Monday, November 22, 2010

First back cover blurb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It has been a long time since I posted, but I have been nursing my wounds after having a short story rejected, only to receive a wonderful vote of confidence in my novel from award winning writer Mark Frutkin. After having graciously agreed to read my book from cover to cover, he provided a back cover blurb which I believe will help my book stand out among all the other books out there vying for the attention of potential readers. He closed the blurb by saying "Finely crafted, this is an engaging, uplifting and intelligent novel from beginning to end." Coming from Mark, an author whose work I greatly admire and enjoy, this was a wonderful endorsement. And I am also still bowled over that the three authors I contacted about reading my book were so generous with their time. I am glad that I slowed down my momentum just a trifle in order to undertake this part of the publishing process. I think it will be well worth the slight delay in getting the novel into print. As for the short story, well, I have to admit that I find short stories extremely difficult to write. As they say -- back to the drawing board. I was also pleased that The New Quarterly sent me the reviewer comments. The story had been shortlisted, but ultimately did not make the 3 per cent of stories received that they actually publish. However I can make use of the comments to improve the story, and that, after all, is what it is all about. Cheers -- next post will be about pagination -- whither widows or orphans....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back cover quotes -- do I need them?

This was to have been the weekend I formatted the text, but after looking over the draft back cover of the book next to a row of published books from well known publishers my husband pointed out what was missing from mine.....quotations from respected writers. I would like to have used some of the quotes from publishers who did not choose to publish it, but I have written to  two of them for permission and not heard back. I guess it is a no-win situation for them -- if they agree then they look a) stupid for not having published it or b) stupid for associating themselves with a book they praised but did not publish. Anyway, without losing momentum, I am going to try to find a couple of writers to read the book and provide some pithy comments for the back. Since there still seems to be a bit of a stigma attached to a self-published book, perhaps this will help obviate some of that discomfort among potential readers. My first choices are some of the writers who have been on grant juries who have recommended my writing.....and also writers whose work I like and respect. Next blog -- ISBN numbers and barcodes, latest technical hiccup. Any thoughts?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cover design!!!!!!

Changing the title to my novel has made a huge difference to the entire process, galvanizing the various energies needed to put the package together. One of those energies involved the cover design -- which seemed to fall into place once I felt comfortable with that all-important title. And the Seas Shall Turn to Lemonade conveyed the right tone and spirit, then I went on istockphotos and cast around for something. Presto, I found this wonderful image of a lemon slice being splashed into water. I gave it to my designer, who knew I was interested in a single arresting image, and a clean spare design, and here is what he came up with. He has not photoshopped anything yet, so eventually the water line will look more like the sea, more wavelike, and with a touch of blue. For the record, to purchase the image cost about $50, Canadian. I chose the largest size, so that it could be used in a poster or a launch invitation. Not all photos would cost this much, but I think an investment in the cover design is a good place to put my money. And although Lulu does have cover templates, I again think that invesing in a real designer is worth the minimal expense. And so, without further ado....


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hope for the comic novel!!!!

I was delighted to read about Howard Jacobson winning the Man Booker prize for his comic novel, because it was precisely the combination of humour with a literary approach that made potential publishers nervous about "And the seas shall turn to lemonade", according to my agent. No marketing niche for such a book, apparently. And actually, it was Kate Grenville's hilarious novel "The Idea of Perfection" which gave me the courage to let go and be funny, in a literary way, and then I remembered she won the Orange Prize for Fiction for that book in 2001. It is a shame that it is so difficult to publish books which cross genres, but with any luck Howard Jacobson's success will pave the way for more humorous literary books to see their way into the hands of readers. And if you like such books, do look up Kate Grenville's wonderful tale of two unlikely lovers set in Karakarook, New South Wales. And for an update on my progress: I have now completed the final read-through of the manuscript before committing it to the formatting stage...sometimes it is hard to let the baby go. I had not realized that there were a number of small yet significant changes I wished to make before unleasing it into print, and I would highly recommend taking the time you need at this stage: preferably with a book at your side, Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass, which I have found enormously helpful for defining where there may be problems and fixing them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Net marketing, Tabitha Black, and courage!

Thanks to Richard and Dave for the comments on the last post. It is true that the sentences are a little long on the blurb, and I will see what I can abbreviate there. The title is a bit long too, but so far it seems memorable, and this is more important, I think. I spoke to a few people at Elisabeth Harvor's book launch who had totally forgotten the original title but spewed back the new one with enthusiastic and accurate aplomb! Gadzooks! Who knew! My husband pointed out that all five Giller award nominees had short titles so I had to stand my ground and defend the current choice. This is where courage comes into play -- it is hard to be one's own publisher, but incredibly important to know and feel confident about all the choices you make for your book. Tabitha Black deserves nothing less. And now, to net marketing. I am passing along a very helpful link about net marketing for writers from Sandra Gulland, who spoke recently at the Kingson Writer's Fesival. She is clear, incredibly generous, and tech-savvy without overcomplicating things. I am about to follow her advice and will blog about these developments as I go along.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

back cover blurb etc

I decided to change the title, partly in response to the feedback I got from respected friends and colleagues, and partly because I sensed that some people might think it was a poli sci textbook! So I decided to go with an earlier title that refers back to one of Charles Fourier's more bizarre predictions: "And the seas shall turn to lemonade". Since the figure of Fourier figures prominently in the book, the title seemed apt, and also tips off the humour. It also tipped me in the direction of a different cover idea, and since I seemed to be on a roll, I then decided to write up the back cover blurb....always tricky, especially when you have to write it yourself, and not the marketing wing of the publishing house! Here is what I propose; all comments welcome:

A darkly humorous romp through the tortuous relationship between two academic misfits: Tabitha Black, obsessive list-maker and modern day utopian, and Nathaniel Speck, the oafish yet elegant medieval scholar whose dubious achievements include the publication of a hilarious guide to household management in the modern universe. Their relationship is played out against the incestuous under-life of a small university town, where residents and professors eye each other with equal unease. As Tabitha searches for just the right inhabitants for her utopian stronghold, a host of characters join in: Fiona, Nathaniel's foul-mouthed and maternal crush; Lee-Ann, a specialist in frog hibernation who disocvers a profitable business in an unexpected place; and even Tabitha's dead mother, who dispenses unwanted advice from the clouds.

Witty, humane and ultimately tender, And the seas shall turn to lemonade explores the many sides of love itself, and how it can exist all around you without ever being seen.

So, all comments welcome. Sorry to have to call myself witty, but if I don't....ha ha.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How to present Tabitha

It has been too long since I posted something, but I have been struggling with the cover image. There are a number of frogs in the novel, and they figure somewhat prominently in the story. Since frogs are somewhat naturally humorous, I figured a frog image on the cover might work. But trying to find the right frog -- well, that is another matter altogether. Too cute, too serious, too -- what does this have to do with anything? So I guess I have to ask myself -- how do I want to present Tabitha, my main character? She is smart, sassy, twisted, vulnerable, and devious -- ultimately human. She is a compulsive listmaker, an impassioned lecturer at the university, a non-conformist. While frogs enter into her life in an unusual way, linked to another character who is an expert in cryogenics, should they really be on the cover? How much should the cover image relate to the book itself, and how much should it be understood as a marketing tool. I will ponder these questions over the weekend, and see what I can come up with. I have had a number of good suggestions from friends and graphic designers, but of course what is obvious is that everyone has a different sense of the book, and ultimately, I am the one who must make the decision. Ribbet.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

book covers: what works?

I have become a stalker of book covers, lurking about in Chapters, studying, assessing, taking mental notes. After all the work I have done on the novel itself, soemtimes it feels as if it has all come down to this -- a ten second encounter with a potential reader who, like me, is scanning covers trying to decide what to pick up. Lulu offers cover design formats, but I am thinking of putting a little money into a designer. Two covers I liked -- Sharp Teeth, by Toby Barlow, and Ladykiller, Charlotte Gill. Strong colours, single arresting images, minimal approach. I guess I am developing an aesthetic preference. This too is helpful, sharpening how I want the book to be understood, the tone I am trying to project. With each day I turn the prism of the book in a different direction, sensing all the ways I can connect with my readers above and beyond plot and characters.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

what the publishers who didn't publish my novel said

It occurred to me that saying my novel was well received by publishers who decided not to publish it was a bit lame without their actual comments. So, here they are, in no particular order:

"Fun to read: fresh, witty and original. The author comes up with inspired one-liners, and has a refreshingly quirky style. She has a great eye for detail which makes the story bubble up off the page; the people become living, breathing things, so real you really warm to them."  Transworld (UK)

"This novel has moments of real comic delight -- the vision of Nathaniel in goggles, covered in lobster meat, and chasing after his mail-order bride is genuinely funny, as are the more eccentric parts of Fourier's theories. I also liked the tender, tenuous relationship between the characters at the end."  Penguin

"I felt there was a real freshness to this novel, particularly the play on the beauty and the beast/princess and the toad idea, and Nathaniel is a lovely tragic-comic character. There is also a wittiness to this novel which places it in the Bridget Jones tradition, although it also reminded me of Girls Guide to Fishing and Hunting." Doubleday

"The narrative energy and brisk pacing make this novel a quick and enjoyable read." Harper Collins Canada

Okay, so I didn't write a dud. This was perhaps the most frustrating thing of all. If they had said they hated the book, it might have been more understandable. But it seemed as if it was all a question of marketing -- where did the book fit in? It was funny, and literary. Where to put it? Anyway, just thought I would share. Until next time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The decision to self publish

About five years ago, on a dare from a friend, I sent out two chapters of a novel I had been working on to one of Canada's most important literary agents. The novel was to be a funny, darkly satirical look at academia. To my surprise, she called me about three weeks later and told me she wanted to take me on. Visions of huge advances danced through my head, as I knew that many of the authors she represented were getting large contracts and making big money.  I finished the book and she tried, with all her might, to get someone to take it on. Harper Collins thought it was wonderful, but didn't have quite the right niche for it. More accolades followed, from publisher after publisher, yet the novel remained in the drawer, unread, unappreciated, except by my agent, and unpublished. In the meantime, I began another novel, still in progress. But the first one haunted me from within the drawer, where it sat, gathering dust. I finally decided that I couldn't really move on with the second novel until the first one was in print, and in the hands of readers. Another friend told me of his experiences with Lulu. I decided to get on board. So far even the decision to self publish has had an enormously invigorating effect. I revised the last chapter, and embarked on the adventure. In this blog I will spill the beans about how it works, the process, the heartaches, the headaches, and with any luck, the successes. See you next time.