Monday, September 23, 2002
Charlotte Vale Allen
I've been meaning to blog for some time about an article in the Summer 2001 UK Society of Authors magazine ("The Author"), by Canadian-born writer Charlotte Vale Allen, describing how she got into self-publishing, then into print-on-demand and then into on-line bookselling. She's had a long career, was writing about womens issues, including psychosexuality, in the 1970s, which led to her books being slapped with torrid romance covers. Dissatisfied in the end with the way she and her books were being treated and marketed, and after about 20 years experience, she set up her own publishing company, did two books, one by herself and one fiction, lost a lot of money due to distributor problems, but learned about print on demand via her relationship with the distributor (one good thing). So she came up with the idea of using print on demand (Lightning Print) to reissue her entire backlist, and the further idea of reissuing those books that had been issued as paperback originals as library editions, did a frighteningly/encouragingly large deal with a library wholesaler, and did a huge binge scanning books, correcting the OCR glitches, and getting them printed. Then she found out about setting up an on-line store, and rounded up the 3 components needs, a merchant bank, a shopping-cart providers, and a service to verify and authorize transactions. She already had a website. So she signs and ships books out herself when orders come in, and when she runs low, orders another small print run from Lightning. After all that, she decided she didn't want to self-publish anymore (except for the re-issues) - "let someone else do the hard work". Her article's conclusion: "The cover art on my new novel looks like dead leaves on crumpled cellophane and has nothing whatever to do with the contents of the book. Some things just never change."

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