Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm Not Leering, I'm Peeking at Your Kindle

My friend Arlene forwarded me an article from today’s New York Times about the e-book era bumping book covers off the subway, the coffee table and the beach.

Book covers have had such a profound importance to both readers and publishers and I became a little panicked after reading the article. I LOVE BOOK COVERS! When I’m on an airplane or in a coffee shop, I always sneak a peek at what others are reading. And when I browse Maria’s, my local independent bookseller, book covers are what draw me in — the graphics, the colors, the typefaces used. A captivating book cover invites strangers to ask what you’re reading and whether you’d recommend the book. I wouldn’t feel the same about peering over someone’s shoulder to read their Kindle. (And with my deteriorating eyesight, the task would prove impossible or dangerous anyway.)

Publishers stand to lose as well. Book covers are an important marketing tool, a chance to create an iconic look that others recognize. (For example, the blood-red apple used on the black cover of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight.)

In the bookstore, where a majority of sales still take place, covers play a crucial role. “If you have already passed that hurdle of having a customer be attracted to the cover, and then they pick up the book,” said Patricia Bostelman, vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble, “an enormous battle has been won.”

I haven’t considered a Kindle because I love the heft of a book, the way the paper feels, how bookshelves add warmth and interest to a room (and say something fairly public about who you are by what you’re reading).

Have you purchased a book based on the title and book cover alone? Do you have a favorite book cover to share? I especially liked “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” whose cover has a cut-out of the black poodle. Or have you given up printed books in favor of e-readers?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Platforms (and I Don't Mean the Shoes)

I recently attended a Writer’s Digest webinar titled “What Editors and Agents Want.” Great information but sobering. Not only does a writer’s manuscript have to be well-written with a fresh theme, he or she must provide proof of platform. The 60 of us on the call paused for the punch line. Platform. Our ability to build a community willing to purchase our book. Examples include blog followers and Facebook friends. Well, that sent a panic through the group. The vast majority didn’t write a blog nor could they imagine building up 1,000 or more followers (the presenter’s recommendation).

Publishers aren’t willing to take risks as they did in the old days. They want to know a writer will be a partner in marketing the book and generating sales. The presenter acknowledged platform is more important when pitching a non-fiction book. You have to be an “expert” of sorts to prove your book has credibility and platform adds to that. Fiction writers won’t necessarily be held to the same standard but the question will be asked. “Who will want to read your book?”

I have 126 Facebook friends. I could increase those numbers by adding work colleagues from Goodwills across the country or school mates from childhood but the platform would be artificial. Just because someone remembers me from grade school or has met me at a conference doesn’t mean he or she would buy my book. Plus, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook right now. Posts I want to read are buried in hundreds of non-sensical ones from people with whom I rarely connect. Do I really want to add another 500 people who really don't give a hoot about me?

I have a hard enough time writing my blog regularly and only a few people actually read it once I post (thanks, guys!). Sitting in my chair, this dreary Friday morning, I’m overwhelmed with how to build my blog readership. If you have ideas, just let me know. I think it counts if you sign up your pets as followers.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Does Resisting Hardwork Make Me (gasp) a Slacker?

I had a friend and my sister both tell me they’ve been checking for a new blog. And it’s been more than a month. I tell myself I’ve been too busy with work, writing on the book, writing short stories and sending them out, etc. That’s a crock of doo-doo.

Writing on a consistent basis – book, blog, journal – is hard work. On some level, I’ve been resisting that hard work.

The same friend sent me this quote:
"The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired," wrote music critic Ernest Newman, "but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach, and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand. They didn't waste time waiting for inspiration."

I’m not comparing myself to a great composer but the reality is the same. Any creative person must be committed to his/her craft, good days, bad days, rainy days, sunny days. I’m admitting to my readership of nine or so people that I’ve not been committed.

I’m still at about the 40,000-word mark on the novel. That’s about halfway. I’ve been stuck at this point like a dieter who’s reached a plateau. Like someone with OCD, I go back over previous work and rewrite, tweak, rearrange.

Slogging through that first rough draft is priority one. Blogging on a more consistent basis, priority two.

I think the principle can be applied to most people and most endeavors. Have you wanted to learn to paint or take a photography class but work, children, life get in the way? Have you wanted to open your own business but the timing hasn’t been right? We’ve all been stuck. What have you done to become unstuck?