Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I really enjoyed writing this story for the Sacramento News & Review about self-publishing and print-on-demand. Not only did I interview loads of diverse writers -- one homeless person (Chongo), one homeless advocate (Jason MacCannell), one savvy indie business person (Debbi Preston), and one self-publishing expert and musician (Henry Baum) -- but I also learned a ton about this DIY form of public expression. The use of vanity presses and print-on-demand services is often debated: It's insulting to some, inspiring to others.
For fun, here is my full interview with Henry Baum of Self Publishing Review, who I talked to for this story. He's been published both traditionally and through self-publishing avenues, and had a lot to say about the recent plethora of print-on-demand books and services:
How long has Self Publishing Review been up and running? Why did you start it?
I started it in December 2008. It’s only six months old, but it’s now listed #2 in Google for the term “self-publishing.” I knew when I started it that it was filling a niche. It’s a site I wish existed when I self-published in 2006. I’m about to release a novel and I wanted to impart some of the stuff I learned when promoting my last novel (North of Sunset) - the book got listed in Entertainment Weekly and won the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize. I also wanted to learn some new things along the way. Scribd didn’t exist the last time around. I also wanted to help legitimize self-publishing because I think it’s a totally valid route given the current publishing climate.
About how many hits per day (or week) does your site get?
It gets around 700 a day.
Are you a self-published writer? Do you read strictly self-published books or both?
See above about my novel, North of Sunset. My next novel, The American Book of the Dead, is coming out in 2009. I haven’t even bothered with the query process for this book - aside from a couple of agents just to test the waters. I’m not a writer who’s self-published because I’ve had no other luck. I’ve had 4 literary agents. My first novel was published by Soft Skull Press, re-released by Another Sky Press. I’ve been published by Canongate in the U.K. and translated into French and published by Hachette Litteratures. I’m better read overseas, but the American market’s been harder.
I definitely read both self-published and traditionally published books, but since I started this site I have so many people counting on me to read their books that I feel sort of guilty reading anything else. I’ve got a pile of review copies waiting for me.
What sort of stigma goes along with being a self-published writer? In what ways do you disagree with these opinions of book critics? For example, many critics say that self-published books lack quality or merit, simply because books need lots of editing by professionals.
There are certainly many bad self-published books. For some reason, people have got it into their heads that the bad self-published books represent all of self-publishing. This doesn’t make sense, any more than a bad blog represents all of blogging, or a bad indie rock CD represents all of independent music. Self-publishing just gets a very weird and unfair rap. Hundreds of thousands of books are self-published, so to say “they’re bad” is a gross overstatement. As self-publishing becomes more legitimate, you’re going to see even more books self-published: more bad and more good.
It’s the stigma that actually attracts me to self-publishing - because it’s so unwarranted. On the face of it, self-publishing is a great development. No writer is locked out, everyone’s got a voice. This should be celebrated. But some maybe think a book is more sacred so they criticize a bad novel in a way that they wouldn’t criticize a bad CD. I fully acknowledge that there are poorly-conceived self-published books. A lot of them. I just don’t think it matters. I mean, I wish people would take more care with their work, but the stigma is fading because there’s more and more well-executed work and people realize that the criteria for getting traditionally published is increasingly narrow.
Why do you feel self-publishing should be a first route for writers, not a last resort after bad luck with traditional publishing houses?
I actually don’t think it should be a first route for writers. The main problem with self-publishing is that distribution to brick and mortar stores is so much more difficult - and in-store purchases account for 90% of books sales. So traditional publishing is vastly superior in that department. We’re heading to a future where a print on demand machine will be in every bookstore and everyone has an e-reader, but we’re not there yet.
At the same time, the query process can be enormously frustrating and deflating. One of the more liberating things about self-publishing is that you know you’ll always have an outlet. A manuscript doesn’t have to be stuck in a desk drawer. Your book’s future doesn’t have to be decided by someone you’ve never met who may have very different tastes, or who just may not be able to take a chance. Self-publishing’s a good choice for any writer who wants to avoid this process .
One of the things that people say about self-publishing is: “I’d rather write than have to market my books.” Given the fact that you need to market your books anyway and that you’re probably spending a fair amount of time querying and waiting on a response, this doesn’t seem like a selling point.
How many self-published books do you receive a month for review purposes? (And are they mostly fiction, non-fiction, or…?) How do you decipher between the good and the bad?
I probably receive 25 books a month, both print and ebooks - it’s the reason that I don’t have a lot of time left over to read other books. Most submissions are fiction - that’s always how it’s been since the beginning.
I’m much less judgmental of self-published books than I am of traditionally published books. That doesn’t mean I’m leniant - it just means I read self-published books differently than other books. I don’t really like a writer like Dean Koontz, for example. But when reviewing a self-published book I understand when someone has succeeded at writing a well-done Koontz-style book. I can appreciate that, even if it might not be something I’d read on my own. Actually, reviewing for the site has made me less cynical about books in general.
Is there a print-on-demand Web service that you think is particularly great? There are so many!
I’d recommend everyone use Lightning Source over a service like Lulu - books are priced far cheaper, so bookstore distribution is more likely and it’s just less out of pocket to ship books yourself. That requires a bit more work and extra funds for an independent book designer, which is likely more expensive than buying a book package with iUniverse or AuthorHouse, etc., but it’s more professional.
What is the biggest piece of advice you could give to a first-time self-publisher?
Don’t worry too much about book sales. It’s hard for a traditional indie press to sell 3000 books. If a self-publisher is able to sell 500 books, that’s a great accomplishment relative to other publishers. But that’s not the only issue. One of the greatest arguments I have for self-publishing is you don’t know what can happen just by getting your book out there. I’ve corresponded with very many interesting people, readers/writers - traded books, traded CD’s for books. Found an agent. These relationships are incredibly important and can be really fulfilling, so it’s not just about how many books you sell, it’s who you reach.
Do you feel like self-published books are often more daring or challenging than traditionally published books? (Perhaps they fall into a category that differs immensely from traditionally published books.)
Actually one of my complaints about self-published books (at least what I’ve seen through Self-Publishing Review) is that many of them are attempts at being mainstream commercial fiction. See the Koontz answer above - even if I can appreciate when something is well done, I’d still love to see more daring stuff. I’d love to see self-publishing have a similar vibe to it as punk rock - anyone can do it. Personally, my own novel is science fiction, but I’m not a science fiction writer. It’s not overly experimental, but I knew agents were going to have trouble placing the book because it’s not easily marketable. My last novel is a “thriller” but not entirely conventional, and I’m not going to change my writing according to the market. I’m not even sure I could - I write what I like to write, it’s what I think I do well.
What do you like best about self-published work?
That it’s publishing’s future. Everything you see said about publishing changing is starting in the world of self-publishing - ebooks, Scribd, online marketing. Traditional publishers are starting to mimic self-publishers who have had to scratch and claw any way they could to get noticed. I like that self-publishing gives power back to the artist and away from gatekeepers who too often publish books based on the current market and not the quality of the writing.
But that’s not really about the “work.” I love finding books that are as solid as traditionally published books. It’s confirmation that I’m not totally deluded about self-publishing’s promise. And there are a lot of good books that are self-published - anyone who says otherwise is going by conventional wisdom and hasn’t actually picked up a self-published book in a while.
Anything else you’d like to add…?
I’ve started a self-published book group - Backword Books - it’s a collective of literary self-published writers. All well-reviewed with a collection of “nice” rejection letters. It’s a new concept - a combination of self-publishing and the traditional literary press. It’s not a publisher because we still all use different services to print, but we’re gathered together in one place to help improve our marketing reach and help readers find good books to read.
Note: Photo is of Chongo, who uses the word "bitchin'" a lot, as you can tell in this awesome pic , owned by SN&R.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Stickin' it to The Man:
Oh, and for fun...
Why aren't more shows like this these days?
And, can I just say Aunt Jackie tooootally reminds me of Reno 911's Deputy Trudy Wiegel. Is that crazy?:
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Check out my interview with the hard-hitting lady here: Vibrations from the West.
Oh, and when you pick up the latest issue of my other favorite magazine in the world, BUST, turn to page 10: Tom Tom Mag got an awesome shout-out.
While you're in the consuming mood, pick up the Splinters' brand new 7-inch, "Splintered Bridges."
We played with them earlier this year in Sacramento, and it was super fun.
To convince you of their garagey riot-grrrly '60s poppy greatness, here's a fun video for a song that really IS cool:
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Oh, and speaking of "History," the song is on our new vinyl record (limited edition surf green vinyl!), "In the Key of Calloused Fingers," (see below) which you can purchase through our MySpace, or download (but not get the vinyl -- boo!) on iTunes.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I like interviewing drummers who still feel "new" at the instrument, because it's something I can relate to, and it gives me a lot of inspiration. Colleen was super humble and nice. She's a lot like me in that her boyfriend kind of just insisted that she learn the drums.
The Spires just released a new LP called A Way of Seeing in May, and I really like it. Check out the music video for their song "TAM" that I posted with the article.
Click here, to read the interview for Tom Tom.
For fun, here's a music video for one of their older songs, which makes me miss Ventura like crazy, because its so pretty.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Dunn's geeks do not tape together their broken glasses or hide from large groups at social events. Instead, they soak up the spotlight on stage, taking pride in missing limbs and deformities as adoring fans quite literally worship them in cult-like ways. Geeks are carnival freaks, and Geek Love is a novel about the traveling Binewskis, a seriously dysfunctional carny family.
When Al Binewski realizes his family's good ol' fashioned traveling show is lacking a truly marvelous act, he decides to recruit his wife (trapeze artist and live chicken eater), Crystal Lil, to breed a family of freaks. Feeding her lots and lots of drugs and after several botched pregnancies, they create: Arturo the Aquaman (flippers for arms and legs), Iphy & Elly (twins joined at the waist), Olympia (bald albino dwarf hunchback) and Fortunato AKA Chick (a "norm" with dangerous powers.)
Olympia tells the story from her own perspective, which ends up being like a long, thrilling and often times nauseating (but in a good way?) carnival ride. The book is hilarious, disgusting and completely heart-breaking. In Dunn's world, freaks are beautiful and anyone else is ugly and base. With a completely foreign backdrop, Dunn showcases the ugliness of power and greed and has you second-guess you're own opinions of "normal."
Dunn's profound reflections on parental love, motive for procreation and family value are worth noting, especially considering the story is told by a child for most of the novel. Particularly, the reversal of maternal roles with children and their parents, or, more interestingly, the portrayal of youth/infanthood as not the age of innocence, but as the age of pure insight due to barbarism.
Here is my favorite "Wow" excerpt:
It is bitter for the young to see what awful innocence adults grow into, that terrible vulnerability that must be sheltered from the rodent mire of childhood. ... How deep and sticky is the darkness of childhood, how rigid the blades of infant evil, which is unadulterated, unrestrained by the convenient cushions of age and its civilizing anesthesia. Grownups can deal with scraped knees, dropped ice-cream cones, and lost dollies, but if they suspected the real reasons we cry they would fling us out of their arms in horrified revulsion. ... We need that warm adult stupidity. ... We make do with it rather than face alone the cavernous reaches of our skulls for which there is no remedy, no safety, no comfort at all. We survive until, by sheer stamina, we escape into the dim innocence of our own adulthood and its forgetfulness. (105-106)Katherine Dunn (pictured above) is a great writer and radio personality from Portland who is most famous for covering the boxing world as a journalist. She has contributed extensively to the outstanding Willamette Weekly. Check out Geek Love (1989), an oldie but goodie, if you can handle dark, thought-provoking, table-turning plot. After all, it was nominated for a National Book Award!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Here are the albums that I end up putting on. Because they are beautiful, perfect (only because they are imperfect) and utterly tragic:
1. Pink Moon- Nick Drake
And my favorite song off of the album, "Place to Be":
2. Sea Change- Beck
Cheesy/but also kinda cool video for "Lost Cause" off of the album:
3. Either/Or- Elliott Smith
"Between the Bars" is my favorite Elliott Smith song. Disclaimer: This video will make you cry:
What are your three favorite melancholy records?
Saturday, June 6, 2009
So, I recently joined a committee that is setting out to revitalize the Davis Second Friday ArtAbout. We (various Davis gallery staff-members & owners) are starting by straight-up getting more art all over the Davis downtown area (not just in galleries) -- in cafes, shops, restaurants and salons. I asked a lot of my artist friends if I could put them on our list of interested participants, and we've already gotten them some shows in downtown businesses.
I am most excited about former Aggie co-worker, Rosa Chou, who will be showing her series of watercolor illustrations "Creatures of Habit" at Barista Brew on G Street. I am so proud of Rosa, because this is one of her first solo shows.
I am SO purchasing one of her adorable pieces:
Friday, June 5, 2009
Don't you just love it when you whine to yourself "Man, there is NOTHING to eat at home!" and then realize you have a few random things that you totally forgot about that are just straight chillin' in the veggie crisper?
The resulting dinner for one:
1. Roasted Beets+Feta+Olive Oil+Salt+Pepper
2. One Fresh Tomato+Garlic Salt+Pepper+Feta
3. Five Asparagus Spears Cooked at 450 Degrees in Olive Oil+Garlic Salt+Pepper
Honestly, a stash of olive oil, garlic salt and feta rescues any random vegetable sitting around that isn't enough for a whole meal on it's own. (And squeezing some lemon on it all makes it even better.)
I probably say this a lot, but seriously my short work stint at The Greek in Ventura changed my life. Feta (and lemon) tastes great on evvvverything.
Just ask Mr. Panos. Here he explains what da Greeks eat on Greek Easter:
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I recently became the West Coast contributor for Tom Tom Magazine, a new Webzine for and about female drummers. Each month, I will be posting an interview with a West Coast drummer I admire, as well as reviews and other fun feminist/drumming-related stuff.
Check out my interview with Lauren Hess of Agent Ribbons!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Surprisingly, everyone dug us even though we weren't metal at all. In fact, I felt like I was in the Jackson 5, because girls were SCREAMING hysterically. It was amazing, but I could not sing very well while laughing my arse off.
I also slammed on the drums a bit more furiously than usual. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that we played right after an intense hardcore band and also due to the fact that I was slightly drunk.
The result was this massive bruise on my shin from my kick pedal, which I didn't notice until this morning. (Thanks IPA keg!) I named it Bruise Willis.
Yes, I am blatantly showing off some shoes that I think are adorable.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Okay, I know that "cougar" is a pretty sexist term. One of the many reasons: There is no other "buzz word" for an old dude with a young girl (except for maybe "sugar daddy," which still shames the girl in the relationship, rather than the man). The list goes on: It's an animalistic term, it's not thought of as "powerful" but predatory and negative, etc. (Jezebel blogger Dodai explains better than me.)
Double-standards and sexism aside, I can't help but be fully entertained by TV Land's reality show "The Cougar," which neighbors Alicia and Justin (whose cable I borrow, since I am a cable-less hippie) make fun of me for enjoying on the regular. Honestly, I will watch any reality dating show and be stoked. Why? Because I like to make fun of people and form fake alliances with TV characters. Duh. (Do you yell at the TV during football? I yell at the TV during "Rock of Love.")
An example of my obsession is this direct quote from Alicia on G-Chat this morning whilst talking of plans for the evening: "I'm pretty sure all you'll really want to do though is drink wine and watch the cougar." Wine on the couch on a Friday night? How very "cougar" of me.
And, so, that is why I have decided that I may be what I like to call a CLIT: Cougar Lady in Training.
That's right. The cougar is changing thanks to the trend of irony. CLITs are the "new and improved" cougars: We still like our white wine, but we don't have younger boyfriends. Why? Because boys under 30 don't know how to handle this CLIT.
Monday, May 25, 2009
|Michael & Michael Have Issues||Premieres Wed, July 15, 10:30pm / 9:30c|
|Preview - The Farting Butterfly Sketch|
Pretty excited for the new show, Michael and Michael Have Issues with favorites Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black. It'll premier July 15 at 10:30 pm on Comedy Central.
I met Showalter last year when he performed with John Vanderslice in San Francisco for the SF SketchFest. As the often true celeb stereotype goes, he was a lot shorter than he looks on-screen. He also was pretty serious-like. I still love him, though, as you can tell in the below picture:
Oh, and if you aren't already following good ol' MIB on Twitter, you should definitely start. Dude's become the only reason I log-on to Twitter these days. Here are some examples of my favorite tweets:
"Today is my daughter's kindergarten recital: BOOOORING!!!"
"Made a campfire with the kids: fantasized about the fire getting out of control and destroying everything. Then ate s'mores."
"Back from watching "Earth." SPOILER ALERT: polar bears are in trouble."
"Just realized that "rampage" can be rearranged to make "grampa" + e. Coincidence?"
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I blame "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," whose art director is actually a former co-worker over at the UC Davis Department of Theatre & Dance:
Or, maybe it all started with this stoney dragon that made friggin' books look delicious:
Whatever the reason, I give you a list of my favorite food frenzied fiction (say that 3 time fast):
1. The Sopranos
It's unfortunate that I couldn't find a good clip with Carmella Soprano cooking the Sunday dinner. Janice is wacky, but this clip is an example of how they go all-out with introducing the food in every scene. There's something about the Italian American pronunciation of classic dishes: gabagool (AKA capicola ham), rigot pie (ricotta pie), chicken parm, etc. Tony's always eatin' "prosciut" straight outta da fridge (and fainting from panic attacks at the sight of it), and good ol' Carm is always re-heating leftover baked ziti for Tony after a hard day's work at Ba-Da-Bing, the local strip joint. Don't even get me started with Vesuvio, the Italian restaurant the wise guys frequent. My favorite food-related Soprano quote is from the big guy himself, yelling at Carmella on the phone: "Yeah, yeah. I'll pick up some sausages. Whaddaya want?! HOT OR SWEET?!" How about both, Tony?
Thankfully, I'm not the only person who worships Sopranos food. Check this out:
2. Eat Drink, Man Woman
In case you've never seen it. It's an Ang Lee film about the three daughters of a Chinese master chef. I think the film starts with dad gutting a fish, which ends up being this elaborate dish in like a matter of cinematic minutes. I guess you could say I was fish-hooked from the get-go. (Good one, Glover.)
3. Like Water for Chocolate, the book
Sigh. Magical realism. The genre gets me every time. Poor Tita cannot marry who she loves, so she cooks and cooks and cooks things like quail in rose petal sauce, turkey mole with almonds and sesame seeds and Chabela wedding cake. I love me some Mexican food. But MAGIC Mexican food (that has medicinal qualities)? Even better. Other magical realists who concoct tasty words: Francesca Lia Block as well as the obvious Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende.
4. Mad Men
All around this addictive AMC show is visually stunning: the beautiful actors, the sets, the costumes and perfect early '60s lingo. But, OMG, the food. First off, the cocktails: Bloody Mary's with huge celery slices during business meetings? Yes, please. A little bourbon and a cigarette? Sure. How about an Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins? Mmm. Secondly, the food: Betty's meatloaf? Of course. Negotiations at dark restaurants with all-you-can-eat oysters topped with lemon and chives? Duh. Ribeye in the pan? Yes, with butter. "Joy of Cooking" fans and alcoholics everywhere are STOKED. And so are bloggers. A ton of foodie blogs are dishing out Mad Men-inspired recipes.
Sorry dudes. I simply could not exclude this bang-a-rang imaginary feast. GIANT turkey legs and weird bright blue smurf pies looked amazing when I was 10 years-old and they still do.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Watch this to see what the 13 year-old fashion blogger is all about.
She gets an average of 60 to 100 comments on every post about her crazy awesome fashion sense. I'm guessssing her parents have PhDs and are totally loaded, because who would create this kind of mini-adult?
Regardless, welcome to Gurl, Inform Me. I will do my best to give you a laugh or point you toward a neat discovery. I doubt I will ever be as cool as Savvy Tavi (who blogs about how difficult it was being a toddler in the '90s), but I promise you that I will never thank you for being "epic," as the moppet quite articulately says in her video. Enjoy (if you can get through the whole thing). Gad, that lisp is adorable!
After watching it, I can safely say that Little Miss Twiggy is a cute combo of these three:
1. Chris Crocker
2. Michelle Williams
3. Cindy Brady
Who wouldn't love her?