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Open Letter to the Old Farmer’s Almanac

UPDATE: The Almanac responded to my letter on Aug. 9, 2017. Here’s what they had to say:

Dear Mr. Gargulinski,

We apologize for the inconvenience.  You were on a continuity program. We have cancelled the billing and removed you from the program. You may keep the Almanac with our compliments.

Sincerely,

Kaye Dunn
Almanac Products, EMail Customer Service

Moral of the story: Don’t let the big guys push you around.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I used to adore the Old Farmer’s Almanac until I met with unscrupulous actions like those outlined below. This letter was emailed to the company Aug. 5, 2017 (without the Scam Alert Bug illustration).

Dear Old Farmer’s Almanac:

Thank you! for the free gift you sent my way. After all, I am assuming the hardcover 2018 Old Farmer’s Almanac you sent is a free gift since:

  • I did NOT ORDER IT.
  • I do not want it.
  • I am not paying for it.
  • I have not the time, energy or desire to deal with sending it back.

Since this is a free gift, please adjust my account balance to zero and credit out the invoice for $20.90 that accompanied my free gift. I refuse to pay an invoice for an item I did not order. I also refuse to waste my time, effort and packing tape to send it back.

Unsolicited items = free gifts.

If you do wish for me to send back the unsolicited item I neither want nor need, I would have to bill you for my services and supplies:

  • Return shipping rate: $7
  • Handling charges: $11
  • Time to pack item and ensure it is placed in location for outgoing mail: $25
    • My general hourly rate for services is $50; I would expect this hassle to take about 30 minutes, provided the packing tape dispenser doesn’t jam.

What you owe me to return item: $43

The choice is yours. You can either:

  1. Wipe out the invoice and charge for the item you sent my way WITHOUT my order or consent
  2. Mail me a check for $43 and I’ll send back your book

Any action on your part other than the two options listed above will result in a report to the Better Business Bureau.

And please don’t give me a song and dance about being on an “automatic mailing list” that gets the almanac sent every year. You tried that one on me a few years back, and I called one of your reps to be removed from this unscrupulous list.

Have a nice day,

Ryn Gargulinski

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Top 8 Reasons E-Books Will Never Fully Replace Printed Books

books

When the Kindle was initially unleashed in 2007, it sold out in about five and one-half hours. Murmurs of printed books becoming obsolete quickly filled the air, while panic filled many a room. Fast forward 10 years later, and printed books are still steady and going strong. That’s because the Kindle screen can never truly replace the printed page. Here’s why.

It’s tough to read a Kindle at the beach.

And not just because of the sun glare. If your book gets covered with splashes or sand, you just wipe it off and move on. If your Kindle gets covered with splashes or sand, you’re pretty much screwed.

Whatever would we do with our bookshelves?

True, we could stock our shelves full of knickknacks and photo frames. But books are so much easier to dust.  Continue reading Top 8 Reasons E-Books Will Never Fully Replace Printed Books

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4 Ways to Get Your Book Published

book

Just like doctors get asked by their relatives about aches, pains and boils, writers get asked about how to get stuff published. One son of a cousin of a parent recently asked my mom to ask me to send him some info on getting his just-finished novel published. I finally! wrote him a note, which I’ve turned into this blog post.

While I do have several published books on the market, I’m by no means an expert. But I can provide a bit of insight based on my own research and experience.

You basically have four main options for publishing your book, and you can mix and mingle the options as desired. I’ve been through the first three options but am inclined to skip the fourth.

4 Ways to Get Your Book Published

Self-Publishing

Pros:

  • Easiest, fastest
  • Get to keep full control and all profits

Cons:

  • Have to do own layout, editing, marketing
  • Amazon takes big chunk of sales (and other platforms not as popular)

Here you can either find a vanity press and pay to have your book published, or figure out where you want to sell your book and do all the layout yourself then upload in proper format seller requires. Amazon has a self-publishing arm called CreateSpace, which is probably the hottest online book market – although Amazon does take a hefty percentage of your sales.

You can sell books online only, made-to-order when someone orders one. Or you can get better prices with bulk printing to stock up and sell in-person or mail out yourself.  If you choose the latter, you can store your hundreds of books in your home office-gym and dust them weekly with the treadmill while saying, “You know, I should really do some marketing with these books.”

Finding a Traditional Publisher

Pros:

  • May get advance
  • Help with layout, editing, marketing (maybe)

Cons:

  • Don’t get royalties until advance is paid off
  • Royalty payment terms may have all kinds of sneaky clauses that result in royalty checks for $2.47

This route involves researching books similar to yours to determine what companies may be interested in your book. Writers Market also publishes an annual master list of publishers, agents and other outlets and resources for getting your stuff published.

Search out publishers that look promising then review their submission guidelines. Some may want full manuscript (ms), some may want proposal and others may be OK if you happen to know the CEO or have a friend of a friend who babysits for her daughter.

Every time I go through the massive boxes of files I move from house to house, I always run across a giant, bright blue folder of rejection letters from publishers. Not sure why I keep them, and also not sure where they are at the moment, but seeking out traditional publisher requires a thick skin (and plenty of colorful file folders).

Oh yeah, and the biggest-name publishers usually only accept book ideas or proposals through an agent.

Finding an Agent

Pros:

  • Guidance and support throughout the entire process
  • Editing help, tips and insider knowledge of industry

Cons:

  • They get a percentage of the cut, of course
  • They may get pregnant and abandon you at the drop of a hat

Writers Market is again the go-to for finding agents in your book’s specific genre, although you can also go with online searches to see who pops up. Make sure the person has a solid history and reputation before you tell them anything.

I had an agent once, rather briefly. She had read some of work in newspapers and contacted me to put together a book. Yippeee!! All was going swell, with her walking me through the proposal process, giving me tips and deadlines – and then she pretty much disappeared.

Got an email from her several weeks later saying she was leaving the agency to go have a baby. “And I’m sure you’re happy for me.”

At least I got a bunch of knowledge out of the deal and now know what goes into the scope of a killer book proposal.

Sitting in Bar Hoping to Get Discovered

Pros:

  • Even easier than self-publishing
  • Can make a lot of drunken friends who will promise to buy your book when published

Cons:

  • Results may not be optimum
  • Probably get a beer belly

This one worked for Mickey Rourke in “Barfly” when he was portraying poet Charles Bukowski. If the movie was indeed true to Bukowski’s life, however, the guy was a mess, wasted any money he earned on booze and got beat up a lot. You may want to avoid this option unless you’re a good fighter.

Publishing First Step

Keep in mind that getting your book published is only the first step. After that comes marketing, marketing, marketing and more marketing. But you’ll get to that one soon enough! The best marketing tip I ever received was “Get your book on Oprah.” Not sure if she’s even still around, so maybe you want to go for Howard Stern?

Good Luck!

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Open Letter to Cox Communications: Is it me or does the company stink?

IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED

Dear Cox Communications Collections Department:

I am in receipt of your URGENT letter dated April 23, 2012, that threatens to disconnect my service unless I pay the amount of $140.98. The letter goes on to further threaten reactivation or reconnect installation fees if my service is interrupted.

Give me a break.

Not only are your threats offensive to a loyal customer who has paid her bills on time for the past five years, but your information is inaccurate.

When I received my bill for May services, I was appalled to see charges of $140.98 and immediately called your so-called customer service number to find out what was going on.

I spoke to a Cox representative on April 24, 2012, who told me her name was April. She explained the payment I made for the April monthly bill did not properly go through. Rather than send a check as I usually do, I decided to try your suggestion to “Go Paperless!” and pay my bill online. It obviously is not as fun and easy as it may seem. Continue reading Open Letter to Cox Communications: Is it me or does the company stink?

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National Poetry Month rocks – but no one seems to care about it

Poets are notoriously late for everything, so it makes sense that a column celebrating April as National Poetry Month would come in the latter half of the month. Cheers!

Being a poet in Tucson—or being a poet anywhere, for that matter—comes with distinct advantages. For starters, you can ignore that thing called being on time. Then you have that peachy perk called poetic license.

Poetic license lets you misspell and even invent your own words. You also get to make up your own grammar rules. Tis loads. Of fun. You should.

Try it sometime.

You can also take the license a notch further and come up with your own versions of the truth, a thing my mom calls “selective memory.” She still swears she has no recollection of blaming me for the dark caramel swirled into the living room’s white carpet that was actually caused by the grubby kid visiting from next door.

The major downside to being a poet, of course, is the pay. Although I have nabbed several paid performances and awards—like my tie for first place in a suicidal poetry contest—my overall poetry career has so far netted me less than $500. That’s not counting the free hatchet I once received for writing the creepiest Halloween poem.

National Poetry Month seems like the epitome of a Hallmark holiday invented to sell more cards. After all, a big chunk of cards are splattered with poetry, or at least attempts at it. “Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m sending this card ’cause I love you.”

April’s poetic designation, however, actually came from the Academy of American Poets. The academy kicked off the celebration in 1996, choosing April based on the academy’s thought that April would garner the most participation.

Besides, March and February were already taken by celebrations of women’s history and black history, respectively. January is just too dismal to celebrate much of anything due to maxed-out credit cards from holiday shopping. Thus, April it was, and has been for 16 years.

So why don’t more people seem to care?

Continue reading National Poetry Month rocks – but no one seems to care about it

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