Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The power of being grammatical.

Hear ye, hear ye: Comes, now, the most inspiring self-help book of the century! I know that because I hold in my hands a press release from authorhouse.com, and the release uses those very words to describe The Power of Being Different by insurance broker John Paul Carinci. Actually, the release uses lots of words to describe Carinci's book, some of them in novel ways and combinations; we'll get to that in a moment.

Carinci comes to the inspirational movement in the usual way—fresh from a career of writing "Sopranos style Mafia fiction," as the release puts it, including the "page turner book of the decade," Better Off Dead: In Paradise; that was a sequel to his earlier crime thriller, just plain old Better Off Dead. (Imagine: Here we have a guy who produced both the page turner of the decade and the most inspirational self-help book of the century, all in the span of a few short years; Faulkner, wherever you are, eat your heart out. I guess the only thing left for Carinci to write is "the greatest story ever told," though that particular title is already taken.) On Carinci's personal site we also learn that his screenplay, A Second Chance, which he adapted from his book of the same name, "may be" in production soon. No doubt he's working out the deal points with Spielberg.

Anyway, the author's current book focuses on some of the most famous figures in American invention: Edison, Gillette, Graham Bell, etc. Carinci "spent 15 years researching the habits and thought processes of highly successful people, past and present," and though many of these innovators were regarded as mavericks and/or flakes, Carinci discovered what they have in common: "positive self-suggestion and positive visualization." So it would appear that this book of the century presents us with more of the same, warmed-over PMA. One even suspects that Carinci is hoping to go viral by evoking a Secret-style mystique, playing off Rhonda Byrne's tantalizing conceit of the "wisdom that has been known" by our great thinkers and philosophers since the dinosaurs roamed the earth, blah blah blah...

But what catches my eye is this notion of finding the commonalities in being "different." I'm not ruling out the idea on its face. In fact, it's intriguing to think that our high achievers were different from the rest of us, but shared several key traits with each other. If that's the case, it would seem that this book's title should be—different. No? Because this isn't really about the power of being different, then. That's not where the emphasis should be. It's about the sameness of people who are high achievers (assuming Carinci has drawn the proper conclusions from his 15-year study), most of whom appear to be a breed apart from the rest of us, and even each other, on the surface. If that makes any sense? (But maybe I'm overthinking it. People have been accusing me of that, in different contexts, since I was 8 or 9.)

Still, I wish, oh how I wish, these folks who try to elbow their way into professional writing would at least make sure they've got more of the basics covered. You know, little things like syntax, grammar, usage. Carinci, for example, writes in his press release,* "The author teaches the reader to excel by uses these positive principles." It makes me wonder: Isn't anybody uses proofreaders anymore? And there's this: "Foreign rights for this inspiring and uplifting self-help book has just been sold to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia." They has? Congratulations! Further, on his site, Carinci tells us that the foreign presses intend to "publish the book into their languages." Into? How 'bout just in? Frankly, there are lines in Carinci's press release that sound as if they were translated from some other language.

Finally, in Carinci's bio, it says this: "As a writer, some of John's works include...."** All I can say is, if some of John's works are a writer, they're not doing a very good job of it.

* Most of today's vanity publishers and "author's services" companies expect the writer to provide his own copy, though they provide the distribution network. But even if somebody wrote Carinci's copy for himwhich I doubt, since it sounds so similar to what he writes on his own siteI still hold him responsible for the content. And I'm fairly sure he at least saw the release before it went out. I got to see all of my publicity materials before they went out, and I was working with Crown, an imprint of one of the largest (and busiest) publishers in the world.
** If that sentence "reads OK" to you
as it probably will to manyyou need to dust off your old grammar primer and turn to the section on "dangling modifiers."

8 comments:

Steve Salerno said...

And let me anticipate anybody who woke up in a churlish mood today and now decides to go hunting through this post, or other sections of my blog, looking for typos to nit-pick: There's a world of difference between (1) a blog that a writer whips together every morning or so, in the midst of other (paying) work, and (2) a one-time press release that was put together for the purpose of promoting a book release--especially when it's the book of the century. Anything in category 2 should be above reproach, at least grammatically speaking.

Cosmic Connie said...

This was another good post, Steve. As a generally nit-picky person myself, dangling modifiers bother me too. ;-) They're everywhere! (And I bet many folks wouldn't see anything wrong with my second sentence.)

Although Ron and I are big believers in self-publishing, independent publishing, or whatever you want to call it, some of our clients have had some very bad experiences with the infamous AuthorHouse. That company, and those like it, would publish a stain on a towel if the "author" had enough money.

RevRon's Rants said...

"it sounds so similar to what he writers on his own site"

Good one, Steve! Bet you wondered how many would miss that one.

This post touches on something very close to Connie & me, since we make our living providing author services. As president of the Authors & Publishers Association (www.authorsandpublishers.org), I have tried to help aspiring authors differentiate between the vanity publishing process and independent publishing (and yes, there is a big difference).*

We have worked with clients who have used authorhouse and other similar "publishers," who will "publish" virtually anything submitted, so long as the author is willing to pay for it. We've seen evidence of their version of editing, and frankly, it is generally of the same caliber as the release that you quote.

Current print on demand technology has resulted in a surge of poor-quality books, since the cost to "publish" is reduced by the elimination of the need for a large print run. The customer typically pays for the company's editing & (boilerplate) layout services, then pays a per-copy price for only the quantity of books they want. Of course, that per-copy cost is much higher than it would be on a quantity run using offset presses, and the selling price is usually higher than that of a similar book produced conventionally. What the POD publishers don't tell customers is that it's almost impossible to get bookstores to stock their products, and even if they do, the customer's profit on book sales will be negligible, at best.

Independent publication is a very viable alternative for authors who are committed to getting their books into readers' hands, but the prospective author needs to go into the process armed with much more information than he or she will get from the vanity presses.

* - Just for the record, we do not solicit clients in our capacity with the APA, and don't even take business cards to meetings. APA is a service and information organization, not a marketing tool.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron...um, that was a typo (he admits sheepishly). Or maybe I was just being subconsciously witty?

Mary Anne said...

I see type of thing all the time. Small publishing houses are pretty horrid about proofreading too. I guess they can't afford proofreaders either. I thought Napoleon Hill wrote the same thing with THINK & GROW RICH. Hill spent time with Carnegie. Did I miss something? Steve, you have time for the grammatically challenged Carinci, but not Ferris Bueller a.k.a Tim Ferriss? Don't you want to learn how to cage fight with sharks or tango in Paris? All you need to do is work four hours a week!

Mary Anne said...

I like Carinci's songs! They sound like timeless classics. Look at these titles:

"You Are My World ..."
"Where Are You Now?"
"Memories Can Never Die 911"
"You're A Part Of Me"

Steve, how can you say romance is dead with John Paul Carinci around?

Cosmic Connie said...

Maybe we need to reconsider our opinion about John Paul's Carinci's new book, "The Power Of Being Different." After all, if you follow the link to the Amazon page, you'll see the book has a five-star-review average! Never mind that this average is based on only one review, and that the reviewer happens to be the author himself, telling us how awesome his book is. At least he's proven he's a real self-sufficient guy. Rather than prodding his pals and minions to write five-star reviews, like some self-help gurus I could name but won't, he eliminated the middle man and went straight for the gold stars himself. And under his own name to boot.

Matt Dick said...

Has he made any attempt to find out if these successes were positive self-suggesters before they made a ton of money? Maybe they had a lot of self-loathing while they were getting rejection letters, but once they got rich they told the local newspaper how they look in the mirror every day and just love the view.

Maybe.