ralph robert moore
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Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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more popular than real huge boobs
june 29, 2002
I regularly receive e-mails from people asking where they can buy one of my novels.
Many of them tell me they've done searches on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line bookstores looking for one of my books, but nothing shows up.
The fact is, although I've had continued success at placing my short stories in a variety of magazines, here in America, in England, and Australia, I've been unable to sell any of my novels at this point.
The one novel of mine people most often ask about is Father Figure, excerpts of which you can read here. It's extremely popular, and in fact a number of sites have included excerpts from it on their own pages. (I appreciate their interest in the book, and I have no problem with them displaying the excerpts, since they credit me as the author and provide a link back to this site, where people can read additional passages.)
Father Figure usually gets turned down by publishers, at least going by what they say in their rejection letters, either because it's too long (175,000 words), or too explicit, or both.
One agent said he would love to represent Father Figure, and thought he would have a good chance selling it, but I'd have to cut the text in half. According to him, and I have no reason to disbelieve him, most publishers shy away from putting out a 175,000 word novel, because of production cost. Unfortunately, I can't picture the novel in half the number of words. It would be a different book. My feeling is too much would be lost.
Other agents and publishers have said they would consider the book if I in effect "watered it down". Those of you who have read excerpts of Father Figure on this site know there are some explicit scenes in the novel. Many of the scenes not excerpted here, however, are even more explicit. Again I've refused to take the advice of others, because if I made the text less explicit, it simply would not be what I see in my head when I think of this novel.
Late last year, it appeared Unbound Books, a publisher of trade paperbacks in California, would be publishing Father Figure the way I wanted it published, uncut. (Let me say here I have absolutely nothing against having a book edited. Editors perform valuable functions, when they correct grammatical errors, suggest a passage may be too slow, or point out the author has confused the reader as to who is speaking, or where an action takes place.)
I submitted a two-page synopsis of Father Figure, along with the first fifty pages, to Angela Bradford at Unbound Books on February 13, 2001, after she assured me by e-mail its length (longer than what Unbound Books normally publishes) would not be a problem.
Less than a month later, on March 8, Angela Bradford wrote me by snail mail, saying Unbound Books was interested in the manuscript, and to please send the rest of the novel. She added in her letter, "Please note, for the record, that we are certain that should we agree to publish your work that you would have to re-title it. We are quite concerned with possible associations within erotica to connotations of pedophilia and we refuse to publish any work which promotes or looks upon any act of pedophilia in any light other than negative. To complicate this slightly, we are currently in the process of publishing a book whose title is in part the name 'Sam'. I wished to notify you of this as well since the next most logical title might be a character's name." (One of the main characters in Father Figure is named Sam.)
Father Figure, of course, has nothing to do with pedophilia. However, I didn't want to lose an opportunity to finally get my book published simply because of its title. I sent her the full manuscript on March 19, 2001, mentioning in my cover letter, "With regards to the point you raised in your letter, to be honest with you, it has never occurred to me the title of my novel might be interpreted by some to suggest the book was about pedophilia. That certainly is not my intent (the term "father figure", of course, refers to a substitute father, much like Sam, in the novel, attempts to substitute himself for God). Should Unbound Books decide to accept my novel, I will be more than happy to provide a different title."
The Unbound Books website advises authors to contact them if they haven't heard back about a manuscript in three months. I e-mailed Angela Bradford on July 16, and again on September 4, asking about Father Figure's status.
On September 6, Angela Bradford e-mailed me back. "My apologies for the delay. We recently sent a contract to you for the book. Please e-mail me back in about a week if you haven't received the contract."
When I picked Mary up at work that night, I told her I had heard back from Unbound Books. I kept my voice low-key, suggesting the news was disappointing, then handed her the e-mail. She gave me a sympathetic smile, glanced down at the e-mail, started reading it, shot me an excited look. We hugged in the front seats of our car.
A few days later, I received the contract from Unbound Books. Angela Bradford's cover letter read, in part, "I apologize for the time it took to respond to your manuscript. We would like to publish your manuscript currently titled Father Figure…We will also need a disk copy of your work…We would also like a brief biography and a photo if possible to use on our website in our 'about our authors' section." (I haven't quoted all of the letter because most of it is concerned with preparing the manuscript for print, removing all tabs, using two spaces instead, eliminating any italics or bolds in the text, etc. She also advised me to submit a copy of the manuscript to the U.S. Copyright Office, to officially register the copyright for Father Figure in my name.)
Unbound Books' policy is that they pay no advances, other than providing the author with twenty free copies of the published book. Authors then receive royalties for each copy sold. In the contract, Unbound Books committed to an initial run of 10,000 trade paperbacks.
I read the contract, Mary read it, then I contacted an attorney I know, and had him recommend a lawyer who specializes in book contracts. This man reviewed the contract, and found several serious problems with it.
For one, although the novel is copyrighted in the author's name, the author grants to Unbound Books, for the full term of the copyright, all primary and secondary rights to the novel. That means that even though Father Figure would be copyrighted in my name, Unbound Books would have complete control over the novel, everywhere in the world, in all media. ("Primary rights" refers to publication as a book, either print or e-book. "Secondary rights" refers to magazine appearance rights (if a magazine, for example, wanted to publish an excerpt from the novel), movie and TV rights, translation rights, etc.) If someone wanted to make a movie based on Father Figure, I would have no control over who the movie rights were sold to, or for how much. (I would receive fifty percent of any sale.) I would even have to give up my right to have another writer produce a book based on my characters (if the novel were successful, Unbound Books could hire someone else to use my story and characters to produce additional novels based on the Father Figure story).
Another problem with the contract was its schedule for royalty payments. Unbound Books only pays royalties once a year, and the contract allows it to withhold those royalties from the author for up to three years, as a reserve (meaning, in case a bookstore returns a copy unsold). The attorney who reviewed the contract told me this was absurd and not standard industry practice at all, that royalties should be paid at least quarterly, and withheld no longer than six months.
In essence, I was being asked to give all rights to my novel to Unbound Books forever, in exchange for twenty free copies and a very low royalty which Unbound Books didn't have to pay me until three years after I earned the royalties.
I e-mailed Angela Bradford on September 20, 2001. I realized this would be my first published novel, and was willing to compromise on many of the points my attorney raised. I wanted to get the book published. I figured maybe, getting one book out, and if it did well, I'd be in a better bargaining position with the next book, either with Unbound Books or another publisher.
In my e-mail, I limited my requested changes to the contract to as few as possible (it is not at all unusual to request changes to a book publishing contract). For example, the contract said Unbound Books could withhold my fifty percent of the sale of any secondary rights, such as a movie sale, for as long as three years. This seemed unreasonable, since there are no reserve issues with secondary rights (there are no books that might be returned from a bookstore with secondary rights).
October 30 I e-mailed Angela Bradford to see what the status was on the changes I had requested.
She e-mailed me back saying she did receive my inquiry. "Unfortunately, it arrived just when we were headed into our busiest season (we don't go back to acquisitions until mid-December). We expect to review the status on your book in mid-December and address issues, concerns and modifications at that point. Please let me know if you haven't received a follow-up e-mail in December."
I didn't hear from Unbound Books in December. I e-mailed Angela Bradford January 2, 2002 and again February 17. She didn't reply to either e-mail.
May 14, 2002 I received an e-mail from Gayle, Mary's assistant, saying a large box had arrived at work addressed to me (Mary had shipped the manuscript to Unbound Books from her work). I asked Gayle to forward it to me.
Inside the box was my original typed manuscript for Father Figure, and nothing else. No cover letter, not even a written note explaining why the manuscript had been returned.
Although I suspected the worse, I e-mailed Angela Bradford May 18 simply to confirm whether Unbound Books was no longer interested in the novel.
I e-mailed her again, June 4, officially withdrawing Father Figure from Unbound Books' consideration (an important step, so I could tell other publishers I submitted the manuscript to it wasn't under consideration anywhere else).
Angela Bradford finally did reply to me, after six months of silence. "To the best of my knowledge all pertinent e-mails from you have been answered…We withdrew your book from further consideration after our last acquisitions meeting earlier this year. I believe we shipped your manuscript back to you in the condition we received it in…".
I wrote her one last e-mail. "Because I was offered a contract by you to publish the novel, I had a reasonable expectation that Unbound Books was sincere in its offer, which apparently it wasn't. By offering me the contract, and by e-mailing me afterwards that my concerns about contract modifications would be addressed after your busy season in December, you effectively misled me. I wish you had been honest enough to tell me at the time that Unbound Books "might" publish the novel, rather than giving me the impression it would. Your misdirection caused me to spend hundreds of dollars on attorney fees I incurred to have the contract reviewed, and also caused me to not submit the novel elsewhere for about half a year."
I've written in some detail about my experience with Unbound Books for visitors to this site who don't write, but are curious about some of the ups and downs of a writer's life, and also for visitors who are writers, to warn them of Unbound Books' practices.
Unbound Books evidently chooses manuscripts it would like to publish, sends out contracts that are grossly unfair to the writer, and simply hopes enough writers will be desperate enough to sign the contracts anyway. In my case, when I raised only a few points regarding the contract, none of my points unreasonable by trade practices, I was apparently dropped out of consideration, although Angela Bradford continued to assure me she would work with me on my concerns. A publisher has a right to withdraw an offer if a writer won't sign their contract, no matter how one-sided that contract may be, but it should inform the writer in a timely manner the offer to publish has been withdrawn-- not six months later, and certainly not after in the interim suggesting it will work with the writer concerning his contract questions.
I've dealt with many publishers over the years, and have found the experience of working with them to almost always be an enjoyable one, but not so with Angela Bradford and Unbound Books. I believe they behaved dishonorably. My advice would be to not submit any of your work to them.
A week ago this past Friday, on our way home from the speech rehabilitation Mary has been going to since her stroke, we stopped to get our mail. In it was a notice from the U.S. Copyright Office that the copyright for Father Figure has been officially registered in my name, with a complete copy of the novel stored in the Office's archives. It was just a single sheet of paper, but there was something poignant about it, the idea that my poor novel at least exists somewhere now other than in my filing cabinet.
Traffic Ranking tracks the popularity of the 200,000 most popular websites on the Internet, based on total hits, total visits, total page views and total unique visitors, and issues a weekly report on its findings. They contacted me some time ago to see if I would like to receive the report for free, since SENTENCE is in the top 200,000. I agreed, and have been getting it ever since.
Along with my current ranking each week, the report includes a list of about fifty sites that are just below mine in popularity, all the sites in the same alphabetical grouping with my site's URL (in other words, since this site's URL is ralphrobertmoore.com, the list starts with other sites beginning with "ra".)
Here are some of the sites SENTENCE is more popular than:
The big surprise to me, given what surveys indicate are the most-used search terms, is that this site is more popular than realhugeboobs.com.
So I must be doing something right.
For those of you who have inquired, our cat Rudo is doing much better. I took him back to the vet this past Thursday, and the BUN levels in his kidneys have stayed within an acceptable range. The black fur on both his front shins was shaved for his I.V. therapy, so that when he walks around our home now, he looks like a French poodle.
I mentioned last week I burned the front of my right thigh when I accidentally splashed some water on it, and that the burn mark assumed an image not unlike the face of Satan. You'll be pleased to know the burn has gradually subsided, fading into the visages of various lesser demons, and is now almost gone, at this point down to looking somewhat like a three-quarter profile of former president Clinton.