Sunday, 31 October 2010

Impatience 31st October 2010.

I’m amazed at how impatient some authors can be, especially novice ones. Mind you, our worst experience with this came with a relatively experienced author.

The publishing industry as a whole is not the nimblest in the world and in fact an author I know just received a rejection slip. Nothing in any way unusual about that, but this was for a book proposal sent out three years ago!

Now I know some publishers are slow but this is the longest delay I’ve heard of... so far.
Of course, because we’re a new, and not only new but also internet based, people expect us to be nimble and quick too. What they don’t necessarily understand is we are fairly quick, believe it or not. LOL.

Consider the amount of work involved between getting a book submitted to getting it published. Okay, to be fair, at least with something of novel length, you’ve already spent a long time actually writing it. You might have written sections of it quickly, but on the whole it has been some considerable time in gestation. Even if you cut the elapsed time out of the equation, and just counted the minutes spent writing it, you probably spent anywhere up to several hundred hours writing it, and then hopefully the same amount, or more, editing and polishing it.

Why then should you assume the editing process we go through on your book is going to be any quicker? After all our editors aren’t already intimately acquainted with your characters, and the plot. Aren’t our editors also allowed time off for comfort breaks, coffee, sustenance and sleep? Even if you allowed for that, why should you assume there’s nothing else in front of yours, or that simply signing your name to the contract entitles you to jump to the front of the queue?

Of course, designing the cover, preparing the web pages, double checking the bio, the blurb, the dedication and the actual production of the book, in four formats, plus another for print, don’t take any time at all. Distributing it to the bookshops and aggregators just takes a snap of the fingers.

Everything takes time, and having witnessed and experienced problems with other publishers, we’ve applied those lessons to our processes. Some things, can be done in parallel, some can even be done in advance. We don’t queue jump work, we don’t play favourites and we don’t give a release date until the book is almost ready. It’s better right than on time.

Other, slightly bigger, publishers may be quicker, but as Nancy found out (above) the bigger they are the slower they become. Three years for a rejection is quite a leap. I gather the book is now finished and published by someone else in any case.

Patience is a virtue. Publishing ... now that is anything but a virtue..... LOL

Anyway, Happy Halloween everyone.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

How to read a submission 26th October 2010.

Tell me, how do you read a book? Are you a good boy or girl and open it at page one and then read through it page by page until you finally reach the end, then put it down, hopefully with a satisfied smile on your face having enjoyed it?

I suspect most people think that’s what we do professionally do when we’re reading a submission. Unless it’s a very short story, this is not the way we’ll tackle it. We’re much more like the naughty boys and girls who turn to the back pages first, or at least early on.

There are reasons for this, and one stems from the constant stream of advice you, as authors are given – which is to polish the first three chapters until they shine to prove to the publisher how good you are. Oops. We don’t want to judge you on the work you may have polished and polished, we want to see what you’re like when your guard is rather further down. I know, I know, you devote as much attention to the rest of the book. Do you, do you really?

When we look at a submission we have already read your bio, so we have an idea of who you are, and hopefully what makes you tick. If you have simply given us a brief, age, sex, marriage, children, live in, and like reading kind of bio you’ve already been categorised. We’ve also read the synopsis, which might or might not contain a blurb for the book. A normal reader only sees the blurb and bio, once they’ve been polished to a fine edge. Since we actively discourage you from disclosing the ending in the blurb, they don’t know what should happen. We’ve seen the synopsis, so we cannot read on with the hope of a fabulous surprise or uplifting experience.

So we turn to the last chapter and read that. See how you handle the ending, the resolution to your conflict, the triumph (or otherwise of course) of your protagonist, the demise (again, or otherwise) of your antagonist, the happy/sad/tragic/ ending, the set up for the sequel, all of it. Then we ask, did it ring true? Was it believable in the context of the book we haven’t read yet, only glimpsed through the synopsis?

You can tell a lot about the publishable quality of the book by reading the last few pages first. Then we go back and read from the beginning. How far we get into the manuscript is going to be influenced by our opinion about the ending.

Unlike many we do read the majority, if not all of a manuscript. We will rarely stop earlier than that unless the manuscript is so obviously a no-hoper.

What? Surely you’re not that naive to think we’ll read every single perfectly crafted word before rejecting it?

Sorry, I’m sure you’re not that naive.

Although we’re not quite as severe as the reviewer of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer “This book is one of the worst books I have ever read. I got to about page 3-4.”

Mind you, I did buy a copy of “Revolutionary Road” and didn’t get much past page 25.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Writing Groups 25th October 2010.

Sometimes involvement with a writing group can really help a novice or new author. Sometimes they can really hinder them as well; if the group is really good it can do both at the same time.

I have a case in point. I am just finalising a manuscript, doing the last little touches to the formatting and creating the various output files, and double checking the cover and the blurb for any last minute changes or touch ups before release in the first week of next month.

In this case the touch ups to the cover need checking as we had to ‘clone’ out a telegraph pole and wires from the background image on the cover to get the period detail right. The more important one to check is the blurb, never the easiest thing for any writer to produce.

But I digress; it’s the writing group’s influences that struck me, especially as I was part of the same writing group, and a vocal contributor of some of the constructive criticism given to this author. It’s interesting now to see the effect some of that criticism has had, now I’ve actually got the final manuscript in my hand, and the book is about ready to come out.

I remember our editor commenting on this particular book, it had no point of view errors, some grammatical stuff but not a lot wrong with it. This, no disrespect to the author here, is almost certainly down to the influence of the writing group. This particular writing group was absolutely white hot on the subject, even to the point of, at times an almost line by line scrutiny of the section being read to ensure no tiny point of view error crept in.

Score one for the positive side.

Similarly, the group was very clear in its criticism on tense, not allowing cross over from past to present etc, and pace, keeping the story moving and not getting bogged down in detail narrative. The dialogue in particular is sparkling and shows a lot of polish.

Score another for the positives.

Unfortunately the group had a downside too. One prominent member kept up the siren cry, don’t write something too long – no-one publishes anything much over 70,000 words these days so cut, cut and cut again. This particular book came down from nearly 120,000 words to just over 88,000 in its finished version.

While I agree it can be very important not to get bogged down and introduce too many sub-plots or unnecessary scenes, particularly when they don’t move the story along, but sometimes cutting too hard artificially raises the pace.

Honours even here I think.

A writing group is a microcosm of society as a whole – a disparate group of people with different, and different levels of ability. They may all like to write, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from writing, but you have to learn when to take advice from some members and when to smile and ignore the advice. I will hasten to add, this was the writing group that got me started, and without advice from them, I probably wouldn’t have had my first book published. You have to learn to filter out the good from the bad, not what you want to hear from what you don’t. Most of the good advice will fall into the latter category.

Score one for the negatives.

I’ve been at writing group where they read out their work, but no-one is allowed to comment. I was engaged to give them an hour’s workshop on point of view, and didn’t want to be churlish and walk out at the break. I was utterly amazed when the second half of the session went that way. I seriously had to bite my tongue. I checked with the secretary of the group afterwards – and yes, that’s the way they work. No criticism of any type. What they got from group membership is thus beyond me.

Score another for the negatives.

Another constant comment from the group was on the use of dialect. At least one member of the group was adamant that the dialogue should be in the correct dialect for the period and location, while others argued to use a smattering of dialect to flavour, but leave the dialog understandable for everyone.

Honours even again.

Have I reached a conclusion?

Yes, I think I probably have. Writing groups can help, but they are not the final arbiters of your success as an author. Fortunately for all of us, it’s the reading public who will decide your popularity, or otherwise in the end. One of my favourite coaching books has a great line as a chapter heading. “Don’t take your best work to a writing group.” It goes on to say “If you must belong to a group, take your mistakes there instead.”

I kind of like that.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Charity begins.... 22nd October 2010.

Had some good news today.

A personal friend and writing buddy of mine passed away last year after a long illness. She had just completed the final draft of her novel but unfortunately her condition took her before she could submit it. Working with her family we’ve spent a lot of time sorting out a way to get her work to market posthumously.

That in itself has been no mean feat; for starters we had to wait for her estate to pass probate before we could allow anyone to sign a contract.

Having crossed all the hurdles, we approached a major charity about making a contribution to them from each book, with both ourselves and the family contributing, and them marketing the book through the medium of their newsletter and web site and possibly other publications.
I finally got the e-mail we’ve been waiting for today, the charity has agreed the proposal in principle, although due to the complicated mechanisms we have to go through to show due diligence and true intent to the Charity commission, we still have several hoops to jump through and i’s to dot and t’s to cross. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors – he insisted – Ed.)

Mustn’t name names, either of the author, the book or the charity just yet – but the book will launch early next year – watch this space. This could be big – a money spinner for the charity, and above all a fitting memorial for an author whose life was cut so short.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Retail madness or is that wholesale madness? 20th October 2010.

I’ve been having some serious fun since Friday and despite the fact that MPB (Male Pattern Baldness – Ed) doesn’t run in my family, I’m not far off a bald scalp. Mind you mine is bleeding and sore too.

All down to the, shall we say, peculiar, behaviour of our new wholesaler and a couple of retailers.
As you know from earlier posts, I spent several weeks of intense effort recreating book formats to new standards, resizing covers and renaming everything to its ISBN numbers before spending even longer sourcing and formatting the metadata necessary to upload our catalogue to the wholesaler’s web site.

I was ecstatic when the upload worked 100% the first time, and blew my own trumpet here. That’s unfortunately, when the current problem started.

This wholesaler also suppliers four of the retailers we currently supply direct, and two we currently supply via another wholesaler. Not a problem, according to their blurb and instructions, not a problem at all. There is a system in place which allows us, the publisher, to block our content from reaching individual retailers. Perfect from our point of view.
Guess what, without even updating their own web site information, or their user guide they discontinued this system, it is now up to the retailer to decide if they want to take particular content or not.

As a result of this approach by the wholesaler, I have spend oodles of time checking the retail sites to see if books were on there twice, and guess what – I found two retailers affected. One I e-mailed and they immediately responded by removing the wholesale delivered copies from their site. Thank you. However, I did get a slightly miffed e-mail from the boss there – why was the wholesaler offering 91 titles and we’d only uploaded 50 odd to her. (Luckily I had a reason – their site doesn’t have a relevant category for 38 of our books (as it happens all of them my own).

The other retailer is more of a problem – they managed to match titles and ISBN’s on most of the books, leaving something like 5 duplicates but their response was “we don’t block content from any contributor” which I felt was rather unhelpful.

The basic problem revolves around the insistence of the wholesaler splitting title into sub-title which we don’t and nor does the retailer – as a result the titles don’t match. We load our ISBN’s with the dashes in middle of the numbers, the wholesaler doesn’t.

How this is going to work in terms of the two sites we have no direct relationship with, I have no idea.

I have a feeling this one is going to run and run....

Anyone know a good balm for a tortured scalp....!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

NANO Update 19th October 2010.

Well, I’ve got to post a correction already! LOL.

Apparently my friend was deadly serious when she said she was going to use NANO to get the first draft of her PHD thesis written. Hey, why not, writing is writing after all, even if it isn’t actually a novel, Annette. Good luck to you.

I’ve also changed my mind – and decided to switch one of the projects I’m going to be working on. My very first published book, Seven Sisters, was always destined to be the first of a trilogy, and I completed the second book nearly two years ago. For some reason, usually other projects appearing to be more urgent means I’ve decided to work on the third book for NANO rather than my original choice project.

Before anyone states the unbecoming obvious – no I am not going to try and do three projects simultaneously. Tow is enough (well, for this year – we’ll see how I get on this year.

The problem for me wouldn’t be the actual output required – I can hit 5,000 words a day most days if I curtail other distractions, and on good days beat that enough to allow some bad days.

For me the problem would be technology leak.

Let me explain a little. My chosen project for NANO is now the third book in the Seven Sisters trilogy, which is geared to an alternative history where the Roman Empire still bestrides the world in a Ninth century Europe which is starting to use new technologies – not quite steam punk, but slightly beyond swords and sandals.

The project I’ve put to one side is my alterative history of September 1940 where the Nazi’s have overrun the Royal Air Force and are about to invade. The Royal Navy has one last desperate plan to stem the tide and Operation cormorant becomes reality when the Germans actually invade. Keeping naval and air war strategies out of a pre-medieval siege and not accidentally letting my sea captains slip into Latin and priming their catapults would be a challenge at that writing pace.

Keeping my Romans and my romantic Vampires apart won’t be easy, but it’s easier than the former.

I do have something to rant about on the publishing front – but that will have to wait till tomorrow – I’m waiting on an e-mail replay which might be an answer – or it might be a red rage to this particular bull. In any case, lock up the china, this here bull is blowing steam!

Monday, 18 October 2010

NANO 18th October 2010.

Interesting the responses I’ve had over my approach to NANO this year. In the past, events have conspired to ensure I don’t have time to write during November. Not this year though, I’ve finally decided to give away my official virginity and do NANO.

So there you have it. LOL.

Of course, me being me, I’m not going into this half-heartedly, I’ve decided to double my chances of success (or is that half them – ed) and enter twice, one under each of two pen names. Both projects are buzzing in my head and my fingers are itching to start typing now, but I’m no cheat so I won’t. The plots are fully formed in my head and I’ve got a few plot notes/chapter headings crunched out but that’s as far as it’s got.

Glutton for punishment, masochist, and big head are just some of the comments from my friends, but in truth it’s none of these. If I could go without sleep for the month, I’ve actually got something like four and a half complete plots dangling in there – I’ve had to make a choice between two of them in my own name – and in the end dropped the more demanding one. (It’s more demanding because I of the amount of factual research I’ve already done, and the hundreds of scrappy notes in the file. It would probably take me a month to get them sorted into usable sequence.)

So I’ve decided to stay on familiar territory with this one, writing the third part of my trilogy, characters I’m already comfortable with.

I normally write in bursts, once peaking at 12,000 words in a day, more normally 7,000 words, and usually for no more than a fortnight. So who knows, I might have two NANO’s done by 15th and decide to tackle another one. Doubt it very much though – I’m not that much of a masochist, and I’m sure the publishing business will decide it’s not prepared to take that much of a back seat.

SO are you doing NANO?

Come on, connect and buddy up, I’ll support any who are, with my own unique brand of encouragement – well maybe not, if you read the relevant post earlier this month – my hand would be too sore.

A friend of mine says she’s going to NANO her PHD thesis this year – don’t honestly think she means it – but good luck on both, Annette.

Happy NANOing.

Friday, 15 October 2010

E-mail Protocols 15th October 2010.

We just had an example of evolution in action, it could have been embarrassing and it certainly ruffled some feathers – let me explain. I had a lot of experience in the 90’s with introducing e-mail into companies that had relied on letters, fax and telephone. In fact in one medium sized company I came up against a Managing Director who was certain it would never catch on. Despite the fact he was my line boss, and the guy who was trying to drag the company “kicking and screaming” into the current century let alone the next he just didn’t “get it”. Eighteen months later, at a management meeting he praised his own foresight in insisting on introducing e-mail because “we can’t survive without it”. Everyone else tried to hide their giggles with various degrees of success.

I tell you this for a simple reason, when introducing e-mail into a corporate environment the big buzz word was “e-mail protocol” – how you reacted to an e-mail when you received it. From my recent experience it is becoming clear, different parts of the world have evolved different protocols over the last few years in terms of what is the correct way to deal with such a missive.

The European protocol, as far as I am concerned, in a business sense, not a personal one, is to respond to an e-mail as if you were talking to that person on the phone, I don’t mean in terms of the language used, which perforce has to be more guarded, but as if the “conversation” is in fact in real-time.

Clearly the Antipodean response is drilled the other way – emphasising the asynchronous nature of the communication – a much more laid back approach.

A case in point.

One of our authors sent in a question to both of us, which in fact required two answers, one from me in respect of half of the e-mail, and one from my partner on the other half. Following that protocol I’d spend months drilling into other people I politely responded with an answer to my part (the easy bit) and noted that my partner would respond to the other half when she was able. Since the author is in Europe, as am I, so my response was very quick. My partner, 12 time zones away was of course, not so quick.

In fact her part of the answer needed some research with a third party, together with the time zone issue added up to a delay which exceeded the author’s tolerance who promptly fired off a chase e-mail. Unfortunately this chase e-mail arrived at the dog end of the day, where after a couple of glasses of wine the response was quite forceful. Oopsie!

So which is better, the uptight European style, where you send an apology if you can’t answer straight away and you even send back a short thank you when someone sends you the information you requested – or the laid-back Pacific approach where you do it when you can.

The jury is still out... even though I’m prejudiced here.

Maybe there should be rule along the lines of "don't drink and e-mail" too.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

How can some high street retailers be so clueless? 14th October 2010.

Sometimes, I find myself deep in despair. I just don’t understand the thinking behind the actions of some companies.

Take a very well-known high street book chain, well; very well-known in this country, at least, they have a bricks and mortar operation on the high street of most major towns and cities on these islands. I actually think my home town is the largest in the country that doesn’t have a branch.

Now, I’m not silly, or overly optimistic – I know they are not going to provide their “valuable” shelf space for the books produced by a small press publisher such as ourselves. It would be nice, and I’d be over the moon but it’s not going to happen other than on a purely local basis anytime soon, if that and if then.

That is not of course true of their virtual store – their on-line presence, their attempt to carry over their high street prestige into the on-line world and challenge the purely on-line retailers. Certainly a worthy goal, I’m all for healthy competition, but I have to say I’m extremely disappointed in their offering in terms of our books, and by the look of it, books from many other small publishers.

You can search for any of our print books (e-books are a separate matter and that is being addressed via another partner) on their web site and find them. Well, sort of, you can find the book is on there, but there’s no cover image (Image not available), no blurb and no excerpt. There is nothing more than a blank rectangle, the book title, the author name and the reduced price. Scroll down a little and you find the ISBN number, the publisher and the date of publication and the number of pages. Not even a category it fits in.

I ask you, would you as a consumer buy something that tells you so little about itself? I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t unless I was looking for the product by name, make and model, and I’d found all the information elsewhere.

Our books are printed by a subsidiary of the largest book wholesaler in the US. They are actually printed in the UK and the US and next year will be printed in Australia too. I’ve seen the catalogue entry for our books, it’s obviously something I check like a hawk, and the entry is complete and conforms to what they tell me is the worldwide standard.

So why in four hells can’t this particular retailer actually put the information on their site? I mean, they probably get hundreds of thousands of books from these people on a weekly or monthly basis?

I know there are differences between computer systems? Heck, I worked in IT for thirty years, and if they were dealing with little old us I could understand, if not condone the problem, but this is a biggie dealing with an even bigger biggie. One they need in order to sell more books.

They actually are in business to sell books.... right? ..... Right?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Blowing a trumpet, my own! 13th October 2010.

Well, going to have to do it, and in praise of our aggregator too.

Last week, I uploaded all 91 of our existing books (as it was when I started putting them together, we’ve released 4 since then which will go in the next tranche) to our aggregator. Each book in 4 formats, plus a resized cover plus a huge metadata spreadsheet – whose format I am not allowed to divulge under a non-disclosure agreement.

That was exactly one week ago.

They told me it would take up to 21 working days to accomplish the upload process – note that is 21 working days not ordinary days, and don’t ask why they used 21 and not 20.

An hour and twenty minutes ago, I got the e-mail. All the books have uploaded, perfectly, all versions, all books. First time as well.

Sorry, that is definitely worth a trumpet fanfare. I honestly expected they would want some changes, but no, they seem to be happy with it, no miss-named files, faults, errors, mistakes or omissions reported.

Their back office system, looked impenetrable to begin with, but is clearly quite swish and sophisticated, I’ve just spent the last hour scanning through the catalogue and I can’t see anything wrong anywhere.

I’m utterly amazed. Things like this don’t happen to me, I always make some error, or the process aborts or takes forever. It just doesn’t go right, and in less than a third of the time, not for me, not ever!

Life’s pessimist must now crank out a tune. Now where did I put that trumpet?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Some people can be taught but never learn 07th October 2010.

I went to my writing club last night, a bit of intelligence gathering to be honest, since the guest speaker was another publisher who was going to explain how he worked. Interesting to see how another small press magnate (LOL) worked so I sat in the middle of the audience as he outlined how he did what he did and why.

As it happens his business plan and ours don’t really overlap in any real sense so I relaxed and enjoyed the flow. He’d brought a couple of his authors along who proceeded to outline why they had done what they did and then read out a sample section of their respective books. One was good, a contemporary book, with a real sense of humour in it, the guy could write.

The other one stopped me cold and I am certain by the end of her reading my tongue had teeth marks all over it. Now she wasn’t there for a critique of her work and to be fair her words did paint a picture, you could visualise the scene.

What I found really difficult to swallow though was a serious issue with what she’d actually written, a technical error that was so glaring it stood out. This is in a published book, with the publisher sitting next to her, just after she finished describing how she’d completed her master’s degree in creative writing – hence the title of this blog entry. It was gratifying to find a number of the club members sitting in the bar during the interval discussing the very same point.

Despite being taught creative writing, she’d broken one, if not two of the cardinal rules of fiction. Firstly you must show the reader what is happening, and when writing in the third person singular, you can show the reader what your view point character is thinking.

This author broke both with a repetitive series of sentences in the excerpt she read out. She consistently told the reader (or in this case an audience of listeners) what the viewpoint character was not thinking.

How can you possibly show your reader what your view point character was not thinking about?

Sure, you can do it by dialogue between the two people in the scene along the lines of “what will your wife think” followed by “I’m not thinking about her” but not in narrative form about his thoughts.

She didn’t do this once, but several times within the page.

Clearly this manuscript hadn’t been edited to an acceptable standard and was eminently correctable, and this author has a master’s degree in creative writing? What were the editor and/or publisher thinking about? Perhaps now you can see what I meant about teaching and learning.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Perverted Psychology 05th October 2010.

Before I get into next the next topic, let me just say I am not some kind of pervert – my sense of humour definitely is, but I’m not, and the author I’m talking about knows this as well.

I spoke yesterday about one of our authors on a downer thanks to the insensitive if not outright prejudiced approach to her work by one of her college tutors. She was down for another reason, completely separate from her college woes. Her books with us, simply haven’t been selling – at all, not just not well, but at all. Given how highly I regard her writing, as does my business partner and the editor who worked on them for us; this is not a quality issue. It has to be down to marketing.

There are of course five parts to that, the sites it’s sold on, our marketing, the book cover, the book blurb and the author’s own promotional activity.

Earlier in the summer we changed the covers for her, feeling this was the biggest factor holding them back, but this has had no effect. Our own marketing, and the sites we sell on are changing too, increasing dramatically over the next couple of months. This leaves the blurb as something we can target together. Currently we’re looking at that.

That’s a digression; the problem I was addressing was her “downer”.

Maybe because it was Sunday evening and I was a bit relaxed or maybe I was simply tired but I decided to take a different tack with her, apply some “reverse” psychology, or should that have been “perverse”. I’m not sure. Anyway, before I stopped to think I came out with something bizarre.

“If you don’t stop getting down on yourself, I’ll swim across the pond and personally spank you.”
Now, I don’t know about you but the idea of a man almost old enough to be her grandfather carrying out such an action should bring about some spluttering indignation and outrage. Instead she giggled and went silent. After a minute cringing, wondering how I could repair the damage, she came back on line and told me that had certainly broken her mood.

I’m fairly sure she’s not that kinky so it must have been the idea of someone, as old as I am, as unfit as I am, swimming the Atlantic was preposterous enough to make her laugh. At least I hope so.

So there you go, a little applied “perverse” psychology can work wonders, although I’m going to have to watch my own mouth in future, I’m so glad she took it as the joke it most assuredly was.

Monday, 4 October 2010

What is it about some academics? 04th October 2010.

I know at least one of my followers is a teacher – so she will understand what I mean. Why is it, some teachers feel negative reinforcement is is the way to motivate someone? Personally I feel, if you tell someone they’re crap at something for long enough and often enough, they’ll believe you and stop trying.

Case in point. One of our authors is a college student, studying a rather eclectic mix of subjects which happens to include creative writing. She is a published author, with two novels out there as well as several short stories in her chosen genre. For someone, as young as she is, I regard her as real and rare talent achieving a level of maturity and character development rarely seen at her age. (Her work is also published elsewhere, not just with us, so I’m not simply bigging up one of our own).

Her creative writing tutor though, clearly does not share this opinion – she comes down hard on the young lady, and belittles and rubbishes virtually everything she does. Okay, part of that is to shake her out of her comfort zone, and partly, like all of us, we write best in our own genre or genres, but having her almost sobbing on line to me last night was pushing it. Her boyfriend sums it up, “don’t stress it – she’s just jealous – you’re published and she’s not”. I have to say listening last night made me wonder along these lines too.

We all react better to constructive criticism – so why do some, by no means all, I’m not generalising here, some teachers and tutors go so far the other way.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

When is a review not a review? 02nd October 2010.

When is a review something it is worth sending a free copy of a book to the reviewer?

On the face of it, the answer could be construed as.... it always is. As always the truth is somewhat more complicated. One of our authors presented me with this dilemma – and my response, although not kneejerk certainly provoked an exchange.

This particular author approached me to ask if I would send an Epub format book to a particular reader on Goodreads who had promised a review. Let me just add, I’ve been a member of Goodreads myself for a couple of years, not particularly an active one, but a member none the less. I find the site useful, and helpful, and I’d recommend it to any book lover. It is essentially though a peer review site and designed for ordinary readers to give their opinions of books they have recently read.

I did a little research, e-mailed a couple of contacts and asked the question of my author contacts on Facebook. The result, universally, was sending a free copy to a peer reviewer was not the right thing to do – after all if you gave a copy away to everyone who ever asked you’d never sell any books, the author wouldn’t earn royalties and as a publisher you would go bust. Since these opinions matched my own, armed with this I wrote a polite, but in hindsight possibly too firm, an e-mail to the author.

Although the reply didn’t blister my screen or my hide, it was certainly forceful enough.

It turns out that yes this person had contacted the author through Goodreads but in actual fact ran a review site, although admittedly one I hadn’t heard of. A separate research project ensued and I have now sent the copy, apologising for the delay, apologised to the author (even if I wasn’t given the full information at the get go) and the book now appears on the preview page of the site.

You live and learn.... but at the same time – surely if you want someone to do something for you – you should provide all the information, or at least all the information that will aid them arriving at the decision you want – not hiding the most important bit?


Friday, 1 October 2010

An Interesting Question 01st October 2010.

A potential author asked us an interesting question yesterday, a real potential banana skin one.

This particular person submitted a manuscript which we read through and after a discussion between us decided the book was potentially marketable and was of a suitable quality for us to offer the author a contract. So far so good. When the author received the contract we received a question back in return.

No harm in that, for sure, we anticipate there would be some questions coming back relating to contract terms etc. etc. that would be entirely normal. What we didn’t expect was a question along the lines of “How big are you and why should I place my book with you?”

Just think about that for a moment.

This person has trusted us enough to send us their manuscript in all its glory and we’ve spent a long time (each) reading through the whole book and making comments, and then discussing and finally drawing up a contract offer. At this point we’ve already committed a lot of time to the book, now they are effectively asking us to “sell” our services to them.

We don’t represent ourselves as being a large organisation – that should be blatantly obvious to follows of this blog given the number of “hats” I personally wear. Our Notes for New Authors pages on our submission section (which is always open even if Submissions is itself closed), paints a fairly bleak picture in order to discourage those who think “I’ve written a book – now I’m rich”.

So how do we answer this question? If we give the author too much information, then we risk that information being passed on to other publishers – who, like ourselves, don’t provide this information up front. We are not a public company – we actually don’t have to disclose information we don’t want to the populace at large, only, regrettably, to the taxman.
Of course, we answered the e-mail in a reasonably polite manner – I left that to my business partner – she’s much politer than I am.

My point though should be clear – why ask these questions at this point? – why not ask them first? – before committing us to the amount of work we’ve now undertaken for what may turn out to be nothing.