Anthology Woes: Amazon Try to Rule the World!

When I started out on the Anthology Project (back in early 2007) I did so with enthusiasm and excitement. For several years, I had been trying to help writers become published and finally, I believed, I had found the way to do just that.

Whilst receiving and reading submissions for the project, I was also spending hours and hours combing the internet to find the right printer for the job. There are so many printers out there, but when I read the small print I was surprised by the charges involved and the odd terms that didn’t sit right with me. I continued my search, widening it to include reading what other people’s experiences were and this narrowed the market for me considerably.

From memory I ended up with three possibilities. None of them were perfect, but these three sounded better than all the rest and the reviews were more positive too. For reasons I can’t remember, I settled on Lulu. I set about creating an account and started a “fake” project so that I knew the process well before doing the real thing. In all honesty, the process was mostly painless even if it was time consuming.

The anthology was published on 25 July 2008. And that’s when my excitement truly started to wane.

Suddenly, everyone at Lulu was complaining that the distribution service had changed; it had gone downhill…and quickly. It is clearly stated on the Lulu website that books published by them will appear on Amazon and other online bookstores within 6 to 8 weeks. The anthology appeared within three weeks so it wasn’t an outright lie. However, it showed an “out of print” status and no one, no matter how eager, could purchase the book. Although I was aware a problem existed I didn’t know (or understand) the depth of it…or the ramifications. I am, after all, a writer, not a publisher. But that is no excuse and I realise now that I should have made it my business to know what the problem meant. Anyway, the anthology has now been published for 16 weeks and the status remains unchanged even though I have been in contact with Lulu repeatedly in this time.

No wonder the service had suddenly become “free”. If they (meaning Lulu) had charged for the service then they would have been faced with a lot of unhappy people demanding their money back – me alone with them. I feel they knew the problem was bigger than they were letting on and that’s why they dropped the charge and this knowledge angers me more.

Having said all this, I understand that Lulu is between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think they wanted or intended for this to happen to the people who use their service – not at the beginning. I also believe that there is nothing much they can do about it, which presents a problem for the anthology (but I’ll get back to this later).

Amazon is the real problem. They have become greedy and are trying to squash print on demand books being published by anyone but themselves. If a POD book isn’t printed by their subsidiary then they will not list it on the website (or they will, but the “buy” button will be deactivated so they may as well not list it, in my opinion). From what I’ve learned, this only applies to the books distributed from about six to eight months ago. Those already in the system are not affected.

If the people at Amazon want to be jerks, fine. I’d be happy to ignore Amazon from this day onwards and buy my books from other online bookstores instead…and I would encourage everyone else to do the same thing because, quite frankly, Amazon isn’t the “be all and end all” of the publishing (or reading) world.

But…the other bookstores are listing the book as unavailable too! Why? What reason do they have? Are they sheep? I’ve contacted a couple of them and their response is that they want copies of the book sent to them so that they have them in stock. Why? POD means the book is printed as needed. It never runs out of stock. They don’t need a stock pile. Honestly, I have no idea what the hassle is and I’m finding the whole mess frustrating and pointless.

At this point, I would like to clearly state that I do not recommend Lulu in any way, shape or form. I would never use them again. Ever! If you had any brains you wouldn’t either. It’s not worth the stress.

What does all this mean to the anthology?

In hindsight, if I could redo this project from scratch there are certain things I would change. Of course, experience is talking now. I didn’t have any experience when I started this project back in January 2007, but now I’m older and wiser.

The main change I would make would be that I wouldn’t pay for the stories and artwork in royalties. That is the biggest mistake I made. I would have been better off paying outright for the stories and artwork and having a contract for world wide exclusive rights for the first year and then the right to continue publishing the book, but allowing the authors to submit the stories elsewhere. If I had done this I wouldn’t be bound by a contract that has literally killed the project. You see, it’s because of that contract that I can’t pack my bags, walk away from Lulu and start afresh with a POD company that doesn’t have the hassles Lulu has. In order to do this, it would mean I would have to apply for a new ISBN (because Lulu owns the current one). With the new ISBN I could apply a new cover, fix anything that might be wrong with the current book and then publish a second edition. The contract doesn’t allow any of this to happen because it’s for the first edition only. The second edition would require a new contract and, to be honest, I’m not keen to go there.

Right now, that means two years of planning, reading and publishing (and I don’t mean just me here either) has been…for what? To me, it feels like a waste of time. Maybe the others don’t feel that way, but when I was bubbling over with excitement two years ago I wasn’t imagining the frustration I’m experiencing now. I was imagining speechless joy and wonder. Believe me, this experience doesn’t come close to that.

Anthology Marketing & Promotion

It doesn’t take a genius to know what I’ve been up to in recent weeks. Anyone who knows me even slightly well will grumble when they see this post – “No! Not more on the anthology!” 😀

Marketing a book is no easy task. That’s something I have discovered first hand. It takes a lot of time and effort and it’s no wonder that traditionally published books only have a short shelf life – the publishing houses just don’t have the time to devote to one book, let alone all the books on their list.

If I had the money to spend, I would look into getting those expensive displays for bookshops and have them distributed, but I don’t have the money so I have to make do with other avenues. Here is a list of what I’ve done so far:

I’ve sent out two worldwide press releases – one announcing the publication on the anthology and the other announcing the online book launch party.

I’ve organised (or should I say, I am still organising) an online book launch party on Monday 1 September 2008.

I have made a promotional video and uploaded it on YouTube.

I have flooded Facebook with purple and white promotional material – links to the Speculative Realms website, links to the party, links to the video, direct links to purchase the book and I’ve even set up an event for the party, uploaded the book to the marketplace and uploaded the book to the book library application.

I have uploaded the details and the video to MySpace.

I have done the same to MyFamily.com. I belong to a group where there are several thousand members and I’m related in some way to all of them (although I know only a handful).

Today, I sent out emails to my family and friends, and to acquaintances I hardly know (over 200 emails in total).

I have included the details of the book and a link to the website in my signature for all my emails for the email writing group I belong too (a little over 100 members).

I also included the details into my signature for the message board. Even though signatures have been turned off on my own board, I am a member of many other boards and have written many, many posts over the years and I made sure that the new signature changed every single one of those posts.

That’s all I can remember at the moment. But that’s what I’ve been doing and there are twelve other authors hopefully doing their bit too. At this stage I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Alan Baxter for including the video on his website.

I haven’t reached the end of my list and friends are always providing additional resources for me to follow up – thank you Benjamin Solah for a brilliant idea this morning.

If you know of other promotional ideas that I haven’t mentioned yet, please tell me about them by emailing me or leaving a comment.

Anthology: Online Book Launch Party

As you know, my short story “Where Strength Lies” has been published in the anthology “Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

My story is a romantic fantasy story and the other stories all fall into the speculative fiction genre, which include fantasy, science fiction and horror. There are 13 stories in total and the authors are from Australia, England, United States, Canada and Netherlands. You can visit the website – Speculative Realms – to find out more about the stories, the authors and, of course, to buy a copy of the book. 😀

To celebrate, we are having an online book launch party on Monday 1 September 2008 at the website’s forum and I would love it if you could come along and show your support. It will be a lot of fun. There will be “games” and you can “chat” with the authors. Free copies of the book will be given away on the day. If you want to be in the running for one of them, all you have to do is write a post and your name will be automatically put into the draw. Good luck! (You will need to join the forum to post, but I guarantee your details will remain private and you will only be contacted if you win a prize.)

If you know anyone else who might be interested in the book or the party, please feel free to invite them too. The more the merrier.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Here’s the official press release:
Speculative Realms Plan an Online Book Launch Party That Will Last for More Than 24 Hours

Anthology: Press Release

I’m a writer, but now I’m trying my hand at marketing. I’ve borrowed a number of books from the library, which are giving me ideas to try. All of them talk about the importance of writing and distributing a press release upon publication.

There is a specific format to follow. Here are links to some examples:

Write a Press Release

Press Release Format

Tips, Guidelines and Templates for Writing an Effective Press Release

Writing a press release is not easy. It took me many, many days of fiddling with words, then rejecting what I had and starting again before I ended up with something I was satisfied with. Even though there are a number of free distribution packages, I chose to purchase a distribution package through PR.com. The package meant higher visibility, in more places online and world wide and regional distribution for newspapers and radio too. Of course, there is no guarantee the press release will be picked up by anyone. That is a risk I took and it’s too soon to know if the $60 I spent was well spent or not. Let’s just hope it was.

The first press release has been distributed and a copy of it can be read by following the link below:

Writers Worldwide Join Forces to Publish Speculative Fiction Anthology

Anthology: Published!

There has been a good reason for my absence from the internet. I’ve been working diligently on the Speculative Realms anthology and I’m proud to announce that it is now published.

Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way

A collection of fantasy, science fiction and horror stories
Edited by Sasha Beattie

Purchase now from Speculative Realms

Honestly, this project was hard work and I couldn’t have done it without the faithful help of a number of online friends – especially Sasha Beattie, the editor, and Heather Anderson, the artist.

And now that it’s finished, I must admit that I have had a change of heart regarding self publishing. It certainly isn’t for everyone, and I will continue to say that my novel length manuscripts will continue to be submitted through traditional publishers as a first option, but I no longer feel dead against self publishers. Self publishing has a stigma attached to it and I am finally removing the barriers that have always held me back from purchasing self published books.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of rubbish books on the market – and not all of them have been self published. If I purchase a book and don’t like the content I will not buy something written by that author again – that is the same if it is self published or not. And I have discovered that because advances are paid to authors prior to publication, from traditional publishers, and the fact that the publisher is not recouping that advance due to lack of sales, new writers are not being given a chance. The publishers are not willing to take a risk on unknown writers. I also know there are a lot of talented writers out there who haven’t been discovered yet. From frustration, those authors might turn to self publishing. They deserve a break. If something looks professional on the outside, you can presume that it is professional on the inside too. If it doesn’t look professional, then stay away from it.

Yes, this project has taught me a lot and I expect to learn a lot more in the coming months too.

Anthology Update

Before I go any further, I must mention the anthology I founded in early 2007. Unlike the other anthologies I’ve organised, this one did not die a natural death. In fact, I’m presently waiting for the first proof copy of the published book to arrive on my doorstep.

I learned from the other anthologies that short story collections are not favoured by publishing companies, unless stories by successful authors are included. I had no such luck in that department, so while editors were kind and encouraging, they quickly rejected every submission I made. It was for this reason that this latest project saw me going down a different path. I decided to try self publishing. Before you raise your eyebrows and tut, please hear me out.

My views on self publishing are quite simple. Do not do it with novel length manuscripts! Short stories, however, are a different matter altogether. Speculative Realms was born from that thought and…let’s make one thing quite clear…this is self publishing for me, but not for any of the other contributors. Approximately 130 manuscripts were rejected. No one, but me, makes decisions. Yes, I’ve asked other people’s opinions/advice along the way and I had a reading panel that helped me find the right stories, but I’m the one who made the final decisions in most areas of the project. The other contributors didn’t have a say in anything, so it wouldn’t be fair to say they self published. In fact, it would be totally wrong to suggest it.

Everyone associated with this project has put in a lot of time and effort to produce top quality stories. It’s been a good 15 months from the beginning to now and it’s not over yet. This has been an experience to remember, I will say that. It has been very stressful yet it has been so exciting too. Shortly, I will be moving into the marketing phase of the project. I have no idea what to expect, but I don’t expect it to be easy.

The Speculative Realms collection will be available for purchase in September 2008. I hope you will support fellow writers and buy a copy when the time comes.