Saturday, July 02, 2005


[Because a Supreme Court justice resigned this week, the entire country is going to be plunged into a left vs. right debate on.... abortion... yet again. So I thought I would publish a few thoughts about the subject from my personal perspective.]

No one "likes" abortion. Even the most wide-eyed radical femi-nazi does not advocate abortion as a means of birth control. No one wants to have an abortion.

I understand the views of all sides, and I'm just as confused as everyone else.

However, I am sure of one thing. We should never go back to how it was when I was a young man.

When I was a freshman in college in 1965 (U. of Virginia) I had a girlfriend (believe it or not!) named Becky. She went to one of the women's colleges not far from Mr. Jefferson's University. Anyway, her roommate, Susan, and I used to go everywhere together. Sometimes Susan had a date, sometimes not. It didn't matter We were like the "gang of three" always going out, and doing what today would be called "good clean fun" (no dope, no hard booze, etc.)

It was a simpler life back then. Virginia was about 3 years behind the rest of the country so while other college kids were doing weed, we were still drinking beer... and happy to do that! We had dances. We had parties. We had actual dates. We had friends... and it was a sincere kind of friendship, not like it is with kids today. We had fun.

As often happens, I came to like Susan better than Becky, but of course never said or did anything about it. I could have played that role in the movie St. Elmo's Fire.... the kid who likes the girl but never says anything, just tries to hang out around her.

Susan was a 10, and back then I was a skinny, very-Jewish-looking guy, too short, with bad acne, bad hair, thick glasses, and a real dumpy car. I knew it was hopeless but I really liked Susan. Maybe I was "dumb looking" but I wasn't dumb. I knew Susan never saw anything in me, never would, and that was that. But there was always a little bit of hope that I carried around with me... and it was good to have that hope in my life.

During semester break Becky went home, but Sue stayed at school. She called me and said we should go to dinner one night. I borrowed $20 from my roommate and made reservations at the Monticello Hotel dining room. I had the hope.

You don't find places like the Monticello Hotel anymore. It was "old South" elegant, semi-dark, candles, and had something very special for us at that age... tablecloths.

I wore a bad-fitting suit, but Sue had that little black dress... (not to get confused with Bobbie Brooks.) I'd never been out with a girl in a dress that showed what that dress showed.
In the candle light (we all look good in candle light!) I was transfixed by her beauty and her "adult-ness." It was the first time I'd ever been out with a real "woman." We talked music, politics, literature, and almost solved the problems of poverty and world peace! It was a night like none I'd ever had before.

I took her back to her dorm, gave her a friendly peck on the cheek (in that awkward teenage way) and knew that something special had happened to me that night. I became an adult myself. It's amazing what changes us.

Becky was a nice girl, sweet, but it was Sue that I really liked. However, back then, guys like me knew their place in the social order and that girls like Sue were beyond our reach. It was OK (I kept telling myself) to just be good friends. And it really was OK. All of us. It was a great time to be alive, to be young, and to just live.

Around the middle of that year Susan met a guy... I think his name was Joel, had un-protected sex and she became pregnant.

And no, I didn't have un-protected sex. I didn't have sex at all because I drove a Plymouth Valiant and girls (especially Becky!) didn't put out in a Plymouth. I didn't get "lucky" until my junior year... her name was Donna... the body of a Playboy bunny, a face like 30 miles of bad road... and a hell of a nice girl whom I've never forgotten. Maybe she reads these rants. You never know. But I digress.

Sue's boyfriend had some money (something none of the rest of us had much of) and arranged for what you would call a "back alley" abortion in Richmond. Abortion was not legal in Virginia (or anywhere else that I knew of back then, except Sweden.) Becky took Susan there. I didn't go.

Becky told me the story. She said the place was an apartment, dirty, and, in her words "creepy." She didn't tell me about the procedure... it wasn't something that boys and girls talked about back then.

A day or two after the procedure something bad happened. Susan started bleeding, first a little bit, then more, and then it was, as Becky said, in buckets. She was rushed to the hospital... ambulance, sirens, flashing lights, the whole thing.

She didn't make it.

The funeral was very beautiful. It was the first one I'd ever been to. The minister gave a nice speech. But, all I saw was a beautiful young girl in an open casket, and I've never forgotten it. I can still feel the sadness.

It wasn't long after that, just before the end of the spring semester that Becky and I broke up. She went home that summer and married a lifeguard at the pool she worked at. I went on to other girls (who would not have sex with me.... probably because I still had that damn Plymouth.)

No I didn't become a pro-choice zealot. And I don't pontificate on the "morals" of abortion.

All I know is that a young girl that I knew and loved died needlessly.

I think about her sometimes. That night at dinner. The candlelight. I remember it so well.

She was a really nice girl and I was in love.

I wish I had told her.

Alan N. Canton, President
Adams-Blake Publishing

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A BEA DIARY - 2005

Tuesday, 5/31/2005

I don't think anyone has written a book about flying at night, but one should be written because there is a certain thrill and anticipation about taking off from the West coast at midnight and landing in New York City just five hours later, ready to embark on an adventure.

And make no mistake, BEA (BookExpo America) in the Big Apple is always and adventure, if not in the people you meet then in the sheer energy you absorb... compounded by the swings from exhaustion to enthusiasm and sometimes to the 'joie de vie' of just 'being there.'

I checked into my garment-district hotel and grabbed the first of many, many cabs up to the Marriott Marquis Hotel, where the Publishers Marketing Association was holding its annual Publishing University.

I'm critical of the PMA for all of the things it doesn't do, but when it comes to putting on outstanding seminars, the PMA has always been the best of the best... and I expected the same this year as well... yet I would be surprised. "Hey Canton, you look good. Did you have some work done?" I heard the familiar voice of Dan Poynter call out. "Work done" is the code-word in La-La land where Dan lives for having a face-lift, a tummy-tuck, or a boob-job.

"Yeah, I'm now a 38-D," I replied.

It was always good to start the day talking with Dan, as I do from time to time via phone. To start PMA-U with 'the man' could be considered an omen. "Let's have lunch, my treat" the Oracle of publishing said.

But before I could answer, guess who shows up? Here is a hint. Who always magically materializes when the topic of free lunch is mentioned? Yes, you're right. The lovely and talented Mayapriya Long, book designer for Rolling Stone as well as others lucky to get on her book design dance-card. "We accept" she says to Dan. Big surprise. You know about being in the right place at the right time? When it's lunch, and when someone else is paying, Maya is right there.

As with Dan, Maya and I talk from time to time but it had been a while. Each year since the invention of ink (or so it seems) we have shared the same booth at PMA-U, with Maya talking to publishers about her design service and me showing off our Jaya123 web service.

We told Dan we would meet him later and we proceeded to set up the booth and catch up on events.

Big things are happening for Mayapriya. Her Bookwrights company has broken through to the 'next level' and is doing more and more work for larger New York publishers who have very exacting standards and who can afford to hire anyone they wish. She has a major project in progress for Rolling Stone and is talking to Little Brown and others. She had a whole dance-card full of New York appointments this week... but she said she likes to balance her work, taking as much or more work from Independent and micro publishers.

She said the NY houses are not as fun to work with as indies, hence her table at PMA-U. Plus she now has some folks working under her that she needs to keep busy. I hope she has to take THEM to lunch!

It was good to see Jan Nathan, Executive Director of PMA, along with her son Terry and her daughter-in-law Andrea. PMA is a family operation and you could not ask for a nice family to be a member of. Lots of folks have a problem with what PMA does or doesn't do, but everyone likes Jan and her minions.

PMA has expanded the "U" and Tuesday is almost a full day of classes, while in the past it was mostly a registration and "kick-off" day. Thus, a lot of the students were registered for the whole schedule and the vendors saw more of them then in Tuesdays of the past.

As promised, Dan came by and we followed him to the hotel restaurant for lunch. Dan has taken up the mantle of opposing Bowker for their constant increase in ISBN prices and he is advocating that there be other agencies empowered to 'market' ISBNs, along the lines of how web URLs are sold and registered. We had a long talk about the issue and I told Dan I would do whatever he wished in tilting at the Bowkers windmill. He said he was going to have a meeting with them during the week and we came up with a list of issues he should raise.

Back at the booth I met more potential Jaya123 victims (oops, I mean customers) while Maya went to one of her 'big-time' appointments in the city. When class began, I walked around and talked to some of the other vendors. None of the printers are working at capacity and were more concerned at a potential increase in paper prices due to demand from China and other developing lands.

I asked about the Jenkins Group Printellectual program and none of the printers thought it did a whole lot for them. The margins in printing are just too low for them to give away any more of their profit points. Finally, the green paper 'revolution' is starting to take hold, however one of the vendors said that it takes more energy to create recycled stock than kill trees. Until I see an independent study on the issue, my mind is still open.

It was good to see Barry Merrill at Alexander's Digital. I've been a customer of theirs and recommend their work. However I had a nice conversation with their competitors, Fidlar Doubleday and maybe next time I'll get a bid from them as well. I want to expand our publishing division via the paradigm that has worked for us... information we can sell to business and government, not the trade, for obscene margins! For example this book, MoveIT sells only 200 copies a year... but it sells for $100 each and I have about a $75 profit with no returns. What if you had ten of these? Do the math!

I had a nice chat with Becky Pate, the gran fromage of Central Plains Book Manufacturing and neither of us has heard from Marty Gilliland in a long time so we don't know if he is still in the printing business with United Graphics or not. Marty's dad used to own Gilliland Printing which later morphed into Central Plains. Marty and I were good friends but he seems to have dropped out of sight.

As the day wound down I had good feelings about the publishing business... feelings I had not had in the past several years. Maybe the bad times were behind us. I'd know more when the BEA opened in a few days, but the first day of PMA-U had been a good one.

Wednesday 6/1/2005

The first few hours of the PMA-U are always exciting because of all the new faces you get to meet. Before the seminars begin the students visit the vendors and learn about some of the products and services available. Of course, I had my trusty laptop computer in order to demonstrate our Jaya123 order-entry, invoicing, and back-office system for publishers and other small businesses.

One of the first to come see me was Eric Feder who has a book on where to park in Manhattan. It's a great concept and should do well if he markets it correctly.

Erik getting pointers from Poynter

An old friend who came to chat was David Cole,joined by Deb Robson. David is a consultant in the San Francisco area and Deb owns Nomad Press which does books on knitting and textiles and will soon be doing some YA titles.

Deb, David, and Maya .... all hoping I'll take them to lunch!

About the only real PMA news is that they are "changing" the name to: PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. I have no idea why, or what it means. My guess is that they will STILL do nothing but just have a fancy and longer name to do it with :-)

Of course there was no "new business' at the required 'annual meeting' because PMA never lets the membership have any kind of a say in what goes on and what is done with their dues. They did announce that they had their 4,000th member, an all-time high, so why should they change anything? Jan and family are making money, no one seems to give a damn that the PMA is an emperor with no clothes, and the dues just roll in. I wish my business ran so well!

After lunch I spoke to more of the students about Jaya123 and was happy that there was so much interest. And while class was in session I strolled around meeting some of the first-time vendors. I was surprised to see Kirkus Reviews and Book Standard there. I learned that Kirkus wants to shed it's 'dowdy' image and go 'modern.' VNU Media wants to be a player in the same league as PW. I wish them luck as Foreword never wanted to take on that role... and someone should!

Francis the Kirkus 'babe' at her Book Standard booth

And talking about Foreword, Victoria Sutherland again had a booth at PMA. I don't know why she does this since she gets little if any support from PMA in the form of advertising. PMA often 'buys' a cover of PW (which is being changed.... no more covers for sale.)

And it was good to see my old friend Gene Schwartz, one of the patriarchs of this business. The buzz about Victoria is that she wrote a private letter to her closest 4,000 friends in the business complaining about PWs new make-over... and ended up pissing off a lot of folks. I have not seen the letter so I don't know more than that.

Victoria (an original official Book Babe and Gene Schwartz (the grand old man of publishing)

As the day wore on I was visited by a bunch of old friends... and one of my favorite is the Queen of Booklets, Paulette Ensign who has made a zillion dollars teaching people how to make money in short subjects. Paulette ONLY wears purple. I don't know why. Take it up with her if you want to know!

Paulette wearing purple.... as usual

At the end of the day the PMA staff started putting out the Ben Franklin nominated books in preparation for the banquet. I had other plans and would miss the ceremony but I took a long look at this year's crop of books and marveled at how far the small press has come in the past ten years. Every book on the table could have come from a "New York" publisher... that's how good they looked.

I found Mayapriya and wished her good luck as one of her books was up for the Best Redesign award. If anyone deserved a B.F. it was Mayapriya, but book design is a very subjective area so one can never predict who the winners will be. I packed up my computer and went off to my dinner appointment.

Thursday, 6-2-2005

Walking into the PMA area of the hotel I saw Mayapriya with a big smile. "I won, I won, I won" she said. "And that means an extra good lunch because I WON." I was really happy for her. Sometimes there is justice in the world. In fact it must have been justice day in book-world as Peter Goodman ALSO won a Ben Franklin award. After all the years he has been in the biz he deserved one... if for no other reason than just staying in business! Thursday is always the "killer" day at PMA-U.

All the folks that did not see the vendors on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was most of them, line up on Thursday. I spoke with a zillion people who came by the booth. Usually Mayapriya's covers are the big draw, but this year I think I equaled her as there was a lot of interest in Jaya. People like the idea of a web-based solution where they don't have to install any software and can use it anywhere in the world. Publishers understand that to be successful they have to have an office infrastructure that is easy to use and which 'works'. Jaya123 does both... and a lot of my customers came over to tell me so which made me feel good.

While people were at the booth I asked about how they liked PMA. The answers I got were not what I expected. Most years people rave about the program, but this year I got a lot of "I wasn't too impressed" comments. PMA says they made some changes but since I had not been to any of the sessions (except Dan Poynter's wonderful parody on how The Bible was printed) I could only go by what I was told. And what I was told was not reassuring... at least not if I were on the PMA board.

The one thing I heard over and over is that PMA jammed too many speakers on the panels and there was too much 'selling' by the panelists. Think that maybe PMA needs to establish some guidelines on this issue... or PAY the speakers so that they won't feel a need to 'sell' to "make the gate" so to speak. One of the most knowledgeable people in the biz was at PMA, Brian Judd came this year with yet a different 'wife.' It's an old inside joke, started by Dan Poynter. See last year's BEA Diary if you want to be 'in' on it.

Brian with yet a 'new' wife.

The keynote address was the worst that was ever given... even worse than last year. It was so bad I don't even remember who the speaker was. I walked out to make some calls as did a lot of others. You'd think that after last year's disaster speaker the PMA would come up with someone "better" but this year was another dud.

And don't take my word for it. Ask anyone who was there. Big snoozer!

As the day wore on and I met with lots of potential Jaya123 victims (opps, I mean customers) the talk started to gravitate away from PMA and on to the various parties being held tonight as well as to tomorrows BEA. A lot of the vendors grumbled that PMA did not hold an 'ending reception' as a last chance for people to see and speak to the vendors. In past years PMA would have an ice cream social or some kind of desert bar as the final gun sounded. Everyone used to look forward to this, but PMA decided not to do it this year. I suppose cost was a part of it.

And talking about food, the fare at both the PMA lunches was the worst it has ever been. Jan Nathan said that the prices were outrageous because it was New York. I suggested that maybe she should have opted for a smaller and less expensive hotel, but you can imagine what kind of a reception I got... same one I always get when I recommend anything to anyone on PMA.

On the whole, the PMA-U was a success for the vendors but a lot of the students were not as happy with the content of the courses and everyone bitched about the low quality of the food at the lunches.

But PMA-U was over and now part of the past. It was time to PARTY! First up was the Writers Collective reception. A lot of folks don't like Lisa Grant... and for good reason. She is successful... and a lot of folks in this business (as in academia) resent anyone who 'breaks out' and gets to the next level. And to be successful you sometimes have to "kick butt," something Lisa does well. She thinks out of the box and has some major plans for her company... not the least of which is taking on Ingram! We talked about her plans and ideas and while I can't say much now, you really want to keep your eye on this woman.

At the reception I saw Shel Horowitz and Mayapriya there. Maybe they were on a date or something! (Just kidding!) Anyway, Shel talked us into going uptown to Steve Carlson's reception for his Publisher's Assistant software. Shel is the subway maven so we took the train. I'm more of a cab person (Maya is more of a limo person!) so it was kind of fun.

Steve and I are direct competitors but we get along quite well. I also knew his wife many years ago in COSMEP days. So we went up to his suite in the Edison hotel for some Vermont cheese and wine. The cheese was good, but the wine would gag a goat! (Why every state in the union feels they can produce a quality wine is beyond me!) The only sour note of the event was the 'tude' of the programmer that Steve hired to write Publisher's Assistant. When Ron Lawrence found out who I was, he was colder than Vermont in Feb. What did he think I was going to do? Steal his code or something? Very unprofessional. Had he come up to my booth at PMA I would have been happy to answer anything he asked. There is nothing worse than a prima donna programmer.

As I understand it,the Steve SOLD Pub Assist to this guy and Steve does marketing and support. Because Lawrence was so rude, I'm not going to give him a link here. That will show him :-) What a PITA! Anyway, it was nice to meet Steve and see Lisa again after so many years.

After some bad wine and good cheese, we walked a few blocks to where the Pub-Forum list dinner was being held. For those who don't know what Pub-Forum is, it's the email-list with about 500 experienced publishers. While the Self-Pub and Pub-L lists are larger, they are mostly full of newbies. Pub-Forum is for those who have climbed (or slimed) to the next level in this industry. This dinner was put together by two of the most wonderful Book-Babes in the industry, Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak and Fern Reiss of Publishing Game fame.

Sharon and Fern looking good... as usual

I always like to meet up with my old friend Peter Goodman of Stonebridge Press. This year Peter had some big news... he had recently sold his company to a Japanese firm, which made sense seeing as how he does books on Japan. Peter was retained to run the company, probably at a huge salary... meaning that he will finally have to WORK for a living now.

Peter (at left) chatting up Erik's wife

It was also good to see the evil list-mom, Marion Gropen. Marion and I agree on nothing except that we both are good at kicking butt. Marion is one of the system admins of both Pub-Forum and Self-Publishing... meaning she has no life!

Marion, with Shel Horowitz and John Harnish

After the dinner, we went around the room where we were told to introduce ourselves and say something "interesting and unknown". I introduced myself as Harry Pariser. It got more than a few laughs, but nothing compared to Claire.

Claire Kirch brought down the house when she said "... and what is interesting about me is that I'm Al Canton's love child." Well that answers the question of "Who's your daddy!" :-) Claire is from Duluth and Dick is from North Carolina. We all agree that all the folks that left those areas to go to California raised the IQ all around.

Dick and Claire... California Dreamin'

Here is the entire group pix.... I'm in the white polo shirt on the left... just thought you'd want to know :-)

The top publishers in the small press

It was the night before BEA and all of us were curious as to what kind of show it would be and what buzz in the book biz would cut through the clutter. Many of us who have been around for the past several years know that the industry is in trouble. Young people are reaching for game consoles and not books. Trade publishers are caught in a cost/price squeeze... the retail and wholesale channel want lower prices or greater discounts while the cost of production continues to increase. There is only one thing that can save us. We all know what it is, but no one seems to talk about it anymore. E-books.

Will this be the year that we see some new reading tablets? Will this be the year that content becomes 'value'? Will this be the year that heralds in a new order, where there is some kind of parity between the small press and the large publishers? These were all the issues discussed at the various tables at the Pub-Forum list party. We all had predictions and we all knew that in less than 24 hours we might have some answers.

Friday, 6-3-2005

I say it every year... because every year it's true: The first day of BEA is like the first day of spring training in baseball... everyone's going to hit the ball out of the park, be an MVP, and win the World Series. And this is never more true then in the small press section, where mostly one-book publishers have plunked down a fair amount of cash in the hope that fortune will favor them.... that Katie Couric is just in the next aisle and headed their way... that the B&N buyer is going to place a huge order... that Terri Gross of Fresh Air is going to book them for an interview.

So every year when I first arrive at BEA I head on over to the Small Press section and every year I'm greeted by bright-eyed and bushy-tailed publishers waiting for that something special to happen. Well, if it happens it won't happen to more than a few of them because this year's crop of small press books were about the worst I've seen in years... the typical assortment of diet books, dumb self-help titles, and of course novels so bad that they were a total waste of good trees.

As I walked through the area and talked with some of the publishers I was amazed at how little most of these folks knew about publishing. They had not read any of the books, not subscribed to any of the list-serves and never heard of PMA or a local publishing association.

Maybe it was fitting that the first booth in the small press section was SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America ... why isn't it SPANA?) Scott Flora, the Executive Director of SPAN was very optimistic about the direction of the book industry and the small press in general. He is going to have his yearly seminar in Denver this October and I'm sure he will draw a good crowd of people. Scott is an optimist. You know the old joke. A pessimist says "Things can't get any worse." An optimist says "Sure they can!"

Scott Flora of SPAN. Always the optimist.

Each year I ask Scott to take a more active role in 'the politics' of the book biz, and each year I get a polite smile, his answer that this is just not his mission. I don't understand because its the ONE THING that could differentiate his organization from PMA... and he just does not get it. But that's his problem, not mine. We had a nice chat and I moved on.

One of the very successful publishers who should NOT be in the small press section is McPherson & Company. They have been around forever and they have the best T-Shirt I've ever seen in the book biz. On the front it says "I think therefore I read" and on the back "I read, therefore I think."

Mr. McPherson of McPherson & Company

Another 'winner' in the small press was the Sex Doctor, Dr. Darcy Luadzers. She has an interesting book called Virgin Sex. She's a licensed therapist and her book has received good reviews. It could break out if she can get some marketing and media going.

Dr. Darcy... can she sell sex or what?

I was taken with a guy who collects jokes. He's a cop who writes comedy on the side and has put together a series of small joke books that I'm sure will be bought by tons of public speakers. His name is Harry O (at least that's the name on his books) and he has a shot. He's very funny and my bet is that he will get a shot at the big time on late-nite TV.

Harry O has Jay Leno in his gunsights!

It was slim pickings in the small press area but one thing that did catch my eye was not a book, but a board game. With all the hoo-ha about spirituality and the religious right and so on, maybe this game, Enlighten, will catch on. I can't figure out why she brought it to a book show, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Only a blonde takes a board game to a book show?

It was getting to be lunchtime and you know what that means. YES, another BEA lunch I get to take Mayapriya to. And she was waiting for me at the PMA booth where everyone hangs when they are too tired to walk anymore.

The first impressions we all had of the show was that while it was very crowded, there was nothing we could find that was 'hot' or that had 'buzz'. It was just a random collection of books, with nothing all that exciting to be found.

After having lunch with Maya (talk about overpriced pasta) I went back downstairs to spend more time in the small press section, along with the sidelines and kiddie book publishers. The one thing that really amazed me was how much activity there was in the African-American area. There were a ton of publishers with booths there and the aisles were jammed. I didn't see anything all that different from previous years but I guess there was SOMETHING because the place was jumpin'. The one title I did see that I liked was called Matrix about dealing with the legal system. The author, a lawyer, has a good idea and it's a book that I would buy.... assuming he ever puts a good cover on it. It was butt-ugly!

Ugly cover (backdrop) for a good title that will sell.

I walked through the sidelines section and saw the usual array of stuff you find in bookstores. One item I've always liked is Robin K. Blum's "In My Book" bookmarks. There was nothing new this year that I saw as a must-have item.
Robin K. Blum, the queen of bookmarks

I was tired and I wanted to rest up and change for the IPPY party that night so I got on the bus for the ride back to my hotel. Everyone looks forward to Jerry's IPPY shindig. Each year it gets bigger and better and this year was no exception. As soon as I got there I ran into Jerry who introduced me to my "date" for the evening. If you've ever wondered what a short, funny-looking Jewish guy looks like standing next to a tall blonde goddess, well here you are. (And I wish I was a foot shorter!)

Wife? What wife? I have a wife?

Of course, you can't have a party without genuine book-babes and I ran into Claire Kirch and a friend standing next to the bar. And when Claire has a few belts in her, she is funny as hell. I don't know who the guy is, nor who the other babe is, but we had a nice chat. I struck out with both Claire and the babe!

Claire and her babe-friend.

I hope the guy was not husband... or I'm dead! You can't have an IPPY party without a sex-kitten and this year was no exception. Before the party kicks off, they award the IPPY prizes and my guess is that this book won for author in best leather outfit.

I don't remember the book but I remember the author!

There was a lot of good book-talk at the party as well as a great band. What I never knew about Mayapriya is that she is a dancing fool! The woman can cut a rug! I danced with her but she wore me out. It was a good thing Erik and his wife were there so she could dance with them! The food was good, the talk was good, the atmosphere was good, and the babes were GREAT. Jerry made me take a picture of him with THREE babes so that maybe he could live down his reputation of growing up in a neighborhood where every kid on the street got a football for Christmas and Jerry got a briefcase!

Whatever these babes were writing... Jerry was reading!

It was a great party.... best one Jerry has ever thrown and I thank him for it, as I'm sure does the entire book industry. But all good things must end and I found myself walking back to my hotel in the rain. But I didn't care. Life was good... as it always is after my third martini! Tomorrow would be another day.

Saturday, 6/4/2005

I met Mayapriya for a quick breakfast (on me, of course) and we caught the bus back to Javits for day two of BEA. I was done with the small press (downstairs) and started in what was called Premium Small Press in the 'main hall.' It was here that I saw one of the most beautiful books I'd see at the show. This was a coffee table tome called Into the Okavengo. The author/publisher (Burgoyne Publishing) took most of the pictures of the animals and wrote the poems. It was a stunning book.... and she had done everything wrong... she printed it in the USA spending a fortune, and did not understand that she had to sell this expensive tome to the gift trade and not the book trade. I sent her over the PMA and Jan Nathan told me later that the book should sell well to zoos and to the travel market. I loved this book. Please buy it as it deserves to be successful

A wonderful book, simply beautiful. A joy to see.

Not far from the picture book was a booth for This is yet another business targeting writers with the mission to help them get published. I don't know if they can survive the competition from iUniverse and AuthorHouse but you never know. They had the ONLY free T-shirt at the show so they get an honorable mention from me. Besides, they were cute.

The girls of Legwork

I found only ONE editor who took a booth at the show. She said business was really good and she was lining up all sorts of jobs, so maybe this might be a venue for others in the editing trade? There was also a book designer there but his pix didn't come out well.

The editor-owner of Blue Falcon
Later that morning I rounded a corner and saw the most amazing site... a huge white dog. Now you folks know that I'm a sucker for all dogs... but this dog was something else... probably the most beautiful dog I've ever seen. Amadeus, The Traveling Dog is the title of the book and these folks have a zillion dollar property on their hands if they do it right. I loved this dog and the book. The dog is only 2 years old and will make the town of Snellville, Georgia more famous than Duluth!

I'm the one in the tan jacket!

Before lunch I again went back to the PMA booth to get some opinions of the show. This time people were more convinced than ever that the book biz is in trouble because there is nothing really new, nothing that is going to get legions of young people to pick up books instead of cell-phone games. And we came to the conclusion that the show was crowded because the big publishers sent their secretaries, mail-room clerks, and janitors! When I came off of the lunch line I saw Gene Schwartz sitting alone so I joined him. We had a nice chat about the book biz, Foreword magazine, and old friends we had known... and who were no longer with us... like Gail Golumb.

That afternoon I went by a booth that just confounded me. I've seen some ugly and dumb booths before, but this was the worst. I spoke with the two women and left there even more unsure of what they were trying to sell. If you know what Book-Byte does, let me know!

It's a mystery to me!

It seems that there are more and more writer-based organizations these days. I knew of the Sisters in Crime women's mystery writers group, but I didn't know there was one for romance writers. At the booth was a woman signing what looked to be the only romance novel in the entire show! Hope Tarr's Tempting

Romance writer Hope Tarr... she won my heart :-)

In the kiddie section there was the usual array of books all hoping for a branding deal with Disney or Time-Warner. Not going to happen. However I saw one property that had potential. It was Sandy Claws and Chris Mouse. I'm no expert on children's books but I liked what I saw here and the husband-wife team seem to know what they are doing. They have a shot.

It could happen. You just never know in this genre

Coming around a corner I hear a voice saying "Canton, I thought you were banned from the BEA." I turned around and there was one of my official Book Babes (now a book mom) Julie Hardison of Midpoint Trade. Julie really knows what will sell in the book biz, and is the go-to girl at Midpoint. She and Gail Kump run the show and Eric Kaampman will agree (and he said so to me at his booth!) Julie and I had a nice chat and she was also of the opinion that there wasn't a whole lot to be excited about at this show. She invited me to the annual Midpoint pizza party but I had other plans already. It is always good to see her.

Is Julie a book-babe or what?

That was about it for the afternoon. I told Mayapria that I'd be her date for the Small Press party and we could share a cab. So off we went to the Splashlight Gallery to join about two hundred other small press party-hounds. And who should we meet but the past-PMA president Nick Weir-Williams along with his lovely new wife. The happy couple had a new baby and this was about the first time they had been 'out' in a while. It was good to see Nick as he had not been at previous BEAs while employed at Reed. Now he's a packager and has to do the marketing game so he gets out a bit more.

Good pix of Nick, lousy one of me!

Not long after arriving we ran into Peter Goodman. He said that he wanted to celebrate the sale of his company and asked if Mayapriya and I would join him for dinner... his treat. Now dinner in New York can cost a few bucks so we were very honored by his invitation. He took us to a lovely little Italian restaurant near his hotel on the upper west side. He and Maya talked about book design while I looked at the Italian girls who came in. I thought Peter would "retire" and become a book designer as he enjoys that kind of work and is good at it, but it seems his new boss (the firm that bought the company) has other plans for him. Anyway, dinner with Peter was the highlight of the day for me. There is no nicer man in the publishing biz than Peter Goodman. It's true.

Peter Goodman on right. Not sure who is at left.

It had been a long day and a fun night. I thanked Peter for dinner and decided to walk the twenty blocks downtown. It was a cool, clear night, the city was alive with people going here and there and my energy level was renewed by the hike. However by the time my head hit the pillow, I was out. Sunday, 6/5/2005 Everyone likes Sunday at BEA because it is not crowded. Did I say "not crowded?" Wrong. Make that read EMPTY. I had never seen a BEA day with fewer people in the place. Places like the main entrance which are usually teaming with people, was like a desert.

Where is everyone?

In the past, Sunday afternoon brought out the "Chrismas shoppers", mostly librarians and other book-folk willing to scarf up any book that was free to be used as gifts. Every major publisher had tons of ARCs (advanced reading copy) stacked up. In the 'old days' these were often of poor quality and simple covers. Not anymore. Short-run digital printing can create books that look just as good as those from giant web presses. And you didn't have to step over hordes of freebie-grabbers to get to them either.

You could open a bowling alley in the aisles

Of course the one book that I really WANTED was not being given away. This was a series of guides on where to take your dog in different cities. While this was not new, the treatment was fresh and clean. I liked how these were done... and no matter how much I complimented the publisher, she still wouldn't give me a copy. She had a zillion of them there, it was Sunday, most were bent or 'hurt' so what did she think she would be able to do with them? Another case of a publisher not knowing that they are in the SALES business, not the DISPLAY business!

She looks good, but not too smart, if you ask me!

Unlike past years we did not see much of Hollywood at the BEA. My guess is that the added profits of doing a tie-in with a book are just so small by entertainment industry standards that they don't want to bother with them. However there was one familiar face at BEA this year.

Hey, I like cats too!

I started to walk down the long aisles rented by the major distributors. They re-sell this space to their publishers and I've always wondered if it was a good investment. I guess it is as I see the same publishers in the same distributors booths each year. And one of them is old friend Janet Hardy of Greenery Press. No, she does NOT publish books about trees, believe me she really doesn't. If you are into whips and chains she's your girl (or guy... take your pick).

Janet is part of a whole 'nother world!

It was almost closing time and I had still not found a good business book. I gave up looking for any computer books (all the rage a few short years ago) but I thought I'd find a few good biz tomes. And after a short while I found one that I really liked, Rhonda Abrams' Successful Business Plan guide.

I KNOW good biz books and this is one of them!

By three in the afternoon it was so empty that the vendors were all starting to strike their sets and boxing up their wares. You can tell its over when the screech of tape-guns fills the hall and the sales reps are begging anyone who walks by to take anything they want! I wandered back to the PMA booth for one last consultation with others as to their 'take' on this year's BEA. It ended as it started. Nothing from nothing.

Had the show NOT been held, no one would have missed much. This year the book biz looks like it is suffering a creativity-gap. And the absence of most of the major media bore this out. I don't know why the big publishers who pay huge fees to Reed for booth space even bother. There are few if any bookstores who send reps, there was not much media coverage, and if there was a lot of rights buying, I didn't see or hear of it.

It seems to me that the BEA is becoming something like that old game we played as kids "You show me yours and I'll show you mine." Larger shows than BEA have gone the way of the dodo-bird. COMDEX used to be largest computer and software expo on the planet. It's gone. And I would not be surprised if BEA heads down the same path. There is no doubt that BEA is fun and that it's interesting (to a point) but is it worth the cost? I don't know, but I don't think so. It was over. While walking out I was trying to come up with an overall impression of the show when it appeared right in front of me. If there is one way to describe this industry than I think the following picture tells the story.

I've seen the future and it is us!

I walked out of the hall and in to a beautiful New York Sunday afternoon. E-books are coming I kept saying to myself. E-books are coming. All will be good again. Alan N. Canton, President Adams-Blake Company, Inc Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory,royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at:

I don't publish my e-mail address for obvious reasons. However if you wish to contact me about this piece there is a contact form here. Be sure to fill in your e-mail address if you want me to reply.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Another major Book Expo is almost upon us. For those who have been here before, I'm sure you have came away with your own lessons for success. A funny thing happens when you attend an industry convention. You become part of the "we can do anything" mindset and all the excitement tends to insulate and isolate you from true reality. Keep this in mind as you read further.

I have written my diary of these shows, which were a rather visceral reaction to the events and goings-on about me. I'm sure all who have attended could relate. But when the cold light of dawn has arrives to strip away the drunken haze of giddy enthusiasm it is time that those of us in this industry take a good look around and realize that all is not well in Ingram-land; as you surely can't call it Book-land.

I call it "Ingram-land" because Ingram is all around us; the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Ingram is doing print-on-demand. Ingram wants to become the Microsoft of books. Ingram seeks a vertical monopoly. Ingram can do what it wants, when it wants, and the rest of us have to just accept the fact that this one company holds the keys to distribution, and soon production.

It only takes about ten minutes of walking through the exhibit hall or any large B&N/Borders to realize that the world is awash in books. I estimate that there will be some 50,000 different titles on display at the next BEA. Are there ample readers out there to absorb all ofthis product? I don't think so. Do you? Does Ingram?

Well, to you and me, it makes a difference. But to Ingram, it does not. They take little risk and in return they make a huge reward. If I were to give a "Bogus" Ben Franklin award to the one company that has been right far more often than it has been wrong, that award would go to the evil empire of La Vergne. Nothing happens nor will it happen without the direct input, acceptance, and perhaps permission of Ingram. If the Merck Manual can win the Ben Franklin Book Of The Year, than there is no doubt that Ingram would win had there been a category for Monopoly Of The Year. Bill Gates and Microsoft? I wish the Justice Department had looked at Ingram instead.

Is an Ingram monopoly a bad thing? I think it is. But some disagree. However, it is hard to find anyone in this industry with the courage to speak out against what is most assuredly a monopoly at best, or a major controlling interest at worst. We all just lay back and accept that Ingram will have its way with us. What can you do against the only entity that holds the keys to the conduit to billions of dollars of retail book sales?

Having talked with many hundreds of publishers over the past two years, I come to the simple conclusion that we publishers do not control the publishing industry, but that the distribution channel is our goddess. This sector sets the discounts, they determine our cash flow and they make the decisions on what will be available to the book buying public and what will not. And they are so good at it, that they even have us believing that it is we who are in control. But we publishers are not that stupid. We know who controls the trade sector of our industry. It is not B&N or Borders or Amazon. It is Ingram. There is not a part of this industry where they are not a controlling factor.

I will be accused of not citing specific examples and for making some kind of ad-homonym attack on the sainted wholesaling entity that purports to be our rock and our redeemer. And maybe I overstate my case. But in my heart of hearts, I firmly believe that nothing happens in the retail and distribution sectors without the express consent of John Ingram and his band of merry monopolists.

Who is strong enough to stand against the tyranny of Tennessee? Maybe it is PMA?


In talking with publishers of all shapes and sizes over the past few years, I am more certain than ever that only we, the members of the small/mid-size press can make a difference. Most of the large houses are caught up in their own internal strife, consolidations, and general ignorance about this industry; being run by mostly bean-counters most of whom have never seen a book, much less read one. So who is listening? So who is there to speak out?

Is it Pat Schroeder at the AAP? No it is not. She and her band of corporate conglomerates are more interested in copyright issues than in seeing that our industry survives against the onslaught of electronic and digital media. I always hope for a merger between the small and large houses, but I don't see it in the cards. We have different agendas.

Is it the Book Industry Study Group? No. They are academics who are more interested in what has already happened then in what is destined to occur.

Is it us? Is it PMA?

Taken as a whole, the vast majority of this industry is made up of small 10-50 book-a-year publishers like you and me. We don't make a majority of the profits, but we do produce the majority of the product. And we are without a strong, firm voice in the industry. Indeed, we are the sleeping giant that, as one high level executive from John Wiley once told me, "we never want to awaken."

Even if you are a one book publisher you are part of a huge number of similar publishers. Even if you publish books that are so esoteric that they have created their own genre or category, you are part of a huge number of similar publishers. Even if you are a non-profit, or a university press, you are part of a huge number of similar publishers who share similar problems with distribution, slow payment, damaged returns, and low profitability.

Now what follows may make some of you uncomfortable. But it is the truth, like it or not. No matter what kind of publisher you are, how many titles you produce, or how much money you make or lose, there is only one organization that has the ability to speak for your interests. That organization is the Publishers Marketing Association.

It is Jan Nathan and PMA that is the entity that can and should speak for us. It is PMA that has the legitimacy to act on our behalf. It is PMA that has the power to change the returns structure, to help open the distribution channel, to spearhead the vision of electronic media, to insure that the one-book publishers of this business have an outlet to the retail channel, and to define what the future of book publishing will be.

I have tried my best the past ten years to open the ears of the PMA board and staff to the needs and callings of the membership. I have spoken out on behalf of all of us who are tired of the same old, same old. I have ranted, raved, cajoled, debated, and instigated in an effort to get small and mid-size publishers to realize the power that we have, and to energize our spirits with the confidence to fight against the tides that hold us back.

And I have failed miserably.

I wanted to say that "we" failed miserably. But in truth it is I who have failed. Not one of my proposals has been adopted nor even considered important enough to be brought to the PMA annual meeting. It is a humbling defeat which I bear, but not lightly.

Whenever PMA chooses a new board I am hopeful that it will see as its mission the need to enlarge the scope of PMA and to make it a strong and viable spokesperson for the needs, interests and desires of the small and mid-size publisher. As I said at the start of the previous paragraph, I feel that I have lost the battle. But I'm not sure that we have lost the war; for I will continue to see things not as they are, but to see them as they have never been. For in my heart of hearts, I deeply believe that we small publishers, can make a difference in our industry.

I call upon the new PMA board members to listen to the membership and to embark on a new term directed toward leadership within the industry, toward a mission of having the voice of the small and independent press heard throughout the industry, toward an administration with clear cut goals and achievements that will be for the benefit of the majority of the members, not the university presses, not the vendors, not the retailers, not the distributors, and not the large members who are a distinct minority.

I call upon our new board to open up OUR organization to direct participation of the members, via direct elections.

I call upon our new board to present to us a well reasoned charter with respect to returns and to let us vote on it.

I call upon our new board to begin the process of a full and complete outside audit of PMA programs.

I call upon our new board to publish the budget of PMA, to create formal procedures for communication with the membership, and to be frequent contributors to the pub-forum listserv.

I call upon our new board to establish the groundwork for our future in electronic commerce.

I call upon our new board to aggressively take our rightful place at the table with the other industry power brokers; to actively call upon B&N, Borders, Amazon, and Ingram and open a dialogue on issues that effect all ofus: returns, payment, slotting, copyright, etc.

I call upon our new board to consider the advice of the vendor members, but to never lose sight of the fact that PMA is an organization of publishers, not web-site providers, not printers, not distributors, and not retailers The PMA charter should be changed to prohibit vendors from having voting and veto power on our board.

I call upon our new board to dream, to think, to hypothesize, and to position our segment of the industry into a position of potential success in the new millennium. We must evolve from an organization dependent on trade shows and mailings into an entity on the forefront of electronic commerce.

With a new board, we have the ability to put aside old animosities, old petty differences, and to forge ahead with vigor and energy to make our organization, our industry sector, and perhaps our entire society better when we leave it, than as we found it.

This is my clarion call, this is my challenge, this if my trumpet to battle. I call upon all PMA members and all publishers to not only help make this board and administration the best that it can be, but to demand the same. It is our job to communicate our needs, wishes, desires, and problems to the board, and it is the job of the board to communicate back to us that they indeed have heard us. We have been ignored for too long. We should not be ignored any longer. And if I have anything to do with it, our voice shall be heard.

I do not call for miracles or for overnight successes. All I ask from the board is that we be heard, that we be listened to, that we be acknowledged, that we be taken into account and that the greatest good for the majority (as opposed to the vendors) be always enacted into what becomes PMA policy and programs.

This can be a new adventure for us. We can achieve greatness. We can overcome. This can be our time. We have the ability, we have the need, we have the power, and we have the will. I offer my best wishes to the new PMA borad members, and only ask that they remember that it is us, the "keepers of the culture" who are the heart and soul of PMA.

We are the publishers. We keep the culture. It is important that we survive.

Please help us, PMA.

I ask no more than that. And I demand no less.

Alan N. Canton, President Adams-Blake Company, Inc --- Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory,royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at: ---

Saturday, May 14, 2005


(Note: A burqa is a garment worn by women which covers the entire body and face. The eyes are covered with a 'net curtain' allowing the woman to see but preventing other people from seeing her eyes.)

I received the following unsolicited e-mail. This is word-for-word, the entire communication, with only the email address taken out:

---- sir, we have a prepress unit in Bangalore, India. We are equipped with all the necessary Prepress equipments for a better and fast service.

We are well experienced in the field and we exclusively do the Book works.

So, If you are interested in the Deal please contact on the email id - expecting a mail from you at the earliest.

thanking you ---

OK, this is a pretty crude sales pitch by someone who does not know what they are doing.... but the handwriting is on the wall. If you are a book printer or you are a book designer, you have to start thinking about making some changes to your business.

Outsourcing (or offshoring) is going to happen, like it or not.

No, I'm not going to go into a long diatribe about whether it's good or not good. You know, I know, and everyone's dog knows that the "global economy" is going to have an impact on the publishing industry.... and any industry where services can be comomiditized.

While I'll be the first to say that some of the printer reps and book designers that I've met would look BETTER in a burqa, the issue is that "wearing one" won't solve the problem There is no way anyone in the USA (or Canada) can compete on price with anyone from Berkabod or Turbistan.

And the bottom line is the bottom line. If the work is good and the quality is comparable, you, and I, and every other publisher on a budget is going to start using off-shore printing and design services.

It is far better for the vendors in our industry to wake up now and start working to adapt than to find themselves in the position like thousands and thousands of high-tech engineers who didn't see this coming.

When I did JAYA123 I considered using some programmers from Turbistan for $7.00 an hour rather than some from the USA for $70. I didn't do it, but only because I didn't have to. Other tech firms do... in order to create a product that will compete on the world market.

Do I think that book designers and programmers and medical x-ray readers in the USA will be able to "finish" their careers doing what they like? No. Anything that can be done in cheaper labor markets WILL BE. Accept it and get over it. (No, I don't like it anymore than you do... and I feel some anger.... but I've read history and the entire history of the world can be interpreted as a search for cheaper raw materials, cheaper energy, and cheaper labor.... and all your ranting and raving won't change that.)

The answer is to adapt. If I were a book designer I'd start making some "deals" with designers in Burqabod to outsouce work to. No publisher wants to work directly with a anyone from Turbistan.... but they would be happy to work with an American or Canadian designer who can get the job done for a good price... at least competitive with those coming from the the third-world.

I don't have all the answers, but I can see the storm on the horizon. The very cream of the crop of any profession will still do OK, but anyone in the "second tier" will not.... as long as a burqa-clad designer can do for $5 what a DKNY-clad designer does for $50.

If I were a book printer I'd see about moving a plant off-shore to Turbistan and making some arrangements with shipping brokers for transportation.

Short of a world-war, there is no way to stop "globalization" from happening. Be angry if you want, but also be realistic and study your history.

What it comes down to is that craftsmanship and skill-sets have been learned by people willing to do them cheaper than we will or can. So "we" have to find something else that gives value to the economy and which will put bread on our table. Learn the meaning of the words "invention" and "creativity."

I don't know what the answers are. Time will tell and there is going to be some difficult dislocations for a lot of people. If you think you are going to be one of them, I'd go out Berka-shopping now and avoid the rush later on. Better yet, maybe you can invent a better burqa... maybe one of Gore-tex, or one with built-in sun-shade?

Alan N. Canton, President Adams-Blake Company, Inc --- Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory,royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at: ---

Saturday, April 30, 2005


I read in the biz section of todays (Sat., 4/30/05) New York Times that Apple Computer is banning ALL books by publisher John Wiley because of an unauthorized bio of Steve Jobs that Wiley is bringing out.

Are we publishers going to let them do this? Is this the kind of action we want everyone to take when we publish something that some powerful organization might disagree with?

Does Apple have the right to decide what books go in their stores? Of course they do. But do we publishers have a right to dump our Apple Computers in Boston harbor? Yes we do!

Apple is suing a Harvard student who operates a web site for Apple users., accusing him of asking Apple employees to send him inside "secret" info. The company has also filed suits to stop leaks on other sites that report on news about the company?

Tell me something. What is the ONE INDUSTRY that Apple computers dominate? Yes, it's publishing... it's us.

What if every publisher decided that they would junk their Apple machines in favor of Windows or Linux-based machines? Would that be the proper thing to do? I think so.

What if every publisher refused to hire graphic designers, or publicists, or printers who used Apple computers to create their work? Would that be the right thing to do? I think so.

Would it be a hardship? Would it cost us some money? It sure would.

General Motors recently pulled its advertising from the LA Times. Has corporate America declared war on publishers?

We publishers are "big" on asking others to take action and protest or boycott. We're tough when someone else's oxen is gored. But how tough are we when it's our own pocketbook?

We know what's right. But do we have the fortitude to DO what is right?

Who is going to be the first publisher to stand up, write Steve Jobs a letter, make it public, and say to Apple Computer, "If you do this, you lose me as a customer!"

There must be some publisher out there using Apple machines who has some guts. There must be some publisher out there who knows right from wrong. There must be some publisher out there who will do the right thing.

Alan N. Canton, President Adams-Blake Company, Inc --- Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory,royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at: ---

Saturday, April 09, 2005


This is a great time to be a writer... either fiction or non. There are more publishers than ever. There is more media access than ever. There are emerging nations of new readers looking for material. There are more places to market intellectual property. Indeed, there is more opportunity than ever before for a writer or an artist, musician.... even poets... if they know a little about lyrics.

Why do you think there are so many people wanting to write... or "trying" to write? My take is because they see an opportunity to "make it."

How else does an unknown woman writer, on welfare (the dole) in the UK end up with more money than the royal family?

Where do four guys from Liverpool end up changing an entire culture?

Where does the 'good stuff' that we have come from? More importantly, why is there so little 'good stuff."

What I have said for years and years and years is that a major problem we have in our society is that we don't have many GOOD writers or GOOD artists. You can debate the hell out of this, but bottom line so much of the stuff that we are presented with is plain old unadulterated crap.

Write something really good. I mean really, really, really good (a Death of A Salesman, a Caine Mutiny, a Lord of the Rings, a Kill a Mockingbird, a What Color is your Parachute, a Grapes of Wrath, a Zen and Motorcycle Maint., or any of your favorite books) and if you work hard at it and do all you can to get it noticed, you will have A GOOD CHANCE for a huge success. I truly believe that. Hey. It works for 'pulp.' So why won't it work for 'quality.' John Grishem sold books out of the trunk of his car. He WORKED FOR IT. Most of his stuff is 'pulp.' How many writers are willing to really WORK for it like John did?

I don't believe that our society does NOT recognize quality. It's that we see so little of it from our "creative" intellectuals. It's a hell of a lot easier to write "another" murder mystery than something that takes some real "creativity".... like what a Hemingway or a Wouk might produce.

These are great times to be a writer or an artist or a musician. And because of it, everyone and their dog thinks they can be one... and the majority of them are just plain terrible. Thus, we are deluged with crap.

I've heard it time and time again that there are no 'quality" creative people in this "era". I don't know. But I don't for a minute buy the argument that it is TOTALLY our 'society to blame.' We're all here and when quality is presented to us (The Beatles, Rowling, Woodward, Miller, Williams, Vorst, etc.) we buy it.

It has been said that to have great writers we need to have great readers. Who reads today? When? I know the answer. It's people over 40 when they are on a plane. And that's about it in any numbers.

So we have few readers who are reading crap produced by the major "New York" publishers. The whole system is broken. Why? Because so few people see reading as an enjoyable pastime... and those who DO read are urged to read crap. It's that mass media at work. The lowest common denominator.

The solution is easy. We not only have to "sell" people on reading (as opposed to TV, GameBoy, etc.) but we also NEED quality content... and if the content is out there, I sure as hell don't know where it is coming from. All I see is crap.

It's true. The bestseller lists are for the most part crap. The hype is crap. Most of the 'airplane' books are crap. What is promoted by the mass media is crap.

Why is this true? Simple. It's because those who publish quality works, don't work hard enough to get it into the mainstream. They just don't. The publishers who have good 'stuff' either don't know or don't care enough to build a readership.

Moan and groan all you want about how "good works" don't get sold. Then show me the "effort" made on the part of those creators to get them sold and I'll tell you again that the only place where success comes before work... is in the dictionary.

Why are the 'evil' big publishers able to sell so much crap to those left who still read? Because the small press... the purveyors of so many very good books, either don't know how to market them, or they don't want to work that hard. I don't know the answer but I do know that as an industry where small publishers make up at least 60% of the available content, that they can all do a better job in publishing better works and working harder to get them sold.

And the first thing they can do is to stop publishing crap. And the second thing they can do is to work like hell to get the mega-corp-owned media to take some notice. This is NOT easy. The communication conglomerates want to push their own crap. But they also need listeners and eyeballs. Your job is to get these guys to realize that your books and the publicity around those books can CREATE a BUZZ and bring the media what they want... ears and eyeballs.

This is not rocket science... but it takes a fair amount of awareness on the part of publishers that seems to be lost on most of them.

It all comes down to two simple principles. Don't buy crap. Don't publish crap.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


By and large, men and women are pretty evenly split when it comes to the severity of their particular gender's specific health maintenance routines.

However, there is one particular procedure that women can only guess about. It starts when the doctor tells a man to "assume the position." There is nothing like a prostate examination to give one a certain Zen-like perspective on the world.

The way that Ingram accumulates all returns and passes them back to us for credit, is another example of how all of us, large and small, in this industry continually "take it in the shorts."

Long known as the "cesspool" of returns, when a distributor or chain goes under, Ingram always finds a way to make a nice profit from the adversity of their ex-customer. And who is going to get the shaft in the ass? You, me, and every other publisher. And I have it on good authority that there is another good sized distributor that could (not will) go paws-up. So stock up on the KY-Jelly because you are going to need it.

Is the Tennessee Mafia ever going to collect returned inventory and store it for later sale? Not on your life. They are going to ship it back to you as fast as they can.

What a deal. Say they sold and owe you for 50 copies of one of your books, to the amount of $500. And lets assume that you have other distributors or wholesalers who might have supplied some chain with, say 100 copies of your book. These 100 copies come back to Ingram. It will wipe out what they owe you and they may even decide to assess you a debit for the other 50 books. So instead of them owing you $500, you now owe them $500, plus they kept the $500 they were due to pay you. If you do business with Ingram, my best advice to you is that you better get ready for that rubber glove.

It is the way of the world for publishers to be reamed. It is one of the laws of nature. Why is this? Because we have no countervailing force or power to be used against the overwhelming leverage that Ingram has over us. In a Zen interpretation of the world, each force always has an opposite force to keep it in balance. Unions vs. management. Congress vs. President. Insurance companies and regulators. Auto companies vs. environmentalists.

What is the Zen body of force that surrounds us small publishers and which we hope will exert equal and opposite pressure on Ingram? Unfortunately for us, there is none. In the same manner that you know when you are at the doctor's office that there is no way you are going to get out of "assuming the position," our karma precludes that we will be hosed by Ingram; and there is no force great enough to prevail against them.

The purports of Zen, as well as the ancient Vedic literature, is an attempt to explain and justify to us what seems to be an imperfect world. And yet in all my readings of the old texts, I have yet to understand why the PMA refuses to stand up and exert the power that it surely has. Where are the protestations of the Executive Director? Where are the howls of protest from the president and the PMA board? Zen fails me here. The power is there, but is goes unused, even unnoticed.

Dare we look to Brian Judd for help? What about Jerry Jenkins and his empire? Maybe Dan Poynter or John Kremer might speak in our behalf? Fern Reiss? No, that is not to be. These are all private citizens or profit seeking organizations who don't see OUR troubles as being THEIR problems.

As for the PMA, indeed, it does not take a Zen master to realize that the more problems we publishers have, the more it would seem that we need the advice and assistance of Jan Nathan and Associates.

So my children, do not look to others to do what you need to do yourself. There is no one out there to help you. Indeed, as my old friend Don would say, " The father, son, and holy ghost have caught the last train to the coast."

So as we publishers are still being forced to "assume the position," I ask myself the eternal question. What is the real meaning of life in this industry? What is our real position in the publishing cosmos? Who will speak for us? Will you? If not you, than who?

Do you have the courage to write to Ingram to complain? Do you have the courage to write to PMA and complain? Do you have the courage to write to the AAP and complain? Do you have the courage to stop doing business with Ingram and anyone else who insists on returning inventory? If you don't, than stop complaining.

Maybe you need to ask yourself if you are part of the problem... or part of the solution?

What is YOUR response when Ingram tells you to "assume the position?"

"Ah, grasshopper, you ask so many questions."

Alan Canton, President Adams-Blake Company --- Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory, royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at: ---


Since today's Rant hit the wires I've been inundated with questions about which distributor (IMO) could be in trouble and maybe on the road to going 'paws up.'

I won't tell ('cause I don't want to end up in court), but find out who these people own.... and put 2 plus 2 together. (Oh, and DO notice the date! Am I on top of this stuff or what?)

While I'm never in doubt, I could be wrong (indeed, I hope I am) but those of you who have been around these parts and who have read A Saturday Rant for the past ten years know how it all starts.

Also, remember that over the years I have a pretty good track record in calling these plays. Forewarned is forearmed (not to be confused with fore-play!. You heard it from A Saturday Rant first! Snooze and you lose.


Saturday, March 26, 2005


It is time for me to renew our company's membership in the Publishers Marketing Association. Each year on the renewal date I assess exactly what I get from PMA and what the organization does for the industry.

Not too long ago I read a post by Andrew Martonyi on the Pub-Forum listserv about the PMA and its total lack of commitment to changing things on an industry-wide scale:

################ Don't we pay dues and doesn't that give us a voice in an organization that we join to help us in our publishing endeavors?

I have yet to understand why the PMA refuses to stand up and exert the power that it surely has. Where are the protestations [about returns, etc.] of the Executive Director? Where are the howls of protest from the president and the PMA board? ################

This is what bothers me abut the PMA.

Yes you pay the dues. But PMA (along with the support of many ex-board members) has never allowed direct nomination nor direct election of any official postion in the organization.

If you wish to be nominated you can't. If you wish to run you can't. All positions are selected in a closed door session by those who were selected previously.

At the "annual meeting" there is no new business allowed, there is no financial report, there is ONLY a voice vote of yea or nay for/against the selected slate of directors.

The directors choose the officers in a closed door meeting. Nothing happens at all without Jan Nathan's direct consent.

I fought for years to "open up" PMA but old-guard board members and officers like past-president Nick Weir-Williams, as well as others always say that "So what if we DID have elections? How would that change anything?"

My answer is that if someone like myself was president of the organization a hell of a lot would change... and that has to be PMA's biggest fear... that someone like "me" would have an official platform from which to speak. However, I've never been able to convince enough publishers to help stage a "take-over" of the PMA.

The PMA is a "get along/go along" group. And since I'm not one known for "going along" it's understandable that not ONCE in all the years that I've been a member have I ever been asked to present anything, be on a panel, or even be asked for my input for anything about PMA University (or the PMA for that matter.) (In fairness, they have published two or three of my articles.... mainly because they were really GOOD articles... which is the right thing to do.) Take a look at the program for this year's PMA-U. You won't find anyone like "me" on the roster!!

PMA is not evil. It's fine for what it is. Don't read this as a Dean-scream rant. It's not. It's just the facts.

Look at the PMA for what it really is: An organization run by one well-meaning family with a "hand-picked" board of a well-meaning group of successful publishers who really don't want the system to change. Yes I'm a member, but ONLY so I can exhibit at the PMA-U ... which is ONE of two good things that PMA really does.

The other thing PMA is great at is "delivering" member-dollars (your dollars!) to vendors (like me).

This is not a secret. Every vendor knows it. The PMA "sells" itself that way to the vendor community. And they don't lie. PMA is that easiest/best/cheapest way to market to small publishers. It's a win-win for everyone.

If I didn't have to be a member to exhibit or advertise, I don't think I would join because I just don't see the PMA standing up for publisher's interests... as opposed to those of the vendors like myself, the distributors, the designers, and, of course, Ingram (whom PMA used to subsidize with membership dues.... ask Jan Nathan (Executive Director) to explain it.. it's all old news.)

If Jan Nathan wanted to, she could lead the fight to change the "return system." Pat Schoroder, head of AAP and her two hundred members would listen to Jan and her 4,000. A dialogue could be started... change could happen. Maybe not overnight, but at least over a period of time. I wonder how things would be now if the PMA became 'active' when I said all of this the first time... five years ago.

Think about this for a minute.

The by-laws of the PMA stipulate that a special meeting can be held if enough members get together and call it. TTBOMK it has never happened. But I often have sweet dreams about what might be possible if it did. Can you imagine what we could do?

Ask yourself is THIS is the reason the PMA keeps their by-laws under lock-and-key on their site such that a special password is necessary to view them?

Twice each month someone writes to me and asks that I start a new organization dedicated to helping change the publishing industry (hopefully for the better!) I've thought and thought and thought about it and I'm as convinced today as I was five years ago that taking over the PMA is the best way to do this. And I'll bet that a committee (some would call it a cadre!) of twenty hearty souls willing to organize the effort could make it happen. It's all in the by-laws.

PMA, its infrastructure, and all the legitimacy and power that it has, is there for the taking. It's just a matter of will.

Alan N. Canton, President Adams-Blake Company, Inc --- Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory,royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at: ---