Tag Archives: 15 Views of Orlando

Marketing My Writing Part III: Amazon

Yesterday, I finished creating my Amazon author profile. It’s right here, and it feels really good to have that tiny corner of Amazon all to myself. There’s something official about appearing on Amazon, having my book for sale in the world’s largest marketplace. There’s something affirming about it, even if the idea of appearing on Amazon shouldn’t really be affirming, since I could have technically self-published my book in rough draft form through CreateSpace.

But still, whenever someone asks, “Can I buy your book on Amazon?” I can easily say “Yep. It’s easy to find.” And readers can see my whole bio, and search inside the book, and see my other books, etc.

And hell, I suddenly have a “sales rank,” too (not a good one, obviously, but I exist on some gigantic spreadsheet somewhere, at least!), and there’s a whole “Customers who viewed this product also viewed…” portion of the page, which–potentially–could help me to see the wider literary landscape in which my book will eventually settle.

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I know that Amazon is a big place, and everyone’s here. I know that it shouldn’t be a milestone, and yet it sort of feels that way.

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The bigger issue, though, is that I’ve got a love/hate relationship with Amazon.

On the one hand, there’s nothing I love more than building my wishlists of books, and scrambling to find that one extra item that will push my shopping cart to $25 so that I can get free shipping. I love coming home to find the box at my front door.

On the other hand, though, my point-of-view on Amazon has certainly changed since I’ve become an author. What was once a fun site for book-hunting (how could I have even found half of this stuff without the help of Amazon?) now feels a little too much like an Big Dark Empire. The tactics that I have tried to ignore over the past few years (i.e. scan the prices at brick-and-mortar stores so that Amazon knows what to beat!) now feel decidedly evil.

Why do I feel this way? Well, Amazon basically takes a 55% cut of the price of the book that you sell through their site. Some might say that this is reasonable. It’s hard for me to argue, being new to the game of book sales. But it’s also hard for me (or anyone, really) to reconcile that only 45% of the book’s earnings will go to the combined team of writer, editor, agent, publisher, layout and graphic design, marketing/PR/publicity, and printer. That’s a lot of people splitting a tiny piece of the pie, while Amazon gets the lion’s share simply for existing.

I just wrote “simply for existing,” of course, knowing that this isn’t really true. Amazon has built itself into a mammoth operation that does indeed perform a service, and it’s a service that I rely on as both consumer and producer.

Still. They’ve also insinuated themselves into the American economy in such a way that they can demand whatever cut they want, without really doing any work. They’ve put a gigantic number of brick-and-mortar book/movie/music stores out of business, thereby limiting the options for the consumer. They’ve made “convenience” and “free shipping” into an expectation (they can take a loss on their 55% cut, because they’ve never really made any investment in the product: $10 is as good as $2, if it means someone is buying from them instead of from another retailer), and the results are chilling for the book industry: average readers will not purchase my books if they don’t purchase them through Amazon.

That might sound a little silly, but consider this: when we (Burrow Press) published 15 Views of Orlando, we made it a point to bypass Amazon. We decided to only sell through the Burrow Press web site, and through direct sales. We will not give in! But what happened? A significant amount of marketing effort went to waste, since many of the people who were likely to buy searched for it on Amazon, didn’t see it, and gave up. Many others wouldn’t buy from the web site because they didn’t want to pay shipping. So now you’ll easily find 15 Views: Volume II on Amazon, and we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that it takes much much longer to recoup costs.

It’s near-impossible to compete with Amazon’s shipping, by the way. You can’t compete with free. To put things into perspective, my book American Fraternity Man could potentially ship free from Amazon (if you buy one other thing). I went to the post office yesterday to mail off some copies of the book to friends, and shipping was seven dollars. I almost cried. I’d be spending seven bucks to ship books off to friends, just so I could save them a couple dollars off the Amazon price and also get them a signed copy? That basically meant that–with the cost of book-sized envelopes–I was paying my friends to take my book.

Allow me just one second to shake my head sadly.

But hey, it’s Amazon. This year their cut is 55%, and next year it’ll probably be more, and then more, and then more, until they’re our only option and we’re all working for free to make sure Amazon gets richer and more powerful.

And here’s the final depressing note: because there are so few brick-and-mortar bookstores left, I can’t really tell anyone to buy my book elsewhere. You can get it from me (personally, at a discount), or you can get it from Amazon (who also slashes the price and gives free shipping because, hey, they’re not paying for it!). Barnes & Noble sells my book online, and you can order it in-person at their store (which I would encourage, just to support the physical stores), but they likely won’t stock the book unless there’s clear demand. I’m not James Patterson or Stephen King, and no one is dedicating shelf space to me that could go to something far more profitable, like endless variations of the Monopoly game, or stuffed Dr. Seuss toys, or “teen paranormal romance” “novels.”

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Lest this sound strictly like I’m hating on Amazon, I want to assure you (and I want to assure any of the Amazon Stormtroopers who might be scouring the internet looking for anti-Amazon authors to blacklist) that this isn’t the case.

But my thoughts have become much more complicated now, ever since I went from casual consumer to author. Now that I’m actively marketing my book, and actively keeping spreadsheets of my own costs and my own revenue, it’s hard not to be upset when I make a single dollar off a book that took seven years to write and revise and publish. I’d always told myself that I didn’t care if I ever made money off my novel; I’ve got a full-time job, after all, and I have no aspirations of beach-houses and yachts and guest appearances in rap videos. Really, I just want to create art that I believe in, and I want others to experience it (and to enjoy the experience). If I reach a million readers but make zero dollars, I will be a happy man.

But still. Voice in the back of my head: “You made zero dollars. But you want to know who just profited off your work? Good job, kid. Really shrewd.”

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My book is available through Amazon.

I hope you’ll buy it.

Regardless of anything I’ve written above, I will be happy if you read my book. Really.

Just, when you add another book to your shopping cart to take advantage of the free shipping, make sure it’s 15 Views of Orlando.

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15 Views: Volume II

Today is Wednesday, March 27.

Tomorrow night, we will celebrate the release of 15 Views Volume II: Corridor, a book which collects stories about the Metro Orlando region, and stories about the Tampa Bay region, all written by writers representing those areas. (“Corridor,” if you’re unfamiliar is the name given to the stretch of I-4 that runs between Orlando and Tampa…commuter hell.)

This is a book that I co-edited with the talented John Henry Fleming, whose Fearsome Creatures of Florida (a literary bestiary of all the legendary and mythological creatures said to inhabit our weird state) is a true undiscovered gem. Definitely a must-read for anyone who–like me–loves the strangeness of this state, and thinks that there’s something dark and ancient and maybe-evil lurking about.

We were lucky to get a fantastic roster of established/ award-winning writers, including Peter Meinke, Jocelyn Bartkevicius, Jeff Parker, David James Poissant, and Susan Hubbard. But there are also a number of emerging writers whose names you might not know today, but who will certainly become household names in no time: Jaroslav Kalfar, Leslie Salas, and Ed Bull. Seriously. Great. Writers. The collection also features a number of comics (one written by Robert Venditti, of The Surrogates fame), and a script from the bizarre and awesome Pat Rushin (whose film, The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam, will be released sometime around awards season). And the interior of the book is decorated with paper-cut art from the super-talented Lesley Silvia. Some of it needs to be seen to be believed. My name is on the cover of this book as “editor,” but really, I’m just lucky to be mentioned in the same breath as some of these folks.

The pre-sale (in which you can order the book at a discount) runs until tomorrow at Burrow Press’s web site.

After that point, you can buy the book on Amazon and other major retailers.

The release party is tomorrow: Thursday, March 28, at 6 PM, in Urban Re-Think in Downtown Orlando. Here’s the link.

Buy a copy. Have a drink with the authors. Celebrate the literature of Florida’s I-4 Corridor.

Best of Orlando

Tremendous news from here in the heart of the City Beautiful:

15 Views of Orlando, the collection that I compile and edit with Burrow Press, was recently recognized by the Orlando Weekly in their annual “Best of Orlando” issue.

There was no “Best Book” category (which really speaks volumes about the perception of Orlando literature, even here in our fair city where we should be aware of the talented writers who call the area home), but the editors did give a great write-up of 15 Views of Orlando, labeling “Best Local Mirror.”

Check out the link here.

Interestingly, Orlando’s famous “Mr. Gold” (who was mentioned in Ashley Inguanta’s short story in 15 Views of Orlando…best mirror indeed!) graced the cover of the Orlando Weekly and earned a full feature-length profile as “Best Sport.” Mr. Gold is a town fixture, and never fails to cheer me up as I drive that wretched stretch of Colonial creeping out of downtown. It’s great to see him go from conversation piece (known to locals, discussed over beers, etc.) to the cover of a magazine, which sort of solidifies his place in the Orlando mythology.

15 Views of Orlando Continues

I’m not sure if I’ve posted about it here before, but now’s as good a time as any.

Our second sequence of “15 Views of Orlando” stories began a few weeks ago, and it’s going full-steam ahead.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the “15 Views of Orlando” collection, it’s pretty simple: because Orlando, Florida, is so under-represented in film/ literature (and because the city is viewed through such a skewed Disney lens), we wanted to create a piece of literary fiction that would do the city justice. So we assembled 15 total writers and tasked them with writing a 15-part story (“loosely linked”), with each story focusing upon a different location within the metropolitan area of Orlando. (Hence, 15 “views.”) The first incarnation of this story sequence proved to be extremely successful, and you can order the book from Burrow Press (links are everywhere on this page). The book was released in January, and it’s doing very well so far.

So, in Spring 2012, we decided to find 15 new authors, who would focus on 15 new locations, and write a brand-new 15-part “loosely linked” story sequence. The expectation is that we’ll be able to create a new “15 Views of Orlando” book each year, with proceeds from sales benefiting local literacy groups. And man, have our new authors from the 2012 edition done a tremendous job so far.  It’s been absolutely exciting to read the first few stories.

The 2012 edition of “15 Views of Orlando” is currently unfolding at the Burrow Press Review, one story a week, and we’re now at Part 5, “Stay” by Ed Bull. So if you haven’t checked out “15 Views of Orlando” (the 2012 edition), now is the time to click the link and start reading. All five parts are available online, and it’s easy to catch up before part 6 is posted! (Other authors include Susan Hubbard, comic writer Robert Venditti, interviewer Jana Waring, and bartender-poet Teege Braune).

Ed Bull, by the way, is a great young writer, and you’ll be able to appreciate his stand-alone story even if you don’t have time to read through the other parts of the story. He’s also got a story called “Teeth” at Burrow Press Review, which you can check out at the provided link.

How to Write Orlando

The second part of my interview/ conversation with author Lavinia Ludlow is now up at Curbside Splendor Publishing.

Amongst other things, we discuss how the Florida humidity affects characterization, and how the tourism industry impacts Orlandoans on a daily basis. What’s it like to grow up in the shadow of the mouse, and to have the entire world in your backyard?  From the interview: “In Orlando, though, you’ve got the whole world coming here…you’ve got the whole world at Epcot, for crying out loud…but at the same time, it’s a warped vision of the world and the way it operates. To know Florida is to know that warped vision, and to write Floridian requires that you understand how strangely your characters view the world.”

Here’s the link.

Hope you check it out, and hope you check out Lavinia’s first novel alt.punk, or her upcoming book Single Stroke Seven. Also, Curbside Splendor’s got a great catalogue they’re building; I read Victor David Giron’s Sophomoric Philosophy (which I’d compare to Joe Meno’s Hairstyles of the Damned, except with a Mexican-American flair, if you can imagine that?), and I’ve read a few of the stories from Michael C.’s Chicago Stories when they were published elsewhere, but I’m eager to give the full collection a whirl.

Check out the interview. Support the small-press, also. They’re starting to take Chicago by storm.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Florida

Hey, speaking of “Florida” and “Orlando” as viable settings for literary fiction…

I’ve got an interview/conversation with punk-rock  writer Lavinia Ludlow (author of alt.punk) up at Curbside Splendor. We talk about the differences between “Florida” and “California” fiction, and both of us expound upon the importance of writing about mid-major cities…in Lavinia’s case, that means the cities of Sacramento and San Jose, and in my case, that means the cities of Orlando and the Central Florida metro area.

Here’s the link.

Special thanks to Victor David Giron for hosting our conversation. It’s a two-parter, so you can check out the first part right now, and the second part will be posted on Thursday, April 19.

A Round-Up of Updates

Got a lot of cool links to share:

First, a fantastic review of 15 Views of Orlando at Saw Palm, the literary journal of the University of South Florida. The editor of the journal, John Fleming, is fantastic, and he’s working hard to cultivate literary community in the Tampa Bay area (much like Burrow Press in Orlando). It’s an extremely well-written and thoughtful review, so I would have been stoked no matter if it was positive or negative, but I’m extra-stoked that it’s positive!

(As a side-note, remember to order your copy of 15 Views from the Burrow Press web site. All proceeds go to support writing workshops for public school kids in Orlando.)

Next up: check out my story “Angela’s Baby” at Hobart online. I had the pleasure of meeting editor Aaron Burch at AWP this past weekend (and actually, we served on a graphic narrative panel together), and–though I didn’t know him when I submitted to his journal–our encounter made me even more proud to appear in Hobart. It’s an amazing publication, highly creative, and I bought several of the books from their innovative Short Flight/Long Drive book imprint (one is structured as a composition journal, and another as a passport). I also learned that their recent issue just had two stories selected for this year’s Best American Short Stories anthology. Two stories from the same issue. Unbelievable. The hype is high, and I’m excited to start reading all the material I scooped up from their bookfair table. To be completely honest, if I’d have known all of this before I submitted a story to Hobart, I probably would’ve been too intimidated to submit.

And hey: while I haven’t been posting new blog entries every month for new installments of “Clutter,” I figured now was as good a time as any. “Clutter” (my graphic narrative structured as a home decor catalog) just hit episode #7, and things are about to get pretty rough between the happily married couple who just purchased their first home together. If you haven’t been reading, then…well, I guess you’d better start!

And finally: I have a “Reading List” here on my blog site, just to remind myself of what I’m reading, and when, and any thoughts I decided to record about the books, but now I’ve also got a recurring essay series on my reading life at Burrow Press. It’s called “Reading Books While Burping My Baby,” and I take a look at how my own reading habits and preferences have changed since the birht of my son in early January. In the first installment, I discuss (among other things) Roxane Gay’s Ayiti, Ryan W. Bradley’s Prize Winners, Ben Tanzer’s Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine, Artifice Magazine, and The Best American Non-Required Reading 2011. It’s an adorable premise, isn’t it? I mean, seriously. A man and his baby? You’d have to be heartless not to follow that link.

15 Views of Orlando – RELEASE PARTY!!!

The above subject heading uses three total exclamation points, which–in the words of my old mentor Jeanne Leiby–is the lifetime total allowed to a writer. And man, I used them all at once.

But the subject certainly calls for some exclamation points.

If you didn’t know (i.e. you don’t ever talk to me, or you don’t follow my facebook status updates, or you just randomly stumbled upon this blog), I’ve got a brand-new book coming out: it’s an anthology called 15 Views of Orlando, and it’s an attempt at finally offering an honest portrayal of the city of Orlando in literary fiction. I assembled 15 Orlando fiction writers to write one long loosely-linked story that wanders through our fair city, and the result is indeed impressive and surprising. (I love me some self-congratulation.) And because Orlando writers love our community, all proceeds from book sales will directly benefit Page 15, a literacy non-profit which conducts writing workshops for Orlando public school kids. If you don’t live in Orlando, buy a copy of the book and feel good about your purchase supporting a great cause. If you do live in Orlando, you need to get to our release party.

Details of the release party follow here, in a blog post from Burrow Press publisher Ryan Rivas:

Remember: we’ve got a huge book release happening in exactly one week.

That would be the 15 VIEWS OF ORLANDO book release:

Tuesday, JANUARY 31st
6pm to 9pm @ Urban ReThink
625 E. Central Blvd.
 
In addition to photography, booze, and music, there will be readings by: J. Bradley, Hunter Choate, Ashley Inguanta, John King, and J. Christopher Silvia, at 7:30pm.Folks who pre-order 15 Views for pick-up, or purchase 15 Viewsat the event, will be able to buy other BP books for $5.

15 Views editor Nathan Holic, and authors Hunter Choate and J. Christopher Silvia, were recently interviewed on WMFE’s Intersection. You can listen to that interview and excerpts from the book here. Pre-order the book while you’re at it. There’s no better way to support what we do; and, in this instance, the profits from the book are going to benefit Orlando kids.

 Whether you can make it to the party or not, please spread the word.