Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Morning Grits (Mississippi-style)

Nothing like a plate of hot, steamy goodness to bring you that feeling of home--that is, other than the P5, of course:

(2) SUFFER IN SILENCE: 51,765 6
(3) COOKIN' FOR LOVE: 71,237 6
(5) THE CIRCLE OF SODOM: 98,412 5


Out of the gate we have another POD author who was picked up by a major house for publication! Speaking of grits, Verne Edstrom (who knows what his real name is), who published DR. VERNE'S NORTHERN WHITE TRASH ETIQUETTE with iUniverse, is now having it released with Random House as WHITE TRASH ETIQUETTE: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO UPSCALE TRAILER PARK MANNERS.

More proof that one man's trash is another man's treasure. (*rim shot*) Congrats to Dr. Verne!

Who says POD books are ridiculously expensive? Well, pretty much everybody. But what is Judith Regan's excuse? Why is this pick-up artist tell-all going for $29.95 in paperback? And why is it ranked in the top 20 at Amazon?

This may very well be the most interesting discussion I have seen on PA yet: Is PublishAmerica a Cult? Pretty funny, actually--and makes a few good points.

A quote: "The authors don’t want to leave the security of “the family,” nor do they want to lose their new friendships or the feeling of being a real author."

Joe Konrath (mega-selling author of WHISKEY SOUR and BLOODY MARY) has an excellent post on his blog about self-publishing--and why it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Check out his posts from October 8th ("Self-Publish Isn't Always a Bad Word") and from October 12th ("Sandy Tooley Part Deux") Very informative and interesting--and may serve as a mental boost for those of you who already went the self-pub direction.

If you POD'd your book and want to get it some exposure--or if you want to recommend a book for some exposure--check out, where they will Podcast selected books/interviewees.

This from Judd Bagley of LongTaleBooks: "For what it's worth, the self-published author featured in my first podcast estimates he has sold over 60 books in 2.5 weeks as a result of the interview."

The more I look around, the more I see POD prices starting to look like regular book prices (except for PublishAmerica, of course.) Like this title from Zumaya, it is getting harder and harder to tell the POD from the non-POD.

And regarding advances--and why we all fantasize about six-figure ones--don't feel too bad. Turns out Barbara Boxer, the infamous left-wing senator from California, only received $15,938 as an advance (which she had to split with her co-author) for her novel, A TIME TO RUN, which was released yesterday by Chronicle Books of San Francisco.

Well, I've had my fill of the grits. I'll clean up this mess later. For now I think I'll just hang on my front porch with the fly swatter.

And fear not--more treasure is on the way!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Jessica Brilliant Keener discusses the Amazon Advantage Program . . . and perseverance.

I had a recent email exchange with Jessica Brilliant Keener, author of TIME TO MAKE THE DONUTS, and out of that discussion came a great insight into how the Amazon Advantage Program really works (I didn't know, I am ashamed to say--because I probably should) and the value of perseverance in getting your own book sold to consumers. No one is going to do it for you, including (especially) your publisher.

Read and learn.

Jessica writes: My book came out in 2001 (just after 9/11) with Lebhar-Friedman, a medium sized publisher with a focus on business and food books. We had strong sales initially (sold about 8,000 the first few months), then my co-author, Bill Rosenberg, who founded Dunkin' Donuts got yet another cancer (his 4th) and he died the following Sept. at the age of 86. Our publisher left and the publishing house cut its book list in half. The consultant/publisher who replaced the publisher who left (!) wanted to sell the remaining 2,500 books to remainder outfits. We (Bill's widow and I) didn't want that. So, Bill's wife bought the remaining books at $1.00/book and rights to the book reverted back to the author.

I then signed on with the Amazon Advantage program. You go online to do this. There is some approval process but it didn't take long--a week or ten days I believe. I've never TALKED to anyone. The program allows me to sell my book on Amazon. I get orders by email. The email Amazon sends me includes a shipping label that I print out and tape to my mailing package. I then ship the amount of books to Amazon. Once a month or so, the program sends me my "check" electronically to my account. I make about $8/book sale--and I believe that's taking into account my mailing costs.

If you sign up for this program it's important to respond quickly to orders. You must confirm you've rec'd the order within 2 days and you must ship the order no later than 5 business days from confirmation. You also need space to store your books.

In my case, I've been able to store them (I've about 1,200 left now) in my husband's office. The books are stacked in boxes of about 14 books/box. (This is how they arrived from the distributor's warehouse.) In the meantime, I've been unable to let this book fade and continue to pursue other sales venues. The interest is there. Recently I sold 200 books to a professor who directs an entrepreneurship program at Nova University in Florida. I sold another 4 dozen to a professor of business in Texas, and 300 books to a Professor at the U. of New Hampshire (where they have a Rosenberg Chair in Entrepreneurship). I've sold these books at about half-price but even so, there's still a decent margin left. The book's retail price is $24.95.

This summer I met with the CEO of Dunkin' Donuts and the VP of marketing to discuss coming out with a softcover version of the book--with the idea that we would place a substantial number (possibly 20,000) in the Dunkin' Donut stores themselves. Dunkin' loves the idea but needs to test it. The company has never sold a book in stores. The VP of Marketing bought 100 hardcovers and plans to test market them to see if customers will, indeed, purchase a book this way. I've two publishers interested in pursuing this idea.

Obviously, all this takes enormous effort and time on my part and my enthusiasm comes and goes in spurts. I get into the idea of selling directly to specialty markets (professors who teach business and entrepreneurship) and then I get tired and go back to my regular program of freelance writing for magazines, and writing novels and short fiction.

So, there you have my entire writing life (sort of). Or, is this really a tale of my inability to give up on the worthiness of my humble donut book? After 4 years, I still believe in its relevance. I guess the moral to this whole outpouring is that good books don't have to go away or die.

Indeed! And I suppose that might be a subtext to this blog; POD is/should be the catalyst for keeping books alive.

But perhaps the most important point here is that the author is the one who has to keep the book alive. Look at the great ideas/marketing that Jessica put behind her book. You really have to make it happen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Getting the insider info . . .

I'm getting tons o' feedback about the agent diatribe--best of all, stories from writers, both published and unpublished, about how great (but mostly ungreat) their agents are. I'm going to post some of these stories over time. It only seems right that I should frighten you so close to Halloween. Besides, the goal of this blog is to enlighten you, dear readers, to books you might never have come to know--and to educate you along the way.

Speaking of education, my dear friend Lauren Baratz-Logsted is fielding questions over at Backspace through Wednesday. How much better can you get than direct answers from a well-published author? She knows her stuff, too--so don't pass this opportunity up.

Also, Publishers Lunch passed along two more publishing blogs worth checking out:

1) Yet another veiled agent blog: Agent Kate, writing to you from Brooklyn, New York.

2) Apparently NY agent Andrew Zack has a blog worthy of perusal.

Remember--no matter what you do with your writing (whether you are going POD or placed as a front-list blockbuster with Random House) you should always gather as much information as you can first.

Monday, October 17, 2005

WILD WOMEN by Simon Leigh (Uka Press)

Wanna get to me? Write a novel with great voice.

Like Simon Leigh did in WILD WOMEN.

Consider this dry, witty tidbit:

They taxied home with their usual driver, showered, climbed into bed and made love. It went quite well. But for the first time she thought it felt like children clinging together, alone together, warming each other but not just for fun – for survival.

Or this telling line:

So here they sat, facing each other over the wreckage of fine dining, Linda and Steven, fully clothed, hearts pounding, unable to speak. Their daughter was all there was to say.

What's it about? Uh . . . gimme a minute.

Let's say this: It's the story of a man who travels to Canada to become a professor and do some auto racing.

Sometimes the point of the journey is not to arrive. Okay, I'm misquoting someone here, but who cares--that's why I blog instead of write for the NY Times. But, unlike the Times, you can trust me when I recommend a book--and this one is delicious! Leigh is a master of voice and this novel should required reading in creative writing classes.

It is a British-ish (yes, I know) novel, though it is hard to understand why. Turns out Leigh was born in Australia and lives in Canada. Nonetheless he has mastered the language, and brings out a hilarious tale well-worth reading more than once. And know that it is not for the faint-hearted; it is quite, er. . . ribald. (C'mon, the title is WILD WOMEN, for Pete's sake.) Published by UKA Press, it's tighter than your average POD, too. Let this book take you on a marvelous ride! It's a journey you won't soon forget.