Zip It Mr. Galilei

Did you ever tell someone, “Don’t feel that way” and not get the best reaction?

In the same vein is “Don’t be that way.” Honestly, I could never figure that one out. Feels like a philosophical conundrum of the highest order. Telling someone not to be.

Four hundred years ago this week in 1616, Cardinal Bellarmine, representing the Catholic Church, issued an order to astronomer Galileo Galilei that he needed to abandon his strongly held opinion the Earth and planets revolve around the sun. The position of the church and many in power at the time was the reverse, the sun revolved around the Earth, the center of the universe.

Galileo Galilei was banned from “holding the opinion, promoting it, or teaching it.”

“Mr. Galilei, don’t think that way.”

Obviously, Galileo has been proven correct in his original analysis and the church leaders were incorrect, but it goes to show that when you have power, you can issue orders to those who think differently to stop thinking a certain way.

Like that actually works.

In book publishing, there are a number of things we have wrong, so I am here today to set the record straight once and for all so everyone would stop “thinking that way.” And in the process, I will personally feel better for pointing out the error.

Incorrect Publishing Thinking:

  • The number of books sold does not equal the number actually read. Since many (most?) books are never read in their entirety, you would probably be depressed by how many people actually read and took to heart what you wrote. So, if you sold 10,000 books, don’t go around telling people that 10,000 people read your book. The actual number read is a fraction of 10,000. Stop promoting this behavior.
  • A corollary to the above is for traditionally published authors. The number reportedly sold by your publisher is not the total number sold to readers. Those are different numbers. Publishers pay royalties on the number of books shipped to various sales channels. Sometimes books don’t sell and retailers return them. Books sit un-purchased on shelves. And most people don’t read books they buy in their entirety anyway. (See above) Have a nice day.
  • Promoting a certain number of books “in print” is like telling people the sun revolves around the Earth. It’s just wrong. Authors and publishers shouldn’t be proud for how many books are in boxes in a warehouse. Stop doing this and promoting it.
  • When an editor says, “This looks interesting” regarding your manuscript or proposal, that is good, but it does not mean, “We’ll publish it.” The decision process involves multiple steps and people. Don’t tell your friends you are getting published just yet just because you are so happy an editor liked it. Same principle applies to agents. Stop feeling that way.
  • When speaking with an agent or traditional publisher, don’t mention “Two other publishers have expressed interest” in your book if the two are indie publishers who you pay to have your book published. Of course they are interested, they want to sell their services. Please stop doing and teaching this.
  • Awards for writing won before you exited grammar school do not qualify you as an “Award-winning Author.” Stop promoting this.
  • Using shortcuts to pump up your social media numbers will not result in committed followers. Please stop holding the opinion it does, promoting it, or teaching it.
  • To online reviewers, for Pete’s sake when you are rating a book on Amazon or anywhere “stars” are selected, one star is bad, five stars are good. How many times do we see a one-star review, accompanied by a “best book I ever read” comment. One star does not mean “first place.” This must stop immediately. Again, one=bad, five=good.
  • For everyone in the world, if you are in a local bookstore and mention “Amazon” or any online retailer other than the store website, you are in the same category as the person who tells their spouse about all the other people they would rather marry. In other words, really dumb. Please, stop doing this, stop promoting this and for heaven sake, never teach it.

Isn’t life complicated? So much to know, so many hoops to jump through.

Bonus Correction: The phrase is, “I couldn’t care less,” not “I could care less.” If you could care less, then you care somewhat. You are trying to communicate that you don’t care at all, so you couldn’t care less.

I feel better already.

20 Responses to Zip It Mr. Galilei

  1. Avatar
    Judith Robl February 16, 2016 at 5:50 am #

    Love this! Especially your jab at one of my pet peeves: could care less. It makes me think people don’t even hear what they are saying, much less think about what it means.

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    Linda K. Rodante February 16, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Good stuff. If we knew it, we often forget. Just another bonus–Indie publishing is when the person publishes it herself/himself–doing most of the work including uploading it for ebooks and print books, but maybe farming out something like the cover (for instance, using the Amazon process). This usually includes paying an editor to edit the book. The author has control. However, self-publishing often means publishing a book through a paid publisher. They do the cover (limiting your choices), upload it to ebooks and print. Often you still must pay an editor if you want a decent product. They often require you to sell your print book at a high price. You have limited control.

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    Kenneth Kinghorn February 16, 2016 at 7:39 am #

    Thanks for your wise words, Dan. I always enjoy reading what you write!
    Pax Christi,
    Ken Kinghorn
    Asbury Theological Seminary

  4. Avatar
    Robin Bayne February 16, 2016 at 9:23 am #

    So true about the Amazon star ratings…. I often see rave reviews with one star ratings. It’s easy for readers to post incorrectly. On one of my own books a 65 year old reader somehow managed to post “this reviewer is under the age of 13.” Never did figure out how that happened. Great article.

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    Deborah Raney February 16, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Yes, but if I count all the readers who’ve told me, “I got your book for 25 cents at a garage sale and then I shared it with my 42 closest friends and we all loved it!” then couldn’t I say I have approximately [42xnumber of books actually sold] readers? Please? 😉

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow February 16, 2016 at 11:45 am #

      Whatever makes you happy.


  6. Avatar
    Rebecca Stuhlmiller February 16, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    “Awards for writing won before you exited grammar school do not qualify you as an ‘Award-winning Author.'”


  7. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka February 16, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    Loved this, Dan. Laughing out loud right now. The things people do to sound/look good . . . So, I guess I should take the fact that I won that poetry award in fifth grade out of my bio? 😉

    I appreciate the reminder to be genuine in the messages I convey about my writing, and hopefully one day, my books. 🙂

    And thanks for the words on “could/couldn’t care less.”

  8. Avatar
    Bonnie Engstrom February 16, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    I love your sense of humor, Steve. But, you probably couldn’t care less about my opinion.

    • Avatar
      Lisa Tiernan February 16, 2016 at 11:35 am #

      Wait just one minute. That “grammar school writing award” idea is brilliant. I did win a few, and in a time long before “participation trophies” were all the rage. I won those babies fair and square, and I ‘reckon I’ll be adding them to my list of writing accomplishments. Thanks for the reminder of my early childhood genius!

      • Avatar
        Jeff Scott February 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

        I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. I saw your trophies comment on Steve Laube Agency I always like to keep in touch with fellow natural born writers.(Even if they are journalists! hee! hee! hee!)

        – Jeff Scott

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube February 17, 2016 at 6:05 pm #


      I can’t take credit for Dan’s work. 🙂 It’s his fault. Not mine!

      Dan enjoys putting forks in light sockets. He claims it is invigorating.


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    rochellino February 16, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    hahahaha, just a moment please, still not in control of myself, hahahahaha. OK, now I am a bit more composed. My sides still ache and think I may have heard the terrifying sound of pants seams letting go as I was bent over laughing. I am apprehensive of checking just yet.

    Dan, this is enough humor to carry me through the entire day even if I don’t find any more as the day unfolds, which is extremely rare. Maybe up to the weekend.

    On a serious note your illustration points out many people are far too willing to accept fallacy based upon WHO said something rather than WHAT was said. A person who seemingly lacks “standing” on a subject isn’t necessarily wrong, conversely the “expert” isn’t always right. I always “hear out” anyone on a subject regardless of age, education, wealth, etc. up to the point of incredulity or known error.

    Terrific post, I have heard it said that humor was one of the most challenging things to write. Gotta run, need to rummage through the hamper for a pair of pants. Gee thanks, again!

  10. Avatar
    rochellino February 16, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Dan, hamper was empty, you owe me a pair of pants. Don’t try substituting a kilt either!

  11. Avatar
    Jeff Scott February 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Way to go Dan! All true and needed to be said! I busted out laughing numerous times!

  12. Avatar
    Ann Shorey February 16, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

    Excellent, Dan! I look forward to your weekly posts. Always worth reading and taking to heart. Thank you.

  13. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield February 18, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    Dan, I’m pretty sure you’re my favorite curmudgeon. Some may try to sugar-coat the truth, but not you–you coat it in pickle juice laced with wasabi. Write on!

  14. Avatar
    Christine Malkemes February 20, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    Thanks for telling the truth and nothing but the truth. You’re spot on.

  15. Avatar
    Mallory February 21, 2016 at 11:45 am #

    A colleague of mine been able to opposite CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE!
    see the video

  16. Avatar
    tom yarbrough February 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    In your Incorrect Publishing blog: Shouldn’t you have added writers who ask dumb questions? Know any effective Christian publishers publishing without sex, politics, or violence?

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