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June 18, 2003

From correspondence: Sneaking out under the literary radar
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 PM *

Certain online discussion venues that cater to aspiring writers have been having a major fluster over the last week or two. I could be mistaken, but I believe this one started when PublishAmerica noticed it was rated as “not recommended” on the Preditors & Editors website, and went on the warpath. It had been a fairly quiet, unobtrusive little “not recommended”; but as of this past weekend the dustup over it had been upgraded to “tropical fluster”, and was developing a rotating motion and an eye. In the process it had spread into four or five online venues. In all but one of them, participants took the opportunity to air their views and grievances in re PublishAmerica. The other was PublishAmerica’s own message board, where remarks like that get deleted even faster than a “you people suck” message does here.

I don’t have a dog in that fight. I did take a short break yesterday to comment, after the fact, on some issues that were raised in alt.writing.scams, but that was all. Could be I’m getting prudent in my old age.

Of course, when you go anywhere near a fluster, you’re going to get e-mail about it; and in due course various things have appeared in my mailbox. Some of them are far from prudent. The letter below takes some explaining.

Many of the online/e-publishing/POD (Print On Demand) startups haven’t known any better than to ask for absurdly long, comprehensive grants of rights unaccompanied by reversion clauses. A reversion clause says that if the publishers have stopped selling the book, or have stopped making it generally available to the general public, they have to give it back to the author.

A lot of these newfangled publishing startups have croaked. Others are just scraping along. And what publishing law says about bankruptcy is that books held in inventory can’t be given back to their authors before the publisher’s secured creditors are paid off. In some of these cases, that’s going to happen around the same time that pigs sprout wings.

The following piece of grossly irresponsible advice, received yesterday, appears to be a proposed answer to question of what to do when your novel is stuck in the neverending contract from hell:
Take your book. Change the title. Change the author’s name. Do a light rewrite on the first and last chapters, the first and last paragraphs of all the other chapters, and the frontmatter and backmatter.

You’d be surprised how often the central plot mcguffin can be swapped for a different mcguffin without making you have to do a major rewrite. If that’s true of your book, swap it out.

Now go through the book again and change all the proper names, plus all the place names that can be changed without doing violence to the continuity. Change any made-up language you used. If there’s poetry, consider deleting it. You probably should have done that the first time around anyway. If you used chapter titles, change those too.

Dedicate it to someone else. For instance, dedicate it to your parents, but give them different names. Or dedicate the book to everyone who helped you with it at some university or workshop you never attended. Draw a new map. If any of the frontmatter could just as well be backmatter, move it there. Same goes for backmatter that could just as well be frontmatter. Finally, change the copyright notice. You’re allowed to do that. It’s a substantially different work.

What you now have is a manuscript that can only be identified as the book published by the Bad Old Publisher if the person doing the identifying has read both versions. This is unlikely. (Let’s face it: If anyone had read that edition, you wouldn’t be looking for a new publisher.) It’s even more unlikely that the person who spots it will be your former publisher, or someone who still likes your former publisher.

One faint possibility is that it’ll be the person who was employed to do the text formatting and spellchecking the first time around. Don’t worry. Nobody uses in-house staff for work like that unless they have money to burn, so the text wrangler was either a freelancer who doesn’t much care, or an ex-employee who doesn’t care at all.

The other possibility is that it’ll be spotted by your vengeful former spouse or employee. God gives us enemies to make sure there’ll always be someone around who’s interested in how we’re doing. The current emotional status of your exes is something you’ll have to calculate for yourself. If your ex-spouse comprehensively loathes you, consider using this as your new dedication:

This one’s yours, honey; Always was, always will be.
If you find this message, call me.
You know my number.

They’ll be slower to confront you if they think it’ll be taken as a gesture of reconciliation.

If someone does rat you out, insist that the revised version is a separate book that took you even longer to write than the first one did. Start prosing on about the many significant differences between the two titles. You’ll sound just like one of those authors who really does write the same book every time. Keep it up until your accuser dies of boredom or goes away, whichever comes first.

Don’t ever talk about having pulled this stunt. Not even if it makes a good story. Not even if you claim it happened to your cousin. Not even in an interview years and years from now when you’ve become rich and famous. Not at all. It’s bad enough for me to suggest that this is possible. Saying that you’ve done it is wildly indiscreet, and could be used against you in a court of law. Remember: the only easy way to prove you’ve done this is to have you say so yourself.

Will this actually work? Seriously, it might. If there’s one thing you can assume about vanity presses that publish dozens or even hundreds of titles, it’s that management isn’t reading the books. Besides, a lot of books have similar-sounding plots. If you’re trying to smuggle your book out under their radar, it’s probably enough that you don’t provide them with any easily googled search strings, and that you alter the text they’re most likely to look at while flipping through a printed copy.

Remember, only one reviewer ever noticed that Richard Bachman wrote just like Stephen King; and when he said so, nobody paid much attention.

So here’s the end. I can’t say I’m recommending that you do this. I’m just saying it’ll probably work. But whatever happens, you didn’t hear it from me.
The only thing I’ll say is that the author is someone I published once, but not many of you would recognize the name.

Do I, personally, have an opinion about this stuff? Not on your life.

Comments on From correspondence: Sneaking out under the literary radar:
#1 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 04:53 AM:

Oh, dear. I was afraid this was going to happen with POD and E-book publishers when suddenly everyone was flooded with offers to join the Internet economy. (It could be said that anyone who wanted to publish my crap had no business being involved in publishing, but I'm going to be nice.) Most of these publishers meant well, but these were comparable to the innumerable magazines in our lovely genre that tie up stories and articles for years while the editor/publisher gets his/her feces in a pile. In this case, the combination of greed (look! We can publish whole E-books for a fraction of the cost of a print edition! If we start our own company, we can gather up the millions of people who have nothing better to do than use a $400 Palm as a very expensive paperback!) and hubris (Nobody will publish my Absolutely Fabulous/Farscape crossover trilogy, so I'll start my own POD company to teach the Big Publishers a lesson!) overshadowed a business plan that could have been written by a salt-poisoned snail. Well, that's assuming that a business plan was there in the first place.

What's sad is that so many writers, good and mediocre, are going to pay for this for a very long time. Instead of concentrating on the problems with expanding a market or improving distribution (the main reason why publishers are so fussy is because they can't afford to publish thousands of copies of books that might only sell a few dozen copies, so you either improve the way those books get to customers or increase the number of customers), the idea is to increase the number of outlets. This is much like adding extra shower heads and faucets into a tiny bathroom: if all of that product has nowhere to go, everyone gets flooded. POD and E-book publishers didn't revolutionize how people read: all they did was offer more options to spend precious reading time, without caring to notice how few people in contemporary society bother to read any more. And so it goes.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 08:32 AM:

I have to do some thinking about a lot of your points, but one of them I can answer right now: At the moment, people are buying more books per capita, and more diverse books, and holding on to the habit of reading later in life, then they've ever done before, period. And that's not counting web-surfing, e-mail correspondence, chat, weblogging, Live Journals, and all those other suddenly-blossoming varieties of online activity -- all of which, you'll notice, consist of reading and writing.

It's funny now to read old science fiction that assumed that computers would somehow render us semi-illiterate. Computers plus the internet have immersed us in oceans of the word.

On publishing models:

I have a theory about where people go wrong with their novel publishing models. It's relatively easy to come up with a model of how publishing ought to work. It will be appealingly logical, and perhaps even elegant.

Unfortunately, it will have very little resemblance to the way publishing actually works, which is something no one would ever invent from scratch. The real model (models, I should say, but never mind) is anything but simple. It's elegant in subtle ways, and hugely inelegant in all the obvious ones. And while it is logical, different parts of it are logical in different but interlinking ways. It's best learned by immersion.

When we try to explain why some proposed innovation is unlikely to work, our crufty, pragmatic, and apparently non-Euclidean explanation finds its mindspace already occupied by that cute little false model; and the two models can neither connect nor coexist.

It must also be said that when one model is saying "I am going to gloriously remake publishing, become wealthy, and get all my multiply-rejected books into print," and the other model is saying "If you publish the slush pile online, no one will read it, much less pay for it," the false model has all the appeal.

And one more observation.

Most aspiring writers would understand publishing problems much better if they thought about them with their bookbuying reader minds. When they're in that mode, they know what it is to walk into a store and confront a rack containing hundreds of books. They have a pretty good sense of what makes them pick up a book and browse it, and perhaps decide to buy it.

An author who ignores this reader-mind -- or, if they're so lucky as to have them, their beta readers -- can be taken over by a single meme grown to disproportionate size: They're gonna love my book. I just know they're going to love it. All it needs is a chance.

The funny thing is that the better writers are the ones more likely to be overtaken by the rarer complementary meme, This book is a piece of pure crap. No one who sees it will ever respect me again. I'll have to change my name and move to a foreign country.

It's hard being a writer.

That overwhelming faith that people are going to love their book is what drives writers into the arms of scam agents, and persuades them to throw their time, money, and work into publishing and promotion schemes so dubious that if bad logic really could make computers blow up, they'd take down the net.

#3 ::: Adrienne Martini ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 10:29 AM:

At the risk of sounding like sycophant, I must tag on a "Go, Teresa, go!" While I would expect your words to be right on target, given what you do for a living, you have stated the problem and answers with aplomb and grace.

POD startups may have begun with the frustrated writer's best interests at heart, but they have evolved into so much snake oil that makes money only for the one who shills it.

#4 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 10:43 AM:

This whole business should make it glaringly clear why a professional literary agent who knows what they're doing is worth their weight in gold to any author who isn't also a contract lawyer by trade.

I had to yank the reversion clause rip-cord earlier this year, when UK publisher Big Engine went down. Thanks to my agent the parachute was neatly packed and ready for use: we reclaimed all the rights we'd sold, and the book is back on the market in the UK. But if I'd been negotiating the contract myself I might not have thought to build in an ejector seat. Certainly I don't recall it having been present in the boilerplate contract we were initially offered. I rate this as a lucky escape.

If you get a sniff from a publisher, get an agent before you sign anything. You know it makes sense ...

#5 ::: lnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 11:57 AM:

I must need more coffee. An AbFab/Farscape crossover sounds like a good idea at the moment.

---L.

#6 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 12:12 PM:

Funny--only yesterday did I accidently end up at one of these beasts, the POD service. 1stBooks, to be precise. And another funny creature, the novel writing software, NewNovelist.com, where I was amused to see Hitchhikers Guide as the example shown in the screenshots. (Closet Douglas Adams fans, I guess.)

The novelist software seemed the more ingenuous of the two, but both seemed slightly skewed towards that, "Publish your book, reap fame and glory" view.

#7 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 12:57 PM:

Teresa, I'm wondering what your backup is for "people are holding onto the habit of reading far later in life" (if, that is, by reading we mean books). I do know the numbers about books per capita, but I have an untutored sense that those numbers relate in significant part to nonfiction, with less of a focus on narrative nonfiction and more on books to help with specific problems (from self-help to DIY to hobby). I'd love to be shown otherwise.

On the subject of agents, I'm currently brokering for a friend who has a PUBLISHER (a small but very respectable publisher) and can't get an agent to look at the first novel about to go into contract, and thus was walking into the fire that Charlie Stross talks about completely unguarded. I've pulled my community strings to find an agent who will at least help with the contract, whether or not s/he will represent the book.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 01:16 PM:

Debbie, my backup is Tom Told Me So; you'll appreciate the subtleties. He said it was (in some measure) due to better vision care, and to people being less reluctant to wear glasses as they get older. He said that a lot of people used to lose the habit of reading for pleasure when it got too hard for them to see unaided.

He didn't say anything about which categories they were reading.

#9 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 02:20 PM:

LNH, you sure about that? That AbFab/Farscape crossover describes my first marriage, especially when my ex-wife would threaten me, whenever I'd try to go out of town on my own, with the comment "If I can't come, I'll adopt a Hynerian baby." (I had a gay roommate for a time who adored AbFab, and thought that I had it lucky when I told him that my ex both physically and temperamentally mirrored Edina Monsoon. That is, until I just looked at him and said "Okay, then YOU marry her." The thought of being involved with someone who would worry about proper attire for a fire alert was too much for him, I think...)

#10 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 02:48 PM:

I just keep picturing Scorpius calling Crichton "Darlingsweetiesweetiedarling."

#11 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 02:53 PM:

I'd guess that the continuing to read later in life trend (which my gut tells me is real) might also be related to better and cheaper artificial light. Think of Lincoln reading by firelight; how many people would be willing to continue doing that past their early 20s?

#12 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 03:03 PM:

Couldn't resist, even sitting in a backroom internet parlor in the northern wilds (another story, another day) . . .

Is this one of the reasons, Teresa, that you have been pushing more towards a pure book production model for POD technology, instead of the publishing (especially vanity publishing) model? At least you end up with a pile of books that you really own, rights and all. Just from the sidelines here, It doesn't seem to be worth getting involved with publishers and agents unless you can get involved with people who are moderately competent and experienced. A book is too much of your life, and the more I hear the more I think the risks of some of these operations are too high.

Now, back into the woods . . .

#13 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 03:25 PM:

"And what publishing law says about bankruptcy is that books held in inventory can92t be given back to their authors before the publisher92s secured creditors are paid off."

Would it be possible, do you think, to get the law changed in this area?

#14 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 03:59 PM:

I've been startled and impressed by the results of some fanfic mutual editing circles. That is, I've liked some of the writing so produced, and the authors imply that they were helped by the beta-readers. Reminds me of the Hard Part of open-source software, that is, getting someone to systematically test it before it's released. All boring, no glory.

The fanfic circles make much noise praising each other. With writing I don't like, it's easy to assume that's shallow mutual backscratching, but with writing I do like it's comfy to believe they're rewarding real work in the way a noncommercial field can.

Many eyes make slushpiles shallow...

#15 ::: lnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 05:17 PM:

Two cups of coffee later, AbFab/Farscape still semes like a good idea. But that may be it sounds like it would be better than what I just copyedited this afternoon.

Only if they're good eyes, clew.

---L.

#16 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 05:21 PM:

I glanced at the furore on the Publish America site, and it turns out the only people who can post there are people who are "their" authors.

Unbiased, right?

Well, I'd rather be published, if I ever were to be, by an outfit like Tor Books, or Baen, or Ace, or whatever. People with a decent track record, and known by people I know. But, even though I'd trust you to offer a decent deal, I'd still want somebody else to look over the contract.

If only for the novel feeling that the contract, unlike so many I get faced with as a farmer, isn't offered in a "take it or leave it" mode.

To be honest, while I can't imagine trying self-publishing for anything I might write, I reckon that could be a better bet than the publishers who seem to prey on an author's vanity.

#17 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 05:59 PM:

Randolph, changing the law would be a Very Good Idea, but that requires getting a legislator interested in changing it. I'm not saying that it's not a good idea, but it'll require a lot of writers to take the time to fight for it. Even with the incredible amount of apathy in the writing community about content piracy (especially considering the efforts Harlan Ellison and others have tried to make about the importance of protecting writer's copyrights on the Web), I'd like to hope that enough writers would get sufficiently miffed to try to influence new legislation. Or am I building dream castles and measuring for drapes again?

#18 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 06:16 PM:

Oh, and Teresa, I have to agree with you about the difference between the reality of publishing and the perception, as well as the Cargo Cult models created by people who either (a) don't understand why the checks and balances exist or (b) simply won't get past the delusion that they can write. (Yes, I'm being cruel, but I'd rather crush some budding hack now than deal with the ongoing conspiracy theorizing and rationalizations later.) Coming from the magazine side of things, I kept noticing the number of magazines (usually SF, but a lot of music or "local about town" zines as well) started by people with a lot of fire and a lot of drive, but no understanding whatsoever of how a successful publication should work. I'm not even bringing up the ones that start out well but collapse because the publisher hires all of his friends as "deputy editors" and their demands on the payroll bankrupt the publication. I'm talking specifically about the number of magazines generated because the editor/publisher couldn't get his stories published anywhere else, and thought it would be cool to start a magazine for that purpose. Back when the desktop publishing boom first started, these flourished for a while, and then died off until the Web boom. Now we're seeing those die off, but they can always make a resurgence.

In both print and online delusionzines, the people who get burned are those who make the mistake of buying subscriptions, ad space, or other long-term investments. Sometimes, the magazine collapses solely because the editor has no real clue about how much effort goes into publishing on a regular schedule (anyone remember that bit in "Locus" a decade ago about the weekly edition of "Pulphouse"?) A lot of times, it's because the publishing crew assumes that they'll pay for the costs of the second issue with the millions they'll make off the first issue, and refuse to consider that they should have had enough money for a good six-issue run before starting in the first place. In some cases, I've had magazines die under me because the editor was jealous that the writers were getting more attention than he was, and scuttled the whole shebang rather than deal with the simple fact that the best editors are invisible to the general public. (The really funny ones are the ones who expect groupies: I worked for one music editor who daily and incessantly bitched about how musicians got laid more often than music editors, never considering that if he left his office and ASKED, someone might let him take her out.) And these same attitudes moved to the Web: sure, the cost of presentation is so much cheaper, but that just means that that many more incompetents start up publications that last for a month or so before imploding, especially with those that think that readers will pay for online content.

Back nearly ten years ago, I remember reading an article about the animation crew working on "Toy Story": Pixar made a point of hiring traditional animators who could be taught how to operate software instead of software engineers who would then have to be taught how to be creative. It's the same thing with POD, E-book, Web, and print magazine publishing: just because you know how to run a copy of PageMaker doesn't mean that you know how to run a publishing business. It doesn't stop a lot of them from trying, though.

#19 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 07:16 PM:

lnh - No, I don't think they have to be good eyes, if they're numerous enough and can define connections to each other. _Good_ eyes are needed for one person to sort on complicated criteria. Lots of eyes with small knowledge and mild preferences can sort stuff, in many passes, even if no single set of eyes has a grasp of the problem. (Eyes grasping, ew, sorry.)(Analogies to sorting & searching algorithms suppressed.)

Many of the attractors around which these nets of eyes coalesce are highly specialized drek, but it makes them happy. Maybe it keeps the professionals, with the good eyes, from having to look at it.

#20 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 07:31 PM:

Teresa -- I don't figure Tom would overestimate (especially when talking to his own people), but I wonder how recent the figures on readers are; today's Boston Globe has a number of industry people whinging about rotten sales and hoping that the latest Harry Potter will improve a dreadful year-plus. (Notable observation: Potter publisher Scholastic laid off 400 people last month "after a long period of horrid sales".)

I've seen your description of people misunderstanding how publishing happens generalized to the effect that for every phenomenon there is an explanation that is simple, complete -- and wrong. Is this even more true of publishing than of the rest of the world? (It wouldn't surprise me, even if the recent link in Gaiman's blog that I can no longer find is over the top; they had a very ... poetic ... description of the fiction-publishing industry that could be brutally summarized as "You gotta be crazy to want to do this!".)

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 08:30 PM:

The link in the Boston Globe seems to be http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/170/nation/Off_to_sell_the_wizard+.shtml and has the headline:

Off to sell the wizard

Ailing book industry hopes for lift from new 'Harry Potter'

#22 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2003, 10:50 PM:

Teresa, I think Tom has a point. Not just because of the vision care thing, or because of general longevity, though they play a part. A lot of older people find themselves with time to themselves that they didn't have when they were busy with jobs and raising families, and many of them use some of that time for reading.

My dad, for example, wasn't much of a book reader when I was growing up, though he read the newspaper and magazines. But after he'd retired and all of us (six) kids had moved away, and my mom died and he was all alone, and especially after he had his cataract removed, he started reading quite a bit of fiction -- westerns and mysteries, mostly, the same sort of stories he'd always liked to watch on TV. The library in his neighborhood was small with a very limited collection, especially in large print, so sometimes he'd branch out into romances or non-fiction, if that's what was available. I don't think they had any SF in large print or he'd have read that too.

Many of the older people who come to our library seem to fit the same pattern. They're retired, often widows or widowers, and quite a few prefer the large-print format, but they do read, and borrow several books a week.

#23 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 12:45 AM:

Your mysterious author's advice about changing names, etc. and republishing the book is interesting, but it's a lose/lose scenario. Either the book will remain obscure and no one will notice; or it will be more widely read, and then someone will notice, and trouble.

#24 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 02:14 AM:

Clew wrote: "lnh - No, I don't think they have to be good eyes, if they're numerous enough and can define connections to each other. _Good_ eyes are needed for one person to sort on complicated criteria. Lots of eyes with small knowledge and mild preferences can sort stuff, in many passes, even if no single set of eyes has a grasp of the problem. "

Data point: for 25 years I ran a monthly writer's workshop for would be children's book writers. And it always amazed me how many of the writers would simply praise the most inane, unworkable, sentimental, unsellable stuff. Over and over and over again. The ones who were sharpest at critiquing were also the best writers.

In a slushpile critic situation, I am convinced that most writers will be like the proverbial 1000 monkeys at typewriters. We now have scientific evidence that they will NEVER produce Shakespeare and most only shit on the keys.

Jane

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 06:20 AM:

If most praise the most inane, unworkable, sentimental ideas, have we been wasting our time picking through the slush pile for only the good stuff?

#26 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 06:20 AM:

If most praise the most inane, unworkable, sentimental ideas, have we been wasting our time picking through the slush pile for only the good stuff?

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 06:42 AM:

Want to see something funny? Over at Google Groups, beside the main thread index for alt.writing.scams, there are sponsored links. And who sponsors those links?

Sponsored Links

Need a book agent?
Keep your rights, while you publish
and sell books worldwide. Free info
www.booksurge.com/agents

Publish your book
Coedition: The new way to publish.
Services for writers.
www.versalbooks.com

Publish Your Book Now
50 years publishing quality books
on all subjects New authors welcome
www.vantagepress.com


====

I guess they figured, hey, this is the place for writing scams, and we're running writing scams....

#28 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 07:52 AM:

I write fanfiction, and currently have a just-finished 145 000 word novel out on my private beta-readers circuit - half a dozen people who unwisely :-) over the three years it took me to write, said that they were willing to read it in first draft, plus one more who volunteered because she liked the sound of the plot. One of them is a professional copyeditor: I know that from her I'll get the most detailed and helpful comments, but all of the beta-readers will have useful comments to make.

I'll sit down with the novel and the comments and go through it, cutting the bits that they said seemed repetitive or unnecessary, tightening up the bits they said looked saggy, bridging gaps if there's a plot hole.

When finished, the novel will be published by a fan for sale by post or at conventions: photocopied, spiral-bound, card covers. It won't look glossy, and I won't make money on it: what I will get out of it is the satisfaction of writing it, and praise from a small fraction of the (maybe) 500 or so people who may read it over the next few years.

#29 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 09:41 AM:

I think there are a lot of people around getting suckered into scam publishing

Last weekend I was introduced to a colleague of my husband's -- I put it like that, because it was a work party for his work, and I was there as his partner. Colleague and I got to typical party small talk of people who do not know each other and don't know what to say, which included typical small talk question of what I do. I told him. He expressed polite sceptical interest and asked who published me. I told him. His attitude totally changed, his whole body language changed, when he heard the word "Tor". It was so weird. I mean obviously he'd never heard of me, and I was someone's wife, and therefore his expectation was that when I said I was a writer it must be vanity press. He as good as said so.

I'd assumed my experience with the people who had done this sort of thing was because of where I hang out online, but I think it really is a boom industry.

It's very sad and very pathetic.

#30 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 10:07 AM:

Jo: Last weekend I was introduced to a colleague of my husband's -- I put it like that, because it was a work party for his work, and I was there as his partner.

Wild tangent: we went to a party thrown by another faculty member a few weeks ago. There were college people there, and industry people, and visiting friends, so the conversations all started with some variant of, "how do you know the person giving the party?" To which I would start out by saying that I was there in my role as a faculty wife, though in RL I was an attorney.

Towards the end of the night, when I was turning into a pumpkin, someone asked me this and I was sufficiently slow that only the first part--the faculty wife bit--got out before the person who asked exclaimed in absolute horror at the fact that I was calling myself a faculty wife and that's all!

Back on topic: I'm surprised that the colleague had heard of Tor, actually. Was he an sf fan?

#31 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 10:19 AM:

"I'm surprised that the colleague had heard of Tor, actually. Was he an sf fan?" Oh, twist the knife, why don't you. :-)

Seriously, I used to be surprised when anyone had heard of us outside the precincts of genre, but it's gotten more common. We've been around for 22 years and we're not a small company any more. Indeed, we're bigger than quite a few venerable trade houses I can think of.

#32 ::: lnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 10:47 AM:

Jane (waves to Jane—Janni says hi) has answered for me, with better details than I could supply.

---L.

#33 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 11:22 AM:

Jo: I suspect the colleague's response didn't have as much to do with scam publishing as with the number of people who say that they're writing a book, a book which will never be finished and which will never see the light of day. Kind of like the stereotypical waiter in L.A. who's not *really* a waiter but an out-of-work actor.

I know that if I met someone I'd never heard of before who claimed to be a writer, I'd be skeptical.

#34 ::: Adrienne Martini ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 11:31 AM:

"I know that if I met someone I'd never heard of before who claimed to be a writer, I'd be skeptical. "

As a writer--yes, it is how I make enough scratch to pay the morgage and buy more books--I have to admit that I get a lot of skepticism when I mention it to strangers who ask what it is I do. I'll also admit that I'm just as guilty when strangers tell me that they're writers, too. My immediate assumption is that they are working on a novel that they plan to "sell" to a vanity publisher. I should know better than to make the same blanket assumption about them that gets made about me--but, there it is.

#35 ::: S. Addison ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 11:56 AM:

Jane -

And it always amazed me how many of the writers would simply praise the most inane, unworkable, sentimental, unsellable stuff. Over and over and over again.

My experience is that somewhere along the line (someone better versed in the history of sociology than I would have to suggest when), "critique" got conflated with "rudeness" and the idea of "constructive criticism" mutated into "say only the nice aspects of what you're thinking and keep the rest to yourself." Colleagues in my PhD program spread the word that I was a good person to give papers to for feedback, but on more than a few occasions the giver was clearly taken aback when their paper came back awash in red ink. I got the reputation because I'm an unforgiving, detailed editor who will tell people both when their semicolons are incorrect and when their concepts just aren't lining up. The initial recommenders had evidently failed to mention this to the recommendees, who seemed to be expecting a sort of "good effort! You might want to run spellcheck" type of interaction.

I have the most trouble with this phenomenon of late when offering group supervision to new therapists through a training institute where I sometimes teach. Among this particular group, it seems to be verboten to just say "from my supervisor's perspective, that session didn't go well at all. Shall we try to work out why?" As I'm just visiting faculty, I have very little say over the institutional culture, which I would personally prefer to be a bit more of the "extremely challenging while still offering mutual support" flavor rather than the "friendly backscratching because these returning adult students mean so well" sort. The students' expectations of feedback have been so clearly out of line with my expectations of what I'd normally offer that I've found myself scaling back a great deal, and just the other weekend walked away from a feedback session realizing that I'd probably given the impression that I liked a student's work which was actually, in my opinion, fairly bad. I kicked myself for several hours.

I suspect this utterly fails to relate to publishing, but I think it's of the same ilk as the "everyone can be a writer!" meme that feeds into the scam agents and publishers.

#36 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 12:41 PM:

I think the whole question of praise versus criticism merits some careful attention. We live in a praise-starved culture, and it's important to note that the people who are backscratching each other's bad fanfic, bad writing workshop entries, or poorly done therapy sessions are responding to their own starvation and the starvation of the people around them.

We also, however, live in an honesty-starved culture. (Early days of a better nation, anyone?) Honesty is harder to take than praise, especially to those unfamiliar to it. And the line between honest supportive criticism and honest trashing is not only very fine, it's a moving target.

I suspect that many people have to learn how to accept praise either before or in tandem with learning how to accept honest criticism. I believe that nobody gets better at their craft on a diet of praise, but tbat people do get better at living their lives on a diet of praise. Further, I believe that being better at living your life is an eventual boost to your craft, despite all the "miserable genius" images we all live with and (to some extent) inhabit.

The genius teacher knows when to praise, when to insert honest criticism, and how to intermix the two. By definition, genius teachers are thin on the ground, so the rest of us do the best we can. It's my policy always to try to remember the value of praise, even when I'm deep in the mindset of criticism.

#37 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 02:11 PM:

Patrick: sorry about that knife; here, have a pressure bandage.

It was my impression that the number of non-sf Tor titles (as opposed to Forge) was fairly small, hence my comment. And I probably wouldn't recognize the names of many publishers who don't foray into sf.

#38 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 03:43 PM:

It was my impression that the number of non-sf Tor titles (as opposed to Forge) was fairly small, hence my comment. And I probably wouldn't recognize the names of many publishers who don't foray into sf.

My selective dyslexia caused me to parse that as "the number of non-Tor sf titles was fairly small" on the first pass. Which is actually not that bad a description of my book-buying habits these days, if not all that accurate about the state of sf publishing...

Of course, if you consider what Emmett does for a living, it's probably not too surprising that a colleague of his would be familiar with Tor.

On a vaguely related note: In one of those "weblogs changed my life" moments, I noticed a stack of vanity-press editions of a novel the last time I went to get a haircut (some relative of one of the barbers wrote it), and immediately thought "Boy, I bet Teresa would be able to list off ten ways that guy got taken to the cleaner's..."

(In a similar, much more off-topic vein, I had a Jim Henley flash the other day while biking to work, when I passed someone power-walking with hand weights, and not moving them around all that much...)

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 05:05 PM:

One of the saddest things you can do is read the Publish America (PA -- "PA means Published Author!") message boards. There you'll see one young man proudly announcing that he's sold 134 copies of his novel. Then he goes and ruins it by mentioning that his father bought 125 of them....

#40 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 05:27 PM:

Josh's take sounds plausible. Heinlein (in a description of how most people fail to become writers) claimed there were 50 million people in the U.S. who "wanted to write"; even if the figure is high, the fraction of population that knows someone who calls hemself a writer is probably very high. I suspect not nearly as many people have heard of vanity presses -- if they had, such operations might actually sell a few books instead of being >99.44% scam.
I'd be surprised if a typical vanity press could even sell a _good_ book, given their lack of sales staff (not needed to support the scam) or credibility with reviewers and bookstores. Maybe they could by word of mouth; I've found some good recommendations from De Lint's attention to small presses and even print-on-demand. But I don't know how such reviewers filter what they get (if the vanity presses even bother sending them copies).

Yonmei: you clearly have reality by the short and curlies (modulo whether you're using characters owned by someone who would object even to such a small-scale unlicensed use -- it's not clear from your description). The natural prey of the scam artists Teresa sometimes talks about do not; they're usually not as out of touch as Ludwig II, but they believe claims of fame and fortune that just won't happen.
I suppose it's understandable; I quit dreaming of inventing a stardrive when I hit an obvious wall at sophomore calculus and physics, but putting words on paper looks so easy -- to riff on a famous (Twain?) observation, few people see that there's a difference between lightning and a lightning bug because the lightning bugs don't get published (or perhaps because the lightning is a lot harder to see when you're a lightning bug).
I don't remember seeing mention of such, but I suspect there's a similar collection of scammers preying on musical wannabes, especially now that producing distributable copies is so easy; the publishing scammers have to turn out physical books, which requires more equipment than burning CDs and printing jewel-case liners.

#41 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 05:42 PM:

There's great joy in seeing your words for the first time in a book, however the thing turns out.

I was much struck by your comment to me the other night, when you likened all these hapless, newly vanity-published authors to golden retriever puppies. It's true. They're so hopeful and enthusiastic and awkward, and so sure you're going to be friendly.

Writers want people to like and read and buy their books. They just plain want it. That's why the other thing they remind me of is the way kids sometimes get before Christmas, when there's something they want with that pure luminous desire that turns whatever it is they have their hearts set on into something magic.

Writers can be so defenseless, so damned easy to scam, that it hurts just to watch them.

#42 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 06:38 PM:

I've found that criticism is a very delicate business. I used to be a lot more ham handed about it until I realized that not everyone writes the way I write. I've learned how to present observations, suggestions and personal preferences rather than This Is Good/This Is Bad feedback -- and I only provide it to those who genuinely want and appreciate honest feedback.

#43 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2003, 09:41 PM:

Kate: Yes he was an SF reader. He remembered names of books, but not author names, and was croggled as Emmet and I helpfully (fannishly) filled in them in on autopilot. He hadn't read any fantasy at all, and seemed to think of it as something not worth bothering about -- I've run into people like that on rasfw before, just not in that sort of situation.

Josh: No, it was really the issue of publisher, because he'd already asked me if I'd published anything and I'd said yes, I had three novels out, and his expression of polite pained assumption I was a nitwit hadn't changed one iota. It was "Tor" that completely transformed him. (Mind you, this is someone who, when I asked him where he was from, in another example of scintillating party small talk, asked me whether I'd heard of Vietnam.)

#44 ::: Neil Gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 01:04 AM:

The bankruptcy bit is the bit I find completely bizarre. I came close to losing the rights to my audio recording of CHIVALRY, and the Sci Fi channel nearly lost its MURDER MYSTERIES last year. An audio of the two of them had been announced by Dove Audio, some years ago, it had never happened, years went by, Murder Mysteries was sold with Snow Glass Apples to harper as "Two Plays For Voices" and suddenly a proud young audio publisher announced it was bringing out the audio book.

I spoke to the publisher (or one of them) on the phone, and told him he couldn't do this. Sure he could, he said. He'd bought the rights from the bankruptcy court. But, I pointed out, Dove had never paid to do it. Ah, he said, it didn't matter. They'd found a master tape Dove had prepared, and would be bringing it out. And not paying anyone any royalties. They didn't have to. They'd bought it from the bankruptcy court. And hey, they LOVED my stuff, and would love to put out anything else of mine.

That one sorted out okay, once the SciFi channel's lawyers pointed out in no uncertain terms that Dove's rights had reverted to the SciFi channel before it went into bankruptcy... but I was really relieved that it had.

Which is a long way of saying that even if you have a clause in your contract saying that the rights to something revert to you in case of the publisher's bankruptcy, at the moment of bankruptcy everything freezes, including that contract, and the people who buy it may not be good people...

#45 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 03:23 AM:

Neil--that story goes under the banner of Always Vigilant.

Authors have always had to be vigilant about things being stolen. (If you're good, I'll tell you a Boston Globe story about a poem of mine. Some dinner party will do.)
But these days, with the internet. vigilance is not only important, it's imperative.

Jane

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 11:27 AM:

Er. Having a clause in your contract that says you get your work back if the publisher goes into bankruptcy doesn't mean you're out of the woods. I know clauses like that are standard, but they're more a pious wish than a guaranteed protection.

Thing is, publishing houses don't own much that's of any value, aside from their contractual rights to their books. There've been cases where authors tried to get their books back from bankrupt publishers, invoking the bankruptcy clause in their contracts, and had the courts rule that publishers could not agree to sign away their only valuable assets to unsecured creditors -- i.e., the authors -- in advance of paying off their secured creditors.

I don't believe any books were trapped in inventory when Bluejay suspended operations, but some authors had books tied up for years following the Pinnacle bankruptcy. And then there's that god-awful situation Doyle and Macdonald are in with the Circle of Magic books...

I don't know -- though I expect Beth Meacham does -- whether titles that have already been published at the time their publisher declares bankruptcy go back to their authors on the strength of the reversion clause. I think they might, but I wouldn't want anyone to depend on that. What I'm remembering is that when I've heard it discussed, the term used has been "books in inventory", which normally means existing books -- finished & delivered manuscripts, and reprints of books already published elsewhere -- which we have under contract but haven't yet put in print.

#47 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 12:54 PM:

Sure he could, he said. He'd bought the rights from the bankruptcy court. But, I pointed out, Dove had never paid to do it. Ah, he said, it didn't matter. They'd found a master tape Dove had prepared, and would be bringing it out. And not paying anyone any royalties. They didn't have to. They'd bought it from the bankruptcy court. And hey, they LOVED my stuff, and would love to put out anything else of mine.

Given who you are, Neil, you did have an answer to this, if the worst had happened: Tell all your fans the story. You don't even need to ask them not to buy it: just point out that if they did buy it, they'd be doing you out of your royalties. (It was Tolkien's solution when the paperback LotR got pirated, and he didn't even have the Internet.)

#48 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2003, 03:31 PM:

On bankruptcy law, which I have no expertise in . . .

I really don't know the law, but in a previous life I covered a federal bankruptcy court as a reporter (and got more interesting stories out of it than you would think). The one thing I learned is that, while they really do hold pretty strictly to the law in general, I have seen bankruptcy judges do some pretty wild things, and get away with it. Especially when pissed off.

I would, from some things I saw, strongly suggest that you discuss any contract language concerning bankruptcy with a specialist, or have your lawyer do it -- at least if you are going to depend on that language alone to protect you. Like most areas of the law these days it changes rapidly and you need a really good captain to make it through those shark infested waters.

#49 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 02:40 AM:

Theresa wrote: "I don't believe any books were trapped in inventory when Bluejay suspended operations, but some authors had books tied up for years following the Pinnacle bankruptcy. And then there's that god-awful situation Doyle and Macdonald are in with the Circle of Magic books..."

I actually know something about that as I was president of SFWA at the time of Bluejay's demise. We knew ahead of time that Bluejay was in trouble and, with our agent at the time (Dick Curtis) we fashioned an agreement with Bluejay that they hold off declaring bankruptcy until we got all our members' books back from them. It was a brilliant bit of tiptoe work. AND it was legal.

Jane

#50 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 01:26 PM:

Neil's tale, along with a couple of items from his blog, suggests a WWF matchup: "In this corner, Orrin Hatch, defending the rights of creditors to take anything that isn't nailed down and guarded by a Marine. And in this corner, Orrin Hatch, defending the rights of copyright holders to nuke anybody who violates their copyright."

I don't suppose it will ever happen; Hatch seems good enough at footwork that people don't notice him picking sides depending which one his patrons are on rather than any principle. But we can dream.

On a more serious note: Teresa, I can understand bankruptcy courts wanting to treat books-in-process as valuable assets that should be disposed of to the benefit of creditors. Do you know whether they have the concept of divided ownership of an asset -- e.g. the contract says the publisher has the book but owes royalties (on publication or after sale of a certain number of copies); are there any formal precedents on this, or is it entirely up to the judge?

#51 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 04:09 PM:

Jo: I stand corrected.

#52 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 11:08 PM:

When you click on the "Why PublishAmerica?" link at the PA site, the reason #1 is this:

"The majority of our books that are sold retail are sold in physical brick and mortar bookstores. Tens of thousands of people and hundreds of our authors across the nation have purchased PublishAmerica books from physical brick and mortar bookstores."

The last thing on that page is this:

"Bookstore Availability

"Thousands of people and hundreds of our authors across the nation have purchased PublishAmerica books from physical brick and mortar bookstores.

"PublishAmerica's books are stocked for sale in hundreds of bookstores across North America (including Canada), this also includes (but is not limited to) larger chain retailers such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Wal-Mart, etc...

"Barnes and Noble in particular orders from us quite frequently, and has purchased thousands of PublishAmerica books.

"Recently some of our authors attended a celebration of books and authors that was supported by Barnes and Noble. One of the authors had this to say, 'We were absolutely floored with the number of books B&N had purchased for the event.'

"The PublishAmerica message board is flowing with testimonials from authors whose books are stocked in bookstores."


====

What masterpieces of weasel-wording! No wonder so many people go with PA, thinking that their books will actually be, you know, stocked in bookstores!

Here are some typical testimonials with which the PA authors' message board flows: http://www.publishamerica.com/cgi-bin/pamessageboard/data/signings/82.htm

#53 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 04:06 AM:

This may be very old stuff in the netiverse, but . . . if the technology Ole Orrin is talking about -- that is, the ability to look for a file in somebody else's computer, presumably evading any attempt (such as a firewall) to avoid such intrusion, and if the file is located, cause critical damage to the target machine -- was even -rumored- to be under development by fuzzy-chinned foreigners, or people who pray in a particular direction, or the French, would we not at this very moment be saturating them with cluster bombs? I mean, it's not like the equipment would care whether you told it to hunt for "Fantasy Records mp3" or "DARPA death beam" or "Jeb Bush tax record."

But perhaps I miss the nuances.

#54 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 09:37 AM:

If Orrin's computer-destroying technology was ever produced, I expect that the first virus based on it would hit the world maybe twenty minutes later.

#55 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 05:26 PM:

A couple of the comments about selling books to royalty publishers, vs. selling them to vanity presses, suddenly remind me of Chip Delany's discussion of the meanings of the possessive pronoun in the master-slave relationship.

And, Jim, it might not take twenty minutes, unless the designers just spent that time reheating the pizza in celebration. A great feature of virus breeding is that you neither have to write end-user docs or do a lot of debugging. The run-up would probably be more like "[Bleep]ity [bleep]. Fire for effect."

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 06:23 PM:

http://www.publishamerica.com/cgi-bin/pamessageboard/data/signings/4.htm

PA authors discover that bookstores won't carry their books.

http://www.publishamerica.com/cgi-bin/pamessageboard/data/main/6654.htm

More PA authors discover that bookstores won't carry their books.

http://www.publishamerica.com/cgi-bin/pamessageboard/data/main/6701.htm

Publish America authors come up with cute promotional ideas for getting bookstores to stock their books -- like ordering copies under a false name then refusing to accept them, so the stores will have to put a copy on their shelves. They never make the connection on why more and more bookstores won't even special-order PoD books.


#57 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 06:38 PM:

Today's Globe has a column on how this is technically possible and utterly unlikely; not as compactly snarky as the above but less bland than the business section usually is.

#58 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 07:00 PM:

I like my version of the Orrin Hatch story best of all: Senator Hatch Introduces Bill To Burn People's Eyes Out

#59 ::: Shalanna Collins ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 03:57 AM:

Sorry to sound like a problem child here, and please just delete me if this is taking the topic in the wrong direction, but I don't think that all POD publishing is a "scam." For one thing, several writers right here in the Plano (TX) area have had their work picked up by New York houses after POD publishing. The "biggie" I am aware of is H. J. Ralles, who wrote several YA SF series books (which seem mediocre to me, but which apparently charm the pants off the adolescent boys, like her own two sons) and published them POD a couple of years ago, and they were picked up this past spring to be promoted by her new NY house. The clerk at B&N told me this VERY proudly when he was telling me that she was chosen to read from the new Harry Potter novel on the eve of its release (they had a release party, and she was the closest to Joanne Miracleworker Rowling that Plano had to offer, it seems ).

Now, if she did that, then it seems to me that she found some way to get the rights to revert to her. She wasn't an XLibris author, but the XLibris contract (at least the way it was written in 2000, when I saw it) says that you can notify XLibris that you wish to terminate the relationship, and they'll take your work out of their system and the rights will revert to you within three weeks. There are ways to do this, or else people's books wouldn't be getting picked up; am I right, or am I deluded? Dilaudid? Diluted? (All of the above?)

It's happening. I mean, the Christmas Box dude and the whatchacallit Prophecy guy also did something similar--showed there was a market for their product and then were able to sell the product to a large concern. Not everyone has the ability to devote their time to the sales circuit, though. *That* is actually the hitch with POD pubbing, even when you're on Ingrams and your book can be ordered. (It must be run across first, if you know what I mean. Someone has to know your name and spell it correctly and wait for the special order.)

Um, I believe one reason H J Ralles became so profitable is that she made the circuit of middle schools around the area as a speaker (you know, at the "assembly" that schools have now and then.) She'd give the school a form for kids to fill out saying how many copies they wanted, the kids would return forms to the office with checks, and she'd come to the speaking engagement and give them the books plus a rousing entertainment. It worked very well for her. The reason I know this is that she took pity on me and told me I should do it, explained how, and offered me a list of contacts at the school districts around. Since I wanted to write different things that might be worthy of NYC and I am not a charismatic speaker (and AM mirror-crackin' ugly to boot), I decided to spend my free time writing other novels instead, but this tactic seems to have worked for her. Her work is probably as good as those YA series I see on the shelves, and it's not nice of me to say anything about them anyhow, when she tried to help me (she also got me invited to a writing convention and to a roundtable thing at Barnes and Noble, so now you see what an awful back-stabber I am for not saying they kicked butt), so don't get the idea that this method would work for just any book. But it might well work for someone whose work falls between the cracks and isn't right for any current line being published.

There are other reasons to publish your own book, especially if you want to go on a speaker circuit like that. Just wanted to say that it isn't all a scam. I mean, perhaps there are those of us with a natural talent for writing, an interesting prose style, a developed voice, but who still can't sell a novel, for various reasons, to a commercially viable line. Should we kill ourselves, quit writing, post it on telephone poles, read it aloud to the cat every evening, what? Keep striving . . . that sounds fine, but it gets old out here on this side of the screen. Really, really old. We're out here believing we're talented, but everyone else says we're not. It's like being the oldest toothless whore who doesn't get any business any more, despite having the most experience. (Isn't it odd that virgins are the most in demand, when they actually have no experience at all?) Sorry to go vulgar on you there, but I've been corrupted by modern society and the media. You get the drift of the argument, I'm sure.
--Shalanna

#60 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 11:14 AM:

"I don't think that all POD publishing is a 'scam.'"

No, of course it's not. Really, "Print On Demand" is just the name for a cluster of printing and binding technologies.

The scams are certain businesses that imply that, for a fee, they'll provide sales, marketing, and distribution services to would-be authors, while (1) not actually providing useful services and (2) misinforming authors as to how bookselling actually works.

(See "difference between printing and publishing," passim.)

Self-publishing, in and of itself, isn't a "scam"; how could it be? Many excellent books are self-published all the time. Successful self-published books get picked up by larger publishers with a fair degree of regularity. Self-publication can be an enormous amount of work but it can also be very rewarding. No scam there.

#61 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 06:53 PM:

XLibris and PublishAmerica are also two different things -- XLibris is an old-fashioned vanity press, which some people use as a short-run printing method. They do apparently give back rights fairly promptly on request (since they already made their money off the original fees).

PublishAmerica takes all rights, for a term of seven years. Based on that it's unlikely that a book with PA could be picked up by a major house, even if it did become wildly popular.

There are lots of reasons for self-publishing. Some of them are good, some are bad.

#62 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 11:18 PM:

See if any parts of this seem familiar:

Profile of a Dead Song-Poem

#63 ::: H.J. Ralles ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2003, 11:31 PM:

With reference to Shalanna's comments posted on June 27th, H.J. Ralles has never used a POD publisher for any of her work and is published by a small, independent but traditional press. H.J. Ralles does not, and has never, recommended POD publishing to aspiring authors.

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#64 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2003, 02:06 PM:

More on this and allied matters can be found at http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/2003_07_01_scrivenerserror_archive.html (look for the 30 July 2003 entry).

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