Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Kind of Literary Agency

Lucinda and I met during the first annual Book Bloggers Convention during BEA in New York City in 2010.  At the time, she was working for a literary agency and I was still fairly new to blogging (though I had already established TNBBC on Goodreads a good three years prior). She was incredibly energetic and interested in what I wanted to accomplish with my blog and I was completely captivated by her. 
Over the past year and a half, we have worked together numerous times - scheduling in books for giveaways on the blog and hosting month long discussions with her authors in the Goodreads group. She has also been a tremendous mentor and coach to me.
Today, I'm thrilled to congratulate her on her newest venture - Lucinda Blumenfeld Literary Consulting! As a way of introduction, Lucinda has shared the following information with us. It helps bring to light the ever-evolving role of a lit agent and explains how digital publishing has changed the marketplace. (Please be aware that as of right now, the Lucinda Literary website is not officially launched, so the hyperlinks won't work... Try 'em again later this week though, as it's anticipated to hit the internet soon!)

A new eLiterary Agency: Interview with Lucinda Blumenfeld
President and Founder of Lucinda Literary LLC
Coming this week…

Is readership diminishing in the advent of digital publishing?

There will always be readers so long as there is human curiosity. I see digital publishing as a major advantage, not merely in terms of the infinite marketing avenues it allows, but also in terms of hard data that, historically, has not been accessible for authors or their publishers. We never knew who readers were before; what books they liked to read. My personal thought is that what I call “app-sized publishing” is not a bad thing at all, but conversely offers authors and publishers a greater chance to stand out in a high-volume marketplace. This means more books, ultimately with lower production costs, more appeal for multimedia, and more readers—albeit with smaller attention spans. 

Consider my friend Ted, an avid reader who is also an MD/PHD. Ted has an IPad, an Android; he loves obscure social networks and blogs, and he likes to read on diverse subjects in the little time his schedule permits between classes and residency. In other words, on the subway.

Ted is the reader of the future: the kind writers need to write for, and publishers need to market to. (The dangling preposition sounded more affirmative, no?)

Read more about Ted and his wacky ideas at http://www.lucindaliterary.com/blog.

What does this mean for publishers and authors?

Book purchases at lower costs and higher volume. Greater reader engagement through interactive/social media integrated into enhanced eBooks or mobile apps. More visibility, creative power, and possibly financial benefit for authors.

Those of us who enjoy looking at visual media and reading books but are conservative in our spending—those who  wait for movies to release on-demand, and for cheaper iterations of the IPhone and IPad—likely do not buy a hardcover book at $25.99, unless you just can’t wait another minute for Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Tom Connelly’s, Stephanie Meyer’s, JK Rowling’s latest book. We’ll splurge to that.
But a debut author with no prior bestselling credentials and zero recognition, save that great book review in the Times that your mother mentioned? Limited.
I’m not saying don’t try to be a bestseller, get an agent, get a book deal with Random House! But if you come up dry, you have options. There are plenty of successful self-published authors out there, and with the dawn of “micropublishing”—not yet an industry term, FYI, just a term I’ve coined—readers can find and impulsively buy your books on mobile devices; we can follow you using social media. You could be the next Kindle Mover & Shaker. And then you can pursue that book deal you’ve been wanting, with your audience already established (which means, a bigger book deal.) Writers need patience above all…any agent or editor will tell you the marketplace is all about timing.
P.S. Don’t expect your mother to know what a Kindle Mover & Shaker is. But at least she won’t be your only reader.
(Do you still even read The Book Review, or do you scan Goodreads for recommendations? Vote here.)
Where do literary agents stand? What's their take on all of it?

It’s a conflict for agents. They’re mainly a smart and forward-thinking bunch, so we see the power of digital media, while we cling a hardcover past, because our livelihood historically has depended on it. Older agents, however, remember similar fears when paperbacks came along, which later proved a sales advantage—a larger print run of books sold at half the price of a hardcover made sense in terms of the numbers. Many of these agents therefore don’t tremble in the wake of eBooks and apps…but they’re not exactly on Twitter. And that may be the largest issue.

I’ll be very transparent with authors that I’m a learner at Twitter, too, and that my primary work is helping authors to leverage social networks, which often means I do less self-promoting than I should as a new company. But getting versed and being knowledgeable in whatever’s coming next in terms of new media could be seen as a big advantage to working with me. I’m an outsider looking in, but at least I’m looking: I’m as clear as I can be on how it all works.

And yet, aspiring authors still see big deals happening for hardcover books….

I love the way the legendary editor Jonathan Karp puts it in a recent New York Magazine article, ‘As for the big advances,’ he says, “when publishers swing for the fences, I think that’s admirable. Does anyone want publishers to bunt?”  Publishers today bank on a book’s possibility to go out of the gate like gangbusters. But everyone knows this kind of success to be negligible, just like publishing’s precedents in music and film.  It’s a very difficult business to represent authors today, however talented, however devoted we are to their books. And so, while I love Karp’s wording above, I find it completely contradictory to his preceding sentence in the very same interview: “Why anyone would write a novel and not want everyone to read it is a mystery to me.”

Wouldn’t that just prove that the app-sized or micropublishing model of lower advances, lower production costs, and lower prices is the preferable option if it offers the most expansive visibility bar none?

Can you tell us some frequent author misconceptions about what having an agent means?
Myth 1: Because I have an agent, I have a book deal in the horizon. (It’s just that the horizon is presently cloudy, indiscernible to me.)
Myth 2: An agent is like a real estate broker. His job is to sell my book.

No savvy agent is going to take you on if he/she doesn’t believe your book will sell! But you won’t see in your author agreement with an agency that your book might very well not sell. Myth unraveled: all agents have not sold books (in the plural). And anyone in the industry will tell you the marketplace is more restrictive than ever, though better than it was a few years ago, before eBooks brought a whole new revenue stream and substantially added value. 

Thus a natural, human confusion arises in the minds of authors—I certainly don’t blame them—my agent is responsible for selling my book (not manage all the crises that arrive once the book deal happens, not offer career strategy, not market and network on your behalf, not relentlessly pursue any ancillary deals, like television, long after your book has published. We are there to legally and emotionally and financially protect you—all of which make an agent more landlord than real estate broker. All that’s in parentheses are as much an agent’s work as the effort, not guarantee, to sell your book. 

Myth 3: An agent is a publisher.
Myth 4: An agent is not an editor. (There’s a trick here)
Myth 5: I do not need an agent.

I kid you not: there are many people, including writers, who actually think agents publish books. (OK, well arguably, some agencies do now.)  But agents neither physically produce nor distribute books. Both our product and capital is client service, interpersonal relations, and above all, advocacy.
You’re right: an agent isn’t an editor. But agents play editors all the time. We need to share their eye, and we need to share the workings of their brain. If you’re refused on the basis of “platform,” that horrible platitude all of us have come to despise, that doesn’t mean an agent doesn’t believe in your talents as a writer. (Yes, a double negative, because it sounded more affirmative. Just want to be clear that I do have some sense of proper sentence construction…)
I do not need an agent—au contraire! I personally know one author who chose to publish her first novel with a small, independent press and seen real success, but that’s because she’s an exceptional networker, has zero trepidation in self-promoting, confidence in the quality of her work, has published traditionally with an agent and major publisher before, so she knows the game, and had marketing help from my company. Jointly, Sonia and I worked as partners to tirelessly promote her book…and magical things happened.
Other authors need to be walked through the process. They need someone to verse them and possibly handle rights; they need editing help, which good agents provide; they need marketing insights, which many agents can inform; they still need legal, emotional, and financial protection. Who wants to go through this alone?
Plus, in the future, authors may see more negotiating power in terms of agent commissions in eBooks-only representation. (Not to worry agents, because this will be a fun challenge, less bureaucratic, and consequently, our days won’t be swallowed in mediation. We’ll be dealing author-agent only, possibly with a third marketer’s involvement. Didn’t we get in this because we wanted that primary agent/author relationship?)
How do you consider your agency different?

I represent book proposals and writers just like any typical literary agency. But I’m not an elitist: I enjoy diverse categories of books because I’m an insatiable “curiouist”—again, a word of my own design. I’ll review any project I solicit or any project referred to me with the exception of fantasy, sci-fi, diet, children’s, just because I can’t fall for those categories of books to which I’m not a devoted reader or expert. I can’t fake enthusiasm even at the prospect of a big advance.

My particular company and role in the new, digital era of publishing is to work with aspiring and established authors looking to grow their audiences, and coach them through best practices for social networking, offline networking, and messaging from both a marketing and book standpoint (these are usually different). I lend, along the way, a love for and thoroughness in editorial development and presentation, my marketing experience and publicity connections for the strongest platform possible. You can learn more about my “B2B,” or “Blog to Book” model servicing bloggers and business practitioners, doctors, filmmakers, psychologists, celebrities, professors—those who already have the book idea, and even those who don’t, but should be writing one.

Some call this ADD, but I call it all-accessibility—it’s what’s needed in a new, evolving marketplace—and I have the capacity to be all-accessible as a new company, hungry, and 5 years away from having children. Unlike those more seasoned, I’m not cornered as a specialist.

As previously discussed, I see the value of working with an agent far beyond a sales capacity, and the value of working with a marketer far beyond publicity, or blog tours, or Amazon promotions. I’m the person who is both, and I’m training my employees to think and grow in these complimentary directions, too.

I’m trying to re-invent publishing. I know that’s ambitious.

Lucinda has worn many hats in publishing as a literary agent at Fletcher & Company, an online marketing manager at Scholastic, and as a publicist at HarperCollins. Recent projects include women’s nonfiction debut My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young, by Stephanie Dolgoff, leadership debut Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders, by Rajeev Peshawaria, and historical novel The Momentby Douglas Kennedy. Learn more about LBLC at www.lucindaliterary.com or follow her on Twitter@lucindaliterary.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Indie Spotlight: David Simpson

As a reader whose tastes typically fall "left of center", I've always been a supporter of independent/small presses and self-published authors. It's no secret that some of my favorite books have come from these underdogs of the publishing world. 

Sure, the choice to self-publish has never been an easy one. It carries with it a stigma that is sometimes difficult to shake - one of poor grammar and editing; a book that traditional publishers were not willing to represent; a writer with work that was un-agentable. However, as more and more people embrace e-Reading and writers become more business-savvy, for many the new advantages that come with the decision to self-publish appear to far outweigh the negatives. 

David Simpson, author of the 2009 release Post-Human and more recently released titles Trans-Human and The God Killers, decided to take control of his novels' destinies by publishing them himself. In the following guest post, David explains the many reasons he believes self-publishing is the right move for him:


Times, they are a changing. 
Last week, the trajectory of my writing career, at least for the foreseeable future, finally changed with the times. Late Saturday night, I was about to hit the sack and get some much needed sleep when I made the fateful decision to click on yahoo news (an almost zombie-like habit I have formed) to see what was happening in the world. On the front page was a story about Amanda Hocking, a “paranormal romance” author who, despite being rejected over fifty times by traditional publishers, was talented, hardworking, and self-published on Kindle. 
And she had just sold one million books.
One million. All with no publisher or agent. My heart was pounding as I read the article. I researched her, read her blog, watched news reports about her on Youtube, and knew immediately that the path she took was the one for me too. 
In her first month as a self-published author on Kindle, Amanda sold a few hundred stories for only 99 cents a piece; Kindle only lets the author keep 35 cents on every sale at that price point, so Amanda didn’t make much money, but she was proud that she had sold so many copies (and so she should have been) and was encouraged to pass her book along to book blogs not unlike this one. In only her second month, her sales had climbed to over six thousand. The following month (July) she crossed ten thousand. In November, twenty thousand. And in December, she reports that she sold 169 000 copies! In less than a year, she had transformed herself from a woman living paycheck to paycheck, into a millionaire.

I should have seen this coming. I still teach, and one of my favorite subjects to teach my students about is future trends, especially in technology. I’d been expecting e-readers to revolutionize the book industry for a couple of years now. In 2009, when I published my first novel, Post-Human, my publisher (who is owned by Barnes and Noble) didn’t care about e-books, because they only made up 3% of total sales. By the end of 2010, however, the number had climbed to 9%. I remember reading industry “experts” who looked at that 6% jump and assumed 2011 would be the year e-sales might reach 15%. I predicted that the trend would be exponential rather than linear, and that sales should hover close to 30% for 2011. Depending on which source you’re relying on, in 2011 e-book sales make up between 30% and 55% of total book sales in the U.S.. Holy...
Despite all of this foreknowledge, I still clung to the “old” way of doing things, hanging onto tradition during this phenomenal and revolutionary transitionary time period in the profession of novel-writing. I still can’t really understand what I was thinking. Maybe I was just being a defeatist. I had published 3 books by that point and though I had a fiercely (and I do mean fierce... try writing a bad review for me online and see how many people jump out of the woodwork to defend my books) loyal readership, it was a readership that was small, and after a month or so, all of my books wandered off into the publishing abyss and pretty much died. I figured that was just the way it was. Best-selling authors are like lottery winners. You just need a lucky break, and most of us were going to have to wait a really long time to get it.
That was until I read Amanda’s story. Suddenly, I realized that I was living in the first ever era in which a writer had the power to take his or her destiny into their own hands, out of the hands of the number-crunching publishers, and take their work directly to the reader for a price that readers would think was fair. I still owned the copyright to my novels, and I was going to resurrect them, dust them off, and put them back in the game, but at my price point, not my publisher’s.
I went to work making my own Kindle versions of my books (with a lot of help from my tech-savy wife) and, after struggling for most of the week to get the books formatted and ready for prime time, I put them up on Amazon, all for 99 cents. Post-Human, my first novel, is actually free on my website, and will be from now on.
You see, my books were never going to be big sellers traditionally, because the price point was too damn high! I still can’t do anything to control the prices of my paperback editions, but that doesn’t matter, because the book world is going digital in a hurry. At 99 cents, people who liked Post-Human can snap up a copy of Trans-Human and The God Killers without having to think about it twice. My publisher’s e-copy was going for $9.99. Needless to say, few sold. 
Publishers and traditional big box book retailers are finished. There. I said it. In Canada, Chapters Indigo, the country’s biggest big box book retailer started the year reacting to the closing of Borders in the U.S. by saying that Borders was a badly run company and that Chapters Indigo was poised for a big year and would be sticking around. Their e-reader, the Kobo, was flying off the shelf, but a peaceful coexistence between paper books and traditional publishing and e-books could be struck. 2 weeks ago, after announcing 3rd quarter losses of 40 million dollars, Chapters Indigo sold the Kobo to a Japanese company and announced plans to become a “cultural department store.” Good luck with that. 
Barnes and Noble is putting up a great fight, and their sheer size might help them battle it out with Amazon and transition into a terrific online competitor, but there is no way that they’re going to be able to remain in their physical form all the way through to 2013, especially with their new Nook tablet and the Kindle Fire sure to send e-book sales soaring to the 80% marketshare threshold early in 2012. 
And so where will the publishers be? There is a gap from the old way to the new way that I do not think they will be able to cross. I know I am probably ruffling a lot of feathers by saying that, and I take no joy in the idea that small publishing firms that truly love helping authors will probably suffer. I am, however, pretty happy that the monolithic middlemen are being squeezed out. 
If you are a writer, then you are a publisher from now on. Thanks to Amazon (and hopefully Barnes and Noble soon once they open up to Canadian authors) I am now in control of my own destiny. My books are dirt cheap, and whether they fly or not won’t have as much do with luck or someone believing in me and giving me a chance, as much as it will have to do with whether they are any good. It’s just me, the retailer, and the reader, and that’s the way I like it.
As I write this, my new Kindle versions have only been online for about 36 hours, but I’ve sold over a dozen and my free Post-Human edition has been downloaded hundreds of times. Even the 99 cent Post-Human is selling on Amazon for some reason... maybe people recognize what I’m doing and just want to lay down their buck in support? I also scored a major interview with a technology blog that gets 100 000 hits a month that I did earlier today via Skype. And then there is Lori, encouraging and supporting authors as usual by suggesting that I write this guest post. Thank you, Lori. All in all, not a bad start. Modest, but not bad, and a hell of a lot better than sticking with the traditional way! 
If you’re an unpublished writer reading this, or you’re published but your book is dead in the water (but you still own the copyright) I highly recommend reclaiming control over your own destiny and taking your book right to the readers! Amazon gives you the platform, and your readers will be your judge from now on... not the middlemen.  

DAVID SIMPSON is the author of Post-Human, his 2009 debut novel, as well as Trans-Human and The God Killers. He has a master's degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. He currently lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife Jennifer.

He's currently working on a fourth book while teaching English Literature and developing numerous writing projects. If he has any spare time, he watches the Vancouver Canucks not winning the Stanley Cup and breaking his heart or goes to a movie... IF he has any spare time.

Visit David's website to learn more about him and to download a free copy of his first novel Post-Human. 
Purchase its follow-up Trans-Human here
Purchase The God Killers here
You can also find him on Goodreads and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Good Chair is Hard to Find

Tis the season and that all crap. Oh yes, the holidays are here and this Mr. and Mrs. Claus haven't even started their christmas shopping yet... for anyone...! We are extreme last-minute shoppers. We do it every year, even on the years where we've been talking about getting out there early. We just. can't. seem. to do it.

So here I am, on Turkey Eve, scouring the internet for a cool reading chair for my youngest son. He's got this great space beneath his bunk bed (we removed the bottom bunk) with a bookshelf for all of his books and a lamp, but no chair. We're thinking of hanging a curtain in front, to make it more like a "reading cave", and we want a super funky cool chair for him to lounge in while he's in there reading. The space is kinda tight, so it can't be anything outrageously large.

In my search through the interwebs, I stumbled across these:

I really love this one. It's perfect for my son. He's a big baseball fan, so the Mitt Chair would please him to no end. Not to mention that it looks really cool and comfy too, with a sturdy base to keep him upright no matter how hard he might lean back against those fingers! And it'll match his walls. My only gripe? Depending on the size, the thing runs anywhere from $110 -$250 smackers. Oy! I think the Mini Mitt($110 version) might be too small, and if it's not now, it will be soon enough, which means I'd have to cough up the larger fee to get my money's worth.

I thought the Saucer Chair was pretty cool too. Similar to the Mitt, it's plushy and comfy, perhaps a bit more comfortable - at least from the looks of it. Also like the Mitt, it's got the sturdy base and comes in an acceptable color. And oh yea, the price is an astronomical $210 bucks. I mean, does the term "reasonably priced" mean anything anymore?

So my heart is set on putting one of these things under the tree for him, but not at those prices. Hell, at that rate, he'd have the chair and very little else to open on Christmas morning. I'm counting on you, practically pleading... oh internet guru you... to help me find these - or something similar to these - at much more reasonable pricing. Did I mention that I would love you forever? 

While you scour the internet to save my son's Christmas... I wanted to share these downright frightening, these-are-what-nightmares-are-made-of reading chairs. They are like the medieval-torture-device versions of anti-reading chairs! Just thinking of these break me out into a cold sweat: 

This thing looks like some kind of alien abduction device, doesn't it? The last thing it says to me is "sit and read". And what if I attempted to rock in it? What's gonna stop it from rocking all the way around? It should come with a special lap belt or something.. but then again.. that would make it appear more like an alien abduction device so I'll pass. 

Ah yes. The good ole book cave. This thing looks great in photos, doesn't it? A bookshelf with a built in reading nook. See, there is a reason they have a child sitting in there reading. I had the pleasure of seeing this puppy up close and personal at BEA 2011, and let me tell you, that thing is not very roomy. A full grown human is gonna feel a wee bit claustrophobic in there. Trust me! Not to mention, hello - you are practically sitting on the floor, so how the hell do you get outta there... on your knees??

This is another great looking reading area, you know? I mean, in theory, it looks really hot. I especially dig the hot pink on grey scheme they've got going on. But again, notice the lack of a real life adult human in the photo. They needed to go with a plastic 62-points-of-articulation dummy because no living breathing human being who ever wishes to continue living and breathing a pain-free life would ever sit in that thing. Look at how incredibly UNcomfortable it is. Whose body bends that way? You've gotta be made of rubber to make that bench seat work. 

I think I need some help with this one. I can't quite figure out what the hell is going on here. Am I supposed to put my head against the A, and my legs over the back of the U? Is that supposed to be comfortable? It looks incredibly hard and sharp and unforgiving. Not to mention ugly as all get-out. Whoever designed this thing needs to be sent back to the drawing board. I might like to read books that contain letters, but that doesn't mean I want to sit my ass inside of them!

This dude must LOVE going to the dentist. This chair screams "Open up and say Ahhhhh.." which is the exact opposite of what a reading chair should say. If you think for one second that I'm going to plop my ass into this thing, you've lost your mind, you sick fuck! Also, can you say pins and needles? 

I originally looked at these and thought... awww.. how cute. A his and hers indoor swing set. Then I thought they looked like bird nests, you know, the ones for finches that you stuff into the back of their cages in the hopes that they'll mate and hatch little baby finches. Then I thought once you sat down, what stops that strange ass chair from sucking you in swallowing you whole and how the hell would you ever get back out? Maybe it's like one of those venus fly trap things.. only for people. No matter how you swing it, I ain't getting anywhere near one of those!

This one just confuses me. It's made of wood, with a tiny little padded headrest and a cut-out for your feet. Not only does it look incredibly uncomfortable to sit in - do you have to crawl into it? - but the darn thing curls up right into your face, blocking your view. Look at the poor woman in the photo! She's probably looking out to her right because the damn chair is making her feel annoyingly claustrophobic. Now, I'm not one to complain about size normally... but man.. I mean... c'mon now.....

I saved the best for last... you know how they say a picture's worth a thousand words? I've got a million running through my mind at this very moment..... and not a one is the word "reading".....

Review: Touch and Go

Read 11/17/11 - 11/23/11
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Pgs: 342
Publisher: Unbridled Books

Be prepared to see the world through the eyes of a blind man. Touch and Go, by debut novelist Thad Nodine, is a multi-cultural, non-traditional masterpiece that will worm its way into every reader's heart.

Kevin, an ex-addict who was blinded in a freak accident as a child, narrates the journey he makes across country with his quirky sponsor family - Isa, Patrick, and their two foster kids Devon and Ray - to deliver a handmade casket to Isa's dying father in Florida. As you would expect, there is drama and conflict - Isa's attempts to mask her depression with her new relationship with God,  the sneaky "get rich quick" schemes Patrick concocts from state to state that threaten to put all of them in jeopardy, and Devon and Ray, while generally on their best behavior, both have their moments. Kevin is not without his own issues as well, trying to outrun his past drug addiction and obsession with Isa while struggling to act as independently as possible in this new, foreign world he is finding himself in.

Touch and Go is more than just mere words on a page. For one thing, it's a tactile story, projecting more than just images onto the reader (which are fed to Kevin through Ray, whom he leans on for visual references of their surroundings). By using Kevin as his narrator, Nodine sets the stage for a true "3-D" experience. Kevin, who sees neither light nor dark, describes things in a way that only he can - through his sense of touch and the way he uses and catalogues sound. Those things that we take for granted every day are the very things that help him to make sense of his world.

I loved the way Kevin described the full out knees-to-chin run down the hill of a golf course during one of their many stops along the way to Florida. Unable to use sight as a guide, he lets himself go in the hopes of tricking his mind into remembering the color green, and shares the childlike joy and thrill of it all. Shortly after that experience, in a fierce display of independence, he attempts to locate a snack shop on his own in an area he has never been in before. After mistaking the sound of a garbage can on the ground as the door to the storefront, Kevin shares the sheer panic and fear that threaten to encompass him as he accepts the fact that he is lost. In another, similarly devastating moment, Kevin describes the chaos and confusion of Hurricane Katrina as it threatens to overtake the house he and his family find themselves in - the floors trembling, the window glass shaking and shrieking, the walls weeping with water. All of this, so perfectly told through the unseeing eyes of our narrator.

Touch and Go is also a story of survival, of breaking bad habits, and of becoming comfortable in one's own skin. As Kevin and the gang make the trip from Burbank to Isa's father's house, they are forced - each in their own way - to exorcise their demons. Isa learns to properly grieve for her daughter; Ray opens up and shares a private, personal, and shameful memory of his mother; Devon learns to let go of the resentful feelings he harbors for his absentee father; Patrick momentarily shows compassion for strangers during Katrina and performs a completely selfless act; and Kevin finally finds the confidence to face the world without aid of his dark glasses and cowboy hat.

A wonderfully engaging, well paced, amazing effort from a first time novelist.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

National Indie Excellence Book Award

Tis the season for Indie Book Awards! First, the Golden Goose Awards, now The National Indie Excellence Book Awards... can you handle all of this indie book love?

NIEA was recently brought to my attention by Marissa, Senior Publicist of JKSCommunications, a literary publicity firm founded in 2000 that offers services such as book trailer production, press kits, and media packages to their clients. Find out more here.

Since her company is involved in the awards, I thought I would let her give you all the juicy details....


Hello Next Best Book blog readers!

I had the pleasure of hearing Lori's comments at the Book Blogger Convention earlier this year. She stood up and -- so passionately -- discussed Indie books and their importance. I couldn't have agreed with her more. So when the literary publicity firm I work for, JKSCommunications, got behind the National Indie Excellence Book Awards, I just had to write Lori again.

Like Lori, and like you guys, JKSCommunications is constantly on the search for Indie greatness. With more than 800,000 books published every year in the U.S., it's not that easy to do. JKS alone gets requests every day from authors or publishers wanting book promotion. But we read every book before we agree to publicize it. We want to be a true fan of the author's work. We want to really believe in the book like they do.

And that's exactly why we also believe so much in the Indie Excellence awards. The professionalism of the way its run, and the caliber of books chosen as winners, proves why it's been so successful at helping catapult independent and small publishers' books into the national spotlight since they started in 2007. The awards honor the best books in over 100 categories, giving multiple opportunities for a book to win.

NIEA provides national media and industry exposure for all winners and finalists, and the Sponsor’s Choice Awards make NIEA even more special. JKSCommunications is one of the sponsors, offering a 7-stop Virtual Book Tour and electronic press kit development to one of the winners. We're beyond excited to work on this! There are so many other great prizes from NIEA's Sponsor's Choice Awards (selected from the winners and finalists in all contest categories), including:

*Planned Television Arts  customized media campaign
*Event Management Services print publicity campaign
*Radio TV Interview Report  3 free half-page ads
*Star Power Publicity System, choice of a 1-day live course or Webinar, two 15-minute Fast Start Group Consulting sessions, and the Jill Lublin Home Study System
*Alex Carroll copy of the deluxe Radio Publicity Millionaire Program
*Brilliant Mobile a Mobile Website and a QR2MOBI Code to promote your platform and more
*Dan Poynter’s Para Promotion Campaign book promotion package

Want to enter your superb Indie book? Wait no longer! NIEA is now accepting submissions for 2012. Entries must be postmarked by April 15, and the winners and finalists will be announced May 15. Please send one copy of your book per category entered. Books with publication dates of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 are eligible. Books published anywhere in the world may be submitted, as long as they are in English and can be purchased on and offline in the United States. For more information, category listings and entry forms please check out the NIEA website: www.IndieExcellence.com.

Please feel free to write me at marissa@jkscommunications.com if you have any questions!

Thank you Lori for helping us spread the word about such a great opportunity for Indie authors!

Marissa DeCuir, senior publicist, joined JKSCommunications in 2008. She specializes in booking media appearances and tours for authors, as well as generating an online buzz for their books. A former newspaper reporter, DeCuir uses her knowledge and experience on that side of the communications field to successfully place clients’ publicity in print publications, virtual book tours and on radio shows and television news stations around the country.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Print Journalism from the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University. DeCuir wrote stories and produced multimedia for local, regional and national newspapers before transferring her skills to public relations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Bill Warrington's Last Chance

Read 11/12/11 - 11/16/11
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

Timing is everything.

The week that my grandfather passed away is the week that I decided to start Bill Warrington's Last Chance. My grandfather lost his battle with cancer as Bill started losing his grip on his sanity, slowing sinking into the chaotic and confusing grip of Alzheimer's.

There were so many similarities within the dynamics of Bill and his family when compared to my grandfather and our family that I found this book to be extremely comforting during a very difficult time.

The book centers around Bill, a crotchety old war vet who managed, many years ago, to successfully alienated himself from his children and grandchildren. Now, as he becomes aware of an encroaching, persistent forgetfulness and finds himself lost for increasing periods of time in memories of his long deceased wife, he is nearly suffocated with the need to see his kids together before it's too late.

When the family get-together looks like an impossibility - Marcy, Mike, and Nick have not only stopped talking to their father, they have stopped talking to one another as well - Bill does something drastic, something that he hopes will catch all of their attention. He kidnaps his 15 year old granddaughter April and goes on a road trip. But it's a race against time and memory - will his children decode his clues and meet Bill and April in the designated rendezvous before he loses his mind altogether?

Ok, so I confess, my grandfather never kidnapped any of us. And his memory was never a threat to us either (unless you count the fact that he was sharp as a tack and remembered every single thing we'd ever said or done that pissed him off). But he was a crotchety old war vet - he served his time on the USS Slater in World War II - and he was always threatening to do some kind of bodily harm to us if we didn't sit still and quit opening and closing the damn doors! He had his good - if not entirely inappropriate - moments too. There were the jokes that he would tell us, the can of beer held in one hand, the italian cigar in the other, rocking back and forth in his worn out Lazy-boy. He was a tough guy to love, but he was proud of his family, and though it was hard to tell, he showed adoration of the grandkids by picking on them something fierce.

Bill Warrington was a hard man to love too, yet James King managed to make him an incredibly easy guy to like. I didn't share the same things with my grandfather that April did with hers - he taught her to drive, and stand up for herself, and go after the things she wanted most in life - but that didn't diminish my ability to relate to their relationship.

As the book unfolds, we begin to discover that all of the players have secrets they don't want the others to know - typical family drama sort of issues - an arc that really pulls the reader into the fold. So many of the personality traits and hidden 'skeletons in the closet' will remind you of someone you know, or worse.. they'll remind you of yourself.

It's a multi-generational, semi-humorous look at a serious subject matter that affects more families than we dare to realize. I can only imagine the pain of losing someone you know and love to a disease as lonely as Alzheimer's. And I am not sure I can ever be convinced of which is worse... being conscious of the fact that you are losing your mind, or the blissful ignorance of it as it takes you over.

Which brings me back to my own grandfather and the last few weeks of his life as he struggled with cancer. As a granddaughter, it's extremely hard to see someone who was once so strong and full of zest reduced to a voiceless, evaporating shadow of what they once were. I can only imagine what it was like for my grandfather, a man of very little outward affection, aware of his own mortality, as we all made our way to his bedside in those final days. I have to think that, though he couldn't say it, he was hoping one of us would just get him a beer and a cigar, and stop opening and closing the damn door for crissake!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One Indie Author Gives Back...

So unless you live under a rock... or worse.. don't have a Twitter account (gasp!)... you've already heard about the 5500 books that were loaded into the back of a dump truck and forcibly removed from Zuccotti Park. Sure, those books weren't destroyed, as originally assumed, but they were taken... and it caused quite the stir.

One author in particular, M. Clifford, has chosen to express his disgust in a positive way - by offering up free e-copies of his novel The Book  for the rest of the year. And can I say just how fitting a book it is for times like these?

With the author's permission, let me share his reasoning with you:

"Very early this morning, as most of you know, the NYC protesters in Zuccotti Park were booted out.  Those that stood their ground were arrested and much of what was in the park was confiscated.  By confiscated...I mean that it was thrown into dump trucks.
What is most disturbing to me as an author is knowing that the 5,500 books from The People's Library that had been donated to the protesters were tossed into the back of those trucks!.... Dump trucks filled with books were hauled away from a peaceful protest by a dominating government agency without warning and under the cover of darkness in the middle of a media blackout...
So what then?
On my website - www.m-clifford.com - I am posting a complete PDF file of my novel.  The book is about a future where all information is digital and controlled through a government issued reading device known as The Book. Everything you read is manipulated.  The story surrounds one man's discovery of this manipulation in his favorite novel and the journey a small band of believers take to regain control of their freedom and the freedom of the world.
Indie authors like me have the ability to do what they want with their books.  So give them away for a short while.  Maybe just until the end of the year.
The government took their books.  Let's give some back."

To see his original post, click here. And then do yourself a favor and download The Book for free.

Support an indie author's choice to give back what was taken. Support your peaceful protestors. And get your hands on this exceptional novel. It's frighteningly timely. It's an amazing story. And if you trust my taste in books, you won't be sorry - it got the TNBBC "Next Best Book"  5 star rating in 2010.

How many other indie authors can he count on for support?
Will you give back what was taken?

The IndieReader on "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a monthly feature that will be hosted here on TNBBC. We will meet a wide variety of independent authors, publishers, and booksellers as they discuss what being indie means to them.

Meet Amy Edelmen. She is a publicist, author, and founder and editor of IndieReader.com. She self published her first book "The Fashion Resource Directory" back in the 80's, and has also authored two traditionally published books - "The Little Black Dress" and "Manless in Montclair". 

She understands how difficult it is for all authors to get exposure. Her website was born out a need to create a more level playing field for authors who choose to go it on their own and to give book-lovers the opportunity to discover great works that they might not have otherwise have found. And today, she shared with us how she defines the term "Indie".

What does “Being Indie” mean to me?  

The term “indie”, to me, has always been an indicator that something (and until recently that “something” was usually a movie or a band) was the product of a person with a singular vision.  Not something spit out by a corporation wanting merely to make a buck, but something that speaks of its creator’s blood and sweat and talent.  And while the end-result of such visions sometimes felt a bit “rough around the edges”, the absence of a certain “slickness” tended to make the final results—two hours in the dark or a four minute snippet of music—completely and totally worthwhile.  

The term “indie” has come late to books.  I chose the name IndieReader for my website, way back in ’09, in the hopes of creating an alternative name for “self-publishing”, a term—to most people—that suggested a last-ditch option for authors without any talent.  We stole IR’s goal from Sundance: to promote, brand and legitimize Independent books and authors. 

The reasoning?  As an avid reader, author (both self and trad pubbed) and long-time publicist, I believed that there were a great many books not making it into the traditional publishing system.  Not because they were bad, but because their authors didn’t have a good enough "platform," or the subjects of their books didn’t have enough mass appeal.  Especially these days, when traditional publishing is all about dollars and cents, an author’s inability to get a deal is less about their talent and more about the trad publisher’s inability to showcase that talent.  And when you think about it, that’s really a crappy way to decide which books are “worthwhile” and which aren’t. 

So, now the door has been opened so that thousands of authors can get their works out there, which is really great news for authors.  But for the book-buying consumer it’s tough because—especially with the advent of the ereader—the world of indie books—while beginning to look inviting—has all of the sudden become overwhelming. 

How does one sort the good books from the not-so-good?  What are the bestsellers?   IndieReader was created to be the “essential guide to self-pubbed books and the people who write them”, offering discriminating consumers a place to discover the world of indie books, along with professional reviews, author interviews and more. 

So what does “being indie” (and “reading indie”) mean to me?  It means that you’re taking a chance.  You’re stepping out of the mainstream into a world where anything is possible.  True, you may sometimes end up being disappointed.  But the rewards when you experience something special and unexpected are totally magic.