Monday, November 29, 2010

More strange censorship:
Amazon removed a negative review I wrote but allows meaningless puffery to remain, and combines reviews for a previous book with a new book

Last month a robot censor at Amazon's CreateSpace publishing operation rejected a book of mine simply because it mentioned I eventually received an apology and the project was allowed to proceed without alterations.

A few days ago I posted a one-star review on for April Hamilton's new The Indie Author Guide: Self-Publishing Strategies Anyone Can Use. A slightly longer version of the review is here.

I had been looking forward to reading the book, and ordered it several months in advance. I was greatly disappointed by the tiny type some unnamed and misguided designer chose to use. I could not read the book. I showed the book to four other people and they all shared my reaction.

I posted my review on Amazon. It was the first review of the book, and for a few days, it was the only review.

On Friday, I saw that my review had been yanked, and replaced by two five star-reviews.

One reviewer says "I have only been able to glance at it."

I did much more than glance at the book. I looked at every page.  My review was critical, but careful and honest. Apparently April or her publisher (Writer's Digest) pressured Amazon to yank my review.
I've submitted about a dozen reviews to Amazon -- almost all of them positive. This is the first one to be yanked after publication.

From Amazon's review guidelines:

What's not allowed . . .  Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)

  • None of my positive reviews about books on publishing were removed by Amazon.
  • I very specifically did not mention any of my own books in my review of April's book, because I did not want the review to seem to be self-serving.
One way of interpreting the Amazon guidline is that positive reviews are not allowed. After all, a recommendation could certainly be interpreted as a sentement published on behalf of (i.e. for the benefit of) the author and/or publisher.

On Sunday, I saw that April's book (not yet officially released) had miraculously gained an additional 18 reviews. When I looked closely, I saw that Amazon had strangely combined the two reviews for the new book with reviews for a related book that April published more than two years earlier.
  • I'm not sure if the combining of reviews was done deliberately to sell books, or was caused by a wayward computer -- but it's very wrong.
  • If April has any honesty, she should ask Amazon to remove the 18 misplaced reviews about her old book, and the reviews from people who have not yet read the new book.
I order from Amazon once or twice a week and am generally a big fan -- but I am greatly disappointed by the deletion of my legitimate criticism and the publishing of inappropriate and irrelevant reviews.


For now, I will not direct the "F-bomb" at April Hamilton, but I reserve the right to do so in the future.

For the record, I sent emails about my criticism to both April and her publisher, but received no replies.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday report

Pre-Friday plan is here.

I left my house at 4:45 a.m. as planned, and got to Jos. A. Bank at a couple of minutes before five. I was excited to see that there was no one ahead of me. I parked the car, and saw a window sign saying that the store would open at six. This conflicted with the information I was given by the nice lady at Bank's customer service department when I called before leaving home, but such is life.

Since I was up anyway, and in shopping mode, I drove about five miles to Sam's Club to snag the TV my wife had instructed me to get for her brother. I got to Sam's, got the TV, and headed to the cellphone department.

I am somewhat embarrassed to reveal this: I'm the most tech-ish of my family, but was still using a dumb phone (as opposed to a smart phone) and the 20-somethings in my family and office have been giving me lots of shit about it.

My Moto's battery has been getting weaker, and I've been toying with the idea of  making the transition into 21st century telecommunications.

The day before, I had seen a Sam's ad for the amazing Samsung "Captivate." I won't bore you with the features and specs now, but I'll just say that it's Samsung's response to the iPhone, and I quickly fell in love with it.

The screen is a bit bigger than the iPhone screen, and is sharp and bright. The Captivate is loaded with cool features, voice and camera quality are superb, and its Android operating system has attracted lots of app-makers. I was surprised and pleased to find it had a 3.5mm headset jack as well as Bluetooth. The jack lets me plug in a wired binaural headset for use in noisy environments, and the wired headset doesn't need to be recharged. You can read more here

Without a wireless service contract, the phone sells for as much as $799.99. However, by renewing my AT&T contract for two years (as I usually do) the price was just 96 cents! I could have gotten it for zero cents at RadioShack, or $499.99 (no contract) or $199.99 (two year contract) at AT&T.

I may have overpaid by 96 cents, or I may have saved $799.03. Either way, I'm not complaining. And I paid much less than AT&T would have charged me for a new iPhone.

One reason I was reluctant to move up to a smart phone is that I didn't want to increase my monthly cost by adding $15 or $25 for a data plan. My commute is about eight minutes, and I have computers at home and office, so I really have no need for mobile Internet access or email. I do have an iPad if I have an urge or reason to connect when travelling.

Since the data plan would essentially be a toy, not a business necessity, I had to find a way to justify the expense. I walked around my house and checked some bills, and discovered that I was paying for two TiVos, one XM radio and one Sirius radio that are never used. If I kill them, I can easily pay AT&T to move a bunch of bytes each month, and may even come out ahead.

Getting used to the new phone was not glitch-free. I missed a few calls because I could not figure out how to answer the calls. I learned how just in time for the fourth call, but I still don't know how to send email. The touch screen and virtual keyboard work like my iPad and iPod Touch, and I like it. Web access is fast, and Gmail comes in quickly. The screen is quite readable, and I can easily enlarge portions to make them more readable.

There were two pleasant surprises with the new phone:
  • The Sam's salesman said there is no way to transfer my speed-dial directory from the Moto to the Sammy. He was wrong. I moved the SIM card (a tiny card that stores data) from the old phone to the new one, and all of the old info was easily copied into the new phone. I edited the contact info to purge people and businesses who are now either dead or irrelevant.
  • The more important surprise is that the phone works on Wi-Fi, giving me free web access at home, office and many other places where either AT&T or Cablevision provide service -- including B&N, Starbuck's, street corners, railroad stations, parking lots and Mickey Dee's. Wi-Fi can be much faster than the phone's normal 3G data transport -- and it's FREE.
After leaving Sam's, I headed back to Jos. A. Bank. I got there a few minutes after six, and was the second person in the store. I had no trouble getting two camel's hair blazers at 75% off and three nice button-down shirts for $19.99 each (reg. $59.50).

My father owned clothing stores and his father was a shirt manufacturer. I was forced to wear a tie and jacket to high school. I modeled clothes when I was a young kid, sold menswear while in high school and college, and once had a collection of more than 150 ties.

Since the hippie-sixties, however, I've had little interest in "nice" clothes. My normal summer uniform is shorts and a T-shirt, and the rest of the year I wear jeans and a knit shirt with a collar. I'm a very informal guy, but there is something strangely appealing about a high-quality button-down oxford shirt and an expensive blazer that took me back to an era when I was more fashion-conscious. (I've also lost a lot of weight recently, and have more apparel options than in the previous decades.)

At this stage in my life, neckties are only for funerals and (some) weddings, however I think it will be cool to wear a $395 (reg. price) blazer and $59.50 (reg. price) shirt with the $13 jeans I get at Sam's. However, It's not likely that I will replace my Nike and New Balance sneakers with Bass Weejuns (do they still exist?).

After my sartorial enhancements, I headed to Staples. I quickly found the low-priced SD cards, software and batteries and filled my basket. When I saw the length of the line for the cashiers, I abandoned the basket, and went to visit my mother.

There are still deals to be done. Today I'll probably get some tools at Lowe's and more shirts at Jos. A. Bank, and maybe some candy and big cans of popcorn. I'll probably buy a book or two at B&N.

Tomorrow, of course is Cyber-Monday. I may place an order with my new Samsung phone. It seems appropriate.

I probably will still refuse to learn how to text. I just don't see the point of texting. If I have a phone, I can talk. If I want to send text, I use email.

I guess I'm to old to find joy in typing with my thumbs.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Black Friday prediction was close,
but not exactly right

Last July I predicted: "On Black Friday in November, expect to see one or more sub-$100 e-readers, probably at Walmart, BestBuy, RadioShack, Target and Amazon."

I showed the fake ad seen above, but was wrong about Walmart and the low price point.
  • HOWEVER, if you roll out of bed early enough today, you might be able to save $50 and snag yourself a Nook e-reader for just $99.99 at BestBuy.
  • I read an online report that Amazon was offering their discontinued Kindle 2 for just $99 -- but I could not find the deal on
  • Borders will sell you a Kobo reader for just $99.99 (save $20) or an Alluratek for $89.99 (save $30). The company has deals on Sony and Cruz, too.
  • CVS is offering a LookBook wireless reader for $118.88, less a $20 "extra bucks" reward. CVS has a $94.88 netbook, too.
At Staples, writers will find lots of deals on PCs, printers,  blank disks, hard drives, desks and chairs, software, Duracell batteries and more, and more.

My Friday shopping list includes a new small Nikon camera to replace my three-year-old, a smart cellphone to replace my aging Moto Flipper, a couple of camel hair blazers from Joseph A. Bank ($99 instead of $395!), and a 42" Hitachi TV from Sam's Club for my bro-in-law ($498 with 24 months to pay with no interest -- reg. $150 more). I'll probably pick up popcorn tins and candy bars at Rite-Aid, some thumb drives and SD memory cards somewhere (because I can never have enough memory), and probably some shirts and Blu-ray disks.

The new bragain Blu-rays will go onto the top of a stack which includes still-unwatched Blu-rays I bought a year ago today.

Sadly, the only thing I can't buy today is time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A story for today

An elderly man in Florida called his son in New York and said, “Stevie, I'm sorry to mess up your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce. Fifty-two years of misery are enough.”

“Pop, what are you talking about? This is nuts. You can't get a divorce,” the son screamed.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old man said. “We haven't made love in ten years. I hate her cooking. She refuses to do my laundry. She watches TV 18 hours a day. We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”

Frantic, the son called his sister, who exploded on the phone. “Like hell they’re getting a divorce,” she shouted. “I’ll take care of this.”

She called Florida immediately, and screamed at the old man, “You are NOT getting divorced! Don’t do a anything until I get there. I’m calling my brother back and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then don’t do a thing."

They both hung up their phones. The old man turned to his wife, smiled and said, “Sweetie, it worked. The kids are coming for Thanksgiving and they're paying for the airfare."


Illustration from painting by Norman Rockwell (bottom was cropped off by Der Blogmeister)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Improvements and new services at CreateSpace

CreateSpace is part of It provides a range of services for self-publishing authors from simple printing to complete book preparation and distribution. I've used CS for some of my books.

Their set-up fee is less than with Lightning Source and they have free cover templates. They take longer than Lightning to ship proofs and don't provide tracking numbers (but they charge less than Lightning for a proof). I make more money on each book printed by LightningSource, but the file upload procedure is a little easier with CreatsSpace.

CS quality is generally good, but the two most recent proofs I received have cover images rotated clockwise, and a previous shipment of books had the cover laminate peeling off.

OTOH, Lightning Source once shipped books where the cover photos had a green tint, and another time my cover was wrapped around another publishers pages.

No printer is perfect. It's important to closely examine every book you receive from your printer. Don't be reluctant to complain and ask for a replacement or refund. Make 'em know you have high standards.

Yesterday CreateSpace announced some service enhancements said to result from user feedback.

ISBN Purchase on CreateSpace: CreateSpace authors can now purchase their own ISBNs directly on the CreateSpace website without leaving the title setup process. ISBNs cost either $10 (for use on CS only) or $99 (for use anythere). Either way, you can use the name of your own publishing company, and your book's ISBN information will be registered with You can also get a free ISBN that identifies CS as the publisher.

Project Homepage: This new page tracks member progress, so members can easily see what they've done, what's next, manage any services that they have purchased, and be alerted to any issues throughout the process.

Image Gallery for Cover Creator: Members using Cover Creator to design their book's cover can now access an extensive free image gallery where they can choose from a wide variety of ready-to-use professional photographs.

Professional Services: Authors can buy and manage book editing, design and marketing services as they set up their title, allowing them to get help where and when they need it. Expert Setup Option: This streamlined single-page experience, now available in beta, is a great time-saver for members who are already familiar with the CreateSpace publishing process.

Custom Trim Sizes: Members are now able to choose a customized trim size for their book, offering more flexibility in the production process.

Cover Creator for Discs: This free cover artwork creation tool has been expanded to allow filmmakers and musicians to build professional cover and disc face artwork for their DVDs and CDs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A review of a book I have not read

As a self-publishing author -- and the author of books about self-publishing -- I try to read every new book in the field. I ordered The Indie Author Guide: Self-Publishing Strategies Anyone Can Use back in September when it was announced, and was looking forward to reading it.

It arrived yesterday, but I can't read it.

This book may contain a lot of useful information and advice, but I really don't know.

The fly-turd-size type is so tiny that I can't read the book.

Author April Hamilton knows a lot about publishing. The book's publisher is Writer's Digest -- which makes its money by trying to help writers.

It's a shame that neither April nor anyone at the publisher realized that it's important for books to be readable.

There are three people in my office, of varying ages and with different eyesight, and we all agree that the book is unreadable.

The youngest one here (age 28), with excellent vision with no eyeglasses, said "Why is the author trying to make us go blind?"

The second-oldest took a quick glance and said, "Impossible."

Dave, the youngster, also said the title "sucks," and will turn off anyone under 35. He said that it's OK for filmmakers to use the "indie" label, but musicians and authors who use the term can expect to be laughed at. I haven't been under 35 for nearly 30 years, so I'm not sure if Dave's right; but he usually has an accurate assessment of popular culture.

To broaden my test sample beyond the three males in my office, I asked a female college senior. She said the pages looked like the tiny type on the back of a credit card and the publishing company was "incredibly stupid."

And a woman in her late 60s - - who normally reads without glasses -- said, "This is terrible. Why do they make books like this?"

If April will send me a magnifying glass, or if the publisher will send someone to read the book to me, or if a future eBook version allows me to enlarge the type, I may post a review based on the book's contents, not on its appearance.

People who try to advise authors how to publish should not make fundamental errors in book design. (No, I'm not perfect, but my books can be read without magnification.)

Also: If page count is an issue, April could have eliminated some or all of the 26 pages of worksheets and the HTML guide. Then the book could handle a decent size typeface without increasing the number of pages.

Also Also: the book shows the author's website as I tried to type that into my browser window three times, and each time reached the website of a British interior designer with the same name as the author. I eventually realized that April-the-author uses her middle initial "L" in her web address ("URL"), but April-the-designer does not. It's really silly to have a URL that can be so easily misread and mistyped. It's possible that April-the-author has a section in her book about selecting a proper URL, but I don't know -- because I can't read her book!

Also Also Also: One of the books I published received a lowly four-star review on Amazon. The reviewer complained, "I haven't seen fonts this big since elementary school!" The text in the book  uses 12-point type -- the same size that the U. S. Supreme Court requires in briefs filed with the Court, to ensure legibility.

Actually, the Supremes specify text in the Century family. My criticized book uses Constantia, which in the 12-pt size is a tiny bit shorter than Century Schoolbook. My type -- which was too large for my critic -- is a couple of hairs too small for Sonya Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia and the others to read comfortably.

- - - -

Fly illustration by "Herrick." Turds added by blogmaster.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I could not help

(A message  "roniqueeque" tried to post on a forum I moderate)

Train me how to learn a good forum

Fellow, I am searching the internet and happen some considerate communications position as forums, blogs. Could you surrender me some suggestion?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Get a deal on the new version
of Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements is the slightly dumbed-down version of Adobe Photoshop CS5 -- which can cost as much as $999.

I started with version 2, and buy every second or third version.

The new version of Elements is version 9, and Adobe sells it for $99.99, less a $20 rebate. sells it for $79.99.

BestBuy sells different packages for $149.99 and $99.99.

Costco sells it for $79.99 less a $30 rebate from their website, until 11/28.

I paid $79.99 in a Costco "club" -- but the deal included up to 100 free 4 X 6-inch digital prints. Prints are ordered by PC, and picked up in a store. The normal cost is 13 cents per print, so if you want to have prints made you save $13. That's not as good as the online price, but better than the prices at BestBuy, Amazon or Adobe.

Apparently, Staples will be selling version 9 for $49.99 on Black Friday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Religion and self-publishing, Part Two

Yesterday I expressed surprise at the apparent over-representation of Google links to "Christian self publishing" compared to self publishing involving other religions.

I pointed out that there are about 150 Christians to every Jew on the planet, but the ratio of links for "Christian publishing" to "Jewish publishing" is only about 3.7 to one. Strangely, the ratio of "Christian self-publishing" to "Jewish self-publishing" is 4370 to one!
I provided statistics for the "top ten" religions and asked some questions, including "Why do Christians have a much stronger need or desire to self-publish than followers of other religions? "

This is a tumultuous time in publishing. One recent flare-up involved the venerable Christian publisher Thomas Nelson forming an alliance with Author Solutions to establish a "Christian self-publishing company" called WestBow Press. Some of the screaming (also directed at chick-lit publisher Harlequin) came from three important writers' guilds that disapproved of legitimate publishers getting into the pay-to-publish business. My personal wrath was triggered by the new Christian spinoff falsely claiming to provide  free books. I called Nelson's partnership with Author Solutions "a deal with the devil."

I could understand if Christian publishing and Christian publishers dealt with Christian subjects, but "Christian" books seem to cover a huge range of secular subjects.

I have a press release announcing Self-Publishing & Marketing From The Trenches by Peter H. Zindler. I was particularly interested because I am a self-publisher and I publish books about self-publishing. Peter's book is a potential competitor, so it's important that I know about it. I also thought I might learn something from it.

The press release starts out just like thousands of other new book announcements, but the third paragraph has this endorsement from a reader: "I liked how you quoted scripture in your presentation . . . ."

What the hell (sorry -- I couldn't resist) does that have to do with his ability to teach writers how to publish?

In the fourth graf we learn that Peter is "a follower of Jesus" and "a committed husband."

What does that have to do with his ability to teach writers how to publish?

The book description on and the press release tells potential purchasers that Peter "is also an associate minister for A Touch From Above Ministries in Ramona, California."

Again, what does that have to do with his ability to teach writers how to publish?

At the end of the release, we learn about the publisher: "Innovo Publishing is a family-owned, full-service, Christian-based, publishing services company. Innovo works hand-in-hand with Christian authors and organizations . . . ."

What does that information do to add credibility to Peter's book?

Peter and his wife have their own publishing company, David Bauer Press, but this book comes from Innovo and two of Peter's previous books were produced by  iUniverse.
  • Peter's book cover shows a battlefield and the title mentions "trenches."
  • His video is filled with war pictures and references.
  • And why is the Salvation Army an army instead of just an agency or organization?
Again, I am not a Christian, so I hope someone will please explain the apparent Christian obsession with warfare. I thought the Crusades ended back in 1291.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forgive me, Jesus, but I just don't understand why Christians have a much greater urge to self-publish than adherents to other religions

First, a few prefatory remarks:

(1) The chart above (left-click to enlarge) was done a while ago, but I have no reason to assume current figures differ greatly.

(2) The answers to some of the questions may be obvious to Christians, but I am Jewish, not Christian, and I don't know the answers.

(3) The table above is both revealing and mystifying. The data comes from Google, which is not 100% perfect, but does offer a pretty good snapshot of the world. The table leads to some questions:
  1. Why do Christians have a much stronger need or desire to self-publish than followers of other religions?
  2. There are about 150 Christians to every Jew on the planet. However, the ratio of links for "Christian publishing" to "Jewish publishing" is only about 3.7 to one.
  3. The ratio of "Christian self-publishing" to "Jewish self-publishing" is 4370 to one!
  4. Why do the members of my tribe -- who obviously do a huge amount of writing and publishing -- have such a tiny need for religious self-publishing compared to Christians?
  5. Do Christian writers feel they are blocked by traditional secular publishing companies, or merely feel more comfortable dealing with Christian publishers?
  6. Why do followers of Islam ("people of the book" like Christians and Jews) who make up over one-fifth of the world's population, and are strongly involved in publishing, have such a tiny need for self-publishing that reflects Islam?
  7. Why do Hindus and Buddhists -- who comprise one-fifth of the planet's population and have substantial involvement in publishing, have no apparent need for self-publishing that reflects their faiths?
  8. Why do the millions of Sikhs, Baha'is, Confucians, Jains and Shintos have no need for self-publishing services that cater to followers of their faiths. (Yes, I know that the English version of Google may not reflect links to websites in other languages, but since it does show links to "X-publishing" but not "X-self-publishing," I think it's valid to consider the Google numbers.
Yesterday I received a press release announcing the formation of the Christian Self Publishing Association. The organization intends to "Serve Authors and Raise the Quality of Self-Published Books." There are plenty of other organizations and websites that have the same admirable objectives.

I don't understand why Jains and Jews don't require such a service, but an examination of the website shows something very disturbing.

The "Association" is not really an association. Apparently there are no members and there is no way to become a member.

The website exists to sell the services (e.g., Contract Review regular price $75, special price $49) of  President/Founder Jim Kochenburger, who is apparently the sole member of the Association.

What would Jesus think?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A book based on bullshit.

Mark Twain (and others) said, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Many years ago I read a fantastic book called How to Lie with Statistics. It was written by Darrell Huff, and first published in 1954. It was startling when it was first published,  intriguing when I read it around 1962, and is still an eye-opener in 2010.

Huff wrote, "The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify."

A review in The Atlantic said it's "A pleasantly subversive little book, guaranteed to undermine your faith in the almighty statistic."

Last weekend I was reminded of the book I read nearly 50 years ago, while I was reading a newer book, Top Self Publishing Firms, by Stacie Vander Pool (2008).

The book description says, "Stacie Vander Pol has done exhaustive research to uncover the self-publishing firms that sell more books, pay the highest royalties, and provide the best overall value for writers."

The back cover proclaims that this book "is the only book on the market that dares to evaluate self publishing companies based on the sales results of their books."

Well, I dare to evaluate Stacie's book, and I hereby proclaim that Stacie's fundamental premise is bullshit. The choice of a self-publishing company has little (or maybe nothing) to do with the sales of a book.

  • All (or nearly all) self-publishing companies provide the same distribution. Their books are offered for sale on the publishers' own websites (where few are sold) and on the sites of, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.
  • All (or nearly all) self-publishing companies can provide books to terrestrial booksellers that special-order them for customers.
  • Almost no books from self-publishing companies are stocked on the shelves of  terrestrial bookstores.
  • Self-publishing companies do little or no work to promote the books they publish. Most promotion is done by authors, not by Lulu, CreateSpace (Stacie's publisher), AuthorHouse or Outskirts Press. Stacie tells us, "The marketing services offered by self-publishers are not always a good value for the money. Promotional efforts often include a poorly written and poorly executed press release, a website and a pile of bookmarks and posters (which won't sell your book)." If Stacie recognizes that the publishers have ineffective marketing, why does she think the choice of a publisher is important?
  • The brand name that appears on a self-published book does not help to sell it. The fact that a book is published by Xlibris or Infinity does not mean that the book meets high standards. Lulu founder Bob Young told Publishers Weekly.We publish a huge number of really bad books.
  • Zoe Winters is a romance wri­ter 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.”
  • There is no reliable source of the sales statistics that form the basis of Stacie's theory. She says, "It is impossible to know the precise sales results for a book" and "Accurate figures are a closely guarded secret in the industry, making it difficult to draw conclusions about sales success." With no "accurate figures," Stacie chooses to rely on third-party analysis and speculation based on Amazon's sales ranking. That ranking changes every hour, and reflects a book's sales compared to millions of other books at that time -- but is not directly translatable into cumulative sales.
  • Stacie loves dishonest and incompetent Outskirts Press -- but chose CreateSpace to publish this book.
  • Stacie's ranking of publishers (even if it truly represents relative sales) merely reflects relative sales -- and the sales DO NOT necessarily reflect the talents, policies or connections of the publishers. Pizza Hut sells more pizzas than any other company, but its sales volume does not reflect the quality of its pizza -- merely the company's ubiquity and prices.
  • There is little or no reason to assume that a book published by one of Stacies's top-rated companies will outsell a similar book published by a low-ranked company. Book quality and promotion mean MUCH more than the brand name on the cover.
While Stacies's theoretical sales-based rankings are largely meaningless, the book does provide legitimate comparisons of the self-pub companies' services and fees, and offers some useful advice to writers. The "bonus chapter" on income tax deduction is just a way to pad the book. Stacie uses more than 20 pages to list bestselling books. The listing is marginally interesting and not particularly useful. I see no benefit in knowing that the number-two bestselling nonfiction book will tell me how to become a Super Hot Woman, or that the worst sellers deal with guitar playing, ancient maps and marketing music with MySpace.

The listing of fiction titles is even more useless. People don't select novels based on a subject, as with nonfiction. Some readers favor particular genres, such has vampire sex, but titles often reveal little and Stacie does not indicate the genres for "hits" like Surrender, or the last-place Private Entrance. Stacie did a lot of analysis, and it is logical to expect that she could say something like "Chick-lit outsells sci-fi" or "Civil War novels are more popular than Viet Nam War novels." If she said it, I could not find it.

There is a lot more wrong with Stacies's book:
  • Stacie shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the book business. She wrote that Aventine Press provides "A 55% discount . . . [which] will allow Amazon to offer it at a reduced price to customers (which will help your Amazon sales)." That's a bunch of crap. Amazon is perfectly happy to work on a 20% discount from publishers, and frequently sells these "short discount" books below their cover prices.
  • The interior is ugh-lee. Like an unfortunately increasing number of self-pubbed books, Stacie formatted her text with full justification but no hyphens. This leads to oversized word spacing which proclaims, "I AM AN IGNORANT AMATEUR."
  • Stacie provides a brief "snapshot" of each included publisher, but the snapshot may not help to make a decision. The entry for PageFree Publishing says that sales results are only "Okay," but other characteristics are "above average," "excellent" and "very good." The BookPros snapshot shows "excellent" sales and royalties and "very good" distribution. On the next page, Stacie tells us that "you'd be crazy to choose this firm." The snapshot for Morgan James shows "excellent" sales results and distribution, but royalties and overall value are "poor." What good are excellent sales and distribution if they provide low income for the writer?
  • It's dangerous to edit your own books. This book does not name an editor, and no editor is indicated on its Amazon page. Apparently Stacie decided to skip professional editing as well as professional formatting, and there are silly errors that a second pair of eyes should have caught. She wrote, ". . . commit to numerous re-writes and edits before submitting your book for publication." An editor would have changed "re-writes" to "rewrites."  An editor would have changed the "P" in "Perfect binding" to lowercase.
  • Stacie tells us that "Professional editing is one of the most important things . . . ." Sadly, she apparently did not follow her own advice. Other books written by Stacie show no editors on their Amazon pages. Stacie expended a lot of effort and time in producing this book. Her chapter 9 ranks the bestselling nonfiction genres (how-to is at the top, and porn is at the bottom). This information could have been the heart of a book which would be much more useful than her dubious ranking of publishers' sales.
Regardless of the validity of her data, the lack of professional editing and interior formatting is simply inexcusable. Rivers and orphans are abundant. Page 138 has a mere two lines of text on it. A professional book designer would not permit this atrocity. Books that try to advise authors should demonstrate more knowledge and skill in bookmaking than Stacie has. The back of the book has three blank pages. I'm an amateur book designer, but my books have no blanks at the back.

A mini-quibble: Stacie chose the wrong title for the book. The correct term is "self publishing company" -- not "firm." A firm is an unincorporated business, or a professional business such as a law firm, even if it is incorporated. Google search results for "self publishing company" outnumber "self publishing firm" by more than 50-to-one. "Companies" would have fit on the cover in the same size type as "Publishing."

Monday, November 15, 2010

A book that's worth 20 times times its cost

Christy Pinheiro is a writer, publisher, blogger and an online buddy of mine. She is intelligent, knowledgable, hardworking, helpful, good-looking and funny.

She's also a pioneer in online literature. She used the F-word on her blog before I used it here.

Christy's most important characteristic, however, is that she thinks my funny book is funny. That's very important. After nearly 39 years of marriage, I seldom get a laugh from my wife.

Christy has built an impressive business publishing books about tax preparation and other subjects -- including self-publishing. Technically we're competitors, but we help each other. That's the way publishing is.

With the release of her newest book, Christy has become a public servant -- at least for the book-writing public.

This "labor of love" is a 99-cent PDF eBook, a much-needed directory of reviewers who will consider books from self-publishers and small presses, and don't charge for their services.

The book lists reviewers' likes, dislikes, contact information, website information, submission guidelines, pet peeves, etc.

Christy has taken on a huge task that I once considered and rejected -- but Christy succeeded extremely well. The Official Indie Book Reviewer List is an important addition to the writer's arsenal.
Thanks a lot, Christy.

Click to download

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A blog posting I stopped reading
after two words

Implementing Your Marketing Plan!

Hey Peops!
I am not a "peop" and many years ago my mother taught me that "hay is for horses -- not for people."

If you are a "peop" (or a "peep") and unbothered by "Hey," and you care to continue, go to

Friday, November 12, 2010

Funny glitch at

Apparently a dysfunctional Amazonian robot thinks that the title of this book is "Print On Demand."

Apparently a similarly demented automaton at Barnes & Noble used to think that my publishing company was the author of two books that I wrote.

Is this like HAL 9000, WOPR and SETH? Are the 'puters really rebelling against the people?

Probably not.

In reality, the trouble was probably caused by a human being who mistyped. A fundamental principle of computing is "GIGO:" Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's called Greek, but it's really Latin

While you are experimenting with different possible layouts for pages or book covers, it’s good to have real words to experiment with, even if you have not yet written the text that will ultimately be used.

To make a real-looking "dummy" cover or interior page, copy and paste-in what’s known as Greek text or Greeking (although it’s really Latin). Do a web search for “lorem ipsum” or go to and copy and paste.

Here’s what it looks like: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla dapibus elementum dui sit amet hendrerit. Fusce varius odio at nisi rhoncus ut tempor justo imperdiet. Mauris neque turpis, fringilla quis consequat scelerisque, egestas eu felis. Pellentesque ut turpis non metus pellentesque tempus a at erat. Praesent id libero ac ligula ultrices facilisis eu id est. Integer vel quam enim. Phasellus luctus porttitor augue, eget aliquet velit consequat quis. Nam massa lectus, accumsan sed iaculis id, sollicitudin sit amet odio. Duis id sem eu orci rhoncus semper. Mauris tortor enim, faucibus vitae commodo ac, lacinia quis libero.

In addition to its temporary stand-in function, Lorem Ipsum makes it easier to judge a graphic design because, unless they understand Latin, viewers won’t be distracted by reading the content. (I had two years of Latin in high school and am a language "buff," so I get distracted.)

Here's an important Little Latin Lesson:

Two short abbreviations for Latin phrases are often confused by people writing English. I.e. stands for id est and means approximately “that is.” E.g. stands for exempli gratia, and means approximately “for example.”

Don’t italicize them, but do put a comma after the final period. Here’s a mnemonic device (memory aid):
  • I.e., which starts with I means “In other words,”
  • E.g., which starts with e, means “for Example.”
  • Or, you could think that i.e. means “in effect” and that e.g. means “example given.”
Of course, those of us who studied Latin, don’t need mnemonic devices. Optima dies prima fugit. Cave canem. Caveat emptor. Nos morituri te salutamus. Sic transit gloria mundi. SPQR. INRI. Alter ego. E pluribus unum. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Persona non grata. Ave Caesar. Corpus delecti. Corpus Christi. Bona fide. Carpe diem. Status quo. Bogus. Bonus. Status. Flatus. Doofus (just kidding). Curiculum Vitae. Alumnus. Cannabis. Vagina. Roma. Dictum. Modus operandi. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et Cetera.

Photo shows statue of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, who said, “Et tu, Brute?” (“And you too, Brutus?”) when his buddy Brutus stabbed him. Those words were supposedly Caesar’s last words, on the Ides of March (March 15th) in 44 BCE. March 15th was the original income tax day in the United States.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

If you eschew quibbleism and think a large vocabulary is locupletative, save some words

The ostentatiously erudite William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008) was known for using English words that few others recognized or understood. Until recently, the writers and editors at Time magazine seemed to take sadistic pleasure in printing words that would require readers to grab their Merriam-Webster or Funk & Wagnalls.

There have been jokes about people who misunderstood words, like the hillbilly father who made his daughter drop out of drama school when he heard that she was required to "matriculate with thespians."

I love words (and obviously use them.)

I've accumulated dozens of books about etymology. Unlike Bill Buckley and Time, I don't choose my words in order to stump my readers, but I do enjoy employing puns, rhymes and alliterations where appropriate. I have no idea how many readers appreciate or even notice my phrases such as ". . . the goal that wins praises, raises and Pulitzer prizes" -- but they make writing more fun.

It's also fun to learn new words and old words. "Zaxes" is great for playing Scrabble, and I recently posted a blog entry about obscure publishing terminology like "kern, "flong" and "dingbat."

Folks who love words should visit It's a site operated by Oxford University Press, publisher of the famed Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It calls attention to words like "rogalian" that have accumulated dust from lack of use and may be banished from the dictionary to make room for newer terms like "sexting."

The site points out that 90% of our communication is achieved with about 7,000 words -- ignoring  perhaps a million others.

Oxford urges you to help preserve the moldy-oldies by "adopting" one or some, and using them in your personal speech and writing. You can even order a T-shirt with some venerable vocabulary on it.

The home page is cute (perhaps too cute) and has words that call out "pick me,"  "hello" or "what about me?"

I just typed "panchymagogue," "squiriferous" and "ten-cent store." I hope it helps.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You only get to lose your virginity once.
Be prepared!

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

Tom Lehrer is one of my literary gods, and has provided me with inspiration and entertainment for more than half a century. He claims he “went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.” Tom graduated from Harvard Magna Cum Laude at age 18 and made Phi Beta Kappa. He taught at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley and the University of California, but is best known for hilarious songwriting, much of it political satire in the 1950s and 60s. His musical career was powerful but brief. He said he performed a mere 109 shows and wrote only 37 songs over 20 years. Britain’s Princess Margaret was a fan and so am I. I can still sing Tom Lehrer lyrics I first heard in sev­enth grade, in 1958.

One of my favorite Lehrer songs is "Be Prepared." Here are the lyrics (presented with admiration, but without permission):

Be prepared! That's the Boy Scout's marching song,

Be prepared! As through life you march along.
Be prepared to hold your liquor pretty well,
Don't write naughty words on walls if you can't spell.

Be prepared! To hide that pack of cigarettes,
Don't make book if you cannot cover bets.
Keep those reefers hidden where you're sure
That they will not be found
And be careful not to smoke them
When the scoutmaster's around
For he only will insist that it be shared.

Be prepared!

Be prepared! That's the Boy Scouts' solemn creed,
Be prepared! And be clean in word and deed.
Don't solicit for your sister, that's not nice,
Unless you get a good percentage of her price.

Be prepared! And be careful not to do
Your good deeds when there's no one watching you.
If you're looking for adventure of a
new and different kind,
And you come across a Girl Scout who is
similarly inclined,
Don't be nervous, don't be flustered, don't be scared.
Be prepared

Eighty-year-old New Jerseyan Alfred Pristash wrote a memoir which was published for him by AuthorHouse. Pristash spent 18 months writing the manuscript in longhand, and then dictated it to a son who typed it. The book received extensive and complimentary coverage in and in a major New Jersey newspaper. The article mentioned that the book sells for $73.99 and is available at

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

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


Andrea Constantine and Lisa Schultz claim to be Self-Publishing Experts. I won't argue with their self-description (but I will snarkily point out that they apparently have self-published exactly TWO books, and I've self-pubbed  a dozen).
The two ladies operate an author assistance service and have a book coming out tomorrow, and sent out a press release to promote it.
The release has a line of text that says, "Visit Our Site" -- but it's not a link.
It also has text that says, "Ask the Experts" but it's not a link.
Their website has a link labeled "Offer," -- but no offer is offered.
The site has a link labeled "reviews." I expected it to display some reviews of the new book, but it merely promotes the guy who did the Kindle conversion.

That site also displays this:

The link goes to PayPal. I offer this tip: It's fine to charge for advice and to offer free advice, but begging for tips is tacky, and demeaning for a professional.

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

Folks, pay attention to the Boy Scouts and Tom Lehrer. BE PREPARED!

I did order the book, because I buy just about every book about self-publishing.

I was surprised and disappointed to find that it sells for $19.95 and has just 144 pages. I don't mind paying a lot of money for important information or advice, but the book just doesn't seem competitive.

I'll insert some snarkism here by pointing out that my own upcoming Independent Self-Publishing: the complete guide has 516 pages for the same $19.95 cover price.

The pages in the ladies' book are a little larger, however, and they offer "over $200 in author bonuses" to people who order books tomorrow.

Strangely, although the book was published by Amazon's CreateSpace, there is no "look inside the book" on the Amazon site -- which is normal with CreateSpace books.

"Publishing experts" should have taken advantage of this free service, which usually helps to sell more books, and maybe they should have priced their book more competitively. For comparison, POD for Profit by well-known self-pub expert Aaron Shepard, has 282 pages, is selling for just $14.40, and is on two Amazon bestseller lists.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How is an eBook reader like
thong underwear or a bagel?

When Walmart starts selling a product, it’s a good indication that the product is considered acceptable to mainstream America -- as when JCPenney started selling thong underwear and when McDonald’s entered the bagel business.

In my city, Walmart now sells iPads, right next to a Staples with a big outdoor sign promoting the Amazon Kindle, and a few hundred feet from a Barnes & Noble selling Nooks.

About a half-mile away in another shopping center, Macy's, Sears, Target and Radio Shack are selling Sony, Aluratek, Pandigital and other brands. Within a few miles, I can buy e-readers at BestBuy, Kmart, Kohl's and Bon-Ton. Some new sellers of eBook readers normally don't sell either electronics or books.

This holiday season, e-readers should be hotter than 3D TV.

Writers and publishers who don't make their books available in eBook form may lose business to competitors, and to readers who prefer eBooks to pBooks.

To reach the biggest potential audience, you should offer your books in Kindle, ePub and PDF formats.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Karen D. Carlson should not be allowed within 100 feet of a keyboard

Self Publishing Comes Of Age: Print On Demand
By: Karen D. Carlson

With our current technological innovation, it could be simpler to anybody to initiate self publishing of their very own e-book or the so called digital book. Anything more, because of the technological innovation, you can create and even part of the promoting staff of the very own e book for any feel it or otherwise low cost.

And for the data, the Internet is something about data and automation. So that as a specialist within the Internet, if you are searching for a particular subject, whenever you just click, you want it now. Then, e-books for that reason regarded as one of the perfect items on-line. They'll provide to customers to instantly download the manuscripts.

Composing to some possible reader will be the main key to some profitable e-book. It signifies, that you simply have to supply for your visitors with all of the data they want. How do we identify the possible readers of our Ebook? Simply, visit an online site and search for your key phrases about your specific topic and it'll give facts.

When you already drawn up your chapter titles, you can also start drafting every chapter. As an input, prior to you write, you need to put in your head which you are writing in front of the computer screen, so reading will be more challenging than studying within your paper. It is going to cause you eyestrain may slower you to examine. Thus, to finish your e book, type it the precise position, don't simply type and edit, you ought to be sure that the words you might be entering are already right.

Use a simple to study font when composing your e book as well as black wording. You can only use more shades in illustrations and borders or partitioning but not in written text. The crucial thing is you can do every thing to create our readers as comfy as you can. If it is difficult to read, they will be frustrated-and which is extremely unprofessional e book writer.

Self publishing within the Modern World will enhance you more earnings than a standard publishing as a result of its faster accessibility. But even though, a basic audience even now think about studying a actual book than reading an e-book within the display that will impact their eye-sight due to the radiation.

Living in the world of the internet is some thing that writers have been dreaming of for a long time. Gone are the days whenever you would need to wait years to hear from a publisher, as an alternative with web2print, print on demand, as well as other technology for writers and publishers, now it's simpler than ever before to enjoy your job go live in only several hours with the press of the mouse.

Friday, November 5, 2010

For a change,
I'll bitch about something other than books

In the mid-1960s, I bought an old GE refrigerator for my college apartment. I paid $35 for it, and sold it three years later for $50.

It had to be defrosted manually, did not dispense water or ice through the door, never needed a repair, and always did its job.

In 2001, my wife and I spent about two kilobucks on a beautiful top-of-the-line GE "Profile Arctica" fridge. It only needs to be manually defrosted sometimes, it sometimes dispenses water and ice through the door, often dispenses water onto the floor -- causing people to slip, sometimes dispenses water onto the wood cabinetry -- causing it to rot; and needs three or four service visits each year.

Wednesday I bought a water filter for it. With tax, it cost me $42.27. That's a lot more than I spent to have my failproof GE college fridge for three years.

Progress? HAH!

(old fridge photo from "markrto" on

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Using a book cover template
instead of a human artist

Most of my book covers are conceived in my mind, and then created on the computer screen of a talented artist. We communicate by phone and email. Most covers go through six to ten revisions over several weeks or several months.

Carina Ruotolo is the artist who turns my visions into reality. Carina and I both attended the Paier College of Art. I went there before it could call itself a college -- when I was in the third grade, for a Saturday program in 1954/55. Carina earned a BFA degree at Paier in 2006, and learned to do much more than I can do. She’s also a much better artist than I am.

Unfortunately (for me) Carina is now busy working as a full-time art teacher. She has a lot on her plate, including designs for about six future books for me.  

I am by nature impatient. One of my Marcus Maxims is that "nothing is worth waiting for." So, I decided to get a headstart on the cover of one book project because I thought that beauty was not as important as speed.

Most of my books are printed by Lightning Source, but since I am incapable of producing a cover with the blank template that Lightning supplies, I decided to initially have the book manufactured by CreateSpace, and use one of their more-complete cover templates, and later turn the project over to Carina and Lightning Source.

CreateSpace can accept a from-scratch cover design as Lightning can, but I am far from good enough to make one. However, like most self-publishing companies, CreateSpace has many free cover template designs (six are shown below). Each one allows limited customization. I get to supply illustrations, choose colors and fonts, and plug-in the title, subtitle, my name, my company logo, and the text for the back cover.

One limitation that really bothered me is that I can't simply stick elements anywhere I want to. The subtitle and my photo have to go precisely where the template designer decided they should go. My font choices are finite. I can't decide to have a shorter version of the title on the spine so it appears in bigger type. I can't have a logo on the spine. On the back cover, I can't choose justification, or even insert italics or boldface or drop caps.

However, I can experiment and manipulate at three in the morning, and there is no charge for making one or a hundred revisions.

Below are two test covers using CreateSpace templates and one of their free photos, of some kind of machinery. The top cover has the photo wrapping around onto the spine and rear cover. The lower cover is more conventional, except for the vertical title text on the front cover. Neither of these covers will win awards, but they're better than many amateur scratch-built designs.

Below on the left is a test cover made with a CreateSpace template and one of their free photos. On the right is an actual book I published through CreateSpace with the same template, and photos from I changed the color and typefaces.

I've developed a family of books aimed at self-publishers. Each recent book has my company logo and the tagline, "Create Better Books with the Silver Sands Publishing Series" across the top of the front cover.

The CreateSpace templates have no provision for inserting the tagline at the top, but I did come up with a satisfactory work-around.

I was able to insert the series tagline, and an additional subtitle, into the white space around the main illustration. I think it's a satisfactory solution. I'm sure that Carina will eventually produce a much better design, but this way the book will go one sale sooner.
(left click to enlarge image.)

Eyeglasses are a convenient visual cliché to indicate high intelligence.
 Albert Ein­stein, Sigmund Freud and Groucho Marx wore glasses.
So do I.

There are books about self-publishing for “dummies” and “complete idiots.” Dummies and idiots can’t publish books, and probably shouldn’t write them. My book is for smart writers—but not necessarily geniuses—who want to learn about self-publishing. It's also for people who like funny pictures of dogs wearing oversize eyeglasses. It should be out around 12/1/10. CLICK for some info.

Why is there a dog on my cover?

Books about publishing usually have pictures of writers, readers or books on their covers. I've done those already. I like dogs, especially Golden Retrievers like the one on my "Brainy Beginner's" cover.

Barbara Barth is the extremely talented author of Confessions of the Unfaithful Widow. Barbara has SIX dogs, and has been urging me to put a dog on the cover of one of my books. OK, Barbara, you win.