Sunday, October 14, 2007

Authors OnLine 10th Anniversary Celebration

Coran and I got back from out trip to Buckden near St Neots about an hour ago. It was an interesting and eventful weekend and great to meet Richard and the crew - his wife Marjorie who deals with all the administration, including author royalties, Gaynor who deals with book orders, and Paul who of course deals with publicity. None of them looked like what I expected, even though I have seen pictures of Richard, Marjorie and Gaynor on the Authors OnLine website! Richard is much taller than I expected, while Gaynor was a lot younger looking (she will be delighted no doubt if and when she reads this). Marjorie's hair looked a different colour, and Paul, well, what can I say about Paul .... he is certainly a character that's for sure.

His wife Babs had told me that he had very long hair and would be wearing a black Authors OnLine bodywarmer with gold lettering. Well the body warmer was there, but Babs had given him a haircut. He is a lot skinner also than I expected (sorry Paul) and smarter as well, since I had the image of long lank and greasy locks! He was dressed in a black shirt with white tie, with glasses and collar length grey hair with the broad Norfolk accent that made both Coran and I sound terribly posh!

He is though every bit as nice and friendly in real life as he is on the phone, and even allowed me to look through his little black book. That book is legendary among Authors Online authors. It is a tatty old thing, with a black cover and literally loads of contact details from Lands End to John O'Groats scribbled inside. Apparently this was only volume one as well, as volume two had been left at home. I can't wait to see that!

No one else can make head nor tail of this book, but somehow Paul manages to find things! I managed to find quite a few numbers in there myself, including the much sought after direct line to Borders Buying Team - bravo! Also Methwens, WH Smith and various national newspapers and magazines, not to mention Cactus TV who do the Richard and Judy show (getting on there is to Brits what Oprah is to Americans, with featured authors practically guaranteed sales of at least 50,000 copies). Actually I happen to know that the lady responsible for deciding which books are to be featured is doing a talk at the Guildford Book Festival in a couple of weeks time. I shall have to get some tickets then and book a front row seat. My book has already been submitted, but talking to her in person wouldn't be a bad thing ....

Around 40 people then were there in total; mostly other authors, but also some proof readers, cover designers and illustrators. There was supposed to be rep from Lightning Source there as well, but I am not sure what happened to him. I suspect I was so busy talking to everyone else that I missed him. Still, I am sure they would talk to me and answer questions direct if I needed them to, and I may well do soon, since I have decided it is high time I started work on my next book - Conversations with POD.

There do not seem to be that many books around on the subject of POD and how it works and what authors can expect. Those I have seen seem to be predominantly for the US market and I certainly haven't seen any in the shops. There are plenty of books out there on how to self publish, but they concentrate mainly on short print run with only a few pages on POD, and most of the information in them is somewhat misleading and out of date. I thought then why don't I write a book detailing my own experiences and explaining how it works, with a series of interviews with POD authors - hence the title, Conversations with POD.

I mentioned it to Richard briefly but had a more in depth discussion with Marjorie as Coran and I were leaving - both seemed to like the idea very much indeed. I would have a ready made market for sure, as thousands of people embrace the POD route each year with providers springing up all over the place. The potential then for sales with a book like this is huge.

I have set up a blog site to get the ball rolling and posted on a few forums inviting POD authors to submit. I will email Richard tomorrow I expect and have a more in depth chat and ask him to post it on the authors area asking people to submit, and then I will start to write the rest.

Talking to the other authors then has re-fired my determination to really crack on with both books and get the publicity machine firing on all four cylinders. I was struck by the sheer amount of talent that was there in that one small room yesterday - authors of all different genres, from all different walks of life, all with their own experiences to share. There was a display of every single POD book that Richard has ever published - including the very first one (he was the first POD provider in the UK - the original and still the best) covered in plastic in order to preserve it. Richard jokingly said that book is his grandchildrens inheritance, but actually I don't doubt that he is right, as in years to come it will become a museum piece. He knows and I know that POD is the future of publishing, but the rest of the world is yet to catch up ....

The company has also some ambitious plans for the future, which were mentioned in speech by Richard and Derek, one of the company founders who went away for a while but has now come back into the fold. They have plans for a kind of POD book club where people will pay an annual or monthly subscription and buy Richards books at discount, giving feedback on the quality and price, and whether or not they are worth that price. These reviews and comments can then be used to publicise the books, and also ultimately to change opnions from inside the industry, challenging the vanity press perception of bady written and over priced books.

They also have plans to have stands in independent book stores supplying the books on sale or return and even getting poeple to sponsor the cost of publishing certain new titles. Interesting times then ahead.

It was then an interesting weekend of networking and exchanging ideas and information that left me in no doubt (not that I had any to begin with) that I have chosen the right company to publish with.

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