Thursday, October 31, 2013

How much will "free" publishing cost you?
What about those "free" books?




In Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

Some self-publishing companies tout free publishing programs that are not really free.

Amazon subsidiary CreateSpace has run a Google ad with the headline, “Self Publish for Free.” The only free things I could find on its website are “free tools to prepare your content for publication” and an ISBN number that identifies CreateSpace as the publisher.

You don’t have to pay a penny to upload your book’s files into the CreateSpace computer and make it available for printing when orders are received. HOWEVER, each time a book is printed, you do pay a fee.

Despite the popularity of ebooks, the actually printing of books is still an intrinsic part of publishing books. Therefore, I have to conclude that the claim, “Self Publish for Free” is bullshit.


Installation was free, except for the installation.
It reminds me of radio commercials that AT&T ran back in the 20th century promising FREE INSTALLATION for their Merlin phone systems. The fine print of the deal revealed that they had a unique definition of “installation,” because it did not include installing any wire — which could cost thousands of dollars.

Lulu has run online ads with the headlines “Publish Your Book – Free” and “Free Self Publishing.” Their website promises “free book publishing,” but their publishing is free only if you don’t want any books to be published!

A 250-pager with decent paper will cost $9.50 in quantities from one to 24, and shipping is additional. That doesn’t seem like "free" to me. The price of a Lulu book is often higher than prices from other services, so to make an adequate profit you’ll probably set a higher retail price than you would otherwise, and this may cost you sales, unless your book is unique and important. Keep in mind that unless you choose one of Lulu's more expensive plans, your book will be sold only on Lulu’s website. People can buy the book if you send them there, but it’s less likely that people will find the book through normal online searches. It ain’t Amazon.

Author Solutions' defunct Wordclay said, “You can sign up and start publishing your book for free. There is no cost to register with our Web site and create your account. There is no cost to use our publishing wizard to turn your work into a published book. Once your book is published, you can purchase it if you wish, but there is no obligation. We have additional goods and services that you can also purchase through our Services Store, but again, there is no obligation. The basic publishing experience of getting your manuscript into a finished book is entirely free.” Here too, the “free” publishing doesn’t actually include publishing any books.


Every package deal that I’ve seen from self-publishing companies includes some number of allegedly free or complimentary books.
  • With Outskirts Press, the initial charge for a publishing package can range from $199 to $1099. You’ll get as many as 10 “free” books that you actually paid for as part of the package.
  • Holier-than-thou Thomas Nelson, "the world's leading Christian publisher" is full of shit, too. Nelson recently formed a partnership with "the world's leading self-publishing company, Author Solutions, to launch WestBow Press -- a Christian self-publishing imprint." Its first book was overpriced and under-edited. WestBow functions like a typical self-publishing company with a bit of implied holiness. Its publishing packages cost from $999 to as much as $6,499. Like its competitors, WestBow lies about providing from 20 to 100 "FREE" books with its publishing packages. They're not free if author-customers have to pay thousands of dollars to get them. The Thomas Nelson staff needs to go back to the seminary and take a course in morality and ethics. Liar-in-chief of Nelson is paranoid hypocrite Michael Hyatt. He seems to have a Jim Jones-like domination of his sycophantic disciples who frequently defend him in comments on this blog.
  • Wasteland Press doesn’t promise free books, but it does promise “FREE shipping” of from 5 to 500 books, and FREE ISBNs and FREE booksellers return plan. However, since you’ll have to pay the company from $195 to $3,100 to publish a 250-page book, the alleged freebies are being paid for with YOUR money.
  • Lulu says, “After publishing and once you approve the work, we will send you a complimentary copy of your finished book for you to review and enjoy.” That “complimentary” copy may have cost you hundreds of dollars.
With publishing, as with almost any business, nothing is free except the abundant hot air. Be careful when doing business with liars. If ten books are free, ask for 20, or 100. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't let your book cover seem out-of-date



I previously pointed out some errors in Penny C. Sansevieri's mostly fine Red Hot Internet Publicity. I read the book several years ago, but recently saw that it has been revised. Amazon shows a publication date of 2/23/13. I don't know if Penny corrected the errors I pointed out, but a banner on the corner of the book proclaims "NEWLY UPDATED EDITION."

That's very smart.

The cover below shows my own Independent Self-Publishing: the complete guide. The updated edition was published on 3/1/11 and the cover proclaims "Updated for 2011."

That's very stupid.



Announcing that a book was updated for 2011 may be effective marketing in 2010, 2011, or maybe in 2012 -- but by 2013, the book seems outdated (however, at least 95% of it is still useful). Maybe the book would sell better now if I eliminate the date.

I was smarter with the updated version of my Stories I'd Tell My Children) but maybe not until they're adults). A banner at the top proclaims "New Updated Edition." The book cover is dateless, and I think the book is timeless.


That's much smarter.

As much of the USA prepares to "fall back" from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time (Sunday, November 3), think about how your books can appear to be right-on-time -- or behind the times.

  • Unless you plan to publish updated versions every year or two, don't put a date on the cover.
  • And, as with copyright dates, if you publish in the last quarter of the year, put the following year's date on the cover. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Learn WHAT from Othniel Seiden?

Othniel Seiden is an apparently successful MD and author. He says he "did a year of graduate study at the University of Missouri School of Journalism," has been an "editorial and publication consultant," and "been both a book and magazine editor."

I think that experience would enable him to avoid the sloppy errors in the text below:


Let's talk about getting your book published. Do you need an agent, a synopsis, a query letter? What's the best way for you to get your book to your potential readers. [question mark] What about an editor? What about the binding? Art? Copy rights [one word] and publication rights. [question mark] What about contracts? There is a lot to think about and I've been there and done that. Learn form [from] my experiences and trial and error! I've had 40 books published by 9 different publishers, Google Othniel Seiden. Publishing has changed so much in the past 5 years that what was the only game in town 20 years, even 10 years ago, no longer holds true. It's never been easier to get published than today, but it's also easier to get taken by scammers. Let's discuss what to look out for and what's best for YOU! See you at the Arapahoe Public Library on Parker Rd and Florida at 1:30 to 3:30 October 30th. It's FREE!!!

Meet other hopeful writers and become a PUBLISHED AUTHOR within a year! Learn how to go from idea to researching and finding your reader market, establishing your writers [apostrophe missing] niche, to knowing your potential readers intimately, to getting your first draft finished in a hurry and finally getting it published. This group started by Othniel Seiden, author of over 30 published books. [or is it 40?]  See www.boomerbookseries.com or Amazon.com or Amazon Kindle or Google Books.com. If you're serious about becoming a published author [comma missing] this is your meetup! For both fiction and non-fiction writers. If I can write a publishable book [comma missing] anyone can!!!

Remember: every word an author writes is an audition! Don't look foolish in public.


(from http://www.meetup.com/)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Be careful. One book page can cost about a penny -- or two bucks!

(left-click on charts below to enlarge them for easier reading)

Despite the amazing recent growth in ebook sales, most books sold are still pbooks. Each piece of paper in a pbook costs money, and if you use a self-publishing company (as opposed to a printer), you can get really ripped off on paper charges.

Lightning Source is the dominant Print-On-Demand company, producing books for publishers of all types and sizes, including my own Silver Sands Books. I sometimes use CreateSpace (part of Amazon) and its prices are similar.

LightningSource's printing price for standard paperback books is 90 cents, plus $.013 per page. A 300-pager will cost $4.80. Pricing-per-page seems very logical to me, but that's not the way some self-publishing companies work.

Here's the price chart from E-BookTime.com: (Despite the company's name, it also produces pbooks.)

Prices are based on page ranges, not the actual number of pages, When you exceed a range by just one page, the minimum retail price goes up two bucks, and the author's wholesale price goes up $1.40.

The company says it provides "
Book publishing that is . . . affordable." A 351-page paperback selling for $20.95 is waaaaay overpriced for most genres. High pricing can make your book uncompetitive.


(above) Infinity Publishing's book pricing is strange. Its suggested cover price for a book with 129 pages is a buck more than the price for a book with 128 pages. The author pays 54 cents per book for the additional page. Page number 129 is printed on a very expensive piece of paper. Independent self-publishers who have Lightning Source print their books pay .013 for an additional page. Ironically, Infinity's $149 Extended Distribution Package uses Lightning Source to print the books. Infinity pays Lightning .013 cents (or maybe less) for page number 129, but charges authors 54 cents! That's a nice markup. Infinity also says that its own printing and fulfillment are better than Lightning --but they are willing to use Lightning anyway.



(above) Xlibris also has an inflated and weird "delta" between page ranges. As shown above, a 107-page paperback book will sell for $15.99 and the hardcover will sell for $24.99. If you add just one page more, the price goes up $4 or $5. The difference in the manufacturing cost is tiny, and can't possibly justify the difference in cover price.

The price for a paperback with 398 pages is $19.99 (just like the 108-page book), but, at 400 pages the retail price jumps four bucks to $23.99, and that price holds all the way to 800 pages. Xlibris gives away 400 pages for "free," but charges four or five bucks for one page! Xlibris books are printed by Lightning Source, so the price per additional page is $.013 (or maybe even less if they get a discount).

You want to sell pbooks. If you want people to buy them, the price is important. Choose your printing partner carefully. If you must use a self-pubco, pay attention to the page count, including the pages added by the company. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Understand the important "peas" in the publishing pod






Book publicity is one of several related and sometimes confusing or nearly synonymous “p” terms.

Someone does promotion (which often includes public relations) to achieve publicity. They all can be part of an author's platform.

Publicity is lots of people knowing about your book and hopefully buying copies and/or urging others to buy.

Promotion is all of the efforts intended to achieve publicity. Although publicity is the end result of promotion, many people call themselves book publicists and relatively few call themselves book promoters. (Publicists used to be called "press agents"). A publicist or promoter can guarantee to provide promotion, or public relations, but cannot guarantee that you or your book will achieve publicity. 

Red Hot Internet Publicity is mis-titled. Author Penny C. Sansevieri uses "publicity" as a synonym for "marketing," and it wasn't until I reached page 115 of her 193 pages that I encountered anything that I considered to be related to the book's title -- which was the reason I bought the book.

The bulk of the book's beginning deals with setting up a website. Penny gives both
inaccurate information and bad advice. She says that a typical website should cost between $2,000 and $6,000 to build. That number is bullshit and may unnecessarily scare off writers who could benefit from having a website. Nice websites can be built inexpensively -- or for free.

Penny also recommends hiring both a designer and a coder to put the website together. More scary bullshit.

I am not a professional designer or a coder, but I have put together well over 50 websites that worked just fine. I've done them for myself, for my businesses, for other businesses, and for friends.

Amazon indicates that Penny's book has been updated. I hope it's been fixed.


Despite its name, public relations is not directly concerned with relations with the public. Media are intermediaries. Writers hope to attract the attention of media people by sending out press releases, or by contacting journalists, editors, bloggers, talk show hosts, TV producers and movie makers.

Promotion includes more than public relations. It may include public appearances, publicity stunts and platform building. 

Platform is a major buzzword in current publishing. It’s not the same as a political party’s platform. Think of it as a metaphor for a structure that will boost you up and make you visible to potential readers, sources of publicity and bookstore buyers. Components in your platform include websites, blogs, business connections, social media, radio and TV appearances, quotes in media, online men­tions, speeches, articles, friends, neighbors, etc. Your first book is part of your platform and should help sell your later books.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Try to be a bit original with your title and cover

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

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

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

Every book needs a title. Many book titles are cliché phrases which seem to be absolutely perfect for a particular book. Unfortunately, many cliché phrases are absolutely perfect for lots of books, and the title of a book can’t be copyrighted. Any writer considering possible titles should check for previous uses.
  • Both Danielle Steel and Queen Noor of Jordan wrote books called Leap of Faith.
  • At least five books are titled Fatal Voyage.
  • At least four books, two songs and a movie are named Continental Drift.
  • At least 24 books are titled Unfinished Business. You can write books with that title, too.
  • More than a dozen different books are titled Caught in the Middle. If you like the title, you can use it, too. You can even use it for several different books.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ave Maria. Now there's a genuine Catholic self-publishing company to lie to prospective customers.



I've complained about "Christian publisher" Thomas Nelson making a deal with the devil to get into the self-publishing business by setting up WestBow Press in a joint venture with Author Solutions.

Well, the Catholics have caught up with the less-orthodox Christians.

A press release was distributed to announce the grand opening of Leonine Publishers. It says:

Leonine is a "hybrid" publisher to get authors published in the Catholic marketplace. If a manuscript passes their Catholic integrity test as faithful to Catholic doctrine and morals, they will publish it using a hybrid of the "self publishing" and traditional Catholic publishing models.

Author packages start at $399 and include everything needed to get a book published [Editing is an extra-cost option, so apparently it's really not needed.]. Authors can visit [the] Leonine Publishers web site at www.leoninepublishers.com to learn about the self-publishing and hybrid publishing process. The “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the site also explains the important difference between the vanity press (scams) and self publishing (legitimate). [BULLSHIT!]

Leonine Publishers presents a new approach that combines self-publishing  and traditional publishing.[BULLSHIT!] The publishing house will not publish everything submitted, but what they do publish is funded by the author. [Therefore Leonine is a vanity publisher.] The company’s Catholic business model [and deceptive business model] and low overhead means they can publish an author’s book for about the same cost as other self-publishing companies. [And produce equally crappy books that no one will buy.]

Unlike the other self-publishing companies, however, the reviewers at Leonine Publishers actually read [as opposed to making believe they read?] the manuscripts they receive. Manuscripts are checked for Catholic orthodoxy [By the Pope, or by a guy who profits by publishing what he approves?]. Once this important step is completed, the publishing house works with authors to get their books produced just the way they want. The publishers have options for editing  [Editing should NOT be an option!], marketing, typesetting, and cover design.

Leonine Publishers president, Michael J. Rayes, emphasized the importance of the review for Catholic integrity. [Who appointed him Assistant Pope?] “I strongly believe Catholics shouldn’t just add their works to the confused clamor of everyman literature. We need a publishing company of our own [His own, actually.], with the proper checks in place to ensure authors' works are free from doctrinal or moral error.” [HAH!]

Strangely, Rayes doesn't seem to have much faith in self-publishing, In a blog interview he said, "I had to convince book reviewers that my book was not self-published."

  • Like other self-pubco liars, Leonine claims to provide from three to ten "complimentary" books. They are complimentary only if you ignore the $821 to $1221 (or more) you'll pay Leonine to publish a puny 100-page book.
  • Like the others, Leonine overcharges for its services. The company wants authors to pay $149 for a US Copyright (which is available for $35) and $79 for a Library of Congress Control Number (which is available for FREE).
  • Leonine promotes a free "$849 value" special deal with every order. Since the publishing packages are priced from $821, do you really think the freebie is worth more than the package it comes with? Not likely.
  • Leonine will gladly sell you a variety of "marketing options" and says, "Our rates are ridiculously low in comparison!" They compare their prices to other self-pubcos, but not to the prices an author could pay by going right to the source. For example, Leonine charges $75 for 250 4" by 6" color postcards. VistaPrint will sell you 500 bigger 5.47" by 8" cards for about $52 (before discount). Leonine's price for business cards is similarly too high.
  • Leonine charges $40 for a printed proof of a 100-page book. That's much too high. Lulu charged me under $20 for a 432-page proof, including shipping.
  • If you want a hardcover edition, Leonine wants $500 extra. That price is absurd, and much more than competitors charge.
  • Leonine does not offer ebook -- a mortal sin in 2013.
  • Leonine doesn't include listings at Amazon and B&N except with its most expensive packages. That's robbery.
  • The least-expensive package doesn't even include the author's photo in the book. That's terrible. This package is a "low-ball" -- constructed to get people to pay more because so much is excluded.
  • Final proofreading is standard only with the most expensive package. That's irresponsible, reprehensible and ungodly.
  • Leonine says, "We don’t play hide and seek. All our rates are listed here. This is a concise list of everything we offer – straightforward and to the point." Unfortunately the list doesn't display the page size or the cost to print a book, or the author's income per book -- and I could not find that vital information anywhere on the site. All it says about income is that "you receive a generous wholesale discount on books you order."

How much is generous? What about royalties?

It probably doesn't matter much, because Leonine points out that "Most self-published authors, no matter which company they choose [including Leonine!], sell several dozen books." If you pay Leonine $1,500 to publish your book, you'd better pray real hard if you expect to make a profit.

Leonine is dishonest even when it discusses other self-pubcos, claiming that their customers end up with "several hundred books sitting around in [their] basement." That may have been true years ago, but is uncommon and untrue with modern Print-On-Demand publishing, and certainly untrue with ebooks.

Strangely, just two days after the Leonine "grand opening," its website already showed two books for sale, including a $10.95 30-pager. Who would pay that much for that little?

The Leonine website referred to information that "will be available by late June." The year was not specified. That's not dishonest, but it is stupid. If Leonine's website has stupid errors, can the company be trusted to publish an error-free book?

According to the Leonine website, "CEO Michael J. Rayes is an expert on Catholic theology, especially Catholic marriage and family life. He writes a regular column for The Latin Mass magazine and is a published author and speaker."

Leonine shares a Post Office Box with Rafka Press, which published Rayes' "Catholic action-mystery" book, Bank Robbery in 2006. Rayes was motivated to write the book after being offended by the Hardy Boys mysteries his kids were reading. He "noticed some decidedly non-Catholic trends in the books, such as the Hardy boys going out on dates with girls (no mention of courtship for marriage) and some astrology and wizardry . . . ." [OH-OH!, better burn those books and make an appointment for the Rayes kids to be exorcized!]

Rayes and his wife own the company that published his book. It was supposed to be the first book in a series, but apparently it is still a series of one. It appears that Rafka failed to attract other authors, so Rayes expanded into self-publishing.

In a video that's available online, Rayes twice in two minutes uses the illiterate's non-word "irregardless." He also says, "gunna" for "going to." Rayes says he has a B.A. in Education, was a public school teacher, and has home-schooled his own seven kids. I wouldn't trust him to teach my kids, or my dog. Maybe I'd let him teach a goldfish -- but not anything important.

The degree in education and an MBA are not equal to a doctorate in divinity. Rayes is not a former priest and probably not the child of one. I have no idea what qualifies him to issue an imprimatur.

I also don't know what qualifies him to earn a living by providing expensive mentoring services to Catholic couples. Rayes says, "the price of the mentoring process could be compared with the cost of taking a course at a university" and "Any couple, from the happily married to those struggling to stay together – and every couple in between – could benefit from investing in the services of a mentor." It sounds like Rayes has granted himself a license to print money, as well as the license to judge books..

Rayes married his high school sweetheart. Their seven kids may have been conceived following some very strange foreplay. In a discussion about "spicing up" a marriage the Catholic way, Rayes recommends playing Scrabble or Monopoly. Hot? Not!

The Leonine website highlights Holy Sex as an example of a Catholic book with a cover that's too salacious for Leonine to publish.

Rayes wrote:  "Divorce is scary, unnecessary, costly, and traumatizing. And I should repeat the unnecessary part. The only possible reason for separation (not necessarily divorce) is the physical danger of one of the spouses. Other than that, things can be worked out." Yeah, right. Rayes thinks that a woman whose husband kicks the crap out of her and the kids, should not be allowed to get a divorce and marry a nice guy. A marriage should not be a life sentence -- or a death sentence.

Leonine says, "We are a Catholic publishing company, and we care about you."

Hypocrite Michael J. Rayes doesn't care enough to tell the truth, or to be a competent publisher.

Michael J. Rayes, go to hell!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My challenge to Top Consumer Reviews: prove you're not full of shit


(left-click on image to enlarge)

Reviews of products and services are useful, powerful and time-honored adjuncts to commerce.
  • Consumer Reports magazine has been publishing reviews by professional testers since 1936.
  • Reviews by amateurs on Amazon.com can make a book or other product become a bestseller -- or doom it.
  • According to Amberly Dressler, managing editor of Website Magazine, "Consumers are making their own decisions less and less, relying on the reviews of their fellow users to determine where to spend their dollars."
Sadly, the Internet requires no qualifications or testing for reviewers.
  • Some reviewers have not used the products they endorse or condemn. 
  • Some reviewers are corrupt "sock puppets." Authors and others can even buy phony reviews.
  • Some reviewers seem to know absolutely nothing about the field they are advising about.
That seems to be the case with reviews of self-publishing services provided by Top Consumer Reviews.

The website brags that: "We take pride in the service we provide for you, and treat our responsibilities very seriously . . . .  Our expert reviewers . . . .  bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise covering a broad range of skills. Some of their backgrounds include successful careers in: Banking, Education, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Health care, Homemaking, Insurance, Investment portfolios, Management, Military, Sales, Software development, Transportation"
 

Notably absent from the list are experts with experience in publishing or writing.

More: "Although the makeup of our company is diverse, we all share one common goal: to bring you the best information on the top products available, in a format that's as easy to use as possible. After visiting our website, we hope you feel that we've met that challenge!"

I certainly don't.


More: Every item we review is meticulously researched so that we can provide the best information for you. We don't stop there. We also investigate the companies that offer these products as well . . . . we strive to deliver current, factual, correct information,


Not necessarily so.

More: "Ratings are subjective and are the sole opinion of TopConsumerReviews.com."

It would be better if the reviewers got opinions from people with more knowledge of self-publishing, especially customers of the self-publishing companies.
  • The selection of companies shows fundamental ignorance.
  • Ignoring CreateSpace and ebooks is negligent.
  • Saying that "Outskirts Press sets the standard by which all self publishing companies should be judged and clearly earns our highest rating" shows such a high level of naivety (and maybe dishonesty) that I can't rely on any review the company publishes.
Furthermore, the site carries an ad for Outskirts that creates revenue for Top Consumer Reviews when people click on it, and other links to Outskirts that apparently generate "affiliate marketing" income.


The site tells prospective authors that "Outskirts Press allows authors to keep 100% of the royalties from the sale of their books. This incredible feature sets this program above the rest of the self-publishing services." Saying that Outskirts pays 100% author royalties, with no explanation, is misleading, meaningless and can hurt both competitors and authors. I asked Top Consumer Reviews for an explanation but received no response.

100% of what? Royalty calculation in the self-publishing business is notoriously fuzzy. It's like Hollywood contracts that promise to pay a percentage of the "net profit," but the studios inflate the costs of making the movie so there is no profit left to distribute.

The Outskirts Press website says, "You receive 100% of your author royalties." The site does not show how the percentage is calculated or what is deducted before you get 100%

Author John H. Hohn complained online that "Outskirts Press priced my book at too high for the market and paid me less than $.37 royalty on each."

The Outskirts Press web page shown below brags of "High Royalties" but the examples shown range from about 26% to about 14% -- FAR less than 100%.

(left click on image to enlarge)

The review of Outskirts on TopConsumerReviews.com reads like an ad, not an article (e.g., "With superior services, upfront pricing, and honest business practices, they are dedicated to ensuring the success of their authors.") The opinions offered by the reviewer contradict opinions posted online by unhappy Outskirts customers:
  • "I have had nothing but troubles and delay since last February in getting my children's storybook published by Outskirts Press. They have changed representatives on me three times and there is no coordination between them so each time it's like starting over. The colorizer(s) were terrible so I finally decided to use the colored images I sent in instead which they are "cleaning" up but which I am still having to pay the colorization fee for. And it seem that they have been just sitting on it and that nothing has been done. They tell me that they are finally sending the images for proofing tomorrow but I'm not counting on it. I will appreciate it if you have any negative information about Outskirts Press that you could share with me because I'm really beginning to think they are bogus and just taking my money which was close to $3,000.00."
  • "My cause for breach of contract and damages is because of consistent disregard, for whatever reason, the promise of 10 to 13 weeks for production that has extended into 9 months of deliberate delays.  I have no idea as to why this deliberate posture was taken. . . I was deprived of 8 to 9 months of having my book marketable and available to the public, therefore my reasoning for the suit being at $7,500.00. To complicate the association it was difficult to communicate as in phoning only voice-mail would come up with no response, Outskirts Press had no physical office address just a box number at a UPS station."
  • "I am a very disappointed client of Outskirts. It's such an incompetent company operated by incompetent people. When they uploaded my manuscript onto a galley book, spaces between sentences were deleted, strange things such as half parentheses ")", a numeric "1" after a comma showed up and they made a two-people dialogue into one person's, deleted indentations, printed one sentence in a bold letters, and about more than a dozen headings under "Chapter Numbers" were left aligned. Is there any way I can get some money back? I told them I am backing out, and the supervisor says she will be working directly with me from now on, but I can't trust her."
  • "I have had some scathing reviews due to the errors that were left in my book after I paid a small fortune for editing with the Outskirts editing team. I was so excited when my book was first released, but after a few family members pointed out the mistakes left behind, I can't describe the restraint it took for me not to explode. I tried to reason with my so-called marketing representative, but she simply hid behind the "fine print" they give you after they receive payment from you. It would have cost me another small fortune to revise the book, and I am still in debt from publishing it in the first place. The marketing representative simply would not assume any responsibility for mistakes that Outskirts made. Outskirts made me feel paranoid about not getting their editing service, but when I did it was as if I had no editing at all."
Despite many tales of woe, TopConsumerReviews.com tells us that "Outskirts Press is an excellent self-publishing service. . . . Outskirts Press sets the standard by which all self publishing companies should be judged and clearly earns our highest rating."

So, is TopConsumerReviews.com inept, irresponsible or dishonest?

The company offers this cop-out: "We do not guarantee . . .  that the . . . information provided for each product [is] current and/or correct."

In other words, do not trust anything that TopConsumerReviews.com says. That's excellent advice.


Monday, October 21, 2013

How many book sales are authors losing because of uninformed readers?

Some of the 145 ebooks I can read on one of my PCs

  • In 2012, ebooks accounted for about 20 percent of American publishers’ income -- up from 15 percent the year before.
  • About 120 million tablets were sold in 2012 -- nearly seven times as many as in 2010.
Despite the eboom, not everyone wants to read ebooks.

I recently received an email from someone who was interested in one of my Kindle-only books.
He urged me to publish a pbook version because he doesn't have a Kindle, tablet or smart phone and said he can't afford one.



While new Kindles are now priced as low as $69, Nooks start at $59, no-name tablets may be bought for less than $70, and smartphones are available for FREE (with a new contract), authors face a bigger problem from readers who lack information than from readers who lack money.

This reader -- and maybe hundreds, thousands or millions of others -- did not know that he could read my ebook on the same PC he used to send me the email, without spending a penny on new equipment or software.

The advertising for exciting products from Amazon, Apple, Samsung and others is obscuring the fact that people can read ebooks without any of them.

While it may be tempting to dismiss readers who lack the latest tech toys, they do know how to read, and do buy books.

One solution is to publish both e and p (and I do that for some of my books, below).


Another solution, which is simpler and less expensive, is to be sure to mention that your ebooks can be read on almost any computer, and the bigger screen may provide a better reading experience than a small screen can.

I'm typing this while viewing a 27-inch monitor. My iPad is standing up immediately to the right of the monitor, and my Kindle Fire and smartphone are about eight feet from here. My smaller portables are great if I'm in a car, on a plane, in a hotel or doctor's office. But if I want to read an ebook while sitting at this desk, I prefer the giant screen.

It takes a lot of effort to write and promote a book. It would be a tragedy to lose sales to interested readers who think they can't read your ebooks -- but can.

Lots of people who like to read do not require portability. Let them know how easy and inexpensive it is to read what you write.

Free Kindle software for PC

Free Kindle software for Mac

Free Nook software for PC

Free Nook software for Mac

Free Adobe Digital Editions software for PC or Mac



Friday, October 18, 2013

Don't be discouraged by the Publishing Grinches. Publish that book!


How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a children's story written by Dr. Seuss and published by Random House in 1957. The National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" and the book was the basis of a 2000 movie starring Jim Carrey and directed by Ron Howard.

The Grinch was a miserable, antisocial creature who stole Christmas presents and decorations.

Now, "grinch" is no longer limited to ruining Christmas. It has come to mean
an unpleasant person who spoils other people's fun or enjoyment (Merriam-Webster). There are lots of grinches in book publishing who get in the way of writers.

Many writers turn to independent self-publishing or "self-publishing companies" after being rejected by grinchy agents or publishers. (Of course, many writers -- like me -- prefer the control, speed and income of independent publishing.)

While rejection can be depressing and discouraging, the failure to be approved by the media gatekeepers is not necessarily an indication of bad writing or an uninteresting idea.
  • Books are rejected for many reasons (not only bad quality), but they usually are accepted for one reason: because someone thinks they will make money.
Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and the endless stream of celebrities' addiction/abuse/confession/recipes/weight-loss books are not published in anticipation of glorifying the publisher by winning Pulitzer prizes. They are published in anticipation of making money.


Professional judgment is imperfect.

Many books that are rejected by one publisher -- or by many publishers -- are later accepted by another publisher and become very popular and profitable.

Joanne Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by TWELVE publishing companies. More than 400 million Potter books have been sold, and the Potter movies have been seen by many millions. I wonder if any of the publishing executives who rejected that first book were fired for bad judgment.

Most books published by traditional publishing companies with highly paid experts having years of experience, do not sell well. After a few months they are doomed to be sold on the buck-a-book tables or recycled into the raw materials for more books.


My taste in books apparently puts me in the minority of book buyers. Often I eagerly buy a new book as soon as it is released. As expected, I love the book. Alas, few others care about the subject, and the book is soon available for almost nothing at Barnes & Noble or Dollar Tree. This has become a running joke in my family, and my wife would strongly prefer that I wait a while and pay just one dollar instead of $25.

But I won't wait.

There may be many people like me who are waiting for what you are writing. Find a way to reach us.

If you can't get a contract from a publisher, self-publish... on paper, online, or in ebooks.

Don't be stopped. Don't be silenced. Don't skip professional editing and design. Don't publish crap. Readers may want your words. Get to work.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Winnie the WHAT?

A kindergarten class was trying very hard to adjust to first grade. The biggest hurdle the kids faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk! "You need to use big people's words," she was always reminding them.

She asked John what he had done over the weekend. "I went to visit my nana," he told the class.

"No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use big people's words!"

She then asked Michelle what she had done.

"I took a ride on a choo-choo," Michelle answered.

She said. "No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use big people's words."

The teacher then asked little Alex what he had done? "I read a book," he replied. "That’s WONDERFUL!," the teacher responded. "What book did you read?"

Alex thought real hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride and said, "Winnie the Shit.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WTF? Michael admits to being imperfect.



Readers of this blog have likely noticed (or been pissed off by) my frequent snarking about errors made by other publishers and writers, as recently as yesterday.

Despite my snotty, know-it-all attitude, I readily admit to being human, and therefore both mortal and fallible. I therefore confess to three errors related to publishing.
  1. In 1976 I accused co-author Porter Bibb of bullshitting about the "baobab" tree (shown above). I thought he made it up, but the tree is real. Sorry, Porter.
  2. In my first book about publishing, I recommended using the prime and double prime to indicate feet and inches, and minutes and seconds. I illustrated that section with vertical ditto marks. I was wrong, and my later books show correctly slanted primes.
  3. In another book I reversed my description of British and American quote marks. A reviewer on Amazon caught the error and slammed me for it. I fixed it.
I've also made some errors not about publishing:
  1. I once used "prophesy" (pronounced like "prophesigh") as a verb, instead of prophesize.
  2. I twice pronounced kiosk as "ky-osk."
  3. I once pronounced acai as "ah-ky."
  4. When I was a little kid I pronounced synagogue as "sy-na-gog-you" the first time I saw it on a sign.
  5. Cynical cousin Dave doesn't like the way I pronounce "Saturn" or "buffet" -- but that's his opinion, not official errors.
Inconsistent spelling and improper punctuation should be fixed by editors. Wrong information should be corrected by fact checkers. Unfortunately, the rush to publish, limited budget and egomania ("I doan need no steenkin editor!") of many self-published authors lead to bad books. There are defective articles in magazines and newspapers. Many websites and blogs are very far from perfect, too. And so are some broadcasts. (Rachel Maddow sometimes exhibits terrible grammar, but I like her anyway.)



Time magazine has (or had) the most stringent fact-checking process in periodical publishing. Apparently, their checkers were expected to put a dot over each word in a manuscript to indicate that the word was checked, verified or changed. Their checkers are not perfect. The mag once spelled the last name of MAD's Alfred E. Neuman as "Newman." I'm very sensitive to this because my middle name is Neuman. I hated the name for many years.

Rival Newsweek had been notorious for printing "Newsweek regrets the error" at the end of the letters section. Newsweek is is now a website, not a magazine.

Esquire once paid me to write an article, and months later one of the mag's fact-checkers called ME to verify something in the article. If I was not trusted to write the piece, why was I trusted to verify it?

The New York Times publishes large sections of corrections.

Some of my favorite errors:
  • The February 2009 issue of Automobile magazine told readers that Thomas Edison said, "Mr. Watson, come here." Actually, Edison was the guy with the light bulb, moving pictures, phonograph and concrete houses. Alex G. Bell was the one who spoke to Watson on the first telephone.
  • In the 1980s, a reporter for WCBS TV news used the Spanish phrase "mano a mano" to mean "man-to-man." It really means "hand-to-hand." This is a common error.
  • Every November, without fail, at least one talking head on TV will refer to the "Macy's Day Parade." The name of the holiday is Thanksgivings Day, and the event in Manhattan is the "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade," you idiots!
  • Another common New York broadcast blooper, at least for beginning broadcasters, is "Port of Authority." The real name of the organization is the "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey."
  • Brent Sampson is the boss of Outskirts Press and author of a promotional book titled Self Publishing Simplified. Brent wrote, "Peter Mark first published the Thesaurus in 1852," strangely ignoring the much more famous Peter Roget who published his Thesaurus in the same year. Actually Mark was the middle name of Peter Mark Roget, so Brent was two thirds right.
  • Orange County Choppers: The Tale of the Teutuls by Keith & Kent Zimmerman has silly geography errors. It's disturbing that three Teutuls plus two Zimmermans plus fact checkers and editors at Warner Books could let obvious errors get printed. On page 11, Paul Senior talks about his parents charging people to park in their driveway on Cooper Street in Yonkers, to watch horse races in Yonkers Raceway or baseball games in Yankee stadium, which were within "walking distance." While the track is just a few blocks away, the stadium is about 8.5 miles south. The 17 mile round trip is not "walking distance" for most people. Twice on page 15, Senior mentions his house in "Muncie," New York. Muncie is in Indiana. The Teutuls lived in MONSEY (which is pronounced like Muncie).
  • In Against the Odds. Inter-Tel: the First 30 Years, author Jeffrey L. Rodengen claims that in the early 1970s, "there were no domestic phone system manufacturers except AT&T. He inexplicably ignores GTE, Stromberg-Carlson, ITT, Northern Telecom and Rolm. Jeff also misspells company names and seems to confuse intercom systems with phone systems.
  • In Desperate Networks by Bill Carter, an otherwise excellent book, there is this strange sentence on page 366: "What do expect for this?" What the heck does that mean? I'm only an amateur, but I found this and other flubs in the book. Where are the pros who get paid to find and fix them?
  • In So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter, another book I liked very much, there's also some silly stuff. On page 237 it says, ". . . and did whatever the man in the headsets shouted at them to do." I've been using and selling headsets for years. I've even designed a few. But in all my experience, I've never seen a man who wore more than one headset at a time. Most men have two ears, and one headset will take care of both them just fine.
  • Steve Vogel's The Pentagon, a History is an extremely good book and I recommend it highly. Alas, it, too, has imperfections. On page 302 Steve describes a 1,000-foot-long vehicular tunnel illuminated by rows of neon lights. Neon lights are used for signs. I'd bet $20 that the tunnel was really illuminated by fluorescent lights. On page 276 Steve says the original Pentagon phone system had "68,600 miles of trunk lines." I'd bet $100 that's not true.
  • Joshua Levine's The Rise and Fall of the House of Barneys is a very interesting retail history that details the destruction of a once-powerful institution by the dysfunctional family members who followed its founder. (At least it's very interesting to me, and I read a lot of retail histories.) On page 147 we are told that "inventory shortage is the term applied to discrepancies between the inventory recorded as sold and the actual depletion of stock on hand." The proper term is "shrinkage," not "shortage." Retailers know this, and so should writers and editors doing a book about retailing. On page 186, Joshua mentions "people called factors," who advance payments to stores based on accounts receivable. It's possible that hundreds of years ago factors were individual people, but during the Barneys era, factors have been companies. On page 244, Joshua tells us that Fred Pressman "didn't have the kichas for it . . . a Yiddish expression for intestinal fortitude." The proper term is kishkes. This error is unforgivable for a writer with a name like "Joshua Levine." The word originally meant "intestines," and is now slang for "guts."
  • In Release Your Writing: Book Publishing, Your Way!,  Helen Gallagher says, "Expert editing is a requirement." Sadly, Helen calls Stephen King, "Steven" and falsely claims that Amazon.com owns printer Lightning Source. 
  • In a Wall Street Journal article published on April 2, 2008, Amy Schatz wrote, "The Carterfone rule required traditional wireline phone companies such as AT&T to allow consumers to use any phone they wanted in their homes, instead of renting or buying a phone from their local carrier." The Carterfone decision was in 1968, but at that time the phone companies were renting, not selling phones to their customers. Sales did not come until much later, probably in the 1980s, as a defensive reaction by telephone utilities to retailers who were selling phones that could now be legally plugged in. Some smaller phone companies may have sold some equipment earlier, but not AT&T's Bell System, and the Carterfone decision did not permit massive private phone ownership. That was enabled by a Supreme Court decision in 1977. And even then, people could not "use any phone they wanted." Phones had to meet FCC standards or be connected behind a protective coupling device.
  • Back on December 12, 1988, the New York Times published an article by Calvin Sims about the aftermath of the 1984 Bell System breakup. Sims wrote, "consumers have to decide whether to buy their telephones or rent them in a market where dozens of telephone manufacturers offer equipment of varying quality." While that statement was true, it had absolutely nothing to do with the demise of the Bell System. As I stated above, freedom of choice goes back to 1977. Calvin also wrote, "Consumers must choose among the nation's three long-distance carriers -- American Telephone and Telegraph, MCI Communications, and U S Sprint." While those three companies had captured the majority of the long distance calling business, there were dozens of other regional, national, and international competitors, including ITT, Metromedia, RCI, TDX and Allnet. And if consumers did not want to make a choice, a long distance carrier could be assigned arbitrarily by the local phone company. Also, long distance competition existed as far back as 1970, long before the Bell breakup.
  • Years ago, the New York Daily News reported on a teenage fashion trend: "wearing pumice." In reality, high school kids were not wearing lumps of volcanic rock that are normally used as an abrasive to remove calluses from feet. They were wearing Pumas, a brand of sneakers.
  • The Essential Guide to Telecommunications by Annabel Z. Dodd does a pretty good job covering the subject, but has some silly errors. On page 40 she says, "Rotary telephones, called 500 sets, were introduced in 1896." Actually the 500 model designation was not used until after World War II. Before that were the 300, 200 and others.
  • In a review of "Grease" in one of New York City's tabloids, the writer explained that the title refers to the lubricants used in teenage boys' hotrods. Actually, it referred to the grease in their hair. (When I was in high school, those kids were called "greasers" -- or "hoods" or "JDs" (juvenile delinquents).
  • Sadly, I can't give you a citation, but I read an interview where someone was quoted as saying "chalk full" of something instead of "chock full." I've also read "chuck full."
  • Google shows more than 600,000 links for "anchors away." The correct term is "anchors aweigh."
IMPORTANT: If you feel the urge to make a correction, be sure you are correct. On an early job working for a magazine, I wrote something about trading-in an aging model A Ford for a new model T, and submitted my manuscript to my boss, the editor. The editor told the publisher that I made a serious error because the Model A came out after the Model T. He was wrong. What I knew, and what the editor didn’t know, was that there were two Model A Ford cars. One was first built in 1903, before the Model T, which was produced from 1908 through 1927. Another Model A was first built in 1927, after the Model T was discontinued. So, there!