Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Writers book agency

Every Christmas the facts and figures are bandied about over how one little old man can possibly find the time to issue presents to all of the children in the world. This year the debate will be overshadowed by how one man (Edward Smith) will manage to make 5000 novels available between the Halloween closing date and the Yuletide target.
Try googling ‘You Write On’ or keywords such as ‘publish, 5000, authors’ and nine times out of ten you will come up with a literary web page or blog which is getting its knickers in a twist. The subject is the offer by You Write on and Legend Press to publish 5000 new authors by Christmas.

The concerns range from motive through anxiety about thousands of poor quality  novels being stored electronically, to good novels being lost to larger publishers and doubt about the ability of the operation to put so many books on POD in such a short time.
I have a confession. OK, unfashionable as it would seem to be, I am one of the 5000. And I don’t mean lepers, despite the fact that many sites see us as ‘literary wanabees’ or deluded objects of pity. I am going to publish my novel ‘Tasting the Wind’ through You Write on, and I am going in with my eyes open.

Firstly, although the word ‘scam’ has been used, I have tested a few of these (notably the Writers book agency) and this does not have the same flavour. There is no need to part with any money- unless you wish to buy an ISBN number- whereas you don’t have to look too far into the real scams before you are asked to show your commitment to your work by getting out your cheque book.

And yes, of course Legend Press will make money from this- why shouldn’t they? It has been pointed out that if the author is the only person to buy their novel (which in some cases may be true) then only Legend Press stands to gain. Look up the number 5000 on sites about publishing, and it comes up as the number required for a successful print run for a small publishing company.
And yes, the novels are not chosen on merit- it’s the first 5000 to email. So why is this any different to self publishing?
Critics have also questioned the charge for an ISBN number of £39.99. Several POD and self-publishing sites charge more than this. Yes, You Write On will get them far cheaper through buying in bulk, but I only want one number, and I don’t have the money to self-publish on my own.

Is it me, or do the criticisms seem strange when we accept the dictates of a publishing industry which sees books as ‘units’ to be moved and is guided by what will sell rather than what is good?

Yes, there will be a number of people who are deluded about their abilities, but there willo also be a number in which I would like to count myself, who have created a book of which they are proud, but which current profit orientated publishing trends will prevent from ever seeing the light of day.

The trend is for genre, and if you might have written a work of genius, but if it cannot be easily pigeonholed the big publishers will not touch it. Earlier this year I wrote to Dean Koontz and asked for advice. His letter recommended that new wrtiters go for the ‘high concept novel.’ My second novel will be, but my first is from the heart, revised over ten years and I believe in it. But when you send it to agents you get the standard letter which gives no idea about how far it is from what is required.
You Write On do not appear to be a tin pot organisation. They have Arts Council Funding and affiliations to the literary and publishing world which include Random House. Some of their authors have gone on to clinch deals with the bigger companies.
Let’s put it another way. I once received a rejection letter from an agent which said that they received three hundred manuscripts per week but only took on three writers per year. So for every 15,600 submissions only three are accepted. Chances are at least one of the 5000 You Write On authors will get noticed, so the odds are better than going through an agent. And is £39.99 to get onto Amazon so much when you add up all of those postage stamps to send your manuscript to agents with return postage?
So yes, I’m going ahead with it, and when my novel is published I will be adding a link to all of my networking sites. I will also be talking to my local children’s hospice who will receive 50% of my royalties.  So if you are reading this please buy ‘Tasting the Wind’ when it is available.Not only can I guarantee you a good read- some of your money will be going to a good cause and not to a big publisher. How good will that feel?

The benefits of Blogging

I’m using this one for a little reflection. I’ve been blogging and promoting my novel on the internet now for less than three months, which makes me a veritable blog infant, but already I have had some amazing experiences which bode well for the future.

Firstly, a wonderful thing about the experience is that total strangers from all over the world have been so encouraging. Thanks, Heidi, for just taking the time to say ‘Good Luck with your book,’ and for Daz:

‘Fantastic blog Allan. Keep up the good work things WILL happen for you.’
Thanks Travis, for your comment on my blog about generating web traffic: Whassup? Very good tips man. Keep on bloggin. Peace. Travis.

And to Supercalafragilistic for your encouragement at the same time as gently pointing out my cardinal sin: Great post. Only one M in Hemingway though. Revision time!
One result of sending out my blogs through such services as Pingoat means that it crops up in all sorts of places. Not quite sure how it got onto ‘Great Railway Journeys’ but no publicity is bad publicity
One of the loveliest examples of my blog popping up somewhere I’d never heard of, and getting a response from someone I’d never met was this: 

 

Hi. I’ve just read your message on blackboard.The girl who used to live next door to me has written 2 books and also set up her own publishing company – Doghorn publishing. She has now gone travelling and one of her friends who has been involved with the company from the beginning has taken over the business. Their website is http://www.doghorn.com . It may be under reconstruction at the mo. If that’s the case and you’re interested in getting in touch with them let me know and i’ll forward you their address. You can tell them it’s Rebecca and James’s old neighbour that’s put you in touch. I’ve actually bought their house to rent out !!Good luck Debbie Harris

Unfortunately this did not lead to publication but I was just blown over by someone taking the trouble to contact me.
‘Dog Horn’ publishers, as it turned out, sent me another rejection slip with which to paper my wall. I though I’d be onto something there because they specialise in the more bizarre type of novel. I told tham that I had one character who had half a beard and another with an invisible dog, but obviously it wasn’t bizarre enough.

One observation was that they didn’t ask, as is always the case, for a large stamped addressed envelope for the return of a manuscript. When it was returned they had paid the £1.80 postage- which was very kind. It did make me wonder however about the standard rejection letter claim that they had a large number of submissions- paying for the return of all of these could prove to be very pricey for a small press.

Through networking I was contacted by Dominic Took, author of ‘The Storms of Acias’ Dominic invited me to speak, with my friend Lynn Grocott, at his ‘Writers’ Forum (Since renamed ‘Meeting of Minds’) at the film theatre at the University of Stoke-on-Trent. We had a wonderful evening, talking about our work and meeting like-minded people. One of them, a publishing consultant, gave me her card, and I sent on my synopsis and sample chapters. Again, nothing yet, but it’s another example of how through the internet I am coming into contact with the right circles.

I have also learned which sites to avoid, i.e. those that ask for money, whether as themselves or under a pseudonym! I never did hear back from the Writer’s Book Agency (See my blog ‘Vanity… Vanity… etc.)
Finally- the response to my YouTube contributions has been far better than I had expected with several people following it through. So far the number of hits has reached… well maybe you could look for yourself, and add a few more. I would love to see more comments too. 

 

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I referred previously to Johnboy and his unwitting stumble into vanity publishing. I won’t be dealing with that subject here- just Google ‘Vanity Press’ and you will find endless websites and blogs with a message which can be summed up in three words: don’t do it!
What I’m more interested in here are the ways in which the internet has created a new environment for people to make money from the writer’s desire to get published.

The first rule to apply is never to part with money. Not that all services that ask for money are disreputable- some will provide you with a professional critique at a cost, with no catches. I myself paid for one from Golganooza, and from frontlist (My experiences are chronicled elsewhere in this blog.)

The internet has also opened the way for print on demand (POD.) What POD does is cut out the need for expensive print runs, as a book is only printed when someone orders it. Your book is stored electronically. Publication: guaranteed, no cost: guaranteed, sales… well.

One criticism of POD is that if you look at what is available in this format you will not have heard the names of any of the writers. Although sites may promote your book, they do not have behind them the vast marketing resources of the big Publishing houses.

But it does mean that you could publish now, even if it means that your only readers are your friends. A very popular site is ‘Lulu.’ You can also upload your work to Amazon Kindle. This is a new e-book reader which promises to be as easy on the eye as paper. We have yet to see if readers will embrace this over the centuries-old paper book. In my opinion I don’t think that we should underestimate the sensory satisfaction gained from the feel and the smell of a book.

In an episode of Star Trek, when Captain Jean Luc Picard was on leave, he sat reading a book. The creative minds behind the series obviously felt that whatever the technological advances we will still be reading books made of paper. And It looked sort of right.

Continuing my quest for an agent over the internet I came across what looked like a promising company calling themselves the ‘Writers Book Agency.’

They said that they were different to other agents in that they worked closely with promising writers, giving support and feedback which would get their work to a publishable standard.

I sent my letter, synopsis and opening chapters and, whoopy-do, they were interested.

They said things to allay my fears, like not asking for the whole book. They said that they had got four books published- surely, I thought, if this were a scam they would not claim such a modest number.

So I applied one of my tests- I googled ‘Writers Book Agency review.’ What it brought up was an interesting debate- one in which the Writers Book Agency were taking part- about the integrity of the company.

The question was raised as to why the WBA never revealed the identities of those they had taken to publication. It also emerged that after a series of very wordy emails the WBA suggested that writers pay for an independent reading of their work. The implication was that the ‘independent’ readers recommended were actually WBA by another name.

I will withold judgement, but we have here an agent who won’t tell you which published authors they represent (the agents in the writers and artist’s yearbook list their clients) and which inevitably asks you to part with money. They even implied that unwillingness to spend some money on the process indicated lack of belief.

This exploitation of the needs and insecurities of the unpublished writer doesn’t seem that far removed from the methods of the Vanity Press.

And yes, I got my email, saying that they wished to take me on, and recommending people who would, at a price, read my work. I ignored it. Who knows- this may be a genuine outfit which has helped four people achieve their dream. But if it is not a scam, why doesn’t it realise that it is going around around dressed as one?


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