Monday, February 27, 2017

Authors: how much meddling would you tolerate from a publisher?

There are minimal barriers to entering the publishing business. Anyone with a PC and web access can declare herself to be a publisher. Self-publishing companies appear and disappear regularly. 
  • Some companies aiming to work with authors who'll pay to publish are parts of billion-buck businesses—and some seem to be operated by the 400-pound guy sitting on his bed that Trump accused of hacking the DNC.
  • Some serve any author with a pulse and a credit card and others insist that they have extremely high standards for authors.
  • Some will publish books about any subject and in any genre. Others serve very narrow markets.
  • Some seek out knowledgeable authors and others, such as America Star Books, seek ignorant beginners
  • Some don't care about the personal beliefs of their authors but Cross Books wants the public to know: "In order to maintain its high standards, CrossBooks performs a theological review on every manuscript submitted to us."
  • Some charge so much that I'm amazed that they have any customerss. Some charge so little that they can't afford to produce books with proper quality
  • Some do excellent work and others make such crappy books that they embarrass their authors—and sometimes get sued.
But perhaps the weirdest publisher is Green Ivy Publishing, which recently solicited me to use its services.

A quick perusal of the company's websites shows absolutely no reason to favor it over its dozens of competitors. HOWEVER, it is uniquely heavy-handed in commanding authors how to write.

The company says it wants authors to follow the Chicago Manual of Style, and that's generally OK. However, in Green Ivy's "Advice for Writers" web page the company is both oppressive and weird, dictating style choices that should remain with authors, not publishers.

The company says that commas should be used:
  • "Between two independent clauses joined by a conjunction (ex. I took my skates off, and I put on my shoes.)" BULLSHIT. A comma can be used for both grammar and for sound. When not needed for grammar, a comma signals a pause, and it should be the author's decision to urge readers to pause or move along.
  • "To separate all elements in a series (ex. I learned about knitting, crocheting, and weaving.)" BULLSHIT. The use of the serial comma (before the last term in a series) is optional. It is sometimes needed for clarity but is not a grammatical necessity. Again, this should be the author's choice and can be discussed with an editor.
The company is also weird with possessives:
  • "For singular common nouns ending in “s,” add an apostrophe and an “s” unless the next word begins with an “s” (ex. the bus’s tire or the bus’ seat)" BULLSHIT. I never heard this 'rule' before and neither did any of the English experts I consulted.
  • For singular proper names ending in “s,” use only an apostrophe (ex. Charles’ bag) BULLSHIT. This is a subject of endless debate, and the formatting may reflect whether the "s" sounds like an "s" or a "z." My home is Marcus's house—not Marcus' house. One of the company's own book titles violates its rule: Zeus's 10th Daughter. Haha.
Authors are also advised to "Avoid passive sentences." Literature would be boring if every sentence is active. This should be the author's choice, but an editor can provide advice. Of course, the company's own website includes passives. Haha.

Green Ivy says authors should "Cite all information that is not universally known." ABSURD. How can any author know what is universally known?

The company says that authors should "Spell out whole numbers one through ninety-nine." This is an author's option. Most authors spell out one through nine. I generally spell through ten, but sometimes I go even higher. Forty-four billion may be a better choice than 44,000,000,000.

And as long as I'm being picky:
  • The website has at least one missing page.
  • The company's blog has not been updated since 2015 and the one entry is useless.
  • Some of the company's covers are dreadfully amateurish, with crappy clipart and terrible typography.
  • Some of the books are absurdly overpriced (e.g.: $9.99 for an 18-page paperback).
  • I have no idea what this book is about, or even its genre.
  • This next cover says that the book was "written by." Those two words should never be on a book cover. The book's description is badly in need of editing.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Authors: Don't let readers think you're an idiot. Every word you write is an audition.

Every word a writer writes must be considered to be an audition—a tryout, part of a competition, the equivalent of a performance on America's Got Talent, American Idol, etc.

I read a thoughtful and useful guest posting about the importance of editing by Shayla Eaton on a popular blog about publishing. Ben Lunt, an alleged writer (and a nasty SOB and immature egomaniac) posted a response including the word "sight" instead of the proper "site." When challenged, Ben said his comments were a "spontaneous and unedited rant" and that he "never even looked through this before posting."
That's not good enough
, especially for someone like Ben who brags that his writing is better than the work of others. His later comments are filled with sloppy errors and childlike insults. A writer must have pride in her or his craftregardless of the venueand respect for readers.

A while ago I read a writer's blog.
  • The writer said that someone "range" [rang] the doorbell, wore "sheek" [chic] clothing and that something is "cheep" [cheap].
  • This person also wrote "nation-wide" [nationwide], "main stream" [mainstream], "self published" [self-published] and more.
  • This person mentioned "the hard work of revising and polishing" a book.
The blog deserved similar hard work. (Confession: I am not perfect, but I try to be. Some people, like Ben Lunt, don't try.)

It's important that those of us who have writing careers never go "off-duty." We must produce professional-caliber work all of the time, even if it's just a 20-word Tweet or a three-word reply to an email. Never excuse your own sloppiness. Never say, "It's only an email," "it's only Facebook" or "it's only a blog."

Words intended to promote your books deserve and require extra attention to spelling and grammar. Search for improper punctuation or wrong words. Insert those words and punctuation marks that may be in your mind but not on the screen. Make sure everything makes sense. Delete material that may be juvenile, unprofessional, irrelevant or distracting.

Here are some online comments I recently read from authors:
  1. I am interesting in your opinion of my new book.
  2. my new book shall be available soon a true story I am a first time writer who went for the self publishing road e book and pod I am looking forward to the launch date shall be announce soon.I shall keep you all posted. many thanks for reading this article for an extract from my book go to my blog page
  3. It's about a girl, Julien, that's trying to adjust to life in a new place after her parents divorced. Just as she is starting to settle in, an "attack" by a Breaker, a person who can enter a persons mind and control thoughts and actions, shakes the town. Before she knows it, her life takes a difficult turn and it could be more than she can handle. Again, you reading it would be super kick ass
  4. For a short period of time the ebook addition will be on sale for only 99 cents.
  5. It seems no one will ever run out of questions about ISBN's - least of all me!
    When you fill in your short & long descriptions on your
    ISBN numbers
  6. I've published an analogy
  7. My first novel, Darkness Forbidden, was published in December on Kindle the paperback should be released shortly.
  8. In the early 90s, Sheila and I selling my art at malls and arts & craft shows, decided to create a few in-demand original titles 
  9. they should have went with Vantage
  10. I need some good honest and reallistic advice. I used AuthorHouse to publish my historical fiction and was very unhappy with their work. I want to format the book myself and then find a link to a POD arrangement bor printing.
  11. Author presently resides in Easton, Pennsylvania and remains in close contact with his family members. Who cares? Is this a reason to buy the book?
  12. The writers adventures as both a military officer and quality professional add greatly to the writings contained in this epic tail of adventure.
  13. My book and movie is going to catch the world on fire! 
  14. Myself and two other authors in the same genre are thinking of . . .
- - - - -

Even alleged publishing 'pros' make stupid mistakes for the world to see:
  1. Outskirts Press founder Brent Sampson wrote that Roget's Thesaurus was published by Peter Mark (actually, Peter Roget published it), confused a foreword with a preface, and misspelled "offset." Brent advises that "Errors in your writing cause readers to question your credibility."  He's right about that.
  2. Lulu founder Bob Young misspelled "misspell" and confused "less" and "fewer." A publisher should know better. 

keyboard photo is Microsoft clip art

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Authors: Plant book seeds long in advance if you want to harvest the publicity crop later

On the day I approved one book for printing, it had 669 search links on Google, 66 on Bing, 79 on Yahoo, and 10 on Excite. Those links were in place, waiting for my book to exist.

Last week I started mentioning that I had started writing Love For And From My 4-Legged Son on social media and some of my websites. It already has six links on Google, plus more on Bing, Yahoo and other search sites.

Authors, if you don’t start marketing until your books go on sale, you’ve waited much too long. Start marketing as soon as you have a subject and a tentative title. Even a year in advance is not too soon!

Some people think it’s bad luck to announce a pregnancy before the baby is born. Others start blabbing and buying baby clothes on the day after conception. There is similar disagreement about announcing a book long in advance.

You may think that you should keep your book secret so nobody copies your idea. But the loss of advance publicity and the delay in moving up through search engine rankings is probably worse than helping a competitor.
  • If you write a blog or have a website in a field that’s related to your book topic, show a mock-up of the cover and tell a bit about the book. As you get closer to the publication date and your ideas about the book get more concrete, you can say more about it.
  • This blog shows covers of some of my works in progress. The books won't be published until some time in the future, but each book shows up in searches for relevant key words and phrases—and some are high in the rankings. 
  • If you respond to posts on others' blogs and websites, and on Facebook, mention your future book in the text or in your "signature."
  • Write guest blog posts, magazine articles and letters to the editor -- and mention the future book in your bio.
  • Send out press releases.
  • If you've written other books and have an author page on Amazon or elsewhere, mention your future books.
  • For nonfiction, assert your expertise. Respond to requests for help in Help A Reporter Out.
Here are some news items that mentioned books that did not exist yet:
  1. New York Times: "author of the forthcoming novel “Maya’s Notebook” 
  2. Business Week: “This is the lesson Costco teaches,” says Doug Stephens, founder of the consulting firm Retail Prophet and author of the forthcoming The Retail Revival." 
  3. Huffington Post: "Helena Andrews, author of the upcoming book Bitch Is the New Black"
  4. Christian News WireDr. Andrew Jackson, author of the forthcoming Mormonism Explained: What Latter-Day Saints Teach and Practice"
  5. "Fred Bals, author of upcoming Theme Time Radio Hour' book - Part one"
  6. Financial Content: "coauthor of upcoming e-book, But I'm Hungry!, to be launched on September 15"
  7. Quill & Quire: "Author of forthcoming book about Sarah Palin rents home … next to Sarah Palin"
  8. Princeton University Press Blog: "Noah Horowitz, author of forthcoming ART OF THE DEAL"
  9. Blog Talk Radio: "Arthur Wylie is the author of the upcoming (and great book) Only the Crazy and Fearless Win Big." 
  10. Media Matters: "Author Of Forthcoming Fox Expose Says He Received Threat Following Latest Attack Piece"

You can do it, too. Get started NOW.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A few tips about book titles and book covers

My beloved dog Hunter J. Marcus died three weeks ago. He was 15. That's old for a dog, but not old enough.

I have often written about him in blog posts and on Facebook. Several people urged me to write a book about him. I certainty don't want to disappoint his fans or my fans—so I started yesterday. I'd been out of the authoring mood for a few years and it feels good to be writing again.

The illustration shows the tentative title, Love For & From My 4-Legged Son, and a preliminary cover design. I'm sure there will be changes before publication later this year. Even though what you see resulted from just a few hours' work and is far from final, it does exemplify several important concepts:

  1. Keep your title as short as possible. If you use fewer words, the letters can be bigger. Bigger letters are easier to read—especially when reduced to "thumbnail"-size illustrations online.
  2. An ampersand (&) should not be used within your text, but is fine in titles where you need to save space. Some ampersands look better than others and you can use an ampersand from a different typeface than the surrounding text, if compatible. My ampersand and title are in Cambria bold.
  3. The title is a rhyme. That's fun and may make the title more memorable.
  4. Limit the number of colors on your cover and try to tie the title color to your dominant graphic image. My title color is close to the color of the dog's fur.
  5. Normally short words such as "for" should be in lowercase type. In my title both "for" and "from" are important—not mere prepositions—and deserve uppercasing.
  6. Avoid all-white covers. They disappear onto the white pages of websites. My cover actually has grayish tone on it, and is surrounded by dark edge to define the shape online.
  7. Learn to kern. The "y" is tucked into the "M" of "My."
    More about kerning here
  8. Say something about yourself, especially if it's relevant to the book's subject and can add credibility. Did you win an election, a Nobel Prize or an Olympic medal? Are you a teacher, a cook, a crook or a cop. Did you discover an element or an island. Do you have 14 kids?
  9. Use the available space. A subtitle or list can amplify the title and possibly help you to sell more books. Extra text also helps attract search engines. I plan to use a subtitle. It's important for me to include "dog."
  10.  My list at the bottom originally said:
    ·                      Memories
    ·                      Photos
    ·                      Advice
    ·                      Emails from Doggie Heaven
  11.  I replaced "Memories" with "Stories," which is about the same width as the two successive lines.

More about covers in my book, The Look of a Book: what makes a book cover good or bad and how to design a good one

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to find a "bargain" editor for your book

While writers' magazines and directories have lists and ads for professional editors, there is another potential source of high-quality editing that may be available for less money, and the editors may be available to do your work much sooner.

Check with some journalism departments and college newspapers—perhaps where you went to schooland chances are you'll be able to find several bright and eager candidates. Read some samples of their work. Maybe submit a sample chapter for editing. Ask a faculty member for opinions. Then make the deal.

Skill levels will vary, of course, and so will needs and costs. You can pay per hour or per project. Expect to pay more if you need major rewriting than just copyediting.

A student who has a part-time job making minimum wage flipping burgers will probably be thrilled to earn $20 per hour, or $300 - $500 for a project. As a comparison, one publishing company that caters to self-publishing authors recently charged $50 per hour or 1.4 cents per word.

If the job goes well, be sure to put your editor's name in the book, and send a note to her or his faculty adviser.

As long as you're investigating colleges, consider hiring a professor, not just a student. If you're writing in a specialized field, it could be worthwhile to hire a faculty member to check your facts, and pay someone else to polish your prose. Different kinds of editors do different kinds of editing.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Three Jeers for Cablevision (and how Cablevision is damaging CBS)


Cablevision has supplied my home and business with TV, telephone and internet service in NY and CT since the mid-1970s. For most of that time I've been a satisfied customer, except for those times—like right now—when I've been an extremely pissed off customer.

When I've been pissed off it was not because of bad service, but because of STUPIDITY.

When I lived in NY I had 14 TV sets. Eight of them were connected to cable boxes which had monthly fees. Six of them were connected directly to the cable, and were not charged for.

Cablevision insisted that all TVs that were connected to its service—even those producing no revenue—had to be included in its records. They also had to appear on the monthly bills, even if nothing had to be paid.

The format for the monthly bill allowed just ten items, so Cablevision had to separate my TVs into two accounts. Each month the company sent one bill that included the eight cable boxes, plus another bill—with a different account number, different envelope and additional postage—for the six TVs that had no cable boxes and no monthly charges.

The second bill was based on monthly charges of six times nothing, with a total due of zero dollars and zero cents.

After several months, Cablevision's computer noticed that no payments were received to pay the zero balance, and turned the account over to a collection agency.

The collection agency's computer then started to threaten me, detailing the dire consequences if the payment of zero dollars and zero cents was not made promptly. Phone calls to the agency and Cablevision were fruitless. The customer service people at both companies blamed the computers, and had no way to intervene.

Ultimately I  presented a check to Cablevision for $0.00, and the account was credited for the "payment," and everything was fine... for a few months. Then the collection campaign began again.

When I moved from NT to CT in 2001 (still within Cablevision territory), connection of my new service was delayed because of nonpayment of my previous zero balance.


I just endured my third consecutive weekend without Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes,

Recently there has been no NCIS, Bull, Criminal Minds or Elementary in my home. My own good wife doesn't get the see The Good Wife. 

I am caught in a disruptive, destructive despicable, infantile dispute between TV service provider Cablevision (recently bought by European media behemoth Altice) and Meredith Corporation. Meredith, now in its second century of operation, publishes such magazines as Better Homes & Gardens and owns or operates multiple television stations, including CBS affiliate WFSB in Hartford, CT.

(below) Meredith says I am a pawn.

(below) Cablevision says I am a hostage.

I live in Milford CT, about 50 miles from Hartford. Until recently I could choose among more than 800 TV channels—including two from NBC, two from ABC and two from CBS.

last month I lost both of my CBS channels—WFSB as well as WCBS from New York City. The same thing happened three years ago.
No thanks.
WFSB tells unhappy viewers: "You can watch us for free over the air with an antenna, or you may choose to subscribe to DirecTV (1-800-DIRECTV), Dish Network (1-888-825-2557) or AT&T U-verse (1-877-597-9067) which all carry WFSB and the other local television stations in our market."
  • No thanks. I am not going to change TV service providers because of a short-term problem. (If I switch to AT&T or Dish, they could have a blackout in the future.) I tried two over-the-air antennas and neither one will receive CBS programming. WFSB also points out that I can watch some CBS programming on my PC. Watching television programs on a 27-inch PC monitor while sitting on a desk chair is not like watching a 65-inch TV while lying on a couch.
So-called "blackouts" are an unfortunately common part of cable TV negotiating. The loss of programming can last for hours or months. Viewers and advertisers are the victims. Even networks and local stations get hurt.
  • In 2013 more than three million Time Warner Cable viewers in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and other parts of the country lost access to CBS shows for a month.
  • In 2010, Cablevision stopped providing Fox programming to 3 million customers for two weeks.
  • Also in 2010, HGTV and the Food Network were briefly lost to AT&T U-verse subscribers because of a dispute between Scripps Networks and AT&T. AT&T also stopped providing the Hallmark Channel for months.
These problems are symptoms of a fundamental clash of interests.
  • Providers of programming want to maximize the income earned by their expensive productions.
  • Cable TV companies want to pay as little as possible to the program providers, both to maintain profitability and to avoid rate increases in a fragile economy where viewers can choose from a growing number of competing entertainment and information sources.
In an email, Meredith's VP for Corporate Communications and Government Relations Art Slusark told me, "We value your viewership and we are working hard to resolve this matter, but Cablevision refuses to negotiate, even though other cable companies have agreed to compensate WFSB."

I’m not sure that local channels should be paid by cable companies. Can’t WFSB charge more for advertising because of the extra audience the cablecos deliver? Maybe WFSB should pay Cablevision, or at least provide its program feed for free.

Throughout this annoying ordeal, one issue has been strangely ignored by Meredith, Cablevision, the media covering the situation and politicians: How can WFSB, a little channel in Hartford, stop me from watching WCBS, a giant channel based in New York City? Meredith does not own WCBS!

During the 2014 blackout U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy urged Cablevision and Meredith to end the blackout. They wrote that they “believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families . . . .  The senators also want Cablevision to “commit to refund upon request any Litchfield or New Haven County subscribers who are no longer getting what they signed up for, a portion of their monthly bill commensurate with WFSB’s value.”

Senators, what about WCBS's value? WCBS is worth a lot to me. WFSB is worth nothing to me. It is one of hundreds of channels that I pay for and could watch—but never watch.

WFSB says it "is simply requesting that Cablevision acknowledge that our WFSB is a valuable source of programming for all of Cablevision's Connecticut customers, even those customers that also receive an out-of-state CBS station." Again, WFSB is worth nothing to me.

WFSB also says, "WFSB's vital local news, emergency information, and top-rated CBS sports and entertainment programming are important to Optimum customers." BULLSHIT! WFSB is absolutely worthless to me.

WFSB also says, "Our signals always have been and always will be free over-the-air." BULLSHIT. I can't receive WFSB over-the-air at my home.
Sept. 5, 2012 Cablevision and CBS Corporation announced the renewal of their content carriage agreements covering retransmission consent for CBS Owned Stations. [including WCBS!] “Cablevision is a cornerstone partner in our flagship market.  By recognizing the value of our content, this agreement assures the audiences we share with Cablevision will continue to be able to enjoy programming . . . . ” said Martin Franks, Executive Vice President for Planning, Policy and Government Relations, CBS Corporation.

“This broad agreement will ensure that Cablevision customers will continue to have access to the CBS programming they already enjoy, across a range of networks, as well as new services Cablevision will launch in the coming months, including Showtime Anytime and CBS prime time shows on demand,” said Mac Budill, Cablevision’s executive vice president of programming.

A similar agreement was announced on 8/25/15:

Well, the "multi-year" agreement did not last two years!
I want my CBS.


I am trying to reduce my monthly $133.31 Cablevision TV bill.

It includes a $4.97 "Sports TV surcharge."

I never watch sports. It would take at least $100 and massive amounts of junk food and harmful beverages to entice me to watch football or baseball.

Why should I be forced to pay for something I never use?

This is not like paying taxes for schools and roads that benefit the entire community—not just drivers and school children.

Didn't we fight a war over taxation without representation?

Not only do I never watch sports, I never watch 90% of the approximately 800 channels available in my home.

I want à la carte pricing to allow me to pay for only what I want to watch.

Screw you, Cablevision—and your new European owner, Altice.


CBS is the most popular network for prime-time programming. Probably 80% of the TV programs I watch are CBS programs. The rest are a mix of NBC, ABC, HBO, Amazon, CNN, MSNBC, History, Netflix, Velocity, HGTV and a few others. 

Lester and Scott are both welcome in my home. 
 I have no idea who does the ABC news.

For evening news I've been addicted to CBS since the days of Walter Cronkite. During the blackout I've been watching Lester Holt on NBC. He's just fine—and there's a good chance that I may never bother with Scott Pelley again. I've sampled other NBC programming, too. I watched the Today show for the first time in about 50 years. Gave Garroway and J. Fredd Muggs are gone and Al Roker has a beard.

For late-night comedy I usually watch Stephen Colbert. The blackout caused me to check on the two Jimmies. Kimmel and Fallon are fine and I will not likely be an exclusive watcher of CBS's Colbert again.

There's no better way to get viewers to sample non-CBS programming than to make CBS unavailable. If I was a conspiracy fan I might accuse Cablevision of getting paid by other networks to sabotage CBS.