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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

BAD BOOK WEEK, #2, a newbie

A bad book that tries to teach self-publishing, from someone who has a lot to learn

A crappy 152-page book about publishing
 could have been a few decent 8-page booklets.
The cover looks childish and is badly edited.

In the first line of text above, "Christian" is spelled with a lowercase "c." The last line has a non-standard variant of "demarcation." In between is one of the ugliest paragraphs ever printed. This is from page one. Sadly, things go downhill from here.

Unlike MS. ELIYZABETH YANNE STRONG-ANDERSON (who types in uppercase only), author of yesterday's featured Classic Crapola, Theresa M. Moore is a coherent, experienced and apparently sane writer.
  • Her problems are that she is extremely careless, knows less than she thinks she knows, has an unjustified high opinion of her own editing ability, and frequently ignores her own advice.
Theresa's Principles of Self-Publishing: How to Publish and Market A Book or Ebook On a Shoestring Budget is part of a growing group of books that try to teach writers to self-publish, written by people who are poorly equipped to teach the subject.

Theresa has apparently had some success writing books in the fantasy/sci-fi genres. She says she has 30 years of experience as a writer, illustrator and publisher. She's a member of the Count Dracula Society and has an AA degree with a major in accounting and a minor in advertising design. Sadly, her experience with vampire fangs, debits and paste-ups do not qualify her to instruct others in book publishing.

Before I dissect the book, I want to point you to the comments I recently made about my reviewing competitive books. I'm not criticizing this book because I want you to buy my books instead of it. I'm criticizing it because there are lots of things wrong with it and I don't think people should buy it. I paid money for the book and know a bit about the subject, so I am entitled to comment.

And, beyond the specific subject matter, this book demonstrates major errors that self-publishing authors should avoid, regardless of the subject they write about.

I may as well start with the cover.

It's really ugly, with an illustration by the author that looks like fifty-cent clip art. The font looks like something a third-grader would scrawl on the blackboard. According to Theresa, the title's font should be "attention grabbing." The font she chose is sleep-inducing, or barf-inducing.

Instead of a title and subtitle, the book has what seem to be two titles. The main title is coma-inducingly dull. I doubt that many people buy books with "Principles Of" in the title--unless commanded to do so by a professor. Theresa wisely says, "No book is complete without a great title." Therefore, her book is not complete.

The subtitle does a much better selling job, but has some silly errors. It has both uppercase and lowercase A's. It uses lowercase for the preposition "or" but uppercase for the preposition "on." When I questioned the author about this, she said these were deliberate decisions, not errors, and "It makes the subtitle easier to read." I say,  "bullshit!"

The type on the spine is light pink-brown. It's tiny type, and fades into the pea-soup-green background color. If you look closely, you'll see the same inconsistent typography as on the front cover. The title page also has the inconsistent typography, but strangely omits "or ebook" from the subtitle. The copyright page also has the weird typography and also leaves out part of the subtitle.  Like the rest of the book, the copyright page eschews hyphens, and has very ugly word spacing.  It also has "2009, 2010" and "2009,2010"--with and without a space after the comma. Someone should have noticed these errors before the book was printed.

The back cover repeats the same homemade illustration and childlike typeface. It has a copyright notice, which I've never before seen on a book cover. The back text says that the book "contains information you will find valuable to your project and can be applied to the design and production of any product." I doubt that this book will help someone design and produce tactical nuclear weapons, pillows or chocolate syrup.

Theresa says that a back cover's margins "are the mirror image of the front." There is no reason for them to be the same, as long as they meet the printer's requirements. She also says that the back cover can be "completely blank." That's true if you are going to give books away or sell them yourself. If you want booksellers to sell them for you, the back cover needs an ISBN and bar code.

On the first page of the introduction, we learn that Theresa  disliked the smell of rubber cement but loves the smell of mimeograph ink. She says, "It smelled so scholastic. Maybe her inhalation of glue and ink fumes hurt her ability to discern and correct errors in her books. WARNING: be careful what you sniff.

After mentioning the ink, she wrote, "But I digress." Unfortunately, the very slim book is filled with unnecessary digressions and unimportant information.

A few pages later, Theresa says,"The ebook was developed was developed for ease of use and convenience." Someone should have noticed the repetition before the book was approved for printing.

The introduction also says, "I succeeded at producing books that are just as good in quality as those of the big house publishers. All it takes is dedication and the will to learn, and you too can be a successful author in a matter of a few days."

To me, the "big house" is a prison; but if I assume that Theresa means a company like Random House rather than Alcatraz or Sing-Sing, she's very wrong. Her book is FAR from equal to the quality of books published by the pros. Producing a good book requires much more than dedication and a will to learn, and. I doubt that anyone can become a successful author in a few days.

  • Like an unfortunate number of self-pubbers, Theresa has a strange aversion to hyphens. This gives her pages excessive word spacing, plus rivers, widows and orphans--and wastes paper. It's the mark of an amateur publisher. It's OK to skip hyphens on a website or when formatting an eBook, but hyphens are important in print. When I mentioned the problems caused by her lack of hyphenation, Theresa responded, "I don't know what you are referring to. My proof copies do not look that way. This may be a printer artifact, and since my service uses several outside sources to print once the book is sold I have no control over that either." That response is bullshit. A digital printing press does no change word spacing. Ugly pages are ugly even when viewed as a Microsoft Word doc or an Adobe PDF. The only problem I found that can be attributed to the printing process is some tilted pages. They are not Theresa's fault--but ugly pages are.
  • Sloppiness is abundant. On the first page after the introduction, a comma is missing, "Christian" is spelled with a lowercase "c" and the word "or" is missing in a list of types of fiction. These lapses are on just one page, and are an unfortunate precursor of lapses to come.  
  • OK, it's time for a compliment: Theresa provides some good instruction for writing fiction.
  • Now back to the bitching. The book is consistently inconsistent, with variations in spelling, capitalization and punctuation. On one page we're told that Lulu is "based" in North Carolina. On the opposite page we learn that CreateSpace is "base" in California.
  • Another compliment: Theresa offers some wise advice: "...pay close attention to every part of the publishing process, including the preparation and presentation of the manuscript."
  • And more bitching: It's a shame she did not pay attention to her own advice.
  • There are awkward phrases, like "I used to use...."
  • Strangely, Theresa prefers the British "grey" to the American "gray." Gray is a color. Grey is a colour. She also uses the British meaning of "blurb," and the Brit style of putting a period after a closing quote mark--some of the time.
  • She says, "...your work will be read by others who may have the expertise you do not. They will be highly critical of your work if you cannot justify your theories with the facts to support them. Theresa is absolutely right. She says, "People who read books usually do not read blogs, and vice versa." I doubt that Theresa has facts to support this silly theory. I know lots of people who read both blogs and books. Some people read blogs about books--like this one.
  • Theresa puts "only" before verbs and gerunds when they should be after them.
  • Theresa wrote, "...write to engage the reader's interest and entertainment." How does a writer engage a reader's entertainment?
  • In a paragraph titled, "Edit, Edit, Lather, rinse, repeat," Theresa wrote, "...go over the whole thing and weed out the mistakes." In the very next sentence she typed "everytime" instead of "every time." Everytime is a song sung by Britney Spears, but is not standard English. Maybe Theresa was thinking of "everyone."
  • Theresa says it's OK to use the same title that another book uses. While titles can't be copyrighted, elements in titles can be trademarked, and it's stupid to deliberately risk lost sales, confused buyers and expensive lawsuits.
  • She says, "A major publisher receive thousands of manuscripts every day." I don't believe it.
  • She thinks that PDF stands for "portable document file." The real meaning is portable document FORMAT. It's possible to have a PDF file, but not a PD file file.
  • Theresa tells us that "Adobe has a subscription service called Acrobat that enables you to make a PDF directly through their software." Acrobat is software--available in a box or as a download. No subscription is necessary. Acrobat.com is a subscription service which enables multiple users to collaborate in producing documents which Adobe stores online.
  • She typed "ISBN number." That's redundant, because the "N" stands for "number."
  • She says, "The last number [of ISBNs] may be different on several bookselling sites owing to a check digit for inventory control." The check digit is provided by Bowker (in the USA) to ensure that the other digits are correct. It has nothing to do with inventory control. Booksellers may use their own stock numbers, but do not alter the ISBN assigned to a book.
  • The barcode usually includes the cover price. Theresa is opposed to including the price and says, "If the bookseller will not take your book without it, you are better off going somewhere else." Even with a printed price, it's tough to interest a bookseller in stocking self-pubbed books. It's stupid to walk away from a potentially large piece of business because you refuse to print the price.


Theresa tries to limit her printing cost by using the minimum amount of paper. In the example above, the header is much too close to the first line of text. The upper and lower and outside margins are too small. Strangely, the inside "gutter" margin is too large for a thin perfect-bound book.
  • In a discussion of page margins, Theresa suggests "usually 1/2 or .5 inch all around." I have not had an arithmetic class recently, but I'm pretty sure that 1/2 inch and .5 inch are THE SAME... and either one is too small for a book margin. The basic rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold the book in your hands without your thumbs covering any text. Adult human thumbs are usually wider than a half inch.
  • Theresa offers her own rule of thumb: "Never use a TIF file when a JPG will do." That's bad advice. Each time a JPG file is saved, it loses some detail. A TIF file is "lossless."  She says that most publishers prefer JPGs.  I don't believe her. Besides, this book is written for self-publishers who will be dealing with printers--not with other publishers.
  • She says that the number of pages in a book must be even or divisible by 4. If a number is divisible by 4, it's an even number. Actually, the proper number depends on the printing equipment, and varies from company to company, and may change over time.
  • According to Theresa, the title page should be the first page in a book. Actually, in many books, the first page--or pages--have comments ("blurbs") from reviewers or casual readers. Many books use a "half title" (or "bastard title") page ahead of the title page.
  • Theresa is concerned about the cost of paper. She tells us, "As the price of printing goes up due to market and paper supply issues, the greatest amount of information must fit the smallest space." Actually, POD printing prices have been stable for at least two years, and Theresa's effort to save paper results in really ugly pages. This is the only book I've ever seen that has chapters ending and beginning on the same page. The back of the book has five blank pages. If Theresa did some simple arithmetic, those pages could have carried information and/or allowed more attractive pages, and added just a few cents to the cost of printing the book.

Above is a typical and tragic example of the ugly word spacing that results when Theresa uses full justification but refuses to hyphenate. Theresa says that the Plotnik book is "especially useful in guiding the writer to craft a better book." I wonder if she read it.
  • Theresa says that "Lulu or CreateSpace will offer you a basic designer which will..." A designer is a "who," not a "which."
  • The last line on page 23 says, "Here is the sample for the back cover." The line is followed by nearly two inches of blank space, but the sample is on the next page. The lead-in line should have been moved to the next page. She does the same thing elsewhere.
  • In one of Theresa's worst fuckups, she says that Lightning Source "is a full service publisher." Lightning is not a publisher of any kind. It is a printer which works for publishers. It does NOT provide services such as editing and page formatting that a self-publishing company provides. Anyone who is advising publishers should know the difference between a printer and a publisher. Printing is part of publishing, but is not the same thing.
  • She says that Lightning provides both digital and offset printing and that if you want a book printed offset, "your files will have to be set  up for that." That's not quite true. You submit the same PDF regardless of the printing method.  The printing company does different preparation, but the self-publisher does not.
  • Theresa wants us to know that Lightning Source charges an "exhorbitant shipping fee" for a proof. Actually $30 is not bad for printing the proof and next-day shipping, and she spelled "exorbitant" wrong. A spell checker would have caught it. She said, "I don't use the spell checker. I use a dictionary. Oxford American. The standard spelling I learned had an h." I think she confused "exorbitant" with "exhort." She also misspelled "propaganda." Theresa says, "A misspelled word can stand out like a red flag in a cornfield" and "It is vitally important for you to have a clear grasp of spelling..." She's right about that. It's good to have a dictionary, but unless you're unsure about a word, you won't check it. A spell checker, while imperfect, is on duty even when you have no doubt.
  • In discussing Lulu, Theresa says, "..you will have to purchase their free distribution package." How do I purchase something that's free?
  • She tells us that "CreateSpace also does absolutely nothing to help you promote your book, to Amazon or anywhere else. They have a shopping cart and that is all, and they are the publisher of record on Amazon." This is all wrong. If you publish through CreateSpace you get automatic availability on Amazon, with "look inside the book" included, They are not the publisher of record unless you want them to be. I've used CreateSpace for two books, and they have my company's name, logo and ISBN.
  • Theresa faults CreateSpace for not accepting PayPal payments and lauds Lulu for accepting Paypal. Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that anyone would go into the self-publishing business and not have credit cards.
  • Chapter titles have "And," "The" and "A" uppercased--but not "of." That's silly--except for the chapter tiles where "and" is in lowercase.
The paragraph above has an ugly orphan which could have been easily eliminated by eliminating a word, changing a word, or hyphenation. The book is filled with orphans, widows and rivers. Someone with 30 years' experience in publishing and advertising should have known to remove them. Theresa said these defects were caused by the printer. She's wrong.

I'm not even up to page 40, and Theresa's book is not worth my writing an encyclopedia, so I'll just mention a few more notable low lights and highlights from the rest of the book.
  • There's an extensive section on antitrust laws. It's interesting, but hardly necessary for self-publishers. I'll label it "padding."
  • Some of the absolute worst publishing advice I've encountered anywhere is this: "Concentrate on selling your books from your own web site and you will do better than if you rely on others for your sales." That's irresponsible and untrue. Booksellers' websites like Amazon.com get thousands of times the traffic that any self-pubber's website gets, and it's silly for an author to get involved with running a warehouse and shipping department and handling credit cards. I bought Theresa's book from Amazon, not from her own site.
  • In addition to being wrong about PDF, Theresa is also wrong about LCCN. It stands for Library of Congress Control Number--not Certification Number. She says there is a "small fee" for an LCCN. There is no fee. She says you need to send at least two copies of your book to get an LCCN. One copy is enough.
  • She has several strings of words that begin with uppercased words and end with periods--but there are no verbs, so they're not sentences.
  • Theresa thinks that self-publishers should also be booksellers and should work to get shoppers to see their websites before they get to Amazon. That's unlikely and not useful. It's much better to let booksellers sell books.
  • The book says that if "you sell 100 [$18] books in a given month and 10 books are returned, your unit cost per book will then increase by...$1.80." This ignores the fact that some, many or all of the returned books can be sold again. Some may have to be sold at a discount if they are imperfect--but they still generate income. They are not trash.
  • There's an extensive section on HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and building a website. Authors need websites, but they don't need to know HTML. I say this section is padding, too.
  • Theresa wants self-publishers to sell books, but warns against having phone numbers on sales sites. That's stupid. Lots of shoppers need information or prefer to order by phone. She warns that telemarketers may call in the middle of the night. You should have different phone numbers for business and personal use, and there is no need to hear the business line ring after hours--and certainly no need to answer late-night calls. That's what voicemail is for,
  • She says that a press release should be headed, "PRESS RELEASE." It should not. The normal heading is "For Immediate Release," or perhaps "For Release On or After 10/1/2010."
  • The book has a page about advertising in newspapers and magazines. That's a waste of a publisher's money, and a wasted page in this slim book.
  • Theresa encourage authors to have promotional videos. They're useless unless you can find a way to make people watch them. Her own video is awful, and I don't mean awe-inspiring).
  • She talks about promotional "bill caps." "Ball caps," as in "baseball caps," is the more common expression.
  • Theresa cautions authors not to blog "too much" because it takes time away from book writing. Actually, blogging can promote book sales, and material written for a blog can be used for books. I've done it many times.
  • The ignorant author tells us, "Some online booksellers, like Amazon, take 60 to 65% [of the cover price]. I kid you not." Theresa may not be kidding, but she's way off base. Amazon is perfectly happy to collect 20%--or even just 10% when it sells a book for less than the cover price.
  • Theresa is very wrong when she tells us, "In the book world, you must always round UP to the nearest dollar less five cents or a penny, so your book's list price can be $17.95 or $17.99." While most cover prices end in 95 cents, that's a custom--not a requirement. Some books are priced in whole dollars. Xlibris likes weirdo prices like $17.84, $19.54 and $24.64.
  • According to Theresa, "Lightning Source charges $2.52 for [a 100-page book] shipped direct to you for resale. For wholesale orders, the cost goes down to...$2.20. This makes no sense, since a book shipped for resale is a wholesale order.
  • There's a long, dull, boring, sleep-inducing, unnecessary, page-wasting section on bookkeeping that few self-publishers are likely to need or be interested in. I  don't need to know about amortisation expenses or inventory control. This is more padding--in a very thin book.
  • Theresa says, "The suggested retail or list price...is the maximum a seller may charge for the book new." Actually, many booksellers offer books for substantially more than the cover prices.
  • She also tells us that "The list price is often set as the perceived value of the book on the marketplace." It's up to a buyer to perceive a value--not the publisher or bookseller. What happens if a publisher perceives the value of a book to be $50, but most shoppers think it's worth $10? Theresa perceives the value of her book to be $15.95. I paid $15.95, but after reading it, I perceive the value to be about two bucks.

Theresa is a big believer in promotional videos, and the book includes instructions for making a rudimentary slide show for online exhibition. She says, "If you are a complete novice at this here is where I can help you make a simple video that will do more to help you market your book than anything else you might do. The press release is effective but the video has more reach. You can make it as exciting and attention grabbing as the best movie trailer on the planet. The better you make it, the more people who will be inclined to watch it..." Theresa's video is as ugly as her book. It is NOT exciting. It is NOT attention-grabbing. It is NOT entertaining or informative. It is simply an uninteresting and unattractive commercial for an uninteresting and unattractive book and it is extremely unlikely to go viral. The only good thing I can say is that the letter A's on the opening screen are consistent--unlike the book cover.
  • Our ignorant expert says that the county where your business is located "will require you to post the registration [of your business] on your own in your local newspaper." That may be true where Theresa lives, but I've registered businesses in New York and Connecticut and did not have to advertise in either state.
  • In her inappropriate role of legal advisor, Theresa advises us that the abbreviation for Limited Partnership is "Ltd." Actually, the correct abbreviation is LP. "Ltd." is the abbreviation for "Limited'--the U.K. equivalent of an American corporation where shareholders have limited liability.
  • She says that self-publishers "must obtain a tax permit or resale certificate." If you are not actually selling books, you don't need to get involved with sales tax. If you ship books only out of your home state to a state where you have no physical presence ("nexus"), you don't need to collect or remit sales tax (but this may change in the future.)
  • The math non-wiz  tells us that "As the price of your book goes up, the demand for it will go down. [That's OK.] And then she adds, "your costs will go up as the demand for it goes up." HUH?  With Print-On-Demand, my cost of printing books does not change. With offset printing, if I order more, I pay less per book if I order more to meet increased demand.
  • The book has a section on stress reduction, sleep, avoiding stimulants, exercise, feng shui and self-esteem. It's mostly useless bullshit, and unnecessary padding.
  • In this section, she advises writers to "...keep a supply of small snacks, water, and a period of nap time by your side." Does the nap time go on my chair, on my desk, on the floor, or does it hang on the wall? An editor should have caught this!
  • Theresa tells us that Lightning Source "Will insert a generic barcode to your cover if you do not have one, but prefers you already have one." That's not true. Lightning is perfectly happy to provide a  cover template with a custom barcode to correspond to your ISBN, and it's FREE. A generic barcode would be useless. A book's barcode must correspond to its ISBN.
  • The non-expert tells us that type size is "presented in points per inch." That's wrong. Type size is expressed in points, but not per inch. Maybe she was thinking of dots per inch. In modern typography, one point is 1/72nd of an inch, so there are 72 points per inch. If Theresa was right, we could not have 80-pt type. Someone with 30 years experience in publishing and advertising should know this.
  • Theresa eschews "self-publishing company" in favor of  "self-help publisher." The world doesn't  really need another euphemism for "vanity publisher"--and her favorite term already has a different meaning: a publisher of self-help books.
  • She wants us to re-size photos "to fit the text area at 90 to 100%."  There's nothing wrong with 30% or 60% or any percentage which provides a big enough image.
  • Theresa provides OVER FORTY PAGES about bookkeeping, pricing and taxes--an awful big chunk of a 152-page book about publishing!
  • The book's subtitle emphasizes "a shoestring budget," but Theresa's cheapo design decisions have led to an UGH-LEE book.
  • She also saved money by not hiring an editor who should have caught the abundant mistakes. I asked her if she self-edited and she answered, "Of course. I have edited many others' books myself." Based on her own book, I feel sorry for her clients. No one should be her own editor. Even a professional editor who writes books needs to hire an editor. If you can't afford to hire an editor, you can't afford to publish a book.
  • Theresa wrote, "I edited my stories as many as fifteen times before I am satisfied that it is good enough to publish." Maybe if Theresa read that sentence sixteen times, she would have fixed the tenses. If she read the book seventeen times, maybe she would have noticed the paragraph missing its indentation. Sadly, even if she read the book one hundred times, she probably would not have noticed how ugly it is.
  • She talks about preparing a query letter and submitting a manuscript to a publisher. Those topics don't belong in a book for self-publishers
  • When I asked her why she did not hyphenate, Theresa responded, "Word processing software typically justifies when set that way. Why hyphenate when the whole word will be sent to the next line? This is not Linotype letter die setting." That's a bunch of shit. Her book was made unnecessarily ugly because she refused to hyphenate, and the term ""letter die setting" does not appear in either Google or Bing, and Theresa refused to explain what she meant by it.
  • I asked her, "Why didn't you provide an index? It's unusual for non-fiction how-to books." She said, "Many people using the book do not look at an index, nor care to." An index is useful, and many readers expect to find one in a how-to book. I think Theresa was being lazy or cheap or both.
Amazon.com sells this dreadful book for 8.99 as a Kindle edition and $15.95 as a paperback. It's been out for two months with no reviews on Amazon. I may be the first to review it. It is not an honor.

Theresa wrote, "Criticism helps you to see the things you missed because you are editing inside your own head. What you think is a brilliant idea may turn out to be a real clunker..." Her book is a real clunker.

Theresa knows a lot--but not nearly enough to teach about publishing. Even sadder, she does not follow the advice she provides for others. That is inexcusable.

 Stay away from this book--except to learn what not to do.
  • Come back tomorrow, for another really BAD BOOK. Please tell your friends.

(Alcatraz photo from http://www.alcatraztickets.com/)

6 comments:

  1. So, what did you think about the book?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It looks like you put much more effort into your review than Theresa Moore put into writing her book. Congratulations on another Marcus Masterpiece.

    YOU KICK ASS.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Don't go outside without your helmet and bullet-proof vest. Moore is gonna be just a bit pissed off.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Theresa Moore: "Do as I say. Don't do as I do."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, I'm amazed you spent so much time on what is obviously a problematic publication. I may have to hire you as my proofreader.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Doesn't use a spellchecker? Is there something morally wrong with one? Sheesh...

    "People who read books usually do not read blogs, and vice versa."

    Seriously? Wow. Just discovered your blog today...great stuff!

    ReplyDelete