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Thread: [Pub svcs] CompletelyNovel (Oliver Brooks)

  1. #1
    Your friendly cynic Anna Magdalena's Avatar
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    [Pub svcs] CompletelyNovel (Oliver Brooks)

    www.completelynovel.com

    I apologise if this has been discussed elsewhere. I can't find anything apart fro a thread started by 'Anna' in Announcements. (If a mod could link to it, I'd be grateful. Thanks.)

    Can anyone tell me what's 'completely novel' about it? The home page looks like a site for book lovers but, to me, its main purpose would appear to be vanity publishing.

    It's been advertised in Book2Book, the Book Trade News Digest for the past couple of days.

    Has anyone any information? Any comments?
    Last edited by Anna Magdalena; 02-17-2009 at 03:32 PM.

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    aka Sadistic Mistress Mi-chan M.R.J. Le Blanc's Avatar
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    I've got one word: PASS.

    No info on who these people are, and the 'gives a chance to first-time writers' is a sentence we've all seen before, seldom with anyone legit. There's an Amy Jackson who is supposedly an editor, but she doesn't list anything specific beyond 'working in the publishing industry' as her credentials. It doesn't inspire any confidence.
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    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Add to that the fact that the site takes an AGE to load on my dial-up connection, and I'll agree with MRJ.

    The site's one redeeming feature is that it links to a blog called "How Publishing Really Works", which seems to be quite useful...!

  4. #4
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    YADS, with self-publishing option. Gormless but harmless, IMO.

    http://www.completelynovel.com/home/aboutus

    Oliver has always wanted to do something which would make a difference. When he heard the problems a writing friend was coming accross he set about doing something to make getting published simpler for all writers. CompletelyNovel has since moved on from a evening hobby to a full web platform for publishing. Oliver studied Engineering at Cambridge University and started CompletelyNovel shortly after leaving university.

    If you are interested in working with us, we are looking for people for both marketing and web development so please get in touch.
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  5. #5
    Your friendly cynic Anna Magdalena's Avatar
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    Thanks, CaoPaux. Neat description!

  6. #6
    Grumpy writer and editor Absolute Sage Gillhoughly's Avatar
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    If you are interested in working with us, we are looking for people for both marketing and web development so please get in touch.
    Big red flags.

    A legit house is interested in buying and selling books, not...
    doing something to make getting published simpler for all writers.
    Anyone can "get published" if you take your book to a copy place or a POD press or even Lulu.

    Getting your book sold is a whole different critter, and the one to go for!

  7. #7
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    And yet it's so difficult, sometimes, to explain the difference.

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi guys,

    I am Oli from CompletelyNovel. I just wanted to add my two cents and explain a bit more what we do. It is something we think is quite new to the book industry. I’m sorry if this is a very long post but there are so many questions!

    So CompletelyNovel is a website which uses the internet to connect parties from all over the book industry so they can use each others services easily. We are not a publishing house, literary agency or printer ourselves but all of these businesses can use the site. We believe by linking everyone together we can make the publishing process not only more efficient but really enjoyable as well. Instead of sending out endless manuscripts you can get your book out there, get feedback, ratings, reviews and even sell your work in paperback. You can then approach agents and publishers with a full proposition about your book letting them know that you have already got fans, and a proven track record of sales.

    It is just early days for us but we aim to open up a whole new set of opportunities, not just for writers but also for readers and the businesses we mentioned earlier. For example, by linking everyone together

    A writer can use the CompletelyNovel system to self-publish by uploading their work. Once on the site your book will link to the print-on-demand printers also on the site (currently only one - Anthony Rowe). This means your book is now available online and in print. The printer benefits by getting access to a new line of work and the writer benefits by easy access to their service. As more and more printers join the community from around the world it will give you more and more places where your book is available.

    Readers are coming onto CompletelyNovel to enjoy and discuss books in a social way, they can receive recommendations for new books from the reading community, discuss books in clubs, keep up to date with their friends new reads and hear about their favourite author and publishers news. Crucially for new writers these readers will get self published books recommended alongside published books. The new self published books are available as online books (not eBooks so no one can download or copy them). The readers can read, discuss, provide feedback and buy it in paperback. For writers this provides a way to promote and sell your work and for readers a great way to enjoy and find new books.

    Agents and publishers will soon be able to take submissions based on how well a self published book is doing in the reading community, they could say that they want submissions which have sold x copies or have an average rating of y. This gives them a direct way to find new talent and writers a fun way to prove they have what it takes.

    We have spent a lot of time visiting agents and publishers and making sure what we are building is what they want to use. There will be a lot more opportunities to come as more and more service providers sign up.

    So in a nutshell CompletelyNovel provides the tools and communication channels for the book community to efficiently use the great services which are already out there. We want our users to succeed so more people come onto the website, as more people and companies join the better the experience is for the existing community.
    We make our money through adverts and affiliate sales. Every time an advert is clicked or you go through to buy a book from a shop we’ll get a little money for it. We also want to provide enhanced services for the businesses using our site which they will pay for.

    There seem to be a lot of unanswered questions so I’ll do my best to answer them.

    @Anna Magdalena- Are you vanity publishers?
    I would like to think we are the opposite, we don’t publish things for you, take your book rights or take money from you for publishing. We aim to provide an efficient and fun way to get the most out of your book.

    @M.R.J. Le Blanc- are you legit? Who is Amy?
    Yeah we're legit. We are a small team of 3 people (Myself, Anna and Jon) working out of North London. CN started as a small project and the three of us decided to make it into a bigger one as we met more and more writers and publishers who wanted a better way of doing things. Sorry if there is a lack of track record for CN but it was only launched last week, hopefully there will be much more to come! Amy is an editor working for Oxford University Press, she is also a lead member of the Society of Young Publishers.

    @Old Hack - Slow on dial up
    I am really sorry for this, speed on slower connections is always a tricky thing when you’ve got a lot of interactive content. We’ll do our best to speed it up in the near future.

    @CaoPaux - YADS
    I’m afraid I’m not familiar with YADS but I’m guessing it is ‘Yet another ...’. I would like to think CompletelyNovel is unique in what we do and don’t know myself of anywhere else that does it but I’d be happy to hear your thoughts or suggestions.

    @Gillhoughly - Anyone can get published
    To clarify we mean getting a publishing contract with a large publishing company, you are entirely right as the definition of ‘published’ is a bit grey.

    We are new and therefore portraying what we do in a few words on our landing site is tricky but feel free to use CompletelyNovel as much or as little as you want. We hope you enjoy it, the three of us have enjoyed making it and we’ll do our best to keep improving it. It is free for everyone to use so if anyone wants to give it a spin that would be great, we'd love to see you.

    Cheers

    Oli

  9. #9
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Oliver, in terms of being "quite new" you might want to google "YADS". It stands for "yet another display site" I to be at all effective in this area I would suggest becoming very familiar with the very numerous current and expired YADS. In order to succeed your concept needs to be more than or different from YADS which has proven over and again not to work, and to be a glue trap for vanity presses and scam agents.
    Last edited by veinglory; 02-19-2009 at 07:32 PM.
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  10. #10
    wwhitman
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    I think we're dealing with a company that is well intentioned but naive about how publishing really works.

  11. #11
    aka Sadistic Mistress Mi-chan M.R.J. Le Blanc's Avatar
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    Agreed. Oli, I do appreciate that you've come to explain your company. However, your method puts writers in the unfortunate position of giving up their first publishing rights by making their books avaliable online. The odds of a publisher or agent wanting to touch it after that are EXTREMELY slim. Self-published books that do well enough to get picked up by a publisher are very rare, it's not a goal that a writer should aim for at all. The reason I ask about legit is more of the angle of whether you have relevant experience in publishing or not - that is what I consider legit. As wwhitman said you guys are very well intentioned, but you seem to understand very little about publishing. You can't improve what you don't understand.
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    @veinglory
    Thanks for that, YADS, I'll remember that one, in fact at the Winchester writers conference I remember that was someones concern.

    I did indeed come from outside the publishing industry but that is what is needed to make a difference. Myspace opened up a whole load of opportunities for musicians and it didn't come from the music industry and there were plenty of sceptics and now it is the way to promote and establish yourself as a musician.

    I am an optimist but there are a few things which are very different now to even two years ago. Publishing companies are being ever more squeezed by the ever expanding retail chains. They are therefore forced to search for new ways of doing things. Harper Collins are trying to do something with Authonomy. CompletelyNovel is not YADS, technologically it is so much more than an off the shelf CMS like almost every other site out there. To make sure we are going in the right direction we frequently visit almost every major publishing house in the UK to establish what they need and build to their specifications. Indeed the level of support we are getting from the publishers (Random House, Faber & Faber, Simon Schuster etc) already on the site has never happened before (please let me know if it has).

    Bottom line is things are going to change and it is nothing to be afraid of, whether it is CompletelyNovel or a major corporation it will happen. It is the way with disruptive technologies such as the internet. They open up new doors but it always takes a certain number of people to step through before they are accepted. We built CompletelyNovel to be completely independent, useful and free for everyone. The feedback we're getting from people on the site is great. One guy has already sold about 50 books to various people which is something not many people can say in a month of self publishing and he's having a great time. With enough people these open models do work, each member uses and enjoys the service but in so helps the whole community.

    @wwhitman
    Thanks. I would describe us as optimistic about the future of publishing, we're not trying to follow in trodden footsteps so stay tuned and see what happens. I would also really love to hear what you think of the site and if you have any suggestions from a writers perspective of what you think could be done better!

    @M.R.J. Le Blanc
    No worries, cheers for the feedback. I will accept that I don't know the old publishing routes as well as some but I wouldn't say I'm amateur. What I do understand is what all the publishers and agents we've visited have said. Admittedly these are generally web and marketing directors who are not directly involved in production but we have also met a few CEO's of quite traditional companies such as A&C black who loved what we are doing.
    Regarding first rights this is actually the opposite and is these rumours are a legacy from back in the day. 20 years ago you would have to go to a small publishing house to get your book published as it was a complicated process. The small house would take some ownership over the book rights. If the book was successful it was always a hassle for a major company it on as the smaller company got in the way. This quite rightly meant that first rights were important 20 years ago. Now however it is very easy with services like CompletelyNovel or POD printers to get your book in print and retain all the rights for yourself. So now they prefer you to get out there, not only does it prove that you have the get up and go to promote and do something as an author (very valuable) but it also shows that people enjoy your book enough to part with money. What would you prefer, an unknown book or one which has sold hundreds of copies all over the world and already has a small fan base with an active author?

    This is the basis for the whole foreign rights market, they take on successful books from elsewhere because they are proven. These publishers don't have first rights but they know the book is good so they take it on. Let me know if you have heard otherwise recently, every person I have spoke to currently working in publishing has said this.

    Cheers for the feedback guys. If you can think of anything we could do or say on our site to make it clearer what we are trying to do we'd love to hear from you.

  13. #13
    aka Sadistic Mistress Mi-chan M.R.J. Le Blanc's Avatar
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    I'd really like to know who it is that says these things, because they fly in the face of everything the resident experts on this site have said about publishing. I'm a writer, not a marketer. While I don't have a problem helping promote my book once it's picked up by a publisher, it's the publisher who'll be doing most of the work. That's what they pay their sales staff and marketing staff for. Publishing houses do a far better job of getting books out there than I ever could on my own, or with your site (no offense). I don't think they care much about how willing or unwilling an author is to promote their work, and given that majority of sales are thanks to the publisher's efforts it doesn't seem to make too much of a difference whether the author promotes or not. Granted I've yet to see an author who doesn't promote their work in some way, but they're not doing the work you seem to encourage with your site. A writer should be working on their next book once the first is finished, not pounding the virtual pavement promoting it. And just a note, we have a thread here on Authonomy. The general opinion is not really in favour of it, so I'm not sure you'd want to use that as a comparison.

    Honestly, I think you should probably be putting more effort into learning how publishing actually works before you try and 'fix' it. Inexperience kills more books than it helps.
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  14. #14
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliverBrooks View Post
    Regarding first rights this is actually the opposite and is these rumours are a legacy from back in the day. 20 years ago you would have to go to a small publishing house to get your book published as it was a complicated process. The small house would take some ownership over the book rights.
    Oliver, I'm not quite sure what you're saying here: but rest assured, if you want to be published by a decent publishing company, it's essential that you protect your first rights.

    If the book was successful it was always a hassle for a major company it on as the smaller company got in the way. This quite rightly meant that first rights were important 20 years ago. Now however it is very easy with services like CompletelyNovel or POD printers to get your book in print and retain all the rights for yourself.
    But as soon as you publish your book, whethery by POD printing or by engraving it onto boat-sized metal sheets, you've used up those first rights: you cannot retain them.

    So now they prefer you to get out there, not only does it prove that you have the get up and go to promote and do something as an author (very valuable) but it also shows that people enjoy your book enough to part with money. What would you prefer, an unknown book or one which has sold hundreds of copies all over the world and already has a small fan base with an active author?
    Who prefers you to "get out there"? It proves very little. And if you've only sold a few hundred copies world-wide, then all you've proved is that your book has a very limited commercial potential: to impress publishers via your self-published sales, you need to sell a few thousand.

    This is the basis for the whole foreign rights market, they take on successful books from elsewhere because they are proven. These publishers don't have first rights but they know the book is good so they take it on. Let me know if you have heard otherwise recently, every person I have spoke to currently working in publishing has said this.
    No, it's not. The basis for the foreign rights market is that first foreign rights are still available for sale. You're partially right to suggest that books sell into other territories because they do well in their first, home edition: but many books are sold into new markets before they've even been published at home. Futher, it doesn't follow that because this plan sometimes works for foreign sales it'll work for a mainstream edition of a self-published book.

    Cheers for the feedback guys. If you can think of anything we could do or say on our site to make it clearer what we are trying to do we'd love to hear from you.
    In your position I'd withdraw the site, get everyone involved to spend a year or two at the very least working in real publishing so that you all learn a little bit about the industry, and then consider whether the service you're offering is of any real value. Otherwise, regardless of how good your intentions are, I'm concerned that you're at risk of misleading the people who sign up to your site.

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi again,

    I didn't mean to get on anybody's backs here and apologise if I did. I came because I got an email telling me there were a few questions and thought I could help out.

    We are not trying to prove anything wrong or 'fix publishing' but instead provide an alternative route which people may well enjoy and which gives their work a chance for everyone the world over to read, enjoy and help show the potential of new books.

    Old Hack, thanks for the advice about withdrawing the site but if we did so we would be letting a lot of readers and writers having a thoroughly good time down.

    In all the talks I've been to there have always been a few skeptics about anything other than the traditional model and this is absolutely fine. It takes all kinds to keep things moving forward but also to ensure things don't go wild. Different people will take different paths but innovations, whether successful or not, help explore new opportunities and ultimately to bring industries forward.

    So take what I've said as a gesture to attempt to answer some questions and not instructions or recommendations of what to do. CompletelyNovel is a free and open service for everyone to use how they want. Either way I wish everyone the very best of luck with their books.

    Oli
    Last edited by OliverBrooks; 02-19-2009 at 10:11 PM. Reason: can't spell

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    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I think you make a mistake in thinking we are afraid of change or skeptical of anything but the traditional route or even that we have our backs up. That is your stereotyping. Take my case. All of my books are epublished or POD and I run a website for erotic writers and a blog for self-publishers. I am not skeptical because I am an old fuddy-duddy and this is all so new and scary. I am a skeptic because I have seen sites like your come and go, come and go... mostly go. If you want yours to suceed you must learn from history, not remain ignorant of it. Threads here would be a good start for seeing others provide rhetoric exactly like yours, whose sites are now a thing of the past or in bad odor. This is the environment you are working in.

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=84202
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=12878
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=72290
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=63471
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=49532
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=17492
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ead.php?t=9963
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=76816
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=38240
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=38240
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=28755

    for another 50 or so search for 'display site' or YADS.
    Last edited by veinglory; 02-19-2009 at 10:12 PM.
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  17. #17
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Now however it is very easy with services like CompletelyNovel or POD printers to get your book in print and retain all the rights for yourself. So now they prefer you to get out there, not only does it prove that you have the get up and go to promote and do something as an author (very valuable) but it also shows that people enjoy your book enough to part with money. What would you prefer, an unknown book or one which has sold hundreds of copies all over the world and already has a small fan base with an active author?
    I pretty new to this myself, but even a newbie who's done a bit of research knows this is completely wrong.

    POD is not a tool for publishers, there's no quality control. They publish anything on demand. No legit publisher is impressed by anyone's ability to upload a document and hit print, and anyone can buy hundreds of copies either on their own or with the help of family and friends.

    For a self-published book to catch a legit publisher's attention it has to sell THOUSANDS, not hundreds. And those have to be sales to people outside the "author's" circle of influence. It takes word of mouth and a product that is above and beyond the standard of POD books.

    Assuming people part with money because they enjoy the book is also backward logic. If they're buying a new book by a new author, then they've never read it. They have no idea if they'll like it or not, and the fact is POD is cost preventative for most sales.

    Legit publishers and agents don't even consider self-published books to be real books anymore than if the person printed off the book and snapped it into a binder to sell.

  18. #18
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    The fact the proprietor does not understand what rights are or how his services consume them removes "harmless" from my opinion.
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  19. #19
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I would like to suggest that someone should ask the opinion of someone high up in a large commercial publishing house who decides upon company policy. Forums and word of mouth are not reliable sources of information on this. If this could be feed back to the group, there will be an accurate and up to date opinion on this. I am confident that so long as the writer retains publishing and copyright there are no issues.

    I actually think we are among the more qualified people to answer rights questions. Anna is an honours law graduate (from Cambridge) who has worked solidly for a year meeting 50+ CEOs and execs from all areas of the industry about this so has a pretty good idea of what is current.

    We have worked so hard to ensure CompletelyNovel is something that readers, writers, agents and publishers want to use. This is why Random House, Simon & Schuster and Faber & Faber are actively contributing to the site. If they weren't interested and didn't agree with what we are doing why would they bother? Even if it isn't a great site, I think Harper Collins' spending hundreds of thousands of dollars developing and promoting this kind of activity through authonomy gives this some weight.

    No successful publishing house we have met cared whether the book had been self published before and they generally preferred it if the writer was pro-active as long as there were no complicated third party rights issues. What was important was simply to publish books which will sell well and make money, the more they know about the book the better.

    CompletelyNovel is an extensive website and I would like to think that it is in a different league to small knock-up-in-a-weekend "YADS". Perhaps all these site have put people off even looking at a new book website but we've found it amusing how quickly comments come to knock things down without completely without basis and without even looking at the site and what it does.

    I will try to get a few interviews with directors or senior execs in commercial publishing houses posted in the CompletelyNovel articles section about this. I will also try to get an article or two by IP lawyers as useful background information about your rights and how they change in different countries.

    As I said before, we are building an alternate way to publish. The 700+ readers and writers who have joined are having great fun getting involved in books. I don't want to tell anyone what is or isn't good for them, simply share my experiences.

    Cheers

    Oli

    For reference
    - It is possible to read before you buy
    - Books are printed to order and distributed to the buyer one at a time
    - The rights issues have been carefully considered, this is why books are not download able, can be taken offline very easily, CompletelyNovel do not assert any rights over the book and publishing stakes a claim which actually increases your copyright protection in most countries.

  20. #20
    aka Sadistic Mistress Mi-chan M.R.J. Le Blanc's Avatar
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    They are when the forum is run by people who have more experience in publishing than you do. Jim, Dave, Gill, Victoria and a few others I'm missing are prime examples. They speak from experience, you can't get more reliable sources than that. I highly doubt Authonomy gives you guys any weight because Authonomy's no better. Just because it's run by HC doesn't automatically make it a Good Idea. Folks on this board have been following it since it began, and I don't think anyone's seen anything overall positive come out of it.

    I would still like to know EXACTLY who your sources are that say they don't care if a book's been self-published or not. Because from what people with experience have said, it very much DOES matter. Look at some of these more reputable contests - they won't accept works that have been self-published or vanity published. Why? Because of the poor quality both tend to have. You need to do some serious reading into how publishing works. I know I have, and I still stand by what I initially said earlier in the thread. I did stop by your site - nothing there encouraged me to consider CompletelyNovel as a viable option. I'd rather be published by a publisher who's going to get my book into stores, or by a good solid epublisher.
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  21. #21
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliverBrooks View Post
    and publishing stakes a claim which actually increases your copyright protection in most countries.
    I'd be curious to see a source for this.

    In the more than 150 countries that are party to the Berne Convention (the international source for copyright law), you have copyright to your work from the moment it's fixed in tangible form--i.e., written down. There's nothing you can (or need to) do to "increase" protection, since protection is already complete.

    - Victoria

  22. #22
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    That's cool, I'm sure the guys are really good and know their stuff. I've got a lot of respect for people who make a living through publishing. Obviously people have different opinions on these matters.

    CompletelyNovel isn't Authonomy, it is more of a mix of Goodreads, Lulu and a new set of services for agents and publishers.

    I agree that just because it's HC it doesn't make what they were trying to do a good idea but it shows there is enough room for improvement in that area to justify the spend.

    The industry press picked up on the publishing features in CompletelyNovel but there is loads more to do such as book reviews, finding out what friends are reading, book clubs and keeping up to date with your favourite authors and publishers.

    The end goal of any writer is of course to have their book loved and become a best seller all over the world and currently self publishing can't offer that. What CompletelyNovel might be able to do is provide a stepping stone to make publishers aware of your work. It might not be the first book you self publish that a publisher picks up but as you build your profile it increases your chances of them taking notice of you. An author who has taken a particular interest in our site is Polly Courtney. Based on her ability to make a success of her first two self published books she now has a 3 book deal with Harper Collins.

    I think it is too early to dismiss a new system like CompletelyNovel. I'm optimistic about the potential of a community of everyone who loves books, all collaborating and helping each other. I can see many possibilities for new and exciting ways to discover, interact with and publish books.

    There is an interesting article by the New York Times here which gives a balanced view or the pros and cons of self publishing.

    I wish everyone the best of luck.

    Oli

  23. #23
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi Victoria.

    You are right, it doesn't increase your protection but in the event that your copyright is infringed it increases the chance of you being able to prove the work is yours.

    Oli

  24. #24
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I would be more interested in links to what specific "industry press" picked up on what you did, and what specific industry professionals said they didn't care if a book was self-published. So far`I have'lt seen anything novel in your approach but I am happy to be corrected. Many other YADS were also very large, committed, sincere projects. But there was no meaningful industry participation other than funnelling people into self-publishing whether it suited their needs or not.
    Last edited by veinglory; 02-25-2009 at 04:53 AM.
    Emily Veinglory

  25. #25
    aka Sadistic Mistress Mi-chan M.R.J. Le Blanc's Avatar
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    I see you're still offering nothing concrete to support your arguements. You're still being quite vague.
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