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Thread: [YADS] Indie Originals (Al Birtch)

  1. #1
    Yes, I'm totally into that.. privatepook's Avatar
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    [YADS] Indie Originals (Al Birtch)

    Hey all,

    I didn't see another thread about this, so I thought I'd post it here. It's an email I received through Agent Query Connect.

    It looks to me like typical naivety on the part of a person or group of people who think they're going to come up with the next revolution in publishing, but just in case it's more than that (like a malicious scammer trying to bait disenfranchised writers) I wanted to post the message for others to see and discuss.


    ****

    Subject:
    Message:



    My name is Al Birtch and I am a senior level Business Executive in Canada (my day job) and an aspiring author by night (psychological thrillers and international suspense with 4 novels at draft 2 stage). I am also an inventor with 1 product in the fairly advanced stage of the multi-year patent process. A device that finally gets rid of the plumbers-pants / butt-cleavage problem with low-rise jeans that it seems women universally hate about the fashion.


    I am writing to a few authors to discuss / get their feedback on a new model of connecting writers with the reading public. I am asking / in fact needing feedback from other authors to see if I am on the right track or not. I am investing more than a few bucks to make this happen and my chance of success improves with the more feedback I can get.

    But first a short background on my own experience at the writing game and to share with you what drove me to work on a solution for myself and others who are experiencing the same thing. It is simply a fact that the industry insiders will tell you that 95% of all authors will never get an agent/publisher deal - - even with quality work ----because the supply of material way outstrips demand.

    On the writing side I do not yet have an agent but have been fortunate to have some previously unknown to me industry insiders read 1 of my novels - - and below is who they are and what they said.
    • Lou Aronica, former SVP Avon and Bantam
    • Keith Ferrell, former editor-in-chief of Omni magazine
    • Ben Famiglietti, executive assistant to Harvey Weinstein
    • Jennifer Bessor, editor at Miramax books division

    In each case I have received some guidance of course, but exceedingly strong support of each individual including their willingness to discuss their views of my storytelling ability with prospective agents. Each enthusiastically gave me a quote to use as I start the search for an agent.

    • Aronica: Legacy of Greed is a highly commercial project. Legacy of Greed is a crisply written thriller with a harrowing and distinctive hook. Al Birtch did a powerful job creating sympathetic characters and throwing them into the maelstrom. I think there’s a strong market for this novel among readers of Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston, and James Rollins.

    • Ferrell: In LEGACY OF GREED Al Birtch combines a deep understanding of international business and politics with well-drawn characters and a sharp, sure sense of human evil. The conspiracy at the heart of the novel is all too plausible, its consequences believable, terrifying, heartbreaking. LEGACY OF GREED scared the hell out of me.

    • Famiglietti: Legacy of Greed is a taught thriller with appeal in both the book and screen formats. The resolution is evocative and highly cinematic.

    • Bessor: You have real gifts as a writer—a wonderfully rich imagination, a natural sense of pacing, and an obvious ear for dialogue. There is a vigor and energy to your writing, and you possess a remarkable aptitude for unfolding the narrative at just the right pace, revealing enough information to keep the reader interested without dampening the suspense.


    Now you would think (at least I did) that with all that support, and the permission of those folks to use their quotes, that landing an agent shouldn't be all that difficult. Not true. 3 years of trying, over 300 queries sent and only 3 requests for sample few pages.

    Later in the search process an extremely high priced NYC based editor ($20,000 per manuscript) who already edits for a couple of household names told me that the advent of the computer has saturated the market with literary works. It is now easy for the less-than-dedicated, yet still reasonably talented writers to put out their works with less effort. As such the market is saturated. In his experience at least a 1000 decently written books a year will never see the light of day for that very reason. There are only so many consumers $$$ dedicated to book buying market and at $20 a hard copy and $10 a soft copy - - -the # of books those $$ can buy is finite.

    So, being a tad stubborn and an inventor and business executive, I knew there had to be a better way. I love nothing more than finding a problem (be it women’s blue jeans or the literary world) and then coming up with a solution to it. And having a 1000 well written stories (including mine!!!) get the cold shoulder from agents & publishers seems to me like a problem that is dying to be solved.


    Now to the point of writing to you.

    To my kind of out-there-where-the-buses-don't-run thinking, there are 2 key points:

    1) Only the buying public (not an agent or publisher) should be the authoritative voice on whether your writing is good or not, is commercially viable or not - - - - and

    2) the business model of author, agent, publisher, retailer, then finally to buying public is outdated and not only gets in the road of the public judging the authors works (#1 above) but also drives the price of literature too high (too many hands in the till needing to get paid) and this limits the volume of books the public gets for their $$$. Now there will always be a role for the agent/publisher. albeit diminishing- - but there is a huge void that is horribly serviced right now for those of us in the vast pre-agent wasteland.

    Now layer on top of those points the major strides in technology to e-books (witness all major store-front retailers now offering e-books not to mention e-tailers such as Amazon and I-Books from Apple) - - -- - - - - and the future of book retailing is clear. But - - and this is the BIG BUT------Everyone of those suppliers today in the e-book business is still following the old business model of Author, agent, publisher- - - now e-tailer versus retailer and as such the price is still the same to the public. All these businesses have really changed is the delivery model from paper to digital. And this model keeps the price up.

    The only option today to those thousand per year well written books and un-agented authors is the self-publishing world - - and that is a well documented dead end road. And it can be either fairly expensive front end costs for "each book" to get set up by a self-publisher or they want a rather high "per novel sold fee" which still drives up the cost to the public. And when you look at wikipedia for some of those self-publishing companies - - - the legal wrangling, law suits and the disgruntled authors stories are simply awful.

    But, I believe self-publishing may still be viable for the 95% of us - - - but the model (the reason for self-publishing to exist), the cost (to author and to buying public), the usability by the author, the usability by the buying public - -- - all of this has to be dramatically re-thought.

    Self-publishing needs to be an incubator of new authors and a vehicle for previously agented/published authors. Instead of a way to by-pass the agent/publisher world, it needs to be a pre-cursor to that world. A feeder pipeline that they (agents/ publishers) will come to use as a way to source emerging authors that have already established a bit of a following--not tell them "you are tainted because you self-published". . A place that the author can point an agent to where he/she can show the agent solid data on sales to-date, feedback from people who purchased the novel---and much, much more. The way I see it is the literary world needs a model like the sports world of baseball and hockey. The “major leagues” not only support but actually invest in a healthy farm system, the triple-A league. That is where their future talent comes from. That is the system that nurtures and develops the all-stars of tomorrow. Not only that, but the triple-A farm teams have huge public followings at their games. It is a way for the sports-loving public to see a quality game, solid players and yes—future all-stars for a reasonable price. Triple-A and the major leagues work hand-in-hand, not against each other like self-publishing and the agent/publisher world now do. And, and this is VERY important - - - the majority of triple-A players will never reach the majors. It’s just a fact. So, when I compare that fact to writing, if on a personal level, even with the support of this new model, my own writing skills never get me to the majors. Yes, I will be disappointed, but - - if I develop a decent fan base at the triple-A level, well - - - that will keep me writing and not a bad 2nd prize to my way of thinking.

    It is this new model that I am writing to you about today and asking for your candid thoughts/feedback.

    The goal is simple. Get the authors works out there for the buying public to access at a very reasonable cost (notionally $5 or less)and give the author invaluable direct and unfiltered feedback from the people who buy their works.

    The key issue as I see it is helping authors see how this model is significantly different from the swarm of self-publishing options out there today.

    Yes - - - in the purest sense this is self-publishing, but it is owned by an author for authors---- and it will provides more features and buyer access at way, way lower cost to both author and buyer.


    Our design is to keep this "robust, yet simple". Here is the 20,000 foot view:

    . We will only be distributing digital copies of books. We firmly believe that is the future. All you have to do is look at the sizable investment Hewlet-Packard, IBM, Dell, Apple and others are putting into making even friendlier portable hardware specifically for reading digital books to know that is the future. We will not be offering a hard copy option.

    . We plan to advertise the site (and are not ashamed of this, actually proud) by word of mouth. We have plans for extensive use of the massive marketing potential of various Social Networking sites out there (Facebook, U-tube, Twitter, literary chat rooms and many, many more) to get the word out there about a new and affordable way to buy literature and discover new emerging authors. We intend to strongly encourage (read - - -nag ) our author members to help themselves (and fellow site members) by doing the same.

    . We will make the site "complete 1-stop shopping". By that I mean that I have reviewed other web sites about emerging authors and they invariably don't actually sell the authors book, rather they have links to the new author's web site. I spent 2 hours yesterday on 3 such sites and more than 30% of the time when I clicked on the hot-link to the author's web site I got a message back that the site had been closed. It was a big waste of my time - - and so will be viewed that way by others as well.

    . Our site will have fiction and non-fiction. The visitor will be able to search (and this is just a description of a few of the sites functions) by genre, by title, by author. They will be able to see (again by genre) titles ranked by sales volume - - this month / this quarter / this year. We will have feature stories on individual authors so the readers can learn more about them.

    . Once the visitor selects an author, they will go to a spot on our site dedicated to that author and only that author, which will include author bio, picture, picture of jacket covers for all books available on our site by that author. When a book title is selected the visitor will see the "teaser" and also be able to read the first chapter for free. They will also see ratings (5 star system) provided by previous purchasers of the novel---IE- 65 raters said 4 stars, 16 said 3 stars, 2 rated 1 star. There will also be the capability to e-mail the author direct, but only if the author wants this feature. There will be a "shopping cart" to allow the visitor to purchase 1 or more novels at the same time using PayPal.

    . For the author there will be several "behind the scenes" features that only that author can see about their personal results (password protected) . IE: Knowing how many hits your section has had this month / quarter / year to date. # of sales broken out the same way for each novel the author has on the site. Sales not only by title but by geographic region the sales occurred in. Ratings feedback from buyers including a short free-form comments section. As mentioned, capability to have private e-mail exchanges (not visible to us) with their fans. Also the ability to display "coming soon" novels they are working on for their fans. Proceeds from sales will be remitted to the author monthly.





    So far 36% of the authors I emailed this query to have already contacted me which is gratifying result.

    Each author has asked questions, made suggestions for improvement of the sites features and services ---all of which are greatly appreciated.

    We are also at the stage of discussing - - yup - - money. We know we want the end product to be available to the public at around $5. We know we want the author to reap the lion’s share of that versus the 15% they get from agent/publishers now. We know that we (the site owners) have to recover the cost of both building and running the site plus a reasonable profit margin. And we BELIEVE in our goal and that we can create a 3 way win (author, buying public, us).

    So here is where we are now in our thinking:

    Each author would pay an annual membership fee to have their works on the site. Unlike other self-publishing, this cost to the author would be the same regardless of whether they have 1 book on the site or 8. It’s a flat fee to be a member. At this stage we are thinking of $500 per year. Also, having a fee will help ensure that authors whose works do not garner public appeal will self-select to exit the site as it would be cost prohibitive. That also helps us reduce any unwanted clutter.

    The author would be given 2 different options of establishing the section of the site dedicated to them. Self-service via a series of templates we send them and they create their section and upload their book(s). Very low cost option - - - probably $20 per novel ($ fee NOT cast in stone). The other option would be for the author (if not technically comfortable) to send us the info and we would create the site. Notionally $100 for initial set up and $30 for each additional novel after the 1st one. Again - - pricing here not cast in stone.

    The author would get $3.50 of every $5 novel sold and we would keep $1.50. That way an author (if only 1 novel on the site) would need to sell approx 150 copies of their book in a year to recover their costs if they used the self-serve option and approx 170 copies if they selected the most expensive option of us setting it up for them. The contract would be renewable yearly, that way if the author does not succeed in garnering a sufficient fan base / sales to warrant continuing, then they can exit. For a cost of just over $500 the member author would have had 12 months on a worldwide web site (which we know they could and maybe have already done by building their own website) but they would be on a site that will be launching with an initial 100 authors, a marketing game plan and plans to expand that rapidly. That way the site will become known as a destination point to look for literature at a reasonable price and the authors works will have been exposed to exponentially more potential buyers than unknown authors own personal web-site could ever hope to achieve. A pretty good value for money in our view - - but we need your thoughts on this.


    That's the 20,000 foot view. Sorry for the lengthy e-mail but a lot of info to cover. I would really appreciate your feedback on functionality and notional pricing.

    I am also creating an Newsletter for distribution to authors interested in the new model so that they can follow our progress as we build the new system (about 3-4 more months of programming and quality assurance testing to go).

    I am away from my desk-top a lot, and while I can get advised of your reply on my Blackberry by Agent Query, my Blackberry will not let me access it and reply to you. For that reason, would you please reply direct to me at albirtch@sympatico.ca

    Also - - if you would like to learn more, send me your e-mail and that way I can reply direct from my BB.

    Kind regards,
    Al Birtch****

  2. #2
    Still the wrong side of Saskatoon Saskatoonistan's Avatar
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    Yep - got the same one.. total spam. What struck me as interesting is that Al the spammer says:
    In each case I have received some guidance of course, but exceedingly strong support of each individual including their willingness to discuss their views of my storytelling ability with prospective agents. Each enthusiastically gave me a quote to use as I start the search for an agent.
    Then he goes on to post this stuff:

    • Aronica: Legacy of Greed is a highly commercial project. Legacy of Greed is a crisply written thriller with a harrowing and distinctive hook. Al Birtch did a powerful job creating sympathetic characters and throwing them into the maelstrom. I think there’s a strong market for this novel among readers of Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston, and James Rollins.

    • Ferrell: In LEGACY OF GREED Al Birtch combines a deep understanding of international business and politics with well-drawn characters and a sharp, sure sense of human evil. The conspiracy at the heart of the novel is all too plausible, its consequences believable, terrifying, heartbreaking. LEGACY OF GREED scared the hell out of me.

    • Famiglietti: Legacy of Greed is a taught thriller with appeal in both the book and screen formats. The resolution is evocative and highly cinematic.

    • Bessor: You have real gifts as a writer—a wonderfully rich imagination, a natural sense of pacing, and an obvious ear for dialogue. There is a vigor and energy to your writing, and you possess a remarkable aptitude for unfolding the narrative at just the right pace, revealing enough information to keep the reader interested without dampening the suspense.
    I wonder how they would feel to know their blurbs which were supposed to help in his search for an agent are being used to spam people.

    Grrrr... I hate spam. AND HE'S A CANADIAN LIKE ME! ACK!!!
    Last edited by Saskatoonistan; 10-16-2009 at 02:23 AM.

    My Website. Twitter.

    AGENTED - AUGUST 24,2010 WOOT!!! AGENTED AGAIN February 2015! WOOT! WOOT!

    "POLTERGEEKS is absolutely everything you could possibly want in YA fantasy!" STARBURST MAGAZINE

    "Sean Cummings is a master of the dark fantastic. His writing brims with soul, guts, and a dark wit sharp enough to draw blood.” Chris F. Holm, award winning author of The Collector Books

  3. #3
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by privatepook View Post
    It is simply a fact that the industry insiders will tell you that 95% of all authors will never get an agent/publisher deal - - even with quality work ----because the supply of material way outstrips demand.
    I'm an industry insider. Listen to what I'm telling you: 95% of all authors will never get an agent/publisher deal because 98% of all authors write books that suck like a Hoover.

    This same model, the for-pay display site, has been regularly failing since the early 'nineties. There's no reason to think that it'll succeed this time (except maybe it'll succeed in putting some folding green into Al's pocket (but not for his writing, and not from the reading public)).

    Readers aren't fooled. They don't want to be unpaid slush readers. And they extra-specially won't pay for the privilege of being slush readers.

    Add in the fact that it's being advertised by spam, and you have another reason to pass on this one.
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 10-16-2009 at 05:44 AM.

  4. #4
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    A "taught thriller?"

  5. #5
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    I just got spammed by this guy. He won't be happy with my response.

    - Victoria

  6. #6
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    At $500+ a year, I think this is a great opportunity -- for Al Birtch.
    Last edited by Roger J Carlson; 10-16-2009 at 08:55 PM.
    --Roger J. Carlson

  7. #7
    Yes, I'm totally into that.. privatepook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss View Post
    I just got spammed by this guy. He won't be happy with my response.

    - Victoria
    I, on the other hand, would be totally happy. No one knocks literary frauds off their pedestals quite like you, Victoria.

  8. #8
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    I thought it had to be a joke:

    Quote Originally Posted by privatepook View Post
    I am also an inventor with 1 product in the fairly advanced stage of the multi-year patent process. A device that finally gets rid of the plumbers-pants / butt-cleavage problem with low-rise jeans that it seems women universally hate about the fashion.
    I checked out the patent - and it is a patent application filed in 2006. It has been sitting there unexamined for that time ... he still has two years left to get the patent examined, so it can become an actual patent.

    Looking at 'Claim 1' of the patent, though, at least I've now read a patent where the Zena's wardrobe would count as prior-art.

    Mac

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    More to Al Birtch

    I was unable to find credible criticisms in your posts, so I wrote directly to Al Birtch. This was his response:

    Hi folks. This is Al Birtch. Would be nice if you talked to me rather than around me. My contact information is there. First I am delighted that you have posted “part” of my e-mail to you (sent it out to 200 people -- -hardly spammer scale. I have nothing to hide and everything in there is the truth. However, I do wish you had posted the 5 articles by other experts in the field that were also imbedded in the e-mail that also serve to show the future of the literary business. Would have been much more honest of you rather than just selecting one part.

    I find it somewhat amusing but mostly sad that aspiring authors seem to the first and worst to spread negative thoughts. Must come from spending too much time alone at a pc which dulls the interpersonal skills. Wouldn’t it be nice if you and the Saskatoon native (a Saskatoon book club just sent me a rave review) took the time to actual write to me and get some first hand information. I don’t need you to agree with the model. Some people love Fords, others GM - - others only European models. But our different preferences do not make the efforts of the other car designers useless nor does it entitle the Ford buyer to spew negative thoughts about the other manufacturers. If that is asking too much, then write to any of my reviewers (they are on the web) and they will confirm both having read my novel, having made the quotes and having given me permission to use them. That part is about me as an aspiring writer.

    As a long-term successful business executive, I will hardly make my fortune seeking a100 authors to get this new model out there for testing. My day job is my day job - - now and into the future. This new venture is to help my own works and the works of other authors to get out their in a new way. If you think our model is inappropriate or is designed to make money at the authors expense then try visiting the site shown below. Now “that’s” making money off of the authors. Anyway, everyone has the right to their opinion, but it sure would be nice if you took the time to get some facts before doing so. It’s not a lot to ask. And as I said, nothing to hide - - fully accessible to you or any of your members at albirtch@sympatico.ca

  10. #10
    Still the wrong side of Saskatoon Saskatoonistan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sputz View Post
    Must come from spending too much time alone at a pc which dulls the interpersonal skills. Wouldn’t it be nice if you and the Saskatoon native (a Saskatoon book club just sent me a rave review) took the time to actual write to me and get some first hand information.
    Um... no and GORN FOR AL!!!


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    AGENTED - AUGUST 24,2010 WOOT!!! AGENTED AGAIN February 2015! WOOT! WOOT!

    "POLTERGEEKS is absolutely everything you could possibly want in YA fantasy!" STARBURST MAGAZINE

    "Sean Cummings is a master of the dark fantastic. His writing brims with soul, guts, and a dark wit sharp enough to draw blood.” Chris F. Holm, award winning author of The Collector Books

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    Hi Sputz.

    I'm confused that you read the posts yet didn't find credible criticisms.

    The criticisms included very basic points, such as the fact that:

    (1) It was SPAM.
    The simple fact is that a commercial email sent to 200 addresses harvested from the Internet is spam. It isn't a matter of debate - it's a simple fact.

    (2) The spam email contained embarrassing typos.

    How are those criticisms not credible? They are undeniably true. They are undeniably relevant to the ethics and core competency of the business.

    I'm confused also that Al Birtch somehow got the impression that the multi-book professional authors (such as McDonald & Strauss) who were criticising the business model were 'aspiring authors'.
    And why is he convinced that this is a 'new model' ? How can it be new when it has been tried over and over and over again?

    If he wants to say that this is a model that has been tried many times before and failed .. but he is going to do something different to the others - that would be an intelligent, business-like response.

    But to simply be so ignorant that he honestly believes that the business model is new ... well it doesn't bode well for those involved in the business.

    And yes - a message board thread set up to talk about a business or product will always talk 'around' the business rather than 'to' the business.
    This is no different from any other conversation. If you want to continue Al Birtch's analogy - if you comment to others on whether you think it's worth buying a new Toyota it would be ludicrous to contact Toyota first to get feedback on your comments before talking about the product.

    That's just part of normal communication - and Al Birtch is welcome to join in.

    Mac
    Last edited by Mac H.; 01-04-2010 at 02:23 PM.

  12. #12
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Funny how he criticises folks for 'talking around him' by not asking him directly, in a post he didn't personally make but had someone else make for him. Irony much?
    Changing Gears (available now) -- Winning the race doesn’t equal winning at life.

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  13. #13
    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. kaitie's Avatar
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    I'm trying to figure out how hitting two hundred people you don't know with an email isn't spam. But I digress...what was my actual point? I know I had one...

    Oh yes! This isn't necessarily about this site specifically, but when I think about the amount of work most of us write that isn't publishable before we get published, I realize that I would be completely embarrassed to have some of my earlier works out there on the internet for people to see and find. Especially if I ever did get commercially published and someone decided to Google me. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable making a work public in order to know whether or not it was any good.

    Also, I find it interesting that after receiving three requests for material on a query letter for a novel that is supposedly "crisply written" and has "a harrowing and distinctive hook" Mr. Birch decided that the problem lay in the current method instead of in his query letter. Which if it actually included 200 words for those four quotes probably didn't have any room for any information about his book, which I imagine is why no one requested it.

    I'm tired and spacey at the moment so I'm not sure if I can express my concern coherently. I see two things going on here, though. One is someone who is well-meaning but didn't apparently research enough to learn the market or how to write a query letter. Now, I haven't seen the query letter. It's possible that he included a single quote at the bottom of the query, etc. The thing is, from reading this, and from all of the examples of bad query letters I've seen on various websites and agent blogs, I could make a guess of what I imagine it looks like. Keep in mind that's just a guess (feel free to post it, Mr. Birch, if you're reading). This statement just gets me, though:
    Now you would think (at least I did) that with all that support, and the permission of those folks to use their quotes, that landing an agent shouldn't be all that difficult.
    That makes it sound to me like someone who was depending on these quotes from well-connected important people to give him the extra boost to land an agent, not someone who was writing about their book and that hook and showing how good the book was in the letter. Which, in turn, makes me think someone just didn't do their research well enough to know how to write a better query letter. Which makes me say, "Why should I trust you when you tell me this is what's wrong with the industry when you don't seem (based on what I'm seeing here) to understand the basics of landing an agent in the first place?"

    The second option, of course, is just that someone thought this would be a good, easy way to make money off the thousands of authors who haven't been published but consider their work to be one of those thousand.

    I don't know. It's silly and not likely to work anyway, like Uncle Jim said, so I suppose none of this really matters. I'm just kind of annoyed at the idea of 36% of people responding to spam at all, much less responding to potentially approve. I don't really get it.
    Last edited by kaitie; 01-04-2010 at 01:57 PM.


  14. #14
    Tired and Disillusioned Momento Mori's Avatar
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    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    My name is Al Birtch and I am a senior level Business Executive in Canada (my day job) and an aspiring author by night (psychological thrillers and international suspense with 4 novels at draft 2 stage).
    That's all lovely. How much publishing experience have you got?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    I am also an inventor with 1 product in the fairly advanced stage of the multi-year patent process. A device that finally gets rid of the plumbers-pants / butt-cleavage problem with low-rise jeans that it seems women universally hate about the fashion.
    A belt?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    I am writing to a few authors to discuss / get their feedback on a new model of connecting writers with the reading public.
    200 authors is more than a few.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    In each case I have received some guidance of course, but exceedingly strong support of each individual including their willingness to discuss their views of my storytelling ability with prospective agents. Each enthusiastically gave me a quote to use as I start the search for an agent.
    Yet none of those people seemed to think that your work was good enough to recommend to an acquiring editor or straight to an agent.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Now you would think (at least I did) that with all that support, and the permission of those folks to use their quotes, that landing an agent shouldn't be all that difficult. Not true. 3 years of trying, over 300 queries sent and only 3 requests for sample few pages.
    If you bothered to do some research on agent's blogs, you'd see that one of the things they hate are query letters featuring random quotes from people they probably haven't heard of and don't care about. There are tonnes of ways you can find out how to write a decent query letter and there are plenty of agencies that ask for a set number of pages to be included within the query. Just check the submission requirements and follow them to the letter. It really isn't difficult.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Later in the search process an extremely high priced NYC based editor ($20,000 per manuscript) who already edits for a couple of household names told me that the advent of the computer has saturated the market with literary works.
    So? Publishers have always received more books than they can afford to buy and market.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    As such the market is saturated. In his experience at least a 1000 decently written books a year will never see the light of day for that very reason. There are only so many consumers $$$ dedicated to book buying market and at $20 a hard copy and $10 a soft copy - - -the # of books those $$ can buy is finite.
    This conflates 2 types of market saturation - firstly, the market for consumption from publishers and secondly, the market from consumers.

    If your argument is that the consumer market is saturated with good books, how does supplying more books into that saturated market resolve the 'problem'?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    And having a 1000 well written stories (including mine!!!) get the cold shoulder from agents & publishers seems to me like a problem that is dying to be solved.
    No, the problem really isn't dying to be solved. It sounds to me that the market is working exactly as it should be.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Only the buying public (not an agent or publisher) should be the authoritative voice on whether your writing is good or not, is commercially viable or not - - - - and
    Here we go. I can't get published so it's those mean publishers and agents who are the problem.

    No.

    No.

    No.

    The problem is that you haven't written a good query letter, you haven't written a good enough opening to your novel and you haven't written a novel that someone thinks will make money. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with publishing. It means there's something wrong with you. Focus on fixing that.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    the business model of author, agent, publisher, retailer, then finally to buying public is outdated and not only gets in the road of the public judging the authors works (#1 above) but also drives the price of literature too high (too many hands in the till needing to get paid) and this limits the volume of books the public gets for their $$$. Now there will always be a role for the agent/publisher. albeit diminishing- - but there is a huge void that is horribly serviced right now for those of us in the vast pre-agent wasteland.
    It's strange how many people claim that and yet the vast majority of the book buying public buy books that are published by commercial publishers put out through commercial retailers or retail sites.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email: (BOLDING MINE)
    Now layer on top of those points the major strides in technology to e-books (witness all major store-front retailers now offering e-books not to mention e-tailers such as Amazon and I-Books from Apple) - - -- - - - - and the future of book retailing is clear.
    Retailing maybe. The publishing model however remains the same because to get those ebooks published and marketed takes money so that people know what they're looking for.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    The only option today to those thousand per year well written books and un-agented authors is the self-publishing world - - and that is a well documented dead end road. And it can be either fairly expensive front end costs for "each book" to get set up by a self-publisher or they want a rather high "per novel sold fee" which still drives up the cost to the public.
    And how is your model any cheaper than this shitty self-publishing deal, Al?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Self-publishing needs to be an incubator of new authors and a vehicle for previously agented/published authors. Instead of a way to by-pass the agent/publisher world, it needs to be a pre-cursor to that world. A feeder pipeline that they (agents/ publishers) will come to use as a way to source emerging authors that have already established a bit of a following--not tell them "you are tainted because you self-published".
    So despite the fact that you don't like the agent-publisher-retail model because it's stopping 1000 good books from being published each year, you in fact want to create a self-publishing model that feeds into that agent-publisher-retail model?

    Uh-huh.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    The way I see it is the literary world needs a model like the sports world of baseball and hockey. The “major leagues” not only support but actually invest in a healthy farm system, the triple-A league.
    I'm British so the world of baseball and hockey is alien to me - perhaps one of the United Statesians or Canucks could tell me whether players have to pay to be in the triple-A league?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Get the authors works out there for the buying public to access at a very reasonable cost (notionally $5 or less)and give the author invaluable direct and unfiltered feedback from the people who buy their works.
    This all exists already in a number of other forms.

    You know why it's not a success, Al? It's because the only way buyers find out about sites like it is because of the work done by the authors (i.e. they're sold to friends and family, just like vanity presses) and there's no quality control of the work on sale.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Yes - - - in the purest sense this is self-publishing, but it is owned by an author for authors----
    How very charitable of you - charity that would only cost those authors $500 each per year.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    We plan to advertise the site (and are not ashamed of this, actually proud) by word of mouth. We have plans for extensive use of the massive marketing potential of various Social Networking sites out there (Facebook, U-tube, Twitter, literary chat rooms and many, many more) to get the word out there about a new and affordable way to buy literature and discover new emerging authors. We intend to strongly encourage (read - - -nag ) our author members to help themselves (and fellow site members) by doing the same.
    This is not a marketing strategy. In fact, it's the marketing equivalent of farting in a hurricane.

    How do you get word-of-mouth publicity? There are marketing departments in real publishers who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year trying to achieve this and if they can't do it, how the hell are you going to be able to?

    Oh, wait. You're using the old vanity trick of getting your authors to shill their work to friends and family. How very original. Bravo.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Our site will have fiction and non-fiction. The visitor will be able to search (and this is just a description of a few of the sites functions) by genre, by title, by author. They will be able to see (again by genre) titles ranked by sales volume - - this month / this quarter / this year. We will have feature stories on individual authors so the readers can learn more about them.
    Given that the readers will already be related to/friends of your authors, I'm guessing you won't need the feature stories.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    There will be a "shopping cart" to allow the visitor to purchase 1 or more novels at the same time using PayPal.
    Have you factored PayPal's fees into your business model? Do authors know how much it could cost them?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    So far 36% of the authors I emailed this query to have already contacted me which is gratifying result.
    The remaining 64% either didn't see it because it went into their Spam folder or they deleted it because they recognised it as spam.

    I hope that some of the 36% who responded to you, told you where to shove your business plan.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    It’s a flat fee to be a member. At this stage we are thinking of $500 per year.
    Thank god your members aren't paying to be published ... Oh, wait. They are.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    Also, having a fee will help ensure that authors whose works do not garner public appeal will self-select to exit the site as it would be cost prohibitive. That also helps us reduce any unwanted clutter.
    And it results in you keeping that money. Nice.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    The author would be given 2 different options of establishing the section of the site dedicated to them. Self-service via a series of templates we send them and they create their section and upload their book(s). Very low cost option - - - probably $20 per novel ($ fee NOT cast in stone). The other option would be for the author (if not technically comfortable) to send us the info and we would create the site. Notionally $100 for initial set up and $30 for each additional novel after the 1st one. Again - - pricing here not cast in stone.
    So you're charging a $500 membership fee, then a further fee of $20 or $100 for each book they place? What then are they getting for their membership fee?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    The author would get $3.50 of every $5 novel sold and we would keep $1.50.
    Why do you get to keep $5 when they're doing all the marketing and you've already charged them $520/600 for the privilege on being on your crappy site?

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    That way an author (if only 1 novel on the site) would need to sell approx 150 copies of their book in a year to recover their costs if they used the self-serve option and approx 170 copies if they selected the most expensive option of us setting it up for them.
    Oh - only 150 or 170 copies. Well that's alright then.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    For a cost of just over $500 the member author would have had 12 months on a worldwide web site (which we know they could and maybe have already done by building their own website) but they would be on a site that will be launching with an initial 100 authors, a marketing game plan and plans to expand that rapidly.
    $500 only gets you 12 months? And what exactly are you getting for that money again? Oh, right. Facebook posts.

    Al Birtch's Spam Email:
    A pretty good value for money in our view - - but we need your thoughts on this.
    Yes - from your point of view I can see why you think it's good value for money. You do bollock all, charge $500 for it and then add-on fees.

    Sputz:
    I was unable to find credible criticisms in your posts,
    Hi, Sputz and welcome to AW. Which criticisms do you not find credible and why?

    Sputz:
    This is Al Birtch. Would be nice if you talked to me rather than around me.
    Right back at you.

    Sputz:
    (sent it out to 200 people -- -hardly spammer scale.
    Unsolicited emails = spam. There is no quota requirement.

    Sputz:
    I do wish you had posted the 5 articles by other experts in the field that were also imbedded in the e-mail that also serve to show the future of the literary business. Would have been much more honest of you rather than just selecting one part.
    Unless those 5 articles talked about your business model, they're not relevant.

    Sputz:
    I find it somewhat amusing but mostly sad that aspiring authors seem to the first and worst to spread negative thoughts. Must come from spending too much time alone at a pc which dulls the interpersonal skills.
    Yeah, you're right. If we spend too long at the PC we'll find ourselves sending spam emails for a shitty vanity press.

    Sputz:
    (a Saskatoon book club just sent me a rave review)
    Great. Are they publishing your book?

    Sputz:
    I don’t need you to agree with the model.
    That's good.

    Sputz:
    But our different preferences do not make the efforts of the other car designers useless nor does it entitle the Ford buyer to spew negative thoughts about the other manufacturers.
    I see us more like a body of interested people pointing out safety flaws.

    Sputz:
    If that is asking too much, then write to any of my reviewers (they are on the web) and they will confirm both having read my novel, having made the quotes and having given me permission to use them. That part is about me as an aspiring writer.
    Funny. I thought that being an aspiring writer meant writing, not running a vanity press.

    Sputz:
    This new venture is to help my own works and the works of other authors to get out their in a new way.
    You couldn't get out there in the old way. What makes you think you're qualified to take other people down with you?

    Sputz:
    Anyway, everyone has the right to their opinion, but it sure would be nice if you took the time to get some facts before doing so. It’s not a lot to ask.
    I took the facts presented in your very own email, Al. What other facts do you think I need?

    Ooh, the Gorn is so handsome and Gorny!

    MM

  15. #15
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Bravo on the post, MM.

    And no, ball players don't have to start in the minors (triple-A). Players with potential who aren't quite there are sent to the minors to see if they can improve or impress the guys in "the show".

  16. #16
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    For those of you playing Sockpuppet Bingo:
    Quote Originally Posted by Sputz View Post
    I was unable to find credible criticisms in your posts, so I wrote directly to Al Birtch. This was his response:
    1. Very first post by a newbie that defends an agent/publisher. While not conclusive, it is indicative. There are three possibilities:
    1. Sputz is Al Birtch himself (possible, but not likely).
    2. Sputz is some friend/associate/client pretending to be a disinterested party (more likely).
    3. Sputz is genuine (also not likely. How many people go to bat for complete strangers?)
    ...Would have been much more honest of you rather than just selecting one part.
    2. Forum members telling lies or only part truths.

    I find it somewhat amusing but mostly sad that aspiring authors seem to the first and worst to spread negative thoughts.
    3. Aspiring writers should only say good things about other aspiring writers, regardless of how bad their advice is.

    Must come from spending too much time alone at a pc which dulls the interpersonal skills.
    4. You're all a bunch of "loosers" who spend more time on the interwebz than writing.

    As a long-term successful business executive...
    5. Appeal to business experience outside of publishing. It's odd how many of these guys are successful business executives.

    Anyway, mark your cards accordingly.
    --Roger J. Carlson

  17. #17
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    So, not only is he a fee-charging display site, he's also setting himself up to be a fee-charging vanity e-press with a fee charging display site.

    It's so much clearer now.

    *arrgh!*

  18. #18
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    An observation over the years

    My oh my, people are such predictable creatures, be it in business, writing or any other venture. I couldn't count the number of times I have sat in boardrooms (in many companies) over the years (I am 58)when the President was looking for someone to lead a high-risk, potentially high reward (and implied "potentially career making OR ending") new initiative into uncharted territory, All of those high priced, extremely well educated bureaucrats in the room couldn't scatter to the bathrooms fast enough or browse their calendars and with a sad refrain comment on how they would love too but their calendars were already overflowing.

    Not having the fancy degree behind me, I have made and continue to make a fun and rewarding career out of raising my hand and saying yes to leading those multi-million $$ undertakings -to build something better - - and so far they have all been a success. But I know that will not always be the case. But I am not afraid to try. Oh - -back to the predictability of people . Then, as sure as the sun rises in the morning, all those people who had such an urgent need to pee or were so busy - - well, suddenly they had all kinds of time to criticize from the sidelines about what my team was doing on the project, the solutions we were designing - - how they would never work, how the President should reduce his/her losses by pulling the plug early. Yes - - I was fortunate to have some great teammates and some super CEO's who shared those whisper campaigns wit me. Then - - surprise, surprise -- and you all know how this story ends - - - when the initiative went live and was a success guess who were all on the stage with my team touting how they were big supporters all along the way and helped to make it happen. Yes people are predictable creatures.

    For the commenter from England, yes the triple A teams do earn a salary - - from devoted fans of the triple-A quality play and the chance to see "a few" future stars at a reasonable price. But they could do that because "the majors" initially funded the minor leagues as a way to get them started. The majors saw extreme value in supporting a minor league system. And yes - - a minor league player did unveil his skills to the public when they were very raw and unpolished. But I doubt he was embarrassed later in life after he honed his skills to the major league level that anyone saw him play when he was so raw. He took a risk. Sometimes it pays off, lots of times it doesn't.

    Rather than nick-pick comment by comment which would seem pointless - - - and many of the points are valid (PS--I am mildly dyslexic--hence the typos commented upon. God bless my editor ), I would simply say the main difference we are trying to accomplish from other vanity press models is to devote a lot of time to making the system we are building provide a more informative, more personal browsing / buying experience for the public. Bios on the authors, ability to e-mail the author and many other features aimed at the public. And our biggest goal to is fight our way into the consciousness of mainstream agents and publishers that they should encourage a farm team / incubator model - - - - not rail against it. And the 1 thing we are not doing, simply not on the drawing board - -is trying to sell the author back his/her own books.

    Listen folks, my only issue here is the overt attempt to paint these efforts as a scam. Some scam - - I am not hiding behind a pseudonym like so many of you are. You have my name, my e-mail and I live at 144 Hennessy Road, Trenton, Ontario Canada, k8V 5P7 - - hell call me if you want at 1-613-392-5850. This approach may work, or it may not work - - I cannot tell the future with any guarantee. All I know is that I am willing to try and I am willing to risk a fair amount of my own $$$ upfront to build it and let every interested author go on the site and kick the tires BEFORE they make any decision to join and spend any money. As far as me "getting your money" on this - -here is some very open (in fact none of your business but just fro transparency--) I make $2,000 a day as an executive - - and with almost no hassles in that job as the nay saying crowd in my circle have become awfully quiet over the years as they patiently waited for 'the failure' to say "I told you so - - and dance their happy dance". If they wait long enough I am sure they will find their opportunity - -but it will not be because I didn't have the courage to try.

    So why wouldn't it make sense just to give me the benefit of the doubt. Wait 60 days and then write me and I will send you a password to the test/beta site so you can see it first hand and then comment about it. Is that all that much to ask? Anyway - - logging off on this topic as I would rather focus my energies and trying to find solutions rather than attacking the efforts of others willing to put themselves out there.
    Al Birtch
    albirtch@sympatico.ca

  19. #19
    starting over Marian Perera's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Birtch View Post
    I would simply say the main difference we are trying to accomplish from other vanity press models is to devote a lot of time to making the system we are building provide a more informative, more personal browsing / buying experience for the public. Bios on the authors, ability to e-mail the author and many other features aimed at the public.
    I'm not sure why this is a selling point. The bios of authors are usually easily available no matter who they've signed up with, on their websites or blogs.

    As for emailing authors - well, I've emailed authors who were with commercial publishers, small presses and vanity presses. I didn't need a display site to give me the ability to do that.
    Last edited by Marian Perera; 01-04-2010 at 08:09 PM.
    Sleeping Beauty-inspired m/m romance : Editing.

  20. #20
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Sockpuppet Bingo Addendum

    6. And now Al Birtch himself appears. What an amazing coincidence!

    Look Al, I'm sure we're all impressed and jealous about your $2000/day job (well, all except for me, as I'm the Sultan of Dubai), but what publishing experience do you have that should make us listen?

    Instead of trying to impress us with your day job, why not come back in a year and tell us how successful your venture is? Success is the best defense. We've seen dozens of ill-conceived schemes (that's not to say scams) presented and defended here. None of them has succeeded, so excuse us if we're skeptical.
    Last edited by Roger J Carlson; 01-04-2010 at 08:07 PM.
    --Roger J. Carlson

  21. #21
    Tired and Disillusioned Momento Mori's Avatar
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    Al Birtch:
    My oh my, people are such predictable creatures, be it in business, writing or any other venture.
    They sure are. That's why we have a Bingo card for situations like this.

    Al Birtch:
    I couldn't count the number of times I have sat in boardrooms (in many companies) over the years (I am 58)when the President was looking for someone to lead a high-risk, potentially high reward (and implied "potentially career making OR ending") new initiative into uncharted territory, All of those high priced, extremely well educated bureaucrats in the room couldn't scatter to the bathrooms fast enough or browse their calendars and with a sad refrain comment on how they would love too but their calendars were already overflowing.
    Maybe those "high priced, extremely well educated bureaucrats" made the mistake of ordering the fish from the firm canteen ... Speculation aside though, unless you were volunteering to do a new initiative within the publishing industry, I don't see how it's relevaant.

    Al Birtch:
    Not having the fancy degree behind me, I have made and continue to make a fun and rewarding career out of raising my hand and saying yes to leading those multi-million $$ undertakings -to build something better - - and so far they have all been a success.
    Mazel tov. Unless your day job is in publishing, how is this relevant?

    Is your day job paying you to set up a display site?

    Al Birtch:
    Then, as sure as the sun rises in the morning, all those people who had such an urgent need to pee or were so busy - - well, suddenly they had all kinds of time to criticize from the sidelines about what my team was doing on the project, the solutions we were designing - - how they would never work, how the President should reduce his/her losses by pulling the plug early. Yes - - I was fortunate to have some great teammates and some super CEO's who shared those whisper campaigns wit me. Then - - surprise, surprise -- and you all know how this story ends - - - when the initiative went live and was a success guess who were all on the stage with my team touting how they were big supporters all along the way and helped to make it happen.
    Oh, I see.

    Yeah, well we'll see how may people who've paid to use your site have got commercial, advance paying publishing deals in 12 months then.

    Al Birtch:
    For the commenter from England, yes the triple A teams do earn a salary - - from devoted fans of the triple-A quality play and the chance to see "a few" future stars at a reasonable price. But they could do that because "the majors" initially funded the minor leagues as a way to get them started. The majors saw extreme value in supporting a minor league system. And yes - - a minor league player did unveil his skills to the public when they were very raw and unpolished. But I doubt he was embarrassed later in life after he honed his skills to the major league level that anyone saw him play when he was so raw. He took a risk. Sometimes it pays off, lots of times it doesn't.
    Okay, Al. So in the light of your explanation - how does this tie in to the analogy you set out in your spam email? I ask because from what I can see, Triple-A has practically nothing in common with your business model because the players do not pay to be in the Triple-A.

    Al Birtch:
    I would simply say the main difference we are trying to accomplish from other vanity press models is to devote a lot of time to making the system we are building provide a more informative, more personal browsing / buying experience for the public.
    Well at least you admit that you're a vanity press. That's a start.

    The point though is that I'm not seeing anything within your business model that sets out how you will make for a more informative/personal browsing/buying experience. You're doing exactly the same as the others out there.

    Al Birtch:
    And our biggest goal to is fight our way into the consciousness of mainstream agents and publishers that they should encourage a farm team / incubator model - - - - not rail against it.
    Why do you think agents/publishers will be motivated to adopt your model? They're already making plenty of money from the existing one.

    Al Birtch:
    And the 1 thing we are not doing, simply not on the drawing board - -is trying to sell the author back his/her own books.
    No - you are though expecting the author to do most of the selling of his/her own books, as evidenced by your very own words: "The contract would be renewable yearly, that way if the author does not succeed in garnering a sufficient fan base / sales to warrant continuing, then they can exit."

    Al Birtch:
    my only issue here is the overt attempt to paint these efforts as a scam. Some scam - - I am not hiding behind a pseudonym like so many of you are.
    I don't think you're a scam - in fact, not one poster here has described your proposed operation as a scam. We've all said that it's a vanity operation and therefore a bad idea for authors.

    Al Birtch:
    All I know is that I am willing to try and I am willing to risk a fair amount of my own $$$ upfront to build it and let every interested author go on the site and kick the tires BEFORE they make any decision to join and spend any money.
    Yet the point is that you plan to make money out of the site eventually by charging a 12 month membership fee and then add-on fees for actually using the site. I take it that even those initial users will later be required to pay for the 'services'?

    Al Birtch:
    So why wouldn't it make sense just to give me the benefit of the doubt.
    Because you want to charge people a lot of money for a model that is already in existence and doesn't work. What is there to give the benefit of the doubt?

    Al Birtch:
    Anyway - - logging off on this topic as I would rather focus my energies and trying to find solutions rather than attacking the efforts of others willing to put themselves out there.
    You know, if you were only risking yourself and your own work then I wouldn't have any problem with this - it would just be one more desperate author who's failed to get an agent/publishing deal trying to get an audience for their novels. But you're not risking your own work - you want to take people's money and risk their work at the same time and I find that appalling.

    MM
    Last edited by Momento Mori; 01-04-2010 at 07:51 PM.

  22. #22
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    1) The display site model Al's presenting has been thought of before, has been tried regularly, and has been failing regularly since at least 1992. There's no reason to think it'll succeed this time.

    2) The rich white middle-aged businessman who is unable to sell his first novel, decides therefore that publishing is broken, then sets up as a publisher himself, happens so often that it's become a cliche. So far, none of those businessmen has managed to make a success of his venture.

    3) I wish Al the best luck, and hope he comes back in a year to tell us how we were all wrong. I'm guessing that won't happen. Instead, I'm guessing the next thing we hear from him is nothing, and we add one more failed example to the string.

  23. #23
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    and we add one more failed example to the string.
    We should have a "Where Are They Now?" thread.
    --Roger J. Carlson

  24. #24
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    There's a huge grey area between outright scam and very bad idea. So far no one's called Al's plan a scam.

    But look ye:

    And our biggest goal to is fight our way into the consciousness of mainstream agents and publishers that they should encourage a farm team / incubator model - - - - not rail against it.
    The vanity press has existed for decades (if not centuries). Agents and publishers don't rail against it. They ignore it. The reading public doesn't rail against it. They never see its products. The ones who rail against it are authors who don't want to see their brother and sister authors sucked into it. Because what happens is the author who goes the vanity route loses money, and in the one or two percent of the cases of the author who has written a publishable book, has lost the potential of that book as well.

    Roger, if you look up at Caopaux's index, you'll see a number of publishers/agents listed in grey. Those are the ones that have gone out of business.

  25. #25
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Re: the 'where Are They Now' thread--You really should do this, with a summary of the YADS and its lifespan--perhaps they estimated total loses by authors who wasted their money on it.
    Emily Veinglory

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