Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pros and Cons of the Publishing World



It’s mind-boggling how much the publishing industry has changed in the last few years. Thanks to the invention of the e-reader, authors can now self-publish their work and actually have a legitimate chance of being widely read. Amazon has really leveled the playing field in that way. For example, my first novel, Following My Toes, has been downloaded well over 20,000 times! This is incredible to me. Of course, I priced it at 99 cents and that has a lot to do with its success. Years ago when I was first published the Kindle had not yet been invented. At that time I thought a successful month of sales was selling a dozen books.

 However, my second full-length novel, Starring in the Movie of My Life, hasn’t sold nearly as well. It’s gotten great reviews, including ones from Midwest Book Reviews and RT Book Reviews. It’s placed well in several contests. It was even featured on USA Today’s book blog, thanks to But for some reason, it doesn’t sell as much as I hoped it would. Is it the cover? Is it that the subject matter is sort of serious? I wish I knew. I wish the formula for how to write a popular book was clear, but it’s not. It’s such a crapshoot.

 Now Amazon is making it more difficult for indie authors to get ahead. With their new policy against authors reviewing other authors, and against people with personal relationships posting reviews, they are taking down reviews left or right, sometimes without proof of their policies being violated at all. Meanwhile, don’t tell me that the major publishers don’t practice nepotism. Yet only the indie authors are being hurt by this, and it’s a harmful policy indeed. Legitimate reviews are being removed for no reason. Furthermore, sites like Pixel of Ink, and Ereader News Today, won’t let you advertise with them unless your book has a review ranking of over 4 stars. That would rule out bestsellers like Gone Girl or JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, but they don’t need advertising.

 And still the major publishers continue to exclude newcomers and take few chances on unknowns. Do you know the easiest way to get your book published by a major publisher? Become famous first. Seriously. If Snooki can get a book contract, why can’t I? The answer is simple; most people know who Snooki is, but few people know who I am. That’s too bad for me, but what can you do?

I don’t mean to sound bitter. Actually, I consider myself very lucky, because I can write about what I want and potentially find readers. And, despite their unfair review policies, I’m still deeply grateful to Amazon for leveling the publishing playing field.

 I’m aware that November Surprise will appeal to a limited amount of people. Not everyone loves politics the way my main character, Lucy, does. But I’m confident that the love story will appeal to a lot of people, because who doesn’t love a love story? The political and pop culture references simply add flavor. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m aware that a major publisher probably wouldn’t touch it. That doesn’t mean that people won’t enjoy it, though.

This is an exciting time to be a writer. We’re at an impasse, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the publishing industry next. No matter what, I plan to be a part of it!



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Books, Tragedy, and Life

This Friday I was without daycare, so I stayed home with my two-year-old daughter, Pauline, and I dropped my seven-year-old son off at school. It was the first time all year I've been able to walk Eli into school, chat with his teacher, see his classroom as the kids file in, and catch up with the parents of his friends. I was thrilled at the opportunity, and I love his school. There's such a good, friendly energy there, one which I'm sad to say is lacking at the high school where I teach.

So it made it all the more heartbreaking to hear later that day about the school shooting in Connecticut. I imagined that school to be like my son's school, full of promise and enthusiasm on a Friday so close to Christmas. Like most of the country, I am horrified by the news, feel helpless and terrified at the possibility that it could happen again, yet grateful that it wasn't my kids to which it happened. I was haunted in my dreams Friday night by images of violence and guns; the world became an even scarier place this weekend.

Another thing I've been thinking about is the book Matched, by Allie Condi. Besides being a teenage romance, this is a story about a "perfect" society, where people don't have a choice about anything - not their spouse, their job, what they eat, where they live, or when they die. But everyone is healthy and reasonably happy. Cancer and violence don't exist, except in the "outer provinces", which nobody really worries about. But art and self-expression don't exist anymore either. The society believes that too much choice and stimulation will break down the utopia they have worked so hard to create. Maybe it would.

But is it a fair trade off? Normally I wouldn't think so, but I bet if asked, all of the parents who lost a child this Friday would say that it is.

(And just to be clear, I don't think we need to eliminate choice, art, and stimulation to do something about gun violence. I pray that this tragedy will be the start of stricter regulations.)

I also recently read The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker. This is also a story of a young girl, but she is growing up as the world begins to end. The earth's rotation for some reason has begun to slow, and this sets off a chain-reaction that brings about a slow apocolypse. I don't know much about physics, but it all seemed realistic to me, and the story was haunting because it felt so plausible. Yet at the core of this narrative there was a girl who experiencing all the normal roadblocks we're confronted with while trying to become an adult; family drama, trouble fitting in, and young love.

In the end, I reccomend both books because they're well-written and compelling. They will cling to your thoughts after you've finished them, which I believe every good book ought to do.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rove and Tumble

There's a new post on November Surprises, Lucy's political blog. To read about her post-election life, click here.