Sunday, December 30, 2007
John F. Saunders has written a dandy thriller set in Atlanta. His Frank Kane is unlike any anti-hero you've ever gotten to know. Frank is the ex-enforcer for the Spartan motorcycle gang who agrees to save a friend's granddaughter from being sold into a life of sexual slavery. Suffice it to say this is not a police procedural. Kane's problem solving methods are not for the faint of heart. This is the story of a man with a big heart, broad shoulders, and a mean streak a mile wide that makes sense of justice, vigilante style.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Chris' comment about the paucity of reading at the high school level is saddening, but at least there is a trend toward graphic novels.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, especially to you Larry, and to everyone and all, a good night.
Friday, December 21, 2007
However, I also agree with Larry that Kindle and Sony have NOT found the "fat app" as they say. The eBook is evolving and will continue to evolve until someone comes up with all the right elements that make eReading popular. I don't think the key element will be book related initially, it will involve some other step in the technological developments of our broader culture that will spring readers from the prison of the printed page. (Not that I agree with the analogy.)
One other note: I was recently told by a middle school reading aide that, except for the Harry Potter syndrome, the joy of reading seems to be completely lost on the majority of her middle schoolers. It is more of a chore for them than a joy. Maybe there's a revolution in eReading in the future that will bring back the joy.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and enjoy the holiday season.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
Click add a comment and volunteer your opinion about the future of Kindle and the Sony Electronic Reader.
I think it will be 20 years before electronic books change the nature of reading and printing and publishing and books, but the change is inevitable. It will happen.
What do you think?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
There was this little boy who wanted a pony. All he talked about was his pony. He had pictures of his pony. He checked out library books about ponies. PONY, PONY, PONY, was his mantra. Unfortunately, he lived in a small New York City apartment and his parents knew there was not going to be a pony in his future.
They took the boy to a psychiatrist who tried to talk the boy out of wanting a pony. Didn't work. PONY, PONY, PONY, was all the boy talked and dreamed about. The shrink offered an alternative plan.
"Let us gather up all the horse manure from the carriage horses in the city and fill the boy's room with horse poop. Surely that will discourage his compulsive desire to have a pony."
The parents agreed and the day the boy came home from school to find his room filled with horse poop, he tore off his jacket and dove into the mess wildly throwing the stinky matter all around.
The amazed parents asked, "Why are you so thrilled with horse manure?"
With all this horse poop around, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!" the boy exclaimed.
Now, that's a positive mental attitude.
God grant me the courage to be as brave as that little boy.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
All this reflection has me wondering...what's publishing all about? Today my conclusion is: It can only be about love. Money just doesn't cut it. A highly successful businessman I know says often, "Nothing happens unless someone sells something." I admire his financial success, but when his dog died his grief looked awefully similar to mine, albiet he was crying in a mansion while my tears fall on linoleum. The better saying is: LOVE MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND. So, my friend, above all else, love yourself, next love your others, finally, love as much as possible, knowing that all things will pass away and only love matters.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The interview will air Sunday, November 11 and be available on the web for a week.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
In the movie, City Slickers, Curly (Jack Palance) had this dialogue with Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal)...
- While it may be somewhat cynical, if you're going through a difficult time, just remember this quote I read today on my Google webpage "Quotes of the Day" gadget.
- In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
- Robert Frost, American Poet 1874-1963
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
(holds up one finger)
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean spit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: (smiles) That's what YOU have to find out.
It means something different to everybody, and it may take a life-altering experience to figure out just what the secret to life is for you.
One thing I know for sure is: life does just go on.
Cherish it, and live it to the fullest!
Friday, November 2, 2007
This life provides many challenges of all kinds for every one of us. There is an unending resevoir of discouragement, depression, and worry out there for us to encounter. But, the glory of life is that we can choose to be optimistic in the face of gloom, dispair, and death.
Life is worth living. Choose optimism. Yes, embrace failure, defeat, and sadness, for these griefs are a part of life, but do not let woe conquer you by eschewing optimism, for optimism grants true courage to face all the small and great tragedies of our full and dynamic lives.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Olaf Danielson is signing copies of his book on the Island of St. Martin, where the cover shot was taken, on Saturday Oct. 27th. He'll also be at the 4th Annual Deep Valley Book Festival at the Alltel Center in Mankato, MN on Saturday Nov. 10th.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Written for families with critically ill children,
See more great art by illustrator
Pegi Ballenger at:
Monday, September 24, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
My mother, Elsie Dot Gemmill Savage Greener, passed away peacefully in her sleep September 7th. I feel happy and sad. Happy for her…that she isn’t suffering any more. Sad that she isn’t here for me. It is a horrible contradiction and I cry. When, at 3:30 in the morning, the banging and whistling BNSF trains wake me, I stare into the darkness and think of what she taught me.
Very early, living from hand to mouth in Iron River, she taught me that the terrible rats in the chicken coop would run away from me, even though I was a child. She taught me that if we wanted to eat eggs, someone had to endure the stench and be braver than the rats and the noisy hens. She taught me that manure was good and to appreciate the fragrance of it.
She taught me that, if we wanted to eat chicken, someone had to chop off their heads, hang them by their scaly feet from the clothes line letting the clotting blood drip, dunk them headless into the big kettle of scalding water, strip them of wet stinky feathers to their bumpy yellow skin, endure the reek and gooey mess of eviscerating them, wash their fatty flesh, and then, after gathering the dozen bloody heads for burying deep in the sand, then—at last—Ma cooks a chicken slowly and well and then—at last—you eat greedily.
She taught me that, even though I was five, I could help. Gather eggs. Pluck feathers. Carry sticks. Stay out of the way. Cry only a little for the death of the birds.
She taught me how to make soap. How to build a fire under the big cast iron kettle hanging from the birch-legged tripod in the far corner of the yard, throw in fat of chickens and cows and lye and that coarse yellow soap from soup cans cleaned, “just as well if not better,” than smooth, white, paper-wrapped soap from the store. She taught me that carrying a single little stick to add to the fire or holding the smooth grained, wide-handled ash stirring paddle was a valuable contribution to the business of survival.
She taught me that mold can be cut off cheese and bread instead of throwing it away; that once the bread is so bad, it should be given to the birds and not tossed in the garbage. She taught me that a teabag is more than one cup, that patching a pair of torn pants is not only wise financially, but therapeutic; and that tight stitches can be manly.
She taught me that when your loved one was sick with the disease of “The Drink,” even though it was terrifying, you stuck with them just as if they were sick with tuberculosis or cancer. She taught me that, when your loved one is so sick that they are as good as dead, it is right and good to love yourself more than anyone else in the world.
She taught me that, “When the booze goes in, the truth comes out.”
She taught me that, “You have to let the tail go with the hide.”
She taught me that, “A cup of good tea makes your blues go away.”
She taught me that, “Expression is the opposite of depression.”
She taught me to, “Take ‘er as she comes.”
She taught me that if you take the Fun out of life, what’s left is a lie.”
She taught me that words can kill a spirit. That words can create joy, defend, establish, tear down, build. She taught me that writing can heal or harm, make happy or sad, find the truth or obscure it. She taught me that writing on a Big Chief tablet is as important as writing on a bathroom wall, but more stylish.
She taught me that if you pick up a pebble and move it, and that if you do that consistently and often, you can say to the mountain, “Be thou removed,” and it will be.
Elsie Dot Gemmill Savage Greener taught me that having five names is classy.
Ma taught me that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
She taught me that venison can be made to taste good and that the wisest game wardens will let a stupid kid go when they know he’s violating to feed a family.
Ma taught me the value of honesty and the necessity of a lie, and to wait for the snowstorm before “borrowing” coal from Mrs. Wallace in the middle of the night, “Because the storm covers your tracks.” She taught me that, “God always provides, but tie your horse to a tree.”
Ma taught me to laugh at the world, that money was important, but not all-important. She taught me to be polite when someone was seriously cuckoo and talking nonsense. She taught me that while peeling the one millionth potato, holding it to the end of your nose and talking funny helps.
She taught me that alcohol and drugs were seriously dangerous.
She taught me that women could be had or held and that knowing the difference makes a boy into a man.
She taught me that Irish Alzheimer’s means forgetting everything but the grudges.
She taught me that your brothers and sisters aren’t really mean, they’re just upset about something you don’t understand.
She taught me to make something from nothing. She taught me that a whistle can come from a stick, that a warrior’s shield can come from a kettle lid, that a meal can come from a tomato seed…if you work at it. She taught me that a ball of yarn can become a sweater and that darning socks is an art form. She taught me that beautiful things can come from cardboard, tin cans, sticks and junk…if you work at it. She taught me that clever inventions are just a mind-flip away. She taught me that holding a man in your arms while he cries and dies of cancer is the saddest right thing to do, ever.
Ma taught me that Donna Reed and Hitler can exist simultaneously in the same woman. She taught me that a slap across the face is likely more about fear and love than hatred.
She taught me that dire straights is more than a rock band.
Ma taught me that resolve is the key to vitality, that, “talent will out”…if you work at it. Ma taught me that disaster is only a state of mind and that, “Optimism is true moral courage.” Thank you Ernest Shackleton.
She taught me that, “Joy cometh in the morning,” even if the coal dock’s clanking wakes you in the middle of the night, and that, “The day’s half done,” when the sun rises.
Ma taught me that eschewing forgiveness was death, that consistent, persistent, pernicious hope is our only salvation this side of death. She taught me that love conquers all.
Ma taught me that life is good and that we can make it better.
God bless you Ma. I promise to take ‘er as she comes.Mike
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Luella, on the other hand, seems to generate excitement everywhere she lands. We scored a nice coup by getting the book launch signed up for COMMON GOOD BOOKS, on Sunday September 23, 2007, at 2:00 p.m. CGB is located at 165 Western Ave. N., St. Paul, MN. The author's hometown newspaper ran a fine story. A local bookstore made Luella its STAFF PICK of the month. Reading specialists and school librarians are picking up copies for their collections.
So there you have it. One book flourishes while another flounders, and we're left trying to figure out why.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Think publishing. Think starting with a typewriter, a copier, a stapler. Think crude computers. Think media ignorance. Think reviewer incompetence. Think markets far, far away, and (really) in a different galaxy, speaking a different language entirely. Think aliens holding your book in clawed mandibles trying to discern the medium, to say nothing of the content. Think constant repeated efforts at communicating on multiple levels, different dimensions really. Think confusion, frustration, anger. Think hope, think surprise, think joy when a connection, even the tiniest, is made.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Meanwhile, back at WH, we keep trying to get all our titles noticed. We send out hundreds of review copies, make hundreds of follow-up calls, dream up promotional plans, schedule author appearances, contact bookstore managers and buyers, mail out cataloges and sell sheets and promotional flyers, send posters to event managers, create our own events out of thin air, and generally hype, hype, hype, books in every way we can think of.
And the net result of all this dedicated (Thank you Nan and Beth) effort is, we pretty much get ignored. But not always. And when we do get noticed and someone buys a book or agrees to a plan or passes on information about one of our titles, it is pretty damn exciting.
When I worked in Nome, Alaska, the motto on the masthead of the local paper (The Nome Nugget) was, "Illigitamus nil carborundum," meaning, "Don't let the bastards wear you down." I've always transmogrified that to mean, "Wear the bastards down," when it comes to promoting books. Another quote I've liked for years is, "It's ten percent inspiration and 90% perspiration that grants success." Another I like is, "I"ve worked and slaved for thirty years to become an overnight success."
While I can't attribute these last two quotes, I can attribute the success of promoting Savage Press books to persistence, patience, determination, and persistence, and persistence, and..., oh yeah, persistence.
Keep the faith.
Monday, June 18, 2007
I love what Jay Ford Thurston, author of two SPI books (Following in the Footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and Out of the Rainbow) does pretty much every Saturday morning in west central Wisconsin. He and his wife Diana pack up their Honda with books and their pal Waller Wampus and head on down to the local farmer's market.
Yes, there amidst all the corn and beans and tomatoes being sold, Jay and Diana and Waller offer their books to the vegetable buyers. Talk about creative!
In this day and age when everyone wants to get on National Public Radio or the Today Show or Oprah to peddle books, it is refreshing to watch Jay do whatever it takes to sell books. Way to go Jay!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Read a pretty good query from Rick Jones. He pitched his novel Vatican Knights via ScriptBlaster and the query accomplished a monumental feat. It made me want to read the manuscript. However, I did not ask to see Jones' mss because, again, I know we couldn't sell enough copies to be profitable.
So there you have it folks. There's good content out there. Even great content. But we can't publish them all, primarily because we can't make the business side of the equation function profitably. If a rich heiress were to donate 200 million (Google Ruth Lilly's donation to Poetry, it's quite a story.) to SavPress, then maybe we could publish books from people like Saunders and Jones. But, as we've learned from nearly 20 years of publishing, just printing up the book and making it available does not guarantee wide readership.
Good luck, and, above all, have fun writing your stuff because the real pay-off has to be in the writing because just getting published does not a fortune make.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Say what you will about Stephen King's literary ability, he provides captivating content. He made the editor's job easy providing such a delicious pull quote to entice a read. King does what Red Smith advised, he, sits down at the keyboard and opens a vein. King's book, On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, is a great read because it gives real clues, assists, helps, and advice, on the writing craft, but it is an even greater read because King pulls his guts out of his belly and spreads them on the table for the reader to examine.
King seems fearless when he writes. What does this mean? It means he is providing content that connects him to the reader in visceral ways. I can say that I love Stephen King because I know that he is an addict, a drunk, a man who was brutally hit by a van and suffered terribly, a husband who learned to accept love, a papa who hung in there and devoted time and energy to his children even though his unresolved shit was hitting the fan.
King is the king of content, and, if you immitate him, you will discover some of the finest satisfactions the writing life is able to provide. You might not get published and read widely, but you will (among many others) discover yourself, you will discover ways to meet hidden aspects of yourself and connect to others in ways that living an unobserved life does not offer.
Sit down, place your digits on the keys, open a vein. It's a great, grand, glorious, brilliant, ADVENTURE.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
I just got done writing an email of invitation to join the Savage Press mailing list to twenty University of Wisconsin-Madison professors. It took me a loooooong time to write that email. I graduated . . . why am I still nervous about a professor looking at my work?! But I also wanted it to be impressive and convincing. I filled it with phrases like "highly respected" and "greatly honored." Professionals in academia go for that stuff. But did I kiss enough ass to get any of them to join the mailing list? Can I say "ass" on this blog? That one didn't count because it was in quotation marks.
Why are people so paranoid when they open emails that say "I have an offer" or "I'm inviting you to join"? As I wrote the email I envisioned them all deleting the email after the "Savage Press has books" part, which was in the second sentence. So after the opening paragraph I had to include a disclaimer . . . something like "Please continue reading; I'm not just trying to sell you something." Of course I am trying to ultimately sell them something, but I also think it would be advantageous for us to have them on the contact list to write reviews or blurbs or such.
Well duh. I should have posted the email here and let you all examine and workshop it before I sent it out. I blatantly ignored a major step in the writing process. I will probably be demoted for this. Mr. Savage's computer just made a you-got-mail noise so I'm going to see if it is a University of WI-Madison professor . . .
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
What I've gotten so far is an arms-length transaction. I'm feeling like I'm in a courtroom listening to a legal corporate proceeding. No character is showing me their scars. No scene is making me wish I was there. There is no conflict that makes me want to help.
I'm reading Nelson DeMille's, Night Fall and I want to be on that beach in the opening scene. I feel the humidity of the ocean, see the night sky, and understand the anger and tension between the man and the woman. This scene goes on for quite some time. It could easily be too long. But I'm okay with the borderline boring length because I'm eating up the content, I'm involved, I'm intimate with the man and woman, I'm seeing the beach clearly, feeling the bumps in the road they shouldn't be driving on and, even though I know the story-line already, I keep reading because DeMille has invited me right in to the middle of the most revealing parts of the lives of the characters. He's taken me by the hand and lead me step by step in to the essence of the beach, the ocean shore, the night sky. He's provided me with a great meal of content.
If you can serve a meal of content that is so delicious I (the ideal reader, as per Stephen King) will stuff myself silly...keep reading when I should be going to the soccer game, ignore the ringing phone...you will get published and be read widely.
If you provide content that I can't feel, touch, smell, taste, lick, smear, dive in to, snort, rub up against, I'll send it back saying thanks for thinking of Savage Press, but it doesn't meet our needs at this time.
Monday, June 4, 2007
I will try to do this duty as well as I can, though, since I want so badly to stay here at Savage Press! I just graduated from Northern Michigan University and moved out of Marquette (no, I didn't enjoy the area as much as Mr. Savage does [he may fire me if I continue to call him that, but it's just too entertaining]) and now I am back in Superior to live and learn. I'm going to be at Savage Press until Mr. Savage pushes me out of the nest, but I am putting some effort into job/career/apartment/location searches.
So here is something for all you to ponder . . . what do I do now?! What does a newly-graduated girl with interests in books, publishing, teaching, traveling, and making money do? I need somebody besides my dad to weigh in on this!
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Write Every Day: Writing is like breathing. If you don't do it regularly, you die. Write poems. Write short stories. Write letters. Write love notes. Write nonsense. Just write, write, write.
Get a Mentor: A writer just starting out can save a lot of time and energy by listening to an experienced writer who has committed to the time wasters of the past. Things like sending inappropriate content out. I had lunch with a local radio celebrity last week. He is also a teacher. He said, "If someone knows how to write well, they will never be out of a job." Cool.
Tell the Truth: I don't mean that you have a corner on "the" truth in metaphysical terms. I do mean that you have to write what is in your mind. If your mind says the tree was a sort of lime-green, emerald-green, greenish sort of green and your fingers type, the tree was green. You're avoiding the truth. If in your mind your character is a dirty rotten SOB and you write, "He was a bad guy," you're not telling the truth. Sometimes this can get a person into conflict with mentors and teachers. For instance if a young man writes that he is going to disembowel the English teacher, he may end up in jail. This has happened around here recently. Remember this: Just because you write it, it doesn't necessarily need to be read. A good mentor will protect a novice from writing themselves into prison. A wise teacher will parse violent prose for signs of reality and act accordingly, hopefully with compassion. All this equivocating being said, still, write your truth, even if it is unpleasant or unpopular, because writing your truth is a way of getting to know your true self, and, if you get to know your true self, you will be more capable of creating content worth reading.
I recall a workshop where a participant asked the presenter, "How does a person get published?" The presenter answered, "Write something worth reading." Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Go ahead and try it. Good luck. You're in for an adventure.
Friday, May 25, 2007
So, once you've figured out that the fishing story should be sent to In Fisherman and not Quilting Today then take some significant time to study numerous issues of the publication so you are familiar with what their content trends are. If the editor is running a lot of copy about a certain aspect of their subject matter, you might try to send similar content. Or you might offer them something fresh, "new" if you will. (There is nothing new under the sun, I've been told). It's always a bit harder to buck the trend, but it is often harder to successfully offer content that, because of the editorial status quo, seems bland. (Catch 22 comes to mind.)
So, all paradoxes aside, it's better to be well informed about a publication than ill informed.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
1.) What do you do for Savage Press?
2.) When did you realize that you had a passion for literature/writing?
3.) Have you ever had any works published?
4.) How long does it usually take to get published?
5.) Are there any other local publishing agencies in the area?
6.) What would I need to do to get published under Savage Press?
7.) What was the first thing that you ever wrote?
8.) Does Savage Press prefer any kind of writing?
9.) Personally, do you favor writing in any particular style?
10.) If all young authors could know one thing, what would it be?
11.) When people get rejected from being published, why is that normally?
12.) How long does it normally take to write a book?
13.) What steps are needed to become an author?
14.) Is there any schooling required or needed? How about schooling that is very beneficial?
15.) How does being a writer pay?
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Here's what gets my attention. Brevity. Accuracy. Correct spelling. I look at all inquires. I cull most quickly. You've got ten or fifteen seconds to attract further interest. You've got 50 to 100 words to turn that brief interest into curiosity. I ask to see a manuscript maybe once or twice a month.
So, if you do the math, on a yearly basis, you have a twelvish to twenty-fourish chance out of 600 or more competitors for my attention.
I become disinterested if the query looks like it is going to waste time getting to the point, which is, can Savage Press make some money publishing this book? The point is also, would Savage Press be proud to publish this book? The point is also, would publishing this book make a real contribution to the world? There's lots of good reasons to publish a book. It is the writer's job to make me see the point and, most writer's don't like this fact, it is their (or their agent's or publicist's) job to do it quickly.
It is, I believe, always in the writer's best interest to invest a lot of time and energy and thought and compassion in their queries to publishers.
Monday, May 21, 2007
And there's worse news!
The price of chocolate is skyrocketing.
I bought a box of truffels recently and, after the initial sticker shock wore off, I figured out the rich, dark, anti-oxidant miracle cost me $5.66 an ounce. Yikes! I further figured out that, if my car ran on chocolate, it would cost me $1,800 to fill 'er up!
I now feel grateful that my car uses gas and that the economics of publishing seems positively sedate compared to the oil and chocolate industry.
All you gotta do is redefine the paradigm.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Back in the '30s, publishers, in an effort to help bookstores stay open during the Great Depression, offered a guaranteed sale to bookstores, meaning they could return any book they didn't sell, for a full refund.
This is still going on seventy-some years later. It is the way the system is set up and I know, I know, complaining doesn't help, but a raw deal is a raw deal and my need for an uncomplicated transaction isn't met by this system. It's outdated and wasteful of resources and money.
Speaking of complicated, Partners also puts periodic "holds" on the checks they send to this publisher. Last check we got was supposed to be nearly 1,200 dollars and the amount on the check was just over 800 and change. This is called, "A 25% hold against future returns." So, in addition to the distributor receiving a 55% discount, they can arbitrarily hold back 25% when they wish. I don't recall that being stated in the contract. But, Oh Well. "Rules is rules." The bottom line is, we're selling books through the distribution system for 80% off and we're guaranteeing the sale.
That's a pretty good deal I'd say.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
"The Buff" delivers authentic, spine tingling, goose flesh inducing, baseball magic. I'm hoping that, if you know a baseball fan, you will tell them about this beauty of a book and that word of mouth praise will sell out the second printing in...what? Five years? Heck, why not be optimistic...how about five months? Five weeks? Maybe Marshall could end up on Sports Central or be interviewed by Bob Costas!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Jay Ford Thurston, author of Following in the Footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and Out of the Rainbow, together with Savage Press recently gave away 300 books to middle school librarians statewide. We think this is news, good news. But, as we've pitched the idea to newspapers around the state we're getting feedback from editors that it is "promotional" and therefore not newsworthy.
Well, I've been thinking about this a bit and I can only agree with the editors. I have to because what is considered newsworthy in our culture is basically any kind of violence. It could be said that only bad news is good news. Murders, accidents (collisons nowadays), fires, disasters, sexual misconduct...that's what news is these days. Take a look at most any TV show any evening of the week and it is all about violence against women, violence against cultural minorities, violence against the environment. In our culture, violence is entertainment.
So, it is no surprise that a bit of good news perpertrated by a generous author and publisher can't compete for ink on the newsprint. This makes me sad.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I encouraged her to, "Just say no," to the distractions. Often we get told that writing is non-productive, or self-indulgent. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but if a writer believes their work isn't real work, or that they are being selfish, no wonder emotional blocks arise. I say, "Get thee behind me Satan!" to these opinions of others. On the other hand, if you are writing and fighting these negative messages and failing to overcome, then maybe you really do believe the bull-roar and maybe you would be happier repairing cars, or painting houses, or being a radio commentator. The bottom line is, if writing meets your needs, you'll do it. If it doesn't, you'll struggle to get copy on the blank page. (An old and good editor once told me, "Mike, I can't edit a blank page." So get to it. Fill that page.)
As far too much information and not enough organization, I say: "If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'be thou removed,' and it will be removed." Unfortunately, the Bible failed to mention that writers move mountains one word at a time, sometimes one syllable at a time, often one comma at a time. So, if you've got a mountain of a project to complete, don't look up. Keep your eyes down at the task of the day-hour-minute and keep shoveling. Before long you'll have moved that mountain, one shovelfull, one tablespoonfull, one grain of sand at a time.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
A bit of a case study here: Jay Thurston wanted to write his newest book Out of the Rainbow when he was 11-years-old. He waited until he was in his 70s to write it. He wrote it because he needed to tell his story and he needed to tell his story to middle school kids and he wanted to give them happiness. As Waller Wampus says, "Happiness is all I have to give." Yesterday we received a call from a man in Denver who bought three copies of OOTR because he hoped to, "get his grandkids off the computer for a while."
Jay, in meeting his need to write, in meeting his need to give happiness to middle school kids, met the need of a grandpa in Denver. How cool is that?
Monday, May 7, 2007
Friday, May 4, 2007
The number one author need is: Validation. Every author needs to know that their content is meaningful, stylish, potent, subtle, well crafted...the list goes on.
The number one author need is: Do the work of publishing and selling for me, I want to go back and write some more. The POD revolution that is blowing like a blizzard across the publishing landscape is short circuiting the author need to go back and write. In the last five years I've heard many, many, many "authors" complain about having to market and promote their POD released title. Presumptious as it may be, I think it is a fairly obvious and fairly accurate conclusion to make when I assume that the need POD publishing is not meeting is the author's need to be heard.
Writing is a solitary pursuit. Every writer needs to, every once in a while, come out of the "cave," look around, see if anyone's awake and willing to listen to, read, or look at what they've created. One of the troubles with POD publishing is that the writer has to pretty much abandon the cave and go trudging about the wide, wild, wicked, world begging ingrates to please, please, please take even a passing glance at his/her creation. Few writers enjoy this process. Those that do are probably marketers and publicists at heart. God bless 'em. They'll sell as many books as their heart desires. The writer, meanwhile, is left pretty much alone, pretty much wandering around with a dazed look on their troubled faces, repeatedly asking themselves in a hushed monotone, "What am I going to do with all these books?" God bless 'em. My heart breaks for them. I know they started out with high hopes and when I see them clobbered on the side of the road like a road killed deer, I feel their pain.
One thing I can tell these poor unfortunates is: All is not lost. You can leave the creation in the ditch and go back to the cave and start healing yourself by returning to the joy of writing. It is a good thing to have learned that you're not a marketer, a publicist, a huckster, a hypester, a hamster. Don't dispair. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, abandon the futility and pursue the life within, the writing life. It is still there, an ember, waiting to be fanned back to life. Don't delay. Life is short. Get back to what you love and leave the publishing to trained professionals because publishing and selling books is a nasty, ugly, dirty, tooth and nail, bare knuckle fight for writers. But, for people who love the down and dirty, grit and grime, daily wrestling match that is publishing, life is grand; life is, for people who relish a good sporting commercial and cultural brawl, exciting, rewarding, and satisfying. If, as a writer, you have the good fortune of landing your creation into the lap of an enthused commercial brawler, you are most blessed.
If, on the other hand, you are an "author" (You may have noticed my subtle distinction in the paragraphs above) POD publishing, marketing and promotion may meet your need to be up on the podium, in front of the audience, standing on the corner handing out flyers describing your most recent scintillating product. Think about the distinction between being a writer and an author. It may prove beneficial. It may meet a few of your basic needs to know the difference between the two and you may become a happier writer, or author, as a result.
Oh, and one more thing. I think it's poor form to pitch your POD/self published book to a publisher. It's like asking us to pick the road kill up out of the ditch and to make a delicious meal from the remains. Now, I grant you, an outstanding publisher like Savage Press could probably make a feast out of a fiasco, but, I believe, most publishers would not see it as a joyful pursuit.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Let me switch metaphors. Publishing is an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg in New York City is going to be underwater someday. The tremendous weight of the iceberg that is currently submerged (200,000 virutally unknown titles published last year) is going to eventually sublimate into the sea (mass culture) and that which is unseen now will flip up into the daylight and constitute the power and delight of publishing/writing/reading.
In fact, this has already happened. Blogging, web pages personal and corporate, POD book production, Text and instant messaging on cell phones, has redefined writing and publishing to a huge degree. The transformation of writing and publishing is one of the most enlivened aspects of our world today. If I may switch metaphors yet again, it is a revolution. A revolution that is meeting the needs of more and more and more people every day.
And what are those needs? The need to be heard. The need to listen. The need to express. The need to contribute. The need to receive. The need to give. The need for purpose in life. To name a few.
And when it does, everyone gets all twitterpated. Those rare success stories, like The Celestine Prophecy give all the rest of us hope for "giant" financial success, wide acclaim, and (to mention the most important, last) satisfied readers, millions and millions of them (hopefully).
In the "mean" time between when we write and publish, the day when we take the giant royalty check to the bank and go directly to the dealership to buy that brand new Prius Hybrid or Farrari (choose your poison, me Faather used to say), what do we do to get our needs met?
We keep finding the joy in writing. We keep finding the love of publishing. We keep connecting with readers one at a time. We contribute to the enrichment of life through sharing insights, publishing truths, and making readers happy, sad, dreamy, dreary, enlivened, or afraid (to name just a few).
And, after all is said and done, we know with confidence that we've pursued our passion and found our bliss and made a difference where we were planted. I think it was Teddy Roosevelt that said, "Do what you can with what you have where you are." Another saying I like is, "Bloom where you're planted."
"Full many a flower is born to "waste" its fragrance on the desert air."
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Anyway, promoting books and relying on book sales to make payroll can be discouraging. The competition is mighty. There's a lot of books being published out there every day. And there's a lot of competent authors writing well who attract a lot of readers. One quote I recall from a writing workshop went like this: "If you want to be widely read, write something worth reading."
But, regardless of content (I'm fond of saying, "Content is King.") selling copies is challenging. On the front end of the publishing biz, all is enthusiasm and optimism. Michael Korda, former president of Simon and Schuster said, "Publishing is all about enthusiasm." On the back end, publishing is all about reliably, consistently, persistently, promoting titles. My friend from the old days, John Kuderle from the now defunct Bookmen Distributors in Minneapolis, Minnesota told me that the three rules of book selling were, "Promotion. Promotion. Promotion." He was saying that books don't sell themselves. I add that the enthusiasm of a book's birth does not necessarily carry forward to the selling of said tome. I like what Muhammad Ali said, "Everybody's got a plan...until they get hit."
The way it is in the book biz is pretty much like what Ali said. Every book starts out a best seller until it gets hit with the hard work of promotion, promotion, promotion. Maybe we could call the selling of books the, "Ali Way." Irregardless (I looked it up. It IS in the dictionary) our plan is to eschew the discouragement phase of a book's life, maintain the focus on the optimism of a book's birth, and keep boxing, keep promoting, keep, "Dancing like a butterfly and stinging like a bee," to the best of our ability every day with every book we can.
Monday, April 30, 2007
So, "What's a mother (a publisher or author) to do?" We can let Calgon take us away, or we can keep on trying to get the baby noticed as best we can.
The best notice is word of mouth. Oprah has only so many shows a week. USA Today only has about 20 or so reviews a month. Entertainment Weekly usually runs only ten or so notices an issue. These mainstream venues for giving recognition to books can only carry so much capacity. Yes, I know the Internet is supposed to be the big answer to capacity, but SPAM doesn't work and there's only so much time for your "audience" to surf and find our titles.
So, the "big" venues are more-or-less unavailable to small publishers and authors. Again, "What's a mother to do?" Ask the readers and supporters you have to talk your title up. I do this in nearly every email I send out to customers who have bought an SPI book through the site.
I say, (in essence) "We're small but we're awesome and we need your help to spread the word about this good book you just bought. Please tell your friends and family, and even perfect stranges, about the book, the author and the company. We are grateful for your purchase and for any notice you can give the title."
I read recently where Proctor & Gamble is paying people to do word of mouth promotion over the Internet. Would to God we had that kind of kaching in the PR budget. In the meantime, we're walkin' the talk and talkin' the walk for every book on the list.
Wanna help? Just mention one of our titles or authors to someone today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...and...THANKS!