Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do Indians dislike blondes?

I am often amused, amazed and flattered -- and only occasionally enriched -- when I learn that booksellers all over the world are trying to sell books that I've written.

Rediff is a bookseller in India. The company is offering my book on self-publishing for 967 rupees (about $21). That's just about a buck over the U.S. cover price, and not a bad deal considering the distance each book much travel.

However, I have to wonder why Redliff chose to replace my book's cover that shows an attractive blonde lady, with a bunch of coconuts.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Another person who can't write tries to advise writers


How easy Start Your Own Self Publishing Company

Most writers dream of becoming a published author, work from anywhere in the world, write a book for the knowledge that each of them published and sold throughout the world.

And now, thanks to modern technology and the Internet, it is possible that this dream becomes a reality.

But why stop publishing itself, why not go and start your large publishing house?

In order to start their own company does not cost much money andProfits may be high. You do not need something too expensive, such as self-publishing software, or purchase of equipment, so that costs are low.

As a self-publisher with her own company, you can write and publish, hold all the books for years to come and get all the profits instead of miserly 8-10% that other writers.

This means that with Print On Demand, you do not need to print large and expensive, running. In reality, there needs to be printed, because it can be run on all your booksare printed as ordered (On Demand), if a library or an order issued to the customer.

You can also use the Internet to promote your book for free on websites, blogs, classifieds, forums, ezines and interviews. And the best part of using the Internet to promote the book means that marketing is becoming increasingly global.

And if you wanted, you could use your publisher to publish other books of the author.

And books do not earn money only once.To receive the money over and over again from the book itself.

So if you know how easy it is to publish your books, you can be appointed Chief Executive Officer to build your own publishing house.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lying hypocrite Michael Hyatt can't block the truth. Here it is.

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson, a "Christian" publisher which now provides vanity publishing services through its WestBow Press operation, a co-venture with vanity behemoth AuthorSolutions.

Hyatt operates a blog,, which deals with publishing, politics, morality, leadership, religion and other topics.

Like most blogs, Hyatt's is set up to allow comments from readers -- but not all readers. And not from me.

Hyatt, like "Tricky Dicky" Nixon, maintains an enemies list. If someone has previously pissed off Hyatt, any comment from that person, even a neutral or complimentary comment, is blocked instantly, without any human review.

A couple of minutes ago, I attempted to post the following: "Very interesting. Thank you." A split-second after I clicked to submit my comment, my screen showed, "This comment has been deleted by the administrator."

The same thing happened after I tried to submit the innocuous text: "test."

The alleged "administrator" is not a person. It's a computer set up to reject any words from people who have previously disagreed with the omnipotent holier-than-thou Hyatt. The system doesn't get fooled by name changes. It will reject an enemy based on the IP address of the computer the comment was sent from.

However, the system can get fooled, since it identifies people based on their IP address. If one person pisses off the mighty Hyatt while using a public computer, in a library, for example; someone else who loves Hyatt will be prevented from posting a compliment from the same computer.

Hyatt's WestBow business, like most vanity publishers, lies about providing self-publishing services, and lies about providing "free" books to its authors.

Liar Hyatt says, "You may disagree with me. I welcome debate."

That's bullshit. Hyatt does not permit debate or disagreement about his business practices, or embarassing questions.

He also says, "I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic."

I once questioned the Westbow promise of "free books" that are free only if an author ignores the payment of up to $6,499 required before receiving those books.

Apparently my question branded me as an offensive snark, and I was banned for life -- or at least until I log on from a PC with a different IP address.

Hyatt wrote: "The most important thing you can do as a leader is to keep your heart open.  When your heart is closed: You are distant and aloof. You don’t connect to people. Communication shuts down. People feel oppressed."

Hyatt is a paranoid hypocritical egomaniac who does NOT practice what he preaches. That's inappropriate behavior for a "Christian" publisher and deacon at St. Ignatius Orthodox Church and chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pulpy non-fiction.
A bad review for a book I haven't read yet.

Yesterday the man with the big brown truck brought me a copy of Wingnuts: how the lunatic fringe is hijacking America. Written by John Avlon, it deals with the wackos on the far-right and far-left wings of politics, such as the 9/11 "truthers," the "birthers" who insist that President Obama was born in Kenya, and those who accept MooseMama Palin's "death panel" paranoid fantasy.

This is the debut pubication from Beast Books, a joint venture between the Perseus Book Group and The Daily Beast, a website dealing with politics and pop culture.

Tina Brown is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Beast. She's an author, talk show host, and an award-winning editor. She edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, created Talk magazine and is in the Magazine Editors Hall of Fame.

Although she is apparently not a trained designer, she is credited with redesigning The New Yorker and hiring Richard Avedon as staff photographer. So, Tina should know something about publishing production values. She cares enough about her own work to have claimed a copyright for the foreword she wrote for Avlon's book -- an extremely uncommon practice.

So why am I pissed-off about a book I have not read yet?
It looks like crap, feels like sandpaper, and costs too much.

  • The designer, Jane Raese, chose a compressed, bold sans serif typeface for the chapter titles, headers and other spots. The words are both ugly and hard to read. With the huge selection of available typefaces, both sins are unforgivable.
  • The pages are rough, pulpy semi-sandpaper, of a low grade I have not had the misfortune to touch since I bought 35-cent Signet paperbacks a half-century ago. I almost felt the need to wear thick work gloves to protect my fingers from splinters. This book has a cover price of $15.95 -- not 35 cents -- so the budget could certainly have covered a nicer, smoother grade of paper. I'm just an amateur publisher, but my own $15.95 books have paper that's as smooth as a baby's ass. I would not insult my readers by using  cheap paper that might be found in a hotel room john in a third-world country that just made the transition from wiping with tree leaves.
  • The book has 284 pages and measures just 5 by 7-3/4 inches. That size is commonly used for the "mass market paperbacks" which sell for less than $10 and are displayed near the cash register at supermarkets and Walmart. Wingnuts is not vital for college or business. It's basically entertainment, and not important enough to warrant an inflated price. I have an entertaining book coming out on 4/1. It, too, has a $15.95 cover price, but it's a standard 6 by 9-inch "trade paperback" with 318 nice-to-touch pages. 
According to The New York Times, "Perseus is paying The Daily Beast a five-figure management advance to cover the costs of editing and designing the books."

Based on what I've seen and felt, Perseus grossly overpaid.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Naming your publishing company

The single thing that identifies a business entity as a publisher is the "ownership" of at least one ISBN (International Standard Book Number). In the United States, ISBNs are issued by R. R. Bowker. An ISBN ties one format (such as paperback) of one book title to a specific publisher.

To get an ISBN you could put almost any series of letters and numbers in the "company name" spot on the Bowker website.

HOWEVER, to be taken seriously as a publisher by others in the book business, you'll need a serious business name. "XYZ123" is not sufficient.

It should be something more businesslike than "Karen's Book Company," and should not be like "Random Books" or "Simon & Shoestring" which are similar to exising publishers' names.

Don't pick a name that's used by a major company, even if that company is not now in publishing. While the "Cadillac" brand has been used for both cars and dog food, calling your new operation "Maxwell House Publishing" or "Coca-Cola Books" is looking for trouble. Even if you win the lawsuit, it could be very expensive and consume a lot of time and effort.

Don't pick a name that could restrict your field of publishing.

If you think you'll specialize in sci-fi, "Astro Publishers" could be a good choice, but that name could hurt sales if you later decide to publish romance or business books.

"Bernstein Books" and "Patrick Publishing" sound like real businesses, but they could be the kiss of death if you write as Steven Bernstein or Rebecca Patrick.

You should NOT use an author's name for the publishing company. That would reveal that your company is a one-person operation and hurt your effort to be taken seriously by those who discriminate against self-publishers.

You don't need to spend big bucks to incorporate with a business name. You can register with a local government office for a "fictional name" or "doing business as" (DBA) certificate. It should cost just a few bucks. (I paid $8 for lifetime use.) In some places you have to advertise the new name, and/or pay an annual fee.

I named my publishing company Silver Sands Books, in honor of a local beach.

In choosing a name, consider:
  1. how it will work in a website address. Try to avoid consecutive repeated letters ending and beginning words like, and DO NOT use hyphens.
  2. if it will be easy to misspell or hard to remember
  3. how it will look on letterheads and business cards
  4. how it will fit on the spine of a book
  5. what you can use as a logo. I use my company name with a picture of a beach chair and beach umbrella.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Well. it kind of looks like English.
But on the other hand...


Get Paid to Read Books

Do you read? There's nothing more relaxing for you than curling under a blanket with a good book? How would you feel much better to read the book if you knew when it was finished, he wanted to pay? That's right you read that right.

We are publishers of books with so overcome that normal, ordinary people pay to read and then write a report on them. The editor went over your report and read it. If youas the book will take a second look from them. If you do not like when nine out of ten cases, will be re-sent with the cancellation.

They have a passion for reading, anything is possible before the one-sidedness? Even if not for the category of writing you can still solve the good of the bad power supply? If you think this would work well for you, it's time for publishers to contact. Call around, or e-mail every company that can find and then ask ifthere are jobs for pre-readers. If they say yes, she says, are very concerned and want to start immediately

While I can not say with certainty how much money you think, and I can tell you that there is sufficient, should be to give your daily work. Along with the money well, you can also pride when an author you like to be published.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

For a change, I'm reading a book

I'm sitting in a room with about 120 linear feet of bookshelves. There are probably another 60 feet of bookshelves elsewhere in the house. There are stacks of books on chairs, tables and desks, and there are books in cartons, because there is not enough room for them on my shelves. I also have books in my office and in the family cars.

Since I was in high school, I've usually been in the middle of five or six books, and finished about three each week. I usually receive at least  two books each week from Amazon, and pick up about four or five per month at my nearby Barnes & Noble. When I travel, I often come back with stuffed bags from bargain book stores.

I love to read and I'm a fast reader, but it's unlikely that I will live long enough to read all my books. I don't mind.

For better or for worse, since 2008 I've spent so much time on writing, editing and marketing my own books that I've had little time or energy for reading what other people have written.

This morning I completed the almost-final corrections on my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults). Its publication date is 4/1, which is almost here.

I've started to write two more books. I could -- or maybe, should -- work on them today, but I decided to give myself a break, and READ.

A couple of years ago I bought The Secret Life of Houdini. It's been sitting on the corner of my desk, but I never even flipped open the cover until a few days ago. I was instantly captivated, and could have kicked myself for delaying the pleasure for so long.

I had read a lot about America's most amazing magician before, but this book provides new revelations on almost every page. The book makes me want to keep reading and learning, and I'm glad it has nearly-600 pages. I have about 500 ahead of me.

Gotta go.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Oh Goody! Another idiot who can't write tries to advise writers


Traditional publishing or self publishing – to make an educated decision

What are the differences between traditional publishing and self-publish? Many! Careful consideration is required to assess the advantages and disadvantages of each method. More reflection is necessary for an author to the end "has reached the correct" decision to publish their works.

Traditional Publishing is a long process of advertising between author, agent and publisher. First, the author writes the manuscript. Then try a remedy that has survived a monumentalTask in itself. Once represented, the author writes of a query or a proposal and sends it to a publisher bought by agents. The editor accepts or rejects the writer at work. In the case of consent of the publisher bought the rights to the work of the writer and pays an advance on royalties. The editor decides whether to publish the book with enthusiasm the process of content, choose the cover design, printing by the estimated numberthink that they sell, and then distributed the book to his library contract. Once the book is distributed by the publisher may or may not actively promote the book. The total percentage of fees to dictate the author deserves. Many authors are surprised that, once the book will be distributed as provided by the author that are being promoted at their expense. If a book is not sold, as provided in the first 120 days, some publishers ask the author to return to theirAdvance. However, if successful it could be the next Stephen King or John Gresham (but) have an album with the refusal of publishers, who now also occurring in their violence.

If the author has refused the request will then be able to take a different editor. The reality of query processing is that a writer is a good, clean, well-written and well-edited manuscript of the round on many different publishers beforesuccess. The process can take years and requires incredible tenacity, since each publisher may take up to six months to produce a letter of rejection.

Self-Publishing stepson is often seen as the red-headed the literary world. There is a stigma associated with the release of himself in some circles, but for many aspiring authors, is their saving grace. Once in print and on the shelves of the bookseller can not tell the average reader, even published a book by aTraditionally it has been published.

Implementing Self Publishing, the author of his publishing house. The author must write, not only the book, but also pay for the cover design, editing, printing, advertising and distribution. You need to be prepared for the market, fill orders and perform their own PR campaign. The author has their work in a positive way, and if an aggressive promoter may be the way to the bestseller list with sales of good-for-saleStrategy to increase a website and includes powerful sales support. The good news is that the author of the book in the hands of 6 months from the finished manuscript, in contrast to traditional publishing, which lasts more than one year may have!

Speed has a high price! Depending on the self-publishing the author chooses to publish, as a rule, it costs upwards of $ 20,000 for self-determination. However, you get what you pay in the process! And 'your book, your cover, andYour content. There are some disadvantages of self-publishing that go through the expensive purchase price. " 'S Publishing and advertising for your book a long time. It requires a unique blend of marketing and business strategies that most authors do not to start quickly but once in the trials. Most of the work more successfully with a book and marketed in the hands of public functions require completely different context to be written. Finally, theimportant consideration is that many of the booksellers not to create a book that is distributed nationally aside, but if you sell enough copies online so they can not afford it, is blacklisted.

Select the time for a decision on a publication called for a complete analysis of the aims of its author for the publication and the kind of power they have. If you are stubborn, persistent, and have a Stiff Upper Lip, which is resistant to rejection, then the traditional publishing couldFollow the path. If you are under time pressure, a highly organized self-starter, and have a cash reserve could then publish their own course. Each publisher has its advantages and disadvantages of the methodology, but with careful consideration and analysis of authors can make a safe choice, as they follow their dreams publication.


Friday, February 19, 2010

How looooooong should a book be?

Authors are frequently horrified when agents suggest or editors demand substantial reductions in book length.

It's normal for writers to love their words -- but others may not share the love. Sometimes others may love the words, but they recognize that there are just too many words.

I voluntarily cut a book I wrote from 518 pages to 432 pages, and it's better because of the cuts. It may have been even better at 396.

When I wrote for my college newspaper, I became copyeditor to prevent others from chopping my work. I liked the control, but being in control may have let some sub-prime work get printed.

I later became an advertising copywriter, and learned that most people glanced at an illustration and a headline, and then turned the page without ever reading the body copy. Only a small percentage of people would read all of my carefully chosen words, so I modified my previous self-protective attitude and became willing to shorten my text to improve the appearance of the ad.

Now, as a self-publisher, I frequently cut out words, lines, paragraphs, sections and chapters to make the book look better and have an appropriate length for its price and its market.

  • Like it or not, attention spans seem to be shrinking, and media bundles shrink with them. Some editions of Tolstoy's War and Peace have over 1,500 pages. It would probably be very tough to convince an agent to try to sell a book that big in 2010.
Writing to a specific length is just another discipline that professional writers have to master -- like grammar and spelling.

Writers who freelance for magazines know not to submit 3,000 words when an editor wants 1,200. Lots of amateurs enter contests where they have to describe something "in 100 words or less." Twitter and Google AdWords have rigid limitations that people meet with little trouble. Text messaging also pushes people to be efficient with their words.

Some venues and formats are looser than others. An NPR producer may be told to "take the right amount of time," but Andy Rooney's commentary on "60 Minutes" has to fit into a rigid time slot.

A self-publisher who is more concerned about art than about sales can publish almost anything, but a writer who needs to convince someone else to pay for her words has to be flexible, realistic and responsive.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two questions that do not deserve answers:

I need information about publishing a novel and do you have to be a certain age to do that?

Does your book have to be good enough to be accpeted?

Appropriately, the questions are accompanied by ads from Outskirts Press, Xlibris, iUniverse, AuthorHouse and other vanity publishers. The future of literature seems very bleak this morning.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Every word a writer writes is an audition,
so be careful

Most writers have specialties. They can be novels, plays, poems, travel brochures, instruction manuals, magazine articles, ads, movie scripts, speeches, greeting cards, religious tracts, recipes, fortune cookie inserts, skywriting, sermons, almost anything.

Despite our favorites and specialties, most of us write in multiple venues and formats. We frequently have websites and blogs, and post comments on blogs and in forums. We write love letters and hate mail, send thank-you notes, help kids with homework, write letters to editors, and submit resumes and pitch-letters.

It's important that those of us who have writng careers never go "off-duty." We have to produce professional-caliber work all of the time, even if it's just a 93-character Tweet or a three-word reply to an email.

Also, the little bits of informal and unpaid writing that we don't want to do or don't have to do, can be useful practice sessions for the important work that we want to do and have to do.

Never excuse sloppiness. Never say, "It's only an email."

It would be a shame to turn off a prospective reader or lose possible business because of silly, easily corrected errors. It could be a disaster to let the sloppiness of an "informal" medium infect professional writing.

I recently read the blog of a writer who had attended a writing conference.

I see no point in embarrassing the writer, so I won't reveal the name or even the gender.

The writer said that someone "range" [rang] the doorbell, wore "sheek" [chic] clothing, met "twenty-seven" [27] literary agents, attended nineteen [19] out of the eighty [80] lectures, and that something is "cheep" [cheap].

This person also wrote "nation-wide" [nationwide], "main stream" [mainstream], "self published" [self-published] and more.

This person mentioned "the hard work of revising and polishing" a book.

The blog deserved similar hard work.

Confession: I am not perfect, but I try to be. It's wrong not to try to write right, or to rely on a computer's spell-checker.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lulu lies about not lying

I just got an email from inept pay-to-publisher Lulu, touting their Presidents Day Sale with a claim that "We cannot tell a lie."

Actually, Lulu can, and does, tell lies.

Here are a few:

  1. Lulu claims to rank #1 among self-publishing websites. If you use Lulu you may not be self-publishing because a big part of Lulu is vanity publishing.
  2. Lulu says it is “the only publisher that offers you all that it does for free.” The company has run online ads touting “Publish Your Book—Free,” “Free publishing,” and “Free Self Publishing.” Their website promises, “free book publishing.” Their publishing is free only if you don’t want any paper books to be printed or eBooks to be distributed! Lulu gets paid for every book they publish. That's not free. 
  3. Lulu's notion of free publishing is like free car ownership where there is no charge to view your beautiful new vehicle in the dealer's showroom. But if you want to have it titled in your name, drive it home and put it in your garage, you have to pay $76,484.
  4. Lulu says, "It is not unusual for vanity presses to require an initial order of hundreds of copies of any book they print." Actually, it is extremely unusual. This bit of bullshit is proffered by Lulu and some of its competitors in an effort to make themselves seem better than other pay-to-publish companies. The requirement to buy hundreds of books was common back in the 20th century, but seems to have disappeared, due to the use of Print-On-Demand by vanity publishers.
Lulu boss Bob Young (quoted in the 8/6/07 issue of Publishers Weekly), said, "We publish a huge number of really bad books.”

Sadly, that's the truth!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Hooray. Hooray. It's half-price candy day!

(I won't dump on vanity publishers today)

Today, some people will be celebrating Presidents Day by sleeping late and contemplating Washington, Lincoln, snowballs, sledding, bargains on flat-screen TVs, and a day without school, mail or banks.

I'll be thinking that Spring is just over a month away. There's still snow on the ground here in Connecticut, but the earth is warming. Each day we have another 2-1/2 minutes of sunlight.  5 p.m. now comes during the day, not at night.  Crocuses will be popping out of the frigid ground in a few days. In about 50 days, the cover comes off the pool.

  • But most importantly, today is the day that stores will cut in half the prices of some delicious cherry and chocolate candies to make room for the pending arrival of Easter bunnies and eggs.
Since babyhood, I've been addicted to JuJu Hearts, the magical chewy-gooey red cherry candies. If I close my eyes when I open the package, the sweet aroma transports me to Cherry Blossom Time in Washington DC, or at least to my grandmother's apartment in the Bronx.

When I was a kid, my Grandma Del would buy pounds and pounds from Krum's -- the pre-eminent candy store in the Bronx, or maybe in the world. Some years she even arranged to buy the huge pile of hearts on display in the window, at a special price after Valentine's Day.

We grandchildren would get a few pounds in February, and Grandma would stash the rest in her freezer, to be gradually defrosted and doled out throughout the year. (In later years, when Grandma Del moved to Florida, I provided JuJu Hearts for her.)

Krum's was famous for its candies and ice cream sodas, and used to be on the Grand Concourse between 188th Street and Fordham Road. In the front of the store was a huge display case of chocolates and other candies, and farther back you could sit and slurp. The landmark Lowe's Paradise Theater was across the street, and before McDonalds and Taco Bell came to town, teenagers went to Krum's for a post-picture snack.

The Lowe's Paradise has been reincarnated as a concert venue, Grandma Del and Krum's are long gone, but JuJu Hearts are still with us. The price has gone from 15 cents a pound to 99 cents for a 9 ounce bag, but addicts don't care about the cost of their fix. Each year, we get a bit less for our money, brand names and country of origin change, and each vintage has a slightly different flavor.

JuJu Hearts' taste and texture are unique: sweeter and softer than red hot dollars, but not as sweet or slimy as Gummi bears or worms. Strangely, the JuJu Heart formula doesn't seem to be used for anything else, at any other time of year -- not even for JuJubes or Jujyfruits. But that's OK. JuJu Heart season is only a little longer than the bloom of the Cherry Blossom. The rarity makes them more special, and less destructive to teeth and glucose levels... and freezers make it possible to prolong the pleasure.

Mayfair has been the big brand name in JuJu. Sadly, their 2009 vintage was not up to the previous standards, and came from from Brazil, not Canada as in 2008, or the USA as in ancient times. 2009 hearts were a bit bigger, and not as good as the oldies. They were less sweet, and had a somewhat waxy taste. I did buy ten bags on the first day, and managed to eat eight and give away two, but it was a lot less delicious than in the past. Last year was the first time I encountered JuJu hearts from candy behemoth Brach's. They were better than Mayfair's.

This year, strangely, the Mayfair brand was nowhere to be found at the usual chain drugstores. CVS is selling their own private-label JuJus, and based on taste, I'm willing to bet they were produced by Mayfair. Through yesterday, big bags were selling for $2.50 each, but today the price should be half that. I plan to load my freezer, and ration them out until next January when the new crop comes in.

JuJu history
  • The JuJu name apparently comes from the jujube, a red fruit first cultivated in China over 4,000 years ago. It can be used for tea, wine, and throat medication, or eaten as a snack.
  • A jujube tree in Israel is estimated to be over 300 years old.
  • The jujube's sweet smell is said to make teenagers fall in love, and in the Himalaya mountains, young men put jujube flowers on their hats to attract hot Sherpa babes.
  • In West Africa, a Juju refers to the supernatural power ascribed to objects or fetishes. Juju can be synonymous with witchcraft, and may be the origin of the American voodoo.
  • Some of the first JuJu Hearts were made by the Henry Heide Candy Company, founded in 1869 by Henry Heide, who immigrated to New York from Germany. Heide Candy became known for Jujubes, Jujyfruits, jelly beans, Red Hot Dollars, Gummi Bears and Mexican Hats, which have been perennial favorites in movie theaters and five-and-dime stores.
  • The business stayed in the Heide family through four generations, and was sold to Hershey Foods in 1995.
  • In 2002, Farley's & Sathers Candy Co. acquired the Heide brand products from Hershey. While Farley's & Sathers makes lots of candy, they apparently do not make JuJu Hearts.
Special thanks to Philip Heide, and Roger McEldowney of Mayfair.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Christian publisher descends deeper into hell

Last fall  "the world's leading Christian publisher" Thomas Nelson made a deal with the devil  (or at least with diabolical vanity publisher Author Solutions). The two companies are operating an allegedly "Christian" version of vanity publishing, called WestBow Press.

WestBow exists to extract big bucks from wannabe authors who are not good enough to get a normal royalty-paying contract from Thomas Nelson, and are attracted to the "Christian" label.

Sleazy WestBow lies about providing "self-publishing" and "free books." Lying does not seem very Christian.

For a sign of how important Thomas Nelson now views vanity publishing, take a look at its website (a piece is shown above).

The dominant feature at the top of the homepage is a big ad for WestBow. The placement shows that Thomas Nelson now regards vanity publishing as a  more important source of revenue than the sale of books. The company wants to convince someone who might have gone to the website to buy a book or Bible for $25, to instead fork over up to $6,499 to become a "published author."

The vanity ad is even positioned above books about "Spiritual Growth and Christian Thought,"  including How to Reach Your Full Potential for God.

Apparently Thomas Nelson thinks its full potential is in vanity publishing.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Response from North Star Press

I frequently complain about inept and dishonest pay-to-publish companies in this blog.

The fools and knaves at Outskirts Press, Lulu, Infinity, Westbow, AuthorHouse, Thomas Nelson, Leonine, Beckham, etc. have not had the guts to defend themselves against my criticism (or maybe they realize there is no defense).

I recently slammed North Star Press. I called it "another kind of sleazy publishing," and complained about the company's requirement that authors buy books to resell.

Here is a response from Seal Dwyer, the business manager at at North Star:

Yes, North Star Press is a traditional publisher and we have traditional royalty contracts. Books published under our ISBN are published by us.

Yes, we also offer self-publishing services to people, but those people get their own ISBNs. We do help many people do their self-publishing, and these are mainly county histories, church histories, and other specific-market books that rarely find a home in the larger book world. The people who are self-published are coming to us looking for self-publishing. There is no back door here. If a book is submitted for traditional publishing but is not suitable for us, we tell them why. We often suggest other presses to try. Sometimes they decide to go with self-publishing, especially if it is a family history or something else with a truly tiny market, but we do not say "this book is not acceptable for us, but we'll self publish it for you." If we don't feel a book is ready to see the light of day, we say so.

That being said, two years ago, we looked at the books we were publishing and at which books were selling and which books were not moving at all. The books that were selling were the ones that the authors were heavily involved in marketing: they need to do signings, they need to do talks, they need to have websites and blogs, they need to be out there. We don't want any book to fail. We put our heart into every book we do, as well as our capital. We want every book to succeed. And we do our part, but we also ask the author to be involved, and when there are approximately 600,000 books published last year, it takes some work to stand out. Our model may not be a fit for everyone.

We watched many of our publishing colleagues stepping back from publishing and bringing out less books, however, this is our livelihood, so we needed it to succeed. We needed to bring out more books. Small press, if nothing else, is about creativity, and the book buy was our creative way to publish more books, good books, books we wanted to publish, and get them out there selling more copies. Survival in hard times is also about creativity, and in finding a model that gives us and our authors a chance at success.

The book buy does not cover all the costs. It doesn't even cover the printing. We print considerably more than we ask the authors to buy, always. The authors do not pay for our editing or design time. The authors do not pay for review copies. The authors, on average, pay $7.48 per book, which is 50% of a $14.95 novel, and if they buy 100 copies--which is also the average--that $748.00 doesn't cover the printing or marketing, design or editing. But it does help us, and it does provide motivation for the author to tell people about the book. The book buy is not an attempt to make self-publishers out of our authors, but it does open a door for authors to make more money than they would on royalties alone. We are a small press, and we don't hide that; we do not offer advances or some of the other perks that larger presses can offer, but, we are a quality, award-winning press and our authors have more involvement in the publishing process than they could with someone bigger. We are not wealthy, nor do we seek wealth. We publish for our living, but more importantly we publish for the passion and love of it.

The marketing we do includes selling our books to buyers of Barnes and Noble, Borders, and indies. Amazon as well. We work with national distributors, like Baker and Taylor and Partners. We are members of the Midwest Booksellers Association, the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, and other groups, where we exhibit books. We attend bookshows and festivals all over the country, and in Canada. We bring floods of authors to these events--at no cost to the authors, I might add. We enter the books into book awards, such as the Minnesota, Midwest, and Northeastern Minnesota, and we often win or place in the finalists.

We do much in the way of trying to get reviews from large and small reviewers, and were reviewed in Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and other major reviewers in the last year.

We help the authors set up signings (in as much as grouping them together with other authors when possible, providing contact information, and facilitating, however we are not publicists, and do not actually schedule them), and we teach them how do signings. We work with the authors to form marketing plans that supplement the work we're already doing, reaching into areas that we might not have access to ourselves.

We want the authors to be marketing to the non-traditional markets. They are to sell their books, at full price, to book clubs, civic groups, library readings, craft shows, and many other venues and events that direct contact with authors allow. It is these sales that we do the book buy for, and authors often come back and reorder because they do so well with these sales. We want our authors to always have books in the car, because they sell books that way. All of them. And if they sell books, at full price, to a person and can sign the book, the author gets more than their royalty for their effort and the customer gets a signed copy. This is a system that works, and works well, although it is not for everyone.

We maintain a high degree of integrity in what we do. We work hard at every facet of our business. We are a family business: my mom, my husband, and me. And we are proud of this business. We have many repeat authors, and many, many authors who tell their friends to come to us, as well. This speaks volumes for how we conduct ourselves and for the quality of work and relationships we maintain.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Beckham -- the Pegasus of Publishing
(updated from last year)

Some types of publishing are like the Pegasus, Unicorn, Loch Ness monster, or Big Foot.

“Joint venture publishing” and “co-publishing” are so hard to find that they may not exist.

Beckham Publications Group is the self-proclaimed "Leader in joint venture publishing and self publishing assistance" and  brags that is "UNIQUE AMONG BOOK PUBLISHING COMPANIES."

The company says it provides joint venture publishing, where “two parties decide to invest in a project and share in the profits generated. The investing partners are the author and the publisher.”

Authors pay Beckham a fee to design, edit, manufacture, and deliver a specified quantity of books for the author to resell. Beckham also prints copies to go to booksellers and pays a royalty on each book sold. The company can provide extra-cost promotional materials and services such as press releases.

Beckham says, “Larger houses take 12 to 18 months to produce a book… However, your joint venture self-published book can be produced in half the usual time commercial publishers take.” If Beckham takes six to nine months to put books on the market, it’s slower than most vanity presses and MUCH slower than REAL self-publishing.

Beckham is pathetically honest about the prospects of its writers, and the advice applies to most customers of vanity presses: “Do not expect to receive reviews in national media; your book probably doesn’t have so large an audience. [Said even before seeing the manuscript or knowing its title or subject.] Most of our joint venture publications will not attract a large reading audience. [i.e., if you want Beckham to publish your book, you are admitting that it is crap.] Therefore it is unlikely that it will attract the interest of the big chain buyers.”

  • Based on that dismal disclaimer, the only reasons to publish with Beckham are vanity, or a strange compulsion to throw money away.
Beckham’s fees are determined by how much work needs to be done, book size, artwork, and number of books printed. The author MUST buy some books to sell or to give away.

Company boss Barry Beckham said that an author who might collect $2 per book in royalties from a traditional publisher could collect $9 from his company. But since the author makes a big investment, he will not get back his investment until about 500 books are sold (which may never happen).

The Beckham website says, “Our editors are prepared to correct textual matters like grammar, punctuation and spelling.” They may not be adequately prepared.

  • The website misidentified Virginia Woolf as “Wolf” and Stephen Crane as “Stephan.” Virginia with the extra “o” was a writer. Virginia with just one “o” is a sculptor. The site also says “trims size” instead of “trim size.” My own websites are imperfect, but I’m not trying to impress publishing prospects with my editors’ abilities.
The site also says, "Just the other day a New York publishing house announced that it was accepting manuscripts only from writers who have agents." Since there was no date to indicate when the sentence was written, there's no way to know if the unfortunate announcement was made last week or five years ago -- and if the situation has since changed.

And the site says, "NOW YOU PUBLISH YOUR OWN BOOK: Quickly, Professionally, Inexpensively." If "you" are publishing, you don't need the Beckham Publications Group to publish your book. If Beckham is the publisher, the author is not the publisher.

And the site says, "we print copies at our expense, sell to retail markets and pay you a royalty on each copy sold" and says that the company will "pay for your Library of Congress copyright." In truth, the printing and copyright costs are being paid for by you, and unless you sell a HUGE number of copies, your royalties are really some of your own dollars making a  delayed U-turn.

Beckham says, "We give you one of our pre-assigned International Standard Book Numbers." That's the smoking gun, the de-facto evidence that if you are a customer of Beckham, you are NOT "publishing your own book."

Following Beckham’s instructions, I submitted 10 sample pages of manuscript to find out if I was good enough to meet their publishing standards and how much they would charge me to do a joint venture with them.

After nearly four weeks I received this email: “Attached is our estimate of $4,555 that includes our services and 100 copies delivered to you.” That price is so high it seems like the investment formula for the “joint venture” is 100% for the author and 0% for Beckham.

Beckham provides a lot of services, but their price is thousands of dollars more than what a real self-publisher would pay. I estimate Beckham's profit to be at least $3,000. And in order to make back my investment and earn a tiny profit, I’d have to sell those 100 books for about FIFTY BUCKS EACH.

How many would you like to buy?

I wouldn't like to buy any books from Beckham.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Michael saves the world, or at least may have a solution to the eBook price problem

Todays' New York Times has an article titled, "E-Book Price Increase May Stir Readers’ Passions."

Here are some excerpts:

In the battle over the pricing of electronic books, publishers appear to have won the first round. The price of many new releases and best sellers is about to go up, to as much as $14.99 from $9.99.

But there may be an insurgency waiting to pounce: e-book buyers.

Over the last year, the most voracious readers of e-books have shown a reflexive hostility to prices higher than the $9.99 set by and other online retailers for popular titles.

When digital editions have cost more, or have been delayed until after the release of hardcover versions, these raucous readers have organized impromptu boycotts and gone to the Web sites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble to leave one-star ratings and negative comments for those books and their authors.

The angry commenters on Amazon and online message boards could just be a vocal minority. But now, with e-books scheduled to cost $12.99 to $14.99 under new deals that publishers negotiated with Apple and Amazon, a broader swath of customers may resist the new pricing. The higher prices will go into effect within the next few months.

But some e-book buyers say that since publishers do not have to pay to print, store or distribute e-books, they should be much cheaper than print books.

Just what e-books are worth is a matter of debate. Publishers argue that printing and distribution represents a small proportion of the total cost of making a book.

“There are people who don’t always understand what goes into an author writing and an editor editing and a publishing house with hundreds of men and women working on these books,” said Mark Gompertz, executive vice president of digital publishing at Simon & Schuster. “If you want something that has no quality to it, fine, but we’re out to bring out things of quality, regardless of what type of book it is.”

To consumers who do not pay much attention to the economics of publishing, though, such arguments are trumped by the fact that e-books have been available for $9.99 for more than a year.

One reason consumers may be sensitive to pricing is that they have so many other types of entertainment to occupy their time.

I've published just one eBook so far. It's an abridgement of a $19.95 pBook. The eBook sells for $5, and I collect $4 of the $5. I spent about an hour abridging and formatting. Most of my writing and editing work is done between 3:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., when I am officially "off the clock." Since writing is at least as much fun as it is business, I don't pay much attention to how much I make per hour. The eBook very quickly sold enough copies to net me $60 for the hour's pre-breakfast work, so I have no complaints. The eBook continues to sell with little or no new effort, and some purchasers of the eBook later bought the $19.95 pBook version.

Since this was not an original title, and my publishing business bears scant resemblance to the operations of book behemoths like Simon & Schuster, McMillan or Random House, maybe my tiny eBook experiment does not qualify me to make comments or suggestions.

However, because I've been a royalty-receiving author of traditional publishers, and the operator of a tiny publishing company, and a purchaser of zillions of books, I do feel entitled to speak up.

Since the cost of manufacturing, storing and shipping a sequence of bits is somewhere between zero and nothing, the cost to publish an eBook depends on the costs of editing, designing and promoting the book, author advances and royalties, and the basic overhead of keeping a publishing company in business.

Importantly, with eBooks, there is NO WASTE. eBook publishing is even more efficient than POD, where some books must be re-shipped if UPS loses one or re-printed if a book is not manufactured properly.

Unlike offset-printed pBooks, there are no eBooks with wrinkled pages, misaligned pages or off-color covers that must be paid for -- and scrapped with minimal revenue.

Unlike pBooks, there is no cost to return unsold books to the publisher, and no markdowns of unsold or obsolete books. No eBook has to go onto the buck-a-book table. As with POD pBooks, eBooks are produced on demand. The books don't exist unless and until a reader has made a commitment to pay for it.

  • The author's main financial concern is with the royalty, and 8% is a typical number. If a book has a $24.95 cover price, 8% is just shy of $2.
  • If the author is satisfied with earning $2 per copy, and an eBook sells for $9.99, that would leave $7.99 to be split by the bookseller and the publisher. There is no need to provide a piece of the action for a wholesale middleman, as with pBooks.
Lulu is satisfied to keep $1 from the sale of my $5 eBook. From that $1, they pay about 15 cents (3% of the $5) to the credit card company. The other 85 cents covers overhead and profit. Lulu is an extremely fucked-up and inefficient company. If they can survive on 85 cents per eBook, I assume Amazon and Barnes & Noble can do it, too. With this book, the $4 I receive gets split between me-the-publisher and me-the-author.

Traditionally, retailers calculate their markup (gross profit) as a percentage of the retail price. While it's nice to make more money from selling a beautiful $50 necktie than an ordinary $5 necktie, in reality, the cost of selling the tie does not vary much with the price an item is sold for. The cost could relate to the effort involved in selling an item (and with online sales or a self-service store there is no human effort), or storing an item (one cubic yard of gravel takes up more warehouse space than a pack of Band-Aids), but there is no storage space required for eBooks.

However, since it would require a major upheaval for retailers to move from a business model based on keeping a percentage of the selling price to collecting a handling fee for each item sold, I will, for now, allow the eBookseller to keep a generous 20% of the cover price.

So, from the $9.99 eBook price (which I'll round up to $10):
  1. In my system the author gets $2 (a 20% royalty, which is a higher percentage but the same dollar amount as the 8% royalty on a $25 book).
  2. The bookseller gets $2 (also 20%).
  3. The publisher gets $6. That $6 is 60% -- a higher percentage than publishers keep with pBooks. It should easily cover the costs of production and promotion, and overhead, and taxes, and provide some profit. Publishers already make money on $9.95 paperbacks. And of course, with pBooks there is no cost to ship, store or recycle.
And just as Walmart and Costco and Amazon and Vizio and Hyundai have proven, when prices come down, sales go up.

It seems highly likely that many more copies of a book can be sold at $9.99 than at $24.95, and the higher sales volume means MORE MONEY for author, bookseller and publisher -- with NO ADDITIONAL EFFORT OR COST.

It seems obvious that the only reason that publishers don't want to have $9.99 eBooks is because they don't want to hurt sales of more expensive pBooks -- not because they can't make enough money on the eBooks.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Our first Sid Caesar Doubletalk Award goes to

Sid Caesar is an hysterically funny comedy writer and actor who was born in 1922. Sid was an important part of the Golden Age of television in the 1950s who starred in Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. Those of you who missed the 1950s, may have seen Sid play Coach Calhoun in Grease and Grease 2.

Sid has an amazing ability to mimic the rhythms and accents of foreign languages. He can spout streams of syllables that sound like sentences in French, German, Spanish, Polish, etc. -- but in reality he makes up the "words" on the spot, and what he says is nonsense.

This blog has previously established the Borat Akademi of English Writteningistics to honor (?) people who do a particularly bad job of writing in English. Our new award, named to honor the greatest doubletalker of all time, will be given to writers, blogs and print publications that put words together in sequences that looks like English, but make little or no sense.

Our first winner is a blog called More Books Reviews (not More Book Reviews). The blog operator has a strange plural fetish that forces him or her to overuse the letter "s." Sections of the blog include the "Books Shop" and "Books Store." I'm not sure of the reason to have both a shop and a store, but this way there are more of the beloved "esses."

The "About:" section tells us that the blog contains "Infos about book reviews covering almost everything - history, literature, popular science, computing, sf + fantasy, biology, historical fiction, anthropology, politics." Learn about techniques about writing a book, ebooks and articles to publish in internet.

What follows is a posting that tries to provide information about copyrights:

Copyright may be a legal fiction designed to protect the works of artists, inventors and innovators. In essence, it is a legal bar, allowing exclusivity for those who produce works in the form of an intangible asset that can be sold or relinquished, and that expires upon a certain amount of time. With the expansion of the net, and also the creation of additional and a lot of content, the question of copyright is becoming increasingly additional relevant, and one that additional and a lot of webmasters are considering to protect their own interests. Additionally, with the increase of the freelancer market, the problem of copyright is changing into a heated topic of dialogue for both buyers and sellers at each stage in the assembly chain, and the effects of not having the relevant rights might be probably catastrophic. In this text, we have a tendency to'll have a look at what exactly copyright is, and how it relates to the web in content creation.

Copyright is a synthetic concept that provides the creator of a piece, or the person he sells the right to, the legal right to use or modify in whole or in part, and to decision their own. It's a different that means in most jurisdictions, however the fundamental principle is the identical: the creator owns the first copyright to the work in query, and has the liberty to pass this on at can, usually in consideration for money. Where a creator is operating on commission, copyright is intended to act as a lien in his favour, meaning that if he creates and passes on but does not receive payment, he will withhold copyright and sue for breach where applicable. Of course, he would conjointly have remedies underneath the normal law of contract, but the grasp of copyright may be a terribly powerful tool, which can even be used against the third party buyer from the initial commissioner.

Copyright is designed as a tool to hide what's known as intellectual property. Committing intellectual thoughts and ideas to paper, or creating them tangible is usually sufficient to give rise to the copyright protection, that usually lasts for a range of decades in preventing others from steeling ideas. This is often primarily designed to encourage forward thinking and art, and will be a very important tool in protecting the monetary interests of those accountable for some of the world's most very important progressions. Think about the inventors of the seatbelt, Volvo. Volvo might have used their copyright to prevent other makers from installing seat belts, and this would are sufficient to shield any alternative manufacturer from doing so. Of course they waived their rights for the security of the general public, that is additionally a attainable consideration for the creator of one thing new and innovative.
[A seatbelt would have a patent, not a copyright, you fucking idiot!]

Copyright is an exhaustible right, and it typically expires on a given date, once which all works enter the public domain. This means that people who create new product have sufficient time to capitalise on their idea before the globe at large can join in. Sadly for many musicians, this implies their inventive works can not create them cash specifically, and can be used royalty free; a truth that has caused a lot of uproar and unrest in recent years.

Copyright could be a dynamic area of the law, and is significantly relevant to the internet. As additional and more content of more and a lot of varieties is made on-line, there comes a would like to search out protection in copyright law to stop unscrupulous parties from using content without authorisation. In combating this, a variety of international legal organisations have been established with a read to tackling copyright violation, and serving to those without legal support to fight cases for the protection of their work. It's undoubtedly an area of law that's on the ascendancy, as lawyers worldwide strive to search out a cohesive structure to on-line intellectual property law, and therefore the protections on-line authors ought to be afforded for creating their works. A minimum of inside national boundaries, it's highly potential to rely on copyright laws to guard and govern material.

If you are looking for a personal injury lawyer in Miami, then visit: miami personal injury lawyer. The miami personal injury lawyer serves clients in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties, and is available for service statewide. Go to miami personal injury lawyer now! Excellent in service and efficienct in cost! [You imbecile, what the hell does this paragraph have to do with copyrights?]

Related Reading: [The recommended "related reading" is not related, and you can't read it. It's a 30-minute film titled Mezzogiorno - Vesuvio's shadow: Roman ruins and a Swedish doctor.]


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

thinking about the future

Presumably if I drop dead while typing this sentence, all of my previous rants will still be available to be read by anyone who cares -- but for how long?

Will Google maintain the memory for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years? What about a hundred years or a thousand years?

The "Wayback Machine" archives milions of web pages, but probably not for millions of years. How will 21st-century electronic texts be read in the 31st and 41st and 91st centuries?

The excitement over the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other eBook readers has caused a lot of tongue flapping about "the end of printed books." Some have predicted that paper books won't be printed after around 2020.

Apprently nobody is making 8-mm film projectors or 8-track tape players anymore. It seems unlikely that your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand children will be able to buy a device to read a 2010-vintage eBook.

However, as long as human beings can read, they should be able to read today's printed books, and the Declaration of Independence, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the words on ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese and Japanese pottery, the heiroglyphs on walls of Egyptian pyramids, and maybe even the symbols on the walls of Neanderthal caves.

The iPad is way cool, and I'm going to get one. But far, far, far from now, the chiseled words on a wall might be more useful.


Reality Check: Outskirts Press distribution vs. Real Self-Publishing

Inept vanity publisher Outskirts Press frequently brags and lies to make it seem like they have advantages over other paths to publication -- particularly independent (i.e., "real") self-publishing.

In an effort to get customers, Outskirts boss Brent Sampson has written many sentences on the company website and in his blog and books that are simply not true.

Perhaps his most outrageous fiction is this statement: "The majority of independently self-published authors find it nearly impossible to secure distribution through book wholesalers like Ingram and Baker & Taylor."

  • In reality, Brent has no way of knowing the experiences of the majority of independently self-published authors. It's highly likely that those people (which include me) have their books printed by Lightning Source, which provides automatic access to Ingram and Baker & Taylor. It's "nearly impossible" not to secure this distribution.
Bad Boy Brent has also written about the "headaches" caused by getting an ISBN and bar code, and "paying thousands of dollars to print thousands of books" and the “hassles of independent self-publishing, like guessing print-runs, managing inventory, and the responsibility of order fulfillment.”

  • In reality, that's all-self-serving bullshit. I’m an independent self-publisher, and the truth is I never ever think about print runs, inventory or order fulfillment. The biggest hassles I deal with are typos.
Outskirts also says, "One of the most common misconceptions about print-on-demand companies [euphemism for "vanity publishers"] is that their only value is printing books one at a time. While it is true that just-in-time printing is an advantage of publishing with a POD publishing service company, there are many greater advantages than just printing. Perhaps the best reason of all, however, is not the printing of the books, but the distribution of the books after publication."

  • That's more B.S. From Brent Sampson. Below is the distribution diagram for the more-expensive Outskirts Press Diamond, Ruby, and Pearl publishing packages.

What follows is a modification of the Outskirts Press chart that shows how distribution works if you are a real self-publisher and have your books printed by Lightning Source. All you lose are direct sales from the Outskirts Press website (which are probably insignificant). If you form your own little publishing company, you'll probably  publish faster, get your money faster, and make more money. If you publish properly, you should have better books and have a better chance of getting your books reviewed.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Why am I so damned critical?

Any of you who have read more than two or three editions of this blog know that I frequently criticize inept and dishonest vanity publishers and terrible writers.

Pompous incompetents are funny, it's fun to write about them, and I'm performing a public service by exposing them.

I've alway liked deflating big egos, and revealing scams. In Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes, I'd be the little kid who yelled out that the idiot ruler was parading in his undies. I have a powerful internal bullshit detector and I am by nature a bit of a wise-ass and seldom hold anything back. I see no need to be nice to jerks with big egos. I am not afraid of being sued, and my wife is so scared of my constant "pushing the limit," that she won't read what I write.

Yesterday I spent two wonderful hours with the man who taught me English and history in seventh grade. I had not spoken to him since June of 1959, so we had a lot to catch up on.

The main reason for my visit was to give him a copy of my book Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults),  which is coming out on April Fools' Day. The book includes more than 100 mostly hysterically funny (others have said that -- not just me) stories that span 55 years. Incompetence is a frequent theme for the stories, and with no specific plan, it appears that I've targeted lots of incompetent doctors, lawyers and teachers.

I had a lot of really shitty teachers, and a few superb ones, including Lawrence DePalma, whom I visited yesterday. In the book, I wrote much more about the bad teachers, both as a warning and because they stimulated writing funny stories.

In the back of the book I have a two-page "honor roll" where I pay tribute to my few good teachers, like "Mr. D," and I wanted him to see it.

Because there are so many stories about bad teachers (and I decided to write the book when I was in sixth grade and the victim of a terrible teacher), I felt the need to point out to Mr. D that I am definitely not anti-teacher. I told him that my mother was a teacher, my father briefly taught college, my sister is a teacher, her husband taught in the same school that Mr. D taught me in, their son is a teacher, and I suppose I think of myself as teaching through my 40-plus years of writing.

While driving away from Mr. D's house, I thought about why I target bad doctors, lawyers and teachers in my book. The answer quickly came to me. It's because these three professions are so important, that when the professionals screw-up, they can do terrible damage.

Doctors are involved with us even when we are still pre-natal. They deliver us to the world, and heal us when we are ill or wounded. Their mission is to preserve life; and when they screw up, people can die.

Teachers are responsible for informing, shaping and directing each new generation of human beings. When a teacher screws up, kids can be misinformed, misshapened and misdirected.

Lawyers are entrusted to protect our rights -- while negotiating contracts and defending us in court. As legislators, they make laws, and as judges they rule on cases. When lawyers screw up, people agree to bad deals, children and spouses lose inheritances, guilty people go free, innocent people are executed, and millions suffer because of bad laws.

I can pick out other critical professions and occupations. If architects screw up, buildings fall down. If engineers screw up, airplanes fall down and cellphone batteries overheat. If pharmacists screw up, people can die from taking the wrong medication. If cooks screw up, people can get poisoned. If accountants screw up, their clients pay too much tax, or may get fined. If rulers screw up, their citizens die in the wrong wars.  Etc.

When I was the victim of some terrible teachers, I complained to my mother (who later became a teacher). She did not believe my reports of lunacy, incompetence and sadism in the classroom and said that teachers must be respected because of their position (regardless of incompetence or derangement).

When we realize that some people in power are not worthy of automatic respect simply because of their title or uniform, some of us become incurable cynics.

I have trouble accepting authority. I know that if I was in the army and my sarge ordered me to peel potatoes, I'd respond either, "Why should I?," "Get a machine," "Do it yourself," or "Go fuck yourself" -- and I'd be locked up or thrown out. Fortunately, I was never in the army.

Vanity publishers probably have not caused deaths like bad doctors or bad judges or bad presidents. But they do cause writers to waste time and money, and cause readers to buy some terrible books. As shelves and websites get clogged with crap, it can be harder for good books to be recognized.

We all choose our battles and our opponents -- some puny, some powerful. Ralph Nader fought General Motors. I admire his zeal, although I loved my own 1965 Corvair Corsa. Consumer Reports targets dangerous and difficult-to use products and points out bad values. Thousands of reviewers warn us about bad books, movies and restaurants. This blog often goes after bad publishers and writers (but I have praised good books).

We should all be crusaders. Don't be afraid to call attention to naked emperors, corrupt cops, stupid judges, bad burgers, bad cars, bad books, bad movies, bad bosses, inaccurate articles, and sloppy driveway pavers.

But be equally dedicated to providing praise when deserved.

If you hear a street musician whom you like, don't just dump a quarter in her or his coffee cup and move on. Stick around to dig the performance; and at break time, shake a hand and give some encouragement. If you've enjoyed a good meal in a restaurant, tell the manager (who mostly hears complaints) and go into the kitchen to shake hands with the chef, and write something nice online.

It's important for inept and dishonest people to know that their failures and crimes will be discovered and publicized.

It's equally important for the hard-working good guys to know that their efforts will be recognized and rewarded.

(That's the end of today's sermon. Tomorrow I'll probably kick someone's ass.)


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ancient people

I'm in south Florida for a few days.

The main reason is to visit my mother, who recently fell (old people do that a lot) and broke her collar bone. She's been living alone since my father died last summer.

My mother (I despise that juvenile "my mom" phrase) is 87 and has had a lot of injuries over the last decade or so. She has a pacemaker implant and so much metal inside her that I call her my "bionic mother." Until about a month ago, she drove her car to stores and doctors and restaurants and the hair dresser -- the basic itinerary for people of her age in Florida. Her vision is deteriorating and she turned in her driver's license a few weeks ago.

Mom used her walker to get to and from the car. She was able to do a lot, but everything she did required a great effort. To get off the bed or a chair or out of the car, she uses her arms to move her legs. A couple of times she fell and got stuck in the bathroom and had to be rescued by the 911 squad. Once she spent about eight hours on the floor of the john because she couldn't reach her panic pendant. Now Mom's walker has been replaced by a wheelchair, and she needs someone (this weekend it's me) to push her around.

But the important thing is that she wants to get around, even if her legs don't work well enough to transport her. I hope I've inherited her spirit (but not her frailties).

If I had all her problems, I think I might just say "fuck it" and stay in bed with a remote control, a cordless phone and a bedpan; and ring a bell when it's time for my 24-hr. aid to empty the pan and wipe my ass, or bring me a meal or give me a sponge bath.

Although she has never been a physically active "jock" (except for one summer when she was forced to play football with strong men in a phys-ed class she needed for grad school -- at around age 50), Mom has always been extremely mentally active. If she could get her brain transplanted into a new body, she should be good for another century or two.

Like my father, Mom attended a high school for "the gifted." She is responsible for half of my IQ and my lifelong love of reading and my drive to be productive before the chickens wake up (I start blogging at 3:30 a.m.).

The compulsions to read and get out of bed early came together when I was in junior high school and we watched Sunrise Semester together on TV. It started at 6 a.m. Mom watched it to get her master’s degree. I watched it because I liked classic Greek literature. Lysistrata is an extremely funny and sexy anti-war play, written over 2400 years ago by Aristophanes. I highly recommend it.

Like me, Mom usually reads at least three books each week. We're both very fast readers, but Mom never became computer literate. She won an award for penmanship eons ago, but never learned to type; and got special permission to submit her master's thesis in handwriting. There was no Wite-Out or correction tape on it.

My father was a pretty-good two-finger typist (I've recently regressed from six fingers back to two), and used an iMac for occasional email. When I was down here two years ago, I had to use a crappy intermittent AOL dial-up connection. Last year I used slightly better AT&T DSL. Now I'm connecting this laptop through a neighbor's zoomy Wi-Fi. It's fast, reliable, and it's FREE.

My mother does not share my love of technology. Only one of her TVs has a flat screen and her camera uses (GASP!) film. Despite the free Wi-Fi and my offer of a new PC, she feels no need to learn to type at this stage. She still writes beautiful-looking letters in longhand, even though her hands are filled with nylon and stainless steel.

Getting old sucks, but it usually beats the alternative (dying young).

In mid-morning, while my mother's aid is here, I'll go out for a while and visit another old person.

Lawrence DePalma taught me English and History when I was in the seventh grade, back in the 1958-1959 school year. (Yeah, I'm that old. I'm a proud member of the first cohort of the baby boom, born in 1946 along with Cher, Oliver Stone, Billy Clinton, Donny Trump, Georgie Bush, Dolly Parton, Candy Bergen, Sly Stallone, Reggie Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Linda Ronstadt and Laura Bush. I think we're still middle-aged, not senior citizens).

I had a lot of really shitty teachers in school, and many of them are described in my book, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults. It's coming out on 4/1.

Mr. DePalma was one of the few good teachers I had, and I wrote about him in a brief section about my good teachers:

Lawrence DePalma taught me history in junior high school around 1959, and was not afraid to ignore the Board of Education’s plans if he thought he knew a better way to teach. Instead of using the latest slick and simplified textbooks, Mr. DePalma distributed tattered copies of Morey’s Ancient Peoples that he had diverted from a trip to the dump and guarded carefully year after year. He regarded their intellectual content as more important than their physical appearance. That itself was a valuable lesson. Rev. Martin Luther King said something similar a few years later in his “I have a dream” speech.

I'm looking forward to talking about the good-and-bad old days with Mr. DePalma after breakfast. I'm going to give him a copy of my book, along with a copy of Morey's that I bought on Amazon.

Mr. DePalma and my mother have given me a lot. I'm glad that they and I have survived to the point where I can give a little bit back.

For you kids (i.e., anyone younger than me) reading this, a brief sermon: It takes a hundred years to go from age-10 to age-18. It takes about an hour to go from 20 to 40, and about five minutes to go from 40 to 60. We don't know how much time we have left -- or how much time anyone else has left. If you're planning to do something important some day (like donating $25 to help Haiti), do it today.


Friday, February 5, 2010

It doesn't get much better than this:
Vanity publisher Outskirts Press brags about its vanity award from a scam organization

In December, Outskirts Press -- the vanity publisher I love to hate -- issued a press release that said:

Outskirts Press, Inc. Receives 2009 Best of Business Award
Small Business Commerce Association’s Award Honors the Achievement

Outskirts Press, Inc. has been selected for the 2009 Best of Business Award in the Publishing category [That's not true. The default award is for "business services." There is no publishing category. Outskirts could have typed in street sweeping, prostitution, burglary, heart surgery or anything.]  by the Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA).

The SBCA 2009 Award Program recognizes the top 5% of small businesses throughout the country. Using consumer feedback, the SBCA identifies companies that we believe have demonstrated what makes small businesses a vital part of the American economy. The selection committee chooses the award winners from nominees based off information taken from monthly surveys administered by the SBCA, a review of consumer rankings, and other consumer reports. Award winners are a valuable asset to their community and exemplify what makes small businesses great.
Basically, the Small Business Commerce Association poses as a national version of your local Chamber of Commerce. Its main agenda is to sell awards to enhance the walls, tables and egos of its honorees.

Last fall, yours truly received email for AbleComm (my full-time business) saying:

"The Small Business Commerce Association (SBCA) is pleased to announce that AbleComm Inc has been selected for the 2009 Best of Business Award in the Business Services category. The SBCA Best of Business Award Program recognizes the best of small businesses throughout the country. Using consumer feedback and other research, the SBCA identifies companies that we believe have demonstrated what makes small businesses a vital part of the American economy. The selection committee chooses the award winners from nominees based off information taken from monthly surveys administered by the SBCA, a review of consumer rankings, and other consumer reports. Award winners are a valuable asset to their community and exemplify what makes small businesses great. A copy of the press release is available on the SBCA awards website listed below. SBCA herby grants AbleComm Inc a non-exclusive, revocable, license to use, copy, publish, stream, publicly display, reformat, excerpt, and distribute this press release. If you desire, a 2009 Best of Business Award has been designed for your place of business and can be obtained by pressing the receive awards tab while retrieving your press release from the SBCA awards website. Additionally, a Web Logo proclaiming your 2009 Best of Business Award selection can be obtained through our website as well."

I had my choice of paying $57.57 for a plaque, $117.97 for a trophy, or $157.97 for both. The Outskirts press release shows a trophy design copied from the SBCA website, so Outskirts may not have actually spent any money for a physical trophy. Up above I show a customized trophy for my publishing company with the geographic area expanded from my city to the entire country. The third item is an award for HBO's Tony Soprano, recognizing his business services in "New Joisey."

Just like inept Outskirts picked the wrong category for its Inc. 500 award, it foolishly accepted its little hometown of Parker, Colorado to be displayed on the trophy. For the same price, instead of being the best publisher in Parker, Outskirts could have displayed a phony award that proclaims it to be the best in Colorado, or the United States, the planet Earth or the entire Milky Way Galaxy!

(What follows is from the Better Business Bureau) Recent emails notifying businesses that they have won "prestigious awards" from a national association appear to be part of a widespread scheme designed to get companies to pay for “vanity” awards and plaques.  Once the award code entered into the organization's website, it is revealed that in order to receive this award the business must pay $57.00 to $150.00.

BBB has requested basic information from this company and has received no response. Specifically, BBB asked what publication or places were the award winners displayed and why it is not stated in the email to the businesses that they must pay for their award.

Among the winners were a discount driving school in Maryland, a tattoo removal clinic in California, a bagpipe player in Arizona and a “laser tag family fun center” in Louisiana. Other award winners were in categories such as “astrologers,” “disc jockeys,” “tanning salons,” and “artificial waterfalls.”


PS: The number of news media that published the Outskirts press release is ONE.

Oops! I'm sorry, folks, but the number should probably be ZERO.

That alleged news medium that published the press release, called Self Publishing News,  is actually a blog produced by (drum roll please) Outskirts Press.

So, we have a vanity publisher, using its own vanity blog to publish a vanity press release bragging about a vanity trophy.

I couldn't make this up.