A Jones I Never Anticipated

I think I’m an addict.


No, no, not what you have in mind; not street skag and not the more commonly accepted uptown coke. Certainly not opioids, although I have a longstanding prescription for a small amount to help me deal with persistent knee and leg pain.

It’s writing, I think. It’s my compulsion to write that has me jonesing now, and I don’t like it.

“You’re a good writer,” my next door neighbor urged last week, “but you need to learn how to market your stuff.”

It’s true; I feel fortunate to be working with two publishers simultaneously, but neither of them seems willing to do the marketing for me. Well, that’s not completely true. The publisher of my bio-fiction novel, The Third Reich’s Last Eagle, senses he has a winner in the book and has promised big money to promote it, but he shows a propensity for not being able to say no to the river of suggestions from pre-publication readers who seem determined to make the book theirs, not mine. The current kerfuffle is that there’s a demand for maps in the book to orient the reader. This would double the book’s cost, and so R.R, as the publisher calls himself, has delayed the book’s launch.


The oddball-ness of my  story collection, Collateral Damage and Stories, which is already in print, must have amused someone at Kirkus. That book review agency has awarded the collection a “recommended review” status (not a “starred review,” but halfway there) and will be shoring it up with some pub in an “Indie Books Worth Discovering” gambit.  I guess their sensibility for good writing must be close to a bullseye; our local newspaper book reviewer gave it a heavy dose of praise in a half-page article.

And my memoir, In This Love Together, is set to hit the streets. I’m anticipating more kind words from reviewers and readers, thanks in large part to some precious and astute help Connie May Fowler gave to the project. I’ve decided to have this one published by Gridley Fires Books, a company I’ve set up to declare myself a business and to handle special books like this. It’s about my two decade marriage to my late wife, Becca Gifford, and the grief and struggle we faced with her terminal cancer. I plan to use this book in a unique campaign to  raise awareness of cancer in its many forms and, hopefully, goad cancer researchers to do more to provide cures for this awful family of diseases.

Years ago, I thought that this modest level of success was the goal of my creative writing commitment. Not so, I’m discovering. That I seem to be basking in the glow of minor league success seems a bit hollow at the moment, although I will gladly commit to doing the best I can to promote these books. I may even draw a few more words of praise for my efforts, but I know even now that my jones lies elsewhere.

It’s writing; that’s where true satisfaction lies for me. I’ve often said that I’d write anyway, but I’ve never realized just how true that is. The act of writing daily adds a degree of purpose to my life that I never really anticipated. How is this so? I’m still not quite sure. But I do know I need to write the way I need food and drink and air. I may gain some philosophical and psychological handle on all this eventually, but I’m not now in full pursuit of success in the traditional sense. As a traditional motivation. Yes, I will chase it, simply because that’s the way this hand is played, but it’s quite ironic that the act of writing is for me both the means to satisfaction and the end result.

But what to do to be rid of this moment’s unsettling, this crankiness that leaves me snapping at friends and family? Well, it’s obvious, don’t you think? I need to find a way to get back to writing. Soon.


Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.


The Little Marketer

Something tells me that I’m really getting serious about making it as a writer.


I mutter imprecations at about this time each morning – I’m not getting any writing done. So what am I doing? Marketing. Making connections. Lining up book cover blurbs for my soon-to-be-released e-book, “We Are Strong, But We Are Fragile.” Checking sales on the various sites. Trying to figure out how I can increase my audience in other ways.

Some writers are good at this phase of the biz – better at it than the writing itself. Me? I’d rather lose myself in fiction’s alternate worlds. But real life is lived in this one, and I’m going to have to prove that besides being a good writer, I’m going to have to be an equally good marketer.


Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

The Simple Reason Why Goodreads Is So Valuable to Amazon/The Atlantic

As much as AMAZON seems a bully in the book market in some ways, they’re not complacent, as the article linked below shows. Grabbing Goodreads will give them a window into readership habits and trends.

Good for both readers and writers doing business with AMAZON to know.


The Atlantic

Book Publishers Scramble to Rewrite Their Future/Underwire



This is it. This what you have to do to get the book pub biz’ attention”

  1.  You have to come up with a great idea for a book
  2. You have to commit it to the page with excellent writing skills
  3. You have to develop you own cover and publish the book
  4. You have to market it well
  5. You have to make a ton of money from it, really fast.

Then the book pub biz will contact you and want a piece of the action you’ve spent so much time, effort, and money developing.




Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Inspiring and Educating In A New Literary World

Poets & Writers, Jan/Feb 2013


It’s a bitch trying to advise writers these days, and P&W knows it. Ten years ago it was only necessary to offer tips on good writing and something here and there to clue aspiring or emerging writers in on support systems, such as conferences, workshops, markets, and the like. But with MFA programs spawning writers like cockroaches and a publishing industry that doesn’t know its ass from, well, some alternative aperture, where does a good writer’s magazine turn?

In one sense, P&W soldiers on with writerly advice, as in this issue, on highly effective writing habits (somewhat useful, I should think, to the undisciplined among us), and the physiology/psychology of writer’s block and putting emotion into description (the former probably not all that relevant to working writers, more so to academics).

Where P&W’s rubber is meeting reality’s road is in attempting to parse the realities of today’s publishing world, and here I’ll name names. An excellent article by Ron Tanner, The DIY Author Tour, tells how Tanner orchestrated a forty-state, sixty-city book tour on his own. As a writer anticipating something similar, this article was most welcome and revealing.

Another, similar article, is more for poets, Reality check – A Simple Self-Publishing Plan, by Reagan Upshaw. Upshaw nudges poets toward eschewing litmags and contests in order to self-publish their own work. Here, says Upshaw, publishing chapbooks can be done for the cost of a couple of contests or magazine subscriptions. What Upshaw doesn’t tell poets is how to market these publications – always a problem for all but a few well-known poets.




What’s a Writer To Do, Other Than Hope For a Print Book Contract?

I do have a print book soon to be out (honest), with an indie publisher. I really like the publisher – we e-mail back and forth regularly, and I really like our contract terms. Still, I've been exploring other publishing avenues than the traditional, even the increasingly popular, such as Lulu, Amazon's CreateSpace, and others.

image via ebookpublishing-digitalpublishing.blogspot.com


One site that's growing in popularity is Smashwords, and their site has a presentation on the growing emergence of e-books. Some of its pertinent points, some of which you may want to take exception to, particularly if you have a distinct love for the print book:

  • Traditional publishing practices have ossified (no kidding! If you're a writer, just thumb through your rejection letters and try to find a succinct reason for the rejections)
  • While e-books cost significantly less than print books, the author's  percentage on e-books is as little as 30% of the book retail price, as much as 80%. (You'd be lucky to get 15% in a trad contract for a print book.)
  • Authors (even well-established trad ones) are in large numbers flocking to self-publishing in order to get books out there quickly. (Time to gain an agent and have him/her begin marketing: 1-3 years. Time to have a book out once it's accepted by a publisher: 1-2 years. So you're looking at 2 to 5 years to see the book in print, once you've completed the manuscript.)
  • Between 2009 and 2010, e-books jumped from 3% to 8% of the total books published yearly. (This speaks to the emergence of e-book readers as well as to the growing popularity of e-books – driven, I think, by the lower e-book prices as much as anything else.)
  • e-book publishers such as Amazon's  DTP (Digital Text Platform) and Smashwords have the ability to help get your books on numerous book sale sites. 
  • Backlists, i.e., older books you've published become more important with e-books (they draw attention to your ability to be more than a one-hit-wonder)

You have to compete for readers' attention in ever-new ways with e-books, but you'd have to do that with a trad pub contract. E-books do seem the wave of the future – the only challenge is marketing them, but that's a whole other subject.

Legality, Business, Writing, and E-books

In the September 2012 issue of Writer's Chronicle
magazine, Ronald Goldfarb updates us on the lawsuits the U.S. Justice
Department has taken against five major publishers and Apple for price fixing
on e-books.

image via pursuitist.com


Three of the five have settled with the
government and the other two, Penguin and MacMillan (and Apple, of course), are
staying the course, i.e., they're refusing to admit to price fixing. In fact,
they're bringing book giant Amazon.com into the fray, saying that Amazon's
ability to twist arms in order to lower book prices has effectively given
Amazon a monopoly over book selling. The natural fear, then, is that once
Amazon has effective control over book selling and pricing, they will raise the
price of all books, print and digital, to ever-higher levels. 

But why, in this accusation, would Amazon want to
control book sales and prices? To sell their e-book readers, which are pretty
worthless without e-books. And then to muddy the waters even more, there's this
from Goldfarb:

"To complicate the charges and
counter-charges over the Department of Justice’s anti-trust case and Amazon’s
role in electronic publishing, a publishing trade report (Publisher’s Lunch)
noted that the U.S. State Department is negotiating a no-bid multi-million
dollar contract with Amazon to purchase thousands of e-readers loaded with
content at a bulk discount."

So what's the upshot of this?
The DOJ must decide whether the publishers are restricting competition or
whether the culprit is Amazon. Oddly, Scott Turow and The Author's Guild are
siding with the publishers, rationalizing that having the publishers in
control will ultimately benefit writers.

My opinion: clearly all sides admit that e-books
are here to stay. But should writers trust the big publishers and Apple,
or should they trust Amazon?

One thing we should all be aware of is that this
is all about book sales. There's little implied here that would benefit the
development of writers and the building of a writer's platform. Still, with the
big pub houses doing so little for the beginning or midlist writer these days,
I'd have to grind my teeth and go with Amazon. They, after all, do offer the
sort of services that benefit beginning and developing writers.

See Bob's Web site here.