Friday, December 19, 2008

Frakkin' QuickBooks!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I've already posted about what a piece of utter crap QuickBooks Pro 2009 is. Then, shockingly enough, the Director of Product Development for QuickBooks posted a response as a comment on my blog! He claimed they were working on fixing things and had already made improvements. All I had to do was download the patch!

Okay, so I did that and I can honestly say that things have gone from bad to worse. Seriously, someone should be fired. Or, better yet, let's have a big old dung-and-feathering party in which we, the users who have invested millions in Intuit's software, get to express our outrage with their piece of crap product by showing a few developers what we feel they have treated us.

QuickFill on downloaded credit card entries still does not work! And worse than not working, it tries to match what you are typing and then fails completely. And then you have to go back and start over again. I am so unbelievably furious about what a piece of junk this version is that I cannot accurately express myself, thought I just called the Office of the President at Intuit and tried. Please do so yourself. The number is 520-901-3280.

I called and told them that QuickBooks 2009 is Intuit's WordPerfect 6.0. If you are old enough to remember, WordPerfect was the world leader in wordprocessing software...until version 6.0. That version was so buggy and so not ready for release that it drove users away in droves. Microsoft offered a competitive upgrade for, I think, $59, and to upgrade WordPerfect to 7.0 was $99. Guess why Word is now the world leader in wordprocessing software? I don't for a second think it's a better program (if WP is working), but it was cheaper and WordPerfect had lost my trust.

I also called the folks at Peachtree today and told them that QuickBooks 2009 users were just looking for a reason to leave the program. I told them they needed to slash their pricing and people would leave QuickBooks in droves to come them. I told Terri from Intuit the same thing. If Intuit ever refunds me my upgrade costs as I've been promised, I will immediately invest that money over at Peachtree.

Sure, switching to a new system will suck. But can it really be worse?

Z

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Because Looks Do Count

No, I'm not writing about hot authors, though  it will never hurt you to be a hot author.  I nearly lost my lunch when I saw an actual video of Kathy Reichs, author of the BONES novels upon which the TV show is based.  Now, I can't say I find the actress who plays Bones that hot (her boss and Angela are by far better-looking), but she is waaaay better-looking than Kathy Reichs and I just find it all very amusing.  Maybe some day I can write a novel that gets turned into a TV show and Brad Pitt can play me.  Yeah, right.  I mean, what would people think when they saw the show.  I hear them now.  "Um, Andy, is that supposed to be you?  I didn't realize you had such rippled abs...."

Okay, now that I have alienated one New York Times best-selling author, let me get to the point:  I mean the looks of your proposal or sample chapter.  Folks, I have manuscript preparation guidelines on my website right here:  http://www.zackcompany.com/submissions/ManuscriptPrep/manuscriptprep.htm.

So why do I constantly get single-spaced material?  It gets rejected without a reading.

And why do I get 1.5 spaced Times Roman fonts, when clearly I want double-spaced Courier Dark or Courier New or Franklin Gothic Book?  Now, using the wrong font won't automatically get you rejected, but it does make your material harder to read and thus I may pass over it in favor of reading something easier, which could delay when you hear from me.

Next, please don't double-space between paragraphs in proposals.  I get these proposals that are so much longer than they need to be because the authors are putting in double spaces (which means four spaces if they are using double-spacing) or triples or even quads between paragraphs and sections.  Here's a tip:  use a # sign to indicate a line break.  Nothing more.  That's all I need.

I am intersted in good writers.  I am not looking for you to desktop publish your book using Adobe InDesign or some other fancy publishing package.  Use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).  Plain, vanilla formatting lets me worry about the words on the page and not the margins or anything else.

So, please follow those guidelines.  I promise you that no one in publishing will ever get a manuscript formatted using those guidelines and complain about the formatting.

Z

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Auto Industry Bail-out Answer

If you are like me, then you have been watching a lot of TV during which Congress has been debating the auto-industry bail-out.  You may also have caught mention that President-Elect Obama has reportedly removed any mention of an oil-industry windfall tax from his website.  I heard this and a light bulb went off:

The oil industry should bail out the auto industry.

Seriously.  The oil industry has made billions off consumers (i.e., taxpayers) with high oil prices.  It has a large, vested interest in keeping Americans buying gas and oil.  Hence, it has the money and the motivation to save the auto industry.  And it wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime.

If the government can negotiate for Chase to buy Washington Mutual and for Citi to try to buy Wachovia, why can't the government start pushing the oil companies to lend the auto builders the money they need to stay in business?

Further, why haven't I heard anyone in Congress say that if they auto industry takes taxpayers' money, it has to promise to spend every dollar in the US?  And with plants in Canada and Mexico and other countries, why aren't those governments being asked to chip in?

We shouldn't use taxpayer dollars to save the auto industry.  Let the oil companies do it.  And if we end up using taxpayer dollars, then every dollar has to be spent in the US, with not one penny going to executive compensation or perks.

If you agree with me, feel free to forward this blog to your Congressman.

Z

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The November Monthly Round-up

Happy Holidays!  Jeez, after getting back from a nice, long holiday break it sure is tough to get back into the swing of things.  I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and for those of you keeping count, here are the totals for the month of November. 

In November, we... 

  • Received 38 queries and rejected 25;
  • Received 19 requested sample chapters, and rejected 2;
  • Received 2 requested proposals, and rejected 1;
  • Received 5 manuscripts, and rejected 2. 

We currently have the following on-hand to read: 

  • 5 full manuscripts, plus 2 more from current clients
  • 49 sample chapters
  • 3 proposals 

We are currently a waiting: 

  • 6 sample chapters
  • 3 proposals 

If you have a current submission on-hand with us, please note that we have read all partials dated before July 21st.  If you have submitted a partial to us dated before that, you should have heard from us by now.

Please do not forget to review the submission guidelines before you send us a query letter.  Many writers send us sample chapters or proposals before we have requested them.  You do not need to do this.  We promise that if your query has sparked our interest, we will ask you to send materials.  As usual, do not forget an SASE! 

Thank you,
Lisa

Monday, November 24, 2008

How Apropos!

A few years back, my client John de Lancie called to tell me that he'd run into best-selling Star Trek author Peter David at a convention and started chatting about writing a novel I'd been bugging John for some time to write: a first-person novel from the POV of Q, John's terrific character that he played on three different Star Trek series.  The novel I, Q was the result and I started working with Peter from that point out on a few different things.

One of those was a trilogy of novels featuring Sir Apropos of Nothing, a knight of an unusual order, to say the least.  The first novel, called Sir Apropos of Nothing, of course, got a starred review in Publishers Weekly.  The second, The Woad to Wuin, also go a starred review in PW.  The third, Tong Lashing never got sent in for a review!  Go figure.

All three books remain in print, though, and you can pick them up using the links below:



The series ended there when the publisher, Pocket Books, got out of the original fantasy business (they've since gone back into the original fantasy business and we're hopeful they will buy some new Apropos novels soon), but readers looking for a fresh dose of Sir Apropos have a new outlet:  comic books.  Yes, comic books.  IDW Publishing has just released issue #1 of a new Sir Apropos series.  Now, I wish I could link to some site that sells the comic, but I can't say I'm affliliated with any.  So all I can do is show you the cool covers.  Yes, covers.  There are two versions.  Buy them both for your collection.

Sir Apropos of Nothing (2008) 1A Sir Apropos of Nothing (2008) 1B

Enjoy!

Z

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why QuickBooks 2009 sucks. Let me count the ways....

As a small-business owner, I have used QuickBooks for many years.  And I can't say I've ever really been in love with it, but now I may officially hate it.  Let's go over the reasons why:
  1. To get it to work, you must now call in and be on hold.  There is no registration online apparently;
  2. They send you a PIN that you did not choose and apparently are supposed to keep around for future use;
  3. The program would not install and I wasted numerous hours installing and uninstalling and screaming at customer support and the Office of the President.  Then I got a call back from Robert in QuickBooks Technical Support.  His phone number is 520-901-3059.  He is American, apparently, and in the home office.  He will hate me for putting his name and number up.  Tough.  If QuickBooks didn't ship all of its technical support off to India and a bunch of guys with indecipherable accents, Robert wouldn't be getting his number published.  But they did.
  4. I was always pissed about the payroll and tax table charges.  It used to be you got free tax table updates for a year when you bought the program.  Then you got ONE.  Give me a freakin' break.  Then they had different levels of payroll service, ranging from just tax tables and being able to print a few federal forms, up to doing it all for you.  But the pricing has always been far, far too high.  Now the lower-priced stuff is all gone, apparently, and you have to spend hundreds more per year to get basic functionality that used to be built-in to the price of the original purchase or a very cheap add-on.
  5. Intuit seems determined to lose the small-business owner as a customer and, frankly, I'd be glad to go but there's no competitor out there worth going to.  Sure, Microsoft has their own accounting package, but it seems to be an orphan child, frankly.  I see no commercials or effort to actually sell it to small-business owners.
  6. Everything about the 2009 version seems worse than the 2006 version.  Downloading and adding transactions for a bank account or credit card will take you at least twice as long and I wouldn't be surprised if it could take ten times as long.  I would rip that module out and start over.  You can't look up account alphabetically it seems.  I have "show account numbers" checked off and apparently it only works if you know the account number.  When I started to type a payee, nothing came up, but when I used the drop-down box it was right there.  Over the years, I have played around with various database programs and website-building programs.  I feel like QuickBooks 2009 has the feel of something built a guy in the back of his garage who just learned Java.
  7. Speaking of Java, I have no idea if that's what QuickBooks is using, but I think so and I have to say that I'm so sick of companies turning to Java to make their programs look and feel more like websites.  I have yet to see a program that was IMPROVED by turning to Java.  Certainly Plaxo was ruined by it and I will not be using Plaxo any longer.  The downloaded transactions screen in  QuickBooks 2009 has a Java look and feel and if that's what they used, it was a huge mistake.
  8. I have always wondered why QuickBooks seemed so unbelievably ignorant of the way most small-business owners work.  I probably know a dozen people using the program in their small businesses and none of them loves it.  They all think it could work better and yet all I ever see in QuickBooks is that the price goes up and the features stay the same or get worse.  More and more bugs seem to show up and I wonder if they have outsourced the programming to India along with their tech support.
  9. I think what QuickBooks needs is hate mail and an attitude change.  For years, QuickBooks has had an attitude that users should do things the way it wants users to do them, because that's easier for QuickBooks.  They seem to pay NO ATTENTION WHATSOEVER to their users, other than to determine what they need to do to sell more copies of QB and more products, like checks.  Yet their prices tend to be exactly twice the cost of ordering the same items online from Costco.  Yes, the QuickBooks products are perhaps a bit better in quality, but the checks I've gotten from third-parties have always worked with the program and my bank without any problems, so why overpay and buy from Intuit?
  10. QuickBooks charges what I believe is a very large sum for its programs and services, yet getting support is impossible and if you do get through, you'll be talking to India or Manila.   Its attitude is that you have to do it its way; they don't seem to ask customers how they think the program should work and then make it work that way.  Its supplies are overpriced.  Won't SOMEBODY out there please build a better mousetrap?
Z

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

THE SWORD NEVER SLEEPS...and neither does my son




Oy.  Sleep deprivation is a bitch.  My son is now four-months-old and still not sleeping through the night.  One of my clients, a former marine, says "forget waterboarding; let's just put terrorists in a nursery!"  And I remember living back in New York and I had this neighbor who played the piano and sang opera—both very, very badly—and my client Ed Greenwood suggested that I lower a boombox out the window down to their apartment and play a tape of a baby crying all night long.  At the time, I didn't give the idea the consideration it clearly deserved.

Speaking of Ed, he has a new book out....

For those readers who have been anxiously and perhaps impatiently awaiting the last book in this Forgotten Realms trilogy…wait no longer.  The Knights of Myth Drannor are back!  After being chartered by the king and queen, the knights stumble onto plot after plot against the Crown, and earn the ire of the Royal Magician.  The question becomes do the knights have what it takes to become heroes who are brave, honorable, and relentless?  Will they do anything to conquer evil?  Or will Florin Falconhand face the greatest challenge of his life?

This is the final book in the Knights of Myth Drannor trilogy by Ed Greenwood.  The trilogy began in 2007 with SWORDS OF EVENINGSTAR.  After saving the king’s life, Florin and his friends are granted the right to adventure in the kingdom.  But the knights take on more than they bargained for, as evil follows them everywhere and they struggle to stay alive.  Greenwood concludes this trilogy about the celebrated adventurers that began in SWORDS OF EVENINGSTAR and was continued in SWORDS OF DRAGONFIRE.  Here, Florin and the knights must save the kingdom and themselves from a web of lies or it will be destroyed forever.

Ed Greenwood is the creator of the Forgotten Realms setting.  He is also the best-selling author of hundreds of novels, game products, and articles in that same setting.

If you love adventure and a world of fantasy, then this trilogy is definitely for you!  The Forgotten Realms setting is one of magic, treachery, and true heroism.  Become one of the many readers who have become immersed in the exhilarating journey from teenager to swashbuckling hero of Florin Falconhand and his friends.



Z

Monday, November 03, 2008

The October Monthly Wrap-Up

Happy November greetings from, Lisa, Andy’s newest intern!  Andy is currently on his fifth cup of coffee for the morning, and greatly in need of a nap and a long vacation.  If anyone knows any tricks or techniques to get a baby to sleep through the night, he would greatly appreciate it.  I think he might be a bit envious of my nightly eight hours of undisturbed and blissful sleep.  That said, here are the totals for the month of October for those of you keeping track at home. 

In October, we… 

  • Received 28 queries and rejected 27;
  • Received 22 requested sample chapters and rejected 2;
  • Received 2 proposals and rejected 0;
  • Received 5 manuscripts and rejected 2.

 We currently have the following on-hand to read: 

  • 7 full manuscripts (with only one intern)
  • 4 proposals
  • 47 sample chapters

 We are currently awaiting: 

  • 3 proposals
  • 7 sample chapters

Please be aware that we have quite a bit of material to read, but we WILL get to you.  It is impossible for us to confirm that we have received your material, so make sure you use delivery confirmation if you are concerned the Post Office might lose it.  Also, do not forget that SASE; it makes our lives a lot simpler! 

Thanks. 

Lisa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And You're Waiting for????

My wife interrupted me in the shower this morning to tell me that my client, Dr. Paul Offit, was on the TODAY show and that she was recording it.  That was good, since we have hardwood floors and I wouldn't want to drip on them.

Just in case you missed it, here it is:



Yesterday, I heard from the editor at Columbia University Press that Paul's book, Autism's False Prophets, is now their number one selling title.  If you are a parent, your children may be exposed to dangerous viruses because other parents are not vaccinating their children (heck, you may be exposed).  Thus reading this book and understanding the subject matter are important for any parent, as well as anyone interested in medicine, history, and autism.  You scan scroll down to prior blog entries for the links to buy the book.

Z

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reviews, Reviews, How to Cover All of the Reviews?

Today, Newsweek hits the stands with an article about Paul Offit, author of Autism's False Prophets.  You can—and should—read the article here:  http://www.newsweek.com/id/165644.

What I love about this article is that it is not just about the book.  It's about the author and talks about the fact that Paul is a real guy who loves children and has been motivated throughout his career by his childhood experiences to become a doctor and help children.  Click the link above and read it for yourself, then click the link below and buy the book.  It's an imporant read for any parent and anyone wondering why drugs are so expensive.  Imagine having to factor into the pricing of any medication the potential lawsuits that could come, even if the medication is proven safe!



Also getting a great review today is Patrick K. O'Donnell's The Brenner Assignment.  Publishers Weekly reviewed it online at http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6608700.html?industryid=47142.

The review says, among other great things, "O’Donnell provides an insightful look into the internal struggles of the burgeoning OSS as well as a real-life espionage adventure of bravery, ingenuity and sacrifice."

Pick this one up and learn how they did it in the old days.  No smart bombs, no laser-guided, nap-of-the-earth-flying missles.  Just brains and big brass ones....




Z



Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Great Book and an Author's Worst Nightmare

The challenge for any agent is to simply keep up with the flow of information coming in.  And by information, I pretty much mean anything that my brain has to process.  From submissions coming in to submissions going out, from royalty statements to reviews, hardly anything comes in that can be simply ignored.

The details that go into publishing every single book in America would stagger the average person's mind.  Books require micromanagement on a scale generally only seen in custom businesses, e.g., custom jewelry, furniture, dresses, etc.  Sure, you can print mass copies of a book, but the different sales channels, different publicity channels and review outlets, as well as formats in which any book might be published are overwhelming.  Add in that you can't just sell a book and forget it—books can be returned from most accounts to the publisher for credit—and you have so many moving variables per title that it is inevitable that things go wrong.


Take for example a new title about which I am very excited, The Brenner Assignment:  The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of World War II, by Patrick O'Donnell, award-winning author of Beyond Valor, Operatives, Spies & Saboteurs, and We Were One.  Somehow, Barnes & Noble never ordered the book.  The buyer said they were going to order the book, but then never did.  So the book comes out.  It's getting great reviews and the author is promoting the hell out of it on the radio.  But the largest bookstore chain in the country had no copies.  OMG!  And most authors think it's bad when the one store they are appearing at and doing a signing at doesn't get the books on time.  This is the entire chain!

Meanwhile, here's what folks are saying about this great book:

"O’Donnell clearly enjoys narrating war’s gristle along with its meat; small successes and failures ground the story in the reality of sabotage, reconnaissance, capture and escape, torture and murder. Along the way, the participants’ motivations, allegiances, thoughts and actions come alive in vigorous, exciting prose. A taut real-life thriller.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Remarkable and very readable. Patrick O’Donnell has transformed an obscure World War II spy mission into a vivid and improbable adventure yarn.”—Rick Atkinson, best-selling author of Day of Battle.

This book cries out to be made into a movie. Two heroes on the same quest, a grand setting, evil Germans, spies and traitors, and a beautiful countess. What more would it need?—The Internet Review of Books

If you are a fan of WWII nonfiction and love a dramatic and emotional story, this one's for you.  So check with your local bookstore or just buy it right here and right now.  You won't be sorry.



Z