Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Even gloomier Tuesday

While waiting for a reminder that the sun exists...

A good reason for not starting to go to the movies again

Many years ago there was an unsuccessful writer who couldn't get published. Got depressed instead, and killed himself. Thereafter, Mom, a true believer, showed his book around, eventually got it published by an obscure press, and Madame Fortuna blessed it with a Pulitzer Prize.

The writer was John Kennedy Toole, the book A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), and the serious lit crits described it as one of the funniest books of all time. It isn't. Never got so much as a smile out of it. Now they're going to make a movie of it. Or perhaps they won't. Opinions differ. Either way, I am not bovvered.

But it's a story beloved of romantically fuzzy-minded authors everywhere. Just because I have 45 rejection slips doesn't mean I'm not a genius really. And after I've killed myself and my book becomes a huge success, then you'll be sorry.

Miss Snark is at it again

It just makes me so tired to contemplate it, but literary agent Miss Snark is simply bursting with energy. OK, so she has to make a living, and she hopes to find that next J.K. Rowling or whoever, but she is clearly not afraid of hard work.

Admittedly, she does occasionally tell her readers that they don't know whether to wind their butt or scratch their watch, which is not awfully kind to those of us who, through the handicap of age, deafness, and various other afflictions, are perhaps the tiniest bit slow on the uptake and fail to read the small print -- but, nevertheless, she does offer golden opportunities, at vast cost to her time and, no doubt, emotional wear and tear, to the great unwashed and unpublished.

Her latest scheme is to offer 160 or so writers the opportunity to send in a 250-word outline, or hook, for a book, in the hope of grabbing her attention.

The 150 entries began to be posted by Miss Snark, with comments, at 8.05 p.m. on 15 December, and no 2 appeared 3 minutes later. Thumpy eck, you've got three minutes! Less, actually, because she has to post the thing on her blog, read it, and write a comment.

This is a cut-throat business, Vera, and wise persons do flower-arranging instead.

Marti Lawrence, at hook no 27, was the first to raise anything but a curled lip.

Unorthodox layout

Speaking of Marti Lawrence, the lady points me to a book with a slightly unorthodox layout. Thanks, Marti, but I think that books with only 180 words to a page, with half the words upside down, and type which steadily shrinks in size, are just so last year.

Masonic gifts

Got any freemasons in the family? If so, lots of cheapo book gifts at Lewis Masonic. But you may have to search a bit for the really good cut-price offers. (No, I'm not. Never could get the hang of the handshake.)

ArtistShare for writers?

Devra Hall describes how ArtistShare works for musicians, and wonders whether it can do the same for writers.

Rape, the N-word and sex...

...is the title of a press release publicising a novel by black author Joseph E. Green. He originally thought of using the title Invisible Niggers, because, he says, he 'wanted to capture people's attention and promote discussion regarding several politically sensitive issues.' After some further thought, the book was eventually labelled Merging with Monsters and was published through iUniverse. The novel opens with a seven-page rape scene which has upset some people, so be warned.

Merging with Monsters is in fact Joseph Green's third novel, the first having been published while he was still an undergraduate at Stanford. He also has a page on MySpace, where he seems to have accumulated quite a few readers and friends. But the most useful info is on Amazon.com.

Mentioned in despatches

Duncan Fallowell, of April Ashley fame, has an 'unofficial' web site, with details of life and books, both interesting.

Myrmidon Books is a newish UK publishing enterprise, publishing mainstream and literary adult fiction. Open to submissions sans agent. Latest output: Gift of Rain, about life in Malaya under Japanese occupation, and Painted Messiah, a thriller about tracking down a portrait of Christ, painted from life.

Galleycat reports that some established writers are finding it preferable to go with smaller publishers. Little or no advance, but better attention and maybe more money at the end. Among those going with Vantage Books are David Morrell and Eileen Goudge. The latter once pulled down an advance of nearly $1 million. (See Al Zuckerman's Writing the Blockbuster Novel for details of how he sold it.)

Best is last

Cantara Christopher is an independent New York based publisher who sends out periodic emails, naturally enough, to publicise her company's latest doings. Here is an extract from her latest, which is highly relevant to anyone interested in what Cantara calls The New Paradigm. I omit her flattering reference to the GOB, because you're here already.

THE NEW PARADIGM

This is the most important thing I learned this year: If you're on this level of small, small press publishing, you can't just sell the book, you have to sell the technology that enabled the book to be published and you have to sell the philosophy of The New Publishing Paradigm as a whole.

(What's The New Paradigm? Read the article at http://cantarachristopher.com/the-new-paradigm.)

This is one big package to sell, and I have to tell you sometimes it looks mighty daunting. The trick is to find other people with the same vision, work with them and ride The Long Tail together. Here are a few:

-Baltimore-based online retailer Brad Grochowski (read what he has to say about Amazon at http://authorsbookshop.com/; also what I have to to say on the same subject at http://cantarachristopher.com/the-amazon-hustle; also read our mention in The Urbanite Baltimore at http://cantarachristopher.com/from-the-urbanite)

-Boulder area-based publisher/author Sandra Sanchez of The Wessex Collective (http://wessexcollective.com)

- NYC/LA-based publisher/author Jay Brida of Contemporary Press (http://contemporarypress.com)

- NYC-based novelist/commentator Carol Hoenig (read what she had to say about us at http://cantarachristopher.com/about-cantarabooks) whose ear to the ground and unerring instinct can be found daily at http://www.whereistand.com/carolhoenig

- DC-based novelist/reviewer, the anonymous "POD-dy Mouth" (http://girlondemand.blogspot.com), a woman of exquisite taste, high standards and top-tier contacts, who reviews ONLY self-published novels

- Tennessee-based bookcafe owners Karen Walasek and Ron Heacock (http://hillhousewriters.com), whose dream to establish a writers community in their town of Pulaski extends to the offer of free room and board at their country retreat to needy authors

And to acknowledge a couple of people I have or had only a brushing acquaintance with, but recognize their participation in The New Paradigm:

- Vermont-based story writer and poet Grace Paley, whose Glad Day Books (http://gladdaybooks.com/) provided one of the models for our own small press

- Denver-based Dave Cullen (http://davecullen.com/) whose unprecedented boosting of Annie Proulx's story-cum-film, Brokeback Mountain, in the middle states broadened the audience for strong, character-based fiction

- New York-based writer Tim Brown (http//:www.timwbrown.com), a walking encyclopedia of the pioneering DIY days

Cantara adds:

The key to working and writing in The New Paradigm? Live simply. Stay focused... And stop writing for the market. Nowadays the market is what you make it.

14 comments:

Simon Haynes said...

Miss Snark is reading over 700 hooks, not 160. That's just the number she's got to so far.

Paul Perry said...

As it happens, I rate A Confederacy of Dunces as one of the funniest books I ever read. (I'm also a fan of the early Michael Frayn, if that helps.)
I shudder to think what kind of a movie will be made of it. I can't remember ANY movie that was anywhere near as good as its book, and that one will have to be dumbed way way down...

Andrew O'Hara said...

I guess the Marti Lawrence book ("unorthodox layout") would make for difficult online reading. Even worse to try quoting the book.

When all else fails, try gimmickry.

Don said...

On the Miss Snark front, a couple clarifications which are VERY important.

1) It's TOO LATE to send in a hook.

2) You "win" a critique of your hook (and if it's good, your first pages). This has nothing to do with her actual agenting. You won't get representation out of the crapometer. You will get a chance to get more feedback than a chain form letter.

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Peter L. Winkler said...

The story of John Kennedy O'Toole has hardened into an urban legend that rekected writers hold to like some kind of tragic, romantic legend. Poor, misunderstood me.

The actual story is more complex. Those interested can go to Amazon.com, and read the prodcut page and reader reviews for a biography that written about O'Toole.

Briefly, it isn't true that his book was universally rejected. I believe that it was read with interest by Robert Gottlieb, a major NY editor. Gottlieb wanted some changes and he and O'Toole could never come to a meeting of the minds about them.

O'Toole's depression was also not solely a product of his literary woes. He was deeply conflicted about his sexuality, and that may have triggered the depression and suicide.

Marti said...

The book with the "unorthodox layout" isn't mine. I just read the article and thought GOP might find it interesting - lol.

I did however, get the very orthodox "Bingo! We have our first winner" comment from Miss Snark.

Best wises for a glorious holiday season to one and all!

Sandra Sanchez said...

I also did not care for Confederacy of Dunces, well, actually couldn't get through it, but then I couldn't get through Moby Dick either (also originally self published). The comment about an alternative theory for the cause of his suicide got me thinking. Depression might also have been the cause of his writing. Its all very circular. Obsession with mortality, art as a bid for immortality, hastening one's mortality in order to obtain immortality. I've read that Van Gogh did believe that after his death his paintings would increase in value (having absolutely nowhere to go but up) and thereby repay his brother Theo for all his help. Theo died, it is said, of grief over his brother but I believe in reincarnation and think that Vincent got his revenge on an indifferent art world by reincarnating as Andy Warhohl. Well, let me add a happier story to all this. This past year we (The Wessex Collective) hastened to publish a very funny book that we were glad to have accepted for publication, titled The Marble Orchard, by Paul Johnson because Paul was battling a fairly ferocious cancer and we wanted to get the book out while he was still alive to see it. Then, being so encouraged Paul began another novel, reprising a character from his first novel(Killing The Blues published by St. Martins in 1987). He worked through the most gruesome and debilitating of chemo treatments with a cheerful demeanor and then one week after completing the second and satisfactory draft of City of Kings, he passed on. So, a case where the muse kept one man alive, by his widow's estimation, a year beyond his time. We are editing City of Kings as I speak. On that note, Happy New Year to you all.

Anonymous said...

you're very jealous huh?

Gerry Kelly said...

"Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy O'Toole is a very funny book, if you have a Southern USA (especially New Orleans) background; it is very regional reading.

I can understand that one who does understand the circumstances and characters that make New Orleans a great and wonderful city would not understand this book.

Walker Percy,(deceased) author and Professor at Loyola University, New Orleans was very instrumental in getting this book published after reading the manuscript.

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