Phoque It

This is an early draft of a sales pitch. Please correct and edit before release. Under no circumstances should this be allowed to see the light of day in its current state.

Dear readers, writers, book industry people,

Seal Of Approval

It’s become a cliché to claim there’s a veritable Pacific Ocean of crapola out there in the indie book world. But that cliché is not even a good analogy, really, so we’re going to turn it on its head. No, instead of an ocean, what we see is a vast floating island of ugly unbiodegradable plastic that grows vaster and uglier by the day. It’s at least as ugly as the word “unbiodegradable”. And we want to clean it up. Now, is there anything living in the ocean we can all get behind? Excluding those mean, club-wielding Canadians, that is? Wait, club-wielding Canadians are aquatic? Seals, of course!

With their large innocent eyes, playful natures and smooth, round torsos, pretty much everyone adores Canadians seals. Since we all approve of seals, it makes sense you will want to pay me to stamp your book with the “seal” of “approval” (clever, huh?). And since the French for seal is “phoque”, our company’s name almost writes itself: Phoque It. Geddit? It’s almost too perfect. Don’t know about you, but I’m giddy already.

So, here is my proposal. I have formed a collective. Right now it’s just me, admittedly, but my multiple personalities do actually qualify me in this lowdown masquerade exciting new venture. Anyway, I am going to fleece help all of you. And here’s how. Pretty much everyone agrees that indie books are somewhat quality-challenged, yeah? Quite honestly, I’ve seen better-written grocery lists than some of these so-called ebooks. Somewhere there’s a monkey sitting at a typewriter with more talent in one knuckle of its left pinkie finger than most of these losers. But what if we had a way to guarantee quality? You then get happy readers, of course. Who suddenly stop wanting to douse indies in grain alcohol and flambé them on a barbecue while cursing in an ancient Maori dialect start to drop their criticisms of indie authors. And who then buy more books written by said indies. After which, the collective self esteem index rises. Thus ensuring everyone wins. It’s the mother of all positive feedback loops. And with absolutely no more flambéing.

Look, I’ll cut to the chase: I have now patented a top secret algorithm that can objectively evaluate the quality of any book. It took the best part of two years and the illegal abduction expert help of a number of prominent scientists from MIT to create this unique software, but now you can benefit from its 100% accuracy. Not only is it able to assess grammatical accuracy, it can also rate such previously unquantifiable aspects of the writer’s craft as narrative arc, plot holes, the overuse of exposition, even a precarious imbalance of tell over show.

Once evaluated objectively by the program, our panel of industry experts will then pore over your work in order to provide that human touch. If I they decree it to be a reasonable standard, they will issue the Bronze Phoque to wear with pride on your book cover, and you will fork over pay the collective the incredibly low price of $250.

The Silver Phoque is reserved for slightly more elevated works, in which the dialogue is perhaps a little tighter, the language more tonally consistent, and we still only charge the almost painfully low rate of $350. Painful for us, I must emphasize. You, on the other hand, will feel an almost pleasurable sensation in your nether regions when you cheerfully part with such a paltry sum.

Finally, the Gold Phoque will demonstrate to everyone the bewitching, beguiling brilliance of your book, will suffuse it with—yes—golden lambent light and the mellifluous tones of otherworldly choirs (as well as the large Gold Phoque so prominently displayed on your book’s cover for the whole world to admire), all for the astonishingly, damn-near embarrassingly low price of $500.

We even tested our amazing system on a bona fide classic, with somewhat surprising results. Awarding To Kill a Mockingbird a Bronze Phoque, the software had this to say: “A bit weighty for a YA novel. This, alongside some disturbing displays of racism, frankly, prevents this book from achieving a higher rating from our literat-o-meter. We would encourage the author to find less offensive subject matter in light of the young age and impressionability of the novel’s protagonist”. It also suggested Shakespeare go back and rewrite his stuff in “a language we can all understand.” Okay, so there may be a few minor glitches and bugs to be worked out, but I can assure you of this: your book will be in expert hands. What can possibly go wrong?

This is the next step in our adventure together, my avid indie fleet. We are shedding gatekeepers like a squid sheds ink. Today we have set sail toward an unknown land. There may well be hungry sharks and heavy storms along the way. Pirates, even. But we are going to kill with righteous fury that ugly island of plastic, we’re going to remake our ocean voyage in our image, and we’re going to do it with seals, by imbuing them with approval, by showing we care only for quality and not stupid money, which you can’t take with you anyway. What are a few pennies when placed beside immortality, after all? I’ll answer that for you. Nothing, is what they are.

Which reminds me: here’s my last word, since you now know my word is good. In order to further cement your trust, we will demonstrate our exemplary self-marketing competence by providing one of the industry’s more memorable slogans:

“Here at Phoque It, You Give Us Money, Then We Give A Phoque.”

Thank you for your time.

*     *     *     *     *

David Antrobus is a contributing writer for Indies Unlimited and author of the nonfiction book Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip. For more information, please visit the IU Bio page, and his website: The Migrant Type. He also occasionally adds his stuff to the website BlergPop.

Author: David Antrobus

Born in Manchester, England, author David Antrobus currently lives in British Columbia. David also edits and writes in many styles and genres, from nonfiction to dark fantasy. He worked for twenty years with abused teens. You can also find David at his blog and at his Amazon author page.

52 thoughts on “Phoque It”

  1. I am so happy to see someone stepping into the breach, up to the plate, and taking a slam at the horrendous practice of flambeing good grain alcohol. As a Canadian I know beer works much better for basting our beloved phoque on the barbeque.

      1. I love it! You are a funny man, David; crazy funny, but funny none the less. I fell in love with Canadian humour some years ago, while watching ‘Phil the Alien’ and it has become a lasting love. I’m a Scotsman living in Tasmania; Billy Connelly is the only thing funny to have come out of Scotland, and there’s absolutely nothing funny about Tasmania (they did such a job of wiping them and everything else out that there’s rarely a phoque to be seen anywhere). For my money, Canadians have the best sense of humour in the world, with the New Zealanders a close second.

        1. Kiwis are indeed very funny. Oh, I just realised something about Flight of the Conchords. A kiwi is a flightless bird, so what's with the name?

          Billy Connolly, yes. One of the funniest men on the planet, for sure. But the only thing funny? I'd have to think about that. Deep fried haggis is kind of funny… although more scary than funny, I'll grant.

          1. Haggis itself is quite funny, or at least my experience of it is. The first Burns Supper I attended I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud as they announced 'the piping in of the haggis' (that's bagpipes for anyone who doesn't know) and then Robert Burns' ‘Address to a Haggis’ was quite literally addressed to the 'great steaming haggis'. The following is first of eight verses (in English, I think most people would have problems with Robbie Burns own words):

            Fair full your honest, jolly face,

            Great chieftain of the sausage race!

            Above them all you take your place,

            Stomach, tripe, or intestines:

            Well are you worthy of a grace

            As long as my arm.

            Keep in mind now, that this is a serious toast at a serious event. I attend these events when ever I can, and enjoy them, but I always have a problem keeping a straight face at the toasting to the haggis; and that’s precisely my point about the Scots. And deep fried anything, I find a little scary; have you ever tasted haggis, David? Deep fried it would be scary indeed.

            As far as Flight of the Conchords go? Personally, I took it to be a little statement Kiwi humour in itself; concord being: a/ a state of harmony, b/ a covenant or c/ a grammatical agreement. The alteration in the spelling putting chord in place of cord, I’d say makes it specifically pertaining to their music, giving wings to the flightless Kiwis that they are.

          2. I have indeed tasted haggis and heaven help me, I even liked it. Deep fried, not so much. And yes, unintentionally funny is the best kind. Which reminds me of something else Scottish: William McGonagall. Which actually gives me an idea for a future post.

            Nice take on FotC, by the way.

  2. "I have now patented a top secret algorithm that can objectively evaluate the quality of any book." I don't know if I'm laughing because I'm drunk, or because you're phoqueing brilliant.

  3. Leave it to you, David, to put a new spin on the world's oldest profession.

  4. I have just spluttered coffee all over the laptop, people shouldn't be so damned funny at this time of day. Is it still ok to like Canadians though?

  5. Laughed so hard, my four year old came running to find out what was so funny. I look forward to your posts, David! Your avid indie fleet is poised and ready to join the phoquing revolution!

  6. Phoquing brilliant, David. I'm partial to Gold myself, silver tarnishes, so if you can assure me I will get a gold, sign me up. Thank you for the laugh this morning.

  7. People who have accomplished work worthwhile have had a very high sense of the way to do things. They have not been content with mediocrity. They have not confined themselves to the beaten tracks; they have never been satisfied to do things just as others so them, but always a little better. They always pushed things that came to their hands a little higher up, this little farther on, that counts in the quality of life's work. It is constant effort to be first-class in everything one attempts that conquers the heights of excellence.

    Orison Swett Marden

    (1850 – 1924)

    1. Admirable sentiments, indeed, Val… we should all give of our best… although they are sentiments better exemplified by a thorough proofread, Orison Swett Marden. 😉

    1. Ha ha, thanks Lin. That's high praise from you. Decent satire requires the cultivation of the inner curmudgeon, I think. It's one of the inner voices that grows stronger the older you get, apparently. 🙂

  8. Incidentally, I hope no one thinks this is aimed at any individual or specific endeavour. It's an overall satire of a topic we've seen discussed at length recently and, as we know, the potential for naive or unsuspecting independent writers to be scammed is enormous. As does most satire, this just takes the issue to its extremes and plays around with them, hopefully to elicit a few smiles.

  9. Just a thought – are you offering this service on a global scale, David, or just in the Americas or maybe the Northern Hemisphere – I was thinking you might be interested in franchising?…

    By the way, William McGonagall is a fine example of the unintentional Scottish wit. For a fine example of an intentional Scottish Humourist, espousing the works of an unintentional, quite serious Scotsman, check out this link. Anyone who doesn’t find this clip funny has not an ounce of humour in their body. Enjoy.

    1. Which brings us full circle to the McGonagall Dinner! As Scotland's worst poet he is celebrated in a reverse Burns night, where the courses, the toasts and the readings are all (very seriously) conducted backwards. It's traditionally held on New year's Eve, when he famously left Dundee in high dudgeon. Brilliant fun. Ladies and gentlemen, the toast is, "William Topaz McGonagall, may his name be remembered for a very, very, very long time."

      1. Well Carolyn, I'm very rarely caught napping with affairs of Scottish tradition but I must admit to not being familiar with an annual McGonagall Dinner. I'd say, 'another excuse to wear the kilt' but if it's held on Hogmanay I already use that as justification to don the kilt regalia.

        Mar sin leibh an dràsda, Carolyn.

  10. Don't the Scots also throw large objects like tree stumps and large rocks?

    Perhaps poor manuscripts should be subjected to "hurling".

    Let the Phoqueing Games begin!

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