.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Comma commentary and controversy



A while ago I wrote, ". . . To say that, is an idiotic and ignorant overstatement."

Some would say that there should be a comma after "ago."

Some would say that no comma is necessary after "wrote."

Some would say that no comma is necessary after "that."

I decided to insert that comma to force a pause to break up the common phrase, [this could be a colon] "that is."

The comma is is the second-smallest piece of punctuation, usually not much bigger than a fly turd, but its effects and controversy are huge.
book title is based on the pesky little curlicue.

Editors, major media [Some would insert a comma here.] and even universities have comma policies.

The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma and the Harvard comma) is a comma inserted ahead of a conjunction (and/or/nor) after the second-to-last item in a list of items. When I was in school, I was taught to insert a comma before the “and” in a series like this: “I like lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, and oysters.” Rosie, who copy­edited my first two self-published books, deleted all of my final commas to make my writing more talk-like and contemporary. Sheila, my new editor, laboriously inserted many commas in a recent book. I tried to use Rosie’s style in my later books. There is no agreement among grammarians or editors in this area. The Associated Press Stylebook and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage oppose the serial comma, but that attitude may be based on the need to save space in crowded newspapers.

The comma has multiple uses. They are so diverse -- and sometimes conflicting -- [Note the use of dramatic dashes instead of mere commas.] that some uses probably deserve a new punctuational [Is that a word?] device. How is the reader to know if the writer wants her to pause at the comma? Should readers be expected to know not to pause when a comma introduces a quotation?

Sometimes [Should a comma be inserted here?] other punctuation marks, such as the em dash or colon, [There was no need to be dramatic here, so I used commas around the phrase.] can be suitable substitutes.

The second-smallest piece of punctuation can be confusing and complex, and subject to much disagreement.

1. “I’m going to the movies with my friend Billy” implies [In theory] that I have several friends, and one is named Billy.

2. “I’m going to the movies with my friend, Billy” implies [In theory] that I have just one friend, named Billy.

According to the authoritative Chicago Manual of Style, it used to be that a lack of commas signaled restriction: that is, the meaning of “friend” in the first sentence would be restricted to Billy, implying that I have other friends as well. Commas signaled nonrestriction: that Billy is my only friend, so his actual name is ancillary, disposable information. It was a pretty good system.

Commas in nonrestrictive constructions have become optional, which is fine when the likely meaning is obvious (as in “my wife Marilyn”), but unhelpful in the case of a friend.

Of course, if I was the evil Osama bin Laden, who apparently had five wives, the correct construction would be "my wife, Amal Al Sadah."











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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Now I've been banned from TWO publisher's blogs. I am honored.

Will I earn a third?


Some publishers don't want the truth to be published. I do.

On this blog, I've previously criticized Michael Hyatt, boss of "Christian" publisher Thomas Nelson and its pay-to-publish subsidiary Westbow Press, for being a hypocrite. He criticized blogs which "don’t allow comments," but his own blog has an automated enemies list which blocks comments -- even benign or neutral comments -- from people like me who have disagreed with him in the past. (I criticized him for advertising "free" books which are not really free.)

Now I am amused (and proud) to announce that I am officially a persona non grata at another blog.

Outskirts Press, an often inept and dishonest pay-to-publish company, publishes a blog named Self Publishing Advisor. This blog contains content provided by various Outskirts employees, particularly Wendy Stetina, Kelly Schuknecht and Elise Connors. It replaces a blog that was usually written by Outskirts's Karl Schroeder.

Although I've often criticized both Outskirts and Karl, he was a gentleman, and permitted me to add to the discussions he started. Karl may have left Outskirts. His Linkedin page says he is an "Independent Online Media Professional" and is looking for a job.

Wendy Stetina works as the Outskirts "Director of Author Services," and apparently acts as blog gatekeeper. Monday's topic was "Am I Self-Publishing If I Use a Self-Publishing Company?" Not surprisingly, Wendy said, "yes."

With words carefully chosen to avoid antagonizing Wendy or her boss, I simply pointed out that some writers, including me, prefer INDEPENDENT self publishing, where we have more control, do more work, and may make more money than if we bought a publishing package.
  • Wendy, or one of her teammates, rejected my comment.
  • Another blog, written by Outskirts boss Brent Sampson, doesn't permit comments from anyone.
  • Outskirts also publishes a blog called Self Publishing News. It's really puffery for Outskirts, not news, but does allow comments.

Just to head off the soreheads who will complain about this blog being "moderated," I want to point out that I never reject a comment because it disagrees with me, or even if it insults me. (Actually, I think most of the insults are pretty funny). I reject comments solely if they are spam, libelous, or promote violence.

--------------
Photo of medals from The Scottish Sun. Thanks.


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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memo to Xlibris: you don't have to publish crap. Some of your competitors insist on editing.

Yesterday I blasted Xlibris for publishing a book that needed a lot of editing, but did not get any from Xlibris.

I preached that companies like Xlibris need to stop behaving like crack whores who will provide service to anyone who can pay the price. I also said that self-publishing companies need to develop some pride, and to grow some balls. They need to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but your manuscript is just not good enough to be published unless it gets professional editing."

At the conclusion of my blog post I commended Vantage Press, a self-publishing company that does have standards and a conscience. Vantage Press says, ". . . we insist on reviewing your manuscript . . . before deciding whether to accept your book for publication . . . and "each Vantage title receives a thorough copyediting."

I just learned of another, apparently new, self-publishing company, which is concerned with the quality of the books they produce.

Pedernales Publishing says, "Before offering a contract, we review your manuscript to diagnose the level of edit necessary, if at all.  Most authors come to us already professionally edited.  Pedernales will only request that an author go through the editing process if the work does not meet industry standards.  We cannot, in good faith or in a highly competitive market, accept money for a project we know is not yet viable."

The company also says, "We provide a money-back guarantee, and when your book is released for publication, we give you the digital files containing your cover and book interior.  We thought there was a need for an honest company that authors can trust, and that can offer a solid set of professional services for a few hundred dollars." 

I have not published through Pedernales, nor have I spoken to any of their author-customers. (Here are some testimonials.)  I have not even seen any of their books. However, I do like the Pedernales attitude, and I hope the company and its authors will be successful.

It would be wonderful if Xlibris would follow Pedernales' example. A brand name should evoke an image of quality. If I ran Xlibris, I'd rather be thought of as BMW-like, not Yugo-like.












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Monday, June 27, 2011

Xlibris is ruining self-publishing by not providing the help its authors need

Self-publishing companies make most of their money by selling services to writers. If a self-publishing company rejects a book, the company makes no money. That's why self-publishing companies accept nearly every book submitted to them, except for books that appear to be obscene or libelous.

The lack of selectivity is the prime cause of self-publishing’s bad reputation. Even though traditional publishers make many bad decisions, their selectivity and financial commitment provide a powerful endorsement for the writers and books they choose to accept.

Self-publishing companies try to evoke an image of quality and service.

Xlibris says, "you can count on Xlibris' extensive experience to provide dependable, long-term, individualized support through the publishing process and in the years that follow." The company boasts about its "proficient team of publishing professionals" and says it has a "comprehensive range of publishing, editorial, add-on and marketing services."

Xlibris is one of several former competitors including iUniverse, Wordclay and Trafford which were absorbed by Author Solutions, Inc. "ASI" is also the private-label service provider for some traditional publishers such as Thomas Nelson. ASI says it publishes "one of every 15 book titles published in the US every year."

At last year's Self-Publishing Book Expo, marketing director Joe Bayern told me that ASI's best editors work on Xlibris titles.

Xlibris says, "One of our founding principles, dating back to when we were newly incorporated and making books out of a basement office, is that authors should have control over their work. This principle still stands today as we help hundreds of authors every month publish their work in the manner and form that they envision," and "When you publish with Xlibris, you completely control the book design."

That's not necessarily a good thing. If an author has bad ideas for a book's design, or is simply a bad writer, crap gets published. The "proficient team" and "best editors" don't control the quality of what gets published with an Xlibris label on it.

One of the best examples (i.e., one of the worst books) that shows the failure of Xlibris is the awkwardly named, physically ugly, poorly written and unedited The Truth and the Corruption of the American System. The 95-page hardcover sells for (OMG!) $24.99. There are also paperback ($15.99) and e-book ($9.99) editions.

The author has some important things to say (more later), but her message is diluted and distorted by bad presentation, and lack of help from Xlibris. The company wanted to collect money for the publishing package they sold her, but made no effort to improve the book.

Sales are probably infinitesimal. Did I buy the only copy?

After more than two years, there is not even one review on Amazon.com or the Barnes & Noble website.

Author Eunice Owusu tells us on the back cover, and inside the book, and on multiple websites: "I was born in Ghana and came to America about twenty-five years ago. I was married for twenty years and now separated with one child, who is seventeen years old. He lives with me in Houston, Texas. I attended Northern Virginia Community College and graduated in the year 2002 with Associate Degree in Legal Assisting. I transferred to George Mason University in Virginia, Texas Southern University in Texas, and now I am in my final year at the University of Houston in Texas, major in Political Science and eventually transfer to Law School."
  • Does any of this provide a reason to buy a book about what's wrong with America?
  • Do we care about her bad marriage?
  • Do we care about her bad writing?
  • Are we impressed by Northern Virginia Community College?
  • Do we care about the age of the author's son?
  • Do we know or care how old he is now, or that at one point he lived in Houston?
  • Should we have to do research to determine if the author graduated from the University of Houston and went to law school?
Xlibris says it offers "seven comprehensive publishing packages, each with a unique combination of marketing, editorial and publishing services."  It appears that unless an author pays $3,299 for the "premium package," the unique editorial service is no editorial service.

Five of the packages do not include editing, but the company says that "Writing that is worth publishing is worth a careful edit. Your message deserves it, and so do your readers. It is what distinguishes a professional book from an amateur one."
  • That's very true. Xlibris knows what's right, but lets its author customers do what's wrong.
Xlibris would rather sell a package for $649 with no editing and publish a crappy book, than lose the sale because a writer won't pay $0.12 per word for editing. (The charge to copyedit the Owusu book would have been about $600.)

The book badly needs copyediting. Problems include lots of improper punctuation, non-sentences, wrong tenses, wrong words (e.g., "having ends meet" instead of "making ends meet"), missing words, misspelling, missing possessives, improper uppercasing, inconsistent uppercasing, inconsistent time designations (e.g., "6:30" and "six-thirty" in successive sentences, "seven sixteen" and "7:20" in the same paragraph), repeated words ("do do" and "on on"), singular nouns that should be plurals, plural verbs that should be singular, sentences that should be two sentences, paragraphs that should be three paragraphs, unattributed quotations, numbers stuck in the middle of paragraphs for no discernible reason, unnecessary italics, etc.

There is lots of just plain crappy writing, such as:
  1. "The state Capitol is in Washington D.C. where Congress and Senates meet."
  2. "Something I did not understand about John McCain, when he was running for president, he run in favor of veterans."
  3. "Excuses are not accepted as there will also be an excuse."
  4. "I belief there are many homeless..."
  5. "What can kind of normal person will eat and drink from trashes..."
  6. "I make complain to..."
  7. "...he was asked to do sports physical done."
  8. "...doctor run a series of tests."
  9. "...this was her respond."
  10. "I had to taken all my problems to bed..."
  11. "It has to start from home, yes, and to schools."
  12. "Third ward in Houston don't even have head start."
  13. "...here me out."
  14. "...unplanned pregnancies that want to have an abortion."
  15. "Who will want to put their selve in..."
Eunice was born in Ghana and came to America as an adult. I know little about the schools in Ghana, but Ghana was a British colony until 1957 and the official language is English. Apparently, Eunice's English was good enough in her native country, but I am horrified to read what she writes now.

The book contains a lot of criticism of American schools. Eunice attended at least four colleges in the United States and intended to become a lawyer.
  • Didn't any of her instructors or professors notice her bad writing? How did she get her diplomas?

The design and production work done by Xlibris is also substandard. Page margins are much too small. It's silly to have the author's bio in two places. The author's photo on the back cover is awful. The text on the back cover is nearly illegible. There is no title on the spine. (The spine is small, but has room for a title.)

The copyright page includes this absurd notice: "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental."
  • Oh, come on! Is this sentence fiction: "A fixed interest loan is a loan where the interest rate doesn't fluctuate during the fixed rate period of the loan." Did the author invent Houston or the State Department? Is it a mere coincidence that the author conceived of a presidential candidate named John McCain?
 
Didn't anyone at Xlibris read -- or even skim -- this book?
 
The promotional work for the book is confusing, inadequate and incompetent.
 
The author says: "Our leaders are so blind to the truth and instead of searching for the truth or the things that will bring peace and make America a better place to live, they go on, on a wild goose chase which brings nothing but destruction to our country. This book also deomonstrate [sic] how we can keep kids off [sic] jail and minimize the high school drop off [sic] rate. How we can provide shelter for our return [sic] soldiers and civilian homeless. How we can make our streets and our community safe."

Somehow, this book of social and political commentary is classified as "JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Emotions & Feelings" and the reading level is "Ages 9-12."

There are many other things wrong with Xlibris which should keep potential customers away. For example:
  • Xlibris charges $99 for a Library of Congress Control number. You can get one yourself in a few minutes -- for free!
  • Xlibris charges $249 for a copyright registration. You can easily register a book yourself for $35.
  • Xlibris charges $99 for a CD-ROM of you book's interior and cover files. The disk is worth about 25 cents and the file copying is done with a few mouse clicks.
  • Xlibris says, "When you publish with Xlibris, you are essentially self-publishing in the most efficient way possible." Grossly overpaying is not efficient.
  • Xlibris has a very strange system for pricing books. A book with 108 pages sells for $4 more than one with 107 pages. Page #108 must be very special. However, if you want to determine the price of your own book, you'll pay Xlibris $249 for the freedom of choice.
The New York Times said, “Xlibris charges no­thing for its basic service, but because of the fees it charges writers for things like galleys and copyediting, its chief executive, John Feldcamp, says the company will be profitable even if it never sells a book.” I believe him, because his company’s publishing packages can cost as much as $14,999!

Xlibris says, "you will be treated with professionalism and courtesy and provided with all the self-publishing help you need." That's simply not true. Eunice Owusu was not treated with professionalism, and Xlibris did not provide all of the help she needed.

As an immigrant and a single mother, Eunice Owusu has a special perspective. She has seen aspects of America that many Americans are unaware of -- or care little about. Her outrage at shortcomings and inequalities is justified. She has important things to say. She deserves to be heard. She has experience and passion and provides needed recommendations. She may be a powerful public speaker, but she is not ready to write a book by herself. Maybe she needed a ghostwriter or a co-author. At a minimum, she needed editing, but she got none from Xlibris.

That is a tragedy, and Xlibris and its parent, Bertram Capital Management, should be embarrassed by the terrible book they published for Eunice Owusu.
  • Self-publishing companies have to stop behaving like crack whores who will provide service to anyone who can pay the price.
  • Xlibris's press releases start out with "Xlibris Publishes Book About . . ." The Xlibris website says, "Xlibris is a book publishing company," but it also says, "Xlibris is not a publisher. We are a publishing services provider." Authors and readers would be better served if Xlibris would decide exactly what it is, and acted more like a publisher, not just a provider.
  • Xlibris says, "At Xlibris, the writer is the publisher." It also says it will "assign an ISBN number." If the writer is the publisher, the writer -- not Xlibris -- would assign the ISBN.
  • Self-publishing companies need to develop some pride, and to grow some balls. They need to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but your manuscript is just not good enough to be published unless it gets professional editing." Some manuscripts are beyond help.
  • There is no solution if Xlibris and AuthorHouse reject books, and the penurious or egomaniacal author then goes to Outskirts Press or Lulu and they don't enforce editorial standards.
  • Until and unless ALL of the self-publishing companies develop and insist on high standards, readers will be buried in crap and writers' dreams will never come true.
  • It's time for self-publishing companies to develop some pride in their products. Lulu boss Bob Young told Publishers Weekly that "We publish a huge number of really bad books." Did Bob make Xlibris boss Kevin Weiss jealous? Are the companies competing to publish the greatest number of really bad books?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whose bullshit should we believe?

AuthorHouse: "the leading self publishing company in the world" and "the leading provider of self publishing and marketing services for authors around the globe"


Arbor Books: "the world's premier, award-winning ghostwriting and self-publishing company"


Tate: "the leader in the publishing industry."


Xlibris"the leading publishing services provider," one of the pioneers of the print-on-demand publishing services industry, and still leads the way today." Also: "the undisputed leader in Independent Publishing, and arguably the entire publishing industry."


iUniverse: "the leading print-on-demand company in the self-publishing industry."


"Only iUniverse has professionals with extensive industry knowledge who make it easy for you to affordably self publish your book"


Trafford: "the clear choice for self-publishing your next book."


Self Help: "one of the renowned book publishing houses" and "one of the best book publishing companies."


Outskirts Press:  "the future of book publishing, today" and "the ultimate in convenience and control, every step of the way" and "the fastest-growing full-service publishing provider"


Lulu: "the widest range of selling channels available anywhere"


Colorwise: "your best source for quality book printing with exceptional service," "the best book printer in the nation" and "your absolute best choice"




Bull pic from http://flickchick1953.blogspot.com/2011/01/scandal-rocks-keaton-administration-7.html


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

My second, third and fourth asshole

I’m normally at my computer by 3:30 a.m.


At around 7 a.m., my dog, Hunter, wanders into my home office, gives me a greeting, and lets me know that I should take him downstairs and let him out to pee.

Three weeks ago, I went back to bed at around 6 a.m. An hour later, Hunter gave me the pee-pee signal, and started walking toward the office and the back stairs, which (please take note) are carpeted.

To save a few seconds, I told him to follow me in the other direction, so we could go down the front stairs, which are not carpeted.

I was wearing socks, which provided no traction on the bare wood. I slipped, and slid on my ass, bumpety-bumpety-bump, all the way to the bottom. When I got to the bottom, I sat, trembled, and assessed the damage. Then, my sweet, smart, sarcastic Hunter brought me a pair of sneakers, as if to say, “You need traction, you fucking idiot.”

I developed a big, painful, purple-and-green hematoma (blood clot). On Thursday, a surgeon made three new holes in my ass to suck out about four ounces of blood.

Pay attention to your dog.


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Friday, June 24, 2011

If you're a writer or publisher, be prepared to take advantage of publicity

The American Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared." For Scouts, that includes such things as knowing first aid and water safety and being able to tell edible from poisonous plants. The motto is also important advice for non-scouts, particularly writers.


Lots of people and businesses -- especially in publishing -- send out press releases in the hope that news writers and book reviewers will be sufficiently impressed to spread the news and maybe help sell some books.

I am both saddened and amused when someone does manage to get "press" coverage, but is unprepared to take advantage of it.


BE PREPARED!
Elderly New Jerseyan Alfred Pristash spent 18 months writing a memoir in longhand, and then dictated it to a son who typed it. Alfred paid AuthorHouse to publish it. The book received extensive and complimentary coverage in NJ.com and in a major New Jersey newspaper. The article mentioned that the book sells for $73.99 and is available at Amazon.com.

I was curious to see what could possibly justify that high price. Unfortunately, the Amazon page had just basic facts like page count and size. There were no reviews and no information that might convince me to spend $73.99. The AuthorHouse website links for “About the Book,” “About the Author” and “Free Preview” contained nothing. I did not place an order.

If you are lucky enough to get media coverage of your book, be sure your online presence is ready to back it up and sell some books!


BE PREPARED!
There's a very nice plug for "Hudson Valley Authors" in today's online Times Herald-Record (Middletown, New York). The company provides a variety of publishing services, including converting printed books into e-books and producing new e-books. The paper quotes company president Gavin Caruthers: "It's a great way for both entry-level authors to experience publishing for the first time, and also a way for authors who have self-published before to expand their audience."

He also said, "Because of their lack of knowledge in the industry, [authors] often get caught into paying for services they didn't need, [or] not being happy with the final book."

I agree. Gavin seems to be a kindred spirit I could support. Also, as a new evangelist for e-books, I was interested in learning more about the company. I could become a customer. And, perhaps I'd find something nice to say about the company on this blog.

The online article strangely does not include a link to Hudson Valley's website, but I did find an empty, useless web page provided by hosting company DreamFire. That's sad.

Gavin is also publisher of 1500 Books, but its site does not mention Hudson Valley Authors.



BE PREPARED!
Andrea Constantine and Lisa Schultz claim to be Self-Publishing Experts. I won't argue with their self-description (but I will snarkily point out that they apparently have self-published exactly TWO books, and I've self-pubbed about 20).

The two ladies operate an author assistance service and sent out a press release to promote a book they wrote.

The release had a line of text that said, "Visit Our Site." It looked like a link -- but it's not a link. It also had text that says, "Ask the Experts" which looked like a link -- but it's not a link. The Self-PublishingExperts.com site had a link labeled "reviews." I expected it to display some reviews of the new book, but it didn't. 

The website had a link labeled "Offer," -- but no offer was offered. The site also displayed this:
The link went to PayPal. I offer this tip: It's fine to charge for advice, and to offer free advice, but begging for tips is tacky, and demeaning for a professional.

Lisa's site that promoted the book had text saying "Starting November 10th, Grab Your Book on Amazon Here." and "Already Purchased? Claim Your Bonus Package Here." Clicking on the "here" words did nothing.

BE PREPARED!


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Medical care(less)

In junior high school, I had a hopelessly ill-equipped teacher, Patrick J. Leone, who tried to teach us about health (which he pronounced "helt.")

He once told a class that "det (death) kills instantly."

I was reminded of him when I read the following sentences reportedly typed by medical secretaries in the National Health Service in Scotland.

+ The patient has no previous history of suicide.
+ Patient’s medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.
+ She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.
+ Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
+ The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
+ The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
+ Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
+ She is numb from her toes down.
+ Patient was alert and unresponsive.
+ Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.
+ Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
+ The patient was in his usual state of good health until his airplane ran out of fuel and crashed.
+ She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.


(Thanks to Harry Newton)


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maybe Jon Huntsman should spend the summer in Remedial English class, not on the campaign trail


Yesterday Jon Huntsman announced that he wants to be the GOP candidate for president. His weird commercials exhibit some severe problems with the language of his hoped-for constituents.

Like many inept self-publishing authors, Jon seems to think that any group of words is a sentence. It's not.
  • "The world needs new."
  • "America needs fresh."
  • "Not in it for the balloons"
  • "Not in it for the winning."
  • "In six days"
  • "The candidate for president who rides motocross to relax."
  • "Has seven children, one from India, one from China."
  • "Did not become famous with his band, 'wizard.'"
  • "Never raises his voice."
  • "But seldom takes 'no' for an answer"
  • "New perspective."
  • "Knows business."
  • "Built things."
  • "To calm the tough."
  • "To never flip."
  • "Never flop."
  • "Taste the dirt."
  • "No drama, progress"

And, like many inept self-publishing authors, he is insufficiently edited. A campaign website had a default phony address and phone number.

The campaign press pass had his name spelled right -- and wrong -- and indicated that it started in New York -- but it started in New Jersey.

And, the members of the media were nearly flown to Saudi Arabia instead of to New Hampshire for the next speech.

Oh, well.

---------------
Thanks to The Rachel Maddow Show for alerting me to these bloopers. Top photo is from www.hairbyjberg.com/blog/

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Advice for writers to ignore

from http://www.bestincomesource.net/

Virtually anyone can a book published today, but the according to the nature of the fonts of that you want to publish your writings give the amount of exposure, you want, you should probably check that you must run your titles to millions of readers to place method. This process can be very confusing if you are not familiar, but it also very easy, if you are included on the most important steps in the process. If you learn how to want to get a book published, read the following paragraphs.

First, you need to write your book. To write your material, you must text to the market to agencies and publishers. Also, after you’ve written your text, you are your titles on your own by self publishing company and can publish.

At this time probably you wrote included only the actual material in your book, but some authors prefer a map from the entire future of their books at this point. For this reason should you think about including the title of your material, the coverage you want to use and also the methods, to promote you want to use your work in the future.

These steps are important, they can have an invested partner, you you at every step of the way work oversimplified. Because most authors have very little knowledge or experience with the process of publication of their writings, enter the most authors help of the agents and publishers, after her writings have been completed.

As agents and publishers alike to every year thousands of manuscripts received, it is important that you present letter with a professionally written query your fonts. Present your titles in a professional manner, you can increase chances, that a Publisher or an agent will take seriously you and will review the material you want to have written.

It is important that you take your time to send search to the right agent or Publisher for your manuscript. There are many unscrupulous agents in the publishing industry today that money just to check your title can weigh on you.

If you send your manuscript to a large publishing house, you can not even get a satisfactory answer on the other hand, of them. By taking your time when you select of the agent or publishing company, that you will send your book, you can increase the chances that it actually correctly check and will be.

Tips on how you published a book

Next step after finish your novel.

Finally you finish your novel, so now what? She spent sleepless nights, not to mention painful on just the right expression, from the several rewrites on your opening line. Which as a whole because you found your story needs a new character, that had to be inserted from the beginning. You have technical questions ready but you, if you this ...

Should you publish?

To publish or not publish? This is the question of the many upcoming writers bugs, and this includes me. But let me answer this question, or at least a to give a comprehensive overview.I have two viewpoints on this issue, which is first, that authors not at all costs, and the second itself should is that authors should publish by ...

•5 Self publishing musts

With the progress in the print-on-demand technology more and more people are self-published authors always. This is a good thing, because the economy of the traditional publishing industry has affected the same as other industries. Many publishers are merge, close or reduction of staff. You are less and less manuscripts, especially from for the first time to accept or unknown ...

•What is it published?

The world of the "big publishing" is shrinking! For some, this is terrible news. I was recently talking to someone who had a book deal for her book, and she was rubbing shoulders with other writers and would-be writers at cocktail parties... on cloud etc.. The economic downturn got the bad news that the Publisher is no longer wanted to ...

Ten ways as a successful author

When you publish a book, especially on your own, your goal is a success for him. You want no amount of money invested in the production of your product, only to fail it. Here are ten tips that I have put together, I think, are that success in this cut throat industry help key to you:1. Find out. Take your ...

•Smart design decisions for self-published books


If an author, self publishing, you want to definitely find your book, self-published! Poorly designed self-published books can convey a lack of substance, has to do with the value of the author's often little words and ideas. Smart design decisions can make all the difference between a book that sold and one, which sits on the shelf or in the ...

•Sale of books to schools


As authors aim is is to sell books, and as a children book authors, sell books through school visits a wonderful way to do this, although it can have its challenges.Some schools for various reasons will not sell books. Period of time. Some reasons are that it not fair, is the children, whose Eltern can afford to buy them, or ...

•Seven tips as well as the promotion of a bestseller


Here are seven things to remember when to promote your book:(1) Books not to sell, because most authors find earlier or later, often too late.(2) You must have an excellent product aimed (preferably small and identifiable) target group that is already predisposed to one read what you want to write. You just need to hear. Chess books chess master. Civil ...

•Working with Publisher


Most people who hire a publicist have no idea how to maximize their time with a publicist. You, who neither know, what you expect campaign or the relationship of the. If a writer is passionate about your material you have a cheerleader on your page, go to any length, to promote your project. First, could the both embarrassing and encouraging. ...


•Vanity booksellers


Everyone seems to know about the "vanity publishing" in these days. From the recognised heights of the literary establishment to the darkest corners of the Internet, you regularly encounter people of pouring scorn on those who have published figures to their work. This contempt is often very generously broadcast bespattering authors, to meet the very successful in some cases to ...

•To promote her book with the help of the professionals


Whether a book is traditionally published or self-published, part of the author's responsibility is marketing and promotion. Some authors choose you hire professionals to support their marketing efforts. It is important to carefully examine and identify what outside support (if any) will benefit book of your sales and grow your platform.PUBLISHEDPublicist will research appropriate media, you turn to write press ...


•The gold from your address book mining


3 Ways to discover more money and more transformation from your address bookThere is a dirty little secret in the publishing industry. The secret is that book sales and royalties make the vast majority of the authors not enough money from their life. If you write a string of smashing bestsellers such as j.k. Rowling or Nora Roberts, go you ...

•How can I sell my book?


If you a publishing contract you manuscript published recently signed have, at one point or another you will yourself questions: How can I sell my book? As with any product or service is sold, you need promotional resources to market a book. You must successfully for an organized book marketing plan. Depending on your agent, Publisher, and your contract some ...

•5 Ways to make a best selling book


Many of us have this time dream an author to be a bestselling book that society will dominate the reading. Some will get hard from the taskbar questions why there are books that can be easily bought on the market, while the rest, until the next book sale. What is terrible is that a large number of authors are not ...



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Monday, June 20, 2011

Chinese restaurants and English

I am an American Jew. Therefore, I eat a lot of Chinese food. It's the Eleventh Commandment.

After that brief introduction, it's time for two jokes:
  • According to the Jewish calendar, the year is 5771, and according to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4708. What did Jewish people eat for the first 1063 years until Chinese restaurants appeared?
  • Q: What do Jewish people do on Christmas? A: Go to a movie and eat Chinese food.
As an avid reader and language critic/cynic, I've spent a lot of time analyzing the text and math in Chinese restaurant menus.

In many small Chinese restaurants on the upper west side of Manhattan, you can get a large order of fried rice for $3.95. However, if you are willing to accept four chicken wings along with the same amount of rice, the price for the entire meal drops to just $2.95.

One of my favorite restaurants, the Golden Wok, in Yonkers, New York, stated, "The order of eating in is much larger than the order of taking out." They also said," We can alter the spicy to suit your taste."

Many Chinese restaurants have trouble with English plurals and possessives. It's common to see "General Chicken" instead of "General Tso's Chicken" or "General's Chicken." If I don't want "General Chicken," could I get "Specific Chicken?" 

What should be plural nouns are often singular, like "direction to the restaurant." In the other direction, I've seen "beefs with broccoli."

"Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet" just opened in Orange, Connecticut -- a few miles from my house. Part of its website was copied from another restaurant and states it is "the largest restaurant in Danville and surrounding area." There is no Danville near Orange.

The newspaper ad for the grand opening touts the restaurant as being the best "on the peninsula." The town of Orange is landlocked. It is not on a peninsula; but apparently some other restaurant is on a peninsula and the Orange restaurant copied its ad.

The menu includes "salmon fish." Apparently they have no salmon vegetables.

However, the food is excellent. The people are extremely nice. The selection is huge and you get a lot for your money. I expect to be a regular customer.

All the place needs is a good copyeditor.

However, because of my high regard for the Chinese people, I hereby grant a perpetual "pass" for imperfect menus and websites. If my stomach is happy, my brain will go along. A good chef is more important than a good writer.

Besides, If I had to write a menu in Chinese, it would be a disaster!


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Remembering my old man

My father, Bertram "Bud" Marcus, died in July, 2009 at age 87. He was one of the world's greatest storytellers and is a big influence on my writing and I miss him a lot. Here's what I said at his funeral:

About 30 years ago, my father was anticipating today.

Pop said that he wanted to get drunk on Canadian Club, smoke a Garcia y Vega cigar, and make a tape recording to be played at his funeral.

I don’t know if he wanted to reveal a secret or tell people off. Maybe he just wanted to sing some songs and tell some jokes to insure that we would be properly entertained.

I don’t think he ever made the recording. So in lieu of a cassette, you get me, Buddy Marcus’s first-born son.

My father had a very full life. It was so full, in fact, that by last spring, after 87 years, Pop had done all that he had wanted to do. He had checked off every item on his “Honey Do” list, and had simply run out of things to look forward to.

He had seen it all, done it all, heard it all and read it all. He probably even ate it all. Even lox wings. Even snails.

Pop was tired, worn down and worn out. Life was seldom fun anymore, and he frequently upset those of us who love him, by telling us that he had lived long enough.

It’s hard to argue with Dad about anything, and extremely hard to win the argument.

When I last visited my father, he asked what day it was. I said it was Saturday. Dad responded that Sunday would be a nice day to die. I couldn’t argue with that. I couldn’t even find words to say to him.

We could not convince Dad to hang on a while longer. A brand-new pill or a new injection or new exercise wouldn’t help. There’s no miracle cure for my father’s feeling that “enough is enough.”

In his jokes, Dad frequently spoke of “taking a dirt nap.” Today he gets to start his. And it’s exactly what he wants to do.

For my first few years I was Buddy Marcus’s only kid and despite his long hours at work I got plenty of attention. Dad wheeled me all over the Bronx in a huge and heavy baby carriage.

We’d hang out on an overpass to watch trains pass under us. He’d stop at a barber shop and schmooze in Italian, or talk Greek to the owner of a luncheonette, or tell jokes in Yiddish to pals and to strangers.

Starting when I was three years old we’d schlep from the Bronx to Montauk to go deep-sea fishing.

I remember the first car Dad brought home to our apartment in the Bronx. There was a strange noise coming from under the hood. Dad opened it up and found a nearly new pliers rattling on the air cleaner.

It was an important part of Dad’s tool collection until I borrowed it to build a fort in the swamp at Brooklawn Circle years later. I dropped it into the ooze and we never saw it again.

Dad loved to go for rides when we lived in the Bronx. I remember trips to Jones Beach and Peach Lake, and deep into Pennsylvania. And deep into Brooklyn.

That’s where I got to meet my father’s grandfather, my Great Grandpa Joe. All I remember was that he wore long underwear with a flap in the back. Until I saw Grandpa Joe, I thought butt flaps existed only in cartoons.

In first grade, Dad and I built a telegraph set, and he taught me how to splice wires to fix my bicycle horn. They were my first lessons in what has turned out to be a life-long love of technology.

Almost every sentence from the mouth of Buddy Marcus was part of a lesson.

Dad was driven to explain things, but he was also driven to keep talking long after the point was made.

I’m the same way. I’m pedantic like my Pop. I don’t like listeners who cheat and figure out the ending before I perform the finale.

Last year, with Dad’s guidance, I investigated the origins of the Marcus clan in Sopotskin.

Since 1991, Sopotskin has been in Belarus. When our family left town in 1906, it was in Poland. It’s also been in six other countries. Its address depended on who had the most powerful army, or who made the map. Back then, the name that would later be Marcus, began with DZM and ended with SKI. It has many more consonants than vowels. Today you can’t find even one Dzmichivitski in a Google search. But there are lots of Marcuses.

I inherited a lot of things from my father and the Sopotskin genes.

When I was in high school Dad gave me a hard time when he discovered that I was collecting street signs. He stopped his tirades after I discovered a photo of young Buddy Marcus with his collection of signs.

I was the bad kid who stole signs, lost or broke Dad’s tools and got lousy report cards. I was the son of two super-scholars and I was the chronic underachiever. Dad graduated from college, with honors, when he was just 19. I’m 63 and am still an undergraduate.

When I was a teenager, I fought a lot with my parents.

One time Dad said, “I know you think I’m a schmuck, but when I was your age I was a pretty smart kid.” I’m sure he really was a smart kid and a smart adult, but I could not appreciate it until years later.

It was like Mark Twain, who said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.”

When I was around 16, my parents sent me to a psychiatrist. After a while, the shrink said that he wanted them to come in so he could hear their side of the story.

My father refused to go. He said, “I’m not going to pay $25 an hour to be told it’s MY fault that you’re messed up.” I never found out whose fault it was.

Pop taught us great songs like “The Sheik of Araby,” where we’d insert the phrase “with no pants on” after every legitimate lyric in the song,

And he taught us the song about a herring salesman who was frozen in the snow, and far above his carcass, the herring breezes blow. And another favorite was “A personal friend of the czar was I. A personal friend of the great Nicolai. We frequently slept in the same double bed. I’m at the foot and him at the head.”

Despite Dad’s love of singing, he never did much listening to music at home. Mom and Dad frequently went to Schubert Theater for drama and musicals, but the only phonograph record (those were kind of like big black CDs) I can remember him buying was “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”

It was a hit in 1953 when Dad was 31 years old. I was seven at the time. When I was 31, I listened to the Stones and Dylan and the Doors. Now my iPods have the Stones and Dylan and the Doors, a dozen versions of "Rumenye, Rumenye," and, of course, that doggie in the window. Thanks, Dad.

In addition to music, Dad shared his discoveries in language, history, science and math.

He showed me how the digits in the nine times table always add up to nine.

Nine times three is 27. The two plus the seven equals nine. Not very useful -- but definitely cool.

And do you know that if you scrunch up the paper wrapper from a drinking straw in a restaurant, and then pull it off the straw, put it on the table, and let a little bit of soda drip on it, it will wiggle like a worm?

Dad was very creative. He made up his own knock-knock jokes that included the family. Dad also taught some more useful things. I helped him finish the basement on Brooklawn Circle, which prepared me to improve my own basements.

I may have surpassed Pop’s carpentry skills. When we lived in the Bronx he drilled a hole to hang a picture on the wall in the master bedroom. The end of the drill came out in the middle of the living room wall.

I’ve never done that.

Dad’s retail business connections gave him powers and abilities far beyond those of other kids’ fathers.

I got the very first Daniel Boone coonskin cap in all of New York. I even posed for pictures in a book about boys’ clothing.

Back then I wasn’t such a sexy model. But the clothing manufacturers knew that if they wanted to sell pants and shirts to McCreery’s department store, they’d better butter up Buddy Marcus by using yours truly as a model.

Dad’s connections easily got me into the audience of Captain Video and Howdy Doody -- something that the sons of dentists had to wait years to accomplish.

In New Haven, Dad had an endless supply of movie passes, and my buddies and I spent almost every Saturday afternoon at the Roger Sherman or Lowes Poli theater.

I thought my father was important and famous.

One time when I was a kid, we went to Alpert’s hardware store on Legion Avenue. The owner, Herman Alpert, came over to help Dad get what he needed. Herman addressed him as “Buddy,” and I was very impressed.

I was less impressed a few minutes later when Herman called his next customer "Buddy."

My life as the son of a retailer was different from other kids in other ways.

During Chanukah, most kids got clothes on a lot of nights. Since I had an almost unlimited clothing budget throughout the year, there was no point in giving me a sweater for Chanukah. I usually did pretty well for the first three or four nights, but not for all eight.

One year on night-seven I got a beautifully-wrapped pair of my old man’s old underpants. On night eight I got a roll of string.

I started campaigning for a toboggan when I was about 12. I got it when I was 17 -- the same time my friend Howie got a little green sports car.

Dad and I love hoaxes and pranks.

When I was a kid and there was a bad snow storm, he'd call a radio station to have them announce a cancellation of the Fafnir Society meeting at the Hotel Taft. There was no such organization. Fafnir was the name of his partner's dog.

Another time Pop was in a department store in Manhattan and convinced employees to move pocketbooks from one counter to another. It wasn't his store and he wasn't their boss.

This taught me valuable lessons. If you act like you have authority, you have authority. And most people would rather accept authority than challenge it.

Dad, like Mom, was an avid reader. He’d frequently fall asleep leaning into a book, and he had tall stacks of unread newspapers. So do I.

My father is the source of my interests in business, building things, technology, travel, history, maps, music, food, collecting, cigars, pranks, photography, law, language, tropical fish, and probably everything else I care about.

Dad was one of the world’s funniest story-tellers and a major influence on my writing. We both include lots of details.

The Catskill Mountains -- the Borscht Belt -- are where such comedians as Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis first got famous, and where Buddy Marcus worked as a waiter.

Pop told me that if he was “waiting a table” with eight people who ordered steaks with a mix of rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well and well-done, he’d tell the chef to make them all medium. His scam made all the meals ready at the same time and made it much faster and easier to pass out the plates. Only a small percentage of guests would notice and none would want to wait for a replacement. If anyone complained, Pop blamed the chef.

Although he was hauling trays of food from the kitchen to the tables, Dad was funny enough to have been on the stage.

There was a lot of laughter in our home even before we got a television, and we were one of the first families to get a television. Pop introduced me to MAD magazine. All fathers should do that. It’s as important as teaching about the birds and the bees.

I felt sorry for Pop when he taught me the facts of life.

My old man was obviously and uncharacteristically nervous and he badly messed up my sex lesson. He skipped the fun part.

He never told me how the “pollen” got from the daddy to the mommy. I first thought it flew through the air and I couldn’t figure out how it reached the right mommy. I eventually figured it out.

Buddy Marcus was a great story teller, with perfect accents in whatever language the joke called for. My accents are not nearly as good, and it would be an insult to try to mimic my father’s delivery, so I’ll give you this one straight.

One of Dad’s greatest hits involved a transaction between a lady of the evening and the great actor Boris Tomaschevsky of the famed Second Avenue Theater in Manhattan.

After their physical encounter, the beautiful young woman asked Boris for her money, but he gave her a ticket to see his show.

She was greatly disappointed and said, "But Mr. Tomaschevsky, I need money to buy bread."

Boris responded, "I am the great Tomaschevsky, star of the Second Avenue Thee-ay-ter. I am an actor. I pay with tickets. If you need bread, go bang a baker."

Pop was my best teacher and best resource and I felt both deprived and deserted when he retired to Florida, because I had so much more to ask him about business and about life.

But it was his right to decide to move on then, and to move on now.

Goodbye Pop. Enjoy your nap in this fine Connecticut dirt.


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Advertising what can't be sold



There’s no such thing as Publish-On-Demand, even though horrid PublishAmerica insists that “Publish-On-Demand” is the real meaning of “POD.” (Most of the world knows that it means “Print-On-Demand.”)

There are even stupidly named websites called PublishOnDemand.net and PublishOnDemandGlobal.com.

“Publish-On-Demand” makes no sense, but companies want you to think they’ll provide it.

Llumina Press, BookSurge, Outskirts Press and others have advertised the meaningless phrase aimed at ignorant writers who may think that "publishing" is more exciting than "printing," or don’t know the difference between the words. They’re not the same thing! Printing is part of publishing (except for e-books). Printing can be done on demand. Publishing can’t be done on demand.

Publishing is a complex, multi-stage process which takes a writer’s words from manuscript to books being sold. The end result of a publishing project—which may be a million books or just one book—can take weeks, months or even years.

With Print-On-Demand, books are printed one at a time or a few at a time, as orders are placed by readers through booksellers. Books are usually in the hands of readers a few days after an order is placed. That could not happen if a publishing company had to start the entire publishing sequence each time that an order for a book arrives.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

E-books can cannibalize the sales of p-books, but you can still make more money

Novelist and e-book evangelist Joe Konrath has been unusually frank about revealing his publishing sales and income. Today I'm going to do the same thing. It's not for ego (I'm not getting rich). It's for education and encouragement of other writers.
J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has stated that there will be no e-versions of her books. She can afford to be a prima donna and turn away potential income. I'm not and I can't.

I was initially reluctant to offer e-books because I think they look much worse than p-books. However, I realized that fighting e-books was as self-defeating as pissing into the wind, so I gave in.

I used eBookIt.com to handle the conversion of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) book, and I've been quite pleased with the company's quality, speed, service and price.

The book has gotten excellent reviews, but I never expected it to be a great seller. It's a mostly humorous memoir initially written for my friends and family. I later revised it to try to reach a bigger audience. I'm not Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman or Artie Lange, so fame won't sell it. And, unlike my nonfiction books which are sold to people who search for relevant topics, this book depends on social media and viral marketing.
  • In April, I sold a grand total of five copies of the paperback, and earned a grand total of $38.75. The cover price is $15.95.
  • In May, sales of the paperback dropped to ONE pathetic copy, which earned me a pathetic $7.75.
  • HOWEVER, yesterday I got the report on my e-books sales for May. I earned $394.56 on 135 books selling for $4.99 each. Some days I sold just one or two books. Other days I sold as many as a dozen.
Books were sold by sellers worldwide. Here's the big surprise: The vast majority were sold by Apple's iBookstore, not by Amazon.com. B&N sold just a few.

If any of you writers, especially self-publishing writers, have been reluctant to take the plunge into e-books, plunge. As Jim Morrison wrote, "The time to hesitate is through." Or, if you're more likely to be motivated by a Bob Dylan lyric, "the times they are a-changin’."




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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Does it make sense for states to sacrifice income tax revenue to try to increase sales tax revenue?

For years, Amazon.com has had an "Amazon Associates" program which allowed independent businesspeople with websites to have links to products on Amazon.com, and to make a small commission if someone follows a link and makes a purchase.

The commission percentages are generally in the single-digits, and earnings ranged from thousands of dollars per month down to almost nothing.

I recently formed an online bookstore aimed at writers, and became an Amazon Associate. The main purpose of the site is to provide links to the reviews on this blog and to promote books written by me, and by others. I had no dream of getting rich from the project, but merely hoped that the earnings would cover the cost of the website.

One reason for the success of Amazon.com and other online merchants is that millions of shoppers avoid paying sales tax by ordering products from a company in a distant state.

The law has been that unless a company has a physical location (a "nexus") in the state where an item is being shipped, no sales tax would be collected.

This was great for shoppers, but bricks-and-mortar businesses complained about the competition, and states complained about the loss of perhaps $7 billion in sales tax revenue.

Some states have gotten tough recently, maintaining that relationships with INDEPENDENT businesses -- including Amazon Associates -- provided a nexus equivalent to a corporate-owned warehouse or office in a state. They demanded that Amazon collect sales tax on purchases made through the efforts of Associates, and remit the taxes to the states.

Amazon ended the Associate status of websites in Connecticut (where I am) and in Arkansas after the states imposed sales tax on online purchases starting July 1.

Amazon said, "We opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside Connecticut, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action."

  • It was estimated that with the change, Connecticut would collect about $10 million per year -- a tiny part of the $20 billion state budget.
  • Reportedly, nearly 3,000 Connecticut businesses affiliated with online retailers made $236 million last year from those relationships and paid about $7 million in state income taxes on the earnings.
  • While both the $10 million and $7 million figures are estimates, the $3 million apparent net gain to the state is infinitesmal, especially in view of the disruption, unhappiness and loss of income the new law will cause.
  • The nearly 1/4 of a billion bucks that would go to Connecticut businesses -- and be spent, saved and invested in Connecticut -- may go to other states.
I've made a few bucks each month with the program, and I pay income tax on the earnings. Without me, Amazon will still sell books to Connecticut residents, and still won't remit sales tax to Connecticut, but I'll pay less income tax to Connecticut. How has Connecticut gained with the new law?

As a consumer, it's been wonderful to make purchases without paying sales tax. As a business owner, it's been great to be able to sell across my state border and not collect sales tax. However, I do realize that the present situation cannot continue forever. The country needs a simple national sales tax policy that will apply to internet, catalog and phone orders. Then, maybe, the Amazon Associates program can be restored.


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