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1. The end isn't near; it's here.

Well, today marks an unusual moment at POD-dy Mouth; this will be my last post.

After more than two years of vetting and posting, I am done.

So, why I am ending it?

There are approximately 34 reasons that I thought of. Though I'll discuss the primary ones here.

To begin with, this blog became something completely other than what I had originally intended. If you look at my original posts (and the survey I conducted ages ago), the majority of visitors were readers. It was supposed to open the eyes of the reading community to untouched, unfound, and unknown books. It didn't take long (say 7 - 8 months) for it to become a literary hideout. And I gotta tell you, the weakest group of individuals to target for reading is writers. They're (we're) already broke, and having (yet another) incestuous place to read about books is as useful as . . . whatever, it's not useful.

Along with this, it is clear to see that POD (with a few exceptions) is a useful tool to gain some ground in the book world (hopefully to build an audience to more than your immediate family)--but only so that you can ultimately get an agent and publisher to produce/release your book (and others) in the traditional way. No one knows this more than I, for that was the sole purpose of the Needle Awards. However, it is simply not a compelling reason to stay up late every night.

But mostly, I am simply burned out. I mean, have you ever looked at my stats? C'mon, 1,600 books in a year? And some literary agencies don't get 5,000 queries in a year. It's too much work for one person. Frankly, it's just too much work, period. It has been a super experiment, and perhaps the greatest result of it is the list of 65 books on the right-hand side that might never have seen the light of day.

The last two years have been incredibly fun--and incredibly exhausting. Not just from this blog, but in general: I released two books, went on two (small) book tours, wrote two more books, lost two loved family members, suffered a miscarriage, switched day jobs, moved to a new home, and somehow managed to get the flu--twice. I had actually considered at one point (and had mentioned on this blog) that I was going to kick things up a bit. This wasn't what I meant. I just finally realized I need to make a change--and this is the thing that has to go.

The folks I have met through here (agents, editors, publishing pros, writers) have been the absolute best, and I certainly do not regret any of the time and effort I have spent here. But . . . I'm afraid the time has come for POD-Dy Mouth Industrial Clothing and Fine Baked Goods to close its doors. For good.

So, please know I appreciate your emails and well-wishing, but I will probably not be responding. I get over 500 emails a day already and I simply cannot go through them to find the ones worth responding to. I am certainly leaving at the peak of the blog's attention, on pace to hit 2,000,000 hits this year. Seems like a strange time to bag it, though I do hope everyone understands.


I will do this, though: As I come across top books that really move me (POD or commercial or otherwise) I'd be happy to send out an email on a completely irregular schedule giving you a heads-up. (Again, no submissions.) If you want, send me an email with "Put me on the list" in the subject line and nothing else, that way I can sort my inbox and find everyone at once.

But no matter what, please keep writing--and keep trying to get published. This is a marathon effort and nothing happens overnight. If you get rejected, don't take it personally. And if you get published, don't take that personally either. This is a business first and foremost, though it is filled with some of the greatest people, folks who are both business savvy and art influenced. It's a great mix, actually.

And, like all stories, there should be an acknowledgments section, so here is mine. Believe me when I say these folks are the absolute tops:

Allen, Michael
Baratz-Logsted, Lauren
Beier, Elizabeth
Bent, Jenny
Bestler, Emily
Bohner, Anne
Clarke, Will
Collins, Natalie R.
Crider, Michael R.
Dawson, Liza
DeFiore, Brian
Dickerman, Colin
Driscoll, Susan
Dunton, David
Durand, Sarah
Eth, Felicia
Fletcher, Christy
Gerald, Marc
Glick, Mollie
Greenberg, Dan
Harty, Pamela
Karchmar, Dorian
Kim, Sally
Kleinman, Jeff
Lazar, Dan
Lee, Kate
Lyons, Jonathan
Manges, Kirsten
McGrath, Sarah
Mecoy, Bob
Miller, Scott
Munson, Natasha
Murray, Amanda
Nelson, Kristin
Notaro, Laurie
Rose, MJ
Snark, (Miss)
Somberg, Andrea
Unter, Jennifer
Veltre, Joe
Weimann, Frank
Williams, John
Wofford-Girand, Sally

I'm overlooking many a person--including all of the authors of the books I reviewed--cool folks, one and all. Also including some of the agents and editors who received the Needle Award results that are not coming to mind because, you know . . . it's fried.

So, again . . . please enjoy the books I've unearthed--and remember to give self-published books a try. You just never know.

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2. The 2006 Needle Award Winner!

And the winner of the 2006 Needle Award is . . .

RANSOM SEABORN. Congratulations to Bill Deasy!

Here are some comments from the judges . . .

"What an unexpected literary treasure. It’s not just hype; Jay Gatsby and Holden Caulfield have nothing on Dan Finbar."

"Deasy has penned a fantastic debut novel. [New York Publishers] need more books like this and less of everything else. This is [the kind of book] that comes to mind when someone says American Literature.”

"Ransom Seaborn is beyond memorable—it’s haunting. I was still thinking about it days later and poised to open it and start again. It’s simply beautiful."

Congratulations, as well, to the other 2006 nominees:

FUTUREPROOF by N. Frank Daniels

A MULTITUDE OF MERCIES by Fay Freimuth

MY OTHER BODY: A MEMOIR OF LOVE, FAT, LIFE, AND DEATH by Ann Pai

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH by Daniel Scott Buck

And thanks to all the people who made this project possible, from writing the books to judging them to the agents and editors reviewing the results. It's been another super (and exhausting) year.

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3. Walking in my (worn out) shoes: the 2006 stats!

Another year, another long journey to the Needles. Like last year, I kept a running list of statistics from the beginning of the 2006 literary year (March to March).

What does it take to find 15 excellent self-published titles?

The answer: More work than it took to find fifty.

The sob story:

Total number of queries received: 5,267
Total number of books considered: 1,666
Total number of books read to completion but did not get reviewed (the ones that came "this close"): 41

Total number of books submitted to me via email: 1,651

Total number of books not read past first page: 217
Total number of books not read past first paragraph: 23
Total number of books not read past first sentence: 8

Total number of books I read in one sitting, despite hunger, daybreak, and bathroom needs: 5

Total number of times I was harassed for not reviewing a submitted novel: 8
Most times a single author submitted a single book: 6

Total number of times an author asked me to purchase his or her book to garner a review: 6

Total number of POD books (that I had purchased) donated to local libraries: 14
Total number of POD books (that I had purchased) rejected from local libraries: 1

Total dollar amount spent on this venture: $0.00 (I do not count books purchased since I own them.)
Total dollar amount made on this venture: $0.00 (still)

Total number of emails received, since March 2005, (non-spam) to
girlondemand@yahoo.com: 173,366
Total number of gigabytes worth of data I received, since March 2005, in PDF files: @ 8.15 GB

Total number of unique hits to this blog for March 2006 - March 2007: 1,235,222

Number of selected/reviewed books by publisher:

Lulu: 5
iUniverse: 5
Velluminous: 2
Authorhouse: 1
Toadspittle Hill Productions: 1
Sunspot Press: 1

Total number of commercially published authors who got in contact to applaud this effort: 26

Total number of commercially published authors who got in contact to ask me to review their novels: 12

Total number of agents who requested to see the Needle awards data: 28

Total number of editors who requested to see the Needle awards data: 19

Total number of agents and editors who asked if they could be judges next year: 7 (As one agent put it, "Of course--we all want to get first dibs on reading these books!)

Total number of offers to buy my book if I would just surrender my identity: I stopped counting once I hit 1,000.

Here's hoping you enjoyed this year as much as I did!

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4. POD and [the problem with] grammar.

A lot of folks who feel POD books are substandard (usually true) quickly tug on the weakest link of the nature of self-published material: grammar.

True, it can be the weakest link (and the quickest way to fall into the trash bin [electronic or otherwise]) but it is fair (and safe) to say that almost all books contain some mistakes.

I had this same discussion with a NY Times bestselling author last week. I told her that all of my picks this year are as close to perfect as anything being published by the majors.

You'd think I was inclined to controversy, wouldn't you.

She read one of my picks for 2006 and reluctantly agreed that it was a superior text, but still maintained that the books produced by such noble publishers [like Knopf and Vintage] will always be superior.

That is when I explained to her that, though I highly enjoyed A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIOUS by Dave Eggers, a Vintage release in its paperback form as well as a Pulitzer Prize nominated memoir, was riddled (riddled, I say! [that means, like, a dozen errors]) with grammatical problems.

Now, before you blow a gasket, I understand that Dave Eggers was being creative with a lot of the grammar and word usage. I really do. But some errors were hard to overlook. And, frankly, it's not Dave's fault as much as it is the copyeditor's.

Anyway, my friend balked (of course). So I whipped it out and showed her example after example--even finding two errors within one page.

From the Vintage paperback:

Bottom of p.321: I'm certain it was supposed to read cardboard backing, not carboard backing.
Top of p. 322: "You like you're pleading for help."

Anyway, the actual errors are not the point. The point is: who cares? POD or not, a few glitches are no big deal. Ever read the goofs for movies listed on IMDB? Far worse than novels--and the budgets are 100 times higher.

So unless the book is so badly written that it's hard to read (I've tried to read at least a hundred in this category), just give it a try. It's probably worth it.

Probably.

_________________________

And here's an update on the Gather Writing contest. At 1,500 entries (and 200 a week coming in) it seems to have drawn all the folks who (wisely) passed on Sobol.

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5. Like Sobol . . . except $99,000 short.

Hey, looking to chuck $100 in the street? Wait! We've got something far better: The 2007 Hollywood Book Festival.

That's right for $75 (sound familiar?) you can enter a contest where the grand prize is . . . $1,000.

*yawn*

That's right, give them a hundred and you might (but probably won't) get $900 as a reward. If the entry fee is $75, why am I saying it will cost $100? Because you cannot submit your book electronically--meaning you need to print off a copy ($15 or more) and ship it out to Los Angeles ($10 or more).

It actually makes me long for the days of Sobol.

Oh, they also say the winner gets this: "We will also distribute your book to our Hollywood Book Festival mailing list of agents, producers, directors, content coordinators and developers for further consideration and provide marketing materials to winning authors and publishers to spotlight your triumph."

*double yawn*

Who are these industry people? How many have "assistant" in their titles? Has this award ever generated any noteworthy film or TV products? Or even a boost in book sales?

What is this (publishing) world coming to?

The best things in life are free. The worst things cost $75.

_____________________

On a certainly relative note, Henry Baum has a new and improved version of NORTH OF SUNSET out. You can get it here. Why is it relative? NORTH OF SUNSET was a previous grand prize winner of the above mentioned contest. Looks like someone got his $75-worth!

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6. The price of getting read.

Thanks to all for the kind words regarding my book signing. And no, I'm done giving away my books. Though I didn't come out terribly short because:

  1. I drank approximately $13 in coffee and consumed a $2.50 brownie gratis;
  2. The bookstore manager, paying it forward (at his personal cost, I'm guessing) allowed me to select a book in a genre I loved by an author I had never read (ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn) for free.
  3. It was a lot of fun--the kind of fun you can't get at a movie or a basketball game. So I consider what I spent the price of admission.

And for all who are not in the know, this is a neat way to get free books otherwise.

_________________

Also on the horizon is a new POD Reviewer--this one actually coming from the world of publishing ("currently the lead editor at a small publishing company in New York ") who can really offer some great insights. Well worth checking out if you are a PODer or someone who wants the lowdown on more books struggling in obscurity. Check out the first book reviewed (received only one star out of four) and see why there is no amount of Excedrin on the market to cure my headache.

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7. If you thought paying to publish was bad . . .

This past week I did the most unusual book signing. It wasn't supposed to be unusual, but it certainly turned out that way.

Last Wednesday (the wreckage of the ice storm that hit my area was at its peak) I was supposed to do a signing at a book store a few blocks from where I live. At first, it seemed pretty obvious the signing would be canceled, considering the power had been out most of the day. But when I got a call from the store manager asking if I wanted to reschedule, I thought . . . why? What else am I going to do tonight?

So I made my way to the store, drank lots of (free) coffee drinks, chatted up the store employees and basically made a general nuisance of myself. Torqued on caffeine, I made my way to the table where a few small stacks of my most recent hardcover novel (coming soon to a remainders table near you!) were posed hopefully toward the entrance of the store. I stared aimlessly out a distant window, watching the plows impotently remove ice from the parking lot. The store (a large one) had maybe 12 customers milling about.

Finally, an older gentleman came up to my table and stared at the cover of my book, picked it up and gave it the most cursory of interest. Finally, he shrugged and said, "These free?"

I stared at him, tapped my fingers, squinted. "Nothing in life is free, especially fine literature."

"This is fine literature?"

I sighed. "That's what my mom tells me." We stared at each other for a moment, and my mind began churning.

"I'll tell you what," I said, "I'll give you this book for free on one condition: you pay full price for a book in a genre you love by an author you've never read."

[Note: The store manager heard what I'd said and caught my eye, gave me a look asking me if I was serious. I told him I'd pay for my book with my credit card and that I and another staff member would assist the gentleman in finding a book he would enjoy. Everyone shrugged.]

"Okaaay," he said, still suspicious of my intentions.

"What do you like?"

"Mysteries. Some thrillers, I guess."

I took a copy of my novel to the counter, paid for it and put it aside with a stack of the gentleman's other purchases, then we (one of the sales reps and I) went to the mystery section and fought over which hand-sell to push on this guy. The winner: FORCING AMARYLLIS by Louise Ure.

Shortly after the man departed from the store, a young lady (about my age) came up to my table and asked if I was still doing the free book promotion.

Sigh.

I ended up pulling out my credit card seven times that day. What was I really buying? The chance, I guess, that a new type of reader would try my work--but even more so, opening the door of lesser-known writers to people who usually look no further than the bestsellers on the front tables. And I'll tell you, the booksellers said, hands-down, it was the most fun they ever had a book signing. [Note: the sales folks and I managed to really dust off some great books for these buyers--stuff they never would have found on their own, with one exception: the last lady, who clearly was paying attention enough to scam me, convinced us all she was really curious about that new Rachael Ray cookbook.]

I should also mention that I sold eight books on my own, by people who were specifically interested in my novel (including two, at whatever discount he gets, by the store manager.)

Will I be doing this again anytime soon? You've got be kidding. It was a difficult thing to explain to my husband when I got home. Though I wish, like those trite MasterCard ads, I could say the whole event was priceless, I can't.

It cost me $175.

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8. A new year (finally).

I have finally read everything though December 31st, 2006. I am actually starting to read submissions with a 2007 in the date.

However, I respectfully ask at this time that you do not submit anything new to me. So, no new submissions until I give you the word. If I receive any, they'll be promptly deleted along with the emails for increasing my staying power and African lotteries.

To all the folks who submitted their hard work last year (and prior, for that matter), I thank you. And if you were not selected for my increasingly discriminating list, I apologize. It is important to note that your book could be some stellar stuff, but just not something that made me shiver. I'm subjective.

In fact, here are the main reasons your novel was not reviewed and endorsed by me:

  1. I never received it. It was funneled into my spam folder for whatever reason. It had happened several times previously, but if you think I'm going to go through the (daily) 700 spam emails I get searching for submissions, well . . . . That's fate.
  2. I lost it. Happened also. I was reading a book I was fairly enjoying and my machine locked up, only to have it spontaneously vanish from my computer upon a reboot, email and all. That's fate, too.
  3. I hated it.
  4. It was good, but not that good.
  5. It was experimental to the point where I wasn't sure what experiment you were actually conducting.
  6. It contained the word Guadalcanal.
  7. It was almost identical to a book I had already reviewed.
  8. I fell asleep reading it. At 10:30 in the morning. After two Espresso con Pannas.
  9. It was in a category that I do not read (translation: you didn't follow the rules, dude).
  10. It. Was. Too. Frigging. Long.
  11. You had a serious fear of verbs and an abundant love for adjectives and adverbs.
  12. It left me thinking, huh?

This northeast ice and snow storm has some of the judges locked inside--and reading the Needle nominees already. What if they all finished the books ahead of schedule? How un-publishing-industry-like!

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9. The 2006 Needle Award Nominees

Welcome to the second annual Needle Awards!

I wish I could nominate all fifteen books for a Needle this year . . . but that wouldn't be much of a contest, now would it.

So what do we have here? The creamiest of cream. The tastiest of treats. Congratulations to all 2006 Needle Nominees.

And they are:






.

RANSOM SEABORN by Bill Deasy (Velluminous Press)

FUTUREPROOF by N. Frank Daniels (Lulu)

MY OTHER BODY: A MEMOIR OF LOVE, FAT, LIFE, AND DEATH by Ann Pai (Sunspot Press)

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH by Daniel Scott Buck (iUniverse)

A MULTITUDE OF MERCIES by Fay Freimuth (iUniverse)

In a few days, the books will be in the hands of the judges. From that point forward, I have no say in who wins or loses. The judges are an esteemed group (seriously) of publishing professionals: three editors (from Harper, S&S, and Random) and four agents (all from top-tier agencies). These books were culled from more than 1,600 full-length submissions. And now these pros will decide which is the absolute best self-published book of my [hand-selected, incredibly subjective] group.

The winner will be announced 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 7th, 2007.

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10. Needle-riffic!

Speaking of morning-breath-like contests . . .

I've got a busy weekend ahead (sort of) as I will be reviewing (and rereading, in some cases) many of this year's picks to select the Needle nominees for 2006.

So what? Well, that means that on Wednesday morning at 8:00am (unless I take the day off and sleep in) I will post the 2006 Needle Nominees on this very blog.

Stop yawning.

As I mentioned before, the only selections I made this year were the outstanding books, which means that selecting the best of them will be difficult--and that some will have to be left out.

Stay tuned and get ready!

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11. Contests. They're like morning breath.

Here. Go win $10,000.

_________________

Over at the Gather/Simon & Schuster contest, it is like a recurring (bad) dream. Surfing over the entrants, I spotted over a dozen POD books that I passed on (and their ratings are relatively proportional to my opinion as best I can recall).

For all of you wondering what it is like to be in my shoes (8.5M) here is your chance. Some of the first chapters submitted are terrible (rated at 3 and under) and some are pretty good (rated, roughly, 6 and up) but most are simply average.

And just like American Idol, the best parts are the comments. Read what people are saying about the hard work of aspiring writers everywhere and see why it is important to get an objective party to read your work before you submit in anywhere--and to use your spell-checker.

One other note: Never underestimate the evil and self-serving nature of the human race. It appears there is a problem with authors (entrants) going in and "down-rating" the leading titles by giving them "1 star" reviews so that their own titles have a better chance. To those folks, I say, "May you be cursed to a lifetime of PublishAmerica contracts."

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12. It's like American Idol, without the riches.

So many folks are fascinated by/with American Idol, and a huge percentage by the failure of the talent-impaired contestants. I wish I could say the same for vetting POD books; the entertainment level [of the bad ones] is, indeed, quite low.

But what a lot of folks don't realize is--just like commercially publishes authors--there are some hacks who don't belong there and some unrecognized folks who will never get a break [read: break in]. Guy's like John Mayer, for example, would never make it through American Idol (especially without his guitar)--or more on spot, singers like Madonna--with how picky the panel is. But we all know John Mayer and Madonna. Just like we know John Grisham.

The whole industry (publishing, sure--but really I mean the entire entertainment industry) is unfair. Even this blog is unfair. If I passed on your book for a review, don't take it personally. (Unless it really sucked. Then, well . . . .) I'm no different than an agent or an editor or your everyday reader (which is, essentially, all I am anyway) who takes a look and it either grabs or it doesn't. Entertainment is subjective, weird, fickle, and--to the dismay of every movie studio, publishing house, and record company--completely unpredictable.

So if you are a talented writer (you know who you are . . . and aren't) keep writing, keep plugging, keep making it better.

And pray for serendipity.

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13. THE DOORBELLS OF FLORENCE by Andrew Losowsky (Prandial/Lulu)

Let it be said now: THE DOORBELLS OF FLORENCE by Andrew Losowsky could easily become one of the most popular cult books of the decade. And it’s a coffee table book (sort of) to boot. From the first image to the final words (and the cover of a doorbell which could easily be confused for the back of a bullet), you will love it all.

I am going to do something I never do: I'm going to post a piece of the pitch (equally as compelling as the book) that the author sent me to help you understand this project.

Here's a book that started with a camera. I was in Florence, Italy one day in 2003, when I noticed a particularly unusual doorbell. I took a photo. Then I saw another, completely different but equally outstanding.

The camera clicked on. Time passed.

And so I had a large collection of doorbells. About a year later, I started to write short stories about the people I thought were living behind each of the doors.

For this first time since March 2005 (when I started this blog for you newbies) I knew from the pitch that I wanted to read this right away.

So I did.

The book--images to prose--is absolutely outstanding. The stories are clever and each as unique as a fingerprint, from pages long to one sentence. And the images, well . . . who knew something as static and manmade could be so beautiful and thought-provoking? The book is cool, and stylish, and even a little trippy.

Here's a challenge for you. Got to Lulu (the only place the book is currently available) and view the first image and read the first story. My guess? You'll add this baby to the shopping cart and be on your way.

THE DOORBELLS OF FLORENCE is $27.99 (this is not simply POD price-gauging; keep in mind that the book is produced with full-color interior ink) and well-worth the price--not to mention that with purchasing from Lulu, the author gets a far more significant chunk of the profit. In fact, buy two for nearly the price of one copy of finding your inner-alpha-self.

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14. Before you publish . . .

. . . you need to get an objective audience to read your book. I cannot overemphasize this enough. If every POD author did this, it would reduce the number of terrible POD books and greatly improve the ones that are being self-published.

You'd think the most frustrating part of finding good books to review would be the suffering: the traversing of absolutely horrible writing. Not so. Those texts are easy to toss aside [delete]. The painful ones are the books that are almost there, the ones that not only would be great books, but would probably find their way to a commercial publisher.

So here's what I suggest you do: Join a writing group. Regardless of what you may think, your writing is not better than the other hacks there (I was part of one for years). And take a look at how many commercially published authors thank the folks in their writing groups in their acknowledgements sections. They work--if you can take criticism.

And if you can't? Man, you are in the wrong industry.

Your book, from the first time it is released (into the wild) is being critiqued. Agents, editors, book reviewers, amateur book reviews (read: Amazon), and so on.

There are a lot of things you can do to improve your novel or memoir (like hiring an outside editor) but nothing does the trick (and costs nothing) like a writing group. If you hire an editor, she may tell you to change the way a character speaks or to delete a scene or whatever. But with a writing group you get to listen to other people discuss your book, where one person may want to see a change but another may totally disagree.

Or the entire group may be telling you the same thing--in which case, that thing needs to be fixed.

Having a finished manuscript on your hard drive is not enough. I know it seems exciting to imagine it could be in the marketplace in a few months (supposedly) but if you take the time to get involved in a writing group, it can make the difference between an Authorhouse logo and a William Morrow logo on the spine.

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15. Whopping

From the PublishAmerica homepage:

The book Vortex of Revelation by A.B. Keller, which is stocked in a whopping 42 bookstores spanning 21 states . . .

At least they are not pretending they're Random House anymore. I suppose for PA, 42 bookstores (in 21 states *sigh*) is something worth noting.

_____________________

On a bigger (and better) note, former POD-dy pick, Ian Hocking (DEJA VU) has been picked up by the John Jarrold Literary Agency!

_____________________

And if you haven't been to Kristin Nelson's blog recently, check out her entry on how many publishing professionals it takes to [screw in a light bulb]. No wonder so many folks ending up going POD.

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16. Thy name is vanity.

Here is (yet) another article that makes all things POD gray with the smog of vanity. (My coffee machine's broken; give me a break.)

While, once again, the technology of print-on-demand is bulked in with sophomor(on)ic narratives, it is just not so. (See titles at right of this blog for proof.)

However . . .

This is an embarrassing mess. This is a perfect example (as if you needed one) for why paid reviews (even the "reputable" ones like Kirkus Discovery) simply do not work.

Read it all. It's hilarious/pathetic.

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17. Get $100 (of your publishing costs back)

Here is yet another POD review site--and it comes with a bonus: the blogger is giving away $100 for the best reviewed book (on his blog) with a copyright of 2006 or 2007. And, like me, he only reviews the books that are worthy (thus saving you the knowledge that, in fact, most POD books are terrible). The submission guidelines are here. There is no fee to enter.

And he accepts poetry and erotica (unlike me).

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18. Who says you can't make a lot of money using POD?

Holy mackerel/cannoli/guacamole.

There must be a serious need for men to become alpha males. [I've deleted my own commentary here.]

This paperback book, published via Lulu, is 272 pages and selling at a whopping $49.97. That's 18 cents per page (to be compared to a mass market paperback of 400 pages at $8.00--or 2 cents per page.)

This book must really resolve the [shortcomings] of a lot of men [deleted commentary] because the book is currently ranked 4,155 on Amazon (and this is not a fluke; this book has been consistently ranked under 10,000--at one point as low as 953.) I can see why it is selling so well, as it is dubbed "The lazy man's way to easy success with 20 or more women a month." Although, I'm confused, because all women already love lazy guys--right up there with abusers and infidels. Furthermore, the book is ranked 3 on Lulu (no small feat; have you ever seen how many books they sell?) and, astonishingly, sells for $48 there as well.

Based on Lulu's own Book Cost Calculator, the cost to produce the book is $9.98--which leaves $38 in profit (if purchased from Lulu--I realize the profit drops when purchased through Amazon and the like, not to mention that Lulu takes a small piece of the pie as well--something like 20% of the royalty.)

But let's play it conservatively and say the author gets $27 per unit. If he sells only 2,000 copies (he will, if he hasn't already), he's made $54,000--far more than the average midlist author published by a major house.

So there you go. All you need to do is find [deleted commentary] to buy your paperback book for $50.

And best of luck with that.

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If you're bored and looking for a way to abuse your company's computers and Internet connectivity, check out this post on Gawker about Publishers Lunch Deals. There is great potential in the "mad lib" they have posted, but so far no entries (in the comments) have beaten most of the real deals posted every day.

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19. Sometimes vanity rules . . .

Check out this excellent article in the NY Times about self-pubbing.

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20. You go on vacation and the whole world changes.

If you happened to miss this great article in the LA Times, it is a must read. I love Amazon, but this is a bit weird (a.k.a. lame). Maybe this is why PublishAmerica titles are so incredibly high-priced.

I'm kidding. Don't email me.

From now on, I'm buying my stuff on the spot.

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And in my little part of the world (roughly-speaking), libraries are becoming nothing more than a Borders Express.

Maybe a better idea (just maybe) than tossing the books that no one has read is to pull them all aside, set them up at the front of the library on bright red shelves with a sign that reads, "Look what you've been missing."

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And on the flip-side (library-wise), take a gander at what the New York Public Library is doing. That's right, a POD machine on site (for all books). If this technology catches on, it could be the best possible thing for self-published authors ever (and the most confusing and overwhelming option for consumers).

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21. Sobol Contest Dies (or, Here Is Your $85 Refund)

Sweet justice prevails.

Mt favorite part: Only about 1,000 manuscripts were received. Word of mouth worked!

The AP has the bigger story.

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22. From a frown to Crown: A POD success story.

Thinking POD is a costly waste of time? Well, you got the costly part right. But the waste of time? Not always. More and more I am getting emails from folks who went the POD route, only to later have his or her book snatched up by a New York house. A few days ago, I received this email from Frank Fuller and he graciously allowed me share:

Since you blog about PODs, we thought you'd be interested in a POD success. We wrote our political satire The Department of Homeland Decency: Decency Rules and Regulations Manual in 2005 and were unable to sell it. So last February we published it ourselves here in Minnesota, using Bookmobile, a division of Prism Publishing in Minneapolis. We designed the book but had a designer from Prism do the cover.

In summer, an agent who had turned it down a year earlier, saw it, liked it, contacted us and said she thought she could sell it. Two weeks ago we signed a contract with Crown. Their paperback imprint Three Rivers Press will be publishing it.

My wife and I both have backgrounds in writing and satire, which may have made this project easier. I was a newspaper editor for years and my wife works in advertising and theater. We have both written weekly newspaper columns and written humor for radio.

POD publishing can work, as you point out regularly. People who think they have some talent and ideas, if they can't sell their book to a publisher, should give it a try and see what happens.

Crown/Three Rivers, for those of you not in the know, is part of the Random House empire--so they managed to go from the bottom to the top in one quick move. If you are curious about Frank and Sue Fuller's book, you can check it out here on Amazon and snag what will eventually be a rare copy.

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Also, check out the post from Josie Brown via MJ Rose's blog. (You should be reading this every Wednesday.) She offers up some statistics that shed light on why it is so hard being a midlist author--or any author, for that matter. Think getting published by a commercial publisher will get you in the "brick-and-mortar" stores? Guess again. In the majority of cases, according to Josie, you are lucky to get in to 19% of the stores. And with Amazon's online sales approaching 10% (just Amazon, mind you) the playing field is shifting. Or at least getting muddier.

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23. Don't just take my word for it (though, come to think of it, why aren't you?)

If you haven't read Daniel Scott Buck's THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH yet . . . well, then unplug your TV for a while, dude. Anyway, here is one more reason to trust that it is an awesome book: 3AM Magazine gave Daniel's book Novel of the Year 2006.
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Many of you asked about acquiring a cool cover for your novel after the Chris Meeks post. If you want to visit the site of the dude who created those covers (and many more), then check out his cover page.
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For a little inside scoop on one of the coolest literary agents out there, check out PubGuy's blog, where he has some Q&A with Jeff Kleinman (of Folio). Ever since I read THE MEMORY OF RUNNING, Jeff has been sort of a hero to me.

Also interesting is (at the bottom) the mention of the book sales of Christopher G. Moore (not to be confused with Christopher Moore, which apparently many readers were) and how they spiked when the books were paired up on the X/Y program at Amazon.

By the way, has anyone ever made money using the Buy X/Get Y program? $750 is pretty stiff. I'd love to hear a success story, if there is one.
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And, in reference to the library issues I blogged about a few posts ago, check out these responses on the Wall Street Journal site. I hope we never forget the value of the library system. Discarding/reducing it would be tantamount to shutting down the Department of the Interior.

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24. Sobol bad; S&S Good! (Or, No Agent Necessary)

Stop the POD presses!

Simon and Schuster has announced a new [real, respectable, noble] contest (right on the heels of the rightfully failed Sobol fiasco) where the Touchstone imprint will review unpublished works for publication (fiction only) via a new contest.

The winner will get:

  • A real publishing contract;
  • $5,000;
  • Guaranteed promotion for the title from Borders

In other words, the winner will get a lot more than most authors get for a debut novel, especially the attention at Borders (I am assuming "promotion" means it will be noticeable in some way.) Now, as for how they will vet all of these entries? Who cares, really. It's not the writer's problem. As far as I can tell, this is a free contest supported by a major publisher.

Saddened because you went POD and blew your chance? Worry not. The eligibility goes like this:

Authors who have not previously published a full length book (excluding self published and vanity press) are eligible to compete in the First Chapters Writing Competition.

Simon & Schuster is waiting with open arms! (And they better big the big, meaty kind; I get about 100 submissions a week--and I ain't no Simon and Schuster.)

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25. Priming the Needle.

That makes no sense, but you probably got my point.

Yes, we here at POD-Dy Mouth Global Incineration and Fine Produce are looking at this year's potential Needle nominees. And it is going to be tough--even tougher than last year.

I was hoping to find 20 titles to review this year, but I am probably going to have to settle for 15 or 16. The biggest difference between 2005 and 2006 is that last year I reviewed self-published titles that were good, excellent, and outstanding. This year, I only reviewed the outstanding ones--which means it is going to be very difficult to leave some books out of the running.

Not to mention that I am not going to nominate 10 books like last year. It will likely be one category only (with more judges) and no more than five titles.

The other factor here (though playing no role in title selection) is that so many of this year's picks already have agents attached. Last year, all but one of the authors were unrepresented. This year, close to a third of the authors have acquired agents already.

In any case, I must reiterate how astounded I am that books as well-written and compelling as those I have reviewed are drifting out in the ether. What a shame. I hope above all things that you have checked out some of these books and realized that there are some talented authors buried in obscurity. And the point of the Needles is to change that for the better.

Stay tuned. Needle nominees should be announced at some point in February.

After the awards are handed out, get ready for some changes here at the Mouth. And I'm not just talking better cheese trays in the conference room.

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