My Thoughts Exactly

Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Geraldine Brooks talks with Wetmachine about the future of publishing

Today Wetmachine talks with Geraldine Brooks, whose novel March won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006, about trends in publishing. She joins the roster of Wetmachine “Whither Publishing?” interviewees including Writer’s Digest impresaria Jane Friedman,  ebook pioneer Mark Coker of Smashwords.com, and book designer extraordinaire Joel Friedlander.

I met Geraldine Brooks when we were seated next to each other at a small dinner party about two months ago. (Geraldine and her husband Tony Horwitz (also a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize — his is for journalism) and I have many mutual friends, including my wife Betty, who directs the lecture series at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, where Tony has been a speaker and Geraldine is on the hook for a talk next year.)

At that dinner party Geraldine and I discovered that we had many similar interests, including a shared taste for dystopian science fiction novels — the very kind of book I write. I offered to drop off a few copies of my books at her house and she said, “Oh, please do.” So the next day I hoped on my bicycle and rode to the address she had given me, and that’s how I discovered where she lived and that I had met her young son Bizu some 9 months earlier, when the fire truck to which I’m assigned, T___ 651, was parked in front of their house during a routine “furnace backfire” call. When I got home from dropping off my books I sent Geraldine the write-up in my diary about that fire call, and she was thrilled to get it, saying “That’s fantastic.  Thank you so much for sending this. I remember that day quite vividly.  I thought, that’s a very nice man out there, letting Bizu ramble away at him..”

Since then Geraldine & I have become  pals. I think the moral of the story is, if you want to get on the good side of a famous writer and get her to answer questions for your insignificant little blog, let her observe you being nice to her child without having any idea who he is or that she’s observing you through the window.

I’ve attached that diary entry at the end of the interview. Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Book designer and self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander talks with Wetmachine about the future of publishing

As part of our continuing series of interviews with movers & shakers in the rapidly changing world of publishing, Wetmachine today talks with Joel Friedlander, proprietor of Marin Bookworks and creator & curator of the fantastically helpful and interesting site The Book Designer. Joel’s a long-time self-publisher and consultant to other self-publishers. He knows a lot and he’s funny and helpful. See my questions and his answers below the fold.

Joel joins Jane Friedman, head honcho emeritus of Writer’s Digest, and Mark Coker, creator of epub publishing powerhouse Smashwords.com in Wetmachine’s “Whither Publishing” interview series. Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Traveling Self-Publishing Geek Novelist Blues: the Defcon Variations

John standing in vendor room at Defcon

Me in my Defcon T-shirt glory

I write & publish fiction for hackers and geeks. I’ve written a novel and two novellas and I have another novel in the works. The baseline genre is cyberpunk/biopunk thriller, although I approach the subject matter in a kind of David Foster Wallace/Pynchonian way. So I’m actually kind of a postmodern metafictiony cyberpunky technothriller novelist. All my books concern hacking of both silicon-based and carbon-based systems.

As I discussed in Adventures in Self-Publishing, there’s no reasonable way for me to get my books into bookstores (all the tech bookstores that used to carry me have gone under). Therefor I have to use other ways to get my books in front of readers. So sometimes I go to places where hackers and geeks and congregate & there set up a table whereupon I put out copies of my books & glowing reviews from geekoid websites & start carnival barking like Billy Mays, selling my books for cash.

I’ve done this for more than ten years.

Does it make any sense to sell books this way? Am I a brilliant self-marketing original or just some crackpot who wrote some crackpot books?  I don’t know, but if you read this post I’ll think you’ll have enough info to form your own opinions. (Jane Friedman of Writers’ Digest thinks I’m doing something right, which is some consolation.)

Below, the story of my most recent such gig & biggest one ever, Defcon, Las Vegas, late July/early August 2010. This account includes a rambling disquisition on the whole “hand-selling books on the road” idea in general, with lessons learned from ten years of this idiocy.

(Since Defcon, by the way, I’ve sold the rights to my first novel, Acts of the Apostles. See here for the how and why I sold the rights.)
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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Writing | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Smashwords founder Mark Coker talks to Wetmachine about the future of publishing

Smashwords is a service for helping small and self-publishers format ebooks in diverse formats (for example: kindle, epub, PDF, Palm) and distribute them through diverse retail channels (for example Amazon, Apple, BN, Kobo, and Smashwords itself). A few weeks ago I sent Smashwords founder Mark Coker a note asking if I could interview him for Wetmachine & SelfPublishing Review. He said yes; I sent him some questions about the current & future state of book publishing, and he answered. His replies appear below the fold.

I found his answers interesting and direct, and I think you’ll enjoy reading what he had to say.
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Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Uncategorized, Writing | Also tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Ass over teakettle and a farewell to free ebooks

About three weeks ago I had freak accident on my bicycle. My chain froze as I was pedalling up a hill. I went ass over teakettle and performed a lovely three-point faceplant in the weeds (2 hands + 1 face = 3 ), spraining eight fingers & two thumbs and bloodying up my left cheek, which led to two visits to the emergency room and one to my doctor who told me that much of the symptoms in my hand were coming from my neck, where CT scans revealed “moderate to severe arthritis.”

As I picked myself up off the ground, in shock at the gross betrayal of me by my insubordinate bicycle and angry at gravity, and with my hands hurting ferociously and tingling in equal measure, and later, after calling my daughter, who was off in our family’s only working car, to ask her to come drive me to the hospital, I realized that I was not Cory Doctorow. Even after my daughter had picked up my wife who took me to the emergency room at Martha’s Vineyard hospital & I had heavenly dilaudid pumping into my vein I still was not Cory.

I’m mostly all better now. I even rode my bike a lot yesterday, despite the heat, right down to the Tisbury Street Fair, where I served strawberry shortcake with the guys in the Firefighters Association. It’s been three weeks since my bike mishap & I’m still not Cory. Consequently, I’ve stopped giving my books away for free.
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Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Uncategorized, Writing | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)
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