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May 2012

Confessions of a Book Reader 150 150 admin

Confessions of a Book Reader

I bet Santa left an e-reader under the tree for you or perhaps, it was one of your Hanukkah gifts. You may have even asked for it because you wanted to join the ever-growing legions of e-book devotees. But tell me, honestly, did you receive it with mixed feelings of curiosity and mild regret?

They say I should get an e-reader, and I know I should, too. They say I’ll appreciate the ease of traveling with several novels stored in the neat tablet, or the well-lit surface. And because they know I care so deeply about the environment, they remind me that an e-reader doesn’t consume trees.

I smile, and murmur, unable to look them in the eye, “Of course, you’re right. I will get one, eventually.”

I wonder how long I can hold out until I will be forced to join these passionate e-readers. I fear that, one day, hardback and paper books will be banned. I’ve become less willing, therefore, to loan out mine. At night, when I climb into bed after a long day’s work, eager to slip in between the cool sheets, I reach for the latest book I’m reading with guilty pleasure.

The truth is that I love real books. I love the heft of them, the look of them, and the quiet, intimate experience that they provide. I love the neat framework that encloses some part of the writer’s mind, just for me.

When I was a young girl, my mother took my siblings and me to the local library in Coral Gables, Florida, every two weeks. I felt a quiet thrill each time I walked through the large wooden double doors, past the coral rock walls and into this veritable treasure chest. What gems would I pick today? I would leave excited to devour the neat stack of books in my arms.

You see, each book I read while I was growing up was like a life raft thrown out to save me; the author, a beneficent guide to new ideas or interesting people. The book prepared me for life, testing my character as I projected myself into the literary characters’ lives. I longed to someday join this elite group and hopefully, pass along the favor to other young readers.

Yes, yes, I know that the essence of the story is not changed whether you read it on a kindle or on paper. And yet, I imagine that the disadvantages of e-reading will far outweigh the possible benefits.

Will I have to charge yet another damn device? What will become of my favorite worn bookmarks, for example, the angel embossed on a tobacco-colored leather strip that I purchased in Venice, Italy? Won’t I miss the silent telegraphing that occurs in a café or on a plane when other obsessive readers, as if we belong to some secret club, can see what I am now reading? Must I strip bare this beloved pastime when as the decades creep by I am already reduced to a gluten-free, treadmill-heavy, sleep-deprived existence?

I may be wrong — my boyfriend says I am whenever he sits beside me reading on his iPad. Of course, he isn’t sentimental about books in the same way I am. In my linen closet sits a box of favorite books, saved for my children’s children, some of which were mine when I was a child. I have donated most of their books to our neighborhood school, but was unable to give away certain beloved ones like my dog-eared copies of Lulu, A Garden of Verses, The Velveteen Rabbit. I cannot imagine passing down these precious stories in an e-reader. Rather, I imagine with delight, holding a grandchild on my lap, pointing to a stain and saying, “your father did that.” The thread of our family’s reading history unbroken.

Look, I’m no Luddite. I had a cell phone and email way before most of my crowd. I even created a character called Ajna-Mac in my first novel, The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond, a coming-of-age, supernatural mystery. The word ajna is Sanskrit for the third eye, and mac is short for the Macintosh computer that socially awkward Lexie Diamond considers to be her best friend. (I tried to interest Apple in cross-promotion but they never responded.)

In fact, I also love my Mac computer. I must because I spend copious amounts of time using them. And yet, I draw the line when it comes to reading e-books.

Can you possibly imagine the thrill I had when my editor at HarperCollins sent me an advance copy of Lexie Diamond? The dust jacket alone sent me into paroxysms of ecstasy, the graphic for each chapter heading, a fascination. So deep was this thrill that when I opened the package I didn’t make a sound, I simply stared at it, overcome with emotion.

I should add that the publisher of my first installment in my new series of adventure romance novels, Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls Part One), has released an e-version. I’m all for it, too: cheaper, no trees, no shipping.

It’s just that, well, the story is large and wildly romantic. I wonder if the e-version can contain the heady themes of racial oppression and environmental loss mixed with romance and self-discovery: In a post-apocalyptic world where resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, Eden Newman‘s white skin brands her as a member of the lowest social class, the weak and ugly Pearls. Doomed unless she mates soon, Eden hopes a Coal from the dark-skinned ruling class will save her. But when she unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, perhaps mankind’s only hope, Eden is cast out — into the last patch of rainforest and also the arms of a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction to him. To survive, Eden must change — but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty — and of love. Along the way, she receives some beautiful insight from her virtually adopted aunt Emily Dickinson.

Revealing Eden was officially released on January 10, 2012. Advanced sales of the hardback version far exceed the e-version. I’m proud of both, really. But please, don’t ask me to give up my real books.

Bloggers: The Opinion Czars to Readers 150 150 admin

Bloggers: The Opinion Czars to Readers

Congratulations, your novel is published! Whether you joined the DIY movement or sold it to a publisher, you’re feeling great. Take a moment to enjoy this milestone.

Now, get ready to switch gears. You are no longer a writer but a marketing machine.

Wait, you say. Writers sit in ivory towers, churning out their next masterpiece. Unless you are a brand name author, you will soon realize that the publisher is counting on you to market your work. Especially, if you self-published.

As you consider your options, you may feel overwhelmed about where to allocate your time and money. Placing ads seems a logical choice. But ask most writers about the effectiveness of paid ads and you will hear nothing but disappointment.

The American Booksellers Association has 1,900 independent, brick-and-mortar members. Yep, that’s all. And although they have had an increase of 15.5% since January 2010, is there any community that hasn’t seen a longstanding bookstore bite the dust? Sadly, I experienced this firsthand: the local bookstores where I held book signings in 2007, the beloved Dutton’s in Brentwood and charming Village Books in the Pacific Palisades, no longer exist. Recently, my book launch for my new novel, Revealing Eden (Save The Pearls Part One), was held at Frank Pictures, an art gallery in Santa Monica. It was a great party, but I missed the company of other books.

And with the proliferation of self-published e-books, the market feels inundated; your fabulous book into which you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears, soon lost in the crowd.

So what’s a writer to do?

Coming from the world of indie filmmaking, I learned long ago that with limited resources the only way to reach your unique audience was through niche marketing. Unfortunately, if your book lacks an easily identifiable genre, your marketing job will be that much harder.

All you have to do is study the bestseller lists to see that, on average, only a handful are general fiction. God Bless Kathryn Strockett, the author of The Help, for beating those odds.

And yet, while the growing trend towards genre fiction has limited the marketplace for more inventive works, it also has produced a plethora of niche groups interested in those subjects. Storefront bookstores rely heavily on traditional pre-publication reviewers when determining which books to order. With the huge surge in online book buyers, the relevance of those reviewers’ opinion has diminished — and will continue to do so.

Do you really think any teens who bought The Hunger Games through Amazon.com cared what School Library Journal had to say about it? More likely, those buyers follow one of the many blogs that cater to Young Adult books, or particularly, dystopian fiction and post apocalyptic books.

And that is why niche bloggers are the new opinion czars for readers.

Reaching out to these bloggers simply requires time and patience. Each has a different set of requirements: some will add a Q&A, others, an online chat, or perhaps, a book giveaway. And unlike the nameless façade presented by the traditional reviewers, most likely, you will find passionate readers who are thrilled to receive a copy of your book and post a review on their blogs. Despite the conduit of e-mail, the one-on-one interaction that these blogs provide writers and bloggers feels fresh and intimate like a visit on a Southern porch!

In 2007, when TeensReadToo.com gave The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond a Five-Star, Must Read review, I was thrilled, but made sure to include their quote after Kirkus Reviews and the Recommendation from The Center of Children’s Books.

Today, my main approach hinges on appealing to bloggers! To date, I have sent out over 60 copies of Revealing Eden (Save The Pearls Part One), my new fantasy romance novel, a veritable pastiche of genres, at their request. I deeply care what they think. And I have been richly rewarded for the attention I’ve paid to them.

Before Revealing Eden was officially released until January 10, 2012, it already received rave reviews on several blogs as well as many posts on Amazon, all of them enthusiastic.

Live To Readhighly recommended it with Five Stars to young adult and adult readers, and included a lengthy author Q&A.

The Bookshelf gave Five Stars for a “fantastic read, I recommend everyone to check out this book!” Amanda’s Writings “Revealing Eden was a great read. The end left me hanging, and I can’t wait to read the next book!” And Books Obsession: “This was a great book to the start of a unique series.” And I have begun a series of online chats: Wednesday the 14th, I chatted with followers of YA Bound, which was an amazingly rewarding experience!

Being directly connected to these lively communities of readers is a writer’s dream. Many of these clever bloggers also post their reviews onto Goodreads.com, one of the largest sites for readers, thereby widening the scope of their influence.

And what has did it cost in dollars? Shipping costs and a discounted copy of my book.
Just as the Internet has provided direct avenues to consumers in almost every area from buying real estate to testing your DNA, authors can connect to readers through blog. The world of opinion has come to roost on niche bloggers to the benefit of readers everywhere, and writers, too.