Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Question from Elizabeth Eagan-Cox

                                                           by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox

                                                          Shannon Delaney Series, Vol. 4

In book 4, Shannon Delaney gets caught up in a web of deception, intrigue and a ghostly haunting as she delves into a cold-case mystery from Hollywood’s glamorous decade of the 1920s: Good grief, it was as if the sound was immediately behind me. I turned and was shocked to see that what was making the odd noise was all too apparent and far too close for comfort. And it was looking down at me.

Question from author Elizabeth Eagan-Cox: 

As a traditional author who resides in a tiny mountain village (less that 1000 residents) I am often approached by aspiring writers with questions about how to "break in." Other than politely declining their offers that I review their work, or refer them to my publisher (you), I do take the time to warn the aspiring author about vanity publishing. On today’s walk, I was approached with a question I do not know the answer to…maybe you do.  
Is the Bowkers Manuscript Submission Service legitimate? 
I told the wannabe author that I did not think any manuscript submission service could be legitimate, or take the place of a well-written proposal. However, I did say I would ask you.
In my former life, as a school librarian, I was very familiar with Bowkers, and of course the company is legitimate, at least in their library services, they are. I had never heard of Bowkers offering a manuscript submission service. I went to their web site…and they do. The fee for their service begins at $99.00.
Yes Elizabeth, they do, indeed, offer this service. That began sometime after they went to on-line registration for their primary service: Books In Print.
Bowker issues all ISBNs for the United States, so they have, or should have, a record of every book published in the USA.  Most people know this, but few realize that the numbers are issued to anyone who buys them and the buyer of an ISBN is automatically registered as the publisher. The numbers cannot be transferred from one person or company to another.  In fact, the same number cannot be used for paper and electronic editions of the same work.
Everyone who ever  registers an ISBN with Bowker is issued a Standard Address Number and anyone, anywhere, who inquires to buy a book with that number is referred, by Bowker, to that registered address in order to contact the seller.
Recently unpublished authors have been advised by many groups to register an ISBN (Cost $125) for their unpublished book and told that it will protect their interests. Yet if they find a legitimate publisher, a second number must be assigned the title and both listings will appear in Books in Print, leading to confusion on where exactly to order, unless the author goes and marks his earlier ISBN as "out of print."
Part of uploading the book information for Books in Print is to upload a copy of the entire manuscript for "indexing." As a publisher I am leery of uploading the entire manuscript anywhere but at a sales site who is contracted to pay me so I can pay my authros. But perhaps that's just my own cynicism. I was, once, a newspaper reporter and they are a cynical breed.
If an author who has bought an ISBN for his or her manuscript, or one who has been recruited to do so by other authors in writing groups believing they have given good advice, does upload the entire ms text, he or she will be offered the opportunity to pay $99 more to have their manuscript looked at by "hundreds of publishers" who are out there just looking for books to publish.
Now it's true that if you seek just the service, they will accommodate you, but also advise that without an ISBN they cannot guarantee protection of the information.  
If you pay the $99 ($204 with the ISBN) they will then post your entire manuscript on line where publishers can go and view it while they are looking for books to publish.   
As an ex-reporter that leaves me with questions:
1. Who are the hundreds of "publishers" who may review your work (read your book) for free?  
     Anyone with a Standard Address number.
2. What kind of publisher would go to such a site looking for manuscripts to publish? 
       Vanity publishers who are looking for someone to pay them to publish a book.

3. As a publisher, would I ever go on a talent search by reading  through hundreds and thousands of whole manuscripts by unknown and unpublished writers? Do I know any other professional publishers, or Big 6 paper publishers --the kind who hand out big advances, who would do that???
     NO. And No!
BUT I will read a query letter from anyone! Just send the query to:
The first paragraph should tell me what kind of book your book is and how long it is. If it's more than 80,000 words, chances are I can't help you. If it's a children's picture book, I can't help you, much as I would like to, I do not have the skills to prepare illustrated books for e-publication.
The second paragraph should tell me what the story is about and why it will attract readers. Writing is an art. PUBLISHING is a business. However lovely or lyrical your literary short stories are, however much of a cry from the heart your artistically woven prose is, they have to be a product that someone will want to read, to enjoy, and to tell their friends about.
I was a writer long before I became a publisher by accident. I felt just as certain as anyone that my prose was deathless and beautifully-crafted and my books would be treasured by thousands of readers IF ONLY, I could find a publisher, any publisher. 
I sent out query after query to publisher after publisher and then a fellow author mentioned someone on line, who had accepted his work. I queried her by e-mail ( a new phenomenon in that day), and instead of the usual 6 month wait received a "Yes," the next day. She loved my work and thought it was the "best book she'd seen all year."
I would wish that same kind of experience for every writer, everywhere. But lest my ego become inflated, let me also share that as a test I made that very same book a free download at several web sites between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. I wanted to see how effective using free books was in helping to generate sales of my other titles. I privately suspected it wouldn't be very effective as people mostly expect to get what they pay for. 
I posted the information on Facebook and on my blog and on Linked-in and everywhere else I could think of.  I asked my friends and authors with whom I do business to share the info. The book remained a free download for 6 weeks and we gave away exactly:
Seven copies! 
But at least the original owner of liked it, and published it, and when she asked me to take her place after she became too ill to continue, I did.  I knew absolutely nothing about publishing at the time, but had a friend who did and figured she could teach me. 
Admittedly, after 10 years at it, I am still learning. 
So I suppose it is entirely possible that if one registered with that,  or any other,  ms. service, someone, somewhere, Might read your book. I can't say it couldn't happen.


  1. I have a feeling that Bowker submission thingie is about on par with winning the Powerball lottery, the dream house on HGTV and having Publishers' Clearing House representatives show up on your doorstep with a gigantic check made out to you.
    From everything I've ever learned, publishers are already so overwhelmed with submissions they can't possibly read that the chances of them looking for a good book on line sound mighty slim to me.

  2. Thank you Arline for answering this question. I have pointed the aspiring author toward your blog and the Write Words, Inc site.


  3. Well, Bowker is a good company. They do good work and are trying to provide a service and like any other business, they want to show a profit. But having been a writer who had to work two jobs to support her writing habit, it's not a system I would be inclined to take advantage of.