Readers Corner

Best of Ohio Short Stories, volume 1

best_of_ohio_anthology_lgI was fortunate enough to be gifted with a copy of this collection provided I make public my thoughts. Since I’m not particularly shy about sharing my opinions, and I’m all about the free stuff (Especially books… And food… I *never* turn down free food…), I accepted the offer immediately.

For those who don’t know, I temp at the Board of Elections twice a year, helping to train the folks who work at the voting centers processing voters. This year I also spent election day at the BoE in what we call the War Room, aka Mission Control, aka where all problems at the vote centers are reported and sorted out. I brought the Ohio short story collection with me to peruse between panicked phone calls.

At one point, one of the BoE guys wandered past.

“What are you reading? Best HO Stories?” [note: see cover photo]

As one might expect, he said this quite loudly, garnering the attention of everyone in the place. Did I mention I was the only woman in the room?

“Dude. OHIO stories. O-H-I-O” I replied foisting the book into the air and waving it around.

This, not surprisingly, wasn’t nearly as interesting as the prospect of me reading stories about Hos, and the guys went back to work.

Yes, this should make you worry, just as smidge, about our election processors.


A friend and I used to joke about a third friend’s (Let’s call her Lulu here, for the sake of protecting all parties involved) taste in books, which leaned heavily toward those considered “literary” . Our discussions would go something like this:

“How was [insert title here]?”

“Oh, it was a Lulu book; you know how it is.”

‘How it is’ in this context meant death, dying, fear of death, grief, anticipated mourning and depression.

While the “Best of…” anthology is far from morbid, it does have its share of the above. Fortunately it also has alien abductions, Wall Street douchebags, exercises in familial dissonance, ghost hunters, and…

Are you intrigued yet?

Good. Now go pick up a copy:

PS. With all the abuse Ohio and Ohioans take, this anthology is a great reminder that among other great things, Ohio produces really wonderful writers too.


Do the Work!

My fellow writers and I use this phrase in relation to a multitude of writing-related tasks, but most often in relation to our responsibilities toward our fellow writing group members. Even if we can’t attend a meeting, we ‘do the work’ – we provide written comments and feedback on the submissions becuase we understand that the success of the group relies on everyone’s willingness to support and advise everybody else.

A public group is just that, and sometimes people sign up but never follow through. After some time passes, they are removed from the ‘roll’, but our fearless administrator tries to give them a bit of leeway. Life does get in the way.

Recently, one such individual sent me an email asking to gander at my query letter. If I had any sort of relationship with this person, if s/he had attended even a single meeting, or if s/he had attempted some sort of correspondence, I might have complied. But given the circumstances, her/his request was completely inappropriate. Instead of saying so, I simply replied:

Since you received my message, you’re obviously registered as a member of this group. If you are interested in receiving feedback on your manuscript or query, you might consider attending some of the meetings. If that doesn’t fit your schedule, then there are plenty of sample queries and how-to articles available on the web. Good luck with your project.

So far, not a peep back. Not that I expected one.

Interestingly enough, another published writer, Colleen Thompson, had a similar experience. Her thoughts can be read here:

Potpourri Readers Corner

It’s official..

I hate writing query letters.

Potpourri Readers Corner

Publishing Industry Explained (sort of…)

Occassionally you will hear me gripe about the book publishing industry, but here is an opportunity for me to explain why. And please read all the way to the bottom cuz that’s the important stuff.

First up, is a Dear Author post, commenting on a Wall Street Journal article and breaking down the current publishing industry model. (there’s a lot more to this post aside from what I’m quoting – please read it in its entirety)

Publishing operates under the Pareto concept. 20% of the titles generate 80% of the publishing houses’ profits. But reliance on the 20% of books to provide a successful and growing book market will inevitably miss whole segments of the reading public.

In 2006, Netflix offered 60,000 DVDs. Out of the 60,000 titles in Netflix’s inventory, I ask, how many do you think are rented at least once on a typical day? Well, the actual answer is 35,000 to 40,000. That’s right: every day, almost two of every three movies ever put onto DVD are rented by a Netflix customer. “Americans’ tastes are really broad,” says Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive. So, while the studios spend their energy promoting bland blockbusters aimed at everyone, Netflix has been catering to what people really want — and helping to keep Hollywood profitable in the process.

Publishing needs to learn more about its consumers. This is where microtargeting can come into play. If publishing spent less in advances and had better POD technology, it could provide more targeted sales. Wouldn’t it be less of a risk to try to make money off of 80% of the publishing list rather than just 20%.

Then we have this little gem which walks you the ‘business’ of owning a bookstore, and explaining how disasterous it is that booksellers can order books from the publisher and then return the unsold copies whenever they please (FYI, books are the ONLY industry where this happens):

However, the big boxes — Borders, Barnes & Nobles, even Amazon, now…had purchasing power…They’re talking potentially in the thousands, even millions [of a single title]

As for Borders, part of their business model is something called churning [returning unsold books]

The usual terms with distributors are 1 week, 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, depending on your credit history with them.

Order $1000 worth of books. Note the payment says, “since you are fancy massive bookstore with lots of buying power, you have 90 days to pay from the date the order was delivered in full”. However, you still only have 60 days before you can return without a restocking fee & tax-surcharge. So on day 59, let’s say you return $500 worth of books, and get $500 credit from the distributor for books you have not even paid for yet.

That’s churning.

Borders killed (literally) a couple of small presses recently and hurt many more by doing this and here’s how:

They did not return to the original distributor but to Ingram’s [according to this poster, if a bookseller accidentally send to the wrong distributor, they will generally credit the account, then return the books to their proper distributor and get their money back from them]

Now, thing is about small presses: if you order a lot of books from them, it’s going to be hard for them to fill the full order, sometimes…if they [Borders] order 500 copies and only get 100, they don’t pay for those 100 until the other 400 have come in.

Borders is busy ordering, doesn’t have to pay, AND is returning books to Ingrams instead of to the original, small, publisher-distributors. So the publisher/distributor is sending the rest of the order while the first half is being RETURNED FOR CREDIT, and Borders can then use that credit to get books through Ingrams, who carries a helluva lot more than just that one small press.

It’s like, “I ordered 500 copies of the Book of Vacuum Cleaner Hoses, only got 250 so far, then immediately returned those 250 not to Hose Press but to Ingrams, got $5,000 credit, and turned around to use that to purchase from Ingrams 500 copies of Dan Brown’s latest tripe, on which I’ve now made $5,000 on top of the money I didn’t actually even pay yet.”

Notice that Borders has not paid out a single penny yet. Basically, they ordered something, returned it elsewhere, and used that return to buy something else which was sold at a profit.

In case the dots weren’t connected, these small presses, when hit with all these returns went bankrupt. One small press is actually suing Borders for this mess. (whether EC is the ‘right’ press to be suing them is another topic altogether)

Readers Corner

Million Dollar Backlash

From MediaBistro’s Galleycat:

Some readers were not amused by the multi-million dollar bidding wars inspired by Sarah Silverman and Jerry Seinfeld’s respective book proposals this week.

Moonrat responded with a passionate post: “GalleyCat, you know I love you, but how dearly I hope your source was wrong about this. Huge advances like this will never earn out, ever.”

Silverman’s book landed at HarperCollins to the tune of $2.5 million, the NY Observer reports today. Seinfeld’s deal has not been sealed as of this writing.

Following these developments, children’s author Jane Yolen commented on how huge advances affect other non-celebrity authors: “I may have sold millions of copies of my books, but have never commanded even a 100th of the D List celebrity advances. Gotta find me some tassels and practice my singing/dancing chops. After I make it big on my Virgin Grandma tour, I might be able to get me a real advance on my next book.”

I suspect the inner workings of the publishing industry are as a big a mystery to the average person as is the Federal Reserve, but in short, the publishing industry is whining constantly about losing money. Yet, they operate under a ridiculous ‘consignment’ business model, which means that if bookstores can’t sell books, they can just return them to the publisher. No other industry operates under this model, and it’s the reason indie publishers are being crushed. (it’s also the reason you’ll find the latest Stephen King, James Patterson etc. in the clearance bin for $5.99. The retailers don’t have to ‘monitor’ how many copies they order because they can just turn around and return them to the publishers to fee up some capital)

The other insane issue are these ‘celebrity advances’. The publishing companies are heading toward a blockbuster mentality, which would be somewhat understandable except that everyone (and by ‘everyone’, I mean those who pay attention to the publishing industry) knows these multi-million dollar advances rarely, if ever, earn out. It’s as if the publishers get some sort of ego boost from having Celebrity X on their client roster instead of making a legitimate business decision.

So they lose money on these headline making deals. But instead of opting for a lower advance and a higher royalty rate for fake-boobed wonder’s latest tell-all, the publishers choose not to renew midlist authors or turn away new authors because “they’re too big of a risk”. Why fix a mistake when you can just make a new one instead?