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Even though I work in publishing, it’s important to note I am not an editor and don’t work with agents outside of the marketing realm – I don’t handle book acquisitions and rarely have the chance to read a manuscript or chime in on the purchasing decisions. I don’t get to hear from authors before they are published or searching for the elusive contract, so I was thrilled when LeAnn Neal Reilly, author of THE MERMAID’S PENDANT, shared some of her thoughts with me on being a self-published author and her decision to take this unconventional route.
In LeAnn’s own (clever) words –
Getting an agent is essential to getting a publisher, but it was like looking for a husband who picked you from a lineup while he stood behind a two-way mirror. You didn’t really know what he wanted in a wife or whether you’d dressed appropriately. To make it worse, you weren’t sure if you’d like him or his looks. Most of the time, you waited and waited until you knew that nobody stood on the other side of the glass. Sometimes, you got a bit more information about how long to wait or a terse, written kiss-off. If you were really lucky, he might ask you to open your jacket and twirl around a bit, but even then you might not get any helpful feedback. You just didn’t get called into the next room to arrange marriage. At first, you’d try to be choosy and go to lineups for guys whose personal ad sounded like it had potential, but then you’d realize you might have to go to hundreds of lineups and end up with someone you couldn’t stand. Or someone who couldn’t perform in bed. Then you’d have to get a divorce and start over.
I decided to risk self-publishing to see if I could attract an agent or publisher that way. There have been enough stories in recent years to make me think that this path might become more common. It makes sense to me. It’s one way to let someone else pay the costs of developing a title and testing the market. I’ve done well enough at this point that even if I don’t get a bigger publisher, I’m happier than I would have been if I’d stuck my manuscript in a drawer or spent more months querying without success…
As many other tours hosts have noted, THE MERMAID’S PENDANT is a looooong book. I think the premise of “a modern fairy tale about growing up and discovering who you are” is great, but it’s lost in the length of this tome with competing subplots. I though Tamarind, the mermaid, was an interesting character but couldn’t drum up much interest in John – her lover and the main character in this novel.
Reading this book did give me fond memories of watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid in my family’s van on road trips and I thought the descriptions of the island were gorgeous and definitely made me want to plan another tropical vacation. I thank LeAnn for sharing her thoughts and wish her only the best in the future – and a huge thank you for the escapism found in the beaches of your novel!
Visit the other bloggers on this tour – the entire list is available here.
One of my many resolutions for 2010 is to be more consistent about updating my blog!! It falls higher on the list than running the elusive 5k I’ve successfully avoided the last five years, but lower on the list than trying to maintain a budget, part of which is packing my lunch vs. eating out (benefits the waistline and the wallet!).
In mid December, it occurred to me that a mere year had passed since my world was first turned upside down when I was laid off from my advertising gig in Chicago (pink slip rather a symbol of solidarity in the Recession of 2008/2009, yes?). Was I passionate about the job – No. But it could have been worse and the people there were fabulous and are still my friends today. After some indecision and stress over uncertainty, the event ultimately propelled me into my dream publishing job, for which I am undoubtedly grateful.
I look back on 2009 with fond memories, including the arrival of my nephew Alton, who has made me realize I may have more maternal feelings than I thought (which still isn’t saying much) and my move to NYC (a city that I’m really starting to appreciate the intoxication when here).
Looking back upon my, eh, totally nerdy book spreadsheet, I realize 2009 has also been a fabulous year for the written word. I know there are innumerable year-end lists floating around by those far more qualified than me, but just in case anyone is interested in the books that stood out in my eclectic reading list (disclaimer- all were read in 2009, though may have been published in different years):
- THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett: This book has appeared on many “best of” lists, including the Book of the Year (USA TODAY), #1 chosen by book bloggers (BBAW) and more. I can’t recommend it highly enough and find it offers a unique ability to immerse the reader in the time and deilect of the courageous women in the story.
- MY HORIZONTAL LIFE: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler: No literary award winner here, but as I mentioned in my original review, this book had me laughing uncontrollably over Handler’s antics and story telling. Not G-rated, but not completely smutty either.
- THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Deception by Allison Hoover Bartlett: I love books about books. While I tend to shy away from nonfiction, this “cat and mouse tale” set in the world of rare book collecting had me captivated (and seeking the elusive first edition of GONE WITH THE WIND).
- ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant: This novel really struck a chord within me and I found the characters compelling and utterly relatable (full review). I’ve recently rediscovered my own Sam Blaine (read the book and you’ll understand!) and have found myself frequently thinking fondly of the story.
- THE BEST OF EVERYTHING by Rona Jaffe: I have attempted to write a full review of this book so many times, but find it impossible to convey my thoughts and feelings. I think a list of the irresistible attributes are appropriate: Publishing, NYC, girlfriends, relationships, trysts, ambition, books and intertwining lives.
Ok those are my top five in no particular order. Surprisingly, all women authors (I swear I read men too – JULIET, NAKED, ROUGH COUNTRY and 13 REASONS WHY would all be in my top ten). Does anyone else have any overlap on their top titles?
Now, back to drinking hot toddies with my roommate as I try to make my sore throat disappear, prepare myself to drift into a peaceful slumber and avoid the potentially bad news I learned today. I wish you all the best in 2010 and hope to see more of you as I keep up with my resolution to be a better blogger!
Cheers & hugs-
It appears I need to change my gmail signature from “Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over & updated regularly: http://www.novelwhore.wordpress.com” to read more along the lines of:
“Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over regularly, but rarely updated, though every time I write I really enjoy it, so keep on visiting until it gets more exciting.”
And, like the headline suggests, I am going to re-post my article from http://www.beneaththecover.com right now, since not only does it take minimal effort since it’s already written, but I’m able to justify to myself that my blog is now updated! So, for all you readers that I really do appreciate, here’s my latest column:
What are books, exactly—treasured artifacts to be displayed behind glass, or objects to be enjoyed and devoured, like a good meal?
I know that no book I actually enjoy leaves the experience unscathed. For the lucky few that I enjoy, I’ll refer back to the content often, dog-eared pages in my wake. While stories offer escape within the language, for the books I reread I get taken back to where I was the first time, whether it be via the stains of soy sauce from unsuccessfully trying to read while enjoying sushi, or the sand that spills out as remnants of a long-forgotten vacation.
Obviously, with that description in mind, you can see that the books on my shelf may never make it into a museum exhibition of classics preserved in immaculate conditions. But what are books for if not to be loved, smelled, handled, and passed around? To me, the print medium is so important—though after lugging home a complete manuscript to read this evening (even with double-sided printing, 204 sheets is heavy!), my shoulder disagrees and would prefer a Kindle copy.
I admit that so much of my fervor for print comes from its history. I didn’t stay up past my bedtime with a computer screen under my bedspread, but a flashlight, as I stealthily flipped pages. I get a special thrill from going back to my parents’ house and seeing the children’s books I wrote my name in, using my “best hand writing” in 4th grade. While it took me a while to get to this rather obvious realization, it came with the help of journalist and author Allison Hoover Bartlett.
Her upcoming book (available from Riverhead Books next month, September 2009), The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, tracks an unrepentant book thief and the “bibliodick” determined to take him down. It’s a story of passion and addiction, and has made me compulsively check all the books sold out of boxes on the streets of NYC for rare 1st editions awaiting discovery.
In this true tale about catching a wily 1st edition book thief, books are believed to be treasures, investments, or a drug, pacifying a need. While I admit it would be nice to have that 1st edition of Gone with the Wind standing proudly on my shelf (actually, it would be behind glass, it’s so rare!), I don’t need an intact dust jacket to accompany it that’s worth far beyond the cover price. The content and history between the pages is enough for me.
And the stuff within the pages may be enough for you, too. On the publishing blog GalleyCat.com, Ron Hogan thoughtfully deciphered a recent survey from the Pepsi Optimism Project citing the “optimism booster” cited by more respondents than any other—88 percent—was “books.”
As Bartlett notes towards the end of her book, “[Books] root us in something larger than ourselves, something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive, even long after e-books have become popular . . . I can’t help think that our connection to books is still, after all these centuries, as important as it is intangible.
So while I may want that Kindle for the sake of my poor shoulders, I don’t think I’ll give up my search for the elusive and meaningful hardcover finds, including a Margaret Mitchell 1st edition.
“I am not a Media Person” -Chris Anderson
After hearing Chris Anderson speak this morning, I have to heartily disagree with his own statement, above. Before becoming entrenched in the media world, Anderson was an active physicist (not sure exactly what this is, but know smart and scientific) when he was approached by Conde Nast. Hard to believe he had never heard of this huge media conglomerate, but knowing my own Robotics/Aerospace/Mechanical “enginerding” family I’m not totally shocked. Through his rise to the best-sellers list and award-winning EIC of Wired magazine, Anderson has maintained his scientific background through his robotics company, GeekDad.com and the technology apparent in his magazine.
In his hour and a half speech, I had to scribble to try to write down even half the things I wanted to remember. Including, but not limited to, these enticing little tidbits:
- We live in a messy world, and it’s only getting messier.
- Atoms increase in worth; bits decrease (digital moving to free)
- We need to make the most of the Old World while exploring the New World.
- No business in their right mind would go to a 100% paid online model.
- You can only make money off scarcity. Time, experience, food, land is scarce; digital content is not.
Anderson was generous enough to give us a copy of his book that’s not released until July 7 (quite a thrill in holding a book not available in public!), which is titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Radically, the digital version and full length audio book are free, though the premium content of abridged audio and hardcover title come with a price tag.
Though Anderson came to speak about his magazine work, I was enthralled by his book publishing knowledge. He shared interesting insights, from not wanting to receive royalty checks (since that means the advance wasn’t high enough), to making money from speaking as opposed to the selling of his books, to how once the coherency was decided for his book he can’t even remember the actual words pouring forth.
Another note-worthy comment made by Anderson is his openness to a digital Wired. In fact, he made the bold statement of “If the Kindle is [made in magazine form] I will stop killing trees immediately.” I asked about the digital magazines available today, through Zinio and the like, and Anderson explained he doesn’t think people want to read a magazine on a computer or need the physical pages, but need it to be mobile. So my next question is: Who will be first with the mobile mag reader? There have been rumors about Conde Nast, or will Amazon lead the pack yet again?
Anderson is highly optimistic in his views. Believing in the monetization emotionally – writing etc. for fulfilling reasons vs. financial, as well as future brand extensions, he in no way sees the death of publishing (an obvious sigh of relief).
I disagree with sentence one… I think this is sexy (not to mention I already discussed this in a post from March 13- https://novelwhore.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/the-book-business-from-a-veterans-perspective/:
Revolutionary Espresso Book Machine launches in London
Launching in London today, the Espresso Book Machine can print any of 500,000 titles while you wait
Allison Flood, Guardian UK (Friday, April 24, 2009)
It’s not elegant and it’s not sexy – it looks like a large photocopier – but the Espresso Book Machine is being billed as the biggest change for the literary world since Gutenberg invented the printing press more than 500 years ago and made the mass production of books possible. Launching today at Blackwell’s Charing Cross Road branch in London, the machine prints and binds books on demand in five minutes, while customers wait.
Signalling the end, says Blackwell, to the frustration of being told by a bookseller that a title is out of print, or not in stock, the Espresso offers access to almost half a million books, from a facsimile of Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland to Mrs Beeton’s Book of Needlework. Blackwell hopes to increase this to over a million titles by the end of the summer – the equivalent of 23.6 miles of shelf space, or over 50 bookshops rolled into one. The majority of these books are currently out-of-copyright works, but Blackwell is working with publishers throughout the UK to increase access to in-copyright writings, and says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“This could change bookselling fundamentally,” said Blackwell chief executive Andrew Hutchings. “It’s giving the chance for smaller locations, independent booksellers, to have the opportunity to truly compete with big stock-holding shops and Amazon … I like to think of it as the revitalisation of the local bookshop industry. If you could walk into a local bookshop and have access to one million titles, that’s pretty compelling.”
From academics keen to purchase reproductions of rare manuscripts to wannabe novelists after a copy of their self-published novels, Blackwell believes the Espresso – a Time magazine “invention of the year” – can cater to a wide range of needs, and will be monitoring customer usage closely over the next few months as it looks to pin down pricing (likely to be around the level of traditional books) and demand. It then hopes to roll it out across its 60-store network, with its flagship Oxford branch likely to be an early recipient as well as a host of smaller, campus-based shops.
The brainchild of American publisher Jason Epstein, the Espresso was a star attraction at the London Book Fair this week, where it was on display to interested publishers. Hordes were present to watch it click and whirr into action, printing over 100 pages a minute, clamping them into place, then binding, guillotining and spitting out the (warm as toast) finished article. The quality of the paperback was beyond dispute: the text clear, unsmudged and justified, the paper thick, the jacket smart, if initially a little tacky to the touch.
Described as an “ATM for books” by its US proprietor On Demand Books, Espresso machines have already been established in the US, Canada and Australia, and in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, but the Charing Cross Road machine is the first to be set up in a UK bookstore. It cost Blackwell some $175,000, but the bookseller believes it will make this back in a year. “I do think this is going to change the book business,” said Phill Jamieson, Blackwell head of marketing. “It has the potential to be the biggest change since Gutenberg and we certainly hope it will be. And it’s not just for us – it gives the ability to small independent bookshops to compete with anybody.”
Original link to article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/24/espresso-book-machine-launches
As I finally got around to uploading photos from January to current on Facebook, I realized that 2009 has already been a year to remember (although I don’t look photogenic in any of the moments!).
Yes, it’s true I have joined the ranks of the unemployed, but I’ve also been motivated and inspired to follow my dreams of launching a career in book publishing, started this blog which has become quite an enjoyable hobby, begun to really appreciate Chicago and all it offers, been to my first Bulls game, Cocokey Resort with three of my best friends, had the #1 bracket in my pool as of NOW (sorry, MSU, I bet correctly that UNC would pull off the win), started a volunteer relationship with a worthwhile organization (<3 to you, Open Books), been blessed with a baby nephew, and been lucky enough to have the love, support and enjoyment of a wonderful family and system of friends.
Alright, fine, I may be a little tipsy from watching the pathetic game that MSU just played, but I am thankful for all this year has already brought (I cannot believe Easter is this Sunday – time has flown by) and all it promises in the future. I hope you all enjoyed my Miller Lite induced ramblings (potentially found some inspiration yourself?), but hopefully this little nugget will serve as a reminder for the important things next time I get frustrated when job searching or waiting for spring to come to Chicago.
Heading home on the train tomorrow, looking forward to some quality MI time with the family and good books, while curled up in my favorite chair! Hopefully book reviews to come shortly… Hitting the “publish” button before I can overthink and delete this…