The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the category “Books and Publishing”

What are service publishers?

Service publishers are akin to vanity publishers in that they will print or publish whatever you have for a price. They will not pass judgment on it and they don’t care if it sells. The difference here is that you know from the get-go that they are selling services, not dreams.

via Service Publishers — a la Carte for Authors ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader —

Should you consider a publisher you have to pay? Hard to say, especially as writing gurus start telling self-published authors they need better editing, formatting, cover art and promotion plans, none of which are free.

Melissa Bowerstock tells us that service publishers and vanity publishers aren’t the same because vanity publishers are selling dreams and service publisher are selling services. Before you say, “oh, well that’s just semantics,” consider the fact that service publishers offer a “menu” of services from which you can choose while vanity publishers offer you a package that may or may not include services you don’t want.

It’s worth looking at because self-publishing really isn’t free if you want your book to have a chance of selling well.



Ten years of trying to get a book deal

“So after 16 years of writing books and 10 years of failing to find a publisher, why do I keep trying? I ask myself this every day.”

via Why I’m Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years – The Atlantic

Many of us ask ourselves this question, if not daily, than multiple times a month. Anjali Enjeti’s concerns will resonate with most of us even though she’s not exactly representative of most of today’s struggling, unknown writers.

First, she isn’t unknown inasmuch as her work has appeared in prestigious publications. (This essay is in the Atlantic!) Second, she’s trying the traditional route by trying to find a publisher by going through agents. Not a bad route, though most of us don’t do this.

However, we can identify with this” “Some of my resolve to get published stems from my ego. Aren’t my words important? Isn’t there something of value here? Wouldn’t this story bring joy or peace to a reader? Another part of me craves having a visceral connection to an audience; it’s isolating to keep these stories to myself, to experience them alone.”

We have stories to tell and a lot of people who love reading stories and who are demanding and picky when they choose what they read have said they love our work. Yet, whether we’re self-published or part of a small-press catalogue, we still wonder why things never quite match our dreams and expectations.

This essay is food for thought. Perhaps it will help us question what we’re doing and/or whether we ought to be doing it a different way–if at all.


Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award

The Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award is open for entries. The Kindle Storyteller Award is a new literary prize recognising newly published work in the English language across any genre and includes a £20,000 prize.

via Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award – Indies Unlimited

This looks like a great opportunity if you have a potential Kindle Direct Publishing manuscript ready or almost ready. The big plus, in addition to the award, is the publicity. That can be a nice boost for your writing career.

Thanks to Indies Unlimited for posting this.


Book Bits: NEA, ‘The Shack,’ Greg Iles, ‘The Stranger in the Woods,’ Margaret Atwood

Even recovery from minor surgery involves a strange stew of painkillers, antibiotics, probiotics and pills with long names that nobody knows what they do. What they all do is create a listless and rather tedious reverie. I re-read “The House of the Spirits” and found out it wasn’t the book I remembered. (Item 3). Otherwise, here are a few other things than caught my attention–or seemed to catch it.

  1. NEWS: WRITERS RESPOND TO DEFUNDING THE NEA AND NEH: Postcards to Inspire a Movement to Save the Arts – “Writers and artists across the country have mobilized to voice their opposition to the cuts, and in solidarity with these movements, we asked writers to share the postcards they will be sending to their representatives to demand that the NEA and NEH remain funded. ” Literary Hub
  2. NEWS: iBooks Bestseller: Unshakeable ‘Shack’, by John Maher – “William P. Young’s The Shack stays at the top of the iBooks bestseller list as the film adaptation continues to screen in theaters nationwide.” See the top twenty list. Publishers Weekly.
  3. IDEAS: Re-reading a classic: ‘The House of the Spirits’, by Malcolm R. Campbell – Ever time we re-read a classic novel, it seems like a different book. Are the words changing on the pages? Malcolm’s Round Table
  4. REVIEW: THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS by Michael Finkel– “A journalist’s account of a Massachusetts man who went deep into the Maine woods to live a life of solitude and self-sufficiency … A thoughtful, honest, and poignant portrait.” Kirkus Reviews
  5. FILM: DOCTOR DOLITTLE HEADS BACK TO BIG SCREEN – “Generations of children have loved the story of a doctor who talks to animals, from the time that Hugh Lofting first started writing the Doctor Dolittle series from the trenches of the First World War in 1914-1918, when real news was too horrifying. The first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed, was published in 1920 … Now word is that a new [film] version will head into production with Robert Downey Jr as the talented doctor.” January Magazine
  6. Iles

    INTERVIEW: Greg Iles, with Bruce Tierney – “Mississippi novelist Greg Iles’ bestselling Natchez Burning trilogy comes to a close with a gripping tale of revenge and dangerous family secrets … How does it feel to complete this 2,000-plus-page project? How did you celebrate?” Book Page

  7. QUOTATION: “A review of another author’s work carries a heavy responsibility, because you can’t–unfortunately–just make stuff up. Fiction’s task is to be plausible, but criticism’s task is to be accurate in fact, generous in appraisal, and considered in judgment. A real book is at stake, with a real person attached at the other end–most of the time–and every author knows how much work and anxiety have gone into a book–any book.” – Margaret Atwood from her acceptance speech upon receiving Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award given by the National Book Critics Circle this month.

Book Bits, occasionally created on painkillers, is compiled randomly by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of magical realism novels, including “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”


Changes at Books-a-Million Publishing

It’s a common dream among first-time authors: you walk into your favorite local bookstore and there’s Your Book, sitting on the shelf for everyone to see – and buy. Alas, it’s unlikely to happen if you’re an indie author. If it happens at all, it will require a lot of hard work and persuasive energy…

via BAM! Publish: A Vanity Press? — Indies Unlimited

The changes look kind of pricey. Why would anyone go this route when there are more economical ways to get into print?

Perhaps there’s an “up side” to the program. Look closely before signing anything to make sure there’s anything here you can use.



Bookstore free speech check list

The American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) is the bookseller’s voice in the fight for free speech. Its mission is to promote and protect the free exchange of ideas, particularly those contained in books, by opposing restrictions on the freedom of speech; issuing statements on significant free expression controversies; participating in legal cases involving First Amendment rights; collaborating with other groups with an interest in free speech; and providing education about the importance of free expression to booksellers, other members of the book industry, politicians, the press and the public.”


Bookstores are often on the front lines when it comes to freedom of speech. Do your customers know that you promote free speech? Do your authors? If you work at (or own) a bookstore are you ready to handle complaints about authors, books and customer records. Here’s a handy checklist from the ABFEE (read the details on line here):


Here’s another checklist to keep in mind whenever you host a reading and signing for a controversial author.

As we said in scouting, “Be Prepared.”





Moving Print Book Files from CreateSpace to IngramSpark

A couple of years ago Lynne Cantwell gave a great overview of three of the most popular choices for paperback distribution: CreateSpace, Lulu, and IngramSpark. As Lynne explained, while all three have benefits, IngramSpark, owned by Ingram Content Group, “has the most robust distribution chain of any of the three POD services, as its parent…

via Moving Print Book Files from CreateSpace to IngramSpark — Indies Unlimited

This is a practical consideration for everyone who currently relies on CreateSpace. The alternative just might help you get a much better deal. Plus, not having returnable books is a big reason why most small press and self-published books are not in bookstores, a benefit IngramSpark allows.


Poets & Writers Information Clearing House

I enjoy reading this magazine. I also enjoy its online presence from writers’ news to the database of grants and competitions. However, the page filled with links to Poets & Writers articles is a must, especially for new writers. This solid information is so much better than the quasi-SPAM webinars and pitches that appear in our e-mail in-baskets and litter our Facebook newsfeeds.

Here are the topics: Literary Journals and Magazines; Publishing Your Book; Literary Agents; Creative Writing Contests and Competitions; Vanity Publishers; Copyright Information for Writers; Book Promotion & Publicity; Writers Conferences, Colonies, and Workshops; MFA Programs, Literary Organizations; Self-Publishing.

And here’s the link:

Click on the graphic.

Click on the graphic.

It’s like a goldmine. Maybe better.

Here’s hoping all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying a day off, or possible a day fighting a locusts’ plague of shoppers out at the Black Friday sales.




If you’re a writer, how much snake oil have you bought this year?

“During a gold rush, sell shovels.”  – Sam Brannan, San Francisco, 1848

If you’re rushing out to look for gold, you really do need a shovel. However, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that most of the people who sold shovels made more money than most of the people  who searched for gold.

snakeoil1The invention of the e-book and print-on-demand publishing has created a gold rush for those who want to write novels. In fact, it appears that more people are writing novels than reading novels. This led to a glut of snake oil salesmen/saleswomen.

Actually, most of the salesmen/women aren’t selling real or imagined snake oil for whatever ails you. They are selling recipes, step-by-step plans, tricks and tips, and inspiration for whatever real or imagined diseases are ailing your books and your promotion efforts. Some of the deals might work. Some might be a collection of bits and pieces of other deals. Some cost more money than your book is likely to make even if they do help.

Since most people believe they’re less gullible than the people who lived during the patent medicine era, today’s writing/promotion tips sales people have ramped up the look and feel of their websites, e-mail and Facebook promotions so that the whole shebang looks more professional than Clark Stanley’s liniment advertisement.

Nonetheless, a lot of it still looks like snake oil to me even if no snakes were harmed during the preparation of the dreck being peddled to writers who want a quick fix. It’s amazing to me how so many people think a single e-book, podcast, webinar or course will turn them into Nora Roberts or Stephen King with the promotional power of Harper/Collins getting the books out into the world. So, they roll the dice and after everything is said and done, their Kindle and CreateSpace books still aren’t finding many readers.

Perhaps, I’m wrong. Maybe people are more gullible than I thought, for some of the “deals” I’ve seen promise you, for example, that you can turn out books without doing any writing, learn a couple of secrets and become a bestselling author, or learn more in a few hours than what a professional book publicist learned in a lifetime of education, experience, and hard work.

awpYes, do your research. Google any publisher or platform you’re thinking about using and see what people are saying about it. Take advantage of some of the free or minimal-cost books that show you step-by-step how to format and convert a DOCX file into a Kindle book. Check Indies Unlimited for how-to articles. See what the going rates are for professional editors and cover artists. If you’re active on the social media, ask others (other than sales people) what kinds of services, books and ideas they found helpful. You’ll also find ideas at Poets & Writers and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

Sometimes, nobody is really sure–including publishing experts–why some books take off and others don’t. If you read a lot of writing magazines and writers’ blog posts, you’ll inevitably come across lists of famous authors whose books were rejected multiple times before their now-famous first novel found a publisher. Now, the rules are changing and many of us are part of a continuous gold rush, so to speak, to write good stuff that finds an audience when too many people are turning out books.

Once upon a time, most of the writers’ advice out there was about writing, whether you majored in English, went for an MFA, or read a series of textbooks on your own. Then, one learned how to write queries letter that were sent to agents and/or publishers, a synopsis of their book (if fiction) or a proposal (if nonfiction), and how to create a resume of strong writing credentials–and subject-matter credentials as well if you wanted to write nonfiction.

All of that still happens. But most people feel that route is a long wait or a dead end and jump straight into self-publishing along with millions of other people. The writing snail oil people are trying to convince you that what they offer will give you an edge over the rest of the crowd. Sure, some teachers, mentors and gurus know the latest versions of what works as of now, but they are hard to find.

Yes, I’m a cynic about this, and that means I want to know I’m getting something of value before I pay $99 for a book of secrets or $499 for a webinar. What I often ask webinar producers is this: why are you selling your secrets in a chatty, A/V presentation rather than putting them in a paperback book that sells for 99₵ or even $2.99 or $15.99 (with a look inside feature on Amazon so I can see what the introduction and table of contents look like? They never say, “Well, Malcolm, I’m selling snake oil and the higher the price, the more I make and the more the buyers think it’s worth.”

On the other hand, that $499 webinar might help you strike it rich.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s new novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman” has a snake in it, but no snake oil. 



Why Your Book Distribution May Be Disappointing

“This is for all of the authors or presses that wonder why their books aren’t appearing in stores; aren’t being sold in e-book form on but are on Amazon; aren’t available for order if a store wants to get copies; and any other question that might arise regarding the overall concern of “why isn’t my book selling?”   The answer is about book distribution and sales: just because a book is distributed, doesn’t mean it is actually in a store.”

Source: Publishing 101: Why Your Book Distribution May Be Disappointing – Where Writers Win

As I my publisher says, do your homework before you commit to a distributor, publishing method or platform (or anything else). In this case, does the distribution system you like actually say it can place your books in a bricks and mortar store?

The fact that one of its books might have ended up in a store some years ago is not a guarantee. The bottom line, of course, is that your paperback book must be returnable. If it isn’t, few stores will even take a look.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Sarabande” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

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