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In 2011, 52 Novels formatted my first two books. I'd prefer to keep my privacy, but I have to say something here.

One book had a lot of images. The other was a standard 80,000 word novel. I was looking for a formatter when I saw 52 Novels mentioned on Konrath’s site, so I contacted them.  They ending up doing wonderful work for me.

Yes, they’re pricey. Since those first two books, I’ve used other formatters who are more budget-friendly (and who’ve also done great work). I’d like to teach myself how to format, but I have a job and I’m in college, so I haven’t had time.  If 52 Novels had bargain prices, I would send everything to them.

My experience from two projects: they’re pros. They were professional, pleasant, responsive, and reliable. There were no surprises. They did error-free work. Everything came in on deadline or before the deadline. I screwed up with one book and found a factual error after I’d published it, so I contacted them for a whole new set of documents. When I tried to pay, Rob Siders refused to take the payment. Rob is a first rate guy in my book and so is his team. If their prices fall within your budget, I would recommend them to anybody looking for quality work and peace of mind.

Holly Grant
 

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HAHA, just for you, CraigInTwinCities,

Frankly, I think most people would get more views, and more sales, by doing a "funny cat" video with their own cell phone and their own cat, and then displaying their book cover at the end.

I paid a High Price of treats for this video, I tell you. ;D

Apologies for taking y'all from the seriousness of the discussion.
 

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Rob @ 52 Novels said:
Not offering extended support for Smashwords files is not the same as not guaranteeing it will work. With SW, there's too much outside our control to be able to guarantee everything related to the product. If it's our fault, we can fix it. If it's because Meatgrinder's acting a little hinky that day or because someone on the review team at SW goofed up, then there's not much we can do. In those cases I might as well be guaranteeing your car will start in the morning, too. In any event, we made more than 300 Smashwords files last year, to my knowledge, all of them passed autovetter and a human review, and now happily live in the Premium Catalog.

That said, every SW file we make is uploaded to our test account to ensure the NCX is properly made, that the output is more or less comparable to our epub and Kindle design, and that it passes autovetter before it's delivered to the author (this is as far as we can go without triggering a review by someone at SW). But even then, our experience has shown that what worked as expected in our tests isn't always the case when the author uploads it. As stable as Meatgrinder is in 2013, it's still a software product that can break between the time we deliver and when the author uploads. Believe me, Meatgrinder breaks, even if for just a few minutes. A lot. And because Meatgrinder is not our software, we're not in any position to be its technical support.

There are also a few cases---especially around the end of the year---when an inexperienced human vetter gets something we've done and rejects the file. It's technically non-compliant with the style guide, but is an edge case that should be compliant. (When that happens I send an email to Mark and he approves it.) And because the file is editable, authors often make changes to them before they upload... you'd be surprised at how many people decide to remove "Smashwords edition" from the copyright page and then come back to us wondering what went wrong.

Lastly, not offering extended support is not the same as being complete tools... our design staff is thoughtful, enjoys doing good work for their authors, and wants them to succeed. By the time they deliver the SW cut (it's the last thing we make), they've worked with an author quite a bit. If that means they spend some time troubleshooting an issue that's come up that's not really in our wheelhouse, then that's what they do. After all, the error messages from SW are about as clear as a cloud and to an author eager to publish the last thing they dreamed of getting was a nastygram about their book.

As for our pricing for SW files, it's set on our base hourly rate ($55) plus a bit extra to account for unknowns and basic troubleshooting that may be necessary after we test. We find that most novel-length books take about an hour. Most longer works take about 90 minutes. If another shop determines they can be profitable at a lower rate, then I'm happy for them and wish them success.
As I mentioned up thread, beyond just the one self-evident author, I won't reveal which authors we subcontracted for or what our role has been.
People are complaining that an hourly rate of $55 plus is expensive? I was billing - and working a hundred hour week - at $128 per hour in 1978. None of our editors/formatters/graphic designers/layout specialists bill at less than au$400 per hour. The cost cutting created by online competition has spoiled many people.
 

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Gennita Low said:
HAHA, just for you, CraigInTwinCities,


I paid a High Price of treats for this video, I tell you. ;D

Apologies for taking y'all from the seriousness of the discussion.
LOL... now THAT might get me to One-Click... ;)
 

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"The cost cutting created by online competition has spoiled many people."
Sounds like the competition is here to stay. The market has changed.
 

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Courtney Milan said:
Kristin has two options for her clients.

Option one: The agency pays for everything except developmental editing. In this case, the author agrees to a term of liaison of 2 years. The author can still ask the agency to pull the book from any and every venue if for some reason they don't want to continue--they just can't republish it themselves until two years have passed. And the contract states that even though the agency paid for the cover art, copy-editing, etc, the author owns the digital files, and so has literally nothing to do to get upload-ready files.

Option two: The agency pays for nothing. In this case, the author can post the file wherever they want, whenever they want, and just upload their books to places the author can't reach on her own.

This is what I do. I do all the work and get 100% of everything from Amazon, B&N, and anywhere else I can upload myself. My agent uploads to Overdrive, so that my book is available to libraries and Google Plus and Ingrams. She uploaded a book to Kobo for me, back when you really couldn't get on Kobo through Smashwords and before KWL opened.

She gets 15% of the revenue from those venues where she uploads me and those venues only, and only for as long as I think it's worth my while to keep my books there. There is literally no term of liaison for option two. So this is not "15% for life"--it's 15% for only as long as it's worth my while to be on those venues.

I have no idea what Dystel is doing. It's already obvious that her exact implementation is different from Kristin's.
I agree with ElHawk. This sounds like a reasonable deal.
 

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Whole lot of speculation and not a lot of facts in this thread.  Just my two cents.

As for Kristen Nelson, I've worked with her on numerous occasions. She's been beyond professional every time.  Chalk me up as another service provider who doesn't know what sort of deal she has brokered with her clients.  I wouldn't say I don't care if my clients are getting a good deal or not - I very much do.  But I also don't see how it's my business to ask them what business arrangements they've made with the rest of their production team. 
 

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Craig, you are right--I make a point to present my opinions based on principles and not personalities. Something that seems like criticism of another writer doesn't help anyone--but I think I was pretty clearly attacking their methods and not their persons.

I read Patterson from early on--when he was a critically acclaimed but commercially invisible mystery writer. And those books went from excellent in craft to a hodgepodge of nonstyle. It's there in the pages, no matter what people claim--and Patterson has a certain desire to spin the story. It was pretty widely known by most everyone in publishing that he was not writing anything but outlines by the time he got huge, and the farce got so extreme that his co-authors started getting credited. Read his first and read his most recent supposedly solo effort and see if it is the same person. It's like fingerprints.

As for Locke, really, this is the Writer's Cafe--where we share info about writing and business, not our enjoyment of a specific writer (and, yes, I have read some of Locke and a lot of Patterson). Someone buying fake reviews by the bushels (and who knows what other little tricks weren't included in the "How I sold a bajillion books and can sucker you into buying my how-to as well") is not a credible example of writing success in my book, and certainly not one to be held up as why an agency's approach is legitimate. Unless this entire board is just about making money, in which case, we should all become agent/publisher/fake reviewer/ghostwriter-hirer types.

I think the core issue is integrity. Who has it, and whose you can bank on. But the point has been made better by other people. I have no idea what other people should do anymore, so I just hope people do what makes them happy.
 

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scottnicholson said:
Craig, you are right--I make a point to present my opinions based on principles and not personalities. Something that seems like criticism of another writer doesn't help anyone--but I think I was pretty clearly attacking their methods and not their persons.
Thanks, Scott. And while I may have misread your intent, that's why I called your attention to it: because that approach didn't fit with my impression of you.

And let me shill for you for just a moment: Speed Dating with the Dead is a fun read! :)

scottnicholson said:
I read Patterson from early on--when he was a critically acclaimed but commercially invisible mystery writer. And those books went from excellent in craft to a hodgepodge of nonstyle. It's there in the pages, no matter what people claim--and Patterson has a certain desire to spin the story. It was pretty widely known by most everyone in publishing that he was not writing anything but outlines by the time he got huge, and the farce got so extreme that his co-authors started getting credited. Read his first and read his most recent supposedly solo effort and see if it is the same person. It's like fingerprints.
I discovered Patterson at an ABA Convention in Minneapolis, just as his career was starting to take off. I was working for a local press at the time, and my boss gave me a pass. I think I was browsing the Simon and Schuster table (correct me if I'm wrong on Patterson's publisher at the time) and they had pre-release galleys they were handing out of what I think was the first or second Alex Cross novel. I think it was a mass market paperback for Along Came a Spider, as well as a trade-paper galley of the about-to-be-released Kiss the Girls, around 1993/94.

I took them home with a big bag of other stuff, but they were the only ones I read. Been hooked ever since. He'd published about seven books prior to that, between 1976 and 1991. But it was the Cross stuff that hooked me.

I'm less enthusiastic about Women's Murder Club, though it had a strong start. I liked his book a couple years back where he collaborated with Liza Marklund (sp?), The Postcard Killers, and some of his one-offs like that.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect this past fall was a nice, quick read.

But still, most of what I read from him is the Alex Cross stuff... though the latest, Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, read like two novellas slapped together to form one story.

I tend to believe he writes his Alex Cross series on his own, and outlines/creative directors all his other stuff. I appreciate that he at least credits his co-authors.

Much as I enjoy being an indie, if James Patterson approached me and said, "Hey, I liked EyeCU, but I think I can help you improve. Come sign a five-book contract to co-author a new series with me, you'll make more and get your name out there and then if you want to go indie again, you can..." well... it'd be hard to say no to. Think of the exposure. Think of all the new readers I'd gain who *might* read my other stuff from before that 5-book contract, and who would continue to after.... but that's fantasy-land stuff, so I'm not holding my breath. Besides, EyeCU isn't even done yet, let alone out. ;)

scottnicholson said:
As for Locke, really, this is the Writer's Cafe--where we share info about writing and business, not our enjoyment of a specific writer (and, yes, I have read some of Locke and a lot of Patterson). Someone buying fake reviews by the bushels (and who knows what other little tricks weren't included in the "How I sold a bajillion books and can sucker you into buying my how-to as well") is not a credible example of writing success in my book, and certainly not one to be held up as why an agency's approach is legitimate. Unless this entire board is just about making money, in which case, we should all become agent/publisher/fake reviewer/ghostwriter-hirer types.
Yeah, I don't defend his business practices. But I do read his stuff and am entertained by it most of the time. It's a literary burger and fries... but it's a tasty burger and crisp fries, most of the time.

scottnicholson said:
I think the core issue is integrity. Who has it, and whose you can bank on. But the point has been made better by other people. I have no idea what other people should do anymore, so I just hope people do what makes them happy.
I think you can bank on the integrity of most people here on KB, because we kind of hold each other accountable.

Sometimes more than we should, perhaps... folks in the WC sometimes refuse to do things even trad-pubs do based on principle, which can be good, but is also like saying, "I think I can beat up Brock Lesnar, but first, let me tie one leg and one hand behind my back..."

All I mean by that, of course, is having superior ethics is great... but sometimes it can really handicap you in an already lop-sided fight! ;)
 
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CraigInTwinCities said:
All I mean by that, of course, is having superior ethics is great... but sometimes it can really handicap you in an already lop-sided fight! ;)
Creating a false enemy to justify employing unethical behavior doesn't excuse the criminal behavior. (No, I'm not saying YOU personally have done anything, just commenting on this general mentality.)

By treating publishing as a "war" between "us versus them" you end up with innocent victims; in this case, readers and other authors. I'm not prepared to sacrifice readers just so a few drone strikes can hurt my "enemies" in the Big Six. Someone buys fake reviews, they aren't getting a leg up on the Big Six. They are misleading innocent readers. Someone creates sock puppet accounts to artificially manipulate a writing contest. They aren't hurting the Big Six. They are hurting other authors.

The publishing industry is not afraid of indie authors. They are instead sitting back and asking "How can we make money off of this group?" They don't consider us enemies or threats. At worst, we're pawns employed by their real enemy (Amazon) and at best we're an emerging market. And THIS is really what the point of this thread is. Jane Dystel is part of the industry, and she is trying to figure out how to make money on indies. The core question isn't Locke's behavior (thought you already know my opinion on that!). The core question is: should an agent simultaneously be representing authors to publishers and profiting off of authors by directing them into self-publishing? What are the professional and ethical obligations of an agent whose authors are interested in self-publishing? And does the agent deserve a single red cent if the author is doing all of the work and paying all of the bills, and all the agent is doing is effectively pointing the author at pre-selected services and uploading a file to Smashwords and KDP for you?
 
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DarkScribe said:
People are complaining that an hourly rate of $55 plus is expensive? I was billing - and working a hundred hour week - at $128 per hour in 1978. None of our editors/formatters/graphic designers/layout specialists bill at less than au$400 per hour. The cost cutting created by online competition has spoiled many people.
I suspect you weren't working with indie authors selling short stories on Amazon for 99 cents each.

My point was a bit more nuanced that just the service being expensive. My point is that the service is expensive IN RELATIONSHIP to the product often being produced. I dropped over $300 on a book cover for Post-Apocalyptic Blues because I needed something very specific (and it would have cost more, but the artist and I have a very good relationship because I've sent her a lot of business over the years so she gave me a break). It's a major release that I have a lot invested in. And if someone came to me looking for an illustrator and they had a major release they were working on, I would recommend Sanjana to them in a heartbeat.

But if someone came to me looking for an illustrator for a 40,000 word YA romance that they are going to be selling for less than $2.99, I'm probably going to direct them instead to one of the perfectly capable cover artists here on KB that work for much less. Because no matter how amazing Sanjana is, she is priced out of range for what THAT specific author needs.

Craig made the reference to burger and fries a couple of posts ago. La Bonnette potatoes cost £400 per kilo and (if the chefs of some of Europe's most expensive restaurants are to be believed) are the best potatoes available. I'm pretty sure, however, McDonalds isn't going to start using them any time soon no matter HOW good they are.

There is a tendency in indie circles to go "all or nothing." Either spend nothing on production, or "only the best." But the truth is that, in business, you want to get the most cost-effective for your specific product. If I was going to release Post-Apocalyptic Blues in epub format (its a PDF and print product), I would most certainly want a high quality formatter to work on it because of the number of graphics, embedded fonts, and tables in it. But for a generic "popcorn book" text-only file with no special formatting needs? There is no real benefit to spending more just because more is available.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
Creating a false enemy to justify employing unethical behavior doesn't excuse the criminal behavior. (No, I'm not saying YOU personally have done anything, just commenting on this general mentality.)

By treating publishing as a "war" between "us versus them" you end up with innocent victims; in this case, readers and other authors. I'm not prepared to sacrifice readers just so a few drone strikes can hurt my "enemies" in the Big Six. Someone buys fake reviews, they aren't getting a leg up on the Big Six. They are misleading innocent readers. Someone creates sock puppet accounts to artificially manipulate a writing contest. They aren't hurting the Big Six. They are hurting other authors.
Well, just to be clear, I wasn't referring to practices like sock puppets or buying reviews. :)

With my comment, I had in mind other, less controversial things.

For example, some indies refuse to do endorsement quotes for each other, or review the work of others in their genre... even though, in the case of the first practice, Stephen King is a total revolving door for endorsement quotes... and in the case of the second practice, Charlaine Harris reviews three books of other writers in her genre per blog entry on her popular "Book and Blog" feature.

I have no problem if anyone wants to avoid those practices themselves... but since there are plenty of examples of both practices in trad-pub, I'm not convinced it's a black-black sin like some people claim it to be.

It's not on the level, for example, of purchasing reviews, which is clearly unethical. Or sock puppetry, which to me is pretty much out-and-out fraud.
 
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CraigInTwinCities said:
For example, some indies refuse to do endorsement quotes for each other, or review the work of others in their genre... even though, in the case of the first practice, Stephen King is a total revolving door for endorsement quotes... and in the case of the second practice, Charlaine Harris reviews three books of other writers in her genre per blog entry on her popular "Book and Blog" feature.
OK, I understand your point. I think this is more a misunderstanding of the difference between a blurb (like what you see on a book cover) and an Amazon customer review (which is suppose to be, well, a customer).

This goes back to my point about indies living in an "all-or-nothing" world. People go too far in either direction for the wrong reasons.

All a book blurb is, at it's heart, is one author telling his fans "Hey, if you like my stuff you may like this guy's stuff as well." And they do serve a purpose. If Stephen King tells me a vampire book is scary, I tend to believe him (even if he is a blurb slut lol). If Stephanie Meyer blurbs a vampire book and says it is scary, I take her endorsement with a grain of salt. :eek: ::)

The issue of reviewing books in your genre is not an ethical issue. It is an artificial construct created specifically by Amazon. The Amazon TOS is like finance law: the official rules don't generally discuss what is ethical, but what is legal. There is nothing unethical about peer review per se. The Arts thrive on peer review. Ethics come into play when you factor in INTENT. Context matters. Intent matters.

But yeah, I think we actually agree on this point then.
 

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"OK, I understand your point. I think this is more a misunderstanding of the difference between a blurb (like what you see on a book cover) and an Amazon customer review (which is suppose to be, well, a customer). "
Difference? Both can be done in twenty words.
 
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