.

.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The stupid robo-censor at CreateSpace is still causing trouble

Last fall I complained on this blog that the hyperactive robo-censor at CreateSpace had delayed publication of a book about self-publishing because it mentioned CreateSpace parent Amazon.com. I was told: "The interior file submitted for this title contains text referencing Amazon.com. Please remove all text and/or logos which reference Amazon.com."

After my complaint, I received an apology, and my freedom of the press was restored.


I recently submitted files for another book:


And yesterday, the robo-censor said, "PROBLEM: The interior file submitted for this title contains text referencing CreateSpace as the publisher on PDF page 106. Please remove all text and/or logos which reference CreateSpace as the publisher. If you would like to include information regarding the publisher, you may include information regarding your own Imprint."

Here's the part of the "problem" page which mentions CreateSpace:

Nowhere does this page -- or any other page in the book -- claim that CreateSpace is the publisher. On the contrary, the book bears the name and logo of MY OWN publishing company, Silver Sands Books, and uses an ISBN assigned to Silver Sands Books, not to CreateSpace.

Sadly (and perversely) there is no way to respond to the email I received, and messages sent from the CreateSpace website to the "Member Support Team" may be ignored, or may elicit a nonsensical response like this one I got from parent Amazon: "... so that they would be able to do the needful."

Therefore, I am once again resorting to public embarrassment in an effort to get help. This should not be necessary.


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Friday, April 29, 2011

Put off procrastination

I've always been a procrastinator. Lots of people are, but maybe I'm better at it than most people. Is a better procrastinator a worse procrastinator?

I was born a day late.
  • Even though my birthday is also Income Tax Day, I've filed my tax return on time only once in the last 40-plus years. Fortunately, I get refunds, not penalties.
  • When I freelanced for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 70s (before fax machines were common and long before email) I often drove to Laguardia airport to have my column flown to the main office in San Francisco. The air freight fee was at least half of what I got paid for writing. Stupid.
  • In high school, I often did homework for sixth-period English class in fifth-period chemistry class (or maybe it was vice versa).
  • When I was a teenager, I once backdated the Pitney-Bowes mailing machine in my father's office so it would look like the holiday cards I sent out in January were delayed by the Post Office -- not by me.
  • In college, I made up a list of "Marcus Maxims." One was "Don't put off 'til tomorrow things you can put off 'til the day after tomorrow." (Other maxims are "Never buy less than a pound of anything" and "Nothing is worth waiting for.")
Today, that maxim came in conflict with a genuine fact of life: "Nothing lasts forever."

In my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), I have a chapter about my name. I mention visiting the restaurant at the Marcus Dairy in Danbury, CT, to buy a milkshake and a newspaper. I jokingly showed the cashier my driver's license and asked if I get the family discount. She apparently took me seriously, and said, "Everything in the store is free."

I'm not really related to the Marcus milk makers.

Marcus is a common name, and many Marcuses have no connection other than the name. Many families now named Marcus used to have other names. My great grandfather was Isaac Dzmichevitsky (or something like that) before he came to the United States. I have no idea why Marcus was selected to be his American name, but I'm glad I'm not Michael N. Dzmichevitsky.

My father used to have a Marcus Dairy hat, that he apparently bought from one of their milk delivery men. I used to have a Marcus Dairy milk crate, and I still have a Marcus Dairy wooden toy truck. I guess pop and I were trying to borrow fame. Now I have to generate my own.

Danbury is about 45 minutes from where I now live. I have not had a reason to go there recently, but have long intended to stop by the dairy, seek out one of the owners (maybe even Michael Marcus) and present a copy of my book. I'd accept a free milkshake, if offered.

In a few hours, I have to drive past Danbury, on my way to and from Fishkill, New York where my wife and I get haircuts (that's another story).

I Googled to get the address for the dairy, and found that the dairy bar, opened in 1947, had closed in February. The land is going to be used for a Whole Foods store. Many people will miss the dairy, including bikers.

I read that the milk packaging plant moved east from Danbury to Oxford. It's actually closer to me now. Maybe I'll take a ride there some day.

Or, maybe not.



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Thursday, April 28, 2011

iPad's competitors try harder

On Monday Barnes & Noble provided an app store and an email program for its Nook Color eBook reader, so the $249 device is more like a multi-purpose tablet computer, particularly Apple's iPad.

From the Associated Press: The Nook Color has a color touchscreen, which gives it capabilities beyond those of Amazons competing Kindle. The Kindle has a gray-scale screen which isn't touch sensitive.

The Nook Color runs Google's Android software, which is used on phones and tablets, but the device doesn't run standard Android applications. Instead, B&N is encouraging developers to submit specially written applications to its Nook Apps store. Among the more than 125 applications available Monday are the game "Angry Birds" and cooking recipe vault "Epicurious." Barnes & Noble is also adding the ability to play Flash content on the Nook Color's Web browser.

B&N's Jonathan Shar said the Nook isn't intended to go compete directly with full-fledged tablets such as the iPad, for which there are more than 65,000 apps. "The target for this is still people who love reading," Shar said.

The bookstore chain launched the Nook Color in November as a successor to its first Nook, which had a gray-scale screen and a smaller, color one. Right from the start, the Nook Color had a few non-book applications like "Sudoku," but there was no way to add more. The new features are available as a free software update for current Nook owners.


=========
According to the AP, Sony is planning a tablet computer with a touch panel similar to the iPad for later this year that the company promises will make the best of its gadgetry and entertainment strengths.

The product code-named S1, shown Tuesday in Tokyo, comes with a 9.4 inch display for enjoying online content, such as movies, music, video games and electronics books, and for online connections, including email and social networking. Sony also showed S2, a smaller device with two 5.5 inch displays that can be folded like a book.

No prices were provided. Sony Senior Vice President Kunimasa Suzuki said the products will go on sale worldwide in the fall. Both run Google's Android 3.0 operating system.

Suzuki said both of the latest tablets feature Sony's "saku saku," or nifty, technology that allows for smooth and quick access to online content and for getting browsers working almost instantly after a touch. "We offer what is uniquely Sony," Suzuki said after demonstrating how the S1 was designed with a tapered width for carrying around "like a magazine."

The devices will connect to Sony's cloud-computing based library of content such as movies and music, as well as to Sony PlayStation video games adapted for running on Android and digital books from Sony's Reader store, the company said.

Sony, which makes the Vaio personal computer and PlayStation 3 video game console, has lost some of its past glory - once symbolized in its Walkman portable music player that pioneered personal music on-the-go in the 1980s, catapulting the company into a household name around the world. It has been struggling against flashier and more efficient rivals including Apple and Samsung.

Kazuo Hirai, promoted in March to head Sony's sprawling consumer products and services division, said Sony's strategy has always been about combining the benefits of hardware, software and networking to make consumers happy, and that was the same goal for S1 and S2.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There's something very special about a hardcover book

Books have always been extremely important to me. As the photo shows, even as a little kid, I used the bathroom as a library so not a moment of potential reading time was wasted. In 2011, the only piece of furniture I can visualize from the Bronx apartment my parents brought me home to in 1946 is a mahogany bookshelf. As a child with an early bedtime, I read books by flashlight under the blanket. Even now, I share my bed with my wife, our dog, and usually a book or my iPad.

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

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

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

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

After writing paperbacks since 1977 and eBooks since 2009, yesterday I received a proof of my first hardcover, a new format for my "stories" book. I feel very strange. The book feels very good. It looks beautiful, with a glossy dust jacket and the title and my name stamped in bright golden ink on the cloth covering the binding.

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

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

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

I got the idea to write this book way back when I was 11 or 12. I recently became 65. I'm not sure if this book represents my life's work, but if it does, that's OK with me. I'm very proud of the book (I've never thought that pride is sinful.)  I honestly think it's a very good book and fortunately, so do the reviewers.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some tips for increasing website traffic

Become an active participant in online forums, discussion groups (on Yahoo Groups and elsewhere), and email lists. Every time you write something, include your website address and, if necessary, a brief description of its contents.

Submit brief articles to ezines which use lots of content. Every time you write something, include your web address and, if necessary, a brief description of its contents.

Contribute to the growing number of “free content” websites that provide material for other websites. Just Google “free content” to find them. Every time you write something, include your website address and, if necessary, a brief description of its contents.

Use pages on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, MyLife and other social network websites to promote your books and your website.

Use Twitter to tell the world about your book and website (if you think anyone will care).

Exchange links with other compatible but not competitive websites.

Purchase small ads based on keyword searches from Google (“AdWords”) and other search engines.

Write a blog which promotes you, your books and your website.

Include your website address on business cards and let-terheads—and in your books.

Get listed in directories of people in your field.

Make sure any membership lists, especially online, in-clude your website address if possible.

Get your site linked from school and association websites.

Use Google Alerts to be notified of mentions of your book or website or yourself to judge your progress.

Include your website address in magazine and newspaper articles you write or are interviewed for.

Send out press releases. Even free ones which get ignored by media can create traffic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another silly mistake from Brent Sampson of Outskirts Press, and some silly stuff of my own just for the hell of it

Often-inept Outskirts Press and its often-inept boss Brent Sampson have been frequent targets of this blog.

In the past, Brent has identified the wrong publisher of Roget's Theasurus, confused a foreword with a preface, put a hyphen in the middle of "offset," and made other errors.

He wrote this in his blog on April 10th: ". . . all those other bloggers (the coined term for these people is 'blogerati' – like 'paparazzi' for bloggers) . . . ."

Sorry, Brent, "blogerati" is a parallel of "digerati" (people who are skilled with computers or are influential online), "glitterati" (highly fashionable celebs),  and the earlier "literati" (people interested in literature) -- not "paparazzi" (photographers who stalk celebs, politicians and other famous folks).

Maybe Brent was thinking of Azzi -- a tiny late-Bronze-Age kingdom located in western Asia.

And, Brent, just to clarify:

Gucci makes pocketbooks, shoes and clothing.
Pucci does the same, plus perfume and eyeglasses.
Fiorucci makes clothing and licenses its name for eyeglasses.
Another Fiorucci makes food.
Rucci makes mirrors.
Bertucci's is chain of Italian restaurants.
Stanley Tucci is an actor.
Samuel Mucci is a plastic surgeon.

Presumably, Stanly Tucci could be one of the blogerati, persued by paparazzi, and hide in Bertucci's disguised in Fiorucci sunglasses and wearing clothes from Pucci and Gucci. Stan could even have his face changed by Sam, and check on Sam's work by looking in a Rucci mirror.

I love Italian sounds, cars and women, but I think I've said enough.




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Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Hey! You! Get off of my cloud."
Has Amazon glitch caused CreateSpace problem?


Way back in 1965, when the band was just three years old, the Rolling Stones recorded Get Off Of My Cloud (click to hear). Lyrics are here. The Stones are the greatest rock band ever. If you disagree, get off of my cloud.

Anyway, in the last few years, big tech companies including IBM, HP and Amazon started offering and promoting cloud computing.

As explained by the New York Times, "In business, the cloud model is rapidly gaining popularity as a way for companies to outsource computing chores to avoid the costs and headaches of running their own data centers — simply tap in, over the Web, to computer processing and storage without owning the machines or operating software." 

Starting on Thursday, there was big trouble on Amazon's cloud. Their clients lost service, the public got pissed off, money was lost, time was wasted, and now businesses are wondering if they can rely on the cloud.

Despite powerful competition, Amazon became an early leader in cloud computing, selling its surplus computing power to those who need it, when they need it.

Again, from the Times: "Amazon has thousands of corporate customers, from Pfizer and Netflix to legions of start-ups, whose businesses often live on Amazon Web Services . . . . The problems companies reported varied, but included being unable to access data, service interruptions and sites being shut down. Amazon has data centers around the world, but the current problems have come from its big center in Northern Virginia, near Dulles airport. Amazon’s Web page on the status of its cloud services said on Friday that matters were improving but were still not resolved."

Among the many victims of the Amazon failure was Publishers Weekly magazine. As of 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, its site showed only this:

On Friday, PW sent out this email: "We want to apologize for the extended downtime on our Web site over the last day, which has also prevented us from sending our email newsletters.  Our site was affected by the Amazon Web Services outage, which you may have read about, and which has affected companies large and small; the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both have good explanations of what happened.  The choice of Amazon's servers was made by our IT consultants, who use Amazon for all of their other clients as well.  We are in the process of restoring our site and will have it up and running as soon as possible.  Thank you for your patience."


I use Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace ("CS") to print some of my books, generally books that I consider less important than those I have printed by Lightning Source ("LS").

When I use LS, I pay hundreds of dollars to an artist to design my book covers. When I use CS, I play the part of the artist, and use a CS template as a basis for the cover. These covers won't win any awards, but are good enough. Sometimes I start a book with a template, and then switch to an artist-designed cover.

I usually begin my workday at around 3 a.m. (on the east coast). Early on Friday morning, the CS website had a notice to the effect that the "Cover Creator" software was unavailable because of routine maintenance, but would be back (as I recall) at 10:30 eastern time.

That time came and went, and a more troubling and less definitive message appeared. (Left click on image to enlarge.)


Computer glitches are not unusual, I've lived through many, and may have even caused a few.

But this glitch continued all day Friday, and now it's Saturday, and I still can't finish my cover.

Ironically, the CS trouble happened at the same time that self-publishing authority Aaron Shepard announced that he was going to shift some of his books from LS to CS. This was big news in the self-pub world, almost like Barack Obama joining the Tea Party. Or Luke Skywalker going over the the Dark Side.

When companies merge or get bought, there is usually an announcement about the expected efficiency and synergy -- how money will be saved by combining resources and firing excess people and eliminating duplication.

I don't know if CreateSpace's trouble was caused by Amazon's dark cloud, or by increased demand caused by Aaron's endorsement; but, as the Stones sang, "I was sick and tired, fed up with this." 

I may have to find a new cloud.

UPDATE: as of 9 a.m. on Saturday, the CS website seems to be back to normal.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

An open letter to Donny Trump

From tycoon, to buffoon, to asshole.

Dear Donny,

Unlike the sycophantic B-list celebs on your TV show, I feel no need to kiss your egomaniacal ass and call you "Mr. Trump." And unlike your first wife, I certainly will not refer to you as "The Donald."

Besides, I was taught to use the "Mr." title for people older than I am, and I'm two months older than you are. (You'll be 65 on June 14th. You can "go on" Medicare on June first. Your business empire would save money if you start taking advantage of this government entitlement. Will you dare to do it?)

Until recently, I've been no worse than neutral toward you. I enjoy your Celebrity Apprentice shows (but think they could be cut in half with little loss, and I resent the blatant promotion of dubious products like ACN videophones). I even own a couple of your books.

Now I think you have rapidly degenerated from tycoon to buffoon to asshole.

Your disgusting courting of the teabaggers -- and the Palinesque ignorance and pathetic flip-flops demonstrated on your recent television interviews -- have doomed you to be on the list of failed presidential wannabes, along with Pat Robertson, Fred Thompson (who?) and Gary Hart.

  • Your silly statement that Barack Obama's "Certificate of Live Birth" is not the same thing as a "Birth Certificate" is pandering to paranoid ignoramuses and kowtowing to racists -- and is absolutely inexcusable.
  • It's a distinction without a difference, like "July Fourth" vs. "Fourth of July," or "birth place" vs. "place of birth."

Different government jurisdictions use different terminology for equivalent documents, departments and services. Louisiana has parishes. California has counties. New York has a Public Utilities Commission. Connecticut has a Dep't of Public Utility Control.

  1. Arizona has a Division of Public Health Services, which provides birth certificates. So does the Miami-Dade County Health Department in Florida.
  2. New York City has a Department of Health, which provides certifications of birth.
  3. In Connecticut, the Plymouth Town Clerk provides certifications of birth, like New York City, but Hartford provides birth records.
  4. Hawaii has a Department of Health, which provides certificates of live birth. So does the Rhode Island Department of Health.
In most jurisdictions, an "original" certificate stays in a government office, and people can get copies of the certificate, or a piece of paper or wallet card attesting to the information on the original certificate. New London, Connecticut, for example, provides a "certified copy of your birth certificate." 

Donny, it doesn't take much intelligence to understand the terminology, but since you seem to be suffering from early dementia (or maybe you're faking stupidity to attract the teabag vote), I'll go slowly.

To make the process simple, let's just ignore the term "live" -- because even the most vicious Obama hater would admit that the 44th president of the United States was not stillborn.

Donny, as a real estate mogul, I assume you have experience dealing with legal documents. You said that a certificate of live birth is "a much different instrument" than a birth certificate.


Clearly, a piano is a much different instrument than a clarinet, but what is the important difference between a "certificate of birth" and a "birth certificate?"

Not a damn thing, you ignorant, dishonest, pompous and pathetic asshole!

According to the Los Angeles Times, you said, "Every day that goes by, I think less and less that he was born in the United States."

Even a potential political competitor, stupid and nutso Michele Bachmann, is no longer screaming for Obama's paperwork. 

Donny, stick to real estate and television. You will NOT be president. (But don't forget to register for Medicare.)


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some possibly unpleasant facts of life for self-publishers



You’ll probably see ads proclaiming “FREE PUBLISHING” and you’ll also encounter publishing packages priced under $200. Here’s the truth: (1) No self-publishing company will print and deliver a book for free. (2) Unless you are prepared to spend $1,000 or more ($3,000 or more would be better), you probably won’t get a high-quality book and will not be able to tell many potential readers that the book exists and convince them to buy it.

Writing your book is just your first assignment as an author. Unless you are prepared to make a major effort to publicize your book, few people will know about it or read it.

Most books lose money—even those published by media giants with huge staffs of highly paid and experienced experts. Million-sellers are very rare in the book business. In self-publishing, thousand-sellers are very rare.

Most writers love to write but few people get rich from writing (or from poker, painting or singing). Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing, and work as hard as you can to produce a fine book. But don’t quit your day job and don’t remortgage your house to finance your publishing.

Although a first book can be profitable, don’t assume that your first will be profitable. Write your first book for the joy of it, or to impress your friends and family, or to change some minds, or as a learning experience or a business builder. Over months and years, as you improve your writing skills and learn more about the publishing business, the profits may come. If writing is not either fun or profitable or both—stop writing.

There’s nothing wrong with publishing for pleasure. The cost of publishing a book may be much less than the cost of a boat, a vacation or even a pool tableand nobody expects them to show a profit. If you can afford to publish for fun, do it. If you can make money while having fun, that’s even better.




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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He might be the World Champion cliche combiner and metaphor mixer


"We were a little ahead of the curve in stepping out of the box and creating a national footprint."
Gary Brothers, President Emeritus of D&H Distributing, quoted in Dealerscope magazine. (I have a horrible feeling that he was not smiling when he said that.)


Photo from CRN.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A wiseass's tax advice for writers


Ben Franklin said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. I’m not so certain.

Yeah, I know that the deadline for filing income tax was last midnight. I've only filed my tax return on time once in the last 40-plus years, so I assume that some other folks still have the opportunity to tweak their returns to minimize their contribution to the government. If you've already filed, but are inspired by what you read here, you can file an amended return.

This book doesn’t exist, at least not yet. This blog post will give you an idea of what it might contain if I decide to write it.

As the title implies, writers and other members of the media can often get away with business tax deductions that ordinary people can’t get away with. I’ve been making my living as part of the media since 1969. My income tax returns have never been audited and my deductions have never been denied.

In order to maximize the money you keep, you must maximize the income tax deductions you take—but don’t be greedy or stupid about it.

DISCLAIMER: I am not an accountant, a lawyer, a financial adviser, an enrolled agent or an H & R Block alumnus. HOWEVER, I have years of experience in avoiding taxes. (Avoiding is legal; evading is not.)

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

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

EVERY piece of media you consume should be deducted in the range of 25% to 100%. Deduct movies, CDs, games, concerts, artwork, vacations, MP3 players, big TVs, books, magazines, newspapers, iPad, smart phone, museum visits... all that stuff that helps you stay aware of trends in culture. (more below)

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

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

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

If you're a writer who'd like to learn about taxes from a genuine tax pro, read Julian Block's Easy Tax Guide for Writers, Photographers, and Other Freelancers. The price is $15.95 (tax-deductible, of course).

The book was published  by my online buddy Christy Pinheiro's PassKey Publications -- so I know it's a superb book, even before I read it.

Christy (a writer as well as a publisher) says, "It’s more important than ever for writers, photographers and other freelancers to familiarize themselves with steps that can keep their taxes to the legal minimum. This book offers detailed help, in simple language that everyone can understand, on how to keep more of what you earn. It is a guide to use throughout the year for advance planning that alerts you to new and frequently overlooked changes in the tax rules and explains how to take advantage of them and steer clear of pitfalls -- all completely legally. The author is a nationally recognized tax attorney and also a published author."

As a writer, it is important that you be in tune with contemporary culture. When I was an advertising copywriter, I deducted 50% of the cost of every movie I went to, every concert, every CD I bought, and most newspapers and magazines I bought. The only magazines and papers I bought that I didn’t claim as 50% deductions were those that were bought solely for business use—and I deducted 100% of their cost.

If you are an author or a journalist, the key to creative tax avoidance is to write about things you like. 
  1. If you like to travel, write about travel, and then deduct the cost of traveling. 
  2. If you like cars, rent some really cool cars, and write about them. 
  3. If you like to eat—and who doesn’t?—go to lots of restaurants, attend cooking schools, stock your pantry, and write about food. 
  4. If you smoke, write about pipes, cigars, tobacco, hashish or marijuana—and deduct the cost of your research. 
  5. If you like sex, deduct the cost of sex toys, enhancement drugs, porn, lascivious underwear, hookers or gigolos—and write about them. 
  6. If you like building things, buy lumber, hardware, tools and paint, write about building, and deduct the cost of your research materials. 
  7. If you like to take pictures or paint pictures, write about art and deduct the cost of your equipment and supplies.
  8. No matter what you write about, deduct the cost of your computer and internet access, and e-readers, and books, and magazines, and newspapers.
Use one credit card for business expenses only. This will make it much easier to keep track of business expenses and prepare your taxes.

Something that's an expensive toy for your neighbor can be a vital business tool for you!

If your writing or publishing business doesn’t make a profit in at least two years out of five, the IRS may consider it to be a hobby, not a business, and could disallow business expenses as tax deductions. If you have no profit in five years but can show a serious business effort, you may still be OK. Talk to your accountant.
It's best to have an accountant who has big balls (or big eggs, if it's a female accountant). Years ago, my first accountant, Henry Petillo, told me he had two principles for tax preparation:
  1. His clients will not pay one penny more than they have to.
  2. He will not do anything that might get himself put in jail for a client.
That's good advice. Be creative, be frugal, but don't be greedy or stupid.
A lot of the money the government spends is wasted on unnecessary or overpriced crap (remember the $600 toilet seats and $400 hammers), so by minimizing the taxes you pay, you may actually minimize government waste.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An idiot spammer is in love with me.

"Your article ought to be praised as it succeeds in making us trust as it really is. I follow quite a few blogs but I have never visited such an amazing blog before. To tell the truth I cherish following your work as it inspire me a lot. And yes i have tweeted your site."

from Anonymous


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Invoking my third-grade privilege

When I was in the third grade, in Mrs. Solomon's class in the Davis Street School in New Haven, Connecticut, we did not have to do any homework on our birthday.
  • That was the only nice thing that the nasty bitch ever did for our class.
Today is my 65th birthday. I'm now officially middle-aged. I'm not writing any more on this blog today (but I will put some funny pix on Facebook).

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not much today

I have big plans for tomorrow, and today I MUST finally finish this book, which was allegedly published last December. Because of the delay, the book is now bigger and better, and that's probably good. This morning I am updating the index, which is the worst part of bookmaking -- but can't be trusted to anyone else.


This book is the last part of a trio (triumvirate? troika?) When it's done, I'll have books to help writers who want to start their own little publishing companies, writers who want to use a self-publishing company, and writers who are not sure which way to go. 

I am slowly building a publishing empire, and I'm having a ball doing it. In 2008 I formed Silver Sands Books with the intention to publish exactly one book. Now I can honestly say that I don't know how many I've published. . . but it's approaching 20!

In a few hours I should have a proof of the hardcover edition of my "stories" book -- so it will be available hard, soft, and "e." 

E-book, shmeebook. I've been writing professionally since 1969 or '70, but without the hardcover, my mother won't think I'm a "real" writer. OK, Mom, this one's for you.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

(UPDATED RERUN) This could be the worst book ever published. Fortunately, the price is so high that no one will buy it.


(left-click to enlarge)

This overpriced, ugly and weird pile of shit was ranked #10,078,005 by Amazon.com this morning. That means that more than ten million books have sold better than it has. It may be the absolute worst-seller on Amazon. Based on its title, cover, formatting and writing, it may also be the absolute worst book ever published.

Its Amazon sales rank is so low, that if every person in New York City PLUS every person in Alaska, Bermuda, Monaco and Guam wrote books, they could ALL have better sales rankings than this book!

It was published by AuthorHouse -- a self-publishing company with just two requirements for publication: blood pressure above zero, and money to buy a publishing package.

AuthorHouse brags that it "assigns each author a personal publishing consultant, who provides guidance throughout the self publishing process." I'd like to see the IQ test and eye test for the consultant who guided the author of this trash.

Originally I thought this book was a spoof, a scam, a con job--published by pranksters to demonstrate the low standards of AuthorHouse. I thought it was like the deliberately bad books published through PublishAmerica: Atlanta Nights by “Travis Tea” (travesty) and The Crack of Death by “Sharla Tann” (charlatan).

Sadly, this book is real.

In the past I've stated that I don’t believe in prior censorship or the licensing of writers or publishers. Unfortunately, the ease of publication means that a lot of worthless crap gets published, and this is probably the best example. Based on this book I may support pre-publication testing and licensing. I am certain that MS. ELIYZABETH YANNE STRONG-ANDERSON would flunk the test.

This book has 648 huge 8.5 x 11-inch pages and a $150 cover price. Amazon discounts it to $132.30, but it's available for just $75 on the AuthorHouse website.

No lowercase letters are used in the book.

What follows is a sample of the text, and some "author" info. Keep your barf bag handy.


ARE YOU BARREN AND DISGUSTED?? OR BIRTH CONTROLING AND BUSTED?? THESE QUESTIONS IS >ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CHAPTERS IN THIS BOOK: > REVEALING > THE SINS OF THE CHURCHES: REVEALING: HOW *THE SINS BIRTH CONTROL IN OUR CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES AND IN THE WORLD MARRIAGES EVEN IN SINFUL SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS: HAS CALLED WORLD SIN IN ADULTERY AND FORNICATING RELATIONSHIP AND FALSE CHRIST LEADERSHIP.

THE PIT OF SPIRITUAL WHOREDOM BECAME OPEN AND THE CAUSE OF ORGANIZED CRIME IN OUR GOVERNMENT AND WORLD LEADERSHIP

THE YEAR OF 1994. THE MILITARY HELP DESTROY MY MARRIAGE OF 17 YEARS. FALSE CHRIST LEADERSHIPS BEGAN TO FORM ON TELEVISION.

BECAUSE OF SPIRITUAL SEDUCING SINS. AND SPIRITUAL DARKNESS IN OUR CHURCHE LEADERSHIP.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: BIRTH CONTROL IS ONE OF THE MAJOR REASON: WHY HUMANS HAVE FALLEN FAILED COMES COMMANDMENTS: AND NOW THEY HAVE BECOME: WARFUL AGAIN: HEARTLESS AND SINFULLY PERSECUTING CHRISTIANS AND HOLY PEOPLE IN MANY COUTRIES. ** SINFULLY STARTING PERSECUTIONS AND RACISM: THROUGH EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATIONS. **RESULTING IN GREED AND EVIL: EVEN WORLD WHOREDOM: CAUSING > HOMOSEXUAL AND GAY SINS: USING THE MEDIA OF TELEVISION, THE INTERNET WIDE WORLD WEBSITES AND RADIO SATANIC WORSHIP.

MY FIRST CHRISTIAN BOOK: ASK THE QUESTIONS:

ARE YOU BARREN AND DISGUSTED?? OR> . BIRTHCONTROLING AND BUSTED?? >REMINDING THE WORLD: > ONE IS A SIN AND THE OTHER IS A CURSE OR PERSECUTION!!

JESUS SAID: YOU CANNOT SERVE TWO MASTERS: BECAUSE > YOU WILL LEARN TO HATE ONE! > AND LOVE THE OTHER!! **

WOMEN AND CHRISTIAN MARRAIGES ON BIRTH CONTROL HAVE LEARN TO HATE HAVING CHILDREN: AND LOVE LIVING WITHOUT THEM. *CAUSING WORK DISCRIMINATIONS AGAINST WOMEN WHO DO HAVE SMALL CHILDREN. AND CAUSING DISCRIMINATIONS: AGAINST OUR CHILDRENS FUTURE BY STARTING WARS AND BY WRITING LAWS AGAINST SCHOOL PROSPERITY.

MY AUTHOR NAME IS:

MS. ELIYZABETH YANNE STRONG-ANDERSON: I AM A HOLYSPIRIT ANOINTED CHOSEN DISCIPLE OF GOD AND CHRIST JESUS. NAMED TO BE A ANOINTED APOSTLE TEACHER BY THE VOICE OF GOD: TO HELP CALLED THE TRUE CHRISTIAN CHURCH INTO TRUE ETERNAL LIFE SALVATION IN JOHN 3:16. THIS BOOK IS DIRECTED BY GODS HOLYSPIRIT VOICE: ALSO BASE ON THE HOLY COMMANDMENTS: EXODUS 20:13 THOU SHALT NOT KILL, GENESIS 1:26-31 GO INCREASE, MULTIPLY AND TAKE DOMINIONSHIP OVER ALL THINGS. AND 1TIMOTHY 2;15 *THE WOMEN WILL BE SAVED IN CHILD BEARING YEARS: IF SHE CONTINUES: WITH FAITH, CHARITY AND HOLINESS. *ALSO REVELATIONS 2 & 3:*GOD IS ASKING THE CHURCHES TO REPENT OF ALL THEIR> SINS: AND TO RESTORE THE TRUE CHURCH BACK INTO GOD EVER LASTING COMMANDMENTS. * GOD HAS CALLED AND CHOSEN: ELIYZABETH TO HELP SAVED THE WORLD AND CHURCH FROM THE FALSE CHRIST TEACHINGS. *THROUGH THIS BOOK HOLYSPIRIT PRAYERS: AND HOLYSPIRIT TEACHINGS: YOU WILL AND CAN FIND TRUE SALVATION IN GOD AND CHRIST JESUS: JOHN 3:3-16 THIS HOLYSPIRIT BOOK OF REPENTANCE AND REMEMBER OF THE WORDS AND COMMANDMENTS OF GOD: WILL HELP YOU BECOME A TRUE: BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN: JOHN 3:3-16 REMEMBER: JESUS SAID: YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN: OF THE WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT . GOD HAS DIRECTED*ELIYZABETH HOLYSPIRIT WRITINGS IN THIS BOOK TO HELP ALL>UNDERSTAND GODS SALVATION CALLS!! GOD HAS DIRECTED THIS BOOK TO HELP ALL WHO SEEK TO BE OBEDIENT TO GODS HOLY COMMANDMENTS: EVEN OVERCOME ALL FALSE CHRIST TEACHINGS: THROUGH REPENTENCE & RESTORATION: GIVING GODS TITHES BACK INTO THE HOLYSPIRIT LEADERSHIP: STARTING WITH: THIS BOOK OF HOLYSPIRIT SERVANT: MS. ELIYZABETH YANNE STRONG-ANDERSON: WHEN YOU GIVE TO MY HOLYSPIRIT DISCIPLESHIP: YOU CAN BE SURE YOUR ETERNAL LIFE AND NAME WILL BE WRITTEN IN THE LAMBS BOOK OF LIFE. **SUPPORT GODS HOLYSPIRIT GOALS: THROUGH THIS HOLYSPIRIT BOOK WITH YOUR CHRISTIAN CHARITY DONATIONS: TO HELP ME BUILD HOLYSPIRIT CHURCHES AND TO HELP ME MENTOR ADOPTIONS OF GODS ORPHAN CHILDREN. I AM A HOLYSPIRIT BRIDE VOICE FOR GOD AND CHRIST JESUS: REPENT AND SEEK TO RESTORE YOURSELF: FROM ALL YOUR SINS: WHEN FOLLOW ME: IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMANDMENTS OF GOD AND CHRIST JESUS: JOIN YOUR HOLYSPIRT CONNECTION: SUPPORTING ME: SISTER ELIYZABETH WITH YOUR CHRISTIAN TITHES AND CHRISTIAN OFFERINGS!! *MALACHI 3:1-16 *AND MATTHEW 4:17-25. & MATTHEW 28:18-20

IT IS WRITTEN: REPENT FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND!!

Is there anything good I can find to say about this book? Sure there is. It's so big and so heavy that it can be used as a doorstop. It's also a powerful example of what writers and publishers should NOT do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hard to resist, even though I own an iPad: New Kindle with ads will cost just $114.

Yesterday, Amazon introduced a new member of the Kindle family -- Kindle with Special Offers -- for only $114. It's like the "normal"  #1 bestselling Kindle, with special offers and sponsored screensavers. The special offers and sponsored screensavers display on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen. Learn more at www.amazon.com/kindle.  Kindle with Special Offers is now available for pre-order to customers in the U.S. and will start shipping on May 3.

"We're working hard to make sure that anyone who wants a Kindle can afford one," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. "It's only $114. Kindle is the best deal in consumer electronics anywhere in the world."

Buick, Olay (Procter & Gamble), Visa, and Amazon.com Reward Visa Card (Chase) are sponsoring the first series of screensavers specially-designed for Kindle's high-contrast, no glare electronic ink display. Examples of deals that will be delivered directly to Kindle with Special Offers devices in the initial weeks include:

•$10 for $20 Amazon.com Gift Card (Can I buy a hundred of them?)

•$6 for 6 Audible Books (normally $68) (Wow!)

•$1 for an album in the Amazon MP3 Store (choose from over 1 million albums) (Wow, again.)

•$10 for $30 of products in the Amazon Denim Shop or Amazon Swim Shop (I can always use another pair of Levi's) 

•Free $100 Amazon.com Gift Card when you get an Amazon Rewards Visa Card (normally $30) (Holy Shit!... actually, it's only sort of Holy Shit, because I already have an Amazon Visa.)

•Buy one of 30 Kindle bestsellers with your Visa card and get $10 Amazon.com credit (I'm sure I'll find something.)

•50% off Roku Streaming Player (normally $99) (I'll let this one pass.)

It looks like I can easily save enough money on things that I would probably buy anyway to make the effective cost of the iPad ZERO!

To make sure customers don't miss any of the offers, a full list of active offers will be available from the menu of Kindle with Special Offers at any time.

Amazon is also introducing "AdMash" - the free Kindle app and website where customers choose the most attractive and engaging display advertisements that will become Kindle sponsored screensavers. Kindle's sponsored screensavers are specially-designed display advertisements that take advantage of Kindle's high-contrast, no-glare electronic-ink display. Before these advertisements can be presented to Kindle customers, they are first previewed by customers using AdMash. Users are presented with pairs of sponsored screensaver candidates and asked to select which one they prefer. Screensavers with the most preferred votes qualify to become sponsored screensavers. The AdMash Kindle app will launch in the coming weeks - for a preview, visit www.amazon.com/aboutkindlespecialoffers.

In addition, Kindle with Special Offers customers can give Amazon hints on the style and types of sponsored screensavers they would like to see. From the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com, customers can use Kindle Screensaver Preferences to indicate whether they like to see more or less screensavers that include elements such as landscapes and scenery, architecture, travel images, photography, and illustrations. Together, AdMash voting and Kindle Screensaver Preferences help Amazon present sponsored screensavers that customers find attractive and engaging.

"The opportunity to offer custom-designed Kindle screensavers was a natural fit for Buick because Kindle is such a unique device surrounded by a community of intelligent, passionate people," said Craig Bierley, Director of Advertising and Promotions, Buick. "Kindle's high contrast e-ink display eliminates glare and is perfect for emotionally engaging and impactful brand imagery, allowing us to connect with Kindle readers wherever and whenever."

Kindle with Special Offers includes all the same features that helped make the third-generation Kindle the #1 bestselling product in the history of Amazon.com:

•Paper-like Pearl electronic-ink display, no glare even in bright sunlight

•8.5 ounce body for hours of comfortable reading with one hand

•Up to one month of battery life with wireless off eliminates battery anxiety

•Kindle Store with over 900,000 books - largest selection of the most popular books

•Seamless integration with free "Buy Once, Read Everywhere" Kindle apps for iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Android-based devices

I definitely don't need a Kindle, but most of my acquisitions are motivated by wants, not needs. However, I'm sure it will be a legitimate tax deduction since it will enable me to how my eBooks look on a Kindle. This deal is hard to resist.

Sure, the screen is smaller, and not color like my iPad, but I'll be able to read the Kindle in bright sunlight where I can't see the iPad screen.

I guess the next move is a $99 Nook from B&N.

SURPRISE! The magician and the chef were spies.



I'm almost finished reading The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero.  It's a comprehensive and entertaining New York Times bestseller which reveals what may be the famed magician's biggest secret -- he spied for the U.S. government.

I've ordered, but have not yet received, A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS. Publishers Weekly said, "Conant's vivid tapestry of the 1940s skillfully interweaves interviews, oral histories, memoirs, and recently unclassified OSS and FBI documents with unpublished diaries and letters. The adventurous young OSS recruits spring to life throughout this meticulously researched, authoritative history."

OTHER SURPRISE: I sometimes write about books I like.



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Monday, April 11, 2011

HYPHENATE, DAMN IT! Stop making ugh-lee books.


  • The increasing use of cellphones and VoIP is leading to the acceptance of telephone calls with noise that would not have been tolerated in 1950!
  • The increasing use of the Internet (where the appearance of a website is affected by the web browser and PC of the person viewing the site), and the increasing use of eBooks (where the appearance of a book page is controlled by the eBook formatter, the reading device, and the person who is reading) is leading to the acceptance of UGH-LEE printed books.
It doesn't have to be that way. There is no excuse for ugh-lee printed books. We should not have to read ugh-lee printed books.

I AM GETTING PARTICULARLY FED UP WITH PEOPLE WHO TRY TO TEACH PUBLISHING, BUT MAKE FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS IN THEIR OWN BOOKS.


The ugh-lee page above is from
301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing
by Kevin Sivils. 

 
The ugh-lee paragraph above is from 
U-Publish 5.0
by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow

The lack of hyphens leads to unnecessary big spaces between words in "justified" text.

There are three reasons for not hyphenating words in a printed book:
  1. Ignorance
  2. Laziness
  3. Stupidity
A reason is not an excuse. There is no excuse for making an ugh-lee printed book. Ugh-lee books show contempt for the reader and should not be printed or tolerated.

Not every book can be beautiful, but no book should be ugh-lee.


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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Much worse than TMI,
we now have MTMIWNGASA.
OMG!


TMI is the abbreviation for Three Mile Island and Too Much Information.

Kevin Sivils' "About the author" page necessitates a new abbreviation: MTMIWNGASA: Much Too Much Information Which Nobody Gives A Shit About.

(The page above is from
301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing
by Kevin Sivils. Left-click to enlarge, but have barf bag handy.)

The main purpose of the "About the author" section of a nonfiction book is to convince readers and prospective purchasers that the author has appropriate experience and knowledge so the book can be relied on. The section may also reveal a bit about the personal life of the author. It may even be entertaining, if entertainment is appropriate to the mood of the book.
  • The first sentence in Kevin's "About" is one of the top-ten worst sentences ever written in the English language.
  • Knowing that his teams won 464 times does not mean he knows a lot about book publishing. Or anything about book publishing.
  • Knowing that he had studied social studies and kinesiology does not imply that he knows a recto from a verso, or a recto from a rectum.
  • Knowing that Kevin is happily married does not guarantee that he knows a serif from a fleuron.
  • Knowing that he taught gym and that his wife's maiden name was Green and that she comes from Jackson, Michigan does not mean that I should believe him when he says that the copyright page often goes opposite the title page. (It does not.)
  • Knowing the names of his kids and dogs, or that he thinks that Texas is great (actually he uppercases it as "Great"), provides absolutely no reason to buy, read or believe the book.
  • Maybe there simply is no reason to buy, read or believe the book.

Rants to the author: 
  1. Hey Kevin, was it really necessary to print the title of the book THREE TIMES on the ugly back cover of the book? Couldn't you find something useful or entertaining to say? I guess not.
  2. There's not supposed to be a hyphen in "offset."
  3. You should learn how to press the damn COMMA key on your keyboard!
  4. And the HYPHEN key.
  5. And learn when NOT to press those keys!
  6. The book is poorly written, badly formatted and apparently unedited, like your other books.
  7. If you can't afford to hire a professional editor, you can't afford to publish. 
  8. Exhaustive research has led me to the inescapable opinion that your cover designer, Kalee Baumguardner, has not designed any other book covers. It shows.


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