Oh, the Vanity!
To Read, or Not / Untold Stories of a Real Estate Diva, a self-published book by Honolulu Realtor Stephany Sofos purported to be a tell-all of the Honolulu real estate industry, is more of a depressing symbol of our current publishing economy than anything to sit and enjoy reading. Despite Sofos’s promise of well-dished dirt, Diva comes off as, well, the work of a diva: a first draft that somehow got printed, composed of garbled, vainglorious, run-on sentences. Still, the book’s very existence does beg a big question: Is there a benefit in giving every voice a chance to tell a story?
On the con side of the ledger, Sofos fills her chapters with reckless ethnic stereotypes that would never have made it past an editor. On the other hand, she dishes some interesting gossip about Ron Rewald, Honolulu’s very own version of a mid-1980s pre-Bernie Madoff.
Apparently, Rewald, an ex-NFL player-turned-investment advisor (no red flags there), owned a business called Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham & Wong–a hijacking of Bishop, Baldwin and Dillingham’s names–with partner Sunny Wong. The duo promised huge returns on little investment, while falsely claiming FDIC insurance. Once busted, his official defense was that he was acting as a secret agent of the CIA. When this didn’t fly, he was convicted of wire and mail fraud and served 10 years in a California prison. These days he apparently runs a talent agency in L.A.
My point? Had I never thumbed through Sofos’s book–something I still wouldn’t even re-gift to an ex-girlfriend’s mean sister–I would have missed out on an interesting story about a fascinating character. Chalk one up for Sofos.
Self-publishing is easy these days, with WordPress or POD (print on demand) and eBooks. The old-school vanity presses, long disdained, now almost look reputable. But they can’t compete with cheap (WP, POD) and free (ePub). The largest vanity press, Vantage, just declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, established houses are trolling for reject writers: Simon & Shuster, Penguin and our own local Mutual have opened vanities of their own, some with editors, most without.