Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Strange Ways of Editors

About one month ago, I asked Warren Beath, author of the new book James Dean In Death, if he would be interested in doing an interview with me for if I succesfully pitched one to them. He said yes. Yesterday I whipped up a nice pitch letter and emailed it to Salon and two other publications. One of those others was a free weekly published in Las Vegas which I only became aware of because Tod Goldberg published a review of the controversial novel Rainbow Party there.

Today I received this rejection fron the editor: wrote:

> Peter:
> Thanks for your e-mail, but I think the subject
> matter falls outside
> CityLife's area of interest.

So I responded as follows:

Dear Steve:

I'm curious as to why a review of a book about James
Dean (on the 50th anniversary of his death) is outside
your area of interest (or of your readers) while a
review of a young adult novel about "rainbow parties"
is? Because the latter promises to be titillating or

Peter Winkler

You always hear editors complain about how overburdened they are. Well not this one. It happens that I was having some problems with my email today, so about an hour after leaving my response, I went to my inbox, only to find this reply:


Clearly, you've read CityLife only to gather information to buttress your pitch. A regular reader would know the answer, and, to be frank, your question answers itself.

Please take no for an answer, as it's the only one you will get."

Instead of simply answering my question, this thing sends that as a reply. Actually, I went to this creep's rag's web site to read Goldberg's review, which his brother Lee had excerpted on his blog. Otherwise, I would never have known of the paper's existence. Why would I? I don't live in Las Vegas. Reading periodicals in order to gather enough information to query their editors is SOP for freelance writers.


Earlier this morning, after making my circuit of other blogs, I decided to contribute something to the blog POD-DY MOUTH besides my usual and predictable opinion of self-publishing. So I went and read the sample of Lauren Carr's novel POD-DY was touting. I then took some time to comment on what I thought the failings of Carr's as well as Todd Noker's books were and also some thoughts on other self-published books I have read. I returned to the blog a little while later to discover that its proprietor has decided to remove the ability of readers to leave comments.

She did this because the comments invariably devolved into a wannabe writers' forum and flame war between people with vanity books who think that because one out of 30,000 POD titles gets picked up by a traditional publisher, it could happen to them and those like me who kept telling them that self-publishing was a dead end for most writers.

Very few of the comments were ever actually about the book of the moment that POD-DY was showcasing.

Which conduces to the conclusion that even with a blog that has gotten some attention online actively promoting a few POD books, nobody still wants to read them. Nobody cares about POD books except their authors.

If that isn't the nail in the coffin of POD and self-publishing as a possible escape hatch for writers shut out of a real deal with a real publisher, I don't know what else is.

I've read three self-published books. One was an ebook, the other was Jonathan Widran's Hooray For Holly-what? (iUniverse), and the third was T. B. Pawlicki's Exploring Hyperspace, which you might be able to find online with some effort. Including my reading of the Carr and Noker excerpts, my opinion of self-published books is pretty poor.

Pawlicki's book is the only exception. It was actually published between covers in the mid-80s, but is impossible to find. I discovered it around 1990, when a friend on a computer bulletin board told me about it. If you like science popularizations like the works of Michio Kaku, you should read Pawlicki's.

Now that comments have been disabled, I venture to guess the number of visitors to POD-DY MOUTH will drop to low double digits per week.

Frankly, I never could quite understand why this blog even existed. Although its proprietor was anonymous, she represented herself as an author of two novels which were published by a reputable trade publisher. She said her raison detre was that she enjoyed finding the occasional gem in the junk pile of POD titles. Fair enough. We all have our hobbies.

Only, based on my reading, there are no gems among POD books. The occasional self-published book that manages to be converted into a trade book is a freakish miracle. What I find puzzling is this comment from POD-DY about her decision to end comments:

"After some long discussions with my agent, editor and friends in the biz, I have decided to take the road like Beatrice, Maud Newton, Bookmouth (read this article on POD, by the way), Robert Gray, etc. and make this blog information-based and less like Writer's.Net."

Why would her agent or editor give a damn whether the blog had comments or not or even existed at all? Since she remained anonymous and never gave the titles of her books, I don't see how her blog could have been a promotional tool, and that would seem to be the only reason her agent and editor would care.

The occasional POD book that gets some attention is a miraculous freak, like the Elephant Man. But just as the attention the Elephant Man received didn't make him Cary Grant, so too these books aren't particularly good, just lucky.

Sometimes when you find a pile of horseshit there's a pony, but most of the time there's just a pile of shit.

The Downing Street Memo

Read the once secret Downing Street Memo. You'll see why everything today is just an object subject to partisan political spinning. When I first heard about the memo, it was through the agency of people like Arianna Huffington or Pacifica station KPFK. They made it sound unambiguously like a smoking gun. Then I read the memo.

Here's the quote liberals fell on like a juicy steak:

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

It's very damning, but then here's this:

"For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary."

The second quote clearly suggests that Bush and Blair really believed Hussein possessed WMDs and was likely to use them.

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