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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Skye Dancer by Lila L. Pinord

Skye Dancer by Lila L. Pinord. Baltimore, Maryland: Publish America, 2002. ISBN: 1-59129-745-1

Skye Dancer is one of the “young adult” selections on the Washington Reads group of mysteries set in Washington State. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to its billing, at least in my view. If this is the best that could be found in the genre, that is really too bad.

The story is not without its good points. The primary character, Skye, a young woman of Native American parentage, is a likable, cheerful sort of person. We like her, and we wish her well. But the story in which she finds herself is just not put together very well.

The white-haired man with the red and jolly face, a favorite with all the children, who orders milkshakes for everyone, calls himself a prospector, and tells “of his many adventures in the wilderness over the years” just doesn't jive with the reality as it unfolds later, an insanely twisted person who kidnapped Skye's mother years before, and held her as an isolated captive, first in a remote cabin, then in a cave up on the hillside above the lake.

The notion that Skye's mother gave birth to Skye's sister while in captivity, and that the sister somehow survives into her teens, confined to a hole in the cave, even after her mother dies; this too is not realistic, or particularly believable. The years that go by from the beginning of the story until its dramatic ending, are mostly glossed over.

The supernatural elements woven into the story—Skye's ability to perceive evil or people in danger from afar, or the visions she sees of her mother's spirit, after she dies, these don't really have the ring of authentic native traditions either. The whole effect just doesn't hold together, but is amateurish and unconvincing.

Naturally, I was curious about the publisher. I had never heard of Publish America, located in Baltimore. So I took a look at their web site. They make some pretty extravagant claims there. America's No. 1 publisher! Based on their claim to publish more titles a year than any other traditional publisher.

Of course, there's the catch, that word “traditional.” Publish America doesn't really fall into that category. Admittedly they claim to be both “unique” AND “traditional.” They go to great pains to explain why they are not a vanity press, and why they're not a POD “publish on demand” company, even though to be honest, the latter is exactly what they are. They don't print runs of books and distribute them. They only print copies on demand.

The difference between Publish America and traditional vanity press publishers is that Publish America doesn't charge authors to publish their books. Instead, they pay a $1.00 (that's right, one dollar!) advance on books they publish, and royalties on every copy sold.

But almost all promotion is up to the author. Which means that most books “published” by Publish America sell relatively few copies, just like vanity press books. At at least some Publish America authors feel betrayed, even cheated. They thought they were being published in the traditional sense, but they weren't, not really. For a detailed look at the subject, see this piece in the Washington Post.

Checking WorldCat.org for Lila Pinord's Skye Dancer, a grand total of 9 libraries hold copies. That's pretty good for something that is just one small step above self-published. But it's not the same thing as being published by a reputable, traditional publisher, not by any means. Authors beware! If getting your book in print is all that really counts, Publish America might not be a bad way to go about it. Just don't expect to find your book in bookstores or libraries unless you place it there personally. And be aware that most book stores won't give a POD author the time of day.

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