Author Solutions: new and shittier ways to screw writers

November 25th, 2014

Yep, and now also available in Spanish!
Read the full story:

Seems AS finds the US market saturated, so it moves to conquer “foreign” writers. Sad that Penguin is enjoying the scams. Says a lot about traditional publishing.
I am one of the victims. In earlier posts I already listed some of the complaints:

  1. Inflated costs for “marketing” that delivers nothing
  2. Promising to set up social media – zero value as you can do it all yourself (Facebook, e-mail, etc.)
  3. I was promised to be paid my royalties by electronic bank transfer but they only can send a stupid check in BP from the USA by snail mail to Beijing, so I can get at most 40% of the check’s value (they never heard about modern banking nor PayPal).
  4. I am more than suspicious my worldwide sales are under-reported

Recently I also discovered why my book promotion through their book stubs went nowhere: 90% of the codes were wrong, so people who got the “gift” were not impressed. No wonder I never received reaction.
Also, the way they set up Amazon sales was a blunder. You need to be a detective to figure out, yes, my book also exists as e-book. Print and e-book are not linked. And nothing I can do about that myself.
So, when they even now come back to me, trying to sell some more worthless marketing packages of all kinds: I tell them I don’t need them, they are 5 times too expensive and why should I promote sales if I do not get royalties anyway?

I now started writing other books and for sure I will never go back to any of the dozens of companies all under the same management: Author Solutions.

Anniversary event of InterChina in Beijing

November 16th, 2014

On 23 November in the Capital Club Beijing I attended the seminar of InterChina about their  China 2015 Annual Business Forecast, also for the 20th anniversary of the company.
Opening address and Forecast presentation were done by our Belgian friend Jan Borgonjon, President, InterChina, along with Eduardo Morcillo, Managing Partner.
Participated to the Panel Discussion:

  • Mark Duval, President, AmCham BeijingZ
  • Su Bahong, Director Corporate Affairs & JV Relations, Volkswagen Group China
  • Bernie Stefan, Vice President Strategy & Business Development, Greater China, Nestle

Jan Borgonjon is one of the Founding Partners and President of InterChina since 1994. He has been the Director of the China Europe Management Institute (CEMI, Beijing), and later became one of the founders of the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, of which he is now a board member. From 2002 to 2006, he was a member of the executive committee of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. InterChina has offices in Beijing and Shanghai and a staff of over 55.
Jan can be called one of the pillars of the Belgian business community in Beijing
As for the seminar, a very well done analysis. I might not fully agree with all details but overall the research was carefully done and talking with relevant insiders.
I might have a less positive view on the attitude of the Chinese government towards foreign companies and foreigners in general. It is true MNC have to look ahead and the “golden times” are over: Chinese companies have progressed a lot. However the anti-foreign sentiment is too obvious to be ignored.
It was mentioned that Chinese companies going abroad have still a lot to learn and many Chinese companies are less flexible to switch strategies when markets and the environment change – as it the case today. Interestingly some commented that foreigner buyers get more hesitant about Chinese quality, even if products come from foreign-invested companies. I can’t but agree on all that.
It was also said that looking at companies that succeed or not, it is all very dependent on a case by case basis. In the same sector one can see companies going down while others do very well. And true that many head offices have no clue about China, I can confirm that. Now the same applies for Chinese going abroad. They are facing what we face for three decades.

Talking to European Chamber on Quality & Durability

November 10th, 2014

On 5 November, one more seminar where I introduced the main message of my book “Toxic Capitalism”: the need to strive for Quality and Durability, so we can reduce the pressure on the environment by being better consumers, wasting less and using more efficiently resources such as raw materials and energy.
The event was organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC) and presented as “Event Series on Environment: Quality & the Environment – Quality & the Environment – The dilemma for China and the West”.
It took place in the Four Seasons Hotel Beijing

The introduction to the talk:
Despite the ongoing efforts of government and industry to embrace quality systems, market competition has historically forced many Chinese manufacturers to neglect quality to save costs. However, there are signs that the tide is turning, and improving the way that quality systems are implemented has become a top priority for the current Chinese leadership.
At this event Klaus Ziegler, owner of Beijing Quality Partnerships LLC and a renowned expert in the fields of standardization, quality and certification, will introduce some of the tools that are available in the market that improve quality through training and integrated quality measures. He will explain how these tools can be utilized in product design and production processes and how they are implemented in China.
The issue of manufacturing quality has a direct impact on the environment, and as consumers we play an important role in this. Today’s consumers are locked in a cycle of buying cheap goods and quickly disposing of them when they break or are superseded by superior products, and this places an enormous strain on the environment.
Although China has borne the brunt of criticism for producing cheap and inferior products that degrade the environment, there are plenty of examples of Western manufacturers that are equally culpable. Environmental issues are a global problem that we all have a responsibility to solve.
Gilbert Van Kerckhove, author of Toxic Capitalism, will provide insights on environmental issues linked to manufacturing and consumerism, and will explain how we can all play our part in improving the current situation.

I had suggested to share the presentation with Klaus as he is indeed an authority in quality and standards. He was so kind to give me some more time for my presentation – a little under 40 minutes.
The presentations were followed by Q&A (and some book sales!).

China survey: Work Rather than Pleasure

October 16th, 2014

This interesting survey was published by Internations. For the original article:

Every survey has a different angle and one can always criticize the results. It also very much depends on how the survey is carried out and who were the typical contributors. Here they are mostly young to middle-level professionals who have a rather steady job and are “legal” (see the graphics for the details). Anyway the results are interesting while it all finally depends on the individual way of living, taste and goals. For quite a number of expats, life overall is rather good in Beijing while costs of housing and schooling are a serious concern, along the heavy pollution and more stringent visa rules. See here the results:

China is a great place to work, but can it feel like home? Results suggest that it is neither easy to settle in nor great for expat families.
An economic hub, people go to China for business and work, as well as to benefit from the country’s comparatively low cost of living. However, although China ranks 4th in Personal Finance and 19th of 61 in the Working Abroad Index, it faces sharp criticism in regards to the general quality of life.
Only 14% of expats in China are completely satisfied with their life abroad, which lags behind the global average of 21%. Moreover, survey participants also indicate a marked dissatisfaction with the country’s medical facilities; only 32% agree the system is good compared to the global average of 53%.

Expat Statistics China infographic


Small Cost in Big China
The low living costs in China makes it a beacon of value in an expensive world. While only one in three (35%) expats the world over find their local cost of living to be either good or very good, China excels with nearly half of the respondents living there agreeing to the same (48%).
The comparatively low cost of living is complemented by a greater disposable income, as 59% of expats in China agree that their income easily covers everyday expenditures, in contrast to the worldwide average of 45%.
Companies seem to be trying their best to attract expats to China, too. Four of five respondents (83%) say they received help from their employer with attaining a work visa and two in five (42%) say they were provided housing by their companies. This overshadows the global averages of 65% and 29% respectively. It also helps explain why the most frequently cited reason for expatriation to China is work; 18% say they were sent by an employer and 17% found work there themselves.

Finding Ying and Yang
China plummets down the overall country index when one takes the Ease of Settling In into account, however, where it ranks 52nd out of 61. Famed for the affability of its people, the survey results highlight how expats experience a chasm between politeness and formulating friendships. Although three-quarters of respondents (76%) agree that they work with very few expats, they are less likely to have friends who are local residents. Rather, 45% say they usually meet people at expat events, whereas this figure is just 36% worldwide
However, this could ultimately be due to the culture gap between expats and the local culture. Although 43% of participants profess to the ability of being able to speak Mandarin, just one in five (23%) agree that it is easy to get used to the local culture compared to the global average of two in five (41%). As such, only one in ten (12%) expats in China feel completely at home.

Homeschooling Anyone?
Further dragging China down is its poor display on the Family Life Index, where it comes just 4th from the bottom (30th out of 34). However, this is mainly due to its education system, for the country remains on par with the global averages for most aspects of childcare and general family life.
Expats in China are, with 16%, half as likely to agree that education choices were numerous and readily available compared to the worldwide average of 32%. Thus, respondents in China are more likely to send their children to an international school than their compatriots elsewhere (45% against the global 35%) and as a result find education to be very expensive.
However, according to the survey results, one of the grimmest aspects of life in China is the atmosphere it presents for children. One fourth of participants (25%) are not happy in regard to their children’s health and safety there. On a global scale, only 11% feel this way.

2014: China at the crossroads: the latest Newsletter

August 17th, 2014

I have started a regular newsletter, in principle monthly, focusing on China’s economy, environment, business and any topic that merits a closer look.
The first edition looked into the Chinese real estate market, to give an overall view on what real estate companies, news media and economists are talking about. Certainly a hot topic, as hot as the Beijing weather. If you did not receive it, see here:

Snapshot China – Newsletter No. 2 looks into the many challenges China is facing in 2014 and how the government under the leadership of President Xi Jinping is expected to cope with it all.
Working with China since late 1980 I have lived through many ups and downs. There were times we thought the future looked bleak, the least to say. Three decades later, the country has witnessed a unique progress, transforming a grim Stalinist-looking country into a world power.

Today the country is at the crossroads facing the most serious challenges since its opening up in the late seventies. Its leaders confirm our worries by admitting the situation is indeed critical.
It is easy to be a pessimist today.
My intent is to give a quick overview on the complexities when trying to understand China’s challenges. For some foreign observers, “China should do this or that and all will be well.”
If it were that simple.
Overall, I admit to be worried but I still remain more on the side of the optimists.

You can download the complete report here: China2014.pdf

Prof. Gilbert Van Kerckhove
Author of “Toxic Capitalism”
Twitter: @bjprc