Category: POD publishing

Happy Third Anniversary!

Well, who would’ve guessed this blog would last as long as it has.  Or that this strange site would draw the kind of traffic it does, the responses (good, bad and incoherent).

I’ve met some smart, funny, terrific people, thanks to “Beautiful Desolation”, and it’s always a particular thrill to read a comment or receive an e-mail from one of you.  Writing is a lonely business and those missives, brief as they are, remind me why I keep putting pen to paper, year after year after year.   And let’s have a rousing cheer for the internet, without which none of this would be possible.  I mean, jeez, from halfway around the world you can wave or send regards or blow a kiss…or a raspberry (whatever floats your boat).

I spent perhaps an unhealthy amount of time trying to come up with ways to say “thanks” for your support and patronage for the past three years.  There are a good number of you who take great pains to keep in touch and pass the word to other folks out there who are fed up with the tepid fare offered by traditional publishing sources:  the books and magazines we buy and yawn our way through.

For the past six months or so the e-Reader crowd have been coming by in droves.  Welcome, welcome.  Dive right in and enjoy my stories, poems and radio dramas.  There are dozens of offerings on this site, hundreds of thousands of words.  Works that will astonish, amaze or, at least, entertain.  And it’s all FREE.  Download it, peruse it on your Kindles and iPads and Sonys (what the hell, a book is a book) and God bless ya.

I have to say there are certain, ah, special circumstances that give this anniversary more significance.

The impending release of my novel So Dark the Night is a super-big deal around Casa Burns.  The cover nears completion and then it’s a case of loading the book onto Lightning Source’s template, crossing our fingers…and zipping it off.  Looks like a late-April release.  Will give you a peek at the cover soon–it’s a beauty.  Wait’ll you see it, kids, it’ll knock your socks off.  Christ, I love this book.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m practically vibrating in anticipation.

2010 marks my 25th year as a professional writer.  That’s a helluva long time, a helluva lot of words on paper.  Too many to ponder without suffering some kind of brain seizure.  So we’ve got the third anniversary of the blog, my silver anniversary as an author and a new book coming out.  That’s gotta call for something a little something extra, a bonus item or two…

How about an hour of free music?  This is music I recorded with my iMac’s Garageband software.  Space tunes, all instrumentals, totally trippy and out there.  Some of my friends have downloaded these oddities on to their iPods or their computer hard drives.  Go for it.  Knock yourselves out.  And above all else, enjoy the music.  With my compliments and thanks.

I call my project Soundtrack For a Science Fiction Film Never Made and if you’d like to give it a listen, pop over to my “Audio” page, scroll down, past the spoken word section and you’re sure to find it.

Ah, but I’m not done.

I also want to unveil my new blog, Cinema Arrete.  After literature, film is my great passion and for ages I’ve wanted a site where I could talk about some of my favorites and steer people toward flicks that aren’t on prominent display at their neighborhood movie store.  I think that with places like YouTube now renting movies, there might be an increased demand and a wider assortment of movies to choose from–after all, cyberspace is like an endless virtual store and titles are always in stock.  It might be the perfect time to re-introduce film fans to the work of auteurs like Henri-Georges Clouzot and Carl Theodor Dreyer.

But it’s not just a one-way street.  I want cinephiles to steer me toward works and creative individuals that I’ve missed or neglected for some reason.  I want to re-watch classic movies, research them and write essays based on my impressions and speculations.  Sometimes I’ll re-examine a work and discover I’ve been dead wrong and will be forced to backtrack.  The downside of being an honest critic is that you have to learn to like the taste of crow.

My refusal to bestow any respect on CGI fests like “Avatar” and the latest comic book adaptation will enrage those of you who (shudder) go to movies purely for fun, for the eye candy and escapist fluff.  Sorry, if that’s the sum total of your aesthetic, Cinema Arete likely isn’t for you.

Pop over, give it a look-see and let me know what you think.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  I’m feeling kind of misty-eyed at the moment and it might be that extra shot or two of scotch I’ve had.  Or it could be an indication of emotions lurking closer to the surface than usual as I ponder this blog and what it has meant for my writing.  Most importantly, it’s given me access to you, o wise and discerning readers, a venue to display my odd wares.

Thanks so much for spending some of your precious time here.  Visiting and browsing this…repository of my poor words.

All apologies

I’ve been neglecting you.  But that’s a good thing.

Y’see, when I’m away from this blog for extended periods of time, that means I’m writing.  Deeply, intensively, happily immersed in some project that’s caught my fancy like a handful of shiny coins tossed into a monkey cage.  I live to work and while I enjoy posting on this blog, it’s not the kind of creative endeavor that fires my soul and gets the creative juices bubbling and steaming.

To catch you up on things:

My novel So Dark the Night moves ever closer to publication.  Yes, I mean an actual book.  I did a lot of research into the various print on demand outfits and decided to go with Lightning Source.  Their poor rep, Chris Thompson, put up with pages of questions and a couple of phone inquiries, often having to endure some crankiness from my end.  Usually it was because I’d misread some piece of info and assumed LS were over-charging for a service.  I’m naturally suspicious and sometimes equate print-on-demand with the bad old days of “vanity” publishers, who tried to bilk every last dime out of suckers.  But so far Lightning Source passes in the service and honesty departments with flying colours.  They offer a lower per book cost and at least the opportunity, a chance (however small) to break through into the retail marketplace.

The text is set (thank you, Sherron!) and the cover design is moving along.  We’re using the same Ado Ceric piece that we employed for the e-book.  The first time I saw the picture, I knew it was the one.  It’s going to look gorgeous reproduced on a fat 5.25″ X 8″  trade paperback.  Oh, yes…

We’re looking at a retail price of $17.95 which, I think, is reasonable and certainly in the range of other books similar in size and format.  Hoping for a release date in mid-late April and will post further on this point as publication nears.  Can’t tell you how thrilled I’ll be when the book arrives from Lightning Source, printed, bound and beautiful.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever written…and the hardest work I’ve ever done.  3+ years writing and editing.  And editing.  And editing

But it was worth it.

We’re coming up on the third anniversary of this blog—March 18th is the semi-official date of its inception. I usually have one or two little treats I dole out around that day and this year is no exception.  If you’re in the neighborhood mid-month, drop in for a visit.  I think you’ll find a few goodies and tidbits, a heartfelt “thank you” for your support and patronage.

I’ll say no more.

There are exciting times in the days and weeks ahead.  I’ll be sharing the highs (and lows) with you, continuing to depict, as authentically and truthfully as possible, the life of an indie writer in the 21st century.  It’s a hard row to hoe and the rewards are few and far between.  But it’s a life that allows me to work and exist in absolute freedom, beholden to no one but my Creator.

So what, exactly, do I have to bitch about?

“Flash” fiction: First writing of 2010

Never thought I’d say this but…

So Dark the Night is done.

Editing, polishing and buffing now complete.  After some proof-reading for typos and mis-spellings, it’s off to the printer in the form of a PDF and, hopefully, by early March we’ll have a physical book to offer you.  Really pleased with the changes I’ve made; I’ve tightened the novel considerably, lopped about 5 pages from its length.  Speeds up the pacing..the idea is to make the book impossible to put down.  And I think I’ve come pretty close to achieving that goal.

Can’t wait to see Ado Ceric’s gorgeous cover art on a trade paperback.  Hoping to keep the price around $17-18 max.  And, of course, we’ll still be offering the newly revamped So Dark the Night as a free e-book for those of you who have evolved and now do most of your reading from some kind of screen.  Judging by the number of downloads I’ve had over the past couple of weeks, I’d say a lot of folks received Kindles or other e-readers as Christmas gifts.  After all, what else do you give a discerning bibliophile (if you’ve got over $200 to spare)?

There will be more posts re: the release of So Dark the Night (the book) so stay tuned.

* * * * * *

In the meantime, idle hands and all that:  once I completed edits on the novel, I had some free time and indulged in some “automatic” writing.  This is what I came up with, my first fiction and verse of 2010:


Toxic Waste

A witch’s heart won’t burn, so what do you do with it?  It can’t be buried, its evil influence would still be felt, blighting crops, causing stillbirths.  To cast it into a well would poison the water for miles around.

No, best to keep the vile thing locked away.  In a lead-lined canister, sealed with wax, submerged in holy water.

And who better to steward the damned things than me?  Serving as an invaluable repository for witch-hunters desperate to dispose of something infernal, indestructible.  Making a pretty penny off it too, if I may say so.  Not many willing to do the work, to be honest.

It’s the shrieking and carrying on that’s the worst.  There are nights I have to stopper my ears. They never rest and they never stop yearning to be free.  From a hundred shelves, a thousand faceless jars.  Some of them claiming innocence, and they’re the most dangerous and insidious of all.

© Cliff Burns, 2010


Boxes

They have departed to the pleasure domes
abandoned their husks to decay

Meatless, eternal, every wish fulfilled.
Etheric couplings, satisfaction guaranteed;
high adventure, simulated to the last pixel
experience without significance,
vouchsafed by an overcautious A.I.

You can never die and so
you can never live
and virtual love is no love
at all

They can emulate everything except a soul
(but it’s only a matter of time)


© Cliff Burns, 2010

“So Dark the Night”–Progress Report

I fear my old friend Evgeny Nightstalk is getting more than a trifle cross with me.

He is, after all, the narrator and (ostensibly) author of So Dark the Night.  And he doesn’t take kindly to picky, petty-minded editors who go over his writing with the scrutiny of an electron microscope.

“Fer Chrissakes, pal,” he has snarled at me on numerous occasions, “every bloody word doesn’t have to be right.  This ain’t fuckin’ Shakespeare.”

I’ve been assigned to tighten the manuscript and while the job hasn’t been too demanding, the central figure in So Dark the Night has turned out to be prickly, opinionated and not afraid to use physical intimidation and force to get his way.  It has made for some uncomfortable moments.

I have tried to explain that a little tightening and paring is good for any work but he isn’t having any of it.  He insists I’m trying to put my own “stamp” on So Dark the Night and will clean up his hard-boiled prose to the extent where it’s no longer recognizably his.

It’s a ticklish point.  As editor, it is part of my duty to retain Nightstalk’s unique syntax and word choice and I must even do my best to tolerate his (in my view) overuse of similes (I detest similes, they’re usually employed in such a lazy and facile manner).  But there are certain rules of grammar that must apply.  For instance, I have tried to clean up his propensity for infinitives (split or otherwise)–

“What the hell are they?” Nightstalk snarls.

–the prepositions he’s prone to leave dangling everywhere, the strange subordinate clauses, the exposition–

“Aw, bullshit,” is his only rejoinder.

Honestly, the fellow wouldn’t know a gerund from a–

Careful,” he warns, his fists clenching.

You see what I have to deal with.

For a good idea of his temperament and the aura of violence Evgeny projects, I suggest you check out Bob Hoskins’ performance in the greatest Brit gangster movie ever, “The Long Good Friday”.  All through the movie, Hoskins behaves like a bombshell about to go off.  Evgeny gives that same impression.

We’ve been working on final revisions for just over a month now and I must say our relationship shows little signs of improving.  I’m very much into precision:  the exact right word in the exact right place at the exact right time.  Evegeny is looking more for an overall effect:  he recreates a scene to the best of his recollection, with all of the literary ability he possesses…and for him that’s good enough.  He has read a great many (too many!) pulp writers and is aware of how fast and prolific those individuals were, churning out material at a remarkable rate.  I recoil when he draws such parallels, since I have high hopes that So Dark the Night has more literary merit than the vast majority of tales hacked out by mercenary-minded wordsmiths and Grub Street types.

Still, we shall have to find a happy medium, for the sake of Nightstalk’s peace of mind and my physical safety.  Likely about another ten days work left so it’s simply a case of trying to get along and come up with a completed effort that is exciting, literate, funny, engrossing; a book that is a pleasure and joy to read.  I’m confident we’re close to reaching that point and that if we keep cool heads and open minds, we can finish this book with the minimum of bad feelings (and bloodshed).

That said, I’ve recently upgraded my Blue Cross medical coverage.

Just in case.

Revisiting “So Dark the Night”

Thought I’d better pop in with an update, let you know what I’ve been working on in my little office at the top of the stairs.

Editing, mostly, with a little bit of music and sports talk radio to help ease the pain.  Aw, it hasn’t been so bad.  I’ll admit to experiencing a lot of trepidation when I decided to give my novel So Dark the Night another run-through before I published it as a print-on-demand book next year.  I posted it on this blog two years ago and since then have received numerous requests from readers that I release a “dead tree” edition of my supernatural thriller (and I do try to please my readers).  Probably a smart idea:  between this site and Scribd, So Dark has been downloaded at least a couple thousand times…a situation that pleases me beyond measure.

But I was worried that the interval of two years would rub some of the lustre off the book, reveal flaws, expose slipshod writing.  Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case.  The changes I’m making are cosmetic and are mainly due to how hard I was bearing down as I completed my final edits.  I had been at work on So Dark the Night for three years and I wanted to make sure it was exactly right.  I think it seems too tight in places and I am trying to loosen it up a tad, enhance Nightstalk’s narrative voice.

I’ve given myself a some firm deadlines to have this manuscript polished up and the book released by a certain date (more on that later).  Delighted that the book is holding together very well (thus far) and that my faith in it, my love of the two central characters, is more than justified.

I’m also pleased that both my cover artists, Ado Ceric and Adrian Donoghue, have agreed to allow me to use their art when I release So Dark the Night and Of the Night in 2010 (likely through Lulu.com).  The books have each been assigned ISBNs and we’ll soon finalize cover design and jacket copy.  Feels good to be an indie publisher again–it’s been more than ten years since we released The Reality Machine and that’s too long.  Gotta make up for lost time.

Stay tuned.  2010 is gonna be a busy year.  Gotta celebrate my 25th year as a professional writer in style.

Break out the bubbly, string up a pinata…hell, folks, let’s have ourselves a party!

A Few Quick Notes…

So Dark coverFirst, let me give a quick plug to a new site devoted to writers and writing.  I received a note from one of the administrators and after making sure they were legit and not just a money grab directed at desperate, wannabe writers, I promised them I’d drop a word in my next post.

Lit Drift looks smart and hip and whoever designed their site did a smashing job; appearance-wise it’s one of the best author-oriented venues I’ve come across on the web.  Their only revenue is derived from advertising and they don’t promote any specific print-on-demand outfit or offer editorial services at ridiculously inflated prices.  I say pop over and see what they’re up to; I like the way they operate.  And if you need further convincing, they give away free books every Friday and darn good ones at that.

Another thing I want to bring up is the possibility that I may offer both my novels, So Dark the Night and Of the Night through Lulu.com.  My pal Ian Sales (watch for him, he’s gonna be a superstar on the Brit sci fi scene) has worked with them and approves of their bare bones approach to publishing.  The author presents his/her manuscript and they print copies as each new order is received.  No overhead, no piles of books moldering in a warehouse somewhere.  Traditional publishers take note.

There’s a bit of a process that goes along with this decision, including revising the manuscripts and making sure they’re basically typeset and ready for printing, clearing up a few typos folks have pointed out to me, polishing them to an even brighter sheen.   I’ll also have to secure permissions from the artists who provided me with such wonderful covers and prepare some jacket copy and…

You get the idea.

of-night-final2Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts–how many of you would be interested in securing copies of the two books?  So Dark the Night, because it clocks in at around 400 pages, will likely retail around $18-20 and Of the Night in the $14-16 range.  That’s an estimation but likely pretty close to how it will end up.

And, finally, I wanted to tell you how much I’ve been enjoying mucking about with Garageband, the music program that came with my iMac.  Folks, I have been making some lovely music, a series of atmospheric pieces, instrumentals ranging from cool ambient tones to rockin’ riffs.  I’ve recorded about seven or eight minutes so far, often so immersed in a piece that an entire afternoon will be gobbled up and I won’t realize how much time has elapsed until I hear the boys downstairs, home from school.

I’ll be adding the best bits to the blog later on–it’s a thrill to have another mode of expression open to me.

Enough for now.  More promo work to do today (the burden of an indie artist) and then, hopefully, a couple of hours of Garageband later on.  Getting lots of hits on the stories I recorded and posted last week so I guess folks are enjoying them.  There will be more to come soon.  Just keep tuning in…

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Culling the Herd, Improving the Breed

marineI’ve been accused of lacking a certain amount of, well, esprit de corps when it comes to the plight of my colleagues in publishing. These are not the best of times for people in the biz: staffs are being cut, longtime employees dismissed, whole divisions lopped off in response to plunging book sales and evaporating profit margins.

But rather than commiserating with the editors and book folk who have been handed their walking papers, my reactions have been cold-blooded, remorseless and decidedly ungenerous. Why?

Try to see it from my point of view: these people have failed. They have failed to excite the reading public, they have failed to choose and promote books that appeal to the tastes of their purported readership. Their gross ineptitude has led to their bosses absorbing big financial losses and, quite understandably, looking to clean house. Honestly, why should we care if they’re called to account for their incompetence, summoned into an office and given ten minutes to collect their name plates and personalized coffee mugs and get the hell out of Dodge?

shame

Is jetissoning them any great loss? Are they irreplaceable? Tireless advocates of excellence in literature and the power and glory of the printed word? Not in my experience.

Don’t forget, I’ve dealt with publishing types for nearly twenty-five years and I have all too frequently found myself on the receiving end of their stupidity and outright dishonesty. When I think of editors and those who serve with them as cogs in the corporate publishing mega-monster, I’m not exactly overwhelmed by warm, fuzzy feelings.

Occasionally, as I read the latest casualty rolls in some industry mouthpiece like MediaBistro’s “Galleycat” site, certain names make me perk up. ____________ and _____________ (names removed for legal reasons) were both editors at major New York publishing houses who were given the boot within a few months of each other.

kidAnd in each case I cheered. Schadenfreude. It’s a bitch.

The two editors treated me abominably, hanging onto my manuscripts for ungodly periods of time, refusing to respond to my communications. In desperation, I finally called one and at first the editor in question seemed genuinely contrite. “Oh, God, yes, I remember liking that one. I’ll get to you next week”. But a week passed and then a month…and when I called a second time, I was given a rude brush-off.

I’ll get to it when I get to it, all right?”

Never heard from her again.

I’ve detailed my many odd and surreal experiences in the world of publishing in my essay “Solace of Fortitude”. Not a word of it is manufactured or exaggerated, I assure you. I only wish that were the case. (Warning: This essay not to be read on a full stomach.)

The truth is that in my quarter century as a professional author I can count the number of intelligent and thoughtful editors I’ve encountered on the fingers of one hand (sans thumb). Ditto for agents.

So why in the name of eternal, infinite God should I give a tinker’s damn if, as a species, editors cease to exist? Should I wear a black armband because the same people who have mistreated me, lied to me and denigrated my work are dangling from every lamp post in lower Manhattan? Fat chance.

old womanTo me, all this downsizing is a golden opportunity to pare away some of the dead wood that the industry has been carrying far too long. Editors and execs who have grown old, fat, stale and comfortable in their corner offices, as secure as tenured professors (and just as paranoid and senile). Insular, self-serving, fickle. Highly resistant to change. Time for some new blood, I say, new ideas and approaches.

Traditional publishing seems to be dead, so to me the obvious question that arises is: WHAT NEXT?

Clearly the corporate approach ain’t the answer. Publishing by committee, collating and analyzing spreadsheets, projected sales figures, flow charts and pie graphs. Slitting open a sheep for good measure and rooting about in its entrails for any insights that might be gleaned there. Always on the look-out for the next blockbuster, something sort of different but mainly the same. But while the big ticket scribblers like Rowling and Dan Brown may plump up the sales numbers for a few quarters, what are editors/publishers doing to grow and sustain a stable, longterm readership? Maintaining a lifetime consumer base that’s literate (something less and less important in these days of text messaging, emoticons and three line e-mails) and devoted to the printed word, unwilling to see books relegated to the status of artifacts and curios.

ancient

The way ahead lies with smaller, tightly run publishing concerns, staffed by informed, dedicated, reader-savvy men and women. Independent in spirit, offering a more diverse, iconoclastic selection of titles thanks to the wonders of print-on-demand (POD) publishing and e-book hard/software. Works which are then promoted through podcasts, blog reviews and on-line interviews, “virtual” book tours. Live “web chats”; YouTube readings and short films.

Computer technology also enables readers to connect directly with their favorite authors through personal sites, Facebook, etc., as well as allowing them to join forums devoted to writers or genres of interest. Forming a vast, far-reaching community of book-lovers and devotees, unimpeded by geographic boundaries and undeterred by small details like race, politics, gender.

earthReaders without borders.

The end of corporate publishing is nigh. The signs are all there. The multi-nationals are fed up with the red ink their book divisions keep hemorrhaging. First they went at the fat with scalpels, now they’re using machetes. Desperate tactics enacted by desperate people…and I suspect it won’t make one bit of difference. The die has been cast and nothing the suits do will have the slightest effect on the massive changes technology is bringing about and a paradigm shift that is part cultural, part economic and wholly beyond the control of Wall Street, Fleet Street…or anywhere else.

These are actually great times to be a writer, or, really, anyone who works and creates in the arts. Never before have we, as artists, had access to (potentially) such a vast audience, drawn from every corner of the world. And the good news is that we can acquire this access for a relatively modest investment. No longer do writers (for example) need to kowtow to the traditional gate-keepers of publishing, the editors and agents who are largely to blame for the present moribund state of the industry. Those self-appointed arbiters of taste have been rendered superfluous, shown to be incapable of identifying or developing authors gifted with originality, power and grace—the very qualities that get people excited about reading again.

It’s my personal belief that a good deal more publishing poobahs need to have their tickets punched before authors and the general reading public have any hope of being better-served. And if the end result of these lay-offs and staff reductions is better books, a wider selection and variety of formats for readers to choose from, more authors having their voices heard, I say:

HASTA LA VISTA, YOU WHITE COLLAR, SELF-REGARDING, MARTINI-GUZZLING, TOFU-EATING, FAKE-MEMOIR-SOPHIE KINSELLA-PIMPING IDJITS! AND GOOD RIDDANCE, TOO…

yours

Preserving the Future: A Modest Proposal

glove2My wife Sherron has thrown down the gauntlet.

The other night she told me:  “Listen, you’ve had your fun insulting editors and publishers, belittling their intelligence, always going after them.  Now, how about something constructive?  You’ve got ideas on how to improve things and make the system run better so let’s hear them, wise guy.”

Right.  Here goes.

First of all, it must be acknowledged that, by any standards, the corporate book publishing  model has been a complete failure.  Publishers are losing money, cutting staff, consolidating…and book sales have taken a big dip (according to one stat I saw on Mediabistro, down a whopping 13% in November, 2008 from the previous year).

And this notion that there are editors out there with the wisdom and far-sightedness of Solomon, who are somehow able to identify and manufacture the next monster bestseller is a complete fallacy.  Moronic, in fact.  Has no basis in reality whatsoever.  Look at what happened to Andrew Davidson (author of Gargoyle; Random House); guy gets a hefty advance, the book is promoted up the yin-yang…and it barely makes a ripple.  Certainly no threat to becoming the next Da Vinci Code, right?

lusiYou can’t pie chart a bestseller, you can’t graph which book is going to break through big time–and which ones are going to flounder and sink like the Lusitania.  Please recall that the enormous, worldwide success of J.K. Rowling resulted, largely, from strong word of mouth, parents passing along copies and recommendations of The Philosopher’s Stone until a genuine groundswell was created.

You can’t consistently create a bestseller but what you can do is use the new technologies out there so that, as a publisher, all your eggs aren’t crammed into one basket.  Changing the metaphor, why settle for the equivalent of a single shot, old style flintlock, when POD offers you the opportunity to wield a state of the art shotgun?

Print-on-demand (POD) gives you that capability.  Unlike the old, offset press method of publishing, POD is flexible, far less time-consuming and energy intensive and cheap to boot.  You can print as many copies of a particular title as you want, from 1…to ten million.

Instead of throwing big dough at a title/author that is, by no means, a sure thing, why not spread that loot around a little?  Rather than sign up five authors at a million plus each, why not give 100 writers a chance, paying them smaller upfront fees but rewarding them with a  higher royalty rate.  That payment regimen has worked with small and indie presses for years–and, believe me, you’ll be astonished at how little an author will accept in their desperation to get a book in print.  It’s depressing, really.  Pathetic.

Ah…sorry.  Wandered off topic.  Where was I?

Okay, now you’ve got 100 different authors with a hundred different books, 95 more opportunities to find the next Steve King than you had under your stupid corporate model.   And you don’t give your 100 hopefuls ridiculous print runs, you start modestly.  That way you won’t be stuck with massive returns, which then have to be remaindered, warehoused and pulped, more money down the drain.

paper

You can print as few as  500 or 1,000 copies per author and then emulate what the movie companies do when they offer films as limited releases, to gauge audience reactions and get some idea as to a project’s potential appeal.

Thinking along the same lines, publishers could send out review copies to newspapers, magazines and bloggers and, simultaneously, “test market” books in selected stores (or by offering them as downloads through e-Readers like Kindle et all).  Let the readers and the book-lovers determine which authors have wider appeal and then do another, larger printing to meet the demand (the author happily cashing in at the higher royalty rate).

Some might opine that under a royalty-based system the publisher would be tempted to cheat, since they’re the ones controlling the books.  I would argue that Bookscan and related technologies, as well as computerized inventories and the publishers’ selfish desire for authors to score a hit and sell a gazillion books makes the possibility of fraud quite remote.

axWhat I like about this system is that it allows a wider array of authors to develop a following, while not feeling the pressure of a big money contract hanging over them.  The risks are shared between the writer and the publisher…and as far as I can tell the whole thing seems like  a win-win scenario.

Corporate publishers have been slow out of the blocks when it comes to new technologies, especially POD.  Instead of utilizing  POD as I have suggested, some in the industry have chosen a more short-sighted and morally questionable approach.  In my view, they’re misusing POD by going after relatively small peanuts, offering print-on-demand services to aspiring and amateur scribblers who have yet to make the grade, encouraging them to sign up and print their own books.  Oh, and, let us not forget, that means said scribblers have to sell and distribute their own books.  The big boys deigning to offer no other assistance, content to serve as a glorified copy shop for dingbats desperate for a for-real-and-true book to wave in front of their friends (“See?  See?  Told ya I was a writer!”).

But I have my doubts these tactics will work.  Writers, as a rule, tend not be be made of money so you can only milk that teat so long.  Besides,  iUniverse and Lulu have been around a lot longer and have seized a sizable slice of the market share.  But it’s an enticing proposition, turning the old regime on its ear:   writers paying publishers, rather than vice versa.  Zowie!  And if there are enough stupid, starry-eyed authors out there, who knows?  Those rotten bastards could stand to rake in a nice stipend.

But those same publishers could make a helluva lot more if they abandoned their home run/big book mentality and settled for hitting singles and doubles for awhile…especially in these precipitous economic times.

boxI’m not saying my business strategy is completely original or perfect and if you have any thoughts on its weaknesses, how it could be improved, drop a line or two in the “Comments” box below.

Let’s see if we can put our heads together as bibliophiles and devotees of the printed word  and save publishing from the worst aspects of itself.

If it means a wider, more diverse cross-section of authors make it into print, having more books out there, more choices for readers, our efforts will be worth it.

Hey, you suits  in New York and Toronto!  Are you listening?

What do you say?

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Publishing Renaissance (New Blog!)

Here’s a link to a new site devoted to indie writing and publishing.  I wanted to show my support so I wrote a “guest” editorial and Zoe’s just posted it.

Pop by Zoe’s joint and show your support for writing that veers from the mainstream and presents readers with original, challenging work. I predict very soon it will be the place to go to for authors seeking alternatives to traditional publishing venues and information on the exciting new technologies that put control over their writing/careers back into authors’ hands.

Publishing Renaissance will be an invaluable resource to writers and readers and I can’t praise Zoe’s efforts and energy enough.

Good luck, kid…

Once More Into the Breech

“I have no desires, save the desire to express myself in defiance of all the world’s muteness.”

-Vladimir Nabokov

 

Sorry, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Well, the news is good: I’ve finally summoned the nerve to start a new, long project and have completed an outline/first draft in just over two weeks. About 150 pages, partly typed, mainly handwritten. Raw footage. Tuneless, inconsistent, fraught with continuity errors. Really quite dreadful…

I’ll take it. Whatever form it’s in, I’ll take it. Anything is better than the alternative.

Previous postings have alluded to my confidence problems resulting from the overwhelming lack of success I had peddling my last attempt at a novel, So Dark the Night. When you spend three years on a project, beating the shit out of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually and said manuscript goes absolutely fucking nowhere…well, it can dampen your enthusiasm for attempting anything similar for a long time.

Candidly, this is actually the second full-length project I’ve taken a crack at since So Dark the Night. I wrote the first draft of a SF tale set two or three thousand years in the future, completing it…hmmm, I think it was last November. About 180 typed pages but…again, the confidence thing. After I finished typing it in, I started second-guessing myself: is it good enough? More to the point, is it worth spending a year to eighteen months researching and writing a decent draft? And even if I do write something that verges on the terrific, what chance do I have of seeing it published?

So the SF project was shelved. Not for good, there are some neat ideas and an intriguing central concept but…for now.

This new manuscript falls more into the horror category but you’ll excuse me if I don’t disclose any particulars as to its plot, characters, etc. It’s not that I’m overly worried about someone ripping me off, it’s just that I have a superstitious reluctance to talk about a project until I’m very close to finishing it. I recall a story I once heard about the great Civil War historian, Shelby Foote. For years he claimed to be gathering material for a book, rhapsodizing to friends about it, providing a surfeit of details including character summaries, etc. When Foote died, archivists looking through the voluminous amount of boxes and files he left behind couldn’t find the slightest trace of Foote’s big book.

The lesson here: don’t talk about writing something, DO it.

So I don’t usually talk about a story or poem or novel that’s in-progress. Not to you, not to my wife, not to anybody. Sherron knows nothing about this horror book I’ve got going, not even the title. The only thing I’ve told her is the page count.

I am determined that this new work will not go the same way as the SF manuscript. I’m going to find the courage and inner strength to nail this fucker. Because while I’ve been nursing my wounds and feeling sorry for myself, less talented authors, hacks and wannabes have been tapping away, foisting their horrible shit onto unwary readers.

Why should I withdraw, leaving the field to these no-talent, feeble-minded, derivative shitheads?

Last night I read an interview with Will Self, maybe one of the five or ten best writers in England. During his chat with Rick Moody (in Tin House #28), Self, not a big fan of the internet and new technologies, made the following observation:

I do think electronic publishing is likely to further subvert the print media in the next few years, but I’ve no doubt that the medium isn’t altogether the message. Simply because there’s another way of making views known, it doesn’t mean that good style, research, or engaging opinions aren’t required. There’s an aspect of the internet forums that presupposes—and enacts!—that old canard that everyone has a novel in him. I don’t think everyone does at all—and the Net is a medium which unfortunately makes it easier for those who have bad novels and miscellaneous other screeds to get them out.”

God, bless ya, Will. I’ve said much the same in various forums, including a LibraryThing chat group made up of writers-readers and was labeled an “elitist”, a “snob”, etc. etc. A glance at the profiles of those who cried foul revealed that few of them had anything close to professional qualifications. As I remarked to my colleague John Sunseri, “there seems to be a fuck of a lot more readers in this group than actual writers”.

Listen you wannabe cocksuckers: you’re not writers until you’ve paid your dues. That means writing every single day of your life, perfecting your craft, working your ass off. You are not a writer if you once scribbled a poem about your dying grandfather or make occasional journal entries about how no one understands you, boo-fucking-hoo.

I claim the honorific as writer because despite the pain and rejection, I still pick up my pen or sit before this keyboard and do the job. Every day, rain or shine, sickness and health, wherever I am. Got that? If you aren’t doing the same and try to claim the same status as me, you are a poseur and a fake. Go fuck yourself. The people at iUniverse and all those other POD publishers will be happy to take your money and give you the illusion that you’re really something special. If you gits are the future of publishing, then God help us all.

So I shall go on, in defiance of failure and discouragement, despite editors with double digit IQ’s and readers who anxiously await Dan Brown’s followup to The DaVinci Code. I’ll write ’til my fingers break, my back gives out and the spirit leaves my body. They’ll have to pry my Ticonderoga “Executive” pen (with the thick, light barrel I prefer) out of my clawed hand.

I’ve been banging about for over 20 years now and I just don’t see surrender as an option. There’s something inside me that rebels at the notion of giving up. Especially when I know that I have more talent that 98% of the scribblers out there. What has hurt me is my refusal to compromise, my refusal to cede final say over my work to an editor who needs to write L and R on their shoes to figure out which foot goes where.

Does that sound harsh? Let me tell you something else: you may see some writers who thank editors on the acknowledgments page of their books but I guarantee you that in most cases the writer is simply reflecting his/her relief at finally seeing their book in print. The writers I know detest their publishers and denigrate their editors but if sucking up to them is what’s required to get their book out there, fuck it.

Editors today don’t have the status or intelligence or erudition of someone like Maxwell Perkins and they certainly would have little truck with Michael Korda who once said that the greatest lesson he learned as an editor was to leave writers alone and not interfere with their work.

As for genre editors…well, I’ve met more intelligent marsupials. They aren’t well-read, have no aesthetic sensibilities and possess the social skills of those inbred Appalachians in “Deliverance” (the only difference is, editors have slightly better teeth).

All right. Enough. This will have to suffice for the next couple of weeks as I bend my brain on—shit, I almost gave away the title. Clever buggers, aren’t you? I’ll pop back in for the occasional progress report and to whinge about how hard I’m working. In the meantime, I’ll gratefully accept any and all the good vibes and prayers you send my way.

Believe me, I’ll need all the help I can get…

 

Update:

* Our little hedgehog Promaia continues to hang in there. Part of her problem may be that she (like yours truly) has obsessive- compulsive tendencies. We switched her to a water bottle some months back and she drank and drank constantly…to the point that her bladder distended and that might be the cause for her swelling and not, as the vet initially suggested, a tumour. We’re cutting back her water, only giving it to her at night; we’ll see what happens.

** Nothing new to report on the movie front. As far as I know, “Kept” is in pre-production but whether or not it will ever go before the cameras…er, well, that’s why I insisted on a 2-year limit for the option. If filming hasn’t started by then, I keep the dough and all rights revert back to me.

*** And, finally, a tip of the hat to all you folks who have sought out this site and come in for a look. I should receive my 10,000th “hit” in the next 20 days or so and that completely blows me away. When Sherron talked me into starting “Beautiful Desolation” seven months ago, I didn’t imagine numbers anything close to that. Thanks for coming by and for the comments (good or bad). I hope I’ll continue to provide you with posts that amuse, disturb and annoy. I promised myself when I started this I’d never bore you and I’d like to think I’ve kept my word.