Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I'm a grammar geek. Don't call me a word nerd.

A geek probably has better social skills but may be clumsier than a nerd, who is less single-minded than a wonk and less obsessively studious than a grind and less pathetic than a dork -- but the terms overlap in many respects.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/136405/#ixzz1HXMFJoLb  

and http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-the-Difference-Between-Nerds-and-Geeks 

and https://slackprop.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/on-geek-versus-nerd/ 

Nerd pic from BigStockPhotos.com. Thanx.

Monday, March 30, 2015

How can you tell if a book cover is gay or straight?

Some people--including my late father--had or have "Gaydar", the ability to instantly determine if a stranger is gay or straight.

I have gaydar for book covers.

[above] Book cover type 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)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Should you provide inscriptions and autographs?

I personally have never been an autograph collector, but I do have a few autographed books on my shelves which I got by accident. Lots of people like autographs, apparently to prove or imply that they were once in the same place as a famous person. If readers put you in the same category as Mickey Mantle, Marilyn Monroe or John Lennon, play along with it — no matter how much your wrist hurts.

If you are selling your books from your own website, competing with other booksellers that underprice you, you may be able to justify your price by including your signature and maybe an inscription.

Autographs (just your name) and inscriptions (a comment plus your name) can go on the flyleaf (a thicker-than-normal blank right page just inside the front cover in a hardcover book) or on the half title ("bastard title") or title page; so always leave adequate “white space” up front.

I've never done a formal signing, but I do sell (and sometimes give) books with inscriptions. I try to write something that relates to the book and/or the recipient. For my books on telecommunications, I often write "I hope you never get a wrong number." When a humorous book goes to a doctor, I write "laughter is the best medicine." When my memoir goes to people I know nothing about, I often write "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." Long inscriptions are probably wrong if you have 200 people lined up in a bookstore, but are fine if you are sending out one or two copies with no time pressure.

Here's some good advice about book signings from publishing expert Dick Margulis:

  1. Find a black-ink pen that you really like to write with. It should not be such a fine point that you risk snagging on the surface of the paper and ripping it. It should not be an ink that bleeds through the page. It should allow for a smooth, fluid, comfortable motion with little pressure. Buy a box of them. (Note from Michael: I like Sarasa 0.7 and Pilot Precise V7 pens.)
  2. You do not need to use your real, legal signature. Devise a brief, casual signature (just your first name is usually fine, and legibility is not necessary) that you can turn out consistently and quickly while looking at the person for whom you are signing (rather than at the page). Bigger is better than smaller. Practice until it's comfortable.
  3. Keep your wrist straight (to prevent injury). Move your arm from your shoulder, not from your elbow (larger muscles in your upper arm than in your forearm).
  4. Warm up beforehand. Stand up. Do whatever stretches and rotations you would normally do to relax your neck and shoulders. Let your arms hang loosely for your shoulders and wiggle them, paying particular attention to keeping your hands loose.
  5. Take breaks. Stand up and shake out your arms again.
  6. After the session, go to your hotel room and ice your elbow and shoulder for twenty minutes before you agree to meet anyone for dinner.
  7. If only five people show up, ignore everything above, because it's overkill in that situation.

(Back to Michael:) any time you sign or send a book, stick in three to six business cards that show the book cover and "at Amazon and B&N" or your website address if you prefer to sell directly. Make it easy for happy customers to recommend the book to others. While some of the cards may be used as bookmarks, crumb sweepers or be thrown away, I assume that some will be passed on to potential purchasers.

I get my cards from VistaPrint, a major maker of business cards and other printed products for businesses which I've been buying from for many years. For the card shown here, I uploaded a TIF image copied from the PDF of my cover. The book is 6 x 9 inches, and fits fine on the business card with a little white space above and below the cover image for promotional copy.

The price was just $25 for 1500 cards -- less than two cents each with rush shipping. If you spend a little more, you can have VistaPrint use the space on the back to print some blurbs from readers or reviewers who like the book.

My wife and I carry the cards around to give to possible "customers." Marilyn has turned out to be an excellent salesperson. She motivated our dentist to order a copy from Amazon and I signed it for him when I had my teeth cleaned. My podiatrist, however, asked for a freebie. I gave it to him and he displays it in his office. So does my urologist. Nice.

(Gingrich photo from WashingtonPost.com. Thanks.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A book title and pen name encourage me to AVOID a book

I previously wrote about an awful book with an Amazon sales rank of #10,125,019. I thought that ranking was as low as it goes, but, sadly, I've found a book that reached #10,165,145. (It's now up to 7,164,574.)
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.

Here's the headline from a crappy-as-usual Outskirts Press book announcement: "Outskirts Press Announces Nubian Gold, the Latest Highly-Anticipated History – Other Book from Houston, TX, Author Tarchon the Etruscan."
  • If the author was Conan the Barbarian, Atilla the Hun or Andre the Giant, I might have read more.
  • If the category was more exciting than "History - Other," I might have read more.
  • If the publisher was not Outskirts Press, I might have read more.
  • If the press release was written better, I might have read more.
  • If the description on Amazon did not have a silly, uncorrected error (Follow the paths of two men as the find their destinies. . .), I might have read more.
  • If the Etruscan was from ancient Italy -- not modern Texas -- I might have read more.
  • And finally, the full title is Nubian Gold: A Conspiracy of Jewish Proportions. I've heard enough antisemitic crap about alleged Jewish Conspiracies and will not buy the book. ("Abraham, Sarah, Akhenaten, Esther, Daniel, the Septuagint, Martin Luther, William Tyndale and some notable rabbis all come alive in Tarchon the Etruscan's Nubian Gold. Finally the 'true' history of the Jewish people and of their holy scriptures has been told.")
If you're more curious or motivated than I was, here's a link for the book on Amazon.com

OOPS. I'm not through.

If you need another reason to ignore the book, read this egomaniacal bullshit about the author: "Tarchon the Etruscan is a student of the human condition, wielding the written craft to enrapture the mind much like an artist wields a brush. The pages are a blank canvas on which to draw from a talent heralded by many and matched only by an imagination that rises to the task. Nubian Gold is the reminiscences of a seer’s vision."

It's hard to read that without puking.

Sorry, Tarchon. Somehow, I just don't feel much of an urge to have my mind enraptured, especially by an  egomaniac who is afraid to use his or her real name.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Memorable literary dialog, #753 in our series

"Your hump, your hump," cried the girl, "GIVE ME YOUR HUMP!"

(From Candy, by Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Incompetent, evil PublishAmerica tries to hide from past by changing name to America Star Books. Future success depends on conning ignorant foreigners

above recently morphed into below

PublishAmerica (“PA”) told potential authors that it’s a “unique and traditional publishing company.” It was unique, but since a PA author’s advance was often just a dollar, and editing and promotion were often non-existent, it was not a traditional publisher.

The company said that it was the “nation’s number-one book publisher” (whatever that means), and that it “publishes more new titles than any other traditional book publisher” (difficult or impossible to prove). PA even claimed to “receive more queries from new authors than any other book publisher in the nation.” That’s a statistic that they could not support because other publishers certainly wouldn’t give them query data.

PA was probably the worst publishing service in the world. (I won't dignify it by calling it a publisher.)
  • The Internet is filled with complaints from PA's author-customers who claim they were neglected, defrauded, lied to, overcharged and even threatened. Some complaints are here, here, here and here.
  • PA promised free publishing, and then tried to overcharge its authors for a wide variety of services and products. Books were usually both so shoddy and so overpriced that they were unsaleable. One 28-page book is priced at $24.95! A 44-pager has the same absurd price. An almost-unreadable 292-page collection of gibberish is priced at $32.95.
  • Book promotion ranged from nonexistent to incompetent. Book descriptions on Amazon are very poorly written.
  • The company encouraged authors to be active in marketing their books, but there was little or no direction and supervision. This book has a five-star rating -- written by its author.
  • Cover design is often ugly and amateurish, with such no-nos as "Writtten by."
  • PA had a strange marketing philosophy. It wanted authors to provide a mailing list so PA could pester friends and relatives to buy and publicize books.
  • Unhappy authors were ignored, threatened and sued!
  • Authors told Publishers Weekly that PA “sells books to which it no longer holds the rights;… doesn’t pay royalties it owes; engages in slipshod editing and copyediting; sets unreasonable list prices; and makes little effort (and has had little success) in getting books into bookstores.”
  • A class action lawsuit was brought against PA, alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, unfair business acts and practices, fraudulent business acts and practices, deceptive acts and practices and various other crimes. You can read the complaint here.
  • The IRS filed a tax fraud lien for more than $50,000 against PA boss Meiners in 2011.
 - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Jenna Glatzer is a magazine article writer, book author, contributing editor at Writer's Digest, and editor-in-chief of Absolute Write, an online magazine for writers. In an interview with WBJB radio, she exposed some of the wacky and scary tactics of PublishAmerica.

According to Jenna, “They harass their authors, they start smear campaigns against their authors, they’re just an incredibly abusive company.” She also said that PA is “built on deception,” and has “vindictive, abusive, and strange people who have crossed the line.”

Jenna discussed author Ken Yarborough, who tried to prove that PA was not selective about accepting manuscripts and did not reject 80% of proposed books, as the company states. Ken submitted a book that consisted of the same 30 pages repeated over and over again -- and PA accepted it!

When Ken revealed what had happened, PA reported him to the police, alleging fraud.

In another case related by Jenna, an author asked PA to lower the retail price of a book to make it more saleable, or to release him from his seven-year contract. PA tried to have him arrested for harassment.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Miranda Prather, PA executive director, has had a life that would make an interesting book.

She received national attention in 1997 when police accused her of faking a hate crime while working as a teaching assistant at Eastern New Mexico University.

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, “Prather was accused of threatening several professors and staging an attack on herself. She was charged with concocting an elaborate hoax that included circulating fliers and mail claiming to be from ‘The Fist of God,’ which threatened death and injury to specific ENMU professors and to homosexuals in general.”

Prather, an open lesbian whose name was listed first on the fliers, was accused of faking an attack on herself that caused slight injuries. She initially said two men attacked her, and then blamed an imaginary woman.

Prather was charged with seven counts of harassment and one charge of filing a false police report. She agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges in exchange for probation instead of imprisonment. After the plea bargain, Prather joined PA -- a company with a reputation to match her own.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

 (below) PublishAmerica idiots published books written by "Travesty" and "Charlatan."

PA’s low standards have been exposed by several stings in which it agreed to publish deliberately bad books. Atlanta Nights is an assumedly unpublishable collaborative novel created by a group of sci-fi and fantasy authors to test whether PA would accept it. The book was supposedly written by “Travis Tea” (travesty). The Crack of Death author was said to be “Sharla Tann” (charlatan), and the book is filled with bad writing, bad grammar, spelling errors, malapropisms, gender shifts, age shifts, name shifts, and more.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Because of the widespread negative publicity it apparently became difficult for PA to find ignorant wannabe authors to scam in recent years. The company probably also lost business to the many companies that made it easy, inexpensive and quick for writers to produce and market ebooks.

So, how could PublishAmerica survive?
One way might be to clean up its act. PA could admit it made mistakes and promise to be both competent and honest when dealing with authors in the future. But, no. A "mea culpa" and change of character are out of character for the sleazes who operate the company.

Instead, PA recently morphed into "America Star Books" (ASB) -- with a much cleaner website but pretty the same old way of doing business (now it pays no advance, instead of one buck). The new web address was registered on 8/12/13 and the new site apparently went "live" in February, 2014. ASB boasts of "roots that go back until 1999" but I found just one mention of PA on the new website. Anyone who types "PublishAmerica" into a web browser automatically reaches the new ASB site.

While the new site is less cluttered and more professional-looking than the old one, it still contains sloppy errors in grammar and spelling, such as the abbreviation "LLLP" instead of "LLP" and "etcetera" instead of "et cetera." There are even missing words, as in "we now translating." A company selling editing services should be careful about its own text.

The new site claims that "America Star Books has served 50,000 authors since 1999." Since the company did not exist until 2013, that claim is clearly untrue. The website includes quotes from "happy authors" who were actually published by PA, not ASB. The company's dishonest Facebook Page lists "life events" from PA history, not ASB history.

Apparently realizing that American wannabe authors will easily learn about the company's pathetic past, ASB is trying to snare ignorant customers from other countries who want to sell books in the USA: "It is our mission to translate into English books that Americans have never heard of, from languages that most Americans don't speak. America Star Books gives foreign authors an English voice, and publishes their work in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain." The company promises free translations into English, but authors "Grant the English rights to America Star Books for 3 years."

ASB admits that its translations may be shitty. CLICK.

While ASB claims that "we assume all financial risks and all expenses related to producing, manufacturing, and publishing a book," the company previously charged for ebook conversion (I'm not sure if it still does), and fees also apply for such options as "rush" publishing, promotion and editing.

ASB says, "Our authors are not stupid." Maybe not stupid, but certainly ignorant. Stay away. Stay  far, far away.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My nominations for the most disgusting bits of literature

What are the most disgusting bits of literature ever published?

Would you want to read any more of Rainbow Gliding Hawk and the Last Stand of the Patriarch by Doug Lambeth after encountering the first page of the first chapter?

The vomit warmth reaches through the shiny leather and as my toes begin to sweat, I pray that rental tuxedo shoes are water/puke proof. I wonder if they’re Gore-tex lined? “It’s just puke,” I say, and to punctuate the point Dirk retches his remaining stomach contents onto my feet.

The next gem is from The Wayward Comrade and the Com­missars, by Yurii Karlovich Olesha.

How pleasant my life is. Ta-ra. Ta-ra. My bowels are elastic. Ra-ta-ta. Ta-ra-ree. My juices flow within me. Ra-tee-ta. Doo-da-da. Con­tract, guts, contract. Tram-ba-ba-boom! (I wrote a book report on this one when I was in junior high school.)

It's probably best to minimize the disgusting stuff unless you're writing for doctors or children.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A press release for a book is NOT an advertisement

The press release -- sometimes called a "news release" or "media release" -- is a vital part of book promotion. It is used to attract the attention of writers, editors and book reviewers who may become allies in creating publicity which can sell books.

Remember: the mere publication of your book is not usually sufficiently newsworthy to impress anyone. Only the most desperate small-town weekly would publish an article with the headline: “Local Woman Writes Book.” Your news release needs a news hook. The hook is the main point of your release. It can be a theme, statement, trend or event on which you “hang” your news release. It’s also a hook with delicious bait on it that you hope will attract the attention of writers, reporters and editors.

  • To grab the attention of newspeople, you have to think and act like one of them.
  • You need to be a partner, not just a salesperson.
  • Authors -- like news media -- make money by attracting readers.
  • Your press release must provide important or useful information, or entertainment.
  • Think like a news writer, not a book writer. If you were reporting news or providing entertainment, what would interest you and your readers?
  • A press release should be newsworthy and read like a news story -- not an advertisement.
  • It should adhere to fundamental journalistic standards, using the five W’s and one H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).
  • Write something that you’d like to read about your book if someone else wrote it.
  • Many websites automatically redistribute press releases.
  • Some “reviewers” are too busy or too lazy to actually read your book, and will merely rewrite or reprint your release. Make it as effective as possible.
  • Your release must be accurate, both in terms of its content, and in grammar and spelling. Don't embarrass a newsperson or reviewer who attaches her name to it.

The release that follows is a gushing advertisement, not news, and apparently has not been "picked up" by any online media.  (My "pregnant" news at the top was picked up.)

The release below has some silly errors. The book is also terribly overpriced -- $29.95 for the hardcover, $21.95 for the paperback.

For Immediate Release

“Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago”
Marries Fashion with Passion

Set in the tumultuous time of the 1970's, “Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago” dares to ask provocative questions about race, culture, and the human need to connect.

Sensual and heart breaking in turns, author Veronica Page takes readers through the true story of her desire to succeed in the fashion industry amid the hot box of racial struggle in New York City. Told in the tune of disco against the sweeping backdrop of elaborate fashion shows, “Confessions of a Disco Queen…30 some years ago” immerses the reader in the day to day hardships of living as a black woman in a world that balks at both her gender and race.

Page weaves narrative with her own published newspaper articles, lush fashion descriptions with steamy romance, and cruel reality with laugh out loud honesty to create a novel that brims over with life.

Deidre Berry, author of The Next Best Thing and All About Eva, says, "Pazge [sic] has lived a life worth reading about. Hold on to your seats as she takes you on a thrilling ride through New York City during the decadent disco era."

To arrange a book signing, radio and print interviews, please contact Managing Partner, Talib Tauhid at ccgbiz@yahoo.com or call (480) 208-5510. Or to purchase the book, visit the website or Amazon.com or BN.com


To learn more about press releases for books, spend a buck on The One-Buck Author's Press Release Book.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Don't be a copycat when you title your book

Yesterday I noticed a spurt of online promotion for a $2.99 ebook short story called "Internet Hell" by Trisha M. Wilson. I was surprised to see it because Internet Hell is the name of a book I published in late 2012.

While book titles can't be copyrighted, it's both unprofessional and confusing to copy the title of another recent book.

  • When I challenged Trisha, she blocked me from viewing her Tweets. To hell with her.
Since it's so easy to determine if a book title is already in use, the only reasons for copycatting a recent book title are ignorance, stupidity, laziness or evil. Maybe Trisha is guilty of all four.

Trisha's story is interesting, but poorly edited by the two named editors: Colby Trax and A. J. Wallace. The
third paragraph says "regiment" instead of "regimen." Many paragraphs are choppy, with too many unnecessary pauses. The stop-start-stop-start rhythm made reading it tiring. I also think her cover is amateurish, made with cliché clip art and just one dull typeface. Some letters are lost against the background.

A while ago I noticed a nice review posted online for The Chosen by John G. Hartness. It seems like a good title. Apparently others think so, too, because the title has been used for about six books.

At least one, Chaim Potok's The Chosen, is quite famous. It was nominated for the National Book Award and was on the NY Times bestseller list for six months. More than a million copies were sold, and the novel was made into a movie and a Broadway musical. Hartness could have found it with a few seconds of research.

It's understandable that a new book may duplicate the title of an older, obscure book, but it's just plain unforgivable, and pathetic, and maybe a dishonest to copy the title of a well-known bestseller.

Every book needs a title. Many book titles are cliché phrases which seem to be absolutely perfect for a particular book. Unfortunately, many cliché phrases are absolutely perfect for lots of books, and, again, the title of a book can’t be copyrighted. Any writer considering possible titles should check for previous uses.
  • Both Danielle Steel and Queen Noor of Jordan wrote books called Leap of Faith.
  • At least five books are titled Fatal Voyage.
  • At least four books, two songs and a movie are named Continental Drift.
  • At least 24 books are titled Unfinished Business. You can write books with that title, too. 
  • I recently published Do As I Say, Not As I Did. I knew that the title had been used by another book, but the books are very different and the other one was published nearly ten years before mine.
  • More than a dozen different books are titled Caught in the Middle. If you like the title, you can use it, too. You can even use it for several different books.

An identifying term in a book series can be trademarked. If you publish The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Harry Potter, you’ll probably be sued by two publishing companies, and lose twice.

If your name is Harold Gordon, you could write and publish The Autobiography of Harold Gordon. There is nothing to stop an unknown author -- or Danielle Steel -- from writing a book with the same title. Danielle could also write The Autobiography of Barack Obama.

If you want to call your next masterpiece Holy Bible, Hamlet, War and Peace, From Russia with Love or The Da Vinci Code, you can. You might get sued. You might win, but it won’t be a pleasant experience. You’ll probably also confuse and annoy a lot of people -- so try to come up with something original.

And, as long as I'm preaching about originality, don't be an obvious thief of another book's design.

It’s smart to study other books and to seek inspiration from successful authors and designers -- but it's stupid to be a copycat. It's embarrassing when you get caught.

The book on the left has sold millions of copies since 2004. It provides guidance for solving personal and professional problems.

The book on the right, which copied the cover design, typefaces and title style of the bestseller, is a promotional piece from evil/inept Outskirts Press.

I saw four five-star reviews for the Outskirts book on Amazon.com. Two were written by Outskirts authors featured in the book, and one was written by an Outskirts employee. That seems a bit sleazy -- just like the cover, and just like Outskirts Press.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An error-filled website does not inspire confidence in the book it promotes

This could be a great book.
This could be an important book.
Will it be hurt by a bad website?

The objective of book promotion is to convince people to buy (or maybe to review) a book. The promotional work should be done well, and should demonstrate the author's ability to write (and to get appropriate professional help when needed).

Sadly, a lot of book promotion by authors (and by publishers like Outskirts Press) does not inspire confidence in the author or the book.

I learned about the book shown above when author Kevin Dorival promoted it on a LinkedIn group for authors and editors. 

Kevin obviously did some research about book promotion. He produced a video trailer, Facebook page and a website

Although Kevin has worked in Internet marketing, his own website is dreadful. No website (or book) is perfect, but his is one of the worst author's sites I've seen.

There are many non-functioning links and one link that's supposed to go to Amazon.com goes to an expired eBay auction. The site has abundant bad English, bad writing, bad typing, unfinished pages, lame Tweets, bad videos, bad information and uninteresting and useless information. It apparently was not edited or even spell-checked.
  • Do potential book buyers need to know the names of the nephews the author babysat for, or which iced tea is his favorite, or that he puts mayo on fries? [BARF!]
  • Do potential book reviewers really need to have a selection of six author photos?
  • Why does the author's August event calendar show a barbecue contest and "gold tournament" that is probably a misspelled "golf" tournament?

[above] A website should not show template artifacts.
[below] A website should be checked, and re-checked, and re-re-checked -- by someone other than the site's creator.

[above] I sure hope the professor doesn't teach English. He used "interesting" in three consecutive sentences. Does he have a first name?

  • None of the listed items are functioning links.
  • Media Inquiries come from the media -- they are not sent to the media.
  • "Delray Tribunal" should be "Delray Beach Tribune." If you want to impress the media, get the names right!
  • "Big skinny girl's voice world" does not show up in a Google search, except for a link to the author's website.
  • "Miami Times" should not be hyphenated. If you want to impress the media, get the names right!
  • 08' should be '08
  • An event inquiry has nothing to do with a book review at a library
  • Review copy requests should not go to any of the non-links listed.
  • OH! Now I get it. Kevin seems to be bragging that he received inquiries and requests from the places and people on the list. That's nice for him -- but it's very amateurish to list them. If a review or interview is published, then a link is appropriate.

[above] There is nothing on the website that explains how to get a free copy. The name of the publisher is probably not "Self-Publishing."
"Dorival is a mentor and a role model to young adults in need of guidance at the Knights of Pathagoras." [Actually, it's Pythagoras. Even a spellchecker would've caught this error.] 

"A book of movie like drama based on my trials, tribulations and how I ultimately overcame the adversities. This is inspirational true story of my life gives you insight on how I found “The Courage To Believe.” As a mentor I hope to lift the spirits of millions of teens and young adults- globally. January12, 2013 marks the three year anniversary of the earthquake that shattered Haiti’s foundations. As we approach the date, I pledge to donate a percentage of the profits made from every book you purchased to the, “Caribbean Fellowship Ministries.” This orphanage feeds and teaches hundreds of children each day. This is more than a book – it’s a mission that is dear to my heart." [bad writing and sloppy editing]

On Facebook, Kevin wrote, "My book and movie is [are] going to catch [set] the world on fire!" 

Kevin's book covers have some silly errors, too. On the front it says "written by." That never goes on a cover. The cliche-filled back hyphenates "auto-biographical" and uses an ampersand instead of "and." The word "to" in the title is in lowercase on the front cover, but is uppercased on the spine and back cover. Cover sloppiness is a sign of potential big problems between the covers.

The front and spine show a strange logo with a sword -- but there is no indication of what the logo represents.

Kevin means well, and may have an important message to tell. I hope that his book was edited by a professional editor. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Front list, back list, spring list, black list, no list?

Traditional publishers plan long in advance for books to become available at specific times. There's generally a “fall list” and “spring list” (or maybe a “fall/winter” and “spring/summer” list) of new books. Books may also debut for the winter holiday season, summer vacation, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Election Day, etc.

Although I have not been able to find any, I assume that at one time publishers’ book lists were simple one-page price lists that salesmen used when selling to bookstores. Now many “lists” are thick color catalogs, website pages or PDF downloads.

In addition to the seasonal lists, books are listed (i.e., classified) according to importance. A “front list” book is new, expected to sell well and receives a lot of promotional effort. A “back list” book was probably published years ago. Sales are not so dismal that the book goes out-of-print, but it receives little or no promotional effort. A “midlist” book, as you might assume, is between front and back. Most books are midlist. Midlist and backlist books are important in publishing because they bring in money year after year with little or no effort or expense. Some writers are referred to as “midlist authors.”

The front, mid and back designations relate to the position of a book in a publisher’s catalog -- or state of mind. Being on the backlist is not necessarily an insult. Simon & Schuster’s backlisters include Pulitzer-Prize-winner David McCullough and Nobel-Prize-winner Ernest Hemingway.

A black list, on the other hand, is a list of things or people to avoid. Try not to be on one of those.

(From my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice

Friday, March 13, 2015

Here are my 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. Why is this man laughing? 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, March 12, 2015

Don't use unnecessary words on book covers or signs

If you saw a sign like this one in a store window, and you hoped to get a job in the store, but the sign did not include the archaic "inquire within" phrase, would you do anything other than inquire within? 

If you saw a book cover with one person's name on it, but the text did not include "by," "By:" or "Written by," wouldn't you assume that the name is the name of the author?

A phrase like "Written by Stevie Jones" may be forgivable on a report written about Abraham Lincoln by a child in third grade, but DOES NOT belong on a book. It instantly brands the book as amateurish, and the book may be dismissed even before the cover is flipped open. 

Publishers should know better. Authors should know better. Any cover designer who goes along with an author's request to include the childish text -- or puts it there without being asked -- has no business designing book covers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A newspaper doesn't know enough about publishing

Easterners may be surprised to learn that the capital of California is not San Francisco or Los Angeles, but Sacramento -- the state's sixth largest city, with about half a million people.

The UC Davis Medical Center, an important research hospital, is located in Sacramento.
The California Bureau of Investigation, featured on "The Mentalist" before the staff moved to Austin, is based in Sacramento. The hospital is real but the CBI existed only on television.

The Sacramento Bee, established in 1857, is Sacramento's largest newspaper, the fifth largest paper in California, and the 27th largest in the USA. The Bee has won five Pulitzer Prizes and many other awards. 

An editorial in its first edition declared that "The object of this newspaper is not only independence, but permanence." Accuracy would also be nice.

The paper has a section called "Bookmarks" which covers author appearances, seminars, book sales and such.
It informed readers that "The Book-In-Hand Roadshow is a half-day primer on self-publishing, a.k.a. 'print on demand.' Its goal is to help aspiring authors understand the new world of self-publishing."
Anyone who thinks that self-publishing is also known as print on demand should not be writing about either.  
  • Lots of self-published books are not printed on demand, or even printed at all.
  • Lots of POD books are not self-published.  
A newspaper should be more careful when it publishes news about publishing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's dangerous to usee a sepll-checker, or not use won

While the spell-checking function in word processing software will usually — but not always — spot an improperly spelled word, it won’t spot a wrong word that’s spelled correctly.
  1. In the surprise bestseller, Go the F*ck to Sleep, Adam Mansbach wrote, “The lambs have laid down with the sheep.” “Laid” is spelled correctly, but the correct word is “lain.” 
  2. In The Successful Writer’s Handbook, Patricia L. Fry wrote, “One writer I know had a cubical constructed in her garage to use as an office.” “Cubical” is spelled correctly, but the correct word is “cubicle.” 
  3. In Best in Self-Publishing & Print-on-demand, David Rising  wrote, “for all participates.” “Participates” is not a spelling error; it’s the wrong word. “Participants” was the right word, but the spell-checking robot didn’t realize it. 
  4. In Release Your Writing, Helen Gallagher wrote, “They work is not cheap.” “They” is spelled correctly. Unfortunately, the correct word is “Their.” 
  5. In an early version of a book, I typed “The photographer will be thrilled to have a subject who does not vomit on her, or require funny faces to illicit a smile.” “Illicit is a properly spelled but incorrect word. The correct word is “elicit.” Editor Sheila M. Clark caught the error. 
  6. In Principles of Self Publishing, Theresa A. Moore wrote about an alleged “exhorbitant shipping fee” The fee was actually reasonable, but the spelling is not. There is no “h” in “exorbitant.”
A spell checker would have caught the error.

Theresa wrote, “I don't use the spell checker. I use a dictionary.  Oxford American. The standard spelling I learned had an ‘h.’”

She probably was taught properly, but confused “exorbitant” with “exhort.” She also misspelled “propaganda.”

Ironically, Theresa says, “a misspelled word can stand out like a red flag in a cornfield” and “It is vitally important for you to have a clear grasp of spelling . . . .” She’s right about that.

It’s good to have a dictionary, but unless you’re unsure about a word, you won’t check it. A spell-checker, while imperfect, is on duty even when you have no doubt.

(Graphic image from http://www.cn-printing.com/. Thanks.)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Who's so vain? Vanity publishing, non-vanity publishing and vanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although not always true (and less true in 2015 than in 2005), a book published by a self-publishing company is often assumed to have been rejected as unworthy of publication by traditional publishers.

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