Follow the leader: Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic

As expected, I’m unable to republish my review about  Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s Pitch Clinic in the established blogs about writing. The market of “help for bloggers” can sustain only so many players. They all know each other, they all guest post and support each other, which is good for them.

I’d had a similar situation when I wanted to complain about a property lawyer who made a mistake. Nobody wanted to represent me, as they preferred a long-term relationship with the other  local property lawyers to a small potato case.

More unexpectedly, I was blocked from BlogHer – an aggregate blog where I tried to republish as they accept previously published pieces. They considered the review spam. When I tried to argue that it’s an honest review (which I consider neutral, maybe on a slightly positive side), they told me that sometimes paid bloggers write a push piece disguised as a review and apparently my post looks like one of those.

If it looks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a cat disguised as a duck.

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SCI PHI Journal

Sci Phi N6 cover

Via FreelanceWriting.com’s eNewsletter I found out about  SciPhi Journal, which combines two of my hobbies, science fiction and philosophy.

Just as I was despairing that the modern SF lost the philosophical depth of Bradbury’s, Le Guin’s and Strugatskys’ works. I also despaired that “the Kindle revolution”  is selecting for fast writing authors who churn out multiple sequels of mediocre quality.

In theory, magazines like this (selective acceptance, reader revenue based, paying the authors) can start a new Golden Era of SF just as the 1930s pulp fiction American magazines gave us SF classics.

P.S. I must declare a conflict of interests: I am submitting my short story to the magazine. However, I bought N3 and overall quality is good. I liked a story by Mark Andrew Edward so much that I started looking for his other work.

Book Hub – beware of freeloader vanity press

Books

Some of these self-published books are good, but BookHub will not tell you, which ones are not, and will charge the author for your free opinion (Photo credit: rageforst)

Excluding my two blogs, I write for free for two reasons – for non-profit organisations  and “see what happens”.  After I posted a book review,   Book Hub blog  have followed my blog.  Its About page says:

Book Hub Inc. is a rapidly growing eBook publishing and distribution company looking to form long-lasting relationships with both emerging and established authors and publishers, book reviewers , and avid readers.

I am not ready to publish a book yet, but  I like reviewing. I contacted the BookHub, who – letters had been actually signed  ‘BookHub’  – sent me a cover letter, then a list of books available for review, then the book itself as a pdf.

The book was non-fiction, I’ll not mention the title because  it has already had one reader too many. The book was appalling on many levels, the only professional part about it was the cover – simple but clean-looking title on gray background.  The book – $4.99 for digital edition,  $19.99 hardback –  is 196 pages:   66 pages of the main content plus essays, which served as drafts  and in some cases are more detailed than the finished product.  No illustrations, no glossary.  The content was essentially a non-amusing amateur rant, no fact-checking and no editing  before publishing: the pamphlet is full of spelling mistakes.

I wrote a 600 words review in a week –  Book Hub warns you in advance, that while there is no deadline, they will  ‘remind you’ about your commitment. I sent the letter and received a prompt reply that, while my review is quite good, they will not publish it, because it is negative.

Some may think that a free book is a fair exchange for a review, published or not. But Book Hub charges its clients $150 for two reviews, and as a distributor the site gets the reviewer’s copy for free. $75  per review  is not a bad profit for somebody’s work. I bet that quality of  an average  book on offer is close to that of your  high school class essays – literary agents and, after them, publishers go through hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts to find one readable. So the reviewer  is doing work of a sieve, and BookHub gets the gold. 

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Book review: ‘How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper’ by Robert A. Day and Barbara Gastel

Many a PhD student was overjoyed to hear that his results will be published, only realising that  despite all ‘mock paper’ style assays, (s)he doesn’t know how. It is usually done “show me the first draft and I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it”. This is especially daunting if English is not your first language. But there are books to help you with this.

One of them is  ‘How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper’ (HWPSP – I love an abbreviation as the next biologist and the book recommends to use an abbreviation if the item is mentioned more than 3 times in an article). I have access to the 6th edition of  and the 7th exists already, so it must be one of the better ones. And should be, written by two Professors –  R. A.Day taught courses in scientific writing to under- and postgraduate students at the University of Delaware  and  B. Gastel teaches several subjects including  Biotechnology at  Texas A&M University.

Some titles oversell the book, ‘How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper’ undersells it.  The book is not only a comprehensive guide written in very clear language to  the usual sections – Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion (according to the book authors it has a handy mnemonics IMRAD).  HWPSP also gives an overview of almost all writing  occasions a scientist could meet, starting with posters, conference communication, CV, cover letter, thesis writing and finishing with book chapters, grants, recommendation letters writing. There is also a valuable chapter on scientific style, including a sub-chapter on English as a foreign language. The wide coverage means that there is not many details and some of the content is just common sense, but rare person suffers from the surplus of the practicality.

The literature list at the back will help you to find more details about particular aspects of scientific writing. For example  I read the relevant part of  HWPSP and then found an article about how to write a book review. I don’t know if my review is better than the earlier ones, but I feel more confident in writing them now.

Get your PI to buy the book for the lab – it will save  a lot of students small embarrassments of starting letters with Dear  Sir (Madame), which ruined countless chances for an interview and increase chances of your poster winning an award. Or you may like it so much that you buy it yourself and it’ll accompany you in your future career – no section on writing Nobel Prize speeches, but I think this is amply compensated by the great humor and pictures: I wish I knew where to get something like this for my articles.