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Posts from the ‘authors’ Category

Why can’t bars have poet laureates and writers in residence?

The phrase “scattered, smothered, and covered” has a certain poetic ring, so it’s fitting that Waffle House has its own poet laureate. Georgia Tech poetry professor Karen Head is the first to lay claim to that title. – Atlanta

Followers of this blog know I like Waffle House food, especially their coffee. Yet “the elites” tend to turn up their noses up at Waffle House while supporting White Castle, Krystal, and Burger King. Yeah, those are the best places for health nuts.

At any rate, if Waffle House can have a poet laureate, why can’t Publix, Taco Bell, and Sears? Maybe Sears could save itself by embracing the arts. A poet, perhaps. A writer in residence. Soon, these poets and authors would become famous and people would flock to Sears for book signings, bedding, and a new dishwasher. You heard it here first.

Michael Shaara, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Killer Angels, taught my college creative writing class. He had a theory–one that we could never test in a university environment–that if people who were too introverted to write good stuff got drunk, they might write good stuff. Drink a shot, write a line, slam down another shot, slam down another line.

Let’s say the theory works and we learn that drinking really does lead to bestselling novels.

Look at this. Nothing happening. It’s deadsville. A writer would fill the place.

Authors could sit at the end of the bar with a laptop or legal pad and pencil and write. All they’d need from the bar would be a bottle of Scotch or a pitcher of the region’s best microbrew. Every 30 minutes or so, the author would write one of his/her latest lines on a bar napkin and sail it into the crowd. The bar would get more business and maybe a cut of the action from the next bestseller.

This is win-win for everybody. The bar sells more booze. The authors get drunk for free. And creativity goes off the scale. What could possibly go wrong? Today’s bestseller is brought to you by Alfred Knopf and Joe’s Biker Bar and Brothel.

If you own a bar and think the idea has promise, please contact me by private message on Facebook. To prove you’re sincere, send me a bottle of Talisker single malt Scotch.

Seriously, what better way to support the arts?

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Special Investigative Reporter.”

 

 

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Spent the day working on my author’s website

Supposedly, professional book publicists can look at an author’s platform (website, blog, Facebook) and say. “No wonder you’re not selling many books” and/or “If people aren’t buying your books, they’re nuts.”

Short of paying a professional $25,000 to provide us with that information, most of us (authors) are blindly wandering in the dark with no clue what helps us and what hurts us. With that in mind, I spent the afternoon updating my website with no idea whatsoever whether the changes will increase sales, decrease sales, or put me on the “no-fly list.”

Much to my horror, I’ve discovered that if an author is crazy and broke, s/he tends to draw crazy and broke people to his/her website, blog, and Facebook author’s page. So, what this means is lots of people are stopping by, but few of them are going out to Amazon (or wherever) and buying any books. This isn’t good.

Gurus say, “Be yourself.” Well, who else the hell can I be? The thing is, I wonder if I ought to stop being myself and put up a website that looks like I’m Dan Brown or Jo Rowling. Prospective readers would look at the site for a nanosecond and buy everything they see there. There might be some negative repercussions, but I wouldn’t care because I’d be rich.

As authors, we’re never sure what exactly will draw people to our books, to consider buying them and seeing if they like them instead of automatically purchasing the latest novel from one of the BIG NEW YOUR PUBLISHERS. Heck, I buy from the big publishers because most of the reviews, lists of the best of the best, interviews, and feature stories ignore authors from small-press publishers.  Why? That’s all I hear about in literary sites. Even sites that focus on helping aspiring authors don’t interview or feature aspiring authors.

So, what to do? I thought about using malware to automatically sell a copy of one of my books to everyone who logged onto my website. Somehow, that seemed wrong.  So, I didn’t do it.

I thought about putting a hex on everyone who logged onto my website so that they would buy copies of all of my books. Yes, that would help my Amazon ranking and maybe even get me on the New York Times bestseller list. Yet, it also seemed wrong.

So, when promoting my books I’m pretty much stuck being me. All of us are. And who knows what will come of it?

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical mystery/thriller “Special Investigative Reporter.”

 

Do most writers want to be Rowling, Grisham, Roberts, and Patterson?

No.

It’s fair to say that most writers want to sell more copies of their books than they do, that they wish small press books were noticed by the media and by those handing out awards, and that they had the resources to do on-location research anywhere in the world.

However, I doubt that most of us want to be in the public eye 24/7. Writers don’t attract paparazzi like movie stars do, but those who are famous can’t really hide. Frankly, who wants a tour bus pulling up in their driveway with people wanting to see their houses, their cats, their writing desks, and even their sock drawers? I don’t.

In the FAQ of a blog written by a lady who adopted a coyote, one question is: “When can we see Charlie?” The answer is: “Charlie doesn’t want to see you.” I feel like Charlie. I don’t want people showing up and taking selfies of themselves (with me in them) to post on their Facebook pages.

Suffice it to say, there are consequences to being famous that many of us don’t want to cope with. Perhaps many of us want to be successful and anonymous. A lot of writers are successful without attracting the attention of Rowling, Grisham, Roberts, and Patterson. That sounds good because we’re sort of under the RADAR.

Plus, if you’re a really famous writer, you’re “forced” to blurb people’s books, serve on panels discussing the use of adverbs, appearing at conventions, and doing readings in places you’ve never heard of. Not my thing. When I read the newsletters of so-called mid-list authors, I see that they’re juggling time between writing, personal time, and events. I don’t like events. I don’t want to be there, much less to give a speech. That’s not me. I have a feeling it’s not a lot of people.

Past a point, fame and success both have their prices. I’m not willing to pay them. I would love being the successful enigmatic writer who sells 100000000000 books a year that nobody can find due to an unlisted telephone number and an unpublished address. I’d post a fake picture on my Facebook page and website that looks like one of those criminals that used to be displayed on the most-wanted lists in post offices.

People would say, “Hell, he looks like he’s guilty of something. Let’s not go looking for him.” Good. I can live with that persona.

Malcolm

 

Book Bits: Catherine Chung, Sharon Heath, ‘Cygnet,’ Amazon, Linda Holmes, Mueller report

At my age, a vigorous, bone-crushing, muscle twisting workout comes from spending several hours on the riding mower. While recuperating, I found a few links you might enjoy. Or you might not. Long-time readers of this blog know that ever since high school, I’ve been fascinated by writings about Carl Jung, alchemy, and quantum mechanics (the many worlds interpretation), so I’m happy to see a review of a very readable book that has uncovered multiple levels and/or universes of meaning (Item 2) since we’re all entangled one way or another.

Have fun exploring the books and authors links this week.

  1. Essay: On Being a Woman Who Loves Math, by Catherine Chung – “All my life I’ve been aware of the disheartening fact that as a society, we generally find intellect off-putting in women, and do our best to squash it.” (Lit Hub)
  2. Review: Tizita (2017) By Sharon Heath, Deltona, FL: Thomas-Jacob Publishing, by Frances Hatfield
    “Tizita, like the first novel before it in The Fleur Trilogy, The History of My Body, is as utterly original as its chief protagonist, and in some of the same, brilliant, moving, and laugh-out-loud hilarious ways.” (Psychological Perspectives)
  3. Excerpt: ‘Cygnet’: Featured Fiction from Season Butler – “Publishers Weekly called the book poignant, adding that ‘Butler has created an appealingly rich world with quirky, flawed characters and a dramatic landscape determined by the constant action of wind and water. Butler delivers a potent and finely calibrated novel.’” (The Millions)
  4. Opinion: Amazon Says It is Not a ‘Lawless’ Retail Platform As Charged by ‘NYT’ – “The New York Times’ recent feature on Amazon, which focuses on how much control the tech giant exerts over the book business and how detrimental that control might be for the sector’s health, has provoked a response from the company. Specifically, Amazon responded to claims in the article that it takes a lax approach to policing the sale of counterfeit books on its website, saying, in a blog post, that it ‘strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products’ and ‘takes proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero.” (Publishers Weekly)
  5. Interview: Linda Holmes with Stephenie Harrison – “I have wanted to write a novel . . . always. I can’t remember when I didn’t think that would be the absolute greatest thing I could do. But I would start things, write a few pages and just get intimidated that I couldn’t keep going. I played around with writing fiction for many years and got a little more serious in 2012 when I decided to devote some time to this story. But again, I worked on it for a while, then left it alone. I didn’t pick it up again until sometime in the fall of 2016.” (Book Page)
  6. Quotation: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” ― WC Fields
  7. Wikipedia photo

    Feature: How Jenna Bush Hager became the new book club queen, by David Canfield – “Around 10 minutes into my interview with Jenna Bush Hager, I make a careless mistake: I assume her new Today show book club isn’t merely a one-woman band. ‘You say ‘You guys,’ but you really are just talking about one person — me!’ she responds, laughing. ‘Reese Witherspoon was on the show the other day, and we were talking about it. She’s like, ‘I have a whole team, Jenna!’ The problem is, I definitely need to read the whole book before I recommend it — and I’m a pretty picky reader.’ (Entertainment)

  8. Wikipedia Graphic

    New Title: A Mueller Report graphic novel will be released by San Diego publisher, by Michael Schaub – “Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has become something of a publishing phenomenon, with several book versions of the report flying off bookstore shelves. Now a San Diego publisher is planning to release a version of the report for those who might find the original a little too dry. IDW will publish a graphic-novel adaptation of the report next year, the press said in a news release.” (Los Angeles Times)

Book Bits is compiled randomly by malcolm R. Campbell, author of the “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”

 

Dear readers, your reviews really do help

Reader reviews on Amazon not only help spread the word to prospective readers, but they attract those readers’ attention in the first place. These reviews also impact how Amazon displays a book in a reader’s search results. Needless to say, more people review the books of widely known writers than the books of so-called “midlist” and small-press authors. As many emerging writers have said, the authors who don’t need the reviews or the interviews are the ones who get them.

Some authors try to make placing a reader review sound easy, suggesting that all you have to say is “I liked it.” I don’t agree with that. “I liked it” isn’t a review. If a prospective reader reads such a review, they learn nothing about the book and might even think the reviewer knows the author and potentially didn’t even read the novel.

Suffice it to say, honest reviews with a few details explaining why a reader liked or didn’t like a book are better than reviews with nothing more than “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.” For readers who review multiple books, it’s disconcerting that they’ll take the time to review a well-known author’s book that has, say–3,000 reviews already–but don’t spend the time to review an emerging author’s books. I seldom review major books on Amazon because I don’t think there’s much I can possibly add to the conversation that already involves a thousand or more reviews. I’m more likely to review these books on my blog.

In social media, it’s quite common to hear that dozens of people liked an author’s latest book. These opinions are treasured and very nice to hear. A lot of those people wish the author well, and yet, most of them don’t go out to Amazon and leave a review. They probably have no idea how vital their reviews are to the book’s success. Amazon’s book-display algorithms count reviews; so do various blogs and newsletters where books can be advertised. (It’s hard to get your book into one of those book newsletters if it has few reviews.)

Basically, it comes down to this insofar as midlist and small-press authors are concerned: if readers don’t help support the book, it isn’t going to sell.  Yet, authors really can’t say this to readers on Facebook or Twitter because it’s unseemly and probably turns readers off who really don’t know anything about leaving an Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N review. Plus, it’s generally considered bad form to beg for reviews. Authors are rather stuck. When a reader tells them on Facebook that their latest novel was the best book they ever read, it’s a bit crass to say, “have you posted that viewpoint on Amazon yet?”

Readers certainly have no obligation to post reviews. Most readers don’t. They read a book and move on to the next book. So, I think it’s an imposition for an author to “lean on” readers in the social media by asking them directly for an online review even though many of the books will fail without those reviews. Authors often feel stuck. They need the reviews but it’s bad form to ask for them or to keep posting little generic notices on their Facebook authors’ pages to the effect that reviews help spread the word.

Frankly, I wish professional book reviewers, critics, and bloggers would do better keeping up with small-press books since those are the books that need the exposure. Nobody is really served well when a critic/reviewer posts review number 5,000 for a well-known author’s book. But, for an emerging or small-press author, even a three-star review helps bring a book some much-needed online attention.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,’ “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena,” all of which are available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook editions.

 

 

 

 

Ten Questions for Xuan Juliana Wang from Poets & Writers

“What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?

“I would have to say the loneliness of falling out of step with society. When I’m out celebrating a friend who has just made a huge stride in their career, someone would ask me, “Hey how’s that book coming along?” Then having to tell them that I have a desk in an ex-FBI warehouse and I’ll be sitting there in the foreseeable future, occasionally looking out the window, trying to make imaginary people behave themselves.” 

Source: Ten Questions for Xuan Juliana Wang | Poets & Writers

Many writers and aspiring writers might easily share Wang’s answer to the challenges of writing books. You have to be able to accept a lot of prospective loneliness that comes with being out of sync with everyone else.

Personally, I don’t like the question “Hey how’s your book coming along” because most people want a quick answer. They don’t want to hear about the plot or your trials and tribulations and doubts. Chances are, they would be impressed if you told them you’d just signed a $100,000 deal with HarperCollins and that your agent is already in negotiations with Hollywood. Otherwise, the best answer is “slowly, but surely.”

Anything other than that, and people’s eyes glaze over and they find excuses to go to the bathroom, head over to the bar for another drink, or simply disappear. You have to be crazy or filled with a lot of passion to sign up for this.

If you’re a writer, do you feel that you’re not part of the hustle and bustle of “real life”?

Malcolm

 

Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books 

Quiet books are often misread, misunderstood, or, sadly, missed altogether. If a book is labeled quiet in a review or in literary conversation, an author and her readers will likely see it as an insult—sharp criticism of some deep-rooted flaw in the writer’s storytelling abilities. But for me, someone who leans toward anxiety and is easily overstimulated, startled, and stressed out—especially these days—quiet books offer a calming space, a place of rescue. I’ve been told more than once that my writing is quiet, and I always take it as a high compliment because I know how much I long for moments of rest and reflection in the books I read, the movies I watch, the places I go, and the people I encounter along the way. I suspect I’m not alone. 

Source: Some Room to Breathe: In Praise of Quiet Books | Poets & Writers

Leesa Cross-Smith has always liked quiet spaces from which to write, especially in today’s raucous political climate. I feel the same way. This is a nice essay about her work and her love of quiet books.

–Malcolm

Now that we’ve moved past the author’s newsletter idea. . .

. . .we’re back to being content to write a blog, maintain a website, and keep up with an author’s page on Facebook.

I read an interview this morning with an author whose focus is memoirs and essays. The interviewer said he thought she tended to use an extraordinary amount of personal material in her nonfiction. And she said, when she cared enough to write about an issue, it was usually because she had personal experience with that issue and so all her fears, battles, and second-guessing of herself flowed into the essay making it very personal.

I’m afraid that would happen if I wrote a newsletter. The thing is, a newsletter–like most of an author’s promotional efforts–is supposed to be all about you (the prospective reader) and not all about me (the author).

So, a newsletter filled with all my personal demons really isn’t going to cut it. When I see interviews with emerging authors, I really want to see more about the work they’re focussing on rather than memories about their experiences in English classes when they first wrote fiction or poetry. I want to know about their work, not their demons.

I’ve written elsewhere about the mistakes nonprofit organizations make when they advertise events and focus their news releases on how worthy their causes are rather than on what the public will get out of paying to attend the events. While it sounds crass to put it this way, when most of us see a news story about a book or a concert or even about a product, our primary consideration usually includes asking what’s in it for me? Will I enjoy the event? Is this my kind of book? Do I really have a use for the product?

So, like other small-press authors who don’t have a heavy schedule of events to publicize, a newsletter could quickly degenerate into an all about me kind of thing. That seems presumptuous. And, if those receiving the newsletter make book selections like I do, they buy a book because it looks entertaining, not because the author had to take three Xanax a day to get the thing written.

Most small-press authors don’t have enough news to put in a newsletter, so considering starting one requires a lot of thought. If you send out a newsletter too often, people start thinking they’re getting SPAM. If you don’t send out a newsletter often enough, then they probably won’t remember signing up to get the thing. So, if an author isn’t prolific and/or doesn’t have a heavy schedule of appearances, it’s doing to be difficult thinking up enough news to justify mailing anything out.

Better to leave people alone, I think, and hope they find my blog or website or Facebook page.

Malcolm

Those gurus, bless their hearts, say I need a newsletter

When I went away to college, my parents expected me to write home every couple of days. I said I wasn’t going to do that because I had nothing to say. That was true enough because every day was just like they day before it: I sat in a classroom, ate meals, studied, watched TV, went to bed, got up the next morning and sat in a classroom.

Some writers’ newsletters sound about like that. When they do, they’re so boring we can’t bring ourselves to write them, much less expect you to suffer through reading them. It’s hard enough thinking of something reasonably interesting to put in this blog. Heaven help me if I had to turn out a newsletter three or four times a month.

I’ve toyed with the idea of a fake newsletter. I could name it Trigger Warnings and fill it full of stuff that will push a lot of buttons that shouldn’t be pushed. Some folks used to argue that if a person put something nasty in quotes, they couldn’t be blamed for saying it. Trigger Warnings would be like that. I warn you with some introductory boilerplate, say stuff you don’t want to hear, and then hit the send button.

That kind of thing strikes my fancy because I have a trickster approach to life. If one just doesn’t say a thing, I want to say it.

Since quotation marks absolve me of misspeaking–as politicians often say–I could begin my newsletter with “Dear Bastards” and it would be okay. So then I could say, using an old-fashioned grin symbol <g> that while I appreciate your “congrats,” “great story,” and other fine comments on Facebook about my novels, I want to point out that if you don’t leave an Amazon reader review, my book is toast.

My wife–who has known me since 1979–is often surprised at what I say while we’re talking to “normal people.” Those “normal people” tend to get drunk after talking to me because I love saying what shouldn’t be said.

Trigger Warning: This might make you sick

Presumably, “normal people” would sign up for my newsletter and then immediately unsubscribe the first time I wrote about roadkill salad. On the plus side, roadkill salad is free unless you add mayo. And chopped pecans.

But I would want to be honest. That means if I was thinking about writing a poem about “roadkill salad,” I would have to tell you that and see what you thought. Sure, you might need a couple of Xanax to get through the newsletter, but it would still be liberating. See, that’s what tricksters do. We liberate you from everything that makes you sick, embarrassed, crazy, and politically inept.

Or, I might suggest that every subscriber had to buy 1,000 copies of my books and give them to relatives, prisoners, and random people on the street.

You can see, can’t you, why I don’t really think this newsletter is a great idea?

Malcolm

 

 

 

National Poetry Month: Harjo Wins Jackson Poetry Prize

“New York, NY – April 25, 2019 – Joy Harjo has won the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize. The prize, endowed by John and Susan Jackson, is awarded annually by Poets & Writers to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. It carries a significant monetary award, increased this year to $65,000, and aims to provide what poets need: time and encouragement to write.”

Source: JOY HARJO WINS JACKSON POETRY PRIZE | Poets & Writers

Best of news. Of course, I’m biased. She’s one of my favorite current poets, mentioned here earlier this month

–Malcolm