Monday, March 20, 2017

Avoid Scammers

When I first began my journey to becoming an author, like all those before me, I had visions of fame and riches running through my head. It didn’t matter that the odds were heavily stacked against me. I was what you might call, a ’true believer’. I would succeed where others have failed. I would be the exception rather than the rule. Well, in my case, it actually worked out.
But there was a period of time when my faith was shaken; when I thought that maybe things wouldn’t go according to plan. People weren’t lined up around the block to buy my book. And I began to considered that maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Nine months had gone by, and I was no closer to achieving my goals than the day I wrote the first line – or at least that was what I thought. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, was that I was laying the foundation for what would later become a fantastic career. But that’s another story.
Thinking I was just spinning my wheels and not knowing what to do next, I was about as vulnerable to scams as I have ever been in my life. Fortunately, my career took off before I fell victim to the scum who prey on the dreams of the hopeful. But, as I am sure you are aware, many aren’t so lucky.
Recently, I saw someone post on an online forum an offer that, to me, sounded too good to be true. Claiming best seller status with millions of copies sold, this person listed what on the surface appeared like the greatest offer an aspiring writer could hope to run across. It included everything from multiple email blasts to tens of thousands of this authors loyal fans, to professional covers and editing. Hell, you even got to talk to this person once a week, and go over strategies and receive help with your story – from a NYT BEST SELLING AUTHOR. I mean, wow! Who wouldn’t want that? Isn’t that worth a scant $1300?
The answer is no. It’s worth a lot more. And that’s what made me suspicious. Editing alone from a reputable editor can cost more – for just one book. And even premade covers using stock art run over $100. And this person was saying that they would produce three manuscripts, edited, formatted and ready to upload.
And then there’s the mentoring. I remember the thrill I felt the first time I had a one-on-one phone conversation with Michael J. Sullivan, then later Hugh Howey. I had been on a radio show panel about the different stages of publishing. It was me Hugh and Michael. The only reason I was there was because I knew the guy running the show. Afterward, I contacted Michael and Hugh and asked them for a bit of advice. Both were very cool, and graciously gave me some of their time. Afterward, I was over the moon with excitement. So, the idea of a weekly conversation with the top tier author would be extremely enticing.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this person can back up the claims. The post was anonymous, so it’s not like anyone could dispute their story. But it smacked of a scam. It is pricy enough so that a writer with a day job, trying their best to break through, might think it’s legitimate, yet cheap enough that it’s not out of the range of affordability.
To put this into perspective, I spend between $3000-$5000 on a typical release. This includes editing, covers, formatting, and proof reading. This does not include marketing and promotion. That’s ONE book. Not three.
Were I to offer a comparable service (which I would never do), I would have to charge roughly $10,000 just to cover my own costs. This is taking into account that as my name and reputation would be on the line, the work would be professionally done by the same people who do my books. And that’s where I think part of the scam is. For $1300, I could easily do a quick edit, a premade cover, and format a manuscript. I could even farm out the work for about $500. But it sure as hell wouldn’t be professional quality. The rest – the weekly conversations and mentoring…window dressing.

What I’m trying to say is that there is no easy way. The better something sounds the more likely it will turn out to be a scam. I know it can be hard to resist the urge to believe. But before you make the leap, take a minute to think. When people offer their services, they do so with the expectation of a profit. If what they are offering simply doesn’t add up, there is a good chance you’re going to end up the victim of a scam. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

News is Scary!

As I am weary of turning on the television and being frightened out of my wits by one news alert after another, I have decided to focus on getting healthy – both mentally and physically. The mental part is a challenge when you sit at a desk all day basically talking to yourself. But I am finding time to step away and enjoy the quaint little town I call home.

Fairhope is…well…imagine if San Francisco and Mayberry had a love child. Nestled along the banks of Mobile Bay, it’s one of those places that you see in postcards, but know that it couldn’t possibly exist in real life. The people are friendly, the streets and buildings immaculate, and being in the Deep South, the weather allows you to enjoy the amenities almost year-round. The downtown boasts dozens of boutiques, eateries, a mom and pop book store, and even a small museum where you can learn the local history.

Down by the bay is a pier where one can fish, go out to dinner, or just take a stroll. When I was a kid, we would walk to the end and watch the heat lightning illuminate the thunderheads far off in the Gulf of Mexico. It was our own personal fireworks display. And it seemed to always be there to show off for us when we came. I remember once, when I was about nine, my uncle took me there fishing. No sooner had we baited our hooks when he dropped an extremely nice pocket knife which he had just bought that very day into the water. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he stared down for more than a minute. Bob has a calm manor about him. But I think he wanted to scream bloody murder at that moment. Occasionally, I’ll walk to the spot where he dropped it, wondering if it’s still there. But the water is too deep and the bottom too soft for me to ever try solving that particular mystery. From downtown to the bay, Fairhope is a town stuck in time. Some of the buildings are different and there are some new shops. But it’s more or less as it was when I was a child. And yet there are changes which I find unsettling.

Where once Fairhope was a well-kept secret populated by a small number of long-time residents, who although a bit set in their ways, maintained the town’s charm and beauty, it is now bursting at the seams with newcomers. Just finding parking can remind me of the years I spent living in New York. In the outlying areas, new subdivisions have sprung up to accommodate this influx of people. New schools have been built (my old high school is now the elementary school). And the small festivals have turned into major public events. Still, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can stroll down main street and window shop until your heart is content. And if the heat is too much, sooner or later a cool breeze from the bay bearing just a hint of salt and honeysuckle will be along to make it all better. 

As for the physical…not nearly as quaint. I’ve been going to the gym and “sweating to the oldies”. Once upon a time, I was in very good condition. No more. I’ve become a doughy, middle-aged man who looks at a flight of stairs with dread. I have a long road ahead of me. But I didn’t get this way overnight. So, it will take time. What I am looking forward to, is when you start actually feeling good after a workout. Not feeling as if I just finished working at a Roman quarry under the relentless crack of a whip; every muscle aching and head throbbing to the beat of my heart. Two months, I’m told. I can hold out that long….I think.

In any event, it’s better than watching the news.    

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Speech! Speech!

This post will be short. And though it may sound political, I assure you it is not.
As a writer, I am a staunch supporter and advocate of free speech. For me, it is the well-spring from which all other freedoms are drawn. Without it, I would not be able to create. Rather, I would have to conform to a prescribed format that fit the narrative of those who have decided for you and for me what may or may not be said and heard. Great stories would have never been told. Entire genres of literature would not exist. Music and art would be lifeless and uniform. But it goes deeper than the aesthetic.

Without free speech, there is no innovation. Science and technology are based on ideas and flights of fancy. And when minds are stifled and ideas controlled, the imagination required to turn mere concepts into world changing advances evaporates. There is no moon landing, cell phones, personal computers, internet, GPS, quantum mechanics, cosmology, medical breakthroughs, or any of the thousands of things we have come to depend upon and that make our lives both richer and longer.

It is a challenge to listen to speech you find repulsive and offensive. But if my right to free speech meant I had to listen attentively for an hour every day to someone who makes my blood boil and my skin crawl…I would suffer it gladly.     

Friday, February 10, 2017

Who Cares What I Think?

It’s been asked of me if I have any strong political opinions. Or more to the point, did I support Clinton or Trump? I naturally refused to answer. But I was curious why it was important for this person to know. I discuss politics quite often. But I do so at home and with those close to me. I find it to be a subject best left off Facebook and Blogs. 
The person who had asked was a long-time reader who had thought she had noticed certain political statements hidden within my books. I explained that there is none – or at least none of which I am aware. My job is to entertain, not preach. And though certainly my beliefs might occasionally spill onto the page, it is never intentional.
 Why would anyone care what I think about politics anyway? What qualifies me to tell someone else what they should think or feel? I’m a writer of fiction, not a pundit – though sometimes it seems like the same thing. But the fact remains I have no special qualifications that would make it advisable for me to go running my mouth off about the left or the right wings of our politics.
Don’t misunderstand. I speak out about absolute wrongs. But liberalism and conservatism are not absolutes. They are complex philosophies that take on many shades of grey and often overlap. And though I do have my own views, I would guess that my readers do too. I’m sure you have enough to think about without being subjected to mine.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


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