The flogged horse

March 8, 2012 Publishing No comments

 I ordered an iPad yesterday. Also, I ran into Diane Capriola, an owner at Little Shop of Stories. She HIGHLY RECOMMENDED I read Amber Dermont’s new book The Starboard Sea. I mean, over the top, “read it or never talk to me again” recommended it.

This is what independent booksellers do best, they connect books to readers. Amazon doesn’t do that well, and never will.

So how do I pay Diane for connecting me with that book? Of course, I can go buy a paper copy at the store, but I’ve ordered a new toy, and I want to try reading on a Retina Display ™. (That ™ is snark, in case you missed that.)

So I need to buy the ebook through the Little Shop website, right?

Okay, I actually took on that project. I started to document it, but after twenty five minutes, I no longer had the patience to write it all down. At this point, I’ve actually paid for the book, but I’ve put off the rest of the process for now. I’m waiting for the iPad to arrive before I actually download and install the thing. It is frustrating and awkward, and something only the most ardent of locavores would engage in. I’ve set up a Drupal website more quickly.

Also, right in the midst of it, I found that I was actually paying Google for the book, not Little Shop. I dare not guess what percent Little Shop gets in kick back, but I’m sure it’s a trifle. I didn’t exactly get a warm fuzzy from the experience.

I’m sorry, but this is a big part of the future of booksales, and they can’t ask their customers to stay in the 20th century with them. Most good indie booksellers own the hearts of their customers, but lose their wallets.

Never forget: People prize convenience above all, and they’ll pay for it. When the music industry was drowning in the sea of Napster, Apple paddled in with the iTunes raft. What people forget is that Apple got folks to start paying for their online music instead of stealing it through Napster. How? Convenience. They paid for what they could have had for free because it was easy.

I work with indies every day, I consider these folks to be my friends. I have more motivation than most to buy from them. But if I don’t want paper, they make it very, very hard to support them

A couple things I’d like to see from the Indie stores in general. This would require a real push from the American Booksellers Association, and couldn’t happen on a store by store basis.

1. Fix the dang app. Let me shop and buy from within the program, and let me pick my favorite bookstore to benefit. I’d love to buy a book with one or two taps while sitting in my living room, and to have my local benefit.

2. People with iPads and Androids are your customers too. Don’t try to guilt them into buying a product that isn’t optimal for them (paper books). Guilt is not a sustainable business model. If they don’t want to buy electronically right then, print them out a little QR page with the title listed. If they get home and decide they want it, they can scan it and you get paid. Offer your service (matching books with readers) to electronic customers, and expand your customer base.

3. Use bookstores as showrooms. This is sacrilege, of course, but there should be a QR code on display with the top twenty books you are selling. The code should take the customer to an easy download/purchase window within the indie app, where one click gets the customer the book while a commission goes to the bookseller.

4. Stop looking at this either/or. Sell paper books, and ebooks, online and instore. When I recommend a book online, I link to the Amazon site because its easy. If I could do it easily within an indie bookstores site, I would much prefer to.

5. Have fun with it. If you are in a walking part of town, post a QR code in your window each night for an after-hours discount recommendation. See if anyone buys. Offer the #1 Bestseller for 99 cents for the first person that scans it, and then with a 10% discount for the rest of the night. It’ll get you some press. The best booksellers are creative and energetic, and their stores exude that spirit. Bring that creativity to the ebook realm.

6. Customer Data. The ABA should build up a customer database, and use that as an effective way to negotiate away from Google, and send more money to its stores. This is more of a long term thing, but not impossible.

Just make it easier for us to support you. Most of us will pay.


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  • Holding pattern over Atlanta

    March 7, 2012 Uncategorized No comments

    Had a couple conversations today about the manuscript, but still waiting to hear from those that have plowed through all of it.

    I did speak with S, a publishing professional with nearly three decades in the business, and s/he thought the length was at the low end of acceptable, but definitely within tolerances. S also liked the idea for the title change, as did some friends I had dinner with on Friday.

    The very first drafts were titled “Town Line”, then I shifted to “Station”. Now, I’m switching again, and I think for the last time, unless an agent or publisher wants to convince me otherwise.

    Abraham’s Daughter.

    I’d spotted a piece about Arcade Fire remaking an old Civil War marching song by that title, and decided it was perfectly evocative. Here are the lyrics:


    Oh! Kind folks listen to my song.
    It is no idle story,
    It’s all about a volunteer
    Who’s goin’ to fight for glory!
    Now don’t you think that I am right?
    For I am nothing shorter,
    And I belong to the fire Zou-Zous,
    And don’t you think I oughter,
    I’m goin’ down to Washington
    To fight for Abraham’s daughter.

    Oh! Should you ask me who she am,
    Columbia is her name, sir;
    She is the child of Abraham,
    Or Uncle Sam, the same, sir.
    Now if I fight, why ain’t I right?
    And don’t you think I oughter.
    The volunteers are a-pouring in
    From every loyal quarter,
    And I’m goin’ down to Washington
    To fight for Abraham’s daughter.

    They say we have no officers,
    But, ah! They are mistaken;
    And soon you’ll see the Rebels run,
    With all the fuss they’re makin’;
    For there is one who just sprung up,
    He’ll show the foe no quarter,
    (McClellan is the man I mean)
    You know he hadn’t oughter,
    For he’s gone down to Washington
    To fight for Abraham’s daughter.

    We’ll have a spree with Johnny Bull,
    Perhaps some day or other,
    And won’t he have his fingers full,
    If not a deal of bother;
    For Yankee boys are just the lads
    Upon the land or water;
    And won’t we have a “bully” fight,
    And don’t you think we oughter,
    If he is caught at any time
    Insulting Abraham’s daughter.

    But let us lay all jokes aside,
    It is a sorry question;
    The man who would these states divide
    Should hang for his suggestion.
    One country and one flag, I say,
    Whoe’re the war may slaughter;
    So I’m goin’ as a fire Zou-Zou,
    And don’t you think I oughter,
    I’m going down to Washington
    To fight for Abraham’s daughter.

    Oh! The soldiers here both far and near,
    They did get quite excited,
    When from their brethren of the south,
    To war they were invited.
    But it was to be, it is to be,
    It can’t be nothing shorter,
    Oh! And if they call upon this child,
    I’ze bound to die a martyr.
    For I belong to the fire Zou-Zous,
    And don’t you think I oughter?
    I’m goin’ down to Washington
    To fight for Abraham’s daughter.

    I am tired of a city life,
    And I will join the Zou-Zous;
    I’m going to try and make a hit
    Down among the southern foo-foos;
    But if perchance I should get hit,
    I’ll show them I’m a tartar;
    We are bound to save our Union yet,
    ’tis all that we are arter.

    There is one thing more that I would state,
    Before I close my ditty,
    ’tis all about the volunteers
    That’s left our good old city.
    They have gone to fight for the Stars and Stripes –
    Our Union now or never!
    We will give three cheers for the volunteers,
    And Washington forever.

    Oh! Johnny Bull is gone to grass,
    To fatten up his calves, oh!
    He’s talking of sending shilling-a-day
    Soldiers to the South, oh!
    But we licked them well, in 1812,
    And we can whip them weller: oh, oh, oh!
    Whilst we’re here, if they interfere,
    Won’t we give them a warmer!
    Oh! I’m a-going down to Washington,
    To fight for Abraham’s daughter.

    How are you and all my friends?
    I’ve just come from the wars, sirs!
    For I’ve been at Bull Run, you know,
    And fought for the Stars and Stripes, sirs,
    It’s true enough we were repulsed,
    But the Rebels’ loss was great, sirs;
    And if you don’t believe it’s true;
    Why read the Richmond papers!



    What do you all think? Comments?

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  • Welcome to the sausage factory

    March 5, 2012 Uncategorized One comment

    Hello again.  Long time, no see.

    This blog has been abandoned for quite a long stretch, but I’m back now.

    For the last three years, I’ve been writing a manuscript. Two weeks ago, I finished my first revision and sent it out to a few trusted readers.

    People say to me, “You’re done! You must be excited!”

    Yep, all done. I’m already planning how to invest my big advance.

    I won’t kid you, it feels great to get this step behind me. But there’s a long, challenging process ahead and I’m going to use this space to document it. I’ll tell the adventure of how a scrappy little manuscript from a first time author grows to be a New York Times bestseller. Or not. Okay, probably not.

    This isn’t a writing blog, it’s a blog about how sausage gets made. I have only two pieces of advice to anyone that wants to write:

    1. Hoard your time. It is precious. Like Smeagol, strike at anything that tries to take it away. Spend time writing.
    2. Follow Richard Bausch on facebook. People pay huge wads of cash for the kind of guidance he doles out every day.

    I’m lucky. Through my work on the Decatur Book Festival, Verb, and various public radio programs, I’ve gotten to know great writers. Some have sold millions of copies, others considerably less. So although I haven’t done this before, I have mentors–people I trust that know what’s what.  I’ll pass their advice along, and that’s the real value here.

    So where are we?

    I have about 62,000 words of historical fiction. “J”, one of my wittier mentors described as “three thousand words shorter than any novel ever published.” Not actually true, but her point is a good one. “K”, on the other hand, thinks the market for shorter books is up.  I already know of two chapters I want to add. I think I’ll end up between 70,000 and 75,000.

    I sent it out to six and a half readers. The half is a writer of thrillers I’ll call “D” who agreed to look at some action sequences, but could not commit to the whole shebang. I already have D’s comments, which, along with some mechanical stuff, point out that portions felt rushed. D liked some earlier action I wrote, and I need to use that as a model for a fix.

    J recommended I save up some of those readers for the next round. So I asked J and K to hold off. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the four others to tell me how screwed up this thing is.

    I’m kind of disappointed that none of them called me to complain the next day how the damn thing kept them up all night as they tore through the pages wondering what happened next.

    I feel antsy, like I should be moving the ball forward. I was so careful with my time when I was writing, and now all that time is freed up. Should I send query letters out? J says, “Absolutely not. You are maybe a year away from that step.”

    This is going to be a long process.

    “It has to be perfection before you let agents see it,” J said. “Once you put it out there, it’s either picked up or it’s dead. No second chance. Agents and publishers are looking for any reason to say no.”

    The other day my mother asked when I thought the film would come out.

    I guess I should be managing everyone’s expectations.


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