First, the customary disclaimer: In late 2009, when I published my first book about self-publishing, I initially decided that I would no longer review other books about self-publishing. A good review for a competing book could help the competition and hurt my book. A bad review might be regarded as unseemly or “bad sportsmanship” — trying to hurt the competition.
I remembered an incident during the election for class officers in third grade. The teacher told us not to vote for ourselves. The ballots were secret so the rule could not be enforced, but I challenged the teacher. I said, “If we don’t think we are the best for the job, we shouldn’t be running for office.” Mrs. Solomon recognized my logic, and changed her policy.
I changed my policy about reviewing competitive books, too. I felt that I would be doing a disservice by not telling people about good books, or by not warning them about bad books. I also feel that if I pay for a book, I have the right to criticize it.
It has been said that "there is no such thing as bad publicity." Well, we'll see...
So, here's a review of another bad book about self-publishing. I'll deal with its appearance before its contents, because I want to call attention to the disaster that can happen when a talented designer is hired -- and ignored or overruled.
The interior of this book is ghastly. It violates almost every rule about book design that I know of, and probably some that I have not learned yet.
- The book pages were formatted with full justification and no hyphens. This leads to excessive word spacing, plus orphans and rivers.
- There are headers and folios (page numbers) on otherwise blank pages.
- First lines are indented below white spaces.
- The indents are oversize -- more suited to a letter or term paper than to a book.
- In spreads, some pages are much shorter than the opposite pages.
- There are oversize spaces between sections.
- At least one word is set in boldface -- but should not be.
- Author Mathew Chan warns that using sans serif text type "leaves an unprofessional impression," but his other sins are even more unprofessional.
- A photo of a stack of books has what looks like a cluster of mouse turds below the books.
- I could not determine if the book had an editor. If there was one, she or he stopped too soon. There are missing words, misspellings, repetition (even on successive pages!), double hyphens that should be em dashes, bad grammar such as lack of parallelism, misplaced "only" and "less" instead of "fewer," and other textual errors.
It looks like the author of an ugly book is endorsing the person responsible for the ugliness -- but apparently that's not the case. I easily tracked down Darlene Swanson, who with husband Dan, operates Van-garde Digital Imagery. The Van-garde website contains comments from happy customers and some very attractive book design samples -- without the problems I saw in Matthew's book.
I had to find out what was going one. I sent an email to Darlene. She told me, "When I received the project from Matthew, I designed it professionally. After that was done, Matthew informed me that he would be taking over to complete the book. It was his idea to do the full justification with no hyphens. I would never design a book that way. The folios on the blank pages were also Matthew's idea. I have been designing books for more that 18 years and I do not put folios on blank pages."
That made me feel better about Darlene (but sorry for any business she may lose by being associated with a dreadful book).
My impression about Matthew -- already negative because of what I read in the book -- sunk even further.
Near the end of the book, in a section about bad reviews, Mathew says, "Sometimes I find it interesting how some people attack and criticize. I sometimes want to say to them, 'If you could do a better job, why don't you?'"
Well, Matthew, many people, including me, have done a better job.
Here's some of what's wrong with what Matthew has written:
The title is confusing. A turnkey business includes everything you need to immediately start running the business, such as a building, inventory, fixtures, equipment, systems manual and maybe even a customer base and advertising. The new owner of the business merely has to turn a key in the front door, flip on the lights, and start making money. Matthew does not provide a turnkey publishing business, and his explanation that "In Turnkey Publishing, the business side comes first and the art form is secondary" is both sad, and obvious from reading this second-rate book.
"Authoring and publishing a book is a significant credibility builder. People do not have to read your book to willingly accept your credibility in a subject."
- But what happens if people read the book and realize that you don't know what the hell you're talking about?
- Hey Matthew, did you ever think that maybe it's bad business to publish bad books?
- I've published about 15 books and have never paid a penny to a transcriber.
- It's not easy to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, or lead into gold, or urine into champagne.
- Death before dishonor.
- WRONG. The requirement is having published books by three authors.
- It's OK to be casual, but it's never OK to be unprofessional.
- I won't argue with that.
- That may be appropriate for some books -- but certainly not all, and maybe not many.
- Well, maybe you shouldn't publish until you learn how to do it.
- Anyone with Microsoft Word can produce an index in a few hours. It's not fun, but it's not difficult or expensive. It's important in a nonfiction book, and the lack of an index may make a book non-competitive.
- In contemporary book publishing, the person who arranges the words may be called a formatter or an interior designer or even a typesetter (although there is no physical type used), but I've never heard that person called a "desktop publisher."
- If you don't strive for the best, you may end up with crap.
- You won't.
- In the very next paragraph, Matthew recommends that "your first run be 1,000 or 1,500 books." Matthew's own book, however, is printed on demand by Lightning Source, one at a time! "Do as I say; don't do as I do."
- 32-page increments are not necessary with all offset printers and page sizes -- and certainly not in print-on-demand.
- I've had books printed by both CreateSpace and Lightning Source for sale by Amazon, and am unaware of any preferential treatment for the CreateSpace books.
- Actually, it usually takes just three days.
- No they don't.
- Amazon Advantage’s purchase discount is 55%. You get just 45% of the List Price. When Amazon sells an Advantage book for $20, they pay you $9 -- and that $9 may have to cover $5-$6 for printing and $1-2 for shipping. Amazon Advantage is Amazon’s advantage. They’ll make much more than you do. It's much better to have Lightning Source or CreateSpace supply your books to Amazon and its customers.
- More study is needed, and the sentence should be rewritten. Who does "their" refer to?
- That's not true. A PDF file is fine. CreateSpace books are included in the program automatically, with no work by the publisher.
- Then you have no business writing a book about self-publishing!
- OMG, Matthew publicly admits to being corrupt. NOTE: he did not bribe me to write this review.
- That's ridiculous. An author should not have to be a warehouse manager and shipping clerk. Let the printer ship books to Amazon's customers, and spend your time writing and marketing.
- Rigid cardboard boxes provide more protection, and are available free from the Post Office for use with Priority Mail.
- Both the curve and the cost are minimal.
- And a lot to learn before writing about publishing.
- I have a big ego -- but not THAT big. Hey Matthew, one is enough.
- That's much too few to justify the high $21.95 cover price. There are many bigger and better books with lower prices. I wrote some of them.
- No secrets are revealed in the book, and traditional publishers don't care if you read the book. Actually, if you follow Matthew's advice, you will not be much competition for Simon & Schuster or Random House -- so maybe traditional publishers would like you to read the book and fail at publishing.
- Nothing hurts your image and credibility more quickly than an unprofessional book -- like this one.
- Matthew, please name some of the publishers, stores and agents that said that; and how does a store speak?
- Actually, Mathew is creating the myth that you don't have to be a good writer. If you're a bad writer, you may get a review like this one.
- It's neither unconventional nor revealing.
- That's probably not true, and even if it is true, maybe Matthew should not be one of them.