Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Accidental author, accidental publisher, now accidental bookseller.

SHORT VERSION: I have a new website with reviews of books for writers, and links to purchase books for writers.


A lot of authors claim they got started as kids.

Kylee Legge (the self-anointed "publishing queen") says she wrote her first book when she was just two years old. I didn't do that. When I was a kid, I was more into being an inventor, cartoonist, photographer, entrepreneur, SCUBA diver and superhero ("Copter Boy"). I read tons of books, and did well on school papers, and although I co-published a very-limited-circulation newspaper in seventh grade, I did little "voluntary" writing. I did not write for the literary mags in junior high or high school. I never planned to write professionally. I never even thought about it as a possible career.

Even though my College Board scores in math kept going down, and my "verbal" scores kept rising, my misguided guidance counselor decided that since I liked electronics, I should become an engineer.

I went to Lehigh University (where even the sports teams were called "the engineers"). Midway into my first semester, I realized I was in the wrong school, with the wrong major, heading for the wrong career.

I switched to Lehigh's tiny-but-excellent journalism department, where Professor Joe McFadden told me that I could write. I was active on the Lehigh student paper, and when I finished school I went to New York. I got jobs writing for several magazines (including Rolling Stone) and ad agencies. I acquired fans, awards, money, and a wife.

My first book was published by Doubleday in 1976. My second book was published by a tiny company 20 years later. I didn't pitch either publisher. I was asked to write both books. I was unhappy with both books, and my income.

In 2008, I formed Silver Sands Books, planning to publish exactly one book, mostly for friends and family. Since I didn't like the way my previous books turned out, I decided to self-publish to maintain complete control.

That book was initially an accident.

In 1989, on the day of my 25th-year high school reunion, The New Haven Register published an article I wrote about some of my terrible teachers.

In around 1995 -- for a reason I don't remember, except maybe I wanted to write things down while I could still remember -- I wrote a long short story about the glorious days of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll in the 1960s. It was too long to be sold as a short story, and too short to be a book. I published it online. Readers liked it. Some said it could be a good movie.

In around 2005, I thought that if I combined my 60s story with my teacher stories, and wrote some more, I might have enough to make a book. I ended up with 318 pages.

The book has not made me rich, but checks come in every month, and readers love it. It also helped me connect with some old friends.

Since that book, with no plan, I've published (or started) more than 20 more books. Other writers have asked me to publish their books. One of my books has been on two Amazon bestseller lists, so I can now claim to be a "bestselling author" and a publisher. My wife and mother are not impressed. My dog is.

I started writing this blog in the fall of 2008, and I've done over 1,000 posts so far.

A few dozen of the posts are book reviews, of good books, bad books, and ugly books.

My own books are sold by Amazon, B&N and other booksellers. Some people have asked to buy autographed copies of my books.

So, I became an accidental bookseller.

I've established Good, Bad and Ugly Books as a repository of links to the reviews on this blog, and as a venue for purchasing the books I've written. There are links to pages on Amazon where people can buy the books I recommend. I make a few pennies on each book I help Amazon sell. I hope I collect enough to pay for the website, but the site is operated much more for love than for money.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a long and brutal classic "spaghetti western" directed by Sergio Leone and released in 1967. It starred Clint Eastwood (the good), Lee Van Cleef (the bad) and Eli Wallach (guess what) in a search for buried gold. CLICK to hear the fantastic theme.
The movie's title is an appropriate way to classify books, and to name a website.
  • All ugly books are bad.
  • No good book is ugly.
  • Some bad books are not ugly.
  • There is no excuse for publishing an ugly book.
At one time, there were lots of bookstores, and the people who worked in the stores read lots of books. Their familiarity enabled them to engage in "hand-selling."

Because they knew books, and sometimes knew the shoppers, they could make personal recommendations, often while holding a book in their hands. That doesn't happen at Costco, Target or Walmart.

With this site, I hope to emulate those booksellers, and make personal recommendations -- and warnings -- based on books I've read. 

The site is intended to be a source of information, inspiration and advice for beginning and veteran writers who are publishing printed or e-books. It's for authors who operate their own publishing companies, use the services of self-publishing companies, or are published by traditional publishing companies. It's also for writers who are unsure of their path to publication. In the future, I may add other classifications of books.

Almost every book on the site has been read by me, Michael N. Marcus. One or two may have been merely looked at. The vast majority were paid-for. I think just two were freebies. 

Please take a look.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Nothin' much today

It's a holiday.

I'm going to read, not write.

(And clean my office, paint some bare spots on the house, help my wife clean a closet, catalog some old clothes for Goodwill, and spend some quality time in the pool with my dog.)


Sunday, May 29, 2011

I am a publishing addict, but I don't want to be cured.

My first book was published by Doubleday in 1976.

My second was published by a long-gone tiny company in 1996.

In 2008 I formed Silver Sands Books, planning to publish exactly one book, mostly for friends and family.

Within two years, I published over a dozen books, with concentrations in telecommunications and publishing.

I like writing and publishing. I like it a lot.

The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.

Today I was amazed (and maybe horrified) to realize that I've started EIGHT MORE BOOKS which have to be finished. And, about six more are still just ideas in my head.

Is this how Simon & Schuster got started?

I'm 65. Shouldn't I be retired or dead?


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Valuable artifacts -- or crap?

When I moved from an apartment to my first real house in 1977, I felt that for the first time in my life, I had enough storage space for all of my shit. Unfortunately, I failed to realize a basic fact of life: shit expands to fill the available space, and then it overflows.

The move to our second house in 2001 required FIVE MOVING VANS, plus about 70 trips in our own minivan, plus the disposal or recycling of about 50 CUBIC YARDS of crap, junk and trash.
  • Shit is stuff with value that is mostly sentimental.
  • Crap is stuff that can be eliminated with little debate or tears.
  • Junk can be eliminated with no debate or tears.
  • A collection is a bunch of junk which can be classified and displayed.
  • Trash should have been thrown out, not stored for later debate.
  • Garbage usually is disposed of promptly because it starts to stink.
  • A husband's shit may be considered junk by a wife.
  • And, vice-versa.
One good way to classify stuff is by applying the 90-day rule (or one-year or five-year rule, or whatever time interval you select). If something has not been used in the last year (or other time interval), there's a good chance that it will not be used in the next year, and can be eliminated.

Unfortunately, if you have enough space, the 90-day rule can be easily extended to become a 30-year rule.

Our second house is huge. Most people think it's much too big for two people and a dog. It's not. A house can never be too big. Not even Buckingham Palace.

Well, we've been in this house for a little over 10 years. The house now contains a lot of both shit and crap (plus lots of stuff and things). The formerly cavernous attic is almost impenetrable. The three car garage has become storage space. It has about 20 cartons that have not yet been unpacked from the 2001 move. (A shelf in our laundry room has a carton containing a silver serving thing which was packed for a move in 1975 but never unpacked.) A guest room has no room for guests.

It's time for spring cleaning.

We have 14 huge bags which were supposed to go to Goodwill by the end of 2010. I hope they get there this year. They're supposed to go today. I'd rather write, go in the pool, watch TV, and try a new restaurant. I also should visit my mother. What the heck. Goodwill is open tomorrow, and Tuesday, and Wednesday.

I'm faced with a major decision.

I have a growing stack of early versions of my books which were marked up for corrections. I don't want anyone to read them, so I can't sell them or give them away. I can't throw them away, because destroying books is one of the few (or maybe the only) sin that I recognize.

Sometimes, when overcome with egomania, I have a vision that some future literary critic will analyze the stash and proclaim to the world, that "AHA! -- in version 3.68, Marcus changed a comma to a semicolon in the last sentence on page 254."

I realize that there is little likelihood that this will happen. But just in case, I'll keep the books. Besides, retention is better than sinning.

The next time I move, I want to go horizontal, feet first, in a black zipper bag, with a tag on a toe. I'll let the next generation decide what is valuable shit and what is mere crap or junk.


Friday, May 27, 2011

If an old book can't be cured, maybe it should be allowed to die

The Complete Guide to Self Publishing has been promoted as "The Bible of Self-Publishing," and criticizing it is almost like criticizing the Bible. In fact, the book is almost as old as the Old Testament. I'm exaggerating. The first version, written by Tom and Marilyn Ross, was apparently published in 1978, when self-publishing was very different from today. 

I bought the out of date 4th edition in 2008, and the new 5th edition in 2010. It's also out of date, and was out of date when it was printed. It was adapted and updated from the earlier versions by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.

It's advertised as "Completely revised and updated," but it needs more updating.

Many thousands of copies of various editions of this book have been sold, and it has received many good reviews and blurbs. Like the Bible, there are problems with this book. People get into trouble if they rely on books with good reputations that provide bad information.

  • The discussion of discounts shows a range of 40 to 67 per cent, but there is no mention of the 20% discount prevalent in online sales.
  • The book shows a chart of quantity discounts, but this is meaningless unless the self-publisher maintains and ships inventory -- which is uncommon in the era of print-on-demand.
  • The section dealing with the cost of "subsidy and POD publishing" states that Lulu charges about $853 for 100 books. That price is too much to pay, and no author should order 100 books from Lulu.
  • The quoted price of $8.53 to $13.19 per book from CreateSpace is much too high, and the real CreateSpace prices do not mean that "you'll lose considerable money on each sale."
  • The discussion of POD print quality is out of date and unnecessarily negative.
The glossary needs work.
  • It includes "Click-through rate." "Click-through ratio" is much more common.
  • "Cataloging in Publication" needs more explanation.
  • "Cropping" refers to using a pencil or crayon -- but not digital cropping.
  • It says that LCCN stands for "Library of Congress Card Number." It's "Control" number.
  • It says that a modem is used with a microcomputer. Modems are nearly extinct. Microcomputers are completely extinct. The term was replaced by "PC" around 1980.
  • The definition of "net receipts" uses the quaint and legalistic plural "moneys." "Money" would work just fine.
  • The definition of "photostat" is wrong, and the term is irrelevant to self-publishing.
  • The definition of "platform" is a computer operating system, but there is a much more common use in publishing. An author's platform consists of all of the connections an author uses to reach readers, such as a blog or speaking engagements.
  • The definition of "POD self-publishing" is unnecessarily negative.
  • "Posting" mentions ancient newsgroup submissions, but not blogs.
  • "Proportion wheel" is a tool of ancient paste-up page formatting, not modern electronic formatting.
  • "Public Relations" is not in the glossary or the index.
  • "SASE" is probably a waste of space and does not need to be there.
  • OTOH, "Self-publishing" -- the subject of the book -- is not in the glossary.
  • "Slug" is an ancient printing term which could have been eliminated. However, it has a meaning in journalism, even in the 21st century, which could have been included.
  • "Stripping" is another ancient printing term which should be dropped.
  • Defining "telecommunications" is a waste of space.
The book definitely shows its age. It sometimes seems to regard the Internet as a novelty.
  • The recommendation that web pages must load in eight seconds or less was appropriate in the age of modems, but not now, with ubiquitous broadband.
  • Ancient fan-boy jargon like “surfer,” and spelling “Web site” instead of “website,” and uppercasing “Net” and “Web” make the book seem like a 90-year-old in a nursing home dressing like a teenager.
The book needs a front-to-back revision and elimination of ancient artifacts. It’s silly to show a letter (seeking permission to use copyrighted material) that refers to a book coming out in 1985, and apparently composed with an ancient typewriter. Another letter includes “news” of upcoming events in early 2001.

The front cover looks absolutely ancient -- but not funky-ancient, just dull-ancient. There is poor contrast between the type and background, and when the cover is shown as a thumbnail on Amazon.com, only the word “SELF” can be read.

I am extremely disappointed with the interior design. The book is just plain hard to read.

The text type is small. The ink color looks more like gray than black, so there is not nearly enough contrast against the cream-colored pages. White would have been better.

The italic captions are even smaller than the text, and words within illustrations are nearly illegible. The fly-turd-size italics in the index are almost useless.

Chapter names are in tiny italic type in the page footers, and my baby-boomer eyes had trouble reading them with my new glasses. (For the record, I have no trouble with newspapers, magazines or most books, and my PC monitor is set for “normal” size type.)

I recognize that there's a lot of material in this 556-page 6 x 9 book. If it had 7 x 10-inch pages, the type could have been larger and the thinner book would be easier to keep flat for reading and annotating.

  • Even with the present page size, the leading (space between lines) could have been reduced a bit to allow larger type.
  • The index needs a thorough pruning. By eliminating terms like “Homer Simpson,” “Pegine Echevarria,” “FAO Schwartz” and “J.C. Penney” -- which NO ONE would search for in a book about publishing -- some space could be rescued for enlarged text.
  • Also, I doubt that readers need separate listings for Tim Zagat, Nina Zagat and the Zagat survey -- which are all on the same page in the book.
  • Suggestions that the reader kill time by looking at Hubble space telescope images, or use Google images as monitor wallpaper seem inappropriate -- and waste space.
There is a tremendous amount of valuable information in this book, but it simply is not ready for 2010, or 2011. It is past-due for a complete remaking -- or maybe it should just be allowed to die gracefully.

It could continue as an artifact of the way things used to be, like The Compleat Angler. That book was first published in 1653, but you can buy a freshly printed copy on Amazon.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flaming and justifying and flaming about justifying

Online newbies (and there may be a few here) may be unaware of "flaming" and "flame wars." I first observed them on Compuserve forums in the 1980s -- before the Internet became popular.

Here's a good explanation from Wikipedia: "Flaming, also known as bashing, is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the social context of an Internet forum, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, by e-mail, game servers such as Xbox Live or Playstation Network, and on video-sharing websites. It is frequently the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues such as politics, sports, religion, and philosophy, or of issues that polarise subpopulations, but can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences. Deliberate flaming, as opposed to flaming as a result of emotional discussions, is carried out by individuals known as flamers, who are specifically motivated to incite flaming. These users specialize in flaming and target specific aspects of a controversial conversation, and are usually more subtle than their counterparts. Their counterparts are known as trolls who are less "professional" and write obvious and blunt remarks to incite a flame war, as opposed to the more subtle, yet precise flamers."

Flaming seems to have decreased, but it still exists on some online venues, including Yahoo's self-publishing group. A couple of anonymous flamers show up here, too.

I try to avoid flame wars, but it's not always possible to tell that a discussion will degenerate into childlike insults, often propelled by ignorance and egomania.

Once flamed, it's natural to want to get in the last word, and it's often impossible to get in the last word. After a few interactions, sometimes I feel like saying, "you don't know what you're talking about," "stop wasting electrons," "does your mommy know you're using her computer?" or "go fuck yourself."

I recently got flamed in a discussion about book design, by someone I'll label an ignorant and egomaniacal belligerent asshole, who insisted that pages of text that are "full-justified" are harder to read than text that is flush-left/ragged-right. He also insisted that it's proper to have two spaces-- not one space -- between sentences (an obsolete artifact of ancient typewriters).

At one point he tried to bolster his argument for the extra space between sentences by pointing out that he had typed his flames with the extra space, which made them easier to read. Despite his vast (half-vast?) experience, he did not know that web browsers ignore the extra spaces which he deliberately inserts.

He backed up his minority position by citing his alleged 30 years experience writing and editing, and spewed the customary ad-hominem attacks at those (mostly me) who tried to explain how books are normally designed in the United States.

I saw no point in continuing to argue with the flaming asshole and bailed out. With great restraint, I resisted the urge to encourage him to perform an act of self-copulation.

Yesterday I found a good comment about justification by Shannon Yarbrough in “10 Things You Should Know About Self-Publishing” published on The LL Book Review.

"I have never, never, NEVER seen a traditionally published book that lacked right margin justification and I’m tired of self-published authors telling me that they did it that way because it’s easier to read.  No, you didn’t follow the rules because you didn’t do your homework, or you don’t know how. I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth and it’s one reason I will turn down a book for review right away."
I could not have said it better. Thanks, Shannon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vanity and vanity publishing

For many years, there have been ads in magazines aimed at writers, with headlines like, “For the writer in search of a publisher," “We want to read your book,” “Manuscripts wanted” and “Authors wanted.” The ads and affiliated websites promise to enable you to become a “published author.”

The ads are not from traditional publishers or from literary agents, but from companies that use the author’s money to produce, promote and distribute the books.

Until recently, those companies received little respect and much derision. They often called themselves "subsidy publishers" and others often cynically called them "vanity publishers."

Both terms have largely disappeared, having been replaced by the somewhat inaccurate "self-publishing company." (I spent a year arguing that the term made no sense, but I gave up. I more quickly learned not to pee into the wind or to argue with cops.)

Behemoth pay-to-publish company Author Solutions perverts the English language in another way, calling itself "A World Leader in Indie Publishing." If your book is published by any of its growing number of brands, you are not "indie."

There is only one customer a self-publishing company or mislabeled indie publisher is interested in selling to — the author/customer. A "non-vanity publisher," whether a one-person self-publisher or a giant like Random House, hopes to sell books to thousands or millions of readers. Companies like Random House don’t have to advertise to attract writers and receive manuscripts.

The word “vanity” implies excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements and appeal. Vanity has been considered a sin. It can lead to wasted resources and wasted lives.
  • Vanity can also lead to useful activities and important accomplishments.
  • Most or all artistic people have some degree of vanity, or they would not produce or perform.
Most people seem to like themselves. There are gradations in vanity, ranging from justified confidence to outrageous, obnoxious egomania.

In You’re So Vain, Carly Simon wrote and sang (possibly about Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger or both of them): “You walked into the party… You had one eye on the mirror… And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner… You're so vain you probably think this song is about you.”

Although not always true (and less true in 2011 than in 2005), a book published by a self-publishing company is often assumed to have been rejected as unworthy of publication by traditional publishers.

Here’s another way of looking at vanity and publishing: Maybe the most vain writers are those who will delay publication for years or decades in hope of getting accepted by a traditional publisher instead of quickly self-publishing, reaching the public, and maybe making some money.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How much does it cost to self-publish a book?

If you must publish at the lowest-possible cost, you can skip the ISBN, the copyright registration, the editor and designer, the professional photograph, and the proof. This way you can publish a book for next to nothing—but the book will probably be terrible and few people will read it or review it.

I recommend that writers have a budget of about $1,000 - $3,000 to pay for design and editing, printing several generations of corrected proofs if necessary, to send out news releases and review copies, and maybe to print business cards or promotional bookmarks.

The rule is, "If you can't afford professional design and editing, you can't afford to publish a book!" Even professional editors who write books need to hire other professional editors. One of the worst books I've read was written and self-edited by someone who said she had edited books for other writers.

(below) Too many wannabe authors (typists?) are deceived and misled by ads for low-cost publishing, no-cost publishing, free design templates and the ease of blogging and eBook publishing.

Even worse, perhaps, is the ego of a writer who says "Editor? I doan need no steenkin editor." (That's a variation of a widely quoted line from Blazing Saddles, (below) based on a line in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. CLICK


Monday, May 23, 2011

My rapturous Saturday

I left on Saturday, as expected.

The trip took took a few hours but was uneventful and we arrived safely.

It looks heavenly up here, with nice people and good food, and gas costs much less than at home. OTOH, it's colder and I wished I had taken a jacket and some long pants. It's more crowded here than I expected, and the PC is primitive and I have to share it with others and some websites are blocked. I left my iPad at home but I was able to take my dog, so I didn't mind leaving. Cellphone coverage is spotty, and my GPS has been confused.

Oh, BTW, I'm in a Marriott in Norwood, Mass. -- not in heaven.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Publishing Queen" murders the King's English, and wants to teach you how to write a book -- in seven days

Kylee Legge calls herself "The Publishing Queen" and insists that she "has been involved in writing and publishing books, since the day she was born!"

Well, Kylee, I beat you. I was involved in writing and publishing books since before I was born, and even before I was conceived.

Before they married, both of my parents wrote for their college yearbooks and college newspapers. So, there! I was formed from the sperm and egg of writers.
  • Kylee, if you're going to fling meaningless boastful bullshit at the world, be prepared to have it flung back at you.
  • And as for the queen crap . . . Kylee lives in Australia. The real queen of Australia is Elizabeth II, who is also Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Tuvalu, Papua New Guniea and eleven other monarchies.
Queen Kylee wears that silly fake-royal tiara in her Youtube videos, but I'd bet a few pounds that Queen Liz is better known than Kylee in Tuvalu or Toronto.

Liz became Queen at the age of 24. She apparently wasted many potentially productive years because Kylee (now 26) "wrote her first book at age 2 and opened her first business at age 8."

I doubt that the book won a Pulitzer, or that Kylee sold the business to Google for billions.

Kylee says she "runs Seminars on 'How to Publish a Book for Pleasure, Profit or Publicity" and ‘How to Make Money while You Sleep by Becoming a Published Author in Less than 3 Months’ and Bootcamps on 'How to Write a Book in less than 7 Days', 'How to Design your Book to stand out from the Crowd' and ‘How to Pitch your book to Publishers and Distributors in less than 1 Day’."

  • Kylee Doesn't Know Which Words Need Initial Uppercase Letters.
  • She also doesn't know when to spell out numbers (e.g., "Kylee enjoys walking people 1 on 1.")
  • Kylee leaves out commas and periods, runs words together, spells poorly (e.g., "Seiminars," "avalaunch," "blueray", "adult hood") and misuses "eg."
  • She also doesn't seem to know the difference between a command and a question (e.g., "Work out what your book subject is?")
  • Kylee writes some really terrible strings of words which she thinks are sentences (e.g., "Often this is what you do for a living, often it could be a hobby but whatever it is work out what you are an expert in, what subject matter you know inside-out and back-to-front and that is what you should be writing your book about," and "Never want to stop talking about your book," and "Why because it is literally when you book is published or produced in book format.")
  • She thinks that "Never seem to find the time to put pen to paper?" is a legitimate sentence.
  • She wrote, "It doesn’t matter who you are everyone has a book in them . . ."
  • This pretender-to-the-throne thinks it's OK for a sentence to lack a verb, as in "Many FREE or low cost options available."
  • She wrote "then" instead of "than."
  • And, of course, she misspells "proofread" in a section on the importance of editing!
That crap is NOT "The King's English," and is also unsuitable for the Queen. I would not pay to learn how to write like Queen Kylee.

I would not trust anyone who writes so poorly to teach me how to write.

One of Queen Kylee's books is titled How to Write a Book in Less than 7 Days. Kylee sells it from her website for $29.95 (paperback) and $24.95 (eBook). Amazon.com sells the Kindle eBook edition for $19.96.

All of the prices seem much too high, especially in view of the prices of competitive books. There are no online previews, and -- even after a year and a half -- not even one review from an Amazon customer. (Kylee does quote reviews from folks who did not post their reviews on Amazon.)

I don't need Kylee to teach me how to write a book, but if her book was realistically priced, I would have bought it. I buy lots of books and almost always learn at least one useful thing from every book I buy. Since I write books about writing and publishing, it's also important for me to keep up with possible competitors.

Kylee says, "The seven stages in the publishing process include: Writing, Editing, Illustrating, Designing, Registration, Production and Distribution." Er, what about marketing, Your Royal Highness?

Her highness offers a "free course for creating your first book." It may be worth the price. Or, maybe not.

Apparently, people no longer have to be of royal birth to wear a royal crown.

Manhattan has had a "Papaya King" since 1932.

As it happens, I was born in the ROYAL HOSPITAL in the Bronx, just a few miles north of the Papaya King's castle. I therefore assert my royalty and hereby declare myself to be the Publishing King.

Bow down, ye serfs and slaves. His Majesty doth approach.


Friday, May 20, 2011

I deleted two letters to avoid paying $100,000 for posting this crap

Yesterday I received a spam email addressed to "April Wong," a phantom who has somehow become connected to my email address.

April receives lots of spam, usually related to dubious investment opportunities, breast and penis enlargement, pyramid schemes, cheesecake recipes, treasure maps, degrees from prestigious-but-unaccredited "universities," and the secret of life.

Strangely, yesterday's email congratulated April on her new book and promised to help find her a publisher.

It said:

Your career as a published author starts here


Imagine having your own book published and seeing it for sale at Borders or
Barnes and Noble.  Just send us your manuscript and start getting your book published today.

Take care

Midwest Publishing (BULLSHIT -- they never heard of Rebecca.)

ps..With the resources available today you can be a newbie author and get a book published

The site says it "gives you access to some of the most dynamic book publishers who are currently seeking to develop new authors," but it does not explain what a dynamic publisher is.

I poked around and was taken to a typical "get rich quick in your pajamas" website which denies that it is a get rich quick site.

Some further clicking took me to a site filled with legal mumbo-jumbo which may have required more intense deliberation and more drafts than the Declaration of Independence.

It says:

Terms of Use









Visitors, viewers, users, subscribers, members, affiliates, or customers, collectively referred to herein as "Visitors," are parties to this agreement. The website and its owners and/or operators are parties to this agreement, herein referred to as "Website."

Unless you have entered into an express written contract with this website to the contrary, visitors, viewers, subscribers, members, affiliates, or customers have no right to use this information in a commercial or public setting; they have no right to broadcast it, copy it, save it, print it, sell it, or publish any portions of the content of this website. By viewing the contents of this website you agree this condition of viewing and you acknowledge that any unauthorized use is unlawful and may subject you to civil or criminal penalties. Again, Visitor has no rights whatsoever to use the content of, or portions thereof, including its databases, invisible pages, linked pages, underlying code, or other intellectual property the site may contain, for any reason for any use whatsoever. Nothing. Visitor agrees to liquidated damages in the amount of U.S.$100,000 in addition to costs and actual damages for breach of this provision. Visitor warrants that he or she understands that accepting this provision is a condition of viewing and that viewing constitutes acceptance.

The website and its contents are owned or licensed by the website. Material contained on the website must be presumed to be proprietary and copyrighted. Visitors have no rights whatsoever in the site content. Use of website content for any reason is unlawful unless it is done with express contract or permission of the website. (UH-OH!)


Unless you are a member or affilliate [sic] of this site and have been expressly authorized by website, no one may hyperlink this site, or portions thereof, (including, but not limited to, logotypes, trademarks, branding or copyrighted material) to theirs for any reason. Further, you are not allowed to reference the url (website address) of this website in any commercial or non-commercial media without express permission, nor are you allowed to 'frame' the site. You specifically agree to cooperate with the Website to remove or de-activate any such activities and be liable for all damages. You hereby agree to liquidated damages of US$100,000.00 plus costs and actual damages for violating this provision. (UH-OH!)

The website disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the content of this website. (Nice.) Visitors assume the all risk of viewing, reading, using, or relying upon this information. Unless you have otherwise formed an express contract to the contrary with the website, you have no right to rely on any information contained herein as accurate. The website makes no such warranty.


The website assumes no responsibility for damage to computers or software of the visitor or any person the visitor subsequently communicates with from corrupting code or data that is inadvertently passed to the visitor's computer. Again, visitor views and interacts with this site, or banners or pop-ups or advertising displayed thereon, at his own risk. (UH-OH!)

Visitor downloads information from this site at this own risk. Website makes no warranty that downloads are free of corrupting computer codes, including, but not limited to, viruses and worms. (Not encouraging.)

By viewing, using, or interacting in any manner with this site, including banners, advertising, or pop-ups, downloads, and as a condition of the website to allow his lawful viewing, Visitor forever waives all right to claims of damage of any and all description based on any causal factor resulting in any possible harm, no matter how heinous or extensive, (Damn!) whether physical or emotional, foreseeable or unforeseeable, whether personal or business in nature.

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Visitor agrees as a condition of viewing, that any communication between Visitor and Website is deemed a submission. All submissions, including portions thereof, graphics contained thereon, or any of the content of the submission, shall become the exclusive property of the Website and may be used, without further permission, for commercial use without additional consideration of any kind. (Fuck you and your horse again.) Visitor agrees to only communicate that information to the Website, which it wishes to forever allow the Website to use in any manner as it sees fit. "Submissions" is also a provision of the Privacy Policy.

No additional notice of any kind for any reason is due to Visitor and Visitor expressly warrants an understanding that the right to notice is waived as a condition for permission to view or interact with the website. (Of course.)

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Arbitration shall be conducted pursuant to the rules of the American Arbitration Association (Which are probably better rules than those of the Libyan Arbitration Association) which are in effect on the date a dispute is submitted to the American Arbitration Association. Information about the American Arbitration Association, its rules, and its forms are available from the American Arbitration Association, 335 Madison Avenue, Floor 10, New York, New York, 10017-4605. Hearing will take place in the city or county of the Seller.

In no case shall the viewer, visitor, member, subscriber or customer have the right to go to court or have a jury trial. (Sounds like Libya, or maybe Albania) Viewer, visitor, member, subscriber or customer will not have the right to engage in pre-trial discovery except as provided in the rules; you will not have the right to participate as a representative or member of any class of claimants pertaining to any claim subject to arbitration; (Fuck you some more.) the arbitrator's decision will be final and binding with limited rights of appeal.

The prevailing party shall be reimbursed by the other party for any and all costs associated with the dispute arbitration, including attorney fees, collection fees, investigation fees, travel expenses. (First class, of course.)

If any matter concerning this purchase shall be brought before a court of law, pre- or post-arbitration, Viewer, visitor, member, subscriber or customer agrees to that the sole and proper jurisdiction to be the state and city declared in the contact information of the web owner unless otherwise here specified - Warren, OH. In the event that litigation is in a federal court, the proper court shall be the closest federal court to the Seller's address. (Tripoli or Tirana?)


Viewer, visitor, member, subscriber or customer agrees that the applicable law to be applied shall, in all cases, be that of the state of the Seller. (I'm glad I'm not buying anything.)


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This Privacy Policy was last updated on: October 30, 2009


This "Terms of Use" is copyrighted by Mining Gold Corporation and IP Management, LLC and is fully licensed for use by this website. If you wish to lawfully use this Terms of Use on your website, contact support@npcinfo.com for licensing information or this website. (Naah. Why bother? If I get sued, I'll ask the ACLU to help me. I think my reposting and comments are covered by the "fair use" provisions of the Federal copyright laws.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why are ducks funny?

“Wanna buy a duck?"
—Joe Penner

Q: What’s the difference between a duck?
A: Each of its legs is both the same?
—My Father

Two ducks are sitting in a bathtub.
The first duck says, “Please pass the soap,”
The other duck says, “No soap, radio.”

“Why a duck?”
—Chico Marx


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The English language needs a few more words: Part Two

The English language now has somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 words (my dog recognizes about 20 of them). Each year old words fade away and new words gain acceptance. Some words are extremely common. Some are  shunned. Some are encountered only in scientific documents or word games.

For 2009, dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster first recognized such terms as "carbon footprint," "staycation," "vlog," "webisode," and "waterboarding." They did not necessarily first show up in 2009, but M-W decided that they were used often enough in 2009 to be officially noted.

The latest update of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has new entries including "OMG," "LOL,"  "taquito," and the "five-second rule."

Despite the huge number and variety of English words, I think we still need a few more -- and they have nothing to do with modern technology like hybrid cars or 3D TV.

Yesterday I campaigned for a simple word to replace "his or her."

We also need a contraction for "am not."

We say "isn't he?" and "aren't you?" and "aren't they?"

"You" has become acceptable for both second-person-singular and second-person plural use, but "are" just seems weird when coupled to a singular noun.

"Aren't I?" sounds like a subject/verb mismatch, and "am I not?" sounds Biblical or Shakespearian -- certainly not appropriate for the 21st century.

There is a very simple solution: amn't, for such uses as: "Why are you taking the small car? Amn't I going with you?"

I first thought of this in sixth grade. My teacher dismissed my suggestion claiming that "ain't" originally meant "am not" and was pronounced "ahnt." She said that the word has been so frequently misused that it's no longer considered proper English, even when used the proper way.

I'm not the first to think of "amn't." It's used in dialects of Scottish English and Irish English. The OED shows an entry for "amn't" from a magazine published in 1691, and the variation "an't." There's more here.

More than 50 years have passed since my teacher spurned my suggestion. Today I am trying again.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The English language needs a few more words: Part One

The massive and authoritative Oxford English Dictionary now includes about 600,000 words.

That's not enough. We need some more.

Here's a common statement from Amazon.com: "This biography was provided by the author or their representative."


If I was a monkey reading that sentence, I'd throw turds at someone.  As a more highly evolved homo sapiens, I instead protest with a blog post.
  • "Author" is singular.
  • "Their" is plural.
  • They don't go together.
"Their" has become a common short replacement for "his or her," and I hate it so much I want to fling shit. I refuse to use the word in that way.

In my own writing, I use a mix of "his or her," "her or his," "her" and "his;" but I don't keep track of my use of each term. I try to promote gender equality, with perhaps a 10% edge to the female words as linguistic affirmative action to make up for past discrimination when "his" and "him" dominated.

Many writers and publishers reject "his or her."

I reject "their" as the replacement.

"His/her" is shorter than "his or her," but looks ugly and is verbalized as if the slash is an "or."

So, we need a new word.

I've thought of some possibilities ("hisher" and "shis") but so far I have not used them in print.

Shakespeare introduced many new words. Maybe I'll try "hisher" or "shis" or something else in a future book. Someone has to do it. "Hisher" and "shis" are already in the Urban Dictionary  (along with a disgusting alternative meaning for "shis"), and with some help the words might make it into the OED.

Of course, both "hisher" and "shis" reveal gender preference because of the sound sequence, so maybe we need an entirely new and neutral term.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Editing and editors

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous ads that promise "SELF PUBLISH YOUR BOOK FREE," and publishing packages with prices as low as $195, make it seem that editing is an option.

Editing is an option, but it's a NECESSARY OPTION.
  • Every author needs an editor.
  • Even editors who become authors should hire other editors.

As an author, it’s important that you read, re-read and re-read some more to polish your text to near perfection. However, it’s a fundamental fact of writing life that the creator of the work will never catch all of the errors and lapses of judgment.
  • Maybe some words, sentences, paragraphs or whole chapters should be shifted, chopped or even completely eliminated. These are choices best left to someone other than the creator.
  • Words which you think are on the page may exist only in your mind.
  • You may not notice repeated words or paragraphs, improper or missing punctuation, inconsistent abbreviations, or awkward alliterations.

While writers' magazines and directories have lists and ads for professional editors, there is another potential source of high-quality editing which may be available for less money, and the editors may be available to do your work much sooner.

Check with some journalism departments and college newspapers -- perhaps where you went to school -- and you'll likely find several bright and eager candidates. Read some samples of their work. Maybe submit a sample chapter for editing. Ask a faculty member for opinions. Then make the deal.

Skill levels will vary, of course, and so will needs and costs. You can pay per hour or per project. Expect to pay more if you need major rewriting than just copy editing. A student who has a part-time job making minimum wage flipping burgers will probably be thrilled to earn $20 per hour, or $300 - $500 for a project. As a comparison, one company that caters to self-publishing authors recently charged $50 per hour or 1.4 cents per word.

If the job goes well, be sure to put your editor's name in the book, and send a note to his or her faculty advisor.

As long as you're investigating colleges, consider hiring a professor, not just a student. If you're writing in a specialized field, it could be worthwhile to hire a faculty member to check your facts, and pay someone else to polish your prose.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The complaint department is now OPEN

Yesterday I received an email from "G. Gifford," complaining about the photograph I used here. My responses are in blue.

Subject: Image

You seem quite fond of the image

Actually, I am not particularly fond of it. It is merely the best I could find that suits its purpose.

of the "stupid/dumb" man with crossed eyes, using it on both your book cover and blog. I think it's in very poor taste. It's clearly mocking developmentally disabled people in an immature,

I am 65 years old and feel no need to demonstrate maturity. It was more important when I was 14.


OK, please suggest an alternate graphic image which portrays stupidity in a more imaginative way.


Stereotypes are common and often necessary graphic "shorthand." On an upcoming book, I use eyeglasses as a graphic stereotype to indicate intelligence. Obviously, not all intelligent people wear glasses, and not all eyeglass-wearers are intelligent, but the stereotype image is instantly recognizable shorthand.

and offensive manner.

So far, you seem to be the only one who is offended. The model and the photographer accepted the money without complaining to me.

Surely you're above such things.

Definitely not.

The most stupid, uneducated and ignorant people

Why do you combine stupid, uneducated and ignorant? They don't necessarily coincide. I know a person with a master's degree who does many stupid things. I know smart people who are ignorant. I know uneducated people who are smart.

I've met in my life were all rather "normal" looking, with no crossed eyes or protruding jaws

How did jaws get into the discussion? Do Jay Leno, Homer Simpson and Neanderthals have similar intelligence?

to let me know their brains were not funtioning (If your brain functioned better, you might have spelled that right.) quite the way you might prefer. I've also been fortunate enough to (You left out a word here. Do you have a Neanderthal jaw?) many many (You repeated a word, Homer.) people who, through no fault of their own, did resemble the photo you keep using (I think I've used it TWICE!)

due to various gentic (Was that misspelled because of a genetic problem?) disorders. Few of them were dumb or stupid. Most seemed remarkably insightful, honest and hard working. Not one of them made fun of other people's problems.

Maybe you need to meet more people. Jay Leno has a protruding lower jaw, and frequently makes fun of ignorant and/or stupid people on his "Jay Walking" segments.

So, who is the stupid/dumb one do you think?

That's a poorly constructed sentence. Could you be "stupid/dumb?"

The photo was purchased from photograph supplier Fotolia.com, in a search for the term "stupid man."

Yesterday morning, that search revealed 1124 photos. I assume that the models and photographers knew the search terms which could be applied to their work, and they got paid for it. The photographer probably said to the model, "Make a stupid face."

FWIW, I never thought that the model was cross-eyed, and I know that an eye problem does not imply stupidity. (I have astigmatism in one eye and had cataracts and myopia in both. One of my best teachers was cross-eyed.) I interpreted the model's eyes as looking upward, in bewilderment, which could indicate stupidity.

Also, when someone is truly cross-eyed (i.e., has "strabismus"), the eyes do not focus at the same thing. That's very different from the eyeball positioning in the photo I used. Many people deliberately do it to be funny.