Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Tom Lehrer Corollary: Another new pay-to-publish company fails its audition

Tom Lehrer wrote song lyrics -- not books -- but has long been one of my literary gods.

Tom claims he “went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.” He 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.

Tom provided excellent advice in his Be Prepared: "Don't write naughty words on walls if you can't spell."

An important corollary for publishing company executives: Don't publish unedited websites or distribute unedited press releases. Errors make you look stupid, and may cost you business.

Yesterday I received a press release distributed for McKinney Publishing, a new pay-to-publish company that is apparently a part-time business operated from the home of attorney/author Lesley McKinney. It uses the address of a UPS store in Jacksonville, Florida.

(I see nothing wrong with having a home-based business. I had one for many years. However, I don't like using a phony address unless it's necessary to hide from assassins or pissed-off customers. It took me less than a minute to find Lesley"s real address. Fortunately, I am not an assassin.)

Lesley's website says,  "Out network is at your disposal."
  • "Out" should be "Our."
The site brags that, "We've got writers, artists, editors. . . ."
  • One of those editors should have changed "We've got" to "We have."

The website has a dropdown menu. If you select "DO IT YOURSELF," the page says "COMING SOON!!!"
  • Soon is not good enough. If you're investing time and maybe money to distribute a press release that you hope will generate website traffic, make sure your website is ready. While no website is ever really finished, it's better to eliminate a useless page that no one will miss, than to have a prominent link to a useless page that can embarrass you.  In business, you have just one grand opening. Don't blow it.
And it says, "We make every attempt to disclose all charges up front.  Some chose to allot a "fudge factor" into their accounts, a minor amount, which we cannot exceed without permission.  Others chose to . . . ."
  • "Choose" would be a better choice than than "chose." I'm not sure if Lesley meant to use the past tense, or thinks that "chose" (like "lose") is present tense.
Lesley brags, "REMEMBER:  We only employ the services of those who have passed our EXTENSIVE vetting process." 
  • I don't know who does the vetting for Lesley, but a knowledgeable copywriter or editor would have written "employ only."
The site also says, "Not only do we at McKinney Publishing suggest editors for you that are experienced in. . . ."
  • Assuming that the editors are human beings, "who" is better than "that." 
There's something not quite right with this awkward sentence from the site: "We also use state of the art technology to ensure that your product has a professional, polished appearance that you're proud bears your name."
  • Maybe it needs more of a human touch and less technology. Maybe the sentence should be two sentences: "We use state-of-the-art technology to ensure that your book has a professional, polished appearance. You'll be proud that the book bears your name."
The following grandiose sentence is one of the worst sentences I've ever read: "Whether you instruct us to implement our professional printers and binders or would rather we bring our powerful software to bear in bringing your story to life, the choices are yours."
  • I have no idea how to implement a professional printer, or even an amateur binder. And, while I've used lots of software, I don't remember ever bringing software to bear. YUCK! 
Errors like these do not inspire confidence in a publishing company -- especially one trying to sell editing services.

Lesley says that all of her freelancers "are intensely vetted to ensure they are very good at what they do."

If you wait a few minutes or a few days, there should be another new company which wants to publish your book. Maybe it will be better vetted.

According to a "Whois" lookup, the McKinney website went live a little over a month ago (on 1/18/11).

  • The site includes comments from five happy customers -- some of them located very far from Lesley in Jacksonville. It's hard to believe they found Lesley without a website. I know how long it takes to publish a book, so it's hard for me to believe that the books were published in such a brief time. I am reluctant to call a lawyer a liar, but I am skeptical about the endorsements. It's strange for a publisher's website not to show or list any books it has published, and not to have the full names of its happy authors. If Lesley can substantiate these endorsements, I'll gladly delete this section. If not, I call "BULLSHIT!"
The press release says,  "What makes McKinney Publishing especially unique . . . ."
  • Sorry, Lesley, "unique" is an ABSOLUTE. The word should not take a modifier. Every unique item is equally unique. McKinney Publishing may be especially unusual -- but not especially unique, and maybe not even slightly unique.
The release also says that Lesley learned "from her many and expensive mistakes in an attempt to self publish . . . ."
  • Unfortunately, Lesley did not learn that she should hire an editor.

Sadly -- and stupidly -- the press release carries ads with convenient clickable links for lots of Lesley's competitors. This is common with the freebie press release distribution companies, and a good reason to PAY to create publicity.

Finally -- and stupidly -- Lesley's Linkedin page has a link to what should be her lawyering website. Although she registered a domain name nearly a year ago, a website has not yet been published (perhaps Lesley is too busy publishing books). The default page provided by her hosting company shows clickable ads for other law firms!

Lesley's Linkedin page is directing potential clients to her competitors. That's not smart.

(House photo is from Google Maps, and may not be Lesley's house. It could be a neighbor's house.)



    I'm glad Lesley is not my publisher, or my attorney.

  2. I hope she sues you. It will be very funny to read about your victory.

  3. well you've done it again. ( yes again!) how do you find all of this? I really would NOT want to get you mad!