Thursday, October 9, 2014

Local Books challenging traditional publishing sales channels

How can we make the quality of self-publishing better for sellers and assist writers who just may be worthy of a wider audience? 

The upsurge in self-publishing has created a real challenge for booksellers. At the same time as more writers are publishing their books, traditional publishers are consolidating to global centres.

Some writers have always printed their work, but technology has made the process a whole lot easier.  The limited amount of room on mainstream publishers’ schedules means the production, sales and marketing of locally written books is much more difficult.

From a bookseller viewpoint, the shrinking number of "mainstream" publishers  means they must have fewer options in sourcing genuinely local fiction.   The marketplace for locally produced books is well-served in terms of non-fiction – cooking, gardening and sports heroes are to the fore.

During a recent discussion with a bookseller, he told me how a writer we were both dealing with deserved to be produced by one of mainstream publishing groups and he was frustrated that she had not been successful.

Booksellers would much rather writers dealt with mainstream publishers for practical reasons.  Although they may want to support local authors, booksellers find difficulty in dealing with self-published books from the practical viewpoint of inventory, marketing and accounting.  It is much easier for booksellers to account for sales involving highly computerized and controlled mass publishing and distribution houses.

Independent booksellers are heroes in their attempts to cope with the self-published, but they are facing overwhelming economic odds in trying to cope with the current marketplace.

As a result of this conflict of interests, I have started a project called Local Books as an offshoot of our publishing services company Business Media Services Ltd and its imprint BMS Books.  

Launched on 1 August 2014, the starting point for Local Books is reviewing self-published books sent in to ensure they are up to the standard required by booksellers.  Once accepted, we utilise our services to manage the marketing and sales of books on behalf of the writers.

What concerns me is that the pay-for-print businesses focus on production requirements rather than on what would be the traditional content required to make a book a professional product.  Writers paying by the page seem only too willing to sacrifice quality to save money. 

For example, books are very often printed without front matter, without a contents page for example.  The book one writer sent to included, as well as no front matter, upside down pages. 

It is important to advise writers whose self-published work is not up to bookseller standard.  I am hoping our service can help self-published authors before they spend all that eye-watering money on what amounts to "no fault" printing.  

The response from booksellers has been positive in that they recognize the importance of having outlets for the self-published, but welcome anything that assists in this process.  The caveat, which I take on board, is that although the service BMS is offering looks terrific, booksellers must still be able to sell the product.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Shadow of Priest’s Abuse over Author’s Grunt Sequel

I always get excited when writers bring me their manuscripts. More so when it is the second book we have published. Here is a note regarding a new book we've published.

In this case, author Mike Ledingham is tackling the difficult topic of abuse in the Catholic Church with Always a Grunt, the newly published sequel to his popular first book, Once a Grunt.

Like his first book, Always a Grunt is chocker with short stories laced with humour and sharp observations of human foibles and vanities. 

However, two of the stories also delve deeper into sensitive areas of emotional turmoil as they recount the tragedy of an infant’s death, and the sickening and unjust dilemmas a youngster faces after falling victim to paedophile priest.

“The feedback after the first book came out was really encouraging,” says Mr Ledingham. “So I feel braver about branching out into some different areas with some of the new stories. It’s still in the same style, though. People who enjoyed the first book won’t be disappointed.”

The stories are drawn from Mr Ledingham’s hugely varied life experiences as a farm worker, soldier, small business operator, real estate agent and armed security guard, to name a few. But he’s quick to point out that while his stories are based loosely on people and events he’s witnessed, he’s taken each episode further in “flights of fancy” and they aren’t literally true.

“There are a couple that are closer to the truth than one would ever really want them to be,” he says. “But I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which ones they are.”

Although the story entitled The Boy regarding a priest’s abuse of a boy and the impact it has on the family, could have been a book on its own, Mr Ledingham says it is a book for another time.

Always a Grunt is published by BMS Books, whose Director, Mike Smith is also the author of this blog.  He says he believes Mr Ledingham is among a rare breed of natural-born storytellers.

“Given the raw emotions involved, The Boy was a difficult story for Mike to write but his growing depth as a writer is reflected in the outcome of this and the other stories in this new book.

“Mike’s stories will have you crying tears of laughter one minute and weeping in sorrow the next. 
His subjects range from the bawdy comical to the tragically unjust, with plots and characters that are totally believable. He describes situations as they are, and he never preaches.”

Always a Grunt is directly from BMS Books, and at selected bookstores. If you can’t see it on the shelf at your local bookshop, ask about it. ISBN: 978-0-473-29049-8.

Or contact
Mike Smith
BMS Books
5 High Street, Rotorua 3010
Tel: 07-349 4107; 027-209 6861

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thoughtful teen book tackles difficult subject

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets by Hubert, Marie Caillou (Illustrated by)
September 9, 2014, Ship Date: August 18, 2014
$18.95 USD
Juvenile Fiction / Comics & Graphic Novels / General
Ages 12 to 18, Grades 6 And Up
Arsenal Pulp Press
128 pages

Color illustrations throughout

This well-illustrated and thoughtful book is difficult to review, because the Kindle versions distorted the formatting.  As a result, words jumped out of speech boxes in such a ways as to make it difficult to follow the story.

However, it was worth persevering with from the point of view of finding out how the author, with the single name of “Hubert”, handled a challenging story-line.

The blurb says “Adrian and the Tree of Secrets is a poignant, beautifully illustrated graphic novel about first love, growing up, and having the courage to be true to yourself”.

Rather than the usual story of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, they fall out, then fall back in love again and everyone lives happily after, this “bittersweet” story is about Adrian, who is described as a nerdy teenaged boy who falls in love with Jeremy, the cool kid in school.

This being France, the twist here is that the boys are at a Catholic school where the principal thinks rumours Adrian is gay as a sign that he is “ill”.  When cool-kid Jeremy takes the lonely Adrian under his wing (literally) in a tree hut, there can only be one outcome – the popular boy’s girlfriend spies them kissing – almost too predictably in the bike sheds – and tells the world. 

The crux of the book is what happens next, so it would be unfair to go into too much detail.  However, it is fair to say that Hubert does not spare the reader’s feelings in the concluding section.

The illustrations are by Marie Caillou, who studied fine arts in Strasbourg, France.  The illustrations are spare in both their form and use of colour but at the same time manage to be evocative. 

This is a thoughtful book that I would recommend.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Self-publishing News 11 July 2014

Hi - Some more inspirational, helpful and downright challenging stories on the business of self-publishing. Thanks to those contributors below.
Mike Smith
Business Media Services Ltd
Breathe...New...Life into your writing

Writing About Writing About Taylor Swift’s Writing
Everyone’s writing about Taylor Swift writing for the Wall Street Journal. Note to readers: Although not strictly about “self-publishing” this highlights virality of internet-based publishing tools.

Self-Publish Like a Pro: Finding an Audience
Nothing diminishes an author’s self-publishing dream quite like watching sales stagnate after a title’s release. An author aggressively promotes the book on social media platforms. Her friends, co-workers, and family members buy copies and write reviews to show support. But within days or weeks of the book launch, the author is hit with the sobering realization that sales have dropped off because no one outside of her immediate social circle is looking for it.

How to Get Successfully Published TODAY: Big 5, Indy, or Self-Publish?
It's the greatest time in history to be a writer. There are more ways to get published than ever before. While it's great to have so many options, it's also confusing.

5 People You Need on Your Team When You Self-publish a Kids’ Book
It doesn’t quite take a village but you might be surprised at how many people you should have on your team to self-publish a children’s book.

9 Self-Publishing Fiction Writers You Should Follow Today
Smart indie authors learn from each other.  One way to do that is through lots of scrutiny. To become a better writer, read those who write well. To improve your marketing, learn from the people with that skill. It’s likely that there’s already someone who has done what you hope to do.

Breaking the Literary Atrophy
When we hear or read the word atrophy, we tend to think about muscles . . . parts of the body as the definition above suggests. But what about writing? Can't it suffer from atrophy, too?.

Is your book a self-published masterpiece?
The Guardian newspaper UK is running a new self-publishing competition

Business Media Services Ltd
Tel: (07) 349-4107; Int: 64-7-349-4107
Mob: 0272096861
Skype: southemer
5 High Street, Rotorua, New Zealand 3010
Breathe...New...Life into your writing

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free fiction sampler takes reader to familiar, yet different territory

The New Voices in Fiction Sampler: Summer Selection
by Joshilyn Jackson, Hazel Gaynor, Mary McNear, Nadia Hashimi, Emmi Itäranta, CJ Hauser, Katherine Harbour, Rebecca Rotert, Holly Brown, M. P. Cooley, Carrie La Seur
9780062348791, 0062348795
Electronic book text

This selection of new fiction has been compiled by a New York Times bestselling novelist, Joshilyn Jackson.

The book comes in the form of a free e-book sampler as a "curated volume" of excerpts from "new and upcoming titles by debut fiction authors you'll want to get familiar with early on”.

The book starts with an introduction from Jackson and ends with an excerpt from her latest novel, Someone Else's Love Story, on sale now.

A certain sameness exists in some of the stories but others look at the world from a different angle. The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor, for example, takes a look at a group of Irish passengers before they board The Titanic and the aftermath of their devastating experience.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta has the kind of mystical and lyrical elements a reader might expect of the Finnish writer. The twist here is that this coming of age story is wound around the futuristic impacts of climate change and global warming. 

A more cynical might be tempted to suggest a compilation such as this is a wonderful way to get free publicity for your new book.  If it is, it works, because Jackson’s excerpt is probably the best read in the book.

It is a good idea and has is plenty to tantalise readers looking for a new writer to get stuck into, if not in the summer at least the winter time.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Self Publishing Newsletter 4 April 2014

Is self-publishing right for all Indies?
Debbie Bestwick explains why going it alone might be more damaging to your game than you think

Self-publishers take bestseller lists by storm
In January, the top 10 titles on Germany's e-book bestseller list were by authors who had self-published.

Do the Math: Traditional vs. Self Publishing ? … That's the Question!
Source: Judith Briles

Softcover Is A New Self-Publishing Platform Aimed At Technical Authors
Co-founder Michael Hartl is an author himself, having written the Ruby on Rails Tutorial. (He’s also a repeat entrepreneur, having founded Y Combinator-backed social-networking startup Insoshi.) Hartl told the web site author that between a publishing deal with Addison-Wesley and direct sales from the tutorial website, the book has made $750,000 — and Softcover is based on that experience.

Writing: How Do You Judge Self-Publishing Success?
Self-published authors from around the world - Canada, India, UK - consider the real nature of indie publishing success.

Genre lines: Why literary writers won’t self-publish
Source; Chris Meadows,

Fabian Rangel Jr Talks Kickstarter and Self Publishing in "Doc Unknown"
Fabian Rangel Jr is a pioneer in the world of independent comics having self-published the first volume of “Doc Unknown” on Comixology submit, he proves to be an inspiration for the little guy
Source: Zac Thompson

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Damning review of Dashiell Hammett's life tangled in committee

Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery
A Biography by Sally Cline
Arcade Publishing, New York

Two facts are the focus of this book: Dashiell Hammett created the blueprint for noir crime writers; and Dashiell Hammett was a very strange and not very nice man.

Hammett, who created the strong, loner detective model in Sam Spade, was also the TB-stricken boy who grew into a physically and mentally flawed adult.

I learned a lot I did not know from reading Sally Cline’s book and I now have a more complete understanding of what drove Hammett to create his shadow world.

The book is packed full of facts and backed up by interpretation of how these affected the lives of Hammett and his lovers, particularly Lillian Hellman and his wife Jose, and those around them. Without a doubt, this is a, if not THE, definitive biography on Dashiell Hammett. 

However, there is a problem with the book and it becomes apparent at the outset with the Acknowledgements section running to 2250 words. While there is nothing wrong in itself with thanking everybody in person or by name, it did lead me to dwell on whether the depth of the consultation influenced the eventual outcome of the book. As such, it has a feel as though it has been written by committee.

Sally Cline has given a comprehensive account of Hammett’s struggles post-the Second World War and the anti-communist lawmakers in Washington.  Here again, Hellman comes off with a less-than-blemished record.  

The great thing about this book, however, is that reader will know more about the characters of Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman.  My reservation is that in this case, it may be that too many facts (and opinions) got in the way of a good story.