Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dreams For Sale

This is the article more POD authors will want to read more than any other on this site. The key word is want. There have been far more significant articles posted here, but this is the guilty pleasure most of you seek. You want to know the details about the sales figures of your books, and this is the straight poop, at least to the best of my knowledge of the subject. I may cover familiar ground here from past articles I have written, as well as details posted elsewhere by other authors. There will be many links to follow in order to get the complete story. If a link sends you to all too familiar territory, just return to this page and continue. Surely there will be something new for every one of you dreamers and schemers here.

Back in the previous millennium, iUniverse had an online sales and royalty reporting system. By the time my first book was released in the last days of December, 2000, the iU page of sales reporting was nothing but history. The management repeatedly promised that they were developing a newer, more sophisticated version, and several years later, it actually appeared. If you have already released your first iU book, you can currently access that page. The system is probably better than that of any other POD publisher. It may not be as fast-acting as the headache relief you would prefer, but I have little doubt as to its accuracy. Let me define little. You may have noticed on the Sales Activity page that most of the important retailers show a first of the month sales date, but you know your books were not sold on that date. Face the fact that that date is many weeks old. B&N sells a copy of your book, but they don't actually pay for it until many weeks later, and then they don't actually report that sale to iU until weeks after that date. It's not cheating; it's just corporate bill paying taken to an absurd art form. A good example of this phenomenon is that I received a sales ranking number for one of my books at B&N online a couple of months ago. I have no idea how long after the sale I noticed the number change because my membership has expired in the Check Every Day POD Author Sales Club. This is actually one of the reasons you should monitor your sales rankings daily. Since I don't know exactly when this particular ranking blip occurred, I have less accurate information on which to base my opinion on this issue right now. The point is that B&N has seemingly had time to post that sale to iU showing the infamous, old as a bag of warts, sale date of the first of the past month. Let's not forget that B&N still owes me for the local book signing I did many months ago, so all this foot-dragging should not be a shocking revelation. The point is that B&N has seemingly already had enough time to report this sale to iU. The question is whether or not the company has lost one of my little royalties, or are they just setting a new record in late bill-paying? I strongly lean toward the latter answer. This is what I meant by little. We all live with these nagging little doubts, but my final opinion is that neither B&N nor iUniverse is trying to cheat me out of $2.30!

Back in that past millennium, iUniverse also hosted an author message board. As you might imagine, questions of sales and royalties were the most persistent of issues discussed by the authors, but not by iU personnel. Believe it or not, it took me years to fully realize how completely iU does not now, and never has, given an author's leaky fountain pen about the sales performance of their authors. They make their money almost solely off the authors themselves. As naive as I once was, this came as a somewhat shocking revelation to me. The more copies of a particular title they sell, the more money they make. What could possibly be the flaw in that business model? It isn't a flaw: it's a dirty little secret. We'll come back to this issue later in this article. First we have to follow the track of the iU message board.

The short version is that iU wanted to visit bear country in a salmon suit more than it wanted to discuss POD book sales, which might have allowed its dirty little secret to escape from its dark closet into the open minds of the iU authors. Authors pounded the iU message board with questions. When was the new royalty page going to be published? Why did it take so long to show the sales and pay the royalties? Why did the sales and royalties always seem to be so shockingly low? One author and another would post the secret Ingram sales line phone number on the board, and iU personnel would remove it as fast as it appeared. Whenever someone asked politely why they could not phone Ingram, there was always some WMD, the terrorists will just follow us here, sort of nonsense reply from iU. The company's official response was that the Ingram, non-toll-free number was supposed to be for publishers, not authors. That may have been true in 1997, but iU opened the door and let the dogs out. We just did the barking! You can keep several thousand new authors a year quiet for only so long. The management, tired of deleting the secret number and inquisitive authors' messages, finally pulled the plug on the iU message board.

Now it's time for a little side trip to hell, where we meet the infamous Lord Satan, aka Solomon Tulbure. This author from the pioneering days of iU and POD history was like Ralph Nader, Al Sharpton, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Moore, a bad suit, a telemarketer, an insurance salesman, a case of the trots, a plague of locusts, and a bat out of hell, all rolled into one big mouth at a computer keyboard. Everything about this POD author is an anacrhonism, an oxymoron, a scam, a sham, and an imposter! He was reviled by practically everyone from his readers to his publishers to his many spamees. Lord Satan is no longer with us. According to him, he was murdered, assassinated for his religious beliefs. According to everyone else, he was a nut and a pain in the butt. No matter what your opinion of the deceased may be, if you have followed his POD adventures as I have, you have to call him a pioneer for all of us. He called iU's bluff long before any of the rest of us. He understood what really sells POD books by unknown authors, and it ain't compositional or editing quality. You could call him, in the vernacular of this blog, the first successful cheater who chose to share his secrets rather than quietly benefit from them. Practically all the other cheaters live in the land of denial with Larry Craig. They don't want to face the truth, and they certainly don't want you to know about it. Lord Satan was a con artist who broke all the rules, and without my close scrutiny of his activities at the time, I may have never learned all that I have learned about the secret world of Print On Demand Publishing. Solomon Tulbure was a young punk who knew then about as much as I know now about computers and publishing and marketing on the internet. He was one of the first authors to discover the dirty little secret of POD publishing, and no matter how much whining denigration of his methodology we read, we all owe him at least a little respect.

How about a little corporate poop? iUniverse was not the very first of the new generation of POD publishers, but iU grew rapidly into the #1 spot in its early history by buying other small publishing companies. B&N has owned variously large and small segments of iUniverse at different points in time. In earlier days, the B&N website was a separate corporate entity from the B&N store chain. If you shopped on the net back then, you may remember how much more efficient the website was when it was run entirely by nerds. When the B&N store chain took the reins a few years ago, the online operation went to hell. This issue has plenty to do with where you should buy your POD books, but nothing to do with getting your POD books onto B&N store shelves, which has always been the elusive fantasy of iU authors. None of the corporate entities has ever officially lied about this issue, but they haven't actively popped the bubble of the fantasy, either. If you want to see your iU book in a B&N store, you may have to wait for the cows to come home. On the other hand, as you can see from this link on my site, my books have always been stocked by a local store in Austin TX, and that store is owned by B&N! You have to get out there and beat your own bushes. Hell will freeze over and Lord Satan himself will arise from the grave and read your book aloud in The Rose Garden before B&N will put it into their store ordering system for on-the-shelf stock in their national store chain! Just get over it, already.

Most iUniverse books are printed at Ingram within a warehouse in suburban Nashville. Lightning Source is just a part of Ingram. Sometimes your iU book will be printed at some location other than Nashville. I don't think there are any rules about this. I think they just print it wherever it is most convenient at the time, according to how booked up the POD printing machines are or the location where the printed copy of the book is going. I cannot tell you how accurate or up to date the stated Ingram numbers are that you hear spilled out from the phone line. I can tell you that, at the very least, the great majority of iUniverse books sold to individual buyers are printed by Lightning, sold at the wholesale level through Ingram, and sold at the retail level by Amazon. The numbers sold by all the other retailers combined amounts to a very small hill of beans.

Let's visit the bean hill, shall we? The big gonzo bean is, of course, B&N online. I bet they sell 80% of the iU books not sold by Amazon. There are a bunch of others, though. Most of the others know absolutely nothing about your book. They don't have one; they have never seen one; and even if you ordered one from them, they still would never own or see a copy of it. These small retailers are nothing more than a computer server. They have no warehouse and they have no inventory. The only ones with warehouses and actual inventory are Amazon and B&N. This is most likely the truth, no matter what it looks like on your computer monitor. There are many websites that will connect you to this multitude of little beans. Some are included here for your entertainment. Just keep in mind that entertainment is all they are. The despicable truth is that they are just capturing the information about your book from Ingram and splattering it like birdshot all over the internet. The best book locating site is Addall. The information found there is up to date and somewhat more real than that offered elsewhere.

For your guilty pleasure, here are some more of these weasels in the ether. FetchBook is one such site. Note that AllDirect is featured right on their home page. AllDirect is somehow connected to Ingram, quite possibly only by simple proximity, but I have never been able to discover exactly how. At one time they offered the best price on my books. I ordered several, but the books never arrived. Several e-mails were never answered. Thank goodness my credit card was never billed. Notice when you click the link, they are now closed. Good riddance. Best Book Deal is far better than FetchBook, particularly for its entertainment value. Your current Amazon and B&N ranking numbers are listed right there on the page, and this is one of the few places you can see how many books you have not sold at Amazon in Japan! There are many more of these booksellers flying around the batcave. All you have to do is go look for them. The bottom line is that you should always look for bats overhead, not stars.

The sales rankings at Amazon and B&N are computed and posted somewhat differently from each other. You can go to Foner Books to read a detailed explanation of the Amazon rankings. I do not know how accurate or up to date the Foner version is, but I want to present a brief overview here. (Notice also that I have added a new link to the Foner Blog in the Significant Links Department.) You do not have a ranking number at Amazon until the first book is sold, and after that first sale you have a ranking forever. You do not have a ranking at B&N until the first sale, but the number drops off after a period of no sales activity. I think that period is about two months, but I am not sure. The number at Amazon can be over 5,000,000, but the number at B&N will probably not exceed 750,000. Used and new copies sold through Amazon, as well as those by Amazon, will affect the ranking. I have read that copies special ordered through B&N stores will affect the ranking, but I have never been able to verify this issue. Your number will never go down at Amazon without a book being sold, but the numbers fluctuate wildly at B&N while your book just sits there, looking pretty on the page. I do not know why this is true. Individual sales from different individual buyers will make the numbers pop more than a bulk sale in one order. Multiple, individual sales in a short period of time will pop the numbers with the greatest velocity. All the glowing reviews posted by your friends and McReviewers will do nothing directly for your ranking.

You can't handle the truth! iUniverse doesn't sell books. They sell dreams. The earliest iU authors had a much better road to drive on than you do now. It was easy to shine from the muck before the slap-fighters got a grip on their rabid egos and began spewing their venom for their own pleasure. It was easier before POD entered the language of our popular culture. It was easier before every punk with a genre novel in his head discovered iU. It was easier before iU was pumping out more than 4000 of these punk fantasies annually. We all think that if Britney can sell ten million copies of How I Forgot My Panties in the first day of its release, surely we can sell a thousand copies of our novel over a period of five years. We all think if some nut can become famous for fifteen minutes with a YouTube video, we can see our great novel in B&N stores nationwide. Is it so unreasonable to think we can work for years polishing a book project and see it get the rave reviews from legitimate reviewers it deserves, and for word of mouth to spread our fame? Yes.

The dirty little secret is that our culture has long ago been farked. Our leaders, both political and corporate, have no goals other than to gain as much power and profit as possible, in as short a time as possible, with as little effort as possible. They have been breeding ignorance like mosquitoes at a Betta splendens farm. The public doesn't read. The public doesn't do much of anything except watch television. The book market is shrinking daily, while the number of POD books published is exploding. The corporate entity of iUniverse knows all of this. They know you cannot reach into a brain full of Paris and O.J. and pull out War & Peace. You're lucky to find Harry Potter in there. As I have stated repeatedly on this blog, most iU books that sell decently well do so either because cheating is involved or the title and subject matter are both obvious and searchable by obsessors of that particular genre and subject. Compositional quality, writing talent, editing, or proofreading have nothing to do with the book's success. Of course these things have plenty to do with many other valuable issues. Sales just isn't one of them. Believe me. I used to be as naive as you are now. I thought, how can this be? It makes no business sense. It makes no logical sense. Wait a minute. It makes the same sense as Britney's panties, O.J.'s exploits, and Paris' outstanding level of intelligence and accomplishment. Just like these clowns, iUniverse is selling dreams.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interview with the Author

D. H. Schleicher
Dave H. Schleicher, author of The Thief Maker (available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com), currently resides in New Jersey. He is the author of three earlier books, Crematorium and Carabolia (both iUniverse 2002, and both no longer available for sale), and An Accidental House (Xlibris 2003, available only direct through the publisher). I have not read or reviewed these first three books, so we shall concentrate on the fourth book in this interview. Note: the links to Amazon from the book covers above are to be used for information only. The author has stated that these can no longer be ordered from Amazon.
Tabitha: What inspired you to write The Thief Maker?
Dave: The Thief Maker was unique for me as I had the title before anything else. A “thief maker” refers to a medieval bounty hunter who conned other people into committing a crime and then turned them in. As soon as I heard this term used in a criminal justice class I took in college, I knew it would be a great title for a novel. From a later class I took on the psychology of aging, I knew I wanted to set a story in a nursing home where a con man was taking advantage of the residents. Then 9/11 happened, and I knew I wanted to create a psychologically complex novel of intertwining stories that revolved around this type of tragic backdrop. Later ideas and stories combined over the years and the novel was born.

Tabitha: What sort of educational experience do you have, and is it relevant to your writing or the subject matter you have chosen?
Dave: I have a BA in Psychology and minored in Criminal Justice at Elon University in North Carolina. This background provided me with endless story ideas and a plethora of research materials. I also took multiple courses in philosophy, literature, and film that influenced the type of ideas and themes I wanted to address in my writing. One philosophy course I took discussed looking at the cyclical nature of life in terms of the four seasons-each with unique themes and issues to work out. That inspired me to write The Thief Maker non-sequentially in a thematic chronology divided into four seasons.

Tabitha: What about your work career? Has your choice of profession influenced your writing?
Dave: Not in the least bit. My “other job” in the corporate world has no bearing on my writing, at least not yet. Ideas can bloom anywhere.

Tabitha: Are there particular, actual persons who inspired your lead characters?
Dave: No. My characters are occasionally inspired by people I know or have read about in psychological case studies, but I usually combine so many different aspects from so many different people into the fiction that the character becomes totally unrelated to the inspiration.

Tabitha: I understand that a few of the subplots of The Thief Maker were based on real-crime events you discovered. Would you like to elaborate?
Dave: This is not entirely true in the case of The Thief Maker. Some of the character details, like Billie Tolliver losing her sense of proprioception, were based on actual case studies I read about, but none of the events or crimes depicted in the novel were based on anything in particular from the real world spare for the obvious 9/11 terrorist attack backdrop. The basic premise of my previous novel, An Accidental House, however, was directly inspired by an actual unsolved mystery surrounding a missing girl from my hometown of Burlington, NJ that haunted me as a child.

Tabitha: The single most impressive element of The Thief Maker is the plotting of the unusual and unexpected relationships among the characters. What exactly provided the inspiration for the intricate storyline?
Dave: I always loved episodic stories with multiple POV’s and subplots where story arcs were developed and sometimes not directly related. I wanted to create a story like this where secrets would be revealed and all the plot lines would slowly intertwine building into a crescendo of suspense ending in a monumental tragedy.

Tabitha: The interplay of characters reminds me of William Castle’s 1961 movie, Homicidal and the more modern epic, Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon of 1991. Have you envisioned what a movie version of The Thief Maker would be like?
Dave: I am a huge movie lover and amateur film critic. It is a dream of mine to see my novels adapted for the big screen. I imagine The Thief Maker could translate well into a film similar to 21 Grams (told non-sequentially and emotionally nihilistic) or perhaps be translated in the mosaic, hot-button-issue style of a film like the Oscar-winning Crash.

Tabitha: The characters in your book come to life in my mind as I read their conversations. Have you envisioned certain actors playing the lead parts?
Dave: Naomi Watts is my favorite actress, and I always seem to write a role for her: Catherine Fowler would be a great character for her to play. Though the physical description doesn’t quite match, I always saw Don Cheadle as Frank Morrison. I imagined a Halle Berry or Thandie Newton type as Felice Morrison. I could see a Ryan Gosling type playing William Donovan, though I never had anyone in particular in mind for him. As someone who loves movies as much as I love books, it’s always fun to fantasize about this type of thing and create a picture in your mind of the character you created.

Tabitha: The Thief Maker reminds me of Grand Canyon in the way seemingly unrelated characters bring their stories together. It reminds me of Bonfire of the Vanities in the darkness of its morality play and the psychodrama of the characters. What sort of impressions were you trying to present with The Thief Maker?
Dave: I wanted to juxtapose personal tragedy with communal tragedy. I wanted to show the raw intimacy of human interactions in the wake of these horrific events and how crimes can leave scars that last generations. People are often connected with others in ways they never imagined when these tragedies occur, and crimes can bring some people together while tearing others apart.

Tabitha: I saw on your website that you are a fan of David Lynch. The obvious omission in my previous mentions is Twin Peaks, which I found just a bit too strange and dark to offer as a comparison to The Thief Maker, although I loved that television series. Were you influenced by Twin Peaks, or by other Lynch favorites such as Blue Velvet or Eraserhead?
Dave: Most definitely. Thematically and tonally, Lynch is a huge inspiration. There’s always a sense of decay or evil bubbling underneath picture-perfect settings in his work. This is a powerful theme most people can relate to and are in tune with in some way. I’m not sure if anything in The Thief Maker was presented in an idealistic way, but the idea of everything falling apart after uncovering some dark secret is played out many times during the course of the novel. I also think I touch on the idea of corrupting innocence in the book, though I would make the argument that no one is innocent in The Thief Maker, not even young Rex Thomas Gail.

Tabitha: I know that you previously released two books with iUniverse and one with Xlibris prior to The Thief Maker. What would you like to tell us about your Xlibris experience? How did it compare with your experience with iUniverse?
Dave: Xlibris is very similar to iUniverse in terms of the services provided, contracts and royalty rates. The major difference is the pricing of the books. They overprice the books out of the market. They also have questionable interactions with distribution channels. People had trouble ordering the title I published with Xlibris through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. iUniverse titles have no such issues.

Tabitha: In my reviews of The Thief Maker, I mentioned a few reservations about the cover design, particularly the nondescript look and the small red text on the back. Who designed the cover? Did iUniverse create it strictly from your ideas, or did you supply the artwork or other elements? Are you satisfied with the cover?
Dave: I see your point, and I’m not a fan or red text either. iUniverse designed the cover based on my ideas and their recommendations. Though it is rather vague and nondescript, I think it looks comparable to any book out there on the new release shelves. Honestly, I’m rarely impressed by any cover design for any book I scan on the shelves, so I was just pleased it looked professional.

Tabitha: How satisfying has your experience with iUniverse been? You have previously indicated that some of your interaction with iU has been less than stellar. Would you care to enlighten us?
Dave: I don’t mean to bad mouth iUniverse. I think they do a great job of providing exactly what they say they will provide in their agreements. If you know what you are paying for and know what to expect, they do a commendable job. However, to be more specific, I was not pleased with their proofreading/editing services. Overall, I would still recommend them to people thinking of using a POD outfit as they provide the best distribution and widest breadth of services when compared with other companies.

Tabitha: What is the most significant thing you have learned as a POD author? Do you have any advice to offer to new or prospective POD authors?
Dave: Be realistic. Do your homework. Don’t plan on making a profit. Know exactly what you are paying for. Don’t expect miracles. And no matter what path you take for publishing, make sure your writing has reached a certain level of quality. I can honestly say that the quality of the writing was not there with my first three “experiments” in self-publishing. But I had to write those novels and fail miserably so I could learn how to write something truly compelling and worthwhile. I think the quality is there with The Thief Maker. Write something you will be proud of and don’t publish something through a POD outfit just because you can.

Tabitha: I understand that you reeaaally want to leave Print On Demand behind and find a traditional publisher for your work. Have your efforts produced any results in this quest?
Dave: I’m just focused on my writing for now. I’m knee deep in my next novel with no end in sight. I will focus my efforts when this project is completed and polished and ready for submission. It’s an arduous struggle on the road to traditional publishing, but I hope to stick it out and avoid the POD route in the future. However, I would be a fool to say I would never ever do it again. The quick turnaround time and level of control is always alluring when considering using a POD publisher.

Tabitha: Have you expended much effort seeking out an agent, and have you had much success in that regard?
Dave: Again, I am totally focused on my writing. I have this crazy notion that an agent will someday find me… but I know that will never happen, so I’m prepared to search and do my homework and find someone when the time comes.

Tabitha: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What genres do you like to read?
Dave: I love historical non-fiction, especially anything dealing with the World War II era. I enjoy harvesting ideas from collections of psychological case studies. In terms of fiction, I enjoy reading suspense thrillers, spy novels, historical fiction, literary fiction, and mysteries. My favorite novel of late was Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. My favorite writer is Graham Greene: I love the crisis of faith, moral ambiguities, and deep psychological complexities he displays in his characters and stories, and he’s equally good at literary fiction and suspenseful entertainments.

Tabitha: What have you been reading lately?
Dave: I tackled three of William Faulkner’s novels this summer. It was a grueling but rewarding task, and he’s someone every fiction writer should read. I’ve also been reading more Graham Greene and the short stories of Kurt Vonnegut.

Tabitha: Do you have any further books in the pipeline?
Dave: As I stated earlier, I am totally lost right now in a new novel, and I have two very strong ideas plotted for when I am done with this one. It’s always good to have at least three book ideas in the pipeline, so if one doesn’t work out, you know you have some fresh ideas to turn to and play with. I like to let my ideas gestate and evolve in my mind for years before hashing them out and turning them into a novel.

Tabitha: What’s next for Dave Schleicher, the writer?
Dave: Who knows? I feel my style is finally coming into its own with this new novel: it’s as twisty and convoluted as The Thief Maker, but more disciplined and evocative, I hope. I think the key to becoming a successful writer is reading as much great writing as you can, and writing as much as you can until something finally clicks and you know yourself as a writer. I think something definitely clicked when writing The Thief Maker, and I hope to continue to build and improve on that in the future.

Tabitha: Do you have any final remarks to address to our audience?
Dave: If you want to be a writer: Read, read, read. Then write, write, write. Don’t be afraid to fail. Make mistakes, lots of mistakes, and learn from them. If you plan to publish: HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. One day, I will.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Schlussel's Woman

by John Richard Lindermuth
(iUniverse / 0-595-29929-6 / October 2003 / 204 pages / $14.95)

Schlussel's Woman is a carefully composed and edited little murder mystery set in a small, pioneer town in Pennsylvania coal country in the 1800's. This historical fiction novel was written by a retired newspaper editor, and the maturity of its development is well displayed. John Lindermuth has obviously been a long-time student of the era of which he writes. The dialogue is reminiscent of the time and the characters are aptly drawn.

The plot surrounds Isaac Schlussel as he lies mortally wounded by a bullet in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania in 1830. The story is told in flashbacks through the early 1800's up to the time of the mysterious gunshot. Schlussel had been a greedy man of overt ambition and very little scruples. He had founded the town in which his gunpowder plant employed most of the residents and supplied the blasting force for the nearby mining operations. This carefully dated character study meticulously unfolds the life of a man many wanted to see in his grave. The mystery, which is aptly exposed in the final pages, is the question of who shot Schlussel and why. As in most every episode of Murder, She Wrote, practically every major character had a good reason to pull the trigger. It's up to the reader to ascertain the truth.

Mr. Lindermuth is a very professional, accomplished author. There are too many typos, of course, but they are definitively of the miniscule, missing-comma variety. The front cover of the book is elegantly designed and a pleasure to the eyes. Unfortunately, the pink text is carried over to the back cover, on which the all-important blurb is in pink text on a white background, and is therefore difficult to read. This may be a particularly poignant complaint, considering the geriatric age bracket of which this book should hold much appeal. Schlussel's Woman is not a book for impatient young whippersnappers. The mature plot and period dialect are intended to languish through the reader's mind like a slowly brewing pot of strong coffee headed for a boiling overflow. iUniverse and the other POD publishers need more authors like John Richard Lindermuth to improve their credibility. I hope St. Hubert's Stag, his next novel, is as good as this one. Look for a review here in the coming weeks.

See Also: Tabitha's B&N Review
Tabitha's Authors Den Review

Review of St. Hubert's Stag

Submissions are Closed

The fateful day has arrived, folks. I really must close the blog to any further submissions at this time. I want to retain the high level of detail and personal service I offer to authors. Assuming that all the books already accepted for review arrive, I am probably booked up at least until Thanksgiving, and maybe until Christmas. It mostly depends on how much reading time I have in the coming weeks. Many helpful articles and author interviews will still be scheduled for the remainder of 2007, but any additional books for review will not be accepted at this time. Thank you.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Coming Attractions Update

These are busy times at iUniverse Book Reviews. There is so much happening at once that I cannot decide if I want to step back and organize everything or just forge ahead, completing one task at a time until I no longer feel overwhelmed. Not only do I have a lot to say on this blog, but I have mostly ignored my other two websites for far too long. In this update, I shall take a brief stab at organizing everything, at least within the confines of this blog. Here we go, in no particular order of significance.

Author Solutions, Inc., has bought out iUniverse. I am uncertain what I think about this in all the long-term ramifications, but I doubt that it will have a positive outcome. I say this based simply on the history of corporate buyouts, which are almost never good for anyone but the CEO's and stockholders' bottom line. I have noticed that iU's basic package that includes distribution has risen to a greedy $599. Is this latest price increase related to the buyout in some way? I don't know, but the chance of this is certainly likely. What else do they have in store for future authors? Knowing as I do how corporations operate, I shudder to imagine.

On a somewhat related topic, we have the launch of Amazon's new CreateSpace. Will this be Lulu's most serious competitor? I haven't studied the details of CreateSpace's publishing plan yet, but I suspect that Lulu is about to face a real threat to its easy money. Only time will tell how the POD market shakes out its dust as these two changes infiltrate the digital airspace.

I want to reiterate the comments I made about offering my services as a proofreader in the Coming Attractions post. One of the patterns I clearly see developing is that many online entities are offering editing, proofreading, and other book doctoring services to authors. The problem is that these are very labor intensive services and the prices border on the outrageous. If you do the math on the page count or word count fees, you will quickly ascertain that the utilization of any of these services will double or triple the cost of releasing your POD book by an unknown author. How many books with incomplete proofreading will CreateSpace add to the Bad Book Ozone?

Look for reviews of the following books, generally in this order. The one and only reason there may be adjustments made to the order is that I have more than one book by a single author received at the same time, and some books by different authors have arrived on the same day. This allows for a bit of flexibility if I want to separate the reviews of books by the same author without allowing any author to cut in line in the queue.

Schlussel's Woman by John Lindermuth
The Valley of Death by Gwynne Wales
St. Hubert's Stag by John Lindermuth
Scarecrow in Gray by Barry D. Yelton
Beyond the Cayenne Wall by Shaila Abdullah
Cibolero by Kermit Lopez
Bound by Amy Lane

The following requests for reviews have been accepted, but the books have not yet arrived:
The Confession of Piers Gaveston by Brandy Purdy
Pirate Spirit by Jeffery S. Williams

Author interviews are also in progress with Dave H. Schleicher and Deb A. Welch. Dave's interview should be up before the end of September. Deb's should appear sometime in October.

I have recently posted notice of this blog's existence at two forums, one at Absolute Write and another at Amazon. Anyone who wishes to comment on my job performance on these boards is encouraged to do so. My tightrope seems to be stretching tighter with every new online source of POD information that I discover. I do not want to have to close submissions for reviews, but that consequence seems to creep ever closer. Piers Gaveston, where are you?

Monday, September 03, 2007


Wounded by Amy Lane
(iUniverse / 0-595-37914-1 / January 2006 / 362 pages / $20.95)

Subtitled The Second Book in The Little Goddess Series, Amy Lane's Wounded continues the saga of Corinne Carol-Anne Kirkpatrick and her merry band of elves, vampires, and what-nots. Cory's giant elf boyfriend sent her off to college in San Francisco at the conclusion of the first book, Vulnerable, and most of the action in Wounded takes place in that liberated city. It's a good thing it does, too, because the book kickstarts off with a homoerotic scene between an elf and a vampire, and then proceeds to go where no small-minded human would dare. The action quickly mellows into a smoother, more introspective work than the more jarring first book. Wounded is primarily a story of love, relationships, and Cory's recovery from the loss of her vampire lover, Adrian, in Vulnerable. Ms. Lane constructs the storyline in a manner that trades a little of the spunkiness of Cory as she enters the supernatural underworld in Vulnerable for a dose of a wizened Cory who has fully accepted her unusual new lifestyle. Fans of Amy Lane's innovative Little Goddess series should be quite pleased with the result.

All is not roses in Goddessland, however. For a perfectionist like me, the meticulous reading of Wounded developed into quite a chore. For some reason that is a mystery to me, Amy overused ellipses throughout the book, particularly within the dialog, to a point that goes far beyond a distraction. If all the punctuation near these numerous ellipses, as well as the punctuation in general, had approached a flawless level, I could ignore the problem, at least to some degree. There is hardly a mistake in Wounded that could not have been caught through repetitive proofreading, but obviously the book's title is all too apt for its own good. Amy, please, next time leave the great majority of the ellipses on the cutting room floor and don't be so paranoid of commas. They are just little marks that help convey your story accurately to your readers. The snakes on the plane are ellipses, not commas!

As I stated in my reviews of her first book, Amy Lane is a very entertaining writer. She has enough spunky imagination to give some of it away to the many needy, boring authors out there, and still have enough left over to hold her Queen of Spunk title! If you like the way Anne Rice opened up the depth of realities and emotions for vampire tales back in '76, you may like The Little Goddess Series, because Amy's work does much the same thing. You quickly come to like the characters, even though polite society would call them dangerous, perverted monsters, and Miss Stephanie would say, Eeewwwww! There is a certain element of erotic fantasy for those girls who were never cheerleaders, too. In fact, I could say that this is probably the reason why Amy's books have outsold all of my own, to say the least. Stockard Channing starred in a little-known television movie in 1973 entitled The Girl Most Likely to... that effectively mined the same emotions. A homely girl has plastic surgery and the swan murders all the guys who had mistreated the ugly duckling. When a little-noticed goth chick with relatively low self esteem meets a vampire and a giant elf who show her the joys of becoming a sex goddess, Cory Kirkpatrick turns into the swan. This is essentially the basis of Amy's stories, and I can see how young women lap it all up like kittens. More power to 'em....

See Also: Tabitha's B&N Review (not yet posted)