Friday, January 31, 2014

One man's adventures with chick-lit

Chick-lit (not to be confused with candy-coated Chiclets gum), is literature written to be read by chicks. Chick-lit is the text equivalent of chick flicks. The books are often romantic and usually written for women in their 20s and 30s. There are sub-genres for teen, matron, Latina, Christian and Asian chicks. I'm not sure if lesbian books are considered chick-lit.

Most guys don't like chick-lit or chick flicks, even if they like chicks. It's usually easy to avoid chick-lit by reading the title and/or looking at the cover. 

The “bodice-ripper” novel is a popular genre, and the covers generally follow a strict formula. There's very sensual, decorative type that may be hard to read. The primary image is usually a male hunk with long hair and no shirt, and a good-looking, long-haired woman in old-fashioned clothing with some exposed skin. Illustrations are more common than photographs. The name of the author is often fake and often larger than the title.

On the other hand, a book for guys (at least for straight guys) is less frilly, and likely to have simple type and primary colors.

Another way to detect chick lit is to scan the reviews on Amazon. If almost all of the positive reviews are from chicks, and you have a penis, you should probably find something else to read.

However, I do have a penis and I've read three pieces of chick-lit, and liked two of them very much.

My most recent immersion in chick-lit is Star Crossed, a memoir by Bette Isacoff. Set in New England in the late 60s, Star Crossed is the poignant, funny, and inspirational chronicle of an interfaith courtship at a time when interfaith love was exotic and forbidden.
When Bette met Richard in 1968, he was a seventeen-year-old Jewish kid. She, at twenty-one, was a Catholic college senior doing a practice-teaching assignment at his high school. Seven weeks later, they were engaged. To say their two-year courtship was ill-received is an understatement. After graduation, Bette did not have the option of getting her own apartment. Instead she returned home, to parents determined to break up the unlikely couple. She was denied all contact with Richard. He was told to find a Jewish girl. The harder their families tried to pull them apart, the tighter they clung together.

This couple faced not one impediment to marriage, but four: religion, age (at a developmental stage when it is significant), education level, and the tenor of the times—a culture in which Jews and Catholics rarely married “outside.” Throw into the mix outraged parents, scornful siblings, snickering friends, legal obstacles, uncooperative clergy . . . and still, they persevered. With secret post office boxes, clandestine meetings, and Bette’s extended family, who conspired with Richard against their own blood kin, the curious relationship was nurtured.

In the last decade, 45% of all U.S. marriages have been between people of different faiths.1 Today there are a number of books about the technicalities of blending an interfaith family. Yet this is the only book written from the perspective of a blissful, hugely successful forty-three year marriage that has withstood all the naysayers and skeptics. Cross-generational as well as cross-cultural, Star Crossed speaks to young men and women considering or entering an interfaith relationship; it challenges the old order espoused by their parents; and it is a nostalgic look back to a simpler time.

Star Crossed is a love story a man can enjoy.

I knew Richard, the boy who became the man it was written about. Men who read this book may be jealous of Richard because of Bette's mixture of love and writing ability. I wish someone would write a book like this about me.

Here's some weird fiction and reality: In a chapter in my own memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), I tell about my time as a Jewish high school senior dating an older Catholic student-teacher from Albertus Magnus College. That chapter is fiction, but was real for Bette and Richard. The real Bette attended the same college as my fictional girlfriend. No, Bette and I did not collaborate. This is just a coincidence. Wow.

(By the way, Bette gets extra points for a perfect cover image that reinforces the title much better than on most of the books I see.)

Barbara Barth's The Unfaithful Widow is a collection of essays and fragmented thoughts on finding joy again after the loss of a mate. A memoir of the first year alone written with warmth and laughter, no subject is taboo. From dealing with the funeral home (Can I show your our upgraded cremation package?) to dating again (He ran in the door, looked at me and said “I’ve left something in my car.” He never returned). Sprinkle in a bevy of rescue dogs (Finally a good nights sleep with someone new in my bed.) and those questions you hate to ask (Condoms anyone?). A story for anyone who has suffered loss and is determined to become their own super hero.

Barbara says "The Unfaithful Widow will make your heart ache while tickling your ribs." She's right.

In her review, Audrey Frank said, "This is a book for anyone who has a void to fill in her life."

That's much too limiting.

No void is necessary, and the book is not just for females. It's a book for anyone seeking entertainment and anyone who might benefit from inspiration to keep going. It's also for everyone who likes dogs and soft-core dirty talk.

Barbara Barth is a master (mistress?) storyteller, with an uncanny ability to recall or recreate dialog. She is able to pluck humor from sadness. She shows proper respect for the past without being a prisoner of the past. Barbara demonstrates impressive resilience, strength and the ability to keep looking ahead despite widowhood, bad dates, and the death of a dog. Her unwillingness to accept cliche roles dictated by age, custom or gender are important lessons for everyone.

I don't want to concentrate only on the inspirational aspects of the book, because it is a LOT OF FUN. I read the Kindle version on a bumpy train ride. I was tired and woozy. A lesser book would have made me turn off my iPad. With Barbara's book, I kept tapping to turn the electronic pages to see what happens next. The woman sitting next to me wondered what was making me laugh and she started reading along with me. I read faster than she did, and let her catch up before I turned the pages.

Although I didn't "get" the cover illustration (it's apparently a chick thing) and at times I thought I was overhearing a conversation that was meant just for women (number of bras owned, evaluating a man's butt), at other times I thought Barbara was talking directly to me.

Buy the book and hear what Barbara has to say to you. You won't be disappointed.

I buy about three books each week, and finish about three books each week. At this time, I average about 60% ebooks and 40% pbooks. A year ago I was only about 20% e.
Despite my intense consumption of words, I doubt that I've read more than a couple of works of fiction since I was in college. I was part of the class of '68 -- just like Billy Clinton, Georgie Bush and Donny Trump -- so college was a long time ago.

I'm not sure why this is so, but I seem to have developed two parallel media streams.
The nonfiction books I read are often as entertaining and exciting as they are educational and informative. If I want pure relaxation, I watch television or movies -- but I don't read novels.

I know it seems weird, so a few ago I decided to read a novel.

I had encountered author Susan G. Bell on the SheWrites website. Susan mentioned her new novel, When the Getting was Good, which dealt with Wall Street trading in the 1980s, and a woman in a largely men's world.

As one of the few testically equipped members of SheWrites, I can empathize with those in the gender minority. I also enjoyed the "Wall Street," "Barbarians at the Gate" and "The Bonfires of the Vanities" movies, and Susan's book has received excellent reviews. It seemed like a good candidate for my test.

I had one other motive. The book was published by Author House, and I was curious to see the quality of a book they produced.

I had one reservation. The focus of the cover illustration is a woman, and the title is in a pinkish text box. Those are pretty good signs of chick-lit -- which I would normally avoid.

Susan and I had some prepurchase discussion online.

She said: "I don't think my novel is chick-lit, though I'm not completely sure what that term means; I've had positive responses from men too, and I hope that you will feel the same.  While I hope women younger than I am will enjoy reading When the Getting Was Good, it's not chick lit . . . though there is a rectangle of pink on the cover. A friend, who is director of an angel investment network for women entrepreneurs, likes Kate Munro -- my novel's heroine -- specifically because she is strong, balanced, and 'not neurotic, a nymphomaniac, or a bitch.' Not that there's anything wrong with that type of protagonist, but I wanted to tell the story of how a strong woman responds to a dilemma in her work place."

So, with much apparently in its favor, I paid Amazon $18.89 and received the book.

Susan is a skilled and entertaining writer who knows her subject perfectly well. She creates believable dialog and I could easily get inside the physical environments she invented. It's a perfectly good novel and well worth the praise it received from others.

BUT... I just could not "get into it."

Apparently, at age 64, I had the patience of a two-year-old.

I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.

  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there were no car crashes or murders in the first few pages to hook me on Susan's book.
Page four presented another problem. Susan wrote: "Jim still had the bearing of the college athlete he'd once been. His expensive cotton shirt, boldly striped in sapphire blue, fit snugly, accentuating what good shape he was in."

That sure seems like a sign of chick-lit, or gay-lit
I'm a happy, horny heterosexual. I'm a 100% supporter of women's rights and gay rights, but I am a bit uncomfortable reading about shapely men in tight shirts, whether they're expensive cotton or cheap polyester.

I'm much more comfortable reading about shapely women in tight shirts, or with no shirts.


I may have been conditioned by sexist literature since I was very young. My parents bought me the Tom Swift books -- not Nancy Drew books.
I'm not a sexist. In fact, I'm a feminist. But I am the product of the 1950s culture and I don't like reading about men viewed through the eyes of a woman.
I bought Susan's book as I said I would. I promised to read it, and I started to read it . . . but I could not continue.

Apparently, the combination of chick-lit and fiction is a fatal diet for me.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Today this blog links to wise words written by others

Mick Rooney is an author, blogger and publishing consultant. He's also a kindred spirit, a supporter of independent publishing and a friend I've never met in the 'real world.'

Today, Mick's Independent Publishing Magazine

targets the ignorant, stupid, short-sighted, out-of-date, self-defeating and inconsistently enforced policy of the organizers of "The People's Book Prize" to exclude SOME self-published authors. (The intention is exclude all.)

Mick says: "
The irony is that if you self-publish a book with an author service, and you are not the registered publisher of origin, then you can qualify for entry if your publishing service provider enters the book, but you're barred if you are both author and publisher and own the isbn as part of your imprint.

An author could in theory write the best book ever, contract the best editors and designers, but would not be eligible for The People's Book Prize.

There's a crazy dynamic going on here. Like much of the established industry, I suspect it's fuelled out of ignorance of self-published books, and how perceived volume and poor quality will dilute what already exists. That's simply not the case.

For a long time I've believed that the industry as a whole feared the impact of self-publishing and the way democratisation would challenge the established industry place for traditional publishing. I don't believe that now. There's simply too much evidence to suggest the industry is happy to stick it's tongue into the Self-Publishing Honeypot when it suits and play the game as long as other players adhere to its outdated rules.

The People's Book Prize has a great deal going for it, but it needs to be more open with sponsorship and just what it wants to celebrate. You simply can't celebrate new and undiscovered authors without acknowledging the empowerment self-publishing has delivered to readers.

What The People's Book Prize needs to understand is that all authors are people and that self-publishing is not some sideline, dysfunctional group."


Farhad Manjoo is a technology writer/talker and author of True Enough. Like Mick up above, he's a kindred spirit of mine, but I can't yet call him a friend. Farhad was a staff writer for Slate starting in 2008 and has been on National Public Radio since 2009. In September, 2013 he left Slate for the Wall Street Journal to be a technology columnist as Walt Mossberg left to go indie. In January, 2014 he moved again, replacing David Pogue at the New York Times as the new "State of the Art" columnist. David moved to Yahoo, and also appears on CBS's Sunday Morning. (This reminds me of the early 70s when I was h-fi columnist for both Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy, and wrote for a bunch of other mags.)

Despite Farhad's departure from Slate,
his earlier columns are still online. Today Slate featured what Farhad offered on 1/12/11, complaining about the strangely surviving system of installing two spaces after a period. I've bitched about this prehistoric practice, too.

Farhad says: "Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste. You'd expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you'd be wrong; every third e-mail I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for "Dear Farhad," my occasional tech-advice column, I've removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I've received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces. Some of my best friends are irredeemable two spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).

What galls me about two-spacers isn't just their numbers. It's their certainty that they're right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the "correct" number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space "rule." Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. "Who says two spaces is wrong?" they wanted to know.

Typographers, that's who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hyp-hen Hil-a-ri-ty UPDA-TED

I take a perverse joy in discovering stupid hyphenations produced by Microsoft Word. One recent discovery is "bin-aural," instead of "bi-naural." It's not as good as "the-rapist," "of-fline" "fi-ne" and "proo-freader," but is worth including in my li-st.

Microsoft, however, is not the only offender. A few years ago The New York Daily News presented us with a powerful piece of innovative typography:


Today's Daily News entry is equally scary: Fa-cebook.

Ebooks, where word flow is controlled by software—not sentient beings—produce some gems. The Kindle edition of The Brothers Emanuel, by Ezekiel J. "Zeke" Emanuel, presented me with "swit-ching." Is it related to the I Ching?

Automatic hyphenation by ebook readers is both funny and sad. I’ve seen “booksto-re,” “disappoin-ting, “depen-ding” and “increa-sing”—within a few pages in the same book.

Usually the first fragment of a hyphenated word provides a hint of what is ahead o nth next line, but not always. I just found what must be the absolutely best awful hyphenation:

Yesterday I encountered min-dreading in the excellent bio of Walt Disney written by Neal Gabler.

Microsoft Word often seems to guess or to follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses. Word 2010 is a little bit better than 2007. 

[above] Strangely, hyphenation is debatable. Microsoft Word and accept “eve-ryone.” Merriam-Webster does not. Neither do I. My own rule for hyphenation is that the first part of a hyphenated word should not be pronounced differently by itself than when it’s part of a larger word. I think most people expect “eve” to be pronounced “eev”—not “ev” or ev-uh.” The “eve” in “eve-ning” is not pronounced like the “eve” in “eve-ryone.”

Word’s hyphenation system sometimes makes bad guesses and you’ll have to overrule its decisions. Proofread very carefully and never have complete faith in robots.

“The-rapist” is my favorite abomination sanctioned by Microsoft. I also really like “of-fline” “who-lesaler,” “Fa-cebook,” “books-tore,” “upl-oad,” “wastel-and,” “proo-freading,” “apo-strophe,” “li-mited,” “identic-al,” “firs-thand,” “fru-strating,” “whe-never,” “foo-ter,” “miles-tone,” “grays-cale,” “distri-bute,” “percen-tage,” “prin-ter,” “fami-liarity,” “misunders-tanding,” “mi-nimize,” “sa-les,” “me-thod,” “libra-rian,” “mi-spronounced,” “alt-hough” and “bet-ween.”

Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and causes errors like “Ste-ve,” “the-se,” “cre-dit” and “se-tup.”

Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, 

which leads to “par-chment.” Maybe Bill Gates retired too soon.  Someone has to fix this stuff.

You may want to override Word’s hyphenation decision with “heteronyms” -- words that are spelled the same way but have two meanings and are pronounced in two ways. Word gives you “min-ute” when you want “mi-nute” and rec-ord even if you want “re-cord.” The automatic hyphenation “inva-lid” makes it seem like you are writing about someone who is ailing, not an “in-valid” contract. Word 2007 and 2010 won’t hyphenate either “Po-lish” or “pol-ish.”

Word’s automatic hyphenation can give weird results with proper names, such as “Fe-dex,” “Publi-shAmerica” and “Pa-nasonic.”

The free “Writer” software from Open Office has problems, too. It produced “unders-tanding.”

I once read a book that advised, “If you do not use a professional your manuscript will not be perfect. Do not proofread it yourself and declare it perfect.” The professional approved “loo-ked,” “winso-me” and “proo-freader.” Ouch.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Simon & Schuster tried to bribe me. Should I call the cops? What about misleading advertising, incest and conflict of interest?

I have frequently written about the expansion of Author Solutions, Inc ("ASI"). It has become the pay-to-publish behemoth by gobbling up and combining former competitors such as Wordclay and Trafford and doing deals with traditional publishers including Harlequin and Hay House, and even Writer's Digest magazine. There are many complaints online about ASI from its author-customers and I wrote a detailed commentary about a particularly shitty book published by ASI's "top" Xlibris brand.

I wrote about formerly respectable publisher Simon & Schuster doing a deal with the devil by setting up Archway Publishing, a pay-to-publish brand operated by ASI. Since then, ASI was bought by Pearson (owner of Penguin and other traditional publishers) for $116 million -- at about the same time that Penguin was merging with competitor Random House. Penguin has set up Partridge Publishing to serve self-publishing authors in India. 

It's logical to assume that even more self-pub labels will appear -- as false competitors. ASI sends out email and operates websites that appear to help writers decide among various self-publishing companies -- but all of the possible recommendations are ASI brands!
  • Even weirder, we now have the strange situation where the combined Penguin-Random will profit when writers pay up to $24,999 to competitor Simon & Schuster on a money-losing, ego-driven fantasy to become a "published author." 
  • Will the stockholders and directors of Simon & Schuster object to Archway enriching Random Penguin in an apparent conflict of interest?
  • Is it corruption when Writer's Digest reviews a book published by Abbot Press or another ASI brand? Will the magazine ignore a book that competes with an Abbot book or an Archway book?
  • Is it incest (or just a violation of basic playground rules of fair play) if Simon & Schuster tries to 'adopt' a book published by Abbot or Westbow Press, Balboa Press or DellArte Press -- the offspring of ASI and other "traditional" publishers? Would that be like Woody Allen marrying Soon-Yi Previn?
  • How soon will the New York Times, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews do deals with ASI? ASI is eager to find new partners. It says: "we develop everything including the initial website design, products and services and the lead generation plan. In addition, we provide all sales, production, fulfillment and customer support. These imprints . . . present an unmatched opportunity for the partner to discover new talent cost-efficiently.
And now, the latest sleaze:

A while ago I (and some other people who write blogs
aimed at authors) received emails about Archway from Veda Kumarjiguda, "digital coordinator" at Simon & Schuster.

When I read the first paragraph and the first two sentences in the second paragraph I assumed that someone smart at S&S had discovered that I had said terrible things about Archway -- and was reaching out to try to change my opinion. Maybe Veda wanted me to know that S&S is sensitive to criticism and has decided to turn things around, to produce high-quality books at reasonable prices with good service to authors.

But, no! S&S was offering me a bribe (which they call a "bounty") if I help the company extract money from eager and naive writers.

Dear Michael,

Simon & Schuster recently launched Archway Publishing as a new type of offering for self-publishing authors. With services delivered by Author Solutions, Archway was developed to help authors achieve their publishing goals and reach their desired audience. S&S has provided guidelines on book design, introduced certain unique self-publishing services, designed packages tailored to meet specific author objectives, and will monitor titles for potential acquisition.

Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options. We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers. The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway.  Click here  to learn more about the affiliate program.  In addition, we'd like to extend to your audience a 10% discount off any Archway package, when referred though affiliate links on your site.  We can also create contests, webinars, and creative for your site, or discuss other ways to work together.

Please let me know if you have time for a brief call and visit to learn more about Archway.

You're probably expecting me to provide some lame humor based on "Mutiny on the Bounty," so here it is:

So, no, Veda, I will not be bribed. I will not accept money to help you get customers. In fact, I will work even harder to help you fail.

However, there is a way I would try to help you and would send customers to you (and you don't have to pay me a penny).

  • Just publish good books and treat authors right. It's not that difficult.

There must be someone at S&S who knows how to do the right thing. Please find her and put her in charge of Archway.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Director of Production should produce good work

Cheri Breeding is Director of Production for Outskirts Press, the frequently inept and dishonest pay-to-publish company I love to hate. She sometimes writes Outskirts's Self Publishing Advisor blog.

Strangely, Outskirts is based in Colorado and Cheri lives about 1,000 miles away in Arkansas. That's a long commute. I guess she works by email. Her Facebook page shows two other businesses she's involved in, so apparently working for Outskirts is not a full-time gig.

Despite her apparent absence from corporate headquarters, Outskirts says that Cheri "has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, [sic] Director of Production."

A Director of Production (or less pompously, a production manager) has many responsibilities. In publishing, the responsibilities lead to one objective: making sure that the final product looks right.

If Cheri and her staff can't even get a small headline right, imagine how crappy their books are.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Books and sins

I've always had a strong (and maybe strange) reverence for books. Maybe it comes from my parents, who were avid readers. As a Jew, I am part of "the people of the book." When I was in college I sometimes spent food money on books. I was still building bookshelves two weeks before I was due to move out of my college apartment.

When I see books in the trash, I rescue them. When a friend's older brother and his buddies gathered around a barbecue grill at the end of the school year to burn their school books, I tried to rescue them, but was blocked by superior force. Assholes!

I seldom think of sin, but if sins do exist, book burning is certainly high on the list.

Books have always been extremely important to me. As the photo at the top shows, even as a little kid, I used the bathroom as a library so not a moment of potential reading time was wasted.

The sales brochure for the Bronx apartment my parents brought me home to in 1946 boasts of "built-in bookcases in every apartment." Now in 2013, I can visualize only two pieces of furniture from that apartment: the bunk beds I shared with my sister Meryl, and a mahogany bookshelf that later moved with us to other homes.

As a child with an early bedtime, I read books by flashlight under the blanket. Even now, I share my bed with my wife, our dog, and usually a book or my iPad or Kindle Fire.

Before TiVo gave me the ability to fast-forward, I always read during TV commercials. I read at most meals -- even at restaurants. Some people think it's rude. I think it's efficient.

After writing paperbacks since 1977 and ebooks since 2009, I decided to publish my first hardcover in 2011, a new format for my "stories" book. It evokes new emotions from me. The book feels very good. It looks beautiful, with a glossy dust jacket and the title and my name stamped in bright golden ink on the cloth covering the binding.

A hardcover book provides a special experience. Perhaps ebooks will replace paperbacks, but I don't think anything can replace hardcovers.

Torah scrolls are still handwritten, after thousands of years. Grave stones are still chiseled. Initials are still carved on trees. They should still be readable long after the last Kindle and Nook are recycled.

Even though I am the sole employee of my publishing company, my hardcover seems about 96% as "professional" as the similar Tina Fey book from publishing giant Hachette. Even though I've seen my cover design and read the title hundreds of times, I can't resist holding the book, feeling it and studying it. Even though I've read my own words hundreds of times, I can't resist reading again.

I got the idea to write this book way back when I was 11 or 12. I'll probably become 68 in a few months. I'm not sure if this book represents my life's work, but if it does, that's OK with me. I'm very proud of the book (I've never thought that pride is sinful).  I honestly think it's a very good book and fortunately, so do the reviewers.

Hardcovers make more impressive gifts than paperbacks and maybe they'll even impress book reviewers who would ignore a paperback.

My hardcover book seems so much more "real" than other formats. I'm almost in awe of it and did’t want to mark up the first proof with a red pen as I do with my paperback proofs. It would seem like defacing a library book -- and that's a sin.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Creative Language Awards: sex, ego-burst, headline, history, sex, drugs, dialog


"I'm a slut, not a murderer": suspect on Bones.

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass -- and I'm all out of bubble gum."
: Rowdy Roddy Piper

"Victim of Dog-Authorized Anal Assault Receives $1.6 million settlement": 

“Over?  Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”: John Belushi as Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House


“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”: Billy Crystal as Mitch Robbins in City Slickers 

“Foul-mouthed? Fuck you!”: Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop

“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”: Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool 

“She thinks I’m a pervert because I drank our water bed.” “Stop whining and eat your shiksa.”: Woody Allen as Miles Monroe in Sleeper

“There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched be­tween the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman.”: Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in Zoolander 

“I have a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time.”: Robin Williams on the Tonight Show 

“Listen, let’s get one thing straight. In the hours you’re here taking care of my mother, no ganja.”: James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos 

“Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”: various people, including me. (No, that's not me. It just looks like I used to look.)


police car photo from KOB TV, Thanx.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An author's name should be a brand name

(not mine)

My name is Michael Marcus. Michael and Marcus and
Michael Marcus are very common names. Although I paint my face on Halloween, I am not the Michael Marcus who's in the cosmetics business.
For writing, I use my middle initial N as part of my BRAND, to distinguish myself from the many thousands of other Michael Marcuses out there.

If you Google Michael Marcus, you’ll find over 400,000 links, including a Wall Street trader, the cosmetics manufacturer, a jazz musician, and many, many others.

Sometimes I am on the first page of the Google links for Michael Marcus, but today I am not.

If you Google my name with my middle initial, you’ll find about 66,000 links. Apparently there are just two of us. The other guy is a shrink. Today I have all of the ten links on the first page of searches for my name. The first one goes to my page on Amazon and the second goes to my "author page" on Facebook. Those links are important to anyone who wants to sell books.

  • If you want to be searchable and findable so you can sell books or any product or service, it’s important that your name become a BRAND NAME so that people who have heard of you — maybe in a conversation or an interview or an article — can FIND you and PAY you for whatever you want to sell them.
Any writer who expects to write more than one book, blog or article hopes that people who like one thing he or she has written will want to read more.

One good way to help people to find your work is to have a distinctive name, like actors and singers. Jor-El, the name of Superman’s Kryptonian father, is unique and distinctive. So is the name of Marlon Brando, who played the part. Marlon Brando was his birth name. Marion Morrison was less fortunate. He had to change his name to become John “Duke” Wayne.

Stephen King’s name is not unique or distinctive. But, after selling perhaps 300 million books, he probably doesn’t suffer from the existence of others with the same name. (Wikipedia listed about a dozen, including a Congressman, a pedophile and five athletes.)

What about a pen name?

It’s not unusual for a writer to use a pen name (nom de plume in French). Mark Twain is probably the most famous fake. Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but he also used Sieur Louis de Conte.There are many reasons for using a pen name:

• To make the author’s name more distinctive, more glamorous or more interesting
• To disguise the author’s gender
• To protect the author from retribution, especially if the book is an exposé
• To avoid confusion with other authors or famous people
• To hide ethnicity or alter apparent ethnicity
• To develop different personas for different genres such as fiction and nonfiction, or chick lit and sci-fi
• To have a name more appropriate to a genre (male western writer Zane Grey was born Pearl Zane Gray).
• To avoid overexposure by having too many books on sale at one time
• To avoid embarrassment, such as when a professor writes porn, or to shield the author’s family from revelations of an unconventional or illegal past
• To avoid confusion if your name is hard to spell, remember, pronounce or seems too “foreign” or “ethnic.” Author Irving Wallace was born a Wallechinsky. His daughter writes as Amy Wallace, but his son is known as David Wallechinsky. (My father's father was born a Dzmichevitsky (or something like that). I prefer "Marcus.")
• To eliminate the possibility that the book could jeopardize your success in another field

Scott Lorenz, who provides marketing and PR at Westwind Communications, suggests some reasons for using your own name on your books:

• If you are not trying to hide from anyone
• To brand your name for speaking gigs or consulting
• So people you know can find your books
• To build trust and confidence with readers
• To use your real-life expertise to validate the contents of your books

If you have a bland name like “Arthur Williams” you might be more easily found and better remembered if you change to Hamburger Williams or Xavier Nguyen Bacciagalupe III.

English punk rocker Declan MacManus morphed into a more-memorable Elvis Costello.
Don Novello wrote books as Lazlo Toth, and appeared on TV as Father Guido Sarducci. Punk-rock bass player Sid Vicious was born John Ritchie. Cher was Cherilyn Sarkisian.

Sometimes just a slight change can do the job. F. Scott Fitzgerald is probably a better choice than Francis or Frankie Fitzgerald. Bill Smith might be better remembered as William Harrington Smith or Billy D. Smith. Edward Jay Epstein has written more than a dozen books, perhaps with more success than hundreds of ordinary Ed Epsteins.

When I checked a few years ago, “Edward Epstein” was the #254,818-ranked full name in, with 123 occurrences. On the other hand, Juan Epstein, from Welcome Back, Kotter, was unique, with just one listed person in the United States. It may not be a real name, however. Maybe Juan’s real name is Xavier Nguyen Bacciagalupe III, or Sally Smith. apparently has changed its function, but there are other sites that reveal name popularity. This site shows popularity of names on Facebook.

In addition to a distinctive name, visual elements can be part of your branding. My books about publishing all have a purple band. Purple is also important on my website for books about publishing. A while ago I bought a purple Nikon and used it as a prop when I gave a talk about self-publishing. I don’t have any purple shirts -- yet; but in 2011 I had my head shaved and my full beard reduced to a goatee. I want to be noticed and remembered. I'd like to be thought of as the bald author with a beard who likes purple, rather than just "some guy."

I was shy and introverted as a kid, but I got over it.

If you want to sell books, you can’t be shy. If you're too timid to toot your own horn, you'll have to hire someone to toot for you. You can’t be afraid to speak to strangers. Anyone can be a customer. I recently sold a book to a clerk in a pawn shop. Sometimes it seems like I am selling one book at a time. That may seem pathetic compared to Stephen King -- but it's neither pathetic nor bad business. Each person who buys your book may tell others, and they may tell others who'll tell others.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Can you tell if a book cover is gay? Can type be butch?

[above] Some book covers leave no doubt about the sexuality of their intended audiences.

[above] The intended audience of some books may be less obvious. Book cover typefaces may have implications you’ve never thought about. Here are two book covers showing men in frilly shirts. If not for the typefaces, could you tell that one book is intended for straight women and the other for gay men?

Either illustration could appeal to people of either gender and orientation but the type makes the difference. The Cross Bones type could be used on a book for straight men, but not with a guy in a frilly shirt.

[above] Here are two cowboy romance books. The huge letters used for Linda Lael Miller’s name and the curlicues and script typeface used for “Country” indicate its for women. The simpler typeface on the book at the right hints that it’s for men.

[left] Both of these books are in the lesbian romance genre, but the title type styles are entirely different Could one be femme and the other butch?


[above] And, finally, books written by a lesbian woman and a homosexual man -- with asexual typography.

(Adapted from my The Look of a Book: what makes a book cover good or bad and how to design a good one)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Make sure you understand the important "peas" in the publishing "pod"

Book publicity is one of several related and sometimes confusing or nearly synonymous “p” terms.

Someone does promotion (which often includes public relations) to achieve publicity. They all can be part of an author's platform.

Publicity is lots of people knowing about your book and hopefully buying copies and/or urging others to buy.

Promotion is all of the efforts intended to achieve publicity. Although publicity is the end result of promotion, many people call themselves book publicists and relatively few call themselves book promoters. (Publicists used to be called "press agents"). A publicist or promoter can guarantee to provide promotion, or public relations, but cannot guarantee that you or your book will achieve publicity. 

Red Hot Internet Publicity is mis-titled. The author uses "publicity" as a synonym for "marketing," and it wasn't until I reached page 115 of her 193 pages that I encountered anything that I considered to be related to the book's title -- which was the reason I bought the book.

Despite its name, public relations is not directly concerned with relations with the public. Media are intermediaries. Writers hope to attract the attention of media people by sending out press releases, or by contacting journalists, editors, bloggers, talk show hosts, TV producers and movie makers.

Promotion includes more than public relations. It may include public appearances, publicity stunts and platform building. 

Platform is a major buzzword in current publishing. It’s not the same as a political party’s platform. Think of it as a metaphor for a structure that will boost you up and make you visible to potential readers, sources of publicity and bookstore buyers. Components in your platform include websites, blogs, business connections, social media, radio and TV appearances, quotes in media, online mentions, speeches, articles, friends, neighbors, etc. Your first book is part of your platform and should help sell your later books.

Platform photo from Thanks.