Monday, July 28, 2014

A Marketing Pitch from Author Solutions

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I've written before about Author Solutions' relentless efforts to get authors to buy the company's "marketing" services. Here's an example that was recently passed on to me (with the author's name and other identifying information redacted).

Note the poor quality of the English (a lot of AS's staff are in the Philippines; English is a second language), the implied specialness of the offer (50% management discount, just for you!), the "hurry up and buy" pressure (supposedly only eight books will be able to get in on the deal; first come, first served!), and the...um...optimistic way the service that's being sold is presented ("endorsement" implies something tailored to the product, but in fact all it means in this case is a listing in Ingram's print and online magazines). It's all directly out of the junk mail marketing handbook.

Note, finally, the tiny-print disclaimer at the very, very bottom, under "Paul's" signature: "This email is an advertisement."

Bottom line: the author is being asked to shell out over $2,000 for a couple of magazine advertisements and returnability for a book no brick-and-mortar establishment is ever likely to order.

_______________________

From: Paul Wellshyr 
To: [author's name redacted]
Sent: Sat, Jul 26, 2014 4:38 pm
Subject: [title redacted] - marketing it directly to owners of bookstores, retailers, and libraries

Mr. [author's name redacted],

Good day!

This is Paul Wellshyr, a Marketing Consultant from iUniverse.  As I had mentioned earlier, I would like to see where and how far this book of yours, [title redacted], can take you.  You may have published newer books than this one, but that doesn’t make this book any less than those newer ones.

And since I’m only asking you to give this book at least one chance to be promoted, then I want to make sure that I don’t get to waste such an opportunity by making sure that we would be able to penetrate the best market for this book… and that would be to get this book be carried and picked up by different bookstores, retailers, and libraries.

I had also been able to get the approval from my manager for an additional 1 year of the insurance/buy back program for this book.

Kindly review the information below.

Physical bookstores and retailers are the two establishments that had generated a good number of sales for those authors that had their books be carried by some establishments. Thus, we are aiming to have more retailers and bookstores to start investing on our books this year. To achieve this, we have made some changes that would make our books even more attractive and easy to invest on for bookstores and retailers.

Before, retailers and bookstores need to purchase around 500 to 1000 copies to be able to take advantage of a 40% retail discount from the distributor. The smaller the volume of copies they are purchasing, the smaller the retail discount gets. This had disabled most establishments, especially the smaller scale investors, to invest on the books. Now, while under the Ingram +BRP campaign, bookstores and retailers will be able to enjoy a 48% retail discount (instead of just 40%) and with NO minimum purchase required. This would allow even the smaller stores and retailers to be able to test the waters out with the book. Still, they would be able to return and get refunded for unsold copies.

With this opportunity I am offering you right now, we would be able to have your book be one (1) of the eight (8) books that would be endorsed directly to owners and decision makers of around 38,500 establishments across the globe. These establishments are composed of bookstores, retailers, public and school libraries.


Account Holder
:

[Author name redacted]
Pen Name/Pen Name
:

[Author pen name redacted]
Project/Book ID
:

[redacted
Book Title
:

[Title redacted]
Genre
:

Body, Mind & Spirit / Supernatural / Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs




Proposed Project/s
:

Ingram Endorsement Project
Components/services involved
:

Ingram Print and Online Marketing
:

Book Returnability Program (12 months)
Recipients
:

Subscription Based - Total of 38,500
• Bookstore Owners
• Retail store owners
• Library Directors
Total Investment required
:

$4,548
3 Payment Installment option
:

Initial Payment
$1,516 + $30 surcharge fee


2nd Payment
$1,516


3rd Payment
$1,516




Book US List Price
:

$10.95
Retailers, Bookstores, and Libraries Retail Sales Discount Rate
:

48%
Retailers, Bookstores, and Libraries Retail Sales Discounted Price


$5.69

Minimum Purchase


NONE. This would allow smaller stores to test the waters out with the book.
Store - Distributor contract required?
:

NONE. This would allow the stores to invest on the book without any hassle of being tied up to a contract and permits them to ask for refunds on any given day while the book is under the Buy Back Program.
Royalty
:

20% of net sales
Royalty Refund
:

NONE. Refunds in line with returned copies will not be charged against author's royalty.





Management Approved Offer for
[Author name redacted]
Assistance/Discount
:

$2,274.00
New Total Price
:

$2,274.00
3 Payment Installment option
:

Initial Payment
$758 + $30 installment fee
:

2nd Payment
$758.00
:

3rd Payment
$758.00

Ingram Endorsement Project:

Endorser: INGRAM – world largest and biggest Book Distributor. www.ingramcontent.com
- #1 Global Book Distributor

Services involved in the project :
- INGRAM Print and Online Marketing
  • Ingram has now given us the opportunity to have a set of 8 books this year to avail of their service wherein these books will be endorsed directly to decision makers and owners of bookstores and libraries across the globe.
  • Note: This will serve as highly recommended books along with other traditionally published books.
- Booksellers Return Program

  • - Bookstore Owners
  • - Library Directors
  • - Decision Makers of chain bookstores, multiple branched libraries, and resellers
  • · Note: These recipients are actually paying Ingram, the endorser, for them to receive this endorsement
Endorsement Format:
- Printed Form of the endorsement
  • The Advance Magazine has an established circulation of more than 13,500 chain bookstore owners, booksellers, and library directors across the globe over the past twenty years. It is a trusted and in-fact a paid reference for new books because of its comprehensive title listing. This is being paid for by these subscribers since this is where they get the information of which and what books to place on their shelves.
- Online Form of the endorsement
  • The Independent Voice Catalog (formerly The Fine Print) is an online catalog that allows over 25,000 subscribers to view titles, make selections, and place an order on iPage®—Ingram’s online search, order, and account management site. This is being paid by the subscribers who prefer to receive the endorsement using the internet especially those who are located in different countries
Additional Service:
- Single Slot Ad in ForeWord Magazine
  • ForeWord magazine is the premier review magazine for independent publishers. With a 23,000 bimonthly circulation, this publication and review services affect the choices of booksellers and librarians across the country who influence the buying decisions of millions of readers.
Pre-requisite:
- Booksellers Return Program (for at least a year)
  • This program will attract booksellers (bookstores, retailers, libraries) to stock your book by allowing them to return unsold titles. The Bookseller's Return Program increases your chances that a bookstore will be willing to stock your book. If a book does not sell well, bookstores want the ability to return unsold books to publishers for a complete refund. Because traditional publishers always take returns, iUniverse has developed the Booksellers Return Program so that bookstores are able to return unsold books to the wholesaler. The best part is, iUniverse authors receive their retail royalty for every book sold in the Booksellers Return Program, whether the book is returned or not. When a book is returnable, the bookstore has no risk of losing money on unsold inventory and will be more likely to stock the book than if you don’t enroll in the program.
- Benefits of Booksellers Return Program
  • Encourages bookstores to invest more copies of the book
  • Improves chances of scheduling book signings and appearances, especially with hometown bookstores
  • Allows book returns yet will NOT reduce author’s royalties
Note:
  • · Book Returnability Program Turn-around-time (TAT): 30-45 days after full payment
  • · Catalogs TAT: next available issue
  • · $30 installment surcharge fee is non-refundable
  • · This project goes under a set of eight books and will be a first come first serve basis.
Please feel free to call me at 877-820-5395 ext 8552 for any inquiries.

All the best,

Paul Wellshyr
Marketing Consultant
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Phone: 877-820-5395, ext 8552
Fax: 812-961-3133

Author Solutions, the parent company of iUniverse, is a member of the Penguin Group.
This email is an advertisement.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Self-Publishing and Author-Agent Agreements: The Need for Change

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by best-selling author Claire Cook  about the process by which she decided to become a hybrid author, ditching her high-powered agency in the process. It's an interesting story--but what really caught my eye was this:
And then one day on the phone my agent informed me that in order to continue to be represented by this mighty agency, I would have to turn over 15% of the proceeds of my about-to-be self-published book to said agency. Not only that, but I would have to publish it exclusively through Amazon, because the agency had a system in place with Amazon where I could check a box and their 15% would go straight to them, no muss, no fuss.
I've warned in the past about interminable agency clauses in author-agent agreements (language through which an agency claims the right to remain the agent of record not just for the duration of any contracts it negotiates for your book, but for the life of the book's copyright). One of the many concerns raised by such language is what happens if you want to self-publish backlist books that the agency originally sold for you. With an interminable agency clause, might your agency feel entitled to a share of your self-publishing income?

I don't know if Cook's agency agreement included interminable agency language. Even if it did, the agency's commission claim wasn't being made on her backlist books, but on an original novel that the agency had never submitted or sold to a traditional publisher. This is a completely different issue. Simply because Cook was the agency's client, the agency felt it had a claim on her original writing even though it had no hand in placing it--and, moreover, that it had the right to require her to use its own self-publishing channel, rather than a platform or platforms of her choice.

Contract language often lags behind technological innovation. For instance, years after the advent of digital publishing, many publishing contracts still don't include adequate rights reversion language (I've written here about why that's a problem).

The same is true for author-agent agreements, many--if not most--of which don't address self-publishing at all. Right now, I'm sure that most self-publishing questions are dealt with amicably one-on-one between author and agent. But with more and more writers choosing to become hybrid authors, and more and more agencies branching out into publishing and self-publishing-related activities, those kinds of informal resolutions aren't enough. For the protection of both author and agent, author-agent agreements need to explicitly address what happens (or doesn't happen) when clients self-publish, either on their own or through the agency. 

To date, I've seen one author-agent agreement that does this. I'm sure there are more out there, though I'm guessing they're the exception. They need to become the norm, and sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, authors would be wise to discuss self-publishing with their prospective agents, including:

- What happens if I decide to self-publish my backlist? (If you're a debut novelist, this possiblity may seem an awfully long way off, but you are hopefully signing on with your agent for the long haul, and at some point your books are going to go "out of print.")

- If the agency has its own self-publishing system or publishing venture, will I be required to use it?

- What's your position on hybrid authors? Will it be a problem if I want to self-publish original work? What, if any, claims will you make on such work?

- Will you market subsidiary rights for my original self-published books? (Responses on this will vary; some agencies may not be willing to rep subrights for books they didn't sell.)

Be sure to get, or confirm, the responses in writing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Warning: Green Shore Publishing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

If you've encountered Green Shore Publishing, you might be intrigued by an enterprise that describes itself as "The UK and Ireland's New Standard in Book Publishing," and touts both its success and (in the little video on its home page) its extreme selectivity.

But wait: Green Shore Publishing isn't exactly what it seems.

First clue: the Packages page, where you learn that you must pay between £300 and £1,500 for the privilege of publication. OK, so not really a publisher, then.

Misgivings growing, you move on to the Testimonials page, where three video clips from authors who provide neither their surnames nor the titles of their books carry an unmistakable whiff of canned ad script.

On to the Catalog page to check out the books. But wait--there's no catalog page, even though the home page verbiage, as well as the "testimonials", suggest that GSP has been releasing books for several months, if not longer. The only books that are even referenced on GSP's website (on the Publish With GSP page, ostensibly in order to demonstrate GSP's superior cover design and innovative marketing skills...hmm, not so much) do not appear to exist. In fact, if you search on the various Amazons, you will find that there are no Green Shore Publishing books at all.

Pay-to-play. Unverifiable (and probably fake) testimonials. Nonexistent books. Ready to run away?

Good. But you still don't know the worst thing about Green Shore Publishing, and that is this: it's run by Adam Salviani, owner of "thumbs down" vanity publisher Raider Publishing International.

In 2012, I blogged about the Raider complaints I'd received, and the many more that could be found on the Web (see examples here, here, and here). Since then, complaints have continued to mount, both in my Inbox and online. Authors--many of whom have paid four figures--report loooooong publication delays (as much as 18 months), lousy quality of finished books, nonpayment of royalties due, broken marketing and other promises, and total silence when they try to get the company to address their concerns. Authors have tried taking legal action, contacting the FBI, sending petitions to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, filing local police reports (despite his fondness for giving his businesses London addresses, Salviani is rumored to live in Newark, NJ), and speaking out (there's a whole Facebook page devoted to warning about Raider). None of it has made a difference.

At the time of my 2012 post, Raider had an "A" rating from the BBB. Now, thankfully, it has an F. I don't put a lot of stock in BBB ratings--that "A" is a good example of why--but people do check them, so I'm glad to see a rating that matches reality.

There are no staff names or other identifying information anywhere on Green Shore Publishing's website to link it with Raider or Salviani. So how do I know that GSP is him? Well, I have copies of contracts from both publishers (the GSP one was supplied by the author who tipped me off to GSP's existence--thank you!), and there's fair bit of overlap in language and terms. But the kicker is the signatures:*



Identical, right down to the dotting of the "i's". You'd think, if you were going to start a new author-fleecing operation to dodge the bad publicity over your old author-fleecing operation, you'd have the sense not to use a) the exact same scan of your signature, or b) your real name.

Salviani is no stranger to new startups. Previous satellite publishing ventures include Purehaven Press (which acknowledged the connection with Raider) and Perimedes Publishing (which didn't). Both are now defunct. As for Raider, it may be in trouble. Over at TIPM, Mick Rooney--who has been covering Raider and its offshoots since 2008--reports that only one book has appeared under the Raider imprint since November 2013, likely because Ingram has de-listed Raider from its catalog.

* To see the full contracts with the signatures, click here (Green Shore Publishing) and here (Raider Publishing).

UPDATED 7/24/14 TO ADD: The "testimonials" posted on the Green Shore website are indeed fake. Author and educator Jurgen Wolff has discovered that these supposed Green Shore authors are in fact actors who hawk their video testimonial skills on Fiverr.com for $5 a pop.

UPDATED 8/3/14 TO ADD: As a result of complaints to the UK's Advertising Standards Authority, Green Shore Publishing has been referred for a formal investigation.