Friday, June 03, 2005

It's Official - I am a Bad Man

Well it has finally happened. I (apparently) posted several somethings to piss of one of my fans. If the bloggy this fan maintains is any indication, that is. This person has apparently featured me on her bloggy thingy. I figured it out when I received her delightful missive and then visited her web site.

If I am wrong, I am certain to hear from her once again.

What I find curious is how people act on a public list and how differently they operate in places they might not think some of us will bother to look. Like this writer's bloggy thingy, for example. I must assume this is the case when fire arrives in my mailbox and then my deplorable antics are mirrored on her bloggy.

People often say one thing on a list and ten they say something different on other lists, blogs, and web sites. Perhaps they do not want their odd POV discussed in a public forum?

For example, consider the partial bloggy thingy entry (In quotes way down below) for the site at the URL included with this post, as required by the terms her written agreement. (“If the comment in question is on my web site, by all means, add a link to it and quote away, since it's already out on a public forum that anyone can reach...not just the list members of list.”) The link is:

Some of what she said is news to me and she makes a few comments that do not reflect the truth of the matter in my opinion. On the list we share, I have always asked for proof I am incorrect about something when there is disagreement. All I get is zero. The invitation still stands.

I am quite likely to say anything and yes, my mother is not proud. However, and this is a big however: if anyone disagrees with my views and comments, they are free to post their disagreement for discussion and clarification. This often does not happen because I might be right. It is also quite fair.

Oh, I dun learnt me a lesson, all right. When I shred people in the future, it will be done within the current copyright laws, fair use provisions, and other who knows what. As always, there will be no names used. I will simply paraphrase and add my pissy comments. Besides, if I rewrite their words and pre-compile them, it will be easier on the K-6 through K10 readers.

The Web Master I am hated by has given me explicit written permission to quote her web site, but not her Yahoo Group posts. Apparently it is ok to quote her web site if I post her URL. The reasoning is simple (?) Her web site is public. Not a Yahoo Group, because as we all know, Yahoo Groups are hidden and not public. No, I cannot see the logic either.

What she blogged . . .

"As I said, I was given a wonderful link to see if you appear in the blogs of others. I found one that abuses my copyright, posted BY an author who screams the loudest about his own rights. He knows the laws. He quotes them, shouts them, screams them out. Then he has the nerve to take portions (ED: Perhaps Fair Use?) of list posts from other authors off of a list serve (all of which are copyright to the original author of the post) and post them to his blog. The reason? Since he's been proven wrong on many of these points on list, he just feels the need to strike back in the only childish manner he can (I would assume). Never mind that he's breaking the very laws he demands people uphold for him." (End Quote)

Interesting. As I mentioned, I am willing to retract anything I post, just as long as the people that disagree, can prove me wrong. I will invite to back up her mouth and prove me wrong. Unfortunately, she cannot backup what she says.

God, it is silly when grown men argue with presumably grown women.

So the lessons to be learned today, are these: Do not quote people. Despite the rules of law that might give you some rights to do so, do not quote people. The next thing is paraphrase, paraphrase, and paraphrase. If someone gets mad, too bad. Three, and this is the important point: If you think I am wrong, say so. I am always up for a fact driven debate. Do not simply tell the planet I am often wrong without offering proof

Bob Maxey – Salt Lake City, Utah

A tad more about copyright

From an ongoing and tired copyright discussion on a Yahoo Group.

"Copyright...take two...I HATE Yahoo."

Someone mentioned using a notary rather than a proper copyright . . .

"Print out a copy of your mss. Have the title page of the mss notarized and dated ..., A notary seal across the sealed flap . . ." and on and on.

My reply, USELESS unless it has been tested in court.

Apparently, the "Poor Man's Copyright" is still alive and is still widely promoted on various writers' groups and mailing lists as a reasonable alternative to proper copyright registration. The PMC needs to die, and die as soon as possible. The PMC predates the Internet and the premise is simple: you mail something to yourself and hide the unopened envelope in a safe place; the postmark date proves you created something on a certain date.

By the way, gentle readers, let us be clear. It is copyright. It is not copywright, copy right, or copy write. Get it?

Apparently, some of you have the idea that posting to a web server proves your creation date. You are relying upon the server's time stamp to prove the date. Some readers have mentioned notarizing the title page of your manuscript or using wax seals that cannot be broken is a reasonable alternative to proper registration.

Let us face facts. There is one way to copyright your efforts and that is properly. I suspect people want shortcuts because the copyright fees make it expensive to protect every thing they write. Certainly not needed in my view.

Robert Maxey - Salt Lake City, Utah

More silly copyright stuff

Someone said this . . .(paraphrase)

We were talking about copyright and she said, "As soon as you create a piece of writing, you own it." True. She overlooks a few minor points, however. She started by "quoting" the copyright office web site, yet she edited the copy.

I replied . . .

Actually, nothing you said above is a direct quotation of the government web site. You paraphrased and you missed a few of the fine points. When the copyright laws were last changed, one big change was this: as soon as you create it, your work has a certain amount of protection that (apparently) does not require registration or the little "C" in a circle. The copyright office uses the term, "fixed in tangible form." Legally your work is protected, but unless you register it, you cannot seek redress in a court of law; some compensation cannot be obtained.

Writers often read and believe that whatever they write is fully protected as soon as they create the work. No fuss and no muss. The key words are "fully protected." Some writers never bother to ask themselves this simple question: if full protection exists as soon as they create something, why do they still need to register their work.

If you need a copyright, get one. If you are confused, ask a lawyer well versed in Intellectual Property laws and rights.

Someone else said . . .

"but you can still put your work in an envelope and have it sent to you via certified mail ect. (Poor Man's Copyright)."

I said (sigh) . . .

NO YOU CANNOT. Let us end that thinking right now. I have to say it again: THE POOR MAN'S COPYRIGHT IS BS, PERIOD. IT DOES NOT WORK. Editors, intellectual property lawyers, publishers, and most working professional writers will clarify this for you. The PMC is a silly notion and it needs to die.

Since you paraphrased the web site, why not paraphrase the part that tells you mailing something to yourself is worthless? The copyright office clearly states that this is a useless approach. If the official government copyright web site states in clear and unambiguous sentences that mailing something to yourself does not grant any protection, why argue with them? What is wrong with some of you?

Someone said (sigh, sigh, sigh) . . .

"You can also upload it to a server in .doc or .htm form, because servers keep a
log of when a file is upload, created, and last modified . . ."

I said, it will mean nothing if you go to court.

Also added was the same tired bull about the Poor Man's Copyright.
I replied . . .

Why tell us about clocks and uploads and servers and lions and tigers and bears, oh my? What happens if the server crashes and burns? What happens if someone changes something and screws up the time stamp? How do we know that the material someone uploaded to some server actually belongs to the uploader? You will find many web sites created by "control-A, control-V" web designers and "authors."

A list owner once banned me from his mailing list for "stealing" and posting an entire document without obtaining permission to do so. The list owner directed me to the site I stole from and then to the copyright office. Very helpful. The problem was the person I "stole" from actually lifted the work from my personal web site.

The only valid statement you have made is the this one "But the only way to really protect is to get a legitimate copyright on it." I agree. If you want to bother, bother to do it in a way that gives you dependable protection. If you cannot, at least provide some case law. Show me a few cases won by people waving the PMC in around. Then I will cite cases that have been tossed and 'findlaw dot com' will be very busy serving up your counter to my counter to your counter and we will be stuck. It is simple. If it matters to you, secure a proper copyright.

People are trying to find alternatives (read "cheaper and easier") to proper registration of their work. Why is it people do not want to do things correctly and be happy? We have a system in place and it usually works. We have strict laws that are well understood by lawyers (some of them, not all), the courts, the judges, and most every publisher in the county

Rank amateurs are often scared green and absolutely convinced that someone will steal their work. They honestly believe that they absolutely must protect everything they write. I do not think theft is rampant and uncontrolled.

So let me ask you (them) again, if your ideas about copyright are valid, can you provide some case law that supports the PMC and your contentions?

Bob Maxey - Salt Lake City, Utah

Publishing is, well, impossible to break into. Right?

Someone posted and I cried . . .

"Traditional publishing is hard to get into." Or so she said. She is right and thank God. She mentioned that your writing must be properly marketed. Yup. "The right eyes at the right time" to quote her. She mentioned if you are not a professional writer, the road is long and hard. Perhaps. Apparently she does not read very many magazines. There is a place for the beginner, if the approach is proper.

This poster is self-published and as I recall, her publisher of choice is PublishAmerica.

I said . . .

Hold on, let us examine your comments. They might be a tad misleading, or I am a tad stupid this morning. Then again, you are somewhat accurate, but let us clarify a few things. On the other hand, I might a tad stupid this morning.

What I have a problem with is the idea that only professionals sell their writing. True to a point. However, those professionals were not always professionals. They became professionals because they work at their craft and they write every day. They listen to their editors and to Bob, and that helps them. They work at self-improvement. If they do not give up, eventually, they will sell. You must get that first article in print. You will be amazed at the power of a check from a publisher or client.

So let us simply say this: professional writers sell because they act in a professional manner. Amateur writers sell because they act in a professional manner.

If your goal is to be a professional, work at it. A professional is not someone who sells a book or an article every so often. A professional is often scared that one day; there will be no more checks or contracts. That they have said everything he or she is capable of saying. Perhaps the well is dry and they will end up on the street.

You live and you die by your output. Full time freelance writers work very hard, and they are often scared that eventually, they will have to find a real job. Do you really want to suffer full time?

Some novelists start out by writing magazine articles. The pay can be good and you do not (necessarily) need to be an expert writer to sell to many of these markets. Many otherwise capable writers seem to have a problem selling simple articles. Then I review their approach and I can immediately see why they are suffering.

When you consider the vast numbers of magazines in this country alone, it is highly likely that your writing will find a market. This does not mean that you can find a market for absolutely everything you write and if you cannot spell or organize a coherent thought, you can still sell. However, I have a few writers' guidelines from magazines that accept "poorly written" work and the editor will clean it up. This is a national publication, by the way. They want ideas and they do not demand a fine polish.

Despite this, if your work is sloppy and inaccurate, you still might have a problem, regardless of how apparently lax the editor is. You must have some basic skills and a logical approach. Writing is still a tough job.

Many amateur writers without great skills manage to sell articles. Perhaps you might forget about writing a book and start with simple magazine articles. Many markets cater to (for example) certain hobby interests and they buy articles that might need a little polish. If you have a great idea, you will eventually find a magazine that wants your article.

There is a world of difference between "The National Review" and "Crafts." The NR demands a higher level of quality than Crafts does. A decent 'how-to' or 'service' piece will always find a market. Try writing articles for a year. Set some goals. Perhaps one query letter per week to start. Remember that you must deliver or you die!

Incidentally, I mentioned "Crafts Magazine." Their old guidelines tell the writer that their work does not need to be perfect; they will edit and clean up the work if required. This specific publication is (or was) telling the writer that he or she does not have to be perfect. This is not a reflection on the magazine and I do not want to imply that they are sloppy and will accept every sloppy piece arriving in their office.

If you cannot sell to markets that will clean up your writing, stop trying and return to the world of web sites that accept everything they see or perhaps write Internet poe-try.

Traditional publishing is hard. It is a winding road with plenty of obstacles. Many great books will never see print, yet many bad books do. The fact that it is hard to break in is a good thing. If it was easy, well, we would (I would) be decrying traditional publishing as I do much of the self-publishing I see. Thank God, there are hundreds of thousands of books worth reading in the library, should everything go to hell.

You asked how fair is it that "if your craft is not correct in every aspect of the word, then look forward to a rejection?" Quite fair in my view and again, this is as it should be. Writers who are having trouble selling might disagree. By the way, every writer makes simple errors, and the writer is almost always offered a chance to make corrections. Even Stephen King thanks his editor for making the book better.

She said, "I need help with my technical writing skills, but my ideas are good, so why should I pay someone, who may already have a toe in the door; to critique my hard work . . ." She apparently is scared to death that her work will be stolen. She also loves book doctors.

I asked . . .

To be clear, do you mean to imply that someone on the inside is likely to steal your ideas? Most beginners think this happens every day. I do not think it does. Then again, I am not saying that it does not happen from time to time. Any editor caught stealing starts looking for a new job, if they can find one. Trust me, no publisher worth a damn is going to hire an editor who steals manuscripts.

As for your skills being less than perfect, you can change that. That is, if you want to change. Writers with less than perfect skills break through the door every day. Let me ask you this: does someone who can not write because of poor skills deserve publishing glory and fat advance checks? What about the electrician or doctor that tells you he needs help with his technical skills. Do you hire him? I did not think so.

So, to sum up, if you lack certain skills, go forth and fix thyself. Mr. Strunk is your friend. Visit the used bookstore and buy a few used HS textbooks. If you want to be a professional, start small and build a foundation. Some people discover that the love affair they have with writing is short lived and perhaps should forget writing for a living. If this is you, good luck. No one said it is easy.

Some people discover that sadly, they cannot write. Despite their best efforts, they cannot write. Do not moan and groan because only people who have skill and can write will find a publisher. This is how it must be, and whatever it is that you lack, you should be able to fix. So, go fix yourself.

Bob Maxey - Salt Lake City, Utah

Copyright and Wrong . . . So Very Wrong

Someone posted and I cried . . . (paraphrase)

This person, working in a LAW OFFICE mentioned the PMC, or Poor Man's Copyright. The usual bull shit about printing your work. Then sign, and date it. Then seal the envelope and take it to the post office to get a "really clear" date stamp. Finally, mail it to yourself and do not open.

This poster thinks this is a good idea. God, what are they teaching children these days. I hope she is not a bloody agent or editor.

Bob queried . . .

What is the name of that law firm? I do not want to hire them by accident.

You are describing the well known "Poor Man's Copyright." A completely worthless exercise to be sure. Hapless writers that do not know any better commonly accept the PMC as fact. Writers (and others) have been discussing this "poor man's copyright" for a very long time. Long before the web arrived.

I am surprised that any legal firm worth a bloody damn would suggest that the PMC is a valid substitute for proper protection. I truly hope your old firm does not work with writers and their IP rights.

Try this: find half a dozen envelopes, affix some stamps, and mail the envelopes to yourself. Do not seal the envelopes. In many cases, a few of the envelopes will arrive in your mailbox still unsealed. I still have one from 1974; perhaps I will put Harry Potter in the envelope and gets me some more money when I sue for IP violations.

Put those envelopes in a safe place for a year or so. When you surf across some nice poe-try or an e-book with potential, you are set. Simply print a copy, dig out those envelopes you saved, insert the document, and seal the envelopes.

Bingo! You now have a sealed envelope with a year old postmark, thus "proving" that you wrote the poems last year. Get my drift? This approach simply does not hold gin, and anyone with a lick of sense should understand why it does not work. The copyright office clearly spells out the PMC myth. So why continue to believe the PMC has value?

The 'mail it to yourself' protection will not hold up in federal court, and that is all that matters. Whenever you decide to go to court, you damn well better have a leg to stand on. If it does hold up, the case most likely will not pass muster upon appeal. Courts will not accept the PMC as proof of anything because it is effortless to manipulate. So it is reasonable to assume your case will be tossed before it starts.

Some people have suggested that posting one's work in a Yahoo group is a way to protect their work. After all, there is a date and time stamp, so it should be easy to prove who first wrote and posted what. The problem is, who knows if the poster's work is original or not. For all we know, someone copied and pasted the dribble from some other writer's web site.

I must always ask people if they are truly willing to take their case to court and fight. Many talk a good talk, but they will never walk into a courtroom. It really matters very little what most people say publicly; chances are they will never hire a lawyer and go to court. That takes time and money.

If you want proper protection, properly protect the work. Regardless of the idea that once "fixed in tangible form" your work is completely protected, please do not forget one essential provision in the copyright act. You must formally protect the work before you head to federal court.

To quote the government site, "Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin." This is a direct quote.

Keep in mind that in some jurisdictions, your IP rights might be also covered under personal property rights law. So, while you are reading the official law, search for any provisions in your local laws.

We must protect our rights. Every writer on this list should take IP rights as seriously as they would a heart attack. We sell words and we manufacture sentences. Our work is often unique. The success of Harry Potter proves that an assembly of words and letters can eventually be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The revenue generated by the series of HP books, the merchandising, and the movies is perhaps near a billion dollars.

Unfortunately, the general public seems to think "so what..." it is just writing." Harry Potter can buy and sell all of these people. Theft is theft, period.

What we manufacturer is every bit as important to us, as the products a Sony or General Motors manufacturers. The penalties for theft must be strong. However, we must be willing to enter a court from time to time. Jabbering on and on about our rights matters very little, if we are not willing to properly defend our rights. Most people will not fight, so the problem gets worse.

By now, most of you know the horror stories about those 12-year-olds in trouble for illegally downloading music. I once thought that this treatment was over the top and the recording industry was perhaps out of line. I am not so sure anymore.

When you examine the facts of these cases, it seems simple. Someone stole someone's property and distributed illegal copies to the world in wholesale quantities. We should hold people accountable for their actions, should we not? Suppose we catch children shoplifting CDs from a store? Would we feel the same?

If little Tommy's mom is forced to shell out a few thousand of dollars in fines and court costs, word will spread and perhaps other parents will start taking the MP3 download issue seriously. Perhaps we need many more arrests, angry court cases, many judgments and lots of press.

Sadly, when a band takes a stand and they enforce their legal rights, the fans often turn sour. Apparently, you can be a much beloved band until you stop your fans from stealing you blind. Then you suck.

The press paints these bands as an industry backed, rich, cold, heartless entity going after an innocent child and financially destroying a family. I say, punish them all. A day in court might wake most people up and they will stop illegal downloads. Perhaps the first time, fines might not needed to make a point.

I am willing to bet that most people know exactly what they are doing when they obtain illegal MP3 files, and most people know that it is wrong. Then again, many people do not view the work of artists and writers as important. To many, if it is on the Internet, it is free. They liberally use the right click button, "save as," control-c and control-v to create their web sites.

Sadly, their skewed sense of morality tells them this is acceptable behavior. The web makes it easy to find stuff to steal and many people do just that.

Perhaps when someone infringes, we should welcome a heavy hand, large fines and more newspaper articles to explain to a largely clueless public just why lifting our words is bad.

For you web wonks, review this information:

Bob Maxey - Salt lake City, Utah

Do your part to save the planet. Stop buying typewriter ribbons.

We seem to hear quite a bit about war for oil/oil for war. Why are we fighting for oil, anyway? It is likely that we will always fight for oil. When the gas lines start forming around the block and the SUVs stop rolling, doves turn into hawks. To be clear, I love crude oil.

All we derive from oil is gasoline; at least that is what many people seem to think. And publicly state. They tell us we must buy solar and hydrogen powered vehicles and we should stop supporting large oil companies and this terrible, evil war.

What they are actually saying is "Well, not me, I need my SUV. You, however, must buy a smaller car; preferably solar powered, hydrogen powered, or powered by the suppressed energy technology the guests of Art Bell tell us exist in a secret government laboratory in Nevada."

They do not consider this short list of products derived from oil. What will you give up?

Clothing, Ink, Heart Valves, Crayons, Parachutes, Telephones, Enamel, Transparent tape, Antiseptics, Vacuum bottles, Deodorant, Pantyhose, Rubbing, Alcohol, Carpets, Epoxy paint, Oil filters, Upholstery, Hearing Aids, Car sound insulation, Cassettes, Motorcycle helmets, Pillows, Shower doors, Shoes, Refrigerator linings, Electrical tape, Safety glass, Awnings, Salad bowl, Rubber cement, Nylon rope, Ice buckets, Fertilizers, Hair coloring, Toilet seats, Denture adhesive, Loudspeakers, Movie film, Fishing boots, Candles, Water pipes, Car enamel, Shower curtains, Credit cards, Aspirin, Golf balls, Detergents, Sunglasses, Glue, Fishing rods, Linoleum, Plastic wood, Soft contact lenses, Trash bags, Hand lotion, Shampoo, Shaving cream, Footballs, Paint brushes, Balloons, Fan belts, Umbrellas, Paint Rollers, Luggage, Antifreeze, Model cars, Floor wax, Sports car bodies, Tires, Dishwashing liquids, Unbreakable dishes, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Combs, Tents, Hair curlers, Lipstick, Ice cube trays, Electric blankets, Tennis rackets, Drinking cups, House paint, Roller-blades, heels, Guitar strings, Ammonia, Eyeglasses, Ice chests, Life jackets, TV cabinets, Car battery cases, Insect repellent, Refrigerants, Typewriter ribbons, Cold cream, Glycerin, Plywood adhesive, Cameras, Anesthetics, Artificial turf, Artificial Limbs, Bandages, Dentures, Mops, Beach Umbrellas, Ball-point pens, Boats, Nail polish, Golf bags, Caulking, Tape recorders, Curtains, Vitamin capsules, Dashboards, Putty, Percolators, Skis, Insecticides, Fishing lures, Perfumes, Shoe polish, Petroleum jelly, Faucet washers, Food preservatives, Antihistamines, Cortisone, Dyes, Solvents, Roofing and roofing materials.

Some chemicals required to manufacturer products not on this list also come from oil.

I find it ironic that the Hollywood crowd wants us to stop fighting for oil. As do many in the recording industry. Especially when you consider film and many of the chemicals required to process the prints come from oil.

I have decided to stop buying golf bags and typewriter ribbons to do my part.

Perhaps they need to take the lead and stop making those environmentally hazardous motion pictures. Certainly, the hot air coming out of Hollywood must contribute to global warming.

Bob Maxey - Salt Lake City, Utah

Self-Publishing - My View

Regarding self-publishing, someone asked:

"ExLibris sent me a package and I could not believe the things they charge you for."

This is nothing new. Every questionable offer found on the net is nothing more than a different take on swindles that have been with us for a very long time.

To be fair to ExLibris, I am not accusing them of being crooked and suggesting they are victimizing unsuspecting writers. They offer certain services for a certain amount of money, and if the money is as bad as the terms, you have no reason to bitch about it.

Be it an ExLibris, Publish America, or other publishers in that vein, the writer needs to carefully evaluate the contracts they sign and the terms they agree to. They also need to ask publishers, editors, and agents how desirable these opportunities actually are.

What bothers me is the notion that self-publishing is every bit as legitimate as traditional publishing. Now you know why I am hated so. Many of these publishers are not completely honest and sometimes they mislead their "clients." They sell their services by suggesting that these days, it is "impossible" to become published, so trust us because we love you. They pray on your vanity. They often suggest that a book published them by carries the same weight as a book published by a Dell or a Random House.

Yes, becoming legitimately published is difficult and it should always be difficult. Writing a book takes skill and effort and it should be hard to become a published author. Becoming a novelist is indeed difficult unless you use a questionable publisher that will often accept anything sent their way.

I also guarantee that many (most) agents will not take you seriously when you brag about being self-published. They will often view your effort with skepticism because they know better. Writers need skills and a proper approach and in the eyes of many agents and publishers, a self-published effort is not an important credit. Sadly, much of the self-published work out there is utter crap.

Writers also assume that vanity and subsidy publishing was respected by the whole of the publishing community because that is what the vanity publisher tells them. Almost every reputable publisher will tell you that you need to be very careful if you sign a contract with a vanity house and respected publications like "Writer's Digest" also warns the beginner to be extremely careful.

At one time, (before the net) vanity and subsidy publishers charged the author for absolutely everything. It was often quite difficult to know what you received as part of your deal because contracts could be difficult to understand.

Very few writers bothered to have a literary lawyer vet the contract and some writers lived to regret it. For example, they cannot sell their work as original; they are forced into telling their editor the work was previously published.

Then there were those "publishers" that charged for book storage. This forced you to order and take delivery, or pay for manuscript storage. Some publishers had outrageous shipping costs, fees for "professional" editing, fees for the pallet your books were stored on, manuscript storage, binding costs, charges they made up that no one understood, high costs for galley proofs.

If your galley proofs required editing, a charge was often assessed that went far beyond what a writer might normally expect to pay had they been legitimately published. Remember, at one time, books were set differently and it took great effort to make changes. The process was far more mechanical than it is these days.

To be fair, all authors receive galley proofs and in the good old days, the writer could be charged for making major changes.

Back in the day, some vanity/subsidy publishers found clients with very little problem, because they prayed upon the "vanity" of the hopeful writer that suddenly found a willing publisher to handle their work. I remember seeing the ads on television and on matchbook covers. "Are you an author in need of a publisher?" was one tag line. The publisher really did not care how good the work was.

This situation has not changed much, except that there are far more "publishers" out there waiting for gullible writers. The sad thing is, the books published by these fly by night "publishers" stand very little (if any) chance of being taken seriously.

These days, you can publish with a click of the button, so thousands of writers simply decide to forgo the perceived hassles and they publish something that still requires work. We all seem to take the path of least resistance, so these offers look good to us. Some writers are new and they have not investigated the publishing process enough to say, as it is now, traditional publishing sucks because it is impossible for the new writer to break in.

I would suggest that every writer carefully read his or her contracts. If you are spending several thousand dollars, have a lawyer vet the contract before you dare sign it. Start doing your research and asking question; you will be better off in the end.

Robert Maxey - Salt Lake City, Utah

Publish America - Is There Value in Your PA Contract?

A PublishAmerica (PA) Fan Cries Out: (Forced to Paraphrase)

Editor’s note: This post was changed because I screwed the pooch. I did not seek permission to post this particular writer’s Yahoo Group posts and she is mad. I am big enough to admit my error. Apparently she wanted me to give credit or paraphrase. She really does not want credit; I know I would not want to be attached to a boatload of laughable advice. In the future, I'll give her credit.

So I am taking a few moments to make a change.

She said that PA guarantees your book can be ordered through a bookstore, and PA never guarantees your book will be available in the stores. True, but when you consider that PA tells its customers they send out a printed catalog, many customers probably assume there is some degree of marketing, and there is a good chance their books will be on the bookstore shelves. She said, "You have no grip on reality." Apparently not.

I also said:

The problem is, very few PA books (if any) will ever make it into the bookstores. If PA says they will not try to get your books into the stores, they are useless. I do not know about you, but I want my books in the stores.

One major issue is how PA handles returns. If they (or any publisher) do not accept returns, few booksellers will jump at the chance to stock the book. As a self-publisher, you need to call your local bookstore, ask for the buyer, and tell him or her you are a publisher and you do not accept returns. See what happens.

PA will tell you any bookstore can order your book. So what? If the work has an ISBN number, yes, any bookstore can order the work. This is a rather useless selling point and somewhat misleading. I can obtain an ISBN number for the notebook I use to record household chores and almost anyone can order it.

Writers often tell me that their books are carried or can be ordered by the major on-line sellers, but so what? Anyone can do the same thing, so what is the true value of anything that anyone can do with little or no effort?

A book by a mainstream publisher certainly stands a far better chance of making it into the stores. If you want to succeed, your book MUST be in the bookstores. Then again, perhaps you do not care either way or just being able to hand someone your published book is all you need to float your literary boat. Luck to you.

You will probably find a book published by Random at your local store long before most books published by PA. The only exceptions I can think of are the local author's books. I can always look in the "Local Authors" section and find books written by Utah writers. They are not PA books; I have yet to see a PA book in any of the stores I frequent. A few are, however, self-published.

To be completely fair, IF PA published "The Christmas Box" they might have had an actual best seller. TCB was an anomaly. Google the book and read its history.

Traditional publishers will try to get your book into the stores. Mainstream publishers are well known and they have a record of accomplishment. The book buyer knows a book published by Random House meets some basic level of quality. Chances are, PA will not bust their ass to promote a writer's work. It almost goes without saying that most stores will stock all new Random House books.

I have asked several local buyers about the catalog PA sends out. Without fail, the book buyers tell me the same thing: they toss those catalogs and they never order from them. Nothing more than junk mail.

The BS continues, adding:

Apparently, I do not know what publishers do or how they work. This clever soul apparently believes the writer is always responsible for filing for a copyright. If we are talking about traditional editors and agents, chances are they will take care of securing copyright protection on behalf of the author. Not always, but they are there to help.

With most “publishers” that are catering to gullible beginners, yes, the writer must handle copyright on their own. I recall one publisher that will do this for a hundred dollar processing fee.

Remember, I am talking about traditional publishers vs. all the rest. This would include self-publishing or vanity/subsidy. It all boils down to the contract you sign.

I said:

Quite often, the publisher will help the writer copyright his or her book. Some publishers might simply do that as a part of the publishing process and covered by the contract. I cannot speak for every publisher, however.

I can argue that you should not have said, "You are still very ignorant of the publishing business . . ." You are not exactly a font of publishing wisdom. You appear to be equally ignorant because in past posts, you have told us that traditional publishing sucks, editors steal, publishers now only pay a few hundred dollars in advance money, they demand world rights regardless of what the agent says, and self-publishing is the only profitable option available to writers. I cry for you. I am also amazed that you chose to copy and paste the PA web site promotional copy here to further your cause. (Snipped that part)

When you sell your book to Random House, you can bet Random House will help you secure a proper copyright. Your agent will certainly protect your rights.

Anger arrives:

This wonk was upset because a writer posted about her problems with a particular publisher. Bad editors or screwy terms, as I recall.

I said:

Speak for yourself please. We all need to discuss those firms that might be taking advantage of inexperienced writers, and I do not fault the poster for telling us her tale of woe. Well, up to a point, when whining becomes a tad too much to handle. Some innocent publishers might tell the writer something the writer does not understand and perceives as a rip-off. We need to know about bad editors and bad publishers. The swindles, rip-offs, and the reality of the business must be discussed.

To quote, ”so called other publishers" paid the copyright fee they must have taken it out of the money you probably paid to get published by them.”

I argued:

The fee is a minor issue and it is not worth mentioning. If it is deducted from the writer's earnings, so what? Many publishers deduct many things unless you negotiate your contract. Some publishers simply pay the fees and their legal department handles the paperwork. I take it you have never read a real publishing contract, have you?

This child pointed out that all books have some errors, and she has read best sellers with typos. In fact, she went on to say, “I know missed a few punctuation marks in my first book, but I consider it good luck to have at least one typo in my books. If it doesn't hurt John Grisham's book, it won't hurt mine.”

She considers typos to be “good luck.” Her output must allow her to win big in Vegas. All that good luck, and all.

I am amazed she has read every book and can say that without laughing. My argument was when you compare self-published books (not all) to traditionally published books; it is likely a higher percentage of the self-published books will have problems.

I said:

True, no book is perfect. There are probably more errors in a typical self-published book than you will see in a traditionally published book. Do not compare yourself and your books to John and his books. You are not John Grisham.

Why would you consider mistakes to be good luck? Give me a break. Leaving in a few errors is not luck; it is sloppy writing and inadequate editing. After the work, you might have a few minor errors, but they should be there not because you think it is good luck, but because you missed something. Actually, they should not be there in the first place.

By the way, a best seller is a best seller, not a "so-called best seller." A few typos in your book might not hurt you; then again, I do not know what you try to write. In my books, a typo can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Apparently, this poster is not aware of what happens to a book once bought by a traditional publisher. Many people are involved by the time it is printed, errors are rare. No so with a PA book. Apparently, their editing is not at all competent. Google them and read a few facts from real writers that actually know what the hell they are doing. Stop parroting “bad writer dot com.”

She did say that it is the author's responsibility to write the best book possible. I agree, to a point. She said if the editor makes mistakes, authors should return the work until it is correct. Easy to say; most editors will not (probably) invest the time in an unknown writer’s work, unless it is stellar.

She also said, “You don't go crying to the public to get attention because your book sucks and no one wants to buy it.”

I said:

Part of the editor's job to make sure the book is as good as it can be. Great books become better when a skillful editor is involved. Even Stephen King relies on an editor. In fact, King often credits his editor for making his book a better book.

PA does not take a personal interest in the writer's effort. Their goal is to sign up as many writers as they can. I suppose Random House could operate using PA's business model. They could offer their writers one-dollar advances and take absolutely everything that comes over the transom. Then we would be laughing at Random House.

PA is NOT a traditional publisher by any stretch of the imagination. It is high time you learn that simple fact. I would also suggest that you refrain from saying that a list member's book "sucks." Have you read it? I did not think so.

She then suggests writers (again) should not point out the problematic editors and publishers. I cannot agree; we all need to know who the sharks are. And there are plenty.

I said:

Well, you are a PA client. It really comes as no surprise that you would defend them. Do a web search for "Publish America" and read what others have to say.

PA is certainly not without their problems and there share of detractors that frankly, often know far more about publishing than ninety nine percent of PA's clients.

She said, “No one cares about Dee and her sob story except for Dee. Oh, and the other few authors who are looking for attention.”

I said:

Stop speaking for me. We should care about these issues because they can affect our business. Hell, I can bang out a crafts or computer book and most likely, find a publisher. A few others on this list could this as well. So the writing is not the problem; the mechanics and the business end are. New writers need to be careful because new writers are often taken advantage of and screwed to the wall. Bad companies need to be outed, crushed, and killed off.

I am betting that many PA clients actually think that signing a PA contract is a real accomplishment. They need to know that their accomplishment might not mean what they think it does. Go ahead and sign with PA. Just learn the differences between them and a traditional publisher.

PA will likely accept anything sent their way and you do not get a fair advance. One buck is certainly not fair. They claim to have a competent editorial staff, but a Google search will be quite revealing. Apparently, not so good. You do not get much promotional help from PA beyond the mass mailed catalog. Many reviewers hate to review these types of books and many mainstream publishers will laugh at you, as will many professional writers and editors.

By the way, I am told that "Publisher's Weekly" does not review PA books. That can hurt the writer. Neither will many literary editors because they get so many bad books. This is not good.

The writer's efforts will not often impress anyone but the writer and his/her family, so the publishing victory is hollow. PA holds themselves out as legitimate publishers and some people bite. You get what you pay for and in accordance with the PA contract. I can't fault PA for their success except to say that in most cases, I'll bet that the writer thinks they have done something amazing.

I find their general approach somewhat misleading and I see little value overall. However, if you decide to use their services, read your contracts. I might not like PA, but I can disagree with how they promote their services to others.

In my view, their focus is money and most certainly not literary excellence. Mainstream publishers are generally more concerned with the quality of the book than PA is, as any writer that sells a book to a mainstream publisher will attest. Crap is not going to be as readily published by legitimate publishers to the extent it is published by publishers many find questionable.

You should not use PA (and similar vanity and subsidy outfits) until you think it through with great care and talk to a good literary lawyer. My personal belief is Publish America is a bad deal for most writers.

Robert Maxey - Salt Lake City, Utah