Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Self-publishing service shark warning: guest-post by Ann Kelley

You'll know that I have often celebrated the freedom writers have these days to choose between a traditional and an independent route to publication. My guest today is Ann Kelley, who has previously featured on this blog here. I love her writing - her ability to observe the natural world is second to none. She has experienced success as a traditionally published writer, winning the Costa Children's Book of the Year with her novel The Bower Bird, the second in her enchanting and moving trilogy about Gussie, a young girl with a life-threatening illness, who is one of the most 'alive' people you will ever meet in fiction. The first in the series is The Burying Beetle and all are published by Luath Press.

Ann has also published an ebook herself, of her novella On a Night of Snow. She went on to publish it last year as a lovely paperback with her own illustrations - and if you're a cat fan, this book should be catnip to you!

I've invited her to guest-post, though, because she has a salutary tale to tell of the darker side of the self-publishing industry, where, sadly, there are still sharks cruising to exploit writers. I won't name the firm in question here - but if anyone is seeking to self-publish I strongly advise them to join the Alliance of Independent Authors, because they can provide recommendations of good service providers and warn you off the baddies and incompetents.

Here's Ann's experience: 

My novella ON A MOONLIT NIGHT was first published as an Ebook (On a Night of Snow) a few years ago under a different title. My editor, Jennie Renton, who had worked on several of my published novels offered to set up the ebook for me. 

But, I had started to draw, and was given encouragement by my teachers and others to illustrate my own writing.  I remembered the novella, and set to work producing as many drawings of cats as I could.

ON A MOONLIT NIGHT is the first book I have published myself, having had over twenty books published by mainline publishers in the past.

Self-publishing is an exciting project. I had an excellent, helpful designer - Peter Bennett, who had worked with me on several other productions. He helped with choosing the correct paper and card as well as designing the entire book, cover to cover. And what a cover! That was fun! We couldn’t decide which cat to place on the front cover, and in the end he  presented me with the image of all the cats I had drawn! I particularly asked for the end pages to be visually exciting with flaps. Having complete control over the design was wonderful. I recommend it.

However, when it came to finding a printer things started to go very wrong. I got quotes from several local printers but decided on X (London based) as the price was considerably lower. A mistake! 

The designer sent the pdfs to them and they approved them. I ordered 250 copies. I was offered a 10% discount if I paid upfront. I took up the offer - second mistake! March 2017 I paid the discounted  price of £1530. 

The printer kept promising that the courier was on his way. We had house sitters to answer the door if they arrived when we were on holiday in Scotland. The books failed to arrive, more promises and excuses, no books. By June  I had given up hope. The printer wouldn’t give us the courier’s tracking number. We failed to reach the courier on one or on the phone.

He said he would  use another printer. I thought X was a printer, but not so. He was just a middleman, it seems. Again no books.

The printer promised to pay the full refund if the books didn’t arrive by that weekend. No books. I phoned and politely said that I felt stupid, duped, that it was a scam.

And now, no refund apart from little dribbles of £10 and £20 - adding up to £150. So I went to the Small Claims Court. What a palaver! Had to send them three copies of all emails or correspondence between X and myself and pay court costs. Quite stressful even thinking about it. 

We attended the court just before Christmas. No-one from X attended the court. The judge went through the details carefully and found for me. She did say thought that didn’t necessarily mean that I would get my money back. Was X a limited company? No idea. I was naively expecting them to be honest with me. A lesson learnt.  PAY ON DELIVERY, NOT UPFRONT.

I eventually went to a more expensive local printer, who delivered the beautifully printed books for free. I don’t know if I will get my money back. I don’t want to pay for bailiffs. But I won my case. Have kept all the copies of emails, just in case…

Ann's book is a delight, in spite of all the travails! If you are interested in it you can email her to receive a buying link (contact me at and I will forward your message). You can also find out more about Ann and her other books, by visiting  her website at  If you'd like to read the original story in ebook form, here's the link

My 2014 interview with Ann, discussing the spirit of place, is here.

Here's the link to the Alliance of Independent Authors again:

Alliance of Independent Authors /

Finally, though a virus has derailed my plans temporarily, I will be launching my first online course very soon - if you're not already on my newsletter list and you want to be among the first to hear, then you can sign up here. You'll get a free productivity guide too!

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