Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Times They Are A-Changin and the Publishing Industry Better Be A-Listening

In 1963 Bob Dylan wrote ‘The times they are a-changin’. The lyrics in the second verse are the most poignant today for writers and the publishing industry in general.

“Come writers and critics

Who prophesise with your pen

And keep your eyes wide

The chance won't come again”

I don’t think Dylan could foresee the coming Internet explosion, and if he could I am sure his lyrics would, as they did then, preach a more powerful sermon than the publishing industry being revolutionised by Print-on Demand (POD) technology. Dylan would, I hope, fully agree with the democratisation of the written word through POD's insurgence. POD and the coming arrival of the espresso book machine to a shopping mall near you, is going to send waves of anxiety to book stores, and by that very act to the established publishing industry. With the increase in technology storage capacity and wired and wireless information exchange these machines could begin to level the playing field for small and independent publishers, especially publishers who already embrace the technology.

As the industry begins to become conscious of environmental matters such as carbon footprint, recycling and waste, POD will more and more been seen as the logical next step. The average 300-page novel produces approximately 1.4 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per copy. Who knows, maybe the bookstore of the future will have several portable POD machines with digital catalogues working away printing novels as they are demanded by the public, rather than published titles sitting on shelves awaiting the recall back to the publisher for expensive and un-environmentally friendly pulping or return to landfill. POD machines in-store could also reduce delivery and collection. The downside? Who wants to wait seven minutes for their 300-page novel to be printed? This wait may not be so bad if accompanied by a cup of coffee or beverage of your choice. But the fact is that if these machines are currently capable of making a book from a digital file in under 10 minutes then who knows what that wait might be in two or even three years. Publishers such as Ken Arnold Books and Caffeine Nights Publishing among many others are waiting at the door for this technology to be rolled out into the coffee shops, libraries and high streets in towns near you, while at present many mainstream publishers continue to ignore the technology, hoping it will go away.

At the moment critics, some authors and many publishers dismiss the idea and notion of POD, but the technology is here and believe me no one ever un-invented the wheel. If the established publishing industry does not want the technology and it appears many don’t, then there is a line of publishers eager to embrace it. The same disdain is held for small publishers who want no more than to stand on the same playing field and have an equal chance at finding an audience for its product. Many publishers know how much of a closed shop this industry can be. Is this a form of snobbery? I could argue strongly that it is. The decade after Bob Dylan foretold that the times were a-changin, the punk explosion rocked the music industry. Punk rock made it possible for every talented and musically challenged individual to form a band, start a record label and find an audience. In some respects social networking sites such as MySpace are helping promote new talent in similar ways. The comparison for the publishing industry is that revolution cannot be ignored. It always starts in the streets and works its way through society, eventually shaking it to its knees.

It is curious that the publishing industry is virtually alone in its contempt for the independent artist. Recent breakthrough artists in the music industry have found their audiences without the need of backing from the establishment and there are also cases of established artists leaving the mainstay record labels to go it alone. Radiohead’s recent experiment where it offered its product as a free download leaving fans to pay what they felt was a fair price for the album proves a point. The experiment had record executives at the major labels both curious and quaking with fear. The project was a resounding success. Even after offering ‘in rainbows’ virtually free of charge, the album still managed to shoot to number one when released, giving the band its first UK number 1 album in years. You may recall Stephen King experimented with a similar trial on the Internet a few years back. Offering individual chapters of 'Riding the Bullet' and leaving fans to decide what to pay. King’s venture in this market may have been premature and he may have tested an audience which was not as sophisticated as today’s net user. Sadly Mr King's effort was deemed a failure.

While artists, musicians and even filmmakers are respected from coming from an independent platform it appears that authors are treated with suspicion and disdain. When was the last time you read an article slamming a 'vanity filmmaker' or 'vanity musician. I dare say rarely if ever. The terminology 'vanity' is only left for authors. Why? I feel the future of publishing is changing and democratising the industry for authors and independent publishers.

Aptly closing with Mr Dylan, he goes on to sing:

There's a battle outside

And it is ragin'.

It'll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin'.

With thanks to Mr Bob Dylan for writing the fabulous lyrics to ‘The Times they are A-Changin’ Bob Dylan

Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music



Monday, 10 March 2008

Swimming with the Sharks – Fighting the myths about POD

Being a start-up company in the world of publishing is certainly an exciting time at the moment. Print-on-Demand (POD) is a filthy word akin to being disrespectful to a religion or God; or so it would seem. But POD is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of publishing in the trade today. We are not responsible for printing thousands of unwanted titles that get recalled and expensively scrapped or pulped. We only produce when there is a demand or when an order is generated. What POD can bring the trade is a form of intelligent ordering and smaller quantity ordering from large and independent bookstores willing to try something new.

There is also a myth generated that POD means a no returns policy. Our policy is to make firm sales as this allows us to work with larger discounts and places more onus on bookstores to actually sell the books and offer them equal placement with the big boys of this publishing world. But if a store wants to return unsold stock then we are willing to do that but not at a price where there is no incentive to the store to actually promote and sell titles. We will support books stores with book signings, posters, pre-signing publicity, PR and POS. I think that is more than fair to gain a little shelf space in a store. Especially when the store will probably earn more money per copy than the author who slavishly spent part of his or her life writing the darned thing, or even the publisher who had the brass ones to publish it. And then, you know what, if the store doesn’t shift the book they get the right to return it and get their money back…no questions asked.

The way the book trade operates, everyone gets a slice of the cake. Printers, distributors, bookstores, designers, photographers, agents, authors and yes, even publishers. That slice gets to be incredibly thin for small publishers once everyone has taken their cut. The author unless he/she sells phenomenal amounts will take home an average wage that is bordering on, and in some cases less than, minimum wage. The publisher will only get a small percentage of what’s left to keep searching for new talent and investment.

Some bookstores want at least 50% off the cover price and force small publishers to commit to quantities that they must know are not viable in terms of sales. Online giants are no better, and while some like to promote themselves as the saviour of the small presses, they have no problem asking for 60% plus. These figures are mad and clearly unsustainable to companies operating on miniscule budgets. There is an option to return to running off thousands of books to reduce the overall cost per copy and wait a year for the books to return to be pulped, but surely POD is a far more sensible approach. It also offers readers greater choice.

The book industry has to start adjusting to life in the new age. It is clear to see why the big publishing houses have such a strangle hold on the retail market, and why there is restrictive practices stopping little minnows from swimming with the sharks. It is also clear that times are changing and unless the media adopts a less snooty attitude to POD and bookstores learn to embrace what should be an exciting opportunity for them then the sharks may become dinosaurs while the minnows evolve and exploit new markets and technologies such as the Espresso Book Machine. Now may just be the time for small and independent publishers to band together to gain market share in the coffee shops with our product and digital catalogues because you can be sure that this will be the one area the major publishers will cream their coffee beans to suddenly back this technology, which we are currently berated for championing.



Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Caffeine Nights Publishing announce launch of its first crime thriller ‘Turtle Island’


Ref: 0008

Date:04 March 2008

Caffeine Nights Publishing announce launch of its first crime thriller ‘Turtle Island’

Caffeine Nights Publishing is proud to announce the launch of its first crime fiction novel, Turtle Island, by Darren E Laws. Originally published in 2003, the novel has been re-edited by Darren after fans of the book asked for a sequel. The rights having been obtained by the Kent based publisher means it can proceed to publish the whole series of books in the Georgina O’Neil trilogy.

Author, Darren E Laws originally published the book with an American publisher and was keen to expand the novel into a short series of crime fiction books. “I have spent a good part of this year working on a re-edited version of Turtle Island. It strikes me that software developers and even film makers are always modifying and improving their product and I do not see why authors cannot do the same.”

Originally Turtle Island was penned as a stand-alone novel, but due to pressure from fans to find out what happens to various characters in the novel, Darren began to draft a sequel ‘Dark Country’ (due for release by Caffeine Nights Publishing late 2008).

“Various elements in the original publication had to be re-edited to allow me a little more scope for the sequel. There are some subtle changes in the novel, and I would like to think that I have upped the tension; chemistry and horror to make TI V2.0 not only a better novel, but also one that makes the readers want to find out what happens in the sequel ‘Dark Country’.”

Turtle Island (ISBN:978-0-9554070-1-7) will be published on the 4th February 2008 by Caffeine Nights Publishing and retails at £7.99.


Limited number of review copies available now.


Caffeine Nights Publishing

Based in Kent, publishing contemporary and crime fiction. We aim to make you laugh, thrill you, scare you, have you on the edge of your seat with your fingers gripping the pages tightly, but most of all, we want to entertain you with fiction aimed at the heart and the head…

Author Biography

Born in East London, Darren E Laws now lives in Kent with his wife, Natalie, numerous goldfish and a hamster. Currently sampling every form of Whisky available, Darren divides his time as a public relations manager and a nighttime novelist.

Turtle Island is the second novel from Darren E Laws. The first novel ‘Tripping’ was a surreal black comedy published in 2007. ISBN: 0955407001

When the body of a man is washed up in the river; Turtle Island, Missouri is awoken from being a peaceful haven and thrust into the attention of the national media. The case is solved rather all too conveniently and F.B.I agent Georgina O’Neil is left with severe doubts - have they caught the right man? A feeling that is justified after case Detective Montoya and his family are kidnapped and a web site is set up promising America its first live execution. Turtle Island is now thrust into global spotlight and the world gets to vote on who the killer will choose next. As O’Neil digs deeper she finds evidence of a paedophile ring that could run into the heart of the police. No longer sure who they she trust, O’Neil and case partner, Detective LaPortiere, have to find the Montoya’s and save them before an 8pm deadline. The clock is ticking…