It's all change here at ALLi at the moment. We're sorry to announce that Karen Lotter, who has been with ALLi from the start, and who is familiar to so many of you for her great work on Members Showcase, is moving on. Karen, who is based in South Africa, is going to work with the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Executive Council's Special Reference Group on Migration and Community Integration.
Karen and I have been friends since long before ALLi. We met when she attended my Writing School in Dublin, back in 2007, and we've worked closely together, since I started blogging the year after that, and even more so since the foundation of ALLi in 2012. We are all going to miss her, including the many members with whom she worked on Member's Showcase, and none more than me.
Also, many of you know that our watchdog, Jim Giammatteo, was taken seriously ill earlier this year. Jim is making a slow recovery from a series of heart attacks and strokes. We are looking forward to welcoming him back when he is in a position to return to work. In the meantime, we needed to grow our our Watchdog desk and to have a dedicated manager for our Partner Members, as our work monitoring and trying to influence ethics in the self-publishing services sector grows.
So I'm delighted to introduce you to Andy Lowe.
New Watchdog and Partner Member Manager
Andy is a journalist recently turned author-publisher and book editor. He's worked with titles like GQ, Vogue, Total Film and Vanity Fair, in both creative and managerial roles. Based in London, he will liaise with me, the ALLi team and other vigilant members of the author community worldwide, including Victoria Strauss, David Gaughran and Mick Rooney.
As if to emphasise the importance of this role, controversy arose about an author service last week. Last April, at our London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe conference, the publishing consultant and commentator, Porter Anderson, did a ten minute talk on Self-e, a new library service for authors. When Porter originally approached me about this service, it sounded like a good opportunity for authors to get into the library service in the US and around the globe. Without looking into it in detail, I agreed.
Last week David Gaughran highlighted on his facebook page that Porter is being paid to promote the service and, furthermore, that there is no facility for author payment built into the program, as it stands.
To be fair, though I wasn't aware of it, Porter had made no secret of being paid to promote. So, because he is a friend, and a trusted and respected publishing colleague who commended the service (and I know he wouldn't commend any service if he didn't rate it highly, consultancy fees notwithstanding); and because I tend to think of libraries in terms of discoverability, rather than sales; and because Jim wasn't available to run it through in our usual way, I failed to look closely enough before putting the presentation on stage.
There is an important principle at stake here. While nobody thinks of libraries as big commercial opportunities (and even watchdogs vary widely in their views on this, as the comments on this post on the Independent Publishing Magazine show), everybody in this chain of book-to-library-reader is being paid, except the content provider and copyright holder: the author.
This is wrong.
I have since spoken, at length, to Porter and Self-e and been assured by Ian Singer, VP, Group Publisher, Library Journals, Self-e parent company, that he hears authors' concern and, although there is no provision for author payment at the moment, that is now open to review (see also comment below). Ian estimates that the library market in the US is worth between $4m and $8m to Self-e. We will continue to monitor the situation and to urge Library Journal to honor its obligations to authors.
(There's more — for those who are interested — in two posts on SELF-e at Jane Friedman's blog, both written by Porter: the post that kicked off the controversy, How Self-Published Authors Can Distribute to Libraries; and a follow up, exploring issues arising: A Conversation With the SELF-e Team: Exploring Payment for Authors)
For me, the incident emphasised, once again, how important it is to have an independent assessment, beyond the bonds of friendship and association, and all the many other factors that can prevent us from seeing clearly. Mea culpa in this case, and my thanks to David Gaughran, who has once again done authors a service.
So… onwards! And welcome — not a minute too soon — to Andy, ALLi's new Watchdog and Partner Member Manager.
Andy's new role will involve him in rating and vetting aspiring Partner Members and I knew he was the man for the job when he said: “I want to make an ALLi Partner Member Badge a mark of trust and quality, like a Michelin star.”
When asked what he'd like to do for ALLi Members, he said: “Self-publishing is an exciting and revolutionary movement but it's also emergent, and awash with sharks, scammers and good-intentioned, but uneven, start-ups. I'm here to make sure that author-publishers get the best possible experience from ethical and reputable ALLi Partner Members, as well as keeping them up to speed with the traps and pitfalls out in the wild.”
Andy is currently putting his first Watchdog Report together on — what else? — library services and authors, in which we'll look not only at self-e but at all the library services available to authors, and their payment options and other terms and conditions.
If you have any feedback for Andy — good or bad — on any author service, you can let him know here.
Our very best wishes for continued recovery to our dear friend Jim.
And for a wonderful career ahead to our dear friend Karen.