Tuesday, September 3, 2013


A document landed on my virtual desk in the form of an invitation to self-published authors: for a mere $175, your book will get a full page in a catalog the group plans to issue and to use in marketing your book. The invitation is followed by promises of success, worded by the best of marketers that inhabit writers' forums.

This got me to thinking: I am a self-published author and I have thrown to the winds many a $175 fee for this or that promise, so why not this one as well? But wait, not wasting money is saving it, which is almost as good as making actual sales. And, if the goal is to get into a catalog, why not choose the original idea, the existing, free indiePENdents.org catalog of books that been professionally evaluated and fully recommended without financial bias? See it at http://goo.gl/E30vq4 absolutely without charge! 

Fellow authors: Would you prefer to be charged for what indiePENdents.org provides for free? Would a paid evaluation be as trustworthy as a free one? If the answer is No and No, join the organization! Sign in as a member on our website: www.indiePENdents.org.

Full disclosure: I am the founder and president, and -- as written in our 501(c)3 non-profit charter  -- neither I nor any officer of the company receive any remuneration in any form whatsoever. Membership is free, evaluations of books are free; books that pass standards test are awarded a free Seal of Good Writing. We do try to raise money to pay for printing and distributing the catalog to libraries, promote it in the media, and eventually reach our goal that self-published books be given a level field and become known to the reading public.

I can't tell you exactly what we would do in the unlikely case that all of the self-published books were submitted to us at the same time. But I do know one thing. If tomorrow morning, instead of having to handle dozens of books at a time, as we do now, thousands descended upon us, the organization will be enhanced by an adequate staff, paid by funds we would raise on an emergency appeal to foundations and corporations. In addition, hopefully, more groups will mushroom to do what we do now: read self-published books the way good readers would -- without monetary or other suspect incentives, without bias -- and then vote, as we do, before recommending those books that are worth recommending to other readers.

Paying to be listed when payment of a fee is the only criterion for listing is of dubious value. Without a clearly structured evaluation process equal or similar to ours, no recommendation can be considered valid. To be credible, the advice to readers and libraries must not be tainted by money paid for it by the authors.

I appeal to other writers to join the organization, which has no other motives but our joint brighter tomorrow, so that we can all become stronger, speaking with one voice, all of us, the present and those soon-to-become self-published authors -- a unified force that will change the publishing industry for the brighter future of literature itself!

Once again: go to www.indiePENdents.org, sign in as a member, and -- if you wish to submit your work for evaluation (it has to be already published in print or an e-book platform) -- fill out the additional submission form and send us a final PDF and print sample.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


We need one voice for self-published authors.

Published authors are organized and their interests are represented by the Authors Guild. Self-published authors still seem loath to speak with one voice, as if by joining forces we’ll lose our individuality. As a result, we continue to talk, often at cross-purposes. Some of the discord we hear may be coming from other interests than ours.

Talk feels good, but action is more effective. We must realize our common interests, and achieve unity of purpose. But only the strength in numbers can make us prevail. Once we become a united critical mass of thousands of authors, we will collectively become a force to be listened to by the media, by Amazon, by the publishers, and eventually, yes, when necessary to protect our common interests -- by the courts.

Unless self-published writers get under one umbrella to do something concrete for themselves, we won't be effective against adverse marketing forces.

Join The indiePENdents.org. Membership is free. Let's speak in unison.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Democratic Right of the Public to Access All Books

Self-published authors have yet to gain a voice on the pages of The New York Times. On behalf of The indiePENdents.org, I tried responding to articles in the business section, reports dealing with publishing, libraries and Author's Guild, even an Op-Ed essay -- all met by an automated reply and then -- silence.

True to the pattern self-published authors are used to, I am accumulating rejections, by now a badge of distinction from publishers of books and newspapers. As traditional publishing slowly drowns in its own blindness, unable to see or adapt to new and coming trends, the sun will eventually shine on the growing tribe of self-published authors and their representatives.

Here is my latest one:

To The Editor:

Re: “E-Books and Democracy” (Op-Ed, May 1):

How interesting that the illustration above the article about libraries and publishers is of a library card for a self-published classic that for a long time wasn’t accepted by either of them: James Joyce’s Ulysses.

In the article, the President of The New York Public Library, Anthony W. Marx rightly advocates public access to all books, including e-Books, which publishers are trying to restrict.

“The challenge,” he concludes, “is to ensure that the information revolution provides more, not less access for the public . . .”

That advocacy, however, is extended to only part of available literature.  It doesn’t include self-published authors, who are still shunned by both publishers (who, out of  economic consideration, are not taking risks on new talent) and libraries -- only because the publishers didn’t even look at them. These are indefensible reasons for withholding the public’s right of access to all books, not just those with the arbitrary publishers’ imprimatur.

The majority of books today are self-published, as in their day were so many of today’s classics. We are advocating that libraries open their doors to all books, not just those advertised by publishers. Readers are adults who should be allow to judge books for themselves. To be truly democratic, they should showcase all books, and at least those ”Well Written, Well Edited, Unknown (self-published) Books” which our organization of peers evaluates for free, before issuing some of them a Seal of Good Writing, without any financial gain or personal bias. The catalog is available for $8 from Amazon, and can be downloaded for free at www.indiePENdents.org.

Jasha M. Levi
President, The indiePENdents.org

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Of course we should welcome David Mamet into the ranks of self-published authors.  Isn't the great of Broadway and Hollywood attesting that it is OK to self-publish? Our website, www.ndiePENdents.org, already said so.

But let us not claim any victories. On the contrary, his joining us only makes things more complicated.

Mamet’s decision to do his next book without a traditional publisher does not mean that self-publishing will stop being discriminated: he will enter center stage, already  successful and we will now start hearing literary bigots say: “Some of my best friends are self-published.” They will continue with the canard that the majority of indie writers aren’t treated as equals because of their own fault.  They won’t say that “all self-publishing is garbage” anymore, but that enough of us are.  Most of the second class citizens of scribedom will still be tarred and feathered.

Well, people, we did not start self-publishing because we had David Mamet’s choice of a celebrity. We came to it because the publishing society didn’t give new talent a chance,well before we could turn our backs to it once POD and e-books became possible.

For the great majority of self-published writers, nothing will change: We are forced to take time from book-writing to devising marketing schemes on the internet, and to set siege to libraries’ castles, begging for access to the reading public. Don’t let me started on bookstores, as they are sore with us for being sold by their arch-enemy Amazon and for listing our titles with the merchandizing giant..

It doesn’t occur to booksellers that self-published authors would gladly list their books with them, if they would only agree to sell our titles. It is like shoe-stores refusing to sell boots that aren’t mass-produced. Or supermarkets rejecting local produce, no matter what quality.

When print and network media mention self-publishing, it isn’t to review the literary value of the works, but only as subject in business sections, treating it as a contraband and a thorn in the side of publishing houses. The reviewers don't review us simply because we don't have the imprimatur of one of the international conglomerates.

The indiePENdents.org “auditions” self-published books. A panel of three judges grants them (or not) our Seal of Good Writing and enters them into a catalog of Well Written, Well Edited, Unknown Books. They are indeed fit to be read; tell it to your librarian and book-seller: they seem to be deaf.

Self-published authors have a long way to go. By definition autonomous individuals, writers can’t organize strikes. But we can join as members of The indiePENdents.org and walk together on the long, uphill climb to recognition and acceptance of the many worthy books we produce.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


My collection of rejection from The New York Times is enriched by one more letter about self-publishing. This time, it was my response to a polemic between Maureen Sullivan’s (ALA) and Scott Turow (Author’s Guild) over the question of diminishing royalties to authors:

I agree with Maureen Sullivan (Letters, April 11) that librarians should love authors. As President of ALA, she knows that they are our natural allies.

But I also agree with Scott Turow oposition (Op-Ed April 10) to the trend to make everyone but the writers themselves profit from their labor. As President of the Authors Guild, he stands against further erosion of authors’ right to some fruit of their labor.

Missing from this debate is the question of the livelihood of independent authors, whose writings aren’t offered by mainstream publishers. Many don’t even earn the Authors Guild’s minimum requirement of a $500 annual income from their books. A great number of worthy titles are hidden from library patrons simply because they are self-published. Their authors don’t have the same access to the reading public, which should be the ultimate arbiter of their success of failure.

By the standards of today’s acquisition policies, Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses, and Zane Grey, alongside with works of Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust and a long list of today’s classics would still bef ound only in the modern version of Samizdat  -- self-published but not on library shelves.

Our non-profit association of indie writers Is trying to level the playing field and gain acceptance by libraries of worthy titles by self-published authors. We offer indie books objective scrutiny by volunteer professionals, without any bias of personal taste or monetary gain.

We advocate both protection of intellectual propertiy rights and equitable royalties for all authors, self- or otherwise published.  All would benefit if the readers had access to all books to decide on their value and the resulting income of authors..

Monday, April 8, 2013


There is an interesting op-ed opinion, in The New York Times of April 8, 2013, by best-selling author Scott Turow, who is also president of The Authors Guild.

It is entitled "The Slow Death of the American Author."

Turow outlines the inventive ways publishers, and even libraries, are circumventing intellectual property rights, stealing in effect from authors a larger and larger portions of the proceeds on their works. Authors' royalties are being reduced and sometimes disappear completely under various schemes.

"Authors," says Turow, "practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress 'to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries'. The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can't be threatened, is essential to democracy."

Even  the Supreme Court (or should i, considering its recent history of giving voting rights to money, not be surprised?) is getting into the act. Turow specifically refers to the Court's "decision last month to allow importation and resale of foreign editions of American works..." by which ruling "authors won't get royalties."

Warns Turow:

"The culture is now at risk. The value of copyrights is being quickly depreciated, a crisis that hits hardest not best-selling authors like me, who have benefited from most of recent changes in bookselling, but new and so-called midlist writers." I say this means self-published authors who aren't given a level playing field in the market of ideas.

My take is that we are witnessing and living in the period of intellectual usury. Usury, remind you, is a sin in the Bible. But we live in times where people leave the Good Book on the threshold of their houses of worship, and people of Law dispense mercantile justice.

As I wrote in a recent letter on behalf of The indiePENdents: “In our democracy, unfortunately just as in the defunct Soviet Union, the public does not have unimpeded access to a majority of printed books. The reasons are different: theirs were political, ours are economic, both detrimental to the quality of the society and the freedom of its culture.”

Jasha M. Levi, author
Founder and President

Friday, February 1, 2013

A guest blog by a gun owner friend, William Schiff

Shoot the Second Amendment!
It’s past about time that someone actually seriously addresses those (like Wayne LaPierre) who repeatedly claim that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution supports the rejection of any constraints on gun possession and use.
1. Those who quote (or misinterpret) our Constitution (like the SCOTUS – e.g., in”Citizens United”) seem to forget, that unlike the Bible, which was, of course, penned by God on her laptop, the U.S. Constitution and its amendments were written by mere people, who are sometimes wrong, wrong, wrong. Most current people (excluding the Far Far Right) think the F#%*Fathers screwed up the parts dealing with slavery, for one example. Yet, the 2nd Amendment continues to be held up to the holy light, like the biblical prescriptions for executing adulterers, and other gems of ecumenical wisdom. But even if we accept this absurd practice of enforcing, by current law, some of the outdated concepts of Holy Scriptures, there remain several objections to slavish support of the 2nd Amendment to mean something it doesn’t.
2. If one actually reads the 2nd Amendment, it suggests that the PURPOSE of not infringing on “the right of the people to bear arms” is to provide for a ready “standing” army (of the State or Nation, depending on how one interprets “State”), of citizens to defend the “security” of our fair nation. Did they have in mind pickup trucks full of crazed people toting single-shot muskets? Disturbed kids with bulletproof vests toting Bushmaster assault weapons? Or farmers and field-hands with muskets, who might be drafted or entreated to drive off a despot or two. One can’t be sure, of course, but I suspect the last is closest to the true case. Thus, the claims often heard that the 2nd was meant to provide for protection against our own government(s) seems unlikely. It seems unlikely that weekend field “exercises” with anti-tank weapons, flamethrowers, RPGs, and Bazookas was what the F#%* Fathers had in mind. Surely, one would prefer the trained Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force to do the job. Face it guys, you couldn’t hold off a company of regular army (with helicopter gunships, etc) if you wanted to! And those military-style assault weapons enthusiasts who roam our byways and more remote regions to shoot at targets containing pictures of their political enemies hardly constitute the “…well-regulated militia…” that is referenced in the 2nd. The weekend warriors who so often quote the 2nd (if they can remember it) are closer to anarchists and cultists than “well-regulated militia.”
3. Where in the 2nd Amendment does one see specified WHAT SORT of ARMS the People are entitled to bear? Surely, not poison gas grenades, RPGs, machine guns (already illegal), flame throwers, rockets, or tactical nuclear weapons! What then? Hunting rifles? Sure! Shotguns? Of course! Large-magazine rifles, pistols, or even shotguns? I don’t think so. Since that issue of “what kinds of arms” remains unspecified, the 2nd Amendment seems mute, and thus has no bearing on outlawing the sale, purchase, or possession of the weapons at issue…weapons of war, which have no place in a civilized society. Now, all we need is a civilized society!
~ GeezerGab, Former member of the NRA, and “Expert Rifleman”