Web Search nikon coolpix digital cameras The Miserable Annals of the Earth: This is my dream

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This is my dream

Everybody has a dream. Well, most of us have many dreams, but now I'm not talking about the one where we walk in and find the Olsen twins making out in our shower stalls, or the one where an alien spaceship crashes next to us and strange radiation gives us amazing superpowers which we use to save the Earth from an invasion of evil Betelgeusians, after which there's a big parade and, you know, the Olsen twins are making out in the backseat of a big convertible with us.

No, I'm talking about, you know, the more plausible dreams, the more or less real life dreams, that don't involve a menage a trois with inaccessible celebrity skanks or powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Dreams of wealth and success and self-fulfillment, sure, but grounded within the boundaries of what we understand to be reality.

For many nowadays -- and I think this is sad -- these dreams simply come down to winning the Lotto. I have my Lotto dreams, too, but I barely count them as plausible; I am, in fact, starting to regard the very idea of Lotto winners as an urban legend -- it always seems like everybody knows somebody who knows somebody else who won one of the big jackpots, but nobody seems to be able to get any closer to a payout than that. I'm certainly not really counting on ever grabbing one of those nebulous jackpots myself.

However, I do have my own slightly more plausible dream, even if it's only just barely within the bounds of possibility in today's marketplace -- I dream of becoming a published author. No, even better than that, I dream of becoming a successful published author; somebody who can make a decent living off his writing.

It's a dream that glimmers in my brain like a multifaceted gem, that lures me onward like a mirage of shimmering crystalline water in the middle of a desert.

In one facet of the gem, I see myself rising with a yawn at 8:30 or 9 in the morning, shuffling down the hall in my pajama bottoms and my scuffed up leather mocs while pulling some old tattered two sizes too big tshirt emblazoned with a graphic of the Silver Age X-Men or a lovely George Perez illustration of the Avengers over my head, grabbing a leisurely shower, making myself a plate of breakfast in the otherwise empty kitchen, then eventually plonking down in my leather desk chair in my shabby, cluttered home office, where eventually, I'll start clattering the keyboard as I roll out my 2500 words for the day, or whatever goal it is I've set so that I can hit my eventual deadline on this bitch of a novel I'm trying to sweat out, without having to work too many weekends along the way.

While I'm there, of course, the phone rings two or three times, and it's my publisher, or my agent, or some Hollywood studio guy, and they all want to talk about my contract, or my royalties, or an option, or something else that in some delightful way indicates that someone out there likes my work enough to be willing to cut me a check with at least four digits to the left of the decimal point in the AMOUNT box.

That's one facet. In another, I'm out at the mall, sometimes alone, sometimes with SuperFiancee and the SuperKids, and we wander into a Borders or a B.Dalton or a Barnes and Nobles and right there by the front door is the big cardboard dump bin full of my latest book, with big pull quotes all over it from the rave reviews I'm getting and all the paperbacks say BY THE AUTHOR OF or even, sometimes, when I'm feeling especially wistful, BY THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF with the names of several of my other books right there above my name, and then I walk over to the SF/Fantasy section and run my finger down the stacks and there they are, two or three or half a dozen books with my name running down the spine and you can take them out and there's an ugly picture of me on the back grinning out at me like a loon because, you know, when they took the picture I knew it was for a back jacket photograph on my books and who wouldn't be grinning like a loon when they do that?

And then there's the bit where I'm at a con and various geeks are fawning all over me and some of them are even dressed up like characters from my books and that's really cool. And then there's where I'm on a talk show and the host is fawning all over me and that one's not as cool except when the next guest is Tom Cruise and I get to hit him with a fire extinguisher until he dies... but, okay, now we're straying from anything remotely like reality, so never mind.

Still, this is my dream, and I'm sure there are thousands if not millions of wannabe published authors out there who have dreams just like it, and what I hate, I mean, hate-hate-hate-hate-HATE, is that an entire cottage industry has grown up that does nothing but ruthlessly exploit this dream, taking advantage of the starry eyed hopes and dreams of me and my fellow wannabe authors, doing its utmost to milk us for whatever we have by promising us exactly this dream, when they have no power to or even the slightest intention of delivering it to us.

I hate these people.

PublishAmerica is one such group of people who package and shill this dream of success to wannabe authors. They tell you they'll pay you up front for your work, and they do... they pay you a dollar. They tell you you'll be doing bookstore signings and you will... if you can talk a bookstore into letting you do it, after you provide all the materials, including the copies of your book you plan to sign, which you have to buy yourself from PublishAmerica beforehand. They sort of vaguely indicate your books will be available at all the bookstores in America, and they will... by order, if anyone walks up to the circulation desk and specifically asks for your book by name, at which point the bookstore will put in an order and PublishAmerica will happily print them a copy.

This particular scam employed by the cottage industry that is specifically designed to prey on the dreams of wannabe writers is called POD publishing, or Publish On Demand. These publishers essentially use desktop publishing technology to create a nice, professional looking electronic copy of your book. If someone orders a copy, they happily print one out and send it to them. But they risk nothing, because they print nothing without an order in hand... and they make no effort whatsoever to generate any orders. It's up to the author to market his own books.

The way this generally works out in practice is, the author him or herself ends up being the main (or oftentimes only) source of a POD publisher's income. They offer the author a discount on cover price, and a greater discount if the author orders in bulk. The author is then supposed to buy several hundred or several thousand professional looking copies of his own book, which makes the POD publisher happy, at which point it's up to the author to find some way to move those copies to potential readers at a profit. (S)He can set up a table at cons, (s)he can try to talk bookstores into letting him do signings, (s)he can hang around outside bars and shill his book to drunkards... whatever. But what (s)he can't expect is for his/her publisher to ever pay him/her anything for his/her work, or make any attempt to sell this work to anyone else, because by this marketing model, the author is actually the publisher's customer... or, to put it more accurately, the publisher's rube.

The good part about this, if there is anything good about it, is that POD publishers don't ask their authors for any money up front. All they generally want is a signature on a contract that gives them the rights to your book for a certain number of years. Once they've got that, though, you're pretty much screwed; you can't do anything else with that book until the contracted time period is up unless you go through the publisher you've signed with. So either you buy a bunch of copies and flog them yourself, or you perform a miracle and get somebody else to buy a bunch of copies, for whatever reason they might want to buy a bunch of copies for... but remember, your POD publisher only prints copies that someone has already paid for. They have no interest in marketing your book, because they have no investment to offset. All they've put into it is what they paid to the staff people who took your electronic manuscript and edited it into a professional looking, but still electronic, file copy suitable for printing out... assuming they ever get any orders. But, again, generating those orders is up to you. They won't do it for you.

They don't tell you this prior to you getting into the deal, of course, and in fact, it's my experience that if you get wind of any of this before you're committed and ask questions, they will vociferously deny it.

PublishAmerica, for example, still vehemently denies in every word they publish about themselves on the Internet that they are a POD publisher. What these 'publishers' do is take advantage of the desperation, and general ignorance, of we millions of wannabe authors out there. They know we have this dream, and they ruthlessly exploit it.

The thing is, this scam has been around for awhile now, and many authors have learned of it and become wary of POD publishers, which is why PublishAmerica, and others like them, are so quick and so vociferous to deny that they are POD publishers. They've evolved a wide array of tactics to mask their essential status.

Some of their authors actually have books in bookstores, they'll tell you, and some of them -- the CEO of the company, maybe, or her sister, or her cousin, or her niece -- actually do have three copies of their slim poetry volume on a shelf at one Borders location in a mall close to the corporate offices, where somebody they have coffee with three times a week works as a part time stocker.

They spend large sums of money on marketing their books (one recent quote I got from an assistant editor at a company trying to huckster me into yet another one of these deals was 'approximately $60,000' -- according to this goober, his company was going to spend 'approximately $60,000' marketing my book), although you can never actually get any kind of itemized accounting of how much money they really spent or what they spent it on.

So a big flashing warning light these days is, if you suspect a 'small press publishesr' is actually a POD publisher, and they deny it at the top of their lungs, but have absolutely nothing they can point to as proof that they aren't (like, any books at all at your local bookstore with their imprint on them), well, they are.

I got sucked into this again a few months back. A publishing company I'd never heard of, whom I will call Whacking Day Publishing, contacted me and asked me about using my HeroClix House Rules in an upcoming book about HeroClix. I was, naturally, flattered, and said yes, sure, use 'em. I didn't ask for or expect any payment, but when you're trying to get your foot in the door, any exposure is generally good, and it wasn't like I'd solicited them. They came to me, and weren't asking me for any money, and they wanted to use my work; that's all good.

But then I checked out their website and discovered that they apparently publish a lot of SF and fantasy. So I inquired, and was invited to submit, which I did, at considerable expense to myself, since they asked me for hardcover copies of half a dozen of my novel length works, and it wasn't cheap, shipping it to them.

And now, they want to publish 3 of my novels. Which is also all good, except, well, SuperFiancee did a little prudent research on them, and we found a couple of not very complimentary chat threads regarding them on 'Authors Beware' type websites, and apparently, they are in fact just another POD firm... they just, you know, hide it a little better than PublishAmerica.

Having been bitten already by PublishAmerica with this lousy, crappy POD deal, I've tried to be wary, and not have much hope for this deal actually going any where.

There have been fairly big warning flags even before this company finally called me up a few weeks ago and said they wanted 3 of my novels. First, I had near daily email contact with the editor who contacted me about the HeroClix House Rules. That was nice. However, once I actually submitted the Big Box O' Manuscripts, this email contact stopped. No explanation at all. I simply didn't hear from her again, and to date, I have not heard from this woman again. I'm supposed to have my House Rules included in a book that is supposed to be coming out 'this autumn', I've submitted half a dozen other manuscripts at her direct invitation, after a month of near constant, friendly email with her... and suddenly, she's gone. Follow up emails go unanswered. I'm abruptly speaking into a dead phone.

Now, in one of her last emails to me, she had advised me that I would hear a response on my submission 'by the end of the month'. This seemed frankly unbelievable to me. I never expected this fantastic promise to be kept; I had just submitted six novel length manuscripts, and I couldn't see any way I could get any kind of meaningful response to that quantity of work within a couple of week. In all honesty, I hoped the promise wouldn't be kept; any kind of response I might have gotten within a couple of weeks would be one I couldn't have taken seriously at all.

And yet, at the same time, making this kind of promise, and then breaking it, would be a pretty strong indication of rampant unprofessionalism, and would make it very difficult for me to have any trust in this company, or this editor. So it seemed to me that this woman was setting up a situation where nobody could win.

Well, I didn't hear anything 'by the end of the month'. So I let a few more weeks go by, and then I called the number on the company website. This website advertises that any messages left are responded to within 24 hours at the most, so I expected to get an answering machine. Instead, however, I got another woman, with the same last name as the woman I'd been speaking to (this is apparently a family business).
This woman seemed rather exasperated with me for calling her, but she was more or less professional with me. She'd never heard of me, or any of the work I'd submitted, or even the work her company had specifically solicited from me, and in fact, didn't even seem to be aware her company was doing a book about HeroClix, or have any vague idea what HeroClix was. But she promised me she would look into things and either call me back within 24 hours or have my original contact send me an email within the same time period.

So, eight days later, I called her again, having heard nothing. This time, she pretty obviously WAS rather pissy about my insistence on bothering her, but, again, she said she would check things out for me and get back to me. She didn't give me a definite time frame after that contact.

A week or so later, I got an email from some idiot I'd never heard from, as follows:

Darren,

Managing Editor [Ninja Deathstar] and Senior Editor [Shamalama Ding Dong] have finished their review of your manuscripts. They have a number of questions before they can reach a decision. Please get back with the answers at your convenience.

1. Would you be willing to tone down some of the swearing and slang in "Timewatch" or any of the other books where it poses a problem.

2.In regard to "Universal Maintanence" would you be willing to work with our legal department to end your contract with PublishAmerica?

3. "Endgame" and "Earthquest" are the first and second books in a Trilogy, by what date would you be ale to complete and submit the third book in the trilogy?

4. Have you purchased and reviewed any of Charles Phipp's source books? A source published by Fandom Press is required for any series to be included in the Share Universe Project.

5. Right now we are considering both Universal Maintenance and the tilogy as good Shared Universe Project candidates. However, we would need to know how quickly you could get source books prepared for each of the books because they are published the same time as the novels.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,
Robert
Whacking Day Author Management Team


Couple of things.

First, no one working with an 'Author Management Team' who can't spell 'trilogy' or 'maintenance' (when 'maintenance' is half the title of a manuscript he's speaking of) is going to inspire any confidence in me. Call me snotty, but, well, that's how it is. If someone is going to 'manage' me, he or she had better know how to spell, or at least have enough goddam professionalism to run spellcheck before they send me their email.

Second, this is the first time anyone has mentioned anything to me about 'preparing sourcebooks' for me to include my novels in a 'Shared Universe'.

Third, this is the first time anyone has mentioned anything to me about writing a completely new novel before the first two in the 'tilogy' can be considered for publication.

Fourth, this is absolutely the first time anyone has mentioned to me that I need to buy a copy of something else Whacking Day has published before they can consider my work.

Fifth... well, this isn't really 'fifth', because this one I was willing to swallow, however much it choked me... the idea that I should tone down some of the swearing and slang in "Timewatch" or any of the other books where it poses a problem frankly pissed me off at the time and still pisses me off now. But, hey, if it got me into a store, fine. Still, the idea that a book where the main character has fairly explicit sex with a computerized hologram is acceptable, but only if I 'tone down some of the swearing and slang', truly annoys me. We can show the characters fucking and taking a shit, I guess, we just can't call it fucking and taking a shit.

Sixth or fifth, however you want to count it -- my first contact with this company had advised me that 'we work with PublishAmerica authors all the time; we just send PublishAmerica a letter and they release the rights'. Now, all of a sudden, I have to be 'willing to work with our legal department to end [my] contract with PublishAmerica'?

So, I was a little cheesed off by this note. My response:

Robert,

I appreciate you guys timely response.

>>1. Would you be willing to tone down some of the swearing and slang in "Timewatch" or any of the other books where it poses a problem.

Er... yeah, I guess so. If at some point this is going to make me some money, I'm willing to do nearly anything. Without specific examples of what you are referring to, I can't be sure what you're talking about... I try to give my characters realistic dialogue that shows their personalities. Still, I don't think any of the 'swearing and slang' is crucial to any story elements.

>>2.In regard to "Universal Maintanence" would you be willing to work with our legal department to end your contract with PublishAmerica?

Well, sure, whatever it takes. I admit I'm confused... Jen had advised me that this was a simple process; you simply wrote a letter to PA and asked them to release the book, and they did it. But if it's more complex than that, yeah, I'll help. As I said above, if there's money in this eventually, I'm on board.

>>3. "Endgame" and "Earthquest" are the first and second books in a Trilogy, by what date would you be ale to complete and submit the third book in the trilogy?

It's a tough question. I know the plot to the book, but I work a full time job and my household includes three kids, so I don't have a great deal of spare time. On the other hand, I compose and type very quickly. I'd say at the outside I could have it done in six months.

>>4. Have you purchased and reviewed any of Charles Phipp's source books? A source published by Fandom Press is required for any series to be included in the Share Universe Project.

I didn't realize this was a requirement. I remember reading on your web page that I could request a complimentary copy of one of your books to see what sort of stuff you publish. I guess if you need me to buy something from you in order to consider my books, well, that's certainly a factor for me to evaluate in our relationship. But, again, this is the first I've been informed of such a requirement.

>>5. Right now we are considering both Universal Maintenance and the tilogy as good Shared Universe Project candidates. However, we would need to know how quickly you could get source books prepared for each of the books because they are published the same time as the novels.

Not having seen a sourcebook, I have no idea what preparing one entails, so I can't answer this question. If I'm writing the third book in the Webster Madison, Hired Gun trilogy and preparing three source books, though, it seems like a great deal of uncompensated work to cram into a schedule that already includes a full time job and being a full time parent.

Maybe it would be better to just focus on one of my books, that I've already completed. I could probably much more reliably commit to preparing a single source book, and then we could see how well that book does, and you could see how much you like working with me, before we embark on further projects.

I really do appreciate your timely review of my work. Thanks for getting back to me.

If the HeroClix book is still in the works, please advise Jen, or whoever is in charge, that I've made some changes in my House Rules and would be happy to send her an updated copy.

Thanks again,

[Happy Little Me]


To which Robert responded:

Darren,

Thank you for writing back. In terms of your requirements, we have a many requirements for submitting manuscripts that are detailed on our website. One is that authors have actually seen the quality and type of books that we publish, specifically in terms of the Shared Universe Project. You need to see a Fandom Press source book in order to know if you will be able to write.

The requirement is not that you buy a source book but that you see one. You can look at one at your local library, though source book that we suggested, written by Charles Phipps, is only $9.99, compared to the $60,000 we invest in publishing just one of your books.

We were under the impression that you have already reviewed our books. The fact that you haven't means that we need to revaluate your submissions. Fandom Projects are very demanding. We do not want to contract you for a project that is too demanding for you.

I can either tell the editors to hold your work until we hear from you about the source book or you can send an SASE and we can return all the manuscripts. Whatever you decide we will completely understand.

Thank you,
Robert
Whacking Day Author Management Team


What a dickhead.

So, I wrote back and told him that he and the entire staff of Whacking Day should grease themselves up with petroleum jelly and then do their level best to insert themselves headfirst and up to their ankles in the Very Anus Of God Himself.

Okay, I didn't. Here's what I sent back:

Dear Robert,

It sounds as if I've annoyed you. It wasn't intentional. I really felt I'd established a good rapport with [Singalong Sue], and while I have read your site, I hope you'll understand when I mention that I wasn't aware of certain specific requirements when [Singalong Sue] specifically requested me to submit five manuscripts for review, and I hope you'll also understand, without taking offense, that every bit of advice an aspiring writer hears or reads these days is, the second a publisher asks you to buy something from them, you need to seriously re-evaluate the situation, because serious publishers NEVER do that.

Again, I thought I had established a much better rapport with [Singalong Sue], and again, she hadn't advised me of any further requirements, beyond creating detailed outlines for each submission, and the specific mailing information I put on the hefty package I submitted at Whacking Day's request. There was nothing said about me having to prepare source books for my material, or complete an unfinished novel completely on spec prior to any of my material being accepted, and she certainly didn't mention any requirement that I buy something up front.

I am in no way saying I can not or will not comply with whatever requirements you may have. I am just trying to get this all straight before I make a commitment. I hope that's acceptable to your company.

[Singalong Sue] had advised me that when you guys find an author you want to work with, you're serious about working with them, and you do everything you can to facilitate the partnership. Your site certainly gives that impression as well. I understand you'll be investing money in publishing and marketing my book, I also understand that you're not going to do that unless you think the material is strong enough to make us both some money.

I got involved with PublishAmerica under the mistaken impression that they were a real publisher and were going to actually publish my books, and they were careful to foster that impression without providing any real details as to how their process worked until I was too far into it to back out. I appreciate the fact that you guys are being more straightforward.

I do want to clarify one point -- I did not initiate contact with your company. One of your senior editors found a piece of my writing on the Internet that she felt was suitable to an ongoing project. She wrote to me and asked if your company could use it, to our potential mutual benefit. She and I established a friendly rapport and after I mentioned having written several SF/fantasy novels, including one with PublishAmerica, she reviewed synopses of all my work, outlines of some of it, and then invited me to submit five separate manuscripts and gave me instructions on specifically how to do so. I understand you guys expect your authors to 'jump through hoops' (it's the phrase repeated over and over in your submissions guidelines) but I did, and I did it willingly and promptly. I created the detailed outlines, I did all the printing out (not inconsequential for manuscripts this size, when you have a home printer like we do) made the copies, spent the money to ship it all to you in a hefty box, and I did this because I believed, from my interactions with [Singalong Sue], that your company was genuinely interested in my work.

To suddenly be told that if I don't want to buy a product from you that I was never advised I'd have to buy, I can just send an SASE so you can return my work, strikes me as a remarkably abrupt change of attitude on the part of your company. (It's also going to have to be an extremely large SASE.)

If Whacking Day believes I am a good enough writer, and that my material is marketable and worth the necessary investment, then by all means, let's work together. If Whacking Day doesn't feel my material is strong enough, I understand, and again, thank you for the time you've taken with me to date.

I certainly understand that I am an unpublished author and my work may need extensive revision to reach professional standards, and I'm not in any way balking at that. I understand that your company has much more experience in this area than I do. It seems to me that we would probably do best to work on one manuscript at a time.

Thanks,

[Happy Little Me]


And then he said:

Darren,

Thank you for your email. I was in no way annoyed with you and I am sorry it came across that way. I will forward everything to [Shamalama DingDong] and [Ninja Deathstar] who will make all final decisions.

Robert
Whacking Day Author Management Team


And that was that... or so I figured.

Then, a few weeks later (a few weeks ago) I got a call from someone named Shaylin, or something like that, and she asked me if UNIVERSAL MAINTENANCE, ENDGAME, and TIME WATCH were still available, and I said sure, and she said they'd like to publish them. So I said 'sure' again, and she said that their lawyer, Jerry Garcia, would be sending me some contracts.

Well, actually, it turns out their lawyer isn't named Jerry Garcia, it just sounded like that on the phone.

Now, at this point, there were all those big red flags waving, but still, these guys wanted to publish three of my novels, how bad could that be? SuperFiancee was thrilled, and I myself was trying very very hard not to be thrilled, because, you know, this could very well turn out to be an empty bag, and if it did, well, I didn't want to be crushed yet again.

But still, underneath, I was a little thrilled, too.

And then SuperFiancee, because she is wonderful and fabulous and always looking out for me, went out and did some research on the Internet, and turned up several chat threads on Authors Beware boards specifically warning new authors from getting involved with Whacking Day. They mentioned that Whacking Day's contract was a joke, that their frequent promises of budgeting sixty or eighty thousand dollars per book they published was nonsense, that even books published by Whacking Day's founders could not be found anywhere in any physical form in any bookstore anywhere and the only way you could get these books was by ordering them from Whacking Day...

...that, in short, Whacking Day was just another POD publisher, taking advantage of the dreams of up and coming wannabes. That they wouldn't publish anyone's book without a specific order for those books, and that the responsibility for generating all those orders is on the author him or herself.

But this was just what people said about them on the Internet, and, well, there are a lot of people who say bad things about ME on the Internet, too. More research was called for.

So, SuperFiancee printed out for me a great many of the pages of Whacking Day's very self congratulatory website, including lengthy lists of Whacking Day's published authors and their books. And we went to the library and punched in the names of these authors, and their books.

The library had never heard of them. And River City has a VERY extensive library system.

So then we went to Borders, and did the same thing. All the books listed on Whacking Day's site, including a book by Whacking Day founder and senior editor [Singalong Sue] that was advertised at Amazon as having 'already sold 2,000 copies', were available by order only. No copies existed in physical form at that Borders, or at any other Borders, anywhere.

Since then, I've gotten the following letter from not-Jerry Garcia, Whacking Day legal counsel:

Darren,

I have quite a few contracts to issue you but I also have a good number of questions before I can do so. If you could get back to me at your earliest convenience, I'll get the contracts finalized and sent. Thank you for your assistance, Darren.

1. Universal Maintenance is under contract to PublishAmerica. There should be a clause in the PA agreement that allows you to cancel the contract. They should then have six months to allow the book to go out of print. If you can't locate this clause then the contract isn't their standard agreement and I'll need you to fax or mail me a copy to review. If you can find the clause, then all you need to do is send them an email (or letter, if the contract stipulates) stating that you wish to terminate your contract and quote the clause. Once this process is under way, I can issue an agreement for the book to be published as part of Whacking Day's Shared Universe Project.

2. Is Universal Maintenance a stand-alone title? If it isn't, what are the titles of the other books in the series?

3. How many novels are in the EarthQuest series? What are the titles?

4. How many titles are in the Endgame series? What are the titles?

5. Is Time Watch a stand alone or a series? If a series, what are the titles of the additional books?

6. We'd like to publish EarthQuest, Universal Maintenance, and Endgame in the Shared Universe Project (Time Watch would be released through Whacking Day mainline). However, this will involve the creation of sourcebooks about each universe for your votary authors. Did [HoHo] discuss this with you? We always release sourcebooks at the same time as the first book in the series with titles such as "SERIES NAME Sourcebook." Is this acceptable to you?

7. We need to chart out your "Date of Submission" for each title. This is the date that you'll be sending us the final digital file of a book. I would need you to send me a list of the titles we'd like to contract followed by the Date of Submission for each title. For instance:

Universal Maintenance Sourcebook (September 1, 2006)
Universal Maintenance (September 1, 2006)
Universal Maintenance Attacks (January 1, 2007)

Game Universe Sourcebook (October 1, 2006)
Endgame (October 1, 2006)
Middlegame (November 1, 2006)
Startgame (December 1, 2006)

etc

I look forward to hearing from you, Darren. Thank you again.

not Jerry Garcia
Director of Contracts, Rights & Legal
Whacking Day Publishing


So SuperFiancee and I talked it over, and we decided to impose a test on Whacking Day Publications, because, at first, last, and utmost, I do not want to be a book salesman, I do not want to be hooked up with a POD publisher, and I do not want to be the kind of 'author' who travels around from one outlet to another in an old beat up Hyundai with a cardboard box full of vanity copies of my sad, lousy SF novels in the backseat, trying desperately to get bored clerks behind glass counters to let me set up a card table at the front of their store so I can do a signing of a book that no one has ever heard of because my 'publisher' has no marketing department and isn't really a publisher at all.

So, I sent this back to not Jerry Garcia:

Dear Ms. Garcia,

My most profound apologies. With three girls in the house, ranging in age from 6 to 17, things are always in a state of low grade chaos around here, but with school starting again in two weeks, well, it's been a circus lately, and I'm not the ringmaster... I'm not even the chief clown! And it's not likely to get better any time in the immediate future.

I'm working on those questions you asked me. In the meantime, I've done some studying on your site and would very much like to check out some of your other publications. I went over to Amazon and it seems as if [Singalong Sue]'s [MONKEY MASTER] is one of your better sellers. I'm also very interested in [Hung Lo, Chinese Porn Star]'s [FRITO BANDITO] series, and [Chupa Lupa]'s [BLUE CHEESE FOR AN ERMINE COMMANDER] sounds very cool to me, too.

I have a big road trip coming up this weekend, due to a family event, but I'm planning to work in some errands and a little shopping too. I'll be all over the Louisville/Southern Indiana area Saturday and Sunday. Could you please advise me as to a bookstore where I could pick up these titles? I'm happy to invest some money in your line so I can hold one or two of your volumes in my hands, turn the pages... get a real feel for where I'll be going with your company.

If you could let me know by this Friday so I can work this into my itinerary, I'd really appreciate it.

Thank you very much,

[Happy Little Me]


And that was last Friday, and since then, I've heard nothing.

I have a dream.

And I guess, for now... it's going to stay that way.

8 Comments:

At 6:05 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Well, gee... there's no sunshine to add to this. A long, wearing, deflating process that I'm sure fits the heat and humidity.

Sadly, it all does reek of an elaborate scam.

That they not only make so many errors in correspondence but have a knee-jerk, mock indignation response to perfectly reasonable questions that are standing between them and whatever checks they would like you to just write out to them... feh.

Certainly not at your expense (no pun intended) but I had to laugh at their "... only $9.99, compared to the $60,000 we invest in publishing just one of your books" line. There's simply no reasonable way an operation such as theirs can justify anything like $60,000 outside of their own fees. I wonder if they sat around at one point saying asking each other what they think each should be paid per hour? There are no typesetting fees for modern, on-demand publishing, and all indications are they don't print anything until someone's agreed to pay for it. Apparently spell-checking their correspondence isn't something in their budget.

Whenever the issue of an existing blockage posed by PublishAmerica came up I found myself wondering if they were going to have the nerve to try to hit you up for "token" amounts of money for "associated legal fees," undoubtedly framing each such request as surely the last, niggling barrier between you and starting a book tour alongside George R.R. Martin.

The "shared universe" work complete with sourcebook sounds as if they aim to try to generate expanding networks of would-be published authors who buy each others books and sourcebooks so that they can write something for another person's universe. Indeed, it's easy to imagine that this is one of their chief sources of income, competing with authors buying copies of their own books for submissions to reviewers, as seed copies to donate to libraries, etc. and those bought by the extended families of each author.

If there's a Hell there's a special place in it for flim-flam men and people who prey on people's honest dreams.

 
At 6:29 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

No, no, it's all good. SuperFiancee made me some excellent home made toll house chocolate chip cookies (with pecans!) yesterday, and tonight she cooked up a fabulous roast for dinner. And DEADWOOD is on later tonight.

SuperFiancee is plenty of sunshine for anyone. These mooks... they're just a few wisps o' vapor.

 
At 7:33 PM , Blogger SuperFiancee said...

I deeply regret having been the bearer of any bad news in this entire process. Plenty of conversations between us, I'm sure, have made this crystal clear.

I know that seeing your books in print is far more the dream for you than making a fortune doing it (not that the latter is something you'd actively avoid). While I wish I could do something...anything...to be the facilitator of your dreams (instead of being the one raining down on you), I just want to say that I don't think it's an unreasonable dream and I hope, very much, you won't give up on those dreams. Because that, my darling boy, would make me incredibly sad. So, you hold onto those dreams and keep trying. I'll keep holding your hand all the way.

Oh, and one final thought on this. Whether you ever publish another book or not, I am enormously proud of you. I love you!

 
At 8:15 PM , Blogger Tony Collett said...

Man, it seems like everyone's in a shitstorm.
I don't know much about writing (and I've got the blog to prove it) but Mark Evanier, who's been writing all these years and says some smart things on his blog, has some words about this subject:
http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL264.htm
And if you haven't checked out
this link I recommended yesterday, please do so:
http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/000932.html
Hopefully that'll help.

 
At 9:01 AM , Blogger AaA said...

Get me their home addresses. And don't ask any questions you don't want answered.

 
At 1:04 PM , Blogger MysteriousMaiden said...

the olsen twins? not so hot.

 
At 1:22 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

SF,

Don't be silly. You are all that is good in my life. Really.

Tony,

Thanks for the links. I've seen 'The Speech' by Evanier before. Coming from someone as successful as he is, I find it rather condescending, especially the closing. But he is, as always, a wonderful writer.

Nate,

I know nothing. Nothing.

MM,

"Hot" is in the perceptions of the beholder.

 
At 3:56 PM , Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

Damn. I wish to the universe that this wasn't such a crappy process. Because that's my dream too. (the published author writing in my comfy clothes part, not the getting fucked over by POD scum part.) )May you look back one day from your own bookshelf at B&N and tell them all to take a flying leap. With a smile, of course. One of them might go legit one day and wind up at a big pub house. Just tell me where the signing is and I'll try like hell to be there.

 

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