Me Down Under

Elizabeth Farrelly of the Sydney Daily Herald is a frustrated Kindler. Whenever she goes searching for books, she gets sent to people like me…and my Mom.

You can't search alphabetically, and much as Amazon vaunts its relationship with publishers you can't get Pete Dexter or Tim Winton or A.A. Gill and if you search Carl Hiaasen you get three Lee Goldberg westerns and a self-helper called Active Senior Living.

I don't think I've written any westerns (besides bits of MR. MONK IN TROUBLE), but it's still nice that she remember me in the midst of her Kindle woes.

The Mail I Get

I need your invaluable expert advice. I'm going to pitch to a network in several weeks. It's my first time doing this so while I have the treatment ready, how would I present and package the actual treatment in terms of putting each copy in binders, have covers on each copy, etc. Thanks Lee.

I never do anything fancy. I just print out the pitch, black-and-white, no fancy graphics or fonts, with a cover page that has the title and byline centered, and the date and my contact info (or agent, or studio, depending on the auspices the meeting was arranged under) in the lower right. I staple the upper, left hand corner of the document and turn it in.

Wideman on Lulu

There's been a lot of hype and talk over the last few days about National Book Award finalist John Edgar Wideman self-publishing his latest collection with Lulu as the inaugural author in their VIP Publishing Program. But what has been left out of the discussion, at least until the Los Angeles Times story today, is that his son Daniel is a Senior Product Manager with Lulu, which explains a lot about how they snagged the acclaimed author. My guess is that Wideman got his books published for free, or at a very low rate, in return for allowing Lulu to use him to publicize and market their new (and pricey) VIP Publishing service, which is aimed directly at previously published authors. But you will notice that none of the Lulu blogs, interviews or press materials mentions Wideman's personal connection to the company and any role that may have played in his decision to go with them. 

The Mail I Get

I recently got an email from a debut author looking for some touring advice. She wrote, in part:

My debut novel is coming out in May, and I'll be spending all of June traveling around the country, visiting bookstores and book clubs. My schedule is anchored by reading/signing events at key bookstores, with private parties and book club meetings in the local areas around them. As I finalize my schedule, I notice I have a lot of downtime on weekday daytimes. Obviously, most people are at work then, so there's not much to do […] Besides bookstore drop-ins, what are ways for a traveling writer to make productive professional use of those weekday daytimes?

Write. Or relax. If you haven't done a book tour before, you will find that it is exhausting. If you want to be at your best for those evening signings, talks, etc., you need some down time. I also find that writing keeps me mentally "centered" when I'm traveling, especially if I'm hitting several cities over a very few days. It can become a blur. It's also nice to do a little sight-seeing…it might spark ideas or scenes in your next book.

But if you are intent on maximizing your promotion time, try to call ahead to each city and arrange a lunch or breakfast with a newspaper reporter or local blogger. Or try to arrange a radio or tv interview with a local station. If all else fails, you can help spread good will (and positive word of mouth) by offering to talk to a local high school or college English class…or at a local library.

Lie to Me

Boulderbookstore  Authors talk a lot about the power of hand-selling, how a bookseller's positive recommendation of a book means more than all the self-promotion, blogging, and twittering you can do. That's because customers trust that booksellers are knowledgeable and well-read…and that they are sharing an honest opinion when they recommend a title and are telling the truth when they say a book is particularly popular with their customers. But that could change if independant booksellers follow the sleazy example set by the Boulder Bookstore, where the booksellers are being paid off to recommend certain books and to claim a book is a "local favorite" when, in fact, they haven't read the books and they aren't local bestsellers:

The “Recommended” section at the Boulder Book Store, an independent bookseller in Colorado, features a mix of titles and genres. And also: a mix of distribution models. Among the traditionally published works on display stand a smattering of print-on-demand titles — many of them being sold on consignment by authors from the Boulder area.

They’ve paid for the privilege. The store charges its consignment authors according to a tiered fee structure: $25 simply to stock a book (five copies at a time, replenished as needed by the author for no additional fee); $75 to feature a book for at least two weeks in the “Recommended” section; and $125 to, in addition to everything else, mention the book in the store’s email newsletter, feature it on the Local Favorites page of the store’s website for at least 60 days, and enable people to buy it online for the time it’s stocked in the store.

It's another attempt to separate aspiring, self-published authors from their money. The bookstore is offering the self-published authors shelf-space for a small fee, which would be laudable if it wasn't coupled with misleading the public into thinking the books were actually read by the bookseller and popular among their customers.

And for the self-published, print-on-demand author, it's one more check to write on top of what they've already paid for the book to be published, what they paid to buy copies of the book to resell, and what they paid to have them shipped. Add to that what the bookstore is charging to stock and dishonestly "recommend" the title as a "local favorite," there is slim chance the author will ever make a dime on his books…

To be fair the Boulder Bookstore, what they are doing is giving self-published authors a chance to get their books on a store shelf…something few bookstores are willing to do. And booksellers charging publishers for store placement isn't entirely new: Barnes & Noble and Borders charge publishers for front-of-store placement and prominent displays. However, and I may be wrong about this, the big bookstore chains don't charge publishers a fee to have their books "recommended" or falsely listed as a local bestsellers. But whether B&N does it or not, that doesn't make accepting pay-offs to deceive customers any less sleazy and shameful.

Photo of Boulder Book Store by Jesse Varner used under a Creative Commons license. Thanks to Richard Wheeler for the heads-up on the article.


I schlepped out to the 31st annual Paperback Collectors Show & Sale in Mission Hills as I do almost every year. It seemed to me that there were fewer dealers today than in years past and that the selection wasn't as good. Even so, I managed to find a few books I couldn't live without…

RATHER A VICIOUS GENTLEMAN, FOR MURDER I CHARGE MORE and OF ALL THE BLOODY CHEEK by Frank McAuliffe (and then discovered, when I got home, that I already had two of the books!)

TILL IT HURTS by Nick Quarry (Marvin Albert)

24 HOURS TO KILL by James McKimmey

HORSEMEN FROM HELL by Homer Hatten (whom I never of, I just liked the title and the jacket copy)

SOUND OF GUNFIRE by Frank Bonham

DEATHS LONG SHADOW by Jay Barbette (Bart Spicer)

There was a guy with a very bad toupee showing people pictures of his naked girlfriend — which I thought was strange until I overheard another guy, apparently in his late 50s, lamenting to a dealer that he wasn't buying as many books now that "he'd become a father for the first time late in life" and his new wife, "an ex-Playboy centerfold ten years younger than me," was demanding more of his attention. I walked away before he could whip out a nude photo of her, too. I don't carry around a nude photo of my wife to show people. In fact, I don't have any nude photos of her at all. I should discuss that with her tonight.