As part of our continuing series of interviews with movers & shakers in the rapidly changing world of publishing, Wetmachine today talks with Joel Friedlander, proprietor of Marin Bookworks and creator & curator of the fantastically helpful and interesting site The Book Designer. Joel’s a long-time self-publisher and consultant to other self-publishers. He knows a lot and he’s funny and helpful. See my questions and his answers below the fold.
Joel joins Jane Friedman, head honcho emeritus of Writer’s Digest, and Mark Coker, creator of epub publishing powerhouse Smashwords.com in Wetmachine’s “Whither Publishing” interview series. Continue reading
Recently Chris Kelly (@indiechris on twitter) interviewed me on his site Dun Scaith about so-called “biopunk” fiction. Today I’ve invited Chris to tell us a bit about one of the genres he writes in–Steampunk. This is a genre that, it seems to me, erupted after the publication of The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. It’s a kind of alternate history generally set in Victorian times, when steam engines were a dominant technology –before the widespread adoption of, for example, internal combustion engines, telephones, or electricity. It imagines what might have happened if technologies had evolved differently — say, if computers had developed without electricity. I don’t have too much familiarity with this genre, myself, but I do usually attend the Arisia SF convention each year, and I can tell you that as a subject area for discussion, and as an influence on fashion and so forth, Steampunk has a greater influence in some parts of SF fandom than does futurism or “outer space”. It really does get you to wondering, “what if?”.
Below the fold, Chris talks about a particular aspect of the steampunk aesthetic: what makes it “punk”. So without further ado, take it away, Chris!
Me in my Defcon T-shirt glory
I write & publish fiction for hackers and geeks. I’ve written a novel and two novellas and I have another novel in the works. The baseline genre is cyberpunk/biopunk thriller, although I approach the subject matter in a kind of David Foster Wallace/Pynchonian way. So I’m actually kind of a postmodern metafictiony cyberpunky technothriller novelist. All my books concern hacking of both silicon-based and carbon-based systems.
As I discussed in Adventures in Self-Publishing, there’s no reasonable way for me to get my books into bookstores (all the tech bookstores that used to carry me have gone under). Therefor I have to use other ways to get my books in front of readers. So sometimes I go to places where hackers and geeks and congregate & there set up a table whereupon I put out copies of my books & glowing reviews from geekoid websites & start carnival barking like Billy Mays, selling my books for cash.
I’ve done this for more than ten years.
Does it make any sense to sell books this way? Am I a brilliant self-marketing original or just some crackpot who wrote some crackpot books? I don’t know, but if you read this post I’ll think you’ll have enough info to form your own opinions. (Jane Friedman of Writers’ Digest thinks I’m doing something right, which is some consolation.)
Below, the story of my most recent such gig & biggest one ever, Defcon, Las Vegas, late July/early August 2010. This account includes a rambling disquisition on the whole “hand-selling books on the road” idea in general, with lessons learned from ten years of this idiocy.
(Since Defcon, by the way, I’ve sold the rights to my first novel, Acts of the Apostles. See here for the how and why I sold the rights.)
I recently signed deal with Underland Press, a new, indie publisher founded and led by Victoria Blake, to give Underland the worldwide rights, electronic and print, to publish my novel Acts of the Apostles in any and all languages in basically any format (printed book, ebook, audiobook, etc).
I’ve been the publisher of this book for eleven years. It has sold pretty well as far as first novels (self- or traditionally published) go, and I have gotten a fair amount of attention for being an innovative self-publishing novelist.
I’ve written that as a self-publisher I get to keep the publisher’s cut as well as the writer’s cut, which means that any publisher would have to offer me a pretty sweet deal before I would consider giving my publisher’s cut to them. And I’ve noted (as have many other people) that in an age when more and more book sales are digital (that is, internet downloads of ebooks), the role of the publisher is less and less relevant.
In fact, over the last six weeks, sales of digital versions of my books have outnumbered sales of printed copies by about 60-1.
So why have I sold my rights to Underland?
Because I want Acts of the Apostles to become a worldwide bestseller. I want sales numbers in the millions. Failing that, it would be at least nice to make some money. I’m gambling that Underland offers the best opportunity for that to happen. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I published a Q&A with Jane Friedman, long-time publisher of Writer’s Digest. Today she returns the favor, posting an interview with me on her Writer’s Digest blog. The topic is Building and Enthusiastic Fan Base as a Self-Publishing Author.
I first met Jane Friedman sometime around June, 2001, when she called to tell me that my novel Acts of the Apostles had won the Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Award for that year (in the “genre” category: a juried competition with 324 entrants, ahem; I digress).
That call took place pretty early in Jane’s 12 year career at F+W Media (and pretty early in my self-publishing career, now that you mention it.) Her talent was obvious and she rose quickly. In 2008 she was named the publisher of Writer’s Digest, the No. 1 resource for working writers. In her varied roles at F+W, she was responsible for the management and growth of multiple book lines, annual directories, newsstand and subscriber-driven magazines, online education and services, e-commerce, print and online advertising, as well as national writing events and competitions.
Jane recently left WD to take a position as assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, and she now teaches full-time in the e-media department of CCM. She’s a frequent speaker at writing and publishing events; her focus is on helping writers understand the transformation underway in the media and publishing industries, and how they can be successful and in control of their careers.
I recently asked Jane if she would like to be interviewed for Wetmachine and SelfPublishing Review. She said yes, and I sent her some questions; her answers appear below the fold (and will appear in SPR tomorrow). If you read my recent interview with Mark Coker of Smashwords, you’ll notice some overlap in my questions. I think it’s interesting to see where Jane agrees with Mark and where she differs. But all of her answers are thoughtful and some of them are quite intriguing.
According to a status update on the facebook page of a friend of mine (which means it must be true), this quote:
”At this point we get into such difficult questions as whether a computer program can have purpose, or consciousness, or free will, or even a soul. I do not propose to address those issues now, because I am still chewing on the same questions concerning myself.”
is attributed to Guy Steele (whom fellow Wetmachanic Howard Stearns once told me he wanted to be when he grew up) in the book Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About by (“The Legend”) Donald Knuth, whose fondness for ligatures in TeX among other things, were oh-so-gently lampooned in the book to be mentioned in the next paragraph.
Of course such “difficult” questions are precisely the (ostensible) subject of the famous & brilliant novella Cheap Complex Devices, which you can read portions of right here on this very website, or better still, buy a copy! Any of y’all needing a nudge can start with this review, which gets to the heart of the matter quite nicely.
Smashwords is a service for helping small and self-publishers format ebooks in diverse formats (for example: kindle, epub, PDF, Palm) and distribute them through diverse retail channels (for example Amazon, Apple, BN, Kobo, and Smashwords itself). A few weeks ago I sent Smashwords founder Mark Coker a note asking if I could interview him for Wetmachine & SelfPublishing Review. He said yes; I sent him some questions about the current & future state of book publishing, and he answered. His replies appear below the fold.
I found his answers interesting and direct, and I think you’ll enjoy reading what he had to say.
That’s a line attributed, if I recall correctly, to Eddy Vedder when asked about how he felt the first time he played with Neil Young (whose “Cortez the Killer” is playing through my headphones right now, now that you mention it, as it often does when I’m digging into basso philisophico depth of my own poor over-mined skull).
I didn’t feel like I was in church when I met uber-scientist George Church in his Harvard Med School lab/office six weeks ago, but I did feel a little bit awed and of course impressed. Turns out Church is a nice guy and we had a lovely chat. (How we met & what we talked about is a story for another day; all you CCD buffs might want to brush up on The Bremser Spam; that’s a hint.) I left behind a set of my books, and, somewhat to my surprise, he read them, and what’s more, liked them, and we’ve since become email buddies and we talk about this and that — subject to time constraints, of course, inasmuch as I’m an unemployed sometime novelist and he’s a world-famous scientist in charge of several important projects at various laboratories, not to mention being on the boards of too many companies to count, so sometimes I don’t have as much free time on my hands as he does. Continue reading
The deadline for submitting panel proposals for South by Southwest Interactive kind of snuck up on me. I learned just before midnight last Friday that the deadline was midnight on Sunday. It turned out that I had a bunch of stuff to do on Saturday and Sunday, so only spent a few hours Sat & Sun evening working on my panel proposal. The hard limit for the proposal was 1,500 characters. My first draft was twice as long. So as the clock ticked towards midnight Sunday I took out my trusty machete and started hacking.
I’m not really happy with the final proposal I submitted, but I thought the 3,000 character draft wasn’t that bad. In any event, it’s a panel that I would like to be on, or, failing that, attend.
So anyway, below you’ll find longer draft, the “before machete” version. Soon enough, I hope, you’ll see my “after machete” version on the SXSW website & I’ll bug yzall for your votes. Thanks.
Self-Publishing Novelists 2011: A Report from the Trenches.
We’ve been hearing for a while that new technologies for authoring, designing, printing, publishing, marketing, distributing and consuming books will disrupt the traditional book publishing business model and empower the everyman self-publisher.