Friday 24 October 2008

Publishing a book

It is difficult getting a book published. The first thing to do is to prepare a book proposal. Surf around and look for dos and don'ts: FAQs.<= There is a guide on this link. Finding a publisher will a difficult task. If you cannot find a literary agent (this site has much helpful advice), as does this post. Ensure that you create a writing proposal (e.g., ) and know your rights as an author. There are many Canadian Author's Federations. Contact them if you need help: Canadian Author's Federations and provincial associations can help you, the Canadian Writer's Guide is good reading. For many budding authors one is hard-pressed to find a publisher. One option is either self-publishing or publishing with a cost-sharing agreement. In this case you either carry, or share, the costs of the editing and printing. One must be careful, however. As there are companies out there with unethical practices. Beware of those advertising on the web, e.g., poetry books, as you risk losing much.

I could not find a publishing company at the time despite sending out many Book Proposals. These are the three options for a writer who thinks she has a story to tell. Margaret Reynolds, Executive Director of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C., says that self-publishing companies are actually 'publishing services companies', and are not covered by the ethics of book publishers. One source of info is Independent Authors & Illustrators of Canada.

My husband, after talking to a book store owner, bought me a book called, The Canadian Writer's Market (17th ed.). This book lists most of the publishers in Canada, their expertise, and whether they accept book proposals. In my case, I ruled out several companies, and presumed that the information would be accurate, e.g., that my books topic (Dying With Dignity: A memoir), would not be interesting to some companies. What a mistake. I should have sent my proposals to all the companies I could (I sent about a dozen out and heard back nothing). I think finding a local publisher, a co-publisher (who will split the publishing costs) and one in your own province, is important as they understand the market for which you are writing. In my case it is a book about Ontario's Senior's and Long-Term Care: Dying With Dignity.

A publishing services company might ask you to pay for a Reader's Report. For these businesses all of the costs are up front. (My first publisher was happy to take my money!) This report should contain enough information on: Plot Summary, Strong Points, Weak Points, the organization, structure, character development, voice and tense if these apply. Finally, the report will either recommend or not recommend that this be published by said company.

In my case, the publishing services company I checked out, Granville Island Publishers Inc.,(GIPL), charged me on a per word basis. It was quite exorbitant, and well beyond what a typical report should cost. Typically publishers should charge you between $250 and 300 for such a report. I was charged $832. My first draft was quite raw, and had too much in it. That said, it was quick reading and would not have taken all that much time to digest it. (My first sign that I was going to be ripped off.) I should have taken my contract and asked around some more. It was a lesson learned. The intimation by the business owner was that my book was terribly flawed, which they could fix.

It was a difficult time for me, I should have done a lot more sending out of proposals, but I did not. I gave up and thought this was the only place I could go. I received bad advice all around from this company. The publisher, Jo Blackmore, has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. She seldom responded to my queries, despite my sending her $8400, the first 1/3 of that which my contract demanded. I tried to come to an agreement and get some of my hard-earned money back, but she cited bad debt issues and will not refund a significant amount of money. I was such a fool. With no personal investment she has no motivation to create and sell my book. There were innumerable extras: bookmarks, distribution, storage of said books.

My money has gone to support this business, which appears to be having issues. Other individuals have left this publisher. At least I know I am not alone. There are rumours in the trade that she has a bad rep. I can attest to this as she was unresponsive, and defended her lack of time for me and gave me the impression that I was not important. She contaminates the entire publishing trade in Canada. I felt intrusive after sending inquiries about the progress of my book. She was defensive. Despite offering an apology or five, for her lack of attention, she has not refunded my money as requested. I think the business is suffering as both of us have agreed to terminate the contract, and she said she did not have enough cash to resolve the issue.

The book, No Laughing Matter, for example, has been 'out of stock' for months at Amazon. But there is something fishy about this publishing services company, as the company was selling the book as GIPL, and now is not. I wonder what has happened here. I have deep respect for this author.

A person working for an author's federation said, "It's a shame that so many so-called 'independent publishers' are in fact, vanity presses in the way they operate. They cleverly take advantage of emerging writers and withhold important information on both their websites and in their marketing material. They take advantage of an author's ignorance."

There are employees who have left due to highly unethical publishing practices. This is your fair warning. I have documented Granville Isl. Publ., Ltd. business practices, which leave the writer at a huge disadvantage. There are several issues: appallingly inflated costs to the author as she signs on with a publisher, unethical treatment of authors, lack of time and attention, that must be iterated. Despite protestations of good intentions and immediate action, the author is left high and dry.

Theoretically, the costs of the editing process are absorbed by the author, in self-publishing, with some mark-up for over head for the publisher. Then there is the cost of the printing process, which is similarly absorbed by the writer, and marked up by the publisher. They should be providing you with a good editor, timely responses, good advice, a commitment to your book, people to help you figure out how to market and where to market your book. If you self-publish you risk all, as you are on the hook for all costs, both seen and unseen. If your book does not sell, you take all the risk.

If you use a co-publisher, then costs can be shared by both of you, depending upon your agreement. In this situation they will give you good advice because they have an investment in the process. Otherwise, if you self-publish you are on the hook for delivering the boxes of books to book stores, as well as storage of unsold books. This can add up to costs that will bankrupt you. Boxes are shipped in boxes of 30 or so. They are not cheap to ship. Costs can be cut back if you send several copies to book stores, otherwise you are sending one book to one customer, and this is not cost effective.

The kind of information in my book (intended to help others), must have a reasonable price point. You must be able to sell the book at an affordable price. The price point must be less than the total $26,000/1000 copies that I was expected to outlay according to my GIPL contract. What a mistake to sign such a deal. The final costs to readers would be beyond the reach of those for whom I write: families and caregivers. The exorbitant costs reflect a publisher that is hard-pressed for cash and having difficulties in business. For a firm that demonstrates poor inattention to a writer, untimely responses to e-mail, and lack of respect during our teleconference calls (taking other calls while I was on the line), this was another clue that I was an unimportant person. When I complained, my answers were abrupt, demanded that I have patience, and the explanations included the importance of the company owner's time over mine. My treatment was sadly lacking any respect for my work and my time.

What I was promised would have taken two weeks, took months to do. An assistant promised that the publisher was eager to get started, but nothing happened. My book, in its raw state, was not passed on to the editor for two month. To add to this, my research has found that there are others who are, at the very least, 'disgruntled' with poor treatment by this company. I am not the only person. I have information that supports my claim and can reiterate my experiences. The word is, "Yes, we've had several complaints about this self-publisher and don't recommend the company to our members."

Honest publishers do not appreciate the kind of ethics some demonstrate - it is bad for the industry, for them and for their business. Beware the publisher you choose.

The Better Business Bureau provides little information about companies with, for example, unethical practices. They consider this to be a private deal and do not keep track of those who sign a contract. Despite this being a business deal, it may be a case of, and they caution one against, buyer's remorse.

The good news is that I found a co-publisher and we are sharing the costs of my book. It will be published in 2008.

Canadian Author's Federations

Canadian Writer's Guide

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