Wednesday, November 30, 2011

She needs more edjookayshun

(From a news report published the website of WNYC radio:)

The City University of New York's Board of Trustees approved tuition increases Monday as students upset with the hikes protested outside, chanting and holding up signs as they marched around the school.

The board on Monday voted to increase tuition by $300 per year for undergraduates, for up to five years. It was the second hike in a row. CUNY is able to make small increases every year to prevent larger ones every few years.

But 25-year-old Sarah Pomar, who is enrolled at Hunter College, said it's an increase that's still going to hurt.

"I think I either have to take less classes because I pay out of pocket or I have to get into more student debt in order to continue going to school for a degree that doesn't guarantee me a good job, actually," she said.

I hope that in some future English class, Sarah learns the difference between "less" and "fewer." “Fewer” applies to things that are counted (e.g., apples). “Less” applies to things that are measured (e.g., apple sauce or cider), or to concepts (e.g., freedom). You can have less wine, but fewer bottles and fewer drinks. You can have less time to travel, but fewer days for your trip.

My mother graduated from the same college that Sarah is attending. One of my nieces is in her junior year there. Another niece will start grad school there in January. A nephew and my father are CUNY graduates. So are Jonas Salk, Colin Powell, Barbara Boxer, Ruby Dee, Jimmy Smits and Jerry Seinfeld. So are Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. They all learned proper English -- probably before college.

Sadly, Sarah Pomar needs remedial English classes, especially if she wants to get a "good job." I'd never hire someone who speaks the way she does. At one time CUNY was considered to be the Ivy League for poor people. The education was unbeatable and tuition was free. (I think even textbooks were free at one time.) My mother says that when she told her father that she wanted to go to Hunter, Grampy Jay said, "Good. Here's a nickel for the subway."

Today, the price of a CUNY education is much higher. Sadly, the admission standards seem to be lower.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Someone needs me

(An email I recently received)


I have a book for children that is a best seller in my country. I would like to get it published for the International Market.

I therefore need a Literacy [sic] Agent. How can you be of use to me?

Thank You!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Ego-driven book pricing

Some authors have an unjustified opinion of their books' value, and maybe their own value. If a book is priced too high, especially if it's much higher than competitive books, or if it seems to offer poor value, few people will buy it.

High prices seem to be common in the self-help/inspirational field, and also with books from self-publishing companies that dictate high cover prices to ensure high profits.

Some of my previous posts about high prices:
Outskirts Press -- the company I love to hate -- recently started promoting a new book, Life Just Happens. You can left-click to enlarge the image for easier reading.

The book has just 50 pages. That's more like a pamphlet or a magazine article -- not a book, but the paperback is priced at $9.95 and the ebook at $6.95.

Those are HIGH prices for a first-book by an unknown author. Maybe Pierre De Coene is revealing the secret to eternal life, eternal bliss, fat-free pizza or eight-hour orgasm -- or maybe not. I won't pay more than $4.99 to find out.

There are plenty of informative and entertaining ebooks available at prices from 99 cents to $4.99. (I make much more money each month from the $4.99-list-price ebook version of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) than I do from the more expensive paperback and hardcover editions.)


Sunday, November 27, 2011

The joy and the frustration of small caps

A small cap stock is a stock with a relatively small market capitalization (total market value of the company's outstanding shares). Generally, market capitalization of between $300 million and $2 billion is considered small cap.

A small cap letter is an uppercase letter that's about the same height as nearby lowercase letters. I first noticed them in Business Week about ten years ago, and found them disconcerting.

They are frequently used for decorative effects at the beginning of a block of text, and as abbreviations and acronyms like USA, FBI, SCUBA, RADAR, A.M. and IBM. I can't reproduce small caps with online text. so I put sample material down below.

The theory behind small caps is that they blend in well with surrounding text instead of SHOUTING AT THE READER like full-size caps. The use of small caps is supposed to be a sign of sophisticated typography, like hanging punctuation (which I may deal with in the future).

There are several problems with a few letters in small caps.
  • They look stupid at the beginning of a sentence. Sometimes a sentence can be reworked to avoid the problem. Some typographers switch to full-size, others keep the small caps up front. I prefer to rewrite.
  • If you have the names of two competing entities nearby, and one has normal lettering and one has small caps, there is an implicit downgrading of the one with small caps. USA looks less important or powerful than Canada. B&N is dominated by Amazon. HP and IBM are overpowered by Dell.
  • If you have a compound name like "U.S. Capitol," "U.N. Building" or "PR Newswire," it looks silly for the "U" or the "P" to be smaller than the first letter of the next word.
  • A title like "HTML Guide" would look silly if "HTML" was smaller than the "G."
As with many aspects of writing, publishing and typography, sometimes you just have to go with what seems right, rather than apply rigid rules. If you follow any rule 100% of the time, your work will seem stupid 10% of the time. Unfortunately, when you bend or break rules to make what you think is a better book, some people may think you made an error. That's life.

I avoided small caps in my first nine self-pubbed books, but as I tried to get "more professional" I started to use them in book #10, Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book. After several hours, I got so frustrated trying to resolve inconsistencies, I gave up and went back to full-size caps.

If you have a lot of time to kill and are a graphic masochist, you can try using small caps. I doubt that I'll try them again.

(left-click to enlarge image)


Friday, November 25, 2011

Should I shop today?

OK, it's Black Friday.

There's a pile of ads on my kitchen table. It's not yet 4AM. Many stores are already open. Lines are forming at others. On this day in the past five-plus years, I was raring to go out and spend. Last year was particularly fruitful. This year, I just don't have much of an urge.

There's nothing I need (but I've always been more motivated by wants than needs).

There are a few things that I could use more of, like 8-gig thumb drives -- but I can easily order them online. It would be nice to have yet one more flat screen TV -- but it would go in a room where it would be used only a few times a year. I'm impressed by the new Nikon 1, but I definitely don't need another camera, and it would cost at least $600.

I'm still very much in love with my Panasonic Lumix G1 which I bought just under two years ago. I felt guilty by "cheating on" my beloved Nikon brand, but I found the Lumix simply irresistible.

When I got dressed yesterday, I discovered my tiny Nikon Coolpix S3000, which was hiding in the pocket of a sports jacket since I went to a sweet-sixteen in September. Ironically, I bought the jacket on last Black Friday, so this stuff is nicely connected.

When I decided that I'd never find the S3000, I bought an even better tiny Nikon Coolpix S4100. I got it in purple, which I figured would be harder to misplace than another tiny black camera.
My Nikon Coolpix L6 once seemed tiny, but is much thicker than my newer Nikons. I hate using it because of the long shutter delay, but it always provided great photos (of non-moving subjects) and could be kept in the glove compartment of my cars.

I still have a Nikon Coolpix 5000 digital camera. It was once considered to be a small camera, but in 2011 it seems very bulky. It generally sits on a tripod in my office to take "product shots" of things to sell on eBay. It's more convenient than the tiny Nikons to use on a tripod. The flip-out viewing screen is tiny by today's standards, so I probably should put this camera on the shelf.

I still have Nikon digital and film SLRs going back to the 1970s, including my huge and heavy F and FTn. I don't use them, but need them on my shelf, like beloved books and movies that will never be read or watched again. I sometimes take them off the shelf, to fondle them and exercise the noisy shutters, and marvel at the magnificent pictures I was able to take without batteries.

So, will I buy a Nikon 1? Probably -- but maybe not today. It will be very hard to resist. As the Borg say, resistance is futile. And when it comes to Nikons, I don't want to resist.
  • Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.
  • The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.
UPDATE: I did go shopping at around 11:30AM. I bought some sandpaper and screw-hooks at Lowe's. They're not nearly as exciting as a new Nikon, but I did support the economy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On Sunday I bought another big TV and Blu-Ray player. Low-low-prices and 24 months to pay with no interest. How could I resist?

(Nikon F photo from Borg photo from Star Trek. Thanks.)


Thursday, November 24, 2011

There's a good reason why a failure is called a "turkey"

First, I'd like to give thanks to all of you who read this blog and my books.

Second, have you ever wondered why bad movies -- and cars like the Edsel, Yugo and Aztek -- are called turkeys?

It's because turkey meat tastes terrible.

It tastes like cardboard.

Just like lettuce is useful only for transporting salad dressing from plate to mouth, turkey is useful only for transporting gravy or cranberry sauce (or Russian dressing if on a sandwich).

However, turkey necks and skin do have flavor.

I hope you enjoy whatever is on your plate or sandwich today.

PS: I almost forgot. Wild turkeys roam around my neighborhood. They are SO UGLY, I don't understand how there was a second generation of them. A turkey would have to be incredibly horny -- or drunk -- to get in the mood to reproduce.

(photos from Zorn's Poultry Farms and Thanks.)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Should you have your own brand name on your books?

Brand names are very important in business. They connect a product with its maker, and take advantage of -- and help build -- a reputation.

If you are thousands of miles from home, you know that the Big Mac and Coke you order at Mickey Dee's will be just like the ones you're used to. While you may not experience gustatorial ecstasy, at least you won't have an unhappy surprise. The McDonald's brand name, and the Big Mac and Coca-Cola names, mean something.

Books bear brand names. Some of the names are those of the publisher, especially if its a small publisher or a self-publishing company. Larger publishers have multiple imprints -- brand names (or "trade names")  associated with a specific genre or editor or even an important author.

When one publisher buys another, the name of the formerly independent publisher may become an imprint of its new owner. Sometimes there are imprints within imprints, or brands within brands, or imprints within brands within brands. Doubleday was sold to Bertelsmann and became  part of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, and then became a division of Random House. Doubleday itself has had multiple imprints, including Anchor and Crime Club.

If you use a self-publishing company, and don't do otherwise, your book will bear the brand name of that company. This can cause trouble in at least two ways:
  1. If you choose a terrible company with zero standards, like Publish America, people who recognize the brand name may assume your book is crap.
  2. If you choose a better company, people in the book business -- including reviewers and retailers -- will know you paid to publish, and may reject the book even without seeing it. (Most readers probably don't care about a book's publisher, and don't know the difference between Xlibris and Simon & Schuster).
It's easy to establish your own brand name if you form your own small publishing company -- like my Silver Sands Books. You can also use your own brand name with some self-publishing companies, including the dreaded Outskirts Press.

Perceptive Juliet Capulet told Romeo Montague, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

It's not that simple in book publishing. One of the worst mistakes that self-publishers make is choosing the wrong name. Avoid the following bad choices:

  1. A name that sounds insignificant, like “Joe’s Books.”
  2. A name that limits the type of books that can be promoted, like “Galactic Press” or “Heartfelt Publishing.” (Several books about publishing were produced by KCS Basketball Enterprises.)
  3. A name that can be confused with another company, like “Random Publishing” or “Toyota Books.”
Regardless of merit, self-published books are suspect. They just don’t get the same respect from reviewers, booksellers and libraries as do even bad books published by the big and venerable publishing houses.

One obvious way to fight this discrimination is to write and design a really great book.

Another way is to make the book seem like a book published by one of your huge competitors. One dead giveaway of a self-published book is an amateur-sounding name for your publishing business.

DON’T use your personal name as your business name. “Stevie’s Bar” implies personal attention and friendliness. “Stevie’s Publishing Company” implies an amateur enterprise.

A more professional-sounding name may make a reviewer think your company is a new imprint from a major publisher or a small “indie” press she never heard of before -- not a self-pubbed book that should be ignored.

Your imprint or brand name is a trademark. The Feds say: "A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others."

A trademark is not the same thing as a registered trademark.

Again, from the Feds: "You can establish rights in a mark based on use of the mark in commerce, without a registration. However, owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides several advantages, including:
  • Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark
  • A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration
  • The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court
  • The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries
  • The ability to record the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods
  • The right to use the federal registration symbol ®
  • Listing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s online databases
If you claim rights to use a mark, you may use the “TM” (trademark) designation to alert the public to your claim of ownership of the mark, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, you may only use the federal registration symbol “®” after the USPTO actually registers a mark, and not while an application is pending. You may only use the registration symbol with the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the federal trademark registration."

You can hire an attorney to handle a trademark registration or do it yourself. CLICK for info.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sometimes opposites mean the same thing

(Thanks to Tyge and Levi for their additions to the first version of this blog post. More additions are welcome. But please skip slang like "bad" meaning "good.")

I've long been intrigued by English words that are often opposites, but can have identical meanings.

  • "After our number is called, we can move UP to the front of the line" (or DOWN to the front of the line)
  • "Please slow UP -- I can't run as fast as you can" (or slow DOWN)
  • If your house burns UP, it really burns DOWN
  • Please fill IN the application (or fill OUT)
  • The HOTTEST new computer can also be the COOLEST new computer
  • SLIM chance and FAT chance mean the same thing
There are also individual words that can have different implications.
  • "He was CITED for bravery." (good) "He was CITED for being drunk on duty." (bad)
  • A WISE man and a WISE guy are completely different.
And individual words that can have opposite meanings.
  • "Inflammable" can mean a substance that can burn, or can't burn. Sometimes the Latin prefix "in" (also "em" and "im") means pretty much the same thing as the English "in." An inflamed arm is hot and red, i.e, as if it is "in flames." However, the Latin prefix "in" often means "not," as in "incredible," "insufficient," and "inimicable"
And words that can be compliments or criticisms.
  • "Lightweight" is good for a portable PC, but bad for someone who wants a job as a professor or sales manager.
In an online discussion yesterday, someone said that his company works "OUT of the Atlanta area." While this is a hillbillyism meaning that the company is based in the Atlanta area, the meaning would be pretty much the same if he said the company works IN the Atlanta area.

And, of course, we can DRIVE on a PARKWAY and PARK on a DRIVEWAY.

(Cars parked in my driveway, before I traded the two Chryslers for a Honda Crosstour last month. I still have the Fiat. The parkway is behind the trees in the background.)


Monday, November 21, 2011

Some people can't stop tweaking

When I was freelancing for Rolling Stone in the early 1970s, I was always rewriting until the last possible minute. This was in the pre-fax, pre-email era, and I'd drive to the airport and pay to have my column air-freighted from NY to CA. There wasn't much profit left.

Words are almost toys for me, like a child's building blocks, Lincoln Logs, Lego or an Erector Set.

Rewriting sentences and changing page formatting -- especially now with a computer -- is fun. I love to play with words, to rearrange them and try alternatives.

The danger is that a perfectionist never finishes anything.

When I was working as an advertising copywriter, I was notorious for not "releasing" an ad until the last possible moment. Fortunately, someone older and wiser taught me a valuable lesson: sometimes "good enough" really is good enough, and I learned to let go.

Now, as the owner of a tiny publishing company, I have to be a businessman as well as an artist. I realize that no money will come in if I don't approve a proof and let a book start selling.

However, I seldom stop editing. I even re-do old blog entries (including this one).

The New Yorker magazine has an excellent article about Steve Jobs, which says that his real genius was tweaking -- not inventing. You can read it for free online.

I'm a tweaker, too, but being a tweaker can be dangerous because nothing is ever really finished. (When I was in college, I was still building bookshelves a week before I was due to move out of my apartment.)

Print On Demand makes it easy to keep tweaking. Maybe too easy.

With POD I can make improvements to my books whenever I want to. While this means that a person who buys version 2.13 gets a better book than the person who bought 1.28, at least I know that each version was "good enough" as of a particular moment.

Sadly, it also mans that yesterday I decided to delay a book by a week so I could change a comma to a period. I doubt that anyone else would have noticed the imperfection.

Fortunately, Steve Jobs was the supreme perfectionist, the ultimate tweaker; and my iPad is better because of his obsession.

(Illustration from The New Yorker)


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Sermon: Are you Christian enough to be published?

from Xulon Press:

We refuse to publish books that degrade the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today more than ever, our Christian values are under attack. So Xulon Press decided early on to publish books that uphold the gospel of Jesus Christ – and none other. [Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney: stay away!]

This isn’t true of most publishers you’ll find on the Internet. Most online and on-demand publishers gladly accept books written by authors who degrade the gospel. [Actually, they'll accept books from authors who can't even spell "gospel."] In fact, some of the leading on-demand publishers accept manuscripts dealing with the occult, New Age belief, pornography, homosexuality, and other subjects condemned by Scripture. [OH MY GOD!]

If you feel God has given you a message to put in print, [What if God wants me to write about the occult?] we hope you let fellow believers help you get it published. We want to be your partner in publishing and prayer.

We believe that one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God who died for our sins and arose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-8); that the Bible is the inspired Word of God [What about all the wacky stuff in the Bible, like unicorns, satyrs, poop eating and more?] – a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (2 Tim. 3:16); that every person has worth as a creation of God, but that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23); that forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life are available to those who trust Christ as Savior and Lord (John 3:16); that the church is the body of Christ on earth, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and it exists to save the lost and edify the saved (Eph. 4:1-16); and that Jesus Christ will one day return to earth and reign forever as King of Kings and Lord of Lords [What if there are no kings when he comes back? There are only a few around now. However, there are lots of Lords in London.] (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Note: If your manuscript does not uphold these values, Xulon Press will reject it. If you have questions about our Statement of Faith, please feel free to contact us at 866-381-BOOK (2665).


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Year-end reminders

As the year ends, you have only a little while left to make tax deductible donations to charity. It's not a big deal to write a couple of checks, and lots of charities accept credit card donations and have convenient websites. However, if you want to spread money around, American Express makes it extremely easy -- and personally profitable.

The Members Give program (formerly "Giving Express")  connects you to over a million charitable organizations! You can search for them by name, keywords, location, or use an extensive list of categories such as performing arts, education, health care, housing, human rights, disaster relief, religion and much more. The AmEx website has financial reports, mission statements, contacts, and other information regarding the organizations.

Donating online helps nonprofit organizations reduce administrative costs so that they can do more with the money. Your dollar donations are tax-deductible and you’ll receive an e-mail receipt for your records.

• Give to one or more charities and nonprofit organizations
• Donate dollars with your American Express Card
• Donate Membership Rewards points
• Set up recurring donations

When you make a donation, you'll get an immediate e-mail confirmation for each transaction. AmEx will post a detailed record of all your donations on your password-protected Giving History web page, if you need a record for an IRS audit in the future.

This is also the time of year to engage in some intensive house cleaning and office cleaning. I recommend the one-year-test (or six-month test, or pick another appropriate interval). If there is something you haven't used in a year, there is a good chance that you won't use it in the next year... or decade.

Gather these things together and take them to your nearby Goodwill or Salvation Army "store." You'll get rid of clutter, get a tax donation, provide employment, and help someone less fortunate get a bargain on something she needs. While you're there, you may find some bargains to buy, too.

Although not specifically a year-end reminder, think about getting a credit card that will help an important charity or organization with your normal spending. For example, Bank of America works with Susan G. Komen for the Cure® to provide co-branded credit cards, debit cards and checking accounts, encouraging people to "Make every purchase pink." For each new Susan G. Komen for the Cure branded credit card account opened and used, Komen receives a minimum of $3, and a minimum of 20 cents for every $100 you make in purchases with the card. Komen also receives $1 for each annual renewal of the card. CLICK for info.


Friday, November 18, 2011

I'm going to slow down a bit.

In the 59th Street Bridge Song, also known as Feelin' Groovy, Paul Simon wrote (and Paul and Art Garfunkel sang):

I'm not particularly interested in preserving the pre-noon time, or even in feelin' groovy, but I am going to slow down my publishing.
  • My first book was published by Doubleday in 1976.
  • My second was published in 1996.
  • In 2008 I formed Silver Sands Books, my own little publishing company, intending to publish exactly ONE book.
  • I quickly got addicted. In 2009 I published three books.
  • In 2010, I did four more.
  • In 2011, I tried to publish nine. That was a BIG mistake for a one-person publishing company, especially for a part-time, one-person publishing company.
While I am generally at the keyboard by 3:30 a.m., work seven days a week and love to write, format pages and conceive covers, I learned that promoting books can take more time than the pre-printing tasks.

I've decided to move some of my 2011 books to 2012, so I'll have more time to let the world know about them.

Maybe I'll even have enough time to smell the roses, or feel groovy.

Listen to Paul and Arty -- the words, not just the music.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lightning Source copies CreateSpace in allowing approval of non-printed book proofs

A few months ago, Amazon's book-printing subsidiary CreateSpace ("CS") launched a new program that allows publishers to approve a book for distribution, without actually seeing a proof.

If I am reasonably sure that a book will be good enough to not embarrass me, I do not order a printed proof (which usually costs $15-$20 and takes a few days) but I tell CS that it's OK to distribute the book. In less than hour the book will be available for sale at

With my money-saving system, I can order a book for second-day delivery with free shipping because I am a a member of "Amazon Prime." Alternatively, I can pay $2.99 for next-day shipping -- even for delivery on Saturday morning! Although I pay the retail price for the book, my cost is reduced by the publisher's profit I make on the book, and my purchase helps the book's sales ranking. Because I make a lot of purchases with Amazon/Chase credit cards (I have one, my wife has one, and my business has one), I accumulate lots of Amazon $25 gift certificates. If I use a certificate to buy my own book, and then earn the publisher's profit, the book costs me less than nothing. If I find major errors in the book I get from Amazon, I submit a revised file to CS, and the book quickly becomes unavailable on Amazon. This keeps people from buying a less-than-perfect book, but the book is still on Amazon and people can see it and order it for future delivery.

Two days ago, printer/distribution behemoth Lightning Source began offering "E-Proofs" -- a similar service which can save $70 or more and several days. (LS charges $30 to print and ship a paperback, $35 for a hardcover, plus at least $40 for an interior revision and $40 for a cover revision.) Full info on E-Proofs is available HERE and HERE.
The E-Proof is a PDF file, and should be identical to the PDF you submit to LS. The value of the E-Proof doesn't come from viewing the PDF, but in telling LS that it's OK to print and distribute the book. An E-Proof is not a substitute for a "P-proof" and is probably inappropriate for the first proof of a book, but can save money on subsequent revisions, and get your book on sale sooner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is this a serious effort at book promotion -- or a joke?

KALKIE and the Paranormals
of The Third World War

It is year 2055 and the whole world is grip with panic. There are thousands of death world over due to strange reasons. The first is brain cancer of a special type in which there is slow paralysis. Firstly the leg stops working, and then the hands stop working. Next there is vision loss and finally a person dies. The second major cause of death is snake bite. A special kind of snake had started appearing in parts of USA, Europe, Australia and India. The snake bites the people and people die within 20 minutes. The strange thing about the snake was that it was biting only important and successful people. The locations of snake bite were strange- sometimes in the bedroom, sometimes in the kitchen and sometimes even in the office. The people are baffled how snakes are appearing in such inaccessible locations. A team of experts and detectives gathered in Atlanta to discover the root cause of this menace. And what they discovered was startling. It lead to the third world war and kalkie- the defence minister of India plays a major role in establishing a new world order. The prophecies of Nostradamus come true and Mabus – the king of Terror is born. When Kalkie rides the white horse to defeat Mabus with the Bow in his hand, the people of the world are revered. They think that Kalkie is none other than avatar of Lord Vishnu.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

English is a very confusing language

Consider the letter sequence GHOTI.

Pronounce the "gh" as in "rough."

Pronounce the "o" as in "women."

Pronounce the "ti" as in "nation."

Brad Bitt pic from Fish pic from


Monday, November 14, 2011

Self-publishing companies don't have to publish crap, but most are perfectly happy to do so

Self-publishing companies (formerly known as vanity publishers, subsidy publishers, author mills and book whores) make most of their money by selling services and products to authors -- not by selling books to readers.

Because of this, they'll generally be perfectly happy to publish any book submitted (unless it is obscene or libelous). If they refuse to publish a book -- because it is obscene, libelous or merely terrible -- they make no money.

Therefore, they publish many terrible books. With most of these companies, editing is an extra-cost option usually costing $300 to $1,000, which many ignorant, egomaniacal or impoverished authors decide to skip.

I recently blogged about the problem created by Xlibris's not insisting on editing.

Xlibris says, "One of our founding principles, dating back to when we were newly incorporated and making books out of a basement office, is that authors should have control over their work."

That's not necessarily a good thing. If an author has bad ideas for a book's design, or is simply a bad writer, crap gets published. The "proficient team" and "best editors" don't control the quality of what gets published with an Xlibris label on it.
One of the best examples (i.e., one of the worst books) that shows the failure of Xlibris is the awkwardly named, physically ugly, poorly written, unedited and overpriced The Truth and the Corruption of the American System by Eunice Owusu.

The author has some important things to say, but her message is diluted and distorted by bad presentation, and lack of help from Xlibris. The company wanted to collect money for the publishing package they sold her, but made no effort to improve the book.

I've preached that companies like Xlibris need to stop behaving like crack whores who will provide service to anyone who can pay the price. I also said that self-publishing companies need to develop some pride, and to grow some balls. They need to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but your manuscript is just not good enough to be published unless it gets professional editing."

Sadly, even if an author does pay for editing, the book may still turn out badly. One author told me she paid $999 for the most expensive "Diamond" publishing package from stupid, sloppy and sleazy Outskirts Press, plus extra-cost options including nearly $1,000 for "professional" editing.

She said, "I have had some scathing reviews due to the errors that were left in my book after I paid a small fortune for editing with the Outskirts editing team. I was so excited when my book was first released, but after a few family members pointed out the mistakes left behind, I can't describe the restraint it took for me not to explode. I tried to reason with my so-called marketing representative, but she simply hid behind the "fine print" they give you after they receive payment from you. It would have cost me another small fortune to revise the book, and I am still in debt from publishing it in the first place. The marketing representative simply would not assume any responsibility for mistakes that Outskirts made. Outskirts made me feel paranoid about not getting their editing service, but when I did it was as if I had no editing at all."

Over the weekend I had the misfortune to flip through a horribly produced book from Outskirts Press, Stupid In Montana As America by Robert E. Milliken.

Virtually everything about the book is either inept or wacky.
  1. It has two reviews on Amazon, and one was written by the author.
  2. It's overpriced.
  3. The title makes no sense.
  4. The description on Amazon misuses the noun "dupe." It is not a synonym for "stupid person." Some dupes are smart people, like clients of Bernard Madoff.
  5. The author's promotion in an authors' online group is filled with religious nonsense, and nonwords such as "accurd" (occurred) and "maltible" (multiple).
There are abundant errors inside the book. Some are silly and tiny, such as "bit" for "bitten." But there is major garbage which should never have been printed, e.g., "Fme fishing and hunting are my two faveretfavorite things to do, but I gotta tell yayou, that theirsthere are more and more people doing it."

The first sentence in the first chapter says: "I may have a deferent different view point than of the local’s who live there." I've read a great many books, but I can't recall any short sequence of words with as many errors as this one. Like Owusu, Milliken has some important things to say, but his message is horribly weakened by the unprofessional publishing provided by Outskirts Press.

Sadly, this book about stupidity is a great example of stupidity. It is really stupid to publish an unedited book.

Fortunately, there are self-publishing companies with higher standards than Outskirts and Xlibris.

Vantage Press's Sharon Pelletier, Courtney Rougeau, Selina Peyser
and David Lamb know the difference between good and bad books.

At the recent Self-Publishing Book Expo in Manhattan I spoke to some of the folks from Vantage Pressa company that does have standards and a conscience. Director of Author Relations Selina Peyser told me that the company has turned down books because authors refused editing, or because the books were beyond hope. The company's website says, "we insist on reviewing your manuscript . . . before deciding whether to accept your book for publication."

That's the way publishing is supposed to be -- regardless of who pays for it.


Friday, November 11, 2011

British booksellers bitch about competition from charity stores

Britain's Booksellers Association (BA) says that charity book shops which operate like professional businesses should not benefit from tax breaks which give them an unjust competitive advantage over for-profit bookshops.

The BA argues that many charity book shops are professionally run and staffed by experienced retailers. One charity is believed to have more outlets in the UK selling books than the largest specialty bookshop.

BA members specifically reported that The Healthy Planet, a new bookshop in Shepherds Bush, West London, was offering titles by bestselling authors and that the charity was now approaching publishers for stock.

Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, said, "Trading conditions for High Street retail booksellers are extremely tough in the current climate and unfair competition from charity bookshops is something our members do not need. If we are serious about protecting retail diversity on the High Street, we need to review the strong tax and rate concessions given to charities who run shops. If a charity shop sells new goods, why should it benefit from tax and business rate concessions?"

BA members think that The Healthy Planet has strayed from its stated goal of dealing in genuinely unwanted titles and is now competing with booksellers on the street.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Don't be selfish. You won't need your body when you're dead -- but pieces of you can help others to live.

(1) Our bodies are useless to us after we die. If we are cremated or hermetically sealed in a fortress-like coffin, we are cheating the system. We are part of the food chain. If we eat while we are alive, we have an obligation to peacefully rot away when we are dead, to return some nutrients to the soil, to become food for the worms that fertilize the grass that feeds the cows that feed our replacements on earth.

(2) But, much more important than becoming worm food, we should register to become organ donors. We don't need our body parts when we are through using them -- but other people do need them.
With more than 100,000 people in the USA waiting for the gift of life -- and thousands more waiting for life-enhancing tissue or cornea transplants -- you can make a difference that will outlive your body. This coming weekend is National Donor Sabbath. Observed on Friday through Sunday two weekends before Thanksgiving, Donor Sabbath consolidates donation efforts of many faith communities into a national effort. Please sign up to give away what you won't need, and please help to spread the word about donation and about Donor Sabbath.

(3) If you want to be a real hero, consider donating a surplus body part while you are still above ground. You don't need two kidneys, and maybe you could give up a piece of a lung, or some skin to someone who needs it.  In 1994, my sister's husband Alan Alpert was 45 years old. He was hospitalized for nearly two months and went home with a "new" pancreas and kidney that came from donor bodies. That pancreas is doing fine, but sadly, the kidney has worn out. Next week, Alan will get yet another kidney. This one will come from a live donor, his son and my brave nephew, Gary Alpert. I am humbled and inspired by his courage and love. I was terrified to have a cataract removed, and have delayed having a piece of wire removed from a fingertip. I wonder if I'd have the guts to volunteer to have my chest cut open, even to save a life.

(4) Give blood. Your body will make more.

(5) Be kind to other life forms (but maybe not mosquitoes).


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New book canceled because of plagiarism by author

According to Jeffrey Trachtenberg in the Wall Street Journal, "The biggest mystery in Q.R. Markham's new spy novel Assassin of Secrets, it turns out, is the number of books the author borrowed from. ... publisher Little, Brown & Co. recalled all 6,500 copies of the novel on the grounds that passages were "lifted" from other books. One sharp-eyed observer says he had identified at least 13 novels with similar material.

"Q.R. Markham" ... is a pseudonym for the poet Quentin Rowan ... He is also a small investor in Brooklyn, N.Y., bookstore Spoonbill & Sugartown, where a spy-themed book party for "Assassin of Secrets" was held last Friday.

It's easy to plagiarize -- and very hard to get away with it today. Why would an author be so stupid?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sharon vs. Herman

I don't like Herman Cain. I think he would be a terrible president. I don't know if he ever harassed anyone, but I wish his most recent accuser could have made a stronger rejection than she described.

In yesterday's press conference, Sharon Bialek recalled her conversation with Herman Cain: “I said, ‘What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend.’”

What does her having a boyfriend have to do with it being OK or not OK for him to put his hand up her skirt and pull her head toward his penis?

Was Sharon implying that it would have been OK if she did not have a boyfriend? Couldn't she come up with a better argument? Maybe, "I'm not your girlfriend or your wife. I don't want to have sex with you. Don't touch me!"

Why not smack him in the face, call him a creep, and get out of the car?


Friday, November 4, 2011

Amazon will lend Kindle books for free, but authors will get paid

On Wednesday, announced the launch of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. With an Amazon Prime membership, Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free -- including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers -- as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates. Apparently, no other e-reader or ebookstore offers such a service. With an annual Prime membership, the Kindle Owners' Lending Library is included at no additional cost. Millions of Prime members enjoy free two-day shipping, unlimited streaming of nearly 13,000 movies and TV shows, and now thousands of books to borrow for free with a Kindle.

"Owning a Kindle just got even better. Today, we're introducing a new Prime benefit built for Kindle: The Kindle Owners' Lending Library," said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO. "Prime Members now have exclusive access to a huge library of books to read on any Kindle device at no additional cost and with no due dates."

The Kindle Owners' Lending Library offers access to a wide array of categories and genres in fiction and non-fiction, and includes popular titles such as Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short and Liars' Poker by Michael Lewis, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen -- plus award-winning books such as The Finkler Question and Guns, Germs, and Steel, memoirs such as Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, and motivational books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Just as with any other Kindle book, your notes, highlights and bookmarks in borrowed books will be saved, so you'll have them later if you purchase or re-borrow the book. Books are borrowed from a Kindle device, and customers can have one book out at a time. When customers want to borrow a new book, any borrowed book can easily be returned right from their device.

Titles in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library come from a range of publishers under a variety of terms. For the vast majority of titles, Amazon has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee. In some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.

"The Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a great new benefit for Kindle owners and an entirely new growth opportunity for authors and publishers," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. "With the growth in Prime membership and the recent addition of Prime Instant Video, we've been able to broaden our relationships with movie and TV studios such as CBS, Fox, and NBC Universal and significantly increase their revenue. We're excited to expand that investment to books -- with this launch, we expect three immediate results: Kindle owners will read even more, publisher revenues will grow, and authors will see larger royalty checks."

To learn more about the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, visit To learn about all of the additional benefits included with Amazon Prime, or to start an Amazon Prime free trial visit