Writers and Illustrators Please Read This
Today I experienced something that I can only describe as a total scam. We are having Creative Futures week in my university and that is when we get professionals from all kinds of creative industries to talk about their careers and most lectures are usually quite interesting but the one that I heard today made fueling.
There was three ladies. A woman called Sue Miller who owned a company called TeamauthorUK (this name is going to sound like a joke by the time you have finished reading this). She was there with two ladies that had published their books through TeamauthorUK and Amazon. I am not going to reveal names of these authors but they probably recognize themselves if they ever read this.
TeamauthorUK is a company that helps those who don´t have the technical skillset to download their book on amazon and they can also team up the writer and illustrator, proof read the book and help to market their book, or at least that is what they are saying.
You need to pay £2000 for their services. £2000 for someone to proofread your book and put it to Amazon. (That´s about 2280 euros or 2575 dollars).
I don´t know if all of you know this put downloading a book to Amazon is free.
Other one of these authors had published a children´s book with this company. She had quit her job as a full-time teacher and was now a part-time teacher and children´s writer. After she had finished writing her book, which was about a boy in a circus (let´s not get into that). She had pitched it for 20 publishers and they turned it down. Now, if a publisher doesn´t like your book maybe there might be actually something wrong in the story and if she truly wanted to get that book published she could have continued pitching it. Just in the English speaking world there are hundreds publishing companies that specialize on children´s books. These people constantly were comparing themselves to J.K.Rowling and how hard time, she had publishing Harry Potter. She made it because she didn´t quit trying and Harry Potter was published by an actual book company not by a shady Amazon-affiliate.
Just to give some perspective Margaret Mitchell´s Gone with the wind was rejected 38 times and The Help by Kathry Stockett was rejected 60 times. Both these books became best-sellers and were turned into Hollywood films.
What it takes to illustrate a book
Things got even more cringy when she said that after a year of sending the book for publishers she got really frustrated since they didn´t like it and she decided to go self-publishing and she was so glad that it only took a 3 months for the book to be published. She also showed some of the illustrations that were in the book and, as someone who is an illustrator I will tell you this, the more money you can spend on illustrations the better quality it is going to be and less money means bad job. These were definitely the worst. If you go through the publishing process and an actual professional illustrator illustrates your book that can take anything between half year to two years depending on the structure of the book. If you are interested you can read more about different types of illustrations here. Definitely if you finish a book in three months you should not expect it to be a very great quality. Things got even more cringy when she said that since she published the book in 2017 she had sold 160 copies of it so far and when she reaches 700, she has managed to cover all the cost. So if she continues with this same paste, she starts to get her money back in 5-6 years. But will she make any profit?
That is not all. The other writer who had written and illustrated her own book which was about foxes who wanted to buy a pretty shoe (why would foxes want to buy a shoe?). This lady was quite nice and was pleasant to listen but it was also cringy. She refered to herself as a writer and an illustrator but apparently she had never studied either and I was appalled to find out that she gets £2 from each book she sells from Amazon. I used to think that the Amazon/author/seller profit is 50/50 but it looks like the gap is way more wider and the industry selling price for standard 32 page children´s book in the UK is £7.99 (in book stores and in Amazon). This woman wrote and illustrated this book by herself, putting time and effort to it (even if it´s not very professional). She paid £2000 for this scam company to proof read it and put on Amazon and then she gets 2 pounds when someone buys it! I am so angry. I think it´s totally fine if a company puts the book on Amazon for someone and helps them to bring the book alive but the priority should be that those clients who want to publish their book get actually paid as well and that doesn´t happen here.
All Talk, No Actions
In the beginnig of this talk Miller-woman talked how she had a passion for publishing and she loved to collaborate with authors and illustrators. If you talk to any serious professional illustrator most of us agree that print-on-demand Amazon books are really bad quality. I have been writing my own book for a while now (collection of some of my favorite myths and legends). I can see my book clear as day. I have planned the layout for it, size of the illustrations (I am illustrating it myself), I know what I want the cover to look like and what kind of paper I want it to be printed on. I can also estimate the time that I spent on my illustrations (which is way longer than 3 months). If you don´t care that much about those things you can definitely publish your book on Amazon if you wish but you don´t have much creative control over it.
TeamauthorUK also advertises itself that they help writers to market their books on Amazon. Well, I asked Mrs. Miller how they do the marketing and she very vaguely said that since Amazon is such a massive company, books...sort of market themselves.
This company doesn´t do any marketing. It is all a scam!
Because if they would, these writers would be selling their books more efficiently and faster and she also said that it is really up to the author to market their books and build that precense in the social media. Another very cringe moment came when the author of the circus boy book said that so far she has had 1 school visit and she was selling her books at craft fairs but she hasn´t been selling them that many online because she doesn´t promote herself enough on social media. A legimite marketing coach would tell their client that no one buys books at craft fairs but on book fairs and yes social media is important, why isn´t teamauthoruk helping her to promote? She paid Mrs. Miller 2000 pounds to market this book.
Well...this same writer also said that she had read ”Writer´s and artists year book” from cover to cover. I have the same book. I have read it from cover to cover and no where it says that you should pay someone 2000 pounds for nothing and let giant corporations like Amazon take over half of your profit. It´s like she did everything what the book specifically tells you not to do.
Writers and authors association publishes one of these babies each year
There is a reason why people don´t like Amazon
Can I just say something about this Sue Miller woman. She was quite rude when she didn´t answer to my marketing question and when me and some of my fellow illustrators expressed our scepticsm over Amazon she took rather arrogant tone and said:
”Oh you millenia generation are so sceptical about everything and don´t like Amazon because it doesn´t pay taxes”
I am thirtyfuckingone and I don´t know if you can call that a millenia and neither I care but everyone knows that Amazon ceo is the richest man in the world and the company has million employeers who work in shitty unhumane conditions on a minimum wage and this woman was trying to sell it as the only possible way for writers to get self-published and she also tried to make self-publishing sound very difficult: you have to get an isbn number and that takes years, you can´t sell your books on book stores or on libraries. These are all lies. You can buy isbn number online for 10 pounds. There are book stores who take books from independent writers and if your book has an isbn number libraries accept them as well and you get 10p every time someone borrows your book (but that is usually something that the publisher negotiates, both authors and illustrators can get money from their library books). Amazon is not the only way to get self-published. There are lots of small printing companies and in-demand-book companies that can be used and if there is a lack of money but you really believe into the idea do kick-starter or start patreon and just get on with it.
This is called vanity-publishing. Teamauthoruk promotes themselves as a company that is extremely passionate about publishing and connecting creators but they don´t care about these people who get paid 2 pounds from their efforts (illustrators probably get half of that) and they don´t care about quality of the books that they are publishing. One of the other students asked if they give any tips for the writer to fix the story or the illustrations and this is a direct quote answer from Mrs. Miller ”who am I to say to someone if their book is good or bad”. She takes the money from these brainwashed people who don´t know any better and helps them to publish books on a platform that is already free and these illustrators who work for this company, where she gets them from? Fiver?
In the end of the talk Mrs. Miller actually started arguing with one of the author ladies whether she gets 2 pounds and 5 p from each book she sells or 2 pounds 80 p. That is one of the saddest thing I´ve witnessed and what kind of person brings two of her authors to a full room of people and humiliates them. It was so weird and the other author was just sitting between them looking very nervous.
There is a stigma that people who work on creative industries should work for free which is stupid. Illustration is hard work. It can be very lonely at times, very frustrating but also very rewarding because you are doing what you love. People always buy books, greeting cards and magazines, phone cases, clothes with patterns and those are just few examples of what illustrators can design and we also need to eat and pay our rent. I´ve wanted to be an illustrator since I was a child and I love books and designing characters and people like Sue Miller makes a mockery of that and the whole industry by producing these low quality books and taking money from people who blindly believe she is helping them. It also lows down the industry prices when illustrators that are conditioned to think that they should work for free and spend their money on fraud self-publishing companies such as this.
Don´t be one of them.
This talk has been a very heated topic among my class mates and one of my tutors said that she didn´t know who invited them which suggests that they invited themselves just to run this scam to students. Making a book is a collaboration. You should not pay someone to make a book, you should work together to produce the book and share the profit.
I recently came across this video from illustrator Holly Exley and it addresses this very same topic.
Thank you for reading this and feel free to share as much as you please. Straight up lying is one thing that my honest Finnish nature can´t take.
Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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