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Top-selling DS Productions Western writers
Nick Wales, ace publicist and expert in all things western, commissioned a painting of the top-selling western writers at DS Productions, and I was flabbergasted to be included. I’m the dude on the left in the purple shirt. Yee haw!
A Karma Badge from Viewbug
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The good old days
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Authors Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – they are just that!
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.
Is AI finally taking over?
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Review of ‘Uhuru: Poems from southern Africa’
Uhuru: Poems from Southern Africa is a bilingual (German-English) collection of political poetry by Mbizo Chirasha. Mostly in free verse, in the style of story telling of African villages, with German translations of the English, these poems chronicle African culture, history, and feelings in sometimes harsh tones. An interesting collection from an interesting versifier that gives non-Africans an insider’s view of a little understood region of the world. Uncompromising, and in some cases uncensored, they are gritty and real and you don’t have to be a poetry fan to appreciate the work that went into their creation.
I received a review copy of this book and I give the author three stars.
Review of ‘Fatal Objective’
D V Berkom’s latest Leine Basso thriller, Fatal Objective, while just as good as any of the preceding volumes, is geometrically harder to review because of the danger of revealing too much and spoiling this amazing story for the reader, so I’ll just hit the high points and hope I do it justice.
Valentina is a professional assassin, good at what she does, but troubled with a condition that causes her to suffer debilitating headaches unless she receives regular medication administered by doctors beholden to the enigmatic and egomaniacal Gerhard Weber. Things begin to unravel, though, when a hit goes south and she misses her medication. Strange memories start coming back and she questions her entire existence.
How does this relate to our heroine, Leine, you might ask. Well, suffice to say that Leine swoops in to save the day. How she does it is the part that I will not share.
As usual, D V Berkom has crafted a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your chair, panting for more, more, as you turn the pages. There are enough red herrings in this story to stock a fish market, action scenes that will keep action junkies satisfied for, oh say, two or three days, and suspense thicker than Log Cabin syrup on a cold winter day.
I confess that I’ve always had a sort of crush on Leine Basso. I like the bad girls who do good, what can I say. I’ve yet to read a Leine Basso I didn’t like, but I have to say that I’ve finally read one that I like more.
I was given a review copy of this book and it has my unhesitating, resounding approval.
Old enough to buy a gun . . .
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Superstar Badge from View Bug
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This Is Who We Are
The one thing you have to give to the GOP, they are well organized, and their messages no matter how toxic are specific and consistent. They have spent the past fifty years building towards this pivotal point in time. Half the states are controlled by maniac legislatures and governors intent on rolling their states back to the days of Jim Crow and women’s subjection, never mind more than half their constituents disagree with their policies. Those at the top both elected and not, are ramping it up every single day on every single media outlet. Make no mistake, they are winning the war of words with soundbites meant to inflame, intended to sow fear and fury, they are winning.
Before we proceed, let’s take a close look at what we are really talking about. For those who love this nation, who believe the words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the…
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Retro Quote – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy￼
“Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless.”
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, On Life and Essays on Religion
Top Shot Award – View Bug 2022
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Review of ‘A Date to Die For
Gaylene B. Corben’s A Date to Die For is a well crafted mystery about two police detectives, Joe Patterson and Tessa Mariani, on the trail of a serial killer who is using a dating site to lure his victims, young, attractive women, to their doom. The killer leaves a taunting note and a white rose with each victim, and our two detectives find themselves racing the clock after three kills and one near kill, while at the same time dealing with the demons in their own lives.
Corben has crafted a near-perfect mystery, with plenty of red herrings and false trails to keep the reader guessing, but a story line that leads unerringly to the killer in one of those ‘my goodness, why didn’t I think of that’ moments.
The author sets the perfect tempo in this, her debut book, like a heartbeat, speeding up when the tension level rises and then slowing down when things seem to be getting quiet. With characters you can’t help but empathize with and care about and enough surprises to keep you on the edge of the chair, this is one you don’t want to miss.
I received a pre-publication copy of this book for review and my advice is go to your nearest book selling site and pre-order it, so you don’t miss out. An author to keep an eye on, I give Corben five stars for her first effort.
Review of ‘Double Indemnity’
Heartland Insurance Company and its founder, Jared Finch, have a unique business model. They buy the insurance policies of elderly people and in exchange for becoming the beneficiary, pay out money to the insured. The problem is that Finch is one of those people for whom money is everything and no amount he earns is ever enough. He has found a way, a diabolical way, to make sure he is getting more money than he’s paying out. People are dying soon after he buys their policies, sooner than any actuarial tables say they should be dying.
When three die, including one apparent burglary turned deadly, New Orleans Police detective Jo Crowder is assigned to investigate and she first determines that only the apparent burglary involved foul play and there is no leads to a suspect. When a young man dies of an apparent drug overdose, the case also lands on her desk, but the man’s sister claims that he didn’t use drugs. Jo is leery of all four cases, but the evidence available to her, in abundance, supports the appearances . . . until FBI agent Alex Hill shows up and informs her that the drug OD is not what it appeared because the victim was his informant and he knows for a fact that the man was clean
Jo and Alex then join forces to look into all cases, and while the bodies continue to pile up, they come to the conclusion that they’ve been led down the primrose path by a sinister cabal of greedy, totally immoral people for whom human life is meaningless.
Double Indemnity by Richard Zappa is a chilling crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your chair from start to finish. The subplots are nested like Russian dolls, with red herrings and false trails a-plenty, and an eminently satisfying conclusion. A thrilling roller coaster ride of greed, deceit, and murder; a book that you can’t put down.
It’s scheduled for July publication. Don’t miss it. I received an advance review copy of this book for review and give it five stars without hesitation.