Acorn Independent Press Review

Acorn Independent Press is a limited UK company based in Bromley and it was co-founded in 2010 by brother and sister team, Leila and Ali Dewji. I came across this company at a very early stage last May and passed up on even contemplating an overview of the services offered. It was clear to me that many aspects of the company’s foundation and online presence still needed to be worked on. A year has passed and I feel it is now time to take a close look at what Acorn Independent Press has to offer self-published authors.

Firstly, the development of Acorn Independent Press has been slow – painfully slow, and that worries me when I look at a new start-up one year on. Not having any books mean they are a company and not as yet an author solutions service or publisher. There are, as of April 2011, no titles flagged on Amazon or on any databases I have checked, and the latest newsletter heralds the first three new releases slated for June 2011 onward. At one point, late last year, Kate Nivison’s latest travel writing adventure was slated for spring 2011 – now it is June, and two other titles have been added to the schedule.

I’m hitting the ground hard here with Acorn, but I am making a critical point about the dangers of launching a company without a product ready to go out of the box. Browse through any news pages of a publishing trade magazine and you will read many items about new start-up imprints from publishing houses. All of those media items on a new imprint or brand new press will include details of the first titles to be published. Acorn Independent Press seems to have launched, and then, as almost an afterthought, started looking for titles—that’s not a good strategy.

On the positive—Acorn has supported the workshop and literary circuit extensively over the past few months, connecting with the writing community and presenting their publishing services in a very professional way. This month, Acorn will present a self-publishing masterclass at the prestigious London Book Fair—not a bad gig at all.

Company founders, Leila and Ali Dewji have both worked at leading publishers before Acorn. Ali Dewji has worked for Emap in developing their sales and marketing programs, and Leila Dewji has worked in various rights and editorial roles for Scholastic, Orion and at Shiel Land Associates as an assistant literary agent.

“They were frustrated that it’s so tough for talented authors to break through. Having seen too many great writers slip through the net, they combined their expertise to give all passionate authors a professional route to market. They give all authors access to fantastic editors, designers and marketing managers and their high production standards ensure you will have a book to be proud of.”

Too many so-called experts move into the arena of author solutions services and have little or no real publishing and marketing experience to offer. Acorn came as a welcome surprise to know—for a change—that we had some discernable publishing experience operating at the heart of this company.

Meet the Team


Leila read English at Christ Church, Oxford and spent time as a journalist before moving in to book publishing.  At Orion Books, she honed her editorial skills and gained editing qualifications before being head-hunted by literary agent, Sonia Land.  Whilst at Sheil Land Associates, Leila developed many authors and lead one of the first literary agency e-book programs in the UK. Leila has with her a passionate team of experienced editors who have all been trained at top international publishing companies. Email Leila at: leila@acornselfpublishing.com

Having studied Business & Finance at Sheffield University, Ali has a solid commercial background.  Upon leaving university, Ali got a job within a week at top publishing company, EMAP. He has worked with global brands to devise, run and manage effective targeted campaigns across all manner of print and online media.   He thinks outside the box and is always coming up with new and ingenious platforms, both on and off line, to sell and promote books.  He loves social media and manages Acorn’s online presence. follow us here.

The same goes for the design skills used by the company:

“Louise Millidge heads up our experienced design team. She developed our house style, cover jacket templates and works on all the Mighty Oak packages. Louise is a design expert who has created book covers for a major publishing house and worked on top titles for bestselling authors. Louise’s work has reached no.1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list, been featured on the TV Book Club and has been nominated for the Ravenheart Fantasy Award. Our team really understand the visual impact of a cover and produce strong designs that make readers want to pick them up.”

It is time to see how Acorn plans to administer that expertise.

‘It’s an exciting time for authors. Print-on-Demand and e-book technology have democratized publishing. Authors can have a slick self-published paperback or e-book on sale in a matter of weeks. Readers can be buying and reviewing their book at a click of a button.’

Ali Dewji

‘Whilst at a literary agency, I worked with some amazingly talented authors, some of whom have won literary prizes. When it came to pitching their work to editors at the big presses, the response would typically be something like ‘I absolutely love this and can see why you’re excited by it but I’m afraid I couldn’t get the necessary support from my colleagues in sales/marketing/finance. It broke my heart every time and I knew there had to be another way.

Leila Dewji

So, Acorn Independent Press became ‘another way’.

Acorn offers three different publishing packages focusing exclusively on POD (print on demand) and ebook publishing ranging in price from £800 up to £2000.

The first package is simply called ‘Acorn’, and it includes the following (up to 90k words/250 book pages – £35 per additional 10k words):

An editorial critique
Custom cover
Marketing tool kit
2 hour marketing meeting (by phone or in person)
Typesetting & Layout
ISBN & Copyright Registration
Online sales & Distribution
Amazon Search Inside Program & Author Page
Listing and Distribution via Ingram
Google Book Search Program
Press Release Syndication
10 Author Copies
Cost Purchase Discount (% not disclosed)
Tree Plant at Tree Aid

That is more than most author solutions services provide in their basic package and even advanced packages. All print work and set up is done through Lightning Source and much of the basic stuff is looked after by Acorn. The ISBN is registered under Acorn’s own imprint, so technically an author is not truly self-publishing, but much of the administration of publishing a book is looked after with this package.

What is self-publishing? Self-Publishing with Acorn means that the author pays for, and is in total control of, the publishing process.  We use our expertise to produce your work and get it into wholesale distribution channels.  It will be published under our company, the ISBN will be registered to us but all copyright remains with the author, as stated on the copyright page of each book we print.

The Oak Leaf package (£1200) adds on the following:

Editorial Meeting
20 Author Copies
Full Copy Edit
Ebook Formatting & Conversion
DRM to Ebook
iBookstore Submission

I would be concerned if this package only adds a listing in Apple’s iBookstore, but the copyediting is worth the cost alone if it is professional and thorough.

The final package is the Mighty Oak (£2000) and adds the following to the Oak Leaf:

Bespoke Cover Design (Suggesting the other two packages are less than ‘customised’)
50 Author Copies
Marketing & PR Launch
Social Media Campaign
Nielsen & Ingram Catalogue Listing
Author Blog website
Poster, Bookmark & Flyers
Promotional eCard design

The Nielsen and Ingram catalogue listing is helpful, but at £2000, Marketing and PR may be restricted to an AI (Author Identity) email shot and retail awareness. My instinct tells me that the Oak Leaf package may be the best value for money of the three packages on offer.

Acorn also offer a standalone package for ebook publication priced at £400 (up to 90k words/250 book pages – £35 per additional 10k words). This includes full formatting and design, proofreading and online distribution. A straight conversion service is also providing from completed print ready files for £200.

In additional, Acorn are flexible and will adapt services for authors depending on their book project, be it for a colour or illustrated book with specific design needs and publication in paperback and hardback in various trim sizes.

Royalties are paid to the author at 50% net (after print and retail/wholesale discounts of 30%). Acorn disclose their print costs in the below examples, indicating that there is at least no ‘hidden’ mark up on print prices. My concern is that offering just 30% discount to booksellers may result is limited take-up of a title, and there seems little flexibility build in here. That’s fine if we are dealing with ebooks and a contract with one of the ‘big six’, but the 30% discount offered on print sales represents the vicious market small publishers are operating in to make a profit on books. Consider that retailers like Amazon require up to 60% discount on titles. In the comments section of our sister site, below the review, Ali Dewji of Acorn explains that the example given on the website uses 30% as a retailer discount but larger discounts will certainly be offered if it means getting an author’s book to market and the company will take a flexible and professional approach in this area.

Authors looking to purchase their book directly from Acorn will get their book at ‘cost’ according to their FAQ pages. I’d feel far more comfortable if that read ‘print cost’.
Overall, there is a lot to like about Acorn Independent Press. This is not just another author solutions service, but one run by experienced publishing and marketing professionals. The launch has been slower than I would have expected, but it has been deliberate and based on developing a local profile in the writing community, and this year, nationally at the London Book Fair. Right now, Acorn has been selective about the books lined up for publication in the summer. Time will tell whether that philosophy will continue. Much will depend on the quality and success of those three books slated for publication.

I am going to give a rating on what is presented and promised, but it is strictly provisional, until I really see how Acorn deliver what is in their publishing packages. A case of a lot well done, a lot promised, and a lot more to do.

RATING: 7/10