Thursday, June 28, 2007


Have you ever had to break new ground? Think sodbusting. Think early American west expansionism. Think grasses taller than a man's head. Think thick roots a foot and a half strong and growing with a tangled vengance into the earth. Think a man and a woman and possibly some children with crude hand shovels. Think backbreaking labor to turn a small patch of ground from prairie to soil. All to plant a few potatoes, some corn, some beans...all to survive the coming, coming, coming soon, too soon winter. Think daily watering and endless weeding. Think watching birds pluck the fruit. Think locusts devouring your children's sustenance. Think defending your crops. Think harvest in the fall and the gratitude, the relief, and hope.

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


A long time ago in a galaxy far away an author told me she could sell 5,000 books if I published her. As of today that book has yet to sell 1,000 copies. I'm not complaining, any time we can sell a book, we're pleased. My point today is, selling 5,000 copies of a book to the end consumer is damn tough. As Jay Ford Thurston, author of two SPI books (Following in the Footsetps of Ernest Hemingway and Out of the Rainbow) knows, books get sold one at a time. Jay recently emailed WH (World Headquarters) to report that he'd sold 25 books in two weeks. If Jay plans on selling 5,000 books this way, it will take 400 weeks, or 7.69 years. If any author can sell 5,000 books, it is Jay Thurston.

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


There's only a few ways to sell books and the best way that I know of is, one at a time. Have you read Ann Lamott's book, Bird by Bird? Good book for all readers, but especially for writers. It's great when you read a newspaper article or hear a radio news story about a book selling a million copies. But, bottom line, those million copies (basically) sell a book at a time to someone.

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

Good Content, Sad Ending

Read a pretty good submission last week. The Last Spartan by John Saunders. TLS fell into the category of, "A book I'd like to publish, but we can't sell enough copies to make it financially responsible." I was initially interested in the manuscript because I thought it might have motorcycle riding scenes. We've had some success selling a "motorcycle type" book in the past. But Saunders' content was just a little off the mark in meeting our content needs so I had to send it back with regrets. BTW, Saunders took the news in a gentlemanly manner.

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


If you want to read an interesting piece of writing, look at Stephen King's "The Pop of King" on the last page of the April 27/May 4 Entertainment Weekly. The teaser starts, "I went through rehab 20 years ago...."

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

The Beth is Back

Mr. Savage claims to have a headache, so here I am posting again.

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

Content is KING

Content. What is it? I hear a lot about content these days. I've been reading two submissions these last few days that claimed in the queries to have a lot of content. As I started reading I was expecting to feed on a lot of good information, a lot of good sentences, a lot of interesting scenes. I was expecting to eat up the content. I was expecting a good meal of facts, fascinating charaters, unique settings. I wanted to meet someone who interested me, that piqued my curiousity, that invited me to know them. I wanted to taste their meat and potatoes on my tongue. I wanted to smell their fragrance in my nose. I wanted to hear their breathing close to my ear. I wanted intimacy as I read.

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 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

What's a publisher to do?

Got this email. Do you think this is an appropriate query?

My name is Erica and I am 16 and I have a manuscript that I hope you will look at. If you want any more info please contact me @ 555-1212.

Welcome Back Beth!

Though Mr. Savage did not threaten to fire me if I refused to type something, he did make it clear that I will be expected to write something everyday (in 15 minutes or less) that is witty and thought-provoking for Sav Press readers to ponder. My mind just went blank.

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!