Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Morning Bagels and Lox (Our cream cheese spoiled. Sorry.)

Happy Friday. Help yourselves to the chow. Leave a poppy-seed for me, will you?

Here is another curious "conversion" of publishing and the Web. Read this
press release. And wouldn't you know, Macmillan has their hand in it again (sort of.) What are these guys up to? Lots of experimentation going on over there.

Simply put: “The Friday Project is the first mainstream publishing company to specialise in producing books inspired by popular websites.” Where is the comment about no advance?

Got a website or blog that gets a bazillion hits an hour? Then
giddy-up, little doggie.

How about a blast from the past? In this
four year old article from MJ Rose for Wired Magazine, we find two funny items:

(1) That the price of POD titles is about to go up! And,
(2) Writers are not getting paid in a timely manner by their publishers.

Two things that may never change in this world.

And how about this humorous news story from Barnes and Noble from 1999? I guess printing the books out in the brick-and-mortar stores never came to fruition.

A different kind of "bestseller" list. Here is a smattering of POD publishers (15) in order of the most titles that currently hold a rank of 10,000 or better.

3: Lulu

2: Xulon

1: iUniverse, Xlibris, Authorhouse, Llumina, Trafford, Virtualbookworm, Aventine

0: Booklocker, Booksurge, Heliographica, Cafepress, PublishAmerica, Outskirts Press

Just out of curiosity, I tried to see how many Knopf had under 10,000. I stopped counting when I got to 200.


Two faithful readers asked me (almost) the same question over a two hour period, so now I feel obliged to answer. Here it is:

Q: What is the most egregious thing a legitimate agent could do to turn you off from representation (I'm paraphrasing here.)

A: The answer was quite simple: Be wary of agents that write and sell their own books. Most agents I know agree that being a writer (or even an editor) is quite a different skill set from an agent. Now, add to that how phenomenally busy agents are, how limited their time is, how they can never "get to responding to query letters" or "sending out the next round of submissions" and it makes one wonder where they're getting the time to write, edit and submit (read it three more times: submit) to houses and/or other agents. These are clowns who are writer wanna-be types and think they can do better (I've read many and only one (so far) struck me as worthy: Noah Lukeman's FIRST FIVE PAGES.) Don't get me wrong--some of these folks are fine agents. But let's be honest: the real reason they get published at all? Duh.

The priority of these agents is likely to be askew. And in case you haven't noticed,













And is it just me, or has RATED F been given life?


And lastly, here is an article about author Beth Lisick. It's really just usual promotional stuff. But the interesting note here is this: Regardless of the fact that her book was published through HarperCollins (Reganbooks), she said, "I'd be happy if it sold a thousand copies." What an industry.

Free antacids on the counter, right next to the tip jar.

Back to treasure on Monday.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Ordering PODs from your independent bookstore (a horror story)

"And your book will be available in 25,000 bookstores!" Every POD company boasts this wonderful hyperbole as a sales pitch. My book isn't available in 25,000 bookstores, nor is any other Penguin Putnam title. In fact, I can guarantee that no book is in every bookstore across the country at the same time.

Of course, what they mean is that the book can be purchased through any of these 25,000 bookstores; someone has to special-order it.

The question is . . . will they?

After a brief email correspondence with author Shelly Rivoli, she told me a story that should bring home some reality for any potential PODer. She agreed to let me excerpt it here.

"You reminded me of the time my own sweet mother was trying to help my efforts by special ordering my book through a particular bookstore at the same time I sent them a sample copy & info, and a pitch for a reading. They kept insisting it was a real nuisance for them to order such a book for her (imagine), even though she offered to pay up front, telling them what great things some friends had said about the book. They even told her it would probably be easier for everyone if she just ordered it from Amazon, but she explained she prefers to support independents. She called two weeks later wondering about the status of her special order. Somehow it never went through. But the clerk told her, 'Wait a minute... yeah, we've got a copy of it here in the store for 50 cents--should I hold it for you?'"

Pathetic (especially since it was an independent--customer service and knowledge is the only reason to go to one and pay full price.)

POD pretty much equates to online sales only. And until those magic in-store printers are available, this is likely to be the way it is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The more things change . . . (how does that go again?)

Speaking of how important a book's opening is (first page, first paragraph, first line), check out this article (courtesy of a commenter over at Agent 007's blog -- a worthwhile read of its own, by the way).

At the bottom, you'll see a press release for CALIFORNIA MYSTERY WRITER WINS PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST LINE. And here is the winner:

"The thing about revenge is that it takes a woman who is well and truly pissed to get it right."

Fun. But more importantly, read the article above it that discusses the state (of decay) of the publishing industry. There are some important points to note here--in fact, it almost reads like an excerpt from a recent conversation that I had with my editor. For example:

"A LOT of mid-listers are going the name-change route because of the weird practice in many bookstores of ordering the same amount of an author's next book as they SOLD of said author's LAST book: not ordered, but actually sold. Since there are almost always returns - especially in a business that rewards you for NOT selling the merchandise - this is a law of diminishing results where the end number would almost always be zero if allowed to play out to the end."

But here is the real deal, a point so vivid that no one should ever question whey I am trying to find decent, undiscovered books among the ever-increasing rubbish:

"I have a friend who had ONE book published by a name house. Great book. Great writer. Good-to-great reviews. Lousy cover. Lousy promotion. Lousy sales numbers. (Frankly, lousy publisher.) In New York, the good writing, the good reviews, the bad cover, and the lack-of-promotion are quickly forgotten. The terrible sales numbers, however, are forever available on their computer for anyone In-House - and, even more shockingly, for any OTHER publisher who may be interested to know how poorly the book performed. Consequently, this writer has had to settle for publishing his last four books through a small (but very high quality) press in runs of less than two thousand copies. The books get better and better. The people who found him early on continue to ride along, but the average book buyer may never hear of him. I feel very, very bad for this writer. He has been done a huge disservice by the New York publishing community. I feel even worse for the people who love good writing and who will never be able to discover the joys of the words between the covers of his great books. But that's the state of things."

Read 'em (while you can) and weep.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I'm a teacher. But I'm not a kindergarten teacher.

You'll now notice the comments are gone. After some long discussions with my agent, editor and friends in the biz, I have decided to take the road like Beatrice, Maud Newton, Bookmouth (read this article on POD, by the way), Robert Gray, etc. and make this blog information-based and less like Writer's.Net. I received over one hundred (one hundred!) emails in the last week alone asking me to kill the comments, and I couldn't decide which was worse: reading the comments or reading the emails about the comments.

I have neither the time nor desire.

You can always send me an email if you want to pass on some info, a great book or a success story. Or anything really. (Rest assured I am happy with my current mortgage rate and I'm not sure what good Viagra would do.) Please know that I am typically many days behind in my email. So if you don't hear from me, it's not because I am ignoring you ("though", as Pat Walsh would say, "it just might.")

Onward and upward . . .

Monday, July 11, 2005

A SMALL CASE OF MURDER by Lauren Carr (iUniverse)

I am not necessarily the most prolific mystery reader in the world. But when I come across a good one, I instantly feel the need to share. You know the type: can't put it down, everyone seems like a suspect, the clock becomes irrelevant.

That said, so fortunate was I to stumble across Lauren Carr's A SMALL CASE OF MURDER. Okay, I didn't stumble across it--it was given to me. But I'm still claiming it as a find.

Here we have the story of a JAG (yeah, just like the TV show you can't wait to finish so the Law & Order reruns will come on) by the name of Joshua Thornton who moves to Chester, West Virginia to raise his stable (five kids!) after his wife dies. Chester is the town of Joshua's youth, and returning "home" is an effort in trying to bring some peace and quiet to his life.

But this is a mystery. So Joshua is sadly mistaken.

There he finds a letter (a mystery letter!) that flips Chester on its head, tying the local minister to drugs and a pair of murders (that occurred in different countries) that occurred some 30 years earlier. Of course, puzzles this old are almost impossible to put together; so many pieces have been lost. But the tale is woven wonderfully, becomes increasingly gripping as the story unfolds and is simple and fun to read.

To step out of my role as reviewer for a moment, I must add a caveat: the weakest point of the book is the beginning. As the novel becomes more intense, the writing seemed to improve as well. Don't let the first few chapters throw you off. You'll be thanking me by the time you turn the last page.

Perhaps the funniest (and, I'm assuming, coincidental) thing about the book is that, though printed via iUniverse, the very first word of the novel is Lulu.

It's not too late to grab this for a beach read. Just bring plenty of sun block; the time will pass quickly.