Saturday, May 2, 2009

No post

I haven't posted anything lately because I haven't done anything. I had plans to send every library in these greater parts a complimentary copy of the book--what other kind would you send a nonprofit organization? But then I counted up the number of copies I have sitting on my shelves. And I realized that the number of libraries far outweighs the number of books. So maybe I'll just narrow it down to my little quadrant.

I also need to restock the book in some bookstores. Yes, one actually ran out of copies. To be fair, it was only carrying one copy in the first place and that copy was purchased by a friend of mine. This is just getting sad.

Have I shared my fantasy yet that one day, I'll be walking through the park, down the street, or otherwise minding my own business and espy a complete stranger reading my book? I'll work up the nerve to say something to the effect of, "Hey that's my book," and start a discussion. I don't even care if they like it. I would just like an honest opinion from someone who does not know me. Fantasy, indeed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Reading

So kids, I had my first official reading on Oct. 29, 2008. And here's the deal: it was OK. I didn't blow it but then again, I knew everyone in the room. But the important thing here is that everyone (including me) seemed to enjoy it.

People asked questions. And they listened to the answers. And, emboldened by my newfound status as a popular cult author (not), I decided to read a few pages from my new novel. Perhaps that I had a short Scotch before my reading helped embolden me. Perhaps not.

But it did give me hope. On the other hand, I have never been so tired of hearing the sound of my own voice in my entire life.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Advertising: It is Not for the Weak

Skipping ahead quite a bit here ... bringing you up to about the last three weeks. Essentially, as you will learn later, once I start backtracking once again, I was on my own as far as marketing and promoting my book was concerned. I spent exactly one year as a Promotions Associate with a publisher. I knew what I was doing. (Unfortunately, that was almost 20 years ago and the world has changed only slightly since then).

I had a reading scheduled for Oct. 29. So I had some posters and postcards printed up to promote the thing. This ran me somewhere north of $200. Well. So I start tacking up posters, mostly around my neighborhood. If you have never hung posters before, I can assure you that it is a very time-consuming labor intensive process. The first time, I used packing tape and hung about 20 posters, mostly at the bases of lampposts and small utility hubs. They came down within 24 hours.

I upgraded to a homemade glue -- Elmers and water -- a sort of wash that would adhere the posters in the back and I could slap some in front for extra adhesion. I worked my way uptown to where the reading was actually being held. As I squatted and proceeded to pour some of my concoction on the back of a poster, I noticed a cop helping people cross Connecticut Ave., which can be very busy at rush hour. I watched him very carefully and when I thought he was out of sight, carried on with my business.

It was one of those scenes -- almost cliché -- right out of a movie. As I proceeded to stick up my last poster at the base of yet another street lamp, I happened to gaze up and catch sight of Johnnie Law. About three feet from me. Watching me. First his feet, then, as I raised my head ever so slowly, I espied his furrowed brow and petulant eyes. He might as well have been slapping his nightstick into his beefy palm to make the cliché complete.

"What are we hanging?" he said.

I stumbled but finally managed to utter: "Um. I wrote this book. And, I'm, uh, having a reading ... uh .. in there ... uh ... in a couple weeks." I pointed to the library not 20 feet away.

"Uh-huh," he said. He glanced quickly at the poster and said, "Well, I'm not gonna bust your balls over that."

Then, as a sort of afterthought, he said, "What's your book about?"

This is a very tricky question--one I've been struggling with since before its publication. It's not a book you can sum up in a sentence or two. "Well," I said. "It's about a guy ... whose father dies." The cop narrowed his eyes.

"And," I said, "his wife leaves him."

The cop started to cross the street and looked over his shoulder. "Sounds like Life 101," he said.

I swallowed hard and got out of there as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

My book was fully edited, we had a cover, a marketing plan of sorts and a target date for publishing. There was not much to do but wait at this point. I had some very rough sketches of ideas about what I wanted to do once the big day arrived--book signings, readings. Naturally, there would be tons of press to contend with.

Indeed, I had much planning to do. But I was unsure of where to even begin. The bookstores? The critics? (It would only be a matter of time until they had a copy of the book in their sweaty little hands, eager to critique it and expound upon its merits, comparing it with Joyce, Proust, Marquez).

At this point, you will be forgiven for thinking me naive, perhaps even bloated with the most conspicuous case of hubris. But I was also ignorant. And happily so ... .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Cover

The time had come to put a cover on this book. Brown Paper Publishing Head Editor and President Juan DeCarlo (not his real name) was hard at work on three cover designs that would capture the essence and very nature of my book. I had a couple visions of my own but because I am not a visual artist, I had nothing very concrete in mind. Just some vague notions.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of these covers, I must say that Juan (not his real name) and his designer worked very hard on each and every design and I applaud their efforts. In fact, I had a hard time choosing.

The first one was my least favorite. At risk of sounding homophobic, I just found it simply too gay. Had the main character actually been gay (or an utter narcissist), it might have worked. (As soon as I can figure out how to convert a PDF to a JPEG or some other acceptable format, I'll show you a copy.) It was a man leaning against a mirror looking very sad.

The third one was just plain depressing. Washed in a sea-green tint, it showed a man seated at the bottom of a long outside stairwell with his head in his hands. (Again, you'll see a copy as soon as I figure out this tech stuff.)

I went with a modified version of the second iteration:

I think it captures the mood and the essence of the book rather nicely. However, when I saw some of the other covers on Brown Paper Publishing's website, I was actually a little jealous. I thought mine looked the least inviting. This one, for instance, simply looked more polished:

But Juan DeCarlo (not his real name) told me that he based the design of my book cover slightly on a classic novel by GK Chesterton:

So perhaps the old cliche is true: you truly cannot judge a book by its cover.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Waiting, Working, Rewriting

Winter was closing in fast. Agreement signed, schedules made, my publisher (and the head editor of Brown Paper Publishing), Juan DeCarlo (not his real name) told me my page proofs would be on their way soon.

When they finally did arrive, I was shocked at just how terrible my book was: amateurish, sophomoric, rambling, loose and wandering. So I set about not just proofing it but rewriting it. I took three weeks off and told my clients I would be unavailable until after the new year (2008). This was serious business in need of serious attention.

Juan (not his real name) and I had worked out some formatting details whose impact only now were becoming clear to me. For example, Juan (not his real name) did not believe in quotation marks, preferring the dialog to speak for itself, as it were. I bristled at this initially but when I saw the book laid out in print, I quickly changed my mind. It actually was less disruptive and made the text flow better.

We also had a minor skirmish over the size of the font. Granted, The Dog at the Signpost is a relatively lengthy book for a first novel and I understand the publisher probably wanted to cut costs. The font size is a bit small for people with astigmatisms and so forth, but it does work. It was about as small as we could get away with and still be readable.

And so, by the first week of 2008, I had completed my final rewrite of the book, having cut 14 pages or so of needless text. And I felt better about the final result. It was tightre, flowed better and a little more polished.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gone Fishin'

To all of my fan (no -- that's not a typo):

I will be away Aug. 9 through Aug. 17. Please try to get along with a posting during that time. The story will pick up soon.