David Gans (tnf) Thu 12 Aug 99 13:45
<scribbled by cdb Thu 12 Aug 99 17:27>
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 12 Aug 99 17:32
M. J. Rose wrote Lip Service, an erotic thriller about a bored New York housewife who gets involved in with phone sex while doing research for a writing job. Unable to line up a publisher for her manuscript, Rose self- published it and got it placed on amazon.com. The book sold so well on amazon and garnered so much media attention that Simon & Schuster signed Rose, contracting to republish Lip Service. The reissue is being released on August 17 under the Pocket Books imprint. Rose is a former ad writer. A commercial she wrote for NYPD is in the broadcasting collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and she has optioned several screenplays. She will be interviewed by author Marcy Sheiner.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Fri 13 Aug 99 10:52
Q: Most writers begin a novel with character, or plot, or some kind of philosophical point they want to explore. How did you come to write LIP SERVICE? Was it the character who interested you, the idea of a wife with a secret from her husband, or the topic of phone sex as therapy?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 13 Aug 99 14:50
The idea for Lip Service had its roots in a party I attended in New York City. The host was very well known with a major carreer, the hostess was his younger, second wife who had a rather innocuous job. The dynamic they presented at that dinner aroused my curiosity. He was so kind, so solicitous to her, praising her, bragging to the guests about her culinary abilities (which he took credit for teaching her) and she was slightly embarrassed and aloof. She was not responsive to him except in the most superficial way. I had dinner with them three or four times and they always acted and reacted to each other in the same way. I never tired of watching them, trying to figure them out. Imagining what was going on with them. And then about three weeks later, I was staying in the Beverly Hills Hotel on a business trip. I was on the phone to my office when my line got crossed with another guest's call. He was a celeb (whose voice I recognized) and he was having phone sex. Entranced. I listened to the whole conversation. About a week later the couple I had been so curious about and the idea of phone sex coalesced and the plot for LIP SERVICE was hatched.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Fri 13 Aug 99 15:01
Very interesting. People always wonder how writers get their ideas. We who write about sex frequently get stuck in the "sex ghetto," and publishers & editors don't consider us for other kinds of books. How have pubs, eds, reviewers, agents, etc., reacted to the sexual aspect of your book? Do they think of you as a "sex writer?" Do you think of yourself that way, and/or have any fears about being type-cast?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 13 Aug 99 16:46
I don¹t think of myself as a "sex writer". But since I think sex is a big part of life, I can¹t imagine writing a story about people without sexuality being very big part of what I write. (Besides, writing sex is almost as good as having it. Sometimes better because there¹s no one to disappoint me) The sexuality in LIP SERVICE hasn¹t put anyone off quite the opposite. Several editors (when my agent was showing it around before I self-published it) said it was some of the best sex writing they¹d ever read. The reviewers have applauded the erotic aspects of the novel using words like titillating, steamy, and provocative. Many of the readers who put LIP SERVICE on the map with their effusive comments and reviews at Amazon.com said it was the combination of the erotic and the plot and the quality of the writing that made the book work for them. But the sex/erotic aspects did make the book something of a marketing nightmare when my agent sent it around three years ago. Two very respectable publishing companies wanted to buy LIP SERVICE. The editors were in negotiation with my agent when both marketing depts. of those company¹s nixed the deals because they didn¹t know how to market the book.It was too erotic to be commercial fiction, too commercial to be erotica. They didn't know what to do with it. Ironically, when I decided to self publish LIP SERVICE, it¹s erotic nature made it easier to market on the web. There were so many erotic sites for women where I could market the book that I had a captive audience.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Fri 13 Aug 99 18:01
Did you self-publish in book form first, or post on the web first? Where did you post? Tell us a little bit about what's involved in self-publishing and how that went for you.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Fri 13 Aug 99 19:07
After I dealt with the nixed publishing deals, I sat with the book for a while. During that time, I got increasingly involved on the Internet. In March of 1998 I came up with the idea of test marketing LIP SERVICE on line as an electronic download, and see what kind of response it generated. In July of 1998, after I'd sold over 150 downloads and 50 Xeroxed copies and had gotten great feedback, I decided to self-publish LIP SERVICE as a trade paperback. I thought I'd get it into independent bookstores. But not a one was willing to give shelf space to a one-book publisher. That's when I then decided to just sell it and market it online. I took full advantage of the free marketing and advertising available on the web. I started with one web site, which was the Erotic Readers Association and I went to all their links, which led me to other links, and the process kept unfolding from there. I found over 200 sites that would be appropriate to either review the book or run an article from me on self-publsihing. These sites don't pay for content but they do give generous blurbs and all offered to link to the LIP SERVICE page at amazon.com. By January of 1999 LIP SERVICE was the highest-ranking small-press novel in amazon's history. In February of 1999, Erika Tsang an editor at Doubleday Book Club found LIP SERVICE on amazon's site and by March I'd sold it to the book club and to Simon and Schuster. Everyone says self-published fiction doesn't sell. And no woman has succeeded in doing it since Anais Nin. But I love a challenge. There more everyone said it couldn't be done, the more determined I was to do it.
Gail Williams (gail) Sat 14 Aug 99 10:53
How does Amazon treat self-published work and their authors?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sat 14 Aug 99 15:19
It's going to sound like they paid me to say this but... if not for Amazon.com's advantage program I would not have had any outlet for my novel. THe program is specifically set up to help self-publishers and the small independent publishers. Its as easy as pie. They email orders to you, you send them books, (usually 10 at a time) and they pay you at the end of every month. (Never once was check late) Plus, the people who run this program love books and dealing with them is like dealing with an old-fashioned independent store. On the site itself, the way they set up the pages, the viewers can't tell the independent or selfpublihsed books from the big publisher's books. You get a page, customer reviews, an author's note, an interview. Everything you need. Plus you get acess to a data base where you can check you sales on a daily basis.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Sat 14 Aug 99 20:34
I bet you won't be self-publishing your next book--which, by the way, is what? What do you see as the pros and cons of having a publisher now?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 15 Aug 99 05:18
I'm laughing... no, I hope I won't be self-publishing my next book becuase you simply can't get any distrubtion with a self-pubbed book except on the net. And that takes so much work. Plus you don't get reviewed by any major publication and the truth is - that's where people still find out about books - in magazines, in newspapers, on TV talk shows. That's where the buzz starts. However, I don't think self-publishing is the embarressment it used to be. It is a viable option for hard to catagorize books. There are very few cons about having a publisher now. Pocket Books has done a spectacualr pr effort and they are a joy to work with. I'm lucky. I have a talented editor who cares about the quality of the writing. And they cover all the costs! As to the next book... it's called In Fidelity. And it should be out next summer when the paperback version of Lip Service comes out. If Lip Service is about a woman who finds the courage to leave her marriage, In Fidelity is about a woman who finds the courage to stay in her marriage. Its also erotic and suspenseful and has a female protagonist who is easy to relate to.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sun 15 Aug 99 05:27
Of course, the vast majority of professionally-published books don't get pr. The professionally-published writer who has the flair and patience for self- promotion is at an advantage for sure. It's good that you are getting the pr this time--
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Sun 15 Aug 99 14:21
I am so fully aware of the fact that no matter how good a book I ever write, I will never do anything for the first time again... so I am taking advantage of that to get all the press I can. And its true that so few books gets pr... part of the problem is that there just isn't much news value to a book - even a great book. Personally, I wish there was a tv show and a radio show that had fiction authors on the do readings and do Q&A's with a live audinece. It would be wonderful for the world of fiction..
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Sun 15 Aug 99 19:26
Agree. It pisses me off that CSPAN's Book TV only covers non-fiction. You're an example to writers of what persistence can accomplish. Is there any particular reason or motivation for your being so relentless about getting your book out there?
Ron Hogan (grifter) Sun 15 Aug 99 23:32
I'm sure Brian Lamb has his reasons for everything he does with Book TV. Too bad Doctorow's literary cable network never happened.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 16 Aug 99 03:20
re#14- Yes there are several reasons I was so tenacious. The first is it's just part of my personality. And I love writing. I have been writing one way or another for my whole life. I could not accept that I couldn't get published. But there were many more components to it than that. In 1996, when I wrote Lip Service, my agent felt very strongly about it and was sure she could sell it. At that point she had never failed to sell a book she had taken on. (I turned out to be her first. Now, three years later her record is intact again.) She sent LS out to the top twelve publishing houses. And she got back such great feedback. Real letters of praise for the book and my writing style, etc. Quite a few houses started out being interested - one thing led to another and she wound up getting two concrete offers from two top editors. As I said before, both of those deals fell through because of marketing issues. (One of the editors almost quite over Lip Service and her marketing guy's decision not to publish it.) If I'd had doubts (which of course I did, I'm a writer) those two deals convinced me that Lip Service was a good book. I was so frustrated by the reasons the deals had been nixed, I couldn't give up. If everyone had said I was a lousy writer, that I should stick to writing slogans... I still probably wouldn't have listened. But they had wanted to buy it! For a while I didn't do anything with Lip Service. Then in March of 1997, I left my now ex-husband. I knew that financially I had until the fall of 1999 to either become a paid author (which was all I'd ever wanted to do) or I'd have to go back into advertising full time. Some would say that would be incentive enough. I loved advertising when I first got into it but it had sucked me dry - I did not want - no I was loathe - to ever do the 9 to 5 or 6 or7 advertising thing again. At that point I got the idea that maybe if I could sell 1200 or 1500 hundred copies of Lip Service and prove to the publishers that my work could be marketed perhaps they'd buy my next novel and I could stave off the full time reentry to advertising hell. But I was afraid of self-publishing - it has such a negative connotation. Independent film makers get applauded, so do indy musicians ... but people only laugh at self-published writers. Then I found a list of small independent presses and joined them to learn about the process. I told them about my book and several asked to read it. Right away one press, run by a very well respected poet and professor out in California, wanted to publish Lip Service. But when I talked to her about her marketing capabilities and pr ideas, I started to realize I knew more than she did because of my advertising background. I had to give it a try.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Mon 16 Aug 99 14:16
Well, good for you. I had similar experiences with the second novel I wrote (I've written 3, all unpublished to date) and it was such a heartbreak to me I didn't write fiction for the next five yrs.I still feel reluctant to write another novel because of all that work and the heartbreak of it never seeing print. You, on the other hand, reacted differently and it paid off. You have another book coming out. Anything else in the works?
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Mon 16 Aug 99 16:48
The book I'm working on now should be out summer 2000 and then I have three more in my head. At the same time I hope I can find some novels to test market for other writers. I'm curious - Marcy - and it might lead to some interesting dialog for you to tell me why your work didn't sell. Tell me about that second novel... maybe we can come up with a marketing strategy for it.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Mon 16 Aug 99 18:47
Well, now I don't think it is such a good novel, though I still enjoy it and chuckle over it myself. It was about the clash experienced by a woman who shall remain nameless who was in love with a pornographer at the same time as she was an activist in the womens movement c. 1978. The publishers all said the writing was wonderful but....various reasons not to publish it. It was pretty funny, actually, but not terribly well written. Now is a good time to let our audience know that MJ will be on the TODAY show tomorrow morning, that's August 17th, probably around 8:35 am. Tune in and come back with questions. And MY next question to you is, how did you make it onto the TODAY show???
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Tue 17 Aug 99 01:44
Its 4:40 am... I can't sleep cause as you mentioned I'm going on the Today Show today... in four hours. First TV appearance ever. And according to the producer at the Today Show, the first "first time novelist who wasn't already famous becuase of celebrity in some other field" to make it on the show in five years. Pocket Books' amazing publicity dept set it up... but no publicity department can make magic and Lip Service has one thing going for it that a lot of fiction doesn't... it made literary history and so its in the news. The fact that Lip Service is the first novel discovered online and chosen as a featured alternate by the book clubs and then sold to Pocket Books has made me something of a poster child for the concept of e-Publishing. The sale and discovery of my book really proves the power of the Internet. Proves there is an e-Voloution going on wtih authors and readers. Becuase of sites like Amazon.com's advantage program which gives the independent publisher the visibility and distribution she can't get anywhere else (certainly not in the non-cyber world) and becuase readers are becoming reviewers, the precepts of publishing are chaning. What's happened to my novel is the best thing to happen for aspiriing novelists everywhere. The interet is to an author, what Schwabs used to be to the actor.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 17 Aug 99 09:32
What fun. How did you decide what to wear? I know that's a bit superficial, but TV brings out all the surfacce issues...
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Tue 17 Aug 99 14:04
MJ, you looked absolutely gorgeous and so composed. And sort of humble, not beating your own drum so much but talking about the Internet revolution as above. I know you are doing your own Internet publishing to test-market other books. How will you decide what to post? Will it be one book at a time or more? How will this work, in general? I would like to add that you are not only a poster girl for e-publishing, but for the way writers should help one another. Ed Sanders, a writer of the beatnik era, gave me a reference to get into a writers colony many years ago, and told me all I had to do was promise that for every favor a writer does for me, I should do two for other writers. I've tried to live by that credo.
M. J. Rose (anewanais) Tue 17 Aug 99 18:26
Why thanks for the compliments... if I was composed it was becuase it actually was fun! Katie Couric came to the green room to meet me and talk to me for five min before the show and she is just like she is on screen, so friendly, so chatty. She was genuinely intrigued (I'd been told neither she or Matt come up to meet you before hand unless they are really interested in the story) Anyway... it went by so fast I didn't remeber a single moment of it and if I hadn't seen it later on tape wouldn't have the faintest idea of what I'd said. But my amazon numbers are going crazy. At last check I was number 8 on the whole damn list. Actually I was horrified I mentioned my ex husband on tv - a friend called and said every woman would love me for givng him such a major fuck you on national tv - I didn't mean to do it but it was the true answer to the question. As to my company. I'm going to do test market books that should have been published by the biggies if they were willing to buy books that might only sell 5000 copies instead of their current cutoff of 25,000 copies. How many will I do? As many as I can find. I think I might have found the first... but have yet to talk to the author. And about helping people... so many, many people helped me and were kind to me - especially here on the well when I was trying to get the self-pubbed version out there, that I believe what you do. Marcy, I owe it to other writers.
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Tue 17 Aug 99 18:31
Hey, what did you say about your ex-husband?
MJ Rose (anewanais) Tue 17 Aug 99 18:41
Katie asked me if the female character in my book was like me and I said no, but that in writing the book I became like her... that in the story she writes a book, gets strong and then leaves her husband, and that after I finished writing Lip Service I left my husband. Anyone who will or has read the book will get what a horrible thing that was to say.
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