When the Awful, Artful Task of Book Blurbs Comes To Blessings

For those who might not know, one of the more sensitive (and dreaded) tasks required during the process of readying one’s book for publication is the procurement of book blurbs. Considered a time-honored tool in promoting an upcoming book, the assignment requires that you reach out to authors you know and whose work you respect; authors you don’t know whose work you respect; those who might be notable in the arena your book encompasses, or, and most coveted, well-known authors whose status might lend yours a bump of credibility. You offer to send your book—or select chapters—in hopes of inspiring a few lines of endorsement that can then be affixed to your cover or review pages. It does feel like daunting duty, all that asking, and, frankly, I know a few authors who’d rather walk on Legos.

Because getting anyone, even someone you know much less a well-known author, to read your work and write a sentence or two of appreciation feels to be herculean. Everyone’s busy with their own projects, deadlines may make it problematic, and even those who initially agree can later back out for one reason or another. Since it requires a significant focus of someone’s time, the “ask” is approached, always, with some trepidation and a big dollop of sensitivity. You don’t want to appear presumptuous, you don’t want to come off as gushing or obsequious, and certainly you don’t want to risk the pang of brusque and/or unspoken dismissal (though if you’ve ever queried agents you already know what that feels like!). So you proceed with as much elegance and decorum as you can muster, and if you do reach out to a “famous writer,” you do so graciously and with the full expectation of never hearing back.

I heard back from Rebecca Wells.

As the author of one of my favorite books, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Ms. Wells captured my admiration years ago when I first read that book and her many subsequent and attendant titles. And while my upcoming novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is not necessarily a “comp title,” a bit darker and more urban than her own work, the connecting point—beyond my creative respect—is our shared category of “contemporary literary fiction.” It seemed worth a shot.

My letter opened with:

“I was sitting in a natural mineral pool in Desert Hot Springs, CA, when I read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I was with a group of women friends, none of whom had had my particular Catholic upbringing, some of whom shared the legacy of a loving, crazy, narcissistic mother, and as I emerged from the steaming water with teary eyes, the goose bumps on my arms were not from the cold: I had been transported. I looked at them and said, ‘I don’t know why I’d ever think of writing after reading this book…it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.’

“Despite that earnest disclaimer, I transmuted my awe into inspiration and did proceed to write my first novel…”

From there I told her a bit about my own journey as an author; I kept it brief, I asked if I could send my new book, or just a few chapters, with hopes of a short endorsement, and concluded (as prescribed above) graciously and with the full expectation of never hearing back.

And yet I did.

Not even two weeks later I received a sweet handwritten letter on a piece of lined notepaper: “It makes me smile to think of your meeting the Ya-Yas in a hot tub!”

She went on to explain that she was knee-deep in her own soon-to-be-published project, and though she would be unable to carve out time to read and endorse my book, she concluded with:

“Many congratulations on your writing! What guts it takes to sit on our butts and do this… I do send you all the best wishes as this new one goes forth into the world. Thank you for asking me… 84,000 Blessings, Rebecca Wells.”

Wow.

In an industry (a world!) where far too many make too little effort to respond and relate to those who reach out to them, I’m always astonished when someone does, particularly someone whose high-profile comes with commensurate demands on their time and attention.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to contact famous authors you admire. Even if they don’t have time to read and endorse your book (most won’t), you will have made a connection with someone whose work touched you, and who knows where that may lead? And if you’re lucky, you may walk away with not only their best wishes, but their blessings… 84,000 of them, and that is something that—in this crazy world—is always, always, appreciated.

Next up: What I Learned When I Heard Back From Jodi Picoult 


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon.  Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to her other books, music, photography, and articles.

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Whose Voice Gets To Represent Race In Our Literature?

Storytellers are the chroniclers of our life and times. They memorialize history, dissect our complex and evolving world; they entertain and provoke and captivate. They are as diverse and eclectic as the characters they create and the stories they tell. It is their job to reflect who we are, what we experience, and what we can imagine. That’s a big canvas. It’s huge. And there’s no end to the variety of colors and hues that can be drawn upon it. Just as there is no end to the variety of artists weaving the tales drawn there.

Yet some believe there are rules to who gets to use which colors, who gets to draw outside the lines to tell stories that involve characters from different cultures. Some believe issues of race can only be voiced from within limited perspectives. Who gets to decide that? Who determines the answer to the title question?

In May of this year, the BBC took it on, running a piece about successful British spy author, Anthony Horowitz, who’d been dissuaded from including a black character in one of his novels:

Author Anthony Horowitz says he was “warned off” including a black character in his new book because it was “inappropriate” for a white writer. The creator of the Alex Rider teenage spy novels says an editor told him it could be considered “patronising” … Horowitz, who has written 10 novels featuring teenage spy Alex Rider, said there was a “chain of thought” in America that it was “inappropriate” for white writers to try to create black characters, something which he described as “dangerous territory”.

I not only agreed with Anthony’s “dangerous territory” comment, I shared that opinion in my own piece, No, Authors Should Not Be Constrained By Gender Or Race In The Characters They Create (and since quoting my own work feels circular, I invite you to click over there to get my fuller perspective).

I ask this question not just because of the larger and, yes, “dangerous” implications of limiting literary voices and books, but from the very personal perspective of hitting the buzzsaw of “fear of cultural appropriation” within my own work, in trying to get my own book, a dramatic novel about police profiling within an interracial relationship, published.

While agents and publishers can find any number of reasons to reject a book (as they do regularly), particularly as the industry struggles under dramatically changing fortunes, I was surprised at the resounding lack of response I’d gotten to this new book, particularly after having published two previous novels that have done well, and with a resume that’s garnered a modicum of respect. Certainly I understand how subjective the process is — it’s been likened to the rarity and randomness of falling in love — but still, it was unusual how few even acknowledged my query. It wasn’t until I was able to get some specific responses from specific agents that the light finally went on.

It was a problem of “fear of cultural appropriation.”

I am a white author telling a story that involves black characters. This, as Anthony Horowitz was warned, is not considered “appropriate.” It’s seen as “patronizing.” Though, in following that paradigm, who, then, would be able to tell the story of an interracial relationship if neither race can write about the other? Personally, I find that to be madness, but I’ve now had agents from three different high-profile literary agencies specifically cite “appropriation” as their reasons for rejection:

1. The first felt my “whiteness is kind of a problem,” she wrote: “This is a well written and serious novel; an issue-oriented novel that could not be more current… but there may be an issue of whose voice gets to represent race.”

2. The second asserted she couldn’t take it on because of “all the concerns about ‘cultural appropriation’ these days.”

3. The third felt the black male protagonist “didn’t sound black enough.” I won’t even parse that implication.

But the message was clear, at least from the point of view of these particular gatekeepers: white authors writing black characters are unmarketable. Beyond “inappropriate,” “these are brutal times in fiction and we’re not comfortable representing a book, no matter how good or worthy, in which that issue is present.”

How do we feel about that? As readers, writers, and consumers of cultural content?

I find it dangerous. I find it censuring. I find it condescending and discriminatory. I find any limitation to writers of any race to be the antithesis of art. Or, as my friend and #BLM activist, Regina McRae, put it (and I echoed above): “An author is an artist, and words are their canvas. You can’t constrain art.” She’s right.

We live in a profoundly competitive world, a landscape made all the more so by the internet and its powers of equalization. Skill, craft, and expertise, once prerequisites of success, are now often trumped by what’s viral, what’s contemporary, what excels via social media marketing. A “nobody” making YouTube videos can hit the zeitgeist of youth fascination to outpace a label artist who’s put years and millions into production. A young Turk writing snarky clickbait can be valued over a brilliant journalist covering news with depth and perspective. A self-published soft-porn novelist can outsell a Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith by virtue of viral hype alone. And kids with iPhones can score magazines covers while journeymen photographers close shop.

Within that world, industries impacted, like the publishing industry, pendulate wildly as they attempt to transcend and reinvent, often without clarity about what’s next or what new turn culture might take while they’re trying to survive. So I get it. I get a literary agent telling me she “doesn’t have the courage” to take on a book that might stir controversy, that might garner commensurate cowardice from the publishers she’s trying to sell it to. It’s a business; she’s gotta make a living.

But I disdain the reasons why. If a white author writes a book with black characters and it’s poorly written, with little market value, or if — given art’s subjectivity — it’s simply something she doesn’t like or doesn’t believe has merit, fine. Those are understandable reasons to reject.

But if a book with black characters written by a white author is a “well written and serious novel; an issue-oriented novel that could not be more current,” and if that book — presented with fully-fleshed characters, with depth, sensitivity, and authentic reflections of all ethnicities involve — is rejected simply because it might trigger discomfort about “cultural appropriation,” what is the underlying message?

Literary discrimination. Artistic cowardice. Market segregation.

If we can only write within our cultures, our demographics, that means, if interpreted fairly, science fiction writers can’t write about aliens, men can’t write about women; women about men. Straight writers can’t include LGBT characters and vice versa. Catholics can’t write about non-Catholics, Democrats about Republicans; Jews and Muslims about people who are not of their faith. Young people can’t write about old people (though the reverse might be acceptable since old people used to be young people). And since white writers can’t include black characters, or any characters that aren’t white, we’d have to presume the commensurate would be expected of black writers, Asian writers, Hispanic writers, etc.

Silly, isn’t it? Maybe even terrifying.

Is that really what we want from our artistic gatekeepers? Fear of controversy? Cultural timidity? The negation of an entire demographic of voices who dare to include diversity outside their own? Have we really come to a time of such hair-trigger sensitivity that we require our storytellers to limit their imaginations to only the race, creed and color they are?

Tell that to Harper Lee.

Now, believe me, I’m not comparing myself to Harper Lee, but I am saying every book must be judged on the merit of the work; every author, on the quality of their skill and presentation. And if an author is telling a multicultural story, one that involves diverse characters, their only obligation is to tell that story well, with authenticity and truth.

Given my own focus and activism on issues of race in America, its conflicts and conversations (see “related articles” below), I believe I have done that; I’ve heeded that mandate. I also think I’ve written a pretty damn good story. But if I can’t find anyone in the traditional publishing world courageous enough to take it on, to transcend their fears of “cultural appropriation,” I’ll once again leap on my own and hopefully find an interested, openminded audience.

It is our job to tell our stories. It is our right to create the worlds and characters and tales we imagine. We are not limited by corporate timidity. And we are not afraid of who reads them.

I’m interested to hear what other writers, agents, publishers, readers at large think about or have encountered on this issue. It’s one that seems to be growing and needs, I believe, some serious thought and discussion. Feel free to share your thoughts in comments, on Facebook, or get in touch via my website. And if you’re curious about my book in question, click HERE.

Related articles:

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

HYSTERICAL LOVE Wins Solo ‘General Fiction’ Medal in New Apple Awards 2017 Contest

While I’ve been busy polishing, tweaking, and parsing notes from editors and readers on my third novel, as yet uncertain as to how and when it will be published, I was delighted to learn that my last novel, Hysterical Love, was chosen as the solo medallist in the 2017 New Apple Awards Summer Ebook Contest.

This is particularly gratifying when one considers the sheer number of indie books submitted for such honors, in a marketplace where acknowledgement for the self-published book can make all the difference.

New Apple brands itself as a company “dedicated to helping independent authors find their way into the world of publishing.” I applaud their mission and hope this honor, for which I’m deeply grateful, will introduce Hysterical Love to a wider audience of appreciative readers, opening doors to publishers and others in the industry who may be intrigued to see what’s next… stay tuned!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Beautiful Covers…some thoughts on the topic by JJ Marsh

JJ Marsh

 

 

 

I have a thing about book covers. They’re not only the initial calling card of a book and its author, they are the art, the statement, the quality, that sets the tone for, hopefully, what follows within.

I’m sharing this piece by JJ Marsh because I think she hit the point on the head, about both the covers she features in her piece, as well as the article she references with their own examples. Interesting comparisons. And, yes, to each his own, but why not make the first statement of your book be a thing of beauty and intrigue?

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This week, I spotted an article by Bookbub on eight trends for covers that sell books.

The key elements to lure readers? Animals, beaches, seasonal themes, friendship/sisterhood, shirtless men, great photography, chicklit glitter and cute kids.

Sure, I get that. Certain readers will buy stuff that guarantees satisfaction – stuff that does what it says on the tin. Yet I scrolled through those covers and not one appealed to me. No surprise there. I loathe anything mawkish or sentimental, rarely read chicklit/romance/erotica and I’m drawn to covers which promise beauty, intelligence, new ideas and experiences.

I know very little about design, but as a reader, I do judge books by their covers. Never one to keep my opinions to myself, here are ten indie-published covers which appealed to my own personal predelictions. In no particular order, this is my own subjective beauty parade with links to the designers.

 

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Horn-Blowing and Other Necessary Evils of The DIY World

horn blowing

“But enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do YOU think of me?”
— 
Beaches, 1988

I was originally going to title this post: “I Don’t Want To Talk About My Books Anymore!” but figured it might come off as a little whiny. And really, it’s not that I don’t like talking about my books—I LOVE talking about my books—it’s that I get twitchy when I’m the only one doing the talking, flashes of those obnoxious parents endlessly jabbering about their “really cute kids” while everyone smiles tightly and averts their eyes (cannot be one of those!). I’d prefer to talk about my books because other people asked about them; someone else wanted to discuss plot and character, or how to order a dozen or two copies. I’d rather respond to a whole other person tooting that horn than pull out the trumpet myself.

It’s hard out there for a book-pimp.

See, all this self-promotion started when the entire world went DIY some years back, with everyone doing anything and everything for themselves. The trend was seen largely as a positive thing: a democratizing, equalizing, barrier-breaking thing for all those independent people out there with a dream. Writers could put up their own articles, artists and photographers could set up their own blogs to sell their art; businesses and private practitioners could hang shingles in the form of interactive websites, and authors, they self-published. It’s gotten so democratically DIY, I half expect women to start delivering their own babies with headphones and an online tutorial!

And it has been a boon in many ways. The DIY market has allowed countless creators of every industry and medium to move forward without the limitations of picky gatekeepers, elitist corporations, prohibitive budgets, and miserly invitation lists. But where it’s proven challenging is in the wrangling (i.e., affording) of ancillary team-members who typically help creators move, sell, and promote their products. The horn-tooters, trumpet blowers, PR flacks, publicity people. And while there is not one “self-anything” who doesn’t need those people doing those jobs, a big fat contingent can’t afford them.

A full-time publicist for any business typically costs thousands of dollars a month, sometimes many thousands. A big-ticket item. But smaller marketing and promotional campaigns can also run into many hundreds of dollars and must be cyclically and consistently rerun to be effective. Even artists lucky enough to be affiliated with “umbrella” companies that provide some marketing and promotional support will find they’re obligated to implement those efforts on their own time and their own dollar. In other words, no matter where you fall on the “self” spectrum, you’re pulling that horn out of the closet.

And doing my own trumpet-blowing has always made me a little queasy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of eleven children where one had to leap up and down and wave their arms to get any kind of non-generic, “oh, I see you” attention, but I find the “leaping” necessary to self-promotion (particularly in the glutted indie book market) to be oddly demeaning. Instead of your work drawing people to you while you stand there being quietly brilliant, you’re obligated to chase after them like a panting schoolgirl trying to snag the interest of the most popular guy (switch genders as applicable). Beyond that, it sometimes feels too self-focused, too attention-grabbing, too… I dunno… creatively narcissistic. I’d prefer that the work itself, or someone with excellent trumpet skills, speak for me.

But there’s no choice. As indie artists, we not only have to do the job, we have to be indefatigable about finding new and clever ways to get it done. There are thousands of businesses and websites out there tooting their horns in hopes we’ll hire them to help toot ours (sort of a DIY Circle of Life), but the costs can run anywhere from cheap (various “tweet your book” sites, featured pages, book-of-the days sorts of things) to downright expensive (Book Bub, Foreward and Kirkus reviews, online ads), and some, but very few, are free. Often you pay loads of money to set up sales in which you give your books away for free or very cheaply (always an odd oxymoron), and given the “effective marketing = persistent marketing” equation, even the most economical campaigns will add up.

So where do indie creators with limited budgets go? To social media, of course! It’s not only what’s left to them once they’ve tapped-out their budgets, it’s the information highway everyone uses, regardless of product. Which means social media is regularly BOMBARDED with streaming posts from all sorts of people touting the “latest with my fill in the blank (book, band, record, art, store, tour, company, etc.),” and, in some cases, that’s all they ever post. About their book. Their record. Their tour. Their whatever.

We get no other insight from them, no other angle on their personality or point of view; they don’t connect to or comment on other people’s posts, and far too often, their only contribution to the greater conversation is about that _________ they’ve created. Which makes their social interaction akin to turning a coffee shop into a billboard.

So my remedy, since we’ve got to do this horn-blowing thing whether we want to or not, is this: Get involved with other people, share about more than your own creation; “like” posts other people put up, jump in on a thread or two. Be human. Be interested. Be involved. So when you do talk about your whatever, we’re interested because we’re interested in you… and you’ve shown some interest in us. It’s an all-around happy social media thing, as it should be.

And until a scenario involving an enthusiastic horn blower comes my way, know I’ll be doing it for myself on social media too. Graciously, I hope. Forgive me if I ever seem redundant or one-note; if I ask too many times for you to reiterate your wonderful email response in a review at Amazon, or push too hard to get you out to a reading. I’m obligated to honor my work by wearing this hat, blowing this horn, but know I’m trying to be nuanced and selective about the notes. This thing is tricky, but I’ve heard practice makes perfect!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Let’s Rethink ‘The Year of Women,’ Shall We?

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Occasionally I sit outside certain issues, looking at how and why ideas emerged, if all parties involved explored the ramifications, and, if so, just how well thought out the process was.

A good example is the cause célèbre swirling around literary circles these days, the recent throw-down by author Kamila Shamsie in her piece titled, The year of women. Its thesis? An actual year in which only women will get published. Shamsie, after detailing statistical evidence of the clear and egregious gender bias in every category of the publishing world, articulates the challenge this way:

Now that the gender problem has been recognised, analysed, translated into charts and statistics, it is time for everyone in our literary culture to sign up to a campaign to redress the inequality for which all sectors of the culture bear responsibility. Last year readers, critics and at least one literary journal, the Critical Flame, signed up to a Year of Reading Women (YPW). Let’s take it a step further–let’s have a Year of Publishing Women. And 2018, the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in the UK, seems both near enough and distant enough to be feasible.

So, 2018 will be the year in which, ostensibly, no male writers will be published. It’s believed (hoped) this will go a long way toward righting sexist wrongs. It’s also hoped that feminist-oriented males will go along with the program, with literary contest organizers, judges, and publishers, large and small, jumping on the bandwagon. Does anyone think this will actually happen? Well, so far, small press And Other Stories is on board, but we’ll see. 2018 is three years away and a lot can happen in that time. But still…

I found myself getting twitchy and all “devil’s advocatey” about the whole thing. Certainly I get the reason for such affirmative action — women are deeply under-represented in all areas of the arts, literature no exception — but what does it say that those taking on gender politics believe the way for women to rise is to literally remove men from the equation? Do we, as strong, female artists, really believe it’s necessary to excise men in order for fairness to reign? It seems many do. But I have a slight problem with that. Actually, several problems of varying degrees of slightness. Some maybe not so slight at all.

First of all, if you read Shamsie’s entire piece, you’ll see she makes note of the various gender-based proclivities women themselves fall victim to, ones that help perpetuate some of the very problems she’s railing against:

Of the 252 people who picked their books of the year, only 37% were women. In the past when the issue of women’s representation in literary pages has been brought up, it’s very often women editors who, while voicing their frustration, mention how much more likely men are than women to agree to review or judge or make lists of favourites. Suzi Feay, writing in 2011, stated: “You’d think it would be a pretty easy ask: a nomination for a (not the) book of the year. Yet in the first fortnight, not one female author approached said yes, while virtually all the men did. They had no trouble believing their views were worth having.

Or this:

I asked Ginny Hooker from the Guardian Review whether the comparative reticence of women writers was the reason the Books of the Year contributors were mostly men. She said: ” We always try to get a balance, and although I don’t have accurate records, my sense was always that more women said no to contributing than men did. But I suspect that if you looked at the number of people I’ve approached, it would probably be more than 50% men — something to do with who is in the public eye.” It’s a triple bind. More men than women get asked to judge, nominate, recommend–and of those who are asked, more men than women agree to do so, and those men are more likely to recommend yet more men.

So there’s that.

Women WritersThere’s also the fact that many “gatekeepers” in this industry — agents, publishers, publicists, marketers, etc. — are women, and they have much to do with which writers get agents, publishers, publicity; win contests, or, even, just get in the damn door. Personally, and from a strictly anecdotal perspective, I know countless female writers, many of whom are excellent writers, who cannot, for the life of them, get past the query letter stage with agents… and most of the agents rejecting them are women. As for publishers at the helm deciding which writers to push, which to give publicity, and which to send to various high-profile contests, may I ask: how many female publishers pushed their female writers with the same verve, and in the same numbers, as their male counterparts?

So there’s that.
Then there’s the fact that — again, anecdotally — a great many excellent male writers are just as frustrated and stymied in their efforts to advance their careers as female writers. I know several myself. They’re out there in the undulating white water of independent publishing, thrashing their arms in attempts to even be seen, much less reviewed and rewarded. Are we to make the literary marketplace just a little bit harder for them as a way to assuage gender imbalance, particularly when that imbalance is no fault of their own? Does that seem fair?

So there’s that.

Look, I’m a feminist, a strong voice for equality, parity, equal opportunity, and certainly equal pay. I’ve not been immune to sexism myself, nor am I unaware that it is deeply entrenched across many levels and layers of our global culture, often in ways that are far more egregious than literary exclusion. But each and every way in which women are marginalized, diminished, minimized, hurt, and dismissed is worth our loud, dissenting demand for change.

But I am also a humanist: the wife of a man, mother of a son, sister to five brothers, and friend to a great many wonderful men, many of whom are artists struggling to build careers and find footing in industries that are challenging for anyone, male or female. So, to suggest that a hardworking, talented male writer, by virtue of his gender alone, would not be able to get his book published in 2018, because that year has been deemed “a year of publishing women,” seems punitive. It seems unfair. It seems… sexist. Which inspires the question: is the only solution to gender bias reverse gender bias?

Women writers do need greater representation in the book world. We deserve greater representation. Women writing beautifully articulated, deeply moving and important books should be in the running for any literary prize, even those largely rewarded to men. They should be as reviewed, as featured; as respected and honored as men. But it’s not male writers preventing that from happening; it’s the gatekeepers, the key holders, the brandmakers, publicity wranglers, and star makers… male and female. It’s the people in power. And yes, some of those are male writers, the uber-famous, phenomenally successful male writers who wield great power in this industry. So we’ll put that rarefied group in with the rest of the power brokers. They are the ones with the power and obligation to right the wrongs of gender imbalance in publishing, not the average male writer.

So how about this? Instead of “a year of publishing women,” let’s have “a year of publishing parity.” TYOPP. Let’s throw down a challenge to demand parity in every aspect of publishing. Every aspect:

  • Agents will be obligated to sign as many female writers as male writers.
  • Publishers will be obligated to give deals to as many female writers as male writers.
  • Publishers (or anyone) submitting books to contests will, by virtue of the rules of TYOPP, submit as many by women as men.
  • Book reviewers will be required to review as many books by women as men.
  • Book sections of any media will be obligated to feature as many women writers as men.

And so on. Ah… wouldn’t it be lovely if that could actually happen?

Sophie Lewis of And Other Stories publishing, who, as mentioned above, is on board with the “year of women” plan, believes Kamila Shamsie’s challenge is an inspiring “provocation” …

We will have to start now, hunting for the women we want to publish, commissioning translations, and scheduling in the editing sessions. We will end up, we hope, publishing a few excellent women writers we might not otherwise have discovered. This will be a step in the right direction, and a source of pride for us.

But I must ask: why does any publisher need “a year of publishing women” to do that? Why aren’t they doing that already, every single day of the week, during any year, not just one called “a year of publishing women”? They should be. There are a lot of “excellent women writers” they haven’t discovered simply because they’re not looking hard enough, being inventive enough, or stepping outside industry norms enough.

Let’s rethink this, fellow women. We do deserve equal space at the table, but we don’t need male writers to be banished for us to succeed. What we need is for all those in positions of power to raise their consciousness, adjust their thinking, broaden their focus, and take more chances. Seek out more of those “excellent women writers.” Publish them, promote them, give them awards… just as they would the deserving men.

But let’s not wait until 2018. Let’s start “The Year of Publishing Parity” right now. Because every year should be a year for excellent writers, gender be damned.

Women & Book @ Vintage Women on Pinterest
Vintage Female Writer image by LDW
Original article posted at The Huffington Post

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Sharing ‘Matters of the Mind’ with Dr. Peter Sacco and Todd Miller on ListenUP!TalkRadio

ListenUP!TalkRadio

There is a wide spectrum of events and circumstances that can contribute mightily to the joy of a writer’s life, but one of the nicest has to be the opportunity to talk about the work with smart, insightful people who are genuinely interested. I had occasion today to enjoy that experience when I was interviewed by Dr. Peter Sacco and ListenUp!TalkRadio President, Todd Miller, on their show, “Matters of the Mind.” 

These are two really great guys who approached the conversation with a holistic slant, interested in reaching below the surface to discuss the deeper threads that run throughout an artist’s experience and inspiration. Given my eclectic background, as well as the personal mission to explore the more humanistic, emotional aspects of life through my art, I appreciated the approach!

The interview will run tonight (March 25, 2015, at 8:00 EST) and will be podcast, as well, for future listening. The link with all the information is below. Please enjoy the listen and be sure to check out any of the books we discuss by going HERE!

“Tune in tonight at 8 pm (ET) for “Matters Of The Mind,” as Dr. Peter Sacco and Todd Miller have a great conversation with author, writer, actor and musician Lorraine Devon Wilke. Talk about a cultural gypsy!”

Thanks, gents; thoroughly enjoyed the conversation!

LINK: Announcement: Lorraine Devon Wilke, #author of “Hysterical Love” joins #MOTM at 8p tonight to discuss #writing, #music and MORE!

DIRECT LINK TO PODCAST: Vol 54 LORRAINE DEVON WILKE #Author Mar 25 2015

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

A Trailer Sets the Stage… For the Book That Tells the Story

trailer image

There are a great many ways in which projects, businesses, organizations, movies, songs, and books are introduced to the world, marketed into the cultural zeitgeist. Media – in all its forms – is the medium: newspaper and magazine advertising, online press releases, repetitive social media alerts; blogs, interviews and radio spots. If the person involved is high-profile enough, or has a good enough publicity team, they appear on talk shows, do segments on news programs, or find a reason to participate in a cause… or a cooking show. 🙂

But in the specific world of movies and television, there are trailers. Those snappy, quick-cutting, eye-catching, can’t-turn-away mini-films intended to set the stage, pull you in, ensnare your interest to the point that you must watch to find out WHAT HAPPENS.

Personally, I love trailers. I love getting to the theater early enough to catch each and every one that unfurls before the main attraction, making note of those I’ll catch and those I’ll be sure to miss. Trailers – the good ones, anyway – are significant and effective as marketing tools because they show just enough visual, share just enough narrative, and cut it all together with just the right rhythm and pace to whet the appetite of the viewer, enough to make a future commitment to WATCH.

Or, in the case of book trailers, to READ.

The notion of authors and publishers using trailers to promote and market their books is a relatively new phenomenon. There’s no doubt that as e-books and the online purchasing of paperbacks, even hardcovers, came under the growing purview of online book retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the like, the focus of book-lovers turned commensurately to online interaction. From there it was not difficult to steer their interests towards accompanying book trailers as a way to further entice their reading choices.

Brilliant! So fresh and cutting edge, trailers would surely be seen as innovation for books marketersright?

In fact, back in 2012 The Guardian published a piece titled, From page to screen: the rise of the video book trailer, that seemed to view the trend as a bit niche:

“These are terrific diversions, but their status next to the book is a little ambiguous.”

But the trend persisted and before long, more and more authors saw trailers as tools to help pull their books out of the pack, translate synopses without a document; thrill enough to grab attention (the goal, after all!). And as time passed, what was niche became notable, if not de rigueur:

Lindsay Mead, “YA author (soon-to-be), YouTuber and Full-Time Daydreamer,” runs a blog that focuses heavily on book trailers, with an accompanying YouTube page sharing those of authors she admires. Goodreads, the uber- (and now Amazon-owned) author/reader site, features a video option on authors’ profile pages. And writers swear by their trailers; author Brian Solis, for example, posted in A Visual History of Book Trailers:

“…the tradition of book trailers not only continues, it’s become standard practice as part of the book marketing checklist. From concept to script to treatment to music, I see trailers and book marketing in general as a creative challenge to engage readers beyond text.”

I agree with him, though I do think the accessibility to trailers could use some expansion. At this point, unless an author or publicity person directs you to the YouTube or Goodreads page of that author, or is vigilant about linking the trailer to every piece of promo sent out, their ubiquity as advertising tools is not necessarily matched by their actual access. Even Amazon, which allows authors to post book videos on their author pages, hasn’t yet created the algorithm to view those videos full screen… or even larger than the teeny box they appear in off to the right (I’ve talked to them and will see what can be done about getting that changed, dammit!). Frankly, I think trailers should be right there on the authors’ individual sales pages, just like the “look inside this book” feature. Hopefully, we’ll get there.

For now, I’m delighting in the fact that the medium exists… and that I’ve got one. A good one. One artfully created, produced, and edited by my phenomenally talented brother, actor/director/writer, Tom Amandes (in addition to the gorgeous book cover created by one of my other phenomenally talented siblings, designer Grace Amandes). Tom has a remarkable resume as an actor, and in recent years directed a number of high-profile television shows as well. I am truly fortunate to be the recipient of the prodigious skill and expertise he brought to this wonderful, artistic, mini-film for After The Sucker Punch. Already I’m hearing from new readers about it!

And so, with no further ado, the book trailer for After The Sucker Punch. Enjoy it… then enjoy the book!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Hey, After The Sucker Punch, You Look REAL Good Up On That Book Shelf…

ATSP @ Skylight Bookstore

Oh, isn’t it just the dream of every writer to see their book up on the shelf of a real, live, brick & mortar bookstore, sitting there next to the famous writers with their famous books, looking not only like they belong in that spot but fit right in with the “big kids”?

Yep.

So given that I’m a leave-no-stone-unturned kinda dreamweaver, I decided to see just how successful I could be at getting my independently published debut novel, After The Sucker Punch, beyond Amazon and the online marketplace and actually into bookstores where perusing patrons could stumble upon it and, hallelujah, pick it up.

First I contacted Skylight Books in Los Angeles, “what a neighborhood bookstore should be,” to make a pitch. The contact person sent me straight to their book buyer to see if he was interested. Gulp…

He was interested! “I’d like to buy 2 copies for the store and see how it does,” said the book buyer, and off those two copies went. I visited them yesterday (see above) and they look mighty comfortable on the shelf right above Meg Wolitzer’s NYTimes Bestseller, The Interestings, don’t you think? I urge Los Angeles area book lovers to find their way into this very cool bookstore and pick up a copy (or two… there’s two, remember? :)… cuz I want to be sure “how it does” is some version of “it does really well”!

Here’s the information:

SKYLIGHT BOOKS
1818 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 660-1175

They don’t have a local authors section, so just find your way to the “W’s”… (hence, that Wolizter proximity!).

But I wasn’t about to stop there. Two books in one cool bookstore is a start, but I had to see what else I could stir up….how about Vroman’s in Pasadena?

Vromans bookstore

Known as “Southern California’s Oldest & Largest Independent Bookstore,” Vroman’s is another eclectic, beloved neighborhood bookstore that has a stellar reputation amongst writers for its support of the community in all its configurations… including independent authors (which isn’t necessarily the case with everyone in the book industry; see Who Do We Have To ____ To Get a Little Respect Around Here?).

I had spent time at Vroman’s earlier this year when Karrie Ross, the author of an art/essay book in which I participated as a writer and photographer — Our Ever Changing World: Through the Eyes of Artists: What Are You Saving from Extinction? — organized a reading at the store (something I’ll do after the holidays). It’s a very nice set-up, interesting and bursting with every kind of book and book-related item you can imagine, and it’s clear they are vibrantly engaged with the world of reading.

So I got in touch and was delighted to discover they have a  “Local Authors” program, which invited me to bring a total of 8 books to the store, 5 for the iconic Pasadena location, and 3 for the Hastings Ranch location, all of which should be on shelves this week. Just ask for the “local authors” section and you’ll find After The Sucker Punch there.

Here’s the information for both locations:

VROMAN’S PASADENA
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101
626-449-5320
(Fax) 626-792-7308
email@vromansbookstore.com 

VROMAN’S HASTINGS RANCH
3729 E Foothill Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91107
626-351-0828
(Fax) 626-351-0798
email@vromansbookstore.com

As all book lovers know, there’s a great debate out there regarding the burgeoning industry of online book sales and the impact of that inexorable trend on the shrinking population of bookstores, particularly of the independent variety. Since I am a champion of books, writing, and reading, whatever form, format, or delivery system is involved, I want to be sure to play my part in keeping all options as alive and well as can be managed! So if you live in or are visiting Southern California, I encourage you to visit one or all of these bookstores. And when you’re at the counter to pick up your paperback copy of After The Sucker Punch, be sure to tell them I sent you! 🙂

Next up: Book Soup on the Sunset Strip…

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Take A Moment To Visualize This With Me….

city street

Would you? Just sit back and take this in, this image above: a New York City bus stop with its large poster in bright, living color. What’s on that poster? The book cover image of After the Sucker Punch with its intriguing face tucked behind those bold, enticing letters.

I see it… don’t you?

For details and links to who created this image and why, hop on over to AfterTheSuckerPunch.com and find your way to reader and writer, Brenda Perlin, who not only took the time to read my book, but shared a few insightful thoughts about it… for which I am deeply grateful.

But don’t click over there just yet.

Take one more moment to visualize this with me… and… very nice. We’ll end with an amen of “so be it and so it is.”

Thank you. I felt the plates shift.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.