Friday, January 30, 2015

Bookbaby is run by ignorant liars. And their prices are insanely high.


Bookbaby is one of dozens of companies that can format and distribute ebooks. I’d heard good things about BookBaby and I was going to try it for an ebook a few years ago. Then I read: “In about four to six weeks, your eBook is up for sale..." That delay was a deal breaker. Competitors such as eBookit and Amazon's KDP are much, much faster. With some companies, ebooks can be on sale within 24 hours.

Ebook sales are leveling off and yesterday Bookbaby announced that it would begin producing Print On Demand ("POD") books. Her's the press release: 

----------------

BookBaby Introduces Print On Demand Books with the Industry’s Widest Distribution Network

Self-published authors can now gain unprecedented worldwide book distribution for both eBooks and printed books in 100+ stores and catalogs.

Portland, OR – BookBaby, the self-publishing powerhouse, announces a game-changing on-demand book printing and distribution service that gives authors and publishers the chance to sell their printed books in dozens of stores and catalogs, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s, as well as the complete Ingram and Baker & Taylor networks. Combined with BookBaby’s popular eBook distribution services, self-published authors can now place their books in over 100+ online stores and catalogs around the globe.

Print On Demand (POD) allows authors to sell printed books worldwide without paying for large print runs, inventory and warehousing issues, or handling their own order fulfillment. Books are printed and shipped to customers as needed — and because BookBaby’s POD service comes paired with global distribution, sales can come from almost anywhere in the world. 

“This is different from any other Print On Demand program out on the marketplace,” said Steven Spatz, BookBaby President. “Not only do we offer the most robust book distribution network in the business, we also deliver the highest-quality custom printed books and back that up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.”

“Self-published authors need all the exposure they can get for their books. They deserve to have a place on book store shelves around the world, and our program delivers the maximum exposure through retail stores and wholesale catalogs.”

Unlike other Print On Demand providers, BookBaby uses the very same digital printing presses for their POD books as they do for their larger print runs. “Let’s be honest,” says Spatz. “The print quality for books printed on demand can be spotty. It’s a problem for authors and publishers who get books printed for local sales and also get on-demand printing for global reach because all-too-frequently the book quality differs between the commercially printed books and the POD version. This has been an ongoing problem in the industry for years. BookBaby has changed that. Every single book we print is of the highest-quality in the industry. An author’s first book will be identical to their 1,000th.”

BookBaby’s Print On Demand service allows authors to concentrate on the essentials of self-publishing success — writing and promotion — and leaves all the manufacturing, book distribution, and shipping work entirely up to BookBaby. Whenever a POD client’s book is purchased in a store, online, or ordered by a wholesaler such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, BookBaby will print, bind, and ship it within five days. 

“Beautifully printed books, true global reach, low upfront cost, one-time sign up, and sell forever– that’s our on-demand printing service in a nutshell,” says Spatz. “When you add that to our strong eBook program, it means we’re serving 100% of an author’s go-to market needs like no one else in the industry.”

“For the first time ever, self-published authors can truly be everywhere they need to be, in all formats, in all the important places, with hand crafted quality books they can be proud of.”

So, what's wrong with Bookbaby? Lots!
  1. The screenshot up at the top says that "POD is the best thing to happen to self-publishing since the invention of the eBook." Lightning Source is the largest PODer and has been PODing since 1997. It's possible that other companies started earlier. While some people will claim that the ebook was invented in the 1940s, the market really took off in 2007 with the introduction of the Amazon Kindle. Bookbaby is either ignorant or deceptive in its claim.
  2. The company says: "All titles signed up for BookBaby printed book POD distribution must exclusively be distributed through BookBaby. Listing your printed book through multiple distribution networks will cause retailers not to carry your title." That policy is highly restrictive and the warning is a lie. Lots of authors have book distribution through both Lightning Source and CreateSpace, for example.
  3. The company says: "Depending on the retail price of your title, and the specs of the book, most titles will generate between 10% -30% royalties." It's easy to make much more money.
  4. The company says: "Your printed book will be available through the largest distribution network and retail sites." That sentence is inarticulate and probably a dishonest boast.
  5. The company says: "Get your ISBN # from BookBaby for only $29." Some competitors provide ISBNs for free! 
  6. The company says: "BookBaby stands behind its products and services with the strongest guarantees in the publishing business." The guarantee is typical, not special.
  7. The company says: "we also deliver the highest-quality custom printed books." There is little or no difference among the books from various POD companies.
  8. The company says: "Never fear about overpaying for your printed books again. BookBaby now guarantees its prices are the lowest around." Actually, Bookbaby's prices are much, much, much higher than prices from such competitors as Lightning Source, CreateSpace or Lulu. It would be extremely hard to make money if you had to pay $89.79 to have one book printed and shipped.




(left) Bookbaby has been advertising a limited-time special deal for one copy of a book for $19. While $19 is better than $88.79, it's still much higher than CreateSpace ($4.45) or Lulu ($7.25). However, the Baby price includes a color interior which may or may not be important to you. Note: you have to prepare your interior and cover files with Bookbaby's own templates -- you can't use a template from another printer. This may mean lots of extra work just to compare Bookbaby with CreateSpace, for example.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vanity publishing, non-vanity publishing and just plain vanity

For many years there have been ads in magazines aimed at writers with headlines like “For the writer in search of a publisher," “We want to read your book,” “Manuscripts wanted” and “Authors wanted.” The ads and affiliated websites promise to enable you to become a “published author.”

The ads are not from traditional publishers or from literary agents, but from companies that use the author’s money to produce, promote and distribute the books.

Until recently, those companies received little respect and much derision. They often called themselves "subsidy publishers" and others often cynically called them "vanity publishers."

Both terms have largely disappeared, having been replaced by the somewhat inaccurate "self-publishing company." (I spent a year arguing that the term made no sense, but I gave up. I more quickly learned not to pee into the wind or to argue with cops.)

Behemoth pay-to-publish company Author Solutions perverts the English language in another way, calling itself "A World Leader in Indie Publishing." If your book is published by any of its growing number of brands, you are not "indie."

There is only one customer a self-publishing company or mislabeled indie publisher is interested in selling to — the author/customer. A "non-vanity publisher," whether a one-person self-publisher or a giant like Random House, hopes to sell books to thousands or millions of readers. Companies like Random House don’t have to advertise to attract writers and receive manuscripts.

The word “vanity” implies excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements and appeal. Vanity has been considered a sin. It can lead to wasted resources and wasted lives.
  • Vanity can also lead to useful activities and important accomplishments.
  • Most or all artistic people have some degree of vanity, or they would not produce or perform.
Most people seem to like themselves. There are gradations in vanity, ranging from justified confidence to outrageous, obnoxious egomania.


In You’re So Vain, Carly Simon wrote and sang (possibly about Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger or both of them): “You walked into the party… You had one eye on the mirror… And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner… You're so vain you probably think this song is about you.”

Although not always true (and less true in 2015 than in 2005), a book published by a self-publishing company is often assumed to have been rejected as unworthy of publication by traditional publishers. 

Here’s another way of looking at vanity and publishing: Maybe the most vain writers are those who will delay publication for years or decades in hope of getting accepted by a traditional publisher instead of quickly self-publishing, reaching the public and maybe making some money.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why some authors get no respect


Comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921 – 2004) built his comic persona on the phrase “I don’t get no respect!” Many self-published authors have the same problem but don’t make nearly as much money as Rodney did.

The requirements for acceptance by a self-publishing company are not writing talent and an interesting subject. Usually, all you’ll need are blood pressure and a credit card. Except for books that appear to be obscene or libelous, a self-publishing company will probably publish anything.

Some publishers will automatically send an author a letter of praise for a submitted manuscript even without reading the submission. There have been experiments where intentionally horrible manuscripts were said to have high sales potential, and a book allegedly written by a dog was accepted.

Literary agents—who often function as gatekeepers on the road to traditional publishers—typically reject 99% of the book proposals and manuscripts they receive. Self-publishing companies, since they make most of their money by selling services to writers rather than by selling books to readers, probably accept 99% (or even 100%) of their submitted manuscripts.

The lack of selectivity is a major cause of self-publishing’s bad reputation. Even though traditional publishers make many bad guesses (they frequently reject books that become successful with other publishers and accept books that quickly become failures), their selectivity and financial commitment do provide a powerful endorsement for the writers and books they choose to accept.





Some publishers will produce books with little or no literary merit to cash in on a celebrity author or subject. A starlet’s name can sell tons of diet books. I Was Lindsay Lohan’s Proctologist would likely be a bestseller.

Some books will never be acceptable to mainstream publishers merely because of limited appeal, regardless of their literary merit. A company that wants to sell tens of thousands of copies of each title will not be interested in a family history, unless it’s a very famous family like Obama or Kennedy.

While the book publishing business is going through some radical changes, there is still some prejudice against self-published books. To rise above the prejudice, it is vital that your book be as good as it possibly can be. If you care about the reaction of the public and book reviewers, you must have a professional editor and cover designer.

  • If you are writing just for fun—or just for family—you can skip the experts.
  • The low potential profit from inexpensive ebooks leaves little or no budget for professional help, so do your very best.
Read the next paragraph at least twice:
If you are not knowledgeable and attentive to details, you may end up with an ugly, error-ridden book which will embarrass you and that few people will review or buy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Get qualified help. Beware of bargains and “free” services. In publishing—as with most things—you get what you pay for.
 

Who cares who published your book?
Zoe Winters is an author and blogger. She says, “The average reader doesn’t care how a book gets to market. If the book is good, it doesn't matter if your Chihuahua published it.”  Author/blogger S.G. Royle wrote, “People don't buy books from publishers. They buy them from authors.” Edward Uhlan founded Exposition Press—an early and important pay-to-publish company—in 1936. He said, “Most people can’t tell the difference between a vanity book and a trade book anyway. A book is a book.”


On the other hand, many booksellers and book reviewers can tell the difference and do care—and may reject a book solely because of its publishing company.

----
From my How to not get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why is your book selling poorly? Here are 28 possible reasons



(From the upcoming The 100 Worst Self-Publishing Misteaks by Sheila M. Clark and me.)

Each year hundreds of thousands of different book titles are published. Some sell millions of copies. Many sell thousands or hundreds. Many sell just dozens—or even fewer—copies.

Books “fail” for many reasons. Here are some:
  1. Your book stinks. There are many ways for a book to stink.
  2. Your cover is ugly.
  3. Your cover image conflicts with your title or genre.
  4. Your cover is an indiscernible blob when reduced to "thumbnail" size on websites.
  5. Your title is confusing or vague and your subtitle doesn't help.
  6. Your name conflicts with your genre. Pearl Zane Grey dropped the "Pearl" to write macho westerns. Joanne Rowling became "J. K." to attract teenage boys to her books. If your last name is Hitler or Stalin, get a nicer pen name for romance novels or books about flower arranging or etiquette.
  7. Your title has been used by other books. Maybe many other books.
  8. You are being confused with another author—or maybe someone with a bad reputation. If your last name is Madoff, use another name for books about investing.
  9. There are many other nonfiction books covering the same subject. You have too many competitors and probably should not have published the book. Does the world really need another barbecue cookbook or JFK biography?
  10. There are too many novels in the same genre. Does the world really need another book about post-apocalypse teenage lesbian cannibals?
  11. You wrote poetry.
  12. You didn’t work hard enough at promoting your book. Not enough potential purchasers know it exists.
  13. You’re too bashful to promote yourself.
  14. Your book is hard to find. It’s not available where people expect to buy it.
  15. Your market is too narrow—not enough people care about the subject. You may write an absolutely wonderful book about your absolutely wonderful mother, but your potential audience may be eight people—or two people. 
  16. Your price is wrong. If it’s too low, there’s not enough money left for you, and the low price hurts your book’s credibility. If it’s too high, you may scare readers or lose sales to your competitors.
  17. Your book has received either too many bad reviews or no reviews at all.
  18. You tried to do too much yourself, and did not hire a professional editor and designer.
  19. Your timing is wrong. The book came out too soon or too late. You missed the peak of popularity. The fad either never became big enough or went out of fashion before the book was published. Sales of Jerome Corsi’s book questioning President Obama’s birthplace dropped to almost nothing because it was published after Obama released his birth certificate. Pick a hot topic, and one that may stay hot, or at least warm, for a few years. 
  20. Your thesis has been disproved. Obama was NOT born in Kenya. 
  21. You used a self-publishing company and its services were overpriced or the company did not do all of the work you expected it to do or it did not produce a high-quality book or it did lousy or inadequate promotion.
  22. You spent too much money on original photography or illustrations, and did not have enough money left to promote the book.
  23. You don’t have a website where potential purchasers—and book reviewers—can find more information.
  24. You think that your work will end when you finish writing. Promoting may take more effort than writing.
  25. You don't know enough about your subject.
  26. You have nothing new to say. 
  27. Your books stinks (worth repeating).
  28. Your books stinks (worth repeating).



Monday, January 26, 2015

The price is right? How much is your book worth to readers?

I've previously written about the low profit for an author caused when a self-publishing company dictates a book's retail price based on the number of pages in a book without considering prices of competing books or the perceived value of the new book.
  • Unfortunately, authors who have the freedom to set book prices can cause even worse trouble for themselves: very low sales.
It's important that authors write books they can be proud of, and that authors be proud of their books. Unfortunately, some authors seem to have too much pride. They have an unjustifiably high opinion of their work and their position in the marketplace. The authors set prices that are so absurdly high that sales will be hurt.
  • Sometimes the high price is not caused by author's pride, but by the need to make a profit. Some pay-to-publish companies charge so much to produce books that an author must choose between uncompetitive retail pricing and losing money. That's not much of a choice. Some of these companies dictate uncompetitive prices. They don't care about selling books because they make their money by selling services and supplies to authors.

For a mere $7.95, readers seeking WW2 love stories can purchase the hardcover Love Stories of World War II, compiled by Larry King. Or, for $37.95, they can buy the hardcover Every Thought of You, compiled by Paula Berryann.

Readers who like epic fantasy tales can purchase the hardcover Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling for just $13.67. Or, they can buy the hardcover A Chronicle of Endylmyr by Charles Hill for $27.95.

Study your competition before you decide to put a high price on your book. Will your book be perceived as several times as good as a book from an established pro like Rowling or King?

Probably not.

Hmmm. Is it a coincidence that both of the overpriced books were published by inept Outskirts Press?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Your book shouldn't have a hickey


When I was a teenager, a hickey was bruise caused by sucking skin, usually on the neck. On Mondays, kids proudly displayed their hickeys as indicators of intense passion over the weekend.


In printing, a hickey (also known as a bull’s eye or fish eye) is a spot or imperfection on a printed paper caused by dirt.


(above) When newspapers were “pasted up” by hand it was common for extraneous strips of paper with text on them, or nothing on them, to get dropped onto what would become the printing plate—and their images would be printed. (Newspaper article above was written by yours truly for the Brown & White at Lehigh University in 1966 -- when college students used slide rules, cigarettes cost 27 cents a pack and there were no iPads. However, sex had been invented.)


(above) It’s unlikely that you will encounter those problems in a book made with word-processing software, a PDF and print on demand or e-publishing -- but there is a 21st century version of the hickey.

If you use the Print Screen function of your computer, or software such as
Snagit, you might accidentally capture an image with a cursor or pointer in it. Be careful.

...

top photo from Janek B. Thanks. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Michael's mixed experiences with chick-lit

Chick-lit (not to be confused with candy-coated Chiclets gum), is literature written to be read by chicks. Chick-lit is the text equivalent of chick flicks. The books are often romantic and usually written for women in their 20s and 30s. There are sub-genres for teen, matron, Latina, Christian and Asian chicks. I'm not sure if lesbian books are considered chick-lit.

Most guys don't like chick-lit or chick flicks, even if they like chicks. It's usually easy to avoid chick-lit by reading the title and/or looking at the cover. 


The “bodice-ripper” novel is a popular genre, and the covers generally follow a strict formula. There's very sensual, decorative type that may be hard to read. The primary image is usually a male hunk with long hair and no shirt, and a good-looking, long-haired woman in old-fashioned clothing with some exposed skin. Illustrations are more common than photographs. The name of the author is often fake and often larger than the title.



On the other hand, a book for guys (at least for straight guys) is less frilly, and likely to have simple type and primary colors.

Another way to detect chick lit is to scan the reviews on Amazon. If almost all of the positive reviews are from chicks, and you have a penis, you should probably find something else to read.

However, I do have a penis and I've read three pieces of chick-lit, and liked two of them very much.

My most recent immersion in chick-lit is Star Crossed, a memoir by Bette Isacoff. Set in New England in the late 60s, Star Crossed is the poignant, funny, and inspirational chronicle of an interfaith courtship at a time when interfaith love was exotic and forbidden.
 
When Bette met Richard in 1968, he was a seventeen-year-old Jewish kid. She, at twenty-one, was a Catholic college senior doing a practice-teaching assignment at his high school. Seven weeks later, they were engaged. To say their two-year courtship was ill-received is an understatement. After graduation, Bette did not have the option of getting her own apartment. Instead she returned home, to parents determined to break up the unlikely couple. She was denied all contact with Richard. He was told to find a Jewish girl. The harder their families tried to pull them apart, the tighter they clung together.


This couple faced not one impediment to marriage, but four: religion, age (at a developmental stage when it is significant), education level, and the tenor of the times—a culture in which Jews and Catholics rarely married “outside.” Throw into the mix outraged parents, scornful siblings, snickering friends, legal obstacles, uncooperative clergy . . . and still, they persevered. With secret post office boxes, clandestine meetings, and Bette’s extended family, who conspired with Richard against their own blood kin, the curious relationship was nurtured.


In the last decade, 45% of all U.S. marriages have been between people of different faiths.1 Today there are a number of books about the technicalities of blending an interfaith family. Yet this is the only book written from the perspective of a blissful, hugely successful forty-three year marriage that has withstood all the naysayers and skeptics. Cross-generational as well as cross-cultural, Star Crossed speaks to young men and women considering or entering an interfaith relationship; it challenges the old order espoused by their parents; and it is a nostalgic look back to a simpler time.

Star Crossed is a love story a man can enjoy.

I knew Richard, the boy who became the man it was written about. Men who read this book may be jealous of Richard because of Bette's mixture of love and writing ability. I wish someone would write a book like this about me.
 


Here's some weird fiction and reality: In a chapter in my own memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), I tell about my time as a Jewish high school senior dating an older Catholic student-teacher from Albertus Magnus College. That chapter is fiction, but was real for Bette and Richard. The real Bette attended the same college as my fictional girlfriend. No, Bette and I did not collaborate. This is just a coincidence. Wow.

(By the way, Bette gets extra points for a perfect cover image that reinforces the title much better than on most of the books I see.)

Barbara Barth's The Unfaithful Widow is a collection of essays and fragmented thoughts on finding joy again after the loss of a mate. A memoir of the first year alone written with warmth and laughter, no subject is taboo. From dealing with the funeral home (Can I show your our upgraded cremation package?) to dating again (He ran in the door, looked at me and said “I’ve left something in my car.” He never returned). Sprinkle in a bevy of rescue dogs (Finally a good nights sleep with someone new in my bed.) and those questions you hate to ask (Condoms anyone?). A story for anyone who has suffered loss and is determined to become their own super hero.

Barbara says "The Unfaithful Widow will make your heart ache while tickling your ribs." She's right.

In her review, Audrey Frank said, "This is a book for anyone who has a void to fill in her life."

That's much too limiting.

No void is necessary, and the book is not just for females. It's a book for anyone seeking entertainment and anyone who might benefit from inspiration to keep going. It's also for everyone who likes dogs and soft-core dirty talk.

Barbara Barth is a master (mistress?) storyteller, with an uncanny ability to recall or recreate dialog. She is able to pluck humor from sadness. She shows proper respect for the past without being a prisoner of the past. Barbara demonstrates impressive resilience, strength and the ability to keep looking ahead despite widowhood, bad dates, and the death of a dog. Her unwillingness to accept cliche roles dictated by age, custom or gender are important lessons for everyone.

I don't want to concentrate only on the inspirational aspects of the book, because it is a LOT OF FUN. I read the Kindle version on a bumpy train ride. I was tired and woozy. A lesser book would have made me turn off my iPad. With Barbara's book, I kept tapping to turn the electronic pages to see what happens next. The woman sitting next to me wondered what was making me laugh and she started reading along with me. I read faster than she did, and let her catch up before I turned the pages.

Although I didn't "get" the cover illustration (it's apparently a chick thing) and at times I thought I was overhearing a conversation that was meant just for women (number of bras owned, evaluating a man's butt), at other times I thought Barbara was talking directly to me.

Buy the book and hear what Barbara has to say to you. You won't be disappointed.

I buy about two books each week, and finish about three books each week. At this time, I buy about 90% ebooks and 10% pbooks. A year ago I was only about 40% e.
 
Despite my intense consumption of words, I doubt that I've read more than a couple of works of fiction since I was in college. I was part of the class of '68 -- just like Billy Clinton, Georgie Bush and Donny Trump -- so college was a long time ago.

I'm not sure why this is so, but I seem to have developed two parallel media streams.
 
The nonfiction books I read are often as entertaining and exciting as they are educational and informative. If I want pure relaxation, I watch television or movies -- but I don't read novels.

I know it seems weird, so a few ago I decided to read a novel.

I had encountered author Susan G. Bell on the SheWrites website. Susan mentioned her new novel, When the Getting was Good, which dealt with Wall Street trading in the 1980s, and a woman in a largely men's world.

As one of the few testically equipped members of SheWrites, I can empathize with those in the gender minority. I also enjoyed the "Wall Street," "Barbarians at the Gate" and "The Bonfires of the Vanities" movies, and Susan's book has received excellent reviews. It seemed like a good candidate for my test.

I had one other motive. The book was published by Author House, and I was curious to see the quality of a book they produced.

I had one reservation. The focus of the cover illustration is a woman, and the title is in a pinkish text box. Those are pretty good signs of chick-lit -- which I would normally avoid.

Susan and I had some prepurchase discussion online.

She said: "I don't think my novel is chick-lit, though I'm not completely sure what that term means; I've had positive responses from men too, and I hope that you will feel the same.  While I hope women younger than I am will enjoy reading When the Getting Was Good, it's not chick lit . . . though there is a rectangle of pink on the cover. A friend, who is director of an angel investment network for women entrepreneurs, likes Kate Munro -- my novel's heroine -- specifically because she is strong, balanced, and 'not neurotic, a nymphomaniac, or a bitch.' Not that there's anything wrong with that type of protagonist, but I wanted to tell the story of how a strong woman responds to a dilemma in her work place."

So, with much apparently in its favor, I paid Amazon $18.89 and received the book.

Susan is a skilled and entertaining writer who knows her subject perfectly well. She creates believable dialog and I could easily get inside the physical environments she invented. It's a perfectly good novel and well worth the praise it received from others.

BUT... I just could not "get into it."


Apparently, at age 64, I had the patience of a two-year-old.

I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.

  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there were no car crashes or murders in the first few pages to hook me on Susan's book.
Page four presented another problem. Susan wrote: "Jim still had the bearing of the college athlete he'd once been. His expensive cotton shirt, boldly striped in sapphire blue, fit snugly, accentuating what good shape he was in."

That sure seems like a sign of chick-lit, or gay-lit
.
I'm a happy, horny heterosexual. I'm a 100% supporter of women's rights and gay rights, but I am a bit uncomfortable reading about shapely men in tight shirts, whether they're expensive cotton or cheap polyester.

I'm much more comfortable reading about shapely women in tight shirts, or with no shirts.

 
I may have been conditioned by sexist literature since I was very young. My parents bought me the Tom Swift books -- not Nancy Drew books.

I'm not a sexist. In fact, I'm a feminist. But I am the product of the 1950s culture and I don't like reading about men viewed through the eyes of a woman.
 
I bought Susan's book as I said I would. I promised to read it, and I started to read it . . . but I could not continue.

Apparently, the combination of chick-lit and fiction is a fatal diet for me.

This guy's mixed experiences with chick-lit

Chick-lit (not to be confused with candy-coated Chiclets gum), is literature written to be read by chicks. Chick-lit is the text equivalent of chick flicks. The books are often romantic and usually written for women in their 20s and 30s. There are sub-genres for teen, matron, Latina, Christian and Asian chicks. I'm not sure if lesbian books are considered chick-lit.

Most guys don't like chick-lit or chick flicks, even if they like chicks. It's usually easy to avoid chick-lit by reading the title and/or looking at the cover. 


The “bodice-ripper” novel is a popular genre, and the covers generally follow a strict formula. There's very sensual, decorative type that may be hard to read. The primary image is usually a male hunk with long hair and no shirt, and a good-looking, long-haired woman in old-fashioned clothing with some exposed skin. Illustrations are more common than photographs. The name of the author is often fake and often larger than the title.



On the other hand, a book for guys (at least for straight guys) is less frilly, and likely to have simple type and primary colors.

Another way to detect chick lit is to scan the reviews on Amazon. If almost all of the positive reviews are from chicks, and you have a penis, you should probably find something else to read.

However, I do have a penis and I've read three pieces of chick-lit, and liked two of them very much.

My most recent immersion in chick-lit is Star Crossed, a memoir by Bette Isacoff. Set in New England in the late 60s, Star Crossed is the poignant, funny, and inspirational chronicle of an interfaith courtship at a time when interfaith love was exotic and forbidden.
 
When Bette met Richard in 1968, he was a seventeen-year-old Jewish kid. She, at twenty-one, was a Catholic college senior doing a practice-teaching assignment at his high school. Seven weeks later, they were engaged. To say their two-year courtship was ill-received is an understatement. After graduation, Bette did not have the option of getting her own apartment. Instead she returned home, to parents determined to break up the unlikely couple. She was denied all contact with Richard. He was told to find a Jewish girl. The harder their families tried to pull them apart, the tighter they clung together.


This couple faced not one impediment to marriage, but four: religion, age (at a developmental stage when it is significant), education level, and the tenor of the times—a culture in which Jews and Catholics rarely married “outside.” Throw into the mix outraged parents, scornful siblings, snickering friends, legal obstacles, uncooperative clergy . . . and still, they persevered. With secret post office boxes, clandestine meetings, and Bette’s extended family, who conspired with Richard against their own blood kin, the curious relationship was nurtured.


In the last decade, 45% of all U.S. marriages have been between people of different faiths.1 Today there are a number of books about the technicalities of blending an interfaith family. Yet this is the only book written from the perspective of a blissful, hugely successful forty-three year marriage that has withstood all the naysayers and skeptics. Cross-generational as well as cross-cultural, Star Crossed speaks to young men and women considering or entering an interfaith relationship; it challenges the old order espoused by their parents; and it is a nostalgic look back to a simpler time.

Star Crossed is a love story a man can enjoy.

I knew Richard, the boy who became the man it was written about. Men who read this book may be jealous of Richard because of Bette's mixture of love and writing ability. I wish someone would write a book like this about me.
 


Here's some weird fiction and reality: In a chapter in my own memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), I tell about my time as a Jewish high school senior dating an older Catholic student-teacher from Albertus Magnus College. That chapter is fiction, but was real for Bette and Richard. The real Bette attended the same college as my fictional girlfriend. No, Bette and I did not collaborate. This is just a coincidence. Wow.

(By the way, Bette gets extra points for a perfect cover image that reinforces the title much better than on most of the books I see.)

Barbara Barth's The Unfaithful Widow is a collection of essays and fragmented thoughts on finding joy again after the loss of a mate. A memoir of the first year alone written with warmth and laughter, no subject is taboo. From dealing with the funeral home (Can I show your our upgraded cremation package?) to dating again (He ran in the door, looked at me and said “I’ve left something in my car.” He never returned). Sprinkle in a bevy of rescue dogs (Finally a good nights sleep with someone new in my bed.) and those questions you hate to ask (Condoms anyone?). A story for anyone who has suffered loss and is determined to become their own super hero.

Barbara says "The Unfaithful Widow will make your heart ache while tickling your ribs." She's right.

In her review, Audrey Frank said, "This is a book for anyone who has a void to fill in her life."

That's much too limiting.

No void is necessary, and the book is not just for females. It's a book for anyone seeking entertainment and anyone who might benefit from inspiration to keep going. It's also for everyone who likes dogs and soft-core dirty talk.

Barbara Barth is a master (mistress?) storyteller, with an uncanny ability to recall or recreate dialog. She is able to pluck humor from sadness. She shows proper respect for the past without being a prisoner of the past. Barbara demonstrates impressive resilience, strength and the ability to keep looking ahead despite widowhood, bad dates, and the death of a dog. Her unwillingness to accept cliche roles dictated by age, custom or gender are important lessons for everyone.

I don't want to concentrate only on the inspirational aspects of the book, because it is a LOT OF FUN. I read the Kindle version on a bumpy train ride. I was tired and woozy. A lesser book would have made me turn off my iPad. With Barbara's book, I kept tapping to turn the electronic pages to see what happens next. The woman sitting next to me wondered what was making me laugh and she started reading along with me. I read faster than she did, and let her catch up before I turned the pages.

Although I didn't "get" the cover illustration (it's apparently a chick thing) and at times I thought I was overhearing a conversation that was meant just for women (number of bras owned, evaluating a man's butt), at other times I thought Barbara was talking directly to me.

Buy the book and hear what Barbara has to say to you. You won't be disappointed.

I buy about two books each week, and finish about three books each week. At this time, I buy about 90% ebooks and 10% pbooks. A year ago I was only about 40% e.
 
Despite my intense consumption of words, I doubt that I've read more than a couple of works of fiction since I was in college. I was part of the class of '68 -- just like Billy Clinton, Georgie Bush and Donny Trump -- so college was a long time ago.

I'm not sure why this is so, but I seem to have developed two parallel media streams.
 
The nonfiction books I read are often as entertaining and exciting as they are educational and informative. If I want pure relaxation, I watch television or movies -- but I don't read novels.

I know it seems weird, so a few ago I decided to read a novel.

I had encountered author Susan G. Bell on the SheWrites website. Susan mentioned her new novel, When the Getting was Good, which dealt with Wall Street trading in the 1980s, and a woman in a largely men's world.

As one of the few testically equipped members of SheWrites, I can empathize with those in the gender minority. I also enjoyed the "Wall Street," "Barbarians at the Gate" and "The Bonfires of the Vanities" movies, and Susan's book has received excellent reviews. It seemed like a good candidate for my test.

I had one other motive. The book was published by Author House, and I was curious to see the quality of a book they produced.

I had one reservation. The focus of the cover illustration is a woman, and the title is in a pinkish text box. Those are pretty good signs of chick-lit -- which I would normally avoid.

Susan and I had some prepurchase discussion online.

She said: "I don't think my novel is chick-lit, though I'm not completely sure what that term means; I've had positive responses from men too, and I hope that you will feel the same.  While I hope women younger than I am will enjoy reading When the Getting Was Good, it's not chick lit . . . though there is a rectangle of pink on the cover. A friend, who is director of an angel investment network for women entrepreneurs, likes Kate Munro -- my novel's heroine -- specifically because she is strong, balanced, and 'not neurotic, a nymphomaniac, or a bitch.' Not that there's anything wrong with that type of protagonist, but I wanted to tell the story of how a strong woman responds to a dilemma in her work place."

So, with much apparently in its favor, I paid Amazon $18.89 and received the book.

Susan is a skilled and entertaining writer who knows her subject perfectly well. She creates believable dialog and I could easily get inside the physical environments she invented. It's a perfectly good novel and well worth the praise it received from others.

BUT... I just could not "get into it."


Apparently, at age 64, I had the patience of a two-year-old.

I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.

  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there were no car crashes or murders in the first few pages to hook me on Susan's book.
Page four presented another problem. Susan wrote: "Jim still had the bearing of the college athlete he'd once been. His expensive cotton shirt, boldly striped in sapphire blue, fit snugly, accentuating what good shape he was in."

That sure seems like a sign of chick-lit, or gay-lit
.
I'm a happy, horny heterosexual. I'm a 100% supporter of women's rights and gay rights, but I am a bit uncomfortable reading about shapely men in tight shirts, whether they're expensive cotton or cheap polyester.

I'm much more comfortable reading about shapely women in tight shirts, or with no shirts.

 
I may have been conditioned by sexist literature since I was very young. My parents bought me the Tom Swift books -- not Nancy Drew books.

I'm not a sexist. In fact, I'm a feminist. But I am the product of the 1950s culture and I don't like reading about men viewed through the eyes of a woman.
 
I bought Susan's book as I said I would. I promised to read it, and I started to read it . . . but I could not continue.

Apparently, the combination of chick-lit and fiction is a fatal diet for me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Academy Award nominations for just a few words: sex, ego, headline, history, sex, drugs, dialog



"I'm a slut, not a murderer": suspect on Bones.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass -- and I'm all out of bubble gum."
: Rowdy Roddy Piper




"Victim of Dog-Authorized Anal Assault Receives $1.6 million settlement": Forbes.com 



“Over?  Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”: John Belushi as Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House

  

“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”: Billy Crystal as Mitch Robbins in City Slickers 



“Foul-mouthed? Fuck you!”: Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop
  

 
“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”: Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool 


 
“She thinks I’m a pervert because I drank our water bed.” “Stop whining and eat your shiksa.”: Woody Allen as Miles Monroe in Sleeper



“There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched be­tween the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman.”: Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in Zoolander 



“I have a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time.”: Robin Williams on the Tonight Show 


 
“Listen, let’s get one thing straight. In the hours you’re here taking care of my mother, no ganja.”: James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos 


 
“Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”: various people, including me. (No, that's not me. It just looks a bit like me.)
 



-----

police car photo from KOB TV, Thanx.