4.13.2012

Neglected Arts and other stories

Writers, this first section is for you.

Bellingham's newspaper ran a story this week on a local teenager who just published a novel. I read the article, all psyched up to be graciously envious, until the publisher's name was mentioned.

A little searching verified my suspicions. They're what Writer Beware calls a back-end vanity press, requiring authors to buy bulk copies of their own books. The unlikely name of the company is enough to send up a red flag, but a cursory read of the site is more than enough to warn off anyone who knows anything about the business of writing or publishing.

Sixteen-year-olds generally don't. I wouldn't have at that age. (Though I could spell, and would have wondered why the people writing the website couldn't.)

Likewise, I’ve known of a probably more serious instance this year involving one of the scam artists on Writer Beware's Two Thumbs Down list. In that case, I was at least able to warn the author, though unfortunately not successfully, I don’t think. The pursuit of publication is difficult and discouraging, and scammers live on that discouragement.

There are (at least) two industry recommended sites for checking a publisher’s reputation. The primary one is SFWA’s Writer Beware. The second is the admittedly poorly-designed but very thorough Preditors & Editors. Use them. Shy away from any agent or publisher who can’t face their questions or comes up as Not Recommended. Be leery of anyone who solicits your manuscript without you first submitting it to them; the real folks don't have the time. Never, never contract with an agent or publisher who will charge you anything but a percentage of sales for the publication of your book.

Tell your friends.

* * *

Along with re-reading my old novel to make sure the new first chapters jive with the rest of the story, I've returned to a neglected art practice this week: the piano.

Writerly focus has kept me away from the instrument for a while—like, a couple of years. But whenever I drift away from practice, someone comes along and plays something that convinces me to go back.

This time, it was mostly a violinist. All through Holy Week I listened to her, wished I hadn't quit the instrument at fifteen, and wondered how much it would cost to fix my violin as the bridge popped off when I attempted to play it a few years ago. If I lose my voice entirely, the violin is the one instrument I could play that might make a fair substitute.

But I've also, for months, been admiring and envying our pianist's ability to sightread. I always wanted that skill, and when the college freshman they hired to play organ during Holy Week—who looked so much like one of my novel characters that it was all I could do not to stare outright—sat down at the piano and read off a bunch of our music, it upped the envy factor significantly.

The final straw, however, was Lou. The radio played a Mozart sonatina that he used to play, and when the piece ended, he shut off the radio and went to our electronic keyboard. And I listened.

"Leave the keyboard on," I said when he finished. And the rest is history. Well, except for how badly I suck at playing Für Elise now. That's the present. But then, you know, there's nothing like practice.

* * *

All right. I'm going to take an absurdly long blog-post and make it longer, with pictures.

First, I dreamed the other night that Maia dodged past me and got into the laundry room, where my seedlings are. I'm afraid this means I've become obsessed with keeping her out of there. But look at these little guys! Wouldn't you want to protect them, too?


Also, our real estate agent gave us daffodil bulbs last fall, and the results are shockingly gorgeous:



And finally, here's the Great Destroyer of Plants herself, enjoying housecleaning day. Maia loves housecleaning day, though laundry day is her favorite. (Sorry, no pictures of that. There's no good way to photograph a cat burrowing into an unfolded pile of clean underwear. There's just "Get out of there, you dolt!" amid laughter.)

Cats don't get red-eye, generally; they get creepy Hollywood demon white-eye.
* * *

Writers' other link of the week, also good for random amusement: Colin Nissan, over at McSweeney's, offers the Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do. Advisory: not very clean. But funny.

* * *

Music of the week: Here's something else I suck at playing—Kuhlau's Sonatina Op. 20, No. 1. This kid puts me to great shame. For now.



* * *

Right, this post is way beyond long enough. Happy weekend!

10 comments:

  1. "There's no good way to photograph a cat burrowing into an unfolded pile of clean underwear."

    That's why you have to use video... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! No. Maybe sometime when she's getting into a towel load. :P

      Delete
  2. Yay for the daffodils! Such lovelies! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I just saw your tulips on your blog. They're lovely, too. :)

      Delete
  3. Gah!!! A friend of ours, an older lady, unmarried, who has no money to speak of, was recently rooked into publishing with one of those "preditors" listed on both of the websites you recommended. I had no idea there was anything fishy about it until a friend of ours who is a writer told us that the company did "self-publishing" and that you had to pay them to publish your stuff. This company convinced her to publish the children's book that she wrote and illustrated in hardback, so I'm guessing they really gouged her. I don't know what she had to pay them, but she told me she gets something like one-third of the profits of copies that are purchased directly from the publisher (their list price for the book is about $22) and far less, maybe 1/6 for copies sold by retailers.

    Siiiigh. This gal has a heart of gold. I wanted to buy some copies to support her, but I don't want a red cent to go to any scam artist! Here's the link to her book: http://sbpra.com/ZuzannaMalavasic/

    Anyway, thanks for publishing this important PSA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just re-read this and realized my post was unclear. I should have clarified - the second writer-friend of ours that I referred to is a man. I don't know if he got rooked by one of these companies, but he might have. Sorry for the typos and lack of clarity- holding a sleeping baby on one arm. He has his first cold and can't sleep unless propped up because he's all congested :(

      Delete
    2. No worries about the typos! But yes, SBPRA is a serious problem. The royalty rate isn't bad in and of itself, but the company simply isn't honest. The founder has been on the receiving end of some kind of litigation from the state of Florida as well. I don't know all the specifics, but Writer Beware and Pred&Ed both warn strongly against them.

      Your friend's book sounds like an adorable concept. If her contract allows for any sort of reversion of rights, either by time limitations of SBPRA's exclusive rights or by written termination of the contract or anything like that, she'd be much better off self-publishing through Smashwords or CreateSpace/Amazon.

      Delete
    3. Oh, and poor little baby! I hope he feels better soon, and that you don't catch the cold!

      Delete
  4. Yeah, those vanity presses are awful. I was taken in once or twice in my teen years for a poetry one. The sad thing is it's been over twenty years since that happened, but I still always see the ads for these things in the local papers. These scams just live on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ack... sorry you had to deal with that. Yes, they go on forever. In fact, an ad popped up for one when this comment came into my Gmail. :P

      Delete

Friendly comments are welcomed with fairy music, magic wishes, and possible unicorn sightings. Troll comments will be Transfigured into decent-looking rocks or Vanished. Spam comments will be shot down with blasters. You have been warned.

It is with much regret that I've set the monster Captcha guarding the gate. There just weren't enough blasters. I'm sorry. I hate it, too.