Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More on the 5,000 Books

Anyone thinking over the issues raised in the YouWriteOn.com controversy, discussed a few days ago on this blog, ought to read the articles flagged up by Jane Smith during the comments – at her own blog and at Writer Beware. Fascinating stuff!

I guess that ACE must have granted its money in good faith, but I hope it's paying due attention to what’s being done by this organisation.

15 comments:

Jane Smith said...

Rob, thanks for linking to my blog. If you want to copy my post to here you're welcome to do so, so long as you link back to me and say it was my post originally.

I'd like your blog without the kind words, by the way. I'l be back (and that's not meant to sound like a threat...!).

Roddy said...

ACE need to dig themselves out of this one pronto!

It shows once again that there is a whole bunch of money to be made from gullible literary wannabes.

David Floyd said...

As I said on the previous thread, I'm 95% certain that ACE is not funding this specific project but the way that YWO are branding it is clearly intended to suggest that they are.

At the very least, ACE need to make clear to YWO that branding the scheme as: "Arts Council funded YouWriteOn.com will publish the first 5,000 writers" is highly inappropriate and potentially damaging to the ACE's reputation."

If ACE are being unwittingly used, a strongly worded legal letter should do the trick. If ACE are really funding this directly, I agree completely with Roddy.

There's lots of debates of what subsidy should be used for but I don't think many people argue that it should be used to provide a potentially more expensive, lower-quality version of a service that is already provided by the market.

Rob said...

Thanks, Jane. I think the link will do the trick. I'll add your blog and the Writers Beware one to my bloglist later today.

Roddy, Dave - the plot thickens, doesn't it? It's as though this organisation constantly conceals things - the 60 percent royalties it claims to offer turns out not to mean royalties of the book's cover price and yet it compares that 60 percent to the normal rates offered by publishers which are on the cover price!

They use a company which makes nearly £30 profit on every ISBN number.

They claim in an interview that their organisation has been started by ACE, a claim which ACE has completely denied.

The website seems designed to suggest ACE funding for this project - without, of course, quite saying that.

The whole thing, in my opinion, is really dodgy.

Jane Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane Smith said...

There are other issues going on at YWO too, apart from this particular one.

I find it very disturbing that the message board administrators seem to make a habit of infringing the copyright of all sorts of different publications and writers--if you check out the board, many of the posts there apparently consist of entire articles which have been copied across without any real permissions, licenses or attribution. I know that they've been taken to task about this: Ted Smith, the man behind YWO, has been admonished by a certain Victoria Strauss for large-scale cut-and-paste copying over at Absolute Write, where such things are taken very seriously.

In my view, that shows a distinct lack of respect for writers and their work, which is kind of at odds with the remit of a writers' board.

In addition, I've been told that member(s) have been banned from the place for objecting to how the scoring system works out the rankings upon which the crits are awarded. You can read the thread where it all blows up here:

http://www.youwriteon.com/forum/Deviation-Topic-8528-1.aspx

I'd urge everyone who is concerned about this to contact the Arts Council (writing's better, I should think, than a phone call)and explain their concerns. I know I'm going to.

(Sorry for that deleted post--I realised I'd not clarified everything, and so had another go.)

David Floyd said...

"- the 60 percent royalties it claims to offer turns out not to mean royalties of the book's cover price and yet it compares that 60 percent to the normal rates offered by publishers which are on the cover price!"

Yes the best possible explanation for this is: "YouWriteOn authors will receive 60% royalties for each copy sold to the public, compared to 12 to 15% royalties that authors usually receive through mainstream publishing." is that You Write On genuinely don't know how mainstream publishers calculate royalties.

To be charitable to YWO, the amount may be slightly more than you get on a book sold through a mainstream publisher but not more than four times as much.

Hazel said...

Hi Rob

I didn’t realise that the offer was similar to what Lulu offer. I thought it was an opportunity to publish x number of copies of your book at no cost, hence my reason to disagree with you objections. However, if this is just another scam to get money from unsuspecting writers then that makes me mad – I will do some detective work and contact ACE if I think there is something odd going on. I also don’t understand why it’s asking the writers to give up first rights of their books – if self-publishing (independently publishing) then you’ve no need to give up any rights.

Enjoy tomorrow night, wish I could be there as I'm sure it will be a good one.

Jane Smith said...

David, there are all sorts of problems with the royalties.

It's not clearly defined how they are to be calculated. The contract says that writers will get 60% "after printing costs" but doesn't define what constitutes printing costs: which in the worst case could be thought to include everything which gets the book printed, which wouldn't leave much of the cover price left to split 60:40 between the writer and YWO.

There's no indication of the cover price, which will have a big impact on the royalties. Last time I signed a book contract (and ooh, look, I've got another one here that I'll be signing when I've finished this!) that cover price was set in the contract.

And while you're right that it's possible that writers will earn more per copy from a YWO book than I will from my commercially-published books, the point is that most self-published and vanity-published books such as the ones that will come out from this scheme sell fewer than 100 copies each; while most commercially published titles sell a couple of thousand at least. So overall, the earnings are much, much greater.

Jane Smith said...

Hazel, you're right--it's just Lulu only with the YWO name on the imprint page, and without the opportunity for writers to proof or error-check the download.

Remember, though, that writers don't keep their first rights if they self-publish: those are gone the instant that the work is published, no matter who publishes it.

I found it interesting that the head honcho at YWO insisted on his message board that under this scheme writers would get to keep all rights, and that YWO wouldn't take any of them. Because in that case, they'd not have the rights to publish the work.... I still can't quite get my head round that one!

Hazel said...

OK, I've just read the site and sorry but I don't see what all the fuss is about. I suppose YWO is not really 'publishing' the books, just like Lulu don't. They are 'printers' of the books - you can use them or use the local printer (who probably won't do POD but will give a good service and allow you to proof read). In my eyes a 'Publisher' is someone you fight with over Title, Cover, content and marketing.

Jane, I see you write novels - very sensible - much more likely to be selling in the thousands. Poetry is different though and a few may sell in thousands but most are in the hundreds - a good reason to self-publish if you have all the skills.

Good debate though. I'm sure it will take writers to lots of interesting new places...including Jane's blog.

Rob said...

Just catching up! It just keeps getting worse...

Self-publishing is a viable option in poetry circles - depending on what you want (I don't want to repeat myself too often on this).

Hazel, you are right that people who know what they are doing can achieve decent sales (for poetry) in the region of a few hundred by self-publishing. It's worth bearing in mind that those people are few in number. Most self-published books sell to no one but family and friends. However, no one here has any problem with that in itself.

As for what the fuss is about (!) - Hazel, did you read Jane's post at her blog and the link to the Writer's Beware article in my post?. The fuss now goes far beyond my initial misgivings over the use of public funding.

Hazel said...

I did read Jane's blog - and several others - as you know how it is - one blog leads to another and now I'm a bit blogged up.

However, no one said very much that I agree with and I don't think your comments area is where I should go into detailed argument. Maybe I should do my own blog - or write a book - I wish :-)

As David Floyd mentioned, the public funding isn't going specifically towards this project but to the overall site which seems to have been quite successful for lots of people - look at the message boards on the site.

Everyone keeps saying that an ISBN only costs £10 which is misleading - this is only true if you require 10 ISBNs. The relevant authority won't sell in blocks less than ten...so really, if you've only written one book, it will cost you £100.

Anonymous said...

And if you order 5000 ISBNs, it will cost you pennies each, and if you charge them at £40 a time to the writers you are vanity publishing, you make the best part of £200,000 - all in return for the price of a few temp staff churning out their unchecked, low quality books!

David Floyd said...

"And if you order 5000 ISBNs, it will cost you pennies each, and if you charge them at £40 a time to the writers you are vanity publishing, you make the best part of £200,000 - all in return for the price of a few temp staff churning out their unchecked, low quality books!"

Yes, but as long as selling on ISBNs is legal I don't see anything much wrong with that. It's a service which people either do or don't want.

Given the choice, if I wanted to self-publish, I'd go direct to Lulu rather than through YWO but other people can make that choice for themselves.

My only real principled objection to when YWO are doing is to the willfully misleading information on their website, which I think the Arts Council should send them a polite but firm letter about.

The first rights issue wouldn't be a massive concern for most poets - or if it is, they've probably got their priorities slightly wrong.