Authors Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – they are just that!

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There’s been a number of articles on various sites about publishers who hook unwary authors into contracts that give nothing in return. Many indie authors have fallen into this trap—I include myself, unfortunately, in that number.

 

When I was working on my first book length manuscript, a book on leadership that I was encouraged to write by a young man who worked for me as my speech writer when I was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia (2002-2005). After slaving over the manuscript for nearly three years, I went searching for a publisher.

 

I encountered an ad from PublishAmerica, a Maryland-based small imprint that, unlike the many vanity publishers advertising at the time, touted the fact that they PAID authors for their work instead of asking for payment. Knowing, or at least suspecting, that the book I’d written would have limited appeal, it didn’t sound like a bad deal, so I submitted it.

 

A few weeks later I received an email advising me that my book was accepted for publication. Attached to the email was a contract. Naïve in the ways of publishing, I unwisely didn’t have that contract read by a lawyer before signing it. From what I’d read, it didn’t seem to bad – the advance was paltry (a mere $1.00), and I was locked into an 8-year commitment. But, the book would be published, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

 

It was published, but from that point on, it was a nightmare. The cover was somewhat amateurish—even then, just learning the art of designing book covers, I could’ve done a better job. The price was a bit high, I thought, but again, I was new to all this and didn’t know any better. I was encouraged to buy copies for myself at a measly discount from the inflated cover price. The royalties were also small; something like 8% of the cover price (compare that to the 75% you can get publishing it yourself through the Kindle Direct Program, or even the rather generous percentage you get when you publish a paperback through CreateSpace). They did, at least, list it on all the major book-seller sites; Amazon, etc.

 

Surprisingly, there were a few early sales, and I even got it included in a couple of libraries (The U.S. State Department Library, and my college library, to name two). A few people I met at conferences, who had read it, also informed me that they’d purchased copies to use in their management training programs. Despite this, my royalty checks over the past eight-plus years have yet to exceed $50. Looking back, when I compare this to the $100 per month I get through KDP, and an average of $30 per month through CreateSpace and other sales of paperbacks, I can see that what seemed at the time to be ‘too good to be true,’ in fact was just that.

 

The eight years in the contract are up now, and you would assume, as implied in the contract, my book rights belong to me. Guess again.

 

PublishAmerica changed its name to AmericaStar, in an effort, I believe, to attract foreign indie authors, but its practices remain the same. It does nothing to promote the books it accepts, beyond importuning the author regularly to buy copies, and lately it has done something that seals its fate as far as I’m concerned.

 

Over the past 60 days, I’ve been getting emails from AmericaStar nee PublishAmerica, informing me that the company is getting out of the publishing business and going full time to book promotion. In doing so, it plans to sell the rights to the books it holds to another ‘Indie’ publisher, but I can get them assigned to me for a modest fee of $199—it said in the initial emails that this was to cover the cost of removing it from selling platforms, etc.

 

At first, I couldn’t believe they would have the gall to do something like this, so I just ignored the first four or five emails. Then, they said, if I couldn’t afford $199, for a few days I could get my rights back for a mere $149. Again, I ignored them. A week later, another email, informing me that I had only two days to BUY my rights back, and they were doing me a big favor by reducing the cost to $99.  Thoroughly steamed by now, I just filed the emails away and went on to other projects.

 

The latest are . . . funny, pathetic, I’m not sure how to characterize them. I now have 24 hours to obtain the rights to my own work for $79. If I fail to do this, someone else (as yet unknown) will own the rights to my book, and they can’t promise what the buyer will do with these rights.

 

Thankfully, I’ve self-published scores of books since my first mistake, and while I’m not on any best-seller lists, and not getting rich from it, I’m enjoying fairly regular sales, and getting some pretty solid reviews. As for buying the rights back to my own work—I’m in wait-and-see mode. If the last email is correct, I will probably be hearing from the mysterious new publisher someday soon with a request that I buy my book, or something equally ridiculous.

 

I’ve written that book off as a lost cause, and a lesson learned. Never were the words caveat emptor more appropriate.

Review of ‘Valley of the Dogs’

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For a writer, getting inside the reader’s mind is the holy grail of the craft. In Valley of the Dogs, a collection of eleven dark short stories, author Jim Musgrave has invaded most of our minds and left an impression that will linger long after we close the book and stick it on our ‘to be read again someday’ shelf.

     These stories satirize the traditional Hollywood endings and poke a little fun at the much-vaunted ‘star power’ that Hollywood loves to flaunt. As topical as the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions and as classic as the equally traumatic effect the Vietnam War had on our society, Musgrave digs deep into the darkest recesses of the human psyche, exposing our true fears. At the same time, he entertains, and that’s the hallmark of really effective short fiction.

     If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with when the wind’s blowing outside and the sky is gunmetal gray and depressing, this is what I would prescribe.

     I received a complimentary copy of this book for review. I’m not easy to impress, but the author managed to beat the odds. Yes, I was impressed. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Mad Days of March’

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Terry March is something of a non-entity. Married to a woman who can’t cook and who also sleeps around, his sex life consists of . . . well, nothing, and their relationship consists of her lambasting him at every opportunity, when she’s not out having fun.

     Life begins to change when Terry helps an old man dump a blood-stained carpet into the recycling bin, then he meets a women at the pub who can’t get her electric lights to work and when he shows her how easy it is, she offers to ‘reward’ him but he turns her down.

     If this sounds like a crazy story, that’s because it is. Philip Catshill’s The Mad Days of March is a murder mystery, madcap romp, and a mind-boggling tale of one man’s miserable, messed-up life during a maniacal month of March. Told almost tongue in cheek, this story will grab you by the curiosity and squeeze until you moan, and then make you explode with mad mirth.  Catshill knows how to give the reader a roller coaster ride on anticipation and keep that reader interested until the ride comes to a gliding stop.

     A fun read that should not be missed. I was provided with a complimentary copy for review. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Irma’

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Hurricane Irma hit Naples, Florida in 2017, causing immense damage, especially to beachside condos. But the true damage didn’t surface until two years later when a woman whose husband had recently died confessed to the police that he had stolen some jewels from one of the damaged condos. Detective Sam Randazzo calls on his friend Frankie Armstrong to do a little unofficial investigating to look into the woman’s story. Frankie very quickly finds himself up to his chin in more criminal activity and dangerous characters than he can handle.

Irma by Kerry Costello is an interesting mystery that follows Frankie as he dives into the labyrinthine pathways of theft, fraud, and murder. A bit choppy in places with a confusing cast of characters, but still a nice story.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book. I give it three stars.  

DS Productions To Hold Virtual Book Signing

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October 27, 2021 – DS Productions (DSP) – the home of some of the biggest selling Western authors in the genre – is excited to announce that they will be hosting a multi-author virtual signing event, Best Sellers Live! The event will be a historic first for the Western genre and a revolutionary step forward for Western authors, readers, and publishers.

About the Event:

Six best-selling Western fiction authors have teamed up with DSP to put together The Signature Classic Collector’s Edition: Hunt of the Mountain Man. Each author has contributed a short story featuring the popular heroes from their Western novels. Each book purchased for the event will be signed by all six of the authors.

The virtual signing will take place on Thursday, November 18th at 9:00pm Eastern Time via Zoom. Everyone who purchases a book for the event or wishes to attend the event will receive a Zoom link to join. The authors participating in this highly anticipated event are none other than C. Wayne Winkle, G.P. Hutchinson, William Joiner, Charles Ray, Peter Turner, and David Watts.

You can visit the webpage for the event to purchase your book and for more information:

https://www.bestsellerslive.com/

About the Authors:

C. Wayne Winkle

C. Wayne Winkle is an Amazon best-selling author of Westerns that depict the heroism and dangers inherent in the American West of the 19th century. He was a board-certified family psychologist with over 40 years’ experience prior to retirement. His intent in his writing is to bring back the history (good, bad, and indifferent) of the American frontier. He is married to the same wonderful woman for 50 years. She has been, and continues to be, his anchor in this wild and wacky world. Their six grandchildren keep both of them busy when he isn’t writing. His Christianity forms the basis of his life, even though he falls short of its ideal on a daily basis. His motto? ‘I can’t not write!’

G.P. Hutchinson

A resident of Texas for a number of years, Hutchinson’s visits throughout the West have only served to deepen his enthusiasm for the region and his appreciation of its people, history, and folklore. He’s currently a resident of upstate South Carolina, along with his lovely wife, Carolyn. Besides writing, Hutchinson enjoys forays into the mountains, horseback riding, and exploring the history of America’s national pastime, baseball.

Peter Alan Turner

Maybe it’s because Peter Alan Turner lives on Rattlesnake Ridge. Or perhaps it’s because he grew up watching television Westerns that he was drawn to writing about the Old West. As a former history teacher, Peter strives to be authentic, create likable characters, and tell a good story. With more than a dozen books and a four-plus star rating on Amazon, he must be doing something right.

Peter lives with his wife of fifty-three years and their cat Moxie in Western Maryland. Peter is lucky that his children, grandchildren, and great-grandson all live close by. When he’s not writing, Peter enjoys woodcarving, fishing, and pampering his classic Jaguar. Mr. Turner donates a portion of the profits from his books to Veteran’s charities.

Charles Ray

Charles Ray is a man reborn. After 20 years in the US Army and 30 years as a diplomat, he has reinvented himself as an author. He has been writing since his teens, but really got into it in 2008 as he was approaching the end of a half-century government career. Ray writes in a variety of genres, both fiction and nonfiction, but in a further reinvention, this Texas native who now calls Maryland home, is currently best known for his tales of the western frontier. He writes stories that are historically accurate and reflect the diversity of the Wild West, but never lets history interfere with telling a compelling story. Ray currently lives in Woodbine, Maryland.

David Watts

David Watts grew up in Texas and participated actively in farming and ranching. As a teen, he watched cowboy movies every Saturday at the Ritz Theatre. He has published nine very successful Westerns, drawing upon his range of personal experience and is currently working on a chapter-challenge collaboration with William Vlach. Previously, he worked in poetry, short stories, mysteries, Christmas memoir and radio commentary. He is an accomplished musician and composer and a retired television and radio host. His professional life is in medical health care.

William H. Joiner Jr.

Other than summer jobs as a teenager, Bill has always been in business for himself. He has owned businesses that included: residential and commercial construction; brokering and trading commodities; owning and operating multiple insurance agencies; horse breeding, syndicating, training and racing; dog breeding and field trialing; owning and operating multiple gyms; owning and operating oil wells; brokering, researching title and consulting (regarding the buying and selling of oil and gas properties); as well as brokering and facilitating international fuel purchases.

He finally found his calling as an author, drawing on life’s experiences for the inspiration for his books.

About the Publisher:

DS Productions (DSP) is a leader in Western fiction with a strong catalogue of authors and Western novels. DSP has consistently placed their authors inside the top one hundred and is also known for taking new authors and turning them into a success using their sales formula. Their personalized, winning publishing techniques have made them one of the leading publishers in Western-themed fiction.

Review of ‘Arrival of Evil’

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A young boy runs miles into the town of Sabine Valley with frightening news. He has seen a large group of men wearing strange uniforms viciously assaulting two young girls outside town. The sheriff suspects something sinister but is unprepared for the evil that is about to be unleashed on an otherwise peaceful town.

         Fred Staff’s Arrival of Evil combines horror with the classic western tale in a story that pegs the fear meter at maximum. A relatively short tail that grabs  you by the throat from page one and squeezes until the last drop of blood oozes out. This fusion of two genres is masterfully done. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘A Plague of Traitors’

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Leine Basso, former government assassin, who left the business to work for S.H.E.N., an organization devoted to ending the trafficking of humans, is approached by the director of national intelligence with a proposal; train a team of Kurdish assassins to travel to Libya and prevent the transfer of a newly-developed Russian bio-weapon to Syria’s strong man.

The team’s training and the potential success of the mission is compromised by one member, Amiri, a Yazidi, who had been a captive and victim of the depredations of the Izz al-Din, a notorious Libyan terrorist group. Leine is faced with a dilemma. Amiri is one of the best, but can she be trusted to keep her anger and hunger for revenge in check? As if this isn’t a big enough problem, she has to work with an American agent, the number two in the operation, who was reassigned to the operation after an assignment in Syria, and he has a real blind spot where Syria’s madman leader is concerned, which could also jeopardize the mission.

D.V. Berkom’s A Plague of Traitors is, in my humble opinion, the best Leine Basso thriller yet. I know I’ve said that about previous books in this series, but it’s just a plain statement of fact, Berkom just keeps getting better with each offering. Like all other Leine Basso stories, this one is fast paced and filled with tension from start to finish. Do yourself a favor and get this book as soon as it’s released. I received an advance review copy of the book and give it five stars.

Frank Mann, Aviation/Automotive Engineer

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TEXAS HISTORY NOTEBOOK

After the success of the book and film Hidden Figures which generated much deserved recognition for NASA employees Katherine Jonson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the book with the eye catching title of Hidden Genius: Frank Mann, the Black Engineer Behind Howard Hughes came to our attention.  It is the story of Frank Calvin Mann, as told by H. T. Bryer.

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Review of ‘Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake

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James ‘Bodacious’ Creed, a former U.S. marshal turned vigilante turned private investigator, was killed and then brought back to life thanks to the scientific skills of his daughter, Anna. One night he hears screams and the sound of shots and finds a young Chinese woman dying next to the bodies of two dead men. After the woman dies, Creed discovers that she has strength augmentations like his and later that she was an enslaved prostitute who had tried to escape her bondage. The authorities, overtaxed with other cases, don’t give her case the attention Creed believes it deserves, so he takes it own himself, and soon finds himself at odds with a slavery ring run by the tong, and learns that an old nemesis he thought dead is in fact still alive.

Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake by Jonathan Fesmire is a follow-on to Bodacious Creed and continues the steampunk zombie western style that Fesmire did so well. His creation of an alternate history, with slightly altered physical laws is shockingly realistic, and there’s enough shoot-em-up action to satisfy the most rabid action junkie. Non-stop action from first page to last will keep you turning pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book and give it an easy five stars.

Review of ‘This is the Fire’

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In This is the Fire, CNN Tonight anchor Don Lemon takes an unvarnished look at how pervasive racism is in the United States and discusses some creative ways to deal with it. A gay, black man originally from Louisiana, who is engaged to a white man, Lemon looks at racism, transphobia, and many of the other biases that infect American society in his own unique way. He concludes that this is inherent in our culture’s messaging and the only way to begin the process of uprooting and eradicating it is to acknowledge rather than deny it.

         Lemon takes the reader on an emotional journey through history, with a discussion of a slave uprising near where he grew up that was put down with a degree of depraved violence that was out of proportion to the violence the rebelling slaves committed that one has to wonder what kind of society breeds people who can behead the rebels and display their heads on stakes for months as a ‘warning’ to anyone else who might want freedom. This is one of those untaught parts of our history that so many still try to keep hidden, but until we expose the warts we cannot cure them.

         Regardless of what category you fall into, this is a book worth reading. Some will be made intensely uncomfortable, while others will become angry. I think I fall into that latter category, having grown up in East Texas, not far from where Lemon grew up a decade later, and having experienced the type of mindless prejudice that was not only socially accepted at the time, but was part of the law of the land.

         This is a book that can be read in a couple of hours that will change your life forever. Don’t miss it.

         I give it a resounding five stars.

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A new photography badge for 2021 on ViewBug.com

A new photography badge for 2021 from Viewbug.

Choose The Correct Verb To Test Your Writing Knowledge – by Derek Haines…

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A fun quiz to try.

Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

on Just Publishing Advice:

With every sentence you write, you need to choose the correct verb.

You can choose between a strong or weak verb or an active or static verb.

Often it depends on collocation and an expectation of which verb will suit your sentence the best.

As with all aspects of writing, you are the decision-maker.

Continue reading HERE

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From the blog Lucinda E. Clarke:

Choose The Correct Verb To Test Your Writing Knowledge – by Derek Haines… | lucinda E Clarke (wordpress.com)

Review of ‘Democracy: A User’s Guide’

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Is it enough for us to simply elect our leaders and sit back, doing nothing, while they rule over us like autocrats? What good is it to select our politicians, if we have no control over media, police, or military? These penetrating questions are asked in Joss Sheldon’s Democracy: A User’s Guide as he explores democracy in action in a number of institutions and places around the world. Sheldon’s thesis is that we can have a greater say in how we’re governed, we just have to inform ourselves and act.

  An insightful look at how democracy is supposed to work and is recommended reading for anyone who truly cares about living in a truly representative society.

  I received a complimentary copy of this book, and I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Priestess of Ishanna’

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Tesha, a priestess of the goddess Ishanna, must try and save her city from demonic forces. When King Hattu, younger brother of the Great King, comes to her city on a secret mission, he’s accused of being in league with the demons and sentenced to die. With his fate in the hands of the grand Votary, Tesha’s father, who is a strict and unyielding man, things look dire. In order to save him, Tesha must destroy her own father, using her wits and forbidden magic.

  Priestess of Ishanna by Judith Starkston is an intriguing story with magic and mayhem aplenty. The author keeps the reader on tenterhooks from the first page. A very entertaining read.

  I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Noam’s Monsters

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Shavi Levinger’s Noam’s Monsters is about a little boy suffering emotional trauma from being bullied. He can’t tell anyone, but he has monsters in his tummy. A very good lesson about helping children cope with anxiety and shyness, with nice illustrations, although the rhyming left a bit to be desired. I still recommend this book for parents and teachers who have to deal with children’s issues. I received a complimentary copy of this book, and give it three stars.