Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More bad advice from an ignorant advisor

While doctors need education and licenses before they can prescribe drugs, and professional organizations have standards for people who want to call themselves Realtors or Chartered Life Underwriters, anyone with a mouth or a keyboard can offer bad advice, biased opinions and inaccurate information.

I've just published STINKERS! America's Worst Self-Published Books, and was both amused and disturbed when I realized that the majority of the books I included are from ignorant authors who try to advise other ignorant authors. Some of these self-styled experts don't know their asses from their elbows, recto from verso, or a recto from a rectum.

However, there may be even more bad advice on the web than in books.

Yesterday I had the misfortune to discover an online article titled "SELF PUBLISH/PRINT-ON-DEMAND: What They Don’t Tell You" by Alana Cash (apparently the mother of actor Cameron and a distant relative of Johhny). Alana is said to be "an award-winning filmmaker and author. She taught writing at the Univ. of Texas and Jung Institute in Austin, Texas."

While Alana may be qualified to teach writing, she is NOT qualified to teach about self-publishing. Here's some of what she got wrong:

(1) "I’ve spent time researching two other publish-on-demand (POD) companies." There is no such thing as "publish-on-demand." Publishing is a complex process which can take months or years, and can't start anew every time someone clicks a mouse to order a book. Printing can be done on demand, but publishing can't. Printing is part of publishing. They are not the same thing.

(2) "Because the copyright office is backed up for about a year or so, I wasn’t able to provide an actual copyright number." Books generally display an ISBN and an LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) but not a copyright number. While a book is copyrighted at the moment of creation, the Library of Congress normally issues a formal copyright after publication.

(3) "The colophon is not included on the copyright page of a POD book. A colophon is a 10-digit line of numbers of [sic] letters that indicates the 'print run' of a book." A colophon is often a page in the backmatter with details about the production of the book, such as typefaces used, the paper, the designer, printer, etc.

(4) "Kern the wording – meaning balance the spaces between caps and small letters." Kerning is the adjustment of spaces (regardless of uppercase or lowercase) so letters fit together attractively, without large gaps between them. HERE'S something I wrote about kerning.

(5) "Lightning (Barnes & Noble’s POD division) has a written agreement." Lightning Source is part of Ingram Industries. LS supplies books to B&N, but is not part of B&N. (In one book cited in my STINKERS! book, we are told that LS is owned by Amazon.com. Another "expert" got it wrong.)

(6) "The POD company states a minimum price that an author must charge for the book to make sure to cover their overhead." While self-publishing companies usually suggest cover prices, Lightning Source is a printer and does not care how much a book sells for, or even if it is given away, as long as the printing and shipping is paid for. Also, if a self-publishing company did specify a minimum price, it would be calculated to provide profit, not just overhead.

(7) With POD, the author provides [the title page and copyright page]. Some POD companies may tell you this, some do not. I learned the hard way by getting a proof copy of TOM’S WIFE [printed by CreateSpace] with the title and copyright pages missing. Not a pleasant surprise. This should not have been a surprise, and the mistake should have been avoided.

(8) "POD companies are not really publishers, only printers." Some are publishers only, some are printers only, some are both. The term "POD company" is ambiguous and should not be used.

(9) I tried to arrange book-signings at Barnes & Noble and found it was impossible because in order for B&N to purchase my book for their stores, TOM’S WIFE has to be in inventory with a wholesale distributor and has to be returnable. Maybe the local B&N store simply did not want to get involved with the book. Maybe the book was not properly offered to B&N. Maybe it does not have the proper discount. The returnability requirement should not be a surprise.

(10) POD companies do not stock inventory and they do not allow returns. Some do.

I don't know everything, but I know more about publishing than some other people who want to give you advice or sell you advice.



  1. One mistake or two mistakes are _maybe_ OK, but ten are absolutely unforgiveable.

  2. Whew! Michael, thank you for the feedback regarding this shell of a book, and thank you for the title--nothing polite--nothing vauge--just the truth. These people who write advice books just because they can without an ethical bone to self question their ability is disgusting. Her remarks about Barnes and Noble are pathetic and unprofessional. I can just imagine how she came off to them, plus surely they reviewed her book and realized the woman does not know what she is talking about. To allow her a book signing at one of their stores would make B&N look bad. These...experts...are only experts in their own minds. Thank you Michael for the heads up!

  3. I doubt that my comment will be posted since this blogger only posts comments that follow his own "frustrated editor trying to turn author" mentality. And he might learn that there are not many. What type of person publishes a book "Stinker: The Worst Self-Published Books", except a failed writer who must drag down anyone who risks beyond what this blogger is capable of risking? I shudder at the type of mentality that spends waking hours trying to find fault with others and hurting them indiscriminately with his sort of blog.

    As for the article that this author has responded to in such rage, he has not linked directly to the article so that the reader can even know if he is quoting it correctly. (Note to "anonymous" above: it's an article, not a book) Nor do comments from a person who writes sad detriment have much to add to any conversation. An article is just an article, any fool can check the facts for itself (sic) and should.

    This bloggers frustrations are evident in the attempt at writing the "truth", but his attempt at fame through the trampling of others is sad.

  4. Dear Anonymous #2:

    (1) SURPRISE! Your comment has been published. Obviously you don't read very well or you'd know that I publish lots of comments from people who disagree with me -- mostly because they're funny.

    (2) I am neither frustrated nor failed. I've been both author and editor for more than 40 years (much more authoring than editing, BTW). I was an editor at Rolling Stone, my articles have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers. I'm an award-winning advertising copywriter. My first book was published by Doubleday in 1977 and I've published over 30 books since then. What have you done?

    (3) Who are you? Why are you hiding behind the "anonymous" label? What are you afraid or ashamed of?

    (4) I don't have to try to find fault. The faults appear without digging for them.

    (5) You have no idea what I risk.

    (6) If ignorant and inept people are hurt by what I write, that's what _any_ creative person risks. I seldom criticize bad writing (a lack of talent). I generally criticize bad form (a lack of knowledge or caring). Authors, directors, actors, chefs, singers, architects, magicians, acrobats and painters get bad reviews all the time. That's life. One of my books got one bad review. I didn't cry because of it. You're giving a bad review of this blog. I won't kill myself because of it.

    (7) If you doubt that I quoted the article correctly, you can check with Alana Cash. In over 18 months, she has not challenged my criticisms.

    (8) I am not interested in fame, but I would like to improve the quality of books. Is that bad?