Welcome to the marketing machine for my first book, a collection of short stories called (C)ROCK STORIES: MILLION-DOLLAR TALES OF MUSIC, MAYHEM AND IMMATURITY.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 2011
As I was saying....
The book party was a rousing success on all fronts. There was a great turnout, the food was delicious, people were buying me Black & Tans and I sold a bunch of books! Even my reading went relatively smoothly.
I was truly touched by the number of people who showed up, bought my book, wanted me to sign it and congratulated me on my accomplishment. I oughta throw a bunch more of those parties!
Seriously, though, I'd love to have more events like that, including at least one with live music. Gotta get The Toastmen on the bill, of course.
If you missed the party and don't want to wait until the next one to buy the book, go here.
One guy who wasn't at the party, but who I need to buy a whole lotta drinks for, is Ed Ochs. He's the guy I made an obtuse reference to in this space back on March 7th. A former editor and columnist for Billboard, onetime music label creative/editorial director and a fellow Booklocker author (check out his debut novel, "This Rock Can Talk"), Ed has just posted a fantastic review of my book on his web site. You can find it here, just above the '80's photo of Ed with the Motley Crue girls.
My hope is that Ed's review will put my book in front of West Coast music industry people who know his reputation and trust his judgment and have money to spend on books.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6, 2011
Ten days until the book launch/signing party. The guest list is filling up, we've secured a babysitter for the kids, and I'm getting excited. There will be food, drinks, music (I have a 45-song iPod playlist), books for sale and most likely a reading. And of course I'll sign books for anybody who wants my autograph.
I'm really looking forward to hanging out with friends and family, some of whom I see all the time, but many of whom I haven't seen in quite a while. I'm not usually crazy about being the center of attention, but I'm eager to share the book with anybody who'll listen to me. I know it's not perfect, but I'm extremely proud of the stories and the time and effort I put into the collection.
Don't just sit on your hands waiting for the party; rock out with Ram Jam, who just happen to get name-checked by Scarlett, the crazy Southern punk rocker from the story, "Sister Fey," from my book.
MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2011
I've made headway on my novel, which is tentatively titled, "Area 51 Is for Lovers." To recap, for those of you who somehow haven't been paying the most minute attention to this blog: in November 2007 I took part, at the urging of my buddy Jay Kumar, in National Novel Writing Month. During that time, I wrote about 26,000 words based on an outline I'd prepared ahead of time. The novel is based on a concept album I'd begun writing a few years before. It's your typical story in which a guy steals a valuable suitcase containing secret cargo, goes on the lamb, meets a woman who's an anthropologist in New Mexico and she gets kidnapped by aliens and ends up in the government's top-secret Area 51 compound in Nevada. That was the original outline, anyway. It's gonna change, although I can't say now in what ways.
And the only headway I made was to rewrite the opening paragraph and make the decision to incorporate stuff from another novel I'd thought about writing. Baby steps....
MONDAY, MARCH 7, 2011
My book launch/signing party is slated for Saturday, April 16, at The Skellig, a find Irish bar/restaurant in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. I'm excited to see a bunch of people I haven't seen, sell some books and perhaps do a reading. I'll also debut the "(C)rock Story" iPod playlist I made a while back. It's chock full of songs (45, running 2.7 hours; how long is 2.7 hours?) that are mentioned in the book, or which inspired story titles, or which come from artists named in the short stories, or, in a few cases, come from TV shows that pop up in the book.
While sales have been slower than I'd hoped, they have picked up a bit in the last 10 days or so. I've even climbed back into Booklocker's Top 10 Print Best Sellers (#4 as of this writing). I continue to promote the book via Facebook and Goodreads, a social networking site for readers and authors.
I'm also cultivating a relationship with a fellow Booklocker author who has written a rock and roll comedy adventure novel. I don't want to jinx anything by giving away too many details, but this author has deep music industry contacts, and, I believe, could help me tremendously in getting my book in front of audiences I wouldn't otherwise be able to reach. Stay tuned.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2011
Since I last posted, the book has become available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble's web site (bn.com) and a few others, including a Croatian store and Japan's Amazon outlet. That said, sales have slowed significantly, despite my efforts to promote the bejesus out of it on Facebook.
I'm encouraging anybody who's read the book to post reviews on the book's Amazon page, or at the Goodreads page I recently set up. Thanks, by the way, to my cousin's husband, Mick, for posting the first Goodreads review!
In the meantime, I've been thinking about not one, not two, not three, but four books I want to work on next. Two of those are children's books, are in various states of completion. I wrote a rhyming alphabet book about a subway trip about a year ago and shopped it around to half a dozen literary agencies, to no avail. I've solicited advice from family and friends, and will do some revising before sending it out again.
I also have a first draft of a companion book. This one is a counting book about a subway trip, but tells a story, unlike the alphabet book. I've talked seriously with my wife, Beth, about illustrating the books. I've always known she was artistically talented, but was reminded of that fact earlier this week while looking at some drawings of Pokemon characters she did for our son, Owen.
The other two books:
A novel-in-progress that I started in November 2007 during National Novel Writing Month. This one has an accompanying soundtrack of original music that's also under way.
A nonfiction book about an experience from my childhood that's bugged my conscience and curiosity quite a bit in recent years. Long story short: when I was a teenager, I came across an abandoned house in the woods less than a mile from my home. I was with some friends, and we walked through the place, which looked as if the family had bolted without taking one thing with them. The house was filled with clothes, books, food, photos, furniture, everything that makes a house a home. Not long after, the place was torn down to make way for an access road to a new condo development. I've long wondered who lived there, why they left everything behind, where did they go, etc.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 20, 2011
Books finally started hitting mailboxes this week! Between the holidays and East Coast snow storms (Booklocker is based in Maine), seems like deliveries got delayed a bit. As I said before, I hope people are willing to share their thoughts on the book, either by emailing me or posting on the book's Facebook page.
My sister was the first to find a mistake (big prize coming your way!). It was a minor one, but still I wish I'd caught it. I hope there aren't too many in there. At one point a few years back I'd decided to send the stories out to friends for editorial review, but my insecurity got the better of me, and I ended up doing all the proofreading and copy editing myself.
MESSAGE FOR ALL YOU KIDS OUT THERE: DON'T EDIT YOUR OWN BOOKS! BE WILLING TO TAKE CRITICISM AHEAD OF TIME IN ORDER TO ENSURE YOUR BOOK IS THE BEST IT CAN BE!
That said, I'm confident that "(C)rock Stories" is the best it can be. Still, for all future books, both fiction and children's, I will employ friends and family and any and all professionals, to review and edit.
That's all for now. Happy reading!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 9, 2011
Sales of the book are humming along through Booklocker. I've been doing a lot of promotion through Facebook but haven't explored other channels yet. One unexpected bonus of Facebook has been the willingness of friends and family to post the direct sale link on their pages, thereby spreading the word to hundreds, possibly even thousands, of people I don't know. I can't express enough my thanks for all of this free promotion.
In the near future the book will also be available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble's web site and other online ventures. Additionally, Booklocker has uploaded the book to Apple for inclusion in iBookstore, an app for the iPad and other Apple products. So, with a wider distribution network, sales will surely skyrocket!
Seriously, though, I'm trying not to check in too often to see how sales are going. The point of publishing this book has never been to make money. But naturally I'd like to make back my investment.
I'm not sure how many folks have actually received their books yet. I think Booklocker orders take about 10 days to arrive, so I assume the initial orders have started rolling into consumers' (read: friends and family) hands by now. One person ordered the digital version for her Kindle, but I haven't gotten any feedback yet.
I hope people will be willing to share their praise and criticism so I know what works and what doesn't, and how to improve my writing for future efforts.
In the meantime, I'm focusing anew on my children's books. I wrote a rhyming alphabet book about a year ago and shopped it to half a dozen literary agencies. The response was underwhelming: rejection by two, nary a word from the others.
But I've recruited an editorial team to give me feedback to I can make sure the book is as good as it can be before I send it out to other agencies. I plan to do the same for the second book, a counting book that is currently in first draft form.
Also, I will get back to my novel-in-progress, which includes a companion music soundtrack. Stay tuned.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2010
THE BOOK IS FOR SALE!!
I meant to post this Monday night, when I got the word from the POD people. I've been busy since then doing some marketing work on Facebook, shoveling and snow-blowing and hanging out with my family.
I would love to hear back from readers, so please feel free to email me with comments, criticism, compliments, etc.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2010
I sent the updated manuscript back to Booklocker
last Wednesday, after making changes that I should have caught before receiving the proof copy of the book. I was confident that my edits to "Smashing Your Head With the Punk Rock" were good, and that the minor changes I made to a few other stories made them just a wee bit better. Also, I indicated to the POD people that I wanted to change the order of a few stories. I went away to the Nutmeg State for Thanksgiving feeling good about having finished the work in time to enjoy a long weekend.
I got back home on Saturday and found an email from the Booklocker folks indicating that I hadn't reordered the stories in the manuscript, the way I'd indicated in the note to them about the table of contents. "Duh," I thought. I figured they would just do it for me. So today I reordered the stories in the 'script, went over "Smashing Your Head With the Punk Rock" one more time, and sent it on its way. Again.
With any luck, I'll get the PDF from Booklocker in a few days, review it and find it problem free, and give them the OK to once again print a proof copy. Then, assuming they did everything to spec, and I don't find any more of my own screw-ups, the thing will go to print. I'm hoping it'll be available shortly before Christmas.
For the story of how I started writing the book, see below.
THE HISTORY OF (C)ROCK
I started writing the stories that make up this collection in 2000, while working at digital media company Webnoize (R.I.P. 2001). I was a writer and editor for the company's daily news publication, covering the music, TV, movie and game industries as they formed their digital strategies. I spent a lot of time talking with my fellow writers about music -- sharing stories about favorite bands, albums and gigs.
During down time, I occasionally conducted online searches for information about my college friend Kristen Hathaway, who'd married Stephen Stills of CSN and Buffalo Springfield fame. At some point I began writing down a description of my efforts, quoting from fruitless emails I'd sent to her husband's official web site, and recalling funny stories from when we attended Keene State College together. I put the thing together and titled it, "Me and Mrs. Stills, We Ain't Got a Thing Going On."
It sat on my computer for quite a while. I didn't know what to do with it. In the meantime, I started writing an oddball story about a scheme that heartland rocker John Mellencamp had hatched in which, 20 years before Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines, Mellencamp formed an alter ego: punk rocker and well known recording engineer Steve Albini.
Called "Kerosene On the Scarecrow," the story was a fun writing exercise, but a bit moronic and over the top. But this story represents the true genesis for the project that became (C)rock Stories, a series of 17 stories that I wrote quickly and kept short so as not to annoy the friends and family to whome I emailed them.
Around this time, I thought about all the bands I'd seen since my first concert, Rush, in 1981. The list included mainstream bands like The Police, The J. Geils Band, The Go-Go's and R.E.M., semi-famous bands like The Ramones, Hoodoo Gurus and Butthole Surfers, right down to local hardcore bands like Chronic Disorder, The White Pigs and Violent Children. Then I started thinking about certain bands and specific incidents or stories I associated with seeing them play live, or traveling to their gigs, or simply talking about them. And then I thought about music in general and how it was such an important part of my identity, and shouldn't I write some stories reflecting that fact?
I decided to challenge myself and start writing stories, some completely true, some total fabrication and others a mixture of the two. They key, as I mentioned, was to keep them short, under 2,000 words, so that people might actually read them. I hoped to write one a month, a schedule that I maintained for a while, but as the project wore on, time spread out a bit. So, a project that I initially thought would take me close to two years (I hoped to write at least 20 stories) ended up stretching out more than five years.
I solicited input from the folks to whom I sent the stories, and got plenty of constructive criticism, along with lots of pats on the back. These comments kept me going, although I really had no direction. It was just something to do, a project that kicked into higher gear after I got laid off from Webnoize, and before the birth of my first child in May 2002.
It was the third story, "Sister Ray Ugly," that sent the first signal that I just might be onto something here. The story was 90% true and felt really good to write. Unlike "Kerosene on the Scarecrow," which was a goof, and "Me and Mrs. Stills (We Ain't Got a Thing Going On)," which was uneventful, things happened in "Sister Ray Ugly," and I realized that in order for (C)rock Stories to work, the tales needed to be more interesting than their real-life versions.
With loads of editing, this story is now called "Sister Fey," and features one of my favorite characters, a crazed Southern punk named Scarlett who threatens bodily harm to the narrator (I'm the unnamed narrator in all of the stories).
Special props go out to my buddy Ric Dube, who, after reading the original version of this story, commented that, "20 more like this and you'll have a very good book on your hands." That was a motivating factor, for sure.
Anyway, I cranked out a total of 17 stories, and then cut two of them out, feeling 15 was a good number for my book. I spent a lot of time (I mean a LOT!) totally reworking the stories, aware that if I hoped to convince people to whom I'd emailed the originals for free that they were worth paying for, the stories had to actually have themes, be stretched out so they could breathe more, and come alive in people's hands.
There were times when I forgot about/ignored/lost interest in these stories. I knew I wanted to finish them and put them in a book, and knew I would some day. But I didn't think it would take me 10 years from start to finish. But now that the book is close to publication, I'm proud of myself for sticking with it, and am confident that these stories are funny, poignant and absurd, and present an accurate picture of what it was like being a slacker going to punk rock shows from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s, struggling with love and friendship, defending my musical taste, dealing with the mayhem of rock and roll and trying to figure out how to grow up.
The book will be available soon via the retail site for print on-demand company Booklocker; it will also be available for special order via Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and other web sites served by book distributor Ingram. Booklocker will also sell digital versions of the book that are in PDF format, which means you can't use it on a Kindle. But because I'm free to list my book elsewhere, I have the option of listing it with Amazon, which means that at some point Kindle users might be able to buy and view it.