Tuesday, 4 December 2012


As you know, BeWrite Books is currently winding down to absolute closure on March 31, 2013.

We were fortunate in November to establish an informal relationship with a dynamic new London-based digital house that's just now branching into full-length fiction and working through our catalogue to discover top-drawer works they can re-release under their logo. So please watch your email for updates on whether your book/s fit the bill so that you can negotiate a new deal should you wish with Endeavour Press. Already several formerly BB titles have been transferred and re-released by EP.

Those preferring to try their hand at self-publishing should contact Tony Szmuk as soon as possible for fully edited and designed text and cover files of their books. You may, of course, take it as read that in this case -- as in any arrangements with another publishing house -- your publishing rights are fully restored with no strings attached.

Royalties will be calculated and paid up to a book's removal from our catalogue and distribution.

The BeWrite Books blog and Facebook page is unlikely to be much up-dated before BB's closure and will be removed in March next year, I'm afraid. So please be sure to copy from its archives any promotional material that applies to your work. We waive copyright to everything but the very occasional 'guest blog' over the years, which remains the copyright of the guest in question.

Do also remember to print out or otherwise save from the bookstore section of the BeWrite Books website promotional brochures we produced for your title/s. Again, we claim no copyright on those productions. They're freely available for your future use.

Luck and best wishes to all. Neil, Tony, Hugh, Sam et al

Thursday, 11 October 2012


(Circulated October 11, 2012)

This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever had to write. Certainly it’s the most painful.
I’m afraid that, after thirteen years’ demanding work and unwavering dedication, some successes and many hard knocks, BeWrite Books must now wind down its operation with imminent closure in mind.
Although we’ve always been at least one step ahead of technological and marketing trends, have ploughed in the cash and effort to quickly adapt to this century's abrupt and dramatic industry developments, and by virtue of rigorous manuscript selection and the highest editorial standards, made respectable headway in an up-hill but fair fight with gargantuan legacy houses, what we did not see coming was the massive impact of easy self-publishing on the ebook field in 2012.
BeWrite Books’ authors represent the cream of those talented few who try the hardest and are world-class in anyone’s terms, but by applying months of intensive editorial, design and technical work to their manuscripts, our tiny team can publish our meticulously selected titles at a rate of no more than a dozen or so a year. Self-publishing authors cut traditional corners and quality controls to use push-button means of instantly releasing their offerings as ebooks at the rate of thousands each week – realistic projections in the trade press suggest several million new titles will see the light of day this year. Already millions of ISBNs have been assigned by official agencies in 2012, and it must be borne in mind that the biggest retailer of all – Amazon and its Kindle bookshop – doesn’t even use ISBNs, preferring its own ID codes. Many self-publishing authors don’t trouble themselves with any identifying registration numbers. Just think of the sheer volume of output!
Some of the biggest and best established houses in the industry have now jumped onto the bandwagon with self-publishing divisions of their own to cash in on the trend. All major retailers are at it. This is an easy, cash-spinning option BB has always strenuously resisted and, we feel, a sloppy and uncontrolled publication method our old school team members refuse to adopt. But the genie is now out of the bottle.
It must be understood that the professional editorial, design, technical and distribution effort that goes into every BB publication is invisible pre-purchase, pre-read. Confronted by a bewilderingly limitless choice, the book browser has now become price- rather than quality-focused.
At a break-even cover tag of $5.95 to pay basic standing overheads, our unknown authors compete against an overwhelming deluge of an infinite number of other unknown authors whose access to costless international publication allows them to offer their wares at 99 cents or even to give them away free for the sheer thrill of saying they’re ‘published’. Not by any means all self-published authors are worthless, of course, but far, far too many are. My experience of random reading over the past few years would suggest the vast majority fall into the embarrassing catastrophe category. And a browser will not recognise raw manuscript drivel until s/he’s bought into it and attempted to read a page or two. The reader must now sift the slush pile.
The result is inevitable … the cheapest holds the greatest appeal. Only star names and books with big-buck hyper-hype are exempt.
Even though no member of the BB team has ever claimed a salary and, for some years waived personal royalties, always carrying his own operational expenses, the standing cost of maintaining BeWrite Books now falls very much short of our 20% slice of sales income; author royalties and retail sales commissions constitute much of the rest. In a nut-shell, the sweeping, worldwide new craze for amateur self-publishing is the one unforeseen thing that we find impossible to compete with.
The situation has become so acute that Tony Szmuk – proprietor of BeWrite Books, Canada and USA, with exclusive access to the company’s accounts and revenue and sole responsibility for all BB’s financial commitments – took me by complete surprise this week with shocking news to the editorial team that he’s struggling even to pay royalties currently due. However, he does pledge that they will be paid in full, if unavoidably delayed in some cases.
Tony, my editorial teammates, Hugh McCracken and Sam Smith, and I have, therefore, agreed a policy to gradually wind down the house with, hopefully, minimal disruption and no financial loss to our excellent and loyal authors.
Here’s what we propose:
*Existing BB titles already fully distributed and on sale will be supported for the duration of written contracts with on-going royalties paid. However, those authors requesting an immediate return of all rights will be accommodated without quibble and royalties rounded up to the date when their titles are removed from sale by our retail outlets and from the BB catalogue. They will be supplied, on request, with a fully workable and complete file to offer elsewhere or for self-publishing purposes. All BB input – editorial, design, cover, book notes, promotional articles, review material, etc – will be freely offered for use with none of the usual copyright encumbrances.
*Authors of books in the pipeline – whether ‘officially’ contracted or merely agreed informally by any member of the editorial team – will be fully worked, editorially and technically, published and distributed, unless an author requests otherwise. However, Tony Szmuk can no longer offer his time-consuming in-house cover work, so books released under this system will remain with a text-only cover unless the author supplies what is deemed acceptable art.
*No unsolicited submissions from authors not already published by BB will be considered now. However, the editorial team has volunteered its usual pro input to established BB authors with works-in-progress. Tony will also freely handle the technical side of books as they move through the several editorial stages to publishable perfection. Whether the result is returned to the author for self-use or released by BeWrite Books for the duration of its existence will be at the discretion of the author and subject to Tony’s final approval.
*BeWrite Books will cease to exist as a publishing house no later than three years from today unless spontaneously adopted by a responsible, full-service publisher within that time. BB would ask for no financial recompense from a third party. In the unlikely event of this happening, remaining authors will have sole choice as to whether they and their titles will be included in a takeover.
So, there you have it folks. You’ll now understand why I said, in opening, that this is the most difficult – and heart-breaking – piece I’ve had to write since BeWrite was conceived for a new millennium by my son, Alex, and I (originally as a website to freely assist developing authors) at midnight on December 31, 1999, branching into publishing some months later.
I was warned by my cardiologist earlier this year that I can no longer physically support the long hours, general workload, heavy responsibilities and pressure of BB, so I’d intended to quietly retire from the front line anyway in 2013. But I had hoped to leave behind a healthy and happy house I’d helped establish and with a competent new addition to the editorial team in place to fill the slot I would have to vacate. Sadly, I can’t. Long-time editorial friends Hugh and Sam are similarly devastated by the decision we’ve had to jointly make. And Tony – who’s shouldered an unbelievably heavy burden since taking the reins four years ago to meet all known challenges head on – perhaps hurts most of all.
We can only hope that you feel BB has been of value to you and enhanced your work and careers … and that we’ll remain friends as well as former colleagues.
Very best wishes. Neil Marr (with the approval of Tony Szmuk, Hugh McCracken and Sam Smith)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


We’re often asked if there’s a difference between copyright and publishing rights … and you bet your wee cotton socks there is.

Queries about rights tend to peak when, as recently happened, many authors are caught up in the sudden and simultaneous closures of two or three smaller publishing houses.

Some houses have the decency and the nous to make fair provision in legal agreements for the immediate reversion of all rights if things come to the worst. Others lack one quality or the other, and that can make life difficult for those innocent authors cast adrift without a paddle.

And though it’s often more a matter of new publisher-inexperience than malice (not that becoming aware of this after the fact helps you reach safe haven), make no mistake that there is no shortage of nefarious dealers that will deliberately hogtie rights that should be yours.

So here’s the definitive low-down from Victoria Strauss who, together with Ann Crispin, runs the most sharp-toothed authors’ watchdog organization on the planet, the excellent WRITER BEWARE. Many thanks to Victoria for the generosity of spirit she shows in allowing us to, once again, re-publish on our own blog her dire warnings and astute advice.

BeWrite Books, by the way, is relieved to find that it ticks all the right boxes in the following article. And a sample of our draft author agreement is in plain view at the end of our detailed SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES BROCHURE on site. (This is a mini-ebook in its own right, so please give it between two and five seconds to download.)

Victoria Strauss

Copyright, literally, is ‘the right to copy’. It guarantees the authors of creative works – including books, artworks, films, recordings, and photographs – the exclusive right for a set period of time to allow other people to copy and distribute the work, by whatever means and in whatever media currently exist. It also prohibits copying and distributing without the author’s permission.

In countries that are signatory to the Berne Convention (which includes the USA, the UK, Europe, and many other countries), you own copyright by law, automatically, as soon your work is fixed in tangible form – ie: the minute you write down the words.

Contained within copyright is the entire bundle of rights that an author can grant to others or utilize him/herself. For book authors, this includes the right to publish in print and electronic formats, to make translations and audio recordings and films, to create serializations or abridgements or derivative works ... the list goes on, and continues to expand as technology makes different forms of publication and distribution possible.

When you sign a publishing contract, you are granting the publisher permission to exploit (ie: to publish and distribute for profit) some or all of your rights for a defined period of time. Because you own the copyright, granting rights doesn’t mean you lose or abandon those rights – merely that you authorize someone else to use them for a while, either exclusively (ie: no one else can use them at the same time) or non-exclusively (ie: you can also grant them to others).

Eventually, once the contract term has expired or the book has ceased to sell in significant numbers, the publisher will cease publication and relinquish its claim on your rights. This is known as rights reversion. Sometimes reversion is automatic (as in a fixed-term contract); sometimes you must request reversion after the book has been declared out of print (as in a life-of-copyright contract). Once your rights have reverted, you are free to re-sell them if you can or use them yourself, as you choose.

For many readers of this blog, the above will seem pretty elementary. But confusion between rights and copyright is common – not just among authors (one especially frequent misplaced fear is that granting rights to a publisher means you lose them forever), but among inexperienced publishers. If I had a dollar for every small press contract I’ve seen that hopelessly conflates rights and copyright (for instance, requiring writers to relinquish copyright, but then reserving a variety of subrights to the author), my husband and I could treat ourselves to a very fancy dinner.

Some suggestions on how to untangle the confusion and protect yourself:

*First and foremost, understand copyright and the rights it gives you. The US COPYRIGHT OFFICE, the UK INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE and the AUSTRALIAN COPYRIGHT COUNCIL all offer information. The more you know, the more likely it is that you’ll recognize bad contract clauses when you run across them.

*Try to submit only to established and reputable publishers. This can involve a lot of research (you can always CONTACT WRITER BEWARE to see if we’ve heard anything), but it’s well worth it on many levels. It’s not a guarantee of a standard, author-friendly contract – but it gives you much better odds.

*Except in specific circumstances, such as doing work-for-hire, don’t give away your copyright, not even temporarily. Inexperienced publishers sometimes ask for this, believing they need it to properly exploit authors’ rights. They don’t – and if things go wrong, it can work out very badly for you ... for instance, if your publisher goes out of business without bothering to return your copyright.

*You don’t necessarily need to be afraid of life-of-copyright contracts. In a fixed-term contract, you grant rights for a defined amount of time. In a life-of-copyright contract, you grant rights for the duration of copyright (currently, in the USA and most of Europe, your lifetime plus seventy years). New authors often find life-of-copyright contracts very scary – but they’re standard in commercial publishing, and many smaller presses have them also. They are not intended to allow the publisher to hold your rights until seventy years after your death, but rather to create an open-ended situation in which the publisher can keep your book in print for as long as it continues to sell.

Of course, you need to evaluate the situation. For a new small publisher, life-of-copyright might not be such a great idea, since the failure rate for new publishers is high. A fixed-term contract might be better, as it would at least ensure you got your rights back eventually, even if the publisher didn’t return them before disappearing. And a life-of-copyright grant term must be balanced by a rights reversion clause (see below).

*Speaking of grant terms, make sure there is one. Whether it’s three years or life-of-copyright, your contract should state the term for which rights are being granted. I’ve seen small publishers’ contracts that lack this important detail.

*Make sure your contract includes some provision for rights reversion. While you want to grant rights to a publisher that will properly exploit them, you also want eventually to get your rights back. When and how this happens should be clearly spelled out in your contract.

A time-limited contract is one way to ensure reversion – but beware of automatic renewal clauses that make it difficult for you to terminate, or that rely on you remembering to send the publisher notice before the renewal date and thus can easily be forgotten. Beware also of excessive grant terms – for instance, the contract of one well-known author mill extends for seven to ten years, which is longer than many commercially-published books remain in print. For a smaller publisher, three to five years, with the possibility of renewal if both parties agree, is probably the most you want to consider.

For life-of-copyright contracts, there should be a rights reversion clause detailing when the work will go out of print (ideally, this should be tied to minimum sales or royalty levels, rather than mere availability for sale, so that the publisher can’t hang on to your rights if your book is selling just a couple of copies a year) and what steps you can take to demand that the publisher return your rights (usually, a letter asking the publisher either to republish or return rights, and providing a time-frame for the publisher to respond). Never sign a life-of-copyright contract that does not include such a clause. Yes, they exist; I’ve seen them. (For a much more detailed discussion of the importance of reversion clauses, SEE MY BLOG POST.)

Also look for a clause requiring the publisher to publish within a specific period of time (say, 12-24 months), or else return rights. This will prevent the publisher from sitting on your book without ever publishing it, or from pushing the publishing date back indefinitely due to incompetence or malice.

*Last but very definitely not least, never rely on a publisher’s verbal assurances. A confused or devious publisher may assure you that, even though its contract requires you to give up copyright, ‘you aren't really losing your copyright, because we’ll give it back later on.’ Or, even though its life-of-copyright contract doesn’t include a reversion clause, ‘you don’t need to worry, because we never hold onto rights forever.’

Maybe the publisher means it, maybe it doesn’t – but do you really want to risk signing with a publisher whose contract doesn’t match its promises? One principle by which authors should always abide is this: If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist.

For more information on copyright, including the reasons why you don’t need to register copyright for unpublished work and a discussion of several common copyright myths, see the COPYRIGHT PAGE of the Writer Beware website.


Thanks again, Victoria.

Take this sound advice, ladies and gentlemen, lads and lassies: Whether signing an agreement with BeWrite Books or any other publisher … be sure you know your rights.

Best wishes. Neil, Tony, Hugh and Sam.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


If you follow the publishing trade press, this is what you will read this week ...



After more than a decade of simultaneously releasing its titles in print and ebook formats, Canada- and USA-registered BeWrite Books has switched to a new digital editions-only publishing model.

The move follows three years of state-of-the-art technical investment, the development of a wide and independent digital distribution base, and the successful six-months-long trial of an ebook-first publishing system introduced on January 1 this year.

Its international group of authors will have all print rights immediately restored along with freely offered, fully prepared files for personal print use and the recommendation of a major print and distribution company with which the publishing house has negotiated a special, free set-up deal for its authors with no return to BB itself. Ebook distribution and sales will continue uninterrupted.

And all authors will see an immediate increase in their former 25% ebooks royalty to 40%.

Over the past three years, BeWrite Books has seen a complete reversal of its previous sales performance of 99% paperback ... to 99% in digital editions.

Publisher and technical director Tony Szmuk said: ‘Clearly, BB print – sold almost exclusively on line (forgive the qualified superlative) – has become unsustainable. However, we do understand the feeling of some authors who perceive personal value in having their titles in print. We will enable this by providing them with fully edited, text-designed and meticulously proof read files, covers and extra assistance at no cost whatsoever. They are all our friends. Nobody leaves a friend short-changed.’

Those authors agreeing to make no substantial textual adjustment to BeWrite Books-prepared works and covers will also be permitted to carry the BeWrite Books logo and additional BB material in their print editions with no royalty or other form of payment to the publisher.

Managing editor Neil Marr said: ‘It came to the ebook tipping point – and the crunch – in early 2010. We can no longer afford to uphold editorial, design, cover, promotion and distribution of print and remain viable. As a highly selective smaller press with a massive level of professional in-house input but with no brand-name authors yet, an ebook-only policy is the one way we can benefit everyone involved in both the short- and long-term.

‘On the side, we believe we’ve cut an excellent print deal for our authors. And I must confess to a certain de-mob happy feeling when it comes to passing responsibility for print to a top-shelf international press and distribution company whose executives I’ve known and trusted for a decade or more. For the first time in some years, BB authors stand to gain significantly through self-generated print editions, and we don’t stand to lose. And, of course, everyone will benefit from our mushrooming ebook sales and the immediately increased digital royalty. Win win?

‘This new 100% focus on ebook editions will not mean any reduction in our high standard of manuscript selectivity, editorial, design, technical and other input. But print will now be a free by-product of the digital process to authors rather than be factored in as a negative financial consideration to the house. We can now more fully concentrate on not only literary and design quality, but on fully implementing our technological and digital distribution developments.’

Meanwhile, BeWrite Books has increased the size of its editorial team. In previous years, between twelve and fifteen exclusive new BB titles have been edited, prepared and released annually: forty new releases are scheduled for 2012, and the company projects a significantly higher release rate for 2013 and beyond.


And that’s it, folks ... after over a decade of print. BB authors, of course, have already been closely kept in touch with these latest developments. They’re pals as well as professional colleagues, and feedback so far has been 100% positive and supportive.

The BeWrite Books website content will be re-drafted accordingly this week. Take a look in a few days HERE. You’ll see what we mean. Sorry, I mean what we MEAN!

Now let’s see how readers vote! All studies suggest landslide in favour.

Bestests. Neil, Tony, Sam, Hugh et al at BeWrite Books

Thursday, 24 May 2012


BeWrite Books today (May 25) releases Mark Adam Kaplan’s new novel, DOWN. And the book shows just how much an author’s personal experience really can count … even in fiction.

For decades Kaplan has been working with at-risk youngsters and those whose tough childhoods scarred them and blighted their future. In the 1980s, he taught creative writing in a maximum security prison in Michigan, he was a public high school teacher in New York City for four years (including a stint as dean in a Brooklyn high school), and nine years later he taught in an East Los Angeles middle school.

He’s been around the block a time or two.

As an at-risk kid himself in his childhood and youth, Kaplan understands the challenges facing inner-city young adults today, both from their point of view and that of those appointed to care for them. He brings this unique blend of life-from-both-sides experience to bear in his second novel, DOWN.

Here’s what it’s all about …


Leon Mendoza starts the school year badly … with an electronic ankle monitor and a court date.

He’s determined to stay out of even deeper trouble. But the chances are slim with the pending charges against him, his probation officer breathing down his neck, a father in jail, a mother sunk in deep depression, and the local homeboys pressuring him to quietly take the rap and save their skins.

Will the attention of an attractive girl, the support of a caring teacher and a part-time restaurant job be enough to save Leon, or is he destined to follow in his father’s dead-beat footsteps and spend his life in and out of prison?

It all hangs on one fateful night; a night when Leon must risk his own life and the lives of others to break free of the streets or succumb to the violence and passions poised to drag him DOWN.


Author Mark Adam Kaplan
Kaplan is a husband and father, an internationally produced screenwriter, and a children’s book author.

He earned his Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan, a Master of Fine Arts from The American Film Institute’s Center for Film and Television Studies, and a Master of Arts in School Administration from California State University, Northridge.

His first novel, A THOUSAND BEAUTIES, was published by Bewrite Books in 2009. Kaplan released his first children’s book, MONSTERS DO UGLY THINGS, in 2011, and is the co-founder with Glenn Scano of MONSTERS UNBOUND. You can find more information about his work with a visit to HIS WEBSITE.

DOWN is now available in all digital formats from all online ebook stores for reading on all electronic platforms from PCs and laptops, through the full range of ebook-dedicated devices, tablets and smart phones. It’s also available from the BeWrite Books BOOKSTORE.

There’s a free forty-page DOWN browsing brochure, including chapter one, HERE.

For those interested in the detail – Author: Mark Adam Kaplan. Editor: Hugh McCracken. Cover, text design and technical preparation: Tony Szmuk. Distribuition: BeWrite Books Digital Distribution Division. Additional input: The BeWrite Books in-house team.

Best wishes for good reading and a happy weekend. Neil, Tony, Hugh, Sam et al at BB