Thursday, 26 February 2009

Don’t Discount the Little Guys: On the Benefits of Small Publishers

Ask any new author whether they’d rather be published by a big publishing house or a small but attentive local publisher and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t choose big. I’d like to suggest that this is a misconception. Even if it were a possibility, and with all due respect to the five biggest publishers (Penguin, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Random House, Time Warner), getting published by a big press may not be the best option for a new author. Here are some of the key reasons why.
  • Getting a first novel or poetry book published by a mainstream publisher is a difficult task by any standard, but the big houses are often constrained by tight quotas, by large overheads and mandated profit margins, by purely commercial (rather than literary) considerations (and the demands of shareholders), and by the need for big name acquisition and the subsequent costs. Most won’t take unagented submissions and even if they do, may not look at them. So the entry portal for a large house is very small.
  • Naturally the bigger the house the bigger their resource pool, budget and so on but these funds are often not available to new authors, whose slice of the funding pie may be correspondingly small to fund the famous ‘names’ that the house has. Even if their book is accepted by a big house, first time authors may find themselves receiving surprisingly small advances, and more importantly, very limited editing, publicity, and promotion. With the big houses, you are one author amongst thousands, and your personal success is generally not that important in the overall scheme of their lives. In small houses, your success is critical, and you’re only one of a very small number of authors, so you count.
  • One of the biggest problems with big houses is the limited timeframe for promotion. A book is usually only “hot” within the first two months from publication. This means you need reviews from galleys, and if you don’t sell well in the early stages you may be dropped, pulped, or ignored. Large houses will often only do large print runs, which means that a book has to sell significant numbers of books to make back the investment (more than 5,000 copies is an average lower limit for large houses). Smaller publishers generally don’t have those sorts of constraints. A book can be considered viable with much smaller sales than those expected by a large publisher and will often be promoted and kept ‘on the books’ in print (especially if it’s POD and no stock is required) over many years.
  • Smaller houses often provide much greater rights to your book, and higher margins, even if the initial advance is low to nonexistent. This may well mean that you end up earning much more from your book sales.
  • Smaller house are often faster to market with books (partly due to fewer constraints and a flatter structure), more flexible, and more willing to personally edit your book to perfection.
  • Small publishers often have much closer contact with their authors. They collaborate on covers, work together on galleys, and can even involve authors in the production process. There is a wonderful intimacy which you will never find in the large houses.
There was once a time when the small houses produced poorer quality printed books, but this is no longer the case. The cost of printing is cheaper than it ever was, and most small press books are printed on the same quality paper and with the same quality printers as the big house books (some have higher printing quality than the big houses because they are able to focus their resources). The Internet too has given smaller houses a leg up, and they are making the most of global promotion opportunities in a much faster way than the big houses – utilising Amazon and reaching targeted markets with the kind of dexterity that can only come when you aren’t hampered by the constraints of a pro-forma performance appraisal.

There’s also a broader aesthetic implication to consider when sending your work out for publication. Small presses tend to support diversity and innovation. As they aren’t reporting to a board of directors or stockholders, there is much more freedom for them to make selections based on quality rather than sales potential. So supporting small presses means that you’re supporting diversity in publishing and ensuring that the wide variety of stunning voices that are out there continue to be available. Poetry in particular has always existed outside of financial considerations, and the number of poetic titles being published by large publishers is miniscule. Good poetry books are being published almost solely by small presses, which continue to support new poets out of very small funding pots, and primarily for the love of it. Most small presses work primarily for the love of it anyway, regardless of what they publish, and choose books based on that one criteria that every writer wants his or her reader to have
a deep and abiding love of the book. In other words, if a small press is publishing you, it isn’t because you’re Ethan Hawke or Jewel, but because they absolutely love your work. What more could a writer ask for? How about a long book life, small (possibly very small) but steady profits, superb, thoughtful, personal and collaborative editing, and aggressive, innovative marketing? If that’s what you’re looking for, small presses are the way to go. Of course not all small presses are divine. There are plenty of sharks out there. But a majority of small presses are operating on a tiny budget and a massive heart. It’s enough to keep you writing.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. Her short stories, editorials, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in a wide number of printed anthologies and journals, and have won local and international awards for poetry (including this year's Roland Robinson literary award), and fiction. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything and three other poetry chapbooks Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse and She Wore Emerald Then. She runs a monthly radio program podcast

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Why an author should attend London Book Fair

Written a book and can’t find a publisher? We’ve all been there! Consider attending the annual London Book Fair at Earls Court April 20th – 22nd 2009 - the biggest in the UK. Full details can easily be found here

Attendees can get a reduction if they register online. They also get access to their own online diary about a month in advance so their programme can be planned.

The fair is massive and covers the entire floor space of Earls Court.

Authors can attempt to make appointments in advance with literary agents, book scouts, editors, commissioning agents and rights dealers from all over the world through the online diary.

Visitors can attend free seminars on: how to approach publishers, how to market your book and future trends in publishing etc. These seminars are popular and very useful. Seminar programme

An author should take plenty of flyers advertising their work (genre info, extracts, synopsis, literary record etc) most will end up in the bin but never mind, some will be read and who knows a guy might say ‘oh, yea, this looks good.’

See you there!

Peter Tomlinson - author of The Petronicus Legacy – a series of three novels published by BeWrite Books.

The London Book Fair is the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels.

Taking place every spring in the world’s premier publishing and cultural capital it is a unique opportunity to hear from authors, enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and explore innovations shaping the publishing world of the future. The London Book Fair brings you three days of focused access to customers, content and emerging markets.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Review: Two Days in Tehran

I'm always interested in reading books about Iran. I would like to know what others write about my country and I get disappointed most of the time because they are not showing the true Iran… they just write some stereotype stories to have their books published.

This book was different. The story just took place in Iran and had some Iranian characters but I was very happy to find out it's not like the other books. Airyaa

I am not a user of superlatives, so I shan't be exactly mirroring the reviews of other readers of this new Michael J Hunt novel. However, I can echo one comment: when told that a story is "based on a real life journey" I too wonder what aspects of the novel are thus based.

It doesn't matter, however, as I feel that in this novel Michael Hunt has reached a new level of conviction. His first person narrative reads just as you would expect from a genuine journal - it has an almost homely touch, no obtrusive "literary" tricks and devices. Incidentally, however, I did relish his occasional italicised "Thinks-bubble" comments, one-sentence soliloquies, reminding you that behind the narrative there is a narrator.

One element that readers enjoy in any kind of fiction is the provision, in the earlier stages of the narrative, of hints about significant detail - details that will be crucial later on. This is a well-known feature of the best detective stories, but its importance generally is evidenced by one's irritation when the final "solution" to a plot involves a deus ex machina - the introduction of characters of whose existence one has had no hint preciously. In Two Days in Tehran, Michael Hunt actually draws attention to details that will, or may, have significance later on. Unfortunately my memory is so poor that I forgot the detail and so could not mentally say "Ah, so that's what ....."! On the other hand Hunt makes skilful use of the author's licence to spring surprises - on characters in the story as well as on the reader.

Bucking current trends, the novel earn a very favourable rating from me on sex and violence. The inevitable violence is reported but not dwelt lovingly on, and the reader might be (dare I say?) as disappointed as one of the characters in the studied avoidance of physical intimacy!

The central figure is presented as modest about his own role, correctly, one feels. So the triumph of Good over Evil is a shared achievement, multi-national at that. This is just one of the pleasantly distinctive features of a very readable, and increasingly gripping, tale. DJ Gosden

Normally a slow reader I read this book in 4 days. It keeps you interested and keen to turn the next page. Michael obviously knows the area and history. A perfect piece of fiction which also gives an insight in to the history of Iran. V J Croft

This adventure calls upon the author's extensive foreign travel and intimate knowledge of the turbulent era when the Shah of Iran was replaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The main character in the book, Greg, also on a cusp in his life gambles on a new travel business by taking five westerners on an overland Land Rover trip across Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran to India. Caught up in the Iranian revolution the group see sights too horrible for the usual touristy trip, but worse, they are kidnapped and held in gruesome conditions. Poor Greg realizes he should have researched his geopolitics more carefully but tries to look after his clients even though he becomes suspicious of each one's real identity and motivation. That's all the dry plot summary I'm giving but don't go yet.

Few travel fiction books carry the reader along on the journey as well as Michael Hunt does in his books and in this one you feel the heat, the tension, see the landscape and take away the feeling you've been there in person. You smell the odours and feel the fear in this page turner; a damned good read. On the other hand, do they reach India? Does Greg grab the woman he fancies on the trip? Why does he have to endure the stench of blood for hours at a time? What is a VIP woman doing on a trip to a volatile part of the world, and can Greg keep her safe? Does anybody believe him when he finally tells the truth although does he really know what that is? Read Two Days in Tehran to find out. Geoff Nelder

Starting your own adventure vacation company – good idea. Wandering into Iran as it's about to experience a massive revolution – bad idea. "Two Days in Tehran" follows Greg Alexander as he finds himself caught between two sides of the revolution, and may be facing a third side of hostility from the very crew he was guiding. His only goal is to escape with his life and his passengers' lives intact- a goal that's more trouble than it seems. An intriguing tale straight through, "Two Days in Tehran" is highly recommended. Midwest Book Review

An elegantly written thriller. As each page turns faster than the last, the tension is palpable and claustrophobic. The only disappointment is that the book has to end. I would recommend it as the perfect novel for readers who enjoy a meticulously crafted adventure of epic proportions. If you enjoyed the twists and turns in the film "In Bruges ", this is a must read. Sue Plover

Michael J Hunt's new book 'Two Days in Tehran' takes him from his usual stomping ground in Africa to the wilds of the Iran-Afghanistan border. Wherever he chooses to land though, Mr Hunt has an unerring ear for a good story.

This first person romp follows the Adventure Tour operator Gregory Alexander on an overland trip to India with a Land Rover full of fellow travellers. As the title suggests, it's when they arrive in Tehran that things go awry and they all get a lot more adventure than anyone would ever have dreamed of.

Mr Hunt's fast moving narrative keeps you on the hop right through to the very last page with the exciting twists and turns of events surrounding the revolution of the Ayatollahs and what happens when innocent European travellers become involved ... or are they? By my book, it's the read for this summer. Ray Busa

Greg Alexander is taking a party of five on an overland journey by landrover to India. Plenty of scope for incident and adventure you may think, but you could not imagine what befalls the group in terms of alarm, excitement and terror.

They journey across Europe to Iran. Prior to entering the city of Tehran they have no knowledge of the imminent revolution, leading to the deposition of the Shah. The party find themselves unwittingly caught up in the morass of Middle Eastern politics and the dichotomies of opposing factions. Problems swiftly arise, compounded by the mistrust that arises amongst themselves, Greg hardly knowing who or what to believe.

Despite Greg's efforts to continue the journey, the expedition falls foul of the Shah's secret police, in the shape of Saktari, who is fond of saying 'things may not always be as they seem' - and so it is, throughout this remarkable story.

As well as a story of high adventure, it is also revelatory about events in Iran at that time, which previously you may not have been aware of. Michael Hunt's knowledge of foreign politics and foreign countries is extensive, as we learned from his previous books. Read this well written novel yourself, with it's unrelenting pace and tension. Kate Edwards

Michael Hunt is a well known exponent of the narrative art who has written a fast moving story with sufficient twists and turns to keep the reader fully engrossed. The story is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Shah of Iran and the subsequent horrors and turmoil that beset the region. The story follows a group of holidaying adventurers who are inevitably caught up in the frightening uncertainties. However, as the story unfolds we discover that the holiday makers are not all they seem.

Michael Hunt has led an adventurous life and has travelled in the volatile Middle East on numerous occasions. It is clear that he knows the area and the trails that traverse it. And if you read this book you will travel those trails with him. Highly recommended. Peter Tomlinson, The Petronicus Legacy

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was drawn into a story of dangerous subterfuge where the central characters, on the surface seasoned travellers, are innocents abroad at the mercy of murky factional wrangling. Suspense mounts as they learn some hard and brutal lessons. I was struck by the beautiful descriptions of the desert landscapes in which the heroes must act or die. s6456

Brilliantly written adventure book with vivid characters, which grabbed my attention from its first pages till the last one. Middle Eastern history, politics and culture are well presented, the author definitely knows the subject.

I felt like undertaking the journey together with Greg on his the Land Rover tour. My husband and I love traveling and we may possibly consider going to the Middle East next year (booking our trip through a proper travel agency though :-) Natalya Popova

A huge welcome to Michael J Hunt's latest book. It is different from the previous two but it is most definitely equal to them for excitement and interest. It is a good, gripping, adventure yarn and, as always, very well written.

Michael obviously knows the area and has a good understanding of the politics of Iran at the time of the Revolution and removal of the Shah.

The story builds slowly as we get to know the characters, all of whom are well drawn and believable. It then explodes into action. I had to read the last seventy-five pages in one sitting (much to the annoyance of my wife!)

I am left wondering which bits are the true story and which the fiction!

Well done, Michael, and I'm looking forward to your next one. Marcus Woodhouse

Having read both Michael J. Hunt's previous novels, I was determined to read the next as soon as it was released. I have just finished Two Days in Tehran and it is every bit as exciting as its predecessors.

I knew very little about the geography, politics and machinations in the Middle East but now I know a little more, painlessly, sustained by a tense, thrilling narrative.

The characters are real, believable, with human flaws; bluff and double bluff is subtly conveyed as we doubt the motives and allegiances of each as the plot develops. I was engrossed to the end. Michael Hunt is a master teller of tales. G Wood

Greg Alexander sets up the ultimate adventure vacation company ... and accidentally treks into the bloody revolution to overthrow the Shah of Iran.

Not only does Greg face treachery on either side of the bitter struggle for power and survival, he soon finds that he can't even trust the seemingly innocent western travellers in his own party.

His life and those of his passengers swing in a precarious balance as Greg tries to make sense of the murky and muddled politics, alliances and feuds of the Middle East and navigate the twisting road to safety.

Based on a real life journey and a bloody revolution that changed the face of Islam, sending out shockwaves that rock the world three decades later.

Read an excerpt from Two Days in Tehran

Watch Two Days in Tehran book trailer

Click here for more information about Michael J Hunt

Also by Michael J Hunt: Matabele Gold | The African Journals of Petros Amm

Monday, 23 February 2009

Please Vote

The Devil Can Wait has been nominated for Book Cover of the Year 2008 at Erin Aislinn's site.

All votes will be entered in a draw for a copy of the winning title.

Please cast your vote for this great cover before April 15 2009.

Book Cover of the Year

Friday, 20 February 2009

Until the Skies Fall by Liza Granville - Out Now

Laz is a young man in a post-apocalyptic England where the disastrous results of genetic engineering are evident everywhere. He is persuaded his destiny is to save the world from a threatening Death Star. Along with his companions he sets out on an epic and perilous journey. They encounter strange remnants of previous societies; each one convinced it represents the only true and proper form of humanity. Can Laz and his friends survive the dangers en route and the hostility of those they meet? Can Laz reach his destination before it is too late?

Until the Skies Fall is a thought provoking and intriguing tale narrated with humour and great compassion. It is a truly different view and account of a very possible future that questions what it is to be human.

Motley companions undertake a quest across the hostile terrain of a far-future world in the hope of averting a planet-wide disaster, and along the way discover the real meaning of what it is to be human. Liza Granville takes classic ingredients for high adventure and mixes them together with a generous dash of humour to cook up a tale that is all her own. John Grant

Read an extract from Until the Skies Fall

About the Author

Purchase: paperback | eBook

Title: Until the Skies Fall
Author: Liza Granville
Print ISBN: 978-1-906609-00-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-906609-01-6
Page count: 324
Release Date: 19th February 2009

Cover art © Vincent Chong

Distributors: Bertram Books, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, Ingrams

BeWrite Books are available from: BeWrite Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and other online booksellers and to order from high street bookshops.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Lad Moore's Success is Attributed to Vivid Imagery and Realism of Characters

Writer Lad Moore is preparing for the release of his third short story collection, Riders of the Seven Hills. Once again, he has chronicled a montage of characters and events that as he says, represent his world of “red clay and blue denim.”

Like his first two offerings, Tailwind and Odie Dodie, his new work will be published by BeWrite Books in the UK. In addition to his three books, Mr Moore has been published more than five hundred times in print and internet venues, including The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Virginia Adversaria, Amarillo Bay, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. His is a six-time contributor to Adams Media’s Cup of Comfort and Rocking Chair Reader anthologies and has won such awards as The Silver Quill, The Wordhammer, and a best-fiction nomination to the Texas Institute of Letters.

Lad Moore has an earthy style often compared to that of Mark Twain, Patrick McManus, and William Faulkner. As to these comparisons, Lad admits to having read woefully little work by the three famous writers, and is surprised and honored to be thought of in that company.

Questions of style and discipline often dominate the curiosity of his fans at interviews and book signings.

“The question I get most is ‘how do you approach writing’?” That question suggests style and content, but usually the root of the question centers around discipline. How can one sit for those many hours and fill all those pages? The answer embraces something even the writer has difficulty explaining. How does one describe a compulsion? It would be easier to list reasons for not writing.

“Writing for me is reaching past flesh into one’s guts. I think Red Smith expressed my feelings best: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Lad explains that there is, at the core, a creative mind and a need to share experiences and imagination with others. There is a pride in reading a sentence that bristles the hair on the neck. There is that inevitable soft sigh when the last page is finished and the cover closed. It is the release of truth, release of passion, and yes, the freeing of secrets.

“I just feel it. I don’t have a ‘time’ to write. I don’t have an agenda to fill, a number of pages or chapters to complete, a deadline to meet. I let it flow until it stops. Sometimes it stops because of distractions. Sometimes it's that mysterious dam called writer’s block. But it will flow again, because of that compulsion writers have at their helm.”

As to subject and material, Lad explains: “I don’t force genre. I don’t force theme. My writing includes poems, mystery, passion, anger, and even fantasy. It’s what came out that day. Maybe that is why I am a short story writer. It allows me to hopscotch around my noggin. For in each crevice of my brain lies something to share. I don’t write to satisfy anyone else. I accept criticism and praise as both being useful. My credo was captured well in these lines: ‘Better to write for self and have no audience, than write for audience and have no self.’ - Cyril Connolly

Lad Moore resides on a small farm near the historic steamboat town of Jefferson, Texas.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Magdalena Ball: A Voice in the Wilderness - Part Two

Part Two

The road from New York to the outback and writing success was a winding one.

She said: “When I was an English major at CCNY, a counsellor suggested I apply for a Rhodes Scholarship. I didn’t get it, but in the process, I became enamoured of the idea of going to Oxford, especially since I’d just finished studying Jude the Obscure and those spires were as appealing and seemingly distant to me as they were to Jude, so I applied anyway and got in. I went, but the college I got into (St Cross) didn’t have any permanent accommodation for me so I had to find a place to live.

“I did find something at Crowley; a cute house which was being sublet by an even cuter guy with round glasses like John Lennon, and who, despite his gentle demeanour, was wearing black leather trousers and had some amazing looking motorbikes parked outside the door. It didn’t take us too long to fall in love. When I moved in, Martin had just quit his DPhil in Philosophy to do a PGCE teaching certificate and then did some teaching of French and History. His BA was in French and Philosophy.

“I was totally awed by Oxford and had the silly idea that I could write something new about James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and WB Yeats. The bulging bookshelves already full of theses on these authors, as well as my own lack of linguistic capability made it quickly clear to me that I was off-track. But I knew I wanted strongly to write about the limits of language and how these three authors were able to move beyond those limits. Although I passed my qualifying exams and a VIVA – the little thesis I wrote for that was pretty much all I was able to do on the topic using academic prose. I tried a few different supervisors but it was clear that I had nothing more to add to an already bulging canon so I left.

“I was also working at a language school, waitressing (research for Sleep perhaps, though I didn’t know it at the time) at a restaurant called The Crypt, and eventually got a secretarial position at a biotechnology company. And there was my advancing relationship with Martin, who was an active member of Oxford University Motorcycle Club. We had a reasonably strong social life, so leaving the university wasn’t that difficult. It just began to assume less and less of a role in my day to day life until I decided there was no point continuing to pay fees.

“Though I hate not finishing something I’ve started – my thesis topic is, in a way, covered by the themes in Sleep, so I feel like I’ve now finished it. I even sent a note to my old supervisor telling him. Being a Yank I’ve never had much notion of protocol.

“So we were bumbling around in Oxford. Martin was teaching and I was doing secretarial work, both no longer tied to the university, and we decided to get married. After the wedding and a wonderful honeymoon in Brittany, we knew we wanted to buy a house, but house prices in the UK were high.

“As Martin’s folks had migrated to Australia some eight years prior, and Martin had just returned from a long visit when I met him, and loved the place, we decided to apply for migration. I had never been to Australia, but what the heck – I was young and adventurous. It sounded remote and exciting.

“It took over a year though for the application to be processed, points tallied, qualifications assessed, so we decided to try our luck in the US for a bit first, ending up in North Carolina, which completely cured me of any desire to return to the US permanently. It’s hard to go back. When the Australian migration came through, we went, staying initially with Martin’s parents who are still within walking distance from where we currently live.

“And now this is home and our three children were born here. They’re all gifted; charming, gorgeous, challenging, and outrageously and sometimes terrifyingly intelligent (I’m not exactly objective). My daughter, for example, yesterday asked me to explain to her how liquid nitrogen could be ‘boiling cold’ – and she was only satisfied when I looked it up on the Internet and gave her the appropriately specific scientific answer. My eldest son has been reading her passages from Sophie’s World and he asked her if she understood it. She said, ‘I understand all the words you’re saying and can picture the scene and the girl, but I don’t quite get all the rubbish about existence.’

“My children are certainly my biggest inspiration as a writer. Dom is a pianist and he was practising Dvorak’s Largo while I was writing Sleep – which is exactly why I used the music in the book.

“One of the things I love about Martin is how engaged in the family he is because my parents were divorced so early in my life; before I was one year old. The whole missing father thing in the novel is a key element in my life, although my own dad has always been around – seeing me on weekends, taking me to the zoo, planetarium, etc – all that paternal stuff Marianne’s grandfather took her to.

“Martin has, on occasion, criticised me for being a wee bit secretive about my writing – doing it on the sly and not talking about it much. I guess I’m conscious of it being something of an indulgence (maybe having a novel out will change that – giving me a mandate), and also conscious of the juggling act in my life. I try to focus on whatever I’m doing at the time and not let anything suffer too much from the diversity of my roles. And I’m still turning a buck at a steady day job. I kind of like to hedge my bets on the Hopeville thing – doing it while earning at something that has no element of hope in it.

“I do have to combine writing heart wrenching life or death scenes with ironing. I do sometimes burn dinner because I’ve had to write something down. My typical afternoon could easily involve the following simultaneous activities: breaking up fights between my children, making dinner, writing a scene from novel number two, working on a poem for a competition, fixing up a spreadsheet error for my day job, assessing someone’s manuscript, and talking on the phone to the rural lands department about the fox that keeps eating the chickens.

“I court busyness and I do suffer from guilt when anything goes wrong or if I feel I’ve been neglecting the children by working too much. There are a lot of balls in the air. I chose to be a juggler so I’m not complaining. But sometimes someone throws one extra in there and they all fall.

“I could build my Ithaca anywhere now – having my family with me makes anywhere a home. Australia feels safe – clean air, space, peace – I can let my children go out and play and not fear for them (except for the snakes and spiders – another story!).”
  • Part One
  • Part Three coming soon
Interview by Alexander James

Interview first appeared in Twisted Tongue Magazine

Read an excerpt from Sleep Before Evening

Listen to Magdalena Ball read an excerpt of Sleep Before Evening

View the Sleep Before Evening book trailer

Click here for Magdalena Ball's biography

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Ruthin Book Fair - 28th Feburary 2009

February is not renowned for being the most uplifting month of the year, but if you love books this year there is an inspirational treat in store. On Sat Feb 28th From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ruthin’s oldest timbered town house Nantclwyd y Dre is throwing open its parlour to a writers’ fair.

This is a really exciting and unusual opportunity for booklovers to meet and talk with published writers in a relaxed and informal setting. It will also be an opportunity for writers to meet other writers and for local writing groups to attract new membership and benefit from the chance to rub shoulders with a wealth of literary talent.

A fascinating mix of people have already booked, starting locally with Aled Lewis Evans, author, hugely popular creative writing tutor in North Wales and 2008 judge of Flintshire’s Poetry Power competition.

From further afield we have Judith Kazantzis, artist and poet with ten published collections and a novel, Of Love And Terror (Saqi 2002). Judith is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Sussex University and a winner of the Cholmondeley Award for poetic achievement. She is coming up from London with her husband Irving Weinman, the author of five critically acclaimed novels, founding director of the Key West Writer's Workshop, and tutor in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. His sixth novel, Wolf Tones, will be published in March, 2009.

Helen Tookey, Journals Production Editor of Liverpool University Press will be coming (hopefully with her publisher) to promote her intriguing collaboration of poems and photographs Telling the Fractures (Axis Projects 2008)

Thelma Hancock who lives in North Wales, is coming. She has one novel published, Relative Dating (Pegasus 2008) and another, Tree Dimensional due out this year.

Jackie Davies who lives in Bala will also be coming; her first novel, About Elin, was published by Honno in 2007 and she was also one of the authors in Honno’s anthology about women’s relationship to landscape, ‘In Her Element’ (2008.) Dee Rivaz of Bespoke Writing Projects, and Elaine Walker will be there, two more authors from the same anthology. Elaine, is also a freelance writer and Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Wales, and has recently brought out ‘Horse’ (Reaktionbooks 2008.)

Daffni Percival lives in North Wales teaches languages, writes and publishes stories and poetry and is the contact for the Poetry Society’s North Wales Stanza. She will be there, looking to develop new membership and poetry events for the area, as will the Ruthin Wheel Writers, Mold Pinboard Writers and the Wirral Writers: all groups looking to nurture local talent.

We are hoping that Ruthin’s talented actor and performance poet Gareth Roberts will be able to make it and the dynamic partnership, Huw Davies and his Wife Lal, who have been responsible for enthusing people about the fascinating art of digital storytelling around the globe. Currently last but not least, Sam Smith will be coming down from Cumberland, freelance writer, author, publisher and editor of The Journal.

We would love more authors and writing groups to take part in the fair, table space is free but please contact Dee to book, as space at the fair is limited: or 07757714723.

As if this wasn’t enough, down at the Library, between 11.00am - 12.00pm Dominic Williams, Marketing Director of Parthian Books will be giving a talk: ‘From manuscript to publication and beyond’ followed at 2p.m. to 3 p.m. by Mike Parker, author of ‘The Rough Guide to Wales and Neighbours from Hell?’ and presenter of ITV's Great Welsh Roads. Tickets are £5 and, booked in advance, include a day pass to both venues. (Phone Ruthin Library 01824 705274)

The event is being organized and sponsored as part of the World Book Day celebrations by a partnership of Denbighshire Library and Heritage Services, ACADEMI, and Dee Rivaz freelance writer, and director of Bespoke Writing Projects. We hope that all keen readers and writers will come with their families and make this book-fest a huge success. It would be great if it could grow and blossom into an annual event!

Email | Website

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Magdalena Ball: A Voice in the Wilderness - Part One

Part One

Author and poet Magdalena Ball left behind the concrete canyons of New York and the sleepy spires of Oxford to find her voice in the rural mountains of Australia.

And with wombats and kangaroos for neighbours, she’s producing the best work of her life.

In the past five years alone she’s seen wide publication of short fiction and poetry, non-fiction book, The Art of Assessment, her Quark Soup poetry anthology and, this month, her debut novel, Sleep Before Evening.

With work underway on two other books 42-year old Magdalena even finds time to run her bustling review site, – and look after her children, Dominic (10), Oliver (7) and Genevieve (4).

She said: “It’s hard to believe that we’re only an hour’s drive from Sydney. It’s very rural here and, as I type, the lyrebirds are singing, kookaburras laughing, bellbirds tinkling. Chickens are tearing up the lawn looking for grubs, and I really do need to follow up on those fox baits

“It couldn’t be more different from the New York I grew up in. There’s anonymity in the country that is actually similar to that in a big city. You’re surrounded by sound and bustling activity, but completely unnoticed. I like that. It makes me feel both ‘in the midst of’ and yet absolutely alone.

“In some ways Sleep Before Evening is an extended love letter to a city I can never go back to except as a tourist. What I looked for when I came here, with my British husband, Martin, and we grew into a family, was Ithaca (in the Homeric sense of the word). And I’m not entirely sure why I had to be so far away from my roots to find it. To a certain extent a door just opened and, young an unencumbered, I walked through it.

“The home I have here is exactly what I always wanted as a child: stable, rooted, safe: two parents, strong ideals, three regular meals on the table – stability.”

Magdalena Ball’s critically acclaimed new novel – released by BeWrite Books – tells the story of a middle class teenager cast adrift by the sudden death of her brilliant grandfather-mentor and her struggle against a self-centred artist mother, a succession of drive-by stepfathers and her desperate escape into a nightmare of drugs and sexual degradation.

Set in and about New York, the gritty, relentless tale unfolds with the same cool detachment that motivates the central character to peel back the layers of her life and expose the painful scalding within. There are lonely vigils in city parks and subway journeys to oblivion. In the city she meets Miles, a hip musician busking the streets and playing seedy venues with a rock band.

Her new, exciting, dissolute world challenges Marianne’s preconceptions about art and life. Here, in contrast to her prescribed upbringing, she finds anarchic squalor, home grown music and poetry, substance abuse, sex and crushing disappointment and fear; but above all, exhilarating personal freedom.

Addictions – of all kinds – and the redemptive power of art and music, love, loss and beauty are all explored in a young girl’s difficult journey from sleep to awakening. The book draws on Magdalena’s own rich life experience as a daughter and a mother to bring Marianne startlingly to life.

“But Sleep isn’t autobiographical at all – I’m happy to say! It’s pure fiction,” Magdalena said. “It’s set in a real time and place where I lived when I was Marianne’s age, and there are flashes of characterisation, dialogue and situations that came from memory rather than pure imagination. There are many reasons for that – the key one being my lack of inventiveness. I need something clear and visual to work with as a writer, and it helped to ground the characterisation in a specific place and time where it seemed to fit.

“The other reasons are that, like Marianne, my mother and stepfather were going through an ugly break-up during that period of my life and there was tamped tension and unresolved pain that I was able to use for verisimilitude by setting the book in that particular time and place.

“And, of course, like most writers, I do tend to be a magpie and have taken all sorts of observations, memories and experiences to put into the fictional situation. For example, I did like to go into NYC from Long Island when I was a teen, and like Marianne, could never find someone brave enough to come along, so tended to go alone.

“I also attended a few of those poetry sessions Marianne goes to, including a gorgeous all-nighter on New Year’s Eve with Ginsburg, Jim Carroll, Lou Reed, Anne Waldman, Richard Hell, etc, at the St Marks Church.

“I even remember listening to a harmonica player under the arch at Washington Square Park and talking to him afterwards, but I never ended up in Marianne’s situation, falling in love with him. There was a little bit of my brother’s mother, an artist and writer, in Marianne’s mother, Lily, and a little bit of my stepfather in Marianne’s stepfather, Russell. And there are plenty of places in the book I remember being in myself and things I remember seeing, but the overall story is completely made up.

“Having said that, I was worried that my mother would see herself in Lily but instead she identified with Marianne, and reminding me that she lived through something very similar indeed, as she did have a brief dalliance with heroin addiction. So perhaps instinctively, because I never really knew my mother’s full story – it all happened when I was a baby and I was mostly out of the situation, safe with my grandmother – I knew and understood something of my mother’s pain and put it in there. She tells me it’s uncanny, but it was entirely unintentional.

“I think there are aspects of me in every character, from Grandfather Eric to stepfather Russell, to mother Lily and to Miles, to the boy in the park. They all have something of me in them and something of other people I knew in them, but ultimately the resemblance to both people and places was only a starting point. Once the story became strong, it took on its own life, and the characters developed their own imperative which was completely unique to this particular story and these particular characters.”

Part Two coming soon

Interview by Alexander James

Interview first appeared in Twisted Tongue Magazine

Read an excerpt from Sleep Before Evening

Listen to Magdalena Ball read an excerpt of Sleep Before Evening

View the Sleep Before Evening book trailer

Click here for Magdalena Ball's biography

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Review: Back There by Howard Waldman

Howard Waldman can write. This is a man in superb control of his material. A man who knows his characters inside out and who can bring them across to us with a sense of reality that is quite beautiful. He is also very funny. At times he has a wicked turn of phrase that can bring the reader from a smile to a laugh, usually at the expense of Harry .
Chris Williams

Howard Waldman’s Back There reverberates long after it’s been devoured and put back on the bookshelf. A novel too unashamedly individualistic and underivative to be easily squished into a genre pigeonhole, it offers a litfest of walking-talking-breathing-emoting characters set in the fuggy café ambience of mid-century Paris and country dacha retreat.

The protagonist, Harry, l’étranger from New York, is a memorable character. Howard subtly insinuates the reader into Harry’s convoluted thoughts and ambivalent heart. Arriving in la gaie Paris by a bizarre twist of fate, Harry engrosses himself in photography and at times his vision, or weltangshauung, is so warped that it seems as if he’s viewing life through a distorted lens. Ineffectual in the art of basic survival, Harry is – until self-made disaster strikes – an English tutor. There is much understated irony in his escapades, such as a pedantic grammar lesson serving as the springboard for steamy erotic foreplay.

Harry falls in lust, which he typically interprets as love, with a coldhearted but très belle mademoiselle. He eventually infiltrates himself into the belle’s home and we are given an almost voyeuristic insight into the private folds of a French mid-century family. The mother, the kindest woman and the worse cook in France, lavishes samples of her goodness and cuisine on Harry. The father sings opera arias at the dinner table and anoints his body with malodorous cod liver oil to achieve immortality. And not to forget the little grey sister who, with the passing of time, proves herself to be Harry’s eternal love. While this is a transatlantic love story, there is no suggestion of mawkish violins or hand in hand swoonishness.

Harry’s philosophical meanderings wend their way in and out of the narrative. This is done so sensitively that his quite profound and alarming thought patterns enhance the storyline rather than detract from it. Harry, while he is undoubtedly his own very idiosyncratic person, at times echoes and shadows Albert Camus’ unforgettable existential hero Meursault.

Back There is, without question, a literary tour de force which deserves a wide readership in English-speaking countries and, also, it would be a compelling and enlightening read for French bibliophiles.

Rebecca Latyntseva

Five decades ago I fell in love with a brick wall. Next to a bus stop I had ample opportunity to admire its colours, finger feel the rough texture, track the scurrying insects and over the years be astonished at how the mosses, lichens and miniature trees would burrow their roots in the desert-like substrate. Three decades ago I had my first article published. Yes, it was on walls: Detective work on the physical geography of sandstone walls. Thank you, Howard Waldman, for obliging these memories to flood back by having Harry Grossman be equally obsessed – in his case, photographing Parisian walls.

Harry is presented as such a self-deprecating anti-hero that I’m not sure I am supposed to care, but I do. It is tricky because we are not treated to his appearance until deep into the story. This is curious because we are regaled with vivid characterisation of others, including the liquid green eyes of his beloved’s brother.

There is no understating the plot. Waldman is a master of the ennui. His deep knowledge of mid-century France, both in the capital and in the sticks, oozes from the pages admirably. The American Harry, rudely bludgeoned by the police, discovers he has fallen in lust with a French beauty when his bleeding being recovers in her home. Does hapless Harry clutch his angel? One of Waldman’s writerly skills I am addicted to is his use of the conceptual double negatives in this book. Harry is after one goal but scores in another, then another. Linguistically too, he employs opposites brilliantly. For example ‘Addition is subtractive in the strange emotional mathematics of her language.’ Je t’aime is weakened to I like you when you add bien. Stop trying so hard, Harry. His girl knows this: It was always something else for you. This wonderful play with words permeate the whole novel in such delectable morsels.

Speaking of treats. Harry worms his way to the family’s rural farm. His New York life is poor preparation as illustrated with this gem: Where he comes from strawberries, once thawed, were in season all year round.

I will not spoil the ending, but it is both a crucial key and confusing, as is the beginning. I collect recursive stories, and this novel is one. A self-referential essay extraordinaire. I recommend the reader to skip the prologue until the last chapter is read, twice. In fact I am reminded of that joke where a local is asked directions: If I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from here. The smoothest flowing prose is in the middle, and the beginning is a mosaic of confusion, much not really needed.

This is a beautiful book, so close to being perfect. As it stands it should be recommended reading for all lovers of English, with French dressing. I have no hesitation giving it an 85% rating.

Geoff Nelder

Back There is a deeply moving quixotic story that leaves even the most hardened cynic smiling at love's foolish ways. This book is destined for greatness and I would not be at all surprised to see the name Howard Waldman on the bestseller list.

Alastair Rosie

Harry Grossman sees his world through the viewfinder of a battered camera. And he photographs it all, from the peeling posters and graffiti on grubby city walls to the most intimate moments of his mysterious French sweetheart. He becomes a permanent guest at her family’s ramshackle country cottage, thirty miles and a century away from modern Paris. Harry, the New York outsider, calls it paradise and photographs the Model T Ford on the roof, the archaic well and scythe, the top-secret wild mushroom spots, and the reluctant Lauriers themselves.

They assume that outsider Harry will soon be a member of the family, but the strange photographer with his growing mountain of prints and negatives and imperfect French is not a man for snap decisions. Aren't things already perfect in this paradise? Someone once said, though, that the only paradises are lost paradises.

Back There is a touching and powerfully nostalgic transatlantic love story, sometimes verging on the comic, sometimes on the tragic. France and the French, too often caricatures of their own special reality, are presented with absolute authenticity.

With soft-focus subtlety, Howard Waldman shows that Europe and America are two continents divided by a perceived common culture of art and love – and that light-years separate Paris and Manhattan and the lives and values of the Lauriers and the Grossmans.


A few years after the purchase of Manhattan from the Indians, Howard Waldman, then aged 22, left his native island for Paris and freedom, and in less time than it takes to say Je t'aime found himself married to a lovely Parisian. To feed his growing Franco-American family he taught European History for a France-based American university and later American Literature to suffering French students.

He lives thirty miles outside Paris in a once rural area undergoing deplorable suburban transformation. He spends his days enjoying his wife's cooking, listening to chamber music in his chamber and trying to grow old roses in inappropriate soil.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Review: The Bait Shack by Harry Hughes

In Harry Hughes first murder mystery novel, The Bait Shack, I found myself emerged into Dan and Lacy’s life. Mr Hughes manages to spin an intricate weave with intriguing characters, suspense, and sprinkles of humor to add dimension.

In The Bait Shack, Dan Cooles decides to change his life by quitting his job, relocating, and marrying Lacy Chamblet. What he does not realize is with this decision, he will find himself and Lacy struggling to keep their unstable marriage together while surrounded by unsavory characters and macabre events.

Lacy is a secretary for a shrewd real estate owner, Henry Meredith. He will stop at nothing to obtain what he wants. Henry is diabolical and rude beyond words. He also employs Twist, a brain damaged boy who does odd and end jobs and is a whiz with acronyms. Both Lacy and Twist find themselves on the receiving in of Henry’s verbal abusiveness. Previous workers of Mr.Meredith’s have met an untimely end and Lacy feels she may be the next.

Lieutenant Revels, a conservation officer, seeks revenge on Henry for killing off a protected species of birds. Connie Jablonski is a maniacal ex-con who brings intimidation and pain to those around him. Johnny Avalino is a mobster who will stop at nothing to increase the value of his beachfront property. Nancy Littlecrow is an unscrupulous lawyer who doesn‘t mind working the “gray area“, especially if it benefits her. Seymour Bram is a retired, depressed Air Force Major looking for the easiest way to become rich. Duncan Slochbauer, an amateur videographer stumbles upon the murdered remains of Karen Kern, a previous employer of Henry’s.

All the characters come to life in the book, bringing with them a variety of personalities. Somehow Mr Hughes manages to tie them all together with a superb story that kept me guessing to the end. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more novels from this author.

Renda Romanus

A stunning first novel. An up-to-date take on the classic American murder mystery. Harry Hughes tells his suspenseful story in quick-paced and colorful prose and creates dozens of sharply drawn characters, including Dale Cooles, an unforgettable anti-hero in the Philip Marlowe tradition.

Michael Lydon. Author. Co-founder of Rolling Stone Magazine

The Bait Shack is an intriguingly entertaining and engaging murder mystery that demonstrates a vivid imaginative gift on the part of author, Harry Hughes. In his debut novel, Hughes expertly creates a small but complex cast of characters whose quirky persona and relationship dynamics lend much to the novel's appeal.

Dale Cooles, a mathematician/number cruncher walks way from his university position to begin a new life with his bride, Lacy Chamblet. He is content to stay home, cook and clean while Lacy goes to work for the property management firm of Meredith Holdings and its less than reputable owner, Henry Meredith.

Meredith is known for his unsavory business practices, his sleazy relationships, and his employ of undesirable characters to do his bidding. But Meredith's life gets complicated when a key business deal doesn't pan out and he hires an unsavory goon to collect unpaid rent on the properties. All this aside, living in a cottage situated behind one of Meredith's old empty homes has its advantages for Dale and Lacy. That is, until they slip into the main house and find evidence that points to unsolved murders. Angers flair and egos collide but the pace never lets up until the very end.

Hughes has crafted a solid read around a twisted tail that explores the dark side of the human soul and peppered it with his own brand of deliciously dry humor. The Bait Shack is a fast read that will easily hold the attention of any murder mystery buff. I definitely look forward to more from Harry Hughes.

Dale Cooles is a mathematician ready to tie up some messy ends. He's quit his fancy university job, said goodbye to his last fling, and applied himself to his new life as unemployed, kept husband of Lacy Chamblet. Lacy is secretary to robber baron Henry Meredith, who makes his living cheating his tenants, avoiding tax, and hiring low cost street kids too unemployable to blow the whistle on him. But this time, he's teamed up with mobster Johnny Avalino, and his plans take a nasty turn. Are Dale and Lacy smarter than Meredith thinks they are? Is thwarted conservation officer Calvin Revels able to pay Meredith back for destroying an endangered species of bird, along with Revels' career? And just who is the vicious Connie Jablonski, and what is his relationship to Meredith's other employee Twist Van Houghten - a boy with a face twisted from Bell's Palsy, a head twisted from a run in with a concrete slab, and an odd ability to turn people's names into fully expressed acronyms?

The Bait Shack opens like a Stephen King thriller, and keeps up the pace, but it soon becomes obvious that this is a very funny read: humour overpacing the horror. Dale and Lacy are super quick on the comebacks - the witty one liners keep coming, alongside an omniscient narrative voice with a vocabulary to rival Umberto Eco's. The two protagonists are almost too clever, but their toe tripping insecurity, bumbling, and honesty keeps everything real, and provide a slapstick counter to the rapid pace of their minds. They're only klutzes after all: not evil or manipulative like everyone else. It's a rollicking ride to the surprise denouement, and the murder mystery keeping everything rolling along.

But it would be a mistake to dismiss this book as `feel good', light-hearted beach reading just because it's fun and fast. Both Dale and Lacy are serious, believable characters Between the whine and the wine, Dale often expresses profound insights on the nature of modern society. At other times he'll explore the nature of man's existence against an aging body and midlife crisis. The exploration of themes like how we deal with midlife, love, and hate in the 21st Century - in the wake of the sixties - makes this a book that resonates long after the fun stops. Hughes' descriptive powers are exceptional, from the Dickensian characters carrying the full range of quirks - both charming and obnoxious, to the rich natural world of its Long Island setting. In The Bait Shack, Harry Hughes takes noir to a new level. Wry, classy, compelling and utterly hysterical. Think Iain Pears crossed with Martin Amis. Dale and Lacy make an endearing team of anti-heroes in a world showing its true colors. Read it for pleasure and and then re-read it to find surprising richness in the depths of its insights.

If you're looking for lyrical prose to pull you through a captivating story, lending the characters a spark of vitality with real life dialogue unrivalled in modern day literature, The Bait Shack is for you.
Johnny Nys

An amazing read, I didn't want to put down. The graphic imagery held you right there in the moment with the victim and the killer.

Jan Coad

Philosophical dilemmas, dead bodies, greed, sex-you can't stop reading! Tough times demand tough heroes-Harry Hughes' The Bait Shack satisfies. Explosive, racy, and, charming.

Mary Zuzan

A convoluted, twisting read filled with unusual characters, strange locations, murder, mayhem and an ending of such unexpectedness as to be totally unprepared for.

Ruth Woolsey

Dale Cooles has quit his job and recently married. He moves into a cottage owned by his bride's employer who has several land holdings. That this is a strange place is understated as every character has quirks and foibles that take them out of what we call normal.

Dale is content to hang around the house even though he is very educated. He seems to be very satisfied with very little. Dale's wife, Lacy, works for a man who insults her too often and one wonders why she stays. The pay doesn't seem to be very good. And she shares the office at times with Twist, a man who seems to live up to his name. Henry Meredith seems to suffer from terminal greed among other things.

This curious cast would make a great adult film for Halloween. The story starts on a rather sunless note and slowly sinks into the shadowy darkness of the mind where a killer lurks. Yet, the reader will only slowly be aware of the danger some characters may be in. Fans of Psycho will be right at home with this tale with its suspense and tension and the mysterious mansion the owner does not want visited

There are several subplots at play, cleverly tied into the main story as the reader begins to guess at what will happen, what motivates these people and why they do some of the things they do. Talented author Harry Hughes will slowly twist all the strands into one while holding out attention from page one to the end.

I'm pleased to recommend this book as a fun read for anyone who likes houses that creak in the night, shadows that pass windows and seem to peer in, and likes strange characters whose crudities and rawness make them very lifelike.

Enjoy. I did.

Dale Cooles does what many men would like to do, but haven't worked up the courage to do: he quits his job, breaks the romance off with Marilyn, and heads for Long Island in the truck with all his worldly possessions to marry Lacy Chamblet. At the same time Dale is caught in tying up loose ends prior to moving, Lacy is spending the early morning hours having one mishap after another while trying to get dressed for work.

Humor smoothes the way from a Prologue filled with murder to a scenario of a sane man [supposed to be sane anyway] trying to come up with the ideal insanity plea to get him out of trouble.

Where other mystery/suspense novels start with a lot of action that keeps building until the climax, Mr Hughes builds suspense and mystery slowly throughout a delightful tale of romance between an out-of-work young man and a secretary to finding several cadavers buried beneath the porch of an old house that Meredith has been trying to purchase. I kept asking myself just where is the crime, the mystery in this tale, and who was the lady being killed in the Prologue, but w hen I reached the height of danger for Dale and Lacy I found the story totally satisfying in every way. The Bait Shack is added to my list of must-reads.
Lucille P Robinson

Unemployed whiz kid Dale Cooles struggles to save his marriage and his sanity when his previously charmed life's turned topsy turvy by a cadre of killers and clowns.

Dale and wife Lacy - daughter of an eccentric but filthy rich Tennessee lumber magnate - unwittingly adopt into their domestic wrangle Twist, the brain-damaged orphan, and Lieutenant Revels, the beat-weary yet determined conservation officer seeking revenge for Lacy's unscrupulous boss's part in the mysterious extinction of rare birds on a prime piece of real estate.

And then there are the other extinctions ... the human ones.

In the parade of offbeat characters in Hughes' ingenious and '90s-set street smart black comedy of crime, we meet cutthroat businessman Henry Meredith, out for what he can get, psycho hitman Connie Jablonski, out for what he can hurt, mobster Johnny Avalino, greedy to enhance the value of his beach-front property by any means, Nancy Littlecrow, the shameless and cagey Native American attorney who gives new meaning to the term 'Indian Affairs', Seymour L. Bram, the retired and retiring Air Force Major suffering from chronic depression and delusions of easy money, Duncan Slochbauer, the slovenly and obsessed amateur producer of grisly news videos ...

And we don't quite meet poor Karen Kern and the faceless others who might have crossed the path of a crazed and kinky serial killer nobody seems to have noticed lurking somewhere in Hughes' uniquely colourful dramatis personae.


Author Harry Hughes is a Viet Nam and Woodstock vet, an award winning popular song writer and a professor of psychology. Seven years of his life in New York is the subject of the National Book Critics Circle Award nominated book, Homefires; An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-Class Family in Postwar America, by Donald Katz (Harper Collins Press, 1992). Harry's short story, A River Too Distant, was published, along with works by Edward Albee and Joseph Heller, in Hampton Shorts, Vol. 3, 1998. He currently lives in Utah. The Bait Shack is his first novel.

Harry's blog

Friday, 6 February 2009

Developing an Internet Presence: The Hometown Advantage

The Hometown Advantage

Let the home town advantage work for you and use all the freebies available to you. I work at a local university and am also an alumna of the Journalism Department. The department interviewed me for their newsletter that went out to PR alumni, our faculty/staff newspaper and our Alumni Center did a "spot light" in their publications which also went out to all university alumni when the book came out. My book will also be displayed at our Alumni Center library along with other published alums. Other than the price of a donated book, this is FREE publicity that has reached thousands inside and outside of our community.

Does your community have a historical conservation organization? If you write historical fiction, is there a way to connect your writing to local history and/or work with the organization to draw local interest to your book?

If you are fortunate enough to have a public broadcasting television station (PBS) in your community, donate 2-3 copies of your book for their telesales auction. There's no better way to get a FREE 2-3 minute on-air promo that has the potential of reaching thousands of households.

Get to know the managers of the local bookstores and set up a few book signings throughout the year. Be sure to send out flyers, post cards, and/or e-mails to family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc., at least a week before your signing. Start thinking outside the box and don't limit book signings to bookstores. Most communities have annual events that draw local attention. If you manage to sell 5-10 books, it would easily pay for the cost of the booth (if applicable) and it will put your face and name in front of a diverse group of potential readers.

Does your book have a seasonal theme? For example a Halloween murder mystery - focus a special local promotion leading up to Halloween.

Create an alliance with your local library. No, books that are checked out of the public library won't earn the author royalties, but think EXPOSURE. Most people who read and enjoy an author's writing will more than likely want their own copy. Again, word of mouth will sell books. Most libraries and book clubs are eager to find new programs to offer their patrons and from their standpoint there's no better draw than a local author. You'll need to take your books, but this is a focused group of readers who will hang on every word you say. Also, contact your state library to see if they sponsor any contests for resident authors. If your local library promotes books on their blog ask them to write a review or spotlight your book. Again, working with a library may not generate immediate sales, but if you are a new author, getting name recognition and a following is far more important right now. Once the reader is hooked, they'll want to buy all your books.

Don't give books away unless you stand to gain promotional exposure from it. Tell your family and friends who expect a freebie that you must cover your costs. Whenever a book is given away it is a lost sale and will most likely end up being circulated to others without any purchase or, it will collect dust on their bookshelf. Remember that something for nothing is worth nothing, but when an investment of time (to search for the book) and money is made, the person will most likely read it.

There is no way to keep people from sharing and/or exchanging books. Still, from a promotions standpoint it goes back to exposure and getting your name out and that's good. But an author has to at least get one sale out of the deal.

Here’s an example of what one young lady did with my debut book, SILENCED CRY. My first book signing was at our campus Barnes & Noble. While I was setting up, one of the student workers told me that as she placed my books on the shelf, she became intrigued and decided to buy two copies (the dear); one to keep and one to create a chain read out of it for her friends who were studying around the world. I tried to contact her several times to see where the book had traveled to, but was unable to reach her. I finally gave up thinking I'd never hear form her again. Eight months later I received the following e-mail:

“This is Aimee, the girl from the Ball State Bookstore. I am currently residing in Japan, and just received news that your book has traveled to Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Taiwan, Vienna, France, and actually returned to Japan twice! I thought this might make you happy.”

Happy? No, I was ecstatic! How cool is that? The e-mail was dated February 23, 2008. Who knows how many more places my homicide detective Sam Harper has traveled to since then? So I sold two books and it was read by at least nine other people. My only hope is that all those who borrowed my book and liked, it will want to have their own copy eventually.

Keep writing and remember -

"Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible." -
Claude T. Bissell, Canadian author and educator
  1. Developing an Internet Presence: An Author's Website
  2. Developing an Internet Presence: The Public Author
  3. Developing an Internet Presence: Book Trailers
  4. Developing an Internet Presence: Spread the Word
  5. Developing an Internet Presence: Virtual Book Tours
  6. Developing an Internet Presence: The Hometown Advantage

Marta Stephens, a native of Argentina but a life-long resident of the American Midwest, began her career as a fiction writer in 2003. This evolved into a life-changing passion that has led to the birth of her Sam Harper Crime Mysteries and her debut novel, Silenced Cry. She runs the popular Murder by 4 blog along with her fellow crime authors at Murder by 4. She also has several short stories and flash fictions to her credit.

Marta's debut novel, Silenced Cry, was published by BeWrite Books in 2007.

Her second novel, The Devil Can Wait, was published by BeWrite Books November 2008.