Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 4 Aug 11 03:46
It's a new day, as James Brown once said, but instead of doing the popcorn (or maybe in addition to it) authors are taking to some new media to diffuse their works. I've recently published an article I knew I could never sell (but loved), and Jacques Leslie has also published via Kindle Singles. Ted Newcome will lead the discussion.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 05:01
Really looking forward to this discussion, the web offers so many new platforms and opportunities for writers and creatives to express themselves. Ed, would you please give us a link to your article? Wellperns, don't be shy, this is the place to share and discuss what you've been creating. What are the top pros and cons you've discovered so far?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 05:41
For myself, I privately published a book using Lulu, which seemed a good idea at the time...thought I would move it from my desktop to the cloud. All that occurred was that I was besieged by marketers, et. al. ad nauseum....finally deleted it from Lulu and am reconsidering what to do with it. Partly my inexperience at these things I think, as well as the nature of the beast.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 06:34
Now I'm experimenting with 'short' writing. I received a birthday present copy of Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. What a great book: http://www.nataliegoldberg.com/books.html I've been encouraged to "just write", poems, essays, short stories all within my capabilities and focused away from the "great novel" theme that gets stuck in so many of our heads. Thoroughly enjoying this practice.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 4 Aug 11 07:06
Here's my publication. It was a defining moment of my life, but I knew that it was too long for any but a major magazine (for which I didn't have connections) and it also didn't ring any of the bells (namely Nazis and Jews, although there are Nazi echoes here) that would make any major magazine jump up and salivate. It's also the first thing I've written in a career that goes back to 1965 on which I'm making royalties. <http://www.amazon.com/Bar-End-Regime-ebook/dp/B005DYLXXG/ref=sr_1_1ie=UTF8&qid =1311376462&sr=8-1>
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 4 Aug 11 08:27
ed, are you able to track its spread through the reputation economy? how are sales doing?
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 4 Aug 11 08:49
I'm not sure how it's selling -- I mean, I know how *much* it's selling, but not what's selling it. I've got a widget on my blog, I've hyped it twice on Facebook, and here on the Well. But where those sales are -- except that I'm seeing 0 for the .de and the .uk store -- I have no idea.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Thu 4 Aug 11 12:08
Greetings, folks. I turned to Kindle Singles as a kind of experiment. Iâd written an essay about my experience at a reunion in Phnom Penh and Saigon of old Vietnam War correspondents, and submitted it to a national magazine Iâd written for before. The magazine waas enthusiastic but wanted me to cut the piece and narrow its focus, so instead of doing that, I sent it to David Blum, the Kindle Singles editor. David was also enthusiastic, but his request made me a lot happier: he asked me to _expand_ the piece-- which I did. From that point on, there was virtually no more editing, and the piece appeared roughly three weeks after I sent it to Kindle Singles. As far as Iâm concerned, the experiment worked. Iâve found that magazines try to steer all pieces towards their characteristic voice or point of view, and in the process my writerâs voice gets muted, if not obliterated. But with Kindle Singles, my voice remained entirely intact. I also got to choose the title and the âcoverâ image, which was nice. And whereas the piece would have been consigned to oblivion in the magazine once its next issue appeared, it remains on Kindle Singles, seemingly as fresh as when it was first posted. Kindle Single also sent emails announcing the piece to all buyers of my previous books. By now the piece has earned me substantially more money than I would have made with the magazine, and sales continue, indefinitely I hope. The piece is called âWar Wounds.â Hereâs a link: <http://www.amazon.com/War-Wounds-Kindle-Single-ebook/dp/B004Q7CHHM>
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 4 Aug 11 12:27
Which is wonderful. I wasn't so lucky: my piece was turned down by Blum, who wanted "something newer." I called him and we talked, and it turned out another piece I'd been trying to turn into a book was something he wanted to see. I spent a week or two trying to crunch it down to Single size and wasn't sure what I had, so I sent it to three disparate readers -- all of whom had the same kind of WTF reaction! I then thought "Hell, the Letschin piece is something I'm proud of," so I did it myself. Downside: zero support from Amazon. And it sure shows in the sales. On the other hand, people who've never had a chance to read it have done so. And maybe word of mouth will get it out there a little more.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 13:49
For those new to Kindle Publishing here is their link: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin/176-3636933-5884311
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 13:51
Ed and Jacques, before we get too far down the road, could you both please give us a bit of your writing backgrounds and why you chose Kindle Publishing? How do you see it compared to other methods of publishing?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 13:58
That's interesting that you both were able to keep your 'voice'. Do you see this as something unique to the idea of writing "singles"?
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 4 Aug 11 14:09
I've been working with the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey. It is an archive of photos, memorabilia, and institutional records of Jewish communities in North Jersey, but mostly from Paterson, NJ. Think Philip Roth's stories with illustrations. I've been considering doing a book with Arcadia Press, the company that publishes those "hometown" photo books that are sold in the local interest or regional sections of the bookstores. But the terms make it a pretty bad deal. You do all the work, they publish it, and then sell you copies at a discount rate so you can sell them yourself as well as doing the major distribution. I don't know what the cut is on books sold through their distribution, but it can't be much. I started a Facebook fan page and started publishing photos and am building an audience of former Paterson people with an enthusiastic response so far. Do you think Kindle Singles could be an outlet for us? I can focus in on a single subject like the IWW Silk Strike of 1913 or produce a map which shows the old businesses, neighborhoods, and institutions and superimpose photos onto it, show the history of the local summer camp, publish photos of Bette Midler as a child with her grandfather and aunts. Every time I post these photos it generates hundreds of comments on the Facebook pages. slipped We would use this as a fundraising activity.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 4 Aug 11 14:14
I'll deal with that in a minute, but first, I'm a writer best known for writing about music, and for my sporadic appearances on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which I've been doing for 24 years, slightly less than half the time I've been writing. My Kindle thing came out of my moving to Berlin and an early exposure to cyberspace (can't say the Internet in this case) by CompuServe. As I said above, I knew I had to write this story, as well as that I would never be able to sell it, so it's lurked on a succession of hard discs ever since then. As for <dlwilson>'s question, absolutely not. The thing Kindle does worst is graphics, and my experience of reading Keith Richards' "Life" in that format was really marred by the way the few photos got treated. I think this format's a long ways from being perfect for books with illustrations, or even very good for it.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 4 Aug 11 14:23
Thanks for warning me off Ed.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 4 Aug 11 14:56
It sure sounds like a great project, David.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Thu 4 Aug 11 15:00
Ted, my first full-time job was as a Saigon-based correspondent for the Los Angeles Times covering the Vietnam War beginning at the age of 24. (Indeed, that formative experience is the backdrop for my Kindle Single essay, and itâs also the subject of my first book, The Mark: A War Correspondentâs Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia.) I remained a foreign correspondent until 1977, then quit to focus on writing books and magazine pieces. In the last decade Iâve been writing narrative nonfiction chiefly about environmental issues. I spent about four years writing Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, published in 2005 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Iâve also written for most of the nationâs major magazines, including Harperâs, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, Wired, and many others. Part of what drew me to Kindle Singles was my increasing frustration with magazines. As I said, they usually want to insert their voice at the expense of mine, and the stories they run are getting shorter and shorter as the decline in advertising shrinks them. Neither of these problems exist with KS. Indeed, all the Kindle Singles amount to a collection of different authorsâ voices-- thereâs no guiding tone, point of view, or even theme. In that way at least, the writer reigns. And the only limit on length is an arbitrary one that KS has imposed-- an upper limit of 30,000 words. By contrast, I doubt if any magazines still run stories even half that length. Finally, one of the attractions of this online realm for me is that I like to write stories that are longer than magazine pieces but too short to be a book-- right in that 25,000-30,000 word range. In fact, Iâve just agreed to do a piece of about that length for The Atavist (atavist.net), another fledgling online publisher of narrative nonfiction.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Thu 4 Aug 11 15:05
By the way, dwilson, one of the things The Atavist is trying to do is to take advantage of the digital medium to run images, video and sound clips with text. Thus, a story may cite some document-- The Atavist enables you to click on the reference to see the entire document. And I've been told that if I come across relevant video clips in the course of my reporting, that clip can be included with the story. Given the flexibility of the digital realm, this seems like the logical way to go. Alas, a project like yours sounds like it's way beyond the intention and perhaps capacity of The Atavist.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 4 Aug 11 15:31
Ted, we'd like a bio from you, too, you know. And I'm curious about your experience with Lulu, since a woman I know says she's been very successful == made a couple of thousand bucks -- with the book she published through them. She's a relentless self-publicist, a talent I think we'll all have to acquire, so I'm not too surprised. But what was your experience like?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 4 Aug 11 18:01
I am a happily retired grandfather in Phoenix, AZ. 30 years in management within the hotel/resort industry, with time for 3 Master's Degrees in Religion, Theology and Philosophy along the way. Currently starting a business to provide a social website for the village I live in within Phoenix and attending online classes with Howard Rheingold. So staying active. Lulu was easy to load my book to and 'publish'. In fact, I found it via my niece who successfully published her book there and has had great success with it. And they offer all kinds of marketing and editing services, at an affordable cost. (I think, haven't checked around that much). My problem was that the book is in rough form; about 40,000 words and needs both a 'voice' and a lot of editing. I actually wrote it here in the Life conference about 6 years ago and just haven't done much with it. So I compounded my own problems by putting something out that wasn't finished, without really having a voice and got ahead of myself. It's just so easy to hit the "Enter" key these days. A bit too much vanity and pride there. Kind of think that particular book is really just for me; at least for the moment. Now, Kindle Singles really appeals to me as an opportunity to do short, hopefully well-crafted pieces. That and Writing Down the Bones have my creative juices flowing.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 4 Aug 11 20:25
As I understand it, Amazon has a self-publishing program for Kindle too, but Kindle singles are something else. Could somebody say something about the Singles editorial process?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 5 Aug 11 03:11
And would you explain a bit about how KS determines which ones they want to promote and which ones you can just self-publish?
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 5 Aug 11 03:41
As for the last question, they have an editor, just like any regular publisher. I think that they choose few enough for their process that they can promote them. Mine was rejected, so I self-published. Anyone can self-publish, and, I'm afraid, that's who does.
Jane Hirshfield (jh) Fri 5 Aug 11 08:53
Hi all. As introduction, I would have joined Ed and Jacques in this conversation from the start, but I'm going to be out of reach of internet all next week. When people here in the Well began talking about the Kindle Single program in the conference where freelance writers talk, a penny dropped for me about something I'd had on my desk since delivering it as a lecture some years before at the request of two poetry organizations that commissioned poets to give talks on earlier, dead poets in public libraries around America. They asked me to speak about Basho, and they directed all of us participating to gear these talks toward people who did not know anything about their subjects--the "general public" and also to make them relevant to the development of American poetry. This made for something very different from my usual essays, and also longer--hence unpublishable in any normal literary journal. I also found I couldn't bear not doing new translations with my old collaborator-translator for an earlier project from teh Japanese (The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Komachi and Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Japanese Court, Vintage Classics, 1990). That essay-lecture took months of work. But turning it into a possible "real" book would have been months more--I'd have had to make it longer, and put a great deal more back matter in (which I actually still wish I'd done-- a "for further reading" section is just a nice courtesy). So the piece sat. Then someone described Kindle Singles. What attracted me was 1) they wanted pieces of exactly that hybrid length 2) they do the formatting, cover, etc 3) they promote 4) it's curated. This seemed a shoe that would fit. My experience--I forgot to mention above that they copyedit-- was that the piece received a very good quality copyedit, but no other editorial suggestions (which was fine by me, I was happy David liked it just as it was). David did though suggest a title change, to something with more general appeal. I loved that I was allowed to choose between different cover ideas I was sent to look at. I also was allowed to consult on the price, and David encouraged me to set it low (99 cents). This is an interesting decision, because you are making it without much to go on, but I figured, how many people really want to read a long piece about a 17th c. Japanese poet who invented a form of poetry, haiku, that they've maybe heard of but have no real interest in. The answer, apparently, is quite a few thousands, to my surprise. And who are they? Mostly people who buy and read other Kindle Singles, see a new one appear on the page, and give it a try. Amazon makes this easy--you can download a sample for free. The 99 cent price also made it easy. For anyone reading this who doesn't already know--these can be read with a free app on any computer, tablet, smartphone, not only a Kindle. People who are "on" to them go in to pick up something to read--like a magazine store, except you're buying by the article instead of the magazine. It's now six weeks or so since this first came out, and I have seen considerably more income than I could have from any publication of this piece in a journal, and a completely different readership, though word is making its way through the hiku and poetry-interested communities gradually. All this is great, and it's been a very fun ride. I will never know though, if I'd decided to do this as a book, would it have in the long run sold more copies and made more income. The likely answer is yes. In theory I still could do that (expand into a book). Kindle Singles authors retain all rights. But just as I didn't do that during the past four years, I'm unlikely to do it in the future. So this has been the perfect chance to get something out in the world in a good way. Oh, what is it? "The Heart of Haiku." http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Haiku-Kindle-Single- ebook/dp/B0057IYMF4/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i <http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Haiku-Kindle-Single- ebook/dp/B0057IYMF4/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i>
Jane Hirshfield (jh) Fri 5 Aug 11 09:00
Oh, I have a question for Jacques. I know that The Atavist offers those extra capacities for inserting both images and video for books sold on their own website, and I know that "stripped down" versions of those books are sold for less money as Kindle Singles. Can you say something about what is different in publishing through The Atavist rather than directly as a Kindle Single, besides those capacities, since you've now got experience with both (even though The Atavist book isn't out yet)? What's the basic description of how publishing with The Atavist works? With Kindle Singles, for instance, anyone can submit an idea or a finished piece of writing rather easily, through a tab box on the home page. How does that work with The Atavist?
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 5 Aug 11 09:02
Someone should alert David that this conversation's taking place, incidentally. And non-Well readers can -- and should -- participate, as well. Simply send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll stick it up.
Members: Enter the conference to participate