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Bad Behavior in the Publishing World

booksI’ve been gone for awhile from my blog, and was going to come back with a tale of what’s been happening in my life. However, with recent upsets in the publishing world, and specifically Canadian speculative publishing, I feel I must speak up as well, for several reasons that will become clear.

In some ways, the world of the small press, even the big mega publishers, is often fraught with financial mismanagement and suspect deals or questionable contracts. The recent events in Canada were about long time Calgary speculative publisher EDGE Publishing and long time Toronto dark fiction publisher CZP or ChiZine Publications.

Bilodeau nigh 5-final

Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh series Book 5

Canada is rather small when it comes to population and even smaller with writing population. Most speculative authors know of each other and of any press that can publish speculative fiction. There aren’t many. Recent complaints by Marie Bilodeau not receiving more than one sales/royalty report and being blocked in other ways with the sale of her book started a discussion about EDGE. It spurred a minor rise up in the SF community and discussion on the SF Canada list, our own pro writers group. I believe the SFC executive managed to help in communicating with EDGE and Marie’s long outstanding case was resolved. EDGE has a reputation of not communicating, paying late or not paying and not getting contracts out on time. I’ve co-edited a Tesseracts anthology and been in various anthologies with EDGE. I was always paid, sometimes a bit late. I have received one contract after the book was published and a signed contract after another book was published. EDGE ran a risk that someone would pull their story without a signed contract and that would have meant the print run being pulled or face litigation. I was however, aware of the issues with EDGE.

When the EDGE accusations came out on SFC, people started mentioning issues they had had. I reported as I did above. This was not ever to say I didn’t believe other people’s reports. In fact, I very much believe them. It was only to report; I wasn’t going to lie. In this way people can determine that 75% of authors working with X publisher reported issues, or 100% did or 2% did. This is an important statistic and in any lawsuit that data would be used to show a pattern. It also indicates if a publisher is going through a tough phase, or if they have a regular habit of bad behavior. EDGE’s reputation is known but not everyone knows of it.

Kurtz

Angel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz

Then out came ChiZine Publication’s debacle. It’s been all over the web, on people’s blogs, on Facebook and I cannot report it all here. (This will be long enough as it is.) However File 770 will give anyone reading here a place to start. It started with Ed Kurtz’s complaints about rights and payment. It spread like wildfire with many authors reporting no or late payments and statements. Then it spread to allegations of misconduct, of gaslighting, of ostracizing and even trying to break up relationships.

This was extremely shocking stuff, especially because I considered co-owner Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi friends. I attended their wedding many years ago. I read slush for CZP, did a bit of editing, hosted the Chiseries readings in Vancouver for 2 years, and was co-editor of the online poetry section of Chizine with Carolyn Clink. I live on the West Coast. CZP is in Ontario. I didn’t even see Brett and Sandra once a year and maybe talked via phone once a year. I knew of one fight between them and another friend but that can always be chalked up to differences of opinion or personalities. Other than that, I had no clue. One blog poster has said, “we told you but you wouldn’t listen.” However, whoever the “we” were didn’t tell the “you” that included me or most of SF Canada. It’s hard to “hear” when you’re not part of whatever group is considered the “you,” so in many cases geographic areas of writers might be very well unaware of what is happening elsewhere. Perhaps Ontario authors knew but most of us did not.

Yes, I was shocked. I was disturbed and I lost sleep over it. I read many of the posts by Michael Matheson, Sam Beiko, Helen Marshall, Beverly Bambury and others. I know most of these people professionally; many of them worked for CZP, and I have talked with them in the past. I was so surprised, but I believed their statements. Unless there is a mass conspiracy, I would have had to stick my head in the sand to disbelieve the sheer number of complaints. There may be nuances to tales that haven’t been revealed. That, I don’t know.

What ensued next was just as disturbing to me. I posted on SFC, probably within the first 24-48 hours of the wildfire, stating I hadn’t seen this behavior, only what I had worked on for them, but that I was also on the West Coast and was not physically in the vicinity. Again, as with EDGE, I only posted my experiences; I didn’t lie. I also said, let’s see what they post about these allegations.

Immediately I was attacked and accused of ignorance, of negating the other reports and god knows what else. I stated again, that even in a court of law the accused gets a chance to speak. I reiterated that this did not mean I didn’t believe the statements. What ensued after was not pretty. Messages came out indicating that if you didn’t say anything then you were against the maligned authors, pretty much the black and white “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” belief. People were attacked, just because they were men or because of some statement about publishing or rights or this or that. If this were a street brawl there would have been bodies. There were members with their own agenda or trauma who will always see every statement through that particular lens. There were others who deliberately tried to misconstrue every comment, who intentionally dug into every word so that they could rise up in righteous anger. There was no asking to elaborate, just harsh judgment and accusations. Other people raised the torches and pitchforks. Some handed out blanket judgments of everyone on SFC or of this group or that group. Some people left the list. I’m sure some people unfriended me on Facebook. I don’t know so I can’t be offended but if deliberately misinterpreting my words is the way to go, then I don’t need them reading my posts.

What I did do was stop posting. After all, I was attacked once. I would now be seen as the enemy and attacked again. With the trauma and grief I’ve dealt with in the last year, this was triggering me and that’s partly why this post has come out several weeks after the initial event. I might never post again on SFC. I might let my membership lapse. I don’t know but I certainly don’t feel safe posting anymore. That’s a lot of fallout over one publisher and a lot of evidence of things that need to be fixed.

Burning-book-mrtwismBut are EDGE and CZP the only two publishers who have indulged in bad behavior? And is it only Canadian publishers? Absolutely not. I’ve experienced it myself more than once, from big companies to small.

I wrote articles for magazines called Best Whistler and Opulence. The first never paid me. The second was so far behind or just not paying writers that the writers rose up in force, contacted advertisers and formed a class action lawsuit. I helped get everyone in contact. I had played my cards close, having been burned by Best Whistler, and never let the amount they owed me get too high, also leaving enough time in between articles that they would often pay. Though before the mass uprising I had to threaten a lawyer to get my money and then leave. For that reason I didn’t join the lawsuit as I had no outstanding payments owed.

Even before that I used to copyedit for NY book packager Byron Preiss. They sometimes did work for other publishers and I was copyediting four related books in a faeries series. It was cancelled I think after book II but I’d copyedited book III. I spent a year fighting with them since they were arguing over who should pay: Penguin or Byron Preiss. In the end, I had to threaten lawyer to get less than $500 measly bucks. One of the biggest houses in SF exhibited disorganization when they lost not one but two copyediting tests I did for them.

Then there was Zharmae Publishing. Never heard of them? I’m not surprised. They were new. They gave me a massive contract that asked for all rights in perpetuity throughout the universe. Yes that was the exact wording. I sent them a sample of the SFWA contract. I figured they were earnest but misguided; we haggled the contract. “Tower of Strength” came out in the Irony of Survival. The true irony was surviving as a writer. I’m sure maybe eight people bought this anthology. For over a year after publication they never sent me my copies and they literally said the cheque was in the mail. The payment was $100, not very much and they knew it would be more expensive for me to get a lawyer.

What they didn’t know was I had a friend who was an entertainment lawyer and for free he had his assistant draft a letter. In 24 hours I had my pay but they still tried to wiggle out of the books. I had those in a week. These are just my stories of dealing with publishers. Publishing houses can still mismanage their operations, either intentionally or out of inexperience and bad business practices. I had other publishers disappear into the dark of night without ever responding on submissions or acceptances. That’s almost par for the course these days.

More recently I was invited to write for an anthology that was royalty based. I’ve not done this before and I will never do it again. There was no editing done on the stories and the publisher never gave any royalty reports. I never received a penny, or a hard copy of the book, only a PDF. I’m sure any sales that were done with the minimal marketing went to the publisher, and the editor who did nothing to deserve payment. But…I am unable to complain about this publisher. This is a case of me being a small pea in a pod, with little clout, not known well, and the publisher being a very well known member of a large organization. I don’t feel I would ever be heard or believed in such a situation. How does one complain to either SFWA’s or HWA’s grievance committees knowing that this person will probably have wind of it and that it could end up getting me ostracized in the writing community.

I need to mention that lawsuits and grievances have probably happened to many bookof the big publishing house’s. you don’t always hear of them because of NDAs. After all, entertainment lawyers make their money interpreting and looking for loopholes in contracts. Sometimes the publisher is to blame but sometimes an author can be to blame as well. There are notoriously difficult writers. If they’re famous enough, publishers will grin and bear it, but if they’re newer, then authors might be booted to the curb. It’s good to remember that not every complaint on any side may be founded and that it’s always best to hear both sides of the story. I believe this fundamentally, even in the workplace.

This is the power publishers and editors hold over writers. We want to be published. There’s more of us than there are spots to fill. People will often be paid peanuts for massive rights grabs by the publisher. The publisher can blacklist you. Big and well-known publishers and editors can spread enough word that you are a difficult author so that no one will touch you. It could be game over for whatever sales we can get. So yes, I’m still the victim of some publishing bad behavior that I cannot report on. And my rule is to always try to treat everyone kindly because you don’t how it can come back to bite you on the ass.

I’ve become more and more cautious and don’t get caught as much, and I’m a barracuda in going after my rights. I don’t care if I have to nag. I will keep on. But we don’t always know when a publisher might change or a new publisher might just forget to get contracts out or runs out of money. Even vigilance can’t save us all from getting caught.

There are various writers organizations such as the Writers Union, HWA, SFWA, etc. that can go to bat for authors but if one is not a member it’s not as easy. And as I’ve shown, membership won’t necessarily save you. There is no easy solution to all of this. Sometimes an author thinks they’re the only one that has the issue. I guess all we can do is communicate better, to grievance committees, to each other and listen calmly. We should be trying to hear all sides and not leaping to conclusions and condemnations without weighing everything. The era of social media means that judgment can come without knowing the facts. I just know I do not have the energy to be attacked by someone’s perceived assumption about my words. Try asking for clarification first. And publishers need to have better business practices. We’re probably going to end up with a gap in Canadian speculative publishing, which is already very slim. I guess we’ll see what the future holds.

 

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Writing and the Use of Trademark Words

The use of trademarks is a very litigious business for those who commit infractions. You better not title your strawberry drink Coca-Cola, or call your car design the Toyota Prius or Toyota Pumpernickel. Most of this seems obvious. The maker and manufacturer own the right to that brand and no one will ride on their fame and steal their sales. It can get as contentious as the famed Disney lawyers who have actually trotted into a little flea market and told a woman to cease and desist in selling clothes made with Disney trademarked designs. The fabric was bought legally; it was the fact that she was trying to sew the cloth into clothing and sell that, that Disney objected to. Lawyers for Marvel contacted Vancouver media at one point and told them to stop calling a particular cat burglar (who climbed the side of buildings ) Spider-Man. They didn’t want the comic book hero associated with the dark side.

These areas can become very contentious, and there are copy cats who will take a name and change one letter while keeping the font and style the same. Companies also trademark their brand colors but when it comes to the world of writing there are many different areas.  If I’m putting a brand name into my magazine or website, say as an ad that they paid for, then I have to use it properly, with either a registered® symbol or a trademark ™. These are different forms of branding. But what happens when we’re talking about fiction?

This came up in the writers’ group I belong to and it caused some upset as one author felt picked upon, although we were discussing the vagaries of the situation. Someone said her manuscripts had been rejected from a publisher because she mentioned name brands in her story, such as the character putting on his Armani suit and driving his Rolls Royce. In fact, a writer can using any brand name in their fiction and they do not have to put trademark or register marks into the text. As an editor I’ve sometimes had to pull these symbols out. The discussion continued that it would be okay to have a character drink, say, an Absolut vodka but to drink piss-warm Absolut would possibly be seen as defamatory.

The truth is, it would be an extremely rare case of any publisher ever being sued (or the writer) because a brand name was used in a negative light. It happens all the time. But this is very different for fiction than for advertising and marketing materials. Even nonfiction, as in a review, a critical piece or a journalistic article on a company or a product does not curtail the writer from writing negatively about that product and naming it. There have been science fiction novels that had various corporations taking over or running the future and these did not depict the shiny side of the corporation.

A publisher who asks a writer to remove every name brand from a piece of fiction could be doing it for several reasons, but should explain why they want it removed:

  • they think the usage actually detracts from the writing
  • they fear libel for the defamatory use of the name
  • they have a personal feud with a company
  • other?

The first reason is the only valid one, while the third is more a case of personal issues that should not interfere. And the second reason is really ridiculous. I commented and still maintain that a publisher who fears being sued is not knowledgeable in the ways of publishing, fiction and trademark issues. You don’t have to be an expert to know this and there are numerous examples out there. Not all publishers are educated on copyright and publishing, as was seen with the Food Source editor who thought everything on the internet was up for grabs and public domain. Not so.

If you opened a book store and called it Kodak, or a shoe store and named it Xerox, you would run into branding issues. But if you opened a bookstore called Blackberry Books, you wouldn’t and in fact there used to be a bookstore by that name. If you write about a drug smuggler who drives a Humvee and loves her Converse runners because they help her escape faster you’re not going to have a problem. If you write a book saying that Lulu Lemon yoga pants cause cancer, you better be able to prove it or you’ll be slammed with a defamation suit.

Product placement in a movie or TV show is a big thing worth big bucks. You, the writer, naming any brand in your story is not what your story is about, yet it could be a major part of the plot and it would still make no difference to those corporations. So write away and don’t worry. This blog has not been brought to you by Pepsi, Disney nor Exxon.

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Publishing: Trials of a Slush Reader

There will probably be more than one post like this as I dig through the various manuscripts that I’m reading for CZP. Slush reading novels is far different from stories or poems, in some ways. You’d think it would be straightforward but it’s not.

The best way to irritate the hell out of a slush reader is to do some silly things like go for an artsy font; bold it, italicize it in spots, change the size. The publisher will decide in the long run on the look and while some italics or bolding are required in a story, too much of it on nearly every line is like eating a whole cake at one sitting.

Easy to read fonts are the way to go because we’re not reading one of these things, we’re reading dozens. Our eyes get tired, we have pages and pages to read and if something other than the story gets in the way, then we don’t get to reading the story without already being annoyed. Times New Roman if you’re not sure.

Double spacing is standard manuscript submission format (there are some exceptions). There is a good reason for this. It used to be, when everything was hard copy, that the editor would have to make notes and edit on the page, and there was no space if it was single spaced. Besides that mechanical consideration, it is easier to read when double spaced and when you have to read many manuscripts and sometimes skim through paragraphs to see if the plot is progressing it’s the best default.

Why can’t people read the instructions, or submission guidelines as we call them? It’s one thing to fudge your font or your border margins slightly. If we ask for three chapters only, don’t send the full manuscript. If we say we want a synopsis too, then send one because we won’t know the full arc of your story with only those sample chapters and we won’t read the full book on spec. If we say send it in .doc or .rtf, we mean it.

The final thing, if we reject you, is not to write back insulting our nationality (or what you think it is) insulting our education level (or what you think it is) and basically telling us that we haven’t realized your edgy genius. I try to say something nice when rejecting a manuscript as well as some reasons why it didn’t work. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint or narrow down nicely without a more thorough reading. There may be several reasons that it’s not right for a publisher from style to readability. But the next person that insults me for rejecting their manuscript will get blacklisted as well as get a very pointed smackdown as to why exactly their manuscript sucked so badly that it would never be bought.

Sure, you might be rejected a hundred times and then go on to have a best seller. Go for it, but if you piss off the publisher and their slush readers, you’ll have to go elsewhere. When I submit pieces to publishers I understand the busy-ness of editors and I appreciate any comments. If I get a rejection that says, “It wasn’t right for us” I know it might be a form letter, they may not have time to say more, or they didn’t like it for whatever reason but didn’t want to go into it. I accept it. If I get even a sentence saying what was good or bad I appreciate it because any insight helps and it’s rare.

Most of the people I’ve had to reject have been thankful for the comments. The whiny and bitchy ones are becoming memorable and they will not get much of my time the second time around. Should CZP still accept submissions from them they better hope they go to a different slush reader. Of course, we all talk amongst ourselves so we’re aware of the buttheads out there. Be forewarned and do it right the first time.

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Selling Manuscripts and Formatting

I  have just started up as a slush reader for ChiZine Publications. This is somewhat different from the reading I do on poetry for Chiaroscuro (Chizine), the magazine, or the stories I read as fantasy editor for Aberrant Dreams. CZP publishes books and collections so a person is asked to send in a synopsis and the first three chapters of their book. By the way, I’ve been asked before what slush means and it is the submissions sent into a publication. There are usually several readers before the submission gets to the editor, the person who makes the decision on what is ultimately kept and what is rejected. Because most publications get hundreds of submissions a month, it can take time to get through them all and to move efficiently there are assistant editors or readers. These people determine if the manuscript is interesting and good enough to be sent on for consideration. In most cases, everyone starts in the slush pile, unless you’re an established and well-known writer.

One of the first things anyone wishing to sell a manuscript should do is research the markets. Make sure you’re sending to a company that publishes the kind of stuff you write. You would not believe how many people pluck names off of the internet like seeds in a sunflower and send out their manuscripts without actually knowing the market. Second, read the instructions. And follow them. There is some tiny leeway such as if an editor asks for Times New Roman and you do Courier font. They may take the manuscript and they may not. If the fonts are similar enough, you’re probably okay but the more errors you make the less likely it is that you’ll get to the stage of even having your submission read. Editors read hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts and they read them quickly to stay on top of the pile. If a goofy font or strange formatting slows them down, they get irritated and rightfully so.

So far, I have only looked at four queries. Not one has actually submitted a manuscript in the correct format. We only ask for a few chapters, but there are several problems one or all of these people have done. Here is what you should avoid in your cover letter, your synopsis and your manuscript:

  • rambling, incoherent run-away sentences
  • bad grammar
  • spelling mistakes
  • single spacing…double spacing is the industry standard–it makes it easier to read
  • not indenting. See that little Tab key on the left…that’s what it’s for, indenting. Or in some cases you can set up automatic indenting in some programs.
  • adding an extra space between each paragraph. No no no. That’s what indenting does. It tells the reader that there is a new paragraph. Didn’t anyone take this in school?
  • hitting return (or the Enter key) at the end of every line. Absolutely NO NO NO. My gods, this takes so much time to write this way. Computers are somewhat smart. If you write and write and write and just keep going, guess what, the sentence doesn’t run off the page but will pop down to the next line. Only when you have finished a paragraph, and only then, do you hit “Enter” and proceed to the next paragraph, not the next line.

Do not, when we send you a rejection letter and suggest that you proofread your work and correct the grammar and typos before sending it elsewhere, send a whiny letter back saying, why can’t you just read the story and ignore that? We can ignore a few typos of a bit of awkward grammar but a whole book of it is unreadable and means a rewrite. We’re not  going to buy anything that takes that much trudging. We will not do that much editing. Fix it and use a spellchecker. But remember, a spellchecker is not that bright and will suggest what it thinks your sentence should be so you better know your words.

Treat writing like any other skill. Would you want a doctor who just happened to be sloppy but knew he had the heart of a surgeon? Would you ride in a plane where the pilot had read about flying but never had done it? Writing is a skill and it takes practice. It also takes following some simple rules once the writing is done and you’re trying to sell your piece. Always read the guidelines. I’ve made mistakes when I submit stories. It’s easy to gloss over but when you get to submitting a manuscript you need to be even more careful. What I posted about is the standard but some publishers ask for different formats. Follow them.

http://www.chizine.com/chizinepub/submission_guidelines.php

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Writing: Kiss of Death Acceptances

Perhaps the only thing worse than not getting a story or poem accepted is to have it accepted but to watch the magazine fold, the anthology be canceled, or the supposed publication fade into the ether, never to be heard from again. This probably happens to everyone at some point, but I have had it happen at least seven times. I then begin to wonder, do I have some sort of  superhero (or villain) power where I cause the publications to die? The moment they accept my piece, the end is near–the kiss of death.

Of course that’s sort of a reverse ego thing and if I really did have that power there are a few publications I would like to use it on. Not for rejecting me, mind you. That’s part of the business, but in the past when editing and writing, I was cheated out of money by one magazine, and got so much BS from another, along with a lengthy battle to be paid, that they deserved to fold (and I believe have by now).

But the truth is, especially with the proliferation of the internet, that it’s easier and cheaper to run a magazine (such as online), but it still takes skill, knowledge and consistency. Perhaps the best nonpublication I had was  a magazine called Offworld Magazine. If you’ve never heard of it it’s because they didn’t even get number 1 out the door. They did pay for the story (called a kill-fee in some mags should they choose to not publish, though this one did not have that caveat). However, when I received the letter that said my story had been “excepted” I thought it had been rejected, not “accepted.” To except is to exclude. Hmmm.

Then there were the Tampa marketing anthologies, a list of themed anthologies by this company I had not heard of before. These days, there are many many publishers and small start-ups and new ventures so sometimes it pans out to try something new, after carefully reading the guidelines. It was low paying but still seemed worthy. As can be seen here there was little response from the company and the first anthologies were supposed to be out in June of 2009. After no response and several query emails you tend to chalk these things up to yet more unfulfilled pipe dreams. Then last November I received an email from someone who was asked by the head honcho to get the project done and he was accepting my piece. I asked which piece as I had submitted several, and when was this going to be published. I didn’t wish to pull my piece from other possible submissions unless I had some guarantee. He said he’d ask the big guy…and I never heard from them again.

I’ve sold several poems that were subsequently unaccepted because the magazine forgot they had them or lost them or changed their minds in the next two years. I had a story accepted to a noir erotic anthology and then it was held because they were splitting the anthology into books 2 and 3 and I would be in book 3. And then the publisher canceled book 3. I did get a kill fee on that one too. I’ve had a magazine say, “We loved this poem and would have taken it but we’re closing our doors.”

Sometimes there are odd little anthologies that pop up like “Quantum Planet of the Arts,” a collection of surreal (or something) fiction that was supposed to be published last year. After several emails to the editor who said they were delayed but still planning to publish, (and that she would send my email to the publisher) I heard nothing. My last email this year was a note to her saying, I will presume this venture dead. I heard no response so I think I presumed correctly.

There have been a couple of erotic magazines with the same result, communication dropping off to nonexistence. Circlet Press, always a slow mover fell into that realm in my books. They never replied and I presumed them dead. But instead they win the prize of the slowest rejection letter every–seven years! By that time I had sent the piece out many times (maybe published as I don’t remember what it was). After a certain length, really, a why bother should probably be the best plan. But it is frustrating when publications don’t bother to tell you they’ve rejected your stories, or they’re way behind or they’re folding. It’s part of the biz. I do have two stories languishing in magazines that seem to have dropped off the face of the earth, though I’ve had some private communication. I send those pieces out in the meantime but leave them with the magazine in case they ever get through their slush. It’s been nearly two years with some of them so I’m not exactly holding my breath here.

I recommend www.ralan.com as the best place for speculative markets with updates and the grave of dead magazines. I can say at least that my superhero power of writing and getting pieces published is better than my kiss-of-death power. I’ve had more accepted pieces published than not and that is a relief.

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Harlequin Begins Vanity Press

Anyone who knows anything about vanity presses knows that they’re not respected on several levels when it comes to publishing and being published. A vanity press is called thus because it caters to a would-be writer’s vanity. In other words, a work may be published without any editorial process taking place. This means any piece of drek, shopping list, or untethered ramblings will be printed if one has the funds to bring it to fruition.

Vanity presses often take advantage of unsuspecting new writers who aren’t aware of the full process. For a fee the press will publish your book. Or you have won a contest and your poem/story will appear in the lovely print edition and you can order a copy for $34.95. The publisher doesn’t pay you for your work and basically puts your work, no matter how bad, into the volume so that you, your friends and family will buy copies to show that you’re a published author, not realizing that this isn’t the real realm of publishing.

What happens is that writers are paying the publisher and that’s who buys the books. It isn’t readers interested in the story, just a very small group or just the writer. Little to nothing is spent on marketing and what is, is aimed at the person who submitted the work.

In the past I submitted poems to a poetry contest, only to find out I had “won” and that it was a vanity press. I withdrew my pieces and never looked at those “publishers” again. Self-publishing is also considered vanity press even if someone else (a printer or book packager) puts the book together. A person who pays on their own (as opposed to so-called winners) to have a book edited, laid out, printed and bound is usually considered to be vanity publishing unless they’re trying to put out other books besides their own. They might still have to go through the very hard work of marketing and distribution. Without these important elements, the books sit in the basement.

Small presses should not be confused with vanity publishing. Those who venture on their own to publish their books do so for a variety of reasons. The book may have been turned down by agents and publishers, or the person may want to get a message out there or just sell on their own for whatever reason. Sometimes a self-published book is picked up by a major publisher. But that is a very rare thing. Otherwise, a person makes a cost outlay of anywhere from $1000 to $10,000-plus for editing, production and publishing of their book and if they’re lucky, they may recoup what they put into it. Often they don’t make back their cost so the pay to play.

It is alarming and very odd when a  well-established publisher decides to start another imprint whose sole purpose is to be a vanity press. Harlequin is the biggest romance publisher in the world and has a huge sell-through rate on their titles. They shouldn’t be hurting for money. But they decided to team up with a print-on-demand vanity press call Author Solutions. After outcries from the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Harlequin has taken the name of Harlequin Horizons off of the imprint.

Harlequin reported amazement and as of today changed the name to DellArte Press Book Publishing Services. However, RWA said Harlequin books would not be eligible for any awards and SFWA said all Harlequin books/stories would not count as eligible as a membership fulfillment unless they removed themselves from self-publishing. I doubt the name change will be enough for RWA and SFWA.

I can’t help but wonder why Harlequin even needs to get involved. They’ve been branching out into supernatural and SF romance and shouldn’t need to dupe dewy-eyed writers into parting with money to see their names in print and in hopes of getting to be a Harlequin author. Letting a would-be author think they have a chance of getting their story picked up by first self-publishing it is disingenuous. I checked out DellArte, which has little price packages that start at $599 to $1,599, but that only gets you 5 to 25 free copies, and after that you’re paying extra. That doesn’t cover a full edit at all either and even at $342 (editing services)  it will give you a partial review of a chapter or two. You’ll pay for other copies and I’m sure by the time you’re done you’ll have forked out at least $5,000. If the cover price of a trade paperback (the size they’re advertising) is $14.99 (very cheap and probably higher) and you get it at say, 40% off of cost (the regular retailer discount), that means you make $6 and would need to sell around 833 copies to break even.

Not that many if you’re marketed like Stephen King. But chances are there is little marketing and you’ll have to do most on your own. DellArte offers in the upper end of prices a standard publicity program, which really amounts to a written press release. You still have to do the marketing and distribution is probably all in your lap. So you’re in the same seat as if you went out and found a printer on your own. I’d be interested to know why Harlequin even thought they needed to do this. For various takes on this, follow the links.

 http://www.sfwa.org/2009/11/sfwa-statement-on-harlequins-self-publishing-imprint/

http://www.dellartepress.com/

PublishersWeekly

I also wrote them as if I was a new author with my book ready to publish in 1-3 months. They said someone would get back to me and what I received was a computer generated reply, which follows:

Congratulations on starting a new chapter of your life by exploring self-publishing. We are glad you contacted DellArte Press to start your publishing journey.
 
DellArte Press is designed to help aspiring romance and women’s fiction writers publish their books and achieve their dreams. No matter what the end goal for your book is we have the resources and staff to help you reach that goal. Our professional support team will walk with you every step of the way, so please let us know how we can assist you.
 
Your first chapter in publishing is to explore our Standard and Specialty Publishing Packages. Please visit our Publishing Packages page on our Web site to see how each package uniquely meets your publishing needs. We also offer additional services you can add to your package to give your book the professional and polished edge it deserves.
 
We’re here to help you select the best package for you, and we’ll be in touch soon to discuss your specific book and your goals. If you are ready to get started right away, you can call us at(877) 217-3420 or e-mail
customersupport@dellartepress.com.
 
Publishing with DellArte Press offers several advantages:
Discovery Opportunities – Titles published through DellArte Press will be monitored for possible pickup by DellArte’s traditional imprints
Global Distribution – Extensive distribution networks through Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and others ensure that your book can be purchased by anyone, anytime, anywhere
Creative Control – It’s your book from start to finish
Professional Editors – Choose to utilize our editors to ensure your book is error free
Effective Marketing – Hire a publicist, have a video book trailer created, set up an author Web site and more
Accessible Support – Easy access to our professional support staff so you’re never left to answer questions on your own
Next Steps: Define Your Desire
 
Your next step is to define your goals and desires for your book. Whether you want to publish just for fun or to achieve commercial success, we can help. One of our Publishing Consultants will work with you to determine the best options for your publishing needs so your goals are met. In the meantime, if you have questions, please call (877) 217-3420 or visit our Web site at
www.dellartepress.com.
 
We understand that your time is precious and you may not always have a lot of time for yourself. We encourage you to indulge your passion for writing and begin the next chapter of your life as a published author. We look forward to working with you to help make that dream come true.
 
Sincerely,

The Dell Arte Press Team
DellArte Press
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Phone: (877) 217-3420
Fax: (812) 355-1561

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Book Review: The Sweetest Kiss II

Continuing from yesterday’s review of The Sweetest Kiss, published by Cleis Press.

Ciara Finn’s “Advantage”  is set in a club where people go to be morsels for vampires and is not book_imagethat different a story from aspects of Buffy and Angel. It also has a few awkward descriptions, such as being bound with handcuffs but the character strains against ropes. The play of masochism on the human’s part and the cold, alieness of vampires comes across very well although this is not as erotic as the other stories.

Maxim Jakubowski writes a raw and sensual tale that manages not to be explicit. “The Communion of Blood and Semen”  is well crafted, and delves into the feelings and the fall into a desire too strong to resist. Of all the stories, this is one of the rougher ones in a physical sense (yet there is more violence in some of the other stories). It brings out a subtle balance of a relationship and is a true tale, as opposed to just a scene, of human/vampire lust. I found it staying in my mind a long time.

“Nightlife” is more a scene than a true tale. Madeleine Oh writes well but her story of a vampire fellating a dwarf man with a giant cock (who is Toulouse Lautrec) does little to arouse and is too short to be intriguing in the outcome. It’s a bit cliché and I was wishing that perhaps Toulouse’s paintings were influenced or his penchant to attend brothels increased after this encounter.

Evan Mora’s “Takeout or Delivery” is about James a vampire who adapts to the new world, leaving vampires in capes behind. It is two tales; the first part is about his beginnings with Lilith, two creatures of lust finding each other. The second half is how he uses Lavalife to get women, drink them, wipe their memories and do it again, especially with submissives. He is still a creature of lust and loves the modern world. Although witty, I didn’t find the tale particularly new.

“Devouring Heart” is the only lesbian tale in the book and Andrea Dale presents a heartbreaking tale of love and how far a lover will go to keep a partner. There is a good use of metaphor between the title and the relationship and this is one of the few tales that ends sadly, yet I have a tender place for this as one of my favorites for evoking that aching sense of love and love lost.

Michelle Belanger moves us farther away from the real world or a world of a century ago with “Wicked Kisses.” Here there is a vampire temple and the Scarlet One, through contest or lottery is chosen for a special ritual. There is a certain timelessness in it and I would have almost have said it was in the past except for the description on the Scarlet One’s gown. It is sensual and luxurious in detail and very like a dream or a drug-induced state. The sex isn’t with the vampires. Or is it?

“Fourth World” is not the only story in this anthology that takes place in a different locale but it is the only one in Thailand. Lisabet Sarai builds good tension with a sinuous, beautiful woman in full control of two men. She doesn’t bite them nor reveals fangs but slowly slices them with her nails while riding them, lapping their blood. She seems a truly animalistic, sensual predator. The outcome isn’t known but we can guess where it goes.

“Turn” also takes us into more of a ritualized act with the line between demon and vampire being very thin. The character summons him so that she can change. Nikki Magennis’s story is the roughest of all the tales with the sex more like being forced than sensual and as the vampire comes he drinks his summoner’s blood, completing a circle of taking and giving life. Very interesting and a raw, less romantic take on vampires.

Kristina Wright’s “Cutter” is about Evie, a distressed woman who lets her pain by slicing her arms and thighs. She meets a vampire who can scent her blood and pain. A very interesting twist on the tale where this vampire might just be her salvation and healer.

Like “Cutter” the last tale, “Once an Addict…” twists the meaning of vampire. And like some of the other tales in this book  A.D.R. Forte draws a parallel between human and vampire needs or a symbiosis that can take place. This story goes back the farthest in history, but is modern with the vampire helping the addict ancestor of an ancient bloodline to get off of drugs/alcohol. Symbiotic, they hunger for each other. It’s about blood and lust, yet this is the least sensual of the stories though it has a strong plot.

The tales in The Sweetest Kiss span time and countries, just as vampires would through their long lives. There are twists on the relationship of the dominating vampire. There is masochism, sadism, domination and submission. There is addiction, fear, hunger, as well as love and salvation. What one person finds erotic is not the same for another. I would say this anthology deftly gives a taste of something for everyone. The writing in most cases is of a very good caliber and tales range from those little pieces to get off on to those tales that have meat to sink your teeth into. The Sweetest Kiss successfully delivers eroticism and bite.

http://www.cleispress.com/index.php

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More on the Google Book Settlement

The Google Book Settlement is causing more indigestion in the bellies of writers, libraries and publishers. Although the deadline for opting out was on May 5th, a court has granted a four-month extension to all writers. My unease at what looked like a monopoly is being echoed elsewhere. It’s not that this will be bad in the short run but in the long run, who knows? And I still find it disturbing that it’s a rock and a hard place decision.

Either you opt out completely so that you and a few others can try to sue Google, but in the meantime they might still take your already scanned book and use it. Or you opt in, becoming part of a system you don’t like, so that you can then get the money (even if only a pittance) for your scanned book, while hoping to say no to other scannings if you have new works coming out and you worry about the copyright.

It still gives Google all the control in either situation and your work, which you own, even if your book is technically out of print is available. This does mean that for authors who books/stories might never be reprinted that they have a chance at extended revenue. However, for those who might want to sell reprint rights or sell to a foreign market (even in the same language) will now have a problem because the book will already be available. There won’t be any big launch or release date and there won’t be any articles done to highlight the author’s career.

They (Google) can say this won’t happen but people have said all sorts of things and as the proverb goes: promises were made to be broken. It makes me very uneasy, yet I didn’t opt out because I would have had less of a voice. At this point in my career I only have short stories, articles and poems out in magazines and anthologies. There is no book of mine (except a chapbook) but still, one must always ask: what if? What it all boils down to is too much control by one entity, which is not even a person. The individual writers and publishers seem to lose some rights unless they stay eternally vigilant. No napping or you’ll wake up to find Google has scanned your book because they think it’s not “commercially available” by their terms.

I’ll be watching this as it unfolds and will try not to nap.

CNET News provides more info: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10229372-93.html?tag=nl.e703

You can also read about “Justice Dept. Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into Google Books Deal”: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/technology/internet/29google.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/technology/internet/29google.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

Thursday, May 07 http://januarymagazine.com/ 
 

 

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Google Book Settlement

The Google book settlement hits its deadline on May 5, 2009. Before this date, if you have ever written anything that was published in the US (or possibly distributed into the US) you will want to read the long and convoluted double speak of the settlement issues. You must choose to opt out, stay in and/or write and comment by this date. If you are an author, publisher or otherwise know someone in the business, then I encourage you to immediately go here and read all about this before you lose rights you didn’t know you were losing: http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/r/home

I first discovered some of my short stories, published in an anthology being displayed on the internet through Google. When I searched I could get all but one page of my story. If I searched from a different computer I could get the missing pages. I was shocked at the wholesale copying, with no authorization or signing of rights having been given for electronic rights. At that time I contacted the editor of the anthology and she told me that she was just as shocked.

As time rippled along, authors and publishers banded together and approached Google. The Book Settlement resulted. Now, if we back up a bit many of us will remember a time before Google but after DOS. The internet had search engines like Lycos and Yahoo and a few others. Then Google came along, big, better, the giant fish that swallowed the smaller fellows. Then Google did this cool thing, taking satellite images of the whole planet and Google Earth was born. You could zoom in on any part of the planet and look at it as it is. Then Google started driving up and down every street in every city, scanning in houses, street signs, corners, you name it. And people started getting a bit worried when they did a Google search and could see themselves in their yards or living rooms, or wherever.

And Google of course said, oh we blur the faces but people said they could identify people. And Google said, well if you let us know, we’ll remove the image.Google did the same with numerous books, scanning them in, popping them up on the internet even though people had not sold or authorized digital rights. My vanity search today shows that those titles in which my stories were almost completely visible are no longer up (while the settlement is being settled at least). The settlement is long, full of legalese and double takes to the point that I think only a copyright lawyer might follow it completely. In the long run, Google argues, this will be a good thing for authors where they will get 63% (of sales from these visible scans), that no more than 20% of a book will be visible, that libraries can have digitized copies, etc. And probably it will be a good thing.

However, within all that mire that I’m still wading through and trying to figure out before I write my letter of comment, there are provisions for Google to have more rights to your work should it not be in print. Even when a person’s book is no longer in print, that person still holds the copyright on their work but Google somehow thinks they will then have the right to digitize it. There are other such caveats that already have my head spinning.

Strangely this gives Google the right (in their minds) to scan, copy and digitize anything anyone sees and only if you complain or notice will they remove it. Can anyone say, Big Brother is Watching? We have a right to some privacy whether we’re doing anything bad or not, but because Google shoots first and ask questions later (or does as they please and waits to see if a lawsuit ensues) they’re getting far more by just taking. I find this hugely disturbing with ramifications that people haven’t seen yet. The biggest problem is devil or the deep blue sea of the settlement: if you opt out, you can sue Google or complain about the books they’re scanning in but they may still do it anyway. If you opt in, you can’t sue Google and they will scan your books. There are areas where you can ask them not to display your book (or your story in an anthology) should they scan it but there are so many exceptions I’m not sure it doesn’t mean they can do what they want no matter what.

Actually a problem even bigger than this is : why does Google get this settlement worked out that gives them a whole helluva lot of rights over written works? Why only Google? Why doesn’t the settlement mention other possible publishers, authors and digitizers of media? Because people were suing Google. But…this now sets up a precedent of exclusivity and I worry that in the future should I want to digitize my own book that I may need Google’s permission. Or that any out of print and public domain book (think Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen, Greek myths, fairy tales, etc.) will now only be exclusively digitized by Google. This large Chthulhian entity with many limbs of legality and money in its maw could swallow everything including our rights, our privacy and our ability to differentiation. And when it gets right down to it, I smell monopoly and that worries me a lot.

On the SF Canada writers list we discussed this quite a bit. Cory Doctorow, http://craphound.com/writer and co-editor of Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/ was very involved in the discussion. Someone finally asked him what he thought about the Google Book Settlement. He and I are pretty much on the same page. As Cory is more knowledgeable of the intricacies in the settlement and Google I asked if I could put his response here:

I think it missed the real point, which is competition. The risk to writers is that Google might end up having a disproportionate control over the distribution channel. The risk arises from Google ending up with exclusive rights to material, and from the cost of entry to its competitors.

The publishers had leverage to fix both of these, by saying:

* We will offer a feed of all our books in digital form to every search company or tool that wants to index them (much like the machine-readable digital feeds coming out of change.gov and the Obama administration)

* However, NO company may have this feed, UNLESS they agree that any public domain works they scan will be freely downloadable by their competitors. Right now, Google’s arrangement with the libraries and collections they’re scanning involves exclusive access to the public domain works in their collection (many of these are very rare). This means that GOOG might end up the sole holder of a collection encompassing millions of PD works, which enshrines a permanent advantage to Google through contract terms restricting otherwise free media, which will prevent their competitors from having a level playing field.

Contrast this with the existing settlement, which basically says:

1. Google can go on treating the public domain as private property

2. Anyone who wants to compete with Google should be prepared to spend millions in legal action with the publishers, so only the richest, least lawsuit-adverse competitors need apply

Google was able to completely change the Internet’s ecosystem and destroy several extremely well-capitalized competitors from a standing start — literally two guys in a garage — because the cost of entry was low and because there was nothing about the web that Altavista, Yahoo, etc. could index that Google couldn’t index as well.

The competitive market for search produced an amazing, world-changing array of services and tools that have given us all a better life.

Now, Google is trying to enshrine its victory by changing the search landscape, creating a web of contracts and legal settlements that will permanently prevent competitors from competing with it head on. They tried it (and failed) with Google Video. They tried it (and succeeded) with YouTube, through their settlements and exclusive content deals with video companies. They tried it (and succeeded) with their Google Print settlement.

Writers’ best future comes from having a fractured, competitive market for search, distribution, publication, discovery — all the services that comprise the channel through which our audiences discover, consume and publicize our material.

The best way to get that is to *reduce* the cost of entry for competitors, which means that the cost of entry *cannot* include 20 million dollars in legal fees and twenty billion dollars in potential liability.

If the price of admission is a staff of high-powered attorneys and the capital to face massive liability, expect a future characterized by a few gigantic media oligarchs to whom we must go, hat in hand, to beg for crumbs.

Cory

***

THE SETTLEMENT NOTICE I RECEIVED:

You are receiving this notice because our records indicate you are an author or author’s heir or successor, and your legal rights in the United States may therefore be affected by the settlement of a class action lawsuit in the United States regarding Google’s scanning of books and other writings.

 A summary of the Google Book Search settlement appears at the end of this email.

 Detailed information about the settlement is available at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com.  Please read the full Notice, which has detailed information about the settlement, important terms, the claims process, and key dates.  It is available at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/notice.html. These documents and assistance with the claims process are also available from the Settlement Administrator by email (booksettlement_en@rustconsulting.com) or telephone.

 If you have questions about the settlement, please visit http://www.googlebooksettlement.com or email the Settlement Administrator at booksettlement_en@rustconsulting.com.  If you have questions about distributing the Notice or about the ongoing program to notify class members worldwide about this settlement, please contact the Notice Provider at GoogleSettlement@kinsella-novak.com.

 Sincerely,
Google Book Search Settlement Administrator
booksettlement_en@rustconsulting.com

Legal Notice

Persons Outside the United States: This settlement may affect you because it covers U.S. copyright interests in books published outside the United States. If you hold such an interest in a book or other material in a book, this settlement will bind you unless you timely opt out.
——————————————————————————–

If You Are a Book Author, Book Publisher or Other Person Who Owns a Copyright in a Book or Other Writing, Your rights may be affected by a class action settlement regarding Google’s scanning and use of Books and other writings.

Authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit, claiming Google violated the copyrights of authors, publishers and other copyright holders (“Rightsholders”) by scanning in-copyright Books and Inserts, and displaying excerpts, without permission. Google denies the claims. The parties have agreed to a settlement. This summary provides basic information about the settlement. “Books” and “Inserts” are described below.

What Does the Settlement Provide?

The settlement, if Court-approved, will authorize Google to scan in-copyright Books and Inserts in the United States, and maintain an electronic database of Books. For out-of-print Books and, if permitted by Rightsholders of in-print Books, Google will be able to sell access to individual Books and institutional subscriptions to the database, place advertisements on any page dedicated to a Book, and make other commercial uses of Books. At any time, Rightsholders can change instructions to Google regarding any of those uses. Through a Book Rights Registry (“Registry”) established by the settlement, Google will pay Rightsholders 63% of all revenues from these uses.

Google also will pay $34.5 million to establish and fund the initial operations of the Registry and for notice and settlement administration costs, and at least $45 million for cash payments to Rightsholders of Books and Inserts that Google scans prior to the deadline for opting out of the settlement.

Who Is Included?

The settlement class includes all persons worldwide who own a U.S. copyright interest in any Book or Insert. The meaning of “U.S. copyright interest” is broad. Wherever you are located, please read the full Notice to determine whether you are included in the settlement.

There are two Sub-Classes:

The “Author Sub-Class” (authors of Books and other writings, and their heirs, successors and assigns), and
The “Publisher Sub-Class” (publishers of Books and periodicals, and their successors and assigns).
What Material Is Covered?

“Books” include in-copyright written works, such as novels, textbooks, dissertations, and other writings, that were published or distributed in hard copy format on or before January 5, 2009. U.S. works must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to be included in the settlement. “Books” do not include periodicals, personal papers, sheet music, and public domain or government works.

“Inserts” include any text and other material, such as forewords, essays, poems, quotations, letters, song lyrics, children’s Book illustrations, sheet music, charts, and graphs, if independently protected by U.S. copyright, contained in a Book, a government work or a public domain book published on or before January 5, 2009 and, if U.S. works, registered (alone or as part of another work) with the U.S. Copyright Office. Inserts do not include pictorial content (except for children’s Book illustrations), or any public domain or government works.

The Notice contains a more detailed description of these terms and other essential information about the settlement.

What Should I do?

Please read the full Notice, which is available at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com. Decide whether you should:

  • Remain in the settlement. If you do so, you will be bound by the Court’s rulings, including a release of your claims against Google.
  • Object to or comment on the settlement. You must object/comment in writing by May 5, 2009.
  • Opt out of the settlement and keep your right to sue Google individually. You must opt out in writing by May 5, 2009.
  • File a claim for a cash payment (if you are eligible to do so). You must file your claim by January 5, 2010.


The Court has appointed Class Counsel to represent the two Sub-Classes. If the settlement is approved, Class Counsel for the Author Sub-Class will request attorneys’ fees and expenses that Google has agreed to pay. You can also hire your own attorney at your own cost.

The Court will determine whether to approve the settlement at a Fairness Hearing on June 11, 2009 at 1:00 p.m.

Get Complete Information, Including the Full Notice:

Visit: http://www.googlebooksettlement.com
Call: Toll-Free 1.888.356.0248
Write: Google Book Search Settlement Administrator, c/o Rust Consulting
P.O. Box 9364, Minneapolis, MN 55440-9364 United States of America

 This message (including any attachments) may contain confidential or otherwise privileged information and is intended only for the individual(s) to which it is addressed. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system. E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secured or error-free as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message or that arise as a result of e-mail transmission. If verification is required please request a hard-copy version from the sender.
Rust Consulting, Inc.
www.rustconsulting.com

(Note that since I was the intended addressee I seem to be able to disseminate this and there is no reason to hide it.)

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Writing: The Great Wheel of Publishing

 This wheel is large and ungainly, held together with sweat, tears, slush pile manuscripts, spit, unbought or returned books and elbow grease. It lumbers along, turning ever so slowly, sometimes looking more as if it will tumble over then keep rolling. But roll it does, usually, sometimes losing an author, or a novel, some staff or advertising revenue. It does not turn smoothly but continues until the gap of lost material becomes so big that the wheel must be overhauled.

Such is the case with various publishers along the long road of years. Ten years ago I was trying to get copy editing work with US publishers. This Herculean task met many difficulties. Publishers and the editors in charge are over-busy, always reading and procuring manuscripts and then going through the myriad phases of production. Send a letter and if it isn’t imperative to answer (we want your manuscript, pay our invoice) it never gets answered, not even if you include a SASE and you’re looking for employment. The next stage is to phone and hope you get the right editor in the right department. Should you call and only get their voicemail, presume they won’t return your call. And if you live on the west coast and have a three-hour time difference it will take early hours and a crystal ball to figure out the best time and day to try and catch and editor. Give up on Fridays altogether.

Should you get through these first layers of the publishing house inferno, you will most likely get a copy editing test. Once that’s done you send it back. I did two over two-three years with Tor, where they subsequently lost the test both times. Then said oh well you have to go through St. Martins as they’re our boss. Uh, they didn’t know this beforehand when they gave me the test? And Ace gave me the test; I sent it back and heard nothing. When I queried twice they said, oh we can’t hire Canadians. I didn’t know that when I sent you a test. Great, I’ve had a lot of practice with editing tests.

With Harper Collins, I passed the test. Then they sent me disks because they used a specific computer-based editing system. (This was about ten years ago and I’m not sure Word’s track changes feature was that developed then.) So, I received the disks but then had to buy a new computer because I didn’t have the memory capacity. At that time the guy who was going to train me was on holidays for a month. When he got back, he quit. So they were then trying to find someone else. In that time, they also bought out Avon books.

What ensued was two years of frustration and nary a job out of it. The editor I was dealing with was transferred to a different dept., then let go. Others came and went. I was given various names of people and would call every month. Each time I had to explain the situation who I had talked to, where it had changed, what area of copy editing I specialized in (SF/spec fiction) etc. Each time, it was a different person, a new department, a new system. Two years of calling every month after being told I would be hired as a freelancer and I never got one job out of it. But I had a bigger, better computer.

Over the years I have edited for a few US publishers and Canadian publishers but the sheer frustration of getting New York publishers was enough to stop most people. You really do have to live there. The longest stint I had copy editing with one publisher was three years or so with Byron Preiss book packagers (now gone the way of the dodo). And I got my first job because I was at the World Fantasy Convention standing in the lineup for the hotel. The guy in front told me he had just got a promotion to editor and I said, hey do you need any copy editors. He said send a resume when you get back but before I could he called because he had a rush job. Keith DeCandido gave me my first real break in copy editing. He quit before the company imploded and I had stopped doing work form them before that because getting paid was becoming difficult. He now writes novels. I now think of writing my novel, still copy edit and still write.

Other hurdles in the publishing world are managing editors who ask you to copy edit but don’t clarify by how much. Some publishers (or working on some authors) means that you’re required to only correct typos and punctuation. Copy editing is more than this and includes correcting sentence structure and continuity. It can be structural editing, which looks at the overall structure of chapters, pacing and flow, or very close to proofreading. Over the years I have found most companies who wanted proofreading really wanted more than that.

It’s common for individuals looking for an editor to say they want proofreading when in almost all cases they mean copy editing. It can be confusing for the new writer but just as confusing for the freelance editor. I’ve had publishers cancel a project in the middle (they were moving into movies, but did pay for what I’d ) or wanting a book padded (requiring that one line paragraphs be left in and the worst sentences be reworked but not deleted).

Publishing houses usually have a house style and often a style sheet. If they don’t give me one, I usually ask if they have a house style as it can affect the overall product. I’ve started to see some weird things in some books of late. Tor is an American publisher yet I’ve seen a book or two done with British spellings. In one case it may have been to give it the flavor of an earlier era as it was about a world in the 1800s.

But editing and acquisition of books are just a couple spokes of that great wheel. There is design production, advertising, marketing, distribution, return and paying the employees, artists and authors. Some spokes seem to have more weight, or, if you were looking a wooden wheel, some would be sturdier or decorated, but without all of the spokes the wheel fails. And to carry the analogy to the end the hub of the wheel is the writer and the publisher. Without the writer there is no story to sell. Without the publisher there are still stories but it’s harder to get them out to the public.

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