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January 30, 2005

More on the Atlanta Nights story
Posted by Teresa at 06:51 AM * 202 comments

Some additional links on the Atlanta Nights sting:

Jim Macdonald gives the authoritative version of the project and its origins in a series of posts at Absolute Write.

A historical footnote: The hatching of the plot at AW in December 2003.

Sherwood Smith’s account in her journal, and Beth Bernobich’s in hers.

Crooked Timber picked up the story.

SF writer Derryl Murphy, who contributed a chapter, has written a series of posts about the project: My Worst Sale Ever, Updates on the Bad Book, PA and Da Nile River, and, very usefully, a list of known authors and their chapters.

A suspiciously similar cast of characters can be found in the book’s back-cover blurbs.

And here’s a chart of the book’s sales to date at Lulu.com.

Addenda:

Sorry about the inaccessibility of the chart at Lulu.com. Jim Macdonald used this laptop while we were both at Vericon, and he must have used his password to log in to the site.

Tenebris has been following the story. So has John Scalzi:
Here’s a quick rule of thumb: Don’t annoy science fiction writers. These are people who destroy entire planets before lunch. Think of what they’ll do to you.
MacAllister Stone let me know about a fine rant by Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb, about PublishAmerica taking advantage of naive writers:
Damage is done to a writer when he is told that his book is ready for press and will succeed when in reality it’s riddled with errors and inconsistencies. When a new writer is told that to receive a dollar advance for the book is normal, and asked to submit a list of friends and relatives who might buy the book, then we are treading on very thin ice between vanity press and scam. The Print On Demand copies of books that PA creates are expensive, most reviewers refuse to even look at them, most libraries won’t take them, and worst of all, most book stores do not carry them. Some book stores will order PA, but most refuse because if the books don’t sell, they can’t return them to PA. If you have a genuinely good book and you take it this route, you have most likely given it the kiss of death. … I hate that the victims are young or new writers, who really don’t know how the business works. I hate it when anyone is deceived on the basis of inexperience. It is not what PA does so much as all the assertions that it is ‘better’ than going through the old mill of the standard publishing. An “us against them” attitude is cultivated on their message boards, in which established writers and publishers are portrayed as deliberately trying to hold new writers down and out. This is so unfair to the many editors I know who are absolutely ecstatic when they discover a new talent and a great new book.
Digital Medievalist, a.k.a. Lisa Spangenberg, has written a couple of essays. One is about Atlanta Nights:
These writers engaged in public cacosyntheton, synchisis, acyrlogia, alleotheta, amphibologia, anacoluthon, and every vile cliché, transparent plot device, and literary offense ever to have thrived in the slush pile.
She liked it! The other essay, longer and more serious, is about PublishAmerica’s editorial practices:
I first heard about PublishAmerica while having dinner with a friend in late 2001 or early 2002. He told us he’d sold a novel; he was published as a scholar, but this was his first time as a novelist. We could see his excitement as he told us the publisher was “very Internet savvy,” and had said that they’d see his book got into traditional bookstores and well as being available on the ‘net. I’d never heard of the publisher, which was unusual given how much time I’d spent at libraries and book stores, and attending numerous ALA and ABA conventions, but I didn’t worry about it then.

Several months later we received a disturbingly amateur letter from PublishAmerica inviting us to buy a copy of our friend’s novel. I knew then they weren’t a legitimate publisher; the language on the order form and cover letter made it very clear that PublishAmerica was a printer, and I suspected, a poor one, judging by the odd syntax and blurred type on the letter and order form. Even the price of the book was odd. The order form price was $21.95, a hardcover price for a slender trade paperback.

Skip forward to Con José, the 2002 World Science Fiction convention. A fannish acquaintance showed me a table where her book was on sale by consignment. It was a thinnish trade paperback, for just under $20.00. The cover was a bit odd looking; it was obviously stock footage, but the bleed was wrong and the colors weren’t quite right. When I looked at the text my heart sank. There were lots of very basic errors, things like confusion between its and it’s, confusion between possessives and plurals, “would of” instead of “would have,” lines of text repeated at the bottom of one page and again at the top of the next, outright spelling errors … The typography was so awful that it was difficult to read the text. Lines were frequently dropped, resulting in short pages, and the text had so many rivers it was hard to read an entire page. The publisher made no effort to kern; none at all. There were reversed and unmatched quotation marks, broken ellipses … it was bad.

But worse than the amateur typesetting, proofreading and design, was the fact that the book desperately needed an editor, a real editor, someone who would have spotted the continuity problems, like the character whose name was spelled differently at different points, and the time and date problems. It was pretty clear that someone had performed crude formatting and made a token effort to proof read, probably relying on spell check, but mostly dealing with formatting issues. It also appeared that the formatter was someone who liked commas, I mean really liked commas, and thought every sentence needed one, or three. My acquaintance said that yes, there were commas introduced spontaneously, and some other errors, but PublishAmerica explained that the printer had introduced them and they would be corrected if the book sold well enough.

The errors I spotted were not introduced in the digital printing process, since digital printing relies on a digital file provided by a publisher. The book had not been professionally edited, copy edited, or proofed. It looked to me like the book was a straight dump from Microsoft Word to .pdf. I’ve subsequently learned from other PublishAmerica authors that my fannish acquaintance was lucky; others have had even more serious errors introduced into the ms. These are not the actions of a professional publisher, with genuine editorial expertise.
That’s a restrained telling, and true throughout. By report, PublishAmerica advertises editorial positions in their local Pennysaver. Their text production cycle is to conventional publishing’s production practices as those mockup cardboard computers you see in office furniture stores are to the real thing.

Here’s her own list of pertinent links.

One of the many unlovable characteristics of PA is that any of their authors who stop drinking the Kool Aid are subjected to crushing verbal abuse. This is a relatively short, mild example of a letter from PublishAmerica.

A local Maryland paper, the Frederick News-Post, has done its own story about PA: PublishAmerica: A friendly biz, or an author’s nightmare? Among other things, it discusses PublishAmerica’s misrepresentations about its brick-and-mortar distribution, which is nonexistent.

Ann Crispin is quoted on the sheer discouragement that hits most PA authors after they’re published and the realities of the situation sink in:
Ms. Crispin said her online group has tried to spread the word about PublishAmerica’s practices to prevent authors like Ms. Kendall from becoming completely disillusioned with the publishing world.

“Some people decide, after all this is done, that they’ll never write again. That’s sad,” Ms. Crispin said.

Online message boards at Writer Beware and Absolute Write are filled with page upon page of writers’ complaints against PublishAmerica. Ms. Crispin recalled one PublishAmerica author, Dee Power of Fountain Hills, Ariz., who said she submitted a manuscript to PublishAmerica in which she deliberately repeated 30 pages of the same words. She eventually was offered a contract by the company.

“I have the e-mail offering me the contract,” Ms. Power said.

“They claim to have editorial gatekeeping,” Ms. Crispin said, “but I’ve never seen evidence of it. … What they’re doing is not illegal in the ways we see with some of these fly-by-night companies, but they are deliberately deceptive and they treat their authors as though they’re dirt.”
As with all the other newspaper stories, ditto the letter referenced at the previous link, you also get to see Larry Clopper, co-owner of PublishAmerica, explaining that with the exception of a few chronic malcontents, all their authors are deliriously happy.

Yeah, right.

Comments on More on the Atlanta Nights story:
#1 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 08:47 AM:

jiminy crickets. talk about refusing to let go.

"They overprice these books, they sell them to the friends and families, and that's it. That's as far as authors are ever going to go," said Jenna Glatzer, a professional children's author.

Ken,
Let's analyze this.

What is a "professional children's author"?

What is a "professional child"?

Since "children's" is possessive, does that mean that the author is owned by children?

#2 ::: Michael Pullmann ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 10:19 AM:

"The most insightful and revelatory jacket quotes I've read all year!" - Michael Pullmann

#3 ::: Dave Kuzminski, Preditors and Editors ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 10:49 AM:

I won't be surprised if Atlanta Nights polls the highest in one of the novel categories next year. If it does, it would be another well deserved shot at PA.

#4 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 01:24 PM:

Can anyone actually read the sales figures on mylulu.com? It requires a login, and I quail in terror of the idea of pointing BugMeNot at a self-publishing website.

#5 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 02:31 PM:

Even with my login, Lulu wouldn't let me read the sales statistics. I suspect it doesn't recognize me as an author. I'd love to see the figures, though!

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Sales of Atlanta Nights: To date, 43 copies.

(IOW, over half-way to the average sales by your average PublishAmerica author.)

#7 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 06:11 PM:

Are you hinting that I should buy another one?

:-)

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 07:10 PM:

Whoops, sorry about the sales figures problem. That's what I get for letting Jim Macdonald use the laptop while we were both at Vericon. He must have logged in to Lulu.com. I'll ask him whether he wants to reveal the sales figures.

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 07:11 PM:

Everyone should buy multiple copies.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Whoops, there's Jim already. That's what I get for posting a comment I'd drafted before taking a nap.

I need coffee.

#11 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 07:24 PM:

James D. Macdonald:

"Everyone should buy multiple copies."

Nabokov gave a flimsy reason to do so for "Pale Fire," namely to have one open to the poem, and one to read the novel purporting to be a commentary on the poem by an increasingly obviously unreliable narrator. Question: how to embed armtwisting towards viral duplication in a deliberately antiliterary book in which a quotation from Nabokov, unless grammatically convoluted as this is, would be mandatorily blue-pencilable?

#12 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 07:39 PM:

JVP: Oh, Nabokov was full of it. Obviously the solution was to tear the pages with the poem out of the book and keep them seperate from the rest.

...

#13 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 08:51 PM:

Remember: it wasn't Nabokov talking, but Kinbote.

#14 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 09:44 PM:

Jonathan Vos Post wrote:

> Nabokov gave a flimsy reason to do so for "Pale Fire," namely to have one open to the poem, and one to read the novel purporting to be a commentary on the poem by an increasingly obviously unreliable narrator. Question: how to embed armtwisting towards viral duplication in a deliberately antiliterary book in which a quotation from Nabokov, unless grammatically convoluted as this is, would be mandatorily blue-pencilable?

Well, not Nabokov, nor Publish America, but Milorad Pavich's _Dictionary of the Khazars_ was published in a 'male' and 'female' edition, the two differing by one word on an undisclosed page.

Or so they claim... We have both editions in our house, but I've never gone looking.

#15 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 10:52 PM:

One of the interesting side effects of using Lulu.com to publish Atlanta Nights is that people who might have considered using PublishAmerica even though they realize they're a rip off, now are finding out about Lulu.com.

That's kind of nifty.

For the second edition of Atlanta Nights, the one with ISBN and, maybe, (please?) a forward, why not Quark/InDesign/Framemaker the file?

#16 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 11:22 PM:

I got a nice email from Lulu on Friday that my copy had shipped. But the notice about the blurbs on the back cover didn't show up until after that. Wonder if I'll get them.

Oh--Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm indulged in a rare rant about PA taking advantage of young/inexperienced writers, in a post on her newsgroup.
http://webnews.sff.net/read?cmd=read&group=sff.people.robin-hobb&art=6444

(I'm really going to have to learn to write those links. *sigh*)

#17 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 11:44 PM:

Is Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm one person with two authorial names or two people who cowrote something?

Brad DeLong, confused...

#18 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 11:52 PM:

Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm are one person. :)

#19 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 11:53 PM:

Brad,
One person with two pen names. Among other things, she co-wrote "Gypsy" with Stephen Brust-- which is a weird and lovely book.

#20 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2005, 11:53 PM:

Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm are the same author. I'm kind of wondering when we'll see Lindholm's old books published under the Robin Hobb name in an attempt to increase sales. Though I'm not sure the publisher is the same...

#21 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 01:53 AM:

I think that Robin and Megan should collaborate on a shared world novel of some kind.

#22 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 02:03 AM:

Since I've been (with a mixture of glee and terror) following the various PublishAmerica threads, I was thrilled to find that Fandom_Wank has ummmm ... previously taken stock of the situation. There are two threads, one at F_W itself, and one at otf_wank, both worth reading.
I'll try to post the urls here, but I'm not very good at it, so apologies if it doesn't come out right: http://www.journalfen.net/community/otf_wank/7062.html
(one of the PA authors pops up trying to be snide and superior - really in the wrong place to try that)
and:
http://www.journalfen.net/community/fandom_wank/255051.html
(reference is made to the Maniac Mansion game and the "Three Guys Who Publish Anything" ad)

#23 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 03:37 AM:

Reading the comments of the PublishAmerica authors, rampant spelling errors and all, was hilarious, until I realized that they are the very ones who are getting taken advantage of. Then I just felt bad, and vaguely sick.

#24 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 03:54 AM:

Oh, my. Barbara, I went to the otf_wank thread, and oh, my.

I think my favorite part was:

"As for my punctuation, be careful what you criticize. Those of us who know better will see you for the fraud you are. But I can see why a high school grad would get confused, I am, after all, university educated. Would you prefer I spoke using shadow puppets to help you understand?"

Why, yes. Yes, I would.

(Also, the PA authors board thread with the poetry in praise of spellchecking made my head hurt a lot. Or maybe that was from banging it against the desk.)

#25 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 09:52 AM:

elise:

"As for my punctuation... Would you prefer I spoke using shadow puppets to help you understand?"

Shadow Puppet Cop: "Aha, Bad Bart! Stop or I'll shoot!"

Shadow Puppet Bart: "You'll never take me alive, copper!"

Shadow Puppet Cop: "Okay, I'm shooting you. Bang! Bang!"

Shadow Puppet Bart: "Oh, no! A bullet went into my belly, making a round hole shaped like a period!"

Shadow Puppet Cop: "Not exactly. See the trickle of blood coming out? That makes it a comma."

Shadow Puppet Coroner: "The autopsy reveals that the body of late Bad Bart has only a semi colon."

#26 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 10:28 AM:

the transcript of an online chat with the author of the Post article on POD publishing and PublishAmerica is here

#27 ::: Nicole ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 11:32 AM:

The PA author being raked over the coals in the otf_wank thread is now one of PA's most vocal detractors. And the guy who came to PA's defense in that thread isn't thrilled with them these days either.

#28 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 11:41 AM:

I am coming in on this whole thing rather late. I have a question,was this "novel" submitted to publish America? If so, was it accepted? If so, why is it now with Lulu?

Part II: Is this the same book Clapper said resulted in some sort of legal or criminal action because it was submitted with some sort of malintent (is malintent a real word?? If not, I declare it one).

Why is the sky blue?

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 12:44 PM:

WordDude, the truth is out there.

I have been admiring the first paragraph of Chapter 40, which discreetly indulges in a much finer-gauge error than the average Atlanta Nights chapter:

Irene checked her face in the mirror and the gun in her handbag just once more before she found the reserve she was looking for in herself. Popping in a fresh breath mint (just in case), she pushed open the boardroom door to confront the three people who had ruined her life and killed her love.
I could wish that Irene had kicked in the door, but that's mere quibble.

Do I have a theory about who wrote it? Could be. I could also be deliberately misleading you. I'm still not telling.

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 01:02 PM:

It's not an error, T, it's a feature. See "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear" from Flanders and Swann.

#31 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Zeugma is generally regarded as ornamentation; here it's a vice.

I'm determinedly avoiding using Atlanta Nights as a core text for a discussion of the rhetorical figure as vice.

But that doesn't mean I won't come back to it later.

#32 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 02:01 PM:

worddude, you appear to have overlooked the link "the authoritative version of the project and its origins", right at the top of this very post, yes?

#33 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 02:18 PM:

I'm just proud to belong to the same species as whoever came up with "y'all'll"

#34 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 02:42 PM:

julia:

Just for the L of it, how about:

"y'all'll, llamas included, drool at this..."

#35 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 03:19 PM:

Well, "missed" might be correct, but this forum does not appear on my computer as it should. I can see the top, or I can hit f11 and see the posts, but never can I see the whole thing...it's awkward to say the least. I imagine I'm missing a lot.

#36 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 03:56 PM:

I beg everyone's pardon for my pithiness, but after reading the letters from PA that Teresa linked to, I can't avoid saying this:

PublishAmerica really isn't living in the reality-based community, is it?

#37 ::: MaryR ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 04:33 PM:

Has anyone tried an ipso lorem submission to PA?

#38 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Worddude — In case you still haven't seen it, the nickel tour summary: Hoax novel written; hoax novel submitted to PA; hoax novel accepted by PA. Hoax revealed to great fanfare; PA withdraws acceptance. Free of PA, novel printed and sold through Lulu.

There. That was mercifully brief.

#39 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 05:08 PM:

Well, gosh, thank you Ray. You have no idea how much I appreciate a straight-forward answer to my question. Your mother (or someone) obviously spent some time raising you properly.

#40 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 05:58 PM:

Julia: Actually that construction is often used in spoken language, but I have to admit I haven't seen it written out before. I, myself, have said things like, "If all y'all'll move over to this side of the room...", and I grew up in only a semi-Southern state.
MKMK

#41 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 06:20 PM:

I kind of like the way it sounds, but it looks godawful funny in print.

Confession: since my two year stay in NC, I sometimes say "didden" (as in "I didden see it") when I'm tired.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 07:03 PM:
"The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts." -- TNH


Here's a thumbnail history of the sorry affair.

Here's the press release.

Atlanta Nights now has an ISBN: 1-4116-2298-7

Price is still $11.94 at Lulu.com

http://www.lulu.com/content/102550


That's right! Atlanta Nights is now* available** in brick-and-mortar bookstores from sea to shining sea!

Approaching*** one million sold!


* Or will be, whenever Bowker updates their database.
** Over at the Special Order desk, along with the PublishAmerica books.
*** With the speed of a turtle on Qaaludes....

#43 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2005, 11:45 PM:

For those who prefer to read your badfic on an ebook reader, Atlanta Nights is now available from Embiid Publishing.

#44 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 12:24 AM:

I love that chapter 34 was computer generated. If the rest of the book is as farcical as the back cover, then I need to find a multi-autographed copy where the proceeds will be donated to SFWA's medical fun.

If only negative examples could teach people how not to do something, this would be a great lesson.

As I read this thread and its links I got this vision of Punch and Judy hitting one another on the head with PA novels. And on that note I'm going to bed.

#45 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 06:26 AM:

I've just realized I misspelled Steven Brust's name, upstream.

I am a doofus.

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 08:26 AM:

Worddude, Ray Radlein is indeed a nice guy, but your messed-up browser isn't visible from here.

Nicole, that's not an uncommon pattern. PA's most fervent defenders tend to be authors whom they've accepted but not yet published, or authors in the first flush of publication. A year or more out from publication, they're likelier to be sunk in depression, or hanging out in the PA thread on Absolute Write.

Newsbreak: Atlanta Nights has ISBNs!

print: 1-4116-2298-7
e-book: 1-58787-256-0

#47 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 10:59 AM:

Atlanta Nights is #4 on Lulu's best sellers of the week.

#48 ::: JackM ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 02:07 PM:

That letter from Publish America is really vile.

Surely the company has to have crossed some legal line.

#49 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 02:57 PM:

Quote: Worddude, Ray Radlein is indeed a nice guy, but your messed-up browser isn't visible from here. /Quote

Yeah, well I should hope not. I'm typing in the nude.

#50 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 02:59 PM:

Just a note on that point though, there was a discussion last week on another forum with people would could not read this site. I told them about the f11 trick, but it's not a smooth ride for many of us with IE.

#51 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 03:23 PM:
Just a note on that point though, there was a discussion last week on another forum with people would could not read this site. I told them about the f11 trick, but it's not a smooth ride for many of us with IE.

What version of IE are you using? There was a problem viewing the individual post pages here with IE 6, but the page template was changed and since then I've had no problems, and no one else has mentioned them either.

#52 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Worddude

I've seen the Search page issue, but frankly haven't tried to figure out why it's doing that.

But.

Don't use I.E. Really. It's not safe at all, it's a veritable invitation to disaster. FireFox is worth at least taking a look at--and there are other alternatives.

L

#53 ::: worddude ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 03:45 PM:

I am usually using IE6. It's not that big of a deal, honestly. I can live with it although I might be missing a few things but anyone visiting the site for the first time might not figure out the f11 thing and just leave.

#54 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 04:48 PM:

elise, Fandom_Wank is one of the joys of my life (rather like my husband, and for some of the same reasons).
Do you think he meant sock puppets rather than shadow puppets?
Just popping back to let you know that the wankers have discovered Atlanta Nights:
http://www.journalfen.net/community/fandom_wank/620064.html
and it's being suitably appreciated.

#55 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 05:55 PM:

Barbara, thanks for the link. I just read through the blurbs (hadn't taken time before). ROTFLMAO,,, until I'm giddy. One of my own personal fave jokers contributed to the blurbs.

#56 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 11:46 PM:

Oh, which one? But they're all so good.
I'm going to have to get hardcopy from Lulu, I think. But ... the cover at the e-books is way cooler than the Lulu cover, especially the way the title scrawls over the woman's eyes. Sigh.
Question - will Atlanta Nights be listed on Amazon? Should we all go there and give it 5-star reviews?

#57 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2005, 03:53 PM:

Still enjoying this and its wonderfully bad prose. Kudos for the phrase: "the memory of a great man who had walked the earth like a rock in the sand".

#58 ::: Zzedar ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 01:28 AM:

"These writers engaged in ... acyrlogia"

That's "acyrologia."

#59 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 01:30 AM:

Teresa,

My we use this quote of yours below either on the front of the ATLANTA NIGHTS book cover or inside?

"The world is full of bad books written by amateurs. But why settle for the merely regrettable? Atlanta Nights is a bad book written by experts." -- T. Nielsen Hayden


#60 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 03:51 AM:

Reading that manuscript has somewhat of a highway accident effect on me; you know it's not right to look and you *want* to look away but you just can't. And it keeps getting worse.

To anyone involved in that book reading this I say: Awesome work! And by awesome, I really mean awful!

#61 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 10:59 AM:

One measure of success for a book may be a mention in Bookslut.

Congratulations, Travis Tea!

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 02:02 PM:

Vera, if "we" is the same outfit on whose behalf Jim Macdonald and Sean Fodera asked me the same question yesterday, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.

The supplementary answer is that it was a signed review in a public venue, and if you have to get formal permission to quote from those, the industry is in big trouble.

#63 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 02:22 PM:

I just finished chapter 28 of Atlanta Nights, and must say I felt gypped at the end of it. Ignoring the formatting errors, ...creative spelling and punctuation, nonstandard grammar bits, and gratuitous POV shifts (along with the fact that it, like all the rest of the book, seems to be a chapter from some entirely different book), chapter 28 isn't half bad. I'm even kinda interested in the rest of whatever non-existent novel it's part of, somewhere in the great library of unwritten books.

#64 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 10:47 PM:

Teresa,

Yes and thanks for verifying! :-)

#65 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 11:16 PM:

Alsafi:

The Invisible Library
"The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library's catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound."
Please note: The catalogue used to list entries by pseudo-author and pseudo-title. These have been removed to save space and because they weren't visited very often. However, if you want them back, please let me know. The Oddities section was removed because it's redundant.

The Crimson Hexagon
"The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary . . . More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books."
-- Jorge Luis Borges

#66 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2005, 11:57 PM:

Sadly, I received a mass-emailed letter today from the last person I would think be taken in by a vanity press scam: my copyright/trademark attorney, who is extremely Internet & research savvy.

He was taken in by Llumina Press.

And is doing what all such authors do: putting his fingers in his ears. He doesn't want to admit to himself that it's a vanity press & not a real book publisher. He really thinks it was a good deal (check out their editorial rates: Elric and I calculated that one of their "edits" [copyediting, not even line-editing, from the description] would cost someone who wrote a 100,000-word ms. a whopping $29,000. You read that right. Just for editing. The a la carte list continues from there...). Unlike PA, they don't even typeset for nothing. Granted, you get what you pay for with PA, but if you pay these guys the $900 for typesetting and production, you still get crap. And I thought PA was bad.

He also thinks it will honestly be "in" the bookstores, just like Llumina's website claims. Same vague claim that all the scams pull. It's astoundingly awful what these guys are doing.

It's saddening. Worse because this guy is the last I'd think would be taken by the routine.

I so want to write back to him and say, "You yell at me all the time to NEVER do anything contract-wise or legal-wise without talking to a lawyer, usually you. And you did this without first talking to me, a publishing professional?!"

Worst of all? The book isn't half bad, and it has an audience. If he would have called an agent, I'll bet it would have found a niche sale. I told him that two years ago. He didn't listen, apparently.

#67 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 07:36 AM:

I got my package from Lulu last night, and I have to congratulate whoever set up the page grid. Just magnificent.

Whoever you are, you have achieved Typesetting That Made Me Giggle.

#68 ::: Leanne Gates ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 07:46 AM:

Man oh man, this site is fun. "Y'all'll" be pleased to know you've kept this weary Aussie writer-type entertained through many a sleepless night. I lurk and laugh, and love the lot of you.

#69 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 08:38 AM:

Julia, out of curiosity, what made you giggle about the typeset? (I haven't seen the book). I assume that in keeping with the general theme they've somehow done it as wrongly as possible as well; I'm curious in what ways typesetting can be amusingly wrong.

#70 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 08:42 AM:

Daniel,

Let's just say that there are very many fun things you can do with text justification. . . . :-)

#71 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 10:04 AM:

casts around for an example - the page numbers, which are practically on top of the last line of type on each page, and which don't have the same baseline as the text, and which appear, at a glance, to be in different places on different pages.

and yes, the text justification was fun :D

#72 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 10:19 AM:

although I have to award the highest honors (the coveted Golden 22-Year-Old AD) to whoever force-justified "I'm not"

#73 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 11:59 AM:

"Publishers and Sinners. Possibly the most astonishing novel ever written, Atlanta Nights by 'Travis Tea' was created to test -- preferably to destruction -- PublishAmerica's claim to be a serious 'traditional publisher' with old-fashioned trappings like editorial standards...."

The Runcible Ansible
David Langford
The Infinite Matrix

#74 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 12:25 PM:

Okay, so I have a question, and maybe someone can help me with this:

Why do so many people assume that it's their job to pay for the success of their book?

I mean, if there's a common thread in all of the PublishAmerica apologetics I've read, it's their sincere belief that PA is doing them a major favor by putting their book into print -- and that's all they expected. Who are they to ask for promotion and advertising? Doesn't everyone buy copies to resell? If you want your book on bookstore shelves, it's just logical that you have to do it yourself, right? Anyone who wouldn't buy fifty copies of their book and drive around to every bookstore in the tri-city area asking for shelf space is just lazy.

Now, some of their beliefs I can understand. For example, a bunch of editors talking about the slush pile can easily translate as "goddamn new blood, wasting time we should otherwise be spending polishing Stephen King's gold-plated toothbrush, oh how we hate them all" when a frustrated wannabe writer listens in. (And then along comes a traditional publisher who doesn't care if you're unknown, because your work is sure to resonate with an audience....)

But I honestly don't understand how you can fail to see that everywhere in the publishing industry but PA, big pots of money are given to you before even one copy is sold, and then the publisher does the marketing and promotion for you! If anyone said to me "Here you go, a pot of money for you, now just sit back and write another book while we work our asses off on your behalf." I would be thrilled.

What am I missing? What sort of mind do I need to not grasp that publication can mean money, up-front, and in (relatively) copious amounts?

#75 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Anticorum's puzzlement brings to mind David Rising's book How to Get Published FREE: And Make Money. I read the title, and waited for my brain to catch up, and thought, "Well, yes, that's how it's supposed to work."

But he makes it sound like another scam.

How to get published FREE and make money: when you get your work into the retail chain. There is a story or an idea in everyone. It's just a matter of finding out what works for you and getting those creative juices flowing. There are much more than just books that can be published to bring in some extra money. With this method of publishing you will not have to wait six months or more, just to get a rejection notice from a traditional publishing house. You could have your material in the retail chain in as little as six weeks from the time you submit it. The fact is you can get your work published in book form and up for sale at zero out of pocket cost to you. This book will guide you through what to do to get your material published: Books, Magazines, Music, Poetry and Short Stories. Work from home and at your speed. Marketing your book on all of the major online websites is also detailed in this book.

I leave the exploration of the irony that his book is published by Lulu as an exercise.

#76 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 12:48 PM:

"A bunch of editors talking about the slush pile can easily translate as 'goddamn new blood, wasting time we should otherwise be spending polishing Stephen King's gold-plated toothbrush, oh how we hate them all' when a frustrated wannabe writer listens in."

Only if the "wannabe writer" is an idiot.

Think it through. If you're an aspiring unpublished writer, do you want the average quality in the slushpile to be high? Why would the news that it's not be something to get offended over?

#77 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 01:24 PM:

If you're an aspiring unpublished writer, do you want the average quality in the slushpile to be high? Why would the news that it's not be something to get offended over?

Because there's a persecution mentality mixed in. Many people never reach the part of the logic chain that says, "I can write in complete sentences with few grammatical gaffes. I'm ahead of 60% of the slush pile already!" They stop at "Gee, the editors reading the slush pile really think we aspiring writers are all idiots. I'm never giving them a chance to make fun of ME that way!"

#78 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 01:37 PM:

That's understandable. Stupid, mind you, but understandable.

Honestly, at the risk of destroying the last shreds of any reputation I may have for being writer-friendly, it seems to me just extraordinary to want to pin one's flag to the mast of the slush pile.

#79 ::: PinkDreamPoppies ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 01:57 PM:

I think, Patrick, that you have on advantage over a number of writers: you've actually seen a slush pile. Most people who become discouraged by the prospect of editor's complaining about the slush pile usually haven't seen one and don't have a grasp on the types of compositions therein.

I, personally, and others I've known have at one point in time or another thought that the slush pile consisted almost entirely of stories that were perfectly spelled and punctuated but that simply lacked an engaging enough storyline or interesting enough character or whatever. The slush pile, in our minds, was filled with a staggering number of perfect, publishable books that were passed up because they weren't as good as This Other Book Over Here.

I'd venture that most of the people who pin their flags to the mast of the slush pile don't realize that, as OG pointed out, by being able to spell they already have a leg up on a sizable chunk of the competition.

#80 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 02:28 PM:

I'd venture that most of the people who pin their flags to the mast of the slush pile don't realize that, as OG pointed out, by being able to spell they already have a leg up on a sizable chunk of the competition.

Oh, no. That was a summary of a conversation that started when I passed Teresa's Slushkiller post on to someone wondering about the chances of a slush manuscript. I was soundly berated by a third party and accused of actively trying to discourage people from trying to get published.

It may be significant that the people involved who took Slushkiller as encouraging were the ones with a good command of English grammar, while the ones who were offended should probably recognize their own writing styles in Atlanta Nights.

Patrick, people are desperately searching for an alternative to joining the slush pile, and there doesn't seem to be one. Even getting an agent doesn't eliminate the slush pile from the writer's perspective; it just shifts it to someone besides the editor at the publishing house.

#81 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 02:39 PM:

I'm convinced that many new writers think that there's a Slush Room at each major publisher. Every Monday an editor goes in and pulls out three manuscripts at random that will be Published. The editorial assistants then package the rest up with rejection slips and take them to the Mail Room to be aged for a year before returning them. The slush room fills until the next week's ritual.

#82 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Not long after PW started its "My Say" guest editorial page (not quite twenty years ago), they ran a piece from a self-described "business consultant," who took the industry to task for its insulting attitude toward the valuable material sent in unrequested.

His solution (and if you hang around here, you could guess that he would have a solution in his hip pocket) was that all publishers should contribute money, editorial time, and the occasional sacrificial intern to a joint clearinghouse agency that would read everything, make decisions, and then distribute the Good Stuff to publishers by some means he didn't actually get around to explaining.

The punchline was the comment that "if even 10% of the material is worthwhile, this will pay."

It drew one very polite but amused letter from someone at Knopf.

I don't know what the exact motivation for this item was -- the natural guess is that Mr. Consultant had been trying to push his book and failed, but there are all sorts of equally tired possibilities. (If so, one would guess it had to be a novel -- there was a time when Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley could have published their book on Getting Rich as a Consultant.) And, in the end, it doesn't speak very well for the consultancy.

#83 ::: E.E. Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 04:03 PM:

I thought Atlanta Nights was a brilliant concept, flawlessly executed. I was riveted in my chair -- except for the (frequent) moments rolling around on the floor laughing.

#84 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 05:28 PM:

I haven't started submitting my writing anyplace yet, but it seems to me that the slush pile is just the equivalent of musical & theatrical auditions. Presumably nobody likes the stress of auditioning, but if you think your work is fabulous, you should want to participate in a process designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

For some reason a lot of amateur writers seem to think that their work should be judged purely by the quality of feeling that goes into it. But if they have to go through the slush pile, unfeeling junior editors who can't see past trivialities like grammar and pacing will cast aside their masterpieces. Clearly a more senior editor, someone with real depth of feeling, wouldn't be bogged down by the mere technicalities that are all a junior editor can see. Meanwhile the senior types spend their time sucking up to established authors and ignoring the diamonds in the rough, who are being trod upon by the uncaring slush pile readers.

Etc.

#85 ::: Evil Genius ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 07:00 PM:

A true Southerner would know that in addressing more than two people, namely a bunch to use true Southern technical terminology, it would be said this way: "All y'all'll be pleased to know you've kept this weary Aussie writer-type entertained through many a sleepless night."

#86 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 07:17 PM:

Quick question - anyone here ordered books to the UK from Lulu? What're the shipping rates like?

(It tells me *how* they can be shipped, but not how much it'll cost. Usually I find that suspicious, but I'll give them the benefit.)

#87 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 08:42 PM:

"Meanwhile the senior types spend their time sucking up to established authors and ignoring the diamonds in the rough, who are being trod upon by the uncaring slush pile readers."

Quite right. Except, wait, we're not "sucking up to established authors," we're lolling about in our offices eating bonbons and reading the National Enquirer. Or maybe the SFWA Forum. I get so confused.

#88 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 09:40 PM:

Oh, sure. Now you'll try to convince us that editors *read.* Good luck with that one.

By the way, how was today's ep of Dr. Phil?

#89 ::: JackM ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2005, 10:04 PM:

Re: slushpiles.

Deep, dark secret here. I once submitted a Bad Novel to an agent. The slush-pile reader, with whom I was slightly acquainted, was intestered in it. I suspect that her interest was mostly the result of my being able to spell and punctuate. She referred the MS to the agent, who, fortunately for me, realized that the novel was a nasty memoire/Mary Sue and rejected the thing.

Decent writing might get one past the first cut but not necessarily part the second. My decently written but utterly foul "novel" got enough send-us-some-more letters followed by this-does-not-suit-us letters that I eventually understood the lesson.

Lesson: it's hard to write good stuff. However, we all knew that, right?

#90 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 01:49 AM:

Having been following the Neverending Thread's links to the PA boards, I've been having a depressing thought of my own, a bit different from the question of whether the aspiring but credulous authors have seen a slush pile ... and ooh, here's an idea to make our genial hosts blench - how about a webcam of the Tor slush pile, so those who have cleverly chosen shocking pink envelopes etc. can see their mss rise through the ranks?
Wait, I did have a thought. Okay. I kept wondering how much the hopeful authors read - what authors they liked, what genres they favoured, did they buy new or used? Too often it seemed that they didn't read very much at all, let alone in the genre they hoped to break into.
Reading the posts of the hopefuls reminded me distressingly of the anecdote about the farmboy who wanted to be an author, and when interviewed about it, said he figured the hardest part was getting all the lines to end at the same spot on the page.
Maybe it's a false impression. I kept remembering Teresa's remarks about thinking with one's reader brain, though, and wondering whether they had access to that mentality. Maybe they're too busy with the huckstering to have time to read.
Did anyone else find it chilling that one of the sections on PA's advice pages is called "Death of a Writer, Birth of a Salesman"?
(Anyone who has the correct text for the farmboy story, please share.)

#91 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 02:39 AM:

The major problem hired slushpile readers have, imho (and having been one back in the early '60s I know whereof I speak) is that reading too much of it can destroy your critical faculties. Soon anything spelled correctly, punctuated properly, and with relatively few adverbs seems a veritable masterpiece. Which is why no one reads slush for days on end.

I always tell my workshop students that simply by being there to learn something, they have already lifted themselves into the top 5% of slush pile. And that only about 1% of slush is actually publishable. (That's being generous.)

A few years ago a consultant was hired by Boyds Mills Press, a children's book imprint of Highlights Magazine. He actually came up with the reccommendation that they'd do much better if they'd only published books that would become bestsellers. Yeah. Brilliant!

Jane

#92 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 02:56 AM:

As someone who has not yet escaped the slush pile (not that I've tried in, oh, about eight years), I think the key to PA's appeal as an alternative lies in two concepts that seem contradictory but aren't:

1. PA's claim that if you're not already famous or well-connected, editors and publishers will treat your brilliant first novel with disdain. (Aha! That's why they rejected me! My name isn't Stephen King!)

2. The writer's secret fear that maybe the manuscript that seemed so right, so perfect during the writing of it, may nevertheless be not quite as good as Big Name Author's latest. Coupled with #1, that spells almost certain rejection. (And who wants to go through all that again? With PA, I can show those stupid snobs that there's a company out there that appreciates and nurtures my Unique Artistic Vision. If I work at it, my book can be the next Eragon!)

Trust me. I "know" my book is worthwhile. Nevertheless, the idea of sending it out again inevitably brings up dark, scary thoughts of "What if it never sells?" To stave off the despair, I try to convince myself that if I do another edit, and another, it will finally be good enough. In the meantime, at least I'm putting off the feared rejection just a little longer.

Up to a point, that's a helpful gambit. After a couple of major rewrites, many substantial edits and most of a sequel, my first novel is a heck of a lot better than it was when Tor rejected it however-many-years ago. Still, I'm rapidly reaching the point at which I run out of excuses to pop the latest version of it into an envelope.

#93 ::: Leanne Gates ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 07:18 AM:

Many thanks, Evil Genius, for the tip. Obviously we're just not southern enough down here!

#94 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 08:44 AM:

Patrick said:

> Think it through. If you're an aspiring unpublished writer, do you want the average quality
> in the slushpile to be high? Why would the news that it's not be something to get offended over?

Because the unpublished writer identifies every manuscript in the slushpile with their own. And no matter how many times you attempt to describe the average quality of those manuscripts, the writer will still be thinking, "but one of those is mine, he's talking about my manuscript."

I'm sure I'd have a hard time believing it, if I hadn't taken the time to read a manuscript a friend-of-a-friend asked for help formatting for submission... or at least the first few pages of it. I couldn't take any more of it than that.

So, assuming that's an average slushpile manuscript, I can easily separate theirs from mine. Without that benefit, any discussion of the quality of slush would just be abstract and hard to visualise.

I think every writer should have to read at least one slush manuscript. It might help everyone.

#95 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 12:20 PM:

Woo hoo!

Atlanta Nights hit the LA Times!

http://www.calendarlive.com/printedition/calendar/cl-et-hoax5feb05,2,5388025.story

Please publish this dud

To test a publisher's selectivity, a group of writers collaborated on a book. Their goal: Make it stink.

By Scott Martelle
Times Staff Writer

Feb 5 2005

The moral of this story is: Never tick off a science fiction writer.

More than a year ago, a website run by PublishAmerica, a controversial Maryland book publisher, took a swipe at some of its vociferous detractors among sci-fi and fantasy authors as "literary parasites" who "looted, leeched or plagiarized their way to local stardom."

That caused what "Star Wars" aficionados might call a "disturbance in the force."
...

#96 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 01:28 PM:

I've been thinking about what Patrick said about the slushpile. Rationally, it makes sense: if you're competing against the other manuscripts in the slushpile, it does you no good for them to be excellent.

But if you're an unpublished author listening to people talk about how bad most of the slushpile is, it's easy to interpret it not as "I'm better than those clowns, I'll get in" but as "they expect the slushpile to be crap, they won't give my book a fair chance."

Or, if you've put a lot of yourself into your book, it may feel like dating: if the group of people whose attention you want keep publicly disparaging people like you, you're not going to be encouraged. It's not easy to remember the distinction between "most of the slushpile is crap" and "all of the slushpile is crap, and the people who send those unsolicited manuscripts are crap".

#97 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 04:09 PM:

Harry, locally, I watch Spike TV's "MacGyver" reruns instead of "Dr. Phil," even though I've already seen all the "MacGyver" eps. (Okay, I could turn the TV off between the soap operas I like and the news at 4, but when I do that, I frequently miss the beginning of the news.)

#98 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 05:16 AM:

There was some discussion of formatting earlier on in this thread, so I feel some justification for butting in with a question:

Should it be one space or two spaces after a full-stop (period)? Or doesn't it matter?

When I learnt to type, *cough*teen years ago, I was taught to leave two spaces.

I'm sure I've seen a comment somewhere on Making Light about how two spaces are bad -- but my browser crashes every time I try to use this site's search function. Googling brought up nothing useful, except this: http://www.webword.com/reports/period.html -- which is more about text on the internet rather than text in books.

#99 ::: Vera Nazarian ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 07:10 AM:

Here is a better link directly to the LA Times article about ATLANTA NIGHTS.

Not sure how this bypasses subscriber registration, but I found it referenced in a couple of blogs via Google.

#100 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 07:54 AM:

When you're typing on a typewriter (or when you're preparing a manuscript in Courier for submission) you leave two spaces after a period. When you're running justified type, you leave one space after a period.

In other news:

Lulu Sales Rank: 58
Hits: 20,875
Sales: 144
Royalties: $162.50

Mentioned on 402 web pages.
Discussed in 85 blogs and LiveJournals.

#101 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 01:10 PM:

Patrick said:

> Think it through. If you're an aspiring unpublished writer, do you want the average quality
> in the slushpile to be high? Why would the news that it's not be something to get offended over?

Vicki - haphazard pick from said book here
I've been thinking about what Patrick said about the slushpile. Rationally, it makes sense: if you're competing against the other manuscripts in the slushpile, it does you no good for them to be excellent.

Granted Sturgeon's Law says the average will converge to cr*p as the numbers increase - still I'd hope for publication surrounded by quality and so maybe I'd hope for something better than trunk stories in the slush as well?

Objectives may differ. I suppose there is a reason market reports have called themselves Scavenger's for these many years?

#102 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 01:59 PM:

You want what is published to ==> good (your published work is surrounded by quality) as what's in the slushpile ==> crap (the stuff you're competing against to get published) as the numbers go to infinity.

If the system works correctly, this is what happens.

In other news: Atlanta Nights Tee Shirts and such. Proceeds to go to the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund. Tell your friends.

#103 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 02:36 PM:

"as the numbers go to infinity" I rather suspect response time is indeterminate but perhaps countable large?

#104 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 02:38 PM:

Slashdot has picked up the Atlanta Nights story. That should drive some traffic toward Lulu and away from PA.

#105 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 03:53 PM:

On the Atlanta Nights t-shirt page, why is the main picture different from the one (matching the Lulu cover) shown on actual shirts?

(I like the main picture better.)

#106 ::: Richard Cobbett ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 04:40 PM:

"Or, if you've put a lot of yourself into your book, it may feel like dating: if the group of people whose attention you want keep publicly disparaging people like you, you're not going to be encouraged. It's not easy to remember the distinction between "most of the slushpile is crap" and "all of the slushpile is crap, and the people who send those unsolicited manuscripts are crap"

Don't forget:

"But...but what if I'M one of the crap ones and just don't realise it? ANGST! PARANOIA! AAAIE!"

#107 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 04:56 PM:

The main picture on the CafePress site is the cover from the Embiid ebook edition. That isn't on any gear yet because the graphics using that picture haven't been uploaded yet.

#108 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 06:30 PM:

Slashdot will likely also drive some traffic here. Hope the servers can cope (although it's likely to be a smaller than usual Slashdot effect).

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 06:55 PM:

The full text is available (free download) at Embiid.net in Palm, Rocket, and Windows formats.

#110 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Cool. I don't think I'd spend money on a dead-tree version -- even if it does help support a good cause -- but I'm willing to invest in a free download.

#111 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 12:17 AM:

Has anyone read Jim Crace's article in the Guardian, of letters to the importunate unpublished?
http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,1405386,00.html

Is it really a Bad Thing for the first sentence of a novel to include the character's name? Or is he making that up?

#112 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 01:42 AM:

Call me Ismael.

YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.

#113 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 02:45 AM:

In other news: Atlanta Nights Tee Shirts and such.

Shouldn't that be Atlanta Nights Tea Shirts?

#114 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 05:52 AM:

A fair piece upthread, Mary Dell wrote, "Presumably nobody likes the stress of auditioning, but if you think your work is fabulous, you should want to participate in a process designed to separate the wheat from the chaff."

Yes, but what if the business was set up such that you were only supposed to audition at one place at a time, and that place would typically wait a year or more to get back to you?

Would that be a sign of a well-run business?

#115 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 05:55 AM:

Ooh! This is a good game.

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome clever and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition..."
(in fact Pride and Prejudice is the only one that doesn't drop someone's name in the first sentence)

"When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating..." (admittedly it's a sequel and I skipped the prologue)

"'Come home, Tenar, come home.'" (okay, technically another sequel, but the original wasn't about Tenar).

"Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family..."

"My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer than Pip."

"'Do come out of that dream, Moril,' Lenina said."

"Stavia saw herself as in a picture, from the outside..."

I'm going to stop now, because there are other things I should be doing.

#116 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 06:31 AM:

Ooh, Aquila, I knew five of those! And I don't think there's anything wrong in introducing the main character straightaway. As a reader I get irritated if there's lots of random description before the story gets going. I want to know who's doing what and where -- not how pretty the primroses are, or how strangely the autumn light plays about the hillside, etc.

I've raided my collection of children's books. How about:

"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do..."

"The trouble started the day Howard came home from school to find the Goon sitting in the kitchen."

"William and Ginger and Douglas and Henry (known as the Outlaws) walked slowly down the road to school."

"The carriage gave another lurch, and Maria Merryweather, Miss Heliotrope, and Wiggins once more fell into each other's arms..."

"Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen."

"Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes."

#117 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 06:33 AM:

Darn it. Sorry for double-posting, but I forgot to say 'thank you' to James for responding so quickly to my two-spaces question.

Thank you, James.

#118 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 07:19 AM:

Nice of Jonathan Vos Post to link to my "Runcible Ansible" column at The Infinite Matrix. However, using the "index.html" link brings up the latest column, and the one that mentions Atlanta Nights is now here.

Charlie Stross tells me that he's waiting to see the first novel "in the grand tradition of Charles Stross". At once I thought of contributing a reader's response at Lulu.com, but pity stayed my hand. Instead, perhaps, I should offer the blurb line sent to David S. Garnett when he demanded that everyone in British SF plug his book Bikini Planet sight unseen:

"If science fiction's founding father H.G. Wells were able to read this astonishing novel, he would be alive today."

Dave

#119 ::: CEP ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 08:37 AM:

I suspect that wannabes are discouraged by more than the difficulty of getting through the slush pile. The generally atrocious response times and "no simultaneous submissions" gag are probably worse, not to mention self-defeating for the publishing industry. Wannabes would be far more likely to get the message that "your work isn't publishable" if they got a set of curt rejections within a short period of time. Instead, the agony of waiting a year or more to get a three-line rejection, then moving on to the next publisher that won't accept simultaneous submissions, just reinforces the sense of persecution.

Frankly, there's no excuse for having both a long response time and a no-simsubs policy. Pick one or the other at most; better yet, recognize that the amount of time devoted to rejecting just about everything in the slush pile is so short that the whingeing that "I don't want to invest a lot of time for nothing" is disingenuous and curable with a postcard saying "You're out of the slush, we're still looking at it, and we need six weeks of exclusivity."

And if you think it's bad in fiction, try looking at the slush pile confronting an editor of serious nonfiction. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.

#120 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 08:51 AM:

Is it really a Bad Thing for the first sentence of a novel to include the character's name? Or is he making that up?

It's slightly more convincing than the rule about not publishing anything set in, or posted from, Cornwall, but not much. There might be a correlation between a novel being bad and it giving a character's full name and occupation in the first sentence - for evidence see the Language Log article on The Da Vinci Code, or a vaguely remembered Danielle Steel novel that mentioned the heroine's name, make of car, and "successful photographic agency" before giggling prevented me reading further. Maybe you have to have "successful" or "renowned" in there as well for the full effect.

Does Atlanta Nights begin by mentioning Bruce Lucent and his world-class software business? And, in the interests of impartial scientific research, are there any counter-examples?

#121 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 09:42 AM:

Is it really a Bad Thing for the first sentence of a novel to include the character's name? Or is he making that up?

I think he's just pointing out that slush readers have their own prejudices, like all readers.

I do like some of the advice in that article, starting off with:
if you want to change the world or even your locality do not put your politics into a book, but put your politics into Politics.

And on writer's block:
Well, if you are determined that it must be written, start to think of it not as "groundbreaking" - it's never wise to praise your own work, especially when it isn't completed yet - but as a self-indulgence, somehow unimportant in the greater scheme of things.

Thanks for the link!

#122 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 10:41 AM:

While doing some random research into the 18th century (in a vast and moldy old college textbook) I came across Alexander Pope's wonderful satire on bad writing -- pretending to praise it -- "Peri Bathous". Mixing genuine examples of the stuff with his own sly inventions, it's hilarious. Centuries later, the clunking verse and gloriously awkward poetic devices of one Sir Richard Blackmore can still induce fits of uncontrollable giggling, and Pope's riffs on that kind of writing are as pitch-perfect as the absurdities in Atlanta Nights.

The piece is related to his better-known "Dunciad" and "New Dunciad", whose social commentary is as apt as ever (despite his crusty religious prejudice against what *we'd* call science). Pardon me for not putting this quote on the Open Thread, but I couldn't resist sticking it here. As the goddess of stupidity reigns: "Beneath her footstool, Science groans in chains,/ And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains./ There foam'd rebellious Logic, gagg'd and bound,/ There stript, fair Rhetr'ic languished on the ground...." ("New Dunciad", Book the Fourth). Some things change, but powerful dunces are forever.

#123 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 02:28 PM:
There might be a correlation between a novel being bad and it giving a character's full name and occupation in the first sentence...

From a current rebinding project:

"Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable."

Admittedly, the first sentence doesn't tell you his first name is Gabriel, but it is set in a time when people didn't use one another's first names as freely as they do now. But still, somehow, I find myself preferring it to "Pain."

As they told us when we read Virgil, you can break any rule (in that case, metrical rules) if you're a genius. Though it helps if you're also dead.

#124 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Lulu currently lists Atlanta Nights at #2 on their bestsellers list.

I ordered a copy last night so I take credit for a tiny part of that increase.

#125 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 03:04 PM:

. . . or a vaguely remembered Danielle Steel novel that mentioned the heroine's name, make of car, and "successful photographic agency" [...]

The name she had decided to be a successful artist under was Pearl Amboy, kind of like the city, so people would remember it, kind of, and she drove the last living Yugo in Corona Park, a piebald rustoroon kept going by cadaver transplants from less fortunate Yugos; she called it "Gogo," either after Samuel Beckett or Vincent van or a Muppet, she forgot which, and other cars, or maybe the people in them, honked at it a lot (perhaps because it was plastered with bumper stickers encouraging you to honk if you held various faiths or affections) but her real joy was her photographic agency, which was very successful at taking photographs, none of which she'd ever taken to Duane Reade for developing, because that was technology, not art.

Okay, that's not so memorable. But most folks would take a whole chapter to get that across, so it is not without some weensy virtues.

#126 ::: Curt ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Paul Clarke, in reference to Is it really a Bad Thing for the first sentence of a novel to include the character's name? asked: "And, in the interests of impartial scientific research, are there any counter-examples?"

I saw a list of counter-examples somewhere in the late 1980's, and can only recall the first one. "Call me Ishmael."

#127 ::: jennie (with a lower-case "j") ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 04:40 PM:

I want everyone to know that on behalf of my colleagues, I object to the following assertion from Mr. Crace's letters "There aren't as many editors for a start. Those smart young men and women are accountants."

My objections are twofold:

Firstly, substantive: My co-workers, and the many, many young people I've met in editors' associations and editorial courses are very smart young men and women. They are simply impoverished smart young men and women, who chose careers with low salaries, low freelance wages, and a great deal of scratching at the doors of publishing houses hoping to land one of the few entry-level editorial jobs. There are legions of smart young people working in publishing, or trying to find work in publishing. I work with three extremely bright young editors, and I've spent several hours over the past couple of weeks interviewing several other smart young editors. So piffle to the notion that all the smart young men and women have become accountants.

Secondly, editorial: Which smart young men and women are accountants. To what does "those" refer? The former editors? The types of people who would have been editors in the heady days of the 'eighties? The antecedence is unclear.

ahem.

#128 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 05:21 PM:

First, I don't think "smart" in this context means "intelligent;" it translates to American as "urban trendy," or more pointedly, "yuppie." (Cf. "smart set.") Further, I'm quite sure it was being used ironically -- that Bright Young Things who wanted a steady income went into accountancy (which, if anything, has an even grayer & gruellier reputation in the UK than here) rather than editing.

#129 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 05:42 PM:

See, for example, Monty Python's "I am a certified public accountant and therefore my opinion is of no interest to anyone."

#130 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Ah...o.k., I have been insensitive to non-North-American usage. (Right, in the U.K. "smart dress" didn't mean that your chemise had an IQ.)

I do maintain that many of the young publishing types I meet are "urban trendy." Too trendy for BMW, sort of thing. I think that "urban trendy" might carry different connotations here, too (to me it connotes trendy heavy-framed glasses and spiky hair (sometimes pink), and a liking for yoga.)

Not grey at all, in other words.

#131 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 06:42 PM:

Is it really a Bad Thing for the first sentence of a novel to include the character's name?

An enthusiastic teacher of creative writing was lecturing his students: "Your characters must come alive on the page! If you are to be a great writer, you must bring your characters to life in your first paragraph... nay! in your very first sentence!"

And from the back of the room, a deep voice intoned, 'Marley was dead, to begin with."

#132 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 09:44 PM:

Marilee, MacGyver makes mullets work. Who else has ever worn one so well?

----

Isn't Mr. Crace's advice meant to be wrong? Isn't the point of the article (which I only skimmed) that he's so annoyed with the wannabes that he's giving them terrible guidance?

#133 ::: FranW ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 10:13 PM:

I agree with CMB that enormously long response times may be enough to drive authors into the arms of scammers. If, over the course of several years, an author can only get two or three form rejections as feedback, I don't think he has enough information to realistically evaluate his work as "unpublishable" and may in frustration or desperation turn to a faster, though less acceptable, option. Not that I'm saying it's the duty of publishing houses to provide rapid rejections with personal critiques attached in order to prevent authors from being scammed; but I do think there may be a causal relationship between the two.

I must add the caveat, though, that I've no idea what response times are like in mainstream fiction publishing. In genre fiction, of the responses I've personally been privy to, I've seen three publishers send rejections within 2 to 4 months, while three other houses have taken 1 to 3+ years. Is this typical?

#134 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 03:08 AM:

I sometimes wonder if an Internet Oracle scheme would work for slushpiles. For the unfamiliar - the Internet Oracle is an email box you can write to for advice, notionally of the newspaper-advice-column variety. Every time you do this, you get by return mail a letter that someone else sent in, which you are expected to answer to the best of your ability and send back. Then you get your answer, which has been written by someone else out there who sent in a question. In practice, people try to be as funny as possible in both the questions and answers, and there's a cadre of "priests" who see all messages and select the funniest for publication in Oracle Digests (rec.humor.oracle IIRC).

The slushpile application of this principle is simply to ask every author who submits an unsolicited manuscript to do first-reading on another unsolicited manuscript. I have no idea how to make the logistics work; mailing the manuscripts around is obviously not going to cut it. Maybe something like that collaborative proofreading of OCRed books for the Gutenberg Project website? If you'd like to know the status of your manuscript, please visit the following URL, and while you're here, would you like to help us out a bit...?

Anyway, if done right, it seems to me this would speed up manuscript turnaround, and also reassure the better authors of the poor quality of the competition.

#135 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 04:51 AM:

One of the most amusing things about this, for me, is that I went to high school with a guy whose real name was Travis Tea (parents!). Sort of adds a whole level of weirdness to the whole thing.

#136 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 05:02 AM:

Zack said: The slushpile application of this principle is simply to ask every author who submits an unsolicited manuscript to do first-reading on another unsolicited manuscript.

Isn't there the possibility that unscrupulous authors will say that other people's manuscripts are bad, just to get rid of the competition?

Barbara Gordon said: Is it really a Bad Thing for the first sentence of a novel to include the character's name? Or is he making that up?

I was thinking yesterday that this is the second time I've heard this particular opinion, and I was beginning to get worried (because my main character appears in the first sentence). But then I realised: the first time I heard it was on Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 -- which is the same place Jim Crace heard it. He's not making it up, unfortunately. On the plus side, this means that I've really only come across this opinion once after all.

#137 ::: Edo ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 05:34 AM:

I was making my way through the unusual articles section of Wikipedia this afternoon and stumbled upon the Sokal Affair, which has amusing parallels with the Atlanta Nights story:

In 1996 Professor Sokal, a physicist at New York University, submitted a deliberately pseudoscientific paper for publication in a post-modernist academic journal of cultural studies. The paper, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", published in the Spring/Summer 1996 issue of Social Text, was submitted to see if an academic journal would (in Sokal's words) "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."

I was going to suggest a Wikipedia entry for Atlanta Nights, then I found it. Perhaps mutual see also links would be in order.

#138 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 06:24 AM:

I just tweaked the Wikipedia article a bit, adding some details, and a link to the e-book version, FWIW.

#139 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 07:56 AM:

abi: I think missing out his first name still invalidates this as a counter-example. I confess I had to google to see that you were quoting from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide.

John M. Ford: Thanks. If you ever write a Danielle Steel novel I'll be sure to read it.

Curt: Yes, "Call me Ishmael" was mentioned up-thread, but I was really looking for counter-examples to my own half-baked theory: that giving a character's full name and occupation in the first sentence may be a sign of a bad novel, and more so if the character is described as "renowned", "successful", or similar. I'd also like to disqualify Moby Dick on the grounds that I didn't much care for it and so it can't be a good novel, but I don't think I'd get away with that :-).

#140 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 08:00 AM:

A horrible thought has just occurred to me. Bear with me for a moment. Literary hoaxes.

In 1943, two journalists-in-uniform, thrown together by the (Australian) Army and pure chance, concocted what has been called "the greatest literary hoax of the century".

They shared a ferocious contempt for the "modernist" poetry of T S Eliot, Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas et al. On one particularly boring Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, (and if you haven't seen a boring Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, brother, you haven't died) they "composed" sixteen "modernist" poems, by snipping lines and words at random from magazine articles, including an Army publication on restricting the breeding grounds of mosquitoes. These they meant to be high-sounding gibberish of no literary merit whatsoever. They attributed them to a fictitious person they named Ern Malley, and sent them to an avant-garde literary journal named - I swear I'm not making this up - "Angry Penguins", edited by one Max Harries. Their cover letter was written in the equally fictitious persona of Malley's sister, who confided that she had found them while going through her brother's things, after he had died of "Grave's Disease" at the age of twenty-five.

Harries took it, hook, line and sinker. He proclaimed to the literary world that he had discovered one of the great poets of the modernist movement, tragically dead at the same age as Keats. He printed all sixteen, and modernists all over the world exclaimed over their extraordinary vision, their dark and mordant power, and their lyrical beauty.

Then the hoax was revealed.

Now you would think that this would have exposed the modernist movement for the bosh and cant that it is. You would think that this would have sunk Harries, and others who averred that this was brilliant poetry, without trace. You would have thought that it would have demonstrated beyond all doubt that they, and probably everyone who talks about any of the arts in similar arcane, convoluted and elevated tones, are a sham and a scam and a con trick. Not a bit of it.

Harries went from strength to strength. The "arts establishment" here and elsewhere, closed ranks around him. The Ern Malley poems, despite the outraged protests of their original compilers, have been repeatedly reprinted, and are now considered to be among the finest gems of Australian modernism. The fact that they are avowedly garbage, and a deliberate hoax, has made no difference at all.

Tell me, please tell me, that I'm wrong tofear something similar in the "Atlanta Nights" affair. Please.

#141 ::: Evil Genius ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 08:17 AM:

Dave, you're right. I foresee Atlanta Nights being picked up by a major publisher.

#142 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 08:52 AM:

Paul Clarke: Moby-Dick is a horrible novel: infodumps all over the place, more about whales than any reader of fiction could ever want to know, etc.

The story, though, survives all of those issues.

#143 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 08:56 AM:

I had never heard of Ern Malley before. It's an interesting story, with the ever-popular moral: "Har! Those so-called 'educated folks' are stupid!" (And what exactly is wrong with the title "Angry Penguins"? I'd have been proud to come up with something that funny.)

What those two did may have been a hoax, in the sense that they clearly made up the persona of Ern Malley; but those are real poems. Just because you cut up lines from magazine articles doesn't mean it isn't poetry.

The proof of the poem is in the reading. I'm no poet, and I've got little to no experience in critiquing poetry. But those poems, at least on a first reading, are, well, poetic. There's striking imagery and interesting word choice. They're evocative. All-time great stuff? I don't know. But it's valid poetry, whatever their intentions, and the alleged method they used to create it just makes it more interesting. (And, on reading that stuff, it's hard to imagine that in fact it is produced by cut-and-paste. They're far too coherent for that, meaning either that they were actually composed, or that the authors used so much discretion in choosing text that it might as well have been composed.)


Dürer: Innsbruck, 1495, by "Ern Malley"

I had often, cowled in the slumberous heavy air,
Closed my inanimate lids to find it real,
As I knew it would be, the colourful spires
And painted roofs, the high snows glimpsed at the back,
All reversed in the quiet reflecting waters —
Not knowing then that Dürer perceived it too.
Now I find that once more I have shrunk
To an interloper, robber of dead men’s dream,
I had read in books that art is not easy
But no one warned that the mind repeats
In its ignorance the vision of others. I am still
the black swan of trespass on alien waters.

#144 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 10:02 AM:

The slushpile application of this principle is simply to ask every author who submits an unsolicited manuscript to do first-reading on another unsolicited manuscript.

To what end? To some degree, a person who can't see the flaws in his own ms. may be able to spot them in another's, but a high percentage of slush mss. come from people who are, to state it nakedly, subliterate. No amount of first-reading by them is going to contribute anything but noise to the system.

The old RAND Oracle scheme (it long antedates the Net) is useful for a number of things, but the perfection of art isn't one of them.

#145 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Zack, the problem with farming out the slushpile to other authors was pointed out already, but I have something to add. Yes, other authors might out of jealousy and fear, automatically reject someone else's manuscript. In fact, I believe this happened to a project of mine - nonfiction. It was sent to a publisher, who uses some of their current authors as first readers. The person in question, it turned out, only passes on as publishable books that do not compete with her market. Ours did, and was rejected. I found this out from a friend who worked there in a different department. (I don't know if it was publishable - we got discouraged and never re-submitted it.)

Also, considering TNH's comments on the average quality of slush, I don't know if some of these writers would know a good book if it bit them on the nose.

#146 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 10:24 AM:

Moby-Dick is a horrible novel: infodumps all over the place, more about whales than any reader of fiction could ever want to know, etc.

Funny, I thought those were the best part of the book. Seriously.

#147 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 10:51 AM:

Paul:

I think that the absence of gushing adjectives invalidates the claim more than the lack of a forename. (The Danielle Steel quote uses "successful" twice in the one sentence.)

In Stevenson's time, in the social context of the book, first names simply were not used; you have to trawl through the text to find out that Utterston's other names are Gabriel John. Even then, it's only used in writing, on a legal document. Most of the characters address one another by Surname, unadorned, if they're friends, and Mr or Dr Surname if they're not.

I am willing to accept the argument that Utterston was not the main character of the book, though he was the viewpoint character. Or I can fall back on the genius and dead argument, if you prefer.

#148 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 11:10 AM:

Hoax is a double-edged sword. This is especially true with Science Fiction authors. Apologies in advance for some personal stuff that follows, and an unavoidable name-dropping, but I do think that this is properly in thread context.

In the Personnel Committee matters I've mentioned on other Making Light threads, wherein an illiterate and unpublishable Chairman tried to block my wife's promotion as a Physics professor and succeeded in blocking the renewal of my Math Adjunct professorship, the matter of literary hoaxes unavoidably came up.

The Chairman contended that this paper of ours:

"Imaginary Mass, Momentum, and Acceleration: Physical or Nonphysical?"
[Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Complexity Science,
17-21 May 2004]
Co-author #0 = Jonathan Vos Post
Co-author #1 = Andrew Carmichael Post
Co-author #2 = Professor Christine Carmichael, Woodbury University

was "not a Physics paper at all" but rather a hoax. He also tried to damn us by saying that it read "like fiction of Asimov." He also said that the Fifth International Conference on Complexity Science amounted to self-publishing, as they accepted anything.

He went too far in claiming that it and:

"Demonstration of Beats with a Double-Driven String"
Christine Carmichael and Steven Smith
Phys. Teach. 42, 462 (2004)

were my wife's ONLY publications. This neglects 15 others shown on the resume that he had, and which the Personnel committee had, including:

"The Implications of Peter Lynds 'Time and Classical and Quantum Mechanics: Indeterminacy vs Discontinuity' for Mathematical Modeling"
[Proceedings, North American Association for Computation in the Social and
Organizational Sciences, 2004]
Author #1 = Professor Philip V. Fellman, Southern New Hampshire University
Author #2 = Maurice Passman
Author #3 = Professor Jonathan Vos Post, Woodbury University
Author #4 = Professor Christine Carmichael, Woodbury University
Author #5 = Andrew Carmichael Post, California State University Los Angeles

His claim that Fifth International Conference on Complexity Science equals self-publishing was countered by our pointing out that it peer reviewed, and rejected a paper by Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson, who had a poster session presentation rather than that paper in the Proceedings.

His claim that "'The Physics Teacher' is not a proper research journal like Physical Review Letters" also showed his hand -- it is merely the most widely read journal for college Physics teachers in the world.

We found ourselves trying to prove that our papers were NOT hoaxes, and then, regarding Asimov, that:

(1) He was a Professor of Biochemistry, and thus an actual scientist, as were me and my wife, whereas the Chairman (with his Ed.D. alone) was NOT a scientist;

(2) That Asimov published me in an anthology, and I had him as my guest on the NBC-TV Today Show;

(3) That it is actually a Good Idea to write like Asimov, i.e. in clear English; and

(4) That in Asimov's multivolume autobiography, he discusses the prejudices against him by colleagues who knew that he wrote Science Fiction on his own time, as do my wife and I.

Do you realize how hard it is to prove that a peer reviewed scientific article is NOT a hoax, after Sokal?

On the other hand, the claim that I did NOT have the equivalent of a M.S. in Mathematics is being handled by my having a letter from the Chairman and Executive Officer of Mathematics at Caltech that my B.S. in Math (which had several Graduate classes in it) and the 51 credits in Graduate Math, and the over 360 publications (including edited online publications) in the field are the equivalent of at least an M.S. in Mathematics. I look forward to my formal Grievance hearing, and hope to get a semester's retroactive salary. Until then, the preemptory accusation of hoax has hurt our income very seriously.

In conclusion, I suggest that someone list "Atlanta Nights" as part of their credit towards an MFA, or a degree in English Composition, and see what happens in the Kafka meets Lovecraft horrors of Academe.

#149 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Dave:

And of course, the cut-up technique for writing poetry was already old hat by 1943. See Tristan Tzara, "Pour faire un počme dadaďste", 1920.

#150 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 11:21 AM:

In Stevenson's time, in the social context of the book, first names simply were not used

Stevenson's time? Heck, my mom used to refer to my dad by his surname -- Mr.___.

#151 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 11:40 AM:

Um, Alex,

I'm educated folks, too. Well, sort of. And so were the blokes who pulled off this stunt. I think they weren't so much getting stuck into educated folks as into a particular school of poetic writing, and in a larger sense, a particular artistic sensibility.

What they proved - well, what I think they proved - was that it was impossible to tell whether these particular poems were serious or not serious, honest or not honest, windy randomised verbiage or language innovatively used. And it is. That's what happens when language is pushed far enough.

Consider Noam Chomsky's famous example of a meaningless but grammatical sentence: "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously". Sense in fact can be made of it. Perhaps something like: "commonplace ideas born of inexperience may be inactive and impotent, but they stir up trouble and anger." But to make that sense, the words have to be taken with such a high degree of metaphor as to become, ipso facto, poetic. But if that is done, the sentence is rich in poetic device.

That's what I think happens with your selected example. Meaning must be read into it, by the process of assigning extended values to its words.

Which is to reiterate the commonplace of the last fifty years - that meaning is in the mind of the observer. Only I don't believe that. I'm not entirely sure why not. But I don't.

I suppose it might be no more than my extreme reluctance to admit that the craft of conscious composition may not be worth acquiring. I have been at some pains to acquire it, you see. But I still have the gravest difficulty in accepting that the intentions of the writer are irrelevant.

#152 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 12:10 PM:

Correction: the RAND method of refining questionnaires was Delphi.

Remember kids, coffee before posting, happy hosting. Posting before coffee . . .uh . . . Muammar Qaddafi, yeah.

#153 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 12:15 PM:

I suppose it might be no more than my extreme reluctance to admit that the craft of conscious composition may not be worth acquiring.

It's worth acquiring, even if you believe that meaning is in the mind of the observer. A writer can count himself successful at it if his intentions are clear to a substantial part of his readers, and especially if his intentions are clear to people who don't share his cultural assumptions.

As a practical matter, I consider "meaning is in the mind of the observer" to be an argument against the style of writing "Malley" produced. But I have encountered more people who think writing such poetry will help other people to understand the writer than I have people who are compelled to debate the One True Interpretation of a given text.

#154 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 01:30 PM:

Also, considering TNH's comments on the average quality of slush, I don't know if some of these writers would know a good book if it bit them on the nose.

If it bites you on the nose, it isn't a good book. It might be a large flattened weasel, or a box full of startled mice, but it isn't a good book. Large flattened weasels make very poor books.

#155 ::: T.L. Hines ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 01:44 PM:

The whole Atlanta Nights project--and indeed, the Publish America scenario in general--reminds me of the "Song Poem" industry so popular from the 50s to the 70s.

If you read comic books during that era, you probably recall seeing ads proclaiming "Song Writers Needed!" and "Your Poem Set to Music!" scattered throughout. The ads were designed to capture the interest of wretched souls who wrote wretched poetry that could be set to wretched music; in turn, the companies who produced the Song Poems (they called them "Song Poems" because they felt their audience was too dumb to understand the word "lyrics") wrote a letter, telling the authors they were sure it was going to be a hit song. For the low, low price of $400 (or whatever), they could get dozens of copies of the songs pressed, and the Song Poem company would promote the song to the music industry.

Of course, this always meant that the Song Poem company simply took the poet's $400 and shipped said poet a box of records that could only be given to friends and family.

Did any of this ever result in a hit record? Of course not. But the Song Poem industry did produce musical gems such as I Like Yellow Things, Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush?, and a host of other songs so awful, they're kind of catchy.

In 1975, in an attempt to prove the Song Poem companies would take anything, John Trubee sent in a poem entitled Blind Man's Penis, with the immortal lyrics (excuse me, song poem words) of:

"The zebra spilled its plastinia on bemis
And the gelatin fingers oozed electric marbles
Ramona's titties died in hell
And the Nazis want to kill everyone.

Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind."

Guess what? The Song Poem company produced the song, which became the best-known of all Song Poems. (If you're interested, Bar None Records has released The American Song Poem Anthology, filled with more than a dozen horrid selections that will--I swear--make you laugh while sticking in your mind.)

Atlanta Nights, to my mind, is the Blind Man's Penis of the 21st century.

#156 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 02:11 PM:

Nothing horrible about "Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush?" at all — that song is just damned catchy, period. For me at least, it was one of those songs that, the first time you hear it, you are sure that it's a cover version of some song that was very popular for someone else, and then you drive yourself crazy trying to figure out who did the "original" version of it.

#157 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 02:17 PM:

jennie (with a lower-case "j") objects to the idea that the smart people become accountants instead of editors--as well she should.

FWIW: I'm becoming an accountant (just finished my BS), while my husband is currently editing mining equipment manuals for a living. I gather that the latter work is every bit as uninteresting as it sounds. He would be the first to claim that he's smarter than I am, but it's not exactly a chasm. Our respective current wages are about equal, but I hope to leave him in the dust later this year. (I'd better, or our financial situation will be dire.)


First sentences:

"Several centuries (or so) ago, in a country whose name doesn't matter, there was a tall, skinny, straggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero, and not the one you are thinking of, either."

I spent a couple of hours last night trying to reason a friend out of a sudden Inner Weasel attack of self-doubt with respect to her current WIP. (From what I've seen, it's by no means as not-good as she suspects.) I have to wonder: do PA authors use such dubious publication to try to prove to themselves that such doubts aren't justified? Look! It's published! Therefore, it must be good, and I must be a real writer!"

#158 ::: Adrienne Martini ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 03:02 PM:

To add to the first line/whole name thread: "Towards the end of things, someone asked Michael Kearney, 'How do you see yourself spending the first minute of the new millennium?'"

#159 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Atlanta Nights and "all the flaws at one place": Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity and Kashmiri Poetry Criticism --

Five Millennia Old Our Culture & Literature of Kashmir by TN Dhar ‘Kundan’

"Mammtacharya is a great name because of his work, ‘Kavya Prakash’. It is said that the scholars would accept no work in Sanskrit unless it had the seal of approval from Kashmir. A very prominent poet brought his book to Mammata for approval after it had already gained recognition in the Sanskrit world. The Acharya said, 'The book is very good but alas I wish you had brought it earlier. I have recently completed the chapter of my book on "Kavya doshani" or the faults and flaws in poetry writing. I had to strive hard to find examples for different flaws but here in your work I could have got the examples for all the flaws at one place and it would have saved me a lot of effort.'"

#160 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 06:23 PM:

Joining in the names-in-first-sentences game only because I haven't seen this particular example quoted yet:

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

#161 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2005, 09:52 PM:

If it bites you on the nose, it isn't a good book. It might be a large flattened weasel, or a box full of startled mice, but it isn't a good book. Large flattened weasels make very poor books.

Tiger Spot, I just wanted to compliment you on this comment. Were we over on rec.arts.sf.fandom, I would offer you a RASFF Award and a small book-shaped box of chocolate (and very startled) mice.

Of course, I now want a colophon that says:

This volume is typeset in 14 point Book Antiqua and printed on Flattened Weasels.

but I'll have to wait until I have a book to put it in....

#162 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 12:17 AM:

The editor of The Angry Penguins was Max Harris (not Harries). It's not true to say that he went from strength to strength after the Ern Malley affair: Harold Stewart and James McCauley succeeded in discrediting him and the other Australian modernist poets. It took decades for innovative, experimental verse to be written and published with any confidence in this country, and Max Harris thrived as a bookseller and newspaper columnist. Yet, of the four or five lines from James McCauley's work that keep coming back to float in my brain (there are none of Stewart's -- he spent many decades translating Basho's haiku into rhyming couplets!), these, from an Ern Malley poem, are the most frequent visitors:

In the twenty-fifth year of my age
I find myself to be a dromedary
That has run short of water between
The last oasis and the next mirage

Quoted from memory, but tell me that's not poetry.

#163 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 01:35 AM:

This volume is typeset in 14 point Book Antiqua and printed on Flattened Weasels.

Unfortunately, flattened weasels aren't very archivally sound. They go bluggy and start to smell after a while if you don't feed them. And the logical way to print on flattened weasels (seeing as they're so long and narrow) leads to cross-grained binding, which is a Bad Thing.

But if anyone ever ends up with a book printed on flattened weasels, get in touch and I'll be happy to attempt the binding of it. I'll wear thick leather gloves and ensure my rabies shots are up to date.

#164 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 03:45 AM:

I beg Mr Harris's pardon. Faulty memory. But, as you say, he thrived.

You call it "innovative, experimental verse." To each his own, I guess. I call it non-poetry. Then again, that's what you told me to tell you.

#165 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 04:37 AM:

Large flattened weasels make very poor books.

I know. I worked with one once, on a collaborative bind. It cut the pages off-square, backed the volume badly, and left the leather on the joints so thick that the darned thing never opened right.

#166 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 07:02 AM:

abi: The gushing adjective is clearly more important than I thought. My theory may need more baking.

Ken Houghton: Yes it was mostly the infodumps in Moby Dick that got to me, plus the point of view wandering on a couple of occasions (which you'd think would be difficult with a first-person narrator). Oh, and the whooshing noises that the symbolism made as it went over my head were really distracting.

#167 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 10:25 AM:

Anticorum, I'm not a PA author, but here's a theory.

These people are not children, and are (mostly) not stupid. They know that achieving a Big Thing will require either luck or hard work on their part (if not both). Making a living as an author is a Big Thing. Being a best-selling author is a Big Thing. Therefore, they expect that, somewhere along the line, they will have to do something difficult, unpleasant, and possibly very uncomfortable. They will have to pay their dues.

They love writing (in the sense of putting words onto a blank screen/page). They must do - they've stuck to it long enough to achieve a novel-sized word count. Maybe they've heard about rewriting and crits. They may have had a friend or family member read it, and tried to improve it based on that feedback, but the criticism may have been too kind, and the rewrite too timid. There may have been pain there, perhaps, but not enough to earn the big reward.

They feel that they have a submission-ready manuscript. The next step is for some publisher to accept it.

Then someone comes along and says things like:

...big pots of money are given to you before even one copy is sold, and then the publisher does the marketing and promotion for you!...[publishers say]..."Here you go, a pot of money for you, now just sit back and write another book while we work our asses off on your behalf."

Frankly, it sounds too good to be true. And if it sounds too good to be true, goes the axiom, it probably is.

So they see the self-promotion as that crucial piece of labor, the dues-paying that (if they work hard enough) will get them the Big Thing. They shake their heads at the people who expect big up-front checks because that's immature, patsy thinking, that you can get something that good without putting the work in. And they react with hostility to people like P&E who talk about big advances and publisher promotion because that's snake oil talk. It'll lead writers astray, setting their expectations too high then dashing them when it turns out those big payouts are only for big names like Steven King (it always comes back to him, doesn't it?)

(In case there's anyone on the boards who doesn't see the flaw in the logic, it is of course that the hard work goes into taking criticism, rewriting, and submitting your manuscript without losing the will to live in the process. Or that's my understanding, but then, I failed at that and decided to do something else instead.)

If this sounds stupid and off base, I apologise. The flu has me in its vile grip.

#168 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 10:57 AM:

In a Blink, Bush Becomes Reviewer in Chief
By CARLIN ROMANO
The Chronicle of Higher Education
11 Feb 2005

"... Two immortal solecisms from Bush's wisdom on the subject during the 2000 campaign can be found among the 'George W. Bushisms' gathered by Slate editor Jacob Weisberg in those next-to-the-register volumes that lead many to 'misunderestimate' the president: 'Reading is the basics for all learning,' and, 'One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures....'"

[Should Bush write a chapter of Atlanta Nights 2?]

#169 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 02:06 PM:

"They shared a ferocious contempt for the 'modernist' poetry of T S Eliot, Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas et al"

Yeah, that Dylan Thomas, it's all a big fraud. Random words on paper. Also, you call this art? My kid could do that!

#170 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Abi wrote:
"...they see the self-promotion as that crucial piece of labor, the dues-paying that (if they work hard enough) will get them the Big Thing. They shake their heads at the people who expect big up-front checks because that's immature, patsy thinking, that you can get something that good without putting the work in. And they react with hostility to people like P&E who talk about big advances and publisher promotion because that's snake oil talk. It'll lead writers astray, setting their expectations too high then dashing them..."

I think he's on to something, here. This relates also--I suspect--to writers lacking the skill-set to honestly evaluate their own work, identify it as "not yet good enough"--and then set about effecting the changes needed to MAKE it good enough.

It's a bit of a catch-22, for most: By the time you are able to see that you aren't yet good enough, you already possess the skills (at least nearly) that MAKE you good enough.

(I'm not a PA author, either.)

#171 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 11:06 PM:

He's not the same as you and me. He doesn't dig poetry. He's so unhip, when you say Dylan he thinks you're talking 'bout Dylan Thomas (whoever he was).

The man ain't got no culture.

#172 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 11:38 PM:

julia,

So true, so true. Ni kultorny, me. Why (whisper it) I even think Leonard Cohen sucks dismal through a four-inch pipe. And don't let me get started on that old Shakespeherian rag.

#173 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 12:20 AM:

Leonard Cohen's Day Job, by the Austin Lounge Lizards. Side-hurtingly funny (and they're going to be appearing on Staten Island, of all places, in May)

(the other thing is just, you know, a desultory phillipic)

#174 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 01:34 AM:

I'm also tickled by the camel piece.

I think Teresa said somewhere (in this thread?) that the writers of Atlanta Nights had a very hard time repressing good writerly habits. I think it's possible that the "Ern Malley" hoaxters suffered the same problem, and while attempting to write garbage, wrote some very nice pieces as well.

Now, Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot have some icky aspects to themselves as human beings, but I think it's a silly thing to dismiss them as poets. There's so much going on there, especially in Elliot's work (one of the advantages to having children is that you get to watch them encounter this stuff for the first time. Emma had to sort of teach "The Wasteland" last year, and this year got a piece from "The Coney Island of the Mind" -- so we took her on a pilgrimage to City Lights and Caffe Trieste!)

And Dylan Thomas -- since his work is so lyrical and full of the rhythms and assonances of real speech and traditional music, I can't see how somebody'd want to dismiss him anyhow. It's pretty formal, if you look at it.

#175 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 02:48 AM:

The camel piece?

Would that be the one that starts "The sexual life of the camel..."?

Now, there's poetry for you, boyo!

#176 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 03:43 AM:

Chapter 9: LORD DUNSANY'S POETRY
"The reaction against modern poetry expressed by Lord Dunsany is precisely
in parallel to that of Robert E. Howard [Chapter 8.0] and Clark Ashton Smith
[Chapter 10.0], and is consistent with my claim that Fantasy Poetry is
'anti-modern or para-modern' [3.0]. The tragedy of Howard, Dunsany,
Lovecraft, and Smith is that while their objections to the Ezra Pound/
T.S. Eliot strand of modernity were clearly realized, they were at least
partially paralyzed by (1) the deep knowledge and respect that Pound and
Eliot had for myths, legends, and world literary history; (2) by the
sociological context that encouraged an overthrow of 19th century forms in
literature; (3) by the single-mindedness of critics and editors jumping
on the modern bandwagon; (4) by a lack of marketing sophistication in
their own poetic publications; and most profoundly, (5) by their inability
to offer a coherent counter-theory or to found a contemporary school of
Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry."

#177 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 07:07 AM:

JVP wrote:
Do you realize how hard it is to prove that a peer reviewed scientific article is NOT a hoax, after Sokal?

The Sokal affair (link to Wikipedia article) was definitely a grand hoax--- but you're not looking at this the right way.

Defending the veracity of a scientific article is easy-- that's why you keep lab notebooks, copies of derivations, backup copies of any data collected in the course of an experiment, etc. (One of my friends is a math prof. at a local school, and she uses a digital camera to take pictures of derivations/calculations in progress on her office whiteboard, with timestamps)

If something makes it through peer review, and is later thought to be suspicious-- open the lab notebooks for inspection. It's how Jan Hendrik Schoen (wikipedia link) got caught.

The problem you're running into isn't proving it's a hoax--- it's proving the Relative Importance of the arena of publication-- and that's in the eye of those who make the hiring/tenure decisions.

#178 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 07:11 AM:

"Random-word poetry":

Working for the USPS, I see a lot of AOL promotional disks, with their randomword-randomword passwords printed on the mailing labels.

And some of those two word phrases are actually quite evocative. Enough that I've pondered the idea of listing up a batch of them, and marketing them as the inspiration/theme for an anthology.

(But... would that cause legal problems? Does AOL own the copyright on their passwords? Tho' it sounds bizarre, I think they probably do.)

#179 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 08:27 AM:

Zack said: The slushpile application of this principle is simply to ask every author who submits an unsolicited manuscript to do first-reading on another unsolicited manuscript.

Isn't there the possibility that unscrupulous authors will say that other people's manuscripts are bad, just to get rid of the competition?

If you turn your head sideways and squint, this looks a lot like the referee system that's used for scientific journals. Using that analogy, I'd say that the bigger problem would be people letting substandard crap in in the hopes that their own substandard crap would get in later.

Also, there's the problem that, at least based on some of the things Teresa and other have quoted, the people sending the slush in really do think it's good enough to be published. Which may well mean that they'd love most of the rest of the slush, and provide essentially no filtering at all.

#180 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 01:31 PM:

Bruce, this is what divination is all about. Random objects, words, cloud formations tell you something about the inside of your own mind. But they're easier to accept if you perceive them as if they came from outside.

I just pointed out to someone who sat down and read the I Ching, then complained that it made no sense, that it wasn't meant to be read straight through; it was meant to be referred to after a long process that put the user into a non-ordinary state of consciousness...one where everything makes a kind of sense, and where it can be interpreted in terms of the user's own life.

#181 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2005, 01:51 PM:

Bruce: Reminds me of this, which I hadn't thought about since it first appeared.

#182 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2005, 10:10 AM:

Novels based on hoaxes are more common than novels that are themselves hoaxes, or, in the case of Atlanta Nights, counter-hoaxes. For instance, the fine debunking in:

Notes on a Strange World:
The Secrets of Rennes-le-Château

by
Massimo Polidoro

"What if the Holy Grail, the San Greal, was not the legendary and elusive cup that held the blood of Christ dying on the cross but was itself a blood, or a bloodline, a “sang real,” a “royal blood?” The idea, suggested for the first time in Holy Blood and Holy Grail, a 1982 book by British journalists Henry Lincoln, Richard Leigh, and Michael Baigent, is at the core of Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code...."

#184 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2005, 04:34 PM:

Ooooooh...and SciFi Wire now has an exclusive on PA's Rebuttal!

#185 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2005, 06:39 AM:

Just read Mr Clopper's rebuttal. He says at one point,

"...We have a thousand authors who have not had one book printed. That goes to prove we take the same risk in publishing anything as every other mainstream publisher."

Surely I'm not alone in thinking this is not exactly a ringing endorsement of PA's business practice. It sounds to me like 1000 people, each of whom would have received $1, who might be feeling pretty dismal about this disastrous choice they've made.

And I can't imagine a "mainstream" publisher taking anything like that kind of risk, that they would have contracted for 1000 books that never sell, even a bit.

#186 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2005, 09:15 AM:

... and what "risk" exactly are they taking? They're a POD - they are not taking a risk on printing or warehousing, and they surely aren't taking a risk on editing (since it seems they don't do that, regardless of their claims to the contrary).

#187 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2005, 11:03 AM:

They're "taking a risk" on their books in exactly the same way, and to the same degree, that Caesar's Palace takes a "risk" on its slot machines.

#188 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2005, 11:21 AM:

Less, in fact. Caesar's has to pay for the overhead and upkeep of the machines, and had to purchase the machines from the manufacturer for more than $1 per moneymaker.

#189 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2005, 11:11 AM:

Danica and Brook (''28'') West, I love you like a randy sand penguin of the Sahara.

#190 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2005, 01:23 PM:

A story on PublishAmerica, with Atlanta Nights, will be on Channel Six (ABC affiliate) in Philadelphia tonight, 12 April, on the Five O'clock new show. The consumer reports usually run around 5:30 pm.

#191 ::: Deborah Greenspan ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2005, 11:00 AM:

To: Nancy Hanger
Apparently your lawyer friend is more astute than you believe. First, because Llumina Press is no scam; although many POD books don't do well, we have several that are selling in the thousands (and not to authors). Second, if we were to charge $29,000 for editing a 100,000 word novel, I don't think we'd make a dime. Who would pay that kind of money? In fact, we charge a mere $.02 per word for a substantive (or what we call "full") edit. 100,000 x $.02 = $2,000. I realize that you consider us a competitor, but if you're going to slam someone, at least get the numbers right.

Sincerely,
Deborah Greenspan
Llumina Press

#192 ::: Butch Penton ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2006, 02:48 PM:

Debrief after mass email from PublishAmerica yesterday to all authors. Their email first; conference follows.

Dear author,

We have another milestone in our crosshairs: PublishAmerica is about to cross the "One Million Dollars Paid In Royalties" line.

Stop and imagine it for a moment: one million dollars that are finding their way to authors because others have decided to buy and read their books.

How rewarding this is. It truly underscores what we have been saying all along: PublishAmerica is treating its authors the old-fashioned way -- we pay them, thanks to your legions of book buying readers. We do not charge our authors a penny, ever. Instead, we pay them. A million dollars collectively! That's what good old traditional publishing is all about. PublishAmerica is a young company, we have barely entered our seventh year. And already our royalties paid over our young lifetime are amounting to this!

Book sales have been going through the roof lately, possibly in part as a result of our decision last year to make our titles returnable. Bookstore orders have doubled in the past few months, even in the famously slow first half of January, with bookstores ordering a PublishAmerica book every three minutes, day and night, seven days a week.

More than anything else, this is your success. You and your fellow PublishAmerica authors have written these books that others have purchased for their education or entertainment. It is the quality of your writing, above all else, that has caused our royalty payments to add up to this astonishing amount.

In the last week of next month we will be putting new royalty statements and checks in the mail. To celebrate the million-dollar milestone, we are making a rare exception by presenting an unusual offer to those who, under Pars. 5 and 10 of their contract, volunteer to order copies of their own book in the last week of January.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------FADE IN:

INT: PUBLISHAMERICA CONF. RM. L. CLOPPER RUSHES IN TEN MINUTES LATE.

THE 70's CLASSIC "REMINISCING" BY THE LITTLE RIVER BAND OVER INTERCOM.

"Okay guys, sorry I'm late. Been giddy about the e-mail. So let's have it. What's been the response to the million dollar e-mail?"

"Loretta's team won, Clopper killers lost. Lost big."

"Wooow. Yikes." Larry bugged his eyes and twisted his neck and looked at the table. "Okay, well." All were quiet. "Sonya, after Reminiscing, can you switch to the other Mellow Gold CD? Thanks Beb."

"Don't even congratulate anyone Larry." Loretta said. "This is really bad."

"On a good note, "Willem said, trying to make the most of it. "Most of the negatives are from POD1, 2 and 3 writers. ROBOTS are steady as expected. No strong variance noted on email, telephone and submission monitors."

"Sir, I'm Bill Jerrace, IT. Sir, I'm here with feedback stats as they occurred immediately after and as they tapered off. Sir, within four seconds of releasing the email I received the first of similar emails. The emails were cynical. Not hostile but cynical, like they were hearing more of the same and deleting."

"I don't remember signing the requisition for a freaking crystal ball! Just read the damn thing."

"Pumblestilskin, your webpage says PA controls 12,000 books. One million divided by 12,000 works out to 83 dollars per book if the one mil was for this year. Oh, but I know how to read a PA email and that cool mil was paid over six years; Barely enough to pay Copyright fees." One million..ooohhh. Too bad a milestone is an abstract. Take me off your email list" Bill read using proper dramatic flair.

"Everyone in the room except Larry giggled into their knuckle but stopped as he scanned the room."

"Sir, it gets worse" Bill continued, "many have read between the lines and understand that your words specifically mean that you have paid over 1,000,000 over the life of the company that started six years ago. If POD2 gets to the other PODs the word will get out that PA barely paid enough to pay for their Copyright fees."

"What else, 'Bill from IT?'"

"Well, an elderly couple from POD1 went so far as to describe that if PublishAmerica were now advertising their payouts, then they should advertise the real numbers and further publish their business costs like any public company."

"You know what," Larry began to argue, "That's crap. We aren't publicly held. Publicly held means that I've issued stock and nobody in their right mind would buy stock from me." He looked around for the laugh. There was none. "So you laugh at the stupid email but my stock joke gets nothing? Hello, is this mic on?"

"I was born just blocks from where Anne Frank hid, where she was betrayed and arrested, and from where she was deported to die in a Nazi death camp…"

"Willem. "Clopper looked like he would throw something if he didn't have to drag his fat ass out of his chair to get something. "You weren't even born then. I'm going to take that story off the website if you ever bring it up here again. Are we understood? Good!"

"Clopper, nobody laughed about the stocks because it was true, "Loretta was putting her perspective on things, "I'm happy with the paycheck but I'd more likely bet on a resurgence of the mood ring or the pet rock than buy stock in Publish America. Sam Walton said to 'Exceed your customer's expectations.' Our customer is the writer, no matter how we might think the customer is, and we let them down regularly. The ROBOTS, as they have so affectionately become known will outlive their usefulness and our mistakes and reputation will drown us."

"You know Loretta, last time I checked, Sam Walton was dead." Clopper said smugly.

'"Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush, two Presidents and several world leaders and a load of celebrities at his funeral. Figure your funeral will turn out like that, Chief? Hell as it stands we can hold the thing right here in the conference room and still have room for a small putting green."

"You know f you don't like it," Loretta," You're welcome to leave." The room had heard the tired threat before but they also knew that the place would shut down without Loretta.

"Oh I know that. And I know that I could come back anytime I wanted. You need me more than I need you Larry, but you need not worry. I can't get a job in Baltimore or D.C. unless I'm a criminal or a cop…and I can't get a job as a cop unless somebody gets killed. If I want a criminal job it would be a lateral move. Her eyes lit up. "Dig the irony in that."

Many in the room erupted in laughter.

"What's Irony?" Clopper demanded, "Some publisher word, or a writer term. Why don't you take some time off Loretta? It would put us back a bit but you haven't taken any time off in a while."

"Yeah Larry, Maybe I'll spend some time in England; Maybe check in on our British offices at Milton Keynes."

"Sweetheart, would you please give that a break?"

"Well why did you do it? That was the most pubescent thing I've ever imagined from a professional publishing house. I mean for God's sake, advertising one the front page of the website and on newsletters that PublishAmerica has reached, 'yet another milestone,' Loretta waved her hands dramatically, 'a British headquarters!' You didn't even consider that someone might actually drop by with their book? I'm going to remind you of the stupidity of it until I am no longer receiving telephone calls from people in England because there is no PA office in Milton Keynes, midway between Birmingham and London."

"Well, PODs 4-6 are incubated in any event and monitoring shows a strong bond with the company; many birthing at least one but many birthing several books.

How is POD3 coming along?

"Satisfactory."

"I think enough time has passed that we can put the Jamie Farr book back on the website front page. The sheep love that freakin' Klinger. Hell, I love Klinger. I wish we could get Radar to write a book. Hey, somebody get Miranda Prather to get in contact with him. I bet we could do a ghostwriter thing with him. Has anybody seen her lately? Fancy apartment, $80,000 car, boy toy, and she thinks she doesn't have to come to work anymore."

"She doesn't Larry. She owns a third of this ogre."

"Okay, back to the meeting. Marketing your turn, what do you have?"

"Birthday party!"

"Clopper's face was lying on his inner elbow with his mouth open."

"A freaking birthday party."

"Listen Larry, we're talking POD6 Birthday party. Show the other PODs that we give a shit. Hell, we might even convince a POD6 that we give shit enough for him to pledge a book right there at the damn party in front of the cameras. Listen, we'll combine it with an actual PA party. Lots of photos, celebs that need the gig (we can get the people from Dancing with the Stars, Skating with the Stars, Surreal Life; you know, those guys; hell $80 a day.) We have to get Klinger and freakin' Radar O'Reilly. What if we got Gary Coleman

Clopper popped up—"Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis! Genius, freaking genius! I want him to wear that security guard uniform, do you hear me. I mean it. "Clopper smiles contentedly as he sees the photograph of Gary Coleman on the hood of his car. Heck this email fiasco would blow over, all his goof-ups do.

#193 ::: Tsu Dho Nimh ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2006, 07:59 PM:

ONE MILLION DOLLARS in royalties ... with 16,000 books on line means about $60 per book.

I wandered into this while researching publishing scams ... yikes. I think I'll go curl up with a copy of Atlanta Nights and a bottle of scotch.

#194 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2010, 07:24 PM:

Well! Would you look at that!

Someone thought it would be a clever idea to plagiarize Atlanta Nights over at the Authonomy site.

#195 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2010, 10:16 AM:

They ... plagiarized Atlanta Nights. I am overcome with wonder. This whoever-it-is couldn't write badly on their own?

I'm sorry I missed this when it happened. There's nothing Atlanta Nights-ish at that link now. Can you tell me what was there before?

#196 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2010, 10:20 AM:

What was there before was three chapters of Atlanta Nights, verbatim, under the title Savannah Knights.

That it's gone now means that Report Abuse works over there.

#197 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2010, 11:02 AM:

Savannah Knights also had reader reviews praising it and its alleged author.

#198 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2010, 11:05 AM:

oops, got my tags messed up. At least they're closed (seen after hitting 'post', of course).

#199 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 11:26 PM:

PublishAmerica is back in Publishers Weekly.

Yesterday’s news that “publisher” PublishAmerica responded to J.K. Rowling’s cease-and-desist letter with a cease-and-desist letter of their own is just the latest in the company’s not-so-illustrious history. You can view the letter here, which is most notable because their legal representation utilizes triple exclamation points.

A brief summary: PublishAmerica promised authors that for $49, it would show their books to J.K. Rowling. If the Rowling price tag is too high for you, for $29, PublishAmerica will give your book to President Obama.

#200 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 11:34 PM:

199
Will the book be used as a doorstop at the White House, or will it be shredded for dog bedding?

#201 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 11:48 PM:

And they mention Atlanta Nights, too!

And that C&D is a prize. Those people have some balls on them, I'll say that.

*visualizes self with croquet mallet...*

#202 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2011, 08:04 AM:

Note: In the course of trying to read PA's new "masterpiece", I discovered two things: (1) the WebOfTrust plugin (correctly) pans their site as "having a poor reputation", and (2) the site (or at least the letter) is a Flash blob.

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