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)


  1. You don't know me but I'm a member of Old Smokey on Facebook and have run a small publishing house myself for some years which has gone the same way due to industry changes of monumental proportions.
    I was sad to read this but recognise the story only too well.
    Enjoy your enforced retirement and the lovely country in which you live.

    Graham Smith


  2. Saddened to hear that news, Neil. So much information, so little quality control. Wind me up and watch me go. Where she stops nobody knows.

    Best wishes for the next chapter.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Nothing sinister: Blogspot has suddenly changed its 'publish comment' system and I was just testing it. NM

  4. Thanks, Graham and Ken. You both know publishing well, so your understanding is doubly appreciated. Bestests. Neil

  5. I'm so sorry to hear this, Neil. I had one of my first short stories, Darling Stefan, published by BeWrite in the wonderful anthology The Creature In The Rose and it gave me such a boost. I've also received lots of generous behind the scenes help from you over the years that didn't cost me a penny, but taught me so much. You supported me when others with less experience than you were telling me I shouldn't/couldn't write, and now I have ten traditionally published romantic novels to my name. So thank you for that support. You'll never know just how much I appreciate it. Enjoy your retirement, Neil, but do keep in touch with your old pals.

  6. It's been wonderful to see you flower over the years, Sally. I never doubted that you had what it takes to become a popular fiction writer. Thanks for the kind thoughts. Love to you and the family. Neil x

  7. Just too sad for words... But best wishes to all.
    And thanks for fighting the good fight for so long Neil.

    And a side wave to Sally who I have not heard of in years.
    You may remember me as Geordie (one of the Creature in the Rose people)

  8. I'm very saddened by this and I only found out about it today. I'm looking at the blog archive in awe, and wonder how I never ran across your publishing house. I wish you all the best, and maybe, just maybe, something will arise out of ashes from this.

    But I couldn't agree more sincerely about the deluge of self-published material that has swamped the landscape, and all for the cheapest of prices and quality.

  9. Actually, this comment's from old friend and admired collage Andrea Lowne, head of UKAuthors. She asked me by email to post it for her because she can't get our blog comment system to work for her ( changed the goalposts a month ago):

    ***Very, very sad news, Neil. You’ve all worked so hard for so many years, with so little return. Tragic, really, your authors couldn't have asked for a more conscientious and professional publisher, or one which looked after them so well. Keep in touch, mate and good luck with everything. Love to all of you there, from all of us here :) Andrea xx’ ***

    Many thanks for the thoughts, Andrea ol' pal. We've seen a lot of change since we threw our hats into the ring, eh? Good luck to all at UKA. Neil x