Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Two Words That Made a Difference

You’re a new or aspiring author reading our websites, social media pages, looking at pictures from book signings at book festivals or bookstores and you may feel a bit intimidated by us. That bestselling author who has a movie based on their book or a television show taken from the pages of their works, you sit there at home wondering if you’ll ever be one of the many who are now enjoying the fruits of being published, hoping you’ll meet one of ‘us’ one day. The answer is that it is possible. There are a few things you have to know first.

The book business is highly competitive. Every author from traditional to self to print on demand publishing and now e-books, are in a race to acquire the biggest readership possible for their titles. Marketing and finding the right PR person to assume that role is the deciding factor in whether or not your book is a success or not. Several new authors who I spoke with recently have already discovered this and are making the most out of their resources.

Beyond the push to sell books at events and individual signings, you wonder how is that author you admire? What is that person like behind the celebrity status we give them and a number of authors give themselves? (Actually some are celebrities). Based on my experience, it varies from pleasant and cordial to aloof and a touch of overconfidence. Nine years ago, I met a gentleman who was a bestselling author and one of the ‘trailblazers’ in this industry. When we met at an literary conference, I smiled and politely told him although I was joking at the time, “I plan to be just like you one day.” Turning directly at me with his own smile, he said the words that still ring in my head to this day.

“Pass me.”

What? My mind froze hearing those two words that made a big difference in the way I approach my works, producing events, etc. Instead of the arrogance writers have been criticized for, this quiet response to my wish calmly convinced me that not all authors who published books earn the label of hubris. In the course of time, as books are produced at a massive rate, the satisfaction and the pride of an accomplishment from all types of circumstances is worth it when a dream turns into reality in print touches the palms of a happy writer. However, that accomplishment is only one step of an author’s life. It now must find a way to promote it whether it be word of mouth or finding a credible person to help get the word out. What I have seen – perhaps a bit too much these days – is authors believing their own press and any hint of criticism towards their work is an assault on their character.

Keep in mind the book does not determine a person’s worth. While the format of the title or subject matter may not be appealing to a reviewer or reader, the author who took time working on the book isn’t a bad person. It may not have been the right time or style for the public. This is why it’s so critical when you, the aspiring author, need a target audience. That audience whom you have targeted as supporters for your book are the ones you may know quite well who will give your book the proper push it needs. Again, the book business is a highly competitive one and oftentimes literary professionals will speak words that may sting or not under the attitude of being constructive, but the author needs to have just enough tough skin to avoid a criticism on a website or social media.

Back to the bestselling author, he wrote a provocative title (in the years before erotica and street lit took off) and his demeanor seemed as if he didn’t care less about what was said about him. He continued to be who he was, whether he wrote a book or not. This is the one thing aspiring authors should keep in mind. The book is an accomplishment yes, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for you to suddenly assume you know everything there is to know about publishing, how to be a successful writer, etc. It takes years to absorb all the knowledge, suggestions, advice, you name it. There will be a time for you to drop the ego and tell another aspiring artist what the gentleman told me:

“Pass me.”

Yet, no one likes to be passed over, it would be a gigantic blow if that happens. The author who has been out of circulation for a while, with multiple titles to their credit may feel as if they need to claim what they believe is ‘theirs’. Real students of literature know this is false, as over time it didn’t matter how many books were sold, rather the social, cultural and emotional impact of a title determines its historical value. This might be cruel to say, but in ten, twenty years the bestseller’s book may not matter because of the drive of something new, something original, something ‘fresh’ for book lovers everywhere. The constant drama among writers, their groups and their ‘haters’ will disappear under a sea of pages written, social media posts and websites no longer registered.

If there’s a lesson in all this, please keep in mind bestselling, longtime and even new authors are the best people to associate with, even the celebrities who have released a book. Like everyone else, it’s the attitude of the creators of the inanimate or digital object and how they carry themselves is what you’ll find as you get to meet these literary artists up close. Then again, your hero worship may end quickly if a personal meeting isn’t what you expected. I can only say that I am glad for the simple two word advice I received from this bestselling author (who ironically as of this article, has not published a book in recent years) was worth it. I believe the author who is supremely confident in himself and his work is the one who is willing to open the door for others inspired by their works. In short, they have no trouble being passed.

Charles Chatmon
Authors N Focus Extra

You’ll Never Know What You’ll "Find"

For those of you who are unaware, I operate an online and mobile bookstore and accept donations from others who claim they have ‘so many books’ that they like to give them away. Well, apparently a couple gave me a stack of used books, mostly older like half a century or more. In the middle of choosing which books to sell at my weekly farmers market, I came upon this gem. Rather than explain it to you, I will let the back cover of this title do it for me: (italics and bold mine)

A Harper Find
With Cradle and Clock
By Knud Stowman

A Harper “Find” is a book by a relatively unknown author which has unusual and arresting qualities in its writing, its approach and its subject matter. Each “Find” is given special promotion, a major advertising campaign, and the fullest cooperation of the booksellers is sought so that the book may win the audience it deserves.

The first Harper “Find” was A Genius In The Family by Hiram Percy Maxim, published in 1936. Since then, of twenty-two “Finds”, a large proportion have been best-sellers and all have been acclimated as books of importance. Among these titles were 400 Million Customers by Carl Crow and So Great A Man by David Pilgrim, both published in 1937, Quietly My Captain Waits by Evelyn Eaton, published in 1940, Mom Counted Six by Mac Gardner, published in 1944, Home to India by Santha Rama Rau and Any Number Can Play by Edward Harris Heth, published in 1945.

Before the Book-of-the-month Club took Margaret Leech’s Reveille In Washington it was selected as a “Find” as were Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, a selection of the Literary Guild, and George and Helen Papashvily’s Anything Can Happen, a Book-of-the-month Club choice.

The selection for this season’s “Find” is With Cradle And Clock by Knud Stowman, a book which, by the brilliance of its background, its exciting picture of a man’s determined struggle to fight for his ideals against foolish prejudice and ignorance, and its love story, will certainly take its place with the best of its predecessors.

The price was an astonishing $2.50, but considering the year of With Cradle And Clock’s publication, 1946, that price isn’t so bad. Ah, wouldn’t be nice if booklovers can purchase books at that price again?

Of course, other than the moment I found the book, I have never heard of With Cradle And Clock and I assume not everyone knew about it either. But that’s not the point. The point is this is at a time when publishers like Harper (years before News Corp. took control and renamed it HarperCollins) took a chance on an unknown author, to let the reading audience decide whether or not this title deserved to “take its place with the best of its predecessors.”

In our present time, agents and not publishers are most willing to take on a new writer if they have a platform and a guarantee their book will sell. Harper was willing to take that chance on a new author which as far as what I’m reading, didn’t require a solicited manuscript, i.e., a manuscript approved by agents they know to approve or disapprove of the work. While there are a few independent publishers taking on the model from Harper by publishing new authors, due to the fact so many aspiring authors are writing now and sending in manuscripts that may or not be legible, even the publishers have taken stances to limit their generosity.

Harper Find was a great concept, it just came at a time when life wasn’t as cluttered as it is now. It’s safe to say this but it was also a concept that at least in mainstream publishing won’t happen again based on the present models of selling books by celebrities or public figures they’re following today. Too bad, because everyone needs to ‘find’ a good book and there are plenty of them out there. Maybe they will earn that chance and one day fall into the hands of book lovers and readers who determine or not they’re worthy to be found.

Charles Chatmon
Authors N Focus Extra

A Lot Going On At Book Passage

Stories of independent bookstores meeting their demise in the form of closures has sadly been often the norm these days. From New York to Hollywood, it’s been more and more of grand closings across the country.

Consider for a moment what Book Passage does, holding classes, workshops and author events in the cities of Corte Madera (in Marin county) and San Francisco, California. Looking at their schedule, these events are popular inside their stores. This is the reason why the two Book Passage locations are must see destinations in Northern California for literary lovers. Not to leave out other bookstores who also hold functions, but one must believe that in the era of independent stores closing their doors, Book Passage has no worries whatsoever.

For example, you can learn the finer points of what is needed in a plot, learn how to speak a foreign language, or simply hear a reading from local authors. The programs listed in their brochures have a full calendar of events in both locations, so book lovers won’t miss out on hearing their favorite writer or bestselling title out for release. It’s also a hub for organizations such as the California Writers Club.

If you’re a new or aspiring author, my advice is that you should call up an independent bookstore in your area and offer to hold a class or workshop. If the owners are willing (and because they need the foot traffic), they might allow you to do just that. When I watch these videos from Book Passage online, I see a bookstore supported by literary and musical artists, and a fun place for people to visit. Oftentimes, we think of a store as simply a place to sell our books, leave and never come back. It shouldn’t be the case and as these videos prove, the more the bookstore has going on in terms of activity the better the chance it has of keeping it’s doors open.

Besides, they sell good books too!

Something to think about.

Charles Chatmon
Authors N Focus