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The YouWriteOn 5000 ... The Last Word

Monday, 13 April 2009

Readers of this blog will be bored of the whole YouWriteOn/Legend Publishing 5000 saga - I know I am - so I promise this is (almost certainly) the last post on it.

To summarise the story so far: YouWriteOn offered to publish 5000 novels by Christmas 2008, but, in my case at least, completely failed to. I met all their requirements for manuscript format but heard nothing back. For months I got no sense out of them - just automated responses and emails saying "we'll get back to you". Many of them in amusingly poor English. When they eventually did manage to send an informative email, it was to admit they'd cocked up, lost my manuscript etc. etc. By this time, I was so disillusioned with the whole venture I was no longer interested anyway.

Now I've had another email about their "next set of free publishing". They've clearly learned from some of their mistakes and have come up with a vastly less ambitious figure of 500 books this time around. So that's something. But they don't apologise for their disastrous first attempt at the deal. Rather, there were, they say, "a number of success stories" (what number?) They do admit to "a number of huge challenges caused by the unprecedented level of demand". What on earth does this mean? It was they that set the figure of 5000, not the poor writers. Quite bizarre.

But, even if their previous shoddiness and inability to communicate hadn't already put me off the whole venture I'd be having second thoughts anyway. This time around everything feels much more commercial. It feels like it has clearly crossed the line into vanity publishing. I mean, it was always open to accusations of this. Now, the distribution service (£49.99) is "recommended". And the manuscript revision service costs £49.99 again - or £99.98 for manuscript and cover art. The offer has gone from an "Arts Council" scheme to help authors to something that feels like a rip-off.

What's more, I've been reading posts like this one on the How Publishing Really Works blog, in particular what it has to say about giving away "precious" first rights to a book. Now, it feels like YouWriteOn's ineptitude has been a blessing in disguise. I've come full circle and I'm glad they couldn't fulfil their promises. As How Publishing Really Works say, "it’s better to not be published at all than to be published badly".

So, I won't be submitting Hedge Witch to YouWriteOn's new scheme. I'll stick to conventional agents and publishers. And actually, there's a glimmer of hope here. An agent has requested sight of the completed manuscript of the book after reading the first three chapters. Nothing may come of it, of course, but it feels like progress, and very exciting progress at that.

If you happen to be considering taking up YouWriteOn's offer I'd say be very, very wary.


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