David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: publishing Page 3 of 4

Art of the Memoir: Lisa Schenke: A Son’s Fall to Suicide, a Mother’s Rise from Grief

LisaS_WT_design_blueWe first met Lisa Schenke at Book Towne on the Jersey shore.  In one minute she told us the story of her son Tim’s suicide, which led to a series of copycat suicides in South Jersey.  It broke our hearts.  Not just because it was so gut wrenching, but because she told it so beautifully, and with such breathtaking honesty.  Knowing that there’s an epidemic of suicides among teenagers in America is different than staring into the eyes of a mom who’s beloved son jumped in front of a train.  But having a story and writing a book are very different things.  Without Tim: a Son’s Fall to Suicide, a Mothers Rise from Grief is out, so we wanted to talk to her about the process of turning her tragedy into a book.  And, during National Suicide Prevention Month, about the terrible problem of teenage suicide.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: What made you decide to write this book about such a horrific, and very personal subject?

Lisa Schenke book photo 11-12LISA SCHENKE: I felt that I had a story to tell, a story that would help others. My initial goal was to help those who are grieving, especially from a suicide. However, the further along I got with organizing my thoughts and the content for the book, the more I realized I had a bigger goal: to help teens and young adults who are struggling with the many issues facing them today. That’s how my book developed into two storylines: my recovery after Tim’s death, and glimpses into Tim’s life as he grew up- both his accomplishments and his troubles. I was also kind of motivated by people always asking me things like “How do you survive? I don’t know how you do it? How do you get up in the morning?”

DHS: Was it difficult to go back over these terrible events?

LS: Yes and no. Some days were heart-wrenching; trying to figure out the right way to express something so important to me. I also worried about putting my husband, children and immediate family members “through this” again. But more often than not, the writing helped clarify and solidify the details that I never want to forget. And I often reminded myself that I wanted other young people to understand how much they are loved.

DHS: Did writing this story help you in any way?

LS: Yes, very much. I feel that I voiced what many other parents are unable to share. While trying to convince other parents that they are doing the best they can, I kind of convinced myself that I did my best too. I also feel that it is a tribute to Tim. Also a tribute to my family. I want to make a difference in suicide prevention, I’m proud of my family. So many reasons that I wanted to expressing myself. I don’t claim to have the answers, but feel that telling my story can be comforting to teenagers who relate,  parents who have lost a child, and any parents raising teenagers.

DHS: What was the process of publishing like for you?

LS: Very complicated at first! Nothing I had ever been exposed to before. I chose not to send to many publishing houses and not to wait a long period of time before deciding to self-publish instead. I evaluated the pros and cons of self-publishing long and hard before proceeding. I am somewhat of a control freak, and I really LOVED my cover design. After being denied by a few publishers and realizing that I wouldn’t have control over many aspects of the book, including the cover, I chose to self-publish. I got a lot of professional  help by connecting to quality people for each area including copy editing, proofreading, book formatting, etc. I am extremely satisfied with the final product and feel I did not cut any corners in producing a high quality book.

DHS: Did you get help from an editor, and if so, how did this work?

LS: Yes! Each editor I worked with gave me the option of accepting/rejecting the suggested changes. Whenever I had questions, they were open to discussing. My mentor, Arielle Eckstut, was my content editor and she helped me tremendously. She clearly explained when/where the material did not flow, helped with length of chapters, pointed out all areas where chapters did not have a clear endpoint, the list goes on and on. However, Without Tim was always MY book. I never felt as though any of the editors were taking over the writing process.

DHS: What advice do you have for writers who want to tell their personal story, both in terms of writing and the publishing process?

LS: I think of myself as a “bottom up” rather than a “top down” person. I started with outlines containing many, many details of memories and little stories of things I wanted to include in my book. After months of doing nothing more than writing lists, outlines, and short paragraphs, I was finally ready to begin. For me, writing was not like you see on TV: someone sitting at a typewriter or computer moving along chapter 1, chapter 2, …  Also, I would not suggest using a ghost writer. I tried that for a short time, then ended the contract. I don’t feel anyone can tell your story other than you! Regarding the publishing process: I chose to hire professionals to help me because I have no expertise. Arielle helped me in finding quality help without spending a fortune. I published through Amazon Createspace. Because I was not confident with the book formatting process, I did hire a book formatter even though it’s possible to do it yourself. In the end, I will be happy if I can get “out of the red.” I did not write a book to make profit, but it would be nice if I can earn back my expenses! And then I will choose to donate to my son’s scholarship fund and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)!

DHS: What would you say to parents who are worried that their teenager may have suicidal ideations?

LS: I think parents should seek help, better to err on the side of caution. Even though most  troubled teenagers will not end up going through with suicide, they most likely need some help. And if you or your child doesn’t like or connect with the counselor, keep trying another one. Sometimes the match takes time. I know it is frustrating to have to “start again” with your whole story but it’s worth it if you find someone your teenager trusts. Try to help your teen understand that it’s ok to have fears, insecurities, … and that there is a way to get to a better place. Try to be calm and patient; something I wish I would have been better at.

DHS: Do you have any tips for parents on how to deal with grief after a loss like this?

LS: My book describes much of my journey. For me, the infrequent signs I received from Tim were probably the most motivating and positive aspect. However, they were infrequent and never seemed to come when I asked/begged for them! I was fortunate to be surrounded by so many great people, and kind of forced myself to try to rely on them. I also love fresh air and bike riding and returned to it very quickly. I think the path depends largely on the individual’s personality, and my personality is to “dive in” to whatever project I am faced with, good or bad. My grief counselor constantly reminded me to go with the good feelings whenever I could feel them, even though I often didn’t even want to. Then, when difficult times returned, it would eventually become easier to find my way out of them again.

Lisa Schenke was a longtime systems analyst turned personal fitness trainer, but with her son Tim’s suicide in 2008, she took on another line of work. She became passionate about getting the message out to struggling teens and young adults to celebrate and embrace life, and assisting others through the grieving process after a loss of a child or loved one. Lisa has been involved in the Hold On suicide prevention fundraising efforts for 2NDFLOOR Youth Helpline. She’s been featured everywhere from the Star-Ledger, to MSNBC.com, to the American Association of Suicidology newsletter. Readers can contact her at http://www.withouttim.com

The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers come up with a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.   Arielle Eckstut has been an agent for 20 years, and founded the iconic brand Little Missmatched.  Her new book, written with her mom Joann, is The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty and Joy of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet. David Henry Sterry is the author of fifteen book, and his new book is Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition. He can be found at https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

 

 

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

Art of the Memoir: Laura Schenone on Shooting High & Raw Parts: Bonus Video

ravioliPB

To celebrate the release of the 10 year anniversary of my memoir, Chicken,  I’m doing a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I first met Laura Schenone when I saw her read from her James Beard Award winning book, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove.  She’s a beautiful, lyrical writer, who is somehow as good at reading her work as she is at writing it.  She manages to be one of those rare hybrids, a writer who is literary and page turning simultaneously.  I recently read her spectacular memoir, The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken and I totally fell in love with it.  And it’s not really my kind of book.  I prefer writing where people are getting their heads blown off and/or are engaged in acts of insane depravity which showcase the darkest heart of humans.  Him but these books are so thoughtful, the storytelling so riveting, and the characters come to life in such a beautiful way, you feel like you’re floating down a warm river through a breathtaking countryside, with some crazy rapids waiting up ahead.  And she also writes about big subjects like family and food and love, using her own experiences often as a jumping off point to illuminate deep human truths.  She’s working on her next memoir, and we thought we would check in with her about what it takes to turn your life into a book.

David Henry Sterry: Why in gods name did you decide to write a memoir?

 

Laura Schenone: I don’t know that I decided.  I think I was writing it in my head my whole life.

 

DHS: What were the worst things about writing the memoir?

 

LS: Complete embarrassment of writing a memoir.  But also trying to make a character out of myself and be honest.

 

DHS: What were the best things about writing the memoir?

 

LS: That’s any easy one:  Italy.  Specifically, Genoa.   My memoir was a quest tale about the search for a long lost family recipe and involved travel there.  I studied the language, and that was wonderful.  I loved the place, the people I met, and the food.

 

DHS: Did writing the memoir help you make some sense out of the chaos we call life?

 

LS: Absolutely.  I felt far more at peace over some things once I’d finished it and still do.  I have much less of a need to look backward.

 

DHS: How did you make narrative out of the random events that happened to you?

 

LS: I had three interwoven themes.  One was the forward momentum of the search for something and an obsession with that.  The other was the flashback associative part in which the past flies up.  The third was me meditating about the present.  I wove them together in the most natural way I could.  In terms of sequence, there was mention of a love story between my great grandparents that had to go more toward the front of the book to hook the reader.

 

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

 

LS: I’d just had a book that had done pretty well, so it was fairly easy.  I loved my editor at W.W. Norton and wanted to stay there.

 

DHS: How did you go about marketing and promoting your memoir?

 

LS: I cooked and made ravioli everywhere.

 

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking to the public about the most intimate parts of you memoir?

 

LS: The raw parts I never read in public.  But there were times I was uncomfortable when people asked me questions I didn’t want to answer.  Sadly, my book didn’t have much sex in it, so that was no problem.

 

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to the memoir?

 

LS: Some loved it.  Some really did not appreciate it in the least.  There were some very painful moments.

 

DHS: Any advice for someone writing a memoir?

 

LS: There are many memoirs out there.  Most are not good.  Your memoir really isn’t supposed to be just about you.  Before you begin, try to really understand the form.  Study the ones that manage to elevate personal experience to something far greater.  Shoot high.

Bonus Video:

How to Get Your Book Published When Everyone Keeps Rejecting It

201201-b-love_inshallah_coverWe first met Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mutta at our Pitchapalooza during San Francisco’s legendary LitQuake. Lots of great writers pitched lots of great books that night. But when Nura pitched her anthology revolving around the love lives of Muslim-American women, we were blown away. She took charge of the room like a seasoned professional, she was funny, charming, articulate, and she had that indefinable It that makes people go: Wow! Plus, the book was so timely, so valuable, so necessary when the world is trying desperately to move from combative intolerance to respectful inclusion. From war and terrorism to peace and understanding. We helped them develop their proposal, hone their pitch, and when the time was right, we introduced them to a fantastic publisher who does exactly the kind of book they wanted to write. This is a mistake so many writers make. They don’t get their book into the hands of the person who is most likely to love, represent and/or publish it. In this case, that publisher was Laura Mazer at Soft Skull. As we suspected, she fell in love with the proposal, and offered them a contract. Right place, right time, right stuff. Nura and Ayesha gathered 25 Muslim-American women writers, and lo and behold, their pitch is now a book. Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women came out last week, and already they’ve had a feature in the New York Times written about them, and the demand has been so large, they sold out of the first printing practically before the book was even out.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: So, this must be a very exciting time, congratulations, we’re so excited for you.

NURA & AYESHA: Thanks, it is. We worked so long and so hard on this book, and there were so many times when we were sure it would never happen, so to have all this great response been fantastic

TBD: So many writers don’t consider who their audience will be, or in fact if there is even an audience, before they write their book. Why did you write your book, and why did you think there would be an audience for it is?

N&A: People are fascinated by Muslim women, but we didn’t see ourselves or our opinionated, independent and intelligent friends reflected in media stories, TV plotlines or movies. We decided this was the perfect opportunity to raise our voices and begin telling our own stories. And what better stories to tell than love stories? As Muslim women, our roadmap to love may be unique, but the destination is universal.

TBD: Most writers don’t understand how important a pitch is. It’s what a writer uses to get an agent and/or a publisher, it’s what the publisher’s marketing team (if they have one) will send out to the media, what the sales team will use to get bookstores to carry your book, what will entice readers on your author page, and on the back of your book, it’s what booksellers will tell customers when they’re looking for a book like yours.

N&A: Exactly! That’s why we spent so much time writing the pitch and practicing it aloud, to make sure it flowed well, that it really displayed what was unique and valuable about our project.

TBD: We always tell people to pitch their book as often as possible. To friends and family of course, but to your mailman, your waitress, your priest, total strangers, whomever. Every time you pitch your book, it’s an opportunity to test market your product. To figure out what works and what doesn’t, and how to make it better. And we meet a shocking number of writers who are afraid to talk about their book because they’re scared someone will steal it. Or hate it. But if you don’t tell anybody about your book, there’s a good chance it will and up just being a file buried in your computer. And you never know who’s going to be friends with somebody in publishing. That’s how David got published. He told an old friend about his book. Unbeknownst to him, her goddaughter was a literary agent. She took him on as a client. Then she married him.

N&A: That’s so romantic!

TBD: In a very book-nerdy way.

N&A: Exactly.

TBD: Since you won Pitchapalooza with your kick-ass pitch, go ahead, lay it on us, what’s your book about?

N& A: Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women is a groundbreaking collection of 25 writers speaking openly about love, relationships, sexuality, gender, identity and racism for the first time. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Muslim women, even (especially!) those who have never met one. We thought it was about time you heard directly from Muslim women themselves. You’ll be captivated by these provocative, funny, moving and surprising stories — each as individual as the writers themselves.

TBD: What made you decide to pitch the idea at our Pitchapalooza?

N&A: Our book proposal was dead in the water, publishers were unwilling to take a chance on this book. When we heard about LitQuake Pitchapalooza in September 2010, we thought it might be an opportunity for us to go public with our hunch that our book’s simple but intriguing concept — American Muslim women’s lives and loves, told for the first time by the women themselves — would have a broad appeal. Pitchapalooza helped us refine our message and hook. The judges’ feedback was invaluable in developing our book proposal. And the audience was so excited about the premise that we knew we’d been right about its appeal!

TBD: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about American Muslim women, dating, and sexuality?

N&A: Muslim women’s lives and sexuality have been politicized by both non-Muslims and Muslims for centuries. On the one hand, we’re seen as oppressed, submissive, and voiceless, and on the other we’re asked to live within a limited definition of the “good Muslim girl”. Neither of these paradigms allows us to celebrate our personal lives, which are full of joy, creativity, beauty, challenges, doubts and mistakes. Both extremes seek to box us into a narrow “real Muslim woman” frame, but by telling our own stories, we are revealing a reality that is far more complex and compelling.

TBD: What were some of the challenges in putting together an anthology with all these women?

N&A: Editing was the most challenging and most rewarding experience of all. We spent a lot of time supporting our writers in taking their stories to the place of honesty and vulnerability that resonates with readers. And, through the process of editing, we developed wonderful relationships with each writer. We deeply love and respect them all!

TBD: Are you afraid that some fundamentalist Muslims will take offense at your book?

N&A: Fundamentalists certainly aren’t limited to Muslims, as we saw with the recent controversy generated by a fringe group in Florida over the TLC show All-American Muslim! There are some people on both sides who want to keep Muslim women tightly inside a box. That said, a filmmaker friend of ours visited over 200 US cities recently and brought back this message: People are tired of the politics of fear and are hungry to connect with each other in more meaningful and compassionate ways. We believe her, and we believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans are going to welcome and be excited by this book for that very reason. Any book is going to have its critics, but we’re confident that most people are going to celebrate these unique, thought-provoking and beautiful voices.

TBD: What’ve been some of the difficulties in dealing with the publishing world?

N&A: A Pitchapalooza judge said that large publishers are leery of taking risks on unknown writers or an untested market.

TBD: That’s why I thought Soft Skull would be perfect for you.

N&A: Absolutely. They’re a independent, cutting-edge publisher, and they respected our context and viewpoints on everything from the stories to the cover of the book, which can be a contentious and difficult issue for writers of color. In fact, the cover is a wonderful example of our partnership: The conventional image on most books about Muslim women is of a veil or veiled woman, even when it has nothing to do with the story or writer. After we explained why that was inappropriate, we found a gorgeous, novel and provocative image to use instead: lingerie! The lingerie strewn across the bed is a metaphor for the book: Muslim women revealing their most intimate thoughts and experiences to you.

TBD: What do you hope your book will communicate to the world?

N&A: We are proud to offer this book as our contribution to contemporary, multicultural American literature. We believe these stories will start conversations in families and between communities about the similarities that bind us together, and the differences that enrich us. We hope that this book inspires dialogues in the American Muslim community, particularly among women, who have been waiting a long time to have these discussions. We’re so ready to engage with each other! Regardless of our differences, we can choose to interact with each other in a compassionate and respectful way. By reading these provocative, funny and moving stories, you’ll discover that what we all have in common is the desire to love and be loved for who we are.

Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi are the co-editors of the anthology, Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women” (Soft Skull Press, 1/24/12). Facebook. Twitter. Amazon.

Tamim Ansary, the Wisest Man I Know, on What America Should Do About Afghanistan

Tamim Ansary is the wisest man I know. Don’t get me wrong, in many ways he’s as big an idiot as you or I. For example, he’s not nearly as smart as his smartphone. But I know lots of clever geniuses who can make their smartphone dance the chachacha while reciting the Gettysburg Address, but none of them are very wise. Tamim says things that make you kick yourself and go, “Why didn’t I think of that?” And because he spent his Wonder Years in Afghanistan, and has a large web of family (many of whom, apparently, he has no idea he’s related to) in Afghanistan, he knows things that hardly any of us know. About how they think, how they live, who they are, what they want, these people with whom we are so intimately involved yet understand so little. Since he spent the last year or so writing a book about the history of Afghanistan called, Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan, I thought I’d pick his big brain about a subject I want to understand, one which will, I hope, make me seem smarter at parties.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: Reading your book, it becomes more and more clear that Afghanistan has a long history of being invaded. Is there something particular about the people, the culture, the country that screams: Invade me?

TAMIM ANSARY: Afghanistan is the land in between. It’s the place where the age-old “great powers” to the north, west, south and east overlap. It’s the real estate that empire-builders have had to march through over the centuries to get to other, more desirable places. In the 19th century, Russia had to take this land to get to the Arabian Sea, which they coveted because it would at long last give them a year-round port and access to the oceans. Britain was determined not to let the Russians sink roots here because time and again over the centuries, empire-builders have swept down from this platform to conquer India — which was now Britain’s prize possession. In all the tussles of the twentieth century, the powers trying to invade didn’t care about Afghanistan per se. They invaded it so that their rivals would take it. In the mid-twentieth century came the Cold War. Now, Afghanistan was the nut between the pincers of the Soviet Union to the north and the U.S. and its allies to the south. Pakistan and Iran were firmly under U.S. control but Afghanistan was in play — non-aligned. If the U.S. could get it they really have a fence around Soviet power; if the Soviets could get it, they’d poke a hole through that “containment” fence. Once again, Afghanistan mattered for strategic reasons and no one (except Afghans) cared about who or what was actually in this territory. And strategically, Afghanistan still matters today. Oceans aren’t so important anymore, but Afghanistan makes a perfectly situated air-base. Planes taking off from here can reach Iran, China, India, all the Central Asian former-Soviet-republics, and even Russia.

DHS: In America we seem to have turned the Taliban into the bogeyman, like if we could just get this one group of evil villains under our thumb and into Guantánamo, the problem would go away. Reading your book, I now suspect that this is wrong. Who are the Taliban exactly? Who are they not?

TA: When they first emerged, the Taliban were a single, specific, cohesive group. They had a leader, they had top officials, they had cadre, they had an ideology. They were organized by elements in the Pakistan military, were bound together by a radical Islamist ideology, and served as a tool for Pakistani domination of Afghanistan. Their period of rule was, to some extent, just another foreign invasion of Afghanistan, just like those the British undertook. But then in 2001-02, the United States toppled and scattered that Taliban and they fragmented. Today’s insurgents, so frequently and so casually labeled “the Taliban,” are a motley hodge-podge of anti-government rural folks, remnants of guerrilla armies that roamed the land for two decades, drug traffickers, tribal lords whose power is threatened by the reemergence of a central government, newly emerging criminal networks, fragments of the original Taliban that have re-congealed as rural gangs, and so on. A few al-Qaeda-type Jihadists from the Arab world are sprinkled into the mix, and saboteurs from Pakistan are said to be active in Afghanistan as well; but then, “Talibanist” saboteurs from Afghanistan now roam into Pakistan as well, to make trouble. Basically, the area once divided by a distinct border between two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) has dissolved into a belt of unruly, anti-government (any government) militants whose power derives from local sources and amorphous demographic is who we are calling “the Taliban.”

DHS: When you hear about Afghanistan in American media you get the impression there is the Taliban and those against the Taliban. Is Afghanistan really divided like this?

TA: Afghan society features a continuum of values, attitudes, beliefs and affiliations. At one extreme are radical reactionary fundamentalist Islamists, and outward-looking, secular-tending, modernist urban folks friendly to Western values and ideas at the other extreme. But these are merely the extremes, Between the two you’ll find every shade of grey. So it’s not a case of the Afghans being one group and the Taliban another group, with the one attacking the other. It’s more a case of a culture torn by its own contentions and contradictions, a contest that goes a long way back into Afghan history.

DHS: What is my moral obligation as an American, when it comes to Afghanistan?

TA: When the U.S. went into Afghanistan they established a plan that would transform Afghanistan into a secular, Western-style parliamentary democracy and a society in which women participated in public on a par with men and enjoyed equal rights and opportunities. Many Afghan men and women staked their lives on this American project succeeding. They bought into it. They went into businesses that depended on the country moving in the direction the West had laid out. Women dared to emerge as activists, they ran for and won parliamentary seats, they challenged laws, they led demonstrations, they became public figures. If Afghanistan crumbles back into the sort of chaos that wracked it in the 1990s after the Cold War ended and all the foreign powers completely withdrew not just military but civilian and economic involvement in Afghanistan, the people who bought into the project are probably going to be in trouble. Many of them may perish. The U.S. has no choice but to move forward with a withdrawal of at least most of its forces, but this withdrawal has to be conducted in a responsible manner, with some guarantee that America’s partners in Afghan society won’t simply be overwhelmed.

DHS: How much of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is self-serving? And how?

TA: The U.S. has strategic interests in Afghanistan. For one thing, this will be the corridor through which oil and gas from the Caspian Basin will have to pass, in order to reach the West once that oil comes into play; so it’s important that Afghanistan be safe, stable and peaceful in that near future. Also, this land holds the key to the stability of the region as a whole. Chaos in Afghanistan would almost surely trigger chaos in Pakistan, would invite Iran to rush in, would bring China into the picture, which would trigger a reaction from India… Pakistan has nuclear bombs. Even as it stands, Pakistan is unnervingly reckless; if even this simulacrum of a state dissolves, there is no telling who of the many potential successor groups in the country will end up with those bombs. Powerful elements in Pakistan nurse an almost crazed paranoia about India, a hostility that has brought these countries to the edge of war within this decade — if an irrational group fueled by paranoia and hatred gets possession of Pakistan’s bombs, it might decide to settle matters once and for all with India — which also has nuclear weapons. (And now Iran could get such weapon-capability.) What America doesn’t seem to have, particularly, is a self-interested motive related to Afghanistan’s vaunted mineral wealth — the trillion-plus dollars worth of copper, iron, rare-earth minerals and such. The United States has made no move on those minerals, at a time when others, such as China, have worked vigorously to acquire the rights to them.

DHS: What do people think of Americans at this point in Afghanistan?

TA: Over these last few years, a number of events have eroded goodwill toward America among Afghans. Of course sporadic mistaken bombings of wedding parties, of rural children grazing herds, and of other civilians have contributed to this erosion. Of course, Sgt. Bales’ massacre of 16 civilians didn’t help. The NATO policy of conducting “night raids” to arrest suspected terrorists has been a public relations disaster. But to my mind, the single most consequential error was the incineration of Korans in a trash fire by soldiers at Bagram Air Base, especially because Western observers never really understood the gravity of this act in the eyes of Afghans. And yet… and yet… even though many people I spoke to there wanted NATO to leave, some of those very same people expressed the hope that they wouldn’t. All this, however, is in the cities. In the countryside, especially in the south and southeast, I imagine people are more uniformly hostile to the American presence.

DHS: What will it take to have peace in Afghanistan?

TA: There is no certain path to peace. Every road passes through difficult terrain. In the long run, the foreign powers have to find a way to declare Afghanistan a non-aligned zone whose neutrality all outside parties pledge to observe and respect. At the same time, an international consortium needs to oversee continued aid to Afghanistan, ideally to help the country take control of its own vast, rich mineral resources and to develop that wealth. Once outside interference in Afghanistan is curtailed, Afghans will begin to settle scores among themselves. This might be very painful for outside observers to watch, and it might be very tempting for one party or another to intervene in order to make sure the struggle comes out “the right way.” But the outcome in Afghanistan will be meaningful only if Afghans attain it on their own.

DHS: What should America do about Afghanistan?

TA: Build connections, contacts and relationships with all the various factions and forces in the country, leaving a door open to have a diplomatic relationship with whoever emerged as the ruling group, do the hard work of global negotiating needed to ensure Afghan neutrality in the global contests of today, and play a peacemaking role as best it can while gradually easing out of the scene. But that’s easy for me to say. The devil is in the details.

Tamim Ansary can be found at his website. His new book is available online or at a bookstore near you.

 

Bob Calhoun Dishes the Dirt on Comicon, Star Trek, Mitt Romney, Westboro Baptists & Bigfoot

cover_indexfirst met Bob Calhoun when we were on the same bill at one of the greatest literary dives in America, the Edinburgh Castle, deep in the seedy groin of San Francisco’s Tenderloin. Bob is a genuine force of nature. He talks like he has a megaphone in his mouth, and I’m sure that somewhere in his family history a giant procreated with one of his ancestors. He’s lived a wild life, full of extreme wrestling, beer, blood and cornmeal. Combine that with his mad skills as a bona fide wordsmith, and you got a man who’s as fun to listen to as he is to read. He’s got a new book out called Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay, and Conflict on the Expo Floor, and we thought we would pick his brain about the crazy world of fan boys and girls, expos, trade show and conventions.

DAVID HENRY STERRY: What made you decide to write a book about the crazy world of conventions?

BOB CALHOUN: Conventions. I can’t get away from them. I end up going to toy shows or comic cons without even really trying to, and then there are the tradeshows that my job at UC Berkeley sends me to. A week ago I was at the Latino Comics Expo in San Francisco, and at the end of the month I’m going to the California Advancement Researchers Association Conference at the Long Beach Hilton. I’ve finished writing Shattering Conventions and I’m still living it! But at the time I started this book, I thought that since I’m going to cons all the time anyway, what if I went to even more cons? I still ended up going to Comic-Con and “Star Trek” cons, but I also went to a Republican Convention, a conspiracy con, a gun show, a hemp expo, a livestock show, a Bigfoot hunters’ con, and a Twilight con in Portland. I went to every con I could get into. I even got chased out of Moscone Center in San Francisco for trying to get into a Congress of Plastic Surgeons without a press pass.

DHS: What were some of the most ridiculous/fascinating/crazy/sexy/insane things you saw?

BC: Crazy would have to be the Mad Fag for Christ — his words, not mine. He just circled around the parking lot of the Santa Clara Hyatt to protest the California Republican Convention in a white van that had the words “Mad Fag For Christ” painted on one of the sides. I was about to flag him down for an interview, and then this town car pulled up, and Mitt Romney got out of it. It was still a year or so before he was the frontrunner in the GOP race so there was only one woman in a power suit there to meet him. Mitt didn’t have Secret Service protection yet either. That guy in the van could’ve just plowed straight into him. Sexiest would be a bar full of drunk green women at the Vegas Star Trek con. Why didn’t this happen at sci-fi cons when I was a teenager?

DHS: Why do you think people are so obsessed with the world that is embodied by fan conventions?

BC: Well if you can’t be obsessed about obsession what can you be obsessed about? But really, the main reason people go to cons is to be around people just as obsessed as they are, and where they won’t be judged for this obsession. This is true not only for fan cons, but for about any convention really. You go to World of Concrete in Vegas and people are so happy to be around other people who are just as into cement as they are. I talked to a woman at a Twilight con in Portland who told me her favorite con was the raw foods show in Arizona, mostly because everyone there was passionate about raw foods. It was the only place in the world where she didn’t have to negotiate a menu.

DHS: You’re a big guy, but were you ever physically or emotionally scarred by anything you saw or encountered?

BC: I was at a Conspiracy Con at the Santa Clara Marriott. This guy named Texe Marrs was speaking. His whole shtick was that what he called “Satanic Jews” had taken over the world. He started listing the names of Jewish government officials. He’d say “Rahm Emmanuel,” and everyone in this conference room would chant “Jew!” “Ben Bernanke!” “Jew!” They had a mini Nuremberg Rally going on in there. It was pretty revolting. I also had to spend a day with the late Andrew Breitbart at a Republican convention and he called me out during a Tea Party Express rally. That was pretty jarring, but the little Nazi rally at Con Con (they really called it this) was the worst.

DHS: Did you see a connection between the extreme wrestling world of your first book, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Wrestling, and this extreme world of conventions?

BC: The big connection is cosplay. We all like playing dress up. When I was talking to the guys in the 501st Legion, a Star Wars cosplay group, or some Klingons from Daly City, Calif., I had to remember all the time I used to spend digging through fabric remnant bins to put together outfits for the wrestling show. And the reason for that was because of the power you get from masks, uniforms and crazy outfits. Those people dressing like Klingons and Stormtroopers become Klingons and Stormtroopers, at least for a day or two during these cons. A little bit of leopard print made me into Count Dante, the Deadliest Man Alive. When I wore a burlap tunic, I was an ancient Christian fighting a guy in a in lion suit. If you think about it, the Tea Party was able to take over the Congress by dressing like George Washington or Ben Franklin. Cosplay is some powerful, powerful shit.

DHS: How did being in the world of conventions change you?

BC: It made me realize that I’m a lapsed fanboy in the same way that I’m a lapsed Catholic. I can’t get all that excited about the next superhero movie trailer like everyone else at Comic-Con. I don’t have the adulation for this stuff that I used to. There’s a sense of loss with that, but every so often I can sync up with that magic for a moment or two.

DHS: What did you learn from spending all that time in the world of geeks, fan boys and fan girls?

BC: I learned that the discovery of dark matter may make warp drive possible from an early morning lecture by a NASA scientist at Star Trek Las Vegas. I learned that the lighting systems you’d install in a mega-church don’t always work for small congregations at the Christian lighting seminar at the National Association of Music Merchants Show in Anaheim. But the main takeaway was the lengths that people will go to feel a sense of belonging — that often they don’t find this in their own homes and marriages, and that they go searching for it in hotel conference rooms of all places.

TBD: What are some of your favorite conventions?

DHS: My favorite convention by far was the unfortunately named NAMM Show, for the National Association of Music Merchants. They throw this huge tradeshow every January in Anaheim. All the music instrument manufacturers are there with these mega booths. Fender Guitars, Gibson, Marshall amps, and even the makers of bassoons and accordions and sheet music publishers. But what’s amazing about the NAMM Show is that Carlos Santana or Gene Simmons are pressed into demonstrating these companies’ new guitars and amps, so it takes these big rock stars and makes them into product pitchmen, not much different from a Maytag sales rep doing a washing machine demo at a home appliance show. They also have jam sessions that go on past midnight at the two big hotels next to the convention center there, and all the top people from rock, jazz, metal — you name it — end up sitting in on those things, but they always take time in between songs to thank their sponsors.

My other favorite con is the Big Wow Comicfest in San Jose. It’s just an old school comic book convention. It still has that swap-meet feel that the San Diego Comic-Con lost years ago. You can still buy a big stack of 1970s Devil Dinosaur comics there for a few bucks and walk away happy. Comic books still matter at Big Wow, and you can talk to your favorite artists there. Comic-Con is an ordeal, but Big Wow is like old home week.

DHS: What advice do you have for convention goers to maximize their convention experience?

BC: A lot of convention goers spend all of their time rushing from panel to panel — especially at something like the San Diego Comic-Con. They adhere to their schedules and spend a lot of time waiting in line for things. I say free up the schedule a little bit and allow for some random, crazy shit to happen to you. I snuck out of one the Star Trek cons to the hotel bar, and ended up getting chewed out by Gary Lockwood from 2001. That’s a magical convention moment right there, but this wouldn’t have happened if I’d kept my butt glued to a chair in the conference room.

DHS: After spending so much time in the world of conventions, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of mankind?

BC: I’m actually going to go out on a limb and say optimistic. When Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists showed up with their “God Hates Fags” signs to protest Comic-Con, it wasn’t long before all the fanboys and geek girls inside the convention center were out there counter-protesting with their own signs that said things like “Odin is God; Read Mighty Thor #5” and “God Hates Jedi.” I was in the middle of that thing only a few hours after I’d interviewed George Takei about the struggle for marriage equality. A couple of weeks later and I was at that science lecture at a Star Trek con. No matter how bad things get in this country, Trekkies and sci-fi fans still give me hope for the future.

I do want to add a cautionary note to this however, and that’s to resist the temptation of nerdy triumphalism. I’ve been to sci-fi cons where Adam Malin of Creation Entertainment or Wil Wheaton boast about how nerds have all the best jobs now; how nerds have won. That’s great. We’ve all had enough sand kicked in our faces. But I think nerds need to use their powers to create jobs and opportunities for even their former tormentors; otherwise we end up with the Tea Party threatening to destroy the science and education that we all thrive on. Nerds need to decide if they’re going to be super villains or superheroes right now.
Bob Calhoun used to wrestle men in Sasquatch suits while drunks threw food at him. He chronicled these days of glory in the punk-rock/lucha-libre memoir Beer, Blood & Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, a national bestseller. His work has appeared in Salon.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, AOL News, Filmfax, Giant Robot and Inside Kung-Fu. He is also the co-author of The Godfather of Grappling, the autobiography of martial arts and Hollywood stunt legend “Judo” Gene LeBell. Calhoun is currently a Sr. Research Analyst at the University of California, Berkeley.

Shattering Conventions Website.

To buy Shattering Conventions.

 

Writers, You Need a Platform: Or the Power of Facebook for Authors

 “Is’t possible that on so little acquaintance you

should like her? that but seeing you should love

her? and loving woo? and, wooing, she should

grant? and will you persever to enjoy her?”
— William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act V, Scene II

s-GET-PAID-TO-WRITE-A-BOOK-smallEvery day published, self-published and unpublished authors breathlessly ask us, “Do I really have to have a Facebook page, and if so, what the heck do I do with it?” We will endeavor to answer these questions. But there are also a lot of questions we are not asked, but we think authors should be asking. Our goal is to present a roadmap that will help any writer navigate this increasingly complicated — and crucial — cyber-landscape.

While we get our Facebook on every day, we turned to two experts, Annik LaFarge and Antonella Iannarino, to give us the skinny on the latest and greatest ways to use this monster of a tool.

Annik spent 25 years in the publishing business in senior marketing, editorial, and publishing positions. Today she runs her own company that specializes in online project management, editorial work, and consulting on digital strategy. She recently wrote The Author Online: A Short Guide to Building Your Website, Whether You Do it Yourself (and you can!) or Work With Pros. Antonella, an agent and digital media maven at the David Black Agency, has helped authors like Mitch Albom get their websites and Facebook pages up and running. Here Annik and Antonella offer us both the Big Think about how to use Facebook and also some more granular how-to information (just follow the links…) that will help you get started today.

First, Annik addresses the most popular questions The Book Doctors hear from authors about Facebook:

1) How many Facebook fans is enough to impress a publisher?

What seems like a lot of fans to one publisher might seem paltry to another, so rather than think in terms of actual numbers I urge you instead to think about growth. Facebook’s analytic tool called Insights allows you to easily track the number of monthly active users, Likes, wall posts, comments and visits that your page receives, along with the increase or decrease on a week-to-week basis. So pay attention to that data and aim to present your publisher with a percentage of growth rather than a fixed, context-less number. More impressive will be the fact that with active use and engagement you grew your key metrics by ten or twenty percent over a period of several months or a year. That shows dedication on your part, and demonstrates that you understand how to provide high value content to your readers. Even more impressive will be the number of Likes your page has garnered from fans. Read on and you’ll understand why.

2) Should I set up a fan page for my book or just use my personal page?

You should set up a fan page because these are accessible to anyone on the web, whether or not they’re Facebook members. And they don’t have to be your friends to access it; the page is open to anyone. This way you can post special content or links on your Facebook page and mention it in media interviews. For all of you Luddites out there, Antonella wrote a great primer about how to do this: The 7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Fan Page. Everything you need to know is there, along with screenshots plus a link to a piece that outlines all the important settings for your Facebook page. At the end of this article we’ve offered a few examples of author fan pages that you can use to generate ideas of your own.

3. When should I set up my Facebook page — when I start writing/once I have a book deal/once my book comes out?

It takes time to build an audience. The sooner you begin the more time you’ll have to grow your fan base and start learning — by studying your Insight analytics — what sort of content resonates with them. Start as soon as possible. How about tomorrow afternoon?

4) How often should I communicate via Facebook? What is too much?

You’ll know when it’s too much because the postings will feel forced. Communicate as often as you have something worthwhile to say. Being consistent is good, but not essential. Some people insist that you should post to a blog or Facebook page at least once a week. I think the better rule of thumb is: always default to quality, not quantity. Your friends and fans have other things to read; just make sure that whatever they find on your page is worth their time.

5) I’m worried about privacy issues. What should I do?

You don’t need to include personal information on your page. You do need to provide some details when first signing up for a personal account with Facebook, but that’s for registration and you can keep that information private through your privacy settings. But for your Page, the only details you can elect to include on your “Info” tab that might be of concern are your birthday and contact information. Think carefully about posting your birthday online. The upside is that your friends can send you nice messages, wishing you a happy birthday. The downside is that your date of birth is used by banks and other institutions as a legal identifier, and so there are reasons to keep it private. Antonella points out that some people include their zodiac sign and list their publisher’s address or a P.O. box for fan mail. As for managing information on your personal profile, our best advice is to closely monitor your settings and stay up-to-date on changes that Facebook makes. They happen often, and are widely discussed online. Often, Facebook’s default options are not pro-privacy. So pay attention, and ask your friends what they do if you’re unsure. And of course, use common sense about what information you share. Anywhere.

6) Should I put up pictures? Video? What kind of picture should I put up for my profile?

If your pictures and videos enhance what you’re sharing on Facebook then sure, use them. But don’t post any visual media just because you have it. Post it because the stuff is worthy of being posted — because it helps you amuse, entertain, educate, engage. And use something dignified. A goofy picture of you and your dog is okay for your personal page but not, perhaps, the image you want to leave potential book buyers with. Many authors (myself included) use their book cover instead of a photograph. That’s fine too, just try to keep the image relevant to you and your work.
Now that Annik and Antonella have covered the questions The Book Doctors get on a daily basis, we want to introduce the questions you should be asking, but aren’t. Take notes!

1) So now I know I need to get people to “Like” my page. What’s the best way to do this so I can build my list of friends/fans?

Two ways. First, post relevant, engaging content: questions, insights, books you’ve read, etc. Give people a reason to visit your page, make it interesting, interactive, and a true reflection of you and your work. Then tell people about it in all the ways available to you: link to it from your website or blog; place a link in your email signature; mention it on the flap or back cover of your books; send a message with a link to all your personal Facebook friends asking them to join your book page by clicking the Like button; etc.

2) What’s the deal with the “Like” button and why is it so ubiquitous?

As you may have noticed, the “Like” button that appears at the top of a fan page, is now showing up in lots of other places: on people’s blogs, next to products on online stores, and in nooks and crannies all over the World Wide Web.

I recently had a conversation with Greg Lieber who runs business operations for GraphEffect, one of the fast growing social advertising platforms that Facebook works with closely. They develop and manage Facebook campaigns for large brands that go way beyond the spookily targeted ads you see in the right column of your Facebook page.

He helped me understand the basics of how Facebook works by explaining that its algorithm, EdgeRank, gives a value to all of the items that appear in your News Feed and that a huge component of this is the number of Likes and comments that are associated with it.

So let’s say you have a blog and you’ve installed a Facebook plug-in that places a Like button alongside each post you write. When someone clicks the Like button your post appears in that person’s Facebook News Feed and becomes visible to all of their friends, plus it includes a link back to your blog.

This allows people to discover your work and enables them to either like the post directly in the feed or to click on the post and like it directly from the post itself. As the likes increase via Facebook’s viral channels the value of the post increases in EdgeRank and makes the post more likely to appear in your friend’s News Feed. However there are other factors at play: for example, if there’s a friend or page you interact with frequently on Facebook, then this person or page’s post will likely appear towards the top of your News Feed. Another factor is timing: the older your post, the less likely it is to appear in the News Feed of your friends. Finally, the “weight” of the post’s feedback plays a role, meaning that comments on a specific post are going to have a greater impact than ‘Likes’ of that same post.

[Side note: you may have recently seen that new “Send” button on Facebook. It’s similar to the Like button, but allows you to share a link privately with a friend or Facebook group using Facebook email. Whenever someone clicks it, it does increase your total like count, but it will not show up in the newsfeed.]

3) What sort of landing page should I have?

Creating a special “landing page” that people will see when they first come to your page is an effective way to use Facebook almost as you would the home page of a website. You can convey the “voice” of your site (in words and images) and tell folks what sort of regular content you’ll be providing there. A good example of this is a company called Global Basecamps, a popular eco-tourism business. See how their landing page expresses what the business is all about, tells you a bit about what they offer (weekly travel quizzes!) and, most important, encourages you to hit the Like button. Once you’ve Liked their page you’ll start landing, in future visits, on the wall page where they post all kinds of useful, interesting, amusing, content. The more good stuff they post, the more their visitors hit the Like button. And the more they hit the Like button… well, you know about that now.

But be warned: Facebook recently changed — and made more complex — the programming language that members use to customize their pages. Today creating a landing page requires some knowledge of basic programming. Antonella’s 7 Essential Elements for an Author’s Facebook Page article has some very helpful background information and tips for how to get started (see #7), and she also includes links to third party apps that you (or your developer) can use.

4) Should I connect my Twitter feed or my website to Facebook?

Probably, but if all you feed to Twitter is your Facebook status updates you’re not making your Twitter account unique. Best of all: create unique content for each platform and give people a reason to follow you in both places.
Now that we’ve laid down the basics, look around at some author pages on Facebook and see what you like (lower case…) and admire. Some people share a lot, others very little. But it bears repeating: follow the quality over quantity rule and post your updates and links with care. Offer value to the people who come to your page, and remember that because you’ve made it public anyone can come there — it’s not just your friends and family. Think about all the many different kinds of people who might end up there — young or old, familiar with your work or not, interested in just one aspect of a subject you cover, etc. Visit your page periodically like you’re a perfect stranger, and consider how the content, style and look may strike those different audiences. Then review, update, revise. And for goodness sake, whatever you do, have fun!

Tegan Tigani, Kid’s Book Buyer: How to Successfully Publish Your Children’s Book

2013-06-13-tegan.jpg We first met Tegan Tigani a few years ago while we were on tour in Seattle. She was so excited to give us the grand tour of her kingdom: the Queen Anne Book Company kids section, where she is the book buyer. Her enthusiasm and passion for books was completely contagious, she was exactly the kind of evangelist you want selling your book. We’ve subsequently used her to edit several of our clients’ children’s books, and she is one of the most knowledgeable people we’ve met when it comes to books in general and kids books specifically. So we thought we’d pick her brain to find out some of the secrets to successfully publishing a children’s book.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: So, how did you get started in the ridiculous business of books?

TEGAN TIGANI: Serendipity!!! I’ve always loved reading, bookstores, and libraries; I volunteered and worked in my high school library back in the day. When I moved to Seattle from Rhode Island after college, I thought I was going to work in museums and education. (I studied History of Science in school.) My first day in town, the first place my then-boyfriend-now-husband took me was Queen Anne Books. As we left, new purchases in hand, I commented to him, “I’d love if I could get a little part-time job in a place like that until I find my real job.” The next day, the owners posted a sign that said “Book lover wanted.” I started working there that week. That was over 14 years ago.

TBD: Tell us what you do at Queen Anne Book Company.

TT: I am a bookseller and the Children’s Book Buyer. We all wear many hats, so I help with event coordination, website design, and all sorts of other things, but I spend most of my time recommending books, ringing up purchases, and meeting with publisher reps to decide what great new books we’ll carry in our kids’ and teen sections each season.

TBD: It’s been an incredible saga, what with the closing and re-opening at Queen Anne. What the heck happened?

TT: I wish I really knew! In April of 2012, a new owner bought Queen Anne Books, which had been beloved in the community for over 20 years. By the end of October 2012, she closed the store. After a truly sad holiday season, the community got the great news that a new owner and management team wanted to start a brand new bookstore in the location of the old Queen Anne Books, and Queen Anne Book Company was born. The new owners were able to hire four staff from Queen Anne Books, so we have some continuity even with our fresh, clean start.

TBD: What grabs you in a children’s book?

TT: In picture books, I tend to gravitate toward books that beg to be read aloud but also stand up to hours of flipping pages independently… I want something that uses clever, age-appropriate language and has illustrations that really contribute to the story. I find that good picture books are so crucial to readers’ developing comprehension; I love a book that makes the adult and child look at the picture and text again and really mull things over.
TBD: Why is there a prejudice in the picture book world against rhyming?

TT: Ha– I almost put “great rhymes” in my previous answer! So I don’t think there’s a prejudice against rhyming; I just think it’s very hard to do it right. If it’s not just right, you shouldn’t force it, so it’s better to go with prose. One of the biggest delights during my bookselling career was discovering Skippyjon Jones. I remember when that first came out, the rhymes were so good, we couldn’t stop reading it aloud to each other in the store. If you can get the rhythms of poetry to work in a kids’ book (Dr. Seuss!), it’s magical. If it’s not, even the youngest listeners will cock their heads, know something is off, and choose another book to read next time.

TBD: What mistakes do you see children’s book authors make?

TT: I have a very hard time with children’s books that are too preachy. Some kids and parents enjoy a concrete lesson, but most readers I know like to draw their own conclusions from books. I also wonder if some children’s book authors actually read their books aloud before they submitted them. Pacing and language are tremendously important in picture books, and I think reading aloud is one of the best ways to check if you’ve gotten it right.

TBD: What advice do you have for people who want to write a children’s book?

TT: Think about the audience. Before, during, and after, children’s book authors need to consider who they want to reach with their book. If they keep the audience in mind, voice, vocabulary, pacing, even subject matter will match, and the book will be more successful. My other piece of advice is to let the professional illustrators do the illustrations. I’m delighted by the layers of meaning well-done illustrations can add. The right illustrator can make a good book great.

TBD: Thanks, see you at the bookstore!

TT: Thanks, you too!

Tegan Tigani loves connecting readers and books, whether as bookseller and children’s book buyer at Queen Anne Book Company, tutor, freelance developmental editor, ghostwriter, editor of nwbooklovers.org, vice president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, Seattle Book Examiner, blogger at tsquaredblog.blogspot.com, or party guest. When she isn’t reading or talking about books, she enjoys traveling, cooking, eating, and walking (sometimes all at the same time). She lives with her husband in Seattle.

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully

The essential guide cover_

Purchase the Book

Paperback : Amazon.com | Barnes & Nobles | Indiebound
Ebook : Kindle | Nook | iBookStore | Kobo
Signed Book : Contact me

Discuss the Book

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The best, most comprehensive book for writers is now completely revised and updated to address ongoing changes in publishing. Published in 2005 as Putting Your Passion Into Print, this is the book that’s been praised by both industry professionals (“Refreshingly honest, knowledgeable and detailed. . . . An invaluable resource”—Jamie Raab, publisher, Grand Central Publishing) and bestselling authors (“A must-have for every aspiring writer.”—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner). With its extensive coverage of e-books, self-publishing, and online marketing, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published is more vital than ever for anyone who wants to mine that great idea and turn it into a successfully published book.Written by experts with thirteen books between them as well as many years’ experience as a literary agent (Eckstut) and a book doctor (Sterry), this nuts-and-bolts guide demystifies every step of the publishing process: how to come up with a blockbuster title, create a selling proposal, find the right agent, understand a book contract, develop marketing and publicity savvy, and self-publish. There’s new information on how to build up a following (and even publish a book) online; the importance of a search-engine-friendly title; producing a video book trailer; and e-book pricing and royalties. Includes interviews with hundreds of publishing insiders and authors, including Seth Godin, Neil Gaiman, Amy Bloom, Margaret Atwood, Larry Kirshbaum, Leonard Lopate, plus agents, editors, and booksellers; sidebars featuring real-life publishing success stories; sample proposals, query letters, and a feature-rich website and community for authors.

Praise for the First Edition of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (Previously published as Putting Your Passion Into Print)

“A must-have for every aspiring writer . . . Thorough, forthright, quite entertaining.”—Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns (Riverhead)

“Before you write your own book, read this one. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry understand the process of publishing—their advice will help you envision and frame your work so that publishers will be more likely to perceive its value.”—Jonathan Karp, publisher, Simon & Schuster

“I had no idea that the code of publishing would be as hard to decipher as the secret language of adolescent girls. If only I had Putting Your Passion into Print when I started writing!”—Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees, the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls (Three Rivers)

Putting Your Passion Into Print changed my life. I read and reread each of your chapters, lived by your organizational and promotional advice, and, despite all odds, my rather uncategorizable book is a success. With no track record or cash, we’ve gotten onto TV and into national print media, been blurbed by the LA Times and the Village Voice, and sold out a third of our print run within three weeks of launch.”—Molly Crabapple, author of Dr. Sketchy’s Official Rainy Day Colouring Book (Sepuculture Books)

“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.”—Timothy Ferriss, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek (Crown)

Putting Your Passion into Print has been absolutely invaluable through this whole process! It’s on my bedside, with dozens of post-its peeking out!”—Veronica Wolff, author of Master of the Highlands Series (Berkley)

“Arielle and David did a masterful job at deconstructing our complicated, often irrational industry. Putting Your Passion into Print is fun to read and brutally honest, but it’s also energizing and inspiring.”—Lynn Goldberg, CEO, Goldberg McDuffie Communications

“I curled up in a big chair and read Putting Your Passion into Print like a novel. Written with insight and humor, it takes us through the writing process from idea to sequel. I wish I had a book this thorough and thoughtful and downright indispensable for every aspect of my life.”—Karen Cushman, author of the Newbury Award winner The Midwife’s Apprentice and Newbury Award runner-up Catherine, Called Birdy (HarperCollins)

“This is a terrific book. It’s practical, it’s fun to read, and it totally demystifies the publishing process. Whether you are just setting out to write a book, or already have several published books under your belt, you will find this an invaluable resource. There is no doubt in my mind that it will become a standard of the industry, sitting right alongside Writer’s Market and The Chicago Manual of Style. (And let me tell you—it’s a much better read than either of those books could ever dream of being!)”—Rick Beyer, author of The Greatest Stories Never Told Series (Harper)

“I took myself to lunch today and brought along Putting Your Passion Into Print, and I’ll be damned but it made me remember why I love this business and why the suffering is all worth it in the end. It’s a terrific book that finally put me in a good mood again.”—Annik LaFarge, former publisher of Bloomsbury Books

“You know all those books sitting on your shelf about how to get published? Well, you can finally unload them at your garage sale because this book is all you’ll ever need. A-to-Z, Soup-to-Nuts, this is the most comprehensive guide available on how to become a published author.”—Nancy Levine, author of The Tao of Pug (Penguin)

“These two know everything about the book business and share every detail in this fabulous book. Putting your Passion into Print answers every question you have with playful charm, wisdom and savvy. If you’ve written a book, are writing one or are just thinking about it, you NEED Putting Your Passion Into Print. It will make a marvelous gift for all of your writer or would-be writer friends. You’ll love it.”—Susan G. Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy (Three Rivers Press)

“This book is a must-have! I cannot say enough about how helpful, inspiring and dead-on it is.”—Tracy Davis, author of My Husband Ran Off with the Nanny and God Do I Miss Her (self-published)

“I got an agent and a publisher for my book within 3 weeks of submitting the proposal—and not a single rejection letter! When would-be authors ask me for advice I send them to the store to buy Putting Your Passion Into Print! Bravo to the authors for a comprehensive guide to writing, publishing and marketing your book.”—Donna Cutting, author of The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red-Carpet Customer Service (Wiley)

“I recommend this book to every author I know, at any stage of their careers. I’m such a vociferous advocate, some of my friends may think I’m in a cult!”—Melissa Kirsch, author of The Girl’s Guide to Absolutely Everything (Workman)

“As a consultant, I make my living by understanding how companies and industries work from the inside out. To succeed as an author, you need an inside-out view of how publishing works. For that, there’s simply no better guide than Putting Your Passion into Print.”—Geoffrey Moore, author of four Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestsellers, including Crossing the Chasm and The Gorilla Game (Harper)

Putting Your Passion into Print offers aspiring authors refreshingly honest, knowledgeable and detailed advice on not only how to get published, but how to deal with every phase of the publishing process constructively and realistically. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone who dreams about having his/her book not only published, but published well.”—Jamie Raab, publisher, Grand Central

“If you’ve ever thought about writing a book, are in the process of writing a book or have written a book and are contemplating another, stop what you’re doing right now—and buy this book. It contains everything you need to know to proceed, especially how to press your own enthusiasm button.”—Sandra Blakeslee, author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (Harper Perennial), Phantoms in the Brain (Hyperion), and On Intelligence (St. Martin’s Griffin)

“This honest, comprehensive and inspiring book is the best description of the contemporary publishing world that I’ve seen. It should be at the center of every writer’s reference shelf for decades.”—Neal Pollack, author of Never Mind the Pollacks and The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (Harper Paperbacks, Harper Perennial)

“From coming up with an idea to promoting the finished book, these insiders tell you what you need to know and inspire you to do it—with wit, charm and a thorough knowledge of what they write.”—Amy Cherry, editor, W.W. Norton

Putting Your Passion into Print is a Rosetta Stone for authors, a guide that takes the mystery and uncertainty out of getting your book published. This book takes you inside the publishing industry and reveals what makes it tick. Prospective authors, listen up. This is the definitive manual on taming this lumbering giant. If you want your book to see the light of day, read this one.”—Larry Dossey, M.D., author of The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things, Reinventing Medicine (Three Rivers), and Healing Words (HarperOne)
“Finally, a comprehensive, compelling, hilarious and amazingly insightful book about the painful and wonderful world of getting a book published. It’s as much about passion and teamwork as it is about royalties and advances. I loved it!”—Patrick M. Lencioni, bestselling author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass)

“I wish I had had this book when I started writing for publication. It’s got the perfect blend of right-brain creativity and left-brain strategy to help you succeed as an author.”—Dr. Betty Edwards, bestselling author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (Tarcher)

Excerpts

Featured Books by David Henry Sterry

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Art of the Memoir: Marion Roach Smith on NPR, Hating Redheads, & Something Larger than Herself

MRS, croppedTo commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do a series of interviews with memoirists I admire. Marion Roach Smith not only talks the talk, she walks the walks.  She is a memoirist, journalist, and has now written a book which every memoirist should own and scour. Here’s what she had to say about the Art of the Memoir

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

Marion Roach Smith: Ha ha ha. I’ve written and published several, as well as countless radio essays, op-eds and the like from my point of view. My recent book, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life, contains lots of personal essays.  I write memoir to understand things. My first book was an expansion of a New York Times Magazine piece I wrote about my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. She was 49 when she got sick, and there had never been a piece in the popular press about the disease. Hard to imagine now, I know. Mine was the first, and went on to become one of the most reprinted pieces in the magazine’ history. The first book followed. My reason for writing the piece was to do some advocacy journalism. Same for the book. Change the world. Get funding. Make people care. It worked.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

MRS: There are no worst things. There are consequences, good and bad. On the good side, I’m quite sure that much like in life, success in writing is all about which aspects of your experience you choose to emphasize. In those terms, the worst thing, as you say, can be learning something you were unprepared to learn.

DHS:  What were the best things about writing your memoir?

MRS: The best thing is learning things you were unprepared to learn. Hey, it beats the hell out of watching reruns on TV or surfing the web. Some of my middle-aged friends tell me they would like to feel something again. Write about your life. I promise, you’ll feel something.

DHS:  Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

MRS:  Order. Absolutely.

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

MRS: Random? Really? Says who?

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

MRS: I have found that all my different pieces of memoir have done fine. The first sold off of a magazine piece, as I said. The second book-length memoir I wrote was tucked inside a book called The Roots of Desire, which is on the history of red hair. I’m a redhead. No one had ever written that rich history, so it was a first, and easy to pitch, tracing the mutation of a gene back to its eruption in the genome and looking at all the art and story, drama, iconography worship and hatred of redheads. It was a first. The individual radio essays I pitch to NPR, one at a time.

It goes fine.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

MRS: I learned a great lesson years ago, which is to not go for reviews, but to go for features. So for book-length pieces, I contact newspaper feature editors, beauty and science editors (for the book on red hair, for instance), seeking feature pieces on the topic. It works well. I blog, I promote other writers, and they promote me; I use social media wisely.

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

MRS:  Not a bit. Successful memoir is not about me. It’s about something larger, and I am the illustration. That is, if you want anyone to read it. The intimacy with the audience becomes about the larger, universal topic. It’s a great experience.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

MRS: Family is a pizza, and everyone gets a slice. That being the case, no two family members see or remember a single event the same way, so you are going to get blowback. “That never happened, “ is what you’ll hear. And she’s right, the sister who says that to you. “That’s not the way it happened,” I say to that. “To you. That’s the way it happened to me.”

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

MRS: Memoir is about territory, and you have to stake yours out, walk its perimeter. When you do, you’ll find that each good story is bordered by your areas of expertise. I’m a woman, a sister, a wife, a mother, a member of my college board of trustees; I live with a fine dog, I sail, garden, play lots of sports. These are individual areas of expertise. Write from one of those at a time and you’ll never be tempted to write one of those turgid tomes that begins with the birth of your great-great grandfather, and ends with what you had for lunch yesterday.

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Marion Roach Smith believes that everyone has a story to tell. The author of four books, all of which contain a large degree of memoir, her most recent book is The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing–And Life, (Grand Central, 2011) an irreverent, quirky, provocative product of the countless memoir classes she has taught for more than a decade. Under the name Marion Roach, she is the author of The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair, (Bloomsbury, 2005), a wild blend of memoir and history; the co-author with famed forensic pathologist Michael Baden, M.D., of Dead Reckoning (Simon & Schuster, 2001), a hands-on, behind-the-scenes journey into the world of forensic science; and of Another Name for Madness, (Houghton Mifflin, 1985), the first, first-person account of a family’s dramatic struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. That book was an expansion of a record-breaking reprint of a piece she published in 1983 in The New York Times Magazine. A former staff member of The New York Times, she has written for The New York Times Magazine, Prevention, The Daily News, Vogue, Newsday, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart Living, Discover and The Los Angeles Times. A commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, from 2005-2011 she was the author and voice of The Naturalist’s Datebook, heard daily on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius/XM 110.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book 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, Milton Berle, 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.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://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:

 

Art of the Memoir: Sherril Jaffe on Daughters, Husbands & Defense Against the Chaos

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I’ve known Sherril Jaffe for many years.  Not only is she a brilliant writer, she’s also an amazing teacher of writing.  She is a tenured professor at Sonoma State University, has won a 2001 PEN award and was a 2010 MacDowell Fellowship.  She is the author of many books, novels, short stories, poetry and yes, a memoir.

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

sherril-jaffeSherril Jaffe: When she was fifteen, my older daughter became rebellious and ran away from home.  My husband and I were terrified and mystified by her behavior.  Advice and blame came at us from every direction, and we didn’t know what to do, so finally I began to do what I have always done in order to process experience; I began to make narratives out of what was happening.  I thought if I could do this well enough that she would read it and understand my concerns for her and how much I loved her and she would stop acting in ways that created so much anxiety for me.  I was writing a letter to her and I was also managing my anxiety by giving form to it.  Toward the beginning of what became Ground Rules, my agent sold the book on proposal.  Selling the book validated my attempts to take the straw of each day and weave it into gold each night, to give form to the chaos we were experiencing.  If I could do this, I thought, I might be able to grasp what was happening so I could address it.  We were all suffering, and I wanted the suffering to end.  I was now writing a book, and books have ends. I had set up things so I would have help getting it right—acquiring an editor when I sold the book. Other people with teenager crises were relying on counselors.  I had tried that without success, so now I was banking on my editor.

I worked on the end of the book endlessly, tinkering and tinkering.  My editor was rigorous, however, and wouldn’t accept anything that didn’t really ring true. But then finally the true ending appeared—everything begins to turn around finally when the parents learn to see, respect, and support their daughter for who she actually is, rather than who they have wished, assumed or feared that she was.

I speak here of “the parents” instead of “me and my husband,” because as a fiction writer it is difficult for me to think of a character based on me as me.  I had sold the book as a memoir but I didn’t give much thought at the time as to what that really meant.  I was very afraid for my daughter and eager for this situation to resolve. Unusually for memoir writers, I was writing as the situation was unfolding.  The consensus of opinion is that the more distance you have on your material, the better chance you have of getting a proper handle on it, but I couldn’t afford the luxury of waiting for my material to age like a fine wine; my daughter’s life was on the line.  As I worked, I kept wishing I could peek ahead to the end of the book to see how things were coming to turn out.  I called what I was working on “The Uncertainty Principle” after Heisenberg’s discovery that the act of observation changes the measurement of what is being observed.  I could not take any of the draconian measures some were advising us to adopt with our daughter: all I could do to effect a change eisenberg’s fin our circumstances was to observe them as closely as possible, distill and transform them until their meaning was revealed and we were all saved.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

SJ: The worst thing about writing my memoir was that I did not know if there was going to be a happy ending.  Although I was the author, every time I attempted an ending that was one that I wanted but which wasn’t exactly true, it wouldn’t work artistically; my editor would catch it, and I would be sent back to the drawing board.  Meanwhile our struggle with our daughter resolved just as, in the book, the parents come to see and love their daughter for who she really is, and that is where the story ends.

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

SJ: Since I was writing my memoir— though not in letter format—as a letter to my daughter, it gave me a way to try to reach out to her who had become so mysteriously distant, so I felt I was doing what I could to keep her safe and to stay connected with her.

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

SJ: Indeed, it was my only defense against the chaos.  I was also trying to shape the narrative as I went toward a happy ending, trying to make happiness the inevitable outcome of the story, for there are endless possibilities in chaos.

DHS:  How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

SJ: There was no problem, since I believed the book was simply being delivered to me, chapter by chapter, and that though the events transpiring seemed random, the work of bringing the book into being was the act of discovering in what way the events were actually not random at all.

DHS:  How was the process of selling your memoir?

SJ: I had recently signed up with an agent I loved, so I was not surprised that she sold the book on proposal in short order. There was some suspense as to what the offer would be, and I was disappointed that it was only $15,000, but, on the other hand, knew that $15,000 was the inevitable figure, for at that time I had a magical calendar, and the picture for that month was a painting by Charlie Demuth of a target with one five in the bull’s eye, one in a middle ring and another on the outer band. They offered me five thousand upon signing, five more when I handed in the manuscript and a final five upon publication.

DHS:  How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

SJ: Very poorly!  However, I don’t think it was entirely my fault.  The publisher rejected my title, “The Uncertainty Principle” and made me call the memoir “Ground Rules,” and so the public misunderstood what the book promised. The public expected this to be a guide to controlling teenagers by doing concrete things, like grounding them, for example, not a testament to living with uncertainty.

DHS:  Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

SJ: No; I have never had a problem speaking in public about anything; my problems came from people speaking to me in private—people I didn’t even know feeling it was okay to give me their opinions about me and my daughter.  I was used to people giving me a critical response to my writing but not to me, personally. This was a shock. I vowed to never again write another memoir.

DHS:  How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

SJ: I know now that it was very hard on my daughter, being in the public eye, like that, and I very much regret any pain I may have caused her.  But the plain fact is, the story was written with great love, solely with the intention of keeping her safe by daring to look closely at the terrible reality of life, for nothing looked at squarely can hurt you. And our troubles did end—whether because of the effect of the book on reality or because, like a virus, they had run their course.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

SJ: Yes.  My advice is, watch out, unless you are an extrovert and the point for you is to have everybody talking about you, passing judgments about you and projecting onto you. It feels good when you are admired, of course, but I’m a writer, not a model; I would rather it was my work, not my person, that was getting the attention.  I felt invaded, and it made me queasy when readers I had never met believed they were intimate with me.

 

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book 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, Milton Berle, 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.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.

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

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“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.”

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Art of the Memoir: NPR Interview Alan Black & David Henry Sterry Break It Down

Alan Black, San Francisco literary legend, and author of Kick the Balls, wrote The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatic’s Guide with David Henry Sterry and lived to tell the tale. Sterry is the author of the memoir Chicken, which is now out in a 10 year anniversary edition.  Nancy Wiegman puts Alan and David through their paces as they break down telling and selling the story of your life. http://kchofm.podbean.com/2010/05/24/david-sterry-and-alan-black/
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Art of the Memoir: Josh Hanagarne, the World’s Strongest Librarian, on Tourette Syndrome, Choosing Stories & Being Strong at the Library

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I’m doing a series of interviews with memoirists I admire. I’ve read lots of great things about the world’s strongest librarian, so I thought I’d track him down and see what he has to say about writing, memoirs, and being strong at the library.

To see piece on Huffington Post click here.

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David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

Josh Hanagarne: I didn’t do it in god’s name, but here’s an answer: I’ve always liked to write, but I wasn’t trying to become a writer. I had started a blog called World’s Strongest Librarian, just for fun. I was writing about Tourette Syndrome, strength training, books, and a few other things, and there were a few readers (friends and family).  Two months in, the author Seth Godin wrote me an email and said “You should be writing a book! I’m sending your blog to my agent!” Forty eight hours later, I had a literary agent for no reason, and when she said “So what’s the book?” I said, “What book?” And that’s how it started.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

JH: Spending a lot of time thinking about parts of myself that I don’t like. You really get to know yourself when you write a memoir. When you start turning over those rocks, you don’t get to choose what you find underneath them.

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

JH: Making myself laugh every time I sat down to write. Paying tribute to things I love. Honoring the people who have helped me have the life I have.

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

JH: Nope. If anything, it made me throw up my hands and say “It all really is chaos.”

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

JH: A memoir is not a life, it’s an aspect of a life. The stories are the illustrations of themes. Once you decide which themes you’re trying to illustrate, choosing stories becomes much easier.

DHS:  How was the process of selling your memoir?

JH: Long! It took three proposals. The first two went nowhere and took almost four years. The third proposal was the one that sold and it got picked up immediately. By that time I had figured out what the book would be and it was an easy sell.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

JH: My primary driver is speaking. I still work at the library, but I’m giving over twenty talks in October alone. I blog. I’m on Twitter.

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

JH: No. Speaking is what I enjoy most, and it’s by far what I’m the best at.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

JH: With incredible support. Although my mom says that I made her out to be way nicer than she actually is. She’s wrong.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

JH: Yep. Two things.

  1. Write. No matter what you’re doing, if words aren’t appearing on the page, you’re not writing yet. Don’t worry about people’s reactions during the first draft. Just get it down.
  2. Read The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith. It was the last book about writing memoir that I’ll ever read. And it’s short, if that tells you anything about Marion’s approach.

Josh Hanagarne believes in curiosity, questions, and strength, and that things are never so bad that they can’t improve. At first glance, Josh seems an improbable librarian. He stands 6’7″, competes in strongman contests, and was diagnosed in high school with Tourette Syndrome. But books were his first love: Josh’s earliest memories involve fantastic adventures between the pages of Gulliver’s Travels and a passionate infatuation with Fern from Charlotte’s Web. Everything in Josh’s life–from his Mormon upbringing to finally finding love to learning to control his tics through lifting–circles back to a close connection to books. His upcoming book, The World’s Strongest Librarian, illuminates the mysteries of Tourette Syndrome as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. Currently, Josh is a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library and lives with his wife, Janette, and their son, Max, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book 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, Milton Berle, 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.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

Books, Dexter, Rejection, Art, Masturbation, Good Sex, Bad Sex

Interview from the Dan O’Brien Project

Tell us about your most recent release.
My new book is Mort Morte, with beautiful pictures by Alain Pilon.
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.
mort coverSo begins MORT MORTE 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 Carrol having brunch with the kid from The Tin Drum and Oedipus, just before he plucks his eyes out. Or Diary of a Wimpy Kid as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver
In the end though, MORT MORTE is a story about a boy who really loves his mother.
A new review:
“Who do you think of when someone says black humor? Johnathan Swift? Joseph Heller? Kurt Vonnegut? Perhaps Roald Dahl?
Well, add David Sterry to your list. His newest book, Mort Morte is as black as sin and twice as fun. It all starts innocently enough. Our three-year-old protagonist, vengeful over his father’s depriving him of his binky, seeks revenge by shooting dear-old-dad with the very gun he had given Mort as a birthday present. Be forewarned, though. After that, things take a violent turn. This pithy little book with its delightfully cheeky artwork escorts us through murder after murder, each more hilariously executed than the last, before our hero is figuratively ridden out of town on a Texas-sized rail. Where does Mort go from there? Surely, you jest! Where else but Harvard? Buy a ticket on this one. You’ll enjoy the ride.”
Here’s where to buy it:
From publisher Barnes & Noble Amazon Bookadda (India’s favorite on-line bookstore) Books for less
What else do you have coming out?
I have a new anthology called Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, it’s all writings by people from the sex business. It’s a follow-up to the anthology I put together a few years ago called Hos, Hookers Call Girl and Rent Boys, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times book review. “Eye-opening, astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny… unpretentious and riveting — graphic, politically incorrect and mostly unquotable in this newspaper.” It is a unique sociological document, a collection of mini-memoirs, rants, confessions, dreams, and nightmares by people who buy sex, and people who sell. And because it was compiled by two former sex industry workers, the collection is, like its predecessor, unprecedented in its inclusiveness. $10 crack hos and $5,000 call girls, online escorts and webcam girls, peep show harlots and soccer mom hookers, bent rent boys and wannabe thugs. Then there’s the clients. Captains of industry and little old Hasidic men, lunatics masquerading as cops and bratty frat boys, bereaved widows and widowers. This book will shine a light on both sides of these illegal, illicit, forbidden, and often shockingly intimate relationships, which have been demonized, mythologized, trivialized and grotesquely misunderstood by countless Pretty Woman-style books, movies and media. This is hysterical, intense, unexpected, and an ultimately inspiring collection.
Next up is a book that I cowrote for Norton with my partner Arielle Eckstut and two brain scientists from Duke, it’s called What Are They Thinking? It’s all about this amazing research they’ve done on the teenage brain. It’s absolutely horrifying! But fascinating at the same time. Really gives insight into anyone who’s ever been, or will be, a teenager.
Then I have a novel which I wrote with twins Keith and Kent Zimmerman, they’re best-selling authors who’ve done books with everyone from Johnny Rotten to Alice Cooper. This collaboration is called The Hobbyist, it’s about this strange real-life website in the Bay Area where men rate sex workers, kind of like a Zagat guide for prostitutes. The book can be described as About a Boy meets The Graduate meets The Happy Hooker.
And finally, the 10 year anniversary of my memoir Chicken I coming out in the fall. It’s about when I was studying existentialism with a bunch of nuns at Immaculate Heart College, while I worked as a rent boy, servicing rich ladies in Hollywood. The book has been translated into 10 languages, it’s an international bestseller, and has been optioned by Scott Buck, the show runner for Showtime’s Dexter. He has written a screenplay based on the book.
Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?
I also run a company called The Book Doctors, which helps people figure out how to get successfully published. We started the company when our book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published came out a couple of years ago. Anyone who buys a copy of our book after reading this interview will get a free 20 min. consultation from Oz. We helped dozens and dozens of talented amateurs become professionally published authors. Just send your proof of purchase to: Sterryhead@Gmail.com
What’s the most blatant lie you’ve ever told?
I once tried to pick up girls at Venice Beach by telling them I was a photographer for Playboy.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
This was from the editor of a poetry journal that went out of business about six months after he sent me this very helpful critique of my work I am now the author of 14 books.
How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
First I tried to figure out if there’s anything useful I can get out of the criticism. I’ve had some reviewers say really helpful things as they lashed me with their poison pen. After that, I plan revenge. What can I do to wreak havoc on their miserable lives? That kind of thing.
When are you going to write your autobiography?
I’ve written two memoirs, the above-mentioned Chicken, and I wrote a book about when I was the master of ceremonies at a male strip club called Chippendale’s in New York City in the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps. My boss was shot in the head, executed by a hitman. It’s called Master of Ceremonies.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Absolutely. The hero of my novel was called Mort Morte. The E on the end of the second Mort of course means death.
What about the titles of your novels?
Yes.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
I think if you spend too much time in your imagination you can get stuck there, and it gets hard to interact with the other humans. Of course it’s hard to make money writing novels. But I absolutely love it. As Woody Allen said, there are only two things in life can control, Art and Masturbation. And as a novelist, I get to engage in those two things every day.
What’s your favorite fruit?
Raspberry.
How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?
In my new book, our hero kills four or five of his dads.
Ever dispatched someone and then regretted it?
In the novel I’m working on now, a character gets exterminated. But my readers love this guy, so I kept expanding his role in the book. I’m definitely going to bring him back for the sequel.
Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
I was once thrown in jail for hitchhiking through Highland Park, which is one of the richest suburbs of Dallas. I was 18 at the time and had very long hair.
So when were you last involved in a real-life punch-up?
When I was eight years old, in Hueytown Alabama, my neighbor was really mad at me, I can’t remember why, but he came running straight at me like you was going to kill me. I reared back and punched him right in the nose, and fell like I shot him. It was very satisfying.
If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?
I been watching a lot of Breaking Bad, and I think I would get a big plastic tub and dissolve the person in acid.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Happy. If I can’t be happy, I’d like to be really really rich.
What is your favorite bedtime drink?
Chamomile tea laced with liquid opium.
Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?
I was a building inspector. I fried chicken for a living. I was a telephone solicitation technician. I learned a lot about life from all these medial, deadening, dead-end, underpaying jobs. But I would not want to do them again.
Do you believe in a deity?
I guess I categorize myself as a Pagan humanist. I worship the earth and the sky and food and sex and love and music and creativity.
Do you ever write naked?
I’m naked right now!
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Actually, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who was a teen heartthrob on the show Home Improvement optioned my memoir Chicken so he could play me at 17. Sadly, that never happened. Right now we’re trying to get Justin Bieber to play the lead role in Chicken, he would be portraying a 17-year-old sex worker. I’m not kidding. That’s totally real.
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What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Surrounding yourself with people who like you. I had a lot of trouble doing that in the first 40 years of my life. I really enjoy reading my work in public, that’s part of what keeps me sane as a writer.
Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or a movie? 
I was a professional actor for many years and did portrayed everyone from George Washington to Abbie Hoffman to Leif Ericson. Among many others. I see myself as every character in every movie or book I read or watch.
What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing novel?
Getting people to read your work.
What do you consider your biggest failure?
I trust people too easily. I assume they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. I suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, and I sometimes fly into a crazy rage. I’m really trying hard not to do that, but there are just so many RIDICULOUS HORRIBLE ASSHOLES!
 Do you research your novels?
I tried to do is little research as possible, because I want to make the most money per word as possibly. One of my heroes as a writer is Dr. Seuss. There are only 232 words in Cat in the Hat, and he’s made approximately $1 billion from that book. I don’t think he had to do much research on it. The novel I’m working on now involves the main character living with the Shakers, who were a pretty well known religion in the mid-1800s. The Shakers are famous for two things. They made great furniture. They didn’t believe in sex. There are no more Shakers. I did lots of research on them.
How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
Enormous. As you see above, in my new book, a three-year-old kills his father with the gun his dad gives him as a birthday present. It’s the first book I ever wrote. I think I was trying to work out some stuff.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I got turned onto a lot of great books and music. Beethoven to Nick Drake to Robert Johnson to Taj Mahal to Jean Pierre Rampal. Thomas Pynchon to Charles Dickens to Hunter S Thompson. The list goes on and on.
Do you laugh at your own jokes?
Only if they’re really really funny.
Do you admire your own work?
Only when it’s really really good.
What are books for?
Escape, laughter, adventure, information, thrills, chills, romance. My partner and I wrote a book called Putting Your Passion Into Print, which got updated into The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. So we got a bunch of boxes of the hard cover version of PYPIP, which are essentially useless now. But they throw off a lot of heat when you burn them in the fireplace. And living in northern New Jersey as we do, that can be highly significant.
Are you fun to go on vacation with?
Oh yes. I love to swim. I also enjoy playing all kinds of games.
How do you feel about being interviewed?
I love it.
Why do you think what you do matters?
It keeps me out of trouble. Also, I talk about things that are forbidden in our culture. I was raped when I was 17. It’s in my memoir Chicken. When I get up in public and talk about that, there are always a couple of people in the audience who’ve been through the same thing. And when I talk about it, it gives them license to talk about it. They don’t feel like such a freak anymore. Or maybe they realize that we’re all freaks in one way or another. Part of my mission has been to expose how kids get exploited and abused by grown-ups. I think this is very important. I also write a lot about se work and create a forum for writers who have been in the sex business. I want to normalize this occupation, remove some of the taboo and stigma. I consider this to be important.
 
Have you ever found true love?
Absolutely. Writing Mort Morte actually led me to getting an agent, who turned out to be the love of my life. And we have a daughter who’s five years old, and I have a love for her that is so profound and deep, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
How many times a day do you think about death?
I sometimes go days without thinking about it. But I do have these morbid images of my daughter dying in some horrible way, and me not being able to stop it. Once in a while lying awake at night I imagine what the world would be like without me, and it’s truly a horrible idea.
Are you jealous of other writers?
Constantly.
What makes you cry?
One of the ways I got over posttraumatic stress disorder, and addictions to cocaine and sex, was through hypnotherapy. My hypnotherapist taught me how to unleash the emotions within me. I was raised in an English environment, where no one ever cried. So now all kinds of things make me cry. I can cry watching a trailer for a sappy movie. The other day I was watching Love Actually, which is really cheesy movie. But I wept like a baby. I really enjoyed it.
What makes you laugh?
Buster Keaton. Richard Pryor. Lenny Bruce. George Carlin. People who can make comedy out of tragedy.
What are you ashamed of?
When I was in my 20s I used and exploited people, mostly women, to get what I wanted. I was like a vampire sucking love & sex out of women, and giving nothing in return.
What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
My daughter.
Hiding eyes Edinburgh 1
David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor. 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. He authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his ex-agent and current wife. His novella Confessions of a Sex Maniac, was a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has written books about working at Chippendales Male Strip Club, the teenaged brain, how to throw a great pajama party if you’re a tween girl, a patriciding mama’s boy, World Cup soccer, a sex maniac, and how to get a book published. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Huffington Post, over 100 independent bookstores from the Strand in NYC to Books & Books in Miami to City Lights in SF to Powell’s in Portland, Miami, LA & Teaxas Book Festivals, Michael Caine, 92nd St. Y, Smith College, Brooklyn Book Festival, the London Times, Reed College, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls. www.davidhenrysterry

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 Workman Pitchapalooza in the Wall Street Journal

workman pitchapalooza

“One time, I only held a job for three hours. I hired as a lighting technician at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the early 1970s,” recalled author Steve Turtell. “I nearly killed someone when I lost my grip on a ladder that I was holding up—it just started falling and I froze! Luckily, a lighting cable stopped it from falling all the way over. After that, the guy who hired me asked me to leave.”

Mr. Turtell was in the sunken auditorium at the office of Workman Publishing, an independent publishing house in the West Village on Thursday evening, ready to pitch his book “50/50: 50 Jobs in 50 Years, a Working Tour of My Life.” (He has also worked as a nude artists’ model; a research assistant at PBS; a janitor at Gimbel Brothers; a fashion coordinator at Joyce Leslie; a butcher; a baker; and the director of public programs at the New-York Historical Society.)

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Click —> HERE to read the full story on the Wall Street Journal.

Irvine Welsh on Scagboys, Elitism, Writing, Drugs & Scottish Football

The Book Doctors, book editors and friends to writers everywhere,  & David Henry Sterry, interview Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting & Skagboys, on Huffington Post http://huff.to/135K8zB

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Swedish Writer Uses The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published to Land Major Swedish Publisher

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published – A Surrogate Agent
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The Swedish publishing industry differs from the American in one fundamental way: except for handling foreign rights of already established authors, we don’t do agents. As an unpublished author, you send your unsolicited manuscript directly to the publishing companies, and in the rare an unlikely event of being accepted by one, you’re on your own. The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published helped me navigate in the strange and uncharted waters that are having your book published, acting all the way as a sort of surrogate agent.

Before submitting my manuscript, I read the chapters on The perfect package and Locating, luring and landing the right agent and worked hard on perfecting my pitch and writing the perfect personal query letter – eventually eliciting comments from my publisher on how refreshing it was to read such a professional personal query letter.

After having signed up with one of the major publishing companies in Sweden, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published kept me informed through all the different stages of the process. It allowed me to relax, secure in the knowledge of what would happen next, and made it possible for both me and my publisher to focus on the important issues – namely, making sure my book was everything it could be. Above all, it helped me to be professional and friendly in my dealings with my publishing company: delivering on time, doing slightly more than what was expected of me, and acknowledging the hard and dedicated work several people did for my book. It resulted in an incredible support and personal commitment from my publisher, editor, publicity and marketing team, and sales representatives. If you’re only going to read one section – it’s Agent Relations.

Katarina Bivald is the author of The Readers in Broken Wheel recommends about a Swedish book nerd suddenly stranded in a small town in Iowa. It will be published in Sweden in September 2013. For more information, please contact Judith Toth on Bonnier Group Agency – Judith.toth@bonniergroupagency.se

The Art of the Novel: Agents and Novelists Show You How to Write It & Sell It

3 lucky writers get to present their pitch/query!

July 10, 7pm Word Books Greenpoint, New York 126 Franklin Street Brooklyn

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It’s the greatest time in history to be a novelist.  From the traditional approach of finding an agent and getting a big splashy six-figure advance with one of the Big Six (or Big 5, with the merger of Penguin and Random House into Penguin House), to partnering with a cutting-edge independent publisher, to taking matters into your own hands and DIYing it with e-books and print-on-demand, there are revolutionary new avenues for writers to reach his or her audience.  But first, of course, you have to write a book that people want to read.  You have to learn how to pick the right idea, develop deep fascinating characters, write believable dialogue, build a world, create suspense, hone your voice, craft a plot with a satisfying beginning, middle and ending, edit edit edit, rewrite rewrite rewrite, and use beta readers wisely.  Novelists and agents will discuss how to write and sell a novel successfully.  At the end of the presentation, we will randomly pick three writers who will get 90 seconds to present their pitch/query, which the panelists will then critique.  So, all you novelists, come prepared to listen and learn, and maybe get a chance to kickstart your writing career!

David Henry Sterry is the author of 14 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  He authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his ex-agent and current wife, with whom he co-founded The Book Doctors, who have helped hundreds of talented amateur writers become professionally published authors.  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.  He has been featured everywhere from National Public Radio to the London Times to Playboy, and he is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  His new illustrated novel is Mort Morte, an Alice in Wonderland meets Tin Drum coming-of-age black comedy about gun violence and children, and a boy who really loves his mother. www.davidhenrysterry

Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. For over 20 years, she has been helping hundreds of talented writers become published authors. Arielle is not only the author of eight books, but she is also a successful entrepreneur. She co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand, which grossed over 30 million in retail sales last year, and now has stores from coast to coast, everywhere from Disneyland to Disney World to Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Ayesha Pande is founder of Ayesha Pande Literary Agency.   She loves to work with writers who dare to innovate, take risks, express something meaningful about our world. She develops concepts and ideas and strategizes long-term career goals, sells foreign, film and other subsidiary rights, brainstorms marketing and publicity plans; and advocates for her authors. She is especially passionate about discovering and nurturing talented new writers. She also consults with clients on creating an effective online media platform and advocate for their interests with the publishing companies.  She works closely with her clients to edit and polish their work. She provides every client with personal attention and because of this, she limits the number of clients she takes on. Her interests include literary as well as popular fiction, including young adult, women’s, African-American and international fiction.  She is also seeking authors of nonfiction, including biography, history, economics, popular culture, cultural commentary, memoir, graphic novels, and humor.

Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore on How Writers Can Work with Booksellers to Achieve Success

We first met Gayle Shanks when we did an event at her bookstore Changing Hands in Tempe, Arizona. Never having been to Tempe, our expectations were low. Our expectations were blown out of the water. They packed the place. We were duly impressed. Turns out Gayle and Changing Hands have managed to make themselves an essential part of their community. They’ve got a phenomenal collection of books, amazing T-shirts and merchandise, and a wildly knowledgeable staff that absolutely loves books. They also bring in fantastic authors to do events, and really encourage self-publishers. So we thought we’d sit down and have a conversation with Gayle to see exactly how she has managed to keep her bookstore thriving, and in fact expanding at this moment in history when people keep trumpeting the death knell of the bookstore.

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The Book Doctors: So, what prompted you to get into the ridiculous book business in the first place?

Gayle Shanks: When we started thinking about selling books it wasn’t a ridiculous business. Publishers and booksellers were thriving in 1974. There were dozens of independent stores in most cities and people were reading and and buying books. The chains, Borders and Barnes and Noble were smaller and named B. Dalton and Walden Books. They were mostly in shopping centers and didn’t seem to have a large impact on booksellers on Main Streets. Our stores for the most part were small, intimate spaces catering to our local communities and building readers from childhood through old age.

How has the book business changed since you first got into it?

Dramatically. In addition to the “B” chains expanding throughout the country and knocking out the local stores with their over zealous number of stores and retail selling space, Amazon joined the ranks in the 90s and changed the way the public thought about buying books. It’s not necessary to write about the impact Amazon has had but more interesting I think is the innovative ways that indie stores have struggled and evolved and managed to stay around in spite of the stiff and often unfair practices from the chains.

We keep hearing how bookstores are in terrible shape, but we’ve noticed that there are certain bookstores that are going gangbusters, and we would definitely put Changing Hands into that category. What do you do to keep your bookstore relevant and booming?

We change every day in small and large ways. We respond to trends, to our customers’ suggestions, to our employees ideas, to our community’s desires. We think outside the box and have made our store a destination, a Third Place for people to hang out, interact, bring their children, meet authors, have fun. We are an event producer and have over 400 events — large and small — each year inside and for really large events, outside our store. Our gift department with larger profit margins keeps books on our shelves longer and have helped create Changing Hands as a one-stop shopping experience for our customers. We provide gifts for all major holidays and birthday party presents for many, many children in our town. Books and gifts are a natural together and compliment one another. Our used books and remainders offer bargains for those who can’t afford full price new titles and the quality and quantity of them on our shelves offer people lots of choices and price points.

What mistakes do you see amateur writers making over and over again?

Oh so many mistakes — bad covers, not finding a good editor, writing a story that is great for their family but has no commercial appeal, bad writing in general, boring stories. And, an unwillingness or no knowledge of how to market the book once they have written it. It’s a very hard world for writers and self-published writers have an even harder time than those who can find agents and publishers to support them.

What things do you see professional writers do that help them become successful?

They learn to speak well in public. They are great social media people with followers on Twitter and Facebooks and they write great blogs. They interact with their readers and encourage them to share their books with their friends. They befriend their local bookseller and establish relationships with them that will carry over book after book. They make connections with key buyers at indie stores all over the country and cultivate those connections.

When you read a book, what attracts you and what repels you, in terms of putting it on your shelves?

Good writing and an interesting subject always attract me initially, but I have so many books to read that the arc of the story or good character development must happen quickly or I go on to something else. I am always looking for new authors and rely on my sales reps and fellow buyers to alert me to new books coming own the pike. I relish books by authors that I’ve read and loved and can’t wait for them to write another book. Sometimes I’m disappointed but usually not. I read about a book a week and 52 books isn’t that many to read in a year when there are so many published. I have to be somewhat selective but rarely go a day without starting something new. I have a book on CD in my car at all times and listen as I drive even though my commute is only about 10 minutes.

What you see as the future of books and publishing?

I think people are always going to read and I think the trend of reading on devices is going to be short-lived beyond those whose eyesight prohibits them from reading physical books. I think people are tired of staring at computer screens all day and will, after a few more years, not choose them as the way to read for pleasure. E-books will work for long trips to Europe when the weight of many books is too unwieldy for our suitcases but reading in bed and on the beach and on the couch, in my humble opinion, is best done with a book resting on my stomach or in my lap while I sit on a beach chair.

We understand you’re expanding, how did that come about?

A huge hole exists in our community now that most of the chains have left central Phoenix. Most of the indie stores were closed years ago because they weren’t supported by customers who became enthralled with Amazon and buying ‘cheaper’ at the chains. People have been begging us to open a Phoenix store for years now and the opportunity came up when a developer whose vision of a gathering place for the community centered on a bookstore asked us to partner with them on a project that will be truly exciting, innovative and creative. We are rehabbing an old adobe building and it will include our store, a great restaurant and a collaborative/flexible office space. We are planning a store that is smaller by half the size our current store and it will be carefully curated and include a wine and beer bar as well as a commons area where we can host events. The building is across the street from a light rail stop, will include lots of bike racks and we will encourage the urban shopper to
‘think green’ and shop locally.

What can writers do to connect with their local independent bookstore, and why should they?

Buy books at our stores — not on Amazon. Encourage their friends to do the same. Give readings at our stores. Converse with our customers. Suggest books to the buyers that they are reading and are excited about. Don’t stop talking about how important indie stores are to the community of readers and writers. Understand that without indie stores there will be no discovery of new authors, no support of mid-list writers, no venue for discussion and discourse. No young readers growing up attached to their booksellers and their books.

We hate to ask, but what advice do you have for writers?

Keep writing great books so those of us addicted to reading great books can look forward to the next great read. Stay true to your profession and study it. Learn from your mentors and favorite authors. Stay connected to the culture.

When Gayle Shanks isn’t not working in her garden, she is usually reading or watching reruns of West Wing and ER. She loves contemporary fiction, mysteries and memoirs. Occasionally you’ll find her reading essays by people like Malcolm Gladwell, Paco Underhill, Daniel Pink or John McPhee.

The 7 Minute Rule for Social Media

How to build your social network/platform without getting lost in the time suck.

http://bit.ly/10jygVk

Caroline Leavitt with The Book Doctors

Caroline Leavitt On Overcoming Nasty Writing Teachers, How to Write a Bestseller and Never Giving Up

We first met Caroline Leavitt at the Miami Book Festival. If you ever have the chance to go to the Miami Book Festival, do yourself a favor and don’t pass up the opportunity. Not only is it one of the great international book festivals in the world, it’s also the kind of place you run into people like Caroline Leavitt. Not only is she an incredibly accomplished novelist, she’s also a crackerjack human being. Lots of writers tend to be shy at best — standoffish, churlish and surly at worst. Caroline is the exact opposite. She welcomes you with open arms. If you don’t believe me, just go to her Facebook page. It’s a continuous font of information, fun and love. And she’s also that rare bird who’s managed to somehow write literary novels that sell. So we decided to take a little peek into her world and see what makes Caroline Leavitt tick.

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THE BOOK DOCTORS: How did you get into the book business to begin with?

CAROLINE LEAVITT: I was an outcast in suburbia with three big strikes against me: I was the only Jewish kid in a Christian neighborhood (my mother had to march up to the school to complain about a second grade test that asked questions about Jesus), I was sickly with asthma, and I was smart (only 10 percent of my high school went on to college. The rest joined the navy or got pregnant). I learned to live in books and I discovered I could keep myself from being beaten up by making up stories! The first time I told a story in front of the 5th grade and they didn’t throw spitballs at me or threaten me, I thought, how cool is this? This is what I want to do! But of course I heard no, no, no. When I got to Brandeis, I studied with this famous writer who told me I’d never make it. He used to slam my work in class while tears streaked my face, but I refused to leave the class. The day I published my first novel, I sent it, along with a rave NYT review to the professor, saying, “Hey, you were wrong.” He wrote back and said, “Oh, I just wanted to make you angry enough to keep pushing on.” I laughed and didn’t write back. I kept writing and writing and every week, those stupid self addressed stamped envelopes would bounce back with rejections. One day they came back and I ripped them both up into pieces. I happened to look down and there was one tiny, shining word: CONGRATULATIONS. I had sold a story and that story got me an agent, which got me my first novel.

TBD: What are some of the some of things you enjoy about writing?

CL: The fact that I can live other lives. The fact that I don’t have to dress coherently to do it. The fact that it keeps me sane. I write about what haunts me and I write the books I myself am dying to read. I love it. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

TBD: How do you turn off the voice in your head that says you suck?

CL: What makes you think I can? I can’t turn that voice off. It is always in my head. It always goads me to get online and compare myself to other writers. It pushes me into all sorts of magic thinking like tarot card spells and prayers to the universe: please don’t let me suck. My big revelation was one day when I got the best review I ever received in my life from the Cleveland Plain Dealer — they thought I was a genius! And then five minutes later, I got the worst review I ever received from the Phil. Inquirer who loathed everything the CPD had loved. I had a moment when I realized, not everyone is going to love me. I try to tell myself to go deeper, to just write and write and write about what matters to me, to not think about readers and critics or anything but the story. And I eat a lot of chocolate.

TBD: Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so would you do about it?

CL: I never get it. I’m always working and there’s never enough time!

TBD: Do you ever make decisions in your book based on what you think is going to make the book more commercially successful?

CL: Never. Not ever. You can’t second guess what is going to be commercially successful. You have to write the book you want to write. And wait, actually. My third novel, for a publisher that went out of business, I was pushed into writing a book that was “more commercially.” It got only two reviews, both of them so terrible I could barely leave my apartment for months, and the book died soon after. After that I vowed to never ever write anything I didn’t feel.

TBD: Do you outline your stories or do you make it up as you go?

CL: I’m big on story structure. I studied with John Truby, who mapped out story by means of moral wants and needs, and that’s what I do. Hey, so does John Irving.

TBD: Do you finish the whole draft before you go back and edit, or do you edit as you go?

CL: I do both. I edit as I go, and I must do about ten thousand drafts. Well, more like 23. And I’m serious about that.

I love rewriting because that is where and how you discover the story. It’s like you have this skeleton and you get to put flesh on it and hair and clothes and really wonderful jewelry.

TBD: You have such a fun Facebook life, what is your guiding principle in social media?

CL: Being honest. You can tell when people are trying to do what they think they should do. I’m intensely curious about everyone’s lives and I want to get to know a lot of people. I also don’t hesitate to say how I feel or what’s going on. I am who I am. (Popeye 101) I spend so much time every day alone and writing, that social media is my water cooler. I crave contact.

TBD: Were you working on right now?

CL: My novel Is This Tomorrow, about a 1950s suburb, paranoia and a vanished child, is coming out in May, so I’m doing all this prepublicity type stuff, and I sold my next novel, Cruel Beautiful World (thanks to my 16-year-old for the title!), to Algonquin on the basis of a first chapter and an outline. So I’m writing that now, deeply immersed in that moment in when the ’60s turned into the ’70s and things got ugly.

TBD: Where you see the future of books going?

CL: I think it’s going to boom. People love stories. They need stories. More people are reading on ereaders. I know a few NYT bestsellers who self-published their next book to have more control. Maybe I’m stupidly optimistic but I can’t imagine a world without books.

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

CL: Yep. Never ever give up. Don’t listen to all the no’s but keep writing. Keep writing. My career was over, so I thought, when my ninth novel, Pictures of You, was rejected by my then publisher as not being “special enough.” I had no sales. No one knew who I was. I called all my friends in tears and one suggested her editor at Algonquin. So I wrote up a paragraph about the book and sent it to her. She liked it and a few weeks later, she bought it and all of Algonquin was doing the unthinkable–the thing that had never happened to me–treating me with respect. They took that unspecial book and turned it into a NYT bestseller and a USA Today ebook bestseller and it got on the Best Books of 2011 lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Review. I feel like I’m the poster girl for second chances.

Caroline Leavitt is the author of many novels, several of which have been optioned for film, translated into different languages, and condensed in magazines. Her ninth novel, Pictures of You, was a New York Times bestseller, and was also on the Best Books of 2011 lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. Her new novel, Is This Tomorrow, will be published May 2013 by Algonquin Books. Cruel Beautiful World will be published sometimes in 2015 by Algonquin. Her essays, stories, book reviews and articles have appeared in Modern Love in the New York Times, Salon, Psychology Today, the New York Times Sunday Book Review, People, Real Simple, New York Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, Parenting, the Chicago Tribune, Parents, Redbook, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and numerous anthologies. She won First Prize in Redbook Magazine’s Young Writers Contest, was a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award, a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay, and is a recent first-round finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab competition for her script of Is This Tomorrow. She teaches novel-writing online at both Stanford University and UCLA, as well as working with writers privately. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, New York City’s unofficial sixth borough, with her husband, the writer Jeff Tamarkin, and their teenage son Max.

The Book Doctors Interview Agent Extraordinaire Mollie Glick on Trends, Self-Publishing & Truth Versus Fiction

 

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A couple of years ago we did a Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for books) in Kansas City. Our winner, Genn Albin, gave an outrageously amazing pitch for her dystopian YA trilogy. This led to an enormous buzz around her book, Crewel. Many agents were interested in her and she asked us for our advice on this most monumental of decisions. We told her, hands down, Mollie Glick was the way to go. Mollie got her a mid-six-figure three book deal with one of the best publishers in America, Farrar Strauss Giroux. Mollie is that rare agent: smart, wise, savvy, and nice. So we thought we’d pick her brain about the state of books.

THE BOOK DOCTORS: First of all what made you get into the ridiculous business of books?

MOLLIE GLICK: I’ve always been a bookworm. In fourth grade my teacher told my mother during their parent/teacher conference that I read too much! So I knew I had to find a job where I’d get paid to read. Plus, I actually get to use my English degree!

TBD: Many writers are under the impression that their manuscript just has to be pretty darn good and then once they get an agent, the agent will help them make it better. Is this is fact the case?

MG: Depends on the agent. Personally, I’m very hands on if I have a clear vision for where a novel needs to go… and that vision resonates with the author. But I actually lose out on a lot of projects to agents who tell writers it’s just perfect as it is, and then get scared off when the first round of rejections come in because they don’t know how to help the author revise.

TBD: Writers often look to what’s already been published to help them decide what kind of book to write. Is it too late to wait until a trend has appeared on bookshelves to hop on the bandwagon? Should a writer even consider trends at all?

MG: Honestly, when I take something trendy on it’s in SPITE of the fact that it’s trendy. For example, Josie Angelini’s STARCROSSED series came to me once paranormal romance had already taken off. At first I questioned whether I should still consider it. But then I started reading and I couldn’t put it down. Ultimately, that’s always my litmus test of whether I’m going to offer representation.

TBD: Do you think it’s easier these days to sell fiction based on a true story than to sell a memoir? If so, are there certain categories of memoirs (like mother/daughter stories, alcoholism stories) that this rule particularly applies to?

MG: Nah– I still love memoir! It just has to be really, really good.

TBD:What is the threshold for sales of a self-published book that make you go, “Wow!”? And in what time frame are you looking for with these numbers?

MG: Good question. I’d like to see someone selling at least 5-10k copies and hopefully more like 20k on their own. And it’s not so much about the time frame as what price they’ve set their novel at. A novel selling hundreds of thousands of copies at a dollar a pop is still intriguing, but you do wonder whether those fans will keep buying once the book costs more like ten dollars.

TBD: Do you respond to all queries, even those that are in categories you don’t represent? If not, why not? How can writers avoid the void?

MG: No– we get hundreds and hundreds of queries a week, and many of these authors are querying dozens of agents at once. I can’t respond to every one and still make a living, But my assistant and I respond to every query that looks right for my list within a week or two of receiving the query– and often much sooner. The best way to avoid the void is to make sure you’re querying a genre the agent represents, that your query letter is intriguing, and that it is grammatically correct!

TBD: What are the most common mistakes you see in queries?

MG: Addressing a query to multiple agents at once. Or sending queries on topics I’ve never expressed interest in.

Mollie Glick is an agent at Foundry Literary + Media, representing literary fiction, young adult fiction, narrative nonfiction and a bit of practical nonfiction. After graduating with honors from Brown University, Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at the Crown imprint of Random House, before switching over to “the other side” and becoming an agent in 2003. In addition to her work as a literary agent, Mollie has served on the Contracts Committee of the AAR and teaches classes at Media Bistro and the Grotto. Her instructional articles on nonfiction proposal writing and query letter writing have been featured in Writers Digest. Some of her recent projects include Jonathan Evison’s The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving; Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home; Elizabeth Black’s The Drowning House; Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook; Gennifer Albin’s Crewel and Josie Angelini’s Starcrossed.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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 & 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

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

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David Henry Sterry on Gotham Writer’s Workshop

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David Henry Sterry, Pitchapalooza, Sex Workers and Tips for Writers

This was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done, thanks to Julie Green.

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