Lured in by an irresistibly low "Professional Introductory Rate", I have been receiving The New York Review of Books for the past few months. It is almost always a fascinating and informative read and I look forward to receiving each issue. There is just one thing that darned near every issue includes that I find, well, disturbing, and that is the two page spread advertisements featuring books by Author Solutions authors. As someone who several years ago squandered over seven hundred of the family dollars to have iUniverse format, produce a cover design and arrange for the most basic of distribution of what was then called Close Enough for Government Work (please do not purchase it, link provided for reference and veracity only), I know what it is to invest in one's own work when the major publishers have declined to do so. One fools oneself into thinking that if only the product can finally be put together and made available, the inevitable will happen and a Career Will Be Born. Of course, it don't quite happen like that. No indeed. But as long as there are folks out there churning out manuscripts the publishers don't want (or won't look at) and as long as a fair percentage of those would-be authors have more money than inclination to learn about the brave new world of real independent publishing that has sprung up in the last few years, there will be companies like Author Solutions (of which iUniverse is now but one of its "imprints") ready to make a buck off the hopes and dreams of the hopeful and poorly informed.
Even though it is at least five years since I told them to Leave Me Be, I still receive emails and phone calls from the reps at iUniverse trying to rope me into some lame promotional scheme or other sure to vault my creation into the stratosphere of international literary celebrity and riches. One of the perennials amongst their "Here's How We Can Help You Promote Your Masterpiece" swindles is the shared ad in The New York Review of Books. A double page spread with two dozen Author Solutions books lined up in four vertical columns, featuring cover art, title, author and appropriate ISBN info right smack dab in one of the most prestigious periodicals in the literary world. All this for a mere pittance of around a thousand dollars or so if I recall correctly, it could be more by now, payable directly to Author Solutions, of course. So far so good, if they truly had anything close to their customers' best interests at heart that is where they should have stopped, with cover art and vitals and cash changing hands. But instead, as part of Author Solutions' formula to assist their customers (sorry, authors) in reaching as wide a readership as possible, they allow them to include a three or four line description/hook. Problem is in almost every instance it is as if an advertising firm had been hired to produce copy specifically designed to torpedo any chance of selling the product they were representing. Kind of like a really sneaky Super-PAC ad that finds a way to destroy an opposing candidate by praising him in the clumsiest manner imaginable.
Here, for example, is the blurb for Unlimited Progress: The Grand Delusion of the Modern World by one Dennis Knight Heffner, M.D. (see cover above)
In Unlimited Progress: The Grand Delusion of the Modern World, author Dennis Knight Heffner, M.D. uses a lifetime's worth of experience in the medical field to examine the truths and myths of progress and change.
The first half of this is completely wasted since it is nothing but a repeat of information about in inch north on the page. And just what makes a doctor, with or without a lifetime of experience, which, by the way, we all have, an expert in progress and change? And what does it all have to do with rockets?
A couple more for your consideration. Please let me know if either of them entice you to read the books.
The Legend of Demnog
The Legend of Demnog follows the last of the Narethemar as they search for the Legend of Demnog, an ancient treasure and suit of armor greedily sought after by the two opposing governments of the lands of Demnog and Wooernog.
For Widows Only!
For Widows Only! is an extraordinary book for widows. Personal, intimate, and honest, it contains straight from the hip girl talk, strictly for widows only!
All !'s are provided by the original felon, not me.
Just one more.
In Sardinian Silver, Wright (that would be A. Colin Wright, the guilty party) masterfully (if he does say so himself) evokes a mysterious society, its flamboyant people and the island's beauty. Like Arthur (took me a minute, but I think that is what the "A." in A. Colin Wright stands for) you'll never want to leave Sardinia, with its wide sands, low hills, sun and blue sea and its superficial pleasantness of life.
Yep, nothing I aspire to more than a wide, low, superficial life.
Here's the thing. For all you or I know, any or all of these books could actually be fall down wonderful. Captivating reads and all that. No way to know from these ads, is there? The only things we know for sure are that these authors can't craft a short and enticing description of their own books and Author Solutions honestly doesn't care because they have already extracted a tidy sum from the Clueless Hopefuls and moved on to the next batch.