inverarity: (Default)
It's not the first time I've seen this: a fan fiction author who's achieved BNF status and whose stories have become fairly popular and well known within the small pool of fandom (and even the Harry Potter fandom is a small pool relative to the world at large, sorry to say) thinks maybe all those thousands of hits and flattering reviews saying "You should become a professional author, I would totally buy your books!" might actually translate into a writing career.

To my knowledge, this has never, ever worked for anyone.

You are a BNF in a tiny, tiny pool )
inverarity: (Default)
It's not the first time I've seen this: a fan fiction author who's achieved BNF status and whose stories have become fairly popular and well known within the small pool of fandom (and even the Harry Potter fandom is a small pool relative to the world at large, sorry to say) thinks maybe all those thousands of hits and flattering reviews saying "You should become a professional author, I would totally buy your books!" might actually translate into a writing career.

To my knowledge, this has never, ever worked for anyone.

You are a BNF in a tiny, tiny pool )
inverarity: (Default)
Well, obviously not all of them are this evil. But holy crap.

Yes, this is from Robert Fletcher, the same guy I have posted about previously, who runs a variety of vanity presses under the Strategic Publishing Group (and who has even harassed my tiny little blog, or his marksclients have).

The desperation of wannabe authors knows no bounds. All the hacks throwing their unedited RPG fanfics up on Amazon are now calling themselves "indie publishers."
inverarity: (Default)
Well, obviously not all of them are this evil. But holy crap.

Yes, this is from Robert Fletcher, the same guy I have posted about previously, who runs a variety of vanity presses under the Strategic Publishing Group (and who has even harassed my tiny little blog, or his marksclients have).

The desperation of wannabe authors knows no bounds. All the hacks throwing their unedited RPG fanfics up on Amazon are now calling themselves "indie publishers."
inverarity: (Default)
It's kind of funny that Strategic Publishing has to send people to defend them on my l'il LiveJournal with less than a hundred readers. I'm not likely to start a meme that takes off across the internet.

Cory Doctorow says all complex ecosystems have parasites. The growing ease of epublishing, combined with the ongoing difficulties of the traditional publishing industry, are certainly creating an increase in the number of parasites in that ecosystem.

One of those parasites is James Frey (yes, the same James Frey who wrote a fabricated "memoir" and got spanked by Oprah). Now he's started a publishing company called Full Fathom Five which is basically a YA novel assembly line. Despite the fact that professional authors are weighing in to point out that Frey's contract is rapacious and predatory, evidently he's had no trouble reeling in desperate suckers with freshly-minted MFAs in creative writing and dreams of Hollywood lucre.

You come up with a pitch Frey likes, you write the book, you get paid... wait for it.... $250. Yes, that's three measly digits before the decimal point. And a 30%-40% share in any revenues generated by it, which means in theory you get 40% of the take if your $250 idea becomes the next Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Hunger Games. Which is, you know, kind of unlikely, because if you can do that, what the fuck do you need James Frey for? Oh, right, his name and industry connections will give you an edge in putting your work in front of editors and producers. Unfortunately, what it won't do is put your name in front of them, since one of the terms of the contract is that you don't control the use of your name and can't even admit your involvement in the project.

Not only is this exploiting authors, it's an insulting and cynical exploitation of the YA market. Frey is as much as saying "These dumb kids will read assembly line product if it's packaged nicely enough."

(Okay, actually, he's right. But every genre is full of extruded product -- YA just happens to be the most profitable right now so the crap ratio is even higher.)

With this in mind, I was not happy to go to Borders.com and find this.

Basically, it's Borders putting their name on a Smashwords-type venture, except BookBrewer charges more than Smashwords, takes a larger cut, and is less up-front about how publishing works. You pay $80 for them to turn whatever you fling online into an auto-formatted ebook which they then put on Borders, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. But those big names might lead you to believe that you're actually being published by Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc., and that your books will appear alongside those of real authors.

It's kind of interesting watching these ecosystems develop. Just like when the web started to really take off (circa late 90s), the parasites are swarming and finding their niches. I'll really be kind of interested to see what publishing looks like in ten or twenty years.
inverarity: (Default)
It's kind of funny that Strategic Publishing has to send people to defend them on my l'il LiveJournal with less than a hundred readers. I'm not likely to start a meme that takes off across the internet.

Cory Doctorow says all complex ecosystems have parasites. The growing ease of epublishing, combined with the ongoing difficulties of the traditional publishing industry, are certainly creating an increase in the number of parasites in that ecosystem.

One of those parasites is James Frey (yes, the same James Frey who wrote a fabricated "memoir" and got spanked by Oprah). Now he's started a publishing company called Full Fathom Five which is basically a YA novel assembly line. Despite the fact that professional authors are weighing in to point out that Frey's contract is rapacious and predatory, evidently he's had no trouble reeling in desperate suckers with freshly-minted MFAs in creative writing and dreams of Hollywood lucre.

You come up with a pitch Frey likes, you write the book, you get paid... wait for it.... $250. Yes, that's three measly digits before the decimal point. And a 30%-40% share in any revenues generated by it, which means in theory you get 40% of the take if your $250 idea becomes the next Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Hunger Games. Which is, you know, kind of unlikely, because if you can do that, what the fuck do you need James Frey for? Oh, right, his name and industry connections will give you an edge in putting your work in front of editors and producers. Unfortunately, what it won't do is put your name in front of them, since one of the terms of the contract is that you don't control the use of your name and can't even admit your involvement in the project.

Not only is this exploiting authors, it's an insulting and cynical exploitation of the YA market. Frey is as much as saying "These dumb kids will read assembly line product if it's packaged nicely enough."

(Okay, actually, he's right. But every genre is full of extruded product -- YA just happens to be the most profitable right now so the crap ratio is even higher.)

With this in mind, I was not happy to go to Borders.com and find this.

Basically, it's Borders putting their name on a Smashwords-type venture, except BookBrewer charges more than Smashwords, takes a larger cut, and is less up-front about how publishing works. You pay $80 for them to turn whatever you fling online into an auto-formatted ebook which they then put on Borders, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. But those big names might lead you to believe that you're actually being published by Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc., and that your books will appear alongside those of real authors.

It's kind of interesting watching these ecosystems develop. Just like when the web started to really take off (circa late 90s), the parasites are swarming and finding their niches. I'll really be kind of interested to see what publishing looks like in ten or twenty years.
inverarity: (Default)
A couple of weeks ago, I posted Beware of Vanity Press Scams, in which I singled out the Strategic Publishing Group, affiliated with the hydra-headed AEG Publishing Group.

I received this response from an anonymouse:


Your research.
You're comments are way off base and at best, amateur. There are numerous authors published by Strategic that are doing quite well with book sales and book signing events. You should really do more research before making such "preachy" and uninformed opinions yourself. These kinds of comments only question your own morals and your value to the literary community.


Dear anonymouse:

Are you a butthurt author victimized by Strategic and trying to convince yourself you're a real author? (You're not, not in the eyes of the publishing industry, no more than if you listed a self-published book as a publishing credit.)

Or are you, perhaps, Robert M. Fletcher, the person behind AEG?

Here is some more of my research:

Robert Fletcher of Writers' Literary Agency Labelled Fraudulent And Frivolous In Legal Ruling

Robert M. Fletcher, literary scammer

AEG (Writer's Beware)

Writers Literary Agency/AEG Publishing Group/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Absolute Write)

Strategic Book Publishing AEG Publishing Group Complaints - Fraud

So, anonymouse, do tell, name me some of these "numerous authors" published by Strategic who are enjoying such literary success? Name me one book published by Strategic that I can walk into Borders or Barnes & Noble and purchase? (No, ordering off of B&N or Amazon's website doesn't count -- anyone with an internet connection can put their book on Amazon or barnesandnoble.com now.)

(P.S. It's "your comments," not "you're comments.")
inverarity: (Default)
A couple of weeks ago, I posted Beware of Vanity Press Scams, in which I singled out the Strategic Publishing Group, affiliated with the hydra-headed AEG Publishing Group.

I received this response from an anonymouse:


Your research.
You're comments are way off base and at best, amateur. There are numerous authors published by Strategic that are doing quite well with book sales and book signing events. You should really do more research before making such "preachy" and uninformed opinions yourself. These kinds of comments only question your own morals and your value to the literary community.


Dear anonymouse:

Are you a butthurt author victimized by Strategic and trying to convince yourself you're a real author? (You're not, not in the eyes of the publishing industry, no more than if you listed a self-published book as a publishing credit.)

Or are you, perhaps, Robert M. Fletcher, the person behind AEG?

Here is some more of my research:

Robert Fletcher of Writers' Literary Agency Labelled Fraudulent And Frivolous In Legal Ruling

Robert M. Fletcher, literary scammer

AEG (Writer's Beware)

Writers Literary Agency/AEG Publishing Group/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Absolute Write)

Strategic Book Publishing AEG Publishing Group Complaints - Fraud

So, anonymouse, do tell, name me some of these "numerous authors" published by Strategic who are enjoying such literary success? Name me one book published by Strategic that I can walk into Borders or Barnes & Noble and purchase? (No, ordering off of B&N or Amazon's website doesn't count -- anyone with an internet connection can put their book on Amazon or barnesandnoble.com now.)

(P.S. It's "your comments," not "you're comments.")
inverarity: (Default)
Deleted in comments to another post:


Subject: The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien's masterpiece turned out to be the most read work of literature in the 20th century in English. It's a unique accomplishment which really cannot be put into any category. That's what great literature is.

Please visit my blog at www (dot) a n g e l a f o u r n i e r (dot) blogspot.com and leave a comment. Thanks!


The above blog (remove spaces and such that I added in the quote) appears to be a platform to pimp a book (which I won't link to but it's linked on every post in his blog): something called "Angela 1" which appears to be the sort of preachy moralistic YA book that would gather dust on the shelves of Christian bookstores if it was even good enough to be published by small Christian presses.

This book, however, is vanity published by Strategic Publishing Group, which is affiliated with the AEG Publishing Group.

AEG is similar to several other enterprises such as Publish America, which pretend to be legitimate publishers and "accept" submissions from prospective authors. They go to great lengths pretending that they are not vanity presses and that they can actually put your book in bookstores, that you will be paid in royalties just like a real author, etc. The reality is that their entire business model depends on getting the author to buy copies of his or her own books from them (because nobody else is going to).

See Writer Beware or the SFWA's ALERTS FOR WRITERS for more. Or Google "Strategic Publishing Group" or "PublishAmerica" + "scam."

These companies (and many similar ones) operate under a number of different names. And you'll find all their books available on Amazon. So this is one downside to the new ease with which would-be authors can bypass traditional gatekeepers, as I have mentioned before: not all publishers are created equal. Some are just fronts for vanity presses.

Note that vanity presses are not automatically fraudulent or disreputable. One that is up-front about its business model is just offering a legitimate service. But those like Strategic Publishing Group and Publish America are notorious for tricking naive would-be authors into believing they are being published by a "real" publisher and that their books will appear on the shelves at Borders, etc. In reality, the chances of a regular bookstore carrying anything from one of these "publishers" are approximately zero, and no one else in the publishing industry will consider a book published by them to be a publishing credit; if you query an agent and say you've been previously published by PublishAmerica or AEG, you will almost certainly be laughed at (and rejected).

ETA: Originally I was quite a bit more inflammatory and made specific references to the author, because I fucking hate spammers like you wouldn't believe, and his post struck me as pure spam. After thinking about it and rereading his blog and cooling off a bit, I suppose it is possible that he really did think he was making a legitimate contribution to the discussion, though I think it was still mostly just linkspamming. So I've toned down my response somewhat. But the general comments about vanity presses remain.
inverarity: (Default)
Deleted in comments to another post:


Subject: The Lord of the Rings
Tolkien's masterpiece turned out to be the most read work of literature in the 20th century in English. It's a unique accomplishment which really cannot be put into any category. That's what great literature is.

Please visit my blog at www (dot) a n g e l a f o u r n i e r (dot) blogspot.com and leave a comment. Thanks!


The above blog (remove spaces and such that I added in the quote) appears to be a platform to pimp a book (which I won't link to but it's linked on every post in his blog): something called "Angela 1" which appears to be the sort of preachy moralistic YA book that would gather dust on the shelves of Christian bookstores if it was even good enough to be published by small Christian presses.

This book, however, is vanity published by Strategic Publishing Group, which is affiliated with the AEG Publishing Group.

AEG is similar to several other enterprises such as Publish America, which pretend to be legitimate publishers and "accept" submissions from prospective authors. They go to great lengths pretending that they are not vanity presses and that they can actually put your book in bookstores, that you will be paid in royalties just like a real author, etc. The reality is that their entire business model depends on getting the author to buy copies of his or her own books from them (because nobody else is going to).

See Writer Beware or the SFWA's ALERTS FOR WRITERS for more. Or Google "Strategic Publishing Group" or "PublishAmerica" + "scam."

These companies (and many similar ones) operate under a number of different names. And you'll find all their books available on Amazon. So this is one downside to the new ease with which would-be authors can bypass traditional gatekeepers, as I have mentioned before: not all publishers are created equal. Some are just fronts for vanity presses.

Note that vanity presses are not automatically fraudulent or disreputable. One that is up-front about its business model is just offering a legitimate service. But those like Strategic Publishing Group and Publish America are notorious for tricking naive would-be authors into believing they are being published by a "real" publisher and that their books will appear on the shelves at Borders, etc. In reality, the chances of a regular bookstore carrying anything from one of these "publishers" are approximately zero, and no one else in the publishing industry will consider a book published by them to be a publishing credit; if you query an agent and say you've been previously published by PublishAmerica or AEG, you will almost certainly be laughed at (and rejected).

ETA: Originally I was quite a bit more inflammatory and made specific references to the author, because I fucking hate spammers like you wouldn't believe, and his post struck me as pure spam. After thinking about it and rereading his blog and cooling off a bit, I suppose it is possible that he really did think he was making a legitimate contribution to the discussion, though I think it was still mostly just linkspamming. So I've toned down my response somewhat. But the general comments about vanity presses remain.
inverarity: (Default)
Interesting post and discussion from author Lee Goldberg about self-published authors. In the comments is a lot of back and forth between Goldberg and Joe Konrath, a professional author who’s gone the self-published route.

(Note that Goldberg is one of those authors who views fan fiction as intellectual piracy, so don’t be upset if you browse his blog and find him trashing fan fiction. At least he’s not batshit crazy about it like Robin Hobb, Diana Gabaldon or Anne Rice.)

For you lazy bums who can’t be bothered to click the link and read the article (Goldberg -- and the title of my post -- is actually referring to another blogger's post), here’s the short version: thanks to sites like Smashwords, Lulu, and Scribd, everyone with a computer and an Internet connection can now write a book and sell it on Amazon. Consequently, the list of self-published titles on Amazon is starting to look a lot like fanfiction.net: a huge and ever-growing list of mostly unreadable crap. This is causing fear and loathing among some professional writers, who have noticed that there are a growing number of people buying crappy $0.99 ebooks.

I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, I’m in favor of anything that gives people more freedom. Let anyone upload anything they damn well please (within certain legal limits, obviously). If you can get someone to pay money for it, congratulations.

On the other hand, I do not think they are entirely wrong in saying that this undercuts professional writers. Do "amateur" writers have an obligation to not compete with professionals? Does Amazon have an obligation to act as a gatekeeper? No. But there are a lot of people who are just desperate to be published, to get the validation that comes from someone buying their book. They don’t really care how much money they make, they just want to be a "published author." Which is why so many publishers and magazines can get away with paying writers so little; there are writers who will literally take pennies just to have a publishing credit.

Self-published authors (and their close cousins, ebook-only published authors) are thick on writers’ forums and publishing lists, and how they howl if you point out that most ebook-only publishers are shoestring operations with little or no quality control, and that these authors are almost all people who aren’t good enough to be published professionally. Oh, they’ll talk about how "traditional publishers are dinosaurs" and "the establishment is afraid of change" and of course, they eschewed traditional publishing because their books are just too specialized, too niche, too unconventional, too literary, agents and publishers all turned down their Great American Novel because it’s not Twilight, etc. Everyone has a story of some agent telling them, "This is a great book, but I just don’t see a market for it." (Note for aspiring writers: this is what agents say in lieu of "Your writing is unsellable, but I don’t want to crush your dreams.")

There are exceptions; some books really are too niche to find a publisher, especially in non-fiction. And I understand that epublishing is becoming big in the romance/erotica genres. But if your science fiction or literary novel is only available as an ebook, it’s probably because you're either too lazy or too unskilled to get published traditionally.

Is there anything wrong with authors deciding they don't want to jump through the hoops of the traditional publishing game and face rejection after rejection, and would rather just release their baby on Smashwords for a nominal price and be thrilled with (maybe) a few dozen readers? No. But I think this really does represent a threat to professional writers. I don't think the online slush pile is ever going to completely replace the publishing industry, but it's already a hard economy for publishing, and everyone knows that trying to make a living as a writer is a tough gig. Anything that takes even a small slice out of book sales is going to hurt.

Of course, the same argument could be made against fan fiction. Any reading time you spend on fan fiction is time not spent reading a book you might have paid for.

This is also where the argument fails. Obviously, every fan fiction or self-published novel read by someone looking for cheap entertainment is not a lost sale for a professional writer. Also, people who read fan fiction are usually readers in general and probably buy more books than the average person.

So ultimately, I am on the "pro-crap" side of the argument. But let's at least recognize the crap for what it is.
inverarity: (Default)
Interesting post and discussion from author Lee Goldberg about self-published authors. In the comments is a lot of back and forth between Goldberg and Joe Konrath, a professional author who’s gone the self-published route.

(Note that Goldberg is one of those authors who views fan fiction as intellectual piracy, so don’t be upset if you browse his blog and find him trashing fan fiction. At least he’s not batshit crazy about it like Robin Hobb, Diana Gabaldon or Anne Rice.)

For you lazy bums who can’t be bothered to click the link and read the article (Goldberg -- and the title of my post -- is actually referring to another blogger's post), here’s the short version: thanks to sites like Smashwords, Lulu, and Scribd, everyone with a computer and an Internet connection can now write a book and sell it on Amazon. Consequently, the list of self-published titles on Amazon is starting to look a lot like fanfiction.net: a huge and ever-growing list of mostly unreadable crap. This is causing fear and loathing among some professional writers, who have noticed that there are a growing number of people buying crappy $0.99 ebooks.

I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, I’m in favor of anything that gives people more freedom. Let anyone upload anything they damn well please (within certain legal limits, obviously). If you can get someone to pay money for it, congratulations.

On the other hand, I do not think they are entirely wrong in saying that this undercuts professional writers. Do "amateur" writers have an obligation to not compete with professionals? Does Amazon have an obligation to act as a gatekeeper? No. But there are a lot of people who are just desperate to be published, to get the validation that comes from someone buying their book. They don’t really care how much money they make, they just want to be a "published author." Which is why so many publishers and magazines can get away with paying writers so little; there are writers who will literally take pennies just to have a publishing credit.

Self-published authors (and their close cousins, ebook-only published authors) are thick on writers’ forums and publishing lists, and how they howl if you point out that most ebook-only publishers are shoestring operations with little or no quality control, and that these authors are almost all people who aren’t good enough to be published professionally. Oh, they’ll talk about how "traditional publishers are dinosaurs" and "the establishment is afraid of change" and of course, they eschewed traditional publishing because their books are just too specialized, too niche, too unconventional, too literary, agents and publishers all turned down their Great American Novel because it’s not Twilight, etc. Everyone has a story of some agent telling them, "This is a great book, but I just don’t see a market for it." (Note for aspiring writers: this is what agents say in lieu of "Your writing is unsellable, but I don’t want to crush your dreams.")

There are exceptions; some books really are too niche to find a publisher, especially in non-fiction. And I understand that epublishing is becoming big in the romance/erotica genres. But if your science fiction or literary novel is only available as an ebook, it’s probably because you're either too lazy or too unskilled to get published traditionally.

Is there anything wrong with authors deciding they don't want to jump through the hoops of the traditional publishing game and face rejection after rejection, and would rather just release their baby on Smashwords for a nominal price and be thrilled with (maybe) a few dozen readers? No. But I think this really does represent a threat to professional writers. I don't think the online slush pile is ever going to completely replace the publishing industry, but it's already a hard economy for publishing, and everyone knows that trying to make a living as a writer is a tough gig. Anything that takes even a small slice out of book sales is going to hurt.

Of course, the same argument could be made against fan fiction. Any reading time you spend on fan fiction is time not spent reading a book you might have paid for.

This is also where the argument fails. Obviously, every fan fiction or self-published novel read by someone looking for cheap entertainment is not a lost sale for a professional writer. Also, people who read fan fiction are usually readers in general and probably buy more books than the average person.

So ultimately, I am on the "pro-crap" side of the argument. But let's at least recognize the crap for what it is.

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