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Posted on April 4, 2017
I am presently in Johor Bahru Malaysia, where I am duotasking: writing a book and concluding the research necessary to begin a VR-related startup. The questions that investors ask are a must for for my startup and an interesting way to look at my book project. The VR section immediately follows the book section. VC Questions for Touching JB, a book by Stephen Black What is it? A 50,00 word book based on the experiences, thoughts and blog posts of Stephen Black, written during an unexpected stay in Johor Bahru, Malaysia i the spring of 2017. Topics and themes include cultural issues, human relationships, food, comedy, art and virtual reality. What problem does it solve? There are no fact-based fiction books about Johor Bahru. As JB continues to gain international recognition, Touching JB will also gain prominence Competition There are no comparable books about JB. Who is making it? Bestselling author and producer Stephen Black is making it, aided by Book Merah, who made i ate tiong bahru a bestseller in Singapore. Potential audience? Ten thousand readers within five years. What work has been done? 25,000 words have been written. On schedule. How will it grow? Book Merah will handle promotion and marketing. The readers of Black's previous books will be the first group contacted. Once reviews are secured, large scale promotion will begin. References Goodreads, Amazon,Art Review Asia, Expat Living Magazine Schedule Finish writing in April. E-publishing and promotion to follow immediately. VC Questions for a VR-related startup being initiated by Stephen Black Note; Parts of the following are intentionally vague and for now SVRP (Steve’s VR Project) is being used as the project name. What is it? A Google Daydream ap and platform for nongaming casual VR users. What problem does it solve? Entertainment, education, tourism and other industries will have a tool to build audiences with. Competition There is, presently, no competition. Who is making it? Experienced 3D and gaming producer Stephen Black Potential audience? Tens of millions+ What work has been done? Extensive research, planning and paper grey boxing How will it grow? Carefully chosen beta testers, then alpha companies and individuals, freeware References Previous projects were successfully used by the Singapore Science Center and the Singapore Ministry of Education Schedule Prepare mockup. Find money. Go forth and prosper.
Posted on March 30, 2017
Lisa See is an inspiration to me. No, I have not yet read her books, but her writing is solid, as her awards and reviews prove. What inspires is me is the way she starts with a core of personal relationships and then researches, researches, researches. The following superinterview covers her life, her relationship with China and her nonwriting-but-important-to writing activities. The following, from the Phillipine News Now website, nicely introduces us to Lisa... As she pours steaming water over tea in a mini-tasting ritual, See reflects on how a one-eighth Chinese, native Californian whose bright red hair, freckles and pale skin belie her Asian cultural roots, went from freelance journalist to one of the most prominent Chinese-American writers of her generation."I was what they called a critically acclaimed writer," says See, who is as witty in person as on the page. "What that means is you get really great reviews and nobody reads your books." That changed when, against the advice of publisher, agent, fellow writers, even friends, she decided to research a historical novel about two women growing up as best friends in rural 19th century China. Published in 2005, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" has sold more than 1.5 million copies. It not only established See as a serious literary force but gave her a template for future storytelling. Several deeply researched historical novels have followed, each featuring strong characters who, despite close friendship, sometimes betray one another. They are often day-to-day people caught up in the circumstances and traditions of their time, which can lead to situations running the gamut from laugh-out-loud comical to deeply, darkly tragic. ................................... The following is from Lisa See's website. Why do you write about China? I’m part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad. My great-grandfather was the godfather/patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. I don’t look at all Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. I have hundreds of relatives in Los Angeles, of which there are only about a dozen who look like me. Lisa's mother, Carolyn See, is also a writer. The following is from an interview the two conducted. Carolyn: You’re one-eighth Chinese but you’ve said many times that you’re “Chinese in your heart.” You lived with me growing up, but I know your dad’s parents made a tremendous impression on you. Could you talk specifically of your wonderful grandmother Stella See? I have a hunch you picked up many of your storytelling skills from her. Lisa: Did I? I thought I picked up my storytelling skills from you! I don’t remember my grandmother telling many stories, actually. What I remember most is her essence. She wasn’t Chinese (I got my red hair from her). She was very shy and fearful in many ways, but she also was filled with daring. She married a Chinese man when it was against the law. She lit out on a round-the-world trip with a couple of girlfriends when she was sixty-nine. She traveled through India third class. She was an adventurer and kind of wild in her own way, and yet she was afraid of so many things. She could be very blunt and earthy, but often she was afraid to finish a sentence. It was only when I was writing Peony in Love that I realized that a version of my grandmother has appeared in every book I’ve written. There’s a lot of her in Madame Wang (the matchmaker in Snow Flower), the neighborhood committee director in the mysteries, the grandmother in Peony in Love, and the mother-in-law in Shanghai Girls. Writing these fictional characters has allowed me to have my grandmother with me every day. ..................... From the same interview: But what really interested me about footbinding was that it seemed so tied to the Chinese written character for mother love, which is composed of two elements: one part means love, the other part means pain. Of course, mother love is experienced in all cultures and through all times. I used to think that mother love is what daughters feel for their mothers—because they bind our feet, brush our hair, and nag us to clean our rooms, do our homework, get off the phone, and not stay out too late—but I’ve come to believe that mother love is really about what mothers feel for their children. Any pain or suffering our children feel—a fever or an earache as an infant, getting in with the wrong crowd in high school, failures in business or love once they’ve gone out into the world—we bear for them (whether they know it or not) and carry in our hearts. I’m a woman, a daughter, and a mother. When I was a kid, I had very long hair. Remember what you used to say when you brushed it? “In order to be beautiful one must suffer.” That was coming from you—one of the most liberated, smart, and open people I know. These things are just so deep in every culture ................................ For Snow Flower, she traveled to a remote area of China—where she was told she was only the second foreigner ever to visit—to research the secret writing invented, used, and kept a secret by women for over a thousand years.(THIS IS THE BOOK OF LISA'S THAT I WOULD LIKE TO READ FIRST-SB) Amy Tan called the novel “achingly beautiful, a marvel of imagination.” Others agreed, and foreign-language rights for Snow Flower were sold to 39 countries. The novel also became a New York Times bestseller, a Booksense Number One Pick, has won numerous awards domestically and internationally, and was made into a feature film produced by Fox Searchlight. Ms. See was born in Paris but grew up in Los Angeles. She lived with her mother, but spent a lot of time with her father’s family in Chinatown. Her first book, On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family (1995), was a national bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book. The book traces the journey of Lisa’s great-grandfather, Fong See, who overcame obstacles at every step to become the 100-year-old godfather of Los Angeles’s Chinatown and the patriarch of a sprawling family. Research shapes Lisa's signature style of storytelling. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, her latest book, is about the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple. The book features the customs of a Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha. The Akha grow and produce Pu'er tea. Lisa did research, not exactly a little bit of poking around on the internet...
The next day, we flew from GuangZhou to Xishuangbanna, arriving in JingHong late at night. After being picked up by our driver, Mr. Lee, we drove an hour and a half to our hotel in Menghai. The next morning, we met up with my tea master, Vesper Chan, at our hotel. Also with us were Jeni Dodd of Jeni’s Tea in NY and Buddha Tamong from Nepal. Master Chan and his associate, Mr. Liu, drove us up the mountain to Mengsung, a well-known pu-erh producing area within Xishuangbanna Prefecture. Upon arrival, a delicious lunch of the local cuisine had already been prepared for us. After we ate, we toured Mr. Liu’s tea processing factory and hiked into the ancient tea garden.That is an excerpt written by Linda Louie, from the Bana Tea Company. Lisa and Linda spent time together researching tea. One of the results of this is the Book Club Tea Tasting Guide, a package that includes teas featured in the book. The questions I have for Lisa are:
- Exposition can really block the flow of a story. Can you provide an example, maybe an excerpt, in which exposition pushed the story or became invisible? It would seem that often you must explain things and I am wondering if you have a pattern, or patterns, for explaining complex concepts to your readers.
- Logistics for appearances and publicity. Do you have an assistant? How helpful is your publisher? It seems you make a lot of appearances and I am curious how you manage, especially with things like having books o hand for signings.
- China has seen very difficult times. Our planet is now seeing some very difficult times. Is there a Chinese expression which expresses the importance of Hope, or perhaps encourages a positive long term view when the short term view is dark?............These questions were sent to Lisa on April 1st, 2017...stay tuned!)
Posted on March 29, 2017
the writing spree begins now; in Johor Bahru, Malaysia at 2AM... What a delight it is when unplanned events suddenly enrich our lives. A small example: I wanted to research the possibilities of short story/gaming mashups. This search led me to the work of Marc Laidlaw. His words and ideas helped shape the legendary Half-Life. His blog post about writing for games is a burning Panthunian crystal, set high on a hill; guidance for the hooded, tired traveler that was my question. However, what was delightful is this: I have been researching hands, especially all that is profundis , as well as writing about photography. Mr. Laidlaw had once been approached about doing a “cover version” of The Viewfinder by Raymond Carver. Hats off to Larry McCaffery for that idea. Fingers and a camera figure prominently in Carver’s story! My “cover” of The Viewfinder is now in its second draft and will be in the JB book. I will do my best, but it will never be as good as this story about a musical cover: http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-greatest-music-of-all-time/ PS: Just discovered this, about the use of photography in The Viewfinder: https://www.scribd.com/document/263990334/Raymond-Carver-in-the-Viewfinder PSS Here is the latest draft of my cover of The Viewfinder. Weaselspittism
Posted on March 6, 2017
We’re on one of the few picturesque streets in the old quarter of Johor Bahru. We see three Malaysians loading a truck with furniture that they are carrying out of a big red colonial house. Now we see a man quickly walking; he is late: BIFF DANKLE, an American with long hair that may or may not be fashionable. He pulls at it constantly; BIFF’s nervousness is obvious. He's carrying a manila envelope. BIFF approaches SIMON MURRAY and smiles respectfully. SIMON crushes his cigarette and puts his hand out. He is in his early sixties, in excellent shape, and with movie star good looks. BIFF immediately gives SIMON the envelope and sits down. The two are on a black wrought iron bench in the shade of a frangipani tree in full bloom. The weather is unpleasantly hot and humid, the sky is blue and filled with big white clouds. Strings of round Chinese lanterns hang over the street like strands of red paper pearls. SIMON reads quickly. BIFF pretends not to study SIMON’s face. BIFF again recites to himself some of the films that SIMON worked on: The Last Emperor, Life of Brian, Titanic, Distant Voices Still Lives, La Vie de Boheme, Indiana Jones... He’d seen photos on SIMON’s website; his pals like Madonna, Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr.. SIMON is humble, but not afraid to mention those with whom he’d enjoyed himself, famous or not. One moment SIMON might mention Sir Laurence Olivier, the next moment, nearly in tears, he'd describe the cheerful, sweet innocent face of Jimmy Wu, the bespectacled little boy with Backlington Syndrome who had hobbled six miles through a minefield in the snow in the dead of night to gaze upon the glasses that SIMON had made for Harry Potter. One moment SIMON might explain the influence his mother had upon British postwar playground design; the next he'd be describing an Oscar party he’d attended with both Playboy’s Miss January 1983 and a former Miss Texas who had “worked with Elvis”. BIFF remembered wistfully how SIMON once had effortlessly segued from a naughty casting couch story set in a Viennese penthouse to a description of his father’s meeting with Gandhi, to tips on how to get building permits in Los Angeles. SIMON knows both the dark secrets surrounding the present location of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper costumes and the simple joy of sharing
sewage pipe in the middle of the road “This is surreal,” SIMON says. BIFF’s heart leaps. He hadn’t thought that the script he’d risked his health and sanity for would be considered “surreal”. But if SIMON MURRAY thought it was surreal, then his script was surreal, goshdarnit! Great! Actually, BIFF’s aim was to write a mashup; something like Waiting for Godot meets Mission Impossible. One draft had been titled Waiting for the Pink Panther. “Absolutely surreal” SIMON repeats. Eventually, BIFF understands, sadly. His script is not surreal; SIMON's mind is preoccupied with Something Else....The Meaning of Life. The Undefinable Power Which Pervades Everything Yet Cannot Be Proved. Malaysia. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.The fact that Life is unscripted, yet filled with countless scenes containing countless varieties of brutality, no matter how much we think otherwise. SIMON lights another cigarette. We hear only the sound of diners in the cafe across the little street. BIFF becomes aware of the aroma of herbal soup. ”OK… No bulldust”, SIMON says. “Your script. Some good ideas, but... don't do two things at once. You can’t be both opera and MTV. Ballet or gangsta rap. You must decide. Hemingway or The Bard. Whattsap. Commitment. Your Mr. Yellow character is unbelievable; I am unclear as to whether he has Parkinson's or just a silly walk. Your script should be a ticket away from reality. It's not." SIMON looks at the truck. "I had hopes..." Suddenly SIMON starts barking like a big basset hound; the loudness he makes is the sound of being upset and surprised yet happy. The men packing the truck stop. SIMON is amongst them immediately. He shows them how to pack properly.
a Christmas dinner of warm gravel with the 106 children living in the Brothanian orphanage in the...Click To Tweet
Posted on January 4, 2017
To: Laurie Gogh, traditionally published author of several books, including Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman's Travel OdysseyFm: Artist/VR producer Stephen Black, self-published author, including the bestseller i ate tiong bahru.(2000 paperback copies sold, with no media coverage nor advertising) Re: Your recent submission to the Huffington Post Dear Ms. Gogh, Thank you for your submission to the Huffington Post. We at the Huffington Post are aware of, and truly appreciate, the time and effort it takes to write an outstanding essay. We sincerely hope the following notes from one of our editors will assist you on your journey towards becoming an outstanding writer. All the best to you. Sincerely, Submissions Desk at the Huffington Post (JUST KIDDING.) Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word Laurie, Fantastic title! Clickbait yet literary!
As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say. Laurie, wonderful opening paragraph. A few things: a. add sales figures. Can't go wrong with sales figures. b. your awards. Can you weave these in, in a punchy way? c. how about "Surely you'd make much more money or...much, much more money..."😉 And hey, just between you and me... haven't you considered self-publishing? What do you make per book? Forty, fifty cents? Do publishers still line up promotional tours these days?How's your backlist moving?
I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish. Can I try to arrange that? Ha ha! Actually it is a great line. Can you open with it? However, you'd have to come up with a follow up paragraph that would outline why you cannot see yourself in the world of self-publishing.
To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to
actually respect it and want to read it(Can we rethink this? must we associate the word "respect" with traditional publishing? +... want to read--or want to buy? 🙂 — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. Laurie, let's make this really work for us: can you make it personal and mention your editors' names?..and OOPS! Your sentence begins with "to get a book published... you have to go through agents, blablabla national and international reviewers". Reviewers aren't necessary to to get a book published, are they? Don't reviewers add value AFTER a book is finished? Remember, Laurie, we have to be clear and exact...we're not self-publishers, are we? lol These gatekeepers are assess ing whether or not your work is any good. BLEH! Gatekeepers assure readers of quality. Something like that. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates(repetitious), to be vetted by professionals. Just like Fifty Shades and Wool and all of those wonderful books by Joe Konrath, who has sold millions. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have. Laurie, let's rethink those last two lines. Readers don't expect those things, though the world would be a better place if more readers did. For now, we will feign ignorance of excellent services like Reedsy.
Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. Yes! The craft of writing is a life’s work. Yes!It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favorite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year.Yes! At the end of her self-imposed(move this 'self-imposed' up so that it modifies the first 'apprenticeship') apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now(rethink your use of tense here!) can she see how bad they were. Laurie, isn't it also possible for self-publishers to have their work rejected, in many ways? If an honest friend or a teacher who was a serious reader told you that your book was unreadable, would that be better or worse than an unsigned rejection form letter from the office of an agent or publisher?
Did you ever hear what Margaret Atwood said at a party to a brain surgeon? Rewrite, does not sound literary. At. all. When the brain surgeon found out what she did for a living, he said, “Oh, you’re a writer! When I retire I’m going to write a book.” Margaret Atwood
said coolly replied, “Great! When I retire I’m going to be a brain surgeon!”An anecdote Laurie, well done!
The irony is that now that brain surgeon really could dash off a “book” in a of couple months, click “publish” on
a Amazon, and he’s off signing books at the bookstore. Laurie, can we link to where Amazon provides this service? lol Just like Margaret Atwood, he’s a “published” author. Who cares if his book is something that his grade nine teacher might have wanted to crumple into the trash? It’s a “published” book. Laurie, perhaps we can give this a little rethink? I think I read that most self-published books sell much less than a 100 copies. I doubt a bookstore would automatically share their valuable resources with just anyone, self-published or traditional. So, it might seem that a popular author such as yourself is uninformed and writing with an ink made from sour grapes.
And, when something is badly written, do we toss/throw/dump it into the trash or do we crumple it and then throw it into the trash? And, what do we do if the amateurish writing is digital, like an ebook or an online article?
The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can. Wow... that last line may not technically be a run on...but it ain't no dancer! And Laurie, dear, are all traditionally published books worthy of the tradition of literature? Dangerous waters here! And,what percentage of self-published books have you read? Aren't there also gatekeepers in self-publishing; that is curators? Or even Goodreads! Only an idiot would pick up ANY book without doing any sort of checking, regardless of how it was published. And, historically, there have been some noteworthy self-published works. I certainly know what you mean about editing bad writing.
I’m a horrible singer. But I like singing so let’s say I decide to take some singing lessons. A month later I go to my neighbor’s basement because he has recording equipment. I screech into his microphone and he cuts me a CD. I hire a designer to make a stylish CD cover. Voilà. I have a CD and am now just like all the other musicians with CDs.
Except I’m not. Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician.(Does "something" about that object truly validate you? And, the example of you screeching/recording a CD feels like an unnecessary repetition of the doctor story above. Pick one.) It’s the same with writers who self-publish. Literally anyone can do it, including a seven-year-old I know who is a “published” author because her teacher got the entire class to write stories and publish them on Amazon. It’s cute, but when adults do it, maybe not so cute. With the firestorm of self-published books unleashed on the world, I fear that writing itself is becoming devalued. Gosh, Laurie, I agree with you. But so far, your piece isn't realizing its full potential and could come across as an unresearched rant. Can you spend some time going through some bestselling self-published books and then tear them apart? It'll be a breeze and make for a better, strong essay. Grrrr.. you go girl! Devalued writing is not for us!
I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Thank you for that! Me too! Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally. Laurie, just say that they are going to die soon! Death adds drama! Make this piece come alive! It makes a great gift for their grandchildren. But self-publishing needs to be labelled as such.Memo to self: get Amazon to create a category for people who quickly write and self-publish books before they die but do not have the time to become great writers like Laurie. The only similarity between published and self-published books is they each have words on pages inside a cover. Rewrite. Clunky. Maybe something like: Self-published and published books share one thing: words on pages between covers. Or something like that. Laurie, you're the wordsmith:) Oh... we should say "traditionally" published. The similarities end there. And every
single self-published book I’ve tried to read has shown me exactly(not approximately? lol) why the person had to resort to self-publishing. These people haven’t taken the decade , or, in many cases, even six months(I believe the correct amount of time should be six months 18 days. lol), to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer.cliché in a sentence that is 40+ words long. Intentional, right? Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.
Author Brad Thor (what has he written?) agrees: “The important role that publishers fill is to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’re a good writer and have a great book you should be able to get a publishing contract.” Laurie, can we give that quote a rethink? Not only is it bland and kinda wrong, but the cliché police are on their way...lol)
Author Sue Grafton ( she wrote...what?) said, “To me, it seems disrespectful...that a ‘wannabe’ assumes it’s all so easy and s/he can put out a ‘published novel’ without bothering to read, study, or do the research. ... Self-publishing is a short cut(Hey Laurie, FWIW, my books usually take close to three years to write and research, at least two months of that time winning and losing battles against the world champion editor Vikki Weston) and I don’t believe in short cuts when it comes to the arts. I compare self-publishing to a student managing to conquer Five Easy Pieces on the piano and then wondering if s/he’s ready to be booked into Carnegie Hall.” Laurie, if you want to criticize self-publishing, again I suggest a better strategy is for us to pick apart some of the self-published bestsellers that have sold, for whatever reason, tens or hundreds of thousands of copies, like your books have. These quotes you've chosen have nothing to do with your opening which is about economics and why you don't self-publish. And, please, do some research...with an open mind.
Writing is hard work, but the act of writing can also be thrilling, enriching your life beyond reason when you know you’re finally nailing a certain feeling with the perfect verb. 31words, all "beyond reason" and smooth as buttahhh lol It might take a long time to find that perfect verb.(it might never happen and you end up making a clumsy sentence that is a weird present/future continuous perfect tense) But that’s how art works. Writing is an art deserving our esteem. (Writing is an artform that deserves our respect. Writing is an art form that should be held in high esteem. Ya wanna wrestle? lol) It shouldn’t be something that you can take up as a hobby one afternoon and a month later, key in your credit card number to CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing before sitting back waiting for a stack of books to arrive at your door...before being taken down to the bookstore for a signing and massive sales by sheep/buyers who do not recognize works of literary merit. lol. That sentence is 40 words long, clumsy and repetitious. Laurie, we get it, we get it: the doctor can self-publish, the seven year old can self-publish it, anyone with a credit card can self-publish....EDIT
Let’s all give the written word the respect it deserves. Laurie, not a bad closing, but I am still left hanging by the question posed in your opening: why don't you self publish? Surely you could afford an editor and no longer need to fear gatekeepers? Please rethink this entire piece and give it the work it requires. Get rid of the repetition and, remember, facts speak volumes. Your opener suggests that self-publishers make more money than traditionally published authors--and you never touch this important aspect again. I'm afraid I can't run this piece as it is; feels too much like an "intelligent" rant by a wine-fortified semipro blogger. Good luck!
Posted on November 18, 2016
I wish I could find the Digital Book World article that gave me the first glimpse into the work of April Eberhardt. The article included a mention of her--or, maybe she made a comment.(Found it! It was actually on Publishers Weekly.) I looked at her website and immediately sent an email, asking if I could interview her. She agreed. That was about five months ago. Both of us have been busy. If you know me, you know that my father sold/sells books. You also may know that I have been involved with the creative/writing side of the internet for quite a while. When Amazon began selling a device only for reading books in 2007, I finally committed myself to writing books/ebooks. Since then, I had been waiting for someone like April Eberhardt. I didn't think that traditional publishers would drown in the wave of self-publishing, but I did believe that there would be a third possibility. When I saw the phrase "literary change agent" connected with April Eberhardt's name, I was thrilled. Although I may be an April Eberhardt fanboy, I am not writing this to kiss her elbow and hope she will pick up my books. I don't think she works that way, number one. And, number two, it is premature for me to think about changing the course I have chosen for my writing career and my other pursuits. This post is mainly for my own reference and enjoyment... it's something like an experimantal portrait. OK..here we go... We open with an excerpt from a recent interview conducted by Chicago Women in Publishing.
You describe yourself as a literary change agent. What does that mean?
The publishing landscape is changing rapidly and drastically, to the benefit of the informed author. I embrace that change, and seek to help authors understand the full range of their choices and how to select among them strategically and successfully.
Continuing on that thought, from an interview with Ms. Eberhardt conducted by Naomi Rosenblatt from Heliotrope Books. The interview appeared on the Blk Neon website.
"I live in San Francisco,” April Eberhardt explained in her indie publishing seminar. “I overlook the bay, and watch big tankers struggle to change course—unlike the agile sailboats that navigate easily. But of course tankers have the advantage of more power than sailboats. This has become my metaphor for the respective strengths of big publishing conglomerates and smaller indie presses.”
Next, a description of Ms. Eberhardt from the Art Of Writing/ A Writer's Retreat in Tuscanny Workshop...
April advises and assists authors worldwide as they choose the best pathway to publication for their work be it indie or traditional, digital or print. She serves as an industry advocate for establishing quality standards for non-traditionally published work to increase the acceptance and success of independent publishing. April works frequently with authors to critique and hone their manuscripts prior to submission or publication. She describes her approach as “kind but clear” with an eye toward commercial success. “There’s the sheer enjoyment of the writing from the author’s viewpoint,” she says, “and then there’s the expectation readers have for a sharp, compelling story. My objective is to help authors achieve both. I focus on identifying and underscoring the strengths that each author has, while at the same time finding ways to keep the story lean and taut with strong reader appeal.” Above all, she says, she wants to “encourage each author’s momentum and sense of satisfaction with the process and result. We want you to keep writing!” Math! Needles in haystacks! How does Ms. Eberhardt find a great book and how often does that happen? from Chris Jane, of 5 On, a regular feature found on the extremely helpful website of Jane Friedman. CHRIS JANE: ... Of the 10,000 submissions you receive every year, you’ve said, you find fifteen to twenty to be exceptional. Is “exceptional” a matter of substance, marketing potential, both, or something else? APRIL EBERHARDT: To me, “exceptional” means an utterly compelling story, one that’s original, beautifully written and tightly told, one that I can’t put down. I see five to ten of these a year. Marketing potential comes second. While I realize that the traditional market may be looking for something easier to sell (translated, that means similar to other recent successful work), when I find a wonderful manuscript, I’m prepared to champion it until it gets published (which increasingly is via indie means—either partnership publishing or self-publishing.) From the same interview: Why are publishing houses ignoring the same perfectly good writers you’re passionate about helping? It’s their bestseller/blockbuster orientation. The most common reason cited by editors turning down the manuscripts I submit is, “We can’t break it out big enough,” meaning sell thousands of copies in a period of a few weeks. There are now a million books published annually. It usually takes more than a single swift push to bring a good book to the attention of its readers. Big Pub can’t afford to do more than that for most. They put their money on a relatively few books that are similar to recent successes. Next, from the Hippocampus website, from an interview conducted by Lori M. Myers, Senior Interviews Editor. Lori: I’ll never forget what you said during your presentation at Chautauqua. It went something like “Traditional publishers aren’t failing, but they’re flailing.” April: Big publishers continue to believe they’re the arbiters of taste, and the most desirable gateway to being published. That’s all changing–the internet has opened a multitude of possibilities. Most importantly, readers and authors can connect directly without middlemen, and readers decide what’s worth reading and recommending. So should writers steer away from “Big Pub?” While some authors do desire traditional publication, its value proposition to authors is weakening. Until Big Pub figures out a way to give more to authors (which involves a complete overhaul of their financial and operational model,) other new, profitable and more satisfying ways of being published will continue to lure authors away from traditional publishing. Having options is good, but there seems to be so many! There’s partner publishing, assisted publishing and hybrid publishing, along with self-publishing. As one attractive new option, partner publishing offers high-quality services from publishing professionals, along with curation and distribution, enabling authors to pay for selected services and receive a top-quality book. Next up: a 2014 interview between Ms. Eberhardt and Mary Rowen, author of LEAVING THE BEACH (a 2016 IPPY Award winner) and LIVING BY EAR. MR: In addition to traditional and self-publishing, there are so many other options available now. For example, there are many publishing companies that will edit, proofread, design, and publish a book for a writer for a fee. The books produced by these presses often look very professional, and many writers are drawn to them. But from what I’ve heard, they’re not all great. Are there any pay-to-publish presses that you’d recommend? Any that you’d advise writers to avoid? And what sorts of things should a writer look for in a pay-to-publish press? AE: Above all you want experience, transparency and references in a partner publisher. You also want curation and distribution. Companies like She Writes Press, White Cloud Press and Turning Stone Press are led and managed by people with long experience in traditional publishing. All are open about their approach, costs and clients. They are selective about which authors they publish, and have clear contracts granting all rights to the author, along with offering distribution, usually through Ingram. The legitimate ones will happily refer you to other authors who have published with them so you can learn more about their experiences. I’d suggest steering clear of subsidy presses like Author Solutions that accept any and all manuscripts, tend to produce inferior-quality books priced at non-competitive prices, don’t offer distribution, and sometimes pressure authors to buy more services than they need. Research, email exchanges and the links above answered all of my questions about Ms. Eberhardt except for three. She replied to my first two questions with her latest bio. It summarizes some of the points above. SB: Was there one moment when you decided to enter into a business that was not yet clearly defined? Was it a well-researched plan or a leap of faith?
AE(from her bio):April Eberhardt is a literary change agent and author advocate passionate about helping authors be published in the most effective and satisfying way. After 25 years as a corporate strategist and consultant, Ms. Eberhardt joined the literary world, where she saw strategic opportunity to play a role in the changing world of publishing. Ms. Eberhardt advises and assists authors worldwide, as they choose the best pathway to publication for their work, be it indie or traditional, digital or print, and serves as a consultant to new publishing startups. Ms. Eberhardt divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris. She also is a reader for the Best American Short Stories series published annually by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
AE (continuing via email): The above may in part answer your question as well—how and why did I get into agenting and publishing consulting? I entered the field with the intent to play a role in the evolving world of publishing. While I recognized that the direction and speed of change would be unpredictable, I was completely comfortable with that. It’s exciting to be part of an industry undergoing a major transition, especially publishing since its product—reading—is of such keen interest to many of us. Good consulting is about keeping an eye on the shifts and trends, asking thoughtful questions about a client’s (in this case, an author’s) goals, dreams, likes and dislikes, and aligning the two. There’s always a lot of experimentation that occurs, and it’s easier to discern the right next steps when you’re working as a team vs trying to navigate it alone.
SB: E-books can be said to symbolize the possibilities of self-publishing. What was your first
AE: E-books are obviously an important format in publishing’s evolution, particularly since they allow for experimentation in a broad number of ways (content, marketing, etc.) and provide a relatively easy, inexpensive way to make quick adjustments. I don’t remember the first e-book I read.
I would like to sincerely thank Ms. Eberhardt for taking the time to be a part of this informative experiment. I enjoyed it very much and hope many others will as well.
And, if you are in Boston in May, Ms. Eberhardt will participating in the Grub Street Writers Conference: THE CHANGING FACE OF PUBLISHING: WHAT ALL AUTHORS NEED TO KNOW In this illuminating workshop, Literary Change Agent and author advocate April Eberhardt examines the state of publishing today along with the implications and opportunities for authors. She presents five different paths to publication, including a candid discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach from an author’s perspective. Discover what partnership publishing is, along with hybrid authorship, and collaborative (also known as cooperative) publishing. Learn how to choose the right path for you and your work, which sometimes involves different paths for different projects, and how to develop a publishing strategy and approach that meets your goals, dreams, timetable and budget. Ms. Eberhardt's home page: http://aprileberhardt.com/
Posted on October 12, 2016
The Dude's Facebook page Thank you for having the courage to buy Flame Magnet. Ultimately, you will receive at least 12 stories, all for free. Flame Magnet is an experiment, a new way of using Amazon and recognition of the fact that an electronic book can be a flowing, shifting thing. Flame Magnet also acknowledges the power of algorithms, gaming strategies and word of mouth sharing/advertising. You have paid 99 cents for an empty shell. A year from now, your shell will be full of at least twelve stories and Amazon will be selling Flame Magnet for $5.99 or $12.99 or $34.99. I will, as soon as possible, email you a version of Flame Magnet that contains five stories. The stories are: Lipstick and Snow, Lorong 16, Deepavali at Gallicier and Ronnie and the Burns. The other two stories will remain a mystery, but here a couple of hints: Motown and Bali. Lipstick and Snow was featured in the premiere issue of Staple magazine, Lorong 16 is a dystopian dark comedy set in the Geylang district of Singapore and Ronnie and the Burns is a documentary about Ronnie See, the leader of the first rock band in Singapore. Deepavali at Gallicier first appeared in the bestselling book i ate tiong bahru. The story documents one day at a traditional Peranakan bakery in Singapore and is one that I have received the most comments upon. Ultimately, there will be at least a dozen short stories in Flame Magnet. The stories will be about James Brown, Singapore National Day in Plain Vanilla, 3how, Verrie Larch, Deepavali at Gallicier Peranakan Pastry Shop, Mom's Farm in Bali, a little bar in Tokyo on a wintry morning, Singapore's First Rock Band, Secrets of You Tiaow and much more. In short, your 99 cents is an entry into a literary project that will grow with time. Your "investment" will increase, as every time I add a new story to the Flame Magnet ebook file, you will receive it, at no extra charge Let me repeat this another way. You have bought a subscription. As soon as I have your email, I will send you the latest version of Flame Magnet. You will get 3 or 4 files in the next six months. The last file sent to you will have at least twelve stories. Again, there is no extra charge, even though the completed ebook version of Flame Magnet will sell for almost twelve dollars! Thanks for being so bold and open-minded. Welcome to the Flame Magnet adventure! (Oh yes... I should say that I am extremely excited about the stories in Flame Magnet. They are very different from my Bali Wave Ghost novel and i ate tiong bahru, which became a national bestseller in Singapore. Oh yes again...as I write this, there are about 20 days left in my crowdfunding campaign. I have already exceeded my goal, but there are still a number of rewards left.
Posted on October 12, 2016
Russell Darnley's experiences in Asia are somewhat like my own. We've both spent considerable time in Bali, Singapore, and Indonesia, where Russell lived for a number of years. I lived in Japan, another place that Russell wrote about. Russell is Australian; I'm American. Seen and Unseen is a collection of short stories based on Russell`s memoirs but, as I read, I often found myself remembering similar situations, or comparing his descriptions of a certain place with my own. Russell's ability to speak Indonesian put him in the midst of the hospitals and makeshift morgues of Kuta immediately after the Bali Bombing. Reading his words, I felt like I was there. This sense of being beside the author occurred throughout the book, and thankfully, often in much more positive places than Kuta during that terrible time. Russell's writing style is, for the most part conversational. He recreates dialogues and places them within a chronological structure. This simple method allows him to provide easily understood insights into complex matters. Russell gracefully overcomes the challenges of using non-English words in an English language text. We can understand, for example, an Indonesian word because of its context or by the way it's used by a character. Russell spent a significant portion of his life in Indonesia. The result of all of this is that we can how political decisions affect peoples lives, especially those political decisions involving more than one country. In short, I enjoyed reading Seen and Unseen because it was like having an intelligent older relative sharing with me the details of a life well lived. To give you an idea of the scope of the book, I present you with a few titles of the book's twenty-nine chapters: Sid Thompson and D Company Red Poppies and Janur An Encounter With White Australia Surviving the Sixties Balikpapan: Looking Backwards and Forwards Kampanye- The Campaign Procession An Unusual Kind of Thunder Singapore 43 Years on I should mention that Russell gave me a copy of Seen and Unseen in the Tiong Bahru Market, which is where we met. Finally, I wrote a book, Bali Wave Ghost, that constantly makes reference to the Bali Bombing. Seen and Unseen on Amazon
- Russell will be speaking at the 2016 Ubud Writers Festival.
Posted on October 7, 2016
Hey everybody! Russell, Pavle, Xu Xi and Bernard! I'd like to introduce you to O'Brien Brown and Carl Adams! I've written about them elsewhere on this blog. Carl wrote about the first slave freed by Abraham Lincoln, a woman named Nance. O'Brien wrote coming of age story set in the Sixties. So, do poke around on the links and enjoy your selves! The next round is on O'Brien Brown! .....Oh yeah! My crowdfunding campaign reached 130% in the first three days! But yeah, there are still some great rewards left!http://www.zingohub.com/en-GBL/stephenblack/i-ate-tiong-bahru-limited-glassware-edition...... (first post on the blog follows...)I like to introduce people. My hope is that some of the people here will look at some at some of the links of the others, possibly interact, as well as introduce other people to "drink with". Pavle Radonic... Fresh toddy in JB, a bottle of the good stuff at Vic's... Here is the bio used in the text and photo project we did together: A Melbourne, Australia writer of Montenegrin heritage, Pavle Radonic has been living and writing intensively in the South-East Asian tropics for five years. Oddly and unexpectedly, in this time he has become a kind of minor Malay Archipelago specialist, at least from the Western perspective. Pavle has divided his time between peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (Jakarta & Jogja in particular). In Australia his writing has been published in a range of literary journals and magazines; more recently his work from this region has appeared in Ambit Magazine (UK), Big Bridge (US) and The Literary Yard (India), among others. A literary miscellany more than blog can be found at: www.axialmelbourne.blogspot.
Xu Xi... Yes, we have had a few drinks together; Hong Kong, Manhattan and Singapore. Her latest novel is called The Man in Our Lives. The Jakarta Post did this very thorough interview with her.
Russel Darnley... We drank coffee in the Tiong Bahru Mouth! I'm hoping we can exchange words about our books...his, called Seen and Unseen, includes a chapter on the Bali Bombing, the event which, tragically, launched the career of Mr. Orgasm Donor, a character in my novel entitled Bali Wave Ghost. Russel, fluent in Indonesian, did volunteer work immediately after the Bombing and the notes he began taking at that time became the first steps towards Seen and Unseen.
Bernard Jann... At least once, Bernard probably had a glass near his computer in Europe and I probably had a glass near my computer in Asia. So there ya go. Bernard's website is here. He once helped me research some Croatian oldies:
Posted on June 29, 2016
If you think that Amazon posts the same reviews, and the same number of reviews for each book, think again... OK, all of this first happened before I had coffee. Now, twelve hours later, I can tell you the following pieces of information are worth writing about...
- There are now only two reviews displayed on the Singapore Amazon page, which I think is the same as the UK Amazon page..
- If you notice, on some of the pages it says, below the star rating chart, there is a sentence written in green: Published on Amazon.com... that seems obvious, so there must be something I' m missing. I mean, if I am on the Amazon page and I see the review, it is published on Amazon. com, correct? But then why does that green sentence NOT appear on the Singapore page? (Which only has two reviews?)
- At one point this morning, the score was: Canada 3, USA 2, UK 2, Singapore 2... these "scores" were all tabulated at almost the same time... And not all of the reviews were the same. I think maybe six people have written reviews in total, but I have yet to see them all displayed on the same page.
- Stralia! The Australian Amazon page shows no "star" reviews, but has two reviews, one for four and the other for five stars....And, from the screenshot below, it seems that an individual country, in this case Australia, does not use the yellow bars of the star system unless the review was posted on that country's Amazon.au site.... To put it another way, reviews show up definitely on the Amazon page of the country from which the review was sent. But Amazon's algorithms may not share that post internationally and equally.