Too good to be true?

August 12, 2008 at 6:06 pm (News) (, , )

Lorna Page
First-time author at the grand old age of 93

There’s a saying – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. This immediately sprang to mind when I read an article that has been all over the BBC and the Telegraph – both well-respected reporters of the news – today, about a 93-year-old who has published her first novel.

As you will see from these articles, it’s asserted that first-time author, Lorna Page (aged 93) has purchased a 5-bedroom house using the advance and/or royalties from the publication of her book – she intends to invite several of her OAP buddies to live in the house with her rather than go into care homes. It’s a lovely story and great publicity for her book (which has shot up the Amazon charts since the story broke and is, at the time I write this, sitting at No. 9 in the paperback romance section – no. 46 in the hardcover), but a little light research will prove that someone somewhere has their facts a little garbled.

Point number 1:
Lorna Page’s publisher is AuthorHouse, which is a print on demand publisher. Far from offering advances, they actually charge the author in advance for editing and publication. That being the case, they are actually vanity publishers! As there’s no advance, she clearly did not buy her house with it.

Point number 2:
Royalties are generally paid in installments over set periods of time – this may be monthly, annually, whatever. As this book was first published in hardback on 10 July this year and in paperback just two days later, she would only be receiving her first royalty cheque around now (if she was very lucky). As she already has her house, she clearly did not use her royalties to buy it. Even if she had earned enough in royalties, she would have had to sell a HELL of a lot of books in this first month.

One thing that HAS happened, however, is that this lady has suddenly received a LOT of publicity and her book may well enjoy a brief surge in sales, as shown by her current position in the Amazon charts, but unless the book is extraordinarily good, it will be just that – a brief surge. Especially as the price for the paperback (which comes in at 308 pages) is currently at the “reduced” price of £16.10 (down from the full price of £16.95). The hardback is retailing at £21.80 (down from the RRP of £22.95). These prices seem a little steep for a first-time author’s offering – without the publicity I doubt she’d have made all that many sales unless word of mouth got around saying it was a masterpiece, and even then, the success would most likely have been gradual.

Personally, I wish her all the luck in the world, but I do wish that professional journalists would do a little research before sending their articles to print – after all, if I, an amateur, can very easily find information that goes contrary to their articles, then surely they could too?

Edited to add: It seems that The Guardian has since added a correction to the story, which can be seen HERE, reading:

QUOTE: The following clarification was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Friday August 15 2008. In common with most other papers we reported that 93-year-old Lorna Page, “suddenly prosperous on the advance and sales” of her novel A Dangerous Weakness, had been able to buy a big detached house for herself and three of her friends. Aspiring writers (and housebuyers) should note that her publisher, AuthorHouse, is a self-publishing company whose website states: “For a modest financial investment you can choose what you want for your book.”

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