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Thread: Chipmunka Publishing

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Chipmunka Publishing

    I did some research on Google before submitting to this publisher (based in the UK), and they seem legit. They are also a charitable organization and donate to mental health charities.

    Any info anyone can supply would be appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
    I have plans... C.bronco's Avatar
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    If they're run by Alvin, Theodore and Simon, then they're okay.
    (Sorry, I couldn't help myself. I'm not familiar with many UK agents.)



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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Khazarkhum's Avatar
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    I can see poor David handling the slush and manning the phones.

  4. #4
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  5. #5
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Chipmunka offers an extremely nonstandard contract, including:

    - requiring authors to waive moral rights (Chipmunka is a UK-based publisher; the USA doesn't recognize moral rights, but they're an important part of copyright law in the UK and Europe)

    - paying royalties on the publisher's net profit (actual cash receipts less production costs); this reduces royalties to a pittance

    - taking rights for the life of copyright without adequate provisions for rights reversion

    - paying royalties only once a year

    - claiming a range of subsidiary rights there's no evidence they are able to exploit or license, and providing a nonstandard income split (just 20% of subrights income to the author).

    There's more, but those are the highlights.

    Chipmunka is a pretty narrowly focused niche publisher, so I would imagine it might have more success marketing its books outside the bookstore system than a publisher with a general publishing program. Nevertheless, bookstores are still an important outlet, and I don't see anything at Chipmunka's website to suggest it makes an effort to get its books into stores (it's also telling that the several royalty payment examples given in the contract don't include bookstore sales).

    - Victoria

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Khazarkhum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    Chipmunka offers an extremely nonstandard contract, including:

    - requiring authors to waive moral rights (Chipmunka is a UK-based publisher; the USA doesn't recognize moral rights, but they're an important part of copyright law in the UK and Europe)
    I know this will sound stupid, but what, exactly, are moral rights???

  7. #7
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Here's a good definition (which also briefly explains the USA's rationale for not recognizing them): "Moral rights include the right to proclaim authorship of a work, disclaim authorship of a work and object to any modification or use of the work that would be injurious to the author's reputation."

    - Victoria

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Khazarkhum's Avatar
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    Thanks! It sounded like something scandalous.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I have been researching them as someone suggested Chipmunka might be a good place for my autobiography, and while I read a lot of positive things, I also found this:

    http://chipmunkawatch.blogspot.com/

    which I am following with interest. From what I have read so far, it does sound like they are a pretty amateurish company, possibly some kind of mental health vanity press? If the blog is to be believed, they don't know the first thing about copyright law, for example.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by washingtoni View Post
    I have been researching them as someone suggested Chipmunka might be a good place for my autobiography, and while I read a lot of positive things, I also found this:

    http://chipmunkawatch.blogspot.com/

    which I am following with interest. From what I have read so far, it does sound like they are a pretty amateurish company, possibly some kind of mental health vanity press? If the blog is to be believed, they don't know the first thing about copyright law, for example.
    Either vanity, or plain out inexperienced. Either one is not something you want to hook up with.

    I don't know about the UK, but I know on this side of the pond autobiographies don't sell well unless there's a famous name attached to them. You may have better luck just self-publishing it.
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW girlyswot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by washingtoni View Post
    I have been researching them as someone suggested Chipmunka might be a good place for my autobiography, and while I read a lot of positive things, I also found this:

    http://chipmunkawatch.blogspot.com/

    which I am following with interest. From what I have read so far, it does sound like they are a pretty amateurish company, possibly some kind of mental health vanity press? If the blog is to be believed, they don't know the first thing about copyright law, for example.
    I don't think you can call them a vanity press - authors pay precisely nothing to have their books published through Chipmunka, even if, as VictoriaStrauss points out, the royalties are likely to be very low indeed. And Chipmunka does the work you would expect of a publisher - editing, typesetting, promotion (though authors are expected to contribute to this), albeit mainly through volunteers and not necessarily to an extremely high standard.

  12. #12
    "Bear trumps Elephants!" colealpaugh's Avatar
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    "Our mental health books give a voice to writers with mental illness around the world."

    'It is you putting your faith in me and publishing my book that first set me on the road to recovery. That is priceless' -- from an author

    Not being the least bit flippant, but that seems like a slush pile fraught with peril. What if they hadn't published the authors who offer testimonials for their books such as Suicide Junkie and A Cry For Help? Sorry, I just had to wonder out loud.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by colealpaugh View Post
    "Our mental health books give a voice to writers with mental illness around the world."

    'It is you putting your faith in me and publishing my book that first set me on the road to recovery. That is priceless' -- from an author

    Not being the least bit flippant, but that seems like a slush pile fraught with peril. What if they hadn't published the authors who offer testimonials for their books such as Suicide Junkie and A Cry For Help? Sorry, I just had to wonder out loud.
    More disturbing, what if I hadn't found this:

    The character of Jason Pegler, CEO of Chipmunka.

    and allowed Chipmunka to publish my book (which details, sadly, a large amount of sexual abuse). I know it sounds extreme, but I can imagine the less-mentally-stable among us being extremely distressed to realise that Chipmunka is run by an unrepentant rapist.

  14. #14
    An old, sappy, and happy one. Requiescat In Pace CACTUSWENDY's Avatar
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    Cool

    I just read through the last link. If this is his story for real....then he is one sick puppy. How does someone like this slip through the cracks?
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    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    Chipmunka offers an extremely nonstandard contract, including:

    - requiring authors to waive moral rights

    - taking rights for the life of copyright without adequate provisions for rights reversion

    - claiming a range of subsidiary rights there's no evidence they are able to exploit or license
    Bad! Very bad! If the publisher goes out of business and falls off the map (which a lot of these flaky small outfits do), you can lose your book.

    It works like this: your book is out of print and your publisher has informally gone out of business, leaving its assets in limbo. Since you don't have a provision in your contract which automatically grants a reversion under those circumstances, you can't place the work with another publisher until you get a formal reversion letter from your last one. Unfortunately, they've stopped answering their mail, their phone is out of service, and they've disappeared, so you can't get that letter. And since the contract was for the life of the copyright, and you've waived your moral rights, the contract's assignment of rights to an effectively nonexistent company will remain in force until 70 years after your death.

    Any contract where you can lose your book is a bad contract.
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  16. #16
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACTUSWENDY View Post
    I just read through the last link. If this is his story for real....then he is one sick puppy. How does someone like this slip through the cracks?
    I would be very reluctant to put a lot of credence in the info at that link, which--and I'm no lawyer--appears to me to be defamatory. At any rate, there are better reasons to avoid this publisher than one character assassinating blog post.

    - Victoria

  17. #17
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    The defamatory bits are quotes from a published book. So they may or may not be true, but they are from the horse's mouth.
    Emily Veinglory

  18. #18
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    I think that avoiding a press whose main claim to fame is its publisher's own autobiography is a smart move for everyone.

    If the passages quoted are accurate representations of the autobiography, I would be inclined to avoid the publisher as well as his press.


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  19. #19
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    This is my new publisher and though the contract is a bit unorthodox, it is not as low as VS wrote. Chimpuncka looks to me like a work in progress Mental illness is a treatable illness. There is such a stigma against the mentally ill that I am putting my reputation as a teacher on the line to dispell the myth, by telling my story.I suffered from panic attacks and lived inside a closet for years. Now I am cured and yes, writing the book helped. But... it is a well written story. Chipmunka doesn't accept every manuscript it receives.
    I am happy with the contract and the treatment I am receiving from Mr. Pegler and his small staff. My book has rape, panic and a mystery in it. It is my story, my memoir and I am proud to be with a publishe who not only knows how to sell to my population but gives back to charities to help mentally ill persons and mayble that is why the royalties are low. He is trying to give the mentally ill a voice. My book will be called. "From Agoraphobia to Zen" and I am glad I found a publisher who will take my book based on the story and the writing and fight for it as I will. Thanks for listening Aloha Maya
    Last edited by mayaone; 08-15-2010 at 06:04 AM.

  20. #20
    Tired and Disillusioned Momento Mori's Avatar
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    Chipmunka Website:
    Chipmunka was set up in 2002 after several months of research by the two Founders Jason Pegler and Andrew Latchford.
    Wow. A whole "several months of research".

    Chipmunka Website:
    Since 2008 Chipmunkapublishing has probably offered contracts to about 10% of people that contacted us although some people we ask to work more on their manuscripts and contact us again in the future.
    10% is meaningless without knowing how many manuscripts they receive so that you can work out what that 10% actually translates to in figures.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Yes Chipmunkapublishing does accept unsolicited manuscripts. You do not need to have a literary agent to be considered by us. Chipmunkapublishing also receives manuscripts from literary agents around the world.
    I'm surprised that any literary agent would submit to Chipmunka given that it doesn't pay advances. It would be interesting to know who those agents are.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Chipmunka does edit books although not in as much detail as a traditional publisher. Chipmunka editors are volunteers and are either arts university students or retired editors. Chipmunka will look for repetition, potential legal, copyright issues and will look to correct typos in your book although the responsibility of the text remains with the author and how the quality in which they submit their book in the first place and when they sign off the text and cover at paperback stage.
    So editing is at best cursory and there's the potential for your not having it edited by a professional.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Most e-books we sell for 5 and the lowest we sell paperbacks for is 10 if sold to a customer via the booktrade or 12 if delivered to the customer's home address. If your paperback has more than 250 pages we may have to sell it for 12.99 or more.
    The paperback cost is v. expensive - especially for books over 250 pages. Walk into any bookstore and you can pick up a paperback for upwards of 5.99.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Chipmunka publishes about 100 e-books and 70 paperbacks a year.
    If that's the 10% figure that I mentioned above, then that is a hell of a lot of books and it suggests that they don't all get solid marketing or promotion support.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Books can vary in length. E-books can be from 50 up to 1000 pages. Paperbacks can be between 80 and 752 pages. Average lengths are about 100 for e-book which turns into about 150 pages at paperback stage.
    So they're basically charging 5 for a 100 page ebook. That's really expensive.

    Chipmunka Website:
    We use Print on Demand at our core and do not charge. Most print on demand companies are either not integrated to market and/or charge authors for setting up of fees and some even charge for marketing. Chipmunka sets up the e-book and paperback for free and also does communication/pr/marketing for free. Not bad considering there are only 3 permanent staff and some volunteers and supporters/ambassadors etc. We publish as many books a year as a company that would have about 35 staff. This is because we are so committed, think dynamically, have great volunteers and support and do not want to change the voice of the author.
    Actually, the lack of full time staff and the reliance on volunteers could be used to argue against the professional attitude of the company. The comments on what POD companies do is somewhat misleading as well.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Chipmunka is a modern publisher that has a fantastic internet presence (nearly all of our titles are already on kindle on amazon.com as well as through more traditional mediums) and a core following of supporters who believe in the brand.
    A listing on Amazon is meaningless - even PA does that. The trick is getting people to know about your books on Amazon and I'm not seeing anything on the website that demonstrates how they get the word out (in fact, their website extolls people to buy via its own store).

    I don't think I've ever seen a book from this company in a bookstore.

    Chipmunka Website:
    How do e-books sell compared to paperbacks ?

    From 2005 to 2009 paperbacks have mostly out sold our e-books with one or two exceptions. We expect this to change with the increase in popularity of digital media sooner rather than later.
    Yeah, I note that they don't give any actual ballpark sales figures here though.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Do not worry if your royalties are low. Chipmunka is still committed to publishing you as we want to give you a voice.
    If your royalties are low, then it means you haven't sold many books and if Chipmunka isn't worried about that, then it's because they still receive a chunk of cash for each book sold (and that chunk of cash will be more than the author earns).

    Chipmunka Website:
    For advice on how much money you can receive on the benefits you are on please refer to the appropriate government website. Of course your royalties are paid annually and not weekly so you need to be aware of this. The Chipmunka Team cannot advise on this. We strongly recommend that nobody comes off benefits as a result of signing up with us.
    I seriously hope that no one comes off benefits as a result of receiving a contract from this company because you are very unlikely to receive an amount sufficient to pay bills.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Any author whose royalties are over 50 will be paid upon request after their address is emailed. Anyone's book whose royalties is below 50 will roll over each year until 50 has been accrued. (unless you signed one of the first 60 contracts signed before or during 2006 where royalties do not roll over until they reach over 50 and no annual digital fee is applicable).
    That is disgraceful. Given that this is a POD operation, with authors doing much of the selling themselves, setting such a high threshold for 50 is a recipe for making people wait for years, given that royalties are only paid annually. Before signing a contract, I'd want to know how many authors hit that 50 threshold each year and on average, how long authors have to wait before getting a royalty check.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Paperback pricing is as follows.

    10 - up to 200 pages
    12.99 - 200 to 300 pages
    15.00 - 300-450 pages
    20.00 - 450-600 pages
    25 - 600pages +

    This is the RRP of books. Of course books may be sold cheaper by the book trade, especially online depending on how competitive the particular bookseller is. The pricing structure is reviewed on an annual basis by the Chipmunka team. See books on the Chipmunka website for pricing in different currencies. All pricing is standard. There are no exceptions.
    Those pricing levels are obscene and I would suggest that in practice authors would have to discount to get people to buy their book.

    Chipmunka Website:
    I am excited about being published ? What should i expect ?

    - Expect to be given a voice through your writing and being published
    - See being published by us as recognition for you being recognised as a mental health or mental health educational/related artist.
    - See being published by us as an opportunity to be recognised as a human being who can contribute to society, breaking down the stigma on mental illness and helping others have a voice.
    - Expect to become part of a literary period in history that documents how people with mental illness, disability and carers give themselves a voice to improve the world in which we live and improve the lives of others.
    - Expect to help others whenever a copy of your book is sold or you give an interview about your experiences.
    Note that you shouldn't expect to make any money.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Chipmunka offers the same contracts to all new and existing authors. Our contracts are non negotiable.
    No contract should ever be non-negotiable. This is the sign that authors should walk away from this company.

    Chipmunka Website:
    We advise that no author pays a lawyer to advise with a contract as the amount of money given to a lawyer may be more than royalties received later on. Also the contract that we offer is non negotiable so it is pointless a lawyer or anyone else suggesting changes. If they are advising for free then great. Chipmunka can explain to you what the contract means if you email questions to Jason and of course if you want to then you can get out of the contract later on anyway. Lawyers often help for free for an hour and sometimes help pro bono so be specific and get them to be specific in their response.
    This shocks me a great deal because they are basically encouraging people not to go for legal advice unless it's free. It's possible that you can get free legal advice on a publishing contract from your local CAB and some law firms may do an hour's pro bono but you should by no means expect it.

    Chipmunka Website:
    45% From mental health charities such as Mind, Rethink, Sane or related organisations
    20% referral from the medical profession, e.g psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health workers
    15% The internet, search engines, websites, links etc..
    5% of referrals from existing authors who recommend other people to us.
    5% referral from the media
    4% from literary agents
    6% from other sources e.g ambassadors, politicians, government departments, social workers, writers groups, service user groups, poetry groups, etc...
    I'm very surprised that charities such as MIND would recommend the company and wonder if they are aware that contracts are non-negotiable.

    Chipmunka Website:
    From 22nd of July 2010 we started offering digital contracts only. So there will be a back log of contracts that need to be posted for the rest of 2010. Both contracts are the same digital contracts just speed up the publishing process and are better for the environment.

    We will email you a digital contract. You will beed to fill out all the boxes on pages 1 and 12 and then email it back to our contract department.
    Interesting. Although there's a lot of talk in the UK about digital contracts and their use (e.g. it's common for them to be used in consumer transactions over the internet), I don't know many commercial companies using them for business relationships.

    Chipmunka Website:
    The importance of e-books is in getting them out quickly so that you can market in preparation for the release date of your paperback. You do not get to see your e-book before it comes out but you will get to approve your paperback before it comes out. If you want to make changes to your e-book wait until we contact you about your paperback. This way you keep your position in the paperback queue and can carry on promoting your e-book whilst making any final adjustments at the paperback stage. Ask us for the word file back as you will not be able to make changes to the PDF file that we send you. Please promote the e-book even if you are only 95% happy with it. This way we maximise the viral marketing of your e-book and your paperback comes out on time and is not delayed. E-books are a viral marketing tool to start your publishing fame. E-books are hugely important for your presence on the internet, for the popularity of The Chipmunka website and for our presence on the internet and in the media.
    It's worrying that they are prepared to rush out eBooks without giving the author the opportunity to correct mistakes. Also, eBook success is dependent on lead-in and marketing, which it's going to be difficult to do properly on such a quick turn around.

    It's also concerning that so much emphasis is placed on the author doing promotion for the book - even if they're not happy with it.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Whilst our editors will do everything they can to ensure that the manuscript is perfect, the responsibility for spelling, grammar, and content ultimately lies with the author and the condition in which they submitted the manuscript and their final online file checking at paperback stage
    No publisher should be allowing books out with spelling and grammatical mistakes - that's what editors are employed to correct. Further, publishers shouldn't be accepting books that are simply unpublishable due to spelling, grammar etc.

    Chipmunka Website:
    All e-books will become paperbacks as long as the author treats our team with respect, carries out instructions as requires and there are no legal issues with the book.
    This sounds dangerously like "don't make complaints about us or we won't release the paperback".

    Given that the company takes all rights, this could be argued to be akin to holding books hostage.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Chipmunkapublishing prides itself on the fact that we achieve a huge amount of media coverage for our authors and on the fact that our authors achieve a huge amount of media coverage for themselves and their books.
    I took a quick look at the website's sale page and I've never heard of any of the authors or the titles or recall seeing coverage about them. I'd want to know what that media coverage is before signing a contract with them.

    Chipmunka Website:
    As with any best selling book, the best promoter is the author themselves. JK Rowling is not only a great author but she is also a great self publicist.
    Bullshit. Bestselling books are bestsellers because the publisher has got behind them, people know about them and they're there in bookstores for people to buy.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Throughout this guide we will be using the way that our CEO Jason Pegler has managed to successfully promote his book ‘A Can of Madness and his other five books’. Your book will have a different theme but the same principles will apply. One moment Jason Pegler may appear in the media as a former manic depressive, one minute he may appear as the author of A Can of Madness, or the author of Curing Madness or the author of The Ultimate Guide To Well Being, or as a rapper, or as a charity person, social entrepreneur, former mental health service user, or a publisher or to comment on mental health legislation that the government announces or is proposing, or talking about dangers of Cannabis or dangers of internet bullying etc.. Jason has appeared in the national and international media hundreds of times in the last 8 years and most of the time has managed to have his book mentioned or displayed. He has only ever had two book reviews in the broadsheets but sold more copies of ‘A Can of Madness’ than many publishers sell for most of their titles.
    Yet for all this successful promotion, I'd never heard of Jason Pegler or his books until I saw this thread.

    Chipmunka Website:
    Soon after your paperback comes out your book will be available to order from bookshops around the world. Our books are printed in the UK and the USA. Your book will be available on amazon.co.uk and next day delivery on amazon.com. Your book will also be available in a host of other online and actual book stores around the world. Some of these you will have heard of e.g. WH Smith, Waterstones, Blackwell's etc.. and others you will not have heard of e.g. play.com. Google or Use Microsoft's search engine Bing to view the name of some of our books and you will see.
    Well that's why I've never seen a book in a bookstore. Available to order from is not the same as being placed in. And of course, for people to know to order your book from a store, they have to know about your book.

    On their site it looks like promotion consists of listing in wholesale catalogues, direct mail to customers who've previously purchased books via the Chipmunka website, attendance at trade shows and NHS conferences and getting volunteers to post reviews (which, interestingly, could soon be a tactic that falls foul of EU legislation).

    Interestingly the site also gives all the usual bullshit about bookstores dying out, new technology being the way forward blah blah blah.

    All in all, there's nothing that I see being done here that an author with mental health problems couldn't do for themselves via Lulu or some other self-publishing company (and at least with Lulu, you won't be waiting to earn 50 before getting paid).

    MM
    Last edited by Momento Mori; 08-15-2010 at 06:33 PM.

  21. #21
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    Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Well analyzed, MM.

  22. #22
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    OMG. How dreadful. How do they get people to submit to them?!!!!
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  23. #23
    Tired and Disillusioned Momento Mori's Avatar
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    KTC:
    How dreadful. How do they get people to submit to them?!!!!
    It looks to me like they're deliberately targeting themselves at authors with mental health problems (supported by their links with mental health charities and their presence at psychological conventions) and make a pitch about how they're a mental health publisher aimed at breaking down the taboos about mental health.

    That in itself is a warning sign for me - it's a publisher that's targeting authors to write their story, rather than targeting readers who might want to know about mental health.

    Given that they claim 45% of authors come from recommendations by mental health charities, it would be worthwhile knowing why those charities reccomend people to them and what they think the benefit is. While I think that there are many people with mental health issues for whom writing would be a benefit, I can't help but think that such writers would be better going to a publisher who is at least prepared to negotiate contracts because there are several things on the Chipmunka website that leave open the appearance that authors could be taken advantage of - especially those who may not know how publishing is supposed to work, i.e. money flowing to the author.

    MM

  24. #24
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    "You do not get to see your e-book before it comes out"

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    Emily Veinglory

  25. #25
    Stand in the Place Where You Live KTC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayaone View Post
    This is my new publisher and though the contract is a bit unorthodox, it is not as low as VS wrote. Chimpuncka looks to me like a work in progress Mental illness is a treatable illness. There is such a stigma against the mentally ill that I am putting my reputation as a teacher on the line to dispell the myth, by telling my story.I suffered from panic attacks and lived inside a closet for years. Now I am cured and yes, writing the book helped. But... it is a well written story. Chipmunka doesn't accept every manuscript it receives.
    I am happy with the contract and the treatment I am receiving from Mr. Pegler and his small staff. My book has rape, panic and a mystery in it. It is my story, my memoir and I am proud to be with a publishe who not only knows how to sell to my population but gives back to charities to help mentally ill persons and mayble that is why the royalties are low. He is trying to give the mentally ill a voice. My book will be called. "From Agoraphobia to Zen" and I am glad I found a publisher who will take my book based on the story and the writing and fight for it as I will. Thanks for listening Aloha Maya

    If it's not too late, you should seriously reconsider. Did you sign a contract?
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