Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday Morning Coffee and Beignets (to cure your hangover)

Welcome, all cafe patrons. Please enjoy today's breakfast and don't worry about those Health Inspectors; they're easily bribed.

Well, if you didn't like Steve Forbes already, now you have a reason. In the Forbes list of preferred literary blogs they recommend GalleyCat, the Elegant Variation, Maud Newton . . . but not even a subtle nod to yours truly. Granted the previously mentioned are wickedly superior to my drivel, but don't I get some credit for having my head buried in the bowels of the publishing industry? Sheesh-o-rama!

Please allow me to recommend another "publishing industry" title to you: I just finished a great text by Larry Portzline titled Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict's Guide To Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips For Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies.

This is a great book for lovers of independent bookstores--like me. Don't get me wrong--I love my B&N and my Borders. But sometimes you want a place where the staff knows more about books than cappuccinos. A place where the wood creaks under your feet, where the shelf wouldn't hold all the books so they just stacked them up sideways next to it, a place where, when you say, "I am looking for a 1960 copy of such-and-such, you get a warm smile and a book in return. Have we learned nothing from Robert Gray?

When I was a little POD-dy mouth, there was a bookstore my family and I used to visit in New Jersey once a month and each of us PODlings could pick out one title to bring home. Here's the kicker: the store only sold mysteries. Can you imagine? How cool is that--AND how knowledgeable do you think that staff was regarding mysteries? The store was later ripped down (along with several others) and it became an exit ramp for I-80.

My point? Cherish these places. They are what writing and reading are all about. These places are for people who love books by people who love books. Just finish a novel that you think would become a great movie? Who cares. It was a great book. It was beautiful or stunning or disturbing in its own creation. There is the art, man--not on celluloid. And the people who run these independent bookstores dig this. I'm not saying you need to become a beatnik and write poetry. Just enjoy the culture. And buy a few books.

Most importantly, Larry's book will get you there. It is an excellent primer on the state of the bookselling industry, and gives you a great start to finding the cool stores in your area (I lucked out; I live in DC!) It's $10, which is chump change when it comes to books. I even recommended it to my neighbor (who has 1,832 DVDs and 11 books.) It'll change his life.

Remember the announcement of the Quills (the first nationally televised book awards show)? Remember how I said your POD-dy Mouth Girl would not be nominated?

Well, guess what . . . I was right!

The nominees were announced this week. Here are the (predictable) nominees for each category (click the category type on the left.) I mean, come on, Nora Roberts gets two of the five Romance nominations? Aren't there, like, 10,000 romance writers out there? Surely, one of them is up to par with Nora.

But whereas the National Book Awards were all about a bunch of authors/books no one had ever heard of, the Quills is all about recognizing the brand name: Nora Roberts, Philip Roth, Augusten Burroughs, John Twelve Hawks, Nick Hornby, Sue Monk Kidd. Geez, I mean even Rachael Ray is nominated.

This is television, after all.

Well, that's it for now. Enjoy your breakfast--and always place your trash in the proper receptacle.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bestsellerdom (Bestseller, dumb)

The P5 for August 3, 2005:

(1) SUFFER IN SILENCE: 22,353 5
(2) COOKIN' FOR LOVE: 34,873 5
(4) THE CIRCLE OF SODOM: 59,481 5

However, to really blow your mind (it blew mine) you should check out this Amazon bestseller (I'm not reviewing it--merely pointing out an interesting fact) that, when I looked at it this morning, was ranked 74 (it is currently 619.) That's pretty smokin' for POD. The only title I know that seems to be performing better is this title from Lulu.

As for me? 9,076 today.

One final word (nail in the coffin) on the Kirkus thing, and then I'll drop it and let them go back to making $300 a pop from self-pubbed authors:

I had a lot (a lot) of emails generated about the Kirkus thing, everyone from PODers to editors to agents to a journalist from the Tribune. And (almost) everyone had some good points to make. One of my favorites came from Cavan Terrill, who did some research on the results regarding sales of some Discovery titles. Cavan writes:

"When the first Kirkus Discoveries newsletter was emailed to me, I picked three books that had been given stellar reviews (at random) and noted their sales ranks on Amazon. Compare that to their results now...

Tiger - Dan Henke
March 10 sales rank: None
July 28 sales rank: None

Hawaii's Adopted World Class Actor - Terence Knapp
March 10 sales rank: approx. 2.16 million
July 28 sales rank: approx. 2.42 million

Menu Log: A Collection of Recipes as Coordinated Menus- Marion Celenza
March 10 sales rank: None
July 28 sales rank: approx. 2.51 million."

Granted, these authors might have been better served spending the $300 on buying their own books from their respective publishers and selling at some sort of book signing.

On the other hand . . .

Nicole Hunter passed this certainly valid opinion on to me:

"The Kirkus Discoveries review was worth it to me for the opportunity to get reviewed caveat-emptor style, and have the quick turnaround (my book was one of their early reviews and it was ready in about six weeks). I liked the fact that my reviewer (who is an editor and a woman, but I know no more about her) both praised and criticized the book. The criticism gave validity to the praise, and I thought her criticisms were fair enough as opinion and perception. The review provided some great pull quotes. As a POD author with no connections in the industry, I was glad for this opportunity, such as it was, since my opportunities were so limited."

Alas, I do wish the folks at Kirkus the best--and hope that their brand-name recognition will not be destroyed.

But couldn't you have given your Virginia Kirkus Literary Award winner a $10,000 cash prize (we call these things advances.) I'm sure Little, Brown could afford it. Just skip your holiday party this December.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Amazon rankings, like age, mean nothing.

Here is today's P5 (and a reason why no one should pay attention to the numbers.)

(2) COOKIN' FOR LOVE: 31,325
(3) THE CIRCLE OF SODOM: 154,157

If you haven't been by MJ Rose's blog lately (well, first of all--shame on you) then you should stop by. She has a great post (with data provided by writers) about the influence (read: unreliable influence) of sales on Amazon rankings.

Here is a snippet:

"Last Thursday, one of our books zoomed from a sales rank of 32,154 to 872, peaking at 665 on Friday. How many copies did we sell in total last week? 17."

And best of all--for those folks who want to attend a "seminar" on how to become a Amazon bestseller, she recommends this:

". . . you can take that same amount of money and buy a whole lot of your own books all at once, in the middle of the night where there's not much book buying going on. You'll get your low Amazon number and you'll get a lot of books for your money, which you can use for promotional purposes."

Monday, August 01, 2005


As you can guess, I get a lot of submissions to read. Seriously. A lot. But when I get a recommendation from a well-published author, those books go right to the top of the review pile (geez, now don't I sound just like a pesky agent or editor.)

In this case, I was contacted by a gentleman you may have read by the name of
C.J. Box (fellow Putnam stable mate and author of OUT OF RANGE and TROPHY HUNT), who recommended (highly) today's pick: THE SEARCH FOR AN INNAPROPRIATE MAN by RoseMarie London.

When it comes to collections of short stories, I tend to be overly picky. In fact, I would suggest it is more difficult (in some ways) to write and develop a group of characters and plots than one cohesive set.

Difficulty aside, RoseMarie London executes with precision here. This collection is beautiful, funny, poignant. Her writing is that of a proven veteran, incredibly sharp--all the while keeping her phrasing catchy and interesting--and the stories moving smooth and steady. She has a tight grasp on human emotion and knows how to deliver it in her prose.

As I was reading through SEARCH, I kept making mental notes of places I'd like to excerpt. And while I found many of them, none made as much sense to post here as the beginning. Read this, and tell me you don't want to read what follows:

I'd lived in Wyoming for five years before I got shot standing beside the wrong man at the wrong time next to a pool table in a bar where, up to that moment, it looked as though I was going to walk away from a win that would clear my tab.

It was some crime of passion--not mine--I paid for with a bullet through the shoulder. In my estimation it probably makes up for all the passionate misdeeds I'd gotten away with. Karma's funny that way, it seems.

I don't remember the commotion that followed the through and through. There was less blood and less pain than I would have otherwise thought. And I didn't fall right away to the ground. Women are always in pain; I perpetually experienced a tightness in my chest, or what felt like a fist between my shoulder blades, or a stitch in my side to follow some thought or another I shouldn't have been thinking. The fist. I thought that's all it was.

The short stories here cover everything: love and loss and regret. But we're talking Wyoming, for the most part. And a lot of horses. I plowed through this book in a matter of hours and immediately read through two of the stories again.

My only complaint is that it is 106 pages. I could have easily absorbed another 200. On the other hand, it is only $9.95.

Let's hope Ms. London has a novel or two under her belt.