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.

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