Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Morning T-Bone, Rare, Side of Fried Taters

Good news! Chef Jack is on parole and back in the kitchen--and itchin' to deliver some good home cookin'. Just try not to make eye contact, eh?

To kick things off: your P5 for Friday, September 23, 2005:

(1) SUFFER IN SILENCE: 16,225 5
(3) THE CIRCLE OF SODOM: 73,760 5
(4) COOKIN' FOR LOVE: 99,561 5
(5) INFERTILITY SUCKS: 129, 966 6

If you're wondering if publishing POD is a total waste of time, money and effort, the answer is this: No (not total.)

iUniverse has managed to sell foreign rights to three of their titles in the last six months to various publishers. THE DEVIL'S APOCRYPHA, THE GHOST NEXT DOOR, and THE KNIGHT RIDER LEGACY have been sold to Russia, Indonesia, and Japan, respectively. (All sold via Judy Klein @ Kleinworks.)

So even if you do not sell well here in the States, there is still hope abroad. Of course, keep in mind the odds are just as dismal as with the traditional publishers. These are just three titles of the many thousand that iUniverse publishes.

Here's a little surprise for your Friday feast: I have a single-question Q&A with my agent and editor friends in NY (actually, I was going to post it two weeks ago, but Agent Two was a tad, um . . . tardy.

Girl: What impact, if any, does winning a self- (or un-) published writing contest have on whether or not you would sign/publish an author?

Agent One: First off, there is no downside. No one is ever going to say, "What a shame you won that contest." It can only help sell a book. Do I go out of my way to read up on contest winners? No. Will it help me prioritize a query? Sure.

Agent Two: Big impact! In fact, I love award winners and have sold many (maybe over a dozen?) in the several few years. Many times these books are judged by people who review for other magazines, like Publishers Weekly, which gives these books an immediate leg up.

Agent Three: I would say it has some influence. I will pretty much read any award winner that gets submitted as long as it is not for genres I do not represent.

Editor One: Well, I leave it up to the stable of agents who submit to me to sort through what is good and bad, award-winner or not. That said, nothing could be finer than having something to make my P&L stand out from the crowd, like an award from a widely-known contest. It is getting tougher and tougher to find ways to push books on our publisher and winning awards is a good one.

I had a novel last year that actually won two awards and I knew I would have no trouble selling it. As a result we bought the book and it has been a great success.

Editor Two: The more renown the contest, the more interest I would have. Writer's Digest and others run some good contests, but I would not be interested in the Southeastern Mountain Tennessee Writer's Contest where only 25 people submitted in the first place.

That's all she (me) wrote, fellas and gals. Yours truly needs to actually do some writing this weekend that generate some income, tough as it may be.

See you Monday for some shiny, new treasure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Judging books by their . . . titles?

I've been reading some decent PODs lately (not many great ones, but many that are "close") though I have to say, I went in thinking the worst of many due solely to the title. Now, keep in mind that I try to read at least a little of everything submitted to me to see if it grabs me, so I am (a little) more objective than the average book buyer. But some of these titles just make me cringe.

Remember: One of the most important aspects of a book is its title. Sure, some people may ramble on and on about the importance of book covers, but the title can just as easily sink a book.

An editor at St. Martin's once told me that they change about one quarter of all the titles that they publish. What does that tell you, POD authors? Ask people what they think of your book title and use the criticism to your benefit.

I mean, sure, some traditionally published folks come up with bad titles. John Grisham has written some great books but has probably some of the worst titles out there (I've read every one of his books but I can only remember A TIME TO KILL, THE FIRM and THE PELICAN BRIEF.) If you are a bestselling author, you can use an incredibly bland and non-insightful title like ENVY, even as another bestselling author comes along and uses an incredibly bland and non-insightful title like ENVY.

Unless you are one of these authors, I would stick to the good stuff.

If you're clever, you can create a title that catches a reader's attention just like a snappy or moody book cover. Consider this smattering (and no, none of these are mine):

Even if you think some of these titles (or others: a la THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME) are over the top, keep in mind that it is the first thing that will stand out to booksellers (or editors and agents if you are at that stage.)

Remember, it doesn't take much to make a book title stand out.

Monday, September 19, 2005

CONSCIENCE by John Mason Skipp (Friendly Firewalk Press)

Every now and then I stumble across a book (or one is placed at my feet so that I may stumble upon it) that is so eye-opening that I feel the need to do a quick re-read. Such was the case with CONSCIENCE by John Mason Skipp.

Now, before I go further, it should be mentioned that John Skipp is half of the Skipp/Spector duo that wrote neo-horror novels for Bantam some years back, with bestselling (no, real bestselling, as in the New York Times) titles including THE LIGHT AT THE END and ANIMALS. You horror fans might remember (or own) some of these.

But CONSCIENCE shows that, not only has Skipp continued to write dynamically, he has progressed--and become quite literary.

The book tells the story of Charley Weber--not a nice fellow, really; he kills for a living, and rather enjoys it. Upon his arrival to Los Angeles, he sets out to make a violent point (massacre-style) for all the wrong (selfish) reasons. Until someone tries to put a stop to it (Who? Hint: read the title.)

Now before you start spouting off, saying "That sounds like Chuck Palahniuk! That sounds like Chuck Palahniuk!" I will agree that it is very Palahniukian, though heavier on the anger and lighter on the angst, if you catch my drift. More notably, Skipp's book reads like a balance between Stephen King (the first chapter, especially) and Will Christopher Baer (everything after the first chapter.) The writing is, at times, profane and perverse and graphic--but certainly a necessary part of the story, given the plot.

No matter what, it is a great read. It's the kind of book I wish Hollywood would pay attention to. Worth the price and worth the time!

Please note: the book also includes a handful of short stories and a full screenplay which I DID NOT read, so I cannot comment on them. Rest assured that I will read them, once I catch up on some more submissions. But, at a minimum, you can be sure you are getting your money's worth. This is good stuff.