Tag Archives: self-publishing

From Art Show to Art Book

Calvin Reid -- February 11th, 2014

Social Photography III

Whether you happen to be a single minded author determined to publish your own book or a small gallery space in lower Manhattan, Print-On-Demand publishing is transforming the ability to create and sell books of all kinds. Carriage Trade is small nonprofit gallery catering to contemporary art located in downtown Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. For the last three years Carriage Trade director Peter Scott has organized a big group show of cell phone photographs called Social Photography, featuring several hundred photos by famous artists, curators, not-so-famous artists, friends-of-Peter, and many others including “a few children and a number of DJs from WFMU.”

While the show is a “random sampling” of photos from contributors mostly from New York, it also includes images from Europe, Australia, Thailand and Canada. Scott says the show is intended to “challenge the professionalism mandated by the [fine art] gallery system. Almost everyone has an image capable cell phone these days, regardless of background, and many people come up with pretty interesting images.” (Full disclosure: this reporter has an image in the show.)

This year Social Photography III: An Exhibition of Cell Phone Photographs (December 12, 2013 – January 18, 2014) featured 204 cell phone photos, and for the first time, a handsomely designed trade paperback book presenting each one of the photos. The book sells for $50 ($45 to those in the show) and includes all 204 images, as well as an introduction written by Scott. While the gallery mounts the show each year and sells prints of the photos, this year marks its first Social Photography book collection available for sale. Every year each contributor emails their photo to the gallery and Scott and his assistants format the images, print them and mount the photos in a precise grid on the gallery walls. The gallery sells the prints in editions of five that also come with a signed certificate by the contributor. All of this helps raise funds for the small nonprofit space which has been around since 2008, when Scott began putting together independently curated shows in a space above Fanelli’s, the venerable SoHo Bar. He moved Carriage Trade to Walker Street in Trebeca in 2010.


The introduction to Social Photography III and an image of the exhibition installation.

This year, Scott says he and the book’s co-designer Nadine Schmied, “realized having done so much work soliciting, formatting and printing the images, that we were halfway there in terms of producing a book.” An artist friend recommended he use MagCloud, a HP owned company that specializes in print-on-demand printing and self-publishing. Scott said he and the designer, “did two proofs and two small print runs of 25 copies each. They were really fast and the quality is very good.” The book was produced, he says, mid-show during the Christmas holidays. “We had two weeks to sell the book while the show was up and the sales mostly took place during the book launch and show closing party in mid-January,” he says.

“In the end it was a lot of work,” Scott said, “but we now have the show ‘out there’ [in the form of a book] archive.” Scott says, and just as important: “We sold what we printed and need to order more.” Scott praised, the “upgrades” in publishing technology. “Advances in desktop publishing and on-demand printing make a show and book like this possible. We produced everything in-house over the course of a few months.” He also emphasized that , “given our limited budget, we were able to order small print runs of books on an as needed basis in terms of orders. The level of quality combined with efficiency and fast turnaround makes it possible for a small nonprofit like ourselves to do ambitious projects that would not have been possible even four or five years ago.”

Next, Scott plans to try to get wider distribution for the gallery’s first in-house book publication.” I’m planning on bringing the book around to book stores/distributors in the near future,” he said. He also hopes to do more books. “I’d love to do books for all the shows, though the tough part is getting distribution,” he said. “An exhibition is limited to the gallery, but a book makes the show portable.”

PublishAmerica’s Shady History

Gabe Habash -- August 19th, 2011

Yesterday’s news that “publisher” PublishAmerica responded to J.K. Rowling’s cease-and-desist letter with a cease-and-desist letter of their own is just the latest in the company’s not-so-illustrious history. You can view the letter here, which is most notable because their legal representation utilizes triple exclamation points.

A brief summary: PublishAmerica promised authors that for $49, it would show their books to J.K. Rowling. If the Rowling price tag is too high for you, for $29, PublishAmerica will give your book to President Obama.

We thought we’d shed some light on PublishAmerica, if only because some of what’s happened with them is so unbelievable that it’s a wonder they still exist.

According to its website (which has an aesthetic that’s very appropriate for the company), PublishAmerica’s founders had a dream back in 1999: in a difficult publishing marketplace, they could serve as many authors as possible that otherwise would have little chance at getting their books published the traditional way. And if you’re wondering how many “as many authors as possible” entails, those numbers are 11,000 authors under contract and about 4,800 titles released per year.

The best story of PublishAmerica’s history involves the hoax title Atlanta Nights that was submitted by a team of writers under the pen name Travis Tea. They were upset with the company’s comments, found on the company’s Web site, about the sci-fi genre including, among other things:

As a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction. Therefore, beware of published authors who are self-crowned writing experts. When they tell you what to do and not to do in getting your book published, always first ask them what genre they write. If it’s sci-fi or fantasy, run. They have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home. Unless you are a sci-fi or fantasy author yourself.

The writers, who were suspicious of PublishAmerica’s claims that they reject 80% of the manuscripts they receive, decided to submit a masterpiece of literary garbage–a book that had a missing chapter, two chapters that were identical, copy rife with spelling and grammar mistakes, and a nonsensical story that reads like this:

“Bruce walked around any more. Some people might ought to her practiced eye, at her. I am so silky and braid shoulders. At sixty-six, men with a few feet away from their languid gazes.”

The book was accepted for publication. This is the acceptance letter (from Meg Phillips, Acquisitions Editor):

As this is an important piece of email regarding your book, please read it completely from start to finish. I am happy to inform you that PublishAmerica has decided to give “Atlanta Nights” the chance it deserves….Welcome to PublishAmerica, and congratulations on what promises to be an exciting time ahead.

A month later, the authors revealed the hoax and PublishAmerica pulled their offer. The new letter:

We must withdraw our offer to publish “Atlanta Nights”. Upon further review it appears that your work is not ready to be published. There are portions of nonsensical text in the manuscript that were caught by our editing staff as they previewed the text for editing time assessment pending your acceptance of our offer.

On the positive side, maybe you want to consider contracting the book with a vanity publisher such as iUniverse or Author House. They will certainly publish your book at a fee.

PublishAmerica has been involved with quite a few lawsuits in its history; a few of them can be found here, here and here.

It should be noted that some authors have apparently spoken up in defense of PublishAmerica. Unfortunately, those endorsements are buried under articles that put words like “scam” and “beware” alongside the company’s name.

So, the message bears repeating: if you’re looking to publish your book, exercise caution when considering which press or publisher to use.

Webcomic Fans Boost Self-Published Book to Amazon’s #1 Spot

Rose Fox -- October 27th, 2010

Yesterday was MOD-Day: the release day for Machine of Death, a collaboration among several popular webcomic artist/writers and their fans. The idea started with a Dinosaur Comic by Ryan North:

North’s message board rapidly filled up with ideas for “machine of death” stories. North soon teamed up with David Malki ! (of Wondermark) and Matthew Bennardo to make the book a reality. They solicited material, winnowed the submissions down, found other artists to illustrate several of the stories, and started to shop the manuscript around. That was when the problems started:

Stephen King isn’t in this book. Neither is Dave Eggers or Neil Gaiman or Nick Hornby. Nobody would buy this little book full of stories from nobody famous, we were told. We talked with six different agents who fell in love with this book; one even fell deeply in love and tried her hardest to sell it to anybody who would listen. One editor at a publishing house told us “Let me be blunt: I love this premise; I love this project; I want to read this book [...] the sample stories included in the proposal are really very strong, and if they’re all that good, then this is a genre anthology of high literary quality.”

But it was 2008, 2009. “The economy,” we were told. “And it’s an anthology.”

…We didn’t want to sell ebook rights; we wanted to release the ebook for free as a PDF. We didn’t want to sell audio rights; we wanted to record the audiobook ourselves, and release it for free as a podcast. Movie rights remain with the authors — if you love one of the stories in this book and want to make a blockbuster film from it, contact the author and give them the money. We’re not in the middle.

And we live on the internet enough that we knew we could sell this book.

So October 26th was declared MOD-Day, and a plan was formed: to get the book into Amazon’s #1 bestseller spot for just one day, and prove that a bunch of indie misfits could make a successful book.

This plan worked so spectacularly that as of this writing, mid-day on October 27th, the book is still in Amazon’s #1 bestseller spot, along with being #1 in science fiction anthologies and #2 in literature and fiction (#1 is John Grisham’s The Confession). Malki ! calls this “so far beyond amazing that I don’t have words for it. It is incredimazing. It is trementacular. It is absocrazifreakiperfluously staggerblasticating.”

Continue reading

The PW Morning Report: Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

Craig Morgan Teicher -- August 11th, 2010

Good News, bad news, but most of all, book news.

Goodbye QUE: We Hardly Knew You: Plastic Logic has decided to scrap the QUE, its very expensive e-reader, which never made it to market. From the Bookseller.

Espresso and Espresso: NYC indie bookseller McNally Jackson will be getting an Espresso Book Machine, which prints POD books while you wait, by 2011. The store also has a little coffee bar, so you can have espresso while you wait for your Espresso book. From the Observer.

A Self-Publishing Odyssey: NPR profiles a writer who made it work on her own.

5 Reasons for Paper Books: You probably don’t need anyone to tell you why paper books are great, but in case you do, this post from ReadWriteWeb should do the job.

Amazon: Hardware Maker: Rumor has it that Amazon is readying to move beyond the Kindle with other media players and hardware. From Mashable!

Are E-books Green?: This article from a recent issue of G Magazine compares print and e-books in terms of their green impact.

The Private Writer in Public: The Guardian wonders about the public role of the kind of writer who doesn’t like doing readings or all that platform-developing stuff.

Is “I Write Like” Boosting Thomas Nelson?

Rose Fox -- July 19th, 2010

Jim Macdonald of Making Light thinks so:

So I went to the I Write Like site, subject of the post just below, and entered this text:

asdp0o pvpm eropms spe pebps.

And it told me I write like James Joyce.

Not even trying? Not even rational! Therefore, I asked myself, what’s the scam? So I looked at the rest of the text on the results page:

Great job! Do you want to get your book published?

“I have personally read through thousands of book proposals in my career as a publisher and agent. I know what these professionals are looking for—and what they are not looking for.”
— Michael Hyatt, Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Learn how to secure a book publishing contract!

In the comments he adds: “What I’m seeing is a site that tells newbie authors, ‘You write like Ernest Hemingway,’ tries to snaffle their email addresses, then offers them an overpriced e-book on how to query their novel, offered by a vanity publisher.”

And author Charles Stross chimes in:

I believe someone on a mailing list (which shall remain nameless) mentioned [the creator of the meme]‘d been on Hacker News, asking for ideas about monetizing his unexpectedly successful site.

Ah… initial announcement here. And the follow-up clarifies:

It’s spreading just like a perfect meme should :-) E.g. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=iwl.me

My question is, what should I do with it: (a) for monetary gain (It already achieved the SEO effect I planned, not sure what to do now). (b) for a good cause. I’m already thrilled to notice that people discover and re-discover writers and say “Oh, I write like [writer], I must read more of his works.” What can I do to get more of this effect? What do you think? I’m open to ideas or deals. Thank you!

The text Macdonald describes no longer appears anywhere on the IWL results page. Nonetheless, between these concerns and anger over the overwhelming predominance of white men in the IWL author database, this meme may be about to lose its popularity–and may already have other publishers thinking about harnessing the power of memes to boost their own visibility and that of their authors.