David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: Books Page 2 of 3

How to Be a Successful Writer: Word Bookstore Owner Give the Inside Skinny

The Book Doctors first got to be friends with Word Bookstore when we did a Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for books) at their Brooklyn store a couple of years ago. It’s such a beautiful little Brooklyn exquisitely-curated indie that fits in perfectly with its neighborhood. Exactly the kind of bookstore alleged “publishing pundits” like to scream is dying. We had a great event, packed the place, everybody was super nice & we got a typically Brooklyn crowd of writers pitching literary urban angst novel, werewolf investment banker 1%er urban fantasy novel, and lots of picture books trying to be the next “Go the Fuck to Sleep”. When we found out they opened a bookstore in Jersey City, we were delighted. Not only did it fly in the face of prevailing “wisdom” that beautiful and exquisitely-curated can’t survive, it says they can actually expand! So on May 22, we’re doing a Pitchapalooza in Jersey City, to see what Jersey’s finest writers have to pitch. And we figured we’d take the opportunity to pick the brain of owner Christine Onorati, the woman who’s single handedly proving that the death of the bookstore, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is highly exaggerated.

chris onorati word both stores

The Book Doctors: First of all, why in God’s name did you want to get into the book business?

Christine Onorati: I majored in English in college with a focus on publishing. I worked in the publishing business for many years before opening my first bookstore, a small used and new shop on Long Island. My father owned stationery stores my whole life so I always thought retail was in my blood.

TBD: And why, in this economy, when everyone is crying about the death of the bookstore, did you choose to open yet another bookstore?

CO: We’ve been luckily successful with the model we’ve followed in Brooklyn and my family in Jersey City kept saying it was the perfect location for a new store. So when the location and opportunity presented itself, I decided to move forward. I obviously don’t believe that bookstores are dying or else I wouldn’t have done it.

TBD:  Why did you want to open a bookstore in Jersey City specifically?

CO: I always thought JC had a similar vibe to Greenpoint when I moved there over 8 years ago. The feeling of community is strong and the residents seemed hungry for a store like ours. The time seemed right. And again, when the location presented itself, it seemed like the right move.

TBD:  What have you learned about bookselling in Brooklyn that you’re applying to opening your new store?

CO: Our model is basically the same. Make customers happy. Provide excellent customer service. Employ really smart, helpful booksellers. Be a place that book lovers can get together and feel comfortable and happy. Present great author events. Never judge a customer for their reading tastes.

TBD:  How do you choose which books to sell in your bookstore, and which books to feature?

CO: I do all the buying for both stores. I try to always bring in a mix of what I know our customers will like and recognize as well as some surprises that they can discover. It takes time to learn the tastes of the neighborhood but it’s a fun learning experience.

TBD:  Does it gall you when someone comes into your store and gets a lot of you or your staff’s expertise, then says they can get the book cheaper on Amazon, and goes home and orders it online?

CO: This happens very rarely in our stores, thankfully. I think most customers are a bit too savvy to act this callously. But I know it happens elsewhere. And we can’t stop it from happening online, if someone gets our newsletter and decides to order from Amazon instead. While we always focus on the positives and what we can provide as opposed to what we can’t, we’re always ready and willing to have the Amazon conversation with customers if need be. They need to know we can’t compete with Amazon’s prices and probably never will. But stores like mine are not solely about price, and I think most of our customers get that. Both stores gave us a really positive reception when we opened, and we’re still getting it in JC.

TBD:  Do you see anything commonality in successful authors?

CO: I think authors need to hustle more than ever these days. A smart social media presence can go a long way with building loyalty and keeping customers connected to their favorite authors.

TBD:  What advice do you have for booksellers?

CO: I think the days of throwing books on the shelves and hoping they sell are done. We need smart, energetic booksellers who can provide a service that people can’t get online from an algorithm. Pretension or a judgmental attitude have no place in bookselling these days, I think.

TBD: What advice you have for writers?

CO: Connect with readers. Use your publisher’s resources to your best advantage. Build your brand. Keep writing good books that people will want to read.

Christine Onorati is the owner of <a href=”http://wordbookstores.com/ bookstores ” target=”_hplink”>WORD</a> with two locations in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, NJ. Before opening WORD in Brooklyn in 2007, Christine ran a small new and used bookshop on Long Island after working several years behind the scenes in book publishing. The Jersey City location opened in December of 2013. Christine lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and son and is expecting twin girls this summer.

The Book Doctors: First of all, why in God’s name did you want to get into the book business?

 

Christine Onorati: I majored in English in college with a focus on publishing. I worked in the publishing business for many years before opening my first bookstore, a small used and new shop on Long Island. My father owned stationery stores my whole life so I always thought retail was in my blood.

 

TBD: And why, in this economy, when everyone is crying about the death of the bookstore, did you choose to open yet another bookstore?

 

CO: We’ve been luckily successful with the model we’ve followed in Brooklyn and my family in Jersey City kept saying it was the perfect location for a new store. So when the location and opportunity presented itself, I decided to move forward. I obviously don’t believe that bookstores are dying or else I wouldn’t have done it.

 

TBD:  Why did you want to open a bookstore in Jersey City specifically?

 

CO: I always thought JC had a similar vibe to Greenpoint when I moved there over 8 years ago. The feeling of community is strong and the residents seemed hungry for a store like ours. The time seemed right. And again, when the location presented itself, it seemed like the right move.

 

TBD:  What have you learned about bookselling in Brooklyn that you’re applying to opening your new store?

 

CO: Our model is basically the same. Make customers happy. Provide excellent customer service. Employ really smart, helpful booksellers. Be a place that book lovers can get together and feel comfortable and happy. Present great author events. Never judge a customer for their reading tastes.

 

TBD:  How do you choose which books to sell in your bookstore, and which books to feature?

 

CO: I do all the buying for both stores. I try to always bring in a mix of what I know our customers will like and recognize as well as some surprises that they can discover. It takes time to learn the tastes of the neighborhood but it’s a fun learning experience.

 

TBD:  Does it gall you when someone comes into your store and gets a lot of you or your staff’s expertise, then says they can get the book cheaper on Amazon, and goes home and orders it online?

 

CO: This happens very rarely in our stores, thankfully. I think most customers are a bit too savvy to act this callously. But I know it happens elsewhere. And we can’t stop it from happening online, if someone gets our newsletter and decides to order from Amazon instead. While we always focus on the positives and what we can provide as opposed to what we can’t, we’re always ready and willing to have the Amazon conversation with customers if need be. They need to know we can’t compete with Amazon’s prices and probably never will. But stores like mine are not solely about price, and I think most of our customers get that. Both stores gave us a really positive reception when we opened, and we’re still getting it in JC.

 

TBD:  Do you see anything commonality in successful authors?

 

CO: I think authors need to hustle more than ever these days. A smart social media presence can go a long way with building loyalty and keeping customers connected to their favorite authors.

 

TBD:  What advice do you have for booksellers?

 

CO: I think the days of throwing books on the shelves and hoping they sell are done. We need smart, energetic booksellers who can provide a service that people can’t get online from an algorithm. Pretension or a judgmental attitude have no place in bookselling these days, I think.

 

TBD: What advice you have for writers?

 

CO: Connect with readers. Use your publisher’s resources to your best advantage. Build your brand. Keep writing good books that people will want to read.

Christine Onorati is the owner of WORD bookstores with two locations in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, NJ. Before opening WORD in Brooklyn in 2007, Christine ran a small new and used bookshop on Long Island after working several years behind the scenes in book publishing. The Jersey City location opened in December of 2013. Christine lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and son and is expecting twin girls this summer.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 20 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of eight books and co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 16 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. His books been translated into 10 languages, and he’s been featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today. Twitter: @thebookdoctors <

 

Antonia Crane Talks About Sex Work, Slut-Shaming, Biting Matthew McConaughey and Her New Book: Spent

To read on Huffington Post click here.

I met Antonia Crane when I was putting together an anthology I did about sex work & sex workers. From our first correspondence it was clear she was smart, articulate, funny, talented, ballsy and didn’t take herself too seriously. I knew she had a book in her. Now the book is out of her and into the world. It’s called Spent, and I’m happy to say it’s smart, articulate, funny, talented, ballsy and didn’t take itself too seriously. So I thought I’d pick her brain about sex, money, work, stripping and moms.

David Henry Sterry: I noticed that a lot of pieces in your new memoir Spent were published in other places first. How did that happen? Did it help you become a better writer? Did it help you get your book published?
acheadarms-2-1
Antonia Crane: I started writing nonfiction in grad school about being a sex worker and raging about my mother’s death. I was grieving. I was doing sex work. I have been braiding those two narratives for a while and that texture/tone became the basis for my book. The first great thing that happened was I pitched a column to Stephen Elliott for The Rumpus and he said Yes. Stephen is a Yes man. He seems like he wouldn’t be — but he is such an energy source: an innovator and loves fresh ideas and voices. I sent out essays to a gazillion places, hungry for more yesses. What I got were hundreds of no’s but I kept trying. I kept pushing. I kept writing and I got better. That’s what happens when you work hard.

DHS: How did you learn to become a writer?

AC: By becoming a voracious reader. I have always been in love with books and in love with stories. As a youth, it probably began with Dr. Suess and then Lewis Caroll’s “Alice and Wonderland.” Then I went crazy for Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” and fell in love with J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey.” To become a writer, I simply had to write badly until it gradually got better.

DHS: You reveal such intimate personal things about yourself, stuff that is forbidden in our culture, things that make people uncomfortable. Were you worried about how people would react? Have you gotten any slut-shaming as a result of this book?

AC: The slut-shamers have been disconcertingly quiet. Frankly, the part I was worried about the most was not the sex or sex work at all. I am a grown-ass woman who made her decisions: good or bad. The euthanasia chapter was my biggest concern because there are legal issues and personal issues regarding who was in the building; who was in the room with my mother and I. My step-father was amazing about it. He is a good man who does great things and he and I are on the same page politically. Also, I wondered how my actual Dad would respond but he’s been very supportive. Right after a therapy session recently, I flat-out asked him not to read it.

DHS: There’s long been a raging debate about whether sex work is tantamount to slavery, or on the other end of the bell curve, empowering. Where do you stand on this?

AC: I’m so glad you asked that question. It’s a hard question and one I have been thinking about and writing about for a long time. In fact, this article just came out in <a href=”http://www.thenation.com/article/179147/why-do-so-many-leftists-want-sex-work-be-new-normal#” target=”_hplink”>The Nation</a> that I plan to respond to this week. The article criticizes the “sex work as ‘normal’ work” battle cry of many educated feminists, of which I am one. And I don’t fully buy into that line of thinking either. Some sex work is slavery, for instance, when it is. That line is not confusing to me. Sometimes women are enslaved and this is a horrific tragedy that needs to end. Because, the picture of the woman on a billboard who graduated from Mills College and is a sex worker looks really different from a girl sold by her family into prostitution or a young girl from the tracks here in LA. When it’s a choice, Sex work can be empowering, validating, fun, sad, lonely, humiliating and lucrative. So can waiting tables. But, they are very different jobs because when you throw sex into the mix, all of a sudden people get uncomfortable and threatened. People don’t go get a plate of pasta in a restaurant because they are dying of loneliness. But they will come to women in the sex industry for that reason. It’s a troubling enigma. I stand in the crossroads of this debate and think you should ask a sex worker if she thinks it’s slavery. Then go ask an employee of Walmart and compare answers.

DHS: The stuff in your book about your mom is so vivid and beautiful and sometimes excruciatingly painful. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when I was reading parts of it. Was it hard to write? Was it liberating? Painful? Or all of the above?

AC: I love tears. I am glad you cried and am honored my writing had this effect on you. I love reading stories that make me feel strongly. My writing sucks when I am not crying while writing it. Tears are my jam. It makes writing in public places embarrassing for my friends.

DHS: It’s really hard to write a good sex scene, but I really like your sex scenes in the book.  They seem so real and vivid. How do you go about constructing a sex scene?

AC: Thank you. I’m always trolling for good sex scenes. Sex is dirty, messy and awkward. There’s this crazy moment in Miranda July’s story “Roy Spivey” where he asks her to bite him out of the blue and he’s a celebrity, like Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey (who I would totally bite). I love that moment so much because it’s strange. I think about what was awful and what was awkward and then what I felt like in my gut and go from there. Steve Almond writes great sex scenes because he seems most interested in that little box of shame that happens whenever two people get naked together. I try to remember that and make him proud.

DHS: Is it harder to be a sex worker or a writer?

AC: Writing is the hardest thing in the world. I just got 3 big rejections this week that stung. And the writing is not only excruciatingly hard work, it’s impossible to get paid for it and it’s never done. I was just telling my publisher, Tyson Cornell over coffee that I am too good at stripping and it makes it hard to leave. Sex work is a hard job, but I have clocked in my 10,000 hours so I suppose that makes me an expert. Maybe I should write a self-help book for strippers: A Stripper’s Guide to Making a Killing Every Night.

DHS: You say that you became addicted to sex work. What do you mean by that?

AC: Sex work has saved me so many times in my life and this pattern can become addicting. Stripping and sex work has bailed me out, provided me with sexual validation, attention, money, filled me with desire, made me feel confident, smart and pretty. Also, in terms of direct service, this is a service job, when I make others feel desired and good, I feel like I have purpose. It’s a lot of topless 12-stepping lately, meaning, I find myself babysitting a lot of rich drunk men. I call them cabs and they send them away. Offer me their father’s planes or golf trips to Ireland. But sometimes they cry in my arms. Sometimes it gets very very real. Sometimes I kind of fall in love with them for their vulnerability and I take that into my actually pretty great big life and learn from it.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for sex workers?

AC: Do something else. While you are there, save your money and invest in your future. Play the long game. Try to remember to be of love and service.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

AC: The best way to serve your writing is to read. The best way to serve other writers is to actually help them in a solid way. The only way to become a better writer is to write every day like your hands are on fire. Write and dig deep. Deeper. Deeper still.

Antonia Crane is a writer, performer and visiting professor at UCSD. She’s a columnist on The Rumpus and editor at The Weeklings and The Citron Review. Her work can be found in: Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Salon, PANK magazine, DAME, Slake Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Review and several anthologies. Her memoir, Spent is published by Barnacle Books/Rare Bird Lit.
You can Tweet her @antoniacrane and find her book here: Spent.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, editor and book doctor.  His anthology was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 10 languages.  He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his current wife, and co-founded The Book Doctors, who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping writers.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the London Times, Playboy, the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal.  He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.

Society for Children Book Writers and Illustrators’ Kristine Carlson Asselin Give The Book Doctors the Skinny

We first became aware of the Society for Children Book Writers and Illustrators a few years ago when David’s middle grade novel came out, and he was invited by Penguin to the national SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. It was totally mind-blowing. Wall-to-wall writers, artists, agents, editors, book people of all ilk who were madly passionate about kid’s books. Since then we’ve send countless writers to SCBWI. They have regional chapters all over the country, and a large national presence. This year we were asked to bring our Pithcapalooza (think American Idol for books) to the annual SCBWI New England chapter’s conference, and we thought we’d take the opportunity to pick the literary brain of SCBWI’s own Kristine Carlson Asselin, who is a very accomplished writer in her own right.

The Book Doctors: How did you first become associated with SCBWI?
kristine-asselin_headshot
Kristine Carlson Asselin: In 2007, I was hoping to break into writing for children. I’d finished several picture book manuscripts as well as the short story that would later become my first completed novel.  I attended a one-day workshop sponsored by SCBWI New England. It literally rocked my world. Before then, I had no idea that writers and illustrators came together to learn from each other. Soon after that fall workshop, I attended my first regional conference, held in Nashua, New Hampshire.

That first year, I felt like a poser. I thought for sure someone would see through the façade and kick me out! But everyone I met treated me like a “real” writer. I was hooked. In 2011, partly because I had previous event management experience, I was approached to co-direct a future conference. I spent two years shadowing the conference directors, and it’s been my great pleasure to serve in the lead role in 2014. It’s been the most amazing professional experience of my career.

TBD: What are some of the benefits of coming to the conference like SCBWI NE?

KCA: The SCBWI New England conference staff works hard to select a diverse menu of over 60 workshops for writers and illustrators of all skill levels, and writers of every genre of children’s publishing. Another tangible benefit includes the opportunity to network and rub elbows with literary agents, editors, and art directors. Intangibles include finding inspiration from our incredible keynoter speakers, fangirling (or fanboying) over your favorite children’s author, and making new friends and critique partners.

TBD: How has being part of an organization like SCBWI helped you in your writing career?

KCA: I can’t imagine where I’d be with my writing career, if I hadn’t stumbled upon that workshop years ago. I love being in the same room as successful authors and learning what works for them, and how to apply it to my own work. I’ve also met some amazing critique partners and beta readers, and dear friends through SCBWI.

TBD: What are some of the things you’ve observed that successful authors have in common?

KCA: All the writers I hang out with write for children, so I can’t speak for writers of books for grown-ups. However, children’s book writers are the some of the nicest, most generous people you’ve ever met. I think most people really embrace the concept of “paying it forward.” I’ve witnessed a lot of effort made by successful writers to mentor and advise newer writers and to “give back” to the universe.

TBD: What have you found effective in promoting and marketing your books? What are some of the things you’ve done that don’t work so well?

KCA: All but one of my published books have been written specifically for the school library market, so the publisher manages the marketing for those books. For me, the priority is to maintain a current blog and website, and to be helpful and supportive on Twitter and Facebook.

TBD: How did you first get into writing nonfiction books for kids?

KCA: I decided early in my career, I wasn’t going to pigeon-hole myself. I knew I wanted to write fiction for children, but I also wanted to experiment with different genres and styles. After my efforts to publish picture books stalled, I stumbled across the contact information for Capstone Press, the publisher of many of my nonfiction titles. I wanted to start something completely different from what I’d been working on. I sent the company my educational credentials and a writing sample, and they offered me my first contract. Of eleven books with Capstone at this point, that first book, WHO REALLY DISCOVERED AMERICA, is still one of my favorites.

TBD: How do you approach writing fiction differently that writing nonfiction?

KCA: I’m under contract for a Young Adult contemporary romance for Bloomsbury Spark (ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT is due out in late fall 2014). It started as a NaNoWriMo book. I wrote 50K words during the month of November–they were raw and awful, but it was so liberating to turn off my inner editor and write fast. I loved it! My nonfiction approach is to research first and then write an outline before I ever start the manuscript. VERY different from fast-drafting without my inner editor!

TBD: How did you go about getting your first publishing deal?

KCA: My first publishing contract for fiction came about from a twitter pitch! It’s true! I pitched a novel during #PitMad in the spring of 2013, and that pitch attracted the interest of Meredith Rich, of Bloomsbury Spark. It wasn’t a slam dunk–she still had to read and like my work. But ultimately that 140 character pitch turned into the contract for ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT.

TBD: What tips do you have for writers?

KCA: We all have different styles, and not everything works for everyone. But my very basic advice for writers is to write. You can’t get better at your craft without practice. So write. A lot. Take workshops, take classes, read blogs, read books in your chosen genre, have your friends give you writing prompts. Write. Write. Write. That’s the best advice I can give!

Kristine Carlson Asselin writes contemporary Young Adult & Middle Grade fantasy. She has written fourteen nonfiction books for the school library market with Capstone Press and Abdo Publishing, the newest (Dangerous Diseases) released in February 2014. She is one of the co-directors of SCBWI-New England this year, and her debut Young Adult novel, Any Way You Slice It, is due from Bloomsbury Spark in late fall 2014. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  Kris on Twitter: @KristineAsselin

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 20 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of eight books and co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 16 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. His books been translated into 10 languages, and he’s been featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today. Twitter: @thebookdoctors

Phil Donahue on Books, TV, Mohammed Ali and Erma Bombeck: David Henry Sterry on Huffington Post

To read on Huffington Post click here.

In the 70s my mom went from being an immigrant housewife stay-at-home mom to a bra-burning consciousness-raising feminist to a card-carrying the same-sex loving lesbian.  And she loved Phil Donahue.  So from a young age I had a deep fondness and respect for Phil Donahue.  He represented things we believed in our household.  Progress, inclusion, valuing individuals over corporations, trying to get at the truth of what makes America a great place, and how we as average citizens can shape this country into a place where freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not just ideals, but concrete building blocks to a better life for everyone, regardless of race, creed, color or how much money you have in the bank.  So when I found out we were both appearing at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop I jumped on the chance to pick his brain.

Donahue-Phil-200x300David Henry Sterry: You basically invented a type of television where the host asks questions about the emotional life of other human beings and it spawned everyone from Oprah to Jerry Springer, and I wondered what your thoughts were when you watch some of these shows and reflect on your part in this and how the whole thing has evolved?

Phil Donahue: Well, I think I said this before that I love them all equally. They’re all my illegitimate children.

[We both laugh]

PD: It’s been fun watching the evolution. We didn’t know it then. We weren’t smart enough to know but very early on, we brought to the day-time schedule a revolutionary idea called democracy. We let the people who own the airwaves use them. I said many times there would’ve been no Donahue show without the studio audience. That was a happenstance; we inherited the audience of the show we replaced. They had tickets for the preceding show, so when they showed up to the studio that day in Dayton, Ohio, they found that the show they’d come to see had been canceled.  And here I was with two talking heads, me and the guest. Everything else we were competing with was spinning wheels and “Come on down.” Monty Hall was giving away about a thousand dollars to a woman dressed like a chicken-salad sandwich. It was visual. It was exciting. People screamed and clapped. But our audience was so involved in the conversation and wanted to get in.  I realized they were asking better questions than I was! During the commercial break during the third day, I jumped out of my chair and went out into the audience with a mic.  We did put the audience up front and put the cameras behind the audience. That was new. Audiences were not that popular among the blue suits that ran the stations. In our case, we really highlighted the audience. Since we had a visually dull show anyway, just two talking heads, we suddenly realized we had something nobody else had. It was a very fundamental idea.

DHS: I feel like this was a precursor to the Internet, where everybody has a voice.

PD: Yeah, you could say that. Somebody who represented you sooner or later showed up in the audience and said what they thought, what you were thinking.  It was a daytime show so usually a woman. We started our show in 1967, locally in Dayton, Ohio. Our first full year on the air Martin Luther King was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, the cops beat up the kids in Chicago, gays fought back at Stonewall. We really got very lucky and found ourselves riding the crest of the wave of the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement. We put a live homosexual right here on my show in November, the first week of the show. In 1967, nobody was out.

DHS: Liberace was a huge star, women of all ages confessed to having a big crush on him.

PD: Absolutely, Liberace was in the closet. Of course, all the mothers thought their kids would catch it if they watched it.  It was November 1967, and I had never seen such moral courage in my life. Here is this guy—live. “Yes, I am gay, and it’s none of your business. We are people, too. We have every right anybody else has.” I was scared to death. I thought everybody would think I was gay and it would be the end of my career. We did it anyway because even back then we realized this was a civil rights issue.

Then there was the women’s movement…these women coming out and say, “Children in this culture get too much mother and not enough father.” I thought, “Jesus, they’re talking about me.”

We did Madelyn Murray, the atheist, and it made you think about the separation of church and state. Why? You don’t want somebody in the Oval Office who talks to Jesus everyday and Jesus talks back. You know? The framers were correct on the separation of church and state. We have more churches, synagogues, mosques, temples; we throw more holy water and burn more holy smoke than any nation in the history of civilization. It is because of the separation of church and state. People miss that. Having been raised Catholic and a graduate of Notre Dame, it really opened my eyes. It made me appreciate other faiths and that they were just as sincere as mine was. Then, suddenly, you begin to see the sins of these institutions, and how the Christian church, especially, promoted all of them–it promoted homophobia. “The church does not approve of gays, then I sure don’t.” It made it easier to beat them up. You realize the church may be the number one promoter of homophobia on Earth. It’s also the institution that has the largest closet. All these ironies come crashing down on my head and the viewers and our audience.

DHS: You were one of the first shows that featured writers prominently. What did you observe that writers did successfully?

PD: Obviously we wouldn’t put you on the show if we didn’t think the book you wrote was compelling and of interest to the people who were watching the show, especially women. So, first, you know, write a great book that lots of people want to read.  And you have to know your audience, be in touch with your audience. We got pretty good at a knowing what would be compelling. Our audience was mostly women, so I felt we should practice what we preached, and I hired women. They brought a lot of insight about the audience that you couldn’t really expect from a man, especially in 1967. Many times if I balked at an idea it turned out to be fabulous. I knew I didn’t have all the answers, and I was often wrong. The women I hired knew stuff I didn’t know. They had insight I did not have. I went to an all-male institution—high school and at Notre Dame. I came from an all-male world, from a house presided over by a mother who stayed at home, a father who got up and went to work every morning, worked 9 to 9 during Christmas retail season. It was definitely a man’s world.

DHS: When you had an author as a guest, what characteristics make someone a good guest who is an author?

PD: There’s a certain visual dramatic necessity if you’re going to succeed on the air. You’ve got to look the part. You’ve got to be enthusiastic about the subject. The best guests were the ones you had trouble shutting up. The worst guests were the ones I’d ask a four-minute question and the guest would say ‘yes.’ Most of them were scared, and I would be too. The best, most exciting guests for me were the ones who had a fascinating story to tell and were politically inclined to say how they feel, to make statements without regard to being popular.

Nobody wants to make anybody mad, but some of the best shows we did featured people who made people mad. Muhammad Ali is an example of that. A woman in front row said, ‘Why are you always throwing your blackness at us.’ He said, ‘Why do you always throw your whiteness at me?’ She said, ‘I’m not throwing my whiteness.’ He said, ‘Take that white Jesus off the wall. You made Tarzan white. You made angel food cake white and devil’s food cake black. I know plenty of black women who are prettier than your Miss America.’ I’d never seen a man who’s so thoroughly skilled and filled with insight. I stood there really awed at what he’d done for a billion young black males all over the world. You don’t have to take it. Inspire people.

Not that many years later, I actually went to Muhammad Ali’s ranch. He owns the ranch owned by Al Capone, that’s what I hear anyway. I drive in, and I park in a little parking spot in a little parking lot. There’s a little sign that says, ‘GOAT.’ G-O-A-T. What the hell’s that? I’m walking in the front door and I realize it’s, ‘Oh, Greatest of All Time.’ I knock on the door, walk in and he gives me a big hug and kiss on the cheek. What a thrill that was!  So he says he had a teacher told him, ‘You’re never going to amount to anything.’ He goes to the Olympics and wins the gold medal. He comes back and he walks into her classroom and dangles the medal in front of her. He said, ‘You said I wasn’t going to be nothing.’ He tells me that as a child that was the thing that changed him. An insult. He went to the Louisville armory as a teenager to see Gorgeous George. Gorgeous George walks out in a red mink coat with white lining fur and yellow hair, and he says, ‘Don’t you touch my pretty face.’ The boos erupt all over the arena. ‘Don’t you touch my pretty hair.’ More boos. He said he looked around and there wasn’t an empty seat. And he realized: that’s how he learned to sell tickets. What insight this teenager had, and then for him to move on and evolve into the Greatest of All Time, which, honest to god, I don’t believe is an overstatement. I think he was the athlete of the 20th century, and I think he should’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize. ‘I ain’t got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.’ He was pilloried for this. He lost his championship status. Talk about moral courage, he was a rock.

DHS: Let’s talk about Erma Bombeck. I hear you have a long and fascinating with Erma Bombeck, who I consider one of the greatest comedy writers America has ever produced.

PD: She was extremely gifted. In the list of the top ten best-selling books of the 1970s, Erma had two. It is true we lived across the street from each other on Cushwa Drive in Centerville, Ohio. This was one of the first cookie-cutter, suburban community. All the houses were the same: detached, same floor plan, no basement, three bedrooms. Diagonally across the street were the Bombecks. We both belonged to the same church. I was doing the radio program (this was before November 1967), and I worked for the news department of WHIO, the TV and radio.

Erma wrote an op-ed for the Dayton Journal Herald. The executive editor of the Journal Herald recognized her talent. He gave her a job writing her own column. So she comes across the street to interview me for her column. I was doing much of what we began the Donahue Show with: feminist issues, what our children are seeing, daddy goes off to work with a briefcase and mommy does to the basement to do wash and what is this doing to our kids. We’d do shows like that. Obviously Erma had tuned in. ‘Hey neighbor, I’ll do a piece.’ I’d never been this excited in my life. No one ever wanted to interview me. It was very flattering. At that point it meant so much to me.

DHS: I’m curious, why do you think America took to Erma Bombeck? What about her captivated people, besides her obvious talent, in terms of her message?

PD: I eulogized Erma in 1996. It wasn’t just that she was the best; she was the only. Erma was irreverent in many ways. Motherhood was sacred then. There was a lot of pretense. There still is. Motherhood was sacred. How blessed you are to have children. Erma came along and said, ‘Oy, I want to sell my kids.’ Erma said if a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead. Erma said coat hangers breed. And she could also be very thoughtful. Her work was attached to millions of refrigerator doors around the English-speaking world. Erma could be very poignant. She could spot pretense across a crowded room. I remember once we were in St. Louis. Big crowd and little Erma is on the stage. You can hardly see her. They had like three balconies. There she was all by herself. I’m running around like mad with a wireless mic—the big time now. A woman in the balcony, way up, said, ‘Erma, I understand you were Phil Donahue’s neighbor. What’s Phil Donahue really like?’ And she said, ‘He peeks in windows.’ Of course the building falls down.  Years later, after she moved, they had a beautiful home in Paradise Va  ley, Arizona.. She’s walking us through the house, and this is on TV. There was a huge fountain in their home I said, ‘That’s a great fountain, Erma.’ She said, ‘Yeah, the grandchildren pee in it.’

One of the women who eulogized her said she was going to communion and Erma was in front of her. She turned around and said, ‘Be careful. You don’t know where his hands have been.’

She credited Phyllis Diller. That surprises some people, but Erma was very impressed by her. Phyllis Diller said radical, crazy things, like she’d stuff the turkey from the wrong end, and make fun of the wonderful privilege of being a housewife and raising kids.

No one was being irreverent then. Not only did she have that sense and that courage, it took a lot of nerve to obscure all the sanctity and pretense that accompanied discussions about motherhood and being a housewife. She had a brilliant comedy sense. Those two things together made her very unique, evidenced by her book sales. Two of the bestselling books in the 70’s. Her titles were brilliant: If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?  When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home. Things like that made women scream. The wisdom and insight. She wrote a very honest but painful piece about women who’ve had catastrophically challenged children and how it would be so hard for her to not be bitter, angry, not to say ‘why me.’ Her syndicate asked if she was sure. Yes, I do, she insisted, and they published it. A woman called her, ‘I’ll never forget that, Erma. I had a child. I can’t lift her anymore. She can’t walk up the stairs. I want you to know your article spoke truth to me and I felt a little less guilty.’ There were another piece she did about being upset that the grass was tramped down and not growing as vigorously because the kids were rolling on it and running on it. She’d plant a little more seed, water it, and then the kids would roll on it and it would become barren. Pretty soon the kids went away to school and got married. She looked out the window and the place where the kids had played was green and the grass full and vigorous. She missed the bare spot where they were playing.

DHS: That’s beautiful.

PD: It made you cry.

Phil Donahue changed the face of daytime television, pioneering the audience-participation talk format as the host of the Donahue Show, a 29-year run which stands as the longest of its kind in U.S. television history. His TV journalism earned him 20 Emmy Awards — 9 as host and 11 for the show — as well as the George Foster Peabody Award; the President’s Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus; the Media Person of the Year Award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance; and induction into the Academy of Television’s Hall of Fame. TV Guide named Donahue one of the Greatest Television Shows of All Time. Donahue has frequently been lauded for his groundbreaking interviews with world leaders and newsmakers — including Muhammad Ali, Johnny Carson, Ayn Rand, Nelson Mandela, Madalyn Murray O’Hair (his first Donahue guest), Margaret Meade and all of the presidents since Jimmy Carter. He was the first Western journalist to visit Chernobyl after the nuclear accident there. Donahue has also headlined numerous network and public television specials, including the Emmy Award-winning children’s special, Donahue and Kids, the landmark Ryan White Talks to Kids about AIDS and The Human Animal; an exploration of human behavior which was also a five part, prime time series that aired on the NBC television network. In 2006, Donahue co-produced and co-directed Body of War, a documentary film about a young Iraq War veteran left in a wheelchair by enemy gunfire who begins questioning America’s involvement in the war.
Universally hailed by critics (“almost unbearably moving,” wrote Time magazine), Body of War captured, among others, the Best Documentary award from the National Board of Review; the Grand Jury Prize at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival; and a People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Donahue is also an admired writer, whose opinion columns have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. He is the author of the best-selling memoir, Donahue: My Own Story; and The Human Animal. A native of Cleveland and the father of five and grandfather of two, Donahue is married to award-winning actress, author and activist Marlo Thomas. They live in New York.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, editor and book doctor.  His anthology was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 10 languages.  He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his current wife, and co-founded The Book Doctors , who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping writers.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the London Times, Playboy, the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal.  He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.  www.davidhenrysterry

 

 

 

The Book Doctors & Erma Bombeck Writing Conference in the News

To read online click here.

A magical moment happens when a writer takes a deep breath and launches into a passionate one-minute elevator pitch of a book concept before hundreds of other would-be authors.

“It’s very touching,” says literary agent Arielle Eckstut about the emotion-charged atmosphere at Pitchapalooza. “These writers are wearing their hearts on their sleeves.”

Adds her writer-husband David Henry Sterry: “This is the first time some have said in public, ‘I’m a writer.'”

At the April 10-12 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton, 20 randomly selected writers will get the opportunity to make a one-minute pitch — and perhaps write their own perfect ending. One winner, selected by Eckstut, Sterry and two other publishing experts, will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for the book idea.

Welcome to Pitchapalooza, billed as the “American Idol for books, only kinder and gentler.” Since 2005, Eckstut and Sterry have taken Pitchapalooza to approximately 150 bookstores, writing conferences, book festivals and libraries — from Cape Cod and Chicago to the far-flung states of Hawaii and Alaska. It has drawn standing-room-only crowds and captured attention from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR and other media outlets.

“Our whole goal is to help people improve. There’s never a sense of humiliation,” said Eckstut, an agent-at-large with Levine Greenberg Literary Agency in New York and the author of nine books.

The event also illustrates the importance of tenacity. “In 2010 at LitQuake in San Francisco a woman pitched an idea for an anthology by American-Muslim women writing about their secret love lives,” Sterry recalls. “You could hear the murmur throughout the room. That pitch is a book waiting to happen, but an agent had dropped the idea.”

The lesson: an initial rejection doesn’t always determine a book’s fate.

“There’s a great expression, ‘Don’t quit five minutes before the marathon ends,'” says Sterry, who’s written 15 books himself. “I called up a publisher I knew, and it took about 10 seconds to sell that idea.”

The couple came up with the idea for Pitchapalooza after co-writing The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published and trying to figure out how to creatively promote their own niche book. They’re the founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get successfully published.

“We were at a party in San Francisco, and writers in the room heard the rumor there was a literary agent in the house. People started buzzing around Arielle like moths to a flame,” says Sterry with a laugh. “There were some great drunken pitches made that night. Later, we realized we might have hit upon something that could help us help writers and sell our own book.”

When the couple introduced Pitchapalooza at New York’s iconic Strand Book Store, “we thought it would be a terrible bust,” concedes Sterry. “We show up, and there’s a line out the door. We looked at each other and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ If it’s not Michelle Obama or a celebrity, it’s hard to get more than 15 or 20 people at a booksigning.”

Over the years, Sterry says they’ve heard “some amazing and some horrifying pitches.” One writer tried to pitch five book ideas in a minute. Another had an idea for a 30-book series. Another didn’t win at Pitchapalooza, but still ended up with a book contract.

“The writer was an arborist who had an idea that took off on The Elements of Style — only for fruit trees,” Eckstut says. “She had incredible expertise, and I knew just the right publisher.”

Writers don’t have to win or even participate in the Pitchapalooza contest to receive a professional critique of their book ideas. Eckstut and Sterry are offering writers who buy their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, a free 20-minute telephone consultation after the workshop.

The two offer these tips for making a great pitch:

1.When pitching a narrative, memoir or creative nonfiction, make sure you have a hero we can fall in love with.

2. Don’t tell us your book is funny. Make us laugh.

3. Compare your book to a successful one. Show us where the book fits on the shelf in a bookstore.

And finally, “Don’t say you’re the next Erma Bombeck,” Sterry says with a laugh.

PITCHAPALOOZA WORD JERSEY CITY May 22, 7PM

PITCHAPALOOZA WORD JERSEY CITY May 22, 7 PM

Read coverage of PITCHAPALOOZA WORD JERSEY CITY in The Digest Online

 anderson's pitchapalooza

WHAT:   Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute!  Many writers have gone from talented amateurs to professionally published authors as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza, including Genn Albin, our KC winner who got a 3-book mid-six figure deal with Farrar Straus & Giroux.

WHO: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.
HOW: At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.

PRIZE: At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.

PRICE OF ADMISSION: To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

WHEN: May 22 7 PM

WHERE: Word Jersey City 123 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07302 · 201-763-6611

New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl.

Pitchapalooza on Kansas City Public Radio: http://bit.ly/eBlMUy

Pitchapalooza video trailer: bit.ly/mVj4uA
Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://tinyurl.com/3jr8zte.

Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television

Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapaloza: 

“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010

Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:

“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,

 

 

How To Not Pitch a Book: LOL Cartoon

Here’s how to NOT pitch a book!

Leeds Guide on Chicken: “A really good, and enlightening, read.”

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language, and a fine knack with expertly told little escapades… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.”

— Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

chicken 10 year anniversary coverChicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  IndieboundAmazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Chicken: “Prose that sizzles … a jazz beat … with a wail of blues”

New review for Chicken:

“You’re young, hot and desperate—then along comes a sweet-talking guy named Sunny, “all mint julep Old School Charm School charm,” who wants to sweep you into his, uh, employment agency. It’s a story as old as civilization, but rarely before has a straight young man come forth to bare the time he spent cruising the finest boudoirs of Los Angeles. David Henry Sterry, in prose that sizzles with verbal pyrotechnics, answers the call of a Lost Angel Siren and takes us on an anthropological tour that includes “a postmodern June Cleaver,” a Deadhead, a judge and a friendly cast of junkies and cross-dressers. Sterry’s party-til-forever scenes thwump to a jazz beat, but there’s always a wail of blues in the background. It’s a double-life story, at heart a raw tale of the bullying father, the neglectful mother and the broken-up home that led him to the streets when he was a college freshman who looked, on the surface like a middle class kid. At the same time Sterry is candid about the lure of his other life; the addictive appeal of getting paid to inflict pleasure, the cheap euphoria that never fully masks the fear that you’ve become what you’re pretending to be.” – Jan Alexander

 

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound chicken 10 year anniversary coverAmazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

“A beautiful book… a real work of literature.” – Vanessa Feltz, BBC

“Insightful and funny… captures Hollywood beautifully” – Larry Mantle, Air Talk, NPR

“Jawdropping… A carefully crafted piece of work…” -Benedicte Page, Book News, UK

“A 1-night read. Should be mandatory reading for parents and kids.” -Bert Lee, Talk of the Town

“Alternately sexy and terrifying, hysterical and weird, David Henry Sterry’s Chicken is a hot walk on the wild side of Hollywood’s fleshy underbelly. With lush prose and a flawless ear for the rhythms of the street, Sterry lays out a life lived on the edge in a coming-of-age classic that’s colorful, riveting, and strangely beautiful. David Henry Sterry is the real thing.” –Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“Compulsively readable, visceral, and very funny. The author, a winningly honest companion, has taken us right into his head, moment-by-moment: rarely has the mentality of sex been so scrupulously observed and reproduced on paper. Granted, he had some amazingly bizarre experiences to draw upon; but as V. S. Pritchett observed, in memoirs you get no pints for living, the art is all that counts-and David Henry Sterry clearly possesses the storyteller’s art.” – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body – Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body

“Like an X-rated Boogie Nights narrated by a teenage Alice in Wonderland. Sterry’s anecdotes… expose Hollywood at its seamiest, a desperate city of smut and glitz. I read the book from cover to cover in one night, finally arriving at the black and white photo of the softly smiling former chicken turned memoirist.” -Places Magazine

“Snappy and acutely observational writing… It’s a book filled with wit, some moments of slapstick, and of some severe poignancy… a flair for descriptive language… The human ability to be kind ultimately reveals itself, in a book which is dark, yet always upbeat and irreverent. A really good, and enlightening, read.” – Ian Beetlestone, Leeds Guide

“Brutally illuminating and remarkably compassionate… a walk on the wild side which is alternatively exhilirating and horrifying, outrageous and tragic… Essential reading.” – Big Issue

“Visceral, frank and compulsive reading.’ –City Life, Manchester

“Sparkling prose… a triumph of the will.” -Buzz Magazine

“Pick of the Week.” -Independent

“Impossible to put down, even, no, especially when, the sky is falling…Vulnerable, tough, innocent and wise… A fast-paced jazzy writing style… a great read.” -Hallmemoirs

“Full of truth, horror, and riotous humor.” -The Latest Books

“His memoir is a super-readable roller coaster — the story of a young man who sees more of the sexual world in one year than most people ever do.” – Dr. Carol Queen, Spectator Magazine

“Terrifically readable… Sterry’s an adventurer who happens to feel and think deeply. He’s written a thoroughly absorbing story sensitively and with great compassion… A page-turner… This is a strange story told easily and well.” – Eileen Berdon, Erotica.com

“Love to see this book turned into a movie, Julianne Moore might like to play Sterry’s mum…” – by Iain Sharp The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland, New Zealand).

Society for Children’s Book Writer’s & Illustrators Gives Great Review of the Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

We just got a wonderful review for The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published  (to buy click on link).  Here’s the Essential Guide in SCBWI Bulletin.

The essential guide cover_

NaNoWriMo Webinar: Making Editing Your Novel Fun: Jan. 29 8PM EST/5pm PST

Making Editing Fun: How to Enjoy Revising Your Novel Successfully $60

The first 200 writers who sign up by January 28 will receive invitations via email to participate in this webinar, which will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM Pacific. If you can’t join the webinar live, we’ll happily send you a link to the recording afterward.111411_nanowrimo-1

About the Webinar

One of the hardest thing for Nano writers is to take their beautiful but unshaped pieces of clay and turn them into glorious works of art that agents, publishers and readers will fall in love with.  But what may seem a confusing and slightly terrifying task
can actually be a systematic and easily understood process. And yes, it can even be fun!

Join the Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, who have helped talented amateurs become professionally published authors. Between them, they have over 30 years of experience in the publishing business, and have authored, agented and/or midwived hundreds of books, including The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully.

The Book Doctors will show you how to:

•      Start off with a bang

•      Check character arcs

•      Pace properly

•      Build suspense

•      Open and close chapters

•      Avoid repetition avoid repetition avoid repetition

•      Trim fat

•      Make the most of your title

•      Know when to show and when to tell

•      Avoiding clichés

•      Keep dialogue real

•      Check for words you use over and over and over again

•      Read aloud

•      Kill your babies

•      Find beta readers

•      Get objectivity

•      Use your pitch to perfect your plot

The Book Doctors will also randomly select a number of first paragraphs from attendees’ manuscripts during the webinar to demonstrate what a professional edit look likes. Send your first paragraph in the body of the email to nanowrimo@thebookdoctors.com when you sign up.

Register now!

Alice Carbone Interviews David Henry Sterry on Sex, Addiction, & the Healing Powers of Writing & Comedy

Cool interview with cool chick Alice Carbone. To read on her website click here.
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DAVID HENRY STERRY: The Good, The Bad & The Sex

AN INSIGHTFUL AND FUN INTERVIEW ABOUT THE SEX INDUSTRY, SEX ADDICTION AND HEALING THROUGH WRITING AND COMEDY.

Two years ago I received the inspiration for the end of my novel while running by the ocean, in Santa Monica.  Being sick in the head, I desperately needed to run that day yet I hurried back to my car parked Idaho Ave and, like in a trance, I started writing.  It was year 2011 and I owned a very old Blackberry.  I never liked to touch-type on it those words that carried too much of a value, like the future of a woman, whether fictional or not.

I have come to the realization that physical activity has a pleasant creative effect on me.  And this introduction is just the umpteenth example.  After interviewing David Henry Sterry I went on a hike and, all of a sudden I wanted to write.

It’s year 2013.  The Blackberry broke a year ago, or so.  I have an iPhone today.  And I still don’t like the movement of my fingertips typing letters on a synthetic and flat keyboard.  I don’t find joy or excitement in seeing them gathering into important sentences on the yellow page of a virtual notepad.  I avoid the procedure, when I can.  The inspiration, if that is how you rather call the essence of what you are reading, came towards the end of my Hollywood walk nonetheless.  The temperature had reached an unhealthy average of 80 °F for the week before  Christmas; I ignored my body getting sicker by the minute, too.  However, as soon as I walked past the Sunset Ranch, sweaty, grateful for where I lived and for being able to hike at twelve noon, on a weekday, it finally dawned on me: I knew how to start this column and how to end it as well.  The walk became faster until I ran towards the car and wrote what you have just read and will, shortly.  It is a very interesting interview and a raw finale that comes straight from the heart and from the dirty and torn Starbucks napkin that I had not thrown away the night before.

Talking to David Henry Sterry has a very special meaning to me.  He is the very first guest who publicly asked to be here, in conversation with me.  It happened on Twitter, on December 4 at 5:09 PM, Pacific Time.  “I am doing something good.  They start to like this.” – I thought.

“You looked like an interesting person and I just had an instinct about you.”  David tells me, when we chat on Skype and I ask him why he wanted to be on the blog.  We use a webcam because David lives in New Jersey and I have told him that my conversations require the exchange and the look in the eyes.  They are more than a Q&A to me.

David is the author of sixteen books.  He is a teacher, an activist and a brilliant performer, although best known for his bestselling memoir, Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man For Rent.  I didn’t know him very well before he had approached me.  A thorough research always helps yet nothing more than a vis-à-vis contact makes you understand what lies beneath a person.  He laughs and I can sense his humor, the comedy background.  However, I can also feel he has been to hell and has not forgotten about it.  I am in the comfort of my bedroom wearing my pajama yet with red lipstick.  The sun shines and it feels like summer in Southern California.  David sits by the kitchen window that is frosty and white with beautiful snow.  For it is winter, after all.  Our worlds merge for one hour.  He has a story to tell, and it is my pleasure to share it with you; wherever you are reading it from.

A.C. Where are you from?  I know you have British origins.

D.H.S. I was born in New Jersey and moved back here six years ago, from San Francisco.  But I lived all over America.  Alabama, Texas, Upstate New York…

A.C.  Where was home, when you were a kid?

D.H.S.  Anywhere my family was.  But I feel like San Francisco is my home.  I lived there twice, and that’s where I kind of left my heart.  But I have a beautiful house here, with great neighbors.  And it is really a gorgeous place to live.

A.C. Let’s go back to your childhood.  What kind of kid were you?

D.H.S. I was a very helpful child.  Actually a little bit too much, to the extent that teachers would write these reports saying that I didn’t have to be ‘so helpful in class.’  And I am the oldest of four, with a father gone all the time and a mother overworked with us; that is why I helped all the time with my brothers and sisters.

A.C.  Why did your family travel so much?  What did your parents do?

D.H.S. They were immigrants, from Newcastle, in the North of England.  My father grew up where there were only half-houses.  He did not even have a toilet in his house; it was an old world.  He came to America in the late 1950s when there was very little opportunity in England, for a college graduate like him.  In the United Stated he got a job for a company that manufactured explosives, and they kept promoting him by sending him somewhere new.  He almost became a victim of his own success, although I don’t really think the term victim is appropriate.  But it was hard to constantly move around.  On the other hand, he was the American dream; he kept rising up the ladder of this company, and he literally went from being a dishwasher to being a partner in the space of twenty years.

David does not hide a bittersweet laugh, when he ends the story with what he calls the ‘new American dream.’  Because his father is now broke and in therapy after a nervous breakdown and after his wife has run away with a woman; the one she would eventually marry. She has become a lesbian. 

D.H.S. He started having sex with crazy women.  I was sixteen and I was living with him at that time.  He had lost everything.

A.C.  How difficult was it, for you, to write about them, in Chicken?  Because, as writers, we have the duty of being both careful and respectful to the lives of the people we involve.  My novel, for example, is not a memoir but it is very autobiographical.  Many episodes are based on my life and I did not know how to talk about my parents or other people involved, at first.  I felt angry, guilty and hurt, too.  Just because we decide to purge and get clean, it doesn’t mean they decide to have their stories publicly disclosed as well.

D.H.S.  And my parents are English.  Talking about them publicly was so mortifying to them!

A.C.  How did they react?

D.H.S.  So, I got this book deal to publish the memoir.  The publisher was Judith Regan.  I got it only based on a proposal; I had not even written the book yet.  And, of course I had not told my parents.  For I wanted to tell them once I was 100% sure the book was going to be published.  The first thing Regan told me was: “I don’t want one of those fucking books where the writer blames their parents; do you understand me?”  And for as hard as it seemed, it was a great advice for me, because I did blame them.

A.C.  But what I am starting to learn is that we all have shit happening to us, David.  And it’s not what happened to us, but what we have made of it, and what we keep making of it.

D.H.S.  Exactly.  It’s absolutely right.  And, based on what she had said to me I decided to call my parents by name, in the first couple of drafts of the book.  Harper Collins didn’t really help me in the editing process; all they were worried about was not getting sued.  So my agent became my editor and she secretly said: “This is so bad we are gonna have to give the money back!”  Instead, what she did tell me was: “David, they are your parents.  You can’t call them John and Maurine; they are mom and dad.”  That is how removed I was from actually revealing my true self.  For I was raised to never reveal anything.  And part of what got me into so much trouble while I was growing up was not being able to ask for help.  I literally had to learn how to talk to people like an adult, besides recovering from my addictions.  Actually hypnotherapy helped a lot.

A.C.  How old were you when you started writing Chicken?

D.H.S. I was in my late thirties and I was writing dumb screenplays in Hollywood at that time.  I hated my job, although I was making a lot of money.

David is working for Disney in those days.  And those are also the days of his escalating sex and cocaine addiction.

A.C. You mentioned making money in Hollywood.  In your interviews you talk a lot about the feeling of self-worth that you experienced the first time you got paid to have sex, professionally.  I don’t know about being paid to have sex because I was never a sex worker. However, I am very familiar with the feeling of cheap worth before a man, and when only performing the act of sex.  For sex can become a performance that makes you feel worth and powerful, even when you know that you are everything but.  Quoting Hank Williams, you said: “But there was a hole in my bucket.”  Let’s talk about sex, about the self-gratification of your past as a sex technician – as you rather call your former job.  Is that what you felt, at first?  Did you feel powerful, at seventeen years old?  Because we try to fill that hole with anything within sight, until we hit bottom…

D.H.S.  Yes, and soon as there is a hole it doesn’t matter what or how much your try to fill it with, whether it is sex, drugs, money, etc. For it all comes out the bottom.  That’s why the metaphor was so powerful for me.  You know, so many young people that get into the sex business do it for money.  I was completely alone.  Los Angeles is a cold and hard place, despite the fact that there are palm trees and that is 82 degrees, the week before Christmas.  It’s the way we live in LA, the isolation from other humans, the time spent in our car to go from one place to another.  While in New York, for example, you have to interact with people, whether you want it or not, even if just to go on the subway.  And that’s how it is, in most places.

I was seventeen and I felt alone.  I was robbed.  I got assaulted and raped.  I had nothing and nobody.

A.C.  That’s when you met the guy that pimped you.

D.H.S.  Yes, his specialty was finding kids that were alone, cute and vulnerable.  And that was I. This guy ran a fried chicken restaurant, as a front, and he would hire you for a week, to actually fry chicken.  Now, I don’t know if you have ever fried chicken in your life professionally, but it’s fucking horrible.  You get burns on your arms and you smell like chicken.  It’s a miserable fucking job.  Just wearing that little hat is nasty!

A.C.  That’s when he shows you the trick, after the week of frying chicken…

D.H.S.  Correct.  At the end of the week he gives you your paycheck.  And it is so small that you can’t possibly live on it.  It’s all very psychological.  He is one of the most generous, warm, kind and smart persons I have ever met in my whole life.  So, when you look at the check you are horrified; because after all the hard work you did, you cannot even survive.  It’s right then, when you are feeling worthless, with no money and nobody who likes you or cares for you, at the lowest point, that he says to you: “Do you want to start making some real money?” Of course, you say: “Yes.”  And he tells you about these rich friends of his whom you could party with.  I was so naïve that I saw myself at cocktail parties discussing the latest issue of The New Yorker, just because I was cute.  I had this idea in my head of being this young Oscar Wilde…

We both laugh when he is recalling the very beginning of his career in the world of prostitution.  Because he does laugh about it, and because he is very candid in admitting that it was his choice.  David does not have regrets for his past, today.  He closes his eyes and hides a residual of teenage embarrassment nonetheless; his body and his white hair wave, mocking a hypothetical Wilde with a cocktail in his hands.  But there is nothing to be embarrassed about. At seventeen we all believed in everything they told us.  Sometimes we still do, in order not to listen or see the inevitable truth.

D.H.S.  But, of course, he meant servicing adults, sexually.  My first job was kind of a trial and I was very nervous.  As I always say, one of the differences between a female and male sex worker is that there are many things in life that you can fake; an erection is not one of them.

A.C.  True.  But isn’t somewhat safer to be a male sex worker compared to a woman?

D.H.S.  Mostly, it is.  The dynamic of power between men and women is something that a lot of men still don’t understand.  The other day I was talking to this woman in a parking lot, late at night.  She had recently been assaulted she freaked out as soon as a guy walked past her.  I could sense that feeling that screams: “I’m not powerful enough to stand up to this guy who can just pick me up as a rag doll.”  Having been abused by someone much more powerful than I, I can truly relate to that feeling.  However, what happened was that I found a real affinity for the job, because once again I was looking after people.  In a way, that’s what you do when you are a sex worker.

A.C.  Providing a service?  It just came out of my mouth, but I am smiling while saying this.  I must admit it.

D.H.S.  Exactly!  That’s exactly what you do.  You look at the person you have in front of you and you try to understand what they want and need.  That’s what you do when you are a real sex worker and not a thief.  They must tell you: “Wow, that itch I had is now scratched.”  And I found out that I was really good at that.

A.C.  Do you think that your sex work triggered your sex addiction?

D.H.S.  Oh, of course it did.  But as you know, it’s very complicated, understanding why a person becomes addicted to something.  However, on that first job, when I walked into that room, I felt powerful, while in real life I felt powerless, a meaningless piece of shit.  That woman wanted something from me that I could provide her, a very specific set of tasks, with difficulties, that I could nonetheless perform.  And, when it was over I put the money in my pocket and felt big, large.

I know the power he is talking about.  Because I recall feeling it, too, many years ago, the first time I had sex when I was high.  That night, in another life, I thought I had understood how to be a woman that was not Alice.  I hated Alice.  And I never felt more in control, not realizing I would eventually lose it all and despise myself even more.

D.H.S.  In real life I felt small and meaningless.  It was 1974 and that $100 bill was my sense of self-worth.  Then, of course, when you have sex your brain sets off these endorphins and you get a chemical high from it.  So, for me it was both a physical and an emotional empowerment.

A.C. You have been asked before if you have felt exploited.  You were seventeen years old in those days so, of course, there was a part of you that felt exploited.  But I would like to talk to you more in depth about what your definition of exploitation is, in the sex world.  Prudes and bigots think that porn is exploitation, which is a huge mistake.  And they don’t know what they are missing, from time to time.  Actually, my take on sex is that there’s almost nothing wrong about it, as long as it is at your own terms.

D.H.S.  Absolutely, I completely agree with that.

A.C. Now, I do acknowledge the urgency in resolving the terrible issue of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.  But it’s not what we are talking about, today.  In your opinion, where is the thin line between personal choice and exploitation in the sex world you are familiar with?

D.H.S.  I did this interview on NPR a while ago and I was introduced as someone ‘forced into prostitution.’  And that’s the idea that a lot of people have.  I had to tell the host: “Look, no one put a gun to my head and tried to shoot me.”  I could have walked away at any moment.  It was my choice.  I felt enormously exploited frying chicken, to be honest with you.  Because I was forced to work under brutal circumstances and I was paid a piss.  That was exploitation.  The whole Fast Food industry is built on exploitation.

A.C. Well, Walmart is built on exploitation.

D.H.S. Walmart! Oh my God!  Any giant corporation that uses labor like this is in the exploitation business.  If you are at the lowest level of the food chain you are just going to ask yourself: “How am I going to be exploited?  What’s the exploitation that best suits my personality?”  When you are seventeen and in that state, your choices are very limited, with no education, resources or networking.

It’s true that the guy did not explain the business very well, at first.  He didn’t tell me that some of the things that were about to happen to me would remain in my nightmares for the rest of my life.  He didn’t tell me that this would potentially cause me some horrible personality disorders. But, in that job I also had beautiful experiences where I wasn’t exploited at all, and where I was treated with great respect and honored for my skills.

A.C.  Those were the best jobs, what about the worst?

D.H.S.  In the worst I was treated like a piece of shit and asked to do things that no teenager should ever been asked to do.  Ever.

A.C.  Are you saying that no matter where you work, exploitation is everywhere and affects the weak in the same way?

D.H.S.  Yes.  I believe it very strongly.  And the more I live, the more I am convinced of it.  The strong feeds on the weak.  That’s how society has been working forever.  Media like to make it about sex and prostitution, and although there are prostitutes that are forced to do it against their will, there are also many people who are forced to clean toilets or kids that are sold and have to become soldiers and shoot people in the head.

A.C.  Now that we mention prostitution, you wrote the anthology Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks: Professionals & Their Clients Writing About Each Other.  How did you get the clients to write their stories?  It must have been difficult.  Sex workers seem to me more comfortable with what they do than their clients, who would rarely admit paying for sex.

D.H.S.  That was one of the most shocking things about the project.  And you are absolutely right, it’s easier for somebody to say: “Yes, I sell my body for sex,” than for somebody to admit the purchase of sex.  It sounds so ridiculous to me, especially because in history, being a prostitute has always been considered the worst possible profession.  The insult ‘whore’ always the lowest one.  Just think about the Scarlet Letter.

A.C.  Is something shifting in the sociological perception of prostitution and the sex worker profession in general?

D.H.S.  Something is indeed shifting.  I expected it to be a very easy process, here in America, to have people writing about their experiences in buying sex.  But it was very hard.  All my friends I asked to either laughed at me or were scornful, reminding me with pride that they didn’t have to pay for sex.  And I told them that they should try, at least once!  Like hiring a masseuse, who wouldn’t want to have a massage?  But that’s just my opinion, of course.  I believe that it is exactly the same transaction.

david bunnyAnyhow, I had so many contacts in the sex business that through Facebook and Twitter I was able to find both professionals and clients who agreed on talking.  What opened the gates a lot was the choice of letting them submit their stories with a pen name.

A.C.  Did you notice any difference in the male/female or straight/gay world?

D.H.S.  Interesting question.  I think that in the gay male world they are less ashamed.  They all did it once in a while; it’s part of the culture and they are much more accepting of sex for money.  Sex is such a fluid thing.  And especially older gay men; they had to hide for so long that being gay was a shameful enough thing.  There is nothing they are ashamed of.  What’s interesting on the lesbian community side is that many women who have sex with men for money are, in fact, lesbians.  At first it didn’t make sense to me, it was like a vegetarian working as a butcher.  But then I talked to a dear friend of mine and she explained to me that that it’s how they completely separate personal life with a woman at home, and work with a man client. And there is never the risk of falling in love this way.

A.C.  Have you ever fallen in love with a client?

D.H.S.  Yes.  But I was young and confused.  I even fantasized about moving in with her.  I was seventeen and she was probably forty-five.  I lived in a fantasy world so much back then, you have no idea…

A.C.  Of course I do.  We hate our life and any fantasy is better than reality.

Let’s move away from sex now, because your career has been so diverse.  You were a screenwriter for Disney (and plunging into your darkest days of addiction during those days, too.)  But you are also an actor, author and a comedian, too.  You started by opening for Robin Williams in the 1980s in San Francisco.  I am falling in love with American comedy and the more I study, the more I realize what a powerful weapon humor can be. Who were the comedians you aspired to, when you started?

D.H. S.  My favorite comic is Lenny Bruce who, of course, was a heroin addict.  Very dark sensibility and railing against the hypocrisy of society. Of course, he was arrested and harassed and tormented, ending up dead with a needle in his arm.  That’s my hero.

A.C.  I love Lenny Bruce, too.  He was one of the very first comedians I discovered when I moved here.

D.H.S.  And then I always loved Richard Pryor.  He famously burned himself up trying to smock rock and when he came back performing he did this joke of him on fire, on stage.  He took the darkest parts of his life, turned them into comedy and made people laugh.  In doing so, he illuminated the darkest sides of the human condition.  Pryor grew up in a world made of hate and violence.  And part of his mission was to expose this, through comedy.  There is no higher form of communication to me.  If I laugh, and then I have that moment when I have to think about what fucked up thing I have just laughed at, I know the artist has reached his purpose.  In your head you are debating about the philosophical ideas behind what made you crack, after you just did, hysterically.  Those moments are rare and hard to create.  Jerry Stahl is the same way, especially in his latest novel.

David tells me about his performing tour with Sex Worker Literati and he is astonished at the type of audience it attracts.  “There are a lot of young couple on first dates.  We have some dirty old men, too.  God bless them.  But the audience is very diverse and it’s a lot fun doing it. I notice quite some middle-aged feminist, as well, because we are sending a message of empowerment, after all.  Some gay audience is present, as I always put a couple of gay performers.  They have great stories!”  We briefly discuss the literary business and the side project he has started with his wife, The Book Doctors.  Time runs out nonetheless.  Sometimes I forget I am carrying out an interview and not just having coffee.  I have more questions and I need closure.

A.C.  Is there a moment in your career that you are particularly proud of?  You are primarily an author today, correct?

D.H.S.  Yes, I am.  But something beautiful happened during the show that I performed from Chicken.

Chicken became a very successful one-man show, after the book was published in 2002.

My mom had not read the book, as she didn’t want to.  My whole family reacted very badly when the memoir got published and they completely shut me out.  When I was touring with the show I performed in a college, in Portland, which is where my mother lives.  It was her wife, the same woman she had run off with when I was a kid that told her to go and see the show.  So my mom did.  The night happened to be a big success.  Every time that I am in a college I do a Q&A after the show and that night, I introduced my mom to everyone for the first time.  I can still see her standing up in the audience, proud and bowing.

David has tears in his eyes when recalling the night in Portland.

D.H.S.  She came backstage after the interview and, for the first time she told me that she was sorry for what had happened to me.  Had I only told her, back then, she would have tried to help me.  That night was a moment of truth and reconciliation, a beautiful metaphor for what writing can do.

A.C.  Absolutely.  If it wasn’t for both my novel and this blog, I wouldn’t be alive, and sober, to be honest with you.  It gave me a purpose and it helped me surviving the pain, the shame and the burden of life.  I did not want to live.  Through writing I have found my voice for the very first time.

david white hairD.H.S.  It’s because writing can expose parts of ourselves that we couldn’t expose.  After that night my mother and I became best friends, and it all came about through this book I wrote, speaking my truth, something I was so ashamed of.

A.C.  I am reading Advertisement For Myself and Mailer admits how, after The Naked and the Dead, he was not able to write another novel in such a quick and spontaneous way, for a long time.  An old mentor told me that some books you write, other write you.  This is exactly what we are talking about, some truths just have to come out and, eventually they do.

D.H.S.  That’s what happened for me, with Chicken.

A.C.  Have you learned to ask for help?

D.H.S.  I did learn, although it’s still a difficult thing to do.  But I am much better at it than I have ever been.  And learning how to do this has helped me how to focus on the things that I do well; while those things that I don’t do well I can understand and acknowledge with those who are good at them.  I was having a terrible problem with this book that I am writing, for example.  And, normally, I would have just kept it to myself. Instead, I have asked for advice and gathered many smart ideas from many smart people.

A.C.  Earlier this morning I read something that made me laugh; the downside of isolation is that we are the only ones to give ourselves advice.  Which is quite often a bad idea.

We both laugh.  For we both know what’s the kind of advice we are inclined to give ourselves. On my side, I know that I need the inside job, every day.

D.H.S.  That’s really funny.  I really like that.  So now I am not the only one who is giving myself advice.  Yes!

A.C.  Last one and you are free.  Are you okay with your nature and your past, today?

D.H.S.  I ask this question to myself all the time.  Would I whisper something into my ear at seventeen?  “Don’t go into that door?  Call your mom?”  I wonder if I would be a better person. I would have gone through a lot less agony and pain, but I wouldn’t be the man that I am, I would not have written my memoir and had a beautiful kid.

A.C.  How old is she?

D.H.S.  She is six and she is such a joy!  I wouldn’t be here talking to you, too.  It’s a very difficult thing to answer.  But I feel that everything I went through, lived and survived, I have also learned from it; and I have changed into a different human being.  It would have been easy to just remain a drug addict, a pleasure seeker and a miserable man.  That’s easier and you see that all the time, people crawling into a bottle and dying there.  But I didn’t want that to be my life, because I was on the road of self-destruction.  Had I not changed, I would be dead.  In the change I have become a person that I am proud of, although I still fuck up and make mistakes; we all do.  But now I can ask for help to do better next time.

In the end, I am grateful for all the fantastic things that happened to me and for all the fucked up ones, too.  Look, I deal with a bunch of people that have MFAs from writing programs and they write sentences so beautiful to make your heart break.  But they have no stories to tell. They haven’t had nobody beat the shit out of them, and they haven’t been dragged to bottom of the barrel.  But probably I just gravitate towards survivors, and people who have been through horrible misery and come out the other side better human beings.  If you have looked death in the face you are part of a club.

A.C.  Survivors have a message.  Thank you for sharing yours with me, and my readers.  It was beautiful to have you here.

Just a few hours prior connecting with David I had posted a photo, both on Twitter and Facebook, of my Interview Composition Pad.  I had simply shared that, with this interview I had come to the very last page of it.  The $0.99 notebook had started in August, with George Christie.

What was only supposed to be a tentative weekly publication that precious and humble first guests like Phil Hendrie, Clint Mansell and George Christie helped me start, putting some brave trust in me, has become today a very serious deal.  The interviews are hopefully reflecting the transformation, too.  And 2014 will be full of surprises, because more amazing guests are already lined up.  Fascinating stories and authenticity is what I offer; I hope you have noticed by now, because there is no better way of learning for me.

Thank you for helping me reach a result I never believed possible.  YOU, 15 thousand folks a month, are my gift of 2013.  Thank you for supporting me and for spreading the word.  Every time you share my work you share the effort I put into bringing you the best I can.  Don’t stop.  I won’t either.

I don’t know if you believe in Christmas, if you do, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book Doctors Pitchapalooza Video: Surprise Teen Winner

This is a Video from when we did Pitchapalooza in our hometown, Montclair NJ.  Watch for surprise teenage winner.

911: The Power of Small Town Independent Book Stores

DowntownSisters911 said the sign as we edged into the central Oregon town of Sisters.  We weren’t sure if that was the population, or a cry for help.  It was Saturday afternoon, and we were booked into Paulina Springs Book Company as part of our Putting Your Passion Into Print Tour.  In fact we had put together this event to sell our books Satchel Sez: the World, Wit and Wisdom of Satchel Paige, and Pride & Promiscuity: the Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, because our publishers, Simon & Schuster, and Random House, had told us it would be very difficult to do a successful event in a bookstore revolving around Satchel Paige or Jane Austen, both of whom are dead, and most likely will remain so.  But Kate Cerino at Paulina Springs seemed to think differently, and had insisted on doing an event about Satchel Paige, instead of Passion Into Print.  So there we were.

We walked into the store at 4:40 for our 5:00 event, and apart from Kate, none of the 911 Sisterites were there.  Our expectations, which had been extremely low to begin with, plummeted as we spied the 30 empty seats sadly facing one lone chair, which was staring off into space self-consciously.

As we strolled around Sisters, we noticed that all the shops were closed, and no one was around.  It was like a Twilight Zone episode.  We began to wonder if there really were 911 people in Sisters, or if we were going to be abducted by author-starved aliens who would make us write books day and night for the rest of eternity.

Well, imagine our surprise at 5:00 when we returned to find Paulina Springs Bookstore packed with 35 of its 911 occupants.  3% of the population.  If this was LA there would’ve been 300,000 people there.  Our jaws hit the floor.  Those melancholy chairs were now full and happy, brimming with Sisters bottoms, all waiting for us to say something intelligent, insightful and witty about Satchel Paige.

I scanned the crowd, and it suddenly hit me: there were only two people under the age of sixty in the audience.  Talk about your target audience.  Afterwards, the crowd asked great questions, and many of them shared their own Satchel Paige stories.  It was America at its best, oral history flying all around us, right there in Paulina Springs Book Company, Sisters, Oregon, population 911.  Turns out almost everyone there had seen Satchel pitch, which is not as strange as it might seem, since he barnstormed North America from Moosejaw to Miami.  One woman told a story about when she was a little girl and her father took her to Comiskey Park in 1948 so she could see Satchel pitch against the Cleveland Indians.  As she told us, her eyes glowed like gold as she lit up the room.

Towards the end of the event the Oldest-Man-in-the-Room raised his hand.  In a voice weathered with age but still going gangbusters, he said, “I was the batboy on Satchel Paige’s team.  My uncle was his manager.  I used to ride in his car with him.  He was fast.  He would have made a great race car driver, Ol’ Satch.”  He stole the whole show in about twenty seconds.

After the event, the Oldest-Man-In-the-Room approached me.  He had several hundred thousand miles on him, but his smile was wide, his mind was tack-sharp, and he had incredible posture.  Made me stop slouching just looking at him.  He thanked me for writing the book.  Then he told me that he had one of Satchel’s old gloves.  I said I would love to buy it from him.  He said, “No, sir, I want you to have it.  Give me your address and I’ll mail it to you.”  I insisted on paying for it, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He gave me his pen, and I wrote down my address for him.  He carefully folded the paper and put it in his pocket.  Then he stuck out his hand and I took it in mine.  It was old and thin, but the grip was strong, with a little pump at the end.  I hope I’m shaking hands as well as that when I’m 80.  After we said our heartfelt farewells, I was distracted by someone asking me to sign a book, and this led to another signature, then another.  As I signed the books, I was so happy when the buyers asked me to make the inscriptions out to their grand-sons and grand-daughters.  Then it hit me: this is why I wanted to write the book in the first place, so the next generation would know about Satchel and his 6 Rules for Staying Young.  As I signed, I felt a tug on my sleeve.  It was the Oldest-Main-in-the-Room.  I smiled to myself.  I figured he probably forgot something.  “Sonny, you got my pen.”  I cracked up, handed him the pen, and smiled as I watched him walk away slow but steady, overjoyed at 44 to be called Sonny.

We thanked Kate, she thanked us, then we all patted each other on the back for quite some time.  We promised her we’d be back when my memoir Chicken comes out in February, and she said she was looking forward to it.

Everyone in the store bought a book.  It was the most successful event on our whole 13-stores-in-15-day tour.

As we packed up to leave Sisters, population 911, Arielle turned to David and said, “You never know.”

 

D & A: Why did you buck conventional wisdom and bring an event revolving around Satchel Sez: The Wit, Wisdom, and World of Satchel Paige into Paulina Springs Bookstore, when most publishers say in-store events about baseball players don’t work when the ballplayer is dead?

K: Someone in the store heard David being interviewed by Scott Simon on National Public Radio, and thought it would make a good event.

D & A: Why did you think an event about a Negro Leagues legend would work in your store when there are so few African-Americans in your town?

K: I don’t really think about it like that.  We try to only bring in great events, so when people come to see an event here, they know it’s going to be interesting.  Like all independent bookstores that have managed to survive, we have very loyal customers, and they support us.

D & A: So, you don’t make automatic assumptions of which books will draw crowds, and which won’t?

K: No, not really.  We just try to bring in high-quality authors we think will put on really good events.

D & A: Your store has such a nice feel in it, it seems very intimate.

K: I think that’s important.  A lot of people are intimidated by writers.  A woman came to an event here and she said she’d always wanted to go to one of these events, but she felt intimidated.  We have a very casual feeling here, and I think that makes a big difference.

D & A: And you had books I’d never seen before.

K: We’re able to hand-select the books we sell.  I think almost every book in this store has been read by someone on the staff, or was recommended to us by a customer.  One of our customers lives most of the time in Berkeley, and she comes into our store to buy books.  I asked her why and she said, “You guys always have seem to have great books I can’t find anywhere else.”  And she’s from Berkeley, where there are so many bookstores!

D & A: Your event was the most successful on David and Arielle’s 13 stores-in15-days Northwest Tour.  Why do think the event such a success, in a town with 911 people?

K: Well, that’s a little deceiving.  There are actually about 10,000 people who live in and around Sisters.  But I think Paulina Springs Book Company is in many ways an intellectual center here in Sisters, and, in fact, for the larger Central Oregon community.  The store’s owners, Dianne Campbell and Dick Sandvik, have worked very hard over the past nine years to develop strong audiences for our in-store events.  People really pay attention to who we bring in.  Like a lot of small towns all over America, many well-educated, interesting people live here.  People have chosen to move here because it’s such a great place to live.  We really work hard to get the word out on our events, and we benefit a lot from word of mouth in the community.

D & A: Do you think that publishers sometimes underestimate small-town bookstores’ ability to sell books and stage successful events?

K: Most definitely!  We have a very hard time getting publishers to send their authors here.  We’ve been very persistent, especially at making direct contact with writers.  Authors like Sandra Dallas, Barry Lopez, Ivan Doig, and Craig Lesley came to Paulina Springs despite reservations of their publicists – and had great receptions and wonderful experiences.  We think it’s time publicists and publishers took note that their authors might make a bigger splash here, rather than being part of the background noise in the big city.  I was cleaning the files the other day and I found a note from Pete Fromm addressing this very point.  “…the entire way to Boise, where the Barnes & noble experience was pretty much a bust.  Meeting you guys, the dinner and the reading at your store turned out to be one of the high points of the entire trip.  Thanks for pestering the publisher to get me there.”

D & A: That was our experience, too, Kate.  Thank you so much for talking to me, and thanks for making us feel so welcome.

K: Thank you.

Huffington Post: The Book Doctors Interview Roxanna Elden on Getting a 2nd Shot at Publishing Success

SeeMeAfterClass_2ndEditionCover-1To read on Huffington Post click here.

When we first met Roxanna Elden during our workshop at the Miami Writers Institute, she said she had an idea for a teacher book. This made us skeptical at first — we’ve run publishing workshops for years, and in that time we’ve met hundreds of teachers who wanted to write books. Quickly, though, we realized Roxanna’s idea was different: a book that debunks Hollywood-movie teaching myths (see Hilary Swank, Edward James Olmos and Michelle Pfeiffer), and shares honest, funny stories and practical advice from teachers around the country. She described it as “Hard Liquor for the Teacher’s Soul.” Arielle and I were impressed, but we know writing doesn’t work like Hollywood either. Many talented writers give up before their work gets into the right hands. That’s why, along with quality writing, thorough research, and smart networking, our workshop emphasizes a fourth component: Persistence. Roxanna took this message to heart.
See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers was first published in 2009. Unfortunately, just as the book was beginning to gain national attention, the original publisher stopped printing its entire line of career books. Situations like these, as we mention in our book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, can test even the most persistent of authors. But take heart, orphaned authors. The book caught the attention of Sourcebooks — one of our favorite publishers. A second edition of the book is out this month with an even better cover, a top-notch publisher, and an author with several years of experience promoting a published book. We are now checking in eight years since we first met Roxanna when she was a writer dreaming of being an author at our workshop. We asked her about teaching writing, writing about teaching, and getting a second shot at publishing success.

The Book Doctors: Congratulations on the second edition, but let’s start at the beginning. When did you start writing your book and why?

Roxanna Elden: My younger sister began teaching three years after I did, and during her first year, I started writing the book I needed during my first year — a funny, honest, practical collection of stories and tips from veteran teachers. There are so many books that share heartwarming teaching stories, but on a day when a second grader curses at you, you don’t want to read a heartwarming success story. You want to read a story about a kindergartener punching a teacher in the eye. You need to know that teachers can bounce back from their worst days and still go on to become successful. Then you need to know the next manageable step you can take to be a better teacher in the morning.

TBD: What has changed for teachers since the first edition of your book came out?

RE: New teachers today spend a ton of time comparing their unedited footage to other people’s highlight reels. They are also caught in the middle of political debates about education that have become much more public, polarized and angry. New teachers are usually not interested in getting caught up in politics, though. They just want to focus on getting kids to stop throwing wet toilet paper at the bathroom ceiling.

TBD: What has changed in your life since you first became a published author?

RE: I’m now a relatively experienced teacher, but I have recently become a rookie parent. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a beginner at something where the stakes are so high, and it kind of brings me back to that feeling of being a beginning teacher.

TBD: How does being a new parent compare to being a new teacher?

RE: Both teachers and parents need humor, honesty, and practical advice. The most important difference, however, is that there is that there are very few parents who quit within five year. Nearly half of all teachers do quit within five years. At low-income schools, half of all teachers leave within three years. Students at low-income schools are much more likely to have a rookie teacher at the front of the classroom. Any lessons new teachers learn the hard way, they learn full of a class full of kids. <em>See Me After Class</em> lets them know they are not alone.

TBD: You have attended the Miami Writers Institute for many years. How did that community help you with the writing and selling of your book?

RE: People travel from all over the country to attend the Writers Institute at Miami Dade College. I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes away. The Writer’s Institute has been like an express train, moving me to each new publishing milestone faster than I could have gotten there on my own. They offer workshops and opportunities that help with every part of the process. My first time attending was the year the Book Doctors were presenting. Your book and workshop gave me a map to follow that kept me from taking unnecessary detours. In later years, I attended workshops on structure and revision that helped make the book everything it could be. Four years into the process I met my agent, Rita Rosenkranz, at a workshop she was presenting on non-fiction book proposals at the conference.

TBD: For many authors, finding an agent is one of the most difficult parts of the publishing process. What was the process like for you?

RE: It was the longest part of the publishing process for me, and the most difficult, ego-wise. I spent many weekends eating pizza in my pajamas and reading “The Rejection Section” of your book. Then, each time, I would decide I’d put in too much work to quit, and start researching other agents. Most of my early queries led to one-line emails and rejection form letters. Then I started getting personal rejections with feedback. Later there were agents who showed interest at first and then said no after months of preparation on my part. This was frustrating, but their demands forced me to strengthen my platform — I launched a website, began performing standup comedy, and began finding public speaking opportunities. I also became a National Board Certified Teacher, which enhanced my credibility within the teaching profession. When I attended Rita Rosenkranz’s workshop about four years into the process, I immediately had the feeling that all of my experiences with other agents — even the frustrating ones — had prepared me so I would be ready when I met her. I handed her a business card and followed up by email the same day. Within a week we had a contract, and less than a month later she got a great contract with our first publisher. Later, when the book went out of print, she acted immediately to get the rights back and find a new home for the book at Sourcebooks, who has done an amazing job with the second edition. Without Rita’s help I would never have had the courage to switch publishers, and even if I did I can’t imagine I would have ended up with such a good one.

TBD: What is different in your promotional plan this time around?

RE: For this edition, I am starting with a much larger network of people who have read the book and are now happy to help promote it. The past four years have also provided a tremendous opportunity to connect with other writers and organizations that work with teachers, which has also helped in promotional efforts. Best of all, in the process of speaking to spread the word about the first edition, I’ve realized I love speaking to teachers and others interested in education. The past few years have brought many new offers for paid speaking opportunities, which has led to an unexpected side-career speaking on a variety of education-related topics.

TBD: We usually hate to ask writers to give writing advice, but you teach writing at a high school — what advice do you give students based on your own experience as an author?

RE: I usually don’t tell students that I’ve written a book until late in the year. Then I do a short unit on the publishing process and also try to relate it to other careers in which people advise you to “keep your day job:” music, acting, art, dancing, etc. I have a Xeroxed packet of my past rejection letters that I pass out early in the talk. Then I tell students the happier parts of the story. In the process, I try to reinforce the same four points your workshop emphasized four years ago, adapted for a high school audience: Put in the time to do it right, make an effort to meet people who can help you, and do your homework to see where you fit into your market. Most of all, be persistent: even if you hit roadblocks along the way, the story is not over until you say it is. But also keep your day job.

Roxanna Elden is a National Board Certified high school teacher. Her book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, is a funny, honest, practical guide with tips and stories from teachers around the country. Elden also speaks on a variety of education-related topics. For more information visit www.seemeafterclass.net.

The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers develop a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who reads this article and buys the print version of this book gets a FREE 20 MINUTE CONSULTATION with proof of purchase (email: david@thebookdoctors.com). Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. Arielle is not only the author of seven books, but she also co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand that now has stores from Disneyland to Disney World to 5th Avenue in NYC. Her new book is The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet.  David Henry Sterry is the author of 15 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, and activist. His new book is a 10 year anniversary of his memoir, Chicken, an international bestseller, which has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. The follow-up, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, just came out. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Michael Caine, the London Times, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. His new illustrated novel is a coming-of-age, Mort Morte, black comedy that’s kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.  www.davidhenrysterry.com

Slashed Reads Interview on Making Yourself a Better Writer by Having Lots of Great Sex

To you the interview on Slashed Reads, click here.

mort morte coverx3000wDavid Henry Sterry is the author of Mort Morte, an absurd, hilarious, tragic and disturbingly haunting comedy published by Vagabondage Press in January 2013. David is the author of 16 books and a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.

What is your book about?

On my third birthday, my father, in an attempt to get me to stop sucking my thumb, gave me a gun.  “Today son, you are a man,” he said, snatching the little blue binky from my little pink hand. So I shot him.

 So begins my novel Mort Morte.  It’s a macabre coming-of-age story full of butchered butchers, badly used Boy Scouts, blown-up Englishman, virginity-plucking cheerleaders, and many nice cups of tea.  Poignantly poetic, hypnotically hysterical, sweetly surreal, and chock full of the blackest comedy, Mort Morte is like Lewis Carroll having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out.  In the end though, Mort Morte is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.

Is the book based on events in your own life?

Strangely enough, Mort Morte was my attempt to tell my life story. Fortunately, I didn’t kill my father on my third birthday. But my real life story is even more sick and deranged. Eventually I did tell my agent about my real life story and she urged me to write a memoir. This became Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent. The 10 Year anniversary edition of that book has just been released. As a result Mort Morte got put on the back burner. For 20 years. That’s why I was so excited when Vagabondage agreed to publish the book. 20 years is a long time to go between writing a book and getting it published.

What twists did the book take that surprised you?

The first twist came when I wrote the first sentence.  Honestly, as I said, I was trying to tell my life story, and the first sentence just came out fully formed.  I have no idea how or why.  Clearly I must have some sort of repressed desire to shoot my father.  Fortunately I have been able to repress that desire.  For now anyway.  Actually, the whole book was a series of twists.  I didn’t plan it out or outline it or plot it in any way shape or form.  It just came flowing out of me.  The first draft took me three weeks to write.  Mind you it took me over a year to revise and edit the book.

But it was almost like being in a fever dream.  It just kept pouring out.  All I had to do was get out of the way.

 Are you a people watcher? If so, are they in your stories?

Absolutely.  I learned most of the things I know about humans by watching them.  I was a professional actor for 15 years before I wrote my first book, and I spent a lot of that time learning how people walked, talked, what they were saying with the language of their body, what was being communicated between the lines.

I moved around a lot when I was a kid, I never went to the same school for two years in a row until I was in college.  So I was always the new kid, the outsider, the person who didn’t have friends.  So I watched.  I observed.  I learned how to act like everybody else.  And whenever we moved, I learned how to imitate the local accent.  It was great training as an actor.  It was also great training as a writer, to get the rhythms of the way people really speak.

One of my pet peeves is when you can actually hear the writer writing as a character in one of their books is talking. Almost all the people in my books are human beings I have observed.  When I’m writing a memoir of course I try to remember exactly what they said, exactly what they looked like and exactly how they acted.  When I’m writing a piece of fiction I take what’s there and let my imagination run wild.  Either way, it starts with the way people really look and talk and act.

 Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?

Yes.  I am a Gemini.  But I don’t really believe in all that astrological crap.  Even though that’s exactly what a Gemini would say.  But as a Gemini I have two very distinct parts of my personality.  I’m a hermit and I love holing up in my man cave and escaping into my imagination.  Woody Allen once said the only things in life you can really control are art and masturbation.  I try to keep my fingers in both those pies every day, in the privacy of my subterranean lair. But I’m also kind of an exhibitionist, and I love to go out and do book events and go on tour and present at writers conferences and book fares.  So I kill both birds with just the one stone.

What are our thoughts on writing as a career?

In addition to being the author of 16 books I’m also a book doctor.  I help talented amateurs become professionally published authors. So I’ve consulted with literally thousands of writers.

And I tell them all that by far the most important thing you can do if you want to have a career as a writer is to figure out how to make money.

It’s very hard to make money as a writer.  I’ve been lucky in that way. But I’m also a hustler.  That’s one of the things I learned in the sex business.  How to hustle.  Lots of writers don’t know how hustle. Let me be clear, I don’t mean hustle as a way of scamming, grifting, or ripping someone off.  I mean hustle in the sense that you get someone to do what you want them to do.

I want publishers to give me money for my books.  So I identify which publishers I want to work with who are most compatible with what I do, then I research them to the point of stalking.  And of course I want readers to buy my books and fall in love with them.  So I identify individuals and groups who I think will love what I’m doing and be passionate about my books.

As is the case with all hustles, you actually have to have Game.  You have to make a good product if you want someone to buy it over and over again.  If you try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes, eventually they will stop buying what you’re selling, and in the worst case scenario they will come at you with a lead pipe and try to split your skull open.

The great maxim of businesses as far as I’m concerned is: “Find out what people want, and give it to them.”

Mind you, I have books that I write for love, and books that I write for money.  Mort Morte was more of a love book.  That being said, I have made money off it.

What is your advice for other writers?

Research.  Network.  Persevere.  And oh yeah, write.  Write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write, write.

 What inspired you to write your first book?

I was a drug addict and a sex addict and I knew I was going to die unless I changed who I was and what I was doing.  After a long search I finally found a hypnotherapist.  She helped me get my addictions under control.  I was a professional screenwriter in Hollywood at the time.

My hypnotherapist suggested I write about my life, since it was so much more interesting than the stupid ridiculous screenplays I was selling to Hollywood.  I took her advice.

I found I really enjoyed it.  And it was absolutely essential in staring down and overcoming the demon monkeys inside me which were destroying my life.

 What do you want to say to your readers?

Buy my books.  Tell your friends to buy my books.

 How do you prepare to write love scenes?

Fall in love.  Have lots of great sex.  Have lots of bad sex.  Get dumped.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Author Profile

David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.

His new books are Mort Morte, and The Hobbyist (Vagabondage, 2013).

His memoir,Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition has been translated into 10 languages.

He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.

He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.

To All Authors: Support Your Independent Bookstore with Indie First!!!

One of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie, has  started Indies First. I IMPLORE ALL AUTHORS TO PARTICIPATE! Here’s the letter where he explains it:

logoSHERMAN ALEXIE

Hello, hello, you gorgeous book nerds,Now is the time to be a superhero for independent bookstores. I want all of us (you and you and especially you) to spend an amazing day hand-selling books at your local independent bookstore on Small Business Saturday (that’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 30 this year, so you know it’s a huge weekend for everyone who, you know, wants to make a living).

Here’s the plan: We book nerds will become booksellers. We will make recommendations. We will practice nepotism and urge readers to buy multiple copies of our friends’ books. Maybe you’ll sign and sell books of your own in the process. I think the collective results could be mind-boggling (maybe even world-changing).

I was a bookseller-for-a-day at Seattle’s Queen Anne Book Company when it reopened this past April. Janis Segress, one of the new co-owners, came up with this brilliant idea. What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand- selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own? Why not give it a try? Let’s call it Indies First.

Grassroots is my favorite kind of movement, and anyway there’s not a lot of work involved in this one. Just pick a bookstore, talk to the owner (or answer the phone when they call you) and reach an agreement about how to spend your time that day. You’d also need to agree to place that store’s buy button in a prominent place on your website, above the Amazon button if you have one. After all, this is Indies First, not Indies Only, and it’s designed to include Indies in our world but not to exclude anyone else.

This is a great way to fight for independents—one that will actually help them. It’ll help you as well; the Indies I’ve talked to have told me that last year Small Business Saturday was one of their biggest days of the year, in some cases the biggest after the Saturday before Christmas—and that means your books will get a huge boost, wherever you choose to be.

The most important thing is that we’ll all be helping Independent bookstores, and God knows they’ve helped us over the years. So join the Indie First Movement and help your favorite independent bookstore. Help all indie bookstores. Reach out to them and join the movement. Indies First!

Yours in Independence,

Sherman Alexie, An Absolutely True Part-Time Indie

To but a copy of my memoir Chicken, go to your nearest Indy, or to buy online, click here:

 

Give a Gift to Yourself or the Writer in Your Life-Free 20 Min. Consultation

A free 20 minute consultation w/ the Book Doctors. We can change your publishing life in 2o minutes! We have helped hundreds of writers go from being talented amateurs to professionally published authors. Click here to buy & send proof of purchase to sterryhead@gmail.com.

“You guys!!  Thank you for that phenomenal all-day session at Stanford a few weeks ago. Can’t thank you enough for providing the most energizing and invigorating forum for getting us all in touch with The Writer Within.”

“I learned a lot about the publishing world but more about pitching my book. Prior to attending I had no idea what a pitch was.  The feedback you provided was never derogatory, or demeaning you offered helpful and hopeful feedback.  As a result I rewrote my own pitch and am hopeful.  Thank you again.”

“I came to The Book Doctors with nothing but a dream. Now I have a book deal and I’m so excited & grateful.”

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Chicken Named on Top 10 Most Provocative Books Of Month List

Chicken, the 10 Year Anniversary Edition, was named on the Top 10 list of most provocative books of the month. Saucy! I’m huge in Tampa Bay!

Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, Ten Year Anniversary Edition

“Ten years ago, this debut memoir from Sterry burst upon the literary scene with an energy and inventiveness that captured his little-known subject matter—teenage life in Los Angeles as a rent boy working for a benevolent pimp named Sunny whose “rich, generous, horny friends,” Sterry explains, “pay good money to party with a boy like me.” Now back in print, Sterry’s memoir still crackles with its unsparingly honest approach: “I catch myself in the mirror, seventeen-year-old hardbody belly, pitprop legs, zero body fat, and huge hands. I’m seduced by the glitter of my own flesh.” Scenes from Sterry’s early dysfunctional family life not only add pathos to this tale of fall and resurrection but assure readers that he never sees himself as better than his clients, such as Dot, the wealthy 82-year-old, whose only desire is to experience cunnilingus for the first time—a desire that Sterry readily fulfills. “Even though I have no home and no family except for a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp, even though I have no future… at least I’m good at this.” (Oct.) – Publisher’s Weekly

chicken 10 year anniversary cover Find Chicken at your local independent bookstore:  Indiebound Amazon

“I walk all the way up Hollywood Boulevard to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre: past tourists snapping shots; wannabe starlets sparkling by in miniskirts with head shots in their hands and moondust in their eyes; rowdy cowboys drinking with drunken Indians; black businessmen bustling by briskly in crisp suits; ladies who do not lunch with nylons rolled up below the knee pushing shopping carts full of everything they own; Mustangs rubbing up against muscular Mercedes and Hell’s Angels hogs. It’s a sick twisted Wonderland, and I’m Alice.”

This is the chronicle of a young man walking the razor-sharp line between painful innocence and the allure of the abyss. David Sterry was a wide-eyed son of 1970s suburbia, but within a week of enrolling at Immaculate Heart College, he was lured into the dark underbelly of the Hollywood flesh trade. Chicken has become a coming-of-age classic, and has been translated into ten languages. This ten-year anniversary edition has shocking new material.

“Sterry writes with comic brio … [he] honed a vibrant outrageous writing style and turned out this studiously wild souvenir of a checkered past.” – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“This is a stunning book. Sterry’s prose fizzes like a firework. Every page crackles… A very easy, exciting book to read – as laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing all within a single wrapper. What more could you possibly ask for? -Maurince Newman, Irish Times

WORD Bookstore: We Love You

WORD bookstore in Brooklyn is a fantastic bookstore. We had a lovely Art of the Novel event. Thanks to Jenn!

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The Book Doctors Interview Virginia Pye, First Time Novelist, on Writing, Writers Conferences, and How to Get Your Book Published

virginiapye rodindiepickOriginally published in Huffington Post.

 

 

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We first met Virginia Pye at the James River Writers Conference,  one of the best writers conferences in America. If you’re a writer, do yourself a favor, get yourself to Richmond, Virginia and go to this conference. It’s filled with warm, generous, talented writers, editors and agents.  When we first met Virginia Pye three years ago, she’d been writing and rewriting a novel for a very long time.  It’s always exciting when you see a dedicated, talented writer who keeps evolving and changing and working, then finally gets their novel published, and actually gets lauded for it.  So we thought we would check in with her to see exactly how it all happened.
The Book Doctors: Congratulations on being named an Indie Next Pick for your new novel, how did you feel when you found out?

Virginia Pye: I felt honored and excited, especially when I learned the other chosen authors, such as Caroline Leavitt, Benjamin Percy, Gail Godwin and Therese Anne Fowler. To be supported and encouraged by IndieBound booksellers means a lot to me. They’re smart and savvy book aficionados whose opinions I value. For years, I’ve read the books they recommend.

TBD: When did you start writing your book and why?

VP: Almost a decade ago as I helped my parents clear out their house, I came upon boxes of yellowed onion-skin pages with faint typescript on it. My grandfather, who was a missionary in northwestern China in the nineteen teens, had recorded his daily experience and impressions of that pre-industrialized, desolate, and yet eerily beautiful landscape. I’d always known about the roads, hospitals and schools that he had built in Shansi Province, but now I found his actual tally book in which he kept track of his converts. I felt both pride about his humanitarian successes and shame at his missionary zeal.

As I read his papers and studied the brown-tinged photographs, I was seated on an Oriental rug in the living room were I’d grown up–a room decorated with Chinese antiques and furniture.  I was surrounded by my family’s history in China and I realized that, whether I liked it or not, part of my inheritance was a colonialist perspective on the world. I had not chosen it, nor felt that I shared it, but it was somehow mine to make peace with just the same.

The two main characters in my novel, the Reverend and his wife Grace, are upright, Midwestern missionaries who, over the course of their dramatic story find their faith tested and their world view shattered. It took some years for their story to fully emerge, but the germ for it began when I decided to wrestle with my grandfather’s legacy that I had previously tried to ignore.

TBD: What is your book about?

VP: On the windswept plains of northwestern China, Mongol bandits swoop down on the missionary couple and steal their small child. The Reverend sets out in search of the boy and becomes entangled in the rugged, corrupt landscape of opium dens, sly nomadic warlords and traveling circuses. He develops a following among the Chinese peasants who christen him Ghost Man for what they perceive as his otherworldly powers. Grace, his wife, pregnant with their second child, takes to her sick bed in the mission compound, where visions of her stolen child and lost husband beckon to her from across the plains. The foreign couple’s savvy, elderly Chinese servants, Ahcho and Mai Lin, eventually lead them on an odyssey back to one another and to a truer understanding of the world around them. River of Dust is a story of the clash of cultures and of retribution, and also of redemption. As the young American couple’s search for their child becomes more desperate, their adopted country comes to haunt them, changing not only what they believe but who they are.

TBD: You are involved with the James River Writers Conference, how did that community help you with the writing and selling of your book?

VP: James River Writers is a literary non-profit in Richmond, Virginia with around 400 members. I was chair of JRW for three years and on the board for close to a decade. JRW holds an annual conference each October, which is especially welcoming and friendly to writers of all types. I enjoyed working with everyone involved and made friends with many fellow aspiring writers, as well as the published authors and publishing professionals who came for the conference. Many of them were encouraging and offered to introduce me to their agents or fellow editors. JRW set a supportive and generous tone that I think everyone benefited from.

TBD: Did you hire an editor?

VP: For many years, I had worked on a previous novel that was about three generations of an American family with ties to China and Vietnam. It went through twenty-one drafts and dozens of agents saw it in various stages. They admired the writing and characters, but found that it just wasn’t quite working. Finally, I decided to take my manuscript to The Porches, a writing retreat in rural Virginia where I met author and editor, Nancy Zafris. She offered a different sort of editing experience from anyone else I’d heard of: she works with authors one-on-one over a weekend, discussing and brainstorming about the work. With Nancy’s perceptive questions, I began to see a new book emerging, one that was not a multi-generational story at all, but a compact and dramatic tale set in one year–1910–and in one setting–northwestern China. I left The Porches after that weekend with a new book in mind and a new, carefully conceived outline. I sat down on April 1st and completed a first draft on April 23rd. I had lived with the previous manuscript for so long– had wrestled with its problems and relished its strengths–that when it came time to write an altogether new version, I had enough previous connection to the characters and setting that the story came forth easily. It was both miraculous and not at all.

TBD: How did you find an agent?

VP: After I completed my marathon first draft of River of Dust, I shared it with Nancy who passed it along to her editor at Unbridled Books, Greg Michalson. He liked it and gave me a call. It was then that I realized I needed an agent. Gail Hochman had read the earlier multi-generational manuscript as well as another novel of mine. She had always been kind and thoughtful in her replies to my work, although she hadn’t taken me on as a client. I admired her authors–Michael Cunningham, Julia Glass, Ursula Hegi–so I chose to go back to her with River of Dust when Unbridled made their offer. I’m so glad I did. As everyone knows, Gail is a brilliant agent and an enthusiastic and caring person.

TBD: What are some of the mistakes you made as you wrote and tried to sell your book?

VP: In retrospect, I think that it may have been a mistake to work for so long on that previous novel. If something isn’t working, tinkering with it probably won’t help. To give myself more credit, I did revise–sometimes extensively–but I still wanted that manuscript to be the book I had in mind from the start. I was determined to bend the characters and plot to fit the book I envisioned. Somehow I wasn’t listening well enough to the voices of smart readers, or even my own voice that was whispering that it just wasn’t working. The manuscript was telling me that it needed to be altogether different. I was trying to write a book with a complicated structure before ever truly perfecting a simpler one. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that, too: succeed first at something smaller, before trying to tackle your opus. Come to think of it, I know a number of writers who have been working on big books for years and those projects never seem to come to fruition. Perhaps aiming for something less baroque and yet doing it well is a better way to go with a debut novel.

TBD: How do you plan to promote and market your book?

VP: I’ve written a number of essays about the backstory for my novel. “A Zealot and Poet,” about my grandfather, will appear in May in The Rumpus. I’m excited to be interviewed at Caroline Leavitt and David Abrams’s blogs and in The Nervous Breakdown. Excerpts from River of Dust will also soon appear in The Nervous Breakdown, and in The Collagist and DearReader.com. I had a great time creating a playlist for River of Dust for the Largehearted Boy. Unbridled has done a great job of setting up book events up and down the East Coast: in Richmond, Charlottesville, Alexandria and Norfolk, Virginia; New York, Boston and Western Massachusetts. I’m excited about all my events, but a few in particular stand out for me: a reading in the Lucian W. Pye Room at M.I.T. (named for my father who was a prominent Political Scientist there); a reading at Back Pages Books in Waltham, Massachusetts, at which my four closest high school girlfriends are coming in from around the country to cheer me on; and what I think will be a great evening at the China Institute in NYC, where I’m eager to share my work with China enthusiasts and experts and look forward to learning from my audience.

TBD: What are some of your favorite things about being a writer? And what are some of the things you hate about it?

VP: I am completely biased towards writers and writing. I think there’s nothing better to do with one’s life. OK, being a visual artist or musician is pretty good, too. And my husband is a contemporary art museum curator and that’s not half bad. But, as a writer, you have carte blanche to express your vision of the world, however quirky it may be. You can read voraciously and remain a dilettante. Aleksander Hemon recently said, “Expertise is the enemy of imagination.” As someone who has written a novel set in a country where I have never been, I agree. People ask if I did a lot of research before writing River of Dust. I did only as much as I needed to ignite my mind, which, as it turned out wasn’t a great deal–again, perhaps because I’d grown up with a visceral understanding of China passed down to me through two generations. I think that writers have an obligation to be thoughtful in their work. Good writing needs to offer meaning on several levels at once. A novel that has strong storytelling doesn’t need to sacrifice that goal. I hope that River of Dust is both a page-turner and an intelligent read. I love Philip Roth’s rallying cry to writers at his eightieth birthday and on the occasion of his retirement from writing: “This passion for specificity, for the hypnotic materiality of the world one is in is all but at the heart of the task to which every American novelist has been enjoined since Herman Melville and his whale and Mark Twain and his river: to discover the most arresting, evocative verbal depiction of every last American thing.” The only down side to writing is that it’s no easy task. But who ever wanted easy when trying to live a meaningful life?

TBD: I hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?

VP: Pay attention to the market: to what agents tell you at conferences and on Twitter; to what your independent bookseller says about the books he or she endorses; to what your most thoughtful and serious readers say about your manuscript. And then, put it all on the backburner while you write. Let it simmer in the back of your mind as you write the book you want to write. If their advice has resonated then it will help shape the next draft. Stick with the manuscript until it’s done and don’t start to shop it around too early. If you’re as eager as I was with numerous manuscripts, most likely you’ll shop it around too early. When you’ve written what you are truly proud of–after listening carefully for any hesitations and heeding them–reach out to agents and published authors with graciousness and gratitude. The publishing world is not waiting for you, but on the other hand, it can’t exist without you. So take up your rightful place, but politely and while keeping in mind that we’re incredibly lucky to be doing this thing that we love. At least, that’s how I try to approach it.

Virginia Pye’s debut novel, River of Dust, is an Indie Next Pick for May, 2013. Her award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence, taught writing at New York University, and The University of Pennsylvania, and has helped run a literary non-profit in Richmond, Virginia. For more about her, visit: www.virginiapye.com

The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers develop a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who reads this article and buys the print version of this book gets a FREE 20 MINUTE CONSULTATION with proof of purchase (email: david@thebookdoctors.com). Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. Arielle is not only the author of seven books, but she also co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand that now has stores from Disneyland to Disney World to 5th Avenue in NYC. David Henry Sterry is the author of 15 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, and activist. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. The follow-up, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, just came out. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Michael Caine, the London Times, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. His new illustrated novel is Mort Morte, a coming-of-age black comedy that’s kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls.  www.davidhenrysterry To learn how not to pitch your book, click here.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Justin Bieber & Mort Morte

1.What is the working title of your book?   Mort Morte

mort cover

2. Where did the idea come from for your book?

A dream where my dad gives me a gun for my third birthday then snatches away my binky & tells me it’s time I became a man. So I shot him.
3. What genre does your book fall under?

Illustrated coming of age black comedy: Diary of a Wimpy Kid as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver

Justin Bieber6-20120821-47 Jonathan_Taylor_Thomas-1-small
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
We’re pitching my memoir Chicken around Hollywood with the idea of Justin Bieber playing me as a 17 year old. Former teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas was previously attached to play me.
5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s a story of a boy keeps killing his dads to protect his mom: it’s a story of a boy who really loves his mother.

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Two weeks. But it took me 20 years to find a publisher.

7. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Alice in Wonderland. The Tin Drum. Oedipus.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My hypnotherapist.

9. Will your book be self-published or by an agency?

Vagabondage Press.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s got spectacular illustrations by award winning artist Alain Pilon. It’s very short.

mort morte the-mother pic mort morte the bull pic sketch-chapter-2(1)sketch-chapter-4

The Book Doctors interviewed by the fabulous Caroline Leavitt

http://carolineleavittville.blogspot.com/2013/03/david-henry-sterry-and-ariel-eckstut.html?showComment=1362542429676

The Book Doctors talk with Powell’s Kevin Sampsell about Publishing, Bookselling & Writing

We first met Kevin Sampsell when David did his tour for his first memoir Chicken. On his Portland stop, David was scheduled to read at Powell’s, one of the great bookstores not only in America, but in the known universe. He went to college in Portland, and started going to Powell’s when he was an undergraduate, dreaming that someday he might write a book that would live on those hallowed shelves. So it was kind of a dream come true when he saw his name on the marquee of Powell’s. Kevin was Powell’s events coordinator at the time, and he was so nice to David, made him feel right at home, gave him a great introduction, and they bonded as only two book nerds can. We found out that in fact Kevin is also a well-known writer, as well as a publisher. Since he’s worn so many books hats, we thought we would pick his brain about publishing, books, writing, and all that jazz.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: What have you learned about being a writer by working at Powell’s, quite possibly the greatest bookstore on the planet?

KEVIN SAMPSELL: One thing I discovered is that the book world is vast. It’s easy to walk around the store–even the room with literature and poetry, where I work most often–and feel overwhelmed. I sometimes wonder if what I create as a writer will leave any sort of dent. There’s really no way of knowing, so I just have to keep going. But having a couple of my books on the shelf among the million other books is something at least. It’s an honor to be in there, as an employee and as an author. It’s kind of surreal actually.

TBD: What have you learned about being a writer by watching a million writers do events at Powell’s?

KS: I’ve heard a lot of great success stories from writers–how so many of them struggled to get where they are and how persistence pays off. I learned that some writers are good at doing readings and some are not so good at it. I actually just started writing an article where I ask some of my favorite readers how they got so good. There are definitely some tricks and techniques to a good reading. Rewarding the audience that shows up to your reading is very important and you can’t be boring or ungrateful.

TBD: What have you learned about being a publisher by being a writer?

KS: I learned that you have to respect how much time and work a writer has put into their book. I always give the writer I’m publishing a good deal of control in shaping the book and figuring out how it looks, but I’ll make suggestions on how to make it stronger. It’s very important the book is theirs and comes out as good as they want it to, or better. I try to be a lot of things for the authors I work with–a careful reader, a helpful friend who also happens to be an experienced writer, a thoughtful editor, and a creative midwife.

TBD: What have you learned about being a publisher by being a bookseller?

KS: A lot of little details, like how to price a book. I’ve always tried to keep my cover prices on the low side. I’m more interested in getting people to read the books we publish and less interested in the profit margin. Also, that presentation (good cover and interior design) turns out beautiful and professional. Catchy titles can be important too.

TBD: What have you learned about being a bookseller by being a writer?

KS: Just like writers can have a lot of different styles, so can readers. It’s hard to pigeonhole book buyers.

TBD: What have you learned about being a bookseller by being a publisher?

KS: Poetry doesn’t sell. Just kidding. There is some truth to that statement, but not always and not everywhere. I think one thing I’ve learned, as dorky and obvious as this sounds: People who like cool books are usually really cool people.

TBD: What mistakes do you see writers make over and over and over?

KS: Probably the same mistakes I make as a writer–having certain crutch words and phrases, saying something I said ten pages before, going flat at times when there’s a chance for the prose to do something exciting or unpredictable. I also see a lot of writers who complain when their book doesn’t sell and the reason that happens sometimes, is they don’t know how to publicize or promote themselves. A writer is more successful when they’re involved in their literary community somehow. It’s very easy for an author’s book to fade away if they don’t get out in public and meet people.

TBD: How has the book business changed since you first started as a bookseller, a publisher and a writer?

KS: A lot has changed. I started my press in the 90s and I wasn’t even using a computer yet. I would do cut and paste layout on our first chapbooks. Even in the last five years, I feel like a lot has changed–ebooks are a much more valid format and bigger presses are taking less chances. As a bookseller, there are less real bookstores and more people buying on-line. As a writer, I think there are fewer paths to break through on a big press, but on the other hand there are more small presses doing awesome work now. Overall, artistically, I think it’s a pretty exciting time in the literary world.

TBD: Where do you see the future of books going?

KS: I have a very positive outlook on things. It’s hard to predict how actual books are going to do but I’m not freaked out about ebooks taking over. I think there are probably more active readers now because of computers and iPhones or what-have-you. One thing that is sometimes forgotten in this “future of books” discussion is that there are all these awesome presses–big and small–that are producing and designing amazing books. Everyone from Chronicle and McSweeney’s to Ugly Duckling Presse, Rose Metal, Spork, Poor Claudia, and countless other folks who make books that are like art. People who love to letterpress their own covers and use thread and needle to sew their very own books. It’s a crazy and beautiful part of the book world that a lot of people don’t really know about.

TBD: We hate to do this to you, but you have any advice for writers?

KS: Read as much as you write. Go out and meet other writers. Look for stories in everything around you–music, movies, family, strangers, your bus ride to work, and of course the streets. Also–keep moving forward, keep creating new things. Leave evidence of yourself in this world. Imagine what your legacy could be and try to create it.

Kevin Sampsell is the author of the memoir, A Common Pornography (2010 Harper Perennial), and the short story collection, Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus) and the editor of the anthology, Portland Noir (Akashic). Sampsell is the publisher of the micropress, Future Tense Books, which he started in 1990. He has worked at Powell’s Books as an events coordinator and the head of the small press section for fifteen years. His essays have appeared recently in Salon, The Faster Times, Jewcy, and The Good Men Project. His fiction has been published in McSweeney’s, Nerve, Hobart, and in several anthologies. His novel, This is Between Us, will publish with Tin House Books in November. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and son.

 

The Book Doctors with Smashwords Mark Coker on e-Books, Good Writing & Bad Mistakes

 

SW_Horz_Color smallI first met Mark Coker over the Internet. Which seems appropriate, given how he has done such great things for writers in the world of ebooks. I was trying to upload a book onto his company’s website, Smashwords. I have a problem formatting files. I’m very bad at it. It’s a weakness. I’m not proud of it. But the first step is admitting you have a problem.

MarkCokerSmashwords-smallThat day, I got very frustrated and sent a flaming email full of vicious vitriol and a few flagrant f-bombs. I expected to get back some generic, useless response, which is what you almost always get back from e-companies. Imagine my surprise when the president of the company himself, Mark Coker, emailed me back. He was so helpful and kind and nice. I was completely embarrassed. It led me to formulate a strategy for what to do when I get flamed — and believe me, I get flamed online every day. Now, before I respond, I think, “What would Mark Coker do?” And I try to give my flamer some love. You’d be shocked by how many times it works wonders.

So, I resolved my formatting issues quite easily in the end, and I put my book up on Smashwords. It was so cool — they put your book up, for free, on all these different platforms: Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple. FOR FREE! Then we were lucky enough to meet him in, of all places, Wichita, Kansas. We were both presenting at an event put on by the Kansas Writers Association. If you ever get the chance to see him live, do yourself a favor and avail yourself of that opportunity. Despite his mild-mannered alter ego, he’s kind of a superhero of electronic books. He knows so much about them, has

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords

such wise advice for readers, and has smart and often counterintuitive things to say about the future of books particularly at this moment in history, when the publishing industry seems a lot like the Wild West. It was a pleasure getting to know him in person, and we are very honored that he agreed to this interview. If you take nothing else from this, just remember, when someone flames you and you feel like lashing out electronically, think: “What would Mark Coker do?”

 

Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords
BOOK DOCTORS: What made you start Smashwords?

MARK COKER: Several years ago, my wife and I wrote Boob Tube, a novel that explores the wild and wacky world of daytime television soap operas. My wife is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine. We were repped by one of the top NY literary agencies, but after two years, they were unable to sell it to a publisher. Previous soap opera-themed novels hadn’t performed well in the marketplace, so publishers were reluctant to take a chance on us. Our agent suggested we consider self-publishing in print. The idea sounded reasonable at first, but then I realized that without the backing of a major publisher, it would be impossible to get widespread distribution into brick and mortar bookstores, and without distribution, we wouldn’t reach readers. I pondered our conundrum and realized there was a bigger problem at play: Traditional publishers are unable, unwilling and disinterested in take a risk on every writer. Each year, they reject hundreds of thousands of writers, and many of these writers are writing great books. The more I thought about the problem, the more I realized how broken the publishing industry had become. Publishers owned the printing press and the access to distribution, and they alone wielded the power to decide which writers would graduate to become published authors, and what books readers could read. I started to imagine a solution to the problem, and that’s how I came up with the idea of Smashwords. My idea was to create a free ebook publishing platform that would make it free and easy for any writer, anywhere in the world, to instantly publish an ebook. We launched Smashwords in early 2008. The author controls all the rights, sets the price, earns 85% or more of the net proceeds, and receives distribution to major ebook stores such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. Readers decide what’s worth reading.

Our first year, we published 140 books. Our catalog grew to 6,000 in 2009, 28,000 in 2010, 92,000 in 2011, and now, is about 200,000. Our authors routinely hit the top 10 bestsellers at the major retailers, and in 2012, several Smashwords authors even hit the New York Times bestseller list.

BD: Has working with so many writers changed how you write a new book?

MC: The experience has been humbling. He represent most of the bestselling self-published authors. Some of these authors earn thousands of five-star reviews from readers. They’re outselling some of the biggest names in publishing. They inspire me to become a better writer. Since founding Smashwords, I’ve put my own fiction writing on hold and have instead focused on writing books about e-publishing best practices. The best practices I share come directly from our authors.

BD: As a husband-and-wife team, we’ve written seven books together. What was it like writing a novel with your wife?

MC: It was an incredible experience. The two of us moved to Los Angeles for two months to interview soap industry insiders for their stories and dirt. Would you believe there was a soap actress who ate cotton balls as a diet aid? It’s true. Or a manager who raped his actress client when she refused to show him the boob job he purchased for her? After completing our research, we moved to a cabin in the woods of Vermont for four months to fictionalize these and other stranger-than-life stories.

People are surprised when I say this, but co-authorship was a harmonious experience for us, made all the more enjoyable because we were sharing the journey. I imagine the Sterry/Eckstutt team works with equal harmony, otherwise you wouldn’t have written books six through seven together!

The writing process was fun. We plotted the story on big storyboards, and then broke scenes and situations into chapters, and then assigned each other a new chapter each morning. At the end of the day, we’d swap laptops and edit each other, and then swap again for more edits. Our characters took on lives of their own and by the end of the book, the story was much different than we expected. Our first draft was nearly 1,000 glorious pages, and we thought it was great. I note this embarrassing fact to share how completely clueless we were! Thanks to the guidance of some smart book doctors, editors and beta readers, we completed multiple rewrites and revisions over the next couple years. With each revision, we were surprised how much the book improved. I’m a believer in multiple revisions! Finally, the book was ready to shop to agents. In the end, we had multiple agents offering us representation.

BD: What do you think are some of the most important things an author can do to connect with their tribe of readers?

MC: Write a book that moves the reader. Blow their mind and make them scream, “wow!” If you can elicit mad passion in the hearts of your readers, your readers will connect you with more readers through their rave reviews and word of mouth. If you earn mad passion, your readers won’t just suggest their friends read the book, they’ll command their friends to read it. If your friend tells you, “You NEED to read this book now,” there’s no better endorsement.

If an author does nothing else, write an incredible book. That’s 90% of the battle. The other 10% I’d divide into the following four essential items:

1. Give the book a professional, genre-appropriate cover image. Your cover image should be as good or better than what the large NY publishers are putting out. Last year, we documented an example of a Smashwords author, R.L. Mathewson, who simply updated her cover image and it catapulted her to the NY Times bestseller list. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t already written a super-awesome book. A good cover image makes a promise to the reader. It tells the reader, “This is the book you’re looking for.” A poor or inadequate cover image discourages a prospective reader from clicking further. A poor cover makes your book less accessible, less desirable.

2. Distribute your book to every major ebook retailer. Every retailer wants to carry self-published books. Different books break out at different retailers at different times. When you distribute your book everywhere, you maximize the opportunity for readers to discover your book. Unless you’re already an established author with a large fan base and following, most of your sales will come from serendipitous discovery. Readers will browse their favorite bookstore to look for their next read, or their follow the social media hyperlinks of their friends’ book recommendations.

3. Price low. This is where indie authors have an extreme advantage over traditionally-published authors. Indie authors can price at FREE, $.99, $2.99 or $3.99. It’s difficult for traditional publishers to compete at these price points. Low prices make your book more accessible and more affordable to more readers, and since you’re self-published, you’re earning a royalty of 85-100% net vs the 25% net of traditional publishers. Based on our research, which is also conforms to basic common sense, lower-priced books generally sell more units than higher-priced books. More unit sales means more fans and faster platform-building.

4. Make yourself accessible via social media tools. Provide opportunities for your readers to connect with you. Make yourself accessible on Facebook and Twitter, at a minimum. These tools give you the opportunity to do one-to-many communications, and the opportunity to safely and efficiently communicate with your growing tribe. Provide your social media coordinates at the back of every book you write.

BD: What are some of the biggest obstacles writers have to overcome to successfully selling e-books?

MC: The biggest obstacle is obscurity. Thanks to the rise of ebook self-publishing, there’s a glut of high-quality, low-priced books in the marketplace. This means writers need to raise their game. The best writers will rise above the noise on the wings of reader word-of-mouth. If you’re not averaging four to five star reviews, it means your book isn’t satisfying readers as much as it should.

BD: What are some of the mistakes you see writers make when they publish their ebooks?

MC: Here are the top mistakes I see:

1. Publishing a book before it’s been properly edited and proofed. Readers have little patience for sloppiness. You’d be surprised how often I see books ridden with typos. I’ve seen authors misspell their own names on their cover image, or misspell words in their book description.

2. Poor cover design. Unless you’re a professional graphic designer, don’t try to design your own cover image. Hire a professional. Professional cover design is ridiculously affordable. For between $50 and $300, you can get a cover design that looks like it came from a big New York publisher.

3. Impatience. Impatience is both a virtue and a sin. It’s great that an author feels a sense of urgency to reach readers, but impatience can also lead to discouragement, depression or tempestuous decision-making. I’ve seen authors remove their books from stores weeks after publication simply because they’re not selling well. Sometimes, it can take years for an ebook to reach a critical mass of reviews and readership to start selling well. Back in the old days of print publishing, impatience was warranted. If your book didn’t immediately sell well, retailers would pack up the unsold inventory and return it to the publisher for a full refund. Books were forced out of print before they had a fair chance to reach readers. With ebooks, there’s always tomorrow. Ebooks are immortal. They need never go out of print. Think of your self-published ebook as an annuity. It will earn you and your heirs income for decades to come if you keep it out there. This is especially true for fiction. Great stories are timeless.

4. Paranoia and delusion. Almost every month, I receive an email from an angry author who will say something like, “I know I might not be the world’s best author, but there’s no way my book is selling so poorly at retailer X.” This is dangerous thinking. Back in the old days of print publishing, a publisher would distribute a known quantity of books to retailers. Books would either sell or be returned, so there was never any doubt about how many copies were sold, and how much money was owed to the publisher. In the new world of ebooks, the entire ebook supply chain is built upon trust. Smashwords, as your distributor, will send out a single digital copy to each retailer, and the retailer will duplicate that copy for each book they sell. You must trust the retailer to accurately track and report and pay for units sold, and you must trust your distributor to accurately pay you your share of monies received from retailers. If you still feel bitten by the paranoia bug, be your own secret shopper. Once a quarter, buy your book from a retailer, and then wait for the sales report to flow through. Mistakes do happen, but rarely. I can think of three instances over the last two years when an author’s paranoia actually helped a retailer discover an error in their reporting. Even paranoid people get it right from time to time!

5. Limiting distribution to only one or two retailers. If your book isn’t distributed to every retailer, you’ll probably reach fewer readers. If you distribute to only one retailer, you could make yourself dangerously dependent upon that retailer. If they modify their terms, or change their discovery algorithms, you might go from selling great for months straight to selling nothing. Don’t treat ebook retailers like a horse race. Instead, play the field. Get your book everywhere, and then you don’t need to worry or guess which retailer will become the dominant retailer five years from now. You’ll be there already. Every retailer reaches its own unique audience of readers. Many retailers are now opening international stores. Every retailer’s store in each unique territory represents its own unique micro-market where you have an opportunity to reach readers and build fans. If your book isn’t there, those readers will develop life-long relationships with other authors.

6. Negativity. We writers tend to feel our feelings more deeply than the average person, and we’re adept at wielding the power of the pen. Once we build our social media platforms, we have greater ability to share our feelings with the world. It’s something about human nature that when we feel angry, we’re more expressive than when we feel happy. We feel tempted to lash out and hurt those who have wronged us. When you combine anger with social media, people get hurt. Every day, everywhere on the net, there are angry authors sharing their negativity with their closest 5,000 friends on Twitter or Facebook, lashing out against real or imaginary demons that have somehow harmed them. Don’t succumb to negativity. Your fellow authors may learn to fear you, but they won’t respect you. Your prospective readers will be turned off. Your potential partners and supporters will avoid you. think New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry put it best in an interview at the Smashwords blog last year. We asked him how authors should use social media, and he spoke at length about the power of positivity, and why authors should never succumb to negativity. He said, “Even if you are a naturally cranky, snarky, sour-tempered pain in the ass, for god’s sake, share that with your therapist or priest. When you go online to promote yourself and therefore your products, try not to actually scare people off your lawn.”

BD: How do you deal with cyber flaming?

MC: I start by taking a deep breath. We’re working with 50,000 authors, and we’re selling books to millions of readers. As much as all 19 of us here at Smashwords work tirelessly to serve our community to the best of our ability. We invariably make mistakes, or fall short of someone’s expectations, and this often leads us to be flamed by a disgruntled person. Also, because Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, upstart competitors are attacking us all the time, often spreading fear, innuendo or mistruths to advance their own agendas, or to draw us into a public fight so they can trade off of our brand equity. It’s classic guerrilla marketing. Popular authors face remarkably similar situations, where readers or fellow authors will try to drag them into a public brawl so the attacking party can advance their agenda.

My approach is that I try to listen to everyone. Our critics can make us stronger if we listen, learn and make positive improvement. Even if I don’t agree with you, or I don’t think you should be upset for the reasons you’re upset, I still try to understand the problem, acknowledge that their feelings and experience was real to them, and learn from the criticism. Often, our most vocal critics are simply feeling real issues more strongly than the community at large. I view our critics as our canaries in the coal mine. They’re our early warning system, so we ignore them at our peril. To the extent possible, I try to avoid getting dragged into public brawls. If I see blatant misrepresentations or lies, however, I’ll step in and try to correct the record. I avoid leveling attacks against any individual, because more negativity only escalates the situation. I try to calmly listen, learn and understand, and then state my side of the story. Often, my reply will start by acknowledging the veracity of their claim, if I believe it is in fact a valid criticism. In this age of hyper-transparency, you must always stick to the truth, or be willing to acknowledge mistakes. I have multiple Google alerts set up — and would encourage every author to do the same for their name, book titles and keywords. I think people are often surprised when I join an online conversation, both to refute mistruths or to simply thank someone for their kind words. I’m also very accessible via email. Our authors aren’t afraid to share their opinions about where they think we’re falling short. Long story made short, as much as it’s uncomfortable to hear criticism, I also treasure it.

BD: So, what is the secret to ebook publishing success?

MC: I actually wrote a free ebook on this subject! It’s titled The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, and it identifies the 28 best practices of the most commercially successful ebook authors. At the risk of repeating some of what we covered above already, here are the top 12 secrets to success for indie ebook authors:

1. Your best marketing is a great book. So many authors obsess over marketing when they should instead obsess over making their book better. If you’re only averaging three stars out of five, consider a major revision. When I look at our bestselling books, they’re getting four and a half to five stars, on average.

2. Create a great cover image. Next to a great book, a great cover image is the most important marketing tool. It’s the first impression you make on the reader’s path to discovery. It tells the reader if you’re professional, or not. It makes a promise to the reader about the genre and the experience they’ll receive.

3. Publish another great book. The bestselling authors at Smashwords are writing and publishing multiple books. Each new book creates the opportunity for you to reach new readers, and to build greater loyalty among existing fans. A new title will often reinvigorate your entire back catalog. Make sure each book you publish references the other books you’ve written, especially at the end of the book when the reader will be the most hungry to read more of your work.

4. Patience is a virtue. Your ebook is immortal, unless you make the decision to kill it. Never remove a book from distribution, not even for a short time, because you’ll alienate existing fans, and prevent new fans from discovering you.

5. Maximize availability. Every major retailer — from the Apple iBookstore to Amazon to Sony to Barnes & Noble and others — wants to carry self-published ebooks. All these companies are investing millions of dollars to connect new readers to your book. Just as an investment advisor would advise you against investing all your eggs in a single basket, diversify your retailer exposure so you’re not overly dependent on a single retailer.

6. Avoid exclusivity. This is the corollary to secret #5. One retailer — Amazon — is pursuing an aggressive strategy of enticing authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon. When you make your book exclusive to a single retailer, even for a short time, you disappoint readers who prefer shopping at other retailers, you limit the discoverability of your books and you make yourself more dependent upon a single retailer. Exclusivity is risky for the author. For some authors it pays off, and for others it fails. Amazon’s exclusivity strategy has caused much debate and rancor within the indie author community. I wrote a column here at Huffington Post about it last year. I’ve been one of the more outspoken critics of their exclusivity strategy because I think in the long run it will be harmful to authors, retailers and readers.

7. Trust your readers. Don’t worry about piracy. Copy protection schemes are counterproductive, and will only harm your loyal, legal readers. If your reader does share an illegal copy of your book with a friend, consider it the lowest-cost, highest-impact form of fan-building and marketing money can’t buy.

8. Implement Viral Catalysts. I created a term I call Viral Catalyst. A Viral Catalyst is anything that makes your book more available, more discoverable and more enjoyable to readers. Think of your book as an object, and attached to the object are dozens of dials and levers you can twist, turn and tweak to improve the word-of-mouth virality of your book. These dials and levers are Viral Catalysts. Examples of Viral Catalysts include your cover image, story, editing quality, the book title, book description, price, distribution reach and categorization. Consider every one of these elements in isolation. Ask yourself how you can improve each element to make your book more available, discoverable and enjoyable. My point here is that there’s not just one thing you can do to enable successful word-of-mouth. You must do many things just right, while avoiding common mistakes that can sabotage your success.

9. Unit volume is a lever for success. When a book sells, most authors think of the royalty as their reward. There’s actually a second, and possibly more important benefit of the sale, and that’s the reader. A reader is a potential fan, and a true fan will market your book to their friends and wait anxiously to purchase your next book. The secret to maximizing unit sales volume, other than writing a great book worth buying, is to price low. Based on our research, a book priced at $2.99 will earn about the same amount of money for the author as a book priced above $10.00, yet the $2.99 book will get you about six times as many unit sales. Therefore, if the lower price drives more unit sales, price lower to build your fan base faster. This is one of the most important advantages that indie authors have over traditionally published authors. Indie authors can build fans and platform faster because they can price lower. If you write series, consider making the first book in the series permanently FREE.

10. Practice positivity and partnership. I touched on this earlier, but I’ll add additional color here. Publishing has always been a relationship business. Relationships give you an upper hand in the marketplace. Your fellow authors are your partners, not your competitors. Help your fellow authors succeed, and they in turn will open doors for you. When you complain online about your least-favorite retailer, that complaint is permanently available and discoverable for that retailer to see. When it comes time for a retailer to do a special promotion of certain titles, are they going to promote authors who have been trashing them online, or authors that have positively supported them?

11. Think globally. The ebook market in the U.S. has grown exponentially over the last few years. In 2007, ebooks accounted for less than 1% of the U.S. book market. Today, that number is over 30%. The growth in the U.S. market is slowing. However, the markets outside the U.S. for English language titles are entering the same exponential growth curve phases the U.S. market experienced over the last few years. The market for English language ebooks outside the U.S. will be much larger than the US.. market. Every major retailer is expanding internationally. Apple now operates iBookstores in 50 countries. Amazon is in close to ten countries. Kobo has always had an international focus. Barnes & Noble is expanding internationally. 2013 will see more global expansion from all these retailers. Get your books distributed globally now, because each retailer’s country-specific store represents a unique micro-market for you to start building fans and platform.

12. Pinch your pennies. Ebook self-publishing has become something of a gold rush. Everyone is rushing to do it, but the people who stand to make the most money are the ones selling the pots and pans. The cold hard truth is that most ebooks — whether traditionally published or self-published — don’t sell well. You, as the self-published author, are the publisher. You’re running a business. If you run your business profitably, you’ll survive to write another day. If you’re losing money, you’ll eventually be forced out of business unless you’re financially secure through other means. As a small publisher, you can’t easily control your sales, but you can control your expenses. Minimize your expenses. When you’re just getting started, do as much on your own as possible. Never purchase publishing packages from the vanity publishing services who will gladly empty your pocket of thousands of dollars for services of nebulous value. Ebook self-publishing can be fast, free and easy if you do it yourself. Never go into debt to finance your publishing adventure. Never spend money you need to put bread on the table or to pay a mortgage. If you pinch your pennies, profitability will become all that more achievable. Once you hit profitability, then carefully reinvest your dollars into better cover design, better editing and better marketing.
Mark Coker is the founder of Smashwords, an ebook publishing and distribution platform. He’s also an author, entrepreneur, angel investor and advisor to technology startups.

Mark and his wife Lesleyann co-authored Boob Tube, a satire on daytime television soap operas. Their book was rejected by every major New York publisher of commercial women’s fiction, despite representation by a top NYC literary agency. The experience inspired him to start Smashwords, a free publishing platform that allows authors to instantly publish their work online.

Today, Smashwords is the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks. The company has helped over 50,000 authors around the world publish and distribute over 150,000 ebooks to major retailers such as the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo.

The Book Doctors & Richard Nash on The Power of Independents & the Future of Books

Richard Nash, publishing savant, on how to get love from independents and the future of the book business with The Book Doctors on Huffington Post

The Books Doctors & Pitchapalooza Reviewed on Randa’s Fans

sweet review of pitchapalooza from randa’s fans, by a total cynic skeptic.

anderson's pitchapalooza

Pitchapalooza

The Book Doctors & Politics & Prose Pitchapalooza on Georgetown Patch

georgetown patch on pitchapalooza @ politics & prose http://georgetown.patch.com/blog_posts/country-mouse-review-of-pitchapalooza-part-1-introduction

pitchapalooza book revue

Attention Lake Placid Authors and Vermont Writers

Calling Lake Placid authors: come pitch your book to the Book Doctors this Saturday @ The Bookstore Plus http://www.thebookstoreplus.com/event/pitchapalooza

Vermont writers: come pitch your books to the Book Doctors this Sunday @ Flying Pig Bookstore http://site.booksite.com/7087/events/?&list=EVC1&group=current&preview=1

Murder in Marin, Science in SF, Books In(c) Berkeley, Standing Room Only in Santa Cruz, Fun Down on the Farm

We started off our Bay Area Tour with a bang at the Mystery Writer’s Conference at Book Passage (one of our ATF bookstores). There were maniac murderers, femme fatales, and international men of mystery run amok. And that was just at the faculty dinner! As for the Mysterypalooza, the bar was raised very high—lots of writers flew in from all over the country to chase their mysterious dreams. In fact, Sheldon Siegel, the attorney turned NYT bestselling mystery author who chairs the conference, was once a student there. Elaine Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage, welcomed us with her usual grace and warmth. We also had a phenomenal panel, bestselling author Hallie Ephron was an font of wisdom about the ins and outs of the fine art of the mystery pitch. How much to reveal, how much to conceal. How to create a sense of suspense, character and place. Bridget Kinsella of Publisher’s Weekly and Shelf Awareness, as well as an author, brought her market savvy and understanding of the publishing biz to the table big-time. Everyone who pitched came away with a whole host of tools for how to improve their pitch, but perhaps more importantly, how to solve the mystery of the dastardly publishing game.

TO READ MORE CLICK HERE

The Book Doctors Pitchapalooza on KALW SAN Francisco Public Radio

Public radio san francisco presents pitchapalooza

http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-kalw-san-francisco-public-radio

Genn Albin’s Story of How She Got a Six-Figure, 3-Book Deal After Winning Pitchapalooza: Part 2

Genn Albin’s Story of How She Got a Six-Figure, 3-Book Deal After Winning Pitchapalooza: Part 2
Our fabulous Kansas City Pitchapalooza winner, Genn Albin give us part 2 of 4 of her journey to a six-figure deal for a YA dystopian fantasy novel, Crewel:
http://bit.ly/qNZbkb

The Book Doctors Present: Pitchapalooza Video Trailer!

PITCHAPALOOZA

Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only without Simon). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Each writer gets one minute—and only one minute! In the last month, three writers have gotten publishing deals as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company dedicated to helping authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years at The Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. They have taught their workshop on how to get published everywhere from Stanford University to Smith College. They have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today.

At Pitchapalooza, judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much, much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for one and all. From Miami to Portland, from LA to NYC, and many stops along the way, Pitchapaloozas have consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors.At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book.

To sign up to pitch, you must purchase a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who buys a copy of receives a FREE 20 minute consultation, a $100 value. If you don’t want to pitch, the event is FREE.

New York Times article: http://tinyurl.com/3tkp4gl

Pitchapalooza mini movie: http://tinyurl.com/3jr8zte

Pitchapalooza on NBC: http://www.thebookdoctors.com/the-book-doctors-pitchapalooza-on-nbc-television

Here’s what people are saying about Pitchapalooza:

“We came to Pitchapalooza with an idea and six months later we got a book deal with a prominent publisher. We simply couldn’t have done this without this opportunity and without David and Arielle. We had been working on this project for several years, on our own, and struggling without any guidance. We were really discouraged by the entire process. Winning Pitchapalooza, and working with these two, really helped us focus and renew our enthusiasm in the project. And now we’re going to be published authors!”

—Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu, Pitchapalooza winners Litquke, San Francisco, Oct. 2010

Here’s what people are saying about The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published:

“I started with nothing but an idea, and then I bought this book. Soon I had an A-list agent, a near six-figure advance, and multiple TV deals in the works. Buy it and memorize it. This little tome is the quiet secret of rockstar authors.”

—New York Times best-selling author Timothy Ferris, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,

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