Tag Archives: slush pile

Beware of ‘sharks’—and not only when you take a swim: vanity presses are out to getcha!

'Lemon Shark' by Willy Volk, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/volk/. Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.
‘Lemon Shark’ by Willy Volk, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/volk/. Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

Yes, you know who I’m talking about—and it isn’t this amazing creature.

I’m talking about those opportunistic ‘professionals’ who take advantage of creative people. We all want to create, right? We want to write, draw, paint, design, etc., and don’t want to invest that precious energy watching our backs.

The bad news is that we have to!

Have you ever heard about ‘vanity presses’? I bet you have. In the past, they were the only option if you wanted to become a published author without ending up in a traditional publisher’s slush pile. They’re called ‘vanity’ presses because they cater for the so-called ‘vain and whimsical’ who aspire to have their work published. Meh! For a start, if you’ve written a book, any book, on any topic, you aren’t vain or whimsical. You don’t deserve to be taken for a ride. You’ve done the hard yards and good on you! Trouble is that there are some who are ‘out to getcha’.

Case in point:  A very good writer, Ellis Shuman, one of my highly respected Twitter mates, tells us about his experience with iUniverse, a vanity press that these days disguises itself as a self-publishing facilitator. I’ve done my research and found that vanity presses are operating by stealth these days. I have found a number of articles on this subject which shed light on an aspect of human nature that is as old as the hills: if you have a deep-seated and legitimate wish, there will be a bullshit peddler out there ready to sell you a shoddy bill of goods or services that will cost you a bundle and you’ll get nothing in return. I recommend you read this Savvy Book Writers blog post. Even Random House is mentioned as potentially treacherous for un-agented writers!

Indiefolk do it the hard way. Just to give an example of how hard, these days I’m juggling my ‘day job’, trying to finish a couple of short stories and sorting out my PR strategy. Mind you, I’m not complaining. Life isn’t meant to be easy and I’m a creative person at heart. I’m hard working too. All the same, the self-preservation learning curve seems to get in the way of it all.

In any case, let’s keep on smiling. Have a great day, FFJ 🙂

Indie-land, Chapter II: Are indiefolk authors, writers, thieves, soldiers of fortune, or what?

Have you ever met one of those exhausting people who want to label everything? Who won’t let go unless they can pin someone or something down to a name, definition or explanation? If you’re an academic, of course you’ll do that. Same if you work in healthcare, pure / applied sciences, social sciences, etc. You get my drift. Tradespeople also need to be able to call a spade a spade. But what happens in these cases is that there’s a consensus among those in each and every field of inquiry on how they’re going to refer to the objects or techniques of their study. As much as we may hate their ‘jargon’, for those in these fields, it’s a necessity.

However, when it comes to the fluid field of self-publishing, I can’t understand why some would bother about what we indiefolk decide to call ourselves. I happened to be doing an Internet search one day when I stumbled upon this article: Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors. Michael Kozlowski, the ‘author’ of such a gem, seems to take exception to the use of the word author when talking about us indiefolk. Such self-appointed oracle of right and wrong carries on and on about the topic and has even posted a rather uninteresting video that doesn’t make him a broadcaster, by the way.

Mr Kozlowski almost has a point when he talks about authors as being those who make a living by selling what they write. In any case, so many writers of the past couldn’t make ends meet on their writing in spite of having produced masterpieces. A few days ago, Mary Shelley popped up in a conversation with friends—she of Frankenstein fame, remember? I wonder if Mr Kozlowski would dare say that she wasn’t an author, even though she could barely make ends meet on her magnificent literary work. It would be pointless to start listing the names (and circumstances) in which many of the great authors of the past did not meet the ridiculous criteria that is discussed in Michael Kozlowski’s blog post. I’ll only add that the comments he got clobbered his blog post, and rightly so.

Nothing and nobody can take away the joy of seeing one’s work published, and these days the only opportunity afforded to most aspiring authors is self-publishing.

Are we authors? Are we writers? Are we (fill in the blank with whatever you will) … ? Who knows, and what’s more who cares? The good ones will stay and (probably) make a living doing what they like best—writing. There’s a demanding public out there. They are the ones who decide.

It’s dinner time now. Catcha later, FFJ

Indie-land, Chapter I: the self-publishing process

Interestingly, after writers finish writing a book, a few processes take place that we indiefolks  have to foot the bill for—literally.  Writers that go through traditional publishers (and don’t end up in the dreaded, so-called slush pile) don’t have to, because the publisher takes care of the editing, marketing, PR, social media, etc.

It isn’t my intention to get into the subject of royalties here, but I can roughly say that the difference between what indiefolks and traditionally published authors receive is considerable.  The big trade-off here is that indie = full control of everything, including royalties.

You can find plenty of great websites that explain the nuts and bolts of going it on your own, with bells and whistles. There are also excellent self-published manuals on the subject. In this case, I’ll just limit myself to writing about the steps I had to takeThe first one, the most important one, the unavoidable one:


Sorry about the all-caps, but you get my drift. Writing a book is no picnic. I know because I’ve done it myself. Don’t pay attention to those that tell you that so many people write and that your ‘baby’ will get lost in the Amazon jungle (hehe!) or that Your Words Will Be Smashed, or any other crap like that. You’ve done it and it takes gumption and guts. It takes massive doses of creativity, of course, but I know many creative people that start lots of different things at the same time and end up achieving nothing.

Once the book has been written, you’ll need an editor. My first choice of editor took me to a dead end. I suspect she probably didn’t want to edit an opera prima written by a nobody who hasn’t got a PhD in English or anything like that—and who writes explicit sex scenes to boot. In any case, I happened to be working on WordWatcher’s website and I wondered, Why not him? I’ve already discussed my very successful experience with him in a previous post.

I already knew about IndieMosh and their publishing packages. At the beginning I only considered e-publishing, but I wanted to make sure that I opened more markets for myself, and not everybody has an e-reader (or likes them, for that matter). So after doing my math, I decided to get a combo package (e-publishing and print on demand). 

Here comes a very interesting bit: I’m a trained graphic and web designer, so I designed my covers, did the layout and supplied all the finished artwork to publish ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. My partner is a professional pro and took a nice pic of me. At the same time, I wrote several blurbs for different purposes: the Amazon site, Smashwords, One Thousand Words Plus, etc. You need different numbers of words depending on the platform, so I wrote a basic blurb and ‘tweaked’ it to suit different platforms. After that…

IndieMosh's congratulations card
IndieMosh’s congratulations card

I started developing this website and set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account. FF Jensen became part of the social media jungle all right!

The next steps:

  • The launch (to take place on May 19).
  • A Google + page.
  • Facebook advertising ? We shall see…
  • Pinterest… I don’t think so. My craft is literature, so I’d probably pass that one up.
  • Press releases and press contacts: I will explore the chances of publishing articles in Australian magazines and websites.
  • Participating on a TV show? That could be a good one…
  • Serendipity…
  • All of this while I continue writing my short story collection, Bedroom Short Stories For Discerning Adults. Those over 18, stay tuned: there will be a ‘freebie’ coming your way soon!

As I write this post, I have come to the conclusion that creating the FF Jensen brand is as much fun as being a writer—and probably every bit as creative!

Once I finish this post, I’ll take a peep of the wonderful landscape rolling by, from the Blue Mountains train. Catcha later, FFJ