Tuesday, May 29, 2007

10.) If all young authors could know one thing, what would it be?

Write every day. Get a mentor. Tell the truth.

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

11.) When people get rejected from being published, why is that normally?

Usually they don't have good content. Usually the content is sent to an inappropriate outlet. i.e.. don't send romantic poetry to a fishing magazine. This happens often. Writers who take the "shotgun" approach to sending out queries and manuscripts are not meeting the efficiency needs of the publisher, plus they are spinning their own wheels. Maybe a writer has such a big need to get their work out into the world after all the solitary effort that their biggest need is to feel the satisfaction of sending it off. I understand this need, but sending work to an inappropriate destination is counterproductive to the max, it irritates publishers, wastes the writer's time, and (importantly) sets the writer up for feelings of failure and discouragement, feelings everyone can do without.

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


Got an email from a local high school senior who, for a class project, desired answers to these 15 questions, all reasonable. I'll be posting some of the answers in coming days.

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

How to Impress (or not) the Publisher

I'm quite confident in saying that SPI gets ten submissions and queries a week via email and snailmail. Then there are the hand delivered manuscripts, a fair amount. There are telephone queires, which I'm not fond of. Easily we look at 600 or more possible projects on a yearly basis.

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


My last post was somewhat bitchy regarding the financial aspect of publishing through the distribution system. While the economics of book selling is less than a happy circumstance, the price of gas these days is even more unsettling.

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

80% OFF

One of the bains of this publisher's existence is RETURNS. Yesterday three boxes of books came back from Partners Book Distributors with credit return of $600. 80 to 90 precent of these returned books are "shopworn" as the contract calls it, but they are mostly beat up in shipping and handling. The translation of shopworn is: "unsellable."

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

What would make your life more wonderful today?
Do it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Congrats to Marshall J. Cook on the second printing (along with minor revisions) to his most excellent baseball novel, The Year of the Buffalo, a novel of love and minor league baseball. This is the Buffalo's tenth season since the first printing and "the team" has a good season every year with consistent Amazon orders coming in every month, but even more-so during spring training and the playoffs in Sept. and Oct. There is love and drama and exciting baseball action. Bill Kinsella, author of Shoeless Joe, from which the movie Field of Dreams was made, says that the book has, "Genuinely touching moments and is fine storytelling."

"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


I feel grateful to the late Don Cameron. Attending his memorial service last Saturday, listening to the many speakers who regaled us with funny, touching, tearful, and heartwarming stories of Don's life, I felt gratitude toward him for bringing his precious stories to Savage Press for publishing. I also felt grateful that, long after I'm gone, there will be something of me and my work left on this planet. Books are not children and loved ones, but they are a heritage. Having no children means there will be nothing of the physical "me" to carry "me" on after my memorial service. (Which I hope will be much like Don's.) But, sitting there in the pew, listening to his friends eulogize Don, listening to his daughter Becky (One of Don's physical gifts to the world that he was blessed to leave behind.) recite her version of his life story, it was gratifying to know that there'll be a physical remainder (As a publisher I don't like remainders so I shudder to use the term), a little something of "me" left behind in the form of Savage Press books on shelves here and there around the world. Granted they can't walk around and breathe and declare their love for me at a memorial service, but (I'm quite confident) they will occasionally be taken off a shelf somewhere, sometime and contribute some life and love and blessing to the world. For this I'm grateful.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Good News is Bad...Makes me Sad

Ghandi said, "I prefer violence to doing nothing." Or something like that. I take this to mean, action, any action, is preferable to avoidance. Now, how I connect this to promoting books seems like a nonsequitur, but bear with me....

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

Writer's Block

Exchanged some emails recently with a writer who is "blocked." She said, "There are too many distractions, too much information, and not enough organization."

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

Meeting Reader's Needs

Meeting the needs of readers is a writer's single most important mission. This is accomplished in many, many, many ways. Some writers write for themselves and by default serve the reader's needs. Some writers write for the market and thereby meet the needs of the reader. Some writers write specifically to meet the needs of the reader. Stephen King said he writes with an "Ideal Reader" in mind. Whatever your chosen path in the writing of your content, remember the all important mission, meeting the reader's needs.

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

Insights from Amanda

Stopped in at our fine local bookstore, J.W. Beecroft and chatted with Manager Amanda. She's been in the book biz for many a year and knows much about meeting the reading needs of customers. She said July is going to be a huge month because the new Harry Potter book is coming out. Bummer, we've got three books scheduled to come out in July. Well, maybe August. Yeah, that's the ticket. Or maybe June. Anything to release in a month when all the oxygen isn't being sucked up by a phenomenon like Harry Potter. One great thing about being Savage Press is that we don't get too shook up by phenoms. We keep on keeping on and continue to build on our successes, small or large though they be. I think it was Noel Coward, or maybe Irving Berlin, who said, "The only problem with being a success is you have to keep on being a success." Fortunately at SPI we don't have to keep on bringing out books as successful as Harry Potter. We do need to keep on doing what we do wall and be happy with that. And, mercifully, we don't have to compare ourselves to Harry Potter or anyone else because, "When you compare, you lose." As Popeye says, "I yam what I yam and dat's allI can be."

Friday, May 4, 2007

Author's Needs

I talk to a lot of writers every week who are not getting their publishing needs met. I can summarize a writer's needs with a fair amount of accuracy after 18-years of being in the biz.

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

Global Warming in the Publishing World

One thing to keep in mind when writing and looking for ways to get published and get read, just as global warming is changing the planet one degree at a time, so too, small presses and POD publishing and the maniacs like us who insist on bringing out books regardless of the cost are changing the basic underpinings of publishing. This seachange is a result of all the combined efforts of the millions of authors and thousands and thousands of small publishers who go about their daily business of pursuing their bliss and contributing their positive energy to the culture of writing and publishing.

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.

Bloom Where You're Planted

Here's the deal with publishing these days. You gotta love it or it ain't worth doing...financially. Same thing with writing. If you're writing fiction, poetry, or even non-fiction books for money, you're in for a long uphill climb to the mountaintop of profitability. Every year, year after year, there are over 200,000 books published in the United States alone. For your book to make money, it has got to totally meet the needs of the reader, totally meet the needs of the reviewers, totally meet the needs of media, totally meet the needs of the bookstores, and totally meet your needs as an author while writing it. This sounds totally exhausting. But it can, and does, happen.


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


"Never flag in zeal." Can you guess where that quote comes from? Let me know if you know and I'll send you a book from the backlist. How about the first five correct "guessers" get a book?

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.