Sunday, 14 July 2019


Popular advice states that in any publishing relationship, money should flow toward the author. It’s easy to see how that applies in the case of notorious vanity presses like Author Solutions, Austin Macauley, and Outskirts Press, companies with a reputation for extracting as much money from authors’ pockets as possible. However, the idea that paying for any publishing service is inherently bad is emphatically not the case.

So, when should you pay to publish your book, and how does the ‘money flow toward the author’ rule apply?

A La Carte Services:
The term ‘self-publishing’ is a bit of a misnomer. Few people have the aptitude or experience to handle every aspect of a book’s production, and so most authors rely on outside help. Whether that’s hiring an editor, a cover designer, a marketing service, a distributor, or any other service.

For money to flow toward the author it doesn’t mean you should never pay someone as part of your book’s production. It only means that those services must be cost effective and add to the author’s bottom line. Authors must be confident that any money invested will return in the form of sales.

A la carte services can be essential to maximizing your book’s sales. It easy to see the value of these services when they are part of an isolated transaction. You pay a company x, you receive y, and the value received for your purchase is determined. It’s that straightforward. If the work pays for itself in a reasonable time, then money is flowing toward the author, and you have received value for your investment.

Publishing Packages:
A full-service publishing package carries a daunting price tag, and should provide a level of service that justifies the cost. Before you invest your money, look for evidence of other successful books the company has produced. Are they selling well? Do they have ample reviews? Have they reached and sustained a relatively high sales rank on Amazon?

Don’t purchase a publishing package without a clear idea of how many copies of your book you’ll need to sell to recoup the cost. And the evidence that you’ll be able to do so in a reasonable amount of time. If most of a company’s books are tumbling into the bottomless pit of obscurity, question if you can trust them to elevate yours?

All-in-one publishing packages are frequently padded with high-cost, low-value fluff, which complicates the task of evaluating whether a package is worth your investment. Watch out for items like:

  • ISBN numbers - These should be owned by the self-publishing author, and are obtainable directly from registrars like Nielsen (in the UK), Bowker (in the US) and Thorpe-Bowker (in Australia).

  • Copyright filing - There are a number of Copyright Service Companies available in the UK for copyright your draft manuscripts. Once published your work is automatically copyrighted to you. For Authors selling in the US you can register a formal copyright online for a $35 fee, in under 15 minutes. Some companies may charge hundreds of dollars for this service, then hide the cost among the rest of the publishing package services so be aware.
Inclusion in catalogues and websites:
Few services have the reach and fan base to promote your book this way, particularly an obscure small press or relatively unknown service provider. But keep in mind that quantity isn’t everything as the ultimate goal of any marketing is not just to reach large numbers of people, it is to reach the specific audience most likely to buy your book. 3 million Twitter followers won’t make a difference to your book’s sales if those followers are not interested in your genre. Or they are spammers and bots looking for a ‘follow back.’

If the publishing package you’re considering is holding these services up as valuable considerations, reflect on how much of the fee can be broken down into the discrete services whose value you know. You may be better served by an a la carte service where you can shop for the best value, and know exactly what those services are costing you.

These services may be a useful investment in the production of your book, but being able to determine whether money is indeed flowing back to the author is the key to separating a good service from a substandard one.

Pay-to-Publish Schemes: 
Readers pay little attention to the publisher or the imprint of the books they select. Factors like cover appeal, description, and reviews carry far more weight than the publisher’s name, particularly a smaller imprint that’s not widely recognized.

Under no circumstance should an author pay solely for the right to be published under an imprint. This is the essence of vanity publishing, and a key difference between a contracted self-publishing service provider and a traditional publisher. Whereas a service provider is simply performing a service for payment, traditional publishers have a greater responsibility for the works they issue.

If the ability to pay is the primary criteria used to determine whether someone will be published under an imprint, then that publisher cannot make any claim to the prestige of their imprint. And if they are curating what they publish on the basis of profitability, and are confident in the success of the book, why are they demanding the author pay?

Which brings us to the final category…

Subsidy/Hybrid Publishing:
Subsidy publishing, also known as hybrid publishing, claims to offer the benefits of traditional publishing arrangements, but requires the author to pay some or all of the publishing costs. In theory, the author receives a greater percentage of royalties in compensation.
Because there are countless bad actors attempting to reframe vanity publishing as ‘hybrid publishing,’ the ALLi Watchdog Desk advises extreme caution when presented with this type of arrangement. There are some reputable hybrid publishers and small presses operating in this way, but distinguishing this ethical minority from the exploitative majority can be quite a challenge. The ALLi Watchdog’s chief concern about hybrid publishing is that it can disproportionately shift the burden of risk onto the author without there being any compensation.

In traditional publishing, the publisher bears the responsibility for ensuring that a book is profitable. They undertake the cover design, editing, the production, distribution and other publishing responsibilities, but keep most of the book’s sales as compensation. If the publisher fails in their responsibilities and the book does not sell, it’s the publisher who takes the loss. Therefore, they have a strong incentive to ensure the success of the book.

In self-publishing, third-party service providers are responsible only for delivering the services they are contracted to perform. The transactions are clear-cut, and the provider’s obligation generally ends once the service has been delivered. The author retains overall control of the process and bears responsibility for the success, or failure of the book. They reap the rewards of their investment in the form of much greater royalties.

With hybrid publishing arrangements, the author pays the publisher up front, and thereby assumes nearly all the risk. If the publisher fails to deliver on their promises, and the book does not sell, it is the author who bears the cost, and the loss. Worse, the publisher already has their profit in hand, so has that much less incentive to invest in the book’s success. And to cap it off, many hybrid publishers also retain a significant chunk of the royalties. The author is financing the production of the book and absorbing the risk, just as they would in self-publishing, but is giving up a measure of control, sacrificing royalties, and may not receive value commensurate with the risk they’re undertaking.

Hybrid publishing is an important example of why the ‘money flows toward the author’ statement is a crucial guideline. In traditional publishing, that assurance in built into the contract. Money either flows from the customer to the publisher then to the author, or it doesn’t flow at all. And, the publisher’s profit is dependent on selling the book. But in hybrid publishing and self-publishing services, there is no guarantee built into the arrangement. And a one-way flow of cash from the author is a real and omnipresent danger meaning the author must take great care to verify that money flowing away from them will return, multiplied.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019


It is surprising how one can travel to the other side of the world only to find oneself sitting next to someone who actually lives not far away from you. This proves the world isn’t as large a place as we think. And can also often lead to interesting conversations. Travel is also an adventure which will open one’s mind to many new and exciting experiences. And, in truth, as long as you don’t look with your ‘eyes,’ (ie your prejudices or ideas) then it will.

As an author you can benefit from the joys of travel as it will give you the basics for your writing. It can generate new ideas, scenarios, characters, plots etc. Each adventure is a new story, or part thereof, in the making. As the author you are in control. Make of it what you will.

Recently I spent some time with my family in Australia. If you’ve never been ‘down under’ then let me tell you, like most places anywhere in the world they have some of the most unusual names for things. Particularly when it comes to naming their towns and villages. Perhaps its something to do with their Aboriginal heritage. Think of ‘Palkana’ or ‘Yileen.’ Most unusual.

While out driving my daughter and I began to put the names of the places we passed against the characters of different animals. The intention being that I could use these in one of my future Little Friends children’s story books. We even discussed what each animals’ individual characteristic feature would be. The exercise proved not only to be a lot of fun but also quite informative. It just goes to show that inspiration for writing can come in many formats and from a variety of ways.

So, remember, whenever you get stuck and need some new ideas for your writing, stop, look around and observe what is happening in the world around you. It may surprise you what is happening and how it will inspire you to write.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Places to Write When You’re Fed Up with Working at Home

Do you ever get cabin fever? If you’re a full-time author, I bet you get fed up with working at home and want to find other places to write in. Here are five suggestions you might find interesting as alternatives. So, what are you waiting for? Get out and about!

1. Libraries
This one is rather obvious. You would be surprised how many authors and writers don’t consider going to their local library to work. Libraries, often have desks to work at and even a passable (free) Internet connection.

Visiting these institutions can be pleasurable as their working areas are equipped with desks, reading lamps and comfortable chairs. It can sometimes get busy, especially if your area has students close by who are using it to study (or flirt!). But if you get there early, or apply for a Reader Pass, you can find your perfect, quiet working space.

2. Theatre Cafés
A lot of authors have at some time or other used various cafés to write their masterpieces. J K Rowling wrote large parts of the Harry Potter series in The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh.  However, many establishments are now quite savvy (and a bit fed up) with freelancers who turn up at nine am, buy one coffee and occupy a table for the whole day. Not so in most theatre cafés.

Many Theatre Cafés can be functional, with airy architecture, and because can you stay there for any amount of time, you might spot a famous actor arriving or leaving rehearsals. It also exudes artiness with posters and works of art on its barren walls. A theatre is a useful place for a few hours uninterrupted working.

There may also be other Café’s which offer quiet places for writers. You need to investigate your local area. In mine of Cardiff Bay there is Sunflower & I, a café which offers a unique experience. Having a Bohemian style and atmosphere it is the ideal place for a writer. And it has a 16+ rule which means no children to disturb that inspirational flow.

3. Formal Gardens
This is probably not such a useful tip, especially in the midst of winter in the UK. But, if you’re on the other side of the world, or it’s summer where you are, then get to a garden to write when you’re fed up with working at home. Find a shaded bench or a leafy tree to sit under, take out your notebook or laptop and start writing.

A public garden is ideal as there’s something about the sound of nature, be it birdsong, the gentle flow of water from a pond, or the rustle of the wind in majestic trees that never fails to inspire. You can also write on the decking of your home, or in your own garden. And, if you are close to the sea, this is another special place to write.
Remember, writing places can, in themselves be inspirational.

4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
OK, so you can’t really write in a car unless it’s a huge motor-home. However, trains and planes are absolutely the best places to get a lot of writing done. I’m not sure why this is, but I guess it’s the lack of distractions. For the number of minutes or hours, you are stuck in a seat with a table in front of you not doing anything, and poor wifi (if any), it is perfect!

5. Other People’s Homes
‘What?’ I hear your shout. Now, bear with me. We are not suggesting you sneak into other people’s homes and settle down to write a few words of your manuscript. No, no, no!

Imagine this. You are invited to a house party for the weekend, but are in the middle of a manuscript. You want to go, but are thinking of refusing the invitation.

Instead of being a party pooper, and saying, “I’d love to come for a visit, but I have to work.”

Instead say, “I’d love to come for a visit, but as I have to work would you mind if I spend a few hours writing while I’m there?” Most people won’t mind, honestly.

I know of one author’s friend who is keeping an early draft of a manuscript she wrote in her house, in case (she said ‘when’ – a true friend), the author becomes famous.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas on what to do if the walls are closing in and you are fed up with working at home.

So, what’s your favourite place to write? I’d love to know!

Monday, 5 November 2018


According to the Society of Authors it has warned MPs that the changes to Universal Credit could silence working-class writers, impeding diversity in publishing and thus making it harder to attract different types of readers.

Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group inquiry into authors’ earnings on Tuesday (30th October), the SoA chief executive Nicola Solomon cautioned MPs that Universal Credit - awarded as a single monthly payment to people who are on a low income or out of work (twice monthly for some in Scotland) -could be detrimental to some authors’ income, forcing them to give up writing all together.

The SoA further explained that under the old system, currently in the process of being phased out, some authors with low earnings are able to claim working tax credits to supplement their income, thus ensuring they continue writing as a profession. But replacing this with the Universal Credit means self-employed people have to meet the “Minimum Income Floor” (an assumed level of earnings, based on what the government expects an employed person to receive in similar circumstances) in order to receive benefits. This is a threshold many writers are unable to reach. "This is equivalent to the National Living Wage for most working-age people," SoA said. "Given that the median annual income of a professional author is about £10,500, well below the National Living Wage, many authors will lose their entitlement to benefits under the new scheme."

Ms Solomon highlighted to MPs in her testimony to the inquiry that authors, including the likes of JK Rowling and 2018's Man Booker winner Anna Burns, have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. In the acknowledgements of Milkman (Faber), Burns notably gave thanks for the support of benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions that - along with the support of her local food bank, various charities and the SoA - enabled her to write her acclaimed book; sales of which reached the highest volume of any winner in the BookScan era in the week after winning the prestigious prize.

Unfortunately, claims the SoA, changes to the benefits system risks driving such working-class writers out of the industry. "From JK Rowling to Anna Burns, many authors have depended on the benefits system to support their writing. But, the design of the Universal Credit fails to recognise the reality of the work of authors or other self-employed workers in the cultural sector," said Solomon told the inquiry.

"Universal Credit risks driving working-class authors and other under-represented voices out of the profession. This would have a shocking impact on the diversity of stories being told. If writing is seen as a privilege then, only the privileged will be able to write. This gives us an incredibly narrow group of people who can afford to write, which in turn will make it harder to attract new readers and lead to a narrowing of our readership base."

NB We all know that writers are not in it for the money but this action will destroy more than just the pleasure of writing as less books produced will be detrimental to our children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren.

Courtesy of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 20 October 2018


Whenever we hear stories about authors being defrauded by unscrupulous vanity presses, sometimes for thousands of pounds, the reaction can often be unsympathetic:

                 “It’s their own fault for being so gullible.”             
                 “They should have done their homework.”             
                 “That was a stupid mistake. Don’t they read about these things?”

Whilst it is true that authors have more information at their fingertips than ever before we still question why some keep falling for these scams and schemes from the same exploitative companies?

1. High-pressure sales target author psychology
Vanity presses are quite notorious for being aggressive in their pursuit of authors. Once they have your contact information, vanity presses often flood you with inquiries and “reminders” to join them. One “manuscript referral service” tested resulted in over 120 emails from some of the worst vanity presses in the industry.

Throughout, these solicitations the push is to initiate a phone conversation with the author. A sales rep can apply more manipulative sales tactics when having a direct conversation with you. Remember, once a vanity press gets its hooks into you, the pressure can be relentless.

2. Vanity presses provide emotional validation
Flattering a prospective author is one way that Vanity presses can ensnare you. Usually by assuring you that only the best manuscripts are selected for publication by their “editorial board.” Having submitted a manuscript so epically atrocious it must have reduced more than one editor to tears of laughter, maybe just to tears?

A forty-page “autobiographical, metaphysical, self-help book for adults” was also submitted to eight of the most prominent vanity presses. Unsurprisingly, every single one replied to let me know they were interested in publishing my masterpiece? To a novice author who is uncertain of the marketability of their work and perhaps eager for validation, such a positive response from a perceived ‘authority’ can be powerfully seductive.

What you must remember is, it’s honesty and practical advice you need as an author, not ego stroking and half-truths.

3. Vanity presses prey on an author’s insecurities
Flattery is always seductive, but that’s not the only way a vanity press can work their way into an author’s psyche. Many vanity presses will try to persuade you that you are incapable of producing a professional book without forking out for an expensive, full-service, publishing package. This is especially effective if you are not comfortable with new technology. After all the idea of handing over the details of publishing to someone who can take care of it all for you must be enticing.

Vanity presses tend to bombard the author with the message that they cannot succeed alone, and that the fees are really only a “manageable investment.”
What most authors don’t realise is that the “manageable investment” could exceed £15,000.

ALLi authors can attest, professional quality is within reach of any author willing to put in the time and effort, and it doesn’t require a £15,000 publishing package to achieve.

4. Prejudices about self-publishing
Despite a decade of rapid evolution, the self-publishing industry still faces prejudices and unfair assumptions, such as:

           Self-published books are amateurish
           Self-publishing is prohibitively expensive
           Self-publishing requires the author to do everything themselves
           Self-publishing is a last resort for authors who couldn’t secure traditional publishing contracts

Vanity presses routinely exploit these prejudices, often trying to persuade the novice author that they can’t succeed without their company’s help. And, that their only other options are years of fruitless queries to traditional publishers, or a difficult and lonely self-publishing process that’s doomed to failure.

To the author, this sales pitch may strengthen their lack of belief in them self. Having encountered amateurish self-published books they often assume that is the state of all such published books, never having seen any evidence to the contrary.

Remember, a professional self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. It’s only the amateurish books that are bad in the reader’s eye.

5. Reliable information is lost in the noise
Trustworthy sources of information about self-publishing companies are few and far between. ALLi’s Watchdog Desk has evaluated and rated hundreds of services, and other industry watchdogs like Writer Beware are an invaluable resource, but they are both limited by time and staff constraints. Authors may not know of these resources, or may lack the technical skills to find them on the search engines. The problem is further compounded by the volume and prominence of misinformation on the Internet.

Vanity presses purchase highly-visible ads for top searches, thus ensnaring unsuspecting authors looking for information. Supposedly respectable publications take ads for substandard vanity presses, legitimising those companies. Consumer watchdog charities like the Better Business Bureau sell out, whitewashing negative ratings for companies that purchase “accreditation.” (For example, notorious vanity press Author Solutions carries an A+ rating with the BBB, despite hundreds of complaints and a majority of negative reviews.)

Some Vanity Presses flood the Internet with glowing testimonials from authors they have deceived. Others wage despicable smear campaigns against self-publishing watchdogs in an attempt to discredit them. 

When searching for reliable information on how to self-publish, the deck is stacked against us authors.

However, you can help arm unwary authors against schemes and scams by sharing watchdog service ratings and alerts. In the end, it’s not the author who should be blamed for falling victim to a rip-off; it’s the deceptive vanity presses that have made an industry of defrauding authors.

Courtesy of John Doppler at ALLi (

Friday, 21 September 2018


How to help boost readership and earnings for writers, which could also mean you?
Libraries are full of stories in a whole range of formats that people can borrow, including you. They are ideal places for research and to get ideas, so go to your local library and borrow stuff. Especially stuff written by writers you like.

Even if you already own the books or have read them before, you don’t actually have to read them again? They could just sit in your car or on the shelf until you return. The point being, that having taken the book means it is registered as a loan for that author. And that, means they will earn a Public Lending Right (PLR) royalty. Plus, it also helps keep our Library Service operating. The old adage applies here - use it or lose it!

Did you know that most Library Services offer a free eBook/audiobook service which is easy to use? Firstly. you need to download the specified app to your device and register it to your library card to get started. After that you can download eBooks or audiobooks via the app. This actually takes less time and effort than visiting the library yourself, especially if it’s cold and rainy outside.

After years of campaigning by the Society of Authors, the law was changed at the end of 2017 so that eBook and audiobook loans now earn PLR royalties too. And again, it doesn’t matter if you don’t read/listen to the book as the author earns! Mind you it would be great if you did. Of course, remember if you are an author you can register your books with the PLR and start earning too if your books are borrowed?

Did you know if the library doesn’t stock a particular book you love, you can suggest they stock it – either physically or as an eBook. Don’t be afraid to speak to library staff or find the relevant link on the website to make any recommendations. You might always get what you want, but if you don’t ask you don’t get. And of course, you never know what the Central Reserve might hold. It is does have an extensive collection.

Readers are sometimes left with books lovingly kept but which they no longer read. Libraries are almost always happy to accept donations of new or good quality second hand recent books. And of course, as an Author you could can donate copies of your own books if the library doesn’t have any/many. Don’t forget, if you are donating books you have written, tell them you are a Local Author! Libraries buy lots of new titles every year but can’t buy everything. If you do donate something they don’t have and it proves to be popular, the chances are they will buy more copies.

Libraries are a great free resource. They run regular events help promote books and authors or have story-time reading sessions, especially for children. My local library is based in Central Cardiff. I am on their mailing list so get regular mail shots telling me what is going on or sending me invites to Author events. And they are usually Free. So, come on, make the effort and go check your local library out now.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


Came back from a great day out with the other half to discover a large envelope waiting for me. Was delighted to discover I have been accepted as a Member of the Society of Authors. The comments on my Facebook page were encouraging especially those which said ‘You’ve arrived’ - what more can one ask from your fellow authors. I am so chuffed with the news as I have been wanting to join for sometime now. Shows perseverance pays.

Having been away ‘down under’ for nearly 3 months I have literally let things slide due to wanting a relaxing time with my family. However, I have returned with a new surge of energy to start catching up and progressing my writing.  The first thing being to meet with the publisher who surprised me by exceeding expectations and instead of only 6 picture books to review I had a 11 of the remaining 12. Luckily very few alterations so I am hopeful all 12 will be launched over the next couple of months. That means the end, for now, of the Little Friends Picture Story Book Series. However, I have designed a Colouring Book to go with the series so am happy with the results.

Whilst away we managed to launch ‘Can You Hear Me’ by Yami Gray. Yami (pen-name) is a young British writer now living in Australia. This small book is a collection of poems she wrote between the ages of 11 and 15 and is complimented by a small number of lithographic line-art images. The poetry is dark for one so young but makes excellent reading for those interested in unusual poems.

The next job on the list is to get the manuscript from another young writer I am mentoring completed ready for publication. This will be a fantasy story and may well be the start of a series of books relating to the heroine. Time and exams will tell.

After that I realise it’s time to concentrate on marketing and so I am setting plans in motion to start promoting the Little Friends Books and myself as both author and speaker. Interesting times are ahead. Watch this space.