Monday, December 14, 2009

A nice way to say "fart," and a nice way to say "vanity publishing"

What follows is from my book, "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," coming 4/1/10.
Eleanor Browne taught junior high English. She was a vicious and sadistic misandrist — a man-hater — and our class had 31 men-to-be, and not even one young lady.

Browne made our lives MISERABLE around 1960. She tortured us at test time (“What five adjectives did Dickens use to describe the horse pulling the cart up the hill in A Tale of Two Cities?”), and she had a strange aversion to basic bodily functions.

Except when in medical school, few people like to discuss excretion and secretion, and perspiration is certainly unpleasant. But Browne found even nasal emissions offensive, and she demanded that we ask her permission to leave the room to sneeze or blow our noses.

If she was in a particularly sadistic mood (which happened often), she’d ignore a franticly waving hand until the unfortunate penis-bearer turned bright red or pale white and finally yanked his hanky without permission.

The punishment for unauthorized use of a human nose was temporary banishment to the hallway outside the classroom, where the male malefactor could wheeze and sneeze in peace.

Browne had a particularly low, gravelly voice.

One time she was talking in the front of the room, and I farted in the back of the room.

Browne escorted me to the office of the assistant principal Lou Rubano, but she did not accuse me of committing the offensive anal act.

She told Mr. Rubano that I was MIMICKING HER VOICE.

Browne left me with Mr. Rubano, who took me into his private office to get my side of the story.

I was momentarily speechless. I was afraid to say “fart,” had not yet learned “break wind” or “pass gas,” and was embarrassed to use the family word, “boompsie.”

I thought for a while, and then told Mr. Rubano that I had “involuntarily generated anal gaseous emissions that produced simultaneous aural and nasal stimuli.”

He looked at me, and looked at me, and looked at me. And then started laughing hysterically.

“Oh, you FARTED,” Mr. Rubano shouted. “I guess there’s no good reason to punish you merely because her mouth sounds like your ass.”

He said he’d tell Browne that he took care of me, and he informed me that “flatulate” is the nice word for “fart.”
FAST-FORWARD FROM 1960 to 2009:

This blog and my book "Become a Real Self-Publisher" condemn vanity publishers, and warn writers of the potential perils of using them (paying a lot of money for a lousy book that few people will read).

However, I recognize that not everyone wants to set up their own little publishing company as I did, and might benefit from using one of thos companies.

"Vanity publishing" and "vanity press" are undeniably pejorative terms. Critics like me use those terms, but no vanity press will use them voluntarily.

The prefer deceptive terms like "self-publishing company," "indie publishing," and "subsidy publishing" that are used to confuse and seduce prospective customers who may be ignorant or naive.

I won't use the wrong labels, but a situation came up where I needed a neutral, non-pejorative term that would not alienate the customers (victims?) of compamies like Outskirts Press, Author House, iUniverse and Xlibris.

I'm now working on a book called "The 100 Worst Self-Publishing Misteaks." I want the book to be a "big tent" that would appeal to the customers of the vanity presses, but I did not want to insult any potential book-buyers, so I needed a new term.

I decided to use "author services company."

There are about 10,000 Google links for the term, and 15,000 for the plural version, used by both the companies and by their critics.

I think its a good choice.


  1. Michael? Is that you? You're actually worried about offending someone? Hey-- with vanity publishers, I think that's one instance where it's okay to "call a spade a spade."

    I did it in my book, but I focused on AuthorHouse, which seems to have been the worst in the bunch. I was too afraid to take on Outskirts, but now that I've seen Aaron Shepard do it publicly, I am emboldened (?). Is that a word? I can't post on your blog without second-guessing my word choices.

    Well, you get the picture.

  2. To Christy:

    As MAD's Alfred E. Neuman says, "What, me worry?"

    Or as I frequently tell my wife, "Worry is the most useless emotion."

    I'm certainly not worried about pissing-off the vanity press companies, but there are times when I don't want to alienate their customers who might buy books.

    I'd love to get sued by Outskirts and Lulu. The publicity would be great. Unfortunately it seems that PublishAmerica is the only vanity press that has the guts to sue its critics.

  3. Author Services Company; yes a very good choice. Catchy, yet tame enough to snare the unwary.

    I think I've lurked in your blogs a few times in my trips to Duotrope and Agent Query. I always enjoy your posts, but this has been one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the info.