Rendered Fat Content


Winslow Homer: The Herring Net (1885)
" … maybe it was just meant to be precisely like this."

No news to anyone for me to declare that trolls live out there. A whole industry exists just to take advantage of others. The numbers of people engaged in this nefarious work seems to have increased through my lifetime, or maybe I've just grown more vulnerable as I've acquired possessions worth swindling. There are contractors who gleefully accept deposits then never show up to do the work. There are no shortages of deals that seem too good to be true, and are. Used cars. Lumber. Anything sold in the frozen food aisle. None of us are strangers to the charlatans circling our doors. Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Television advertising. Much of what passes as email these days represents phishing expeditions, others trying to harvest data you aren't aware you possess that someone, somewhere has figured out how to make an odd buck off of swiping. I willingly post to Facebook every morning, even knowing that they're plotting to do me in. I'm apparently being conditioned to cooperate in my own demise.

It should have been no surprise when that Phublishing company that recently contacted me out of the blue turned out to be untrustworthy.
I still feel a little surprised. Oh, I played along, presuming they were upstanding, extending every benefit of every possible doubt, but I, too, was phishing, listening, hearing, discerning. I was seeking clues that these were trustworthy people, and a fine way to determine trustworthiness involves extending some then watching what they do with it. I held doubts from the outset, for I was speaking with a representative of the underbelly press, folks in a position to take advantage of a budding author's vanity to make a little money. Their books looked like they'd end up in pathetic estate sales and on Goodwill's shelves, covers romance novel garish, worse than the sort of house with whom Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout published. Trout, you might recall, was the greatest writer in the history of the world and all of his works were published with porn covers and exclusively sold in unreputable shops. His press at least had the decency to put filth rather than crap on the covers of his masterworks. I more than once during our conversations wondered if I was reduced to this.

Reduced to what, exactly? Eighteen years ago I sort of accidentally had a manuscript picked up by perhaps the most reputable publisher in the world. A beautiful book resulted which sold well enough to qualify as a best seller. I made almost nothing on the deal, having spent more than I'd earn in royalties hiring a publicist who didn't understand me. I wrote more words in positioned articles to spark sales than I'd submitted in my manuscript, and many invited me to submit or contribute on a strictly volunteer basis, to further encourage sales. My dime, of course, but then I was being recognized as a successful author by then and money shouldn't be an object for someone in my position. The Muse and I eventually went broke. Exiled then, we initiated some reinvention. Me no longer consulting. She, then, an able administrator in a world desperate for them. She became my patron. Me, forever writing but without a publisher. Publishing had come to mean the part of the creative process where the writer suffocates on his work, sometimes famous, eventually broke.

They call the Phublishing industry the vanity press for a reason. It seems to rely upon the ego needs of its authors to encourage them to agree to unwise terms. I was not feeling needy, but understandably threatened. Since I'd grown to equate publishing with a form of self-destruction, I felt in no hurry to agree to anything. I lent that woman a copy of my manuscript, insisting that she should be familiar with the work if she really wanted to publish it. No pig in a poke for us! She loved the book, of course, and I have reason to believe that she wasn't bullshitting me about that. Reading it had apparently actually changed her life. She gushed praise. I asked for three conditions. First, I wanted to retain responsibility for the cover design. Easily agreed to. Next, I wanted to speak to at least two authors they'd worked with. Hummmm. "David, you know no one has ever asked for that before. They might not want to talk to you. I'll have to ask." Finally, I wanted to see a draft copy of an actual contract so that I could see what agreeing would contractually obligate me to produce. To this, she countered with a statement I'd never heard anyone utter before. "We can release the contract only after we receive your first payment." Huh?

We ended our next to last conversation with that. Reading my book had changed her life. I had two conditions she'd investigate whether she could satisfy. I knew she would not be able to satisfy either condition, each imminently reasonable only if you're not a troll. Outrageous violations of normal business practice if you are. True to my expectations, she pouted on our final call. "If only you could meet us halfway." Halfway to where, precisely? She knew how I'd respond. I thanked her for her interest and dismissed her without remorse. I experienced a flush of success. I had passed a dedication test. My ego had not shoved me under that bus. I maintained a sense of what I needed rather than what they were trying to seduce me into. Another troll successfully deflected. My status quo unaffected.

Or was it? The Muse has been mumbling about figuring out the publishing mystery. I've been unsuccessfully finding an agent and a publisher for years now. I've hired help only to learn that nobody on the interest list is accepting manuscripts due to the Damned Pandemic. I considered that news more reprieve than disappointment. I write but not for publication. I occasionally encounter Phublishing operations but find that they are never capable of publishing me. I'm just too picky, I guess. It might be that my writing's more designed for posthumous publication. It might only work in retrospect, in a time where I'm no longer expecting conditions to be met. Or maybe it was just meant to be precisely like this. I write. I post. I live. I occasionally contribute to changing the lives of trolls. "So it goes …"
(quote attributed to Kilgore Trout)

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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