Saturday, April 02, 2005

FRENCHING VIOLET, by Gary Marchal (PublishAmerica)

I heart Huckabee.

Chas Huckabee, that is--the witty narrator of Gary Marchal's FRENCHING VIOLET. Chas is coming to us from the core of America's hippiedom days: 1969. But he's not a drugged-out college student, a war protestor or a flower child. He's just a child--13, to be exact.

It's the beginning of summer vacation and he gets grounded. Total bummer. As a result, he decides to read Huckleberry Finn (at a loss of anything else to do) and suddenly finds himself motivated to write about his own adventure. But this novel (Huckabee's tale) reads more like CATCHER IN THE RYE than the famed novel by Mark Twain; the story is nothing more than a boy trying to exist in a confusing time at a confusing age. And, as a result, the re-introduction of girls as something more than counterparts gets heavy airtime.

Catch my drift:

"I’ve got a Christmas miracle for you: Skinny got a date.

Maybe that Tom Jones getup did the trick, but he called up a girl who'd danced with him the weekend before. Her name’s Mona Lisa, and I know because Skinny’s been saying her name in his bed ever since. I’d hear moans to go along with Mona and sighs to go along with Lisa, and I’d hear his breathing pick up so high you’d think he was dreaming of toting her up the tallest hill in our neighborhood."

It is, overall, a simple story--mostly of puberty and friendly rivalry over the same girl (Violet, of course.)

Don't be put off by the nod towards young adults; this book entertains as easily as Salinger's novel and is one you will turn to for more than a single reading.

Another note: the comparison to CATCHER is a loose one. A lot of people are funny about their addiction to Salinger's work (especially those sick folks who underline passages.) Just pick up FRENCHING VIOLET and enjoy. Relive your youth and see (and feel!) what is like to be a kid again.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

More Needling . . .

I appreciate the kind words about the Needle Awards--although it resulted in a ton of emails, all asking pretty much the same questions. So let me see if I can address them here:

(1) Can I submit my book? Not really. As I mentioned some time ago, I would need to get one of those PODS containers (that's Portable On Demand Storage and has nothing to do with POD books--until now) to house all the people who want to send me books to review.

There is another element: I do not want folks submitting a book that they had to pay for (since you do not have a publisher submitting galleys.) That seems really unfair, and if I hear about a book that intrigues me, I will find a way to get a copy. As mentioned before, you are more than welcome to email me with a synopsis or link for your book and I'll take a look.

One other thing: you know if your book is decent. If you threw it together quickly and it needs work, please do not ask me to find/read it. Be honest with yourself--and me.

(2) Is there a formal process for book selection? No. Totally subjective, baby--also ala National Book Awards. In this case, though, everything is lumped together: fiction, memoir, history, etc. Is that fair? Who cares, really. I've only got time to read so many books and though it is in a haphazard fashion, I am managing to find quality titles. There are many, many good POD books out there--and I am trying to find 50 a year, as random as it may be.

(3) Will you marry me? No.

(4) Will the finalists and winner know who is receiving the promo material? Probably. Unless an agent or editor wants to remain anonymous (those already onboard have agreed.) However, only the winner and finalists will now. I will not be broadcasting the names of the generous agents and editors willing to give these titles a look. If you need leads for finding a good agent or publisher, you should be checking Gerard's website.

(5) Where will the ceremony be held? Will there be alcohol served? The ceremony will be in front of you computer screen. Alcohol? BYOB. Open up a can of Schlitz and have a field day.

(6) Will this help my book's sales? Who knows. The NBAs did almost nothing for sales on the five fiction finalists. It did give them great exposure, though. And a good deal of foreign rights were sold as a result and future titles from some of the authors were sold too. I would say the best you can get from this is a traditional book deal. But this business is extremely subjective, as you already know. All we can do is hope and pray for the best.

(7) What's in this for you? Nothing. The same way that there is nothing in it for Gerard at his site. The same way there is nothing in it for your local library. I just enjoy sharing the books that I (and my POD sisters) have found. No angle. No benefit. I'm not asking for money or letting advertisers fill the screen with crap. Just read and enjoy. The best things in life are free.

Or a $25.00 paperback.

I'll have more details in the future. For now, back to finding some buried treasure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Kicking it up a notch

After going through my pile of PODs (the ones that I've kept, many of which will have reviews posted here eventually) I realized that just reviewing these books was not enough. Some of these really needed to be recognized in some unusual way.

Introducing The Needle Awards.

That's right folks. We here at POD-DY MOUTH are going to be giving away awards this winter for the "best of the best" POD titles.

Okay, we're not really going to give you an award for real or anything, it's just . . .

Let me start at the beginning:

I plan on reviewing 50 titles this year (approximately one per week on average.) The titles aren't necessarily published this year (without galleys, how could anyone really restrict reviewing POD titles to a specific year?) Of those 50 titles, I will select, in my opinion, the best five books (that's 10% for you mathematically challenged.)

Now, those five titles will be further reviewed (even reread, in some cases) by five people: yours truly, my two POD sisters (who also happen to be published writers), and two other readers who are also in the "industry" in different capacities.

We will then convene, ala National Book Awards, and choose the best title of the group, to be selected as the Needle Award Book of the Year (the other four will be Needle finalists.)

What does this mean to you, as an author, if you are a finalist (or win)? These five titles will be presented (more to come on how) to various senior folks in the publishing industry.

Okay, that means people I know. Who, yet, is not completely determined--however, I do have three agents (not mine) and two editors (not mine) who are onboard already and I hope to push that to at least five and five.

Finalists will be announced mid-January 2006 and the awards announced late February 2006 (of course; right between the Grammys and Oscars.) Big presentation at Radio City Music Hall? Get real; we're talking POD here. Pay attention: Teacher + Midlist Author = Broke. Internet recognition will have to be enough.

But . . . I am working on some other surprises, too. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Cost of Doing Business

Many folks claim it is too expensive to self-publish. And, indeed, it can be mighty costly, especially if you go the old route and do an actual print run. POD technology has made it possible to print a few (or no!) books at a time and as a result made publishing a book about the equivalent of buying a digital camera.

Dare I say that POD has made experimenting with writing and publishing a possibility for (too) many people who never would have made the decision to publish if it meant investing $10,000 or more. That is the beauty of it. It is also the ugliness of it. We talked before about why indie film and indie music get so much respect. And the answer (or, at least, one of the answers) is that you cannot produce a CD or a film for $499.

But many folks argue that paying to have your work in print is, sort of . . . lame.

Here's the truth: we've all paid to see our work in print.

From personal experience . . .

When trying to find an agent, I spent the following:

Postage: $127.39 (granted, I made the mistake of sending my first three manuscripts overnight, also includes SASEs)
Copies of MS: $187.00
Toner Cartridge: $49.00
Phone Calls to NY & CA: $26.45

TOTAL: $389.84

Once I found an agent, I was responsible for all the copies, postage, phone calls, and galleys for foreign rights (all per AAR guidelines)

Total (so far): $427.00

So, I am in for $816.84 and there are more expenses on the way.

Now, I'll admit that I am about to earn out my advance, so the investment was worthwhile. But--there are many folks who do not earn out their advance. Worse--they do not even sell 1000 copies. Even worse--they did not get an advance to break even, or they did not get an advance at all.

And at that point, the author is in the red about the same as the POD author (assuming the POD author did not opt for tons of add-ons.)

There are two main differences here:
(1) The traditional author has a greater chance of breaking out (depending significantly on the publisher)
(2) The level of respect is greater for the traditional author.

But as we've discussed before, one again these two lists are merging. The midlist and the PODlist are becoming unified in more ways than one.

Things are changing.