Phoenix Fire: How to make enemies and create adversaries

Tabetha Jones and her cohorts arrived on my blog and created an amusing furor .

I stand by my statement that Phoenix Fire is run like a vanity press. They expect the authors to pay all of the costs up front. The established norm for a traditional publisher is that the publisher assumes all of the costs and gambles that the book will earn out its expenses. I am hoping to eventually be able to afford to pay a token advance to each author so that even if the book does not earn royalties, they at least have something to show for having published with Daverana.

“..,it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” said Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  And such it is for what happened on my blog. So this becomes an article about what not to do.

I raised my daughter by the Socratic method. I turned arguments into questions. The Athenian philosophers confounded the Romans by arguing one side one day and the totally opposite on the other.   When facts are presented to back up statements, they carry weight and can make for a lively and interesting discussion. This is NOT what happened with Tabetha and her cohorts. They came in guns blazing. Their arguments were not backed by facts. For instance, I was told repeatedly to go speak with various unnamed people to support her claim.

Tabetha’s comments, and those of her cohorts, were filled with irrelevant statements and endless insulting non sequitors.  My questions to her were never answered. I got the usual reactions that are more appropriate to the famous “butthurt report form.”

Let’s start with her “60%” royalties. I asked her to tell me how she figured them. Traditionally, the author is given a fixed percentage of cover price. That does not vary unless (in print cases only) the book is remaindered or reduced in some other way. Trouble arises when the author is promised a percentage of the net. The net is what remains after all costs are covered.  Hollywood and the music industry are famous for their creative accounting practices that can reduce the net to almost nothing. The author should not have to wait for their money until the costs are covered. That is not how it works.  The author’s royalties should come off the top.

The publisher does not own the book. The publisher is renting the book. That is basically what a publishing contract is. The author sells the publisher license to publish. There are other forms, but I’m not going into them here (such as book packagers). The publisher assumes all costs. That’s just how it is.

Another old saying, “You catch more flies with a spoon of honey than a barrel of vinegar.” Tabetha needs to have that tattooed to her forehead so that every time she looks in the mirror she is reminded of it.

There is a huge difference between fame and infamy.  Intelligent people will know what I am talking about.

Time and again, an author or publisher or artist gets criticized for what they are doing and the result is that they make a laughing stock of themselves by throwing a fit. That is infamy. No one ever takes them seriously again. At least no one of worth does.  Now, I’ve put my foot in my mouth at times and had my cheeks burn for a week or more over it. But I did not repeat the error.

Tabetha continually repeats her actions expecting to have a different result.

Dog poops on the floor and instead of punishing him directly, you pat him on the head and “ooooh, honey, it’s not nice to poop on the floor. Mommy doesn’t want you to poop on the floor.”  What does the dog do the next day? He poops on the floor.

The very first thing that a publisher, a writer, an artist needs to learn is to separate themselves from their work/company/whatever. A criticism of the work or the practice is not a criticism of the publisher/writer/artist as a person. The work and the actions stand alone and must speak for themselves. That and only that carries weight.

Another old saying (I’m in one of those anecdotal episodes, so bear with me) is “Actions speak louder than words.” So in this case we have two kinds of actions to weigh. First is the fact that she has not denied that the writer pays for everything. That makes her a vanity. There is no getting away from it. Second is that her behavior is childish.

So what is she saying about herself?

What should we take away from her example?

Well, you have to remove your ego from your work. Yes, positive reactions and reviews are wonderful and they fill us up with fruit of validation.

However, they do not teach us anything. What we learn from is the negative. We learn deeper and more extensively from what we failed at. That’s when we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and vow never to make that mistake again.

I believe in triangulation.  I don’t know if shortwave guys still do this or not. If anyone knows, please let me know. But anyways, they have hunts. They have one member hide and let out a signal. Then three or more of them try to get a fix on it from different angles and finally the signals cross right and the hiding member is found.

Flaws in writing, actions, and art  often can be revealed if enough negative feedback occurs and you start to see a pattern. I found a serious plot hole in My Sister’s Keeper (Journey of the Sacred King book one) when three readers had basically the same complaint. I was able to narrow it down and fix it. That’s the authorial blindspot, but that is also for another discussion.

What I am illustrating here is that both Lindsay Anne Kendal (Tabetha’s cover artist) and Tabetha herself could learn from the fact that they are getting this many complaints and negative observations here. They could fix the trouble. I have more hope for Lindsay than I do Tabetha.

Next point: I never allow the author to choose the cover.  That is for me and the editors because most authors would shoot themselves in the foot in terms of marketing decisions. They don’t have enough experience or knowledge of what sells to make a good decision. The cover promotes the book.  That is the first thing reader reacts to.

The publisher does not own the cover. Nor does the writer. Now, an artist can sell all rights, at which point the artwork becomes a stock image for the company or individual who bought it. However, normally the work is rented. The publisher acquires only certain rights and not complete ownership. These are spelled out in the artist’s contract. I mention this because Tabetha thought that having the author pay for the cover, which Tabetha commissions, is really quite novel and wonderful. Well, what do the authors then expect to do with the cover if they leave Tabetha’s company for another one? The new company is not going to want their edition (which might have been given a brand new edit and revision) to have the same cover the previous edition did. That’s just not done.

Well, you can’t eat a cover.

Anna Loobly posted the following comments.

“…attacking the authors title of their work is awful. What a rude man.”

“If the authors wants that as their cover that is up to them. It must have meaning to them.”

Let’s address it from a marketing stand point.

Authors want their books to sell. This is not entirely a point of vanity. If a publisher allows the author to have a cover and title that fails to catch the interest or, even worse, offend a reader or confuse one, then the book will not sell and in the end a disservice has been done to the author. It is a good publisher’s responsibility to prevent an author from shooting themselves in the foot.

Another good thing NOT to do is to add super glue to your foot once it is in your mouth.

Sometimes you have to swallow back the ugly comments you wish to make and suffer in silence. Or fix the situation after admitting you were wrong. It takes a big person to be able to sincerely admit they were wrong.  That makes people like Tabetha about the size of Thumbelina.  Please, if you hope to have a successful career or hobby, leave the super glue in the cabinet and your foot in your shoe.

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Amazon wins and it makes no difference

Victoria Strauss tweeted about this article in PW.

Months ago the Department of Justice ruled against the Big Six publishers and their attempt to force Amazon to sell their books at a higher price. The ruling stated that the publishers were committing restraint of trade violations. So Amazon was able to sell the ebooks they published at lower prices.

The irony of the whole mess is that nothing changed. Lower prices did not alter which books went onto the  best seller lists and apparently did not increase sales on those titles.

The one way that all of this bothered me was not in the pricing loss or victory. What Amazon HAS done is to make those books more competitive with the small press. For years, the small press was able to compete with the majors simply because we priced our books lower. If lower pricing from the majors becomes the rule across the breadth of distributors like Amazon, B&N, and others, then we might have to slash the prices on our own books down to the bare bone. We are not as visible as the majors. We do not have huge teams of publicists and money to toss into the ring to gain attention.  With the death of places like Fictionwise, the Indies are losing a lot of the outlets they counted on from the get go.

 

 

International writing scams

The Taj Mahal Review  charges $25 a copy for a beautifully produced magazine.  They do not pay their authors and they do not give them a contributor’s copy. You have to buy it for yourself.  The expensiveness of the magazine combined with the latter aspects has always made me feel that they were a back end scam. I first became suspicious of them in 2005 when Nickolaus Pacione was bragging about selling them some stories and poems. I submitted a poem to them that was already widely available on the net called “Anksha.” They accepted it. That’s when I got the details about the costs and no payment or copy. Since that was a legitimate poem, I then sent them another poem.  This time the poem was deliberately bad. Guess what? They accepted it.

It was a guest post on Victoria Strauss’ blog that reminded me of it.

Americans tend to be a bit naive when dealing with people in foreign countries. There is a huge movement of PC people who say that it is wrong to criticize foreign people who are not from Western nations. I  have been banned from many feminist communities for sharing my negative experiences with Africans (and I don’t blacks in general) and Moslems.  PC and naivete can blind us to the fact that scams are universal and a full part of all cultures and all religions and all whatevers. It’s human nature. Now click the link below and read that post on Victoria Strauss’ blog.

International writing scams

PHOENIX FIRE PUBLISHING — AVOID IT

I discovered this blog (and subscribed to it) following a tweet by Victoria Strauss. Some of the names were familiar enough to make me wonder how widespread scams and general misbehavior is on the part of small press publishers. Phoenix Fire is charging their authors to publish their works in a back end vanity manner.

Money should flow to the writer, not from them. It’s an old industry proverb.

The authors could self-publish for far less than they are being charged here. If you do an ebook, it is very easy to master the forms in which you upload them to the distributor. The Smashwords format works fine for kindle also. Making it double easy to just do a single format and publish to both.  The only change you need to make between them is that Smashwords wants the copyright page to feature the words “Smashwords Edition” so you just take it out of the version you send to kindle.

Publishers gamble on their authors earning back the costs of cover and editing.  They do not make the authors pay for them. And they should never promise more than they can afford to give their authors (blog tours, promotional objects, etc.)  or can reasonably handle.

Another aspect of this that is mentioned in the Suess’s blog post is that the “blog tours” turned out to be just three blogs operated by the same individual under different names. I had a personal experience of this several years ago. I hired a publicist for my company, Daverana Enterprises, and discovered that this was the only thing she did. I was appalled at the subterfuge and felt that it was both dishonest and cheating.  Since then, I have witnessed a fair number of “PR” firms holding to this practice.

Back when I was doing PR in the bad old days before the internet, I bought a $500 book each year that had the contact information for every newspaper, local TV and radio across the country, as well as the MAJOR places and shows, including Oprah and Regis Philbin.  You sent out press releases and made phone calls. When you landed an interview for your clients, it was real and not fake.

The internet has allowed for a huge percentage of fakery and all of us should take offers and brags with a grain of salt. Always google a company or individual before trusting them. And while you are at it, confirm that any testimonials are real. It has become a commonplace for some places to use alts to promote themselves. Others like the Albee Agency are attributing testimonials to real people who have no idea they even exist.

Read Writer Beware blog and make it a bible for avoiding scams.

Living with Diabetes

Last April I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2. I had been losing weight without changing my eating patterns. I’m very over weight, but not obese. I used to keep my weight off by exercising and taking long walks every day.  Then post-polio syndrome kicked in and I was unable to walk easily. less then five minutes of walking puts me into so much pain that I become nauseous from it.

I was never a big eater or a regular eater. I ate erratically, some times going all day without eating and then over eating the next day when my appetite returned.  I still have issues with food. Sometimes I have to force myself to eat.  Once or twice a year I’ll go four or five days without eating and then have to acclimate myself to food again.

In addition to the polio, I have PTSD (that has been discussed before in this blog). I think that there is a stress component to the periods in which I can’t eat.

However, once I could no longer exercise (I require a wheelchair to shop),  I put on ten pounds a year until I weighed 200 pounds.  I’m only five feet tall and that makes me a real tubby.  I have lost a lot of it since the diabetes arrived, mostly by changes in what I eat.  The hardest part of the diet is that I am supposed to eat three regular meals and three snacks. I take my glucose levels three times a day and I take metformin HCL.

I am still forgetting to eat some days, but I have begun using glasses of vegetable juice and sugar free fruit beverages that I create in my blender for the days I can’t bring myself to eat.  Regularity, as much as i can manage it, has curbed the binges.  My glucose levels are staying in the low normal range. I’m also making pots of soup and stews that are low carb.

I don’t miss the sweets. I have never been a big sweet eater, not even as a child. What I do miss is the pasta and potatoes that were the mainstay of my previous diet.

I am finding that the diabetes is manageable.  I had fish and fruit for lunch. In two hours, I’ll have half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter that contains no sugar. Reading the labels is a necessity. I was shocked at how much of our food contains high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar.

The older we get, the more physical issues we develop. I’m 58.  That means that they are piling up on me.

I was eight years old when I contracted polio, so I have very few memories of what it was like to be normal. In a sense, that is a good thing under the circumstances because I am very familiar with how to strategize around difficulties.  Over the years, I have seen how much harder it is for an adult to adapt to physical challenges after an illness or accident that disables them. They seem to be far less ready to cope than those who were disabled as children.

 

I have no skeletons in my closet: they're all hanging from the yardarm

The day started with a post from Nicky to my Daverana Page. He revealed that one of my employees was secretly accessing files on the main company computer and then sending them to him.  So I checked the logs (I’m the only one who can access those) and the most recent person to have a look at my Nicky files was Bob. He had also tried to pry into sections and documents that I had passworded.  I may never know whys of it all, but I am appalled by what I do know.

I had a big fight with Bob and then he threw a link in my face and called me a ‘bitch.”

The link was to a new page that Write Agenda has up on me. I tried several times to make my screenshots larger enough to be easily read.  So, in case you cannot read<a href=”"Photobucket"” target=”_blank”> this one, I’ll post what it says beneath my name in tiny type:

Protected: T.W.A.N.G.: Janrae Frank Dossier Project

In Accountability, Alcohol Abuse, Alternative Lifestyles, Cocaine, Drug Abuse, Emotional Instability, Gay Lifestyles, Hollywood, Illegal Drugs, Incitement, Interviews, Intimidation, Investigations, investigative journalist, Janrae Frank, Journalism, Journalist, lawsuits, Legal Issues, Lesbian, Lesions, Polio, Poliomyelitis, Propaganda, Rehabiltation, Sex Change, Spinal Column, The Washington Post, Therapy Sessions on November 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm

They got all of this off my blogs and put some spin on it to make it look like I”m mentally ill. It seems that having been trapped in an abusive marriage for 15 years and developing PTSD as a result of that abuse makes me all kinds of crazy. What does this say about their opinion of other abused women who found the strength to escape dangerously abusive marriages like I did? What does this say about what they believe about women who have survived male violence (as I have) and come out of it battered, but sane?

If people who have had PTSD and dared to talk about it are disparaged as “emotionally unstable”, how does this reflect our returning soldiers? Are they saying the ALL of our returning soldiers are to be treated badly and subjected to their derision?

I may have abused alcohol at times before I got meds for depression, but I was never an alcoholic. I was laughed out of my attempts to join AA. You see, all of the true alcoholics could recognize me as a normie with just a single question. “If you had some money and no groceries to feed your child, what would you spend it on? Your child or booze?”

Sovay never went hungry once I escaped from her father.

I have talked openly about my experiences with meth and cocaine and how I went cold turkey off it in 1988, because I wanted to show others that it was possible to stay clean. I have been clean since August of 1988. But they want me punished for ever having done it.  They want to turn my victories — and by extension all those like myself who overcame their addictions — into defeats.  Guess what, Write Agenda? It ain’t going to happen.

My ex is a transsexual and out of the closet. But by putting that one word there, it suggested that my c-section scars don’t really exist.  If any of the voyeurs reading this want pictures, feel free to ask.

No, I’m not a Lesbian. I’m bi-sexual. There IS a difference. I’m the B in GLBTQ, not the L.  So apparently they are homophobic also. Like the good people who are going around burning queer folks alive and dumping their remains on street corners.

And let’s take a look at how they mention my polio as if that made me mentally ill and of questionable worth.  Are they trying to insinuate that by having had polio at age eight I ought to be condemned?

The only one this reflects badly on is them. Not me.

Seriously, Write Agenda, do you think this is going to appease us?

Write Agenda has twice revised their boycott list. First they dropped everyone (including myself) off their list except for Strauss, MacDonald, Crispin, and Elrod. Then they expanded it again to include people (except me) who have recently blogged disparagingly about them, including Scalzi. This is a case of PHAIL. After all, most of us (including me) will not be letting their travesty of injustice stand unchallenged.

They still have not corrected their lies about the Freedom of Information Act, and until that is removed, I will continue to go after them.

They need to read my curmudgeon’s creed.  My curmudgeonry is one of the things I am best known for.  Sane people do not provoke curmudgeons who know their business.  Curmudgeons have much in common with Daleks: “Exterminate! Exterminate!”