When bad publishers attack… again…

It’s not a big secret that every now and then a publisher pops up that seems to be good at the outset and then flounders like a fish out of water, gasping for air before flopping to a ‘orrible death. We’ve seen a lot of these on the Absolute Write forum, mostly because of the plethora of one-person outfits that start up with the best of intentions (to publish their own works) and end up in water way over their head.

The most recent implosion seems to be Ridan Publishing and Robin Sullivan. In a nutshell she created Ridan to publish her husband’s work (which later got picked up by Orbit and is doing quite well) and later took on other authors. She came to the attention of the AW crew mostly because of her claims that seems to be, well… outlandish. That she could pay high royalties and maintain a high sell rate despite never updating her website or doing much promotion other than cranking out ebooks with fabulous covers (courtesy of her husband) and give the author a contract that had an opt-out clause that could be invoked within 30 days – hardly standard for the industry.

Unfortunately these dreams came to a smashing halt with the discovery last week that she wasn’t paying royalties to A.C. Crispin for her Starbridge series, out of print and which Ms Crispin wanted to see back in print to provide funds for her medical costs. Now if you don’t know who Ms Crispin is… well, let’s just say she’s a Big Name in the author world and you really don’t want to mess with her.

Ms Crispin hadn’t seen royalties for a year on these books and no communicaton with Ridan/Robin Sullivan. She invoked her clause to opt out of the relationship but the registered letter sat at the post office.



Then Jim C. Hines got into the picture. Again, if you don’t know who he is – let’s just say that he’s quite Da Man. It seems that his threat to “drop the internet” on Robin’s head prompted a phone call from Sullivan to Ms Crispin and the news came out that they were negotiating an amicable split.

Then this, just today.  On the Kindleboards where RS and Ridan basically made their reputation for supporting self-published authors and where she plucked a few for her personal stable. To say it’s insulting and disgusting is to understate the obvious. She not only throws down the amount of money she owes Ms Crispin, violating the trust between author and publisher, she blows off the entire situation and twists it around to make herself look like the good guy for doing what she’s doing to “help out”.

Gobsmacked, I iz.

This illustrates, unfortunately, a trend we’re seeing more and more of online – small one-person outfits who just can’t handle the work of running a company single-handedly and get in way over their head. There’s been numerous examples over the years tracked in AW of these people dragging down not only the authors they pull into their whirlpool but also editors, artists and others who get trapped when the sole person gets sick or has a personal crisis or something else. Whatever the reason the authors are left high and dry because there’s no one else to do the work or send out the checks or get the books released.

If nothing else the Ridan story should be a warning sign for all authors looking for a publisher – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. And a small outfit, especially with only one person on the payroll can easily lock up your rights for a long, long time.

As regards this situation – I can safely say I wouldn’t recommend Ridan to my worst enemy right now.

As with all things – imo, jmmv.

World’s Biggest Bookstore – and *me*!

While I was up in Canada last month visiting my sick mother I made a quick trip into Toronto and to my fav hangout – the World’s Biggest Bookstore. If you’ve never been there… well, you’ve missed out on one of the great wonders of the world. It’s a beautifully stocked monster bookstore with almost everything you can imagine. I spent many an hour there when I lived in Toronto browsing the shelves and just wallowing in all of the literary goodness.

And I saw this:

Now, I’d already been told by the wonderful Jessica Strider that she’d shelved some copies of both “Blaze of Glory” and “Wild Cards and Iron Horses” but I wasn’t prepared to actually SEE them on the shelves. Not to mention getting to sign them and watch the staff slap the “Autographed by Author” sticker on them. Again, my thanks to Jessica and the great staff for making an old broad’s day!

I can now die a happy woman. If nothing else I’ve managed to get on the shelves of my hometown dream bookstore. What’s better than that?

(Okay, more money would help. Did I mention I’ve finished and submitted the sequel to “Blood of the Pride”?)


New Babbage steampunk stories!

A few years ago I ventured into the virtual world of Second Life, a free online world where you can wander anywhere and anywhen, taking up different avatars and accessories as you wanted to.

I landed in a steampunk sim called New Babbage – a quaint little town with a few little quirks. Not that I was without my own, becoming Sheryl Skytower, the Clockwork Dragon of New Babbage!

Recently the New Babbage Fiction Press put out their first work – Tales of New Babbage, The Steampunk City – Volume One.

I am happy to say that I helped out by writing some of the introductions to these fine tales – stories by and about the citizens of this virtual steampunk world.

If you’re looking for something different to add to your reading pile may I suggest this wonderful book – available now in print.

And if anyone wants to wander into Second Life – it’s free, VERY easy to learn, and a great way to make friends and visit other worlds from Victorian steampunk to reproductions of famous cities to art galleries to nightclubs and RPG sims.

Just be sure to drop your favorite clockwork dragon a note!


Why cover artists are Gods and Goddesses…

I love cover art. I’ll admit it’s one of the first things that brings me up to a book and makes me grab it off the shelf. Only then do I look at the synopsis and the back blurb, flip through the pages and read a bit.

I’m *that* type of reader.

Which is why I love and worship those talented people who do cover art. I’ve seen some mighty BAD covers and I’ve seen some mighty FABOO covers over the years, going all the way back to when I worked as an editorial secretary for Penguin Books Canada.

Back then the art department consisted of two artists and a manager who worked wonders with their sketchpads (remember, this was in the 80’s and BEFORE computer programs took off) and came up with beautiful images for the books. But it was a long, complicated process of meetings and discussions and reworking images until it all came together to produce some wonderful covers.

One of my favorite stories is when we were working on Peter C. Newman’s history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He wanted a certain image used on the cover of one volume and there was a problem – the canoe in the image just didn’t look right with the voyageurs looking to one side.

The cure? Flipping the image. The only way you’d know it wasn’t the original picture was the reversal of the HBC logo at the front of the canoe. It made the book even better.

Or Pierre Berton’s “Vimy”, an oral history of the epic WWI battle. After a lot of planning they settled on a purple cover with a poppy on the front. So little that said so much. Perfect.

With the introduction of such programs as Poser and Paintshop it’s become easier to produce covers and small presses have taken advantage of this to create some fine, fine images.

And… some awful, awful, ‘orrible book covers that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Exhibit one: Catherine Cookson’s backlist.

Take a minute. Get that blood out of your eyes. Please, take a minute.

Cover art is everything. Cover art will grab the reader before your words can and I thank God every day for the talented people I’ve had working on my behalf to create great cover art for my books.

Sure, my stories have to live up to the cover art. But without a good image I won’t even get a chance for the reader to pick it up and read a few words.

Think about it next time you grab a book in e-form or paperback. And send a silent thank-you to the cover artists who make magic happen for us authors with each and every creation.



Another day…

While I’m waiting for another round of edits on “Wild Cards and Iron Horses”, let me rant a bit about television writing. Spoilers below, so run away!

Fringe: Oh, NO, you did NOT go there. Really? If FauxOlivia doesn’t get found out within the first two eps, I’m done with you. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy writing! And after da Kiss…

Bones: No. No. No. Cam does not want to have an empty lab for a year, thank you very much. She should fire all your butts and retire. I’m looking at YOU, Jack and Angela. And don’t even get me started on why Booth and Bones don’t even HUG before she’s off to Poo-Poo Island and he’s off to Afghanistan.

Castle: The Ex? Really? Who we haven’t seen ALL season and who shows up conveniently just as Kate’s about to reveal her innermost thoughts?


Now, the writer in me understands that this is a logical thing. Castle hasn’t been working 10-12 hour days with Beckett and rushing home to write. I can totally see him isolating himself to finish “Naked Heat”. Really, I can. And it’s a good way out for the writers to push the REAL book in the fall.

But we better not be setting up a love triangle. Let Castle find out in the first two days WHY she’s the frakking ex-wife.

Grr. To all of the above.

Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly put out an article on J.A. Konrath’s signing with Amazon for his new book. And, right on time, the angry rebuttal on Konrath’s blog.

My thoughts: Suck it up, dude. You can’t set yourself up as the Guru of Self-Publishing and not expect to get some body shots. And please, don’t send your loyal followers over to PW to rant about how it’s a Big Conspiracy to Keep the Self-Pubs down. I wonder if he hunts down anyone who gives him a bad review on Amazon and does the same thing. If they’ve got their stats wrong, write a rebuttal article and send it in. Emotional diatribes don’t look good and remind me of Anne Rice’s rants on Amazon.

Dragon out.

We could be heroes…

One of my earliest memories is of running down the narrow hall in our apartment, my blanket tied around my neck and flying out behind me as I leapt into the air, prepared to take flight.

I broke two toes. And didn’t quite get the altitude I planned. At least, that’s what my mother tells me. I think that secretly I did fly and she just wanted to keep me under control.

But I wander…

I think that we’ve all secretly wanted to be superheroes at some point, be it Wonder Woman or Batman or Superman or Black Canary (who, I understand, dresses like a tramp according to Tim Gunn). Why, well… I suspect it all comes down to just wanting to help people who we can’t usually help because we *don’t* have the ability to fly or to lift cars or scream at and break their eardrums.

Oh, sure, there’s the temptation of being a bad guy – thus the attraction to the Joker and to Lex Luthor and who doesn’t want to date the bad guy, like Harley Quinn, right? But eventually we all turn around and head for the good guys, because that’s one of the ways we keep civilization going and all that. And, frankly, after a certain age you know the bad boys are going to STAY bad boys no matter what you do.

Trust me on this.

What inspired me to write “Blaze of Glory” was a bit of love for the entire superhero genre, mixed in with my incredulous watching of professional wrestling and how the fans swear up and down that it’s for REAL, darn it, and nothing is faked. My fertile ‘lil mind took the idea of staged fights and ran with it.

What if you acquired superpowers through an accident and found out that you no longer controlled your life?
What if you were forced to fight other supers in staged battles, the outcome already pre-arranged?
What if you didn’t have a choice – stop fighting and be killed?

and the classic What If…

What If some alien race, watching the transmissions sent out from our Mother Earth, thought this was all for real?

Jo Tanis is a bookstore clerk with nothing more super about her than her ability to make change. But one late-night mugging gives her the power to control the electromagnetic waves around her, turning her into a super. And just like that, she’s thrust into the arms of the Agency that controls the superheroes and villains. Trained and set up with a Guardian who could kill her at any moment, she fights in the Roman Circus on the public stage, battling other villains in arranged battles. It’s not a bad life, not really. Except for the entire lack of freedom of choice and the ever-present threat of termination if she dares step outside of the ring…

Then, one night, she’s watching yet another super fight on the television screen; one of the best doing what he does best – beating up on a bad guy. But it’s not on the schedule…

Well, that’s where things get interesting.

“Blaze of Glory” is now available from Samhain Publishing as well as at Amazon.com and other fine ebookstores everywhere. I hope you’ll consider picking up the ebook or make plans to grab the trade paperback when it comes out in early 2011.

Me, I’m getting my old blanket out of the closet and heading for the roof.

What could possibly go wrong?

Under the catagory of WTH…

Submitted for your recommendation – the latest info on Blu Phi’er Publishing.

Seems that the owner sent out a mass mailing to all the authors detailing their royalties, if any, and how much they OWE the company. Courtesy of The Rusty Nail.

I don’t even KNOW where to begin to discuss about how totally wrong this is. First, and this is just from a gut reaction, how the heck do you feel about having your royalties shared with everyone else on that list? Sure, it’s nice to know how the other authors in your company are doing, but… that’s just wrong. On so many levels that it’s mindboggling.

Next, the amount owed. Now I’m assuming that the authors won’t actually be BILLED for this but it’s still… wrong. As I’ve said many times before – you may not get into writing to get rich, but you sure don’t get into it to go into debt!

However, as this post on Absolute Write points out, this is all perfectly legal due to the contract that the authors signed. Yep, all laid out there in black and white and they signed off on it – so technically they don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware clarifies right here exactly how wrong it is. But, again, if the authors signed off on it…

I guess the moral of the story is to READ the contract before you SIGN off on it and make sure to get every little point clarified. I know that all too well although I’m luckier than these poor stiffs. Not to mention the impoliteness of having your personal finances tossed through the internet in a mass mailing. Tres gauche.

As Uncle Jim has said many times – it’s better to NOT be published than to be published BADLY. Think this sort of illustrates that.


If it seems too good to be true…

… you know the rest.

Seems that there’s a "publisher" in the UK that’s racing towards becoming known as the Next Great Publishing Scam. YouWriteOn, a writing website, has decided to lunge forth with the offer to publish the first 5,000 manuscripts sent in to them. Wait, you say – what’s the scam there? Why wouldn’t any decent author rush to get a free printing of their beloved tome?

Well, let’s see… first, it’s outrageously overpriced. YWO is buying the ISBN’s cheap and selling them at a profit to the author – not exactly the biggest scam out there in the publishing world, but they’re doing it at a price that’s more than Lulu.com – and that’s just greedy. Next, you use up your first rights when you go with some sort of shady outfit like this that’ll basically just print what you send them and then run off copies using the POD technology that’s screwed up more than a few authors. Remember, POD sounds great when you look at it quickly but then reality checks in when you have to explain to a bookstore that since each copy is printed off upon demand, there’s no print run for them to count on. So don’t hold your breath for your printer/publisher to be able to send out review copies or be able to fulfill a large demand for books.

There’s a few blogs on this that go into much more detail – Old Hack’s, here and of course the magnificent Writer Beware blog here. Needless to say it’s a great way to waste something you’ve put a lot of work into for something that’s not going to be taken seriously by anyone other than, say… your postman.

Unfortunately there’s a plethora of scammers out there who rely on the natural enthusiasm of new authors to get published – this one’s even sadder because they’ve actually managed to get government grants to keep running – which only points out to ME that the UK needs to have more restrictions on this sort of silliness. I can’t say that I’m surprised; I’ve seen stupidity like that in Canada where they hand out grants for the silliest of things and hope for the best.

The AW thread on YouWriteOn is here as well – it’s a bit long but you can trace the ongoing scrutiny and the website owner’s ducking and dodging giving a straight answer – which, again, should send up warning flags. If they don’t give a straight answer, run away.

Again, as in everything – if it seems too good to be true then it’s probably not. Which is sad, but it’s not worth tossing a good story away for the fast rush of being approved immediately for "publication".

’nuff said.

Reviews, reviews and damned reviews…

You don’t have to be a genius to see that having your book reviewed is probably a Good Thing – sure, we’d all like to have it in the New York Times or some such esteemed paper but that’s often hard to get. So many authors fall back on smaller magazines or specialised ones that cater to their genres. Which is all fine and dandy until you find out/realise that some of them are literally selling reviews.

Dear Author starts the revelation train here –  which takes in a post from Lee Goldberg here and is mentioned as well at Karen Knows Best, a faboo blog.

In a nutshell, there are some magazines that sell you a review if you buy advertising space. Now, this isn’t that big a revelation for some but for the poor readers of said magazine it may be a bit of a sour taste. After all, why should I believe a review that’s basically been bought for the cost of an ad?

Now, having said that – I purchased an ad for my novel in RT. At the time I asked if there was a chance of getting a review, since my book was not only coming out late but the publisher doesn’t/didn’t believe in sending out ARC copies, or review copies before the book was published. The woman I dealt with (NOT an employee, just the one organizing the group ad) said to send it along and see what happened. Well, I did get a review. Three stars. Of course I got pretty well NO sales thanks to the review but it was nice to see some acknowledgment of my book in print. Did I buy that review? Sure as heck I did… I may not have bought the RATING but I bought the space for it to go to the reviewer out of the stacks and stacks of self-pub/POD/vanity/micropress copies that no doubt fill up rooms and rooms on a daily basis at RT. Did I know this from the start? Nope… I just assumed that I was buying the ad and tossing my book upon the heap in the back room with hopes of getting it reviewed. Now that I know that buying an ad pretty well guarantees the space for a review, well…

While I agree with Goldberg that it’s a major lapse in honesty for the reviewers not to say that there’s some payoff going on here I also sympathise with Carol Stacy of RT who states that it’s one of the ways for them to sift through the chaos above. But maybe it’s not the best and maybe RT should have a disclaimer somewhere in the magazine that states that the reviews of smaller companies are basically being bought by the advertising. Perhaps not the rating but the space for the review itself.

As for Affaire de Coeur, where this all started, it’s obvious that they’re just not as good as hiding it as others. Which is both a shame and a blessing, when you think about it. 

So next time you pick up a review for your fav book you may want to consider the source. And then wonder how the system still works with all this silliness going on.