.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Supreme stupidity: Shouldn't an American publisher understand the English language?




The ads for vanity press AuthorHouse (part of the vanity colossus Author Solutions) show how stupid its employees are, and how stupid it assumes its prospective customers are.

The person or robot that does advertising for AuthorHouse doesn't understand the English language.

The first two sentences above say, "You set your self-publishing goals. As your book publisher..."

If AuthorHouse is the publisher, there is no self-publishing going on!

The second segment says, "Thinking of self publishing your book" and "Get published for just $399.

If someone is self publishing, she or he does not get published -- she or he publishes!

At the bottom, we read that AuthorHouse is "the leading self-publishing company in the world."

That's an interesting claim, and an impossible, illogical claim. AuthorHouse is not a self-publishing company, leading or otherwise. Except for a small book business set up by a self-publishing author, there is no such thing as a self-publishing company. No company can self-publish for an author. Only the author can self-publish the author.



The Author House website offers "free" books with various publishing packages. As shown above, you can 60 "free" books with their Pinnacle package. However, those 60 books are free only if the customer/victim ignores the $1,999 that must be paid to get the "free books."

Doesn't anyone at AuthorHouse know what "free" means? It's not a very complicated word. If the books are really free, you shouldn't have to pay nearly two thousand bucks to get them.

...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good news from Amazon, bad news from Borders, mixed news from B&N


Amazon.com's 2009 fourth-quarter earnings jumped 71 percent, as shoppers spent more than ever on books and a wide range of other items during the holiday season.

Despite the sluggish economy, Amazon did well throughout the year, drawing shoppers with its Kindle e-reader and low prices on other products. Amazon predicted first-quarter 2010 revenue that exceeds analyst expectations.

Amazon said it earned $384 million, or 85 cents per share, in the October-December period, compared with $225 million, or 52 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter, which included a holiday season that Amazon had described then as its "best ever," only to be surpassed by the 2009 holidays.

Revenue rose 42 percent to $9.52 billion. That includes a $200 million contribution from online shoe and apparel store Zappos, which Amazon recently bought.

Revenue from books, CDs, DVDs and other media climbed 29 percent to $4.68 billion. Electronics and other "general merchandise" revenue rose nearly 60 percent to $4.61 billion. Revenue increased 37 percent in North America and nearly 49 percent elsewhere.

Amazon had previously said it reached a Kindle milestone on Christmas Day, when it sold more copies of eBooks than printed books for the first time. The company is attracting growing competition from other of e-reader suppliers including Apple, which announced its iPad on Wednesday.

In hopes of staying ahead of the pack, Amazon reducing the Kindle's price yet again during the quarter, cutting $40 off to reach $259.

Barnes & Noble has come out with its $259 Nook, and Sony has increased its Reader lineup with lower- and higher-priced models. Apple's iPad will start at $499.

For the full year, Amazon earned $902 million, or $2.04 per share, on $24.5 billion in revenue.

The Amazon results sharly contrasted with recent developments at competitor Borders -- the second-largest book retailer in the U.S. Last week it announced that it is firing 124 employees, or about 10% of its corporate staff.

The layoffs come only a few days after Chief Executive Ron Marshall quit to become CEO of A&P. Marshall has been succeeded on an interim basis by Michael Edwards, who had been the retailer's chief merchandising officer.

The layoffs were expected in light of the company's poor holiday sales performance. Revenue at Borders superstores for the 11-week holiday period ended January 16 dropped 15% to $649.2 million from a year earlier. Same-store sales also fell 15%.

Borders, which on April 1 must repay a $42.5 million senior secured loan from Pershing Square Capital Management LP, its largest investor, is trying to chart a new course as bookselling comes under increasing pressure from cheap electronic books and aggressive discounting of hardcover titles online.

Anne Roman, a spokeswoman for Borders, said some of the corporate layoffs were in information technology and finance. She said there have been some redundancies in those areas in recent months because the retailer has combined its various computer systems. She added that 40 distribution workers in California and Tennessee also have been laid off. Borders employs about 22,500 worldwide.

Borders has been closing stores in the U.S. since 2007. The no-longer-related British Borders has gone out of business.

Barnes & Noble, the world's largest bookseller, reported that store sales for the nine-week holiday period from November 1, 2009 to January 2, 2010 declined by 5% over the same period a year ago. Online sales at Barnes & Noble.com increased 17% for the holiday selling season. (info from the AP and the Wall Stree Journal.)

...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Brent and Michael debate (sort of)



On January 25, Brent Sampson (left, above), the often-inept boss of often-inept vanity publisher Outskirts Press, blogged about what he perceives to be the difference between “self publishing” and a “self publishing company.”

Many people assume that pay-to-publish companies like Outskirts describe their businesses as "self-publishing" in order to cash-in on a term that is exciting, modern, glamorous, revolutionary, hip, cool, in vogue, a buzzword, etc.

  • Brent denies that. Instead, he indicates that "self-publishing" has negative implications and is used almost as a warning, to let would-be authors know that the "self-publishing companies" won't do all that is required to make a book a success, and that authors are largely responsible for their book's success or failure.
  • Michael thinks Brent is not being honest, and that he uses the "self-publishing" term to attract customers -- not to warn them.
Here's what Brent said, with Michael's comments in red:

I would like to address a point of contention and misunderstanding facing the author-supported self-publishing industry today, and that is the chasm between “self-publishing” and “self-publishing companies” or what some call ”vanity” publishing. Authors who have traditionally published books or independently published their own books by doing all the work themselves often denounce “self-publishing companies” as either “vanity” publishers if they’re being nice, or “scams” if they’re feeling particularly hostile. [It's more likely that they're trying to warn people.] Neither term is accurate; although I can appreciate their point of view–they’ve worked hard to accomplish something that self-publishing companies make relatively easy, so you can’t blame them for being mad.

While we critics are upset, we are not yet foaming-at-the-mouth like mad dogs. Except for a small book business that's owned by a self-publishing author, there's no such thing as a "self-publishing company." The words just don't make sense the way you and your competitors like Author Solutions use them.

A person can be self-educated, but only if she educated herself. And just as it's impossible for someone else to self-educate you, self-immolate you, self-medicate you, self-express  you or self-anything-else  you... no other person or company can self-publish you. The words just don't make sense. If others do it to you or for you, you're not doing it yourSELF.

  • Vanity publishing and self-publishing are as different as murder is from suicide, as different as adoption is from conceiving and giving birth, as different as buying a term paper is from researching and writing one, as different as buying a house is from designing and building one, or paying for a bus ride vs. learning how to drive and driving yourself, or buying a McDonalds Filet-O-Fish vs. catching and cooking a fish.
Publishing is a business where the end-product is a collection of words, and people in the business should use words properly. Brent, I don't expect you to refer to your company as a vanity publisher or even a pay-to-publish company, but you could legitimately call it an author services company. No way in hell is it a self-publishing company.

Ultimately, much of the confusion [REAL self-publishers aren't confused, but your customers are.] comes down to semantics, and a misunderstanding [No Brent, it's not misunderstanding, it's DELIBERATE MISUSE of language.]  of what differentiates “self-publishing” from a “self-publishing company.” I imagine  “self-publishing companies” may use the term “self-publishing” in their marketing efforts, not to anger independent self-publishers, but rather to SET THE EXPECTATIONS of their own authors.

Oh, come on, Brent. This is the place for facts, not what you imagine may be happening. Be honest. Tell the world why YOUR company uses the term.

If you are really using the term "self-publishing" to reduce the expectations of potential customers, the term belongs in the fine print of contracts -- not in the headlines of ads.

You know damn well that you use the term to attract customers -- NOT to warn them.

By labeling services as “self-publishing” there is an attempt to make it clear to the authors who use such services that their success rests largely on their own shoulders, [Get real. The term is used to glamorize sleazy businesses by deceiving potential customers.]  just as it does for authors who independently self-publish. [NO. Your customers are less likely to succeed compared to skilled and knowledgable real self-publishers because your books are often poorly edited and poorly promoted -- and I have email from your customers and actual Outskirts books and press releases to prove it.] The difference is that with self-publishing companies, instead of incurring the time and effort of establishing a DBA [It took me less than five minutes and cost me just $8, and my DBA is valid for life!] and or LLC or C-Corp or S-Corp or sole-proprietorship with the state [NONE of that is necessary for self-publishing] , reviewing cover designers [Yes of course -- that's how to get a good-looking cover.] , seeking interior formatters [Not difficult.] , getting bids from printers [Not necessary.] , acquiring ISBNs [Very easy.] , dealing with Ingram [Not necessary.] , dealing with fulfillment [Not necessary.], dealing with returns [Not necessary.], dealing with accounts receivables [Not necessary.] , dealing with taxes, [Paying income tax is no different with self-publishing or vanity publishing. You deduct the costs of doing business, and pay tax on the net income.] etc., etc., etc.  [No etceteras.] , the author is incurring a service charge and having all those details taken care of for them. [Oops. "Author" is a single noun. "Them" does not agree with it. Brent, you were an English major in college, weren't you? But, more importantly, Outskirts Press does not take care of all of the details, because with Outskirts Press, editing is an option, not a basic part of the publishing packages.]  It’s not right for everyone, but it is right for a lot of people. [Crappy books are not right for any people.]

There are [Should be "is."] a growing number of companies in the “self publishing” industry. [Sure -- it's the scam du jour.]  And why not? As the traditional publishing industry continues to struggle, the self-publishing industry is growing at a steady pace and is earning more respectability daily. [Self-publishing, yes; vanity publishing, no.] The internet has made it possible for anyone to sell a book globally (on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble) and has also improved the book marketing reach of authors who leverage popular sites like YouTube and twitter. [Actually, it's "Twitter."]

Very soon, traditional and bestselling authors with established names (Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, etc.) will realize they no longer need traditional publishers and will turn to “self publishing companies” [Which do not exist.] for a greater stake of the profits. [While Stephen and Stephanie may turn to self-publishing, it seems highly unlikely that they will use a company like Outskirts Press. If they want more money, they may follow the pattern of Hollywood stars who formed their own movie production and distribution companies.]

“Self-publishing companies” [Which do not exist.] are service companies [Correct -- so call them author service companies.] who [Should be "which."] provide valuable (and convenient) services to writers for a fee. This is no different from any other service industry. For example, I can either choose to do my own taxes, or I can pay H&R Block to do them for me. [But H. & R. Block doesn't call their operation a self-tax-preparation company!] I can either build my own house, or I can buy one that has been built by professionals, so I’m confident it won’t fall apart. [What about vanity books that  fall apart, or have blobs of glue on the first and last pages, or misaligned pages, or defective formatting, or no fact-checking or editing?]  I can either milk my own cow, or I can go to 7-11 and buy a gallon of milk that is ready to drink. Are people surprised that 7-11 charges money for milk? Do they get upset that 7-11 charges more money for a gallon of milk than King Soopers does? Rational people realize that convenience costs money and that industry know-how costs money. [Some Outskirts books indicate that your company has inadequate know-how.] To suggest that a company cannot help you self-publish  [There's nothing wrong with helping someone to self-publish, but Outskirts customers are NOT self-publishing. If Outskirts is the publisher, its authors are NOT self-publishing. If the ISBN and logo on a book indicate that Outskirts is the publisher, the author is NOT the publisher and self-publishing did NOT occur.] is like saying H&R Block cannot help you do your personal taxes. [But H. & R. Block doesn't call their operation a self-tax-preparation company! Quicken's TurboTax is for people who want to do self-preparation of their income taxes.]

Do I really want to spend my valuable time doing taxes, building a house or milking a cow–all of which first requires me to LEARN how to properly do all those things? Or would I rather calculate my own hourly rate and determine that it is more cost-effective to pay an expert to do it for me so I can spend my time doing things that are more important to me–like going to work and spending time with my family? [Brent, some people actually like to learn. Some people actually like the work involved in self-publishing. It's certainly more fun than doing taxes or milking cows.] Self-publishing companies don’t do anything that someone who is very motivated cannot do themselves with a lot of industry knowledge, effort, resources, time, and money. [It's not a lot of money. It can be done for $600-$1200.]  But much like doing taxes, building a house, and yes, even milking a cow, what seems easy at first is actually more complicated than you might expect — I would imagine. [IMAGINE? Brent, when you are discussing something important, you should not be imagining. This is not the time to imagine what the other side thinks or does. You could ask what it's like to self-publish, read a book about it, or even try it yourself. You've been complaining about how difficult it is to self-publish, but it's very obvious that you don't really know what it's like. All you do is imagine. That's not good enough to make a convincing argument.] Personally, I don’t do my own taxes, build my own homes, OR milk cows for my own milk. [Maybe you should try it, Brent. You might find that you enjoy it. You might get a house you like better, and milk you like better.] Like most people, I pay professionals to do all those things for me.

For those authors out there who have already invested their time and energy on the steep learning curve [It's not very steep. It can be learned in a few days to a few weeks.]  that is “self-publishing,” naturally they don’t see the benefit of using a ”self-publishing company.” [Which does not exist.]  But most people have better things to do, or at least, their interests lie elsewhere — most people just want to be published authors,  [Most people who want to be published authors, want to have good books, and your company turns out some terrible books -- including one you wrote.] not publishers. [If most people don't want to be publishers, why do you advertise "Self-Publish Your Work. Self-Publish from $199?" It sure seems like you are soliciting business from people who do want to be publishers. And why are you heading your ads with the phrase that you said lets writers know that they'll have to do a lot of work. If you've being truthful about your use of the term, then your advertising is very wrong. It's like putting the cancer warning in big type on the top of a cigarette ad.]

You know what they say about the lawyer who represents himself, or the doctor who has herself as a patient, right? The same could be said for most authors. Sure, there are exceptions, but the services of “self publishing companies” are intended for the majority of writers, entrepreneurs and professionals out there who would find value in having a published book, but also value their time enough to let the professionals do it for them. [Tragically, a huge number of the books published by Outskirts and its competitors are terribly produced and inadequately promoted by "professionals" who don't seem to care about the quality of their work, and don't respond to customers' questions and complaints.] And there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is wanting desperately to be published and not doing anything about it — out of fear of failure or fear of someone else telling you that you made ”a wrong choice.” The only truly wrong choice is not doing anything. As Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” [And you may miss 100% of the money paid to a vanity publisher.]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Suffering from ED?

Outskirts idiots misspell their own name again.


On January 6 I showed you a press release from inept vanity publisher Outskirts Press that left the S off Outskirts.

They did it again on January 26, but this time they misspelled "Outskirts" TWICE in one paragraph.

Is Outskirts Press suffering from Performance Anxiety, or Editorial Dysfunction?

Are the highly touted Outskirts Press "infrastructure of talented publishing artisans" and "veritable army of publishing professionals"  nervous and getting sloppier just because they know they're being watched?



If the company's talented infrastructure and veritable army (and a boss and boss's wife who majored in English in college) didn't notice that the last letter of their company name was missing at least THREE TIMES in press releases, what are the chances of them publishing a proper book?

There's probably no chance at all.
In his own book, Outskirts Press founder Brent Sampson wrote that Roget's Thesaurus was published by Peter Mark (actually, Peter Roget published it), confused a foreword with a preface, and misspelled "offset." Brent advises potential authors that "Errors in your writing cause readers to question your credibility."

He's absolutely right about that.

In his blog, Brent recently said, "This allows me an opportunity to stress the importance of professional copyediting when publishing a book."

Yeah, right. What about copyediting press releases?

Brent brags that "Our publishing guide Self-Publishing Simplified continues to serve as a product brochure, an example of the company’s exemplary quality, and evidence that publishing a print-on-demand book does not require an outlandish retail price. Try to find a new book by any other print-on-demand publisher on Amazon for $5.95! The power of our pricing speaks for itself."

Yeah, right.
  1. This inaccurate and dishonest book ("an example of the company’s exemplary quality"),  is priced low because it is an advertisement and Brent wants to make it easy for potential customers (i.e., victims) to afford it. It's not priced like a real book that is expected to make money for its author.
  2. Several booksellers offer it (new) for just $2. That price is probably a better indicator of its value.
...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


New Apple tablet might be revealed today, might change the world, and might be good for publishers and authors. Or maybe not.




UPDATE: It's the iPad and prices start at $500 and I want one.

Here on the East Coast (in one of the 13 original colonies!), it's not yet 5 a.m.

By the time some of you late-sleeping West-Coasters and Pacific Islanders see this blog posting, Apple probably will have already made a long-awaited announcement about its potential Amazon Kindle-beater, Sony Reader-beater and B&N Nook-beater, and may have changed the world.

Or... maybe not.

For now, I'll just provide links to some learned speculation from the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Business Week. Feel free to believe or ignore as you wish.

CLICK
CLICK
CLICK
CLICK

In the past George Burns and Eric Clapton have been called "God." Maybe Steve Jobs will dethrone them later today in San Francisco.

I personally think that if the iTab or iSlate or iStrain or iYiYi or iGevalt (ethnic humor) or whatever it's called, can run all of the iPhone/iPod apps on a big color touchscreen AND display book, newspaper and magazine pages on that big screen, it will KICK ASS. It has the potential to become a major gaming platform. It could change book-reading beyond just providing a compact-yet-huge storage device by including multimedia addons and even live "tabcasts" and updates.

I have not yet bought an eBook reader, but I might go for this one.

I'd be perfectly happy to "load it up" with a connection to my PC, or use Wi-Fi, as I do with my iPod Touch, or if it comes with unlimited wireless downloading like the Kindle.

OTOH, if it won't work without an expensive monthly data downloading subscription, I'll probably spend my money elsewhere.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And now, another kind of sleazy publishing


I just read an article called "Options expand for authors," written by Jane Laskey and published on sctimes.com -- the website for the St. Cloud, Minnesota, Times newspaper.

Jane terrified me with mentions of authors who paid (gasp!) $20,000 and (OMG!) $25,000 to publish their books.

I was disappointed to read about North Star Press in St. Cloud. Jane wrote that it "is one of many small presses giving new writers a chance." They don't have much of a chance. After 40 years, the family-owned business is going over to the dark side of publishing. Just like Harlequin and Thomas Nelson.

The company has an interesting business method. Jane pointed out that PublishAmerica requires its authors to be editors, proofreaders and designers, but North Star requires authors to be book peddlars!

Jane wrote, "North Star Press now asks its authors to pitch in with marketing. Each is required to buy copies at wholesale prices and sell them."

The North Star website says, "while each author receives traditional royalties, each is now also required to buy a minimum of 100 copies of their books at a 50% discount for re-sale [sic] into nontraditional venues."

  • "I'd like a large peperoni pizza with extra cheese, but I'll buy it only if you buy my book."
  • "Sweetheart, you are my true soulmate, the love of my life, and I want to spend my life with you. I want you to be my bride, but only if I can sell books to the wedding guests, the minister and the caterer."
  • "I need an oil change for my Toyota Corona, but I'll get it only if you buy my book."
  • "Hi, Handsome. I'll be glad to spend the night with you, and I'll show you tricks your wife never dreamed of. My price is just $1,000 for the sex, plus $19.95 for a copy of my book."
  • "I need a seat in first-class to Tahiti, but I'll  buy the ticket only if I'm allowed to sell books to the other passengers and the flight crew.
  • "I need a haircut and a perm, but if you won't buy my book, I'll get my hair done somewhere else."
  • "I have a terrible toothache. I'd like you to check it -- if you'll buy my book."
  • "Yes, I'd love to attend this college, but only if the library will buy my book."
  • "Welcome to Walmart. I'll be glad to let you use this shopping cart if you buy my book.
  • "Hello, 911. I think I'm having a heart attack. Please send an ambulance, but make sure the paramedics are willing to buy my books."
Let's assume that those 100 books have a cover price of $20. North Star brags about its experience and its ability to produce books at "a reasonable cost." OK, a reasonable cost to print books might be $2 each. A 50% discount from the cover price comes to $10. An author pays $1,000 for 100 books that North Star paid $200 to print. North Star nets $800, which likely covers its cost of designing and editing the book, and provides a bit of profit. Maybe North Star convinces the ecstatic author to buy 200 books -- or 2,000 books. Maybe the cover price is an inflated $29.95 but the printing cost is still two bucks.

With their costs covered by the author (who is even financing her own advance and royalties), there is little incentive for North Star to try to sell books to bookstores. All the company needs to succeed is a parade of eager and ignorant writers ready to be plucked.

And, by the way, if an author is not good enough for a not-quite-conventional advance-and-royalties contract from North Star, the company will be glad to provide "Guided Self-Publishing." The website says, "the author is still directly responsible for all costs related to the production of the book and promotion."

That sure sounds like vanity publishing to me, and North Star is doing the same thing as Harlequin and Thomas Nelson, with their new vanity operations. I'm not sure who copied whom. Writers who are not good enough to be paid by the publisher, are good enough to pay money to the publisher.


...

Monday, January 25, 2010

A "landmark day" (like 9/11/01?):
WestBow Press releases its first vanity book




Today, WestBow Press, the vanity publishing partnership (or "strategic self-publishing alliance") of Christian publisher Thomas Nelson and mega-vanity-press Author Solutions, has announced its first book. (Actually, it was published over a month ago.)

The book is Mustardseed Thoughts, by Ron Edmondson -- a pastor from Tennessee.

Edmondson said, “I am delighted, after years of writing online devotionals, to finally see some of them in print. My online readership has been patient with me about doing this, but the timing was right with WestBow Press. Their affiliation with Thomas Nelson and the positive reputation that brings assures readers a quality print that will hopefully be used for God’s glory for years to come.”

It's likely that Edmondson's book was rejected for a standard royalty-paying contract from Thomas Nelson, and he was directed to WestBow to pay to be published. With WestBow books, Thomas Nelson has no risk, and has guaranteed income even if no books are ever sold.

Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt said, “I first met Ron through his blog. I became a fan immediately.”

Apparently Hyatt is not enough of a fan to offer an advance and royalties, and printing without payment.

The 376-page paperback is priced at (gulp) $24.95. The hardcover version is priced at (BIG GULP) $39.95.

At those absurd prices, there will be plenty of money for the publishing partners (if any copies are sold).

Unfortunately, the book prices are so high that it's likely that few books will be sold and there's a good chance that Edmondson will lose the $999 to $6,499 he paid to publish. Of course, the publishing partners don't care if no books are sold, because they got their money from Edmondson before they did any work. WestBow and Author Solutions make most of their money by selling services to writers -- not by selling books to readers.

Author Solutions CEO Kevin Weiss said the release of WestBow’s first title marks a landmark day for the publishing industry. Yeah, just like the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and 9/11/01.

Note to Kevin and Michael: It's not necessary to print the word "By" and put a colon before the author's name on the front cover. A real publisher should know this. Also, the front cover of the book spells "Mustardseed" as one word. The WestBow website and the press release and the information on Amazon.com show it as two words. The back cover of the book spells it both ways.

There's more sloppiness inside the book.

  • The first page of text addresses "you, the reader." Who could "you" be, except the reader?
  • Lower down on the same page is: "if you are already Christians" -- strangely slipping from addressing a single reader into the plural form.
  • Another page refers to a "gospel track." It should be "tract." A pastor should not have made the error and an editor should have fixed the error.
  • There's also sloppy justification.
  • And this strange construction: "Being an older home when I bought it and having been previously owned by an elderly widow, I have plenty of...." That's an interesting reincarnation -- the pastor used to be a house!  Maybe this book could lead to a sequel to "My Mother the Car."
The Westbow website brags: "you also have an entire staff of experienced industry-professionals on your side.... We help your book live up to industry standards and take care of all the details."

Well, maybe not all of the details.

What a bunch of idiots!

Sadly, the author's expectation of "the positive reputation that...assures readers a quality print" is not justified.

For its important debut, Westbow has clearly demonstrated what's wrong with vanity-published books. I hope that the book's inept production will serve as a warning to potential victims of both WestBow and the Author Solutions brands.



P.S.:  To me, a mustard seed is the beginning of a jar of the tangy yellow-brown stuff that I slather on Hebrew National hotdogs. I have no idea what the author means by "mustardseed," or "mustard seed." I guess the book was not intended to be read by people like me. Still, it would be nice to have an explanation.

...

Amazon and BookLocker settle antitrust lawsuit. Amazon will pay court costs.


(What follows is from a statement by BookLocker, a pay-to-publish company that appears to be more author-friendly than the usual vanity presses.)

As many of you probably remember, in March, 2008, an Amazon / BookSurge representative called us on the phone and told us we (and other Print on Demand publishers) must start paying Amazon to print our books. If we didn’t, they would remove our “buy it now” buttons from Amazon.com.

NOTE: Amazon recently retired the BookSurge name (that was not a surprise), and is now doing their POD business under the name CreateSpace. Other than the name, not much appears to have changed.

After the phone call, we publicly cried foul, and alerted the publishing industry about the threat. We subsequently heard from other publishers who had received the same ultimatum, including a university press. A media firestorm erupted and many authors and publishers alike screamed “monopoly”, launching an online revolt. Several, including myself, boycotted Amazon.com, and publicly shared their anger about the Amazon / BookSurge (now CreateSpace) Ultimatum.

Our publicity efforts forced Amazon to finally make public what targeted POD publishers claimed to have been told through what some considered intimidating phone conversations. Until that point, Amazon hadn’t appeared to want to put anything in writing.

Unfortunately, many of the large POD publishers signed the Amazon / BookSurge (now CreateSpace) contract after Amazon gave them a deadline. We did not. BookLocker.com, instead, filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon, alleging their actions violated federal antitrust laws.

That’s when the real battle began. We spent hundreds of hours researching, corresponding with other publishers, authors and our attorneys, and writing and rewriting legalese that would at times make my eyes glaze over. Each time I had to work on the case, my initial anger about the unfairness of it all would return. I’ll admit it was hard to keep a smile on my face most days. The worst part of the entire experience was the time I was forced to spend away from our children because of Amazon’s actions. Mason is three years old and we’ve been dealing with this for almost two years now.

As expected, Amazon filed a motion to dismiss. We were not surprised in August, 2009 when Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. issued a 26-page order denying Amazon’s motion to dismiss.

We suspected Amazon would want to settle before discovery began and we were right.

We hammered out the details for almost two months. I wanted to share the settlement information with you all in the worst way during that time, but could not because the negotiations could have fallen through at any moment (and almost did a few times!). For example, we specified initially that any cash offered to BookLocker by Amazon would go directly to a charity and we wanted that statement included in the settlement. Amazon refused to allow the charity wording to appear in there. (Why do you think they did that??) We subsequently refused any cash payment from Amazon. We then included a statement in the settlement that BookLocker declined a cash settlement from Amazon…and Amazon insisted on removing that verbiage, too.

We didn’t do this for the money. We did it to make Amazon understand that covert efforts aimed at forcing POD publishers to pay Amazon / BookSurge (now Createspace) to print their books is not the way responsible corporate citizens should act. By getting Amazon to rescind their pay-us-to-print-your-books-or-else policy, we believe BookLocker’s lawsuit achieved its goal.

Large companies will run all over small ones unless somebody fights back. The publishing industry contains many players and, for the benefit of readers everywhere, they all deserve an equal place in the market. Allowing the largest online retailer to strong-arm publishers into paying more for a product that may, in fact, be inferior hurts publishers, authors, and, ultimately, the reader. Yes, BookSurge (now operating under the CreateSpace name) has had quality problems. We recently ordered some books from them to see if things had changed. One arrived looking so bad that Amazon inserted an apology note into the book itself, saying it was the best they could get from their distributor. (IT’S THEIR BOOK!) Another arrived with the interior appearing upside-down. Their quality problems have been reported online by others as well.

Finally, we want to publicly express our deepest gratitude to Seth Klein, Bob Izard, and all the caring folks at Izard Nobel LLP, and to Anthony Pellegrini and the team at Rudman & Winchell. Without them, we and all POD publishers might be in a completely different position today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Even one person can make a difference,
but maybe he shouldn't




Each year at election time we are urged to vote because "even one person can make a difference."

Actually very few elections are decided by one vote, but in the U. S. Supreme Court, a one-person majority can radically change the course of history and the way we live, or die.

In 2000 in "Bush vs. Gore," by a 5-to-4 vote the Supremes decided that George W. Bush should become our 43rd presdent -- despite his loss of the national popular vote and widespread voting irregularities in Florida. CLICK for more.

By endorsing Dubya, the Court paved the way for all that Bush and Cheney did to screw up this country in the following eight years, including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the response to Hurrican Katrina ("Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job"), opposing the Kyoto protocol for cleaner air, limiting stem cell research, warrantless phone bugging, authorizing waterboard torture, cancelling the ABM treaty with Russia, and the Great Recession. (Some also blame them for the 9/11 tragedies.)

Ironically, unforseeable after-effects of the 2000 Supreme Court decision were Bush's nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Court.

Yesterday Roberts and Alito helped to remake history by overturning laws and court rulings that limited political advertising by non-persons.

By a one-person majority, the Supremes have allowed the Teamsters Union, Ford, Sony, the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, Exxon-Mobil or presumably any other domestic or foreign corporation or union to spend millions or billions to influence the way American citizens vote.

I am, in general, a supporter of unfettered speech -- but that's for speech by people, not by deep-pocketed institutions that want laws changed to favor them.

One Supreme Court Justice, who could have voted the other way, has set us up for a scenario where a Senatorial candidate could be offered a $1 billion advertising campaign by Johnson & Johnson but just half a billion by Pfizer, and the candidate's loyalty will go where the big money is.

A candidate for governor who is offered advertising worth $1 billion by Ford, half a billion by Nissan and $300,000 by the United Auto Workers Union can be expected to follow the money.

It's logical to assume that a candidate for president who is offered $100 million in ad backing by Google, $90 million by Microsoft, $80 million by Apple, and $70 million by Yahoo will sell-out to the highest budder.

The decision to take that money is based on the desire to be elected -- not by a desire to serve the people, or the merits of pending and possible legislation -- and it shouldn't be that way.

If a new dog catcher is elected in Wasilla, Alaska because of a one-vote majority, the election probably won't radically change the way people live. But yesterday's decision can radically remake the nation and change the world.

Yesterday's decision has the potential to make American politics even more corrupt than it has been. Its chief beneficiaries will be politicians and the people and companies that sell advertising. The losers could be every American, or maybe even every person in the world.

It's time for Congress to make some new well-thought-out laws regulating campaign financing that the Supremes can't overturn.

...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Borders is hurting, and holding back payments to smaller publishers


At the end of 2009, the British Borders bookstore chain went bust. That business was founded by the American Borders company, but it is no longer connected. However, they do share an important problem -- sales are off and it's difficult to pay bills.

Borders is also later than chief bricks-and-mortar competitor Barnes & Noble in offering an eBook reader. All bricks-and-mortar booksellers face increased online competition, particularly from Amazon.com; and physical big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target are increasing their book business.

Borders shut its 200-store Waldenbooks chain last year. Borders' sales for the quarter ending on October 31 were nearly $100 million less than the comparable period in 2008. They lost about $34 million in the quarter -- about $10 million worse than a year earlier.

For the 11-week holiday period ending on January 16, 2010, sales droppd about 15%. Barnes & Noble reported similar trouble for the holiday season in its physical stores, but online sales were up.

The Financial Times reported that "management is playing a risky game of favorites by only paying some of the publishers it trades with, according to six suppliers interviewed by Debtwire. The company is paying its largest vendors in timely fashion but is in growing arrears to a number of smaller publishing houses, some of whom are preparing to take legal action."

"A group of publishers supplying Borders have retained the bankruptcy group of Lowenstein Sandler as legal counsel concerning mounting receivables from the nation’s second biggest bookseller, said two sources familiar with the situation. The group approached management with inquiries about a potential restructuring, its payment plans and the state of operations but never received a response, said one of the sources."

"Three major publishers said they received payments in full from Borders for the December period but three smaller firms said the company has been delaying payments."

"The average time it took for Borders to pay back suppliers spiked over 40% to 97.9 days in the year ended 31 October, from 69.4 days in the prior year period, based on the company’s reported accounts payable and cost of goods sold."

A Borders spokesperson said the company "has continued to pay its vendors and is not aware of any material disputes related to its December 2009 payments.” (info from the Financial Times and Debtwire)

...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I love Hewlett-Packard
except when
I hate Hewlett-Packard


I'm sitting at the desk in my home office. I'm using an HP "Media Center" PC. To my right are FOUR different HP printers. I have a photo-quality inkjet, another inkjet used as a backup and for scanning, a little portable photo printer, and a monster-size Color Laser Jet.

My newest laptop is also an HP, as is my newest desktop a few miles away at my regular office.

Most of the time, I'm a big fan of HP -- but not this week.

On Monday morning, as I do on most mornings, I started to print an update of my business checking account. The Color Laser Jet would not print, and gave me a warning that I had to replace the cyan toner cartridge. This was particularly annoying because there was no advance notice, and I had been at both OfficeMax and Staples within the previous few days.

Later on Monday, I went to Staples and spent about $93 on a new cyan cartridge. I also spent about $93 on a black toner cartridge. I print more black than color with this printer and I like to have a spare on hand and was already printing with the cart that had been my spare. Including sales tax I spent about 200 bucks to be able to print two colors. That seems like a lot of money, especially since Staples sells an HP inkjet color printer for just $49.98 (including ink, and it also copies and scans).

After licking my wounds, on Tuesday morning I loaded my new cyan cartridge and clicked my mouse to print the bank info. The screen showed a list of recent transactions but nothing printed. The screen on my HP monitor told me that the HP printer had told my HP computer that it was unhappy. The printer's own little screen said the machine wanted a new yellow toner cart.

I had not printed ANYTHING since the previous day's cyan scare. No condition had changed. I'd think that with all of this mighty technology, the printer knew on Monday that it also needed yellow toner. Why wasn't I informed?

Soooooooo, yesterday I want back to Staples and spent another 90-something bucks. However, I did save $3 by returning the dead yelow cart.

Now it's Wednesday. I really should be looking at the bank's website instead of working on this blog. I really should be printing out the bank info. Somehow, the prospect of a low balance doesn't bother me as much as the prospect of my printer telling me I have to go back to Staples and buy a magenta cartridge.

I'm foolishly reluctant to try to print. It couldn't happen a third time, could it? I have other problems to deal with today. Sears is sending a repairman for the umpteenth time to fix our top-of-the-line $3,000 General Electric fridge that doesn't make ice and leaks water all over the floor. I had to turn off the house's main water supply because the idiot who installed the fridge did not install a shutoff valve for its water supply.

When we need to flush a toilet, I briefly turn the water back on, and then mop up the kitchen floor.

Later today I have to drive a few hundred miles for a funeral. I'm a little bit envious of the dearly departed. Dead people don't have to deal with GE or HP.

But, the show must go on. So, OK, folks, here goes.

I open the really cool HP package. I slice through the industrial-strength cushionioning and hear and feel the whoosh of air escape from the protective cocoon. I lower the front panel of the printer, extract the old yellow, insert the new yellow, close the front panel, hear some whirrs and clicks, and prepare to print the bank statement for the third time.

But, Noooooooooooooooooooo. Now this brain-dead piece of shit informs me that I have to go to Staples for the third time in three days (and the fourth time in five days) because it's thirsty for magenta.

I am not kidding. I am not making this up. At this point, I hate Hewlett-Packard even more than I hate General Electric. My printer won't print my bank info, but it does print money for HP and Staples.

UPDATE: Since today is a busy day and I won't have a chance to get to Staples, I decided to print the bank stuff with my HP Photosmart printer. It perversely informed me that I had to replace both the black and the cyan cartridges!!!

Fortunately I had them in my supply closet, so I'm a little bit happier. However, I am NOT happy knowing that as I sit at this desk I am surrounded by a small army of robot ink salesmen forever ready to extract money from me.

I loaded the "new" hermetically sealed cyan and black cartridges and was promptly informed that they are too old to be used.

FUCK YOU, HEWLETT-PACKARD!
DROP DEAD! GO TO HELL!
I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Which headline do you prefer to believe?



On Monday, working from the same information, The New York Times ("the newspaper of record") and the Associated Press ("the largest and oldest news organization in the world")  came up with very different headlines.

You can believe the one you prefer -- or neither of them.

(Yes, I know that a college and a university are not the same thing, but apparently the headline writers didn't care about the difference.)

This reminds me of the time when I was an editor at Rolling Stone magazine in Manhattan in the early 1970s. I walked up Madison Avenue to get to my office at 78 East 56th Street. There was a point where I could see giant clocks on both the Newsweek Building and the IBM Building. The clocks were often more than two minutes apart. I can't remember them ever agreeing.

Whom do we trust?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Three Stooges of Publishing




(bottom, left) Outskirts Press founder  Brent Sampson wrote that Roget's Thesaurus was published by Peter Mark (actually, Peter Roget published it), confused a foreword with a preface, and misspelled "offset." Brent advises that "Errors in your writing cause readers to question your credibility."  He's right about that.  More  More  More  More 

(bottom, center) Lulu founder Bob Young told Publishers Weekly that "We publish a huge number of really bad books." If Bob knows they're really bad books, he shouldn't publish them. Bob also misspelled "misspell" and confused "less" and "fewer." A publisher should know better.  More  More 

(bottom, right) Thomas Nelson Publishers CEO Michael Hyatt operates a blog that automatically blocks comments from people who have disagreed with him in the past, without any human being reading the comment. Nelson recently formed a "Christian" vanity press division, WestBow Press. Westbow lies about being a "self-publishing company" and lies about providing "free" books. What would Jesus do?  More   More

...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reverse Frankenstein reported in the New Haven Register



In 1818 Mary Shelley published a book in which Dr. Victor Frankenstein was able to transform a collection of inanimate parts into a near-human being.

I just learned that there is a method to reverse the process.

Today's issue of the New Haven Register carries an article about the use of technology in public schools, written by Elizabeth Benton.

Most of the article deals with such issues as permitting or banning iPods, texting in classrooms, podcasts replacing notes to parents, and smartboards replacing blackboards.

However, Elizabeth inadvertently revealed a much more important breakthrough in technology.

She wrote, "Formerly a technology teacher, Oberdick's classroom is a digital center."

AMAZING! Some 21st-century Dr. Frankenstein has discovered how to convert a living and breathing human being into an assembly of hard drives, microprocessors, Sheetrock and ceiling tiles.

OK, OK. I'm kidding Elizabeth and I admit that I'm not perfect. Every writer makes mistakes. That's why God gave us proofreaders and editors. But apparently God didn't give quite enough of them to my hometown paper.

Previously the New Haven Register printed two dates on different pages of the same issue, and claimed that a Civil War veteran died about 80 years before the war.

Actually, the Register is probably no worse than most papers, and is better than many. I have warm feelings for the paper. When I was in grade school, probably around 1958, my father introduced me to a Register reporter who helped influence me to become a writer. And in 1989 the paper published an article of mine that has grown into a book that will be out in April.

...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How many mothers do I have?



From a website promoting the books of Peter H. Zindler:

"Seeds of Greatness will open the door of your heart to the gifts and abilities that God planted when He formed you in your mothers' wombs. It will further define what greatness truly is -- and it isn't spiking a football in the end zone and then signing the goal post with a marker."

I won't debate the theology or the importance of football, but there is something strange about the biology in the paragraph. I always thought I came from ONE mother with ONE womb.

...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ignore asshole Pat Robertson. Haiti deserves help.


As more news about the earthquake tragedy in Haiti comes out, we also learn how pathetic the "normal" living conditions are in that country.

By almost every standard (literacy, life expectancy, nutrition, income, violence, corruption) it is a terrible place to live. The country was founded with a rebellion against slavery, and even in "freedom," its people have suffered from economic chaos, brutal and dishonest governments and often violent weather.

Nevertheless, the Haitians are a proud and powerful people, with a rich heritage and drive to survive. I am at least a little confident that, especially with the huge international relief effort, the Haitians who survive will ultimately have better lives. They deserve a country where there is less chance of buildings collapsing, and where hungry children won't eat dirt or get shot on the way to school.

In 2009, life in Haiti was actually getting better.

And now, senile asshole televangelist and presidential wannabe Pat Robertson claims that the Haitians deserved the earthquake. Pat thinks they were cursed by God for making a deal with the devil in 1804 to get free from their slavemasters. Pat claims the slave rebels said, "We will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal." Pat (Actually, his first name is Marion), SHUT UP!

A White House spokesman said Pat's remarks were "stupid."

Raymond Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. responded to Pat by pointing out that Haiti's freedom led to freedom across Latin America and even helped the United States. He said, "The U.S. was able to gain the Louisianna Territory for $15 million. That's three cents an acre. That's 13 states west of the Mississippi that the Haitian slaves' revolt in Haiti provided America."

With a per-capita income of about $1,300 per year, small donations from abroad could make a big difference -- even before the earthquake.

Because of the Great Recession, American families are also suffering. Many Americans have lost jobs, homes and medical insurance. Retirees have gone back to work. Students are switching to less-expensive colleges. The military services are viewed as employers.

But despite our misfortunes, we are still much better off than Haitians, and they deserve our help.

Even if your family is having trouble making ends meet, you should be able to find $5, $10, $50 or more that could make the difference between death and life, or between awful misery and slightly less awful misery.

If you were planning to go to a restaurant this weekend, go to a less expensive place and donate the difference. Drink water instead of soda, beer, wine or a cocktail. Have one less topping on your pizza. Skip an appetizer or desert. Or stay home and find something in the fridge or freezer and donate what the restaurant meal would have cost. Maybe you could get by with a less-expensive bed spread, or give a less-expensive gift, or skip a car wash or two. Instead of giving someone an unneeded present, make a donation in that person's honor.

Google has made it easy to make a donation to help the people of Haiti. Please CLICK to give, and post this information wherever you can.

...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help Haiti!


Haiti shares the island of Hispanola with the more prosperous Dominican Republic. The island is between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1492 and founded settlements.

Even during the best of times, Haiti has been a miserable place to live.

Its people suffered as slaves under French colonists, and after revolting and becoming "free," the country was known for turmoil and frequent government takeovers. The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934.

In 1937 Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the Dominican Army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border.

Later in the 20th Century, Haitians suffered again under the brutal and corrupt regimes of "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his slightly nicer son "Baby Doc."

Haiti is home to a proud people with a rich culture and important history, but the country is pathetically poor, with a very low literacy rate and one of the worst living standards in the world. Many Haitians left the country.

Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. Haiti is the only predominantly French-speaking independent nation in the Western Hemisphers, and one of just two (with Canada) that designate French as an official language

And now, an earthquake has caused thousands of poorly made buildings to collapes, killing as-yet-uncounted tens of thousands of people.

President Obama, the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense have changed their schedules to deal with the crisis. I changed my blogging schedule to ask readers to donate some money to help, and to encourage others to donate, too.

Google has made it easy to make a donation to help the people of Haiti. Please CLICK to give, and post this information wherever you can.

(Some info above came from Wikipedia)

...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Another award-winner from the Borat Akademi of English Writteningistics:

Horrible writing from a publishing expert (HAH!)



Below, posted without modification, from Brian Scott, founder of BookProposalWriting.com. It's "a free website to help aspiring and professional authors write a book proposal and sell their book to a literary agent or book publisher for a six figure advance. [Yeah, sure.] We also offer free resources and information on many aspects of book writing and book publishing, including book design, book distribution, self-publishing [I couldn't find any.] , and finding a literary agent.'

It's extremely unlikely that any writer as inept as Brian would get a "six figure advance" -- or a six-dollar advance. I believe in freedom of the press, but some folks should not be allowed to touch a keyboard, or a crayon. Brian also has a very weird online video. His head moves slightly but his voice is robotic and the rest of his body is as still as a corpse. I have a tree that shows more emotion.

You’re ready to publish his first book. You want to find the best editor. You can find hundreds of publishers – large and small. The possibilities seem endless, so choose carefully his book publisher. The advantages and disadvantages of choosing a publisher that the process is complicated and confusing. Selling your book to a publisher usually means they do the most work hard to ensure the success of his book.

The editors have contacts in industry and finance to produce and market their book. You can also expect further progress with an editor. Disadvantages are also abundant. Big publishers do not take a new author unless you already have a book published. The editors also part of the fees and advances. This adds additional cost to you. To find the best publisher, the book market to larger publishers who have a proven track record with your type of book. This will require field work on your part, but this method is implemented. While not all publishers are considered a working agent, you can still find many publishers who accept unsolicited proposals and book manuscripts.If you have money to self-publish, then the free publication. Self-publishing also has pros and cons.

Benefits include:

full control of your manuscript, publishers or editors do not request revisions, and maintain all rights. .

You can earn some money in the long run – if you know how to market your book.

The disadvantages are the lack of guidance from the editors and publishers; you are responsible for marketing your book, and the fees in advance may be large to produce and distribute his book. The worst case is reviewers and bookstores will not take you or your self-published the book seriously. The online editors provided with different formats in which the publication of his book, and paperback, hardcover, pocket-sized digital or. The online publishers charge fees equivalent based on the number of page sizes, or paper. Many publishers offer online publishing services such as design, graphic design and editing. If you are serious about the publication of his book, and then do a lot of research to make the best choice.

Many publishers are looking for new and new materials. This could be your passport to his writing career. OTHER WAYS TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK The dream of every writer to publish his own book. Traditionally, to get their work into print that had to send your manuscript to dozens of publishers and literary agents. Then you had to wait. . . and wait. . . and wait for a response. This response was either an acceptance or – usually – a rejection. Oppose, no? Trends in publication today have changed little over the past ten years in favor of helping aspiring authors self publish their books with little or no cost. Authors of books have more options, thanks to the Internet, and this type of online publishing services offered by Lulu. com and CreateSpace. com. Online Services and the new printing technology allows authors to publish and market their own books, even if the financial return is nominal.

We will learn about different ways to publish your own book. INDIE MOVEMENT If you can not sign with a publisher known for printing your book, do not quit. Many authors publish their books with success without the help of an agent or a famous New York editor. Many publishers of trade paperback are willing to gamble on new and unknown authors. Publishers Trade paperback printing demands are smaller publishers. A growing trend of publishers of trade paperback is using new technology and printing techniques called Print on Demand. This new technology allows an author to place an order to print or publish only a single copy without high costs. There is no need for a huge roll.

Print on Demand is a growing market for books and standalone products, and this can only be your ticket to get your book published. THE e-book revolution Electronic publishing is a viable alternative to publish his book. Because the Internet is a vast world to distribute information edge, low cost, electronic publishers large and small are interested in a variety of genre – the self-help books, romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy. Signing with an e-publisher of the book is practical and quickly to market his work as an electronic book. A growing trend of people who enjoy buying electronic books online and read on laptops, PCs, handheld readers, mobile phones and other electronic devices. Self-publishing New technologies have paved the way for self-publishing a viable option for publishing his book. Self-publishing no longer cost you six to seven thousand dollars, now you can self-publish in a fraction of the cost. Printers that use new technologies can publish a book for a few hundred dollars, sometimes less. In addition, you can contact and pay a printer to produce the book for a certain price. After that, you can use your own network of people and marketing skills to sell his book.

Self-publishing gives you total control – you call all the shots. You do not have to wait for a literary agent or editor to find that, in contrast, can take matters into their own hands, investing his own money. If the book becomes a success, then you can enjoy the benefits and rights for himself. Like any business venture, self-publishing may have more potential for upside, but may also have a greater chance of failure, you are responsible for marketing and selling your book. Make sure you are diligent in the process of distribution and market your book aggressively to generate steady sales. Publishing Trends have changed rapidly in recent years. Authors of books today are equipped with new ways to publish their books. They make their own decisions and retain all creative rights. Gone are the days when you waited 4-8 weeks to hear back from a major publisher about his book proposal or manuscript. Self-publishing the note rejecting banishes annoying. You are the best ways to publish his book in his way.

...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trade magazines: the whores of journalism



When I was a kid, I loved electronics. I went to Lehigh University to major in electrical engineering. I quickly realized it was a mistake and for my second semester I switched to journalism. During summers, I worked in retailing.

This combination made me the perfect candidate for my first post-college job, Assistant Editor of High Fidelity Trade News. It was  a magazine that served hi-fi dealers.

My starting salary (in 1970) was just $115 per week, but I had an impressive title. And unlike some of my classmates, I was working on a magazine in Manhattan, not a weekly newspaper in Duluth.

One thing I did not learn in life or at Lehigh, however, was how "trade journalism" works.

Publications that provide free subscriptions to hi-fi dealers (or gas station operators or beauticians or dentists or practitioners of any occupation) are completely dependent on advertising revenue.

Because of this dependency, there was none of the "church-and-state" separation of the editorial and advertising staffs that I had been taught was normal in journalism.

At The New Yorker, a Lehigh professor told me, editors and ad salesmen were not even alowed to be in an elevator together. Upper management feared that an ad guy would try to get an editor to provide positive coverage for an actual or potential advertiser even if there was nothing newsworthy happening.

Trade journalism is completely different.

At my first job, any news, no matter how insignificant, was treated as BIG NEWS, if it would help win or keep an advertising contract.

The magazine's boss was not really the editor, but Ken Nelson, the advertising manager. He planned our editorial coverage, i.e., ass-kissing.

At one press conference where a manufacturer was showing new products, we had two real editorial people, plus the production manager making believe he was a reporter, and an ad salesman making believe he was a photographer. He flashed his strobelight at dramatic moments, but there was no film in his camera.

We were not the only ones. Some other magazines were even worse whores than we were. I remember an industry event where Stanley Kermish, an over-eager ad man, was introduced to the boss of a hi-fi equipment manufacturer. The second sentence out of Stan's mouth was, "We're thinking of putting your new product on the cover."

I've been away from trade journalism for about 40 years and hadn't thought much about it until recently.

Publishers Weekly is an important magazine and I read nearly every issue to keep up with trends and news. A recent issue of the usually respectable magazine took me back to the bad old days. I felt like puking.

Although PW does charge for subscriptions (for its paper edition) it is very dependent on advertising, and now appears to be willing to get into bed with the sleaziest of the sleazy if the relationship might bring in a few bucks.

The PW management apparently realized that most of the ad money of the growing vanity publishers has been spent in Writers Digest and for online ads -- and PW wants a piece of the action.

The 12/21/09 issue of PW contains some of the most blatant, ill-advised and ignorant ass-kissing I've ever read. A puff-piece by Lynn Andriani portrays Kevin Weiss, "CEO of self-publishing giant Author Solutions," as a combination of Moses, Jesus, Washington, Franklin, Ghandi, Salk, Jobs and Gates.

Andreani repeatedly flings bullshit at her readers by describing Weiss's business as "self-publishing," when it is really vanity publishing. Vanity publishers make most of their money by selling services to naive writers, not by selling books to readers. Vanity-pubbed books are often ugly, error-filled and overpriced, and they sell poorly.

Adriani wrote, "Over the past 13 years, Author Solutions' brands — AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Wordclay, and Xlibris — have published more than 120,000 books by 85,000 authors."

Hey Lynn, If Author Solutions "published" those books, the authors were NOT self-publishing.

Is that too hard for you to understand?

If an author is not the publisher, the author is not a self-publisher. No person or company can self-publish anyone else. The words just don't make sense.

A writer at an important publishing industry publication should know better.

In the past, PW called Author House a "print-on-demand subsidy publisher," but now the mag is willing to use illegitimate terminology to grant them undeserved respectability. As a result, I now have less respect for PW.

(PW is owned by Reed Business Information. Reed publishes lots of trade magazines. Some of them print ads on their front covers where news belongs.)

....

Monday, January 11, 2010

HURRAY!
Another award winner from the Borat Akademi of English Writteningistics



Even the English have trouble writing English.
(By Alex Tipu, from http://ezinearticles.com)

Businesses everywhere are in constant need of ways of communication. One of the most popular ways to communicate and keep in touch with both customers and colleagues is the telephony system. For that matter, there can be a lot of expenses related to calling numbers on cell phones, particularly.

A good business call package goes a long way in helping a business work efficiently. Many times, businessmen have to make long conference calls, which might result in an added burden on the already strained resources. If you make use of a good business call package, you would not have to worry about being charged per minute.

Some of the leading companies have a wide range of call packages and especially caters to the needs of all sorts of businesses, be they large or small. The most important thing is to reduce calls costs, both on landlines and cell phones as well as being able to manage making calls easier.

There are basically three sorts of packages, offered by few best companies, namely the Business Essential offer, the Business Call Anytime Package and the Business Call Flexible offer. Whatever package you pick for your business, it will ensure that you are provided with competitive call rates with concern to landlines and mobile phones in the United Kingdom.

For small businesses, who spend less time on calls and usually need around less than three minutes to make a call on landlines, the most beneficial package is the Business Essential. This package incorporates line rental and anytime minutes for a monthly charge of only £12.99. This package, as all others, is ex-Value Added Tax.

As mentioned earlier, the packages offered by best companies are extremely flexible. Callers who are moderate users of the telephony system can make use of the Business Call Anytime offer. This package lets you spend around twelve minutes a day to call on a landline; however, for mobile phones, this limit is reduced to two minutes. This package incorporates the line rental and provides you a choice to select and determine what you want. The package is available for only £16.99 per month, also ex-Value Added Tax.

Another easy to use offer made available by these companies is the Business Call Flexible package. This package is for business users who employ a lot of telephony when conducting their business. It allows users to make a call of up to thirty minutes to any landline. Users are allowed to make a call of up to six minutes on cell phones. This offer can be subscribed to for around £24.99 on a monthly basis. It lets the user make a choice of any three inclusive call options and combines them with the line rental to give a reasonably-priced offer.

VoIPtalk is another company that allows great call rates on the local as well as international level. Its offer consist of Landline Business Lite, Landline Business Regular, Landline Business Frequent and Landline Business Ultimate. All offer can be subscribed to by logging on to the voIPtalk website.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Sort-of good news for self-publishers: B&N store sales are down, web sales are way up


Self-published authors who are frustrated about not being able to get their books into bricks-and-mortar bookstores have less to be frustrated about. Online bookselling (a much easier path for self-pubbers) is rapidly growing, while bookstores are closing and sales at the remaining stores are decreasing. There's just not much reason to base your pricing, returns policy and marketing strategy on a sales channel that's hostile to self-pubbers AND is becoming less important.

  • Barnes & Noble, the world's largest bookseller, reported that store sales for the nine-week holiday period from November 1, 2009 to January 2, 2010 declined by 5% over the same period a year ago. Online sales at Barnes & Noble.com increased 17% for the holiday selling season.
  • In a study done by Zogby for Random House and released last Spring, 77% of respondents said they’d bought books online and 76% said they’d bought books in big chain bookstores.
  • Stores owned by Barnes & Noble and Borders are devoting increasing space to everything from backpacks to wrapping paper as they morph into variety stores that also sell books. At the same time, online booksellers have "infinite cyber shelf space" to display books.
  • Borders has gone out of business in Great Britain.
  • In the United States, Borders has been closing stores since 2007.
  • Amazon.com grows and grows and grows.
  • Publishers can make much more money per copy via online sales, and no battered books are returned.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Save up to $199.
Write your own Outskirts Press press release


Inept vanity publisher Outskirts Press charges its customer/victims $99 or $199 to produce a crappy press release to announce their new books.

Through the magic of the Internet, I am pleased to offer a FREE do-it-yourself Outskirts Press press release template. All you have to do is fill in a few specifics about your book, copy and paste the completed document onto the website of a freebie news distribution service such as PR.com or  PR Log, and you will have achieved everything that Outskirts would charge you for.

Just replace the blue-colored words below with information about your own book.



Outskirts Press Announces Oedipus Rex, the Latest Book from Athens, Greece Author Sophocles

Athens, Greece, January 07, 429 BCE --(PR.com)-- Outskirts Press, Inc. has published Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, which is the author's most recent book to date. The 6 x 9 paperback cream in the Fiction/Tragedy category is available worldwide on book retailer websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble for a suggested retail price of $14.95. The webpage at www.outskirtspress.com/oedipus was launched simultaneously with the book's publication.

About the Book (Excerpts & Info)

Oedipus Rex is an epic story that examines the constant battle between parent and child.

The main character, Oedipus, is the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. After Laius learns from an oracle that he will be killed by his son, he orders Jocasta to kill the infant Oedipus. Jocasta then orders a servant to do the killing, but the servant abandons the baby in a field, leaving the baby's fate to the gods.

A shepherd rescues the infant and gives it to another shepherd who takes the baby to Corinth, where Oedipus is taken in and raised in the court of the childless King Polybus as if he were his own son.

As a young man, Oedipus hears a rumor that he is not the biological son of Polybus and his wife Merope. When Oedipus asks them, they deny it, but he is still suspicious and he asks the Delphic Oracle who his parents really are. The Oracle seems to ignore this question, telling him instead that he is destined to have sex with his mother and kill his father. Desperate to avoid this horrible fate, Oedipus leaves Corinth in the belief that Polybus and Merope are indeed his true parents and that if he stays away from them, the prediction can't come true.

On the road to Thebes, he meets Laius, his true father. Unaware of each other's identities, they quarrel over whose chariot has the right-of-way. King Laius tries to hit the insolent youth with his sceptre, but Oedipus knocks him off the chariot and kills him, fulfilling part of the oracle's prophecy.

Shortly after, Oedipus solves the baffling riddle of the Sphinx: "What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?" People who can't answer, are killed.

Oedipus replies, "Man" (who crawls on all fours as an infant, walks upright later, and needs a walking stick in old age), and the frustrated Sphinx throws herself off a cliff.

Oedipus's reward for answering the riddle and freeing Thebes from her curse is the kingship of Thebes and marriage to Queen Jocasta, his widowed biological mother. He has sex with her and the prophecy is fulfilled, although the main characters don't know it.


Josasta has children with Oedipus (his daughters are his sisters, his sons are his brothers, his uncle is his brother-in-law). Eventually the family history becomes known. Jocasta hangs herself, and then Oedipus removes the long gold pins that held her dress together, sticks them into his eyes and begs to be exiled.

Deftly constructed at 169 pages, Oedipus Rex is being aggressively promoted to appropriate markets with a focus on the Fiction/Tragedy category. With U.S. wholesale distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and pervasive online availability through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere, Oedipus Rex meets consumer demand through both retail and library markets with a suggested retail price of $14.95.

Additionally, Oedipus Rex can be ordered by retailers or wholesalers for the maximum trade discount price set by the author in quantities of ten or more from the Outskirts Press wholesale online bookstore at www.outskirtspress.com/buybooks.

(Plot summary adapted from Wikipedia, cover iIllustration uses "Oedipus and the Sphinx" by Gustav Moreau, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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