Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Laredo Publishing has changed its tune. Will it soon stop singing?

Last year I complained that I knew of at least TWENTY-FRIGGIN-SIX forms of publishing, but that number was not enough for Laredo Publishing. That company felt it necessary to present us with number twenty-seven: "co-edition."

(above) Apparently co-editions have not worked out for Laredo, and the company is now promoting good old-fashioned "co-publishing" (#16 on last year's list).

It doesn't look like much has changed other than the label. Laredo wants prospective author/customers to think it's a traditional publisher: "Laredo Publishing co-publishes a limited amount of titles every year. We do not accept all the manuscripts submitted."

However, if you read a bit more, some of the truth comes out:

  • "You assume a portion of the co-publishing cost." (Is that 25%, 75%, 99%, 127%?)
  • "You will receive 25% of the net profit from the books we sell." (What if there is no net profit? This deal is like the notorious Hollywood contracts where naive actors are promised a nice percentage of the net profit, but "creative accounting" eliminates all of the net profit.) 
There seems to be no reason to deal with with Laredo. Maybe its next tune will be its swan song.

However, there are also a nice song and a TV series and movie about Laredo, in Texas:

another version of the song 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Are you a writer or an author, or both?

I've recently seen some online screaming about whether people who assemble words to become books should be called writers or authors. (I will, for the moment, avoid the horrid "content provider.")

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He is an antiquated, aristocratic snob (with perhaps little to be snobby about).

  • A link from his blog to his Google+ page shows almost nothing.
  • A link from his blog to his Twitter page shows almost nothing other than links back to the blog.
  • A link from his blog to his Facebook page shows an ape crying because the linked page does not exist.
  •  A search for his name on Amazon did not reveal any books that I could identify as his. (There are a few people with similar names.)

    He does claim to have been writing online articles about e-readers for four years and to have attended trade shows and conventions. Big fucking deal. So have I. So have others.
In a quaint bit of nonsense, Koz has decreed that "Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors."

He says, "Calling everyone authors who puts [sic] words on a document and submits [sic] them to the public devalues the word so much, it makes it meaningless."

He endorses the rules of some authors' organizations that admit independent authors only if they make "a *multiple* of the requirement for traditionally-published authors minimum income, because it is easier to make money by going indie."

Geoff Hughes posted a reaction in Mad House Media titled "Why Writers should always be called Authors."

He accepts the very broad dictionary definition of "author" as the creator of a book, article or document.

Thomas Jefferson is usually regarded to be the author of the  American Declaration of Independence -- but that terminology constitutes poetic license because of the importance of the document.

I'm a writer and an author -- and other things.

Geoff: If I'm working on a magazine article, gravestone inscription, birthday card, instruction manual, email, blog post, Tweet, Facebook comment, election poster, movie script or an ad for spaghetti sauce, I'm a writer.

If a book of mine has been published (by any means), I'm also an author.

This system works just fine. Leave it alone. And don't assume that bloggers or dictionaries reflect the real world.

And Michael: My first book was published by Doubleday in 1976. Since 2008 my books have been published by my own Silver Sands Books. Have I lost the right to call myself an author?

Benjamin Franklin owned his own printing press. Is he not an author?

The question of whether someone is a writer or an author should be determined by form, not by finances.

If the creation is big and/or important, the creator is an author.

If small and/or not very important, the creator is a writer. There is nothing wrong with being a writer.

Friday, September 26, 2014

An author's name must become a brand name

(no, 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 450,000 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 my first appearance is on page nine (out of hundreds of pages)

HOWEVER, if you Google my name with my middle initial, you’ll find about 83,000 links. Apparently there are just two of us. The other guy is a shrink and I am much more popular than he is.

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, the second goes to this blog, the third goes to my personal Facebook page (which shows some of my books up at the top) and the fourth goes to my "author page" on Facebook. Other links lead to me on Goodreads, Linkedin, Twitter, AuthorMingle and Google+. Those links are important to anyone who wants to sell books.
Searches on Yahoo and Bing yield similar results.

(above) In addition to text links, search engines show "clickable" images of my books and my face on the first pages.

Searches for me with that critical middle initial show the right person on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads, Quora and other social media and booksellers' sites worldwide. I hated my middle name when I was a kid, but now it's very good for business!

  • 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.

I'm certainly not a famous writer, but my fame is growing because I have worked to build my brand. Any writer can achieve search-engine findability. Put a lot of high-quality material online. Do it often. And have a unique, distinctive name!

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

However, 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 www.whitepages.com, 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.

Whitepages.com apparently has changed its function, but there are other sites that reveal name popularity. This site shows popularity of names on Facebook.

(above) In addition to a distinctive name, visual elements can be part of your branding. Most of my books about publishing have purple bands. 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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How does God publish?

Hmm -- another author with a beard

The God of the Old Testament did some terrible things -- smiting, plaguing, flooding, destroying cities with fire and brimstone, converting a woman into a pillar of salt, and more. 

God also did a lot of good. I'm glad He (or She or It) created sunshine and water and lobsters, clams, tomatoes and friendly, furry animals. I'm not so happy about asparagus, broccoli, rats, mosquitoes and flies.

In Jewish tradition, the book of life is opened on Rosh Hashanah (which started at sundown yesterday), when God begins an annual evaluation of everyone. Those who will be allowed to live stay in the book of life. Others are deleted.

In the time of the Old Testament (many Jewish people prefer to call it The Bible) God presumably wrote on a roll-up scroll, or maybe a stack of stone tablets.

Today the Book of Life might be a PC with a multi-terabyte hard drive and a delete key.

Or, maybe God uses a customized iPad with huge solid-state memory.

It seems like God was the first self-publisher, and is now the oldest. 
I'll accept this as an almighty endorsement of self-publishing.

My name is an old Hebrew name. It means "who is like God." If 
I publish what I write maybe I'm even more like God than I thought. [Yes, I know that my name could be a question, but today's blog post works better if I ignore that possibility.] 

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (starting at sundown on 10/3) are known as the Days of Awe and also the Days of Repentance. This is a time to consider the sins of the previous year and to repent. It can't hurt for non-Jews to try it, too. You can also repent in February or August, or on every day. Off-season repentance may not buy you another year, but maybe it will help a bit.

The the operating procedure for the book of life is ambiguous (as are many aspects of religion).

God is sometimes said to have two "books" -- a book of life and a book of death, and He/She/It records who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. It is said that these books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter God's decree. The actions that change the decree are repentance, prayer and good deeds (usually charity). The two "books" are sealed on Yom Kippur.

A common greeting at this time of year is L'shanah tovah ("for a good year"). This is a shortening of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

At this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the previous year. 

So, if I pissed you off during 5774, I'm sorry. I hope I won't be deleted. 
I'll probably piss others off during 5775. It's educational.

Image at the top is from danielrevelationbiblestudies

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Who are "the people of the book?"

  • People of the Book is a term used by Muslims to refer to non-Muslim followers of religions that have a book of prayer. The three religions mentioned in the Qur'an as people of the book are Judaism, Sabianism and Christianity. Muslim rulers and scholars have included other religions such as Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.
  • Despite all of the rampant violence and evil, the Bible is known as the Good Book.
  • In Judaism, the term "People of the Book" refers specifically to the Jewish people.
There is an unusually high percentage of Jewish people who are writers, publishers and editors -- and lots of us have beards! (At least, the men do.)

Considering that the Jewish people constitute a mere one half of one percent of the world's population, it's pretty amazing that Jews have won (according to one list) 52% of the Pulitzer Prizes for non-fiction literature, and from 12 to 33 percent of the prizes for other forms of writing. 
The prize was established by Joseph Pulitzer, a bearded Jewish newspaper publisher. He left money to Columbia University when he died in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the university's journalism school in 1912. The first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded in 1917. Recipients are chosen by an independent board.

You don't have to be Jewish to win a Pulitzer prize, but it might help.

Monday, September 22, 2014

This book about publishing is inaccurate, inadequate, cynical, misleading and overpriced. It's ugly, too, but don't blame the designer. Also, the corrupt author wants to trade free books for good reviews.

First, the customary disclaimer: In 2009, when I published my first book about self-publishing, I initially decided that I would no longer review other books about self-publishing. A good review for a competing book could help the competition and hurt my book. A bad review might be regarded as unseemly or “bad sportsmanship” -- trying to hurt the competition.

And some historyI remembered an incident during the election for class officers in third grade. The teacher told us not to vote for ourselves. The ballots were secret so the rule could not be enforced, but I challenged the teacher. I said, “If we don’t think we are the best for the job, we shouldn’t be running for office.” Mrs. Solomon recognized my logic, and changed her policy.

I changed my policy about reviewing competitive books, too. I felt that I would be doing a disservice by not telling people about good books, or by not warning them about bad books. I also feel that if I pay for a book, I have the right to criticize it.

 -- -- -- 

So, here's a review of another bad book about self-publishing. I'll deal with its appearance before its contents, because I want to call attention to the disaster that can happen when a talented designer is hired -- and ignored or overruled.

The interior of this book is ghastly. It violates almost every rule about book design that I know of, and probably some that I have not learned yet.
  • The book pages were formatted with full justification and no hyphens. This leads to excessive word spacing, plus orphans and rivers.
  • There are headers and folios (page numbers) on otherwise blank pages.
  • First lines are indented below white spaces -- making a paragraph look like a mouth with a missing tooth.
  • The indents are oversize -- more suited to a letter or term paper than to a book.
  • In spreads, some pages are much shorter than the opposite pages.
  • There are oversize spaces between sections.
  • At least one word is set in boldface -- but should not be.
  • Author Mathew Chan warns that using sans serif text type "leaves an unprofessional impression," but his other sins are even more unprofessional.
  • A photo of a stack of books has what looks like a cluster of mouse turds below the books.
  • I could not determine if the book had an editor. If there was one, she or he stopped too soon. There are missing words, misspellings, repetition (even on successive pages!), double hyphens that should be em dashes, bad grammar such as lack of parallelism, misplaced "only," "less" instead of "fewer" and other textual errors.
In the acknowledgment section at the back of the book, Mathew says, I would like to thank Darlene Swanson for her great typesetting design and layout for the book. I highly recommend her to anyone needing typesetting services for their own book."

It looks like the author of an ugly book is endorsing the person responsible for the ugliness -- but apparently that's not the case. I easily tracked down Darlene Swanson, who with husband Dan, operates Van-garde Digital Imagery. The Van-garde website contains comments from happy customers and some very attractive book design samples -- without the problems I saw in Matthew's book.

I had to find out what was going one. I sent an email to Darlene. She told me, "When I received the project from Matthew, I designed it professionally. After that was done, Matthew informed me that he would be taking over to complete the book. It was his idea to do the full justification with no hyphens. I would never design a book that way. The folios on the blank pages were also Matthew's idea. I have been designing books for more that 18 years and I do not put folios on blank pages."

That made me feel better about Darlene (but sorry for any business she may lose by being associated with a dreadful book).

My impression about Matthew -- already negative because of what I read in the book -- sunk even further.

Near the end of the book, in a section about bad reviews, Mathew says, "Sometimes I find it interesting how some people attack and criticize. I sometimes want to say to them, 'If you could do a better job, why don't you?'"

Well, Matthew, many people, including me, have done a better job.

Here's some of what's wrong with what Matthew has written:

The title is confusing. A turnkey business includes everything you need to immediately start running the business, such as a building, inventory, fixtures, equipment, systems manual and maybe even a customer base and advertising. The new owner of the business merely has to turn a key in the front door, open the door, flip on the light switch, and start making money. Matthew does not provide a turnkey publishing business, and his explanation that "In Turnkey Publishing, the business side comes first and the art form is secondary" is both sad, and obvious from reading this second-rate book. He says, "Authoring and publishing a book is a significant credibility builder. People do not have to read your book to willingly accept your credibility in a subject."
  • Hey, Matthew, what happens if people read the book and realize that you don't know what the hell you're talking about?
"In Turnkey Publishing, the business side comes first and the art form is secondary."
  • Hey Matthew, did you ever think that maybe it's bad business to publish bad books?
The minimum price you can expect to pay for your book project includes $200 to $800 for a "transcriber."
  • I've published more than 40 books and have never paid a penny to a transcriber.
"More and more, actual formal writing is becoming less important because good editors, assistant writers, and proofreaders are able to turn sloppy words and grammar into proper words and sentences."
  • It's not easy to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, or lead into gold, or urine into champagne.
"I expect that as time passes, the need for proper English will continue to lessen. This is bad news for proper English writers and editors. They may have to adjust themselves to writing and editing at a 'lower level.'"
  • Death before dishonor.
"The minimum qualification to enter [the Cataloging in Publication] program is having published three books."
  • WRONG. The requirement is having published books by three authors.
"Be a casual writer, not a professional writer."
  • It's OK to be casual, but it's never OK to be unprofessional.
"To this day, I am still not a professional writer."
  • I won't argue with that.
Matthew thinks a website address should be on the top of a book's front cover.
  • That may be appropriate for some books -- but certainly not all, and maybe not many.
"It is difficult for me to write continuously and transition smoothly from topic to topic without always feeling obligated to provide a smooth transition."
  • Well, maybe you shouldn't publish until you learn how to do it.
"I do not currently include indexes within my books, but that may change some day. Creating indexes for books has traditionally been a cumbersome and expensive process, However, I am currently looking into more cost effective options to one day include indexes within the books I publish."
  • Anyone with Microsoft Word can produce an index in a few hours. It's not fun, but it's not difficult or expensive. It's important in a nonfiction book, and the lack of an index may make a book non-competitive.
"The typesetter (sometimes called a desktop publisher) . . . ."
  • In contemporary book publishing, the person who arranges the words may be called a formatter or an interior designer or even a typesetter (although there is no physical type used), but I've never heard that person called a "desktop publisher."
"I don't have the best cover designs for any of my books, but then again I never have strived to."
  • If you don't strive for the best, you may end up with crap.
"I don't expect I will win any design awards for my book covers."
  • You won't.
"For the beginning publisher, I recommend looking for printers that will allow you to print a minimum of 500 copies using traditional offset printing."
  • In the very next paragraph, Matthew recommends that "your first run be 1,000 or 1,500 books." Matthew's own book, however, is printed on demand by Lightning Source, one at a time! "Do as I say; don't do as I do."
"Don't ask me why they insist on 32-page increments. It has something to do with the offset manufacturing process. I simply accept it as fact."
  • 32-page increments are not necessary with all offset printers and page sizes -- and certainly not with print-on-demand.
"CreateSpace has some attractive features for its program, most notably that you will get preferential treatment if selling books on Amazon is your highest priority.
  • I've had books printed by both CreateSpace and Lightning Source for sale by Amazon, and have not received preferential treatment for my CreateSpace books.
"It generally takes [Lightning Source] nearly two weeks before they will prepare your files and send you a proof to review."
  • Actually, it usually takes just three days.
"Another benefit of having your books listed on Amazon is that Amazon product listings automatically rank high in search results on all the major search engines."
  • No they don't.
"Perhaps the best thing that could have ever happened to independent publishers everywhere is the Amazon Advantage Program."
  • Amazon Advantage’s purchase discount is 55%. You get just 45% of the List Price. When Amazon sells an Advantage book for $20, they pay you $9 -- and that $9 may have to cover $5-$6 for printing and $1-2 for shipping. Amazon Advantage is Amazon’s advantage. They’ll make much more than you do. It's much better to have Lightning Source or CreateSpace supply your books to Amazon and its customers.
"Having studied the publishing industry, I believe Amazon is clearly on the cutting edge of working with independent publishers with their Advantage Program."
  • Sorry, Matthew, more study is needed, and the sentence should be rewritten. Who does "their" refer to?
Matthew says that Amazon's "Search Inside" feature requires a physical book to be submitted for scanning.
  • That's not true. A PDF file is fine. CreateSpace books are included in the program automatically, with no work by the publisher.
"I am currently in the beginning stages of utilizing [Lightning Source] and it is too early for me to report."
  • Then you have no business writing a book about self-publishing! 
". . .  I will ask the recipient if they will be willing to give a favorable Amazon review in exchange for a free book."
  • OMG, Matthew publicly admits to being corrupt. NOTE: he did not bribe me to write this review.
". . . I believe every publisher and author should get involved to some degree in product fulfillment."
  • That's ridiculous. An author should not have to be a warehouse manager and shipping clerk. Let the printer ship books to Amazon's customers, and spend your time writing and marketing.
Matthew recommends shipping books in bubble envelopes.
  • Rigid cardboard boxes provide more protection, and are available free from the Post Office for use with Priority Mail.
"We currently cannot justify the learning curve and costs for an in-house postage system."
  • Both the curve and the cost are minimal.
"I have a lot to learn to market and promote my books."
  • And a lot to learn before writing about publishing.
Matthew's picture is on the back cover and on the "about the author" page,  and at least four pix are elsewhere in the book.
  • I have a big ego -- but not THAT big. Hey Matthew, one is enough.
The book has 222 pages of text.
  • That's much too few to justify the high $21.95 cover price. There are many bigger and better books with lower prices. I wrote some of them.
  • No secrets are revealed in the book, and traditional publishers don't care if you read the book. Actually, if you follow Matthew's advice, you will not be much competition for Simon & Schuster or Random House -- so maybe traditional publishers would like you to read the book and fail at publishing.
It also says, "Nothing transforms your professional image and credibility more quickly than becoming an author of a professional book."
  • Nothing hurts your image and credibility more quickly than an unprofessional book -- like this one.
It also says, "Traditional publishers, bookstores, and literary agents say that you cannot successfully publish or sell your own book without their help."
  • Matthew, please name some of the publishers, stores and agents that said that; and how does a store speak?
It also says, "The myths they perpetuate are: * It is difficult to write a book. * It is expensive to publish a book. * You have to be a good writer. * Your book cannot sell without a bookstore. * You need an agent to get reputably published.
  • Actually, Mathew is creating the myth that you don't have to be a good writer. If you're a bad writer, you may get a review like this one.
It also says, "In this unconventional, revealing book . . . ."
  • It's neither unconventional nor revealing.
Matthew's website says,  "there is a need for more publishers and authors."
  • That's probably not true, and even if it is true, maybe Matthew should not be one of them.
    Author Matthew Chan has no reason to smile about his dreadful book, unless he's smiling about the ignorant suckers who paid for it.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I have ten literary gods. Who do you worship at your keyboard?

(above) Creations of Groening, Martin and Ward.
Barry, Shepherd, Lehrer and McCahill.
Creations of Solomon & Hirshey, and Douglas.

I thank them for entertainment, stimulation and setting high standards.

Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author, and the funniest writer I know of. He is so funny that I had to stop reading his column because I got so jealous. Dave used a picture of my dog Hunter in one of his books. It's called Dave Barry's Money Secrets. Here's a Dave Barry money secret: Dave didn't pay me any money for the picture, but I did get a few free books. I'll let Dave read my books for free, too. See: www.DaveBarry.com

 ● Jean Shepherd (1921 - 1999) was a radio and TV raconteur, and he probably ties with Mark Twain for story-telling ability. Shep's books include In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and A Fistful of Fig Newtons. Twain was a great writer, but Shep was funnier. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Shepherd

Jack Douglas (1908 - 1989) was an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer on The Jack Paar Show, The George Gobel Show, Laugh-In and other TV programs. I remember him most for his book titles, which include My Brother Was an Only Child, Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes and Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Douglas_(writer)

 ● Michael Solomon and David Hirshey edited and did the headlines for the annual Esquire magazine “dubious achievements” awards in the 1990s. They taught me to write snarky headlines with meanings that don't become apparent until after reading the material that follows. I use this technique on Facebook every day. See: http://observer.com/2008/01/beloved-iesquirei-franchise-dubious-achievements-becomes-one/

Don Martin (1931- 2000) was an extraordinary cartoonist best known for his work in MAD magazine. Don created such notable characters as Fester Bestertester (top, center) and Freenbean Fonebone, and printed sound effects like “FAGROON klubble klubble.” Don's books are available from Amazon: www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b/102-1200899-0172121?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=don+martin 

"Uncle" Tom McCahill (1907-1975) was an automotive journalist who wrote for Mechanix Illustrated magazine in the 1950s and 60s. He rated car trunks by the number of dogs they could hold, and described the ride of a 1957 Pontiac as “smooth as a prom queen's thighs.” Tom was a Yale graduate, and knew classic literature as well as cars. When a reader asked how to pronounce “Porsche,” Tom answered, “Portia.” Some of us understood. Another time another reader asked, without specifying a vehicle, "How much is the parts cost and how much do the car?" Tom had a great answer: "Sure." See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_McCahill

Tom Lehrer claims he "went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity." Tom was a Phi Beta Kappa student who taught at MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley, but is best known for hilarious songwriting, much of it political satire in the 1950s and 60s. Lehrer's musical career was notably brief: he said that he had performed a mere 109 shows and written 37 songs over 20 years. Tom developed a significant cult following in the U.S. and abroad. Britain's Princess Margaret was a fan, and so am I. I can still sing lyrics I first heard in seventh grade. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lehrer

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Life in Hell. The Simpsons has been the longest-running comedy show in American television history. Because it's a cartoon, some people make the mistake of assuming it's for kids. It's not, but kids love it. See: http://www.thesimpsons.com/index.html

Jay Ward, creator of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Peabody and Sherman  Crusader Rabbit. The Rocky show was filled with literary allusions and magnificent puns (or horrible puns, depending on your outlook on such things). Unless you are an old fart who watched TV in the fifties and know that Durward Kirby was the sidekick on "The Garry Moore Show," you would not appreciate the pun in "Kerwood Derby," a hat that increased the intelligence of its wearer. See: http://bullwinkle.toonzone.net

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You may not see the world -- and your book -- as others see it

I had a cataract removed from my left eye about four years ago, and an artificial "Toric" lens implanted. I was terrified about the surgery, but it was no big deal. The improvement in my vision was amazing. Not only was the world sharper, but colors were truer. I could now see white walls that had seemed off-white or almost beige. I could appreciate the Hi-Def TVs in my home, and movies looked much better.

I was told that I would need similar surgery in my right eye -- probably in two or three years.

But my right eye suddenly got much worse and I had the second surgery and implant just one year later.

During the time between the surgeries, my two eyes saw very differently when used individually, and when used together they distorted reality, which is BAD for designing books.

My "improved" left eye (which no longer needed a corrective eyeglass lens) was optimized for distance vision, like TV and driving. My right eye (with a corrective lens) was optimized for things like books and computer screens.
  • My ophthalmologist explained that I would develop monocular vision. Each eye had a specialty, and the brain selects the input from the proper source.
Most of the time I was not conscious of this weirdness, and I seemed to see pretty well. But my distorted view of the world presented a problem with publishing -- and that's why I am writing this blog post to warn others.

After my first eye repair I revised one of my books to use Adobe Garamond Pro ("AGP") type instead of my former Constantia. I think that AGP is prettier, with thinner, more delicate strokes -- which I could not appreciate with my 'old' vision.

It took me a while to get used to it on my computer screen, and even longer to get used to it in print. Eventually, I started using AGP in most of my print books. However, my newest book uses Constantia, again. I'm a fickle type lover.

As is common for fiction and memoirs and other non-techie book, the Stories I'd Tell My Children book was printed on cream (or "crème") paper, instead of pure white. Cream is said to be easier on the eyes.

Unfortunately, with my messed-up eyesight, the cream seemed too dark, as if the pages had yellowed with age. And the thin strokes of the Garamond seemed to have inadequate contrast to show up against the dark paper.

I was all set to arrange to switch the book to use white paper, when I decided to ask for opinions from people whom I knew to have excellent eyes. The verdict: "It's fine. Leave it alone."

So, I stuck with cream and I thought I had done the right thing.

The next year, after my second eye was repaired and my vision now "normal", I decided that I still didn't like cream, and I switched the pages to white.

There's an important lesson here for book design and life in general: don't assume that others see things the same way you do. And, it's important that you like your books.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Someone who doesn't know left from right should not be giving advice about publishing

"Self Publishing a Book explained in one minute"

From Lull Mengesha:
  1. Register for a copyright.
  2. Get ISBN and Barcode.
  3. Find Print on Demand Publisher.
These are just the things that took me a LONG time to figure out that really shouldn’t have been so difficult. 


From Michael N. Marcus:
  1. The first thing you do is NOT to register for a copyright. That’s one of the last things you do, and you can do it months after the book is published.
  2. NO NO NO. You can get the ISBN and bar code from a publisher, or after you find a publisher, or after you become a publisher -- because it connects a specific version of a book to a specific publisher!
  3. It’s also a bad idea to produce a promotional video that shows your book with a left-right reversal.
Lull has a lot to learn before he starts giving advice, and he needs an editor, or a better editor, for the book.

And, of course, it's not possible to explain self-publishing in one minute. My first book about self-publishing has 432 pages, and probably takes a few days to read.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

People who can't read should not review books or sell editing services

Apex Reviews sells a variety of services to authors, including editing, cover design, formatting, publicity and book reviews.

The company says: 
"We are a team of experienced authors and editors with a combined total of over 75 years experience in the publishing industry. Under our guidance and direction, numerous titles have gone on to receive widespread acclaim, win countless awards, and enjoy multiple printings."

Apex said the following in a five-star review on Amazon.com for a bad little book, The Secrets Of Self Publishing by Therone Shellman: "A Must Read For Authors Worldwide... any author serious about publishing and promoting his/her writings would be remiss not to take advantage of his considerable expertise. Highly recommended."

Here's what some other reviewers said:
  • "There were multiple grammatical/capitalization/other errors in the pages I viewed...including two in the first sentence....  For such a critical topic as self-publishing, and a book which recommends the importance of professional editing, I'm a bit wary about purchasing this item.... this is the sort of book that gives self-publishers a bad name."
  • "... a prime example of why many people look down on the business of self publishing.... he needs to hire an editor to proofread his work."
  • "... it cannot be taken lightly that there are so many editorial oversights (typos, misspellings, punctuations, etc.) just in the first few pages.... evidence of little or no editing  was pure madness, especially for someone who is giving advice on the subject of publishing."
I bought and read the book. The negative reviews are accurate. The book stinks. Don't trust any review from Apex.

Errors on the Apex website make the company's boasts of experience and expertise dubious.

They should know the difference between "everyday" and "every day," and that "highly-polished" does not get a hyphen.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Sometimes type needs to YELL at readers. Sometimes rules need to be broken.

Standard, ordinary, simple, basic, upright type is considered to be “roman”—with a lowercase “r.” It’s not the same Roman as in Times New Roman. You can use Times New Roman roman or Times New Roman italic.

Italic type can be considered to be the opposite of roman type and it leans to the right. It leans like the Leaning Tower of Pisaand Pisa is in Italy, where italic type originated during the Renaissance. 

Itals” have several purposes in typography. They can provide emphasis and can also highlight:
  •       uncommon foreign words
  •       technical terms
  •       book, magazine, newspaper, CD and movie titles
  •       TV series titles
  •     pieces of art, like The Last Supper
  •       important vehicles, like the Mayflower and Enterprise
Grammar Diva Arlene Miller provides a good rule about using italics or quotation marks: "In general, big things go in italics, and parts of things go in quotation marks."

Names of books (but not “Torah,” “Bible” or “Koran”) are often put in italics. There is much disagreement about what else gets the italic treatment. See Grammar Girl.

It’s common to use italics to introduce an obscure technical term like virgule, and then switch to roman letters later on in a book or article. If I am introducing a technical term that uses ordinary words, like “breaker head,” I generally use quote marks the first time. Sadly, I am not consistent about this.

For many years, before personal computers were common, text was underlined with typewriters that could not produce italic letters for emphasis. Graphics experts frown on the use of underlines in books and recommend italics instead if you need to call attention to a word.

However, sometimes an italic word looks too weak, or doesn't look right when it’s next to a roman word. Compare these two versions of text:

In the first example, “Real” looks stronger because it’s upright and there are no strange gaps between it and the adjacent roman words because of slanted letters. I think the underlined text is fine. Some traditional typographers probably hate it and will brand me as a heretic.

[below] I'm not the only heretic. Here are pieces of two book covers with underlined text. I published one of them

If you mix italic and roman type, be careful with slanted letters W, Y, K, and sometimes M. Look at “k W” below.

[below] Be careful if you have roman and italic letters on the same line. The italics may appear shorter because they ‘lean over.’ You can experiment with slightly enlarging the itals, changing the typeface or changing cases.

[below] Sometimes I use an underline to call attention to an actual ('physical') word rather than to emphasize a concept.

With modern software and the huge variety of fonts, there is generally no need to use underlines for emphasis. When you underline a word, the line will cross through the descenders of lowercase letters g, j, p, q, and y, making an ugly word. I would hate to underline “regal” or “royal.” You can sometimes avoid the ugly problem by substituting a word that has no descenders (not always an option and you can’t alter a web address).

[below] The New York Daily News is a tabloid newspaper with a long tradition of YELLING at its readers. The paper uses lots of underlines, but cuts the lines apart to accommodate descenders and punctuation. I've never seen this technique on a book cover, but if you feel the need to create a book that yells, try it (but be prepared to be yelled at).

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This posting is adapted from my upcoming Typography for Independent Publishers.