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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Just when you thought it was safe...

It was a sequel to Jaws, the not entirely originally titled Jaws 2, but it had the tag "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..." A classic line from Peter Benchley.

After sifting through the Bowker review of publishing trends, 2010 to 2015 and seeing the hit the Vanity press had taken, a hit so hard that Penguin Random House ditched Author Solutions at the beginning of 2016, and the declining numbers of authors buying their product I should have known there would be something lurking around the corner. Just when you thought...

I had that feeling when I clicked on David Gaughran's blog and started reading, he is running through the latest money scamming idea from the dodgy end of publishing, Vanity Publishers pretending to be legitimate trade publishers and hiding their true colours until the author has taken the hook, been played on the line and finally reeled in.

Just go to David's blog and read it here.

I'll let David tell the story, my job tonight is merely to pass it on, at David's request!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Looking under the carpet

That moment, you reach the point of searching for something and lift the corner of the carpet  to peer underneath, you know full well that what you're looking for isn't there, but you haven't already looked. So, the corner of the carpet comes up.

I guess it's also the moment that anything you swept under there before stares balefully back at you.

A couple of things had me looking around the other day, one was Bowker's Self-Publishing in the United States. 2010 - 2015; an analysis of print and ebook publishing trends and the other was a search at the top of the page. After wasting a few minutes, alright, more than a few minutes on the trending hashtags of twitter I moved on. I typed in Publisher's Weekly and read the search result at the head of the page; chooseyourpublisher.com.

Some time ago I posted a blog on the workings of the vanity presses in general and Author Solutions in particular, I remarked on the number of times the web page of something like FindYourPublisher had Author Solutions tucked at the bottom of the page (nothing has changed).

Chooseyourpublisher had; chooseyourpublisher. Now I was curious, so who are chooseyourpublisher, moving sideways across to an Internet domain site - I used get dotted  - I searched for chooseyourpublisher found the suffixes still available and clicked on the information icon of a domain name already taken and scanned the whois information.

Sound advice for an individual is to sign up for the privacy deal, big companies and organisations aren't always so particular. The owner of the domain name was tucked into the listed information and the usual suspects' information was there on the screen.

David Gaughran and Victoria Strauss and others have long held a spotlight up to the shady world of Vanity Publishers and the recent class actions dismissed against Author Solutions notwithstanding. Some of their activities deserve closer scrutiny.

What caught my eye about the Bowker report and the trends identified within the industry shed some light on Penguin Random House's quiet release of their hold on the company in January 2016. A contrast to the purchase four years previously

PRH bought AS in 2012 with considerable fanfare, and many thought the new owners would change the MO, not so! The old practises continued and the company expanded under the new owners.

However reluctant AS and PRH might have been to change their ways, the world was changing around them. The attitude towards self-publishing was shifting. Middle ranking and other authors previously held by commercial publishes were moving their back catalogues and self-publishing titles as they recovered rights previously signed away.

Commercial presses were already snapping up successful self-published authors and the expansion of authors working through the medium of the Internet shared their knowledge and experience. All contributed to a decline in the number of ISBN's issued through the Vanity outlets.

Caution is needed here; the Bowker document gives an indication of the trends visible through the distribution of ISBNs, Most self published authors are aware that an ISBN isn't essential for publication, so the picture laid out by Bowker isn't the whole picture.

What that might be is anyone's guess, but one thing seems certain, change is the only constant. Have a look at the article where I found the report and a hat tip to The Passive Voice for pointing me towards the-digital-reader.

Caution should be a watchword, check the links, dig deep into those who come knocking and ask Whois looking for your book to publish it, or help you do the donkey work. protect your investment. The time and effort you have put into your creation are worth it, and if you do make a mistake, pick yourself up and have another go.

When you need that boost, that hand up to get you back on your feet. Dust yourself down and remind yourself the large lady will have to find someone else to entertain.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Sticks and stones, and words too!

Still working with the idea that Brexit could be the source material for future creativity had me digging through the Spectator online the other day and an article about the Creative and Artistic response to the vote as expressed at the Edinburgh Festival. Lloyd Evans penned "Luvvie anger over Brexit is palpable at Edinburgh - and its exposing their true colours.

Are we seeing a social shift where the creatives coalesce into a distinct strata in society deserving of special status? the constant search for funding, sponsorship etc. has always been part of the creative life, but the sense of a right, that as creatives they have a right to be funded has become more ope and the right to pass judgement, to decide who and what the other side are; basically wrong is more openly expressed.

Evans explains that the tantrum throwing mentality of the artistic Remainers is understandable; why? They believe the vote will deprive them of lots of cash. The humour was aimed at the Leave voters and inevitably called into question their intellectual capacity. In four days of comedy he encountered only one pro-Brexit joke from Geoff Norcott who was puzzled by the Remainers conviction the vote had been swung by 'thick' Leave voters. 'Thick?' He said. "The Remain campaign waited until after 23 June to stage their protest.'

Humour is powerful, but it's the sense of power exuded by the Remain camp, that the will of the people, the democratic vote can be overturned by whatever means possible. Evans takes his analysis further, citing the satirist Andy Saltzman asking who was to blame and received a list of the usual political suspects, Cameron, Johnson, Gove et al. received a name check, but the real culprit  - if there is one - was never mentioned; Democracy.

Many writers, especially the thriller and spy genre wondered what would happen after the Berlin wall came down and Communism began to fragment in the early 1990s. None of us at the time could have predicted the events of the next twenty years, the conflicts, terror alerts and the current situation unfolding across Europe with the migration of thousands from the Middle East and Africa.

The material kept coming, more than enough for any writer to slake their thirst for inspiration. Is this the beginning of what we see unfolding within the United Kingdom, a wealth of intrigue and chicanery. Political manoeuvring and judicial interference. Mishcon de Reya,  acting on behalf of clients, has challenged the Government procedure regarding article 50, citing that it should uphold the constitution and protect the sovereignty of Parliament. I thought that's what the whole bloody fuss was about in the first place! Parliament's sovereign ability to function without interference from outside.

Maybe, I'm just being a thick Leaver, but doesn't the vote come after the debate, and isn't that what the relentless bovine scatology hurtling from every direction was supposed to be? Debate first, vote after, then action derived from the result and to quote the legal challengers  'the decision to trigger Article 50... rests with the representatives of the people under the UK Constitution. That's Parliament, by the way.

Literature has worked the theme of the difference between the top and bottom of society for centuries, Dickens explored the class divisions in many of his novels, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and others, all unpacked the society in which he lived. Nearly a century later in the 1950s, British literature embraced social commentary, and the voices of John Osborne, Kingsley Amis and John Braine - among others - the Angry Young Men made themselves heard.

The referendum revealed a complex division among the voters and the over simplification of Leavers and Remainers does neither side any good. The perspective decides the point of view, who is wearing the black hat and who the white? The good guys and the bad?

The House of Commons, the lower chamber of the High Court of Parliament, has 650 members and they asked a direct question and got a straight answer, It's first past the post and the simple majority prevails; the majority vote was to leave. Black and White,  not 650 shades of grey?

Barely two months since the vote was cast and the potential material is gathering already, who knows what the future will bring, thrillers edged with the internal tensions of former colleagues in Pan European co-operation working the national angle into a multi-national agency. The insider who now stands outside? All of it potential material. The rise of the Far Right, and the counter-balance of the resurgence of the Far Left. If you go far enough in either direction do you wind up in the same place - I just wondered?

Kick the imagination into gear and the list grows exponentially, material, material, material. Complex, convoluted, add words to the list. I could go on...

Not today,

One last thought. On the morning after the vote a BBC reporter asked Jean-Claude Juncker is the vote marked the 'beginning of the end of the European Union?' He gave a one word answer - no - and left the podium. What happens next? We are only just beginning to find out.

Friday, 12 August 2016

My Precious

David Gaughran posted a piece about the current state of the publishing industry and its attitude towards books and publication. Read it, go, read it, and then come back here. I have my own two pennorth to throw into the ring.

David is known for his advocacy of the cause against Vanity presses and the links between the scammers and the so-called reputable industry. His earlier blog posts are worth looking at regarding the Penguin Random House relationship with Author Solutions, and others.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


I recently bought my first Kindle device; not, I hasten to add the first e-reading device I've had, but definitely the first Kindle.

I've used the Kindle software on other devices, PC, laptop, tablet and occasionally grappled with the smartphone variant, with varying degrees of success.

The Kindle was brought to replace a Kobo mini; for what it is, a reasonably satisfactory device but the kobo had it's limitations.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Keeping it under your hat!

Declining eBook sales, and this has nothing to do with the effects of Brexit, this is routine sales figures for the last quarter. Nate Hoffelder at the-digital-reader.com flags up the recent reticence of the Big Five/Six to discuss eBook revenues, and the apparent decline in sales.

Jim Milliot picked up the thread in Publishers Weekly looking at the decline in eBook sales, citing user preferences changing and wanting more time away from screens.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Henderson's relish

My forays into twitter land can be somewhat erratic, hit one day and skip the next two or three. Tonight, after the day job had finished and I found myself at my desk - the one that looks over the park - I was flicking through the trends and stumbled on #Londonisopen. First reaction, I didn't know it had been shut, but then it is Monday and I suppose some of the businesses might close over the weekend, so I dug a little further and saw it was a post-Brexit trend (Are we already post Brexit, or did I miss something, I thought we'd only had the vote that was going to start the process?)

Turns out that it's an idea from the Mayor of London telling the world that London is still open for business. I don't want to spoil anybody's fun, but I think the rest of the world knows. It's sort of how things work. The morning after the vote nothing had changed, we are still, for the time being, part of the European Union and will remain so until someone pulls their finger out and starts the ball rolling.

Nothing has changed or maybe something has; the perspective. Personally I sense a shift over the past three weeks, sifting through the news feeds covering the reaction to the vote and the prospect of dealing directly with the UK as a trading partner I have become more aware of the wider world. The European blinkers have been peeled back.

The talk is Europe, Europe, but it's really the European Union. Europe is a hell of lot bigger than the European Union (it includes a considerable part of Russia, the  European bit of Russia is almost the size of the European Union- the border lies along the Ural mountains on the other side of Moscow and a little bit of Azerbaijan, a piece of Georgia, the Ukraine, Belarus. a section of Kazakhstan, and smaller section of Turkey.) There is almost as much of Europe outside the EU as there is in it.)

Is it the big fish little pond situation, close down the boundaries of the pool and the little fish look bigger, transfer them to the ocean and the perspective changes relative to the circumstance. Have we been so inward looking and Euro-centric we have forgotten the bigger perspective. Convinced ourselves that being one twenty-eighth part of something was better than standing on our own two feet. A couple of days ago, Love Actually trended on Twitter and one tweet suggested a petition for Hugh Grant as PM - for his response to the President's statement.

It is a good response, but should we be really looking towards a romantic comedy for our political inspiration, to find the balls to stand up for ourselves?

#Londonisopen, I'm not knocking the idea, by all means tell the world that London is still a brilliant vibrant capital, a melting pot of people and ideas.

In the post referendum moment where we are now there is quixotic feeling, of tilting at imaginary windmills, and a better slogan may have been provided by Mrs Laura Henderson, not the spouse of the Yorkshire Relish manufacturer but the proprietress of London's Windmill Theatre who's doors remained open throughout the Second World War, except for the fourteen days compulsory closure at the outbreak of war in September 1939; We Never Closed!

The Windmill added something to the image of London, a little bit of spice, a piquant tang, but whatever happened the show goes on. something to relish on an evening in town.

The Windmill eventually closed its doors in 1964, succumbing to the draw of the private members clubs in Soho.

#Londonisopen; so is the rest of the country,

Don't fool yourself that the leave vote was quixotic, It's not going to be an easy road ahead.

Patch the pieces together, where the traditional industries once drove the economy and noisy factories clattered to the sound of machinery now bear the silent hush of the Art Gallery. the fashionable pied-a-terre or bronze statues stand where metal was once poured, and plot the vote to leave on your map.

James Ashton's column in the Evening Standard today argues that London should not be pulled down to close the North-South gap. He is right, no argument with that. Kicking aside the restrictive traces of the European project was not about bringing London down to where the other regions are. that's a bad idea. Pulling everyone down to the same level helps no-one, we all want to enjoy the sunlit uplands of a strong economy. Who doesn't? Josh Burge posted a tweet to his blog reminding people why he thinks London is a great place, irrespective of the result of the vote.

It's grim up North! A stereotype attributed to J.B. Priestley in his 1934 book, English Journey and his depiction of the Northern landscape was widely publicised but not well received in the North. Priestley himself was a native of West Yorkshire.

He travelled across a landscape of heavy industry and saw a North-South gap. I wonder what he would make of it now.