“Shannon Elizabeth Remembers She’s a Celebrity, Divorces Fat Man”

That headline, from the blog TVgasm, made me laugh out loud…  the rest of the post is pretty funny, too.

All things come in three’s, including celebrity break-ups.

Last night American Pie masturbating chick filed for divorce from
LOST’s Hurley. (ok not really) This break-up was taken particularly
hard by fat, hairy unnattractive men everywhere who thought, "See, it
could happen to me." No, fat man…it can’t.

Shannon forwent the usual "irreconcilable differences" claim, rather
filing under the less oft used, "He stopped hypnotizing me" defense.

Writer Beware

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have a terrific website called Writer Beware... and on it they have a detailed article on Vanity Publishers, as well as the pros and cons of doing business with them. The article includes these useful definitions:

Commercial publishers, subsidy publishers, vanity presses,
self-publishing–what’s the difference?

  • A commercial publisher purchases the right to publish, and pays the
    author a royalty on sales (most also pay an advance on royalties). Commercial
    publishers are highly selective, publishing only a tiny percentage of
    manuscripts submitted to them, and handle every aspect of editing, publication,
    distribution, and marketing. There are no costs to the author.
  • A vanity publisher (a.k.a. a book producer or book manufacturer)
    prints and binds a book at the author’s sole expense. Costs include the
    publisher’s profit and overhead, so vanity publishing is usually a good deal
    more expensive than self-publishing. The completed books are the property of the
    author, and the author retains all proceeds from sales. Vanity publishers do not
    screen for quality–they publish anyone who can pay–and provide no editing,
    marketing, warehousing, or promotional services. 
  • A subsidy publisher also takes payment from the author to print and
    bind a book, but claims to contribute a portion of the cost, as well as adjunct
    services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and some degree of
    marketing. Theoretically, subsidy publishers are selective. The completed books
    are the property of the publisher, and remain in the publisher’s possession
    until sold. Income to the writer comes in the form of a royalty.
  • Self-publishing, like vanity publishing, requires the author to
    undertake the entire cost of publication him/herself, and to handle all
    marketing, distribution, storage, etc. However, because the author can put every
    aspect of the process out to bid, rather than accepting a pre-set package of
    services, self-publishing can be more cost-effective than vanity or subsidy
    publishing, and can result in a much higher-quality product. And unlike subsidy
    publishing, the completed books are the writer’s property, and the writer keeps
    100% of sales proceeds.

I’m The Guy Without a Beer

Here’s a picture taken last week at Left Coast Crime… that’s author David Ellis, me, and author Jim O. Born (click on the picture for a larger image). Lcc05010David Montgomery was the photographer. Not pictured: the married waitress-who-is-actually-an-actress with the low-cut shirt who was flirting with me, Victor Gischler, my gardener Enrique,  and Stacy O’Quinn, the girl I had a crush on in third grade.

Scam vs. Self-Publishing

Discussions about self-publishing and vanity presses seem to be in the air today. I received this question in my email…

I’m a guy with a day job working on a business book related to my profession. 
As a business person I am comfortable with self promotion and like the cost
structure of self publishing.  I was curious about the distinction you made in a
recent post about the difference between a vanity press and a self publisher. 
What is the difference in your view?

Vanity presses and self-publishers are the same thing… companies you pay to publish your book.   There’s nothing wrong with vanity presses… as long as they aren’t trying to fool  you into thinking they are a traditional publishers.

IUniverse, for example, is a reputable vanity press that turns out a nice looking product at a reasonable price. They don’t pretend to be anything but what they are… a company that offers authors a way to self-publish their books.

I’ve had several of my out-of-print titles republished in trade paperback  editions (at no cost to me through a special Authors Guild program) and have been very happy with the results.  The books look great and I get nice little royalty checks on a regular basis… and I can double-check my sales at any time by logging into their website.

But before you get involved with a vanity press, you should have realistic expectations about the kinds of sales, distribution, promotion, and critical notice you are likely to get.

Figure close to zero.

The burden of selling the book, promoting the book, and getting any critical notice at all will be entirely up to you.  Stores are reluctant to carry self-published titles because they rarely get a discount and can’t return unsold copies.  Critics will rarely review a self-published title. Reporters are loathe to interview a self-published author unless there is an incredibly compelling angle to the story (It helps if you’re a TV star (Buddy Ebsen), a controversial politician (Richard Lugar),  a famous songwriter (Lee Hazelwood), or a key player in a sex scandal (Amy Fisher).

I can see how going to a vanity press would make sense for a non-fiction book if, for example, you want to market it yourself at speaking engagements and seminars… or use as a promotional item for your company and its services.  There is a place for self-publishing…it’s a useful service.  But it’s not a replacement for authors looking for all the things that come from having a book bought by Simon & Schuster, Penquin/Putnam, or any other "traditional" publishing house.

A New Self-Publishing Scam

A friend of mine, responding to my earlier post on vanity presses, says there’s a new con some companies are using to confuse aspiring authors into thinking they’re "reputable publishers" instead of self-publishing scams.

Many vanity publishers claim to charge no publisher’s fee to accept
the book.  Instead what they do is require the author to pay an editor, from a list the publisher supplies, to get
the manuscript into shape.  In reality, the editor is an employee of
the publisher and kicks back all the author’s money to the boss. 

It’s just another way of taking advantage of an author’s desperation to be published. Remember — publishers pay you, not the other way around. Beware of any publisher who asks you for a check.

Big Sunday

Sunday has become a big TV night in the Goldberg household…one terrific series after another to enjoy. There ware two episodes of NIP/TUCK back-to-back on FX, a new season of DEADWOOD on HBO, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and BOSTON LEGAL on ABC. I can remember the last time we looked forward to a night of TV as opposed to a particular show… it kind of harkens back to the old days, when Saturday was comedy night on CBS… or the heyday of "Must See TV" on NBC. The difference, of course, is that we aren’t just watching one network… we’re channel-surfing between subscription network, basic cable network, and broadcast television, which is probably not what advertisers want to hear.

Dive! Dive!

This has been a big weekend for reader mail. I wasn’t going to post this…but then the sender posted a comment here.

Hello Mr Goldberg. I’m a fan of yours in a way. I’m actually a fan of
SeaQuest DSV/2032. the show it self maybe cancelled and maybe 10 years old. but to me I’d rather have watched seaQuest over star trek anyday. Now this is just my opinion, but me and many fans firmly beleive the show still has life, and that it still has a future, the shows quote said it the best "For
Beneath The Surface Lies The Future" well today isnt that reality? minus the aliens and pissed off gods and 100 foot crocodiles, seaQuest was actually a good show. oh by the way sorry I shoulda said this sooner, my name is  Tristen Tokarchuk. I’m the co-writer of one of the Fan fiction series based
on seaQuest 2032. Except we moved up 8 years to the year 2040, with two new Vessels, the close to 700      Meter UEO Atlantis ASV 8100, and the 500 Meter UEO SeaQuest ASV 4600III. If possible would you like to view Atlantis? If you would heres the link: http://www.geocites.com/atlantisasv. I’m also  the head writer of a realitively new fan fic series called "Enterprise DSV" based in the year 2066. i will send you some pics attached to this message
of the Atlantis and SeaQuest. I do have one quesrion though, would it be possible to get a detailed schematic of the SeaQuest DSV 4600I&II.

Here’s what I wrote to Tristen:

You obviously have a lot of energy and talent…and have devoted it to various re-imaginings of SeaQuest and Star Trek. Now it’s time for you to move on to something original, a universe that is entirely your own.  If you really want to be a writer, you should move past fan fiction and try creating your own characters, your own worlds. You will be surprised just how exciting it can be…and a bit scary, too, but that’s part of the fun of writing.

But perhaps you don’t want to be a writer. Perhaps your true calling is art and design (you certainly have the talent!).  Instead of creating new logos and ships for SeaQuest… how about creating entirely new, original vessels that have nothing to do with the look, feel, and style of the show? Create someting that exists entirely in your own imagination. I know you can do it, because the drawings you sent me certainly prove you have a lot of creativity.  Why not give it a try?