Friday, April 15, 2005

Pod-dymouth profile: You!

Well, I let my little poll go until I got just over 10,000 responses and figured that was enough to get a good idea of you are. Here are the interesting tidbits:

18.7% of you are POD authors yourselves (1,822). Hard to believe that many POD authors exist, never mind find their way to this blog.

6.4% of you were traditional authors (643). Even more amazing.

The far majority, 63% were readers and book fans (6,333).

A sad, disappointed 344 (or 3%) came looking for porn.

But most notably, I have had 48 agents and 37 editors stop by for a visit. What does that tell me? Two things:
(1) Some wise folks in publishing realize that good titles are being lost in the POD wasteland and might want to find a gem or two, and;
(2) A lot of folks at Penguin Putnam are trying to figure out who I am, and probably why I am not working on editing my own material.

I am getting thousands of hits daily now and will probably top 600,000 hits for the year--surprising when you consider this blog has only existed for a month and change.

Anyway, thanks everyone--for visiting and reading.

Let's get back to finding some treasure.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How POD will cause cancer

Yesterday, I gave a brief dissertation (diatribe) about the benefits of POD. What about its dark, ugly underbelly?

Indeed it is there.

And it is in the form of a plethora of unreadable novels, memoirs and self-help guides. Let's face it: POD has made it too easy to get a book in print. Last month I commented on the difference between indie movies/music and self-pubbed books. The main differentiator is cost. Even a cheap indie movie will run $50k. And studio time isn't cheap either. But now any 15-year-old who gets a thumbs-up from his English teacher runs to a POD company and produces the thing in print in a couple of months.

And you'll find it all in POD: from the 115 self-help manual (you couldn't have needed too much help) to the 750 page novel (for $30.)

And the cost to produce it (as in, buying POD services) gets even cheaper. Look at Lulu, for example. If you are tech-savvy at all, you can produce your entire interior (they will give you templates) and exterior of the book (everyone has a friend who knows Photoshop). All you need to do is get your stuff converted to .pdf and you are good to go. Cost? Nothing. You can print as little as a single copy from Lulu at the cost of production (about $11.00 for a 300 page book.) They even ship for free if you total $25 or more, ala Amazon. The only cost comes in if you want it listed with the bookstores, which if I remember is something like $149. And the day you upload the files you can get it printed and shipped, too.

Now compare that to my expenses/time of getting published traditionally and you'll see I am in the red.

I am endorsing Lulu? On the contrary. I'm frightened. What has happened is the cost of getting published is being reduced down to zero--no different than creating a Word file and squeezing it out on a printer next to your nightstand.

And once that happens, how will we ever get through the list of titles? How will we ever find those worthy of our time?

Welcome to the wild, wild west.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

How POD will cure cancer

Let me say this: I am one of those people who get typically gets annoyed when someone suggests publishing is dying. As a person previously commented, it is like people who complain about "today's kids" being worse than the last generation. If you look merely at the numbers, publishing is no worse than static. The profits seem to balance out the losses. I doubt we'll see a boom in editor positions any time soon.

Publishing, like so many other industries--music, television, American auto manufacturing--has been predicted to weaken or die for decades. But perhaps what publishing is doing is worse than dying: it's standing still, still breathing, eyes closed, the world rushing around it like an oak tree in the middle of the Beltway. Everyone wants to keep doing their job and pretend nothing is changing.

Music, for example, has gone through many painful transitions (I'm talking business structure here, not music styles.) The switch from wax to CD and then from CD to portable digital files all within a 25 year period has caused a lot of gray hair to sprout.

Publishing, on the other hand, has brushed off change most callously. It dipped its toe into ebooks and quickly yanked it back out with a "see? I told you so" attitude. And it seems they still want it to die: Offering ebooks in the $12-14.00 range in asinine.

But worst of all, they have never resolved the issue of returns. ("Returns", for those who don't know, allows a books store/chain to send back any unpurchased books for a credit or refund.) So, as an example, let's say a publisher claims they'll do a first print run of 22,000, which means they actually do a print run of 15,000, and let's say they only sell 10,400 copies. That means they eat the remaining 4,600. I can think of no other industry (of comparable size) that would allow such a moronic business model to stay in place. Where is the bookstore's cost of doing business? And for those not paying attention, that 4,600 they trashed could have been an initial print run for another title.

"If we couldn't return unsold books, we'd be stocking only a few hundred titles," said

Uh, that's what you're doing anyway. (And--no offense B&N and Borders--that is why people love Amazon.) My book is (right now) one of the books that is well-stocked at the brick and mortar stores, so this is not coming from angst. The majority at the front end of a book store are the bestsellers anyway. Where's the risk in that?

You know where I am going with this? Take a guess. POD might be just what cures whatever cancer is causing the publishing industry to remain stagnant. How about doing half a print run--and when the print run sells out, the title goes POD. (Don't chime in about the cost of POD titles; it would be significantly cheaper if the major publishers ever got involved first hand.)

Two benefits:
(1) Reduced print run loss, allowing for an overall increase in title releases;
(2) Incentive for buyers to grab the title before it goes POD (for price and availability reasons.)

If a publisher wants to do another print run because a title breaks out, so be it. No harm once it has proven itself. But the model of returns needs to go. And POD is the solution.

Chime in. Tell me why I'm wrong. Or right.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Edit this

Okay, enough with the emails. Does Kakutani have to answer to every person who disagrees with the noble reviewer? Probably.

But I don't.

No offense, legions of fans and followers, but if you think that some POD book I read and endorsed was not to your liking, well . . . shove it. I'm not the NY Times or the Washington Post or the LA Times. I am a blogger: unpaid, extremely tired, overburdened and armed with an extremely short fuse. I do this for fun. Take the fun away and all you have left is . . . un-fun. I get (roughly) 100-125 emails a day from folks (mostly great stuff) but I really do not need the influx of dissenting opinions in email form.

There is a place for them, actually: put them in the comments section so that other people can read them (the folks who might care.) As for me? I'd rather read about HOW TO LOSE INCHES or GREAT NEW MORTGAGE RATES or a whole host of things that I could do to enhance my non-existent schlong.

One other note: I know (some) of these books have grammatical/punctuation errors. So? So does this posting. I read articles in the Post every day with errors. I own two Grisham novels (THE PARTNER and THE TESTAMENT) with grammatical and usage errors. The large majority of POD books never see editing beyond Word's spell checker. And trust me when I say that traditional authors have a huge advantage over the self-published. I've read unedited manuscripts for (editor) friends and the difference (between ms form and published/edited form) is amazing. And I would be foolish not to admit that my own writing has benefited greatly from my editor's pencil.

So take my reviews with a grain of salt.

Or for you POD writers: Take my reviews with a grain assault.

On an up note, it turns out that Nicole Hunter's lovely, rich WAITING FOR THE WORLD TO END is up for Book of the Year (Religious Fiction category) at ForeWord magazine. Much deserved. Here's hoping Ms. Hunter brings the award home (beating all those heavily edited books from Algonquin, Oxford, Beacon, etc.)

Gotta go. A stack of books awaits.

Monday, April 11, 2005

DUCK BLOOD SOUP, by Joseph Molea (iUniverse)

I'm not sure why, but I have many an addiction book in my library--in every shape and size: Memoir (PERMANENT MIDNIGHT, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES, etc.) and fiction (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, etc.) But there is one that stands out in my collection--and wouldn't you know: it was a POD title.

DUCK BLOOD SOUP by Joseph Molea, MD is most disturbing, as it tells the story of addiction from a doctor's point of view--as in, the doctor has the addiction. Surprising? Not really. We read about how overburdened folks in the medical industry are (especially the young ones) and how difficult it is to get by. What sticks with you here is how sharply the addiction takes the doctor, and how his awareness of his situation links right back to his training as an MD. Molea's writing is excellent (this work is literary, for sure) and he never forgets how to pin the urgency of an addict:

"Standing over Vince like that, watching him fiddle with the paraphernalia without intervening, made me sweat. Watching some fat slob fumble with drugs and needles and vials, seeing his thick stubby fingers contaminate the syringe, watching the needle come off in the stopper of the vial just to get a taste myself, made my stomach flip. Medicine is an art. Finesse draws medication into a syringe as much as suction. I could have done it myself in a heartbeat. He took forever to perform a simple medical procedure I could do in my sleep. Watching him atoned for my sin: letting a thief in the temple. Vince embarrassed me. This bothered me, but I did it anyway. I deserved him."

The book is played off as fiction, yet Molea references his own life/training/experiences and, in the Author's Note, asks specifically that he not be judged as an autobiographer. Indeed, not a bad idea when you consider the protagonist of the story lets someone die as a result of the drug use.

The story clearly comes across as memoiresque. Molea pushes the story back and forth in time and the reader gets a firm grasp on what led the protagonist (Rocky) to be weakened to the idea of drugs (pain killers, by the way) in the first place.

There is more than enough here to chew on. In fact, it's a full meal.

Highly recommended. You'll never go to the doctor again.