Vanity’ can pay off

A St NEOTS company has dispelled the myth that vanity publishing – where the author funds a book s production when commercial publishers will not touch it – is not a profitable business. Authors OnLine has celebrated its 10th anniversary, with a title-l

A St NEOTS company has dispelled the myth that "vanity publishing" - where the author funds a book's production when commercial publishers will not touch it - is not a profitable business.

Authors OnLine has celebrated its 10th anniversary, with a title-list that includes a best-selling book questioning the guilt of Barry George, the man serving life for the murder of television presenter Jill Dando, which began as a self-published work.

Now published by John Blake Publishing as Justice for Jill, the book by Scott Lomax began life as Who Killed Jill Dando? - The Case for Barry George.

Richard Fitt, from St Neots, the co-founder of the publishers, said he was intrigued by the book and wanted to publish it after his ex-wife, Judy, had met Barry George and was convinced he could not have carried out the crime.

Mr Fitt said: "Judy was then an educational instructor at Belmarsh Prison (she is now head of education at Wandsworth jail) and she said: 'He couldn't have done it, he's not intelligent enough' - and that was exactly what the book said, so I said I want to publish this."

He added: "John Blake bought the book from us but we still own the rights to it. In fact, we have just received our first royalty cheque."

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Authors OnLine was also the first to edit and translate the autobiography of 22-year-old Manchester United footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, called Moments, from the Portuguese. The book, about the footballer's childhood, has gone on sale this month, published by Pan Macmillan.

These are just two of the successes of Authors OnLine, the first e-book publishing company in the UK. It was set up by Richard Fitt and web-designer Derek Reece and which celebrated its 10th anniversary with a party at Buckden Millennium Centre.

On Saturday Mr Fitt was presented at last with a paper version of his own book, a thriller called The Wrong Side, which he wrote in 1992 and failed to persuade any publisher to take on.

He said: "I have a drawer full of rejections and that is what gave me the idea of opening Authors OnLine. I have published it as an e-book. I thought authors should have somewhere they could place their work.

The Wrong Side is about drug-smuggling between Holland and the east coast of England, which Mr Fitt says he knows well having spent years sailing that coast. "I have had a few hundred readers," he said.

During the past decade, Authors OnLine has published some 700 books, including 300 in paper form.

Mr Fitt, a computer technician, who is also the chairman of the amateur theatre company St Neots Players, said the best tip he could give aspiring authors was to remember that writing the book was only 50 per cent of the work.

"Don't think once you have written the book that is the end of the story. You have still got to market it. Whenever one of his books comes out, you always see Michael Palin signing them at Waterstones in St Neots.

"He is a big name and has had several television series. You would think he could sit back and just let the money roll in, but every time a book comes out, he has to trot round the country selling it."

The cost of having your book published by Authors OnLine depends on how much editing it needs and how much lay-out and design for the contents and cover. The author keeps the copyright.

INFORMATION: See www.Authors

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