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July 16, 2010

Further Thoughts on “I Write Like”
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:24 PM *

So I went to the I Write Like site, subject of the post just below, and entered this text:

asdp0o pvpm eropms spe pebps.

And it told me I write like James Joyce.

Not even trying? Not even rational! Therefore, I asked myself, what’s the scam? So I looked at the rest of the text on the results page:

Great job! Do you want to get your book published?

“I have personally read through thousands of book proposals in my career as a publisher and agent. I know what these professionals are looking for—and what they are not looking for.”
— Michael Hyatt, Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Learn how to secure a book publishing contract!

That little bit includes two links, both to the same page: http://michaelhyatt.com/products/ebook-writing-a-winning-book-proposal

Yep, it’s SEO. And they’re using social engineering to get those links wide-spread and high in the Google stats. Helpful little cut-n-paste code to put in your blog!

But wait! There’s more!

Go over to that advertised page, and you’ll find a pair of $19.97 e-books by the above-said and afore-mentioned Michael Hyatt. These books promise to tell you such insider secrets as how to “avoid the three items you should NEVER include in a fiction book proposal.” Wow, I can’t wait to find out.

So, who’s Michael Hyatt, and what is Thomas Nelson?

Do you all recall Harlequin, and their recent dip in the vanity pool? Harlequin wasn’t the first or the only formerly-legitimate publisher to go down that road with Author Solutions. No, that honor goes to Thomas Nelson. But, since Thomas Nelson is a “Christian Publisher,” no one noticed at the time. Indeed, Thomas Nelson’s journey to the dark side is even sleazier than Harlequin’s. While Harlequin created a new imprint, “Harlequin Horizons,” as their vanity brand, Thomas Nelson used the name of an existing and formerly legitimate imprint, WestBow, for theirs. Thus, anyone checking up on the publisher’s name before submitting would find a long history of reasonably-selling books by known authors.

This “I Write Like” site isn’t remotely legitimate. No, they aren’t trying; or, anyway, they aren’t trying to analyze writing samples: They’re trying to lure newbie authors to the rocks and shoals of vanity publication.

[UPDATE 18JUL10]: The link has been changed from Michael Hyatt’s e-books to King’s On Writing at Amazon. I apologize to Dmitry Chestnykh for thinking that he didn’t really exist and was entirely a creation of Thomas Nelson to drive clicks to their site.

Comments on Further Thoughts on "I Write Like":
#1 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 09:29 PM:

Figures. Sucker born every minute, and so on. See this beautiful orange bridge? It can be yours! Ask me how!

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 09:30 PM:

Thomas Nelson was once a very respectable mainstream Christian imprint. How have the mighty fallen.

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 09:36 PM:

I just tried it with "now is the time for all good men..." and was told I wrote like James Fenimore Cooper, but I was more interested in seeing the scheme. It's not like it's being hidden, that's for sure. Right there below the result badge is a link to a "how to get published" site.

I don't know whether to admire the blatancy of it or shake my head in dismay.

#4 ::: Goob ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 09:49 PM:

For what it's worth (and this, at this point, is likely to be only a data point of amusement), my experiments with their text analyzer seem to indicate that I write a bit like Mr. Joyce, but only when I'm doing so in Italian.

On a possibly related note, it would appear that Boccaccio also wrote like Joyce. I really must seek out a better translation of the Decameron; I can't imagine what I've been missing.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 09:52 PM:

Yeah, I was kind of into playing with the tool, but it's clearly the leadin for a scam.

#6 ::: TW ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 10:02 PM:

I didn't treat it any different from the Which vampire are you, What tarot is your destiny, Your royal title is... toys.

#7 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 10:35 PM:

Good work, James, I'm boosting the signal to get people to get rid of their links.

I will also note that there's a "sign up for our awesome newsletter!" box on the side, which says that by doing so you can download FREE a "classic" book on writing by Charles Raymond Barrett -- a book which is, it *doesn't* tell you, also available at Project Gutenberg because it's from 1898.

#8 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:02 AM:

I'm less convinced about the nature of the relationship between the site's creator, Dmitry Chestnykh, and the unquestionably-fraudulent Michael Hyatt. Chestnykh describes his methods and intentions here.

Chestnykh modeled the site on software for e-mail spam filters. This means that the site's text analysis is largely keyword based. Even if you write in short, declarative, Hemingwayesque sentences, its your word choice that may determine your comparison.

Most writers will tell you, though, that the most telling signs of influence come from punctuation, rhythm and structure. I Write Like does account for some elements of style by things such as number of words per sentence.


#9 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:14 AM:

I ran into it as a pass-around on LiveJournal. "you write like Ursula K LeGuin." I wish. I pasted in the first 100 or so words of Kayli's Fire into it.

Did not think to look further into it. If I get spams about writing I'll know where they came from.

#10 ::: Brendan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:28 AM:

I gave it a try with some paragraphs from my livejournal. The first response said I was like Stephen King, the second said I was like David Foster Wallace.

This evening on NPR I tuned in on the middle of a broadcast and the host got the same results as myself when she put in her samples.

#11 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:59 AM:

Figured it was BS. All memes are--that's what makes them fun. But takes the usual BS into sleazy territory.

Thank you for being so observant. I'd played around with it but hadn't notice the links. I'm spreading the word....

#12 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:20 AM:

Thomas Nelson? Yuk.

After our magazine imploded, our production manager went to work there. She said if you didn't go to the "right kind" of church or play golf, you had no future.

#13 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:56 AM:

Edited my LJ post to change the link to 127.0.0.1 and added a warning. They're not going to get any search ranking from me.

#14 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 02:06 AM:

I thought I'd give this a try, out of curiosity, since I learned of it only recently. Plugged in a paragraph from a short story I'm editing and it declared that I write like Ursula K. Le Guin. Don't I wish!

#15 ::: academic_typo ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:20 AM:

The links to the publishing stuff weren't there at the beginning, apparently the page changed after the link started to go viral.

A friend told me a day or two after I'd been told I write like (first) Mark Twain and (second) Stephen King ... *sigh*

#16 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:53 AM:

Yes, when I first looked at it that link was not there.

#17 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 06:22 AM:

#10 ::: Brendan:

I've noticed that NPR has gotten zippier. It used to be months or years before new online stuff got reported there. Now there's a reasonable chance they'll be talking about the same thing that's on my computer screen.

#18 ::: Anna Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 06:58 AM:

Well, la. And here I thought it was totally based on valid scientific analysis.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 07:50 AM:

At this point I'd have to ask for proof that Dmitry Chestnykh even exists. I have my doubts.

What I'm seeing is a site that tells newbie authors, "You write like Ernest Hemingway," tries to snaffle their email addresses, then offers them an overpriced e-book on how to query their novel, offered by a vanity publisher.

BTW, Thomas Nelson offers kickbacks to agents who refer their rejections to WestBow.

#20 ::: stacy ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 08:24 AM:

Thank you.
I posted a link to this on my LJ.

#21 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 08:32 AM:

James@19:

The assignments clearly aren't just random, so there is some real programming behind them. (Throw in a text with lots of Middle-Earth references, and it will tell you that you write like Tolkien, which is consistent with a heavy reliance on word-frequency analysis.)

And it tells a lot of people that they write like Dan Brown, which is barely above telling them that they write like Stephenie Meyer, i.e. hardly a compliment.

However, the vanity press aspect would be just as troubling even if the test were at the cutting edge of AI.

#22 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 09:28 AM:

#21 ::: James:

I don't think most people would be insulted by being told they write like Dan Brown, or Stephanie Meyer for that matter. I bet it sounds like "You can write a best seller!", not "your prose is incredibly ugly".

Has anyone followed reviews or comments about Brown in enough detail to say whether most people notice his prose?

#23 ::: Cari ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 09:51 AM:

Judging from what passages I put in and what I got out, I figured it was more about what kind of words were picked up than anything.

My first passage was more of an ironic one and it spit out David Foster Wallace.

My second one involved a serial killer and his victim and I got Stephen King. No surprise. But anyone who actually read my prose would never compare me to Stephen King. We are pretty much at opposite ends of the purple spectrum.

Anyway, the link that showed up at the end clued me in to the true nefarious purpose of the toy.

#24 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 09:54 AM:

Since it has only has successful authors in the list it is clearly always going to match you to a successful author. It is impossible for it to say "You write like that crazy guy who has never been published".

And why the hate? It's just a fun site that is for free. So why is it so bad that the stuff it is giving away is also free?

Yeah - I'm sure that since it is aimed at writers then the advertising that you'll get will also be the usual scams. But in that way it's like almost any site that's aimed at writers.

The idea that it was created under a fake identity solely as a Christian Vanity Press scam seems pretty far fetched.

Mac

#25 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:06 AM:

Mac @24: the "hate" isn't hate per se, it's just weary disgust at yet another scam aimed at extracting money from people who want to be "writers" because they've been infected by the ambient meme about writing being a lifestyle rather than a grinding and insecure job.

As such, it's preying on the vulnerable, and should be held in the same regard as any other scheme aimed at bilking widows and orphans out of their savings.

PS: I'm taking your comment at face value because I don't think most SEO merchants would be stupid enough to try and astroturf Making Light, but you are a first-time commenter here ... and ML has a history of giving short shrift to sock puppets. Take this as friendly advice; if you're connected with "I Write Like", now would be a good time to de-cloak and speak honestly, or get the hell out of Dodge City.

#26 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:07 AM:

There's also the nice bit where they have, what, all of two women in their thirty-plus sample of dead great writers, and none that are not white.

#27 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:26 AM:

I've seen references to the app's creator(s)' defensive rant(s) about how sexist and racist we all are for noticing the examples are overwhelmingly pale and male, because of course they thought nothing of such things in selecting these examples of great litterachure, but danged if I can find either the references or the rant(s) this morning.

#28 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:37 AM:

Mac--

That would be for values of "free" that mean "costs 20 dollars and encourages the purchaser to give the seller more money"? One ebook that is free because it's in the public domain and anyone can get it elsewhere online, and two that they're charging money for.

#29 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:42 AM:

(Duh. One of the references was of course right here. —More coffee, stat!)

#30 ::: MatGB ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:43 AM:

One thing bothering me. This is an obvious SEO scam, it's always been an obvious SEO scam, and was clearly designed as an obvious SEO scan.

Googling the phrase "mac journal software" now gives the site the meme itself links to as 2nd result, it was 5th when I first saw the meme.

Seriously, the meme code itself contains and obvious, unhidden SEO scam. That the rest of the page is a different SEO scam shouldn't surprise anyone.

#31 ::: Béranger ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 11:05 AM:

The IWL script seems to have improved in the meantime. It doesn't accept short texts like "asdp0o pvpm eropms spe pebps" anymore.

Also, the author of the IWL dixit: http://www.codingrobots.com/blog/2010/07/09/i-write-like/#comment-3337

"Currently it analyzes vocabulary (use of words), number of words, commas, and semicolons in sentences, number of sentences with quotation marks and dashes (direct speech)."

"Currently it has 40 authors."

"Don’t forget that I haven’t train the database on every work of authors."

"I actually collecting users suggestions for authors to include in the next version on Twitter. Tweet with @codingrobots who you’d like to see."

"Agatha Christie is one of my favorite writers. She’s in the database."

#32 ::: MichaelC ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 11:44 AM:

Does this mean I don't write like Stephen King? Sic 'em, Cujo!!!

#33 ::: tykewriter sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 11:55 AM:

James @19: here's proof. He seems very pleased with his achievement.

#34 ::: Ryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:07 PM:

Nothing new here.

For at least 50 years comic books have featured an ad that says something like "send in two of your drawings and have them reviewed by professional artists."

Anybody who sends something in gets hand-picked to qualify for an exclusive professional artist home-study course.

Just smart marketing. Attracting the kind of people likely to be your best customers.

#35 ::: Ken Fletcher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:13 PM:

"...Get my book published?

"GET MY BOOK PUBLISHED?!

"SLOOOOOWLY, I turned.... Step-by-step, inch-by-inch..."

[You write like The Three Stooges.]

#36 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:41 PM:

Oops. Sorry. I didn't see spam. I once put 'tykewriter sees spam' in the Type your name here box. That was when I saw spam. This time I did not see spam. Only balonium.

#37 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 12:42 PM:

Given that the nasty links wasn't there initially, this looks like somebody's random toy project that drew a flash crowd, whereupon the creator decided to make some fast money.

Unresolved (to me) is whether he was into publishing scams to begin with, or just reached out for ad revenue and hooked sleaze. Anyone see evidence of a prior connection?

(It's certainly possible that he wrote the toy *in order to* advertise a publishing scam -- but it's kind of a leap. I've written many software toys, and I didn't expect that any of them would achieve immediate net-wide fame. Although it would have been nice. And I would have been just as smug had it happened.)

#38 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:14 PM:

Apropos #37: I believe someone on a mailing list (which shall remain nameless) mentioned he'd been on Hacker News, asking for ideas about monetizing his unexpectedly successful site.


Ah ... initial announcement here. And the follow-up clarifies:

It's spreading just like a perfect meme should :-) E.g. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=iwl.me

My question is, what should I do with it: (a) for monetary gain (It already achieved the SEO effect I planned, not sure what to do now). (b) for a good cause. I'm already thrilled to notice that people discover and re-discover writers and say "Oh, I write like [writer], I must read more of his works." What can I do to get more of this effect? What do you think? I'm open to ideas or deals. Thank you!

#39 ::: tanarg ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:15 PM:

When Poe came out like Lovecraft, I knew it was a lure for something.

#40 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:29 PM:

(I hoped I'd find some discussion of this here...)

I think #37 is right and the scam is incidental. The underlying toy is just a toy, might as well pick the authors at random. There is actual scholarly work on identification of authors by style, although I don't know much about it beyond the popularizations, but this isn't it.

Other than being irritated at seeing this spammed all over the online world - "I write like James Joyce!" - no dear, you do not - I can't get too annoyed about the scam aspect, though it's clearly a scam. I've been browsing on an iPad which by design gives you no way to block ads, after years on Firefox with Adblock Plus, and the scamminess of especially the Google text ads that appear on sites is quite remarkable. Lots of offers of things that would appear to be insider trading or Ponzi schemes. By comparison the actual delivery of a product (albeit probably one of very little real value) in exchange for money seems almost touchingly traditional.

#41 ::: Coyote ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:52 PM:

...and here I was going to drag my fingers across the punctuation keys, and see if it told me I could be the next e.e. cummings. Hmph.

#42 ::: G D Townshende ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 02:48 PM:

The first paragraph I put in, as I said earlier, garnered that I "write like Ursula K. Le Guin." Then I entered the paragraph that followed the first and now I "write like Stephen King." When I have the two paragraphs analyzed together, then I receive Ursula K. Le Guin. So, Le Guin + King = Le Guin, apparently. There does seem to be some consistency in the "analysis," though, as when I enter the same paragraph on different occasions I get the same result.

However, the following...

asdfoiu also asd sdlko asl assos prsves psmne sailkd andow dls, sndow. snowd snosdc wsiwe qsies sl dnwos. sldn slwes nwodc risdes mogvw.

gives the result that I write like David Foster Wallace.

#43 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Nancy @ #22, some reviews have noticed Brown's prose. Neddie Jingo, for one. He was less than impressed.

#44 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:01 PM:

Oh come on. This isn't a scam. This guy wrote a clever script (see the Hacker News links other folks have posted). He fed a very limited stable of authors into his comparative database; of course it's not very accurate. He's just testing his algorithm.

Then, yes, he's monetizing the site. He's signed up with an ad company. Ad companies target ads according to site content. This site is about writing styles. Therefore it shows ads about writing. The ad company placed the Hyatt/Nelson ad whose link you complained about. Ha nothing to do with the website author.

Now there is an Amazon affiliate box at the bottom of the page -- more targeted advertising, but not a scam.

Yahoo News just did a story on this: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100716/ap_en_ot/us_web_i_write_like

#45 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:04 PM:

Doing this sort of thing properly has a long, and partly distinguished
pedigree (spotting that the Donation of Constantine was fake strikes me as pretty impressive,as does getting the four authors of Genesis distinguished)

More recent ezamples include
both devising and debunking the claim that Bill Ayres wrote Obama's autobiography

It's just a pity this isn't the real thing...

#46 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:06 PM:

@44--

i don't know, claire. maybe you're right, but i'm still deeply suspicious:

it told *me* i write like kid bitzer.

#47 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Jacob, #40: I've been browsing on an iPad which by design gives you no way to block ads

I'd actually been considering getting an iPad, but now my interest has taken a nosedive. Thanks for the warning.

#48 ::: Patrick Samphire ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:11 PM:

I'm not really convinced this is a scam by itself. Like all these quizzes or memes, it's a piece of marketing. A lot of them, for instance, seem to be related to online dating sites. That's why people go to the effort of creating them normally. I don't think it's a bad thing, per se. It seems like fairly innocuous fun to me.

#49 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:14 PM:

Right, Charlie@38. Somebody right here on Making Light said the same thing, twice, yesterday, on the other thread.

While it's entertaining and fun to see everything as an intentional scam from the outset, sometimes it's just a guy who wrote something fun in three days, slapped it online, and got lucky - and is now looking for a way to monetize it. If said guy doesn't know much about the publishing industry, well, scams abound that look lucrative. One of the suggestions on HNN was in fact to provide a lead-in to a "how to write" newsletter and ebook, and lo! they appeared that day. I can't blame him, even if the end result may be disappointing.

#50 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:16 PM:

My eyeballs don't belong to you
Get off the net you scum
My eyeballs don't belong to you
I'm not blind and dumb!

My eyeballs don't belong to you
Why won't you understand
That I might buy the things I want
From advertisement land

But the crap that you purvey
Extermination needs
And also you and your noxious friends
And all your scamming deeds.

My eyeballs don't belong to you
I don't have infinite time
My eyeballs don't belong to you
Your crap's not worth a dime

My limited funds I need to spend
On what will succor me
And the crap you spew is a resource waste
And it should just not be!

My eyeballs don't belong to you
Go elsewhere with your work
My eyeballs don't belong to you
Stop being such a jerk

If you would find some other ploy
Produce some worthwhile things,
Then you might get some accolades
And incomes that it brings.

My eyeballs don't belong to you
Get off the net you scum
My eyeballs don't belong to you
I'm not blind and dumb!

To make the world a better place
But you, you make it worse,
That you will change and cease your scam--
Makes blessings and not curse!

#51 ::: Super Gerry ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:19 PM:

I don't consider the "I Write Like" a scam any more than every other free quiz or "Which One" questionaire popping up on Fb. I saw the advertising when I first viewed a friend's results, so there was nothing sneaky there.

Like any such app, it has limits and flaws... but for me, the suprising thing was that it actually did pick the correct author sometimes.

I have a piece written in the style of Douglas Adams, and it picked him. I have a couple of scifi shorts in the style of Arthur C. Clarke, and it picked him. My steampunk stories showed as William Gibson or Lovecraft, which is semi-accurate.

I also did receive David Foster Wallace on several pieces, but I assume he hits several markers in the table/chart, and it is easier to get a random hit on his "column" than the other authors. An 8% match with Wallace and 7% match with 10 others still charts you in as "like" Wallace.

You just have to know what "like" actually means.

#52 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 03:30 PM:

Lee @47: actually, there are third-party web browsers for the iPad that do some ad blocking. (Look for iCab or Atomic Browser in the app store.) And you can switch off javascript. Apple's policy on on-device scripting stops them from running full-on Adblock, alas, although I expect them to lose that particular bit of stupidity in the next year or so.

If you're mostly going to use an iPad at home, just install Privoxy on your desktop box and tell your iPad to use it as a proxy.

#53 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:10 PM:

I figured the thing was a scam that did no analysis, probably running a hashcode over the text and then picking authors from a rather restrictive list (because if you're only running a scam, why bother to do more research beyond authors that will make newbie writers across all spectrums preen?).

If Dmitry exists, he's not a very good programmer. No one should accept that little text and attempt to run analysis on it and claim that it's a useful result. Not even the laziest Microsoftie would do that. It's a disgrace.

#54 ::: sharon fisher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:11 PM:

I also wondered whether it was a scam of some sort.

http://www.daniweb.com/news/story296681.html

#55 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:16 PM:

Argh. Just saw the link to Dmitry's coding site/blog, and now the additional informative disclaimers he's added.

Yeah, I'm stupid for not reading properly. I was a bit angry about it the day before when I found it, and still am.

#56 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:35 PM:

I don't know if it's a scam, but the sudden appearance of people defending it, and making apologia for the definite scam which is now attached to it, and the apparent desire to do some social engineering to get something which is going to get hits, and so be "monetizable", says less than honest action.

The net effect, no matter the intent, is scammy,and the responses of those who are defending it, sound like scammers, or victims.

#57 ::: stephanie W ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:43 PM:

This was just another meme, like all the "Which Buffy Character Are You?" or "Which Type of Elf Are You?" memes that get passed around. Did somebody try to take advantage of it going viral? Possibly, but only an internet newbie would take it seriously to begin with. It's a MEME for goodness sakes. It told me I write like Mr. King. Yeah, sure I do. (eye roll)

So IMHO, no big evil plot to get writers, just another day on the internet.

#58 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:47 PM:

Terry @ 56: I don't know if it's a scam, but the sudden appearance of people defending it, and making apologia for the definite scam which is now attached to it, and the apparent desire to do some social engineering to get something which is going to get hits, and so be "monetizable", says less than honest action.

That's what I was thinking.

It doesn't matter to me if this is a meets-a-strict-definition scam or not. Dmitry was 1. dismissive and insulting to the people who brought up concerns about its exclusionary nature (original list had 3 female authors, no authors of colour), 2. Lied about how he chose authors (bestseller lists/Project Gutenberg top downloads, both of which have women/PoC in the top rankings) 3. screened/deleted comments continuing to criticize his methods, regardless of politeness, and 4. decides that advertising for his site is not enough, he just HAS to make money directly off of it, so turns it into a shill for a vanity press.

Even if it were just another garden variety meme, 1-3 would be enough for me to tell people hey, maybe you don't want to post that and drive traffic to this jerk's site. With 4 added into the mix, I have no benefit of the doubt left for this guy. 'Just a meme', pfft, as if that excuses his behaviour.

#59 ::: Ravan Asteris ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 04:56 PM:

Hmmmm. Everyone is up in arms about this, but the version that I took links to codingrobots.com, pushing "Memoires", a journal software for Mac. I have this in both my LiveJournal and DreamWidth blog.

Most of these silly memes link to some site shilling for some junk product or other, often some useless, cheesy dating site. If you click on the advertiser's link and buy, you deserve what you get.

#60 ::: J. T. Shea ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 05:43 PM:

Bravo, Uncle Jim! I put in 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' repeated dozens of times, and 'I Write Like' said I write like P. G. Wodehouse! Not Jack Torrance or Stephen King? Maybe Wodehouse's ghost haunts the Overlook Hotel?

'asdpOo pvpm eropms spe pebps.'? You just have to say it with a Dublin accent!

#61 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 05:48 PM:

I can't think of anyone more likely than Joyce to write five words of perfect gibberish.

#62 ::: Peter Eng ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 06:10 PM:

I figured it was working primarily by keyword. I threw in the lyrics to Weird Al Yankovic's "Trigger Happy" and got Raymond Chandler.

"Hotel California" was supposedly Ian Fleming.

I also threw in three paragraphs of "WHORES WHORES WHORES..." Despite what the webcomic Shortpacked may say, that does not result in "You write like Frank Miller."

#63 ::: Sushi ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 06:14 PM:

Wow, people love going up in arms over everything, don't they? Did it ever occur to anyone that someone created a fun toy that was more popular than expected and decided to monetize it upon seeing how popular it was? The site was very simple in the beginning; none of the affiliate links were there. Yes, he could have chosen a better way to monetize, but he had to act quickly in order to achieve the desired affect before people begin to lose interest.

#64 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 06:26 PM:

my, what a lot of first-time commenters today.

dear sushi, you write like...ravan asteris!

#65 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 06:37 PM:

A lot of these firsties sound the same. How about reading the comments and engaging in the conversation, rather than noting the number of comments, deciding they're all just whining, and writing a dismissive huff? At least try not to repeat all of the other dismissive huffs so closely...

#66 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 07:04 PM:

How interesting ...

Inserting Ravan Asteris' comment @ 59 into the analyzer says zer writes like Oscar Wilde. Doing the same with Sushi's comment @ 63 gets Margaret Atwood. I don't think I'd have made those analyses.

#67 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 09:48 PM:

Just for grins, I tried "I Write Like" on the Declaration of Independence.

Apparently, Thomas Jefferson wrote like H.P. Lovecraft. Who knew?

#68 ::: j fougner ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 11:12 PM:

See what Roger ebert thinks and read the link he provides.

This Zia person really raises some great questions.

http://twitter.com/ebertchicago/status/18785794993

#69 ::: Hoop ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 11:37 PM:

Three paragraphs of lorem ipsum gets you David Foster Wallace. So, incidentally, does two paragraphs of my dissertation.

#70 ::: Missy S ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 11:55 PM:

Well crud... I hate being sucked in. But then again, knew it had to be wrong when it said I wrote like Stephen King.

Thank you for the information!
NRN

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 12:52 AM:

j fougner: We've already linked to tea-berry directly. Heck, some of us (myself included) have made comments to the threads.

#72 ::: Aliette de Bodard ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 01:07 AM:

I'm with Patrick @48: a lot of online quizzes going around the internet have links to online dating sites. It's just marketing, the same way gmail displays links related to the contents of your email. Nothing says you have to click on the link, and it's not pretending to be what it's not (unlike, say, that thing that's still going around hacking into email accounts, pretending that the author is lost in London and asking for money).
Also, I retook it several times and I can't get that vanity press thing. I have an offer to download Memoirs, a journal software for mac (probably because I'm on a Mac).

#73 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:42 AM:

Hello,

Creator of IWL here. I'd be happy to answer your question, but first and foremost, can you elaborate on why selling ebooks on how to get your books published is a scam? Would you call it a scam if I linked to a dead-tree version of a similar book?

#74 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:01 AM:

Dmitry @73: Humans are very, very good at pattern matching, and the pattern we're seeing in that site matches "shilling for a vanity press". It's not the linking to an ebook in and of itself -- it's that this is one of the pieces in a pattern.

The owners and commentariat of this blog do not like vanity press scams, for values of "do not like" approximating "nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure". This is why.

#75 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:10 AM:

Yep, it’s SEO.

No, this is not SEO. The SEO is in a badge. The blurb "You Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software" has a link to my software product. The initial idea was to promote my software. You can read about this in my interview here: http://www.theawl.com/2010/07/a-qa-with-the-creator-of-i-write-like-the-algorithm-is-not-a-rocket-science

And they’re using social engineering to get those links wide-spread and high in the Google stats.

What do you mean by social engineering?

Helpful little cut-n-paste code to put in your blog!

Yes!

Wow, I can’t wait to find out.

Why don't you buy the book and find out, really? There's a 30-day moneyback guarantee. Then tell us if it's a scam.

This “I Write Like” site isn’t remotely legitimate. No, they aren’t trying; or, anyway, they aren’t trying to analyze writing samples.

Now that people commented here on this, will you apologies to me? Will you post a blog post saying: "Sorry, I didn't know what I was talking about, and I didn't even try to contact the creator of the website (even though his email is up on every page of the site) to learn the truth."

This is just a lazy blogging. If you were tried to find the facts, and did some basic research, you could get them in a few hours. Instead, you decided to write a blog post made of lies.

#76 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:34 AM:

"PS: I'm taking your comment at face value because I don't think most SEO merchants would be stupid enough to try and astroturf Making Light, but you are a first-time commenter here ..."

I'm certainly not a first time commenter - but certainly not regular enough so that anyone would recognise me! I post here as 'Mac' and as 'Mac H' on the Absolute Write and several other boards - which are all just abbreviations of my actual name. I'm not really into the whole 'anonymity' thing. If you compare my posts here to the ones there you'll see that the 'I write Like' algorithm would match me up pretty quickly. If you are more curious, I'm sure I've posted my full contact details there in the past. I'm just a guy who writes for a hobby. Nothing more, nothing less.

I really just found it amusing that people are taking a 'What Buffy Character are you' type quiz seriously. As a programmer I just assumed he ran a simple Baynsean filter or a Flesch–Kincaid over it. (OK, I'll fess up. My first guess was Flesch-Kincaid rather than Baynsean, which would be a better choice. I should repeat Computer Science 101)

As an interesting gimmick - of course it was going to be simple. I'd suggest that it limit the analysis to a short enough sample and let users submit their own snippets from well known writers for analysis - that way it can grow without him having to spend time on it.

Doing that would have almost no quality control - but it's an amusing app for fun rather than a life support system.

If you did a 'What Buffy Character am I' quiz then you'd expect it advertise overpriced Buffy memorabilia crap. Ditto for this app.

Mac

#77 ::: Charlie Stross sees spam in #68 ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:11 AM:

#68 appears to be SEO spam.

#78 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:12 AM:

sharon fisher @54: Please stop plugging the link to your "Is [some topic] a Scam?" everywhere. Do some research first, and get rid of link-bait titles.

#79 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:14 AM:

Mac @76: it's quite simple -- the meme didn't just spread, it exploded and sent shrapnel whizzing right outside those parts of the interwebbytubes that are used to seeing such things.

So it's getting the same sort of puzzled incomprehension that you'd expect of a "which Harry Potter character am I?" meme at a symposium of stage magicians.

#80 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:31 AM:

Charlie @ 77: That's not spam; Ebert really did link to the discussion on zia-narratora's LJ. It's more 'not keeping up with that which has been linked before'.

#81 ::: Rohan Jayasekera ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:46 AM:

Of course, it's just a fraud, though you can figure it out for yourself if you want to - but it introduced me to a writer (David Foster Wallace) I'd never heard of and am now keen to look up... I did run two different pieces through it and came up with the same name each time. And if you run gibberish through it, it's not wholly unreasonable that you might get Joyce! Anyway @doctorow et al are right it's a CLASSIC internet meme...

#82 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:53 AM:

Julia Jones @74: Thanks for helping me figure this out.

Now I understand why Mr. Macdonald made the mistake. "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail".

#83 ::: Henry Wessells ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:19 AM:

It is not about hammers and nails, Mr. Chestnykh, it is about responsibility and choices. When a website designer places an advertisement link to a dubious enterprise, the taint of association transfers and remains. You chose to place that link. You might have exercised a different choice. You did not.

#84 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:27 AM:

Henry Wessells @83: If someone who criticized my choice of ebook to advertise wrote the actual argumented debacle of this book, then I'd be happy to remove the ad. Currently, I see no arguments except for the fact that it was written by the CEO of a company which is connected to "vanity publishers".

#85 ::: Irene Delse ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:31 AM:

@ Dmitry #73:

"Creator of IWL here. I'd be happy to answer your question, but first and foremost, can you elaborate on why selling ebooks on how to get your books published is a scam? Would you call it a scam if I linked to a dead-tree version of a similar book?"

It's not the selling of an ebook that's a scam, it's because of what kind of ebook. Here, a publisher tries to get wannabe authors into his vanity publishing program, letting them believe it's real publishing. Of course, the ad doesn't mention that little detail! It's tantamount to false advertising.

#86 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:36 AM:

Dmitry, #84: I think you may be unclear on just how poor our opinion of vanity publishing is.

Vanity publishing is to real book publishing as spamming is to targeted opt-in advertising. It's sleazy, borderline illegal, frequently fraudulent, and profits by making false promises of success to the vulnerable.

I think you're smart enough not to take kickbacks from spammers. Vanity publishers are -- in publishing terms -- the next worst thing.

#87 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:52 AM:

Irene Delse, @85: I stand by my argument: if someone who criticized my choice of ebook to advertise wrote the actual argumented debacle of **this book**, then I'd be happy to remove the ad.

#88 ::: Peaceful ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:55 AM:

You know, it was just some fun. That is all. Fun. People over react. Just let it flow over you - be David Foster Wallace and Stephen King and Margaret Atwood for a second and giggle. I read an article in the Telegraph that said Margaret Atwood plays with the site and NEVER gets Margaret Atwood. That is just pure fun. Ignore the gimmicks.

#89 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:14 AM:

Peaceful @ 88: how does 'it's just fun' excuse Dmitry's catty comments and BS 'colourblindness', and how those and the meme play into the persistant erasure of women and PoC? I don't find that very 'fun'.

Never mind the vanity press shilling.

From zia-narratora's journal, here: And that is why criticizing things as silly as an internet meme matters, because the construction of this meme is a result and reflection of that [only white male authors matter] mindset, because there are people teaching our kids these things, and there are people teaching our kids that their voices don't matter, and that certain voices are the only ones that are important, and reduce the rest of us to only being capable of aspiring to reflect those voices.

#90 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:32 AM:

So, have anyone read the books I promote? I have just read them. There's nothing scammy in them, not even a word about vanity publishers. It's a good guide to writing proposals, finding agents, etc.

Next time you call someone a scammer, do some research, or just STFU.

#91 ::: Wessells ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:44 AM:

Mr. Chestnykh, what product or entity would you be most reluctant to promote? Because your advertising link traces back to an organization that is the very analogue of whatever you might find most loathsome: something for which you would not sell (or wear) a tee shirt. Perhaps you did this unwittingly; but you must look beyond the product to the source. That is the meaning of responsibility.

#92 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:53 AM:

I took the link down. It's now promotes Stephen King's On Writing. Happy? Stephen King is not associated with martians?

#93 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:57 AM:

Dmitry, I for one appreciate your taking action in response to criticism, even if it comes with a snarky comment.

#94 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:08 AM:

Dmitry Chestnykh #75: Now that people commented here on this, will you apologies to me?

No, I will not fucking apologize to you for calling you a shill for a vanity press.

Because that's exactly what you are.

If you were tried to find the facts, and did some basic research, you could get them in a few hours.

Next time do some research on who you're pimping.

Oh, and incidentally, what you're claiming to do does not work and can not work.

Scammer.


#87: if someone who criticized my choice of ebook to advertise wrote the actual argumented debacle of **this book**, then I'd be happy to remove the ad.

And just what the hell is an "argumented debacle"? I realize that English isn't your first language, but try to make an effort anyway.

#90 So, have anyone read the books I promote? I have just read them. There's nothing scammy in them, not even a word about vanity publishers. It's a good guide to writing proposals, finding agents, etc.

How much is Michael Hyatt paying you?

And how would you know how good a guide it is? I doubt you're qualified to make that determination, scammer.

Until you get a clue, like you said, STFU.

#95 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:09 AM:

Xopher #93: thanks, but this is barely my response to criticism, actually. I would fight to death [not literary] with liars like Mr. Macdonald, and the idiots who call me racist or sexist, but I give up this time, because I don't want the shit to hit the fan.

I've read that Jim does a lot to fight scammy schemes with vanity publishers. I appreciate this. But this was not the case, it was a uninformed piece, and a mistake.

Have a nice day!

#96 ::: Irene Delse ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:10 AM:

That's very good news, Dmitry. Thank you.

#97 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:10 AM:

Dmitry--

If anyone here knew what you meant by "the actual argumented debacle of this book," they might be prepared to write it. I know English isn't your native language, and you're mostly doing pretty well here, but on this one your dictionary or Google translate has let you down.

#98 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:14 AM:

Vicky #97: "argumented criticism of this book" is okay?

#99 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:25 AM:

Asking me to criticize Michael Hyatt's overpriced ebooks is like asking me to criticize the flavor of the candy being offered by a child molester.

#100 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:26 AM:

He has indeed replaced the link to Hyatt's thing with a link to Stephen King's book, for which I thank him.

(To test that, I pasted the opening paragraphs from something I had lying around here. It may interest, or at least amuse, those of you familiar with my alter ego to know that sie writes like Cory Doctorow. I think that right there provides a certain stamp of non-credibility to Dmitry's toy.)

Jim, I think he's more likely to be clueless rather than actively malicious, which is why I directed him to somewhere where he can quickly acquire clue should he so desire. OTOH, I did also try to direct him to somewhere that couldn't double as a crash course in how to monetise your new toy by *deliberately* rather than accidentally getting into bed with the vanity publishers. :->

Dmitry @98: That makes a lot more sense, thank you for clarifying what you meant. It isn't just the contents of the book -- it's the fact that by promoting the book, you are also promoting its author and publisher. And they used to be reputable, but have gone to the Dark Side in recent years.

#101 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:28 AM:

James D. Macdonald #94: You're now calling me a scammer because you have no arguments? Because you realized that your story was a lie, and you didn't take care to research it? Trying to keep a face?

Forget it, you have better things to do with your time, I guess. Still, an apology would be nice.

#102 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:31 AM:

James D. Macdonald, #99: so, you didn't if the book was a scam or not, and still cared to call the whole "I Write Like" project a scam? Your logic is killing me.

#103 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:32 AM:

James D. Macdonald, #99: so, you didn't know if the book was a scam or not, and still cared to call the whole "I Write Like" project a scam? Your logic is killing me.

#104 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Dmitry Chestnykh :

Let me be very, very clear about this: I am not going to apologize for calling you a scammer. When you get into bed with a scammer you become one.

How much did Michael Hyatt pay you?

Someone here didn't do their research, and that person wasn't me.

Now are you going to apologize to me for calling me a liar?

#105 ::: Béranger ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:36 AM:

@ Dmitry: I have a suggestion for you: why don't you post somewhere the sample texts used to identify only one of the 40 authors you considered?

Just pick a name and make public the excerpts you use to identify a writing style as belonging to that writer.

Users could then experiments with texts of various lengths to see what is the threshold that would trigger a correct match against that author.

#106 ::: Dmitry Chestnykh ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:38 AM:

Béranger, #105: try "I, Robot", for example.

#107 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:42 AM:

Dmitry @ 95: and the idiots who call me racist or sexist

Oh, thanks.

The first person to criticize your choices was incredibly polite about it. None of the criticisms I've seen or made called you a racist or a sexist, but called out your behaviour as problematic... to which you made a snotty, ill-considered reply and refused to listen further.

Continuing to throw tantrums about it isn't making you look any better.

#108 ::: Susan Adsett ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:47 AM:

Well, if IWL is supposed to get traffic to those sites, it's failing. Miserably. I had no idea there was even anything advertised on the site. NONE. I guess I tune out that stuff.

mountain out of a molehill, if you ask me.

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:50 AM:

Okay, I just looked. He has in fact changed the link from Michael Hyatt and Thomas Nelson to an Amazon link to King's On Writing.

Amazon itself is problematical, for other reasons, but I won't take off points for linking to them. Even if he got himself an Amazon Affiliate account and monetized his site that way.

He doesn't seem to be actively malicious, just stupid.

#110 ::: Hugh McGuire ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:04 AM:

This post seems incredibly unfair to the coder, as well as just wrong. If you'd like to know who's behind the site, just follow the link that says, "handcrafted by coding robots" ...

and while he had Hyatt affiliate links up (now changed to stephen king) ... the real purpose, other than a bit of fun, was to direct traffic to his writing software (memories, blogjet etc).

so he made a silly game that people had fun with, and hoped to drive some traffic to his business. that's hardly a scam; it's more or less how the internet works.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:07 AM:

James, I think he's just young and inexperienced in the publishing world. He doesn't know about these scams, or Yog's Law, or any of that.

You say not actively malicious, just stupid; I see him as more well-intentioned, but naïve.

#112 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:37 AM:

Dmitry Chestnykh, you will stop trying to pick a fight with Jim Macdonald. I also strongly suggest that you take back the remarks about him being a liar. He's not, and it does you no credit to call him one.

For quite a few years now, Jim's been an authority on scams aimed at aspiring writers, and has been one of the people working to inform the public about them, and if possible get them shut down. I'm not on Jim's level, but I've done volunteer work in that area too, as have a number of others in this conversation. We may not know all the details of your involvement with Michael Hyatt/Thomas Nelson, but we're not going to say you haven't been keeping bad company. You have.

Look, it happens. It doesn't automatically mean you're one yourself, or that you knew what they were up to. Just calm down, be civil, and talk about what actually happened, and you should be all right.

#113 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:46 AM:

Jim, you're being a tad uncharitable. How many people have you seen turn up at AW not sure what just happened to them? They may not come off like rocket scientists, not at first; but you can't accurately judge their intelligence until they've gotten their balance and composure back.

Scammers who couldn't induce confusion in those around them wouldn't be much of a threat.

#114 ::: Neil J. Rubenking ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 12:05 PM:

I first saw it in a friend's Facebook stream. I clicked through and copy/pasted a thousand-word software review that I was working on at the time. It told me I write like Dan Brown, thereby insulting both me and good ol' Dan. I wrote it off as merely stupid. Seems it was both stupid and venal; now I know!

#115 ::: David Lubar ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 12:06 PM:

This is a fascinating discussion, but it hasn't addressed one burning issue that has already swept the blog world. (Though I'll admit I only skimmed comments 13 - 87, so I may have missed that part ofthe discussion.)

“...avoid the three items you should NEVER include in a fiction book proposal.”

Is "fiction novel" one of the three? (I'm pretty sure the other two are a pink ribbon and bad prose.)

#116 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 12:20 PM:

Peter Eng: I also threw in three paragraphs of "WHORES WHORES WHORES..." Despite what the webcomic Shortpacked may say, that does not result in "You write like Frank Miller."

Clearly demonstrating a flaw in the program or the data tables that it uses which should be addressed ASAP.

#117 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 12:26 PM:

Teresa #113: Scammers who couldn't induce confusion in those around them wouldn't be much of a threat.

I just wanted to highlight that... it seems somehow central to so many "debates" happening these days, that the bad guys are screwing with people's heads. :-(

#118 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 01:34 PM:

Regarding Thomas Nelson, "If you lie down with dogs, you get fleas." And not only do you get fleas, you get a reputation for -spreading- fleas....

If you can't recognize a flea-infested dog from a non-infested cute cuddle toy stuffed animal pooch, that's not of much interest as regards flea infestations....

#119 ::: Michael Hyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 02:00 PM:

The e-books are designed to help authors secure a traditional publishing contract. They do not reference self-publishing, vanity publishing, or indie publishing.

I also have a 30-day instant refund policy. I have sold hundreds of these e-books since I first put them on my site. I have had two requests for refunds.

#120 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 02:16 PM:

Dmitry, passim: Thank you for removing the Hyatt link.

I would ask you, however, to accept a bit of your own advice - do a little research. When I pointed out at the NPR web site that your web toy was being used (please note, I did not accuse you of malice; I said you were being used by a scammer) to shill for vanity publishing, I referred to Author Solutions. Robert Fletcher, who ran Author Solutions, is being vigorously pursued by law enforcement in Florida. I suggest you Google search Mr. Fletcher's exploits for yourself, so that you can fully understand the company you were keeping.

#121 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 02:37 PM:

It's my fault they changed the link from Hyatt to King. I've been in communication with one of their workers for the past week who said I was being unfair to Thomas Nelson for calling it a vanity publisher simply because one of its imprints is a vanity operation. Ayway, I pointed out in one statement that the link to Hyatt's ebooks didn't leave a good impression of him or Thomas Nelson. Now they don't want me to contact them anymore with negative comments and are claiming that the site is meant to be "for entertainment purposes." Of course, I pointed out that it doesn't state that anywhere but that it does mention "for accurate results."

By the way, I have copies of the web page prior to their changes if anyone needs a copy.

#122 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:17 PM:

Three items you should never include in a fiction book proposal are: 1) Glitter (it gets everywhere), 2) A live goldfish (either it'll be dead by the time the proposal gets opened and stink up the office, or it'll be alive and put a years'-long obligation to care for it, and 3) Nude pictures of yourself (no matter how good you look).

#123 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:23 PM:

Oh: a correction to Mark #120: Robert M. Fletcher isn't associated with Author Solutions.

Fletcher is Strategic Book Publishing, WL Writers Literary Agency, and a host of other names, but not Author Solutions.

Author Solutions (and all their imprints), however, is a vanity press.

#124 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:27 PM:

1) Toxic or radioactive materials;
2) Fecal matter (other than your manuscript pages);
3) Mattresses, especially but not only King-sized ones.

#125 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:34 PM:

1) Black holes;
2) Protostars;
3) Anything acquired on Europa; attempt no landings there.

#126 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:50 PM:

1) Leprechaun gold
2) String vests
3) Small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri

#127 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:51 PM:

Isn't anyone else going to play?

1) Published books by other authors, in hardback;
2) Human teeth, even your own;
3) 17.3 pounds of assorted ball bearings.

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Ah, crosspost! Excellent, praisegod.

#129 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 03:54 PM:

1) Proposals of marriage
2) Death threats
3) Annotated copies of rejections from other publishing houses.

#130 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:00 PM:

Wait - it says 'fiction book proposal'. Does that mean I can/should include glitter and goldfish if I'm sending in a proposal for an academic monograph? (A not entirely idle question...)

#131 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:08 PM:

Dimitry: Some, tolerably, friendly advice. Step back, take a deep breath and remember you are now a bit of a celebrity. It happens you've also stumbled into that celebrity in a way which causes a number of people, (myself included) to have some suspicion that the result of what you've done is going to cause a number of people to be defrauded by crooked owners of companies which pretend to be legitimate publishing houses.

That's the first part. The second (and probably the one which matters more, here) is this is not your place. You don't get to tell the people who come here what they can, or can't do; you certainly don't have the authority to tell them what they need to do. That privilege lies with the five people who own (or moderate) this place.

The problem with the e-book you are touting is that it's purpose, esp. when linked to the idea that one writes like, Margaret Atwood, or Tolstoy, is pernicious. It pretends to tell one how to get published. If the would be author happens to not be up to scratch (as most of us aren't), the author of that book is more than willing to show you how to, "get published." All it will cost is you money, your dreams, and your faith in human nature.

Which is why we loathe, abhor, abjure and otherwise despise such people; as though they were instruments of the Devil... they are. You probably didn't know that's what they were, and Jim is quick to assume motive on the part of people who affiliate with them. He probably ought to have given you credit for not knowing, but your immediate, and heated, defense of them is what really tripped people. If you had rather asked why we were so adamant there was a scam involved, then the response would have been less.
I realise I'm being preachy, but when a large number of people all see something as being questionable in the same way, the thing to do is ask why.

As to racist/sexist, no one called you that. They said the list was an example of blindness to authors who aren't white and male (and, who aren't native born writers in English; the one who wasn't [Tolstoy] happened to be white, and male). Given that there is more than 100 years of women being published, in their own right (Georges Sand, Mary Shelley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jane Austen, etc.), and a wealth of non-white authors, the omission was interesting, but didn't imply racism, or sexism.

It implied a lack of thought. It was your subsequent explanation which raised the spectre of your having some racist/sexist attitude, because the lists you said you used, have authors who aren't white, aren't male and aren't native writer in English.


#132 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:22 PM:

praisegood barebones @130, if you send me your non-fiction book proposal, please include a one-gallon tub of Pygmy Mammoth and Jumbo Shrimp Stew, suitably packed for shipping.

#133 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:36 PM:

Janet Brennan Croft @132: How did you know it was a cookery book?

#134 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 04:47 PM:

praisegod barebones @ 130 :

I would say that academic journal editors are best swayed with alcohol. Sending them deceased animalia will get you talked about, and not in a good way.

#135 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 05:16 PM:

1. Weaponized anthrax
2. Google Street View photos of the editor's house
3. The first 3 chapters of someone else's book, with all the character names changed.

#136 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 05:24 PM:

"2. Google Street View photos of the editor's house"

I thought that just showed that I had done my research. They do say to personalise.

Damn.

#137 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 05:45 PM:

1. A bottle of wine
2. A note to the effect that it was poisoned
3. The demand that the book be accepted in order to obtain the antidote

#138 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 05:57 PM:

1. The wallet you previously stole from the editor
2. Anything written in purple ink
3. A flea circus

(Alas, abi far outdid me before I even had a chance to post...)

#139 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:04 PM:

Michael Hyatt #119:

The e-books are designed to help authors secure a traditional publishing contract. They do not reference self-publishing, vanity publishing, or indie publishing.

So what? The WestBow Press site doesn't mention self-publishing, vanity publishing, or indie publishing either.


I also have a 30-day instant refund policy. I have sold hundreds of these e-books since I first put them on my site. I have had two requests for refunds.

Again, so what?

The problem isn't the books. Your book could cure cancer, end poverty, and bring peace to the Middle East. You could be giving away Bibles. No matter. The problem isn't the book, the problem is who's offering it.

#140 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:30 PM:

1) candid photos of the editor going about hir daily routine
2) blackmail notes
3) Vogon poetry

#141 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:33 PM:

1) a threatening note
2) a noose
3) mysterious white powder

#142 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:34 PM:

1. The plums in the icebox
2. An anthology of Walter Carlos William's poetry
3. A printed copy of your work glued into the anthology.

#143 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:35 PM:

Bah. "Williams'" poetry.

#144 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:35 PM:

1) a greeting card that plays "It's a Small World" when opened
2) bagpipe music
3) a vuvuzula

#145 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:49 PM:

1) Your firstborn
2) An unblemished kid
3) The first bushel of grain harvested from your land

#146 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:36 PM:

1) an engine block from a '67 Shelby Mustang
2) the last page of a mystery story
3) your first kiss

#147 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:50 PM:

1) Iron filings
2) Confederate currency
3) Rabid squirrels

#148 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:51 PM:

1) a sigh of despair
2) a bitter tear
3) a half-eaten Tootsie Roll pop

#149 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 07:58 PM:

1. A gill of water from an ancient well that has not seen nor light of sun nor light of moon in yea, these thousand year
2. A seven-leaved clover picked on the night of the full moon while standing on one foot and chanting "sept sur un à cinq, sept sur un à cinq"
3. A lump of coal from mine so deep that ne'er has man it touched before, nor woman either

#150 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:05 PM:

1. Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
2. A shattered visage
3. Lone and level sands

#151 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:16 PM:

1. The real ending of Lost
2. The real ending of The Mystery of Edwin Drood
3. The real end of a loaf of very stale bread

#152 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:19 PM:

For a YA novel:

1. A comb and mirror
2. A peach
3. White flannel trousers

(this is morphing)

#153 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:22 PM:

For a fantasy novel:

1. Seven stars
2. Seven stones
3. One white tree

#154 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:24 PM:

1) a rag
2) a bone
3) a hank of hair

#155 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:26 PM:

For an investing guide:

1. a rag
2. a tag
3. a velvet gown

#156 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:44 PM:

Oh, yes--my 154 is for a hardboiled-mystery-slash-dance-extravaganza.

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:46 PM:

I guess my 150 is for a new translation of The Prince.

#158 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:47 PM:

1) lembas
2) mithril
3) the One Ring

#159 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:55 PM:

for a knitting and scrapbooking mystery:

1) a clue
2) a clew
3) glue

#160 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 08:58 PM:

for a book about mazes in myth and literature:

1) a clue
2) a clew
3) a grue

#161 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:17 PM:

I turn my back on these threads to go knit a dishcloth or something and you people [1] start playing with the language again.....


[1] in the best possible way, of course.

#162 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:21 PM:

A book of essays and arguments:

1. rat's coat
2. crowskin
3. crossed staves

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:26 PM:

A book denouncing the Homosexual Lifestyle on Biblical grounds:

1. Keys to a large house
2. A camel
3. A needle

#164 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:30 PM:

1. A ship with a mind of its own
2. A red-headed woman with a mind of her own
3. A bottle of your best alcohol

#165 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:31 PM:

1. A ship with a mind of its own
2. A red-headed woman with a mind of her own
3. A bottle of your best alcohol

#166 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:36 PM:

1. A post with a mind of its own
2. A duplicate of a post with a mind of its own
3. A meeeen friend who makes fun of you for double posting

#167 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:37 PM:

1) Rye whiskey
2) Bitters
3) A rinsing of absinthe

#168 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 09:40 PM:

1) A cheap pair of boots
2) A sword that was broken
3) The Kwisatz Haderakh

#169 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:11 PM:

(1) A glossary with etymologies.

(2) Proposed casting for the movie version.

(3) Self-addressed stamped envelope with stamps from your country rather than the editor's.

#170 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:13 PM:

For a knitting book:

1. Yarn
2. Patterns
3. No needles

#171 ::: Lady Louella ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:42 PM:

Mr Eng @62
surely for WHORES WHORES WHORES you should have been told you write like Bukowski?

#172 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:46 PM:

For the kindergarten set:

For boys:
1. Frogs
2. Snails
3. Puppy-dog tails

For girls:
1. Sugar
2. Spice
3. All that's nice

#173 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:47 PM:

Book on mummies:

Bandages
A crochet hook
A pillow

#174 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:56 PM:

1. Expense reports filed from a Nevada whorehouse.
2. Prototype hardware from a certain Cupertino consumer electronics design company.
3. Live anthrax spores

#175 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 10:59 PM:

1. Five grams of lysergic acid diethylamide.
2. The cryogenically frozen head of Gil Amelio.
3. A human liver.

#176 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:01 PM:

1) A man
2) A plan
3) A canal

#177 ::: Ode ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:10 PM:

Book on Shakespeare:

* Double
* Toil
* Trouble

#178 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:19 PM:

Book on Zen:

1. Fullness
2. Emptiness
3. Absense of both

#179 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:28 PM:

1. A proof of the Goldbach conjecture
2. The universal pantograph
3. A perpetual motion machine

For hard science fiction -- each would be too distracting.

#180 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 11:40 PM:

A book on bullying
1. sticks
2. stones
3. a printout of Urban Dictionary

#181 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 12:25 AM:

Some of these have morphed. If I opened my mailbox to see a package with the items of Mary Aileen's #158, I'd build a press to publish whatever the sender wanted.

#182 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:19 AM:

1) A live wolverine
2) and 3) don't matter much; they'll be shreds by the time they get there anyway.

#183 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:36 AM:

For a book of nursery rhymes:

1) A tisket[1]
2) A tasket[2]
3) anything whatsoever in a [hand]basket.

[1] Whatever that is
[2] See [1]

#184 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:41 AM:

mjfgates@182:

2) A dead wolverine
3) whatever killed it

#185 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:54 AM:

Physics writing, natch:

1. A portable hole
2. A Bag of Devouring
3. A submission that is bigger on the inside than the outside

#186 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 03:37 AM:

Space opera:

1. Mathematical proof that your FTL drive idea actually works.
2. Offer to share the profits with the editor if they'll fund the development.
3. Sealed envelope containing the miniature black hole you intend to use to generate the negative-massed matter you'll require.

#187 ::: Jms McDnld s ntblly ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:44 AM:

Hw d y jstfy lnkng t n dvrtsmnt fr tht wll knwn scm, Chrstnty?

http://dstyfrm.cm/2010/07/18/wrks-f-gdcnt-yr-blssngs-2/

Nt vn tryng. Nt vn rtnl.

Y'r jst scmmr.

#188 ::: houseboatonstyx ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:49 AM:

AbsoluteWrite carried a paid ad for iUniverse this week.

#189 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:24 AM:

(1) A mysterious submarine
(2) A mysterious captain with a past
(3) A French professor

#190 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:42 AM:

A classic of Cinema, or the plot of a romance novel?

(1) A rough, hard-drinking man.
(2) A prim & proper woman
(3) The man & woman forced together, leading to their falling in love with each other.

#191 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:57 AM:

On a haiku collection

One raindrop on pane,
Two breaths of wet autumn wind:
Three blades of spring grass.

#192 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:12 AM:

For Xopher, my friend:

1. LOLz
2. A picture of a cat
3. Glitter

followed by

1. A vuvuzela
2. A book of popular songs, set in the key of Blaaat, to be played on the vuvuzela
3. A CD of these songs, performed by the All-American Vuvuzela Orchestra, on tour in North Korea. Audience participation is optional.

#193 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:25 AM:

(1) A book by J K Rowling
(2) Proof that you wrote it first
(3) The Sorting Hat

#194 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:34 AM:

1. A business card: Mom's Diner
2. A business card: Doc's Saloon ("Thursday night is poker night")
3. A business card: Rachel Cohen, Rooms To Let ("You think you got problems?")

#195 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:58 AM:

Just for grins, I tried "I Write Like" on the Declaration of Independence.
Apparently, Thomas Jefferson wrote like H.P. Lovecraft. Who knew?

The opening sentence of the Declaration actually sounds fairly like the opening sentence of "At the Mountains of Madness".

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

vs

"I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing this contemplated invasion of the antarctic - with its vast fossil hunt and its wholesale boring and melting of the ancient ice caps. And I am the more reluctant because my warning may be in vain."

Definitely similar...

#196 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 08:11 AM:

1) Handses
2) Knife
3) String, or nothing

#197 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 08:17 AM:

1) Arms
2) The girl
3) The kitchen sink

#198 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:04 AM:

Dickless @ #187:

First, spell my name right.

Second, what's that link? I don't link to it, and never have.

Third, what's the matter, Dimitry? Run out of arguments? Or have you realized something important about yourself and don't like it?

Oh, and Dimitry? When you linked to Thomas Nelson you linked to that self-same scam. Loser.

#199 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:12 AM:

Dickless still at #188:

Actually, AbsoluteWrite most likely had a Google ad for iUniverse. They come, they go. If Dimitry had had a Google ad-box, and if it was full of writing scams and vanity presses: Well, that's Google ads. If you have Google ads and any kind of writing-related site, you'll get ads for scams.

I don't like it, but do you know something? I don't own AbsoluteWrite. And the only point of AbsoluteWrite isn't to deliver those ads. Nor does AbsoluteWrite claim to be anything that it isn't.

Also?

iUniverse, even though it's owned by Author Solutions, is less sleazy/scummy than Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson uses a once-legitimate name to fool people and pays kickbacks to agents to get unpublishable works.

This is just concern trolling: "You wrote about this? Why don't you write about that and that and that? They're just as bad!"

Did you wonder why there was an outcry against Harlequin and Thomas Nelson, but the same people who objected to them never said a word about Xlibris, iUniverse, or AuthorHouse? Do you know why Strategic Book Publishing and PublishAmerica are bad but Infinity and CreateSpace just get a weary sighs? No, of course you didn't wonder and don't know, because you're unaware of books, writing, and publishing.

N00b.

#200 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:24 AM:

1: Arms
2: and the man

#201 ::: houseboatonstyx ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:49 AM:

Ah, fleas cannot jump out of a Google box.

#202 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:56 AM:

(1) a box
(2) a cat
(3) ?

#203 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:06 AM:

(1) a lion
(2) a witch
(3) a wardrobe

#204 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:20 AM:

#187 Looks like Jim has got your range and you're now holed below the waterline. It may be time to stop squeaking and start swimming.

#205 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:22 AM:

mjfgates (182): Surely the canonical item is a live bobcat. (Which ties in neatly to tykewriter's #202.)

#206 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:25 AM:

(1) A picture of Queen Victoria
(2) An un-cooked leather Trilby with sugar feather
(3) A sixteen-foot exploding granite statue with built-in plunger

#207 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:31 AM:

Mary Aileen (205) - the wolverine is much worse.

Someone once described them like this:

"imagine a 40-pound ferret with a personality-defect who has
been raised on a diet of anabolic steroids and weapons-grade PCP,
and you've just said something unbelievably rude about his mother.
Now you have to get him out of the trap"

#208 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:42 AM:

(1) girl
(2) gold watch
(3) everything

How you're going to get everything into a package small enough to mail may be a bit of a challenge. But that's why you write SF, right? And once the editor realizes the secret of the gold watch, they'll be too distracted to read your manuscript. Maybe you should rethink your cunning plan.

#209 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:48 AM:

(1) sunshine
(2) moonlight
(3) good times

#210 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:59 AM:

Two bags of cement and a sheet of corrugated iron.

#211 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 11:04 AM:

Jim,

Why are you even letting these twits bother you? If the best they can come up with is that sites you're associated with have externally-served sidebar ads that may or may not be inappropriate, man are they scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  • The link at 187 comes from the blogads panel on Making Light's front page. I don't know who thinks they can drive us to the fainting couch by a reference to Christianity, but they're based in London, posting on Virgin Media at 92.234.20.151.
  • houseboatonstyx, meanwhile, comes from 76.2.1.16, which resolves to Tillamook, Oregon.

Neither of these guys matches Dmitry Chestnykh's consistent IP address and location, not even remotely. I suspect they've grudges from some other occasion and are just jumping on you now because you're vexed and they're jerks. A few vowels from the worst parts are going to go missing once I'm done posting this. The IP addresses are already blocked.

#212 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 11:12 AM:

Tillamook. n. A device in which cheese is accelerated to near lightspeed before being collided with high-purity toast.

(Not original to this moose, I regret to say.)

#213 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 11:13 AM:

Terry Karney @200: I know. It was one of those nice coincidences.

tykewriter @209: boogie?

#214 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 11:25 AM:

1. A scar
2. A crown of thorns
3. A bad tattoo.

(possibly crossover posting with thread 143.)

#216 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 12:12 PM:

Tillamook, Oregon... Home of the big cheese, and once a blimp patrol's home base.

#217 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 12:52 PM:

(1) A picture of Queen Victoria

No thanks, I'm trying to give them up.


1) One hundred dollars in gold
2) One combination Russian phrasebook and Bible
3) Three pairs nylon stockings

#218 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:08 PM:

1)Lawyers
2)Guns
3)Money

That last violates Yog's Law, you see.

#219 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:37 PM:

For a book of explicit erotic poetry:

1. A bough
2. A loaf of bread
3. A jug of wine

#220 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 01:58 PM:

abi, #211: I could swear that I've seen the name houseboatonstyx before, but the VAB doesn't agree. Has this person accidentally (giving them the benefit of the doubt) duplicated the ID of an occasional poster? If so, that should be noted. If it's the same person using a different e-mail for this purpose... that should also be noted.

*has a sudden thought* I could be thinking about a LiveJournal ID. *checks* Yep, there's someone with that ID on LJ, and they have some of our regular posters on their friendslist, and the last 5 public entries on their journal are all about this meme. So that's probably why the name sounded familiar to me. Never mind.


#221 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 02:42 PM:

Lee @220:

On its own, houseboatonstyx's comment might have been marginally rude; there are others higher up in the thread that are of a similar tone (though without the accusation of hypocrisy). But Teresa's observation about two trolls in concert is relevant here.

#222 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 03:02 PM:

For a money-management book:

1. A ridiculous get-rich-quick scheme
2. ...
3. PROFIT!

#223 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 03:34 PM:

dajt @ #208, a John D. MacDonald fan, are you?

#224 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 03:35 PM:

abi @ 219... A loaf of bread

Did you know that French word 'michon' can mean 'loaf of bread' and... ah... a lady's secondary sexual physical attributes?

#225 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 03:49 PM:

1. A flier for your Multi-Level Marketing program.
2. Investment opportunities.
3. Free Samples!

1. Anything that's dripping.
2. Anything that moves on its own.
3. Anything that requires personal fitting.

#226 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Cadbury Moose #207: "imagine a 40-pound ferret with a personality-defect who has been raised on a diet of anabolic steroids and weapons-grade PCP"

You mean this? heh.

#227 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:01 PM:

It's possible that Houseboatonstyx came in through another entrance, and by an accident of timing wound up standing next to a person who was throwing rocks at your proverb of choice.

I'm inclined to think the moral of that story is that if you're going to post deniably snarky one-liners, you should be prepared to have them occasionally undergo changes in apparent meaning when the context shifts.

Houseboatonstyx @188, it's not that uncommon for AbsoluteWrite to be at odds with its assigned advertisements. The same thing happens at other writers' forums that carry ads. Legit publishers spend their advertising money on their books. PODs and vanity houses advertise themselves, they do it a lot, and writers are their target audience. Predictable result: ads for vanity houses showing up on writers' forums.

Re the now-compressed commenter at 187: He's way out of his depth. I don't know what he's doing here, but I can't imagine that someone who makes such shallow, stupid remarks about Christianity could be defending Thomas Nelson.

What he reminds me of are the remarkable nitwits who are regulars in the "Religion & Spirituality" section of Yahoo!Answers. The self-proclaimed atheists in the mix there think that calling Christianity a scam counts as a novel and incisive piece of analysis.

#228 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:18 PM:

1.) Copy of author's last psychiatric evaluation (including an extensive list of the author's current medications), with a big circle drawn around the psychiatrist's remark that writing a book seemed to be doing the patient some good.

2.) Computer disk containing digitized versions of the alphabet which the author has devised to represent his characters' strange yet beautiful language. The alphabet looks reasonably alphabetic, but the letterspacing is a disaster, there are no capital letters, and the font is bitmap-only.

3. Cover letter explaining that the author has come up with the greatest story idea ever -- so irresistible that if he revealed it, the publisher would immediately steal it from him! Only if the publisher sends a suitable contract plus a check for a very large sum will it be revealed.

#229 ::: Pat Cadigan ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:27 PM:

I was going to leave a comment but then I read this:

#39 ::: tanarg ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 01:15 PM:
When Poe came out like Lovecraft, I knew it was a lure for something.

And realised I could not improve on it. This sums it up.

#230 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:29 PM:

TNH #228: Hey, no fair speaking from experience! :-)

#231 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:30 PM:

1. A treat for the editor's pet
2. An illustration for the story, executed in black crayon on dark paper
3. An note explaining that you have an outline for your marvellous story, but it wouldn't fit in the margin of the illustration

#232 ::: bartkid ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:51 PM:

I write like - gag me with a spoon - a valley girl.

HT: FZ.

#233 ::: Alex von Thorn ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 05:58 PM:

Teresa, et al.,

Thank you for the coherent and concise explanation of what this "meme" is about. I was wondering.

#234 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:16 PM:

#230: I was going to say that!
*prepares to lawyer up*

#235 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:23 PM:

David Harmon @230: Busted! You got me fair and square.

#236 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:30 PM:

(1) a loyal armsman and his daughter
(2) an old trade ship
(3) a delivery contract

#237 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:33 PM:

TNH #228: Presumably a submission for the "Great Outsider Art" series the publisher does not have and never plans to have, but which they clearly cannot live without now that it's been pointed out to them.

#238 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 06:57 PM:

David Harmon: You stole my thunder.

Teresa: How many of those were in the same envelope?

#239 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:38 PM:

Sandy B #234: I'll bring eggs and milk for a la(w)yer cake....

Teresa #235: Come to think of it, have you ever actually gotten glitter, goldfish, and/or nude photos of the author? (And now I'm imagining underwater photos of the author wearing only golden glitter....)

Terry #238: Whoops, sorry. <rummages through pockets> here... <hands back thunder>.

#240 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:43 PM:

Linkmeister@172, who can account for the tastes of demons?

Ode@177
- redouble
- 4 spades
- 4 no trump

#241 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:49 PM:

And yeah, Google Ads are a generally accepted way of monetizing temporary web popularity without annoying too many people, since they're fairly neutral and not visually distracting.

But I wasn't pleased to see SEOs referenced - they're about at vanity-press levels of scumminess in the search engine world, since their job is to lie to robots so the robots will lie to humans about uninteresting web pages being interesting.

#242 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 07:51 PM:

Lemme play the "What have T&P N H Gotten in the Mail" game!

1. Mysterious white powder [any sort]
2. Plot summaries of the other 11 books in the series
3. A letter from the writer's mom and/or high school English teacher explaining what a genius the writer is.

#243 ::: RichterCa ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 08:22 PM:

Um, I got:
Great job! Do you want to write better?
Stephen King's On Writing is a must-read!

With a link to the Amazon.com page to buy that book.

So, not a scam, just targeted marketing...

#244 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 08:24 PM:

1. The entire handwritten manuscript, done with a fountain pen in the author's blood
2. Offers of feudal loyalty to the publisher
3. Threats to avenge their honor if rejected

#245 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 08:37 PM:

Sandy B. @ 242 -- I don't see why plot summaries for the other 11 novels in the series would be a bad thing, if the current MS is for the start of a series. It'd show that the author has a longer story arc planned. (Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue was always planned as the first novel in a series of ten; IIRC, she got a contract for the first three based on the MS for the first, and has since contracted for the fourth and fifth.)

#246 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 08:58 PM:

Joel Polowin (245): I thought Sandy meant plot summaries of the first 11 books in the series (i.e., this is number 12). But your reading probably makes more sense.

#247 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:00 PM:

For a book on making money in real estate:

sales brochures for
1) swampland in Florida
2) oceanfront property in Arizona
3) the Brooklyn Bridge

#248 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:16 PM:

1. Manuscript, notarized in 1978.
2. DMCA takedown notice on publisher's 17 most popular free ebooks containing the word "wizard".
3. Settlement offer to release the takedowns upon publication of the Manuscript.

#249 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:46 PM:

1. A cavern
2. A canyon
3. A mine

#250 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 09:52 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 228:

I feel that there's a bit more story behind those items. I am intrigued.

Information:

  1. Animal
  2. Vegetable
  3. Mineral

Actually, the mineral probably wouldn't be such a bad way to get your manuscript published, depending on the mineral. Violation of Yog's Law, though. The other, well...

#251 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 10:06 PM:

ajay:

1) One hundred dollars in gold
2) One combination Russian phrasebook and Bible
3) Three pairs nylon stockings

Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

#252 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 11:11 PM:

Ben..

1. The entire handwritten manuscript, written with a fountain pen, in the victim's blood.

2. A ransom note offering to release the victim upon publication of the book.

3. VHS tape showing a kennel full of more victims and a masked author threatening to write more manuscripts if the first one is rejected.

#253 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2010, 11:26 PM:

For a book on organized crime:

1. A list of your family connections
2. The names of other editors who have rejected the manuscript
3. Their obituaries

#254 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 02:15 AM:

Abi #211: I see I've been unfair to poor Dimitry. Whatever his faults, he's always used his real name, rather than posting as an anonymous coward.

#255 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 02:25 AM:

RichterCa @243: Read the thread. Dmitry replaced the offending link after being soundly beaten with a cluebat -- and sundry people thanked him for doing so.

#256 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 04:12 AM:

Joel @245,

I think it depends a lot on whether the book submitted can stand alone.

It's the difference between needing 11 more volumes to tell the story, and having outlines for 11 sequels.

I wonder, sometimes, how some of these long-running series were first sold. I know of a couple which seem to have stalled, without the death of the author. And, frankly, the first volume, in one case, was far superior to the most recent.

It's like the end of Casablanca: that's complete, but you know there are more stories possible about the characters. Do you need to know what they are?

#257 ::: Leo ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 09:45 AM:

I saw this "writes like" test going around my friends-list on Livejournal. Naturally, I tried it, and like a true skeptic, I tested it. For example, I tested two halves of the same cohesive scene. The first half of the scene gave me one result; the second half gave me another. Different parts of the same story connected me to multiple different authors' styles. I think I was compared to about ten different authors, depending on what selection of text I gave them. Obviously, the whole thing is bogus.

I figure, if you only do the "test" for fun, and don't take it any further (in other words, DON'T BE A SUCKER), then you're fine. But there's a sucker born every minute who will think that their crap-tastic writing would be worthy of publication, and they'd go in for it without a second thought. You can only scam idiots who are willing to let themselves be scammed.

#258 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 09:55 AM:

Just to show it's not just the publishing end that gets the craziness: A guy stood in for his sick wife at her bookstore, and got an education....

#259 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 10:29 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 252:

I think that outdoes mine.

So, here is another one (for a scientific manuscript):

1. The brains of the subjects used in the study. In a plastic bucket.
2. The manuscript reads as though it was translated by Google.
3. A note from the senior author to the editor, requiring them to work the same hours as the lab until publication.

[Any of these would get an instant referral to the circular file - I believe all three would get the authors sent for psychiatric evaluation]

#260 ::: biblio_fille ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 02:02 PM:

I just wrote a quick paragraph about meeting a huge, black dog and it told me I write like Cory Doctorow. I was hoping for Leo Tolstoy but whatever. I wonder who I edit like?

#261 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 02:28 PM:

1. a bribe
2. a gibe
3. a diatribe

#262 ::: Leo Tolstoy ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 03:15 PM:

I typed in this line from my most famous work, "War and Peace", first published in 1865. I was not complimented when it revealed that I write like J.D. Salinger. I would have thought that at least it would have said I write like the more modern Russian scientist, Sarah Palin.

#263 ::: Leo Tolstoy ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 03:17 PM:

"Gjvestnia gorbalitie svornaya trugadisnyet bolzornia prednischika,"

I typed in this line from my most famous work, "War and Peace", first published in 1865. I was not complimented when it revealed that I write like J.D. Salinger. I would have thought that at least it would have said I write like the more modern Russian scientist, Sarah Palin.

#264 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2010, 06:59 PM:

Victoria @ 236: No shopping bag?

#265 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 02:17 AM:

#211 abi

I love vowels in the springtime
I love vowels in the fall
I love vowels on my display
I don't love posts that lose them all.

I love vowels in my writing
I love vowels when I read
I love vowels for their sounds, but
I don't love vowels in that screed.

I love vowels for their virtue
Ambiguation they reduce
I love vowels for their bound'ries
I don't love vowels without juice.

I love vowels for they're useful
I love vowels but I know,
Here on Making Light if missing
The post they're missing from is woe.

#266 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 02:34 AM:

1) Lions
2) & Tigers
3) & Bears

#267 ::: Jules Verne ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 06:43 AM:

Tolstoi @ 263... I write like the more modern Russian scientist, Sarah Palin

I take it that you are a palintologist, oui?

#268 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 06:49 AM:

I hope that I shall never dream
A nightmare horrid as a meme.

A meme whose raving thought is prest
Athwart sweet reason's pained protest;

A meme that rails 'gainst Truth all day,
With themes insidious, to sway;

A meme that may our patience wear.
A nest of vipers! We despair.

Without its vowels the meme's reduced;
A potent lesson is produced:

Trolls bereft of vowels, it seems,
By watchful guards, protecting dreams.

#269 ::: John Milton ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 07:17 AM:

I believe, M. Verne, that Gospodin Tolstoy, was waiting for the palinode.

#270 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 08:54 AM:

I saw a bumpersticker, while riding yesterday which said, "Palintologist".

I could not, from other evidence, adduce what it was trying to say.

Now to breakfast, and then for the road.

#271 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 08:57 AM:

1.A photograph of the editor’s children
2.Google street view of their school
3.Part of the editor’s cat

and, of possible interest to James:

1.A Letter of Marque
2.The scummiest vessel you ever did see
3.The Halifax pier

#272 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 11:10 AM:

1. your bodily fluid(s)
2. someone else's bodily fluid(s)
3. a body

#273 ::: Peter Eng ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2010, 07:48 PM:

Lady Louella @ #171: Possibly. I'm not familiar with the works of (pause to use a search engine)...hmm. Charles Bukowski?

Things not to include in a geometry textbook submission:
1) instructions on trisecting any angle using only a compass and straightedge.
2) instructions on constructing a square with an area equal to a given circle using only a compass and straightedge.
3) instructions on constructing a cube with twice the volume of a given cube using only a compass and straightedge.

One thing not to be included in any chemistry textbook submission:
A sample of universal solvent.

#274 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2010, 02:51 AM:

Teresa @228 - Okay, you're having flashbacks to the Slushkiller thread, aren't you? Admit it...

1) A URL to a website containing the Proceedings of the Committee to Process the Codicil in which the Rights to the Manuscript were Willed, along with a clock purporting to show the expected date said Committee will be delivering its report, the website having last been updated in 1996

2) A durian, either whole or flattened

3) A footnote reading "UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT information is ENCOURAGED"

--Dave

#275 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2010, 05:37 AM:

1. A dissected squid. This week I learned they smell very bad, camera eye and all.

2. A note informing the reader that
3. is missing.

#276 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2010, 06:20 AM:

1. One Mogwai
2. A bottle of water
3. One delicious cupcake

Sent by overnight post.

#278 ::: oldfeminist ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2010, 12:59 PM:

1. A website in which to ensnare unwary writers
2. ???
3. Profit!

#279 ::: houseboatonstyx ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 07:27 PM:

test

#280 ::: Mark bets that's pre-spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 08:39 PM:

Testing filtering sensitivity and response time, mayhap?

#281 ::: TexAnne agrees ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 09:30 PM:

Still, points for an amusing use-name.

#282 ::: celuran disagrees ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 10:05 PM:

It's the unfortunate from #188 and #201.
dunno what the test is.

#283 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 10:13 PM:

TexAnne @ 281... I seem to remember that Farmer once said it was the inspiration for his "Riverworld" stories.

#284 ::: Joel Polowin sees an attempt to evade blocking ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2010, 11:32 PM:

Re: 279, presumably testing posting from a different IP than the one that was blocked.

#285 ::: Nancy C. Mittens points up at a probable spam probe ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:02 AM:

It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the conversation.

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