Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: David Gaughran

#Publishing ~ Good and Bad

I’m going to report on three articles today—three views into the workings of today’s Publishing Industry… 

First, David Gaughran‘s piece, How The London Book Fair Helps Vanity Presses Exploit Newbie Authors.

An excerpt:

“The most prestigious event in the UK publishing calendar, the London Book Fair, welcomes predatory operators with open arms, deliberately positions them opposite author events for extra cash, and then helps to whitewash their reputation – even running misleading interviews and puff pieces on its own website to help them get more leads.”

David’s talking about what are called “Vanity Presses”.

They pretend to be regular trade publishers; but, they lure a writer in then attempt to trick them into paying exorbitant fees to publish their book.

This is extremely different from a writer who chooses to pay certain fees for services to help them Self-Publish.

It’s also very different from Traditional Publishing, where the writer (if providentially accepted) pays no fees; in fact, is given a cash advance

Two more excerpts:

“I’m sure many of you are angry about this – and you have every right to be. This is the leading event of the UK publishing industry, and one of the most prestigious in the world. And the London Book Fair is not just allowing these guys to appear, but it’s actively generating leads for exploitative services, and directly engaging in PR efforts on their behalf to make them seem like legitimate publishers.”

“The deeper I dig – five years of this, let me remind you – proves that these guys are central to the industry, and that whole swathes of the publishing establishment is geared towards separating inexperienced writers from their money in incredibly dishonest ways. And we never even talk about it, let alone take action.”

That’s the Dark Side

Now, for Jane Friedman and her article, The Publishing Industry in 2016: A Status Update.

“According to Nielsen Bookscan, for print book sales (primarily traditional publishing sales):

  • During the first quarter of 2016, frontlist adult fiction sales were down by 17% compared to 2015
  • During the second quarter, they were down by 4%
  • First quarter backlist sales were up by 4% compared to the prior year
  • Second quarter backlist sales were up by 9%”

Then, this:

“…the picture became more clear when the biggest New York publishers released their financial results for the first half of 2016—compared to the prior year:

  • Penguin Random House (PRH): sales down 10.7 percent
  • Hachette Book Group USA: sales down 6.6 percent
  • HarperCollins: sales down 2.5 percent
  • Simon & Schuster: sales down 3.5 percent”

One more excerpt:

“For Penguin Random House, the CEO said the shortfall was related to ‘the absence of newly published megasellers’, as well as the  poor performance of ebooks in the United States and UK. Helping make up for the losses: steady print book sales and audiobook sales.”

There’s a lot more in Jane’s article (especially about Amazon…); but, I’ll leave it to the folks who Need To Know to go read both Jane’s and David’s full articles

Finally, there’s an interview between Jane and Joanna PennPublishing Trends In 2016 With Jane Friedman—where Jane talks about “empowerment”; which, to me, clearly means Self-Publishing:

“There is a class of author who I think is more empowered. But I don’t think the emerging writer, the person without any credits to their name, are they more empowered? Not necessarily. But there are lots more options and paths for them if they educate themselves.

“But in that first book contract, if they choose traditional, it’s hard. It’s as hard as it’s ever been.”

So, three articles, lots of opinion, some facts—just like Life-in-General—Some Good, Some Bad, Educate Yourself………
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Would a Traditional Publisher Scam an Aspiring Writer?

I’ve published a number of articles about writers being scammed.

One was, How Can Writers Avoid Being Scammed?

Another, Help! I’ve Been Scammed!!

Both of those should be read carefully by aspiring writers (especially anything I linked to...).

Today’s post takes a particular angle on scamming

It’s not enough that “young” writers are encouraged to go the traditional route—many rejections by editors, bad contracts even if accepted, a pittance in royalties—Traditional Publishers can be some of the worst Scammers

That’s one reason I’ve written 150 posts about Self-Publishing

To learn more about how the “Big” publishers use scamming, let’s look at some of what David Gaughran has to say in his article, This Is The Modern Publishing Business.

Here are a few excerpts, with the first being High-Irony:

“Publishing, you see, is far above the rough and tumble of everyday capitalism. Publishers may make profits now and then, but only as an accidental by-product of their true pursuit: the promotion of literature. Without publishers there would be no books, of course, and we should thank the heavens that an eagle-eyed intern plucked Beowulf from a slushpile or the world would be very much the poorer.”

Next follows information on a huge scam in the 60s by a very famous editor at Random House…

Then this:

“…it’s the differences between today and the sixties which are most illustrative, and disturbing. Scammers used to operate – with a few notable exceptions – at the fringes of the industry. Today, whole swathes of the publishing business is geared towards shaking down aspiring writers.

“From exploitative vanity presses owned by respectable, mainstream publishers, to writing contests with egregious, grabby terms being run by well-known newspapers, to exploitative book display services being run in conjunction with famous book fairs – none of these practices are at the fringes anymore.”

I highly encourage writers to go read David’s full article; and, I even encourage readers to do it, since they may decide to not support traditional publishers with their hard earned money

Naturally, there are “self-publishing” companies that scam writers, too; but, it’s looking like the Big 5 traditional publishers will soon have bought all the ones an unwary buyer might easily run into…

You can find self-published books on GoodReads.

Or, check out this article on The GuardianLooking for a great self-published book? Here’s where to find it.

Then, there’s the Blurb Bookstore.

Or, you could try the FastPencil Marketplace.

And, don’t forget the Incredible Smashwords.

There are more places, of course; but, I don’t want to spoil your own search for books that weren’t Scammed into being

And, even though I’m a self-published author and this post heartily encourages the purchase of self-published books; please, don’t feel guilty if you really want a particular traditionally published book—go ahead and buy it :-)
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Writer Beware !

None of us wants to be told we’re acting childish.

Author Scams from Author Solutions

Image courtesy of Umut Kemal ~

Yet, how many times have you thrown caution to the wind, thrust your trust out front, and been sorely burned because you didn’t act in a completely mature manner?

I’m 68 and I still, occasionally, do that—though much less than in my fifties :-)

But, if you’ve spent years creating a novel and you’ve decided to not wait years for a possible contract with a traditional publisher and you’re sure you want to self-publish (and, you’ve been very adult in making the decision to self-publish), you might still be scammed by one of the shadiest companies on the planet.

One of the best people I know who’s been sniffing-out the tactics of this particular company is David Gaughran.

And, if you take that last link, do click on all the menu tabs at the top—he has some of the best advice for writers wanting to explore self-publishing

I’ve featured David in nine other posts ; but, his most recent post—The Case Against Author Solutions, Part 1: The Numbers—deserves a few excerpts to encourage you to go read it:

(What this scamming company does to find the people they dupe—bolding by me…)

As if that weren’t enough to make you act like a discerning adult, how about the “marketing packages” they push once they’ve hooked someone:

“Author Solutions uses high-pressure tactics and emotional button-pushing to sell these wholly unsuitable, completely ineffective, and hugely overpriced marketing services to these inexperienced writers. The papers filed in the class action suit mirror the hundreds of complaints that I’ve received and read in this regard also.”

And what about that traditional publisher who bought Author Solutions—Penguin Random House?

Here’s what the Chairman said when they merged:

“We spent time getting to know the people [at Author Solutions] and their sophisticated operation. They have skills that can help us at Penguin.”


If you’re considering having your book published, don’t let the innocence of your youthful spirit stunt your growth as an author—do, go read David’s full article (and, bookmark his site so you can read Part 2).
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Financial “Entitlement” Morphs Into “Legal” Outrage ~ Amazon & Hachette

Heard about the Battle—major retailer and big publisher?

Does it “matter”?


But, probably not in the way most of the news coverage would have you believe.

I’m going to give you a few links to some of the more ridiculous stories; but, first, I need to give you some defense against the verbal barrage.

Last year, in the post, So, What The Hell Is Wrong With Traditional Publishers?, I featured a piece by David Gaughran:

“Right after he indicates that the two essential players in the book-world are writers and readers and that retailers are at least acting somewhat rational about justifying their cut of the money (leaving agents, publishers, and distributors in a somewhat suspicious position), he says:

“’Publishers seem determined to move in the opposite direction: making the proposition of publishing with them less attractive rather than more attractive, reducing advances, worsening contract terms, and treating writers as marks rather than partners – despite whatever guff accompanies the launch of their latest initiatives.’”

And, another bit of defense against the other articles I’ll link to is this from Forbes:

As Hachette Battles Amazon, A Small Publisher Defends Bezos (Bezos owns Amazon)

O.K., here comes the media blitz

An apologist piece from The New York TimesHachette Chief Leads Book Publishers in Amazon Fight—that begins with “…Mr. Pietsch [the boss at Hachette] finds himself fighting not just for the future of Hachette, but for that of every publisher that works with Amazon.”

Hmm they seem to be overlooking that small publisher up there

Then, there’s the piece in SlateBringing Down the Hachette—that says:

“Literature could end up suffering

“If publishers make less money on every book, they are going to pay people less to write and edit them, and talented people will decide to do something else with their time.”

Maybe they could, uh self-publish………?

Plus, the article in Money MagazineWhy Amazon Is Battling Book Publishers — in Three Charts.

Maybe there’s some meat in this one but I’m a bit suspicious about reducing a complex issue to a few charts—as they say, the “map” isn’t the “territory”

And, again from The New York Times, an article that prompted the title I gave this post—How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon—which has these incendiary words:

“…unless Amazon backs down — through public pressure or government intervention — publishers will have no choice but to employ their own nuclear option…”

Finally, a piece from the Miami Herald—“Publishers could defeat Amazon — here’s how”—which, even with its overkill title, makes a bit of sense:

“To be sure, what Amazon is doing is of the brass-knuckle variety, and while I get that authors are upset, the reality is that it is publishers who have made a Faustian bargain: Unwilling to make their cost structures viable in a digital world predicated on much lower costs and much higher volume, and unable to build their own DRM and companion devices, publishers embraced the Kindle’s DRM, and thus gave Amazon complete power over the only means of enforcing the artificial scarcity that undergirded their old-fashioned business model.”

Anyone with any opinions about this issue is encouraged to leave a comment
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Thinking Self-Publishing Is Hard Can Be Dangerous . . .

There’s no doubt, barring felicitous coincidence, that traditional publishing is hard—finding a reputable agent, checking out the legally-dense contract, trying to negotiate better terms, losing a substantial amount of creative control, dealing with the strong potential for your book’s short shelf-life

David Gaughran David Gaughran, “34-year old Irish writer, living in Sweden, who spends most of his time travelling the world, collecting stories, and writing about them,” recently wrote Publishing Is Easy.

Of course, he means Self-Publishing and I recommend his primer on the process—Basics.

The ease of self-publishing is counterbalanced by the difficulties of the writing process and the need to promote yourself as an author.

Sure, it takes a bit of exploration and self-instruction to accomplish self-publishing, so it may seem harder than writing.

And, the favorite lie of social media “experts” that book promotion is easy should be cast swiftly aside

David, in that publishing is easy article, compares the difficulties of writing and promotion to the ease of getting your book out there.

Three snippets:

“Most people who think about writing a book never start one. Most people who start one never finish it. And most people who finish a book never polish it

“When you add together lack of experience or natural aptitude with mixed messages about what’s effective, you can see why many writers find the prospect of marketing daunting.”

And, the dangerous part:

when a newbie has been convinced that self-publishing is hard or expensive….they’ll take any kind of deal, or sign up with any fly-by-night outfit, or engage one of the vanity presses masquerading as a self-publishing company.”

As always, I urge you to take those two links to David’s articles and read them—unless you’re a successfully self-published writer; but, even if you are, you might still benefit from reading them :-)

And, if you want to read the 94 posts I’ve done about self-publishing, you’ll get an abundance of links to a wealth of information as well as discovering what I went through to find what I consider the “perfect” method to get a book published

[btw, you’ll see this post if you take that last link since I’ve tagged it with “self-publishing” (just scroll a bit to find the others and take the little “older posts” link at the bottom of each page to find more {plus, check out the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar for more topic collections}]
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