Friday, March 29, 2013

Bang The Drum Slowly And Play The Fife Lowly

Sound the death march as Amazon carries Goodreads to the grave....

As a micro-publisher, I have become a fan of Goodreads as a way to connect with readers. That is what Goodreads is all about, serving as a forum for and about books, recommending books and launching new books.

Without having to pay a fee.

Amazon is all about selling, not only books but gadgets and services. It operates a publishing unit. Will they really welcome me and my small band of colleagues?

If we wanted to use Createspace, owned by Amazon, we would have gone in that direction. The production costs are outrageous, the potential royalties too small, and as a publisher we would have little control over the price and discount we wished to offer.

Will we be forced to turn to Createspace in the future if we wish to host a giveaway at Goodreads? Will Createspace users got priority over the independent publisher? Or will it be pay to play for those not availing of Amazon's publishing services?

Considering how Amazon has operated in the past, it's more than likely than they will tailor Goodreads to fit the Amazon mold, one that involves generating profits at every opportunity.

So sound the death march. Goodreads will not remain in its current state.

It will become another site for Amazon to tout its wares, to push writers towards its Kindle Direct Program and give them preference. Then if you want to promote your book, you'd have to grant Amazon the exclusive rights to publish it.

Goodreads was grand while it lasted.

Now Available:

THE KING OF THE IRISH --- "History and politics buffs will appreciate the novel’s blending of research on the real-life Cronin murder trials with fictional forays that highlight the discrimination and legal duplicity of the era." --- Kirkus Reviews

When a British spy turns up dead in a Chicago sewer, police detective Daniel Coughlin is swept up in a power struggle between warring factions of the Irish nationalists, a fight that could see him hanged for a murder he did not commit. If his politicial clout does not come through for him, he is a dead man.

Drawn from court records and historical archives, THE KING OF THE IRISH presents the infamous Cronin murder trials of 1889 and 1893 from the perspective of an innocent man caught up in a nightmare from which there is no waking. A gripping tale of political chicanery, politics and greed, the novel examines the price of loyalty and honor in a city long known for dirty politics and crooked politicians.

Also available as an e-book in all formats.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Art Of Welfare Fraud

Creativity is required if an artist is to succeed, and by all accounts Sybil Montague was creative. She was named an emerging visual artist only last year, and Wexford Arts Council does not toss out such awards to those not deserving.
The Irish-born graduate of the Chelsea College of Art proved to be remarkably creative when it came to living as an artist, a profession not known for high salaries.

Ms. Montague got her creative juices flowing and concocted a most creative way to claim dole payments from Ireland while living in London, which has a far more vibrant art scene than Wexford and Cork put together.

All she had to do was present herself to the offices of the Department of Social Protection in Cork on schedule and they gave her money to live on.

Sure she wasn't living in Ireland, but she'd really have a difficult time of it if she did. She's an artist, not a checker at the local Spar market. Hard enough to profit by art, and near impossible in the back of beyond.

But like any artist, Ms. Montague soon learned that her form of artistic expression was not appreciated by all. DSP discovered that she was not residing in Ireland, and that she was gaming the system with her four years of fraudulent claims.

She was arrested in March when she arrived in Cork to go through the motions of pretending to be a needy resident of Ireland.

The authorities had records of her round-trip flights from London to Cork, and that left the artist no room in which to wriggle. She pleaded guilty, and to avoid further difficulties with such Philistines as An Garda Siochana, Ms. Montague replaced the 43,000 euro she had received.

Sadly, another unrefined member of the legal system found that the size of the fraud was so great that it was not a simple matter to adjudicate.

The artist is going to face criminal charges and will no doubt be levied some significant fines and penalties for her crime. How she will come up with the money to pay, however, will require another flash of brilliant inspiration.

Vermeer and Van Gogh died penniless. It's the nature of the business, when one is creative in a time when some talent is not fully appreciated.

Now Available:

THE KING OF THE IRISH --- "History and politics buffs will appreciate the novel’s blending of research on the real-life Cronin murder trials with fictional forays that highlight the discrimination and legal duplicity of the era." --- Kirkus Reviews

When a British spy turns up dead in a Chicago sewer, police detective Daniel Coughlin is swept up in a power struggle between warring factions of the Irish nationalists, a fight that could see him hanged for a murder he did not commit. If his politicial clout does not come through for him, he is a dead man.

Drawn from court records and historical archives, THE KING OF THE IRISH presents the infamous Cronin murder trials of 1889 and 1893 from the perspective of an innocent man caught up in a nightmare from which there is no waking. A gripping tale of political chicanery, politics and greed, the novel examines the price of loyalty and honor in a city long known for dirty politics and crooked politicians.

Also available as an e-book in all formats.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Your Textbooks Are So Expensive

Parents tend to examine the cost of tuition when their teenaged darling is hunting for the perfect university.

It is assumed that the incidentals, such as textbooks, are going to be expensive wherever the child lands. At the end of the semester, however, the books can be sold back, easing the sting a bit. Companies like Follett buy used textbooks and then sell them to university bookstores, and so the circle goes around.

In turn, Follett pays the buy-back source a commission, so that the flow of used textbooks continues. There is an incentive, therefore, for a university bookstore to offer the buy-back program.

The university is supposed to get their cut from Follett, which would help to fund the bookstore so that the students would not have to cover the entire cost through their miscellaneous fees.

At Missouri State University, the bookstore didn't see those profits and the unfortunate parents paying the bills did not see the benefit of the used book buy-back program.

How much profit went missing, that had to be passed along to already strapped students and their families?

Initially, the bookstore at the university could not find $400,000 that was supposed to be in its accounts. Mark Brixey, who managed the bookstore, was sacked last August on the heels of an internal audit that raised some questions he could not answer.

As it turns out, he was far more adept at lifting profits than previously thought. He will soon plead guilty to fraud in excess of $1 million over a ten year period.

That's an enormous sum.

How many scholarships could have been awarded with that money? How many students had to drop out because they couldn't afford the fees any longer, while Mark Brixey enjoyed himself?

Mr. Brixey ran the buy-back program and pocketed the money paid out by Follett because he could. There was no one looking over his shoulder, and it was easy enough to convince Follett to give him cash for the used books, which he then kept.

The university has learned a lesson, as has any company that discovers an employee has been embezzling funds.

The moral of this and every other story of employee theft is: Trust everyone, but cut the cards.

Now available in all digital formats as well as hard copy Get your copy of THE KING OF THE IRISH ---

From Kirkus Reviews: "History and politics buffs will appreciate the novel’s blending of research on the real-life Cronin murder trials with fictional forays that highlight the discrimination and legal duplicity of the era."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Following Footsteps In The Wrong Direction

As Barry O'Callaghan swallowed more educational publishing material debt than he could digest, so too did Cengage match him deal for deal, all in an effort to keep pace.

Keep pace Cengage did.

Except the pace they kept has brought them to the same place as the old Education Media and Publishing Group. Cengage is looking at a massive restructuring to deal with a fatal dose of debt with the interest about to come due. a repeat of the demise of Mr. O'Callaghan's empire.

Not that there is no interest among investors in forming a mighty conglomerate. The same hedge fund that bought up McGraw Hill Education is now buying Cengage's commercial paper. Apollo Global Management sees the possibilities in such a merger as Mr. O'Callaghan once envisioned. They intend to do it on the cheap, which is always the best way to buy something for investment.

Like EMPG's sad story, Cengage is falling from a decline in textbook sales that is linked to the current economic decline. Schools are as strapped for cash as the parents who support them, and textbook purchases have been cut drastically.

What looked good in 2008 is now proving to be a very wrong path for a firm to be on, and Cengage is trying to steer a new course to avoid disaster.

Apollo would like to pick up Cengage at a discount, and then realize all the more synergies by merging it with McGraw-Hill, creating a massive educational publishing materials behemoth that would take it to what's left of O'Callaghan's dream at HMH.

There are no guarantees that such a deal would take place, of course. Given that mass lay-offs would surely ensue (call it synergies realized if you like but the U.S. Congressional Republicans won't), and there would be little appetite in Washington, D.C., for that sort of news on the job front.

Anti-trust questions come into play, particularly in light of what was permitted when little Riverdeep Publishing swallowed up a few publishing whales. What did not work then, and has not worked for Cengage, would not appear to be so harmless a merger after all.

Cengage would like to restructure its debt to take the heat off and buy some time, in the hope that the educational publishing market shows improvement. Investors buying up the bonds at a discount would prefer to merge with McGraw-Hill to ensure a better return.

The people who keep Cengage running, the sales staff and the editors and the administrative assistants, would just like to keep their jobs. Their odds are probably worse than the likelihood of Cengage convincing its bondholders that a restructuring is in everyone's best interest, especially with Apollo holding so many of those bonds.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

There's precious little room in an airplane's overhead cargo bin, so you take care in packing your carry-on bag.

No room for a guidebook, apparently. Google is going to stop printing up the Frommer guides, and that after they spent $22 million to buy the franchise.

New editions are not in the works, and as anyone who has travelled is aware, there's nothing more useless than an outdated travel guide. Especially if you're in Europe, where the economic crisis has resulted in shortened hours of operation for museums and the demise of various restaurants.

So will Google just write off their investment in Frommer as a loss and move on?

Is Google Books going to pick up the slack?

Sure, a guidebook could be turned into an e-book, and the benefit there would be the ease of updating the information. The Roman Forum is closing for a strike on a Thursday? A few keystrokes and your online guide has the latest information.

But have you ever tried to use the Internet in Europe if you're traveling?

It isn't all that easy to access, and if you're in Italy, you have to register and sign on to an account so that the government can keep an eye on things.

Then there is the cost. Data charges are astronomical. If you're traveling on a budget, you'd be happy to give up cyberspace. If you need a map or an address, you would refer to your print edition of Frommer's.

Not any more.

Google is leaving the print market to other publishers. They may be giving up on that particular niche entirely. They may be anticipating a digital-only form for Frommer's.

But it's looking like Frommer's is going the way of Baedeker's. Then one day it will be a touchstone in a novel, some future work of fiction akin to Forster's A Room With A View.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Weekend Reads

Your mind craves a vacation from work-induced stress. You can't afford a vacation to get away from it all.

But you can afford to buy an e-book that will take you far from your troubles. For a small amount of money, you can lose yourself in a tale of politics and the struggle of one man to survive being caught up in events he cannot control.

THE KING OF THE IRISH is based on real events that received world-wide coverage in 1889. No less a literary luminary that William Butler Yeats figured into the debate over the guilt or innocence of an ordinary man who supported Ireland's quest for liberty and ended up fighting for his life.

False testimony fills the pages of THE KING OF THE IRISH, lies and obfuscations that buffeted Daniel Coughlin. A pawn in the hands of powerful men, he faced the choice between loyalty to his cause or self-survival, and every move he made was documented by a press that reviled the Irish.

A fascinating tale, THE KING OF THE IRISH will bring you into Daniel Coughlin's world, where immigrant dreams met the desire of the Protestant majority in the United States to resist any and all social change.

The story resonates in today's climate of immigration control, the debates of what it means to be an American and how best to force the newest arrivals to melt into the pot that is American society.

Spend a weekend with Daniel Coughlin and the men who changed politics in Illinois.

You won't see things in the same light come Monday morning.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

They Grow Up So Fast These Days

Book banning is a surefire way to draw a lot of attention. The Chicago Public School system has found this to be true.

In a bureaucratic faux pas, the board looked at Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel and found a single panel that they deemed offensive to young minds.

Therefore, as the guardian of said young minds, CPS decreed that Persepolis had to go.

Kids grow up so fast these days. Who would have imagined that high school students could actually be mature enough to handle a picture suggesting the torture of women in Iran?

The students did what students do with all their free time because they can't find part-time jobs. They protested. They caused a commotion. They drew attention to the issue.

Our bad said CPS. We meant the seventh grade curriculum should not include the book. It's fine for the eleventh grade, those kids who are old enough to drive a car.

But re-installing the book in the high school curriculum was not enough to end the discussion.

It's the content of the book, you see. Ms. Satrapi writes of a young girl coming of age during the Iranian revolution, and how she views the hypocrisy of religious fascism. The book deals with the concept of women's rights against a backdrop of brutal misogyny.

The average seventh grader is not unfamiliar with the themes. They aren't living in protected bubbles, not in a city where children their own age are getting shot and killed in the crossfire of gang warfare.

And they can understand the drawings and follow the plot of Persepolis visually. Considering the fact that most kids in the Chicago public school system never learn how to read at an advanced level, it's a rare chance for them to learn something that is presented in an accessible way.

Is it any wonder that the students are protesting the removal of a book from the grade school library?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Genesis Of A Cold-Blooded Politician

War is a dirty business in which casualties are unavoidable. Politics is dirty, in its own way, and there are casualties to be found there as well.

So should it come as a surprise that a cold-blooded soldier could morph into a cold-blooded politician?

Martin Corry represented the people of Cork once Ireland's internal wrangling after the 1916 Rising was settled in a bloody fashion. Just another farmer, like so many in the largely rural country, and he had proved himself as a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army.

How many soldiers trumpet their patriotic war record to get elected? It's so common it's expected.

As it turns out, Mr. Corry wasn't exactly an ordinary soldier, but then again, civil wars aren't exactly ordinary military actions.

Not just a soldier was Mr. Corry, Fianna Fail TD, but also the chief executioner for the IRA brigade in Cork.

His job was to root out spies from the other side, other Irishmen who believed that they had the best vision for the future of Ireland. Find those who were enemies, who endangered an IRA victory, or supported the other side.

After he found them, he killed them and had the bodies buried in a bog near Knockraha in County Cork. Some Black and Tans, some enemies to the IRA, a fifteen-year-old boy, an elderly woman...the list goes on, as many as 56 bodies perhaps.

And after all that killing, Mr. Corry ran for office, was elected, and sat in the Dail for years and years. No one knew what he did in the IRA until recently, when some tape recordings surfaced.

Mr. Corry might as easily have been chatting about the prospects for barley, so matter-of-fact was he as he told local historian Jim Fitzgerald about his actions. Torture, murder, and the men assigned to do the burials complaining about so many bodies put into the bog it would curse the place.

War is a dirty business. Politics isn't much cleaner. Do you really know much about the person you've elected to public office?

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Curse Of The Informant

Looking back on Irish history, you will find an informant in every plot.

It was informers who tipped off the British to the planned Fenian uprising in 1867, which in turn led to a complex plot to spring the incarcerated Fenians from an Australian penal colony. Somehow, those who concocted the plans managed to keep it to themselves and the Fenians arrived safely in America, to foment revolution from afar.

But the success of that plot brought on more British agents to infiltrate the ranks of those who schemed to free the rebels. That resulted in a murder in Chicago, a trial riddled with perjury, and a flurry of activity in the Illinois State legislature to amend laws that created a case of injustice.

An Garda Siochana has reason to believe that they are now on the receiving end of informers in the ranks, and even though they are guardians of the Irish people, they're being treated like the old Royal Irish Constabulary.

Fuel laundering plant
Slab Murphy is a known supporter of armed insurrection against England, which continues to hold six Irish counties within the United Kingdom. He makes money by removing dye from diesel fuel intended for use in farm machinery on site, and then sells it on as government-sanctioned fuel for automobiles.

The English then miss out on the taxes due on motor fuel. The people who don't care to send their Irish money to England are not in sympathy.They're more than happy to pay less for their petrol, knowing that a hated government is getting burned on the deal.

A plan to catch Mr. Murphy in the act of laundering fuel was upended last week when authorities showed up at his isolated farm and found that some other laundering had gone on.

Computer records, documents and the like were all gone, destroyed in a jolly bonfire only days before the raid.

Someone tipped off Mr. Murphy, and that someone could only be an employee of the very authorities who planned the raid.

On a positive note, other raids carried out at the same time netted ill-gotten gains, a quantity of laundered fuel, and bank accounts with false names that were part of a money-laundering scheme intended to hide the proceeds of the fuel laundry.

Authorities on both sides of the border will have to scrub their staff clean of moles, not an easy procedure when the IRA enjoys a grudging support among the descendants of those who were ethnically cleansed when the border was created in 1922.

It's a dirty business, this espionage game.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Shout-out To The Entrants

Our giveaway at Goodreads has ended and the winners have been selected.

Congratulations to the five who beat out the other 795 to win a novel that will keep them turning the pages until they reach the end.

THE KING OF THE IRISH is work of historical fiction that is based entirely on facts, set in an era when Chicago was the last outpost of civilization on the edge of the frontier that was America's Wild West.

In 1889, the Irish in Chicago were coming to the fore of politics, immigrants freed from the constraints placed on them by their English overlords. They took to it readily, with a knowledge that political power was what stood between liberty and tyranny in the Old Country.They had every intention of using their newfound might to support a rebellion in Ireland.

They were ready to assassinate Queen Victoria on the day of her Golden Jubilee to as an act of war.

With their fondness for secret societies, their Papist religion and their customs that allowed for drinking on a Sunday, the Irish were not welcome in Chicago.

Pick up a copy of THE KING OF THE IRISH and enter that world, where an Irishman had no chance of justice because the packed jury sitting in judgment presumed his guilt because he was Irish. Put yourself in Daniel Coughlin's shoes as he fights against prejudice, fights to save his neck while struggling to remain loyal to his people and their cause.

The novel is an intriguing read, and one you won't be able to put down.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Irish And Chicago

The Irish came to Chicago in droves, searching for a better life and prosperity and freedom and all the things that any other ethnic group sought.

Those who study such things claim that no city has more Irishness than Chicago when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick. They dye the river green, and that's an indication of some serious Irishness on the 17th of March.

Immerse yourself in Chicago-style Irishness this year with a copy of THE KING OF THE IRISH, available in all formats and ready for download. You could buy a trade paperback if you jump on it quickly, but to really get into the spirit of St. Paddy's Day in the Midwest, download the novel that features Chicago's Irish in the infancy of their political might.

Follow the journey of Daniel Coughlin as he grapples with the immigrant's dilemma, a position unique to the Irish. The son of a fierce nationalist, Coughlin had to find his place in a city that loathed the Irish newcomers and their foreign religion. For Dan, it will become a question of loyalty, to his adopted homeland or the land of his ancestors, a country yearning to be free if British rule.

In 1889, Chicago was the center of Irish nationalism, with its secret societies pushing for rebellion in Ireland. It was the Irish in Chicago who supported insurrection with money and influence, with the covert backing of the Archdiocese. This is the world that Daniel Coughlin inhabited as a police detective whose job depended on clout, and whose vehement support of the cause of Irish liberty may cost him his life.

THE KING OF THE IRISH is an engrossing story that readers cannot put down, an intriguing novel of double-dealing, espionage and the determination of the city's Irish population to control City Hall.

It won't be a proper St. Patrick's Day without this incredible debut from Jack O'Malley.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Jury Of His Peers

Chicago politician William Beavers is about to face a jury.

Charged with failing to pay income taxes on the money he helped himself to from his campaign funds, he will be tried in court and his guilt or innocence determined by a panel of twelve citizens who are his peers.

Except that his legal team doesn't believe that the pool of jurors selected is representative of Mr. Beavers' peers at all.

How was that pool selected? Was it rigged, as attorney Sam Adams, Sr., claims? How could there not be a single African-American male drawn, and only two black women?

That's how it used to be done. The judge sent his bailiff out to round up a group of potential jurors, to select those who would guarantee a conviction in a hot case.

That's how Daniel Coughlin was convicted of murder back in 1889.The story is told in THE KING OF THE IRISH, a work of debut fiction by Jack O'Malley.

Within the pages of the novel is a tale of political chicanery that reflects the origins of the Democratic machine that runs Chicago, and which coincidentally allowed Mr. Beavers to take what was not his without paying the Feds for it.

Mr. Adams, Sr., attorney for the disgraced Mr. Beavers, would like us all to believe that the sort of shenanigans that packed the jury for Daniel Coughlin's murder trial is being put to evil use once again, to ensure a conviction of Mr. Beavers.

Because of Daniel Coughlin's railroading, and the public outcry of the Irish-American voters who took exception to one of their own being mistreated, laws were changed to ensure that juries were made up of those selected entirely at random.

Unless Mr. Adams can prove that the fifty selected were not randomly pulled from the pool of prospective jurors, he will have to make the best of the situation in which he finds himself and his client.

The laws on jury selection were changed before the Nineteenth Century closed. Politics in Chicago, however, hasn't changed much at all.

THE KING OF THE IRISH will be released on March 17, in both hard copy and digital editions. It is a tale of greed, corruption and the quest for power. Set in 1889, it could just as easily be taking place in 2013.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Preparing For THE KING OF THE IRISH Launch

With the release of Jack O'Malley's debut novel coming up fast, we are in the process of finalizing the formatting of the digital version of this page-turner.

Don't miss the chance to enter the free ARC giveaway over at Goodreads.

You can buy the paperbook wherever books are sold, or online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Powell's, to name a few.

St. Paddy's Day is coming and you'll want a copy of THE KING OF THE IRISH to go with that tall whiskey you'll be sipping.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Lipstick On A Pig

Under the lipstick, that pig is still a pig.

Under the umbrella of Random House, the new imprint known as Hydra looks like a vanity publisher with all the same undesirable practices.

Random House bought Author Solutions, and why not? The publisher's executives could not help but notice that self-published authors like Hugh Howey were pulling in big money, all on their own, and all for themselves.

What publisher wouldn't want a piece of that action?

And so, Random House opened up a department for digital-only publishing. If an author should break out of the pack, like Mr. Howey, Random House would be there to offer a traditional print contract.

Where Random House went off track was in crafting a contract that drew too heavily on the Author Solutions model. Author Solutions is more about selling services that cost a lot of money, such as marketing or editing or cover design, than it is about actually publishing. It's the author paying up front, rather than the publisher investing in the author.

Did they think that the tech-savvy sci-fi author community wouldn't notice that the contract Random House developed for their Hydra imprint was too much like an Author Solutions contract?

Random House is not at all pleased to have Hydra de-listed from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America list of approved publishers. SFWA looks out for its members, and while looking, they noticed that Hydra's contract was painfully similar to the sort of exploitative agreements used by non-traditional publishers. What made it worse was that Hydra bore the Random House label, implying legitimacy while not doing things in a traditionally legitimate manner.

In short, SFWA felt that authors were being duped, and so they advised sci-fi authors to avoid Hydra.

Sure, Hydra's contract is different, as a Hydra executive proclaimed in response to SFWA's lambasting. But different is not good when different is more like a fee-charging vanity press and quite the opposite of a traditional publisher. Things like not paying advances, or placing the burden of publishing costs on the author, are not practices that SFWA will condone.

Random House has veered off into well-charted territory, but they are only just learning how well that territory has been charted by groups of writers who won't sit on their hands while future writers are getting ripped off.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

There Was A Time When They Could Keep A Secret

In the terrible days of the Second World War, a group of scientists were gathered at the University of Chicago. Under the stands of the football stadium, in a squash court, a laboratory was built and no one breathed a word about the project that required the facility.

The atomic bomb was born at the University of Chicago where Enrico Fermi held a faculty position.

The staff did not walk around campus boasting of their accomplishment. They didn't call a press conference.

In 1942, the University of Chicago knew how to keep a secret.

Sadly, they have lost that talent. Or at least the school's police department isn't highly skilled in the covert arts.

A recent protest brought out security, as anyone would expect. The surrounding community has been after the University's hospital to expand its trauma unit to accept victims up to the age of 21, rather than cutting off entry to those over the age of 16.

There are more than enough gunshot victims in the region to warrant the need, but the U of C hospital is not exactly noted for its desire to welcome patients who cannot pay the bills.

The police who keep the university safe thought it would be wise to closely monitor those protesters, just in case someone developed an urge to loot and pillage. So they popped a couple of their officers into the crowd, all incognito, and kept in touch via text messages.

Not so incognito as Enrico Fermi blending into the faculty on campus. Some clever protester believed that the disguised cop was, in fact, a disguised cop, and took plenty of pictures to bolster a complaint to the university.

Busted, as they say.

The university's higher ups claim they knew nothing and are conducting a full and thorough investigation.

The police department is reviewing their costume department and may need to call in a Hollywood designer to help them better craft believable disguises.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Vanity Publisher Chasers

Author Solutions is hardly a new venture.

It is one of the early entrants in the vanity publishing world, taking advantage of developments in print-on-demand technology to make it possible for authors to get their words out there in public.

Unlike a traditional publisher, all of its products were done on a paid basis. The author purchased various services, such as editing or publicity, and then had to sell the book on their own. It was possible to buy a marketing package from Author Solutions, and in the end, it was a fairly expensive proposition.

Then Amazon came along and offered free print-on-demand publishing for anyone who wanted to put out their own book. The author would handle edits, design, marketing, etc., and then have their work added to Amazon's list.

Getting into the world's largest bookstore (remember those days, when Amazon was young?) was a huge plus that helped propel Amazon's POD service.

As it turned out, the POD offerings were not a vast wasteland of literary ramblings and recipe collections.

Traditional publishers, like Penguin, took notice.

And so it came to be that Penguin bought up Author Solutions. Any self-publisher who managed to break out via Author Solutions would thus have a pipeline to Penguin and all that a traditional publisher has to offer.

Penguin would get access to writers who failed to intrigue a literary agent because query letter writing wasn't a strong suit, or the reading public defined a new niche that Penguin otherwise would have missed until it was too late.

So after all this time, with Author Solutions doing their thing, dodging the shady reputation and complaints of less-than-honest practices, only now is an attorney seeking victims for a lawsuit.

In a bid to keep up with the times, Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Stewart have chased the vanity publishing ambulance. Have you been injured in a book release? Call the law offices of GSAS. Or simply fill out the simple form online and get added to the class.

But if Author Solutions was always doing this sort of thing, why start now?

Maybe because Penguin, new owner of Author Solutions, has much deeper pockets than the little Indiana firm, and maybe Penguin would be more likely to settle the case out of court to make the problem go away.

That's how personal injury attorneys make all their money.

It's just a question of defining an injury and then finding someone who might have gotten hurt.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Repent All Ye Sinners

Travel to the borders of Cook County in Illinois and you'll find signs.

Lots of signs, all saying about the same thing.

Those who continue to live and smoke cigarettes in Cook County will be looking for those signs as they drive around searching for a cheaper smoke.

To raise more revenue, the Cook County Board added another dollar in tax to a pack of cigarettes, one of the so-called sin taxes that penalize activities that are viewed as evil, especially when the majority of those who indulge are the poor.

It's not unlike the days of "No Irish Need Apply", when government authorities tried to shut down the saloons on Sundays because it was a sin to drink on the Sabbath. That which the Puritans found sinful continues to be punished, but now it's a tax that is meant to ding the sinner in the wallet and force them to amend their ways because you can't afford a pack a day and still feed your family.

Of course it's for the smokers' own good.

Just like Sunday closing laws were done for the good of the immigrant families, falling into poverty due to drunkenness and immorality according to the overblown hype.

The poor don't have the means to do much protesting against the added expense, and when they have to turn to the government for their health care, the government is going to make them pay for getting smoking-related diseases by coercing them to stop smoking.

Historically, the tax increases in the past have brought in additional revenue for a short period of time, during which smokers either quit or find another source. And you don't have to go far to find another source in one of the collar counties, or even Indiana if you're on the South Side of Chicago.

Then the Cook County Board will have to come up with some other way to generate the money they need to function and continue to provide no-work jobs for the politically connected.

In the meantime, enterprising Chicago business owners, particularly those who sell to the impoverished residents of the inner city, will continue to smuggle in smokes from Indiana to sell at "discounted" prices to the sinners who find that repenting isn't as easy as just saying no to that nicotine craving.