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Everything wrong with publishing: Schaffner Press, with additional comments about the "industry"

Wednesday 2/1/23

There's a very small press called Schaffner Press that's based in Tucson, Arizona, run by a guy named Tim Schaffner. As a general rule of thumb, if you name your press or your magazine--as John Freeman did--after yourself, you are a grade A pompous, delusional asshole. I wish there was some other way to accurately put it, but there really isn't.


Schaffner works with a man named Sean Murphy. Here is there description on their site:


While both of us share similar interests, please query Tim for non-fiction, journalistic, social activism, environmental, health/mental health, biography, history, current events, and personal memoir. Sean would be the one for mystery, humor, literary and short fiction, first fiction, true crime and pop culture (esp. music and entertainment, film and film noir studies). Both Tim and Sean are looking for titles that will expound upon our original mission statement to publish “books of social relevance and universal concern.”


This is a press that publishes books by people who have done very little in their careers, who will do very little in their careers, in terms of consequence. The ceiling is low. The press does not sell books, but don't be misled by that and think it's unusual. The goal of presses is not to sell books. It's not to reach readers. Nor is the goal of literary journals to provide anything worth reading. Or magazines and newspapers to publish the best work possible. No one cares about that in publishing. More on that in a moment--I'm going to let these various emails speak for themselves. I think they do an effective and revealing job.


But what these people will do is lie. They lie constantly. They bullshit. They just say things. Schaffner has a book by an academic called Liberation of Dissonance, a work of "free-verse couplets."


Now, do you think anyone really wants to read a book of free-verse couplets called Liberation of Dissonance? Maybe, in theory, there are some poets out there who do. But what type of numbers are we talking? Ten? Pretty much nothing, right? Do you know how few people--this is real--even know what the word "dissonance" means? And it's in your title? Just hanging out there? Who is that for? It sure as hell isn't to make any money, and spare me the nobility of art with these frauds.


And yet a publisher like this, will talk about their "list" and what is right for it and marketing and what sells and what doesn't. They are lying. None of that is real. So why do I send anything to a press like this?


Because I am blackballed for greatness. For being the last real writer in this world. For having the track record I do. For having the ability I do. For not being one of them. Not sounding like them, being in their cliques, looking like them, having gone to their schools, come from money, etc. I am the ultimate threat and enemy to them--he who must be kept out and not allowed to move forward--because of all that I am and represent to them.


This isn't conjecture. We've proven this. We've shown it again and again in this journal. And my work is so plainly what my work is. I am so plainly what I am. Plus, you can go and read the summaries of the books a place like this publishes, and look at what their authors have done, and there's no comparison. It's the ultimate joke of a comparison. Go for it. Indulge me. You'll see what I mean in a matter of seconds.


You then must realize how much it's going to mean to someone at a place like this to be able to big league me. Nothing can get them off harder.


Then we put you up on the blog, and everyone sees you for what you are. And that's also not up for debate. You can't have anything more obvious than what is happening here. What I'm trying to emphasize in this post, is that the entire system, this pretend notion of business, and sales, is just that. You simply have independently wealthy people who lie. Who are living out this fantasy, too, where they can be a dick. Where they think they have power. Where they are "important."


No one is less important than these people. They only matter insofar as what they have done to date to the greatest artist we have had. That will change. Showing what happens is part of what will make that change.


I wrote Schaffner back in the summer and offered him one, or both, of two books. Such is my situation. And this is how it works at every level of publishing. Everything I wrote above holds true. This is not about commerce. It's not about reaching readers. It's not about good books, good stories, good pieces. I have lived this twenty hours a day for more than twenty years. No one has ever lived anything to the degree that I've lived this, and to the degree that I know exactly what these people are all about.


One book was There Is No Doubt: Story Girls, which begins with "Fitty."


You know what I'm tempted to do? I'm tempted to put "Fitty" up on here in full, and bill it as the best work of fiction there is. I have others as good. But there is nothing by anyone else that is anywhere near the level of "Fitty." Ever. Period. I am that certain of this that I can say it. I can say it with ease and confidence. I can say it with no worries or reservations.


But I'm conflicted. If I put it up here, I give it away for free. And that is a pill that tears my throat to shreds. I could take it down later. It could appear somewhere else and I could be compensated to the degree that I should be. I also think that the story doesn't want me to do that. It wants me to be patient. On its behalf. On my behalf. But There Is No Doubt is a flat-out masterpiece. You won't find a better book. Further, it's a book all about the assertion of female identity, and that seems pretty important in our world, no?


The other book was You're Up, You're Down, You're Up: Essays on Art in Life and Life in Art. Again, there is nothing like it. From a writer unlike all other writers. From a person unlike all other people. Here was the letter I initially sent:


Hey, Tim and Sean,

How's it going? Want to take a look at a couple books? They're good! I have twenty new books of various stripes--fiction books, film book, jazz book, essay collections, Beatles book, book of literary writings. I keep reading about you two, as I endeavor to oversee the initial journey out into the world for each of these twenty books, and your interests, and how you go about things, and always find myself thinking "yes," and "that is very cool," and the like. Hence, this letter.


My work has appeared just about everywhere and I'm the author of eight books. Attached is a fiction one, and nonfiction one. The former is called There Is No Doubt: Story Girls. I've written almost 400 stories going back to June 2018, and I was always working towards this book, to give you an idea of how much focus, vision, purpose, went into it. It's the best anything I've done. Each of the stories feature a female narrator or protagonist. Take a gander at "Fitty." It's something, I believe, the world needs right now. The rest of the stories are of a piece, but that'll give you an idea about the book straight off.


The other book is called You're Up, You're Down, You're Up: Essays on Art in Life and Life in Art. It's very different, and somewhat of me in Montaigne mode, though I am not a big comparisons fan. But it is itself bursting with energy and life, and I think it's an infectious book, and can change how one looks at much.


Thanks for the time, fellas.


All best,

Colin


This is what Schaffner wrote back:


Thanks for your submission here, but we do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Please query first in future before sending in your work.

Best,

TS


That's pretty funny, right? Can you imagine being that much of a fool? A hubristic, moronic fool? You are so in love with yourself, that this is what you say to the writer who has done that? When almost everything that enters your inbox comes from a never was who never will be? People who have done nothing. Will do nothing. And people who are bad at writing.


I wasn't checking the email--I am now--because I knew how this would go. Isn't that amazing?


That's how rigged this is. That's how warped these people are. I only check the email to confirm what I almost certainly know will be there. I check to confirm the shit show.


Again: that's how rigged publishing is. I know every outcome before it happens. Pretty much. I'm not Barry Bologna-Sandwich here. Look at my work. Look at my track record. Does someone like Tim Schaffner seem to you like a guy who wants to reach readers? Who gives a flying toss about making money? Commerce? His "list"? Or does he seem like an arrogant douchebag who wants to play guy in charge?


Again, I didn't see this until today. I just watched it play out all at once. And you are some kind of an asshole when you sign with your initials. Don't do that. So, without me saying anything--we're still back in the summer--he sends me this:


HI Colin;Apologies for earlier dismissal, We generally don't accept unsolicited work, so I rejected your query due to this policy. However, after speaking with my colleague, Sean Murphy, we'll make an exception here and will add these to the submissions queue after all. Either he or I will be back in touch once we've had time to review your work. All best, Tim


This guy, right? What a tool. Gets worse. Then he sends me this, in late November:


Dear Colin;

Thanks for sending these in, but I don't see them working for our list. I enjoyed your essays, but you know as well as I that this

is a very tough market--so I'll pass with thanks for the entertaining read.

Best wishes,

Tim


Reading all of this today, I thought, nah, man, this isn't how your bullshit is going to go. Because I know what this guy is up to. I know exactly what he's doing. I know why. I know the little shots he's trying to take. I know this man better than his mother does, so far as his character and qualifications and agenda go. So I sent him this:


Tim,

I'm just looking at this now, because I knew exactly what to expect from you, so I put it off.

What on earth possessed you to write me the way you did in the first place? How unprofessional are you? How hubristic? Look who publishes with you. There's no comparison between what they do, and what I do. And you talked to me that way? This guy who is totally unlike anyone who ever crosses the threshold of your inbox? Then you tried to walk it back, because your partner suggested you do so, and then you sent me this below? Taking a dimly veiled shot at There Is No Doubt, a truly important work whose quality is self-evident--Sean, read the first story, and get a better sense for this person you're in "business" with and the determinations they make--and then you lump me in with you in knowing what is a tough sell?

This is good for my blog, showing how people like you conduct themselves. Tim, your books don't sell, period. They are all tough sells. Look who writes them. Look how blah they are. Look who is running the show, too. All you need is a mirror.


Don't act this way with people going forward, let alone someone who is galaxies above your writers with what he does, his track record, etc. By the way: the policy line was hilarious. You made a bunch of people laugh, and more will laugh when they see it on the blog.


Best,

Colin


Then, I was talking to a friend. Here's how our exchange went:


P:

I like the retraction on his part. Nice.


C:

Do you believe these people? It's non-stop. It's not just something from the email. It's every line. Every clause.

Also have people turning down an op-ed the minute they open the email. Because of my success with other pieces they were offered that ran elsewhere. I mean, this is insane. It never ends. These freaks.


P:

It is unbelievable. Clearly none of them actually write for a living. I suspect most are independently wealthy and rely on 1 or 2 "full-time" staff to generate content that is pablum. The literary journals are something else entirely--clearly subsidized by universities or god knows what, but there is no way these people are actually accountable for readership. At least Charles Dickens had to earn his dime.


C:

They just lie. They say the words, they talk about marketing, their "list," etc., but it's all lies. Look at Michelle at Dzanc. I mean...can she possibly believe any of that? So why say it? It pays her salary. That's it. That's what Dzanc does. It's not about selling books. Nothing is about selling books or getting readers. At the presses, at the journals, at the dying newspapers. And yes, they almost all are independently wealthy. But you can't just lie to me anymore. I should have stopped that a long time ago. I know exactly what's going on. Other people--albeit bad writers--take it to heart. They think that their bad book wouldn't sell. None of this s--- sells! Why would it. But they lie so casually, and with so much arrogance, like there's no way they wouldn't be believed. They're being replaced by ChatGPT. It's happening.








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