Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Too Good to be True!

Like quite a few people, it seems I was taken in rather by the wonderful opportunity (see previous post), an opportunity said to be supported by the Arts Council, for unpublished authors to get into print. So taken in, in fact, that I spread the word amongst the members of my writing group and posted the details here on my blog. I am therefore extremely grateful to Jane Smith (a) for her helpful comment on my blog and (b) for giving other bloggers permission to reproduce her own post on her wonderful blog How Publishing Really Works.

This is what Jane wrote.

The UK-based writers’ website, YouWriteOn, is offering publication by Christmas to the first 5,000 writers who submit their work. That’s right: 5,000 books. By Christmas.

Writer Beware has already blogged about this in an article called 5,000 Writers. Unsurprisingly, Writer Beware has come down pretty heavily against the scheme. I’d also advise everyone to steer well clear of this, for all the reasons that Victoria gives in her article and a few more besides.

If you think that this will be a route to a commercial publication, think again. These books are going to get no editorial screening, editing, sales, distribution, marketing, or promotion; there’s a significant doubt over what the writers will actually earn; and by signing up to this scheme, writers will lose the first rights to the books involved, and so make it far less likely that they’ll ever manage to sell them to a commercial, mainstream publishing house.

Regardless of the sales talk I’ve read on YWO, publishers are usually only interested in acquiring first rights to a book: if it’s already been published, in whatever form, then those first rights are gone for good. Lynn Price, the rather perky editorial director of Behler Publications (a very well-regarded independent press in America) has blogged about this in some detail: you can find her post by following the links here.

If you’re determined to give up those precious first rights then bear in mind that this deal does not appear to give you anything more than you’d get if you directly approached Lulu, Lightning Source, or any other POD printer, and had them produce your book via the POD route. You download your book; you sell your book; they print up what you downloaded and send it out. Doing it yourself via a POD supplier gives you the opportunity to correct and amend your book’s text, cover and layout at any time, and at no cost to yourself—something you’ll not be able to do via YWO.

But apart from all of those issues, which most writers with any experience of proper, commercial publishing could spot from a mile off, I’m just flabbergasted at the idea of one person (because as far as I know, YWO is a one-man team) coping with downloading 5,000 books onto a POD server in time for Christmas. Even if YWO ignores its own submissions deadline of the end of October and starts downloading the books right now, there are only about ten weeks to Christmas; so that’s 500 books a week, or 100 per working day. The last time I downloaded anything to Lulu it took me a couple of hours to get the text formatted properly and the cover on right: assuming that there’s one person at YWO working an eight-hour day, taking no breaks at all, then they’re going to have to download one book every five minutes. I just hope they have better bladder control than I do.

Remember: it’s better to not be published at all than to be published badly. You only have to speak with people who have been skewered by Publish America, or some of the other vanity presses, to discover that.
So – be warned. If something seems too good to be true it usually is.


Jane Smith said...

Paul, thanks for the kind comments about me and my blog--I'm blushing. I just hope that this helps a few people make the right decision.

Jane Smith said...
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