Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 4 Apr 01 13:44
M. J. Rose is one of the best known success stories in e-book publishing. It all started several years ago with her book "Lip Service," which she published online. After lots of hard work promoting and selling the book, "Lip Service" was published by PocketBooks. Using her experience in ePublishing, M. J. co-authored (with Angela Adair- Hoy) another book, "How to Publish and Promote Online." What's really interesting about that is that when "Lip Service" was published, M.J. Rose was interviewed right here in inkwell.vue, and now that her epublishing experience led to the writing of a second book, we are delighted to have her with us again! Her latest book "In Fidelity" is in print and winning raves. Kirkus called it "a well crafted study of infidelity... fast paced... and altogether satisfying." See www.mjrose.com for more these books and what else she is up to! We'll be holding a slightly schizophrenic interview with Melisse, with Mark Binder asking her questions about electronic publishing and Joe Flower asking questions about "In Fidelity." (mostly - at least that's the plan.) Mark Binder is an author and storyteller. His novel "The Brothers Schlemiel" is being serialized in print and via email subscription.(http://www.chelmtales.com) He is proud of the fact that The Brothers beat Stephen King's serialized e-novel. Mark is also co-host of the WELL's Macintosh conference. Joe Flower is an author, speaker and consultant on the subject of creating change. He is also a futurist, primarily in the area of healthcare. He writes, speaks, and consults about the future and how to build a better one. In addition to authoring or co-authoring several books including _China's Futures_ and _Age Wave_, he is also a longtime WELL member and co-host of the WELL's Writers Conference. You can read more about Joe and his accomplishments on his Web page, ImagineWhatIf.com. Now, please join me in welcoming Melisse, Mark and Joe to inkwell.vue!
Mark Binder (realfun) Thu 5 Apr 01 17:10
Hi y'all. Let me get the ball rolling by asking a fairly difficult question... Melisse, what's the difference for you as an author between the electronically published work and the printed versions?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Thu 5 Apr 01 18:36
It is a very complicated question - and perhaps not for the reasons one would imagine. Right now the print versions of my books are identical to the electronic versions - except in my non fiction book where the links are live in the electronic version. In the future I don't imagine the two versions will be as similar. As we progress into electronic books, we will begin to play with more and more multi media to enhance our messages - or at least I plan to. For anyone interested in what we can do even now - and what will become more commonplace once the average reader has the right device and enough bandwith to enjoy the experience - go visit www.nightkitchen.com and play with a TK3 book. Or go to www.livereads.com and download one of their free ebooks and see what they are doing to make ebooks speical and value enhanced. But specifically to answer your question in the present. The biggest difference is the perception. There is a literary snobism still in place that e authors are not real authors. Elecrtronic books still don't get much respect. And I'm saying that as an author who is both in print and in e. I still meet people who hear that I am published electronically - and don't wait to find out that I am also published tradtionally in print - and literally walk away shaking their heads. One is not a real author even in 2001 - many people feel - unless one is published in print by a traditonal press. And that's a shame. But we've come along way in just two years and I am sure that in two more this attidude will be even less prevelant. I believe that just as there are hardcover books, trade paperback books, mass market paperback books and audio books there are ebooks. And that some books will even bee more interesting in the e format.
Joe Flower (bbear) Thu 5 Apr 01 20:54
Good to talk to you here, Melisse. This e-book thing is fascinating. There are technological advances now that within a few years are likely to give us e-books that have the look and feel of traditional books - that is, made of pages that look and feel more or less like traditional paper, yet are actually electronic displays, capable of displaying anything, and of changing in an instant. What do you think this will do to the advance of e-books?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 6 Apr 01 06:39
Hi Joe. Nice to chat with you too. I've seen some of the prototypes for all those "new fangled" inventions. They are amazing and it will be fascinating to see which makes it to market first and who the adopters are. But the bottom line on all of this ebook business is this: Once the devices are as good quality a reading experience, as cheap a reading experience,as simple a reading experience as a book - then we will have various versions of devices to read books on and people wll really read them. As exciting as all this is - the basic book is still really a pretty marvelous invention that doesn't cost all that much and is very portable. RIght now very few people are loving the reading experiences of ebooks. Most people who are reading ebooks are reading them on Palm Pilots or Laptops. The dedicated reading devices are just not catching on.
Mark Binder (realfun) Fri 6 Apr 01 12:17
I agree. Paying $300 for the ability to read something at a lower resolution is one of the major drawbacks currently. As an author interested in self-publishing, though, I find that the biggest drawback is in terms of form -- what form do you put your manuscript in in order to publish it? Do you use PDF? (Adobe's Portable Data Format) do you use something else for the Palm OS? And you can't even get at the Gemstar Ebook format anymore.... What kind of suggestions do you have for aspiring e-writers?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 6 Apr 01 13:23
Just use Adobe PDF, and don't worry about encryption. Use ebooks as marketing toos for now - use them to advertsise your work as a writer.Give them away free. Even the bestsellers are selling less than a 1000 ebooks a month - or sometimes a quater - often a year. Its not about money now - its about using ebooks as browsing tools to seel the print book or the Print on demad books.
Mark Binder (realfun) Fri 6 Apr 01 18:26
I'm not sure I follow you. One of the problems I had with "The Brothers Schlemiel" was that the people who didn't pay for their subscriptions stopped reading. The people who did pay really enjoyed it. I know it sounds self-serving, but it seems to me that when you, as the reader, buy something, you own it in a different way than getting it for free. The problem with e-books is the expectation that it's free. So, how does it generate the other sales?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 6 Apr 01 19:09
Well in your case - you aren't selling a print version - which I don't agree with as a strategy. And I think paying for an email serial also is a complicated venture. Why don't you tell me all the specifics of what you tried and what happened - and what your goal was? But in general - I don't think that giving away a free ebook lessens the value of the story or of the print book any more than I think free sites have less percieved value than paying sites . I don't value Salon less than the Well because Salon is free and I pay ten dollars a month for the Well. I think that people still prefer paper books to ebooks and that given an ebook as a browsing tool they will stop reading it at a certain point and buy the print book if they are given this option. Serveral people and companies have been experimenting with this and having great results. Livereads.com found this happened with Orpheus Emerged. They onlly sold a few hundred ebooks but sold thousands and thousands of print books. Seth Godin gave away his ebook free for six weeks and then make the hardcover available for $40 for onlly a 180 page book and sold over 35,,000 hardcovers in less than three weeks. The ebook was the only marketing he did for the print book. Likewise with Doug Clegg - a horror writer - a Bram Stoker winner. He gave away his ebook for free in an email serial. And then watched his print sales soar. In a year and a half - he gave away two different ebooks online - and his print sales moved from 10,000 copies per print book to over 100,000 print copies per book. No other marketing or advertising. I can go on. But why don't you tell me what you wanted from your serial and what happened.
Joe Flower (bbear) Sat 7 Apr 01 04:59
So the e-book, for these two authors, at least, becomes a teaser for the print version. I can see that, especially for the kind of book you would refer to again - say, a non-fiction book in a field that you care about. At this stage, the print book is still a lot more convenient to have on the shelf. If it was a useful book, I would want both versions.
Mark Binder (realfun) Sat 7 Apr 01 06:06
Wow. I'm blown away by those stories.... What I had hoped for was a huge number of subscriptions to the serial, which would help support me while I wrote it. I got a bunch -- but not a whole lot. As you said, it's difficult to convince people to pay for an email serial. One of my biggest questions/concerns about ebook sales is how much time you actually spend marketing versus how much time you spend working on the book. How much time did you spend networking and doing those things?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sat 7 Apr 01 09:52
Well Mark - about your serial - its better to do a paying email serial after you are a bestselling author. The form itself is so unusal that a newish author with a new form is double the sales work. Doug Clegg - see above - gave his email serial out for free and he'd had 10 novels already published. I bet if you'd been selling a pod version of the book at the same time a number of people reading the serial would have bought the book. As to marketing/writing. When I first started all this in '98 I spent much more time marketing than writing. In fact I didn't write for a year. But now I spend much more time writing. I have the marketing down to a science - lists of people to contact via email when something new is coming out - lists of websites to have review copies sent to - lists of special folk who get automatic free copies of my new novels. I think that it should take an author a few months to really do their research and build up a web presence and then if you are organized the maitenance is not terribly time consuming. I'd say these days I spend about five hours a week - or one afternoon - devoted to marketing and the rest of my time split between being a journalist and a novelist.
Joe Flower (bbear) Sun 8 Apr 01 15:17
So you still market yourself now that your novels come out from a major publisher?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 8 Apr 01 15:36
Yeah... I still do. As much as I wish this weren't true - but publishers don't quite have enough time and manpower to do as much as is needed in terms of publicity. I was really lucky - Pocket bought table space for In FIdelity - the new novel - in both Borders and BN for two months. That is a really big deal and I was very appreciative that I got that. But I've been doing all kinds of online publicity. And imagine I always will for my books.
jane hirshfield (jh) Sun 8 Apr 01 16:45
Maybe you could talk a little about the fiction books--was the process of writing any different for you the second time around than the first? How did the different themes (both books are about relationships of various kinds, I realize) come to crystallize in each case in your mind? All at once, or over the process of writing as exploration? (And how's In Fidelity doing?--but that's marketing again, and I'm hoping you'll be talking some in here as a writer, not only a writer/expert on various publishing issues.)
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 8 Apr 01 20:34
Oh bless you Jane. I do so want to talk about writing not marketing. The themes of my first novel - Lip Service - came to me all at once - in a flurry of an idea over one full day. But the nuances of the book and the full characterizations evolved slowly with each rewrite of the book that I did. And I did many. I think the book took me about sixteen months to write. And looking back at it now - I wish I could still rewrite parts of it. In Fidelity - as an idea came to me more slowly - over weeks not days. In one way it was easier to write becuase I was more at ease as a writer - already having been pubished and knowning that 'PocketBooks very much wanted to publish me again. But I was also sometimes frozen as a writer becuase becuase LIp Service had just come out and I was getting very polarizing reviews. People either loved it or hated it and I was trying to ignore both the good and the bad and not be unduly influenced by any of the comments as I devolped the themes and characters in In Fidelity. In Fidelity was more of an exploration for me as a writer. And I was more willing to let the book and the characters lead me than I was with Lip Service. I had the ideas of what I wanted to explore - of the questions I was asking myself - and asking of my characters. But I wasn't always sure what we were all going to discover or where we were going to wind up. And also there was this awful stuff going on in my life while I was writing In Fidelity - and becuase of what was going on - how much of In Fidelity I wrote in a daze - to escape my reality. My mom had died just the year before - and within days of starting to figure out In Fidelity the man I live withalmost died and then was very ill for the next fourteen months. And I just kept writing. Last summer, when I had to read the finished proofread manuscript - I got phyically ill and could barely get through the first paragraph no less the whole book. I was thrown back in time with each sentance to all the hospital rooms and tenuous moments of that awful year when Doug was first in critical condition, then on dialyisis and finally, blessedly got a kidney transplant. As to how In Fidelity is doing - it's doing well - and just went back for a second printing. The few places that did review it - The Charlotte Austin Review, PW and Kirkus - and a some online places like the Bookreporter and Bookbrowse - have really given it great reviews. But the book is not doing as well as those few reviews would indicate and that's becuase In Fidelity has had limited exposure becuase it was a trade paperback original and unfortunately 99% of all review sources only review hardcovers. So all the sales we have gotten have all been word of mouth. Which is great. But not enough. (Is it ever enough?)
Mark Binder (realfun) Mon 9 Apr 01 06:26
Can you give us a little taste of "In Fidelity?" What's your favorite passage?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 9 Apr 01 09:23
Boy that's a tough one Mark. One passage out of over 300 pages. And one that will make some sense... okay... it's from the third chapter of the book - a memory sequence. It was Friday, July 22nd. My mother was in the front of the store and my father and I were in the workshop. He was bent over his bench setting a three-carat sapphire ring and I was cleaning an antique amethyst and diamond necklace. The room smelled of coffee, wax and the apple I had just finished. On the radio, a Frank Sinatra song ended and the news came on. Reaching out, my father turned down the sound. Over the intercom we heard my mother said goodbye to a customer. A few moments passed and then the front door chimes pealed again. I wasnt paying attention to the noises coming over the intercom until I noticed my father pick up his head and listen more carefully. I started to ask him what was going on but he put his finger to his lips, took his small pistol out of the top drawer of the workbench and stepped on the silent alarm that was connected to the police station. When my father had installed that alarm a member of the police force had taken us through a drill. If the store was robbed, none of us was supposed to put up a fight or argue, but rather, as slowly as we could, gather up the jewelry and hand it over to the robber. "Concentrate on the fact that the police are on their way," my father had told me when wed practiced. "Let them take whatever they want. We are insured. Nothing is worth risking your life for." "You know what I want and its not this gold shit," the robbers voice was tinny and mechanical coming through the intercoms cheap speaker but I heard every word. I recognized the voice it was Dan Mallory. "Here-- take these--" My mother was whimpering. Where were the police? Wed entered another dimension where no time passed. The air did not circulate. The earth had stopped rotating. Was it ten minutes, ten hours or ten days since my father had stepped on the alarm? "Stop--" my mothers voice was twisted up as if she were in pain. My father and I rushed to the doorway. With his free hand, my father shoved me back into the workshop where I fell against a table. "For Gods sake, stay here Jordan," he hissed and then stepped out into the store. My leg throbbing, I crawled to the doorway and stared out. A frozen tableau. Mary and Joseph and the three wise men around the crèche at Christmas. Tinker bell flying across the stage with Wendy, Peter and Michael close behind. JFK JR saluting his fathers flag draped coffin. Movement locked in immovable permanence because of its importance. To the world. To a nation. To children. This one was mine. Forever. My iconography. The horror against which all other horrors would be measured and come up short. Or so I thought. My mother was trying not to cry, not to breathe, not to exist, while Mallory holding her, hiding behind her, pointed a gun to her temple. Black metal against her cream skin. My father, his back to me, pointed his gun. "Dan, let her go. Take the jewelry and let her go. Now." "I dont want the jewelry, I want my job back. I want Jordan back." Mallory shouted. The only thing louder than his voice was the sound of my heart slamming against my rib cage. My mother, growing brave with my father in the room, pushed Mallory away. His arm hit a tray of diamond, sapphire, emerald, and ruby rings glittering on the counter. The bowl of deep red roses my mother had delivered to the store every week, crashed to the floor. Glass shattered, water spilled, one of the roses fell across Mallorys shoe. Gun shots from different directions. One bullet hit the wall behind my father and burst a glass display case. Another bullet or was it that bullet ricocheting hit the mirror behind Mallory and a rain of my fathers reflections fell to the floor. Almost instantly it was followed by another gunshot but this time it was my father himself who fell. With my eyes, I followed his body as it dropped, the longest drop to the deepest center of the earth. When I looked up again Mallory was gone and my mother was on the floor beside my father. I ran to his side and put my head on his chest. My mother was screaming but there was no way to judge the volume. It was either the loudest or the softest scream I have ever heard. My father was gasping for breath as beneath him the rug slowly changed color from pale gray to the deep dark red of the roses. I could hear his heart beating. His blood was hot on my cheek, like my own tears. Using my hands I tried to stop the blood. I pressed down. Hard, harder, I heard a bone break. A bone in my hand? I found out later I broke one of my fathers ribs trying to staunch his bleeding. But I could not do it. My hands were not big enough. The hole was too deep. The bullet had gone right through his heart. My father bled out in front of me, under me, while I watched. I smelled fire and roses. Saw the stain growing, reaching towards my mothers feet. She was wearing bone pumps with black toes. Everywhere I looked the carpet was red. (The next time I went into the store, the carpet had been removed. A whole section of parquet stained forever.) My mother was looking at me. She knew that her husbands life had leeched out of him. I had become her focus. Taking my face covered with my fathers blood in her hands and repeating herself like a scratched record, she screamed: "Youve been shot, youve been shot, youve been shot..." There was so much of my fathers blood on my body it had blinded her and she ran frantic fingers down my face and my arms and my chest checking to see where I had been injured. I knew I had not been shot but could not reach that part of my brain where the words were. In the ambulance, my father on one stretcher, I on the other, the paramedic told my mother it didnt appear that I had been shot. At the hospital they confirmed what she already knew: her husband was dead, her daughter was in shock but she had not been wounded. I have been wounded: I wanted to explain. But the file in my head where the words were stored was still locked, missing, lost. I had been wounded for the whole of my life. But I did not say anything. In my lap, I clutched my hands, still sticky with traces of my fathers blood. We were in a hallway of the emergency room. I was on a stretcher. An IV needle was stuck in my arm, a bag of something clear dripping into me. I noticed my hands are stained red. Slowly I lifted my right hand to my face and put my forefinger inside my mouth where it was wet and warm and I sucked the stickiness off. I tasted something sweet and then salty the salt from my own skin the sweet from my fathers blood. One finger and then the next and then the next, all licked cleaned but still not clean enough and my mother said "Dear God, stop her." And then a male voice said, "Youre going to get a little sleepy now, Jordan. Dont fight it. Close your eyes." I tried to tell him that I needed to finish cleaning my hands but I still could not find the words.
jane hirshfield (jh) Mon 9 Apr 01 12:12
That's a kind of hard act to follow with a question, you know... But I will comment on how it manages to be dramatic and cinematic but also deeply kinesthetic--how it moves from sense to sense in the telling.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 9 Apr 01 14:09
Oh Jane... thank you. Especially coming from you that mean a lot beucase your poetry is rooted in the sense so often. I have been told "the senses" are part of my voice - that one can very vividly hear and see and smell and touch the world I present in my books. Having a voice is something that matters to me - even though I can neither recognize it or understand much about it. It is like not being able to smell the perfume when you are the one wearing it. But it greatly pleases me when readers respond to. Jane - I have a question for you. I used one of your poems as the epigram to In Fidelity. If you've read the book yet - I was curious to your reaction.
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 9 Apr 01 15:24
And I was curious about your statement earlier, that > unfortunately 99% of all review sources > only review hardcovers Really? I had no idea. I wonder why that is?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 9 Apr 01 16:47
I've been told its basically because: The average newspaper reviews only about 100- 152 books a year - and the average magazine about the same amount - but there are over 70,000 books are published a year. That average review source - say the Washington Post - gets over 20,000 books sent to them every year. So they have to draw the line somewhere. The first line that gets drawn is the hardcover and the paperback line. Even trade paperbacks get thrown out. According to the publicist I know - the reviewers assisants don't ever read the press releases that come with the trade paperbacks or mass market paperback.. Then amoung the hardcovers- there's a whole heirarcy - who knows who - what publicist is well liked- which one isn't etc. What publishers are well respected - ie a Knopf book has a 100 percent chance of being reviewed whereas a PocketBook book only has a twenty five percent chance. Now with Publishers Weekly and Kirkus its different - but these aren't consumer publications - they are for the trade. So PW reviews about 6000 books a year - as does Kirkus and they can let in a few more paperbacks - esp in the trade size.
S. Gulland (jonl) Mon 9 Apr 01 20:26
Email from S. Gulland: MJ, thanks for the clarification. I've wondered how it worked. I read elsewhere that you had to give some thought to the pros and cons of publishing a trade paperback original (as opposed to a hardcover, followed a year later by a paperback). One "con" is this difficulty getting reviews. Will you go the trade paperback route next time? I ask because I went the trade paperback route in the U.S., and it bugs me that there aren't reviews! The numbers are good, I can't argue with that, but I'm not sure what's more important, in the long run. Next time, I think I'd prefer to go hardcover.
Mark Binder (realfun) Tue 10 Apr 01 06:10
Thank you M.J. I'd like to open this up to more questions from the outside world. If you have a question for M.J., please feel free to email it to me mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Tue 10 Apr 01 07:26
Sandra, If I have anything to say about it - Hardcover, hardcover, hardcover. The reviews - even bad ones - get people to notice the book in the store, to pick it up and browse it and to get interested. Without the reviews we have - only the word of mouth we can generate - and while its wonderful - its just not enough.
Mark Binder (realfun) Tue 10 Apr 01 12:49
Email from Masha: Melisse, Can you talk a little about your web site, about how that developed, how many hits you get and how much of an impact you think it has had on sales? I'm encouraged to hear that, after a year at least, you managed to whittle down the amount of time you had to spend on marketing. Do you think five hours per week, once you have your contacts in place, is about as low as we can hope to go and still be marketing our books? Thanks, Masha
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