Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pimp My Monkey (Guest Blogger: Chris Eldin)

Today, please welcome Chris Eldin, who is here to talk about lessons learned from a year of working on internet author publicity.

Old lady underwear.

That’s what current book-marketing efforts look like. One size fits all. Unnoticeable. But a comfortable, feel-good accessory for writers who don’t know what else to do.

What are some examples of overused and tired marketing efforts? Blog tours that attract mainly other writers. Contests and give-aways. Non-stop Twitter and Facebook spam.

Ladies, break out those thongs! Gents, break out those…errr-just do whatever the ladies say.

This post will be a quickie round-up of lessons-learned from the book promotions blog, the Book Roast. The Book Roast was a one year endeavor to market books for authors. Our motto, Serving up authors and books lightly gilled and seasoned with humor, helped entice best-selling authors from a variety of genres to support our site.

Feeling a bit voyeuristic? A Book Roast interview with Writer Unboxed is posted here. Like seeing editors roasted? So did we. We roasted Editorial Anonymous here, Evil Editor here, and Moonrat here. Some agents got pretty toasty too. You can check their links in our sidebar. People like blogging promotions with a humorous bent. We were nominated for a BBAW award. Most things worked (making fun of agents). A few didn’t (charity drives). But in the end, it was a fun and rewarding experience to step out of the box. To shake off that baggy underwear.

**Follow the ten commandments**

**Know your audience**
There’s a reason bookstores don’t mix their entire stock of books and alphabetize. Readers are loyal to their genres. When we (the Book Roast team) developed the Book Roast blog, we aimed to be as inclusive as possible. We had assumed that when Author A was being promoted, some of his/her fan base would continue to stick around for other authors. That our readership would organically grow. This did not happen. We did not get the crossover interest we had hoped for. Romance readers stuck with the romance authors, etc.

**Consider the cost**
How much time and/or money are you willing to invest in your blog development? Are you going to pay a web designer, or do it yourself? There are many sites that offer free templates. But as more and more people are becoming web-savvy, the standards have inched higher and higher.

Also, how much time/money are you going to invest once it’s up and running? It can be time consuming to keep coming up with new and informative content, and to keep the energy level high. Blogs need to have a predictable schedule for readership to stay and grow.

The Book Roast blog was a team effort. Even though the work was spread across several people, we each ended up spending several hours per month with maintenance issues. It was more time consuming than we assumed it would be.

**Develop a brand/theme**
Develop a brand that identifies your content and style, keeping your target audience in mind. Let me repeat for the people who wander around everywhere with no clear focus or goal for their work or their professional image hey get out of the refrigerator and wait til I come to the kitchen I don’t care that your friends can eat chips for dinner where’d I put my drink and damn did I query that agent already I hope she forgot now where was I?

Keep your target audience in mind.

Quiet all that other noise. What does your target audience want? What gets your target audience energized? Create your message based on this, and develop your brand from there.

When developing an online brand, such as a blog or a website, consider your screen real estate. Put all of your important content at the top. This is your “first impression.” Readers should not have to scroll to find out what your blog is about.
The Book Roast team developed a brand based on food—we were all hungry writers and enjoyed eating. Remember our tag line: Serving up a variety of authors and books lightly grilled and seasoned with humor. Our style was casual and humorous, and our blog was designed to reflect this. A blog patron described us as “an online cocktail party.” The Book Roast brand was easily recognizable, and quickly set us apart from other book-related blogs.

**Hook your readership**
Related to your brand/theme is having a hook. Something that keeps your readership coming back for more.
The Book Roast was fortunate to have a publishing insider, Ms. Sally Spitfire, who posted every Monday. A marketing professional, Ms. Spitfire offered insights that other agent/editor blogs did not. She was our hook. That, and our humor.
Hooking your readership should be the focus of your brand. Why should your target audience visit you the first time? Why should they keep coming back? It’s worth it to take your time creating a hook. Something about first impressions…

**Choose an opportune time to launch**
Deciding when to launch your blog depends on your audience. Perhaps you want to launch around the same time as a conference you’re attending. Or if you’re a romance writer, February might be a good month, etc.

After going through a complete one-year cycle, we found that the two months with the highest internet activity (for the Book Roast blog) were February and March. The two worst months were August and December. Your audience may be different, but it’s important to start on a high point.

**Decide on comment moderation**
Blogging is interactive, but you have to decide whether or not you’re going to moderate comments. Weigh the costs/benefits of open comments versus comment moderation.

We decided to leave the comments open on the Book Roast. We had a couple of days where one person came to our blog and posted offensive comments. We decided to delete the comments as they came up, and to ignore the person otherwise. We were lucky. He went away after two days and we didn’t have any problems after that. We wanted to avoid comment moderation because our theme was casual and talksy.

**Get the word out**
The personal touch is time consuming, but effective. Email your friends and blogging acquaintances about your launch. Be positive and upbeat. Don’t spam. Use whatever tools you’re comfortable with to advertise your opening (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc). But don’t overuse these tools—they’ll become white noise and lose their effectiveness.

Visit blogs, book clubs, and other groups who may be interested in what your blog has to offer.

Ask friends to nominate your blog for the various awards that are out there. Moonrat has some very nice aunts who can nominate you if you can’t find anyone else.

**Acknowledge your supporters**
Be polite. Show your readership you care about them. Be nice, yanno. It goes a long way. Plus, it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

**Get reader feedback**
If possible, survey your readership from time to time to see what’s working, and what’s not working.

**Review current trends for your genre**
What’s hot this year? Dedicate some posts to trends. For example, if you’re a children’s book writer, the current hot trend is steam punk. Take some time to research and put together posts about these trends. It adds to your authority and authenticity.

**Review current technology changes**
Stay on top of the latest technologies, and whether or not you can use them to help you market your books. I like this site.

**Keep records**
Keep track of the numbers of visitors, types of feedback, where visitors are clicking in from. Statistics help keep you grounded in reality.

Now, about those thongs…

In addition to branding yourself/your work with an online presence, you can market yourself in many “non-traditional” ways offline.

Brainstorm places in your area you can go to market your book. Remember, it’ll always be a “no” if you don’t ask. But most people are supportive of local authors and talent.

Some possible places may include: local cafes, grocery stores, dinner theaters, bike clubs, hiking groups, PTA fund raisers, or kids’ sporting events (set up a table). Partner with other authors in your area. Hook up with the local universities. Take some professors out to lunch. Offer to be a guest lecturer.

Do you have a budget for premiums? Ask libraries in your area if you could put a basket of free pens/stress balls/magnets/etc on their counter. Fairly cheap and very easy to do.

That’s about all for now.

Perhaps you’re looking at your old lady underwear in a new light. At this point, you may be tempted to take all your underwear and stamp them with your new blog address and ask the librarian if she wants them.

For the love of all that’s good and true in this world, please don’t do this in Baltimore.

Chris Eldin is a native of Baltimore and a collector of elastic waistband thongs. She writes humorous middle-grade books for boys. Her latest marketing blog can be found here: If you’re an agent and would like to query her about her manuscript, she has guidelines posted on her blog.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

Late last night, Robert and I were both still at work. He called me into his office and told me to sit, then gestured to the little black single-serving coffee maker by his phone. "Want a cup?" he asked.

"Um, ok," I said. I'm not the kind of person who should be drinking coffee after 10 am but I was already pretty nervous about what he wanted to talk about and didn't think declining was a good idea.

"Do you take milk?"

"Yes," I said apprehensively. Was he keeping milk under his desk? If so, how long had it been there? But then I saw the non-dairy creamer on the bookshelf and relaxed--a little.

I watched him plunk in the coffee pod over a mug he had produced from some dusty corner and stab the "brew" button with all the slow-motion precision of one's grandfather. "Well, we have a lot to talk about," he said. "We did not have very good news today, did we."

"Not really," I said. I was a nervous wreck; I had received what we'll call an unpromising piece of information about a book of mine that's supposed to be coming out in a couple months, and I was particularly worried about how I was going to get us out of the jam.

"Well," he said, placing the full hot coffee cup in front of him and popping the top of the non-dairy creamer open. "Bad things happen; people lie; reviews fall through. We hemmorhage cash over things we were sure would work beautifully, and just hope we make enough off of our strong backlists to survive. I'm not saying we want bad things to happen," he continued, tapping an awful lot of surprisingly gelatinous creamer into the cup in front of him, "nor should weexpect them necessarily, but we shouldn't fear them." He looked pensively into the coffee, where the non-dairy creamer floated stubbornly on top in two amoeba-esque clumps, then removed his glasses, folded one leg down, and submerged the lenses into the coffee, stirring briskly. When the coffee was good and... blended, I guess you'd say, he withdrew the glasses and tapped them observantly on the rim of the mug, then looked up to catch my eye. "What's the matter? Oh no, did you say you didn't want cream?"

"No, cream's great," I assured him, and took the proffered cup.

"Yes, well, as I was saying," he continued, pushing the glasses back up his formidable nose, "I have been in publishing a long, long time. I have published many books that failed, but I do not fear failure. You simply can't fear failure." He paused. "Are you afraid of failure?"

"More than anything in the world," I answered, before I could think it through.

"Huhn." Robert peered at me. A tear of coffee ran down his cheek and made a brown circle on his lemon-colored shirt. "Huhn. Well. This has been very interesting." He clasped his hands. "Well, you answered honestly, which is good. But tell me, what good does fear of failure do you?"

"It helps you pre-empt the worst case scenario," I replied.

"No, no, this isn't a rhetoric exercise," he said. "I want you to think about that, whether being afraid of failure really helps you. It must be awfully exhausting."

"It is," I said, thinking of the tightness in my torso and the wrinkles accumulating on my forehead, the anxiety and scrambling each week, the churlish re-editing and re-re-editing, the arteries hardening in my chest. I raised my swirling duatone coffee to my mouth. I figured the consequences of my fears had to be worse for me than the consequences of the coffee.

Now that I've spent the night thinking about it, I think that Robert's advice to me about being a book publisher really applies to anyone who wants to work in the industry in any capacity--but perhaps especially to writers. To sustain a state of high tension and desperation--you know, the kind the whole submission process usually creates--is not only physically exhausting, it's creatively exhausting. It also makes us less likely to make wise decisions when we're presented with opportunities. Paychecks aside--and let's face it, even the best-paid among us would-be publishing/published peeps don't make THAT much money--I think we survive by letting go of a fear of failure. Our desperation makes us lose sight of what we got into this for--in many cases, to write. Writing is the joy, and if you are joyful you have not failed. We should be happy when good things come about, but not live in fear that they won't.

Easier said than done, of course. But I'm going to make a conscious effort going forward.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 2 (p 71-140)

Happy Yom Kippur, to those observing, and Happy Week 2 to everyone in general!

Thoughts/opinions/feelings/conversations welcome!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

update on Sylvester Antonio, the kitchen mouse

He's a punk.

We've set traps everywhere--lots of them--but caught nothing. He hasn't been sighted much in a month--just a tail here or there, a blur of gray in the corner of your eye. I thought maybe he got bored of us and decided to move on.

Well, last night I got up at 4 am to get some water, and heard a telltale rustling in the kitchen. I turned on the light. There he was, the punk. Not on the floor like a normal mouse, oh no. He had clearly designed our stack of plastic grocery bags into a mountain from which he could lower himself into the trash and pull out tasty morsels. I watched him scamper up the mountain, then use his *back legs* to shimmy up the space between the wall and the oven! His back legs!! All the while noshing on the tasty morsel he gripped in his front legs and winking at me.


I told the RM, who said I was a disappointment to the household. I saw Sylvester Antonio behind the stove, and just let him stare at me? I didn't even smack at him with the broom?

"He was so cute."

Cute?! Didn't I understand that mice carry disease? Blah blah blah.

So now the war between Sylvester Antonio and the Rally Monkey has escalated once again. I just don't think he's stupid enough to get stuck in the traps, is the thing. He's cheekily avoided them all this time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quick! Someone call an emergency copy editor! I just can't look at it anymore!!

This is why it's so important that editors and authors get along. (Ie otherwise one of us would be dead.)

Today is Friday, September 25th, 2009. I'm going to take you on a rollicking trip back through time to show you the editorial process on a book.

Nb before beginning: this is a very good book with a very strong premise and an author who's a very good writer. This is a GOOD editorial scenario.

Without further ado:

July 1, 2009: Author delivers her completed manuscript, as according to contract.

July 21, 2009
: After slavishly doing nothing with my life but edit for three weeks, evenings and weekends included, I send the manuscript back to the author, ripped life from limb and accompanied by one of my signature 16-page editorial memos. (You'd NEVER guess it from reading me here, I'm sure, but sometimes I'm pretty, um, long-winded.) (Also I'm a micromanager and a perfectionist.) Delicate critical phrases such as "Awesome point! Perhaps you can flesh it out a bit more to show people how awesome it is!" and "I love that you show her doing this! Great details! A little worried it interrupts the flow right here, though" abound.

Editing the first draft is awesome! You're so excited by it; it's your first engagement with the text!! But of course the first draft is always disappointing because it's NEVER AS PERFECT AS YOU WANT IT TO BE!!! Luckily your 16-page editorial memo will straighten that author out.

July 22-August 10: Per my directions, the author begins to attack my edits, chapter by chapter, emailing the chapters back to me as they're done so we can work in tandem. The author is a very good sport even though she's just been writing the darn thing for 9 months; she obediently reimmerses herself after only a single celebratory bottle of wine. Atta girl.

August 1-20: I receive the edited chapters, one by one, and begin my re-edits. Rar! The author has only understood half of my vision!! How annoying. Well, she did get the other half; I just have to re-edit everything and draw VERY PARTICULAR ATTENTION to the things that still need development. This time I won't be as complimentary in my editorial notes. Phrases such as "must go" and "this is awkward" feature more prominently.

August 10-30: Beleaguered author, still putting on a chipper front like the good sport she is, begins to re-edit my re-edits and return the chapters to me. She doesn't complain about my meanness and insensitivity in my editorial comments! Ok, she's a journalist, and is probably used to ten times more direct criticism from her editors elsewhere. But I *do* notice that she passive-aggressively is less careful about copy editing mistakes in this round. Rar!! I shall fix every last hyphen and floating period!! Or maybe she just realized I'm going to do that anyway. Whatever.

August 30-September 5: Author has to, like, do work for her paying job or something dumb like that. Fine. We'll both take a little time away. Maybe when we come back to the manuscript we'll both feel fresh and revitalized.

September 6
: We do not feel fresh and revitalized.

September 7-21: Oh my god! Am I really reading this again? I've read each of these darn chapters so many times I don't even know if they're in chronological order! I keep reading phrases that I'm sure were already used and striking them out with a mean note saying REP! But then when I search within the document I find they were NOT used before--I'm just remembering the last round of edits!! Ugh, I'm now rendered useless. Time to make my assistant go through everything. Poor dear.

September 7-21: The author hates me. I can tell. She hasn't said as much, but she's not sending me funny notes with stories about her best friend's dumb boyfriend and the shenanigans he got them into back in high school anymore. Her notes have become short and terse: "Well, here's Chapter 3; hope it's what you were looking for. Back to work I go."

September 22: Oh wait, hey. This chapter's not bad. I mean, I'm not entirely sure, because I've read it too many times and no longer trust myself. But hmm, hmm, yes, this all seems to be what I recall having wanted in the first place... I think. That was a long time ago and I'm not remembering clearly.

September 23-24
: Hmm, here's the whole thing. Dammit, I can't make myself read through it ONE MORE TIME to see if there are any huge overarching problems! I mean, could there be, at this point? Is there a single word or concept we haven't overturned at least twice? My assistant says it's great--how is that possible? I guess I'm way too close to the project at this point. Not only Although my assistant did catch some typos--SHOCKING! TYPOS THAT GOT BY ME!!! I really need a break from this.

September 25
: It's Friday morning. Can I even bear to open the document? Hmm. No, no I can't. All right, time to call in a copy editor. Let's let it be her problem now!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Google searches that have brought people here recently

for your delectation:

"Naked girls Waterbury"

"editorial assistant blog" [why yes, it seems that would be I]

"Toni Morrison literary ass" [hmm, any ideas, anyone?]

"Best King Arthur books written" [this one makes me happy; our list has become a Google authority]

"why do the British?" [I have no idea, hun; I'm really sorry]

a lot of people come in on searches re: AR--so thanks for everyone who contributed to that discussion; your comments are being read and utilized everyday

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

why Wednesday is my favorite day of the week

Sounds funny, right? Wednesday...? Yeah, but it's true. And I bet secretly there are a bunch of other obsessive-compulsive editorial types out there JUST LIKE ME who, if you backed them into a corner, would admit it's their favorite day of the week, too.



That's right, my friends: on Wednesday morning, Nielsen releases the previous week's book sale data to its paying clients.* I live every moment of my week before seeing the sales numbers in a state of breathless frenzy and nervous anticipation, and every moment after seeing them wondering how I can use them to make next week's numbers better. The weekend merely marks the difference between the "WhatcanIdowhatcanIdowhatcanIdo!?!?!" mindset and the "HowdidIdohowdidIdohowdidIdo?!?!" mindset. That, and nothing more.

I'll admit it, I'm a sales data fiend. I've seen other editors who are much more zen about the whole process, trusting in the divine power of their publicity and marketing department to handle their jobs at this point, realizing that sweat and blood and brow-furrowing on the editorial team's part can't do a whole lot once the finished copies are out of the warehouse. If only I could be one of those nice, calm, forward-thinking editors, and let go. If only I could look at sales data and think wanly, "how interesting." But alas, it shall not be; instead I live my life like a cocker spaniel who just KNOWS there's a steak up on the counter, if only they could jump high enough or con someone into dropping it.


Yes, it's early in the morning, but aside from having my epic fantasy reading to get through before work, I also have this last week's sales data to panic about. As usual, there's one title I'm particularly anxious about (usually, it's the book of mine that came out most recently). But I have many ancillary anxieties, as well, some larger than others. The old heartbreakers, for example--you know, the books you desperately loved that for some INCOMPREHENSIBLE reason never sold very well--I've mostly resigned myself to ignoring, although my eyes will pass over the latest numbers with indefatigable (if mild) hope.

Why do I care so much? Well, obviously I want all my books to perform well, and I want to be the first to know if something's taking off. But also, I want to know WHERE it sells (geographically, demographically, through which vendor, etc) so in my conniving mind I can try to come up with ways to capitalize on that. Knowing the sales data also helps me speak more honestly with the author and agent about how a book is performing and where, specifically, we should target our energies to improve performance. The weekly sales data helps me figure out if something specific we did this week helped a lot, or didn't help at all. Was that radio appearance successful targeting of the book market? Well, if you see a bubble of hundreds or thousands more copies sold this week than last, the answer might be yes; if the number is 17 copies higher, maybe we've learned it's not worth the trouble.

Also, I want to know if I think I can push for a reprint--not that this is my job, or that I even have any say in whether a book is reprinted. I was talking to an author friend this weekend, and she was surprised to hear the editorial department not only has no control over reprints, they are often informed of reprints only after the fact. Well, as I mentioned above, I am a control freak, and really, really like to know if I should anticipate a reprint--it helps me make sure I have any text updates ready in time, and new reviews or blurbs added to cover copy ahead of time, etc. So my idea of a nightmare scenario is being informed by the inventory coordinator that one of my books has been reprinted without my involvement! I try to prevent that by being on top of things.

Another thing I love about Wednesday morning sales figures are the freak surprises. Like when a backlist title from 1983 about some obscure 17th-century watchmaker suddenly rockets into the top 20 titles for the week--all via Amazon sales. Will we ever figure out why? Well, we can try. It's like a mystery--was this guy mentioned in the NYT? Did some formidably traveled blogger do a write-up of the book? Was it suddenly assigned to some random reading list for a college class with a gihumongous enrollment? Sometimes we figure it out; sometimes we don't.

Does being a stat hound help me in my job? I don't know. I do think absorbing all this data--not that I'd be able to stop myself from gluttonously poring over sales figured even if I wanted to--will eventually help develop my brain into a book-creating machine that understands what sells to whom and for how much and where, and why. I mean, maybe.

As usual, I have big hopes today for one of my books in particular. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. It is, obviously, totally life-changing, and possibly the best book ever published. Now let's see if Nielsen is going to play along...

*No, you can't ask me for any of this data, sorry; others have lost their job for less than disseminating sales data. Besides, it's not that interesting, unless you are an above-mentioned OCD editorial freak like YT.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 1 (p 1-70)

How did everybody do? Please post your status updates--successes or failures!--things you thought were interesting, hopes for the future, thoughts about bananas? Please! Let the comments flow like banana syrup!

I'm plowing through, yes I am, but I gotta admit there were times I wanted to gouge out my eyes Oedipus-style.

Friday, September 18, 2009

yes, still getting up early mornings before work to read epic fantasy...

On page 549 of The Dragon Reborn (the third book in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan), one [male] character says this to another:
"Any fool knows men and women think differently at times, but the biggest difference is this. Men forget, but never forgive. Women forgive, but never forget."


[I'm putting some further directive prompts in the first comment for those who want to play.] Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

RtP: There are two kinds of people in this world: the kind that build bridges, and the kind that walk over bridges without ever thinking about how they got there.

Hm. I know which kind I hope to be...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

rar, terribly busy week

Not sure what else I have to post, anyway. But. Quick murmurs--

You guys must already have heard that the Philadelphia libraries are all closing, effective October 2? In case you haven't, blow-by-blow here. (Via Carol) Besides all the obvious reasons to be horrified by public libraries' going under, I want to add on a publisher's note that this will affect everyone seeking publication now and in the future--library buys help us make up our first print runs, and without them, we would not be able to afford to print riskier/more literary titles at all. So I foretell a widespread closing of libraries will lead to fewer publications of literary fiction, debut novels, and poetry, among other things.

Here's a nuanced and VERY detailed treatment of the real state of publishing (good, bad, ugly, stupid, but mostly realistic) inspired by the annual industry professionals survey (via JES). This article is intended, I think, for insiders (like me) but if you can bear to slog through it there's a LOT of interesting data about things we shouldn't be worried about and are, and things we aren't worried about and shouldn't be. Some of the salient points (through my personal lens):

-there's no job security, and this has all kinds of negative effects
-a lot of people in charge of acquisitions are dreamers, and aren't sensible about the business side of things, and need to get real
-WAY to many books are published each year, with a lot of "sameness" and fighting for profits by doing MORE of what we think worked in the past--which basically creates mediocrity and causes consumers to lose faith and interest
-the entire financial model we run off of is totally screwy
-at the end of the day, when we get real and fix all the bull$hit here, there will still be books, and still be publishing

(this has all made me want to write my own manifesto, but I'll rein it in--for now...)

Finally, since everything else is bad news, some art for your delectation!!

This is my Etch-a-Sketch portrait of the Rally Monkey. I think it is evidence of a rather stunning natural ability on my part--would you ever have guessed this was my first-ever time with an Etch-a-Sketch?! You'd totally be able to pick him out of a crowd, right? It's a nearly photographic rendering!! (Erm...please no one show this "art" to his mother.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Weekly Check-In

Hi Guys!

You've probably seen my Gravity's Rainbow sidebar at this point, but in case you didn't, YES, we pushed the start date back one week by popular demand. So we'll "talk" about the first 70 pages here next Monday, September 21st.

So far I know of only two meet-ups, one in New York (9/21) and one in London (9/26). However, people from the following cities have expressed interest in meetups, in case others are organized:

Los Angeles, CA
Kansas City, MO
Chicago, IL

(Let me know of other cities to add, in comment or via email)

Annnd I'm actually going to have to put Robert Jordan aside and start reading this week... My assistant is way ahead of me and has taken all kinds of clever notes. Boo, smart and overachieving assistants!! (Not really.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday morning obscure boy band cover moment

Since you're all so fond of Chinese pop ;)

Fools Garden (yeah, no apostrophe), an apparently German boy band, released this video, "Lemon Tree," in 1993 (although the video looks like it was filmed in the late 60s).

Then, Tracy, a Chinese pop singer, covered it in this video where in she measures men's noses and ears!

Fun for all.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 11, 2009

link stealing: Friday publishing funnies, Gravity's Rainbow meetup, etc!

Literally everything below I stole from the Pimp My Novel Friday round-up:

Robert McCrum distills publishers' marketing euphemisms. Some of my favorites: "Booker Prize Contender" (a novel we paid too much for); "Cult novel" (no publicity to speak of but we got a review in Time Out); "Multicultural phenomenon" (no one can pronounce the author's name); "A European sensation" (we got drunk at the Frankfurt Book Fair).

The good ol' Book Publicity Blog explains what a book embargo is, and how it helps and complicates publicity campaigns.

Unrelated--check out the box in the sidebar for the Gravity's Rainbow readalong! It will be there forever and ever. Best news (well, for NY people): Jolie Hale is hosting the first NY meetup on 9/21. Details here.

Ok, that's actually it for now. But don't forget the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday! It's literally the best fun in publishing all year, and it's free, and the weather's supposed to be nice! Come frolic in Brooklyn Heights and pick up some bling from indie presses (and some less indie presses!).

excellent venn diagram Friday

via my dear friend Meg. may she always send me entertaining things.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

some stuff for Thursday

Publish or Perish--the 7 (or more like 13) emotional stages of publishing, as ennumerated by the New York Times and courtesy of the inimitable Brian F. I laughed, I cried, I ate some cheese.

Gawker did this piece on the 6 only remaining ways to get a book deal these days. Funny!! Only... wait a minute...

Bob Miller over at HarperStudio (a real hero of mine, FYI) disagrees with MJ Rose (and, thereby, me) on her take on author royalties needing a bump. His take here. He makes a good point re: sharing profit--another strategy, I think. But I want to be an advocate for sharing marketing responsibility (and the burden, financial and energetic, therein). I believe that a hard-working author with an uncooperative publisher behind them and a hard-working publisher with an uncooperative author are both very, very mediocre combinations. Why can't we share reward and risk?

I have a theory for hostile industry takeover on this one, but it's top secret. Shhh. First, someone needs to put me in charge of everything. Then I'll tell you.

Here, 10 tips for making your blog popular, and keeping it popular. Totally fascinating. I was recently worrying that maybe I publish too often/too much... I notice comments have kind of dropped off. But what do you guys think? Does anyone ever go "nuts, I wish she'd post a little less so I could keep up"?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday!

Hope you're planning on dropping by if you're in the hood!

Website here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along Update

Hi all! Everyone gearing up for the Gravity's Rainbow read-along?

Here's some notes!

-Natasha Solomons has offered to organize a London or Dorset meet-up
-Kat has offered to organize a Leeds meet-up
-There will definitely be a New York meet-up on the evening of Monday, Sept 21--I'll let you know when I hear concrete details.

Re: Infinite Summer:

-Some (many) folks have requested postponing the start date two weeks to accommodate Infinite Summer, the Infinite Jest read-along. I didn't mean to overlap, guys--I got the dates wrong and thought it was over. So this is a democracy, and we do what all

All the clerical details for now--thanks to everyone who's already expressed interest/enthusiasm!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Saturday morning indie Taiwanese pop/rock moment

I love, love love this video. Taiwanese punk boy rockers retro-dancing in Converses on tatami mats while singing to a girl in a kimono and sumo wrestlers. What's not to love? Best, there are random Japanese words in the middle of the Chinese lyrics--you can tell, because they appear in big English writing in the subtitles.

The song's called "My Anata" ("Anata" being the Japanese word for "you") and I don't think you need to speak Japanese or Chinese to think the video is hilarious. But of course, I have peculiar taste.

David Tao is a Taiwanese pop singer with a very interesting life story, if you're curious. Eg working for the LAPD while scraping to put himself through college before finding his calling in his late 20s as a pop/rock star in the Chinese-speaking world. Isn't he cute?

Ok, all right, no more Asian pop culture for today.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bridgeside Books

The day before I left for Vermont, I collected some data from you all on Facebook about which indie bookstores I should hit up along the way (thanks, all! FYI I did!). Imagine how surprised I was to find a store no one had mentioned in tiny Waterbury, Vermont, population 3,000. The thing is, Bridgeside Books only opened a couple of days before I passed through--you would have REALLY had to be psychic to know about it!

Nestled into the underpass of a delightfully quaint road bridge along Waterbury's main drag is Bridgeside Books, of the squealably cute facade above. Naturally, as we walked home from an epic brunch at the Stagecoach Inn, I couldn't resist the bookstore sign, and dragged all four of my friends in (complain as they might, they hardly resisted. I should mention two are elementary school teachers and one has a librarian for a mother).

We chatted up the unsuspecting founder/owner, the delightful Hiata DeFeo (pictured here), who was a very good sport about us. A former employee of Green Mountain Coffee, she explained that her lifelong dream was to open a bookstore, and that Waterbury had had no bookstore of its own in more than 15 years (yikes!).

Bridgeside Books had its grand opening in mid-August, but the list is flexible and still growing. Hiata is excited to learn what customers are interested in as they come in individually, and takes suggestions and recommendations for other titles to buy as she goes. She's looking forward to developing a long and diverse stock list.

The bookstore is made up of two rooms. The main area contains fiction, mystery, and nonfiction for adults, as well as an entire table devoted to local and Vermont authors. I can't tell you how excited I was to find that Hiata not only stocked a particular author of mine, but read and loved all this author's books! There was much loud squeeing (by me) which Hiata (and my friends) handled gracefully. What this means to me, folks, is that she's ALREADY committed to supporting indie presses!!

The annex is a children's/Young Adult haven, which stocked a range from new and classic picture books (one of my friends ended up buying heavily from these) to Twilight and other mainstream popular young adult. I ended up buying from the YA nook, myself, when I stumbled upon The Absolutely True Confessions of a Part-Time Indian, which I've been meaning to read for a long time.

Note: should you happen to be planning a summer cool-down or a foliage viewing in Vermont, Waterbury is actually not too shabby a destination. It's a 4-minute drive (literally) from the aforementioned Ben & Jerry's factory, a 3-minute walk from the Green Mountain Coffee factory and the Lake Champlain Chocolate factory, as well as 20 minutes from downtown Burlington. In Waterbury itself, Grand View Winery offers wine tastings, and the Vermont Brewers Association will set you up with a tour. As I mentioned, of course, it is home to the delightful Bridgeside Books and the Stagecoach Inn for brunch. The Waterbury reservoir has a gorgeous walk through Little River State Park, and there is, of course, the requisite jam-packed antique store and town pub (The Alchemist).

Obviously I went to Vermont and got evangelized. Sigh. Wake up, city girl! But it IS a very nice weekend.

If you DO drop by, tell her Moonrat said hi.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

But, But, What Happenes to Us Now?! (Or, the End of the Long Affair)

One of my beloved authors called me the other day. Her book is pubbing shortly.

"How are ya?" she asked.

"Good," I said. "So, is there anything I can help you with?"

"No, I was just calling to say hi, see how you are. We haven't talked in a long time; I wanted to see how everything's going with you." She paused. "So, this is weird, right? We talked everyday, sometimes several times a day, for months and months, and...what, it's over? Do you authors just go away after the copy edit's over? Do your lives just drift apart?"

Well, not exactly. Frequently I am involved in the publicity process (being the anal-retentive control freak micromanager that I am, I am often VERY involved, much more than my poor publicity department might wish me to be). But publicity plans are often meandering and inchoate--we try to book everything for when the book first hits, but (in a good situation) they wander on indefinitely, the author continuing to book gigs, sometimes reviews even popping up months or years after publication (the internet has changed that for us, and for the better of the book and reading public, I think).

But all this means that there is no concrete end to our author/editor relationship. In fact, what was a passionate, creative, perhaps at periods difficult or cantankerous but most certainly at points emotional affair basically piddles to a non-contact point without so much as a denouement (bad plot structure!!!). I have 1800 other projects coming up, so naturally I forget about you--not in a mean way--and in theory, you have a life to get back to. But how odd, when I think about you a couple months later, and you are no longer an active part of my life. How bittersweet.

Actually, I have a backlist of authors, even ones I don't work with anymore and can't imagine working with again--perhaps they only intended to write one book, or another company bought them for a lot of money, or I no longer publish what they write--but still miss. I send most of them holiday cards, if I have their current address, and keep track of the ones who have Facebook (you know how I am about Facebook). But it is still a sad and anticlimactic parting.

What about on your end? Any authors here want to comment on their relationships with their editors after the publication window is over? Do you keep the love alive, or does it drift away?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Accelerated Reader

Has anyone ever heard of Accelerated Reader, the tool for awarding "points" to books for children? This NYT article is the first I'd heard of it--but how crazy! This makes me, well, sad, from the select examples in the article. But maybe it's something for competitive types to compete for--maybe it helps, in its place. Any thoughts? How about all my kidlit experts?

blue Wednesday?

Check this out. Guaranteed to brighten--or at least confuse--any day.

Via my dear friend Frank.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon (Rainy September)

Hi all! A bunch of people from Twitter and Fill-in-the-Gaps are going to be trying to help one another through the formidable tome that is Gravity's Rainbow, 1974 National Book Award winner and the book the New Republic called "The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II." As importantly, Lisa Simpson is a huge fan.

Now if you, like us, have always wished you had read Gravity's Rainbow so you could know what all the fuss is all about, but know you would never, ever get through the thing on your own, here's your chance! We have daily page goals, weekly check-ins on Mondays, and, I've heard a rumor, real, live book club gatherings at certain hot spots with enough readers. Said gatherings will probably include wine and/or cupcakes.

Here's your cordial invitation--starting this week, I'll keep a sidebar up with page counts through the end. I'll post a quick update here each Monday, along with any announced regional gatherings I've heard about. Obviously, the more people who join, the more fun and gatherings there will be. Leave me a comment and/or shoot me an email at if you want to play or suggest a meet-up.

Page counts are designed to be manageable--about 70 pages a week, or 10 pages a day. This way, you can read faster if you like, or you can still have time for other (perhaps lighter) reading, as well. (Since the book has no chapter breaks, the page counts are taken from the Penguin Classics edition, the only one currently in print.)

Here's the Rainy September (and October, and November) schedule:

Monday, September 21: through page 70

Monday, September 28: through page 140

Monday, October 5: through page 210

Monday, October 12: through page 280

Monday, October 19: through page 350

Monday, October 26: through page 420

Monday, November 2: through page 490

Monday, November 9: through page 560

Monday, November 16: through page 630

Monday, November 23: through page 700

Monday, November 30: through page 776, and PARTY!

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

Sales Manager: We need really awesome blurbs to make this one work. We should get T.C. Boyle, Umberto Eco, and Saul Bellow, definitely.

RtP: You got it. I can get those.

Publicist: Saul Bellow is dead.

Sales Manager: He is?

RtP: Yes, he died about 4 years ago. But I can still get a blurb from him.

[Robert's got friends in HIGH places, apparently.]