Note on Forum Nazis

I don’t want to make this long.

Over the last few days Randy and I discovered that a particular forum site had a posting made asking if anyone knew of IFWG Publishing. Instead of someone perking up with knowledge, a few regulars skimmed our site and then spat out an amazing amount of shit. I can live with viewpoints consistent with facts, but this was unadulterated crap.

Here is the forum and thread, and our response: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=181582 

If our posting is removed, here is our blog treatment: http://ifwgpblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/of-forum-nazis.html

I wont go into the details of it, but it is important for those who are interested, what is my motivation.

Our business is a business, but we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t get a kick out of getting an author a few steps closer to their life’s ambition. it isn’t worth the hard work and (like the forum) the unwarranted criticism. The crap that came out wasn’t just misinformed (or worse) attacks on us, they were also attacks on our authors. Unbelievable stuff. Any upcoming writer wanting to know about us will look us up on Google and find their postings. Sheesh. Cowardly.

Rant over. I am not even going to visit the site anymore.

Writing/Publishing Update: Wings to Success

I finalized with Penina the contract for her painting Wings, which was the inspiration of my new novel, Guardian of the Sky Realms. She will sign in the next few days, and once the niceties are over, I will be able to use the painting for my novel’s cover. Brilliant! Thank you very much Penina for your kind assistance.

The proofing of Guardian will be completed this weekend. All that will be left is the block formatting with InDesign. My novel was planned to be published in October – still on track, and perhaps can even be released earlier.

I have some commitments in the publishing game, but once the pressure is a little over, I look very much forward to returning to my first novel, The Scepter and the Orb, and think long and hard what I want to do with it. I love it and it is the introductory book to a vast world I created (Evyntyde). The real area of interest is whether I split it or not, to make the production more economically viable. I think it is likely I will go that way. I think, because I have learned much over the last year or so, that I may also do a serious revision. Oh well.

I have four short stories to go, set in the world of Evyntyde, which will complete my anthology. This is likely to be my second Title that will come out, both courtesy of IFWG Publishing.

My second Evyntyde novel, Crystal Peak, will have to wait a while. A bit of a shame, since it is two-thirds completed.

Regarding publishing, I recently finished editing and proofing Biola Olatunde‘s wonderful adventure novel, Blood Contract. This should be come out next month – I look forward to it. Another edit job I did – The Devil Came East (crime thriller) by Geri Fitzsimmons and Andy Stephenson, was held back from publishing a few months to allow synchronization with some marketing activity. I think it will also be published next month – and I have a very good feeling about that one. It is so very good in its genre. I also have had some luck getting Paul Goat Allen to review it (shortly). My next edit job is an inspirational novel, by Linda Lenehan, called They Never Gave Up. I look forward to that job.

All in all, a pretty busy time for me. (I love it).

.

A Simplified Analytical Model Describing the Differences Between Traditional and Self-Publishing

This is a copy of a blog post I placed today in the IFWG Publishing site.

I have been involved in many discussions of late, on the differences between Self Publishing using (Print On Demand technology) and traditional publishing, and I have read so many commentaries on the topic on the Internet, that my own views have solidified somewhat, and I feel an urge to discuss them.

I also want to dispel some myths.

I don’t want to dwell on self-publishing efforts by authors who do much of the logistics by themselves, but I believe that this analysis does largely cover the same challenges and opportunities as companies that provide self-publishing services.

A good focus point for this discussion is to try to think of publishing, for an author, as a simplified linear equation:


<!–
/* Style Definitions */
p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
{mso-style-parent:””;
margin:0cm;
margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;}
@page Section1
{size:612.0pt 792.0pt;
margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt;
mso-header-margin:36.0pt;
mso-footer-margin:36.0pt;
mso-paper-source:0;}
div.Section1
{page:Section1;}
–>

Title Success refers to the end goal – to have a title that sells well and contributes to the success of an author;

Quality of Title is self-evident – the better the creative work, the better chance it will sell well. This is not a given though, as it is my belief that many excellent titles just take too long to be recognised, if at all.

Quality of Publisher. This factor represents several elements – it refers to the publisher’s requirements to ensure polish of text, printing, cover art, etc. There needs to be an expectation in the industry that a given publisher delivers.

Publisher Marketing Effort. This refers to the extent to which the publisher will support marketing the title to the industry and reading public.

Author Marketing Effort. This refers to the extent to which the author makes an individual effort in marketing the title, both in terms of assisting the publisher, as well as pure individual effort.

There are other influences, but they collectively cannot match any of the factors represented above. Luck is one, and there is little point in discussing it. The best example is the alignment of some titles, and their coincidental exposure, with a world fad – the Dan Browns, the Harry Potters. If it happens, then it happens. Winning lottery happens too.


Each of these factors that collectively contributes to Title Success behaves differently between traditional and POD publisher effort. The following table discusses them:


<!–
/* Style Definitions */
p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
{mso-style-parent:””;
margin:0cm;
margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;}
@page Section1
{size:612.0pt 792.0pt;
margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt;
mso-header-margin:36.0pt;
mso-footer-margin:36.0pt;
mso-paper-source:0;}
div.Section1
{page:Section1;}
–>

Success Factor

Traditional Publishing

Self Publishing

Quality of Title

Publishers are generally conservative & will only publish titles from “tried and true” authors and celebrities. It is notoriously difficult for new authors to get a notable publisher to publish them. While dependent on the publisher, titles are generally of high quality, in line with the conservative model.

Most publishers have no interest at all in the quality of the title. They will publish anything the author wants, as long as it is paid for. Authors are in the difficult situation of having to judge the quality of their own work, and unfortunately most of them are seriously biased due to lack of professional help or experience.

Quality of Publisher

Leading publishing houses have professionals who will polish titles to an excellent standard, and provide artwork, including covers, of high grade. There are also notable exceptions to this, depending on the maturity of a given company, as well as their target readers.

Publishers vary in quality, and many should not be in business. Because most work on an authors-pay basis, they have little, if any, interest in polish. There are countless examples of titles that are self-published with appalling typeset, grammar, spelling errors, and artwork.

Publisher Marketing Effort

Publishers tend to spend minimally on new titles, and rely on their sample effort to determine if further spending is required. Often, this initial effort does little to further the title’s progress. The author is stuck with the publisher’s effort because the title is under complete control of the publisher.

Publishers will only market if they are paid to do so, in most cases. Even then, it is relatively minor and they tend not to have the market penetration of traditional publishers. In most cases, however, the title is not bound to the self-publishing effort – the author still has control.

Author Marketing Effort

Good publishers will work with the author, but at a minimal level. There is an expectation that the author will work hard to market the title and it is in fact in the author’s interest to do this, as it may assist in getting the sales needed to attract publisher interest to continue with it.

Publishing companies will make it clear to the author that marketing is generally up to them, and that success will be determined by that effort. This locks the author into a great deal of time commitment, and perhaps money. This does not bode well for authors who have little aptitude for this discipline.


<!–
/* Style Definitions */
p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
{mso-style-parent:””;
margin:0cm;
margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;}
@page Section1
{size:612.0pt 792.0pt;
margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt;
mso-header-margin:36.0pt;
mso-footer-margin:36.0pt;
mso-paper-source:0;}
div.Section1
{page:Section1;}
/* List Definitions */
@list l0
{mso-list-id:886406446;
mso-list-type:hybrid;
mso-list-template-ids:-96404388 201916431 201916441 201916443 201916431 201916441 201916443 201916431 201916441 201916443;}
@list l0:level1
{mso-level-tab-stop:36.0pt;
mso-level-number-position:left;
text-indent:-18.0pt;}
ol
{margin-bottom:0cm;}
ul
{margin-bottom:0cm;}
–>

As you can see in the table above, most categories, be they traditional or using the self-publishing paradigm, have negative features. Few have positive. The industry is geared toward business, not the author. This is obscene, and it has been like this from the very start.

However, I think the industry is changing – mainly due to technological innovation, where some of the negative factors are being undermined, re-evaluated, if you will. For example, self-publishing started off as vanity presses, where the author would have to cough up a great deal of money in order for print-runs and binding to take place. This was the only way printing could take place back then. These businesses worked with models where only a small number of customers were needed. Then came the Internet, digital printing, just-in-time printing technologies. Suddenly it was a lot cheaper and faster to publish a book with high grade printing, paper and binding. This is goodness. This phenomenon, along with others, doesn’t per se improve the authors’ lot, but it enabled the industry to be flexible enough to allow for the possibility of better deals for authors.

From the perspective of traditional publishing, there is a proliferation of new small publishers who genuinely want to publish new titles from new authors and are willing to find them. They work hard and don’t necessarily make a lot of money, but they are able to publish, because it is cheaper to do so. I respect these companies to no end. My own company, IFWG Publishing, intends to go down that road with a new imprint within a year.

With completely different dynamics, there is a small subset of the POD/self-publishing industry that is also looking to provide a better deal for authors. I call it hybrid publishing. This is where the publisher chooses to make policy decisions that provide a stronger emphasis on authors’ interests. In the case of my company, IFWG Publishing, this entails:

  1. Not accepting just any title for publishing. It has to have a minimum standard. The philosophy is really very simple: authors can only grow if they can lift their standard to a publishable level; and our company will have better market penetration for titles if all the titles have a reputation of quality. Symbiosis.
  2. Minimum marketing. Our company must provide a reasonable level of marketing support, even if it only entails good working relationships with authors and the provision of good advice. We can and do more than that.
  3. Decent pricing. We simply believe that if we have highly competitive pricing, then we will attract more authors, and more authors will be able to afford to publish their work.
  4. The company authors are authors themselves. We want to help authors grow and we know their motivations. This adds support to the growth of author careers.

I really don’t know where the industry is going to settle, if it will ever settle. What I do know is that the two classic models of publishing, which have existed in one form or another for many years, are not working for authors. This seems incredibly stupid to me because it is clear that readers (whether they be e-readers or print readers) are insatiable and love good new work. It’s what makes writers write, and many publishers publish. If tapped, it can also make publishers run successful businesses. I believe in my company, in part because I we can contribute to changing this injustice.

Commentary: IFWG Publishing’s “Social Contract”

The last few weeks have been heady days indeed. IFWG Publishing has been created, and all the necessary technical and procedural elements have been put into place to actually allow us to publish. Now the hard work begins.

Somehow, someway, despite the hectic pace, I actually had moments where I was able to contemplate the bigger picture, and review why we are doing what we are doing. We want to run a business – that’s a given. We want to make a living doing what we like best, in the industry that stimulates us the most, and we want to be rewarded for hard work and innovation. This is true, very true, but we also have an ethos – a philosophy that permeates all elements of what we think and do. We want to help good writers to be better writers. We want to publish good work and get the buzz.

I have just described to you, the reader, what we want to do, but we have to prove it to you too, and win your heart and soul. The biggest obstacle to this, in my view, is the fact that we are a self-publishing company (I should note here, however, that we certainly do more than what a self publishing company would normally do, and it is definitely part of our plan to also have a traditional publishing imprint).

Self publishing has an enormous stigma and this is our clear challenge to overcome. Many people – including those in the industry – intentionally or via ignorance, interchange ‘self publishing’ with ‘vanity press’, or dead end, low quality products. It isn’t surprising, because we have a publishing industry in a technological, economic, and cultural hiatus. All you have to do is spend half an hour on Twitter, or visit one of the hundreds of blogs out there in the Internet, to get a sense of the excitement about where the industry is headed. What we do know is that an an author, or a small self-publishing press, CAN print high quality books, given the skills and effort applied to it, and it can be marketed to a reasonable degree. It is equally well known that new authors entering the business will still look to keeping their day jobs for many years to come (if not forever) because the efforts by large publishing companies to invest in ’emerging authors’ is conservative indeed. With some few exceptions, regardless of self publishing or not, the onus on marketing has fallen to the author, and perhaps a third party, if they can be afforded.

In my estimation the real obstacle for ’emerging authors’ is not the constant barrage of failed queries (which are symptoms), it is the conservative nature of the industry itself, where authors are commodities, not human beings. The irony is that for every potential great writer that gets discouraged, there is a financial investment lost to those same companies. It is an incredible waste.

So I thought about how we could do things differently, and it occurred to me that what we needed was something analogous to a ‘social contract’ – where there are two parties of very different ilk, who have an agreement about how things are done (this is my definition, as it is hardly the sociopolitical definition). In other words, we need to be able to convey to authors what we can do for them, and at the same time describe what they can do for us. For instance, we can publish an author at an incredibly low price compared to most of the self-publishing industry and which would have been unheard of only a few years ago. That is one of our commitments. However, we also require quality – we need to maintain a standard in the industry that will, over time, prove that a self-publishing company can produce titles that a retail store will gladly place on their shelves. Authors will certainly gain from that! Authors in this relationship need to work beyond their submitted manuscript level – they need to be willing to rewrite and work with editors – and pay for the effort.

On a similar level, marketing is critical and has a place in the ‘social contract’. We are committed to market your work if you publish through us, but we can only do so much. But we will help, and advise. We will help you, help yourself. Your commitment, is to participate in the marketing process, assuming you want to make a success of this.

There are other examples, but I will leave it at that. It is all about relationships. Ultimately, it is about making good authors better authors.

I hope that many of you who read this get a sense of what we are trying to do, and join in the ‘social contract’.

A Copy of a Blog Entry at IFWG Publishing Site: The Perils of Publishing (R.A. Knowlton)

Scams, rip-offs and double talk.  For a budding author, desirous of having his or her work published, the publishing world is indeed a dark place.   From shady agents to devious publishers, an author is up against some very nasty characters.   Like a storyline ripped from a bestselling novel, the industry is set up to ensure that most authors fail miserably.  

 The reason?  Traditional publishers have the power to decide what people are going to read.  If an author writes a book that does not meet the current demand which has been fostered by traditional publishers, that author will not be signed. 

On the other hand there is self-publishing.  This venue promises to publish any work the author is willing to pay for.  It would seem that this route allows for the free expression of the author and a chance for success.   The truth however is that most self-published authors, into the 99% range, fail.  The reason for this is simple.  Self-publishing companies will not turn down an author even if their work is so poor it has no chance of success.  Thus you will not see a self-published book on the shelves of book stores.   Also, self-publishing offers little or no marketing, so people never learn of the book’s existence.  

What about a vanity press?  This is the very worst option for an author to choose if they are serious about having a saleable product.  Vanity – the word alone should tell an author that companies like this are all about giving the author a pat on the ego while lightening the wallet.

So here we are back to the traditional publishers again.  It would seem that it is every author’s dream to have one of the big name publishing houses buy their book.  For some, a very few, that dream has led to fame, fortune and the life the author has desired.   For many others, disillusionment clouded their dreams from the start.   For those who have reached that pinnacle of success the end of the road was not all it was supposed to be.  They found that in order to reach that goal they had to sell their book outright to the publisher.  At that moment they lost all creative rights to their work.  Often times when the author sees their book on the shelf they are excited and then when they read it they do not recognize it.  Back to the reason again –  the powerhouse publishers control what the public reads and thus if something is not as they feel it should be, it is changed and the author has no say in the matter. 

But hey, they are a published author, so all is well, right!?   Not in all cases.  Take for instance the advance that is paid to the author.  This advance is based on estimated sales and it is not a payment for the purchase of the book.  It is as it is properly called an advance towards future sales.  The advance is base on the total first run production of the book.  Usually 10,000 or 20,000 copies for a new author. 

But what if the book does not catch on and start selling?  Here is where the heartache comes for the author.  If book sales remain flat in sales, the publisher, at their option can pull the book and mothball it.  If this happens the author has no option to republish the book outside of filing a lawsuit.   While the author can keep the advance money, there will be no further profits from the book as it will not be available for sale.  At this point the likelihood of the publisher buying a second book from that author is less than slim.  

Turning the subject back to the way the traditional publishing industry controls what the public reads, there was a situation that occurred in the country music industry in the late 1970s.   At that time there was something called the Nashville Sound.  It was the recording industry’s way of saying, if you sound like this you are in, if not, forget about it.  What the public wanted to hear did not matter.  The top men in charge of the industry made all the decisions arbitrarily. The following is a little about that situation. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waylon_Jennings

“With his (Waylon Jennings) recording contract nearing an end, RCA had already lost another creative force that year: Jennings had met Willie Nelson, who had likewise been frustrated by the lack of freedom in the studio and by the entire Nashville ethos, which led him to relocate his base to Texas two years earlier. Jennings was seriously considering leaving Nashville and returning to a broadcasting career in Phoenix that year.

1972 – By that time, Jennings was aware of the fact that rock bands had almost unprecedented creative freedom to record what they wanted to record, with or without a producer and even to design their album covers. He wanted similar freedom for himself—an unprecedented move in 1972 Nashville. Also in 1972, RCA issued Ladies Love Outlaws, an album that Jennings never wanted released. Nevertheless, the title track is often considered the first song of the outlaw country movement.

In 1976, Jennings began his career-defining collaborations with Nelson on the compilation album Wanted: The Outlaws!, country’s first platinum record. The following year, RCA issued "Ol’ Waylon", an album that produced another huge hit duet with Nelson, "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)". Waylon and Willie followed in 1978, producing their biggest hit with "Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys". He released I’ve Always Been Crazy in 1978, followed with a "greatest hits" album in 1979.”

So why did I bring this up in an article about the book publishing industry?  Creative freedom was being crushed in the country music industry until Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson forced the industry to see that change was for the good.  Today country music is a thriving industry and you can be assured that if not for the “outlaws”, that would not be so.

Today, creative freedom is being crushed under the heels of traditional publishers’ mincing grip on the industry.  And rather than lift this burden, self-publishing companies and vanity presses bring a greater burden to authors who simply desire to write for a living. 

Enter a new “outlaw”, IFWG Publishing – we are planning a revolution!  We are a company owned by authors, run by authors, and created by authors.   We believe in creative freedom.  We believe that the public should choose what they read, not a group of old men sitting in a board room making decisions based on the dollar rather than the expressions, emotions and feelings written on the sweat-stained pages of a manuscript that an AUTHOR spent countless hours bearing his soul to. 

We are passionate about this venture.   We feel that it is possible to combine the best of both worlds of publishing.  By taking the strict publishing requirements of traditional publishing and combining them with the best that self publishing has to offer, we have created a “shining knight in the dark world of the publishing industry”.  

This approach gives quality authors a real chance at achieving their dreams.  By holding to our strict standards for publication, our readership will come to know that when they purchase a book published by IFWG Publishing, it will be quality.    But what if we receive a manuscript that is not of that quality?   We have set in place a means for the author, at their choosing, to bring the manuscript into line with our publishing standards.  This includes professional editing suggestions as to content, flow and consistency.   On at least one occasion we have suggested splitting a very large book into two components thus making each more saleable for a first time author.   Our staff of authors are ready to help on every level of the publishing process from creation to the sale of the product. 

What does the future hold for IFWG Publishing and our authors?   An unprecedented approach to self-publishing.  In the future we will be spending a full 1/3 of our annual budget on marketing for our authors.    As time goes on and funds grow this will include print adds at no cost to our authors, radio adds at no cost to our authors, and television adds at no cost to our authors. 

As we transform the industry we expect that other startups will jump on our coat tails and take a ride.  But they will not succeed for they will not be 100% author owned and IFWG Publishing will kick them to the curb. 
 

If you are an author who is desirous of being published, we encourage you to look further into the benefits of publishing through our company.   We are international in scope.  We offer a wide range of services to help you reach your goals.  After all, isn’t that what you are looking for in a publisher!?

R. A. Knowlton
Managing Director
IFWG Publishing

A Copy of the Formal Greeting from Managing Director, IFWG Publishing (R.A. Knowlton)

My name is R.A. Knowlton.  I am an award winning published author and co-founder of IFWG-Publishing.  I am in my mid-forties and I have over 26 years in corporate management experience.

I live in the Mid-West U.S.A., but I am from the state of Maine.

In the process of building my writing career I learned a lot about the publishing industry, most not good.  The truth is that many good authors go unpublished and many bad authors are published.  The reason for this is simple.  Traditional publishers are limited in the amount of authors they can sign, and PODs have no standards.  Thus when authors who have written fine quality works are turned down by traditional publishers, many of them give up.

On the other hand, since the typical POD will publish any piece of worthless crap for a buck, the retailers will not put any book produced by them on the shelf.  This is the basic reason this company was conceived in the first place. Imagine it, a combination of both sides of the industry.  A company that has the strict standards of a traditional publisher, but that has the ability to publish every GOOD author like a POD. 

When I first thought about this I did not think it was possible.  That was until one day when I wrote a letter to Ingram explaining my feelings about the publishing industry and for some reason they replied to me – and I began to see a way.

With a little incentive and a direction to go in I began to expand on this idea with the help of my four partners in this business. 

We are truly international in scope.  My wife and I live in the U.S.A.  Our Media Director, Warren Goodman, lives in New Jersey, U.S.A. Our Customer Service Director, Esme Carpenter , lives in the UK, and Our Chief Editor, Gerry Huntman, lives in Australia. 

How this happened.   We began to talk about what we personally would like to see in a publishing company.  Our perspectives as writers are invaluable in this venture.  Writers who have either been turned down by traditional publishers and agents or have been burned by PODs.  We started with one simple premise: demand quality and at the same time make it possible for every author to fulfill their dreams. 

To do this, we have set up a twofold process.   Let’s say an author comes to us with a great story, but it has some bumps that would normally cause a rejection from a traditional publisher, and that the other PODs would simply publish and the author is stuck with a book that will not sell.   What we offer is a process by which that book can move from good and not publishable to great and marketable. 

Am I for real on this? 

Yes I am.  I can even prove it.  When I wrote my novel KnorraSky the Deception, I was in too much a hurry to get it published to wait for a traditional publisher to make up their mind, so I went POD.   Now it did win an award in the 2009 Indie Awards, but the book had problems.  Grammar and punctuation and a few missing words here and there. Standard for most manuscripts.

When I decided to rerelease it through IFWG-Publishing, I was kindly flagged by our Chief Editor, my very good friend Gerry.  He called to my mind our standards and how even my book needed a good polishing.  And so it did.  It is now in that process by one of our very qualifies editors.

So if my Chief Editor is going to stop me from publishing a book that is not ready, you can be assured that he will make sure your book is not only publishable but also marketable.   Really, what good is it to publish a book that you cannot sell? 

You know the old saying, "it’s a million seller.  Ya I have a million in the cellar". 

Here at IFWG-Publishing, we do not want you to be stuck with a book that has no possibility of selling.  For that reason we have set strict standards for publishing, but also we have put in place the tools that you may need to make your dream come true. 

After the book is published we do not simply drop you like the PODs.   We assist you in your marketing efforts.  If your story is of a nature for a certain venue, we will contact the needed people and negotiate for you. 

Try to find this in any other POD! 

We will endeavor to set up book signings for you.  We cannot guarantee it though, since book signings are hard to get.  But we will make every effort to make this happen.   And even beyond that we are working behind the scenes in many ways to promote our authors. 

So, if you are fed up with the standard cookie cutter POD, and the traditional publishers won’t give you the time of day, come on over to the “Shining Knight in the Dark World of the Publishing Industry", IFWG Publishing.