Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When you start a publishing company, give it an appropriate name

 Shakespeare's Juliet told Romeo, "That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet." Don't give your publishing company a name that stinks.

There are many ways to "self-publish" a book. Most self-publishing authors use the services of a "self-publishing company" (I no longer argue about the inappropriateness of the term). Some self-pub purists glue their books together on their kitchen tables and then sell them to customers, or sell ebooks from their own websites. Others, like me, concentrate on writing and marketing and use other people for editing, cover design and sales.

Despite the growing acceptance of self-publishing, there is still some prejudice among readers and reviewers. If I see that a book carries the logo of PublishAmerica, Xlibris or Outskirts Press, I assume -- rightly or wrongly -- that the book is crap. (Some self-publishing companies allow authors to have their own companies' names and logos on the books they produce.)

You can probably have a better book and get a better reception, and maybe publish faster and maybe make more money if you form your own small publishing company. It's not difficult. I wrote a book to explain the process.

Every business, including every publishing business, needs a name.

Fortune 500 companies often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months to develop names for household products, cars and websites. It's possible to do it in less time and at little or no cost, but be careful.

Here are some tips:

(1) Pick a name that sounds substantial. If your name is Joe Smith, don't use "Joe's Book Company." "Smith Publishing" sounds a little bit better, but I recommend not using you own name in the company name. When you write a letter on your new letterhead, it's better if the name in the logo at the top is not the same as the name in the signature on the bottom. Let people at least think that there might be more than one person on your staff.

Obviously not a big company

Too small to have a name?
(2) Don't use a name that's too limiting. You may think you'll publish books only about car repair, ballet or vegetable-growing, but a too-specific name will hurt your chances to expand if you change your mind later. It may be tough to market a sci-fi book if your company name is "Ballerina Books" and your logo is a tutu or ballet slippers.

(3) Don't pick a name that's already in use. You probably don't have to pay a lawyer to do a trademark search, but at least do a web search with several search engines, and check Writer's Market to make sure that no other publisher is already using your proposed name.

It's not a good idea to grab the name
of another company in a similar field.
(4) Don't pick a name that sounds like another publisher. Calling your new company "Random Home" or "Random Books" will invite a lawsuit from Random House. I don't know if Esquire Publications (above) has been sued by Esquire Magazine. Be cautious about using the name of another company even in an unrelated field. Although Cadillac pet food and Cadillac cars coexisted for years, the Toyota Motor Company sued the company that intended to market Toyota recording tape. You could go broke defending a lawsuit.

(5) Pick a name that works with a logo. It could be an actual photo or drawing, or just interesting typography. It's nice to have more than a name to put on your books, business cards, letterhead and website.

(6) Unless your specialty is grunge or mayhem. Try for a name that sounds pleasant. I named my company "Silver Sands Books," after a local beach.

(7) Try for a short name. It will be tough to fit "Xylophone Publications Internationale of Philadelphia" on the spine of a thin book. Also, the longer a name is, the more likely it is to be spelled wrong in emails and web searches.

(8) Register the name in the local municipal office that registers names, often the town clerk's office. You will get an “assumed name” certificate or a DBA (Doing Business As) certificate. Even if you are not incorporating as "ABC Books, Inc." you should get a legal document to prove that you have the right to use the "ABC Books" name. You'll need that paper to open a bank account in your new business name. You should also consider registering your business name and logo as a trademark with the Feds. Ask an attorney about it.

(9) Start using the name. Even if your first book is six months away, establish a website immediately to announce your planned books and talk about your company. Send out a press release to announce the new business. Order business cards. These simple and inexpensive activities will help establish "prior use" if another company later wants to grab your name. Within a few weeks of registering your name, you'll probably start to receive letters from local insurance companies and accountants and the Chamber of Commerce who pay your local government to receive lists of new businesses. Even if you have no plans to use their services, the letters addressed to your business may help to establish legitimacy later on.

(10) Get a business-like email address. "JohnSmith@ABCbooks.com" is more impressive than "js38647252@aol.com."

(11) For your website and email address, avoid hyphenations and top-level domains other than "dot com." The more unusual your company name is, the more likely you are to get a dot com web address.

(Cadillac photo from http://andreadisaster.com/. Thanks.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How does God publish?

Hmm -- another author with a beard

The God of the Old Testament did some terrible things -- smiting, plaguing, flooding, destroying cities with fire and brimstone, converting a woman into a pillar of salt, and more. 

God also did a lot of good. I'm glad He (or She or It) created sunshine and water and lobsters, clams, tomatoes and friendly, furry animals. I'm not so happy about asparagus, broccoli, rats, mosquitoes and flies.

In Jewish tradition, the book of life is opened on Rosh Hashanah (which started at sundown on October 2), when God begins an annual evaluation of everyone. Those who will be allowed to live stay in the book of life. Others are deleted.

In the time of the Old Testament (many Jewish people prefer to call it The Bible) God presumably wrote on a roll-up scroll, or maybe a stack of stone tablets.

Today the Book of Life might be a PC with a multi-terabyte hard drive and a delete key.

Or, maybe God uses a customized iPad with huge solid-state memory.

It seems like God was the first self-publisher, and is now the oldest. 
I'll accept this as an almighty endorsement of self-publishing.

My name is an old Hebrew name. It means "who is like God." If 
I publish what I write maybe I'm even more like God than I thought. [Yes, I know that my name could be a question, but today's blog post works better if I ignore that possibility.] 

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (ending at sundown todayare known as the Days of Awe and also the Days of Repentance. This is a time to consider the sins of the previous year and to repent. It can't hurt for non-Jews to try it, too. You can also repent in February or August, or on every day. Off-season repentance may not buy you another year, but maybe it will help a bit.

The the operating procedure for the book of life is ambiguous (as are many aspects of religion).

God is sometimes said to have two "books" -- a book of life and a book of death, and He/She/It records who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. It is said that these books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter God's decree. The actions that change the decree are repentance, prayer and good deeds (usually charity). The two "books" are sealed on Yom Kippur.

A common greeting at this time of year is L'shanah Tovah ("for a good year"). This is a shortening of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

At this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the previous year. 

So, if I pissed you off during 5776, I'm sorry. I hope I won't be deleted. 
I'll probably piss others off during 5777. It's my way of life.

Image at the top is from danielrevelationbiblestudies

Monday, October 10, 2016

Try writing a book, not just a stream 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 for a pbook (Printed on Paper book), such as 350 pages and $15.95. Each piece of paper costs me money. 
  • Even though ebooks don't require an investment in paper, the production cost increases as the book size increases, and you may have an added selling cost (i.e. lower profit per book) if your book file exceeds a certain size.
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, stretched or shifted, and when illustrations should be enlarged, reduced or moved around. [Pages shown are from my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), available as ebook, hardcover and paperback. You'll find lots of funny stories and a few murders.]

With pbooks 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, but I know how to write to fit.

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Some non-Trump tax advice for writers

I know it's still early October and April 15th, 2017 is far, far away. 

But what you do today -- and every day -- will affect what you pay and what you keep next 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.

You can rely on me. Unlike Donald Trump I have never lost a billion bucks in one year. None of my businesses have gone bankrupt, or been sued by the Feds.

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 15 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 should be deducted in the range of 25% to 100%. Deduct movies, CDs, games, concerts, artwork, vacations, MP3 players, big TVs, books, magazines, newspapers, iPad, smart phone, 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

Monday, October 3, 2016

What year is this for Jews, Chinese and Muslims? (Also: the Jewish vuvuzela, Sadie Hawkins Day and Chinese food)

Jewish people are celebrating New Year's Day, "Rosh Hashanah" in Hebrew. (The o is long and the a's are short so its vowel sounds rhyme with "bo hahaha." 

"Rosh Hashanah" is a transliteration of the Hebrew words meaning "Head (of) The Year." "Rosh" means "head," "Ha" means "the" and "Shanah" means "year." "Of" is understood, so it doesn't have to be written.

As with most languages, Hebrew has varying pronunciations. Some pronounce the "Rosh" as "rawsh." A less-formal (and perhaps more Yiddish-like) pronunciation of "Rosh Hashanah" is Rusha (like Limbaugh) shunnah (like shunner).

Hebrew and Arabic are similar Semitic languages. The Hebrew "shalom" (which is used for "hello," "goodbye" and "peace") is "salaam" in Arabic. The Islamic New Year's Day is "Ras as-Sanah" and began in the evening of Saturday, October 1. That's when the year 1438 began.

The picture up above shows a "shofar." It's a ram's horn used to make toots and squeaks to celebrate the Jewish new year. It's kind of a Jewish vuvuzela. Some shofar humor is here and here.

The common New Year's greeting is "Shanah Tovah." (It rhymes with blah-blah nova.) There are longer greetings, too.
  • In Hebrew the word for "she" is pronounced like "he" and the word for "he" is pronounced like "who." The word for "who" is pronounced like "me." The word for "fish" is pronounced kind of like "dog." (And you thought English was confusing?) My first name in Hebrew is "Mee-cha-ail." means "who is like God." I'm not sure if it's a question or a comparison. Maybe my parents chose the name because they thought I was divine prenatally.
Today is the first day of the Jewish year 5777. Like every other day, it's also the first day of the rest of your life, and my life. In the Jewish calendar, "days" (and holidays) start at sundown -- not a microsecond after midnight.

Adapted from jewfaq.org: The Jewish calendar is based on three astronomical phenomena: the rotation of the Earth around its axis (a day); the revolution of the moon around the Earth (a month); and the revolution of the Earth around the sun (a year). These three phenomena are independent of each other, so they have no direct correlation. On average, the moon revolves around the Earth in about 29½ days. The Earth revolves around the sun in about 365¼ days -- about 12.4 lunar months.

In the Jewish calendar, months have either 29 or 30 days, corresponding to the 29½-day lunar cycle. Years have either 12 or 13 months, corresponding to the 12.4 month solar cycle -- which creates a problem.

A 12-month lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than a solar year and a 13-month lunar year is about 19 days longer than a solar year. The months drift around the seasons on such a calendar. To compensate for this drift, the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra month occasionally added.

Instead of the February 29th Leap Day (also known as Sadie Hawkins Day, when women are allowed to propose marriage to men) the Jewish calendar can have a leap month.
  • Jewish holidays that have fixed dates in the Jewish calendar have changing dates in the western "Gregorian" calendar. Most western Christian holidays, like Christmas, have fixed Gregorian dates. Easter, on the other hand, moves around. Supposedly Jesus's "last supper" was a Passover seder. Passover and Easter are usually close. Christmas and Chanukah (often inaccurately called the "Jewish Christmas") may be very close together, or weeks apart.
The year number on the Jewish calendar represents the number of years since creation, calculated by adding up the ages of people in the Bible, back to the beginning. This does not necessarily mean that the universe has existed for fewer than 6,000 years of about 365 days each. Even religious people readily acknowledge that the first six "days" of creation are not necessarily 24-hour days. A 24-hour day would be meaningless until the creation of the sun on the fourth "day."

There is no universally agreed upon starting point for the Chinese calendar. Tradition holds that the calendar was invented by Emperor Huang-di in the 61st year of his reign in what is now known under the Gregorian calendar as 2637 BCE. Many people have used this date as the first year of the first 60-year cycle of the Chinese calendar, but others use the date of the beginning of his reign in 2697 BCE as the start. Chinese Americans use 2698 BCE as the basis for numbering the years. Some Chinese people are 60 years ahead (or behind) others.

Adapted from chinese.new-year.co.uk: The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the 12 years after an animal. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all of the animals to come to him before he departed from Earth. Only 12 came, and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality.

The Chinese calendar provides leap months, like the Jewish calendar. Jews and Chinese have much in common -- emphasis on family, education, entrepreneurship and love of Chinese food. During World War II, some Jewish refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe found safety in China. Shanghai Ghetto is a great movie about that period.
  • So, if according to the Jewish calendar, the year is 5777, and according to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4713, what did Jewish people eat during the 1064 years (the dark ages) until Chinese restaurants appeared?
Happy New Year!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Books and sins

I've always had a strong (and maybe strange) reverence for books. Maybe it comes from my parents, who were avid readers. As a Jew, I am part of "the people of the book." When I was in college I sometimes spent food money on books. I was still building bookshelves two weeks before I was due to move out of my college apartment.

When I see books in the trash, I rescue them. When a friend's older brother and his buddies gathered around a barbecue grill at the end of the school year to burn their school books, I tried to rescue them, but was blocked by superior force. Assholes!

I seldom think of sin, but if sins do exist, book burning is certainly high on the list.

Books have always been extremely important to me. As the photo at the top shows, even as a little kid, I used the bathroom as a library so not a moment of potential reading time was wasted.

The sales brochure for the Bronx apartment my parents brought me home to in 1946 boasts of "built-in bookcases in every apartment." Now in 2016, I can visualize only two pieces of furniture from that apartment: the bunk beds I shared with my sister Meryl, and a mahogany bookshelf that later moved with us to other homes.

As a child with an early bedtime, I read books by flashlight under the blanket. Even now, I share my bed with my wife and often a pbook or my iPad or Kindle Fire.

Before TiVo gave me the ability to fast-forward, I always read during TV commercials. I read at most meals -- even at restaurants. Some people think it's rude. I think it's efficient.

After writing paperbacks since 1977 and ebooks since 2009, I decided to publish my first hardcover in 2011, a new format for my "stories" book. It evokes new emotions from me. The book feels very good. It looks beautiful, with a glossy dust jacket and the title and my name stamped in bright golden ink on the cloth covering the binding.

A hardcover book provides a special experience. Perhaps ebooks will replace paperbacks, but I don't think anything can replace hardcovers.

Torah scrolls are still handwritten, after thousands of years. Grave stones are still chiseled. Initials are still carved on trees. They should still be readable long after the last Kindle and Nook are recycled.

Even though I am the sole employee of my publishing company, my hardcover seems about 96% as "professional" as the similar Tina Fey book from publishing giant Hachette. Even though I've seen my cover design and read the title hundreds of times, I can't resist holding the book, feeling it and studying it. Even though I've read my own words hundreds of times, I can't resist reading again.

I got the idea to write this book way back when I was 11 or 12. I'll probably become 71 next Spring. I'm not sure if this book represents my life's work, but if it does, that's OK with me. I'm very proud of the book (I've never thought that pride is sinful).  I honestly think it's a very good book and fortunately, so do the reviewers.

Hardcovers make more impressive gifts than paperbacks and maybe they'll even impress book reviewers who would ignore a paperback.

My hardcover book seems so much more "real" than other formats. I'm almost in awe of it and didn’t want to mark up the first proof with a red pen as I do with my paperback proofs. It would seem like defacing a library book -- and that's a sin.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Write something every day, and save the good stuff.

When I was a journalism major at Lehigh University in the 1960s, a "J" professor suggested that we write a daily column of about 500 words -- about anything, and not necessarily for publication. It could be a reaction to news, some advice, an essay, an interview, a sports report, history, a review, anything.

He said that if we expected to get jobs at newspapers (and that was the likely career choice) we had to be able to write on command -- quickly, professionally and about anything.

While most of my journalism has been practiced at magazines, not newspapers, that experience and discipline has been valuable while writing for a wide range of media plus advertising, PR and books.

Today I seldom write for publication on paper, but I publish multiple blogs, and post a lot on Facebook. Some of the blogs and FB posts later evolve into books.

I recently started to collect some of my daily posts on my personal website, http://www.MichaelMarc.us. It's a convenient place for me to view my own words, and for others to see what I'm all about. Every author should have at least one website, but it can do more than try to sell books.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Humor is important to me but 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.

My wife often complains that I have a reckless sense of humor and I “go too far.” She’s afraid that I’m going to get into trouble like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. I think artistic expression outranks domestic tranquility. In my domicile, we have much more expression than tranquility.

Like Penn and Teller, Bart Simpson (above) and the folks on Jackass, I’ll do almost anything for a joke.

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.

Sure, humor can hurt. Just ask the victims of laughing bullies in school, or those in nightclub audiences singled out by comedians like Don Rickles (at left).

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

As it says up at the top/left, "
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

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Authors: if you don't care about your books, why should readers?

This is probably the least-interesting cover design of all time. Maybe the poetry in the ebook is more stimulating than the cover. Will anyone find out?

Sadly, I found out. The typing, spelling and grammar inside the book are probably the worst I’ve ever seen. YIPES!

The book has a four-star review on Lulu -- posted by the poet himself!

Gerard wants us to know that this is his finest work. That's not encouraging. Neither is the sloppy typing in the review itself.

Here's what the pathetic egomaniac put on GoodReads: "wonderful collection of poetry by Irish author ,this is a flowing melodic poetry of raw honesty, this ebook will delight tantalise and frustrate you for sure"

This is the garbage he wrote about another book: "
The word's paint pictures , like an artist lovingly applies paint to a canvas , the heart and mind as one, the story between the lines , as revealing, as the tears of a broken hearted lover"

If Gerard didn't care enough to produce a quality book and proper promotion, why should a reader care enough to invest time and money?

If you produce crap, maybe the only people you'll attract are snarkers like me.

UPDATE: since the first time I wrote about Gerard, he produced a new cover. It's better -- but incredibly dull. The pages inside the book have not been improved.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

WTF?! The interrobang is an alternative to ?!?!?!?! What about the rhet?

I -- and maybe you -- frequently type a string of alternating question marks and exclamation points to indicate disbelief and surprise.

There is a neater and underused alternative.

According to Google, American Martin K. Speckter conceptualized the interrobang in 1962. As the head of an advertising agency, Speckter believed that advertisements would look better if copywriters conveyed surprised rhetorical questions using a single mark. He proposed the concept of a single punctuation mark in an article in the magazine TYPEtalks. Speckter solicited possible names for the new character from readers. Contenders included rhet, exclarotive, and exclamaquest, but he settled on interrobang. He chose the name to reference the punctuation marks that inspired it: interrogatio is Latin for "a rhetorical question" or "cross-examination"; bang is printers' slang for the exclamation mark. Graphic treatments for the new mark were also submitted in response to the article.

In 1966, Richard Isbell of American Type Founders issued the Americana typeface and included the interrobang as one of the characters. In 1968, an interrobang key was available on some Remington typewriters. During the 1970s, it was possible to buy replacement interrobang keycaps and typefaces for some Smith-Corona typewriters. The interrobang was in vogue for much of the 1960s, with the word interrobang appearing in some dictionaries and the mark itself being featured in magazine and newspaper articles.

The interrobang failed to amount to much more than a fad, however. It has not become a standard punctuation mark. Although most fonts do not include the interrobang, it has not disappeared: Microsoft provides several versions of the interrobang character as part of the Wingdings 2 character set (on the right bracket and tilde keys) available with Microsoft Office. It was accepted into Unicode and is present in several fonts, including Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial Unicode MS, and Calibri, the default font in the Office 2007 suite.<<

However, most people prefer to express outrage with ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sometimes I wish that book titles could be copyrighted

Last month I read one of the three similarly titled books shown above. This month I'm reading another one. I'm so confused that I can't tell you which one I'm reading now, but so far I like it better than last month's book about the same subject. If someone asks me to recommend a book about this subject I'd have to do some research before replying.

I recently noticed some online promotion for a 2015 ebook short story called "Internet Hell" by Trisha M. Wilson. I was surprised to see it because Internet Hell is the name of an ebook I published in late 2012. The pbook version has just gone on sale.

While book titles can't be copyrighted, it's both unprofessional and confusing to copy the title of another recent book. 
When I challenged Trisha, she blocked me from viewing her Tweets.    
To hell with her.
Since it's so easy to determine if a book title is already in use, the only reasons for copycatting a recent book title are ignorance, stupidity, laziness or evil. Maybe Trisha is guilty of all four.

Trisha's story is interesting, but poorly edited by the two named editors: Colby Trax and A. J. Wallace. The
third paragraph says "regiment" instead of "regimen." Many paragraphs are choppy, with too many unnecessary pauses. The stop-start-stop-start rhythm made reading it tiring. I also think her cover is amateurish, made with cliché clip art and just one dull typeface. I previously complained that some letters were lost against the background but the cover was modified.

A while ago I noticed a nice review posted online for The Chosen by John G. Hartness. It seems like a good title. Apparently others think so, too, because the title has been used for about six books.

At least one, Chaim Potok's The Chosen, is quite famous. It was nominated for the National Book Award and was on the NY Times bestseller list for six months. More than a million copies were sold, and the novel was made into a movie and a Broadway musical. Hartness could have found it with a few seconds of research.

It's understandable that a new book may duplicate the title of an older, obscure book, but it's just plain unforgivable, and pathetic, and maybe a bit dishonest to copy the title of a well-known bestseller.

Every book needs a title. Many book titles are cliché phrases which seem to be absolutely perfect for a particular book. Unfortunately, many cliché phrases are absolutely perfect for lots of books, and, again, the title of a book can’t be copyrighted. Any writer considering possible titles should check for previous uses.
  • Both Danielle Steel and Queen Noor of Jordan wrote books called Leap of Faith.
  • At least five books are titled Fatal Voyage.
  • At least four books, two songs and a movie are named Continental Drift.
  • At least 24 books are titled Unfinished Business. You can write books with that title, too. 
  • I recently published Do As I Say, Not As I Did. I knew that the title had been used by another book, but the books are very different and the other one was published nearly ten years before mine.
  • More than a dozen different books are titled Caught in the Middle. If you like the title, you can use it, too. You can even use it for several different books.

An identifying term in a book series can be trademarked. If you publish The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Harry Potter, you’ll probably be sued by two publishing companies, and lose twice.

If your name is Harold Gordon, you could write and publish The Autobiography of Harold Gordon. There is nothing to stop an unknown author -- or Danielle Steel -- from writing a book with the same title. Danielle could also write The Autobiography of Barack Obama.

If you want to call your next masterpiece Holy Bible, Hamlet, War and Peace, From Russia with Love or The Da Vinci Code, you can. You might get sued. You might win, but it won’t be a pleasant experience. You’ll probably also confuse and annoy a lot of people -- so try to come up with something original.

And, as long as I'm preaching about originality, don't be an obvious thief of another book's design.

It’s smart to study other books and to seek inspiration from successful authors and designers -- but it's stupid to be a copycat. It's embarrassing when you get caught.

The book on the left has sold millions of copies since 2004. It provides guidance for solving personal and professional problems.

The book on the right, which copied the cover design, typefaces and title style of the bestseller, is a promotional piece from evil/inept Outskirts Press.

I saw four five-star reviews for the Outskirts book on Amazon.com. Two were written by Outskirts authors featured in the book, and one was written by an Outskirts employee. That seems a bit sleazy -- just like the cover, and just like Outskirts Press.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An absurdly overpriced & overhyped book has a ghastly cover

As one who frequently reviews books and writes about the book business, I get lots of press releases trying to get my support.

This morning I received a release with such a hyped-up headline, it was nearly panicky. Of course, there was no "shocking revelation" and no "dirty little secret."

I invested a few precious minutes and discovered more bullshit, stupidity and reasons to doubt the value of the book:

(1) The book is allegedly "
critically-acclaimed." I searched and found no acclamation from any critics.
(2) The small (170 pages) book is GROSSLY overpriced at $39. Many similar books are available for much less money. I've written several.
(3) Strangely, this book about publishing Kindle books on Amazon is not available on Amazon.
(4) The book will teach you to "
Publish and sell a Kindle e-book without writing a single word by repackaging “public domain” content" -- a major source of literary pollution.
(5) Author Kim Stacey has no books available on Amazon. I wonder if Kim is a real person.
(6) The promotional material says, "
In the good old days, becoming a published book author was exceedingly difficult." That's a lie.
(7) The cover is abysmal. The upper-right corner has a box that is illegible in the size shown in the press release and in other online promotion. The typography of "e-Books" is strange, and not used in the promotional material. It's extremely unprofessional to state "written by" before the author's name. It's extremely unusual to have editor names on a book cover. The cover is nearly monochrome, and easily ignored.
(8) Ironically the ugly book provides "
5 proven tips for designing an attractive Kindle e-book cover." I would be very reluctant to use those tips.