Saturday, September 29, 2007

MY STORY: Wolf DeVoon

1) Why did you choose to self-publish and what were your expectations?

It was a last straw, last ditch effort to archive my work. Too many web domains were robots.txt-blocked or expired or banned by ODP and Google. And it bugged me for two decades that everyone else had paper and ink, except me. Twenty years is a long time to be anguished.

2) Why did you select your specific publisher?

Lulu was cheap, and I couldn't justify throwing big money at a small target. My expectation of sales in bookstores is precisely zero.

3) How is it going so far? Are you achieving your goals?

I published three books to see what the POD process was like. I discovered that it is basically impossible for me to do anything without help. And it took two disasters to find a really excellent text formatting service. I sent a few hardcover copies to people I respect. I'm still mulling what to do with my sci-fi novel. Perhaps burn it. Or print one copy for -- who? Me? My kid? William Morris?

4) What advice would you give a person who has completed their manuscript and is considering self-publishing?

I'm all for it. I encouraged a friend to self-publish recently, despite the fact that he's not very creative and I particularly disliked his book project. I suggested that he send review copies to area celebs, magazines, newspapers, etc, and visit bookstores to set up book signings. I did this with a traditionally published book ten years ago, and it works. Authors have to fight for recognition. Plug it everywhere you can. I'm not even sure it matters what your book is about. You need to sell yourself.

Wolf DeVoon

author of "First Feature" (clothbound, 189 pp., Lulu 2007)

Compelling, candidly realistic story of ambition and harrowing odds of failure. Born to be a filmmaker, young Robert Whitney fights his way to the coveted, sordid prize of success in Hollywood. Adult sexual situations, graphic language.

Friday, September 28, 2007

More on the Chronicle / Blurb thang.

The story so far:
1) A Newsweek article stated Chronicle (a third-party publisher) was going to refer authors they rejected to Blurb (a self-publishing provider) and receive monetary benefits as a result.
2) This spread to forums and blogs and was widely criticized.
3) A Joseph Ternes, representing Chronicle, posted to many blogs saying that monetary benefits were not in fact part of the deal.
4) Most bloggers thought this made the recommendations acceptable.

I, however, was not one of them and I would like to explain why. From a customer's point of view, all books are pretty much the same whether published via a third party publisher or self-publishing provider. From an author's point of view however these two business models are very different indeed and not interchangeable.

If we take as our model a mainstream press like Chronicle the writer's goal in approaching them is to place a book with wide appeal on the mass market, through bookstores. Successful self-publishers have a range of different goals. They may wish to maintain firm control of the work for artistic or philosophical reasons. Or they may want a swift and easy book production process because their book is topical or their medical tolerance for stress is low. They may have a work that is not suitable for the mainstream due to content, style or – let’s be honest – quality. They may need the book as part of a general small business, further monetizing their services, products or expertise.

If self-publishing is to develop as a valid business model authors need to enter it knowing which of these explicit reasons they are motivated by and why they think self-publishing is the best way to satisfy it.

Look at this way:
Let’s say you want to knit. You try to join a knitting circle and take some of you knitting. The most esteemed senior member of the circle says: "having you considered taking up pottery?" It is possible the novice knitter has never considered potting and will indeed enjoying potting, and that the local potting co-operative is truly excellent, but is this really the message being given?

In brief although I do not believe Chronicle is doing a malicious thing for money, I would still argue they are doing an ill-advised thing for [insert your preferred reason here]. The mere mention of Blurb from a person the author presumably holds in high esteem carries a message that the author needs to change their goals and implies a reason why.

If a person wants to be third-party published, if those are their goals, that is what they should do. They should continue to try and do it until that hope is either extinguished or their whole approach to writing undergoes a marked transformation and they discover their real goal is more consistent with self-publishing.

My conclusion:
Chronicle is entirely the correct authority to say your book is not right for Chronicle.
Chronicle is entirely over-stepping their bounds to in any way suggest or imply your book is not right for third-party publishing in general, and is right for self-publishing.

Because, as I said, even if they have a perfect understanding of the book this choice is not about the book – it is about the goals of the author. And the author should be encouraged to explore those goal him or herself without a person of considerable authority (to writers with third-party publishing goals) endorsing a specific company that operates on entirely different business model. And authors that embark upon self-publishing with the wrong expectations only end up participating in the growing backlash against its typically more modest and nuanced achievements.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Please note the special Halloween open call. See left column.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Begins With a Single Step

The POD People already have our regular features 'My Story' (for authors to discuss how self-publishing is working for them) and 'Anatomy of a Purchase' (for readers to describe why they bought a self-published book). We would like to add to this the feature 'B egins with a Single Step'.

BWASS will be a frank and full reaction to an author's main online point of sale. All you should provide is the genre, and a link to the website you see as you main entry point for customers (own site, Lulu, Amazon, blog--I leave that up to you). Email this to PODpeep at with the title 'BWASS:[genre].

In return a reviewer interested in that genre will give a full account of the impression they got from the site and of the book, and anything that put them off or made a poor impression.

Who knows, if you did a very good job they might request a review copy!

Friday, September 21, 2007

NEWS: File under 'a really bad idea'.

From Newsweek

"Chronicle Books plans to unveil what it says is a pioneering "mutual referral" deal with the Silicon Valley self-publisher Blurb, known for its print-on-demand online bookstore and glossy photography books. Chronicle will refer unwanted authors to Blurb, who will return an undisclosed cut of the earnings generated from the new accounts. Blurb says that while it's not uncommon for self-publishers to sell promising manuscripts up the chain to larger publishers, this is the first deal to send submissions in the other direction: from the discard pile of a traditional publishing house to an online bookstore where authors pay to have their books printed and sent off into the real world.

It looks to be a win-win arrangement."

...Much like 'journalists' writing stories based on new releases without making any attempt at a serious analysis. If a writer submits to a traditional press, they should get a yes or a no, period. If and when they decide to self-publish they should choose the best printer and distributor for their purpose. A traditional press taking kick-backs for referrals to a self-publishing service is not a win-win situations. It is, in fact, a win-win-lose situation for Chronicle, Blurb and the writer, respectively.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Like any true blogger I like to move things around from time to time. Any thoughts on the new look? Is it displaying correctly?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Whale Meat

TITLE: Whale Meat
AUTHOR: Jeff Duntemann
GENRE: Fantasy
ISBN: none (short story)
PUBLISHER: Copperwood Press

Science fiction writer Jeff Duntemann has written a number of short stories over the years. Most of these exist only in faded copies of magazines, available (if at all) on eBay auctions. Unlike most writers, Jeff is trying something different to get these stories out, namely a “Gumball Ebook Network.” Basically, this is a simple to implement website that would allow people to buy content in small amounts for small money. I’ve been calling it a “digital jukebox;” put money in, get good stuff out.

Jeff recently took another concrete step towards developing that Gumball Network, by releasing his fantasy short story Whale Meat in e-book format on It’s Jeff’s only fantasy story (or so I recall from his email to me) and a very good read. (Full disclosure – Jeff reviewed and liked my novel The Mars Run)

First, a word about formats. Jeff is selling Whale Meat for $1. He gets 80 cents, and Lulu gets twenty. For your money, you get a zip file with the story in several formats (PDF, RTF, and a couple of others) as well as a license to store, use, read etc. the story on any electronic device “based in your household.” There’s no Digital Rights Management (DRM) overhead, just plain files.

The story itself is a fantasy, set in (then) present-day Chicago, and stars Yonnie and Mara, a pair of witches. (Back when the story was written, four “Eisenhowers” could get a dinner meal for two.) Witches are very long-lived, and economic outcasts, relying on charity and their wits. Mara is also pregnant with Yonnie’s child James, and will be for several more years. This requires a furtive lifestyle. To make matters worse, she needs whale meat, which is damned hard to find in Chicago in a cold March. As I said, it’s an interesting story, in which both witchcraft and calculus, the “mathematics of change” have critical roles to play.

Jeff tells me that the initial impetus for the story was his struggles with calculus as an undergraduate, a problem I share with the author. At any rate, I highly recommend Whale Meat and wish Jeff the best with his experiments in digital jukeboxes.

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. Chris is the author of the science fiction novel The Mars Run. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

From Self-Published to Big House Success -- Part Two

Continued from this post. The following is excerpted from the promotional materials for 'Rashi's Daughters, Book II: Miriam'.

Goldinger encouraged Anton to hire a publicist whose areas of expertise included Jewish books. Most important, she convinced her that without a major distributor, "Rashi's Daughters" would never get into bookstores or libraries. Together, they produced a marketing plan thorough enough for Biblio to accept little Banot Press for distribution.

Marketing was key to Anton's success. "Jewish women readers are hungry for books that feature Jewish heroines, especially historical ones, and I knew where to find that niche audience: synagogues, women's organizations like Hadassah, and book clubs," says Anton. She started with an appearance at the Women's Rabbinic Network conference. "Let's face it -- if I couldn't sell "Rashi's Daughters" to women rabbis, I might as well give up." While there, Anton sold copies to two-thirds of the attendees, and came away with their roster.

Next came a couple of Jewish groups' regional conventions, where she again sold copies to most of the people she spoke to, and left with another list of names and contact information. At the same time, her publicist was shipping out review copies to the major media and the Jewish press, in addition to leaders of Jewish book groups. Packets of information were sent to every single Jewish bookstore and Judiaca specialty shop in the country. "Then I hit the phone and computer, calling and emailing every organization I could find that might invite me to speak about Rashi, his daughters and medieval Jewish women," says Anton. She stressed that the lecture was free, since she was doing this to promote her book, and the invitations began rolling in.

The final part of the story will have to wait until tomorrow, I need to finish off my review to email into Forbidden Fruit. I enjoyed the book immensely! I may have to get hold of a copy of part one to review for POD People....

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Any thoughts out there on Amazon's attempt to leap into the self-POD biz?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The following is excerpted from publicity material provided to me with a review copy of 'Rashi's Daughter Book II: Miriam' by Maggie Anton (Plume, an imprint of Penguin). 'Rashi's Daughter Book I: Joheved' is currently available on Amazon with a sales rank of #12,182. The review copy was sent to me due to my association with the e-zine Forbidden Fruit, not my association with the POD People.

Many 'self-published author makes good' stories are a total crock, but this one is rather interesting. I will post the first few paragraphs. If anyone is interested in the rest just let me know and I will type it out for you all.

From Self-Published to Big House Success

When Maggie Anton formed her own company to publish her first novel, she knew that self-published books carried a huge stigma. "I had spent five years writing the first volume of my 'Rashi's Daughters' trilogy and was working with a literary agent, but was frustrated with how long the process took," says Anton. The year 2005 marked the 900th anniversary of Rashi's death, and she wanted her novel to come out in time to take advantage of the interest she hoped this would generate within the Jewish community.

In early 2004 she began to investigate self-publishing, "just in case." She found that if she wanted her novel to be taken seriously by the literary world, it would have to come from a "real" publisher. Since the "real" publishers were dragging their feet, she decided to create her own publishing company instead. Anton says, "I chose the name Banot Press- Hebrew for 'daughters'- rather than the more obvious 'Anton Press,' because I wanted to maintain the illusion of a small California Press rather than a blatant self-publishing effort."

By the summer of 2004 she had a company name, a finished manuscript and an excellent author photo. The one things she didn't have was the expertise to produce a professional-looking book. So, just as she had hired a free-lance editor earlier, she decided to hire a book shepherd, Sharon Goldinger of Peoplespeak. Goldinger helped guide her through the publishing maze, showing her how to choose and work with the interior designer, cover design company, and printer for the first 3000 copies.

And this from Maggie Antone at Amazon: "I sold the series to Plume (a Penguin imprint) for six figures. Rashi's Daughters: Book Two - Miriam will hit the stores this week, and it's already ranked around 1000 on Amazon."

Do you want to hear more?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anatomy of a Purchase

1) Which self-published book did you purchase?

The Confession of Piers Gaveston by Brandy Purdy, published through iUniverse.

2) How did you come across it?

I've been buying Edward II-related books on eBay from Brandy for a while, so when I learned that her own novel was coming out, I couldn't resist!

3) Did anything put you off the purchase?

No. The back cover copy made me want to read more.

4) What made you decide to buy the book?

I'm fascinated with this period of history. Besides that, one of the great things about historical fiction is seeing what different authors make of the same historical characters. Piers is a major character in my own novel, but his relationship with Edward II is treated very differently in Brandy's book. There's debate about the exact nature of their friendship--whether it was sexual, brotherly, or something in between--so there's a lot of room for interpretation. I especially liked the relationship between Gaveston and his young wife, Margaret--it's very touchingly portrayed.

by Susan Higginbotham