Surviving the Odds as A Debut Novelist

By | on July 10, 2009 | 82 Comments

JE: Last week, JR and I engaged in a lively discussion about agents and champions and dental insurance and surviving–financially and spiritually—as a writer in the twenty-first century. This week I thought we could pick up generally where we left off, and talk about audience building. I believe that the successful author in century twenty-one must be a force of nature, a tireless connector, social networker, and above all, accessible to his readership. Monetizing the relationship between reader and writer is going to be the key to survival from here on out. The successful writer will take it upon himself to find readers, rather than leave it up to his publisher.

I’m of the opinion that a good writer ought to do everything he can to find a readership online or elsewhere before he ever publishes a book. You’ve got to hit the ground running or you’ve got slim to no chance of surviving in the lit fiction market (and mind you, survival does NOT in most cases equate to making a living, so don’t quit your day job!). The average debut novel has about a three month shelf-life and will receive very little publicity or merchandising support. You’ve got to sort out your demand before those ninety days start ticking off, or your up shit creek with a turd for a paddle, and pretty soon your publisher is offering you the unique opportunity to buy back thousands of copies of your own book, lest they go the way of the shredder. Out of print, baby– not good in a market that is supposed to be driven by backlists. The overwhelming majority of debut novelists learn these lessons at about day seventy-three, by which time it’s all but too late to salvage a successful debut. You spend ten, maybe twenty years to get in the door, more than likely only to be greeted by a steel-toed boot to the teeth.

JR: I think an audience is key to becoming a successful writer. It’s what’s at the essence of that statement which should be examined. How do you do that? For the last nine years I’ve been writing one novel after the other and querying agents. They picked up my query and said, “who the fuck is Jason Rice?…I don’t care how good his prose is, WHO IS HE?” Then I looked closer at jacket copy of books I liked, the blurbs, the places first timers had been published before their debut landed in my lap. It was places like McSweeneys, other high end literary magazines, a ton of Iowa Grads, and some Yaddo…so I started looking at those places to get my short fiction published. Which got me more rejection slips, but it taught me a valuable lesson, you need to think smaller, to build a fire you have to start with a shred of glass and reflect in on one small spot, and try to make it spread, and don’t start with a log, start with twigs.

So I moved to the online world of lit mags and realized you can build your craft and style in little places like Failbetter, Hamilton Review, and my first published story went on line at 3AMMAGAZINE.COM (an excerpt of a my nearly unpublishable first novel) and I had to wait seven months to get it there. But what it does is develop an audience, a small one, but it’s people who like your stuff, and want to see more. I always look at a rejections for a line that says, “we’re not going to publish this, but send me something else, I like your style.” Remembering that these online editors get millions of submissions every month. I also took an unpaid job at Zoetrope magazine, I was a reader, twice a week I went to the Manhattan offices and read stories and wrote rejections letters. That was an education in so many ways…but what it taught me…is that you have to be good enough to grab the readers attention…nothing ever did ( I read hundreds of stories, a drop in the bucket compared to what is being produced and submitted today), but I did go home and tried to write something better than I had.

Then I stumbled on Ain’t It Cool News and wrote a monthly review for nine years, every month I reviewed two to three books. I told it unvarnished, I loved most everything I read, and told my readers don’t come to me for bad reviews, but I did get lots of reader responses, emails galore telling me what they thought of my writing, and it helped me practice the craft of building an audience, I know it’s a small thing, AICN, but it was that little twig…

I get debut’s everyday, they land on my front porch or at the office, and nine times out of ten I don’t know who these writers are, but if their first two pages grab me, I stick with it. Then I tell other people, then I write about it on the blog, then I tell some more people. I don’t think enough people knew about David Benioff (the whole world rejected his first novel, then he wrote 25th hour) when I first reviewed him on AICN, his debut…it’s a smash, but Kakutani loved it, which made me read it, and when I did, I told the world. That’s how writers build an audience, they write something great, and now, today, in this market, they have to get the word out like a house on fire. If you’ve been published online, or in a small literary magazine, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but if your prose sparkles, like Peter Craig’s Hot Plastic, (that book is great), then I’m going to tell people about it. Editors and Agents love that kind of pedigree, or at least I think they do, but of the places you can get published, it’s the high end places that get Editors and Agents to sit up and take notice, smaller places, they don’t care, but it’s the smaller places that you can use as a stepping stone to McSweeneys or Zoetrope (those places really only have about one or two slots for unsolicited stuff, so your wishing on a star to get in there and shouldn’t be crushed when you don’t, but it you do, the barometer is moving). When Dan Wickett reviewed a story of mine on his blog, and said he wanted to see more from me, that meant more than getting the story published. It meant I had people who liked what I’d written, those people will someday buy my book (someday…) and I think that’s what the gatekeepers are looking for. How do you market a debut writer? How much work will your publicity department have to do? How are they going to convince the ever evolving world, online, and in print, that this debut is worth their time, when there are ten more debuts sitting in a stack on the floor next to the reviewer or the store manager.

You start small and build a reputation. Write for free, write a blog, tell it like it is, don’t shade it to be popular, then people will come to you because they like your writing, then you’re moving in the right direction. But the one thing they never tell you in debut school, is there are only so many slots on the bookshelf, whether it be in someones home or in a store, chain or indie.

JE: Personally, I doubt whether any of my story publications prior to Lulu meant anything to a prospective publisher– sign this Evison kid pronto, he has a new story in The Wandering Hermit Review! The important thing about these publications isn’t the resume-building, it’s the actual forging of relationships with readers. A writer’s CV, no matter how stellar, is not going to convince an editor to publish a book. The work has to convince him of that. If you’re thinking in terms of building a resume, you want to be published in as many different journals as possible because it looks impressive on paper. But if you’re thinking in terms of name recognition and audience building, it makes more sense to publish several stories in a row in the same journal, so you can get a foothold in
that (albeit small) market. That’s what I tried to do. I published over an over in Knock, until they finally asked me to guest edit an issue. I’ll bet I garnered a lot more long term readers that way than I would have by publishing those stories scattershot all over the literary map. How many readers? Maybe fifty? Maybe a hundred? But the exponentials on fifty or a hundred are pretty good if you’re talking about a loyal readership. See, that’s the thing, every reader makes a difference. Every single reader has the potential to sell ten of your books through word of mouth. You just can’t think too small. I get maybe two dozen reader e-mails and Facebook messages, and Good Reads messages every week, and I answer every single one of them. Too many writers don’t seem to appreciate their audience, you know? Christ, books are collaborative when you get down to it. What’s a book without a reader?

JR: Five years ago authors barely had websites, I’m not talking Mary Higgins Clark, more like the debut guys, or the sophomore efforts, those people hardly managed the web (is that from lack of trying, or the absence of knowledge?). Now JE, you and I can talk to hundreds of people each day about books, you talk to at least that many before lunchtime.

When I met someone at Hudson who knew you, and your book, I knew you were working the network. But you’re not part of a majority that appreciates his or her readers, your one of a few. Sure, writers, big time and mid-list, they appreciate their readers, but let’s talk literary authors, let’s talk about someone who is in the world we live in, the Facebook world, and immediately slings an arrow at a reader who says, “I loved your new book” (this happened to me, and I had to apologize for liking his book), they aren’t willing or ready to embrace everyone that comes their way. But they should. If they only knew how few people actually read books, (maybe they do), then it would be a different story. I don’t think author tours are the way for writers to connect with their audience, it used to be that way, when I was hosting events at BN, you’d get 20-30 people a night for a mid-list author, and nine times out of ten that author was thrilled, but this was pre-internet (author tours cost money, lots of it).

Now, JE, you can talk to hundreds, in essence, sell hundreds of books with out ever leaving your pajamas. You’re right, every single reader can sell your book. But my question is this, are publishers, editors and agents willing to take on an author who wants to do just that, connect on moderate scale? Take it to the streets? I don’t know…is my answer. Or are they taking on so many authors just to meet a bottom line, and whatever happens after that is the chips falling where they may syndrome, lets move on, next book please, we don’t have time to worry about what didn’t work.

JE: Take Soft Skull. They’re all about taking on authors connecting on moderate scales. Richard Nash’s new model with Dedi Feldman is all about that. When Richard was in charge at Soft Skull, he reminded me time and again that a book doesn’t have to sell a million copies to be profitable. I would think– and maybe our friend Dan Wicket or Richard himself could sound in on this– that any small publisher would be excited about publishing an author who consistently connects with enough readers to make his or her books profitable, even if that number of readers is three or four thousand. It’s all about equilibrium. As far as writers who keep their readers at a distance, I can’t say that I really understand them. Hell, I invite stalkers! I have a number of women fans who regularly send me little emoticoms–farting unicorns, leprechauns sliding on their asses down rainbows, that kind of thing. They send them for every conceivable occasion– Happy Wednesday! Happy Saint Abernathy’s Day, whatever. I love them! I send them back pictures of my bunnies! As for tours: for me, book tours are less about connecting with readers and more about connecting with booksellers. I still believe in the old school book tour. They’re not profitable on a per unit scale in an immediate sense, but in the long run, a successful tour will pay for itself with continuing bookseller advocacy. I’ve forged relationships with booksellers who will be advocating for my next ten books. That said, I connect with a ton of readers at events. I always invite everybody in attendance to go drink beer somewhere nearby afterward. Drink beer with your readers and it’s a safe bet they’ll buy your next book and your next. I’ve probably attended 30 book clubs for Lulu, too. If you want to build readers for life, go sit in their living room and drink their beer for a few hours.

JR: You make a good point about the smaller publishers with more moderate means at their disposal. Debut authors sometimes don’t know the difference between Soft Skull and Random House; they just want their book to be published so they can write everyday without going back to their day job. So if you’re a first time author trying to break in, with no community, how do you find out about this? Is writing the book easier or harder than what happens after it gets published. I do think that booksellers will not be happy when they sign you up for a reading and no one shows up. They look bad, you look worse and the bad will is perpetuated. I wonder if there should be a sales level that you need to reach to get the marketing money to tour and enjoy advertising, just like the time that hardcovers are in the marketplace should shrink. Bring trade papers out six months early, lower advances, increase a books ability to sell. So you offer it at $25.95 or more, shorten the print run, and then sell it again as a trade, and not all authors should start in hardcover. I know the trade paper original gives publishers only one chance to sell a book, but will you save money? And why sell a book a second time, that didn’t work the first? But then again, should publishers try to make every book on their list? Why publish it otherwise? But has the genie gotten out of the bottle? Can we scale this whole publishing thing down and concentrate on connecting readers to writers? Isn’t that what we’re here to do? But when will publishers subscribe to this theory? Or is it all dollars and cents?

JE: First of all, I would NEVER play to an empty house. The fewest people I’ve ever had at a reading was 23 in Bellingham. And I worked my butt off to make sure I had that many– called everybody I knew within a fifty mile radius and invited them personally. I baked hot dog cake and brought coolers of beer to my events. I made hundreds of jello shots. The one exception is a signing I did in a strip mall in Bakersfield— which truth be told, was pretty much designed to be a Spinal Tap moment for me (see video). Otherwise, I make damn sure there was butts in the seats. I’d pay shills if I had to! The hell if I’m going to leave it up the bookstore to draw the crowds. You only play where you know you can put butts in the seats. That’s why publishers usually only agree to the “friends and family tour” for most authors. You probably won’t see San Diego on my next tour, because, well, I only know two people there. It comes back to the network. Before I launched my Lulu tour, I had like 4000 friends on Myspace. I personally invited everyone on my list that lived in any one of those cities in which I was booked. And you know what? A lot of them came. I had standing room only crowds in Seattle and San Francisco and L.A, and the biggest reason was that I invited people personally. I drank beer and tried to speak with each one of them individually at some point to thank them for coming. A lot
of writers don’t get it: you have to HOST your own events. I understand this is easier for somebody like me with a talk radio background who has a really social nature. But, like super-publicist Lauren Cerand recently pointed out to me (interview coming soon!): if it’s not in you to do the highly public stuff, well, then, you damn well better blog, because there’s no free passes. It doesn’t matter how good your publicist is, you gotta’ be ready and willing to help yourself.
-JE, JR

82 Responses to “Surviving the Odds as A Debut Novelist”

  1. July 10, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Man you guys are cooking over here lately.To be very honest, and I truly mean this, we do not read cover letters for the cv aspect of them before we read the work itself. We'll read the introduction, to see if they're letting us know early on that the work is a paranormal romance, or a YA novel or something that we generally do not publish so I can take a quick peek and verify it's not for us – one less manuscript on the big ass pile we wake up to every day.Of the authors we've signed, I don't think we really had an idea, when we were getting ready to make the offer, of what sort of audience they already had, or what type of self-cheerleader they'd be.Hell, our first author was living in China when we signed him – that's when book tours get pricey, when you start off with a flight from China to Detroit. We learned some lessons with his tour, find the places that the author has an audience, find a local to have the author read with that might also bring in a decent group of listeners, etc.I will say, we've solicited writers because of stories we've read in literary journals. We've even signed an author based on a single long story, and knowing that we'd previously liked some of his non-fiction.We also want to develop long-term relationships with our authors. It's pathetic to me, but an author like Peter Markus is never going to sell 50,000 copies of any of his books, but if we can be smart about our business, and print up the proper number, send galleys to the right people, and then sell to his current audience and continue to slowly grow it, we'd love to publish every other book he writes.In terms of the community building though, obviously the guy with the Emerging Writers Network is going to agree on that concept – it's been what I've tried to convince both readers and writers alike for ten years now. And I think it works. There are authors whose books I've discovered because of friendships with other authors that told me I HAD to read them. I know authors that have picked up blurbs because they struck up email relationships with other authors after sending them a nice note about liking their work.And we've certainly had plenty of authors suggested to us at Dzanc by those other authors that we've been friendly with, including those that we've published.

  2. July 10, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Man you guys are cooking over here lately.

    To be very honest, and I truly mean this, we do not read cover letters for the cv aspect of them before we read the work itself. We'll read the introduction, to see if they're letting us know early on that the work is a paranormal romance, or a YA novel or something that we generally do not publish so I can take a quick peek and verify it's not for us – one less manuscript on the big ass pile we wake up to every day.

    Of the authors we've signed, I don't think we really had an idea, when we were getting ready to make the offer, of what sort of audience they already had, or what type of self-cheerleader they'd be.

    Hell, our first author was living in China when we signed him – that's when book tours get pricey, when you start off with a flight from China to Detroit. We learned some lessons with his tour, find the places that the author has an audience, find a local to have the author read with that might also bring in a decent group of listeners, etc.

    I will say, we've solicited writers because of stories we've read in literary journals. We've even signed an author based on a single long story, and knowing that we'd previously liked some of his non-fiction.

    We also want to develop long-term relationships with our authors. It's pathetic to me, but an author like Peter Markus is never going to sell 50,000 copies of any of his books, but if we can be smart about our business, and print up the proper number, send galleys to the right people, and then sell to his current audience and continue to slowly grow it, we'd love to publish every other book he writes.

    In terms of the community building though, obviously the guy with the Emerging Writers Network is going to agree on that concept – it's been what I've tried to convince both readers and writers alike for ten years now. And I think it works. There are authors whose books I've discovered because of friendships with other authors that told me I HAD to read them. I know authors that have picked up blurbs because they struck up email relationships with other authors after sending them a nice note about liking their work.

    And we've certainly had plenty of authors suggested to us at Dzanc by those other authors that we've been friendly with, including those that we've published.

  3. July 10, 2009

    Jonathan Evison Reply

    . . . thanks for sounding in, dan-o . . . i'm betting roy kesey is the author you signed based on his stories and non-fiction stuff . . . if peter markus can sell 5k books everytime, and maybe grow the readership a bit each time, and you guys dot your 'i's, operate responsibly, that makes peter markus a good lonterm investment right? especially if you can keep his backlist moving . . .

  4. July 10, 2009

    Jonathan Evison Reply

    . . . thanks for sounding in, dan-o . . . i'm betting roy kesey is the author you signed based on his stories and non-fiction stuff . . . if peter markus can sell 5k books everytime, and maybe grow the readership a bit each time, and you guys dot your 'i's, operate responsibly, that makes peter markus a good lonterm investment right? especially if you can keep his backlist moving . . .

  5. July 10, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Actually JE, Kyle Minor was the guy. Steve read his novella in The Gettysburg Review and emailed me and said we need to get this guy's story collection. I'd read a bunch of Kyle's non-fiction and some of his fiction to that point, and knew him maybe even more from his time editing and publishing The Frostproof Review.Roy – for our first book we asked the editors of about 5 or 6 literary journals that we loved if they knew of anybody that they'd published that hadn't had luck yet getting a story collection deal. Aaron Burch of Hobart mentioned Roy so he was one of maybe 10 or so authors we solicited.At that same time, we were already getting in unsolicited manuscripts. JR is dead on about grabbing the attention of the publisher. Suzanne Burns is a prime example. She followed our deal back then and sent in two stories, one of which was Tiny Ron. For about three months Steve would email me once a week – "Have you found that story about the little man yet?" Man if only he'd said TINY man my sorting/searching would have been so much quicker.But he couldn't forget that story, bad as he is with names of people, and it's been like that with every book we've published. Hesh Kestin was the same way – sent us one of his three novellas and it was incredible. We HAD to read the other two. Not wanted to, we'd have driven to NY to find his house and confiscate his computer if we had to.Dzanc actually follows the Richard Nash advance theory. If we sell between 1500 and 2000 copies of an author, and we're smart enough to print 2000 until we've seen that growth, that reason to bump the next one up to 2500, we can break even on our books and publicity. It's all the other stuff that Dzanc does, DWIRPs, Dzanc Prize, etc. that costs us money that we don't have them generating money for us – but that's where we've become, we like to think, creative in our fundraising efforts – write-a-thon last year, the Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions, the Short Story Month Essays anthology, etc.But yeah, if we can keep an audience of a couple thousand for an author and actually grow it to 3 or 4,000 over a few years and sell more copies of his/her backlist, get them to the status where maybe a couple of classes per year are teaching the work, etc., we think it's more than worthwhile.And there are authors we want to work with – Markus is a great example. I think what he's doing is incredible – the stories he's written about the two brothers by the muddy river, etc., Brian Evenson wrote a fantastic essay about them for Unsaid issue 2 (which is available in full, online over at http://www.unsaidmagazine.com) – he believes that Markus is coming close to inventing his own language, based in English, but his use of repetition to advance his stories has nothing to compare to. Bob, or Man on Boat, the novel we published, is a book that many people have told us they finish and immediately re-read. We've got a collection of those brother's stories coming in 2011 and we'd be happy to continue publishing Peter. We also like to think that we do enough for our authors, that Dzanc's name is getting out there enough that we're not a publisher an author/agent is going to use as a stepping stone to New York. We expect our authors to come back to us with that second, third, etc. book because we are the perfect publisher for them and their work, just as we feel they are the authors for us.

  6. July 10, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Actually JE, Kyle Minor was the guy. Steve read his novella in The Gettysburg Review and emailed me and said we need to get this guy's story collection. I'd read a bunch of Kyle's non-fiction and some of his fiction to that point, and knew him maybe even more from his time editing and publishing The Frostproof Review.

    Roy – for our first book we asked the editors of about 5 or 6 literary journals that we loved if they knew of anybody that they'd published that hadn't had luck yet getting a story collection deal. Aaron Burch of Hobart mentioned Roy so he was one of maybe 10 or so authors we solicited.

    At that same time, we were already getting in unsolicited manuscripts. JR is dead on about grabbing the attention of the publisher. Suzanne Burns is a prime example. She followed our deal back then and sent in two stories, one of which was Tiny Ron. For about three months Steve would email me once a week – "Have you found that story about the little man yet?" Man if only he'd said TINY man my sorting/searching would have been so much quicker.

    But he couldn't forget that story, bad as he is with names of people, and it's been like that with every book we've published. Hesh Kestin was the same way – sent us one of his three novellas and it was incredible. We HAD to read the other two. Not wanted to, we'd have driven to NY to find his house and confiscate his computer if we had to.

    Dzanc actually follows the Richard Nash advance theory. If we sell between 1500 and 2000 copies of an author, and we're smart enough to print 2000 until we've seen that growth, that reason to bump the next one up to 2500, we can break even on our books and publicity. It's all the other stuff that Dzanc does, DWIRPs, Dzanc Prize, etc. that costs us money that we don't have them generating money for us – but that's where we've become, we like to think, creative in our fundraising efforts – write-a-thon last year, the Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions, the Short Story Month Essays anthology, etc.

    But yeah, if we can keep an audience of a couple thousand for an author and actually grow it to 3 or 4,000 over a few years and sell more copies of his/her backlist, get them to the status where maybe a couple of classes per year are teaching the work, etc., we think it's more than worthwhile.

    And there are authors we want to work with – Markus is a great example. I think what he's doing is incredible – the stories he's written about the two brothers by the muddy river, etc., Brian Evenson wrote a fantastic essay about them for Unsaid issue 2 (which is available in full, online over at http://www.unsaidmagazine.com) – he believes that Markus is coming close to inventing his own language, based in English, but his use of repetition to advance his stories has nothing to compare to. Bob, or Man on Boat, the novel we published, is a book that many people have told us they finish and immediately re-read. We've got a collection of those brother's stories coming in 2011 and we'd be happy to continue publishing Peter.

    We also like to think that we do enough for our authors, that Dzanc's name is getting out there enough that we're not a publisher an author/agent is going to use as a stepping stone to New York. We expect our authors to come back to us with that second, third, etc. book because we are the perfect publisher for them and their work, just as we feel they are the authors for us.

  7. July 10, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .another great post, dan . . . i think it's important for authors to try to find long-term homes . . .too many people just "sell-up" (which is usually a myth– ie an advance is only and advance) . . . if richard hadn't left soft skull, i'd still be with him for west of here . . .instead, i was lucky enough to find a great home at algonquin, and hope to stay there for the next book as well . . .

  8. July 10, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .another great post, dan . . . i think it's important for authors to try to find long-term homes . . .too many people just "sell-up" (which is usually a myth– ie an advance is only and advance) . . . if richard hadn't left soft skull, i'd still be with him for west of here . . .instead, i was lucky enough to find a great home at algonquin, and hope to stay there for the next book as well . . .

  9. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Whoops – that Evenson essay on Markus was in Unsaid 3, not 2 – here's a link:http://www.unsaidmagazine.com/magazine/issue3/evenson_markus.html

  10. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Whoops – that Evenson essay on Markus was in Unsaid 3, not 2 – here's a link:

    http://www.unsaidmagazine.com/magazine/issue3/evenson_markus.html

  11. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    I've always agreed with that sentiment, JE. Even before becoming a publisher. It seems that sticking with the same group of people over years should, if all are working well together, develop an overall strategy to continuously develop an audience for said author.That said, there have been a few cases I know of where an author hated to leave, but the combination of money AND the fact that the other editor was at the top of his/her game too made it all but impossible not to.With Richard leaving PLUS the fact that you're working with Adams and Algonquin? Completely makes sense.Another I know loved where his first novel was published after a couple of University Press titles, but Gary Fisketjon and Knopf came calling for novel number 2 – he's got his fifth or sixth with Gary and Knopf coming out soon. It would have been damn tough to say no to Fisketjon PLUS money close enough to say go ahead and quit your job. One other thing we've started to try and do is joint efforts, mainly in terms of readings, with other smaller publishers. We had a reading in NY last year with Peter Markus and J. Kornreich of Marick Press, plus some Best of the Web authors and Aaron Petrovich of Hotel St. George Press MC'd for us. It looks like we'll have Robert Lopez doing a reading or two this fall in NY with Victor LaValle (read his Big Machine in August) of Spiegel & Grau. Kyle Minor went on a 30 city reading tour with Kathleen Rooney whose book was published by University of Arkansas Press – in these cases we shared expenses, publicity duties, etc. with the other publishers.

  12. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    I've always agreed with that sentiment, JE. Even before becoming a publisher. It seems that sticking with the same group of people over years should, if all are working well together, develop an overall strategy to continuously develop an audience for said author.

    That said, there have been a few cases I know of where an author hated to leave, but the combination of money AND the fact that the other editor was at the top of his/her game too made it all but impossible not to.

    With Richard leaving PLUS the fact that you're working with Adams and Algonquin? Completely makes sense.

    Another I know loved where his first novel was published after a couple of University Press titles, but Gary Fisketjon and Knopf came calling for novel number 2 – he's got his fifth or sixth with Gary and Knopf coming out soon. It would have been damn tough to say no to Fisketjon PLUS money close enough to say go ahead and quit your job.

    One other thing we've started to try and do is joint efforts, mainly in terms of readings, with other smaller publishers. We had a reading in NY last year with Peter Markus and J. Kornreich of Marick Press, plus some Best of the Web authors and Aaron Petrovich of Hotel St. George Press MC'd for us. It looks like we'll have Robert Lopez doing a reading or two this fall in NY with Victor LaValle (read his Big Machine in August) of Spiegel & Grau. Kyle Minor went on a 30 city reading tour with Kathleen Rooney whose book was published by University of Arkansas Press – in these cases we shared expenses, publicity duties, etc. with the other publishers.

  13. July 11, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .yeah, i read with minor in seattle, and we had a great crowd . . . we all (meaning half the attendees) went to a bar across the street afterward– which perfectly illustrates one of my earlier points . . .

  14. July 11, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .yeah, i read with minor in seattle, and we had a great crowd . . . we all (meaning half the attendees) went to a bar across the street afterward– which perfectly illustrates one of my earlier points . . .

  15. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    I think that's a great point – the hitting a bar, or something like that – both for the published author, and just as importantly, for the not published author.I know this is a totally different thread and maybe one you guys don't want to explore, but it always amazed me to see how relatively few MFA students from UM hit readings in Ann Arbor. Oh, if the writer was brought in by the program students were there, but in a four week period maybe two years ago, once per week we had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ander Monson, Tom Bissell, and Arthur Phillips come in to read. There were students at Bissell's reading. I had the pleasure of walking down to Ashley's and hanging out with Monson, an old friend of his and Aaron Burch of Hobart (plus a student from Grand Valley I think that I'm blanking out on who exactly he was). Ander hung out with us for a couple of hours and cool as it was for him to meet his audience, Aaron and that other student, via conversation, picked his brain on a multitude of topics.Just as anybody with a novel in progress should be reading your words here, I can't believe that MFA students aren't out at readings full force. I realize they're busy – cop out, like I'm not, running Dzanc and the EWN and raising three kids? Like JE isn't with all those bunnies waiting at home to be fed, not to mention the new little one?It's the chance to hear, and ask questions of, etc. of somebody that's made it. That got through the publishing maze to the point of being sent on a freaking reading tour.I'll kick the soapbox back under the table now.

  16. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    I think that's a great point – the hitting a bar, or something like that – both for the published author, and just as importantly, for the not published author.

    I know this is a totally different thread and maybe one you guys don't want to explore, but it always amazed me to see how relatively few MFA students from UM hit readings in Ann Arbor. Oh, if the writer was brought in by the program students were there, but in a four week period maybe two years ago, once per week we had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ander Monson, Tom Bissell, and Arthur Phillips come in to read. There were students at Bissell's reading.

    I had the pleasure of walking down to Ashley's and hanging out with Monson, an old friend of his and Aaron Burch of Hobart (plus a student from Grand Valley I think that I'm blanking out on who exactly he was). Ander hung out with us for a couple of hours and cool as it was for him to meet his audience, Aaron and that other student, via conversation, picked his brain on a multitude of topics.

    Just as anybody with a novel in progress should be reading your words here, I can't believe that MFA students aren't out at readings full force. I realize they're busy – cop out, like I'm not, running Dzanc and the EWN and raising three kids? Like JE isn't with all those bunnies waiting at home to be fed, not to mention the new little one?

    It's the chance to hear, and ask questions of, etc. of somebody that's made it. That got through the publishing maze to the point of being sent on a freaking reading tour.

    I'll kick the soapbox back under the table now.

  17. July 11, 2009

    scrimp Reply

    What do you think about authors who give their novels away via a blog or website to garnner interest?www.beatitudesinneworleans.blogspot.com

  18. July 11, 2009

    scrimp Reply

    What do you think about authors who give their novels away via a blog or website to garnner interest?
    http://www.beatitudesinneworleans.blogspot.com

  19. July 11, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .i think giveaways are an excellent idea and a great way to build an audience . . . i think it pays to be somewhat selective in terms of who you give them, too– and i don't mean in terms of "how important they are," rather how much enthusiasm does the potential reader express, or what lengths will a potential reader go to to get a free copy . . .for instance, i went through all the people who put "all about lulu" on their amazon wish list and sent them free copies . . . i've heard back from a high percentage of those readers . . . you don't just wanna' stand at a truck stop giving them away . . .you have to work to improve your odss . . .

  20. July 11, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .i think giveaways are an excellent idea and a great way to build an audience . . . i think it pays to be somewhat selective in terms of who you give them, too– and i don't mean in terms of "how important they are," rather how much enthusiasm does the potential reader express, or what lengths will a potential reader go to to get a free copy . . .for instance, i went through all the people who put "all about lulu" on their amazon wish list and sent them free copies . . . i've heard back from a high percentage of those readers . . . you don't just wanna' stand at a truck stop giving them away . . .you have to work to improve your odss . . .

  21. July 11, 2009

    Gina Frangello Reply

    Great dialogue between Dan and JE, in addition to a great post in general! Other Voices Books totally shares Dan's/Dzanc's philosophy of working with writers over the long haul and building audience over time and with vigorous championing of a writer's long-term career. No doubt this is why we're happy as a Dzanc imprint–I think Dan, who had followed Other Voices magazine for quite a number of years–knew we had similar philosophies about this kind of thing, and so far I think it's working really well for both presses. OV Books published Tod Goldberg's first collection, SIMPLIFY, as our inaugural title in 2005, and we're putting out his second collection this fall. Tod has published numerous novels elsewhere–including his Burn Notice series–but for his collections, OV is his "home" and the only place he even submitted the new book. Tod's someone I first published in the magazine in probably 1998, so I had been a fan of his work for years–published him maybe 3 times in the journal over the years–before we did his book. Similar stuff with another of our writers, Allison Amend. Dan Wickett actually emailed me and took me to task when she wasn't the very first OV Books writer because he knew we both loved her work, and she was one of the authors I recommended to Dan when Dzanc launched though they went with Kesey (whom we'd also published in OV and loved) instead. But Allison Amend ended up as an OV Books author in 2008 . . . what I mean by all this is that, yes, the business of publishing in literary magazines and building readership is not so much about literary agents and big NYC publishers, but because many of those involved in the lit mag world are also involved in the indie book publishing world–the readership overlaps in a major way, as do potential future editors, etc., who then will consider your work very seriously, or even solicit work from you, when they launch a press if they've become major fans over a decade already.JE, JR and co–your discussions here are always awesome!

  22. July 11, 2009

    Gina Frangello Reply

    Great dialogue between Dan and JE, in addition to a great post in general!
    Other Voices Books totally shares Dan's/Dzanc's philosophy of working with writers over the long haul and building audience over time and with vigorous championing of a writer's long-term career. No doubt this is why we're happy as a Dzanc imprint–I think Dan, who had followed Other Voices magazine for quite a number of years–knew we had similar philosophies about this kind of thing, and so far I think it's working really well for both presses. OV Books published Tod Goldberg's first collection, SIMPLIFY, as our inaugural title in 2005, and we're putting out his second collection this fall. Tod has published numerous novels elsewhere–including his Burn Notice series–but for his collections, OV is his "home" and the only place he even submitted the new book. Tod's someone I first published in the magazine in probably 1998, so I had been a fan of his work for years–published him maybe 3 times in the journal over the years–before we did his book.
    Similar stuff with another of our writers, Allison Amend. Dan Wickett actually emailed me and took me to task when she wasn't the very first OV Books writer because he knew we both loved her work, and she was one of the authors I recommended to Dan when Dzanc launched though they went with Kesey (whom we'd also published in OV and loved) instead. But Allison Amend ended up as an OV Books author in 2008 . . . what I mean by all this is that, yes, the business of publishing in literary magazines and building readership is not so much about literary agents and big NYC publishers, but because many of those involved in the lit mag world are also involved in the indie book publishing world–the readership overlaps in a major way, as do potential future editors, etc., who then will consider your work very seriously, or even solicit work from you, when they launch a press if they've become major fans over a decade already.
    JE, JR and co–your discussions here are always awesome!

  23. July 11, 2009

    Gina Frangello Reply

    But the other thing I want to say here that's so important for the indies is the necessity of knowing your own level of resources and maximizing that for your own benefit and the benefit of your authors. I'm concerned about an indie publishing model that seems so prevalent–the kind of "use all the money and staff time on printing as many books as possible, and then don't actually support any marketing efforts for those books" model. Both OV Books and Dzanc keep our lists relatively small (OV's is VERY small: only 1-2 titles per year) so that we can literally live and breathe a title for about a year's time, at every level of operation. We do very extensive creative editing/revision work with our authors (sometimes extremely extensive, reading revisions or asking for very specific creation of new chapters/stories for up to a year of intensive back-and-forth before a book goes to press) and then serious, hardcore copy-editing (which I know from my experience as an author is not always provided in a truly intensive way by small indies) and then arranging the author's book tour all over the country, funding part of it, and sending out anywhere between 100-200 review/publicity copies of the book ourselves, without the author needing to quit their job or hire a freelance publicist to get this job done. When I published my first novel, my publisher had/has what I consider a great list of authors and books and I had long admired their aesthetic, and they're awesomely cool people . . . but their business plan beyond "finding good books" was nonexistent. They sent out 20 review copies, didn't provide copy-editing, and didn't set up a single event for me. The fact that the novel was reviewed at all or went into a second printing was because I was working my ass off and I had also hired a freelance publicist out of my own pocket. At OV, we WANT our writers to work their asses off, but we don't feel we have the right to require them to do that unless they see we're working as hard as they are. That said, if an author isn't willing to build community, spend the time, tour and read and blog, then all of our efforts don't amount to much. The connection between an author an his audience–especially when you're talking about an audience in the 2,000 first-printing range–is vital and a publisher can't do all that work for you. Any author who has gotten lucky enough to find a publisher should make it his/her business to network in a sincere (not self-serving) way and support other authors/presses they like, go to readings, read other blogs, form relationships on FB and other sites, and really put themselves out there–go read anywhere that'll have you, and even if you only sell 4 copies those 4 people, if they like you enough, may tell 40 people about your book later on, or maybe one is a blogger and touts you. No effort is too small, especially when so much today can be done online for free.

  24. July 11, 2009

    Gina Frangello Reply

    But the other thing I want to say here that's so important for the indies is the necessity of knowing your own level of resources and maximizing that for your own benefit and the benefit of your authors. I'm concerned about an indie publishing model that seems so prevalent–the kind of "use all the money and staff time on printing as many books as possible, and then don't actually support any marketing efforts for those books" model. Both OV Books and Dzanc keep our lists relatively small (OV's is VERY small: only 1-2 titles per year) so that we can literally live and breathe a title for about a year's time, at every level of operation. We do very extensive creative editing/revision work with our authors (sometimes extremely extensive, reading revisions or asking for very specific creation of new chapters/stories for up to a year of intensive back-and-forth before a book goes to press) and then serious, hardcore copy-editing (which I know from my experience as an author is not always provided in a truly intensive way by small indies) and then arranging the author's book tour all over the country, funding part of it, and sending out anywhere between 100-200 review/publicity copies of the book ourselves, without the author needing to quit their job or hire a freelance publicist to get this job done.
    When I published my first novel, my publisher had/has what I consider a great list of authors and books and I had long admired their aesthetic, and they're awesomely cool people . . . but their business plan beyond "finding good books" was nonexistent. They sent out 20 review copies, didn't provide copy-editing, and didn't set up a single event for me. The fact that the novel was reviewed at all or went into a second printing was because I was working my ass off and I had also hired a freelance publicist out of my own pocket. At OV, we WANT our writers to work their asses off, but we don't feel we have the right to require them to do that unless they see we're working as hard as they are.
    That said, if an author isn't willing to build community, spend the time, tour and read and blog, then all of our efforts don't amount to much. The connection between an author an his audience–especially when you're talking about an audience in the 2,000 first-printing range–is vital and a publisher can't do all that work for you. Any author who has gotten lucky enough to find a publisher should make it his/her business to network in a sincere (not self-serving) way and support other authors/presses they like, go to readings, read other blogs, form relationships on FB and other sites, and really put themselves out there–go read anywhere that'll have you, and even if you only sell 4 copies those 4 people, if they like you enough, may tell 40 people about your book later on, or maybe one is a blogger and touts you. No effort is too small, especially when so much today can be done online for free.

  25. …we try to give away books as part of an interview, or conversation with an author, it usually gets a great response…

  26. …we try to give away books as part of an interview, or conversation with an author, it usually gets a great response…

  27. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    them from building a large following.I've been thinking about book promotion a lot because I think I'd be good at that game and I was glad to see that many of my ideas are echoed here and in the links I found in this blog. It feels like a shared vision or at least mutual consensus. There are more writers and wanna-be-writers than ever before. What will make the difference in whom has success and whom does not lie wholly in the readership they build first hand – not through company ads. Nash is right, Twitter won't save publishing but it damn well may save an author from perpetual anonymity in the literary realm. Politicians shake hands and kiss babies and writers must blog and comment in the thread.As always, looking forward to more of your insights, JonE. Soon as I figure out how to send you a farting unicorn emoticon sliding down a rainbow for a humpday celebration I'll send it right over.Literary groupie lovin',Josie

  28. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    them from building a large following.

    I've been thinking about book promotion a lot because I think I'd be good at that game and I was glad to see that many of my ideas are echoed here and in the links I found in this blog. It feels like a shared vision or at least mutual consensus.

    There are more writers and wanna-be-writers than ever before. What will make the difference in whom has success and whom does not lie wholly in the readership they build first hand – not through company ads.

    Nash is right, Twitter won't save publishing but it damn well may save an author from perpetual anonymity in the literary realm.

    Politicians shake hands and kiss babies and writers must blog and comment in the thread.

    As always, looking forward to more of your insights, JonE. Soon as I figure out how to send you a farting unicorn emoticon sliding down a rainbow for a humpday celebration I'll send it right over.

    Literary groupie lovin',
    Josie

  29. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    So many things I want to say after reading this blog. First – thanks for all the valuable personal insight. So much of getting published is mysterious, ya know? It's like a fluke of nature or something. Nice to see how the game works from various personal experiences.I've been following the writers in online communities for years now and I tell writers regularly – You must participate in the comment box, aloof won't cut it.I tell them writers only do half the work. Without readers writers have no value. That isn't something a writer, isolated in work, sweating blood and emotional angst on the page day in and day out wants to hear but it's the truth. Writing is a team effort folks! Once the book is written – it's only a half baked thing. Only when a work is read is it truly complete. And it is always the number of readers that dictates the level of success.

  30. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    So many things I want to say after reading this blog. First – thanks for all the valuable personal insight. So much of getting published is mysterious, ya know? It's like a fluke of nature or something. Nice to see how the game works from various personal experiences.

    I've been following the writers in online communities for years now and I tell writers regularly – You must participate in the comment box, aloof won't cut it.

    I tell them writers only do half the work. Without readers writers have no value. That isn't something a writer, isolated in work, sweating blood and emotional angst on the page day in and day out wants to hear but it's the truth. Writing is a team effort folks! Once the book is written – it's only a half baked thing. Only when a work is read is it truly complete. And it is always the number of readers that dictates the level of success.

  31. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Pt2)And yet still I find that readers are not respected in literary circles. Writers will shmooze over one another but dismiss the common reader in the comment thread. "They're not a writer. What do they know."When I cruise through the blog communities and I see a writer comment to other writers in the thread and leave the stranger un-replied to, the one that says something like, "I've been reading here for ages but never left a comment but today I had to comment to say how great this was" I always think… that writer just lost a dozen sales, maybe hundreds. I tell my writer friends to reply to EVERY comment. “Make shit up. You’re a writer for cryssake!”

  32. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Pt2)And yet still I find that readers are not respected in literary circles. Writers will shmooze over one another but dismiss the common reader in the comment thread. "They're not a writer. What do they know."

    When I cruise through the blog communities and I see a writer comment to other writers in the thread and leave the stranger un-replied to, the one that says something like, "I've been reading here for ages but never left a comment but today I had to comment to say how great this was" I always think… that writer just lost a dozen sales, maybe hundreds.

    I tell my writer friends to reply to EVERY comment. “Make shit up. You’re a writer for cryssake!”

  33. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Pt3)A lousy writer can have success if s/he has enough social appeal. Everyone knows this and the "serious writers" feel like their work should speak for them that they shouldn't have to make nice for the crowds. It's a strange cocktail of insecurity and arrogance that keeps them from building a large following.I've been thinking about book promotion a lot because I think I'd be good at that game and I was glad to see that many of my ideas are echoed here and in the links I found in this blog. It feels like a shared vision or at least mutual consensus. There are more writers and wanna-be-writers than ever before. What will make the difference in whom has success and whom does not lie wholly in the readership they build first hand – not through company ads. Nash is right, Twitter won't save publishing but it damn well may save an author from perpetual anonymity in the literary realm.

  34. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Pt3)A lousy writer can have success if s/he has enough social appeal. Everyone knows this and the "serious writers" feel like their work should speak for them that they shouldn't have to make nice for the crowds. It's a strange cocktail of insecurity and arrogance that keeps them from building a large following.

    I've been thinking about book promotion a lot because I think I'd be good at that game and I was glad to see that many of my ideas are echoed here and in the links I found in this blog. It feels like a shared vision or at least mutual consensus.

    There are more writers and wanna-be-writers than ever before. What will make the difference in whom has success and whom does not lie wholly in the readership they build first hand – not through company ads.

    Nash is right, Twitter won't save publishing but it damn well may save an author from perpetual anonymity in the literary realm.

  35. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Pt4)Politicians shake hands and kiss babies and writers must blog and comment in the thread.As always, looking forward to more of your insights, JonE. Soon as I figure out how to send you a farting unicorn emoticon sliding down a rainbow for a humpday celebration I'll send it right over.Literary groupie lovin',Josielol – See this is what happens when you let laypeople comment!

  36. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Pt4)Politicians shake hands and kiss babies and writers must blog and comment in the thread.

    As always, looking forward to more of your insights, JonE. Soon as I figure out how to send you a farting unicorn emoticon sliding down a rainbow for a humpday celebration I'll send it right over.

    Literary groupie lovin',
    Josie

    lol – See this is what happens when you let laypeople comment!

  37. Josie, you're right, when writers respond to our posts, we always thank them, (and write back, but they never post a comment) but not enough do, it's really strange, we told their agent, publicist and publisher about the post, we're promoting their book, for free, and we're excited readers, maybe they are shy? Maud Newton just got back to me from over a year ago when I reviewed her story, she gave me great insight as to why she took so long, and that's amazing…I'd love it if every writer we reviewed or interviewed wrote something in the comments…but is that asking too much?

  38. Josie, you're right, when writers respond to our posts, we always thank them, (and write back, but they never post a comment) but not enough do, it's really strange, we told their agent, publicist and publisher about the post, we're promoting their book, for free, and we're excited readers, maybe they are shy? Maud Newton just got back to me from over a year ago when I reviewed her story, she gave me great insight as to why she took so long, and that's amazing…I'd love it if every writer we reviewed or interviewed wrote something in the comments…but is that asking too much?

  39. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Gina's dead-on as usual and she's right, she and I had had more than enough e-conversations for me to know that the OV philosophy fit in perfectly with the Dzanc philosophy. It was probably the easiest decision Steve and I have made since day one.And Josie, in my personal opinion you could not be MORE right about treating readers well, even if they're not writers. I am NOT a writer. When I started writing book reviews for the EWN back in 2000, there was no reason for anybody to listen to me – I was a QC Manager for an company that slit steel coils into narrower steel coils and had a BS in Statistics. But over the course of the last decade I've told as many people that would listen about great books, author, publishers, bookstores, reading series and literary journals. I think that is exactly what readers do – they do more word of mouth publicizing for you than anybody else.

  40. July 11, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Gina's dead-on as usual and she's right, she and I had had more than enough e-conversations for me to know that the OV philosophy fit in perfectly with the Dzanc philosophy. It was probably the easiest decision Steve and I have made since day one.

    And Josie, in my personal opinion you could not be MORE right about treating readers well, even if they're not writers. I am NOT a writer. When I started writing book reviews for the EWN back in 2000, there was no reason for anybody to listen to me – I was a QC Manager for an company that slit steel coils into narrower steel coils and had a BS in Statistics. But over the course of the last decade I've told as many people that would listen about great books, author, publishers, bookstores, reading series and literary journals.

    I think that is exactly what readers do – they do more word of mouth publicizing for you than anybody else.

  41. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Not too much to ask at all, JE. There was a time when we practiced a little thing called social graces. Simple things like thank you cards have gone the way of many written traditions but the contruct of etiquette is meant to engineer relationships that extend farther than we can perceive. The practice may be waning but the value of social graces is still ever present.It is precisely that which keeps me from typing out a long line of vulgarities at Blogger for attempting to edit my comments… apparently Blogger thinks I'm too wordy. Can you imagine that? ;)Thanks for sharing that Dan. I feel encouraged to pursue my literary career interests after reading your comment. I'm not a writer either but I have a lifetime of reading under my belt and several years now of cruising the literary cyber-hood, rubbing shoulders with writerly types, and connecting with blogging readerships. Add to that the wealth of info from those teaching and promoting the art and field of published works … and boy have I learned a lot.

  42. July 11, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Not too much to ask at all, JE. There was a time when we practiced a little thing called social graces. Simple things like thank you cards have gone the way of many written traditions but the contruct of etiquette is meant to engineer relationships that extend farther than we can perceive. The practice may be waning but the value of social graces is still ever present.

    It is precisely that which keeps me from typing out a long line of vulgarities at Blogger for attempting to edit my comments… apparently Blogger thinks I'm too wordy. Can you imagine that? 😉

    Thanks for sharing that Dan. I feel encouraged to pursue my literary career interests after reading your comment.

    I'm not a writer either but I have a lifetime of reading under my belt and several years now of cruising the literary cyber-hood, rubbing shoulders with writerly types, and connecting with blogging readerships. Add to that the wealth of info from those teaching and promoting the art and field of published works … and boy have I learned a lot.

  43. July 11, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    yes, josie, i think you'd be a great book publicist! and btw, the comments from "it really is three guys" are my brilliant associate JR's . . . and gina, thanks for sounding in along with dan . . . the fact that this blog is offering writers live access to editors like you two make it a really great resource . . .

  44. July 11, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    yes, josie, i think you'd be a great book publicist! and btw, the comments from "it really is three guys" are my brilliant associate JR's . . . and gina, thanks for sounding in along with dan . . . the fact that this blog is offering writers live access to editors like you two make it a really great resource . . .

  45. July 12, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Sorry Mr. Rice. I owe you one o'them farting rainbow sliding unicorn emoticons after that mix-up!

  46. July 12, 2009

    Josie Reply

    Sorry Mr. Rice. I owe you one o'them farting rainbow sliding unicorn emoticons after that mix-up!

  47. July 12, 2009

    James P. Othmer Reply

    Great posts. It's amazing how much things have changes since John Updike gave his BEA speech a few years ago, the partial gist of which was that promoting one's work was unbecoming for a novelist. Group readings are a great way to ensure a decent crowd and expose your work to a much broader readership. JE and Knock put on a killer event last month in Washington that I regret missing, but I couldn't make the numbers work on $700 transcontinental flight. I'm also a fan of retreating to the bar afterward. However, after one of my first readings at the excellent McNally Robinson, at which I sold about a dozen books, I went to a nearby dive bar with, coincidentally, about a dozen friends, and picked up the $250 tab. On the way home my wife suggested we should probably rethink the big shot tab-picker-upper model. I have no problem working hard to attract an audience for a book or at a reading, but you can only hit up friends and family so many times. Then again, I haven't broken out the jello shots, yet.

  48. July 12, 2009

    James P. Othmer Reply

    Great posts. It's amazing how much things have changes since John Updike gave his BEA speech a few years ago, the partial gist of which was that promoting one's work was unbecoming for a novelist. Group readings are a great way to ensure a decent crowd and expose your work to a much broader readership. JE and Knock put on a killer event last month in Washington that I regret missing, but I couldn't make the numbers work on $700 transcontinental flight. I'm also a fan of retreating to the bar afterward. However, after one of my first readings at the excellent McNally Robinson, at which I sold about a dozen books, I went to a nearby dive bar with, coincidentally, about a dozen friends, and picked up the $250 tab. On the way home my wife suggested we should probably rethink the big shot tab-picker-upper model. I have no problem working hard to attract an audience for a book or at a reading, but you can only hit up friends and family so many times. Then again, I haven't broken out the jello shots, yet.

  49. July 12, 2009

    Jonathan Evison Reply

    . . .ha! i feel you on the tabs, jimbo! . . .my solution was to make one of my best friends my tour manager–after three kamikazes he insists on picking up all tabs! . . . i went way over budget on my tour, but i'm pretty sure it has paid for itself by now, and will pay dividends into the future . . . could i have used that extra 2k this winter? hell yeah . . . but something deferred is . . .uh . . .um . . .something deferred, i guess . . .

  50. July 12, 2009

    Jonathan Evison Reply

    . . .ha! i feel you on the tabs, jimbo! . . .my solution was to make one of my best friends my tour manager–after three kamikazes he insists on picking up all tabs! . . . i went way over budget on my tour, but i'm pretty sure it has paid for itself by now, and will pay dividends into the future . . . could i have used that extra 2k this winter? hell yeah . . . but something deferred is . . .uh . . .um . . .something deferred, i guess . . .

  51. July 12, 2009

    Michael Balkind Reply

    I am intrigued after reading your blog – Surving… My second book is soon to be released and I am working as hard as I can to achieve success in this brutal business. It is seriously an uphill battle but one I intend to win or die trying.Can I interest (persuade, beg, bribe) one of you gentlemen in evaluating and or reviewing an ARC of my upcoming novel, Dead Ball. It is the second book in my Deadly Sports Mysteries series and has received some good endorsements. (John Lescroart among others.)My first book, Sudden Death was endorsed by James Patterson & Clive Cussler. I would love the opportunity of having one of you take a peek at it. Please.Michael Balkindwww.balkindbooks.commbalkind@hotmail.com

  52. July 12, 2009

    Michael Balkind Reply

    I am intrigued after reading your blog – Surving…
    My second book is soon to be released and I am working as hard as I can to achieve success in this brutal business. It is seriously an uphill battle but one I intend to win or die trying.

    Can I interest (persuade, beg, bribe) one of you gentlemen in evaluating and or reviewing an ARC of my upcoming novel, Dead Ball. It is the second book in my Deadly Sports Mysteries series and has received some good endorsements. (John Lescroart among others.)My first book, Sudden Death was endorsed by James Patterson & Clive Cussler. I would love the opportunity of having one of you take a peek at it. Please.

    Michael Balkind
    http://www.balkindbooks.com
    mbalkind@hotmail.com

  53. July 12, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .way to hustle, michael! cussler and patterson are a pair of logrollers . . . did you solicit their input yourself, or did your publisher solicit their endoresements?

  54. July 12, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .way to hustle, michael! cussler and patterson are a pair of logrollers . . . did you solicit their input yourself, or did your publisher solicit their endoresements?

  55. July 12, 2009

    Michael Balkind Reply

    Jonathan-Thanks for the return comment.The Patterson & Cussler blurbs on Sudden Death were obtained by me. I have been a sales and marketing guy for a long time. I will hustle till I drop. Hopefully I'll sell a few books first.Would you or one of your partners on this forum care to review Dead Ball?It would mean a lot to me.Michael

  56. July 12, 2009

    Michael Balkind Reply

    Jonathan-
    Thanks for the return comment.
    The Patterson & Cussler blurbs on Sudden Death were obtained by me. I have been a sales and marketing guy for a long time. I will hustle till I drop. Hopefully I'll sell a few books first.

    Would you or one of your partners on this forum care to review Dead Ball?
    It would mean a lot to me.

    Michael

  57. July 12, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .well, michael,can't promise a review given the sheer volume of books we receive, but send it along and maybe we'll make a mention–as likely as not about your hustling tactics . . . hit me up at my regular addy at my website (jonathanevison.com) . . .

  58. July 12, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .well, michael,can't promise a review given the sheer volume of books we receive, but send it along and maybe we'll make a mention–as likely as not about your hustling tactics . . . hit me up at my regular addy at my website (jonathanevison.com) . . .

  59. July 13, 2009

    Natasha Solomons Reply

    Thanks – such a great post. I'm clearly taking your advice to heart, as I'm not lurking but leaving a comment…I'm a debut novelist (such a strange term – makes me think of dancers making debuts, but with writers prancing across a stage, scattering words). My novel 'Mr Rosenblum's List' is coming out April 2010 with Sceptre in the UK and Little, Brown in the US. I oscillate between excitement and sheer insomnia inducing anxiety. I know how few debut writers have success, and I'm trying to do my best blogging bit despite being a Luddite. I'm being encouraged to Twitter too, though since it seems to take me ninety thousand words to say anything, I'm not really sure that this would be my natural form. At the moment, I'm on quite a tight schedule for my second book and am finding it hard to blog as often as I should.You guys are writers too, so do you find it hard sometimes to find the balance between writing and essentially promoting your work?

  60. July 13, 2009

    Natasha Solomons Reply

    Thanks – such a great post. I'm clearly taking your advice to heart, as I'm not lurking but leaving a comment…

    I'm a debut novelist (such a strange term – makes me think of dancers making debuts, but with writers prancing across a stage, scattering words). My novel 'Mr Rosenblum's List' is coming out April 2010 with Sceptre in the UK and Little, Brown in the US.

    I oscillate between excitement and sheer insomnia inducing anxiety. I know how few debut writers have success, and I'm trying to do my best blogging bit despite being a Luddite. I'm being encouraged to Twitter too, though since it seems to take me ninety thousand words to say anything, I'm not really sure that this would be my natural form. At the moment, I'm on quite a tight schedule for my second book and am finding it hard to blog as often as I should.

    You guys are writers too, so do you find it hard sometimes to find the balance between writing and essentially promoting your work?

  61. July 13, 2009

    Kelly Cherry Reply

    Just want to mention one thing, an obvious thing, but I didn't see it in the posts (I did merely skim some of the posts): Often writers lose audiences because editors, publicists, and agents jobjump A LOT. Moreover, big publishers will make all kinds of promises about sustaining a lifelong career and then drop an author instantly if a single book doesn't earn a set amount. I applaud all the good sense and energy in these posts and join in the sentiment that authors must help get their books around, but simply believing that will not guarantee that one's editor, publisher, or agent will believe it.

  62. July 13, 2009

    Kelly Cherry Reply

    Just want to mention one thing, an obvious thing, but I didn't see it in the posts (I did merely skim some of the posts): Often writers lose audiences because editors, publicists, and agents jobjump A LOT. Moreover, big publishers will make all kinds of promises about sustaining a lifelong career and then drop an author instantly if a single book doesn't earn a set amount. I applaud all the good sense and energy in these posts and join in the sentiment that authors must help get their books around, but simply believing that will not guarantee that one's editor, publisher, or agent will believe it.

  63. July 13, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Great point by Kelly. I know that one of our authors had a book deal for his first novel many years back. His editor left and his book never saw the light of day.I do think that's an advantage of a smaller publisher, especially those where the owners are the publishers and not a case where the publishers have gone out to find funding, or brought in Managing Editors to run things for them.Obviously it's not foolproof, nothing is, Richard Nash leaving Soft Skull may not have been a surprise to everybody but I know it caught me off guard. And he's certainly not the first to leave a smaller house. There are places that come to mind though – Unbridled with Fred/Greg who have now worked together for what, 20 years?, and have brought their authors from house to house in their trio of stables; Two Dollar Radio where Eric and Eliza started from scratch, etc.

  64. July 13, 2009

    Dan Wickett Reply

    Great point by Kelly. I know that one of our authors had a book deal for his first novel many years back. His editor left and his book never saw the light of day.

    I do think that's an advantage of a smaller publisher, especially those where the owners are the publishers and not a case where the publishers have gone out to find funding, or brought in Managing Editors to run things for them.

    Obviously it's not foolproof, nothing is, Richard Nash leaving Soft Skull may not have been a surprise to everybody but I know it caught me off guard. And he's certainly not the first to leave a smaller house.

    There are places that come to mind though – Unbridled with Fred/Greg who have now worked together for what, 20 years?, and have brought their authors from house to house in their trio of stables; Two Dollar Radio where Eric and Eliza started from scratch, etc.

  65. July 14, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . . to address natasha's question about balancing writing time with bloggin/promoting time, i find myself at a huge advantage to almost every writer i've ever met . . . that's all i do . . .i don't work, that's how i make time . . . i'm broke most of the time, but i'm getting by . . .thank god for film money . . . my friend carol cassella (author of oxygen)is a freaking doctor and has two sets of twins and still gets it done writing wise, though she has little to no time for blogging and promotion . . .it's a grind . . . my hats off to any writer working full time and still wearing the other hats!

  66. July 14, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . . to address natasha's question about balancing writing time with bloggin/promoting time, i find myself at a huge advantage to almost every writer i've ever met . . . that's all i do . . .i don't work, that's how i make time . . . i'm broke most of the time, but i'm getting by . . .thank god for film money . . . my friend carol cassella (author of oxygen)is a freaking doctor and has two sets of twins and still gets it done writing wise, though she has little to no time for blogging and promotion . . .it's a grind . . . my hats off to any writer working full time and still wearing the other hats!

  67. July 15, 2009

    Larry Reply

    The major publishers are looking for home runs. If your first book is a single or a double, they'll give you another shot. After that and no dinger, and you're under the bus. When I broke in (2000) my publisher threw us a bash one night while we were at Bouchercon. There were 19 of us there, with only one "name" author among us (Jan Burke). A few of us hit singles and doubles.Now, 9 years later, there are only two names from that group that are still on the shelves that I can find. The one's I've talk all lost their contracts. No home runs after 2 to 4 tries, it's under the bus.The point is to write BIG BOOKS that stand a shot at going over the fence. Certain stories are made to be bestsellers — high concept, wildly original stuff — while literary and series fiction has to fight the odds.

  68. July 15, 2009

    Larry Reply

    The major publishers are looking for home runs. If your first book is a single or a double, they'll give you another shot. After that and no dinger, and you're under the bus.

    When I broke in (2000) my publisher threw us a bash one night while we were at Bouchercon. There were 19 of us there, with only one "name" author among us (Jan Burke). A few of us hit singles and doubles.

    Now, 9 years later, there are only two names from that group that are still on the shelves that I can find. The one's I've talk all lost their contracts. No home runs after 2 to 4 tries, it's under the bus.

    The point is to write BIG BOOKS that stand a shot at going over the fence. Certain stories are made to be bestsellers — high concept, wildly original stuff — while literary and series fiction has to fight the odds.

  69. July 16, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . . you're right about windows of opportunity, larry . . . i'm glad i followed lulu with something really ambitious because i wanna' go out swinging . . . i know several writers who had some success with a debut (let's call them doubles), then ended up selling earlier novels to their publishers while the iron was hot . . . in every case, the second (aka earlier) book failed them . . . if you're going to brand yourself as an author rather than a title in the literary fiction game, i think you need to show your readers (as well as the critics) some sort of growth or progression with each novel (at least up until number four . . .

  70. July 16, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . . you're right about windows of opportunity, larry . . . i'm glad i followed lulu with something really ambitious because i wanna' go out swinging . . . i know several writers who had some success with a debut (let's call them doubles), then ended up selling earlier novels to their publishers while the iron was hot . . . in every case, the second (aka earlier) book failed them . . . if you're going to brand yourself as an author rather than a title in the literary fiction game, i think you need to show your readers (as well as the critics) some sort of growth or progression with each novel (at least up until number four . . .

  71. July 16, 2009

    Patrick T. Kilgallon Reply

    Thanks for the information. Does it helps to write a serial chapter every two weeks or so to build up readers' interests? I think Scott Sigler of the 'Infected' did that. I have been trying that myself with my second dystopia horror novel but the results seem slow to someone like myself who likes instant results. Any thoughts on that?

  72. July 16, 2009

    Patrick T. Kilgallon Reply

    Thanks for the information. Does it helps to write a serial chapter every two weeks or so to build up readers' interests? I think Scott Sigler of the 'Infected' did that. I have been trying that myself with my second dystopia horror novel but the results seem slow to someone like myself who likes instant results. Any thoughts on that?

  73. November 26, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .yo, patrick, yes, i think a serial could work great . . . back in the early myspace days i serialized a couple of novels on my blog, and actually hit a couple hundred readers everytime i posted, and saw growth by the end . . . still, you need to reach out and shepherd those readers to your work . . .that’s why online writing groups can be so helpful. . .

  74. November 26, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . .yo, patrick, yes, i think a serial could work great . . . back in the early myspace days i serialized a couple of novels on my blog, and actually hit a couple hundred readers everytime i posted, and saw growth by the end . . . still, you need to reach out and shepherd those readers to your work . . .that’s why online writing groups can be so helpful. . .

  75. November 26, 2009

    Jason Rice Reply

    how do you join a writers group JE? tell us.

  76. November 26, 2009

    Jason Rice Reply

    how do you join a writers group JE? tell us.

  77. November 26, 2009

    DH Reply

    That’s an intreresting question for JE. I was curious myself. I did find this comprehensive link by googling “online writers groups”
    but I wonder what JE will say about this. It’s too early for him to be eating turkey…

    http://www.thewriterssite.com/direct_pages/writing_feedback.html

  78. November 26, 2009

    DH Reply

    That’s an intreresting question for JE. I was curious myself. I did find this comprehensive link by googling “online writers groups”
    but I wonder what JE will say about this. It’s too early for him to be eating turkey…

    http://www.thewriterssite.com/direct_pages/writing_feedback.html

  79. November 27, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . . the fiction files was something of a writers group, and discussion group, too . . . i started shepherding folks from existing groups that sucked, and also randomly profiling people (this was on myspace back in 06) who called themselves writers . . .then i’d read their blog and see if they could write, and if they could, i’d invite them to join the files . . . social networking makes all of this so easy . . .

  80. November 27, 2009

    jonathan evison Reply

    . . . the fiction files was something of a writers group, and discussion group, too . . . i started shepherding folks from existing groups that sucked, and also randomly profiling people (this was on myspace back in 06) who called themselves writers . . .then i’d read their blog and see if they could write, and if they could, i’d invite them to join the files . . . social networking makes all of this so easy . . .

  81. December 10, 2009

    Patrick T. Kilgallon Reply

    Ha, yeah I was a member of that…my favorite memory was that old guy who tried to lure people to his hardboil detective novels profile by complaining how pansy or wussy we are and stating he only likes his coffee black like some kind of a tough guy then Ben posted that he takes his with whipped cream and caramel icings and then someone got excited and posted ooo! ooo! I take my coffee in vanilla latte.

    It read like a Saturday Night Live sketch with us pansies hijacking that thread with our various tastes in creamy and sweet coffees and pissing the first one so much that he quit. I still laugh about that thread. You really need the skin of a rhino to stick it out in the ole f.f. !

  82. December 10, 2009

    Patrick T. Kilgallon Reply

    Ha, yeah I was a member of that…my favorite memory was that old guy who tried to lure people to his hardboil detective novels profile by complaining how pansy or wussy we are and stating he only likes his coffee black like some kind of a tough guy then Ben posted that he takes his with whipped cream and caramel icings and then someone got excited and posted ooo! ooo! I take my coffee in vanilla latte.

    It read like a Saturday Night Live sketch with us pansies hijacking that thread with our various tastes in creamy and sweet coffees and pissing the first one so much that he quit. I still laugh about that thread. You really need the skin of a rhino to stick it out in the ole f.f. !

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