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Posts Tagged ‘Suw Charman-Anderson’

Beware of False Claims

Beware of False Claims

Caveat Emptor”; it means “buyer beware”. Scams and rip-offs are nothing new, and writers are not exempt from being targeted, especially eager new writers. I recently read an article on Forbes by Suw Charman-Anderson about this very subject, and I couldn’t help but think of all the ways that people can be taken advantage of in this industry.

We’ve all heard about the evils of vanity publishing, which is not to be confused with self-publishing. To my understanding, vanity publishing is where a writer hires a company, for a fee, to publish their work. There is little or no support on behalf of the so-called publisher, no editing, no cover art support, no marketing and promotion. If the writer would like these services, they agree to pay the publisher additional funds for them.

On the other hand, self-publishing has gained huge recognition in the publishing industry at large, and has grown exponentially around the globe. In this instance, writers are taking the bull by the horns and, rather than rely on agents and/or publishers to get their work into the hands of the reading public, they are doing so themselves. They are working directly with companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc., to upload their original works into ebook formats, and contracting the direct services of legitimate printers, editors, cover artists, etc., to produce quality books that rival that of the big six publishers ( Critical Pages).

Racing Ahead

Racing Ahead

But here’s the catch, in the eagerness to self-publish, some writers are being pulled in by scams that claim to assist them in getting their work out there to the masses, for a sometimes very substantial fee. According to Charman-Anderson’s article, and others that are emerging, some of these seemingly legitimate sources are proving to be anything but helpful. In fact, claims are starting to emerge about companies, such as Author Solutions (AS), that are apparently backed by Penguin, one of the world’s leading publishers. Who can fault the writer for believing they are safe with a company backed by this big hitter? Not me. With so much falling to the writer in terms of marketing and promotion, design, formatting, reaching audiences and growing a solid author’s platform, I completely understand how some writers are lured in by the prospect of obtaining some “professional” help in these areas. We are overwhelmed and underfunded, but also eager and determined to “make it” in this cut-throat business of book publishing. The writing part is nothing compared to these stresses.

But wait, what can writers do to help ensure this doesn’t happen to them? Well, I’d suggest reading as much as possible about industry related news, to learn who is doing what. The amount of information available on the net is massive, so start small and just begin by typing in words like “publishing”, or “publishing news”, etc. Look around, become familiar with sites you really like, bookmark them, and frequent them often. Next, I’d suggest researching online about possible bad reviews of publishers, editors, and agents. Yes, these reviews exist. Websites like Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write Water Cooler, etc., give reviews and comments on companies who have run afoul of other writers. Also, by Googling the name of a company you are considering, you can learn a great deal about the dealings of a potential company claiming to help authors self-publish. If there are bad reviews out there, best to discover it before signing on the dotted line and paying out hard-earned money.

Another way to be prudent of course, is to have a lawyer examine any and all contracts before signing them. If there are any hidden fees, or obscure wording that doesn’t completely spell out what the company will and won’t do, a lawyer experienced in reading such contracts will ferret it out and advise you. This will cost you money for the lawyer, but perhaps better that than discovering, well into the process, that you are caught in a trap that you’ve paid for.

If it walks like a duck...

If it walks like a duck…

In the end, it really is up to each individual writer to treat their work as a business and ensure, to the best of their ability, that they have checked out any potential company they are considering working with. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This means there is even more reason to check everything out thoroughly, before committing to anything.

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Yo ho!

Yo ho!

I recently read an article by Suw Charman-Anderson, Forbes Magazine, whereby she talks about the issues of ebook pirating. As Charman-Anderson states, ‘Piracy’s here. It’s staying. We can’t stop it. So we need to find inventive and attractive ways to work around it.’. I have to say, I couldn’t agree more.

Theft and/or piracy have been around for a long, long time. Since time immemorial, people have had to come up with ways of engaging the legitimate buyer and enticing them to purchase their product or service at market value, rather than through theft. Yes, there have always been those who have sought ways to steal rather than purchase, but I believe most people would rather be honest and do the right thing.

She also mentions that authors themselves have a vested interest in connecting with readers and thereby thwarting the pirates. Lovely as the vision is of sitting in my little corner and writing all day long, or at least as long as I want to, I know I need to step outside myself and connect with others if I want to sell any copies of my book. If I want to let others know of its existence, of its virtues and value, then I have to beat the drum myself. I’d love to have an agent or publicist who would take on some of that burden, but in today’s technological world, even the most famous authors are having to put a face and voice behind the books they write.

When we encourage connection with others, they in turn are less likely to want to steal our work. They are hopefully encouraged to share the word and help out by telling others to purchase our books, read our blogs, or watch our media spots. I mean, have you seen James Patterson touting his latest book on television lately. Yep, I have. Good for him. Now when I see his face, like in a cameo on the hit tv series Castle, I recognize him. I’m intrigued and am sent to my ereader, library, or bookstore to look up his titles and read them. He has personalized his writing for me.

Second hand books

Second hand books

Then came the word about Amazon’s second hand ebook market. According to Publisher’s Weekly, and a host of other sources, it seems they’ve been granted a patent that will allow them the resale of digital material, like books and music. Yikes! What does that mean for me as an author? What does it mean for publishers? Plenty, since it means we all have to again rethink what it means to sell a book on any one venue. Personally, I’d like to have my work out there on as many viable venues as possible, rather than keeping my eggs all in one basket. Maybe that’s one way around this thing, but if Amazon is successful in the second hand ebook market, others will jump on the band wagon. So, again, it’s up to authors and publishers to give readers a reason to buy new and possibly direct. We need to be as flexible as a hose if we’re going to stay in the game, and we need to let our readers know that we’re here for them, that we’re real live human beings with lives and families and financial issues, just like them. If we can do that, maybe it won’t matter what this crazy publishing business does.

There have always been pirates and knock-offs, and those who will try to undersell you, but if you stay true to your center mark and offer the best of yourself possible, growing and learning as you go, you just might weather the storms ahead. Keep your umbrellas and rubber boots handy though – it’s gonna get wet!  umbrella in rain

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Review Writing

It’s been all the buzz in the publishing industry. Amazon has been pulling reader book reviews on it’s website, seriously upsetting authors world-wide. It would seem that, in this case, one bad apple – or even half a barrel, do spoil the whole bunch.

This appears evident in the “sock puppet” case, whereby prize-winning English crime writer, R.J. Ellory, admitted to having written negative reviews of other writers’ books under a pseudonym, while at the same giving his own works glowing reviews on the same sites. In an article on Forbes.com, Suw Charman-Anderson tackles this subject, effectively explaining and expounding on the issues. After reading it, I had to admit I agreed with her position. Is Amazon throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Hmm, maybe so.

Staff writer for the L.A. Times, Carolyn Kellogg, states that, when one author questioned Amazon in a letter, he received this reply in return, “We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.” According to both articles, this seems to be the standard reply. Not very heartening.

Okay, I understand you don’t want reviewers who gain financially from a review, and it can and does happen, but what about the thousands of writers who write legitimate reviews on books we’ve personally read? I’d have to say the number of authors who write honest reviews would far outweigh those who try to manipulate the system. As both Carol and Suw state, all authors are not evil rivals. I feel this way about the sales industry too – sure we’re all out there working our butts off, but we can also be our own greatest source of support, if we choose.Being new to the industry and naïve, initially I was shocked to learn that this was happening. I’d also never dreamed there were paid reviews, which could quite easily be skewed in favour of the paying author or publication house. Then I thought about it. It isn’t so shocking really. This type of underhanded behaviour happens in virtually any money-making business. Competitors are often vying for the same market, and everyone wanting a bigger piece of the pie. But that doesn’t make it right.

We can all help

I’m an author, but I’m also a reader. It’s no surprise or stretch to imagine that writers also read – a lot. We often become writers because we read. As I put one foot in front of the other in this business, I look to other writers who’ve gone before me, as well as the ones who are walking the same road beside me. Some day, I’d love to be one of the writers who will reach back to those coming along behind me. To me, that’s the way life should be. We all help each other, not out of avarice or desire to get something back, but because we want to; because it’s a hard road and helping one another makes it a little easier, and a lot more fun.

As a writer, I also review other author’s books. I understand what goes into making a good book, how hard it is to find the right words, the struggle to get the story from a writer’s mind and into the hands of readers, and the learning curve to understand the requirements and demands of the complex publishing business. It’s tough.

After writing for countless hours, we then shake out our confidence and don it like a voluminous overcoat to protect us from the onslaught of rejections we receive from agents and publishers who tell us “no thanks”. More and more authors are tired of running the gauntlet and facing the gatekeepers inherent with the traditional publishing mode. They’re stretching themselves even further and becoming “indie” authors—writers who publish their books independently, using publishing venues like, oh, Amazon.

Amazon has long been the friend of authors, without whom they would not have climbed so far up the publishing and distribution ladder. It’s supposed to be a symbiotic relationship, but as with so many things in business, rules and regulations take over from common sense. People misuse and abuse the trust placed in something as simple as a book review. Amazon has always used these reviews in their algorhithms and ranking of titles and authors, but also posted them for other readers, so they can get an idea of whether a particular book strikes their fancy. Simple.

When I think of all these shenanigans, I wonder why people have to muddy the waters. I mean really, to me, a review is kind of like a thank you, or at the very least, constructive criticism. It’s also intended to help other readers choose a book or author they might enjoy. But then I’ve always believed in thanking others for a job well done, or offering honest praise/feedback.

Even when standing in a line-up, if I really love the earrings, shoes, whatever, of the woman ahead of me, I’ll tell her so. We’ve become so insular that, on hearing the praise, the woman is always surprised. Then she smiles—a genuine smile, and says “thank you”. She goes away smiling. No matter what else is going on in her day, someone said something nice to her, or noticed the extra effort she took while getting dressed that morning. So simple.

I also work for a rewards and incentive marketing company, and one of the things we try to remind CEOs and company HR personnel, is that rewarding and recognizing employees, referral sources, and those who help make your business a success throughout the year, can pay huge dividends. People respond more favourably, and are more inclined to give back to the company, when they feel appreciated. Simple, yet effective.

 

Simple, yet effective

So, I can’t do anything about how others conduct themselves in this world, but I can do something about how I deal with others. I can approach the business of sales, writing and publishing with integrity, and when I review a book, article, or comment on a blog, I can do it with honesty. If others want to misconstrue my good intentions, I can’t change that. I am only in charge of me. Simple.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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