Kim Weiss Publishing Services

Weekend treat -evolution of seahorse

October 25, 2008 at 8:57 am


 A work in progress by artist-jewelry designer-good buddy Fredda Psaltis

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Spotlight on: Publishing mogul, racehorse owner, my boss, Peter Vegso

October 24, 2008 at 6:43 am

When a producer from ABC 7 News/WJLA in Washington, D.C googled Peter Vegso, she didn’t realize that there was more to his resume than being the “winningest” (her word) horse owner in the Virginia Derby. She’s producing a prime time special called Battleground Virginia  where she asks the winningest Virginians their advice for the presidential candidates during the last week of their campaign.  Vegso’s part of a cast that includes AOL co-founder Ted Leonsis and  VA Tech Football Coach Frank Beamer, among others. (BTW – her most recent subjects on the prime time special were McCain and Obama). What does it take to win? The audience will find out the Tuesday before the election.

What the producer didn’t know is that she’d be interviewing Peter from Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, CA, where two of his thoroughbreds, Go Between and War Monger, are running this Saturday. She also had no idea that she was about to interview one of the giants and true trailblazers of the publishing world.

Virginia Derby Winner 2006 and Breeder's Cup entry, Go Between with Peter Vegso

Virginia Derby Winner 2006 and Breeder's Cup contender, Go-Between with owner, Peter Vegso

I will admit that I’m biased. Peter Vegso’s been my boss for nearly 15 years.

That being said, book publishing’s not been the same since Vegso threw his hat in the ring in the late 70’s. His original intention to publish a periodical for addictions professionals grew in no time to producing books for the same audience. In those days, he was hand-cranking the presses with partner Gary Seidler, and carving an important new niche in the book world, recovery publishing. His company, Health Communications, Inc., (HCI) struck a chord in that community when Adult Children of Alcoholics was released and quite soon he celebrated his very first book on the New York Times bestseller list.

Years of publishing just for the recovery audience grew into an expanded range of self-help topics. By 1993, Chicken Soup for the Soul fell into HCI’s lap and history was made. You know the story, 33, or was it 133 NY publishers turned down that manuscript.

Too bad for them.

What made Peter and Gary elect to publish the first Chicken Soup book? My read (no pun intended) was the winning combination of vision and common sense. There’s not enough of that going around these days. Maybe on November 4th, it’ll be different… allright, no politics.

A labor of love

A labor of love

So, what we have is a guy who likes to win. And, win big.

The Breeder’s Cup is but a step on the winning wish list of Peter Vegso. It’s a precursor for the Kentucky Derby which is the precusor of The Triple Crown. Just like getting books on the bestseller lists, then pulling for them to be number one, Vegso’s goals are vivid and well planned. There’s always something better on the horizon. Always a reason to give his personal best.

And, he’s successfully instilled that in the people he’s hired to help him realize and enjoy his dreams. More than once, I winced for just a moment when booking a good tv appearance for an author only to hear, “so what can we do to get them on Oprah!” Sheesh!  But, that kind of impetus keeps me going for the top rung, always.

Peter never bought into the New York publishing scene. He put his company in Florida (thank you!), followed his own instincts and went one better. He’s one of the few publishers that actually manufactures his own books from start to finish.  Keeps the profits under his roof. Provides jobs for a lot of grateful workers. (Not to mention the super tour you get when you come an visit us in the 100,000 square foot facility).

Ok. I feel like I’m starting to gush about Peter, so I’ll stop here.

The last thing I’ll mention is the heart that beats in the chest of this publishing mogul and racehorse owner. Quietly, very quietly, Peter Vegso (and his wife, Anne) donate millions of dollars to a myriad of charities. I emphasize the word, “quietly,” since I find it refreshing that all of Peter’s successes have never minimized his humility.  Being an “all about me” kind of person, I’m always learning from him.

So there. You have it. My tribute to Peter Vegso.

Here’s to adding the Breeder’s Cup to your conquests, Peter! And, please dear Lord, let Go Between win. I’ve got $75.00 riding on him. (no pun intended again!)

Peter Vegso

Peter Vegso

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A word from the “beyond” department, or maybe just the letter, “W”?

October 23, 2008 at 7:00 am

Welcome back to the “beyond” locale of KWTB&B. Where anything can happen outside the arena of the beloved book. 

I’m putting on my Gene Shalit glasses and mustache and talking movies. Since I can’t really talk politics, I guess reporting that I saw “W” last weekend says something about my presidential leanings. I’m not saying…

The funny part is that a friend and I thought our tickets at the local multiplex cinema house were taking us to a screening of “Religulous.” After six previews and five too many Barry Kaye’s “You Buy, You Die, It Pays” ads (really), we thought that something wasn’t right. Then, enter Josh Brolin and the opening credits of “W“.  We were demystificated. But, we endured.

I’m not really a fan of Oliver Stone’s. In fact, I typically avoid his over-sensationalized films. Sorry, I perceive his style as too over the top. I respect Stone’s work, but there’s something about it that doesn’t resonate with me. But, “W”, dear “W”, was my green light for Stone to “sensationalize” away! 

Obviously, Oliver Stone feels a certain way about our soon-to-not-be President. He attempted to humanize him, show us how this clock ticked, and why. Where “W” came from, his repetitive failures, lack of direction, and the amazing fortune he experienced in the political arena. Truly amazing. By Stone’s account, I’m not sure that Daddy Bush could even believe it.

Even though it clearly reflected a left leaning producer, the movie made some attempt at balance. Balance wasn’t what we got, but what we didn’t see, was blatant Bush bashing. If Michael Moore were at the helm, that would be another story. Stone was somewhat respectful.

But talent he did pick for his cast of Bushie characters. When my skin began to crawl, I knew that Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney was brilliant.  Jeffrey Wright, whom I usually love (think Angels in America or Basquiat) seemed to never really fit into the skin of Colin Powell. The Condi Rice character was well cast, but the prize goes to Josh Brolin as Mr. President himself. (Is he not Hollywood’s current “it” boy or what?)

I don’t really see the movie having an effect on the election and I wouldn’t run to see it. However, I didn’t regret my $9.00 investment and don’t think it was as much of a flop as critics are saying. I’d give it a B minus. I learned a few things and didn’t yawn during the entire movie. And, there was no squirming in my seat or over awareness of my body parts (a historic sign of a stinker for me).

Go see the movie if you want a little background on the Prez. If you want to see his crazy Yalie years, his time as a big boozer, or if you want to know that dear Laura was once a Democrat (I love that!). There’s no bad behavior from the twins, nothing offensive from mom, Barbara, and you mostly feel good about George senior throughout the film.

I heard Josh Brolin interviewed on NPR saying that he was having a hard time getting out of the George Bush character. Something about involuntary joke telling and awkwardly waving hands. Maybe an exorcism’s in order.

Just kidding.

If you want a glowing movie recommendation, then go rent or buy the British comedy, Death at a Funeral. It’s the comic relief you need for enduring the last eight years. I’m adding it to my DVD library for those emotionally dicey days.

Good job.

You deserve a little fun. I know I do!

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Looking for inspiration…

October 22, 2008 at 6:41 am

…with help from sister Jill, parrotlet Tito, and the New York Times.

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Can Dr. Phil sell books? I’m at my Wit’s End wondering…

October 21, 2008 at 8:37 am

Can Dr. Phil sell books? I mean, books other than his own? Or his son’s or his wife’s?

We can only hope.

Over the past weekend I received an email from a very excited Sue Scheff, author of the book in question, Wit’s End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen. (Out of control teen? Isn’t that redundant?) She was invited to hop on a plane and fly west to Los Angeles to Paramount Studios where Dr. Phil does his (very loud) magic.

Everyone is thrilled. We even went to the expense of fedexing 300 copies of Wit’s End to L.A. for every member of the studio audience. Pay attention. There’s wisdom in these fiscal decisions when an additional mention of the book is nigh. Get it every which way you can. These huge, national exposures come about as often as comets.

I was pleased to hear from the lips of producer, Annette, that they would “absolutely promote the book.” The topic was “so important” and she’d rarely seen show subjects behaving so “desperately.” All the signs read positive for Wit’s End’s twenty minutes.  (If only)

In all seriousness, Sue Scheff has an important message to share:

Sue Scheff had a troubled teen named Ashlyn. She made some decisions that later backfired. Things, luckily, would turn around, in a big way. From the press  materials:

“Ashlyn embraced disturbing beliefs and behavior, made friends with a strange and maladjusted group at school, and refused to abide by rules. At times, Scheff believed her daughter would harm herself or others, if she didn’t seek professional help for her daughter. In desperation, Scheff turned to a residential treatment facility to instill discipline into her daughter while providing her with therapy and structure. The exact opposite turned out to be the case. After spending thousands of dollars and seeing troubling behavior in her child, she heard chilling stories of Ashlyn and classmates being kept in inhumane conditions, as well as of beatings, sexual abuse, forced starvation, neglect, and suicide. The daughter she had turned over to be helped by the residential treatment facility returned broken, depressed, and suicidal.

As Scheff struggled to find justice while fighting off lawsuits from the very institution that damaged Ashlyn, she found the strength and determination to found P.U.R.E. (Parent’s Universal Resource Experts, Inc.), an advocacy group that draws parents together and helps them find ways to protect their children from destructive influences, educating them about the issues their particular child and family faces and creating a safe environment to revive familial bonds. Using the same criteria P.U.R.E. uses to research residential treatment centers around the world, Wit’s End, provides positive, prescriptive help for families who want only to put their children on the road to a safe, healthy, happy, and independent adulthood.”

So there. It’s not all about publicity for publicity’s sake. For the sale of a book. At HCI, I’ve learned that, a book’s message can save a life. I learned it from representing numerous titles. The substance and service these books provide make my job more than just a job.

I do worry that Dr. Phil will deflect the limelight onto himself, but maybe, just maybe I’ll be wrong. I hope so.

Maybe he’ll send a message that’ll reverberate with his gigantic tv audience and there’ll be a bestseller in the making. And, a lot of better informed, better equipped parents.

Just picture Dr. Phil saying, “you need to go out and buy a copy (or two) of Wit’s End”. Really loud.

p.s. Sue Scheff tapes the show today (10/21). If we’re lucky, it’ll air during sweeps month, November. Check your local listings.

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