Monday 2 February 2009

YouWriteOn’s Free Publishing Offer: An Update

Last autumn, YouWriteOn’s “free publishing deal” attracted a lot of attention from writers and industry watchdogs. It was discussed on several writers’ message boards; Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware blogged about it; and so did I.

The deeply sceptical felt that it was at best an ill-thought-out scheme or at worst, a cynical vanity publishing plan to separate naive writers from their money; the optimistic saw it as an innovative publishing scheme designed to break the mould of corporation-controlled publishing (in case you haven’t read my original posts, I fell in with the sceptics).

Publication was initially scheduled for the first week of December but as we moved into the second week of the month, only a tiny handful of writers had been notified that their books were available. Books trickled onto Amazon and Barnes & Noble—but only those written by authors who had paid what Ted was misleadingly referring to as the “distribution fee” (the £39.99 he had charged writers to assign an ISBN to their books): not a single book appeared from the writers who had chosen the free option.

YouWriteOn members began to post questions on the YouWriteOn message board, asking when their books would appear: but Ted Smith, who seems to run YouWriteOn single-handed, largely failed to respond directly to their questions: instead, he pointed out that publication by Christmas had always been an aim, but not a promise. When the level of complaints and in-fighting threatened to overrun the message board, Smith began deleting posts (including a few of mine); then he began deleting whole threads; and then, on December 19, he closed down the entire message board, supposedly for its brief annual Christmas break. The board remains closed to this day. It’s apparently undergoing upgrades. They had better be good.

What is YouWriteOn doing with this break from message board moderating? You’d think that it would be taking care of the legal obligations that come with running a reputable publishing company, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Last week a representative of the British Library confirmed to me that despite all publishers having a legal obligation to provide it with copies of all their books under the Legal Deposit scheme, YouWriteOn has not provided a single copy of any of its latest titles. And YouWriteOn can’t say that it was unaware of this obligation: it was discussed on the YouWriteOn board before the board was taken down, and in Absolute Write’s thread about YouWriteOn which Ted Smith has contributed to; and if that were not enough, the Legal Deposit team alerted YouWriteOn to its legal obligation last summer when it had to make an official request for one of YouWriteOn’s previous publications, when YouWriteOn failed to provide a copy within the legal deadline.

Meanwhile, what of YouWriteOn’s authors? As I write this, 192 books are listed under the YouWriteOn imprint on Amazon, and 273 on Barnes and Noble—although I’ve also noticed several YouWriteOn books listed without any imprint details, so the actual number will be higher.

Not one of those books that I’ve checked (and I've looked at over half of them) has any form of synopsis to tell the browsing reader what the book is about: and most of the jacket designs use the same standard template in purple, cream and black which is, I’m afraid, downright ugly; or an image of a blue planet, which renders the superimposed title illegible. So much for the ten foot rule.

I’ve spotted many errors in Amazon’s listings: one author’s first name was correctly given as Tamsin on her book jacket, but was listed as Jasmine in the Amazon details, which would have made searching for her by name impossible; there were several cases where the Amazon details referred to one book but a completely different book appeared in the cover image provided by YouWriteOn. Many more showed spelling errors in names and/or titles on the provided image of the book jackets, in the details provided to Amazon, or on both; and there were some particularly odd inversions of the authors names. Two authors have discovered that their titles, names and ISBNs are confused to such an extent they’re not sure which is their book, and which belongs to the other. Am I nitpicking? Hardly. Out of one hundred YouWriteOn books that I chose at random from Amazon UK two weeks ago, sixty seven had errors in the details provided to Amazon by YouWriteOn. Of those sixty seven books with errors, only one now shows corrected copy. The remaining errors are still in place.

One writer paid to have her cover professionally designed and, while the designers did a good job, all thirty of the copies which she ordered for her launch party arrived with a green stripe running across the cover, as did copies that her friends ordered at different times: which implies that this was not a printer malfunction, but an issue with the PDF held by Lightning Source—which was, of course, supplied by YouWriteOn.

At least she has a book, though: several writers have still heard nothing about their books’ status from YouWriteOn despite repeated requests for information. Writers who didn’t cough up for the “distribution fee” have been told that their books will be available to order from the YouWriteOn website on some unspecified date in the future and as the contract states that they won’t earn any royalties on copies they buy themselves, they have no real way to make money from the sales of their own books. Some writers have cancelled, but have received no confirmation that their cancellations have been received; and meanwhile, YouWriteOn has blithely announced on its own website that following the huge success of its publishing scheme it’s planning to open its doors to a new round of submissions in the spring.

I have to ask: a success for whom? Not for the writers who still have no idea when, or if, their books will published; nor for the writers whose books are incorrectly listed on Amazon. And while I’m genuinely pleased that some YouWriteOn writers are happy with their books, I wonder how well their books will do bearing in mind that YouWriteOn has provided these books with no editorial input or distribution whatsoever.

One thing that has been provided, though, is a nice big chunk of money to YouWriteOn: the authors of every single one of those 273 YouWriteOn books now showing on Barnes & Noble paid £39.99 to YouWriteOn to get them there: a total of £10,906.35, plus the income provided by the authors whose YouWriteOn books are listed as “imprint unknown”. That’s a very nice return for making a couple of slapdash downloads every day in the four months or so since this scheme launched: and it doesn’t take into account any of the money which YouWriteOn has earned on the back of the sales of these books. Is this vanity publishing? It certainly looks like it to me.

(Please note: I'd have liked to have linked to various posts at YouWriteOn's message board to provide my many sources for this piece, but as it's been taken down that's not possible; and while it might have been useful to link to some of the many errors I've seen on Amazon I didn't want the authors concerned to feel that I was poking fun at them: so I've decided not to highlight any individual books here.)


Sue Guiney said...

I have been reading one of these books mentioned, written by a friend. It has been breaking my heart to see how shoddily it's been printed, full of misspellings, incorrect punctuation, etc. Clearly, there was no copy editing involved and that, of course, takes away from the narrative. I had been concerned when I first heard about YouWriteOn. Now I know I was correct to be. It should be a lesson to us all.

Jane Smith said...

Sue, You were right to be concerned. There was no quality control involved with these books at all: anything that was submitted got published, whether it was fabulously written or complete drivel; then there was no editing carried out--everything was published exactly as it was submitted--which means that not only were typos not checked for, but also that the more important line editing was not done. Then, no one checked any proofs, considered the layout or the design--nothing.

I did my best to point all these problems out to everyone I knew who was considering taking YWO up on the deal: but most of them thought that this was a real chance of progressing with their writing career. If they're happy with what they've got, then I'm glad for them: but if they think that publishing with YWO is a genuine publishing credit then they're going to be seriously disappointed in the future.

Sally Zigmond said...

What a mess. Whilst it's gratifying to be proved right, I take no pleasure in the fact that I wrote on my blog The Elephant in The Writing Room (http://thee; back in September that it would 'end in tears'. Would-be authors must never forget that if something looks too good to be true, it is.

But what saddens me the most is that many would-be authors still believe that Ted Smith is on their side, the answer to their prayers and has been unjustly condemned. (Why do so many people put their faith in false gods?) Is he a crook? Not intentionally, I don't think but he is a Wizard of Oz. I believe he knows as little as his followers about the publishing process and is totally out of his depth.

Real publishing is not dead. The system works. Unfortunately,it's based, first and foremost, on quality control and most of the YWO authors (not all, I hasten to add) are neither good enough or well enough informed.

Karen said...

Absolutely shocking service. I'm so glad I steered clear of this now, and thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Smith will ever dare to put the message board up again

Anonymous said...

I am one of the authors whose book has been published by YWO. Called, Woodsmoke, it is on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The cover is dreadful and different to that promised, although no one bothered to let me know of the change. There is no disclaimer on the first page so I hope I have not libelled anyone in the book. Apart from that, the font size is good, and larger than the norm for a paperback. There are a few typos, one of which is in the synopsis on the back cover. Those are my own fault for not checking properly. I feel that Ted has let everyone down by not responding to e-mails with requests for information. He should now come out in the open and tell us what is going on. If you read this, Ted, please re-open the forums. I do not believe that they are being updated, but that you have lost your way and don't know how to sort it out.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the authors who signed up initially, and cancelled when it came to light that I wouldn't be able to use the cover I spent three or four days creating, and would have to use one of the templates. Judging by the quality of them on Amazon, I stayed well clear and cancelled. I am so glad I did, and though I backed the scheme at first, I no longer do. Jane and all the others were right, and I will listen to them from now on!

Welshcake said...

I agree with Eileen. Ted needs to reopen the forum, pronto.

I fear this could be the death of YWO. It doesn't reflect well on Legend Press either. I wonder how their contracted authors feel about the association with this mess.

Anonymous said...

The problem is,what happens to the authors "Published by Youwriteon"

Anonymous said...

As Jane said ,the problem of the Legal Deposit thingy will not go away, As I see it YWO still has to post off 1600+ to the deposit agency

Anonymous said...

Sorry ,I did mean 1600+ BOOKS

Jane Smith said...

Eileen, Joanna and Welshcake, thanks for making your comments. It can't have been easy for any of you to say those things, and it's much appreciated. I honestly wish that I'd been wrong about this, and that it had been a huge success. It's dreadful reading comments from so many writers, here and elsewhere, who have realised that they've made such a huge mistake.

Here's what I'd do if I were Ted.

1) Reopen the message board and post a huge apology to all writers who have been involved in this fiasco.

2) Admit that I'd made a big, fat mistake, and that I was way out of my depth with it all; and post details of how I was working on sorting everything out, and not the vague, self-promotional fluff that he's been giving, but real, solid information. And then stick to the plan, answering questions as they arise.

3) Stop the vanity publishing nonsense and stick to what YouWriteOn is good at: providing reviews from publishing professionals.

4) Refund the money to everyone who has cancelled (while I've heard of many people who have cancelled, I've yet to hear of any one of them receiving a refund of their fee).

5) Get someone who really knows how publishing works (and no, that's not a hint that he should ask me, it's not a gig I want) to advise him on the realities of the writing world, so that he stops perpetuating misinformation on his message board and elsewhere.

How does this reflect on Legend? I emailed Tom Chalmers about my concerns that his press was gaining a reputation as a vanity press because of its association with YouWriteOn and he emailed back and told me that this was not a vanity publishing operation. I disagree with him: I can't see how it can be anything else, bearing in mind that most (if not all) of the money that YWO has earned from this publishing scheme has come direct from its writers. It does make clear where Chalmers' priorities lie, though: firmly with YouWriteOn.

The writers who have taken part, and are happy: well. Let's see how happy they are in a few months' time, when their sales have dried up because all of their family and friends have bought their copies and no one else knows about their books because they're not in bookshops, and have no distribution. They might not be quite so happy then. I'm not wishing unhappiness on them: it's just that I've seen this happen over and over again, with other vanity publishing houses (hang about in the Publish America forum over at AbsoluteWrite for a week or two and you'll see what I mean). If they're still happy in a few months then, as I've said before, I'm glad for them. Really. That's great, and I wish them the very best of luck.

Jane Smith said...

As for the Legal Deposit issue which Anonymous alluded to in the post above mine (sorry, we cross-posted): I've got a post going up about legal deposit tomorrow, which explains how it works for every publisher (it's not aimed specifically at YouWriteOn). But briefly, all publishers have a legal obligation to provide a single copy of each of their publications to the British Library, but if the Legal Deposit Agency requests them, up to five more copies of each title can also be demanded. This means that YWO has a legal obligation to supply at least 273 books, and might well be asked to supply 1,638 or more if all the libraries request copies--all at YouWriteOn's cost.

Anonymous said...

Self-publishing has it's niche market, but that is not and can never be debute fiction novels.
Self-publishing will always pander to the deepest desires and frustrations of the unpublished writer, but it is to be avoided.
Go buy a lottery ticket - you will have more chance of winning with that, than of making a success of a self-published novel.

Anonymous said...

Re: Legal Deposit
It is possible that POD publishing comes under the voluntary agreement regarding electronic publications -
See: Interim arrangements for the Legal Deposit of electronic publications.
In which case, copies could be lodged with the British Library on CD-ROM.

Also, only publications with ISBN numbers would be involved.

Jane Smith said...

Anonymous at 00:18, I agree with you that self-publishing is not appropriate for novels--but the YWO initiative was not self-publishing, as the books were published by YWO and not by the authors. It's vanity publishing.

Anonymous at 01:06, you're right when you say that there are different arrangements for electronic publications, but the YWO books aren't electronic, they're physical, printed books.

You're wrong when you state that "only publications with ISBN numbers would be involved": I've spoken with the Legal Deposit office at length and they've confirmed that ALL books published are subject to Legal Deposit obligations, regardless of whether or not they have an ISBN. Certain publications (eg diaries, travel timetables) don't have to be submitted at all unless requested by the LD office; but again, that doesn't cover the YWO books, which would all be subject to this legislation and so would all have to be supplied to the LD office.

If it's any help, I have a post about this due today, with all links provided.

Anonymous said...

"but the YWO initiative was not self-publishing, as the books were published by YWO and not by the authors. It's vanity publishing."

Vanity publishing and POD publishing are both aspects of self-publishing. In both cases all the writer ends up with is a physical representation of their book. After that it is up to them to market/sell it.
YWO was 'merely' offering the writers a process by which they could self-publish their mss.
Just as Lulu POD publishing, is self-publishing.

It is important to realise that both POD and vanity publishing ARE self publishing, because when any Agents or Editors blog about the perils of self-publishing they are including vanity and POD published novels.
Other self publishing methods are to set up one's own imprint and have a limited print run, or, to POD publish via what is euphamistically called 'subsidy' publishing.
It all comes under the banner of Self Publishing.

Anonymous said...

And one other to the list:
If you upload your novel on your blog, that is also self-publishing.

Jane Smith said...

Anonymous, while I appreciate the effort that you're making to post here I’d prefer it if you'd let us know who you are: not only have I quite clearly asked everyone who posts here to use their name, I consider it somewhat devious for people to try to avoid taking responsibility for their own words by not admitting who they are, especially when they so clearly have their own agenda.

As for your views on what is, and isn't, self-publishing: you're in the minority here and do seem to fall in line with the views of the vanity presses. It's in the interests of the vanity presses to muddy the boundaries between vanity and self-publication, because when people are confused about how these things work, they’re more likely to make a costly mistake and end up using a vanity press, thinking that that's how self-publishing works.

“It is important to realise that both POD and vanity publishing ARE self publishing, because when any Agents or Editors blog about the perils of self-publishing they are including vanity and POD published novels.”

Agents and editors do lump together vanity and self-published books when they talk about the issues involved with promoting these books, because both categories face the same problems: usually those of quality control and sales. That doesn’t mean that both publication categories are equal: they’re not. One exploits the writer, and the other doesn’t. Simple.

You also seem confused about what POD means: it stands for “print on demand”, and is a printing method used by mainstream, vanity and self-publishers. It’s not exclusive to any form of publisher. Your implication that using a POD printer is somehow akin to participating in "subsidy publication" (which is, as you state, a euphemism for vanity publication) makes me wonder what your agenda is here. You seem intent to confuse and, as I’ve already stated, confusion is in the vanity publisher’s favour. So we don’t like it here.

Having said so much in reply, I must point out that this thread is for discussing the YouWriteOn publishing offer, and not for discussing vanity publishing in general. Why don't you read some of my posts about vanity publishing, and pick our conversation up again there? It would be more on-topic, and serve a more useful purpose. But remember to include your name with your posts next time, or I will be very suspicious indeed.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where I would stand if, now that they have published my book, I cancel my contract with YWO? I know that I can, but would first rights revert back to me or have I lost them for ever? I do wish I had paid more attention to some of the warnings posted back in October. I still have not heard from Ted of YWO, and I doubt if anyone else has either. He could redeem himself with his members if he would only come clean about what has gone wrong.

Jane Smith said...

Eileen, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, as I made clear way back in October 2008, first rights can't be recovered once a book has been published. So I'm afraid that if your book has now been published by YWO, first rights to it have now gone.

According to the terms of the contract you should be able to cancel your contract with YWO without too much trouble (although few people who have tried to do so have received word from YWO or Legend that their cancellation has been dealt with, and any editor or agent considering your work is going to need to see written confirmation that this has been done); however, the ISBN that was allotted to your book is out there now, and is very unlikely to be cancelled. So your book will still appear on Amazon, B&N, the Gardners website and so on--even if no copies were ever printed or sold.

Nevertheless, if I were you I'd cancel the contract: I think it would be wise to limit your involvement with this scheme to the absolute minimum. You might still be able to find commercial publication for the book if it's good enough; and meanwhile, write a new and better book. I know it's easy for me to say that but honestly, it's a good way forward and I wish you luck.

I agree with you about Ted, too: if he'd only step forward, admit his mistakes, and make public what he intends to do to sort out this mess then he would go part of the way towards redeeming himself. At least in some people's eyes.

Jane Smith said...

One of my regular readers, DOT of, has been unable to post his comment here, so I'm doing it for him. Here he goes:

I love your tenacity in pursuing and reporting on this topic to its bitter and sad end for all those who were sucked in.

I find it hard to believe how individuals, who, presumably, are au fait with the internet and all of its works and snares, allow their judgment to be impaired by the simple lure of seeing their name in print. If that is what they desire why don't they write a letter to themselves each day and pop it in the post.

I have no - but every - expectation of what I write. I write because I have to in much the same way as I have to breathe; however, I am extremely self-critical of what I produce and measure it against what I consider to be the best.

If others find it of merit will be a bonus but the size of my sexual organ does not depend on their praise. (Forgive the crudeness, but the parallel between the length of a car's bonnet and having your name in print appear to me to be reflections of the same self-regarding neurosis.)

This is not to say I do not write for others - it is, of course, my motivation. But if what I produce is not acceptable to other professionals, demanding as myself, then it does not merit being published.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jane. I think that everyone who has ordered my book has now received their copies so it's time for me to leave YWO. To Dot, i feel you are just a little unkind in describing those of us who fell for it as having self-regarding neurosis. The only reason I took part in the scheme was because the book is historical and based on my own experiences and I wanted to be able to give friends and family a copy. I grasped the opportunity as I could not afford the steep fees charged by self-publishing/vanity press companies. It hasn't worked for me and I should have listened to Jane and others who foresaw the outcome.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,
Oh dear, oh dear! I notice in the Bookseller article,Legend have now reduced the number of publications from 5,000 to 1,000. I didn't part with any ISBN money, and was only planning on ordering a copy for proof-reading purposes, and possibly for one or two cheap Christmas presents.
If you don't mind me asking, would you advise me to cancel "my" book before it (just possibly) arrives, or would it be harmless fun to let one arrive through my door? Presumably, with no ISBN, (and a different title!!), there is little risk of any future problems with an agent, if one can be persuaded to handle it? The original blurb from YWO said there would be no hindrance whatsoever to a "normal" publishing deal in the future, and implied that YWO, with Arts Council backing, was just like in Sainsbury's, "happy to help."

Jane Smith said...

Anonymous, assuming the authors who didn't pay for ISBNs ever do see their books (and from some of the updates YWO has been sending out, that's doubtful), YWO will display every single one of those books on its website. You could then cancel, but how long will it take for the links to disappear? And while it's unlikely that books without an ISBN will appear on Amazon et al, it has happened.

Is it worth the risk to you?

If all you want is a copy or two, try or somewhere similar. All you pay for are the copies you buy, and you can be up and running in an hour or two.

As for those books not being a hindrance to a normal deal--well. Lots of agents and publishers won't even consider a book that has already been published, no matter what the circumstances. It's up to you, of course, but in your case I'd cancel the contract with YWO as soon as I could and make alternative arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments above. Sorry to come through as "Anonymous," but if you don't have a URL, your link won't accept a name. I'm the mysterious "Steve" by the way! My problem now is I want to cancel, but can't. I've e-mailed YWO, Legend, and anyone linked there, but just get automated replies, and when I try ringing Legend Press, I just get a beeping sound, like from a full answer-machine, or a company that's just shut down...
If only!
Steve. (Anonymous!).

Jane Smith said...

Hello, Anonymous Steve (I like that contradiction): thanks for introducing yourself.

You might like to read my latest post about YWO and the Arts Council, and explore the links a little bit because one of them gives a contact phone number for YouWriteOn. I've not tried it, so can't guarantee it works, but it's worth a go. And if you can find a fax number for Legend, try phoning that too--you never know.

If all else fails, the Arts Council might well have contact details for them: and I'd assume that YWO's funding applications to the AC might well have contact details too, which I think are going to be public records.

Let me know how you get on.

Jane Smith said...

OK, I'll stop teasing. Have a look here:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jane.
The YWO phone number on that YWO link gets a nicely recorded response from BT, namely "The telephone number you dialled does not exist." The e-mail address given has just received the same message I sent everyone else...
I've already e-mailed the Arts Council, but they take "5 working days to respond." Perhaps a well publicised rumour could be set up that YWO and Legend have teamed up to do a mass promotion of the Satanic Verses, complete with Danish cartoons?
Steve Anonymous.

Jane Smith said...

Steve, you could see if you can fix a company name to YouWriteOn's registered address (which might well be that of its solicitor):

Or as the Arts Council, which funds YWO, isn't answering you, why not try the government department to which the Arts Council reports? Contact details are given in my post about YWO and the Arts Council.

Jane Smith said...

(Or you could perhaps try Directory Enquiries, and ask for the number for Ted Smith at those two addresses... it might well work.)

Jane Smith said...

Steve, email me at "hprw at tesco dot net", would you, please?

Anonymous said...

Here's another little snippet for you, Jane,after several e-mails to YWO, I have finally heard that my royalties will be 0.79p per book sold through bookshops. I have just checked the bumph Ted sent out earlier, and there it states that for a book of 250 pages, the author will receive a direct payment of £1. Now, my book is 280 pages long and yet I am to get 0.21p less. It's beginning to smell a bit.


Anonymous said...

Steve - I've just received an email from Tom (Legend) saying he has cancelled my agreement. It took a while for him to get back to me, but he should do eventually. You may not need to worry.

Jane Smith said...

Eileen, what's the cover price for your book? I'd like to know what percentage that royalty works out to, bearing in mind that Ted was so insistent that his royalty was significantly higher than that paid by mainstream publishers. To put this into perspective, I've got a little book coming out later this year with a cover price of £4.99: I'll be paid 40p per copy sold, based on an 8% royalty of cover price. If your book is sold at £8, then your royalty equates to about 10% which isn't bad--but it's nowhere near the 60% that lots of people thought they were getting.

Joanna, I'm glad you've got your cancellation in writing--make sure you keep a copy or two in a very safe place. You'll need it if you ever publish that book elsewhere.

Meanwhile, someone is posting right now in the Absolute Write thread about YWO from the same IP address as Ted has used to post there in the past. You might want to take a look, if you have the time.

Anonymous said...

Jane, my book is selling for £6.99 which is the price Ted mentioned in his blurb as earning £1 per book Royalty. Yes, I too thought I would get 60%. I'm not too good at maths so could you post on here what my percentage is. Many thanks.

Jane Smith said...

Eileen, a payment of 79p per book with a cover price of £6.99 equates to a royalty of 11% on that cover price.

Most mainstream publishers pay royalties as a percentage of the cover price. That way, no matter what discounts they sell the book at, the author's cut remains the same. Standard discounts are anything from 8% to 15%.

Ted's royalty was calculated as 60% "after printing costs" but those printing costs were not defined: did they include JUST the cost of printing the books, for example, or also the administration costs involved with getting the books to the printers? It was never said.

So on a book with a cover price of £8, if those printing costs came to £2, the writer would then get 60% of the remaining £6 (which works out to £3.60): however, if the printing costs were calculated at £7.40, then the writer would get 60% of what remains--and 60% of 60p is 36p. Those "printing costs" are critical.

Do you see what the problems are? Ted was comparing apples with oranges by saying his royalties were higher than mainstream, because the two sets of percentages he was comparing are calculated in two completely different bases; and by not defining those printing costs, he made it impossible for the writers to calculate their own royalties.

Can you forward me the bumph where Ted promised you a royalty of £1? I'd be grateful: my email address is "hprw at tesco dot net". You might have grounds to insist that he pays you the higher rate if he's promised it to you in writing, but I doubt you'd be able to enforce it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jane, I'll e-mail it to you. 11% isn't too bad I suppose. I just don't like being mis-informed. What a mess this has turned out to be.

Anonymous said...

Jane, I am in a bit of a quandary here. I had intended to cancel my contract with YWO/Legend Press but :

I had an e-mail yesterday from a man who sort of runs things in the village where my book is set. He wants to organise some book signings and has also sold some copies to friends for me. He belongs to a few retired groups where many of the members are people I knew when I lived there during the war. Now, if I cancel, I am going to lose all those sales. On the other hand, I am not too happy at what has been happening (or not as the case may be). What would do if you were me? Hang on for a while and see, or cancel? At the moment I am for hanging on if it means a larger circulation for my book.

Jane Smith said...

Eileen, you could always use or another POD provider: that way you could have copies of the book in your hands in a few days, without having to pay over the odds for them. It's worth considering.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

Sorry to post this message on two different threads, but not sure which is the best one...

Are you still trying to cancel your YWO POD publication before it finally goes ahead?
Do you keep e-mailing "Tom" and "Ted" but receive no reply? Not even an acknowledgement? Have you tried calling, but got a "no such number" message from BT,(YWO no. given on website), or a "full answer machine cut-off" from Legend? I got all the above.

I wanted to cancel, as despite the assurances from YWO that they would help me if I get a publisher or agent in the future,it now appears that no publisher or agent would be interested in anything already published, as "first rights" would have already gone.
I also had doubts that my book would appear in time for Christmas as promised, this being the middle of February...

So... the way around this, if you want to cancel, appears to be the following e-mail sent to both "Ted" and "Tom" on every possible e-mail address, including the message posting facility on their websites.

My cancellation request was accompanied by the following message, to both Legend and YWO:
"If you don’t respond to this Cancellation request by end of day on (next day's date), I shall contact Trading Standards with immediate effect. I have e-mailed you over and over, and your phone doesn’t accept incoming calls. I’ve e-mailed all your other business e-mail addresses, and you ignore all of them.
You are supposedly running a business, and have stated in writing that you will cancel the publication of any book when requested to do so. Enough is enough. Reply to this e-mail, or I shall report Legend Press for business malpractice."
Surprise, surprise, I received two confirmations of cancellation the next day.
One from "Tom."
And one from "Ted" too.
They would appear none too keen on being reported to Trading Standards.
Now why could that be???

YWO is apparently a one man band, and its use of the Arts Council logo on the Legend website is misleading, to say the least. This has been reported many times already to the Arts Council. However, I think the biggest problem is with Legend, who are supposedly a "proper" publishing firm. This sort of behaviour is not what one should expect from any reputable company. One therefore has to draw one's own conclusions.

As for me, that's the easy bit. Now for the tricky business of trying to attract a real agent or publisher!


Anonymous said...

PS - I posted the above comment on Legend's message board a few minutes ago, and it seems to have disappeared!!


SunRay said...

Hmmm. Well I am one of those 'foolish people' that signed up to the deal.

I read the message boards and tried to be the voice of reason when things got heated, reminding people of the good work Tom and Ted were doing and asking them to be patient.

BUT... here I am in February, with greyer hair, fewer nails, no patience and a slight tic when youwriteon or Legend are mentioned.

My story - probably very familiar -When my book first became available just before Christmas there were errors. YWO had put the wrong author name on the front, they had also applied the standard template skew-whiff and it looked like a really cheap text book , or 'notes-on' type book. The most amazing thing is that they had made changes to my manuscript and introduced errors into the text !?!

So - I very patiently contacted them - finally got an answer and agreement that they would make changes. At this point I had also noticed two typos of my own. So I gracioulsy (I think) agreed to split the cost of the making the changes.

I then had emails from both Ted and Tom saying that all my changes were ready (they had checked) and the new version had been sent to the printers. With a smile on my face and spring in my step I planned a little launch event - and ordered my book. I was very, very confident, after all I had even been sent a PDF of my new cover, but left a good three weeks even though I was told the books would be with me in 5 days.

So now a day before my launch and am sitting in my living room with a box full of books, where they forgot to change the cover and author name. And to really rub salt in the wounds apparently I can have order new copies at a bigger discount for this year to make up for it.

Beware - as my mother always says if it sounds too good to be true - it is!

Jane Smith said...

SunRay, I don't think anyone here has called you foolish: it's the scheme I object to, not the people who have signed up to it.

I'm sorry you've had such a poor experience with the scheme.

And I'm horrified that you were told that there would be a charge incurred if you wanted those errors to be corrected.

These books are printed by Lightning Source which, as far as I know, makes no charge for such corrections (although I could be wrong, as I've not used them). All a publisher has to do is download the PDF and the job is done. How much did YWO tell you the charge would be? And why did it say this charge was going to be levied against you?

If Ted and Tom told you they'd checked that the errors had been corrected, and you ordered the books as a result (how many do you have?), then surely they should cover the cost of replacing the books now? Especially as the errors seem to be of their making, and are so significant.

Eugh. Your story is terrible. I'm so sorry.

Anonymous said...

SunRay - what can I say? I'm glad you've found your way here.

How awful that this has happened to you. And what's this about a CHARGE for correcting errors?? What the heck has happened to the helpful site for writers I used to enjoy visiting?

This is getting worse and worse...I really do hope your book is re-published fault free as soon as possible.

Jane Smith said...

Apologies for the comment-spam which appeared here just now: I've deleted it, and have switched on the comment moderation feature in an attempt to stop it happening again.