Monday, June 11, 2018

More Evidence People Suck: More Scams to Fleece Writers

Two articles caught my eye today during my daily scan of various blogs:

So-called hybrid publishing


"Because of indie publishing, the old vanity presses are reinventing themselves to look like hybrid small publishers or publishing service providers."

Your book could be a movie!


"These people are asking an indie author to pay a huge amount of money to a screenwriter to write a screenplay based on a self-published book."

Read the entire article.

And...


"Bad players in our industry prey upon unsuspecting independent authors by disguising themselves as traditional publishing houses and using deceptive marketing tactics ...  They take advantage of new authors’ naivete, peddle false promises, sometimes even swindling them into signing away the rights to their manuscripts. Then, they leave the author with a fat bill ... Some companies will host faux writing or book contests for big cash prizes or the chance of a lucrative publishing contract. These contests are usually a front for piracy or for trying to get their marketing hooks into you. Don’t buy into them."

Read the entire article.

Please, think before you sign up.

P.S. - I say more evidence people suck because I read about a dog-fighting ring that kidnaps people's pets and heard a podcast about human trafficking (someone in the area tried to buy a 14 year old girl for sex!) right here in my own backyard. So, I have a somewhat sour view of people right now.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Goodreads

I've expanded my presence on Goodreads. I beefed up my profile description, indicated my preferred genres (cheap, trashy novels wasn't one of the options, but I did the best I could) and found some more friends. I've struggled with the marketing side of self-publishing since I formatted my first book 5 years ago. I've read that authors (and publishers) need an active social media presence. But where? Some "experts" say Facebook, some Twitter, and some Instagram. Goodreads is rarely mentioned. As of September 2017, Goodreads reported 65 million members. That's only 3% of Facebook's 2.19 billion users. But, those 65 million users are mostly readers, prone to buying books - and reviewing them. (How many of your Facebook friends are avid readers?) I have read books about advertising that say you should go where your customers already are to get the word out. It seems apparent to me that authors, publishers and readers should spend more time interacting on Goodreads. I don't mean you should abandon other social media outlets, but shift some time toward Goodreads. If you love books and reading, the conversations are bound to be more stimulating that yet more posts about President CombOver! 😃

Writers: Too Easy to Fleece

Writers, especially those desperate for publication and validation, are easy targets. There is a business model based on this! Two examples of this business model in action: hybrid publishing and writing contests.

Hybrid Publishing

It used to be called vanity publishing. The 21st century name for it is hybrid publishing. A friend of mine sent his manuscript out looking for an agent or publisher. So far, one has responded. They claim his book has been reviewed and chosen, but really they have chosen him to be a customer. For around $2,400 they will publish his book. The price itself is not outrageous. I've been through this process a number of times now and believe it's difficult to adequately self-publish a book for less that that. Even though the number sounds right, there is still more work to do before you sign up.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau website (bbb.org) and search for the company. Check the Writer Beware® website (accrispin.blogspot.com). I check both of these, in addition to a google search, to see if their offer is a scam or if there are lots of complaints about their service. 
  • Can the publisher execute? Look closely at their website. Is it well done? Do they do a good job promoting their own books on their own website? Look at their books on Amazon. How do the covers and the marketing descriptions look? Buy one of their books, or at least check out a few pages using the "Look Inside" feature, to see how well they edited the book. Just because it's a low price doesn't mean it's a good value.
  • Finally, pay close attention to the terms of the deal, the fine print. What rights are you giving up? For how long? What is your cut? How often will you be paid (Createspace pays monthly)? Is everything clearly defined? For example, my friend's deal stated he would receive 50% of the net profits. We could not find any definition of net profit. I would want to know. How much, if any, control will you have over the final edit and the cover?
My bottom line: If you are going to spend that much money self-publishing anyway, why not get all the profits and have all the control over the finished product? What value is there in going with a no-name publisher who is charging you for the privilege?

Contests

Poets & Writers magazine had an article in the May / June 2018 edition about writing contests. P&W studied 651 contests held in 2017. 514 charged a median entry fee of $20. The remaining 137 charged no fee at all. The 514 that charged a fee paid out $1,855,875 in prize money. The 137 that charged no fee paid out $5,154,660! The big difference: 77% of the sponsors of the no-fee contests were non-profits or universities. The majority of the fee-charging contests were sponsored by private companies seeking to profit. My bottom line: never, ever pay a fee to enter a writing contest. Just don't do it. Let's boycott the fee-charging contests and make them go away.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, Architecture Foundation Tour

I went downtown today to take the Chicago Architecture Foundation Modern Masterpieces:
Marina City and the IBM Building tour. The weather was quite variable. Nice on the train ride down and the walk to lunch at O'Briens on the riverwalk, The clouds darkened at lunch and the beginning of the tour, getting really nice again at the end of the tour and walk back to the train station.

Looking northeast from my seat at lunch on Chicago's riverwalk.

Looking northwest at lunch. Note the darkening skies. Marina Towers are the
round buildings on the left and the IBM building is the black monolith on the right.

The State Street bridge is raised to let some sailboats through while I ate. The bridges
are massive and awesome when raised.

Looking southwest from Marina Towers.

Straight up at the east tower of
Marina Towers and the IBM
Building east of it. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lynne Handy's Latest Book is Now Available!


Lynne Handy's latest book, Let Us Be Raucous, is now available on Amazon! I played a small part in its production - I did the interior design and assembled the cover (though the cover art itself, and all the illustrations inside, are Lynne's). I did read some of it as I formatted the interior and there is some powerful stuff in here.

Note: If you click on the link and buy this book, I get a tiny, tiny commission! I am part of the Amazon Associates program. Occasionally I will promote or review a book and usually the link will earn me a commission if you buy the book. Don't see any bad reviews? I rarely finish a book that isn't worth my time. I give them until about page 50 or so before I decide that life is too short. If I don't read the whole book, I don't review it.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Summer morning in Geneva, Illinois:

Graham's Ice Cream. It's only 9-something, but soon these chairs will be occupied with people eating ice cream.


Perfect morning to sit outside and consume your morning caffeine! 

Waiting for the train into the city; I suspect they are hoping it's cooler by the lake.

I'm Just a Mid-Century Modern Kind of Guy


On Wednesday (May 23, 2018), I went into Chicago to take a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour of the Inland Steel Building. Built in 1958, it is a classic example of modern architecture. It was a beautiful day to go into the city, as I hope the pictures show.

Willis Tower, or as I will always call it: the Sears Building

Stunning day. Lots of people out!

Sailboats heading out to Lake Michigan for the summer, waiting for the bridge to go up.



Lots of boat traffic on a gorgeous day!

Just a picture of buildings because it's my blog and I can.
The Inland Steel Building

Artwork in the lobby, added when the building was built.
Radiant One by Richard Lippold

Radiant One - foreground.
Blood Mirror by Anish Kapoor, added in 2017 in background.

Shot of the lobby from Monroe - no columns in the interior of the building
makes great light and feeling of open space!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Do You Need An SSL?

Maybe.

I received an email today that looked like this from my web hosting company:


You may have received one also. If not, you probably will. Google is changing things a bit in July and sites that do not utilize a secure, encrypted connection will contain a "Not Secure" designation. You can tell a secure site from an unsecure site by the URL. If the URL contains "https//," it's a secured site and the information to it is encrypted. If the URL contains "http://," it isn't secured. Sites are already labeled as not secured. Today, the waterlinewriters.org website shows this on some browsers. Look in the upper left corner, next to the URL. It says Not Secure. I think in July you're going to see that and the little triangle, in red or yellow, to highlight it.


You can click the little "i" next to the Not Secure phrase to get an explanation.


As you can see, it says that you should not enter any sensitive information on this site, like passwords or credit card information.

Should you care about all this?

If your site is display-only, probably not. Will people be put off when they see "Not Secure" on your site? I bet most won't even notice. It's likely they don't notice now. People will probably learn not to enter data on sites that aren't secure, but will probably not stop going to sites that show that warning. If your site does take credit card information, requires a sign on to interact, or takes email addresses, then you may have a problem. If you sell things off your site, but all your payment transactions are handled by Paypal (for example - there are other options that are also secure), you may have to explain it a little better on your site, but you should be OK. If you have a newsletter signup, you may want to switch and use the Mailchimp or Constant Contact signup page (which is secured) rather than your own. So, you might have to make some minor tweaks.

What are your options?

  1. Do nothing. If your site is a blog or a site talking about your books but you never ask for any input then you can simply leave it be. Evaluate after the July 1st change and see if it impacts your traffic.
  2. Pay your hosting company for the SSL certificate. My hosting company offers an SSL certificate for one website for $60 the first year, $75 after that. That's above the hosting fee you are already paying. 
  3. Switch. As you can see, I switched back to Google's blogspot, where I started blogging 12 years ago. Most of you that know me know I'm cheap - and blogspot is free and already offers the SSL coverage. Other options: if you are a Wordpress fan, consider moving to wordpress.com (that is Wordpress's hosting platform - you are probably using Wordpress on another company like GoDaddy or Bluehost). Since they are both Wordpress, the transition should be fairly smooth. Or, you could consider Squarespace or Wix, but that might require a re-do of your site. All three of these options offer SSL coverage as part of the standard offering. Previously, these options could be more expensive than hosting packages like GoDaddy or Bluehost, but after you add in the cost of the SSL coverage, it's about equal. Wordpress.com, Wix, and Squarespace offer ease of use options over hosting Wordpress on traditional hosting platforms. 

There's no reason to panic and do something immediately, despite what the ads imply (remember, they have something to sell you). You might have to make a change if you see your Google ranking take a dive (Google says it will give "more points" to secured sites) or if you hear from your fans that they are now leery of going to your site. But, I'd wait until after the July 1 transition and see what happens.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

We The People Need the Line-Item Veto!

Trump said that he needed to have the line-item veto when the budget bill came to his desk. Apparently, the Supreme Court has ruled that unconstitutional, so it’s not going to happen. You know who really needs the line-item veto? We do! Imagine this…

At tax time, after we figure out how much we owe (or already paid via our withholding), we get to apportion our tax payments to the programs we support. This would not reduce our tax burden, but give us a chance to “vote with our pocketbook” – something conservatives seem to encourage us to do quite often as opposed to picking up signs and protesting. So, if I think the border wall is a stupid idea (I do), then I zero that project out and apply that money to education. Or, I don’t think we should be meddling in Syria (I don’t), so I zero that out and give the money to the EPA to make sure we have clean air and water. Your choices may be different. But, it would be a really interesting experiment to see what we the people truly support and what we do not!

This will never happen of course. The powers that be, the people, corporations, and organizations donating huge sums of money to our elected officials do not care what we the people want – they paid for their Congressmen and they expect value for their payment! And our wishes go unheeded.

Recycled from the previous VoiceOfDoomAndGloom.com.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Two Simple Rules That Would Make the World Better

I saw an article recently that quoted an evangelical in defense of Trump and his various lies, affairs and other misdeeds. She quoted the Bible: Matthew 7:1 - "For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." She said we should not be judgemental, that if God forgives, we should also. I don't know this for a fact, but I would doubt she granted that same forgiveness to Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky mess. I googled that quote from the Bible and google informed me there were related quotes:

Luke 6:37 - "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

John 8:7 - "When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.'"

Romans 2:1 - "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

I used to think that if everyone followed the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) the world would be a far better place. Now I think I want to add another rule based on these scriptures: Mind your own damn business! Don't believe in abortion? Don't have one. Think being gay is a sin? Don't be gay. It's none of your business what other people choose. Not everyone thinks the same as you do. You can choose whatever lifestyle you care to as long as it meets these two simple rules:

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2. Mind your own business.

How hard can that be? The world would be so much nicer.

Recycled from VoiceOfDoomAndGloom.com.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Reset Your Expectations - Improve Your Life

I believe expectations are key factors related to our happiness or unhappiness. Unrealistic expectations, driven by a multi-billion dollar positive thinking industry and the advertising business, have created an environment of perpetual dissatisfaction.

Consider the following scenario.

My wife and I are going on vacation. Our respective expectations regarding the process of getting to our vacation destination could not be more opposed.

She has the more typical American expectation. She expects, demands, that everything go smoothly. She expects no traffic delays, no long security lines, and that the plane will leave on time. If everyone is behaving and just does their job correctly, as they should, all will be well. Her rosy outlook is reflected in her desire to leave for the airport quite a bit later than I.

I, on the other hand, characterized as the “voice of doom and gloom,” believe traffic will be delayed on the way to the airport, the security lines will be outrageously long, and the plane will not leave on time. My view is frowned upon in America. I am a negative thinker and that is thought of as wrong. Many people think my way of thinking is a malady that needs to be cured.

Let’s consider two possible outcomes.

First, everything goes bad. Traffic on the way to the airport is a nightmare. We arrive at the security line with less than an hour until boarding. The security line is insanely long and moving at a snail’s pace. We get to the gate with minutes to spare, only to discover our flight is delayed due to some vague mechanical issue.

My wife is in a foul mood. Nothing met her expectations. Nothing went the way it was supposed to. Her vacation is off to a rough start. I, on the other hand, while not overjoyed about events, feel it’s just par for the course. All my expectations have been met. While I dare not utter it, I have the satisfaction of an “I told you so” running in my mind.

Second, let’s assume everything goes perfect. There is no traffic to speak of. We arrive at security with plenty of time to spare, only to find there are no lines and we’re at the gate with more than an hour to kill. We have time to get lunch or, in my case, a bourbon or two. The plane is not delayed, in fact boarding goes so smoothly we actually leave a few minutes early (it happens).

My wife is in a great mood. Her vacation is off to a good start. Now she has the “I told you so” feeling coursing through her. While my prognostication was wrong, I am quite happy. Reality has wildly exceeded my expectations. My vacation is off to a great start.

In my opinion the more realistic expectation is the most advantageous. Acknowledging Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong) allows you to feel better no matter the outcome. If all goes wrong, you’ve prepared for it (you left way too early according to the unrealistic - otherwise known as optimists) and reality met your expectations. The downside of reality has been minimized to the best of your ability. If, on the other hand, anything, or everything, goes right, your expectations have been exceeded - and that makes you happier than merely having expectations met.

The realist will have the downside minimized and either expectations met, or expectations exceeded. The unrealistic will either be miserable because expectations have not been met, or at best, will have expectations met.

Which do you think is better?

Reset your expectations. That’s my new tagline for this blog in 2018. In some cases, our bar is too low (the bar for our elected leaders certainly has dropped lately) and in other circumstances our expectations clearly ignore reality and are far too high. Pay attention to your expectations regarding life. Examine where they came from. Ignore most media depictions of how life should be and almost all advertising. Be realistic, it’s the key to your happiness.

Recycled from VoiceOfDoomAndGloom.com.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Good Article Regarding the Premature Obituary for Ebooks!

Ebooks are not dying. The problem is that the major publishing industry reporting outlets do not track them. Most eBook self-published authors don't bother with the expense of an ISBN number, so the traditional publishing world has no idea what is really going on.

From the article:

"Since 2015, major news outlets, including this one, have reported the triumphant return of print: that 'real' books are back, and ebooks have lost their gleam ... Of course, it’s not entirely true. Yes, ebooks are doing just fine: Americans consume hundreds of millions of them a year. But many of their authors are writing and publishing books, and finding massive audiences, without being actively tracked by the publishing industry. In fact, the company through which they publish and distribute their books, a tech behemoth disguised as a benevolent, content-agnostic retailer, is the only entity with any real idea of what’s going on in publishing as a whole.

'Honestly, Bowker’s numbers are completely useless,' says David Gaughran, a self-published author of historical fiction who blogs about the business of getting published on your own. 'They’re worse than useless, because they’re taken as reliable, and they’re not.'"

Read the entire article: https://qz.com/1240924/are-ebooks-dying-or-thriving-the-answer-is-yes/