I just got an unsolicited email from John Hanzl urging me to read his book OUT OF HELL’S KITCHEN because it has received "both the Editor’s Choice award and
the Publisher’s Choice award from his publisher. Pick up your own copy to
see why…" His publisher is iUniverse. In other words, the people he paid to publish his book gave him awards for excellence. Gee, that’s quite an honor.
I cringed for the poor guy. I’m not sure which is more embarrassing…an author who touts an award from his vanity press or an author who brags about the rave review he paid for from Kirkus Discoveries.
21 thoughts on “Deluding Yourself”
you missed this accolade, Lee..
“October 8, 2007: Writers Digest has given Out Of Hell’s Kitchen Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards, 481 entries and only ten winners. Stay tuned for more information.”
My favorite is when an author uses Harriet Klausner for a blurb.
Well, as the author of the aforementioned novel in your recent posting entitled ‘Deluding Yourself’, I suppose it’s not too surprising that I have a comment.
As I’m sure you already know, finding a respectable literary agent, let alone getting published, as a first-time author is about as easy as pushing a slinky up a flight of stairs. So when I (finally) obtained an accredited literary agent who was very excited about my manuscript (the result of almost ten years effort and the culmination of _many_ personal experiences) I thought I’d indeed won the lottery and I was on cloud nine. Well, fast forward a year and, needless to say, my excitement became slightly tarnished as I discovered just how impossible it was to sell an action / adventure novel from an unknown author. Especially in the days of the memoir. (I have had many inquires from agents such as Aaron Priest to write a memoir, but my personal story just isn’t that interesting)
So I went to plan B – the much dreaded self-publishing route. Part of the consideration for who I wanted to go with was the quality of the final product. The other was centered around the potential of getting beyond the deathnell typically associated with self-publishing. That’s why I chose iUniverse.
I was one of the first titles in iUniverse to ‘win’ Publisher’s Choice (say what you want, but not all titles even get to that point). What that bought me was an excellent stint in the Boston Prudential Barnes & Noble store on the New Releases shelf – which gained me much local coverage (as is evidenced by the Boston Globe article about me – a full page color article that ran in the Sunday paper in 2007)
However, more importantly was the potential of achieving a Star award – which is exactly why I chose iUniverse in the first place. The Star award means your title is given industry standard discount rates and full buy-back guarantee for brick and mortar bookstores. This is the critical component typically completely elusive to self-published authors.
Well – Out Of Hell’s Kitchen did indeed win this award – something that is very rare within iUniverse and regardless of what you’ve written, it’s an accomplishment that I am very proud of.
Now – moving on to the other facet of your post. Needless to say, the marketing of Out Of Hell’s Kitchen is completely up to me, and I’ve found that the new social networking ‘societies’ such as MySpace (of which you belong to) is a fantastic way of reaching your target audience. I’ve reached several hundred readers who’ve read OHK through this means and I am completely happy to continue working this angle (as are many successful writers such as Barry Eisler and Jay Asher)
You are certainly entitled to your opinions, and I welcome them, but please allow me the opportunity to say my bit as well. I have been moving Out Of Hell’s Kitchen forward on it’s own merits and have leveraged new marketing strategies to that end.
OHK has indeed won top ten in the self-published Writers Digest awards, and has not only received several excellent reviews from unpaid reviewers but I’ve received messages and emails in the hundreds from folks expressing just how much they’ve enjoyed reading OHK – and to be honest, that’s really what I am after.
Finally, as to your message on MySpace, I just wanted to menton that you say “makes you look foolist.” But I think you meant “foolish.”
I feed sharks for a living, but I’m discovering humans are the more predatory species…
That’s all from my end. Keep up the good work on your blog and I thank you for your effort to keep it balanced and unbiased by posting my reply.
With accolades like that, you’d think he’d be published by Quiet Storm!
Before you publicly pronounce that someone is deluding himself as an author, wouldn’t it be wise to know if the person’s book is any good or not?
Do you know?
Did you read it?
Or did you just make an assumption that the book sucks because it wasn’t published with a NY publisher?
This self-publishing issue sure is a thorny one, isn’t it? On the one hand, if the book is any good, then you’d think a publishing house would publish it. On the other hand, since it’s so hard to break into print, why shouldn’t a good writer with a good book, get it into the books stores by an alternate means?
This reminds me of Chuck Norris. He was world karate champion six years in a row. He had fans. So he made a martial arts movie. It took him 3 years of pounding on Hollywood doors to get it made. Then he had to drive around from town to town to get it shown in local movie theaters. That’s how his first film grossed over $20 million dollars. I think of his effort as being pretty gutty and basically heroic. If the establishment doesn’t appreciate your stuff, maybe the people will. Similarly, if the publishing houses won’t publish your stuff, why not use the available technology to go straight to the people?
But Lee has a good point. An author can self-publish, but the firm that does it shouldn’t give out an award. This is clearly self-dealing. But something bothers me about the publishing world. Why is it so hard to break into? To make it easier, why aren’t there contests all over the country for “Best First Novel” or “Best First Novel in Romance/Mystery/SciFi” etc? That way, if you self-publish, AND write a great novel, you have a way to break into the business in a (legitimate) manner the establishment can respect.
Maybe it’s just me — but why can’t reviewers in the various cities get something like this organized once a year?
The prize could be $1,000 dollars and the book is read by an agent. It’s sort of like “American Idol”, in a way. It ought to be on TV. Who doesn’t want to write and publish a book? Who wouldn’t want to look more deeply into the publishing industry? Who wouldn’t want to see a “nobody” get a chance like this at success?
Dan wrote: “why shouldn’t a good writer with a good book, get it into the books stores by an alternate means?” and “why not use the available technology to go straight to the people?”
The problem with self-publishing is that it doesn’t get books into the stores or into the hands of the people. The number of self-published novels that never sell a single copy to anyone but the author is staggering — it’s virtually all of them.
As for the concept of “Best First Novel” contests… The MWA currently co-sponsors 3 of them: 1 for Crime Novel, 1 for Traditional Mystery and 1 for Private Eye novel.
The idea that you have to know someone or be a celebrity or whatever to get a first novel published is disproved every day. The number of debut novels just in the crime genre that is published each year is huge.
I don’t think the problem with publishing is that not enough new novels are published — I think it’s quite the contrary.
There are plenty of “best first novel” contests, going on all the time, in all kinds of genres. If I recall, MWA even sponsors one, to be given out at the Edgars. But you don’t have to win a contest to get your book read by an agent; it’s what they do. The way I see it, every slush pile is its own contest, with no entry fee.
You wrote: “Well, fast forward a year and, needless to say, my excitement became slightly tarnished as I discovered just how impossible it was to sell an action / adventure novel from an unknown author.”
With all due respect, that’s just not true. There were a hundred novels submitted this year for the Best First Novel Edgar…which, obviously, were written by first-time novelists. The International Thriller Writers have a Best First Novel award each year, too, and are inundated with entries.
The fact is that you had a hard time getting YOUR book published….that doesn’t mean the industry is closed to first-time writers.
You wrote: “Well – Out Of Hell’s Kitchen did indeed win this award – something that is very rare within iUniverse and regardless of what you’ve written, it’s an accomplishment that I am very proud of.”
It’s not an achievement, John. You sound like a smart guy, use your head.
iUniverse is a vanity press. You paid them to publish you. It’s in their best interests to suck up to you. The fact that you’ve fallen for it is sad…and proves just how gullible and self-deluded aspiring authors can be.
Awards from iUniverse are meaningless and aren’t respected by booksellers, reviewers, or real publishers. It’s a come-on by a vanity press to attract suckers…and to get them to pay even more once they are on the hook. How much additional marketing “services” and cover redesign have you bought from iUniverse since they gave you their in-house “awards”? How many more copies of your own book did you buy for marketing purposes?
You paid iUniverse to publish your book and now you’re flattered they gave you an award??? That’s like McDonald’s thanking you for buying a Big Mac and giving you a discount coupon on your next value meal.
The Writer Digest Awards for Self-Published novels is widely recognized as a marketing gimmick to appease their number one advertisers — vanity presses. It’s that crumbling wall between editorial and advertising at WD, and their blatant sucking up to author-predatory vanity presses, that have seen the prestige and respect that WD once enjoyed almost completely evaporate. The awards and honorable mentions carry no prestige or respect whatsoever among booksellers or anyone else in the industry…though it is a step above iUniverse giving awards to the authors who pay them!
You wrote: “Or did you just make an assumption that the book sucks because it wasn’t published with a NY publisher?”
I’m not making any assumptions about the quality of his book, Jim. You misread my post. His book may be marvelous, but if he thinks being honored by your vanity press means anything to anybody, he’s deluding himself.
Are you impressed by iUniverse praising the work of one of their paying customers? Would that entice you to read the book?
Just wanted to give a few points of clarity and then I’ll put this poor ol’ dead horse in the ground…
I received enough replies from respected (NYC) agents during my search who were impressed enough by my writing to say point blank that they would be interested in a memoir (yep – this was just _prior_ to the James Frey debacle), to determine I was probably pushing the wrong slip of paper across the table.
Anyway, my hats off to all those new writers who found traditional publishers for their work. If the opportunity came my way I certainly would have jumped at it – but time came for me to, uh, get off the pot and move on.
You may want to check your facts, however, regarding iUniverse. And maybe I should clarify my own terminology. Instead of calling them Awards, I’ll define them as Service Levels. That better? One thing you should know is that once I paid for the initial publishing service, I spent no more money with iUniverse (beside the copies of OHK I’ve purchased to sell at the various signings I’ve done). Not a dime.
The top service level – the Star Program – is one where iUniverse foots the bill completely. They are also on the hook to buy back copies of Star Program books from booksellers in the advent that OHK doesn’t sell and they reedit the manuscript (again – not on my dime) and provide industry standard discounts to buyers. As a matter of fact, it’s almost an imprint of iUniverse and the book is republished with a new ISBN and under the Star name.
It’s a tough row to hoe I know, but my goal is to use this novel simply to get my name out there – brand name recognition is everything, as you obviously know – so that I’m not as much an unknown entity when I look for a publisher for Into The Devil’s Throat, the mss I’m currently working on.
I’m an engineer by formal education and – as anyone who has read Out Of Hell’s Kitchen can attest – I research the hell outta whatever it is I undertake. The same was true for the path I needed to go with my publisher and I suppose only time will tell if I am write (sic) or wrong.
Of course, I’m also undertaking diving the Andrea Doria this year – so maybe I’ll never know. Miscalculations in technical diving are rather less forgiving than choice of publisher…
Now for something completely unrelated, but important to me – I recently lost my best friend of the four-legged variety. If there are any of you out there who appreciate things like this, I wrote a tribute to her, which can be found at http://www.outofhellskitchen.com/OdeToGoose.htm. Writing it was a form of closure for me, and getting folks to read it is a way I can celebrate one great dawg…
Lee, I think your out-of-hand dismissal of the publisher’s award is illogical. I’ve seen the iUniverse contract: it doesn’t come with an automatic award for every book. As to whether being honored by a vanity press means anything to anybody, I think that’s irrelevant. The meaning is intrinsic: that the printer chose it as a book they thought was good. What’s wrong with that? It meant something to John, and it seems he hoped it would mean something to you; maybe just that somebody besides the author thought the book was worth a tree. If he’d said, “My mother thinks my book is great,” I’ll bet you wouldn’t have gone after him so harshly over it. You have a problem with vanities, and you’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t think “The best bathroom reading ever” is going to impress the Nobel Committee much either. My opinion is that just finishing a book and getting someone else to read it is an accomplishment not to be sneered at.
That’s about it. Even footing all the bills without a publishing connection will fail. That’s what Barry had and that’s how she did it. Jim here didn’t with predictable results, but an award with iUniverse is hilarious.
I agree with Lee about the vanity press giving an award to one of its customers. It is self-promotion. It exists so that attention will be drawn to it’s own client. It is like McDonald’s giving an award to its biggest customer: “You spent the most, your win!” There’s little if any real merit involved.
But the award aside, the book could be excellent. So, therefore, if the legitimate publishers won’t publish it, is the vanity press a legitimate response from a good writer? Or is self-delusion? And is the writer just a sucker?
Lee makes his point. For the vast majority of writers, their books very probably will not sell and very probably will not be very good at all. It takes time for a writer to mature and get good. Even then, even a good writer may not be able to produce a good novel. It’s tough. And the publishers want good novels and are eager, I would say, to find them. Therefore, most likely, a self-published book just isn’t good enough and the writer is, perhaps, being too optimistic about his chances.
That said, can some self-published books make it against the odds? On this point, Lee and I have different views. Lee asserts the legitamacy of the publishing establishment. I think in terms of technologies and opportunities — the idea being that new technology creates new opportunites for talent to find its audience. If it’s just for a book to get read, even if it’s by ten people, then I am for self-publishing. The book has reached its audience. But if the writer thinks he’s going to get rich — if it’s about money, then I agree with Lee that self-delusion may become a factor.
That said, even if there are “first novel” contests around — and I was corrected, and there are many — it seems to me they are very poorly publicized and are run on a poorly organized basis. There shouldn’t be just one contest that attracks a thousand first novels. The chances of even being read with sympathy and interest are probably not good, I would argue. There needs to be several contests building up to a finale, like football building up to the SuperBowl. This way, many many novels will receive some sort of recognition if they win one of the running-up contests. If there’s ten contests, there are ten winners and/or runners-up. More than now. And lots to talk about in the press. Will the publishing establishment respond to this kind of call?
Anyway, even if they don’t, I still would like to see a half hour TV program on the publishing world — something like “Wall Street Week” but on publishing. Interviews with agents, editors, industry people and writers. And if a writer wants to have his or her book read by 1 to a 100 persons, vanity press is okay by me.
Dan wrote: “why shouldn’t a good writer with a good book, get it into the books stores by an alternate means?” and “why not use the available technology to go straight to the people?”
That’s one of the most right-on comments I’ve every heard on this subject (except my own, of course). The technology and logistics are firmly in place to permit anyone to “self-publish” and be as successful as any “NY” author. The secret is to have a good bood, price it competitively, get it into the distribution channels (e.g Baker & Taylor or Ingram) and then market it (e.g. solicit book reviews, get author events, etc.)
These are all easy tasks. Anyone with a good book can easily bypass NY, get the book into stores, and literally make many tens of thousands of dollars in profits while having a blast doing it.
In the end, the reader just wants a good book at a good price. He or she doesn’t really care where it came from.
Trust me, I know.
“The secret is to have a good bood, price it competitively, get it into the distribution channels (e.g Baker & Taylor or Ingram) and then market it (e.g. solicit book reviews, get author events, etc.)”
One of the problems with this thesis is that virtually all newspapers and magazines won’t consider self-published books for review. There are likewise significant barriers to author events (signings, conference appearances, etc.).
John wrote: “once I paid for the initial publishing service, I spent no more money with iUniverse (beside the copies of OHK I’ve purchased to sell at the various signings I’ve done).”
And that’s where iUniverse makes a large percentage of their money…from authors buying copies of their own self-published books. IUniverse gets to double-dip…they charge you to “publish” the books in the first place, then get you to pay even more for copies. It’s no secret that most of their money comes not from selling books to readers or booksellers but from selling books to their gullible authors.
You’ve been taken, John. They are a seller of print-on-demand printing services and you are a paying customer. They are not a publisher and their “service level” awards hold no prestige whatsoever…and, as I said before, it makes you look foolish to tout those “awards” as some kind of honor to encourage people to read your book.
It all comes down to this and only this: to believe there can be no good or worthy books self-published is to believe that commercial publishers who are guided by either their stockholders or their need to stay in business never reject a good and worthy book. If you believe this, Lee, you’re not just a snob, you’re an idiot.
“One of the problems with this thesis is that virtually all newspapers and magazines won’t consider self-published books for review. There are likewise significant barriers to author events (signings, conference appearances, etc.).”
Are you talking from experience? Have you ever published a book, “self” or otherwise? Have you ever set up an autor event? What are the so-called barriers to getting author events? How is it that someone like me has had over 60 of them in the last two years with absolutely no problems or barriers whatsoever?
It always amazes me how people espouse on subjects that they have absolutely no personal experience with.
It is ture that “virtually all newspapers and magazines won’t consider self-published books for review.” However, those same newspapers and magazines also don’t review 98% of the traditionally published books, either. We all know that the literary pages of newspapers are shrinking and dying. The impact of newspapers on the publishing market is minimal, and getting smaller every day. They play no measurable role in any intelligent decision to select one business model over another.
And, while newspapers may be prejudiced against self-published authors, most of today’s top review organizations such as Library Joural, Booklist and dozens more, do not hold such prejudices. In fact, most review organizations are searching everywhere for, and are thrilled to find, exciting new literary voices, wherever those voices might come from.
How do I know? Actual experience.
You aren’t reading my post. I am not saying that there aren’t good books being self-published. I am sure that there are…though very, very, very few. (Most of the time there’s usually a very good reason why a book doesn’t interest agents or publishers…and usually it’s because it sucks or is unmarketable or is both.)
What I *am* saying is that self-publishing is, in 99% of the cases, a huge and costly mistake. On top of that, I am saying that going to a vanity press is an even bigger mistake. I am saying that cases like Barry are extraordinarily rare and still involve investing huge amounts of money.
It sounds like things are going well for you, Jim. Congratulations.