Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God is smiling

The book lovers forum which I mentioned on here a day or so ago, has several authors within its growing membership including myself, and lots of interesting threads to get ones teeth into. One of these is aimed at the writing members, posing the question, why is it that we feel compelled to write. I have often wondered this myself, but nevertheless, was surprised to read this morning the answer that I typed after I got home last night. I was so tired that I am surprised I had the time or the energy to write at all, but then I often find, as do other writers, that my best work is produced when I am in that state, as spirit becomes detached from the body, allowing the mind to get out of the way.

Here though is what I wrote:

"I write for lots of different reasons - to express happiness, anger, sadness, despair and the sheer lunacy of life, but also to help me gain clarity on the burning issues that bore through to my soul and make me think and question what I see around me in the world at large, and also to make others think and question. I write as a means of learning and finding out more about the world - I teach what I need to learn. Most of all though I write for the sheer love of it, and because it make me feel good to know that in some small way I am making a difference to this world."

It took me a while to warm up this site, and I left for a while after I first joined following some comments that some ignorant so and so posted about how it was perfectly okay to rob authors of their livelihood by buying second hand books. Each to their own. It is all water under the bridge now anyway, and actually since I returned I have not seen that member on there anyway.

The discussion re Katie Price continues to rumble on on that same site, with members agreeing with my comments regarding how this may all be part of the divine plan to bring such issues to the attention of the public at large and open up a dialogue regarding such issues. To me it is and will always be about the authors right to be honoured as the creator of that work. In a way though, when it comes to ghost writing, it goes with the territory that this will not be the case, at least not publicly anyway.

Ghost writers are often very private people. It is a difficult but interesting and very lucrative profession to get into if you have the stomach for it, as it provides a license to get right under the skin of these celebrities and ask them all those pertinent questions that no one else can - not so much maybe with Katie, as let's face it, there is not much of her life that has not already been shoved down our throats anyway. Ghost writers are also paid handsomely for their efforts - usually for a set fee, but often with these celebrity books, if they are sensible and have a good agent who can negotiate on their behalf, for a share of the profits. They do the work knowing that it is part of the deal for their name not to be mentioned and not wanting the publicity that goes along with all of this.

I believe though that things are changing, and there is a big backlash going on against these practises that the industry would be wise to listen to. The public are wising up to the way in which they are basically being conned, and things will therefore have to change. This takes time to filter down through the echelons of the publishing industry, which is notoriously resistant to change. It will though happen, it is an inevitability and only a matter of time - it is not if, but when.

Perhaps a fair compromise would be for the ghost writer to retain her anonymity (I know her name, but most of Katie's fans and those outside the publishing industry wouldn't), but for the prize money to be shared equally between them. Mind you, with the fuss that this has caused, I would be very surprised if the book won anyway. If it does, then I don't think we have seen anything yet, but only time will tell. I do know one thing though; I can guarantee that this will not be the last time that a book such as this courts such controversy and debate.

The Bookseller website has had a few interesting articles regarding print on demand in the last week or so, which indicates that that change may be happening faster than any of us thought. The first of these by Tim Tevnan says that the number of books published in the UK skyrocketed to the highest level ever last year, driven by an increase in print on demand titles.
According to Nielsen BookScan, the number of front list titles (books with both an ISBN and a 2007 publication date) sold last year hit 118,602, up a staggering 36 percent from 2006 when the figure was 86,984.

The amount of back list titles with a pre 2007 publication date, which I guess then would include mine, as we did not change the ISBN for the second edition, sold last year also increased by 28 percent, up to 758,125 from 590,464 in 2006.

While some of this can be attributed to more products such as maps etc carrying ISBN's, this is largely due to the rise in print on demand books. André Breedt, Nielsen BookScan research and development analyst said: "there have been more front list and individual titles sold than ever before. What we are really beginning to see is the effect of books never going out of print with print on demand."

Richard Charkin, MD of Bloomsbury, JK Rowling's publisher said "what you see here is a reflection of a vibrant and healthy society." He went on to say "the principle is that it is simply getting cheaper to publish, but more costly to market to the high street." Tell me about it!

Penguin UK c.e.o. Peter Field agreed stating "if there are 120,000 books published, so many of them are POD or academic monographs, which just won’t make it to the High Street. For trade publishers, we each make decisions to publish based on what we can market and sell into the trade." More's the pity, as these figures seem to clearly show that despite these assertions, these so-called experts do not always get it right. Print on demand, as I have said so many times, has so much potential, not just for authors such as myself wishing to take control of their work, but also for those whose books have gone out of print. These figures then come as no surprise whatsoever to me or I suspect, the majority of print on demand authors both in this country and abroad.

The second story which only goes to underline my point, relates to literary agency PFD, whom it seems somewhat controversially, are also embracing this technology. The article states that PFD are 'entering into a relationship' with Lightning Source, enabling them to bring out of print works from many of their authors, both living and dead, back into circulation through print on demand. These authors include names such as V S Pritchett estate, the Storm Jameson estate and author Angela Huth.

PFD believes that this deal will fulfil two different services; firstly to bring these out of print titles back into circulation, but also to give them the opportunity to re-present titles to publishers with a concrete sales history, with a view to being republished on a mainstream list. I wonder if they would offer to represent me then with the history that I now have and whether I would be deemed to have made sufficient sales to be worthy of their attention?

The books will be available through all the usual outlets that are typically open to Lightning Source books namely, Amazon, Bertrams and Gardners, as well as via PFD's own website. This is the bit that causes the most controversy, as it means in effect that PFD have become both publisher and agent, and one cannot help but wonder whether there is a conflict of interest here.
Still it does show that print on demand continues to make waves and inroads within the industry in a way that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.

In the almost 2 years since the first edition of my book was published, there have been tremendous changes within the industry, which many thought would never have been possible With changes in the supply chain and the softening attitude towards self publishing and in particular print on demand, there has never been a better time to be embracing this route, and I am for one am really proud and excited to be in the midst of this revolution as one of the forerunners who has helped to bring this change about.

Sometimes I think that you have to hit rock bottom before you can come out the other side, as it is only by reaching this point that you can come to a place of surrender. It is no secret that things have been very tough for me of late, but I am at last beginning to turn the corner and see some light at the end of the tunnel (and thankfully it is not a train coming the other way!)

Last week I reported that I had received an order for 2 books from a Scottish branch of Christian book chain Wesley Owen. They sent the books straight back again though, leaving me £5 out of pocket having sent them on a firm sale basis in good faith. I emailed them for an explanation and was surprised to have an email back a few days later apologising and offering to send me a cheque to cover the cost.

The article in the the local paper was published in last weeks issue and has so far resulted in 2 more sales. I have also been offered the chance to have a stall free of charge at the end of April at one of my local town's most important and best attended annual events - the Brigitte Trust complimentary health day. I also today had an email from a friend from the astrology group I attended last night to say that she would like to buy 10 copies of the book to distribute to her friends. The number I still have to sell is slowly diminishing and God is smiling on me once more. Long may that continue.

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