Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wow, Thank You!

Evidently, a few people have been buying the book. If you sort "American Poetry" on Smashwords by "Most Downloads" - well, okay, mine isn't the most downloaded. Not even close. It's found on page 16 out of 24. But it's found on page 16 out of 24. How cool is that? It's not on page 24, which means a few people, at least, must have downloaded it.

And though the listing has no reviews, the Barnes and Noble page for the book has that wonderful little box with sales suggestions that says "Customers who bought this also bought..." My loving husband wondered aloud if perhaps Barnes and Noble attaches related suggestions to all books regardless of sales; I was happy to poke around and discover that, no, Barnes and Noble does not attach suggestions to all books. So what were those books purchased by the customer or customers who bought my book? Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. As the assistant editor-in-chief at my day job said, "fine company indeed."

So to all of you who have made this so very, very exciting and validating for me, thank you - a hundred thousand thank yous. You are the best!

Update 12/23/2010: My book actually inched its way up to the middle of page 10 of the American poetry "Most Downloads" queue (again - thank you!), but it looks as though it's now creeping back down. For some reason, the book seems to be doing quite a bit better on Smashwords than Amazon. My husband's theory is that Smashwords, being smaller, is easier to browse. Makes sense to me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Posts about Publishing

Just to Clarify

It occurs to me that my post titled "Frenemies and Technology" might be viewed by some as a condemnation of self publishing. That is not the case.

Self publishing or vanity publishing is ideal in certain situations. If you are an expert in a specialized field, it might be the right choice; the market for books in your field might be sufficiently small to make finding a publisher willing to publish even a very worthy book almost impossible.

If you write a memoir or family history meant to be enjoyed primarily by family and friends, self or vanity publishing can be a good way to go.

And yes, if you are a poet, self publishing might be for you. Poetry markets are small; markets for chapbooks and full collections, even smaller. Paying a few dollars to create your own chapbooks and pass them out or sell them at readings can be an excellent way to introduce and disseminate your work to the public.

If you write fiction, self or vanity publishing is not the way to go if you have no publication credits and want the work you are thinking of publishing to be considered by a journal, magazine, or book editor. [Edit 12/01/10: I'd like to reiterate that I am referring here only to fiction writers who desire to build publication credits elsewhere and have not yet begun to do so. Many authors are quite happy to self publish knowing that by doing so, they severely curtail their chances of having their work picked up by other outlets. And many other writers, once the rights have reverted to them, self publish work that was originally published elsewhere.] Even though we all know that the literary cream does not always rise to the top of the slush pile, most of us also realize that, with enough effort and perseverance on the part of an author, it rises high enough to find placement most of the time. It rises often enough, and bad fiction writers self publish bad fiction often enough, to make generalizations useful guidelines for overworked editors. Simply put, editors don't have the time to hope your self-published novel will be the one that defies stereotype.

And if your self-published book does defy stereotype, editors and agents expect to see that in its sales figures. This may not be fair; after all, how many individuals have the money needed to properly market a book into quadruple-digit sales? Not many. But fair isn't the issue here. Reality is.

I myself have never self published. That isn't because I think self publishing is inherently wrong, but because self publishing would not have been useful to me.

I've spent a lot of my adult life in small towns, and most of the readings I've attended have also been in small towns and have attracted mainly those in the local artists' communities. I would have felt as though I was being exceedingly pretentious had I tried to market my work to an audience that was essentially made up of my friends and peers.

In addition, once a self-published poem hits the public, whether printed on paper or made available online, it won't be published in a periodical unless its author becomes massively famous. Really, it won't. What editor wants to buy old work that has already been made available to the public at a fraction of the cost of whatever magazine or journal to which the work has been submitted? A published poem can sometimes be included as part of a contest-entry collection, but not always. It can certainly be included as part of a full collection outside the realm of contests, but it generally takes a long time to get a full collection published. I've been writing for about ten years, and I've only just now gotten my first collection published, and that is with a small, independent publisher.

It was far more important to me personally to build up a number of journal credits. There may not be much stigma attached to self publishing poetry, but no editor in his or her right mind is actually going to be impressed by a self-published chapbook. Of course you think your work is good - does anyone else? Editors, as much as they say they are not swayed by publication credits, sometimes are. They are only human, after all, and it makes perfect sense for them to read your work a little more closely if other editors have looked at your work and judged it worthy.

So self or vanity publishing is not for me. But it might be for you.

A Few Tips That Seem Obvious but Evidently Aren't

On more than one occasion, I've told friends and family how tiresome I find blogs about writing that are written by writers. Especially blogs about writing by writers who aren't particularly successful. And hey, I can face it - I'm not particularly successful. Don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled beyond belief to have a book out, and just as thrilled (if not more so) that I've sold a few copies. But those sales aren't going to pay the rent, and though my name is quite Googlable if you include the middle initial, there aren't too many people who know my name, so why would they bother to Google it?

So my general policy has been to avoid writing about writing. To a small degree, I broke my own policy in the entry above and in the post that inspired it; I'm definitely going to break it to a larger degree now. I beg your indulgence and offer up the feeble defense for both that writing about publishing isn't exactly the same as writing about writing (hey, I said it was weak).

But there are a couple of scams that never seem to die, and it bothers me to see people still taken in by con artists. I have to do my small part to spread the word about these thieves.

Back-end vanity publishing. Not all vanity-publishing outfits are scams, not by a long shot. But many are. Some dress themselves up as legitimate, royalty-paying publishers. They don't charge upfront fees and they do offer royalties. However, legitimate booksellers are loath to sell books from these publishers. That's because the booksellers are familiar with such fraudsters' liberal acceptance policies (just so we're clear, by "liberal acceptance policies" I mean these companies will accept anything). The reason these publishers will accept any old dreck is that they require their authors to purchase minimum numbers of copies of their own books. The books are, of course, priced exorbitantly high (even taking into account author discounts), making it unlikely that the companies will profit from any customers other than their authors. Vanity publishers that masquerade as royalty-paying publishers also often upsell their clients editing services and publicity packages, most nearly as worthless as the publication credits themselves. Real royalty-paying publishers invest in their authors; they do not ask their authors to invest in them.

Many other vanity publishing outfits are not scams but are just bad deals, charging far more than other business that provide the same services.

Bottom line: Read as much as you can about a publisher's policies, read all contracts carefully, and shop around.

Charlatan literary agents. Some "agents" charge fees to represent their clients. An agent who charges you money is one who can't get your work seen. Legitimate agents never charge fees, not for anything, even initial assessments. They make money when their clients make money, and each potential client is a potential percentage of their mortgage; if they are good at what they do, they don't need to take money from hopeful writers. Like charlatan publishers, charlatan agents often sell shoddy, overpriced editing services and the like.

Bottom line: If an agent quotes you a price for anything, walk away.

The Absolute Write Water Cooler has an excellent message board dedicated to vetting publishers and agents, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has created two lists it would behoove any writer to check out, its Writer Beware's "Two Thumbs Down" Publishers List, on the Writer Beware blog, and its Thumbs Down Agency List, on the Writer Beware portion of the SFWA website itself.

I hope this helps.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Print Book Links

The Amazon link to Angst, Anger, Love, Hope.

The publisher's link.

Note: You'll save money if you buy through the publisher. However, though JMS Books LLC publishes work from a variety of genres, it specializes in gay erotic and romantic fiction. You may want to limit your browsing if you are not comfortable with such work. Conversely, if you enjoy those genres, you might want to spend some time checking out the catalog. J.M. Snyder herself is thought to be one of the best writers in the field, and she publishes only other talented writers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Frenemies and Technology

The Amazon link to the print version of Angst, Anger, Love, Hope is now available. (Let me digress a moment to say, "Cool!") However, the publisher is listed as CreateSpace. I have one or two perpetually jealous acquaintances who will no doubt do a little happy dance upon seeing this. "I knew it!" one or the other may say. "CreateSpace is a self publisher! I knew she didn't really get a book deal!"

Please allow me the satisfaction of explaining just how wrong my imaginary friends are. (Er, um - that's not quite what I meant, but you get the idea.)

Print on demand. It's a dirty phrase in the publishing world. Sometimes. Or used to be. Or was it ever?

Generally speaking, print on demand refers the technique of printing one copy of a book at a time. Print-on-demand publishing, also known as POD publishing, reduces costs for the publisher because a publisher who engages in it does not have to pay up-front printing costs or any storage costs. Usually a publisher who engages in POD publishing will outsource its printing.

Because of its obvious benefits, print-on-demand technology is ideal for self- and vanity-publishing ventures. And therein lies the stigma; in the publishing industry, print on demand when used to self publish or vanity publish has become known as publish on demand, also known as POD. Essentially, if an author pays enough money, an author gets published. Print-on-demand technology, as used by publish-on-demand companies, has made becoming a "published" author easy peasy.

But it's a mistake to think that an author whose publisher uses print-on-demand technology has done anything less than pay his or her writing dues in full. There is a tremendous difference between a company's use of POD technology as a cost-effective business option and a writer's use of it to self or vanity publish. In the first instance, the author of the book being printed submitted the work to a publisher; the work then had to pass an approval process, not the least of which included the publisher's affirmative decision about the wisdom of making a financial investment in the product. (Because, sad as it might make us, books are indeed products and publishers and booksellers sell them in order to make profits.) Although the author surely invested time and hard work in the book, it is the publisher who invested money. In the second instance, the author used his or her own money to buy a service. Period.

Several companies provide POD services to both companies and individuals. CreateSpace, owned by Amazon, is one such company. Although CreateSpace is listed as the publisher of the Amazon print edition of the book, that is only because JMS Books LLC contracted with CreateSpace in order to make the book available on Amazon. JMS Books LLC owns the ISBN number it assigned to my book and has its own imprint, and my book is available to brick-and-mortar bookstores through reputable distributors. (Whether such stores will have space on their shelves for an unknown poet is another matter.)

I am in no way self published or vanity published. I have not spent a dime to see my book in print or to promote it, nor will I ever be asked to do so.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oooh, I Have Links Now!

The ebook will be available from the publisher, JMS Books LLC, on Sunday, Nov. 14, at 20% off the list price of $4.99. [Edit 11/24/10: I should have added that this discount was available the first week of sales only, which means that as of Nov. 21, the discount was no longer available.]

It is also available now on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Barnes and Noble website.

Please check out the excerpt on Smashwords; it includes several poems that do not appear here or on the publisher's website.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Third Excerpt

Then, Now

I did not have a bathtub,
and I gripped hope in both my fists
and prayed for it to leave.

I had a shower door waterproofed with duct tape.

I teetered to work on high heels, dodging dog poop
that sat on ice-covered sidewalks between
narrow channels of snow.

I worked behind a counter.
Customers cursed and shouted at me and
made it clear
they did not trust my competence.
I was lower class, you know.

I gripped hope with both my fists and
prayed for it to leave.

I have a bathtub now.
I try to relax in deep, hot water,
but I need silence and
the drain has a minor leak.
I have a tub, and that is good, but
I go mad.

I have a car. It shakes and
knocks always, and
dies when I step on the brakes.
I have a car, and that is good, but I
am always afraid I may not.

I work behind a desk now, quietly
and at my own pace.
My own pace is never fast enough,
and though I know my field better
than anyone,
it is the woman who's been here longer that people go to
for answers.
Her answers always supersede my own,
even on my projects.
I do not work behind a counter, and that is good, but
though I am not lower class anymore,
I am still second class.

Every improvement in circumstance is real
and good,
and I am grateful.
Grateful even as I am angry,
grateful even as I scourge myself for
my ingratitude.

I know even as I question, question it that
I am not that bitter crackpot happiest when miserable.
I know this, know it, know it.

Yet I am bitter.

I grip hope in both my fists.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Second Excerpt

Theatre Sonnet

"Take off your shoes, for you’re on holy ground."
It’s land I haven’t seen for many years.
I kneel, a penitent with grateful fears.
I cling to sanctuary that I’ve found.
I hug the floor; the temple’s spun around.
It’s oh, so clear that some temptation nears.
My prayers grow louder as the longing rears.
I may be facing west; I’m sure I’m bound.

I dreamed that on this ground you took my hand.
And bid me wait and left my nerves to thrash.
Last night I lay awake and heard your stand --
And dreams are very often so much trash --
Your rage so large I could not understand
'til quiet came and all my bones were ash.