I just sent out a rejection regarding a really neat idea that wasn’t right for me. And I received a nice form letter in response, to whit:

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

No, that’s okay, really, but thanks for the query!

Seriously, do you really want potential agents and publishers to jump through hoops to contact you?

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  •   Author Tips

Cory Doctorow suggests that authors use blogging tools as their most basic web page management tools, in Blogging Without the Blog, in Locus Magazine.

He writes —

The secret is to have the site redesigned around a blogging tool, like Movable Type or WordPress. These run on your ISP’s server — most ISPs offer one or both. When set up correctly, they can do more than just serve as a publishing platform for your online journal or blog: they can serve as a powerful content management system comparable to the ones used by newspapers, universities, and online stores like Amazon..

Well worth reading and worth trying for any tech phobic authors.

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  •   Author Tips

The AMS-PGW mess has been covered many places, and especially well by Michael Cader at Publisher’s Marketplace, but Radio Free PGW has the perhaps the most poignant and personal take on the crisis and PGW’s history, Publisher’s Group West, 1976-2007.

I always liked PGW. I loved their broad list and diversity of publishers.

I saw many pioneering computer book publishers grow up in their stable (including Peachpit, No Starch, The Waite Group, and many more), and appreciated the fact that this west coast outfit was such a significant force in the publishing world at large.

Not to mention that they pretty much always had the best parties.

I hope as many publishers and authors as can escape unscathed. It looks like Avalon already has, per Galleycat, Today in AMS: Avalon Signs with Perseus, but that deal sounds like it was already coming.

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  •   Publishing

AMS (Advanced Marketing Services) is a San Diego based distributor that helped publishers sell huge quantities of books to the big-box retailers like Costco. AMS experienced great growth in the 90s when big-box retailers were opening right and left.

But discount clubs are a small margin business and distributor profits depend to a great degree on what other services (i.e. advertising and placement fees) they can bundle for publishers. It also depends on huge volume. So of course AMS was always trying to find bigger margin business and found that to a degree in packaging books themselves, and eventually went on to buy well-regarded Berkeley distributor and sometime publisher PGW (Publisher’s Group West).

Now that AMS has declared bankruptcy on the heels of numerous legal and financial problems, it spells potential disaster for PGW distributed publishers.

Galley Cat has decent overview coverage here.

It’s scary. PGW distributes a great list of publishers, and this is awful news for them. And to me it’s proof positive that consolidation is not always a good thing for the industry.

It also gives you something to think about. Many publishers use third party distributors and it’s not unheard of to see small publishers go out of business when their distributors fail. Keep your fingers crossed for these folks.

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  •   Publishing

Congratulations to Chef Marie-Annick Courtier on the publication of The Saint-Tropez Diet, from Hatherleigh. Chef Marie contributed more than 100 wonderful recipes to this book, and the diet looks like a winner.

Congratulations to Dan Gookin on completing his Getting Started with Microsoft Windows Vista DVD-ROM for Class on Demand.

Dan also has a new blog. It’s worth checking out Dan’s Computer Predictions for 2007. Welcome to the Blogosphere, Dan!

Happy 2007!

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  •   Client News

We had some problems configuring the server with the last spam blockers we installed, but it looks like we have something that works now.

Feel free to post your comments!

It took longer than planned to fix this and I have to thank Chad Smith at Spaceout Media for helping me out. Thanks, Chad!

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  •   Random Postings

via Mediabistro, Free Online Because You Won’t Find it in Stores.

Science fiction author Peter Watts has released his most recent novel, Blindsight (Tor), as a pdf under a Creative Commons license, which is cool and may spur more sales, but it’s driven by the fact that his publisher only printed and shipped 3700 copies and didn’t find wide distribution. Sadly, this is somewhat contrary to Boing Boing’s first take that “the book is selling so fast that readers are having a hard time laying their hands on copies.”

I assume he reserved these rights in his contract, you can’t just decide to release your book via pdf without your publisher’s permission.

It’ll be interesting to see if this helps sales. I sure hope it does.

Here’s the Amazon page, Blindsight.

And here’s the novel itself, Blindsight in html.

And here’s a very cool add-on, 7 alternate covers to the book.

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  •   Publishing

A couple of interesting articles about bestsellers crossed my screen this week.

The Bible and the ripped-from-the-headlines Iraq Study Group Report are books that you don’t ordinarily think of when you hear the word “bestseller,” but each story can tell you a lot about the business of publishing, and maybe something about the future of this business.

Peter Osnos’s latest Platform is about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering for the rights to be first publisher to print the Iraq Study Group Report, linked.

His take on variable pricing is of note —

“What makes all this robust sales activity notable (aside from public interest in its content) is that millions more people accessed the 142-page report gratis from all the Web sites where it was posted. In the first day, the U.S. Institute of Peace, said it alone had 730,000 downloads. The process was instantaneous and the layout exactly the same as in the book that carries retail price of $10.95.”

Plus, the latest New Yorker has a great piece about the bestselling book in America, clocking in at some 25 millions copies a year, your friendly Bible, in all its variations, and sliced, diced, and interpreted many different ways — The Good Book Business.

Money quote, “The amount spent annually on Bibles has been put at more than half a billion dollars.”


One thing in common with both books? No royalties. Well, unless maybe you have a superstar like Max Lucado involved.

Another thing in common? Most everyone already has a Bible and most anyone can download the Iraq Report for free.

Both bestsellers show you some of what readers truly value, and the “success” (hate to use that word in this case) of the Iraq Study Group Report clearly demonstrates the massive interest and concern about the war in Iraq (in case that wasn’t clear from the election!).

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  •   Publishing

We have a slew of new titles from various Wiley imprints on the way.

Congratulations to Ronda Racha Penrice on completing her first book, African American History for Dummies to be published in April of 2007 (for Dummies/Wiley).

Congatulations to Holly Day and Michael Pilhofer on delivering Music Theory for Dummies, to be published in April of 2007 (for Dummies/Wiley).

Congratulations to Dan Gookin on delivering probably his umpteenth book, Programmer’s Guide to NCurses, to be published by Wiley in February of 2007.

Congratulations to Ted Coombs on delivering his Google Power Tools to be published by Wiley in March of 2007.

Congratulations to Ric Vieler on completing his first book, Professional Rootkits, to be published by Wrox/Wiley in March of 2007.

Congratulations to Taz Tally on delivering his 50 Hikes on the Kenai Peninsula, to be published in 2007 by Countryman Press.

Congratulations to Christopher Spencer, author of The eBay Entrepreneur, who was interviewed on eBay Radio last week: Holiday Buying and Selling on eBay (mp3).

And congrats to Kevin Epstein, author of Marketing for the Small Business Made Easy, who will be speaking at LA Tech Week on January 24: Igniting Your Venture: Marketing Made Easy.

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  •   Client News

Via Publishers Lunch, check out this article from Writer Beware, Martha Ivery Sentenced.

I had heard about Martha before but I wasn’t aware of how much money she scammed. It turns out it was a lot, more than $700k from over 300 victims. For that she was sentenced to 65 months in Federal Prison, plus restitution.

Your best bet for avoiding scam agents? Legitimate agents don’t typically advertise and they don’t charge you reading fees.

If you do some research you’ll learn to recognize scam agents when you see them: they often have the most generic names, no recent book sales listed, or no sales at all, and a long disclaimer about fees somewhere on their site (thou doth protest too much). They may advertise via Google Ads or in the back of Writer’s mags. (Here’s a hack which, unfortunately, is probably click fraud: if you want to fight scam agents, click on their ads, they have to pay for each click!)

You can research agents at Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware. Just be sure to check your references because an internet posting from one unhappy client does not necessarily mean an agent is a scam artist.

If you’re not sure about an agency, read their website, google their authors, make sure they have a track record of sales to royalty paying publishers. For instance, I’ve started posting a few of my sales at Publishers Marketplace, but not all of them, but you can always find out more about my books at my website and you can even find links to my authors’ websites and contact them yourself if you’re so inclined.

I’m okay with companies that purport to do “research” on agents for a fee (except when they call during lunch) but much of this info is free or available at your local library. Plus it turns out that their research actually comes from the sites or books linked below.

Your best bet for finding a suitable agent is scouring sales data at Publishers Weekly, Publishers Marketplace, AgentQuery, or several of the great reference books available, such as Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, which I’m no longer in since I’ve been on my own!

Perhaps your best strategy? Make friends with other writers. Although I read plenty of over-the-transom submissions, most of my clients come from referrals.

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  •   Author Tips