A busy week has seen me with a plethora of projects/tasks, all of which (for a change) completed to the satisfaction of all.

I had a unique experience the other day.  I stumbled across an author/publisher? on my Twitter timeline seemingly inviting people to join their book publishing page.  I cannot say if it was more than a vanity press, certainly the 90’s style website that accompanied it would suggest that, as well as the fact the only book that this “company” had in its library was the one by the person advertising the page.

I’ve nothing against a vanity press per se, however it can sometimes be used to disguise some rather awful work and I think if you are making attempts to convince your readers that you are not self published, you must ask yourself why.  A good book is a good book regardless of who/how its published and a poor piece of literature from a self-published author can do damage to a method of publishing which has so many benefits to both the reader and author.  Add into the mix a vanity press and people will also get a poor impression of small publishing firms.

I digress, the issue of vanity press is moot for the purposes of this particular person, when I attempted to correct their mistake on the Tweet.

“Your invited to like my page” the tweet proudly exclaimed.

I don’t need to tell people what’s wrong with that statement , it is blatantly obvious to anyone with even the most basic understanding of the English language.   When the aforementioned grammatical error was pointed out, it was met with a rather aggressive response; and then a subsequent block.  That wouldn’t be so bad if the tweet had been corrected, but last time I looked it was still in situe.   For me, only two reasons exist for this, either a/ they are too stubborn to admit their mistake or worse, they genuinely believe that this is grammatically correct.   I hope the answer is merely (a) but I have a horrible feeling its actually (b).

Regardless of if this particular “press” is trying to sell other peoples work, it highlights a very important point.

There are some times that I wish I hadn’t taken a “traditional” publishing route and self published myself.  The lack of control I’ve experienced with my work has left me feeling frustrated at times and flabbergasted at others, but you have to be incredibly careful on who you chose to promote your work if you are choosing an unknown publisher.

For people who either can’t get a “traditional” publisher to handle their work and wish to look to a small publishing house, you are giving an awesome responsible to someone if you ask them to take your work.   I’ve built up an online presence over years and have experience with promoting a football club, but to take someone’s hard work and have responsibility for that work – I certainly would not want to do it.   The internet allows any person to step up as a publisher which is why you need to be incredibly careful with your work.  Promoting a football club is simple compared to that of a novel, so I’d suggest if you are considering using a publisher who is wanting your work, you look at the following:

  1. How is their website presented?  Does it look modern and up to date?  Or does it look like a rushed effort from the 90’s?
  2. Who is hosting their site?  Is it a provider of free webspace who have generic templates for people to modify?
  3. What are the results of a search?  Any discussion (good/bad) around this publisher?
  4. What titles have they previously released? Do they have sample chapters? What is the quality of the current titles?
  5. Are there typo’s or grammatical errors on their site?  Do they make promises that are yet to manifest or dubious in substance such as “We aim to have a large library of XYZ” or “We are the one stop shop for quality titles”

And maybe the most important questions you should ask yourself if you are tempted to approach an unknown publisher:

What can this publisher do that I cannot?  Am I doing this for a genuine benefit to me or is this an issue of merely vanity?

Self publishing is without doubt a very valuable part of the literary world, last year my favourite title was a self published work, coming out top of my reading list over authors who are well known and have lucrative contracts with large publishers.  On the reverse side of that, self-publishing has the drawback of there being no quality control what so ever – by that I mean whilst there are many self-published authors who I know that are utterly meticulous in the editing, refining and correcting of their own work, it is not a prerequisite of publishing a work.  There have been many “bad” books I’ve read from traditional publishers, but if a company is investing money in your work, you can almost be guaranteed a minimum standard of the work contained within the covers.

I’m hoping the publisher/author in question will take up the right of reply instead of merely running away from the issue.  Maybe there is a facet of the English language where “Your invited” is correct and if so, they can enlighten us all to the lack of understanding we have.  We all make mistakes (well admittedly I’ve not seen as basic a one as that from a claimed author) but suffice to say when we do, we don’t continue making that mistake by claiming we are right.

Is this the grammar police? (as the vague response on the Twitter account suggests) Well yes, it is.  If I am selling something to people, then I expect my work to be of the highest standard, anything less is a disservice to my customers. Thankfully the example above is not typical of what I see when I look at self-published and for me anyway, all this work is taken out of my hands by people who have invested in my product.  Its funny how “grammar police” is only wheeled out when someone has tried to argue the point of being right then shown (again) to be wrong.

If you go with a publisher who they themselves cannot get the basics right, what hope does your work have?

A point of note here, if my grammar falls below standard, then I’d expect someone to say so.  If it is a typo then I would like to know, if its an ignorance on my part then I certainly want to know.  That’s how we prevent mistakes in the future and learn.  Grammar police? Yes please.

Promoting your own work

I have a tip – if you have taken on the role of promoting your own work, have a separate account to your “personal” one.  The reason for this is simple.  A well known author under a publishing house will not have to worry so much about promoting their own work.  The publisher will take care of that for them.  This means that when they do engage on their personal social media accounts, they do not have to focus on talking about their work.  If you are seen on social media as someone who is promoting your own work, I think the account doing that loses its appeal for being a “social” account.  I don’t want to engage in a conversation with someone who is going to try and sell me something every other sentence.  Why not have a separate account for promotion? People will still go there, but will be under no illusions as to what its there for.  Is there anything worse than having a conversation with someone who says something like: “I’m pleased to see you like XYZ, have you bought my new book? It has many of the same themes”  You can’t talk about life and universe with a car salesperson in a showroom for very long, their sole purpose is to sell you cars and the entire conversation I’d suggest is steered towards the ultimate goal of doing that.

Anyone who, in a conversation I deem as being of a personal (or even random) nature can lose all appeal immediately should they steer the conversation towards a sale of their book or product.  I use social media to be social.  If I am interested in a certain product, I’ll specifically go to the account pertaining to that product.

Aliens

With the discovery of a structure near to Stonehenge, it is only a matter of time before the new find is written into the last alien conspiracy theory.  History is great for an alien promoter because often we are not in possession of all the facts and its that absence of facts that allow an alien theory to worm its way in.

I’ve come up with a formula that pertains to items on our planet and it goes something like this:

If an item is 10-50 years old its a collectable.  If its over 50 then its an antique.  If its over 1000 years old its a relic and if its 2000 years or more, then it was made by or for aliens.  Apply that to buildings, items on our planet, it roughly fits.

Area 51 – The Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for the alien believer, has had many stories, eye witness accounts and visitors to the locality.  When a family who have lived on the doorstep of the “secret” base for generations, you’d expect one or two stories of spaceships and aliens.   Unsurprisingly though, for the people who are not involved in some pseudo reality of aliens amongst us, the people who called Area 51 neighbours have no such stories.  Their issue with Area 51 is a plethora of complaints, none of which have an extra-terrestrial origin.  We can leave the fantastic stories to those who pass through the area and have an “experience” – one which the neighbours of Area 51 never seem to have had.  What are the chances of that?

The nice thing about an alien conspiracy – absolutely anything can be made to “fit”.  So maybe the theory will be the neighbours of Area 51 are sending out mundane messages in order to make people believe there are no aliens at the base?  The mind boggles (for those of us who haven’t bought into the alien industry) For the believers, the next “truth” is only a story away.

The story can be found here.

Warning labels

“Warning, product contains nuts” – proudly displayed on a packet of peanuts.

We are all aware of the silly warning labels used to cover the figurative backs of companies, but over on Facebook there was an interesting post which asked the question: If you had a warning label, what would it be?

For myself the answer was simple:

“Must be supervised by a responsible adult at all times”

And on that note, I’ll bid you good day.

Tim Wilson