Thursday, July 29, 2010

You're Never Too Old to Fail

...or to be scammed.

As further proof that, aside from Mrs. Jurassicpork and a handful of kind readers, there is literally no one on the planet who has any use for me except as a source of income. Whether it be my landlord, utility companies, my kids' custodial family, literary agents, temp agencies and the like, my personal worth to them is directly proportionate to my potential for putting cha-ching in someone's pocket.

Take Cambridge House Books, for instance. Some of you may remember that, last May 25th, I wrote a post lauding these people after I got one of their emails and checked them out. The first one or two emails I got from one of their so-called editors, Rachel Trusheim, only further encouraged me.

Then I got around to telling Rachel that, even though I was a blogger, my daily readership could be counted in the hundreds and that, oh yeah, I'd been unemployed for 13 months. Call it coincidence or not, but the enthusiastic letters exhorting me to submit American Zen suddenly got briefer, cooler, terser and far less frequent when Cambridge House Books got wind of my insolvency.

Eventually, when I badgered Trusheim into giving me some resolution regarding AZ, I was told in no uncertain terms that, since I didn't have the marketing potential of a Bill O'Reilly (whom she'd used as an example), I would have to underwrite half the publishing expenses if they chose my book. Otherwise, I was too big of a "risk."

I never got anything resembling any resolution regarding whether Cambridge House's editorial board ever decided on it but perhaps news of my pecuniary state helped speed along their non-decision. By this time, I'd already sent them a proposal for another novel that, officially speaking, still hasn't been acknowledged much less decided upon. That was in late May when I sent it off. I sent Trusheim an email a month later wondering aloud if the fact I was living on unemployment for the second year had anything to do with the fact that her communiques got less frequent than Osama bin Laden's. I'm still eagerly awaiting her response.

Basically, Cambridge House Books (I refuse to link to these con artists and I removed the link in the referenced post) is a scam organization, a gussied up vanity press looking for people who either have money to defray their overhead expenses or have a national audience that will guarantee sales so their publicity department won't have to do as much work.

In other words, they're no different from publishers and literary agencies except for this one crucual difference: Publishers underwrite 100% of the publication expenses and virtually all of the publicity expenses and legit literary agencies get paid by you only after they sell your book. Cambridge House will charge you thousands up front if they arbitrarily decide you're too big of a risk to take on as an author, especially a first time novelist whose name isn't Glenn Beck.

Now, it would be easy to make this a personal gripe but this is an experience that many of us, writer or not, share. My experience is only synecdochal of that of many others. What set me off today on my latest rampage was the email I got from these predatory, opportunistic cocksuckers asking me to give them another chance to help them help me to help them.

My response was so vitriolic, I hesitate to recount even here to my veteran readers what I told them in response this morning but it involved tender orifices and rough sticks.

It's bad enough when literary agents and editors have turned the publishing business into a giant glorified vanity press. It's more self-serve than ever before and, as with temp agencies, they demand experience, education, credentials and a track record that very few of us in the real world actually have.

A couple of decades ago, I sold a slogan to a button company that read, "Fortune Favors Those Who Have One." I was barely out of my 20's when I wrote that but my youthful cynicism had proven to be more justified and timely than ever. Fortune does favor those who have one, as if wealth and or power ought to be self-sustaining, as if one's personal manifest destiny ought to snowball despite limitations of talent and a propensity for prevarication and moral putrefaction.

The bottom line is, if you're poor and obscure, your chances of succeeding at anything in this world is limited to the point of guaranteed futility. Millions are spent troweling out crap like Going Rogue or The Overton Window, books attributed to right wing racists and ghost-written by right wing racists, as long as you have a national platform.

Never mind the fact that their "authors" got rich and are getting richer by scrawling the absurdest conspiracy theories on blackboards and saying "Drill, Baby, Drill!" and "hopey changey" to millions of drooling idiots. The fact is that Beck, Palin and other no-talent brain transplant candidates have gotten the attention of millions of mouth-breathers. That automatically gives them about 100 more legs up in the business than anyone like me. Talent isn't even secondary.

Now, in order to be "qualified" to be a novelist, you have to either have a massive presence on the web, be an acknowledged expert in one profession or another or be a celebrity. Talent is no longer a qualifier. In fact, once editors and agents find out you've never been put between covers, that's usually strike one. The current, short-sighted business models governing publishing and job careers requires spontaneous history despite no one wanting to take a chance on the uninitiated and inexperienced. Temp agencies and actual employers, for instance, are making an official/unofficial policy of ignoring the unemployed just as literary agencies are ignoring the unpublished.

Look at our current political structure. Sometime during the 80's, some fucking genius got it into his head that we should allow millionaires to run for Congress and the White House so they won't be tainted by campaign money.

How's that hopey changey thing worked out for us? The system simply got more corrupt than ever and, thanks to the Supreme Court, will get more corrupt than Tammany Hall's wildest, wettest dreams. Now, Congress and one White House after another is overrun by out-of-touch robber baron sociopaths who don't have any clue what it feels like to have to decide between food or health care, people who have never touched a snow shovel or rake in their lives or had to literally count out pocket change or had to hold back groceries at the store checkout.

Audaciously, we're then blamed for finding ourselves in this hole even when these same naysayers and detractors are the ones who pulled up the rope ladder.


At July 29, 2010 at 2:30 PM, Anonymous Cynical as you said...

Just another example of how America has turned into ScamNation. Are there ANY honest businesses left?

When your whole country has gone crooked, like a nuclear-armed version of Albania, how does it play out? You're not the only person who's getting screwed, blued and tattooed. Take you, Alicia Morgan, Politits and about 30 million others in the U-6 category. Your numbers are growing every day. When do you reach such a critical mass that the collapse destroys even the scammers like this "Pay us and we'll pretend to publish you" house?

America is done. My only question is the mechanics of the descent. Will it be rioting and burning, an authoritarian clampdown, sudden explosion of the financial system? It's just plain that a completely crooked enterprise like the current USA cannot continue to function.

Last American out, you won't need to turn off the lights. They won't be working anyway.

At July 30, 2010 at 10:59 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

When your whole country has gone crooked, like a nuclear-armed version of Albania, how does it play out?

LOL! Man, I'd love to buy you a beer just for that line. The ironic thing is the local internet cafe we have to use to get online is run by a family of native Albanians (Nice people, too).

At July 30, 2010 at 2:11 PM, Anonymous Cynical as U said...

Yeah, I've got nothing against Albanians. But do you remember how their entire country went crazy in a get-rich-quick Ponzi scheme in 1992-94? They had just come out of severe backwardness and communist opression, so they had no idea that Ponzi-ness wouldn't work, and basically the total population bought into schemes that collapsed, leaving them even poorer than they were before. (Except for the rich scammers who devised the schemes.) The U.S. is getting like that, in a higher-toned way, when you look at the true dynamics of the rigged stock market, the way that retirement funds have been looted, Social Security...

Welcome to the United States of Albania!

At August 2, 2010 at 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I was just reading an article in this week's Newsweek about self-publishing novels on Kindle e-books and how some authors who have been rejected by so many NY publishers have done that and one guy is now making $100,000 per year at a sale of $2.99 a book on Kindle--maybe you should check it out. I scanned the article into a file but don't have an attachment ability here. Tried to copy & paste, but can't do it. You could check out a copy at the's the issue with Mark Twain on the cover--the book issue. Good luck.

At August 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Thanks. Yeah, I have known about Kindle for over a year now but that still involves some editorial gatekeeping that I've yet to find my way around.


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