For your listening pleasure

Here are some of my favorite podcasts–they are all free and available through iTunes.

The Classic Tales: B.J. Harrison has a wonderful reading voice, and so far I’ve enjoyed listening to his renditions of Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear. Subscribe through iTunes to get timely (and free) installments, but also check out his website ( for other features such as Poetry Corner and Short Story Spotlight.

New Yorker fiction: Subscribe to the feed service through iTunes (or click here) and enjoy a monthly reading and conversation with New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman. Authors reading authors is a unique feature of this podcast. One of my favorites is Paul Theroux reading Luis Borges’s short story “The Gospel According to Mark”: both Theroux’s reading and his commentary made listening to the podcast a real treat.

PRI’s Selected Shorts Podcast: You can hear these short stories on your local NPR affiliate or make sure you never miss a podcast by subscribing through iTunes. (Go to NPR’s directory to find sundry other podcasts). Similar to the New Yorker fiction podcast, most of these short stories are read by other well-known authors. All are read before a live audience which gives the readings a wonderful sense of immediacy.

LibriVox: LibriVox is truly a labor of love. It is supported by volunteers who read novels, short stories, and poems that are in the public domain. Check out their website for volunteer opportunities, and to view their rather lengthy catalog of available downloads. Again, you can subscribe to their feed through iTunes. One word of caution, however. With some longer works (such as Austen’s Northanger Abbey), chapters may be read by more than one volunteer, which can make the listening experience a bit uneven. Also, these are volunteers, not professional readers, so the quality of the readings can be disappointing. Still, Librivox is a treasure trove, and the efforts of its volunteers are admirable. The uneven quality of the readings can even be a bit fun. Just imagine listening to a group of your friends as they take turns reading chapters from your favorite novel!

Now, do you have a favorite podcast? Please share!

Use Podcasts to Generate Sales

While this might not work for everyone, apparently a few authors are finding that giving away free podiobooks and/or e-books can generate sales for the print versions of their books. Check on this post on Writer’s Blog about Scott Sigler’s success so far. According to Sigler’s blog: “Scott is the author of INFECTED, a major hardcover thriller from Crown Publishing. He landed his book deal by giving away multiple novels as free, serialized podcasts that generated a large online following and saw over 4 million downloads of the individual episodes.”

Now, I am an “audiofile.” I love listening to books (especially when I’m running, knitting, sewing, or cleaning house), and when I really like an audiobook (or podiobook), I often will go out and buy the hard copy. When it comes to good writing, I want to see the layout of the book–the scenes, the dialogue–so I can learn how to (hopefully) generate the same effect in my own writing. Besides, printed books will always have a special place in readers’ hearts.

Also, I think an author is showing a real desire to connect with his readers when he makes “cyber” versions of his book available for free. In return, that online following can lead to a lucrative contract with a traditional publisher.

What do you think? Have you made your work available through podcasts or e-books?

The strangely insular world of blogging

This Sunday, The New York Times published an article by Emily Gould, once-upon-a-time blog editor for Gawker Media. Emily is a woman in her late twenties who has had the great fortune to work in the field of publishing. After reading her article, however, I have had the great temptation to look down upon her as a naïve, narcissistic juvenile. (Disclosure: I am old enough to be her mother.) But for one thing.

A few days ago, I happened to catch “The Devil Wears Prada” on cable. In both Emily’s article and the movie, we get an opportunity to see how a young mind is manipulated into becoming her own worst enemy. In the movie, Andrea doesn’t even know what the magazine Runway is all about, although she has applied for a job there. She is eventually shocked and disillusioned by the cutthroat machinations of her boss. She does truly seem like a sacrificial virgin in contrast to Emily’s claim of the same when she started her career at Gawker.

But Emily was not “virginal.” She admits that her preferred mode of self-expression has deep roots, starting in her high school days when she and her friends circulated a notebook in which they shared “candid thoughts” about their teachers. When they got caught, she claimed First Amendment rights. Perhaps more telling is the comic book she created, presenting herself as a superhero (“SuperEmily”) who “battled thinly veiled versions” of the mean girls in her grade. And when it came to Gawker Media, unlike Andrea and Runway, she was an expert: “For a young blogger in New York in 2006, becoming an editor at Gawker was an achievement so lofty that I had never even imagined it could happen to me.”

Despite their obvious differences, my takeaway message from watching the movie and then reading Emily’s article was that both these women were very impressionable. They may be hard-working women who have survived the wilds of New York City, but they still are not savvy enough to navigate without leaving some wreckage in their path. But here their similarities end.

Andrea is blindsided in her transformation from a size 6 duckling to a size 4 princess. Becoming “one of them” was not her goal when she went to interview at Runway. In contrast, Emily saw her job at Gawker as “somehow inevitable. Maybe my whole life — all the trivia I’d collected, the knack for funny meanness I’d been honing since middle school — had been leading up to this moment.”

Unlike my generation, Emily grew up with perpetual access to immediate gratification. And she grew up with feeling that the world, limited only by bandwidth, could be her friend, or at least her audience. Yet, she does capture a universal drive toward blogging: “I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept . . ..”

Her comment reminds of my embrace of the phrase, “I am therefore I write.” Blogging is a way for me to record my existence, although I try to restrict to my posts to a general theme, that of writing. For Emily, the purpose of blogging is to expose every aspect of one’s life. The irony is that so many people who criticize her type of blogging feel compelled to leave comments on her blog. By their very act of commenting, they are legitimating Emily’s blog, whether they like it or not. By the time I grabbed the permalink for Emily’s article, comments about the article numbered in the thousands. Most comments suggested at least one of the following: that Emily should grow up; that Emily should get a real job; that the article was boring (usually expressed as “ZZZZZZZZ”); that The New York Times should not have given Emily so much space to write in. There is a bit of irony here: Is what drives a commentator to leave a badly written and/or insulting post any different from what drives Emily to blog?

(For a different perspective on her NYT article, check on the comments on Emily Magazine.)

When I come across a blog or post that I find offensive or boring, I don’t bother to comment. In much the same way that personalized rejection letters can give the writer some solace that at least her story was read, comments provide the blogger some satisfaction of being heard. Comments provide some form of legitimacy, although most often in their quantity.

So, I would suggest to those who are unhappy with the nature of Emily’s blogs: Just don’t comment on them. Let her comment count dwindle. Let her audience retract to only the closest of her friends. If what she is doing is so awful, then don’t encourage her. Like any other writer, Emily has more to gain from constructive criticism and encouragement than from the banality of “ZZZZZZZ.”

Blogging is fun!

My most favorite blogger, John Hewitt, has a delightful post about why he loves blogging more than freelancing. He gives five reasons: (1) he doesn’t have to send out query letters; (2) he can write about whatever he wants; (3) he doesn’t have to answer to an editor; (4) he can get published when he wants to be; and (5) he gets to connect with readers. Read his full post here or click on the RSS feed at the right-hand sidebar and keep up on his posts.

For me, the freedom of blogging is a double-edged sword: it does free me to write whatever I want, but it also takes time away from working on my stories and novel. I have a day job which definitely limits the amount of time I have to write. I often feel guilty (in fact, I feel guilty right now) when I spend time working on a post that no one may read or comment on, time that I could be spending on revising a short story, editing my novel, or brainstorming another story idea.

But I keep blogging because it is fun. Like John, I enjoy seeing my words published without having to go through gatekeepers. And it is still writing. No matter what, I am still writing.

How do you all feel about blogging, if you have your own blog? What drives you to blog? What keeps you blogging? How many of you have day jobs that leave you with precious little time to write? How do you persevere?

The debate on self-publishing continues

Georganna Hancock of A Writer’s Edge has an interesting post on what’s wrong with self-publishing. She makes some good points, noting that some self-published books lack quality in both writing and book design. Of course, I took exception to her general tone and just had to post a response. You can link to her post here. My response, in full:

“You note that “a lack of professionalism in most aspects marks self-publishing efforts, and this is what traditional publishing usually brings to the effort.” Although you provide the caveat that traditional publishing does not always reflect the professionalism that one should expect from it, I think you do self-published authors a disservice by tossing them in the trash. The technology for print on demand books is improving every day and more writers are becoming savvy to the pros and cons of self-publishing. The Writing Show with Paula B. has interviewed a number of POD authors who enjoy at least a modest success, and websites that review POD books are sprouting up (see, for example, POD Books and More), providing some gatekeeping for the discriminating reader.
Any author who wants to see her work in print and not be embarrassed by it should study closely the wealth of information on self-publishing in general and PODs in particular (for a start, she could visit my blog at At a minimum, she should retain an editor who can apply the necessary objective eye to her writing. Although chain bookstores usually refuse to place a POD book, small independent bookstores often fill that gap. With some effort (along with fortitude and an obsessive persistence), a self-published author might develop a fan base within her own community. It’s possible and it’s worth the effort of any writer who wants to see her writing in print but who has grown weary and disillusioned by the seemingly never-ending rejections from traditional gatekeepers. Should a dedicated writer never see her words in print just because traditional publishers shoo her away? What if John Irving had given up on The World According to Garp?
What bothers me most about the argument against self-publishing is the assumption that the gatekeepers of traditional publishing know what’s best for readers. They will ensure that we have access to only the best (in their opinion) writing. Unfortunately, what I often see while I stroll through the aisles at my local Borders is the same old, lowest-common-denominator fodder, whether in fiction or non-fiction.
Some of our greatest authors were self-published (Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, to name a couple). Would our traditional gatekeepers publish them today? What would American or English literature be like today if Walt Whitman or Virginia Woolf had not had the toughness of ego to publish their writing? For sure, Michael Cunningham would have had no subject for his novel, The Hours.
But thank you for sharing your thoughts, Georganna. Self- vs. traditional publishing is an interesting debate and one that will likely go on for much longer.”

Sigh, that’s enough ranting for today.

Feedback from Self-Published Authors

This Sunday’s New York Times has a couple of interesting letters in the Book Review section, responding to Rachel Donadio’s essay of on POD publishing. Maryann McFadden and Daryl Pebbles (AKA Hutton Hayes) are published authors. Click here to read their letters in full. Ms. McFadden originally published her master’s thesis, a novel, as a POD. She describes herself as “one of those rare exceptions: my self-published novel, which began as my master’s thesis, sold enough copies to land a good agent who sold it at auction. My novel, “The Richest Season,” will be published by Hyperion in June.” Mr. Peebles, who writes under the pseudonym Hutton Hayes, describes self-published authors as “voices lost in the muddled middle who spend five years writing a novel and seek the same opportunity for survival as traditionally published authors. They may sell 200 books, or 200,000, or only one, but now they can, at least, be read.”

Cheers to both Ms. McFadden and Mr. Peebles. They remind us that that money, although a nice side benefit, is often not the carrot that keeps us going; rather, it’s the love of the written word, the desire to be read and, thus, heard.

More on POD–correction

This just in from Mr. Orr regarding his website, POD Book Reviews & More:

“As of 4/1/08, iUBR was opened up to submissions from most POD imprints. I could never have handled the volume alone, but five additional reviewers were added earlier this year. We welcome submissions from all POD brands except Lulu, which has its own legitimate, independent review site in Lulu Book Review. Thank you.”

What good news for self-published authors!

More on POD

Remember my rank about self-published authors needing book reviewers in order to gain legitimacy? Well, one such reviewer just contacted me! Floyd M. Orr , a self-published author himself, offers to read and review iUniverse publications at his website, POD Book Reviews & More. He doesn’t mince words when it comes to his preference for only iUniverse books:

“My attitude toward iUniverse is unlike the horde of what I call the slap-fighters on the POD blogs and message boards. I am tiring of the snotty attitudes of those people, both the ones who have their own blogs and those who just pop up and dominate message boards created by others. I have only three negative things to say about iU: price, price, and price. They charge too much in set-up fees, book retail prices, and wholesale prices to the authors. Absolutely everything else I can say about the company is professional and positive. I have no interest in supporting competing companies, so this offer is for iU authors only.” (For the rest of this post, which explains the why and how of his service, please click here.)

From the list of reviewed books thus far, Mr. Orr has not suffered a shortage of reading material by limiting submissions to iUniverse. He also posts interviews with authors and agents, and other interesting tidbits of POD publishing. I’m looking forward to spending more time on his website and seeing what gems I can find that have never made it to The New York Times Book Review.

I’m really glad that Mr. Orr contacted me and made me aware of his website. If any one else out there has a “business” of reviewing POD books, please let me know and I’ll be happy to post a link to your website. Or you can leave a comment and provide your contact information there.

Face lift and added functionality among other things

I decided I needed a little more color in my life so I changed “themes” yesterday. I hope to add some “texture” eventually as I learn how to edit CSS so I can add background images. Although I really liked my previous theme, this one feels more cheery yet appropriately subdued for the introvert that I am. I’ve also added some RSS widgets (scroll down the sidebar) for my most favorite websites & blogs, a few of which I’ve discussed in earlier posts. So now you’ll have three ways to connect with the sites that I talk about: link directly through my posts, links saved on my sidebar, or the RSS widgets through my sidebar.

Did you know that you can get a feed to The New Yorker’s fiction and poetry? Now with my aircard and laptap, I never have to worry about missing an issue! See for yourself–click here.

All Things Ebooks

A website after my own heart?  I could spend hours on Ebook Crossroads without exhausting all the information that it has to offer.  The site claims to be the “One-stop Resource for eBook Writing and Publishing,” and it may well be given the list of reviews, products, and general info that it provides.  Navigation on Ebook Crossroads is quite smooth, with a choice of general topics on the left-hand side of the webpage  and specific sections on the right-hand side.

You’ll find resources for writers of children’s literature, mystery, poetry, romance, and science fiction; listings for freelance jobs, writing contests, and writing associations; software and electronic reviews; and info on epublishing with ebooks, newsletters, and private label rights.  A lot of the resources provided are geared toward making money, whether through your own writing and/or affiliate programs.

In short, it’s a fun site with lots of great links!  Enjoy!

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