The Mail I Get

I got an email from a self-published author. Here it is, in its entirety (minus his name):

Thank you so much for your time and I hope today finds you well. I write today to present 2 works…one fiction, one non-fiction which I am hopeful you may wish to review. Descriptions of both are below as well as links to read the first chapter of each. In the case of the non-fiction work a current press release (with review excerpts) is also below. Looking very forward to hearing from you. 

Wow, what a compelling pitch. Does he really think that would entice anyone to review his work? Well, to be fair, it did entice me to read the descriptions that he included. Here's the one for his non-fiction book (minus the author's name and book title):

An often terrifying journey through XYZ’s childhood in a “haunted” house through to many strange and unexplainable supernatural contacts and occurrences in his later life. Then the twist. A complete second book is added that the author feels was actually sent from an otherworldly source. Multiple cases of connections to the US 9-11 events, even mentions of the flight numbers and a description of the feelings of the World on that day are to be found in this second book. Eerily it was written and copyrighted 4 years prior to the events. XYZ feels his work was “spiritually sent through me to serve as a guide to help bring peace of mind to us all in the post 9-11 World”. 

Gosh, I wonder why he had to self-publish this one. Here's how the author describes himself on his website:

XYZ is many things. Author, award-winning Poet,popular paranormal Blogger, explorer of the strange and unusual, a guiding hand, a creator and developer, and more.

The "and more" should include nutball and sucker. By the way, I feel this entire post was sent to me spiritually from an otherworldly source.

I’m a Woman…and a Publisher?

Bonnie Kaye's Jones Harvest Fraud Victims site and Jones Harvest Fraud Victims Blog must be doing some good because she's certainly rattled Brien Jones, the founder of the sleazy vanity press. 

Brien, you may recall, is a former top exec at the Bookman and Airleaf vanity presses, which defrauded scores of gullible, aspiring authors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars before they were shut down. Today he's posted a new rant on his Jones Harvest blog defending himself against Kaye and the legions of bloggers who are warning people to stay away from his latest vanity press scheme, which seems to prey primarily on the elderly:

I also understand cowardly women like Victoria Strauss, Julie Neidlinger and Lee Goldberg and their lies. After all they’re not saying anything bad — just repeating what they were told. And what do you know! They all have their own publishing companies too! 

As far as I know, I am neither a woman nor a publisher. But you can't really expect a guy with Brien's shady vanity press past to concern himself with facts. It's clear that the only fact he is interested in is whether or not his elderly clients have any credit left on their Visa cards that they can spend on his false promises of publishing success. 

I have blogged about Brien and his vanity press scams here for years…not based so much on what other people have said, but on the sleazy solicitations the moron has actually sent to me and the outrageous promises he's made on his websites.

Kaye's efforts brought down Airleaf and exposed their rampant fraud … with luck,  she will accomplish the same with Jones Harvest.  Keep up the good work, Bonnie!

UPDATE 12-31-08: Brien Jones has, apparently, sobered up and removed his rant from his blog. But you can still see it here on his BonnieKayLies blog. I've also saved it here  as service for students studying to be mental health professionals. 

 UPDATE 12-29-08: Flights of Fancy blogs nails Brien Jones for their amateurish covers and using his receptionist to write the rave reviews that are used as blurbs on his customers books.

UPDATE 12-28-08: Victoria Strauss at Writers Beware discusses Brien's latest rant

UPDATE 12-28-08:  Brien Jones has launched a new site, BonnieKayLies, where he cross-posts his rants from the Jones Harvest Blog. I was scrolling through his blather when I came across his remarkable take on Kaye's efforts to expose the fraud at Airleaf, which eventually led to the Indiana Attorney General shutting down the scam:

In my opinion Bonnie Kaye wanted her books published and sold for free. That’s what she did to Airleaf Publishing. Bonnie Kaye didn’t complain then. Why would she? Then when Airleaf didn’t pay HER enough Bonnie Kaye started a vicious campaign against them (thankfully long after I resigned my position there.)

When Bonnie Kaye was done with Airleaf what happened? The owner walked away scot-free, ‘thanks for all the swell money.’ The people that were there when it closed started their own companies. The only real result of Bonnie Kaye’s campaign was over 1000 authors lost the books they paid to have published.

Then along comes me and Jones Harvest Publishing. ‘Well’ Bonnie Kaye says, ‘let’s try it again.’

Uh-huh. In other words, Brien and his friends at Airleaf did nothing wrong. I guess Brien didn't read the Attorney General's report on the Airleaf  fraud. Maybe that's why he hasn't learned from his mistakes and seems intent on repeating them.

The Mail I Get – The Risk You Take Edition

Today I got an angry email from Joe Blow whose note was the basis for one of my "Mail I Get" posts. He wrote, in part:

I am really upset that you used my email in your Mail I Get feature. I specifically told you when I wrote to you that I didn't want to see my email turn up in your Mail I Get feature and that's exactly what you did with it.  How could you? 

Because your email was insipid, Joe, and I certainly don't feel any need to comply with your orders. I don't work for you. And if you read my blog enough to know that I regularly post emails that I get, then you should have known better than to send me one if you were afraid of seeing it posted. I've said it before but I will say it again…

1) if you are a stranger, and you send me an email asking for advice, you should assume that I will post your email (minus identifying information) and my answer on my blog so others may benefit from it…or be entertained by it. That said, I probably post less than 10% of the emails I get asking for advice. There are so many blogs out there offering screenwriting and publishing advice, and who do it far better than I do, that I am picky about what I post. It has to be either a really good, or a really inane, question for me to blog about it. Yours, Joe, was really inane.

2) If you send me an email trying to sell me your book, your product, or your service, you should assume I will post your spam on my blog and ridicule it. Most of the pitches I get are too mundane to merit a blog post, though.

3) If you are a vanity press, and you send me a solicitation, you should assume I will post your email on my blog and evicerate you. That should go without saying.

Look at the bright side, Joe.  At least I don't call people fucktards…as other members of my family do.

The Mail I Get – NCIS Edition

I got this very long email from someone who would like NCIS to do an episode about something she experienced as an employee on a cruise ship. It read, in small part:

I'm sure that you get emails like this all the time. I have an idea for an episode of NCIS. I have been searching around the internet trying to figure out how to actually make this happen, and I came across your website. Before you read this, you should know that I am a very. persistant person. […]I used to work onboard a cruise ship. In a nutshell, I witnessed something bad happen in December 2007 at the hands of my boss, my boss's boss, and the onboard Human Resources manager. I tried to report it to someone I thought I could trust, but I apparently trusted the wrong person. She forwarded my emails in its entirety to the gentlemen that I had named, and then things got REALLY bad. I wish they just fired me (I actually resigned), but it was much worse than that. To make a long story short…

She didn't make it short…or comprehensible. She went on for another few thousand words and I still don't understand what happened or if it was even a crime. She went on and on to say, in part:

I would like to pitch the story idea to a writer to create an episode for NCIS. People should be aware of what goes on, and that it can be unsafe in international waters. […]And to answer you next question, which I presume is "Why would the NCIS team investigate something on a cruise ship", I figure that the husband character could have been a former Marine (many cruise ship employees are)[…]Can you help point me in the right direction? I'd like to see the story told. To prove to you that I am not a crazy person, I work for a prestigious film festival.

I was skeptical about her, but once she said she worked at a prestigious film festival, I knew she was cool because nobody unstable, or with unrealistic expectations about the TV business, ever work for film festivals.

I politely told her that I couldn't help her and that there was virtually no way that she'd be able to sell her story to NCIS (not that I could figure out what the heck her story actually was). I suggested that she might have better luck getting her story out, and do more good, by going to a newspaper reporter rather a TV show about fictional detectives.

She got back to me right away with a lengthy, and yet sketchy, explanation of why she couldn't go to the press but could go to a TV cop show to get her message out. She is determined to get NCIS, or some other detective show, to hear her story

I have no interest in selling the story — I don't need, nor want, any money for it. And I'm not crazy enough to think that I would actually write the script. I am very good at what I do, but writing is not what I do. But I do know that the screenwriters get their ideas from somewhere — so I guess what I need is for one of the decision makers to be stumped for story ideas one day, and turn to my story for inspiration.

She vowed to press on and not be discouraged. I thought about writing her back and saying that there's a reason that they say that the stories on shows like LAW AND ORDER, NCIS, and CSI are "ripped from the headlines." Because that's where they get their inspiration, from the news, not from people sending in their personal stories of crime and conspiracy (if that is, indeed, what her story is about). But I decided to let it drop.

More Me

Ed Gorman has a Q&A interview with me up on his blog as part of his on-going "Pro Files" series of interviews with published authors. Here's an excerpt:

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

It's exactly that — having a writing career. I get paid to sit at my computer and make-believe. People pay me to share my fantasies. It doesn't get any better than that.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

The opportunities for writers in book publishing and episodic TV are shrinking every day. It's a scary time to be a professional writer if you aren't already a bestselling author or an A-list screenwriter/TV showrunner.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Pay me more.

You’re So Vain

There were several interesting and informative blog posts on the web this week about self-publishing. 

After publishers rejected his thriller, CNET columnist David Carnoy spent $5000 to self-publish it through Booksurge, against the advice of his agent. He notes that:

The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies–or 2/3 to 3/4 of your friends and family combined (and don't count on all your Facebook aquaintances buying). I don't have a source for this statistic, but I've seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled "Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks" noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

But that reality check didn't stop Carnoy, who does such a good job listing all the substantial pitfalls of self-publishing that I wonder why he bothered to go that route and what he hopes to gain. 

Author J. Steven York points out that vanity presses stress the difficulty of selling your work to a real publisher as a good reason to pay to be published. York concedes that it's true that getting published is hard:

It takes time. The deck is stacked against you, and a lot of the publishing process exists primarily to keep the flood of dreck out, sometimes keeping good books and writers out in the process. If it bothers you, and it probably does, I've got two words for you. Boo. Hoo. Like many things worth doing, getting a book published is work. It requires patience, resilience, and determination. And despite all this (and this is what the vanity publishers don't tell you), it beats the alternative.

[…]If selling your book to a legitimate publisher is too too hard for you, then going to a vanity press won't solve your problem, it will multiply it.

York lists many of the same pitfalls as Carnoy does. In a later post, he takes issue with some of Carnoy's conclusions and challenges the columnist's rationale for self-publishing his novel. York makes a lot of excellent points. His two posts should be required reading for anyone contemplating self-publishing their books.