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editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

MDei

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Okay, so I get an email from writer's digest about some website just for writers who haven't broken into the publishing business yet and can upload stories for e-book online and sell. I guess it's a version of self-publishing. My question is, has anyone used it and how exactly do you use it? Is it legit? Hell, has anyone even heard of it?
 

Tsu Dho Nimh

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Never heard of it before, and if the samples I'm seeing are typical of the authors, I'll never see it again. I see no need to dredge that slushpile looking for gold nuggets.

I'm willing to pay more than $2.95 for an e-book from Baen because their editors have dredged for me.
 

Stacia Kane

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Yeah, they don't seem to have too many books at the moment. It's really a pretty typical self-publishing/vanity press-type site, although the bit in their "About Us" section where they say:

There are so many great stories out there from writers who are just as good as those on the bestseller list, but who haven’t been lucky with a publisher.

irks me a tad; A) If your book is as good as those on the bestseller list, it will find a real publisher; and B) This sounds like the sort of fake sales pitch lots of vanity presses use, and I hate the thought of writers getting taken in by it. Yes, luck plays a part, but so do craft, dedication, and very hard work.

The guy who owns the site has several of his own books on it, too (interestingly, they're the top two sellers).

So, again. Typical slush on a typical "We're indie publishing the books those elitists at the big houses won't even touch because we're not celebrities" site.


I suppose if you've given up hope on having that particular book published by a commercial house, and don't want to self-publish for Kindle or at Lulu, you could give it a try, but given how new it is it's probably not got anywhere near the amount of traffic you'd need to give you a chance at selling copies to more than your family & friends.


JMO, of course.
 

Gillhoughly

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If your career goal is to languish as a self-pub on a display site that no editor in their right mind will ever visit, that will never impress any legit agent, and at the same time utterly demolish your first publication rights, then go for it.

If you want to be a commercially published professional writer who gets paid for all the hard work, then move on and submit to a commercial publishing venue that has books and magazines in the stores. Don't waste time on amateurs.

Anyone can open a site like this, just as anyone can have a garage sale.

It's been my experience that treasures at garage sales are more rare than mint copies of Action Comics #1, and the rest is the crap no one else wants or the sellers are too lazy or timid to shop to a professional venue. (Or it just doesn't have wide audience appeal or they were just smart enough to avoid PublishAmerica.)

Ignore emails from Writer's Digest. Most of their ad space is paid for by vanity houses. Sometimes they have a good article, but the clear conflict of interest is annoying.

Sometimes I've caved and bought a subscription and each time they ignored my directive to NOT sell my name to mailing lists for AuthorHouse or XLibris.

There are so many great stories out there from writers who are just as good as those on the bestseller list, but who haven’t been lucky with a publisher.

It does help if one actually attempts to send out submissions, then do a rewrite if it gets rejected. Publishers ARE actively looking for the Next Big Thing, y'know. It is in their interest to discover talent.

Not everyone can write well enough to sell. It's a sad fact. But plenty of mediocre hacks wind up on the bestseller list.

Just look at Dan Brown. :evil

He kept sending stuff out and didn't give up. And at some point one of his books clicked. I don't know why, though I'm thinking a Faustian deal went down at some point!
 
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MDei

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Everyone makes good points about this site. I checked it out too and not many people are on it. I think writer's digest needs to investigate this stuff more. They sent me the link and as soon as I read about it, the red flags went off.
 

Stacia Kane

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Everyone makes good points about this site. I checked it out too and not many people are on it. I think writer's digest needs to investigate this stuff more. They sent me the link and as soon as I read about it, the red flags went off.


Nah, Writer's Digest doesn't care. As Gil said, vanity presses have been paying their bills for some time; and IMO they've been catering to them in their articles in exchange (having vanity-press authors write how-to articles for them, pushing vanity presses in other articles, etc.). Every time I've picked up an issue I've seen at least a couple of things that make me put it right back down again; they have no integrity, as far as I'm concerned.
 

jchines

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The underlying assumption with most of these display sites seems to be that agents and editors have nothing else to do but go searching through the Internet, looking for the next great story. Given the size of the slush piles, the hundreds and thousands of query letters, not to mention how busy most of these people already are with their own clients/authors, I find this a seriously flawed assumption.
 

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Hi,

I am one of the creators of OffTheBookshelf.com. I've been following this thread and I just want to clear up some misconceptions people may have about the site. It is our intention and hope to create a community that acts as an alternative to vanity presses and empowers authors in this digital age. We are only a month old and there is no cost to join.

The site makes 80 cents per ebook/audio book and 99 cents per printed book when the book is sold, and that's paid by the reader.

The only type of fee that a writer may opt to pay is $35 if he/she decides to set up a printed book with us. That cost is passed on to the print-on-demand company to set up the book for printing, add the barcode, etc. (Many authors opt to put a link to their own website where they sell their printed book from.)

Below is a link to download our free webinar. I would love constructive criticism and feedback about how we can make the site better for you. You can email me at [email protected].

DOWNLOAD LINK:
http://rcpt.yousendit.com/847568815/58788e3c2ac554dccf9feedebe067fc3

Best,

Scott
 

M.R.J. Le Blanc

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It is our intention and hope to create a community that acts as an alternative to vanity presses and empowers authors in this digital age. We are only a month old and there is no cost to join.

And how do you plan to do this? If no one knows this site exists, being on it is useless.
 

HistorySleuth

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Good Lord. Anyone look at the PDF samples? Some are OK, but there are quite a few (by different authors) that look like they were done on an old typewriter, including the unjustified lines. I'm thinking offthebookshelf is in the category of something to do for fun and to test the waters? Just do whatever and upload your PDF, at least their not charging the authors to do it. I saw a couple that did look interesting and laid out nicely, it's unfortunate.
 

Mac H.

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I would love constructive criticism and feedback about how we can make the site better for you.
Hi Scott.

OK, I'll give some feedback.

Firstly, I'm a reader rather than a writer of novels, etc so I'll give this feedback from the POV of a reader.

The site is an utter waste of time for readers.

I get the feeling (perhaps unjustified) that it is organised for AUTHORS - not from the point of view of readers. That's like opening a hairdressing salon with the fanfare "We aim to make life best for our hairdressers."

Follow my moves as I browse the site.

(1) I'm on the front page: http://offthebookshelf.com

I click on an interesting looking book.

Try it. Go to the front page and click the cover for 'Ad Asylum'

Go on. Try it.

Does it the reader to a page about the book?
No - it takes them to a page about the AUTHOR !!! That might be designed to stroke the author's ego but from a reader's point of view it is a total waste of time.

Let's look at what is on this page:
1. A right bar ad that is relevant to authors, not readers.
2. A bottom ad that is relevant to authors, not readers.
3. A bio of the author which isn't what I came to see.

But among all the clutter aimed at authors, there is a tiny section on the book that you are allegedly trying to sell me.

It is: "Halliday & Vine, once the greatest ad agency in New York, is now an agency on the brink. Peter Vine, their creative genius, has disappeared. Now, they’ve got one last .."

This is almost funny - After putting all of the stuff aimed at authors on the page, you actually ran out of room for the information about the book !!!

You had a golden chance to convince me to buy the book. I had even clicked on it. But instead of telling me about the book you only give me one and a half sentences !

So you truncated it and will make me click again just to get a minute amount of extra info ?

To be honest, I find it impossible to believe that this page (which is what you get when you click the pic of the book) is designed to sell the book.

Almost all the space on this page I'm viewing is aimed at authors.

(2) Despite the fact the site is not making an effort to convince me to buy the book, I'm going to try and get more info on it anyway.

I'll click the preview. It downloaded a PDF for me. I viewed it.

Try it. What do you see ?

The PDF contained:
1. A cover page
2. A title page
3. A blank page
4. A copyright page
5. A chapter heading page 'Pitch Minus 11 Days—Sunday'

That's it !!

That kind of thing is just WASTING THE TIME & ATTENTION SPANS of your potential customers.

It seems like this site simply isn't trying to sell me the book !

What's more, from here I can't even navigate easily to other books.

If books are what you are selling, you need to make an effort to sell them.

Here would be a golden opportunity to list other humor books on the bottom of the page - I might want to click on those.

But no.

What a waste of time as a reader.

(3) OK - I'm going to find another book despite this site.

I have to go back to the main site and try again.

Now I'm there, I'll take a few moments to see what is on the front page:

1. An ad inviting people to 'Join now to publish and Profit'
2. A big section on 'Writers'
3. A small section on 'Readers' - inviting me to 'Browse our site' (which I was already doing) and inviting me to 'discover new authors' (again - aimed at authors, nor readers). And, at the end 'And, please keep coming back - we are adding new authors every day'.

Be honest with me. Do you go to a cinema and say "Do you have any films by a screenwriter I haven't discovered yet? Or a new producer?"

So why would you expect that readers are interested in that?

Don't get me wrong - I like discovering new books & new authors. But I pick up books because they sound interesting, not because the author is new!

I don't visit Amazon because they've added new authors. I visit Amazon because they've added more books.

4. A section on 'Today's featured author'

What about 'Today's featured book???'

5. A section on 'Browse authors by last name' !!!
6. A section called 'Top 10' books - but which really took me to the author's page.

You get the drift.

It is NOT aimed at selling books. But from the front page I can easily get a list of author bios for authors who have books on your site whose last name starts with 'W'. That's only a single mouse click. I'm sure there are plenty of readers who want to do that.

I clicked on another one (which I won't mention). The preview of that was about a civilian steamship being retired on its last voyage.

One minor point - when the story is set (1946) civilian ship radar had just been released. It made NO sense for an old, obsolete steamship to have cutting edge technology which nobody had been trained in yet. It would be like setting a story in the late 1980s where an old guy was taking his last trip in his rusty old '56 Fairlane ... casually reading the built in GPS !!!

Yes, it would be perhaps possible (he could have been the first person to buy a GPS and installed it in the car that he was driving to the wreckers) but certainly doesn't read right !!!

I know - I'm being pedantic. But surely any reasonable editor would twig that perhaps the audience might not feel that 'obsolete steamship being retired' and 'marine radar' might twinge a few alarm bells on the first page !

Another book (again nameless) reads, quite literally, as: "He shoved open the door and rushed in! He careened headlong into a young girl running out knocking both of them to the floor!"

Again, this isn't exactly high quality writing.

Anyway, that's about the end of my feedback.

To conclude: I'm not seeing any reason why a reader should visit the site. It doesn't make any real effort to make it easy for me to browse. The site's books appear to be amateur quality - so why would I buy from here rather than sites with higher quality books on average ?

I guess I'm particularly dismayed because I'm the kind of guy who might be the prime customer. I buy way too many books & stories. I'm not following any particular authors. If I'm not your customer than who is ?

Sorry.

Mac
 
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CaoPaux

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Can anyone get this site to load? It looks to still be there, but I can't get to it except through Google's "text only" cache. JavaScript issues, maybe? :Hammer:
 

CaoPaux

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As long as it's not just me. :cool:

Regardless, a display site no one can see ain't much use.
 

citymouse

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I just spoke with someone who has experience with POD/self-publishing. What I heard gave me pause. Taking what I was told as being so, OTBS says that for $35 US, they will produce a formatted print book with cover in 24hrs. In my experience, formatting a book of say, 45O pages as well as a front and back cover takes some time. When one considers the possibility of more than one book in the pipeline that claim seems off the mark. I was also told that an ebook would be produced at the same time. Okay, it's very simple to post an pdf online. However, added to this is the offer of an audiobook. Here is where I began to get wary. Who the hell is going to read a book aloud in 24 hours? [ Correction: audiobook takes one week, however the voices are canned and so the following still stands.] Unless the audio feature is one of those robotic voices that reads as an MSWord feature, which, IMO does not make it an audiobook. It seems far too good to be true. There are people for whom self-pub is an appealing option. These may not stop and wonder at the timeline vs the realities of making a viable product. Mind you, I'm going on what I was told by an enthused potential customer. I have yet to make my eyes the witness of what I was told, but I will.
C
 
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CaoPaux

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Deb Herman, former literary agent (and wife of agent/guide writer Jeff Herman), took over as CEO in Aug '13. Website and services heavily revamped.
 

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