Monday, September 22, 2008

Blogging for Free or Not for Free, That's the Question

Okay...don't take my word for it. I asked two "experts" if guest bloggers normally get paid for their work.

First, I asked Linda Lee, the owner of Smart Writers, Stupid Computers, a writer, speaker, educator, and expert in website design and on-line promotion and marketing. She also is the expert presenter on websites and online marketing and promotion for writers for the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing For Change Conference. She wanted to see the bog post Angela Hoy wrote. Here's what she had to say after reading it:

"You are going to get website traffic from this article she wrote for years!" (I liked that!)

After quite a few bits of advice on how to capitalize on the "publicity," she added:

"One more thing, I would say, 'You Want ME to Write for FREE?! Ha Ha Ha!!! Yes, I will! That's how you can promote yourself and your career online. I am in the Internet marketing community and they give out teasers, blogs and free articles ALL THE TIME to lead to better sales of other products. So she is wrong. So there!"

(You'll be reading more from Linda here in November, by the way, when she writes a blog or two for me -- for free.)

And then I asked Kevin Smokler, the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, the San Francisco Chronicle's notable book of 2005, and the cofounder and chief evangelist of (In a previous life, Kevin was the founder of the Virtual Book Tour, and he has been a presenter at the San Francisco Writers Conference several times. While at the conference, he also offers consulting services on platform building and publishing to attendees and donates all the money he earns to the conference's scholarship program.) I asked him if it was common practice for guest bloggers to get paid for their contributions. He replied, "It is my experience that most blogs, unless run by major media, don't have the budget for paying guest bloggers. The person asked to provide a blog has the right to say 'no,' but they don't have the right to be offended by the request to blog for free. If the request comes from the NY Times, they might expect to get paid, but not if the request comes from an ordinary person. If it is that outlet's standard policy to pay for guest blogs and it is making an exception by asking a guest to blog for free, then that is offensive."

Kevin concluded by reiterating his main point: "It is my experience that, when speaking about someone who writes blogs not as a full-time profession, asking to be paid for that service is unreasonable."

Do I write blogs as a full-time profession? No. Point made. Point taken?

Enough said. I think we've exhausted the topic. No need come November for someone to write on blogging for free or for pay. We'll have more interesting things to discuss. See you then.

Don't forget: Look for this blog at in November. This year's challenge takes place there!

(By the way...the comments have pretty much stopped. I only discarded those three I've mentioned already. You've seen all the rest. Those three were nasty and not worth publishing. Suffice it to say, they sided with Angela.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Forced to Blog Before November

For anyone showing up at this blog because of a posting by Angela Hoy at, let me inform you that this blog lies dormant, with a few exceptions, except during the month of November. Thus, it's name....Write Nonfiction in November. Occasionally, I am prompted to write something newsworthy, as I did when the Amazon/Booksurge issue was all the talk in the publishing world and when I felt the desire to promote a writing conference, which I did in June (my last posting...not in April, as Angela claimed). I feel the need to at least explain that, should you think this blog is "dead," as she incorrectly reported. It is not dead; it lying in wait until November when the challenge begins again.

As for Angela's need to make me so wrong, fine. If she wants to make assumptions about me, fine. If you want to know who I am and what I'm about, read my blog. Then you'll know the truth. Go to my website, and read my work or my bio or my resume. Ask my clients and my students what they think of me and my advice and my work. They know the truth. Go to my other website,, and learn about me as an author and a person, if you feel so inclined.

Angela doesn't know me at all. She is basing her judgements on a series of emails and even on my attempt to clarify a statement about writing for free. She says I misread her rudeness. Is it possible she misread anything in our communication or about me?

For more about writing for free, check back in November...when I will have something to say on the subject and some guest bloggers will offer their expertise and knowledge -- and their writing -- to this blog (for free), because sometimes being of service by supporting other writers is just the right thing to do.

And, by the way, please look for this blog at in the future. This year's challenge will take place there!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Here's a Unique Writing Conference for Change Agents

No, it's not November yet, and I've got no good news on the Amazon/BookSurge mess at this time (except to tell you that Angela Hoy at Booklocker is taking them on single handedly), but I'm back briefly to tell you about a really cool conference that's happening this summer. I'll be there volunteering, and I hope some of you will attend and introduce yourselves to me. My agents, Mike Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, who also put on the phenomenally-successful San Francisco Writers Conference each year, host this one as well. This year's event is the second annual Writing for Change Conference, but it promises to be just as superb as last year's conference and as the San Francisco Writers Conference, which I've recommended previously.

Mike and Elizabeth have some great speakers lined up. They are looking forward to hearing Mike Farrell, who is not yet even listed on the conference website as a speaker but will be there. Remember, you heard it here first... (Yes, this is the Mike Farrell from M*A*S*H. I can't wait to hear him either, but I'll be looking for Alan Alda to show up with a martini!) I'll also be scoping out the best seat for Lynn Andrews and Gay Hendricks.

Will you be sitting next to me? I hope so!

Anyway, here's the scoop:

August 16 & 17, 2008
at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco (in Chinatown)

Writing for Change is a conference devoted to non-fiction writing that brings about positive change, from the personal to the planetary. The theme of the conference is “Saving the World One Book at a Time.” The speakers will talk about change in politics, culture, business, marketing, technology, spirituality, social issues, the environment, health & nutrition, international relations, food, medical services, personal development and the criminal justice system.

2007 Keynote speaker, Dr. Phillip Zimbardo, when asked how a book could change the world said "A book can make shy people learn they are not alone; rather, their condition is widely shared, and so open them up for self-change. Another book can change conceptions about evil as not rooted in bad seeds or personality defects, but in social situations and systems of social control, which can instigate revolutions in legal theory and shifts from medical models of treatment to public health paradigms."

Attendees will be able to learn from authors, editors, agents, and publishing professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York, and get feedback on their work.

Registration ($395) includes two breakfasts and two lunches.

Writers can register online and learn more at, 415-673-0939,, or at 1029 Jones St., San Francisco, 94109.

The Hotel Kabuki is offering a wonderful room rate of $129 per night. Click here to find out more about this unique travel destination.

Check out the Writing for Change blog at

2008 Keynote Speakers (more to come):

Gay Hendricks - has served for more than 30 years as one of the major contributors to the fields of relationship transformation and body/mind therapies. Along with his wife, Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks, Gay is the author of many bestsellers, including Conscious Loving, Spirit-Centered Relationships, The Corporate Mystic, and Five Wishes.

Wes 'Scoop' Nisker - is an author, radio commentator, Buddhist meditation teacher and performer. Author of Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again and The Big Bang, The Buddha and the Baby Boom, Nisker delivers "instant therapy."

Lynn V. Andrews - is a 21st Century Shaman and mystic life coach and bestselling author of Spirit Woman, Medicine Woman and Writing Spirit. Lynn has spent the past 25 years studying with shamanic women on three continents.

Click here to hear Michael and Elizabeth speaking about the upcoming conference on Harlots' Sauce Radio

Purchase tapes of the 2007 Conference - Tapes are available at or 1-888-VWTapes

Co-Founders: Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen, AAR and partners in Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents.

More information is also available by calling 415-673-0939 or sending a request to 1029 Jones Street, San Francisco, California 94109. Or go to

Hope to see you there! In the meantime, I'm writing a book about consciously creating change, and Mike is peddling it for me. What have you been up to since last November? Maybe next year at this time I'll be speaking at the Writing for Change Conference. Will you be joining me on the podium?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Feds Drop the Ball; Will You Pick It Up?

According to Angela Hoy's latest report, the Feds have dropped the ball
and its up to authors and writers to pick it up and start writing letters.
Will you heed the call? Here's the latest from

(Sorry for the formatting problems...)

April 30, 2008

Special Report

Was the Washington State Attorney General's Office Bamboozled? It's Time to Submit Your Amazon/Booksurge Complaints to the Feds!

By Angela Hoy

Two weeks ago, I was walking through Washington, DC, and discussing the Amazon/Booksurge situation with my brother-in-law. I just happened to look to my right and realized we were right next to the Department of Justice. For some reason, I felt compelled to take a photo. Weird, huh?

The Washington State Attorney General issued a weak statement about Amazon/Booksurge last week. I will include it in its entirety below, along with my comments.

The Washington Attorney General's Antitrust Division has received many complaints regarding the new "print on demand" or "POD" policy recently implemented by We want to thank all of those who have brought this matter to our attention and who have provided information and insight into the questions. We appreciate the concerns that have been expressed.

We have reviewed each of these complaints and we have contacted Amazon to explore the concerns that have been raised. Amazon responded to our inquiry by directing us to a publicly posted "Open Letter to Interested Parties" in which they describe their new policy.

The "Open Letter to Interested Parties" is posted on the Internet at Some of the complaints that we have received state that Amazon is refusing to sell books printed by Lightning Source or other POD publishers, and will only sell POD books printed by BookSurge. In its "Open Letter to Interested Parties", Amazon addresses this question:

Do I need to switch completely to having my POD titles printed at Amazon?

No, there is no request for exclusivity. Any publisher can use Amazon's POD service just for those units that ship from Amazon and continue to use a different POD service provider for distribution through other channels.

Alternatively, you can use a different POD service provider for all your units. In that case, we ask that you pre-produce a small number of copies of each title (typically five copies), and send those to us in advance (Amazon Advantage Program-successfully used by thousands of big and small publishers). We will inventory those copies. That small cache of inventory allows us to provide the same rapid fulfillment capability to our customers that we would have if we were printing the titles ourselves on POD printing machines located inside our fulfillment centers. Unlike POD, this alternative is not completely "inventoryless." However, as a practical matter, five copies is a small enough quantity that it is economically close to an inventoryless model.

The complaints that we have received have come from across the country. It appears that the markets involved are national in scope. Thus, it may be more appropriate to refer this matter to one of the federal antitrust agencies for review.

For these reasons, and based on the information that has been provided to us, the Attorney General's office does not plan further action on this matter. However, and as noted before, this is not a conclusive legal opinion and anyone feeling that they have been harmed and wish to pursue a remedy should consider consulting with private counsel.

If you have additional information or have evidence that what Amazon is representing is not true, please feel free to contact us.
Sincerely,Brady JohnsonAssistant Attorney GeneralAntitrust DivisionWashington StateOffice of Attorney General


When I first read the note above, I was stunned! Are they KIDDING!? They let a company use a PUBLIC STATEMENT, which probably took hours to write and tweak in an attempt to sway public opinion, as an acceptable response to a possible investigation by the Washington State Attorney General's Office?!


According to the statement above, it doesn't appear the Attorney General (AG)'s office discussed this with Amazon at all (other than to read a canned statement!). Uh, does this strike anyone else as odd? Hundreds of people complain about a company and ask the government to investigate. The government contacts the company, the company says, "Hey, look at our public statement", they do, they don't ask anybody any questions, and then say they're finished?

I was the first one to alert the AG's office to Amazon's actions. I provided detailed information. Other than to initially call to ask for some contact information and to confirm they received my email, they never contacted me again to ask if Amazon's actions or public statement were truthful or if they told the whole story (they didn't!). As far as I'm concerned, reading a company's public statement is NOT an investigation. Heck, it's not even in inquiry!

Did any of those who submitted a complaint to the AG receive any follow-up questions from them at all? If you did, please let me know. If you did not, the AG let us all down and failed miserably in their job (which is to FULLY investigate companies that may be violating the law).


Amazon says they need to get paid to print all POD books so they can marry products together for fewer shipments, blah, blah, blah...
As I wrote previously, Amazon's statement doesn't reveal that the Advantage Program (we've always called it the DISadvantage Program) requires payment to Amazon/Booksurge of $29.95/year, PLUS 55% of the sale of each book, PLUS the shipping costs to get the books to Amazon. And if they need to return the books to you in the future, guess who gets to pay for the shipping for those, too? You do!
Amazon's statement also says they "only" need 5 copies of each book. Uh huh. Here's a huge hole in their argument that nobody seems to be talking about. If they need copies of all books in all their distribution facilities (10 facilities in the U.S. so far?) in order to marry products, why do authors only need to ship 5 books... to 1 of their facilities? Wouldn't they need authors to ship at least 1 copy of each book to all 10 distribution facilities in order for the "marrying products" argument to hold any weight?

Do you think they make the Advantage Program so disadvantageous in an attempt to get more people to use their POD service? If you do, you're definitely not alone!
You can read about more holes in their "statement" in comments posted by one of their former employees HERE.


I can never prove this of course, and it's pure speculation, but I wonder if some AG offices purposely allow some huge companies avoid an in-depth investigation because of all the money they're generating for that particular state?


I guess the only good news is that they admit the matter might be national in scope (duh). However, they don't tell you how to complain to the feds. That's okay. I'm happy to do that!


According to the DOJ website:
Sherman Antitrust Act
"An unlawful monopoly exists when only one firm controls the market for a product or service, and it has obtained that market power, not because its product or service is superior to others, but by suppressing competition with anticompetitive conduct."
I'm no lawyer but, to me, that sure sounds like what Amazon might be trying to pull!
"Information from the public is vital to the work of the Antitrust Division. Your e-mails, letters, and phone calls could be our first alert to a possible antitrust violation and may provide the initial evidence needed to begin an investigation."

How to File a Complaint
If you have information about a possible antitrust violation or potential anticompetitive activity, please contact us by e-mail, regular mail, or phone. We recommend that you use the following questions as a guideline when describing your complaint:

What are the names of companies, individuals, or organizations that are involved?
How do you believe they have violated the antitrust laws?
Can you give examples of the conduct that you believe violates the antitrust laws? If so, please provide as much detail as possible.
What is the product or service affected by this conduct? Where is the product manufactured or sold, or where is the service provided?
Who are the major competitors that sell the product or provide the service?
What is your role in the situation in question?
Who is harmed by the alleged violations? How are they harmed?

To make it easier for them to sort their emails, consider putting "Amazon/BookSurge" in the subject line of your email.
E-mailantitrust.complaints - at -
MailCitizen Complaint CenterAntitrust Division950 Pennsylvania Ave., NWRoom 3322Washington, DC 20530
Phone1-888-647-3258 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) or 202-307-2040


The Washington State Attorney General closed with this: "If you have additional information or have evidence that what Amazon is representing is not true, please feel free to contact us."

I hate to admit that I knew they weren't going to do anything to Amazon when they failed to follow-up and ask me additional questions...or contact me again at all. I knew they'd drop the ball and disappoint us all.

Here's what I think. If they were really doing their jobs and had read all the complaints submitted to them, they'd already have plenty of information regarding the holes in Amazon's public statement. I also believe that even if you or I or a hundred other people contacted them to follow-up on this, it would be a waste of time.

They also appear to pass the buck when they tell you that you should hire your own attorney if you feel you've been harmed.

PLEASE SUBMIT (antitrust.complaints - at - YOUR COMPLAINTS REGARDING AMAZON/BOOKSURGE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE TODAY! If you want, send us a copy, too, and we'll publish it on
You can read more about the Department of Justice complaint process HERE.

We're continuing to post updates regarding the Amazon/Booksurge Ultimatum HERE.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Will Amazon/BookSurge Send Authors Running from PODs to Traditional Publishing Houses?

Well, things are still smoldering away at the Amazon/BookSurge bonfire. The flames have died down, but the fire's definitely not out. I'm posting below all the news from Angela Hoy and She does it much better than I do.

Before I let you read the news, however, let me just say that after reading Angela's most recent posting, which came in her newsletter, I began to wonder if some authors who might prefer to self-publsh using POD technology aren't going to reconsider finding and agent and going the traditional publishing route. If they are going to have to wait around for a long time -- and it could be a long time -- for the Amazon/BookSurge fire to be put out (if it is put out and doesn't instead get fanned into a blazing bonfire that consumes all the POD publishers), they might just as well sign a traditional publishing contract and wait that 18 months or so for their book to be published. They'll still have to do the same amount of publicity, but they'll save some money, get the clout that comes with a traditional publishing contract and be sure to have that coveted "buy" button on Amazon. Of course, they'll lose some control over the publishing process and some royalty money as well.

I don't know. I'm still standing with a foot on both sides of the fence. My agent is peddling one of my books to traditional publishers, and I'm about to market another to a small, traditional niche publisher. I've got another book project, however, that will likely go to my little POD (I'm not naming names at this point...) whose "buy" buttons are all still on. And they are still producing my booklets for me as well. I just came up with another short book idea, and I plan to self-publish that one as well.

What's the consensus? Continue self-publishing anyway, hold out or change gears and go traditional?

Here's Angela's latest:

April 23, 2008

Special Report

Amazon/Booksurge Ultimatum Update By Angela Hoy

Here's what's happened in the last week or so:
* Arriving a bit late to the party, but welcomed nonetheless, the National Writers Union finally issued a statement last week. As expected, like SPAN, the Author's Guild, ASJA, and others, the NWU is publicly condemning Amazon's actions. "The National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 strongly opposes Amazon's new restriction on the print-on demand market and calls upon Amazon to immediately withdraw this monopolistic intrusion, or face our call for investigations by the Justice Department and Congress."
* Publisher's Weekly reported this week that it appears AuthorHouse/iUniverse is going to tithe to the Amazon/Booksurge God (my analogy, not theirs). WritersWeekly reported the same thing three weeks ago.
* Authors are nervous. One POD author notified us that he decided to stop the publishing process of his new book with his publisher because of the Amazon situation. We, too, have been fielding numerous emails of doubt from authors. Many don't want to use Booksurge but feel they will be forced to do so, in addition to using a printer that has Ingram distribution (considered imperative for bookstore sales). We've also read discussions online that show some authors are holding onto their manuscripts until they know which way this boat is going to turn. Unfortunately, if the government is involved (it is), they might have to wait a long, long, long time. Authors are understandably nervous about using Booksurge because of their reputation. Authors are also upset about paying double setup fees.
* Some authors have threatened to abandon POD publishers who are signing with Amazon/Booksurge because they value their reputations too much to risk having a poorly printed book with their name on it.
* Some authors are saying they will refuse to work with Amazon/Booksurge based strictly on principal. They would rather sell fewer books than be forced to pay more
money for something they think is unfair... and that may even be illegal.
* Xlibris finally responded to WritersWeekly's request for information... by saying really nothing at all. Their lack of information is included in this statement, "We apologize that we are unable to comment on the subject below as we are still standing by for the official communication from the higher management and our partners. As of this writing, it is still business as usual with" Why do you think the statements issued by these on-the-fence publishers look so similar? Gosh (snicker), it almost looks like they were written by the same person. Hmmm...
* One POD publisher who was given the ultimatum reported they thought the program might be on hold while another publisher later reported being heavily pressured to immediately sign the contract.
* WritersWeekly has been contacted by numerous small publishers who have already been contacted by Amazon/Booksurge, or who fear they're next on the list, most of whom want to remain under Amazon's radar for as long as they can.
* Numerous authors, publishers and even book buyers have contacted Amazon/Booksurge to voice their anger directly, but are either ignored or receive a canned statement. reports, "With Amazon's growing power in book sales, it's understandable that publishers may be a bit anxious on learning that in Amazon's 10-k filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company lists among its many competitors not just bookstores but also publishers."

Wish I had good news for you but I don't. So, don't let your guard down. It's not over and it likely won't be over for a long time.

We're posting updates regarding this situation HERE.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Latest News on the Amazon/BookSurge Debacle

Best I can tell, the fire seems to be dwindling over at Amazon/BookSurge. Amazon's not stoking it since everyone got all up at arms about them threatening to turn off those "buy" buttons. And the general reading public hasn't even gotten wind of it yet. When it does, I think they'll stand by their authors and boycott Amazon.

Has anyone seen any articles on this topic in the mass media? I'm not a big news buff, so I haven't seen much. My husband, however, reads two news magazines and hasn't mentioned seeing anything published in either of them. I'm surprised that some of the business journals haven't seen the smoke and run to check out what's burning. The New York Times ran a story initially confirming the the fact that Amazon had, indeed, taken this new approach to business, but since then has there been much press? Do readers know that authors and publishers are being given the squeeze by Amazon? Has anyone begun the sharing of information that will lead to public outcry? A good boycott by authors might be just the thing Amazon needs right now...that and the PODs to make good on BookSurge's offer to stock a few printed copies of all their authors' books. I'd like to see them try that!

According to some letters that Angela Hoy has published on her website (, turns out BookSurge hasn't been on the up and up with its authors all along. In some cases, their books aren't being listed on Amazon in Canada and in Europe, even thought BookSurge promised the books would be. Add this to the crooked covers and other mistakes...

A friend of mine who offers POD publishing services through her company and uses BookSurge to provide that service showed up at my house this weekend with a copy of her own self-published book. She had to ask BookSurge to fix a fair number of pages that had a boxed "x" in place of another letter. What letter? It didn't seem to matter. Every once in a while, that boxed "x" just showed up in place of another letter. She had to read the whole book to find all the errors. She said she knew they'd had quality issues in the past but figured by now they would have gotten them handled. I guess she figured wrong.

My agent told me to print with BookSurge. I disagree both ethically and practically. I'll probably use Lightning Source, either directly or through the small POD in my town, which actually uses Lightning Source's printing services. And that POD's "buy" buttons are still all "on." And they told me their authors are doing a great job right now selling on Amazon. Go figure.

I wonder: Do you have to be a big POD to get your "buy" buttons turned off by Amazon? That doesn't seem quite fair.

In any case, here's the latest news -- straight from and Angela Hoy:

Thursday, April 17, 2008: Xlibris appears to still be hemming and hawing. They finally responded to Angela's email of March 25th, saying, "We apologize that we are unable to comment on the subject below as we are still standing by for the official communication from the higher management and our partners. As of this writing, it is still business as usual with" Is it just us or are all of the big POD publishers' statements starting to sound like broken records?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - The National Writers Union is also publicly condemning Amazon's actions. "The National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 strongly opposes Amazon’s new restriction on the print-on demand market and calls upon Amazon to immediately withdraw this monopolistic intrusion, or face our call for investigations by the Justice Department and Congress."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Good News for Bloggers...A Breath of Fresh Air in the Amazon/BookSurge Fire Storm

Just for a brief change of subjects -- and an equally brief posting, for the first time ever, Time magazine released its list of the top 25 blogs. Yes, its experts went out to the blogosphere and researched and read who knows how many blogs and chose 25 that they deemed the best of the best. You can find them at,28757,1725323,00.html. (You can also find the five most overrated blogs there as well!)

With agents trolling around on the web and picking up blogs and turning them into books, blogging has turned into a big deal for authors these days -- especially nonfiction authors. (If you don't know about this, try Googling "Julie and Julia" for a start.) And, as I've said before, they are a fabulous way to help you build a platform.

Be carefully, though, not to get caught up in the pressure of blogging. My husband recently showed me an article about two bloggers who died of heart attacks. The reporter attributed their untimely deaths to the stresses of blogging!

I was excited to see my favorite Jewish blogger, the Velveteen Rabbi (, in the top 25. That gave me some hope of having my other blog -- the one related to my books ( -- discovered one day!