James D. "Travis Tea" Macdonald

Co-Author, Atlanta Nights

Vanity Presses
42 minutes, 19.2mb, recorded 2006-11-15
James D Macdonald

A vanity press is a book printer who publishes works for a fee, unlike a traditional publisher who derives profits from actual book sales. In 2004, author James D. Macdonald decided to test the distinction between the two by attempting to have a hoax novel printed by PublishAmerica, who claimed to be a traditional publisher, but seemingly published anything by anyone and derived most of its sales from the authors themselves. Macdonald assembled a novel from a group of authors (some of whom never even turned in their contribution). The result was widely considered one of the worst novels ever written and was accepted for publication by PublishAmerica.

Denise Howell talks with Macdonald about the process and how he eventually published the book with a real vanity press when the stunt became public and PublishAmerica cancelled the contract. He also discusses his view of the publishing industry and its possible future, as well as his views on copyright and such technologies as Google Book Search.

James D. Macdonald was born in White Plains, New York in 1954, and raised in Bedford, New York, the son of a chemical engineer and an artist. His last significant formal education took place at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, though he passed through the University of Rochester where he learned that a degree in Medieval Studies wouldn't fit him for anything. He went off to sea "to forget," though he's forgotten exactly what. As an enlisted Boatswain's Mate in the Navy, and later as an officer, he saw the world, and discovered that three quarters of it was water. Some time later, tired of the adventure, he decided to get a job.

As the famous Yog Sysop, Macdonald ran the Science Fiction and Fantasy RoundTable on GEnie for two years ('91 to '93). He's since moved on to being Yog Sysop at SFF Net. He writes regularly with his spouse Debra Doyle. Doyle and Macdonald now live -- still with various children, cats, and computers -- in a big 19th-Century house in Colebrook, New Hampshire, where they learned to drink Moxie and collaborate in writing science fiction and fantasy for children, teenagers, and adults. When they aren't writing, they coach and judge Destination Imagination teams for their local school, work with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and other neat stuff. Macdonald is a Wilderness EMT-Intermediate with the local volunteer ambulance corps, and is studying to become a paramedic.


This free podcast is from our Sound Policy with Denise Howell series.

For The Conversations Network: