Friday, December 25, 2009

Malady Manor

I sent off Malady Manor for final corrections yesterday. I will have the proof when I return from vacation. I like the book, but what can you expect--I wrote it. I have always felt that it had little to offer people outside the recovery community, but my sister, who has no connection or sympathy for the twelve-step world, liked it for both the humor and the pathos. She wanted me to send it to Oprah. I don't watch Oprah, but I understand that she is the greatest bookseller on the planet.

My blog about Oregon Elder Law (guardianships, Medicaid, estate planning--that sort of thing) seems to be working itself up the search engines. I thought it would be straight work, but it is turning out to be a lot of fun to write.

I am back to worrying about typos. I am certain to have some left in Malady Manor, like I did in The Duke of Morrison Street. I have had a number of friends, relatives and legal assistants assure me that they are dynamite proof readers, but they have all turned out to be as bad at it as I am. I am going to have to bite the bullet and hire professionals. I am not generally a fan of professionalism, but sometimes you have to go there. I have an eager Indian woman who will do it for a reasonable price, but turning it over to someone for whom English is a second language scares me. I don't imagine there is a warranty.

The internet has a lot of domestic proof readers, copy editors, and people of that ilk offering their skills for sale. I may hire one of them if I can find one who is not too much of a pain in the ass to hire. Most of the ads they write make them sound like pissed off artists, or pissed off something else, who are doing proof reading until their true vocations start to pay.

However I approach it, Malady Manor should be for sale some time in January.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Amazon Novel Contest

I still struggle with the "why am I doing this" question. Do I want the ego strokes from being famous (or maybe admired in a small circle)? Do I want to make money? Do I want success--whatever that is? Do I want to make a living sitting at a computer writing stories? I don't know the answer to any of these questions.

I looked at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I qualify, being self-published. If I won, I would get publicity for my books. The process for entering involves making a pitch, submitting a sample, writing a short but interesting bio--all the same things a writer does to convince an agent or a publisher to consider a work.  Amazon will accept 10,000 entries and pass them through the hands of some published writers to come up with a winner. It looks like a lot of work to enter with a very small chance of getting anything out of it.

And what does winning mean in this context? It means a publishing contract with Penguin in which the writer will receive a $15,000 advance against future royalties. I have worked some hard-ass ten-dollar-an-hour jobs in my life, so I know the value of $15,000. On the other hand, it is not that hard at my current job to make $15,000. No matter how you cut it, writing is a crappy way to make money. Not only does lawyering make good money, it is usually more fun.

The thing I dislike about the contest--or the send your query letter to an agent plan--is that I turn over control to someone else and then sit on my hands waiting for someone to give me a prize. The loss of control doesn't seem worth the potential reward.

Which leads back to why am I doing this anyway. I still don't know, but I am heading to my cabin for a winter vacation eagerly awaiting some quiet time to sit at the keyboard and put another 15,000 words into my newest Leopold Larson story. It is becoming clear that I am not a rational being.

Monday, December 21, 2009


I got a report today saying that two copies of The Duke of Morrison Street sold on Amazon. It was probably my mother.

I friend to whom I gave a copy ran into me and said he enjoyed the book. My friend was positive, but wondered if it had much to offer people who werern't one of us--recovering alcoholics. I wonder the same thing. My legal assistant is almost finished, and she seems to like it. She isn't recovering from anything, but she works for me. What is she supposed to say?

The good part--at least so far-- is that everyone wants to talk about some aspect of the book: who dunnit, missed typos, whether the characters are comprehensible to non-addicts. That is great news for me, because all I wanted was for my readers to be able to finish the damn thing without getting so bored they threw the book against the wall. In that modest respect I may have succeeded, and the crowd I write for is not long on patience.

It looks like I will get some word-of-mouth marketing.

Some of my anxiety about this whole project is resolving. I am not so worried about selling books anymore. That will be a long term project. I don't have to depend upon the book to put food on my table. Foregoing the send-a-letter-to-an-agent-and-wait-to-hit-the-big-time now feels right to me. I made the decision to start Salish Ponds because I doubted I could find an agent who was able and willing to market my book to my people. Maybe there is one, but  the chances of finding that person and thereafter making it big seem too small to warrant turning over the project to other people. I give up, of course, my infinitesimal chance to be rich and famous, as well of the potential ego satisfaction of having someone else publishing my art. In return I get control and a life without rejection letters.

All bargains are tough, but today I am satisfied with this one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Video Ad

It was cold today, so I used my little Flip camera to make a video ad for The Duke of Morrison Street.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A box of books

A box of forty books--The Duke of Morrison Street--arrived at the office yesterday. The box was heavy. I sent off a copy to the Library of Congress and one to Margo, the person to whom it is dedicated. Now I am at a loss as to what to do. I planned putting a "buy me" button on the Salish Ponds web page, but am considering leaving sales up to Amazon. Do I want the small extra profit per copy that I could make by mailing copies from my garage? I can't decide. Having my own little distribution center--assuming anyone wants to buy the thing--has it charms. On the other hand I have to sell a whole lot of copies to make what I can make in a couple of hours of practicing law.

I sent in Malady Manor for a final proof, so whatever decisions I make with The Duke of Morrison Street will have to apply to the second book as well. I am probably getting ahead of myself, considering that no one except my mother has offered to buy even a single copy of either one, but thinking about these things keeps me out of the bars.

What seems more important is getting out and selling the book. I will not be good at that. Selling the book is selling myself, and I am at heart, shy. You might not think so, having this blog and the web site and all that, but I do all that sitting alone at home or in my office.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Duke of Morrison Street appears on Amazon

The Duke of Morrison Street appeared for sale on Amazon while I was visiting my parents in Nevada for the Thanksgiving Holidays. I had a proof copy along with me. My sister read it and liked it. She thought Malady Manor was funnier, and I have to agree. I am pleased when a person stays interested enough to read all the way to the end. I have tossed a lot of books aside on the grounds that they were too boring to live. I am no Hemingway and I know it. I figure if I can hold a reader's interest long enough for him or her to complain about the quality, I am as far up the literary ladder as I am likely to get.

My sister did, however, find a typo. The bane of my existence. What can a poor boy do?

I hesitated showing the book to my family. Having it around brought up all those conversations about whether I will be rich and famous like John Grisham; the choice to publish it myself; my motives for writing it in the first place, and how the book relates to the amount of money I can put in my bank account. I have struggled with those questions too much, and whatever answers I have seem particularly weak when given to my family across a table filled with turkey and gravy.

I went to a meeting while I was visiting. The next morning my mother asked about it. I told her that all my old friends were there, but in Nevada they had different names. That is the way it felt. It was a birthday meeting and a couple of old timers reminisced about the old days and people long gone. I had never been to that meeting before and was not a member of that group, but I knew those old timers too. In Fairview, Oregon they had different names.

Now I am back on the banks of Salish Ponds. I have to come up with a marketing plan. I would rather work on the next book, but I won't do that until I have a sale or two of this one.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Publishing Angst

The last version of The Duke of Morrison Street had a few more typos. I doubt I got them all, but I can hope. I made the Salish Ponds Press live even though people can't yet order the book from the page. That will come soon. The Kindle Edition is ready for publication and I will hit the "publish" button at Amazon as soon as the print edition is live.

I am a member of Salon where I follow the politics and the arts. Laura Miller recently wrote an article about "vanity book awards." The article profiled a company that handed out awards and those gold stickers you often see on books that have won some sort of literary award. It appeared from the company website that the awards were based primarily on the author's ability to send the company sixty-nine dollars.

The article made me wince. It promulgates the idea that if you publish your own work it is a vanity enterprise. In my case, I suppose there is some truth to that. I couldn't get anyone else to publish my book (although I certainly didn't try very hard at it). I also have a vanity law practice. I didn't want to start my own practice, but after being very publicly tossed out of the legal profession and very publicly readmitted, nobody welcomed me back with a comfortable salary and a downtown office. Maybe I am more vain than other people.

Or maybe recovery people, having burned bridges to the normal sources of income and status, have to make their way in the world however they can.

The conversation that followed the article pitted two visions of writing against each other. One vision posits that there are good writers whose work, although seldom popular with the reading public, rises to the top in the form of losing money for major publishers and receiving literary awards. The other vision is of a world in which there are many voices, some of which are great to certain readers at certain times. The first vision is popular in academia; the second in the blogosphere.

I would rather be a rich writer with my book in the front window of Border's stores across the nation. I would also rather be a rich lawyer, with a corner office in a downtown skyscraper. Salish Ponds, however, is a good enough publisher for today, and my vanity law office a few blocks away keeps the creditors from the door. I doubt the two visions of writing will ever be resolved. People thriving within the establishment will look with amused disdain on those outside of it, and those outside of it will rail against the arbitrary barriers that prevent them from getting in. Until I become one of the former, I am one of the latter.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Salish Ponds Press is Born

Today I sent off to CreateSpace the final corrections on The Duke of Morrison Street. I expect tomorrow I will order the last proof. I sent the Kindle version to my Kindle and it looked okay so I uploaded it to Amazon. All I need to do is hit the publish button, and the Kindle version of the book will be for sale. Today, I fussed with the Salish Ponds web page, getting it ready to upload. Tomorrow, I will hook Paypal to the Salish Ponds checking account so that I can make online sales and keep the books separate from my personal Paypal transactions.

At times like this I have a hard time deciding what it is I am doing. Is this a hobby . . . an obsession . . . a business? Is it tilting at windmills?

It seems to me that I didn't try very hard to sell The Duke of Morrison Street to a publisher, and I wonder why that was. I have never wanted to be a publisher, or for that matter a business person of any kind. Yet, I pay my mortgage with my law practice, which is a business, and I am now the owner, operator, and sole employee of Salish Ponds Press, which is something. I guess it's a case of "if there is a road in front of you, take it." That's the problem with free will. You get what you pay for.

I will attempt to document the history of Salish Ponds Press here, but I can't guarantee much. I started a blog once before, and like most bloggers, couldn't keep it up.