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August 6, 2006

Debate, right now
Posted by Teresa at 12:40 PM *

Go to www.am990.com. Our own Jim Macdonald is debating PublishAmerica’s champion on the radio this afternoon. As the show’s host Ed Horrell describes it:

The debate is on for Sunday.

Jeff Miller, aka Alien Enigma, will debate Jim Macdonald. We are going to take on a few topics, but the basis will be Jeff’s reasons for declining other publsihers for PA.

Each is providing me quesitons to choose from. I will add my own. They will individually be asked the quesiton, given one minute to answer, and then the other will be given one minute to respond.

Though I am giving them most of the show, I don’t know if we will take calls or not. If so, the call in number will be state during the show.

You can listen live at www.am990.com. The show is Ed Horrell and Talk About Service. It will also be available for later listening via my podcast and archives if you miss it. It is broadcast live at noon CDT this Sunday.

Click where it says “Hear us now on the Internet!”, then click where it says “AM990 Family Values.”
Comments on Debate, right now:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:00 PM:

These ads can finish up any sec ...

#2 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:02 PM:

"...and now, the news."

*sigh*

#4 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:13 PM:

They did a brief setup.

What's all this about airline pirate pensions?

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:14 PM:

The host's yakking it up, but I don't object to his beliefs. (So far.)

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:15 PM:

Bloody hell! More ads!

#8 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:29 PM:

Jim is kicking ass.

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:30 PM:

Woo!

Halfway home!

(There will be a podcast archive version.)

#10 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:32 PM:

Keep the hammer down.

Tee hee

#11 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:38 PM:

Ahhh - opening the phones.

#12 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Jim's doing great. I'm hoping that "Teresa" on hold is TNH. :-)

#13 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:49 PM:

"Teresa is waiting." could that be....?

#14 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:51 PM:

If the goal of debate is making your point, Jim is doing about 8 on a scale of 1:10. If it's make your opponant look like a complete moron, he's at least at 9,5.

#15 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:51 PM:

Wow, the PA guy is full of it. It's interesting the way his sentences don't connect into coherent paragraphs--if he writes like this, he's got a problem. He just explained how bookstores stock his print-on-demand books. Say, what? What's to stock, if it's print on demand?

And they're giving him lots of airtime. I fear that this is, in the end, largely free publicity for PA; win or lose the "debate", a lot more people will have heard their name after this broadcast than before.

#16 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Randolph: And they're giving him lots of airtime. I fear that this is, in the end, largely free publicity for PA; win or lose the "debate", a lot more people will have heard their name after this broadcast than before.

It might well improve their business among other vanity publishers. I think it has a very good chance of keeping some real writers out of their clutches.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:55 PM:

You can find contract analyses online.

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:57 PM:

Man, I could have gone on talking. Said as much as I could, fast.

#21 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:59 PM:

Teresa rocked. Miller's response was, in essence, "They should have read the contract." Pfui.

#22 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 01:59 PM:

I missed the first part. I want the guy to answer flat-out how many other publishers actually offered on his book and such. I hate "debaters" like him who just state their opinions as though they're fact.

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Miller's the guy who posts on AW as "Alien Enigma". He's a lousy writer, but a talented liar.

#24 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Just heard your comments, Teresa. I think you made a good case--people who can be persuaded will be. Mr. Miller, given an opportunity to respond, immediately started blaming the PA authors for not reading their contracts carefully.

#25 ::: Mad Scientist Matt ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:03 PM:

Good going, Teresa. Maybe I should call in and ask about where some of the details are in the contract!

#26 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:04 PM:

I found it interesting that Mr. Miller turned immediately to personal attacks against Jim. IMHO, anyone who does that has a weak argument and has already lost the debate.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Jim Macdonald has been extremely generous with his help for newbie authors for as long as I've known him. He doesn't fear new authors will be competition.

#28 ::: Anne Zanoni ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:18 PM:

I missed the first part. I want the guy to answer flat-out how many other publishers actually offered on his book and such. I hate "debaters" like him who just state their opinions as though they're fact.

Deanna,

I was wondering if Miller would ever answer that. Unsurprised that he slid right past it. Faugh. What, him admit that no one else wanted his book - no, never!

Jim and Teresa were great...

It's especially pleasing to me that coherency was not Miller's strong suit. That made Jim shine even more. :)

ASZ

#29 ::: LeslieB ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 02:33 PM:

He did answer the question about why he selected them... sort of. He said that he sent out submissions and PA was the first to get back to him. Simple as that.

#30 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Matt, I know PA's contract. There are analyses of it available online. It's genuinely Janus-faced: a work of art, in its heartless contemptible moneygrubbing way.

The analysis of it I came up with, some years back, is that it's a contract that can only be read correctly if you assume bad faith on PA's part. One of my first experiences of genuinely hating PA was seeing them respond to one unhappy author after another with "You should have read your contract more carefully."

For instance:

The contract says that the author won't earn royalties on review copies, or on copies used for advertising or promotional purposes. No amount of careful reading will tell you that the only reason those provisions are there is to create the false impression that PA will do any advertising, send out any review copies, or promote your book in any way.

Let me repeat: PA doesn't distribute, promote, or advertise their books. It's almost unheard of for them to send out review copies, and when they do so it's after multiple petitions by the author. The books can take months to arrive. No book can get reviewed on that basis.

Before you discover that this is how PA operates, it would never occur to you that a publishing company would bother to specify that the author doesn't get royalties on books used for reviews, advertising, and marketing, if they never use books for reviews, advertising, or marketing. Only afterward do you realize that the contract doesn't promise that any of those things will happen.

Further examples:

They specify royalty splits on book club editions and a range of subrights. PA doesn't submit its books to book clubs, and it doesn't market its subrights.

"The Publisher agrees to distribute, at his discretion, for purposes of publicity and/or review, promotional information pertaining to the said literary work, to publications throughout the United States and/or Canada, or elsewhere. Distribution of this promotional material shall be at the Publisher's own cost and expense and to media outlets of the Publisher's own choice. The Author agrees that excerpts of the said literary work may be included in this promotional information,..."
PublishAmerica does exactly one press release per author. It goes out at the time the contract is signed, not when the book is published, and it only goes to four media outlets in the author's immediate neighborhood. I'd say it's the same press release in every case, but it isn't. There are actually two versions: one for first-time authors, one for repeat victims. All it says is that PA is going to be publishing the guy's book, and it says it in a semi-incoherent, barely literate way.

Does this one utterly useless press release go to media outlets throughout North America? No. It goes to the author's neighborhood papers, no matter where they live. Actual meaning: there's no part of North America where PA won't send this press release, as long as it's in the author's immediate area.

Is the press release sent out at the publisher's expense? It is. They use e-mail.

Why does this paragraph mention using excerpts from the work in the press release? Good question. PA never uses excerpts in its press releases, because they don't write press releases that are specific to the books. That only reason that provision is there is to give the impression that PA's press releases and other promotional materials are substantial and are tailored to the book.

...I could go on at length. I won't. You do get the picture, though? PA's contract can only be correctly interpreted in retrospect, once you understand that PA means you no good and won't do squat for your book. That is: it can only be read correctly if you assume that PA is acting in bad faith.

That bothered me. I'm not a lawyer, obviously, but I do know some contract law. It seemed to me that a contract that can only be read correctly if the other party is acting in bad faith doesn't meet the basic requirements for a valid contract.

I was thus delighted, earlier this year, to hear that an arbitration board had ruled that PA's contract (at least the version of it they ruled on) hadn't been valid to start with.

These guys are swine.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 03:24 PM:

That bothered me. I'm not a lawyer, obviously, but I do know some contract law. It seemed to me that a contract that can only be read correctly if the other party is acting in bad faith doesn't meet the basic requirements for a valid contract.

The PublishAmerica contract specifies that authors cannot sue; they must go to arbitration. So far PublishAmerica has not prevailed at arbitration in any instance that I'm aware of. The fact that the contract is obviously written in bad faith is one of the reasons cited by the arbitrators for declaring it void and awarding money to the authors.

#32 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 03:56 PM:

Since the "contract" is apparently designed to discourage the "meeting of the minds" that is one the elements of a contract, I suspect that the clause about arbitration, even, is unenforceable, and a sufficiently effective lawyer could drag the whole mess into court.

#33 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Yes, Macdonald is so terrified of being superceded by young authors that he spends hours helping them on and off-line, including a long running thread that's one of the best books I've ever read on how to write -- and I read over fifty books on writing a year, easily, as part of my professional service.

I'm sure that it's terror of the competition that has Macdonald teaching at Viable Paradise.

Miller is duplicitious in the extreme. And yeah, his prose is very much in the hazard pay pile.

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Yep. When Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, King, Grisham, Heinlein, Roberts, Rowling, et freakin' endless cetera are available in every bookstore in the country in attractive editions at competitive prices I'm supposed to worry about the works that come from a company whose total sales (every title, every author, over the whole of its history, combined) don't equal the print run of one major bestseller? I don't think so.

#35 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 04:50 PM:

When I heard about Absolute Write going down earlier this year, the thing that really gutted me was the thought of losing Jim's writing course. The one he does for free. Jim afraid of competition? I don't think so...

#36 ::: Greg Machlin ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 06:01 PM:

Damn. Missed it. Is the podcast archive version up yet? How do we find it?

#37 ::: ken ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 08:23 PM:

First time poster, long-time reader.

It's the same old denial line, same old argument, and same old same old. The koolaide still works.

He should have stayed home and fixed the mistakes on his website.

He's uneducated about the industry, and it shows.

I tried to call in as a former PA'er and tell the unhappy side, but couldn't get through.

I thought TNH did well in her short time, and wish she'd of had more time to talk.

I also think Jim could've made better points with more free time. Either way it was evident that one of the debaters knew what he was talking about, and one didn't, you pick.

I also wish TNH would talk to us more over at A.W.

#38 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2006, 09:17 PM:

The show's archives are at the Talk About Service site. Presumably the show will be posted soon. You can also search on "Talk About Service" with your favorite podcast thingie.

#39 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2006, 12:10 AM:

While we're on the topic: My boyfriend had his first PublishAmerica-in-the-wild spotting before I did. Seriously. I dragged him (willingly) to Comic-con, and he ended up at a panel about making your own RPGs. Anyway, either the moderator or one of the panelists made a schill for PublishAmerica. Basically the guy was advocating using them for publishing your game manuals.

Anyway, after having heard numerous rants from me on the subject, my bf wanted to stand up and challenge the guy, but he wasn't sure he could do the job justice, or that he had all the facts straight. J told me about it later, and I really regretted not being there, as I would have at least recommended going with a company (like Lulu, say) which doesn't snarl up your publishing rights for the next seven years.

Can't wait to hear Jim and Teresa on the subject. *waits for Talk About site to update*

#40 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2006, 12:37 AM:

"superceded"

Superseded.

(Ahem.)

#41 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2006, 05:20 AM:

Sorry Patrick; I really truly can't spell, (and have never, ever claimed to have any spelling ability at all) and the spell check did not object to superceded. The fact that I see Middle English superceden and French superceder more than I see the English or Latin spellings, both of which use S, the duplicitous swine, makes the c look right to me.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Another happy PublishAmerica author gets a letter from the Author Insult Team.

http://alisonsjourney.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_alisonsjourney_archive.html

(I'm told that the originals of those "we expect your apology" letters were drafted by Larry Clopper himself.)

#43 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2006, 07:53 PM:

we expect your apology

Holy crap. That's some cajones right there. Stupid, boiling in their own juices, cajones.

#44 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2006, 03:35 AM:

Has the audio shown up in the archives yet? Latecomers want to know!

#45 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2006, 06:59 PM:

Speaking of contracts. I really like that strip, btw.

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