Monday, March 31, 2008

Amazon, scheme first, explain later

So they finally have a public announcement.

Oh, I see. Forcing people to use Booksurge rather than Lightning Source is all for the benefit of the customer:

"If the POD printing machines reside inside our own fulfillment centers, we can more quickly ship the POD book to customers."

This from the company that sent me my camera and camera bag in separate enormous boxes. (That, by the way, is the last of my money they will be seeing for a while).

Do you remember the same line from July 12, 2006 when they removed the buy links from all non-Mobiformal ebooks. Allow me to remind you: "...Microsoft and Adobe format e-books are no longer available on As part of our commitment to provide the best customer experience possible, we are now supporting the Mobipocket format."

I call bollocks. Expecting us to believe that customer convenience is the primary, let alone only, reason for forcing people to use their own printing service is beyond disingenuous, it is insulting.

What is convenient to the customer is having access to the full range of books on the market, in the full range of formats. The customer can then look at the delivery times and click the 'ship separately' button if they want to.

Just how stupid does Amazon think their customers are with the stealth roll out followed by this pre-Gen-X excuse once the story excaped their control?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Remember that 'glitch' back in late January where all authorhouse 'buy links' on Amazon went missing? Takes on a rather different meaning in the light of recent events, don't you think? (As a recent comment on that post brought to my attention).

I just tried out my first purchase with Powells online. It was pretty straightforward. It lacks a little of the functionality and coverage of but I can live with it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

REVIEW: 'A Different Tune' by L.K. Campbell

Title: A Different Tune
Author: L.K. Campbell
Price: $1 ebook, $10.99 paperback
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 978-1434810915
Publisher: Lulu
Point of Sale: Lulu (ebook), Amazon (paperback)

Cassie is an aspiring pianist who was a pen pal to paratrooper Scott Riley. Scott returns from war, convinced the exchange of letters was enough for him to fall in love. He arrives in Azucar Beach much to the disapproval of Cassie's mother who wants to see her daughter pursue her music education.

'A Different Tune' is a World War II era story with a quiet air of authenticity. Other than one brief 'damsel in distress' scene this seems like a story about real people, almost biographical in atmosphere. In fact it made me think about how much of the romance genre has become almost a parody of itself where true love is replaced with mystically fated mate-matches, and the dilemmas of life by overblown action plots.

Devoid of the currently popular leather-clad assassins and brooding werewolves 'A Different Tune' is a satisfying, almost archetypal romance in which two people must contemplate how true their love really is and what each must do to forge a life together. The decisions they face are not over-blown but still life-defining and overwhelmingly important on the scale of the character's lives. Depth is added to the stories through interactions with both characters' friends, family and colleagues--and some awkward family history. The end is up-lifting without being cloying or pat, just a romance should be.

Not to give away to much but the young couple face uncertain options, Scott in the wake of war with many young men streaming home, and Cassie at the beginning of her adult life with a musical dream to pursue, but at what cost. Scott is a hero without bluster who reminds the reader that being 'alpha' is not about who an alpha will fight for his girl, but what he is willing to sacrifice for her.


We are not amused--veinglory Telling POD Publishers - Let BookSurge Print Your Books, or Else...
by Angela Hoy -- WritersWeekly
"Some Print on Demand (POD) publishers are privately screaming "Monopoly!" while others are seething with rage over startling phone conversations they're having with Amazon/BookSurge representatives."

Amazon to Force POD Publishers to Use BookSurge
by Jim Milliot -- Publishers Weekly
"BookSurge, Amazon’s print-on-demand subsidiary, is making an offer that most publishers would like to refuse, but don’t feel they can. According to talks with several pod houses, BookSurge has told them that unless their titles are printed by BookSurge, the buy buttons on Amazon for their titles will be disabled."

It seems that buy links have already been removed from all Publish America books. Much as I am not a fan of Publish America (their press release on this issue is pure bollocks and bombast) I see this as probably a sign of things to come for the rest of us, self-, small press or in anyway POD published by non-Booksurge sources.

Amazon pulls a Microsoft
by Robert L Mitchell -- Computerworld
"One competitor to BookSurge claims that the print-on-demand business' prices are already higher than those of competitors. If Amazon can use its market power to move more business to BookSurge, the move could hurt competing print-on-demand services and drive up costs for publishers. This carrot and stick approach could allow Amazon to create a captive audience, allowing it to raise prices further for its print-on-demand services."

Amazon Tightens Grip on Printing
By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg -- Wall Street Journal
" Inc., flexing its muscles as a major book retailer, notified publishers who print books on demand that they will have to use its on-demand printing facilities if they want their books directly sold on Amazon's Web site."

At this point I am suggesting a moratorium. I will not be purchasing from Amazon at least for a while. Let's see how this goes.

I also suggest that people blog about this, link to others posts, and make direct complaints by whatever means you have available to you. And if you can manage it, a moratorium on Amazon purchases. And not only those of you likely to be directly effected. I have already seen many small presses just reply that they are not effected. Not today, perhaps.

But two years ago ebook writers were dropped unless they paid to be distributed by Mobi-Pocket. Nobody cared because it was just ebooks. Most authors, including self-published authors, didn't care too much about ebooks. This is where it got us. The Mobi-purge developed this 'vertical integration by monopoly and anti-trust' approach. Now it is rolling out. It will only get harder to stop the longer it is allowed to go on. First ebooks, then POD books, then audiobooks (they own Audible, remember?)... then the whole damn book-world?

See also:
Bully on the Block?
Amazon Tightens Noose on Print-On-Demand Publishers; Insists They Use Company's Own Service
Amazon blocking books of competitive publishers?
Amazon Puts the Squeeze on Publishers
Amazon to Force POD Publishers to Use BookSurge
The monopolists: You need to worry about Amazon too

p.s. Message to Mr. Young from Lulu: Don't cave.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Need Peeps!--veinglory

So the blog is having a little bit of a lull. I will start getting things back on track by posting a review of my own every Friday. Of course I can always use a little help. The way it works is this, author queries go to the closed yahoogroup for reviewers. The reviewer contacts the author directly for a copy of the book. POD People makes non-exclusive use of the review. If the reviewers want to also post it to their own blog etc I doubt anyone will mind.

So the long and the short of it is, if you think you might be interested in reviewing for us please drop me a line at veinglory at Let me know a little bit about yourself and link to or attach a short writing sample, preferably a book review. The only limitation is that if you are sent a print copy of the book you need to either provide a review or forward the book to a second reviewer. I want authors to know that if they send the book, they will get a review. If you are sent an ebook copy and decide you can't review it you need to delete your review copy and notify me and the author. There is no participation requirement, you just watch the list for a book you think you might enjoy.

In other news I have recently decided that I might actually self-publish something myself. I am rather nervous about seeing the process from the other side. More about that later.

p.s. Thanks to the folks at iUniverse Book Reviews for drawing our attention to this alarming possibility, which may not come as a complete surprise to ebook authors who remember the Mobi-purge.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Question--veinglory

Recently I have received a couple of enquiries from "traditional" publishers looking for reviews. How do you all feel about a few non-self-published book reviews in the mix? I think a few, maybe not more than one a month and clearly marked, might be an okay thing? I am wondering whether the staff who look for new reviewers just didn't look close enough to see what kind of site this is, or more optimistically perhaps they didn't care?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

REVIEW: 'The Year of the Monkey' by William W. Lewis

Title: The Year of the Monkey
Author: William W. Lewis
Price: $17.95
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-595-47584-1
Publisher: iUniverse
Point of Sale: Amazon

In the world of self-publishing, the highest complement is to ask, “Why didn’t a regular publisher pick this book up?” In looking at _The Year of the Monkey_, I have to ask that very question. William Lewis, a Vietnam War combat vet, has written simply the best self-published book I have ever read. It’s a work that I would stack favorably against any novel in its genre. It’s that good.

The book is the story of four people, three Americans and one Vietnamese, thrown together in the famous Tet Offensive of 1968. The novel starts with one of these men, Marine Sergeant Michael Warner, flying into Danang airfield in late 1967. In military fiction, this is the equivalent of booking passage on the Titanic – we know where this is going. But the author throws us a curveball, in that the climatic scenes of the novel are not during Tet, but after.

Frank Morin, a high-ranking CIA operative, and Wally Brumsfield, a reporter, interact, at times unknowingly, with Warner and the fourth man, Tan Van Ky, a barber / Viet Cong cadre, as the situation builds to Tet. They also all four run afoul of the CIA’s real-life Phoenix program, a covert operation to “eliminate” the Viet Cong.

The author does a great job in portraying all of his characters as real, nuanced individuals. The communists, although brutal, are not cardboard cutouts, nor are the other characters. They all have wants and needs, and are all trying to do the best they can for their country and friends. There’s “soldier language” (read “foul”) aplenty, and violence galore, some of the later at times pointless. That’s the way of war sometimes.

The book does not end on a happy note, which is probably as it should. It gets to its ending honestly if brutally, and feels authentic to its time and setting. This is definitely not a novel for the faint of heart, but if you are tough enough, The Year of the Monkey is a great read.

Rating: 10/10

Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. Chris is the author of the science fiction novel The Mars Run. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.

The Ides of Plagiarism"--veinglory

Readers have noted that widely reviewed iUniverse book 'The Fates' by Tino Georgiou (2007) bears a real close resemblance to Fawcett Books 'Wildsong' by Catherine Creel (1996).

This first suggested by the sceptical 'Flubu' at Amazon forums after seeing a disparity between the book's Amazon reviews and its quality. He says:

There seems to be a great deal of similarity between the Fates and a book called "Wildsong" by Catherine Creel which was published in 1996.

To follow the whole story try this site.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Congrats to Jeremy Robinson

"BIG NEWS! I can now confirm that I have landed a THREE BOOK DEAL with St. Martins Press! I've been working on this for a year now and all the hard work has finally paid off. The three books are a series based on a team of Delta Force operatives known as the Chess Team: King, Queen, Rook, Knight, Bishop and their handler, Deep Blue."

Monday, March 17, 2008

More on 5 reasons to love self-published books--veinglory

#4) Seriously Quirky Shit

I mean: zombie chickens, a rat P.I., a girl who turns into a mosquito.

If you want to get me to pick up your book for review, the easiest way other than making it very, very good is making it very, very weird (or as a best case scenario, both).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Acts of Faith--veinglory

Sometimes, okay often, people ask me why I am so negative about self-publishing. Most of the time I don't see myself as being negative. Like most scientists I express interest in (and enthusiasm for) something by criticising it. This may be why I am still single.

That said, I do go through periods of frustration and exasperation. I start focusing on things that irritate me about the online self-publishing community. So now might be a good time to spend some time on what drew me in the first place, as a reader, to self published books. I will hit my top 5 reasons in different posts.

#5 -- True Conviction

The best self-published books spring from a writer who has something to say, something they truly believe in. When the writer speaks you do not hear a preoccupation with their own genius, the unfairness of the world or their desire to be rich and famous. Not that there is anything wrong with being rich and famous, but there are easier ways to do it.

The best self-published authors tend to speak predominantly of the message or story they truly, deeply want to tell you about. This enthusiasm or belief in the book is contagious, it energises every word on the page and can even carry me over small imperfections in format or phrasing. Whether it a fan glossary, self help book, fantasy tale or poetry--if the writer has something to say, something genuinely important and thoughtful, I will be inclined to want to read it.

I don't think I have ever seen this expressed better than by self- and mainstream published author Dorothy Bryant so I hope you will excuse an extended quote:

"I had been teaching since the age of sixteen, but from the time I started writing, I'd had trouble mixing writing and teaching; they drew from the same energy source. Now I was forty-five years old, and my position as a teacher was the one secure, lucrative, respected thing I had going for me.

So I turned in my resignation. It was another act of defiance like the decision to self-publish. And, like the earlier decision, it was a necessary act of faith in my work ...

I don't feel a bit like a hustler, because I'm not into false modesty this year. What I'm selling is the best, most honest, most moral work I can do-- ..."

(from Bryant, B. 1979. My Publisher/Myself. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 4/1, 35-39.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

MY STORY: Barbara Foster

1. Why did you choose to self publish and what were your expectations?

I checked into the big traditional publisher but I found out the only way I would be able to to submit a manuscript would be through an agent. The cost factor kicked in, as there would be no guarantee even then. So the next step was to find a publisher that I could get my book published. I selected a vanity press and paid to have the book published, but there was no editing or cover design, so basically I had a book that I paid for and had to sell. I had hopes that it would become a good seller and from family and friends and promotion, it has sold very well. The reviews were good so my expectations were met.

2. Why did you select your specific publisher?

Not satisfied with the vanity press I used on my first book, I looked for another and fell into the clutches of what so many aspiring writers do. I found Publish America who promised everything I was looking for, but I didn't read the fine print and was foolish enough to have two books printed by them. But I wised up and searched again using the Predators and Editors site. I found Dragon Publishing. I spoke to them in person, and felt comfortable they would suit the publishing needs I wanted, even if I had to pay a fee. They offer the support to the author as well as list the book in several catalogs making it available to a host of retailers.

3. How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

I would say it is going very well. I've sold a lot of books through book signings and by recommendations. My latest book is available to all book stores and I have been fortunate enough to get it into a local chain store and it is doing well along with the other books that I supply. I am achieving my goals, slowly but I am forming a customer base and it is growing. My biggest goal was to have my work appreciated and so far it is.

4. What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self publishing?

First: Check out the publisher you are going to use. Whether you use a publisher who charges or one who doesn't, you need to read the fine print in their contracts. Check them out on Predators and Editors as well as looking at the other works they are putting out.

Second: Get a good editor to go over your work. No matter how much you or your family and friends read your manuscript, you need an editor who will find all the little mistakes that are so often missed. And you will have a polished manuscript to be proud of.

Third: Form a marketing plan. Do book signings, interviews with local newspaper and other media. Get the book reviewed and promote it wherever you can. Use sites that offer to promote your book that are reliable and have the capability to bring in potential readers.

Fourth: Set up a website for your book and you. This can be very important once your promotion starts so that people can find out about you and your book(s).

The best advice is for the person to be comfortable with the publisher they chose and not expect to be a best seller. Unless you have contacts, it won't happen immediately. It is a slow climb on the ladder to success and we have to pay our dues to succeed.

Suicide or Murder, ISBN#0979398150
The story is based on a real life event, with fictional characters and locations. Information from police reports and interviews with family and friends leave a big question. The story takes the reader through the lives of the McAlester family and the crime committed. Due to the lack of a police investigation, primarily because of the family's prominence in the community, the clues were overlooked. The question remains: Was it Suicide or Murder?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spotlight on: Publishing for Profit blog--veinglory

The blog: Publishing for Profit
The post: Self-Publishing vs. Using a “Self-Publishing Company”
The excerpt: "But, if you’re really good at self-promotion, and you have business management down pat, if your book is actually ready for primetime and it has a narrowly defined, easily found market, and if you have the money to invest in preparing it for publication, then, MAYBE, it might be a good option."

Monday, March 10, 2008

A new system--veinglory

There will be a new system for authors to submit books for review. I would ask you to send a query with anything you want to say about the book. Please keep it under 500 word, include your email address and specify whether you are offering an e-book or print review copy. Send this query in the body of an email to podpeep at

If one of the peeps wishes to review the book they will contact you directly. You will not automatically be contacted if no reviewer is interested in your book. However if you want to double check that your query was posted feel free to ask for a status report after one month.

If you would like to review for POD People please get in touch. As you can see books are not assigned and there is no 'minimum participation' requirement. However preference will be given to people who have some sample reviews (or similar non-fiction material) to show and who are willing to review at least a few times a year.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

False Memory--veinglory

There have been a lot of false memoirs exposed recently. It turns out Margaret Jones was not a mixed-race, gang affiliated foster kid.

Back in February we found out Misha Defonseca was not a Holocaust survivor, so sue me I think the 'adopted by a pack of wolves' bit of that story should have tipped a few people off.

Oh, and around the same time is was discovered that Ishmael Beah's story of being a child soldier in Sierre Leone may be somewhat exaggerated too, a revelation sparked by the appearance of the "orphan's" father.

Why are people outraged? Isn't a story a good story regardless? I would argue: no. It is a timely reminder that a book is not just an object. It is also a promise, a request for trust. We promise the book with be technically acceptable, physically sturdy, moderately entertaining and match the description in the blurb.

That includes, for memoirs, that they will be substantially true.

MY STORY: Kevin D. McCann

1.) Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?

I enjoy the entire creative process involved with publishing a book, not just the writing itself. It’s fun to walk through a bookstore and look at other book covers and get ideas for your own work. I used to work at Kinko’s Copies when I was in college (about 20 years ago) and a few people brought their own books to have them copied and bound. It was then that I realized I didn’t need to have my books published by a major publishing company to share them with others. I also wanted to have complete control over works with my name on them. A few years later, I published my first perfect bound book entitled Jackson Diamonds and in September 2007, I published my first POD book entitled Hurst’s Wurst.

My expectation was definitely not to become rich and famous. I just to share my knowledge with others, at least break even on my initial investment, and eventually earn a modest profit. I did expect to sell more copies of Jackson Diamonds, however, and as a result I ordered way too many offset printed copies that still sit in my basement! But it was a lesson learned (and I did eventually break even on the printing costs).

2.) Why did you select your specific publisher?

I’ve published my book through Lulu because it offered the least amount of risk and upfront costs. The books (I think) look just as good as ones from major publishing companies. As I’ve read more about self-publishing and POD, I plan to try one or two other companies for future books. But I’ve been very pleased using Lulu so far.

3.) How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

Overall I’m pleased with how Hurst’s Wurst has been received and sales have met my personal expectations. I accepted at the beginning that it was a regional history book with somewhat limited appeal, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by sales I’ve made outside my home region.

4.) What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?

Be honest with yourself and don’t become overly enamored with your book. You may have the next Great American Novel ready to publish (and if you do, more power to you), but don’t inflate your sales expectations and end up with a large inventory sitting in your basement not selling as well as you had hoped. Set modest goals for on-hand inventory to satisfy readers who would like a signed copy, but don’t buy 1,000 copies of a book that may have limited appeal because the printer gives you a good deal.

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but to be a self publisher, you really have to be your best promoter. Write press releases and send them to newspapers in your area. Target groups that would be interested in your subject matter and make contact with them, arranging to speak and sign copies of your book. Be as creative as you can be with promotion!

Kevin D. McCann and Hurst's Wurst

Not every brave son of the South fought against Northern aggression during the Civil War. Some took a different stand and defended the Stars and Stripes rather than take up the Stars and Bars. It meant placing their lives and those of their families in peril and withstanding verbal and physical persecution from their friends and neighbors. Fielding Hurst raised a regiment of fellow Southern Unionists called the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry with men from Decatur, Gibson, Hardin, McNairy, Perry, Wayne, and Weakley counties. It was described by one Confederate soldier as “an ignorant posse of men led by vicious and unprincipled leaders” who were “the scourge and terror of the lower Eastern Counties of West Tennessee, and were as thoroughly detested and hated as any band of marauders who ever disgraced the name of soldiers.” Hurst’s Wurst describes their activities—both official and unofficial—and discusses the positive and negative aspects of their service during the Civil War.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Selected Advice: how to choose a book title--veinglory

"If your book is a fiction book, sometimes a character or a phrase within the book will work as an appropriate title. A well-known example is To Kill A Mockingbird. One of the main characters utters this phrase once within the book." [Carolyn Campbell, Writers Weekly]

"Titles should be AIRtight: Alliteration ... Iambic pentameter ... Rhyme" [Dan Janal]

"Figurative or abstract titles, such as Sleeping Murder, or Presumed Innocent, produce more top-sellers than literal ones" [Lulu]

"Your book title should portray a message but not be too long as to bore the potential reader. It should of a length that can be read at a glance and require no time at all for it to register with the brain." [Deon Melchior, Article Click]

"The name of your book must tell people what it's about. If you try to be clever and make them guess, your potential customer will just put it down and move on to a title they do understand." [Penny C. Sansevieri, Leading Articles]

"When it all comes down to it, go with your gut." [Terri Marie, Search Wrap]

For fun, check out the Lulu Title Scorer. How does your title do?

Our reviews--veinglory

There are two general types of review.

A promotional review is provided largely to help the author push their book to readers. This would include short endorsements from other authors at the same publisher, author-paid reviews, reciprocal reviews with other authors and many websites that gather reviews from volunteers but require a certain up-beat tone. An author may want this kind of review to use as part of their advertising, its main quality is that it is postive and pithy--it is quotable.

An analytical review is provided largely to help readers decide whether to buy a book. This would include book review magazines, enthusiast websites and blogs, and peer-to-peer reviews. An emphasis is placed on honesty and a degree of discussions as to the basis of the reviewer's opinion. Did they like the book, and why--do they recommend that other people should buy the book?

Promotional reviews have a place. But readers can generally identify a promo review and they tend to treat it with understandable skepticism. It is, after all, an advertisement. Analytical reviews, especially peer-to-peer reviews are much more influencial. So if the book is 'recommendable', that is of a book is good, analytical reviews are more effective. Hell, even if your book is bad but in an interesting way....

Frequency of Book Review Ratings on POD People

Are self-published books good? You know, to be perfectly honest a random sample would probably suggest that they are not. However the kind of books that are submitted for review, or bought by reviewers with their own money, tend to be the better books. Looking over the 83 reviews posted at POD People I see that 89% rate average (5/10) or above. Self-published books are good enough to seek out honest reviews by and for readers, as a basis for making purchase decisions.

So that is what I want them to get here.