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[Display Site] Zirdland.com (Jami Harrah)

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NicoleJLeBoeuf

Hey all. Yet another cynical and suspicious question from me regarding someone that I've never heard of before but that I'm hoping someone else will have...

So, I was a NaNoWriMo municipal liaison for my area this year - well, "last year" I should say, 2004 anyway - which means I get this keen ML email address listed on the ML page so people can get ahold of Boulder NaNo'ers via me. Well, in December, someone did just that. Someone name of Jami Harrah, who had this to say:

I may have some opportunities for budding writers come Spring, 2005. If any are interested in making a serious stab at marketing their novels, works-in-progress or concepts, please feel free to have them contact me. I am not an agent, but am presently consulting a number of
publishing houses and film production companies - helping them more efficiently find and acquire new literary works. Perhaps some connections can be made for some of your authors. I'd be happy to hear from any who feel adventurous. Please feel free to forward my e-mail
address as you see fit...

Well, I didn't pass on the email address. I figured, anyone "interested in making a serious stab at marketing their novels" wouldn't want to go with someone who is "not an agent" but states vague plans to act like one. Meh. Plus everyone knows (or sadly doesn't, but ought) you don't trust the publishers and agents who email you unsolicited. That's the first sign of scammy scam-scams, or at the very least someone who isn't being kept busy enough selling/publishing novels, that they actually have time and the desire to go looking for writers to recruit. I mean, successful and reputable agents generally wait for you to come to them. And when you do, you have to get in line.

Evidently M. Harrah emailed all the municipal liaisons, because one of 'em posted the email to the NaNoWriMo forums, encouraging folks to get ahold of this person. And then next thing I know, I'm seeing versions of this email posted to misc.writing and other writing-related forums. Maybe it's been posted here too, I don't know. I haven't read all the topics.

And then today I got a second one:

Hi - as many of you may know, we're working with the publishing and media industries to build a new literary acquisition process that hopefully will end the query-letter shuffle and help industry buyers search and find projects that meet their needs in a more efficient way.

We'd like to know how you, as a writer, are currently marketing your creative works - books, scripts, etc.

If you'll take a moment to answer a few questions, we'll tally the results of everyone's answers and send you a summary so you can see where you stand in the literary marketing game. We'll also keep you up to date on our progress and let you know when the new system is ready
so you can come take a look. We're all pretty excited about it.

Just reply to this e-mail, copy the questions below and add your answers.

Thank you for helping us in this adventure!

Good luck in all your endeavors!
Jami Harrah
ZIRDLAND.COM - the literary marketplace for the 21st century
(in support of national literacy)


QUESTIONS:

1) How many projects have you completed? (books, scripts, etc)

2) How many query letters do you send out each month, on average?

3) Where do you find your industry contacts? (writer's guides, magazines, word-of-mouth...?)

4) How much do you spend on marketing your works in an average month? (don't forget to include costs like: inkjet cartridges, paper, postage, advertising, etc.)

5) Do you have your works posted on any writer's registries? Which ones?

Please feel free to forward this e-mail to your writer friends who may be trying to market their literary works. Thanks again!

Well, now I'm getting a little bothered. Who exactly is this person that s/he thinks s/he can tell me "where I stand in the literary marketing game"? Why all the personal questions? Why does s/he think I'm supposed to trust him/her? How do I get off his/her mailing list?

I wouldn't have said anything about it, but the agressive solicitation, plus the suspicious vagueness, makes me wonder if anyone here has heard of him/her, or maybe whether people should be warned. A quick Google just turns up more and more of M. Harrah's postings to various forums, and no discussion of them that I haven't read before (i.e. the negative reaction from the misc.writing denizens).

After getting those emails and seeing them spread far and wide, I'm very glad to know of a place like this where I can ask about 'em.

edited because I missed the darn Preview checkbox when I tried to click on it with my mousey
 
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NicoleJLeBoeuf

Re: Agressively soliciting non-agent Jami Harrah

Sorry to reply to my own post, but I finally put together a Google search that got a few useful hits.

A discussion thread in which this person has participated. Saw some names in the discussion alongside Jami's that are familiar after having read the last 20 pages or so of the gi-normous PA thread, in fact... ;-)

An agent listing at writers.net - OK, is an agent, isn't an agent, which is it?

And, er, that's all I've got. There's absolutely nothing informative at zirdland.com; I trust there will be soon.

I hope I am not making a big fuss about nothing or offending blameless people with my suspicion. Perhaps it's just another variant on "they're just starting off so let's wait and see" like SphinxBooks was. But there's too much quacking going on in all the marketing emails for me not to at least consider the possibility of duck, y'know? Many thanks,
--
Niki
 

SimonSays

Agressively soliciting non-agent Jami Harrah

Nicole -

Jami posted another thread on WN awhile back. In that thread she also claimed that she was working with the publishing industry to create a new and better system for acquiring work.

I have no idea if this is legit or not - but it does seem strange to me that someone who appears to have no publishing industry experience - would be called upon by the publishing industry to create a new submission paradigm. She never answered the questions put to her on the subject on WN.

For now, I think you are wise to do nothing.
 

vstrauss

Re: Agressively soliciting non-agent Jami Harrah

Just putting the clues together, I'd suspect this will wind up being some sort of "display" site, where writers pay a fee to post their writing, supposedly for editors and agents to read. The big sites of this kind do claim some successes, but by and large industry folks aren't all that interested in visiting an unscreened electronic marketplace.

Anyone promising a shortcut to publication is suspect.

- Victoria
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

Re: Agressively soliciting non-agent Jami Harrah

Thanks, y'all. In fact I had no idea such "display sites" existed - if that's what Ms. Harrah is doing, then I'm glad I decided to sit on that email rather than pass it on to the other area NaNo'ers. I'm well aware that publishers don't go out *looking* for submissions on the web, what with all the submissions that get sent to them by agents and writers. Why go out to find what's being delivered to your door?

It will be interesting to see if your guess is right... My opinion is that if Ms. Harrah had all the connections she's claiming, she wouldn't be sending out emails saying "I'm not an agent, but..." She'd be an agent and might actually be doing someone some good.

Thanks also for providing me with a pronoun. I wasn't sure, y'see. :)
 

SimonSays

Pronouns

Nicole -

I took a stab in the dark - for all I know, Jami is not a she.
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

Re: Pronouns

Well, it's the pronoun used in the majority of the discussions I've found (Here's one!), and I'm sick of dancing around with "s/he" and "him or her" constructions, so, there. ;-)
 

absolutewrite

Re: Pronouns

She spammed me, too. Very suspect, I'd say, and my instincts are right along with Victoria's about what she's up to.
 

vstrauss

Re: Pronouns

I've now gotten the spam too. I wrote back asking her exactly what her plans are, and what her publishing industry background is. We'll see if I get a response.

- Victoria
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

Re: Pronouns

Victoria,

It turns out that one of the NaNoWriMo MLs did that too - well, asked her what her plans were, anyway - and got an answer. Here's the thread.

(I think I tried to post about this yesterday but got sidetracked and left the page without submitting the post.)

It looks like the guess was right: the plan is to set up a nicely databased display site:
Basically, I'm working as a freelance consultant with a group that is putting together what I suppose could be classified as Google for publishing - where authors and works are categorized and organized, and then publishers, agents, and producers specify what they're looking for and a series of automated queries go out - along with multimedia presentations of the authors, etc.

The idea is to end the query-shuffle and reduce the slush piles. We're talking with all 6 of the major publishing houses, as well as a number of medium-sized publishers and film production companies to design something that they'll actually use.
I will be very surprised if the "major publishing houses" go along with this, and I'm warning folks off from her wherever I can.

I'll be interested to see what Jami has to say re: your question about her literary background and experience.
 

vstrauss

Re: Pronouns

Yes, it sounds exactly like a display site. "New and different", she says--ha! Display sites for book manuscripts are an idea that was "hot" in 1999, and ice-cold by 2002 (screenplay display sites seem to have had more success, or maybe the number of desperate screenwriters is just greater).

Ann Crispin and I did an article on display sites a few years ago, for which we did extensive research. Of the dozens and dozens of display sites we looked at for the article, only a few remain today. The biggest and the oldest, Authorlink, claims some successes, but for the most part the agents and publishers who troll the site are marginal (and sometimes questionable). We got some pretty trenchant quotes from agents who told us they had no interest whatever in using such a resource.

- Victoria
 

HapiSofi

Re: Agressively soliciting non-agent Jami Harrah

Nobody I know has heard of her.

Persons with whom one can make a deal to buy a book:

1. The author.
2. The author's agent.
3. Someone else who holds the rights (f.i., the author's estate).
4. The agent who represents the estate.

Notice that the list doesn't include persons who are "...presently consulting a number of publishing houses and film production companies - helping them more efficiently find and acquire new literary works."

Here's her description:<blockquote><hr>Basically, I'm working as a freelance consultant with a group that is putting together what I suppose could be classified as Google for publishing - where authors and works are categorized and organized, and then publishers, agents, and producers specify what they're looking for and a series of automated queries go out - along with multimedia presentations of the authors, etc.<hr></blockquote>Great. Just how I want to spend my day: watching amateur multimedia presentations about unpublished authors whose manuscripts I haven't seen yet. Tell me again why I'm supposed to be interested?

If I'm thinking of buying a book, I still won't want to watch a multimedia presentation. I'll want to phone the author and talk to them.

This is another one of those clever solutions to the publishing industry's problems, devised by someone who doesn't know what our problems are.
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

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Update: Zirdland.com (cf. Jami Harrah)

Some time ago we were discussing the spam that Jami Harrah had been sending out, hawking an up-and-coming display site.

That display site has updated itself. It now sports a form so you can get on their mailing list, and a long screed about how tired writers and publishers allegedly are of doing it the old-fashioned way.

I reproduce that screed here:

Zirdland.com said:
IT'S A JUNGLE!

As writers, marketing our work is a frustrating endeavor. Our query letters and manuscript submissions too often go unnoticed or get rejected without review. We take the advice of writer's guides and how-to books, attend seminars, and send query letters...endless numbers of query letters. Exactly like they told us. And precisely the wrong approach.

Publishers, agents and film producers receive such an overwhelming amount of material (most of which is often not what they are looking for), that they must employ legions of readers and assistants to sort through it all. A query letter is easily lost in the shuffle and manuscripts end up who knows where.

So we wander in unfamiliar territory, believing that the publishers are cold-hearted, insensitive, reptilians, who are forced to consume the very thing that annoys them in order to survive, and that film producers are all colorful, fickle, chatty birds who “absolutely love your material” but could up and fly away at any moment, depending how the wind blows, and that agents are only on the hunt for the next DaVinci Code or Harry Potter.

Well, here at Zirdland, we're answering the call to provide a solution to the ever-widening rift between the writers and the market. The buyers aren't cold-hearted or flighty...well, some are, but most are good-natured people working late nights and weekends to find the next bestseller or blockbuster, and they're just as frustrated as you are with the antiquated process of literary acquisition.

An incredible amount of "marketable product" is being created and it's getting lost in the insane process of queries and response letters and printed manuscripts and mailrooms and endless legions of bleary-eyed readers. Of course, as writers, we're forced to rely on those readers, hoping that through their good judgment, and with the summoned help of the Almighty, our manuscript might one day, just maybe, make it to an editor or producer who is already shoulder deep in backlogged, unread manuscripts. And we sit waiting for the inevitable form-letter rejection because by the time our work is read, the market trends have shifted, and they're no longer buying what the Writer's Guide said they were. Sound familiar? It's a useless, wasteful, game...but now, you don't have to play it.

Welcome to the literary marketplace
of the 21st century!​

Zirdland gives the editor, literary agent, or producer a true resource to find exactly what they're looking for, while freeing the writer from the onnerous task of marketing.

Writers should be writing.

So, prepare yourself for the adventure. Soon, Zirdland will open and you can bring us your manuscripts, self-published books, outlines, treatments,screenplays, stage plays, TV scripts, articles, essays, short stories, poems, ideas and concepts - and let the market come to you.
Take it away, folks.
 
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CaoPaux

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Jami Harrah Zirdland.com

*pinging old thread for the search engine*

Jami Harrah ZIRDLAND.COM
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

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Thanks, CaoPaux. I went back and edited the subject of the initial post in the new thread about Zirdland to mention Jami Harrah, but that doesn't appear to alter the thread title in the forum display. *sigh*

Victoria is an experienced and prescient lady. Zirdland is living up to her every prediction.
 

Richard

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I especially like the use of web-space that comes complete with REALLY BIG ADVERT BANNER. Nothing says professionalism quite like cutting corners before you even open!

Randomly, am I showing total ignorance by not knowing what a 'Zird' is?
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

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Dictionary.com's got nothing.

Perhaps they were going for a "Birdland" resonance, and then rolled the dice to decide what letter to replace the B with?

If we keep this up, the owner will come in here to defend his idea (you can see him doing so on misc.writing), and we can ask him.
 

Richard

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I googled it and this came up:

http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/thethirdzird/

Amongst other things

>>>> This chain letter was started from two zirds in Egypt and has been
>>>> going for
>>>> 3 years unchanged. Please don't break the letter!
>>>>
>>>> But be warned - this email contains a deadly curse! THE CURSE OF THE
>>>> CHIPMUNK! If you delete it suddenly you will lose all of your pies,
>>>> Aztec
>>>> Temples, Eleanor's and thingy mcfthoes.

I think we should believe him. These Zirds clearly have great anachronistic powers...
 

victoriastrauss

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Richard, that's too funny.

Display sites seem to be having a comeback. Here's another one I've been getting questions about recently: http://www.2BEntertainment.com/ . I've corresponded a little bit with the owners, and they're well-intentioned, but misguided.

Display sites are an idea that doesn't work. Most of the dozens of display sites that went online in the late 1990's on the wave of dotcom euphoria that caused so many people to temporarily lose their minds, have vanished without a trace. The only reason for a service like this to be attractive to an agent or editor or producer is if they can rely on it to offer marketable stuff--but Zirdland and similar sites aren't usually run by people with industry experience, and they can't back their service with credentials that a publishing or film professional would value. If you already have a paper slush pile in your office, why on earth would you want to sift through an electronic one?

The other reason display sites don't work: they're a trolling ground for bad and/or marginal agents, editors, etc.

- Victoria
 

Jeff

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"...while freeing the writer from the onnerous (sic) task of marketing."

Hmmm...

To me, the "onerous" task of marketing consists of learning my market, researching potential publishers (including pay rates and rights - never sell yourself short), purchasing envelopes and stamps and making use of the U.S. postal system.

None of which, frankly, I find a disagreeable task, and most of which will *continue* to benefit me as I write and submit further.

Look, I'm not the world's brightest guy. If there were a shortcut, or a way to success in this business that did *not* involve hard work, research, sweat and even a few tears, I am sure someone much smarter than I would have found it, used it, and it would be common knowledge by now.

Unless you are all just hiding it from me for spite... :)
 

James D. Macdonald

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The big advantage of display sites from the writers' point of view is, since they haven't submitted their work anywhere, they won't be rejected by anyone. Meanwhile they can feel like they really are trying to market their work.
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

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Zirdland.com appears to be up and running now.

An ad for a related site, Zirdnews.com, appeared at the top of these very forum pages today.

They claim to be the place where Writers should get their news. But should you trust news put out by a company who is trying to drive writers to their display site? At best, they are woefully ignorant of the industry, thinking that YADS is a good idea, and their "news" can't be all that reliable.

Edit: Their "news" is in fact very slight both in quantity and content. Their "Publishing News" window seems to consist entirely of predictive speculations by P. Barry Jones... Zirdland.com's proprietor. Again, if Jones is ignorant enough to think his display site is actually going to help authors, his speculations about the publishing industry are probably just as far off the mark.
 
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Mac H.

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Zirdland.com , Zirdnews.com , ThatFirstLine.com , idc-tv.com & 'InterMedia Development Corp' all appear to be run by Joel Ratner. ([email protected])

The 'ThatFirstLine.com' is a competition which pays '$500'. However, they only give you the T&Cs AFTER you have given them your email address. They promise NOT to SPAM your email address, and say it will only be used to tell you if you have won.

However, given their tendencies to spam elsewhere....

Another thing is that they promise to pay all PROFITS to a charity. Not all proceeds, all profits. So after the website registration, paying Intermedia Development Corp for their work, advertising costs - it'll be interesting to see how much PROFIT is really counted.

If you want to see the success that Joel has had publishing his own work, you can check him out at:

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/joelratner/

All the novels have 'rights available' - as do all the screenplays.

Interestingly, 'InterMedia Development Corp' is listed as a publishing company in it's own right. (It also describes elsewhere as a 'screeenwriting group')

The only work I've been able to find from it is the gardening book 'A Zillion Worms' by J. David Maier. Only two people have reviewed it on Amazon, but it must have been a great book. One of the reviewers didn't log in, but they bought the gardening book, despite having no garden or interest in gardening. They gave the book 5 stars.

The other reviewer also decided that this book was so great that they wrote their only Amazon review on it. They also gave the book 5 stars.

I detect a slight odour of unethical marketing ....

As for Jami Harrah - somebody who lists themselves as 'Harrah-Harrah Consultants' under 'Literary Agents' (http://www.writers.net/agents/35913?PHPSESSID=8253bdbf55bfadd753a95a64b5b75735), but is solely known for spam and runs their 'consultancy' from a free email account? Well, if Joel wants his company to be associated with unethical behaviour like spamming then he can't complain if people think all of his businesses are scams...

Mac.
(PS: As always, I've tried to contact Joel Ratner to give him the 'right of reply' here. We'll see if we get a response.)
 
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