The Cost of Pursuing Art

Joan Didion, 1972. (c) Jill Krementz
Joan Didion, 1972. (c) Jill Krementz

From Laura Bogart via Dame:

The best thing that ever happened to my writing life was breaking my ankle. Painful, yes, but it bought me seven weeks of forced bed rest—kind of like a paid writer’s retreat, except for the part where I had to figure out how to get myself to the bathroom.

I’ve written in the margins of life since I was a college student selling cardigans at Lord & Taylor; a graduate student tutoring kindergarteners on the alphabet and prepping high-school seniors for their SATs; an adjunct with a five-class courseload across two campuses; and a late-twentysomething/early-thirtysomething “in marketing and editorial.” Lunch breaks bled into long nights, and long nights bled into weekends. All the while I was chafed raw: I had to eke out my passion in the hours between helping other people achieve their dreams—or at least get what they wanted.

This prolonged, uninterrupted time out of the office was the silver lining of a catastrophic injury.

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One of the Best Things to Happen to My Writing

this last year, has been belonging to an online writers group. There’s 7 of us. We each post about 150 words of our work on our designated day of the week. I post on Saturdays. This is what I posted today:

We got drunk on Havana Club, this fancy rum they have over there available only for tourists and those high in the government. We came home singing, drunk as skunks. I went to sleep in the clothes that I was wearing. My dad stayed with my grandmother. I had never seen him happier–except maybe the time after I graduated from Pratt. The next morning we drove west, from Havana to Pinar del Rio. That’s where we’re from. The strangest thing about this, is that when I saw the truck coming towards us, I didn’t have time to be afraid. I’m sure it was the same for my father. I was fooling around with my camera, and I remember my uncle, who was driving, saying: “look at this guy,” we looked up at the truck, he was trying to pass someone and he couldn’t get back into his lane. This main road in Cuba, the Carretera Central, was only two lanes, one going each way. I heard they gave the driver a ten year sentence. What a useless, stupid thing to do. Like the poor guy wasn’t already in jail, after what he did. He probably never felt free, after what happened. Me neither. . .I haven’t felt free since. . .

Worth Repeating

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Self-publishing is incredibly healthy and growing at a pretty amazing rate. Even the “low” number of almost 77,000 books published amounts to over 210 books a day, 365 days a year. And as far as quality, why is it that no one ever looks through the huge piles of schlock that are included in the 288,355 books from traditional publishers?

—Joel Friedlander

Joel is a self-published author, a book designer and blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. Please pay him a visit!

Thoughts On Self-Publishing My Debut Novel

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Cover photo © by Johannes Frandsen. Used by permission. Please visit http://www.johannesfrandsen.com

(You can read the first chapter HERE. You can join my “publishing group”, a bunch of friends supporting the publication of the book HERE).

After a lot of careful consideration, I’ve decided to self-publish my novel ESPERANZA FARM. Last week I emailed a literary agent who was reading a partial, letting her know that I was withdrawing the manuscript from consideration. Here’s the reasoning that preceded this decision:

I have nothing against the traditional publishing model, a route which continues to work for most authors and one I tried myself for a while. Even if I did not succeeded at it — in most cases it takes a lot of time and persistence — I received enough feedback from people in the industry to know that my book has a pretty good chance of eventually selling to a commercial publisher, if that was what I wanted to do. So this decision is not born out of rejections, of which I received my fair share, but has been more influenced by things I’ve learned in the process of finding and agent and publisher.

The reason I’ve decided to go at it as an independent publisher has more to do with what I believe is better for my book. And by the possibilities of participating in other aspect of the book world that have always captivated my interests.

The facts are that I also love the whole publishing, marketing, sales, design, publicity, entrepreneurial side of books. I love writing, reading, researching, talking about literature, rewriting and reading industry trade news. I love old books, new books, e-books, even comic books. And I’m most fascinated with the future of the book, especially how it intersects with the new media.

So this is a grand experiment and an exciting learning opportunity as well as a challenge.

One of the advantages of publishing your own material is the control that is possible over every aspect of the project. Where will it be printed, what process will be used and what distribution method. Not to mention the actual design components right down to the typeface. A perfect example of this benefit is the photograph I’ve chosen for the cover. A number of months ago, my daughter sent me a link to the website of a photographer whose work she admired. I fell in love with the work of Andrew Moore but was blown away when I came upon this photograph. I knew I had found the cover for my novel. I contacted Mr. Moore directly and soon had an agreement on the licensing terms. (This has changed, since I’ve decided to go in another direction with the cover photograph. I will blog about it soon, just after I’ve notified the interested parties).

This is now done. You can read more about it HERE.

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Books as Treasures Waiting to be Discovered

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The experience of Cecilia Tan, Founder/Publisher, Circlet Press via Digital Book World:

I gave a talk as part of a panel in the Bookbuilders of Boston / Emerson College “Gutenberg to Google” series of presentations on the ebook r/evolution. I promised I’d put it online later for those who missed it, and here it is — my take on “discoverability” and how this key principle is behind three of the hot button issues facing publishers going digital, namely:

1) the transition from physical retail marketplace to the online marketplace
2) the importance of social media and author involvement
3) Piracy! Yarrr!

I didn’t get into ebooks and place myself on the cutting edge of new book technology because I thought ebooks were really cool and I wanted to be where the action was. No, I was essentially FORCED to become an expert on ebooks or my company was dead in the water. I founded Circlet Press in 1992, way back before a little thing we refer to now as “The Returns Crisis.”

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Pros & Cons of Self-Publishing Book Packages

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Via Carla King at MediaShift/PBS:

The rise of self-publishing has made it possible for anyone to be an author. Now, some people are also choosing to outsource their book project by hiring an author services company.

On the surface, this seems much easier than finding and hiring a half-dozen professionals to create your book. (For background on the self-publishing industry and author services companies, please read my previous MediaShift article.) But is it worth it? Below are some of the potential danger zones of working with these services, as exposed by authors who were seduced by the promises of quick and easy self-publishing packages. I also offer some advice about avoiding these pitfalls.

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A Young View on the Future of the Book

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Via The Millions:

The rustle of textbook pages turning, the hasty unzipping of oversized book bags hardly disrupts this venue’s overflowing intellectual energy. The pounding clatter of fingers pressed against greasy laptop keyboards – a soothing symphony to knowledge, it seems – fills the second-floor air, redolent of fresh Starbucks coffee. College students donning the ubiquitous ‘H’ logo, tourists doing likewise, a few bums clad in sweatpants, and the other denizens of Cambridge flock here, traveling up the cascading staircase past the stack of Malcolm Gladwell books to check out all three floors of the establishment.

It is June 2009 and I take my place among the overstressed, sleepless, and nascent literati at the Harvard Coop, a popular bookstore just outside the campus of one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. School is never out here. A seventeen-year-old high school student, I wasn’t researching a thesis. However, I had enrolled in two creative writing classes for the summer and desperately needed to begin on my final project: a piece of creative non-fiction of up to fifteen pages.

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