Friday, February 26, 2010

Shadow Screams

I recently recorded and posted Episode 12 in my Prelude To A Scream podcast.

Episode 12 features my short short story "The Shadow Men" which appeared in NORTHERN HAUNTS, published by Shroud Publishing and edited by Tim Deal.

The story, which was inspired by the chill that runs up my spine whenever I'm in the woods and hear the call of a loon in the middle of the night is rather short and written to be read around a campfire, as if the person reading the tale aloud is sitting at the fire with the listeners during a still dark summer night and recounting the story as if it happened to them.

In the podcast, when the tale is over, I talk about my admiration for the incredible verbal storytelling skills of Laurie Blake who was the owner of Fox Lake Lodge in Northern Ontario where I worked when I was a teenager.

I also talk about J. P. Couvrette, one of the buddies I worked with there on many occasions and how he also told great stories, a mixture of funny tales and scary stories, one of which still haunts me today. Yes, the loon call has that affect on my thanks to J.P. (You can read more about J. P. at this blog post)

J.P.'s telling of a ghost story featuring a loon call inspired a scene in my Aurora-Award nominated story "Erratic Cycles" (originally published in 1999 in Parsec Magazine). Not satisfied that I'd fully explored the scary elements used in that short scene, I extracted the idea and used it for the basis of "The Shadow Men" when I saw the call for submissions to NORTHERN HAUNTS.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

HNT - Building Castles In The Snow

After months of waiting, we finally got some snow this week.


Sunday was such a bright sunny, almost spring-like day that I was worried winter was going to pass us over without at least one nice dump of snow. Don't get me wrong, I love spring. But spring is MUCH more enjoyable after having a REAL winter, with cold and snow -- not a half-assed wimpy season of dark and cold temperatures without the beautiful white fluffy stuff.

I mean, without snow you can't have a proper winter playground. You can't ski, sled, ride a snow machine, build snowmen or throw snowballs. But most importantly to the boys in our household, you can't build a snow fort.

We got a decent dumping of snow a few days ago (read my post about stealing my neighbour's snow) and about 20 more centimeters are due in the next few days.

Woo hoo!

This week's HNT is a celebration of snow fun with my son.

Here are some pictures of one of the snow forts we made in the back yard last winter, just from the snow pushed off of our deck. This one was a simple "igloo-like" cave with two entrances which was big enough for both Alexander and I to fit into.

One shot we're inside the main "room" and the other, I'm sitting in the entrance the first picture was taken from and Mr Man is sitting on top. (I loved this one because the snow was packed so tight and the walls and ceiling were so thick that I could jump up and down on top of it and it still held up)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One Important Thing Canadian Authors Should Know

I recently received an annual cheque from the Public Lending Right Commission.

(Yes, to my friends in the US -- we spell cheque in a MUCH more interesting way than the US "check" -- one of the many benefits of living north of the 49th parallel. We also get extra "u's" in many of our words too -- at no additional cost or anything. But get this, the Canadian government has programs that support writers -- perhaps it's compensation for the finger strain of us having to type all those extra "u's" and remember more difficult to spell words like "cheque").

The cheque comes once per year around this time and represents a payment for "loss of royalties" due to my books being stocked in a random sampling of public libraries.

If you're a Canadian writer with one or more books out, you're doing yourself a dis-service to not register them with PLRC.

The cheque I received for $149.40 represents a "hit" on just one of my books in 3 out of 7 locations.

No, I won't retire on the income, but what an incredibly wonderful gesture on the part of our government to support Canadian writers AND encourage public access to their work in our library system.

Their mandate, stated in their words is: "Providing payments to Canadian authors for the presence of their books in public libraries" Or, in French: "Distribue des paiements aux auteurs Canadiens en reconnaissance."

Some authors are bothered by the fact there are people who would rather read the book borrowed from the library than buy a copy of it. PLRC allows authors to be compensated for that -- known as "public lending rights."

I've blogged about this before (see my blog post about them Feb 2008), and I owe huge thanks to my friend and mentor Robert J. Sawyer who continually reminds Canadian authors about this great benefit and service offered by our government in support of Canadian writers. (See his 2010, 2009 and 2006 blog posts about this as well as his 1992 web article about it)

I'll state again for the record:

If you're a Canadian author with a book that is currently in print and available, you shouldn't delay any longer. Get over to the PLRC website, check out the details, register your book, and then sit back, delighting in the fact that there are libraries carrying your titles AND that the Canadian government are actually willing to support the idea of helping to encourage that our public libraries stock Canadian authored titles.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Thief

We FINALLY got some snow this winter.

Yesterday, about 10 to 15 centimeters of the stuff fell from late morning until the late evening hours.

When I got home from work, Alexander and I enjoyed the task of shoveling. Then again, a couple of hours later, we went back out and did more shoveling.

But as much snow as we got, it still wasn't enough to make a giant snow pile in our yard so we could build a 2010 version of Fort Alexander (here's the 2008 version) -- not even when I pushed MOST of the snow from our driveway and front walk into a single concentrated area to make a larger than normal snow pile.

So, given that, once we finished the driveway and walk, Alexander wasn't done playing in the snow, I kept shoveling, clearing the walk in front of our neighbor's homes and relocating that snow to our pile. And once I started, I kept at it, walking further and further to retrieve snow from the front of my neighbour's homes to bring back to our yard.

My one neighbour, Chad, came to the front door and started to yell at me for shoveling his front walk and driveway ramp. He has a snow blower and often does our walk as well as his neighbour on the other side. He didn't want me doing the harder physical work when he could easily clear it with his blower. But then he looked over to our yard where I was bringing the snow and saw Alexander playing on this gigantic snow pile I had collected and started laughing.

A few minutes later, he came out with a couple of beers and we chatted for a bit before continuing our snow clearing duties.

Who would have thought that I'd be rewarded for stealing my neighbour's snow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Clown In The Sewer

I have to be careful of the tales I tell my son.
You see, ever since he has been really small, it has always been a huge challenge to get him OUT of the bathtub. He loves playing in the water with his bath toys. Even when he doesn't have bath toys, he'll make some sort of fun game out of playing with his washcloth, or the bubbles, or one of the hundreds of experiments he performs with the water itself.
So, in an attempt to keep him from shriveling up like a raisin, and to FINALLY get him out of the bathtub, in all my wisdom I thought it'd be cute to tell him about the evil clown who lives in the sewer and will try to crawl up the drain to grab his foot once I pulled the plug. 



I'm referring, of course, to Pennywise the Clown, from Stephen King's IT

You know, the one in which an evil shape-shifting creature lives in the sewers under the town of Derry, Maine and threatens every single child. The shapeshifter, of course, appears most of the time as an evil clown.

This is still one of my favourite King novels. In the novel he not only draws on a good many fears, but he tosses out the almost universal fear many people have for clowns. I've always been afraid of clowns. I'll blame watching Poltergeist when I was young.

Of course, I'm pretty much afraid of most things, as referenced in this blog post from 2005 entitled "Under Your Bed, In Your Closet, In Your Head." (which includes a nice picture of the clown from Poltergeist) But back to the clown in the sewer. It worked the first time. And perhaps the second or third time. But after that, every time I mention the clown at the end of bath time, Alexander vehemently says: "There's no clown in the sewer!"

And, though he lurks longer in the tub each time, he cautiously casts a glance towards the drain. I hadn't brought up the evil clown in the sewer reference for quite a while. However, to my shock, I found out that Alexander frightened a Kindergarten classmate with the tale at school on Friday. On the way home from school, he told Francine that he'd been talking to another boy in his class and was telling him about the clown in the sewer. The other little boy had been afraid, and that seemed to tickle my son. It seems he got a taste of the joy of being a storyteller and keeping someone spellbound in anticipatory listening.

When I first heard this upon getting home on Friday night, I thought I was in BIG TROUBLE. When I first started telling Alexander about Pennywise, Francine warned me against it, telling me it was going to give him nightmares. (For what it's worth, I didn't mention ANY of the plot details from the King novel -- they're way too chilling -- I just mentioned the existence of the clown, which, IMHO, is frightening enough, even for this 40 year old). And, knock on wood, Alexander hasn't had any clown in the sewer nightmares.

But when I got home, Francine just shook her head at me with a wry smile on her face, reminding me to be careful the kinds of stories I tell my son. She was wondering if we might get a call from this boy's parents when their child can't sleep, telling them about the clown who lives in their bathtub drain. No call came. Whew.

But I can't help but be amused by how pleased Alexander seemed to be upon discovering a taste of the magic of storytelling. And, perhaps like his father, a bit of a penchant for tales from the shadows. And just in case anybody is wondering -- though I do often tell my son a nightly bedtime story made up on the spot, I DO NOT tell him horror -- he gets to hear all kinds of great adventure tales involving him and his neighbourhood friends solving mysteries a la Winnie, Tigger in the Super Sleuth adventures, or joining Wall-E and Eve on an intergalactic quest.

While I might occasionally kid about such things as a clown in the sewer, the actual stories I tell are the fun, adventuresome and imaginative type where the good guys ALWAYS win.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

True North Strong And Dark

It's always a great treat to see people are still discovering something you worked on years ago.

North of Infinity II, the science fiction anthology I edited for Mosaic Press back in 2006 is a remainder at Chapters/Indigo (meaning you can get this $20 for $5.00 - DEFINITELY a bargain). A review by an employee (Nathan Burgoine) was recently posted to their website, commenting on how dark this all Canadian sci-fi anthology was. (A side-effect, perhaps, of my love for dark fiction -- guess I can't escape it even when I'm attempting to focus on the broader speculative realm)

Nathan spotlights three of the tales in his review. He points out Robert J. Sawyer's "Forever" as both clever and moving, Kimberly Foottit's "Walter's Brain" as absolutely charming and giving him a "feel-good" sense and Stephen Graham King's "Pas de deux" as echoing with a grim realism and ending with a "shiver-in-the-spine" sensation.

Here's a quote from the review, which you can read in full here.

". . . as a collection, the anthology is definitely worthwhile. Kudos to Mark Leslie for gathering some Canadian talent and making a strong whole."

And, while I'm strolling down memory lane, tickled that people are still enjoying something I worked on more than 4 years ago, here's a photo from the book launch on June 24, 2006 at Bakka-Phoenix books in Toronto.

Pictured in the photo are (left to right): Karen Danylak, Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, A.M. Matte, Robert J. Sawyer, Mark Leslie, Douglas Smith, Kimberly Foottit, Stephen Graham King. I'm lucky that I continually get to work with such a cool and talented group of writers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

iRead iBooks On My iThing

An article I recently wrote to offer a bookseller's perspective on the iPad and what it might mean to the book industry was recently posted on The Mark News.

It's entitled Will The iPad Kill The Book Industry?

It was a tough article to keep to about 1000 words because I have so much to say about ebooks and the iPad and the book industry.

In a nutshell, it's not a simple question to answer -- I truly believe that the answer is a bit more complex than a simple one line answer. Yes, the iPad and digital books will kill some parts of the book industry; but they'll also allow other parts of the book industry to grow. The editors I worked with in getting the article finalized helped me polish my yin/yang perspectives into one in which I'm positive about ebooks, yet also positive about books. But, rather that re-summarize, you should just go read the article itself.

And yes, I think I can be both without contradicting myself.

Of course, on the satirical side of the whole iPad discussion, I rather like Rick Mercer's spoof on Apple's new product . . . "the iSlab"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

HNT - Frightenstein

Let me be perfectly frank. I'm a gigantic chicken.

I'm afraid of the dark, particularly of the things that go bump in the night; I'm afraid of the monster under my bed and the one hiding in the darkest corner of my closet; I'm afraid of the creature under the stairs just waiting to reach between the stair treads and grab my ankles and the other one lurking in the shadows behind the furnace in our basement.

You name it, it sends a chill down my spine.

But, interestingly enough, I'm also drawn to those creepy things that frighten me so. I'm like a kid terrified of heights who likes going on the biggest and highest roller coaster in the park for the adrenalin rush.

Perhaps one of the many reasons I write scary stories is because I find so many things to be afraid of. In that sense, the terror in this writer's heart comes easy -- there's simply no shortage of things going bump in the infinite night of my mind.

So let us now flash back to a young pre-teen Mark visiting Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls with his parents. Young Mark is, of course, unnaturally drawn to the wax museums, but particularly to the House of Frankenstein and Castle Dracula.

Outside the House of Frankenstein lurks the Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein's monster. He spends his time walking around scaring kids. I, of course, got too close, and he immediately reached out and grabbed me.

Yes, I knew it wasn't really Frankenstein's monster -- that it was a man in a suit. But the hold he had around my neck was tight and it was difficult for me to breathe. I remember actually being frightened that I was going to be choked to death while my Dad whipped out the camera to take this picture and both parents were giggling and enjoying the moment.

I can still feel the distinct impression of the monster's cold, dead hands on my throat.

Or is that just my imagination again?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Horror Mall Bestselling Books

Horror Mall's bestselling books for January 2010 were recently posted. I was tickled to see, not only that a special issue of a magazine I appear in is listed, but two books by friends of mine also made it.

Michael Kelly & Carol Weekes OUROBOROS made the list at 10, as did Gord Rollo's CRIMSON at 9. I've read Gord's novel and quite liked it and just received Michael and Carol's book in the mail and am about to start it.

My story "Switch" a nasty adult erotic horror tale, appears in Black Ink Horror XXX which is number 5 on the list. This issue of BIH came out in January 2009 (I blogged about it last year), but hit the top ten list a year later. That's pretty neat. And pretty cool to see it's still selling.

One Of Those Rare Beautiful Exceptions

For most serious writers, there's a standard rule:

Don't go the "self-publishing" route if you intend on being taken seriously by traditional publishers.

For every rule, there are always exceptions.

The experience that Terry Fallis covers in this short and intriguing video is one such exception.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the bookstore managers who, very early on "discovered" Terry's brilliant writing before the rest of the world figured it out.

I'm proud to say that I've been a fan of his writing since I first cracked open the cover of his originally self-published version of The Best Laid Plans and was immediately hooked by his prose. His writing contains a unique blend of Robertson Davies and John Irving elements that I find absolutely compelling. Or, to compare him to a contemporary, his wonderful combination of humour and suspenseful storyline is reminiscent of Linwood Barclay's earlier novels.

I'm even more proud of Terry's Stephen Leacock Award win, his publishing deal with M&S and his second novel.

Which I simply cannot wait to read.

Of course, I'll have to wait to Sept 2010 to enjoy The High Road.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Twitlympic Opening Ceremony

Photo courtesy of craftygirljen via Twitter/Tweetphoto

Well that was interesting.

While watching the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with my wife and son, I was also casually following along on Twitter.

I didn't go so far as to follow the popular hashtags like #olympics or #vanoc or #van2010 but merely following the people I normally follow, which include a variety of book industry folks, media and technology people, writers and just plain people whose tweets I find interesting.

What I got was an interesting composite of commentary from people who were there in Vancouver, watching from home, or, in one case, traveling to Australia and commenting not just on the ceremonies but on how the Australian media and people were reacting.

What a wonderful multi-dimensional experience.

At one point my son turned to me, seeing my iPhone in my hands and said: "Dad, you should take some pictures of this."

What I didn't tell him is I'd been resisting doing just that for well over an hour.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Thriller Of Olympic Proportions

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics opening ceremonies are today. What better day, then, for me to talk a little bit about Michael Slade's latest novel - Red Snow.

Slade's latest novel takes place in the days preceding the 2010 Winter Olympics. Mephisto, a recurring bad guy in the series of books that follow along the members of the Special X team of psychopath hunters of the RCMP, is back, and he attempts to turn Canada's hosting of the winter games into a world-wide bloodbath.

With people from all corners of the globe converging in a central, somewhat isolated spot in the mountains of Whistler, British Columbia, Mephisto's plan includes destroying highway access and trapping folks in a nightmarish trap (involving the Sea to Sky highway, the only route to Whistler), allowing him the opportunity to release a supervirus that people will take home to their respective countries and quickly spread around the world.

The plan and the various brutal murders and crimes committed in the days leading up to Mephisto's big plans are horrendously ingenious. Slade has crafted some not only some wonderfully challenging "whodunits" but also some fascinating "howdunits."

But on top of the quickly rolling plot, the intriguing mysteries embedded in the tale and the sense of urgency as the story races to a close, Slade injects something that into his writing that is rare in much best-selling thriller fiction. Very much in the same style of Richard Laymon, Slade seems to lack a strong sense of character preservation in his stories. What I mean by this is that very early in the book he takes one of the main characters and murders him. Then, as the book rolls along, along one of the central character team is taken down. Then another.

By the time you get to the climax your heart is racing uncontrollably because it's not just a question of whether or not the good guys will win, but ultimately, who is going to be left standing at the end. By removing the "the good guys can't die" element from the reader's mind, Slade cranks the stakes up that much higher and provides truly satisfying suspense. Nobody is safe and that makes for a perfectly page-turning thriller.

So, with the Olympics here, enjoy the wonderful thrill of competition and athletic challenge. And, after the games are over, enjoy a different kind of excitement by curling up in front of a fire and enjoying Slade's Red Snow.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

HNT - Baba's Boys

Last week for HNT I posted what was likely the first picture ever taken of just my cousin Kevin and I. When, last week, the family was together and pouring through old family pictures and reminiscing, I thought it was quite interesting that most of the pictures with Kevin and I in them are pictures of Kevin, Rodney and I together (the 3 boys united in our Baba's tiny little family empire) or all three of her grandsons with Baba.

It makes sense that most of the pictures we have are of the three of us together, because, particularly in our younger years, we did spend an incredible amount of time together. And given how, at that early age, Kevin was so much bigger than Rodney and I (and I was particularly non-athletic and scrawny -- as opposed to now when I'm non-athletic and pot-bellied), Rodney and I would often team up against Kevin in our basement hockey or wrestling matches.

And (have I mentioned how scrawny I was as a child?), my "best" wrestling move was discovered one time when Rodney had Kevin pinned and asked me to help. I launched forward and gave Kevin what I called the "toey-toe" -- a move where I attempted to force him into submission by wiggle-crushing his toes, bending them back and forward with my hands. Of course, the "toe-toey" didn't actually hurt Kevin, it just weakened him because it likely ended up tickling him and the goofy name sent him into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

It's just one of many more fond memories of the times us three boys spent together. And another tale I haven't yet shared with Kevin's boys, but will.

I don't have digital copies of most of those pictures of the three of us, but I do have a few and wanted to share them this Thursday.

Kevin, me, Baba and Rodney - Christmas circa late 1970's

Rodney, Kevin and me - late 1970's

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Night Fright Tonight

Last Wednesday while I was in the Sudbury area, I had the pleasure of meeting Night Fright radio show host Brent Holland. I actually met him in the studio in the middle of his live 2 hour broadcast last week. Fascinating experience. For the first hour of his show I was listening to Brent interview three intrepid gentlemen from the U.S. who run I arrived at the studio at approximately 11 and got to listen to the rest of the show across from Brent in the studio.

And because there were a few minutes left at the end of the show, Brent and I chatted a bit about Campus Chills, an anthology of horror stories set on campuses across Canada.

Broadcast from the CKLU studios at Laurentian University every Wednesday from 10 PM until midnight in Sudbury, Ontario, the show is syndicated to affiliates in Sydney and Antigosh, Nova Scotia, Thunder Bay and Waterloo, Ontario, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Lethridge, Alberta, Abbotsford, Salmo, and Prince George, B.C.

But you can also listen online.

The first week of May I will be back on Night Fright Radio for a full two hour show in May talking about Campus Chills, hopefully with a handful of contributors from the anthology.

But speaking of contributors, the very talented Steve Vernon is going to be on tonight's show.

Along with being one of the wonderful contributors to Campus Chills (above is a picture of him reading from his story "Old Spice Love Knot" at the book launch in Halifax at Dalhousie University Bookstore), Steve's recent books include Haunted Harbours, Halifax Haunts, Wicked Woods and Maritime Monsters. Touted as "Nova Scotia's hardest working horror author" Steve is not only a great guy, but a phenomenally talented storyteller and fascinating to listen to.

I can't wait to tune in tonight (well, at least listen online, since it isn't broadcast in my area just yet) between 10 PM and midnight to listen to the show.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Powerful Poem

I was doing some work tonight, subtly bemoaning the fact that I had to work yet another late night to try to stay on track with all the busy things going on at my bookstore. The task required waiting several minutes while files uploaded to the server, which is the perfect kind of task for me to play catch up on my RSS feeds.

Then, scanning a blog post from Seth Godin, which pointed to this video, blew my mind.

This video features the lovely and amazing performance poet Gabrielle Bouliane performing for the audience at the Austin Poetry Slam.

This would be her last public performance.

Gabrielle was diagnosed with Stage Four Cancer shortly before this video was filmed. She fought hard, but her fight ended January 29, 2010. She was surrounded by family and friends, and her passing was in a very quiet, peaceful room full of love and affection.

I love her powerful, frank and moving words.

And I'm appreciate that I have a job I love so much that I find myself working past midnight just to catch up. How damn lucky I am to be blessed with such a fun and challenging job that I get to go to each day, and to also have such a wonderful and supportive family to return home to each night.

It will be 3 years ago tomorrow that my mother in law finally lost a long and painful fight against cancer and the side-effect the treatment (which allowed her to beat her cancer) had on her heart, which eventually weakened beyond repair. Like so many other people in my life, she was taken away from us at too young an age.

Dianne, like Gabrielle, was brave and embraced life with passion.

So, while I'm plucking away at this work, I'm also thinking about all those wonderful people who have made my life better just by being in it -- and again, think about how lucky a bastard I am.

Thanks, Gabrielle, for helping me keep it all in perspective.

Clash Of The Monopolists

I was asked to write a commentary for The Mark News on the roller coaster Amazon vs Macmillan fight that took place last week. Since there were so many other great articles and blog posts already out there talking about the specifics of pricing and what each party apparently did or stated, as well as who was right and who was wrong, I focused on something else.

The need for such a fight to take place.

The fact that pricing needs to be analyzed and discussed and continually brought to the surface.

And the ultimate fact that, at the end of the day, modern technology allows the two ultimate parties at either end of the chain (the writer at one end and the reader at the other), to completely circumvent all the in-between parties in the supply chain: the publisher, the distributor, the bookseller.

How, then, do these in-between parties survive in such a world?

By focusing on where they can ADD VALUE.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

HNT - Kevin Dusick

My cousin Kevin Dusick died on January 30, 2010. He was 46 years old.

Kevin, his younger brother Rodney and I were always really close. My mom and their father were brother and sister and were very close -- our families always did so many things together. I've often thought of them like brothers, and in many ways, the way our families spent so much time together, they were very much like brothers to me.

It's been a tough week, sorting through 4 decades of memories about Kevin and all the things that he meant to me. So many memories, so many stories.

I kept, however, focusing back on when I was younger and how "big brother" Kevin was an influence in so many areas.

Kevin, being the oldest of the three of us, was often the first one to do all those things that we all would end up doing. He was the first to drive, the first to go to school, the first to move away, the first to get married, the first to buy a house. So Rodney and I often learned vicariously through his experiences -- the huge benefit was that we were able to appreciate the experience and watch Kevin go through them while learning from those paths he forged for us.

I remember, when Kevin was 16 and driving, and just the two of us were in the car together, he used to let me lean over and steer the car from the right hand side of the seat. (I always thought that was pretty cool and of course, wonderfully terrifying). I also thought back to when I was in grade 7 and getting ready to attend my very first dance, how Kevin taught me to dance. (Yes ladies, when you see THIS white boy cutting the rug in my "white guy" way, you can thank my cousin Kevin for that one) Kevin was often ready to offer his expertise or advice in whatever new experience I was about to face, and I always appreciated that about him.

Definitely going to miss him.

For HNT this week, I'm posting a picture of Kevin as a young boy holding me when I was just a baby -- symbolic, in many ways for the protective and nurturing "big brother" that he was to me.

Goodbye Kevin.

Rest in peace, big brother.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Did You Know?

I know it's not brand-new, but this updated version of Did You Know (this one is 4.0 - Fall 2009) contains some really interesting and intriguing facts and statements about the changing media landscape and convergence.

Of course, then the folks at barelypolitical put out a fun spoof video (Did You Know 5.0) of the same nature . . . (intriguing tech statistics set to pretentious music)

Must say I like them both. Maybe I'm just a sucker for facts put to music. (Or better yet, remember Paul Hardcastle's Nineteen? "He was N-n-n-n-nineteen" - Link to Hardcastle's Video on YouTube)

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Rise of Self-Publishing

I recently wrote an article for The Mark News about the rise and ease of self-publishing, particularly with respect to a bookstore owning an Espresso Book machine.

I was leery about publishing this article, because self-publishing is a taboo topic among many serious writers.

Most serious and professional writers advise AGAINST a fiction writer self-publishing, particularly if they are doing it in the hopes of using it as a stepping stone to become a full-time professional writer.

The motivation that many professional writers have for advising beginners against self-publishing is that they truly and honestly want to help beginning writers avoid so many nasty pitfalls that self-publishing offer.

And yes, on the flip-side, there are examples of those who have gone the self-publishing route and turned it into a bold and wonderful career move. I've actually seen more than a fair share of success stories from this.

However, these individuals who have succeeded in terms of taking this route had a few things going for them -- first, they were incredibly talented, second, they worked their butts off and third, they had a larger plan. (IE, self-publishing wasn't their end goal, it was merely a single scene in a multi-act play for them) These individuals broke through against incredible odds and succeeded. Similar, in many ways, to the way that a writer might finally break through the slush-pile hell of the traditional publishing route, and had their manuscript accepted by having those same 3 things going for them

That all being said, it is still, ultimately, a personal decision that each writer must make. While I've offered my advice to the many dozens of people over the years who have asked me the question of whether or not they should self-publish, my default position is to suggest against it, or ask the writer to at least spend some time to evaluate the reasons behind why they want to self-publish.

However, I do believe that there are times when it's probably the right thing for that person to do.

Some examples might be authors who already have a track history of publishing through traditional channels who are either experimenting or already have a "following" of readers. Or a writer who wants to make one of their older works that is currently out of print available for those interested in reading it. Others might be motivational speakers or lecturers who can easily sell hundreds of copies of their book containing vital information or skills that they are experts in. Some authors are also perfectly content knowing that only a handful of people will ever read their book. (Grandpa Joe wants to tell his life-story and knows that it's likely only going to be his children and grandchildren who will ever read the book. Or Great Aunt Beatrice has been working on her novel for 3 decades and just wants to see it in print before she passes away -- she doesn't care that it's not published by one of the 6 major trade book publishers -- she's happy to see her words printed in a perfect bound format and share that delight and accomplishment with her family and closest friends) -- Those are just some of the reasons why, for a particular person, choosing self-publishing might be right for them.

Interestingly enough, as counter-intuitive as it might seem, I have even spent some time trying to convince clients who bring their self-published work to my store that they should take their time and ensure they explore other options like submitting their work to a traditional publisher. In all honesty, I don't want to see someone do something that they'll regret in the future. But, ultimately, it's their choice. And in most cases, my clients have already explored other options before bringing their self-publishing project to my Espresso Book Machine, or, are comfortable with the decision they have made.

And if it is the right thing for that person to do, then I always do my very best to ensure that they are satisfied. After all, ultimately, who am I to judge their personal reasons for self-publishing?

As a bookseller, I don't judge people who come into my bookstore based on what books they decide they want to read and enjoy. Of course, if they attempt to purchase a book that I truly believe they won't enjoy based on what they told me they like to read, I'll advise against it, or suggest an alternative. So, similarly, if a person decides to self-publish and they want to use my Espresso Book Machine to do so, my job is to provide them information to make an informed decision and ultimately, if they choose self-publishing, make their experience as satisfying as possible.