Friday, September 26, 2008

YouWriteOn publishes POD books for free

A few days ago, I received the following email from Arts Council sponsored peer review website, YouWriteOn. It reads as follows:

"Dear YouWriteOn member

Arts Council funded will publish the first 5,000 writers who contact us for Free - fiction and non fiction.

To participate follow these 2 steps:

1) Email, and inside your email add your name, address, telephone number, book title, genre, length of your book, and a synopsis up to 50 words
2) We will contact the first 5,000 people who email us by 31st October 2008. Your book will be ready to order by readers as a paperback by Christmas. Open to UK and US residents."

The email goes on to provide further details of previous successes that the site has launched (all fiction, since the site is for some inexplicable reason, closed to non fiction writers, as indeed all other peer review sites are, with the exception of Authonomy), and provide details of how this deal will work.

Books will be available to order direct through the YouWriteOn site, and members will be able to review them and contact each other in the same way as with other works downloaded on to the site. The authors will receive a 60 percent royalty for each copy sold, paid six monthly, as opposed to the usual 12 to 15 percent paid by commercial publishers. The books they say, will be the same quality as bookstore or 'trade' paperbacks, and the author will retain all rights to their work. It goes without saying that the books will not be lithographic, but print on demand.

The offer, which seems a good one, is open to UK and US residents only and the contract is non exclusive - what this means is that if you are made an offer from someone else, or have other reasons to withdraw the work from their site, then you can do without any further obligation.

While this offer is entirely free, the books do need to be in a publishable state, since here is the catch, no editing or proof reading is offered. While it is true that works that have been on the site for some time may have been subject to a form of proof reading on the part of the readers, who point out mistakes so that they can be corrected, this is not the same thing as a professional edit. I can already hear the battle cries of 'vanity press', and believe you me, certain sectors of the industry will seize on this as an excuse to use that term and be very derogatory indeed about the resultant books. It does make one wonder whether this is such a good deal or not. It does though do a lot to help raise POD's profile, and I have to say that in general, YouWriteOn are a very POD friendly bunch, offering US authors affected by the Amazon debacle earlier this year, the chance to advertise their books (once again fiction only) on the site for free.

On the other hand, it this that much different to what other POD providers offer, such as Authors OnLine Ltd? In some ways no, but in others, yes. Authors OnLine and other reputable print on demand providers (there are a few of them) have access to freelancers whose role is to edit and proof read (for a fee) works that they publish or put their name to. They also offer help with marketing (if you ask) that goes far beyond placing it on a website and asking people to review it. On the other hand, they are not as high profile as YouWriteOn, which attracts some heavyweight members, with the chance of being spotted and picked up by one of the big boys (or girls - and several authors have been).
Of course none of this is of any significance to the non fiction writer (and bear in mind that most print on demand books are non fiction, as indeed most books are in general - the market for fiction is small in comparison), since YouWriteOn do not publish such material on their site anyway, yet the free publishing offer does include non fiction. Maybe they are planning to open the site up to non fiction in the hopefully near future, I seem to remember them indicating that to me in an email, but the details are hazy.
The other catch is the relatively low, but nevertheless, competitive cover prices that they hope to set, of between £5.99 and £7.99. With print costs of around 1 penny per page, plus the cover this will not leave much left over to pay the author their royalties. Mind you, 60 percent is still more than the 12 to 15 percent that commercial publishers pay, although the site doesn't stipulate whether royalties are based on net prices (after print costs etc are taken off) or the actual cover price. I would need to see the contract to know that, and seeing as I have nothing to offer them, that might be difficult ...
This seems such a good offer, that it is pity I don't have anything suitable. Perhaps I should consider publishing this blog ... Would you be prepared to buy it in published form - answers in the comments section please ...

Since the books will not have an ISBN (unless you pay extra for one - essential in my opinion), they will not be available in book stores or via the usual Internet retailers (Amazon, etc). This will cost an additional £39.99 through a separate partnership with Legend Press.

If you wish to submit your work, simply email The offer is open to applicants of all nationalities.


Susan said...

Hi June, popped on up to visit as I saw your link on talkback. I also had the eamil about the youwriteon 5000 but have decided not to go for it. I'm too busy rewriting umpteen synopses and need to write a prologue which should have been done today, but will have to wait until tomorrow before I can get back to it.

Jane Smith said...

I've blogged about this today, and Writer Beware blogged about it yesterday. In my view, this is an offer to be avoided: it gives no advantage that self-publishing provides, and could be damaging to the reputations of all concerned.

For more detail on why I, and many others, don't like this offer have a look at my blog There's a link in my post to the one from Writer Beware. Apologies for the self-promotion: I just want to ensure that writers know what they're getting themselves into before they sign up.

June said...

Thanks Jane, and don't worry this is not about self promotion, but about helping others.