Gaming the System: Zooty and Flappers

Introducing Zooty and Flappers, “The Worlds [sic] First Pre-Publisher.”

What’s a pre-publisher, you may ask? On the writers’ conference circuit, calling yourself “pre-published” is a delicate way of saying you have no writing credits just at the moment, but intend to get some, like, really soon. That’s not what Zooty and Flappers means by the term, however. From its cryptically-titled Things from the Post page:

The term Pre-Publishing, as used by Zooty and Flappers, simply means; If you have a good book, we will Publish and test it in the real world before a Standard Publishers [sic] comments [sic] to taking it on.

Beta testing for your book, in other words. Here’s how it works:

If you have a good manuscript, and are unable to get published, Zooty and Flappers will publish your work as an ebook and CD. Readers will be allowed to down-load your book free, and give it a report and rating. If the rating is good, your book will be removed from the free section, and offered for sale…When your book has sold the required number, it will be sent along with a reader and sales report to agents who are AAR members in good standing.

According to the Path to Publishing page (worth reading in its entirety, but don’t be drinking any liquids while you do), the “required number” is 10,000 copies.

I don’t think I need to go into detail about how absurd this is–not just to anticipate those kinds of sales figures for an ebook from an obscure epublisher (for most epublishers, an ebook is a bestseller if it hits 500 copies), but to imagine that a successful agent will be impressed. Basically, Zooty is yet another attempt to game the system–another illusory shortcut to publication, like manuscript display websites, which are supposed to help you skip the slush pile, and query blaster services, which are supposed to help you skip the research. Let readers pick what’s worthy of publication. Let their opinions influence publishers. A brilliant new idea–amazing no one has thought of it before!

Oh wait. They have.

Take, for instance, Worthy of Publishing, a website that claims to “revolutionize the way writers may attract publishers and gain exposure.” (Note that wonderful qualifying word, may.) Writers upload their work for readers to comment on; if ratings are high, “this could attract the interest of publishers through some of our unique relationships.” The service is free for writers, but publishers must hand over a 3% royalty to the site if they acquire a manuscript from it. Ludicrously, Worthy of Publishing appears to expect that publishers will be willing to pay this amount over and above the writer’s royalties.

Or Digital Creation, whose mission is “to democratize publishing” (where have I heard that before?) Providing writers with “an opportunity that has never existed before in the realm of fiction publishing” (the deja vu is really killing me now), Digital Creations allows them to submit their stories for readers’ critiques, and makes publishing decisions based on that feedback. The more critiques a work has, the more attention it gets. “What publishing houses have always offered,” Digital Creations explains on its message board, “is credibility through a vetting process between crap and quality. At PRoF we provide that vetting through peer review; the professional opinion of fellow authors.”

Or how about Slush Pile Reader? According to this article from The Book Standard, writers will submit manuscripts for reader votes and comments, “and then the site will publish those books deemed worthy of publication by the masses.” Wait a sec–how about Slush Pile Reader? Its website, which went into beta testing in August, is already gone.

The man behind Zooty and Flappers is Domenic Pappalardo, whose self-published books are currently the only ones on the site. Mr. Pappalardo doesn’t like critics–check out his response to a post by Jean Lauzier on the Storycrafters blog. Mr. Pappalardo dubs Ms. Lauzier a Mazzikin. Does this post make me a Mazzikin too? I don’t quite fit the definition, but maybe I can be an honorary member of the club.

It is perhaps cruel to make fun of the clueless. But it’s also cruel to entangle aspiring writers in a web of ignorance.


  1. Thank you for all that you do Victoria! Without you and Dave, guys like this would take advantage of a lot of new writers.

  2. I wish to thank all for their comments.
    I stand with what the readers will judge.

    I have posted the names of others you may want to call stupid.

    Domenic Pappalardo

  3. (snicker) He’s added me to his wank page.

    Dude, you will address me as Ms. Elrod. Only friends may use my first name.

    Hm. Paranoid. Unable to see how he keeps shooting himself in the foot. No sense of humor. He’s right and the rest of the world is wrong…

    I’d suspect some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, but that would be offensive to the nice people I’ve met with the condition.

  4. The Zooty Pooh-Poohty:

    Don’t know how I missed this, but on his new Things from the Post page, Mr. Pappalardo provides a list of “Sites we trust and sites we don’t, “including this description of Writer Beware (all spellings courtesy of Mr. Pappalardo):

    Writers Beware: Not recommended: A light weight copy of P & E. Referes writers to P & E. Gives warnings based on opinion.

    How, oh how shall I bear the pain of this rejection?

  5. He also dings me on his McCarthyism page. This is the second time in a month that I’ve been accused of McCarthyism (the other time was on a writers’ forum I moderate, by a publisher that didn’t like my opinion of its business practices; I had to point out that McCarthy would simply have deleted the publisher’s posts).

    He has also recently redone his website, and removed links to the Mazzikin, etc. rants. However, they are all still available online.

  6. Did you notice that he’s gone after you now, Victoria?

    He write, in part:

    “Ms Strauss is the editor of Writers Beware, which she uses to silence all who speak against her following. She has supported claims that Mr Pappalardo is a deceptive scam? None of which has been backed with any fact. The true reason for her attack and that of her followers?. She has spread the word via her blog at, “writers beware blog.” Was this a protection for Jean Lauzier? (co-founder of “Storycrafters,” a chat room (Storycrafters blog).

    It is well known that Mr Pappalardo is for the unification of all who believe in a single God. Satan has always been a force to divide and destroy.”

  7. I linked to your post on my blog (, which drew Mr. P’s wrath…

    Here wrote:
    Hmmm? Just where is the scam? Or are you just throwing mud without checking things out?
    As to POD, Check this out.
    In preditors & Editors, under definitions. Ms Strauss has put in a new term for POD. She says: “A derogatory term used to refer to publishers who make deceptive claims.”
    Was she talking about you?

    Posted by: Domenic Pappalardo | Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 07:39 AM
    Then, a few days later he wrote:

    A Vanity press is someone who prints books and charges for the service.

    Zooty and Flappers does not print, have printed, nor is a press in any form. Nor do we chare for any such service.
    A reporter (which you claim to be) gets all the facts before printing a story.

    I would not believe anything you wrote about anything or anyone. You sir, are not a man to be trusted.
    Domenic Pappalardo CEO Z & F

    Posted by: Domenic Pappalardo | Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 07:30 PM

  8. The section on e-books makes me wonder if he ever read an e-book, or at least if he has ever seen an e-book reader. He certainly hasn’t done his research. “These devices have the advantage of holding up to five full novels. Most are the size of a cell phone.” My e-book reader holds over 300 e-books, and many of them can hold far more than that. They are also closer to the size of a paperback, unless he’s confused PDAs with e-book readers. Even if his site were an acceptable place to get published, would you trust your e-book to someone who doesn’t know some of the basics about e-book readers?

  9. Wow!

    Allow me to repeat – Wow!

    So, Victoria, you’re the new Anti-Christ? That’s news to me.

    As a person of faith (Christian, to be specific). I always find it insulting when some dolt feels that they have the power to pursuade others to avoid reading a book in the name of protecting their faith.

    I was equally insulted by the insinuations of a certain well-known writer who recently (allegedly) claimed that his objective in writing a children’s series was to pursuade children toward atheism.

    I know this is off the initial topic of the blog, but may I just say that it takes a truly narrow mind to assume that a work of fiction could destroy, diminish or even alter the religious faith of another person.

    It takes an ignorant individual to assume that a fiction writer whose “fictional” stories contradict any known religion or create new ones for the sake of the story are trying to “Satanize” the masses.

    Sorry, I’ll step down off of my soap-box … for now.


    P.S. If you feel compelled to delete my comment (as it is off topic and treads in another direction altogether), I won’t be hurt or offended in the least.

  10. Wow, if that weren’t a serious rant, it would be freakin’ hilarious. On the plus side, anyone with half a brain will see what a dope he is and immediately want to read your books. I have not read your books yet, but now I think I’ll make an effort to go get them.

  11. Egads, he’s been doing some editing – first he took down all of the nasty defamatory stuff, then he reposted with even more… go check out the Warning Section – he seems to be charging that you’ve written your own bible and use Writer’s Beware to lead people away from God? did I get that wrong…

    There’s an interesting way to sell a ‘writing service’

  12. Seems he’s updated his website with new content.

    He blasts Victoria on his home page, along with his McCarthyisms page.

    And for what it’s worth…he’s proud of his spelling errors, after all, he’s a lazy speller.

  13. I think a lot of people are simply missing the point.

    No one has a fundamental right to be published. Yes, the industry as we know it has massive problems, and a better such industry could probably be carved from a banana. So what?

    There are many ways to make a living as a writer, and I can reccomend nearly all of them. Novel writing is one that should only be done by amatures; ie, it should only be done for the joy of it.

    Expect to make a living? Eh, give it up. There are better ways. And there’s no reason to go into a psychotic frenzy when someone criticizes your shortcut to something that you might as well ignore.

  14. Victoria–thank you for the hours of wank I’ve enjoyed on this one.

    I’ve passed the word–along with my own observations–on my blog, with full citation to you and Storycrafters.

    We should have this guy framed and up on a wall. It’s priceless!

    Hugs and no mayhem,


  15. Everyone I talk to who’s a new writer wants Scribner or Knopf, or some big place to publish them. Fine. Whatever.

    Meanwhile, I find small presses like BkMk, Unbridled Books, Southern Methodist U, Small Beer Press, fine, legitimate places, that purchase, maybe 2-12 books a year.

    But they love their books. They lavish attention on them. They put their heart and soul into telling bookstores and libraries about them, setting up readings and signings, getting their writers to festivals.

    I recently had an earful from a friend doing PR for a man who’s certain his manuscript is the next Ulysses. I told her to aim for the small presses. They don’t pay a lot, but when they fall in love, it’s for real.

    Want a good lists of small presses, check out who’s with Consortium or IPG (Independent Publishers Group). If in England, Trafalgar Square.

  16. Mr. Pappalardo seems to have taken down much of the content of his site, including his Mazzikin page (even though a link still remains on his website). However, through the magic of Google cacheing, most of the pages can still be seen.

  17. What is it with people that when they feel the need to disagree on a blog, the comment anonymously – I hate that! If you believe it, sign your name. If you think signing your name will damage your credibility, then don’t say it!!! I’ll give a little leeway here, if the host won’t let you sign in and you forget to type your name, fine, glitches happen… or, if you’re a newbie and have a question you’re afraid to ask, also fine, I think we’ve all been embarrassed to ask questions at some point… but if your point is to argue against something or someone, lack of a signature usually leads me to believe you’re not worth listening to.

    That being said, I don’t take misspellings or casual writing in blogs to be an indication of the bloggers writing ability… I do take it as a bad sign on a professional website. Blogging is much less formal for me, I’m not selling my blogposts – I’m largely maintaining a blog because it’s fun and it lets me network with other writers… I would never send out a query or submission without several revisions, checking and double checking… I think many bloggers feel the same way.

    Thanks for the post and for all the work you do pointing out these nitwits.

  18. I think that Anonymous 10.56pm has missed the point.

    Take for example that Victoria Strauss mentioned. They are giving authors a chance to see how popular their work could be in the market for free and yes maybe the chance to attract a publisher if it proves to be popular.

    Why would any publisher even look at a site like worthyofpublishing in the first place? They already have slush piles of unsolicited material and material coming from reputable agents that they can publish without losing an additional 3% of the royalties to the website.

    Would-be authors are far better off querying agents and publishers direct than they are using the services of such an ill-conceived website because at least that way they are directly bringing attention to their work. I would suggest that most agents and publishers don’t have WorthyofPublishing on their radar because they’re dealing directly with authors going through the query process.

    If J K Rowling (Harry Potter) nearly wasn’t published after numerous rejections letters,

    That’s misleading (as is the info on WorthyofPublishing’s website on Rowling). Rowling’s manuscript for Philosopher’s Stone had already secured her Christopher Little as her agent and he was always confident that he’d secure her a book deal. In fact, she didn’t have as many rejections from agents or publishers as is usually portrayed in the press, but it is true that Bloomsbury was the first to offer a deal.

    Now I don’t think any author would write a book for it to be rejected time after time by publishers only to end up sitting in a drawer where no one ever gets to benefit from it.

    The unfortunate truth is that if a manuscript is getting rejected time after time by publishers or agents, then that’s usually because there’s something wrong with it. In that situation, an author is better off putting that manuscript to one side and working on their next one and going through the query process again.

    – Britbeat

  19. If J K Rowling (Harry Potter) nearly wasn’t published after numerous rejections letters, I have to ask myself how many manuscripts of next best sellers are still sitting in author’s drawers out there un-published?
    I’ve heard of countless examples of visionaries thinking outside the box and being ridiculed by the skeptics of their time, however how many people still think the world is flat today?
    Take for example that Victoria Strauss mentioned. They are giving authors a chance to see how popular their work could be in the market for free and yes maybe the chance to attract a publisher if it proves to be popular.
    Now I don’t think any author would write a book for it to be rejected time after time by publishers only to end up sitting in a drawer where no one ever gets to benefit from it.

  20. I’m sorry, but how can you take a business called “Zooty and Flappers” seriously? I would think it was a toy store or a clown shop or something. And this guy is obviously mistaken on the way publishing works.

  21. Wow.

    That personal attack was vicious, and his meandering, passive-aggressive tone didn’t help him either.

    The guy’s no professional, that’s for sure.

  22. Thanks for the blog, and for many hours of informative reading.

    Just one question:
    Why can’t bloggers writing in English spell, punctuate and use standard grammar?

    If agents and publishers see the kind of mistakes in manuscripts that we see in the blogosphere, then I salute them for not setting fire to their slushpiles. They are made of sterner stuff than I.

    Thank you, Ann and Victoria, for (among many other things) proof-reading your notes.

  23. LOL, I guess your work never ends. I have to say that just the name “Zooty and Flappers” somehow inspires confidence, along with the fact that they seem unfamiliar with the phrase “trade publisher.”

    But while I happen to be at a point where I’d know enough not to go for something like this, plenty of people looking for a way forward wouldn’t. Your work’s a genuine public service.

  24. The answer to the question is, “The man is really stupid.”


    Jean didn’t help herself by posting a “warning” about Zooty that in itself was full of bad writing and mistakes, though, either. Which reinforces and confirms the notion of so much “white noise” out there calling itself writing.

    Make it stop, Auntie Em! Make it stop!


  25. /de-lurk

    My brain just exploded reading that “response” – the spelling! the apostrophes! – so maybe I’m not getting a joke here but:

    The Name of his book was, “Mien Karpt.” The writers? “Adolf Hitler.”

    “Mien Karpt”? Hahahahaha! Wait. Is this some insider I don’t get or is this man really this stupid?

    I love this blog. Thank you for keeping us all on our toes and guard.

    Back to lurking.

  26. Thanks for pointing these sites out.

    I found Domenic’s response to Jean’s post appalling. He really shot himself in the foot with that one. Notice that in Jean’s post, she talks about his methods and definitions and how she finds them lacking. Domenic responds by attacking her personally. ~Nice~ ~Clearly a class act.~ Hopefully his nastiness will shout loud and clear to anyone who peruses his site and make them think twice before associating with him. Would you really want someone like that representing your work, assuming you managed to get (holy cow!) 10,000 reviews? And then what do you get? Does he have any influence in the publishing field, or has he networked with reputable agents? I think we can answer that question for ourselves.

  27. The irony is that by “democratizing” something, you create a whole new level of need for editorial filters.

    To wit: Blogs are the latest democratization of voice. Now that quite literally everyone has a blog (or three), search and filter services like feed readers and technorati have popped up to filter out the noise.

    Prior to that, it was web sites. That space got so noisy that Google has become one of the world’s richest companies.

    Prior to that it was the word processor and the dot-matrix printer. Cheap printing, and suddenly everyone was publishing a newsletter or a magazine.

    We can go farther back, too. But the more information that is available to us, the more we need reliable filters.

    Companies that offer to take $500 and make your work available to the whole world are doing a disservice because they are taking your hard work and turning it into white noise. Meanwhile, what consumers really want is a reliable way to deflect anything that is not salient.

    Sites like these say they will bring customers to the product and will bring good product to the customers. But really they’re just making something no one wants available to people who don’t care.

    Thanks for the continuing terrific public service you provide here. Your site is one of my front-page feed reader sites and will always remain thus!

  28. Well said! And kudos for saying it out loud for all to hear.

    There is no quick route to publication and no magic pre-publishing path to success. It’s hard work and all authors must come to terms with that. It’s a goal made all the sweeter when obtained for the hard work put into it.

    I empathize with authors who are looking for an easier road but better to walk the rocky road of prolonged publication then crash and burn on the fast track to success.

    Thanks again for your words of insight.

  29. Thank you so much for posting this!! I’m glad ‘we’ storycrafter’s aren’t the only ones that just didn’t think this was kosher!

    And welcome to the (as it’s been called) Blitzkrieg!

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