prepared her for what happened. She recalls the trials of her novel Nolander being withdrawn from Amazon and Smashwords by a malicious DMCA notice citing a breach of copyright, and her endeavours with some degree of success to track down her accuser and make the book available again.

Over quite a lengthy post she unfolds the story of what happened and how she rectified the situation, so that happily now Nolander is back up on Smashwords and Amazon.

Take the time to read through and ponder what she has to say, I believe it will be worth the time and effort. 

Sunday 1 March 2015

What are you reading this month?


March is Read an eBook Month, and once again kicks off with Read an eBook Week. For the Seventh year in succession smashwords are promoting read an eBook week with a site wide promotion and the Grange novels are part of the action this year, skip across to smashwords.com and bag yourself a good read; What You Ask For and Control: Escape have a 50% discount, enter RAE50 at the checkout to claim yours, then explore the other talent on offer this year.

Monday 19 January 2015

Ask The Author...

Vikki Patis emailed me recently with a fistful of questions and a request for an Ask The Author interview.  Happy to oblige, I answered the questions and the result is out now at The Bandwagon and Readwave  Check out Vikki's stories and enjoy the interview.