Publisher's Forum

The place for open discussion of any and all issues affecting publishers.

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What is the Pub-Forum list culture, anyway?

Publisher’s Forum is managed (not moderated or owned) by:
Michael Thompson
Pat Bell
Andrew Reinbach, and
Nicholas Weir-Williams

Please contact  the List-Moms with any questions or concerns.

Philosophy and warning: Publisher’s Forum is about publishing, and publishers, and the things that are important to publishers, such as freedom and justice. We are not Random House or Houghton-Mifflin. We are small publishers, most of whom are in this business because we care deeply about something. Only a select few of us are getting rich in this business. Most of the rest scrape by or work other jobs to pay the bills. We are publishers because we care. And we care about a variety of issues. When we discuss publishing, we don’t limit it to the mechanics of how to select a good printer, or how Ingram is screwing us again. Freedom and justice and social order and the like are vitally related to publishing, even if they are not directly involved in the production of a published item. This list was founded on a charter of free speech, and largely in response to the censorship practiced on another list of which many of us were members. That means we take a pretty open view of discussion, and pretty much anything can be considered to be related to the topic of publishing.

Off-topic weekends: However, in consideration of those who don’t care to wade through such a deluge of messages, we have requested that political or religious discussions especially, and other items not directly related to the business of publishing be limited to the weekends, so that the work week is free for more mundane issues. This is a guidelines, not a rule, and thus intended to be enforced by the list members, not the administrators. So it’s up to you to post more on-topic messages and drown out the noise. And just for clarification, the weekend begins at midnight Eastern time on Friday, and ends at midnight Eastern time on Sunday (arbitrarily chosen because our server is in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States.) The current server time is:

Free speech isn’t just an abstract concept on Pub-Forum. It’s part of our cultural identity as a list, because we have experienced the cost of upholding it firsthand. We get criticism once in a while for having such a hard stance on this, but we believe there is no issue so central to publishing than the freedom to express unpopular ideas. A publishing list that censors or excludes some of the publishers is hypocritical. There’s a reason that freedom of the press is in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and our example is followed by so many other countries, and that is that without that freedom, it is so much easier to infringe on our other freedoms with impunity.

So if things get a little raucous around here, and you find yourself yearning for a politer, saner world, just remember that with that chaos comes a depth of discussion that goes far beyond how to get an ISBN or choose a cover stock. We have a proud and meaningful history and we mean to remember it.

NOTICE: All posts to Pub-Form are the express property of the poster. Relevant parts may be quoted for re-post in a reply or in a different thread on the forum. However, the material should not be given or sold to any party or non-pub-forum media or medium without the express consent of the originator. If people DO wish that their posts be shared, they are encouraged to put a notice on the material giving permission for the post to be shared. This sharing can only be done on the original posting and not on postings that contain replies by other subscribers.

Updated April 9, 2004
(Adapted from material originally written by Michael Fraase)

Publishers Forum (Pub-Forum, known as “the list”) is an unmoderated mailing list provided as a community service by private individuals.

There are two people who administer the list and they are (affectionately) known as the List-Moms. Before any actions are taken, a discussion ensues among the Moms about it.

While we have a number of conventions we ask people to follow, as outlined below, we have few hard-and-fast rules:

1. No advertising or spam.

2. No threats.

3. No aliases.

REGARDING SPAM: Spam is an increasing problem in our world, and we at Pub-Forum do our best to keep it off the list. However, certain methods being used to control spam are starting to cause equally serious problems, especially for legitimate senders of mass e-mail (which includes mailing lists). If you suddenly stop getting mail from Pub-Forum, we’ll be glad to check your subscription for you (e-mail, but the problem may be that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or your employer has instigated new spam-reduction procedures. We cannot help you with this. Most of these systems have a “whitelist” option, where you can add Pub-Forum as an accepted address and allow list mail to come through again. If not, complain to your ISP that they are blocking legitimate e-mail and don’t stop until Pub-Forum is flowing again.

NOTE: New strategies are being used in the war against spam. One, called “Challenge-Response,” basically blocks all incoming e-mail unless the sender “proves” to be a real human by responding to a challenge e-mail issued by the software. Your friends and relatives may easily be able to deal with this, but you can imagine that mailing list administrators will never have time to respond to such a challenge from every subscriber. Therefore, Pub-Forum will not verify itself in this manner. It is your responsibility as a subscriber to add to your list of allowed senders. If you do not do this, you won’t be able to get Pub-Forum e-mail.

Another tactic, used by overzealous internet providers, is to blacklist entire servers or domains, based on user complaints, which may not even accurately identify the true source of the spam. The worst offender on this is AOL, but other web based e-mail providers, such as Yahoo and Hotmail have been known to practice it as well. We recommend that you avoid these services if possible. If not, and you have problems, you will need to contact your ISP and complain that Pub-Forum is improperly listed as a spammer. We do not spam, we do not tolerate spam, and we refuse to waste our time fighting incompetent anti-spam efforts. See for more information on misguided attempts to curb spam.

If you wish to use the list for “marketing” you need to do it in covert style, such as mentioning your product or service within the answer to a previous post. You are allowed to mention your product or service in your “sig” at the end of your posts (below your name). No overt marketing is allowed, such as special offers, etc. We’re in the same business you are, we’re not your customers, we’re your colleagues.

REGARDING THREATS: No one shall post a message to Pub-forum which could be reasonably interpreted as a threat of harm or danger, physical or otherwise, to any other person, whether a list member or not. Any person who repeatedly posts messages which could be interpreted as threatening, or which create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation, shall be subject to removal from the list.The list-moms specifically disclaim any liability for the content of any message to Pub-Forum, as the content of messages is solely under the control of the sender. However, we will take action against violators.

REGARDING ALIASES: Sign each email with your first and last name (or add them to your signature or the “who” line of your email). We add this rule for list security, and because of listmom liability issues. Much of the discussion on this issue came because of letters sent to the moms from several list members who had received private emails they considered personally threatening after posting to the list, all the more so because they came from someone using an alias.

The listmoms also received such mail. Obvious aliases and anyone generating serious complaints where their real identity is in question, will be asked to verify their identity or be suspended. Pub-forum has always guaranteed that you can speak freely, but it has never guaranteed anonymity while doing so. Now we are formalizing it. We won’t stop you from expressing yourself, but you must now take responsibility for your words.

Other conventions:

We request that people try to stay “on-topic” but this is not enforced by the List-Moms. We request that postings on topics such as politics, religion, and other things that generate a lot of heat be limited to the weekends, reserving the work week for topics directly related to publishing. We have a definite free speech charter, but we would also like to help list members sort through the volume of messages, especially if they are not interested in side issues. We also discourage cross-posting (sending the same message to more than one list). This causes confusion for those who try to reply, including bounced messages when they reply to a list to which they are not subscribed. Therefore, if you want to post a message to more than one list, please use a separate message for each list.

Regarding newsletters, monographs, book chapters, reviews, etc.:

  • You may post only ONE monograph per 7-day period. In other words, we want at least 7 days between postings. If you post on Saturday, you must wait until the next Saturday to post again. We will not allow daily web logs, serials, “to be continued’s,” or anything resembling a “soap opera.”
  • Your monograph must be on some facet of publishing. The Moms are not going to become editors but we will become final arbiters in that if we get complaints, you will be suspended or banned from the list. For example, if you post a diatribe about your pet non-publishing related political or social issue (such as anti/pro abortion, or anti/pro Israel,) you are going to find your subscription to the list suspended or canceled.
  • Your monograph may NOT overtly sell services or products. The same standards that we apply to daily postings will be enforced with monographs. You may not post “sales” or “specials” or use a monograph to boast about what you do, what you publish, or anything else that is self-serving. (Note, we have always allowed and encouraged an annual “intro” post where you can say what you do, what you sell, etc.)
  • Your monograph may not be used as a forum for the announcement of free or non-free events, speeches, seminars, classes, etc. We’ve always allowed a short regular posting of free or commercial events with a link to a web page about them. The key words here are “short” and “link.” Recently we have had several event postings that have pushed the envelope. We will not allow the envelope to be broken. It does not take a Ph.D. to know when an event posting is too long or contains too much “sales hype.” So please keep them short and to the point, along with a link to the particulars of the event.
  • You may only post your OWN material. Read that again. YOUR OWN MATERIAL!!! While you may quote short “fair use” excerpts of sources that support your monograph, you are not permitted to post material of anyone else. This is to protect all of us (especially the List Moms) from any kind of copyright violation and possible legal action. Even if you HAVE permission to post someone else’s material, it is NOT allowed. Again, it is NOT allowed. Have them join the list and post it themselves. Do not break this editorial guideline. If you do, you will be thrown off the Pub-Forum list. We List Moms are serious about protecting our homes, businesses and fortunes (?) from any kind of outside legal action due to a posting of non-owned material by a subscriber. We have zero tolerance on this point, so don’t even think about pushing it. If you want to post a monograph, make sure it is your own creation and not that of someone else. We don’t care about permissions. Only your own material is allowed. We don’t want any confusion or misunderstanding on this point. Only post your own work!

While we won’t say “never” we have not yet thrown anyone off the list for on-topic (non-spam) content. We are very tolerant to the point of extreme. You can say what you want on the list, about what you want, and use any language you wish. Keep in mind the corollary to this: from time to time, you may read something on the list which you consider objectionable. We do not censor the list. No one sees or approves your message before it is distributed to the entire list, so we could not censor you even if we wished, and we do not wish. List members are in charge of policing the list, not the list-moms, so if you see something wrong, it’s your job to correct it, not ours.

Tempers flare from time to time but not as often as you might think. We (Moms) treat everyone as an adult and since we took over in 1999 this hands-off approach has worked very, very well.

Before firing off a flaming missive, go out and take a walk around the block. If you still feel like you’ve got to let loose, fire away. But be prepared for the inevitable repercussions. We’re all adults (or at least professionals) and we’re all responsible for our own words. Please don’t expect us–or the other list members/owners–to mediate your disputes and please don’t waste bandwidth whining about what someone else said to or about you.

We know that Pub-Forum may not be for everyone, but most of the time it is pretty tame and well-mannered. We will miss you and your contributions to the community if you find that you’re unable to tolerate the sometimes abrasive nature of unfettered and free speech. And it might help you to read items such as this by Al Canton, for a bit of history on how the list started and why we are so committed to free speech.

The list culture on Pub-forum assumes a certain level of knowledge about the publishing industry. If you don’t know how to get an ISBN for instance, we recommend you read a book such as, The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days (self publishing); The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days (literary agents); or The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days (book promotion); see http://www.PublishingGame.comThe Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter;1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer, or at least visit some of the many excellent websites (such as http://www.PublishingGame.comhttp://www.parapub.com that have lots of good information. We ask that people NOT post the simple and basic questions such as “How do I get an ISBN” or “Where can I find a printer for my book.” We like to think that Pub-Forum “picks up” where the various books on independent publishing “leave off.” Also: instructions for unsubscribing are included with every message you receive from the list. Please don’t embarrass yourself with public questions about how to unsubscribe. (HINT: click here for instructions.)

The list is a community resource, owned by the community it serves. Individual postings are the intellectual property of the originating author, and the List-Moms disclaim any ownership or copyright interest–including a compilation copyright–on the material that passes through the Publishers Forum. By the same token, the list hosts specifically disclaim liability for any material that passes through the Publishers Forum. Like you, we’re busy people and don’t have time (or the inclination) to read everything that passes through here.

KEEP THOSE REPLIES SHORT! If you’re a digest reader, be careful not to include the entire digest in your reply. In some email programs, if you use the “Reply” command without selecting a range of text, you’ll include the entire digest. Whether a digest reader or not, please select only those points necessary for your reply, or else edit the original message when preparing your reply.

Keep an eye on the Subject line of your messages–especially if you’re a digest user. Make sure the subject is meaningful (not Re: Digest #3398) and current (Change the subject line if the subject has changed.)

Try to keep your messages to about a single screen of text. Use short sentences and shorter paragraphs. When replying to a message on-list, quote only what you need to provide context and a frame of reference. Edit out any headers or footers (including signatures) and anything not absolutely necessary to establish a context for your reply. Archives are available for those who really need to read the whole message.

Take a minute to check where your reply is going. This is a DISCUSSION list, so by default, a reply will go to the entire list. If you want to reply only to the original sender, make sure you check your message before hitting SEND. In some e-mail progams, you will need to click “Reply-All” to get both the list address and the sender’s address. Then you can delete the list address before sending. Otherwise, you may need to just copy the sender’s address, click Reply, and then replace the list address with the sender’s address.

Do not include attachments with your messages to the list. Attachments are a primary pathway for computer viruses and you don’t want to infect hundreds of list members, do you? Remember to turn off HTML and MIME so you’re not sending multiple, coded versions of your messages to the list.

Turn the HTML/rich-text/fancy-formatting off in your email program. HTML is great for the Web; terrible for email. Some of the popular email programs do not implement it correctly, except as MIME attachments (and attachments are not allowed!). Some email software can’t handle tagged text on the receiving end, and it makes the digest abominable (the formatting tags and attributes are included in the text). Again, no HTML! Click here for information on how to turn off HTML and MIME in your e-mail. A couple of other interesting links are bad.html, and

If email to you continually bounces (unknown user, mailbox full, connectivity problems on your end, etc.) you’ll be taken off the list. Don’t worry about it, just re-subscribe. But address the problems first or you’ll just get the boot again.

For new subscribers, it’s always a good idea to “lurk” for a week or so to get a feel for the lay of the land. While we’re a pretty tolerant bunch (or at least we like to think we are) there’s a pretty low fool threshold.

Feel free to write an introduction of yourself. Let us know what you do, what you publish, what you write, where you live, etc. This is good when you first join, and many people send it again, or give an update on their birthday.

Try to remember those are humans at the other end of the wire.

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