My publisher has informed me that the new title for my Jason and the Argonauts book is going to be Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages. I’m not sure what I think of it; there won’t be a subtitle, so this is the whole of it. I guess it’s OK, but it seems less vigorous and rigorous than I might have liked.
I’ve been working on putting together a sourcebook of ancient texts used by ancient astronaut theorists and fringe historians, and it’s coming together surprisingly well. I’ve been going through ancient astronaut and fringe history books and collecting the various references (not always easy given how sloppy these writers are) and digging out the original texts. Given that the fringe writers are loathe to do research that takes real work, almost all of the texts are easily found in the public domain. I even managed to track down some public domain translations of important parts of the Popol Vuh, a work not fully translated until the mid-twentieth century.
In fact, I’m so pleased with the way this is coming together that it seems like it ought to have professional publication, but for the life of me I can’t think of who would publish such a thing. One obvious group would be the people who publish fringe history, but I can’t imagine any of them would be interested in seeing the actual sources twisted and distorted for fringe claims. The other obvious publisher would be Prometheus Books, but I’m still mad at them for, essentially, making sure I’d never see much of a profit from The Cult of Alien Gods.
When I signed the contract for that book back in 2004, I was fresh out of college, had no job, and had no money for a lawyer to review the contract. Having very few publishing credits to my name and a pile of rejection letters, my choices were to either sign or never be published.
The publisher assured me that they were planning a hard cover release with a 10% royalty based on cover price. I knew that they had entered into the contract a clause stating that they would halve the royalty for paperback books, but I didn’t know they would halve it again based on the wholesale price. If they sold it wholesale for less than 50% of the cover price, it would trigger a further reduction that would reduce the royalty all the way down to 2.4%—of the wholesale price, not the cover price, a key difference. The publisher assured me this never happened, until, of course, it did. They sold all but a couple of copies at one penny below 50% of the cover price, reducing my share to $0.24 per copy, against their take of $9.75. So, after shipping 2,500 copies in the first months of release, I received a whopping $600, and they took in almost $25,000 (some of which, of course, went to paying expenses). I have never received another dime from the book even though it continues to sell, since, thanks to how they count returns against the royalties paid toward the shipped copies in 2005, I am supposedly still in debt to the company, with all new royalties going toward paying off the 200 or so returned copies from 2005 and 2006. (Books typically sell the most copies in their first year of release.) This year, if sales maintain their current levels, I will finally be back in the black, and might get $20.
According to the contract, the rights to book were to revert to me when it was out of print. The book will never be out of print in my lifetime. In fact, Prometheus told me so themselves back in 2005 or 2006 when I inquired. Since 2006, the company has steadfastly refused to return emails, letters, and phone calls that I have regularly made trying to get errors corrected or a new, corrected, and updated edition published.
They also put a clause in the contract granting themselves the right to publish my next book after Cult, unless they refused it. They refused to waive the clause before I signed the contract, and I had to accept it to get the book published. In the end, I sent them a proposal for a book I knew they would not publish (but which I, of course, intended to produce should a publisher accept, which none ever did, Prometheus publishing a remarkably similar book the next year) to force them to reject it and thus fulfill my contractual obligation.
I have never again agreed to any contract that contained conditional clauses. If I were to approach Prometheus again, I now have more clout and more publishing credits and can demand a better contract, but there is no guarantee they would agree. It isn’t worth my time to publish with them for 2.4%. Even James Randi got burned by Prometheus when they reedited one of his books to include material he didn’t write.
Lest this entry be all gloom and doom, it’s always reassuring to see that the long shadow of H2 programming continues to darken the internet. Here’s a discussion board post that appeared on the Beyond Consciousness web forum on Sunday (message 1928, Nov. 10):
they couldn't see the vessels of the "early european explorers" like the Phoenicians who left evidence of their trek to and trade with the first nation americans of well before 325 BC. these intrepid travelers left a stonehenge in the new england area that creates ley lines through the british stonehenge then on to Beirut which during 800 to 400 BC was the Phoenician capital.
Ah, yes, the fabled Smithsonian conspiracy, whose tendrils are so long that they can quash every attempt to reveal the true “white” history of America, except, of course, when it doesn’t or can’t, like the episodes of America Unearthed cited above. So does that mean that the conspiracy can’t stop the show and therefore the claims of an all-powerful conspiracy are wrong? Or that the show is a lie and therefore isn’t worth stopping?
I’ll leave you today with a link to this piece of satire from The Ringside Report, a boxing website. It satirizes Ancient Aliens, UFO abductions, and Christian ufology, but please note that in linking to it I am not endorsing it. The humor is rather crude and more than a little homophobic. It does, however, illustrate that it isn’t just me seeing the connection between religion, ancient astronauts, and panic over the changing composition of modern society.
11/12/2013 05:40:01 am
Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages...
11/12/2013 05:56:20 am
If the audio book veraion was read by Morgan Freeman I think I'd be buying my first audio book.
11/12/2013 05:53:13 am
Not that you had much of a choice in the matter, but I recall Stephen King advising, in "On Writing", to never let a publisher name a book if it can be avoided because they will always choose something underwhelming. The "through the Ages" tag certainly seems to fit that bill to me, but if it gets the book on shelves quicker I suppose it's a tolerable change.
11/12/2013 06:43:25 am
The claim comes from Strabo, who speculated that the Golden Fleece originated fleeces used in Colchian gold-panning. He had good reason for this, of course: one of his relatives was governor of Colchis, and anything that tied Greek myth more securely to Colchis (remember, in myth the Fleece starts out in Greece, as a ram) reflected on the glory of Strabo's family. Scholars from Edward Gibbon on down have accepted Strabo's speculation as fact, even though there is no evidence for it. I didn't know it's now used for ancient astronauts!
11/12/2013 03:15:58 pm
Well, it was written a long time ago; therefore it must be true, right?
11/12/2013 07:34:51 am
I'm a little confused here, Jason. Surely you can now go the self-published e-book route, or through Amazon's independent publishing service. I understand you can even organize print publication through Amazon. The days when one had to bow and scrape and sell your grandmother to a publishing house in order to get published are largely over -- or so I believe. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Your ancient text sourcebook deserves to get out there, but, as it doesn't have bestseller possibilities, a publishing house is unlikely to be interested in it -- so what better way to go than as an e-book through Amazon, or even as a print or POD book. Again, I'm not well-versed in this matter, so I welcome correction -- but after my own disappointment with publishers many years ago I have resolved never to be swayed by a publisher or allow my work out of my hands again. I couldn't do anything much about this twenty years ago, but the sky's the limit now...
11/12/2013 08:04:19 am
I do many of my reprint editions as self-published e-books and POD books. But I'm only one person, and traditional publishers have editorial staff and production materials that outstrip what I can do on my own. I'd prefer that it be professionally published (there will be fewer typos that way, and they can do pictures better than I can), but I may end up doing it myself.
11/12/2013 08:37:52 am
Amazon's self-publishing arm is called CreateSpace. They offer a wide range of services including proofreading and formatting etc. It would be worth doing a cost/benefit analysis. You might have to layout more upfront than you do with your publisher but your royalty is probably larger than what your published gives you.
11/12/2013 09:03:43 am
I use CreateSpace for most of my self-published books, but I do all of the formatting etc. myself because their services would outstrip profits by large factors. The self-published books are a "long tail" business--small sales of many titles--rather than big sales of one, so expenses have to be kept low. I even design all my own book covers. For really important books, though, a professional publisher can just do more than I am able to do myself (the software for really good layout alone would cost more than the profits from most of my books), and there is also the prestige factor.
terry the censor
11/12/2013 03:33:39 pm
> Even James Randi got burned by Prometheus when they reedited one of his books to include material he didn’t write.
11/12/2013 10:43:21 pm
Randi posted it on his website several years ago in explaining to readers why the new edition of (and I think it was) Flim Flam! had a pro-Geller chapter by somebody else in it. ... And I found it! http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/85-swift-august-24-2007.html
terry the censor
11/13/2013 06:38:02 am
Thanks! My copy has the phantom postscript Randi complains of. Good to know.
11/12/2013 03:57:00 pm
Jason - thanks for that "behind the scenes" take on publishing contracts/royalities, etc. Also thanks for not banning me. Just came across more confirmation on the Bushmen cave art - really demonstrating spirit travel - from the source you previously relied on when you blogged on this - J. David Lewis-Williams.
11/13/2013 02:03:04 am
I'm not sure I follow... Using book sources is self-defeating when it's done to disprove the claims that are made from those book sources, but not when it comes to relying on book sources to provide anecdotal evidence of "real paranormal powers"?
11/13/2013 02:55:44 pm
You're spot on. I have already encouraged Jason to do exactly that! For example the qigong masters I personally interact with actually regularly do long distance healing but legally they don't "diagnose" or "cure", etc. Feel free to try it out - there is a "Free Friday" sample healing day at http://springforestqigong.com or just call 952-593-5555. As I've stated the Mayo Clinic doctors did a "randomized controlled" aka a "gold standard" study that proved the "external qi" healing as "especially impressive" according to Dr. Ann Vincent, the lead research on the experiment.
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