May 08
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The Marketer Says, and I Quote

Yen Chen Support's Professional Marketing Team ensures you a proposition and a set of benefits for your end customer, delivering the true value of what you have got to offer.

Start now! Prosper by paying due attention to your products and services with Yen Chen Support's Web Design, E-Mail Marketing, and Online Listing Marketing Services!

[What's this about? See below.]
May 08
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I'm Rich and Devoid of Common Sense

  • If sending out a mass e-mail to 5 million perfect strangers, at a cost to you of $2,359, sounds to you like an effective way to market your self-published book. . .
  • If you think establishing an author website or a book website* will make your book sales soar. . .
  • If it sounds like a good idea to spend $1,387 to submit the link from your website to 3,000 websites with no guarantees that any of them will post your link. . . is for you. I'm in some sort of database of self-published authors. Yenchen phoned me this morning. When I expressed interest in their company, of which I had never heard, they passed my call up to a guy who spoke better English and told me all about their services for self-published authors. If I signed up today I'd get 30 percent off.

I wish at this time to let everyone know that "self-published" does not mean "rich" or "naive" or "devoid of common sense."

*All authors should have such a site, but such sites aren't sales tools. They are contact tools. When was the last time you bought a book through an author's website?
May 08
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Follow the Amazon Anti-Trust Lawsuit

The plaintiff ( in the Amazon/BookSurge anti-trust lawsuit is posting a chronicle of events at

Also, in comments published on this site and Booklocker's, a self-published author warns that when she attempted to close her account with an Amazon affiliate publisher and switch to another, they "retired" her title. When she protested, wanting the book entirely out of their hands, they said they would fully "remove" her book from Amazon's listings. But they didn't, so it's still there; it's just that nobody can buy it. When closing her account they "retired" the title of a book of hers that was almost in press, a move that made that title theirs; she fought and got it back, but only on a technicality. Now that's artificial difficulty! A crazy-making situation more than worthy of the May 2008 Artificial Difficulty Award.
May 08
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The Self-Publisher Options You Need and Don't Need

Every self-publishing firm offers a number of optional services on top of its base price. If you want a professional-quality book, these are the options you want:

-Professional copyediting and proofreading of the initial manuscript and final proof. Money spent on this is money well spent. Don't economize by trying this alone. Your readers will love finding the inevitable errors, and you will hate paying the self-publisher to correct and reprint your book.
-Professional layout or setup of the book's interior. This may be called "the setup fee" and is often included in the base price. The self-publisher has the proper software for this.
-Professional cover design. You may supply the photo or illustration, but don't insist on drawing or lettering your own cover. If you don't like what the publisher's graphic artist suggests, ask for another design.
-Register your book with the Library of Congress. It sounds easy: Fill out forms and write a check. But the forms are complicated, rather like patent applications, and with my first book only an 18-month correspondence straightened everything out. Save your mental health and pay $100 to get it done.

Don't waste your money on:
-Independently buying your own cut-rate ISBN number for your book. A self-publishing firm will not be able to use it.
-The pricey package allowing you "unlimited customization" of your book. Why pay your chosen self-publishing firm thousands of dollars just for the luxury of spurning its help and advice?
-Promotional or marketing packages that will compose press releases, send your books to reviewers, and so on. Self-published books do not benefit from these tactics.
May 08
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Amazon's BookSurge Personally Phones Me

May 19: Anti-trust lawsuit filed against for pressing self-publishers to print books exclusively through its subsidiary company, BookSurge.

May 20, 12 noon: A promotional E-mail from BookSurge (how’d they find me?) offers me 20 free copies of my own book if I self-publish with them before May 30. I’m curious and reply.

May 21, 10:20 a.m.: A deft and polite BookSurge sales rep ACTUALLY PHONES ME. I said I had a 90-page book of poetry, print-ready, in PDF format. Faint hint of dismay (poetry?!) detected. To publish this book in paperback I’d pay them only $299 and get 1 copy. If, like most authors, I had a plain, no-pictures, word-processing manuscript, not print-ready, requiring interior layout and design, I’d pay $499 and get 1 copy.

Honestly, the above two deals are competitive in all details with other good self-publishers. Except Booksurge alone can currently say, coquettishly, “We are one of the few self-publishing, print-on-demand companies that can guarantee availability on always.”

But what about my 20 free copies? I asked the rep. Turns out that Booksurge’s May special isn’t for penny-ante printing like mine, but for their Total Design Freedom Packages: $799 to $2,749. (Note: The traditional publishing industry has never given authors a say in their covers or bindings, much less total design freedom. It sounds good, but you don’t need it.)

Like other PODs, BookSurge has optional promotional tools, but only BookSurge, being Amazon, can pair your book with an Amazon bestseller as a tag-along (“buy this too”) suggestion on the bestseller’s page -- if you pay $1,000 a month.
May 08
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Amazon is Getting Sued

Yesterday, May 19, a POD publisher named filed an anti-trust lawsuit against To simplify greatly, in March Amazon declared that POD publishers (and self-published authors) must use and pay THEIR printing service, called BookSurge, if they wanted Amazon to list their books. Booklocker is saying this is unfair -- as it clearly is.

Today, May 20, (in an E-mail stamped 11:20 a.m.) I received "A Special Offer from BookSurge for Authors!" Until the end of May if I self-publish with them they'll give me 20 complimentary copies of my book, plus some nice things a POD gives as a matter of course, such as the copyright to my own book. I also got a freebie eBook listing 555 ways I can market my self-published book. Yawn. I mean, talk about being behind the wave. is the sole source and distributor of the wireless reading pod called the Kindle ($400). It's cool, but it will download only reading matter purchased through Although Kindle users have been agitating for a 2.0 version with more freedom of choice, Amazon has not scheduled any such thing.

Between BookSurge and the Kindle are authors, publishers, and consumers, all getting squeezed. We liked it when Amazon just sold books. Now it's like the boa constrictor that's so big and tangled it doesn't realize that the thing it's strangling is itself.
May 08
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Lately I’ve been tempted to enter writing contests -- local or online. Ach! They are everywhere and are hard for me to resist! Just accompany that 250-word essay or couple of poems with that $10 or $15 "entry fee." Write that check, or give it up to Paypal, because…

PRIDE: The contest is so local/small/restricted that for me it is no contest at all, and my work will surely place, although odds are it will win.
GREED: I need the prize money. I’ll take $100, $50. Or $10.
GLUTTONY: I don’t care what it is or what it costs, I don’t care what I send or who is judging it or how low I’m stooping: I want lots of prizes and I want them now.
SLOTH: If I win or place, it’s an easy gold star to add to my resume, and if not, at least entering the contest was easier than market research or having actual relationships or sending out stuff that might get rejected. Besides, I can only finish things if I’ve got a deadline. . .
ANGER: I’ll win one of these penny-ante writing contests if it’s the last thing I do.
LUST: Sure would like to get my hands on that [prize]!
ENVY: I never saw a prize that I didn’t deserve more than the actual winner did.

Pray for me!
May 08
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Who's Your Fantasy Publisher?

Deciding to spend today thinking big, I wondered: What publisher would I choose for my work if I could choose any one?

I'd choose different publishers for different works, but do I know anything about them, really?

Have I looked each of them up on the Net? Visited its website? Looked at, perhaps even ordered its catalog? Checked out its other authors? Know the names of the editors I'd be working with if my fantasy came true? Whether the firm is solvent or if there are rumors of mergers or collapse? Whether it has an ePublishing division?

Why no, I haven't done any of that, even while knowing very well that we all have to know what we want before we have any chance of getting it.
May 08
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Show Business for Writers: Three More Tips

#4. SLOW IT DOWN! Writers tend to read aloud at the same speed that they read with their eyes! Yes, you're doing a “reading,” but you’re not “reading” – you’re speaking. Speak SLOWLY and CLEARLY, at about half to one-third of your normal speaking speed, and don't be afraid to pause. Audiences need time to let your words sink in. This may feel “theatrical” to you first-timers. Check by rehearsing in front of friends or peers.

#5. Respect your audience (said Danny Thomas). Go onstage STONE SOBER and NEVER drink or smoke until your program is over. Don’t try to make people laugh. They will laugh if they want to; you can’t make them. Literate audiences are there to hear literature, and resent gimmickry. I once saw a poet accompany himself by twirling a plastic jumprope over his head to get a “whoop-whoop” background sound. If poet has a guitar, I leave. (It's like Madonna with her guitar; too embarrassing to witness.) At another reading, a cellist "echoed" the poetry. This supposed enhancement felt endless. But I was stuck in the front row and couldn't move, so I listened to the cello, which was a heck of a lot better than the poetry. Don't risk a comparison!

#6. "Always look better than they do" (Steve Martin). You may think that your normal scruffiness conveys that you are unpretentious, all-natural, and at one with the people, but in fact you are covertly communicating an insult to your audience: “I look like a slob because I want to look like one of you.” I saw a prizewinning poet read in jeans and t-shirt and sneakers that made her look as if she was about to clean her bathroom.
May 08
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Show Business for Writers, Tips #1, #2, #3

May is Mental Health Month. It’s also Better Speech and Hearing Month. May 4-10 is “Reading is Fun” Week. So let’s talk about reading your work to an audience. I’ll assume you want to do it well.

A google for “show business for writers” turned up nothing. Ditto for “stage etiquette for authors” and related searches. But I did find advice from some great entertainers. So here are the first three tips from an ongoing list.

#1. At public readings people aren’t there to admire your looks or talent. All audiences hope above all to be entertained. That doesn’t mean “make them laugh.” To “entertain” originally meant “to hold together.” Your job is to hold the audience’s collective attention and give them a complete and satisfying experience.

#2. Read your best work. There is no substitute for good material (says Liza Minnelli). When you’re planning what to read, variety is nice, but if you must choose between variety or quality, choose quality.

#3. Nervous about it? We all are. So plan, rehearse, and time your program well before the performance date. This bestows confidence. All entertainers prepare with rehearsals. Select your work, put it in some sort of order, and get comfortable with your chosen program by reading it aloud several times. Some writers say, “I get there and check out the crowd and then decide what to read.” That isn’t as cool as it sounds. I’ve seen it result in self-conscious, muddled ("uh, I dunno if I should read you this one. . .”) and overlong performances. “Overlong” means longer than you’ve been asked to read. Every audience hates a stage hog. I once saw a local poet introduce a nationally famous poet by reading his own 20-minute ode to her. Everyone wanted to murder this guy.
May 08
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Awesome Small Press and Litmag Database

Wouldn't it be nice to know: How long you'll REALLY wait between a submission and acceptance? What percentage of mss. a publisher rejects? If they pay a little or a lot? The top 25 publishing venues with the largest percentage of acceptances?

Fiction writers and poets, genre and literary: Toss your Writers Market and search over 2100 mags and small publishers with Duotrope Digest's free database and reports. Search by genre, payscale, length of your work. . . receive guideline info, plus unique Better-Business-Bureau info (see example below), updated daily by writers just like you! Click on Duotrope's file tab "Curious?" for aggregate info such the top 25 venues with the quickest response times.

Example: I searched Genre>Literary; Media>Print. Below is part of the report for the litmag The Painted Bride Quarterly (chosen at random). Good Lord, expect to wait 242 days for an acceptance -- a ghastly wait that inspired 44 percent of the authors to withdraw their submissions after an average of 150 days.

Days Reported 8 | 191.7* | 474 (min | avg | max)
Responses (51.9%)
Acceptances: 7.4% (242 days avg. per acceptance)
Rejections: 44.4% (210.5 days avg. per rejection) | 16.7% personal, 50% form, 33.3% unspecified
Rewrite Requests: -
Non-Responses (48.1%)
Assumed Rejections: 3.7% (364 days avg. per assumed rejection without response)
Author Withdrawals: 44.4% (151.8 days avg. per withdrawal by author)
Other Information
Most recent response reported was received on: 14 Apr 2008
Responses have been received for submissions sent as late as: 17 Sep 2007
(74.1% of the responses reported to us for this market have taken longer than 60 days.)
May 08
Written by

Pay the Writer

Get to YouTube any way you can and watch "Pay the Writer", 3 minutes with scrappy screenwriter Harlan Ellison.

If you've ever wanted to get paid for writing, this is a must-see. No matter what you write. Warning: some profanity. (You will still smile.) And pass the link to all your writer friends.