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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Authors: review your books' reviews


Every author likes to get good reviews, and hates to get bad reviews.

Most published reviews are positive, and that's nice.

Some negative reviews are written by people who are clueless, vindictive, or have not even read the book they are condemning. If you write a book, it's important that you regularly check for reviews. Good reviews can be used to promote your book. Unjustified bad reviews have to be dealt with.

I recently discovered a review of one of my books on Amazon. It gave me the minimum one-star ranking and said my book must be terrible because it did not have a "Search inside the book" feature (as if I was hiding something). There were a few other meaningless complaints which revealed that the reviewer had never read the book. I assume the review was from a writer I slammed on this blog. (I don't put negative reviews on Amazon to minimize the chance of a flame war or pissing match.)

I complained to Amazon, and the review was deleted within a few minutes.

Another time I was criticized because the typeface I used was allegedly too big. I responded that the 12-pt type I used is the size specified by the U.S. Supreme Court to insure readability of court documents.

And another time one of my books was criticized for being out of date. I responded that the reviewer bought the wrong book, and should have bought the replacement book. I even offered to provide a freebie.

Set up Google alerts for your name and your book titles. You'll get automatic notifications so you'll know what's being said about you so you can respond appropriately.

Monday, May 2, 2016

I prefer to write books, not just piles of words


For much of the 20th Century, writers composed both flops and masterpieces on 8.5 x 11-inch sheets of paper. Later they used word-processing software that emulated the same size and shape.

  • Most authors have a specific word-count in mind, such as 70,000 words, as they write their books. (Apparently, the average book has 64,500 words.)
  • But, as the owner/operator of my own tiny publishing company, when I'm working on a book, I usually have a specific page-count and price in mind, such as 350 pages and $15.95. Each piece of paper costs me money.
And rather than just spray words onto my monitor, I set up MS Word for the actual page size of my book (usually 6 x 9 inches) and correct margins, and start writing a book.

By viewing actual pages, it's much easier to judge my progress, and to know if chapters should be chopped or stretched or shifted, and when illustrations should be enlarged, reduced or moved around.




Just this morning while examining the new paperback version of my bestselling Internet Hell, I discovered an awkward, unattractive two-page spread. This would not have been apparent if I viewed just one-page-at-a-time or didn't have the proper left-right sequence. (In the book business, a left page is "verso" and right is "recto.")


I lowered the photo of Dick Cavett and the text on the recto page to better align the facing pages.



TIP:  I always insert a temporary left-hand "page zero" ahead of the real right-hand "page one" so I can view pages as realistic two-page spreads, instead of onesies, or with left-right-reversals.

This is not very important if a book is all-text (or an ebook), but if you have photos or illustrations or tables, it's important to view the spreads as your readers will see them, to avoid graphic disasters.

I was copyeditor on my college newspaper in dreadful Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and often had to trim text to fit the page.

After college I was assistant editor of High Fidelity Trade News in Manhattan, and had to do the same thing.

Later I worked for advertising agencies and had to write to fit the available space (or available time for commercials). I couldn’t tell an ad client to spend thousands of dollars extra to buy an additional page or 30 more seconds to contain my precious words.

If my background was in writing fiction or web pages or reporting for NPR (with no limits of space or time) my book production style might have evolved differently.

There are many different types of workflow for writers. Writers whose words will be formatted by others may work very differently than diehard D-I-Yers like me. But, if your end-product is a book, consider making one from the very beginning.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Crackpot Sharron Angle didn't know how to write a book. AuthorHouse didn't know how to publish it.


Right-leaning Sharron Angle,
is one third of the Silly Sorority
 which includes Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann

Tilted-to-the-right Teabagger Sharron wanted to write a book. She was a Republican member of the Nevada Assembly from 1999 to 2007. She lost the race for the U.S. Senate to Ralph Reid in 2010, despite endorsements from the Teabaggers, paranoid/nasty radio talker Mark Levin, the Club for Growth, Pat Boone and Phyllis Schlafly. 

Joe The Plumber endorsed her, too.

According to Wikipedia, "Angle was criticized during the campaign for largely avoiding answering questions from the press, both local and national. In September, the Las Vegas Review-Journal sued her for copyright infringement after she allegedly posted entire articles from the publication on her campaign website without permission. After the campaign ended, it was revealed that the campaign developed a code word to alert office workers if the media entered the campaign headquarters: "It's time to water the plants."
  • Angle believes that the U.S. Department of Education is unconstitutional and should be eliminated.
  • She said that the U.S. should withdraw from the United Nations, saying it is a bastion of liberal ideology.
  • She believes that global warming is "fraudulent science."
  • Angle supports the Federal Marriage Amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
  • Angle opposes abortion, including in cases of rape or incest ('against God's plan')
  • Angle does not believe that the United States Constitution mandates the separation of church and state.
  • She voted against fluoridating drinking water.
  • Angle proposed a bill that would have required doctors to inform women seeking abortions about a controversial theory linking an increased risk of breast cancer with abortion. 
  • She sponsored a bill to remove the requirement that health insurers cover mammograms and colonoscopies. 
  • Angle said that the Social Security system should be "transitioned out".
  • Angle favors eliminating the complete Internal Revenue Service code and abolishing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
  • She favors widespread armament to defend the American population against the government and decried a shortage of bullets in gun stores. Congressman Jim Clyburn said that Sharron's endorsement of "Second Amendment remedies" in her losing campaign contributed to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
  • Crackpot Sharron even claimed that the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States through Canada.
Sharon may have been inspired by the financial success of her spiritual sister Sarah Palin. The moosemama's first book Going Rogue is ghost-written garbage (I own a copy) but still managed to become a New York Times #1 bestseller in its first week of release. Its publicity and sales were boosted by a very visible price war among booksellers when it first came out. Sarah's second book was a flop.

Sharron may have felt that her candidacy would be enhanced by publication of a memoir "about her life and values." (Where's my barf bag?)

It should be obvious that I think that Sharron Angle is a nut job, but I certainly believe she has the right to spew her wacky words at anyone who will listen to or read them.



However, it seems like no traditional publisher was willing to take a chance on Sharron and offer her a deal like Sarah got, (even Sarah's daughter's baby-daddy got a 'normal' book deal from Simon & Schuster).

So, Sharron decided to pay AuthorHouse to produce her book. AuthorHouse's publishing packages start at $599 and can cost up to $15,000.


Since Sharron's parents could not even spell "Sharon" correctly, I had little hope that their darling daughter would turn out a decent book.

My pessimism was justified.


The book has two introductions (by Mark Levin and Lee Cary, a writer for the American Thinker website). Normally, a book has one introduction, written by the author.
It's unusual for a book to have two introductions (and Sharron is certainly unusual).

However, the book's fatal flaw is that its foreword was written by Sharron, herself.


OK, Sharron is an ignoramus, and an inexperienced author, but someone at AuthorHouse should've known that the foreword is 
not supposed to be written by the author. It’s often written by someone who knows the author, or — even better — by someone famous.

In one of the introductions, Lee Cary says that the book was edited. Apparently Sharron's editor knows as little about books as do Sharron and her support staff at AuthorHouse. 
AuthorHouse boasts that it is "committed to providing the highest level of customer service in book publishing, AuthorHouse assigns each author a personal publishing consultant, who provides guidance throughout the self publishing process."

Sharron's consultant doesn't know enough about publishing.

Sharron's book, like others, shows that the Author Solutions people are incompetent, ignorant, uncaring or all three. The web has a great many complaints by authors about Author Solutions brands. Author Solutions is the target of a class action suit by authors. STAY AWAY.  

 

The Amazon sales rank for Sharron's book is in the toilet -- almost two million, and much worse than Baby Daddy Levi Johnston's book.

AuthorHouse has a lot to learn about publishing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When designing a book, don't let a flip . . . flop


In designing books, ads, websites and other graphic projects, it's common to do a left-right "flip" to make a picture or layout look better. Unfortunately, it is also common for photos to get accidentally flipped, and sometimes no one notices the flopped flip until publication -- when it's too late.

If you flip a photo, watch out for a text reversal in such things as name tags, keyboards, initial jewelry, clocks, wristwatches or signs or license plates in the background. Watch for reversed flags or logos. Make sure wedding rings are on the correct hand (usually the left in the U. S.)

Some products, even if made by hundreds of different manufacturers, have standard formats. Don’t reverse a telephone and end up with the handset on the right side instead of on the left, as shown above. On old televisions, knobs were almost always on the right.

Be careful if you flip a photo of a car or a truck. Remember which side the steering wheel is supposed to be on.



Sometimes a flag is supposed to be “backwards.” When the American flag is on the right side of an airplane (including Air Force One) or on the right sleeve of a uniform, the stars go on the right. This mimics the way the flag would fly from a mast on a moving ship or when carried into battle. A few years ago an irate reader of the New York Daily News complained about an allegedly reversed photo of a uniform-wearer -- but the letters editor did not know the proper response.



It’s important not to have a person or a vehicle looking or traveling “off the page.” It’s natural for the reader to follow the eyes of the person (or the headlights of the car), so don’t direct a reader’s eyes away from the page. If you are using stock photos or clip art, you can easily flip the photo to keep the readers’ eyes focused inward. Be careful of the effects on your flipping if you change pages from recto (right) to verso (left).



If you use a photo of a well-known person where the flipping would be noticeable (such as moving a pimple, wart, pierced eyelid, missing tooth, eye patch, tattoo or nose ring from the left to the right), rearrange the page so the eyes lead into some text instead of off the page. (I really wish that Cindy Crawford and Barack Obama would get rid of their zits.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Can a book have too much advance praise? YES!

Before a book is published it's common for "Advance Review Copies" to be distributed to famous people with the hope that they'll write short, complimentary "blurbs" that can help sell the book to ordinary people.

Sometimes blurbs are written by ordinary people. Part of the back cover of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (But Maybe Not Until They're Adults) is shown below.



Many blurbs are written for authors by other authors in corrupt "if you kiss my ass I'll kiss your ass" deals.

Blurbs are often labeled "Advance Praise for [title]" and printed on a book's back cover and first page, or pages. 


One or two pages are enough but some authors go much too far.

Michael Hyatt is an egomaniac I can't stand for several reasons. I bought -- but have not yet been motivated to read -- his Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy WorldThe book has four blurbs in tiny type on its back cover plus SIX FUCKING PAGES with 14 blurbs ahead of the title page.
  • If someone is not convinced to buy a book after reading three or four blurbs, will 14 do the job? Probably not.
I have mixed feelings about Shel Horowitz, author of Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers.

Shel's book has an appropriate three blurbs on the back cover (in an easy-to-read type size), plus three pages with a dozen blurbs ahead of the title page.

I like most of what Shel has to say but the blurbing bothers me. The book has a blurb from John Harnish, special products director at Infinity Publishing. Harnish praises Shel and says, "...selling more books is what successful marketing is all about..."

However, Harnish is in the business of selling Shel's books, because Infinity has co-published an edition. That’s a conflict of interest, and tacky.

Shel has mini-reviews in the back of his book, plugging books written by some of the blurbers who praise him in the front of his book. Tit-for-tat, even the appearance of tit-for-tat, is tacky.

Shel writes well and he seems to be an expert on book marketing. I don't doubt the truth of the endorsements of him or by him -- but his work is marred by the appearance of sleazy deal-making. Mutual ass-kissing may be frugal marketing but I don't think it's ethical, or effective.

Helen Gallagher wrote an ugly, sloppy, padded, inaccurate and poorly edited book titled Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!

A Five-Star review on Amazon says, "Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way offers fabulous, practical tips for writers. I had the opportunity to meet the author. She is a great advocate for fellow writers. This book is a 'must have' if you want to complete your writing project, launch it, and market your work."

The reviewer is Marguerite O'Connor. Marguerite is an author and funeral director and teaches bereavement counseling. Even more depressing than that is the fact that Marguerite's book received a Five-Star review from Helen.

Yes, they kissed each other's ass.


And by the way, Marguerite O'Connor is also the editor of Helen's poorly edited book. Helen is a decent writer, but from the evidence I've seen, Marguerite is a terrible editor. I hope she buries bodies better than she edits books. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Winnie the WHAT?

A kindergarten class was trying very hard to adjust to first grade. The biggest hurdle the kids faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk! "You need to use big people's words," she was always reminding them.

She asked John what he had done over the weekend. "I went to visit my nana," he told the class.

"No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use big people's words!"

She then asked Michelle what she had done.

"I took a ride on a choo-choo," Michelle answered.

She said. "No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use big people's words."

The teacher then asked little Alex what he had done? "I read a book," he replied. "That’s WONDERFUL!," the teacher responded. "What book did you read?"

Alex thought real hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride and said, "Winnie the Shit.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

WTF? Mighty Michael admits to being imperfect.



Readers of this blog have likely noticed (or been pissed off by) my frequent snarking about errors made by other publishers and writers.

Despite my snotty, know-it-all attitude, I readily admit to being human, and therefore both mortal and fallible. I therefore confess to three errors related to publishing.
  1. In 1976 I accused co-author Porter Bibb of bullshitting about the "baobab" tree (shown above). I thought he made it up, but the tree is real. Sorry, Porter.
  2. In my first book about publishing, I recommended using the prime and double prime to indicate feet and inches, and minutes and seconds. I illustrated that section with vertical ditto marks. I was wrong, and my later books show correctly slanted primes.
  3. In another book I reversed my description of British and American quote marks. A reviewer on Amazon caught the error and slammed me for it. I fixed it.
I've also made some errors not about publishing:
  1. I once used "prophesy" (pronounced like "prophesigh") as a verb, instead of prophesize.
  2. I twice pronounced kiosk as "ky-osk."
  3. I once pronounced acai as "ah-ky."
  4. When I was a little kid I pronounced synagogue as "sy-na-gog-you" the first time I saw it on a sign.
  5. Cynical cousin Dave doesn't like the way I pronounce "Saturn" or "buffet" -- but that's his opinion, not official errors.
Inconsistent spelling and improper punctuation should be fixed by editors. Wrong information should be corrected by fact checkers. Unfortunately, the rush to publish, limited budget and egomania ("I doan need no steenkin editor!") of many self-published authors lead to bad books. There are defective articles in magazines and newspapers. Many websites and blogs are very far from perfect, too. And so are some broadcasts. (Rachel Maddow sometimes exhibits terrible grammar, but I like her anyway.)



Time magazine has (or had) the most stringent fact-checking process in periodical publishing. Apparently, their checkers were expected to put a dot over each word in a manuscript to indicate that the word was checked, verified or changed. Their checkers are not perfect. The mag once spelled the last name of MAD's Alfred E. Neuman as "Newman." I'm very sensitive to this because my middle name is Neuman. I hated the name for many years.

Rival Newsweek had been notorious for printing "Newsweek regrets the error" at the end of the letters section. Newsweek is is now a website, not a magazine.

Esquire once paid me to write an article, and months later one of the mag's fact-checkers called ME to verify something in the article. If I was not trusted to write the piece, why was I trusted to verify it?

The New York Times publishes large sections of corrections.

Some of my favorite errors:
  • The February 2009 issue of Automobile magazine told readers that Thomas Edison said, "Mr. Watson, come here." Actually, Edison was the guy with the light bulb, moving pictures, phonograph and concrete houses. Alex G. Bell was the one who spoke to Watson on the first telephone.
  • In the 1980s, a reporter for WCBS TV news used the Spanish phrase "mano a mano" to mean "man-to-man." It really means "hand-to-hand." This is a common error.
  • Every November, without fail, at least one talking head on TV will refer to the "Macy's Day Parade." The name of the holiday is Thanksgivings Day, and the event in Manhattan is the "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," you idiots!
  • Another common New York broadcast blooper, at least for beginning broadcasters, is "Port of Authority." The real name of the organization is the "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey."
  • Brent Sampson is the boss of Outskirts Press and author of a promotional book titled Self Publishing Simplified. Brent wrote, "Peter Mark first published the Thesaurus in 1852," strangely ignoring the much more famous Peter Roget who published his Thesaurus in the same year. Actually Mark was the middle name of Peter Mark Roget, so Brent was two thirds right.
  • Orange County Choppers: The Tale of the Teutuls by Keith & Kent Zimmerman has silly geography errors. It's disturbing that three Teutuls plus two Zimmermans plus fact checkers and editors at Warner Books could let obvious errors get printed. On page 11, Paul Senior talks about his parents charging people to park in their driveway on Cooper Street in Yonkers, to watch horse races in Yonkers Raceway or baseball games in Yankee stadium, which were within "walking distance." While the track is just a few blocks away, the stadium is about 8.5 miles south. The 17 mile round trip is not "walking distance" for most people. Twice on page 15, Senior mentions his house in "Muncie," New York. Muncie is in Indiana. The Teutuls lived in MONSEY (which is pronounced like Muncie).
  • In Against the Odds. Inter-Tel: the First 30 Years, author Jeffrey L. Rodengen claims that in the early 1970s, "there were no domestic phone system manufacturers except AT&T. He inexplicably ignores GTE, Stromberg-Carlson, ITT, Northern Telecom and Rolm. Jeff also misspells company names and seems to confuse intercom systems with phone systems.
  • In Desperate Networks by Bill Carter, an otherwise excellent book, there is this strange sentence on page 366: "What do expect for this?" What the heck does that mean? I'm only an amateur, but I found this and other flubs in the book. Where are the pros who get paid to find and fix them?
  • In So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter, another book I liked very much, there's also some silly stuff. On page 237 it says, ". . . and did whatever the man in the headsets shouted at them to do." I've been using and selling headsets for years. I've even designed a few. But in all my experience, I've never seen a man who wore more than one headset at a time. Most men have two ears, and one headset will take care of both them just fine.
  • Steve Vogel's The Pentagon, a History is an extremely good book and I recommend it highly. Alas, it, too, has imperfections. On page 302 Steve describes a 1,000-foot-long vehicular tunnel illuminated by rows of neon lights. Neon lights are used for signs. I'd bet $20 that the tunnel was really illuminated by fluorescent lights. On page 276 Steve says the original Pentagon phone system had "68,600 miles of trunk lines." I'd bet $100 that's not true.
  • Joshua Levine's The Rise and Fall of the House of Barneys is a very interesting retail history that details the destruction of a once-powerful institution by the dysfunctional family members who followed its founder. (At least it's very interesting to me, and I read a lot of retail histories.) On page 147 we are told that "inventory shortage is the term applied to discrepancies between the inventory recorded as sold and the actual depletion of stock on hand." The proper term is "shrinkage," not "shortage." Retailers know this, and so should writers and editors doing a book about retailing. On page 186, Joshua mentions "people called factors," who advance payments to stores based on accounts receivable. It's possible that hundreds of years ago factors were individual people, but during the Barneys era, factors have been companies. On page 244, Joshua tells us that Fred Pressman "didn't have the kichas for it . . . a Yiddish expression for intestinal fortitude." The proper term is kishkes. This error is unforgivable for a writer with a name like "Joshua Levine." The word originally meant "intestines," and is now slang for "guts."
  • In Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!,  Helen Gallagher says, "Expert editing is a requirement." Sadly, Helen calls Stephen King, "Steven" and falsely claims that Amazon.com owns printer Lightning Source. 
  • In a Wall Street Journal article published on April 2, 2008, Amy Schatz wrote, "The Carterfone rule required traditional wireline phone companies such as AT&T to allow consumers to use any phone they wanted in their homes, instead of renting or buying a phone from their local carrier." The Carterfone decision was in 1968, but at that time the phone companies were renting, not selling phones to their customers. Sales did not come until much later, probably in the 1980s, as a defensive reaction by telephone utilities to retailers who were selling phones that could now be legally plugged in. Some smaller phone companies may have sold some equipment earlier, but not AT&T's Bell System, and the Carterfone decision did not permit massive private phone ownership. That was enabled by a Supreme Court decision in 1977. And even then, people could not "use any phone they wanted." Phones had to meet FCC standards or be connected behind a protective coupling device.
  • Back on December 12, 1988, the New York Times published an article by Calvin Sims about the aftermath of the 1984 Bell System breakup. Sims wrote, "consumers have to decide whether to buy their telephones or rent them in a market where dozens of telephone manufacturers offer equipment of varying quality." While that statement was true, it had absolutely nothing to do with the demise of the Bell System. As I stated above, freedom of choice goes back to 1977. Calvin also wrote, "Consumers must choose among the nation's three long-distance carriers -- American Telephone and Telegraph, MCI Communications, and U S Sprint." While those three companies had captured the majority of the long distance calling business, there were dozens of other regional, national, and international competitors, including ITT, Metromedia, RCI, TDX and Allnet. And if consumers did not want to make a choice, a long distance carrier could be assigned arbitrarily by the local phone company. Also, long distance competition existed as far back as 1970, long before the Bell breakup.
  • Years ago, the New York Daily News reported on a teenage fashion trend: "wearing pumice." In reality, high school kids were not wearing lumps of volcanic rock that are normally used as an abrasive to remove calluses from feet. They were wearing Pumas, a brand of sneakers.
  • The Essential Guide to Telecommunications by Annabel Z. Dodd does a pretty good job covering the subject, but has some silly errors. On page 40 she says, "Rotary telephones, called 500 sets, were introduced in 1896." Actually the 500 model designation was not used until after World War II. Before that were the 300, 200 and others.
  • In a review of "Grease" in one of New York City's tabloids, the writer explained that the title refers to the lubricants used in teenage boys' hotrods. Actually, it referred to the grease in their hair. (When I was in high school, those kids were called "greasers" -- or "hoods" or "JDs" (juvenile delinquents).
  • Sadly, I can't give you a citation, but I read an interview where someone was quoted as saying "chalk full" of something instead of "chock full." I've also read "chuck full."
  • Google shows more than 600,000 links for "anchors away." The correct term is "anchors aweigh."
IMPORTANT: If you feel the urge to make a correction, be sure you are correct. On an early job working for a magazine, I wrote something about trading-in an aging model A Ford for a new model T, and submitted my manuscript to my boss, the editor. The editor told the publisher that I made a serious error because the Model A came out after the Model T. He was wrong. What I knew, and what the editor didn’t know, was that there were two Model A Ford cars. One was first built in 1903, before the Model T, which was produced from 1908 through 1927. Another Model A was first built in 1927, after the Model T was discontinued. So, there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Americans can get confused writing for Canadians, unless they write in French

 The dual influence of British and American spelling on Canadian English can make life difficult for Canadian writers, and even worse for Americans writing for Canadian readers.

Canadians use standard British spelling for certain words (axe, cheque), and use American spelling for others (connection and tire, not connexion and tyre), and will use either version for other words (programme and program, labour and labor, neighbour and neighbor).

It's important to be consistent so you don't look silly and confuse your readers.

Set up your own style manual (just a list, really), and stick to it. Don't mix "neighbour" with "labor," for example. Choose one pattern or the other and don't vary.

A Canadian dictionary might help, too (is there such a thing?). Word processor spell-checkers (chequers?) may not be much help. My MS Word rejects Brit spelling, and there doesn't seem to be a Canadian or British "language pack" available.

I could tell my PC to accept "programme" and "neighbour," but that would not make it reject "program" and "neighbor." To be safe, I'd probably have to search for all of the offending Americanisms and change them.

Or, I can just keep writing in American and not worry about the smaller countries that speak sort-of the same language. I don't freak out when I encounter British spelling. "Programme" is not as disconcerting as having to convert pounds and shillings.

(Thanks to Dorothy Turner for her work published by the University of Ottawa)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Vanity publishing, non-vanity publishing and vanity

For many years there have been ads in magazines aimed at writers with headlines like “For the writer in search of a publisher," “We want to read your book,” “Manuscripts wanted” and “Authors wanted.” The ads and affiliated websites promise to enable you to become a “published author.”

The ads are not from traditional publishers or from literary agents, but from companies that use the author’s money to produce, promote and distribute the books.

Until recently, those companies received little respect and much derision. They often called themselves "subsidy publishers" and others often cynically called them "vanity publishers."

Both terms have largely disappeared, having been replaced by the somewhat inaccurate "self-publishing company." (I spent a year arguing that the term made no sense, but I gave up. I more quickly learned not to pee into the wind or to argue with cops.)

Behemoth pay-to-publish company Author Solutions perverts the English language in another way, calling itself "A World Leader in Indie Publishing." If your book is published by any of its growing number of brands, you are not "indie."

There is only one customer a self-publishing company or mislabeled indie publisher is interested in selling to — the author/customer. A "non-vanity publisher," whether a one-person self-publisher or a giant like Random House, hopes to sell books to thousands or millions of readers. Companies like Random House don’t have to advertise to attract writers and receive manuscripts.

The word “vanity” implies excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements and appeal. Vanity has been considered a sin. It can lead to wasted resources and wasted lives.
  • Vanity can also lead to useful activities and important accomplishments.
  • Most or all artistic people have some degree of vanity, or they would not produce or perform.
Most people seem to like themselves. There are gradations in vanity, ranging from justified confidence to outrageous, obnoxious egomania.


In You’re So Vain, Carly Simon wrote and sang possibly about Mick Jagger: “You walked into the party… You had one eye on the mirror… And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner… You're so vain you probably think this song is about you.”

(from Wikipedia)
In November 2015, Simon, promoting her about-to-be-published memoir, said, "I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren (Beatty)," and added that while "Warren thinks the whole thing is about him," he is the subject only of that verse, with the remainder of the song referring to two other, still-unnamed men.


Although not always true (and less true now in 2016 than way back in 2005), a book published by a self-publishing company is often assumed to have been rejected as unworthy of publication by traditional publishers.

Here’s another way of looking at vanity and publishing: Maybe the most vain writers are those who will delay publication for years or decades in hope of getting accepted by a traditional publisher instead of quickly self-publishing, reaching the public and maybe making some money.

Monday, April 18, 2016

This stupid book about stupidity is also very strange


Initially I thought that the following book promotion by author Robert E. Millikin was an effort at parody. Sadly, it seems to be serious.

For thirty years, I had wrestled with the bible prophecy that in the end times the majority of the people will take the mark of the beast when it would be stupid to do so.

Then in April 2009 at three thirty in the morning it finally accurd to me why they do it, and it is because that is exactly what they are, stupid.

In my book Stupid In Montana As America at amazon.com, I summarized that as the Global population of the human enterprise increases, people will get dumber and less concerned with a lower level of awareness, which is progressive math.

At the beginning of this year, I stated to maltible people that the Global Population would increase by one hundred million by the end of August and at that time we were at six billion eight hundred, eighty nine million and some change with an increase of approximately ten people every five seconds. A pretty good guess considering I missed the mark by only two weeks.

Right now, we are at six billion nine hundred, ninety two million and some change with an increase of approximately ten people every four seconds. We will have grown by one hundred million in eight months and two weeks.

Now, using this progressive math in consideration that math is the most exact science we know of, in consistency with the math of the decreasing level of intelligence and concern

I am formulating that by the year twenty fourteen or maybe twenty thirteen we will see the appearance of the one the prophet John called the Anti Christ. In addition he will begin what I think will be the processing of the people on a Global scale and by the year twenty twenty we will experience world wide mass extinction.

Math does not lie, and with this math I am calculating that the conditions for the end times of which the Prophet John spoke of, will be ripe.

So overall, I am summarizing that for those people who have a large family of say four or more small children living at this time in the human experience are on the same intellectual level as a bunny rabbit, very unaware of the Population Monster which is looming over us all.

Even the Dalai Lama stated, that every life is precious, but quality is better than quantity.

So my message is, have a brain and do not breed like rodents.

He also tells prospective readers: "Robert E. Milliken is an avid fisherman and long time resident of Montana studying in literature, who became sick and tired of the stupid crises, which is plaguing our Nation the USA at epidemic levels. So he began to write the book STUPID IN MONTANA AS AMERICA unknowing at the time he was writing a book, but as the pages grew in numbers and he could not stop, it became one. Probably due to the fact that theirs so much stupid in the world he had a lot to write about, and enough to make an hilarious and highly entertaining book of which has been getting numerous great reviews."

Virtually everything about the book and its promotion is either inept or wacky.
  • The book's online description is barely English: 
  • I don't understand the book's title.
  • The publisher (Outskirts) has a terrible reputation.
  • The hardcover edition is grossly overpriced, at $23.95 for a short 151-page book by an unknown author.
  • At $7.99, the ebook is overpriced, too. So is the paperback.
  • The spelling errors are unforgivable for an author (e.g., "accurd").
  • Sentence structure is pathetic (e.g., "of which the Prophet John spoke of").
  • Uppercasing is inconsistent (e.g., "population" and "Population").
  • Numbers that should be expressed with figures are spelled out.
  • What the hell are "maltible people?"
  • What evidence is there that the world's population is getting stupider, or that families with four or more children are as dumb as bunnies? 
  • One of the Amazon reviews was written by the author: "It's a good book, and funny." He kissed his own ass.
Other review are prime examples of stupidity (or at least severe carelessness):

"
Rob has put into ward what most of us just aren't brave enough to say out loud. This very funny and defiantly true excursively into the human psyche is a must read."

"This book is an awesome read as Milliken is a great writer with a cunning sense of hummer which I thoroughly enjoyed. Also he has taped into a much needed topic as he weaves hes way in and threw out the stupid crises which is a huge problem in our great nation at epidemic levels."

I could not resist. I spent $7.99 so I could examine the book.
  • The first sentence in the first chapter says: "I may have a deferent different view point than of the local’s who live there." I've read a great many books, but I can't recall any short sequence of words with as many errors as this one.
  • There are abundant errors later on, such as "bit" for "bitten" and this garbage: "Fme fishing and hunting are my two faveretfavorite things to do, but I gotta tell yayou, that theirsthere are more and more people doing it."
Sadly, this book about stupidity is a great example of stupidity. It is really stupid to publish an unedited book. The author has some important things to say, but the impact is severely limited by the unprofessional presentation.

This is additional evidence (which is probably not needed) that Outskirts Press has NO STANDARDS, NO CONSCIENCE and NO PRIDE. As long as the company gets paid, it will publish anything.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Today is my 70th birthday. Am I old yet?



I used to say that middle age lasts until they shovel dirt onto you. I can still say that, but with a bit less conviction. I do everything with a bit less conviction. Especially climbing stairs.

Last summer I went to a doc with an office sign that said "geriatric and adult care." I asked the receptionist how old one has to be to be considered geriatric. She said 50. Ouch.

I don't "feel old." But maybe that's because lots of my body parts have no feelings at all.


I certainly don't "think old." I have a 14-year-old brain imprisoned in a 70-year-old body. Maturity is overrated, and if I have not yet achieved it, I probably never will. My next stage of emotional development will likely be senility.

For most of her 90-plus years my mother was an active and brilliant lady. At the end she had terrible Alzheimer's. She didn't recognize her children, didn't read, speak or stand. She ate and slept. That's not much of a life.

At Mom's 90th birthday party her long-time physician and friend said that medical science can keep a body functioning long after the mind stops, but what's the point?

I had previously predicted that
I'd die in 2035, at the "ripe old age" of 89. Now I wonder if I should revise my plan.

Within the past eight months I've been hospitalized twice. I've been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. My diabetes attacked a nerve that controls one of my eyes. I wear an eye patch to eliminate double vision. I have no feeling from the soles of my feet to half way up to my knees. The combination of loss of vision and loss of feeling makes walking wobbly, so I sometime use a cane. On different days different knees hurt. My hands hurt 97% of the time. My left foot, which theoretically has no feeling, often hurts a lot.

I've cut back on pizza consumption to twice a month, and ice cream to twice a week. I can spell the word "exercise."

Typing is tough because I often tap the wrong keys and forget and substitute words.

Within the past month or so a bunch of famous people died while in their 60s and 70s. That's scary.


Later today I'll drive to Firestone to get new brakes. The better brakes have a lifetime warranty. How long is that?

I'm going to have a surprise birthday party on Sunday. The party is not a surprise, but the birthday is. I thought I would've been killed before now by an overdose of brownies or by someone I pissed off.

I still enjoy life and will still do almost anything for a joke. I have no idea how much time I have left. I've started to dispose of my collections and acquire less, and cross items off my bucket list.

Today I will taste my first cup of coffee. I will probably never go to bed with a prostitute, bungee-jump from the George Washington Bridge nor give a bronsky to Sofia Vergara.



Maybe it's best to not empty my bucket list. It gives me something to look forward to just in case I get a second chance.



Thursday, April 14, 2016

Writers: tax day is coming. Take advantage of your special advantages.


It's now April 14th. This year Tax Day in the USA will be 'celebrated' on April 18th.  It's getting closer every second. 

What you do today -- and every day -- will affect what you pay and what you keep in the spring.

There's a lot to misunderstand about income taxes. However, my birthday is April 15th, so I am particularly qualified to give tax advice. I don't know everything, however. If you need help in setting up bank accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, ask Mitt Romney.

Years ago, when I lived in New York City, I had a simple formula that worked very well (i.e., no audits ever, and refunds every year):
  1. No more than 10% for the feds.
  2. No more than 5% for the state.
  3. No more than 1% for the city.
For 12 years I've been in Connecticut. There are no city taxes, but life is more complicated. I pay my accountant about $700 for a few hours work necessary to produce my annual business and personal federal and state returns. After much scientific number crunching, he still comes up approximately with the same percentages I established 40 years ago.

I'll pass on a tip for a deduction I developed while working as an advertising copywriter and have continued to use as a webmaster, writer and publisher.

EVERY piece of media you consume, and equipment and services used with the media, should be deducted in the range of 25% to 100%.

Deduct movies, CDs, games, concerts, artwork, vacations, MP3 players, big TVs, little TVs, books, magazines, newspapers, smart phone, computers, tablets, ebook readers, software, Internet service, museum visits... all that stuff that helps you stay aware of trends in culture.


Years ago my father owned a chain of clothing stores. He once considered deducting his subscription to Playboy (which did provide news and advice about men's fashions among the airbrushed large-breasted babes). Alas, he was afraid to list a skin mag on his tax return, so he sent too much money to the IRS.  I have no such reluctance -- and may have bigger cojones.


With proper classifications, you can probably get Uncle Sam to subsidize porn, booze and hallucinogens.

Here's some more advice of uncertain value:
  1. A successful small business is one that breaks even each year, with a slightly higher gross income.
  2. Big profits are nice if you're trying to sell the business, but not when you're filing your income tax return.
  3. Write about stuff you like, whether it's wine, sports cars, clothes, travel, cameras, horse racing or sex. Then you can deduct everything you spend on fun -- if you classify it as "research."
  4. There's almost nothing that's too crappy to donate to Goodwill Industries or the Salvation Army and claim an appropriate deduction for. Bill Clinton was criticized for claiming a deduction for donating used underwear. I'm not the president and don't care what Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh will say about me. I lost a lot of weight a few years ago, and I donated lots of oversized underwear. Washed, of course.
  5. If you are bad about saving money for a rainy day, it’s tempting to let Uncle Sam save money for you. I did that for years, and even earned interest on the money that was due me. Now there is a limit to how long you can let your money sit in Fort Knox (or wherever they keep the surplus) and the IRS may assess a penalty just for filing late, even if you don't owe anything, so check with a pro. Also: your state tax people may be tougher than the IRS.
I am not a professional tax adviser  I'm more of a professional wiseass (who usually gets away with his wiseassing).

I put a lot of what I've learned into an ebook. It can save you many times its low cost. 

Writers Can Get Away With Apparently Absurd Tax Deductions That Ordinary People Can't

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

It's time to abolish the term "published author."
It's easier to become a published author than a Cub Scout.


A great many years ago I was a Cub Scout. I have four memories of scouting:

(1) At one meeting some of us stood behind cardboard 'rocks' and held up a flag to re-enact the Iwo Jima flag-raising scene.

(2) At another meeting my father won a prize for bending some pipe cleaners into a horse and cart.

(3) As part of a fundraising project three of us went door-to-door trying to earn money. The kid in charge would ring bells and ask "Do you have any chores to do?" He should have asked if there were any chores that WE could do for money. This sinful sentence was spoken more than 60 years ago but so hurt my ears that I have not forgotten the sin nor forgiven the sinner.

(4) The lowest rank in Cub Scouting is Bobcat. Every Cub starts as a Bobcat. You can't be a Cub Scout and not be at least a Bobcat. A Bobcat is lower than a Wolf or a Bear. A Bobcat doesn't have to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, build a crystal radio, bandage a wound, walk on snowshoes or help an old lady cross the street. To be a Bobcat a kid has to learn and say the Cub Scout motto, promise and the Law of the Pack -- and tell what they mean; show the Cub Scout sign, salute and handshake -- and tell what they mean; and show that he understands and believes that it is important to be honest and trustworthy.

Since those requirements were so basic, (if I remember correctly) we were not allowed to wear our Bobcat pins on our spiffy new uniforms.

I thought of that recently when I was reading an introduction from a new member of an online group for authors.

The newbie said, "I am a published author."

I wanted to say, "BIG FUCKING DEAL!"


At one time being a published author implied that either:
  • A person wrote something so important or wonderful that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is so famous (like Levi Johnston, the almost-son-in-law of Sarah Palin) that a publisher paid to publish the book.
  • A person is egotistical and wealthy enough to pay thousands of dollars to a vanity press to publish the book.
Today, it takes almost no skill, time or money to become a published author.
  • If you can click a keyboard and move a mouse, you can be a published author.
  • The cost can be ZERO.
  • You don't have to impress anyone.
  • You can be a terrible writer and still be a published author.
  • It doesn't matter if nobody reads your book.
  • It's easier to become an author than to become a Bobcat.
  • You don't even have to learn to salute or promise to follow Akela.
Since it is so easy to become a published author, it means nothing to say you are one.



(By the way, it means almost nothing to say you're a bestselling author -- but I'm one.)





Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I learned two important reasons to not use 'funny' spelling in a title


Most people who know me (except for those who hate me) probably think I'm a pretty funny guy.

Some people have occasionally described my humor as sick, tasteless or black humor. That’s because I can find humor almost anywhere and anytime -- and that can make people uncomfortable.

I designed and wore the shirt shown up above when I went to the hospital to be treated for a kidney stone. It made people laugh and laughter is the best medicine. Most people are too serious most of the time b
ut I’m frequently able to find humor when others can’t, like when I'm awaiting surgery.

Authors and publishers I've criticized in this blog may not have laughed at what I wrote about them. Too bad for them.

As it says up above, "
If you present work to the public, you may be criticized. If your feelings get hurt easily, keep your work private. When you seek praise, you risk derision. Either produce pro-quality work by yourself or get help from qualified professionals."

Some literary critics use sophisticated scholastic analysis in their book reviews. I prefer to go for laughs. A few victims and observers of my criticism say I should be nicer. If you want nice, buy a puppy; don't write or publish crappy books.

Sometimes humor can backfire and hurt the joker. I recently contemplated that possibility and slightly changed the titles and covers of two books. My efforts at humor could limit my books' sales and my income, so I decided that it would be better for me to be more serious than I had planned. 

Both titles had intentional spelling errors. I initially assumed that every potential reader would realize that. But maybe they won't. Maybe some super-serious (or stupid?) people would think I accidentally made the errors and didn't catch them and fix them.
  • Maybe some people would think I'm guilty of the same shortcomings that I criticize in others. (Heaven forbid!)
  • Another reason to not have deliberate misspellings in a book's title is that search engines like Google don't understand jokes (at least, not yet). They will index the misspelled term, and anyone looking for links to the properly spelled phrase will not find my books. That's not good.
Old and New, #1
Old and New, #2

And the real books

Of course, just because I made these books more serious doesn't mean that I'll stop laughing, even at myself.