Thursday, 26 April 2012


No query mark after the headline because it’s a statement and what follows is intended as something of an explanation rather than as a question ... that should keep amateur proof-readers at bay.

Regular visitors may have noticed how very seldom this blog is used to express the personal opinions of those on the BeWrite Books in-house team. But I hope you and my BB colleagues will forgive me if I make an exception and have a wee rant this week.

I’m sick to the back teeth of the general reading public complaining about allegedly low editorial standards at publishing houses on the one hand ... and then demanding cheaper ebooks on the other.

Of course, their comments on articles and blogs criticizing the industry during its struggle with the ebook explosion are about obvious typographical error; they glibly and/or innocently overlook rigorous manuscript selection and the actual and more subtle editorial process that precedes formal proof-reading. And their demands for lower cover prices is based on the premise that ebooks cost nothing to produce.

I do understand the first grouse. Typos should be very, very rare or non-existent in a professionally prepared print or ebook, whereas behind-the-scenes editing should be as invisible as the editors themselves. Sadly, though, readers do not seem to understand pricing.

So let me put the record straight: The printing, warehousing and physical distribution costs of a major Big Six house and the bigger independents represent only 12.15% to 15% of paperback or hardback cover price. That’s less than two thirds of what they pay to retailers in terms of sales commission for an inch or two of shelf space and about as much as the author’s own royalty. Other in-house costs remain fixed. So there is only a minor saving on print to pass onto the ebook buyer.

Smaller houses like BeWrite Books often use a non-inventory print model that means their print costs per-item can be fifty percent of cover price or more. So there’s a greater production saving to pass on to the consumer when ebooks are sold, even though ebook production and independent digital editions distribution does carry unique extra costs of its own.

If you appreciate this, you must then add to the mix the lower cover price (BB ebooks are $5.95, which is less than a third of the cost of a BB paperback equivalent) and author expectancy of a higher royalty in digital editions (industry standard is 15%, BeWrite Books pays 40% when ebook editions are released ahead of print, 25% if ebook and print are simultaneously produced) and you’ll start to see where the boat starts to rock.

So my rant against those who claim typos are littered liberally throughout professionally published ebooks (that they expect for peanuts or nothing at all), as opposed to those self-‘published’ at the tap of a key without selection or any other editorial intervention and input, is that, whilst this may be the case elsewhere (remember that some newer companies claim to ‘publish’ half dozen books or more an hour), it is not general in the mainstream publishing industry and it certainly doesn’t apply to BB.

Our editorial process is similar to that of legacy publishers and their traditional approach to the job:

*Careful selection of about 2% of synopses and sample chapters submissions received by an editorial team of just three but with a combined professional experience of over 120 years. Reading and sifting submissions to discover the hidden gems takes time – a lot of time. That’s why bigger houses don’t even consider work that isn’t sent into them by an established agent and why even BB has only two three-month windows open each year to unsolicited offerings.

*Assessment of full manuscript of between 70,000 and 150,000 words in the case of those projects we express an interest in. We have, perhaps, about a 30% success rate at this stage in taking a speculatively offered manuscript to contract and publication.

*If accepted, a first line- or copy-edit of the ms runs to catch obvious word-repetition, clumsy sentence structure, fact-checking, etc.

*Then painstaking deep editorial work in the slightly cleaned up ms – often over several months – to polish the manuscript to as high a shine as possible.

*Subsequent and nit-picking multi-reader proof-reading and the incorporation of corrections into yet another updated draft.

*Even further proof reading, when all earlier proofing has been completed, of an Advance Reader Copy and/or the digital equivalent of ARC, bound proof or galleys.

*Inspection by author and editor of finished files before setting for print and creation of ebook editions.

*Quality control for any print-generated error in paperback and technically-generated error in ebook editions before eventual release.

*Meanwhile, cover-design, text design and technical preparation has been a key factor in tandem with the editorial process for the duration.

It is by no means unusual for much more than one hundred working hours of editorial input to be lavished on a single title, and twenty or more design and technical hours. And that doesn’t include the absolutely vital thinking time between screen and keyboard sessions!


And where ebook was once a by-product of the publishing process, that situation has very recently reversed for many smaller houses like BB. Now print is the by-product. Readers must decide whether they want darned good books or dirt cheap books.

It would interest us tremendously if our authors and readers might respond with comments to this blog post as to their experience with BeWrite Books’ working practices and the released result. Asking for trouble? Well maybe, but I’ll take that risk.

Sure, we know we can lick the big boys in a clean fight and that our heads are well above the herd when it comes to scrupulous selection and quality of presentation, but just how many do realize what’s involved in properly releasing a high standard ebook title ... and was the author’s trouble and ours really well invested and at all appreciated when today’s readers expect their books at the price of a pack of potato chips or free?

Happy weekend and best wishes. Neil, Tony, Hugh and Sam at BB

Thursday, 12 April 2012


By BeWrite Books Poetry Editor Sam Smith

Simon Jackson’s sole-authored poetry collection, Fragile Cargo, is released today (April 13) by BeWrite Books.

Europe’s one official City of Literature, Edinburgh, Scotland will probably claim some of the credit for Simon’s inspiration; but we at BeWrite know that no matter where he might hang his hat, this globe-trotting artist can’t help creating – he’s just so talented.

For the moment – but with Simon one has to say for the moment – he does live in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter. But who knows where the future will take them?

He’s been a teacher and a journalist in East Europe, North Africa and South America (where he was Head of Drama at Newton College, Lima, Peru). He’s also a musician, and – as well as poetry – writes plays, short stories and original music, all of which have won awards. His short films have been screened by the BBC and internationally.

This impressive range of world and artistic experience shines through the sheer breadth of human emotions expressed in Fragile Cargo.

Author Simon Jackson
As award-winning poet and novelist Andrew Grieg says, ‘These poems take place in the world as we live (but do not necessarily know) it. Bars, hills, bus-journeys, bedrooms, classrooms and streets are their territory. Their underlying themes are those of our lives – love, transience, joy, anger, humour, the inevitability of loss and the possibility of recovery.’

Or as broadcaster and author Mark Wallington puts it, ‘Jackson is a brave poet. There’s an underlying tenderness to Fragile Cargo, but the poems are all written with such energy and bite that the reader is never allowed to feel comfortable. They’re funny too. Jackson captures our lives and dilemmas and works like a photographer to show us the way we really are. More please.’ And Mark Wallington should know 'funny'; he was writer for the hilarious Not the Nine O’Clock News TV comedy series.
Here’s Simon’s own way of introducing himself …


A creeping mimicry of foetal position,
shrinking from contact with the earth,
shivering forward, poised for flight.

It implies dishonesty
to approach like a thief,
walking in a whisper.

This is how I offer myself to you,
deceitful, on tiptoe;
come to steal.

Fragile Cargo is available in paperback from all major online bookstores. Ebook editions for all electronic reading platforms from PCs and laptops, through the full range of hand-held reading devices and tablets, to iPods and smart phones are also available from your favourite online ebook store or from the BeWrite Books bookstore.

A free brochure for reading on screen, downloading or printed out is HERE. It includes cover, book notes, reviews, author biography and picture, and more examples of Simon’s poetry.

For those interested in the fine detail ... Author: Simon Jackson. Editor: Hugh McCracken: Cover photograph: Simon Jackson. External and internal text design and technical preparation of print and ebook editions: Tony Szmuk. Print Distribution: Ingram. Ebook editions Distribution: BeWrite Books Independent Distribution Division. Added Input: The BeWrite Books team.

Best wishes and happy weekend. Sam, Neil, Tony, Hugh et al at BeWrite Books.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Novelist, painter, illustrator, poet and musician Catherine Edmunds knows a thing or five about how art can become much more than a mere part of life.

And her multiple talents and passions shine through every page of her third novel, Serpentine, released today (April 6) by BeWrite Books..

She lives by her opening quotation in the book from 19th Century German philosopher, writer and composer Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘Art is the proper task of life.’

But although recognized and recorded human art dates back at least as far as the vibrant finger-daubings of our cave-dwelling ancestors, Catherine embraces new ways of expressing and exposing it. 

Serpentine is not the first of her heart-wrung works to make use traditional publishing skills and standards but also of state-of-the art technology to publish in modern electronic editions rather than print.

   Here’s what Serpentine is all about ...

Victoria defines herself by her art. Painting isn’t a job – it’s an absolute need and the reason for her existence. But how is she to bridge the gap between her ambitions and her yearning for human relationships ... and love?

José gives her the intensity she craves but has no interest in her as an artist. Simon is mature and loving but his gentleness and inability to understand her desires drives her to distraction. John understands exactly who she is, but unnerves her with his piercing perceptiveness and violent nature (she knows who gave her friend Emma the bruises she carries on her face).

And throughout the snaking tangle of burning emotions to decide, she paints: tying down memories in cadmium yellow, burning canvases that reveal too much, whilst trying desperately to pay the bills.

The story is set in London and the North East of England and written by a Londoner who now lives in the North East. Author Catherine Edmunds has haunted the London galleries and seen the works that moved Victoria to tears; she’s shivered on the beach at Alnmouth as the bitter haar mist rolls in from the grey North Sea; she’s been overwhelmed by Durham Cathedral; she’s sat by the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park. And she’s ached to sketch what she felt.

As a gifted artist herself – creating both the cover art and an inside self-portrait for Serpentine – Catherine probes the profound questions faced by Victoria. Why do contemporary artists do what they do? Why are they so seemingly hell-bent on self-destruction? And what does all that stuff in Tate Modern art gallery really mean?

Author Catherine Edmunds
Catherine Edmunds was born in Kent, England and educated at Dartington College of Arts and Goldsmith’s College, London.

After a successful career as a professional musician, she re-invented herself as a portrait artist, illustrator and writer. She still teaches music but also works professionally as an illustrator and author with more than 250 poems and short stories in print.

Her illustrations can be seen in Daniel Abelman’s ALLAKAZZAM! (BeWrite Books), Irene Thompson’s A-Z of Punishment and Torture and her solo poetry collection, wormwood, earth and honey (Circaidy Gregory Press). Her magical realism novel Small Poisons (Circaidy Gregory Press) was published in 2009.

Reviews, competition successes, other publications and examples of her work can be found at her lively website.

She now lives a busier-than-ever life in the north east of England.

A free 37-page mini-book brochure of Serpentine, including cover, book notes, author biography and picture, and a generous extract is available HERE for download, reading on screen or printing out.

Serpentine is now available in all ebook formats from the BeWrite Books Bookstore or from all major online ebook-stores and many second-tier online retailers for reading on any electronic platform from PCs and laptops, through the full range of ebook-dedicated reading devices and tablets, to iPods and smart phones.

For those interested in the details: Author: Catherine Edmunds. Editor: Hugh McCracken. Cover art: Catherine Edmunds. Cover and text design and technical preparation: Tony Szmuk. Distribution: BeWrite Books Independent Distribution Division. Additional input: The BeWrite Books Team.

Happy weekend, folks. Neil, Tony, Hugh, Sam, et al at BeWrite Books