Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The end isn't near; it's here.

Well, today marks an unusual moment at POD-dy Mouth; this will be my last post.

After more than two years of vetting and posting, I am done.

So, why I am ending it?

There are approximately 34 reasons that I thought of. Though I'll discuss the primary ones here.

To begin with, this blog became something completely other than what I had originally intended. If you look at my original posts (and the survey I conducted ages ago), the majority of visitors were readers. It was supposed to open the eyes of the reading community to untouched, unfound, and unknown books. It didn't take long (say 7 - 8 months) for it to become a literary hideout. And I gotta tell you, the weakest group of individuals to target for reading is writers. They're (we're) already broke, and having (yet another) incestuous place to read about books is as useful as . . . whatever, it's not useful.

Along with this, it is clear to see that POD (with a few exceptions) is a useful tool to gain some ground in the book world (hopefully to build an audience to more than your immediate family)--but only so that you can ultimately get an agent and publisher to produce/release your book (and others) in the traditional way. No one knows this more than I, for that was the sole purpose of the Needle Awards. However, it is simply not a compelling reason to stay up late every night.

But mostly, I am simply burned out. I mean, have you ever looked at my stats? C'mon, 1,600 books in a year? And some literary agencies don't get 5,000 queries in a year. It's too much work for one person. Frankly, it's just too much work, period. It has been a super experiment, and perhaps the greatest result of it is the list of 65 books on the right-hand side that might never have seen the light of day.

The last two years have been incredibly fun--and incredibly exhausting. Not just from this blog, but in general: I released two books, went on two (small) book tours, wrote two more books, lost two loved family members, suffered a miscarriage, switched day jobs, moved to a new home, and somehow managed to get the flu--twice. I had actually considered at one point (and had mentioned on this blog) that I was going to kick things up a bit. This wasn't what I meant. I just finally realized I need to make a change--and this is the thing that has to go.

The folks I have met through here (agents, editors, publishing pros, writers) have been the absolute best, and I certainly do not regret any of the time and effort I have spent here. But . . . I'm afraid the time has come for POD-Dy Mouth Industrial Clothing and Fine Baked Goods to close its doors. For good.

So, please know I appreciate your emails and well-wishing, but I will probably not be responding. I get over 500 emails a day already and I simply cannot go through them to find the ones worth responding to. I am certainly leaving at the peak of the blog's attention, on pace to hit 2,000,000 hits this year. Seems like a strange time to bag it, though I do hope everyone understands.

I will do this, though: As I come across top books that really move me (POD or commercial or otherwise) I'd be happy to send out an email on a completely irregular schedule giving you a heads-up. (Again, no submissions.) If you want, send me an email with "Put me on the list" in the subject line and nothing else, that way I can sort my inbox and find everyone at once.

But no matter what, please keep writing--and keep trying to get published. This is a marathon effort and nothing happens overnight. If you get rejected, don't take it personally. And if you get published, don't take that personally either. This is a business first and foremost, though it is filled with some of the greatest people, folks who are both business savvy and art influenced. It's a great mix, actually.

And, like all stories, there should be an acknowledgments section, so here is mine. Believe me when I say these folks are the absolute tops:

Allen, Michael
Baratz-Logsted, Lauren
Beier, Elizabeth
Bent, Jenny
Bestler, Emily
Bohner, Anne
Clarke, Will
Collins, Natalie R.
Crider, Michael R.
Dawson, Liza
DeFiore, Brian
Dickerman, Colin
Driscoll, Susan
Dunton, David
Durand, Sarah
Eth, Felicia
Fletcher, Christy
Gerald, Marc
Glick, Mollie
Greenberg, Dan
Harty, Pamela
Karchmar, Dorian
Kim, Sally
Kleinman, Jeff
Lazar, Dan
Lee, Kate
Lyons, Jonathan
Manges, Kirsten
McGrath, Sarah
Mecoy, Bob
Miller, Scott
Munson, Natasha
Murray, Amanda
Nelson, Kristin
Notaro, Laurie
Rose, MJ
Snark, (Miss)
Somberg, Andrea
Unter, Jennifer
Veltre, Joe
Weimann, Frank
Williams, John
Wofford-Girand, Sally

I'm overlooking many a person--including all of the authors of the books I reviewed--cool folks, one and all. Also including some of the agents and editors who received the Needle Award results that are not coming to mind because, you know . . . it's fried.

So, again . . . please enjoy the books I've unearthed--and remember to give self-published books a try. You just never know.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The 2006 Needle Award Winner!

And the winner of the 2006 Needle Award is . . .

RANSOM SEABORN. Congratulations to Bill Deasy!

Here are some comments from the judges . . .

"What an unexpected literary treasure. It’s not just hype; Jay Gatsby and Holden Caulfield have nothing on Dan Finbar."

"Deasy has penned a fantastic debut novel. [New York Publishers] need more books like this and less of everything else. This is [the kind of book] that comes to mind when someone says American Literature.”

"Ransom Seaborn is beyond memorable—it’s haunting. I was still thinking about it days later and poised to open it and start again. It’s simply beautiful."

Congratulations, as well, to the other 2006 nominees:

FUTUREPROOF by N. Frank Daniels




And thanks to all the people who made this project possible, from writing the books to judging them to the agents and editors reviewing the results. It's been another super (and exhausting) year.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Walking in my (worn out) shoes: the 2006 stats!

Another year, another long journey to the Needles. Like last year, I kept a running list of statistics from the beginning of the 2006 literary year (March to March).

What does it take to find 15 excellent self-published titles?

The answer: More work than it took to find fifty.

The sob story:

Total number of queries received: 5,267
Total number of books considered: 1,666
Total number of books read to completion but did not get reviewed (the ones that came "this close"): 41

Total number of books submitted to me via email: 1,651

Total number of books not read past first page: 217
Total number of books not read past first paragraph: 23
Total number of books not read past first sentence: 8

Total number of books I read in one sitting, despite hunger, daybreak, and bathroom needs: 5

Total number of times I was harassed for not reviewing a submitted novel: 8
Most times a single author submitted a single book: 6

Total number of times an author asked me to purchase his or her book to garner a review: 6

Total number of POD books (that I had purchased) donated to local libraries: 14
Total number of POD books (that I had purchased) rejected from local libraries: 1

Total dollar amount spent on this venture: $0.00 (I do not count books purchased since I own them.)
Total dollar amount made on this venture: $0.00 (still)

Total number of emails received, since March 2005, (non-spam) to
girlondemand@yahoo.com: 173,366
Total number of gigabytes worth of data I received, since March 2005, in PDF files: @ 8.15 GB

Total number of unique hits to this blog for March 2006 - March 2007: 1,235,222

Number of selected/reviewed books by publisher:

Lulu: 5
iUniverse: 5
Velluminous: 2
Authorhouse: 1
Toadspittle Hill Productions: 1
Sunspot Press: 1

Total number of commercially published authors who got in contact to applaud this effort: 26

Total number of commercially published authors who got in contact to ask me to review their novels: 12

Total number of agents who requested to see the Needle awards data: 28

Total number of editors who requested to see the Needle awards data: 19

Total number of agents and editors who asked if they could be judges next year: 7 (As one agent put it, "Of course--we all want to get first dibs on reading these books!)

Total number of offers to buy my book if I would just surrender my identity: I stopped counting once I hit 1,000.

Here's hoping you enjoyed this year as much as I did!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

POD and [the problem with] grammar.

A lot of folks who feel POD books are substandard (usually true) quickly tug on the weakest link of the nature of self-published material: grammar.

True, it can be the weakest link (and the quickest way to fall into the trash bin [electronic or otherwise]) but it is fair (and safe) to say that almost all books contain some mistakes.

I had this same discussion with a NY Times bestselling author last week. I told her that all of my picks this year are as close to perfect as anything being published by the majors.

You'd think I was inclined to controversy, wouldn't you.

She read one of my picks for 2006 and reluctantly agreed that it was a superior text, but still maintained that the books produced by such noble publishers [like Knopf and Vintage] will always be superior.

That is when I explained to her that, though I highly enjoyed A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIOUS by Dave Eggers, a Vintage release in its paperback form as well as a Pulitzer Prize nominated memoir, was riddled (riddled, I say! [that means, like, a dozen errors]) with grammatical problems.

Now, before you blow a gasket, I understand that Dave Eggers was being creative with a lot of the grammar and word usage. I really do. But some errors were hard to overlook. And, frankly, it's not Dave's fault as much as it is the copyeditor's.

Anyway, my friend balked (of course). So I whipped it out and showed her example after example--even finding two errors within one page.

From the Vintage paperback:

Bottom of p.321: I'm certain it was supposed to read cardboard backing, not carboard backing.
Top of p. 322: "You like you're pleading for help."

Anyway, the actual errors are not the point. The point is: who cares? POD or not, a few glitches are no big deal. Ever read the goofs for movies listed on IMDB? Far worse than novels--and the budgets are 100 times higher.

So unless the book is so badly written that it's hard to read (I've tried to read at least a hundred in this category), just give it a try. It's probably worth it.



And here's an update on the Gather Writing contest. At 1,500 entries (and 200 a week coming in) it seems to have drawn all the folks who (wisely) passed on Sobol.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Like Sobol . . . except $99,000 short.

Hey, looking to chuck $100 in the street? Wait! We've got something far better: The 2007 Hollywood Book Festival.

That's right for $75 (sound familiar?) you can enter a contest where the grand prize is . . . $1,000.


That's right, give them a hundred and you might (but probably won't) get $900 as a reward. If the entry fee is $75, why am I saying it will cost $100? Because you cannot submit your book electronically--meaning you need to print off a copy ($15 or more) and ship it out to Los Angeles ($10 or more).

It actually makes me long for the days of Sobol.

Oh, they also say the winner gets this: "We will also distribute your book to our Hollywood Book Festival mailing list of agents, producers, directors, content coordinators and developers for further consideration and provide marketing materials to winning authors and publishers to spotlight your triumph."

*double yawn*

Who are these industry people? How many have "assistant" in their titles? Has this award ever generated any noteworthy film or TV products? Or even a boost in book sales?

What is this (publishing) world coming to?

The best things in life are free. The worst things cost $75.


On a certainly relative note, Henry Baum has a new and improved version of NORTH OF SUNSET out. You can get it here. Why is it relative? NORTH OF SUNSET was a previous grand prize winner of the above mentioned contest. Looks like someone got his $75-worth!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The price of getting read.

Thanks to all for the kind words regarding my book signing. And no, I'm done giving away my books. Though I didn't come out terribly short because:
  1. I drank approximately $13 in coffee and consumed a $2.50 brownie gratis;
  2. The bookstore manager, paying it forward (at his personal cost, I'm guessing) allowed me to select a book in a genre I loved by an author I had never read (ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn) for free.
  3. It was a lot of fun--the kind of fun you can't get at a movie or a basketball game. So I consider what I spent the price of admission.

And for all who are not in the know, this is a neat way to get free books otherwise.


Also on the horizon is a new POD Reviewer--this one actually coming from the world of publishing ("currently the lead editor at a small publishing company in New York ") who can really offer some great insights. Well worth checking out if you are a PODer or someone who wants the lowdown on more books struggling in obscurity. Check out the first book reviewed (received only one star out of four) and see why there is no amount of Excedrin on the market to cure my headache.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

If you thought paying to publish was bad . . .

This past week I did the most unusual book signing. It wasn't supposed to be unusual, but it certainly turned out that way.

Last Wednesday (the wreckage of the ice storm that hit my area was at its peak) I was supposed to do a signing at a book store a few blocks from where I live. At first, it seemed pretty obvious the signing would be canceled, considering the power had been out most of the day. But when I got a call from the store manager asking if I wanted to reschedule, I thought . . . why? What else am I going to do tonight?

So I made my way to the store, drank lots of (free) coffee drinks, chatted up the store employees and basically made a general nuisance of myself. Torqued on caffeine, I made my way to the table where a few small stacks of my most recent hardcover novel (coming soon to a remainders table near you!) were posed hopefully toward the entrance of the store. I stared aimlessly out a distant window, watching the plows impotently remove ice from the parking lot. The store (a large one) had maybe 12 customers milling about.

Finally, an older gentleman came up to my table and stared at the cover of my book, picked it up and gave it the most cursory of interest. Finally, he shrugged and said, "These free?"

I stared at him, tapped my fingers, squinted. "Nothing in life is free, especially fine literature."

"This is fine literature?"

I sighed. "That's what my mom tells me." We stared at each other for a moment, and my mind began churning.

"I'll tell you what," I said, "I'll give you this book for free on one condition: you pay full price for a book in a genre you love by an author you've never read."

[Note: The store manager heard what I'd said and caught my eye, gave me a look asking me if I was serious. I told him I'd pay for my book with my credit card and that I and another staff member would assist the gentleman in finding a book he would enjoy. Everyone shrugged.]

"Okaaay," he said, still suspicious of my intentions.

"What do you like?"

"Mysteries. Some thrillers, I guess."

I took a copy of my novel to the counter, paid for it and put it aside with a stack of the gentleman's other purchases, then we (one of the sales reps and I) went to the mystery section and fought over which hand-sell to push on this guy. The winner: FORCING AMARYLLIS by Louise Ure.

Shortly after the man departed from the store, a young lady (about my age) came up to my table and asked if I was still doing the free book promotion.


I ended up pulling out my credit card seven times that day. What was I really buying? The chance, I guess, that a new type of reader would try my work--but even more so, opening the door of lesser-known writers to people who usually look no further than the bestsellers on the front tables. And I'll tell you, the booksellers said, hands-down, it was the most fun they ever had a book signing. [Note: the sales folks and I managed to really dust off some great books for these buyers--stuff they never would have found on their own, with one exception: the last lady, who clearly was paying attention enough to scam me, convinced us all she was really curious about that new Rachael Ray cookbook.]

I should also mention that I sold eight books on my own, by people who were specifically interested in my novel (including two, at whatever discount he gets, by the store manager.)

Will I be doing this again anytime soon? You've got be kidding. It was a difficult thing to explain to my husband when I got home. Though I wish, like those trite MasterCard ads, I could say the whole event was priceless, I can't.

It cost me $175.