BookWise is BookStupid

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 That’s why they are called books, not unpublished manuscripts. I also have unpublished manuscripts that are not yet books, or may never become books.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?

Update on MWA Rules for Membership

At the last board meeting, the Mystery Writers of America made some slight revisions/clarifications in the language for criteria for Active Membership status and publishers who wish to be on the Approved Publishers list.  They are as follows:

Rule 2 previously stated that to become Active members of MWA, book authors
must have received a minimum of $1,000 in royalties and/or advances, but there
was no specific language that required publishers to pay this amount. The new
Rule 2 corrects this: Your publisher, to be approved,
must have paid a minimum of $1,000 during the preceding year to at least five
authors with no financial or ownership interest in the company. (See Rule

Rule 5 (the "two-year" rule) was not changed in its basic intent, but the
language now makes explicit that "first book" refers only to an author with no
interest in the company: Your publisher must have been in
business for at least two years since publication of the first book by a person
with no financial or ownership interest in the company. (Exception: a new
imprint by an established publisher.)

Rule 7 was also changed with reference to authors with financial interests in
the publishing company: Your publisher, to be approved,
must publish at least five authors per year, other than those with a financial
or ownership interest in the company, such as an owner, business partner,
employee, or close relative of such person.

It is the intent of the Board to create rules that are both clear and fair,
to benefit all our members and to encourage good standards and practices in the
publishing industry.


My friend Javier Grillo-Marxuach has announced some very good news:  ABC Family has ordered the one-hour pilot that he wrote on spec based on his comic book THE MIDDLEMAN.

The project has now come full-circle. The comic book actually began as pilot script Javi wrote ten years ago and couldn’t sell. Javi tells the whole story on his site…just click on the "TV Pilot!" tab.

The Emmys Were Dull

You’d think that a show celebrating excellence in television would at least be entertaining. Well, you’d be wrong. It was the worst show in years (even if you were fast-forwarding through the worst parts, like I was), and my friend Ken Levine does a great job today skewering it on his blog.

James Spader over James Gandolfini??? Sally Field over Edie Falco?
Ricky Gervais over Alec Baldwin?? Thomas Hayden Church over anybody???

[…]You could tell Robert Duvall won for a cowboy movie.  Even while standing he looked like he was riding a horse.

The best acceptance speech wasn’t even aired.  It was Elaine Stritch’s from a week ago.  “I’m a recovering alcoholic, a riddled diabetic and I’ve got laryngitis – but I just won an Emmy!”

IDOL “Gives Back” resulted in AMERICAN IDOL “Gets Back”. They finally
won an Emmy. Next year look for the very special TWO AND A HALF MEN
“Gives Back” episode.

Lori Prokop’s Spiritual Action Plan

As you will recall, Lori Prokop charged that her Book Millionaire reality TV show scheme was ruined by the publishing industry, which was so envious of her idea that they secretly paid guys like me to question her legitimacy as a publisher (she has none), her credentials in television (she has none), her network broadcast agreements (non-existent), and the value of the "prizes" she was offering contestants (worthless).

The Book Millionaire show quietly became an online competition instead…and then it died of inertia and a profound lack of interest of popular interest without fulfilling any of its promises to contestants.

Now, in an update on her site this week, Lori Prokop says Book Millionaire isn’t dead after all.

Book Millionaire continues to move forward, not at the pace we originally intended, but with the same excitement, focus and passion for helping others. Personally, I needed some time to regroup and understand actions of others, of which I felt deep hurt and sadness.

She still maintains that the show — which promised contestants "bestseller and celebrity status" through publication with her vanity press — was undermined by a vast conspiracy.

I have observed some disparaging comments about the Book Millionaire show and me. It has come to our attention — through communications from others — this may be in connection with a group of bloggers who are allegedly blogging false, inaccurate information against about 100+ companies and projects in the publishing industry.

[…]Could it be true that someone is paying for this group of bloggers to blog hate messages about more than 100 companies and projects in the publishing industry that compete with this company? Could this be how the bloggers are paying their bills and feeding their families?

After the Book Millionaire debacle, she says she was angry and depressed…a helpless victim of a publishing industry conspiracy, the uncontrolled rudeness and cruelty of bloggers, and rampant sexism against women.

But now she is taking a new approach.

Lori Prokop — the woman who offered the dream of authorship to chiropractors, cheap leases on brand new cars for the masses, bestseller celebrity status for the unpublished, maximized search engine rankings for everyone, and self-enlightenment for humanity — is initiating her Spiritual Action Plan. Prepare yourselves.

It took some time for me to make my choice that instead of attacking or retaliating for what I perceived as false, misguided actions of others, I decided to find a spiritual understanding and develop a spiritual action plan. It’s my desire that this experience helps me spiritually grow as an individual and leader.

[…]As a result of this spiritual growth, I have learned that anything perceived as an attack from another is an expression of his or her needs.

So I would like to have my attention on that need. What could their needs be?

[…]I have gone to their blogs and contacted them to ask for open dialogues to gain an understanding of their perceptions and provide accurate information. They have responded with additional attacks and threats, rather than peaceful, life-enhancing dialogues.

I haven’t heard from Lori yet, but I am looking forward to it…and the spiritual enlightenment I know it will bring (and, perhaps, a cheap lease on a new BMW).I will be glad to tell her what motivates me to blog about Book Millionaire: a desire to expose unscrupulous and dishonest people who prey on the desperation and gullibility of aspiring authors for financial gain.

Even though I do not personally know these people, I can imagine these are beautiful human beings who are misguided in trying to have their needs met, doing so in tragic ways.

I can understand that they are making these choices for the same reason all human beings do everything: to meet needs in the best way they know how at the moment.

I believe Love is the answer to this.

I love you, too, Lori Prokop. I love how you never quit coming up with schemes to make money off the Internet, how you keep re-inventing yourself in new and exciting ways, and how you offer me the chance to do the same thing for only $16-a -day.

You are a wonderful person and a beautiful human being, Lori Prokop, but you already know that.

UPDATE 9-19-07: Victoria Strauss, a tireless crusader against publishing scams, blogs today about Lori Prokop, humanitarian, philosopher,  publisher, web master, motivational speaker, and champion for chiropractors everywhere.

The Final Laps

Fasttrack401 I’m nearly at the end of post-production on FAST TRACK. Thanks to the Internet, I am able to do a lot of the work from home rather than having to be in Germany.

Dirk Leupolz, our composer, uploads scenes with his score to a server, then I log on, download the Quicktime files, watch them and give him notes. The same goes for each cut of the main title sequence. This weekend, Dirk sent me the final scenes of the movie as well as some "fixes" on earlier scenes. I am really pleased with the way the score has turned out…and can’t wait for my own CD._sth8512 

The editors and graphics team did a fantastic job on the main title sequence. It looks and sounds great…all that’s left now is to choose the font, size, and actual placement of the credits that play out over the first scene or two of the movie (I’ve already approved the credit lists, and the order of the credits, for the German and International versions of the move).

I’m red/green colorblind, so I entrusted the color correction of the movie to our director Axel Sand (who is also our director of photography) and our line producer Heiko Schmidt. They are also overseeing the German-language dubbing, though I approved the voices for the non-German actors (I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I could judge the performance and the sound…I was sent scenes dubbed with the German voice auditions).

My final remaining post-production task is to oversee the final sound mix…when we bring together all the music, sound effects, and re-recorded dialogue for the English and German-language versions of the movie. I’ll fly back to Germany at the end of the month to do that.

And then the movie/pilot will be complete.

Fast_track055 But my work is far from over. I’m keeping a close eye on the promotional and publicity materials (the posters for MIPCOM and AFM, sales brochures, etc.) and am working with our international sales team to sell FAST TRACK to networks in the U.S., Canada and other territories.

Today, my family and I had nice lunch with Erin Cahill, one of the stars of FAST TRACK, and then she and my daughter Maddie spent the afternoon shopping together. Maddie just adores Erin and so do we. I’ve been staying in close touch with the cast and crew…and I’ll be heart-broken if we don’t get the opportunity to keep working with together.

(The FAST TRACK photos are by Gordon Muehl and Stefan Hoederath).