So my mother is reading aloud from the local newspaper. Nothing new here. I get a rundown of obituaries and political letters daily. And sometimes, rarely, she reads something that actually may be of interest to me. This time it was about a local author signing a book somewhere at some time. A kid’s book; my mother thought it was fascinating because it’s about a trip to Cape May, NJ, long a favorite vacation spot for those living around here, and on the way they stop at Storybook Land, a nostalgic Mother Goose park that I love. Surprisingly, she was correct–I am interested. but not for the reason she thinks. I’m interested because it has become the practice of things called newspapers to print whenever a local ‘author’ is signing regardless if the writer is legitimately published or not. Self published authors are treated as equals to legit writers. Which irks the hell out of me. If all it takes is to write something, anything, print it out and contact the local library or B&N and they agree to an in-store signing, then, hell, let’s all do it. I’ve got two semi-written bad mysteries, and an even worse memoirist thing–if I pay someone to slap the stuff between two covers and bring a wheeled bag full of my literary gems, maybe I could be considered equal to Ernest Hemingway or the latest Booker Prize winner, whomever that may be.
Yes, I know, I know there are some subjects where self publishing isn’t an evil word, such as local histories, or pamphlets with arcane knowledge no one in their right mind would publish, or read. But a novel, biography, children’s book, are not subjects that should be in the hands of people who believe they are overly talented, and that’s why no one in the ‘traditional’ publishing world will publish them, so they take their egos and cash to someone who couldn’t give a rat’s derrière what level of literacy they have.
But what, ho? Turns out this particular book in the newspaper has an established small publisher–not self pubbed! Good news. Or, wait. . . what kind of publisher is this? One that actively encourages people to submit their turned down manuscripts for them to publish, asserting that only a small percentage of those submitted ever make it into print. Hmm. I’m leery of any company that lobbies for the written word–why would a legit publisher need to advertise for writers when there are literary agents pounding on, pushing on, and sometimes knocking doors down in order to be seen by some one who may buy their client’s work?
Ah, perhaps because this company doesn’t pay an advance? I don’t know if they do or not–in their website info, nothing is said about advances–they do talk about royalties, and how they are different than other publishers in that you, the writer, retain all rights. As opposed to evil ones who take a percentage for their own profit. Those dirty money grubbing people who are a business therefore are inclined to want to make a profit. Real publishers have to pay and employ scads of people who in turn spend money etc., etc., which makes the world, or the US (barely) go round. Tate Publishing’s website is tricked out with Miss America 2007 giving a testimonial to how great the they are, and you can click for other author testimonials. Ok, so, the usually self pubbed writers have found a home at a semi legit place where they can honestly assert that no, they did not pay for their work to be printed—no need to mention that they weren’t paid for the work, either.
But as I watch and listen to the owner of Tate Publishing explaining the journey their carefully selected volume would take, it begins to dawn on me, that it would require a hell of a lot of money for them to do what they claim they will do, if you are The Chosen One. You can get: posters, bookmarks, coloring! books, all sort of promotional items for your signings, which they set up for you, naturally. There will be print advertisement-e. i. idiotic newspapers that allow these kinds of things onto their pages, and good God, TV commercials! That’s right, the owner soothingly explains how Fox and other family friendly networks run commercials for titles in their publishing house. How many commercials for books have you ever seen? I mean, besides the inevitable James Patterson and sporadic Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, and John Grisham? TV commercials are incredibly expensive. When I worked for A&E television on their mystery website, whomever I chose for that month’s book club read would get a 30 second commercial during shows like Murder She Wrote. All month long, multiple times a day. How could they do that? They owned the website and TV channel, they took their own advertising time and devoted it to ballyhooing their website. Trust me, some of the biggest authors were beyond thrilled to get that TV time. So how in the hell did this little publisher think they could afford to hawk some unknown children’s book on TV?
I watched every snippet video explaining the editing, illustration, graphic design, distribution, printing, advertising and not once did they discuss paying the author OR state that the author pays them! Because, yes, Virginia, it is a self pub, just one with hidden fees and a hyperbolic website.
Now, I’m down right angry. Why the hell are libraries, bookstores, and newspapers so willing to promote books that someone PAID to get on paper? Do they bother to fact check first? And if so, why does a self pubbed book warrant the same consideration as a paid one? How many would be plumbers do you know that pays some one else first, before arriving at your house and most likely causing a flood? Or a chef, with no experience, who thinks he has some really swell recipes, paying a restaurant for the privilege of cooking there–as customers rush out with ptomaine poisoning? Sure, sure, there will always always be a certain percentage of excellent self pubbed pieces. But that percentage is not enough to justify any Tom, Dick, or Gertrude landing a signing at a local library. On The Way to Cape May is chosen, just because the content takes place down the shore??? Yes, that’s exactly why. LOCAL authors are signing. And how many legit writers are local? What do the libraries get out of this? They aren’t selling books, are they? The author is.
I began running down the list of children’s books Tate Publishing carries, and noticed that their modest claim of being a Christian publisher was understated. Practically every title has something to do with Jesus, God, or both–which, of course they are–both, I mean, if you follow the Christian teachings. One title caught my eye-Adam and Eve Made a Big Mistake, Bible Stories for Caribbean Children. OK, why only Caribbean kids? Did Adam and Eve make a better choice for other cultures? On a more practical note, there’s Budgeting God’s Way, Training Up a Child. “teaches children to save money and learn the Bible with activity pages, coloring pages and scripture verses.” Isn’t
there a verse about “all that glitters is not gold?” Or was that Shakespeare? The actor’s God. Heaven’s Humpties Nursery Rhymes for God’s Family by Hazel Butler. “Do you ever feel like Humpty Dumpty, broken with no one to mend you? Or like Jack and Jill trying to climb a hill and forever falling down?” Poor Mother Goose, always having her rhymes copied and mutilated.
I’m not certain this is a children’s title, however–I couldn’t resist–Seeking God, Thoughts While Running. Discard your ipod, and just think of God while you jog around the block. “Don’t Chat About That! addresses the important issue of the dangers of chat rooms for children, offering simple rules kids can follow to help keep them safe.” Chat rooms?????? How about a book called, Never Allow Your Young Kids On The Computer or Lock All Chat Rooms on Your Computer? OH NOOOOO. Frisky Find by J.G. Jones “When no owner is found, Sandy is allowed to keep the cuddly ferret, who she endearingly calls Boo-Boo. Sandy and Boo-Boo were both happy about their meeting, for Sandy got the best birthday gift and Boo-Boo found a great new home.” Is nothing sacred?
Good heavens, how did this book sneak in? ” Dangerous Children by Mark Morrow “Was it a freak accident, murder, terrorism, or something far more sinister that led to a quaint English farmhouse’s exploding into a million pieces and captivating an entire nation?” How much do you want to bet, the devil had a hand in this?
On their “What we believe” page, they state in unequivocal terms, there is no other word of God but the bible, no other way to an afterlife, and I would guess, no way you will be able to self publish with them unless you believe the same. Which, naturally, is their right. Narrow, but as owners, they can discriminate against Buddhists, Moslems, Wiccans, and Mormons. Threw the last one in to confuse the issue.
There are no costs anywhere on their site. Nada. It took me a bit of time to even understand they did self pub, because the owner kept stating they are a ‘traditional publishing house” which I believe is an oxymoron. You cannot be traditional if people pay y0u. Sorry, no exceptions for glossy presentations.
So I googled the internet as another self pub suggested the potential author do, and found a few complaints at Consumer Affairs, and authors who signed with Tate were not happy campers– by the way, Tate is certified by The Better Business Bureau. Here’s one unsatisfied writer:
“I wrote a children’s book in July. I found Tate Publishing online. Their sales pitch sounded good to me. It sounded like they were legit, as I wanted to avoid those publishers asking me for money. I knew better. You don’t pay them. If it’s legit, they pay you! They liked my book and wanted to publish it. They sent me a contract, asking of course for $3990.00.”
Another complainant: “I signed a contract with them and gave them a check for $3,998.00 or thereabouts and trusted that they would invest their $16,000. to promote it. They told me I was to provide contacts in the name of book signing coordinators etc. at bookstores and I did. I had to do all the work and they followed up with an email to the person I contacted. I invited friends and family to book signings and sold a few to people I knew from my church, but beyond that, I had to do all the work including most of the editing, writing hundreds of emails and sending off copies for review etc. and to my knowledge Tate did virtually nothing to promote the book. I want my money back and would like them to prove they invested $16,000. of their own money to promote the work. I filed a complaint with BBB in Oklahoma but they eventually dropped the case. Perhaps they are in bed with Tate. I’m angry and would love to get my investment back.”
I have a very difficult time understanding people who can still believe they are being legit published if THEY PAY THE PUBLISHER! I don’t care if it’s five cents! I you pay, you are publishing with a vanity press, period period period. I found a website where there must have been 30 e-mails back and forth about the legitimacy of Tate, and the fact they must pay an, “author investment”. EEK!!!!! Can you hear my screams of frustration where you’re at? An ‘author investment–not fee, no that would be self publishing–you see, you are INVESTING in your own talent, while we here at Tate, take that investment and ad a nice new kitchen to our home.
That’s right–every profession makes you pay 4,000 bucks before you are allowed to participate. You go to a job interview, fill out an application, get called for more interviews, finally land the job, and they say–OK, now you invest 4,000 in the job you are about to start, and we will do our darndest to make sure everything goes smooth, and you are a success at it!
Please please please, if you are someone who has considered this course of action, truly believing your ‘dream will come true’ as Tate espouses,
understand that your words will be on paper, sure, but they can be on paper right out of your own printer, enclosed in a binder from your local Staples, and voila! you’ re now a published author, and it won’t take 4 thousand goddamn bucks to become one–you, and your printout are a true vanity press, EXACTLY like Tate!