Sorry, Mr. Weiss. I'm not impressed.

Remember Mr. Weiss of Author Solutions (remember Harlequin Horizons/Dellarte Press)? Sticky…see below

(updated… I’m making this sticky…for reasons of my own design…and another warning… yes, this post runs on kinda long.  but hey, it’s kinda well.. my blog.  So hey, I go long if I wanna)

He’s the one who’s talking about all the great opportuntities his company is bringing to the table.  Like

So while I was link gathering for Sunday’s post on Get the word out, I found this post at Juno Books.

The really good part was this:

If nothing else, self-publishing is a choice a writer needs to make only after seriously considering it and only if they understand the amount of money they commit may never be recovered. Read the SFWA’s Writer Beware article on he subject for a good idea of what should be considered. The truth is that most self-published books sell very few copies. (Author Solutions’ CEO Kevin Weiss stated in a 2009 New York Times articlethe average sales of titles from any of the company’s brands at around 150. One assumes this includes books sold directly to authors. According to a 2004 NYTimes article, 40% of iUniverse’s books are sold directly to authors.)

His company also offers fantastic packages like ‘a social media package’ that includes…

  • facebook profiles, myspace profiles
  • facebook page for your book, myspace page for your book
  • flickr
  • feedburner
  • Shelfari, Goodreads, Librarything
  • Twitter

The cost? $949.

I’ve got most of those… don’t use flickr-don’t see the point, but I vaguely recall the cost. Free.

Don’t mess with feedburner, especially as I can import my posts-the set up on Amazon’s Author site, facebook and Goodreads takes all of two minutes, one time. My costs for all of the above? $0. Just takes time, and even if you pay the nearly $1k, you’re still spending the time, otherwise, you wasted that money.

Then there are the awesome video services.  Like:

  • Author video interviews for $5999.  (Although Circle of Seven, the people who do trailers for authors like Lisa Jackson, Christine Feehan?  They charge $2000)
  • Then there was the Hollywood Trailer for $19,999 at Author Solutions/Dellarte.  Yep.  $20k.  I believe I’d asked what a live action trailer would run at Circle of Seven once…I can’t recall the exact figure-it was four digits, though, not five, and I remember that clearly because I would have gone into an asthma attack at the thought of spending five figures on a book trailer…
  • Disclaimer (since people are weird) I’m not an employee of COS, although the owner is what I’d consider a friend-but that happened after I started using their services.  I’m not endorsing them, I’m not getting paid to mention them, yadda yadda yadda…they are just the ones I think of when I think book trailers and I needed something to restart my breathing after I saw the $5999 for an author interview price on AS/Dellarte’s website.

Then there were the ‘editing’ services, which I blogged about here:

Anyway, here are some numbers.  For a ‘mechanical’ edit…basically looking for typos/wrong words ie:  die instead of did, mange instead of manage, etc, etc.

  • At Self Publishing, Inc… this will run you $0.014 per word.
  • At DellArte, it will run you more than double, at $0.035 per Word

Anyway, Mr. Weiss wants to talk to RWA, SFWA and MWA about their ‘differences and as you can probably gather from above…I have some differences.

As a member of two of those organizations, here are a few of my differences and if Mr. Weiss would like to discuss these differences with a lowly member, here we go.

First, as a reminder to those who visit my blog, and just to inform those who might not know my rules, while I can be pretty blunt and pretty sarcastic, I don’t tolerate flaming, attacks or name-calling and if a thread gets too heated, on either side, I’ll shut it down. I can either hang around to make sure the atmosphere stays non-hostile, or I can write. Since I’m paid to write….

There, that out of the way, Mr. Weiss, if by chance you’re reading this, let’s chat.

Point 1

You talk about open discourse, and honesty and offering choices, yet do you openly make aware to your ‘customers’ that while they may spend thousands, you were quoted as saying in the New York Times that the average number of titles sold through one of your brands was 150?  The article can be found here, and it’s aptly named…

Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab (Worth a read, in my opinion…these people are selling a product, but it’s not books to readers, but their services to hopeful writers)

The writer shouldn’t pay thousands to ‘self-publish’ and then have to share the profits.  And of the 150, they don’t even get to keep all the profits, even though they paid all the set-up fees, all the editings-they took on all the risks, they should keep all the profits. With AS/Dellarte, they don’t.  Why not?

That’s one of my differences.  Please, take note, Mr. Weiss, I don’t have an issue with self publishing, the kind that actually benefits the writer.

Point 2

Here’s another difference… why is AS/Dellarte charging $959 for social media services that don’t cost any money?  Are you making the customers aware they will have to actually network once the set up is done for those outlets to do them any good?  Since you’re all about being open and honest, are you openly, honestly making it clear anywhere on the DellArte site that those services cost nothing but time?

A company charges a thousand bucks for something takes about two hours of set up time?  I don’t like that.

Point 3

Another difference, you call your companies self publishing but one of the fundamental distinctions of selfpublishing, if I understand correctly, the author owns the ISBN.  But with your companies, you own the ISBN.

Point 4

Monetizing the slush pile.  It fricking makes me sick and here’s why.  A writer who has gotten a rejection letter-the savvy writer is going to research and is going to know better.  You will not catch those savvy writers, and I’m damn glad.

But I was nineteen when I first submitted to Harlequin-nineteen, fresh out of nursing school, getting ready to get married, broke and I had all sorts of dreams.  I wasn’t exactly starry eyed–I’d always wanted to write but I knew it wasn’t going to come easy, thus the reason I went to nursing school.  I got my rejection letter and yep, I was crushed.   I blogged about this, and I’m just going to quote from that blog… Here’s Why I Care

Now…if I’d gotten a little note referring me to HHz and saw how HHz could help me prove I was  a serious author?  If I had a credit card?  I might have done it.  And when I got burned after spending several thousand on the book, depending on length, edits, etc  (that’s what it would have, my estimate, based on word count/need for editing), and didn’t sell more than a handful of books?  And I wouldn’t have-I didn’t know jack about marketing and no matter what marketing package you ‘buy’, you still have to get there and handsell your book.  I wouldn’t have known that.

After investing the time and heart into it only to fail (to the tune of several thousands lost) I don’t know that I would have tried again.

Which means…maybe I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.  I’m not a major boon to the romance world, but there are some people who enjoy my stuff.

Writers that have fantastic stories, if they try this only to gets their hopes and dreams dashed?

Will we ever see their stories?  Hear their voices?    Writing is a dicey thing and if you take a damaging blow, you may never find the heart to write again.

That’s one reason I care.

Another reason?

I made plenty of mistakes starting out.  Plenty.  I still make them.  I’ll continue to make them.  Sometimes I learn from them on my own.  Some mistakes I’ve avoided through the advice and guidance of authors I admire.  We all screw up.  We were all aspiring at one time.  And many writers have gotten screwed sideways.

Most, if not all, of us have been in that place, after you’ve gotten those rejections and you wonder ‘maybe this isn’t the right thing for me’… there you are, questioning your dreams and you see what seems to be a legit, albeit alternative path there.  We were all naive about the industry at one time, right?  We all had to learn.  How many of us might have tried that route? If we had, how many of us would be where we are now?

Spending upwards of a $1000, $2000, $4000 to learn that there is no shortcut?  That’s a hefty price tag to pay and it’s one that might just silence some author voices.  Does that sound overly dramatic?  Maybe.  But writing is often emotionally driven and if you’ve had your dreams busted, it may be hard to find your voice again.  Hard to try again.

Why does this matter to me?

Because it bothers me, at my very core, to see somebody’s dreams exploited.  That’s another reason why I care.

Had I gotten involved with a place like Author Solutions/Dellarte back then, here’s likely what would have happened… I probably would have wasted money I didn’t really have to waste-just out of college, getting married, already in debt-not the ideal way to start life.

I doubted I would have sold more than 10-15 books, because I am not a salesperson, and with self-pub/vanity pub/assisted self pub, you have to be and none of your marketing choices change that.  So after I spent all that money and sold less than nothing, watched as my dreams crashed and burned, I might have given up.  Who would be at fault?  Me.  For seeing a shiny, sparkly promise of a shortcut.  It would be my fault, and mine alone, and I acknowledge that.

But the thought of that shiny, sparkly thread of a promise being offered to another gullible, hopeful writer who has a lot of promise?  Turns my stomach.  Fourteen years later, I’m published, with 50+ books out.  So while I often think my work sucks, I guess it’s safe to say that kid I was at nineteen had promise, and some people might consider it a shame if I had given up when my dreams were smashed.

The thought of the people who are buying into that promise and then giving up when their books really don’t sell all that well?  Yep, turns my stomach.  Since writing orgs are about advocating for the writer, you can see where some of us, maybe a lot of us, or even the majority of us, might have a hard time seeing eye to eye with you.

Point 5

The prices are too high.  Again, that social media package?  Insane… FYI, any writers who don’t want to set up their own social media?  Hey, I know…maybe you can email me-I’ll do it for $100…(just kidding, sorry, you’re on your own, but it only takes a few hours to start up-but unless you invest the time afterward to keep active in those social media sites? there is no point)

Point 6

While I can’t find this info on the site, and correct me if I’m wrong, I believe I’d heard that in the event any author of yours did catch interest a traditional publisher, you would act as an agent?  Nope.  Not liking that.  Sorry.  You’re a publisher.  You act as a publisher… not as an agent.  The purpose of an agent is to have somebody who is acting in the interests of the author.

Point 7

Then there is this… from your site on the Booksellers Package Page:

The Booksellers Package is designed for authors who desire to leave a lasting legacy in the form of a hardcover book. A hardcover book shows the world that you are a serious author ready to make your mark on the writing world.

Snort.  Snicker. Laugh…okay, this is a personal thing, and probably shouldn’t be considered in the overall scheme of things, but I don’t yet have  a single book in hardcover.  So does that mean I’m not a serious author capable of making a mark on the writing world?  I’m so sorry, but that sounds so overly…well, pretentious, I guess.  And so wrong.  A hardcover that somebody pays for doesn’t prove anything.  A hardcover means something when the writer earns it and with your company, the writers don’t earn-they have to pay.

What else, what else, what else…

Well, I’ve gone on enough, but just in case, and I’m not expecting you are, just in case you are reading this, Mr. Weiss, take note-I’ve got no problems with true sef publishing.  None.  If the writer wants to go into true self publishing and they do their research and they have their eyes open, I wish them all the luck in the world.  If they hit the jackpot and become the next Christopher Paolini (author of Eragon), awesome… although a lot people don’t take into account the fact that Paolini’s family had actually been in the publishing biz for years, or that the kid spent a heck of a lot of time and work touring to promote his book.  But still, he hit the jackpot and if somebody else does it, awesome!  I mean that.

But the organizations you’re calling out to ‘discuss’ things are the advocates for writers.  Period.  A writer that goes in with you is likely to spend thousands sell…how many books?  Unless you can guarantee me four, five figures, (1000 books, 10,000) there’s nothing about your company that has me interested in telling either of my writer organizations, “Hey, maybe these people can offer choices to those who are seriously pursuing a writing career.”

Now, before anybody jumps on me about the benefits of self publishing?  Again-I’m not against it, and please don’t drag out the many names-most of them are myths.  Grisham didn’t self publish-he was pubbed by a small house that went out of business and he sold the remaindered books out of his trunk-not the same thing as self publishing.  Plus, he was a lawyer, which mean the man knew how to talk, he was eloquent and would have been able to use that to his advantage when it came to handselling those books.

Some of the big names mentioned in selfpublishing debates, like Twain, are from another era of publishing, and since one of the arguments Mr. Weiss like to use is that ‘publishing is changing,’ we can’t really use an author who published his works more than a century ago.  Talk about apples and oranges.

And here’s some of my other posts about this, in case I didn’t already bore you into unconsciousness.

Sorry, Mr. Weiss.  Just not impressed.  Jumping in on the problems in the publishing industry and using that as your platform to try and convince people of how great your services are?  It failed to impress me and compared to some of my writing colleagues?  I’m not all that savvy about the publishing industry in general.  But you wanted a chance to discuss things, although I’m certainly not, nor would I ever consider running for a position on any board.  (And if I do, I have a few friends that I can trust to knock me over the head.)

And um…. sorry, you’re not doing anything to advance the cause of me, and I don’t see any of the friends I know who are also members claiming their ’causes’ are being advanced, either.  It’s kind of pretentious of you to claim otherwise.