Edgar Award-winning author Burl Barer, who also happens to be my Uncle, sent me this note about his encounter with a book biz get-rich-quick huckster:
I received the following email on MYSPACE…no doubt well intentioned, but it irked me. Here it is."While reading your wonderful profile I could not help but notice that you have authored some books. If getting your words out to a larger audience is something that has some interest to you…"I continued reading this informative missive, and then the following paragraph hit me between the eyes:"This is a great opportunity for you as a self-published author to have your book listed and distributed along with some of the greatest books ever written!"Since when am I self-published? The next paragraph reinforced my "irk factor":"BookWise is very supportive of the self-published author, and one of the perks of being a member is the Author’s Workshop coming up for all members this Oct 18,and 19th, 2007. And the 20th the first company convention-FREE TO ALL it’s members"Well, that pushed me over the edge. I wrote back:"I am NOT Self-Published, subsidy published, or any other variation on vanity publishing. I am PAID to write by real publishers — I do not pay printers to print up my books and then have the nerve to call myself a published author. In my opinion, calling yourself an author when you are self-published is like calling yourself a doctor because you purchased a stethoscope."Okay, that may have been a bit harsh.I heard back right away informing me that Bookwise also features real authors published by real publishers. Good for them. I wrote back and wished them the best of luck on their charity endeavors. But why do people assume that we all self-publish?When I was recently introduced somewhere, and it was mentioned that I’ve written a dozen books, the first question was "Have any of your books been published?""Yes. That’s why they are called books, not unpublished manuscripts. I also have unpublished manuscripts that are not yet books, or may never become books. And before you ask, I did not pay for the publication of my manuscripts – the publisher paid me."
Burl Barer…self flagellating, self-promoting, self-serving but NOT self-published
I’d never heard of Bookwise, so I visited their site and listened to their come-on. They bill themselves as "the most intelligent home-based business in the world." Basically, it’s a book club that makes their money from the books you buy and the other people you convince to join the club.
It works like this: you pay a $40 enrollment fee and $35-a-month to buy their books at a 40%discount. Most of the books are from name-brand authors from name-brand publishers, but I gather from the email my Uncle got that they will soon be opening their doors to the self-published, probably for a price.
You make your millions by either selling the books you buy directly to your friends and neighbors out of the trunk of your car…or by making a commission off the other suckers, er, people you convince to join the book club and become salesmen themselves.
But they also want you to feel like you are saving the world, one book and one commission at a time. One dollar of every book they sell and 10% of their corporate earnings will go to literary programs for children. Makes you all tear-eyed, doesn’t it?
So you aren’t just paying Bookwise $460 for the opportunity to buy their books…you are, as they proclaim, helping to "stop the dumbing down of America."
But that strikes me as a self-defeating goal for Bookwise…if we stop the dumbing down of America, who will be stupid enough to sign up for this scheme?