The story from YWO

7 thoughts on “The story from YWO”

  1. I have read both the blog above and Ted Smith’s reply. I’m the author a book Ted mentions – The Ghost of Neil Diamond – which was published by YWO/Legend Press, and they made a wonderful job of it. More on that later. The opening chapters of this book topped the YWO charts in June last year. Besides that achievement – which is not to be belittled, because some reviewers on that site damn you because they have read nothing, and know nothing – besides getting to the top of the heap on YWO, I have also had a couple of short stories published. From cold. No contacts. No nepotism. Back in the nineties Constable published a collection for The London Magazine, and my story won a favourable review in the TLS, no less, from a Booker nominee. Since then I have also had a couple of agents interested in my novels, but I failed to make the changes they wanted and they dropped me. They were right to do so, and I’ve benefited from that, because the books they turned down are in far better shape now than they were then. The point is that the success at ywo, the published stories and the interest of agents should be evidence enough that my writing isn’t trash – I know I can write publishable fiction.

    Which I hope entititles me to say that, when talking about POD publishing and self-publishing, you have to get away from the old Vanity Publishing label and the prejudices that come with it. If Vanity Publishers still exist, times must be hard. Vanity Publishers were shysters who said a mug’s book was marvellous, printed so many copies for the mug, dumped them on the mug’s doorstep and fleeced the mug for several thousand pounds. Technology, thank the Lord, has taken them out the game. I only paid YWO/Legend Press 400 pounds. The book is beautiful – it exceeded my expectations. Definition and colour of the cover is exactly as I wanted, and typsetting and paper quality are of professional standard. This, of course, is probably more to do with the power of technology that the printer´s earnest dedication to my particular book. Ywo/Legend Press have made the book available through all the online outlets – all the Amazons, Blackwells, W.H.Smith, Waterstones, Washington Post, Word Power, Everywhere. I retained control of the publication throughout, I retain all the rights, and now I retain control of all the marketing.

    Here’s the clincher. Since it came on the market I have advertised my book in The London Magazine, on the online Bookslut magazine, and in Private Eye. Places where I know there are people who are interested in reading beyond the mainstream and the backlist, and who, hopefully, may give my book a try. Vain hope? No. I wrote to Jessa Crispin at Bookslut and she has let me send in a copy for review. Maybe she’ll hate it, maybe they’ll never get around to reading it – but they did leave the door open. I’ve spent more money – and far, far more time and effort, than any publisher would have spent on marketing my book. But has it sold a copy? Well, sorry to disappoint the cynics, but yes, it has. It’s early days, but I reckon it must be selling at the rate of about a copy a day. The highest it has been in the charts is 17,000 something out of 22 million. It’s also fallen to 200,000 something. And it may fall much further, of course. On the US chart it’s in the 500-600 thousands and has had a high of 187,000. offers a sales analysis of these figures and that’s where I get the copy a day average. I’m optimistic that’s pessimistic. But here’s another number that counts. I have also recorded the sales chart rankings of two other books published summer 2008 by small independents, and another book self-published through ywo. One book from an independent, published just a month before mine, is down in the 1,200,000 s of and hasn’t sold a single copy in the US – that is, it hasn’t even entered the chart. The publisher has done nothing to promote this book apart from send out review copies. Hopeless strategy. Hopeless results. I would feel so frustrated and helpless if I were that author, constantly ringing up the publisher and asking her/him to do something, always in that humiliating, supplicatory position. And the publisher has already moved on of course, is dealing with so many others. Any manual on book marketing these days says Rule No One is – use the author! Get the author to do the marketing. Get the author to go out and sell! Well, since you’re going to do your own marketing anyway – why not pay 400 quid and do everything yourself, and retain total control and cut out all middlemen?

    If the book is good, it will find it’s own way. Oh yes it will. People want and need original writing, new characters. But first you have to get the book out there. Then market it. The truth is – uncomfortable for some, perhaps – that it has never been easier to find your readership, if there really is a readership.

    Vanity publishing was always a mug’s game. Now, sending off endless enquiries and packages to agents and publishers – and waiting, waiting, waiting, and waiting again – is a mug’s game.


  2. Hi David
    Happy to publish your comment to redress some of the very negative stuff going around at the moment re self-publishing (and I apologise for momentarily confusing it in the last post with vanity publishing which I know is something different). I also congratulate you on your success, esp with YWO – no mean feat! I have no problems with self-publishing or with anyone who succeeds at it. I have considered it myself (have also had some writing successes of my own) and will continue to do so. But your comment aslo shows the commitment to sellng and marketing needed by the author which I don’t think always comes across in the way POD services are advertised. I also felt that th ecurrent 5000 deal on YWO was insufficently explained in the first instance. And it was never advertised to me (a current member) but used, I think, to bring in new blood without encouraging them to work their way up through the gruelling review process.
    But congrats on your undeniable success, and best of luck with the book!


  3. Ali B – thanks for your reply. I have to add quickly that I won’t consider my book a success until I know a few hundred perfect strangers have bought it and have some indication that a few enjoyed it! Until then, I’ve still failed – i.e. I haven’t found a readership. But The Ghost of Neil Diamond has only been out 5 weeks. It’s early days. I am going to publish my next – The Ghost of Someone Else – with the other 4,999 youwriteon titles, and have just paid for the worldwide distribution service. The simple truth is that, before anything can happen, the book must exist.


  4. It’s very interesting to read YWO’s attempts to justify this particular scheme, but I’m still unhappy with the terms of the contract, and would still advise anyone against submitting their work. I’ve blogged about it three times, and am in an ongoing discussion about it on a writers’ board, and have yet to be convinced otherwise.

    Thanks for sending me the link to this, Ali.


  5. Hi Jane – have decided to leave YWO and all who sail in her to stew (in a mixed metaphor) for the time being.
    Did you try my links suggestion – any joy?


  6. Ali, I’ve not had a chance to try to sort those links out yet, but will soon: they infuriate me!

    Have you looked at Zoetrope, or Absolute Write? They both have areas for critique and discussion, and the work and comments are usually of quite a high standard.


  7. Hi Jane
    Thanks for the suggestions. I’m lucky enough to be in a ‘real live’ writers’ group (Bristol Women Writers) which is my main source of critical feedback, but sometimes it’s good to try a new audience!


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