Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

09/08/2013

The Straightest Gay Guy Who Channels the Bawdy, Booz and Genius-Soaked Literary Scene of the Past


Giancarlo DiTrapano

Giancarlo DiTrapano IS that ‘straightest gay guy’ that NOT ONLY reminds me of (channels) the great past ‘cult-genius-often underground-liquor-soaked-literary-scene, BUT, also embodies and introduces the present day cult, writer geniuses.

Past infamous, heavy drinking writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Ramond Chandler, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe, Tennessee Williams and O. Henry, just to name a few, created some of the most lasting and renowned characters and scene-settings to ever be word-painted on paper!

Well, Giancarlo DiTrapano, in his New York studio flat and through his New York Tyrant and Tyrant Books, a literary magazine and small press, is introducing us to the current crop of bad-boy-genius-writers. These newer published authors reads like a who’s who of the 21st century’s best writers: Brian Evenson, Noy Holland, Michael Kimball, Gary Lutz, Rachel B. Glaser, Scott McClanahan, Sam Lipsyte, Padgett Powell, Breece D’J Pancake and Gordon Lish, to name a few. ‘Tyrant consistently publishes writers that large houses refuse to touch — and it’s growing.’

Want to learn more about the current, underground, cult, literary scene/atmosphere of New York? Michael Bible (interesting author last name for this bawdy-ish article) spells it out in Salon.com (the award-winning online news and entertainment Web site):

Publishing bad boy Giancarlo DiTrapano: Gordon Lish calls me “darling”

The New York Tyrant editor on coming out, running a small press and being an author in the age of Twitter

This article originally appeared on the L.A. Review of Books.


WHEN PEOPLE ROMANTICIZE literary New York, the conversation inevitability turns to famous writers and the places where they drank: Dylan Thomas at the White Horse, Faulkner and Hemingway at the now defunct Chumley’s in West Village, the elegant drunks at George Plimpton’s apartment. Nowadays many literary functions in New York consist of some hummus and maybe a glass or two of white wine and everyone’s home in time to catch The Daily Show. Multiple factors have contributed to this taming of New York letters. Many working writers are sequestered to academia, maybe due to the fact that New York has become prohibitively costly for artists to live as artists. New York Tyrant and Tyrant Books, a literary magazine and small press, is the exception to the rule. When I sat down with Giancarlo DiTrapano, the editor of Tyrant Books, in the little studio apartment which doubles as the Tyrant’s offices for this interview, he offered me Xanax, whiskey, and cocaine (not kidding) on a silver platter.

Founded by Giancarlo in 2006, New York Tyrant’s roll call of published authors reads like a who’s who of the 21st century’s best writers: Brian Evenson, Noy Holland, Michael Kimball, Gary Lutz, Rachel B. Glaser, Scott McClanahan, Sam Lipsyte, Padgett Powell, Breece D’J Pancake and Gordon Lish, to name a few. Tyrant consistently publishes writers that large houses refuse to touch — and it’s growing.

Giancarlo, Tyrant’s editor, publisher and publicity director, lives in Hell’s Kitchen, not far from the big publisher’s corporate offices. When you come up from the subway on 42nd Street you’re bombarded by grinning idiots enjoying Giuliani’s Disneyfied New York. But walk a few blocks to Giancarlo’s apartment and the neon fades a bit.

He lives in a ground floor studio with little back patio, an upright piano, a poster from the cult film “Over the Edge,” a farting, loveable bulldog named Rufus and, of course, books. Everywhere. Giancarlo himself could pass easily as a visiting Italian. Always well dressed, he’s a bit rough around the edges, cigarette constant in his mouth. He tells me he’s just talked to Gordon Lish, the infamous Knopf editor who edited Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Joy Williams and Amy Hempel, to name a few. Lish’s last book with Knopf was published in 1990s but his influence has garnered a cult-like worship from young writers.

“Lish couldn’t talk,” Giancarlo says. “He was on the other line with Don DeLillo.” Giancarlo has often been looked upon as Lish’s heir apparent, the Lish of the internet age. “He calls me Darling.” Lish has a cell phone? I ask. “No. House phone. He says my name comes up as Diazepam [the pharmaceutical name for Valium] on his caller ID.” Gordon Lish has caller ID? I ask. And two-way calling? “Yes,” says Giancarlo, “but he has no tolerance for computers. He calls it The Machine. I think he would be great on Twitter, though. Just one sentence. That’s his whole thing. He’s really missing out.”

Giancarlo is no stranger to the internet. Small presses like Tyrant couldn’t exist without it. Where Lish failed to reach a large enough audience, Giancarlo has leveraged social media to attain a worldwide audience at little-to-no cost. In the early 2000s, big presses raced to catch up with the internet, drawn by promises of free word-of-mouth advertising, only to find the small presses were already there.

I ask about Tyrant’s latest book, Marie Calloway’s what purpose did i serve in your life. The book ran into controversy reminiscent of the days of Joyce and Nabokov: the printer refused it due to the frank nature of the book’s sexual subject matter and lascivious photos of its author. It’s the kind of great “bad” publicity that every publisher dreams of. The book is polarizing; Publishers Weekly put it this way: “[Calloway is either] a sex-kitten, a feminist using her own body as a laboratory; or she’s a vapid internet-age narcissist.” Love it or hate it, the book is a hit — an anomaly for small publishers.

An unlikely candidate to become the face of the New York literary vanguard, Giancarlo DiTrapano was born in West Virginia. “My grandfather came from Italy when he was 14 to work in the coal mines. He saved enough money to go back to Italy and find a wife. He discovered a 17th century castelletto that the Americans had bombed during the war and the Nazis occupied. The gambler who owned it lost all his money and sold it to my grandfather for cheap.” Giancarlo’s family owns the castle to this day. His grandfather came back to the states and settled in Charleston, West Virginia’s largest city.

Continued @ original article

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12/28/2012

Beware of ‘Author Services’ Shops in 2013


"Need some author services, buddy?"

“Need some author services, buddy?”

The burgeoning self-publishing world has exploded a need for so-called ‘author services’ — you know, the services that used to be provided by the traditional publishers (TPs) if your manuscript was chosen from a gazillion other entries. Services such as editing, proofing, book production, packaging, and distribution, as well as back office tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and year-end tax reporting.

These ‘author services’ shops exist now to some degree but will propagate wildly in the coming year.

So, before you spend ANY money (and most probably needlessly) heed this insight from Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, in this article by Jason Boog:

Mark Coker Predicts: ‘More money will be made in author services than in book sales.’

In his 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions, Smashwords founder Mark Coker included this warning for aspiring writers: “In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales.”

All independent writers need to remember this advice as we head into the new year. We asked How Much Should Self-Publishing Cost? in November and received a wide-range of responses. Indie authors can pay everything from nothing to $50,000 in an effort to publish their work.

Here’s more from Coker: “With the shift to self-publishing, writers must carry the publishing burdens once borne by traditional publishers, such as the cost of editing, proofing, book production, packaging, and distribution, as well as backoffice tasks such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and year-end tax reporting … With this burgeoning demand for professional publishing services, thousands of service providers will open up virtual author services shops in 2013. The challenge for writers is to procure the highest quality services at the lowest cost. Plenty of scamsters and over-priced service providers will be standing by to help.” 

Coker also included two tips for keeping your self-publishing work at a respectable cost. Here is his first tip:

As I write in Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, pinch your pennies.  As a self published author, you’re the publisher.  You’re running a business.  The lifeblood of a business is profit, because profit generates cash.  If you run out of cash, you go out of business.  Since profit equals sales minus expenses, and sales are difficult to predict and often minimal, it’s important to minimize expenses.  DIY as much as possible, especially when you’re starting out. Invest your sweat equity (your time and talent) first.  If you can’t afford editing, barter for editing, and leverage beta readers.  Once you start earning a profit, then carefully reinvest.  Never borrow money to finance your ebook publishing adventure. Never spend money you need to pay the mortgage or to put bread on your table.

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11/13/2012

Do Book Publishers Really Hate Authors?


It would seem so. Publishers have been fucking writers since time began. Rejections without due consideration, chump change percentages for wages (even with established authors), piss ant marketing and many other dictatorial, disrespectful practices.

At times authors are also hard asses to deal with — So, it’s a very tenuous relationship.

 explains Why Book Publishers Hate Authors in his blog contribution on HuffPost

It seems so… unliterary. But publishing houses despise authors and are doing everything they can to make their lives miserable. Here’s why.

Authors are admittedly a strange lot. There’s something antisocial about retreating from life for months or years at a time, to perform the solitary act of writing a book.

On top of that, authors are flaky. They promise to deliver a manuscript in April and it doesn’t come in until October. Or the following April. Or the April after that. This leaves publishers with several options, all of them bad: revise publishing schedules at the last minute; demand that authors turn in projects on time, regardless of quality; cancel books altogether; or sue the authors (as Penguin has begun to do) for undelivered or poor quality work.

Authors are also prickly about their work. There are few jobs on the planet in which people are utterly free to ignore the guidance, or even mandates, from their bosses. Yet book authors are notoriously dismissive of their editors’ advice. When I was writing novels for Simon & Schuster back in the late 1980s, my editor, Bob Asahina, used to tell me, “You’re the only writer who ever lets me do my job.”

Also, annoyingly, writers expect to be paid. Maybe not much, but something. The Authors Guild produced a survey in the 1970s indicating that writers earned only slightly more, on an hourly basis, than did the fry cooks at McDonald’s. Publishers were still responsible for paying advances to authors, hoping that the authors would turn in a publishable manuscript — which doesn’t happen all of the time.

So it’s understandable that publishers might feel churlish and uncharitable toward authors, on whom their entire publishing model depends. But since the 2008 economic meltdown hit Publishers Row, the enmity has turned into outright warfare.

The three R’s of the publishing industry, the strategy for survival, quickly became “Reduce royalties and returns.” Returns are books that come back unsold from bookstores. Printing fewer copies typically ensures fewer returns. Reducing advances and royalties — money publishers pay writers — was the other main cost that publishers sought to slash.

And slash they did. More and more publishers moved to a minimal or even zero advance business model. They said to authors, “We’ll give you more of a back end on the book, and we’ll promote the heck out of your book. We’ll be partners.”

Some partners. Zero advance combined with zero marketing to produce… that’s right. Zero sales.

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05/07/2011

The First Ultimate Online Book Site Has Arrived!


Bookish.com will be the ultimate site for all things literaryThree major publishers…Penquin, Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster…have committed to financing a one-stop book marketing and selling site.

The site will be called Bookish.com and will be operational late this summer.

“The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.”…Julie Bosman , NYTimes.

From Julie Bosman:

Publishers Make a Plan: A ‘One Stop’ Book Site

Publishers have spent a lot of time and money building their own company Web sites with fresh information on their books and authors. The trouble is, very few book buyers visit them.

In search of an alternative, three major publishers said on Friday that they would create a new venture, called Bookish.com, which is expected to make its debut late this summer. The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.

The publishers — Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group — hope the site will become a catch-all destination for readers in the way that music lovers visit Pitchfork.com for reviews and information. The AOL Huffington Post Media Group will provide advertising sales support and steer traffic to the site through its digital properties.

“There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”

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03/31/2011

Build Your Platform or Write Your Book? Which is the Chicken and Which is the Egg?


Should I spend time building my online presence or writing my book??

Recently I joined Ditchwalk (Storytelling in the Digital Age), an intelligent, well thought-out and written site…And tonight, it’s content hit me like a ton of sheep shit! It nailed me for the procrastinator-in-denial that I’ve become.

 Mark Barrett is the author of Ditchwalk and, while exploring the question of how much time and energy should be spent on building an author’s online presence as opposed to actual writing and writing production, he philosophizes on using platform building (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc) as an excuse to procrastinate on actual writing.

He exposed me in my own mind instantly!

I agree with Mark that you do, in fact, need something of an online presence…but, how much and at what time (before or after you write your book).

Mark has an incisive viewpoint on this writers conundrum and I am happy to direct my visitors to his wisdom:

Platform Evolution

Here’s a graph from my Twitter Quitter post:

A basic premise of independent authorship is that authors should establish their own platform in order to reach out to readers and potential customers. I believe in that premise. What constitutes a platform, however, remains undefined.

Implicit in the idea of an author’s platform is the creation of an online presence. Because the internet has become commonplace it’s easy to forget that an independent platform for individual artists would be impossible without it. (Prior to the internet an artist’s platform was limited by geography. Bands were limited not by their music but by their touring range.) While the advantages and opportunities provided by the internet are astounding relative to the pre-internet age, the internet is still a communications medium devised by human beings, with inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding how the internet works in a business context is an ongoing process. Two days ago the New York Times put up a paywall, attempting for the second time to derive revenue from its own online platform. (The first attempt failed.) That one of the most prominent newspapers in the world is still struggling to monetize content despite almost unparalleled visibility and economic muscle is a reminder to everyone that the platform question has not been answered.

Depending on your perspective, the tendency of the human mind to cherry pick information can be seen as either a bug or a feature. In the context of online platforms, it’s easy to see successes like iTunes as indicative of potential and promise when it’s actually the result of a unique set of circumstances. Finding gold in a stream may spark a gold rush, but only a few people will stake claims that literally pan out. The internet is no different. As I noted in a post about the future of publishing:

In return for making distribution almost effortless and almost free, the internet promises nothing. No revenue. No readers. Nothing.

Possibilities are not promises. Possibilities are chances, which is why I always say that writing for profit is gambling — and gambling against terrible odds. Determining what your online platform should be, and how much time you should devote to that platform, is an important part of nudging the odds in your favor.  

Lowering the Bar
Platform-services consultants, like marketing consultants, will always tell you that you can never do enough. Because the time you can devote to your platform is limited, but the time you should devote is infinite, these people will offer to bridge that gap on your behalf, for a fee. Because the internet is driven by technology, and because anything less than a cutting-edge platform means you’re falling short, platform consultants will also offer to sell you myriad apps and solutions, all of which they will teach you about, maintain and upgrade for a fee. (The New York Times was convinced by these same people to spend $40 million dollars on a paywall that can be easily circumvented.)

Approaching your platform as a vehicle of infinite possibility constrained only by your own feeble lack of determination is a recipe for failure. You do not have an infinite amount of time and resources to devote to your platform. Even if you did, there’s no guarantee that such a commitment would equal success. From part IV of my marketing and sales series:

In the real world, if you really did grab a pick and shovel and head out into your backyard to strike it rich, your friends and family would rightly think you a loon, no matter how deeply felt your convictions were. Why? Because it’s common knowledge that gold isn’t plentiful everywhere. Rather, it’s concentrated in veins of rock or in waterways that hold gold from eroded veins of rock.

If you try to dig in the wrong place it doesn’t matter how much time or money you spend, or how cutting-edge your tools are. You’re not going to get any gold even if you have infinite resources. Because the internet obviates geographical limits it seem to negate all limits, but as the NYT’s second attempt at a paywall makes clear that’s not the case. The internet is not an infinite vein of gold waiting to be exploited if only you’re smart enough to pick the right mix of apps, site functionality and marketing techniques.

(This false premise echoes the happiness industry’s determination to blame everyone for their own failings. If you’re not a happy person it’s your own fault: stop whining and try harder. If your platform isn’t racking up clicks and sales it’s your own fault: stop whining and try harder.)

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03/21/2011

Is Amazon Becoming Too Amazonian?


Will Amazon slay writers in the future?

There are a lot of signs out in publishing land that indicate Amazon is positioning itself in a pretty complete vertical business structure ( acquiring both print-on-demand Booksurge and e-book tech software company Mobipocket as well as building and selling the e-reader Kindle) to become the dominant player (read that as monopolizer) in the current materializing publishing industry.

That, in and of itself, is not threatening…and they are playing somewhat fair (so far) with the true lifeblood of the industry: the content creators (writers and authors)…

But BEWARE! Do not let Amazon go completely unfettered or unchallenged because human nature and greed, being what they are, will succumb to complete dictatorship and the abuse of the content creators…Mark my words! Remember how out of whack traditional publishing became before being brought down.

There are other online entities and booksellers such as Apple’s iPad, Smashwords, Lulu, Barnes&Noble , etc…but, none have as complete a vertical package to go from publishing to reader as Amazon.

Let’s hope, for the sake of maintaining healthy competition and remuneration for all in what can be a great industry, that some of these other online enterprises (and complete newcomers) build their own self-contained verticals to save Amazon from itself and attract, nurture and grow great writers!

At least that’s the way this humble writer sees it.

Now, this by Anna Richardson from TheBookseller.com

Amazon could phase out publishers

Forbes.com looks at “how Amazon could change publishing”.

The first major technology-enabled change in the books industry came when digital print-on-demand presses started becoming affordable, but for authors looking to gain serious readership, the big question still remains unanswered: How would they market and distribute their books?

“Enter Amazon.com,” writes entrepreneur Sramana Mitra. “Some surveys suggest that online booksellers could become the largest channel for book sales by 2009, and Amazon is certainly the 800-pound gorilla in that market–it’s the largest bookseller in the world” and “what really keeps customers coming back is the outstanding user experience”, in great part due to its recommendation system.

In addition, in 2005, Amazon acquired the print-on-demand company BookSurge and Mobipocket.com, an e-book software company, and in November, it launched the e-book reader Kindle. According to Forbes, Amazon is now poised to revolutionise the book printing business through vertical integration.

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03/02/2011

Publishers: Learn to Better Attract and Retain Readers


Online publishers…especially writers who do blogs to expand their platform and brand and/or websites to sell their books, etc…definitely want to learn how to attract and keep many more readers AND retain them on their sites for longer periods per visit! 

I damn sure do. I have discovered that I’m a real dumbo when it comes to smart marketing…hell, I’m lacking even when it comes to dumb marketing.

Well, I have discovered an annual analysis of these very skill sets run by an outfit known as Lijit Networks and they have just released the results of their 2010 Publisher Tools Analysis.

The figures in this analysis will surprise and educate you.

More details from this PR Newswire release:

Lijit Networks Announces Results of 2010 Publisher Tools Analysis
Adoption of Social Media Tools Grows 80% as Online Publishers Learn to Better Attract and Retain Readers
 
Lijit Networks, Inc., the leader in custom site search and engagement tools for online publishers, today announced the results of its 2010 Publisher Tools Analysis. Within the Lijit Top 50, a list of the top 50 widgets and tools implemented on publisher websites, adoption of social media widgets grew 80% from 2009 to 2010. Widget adoption specifically related to Facebook and Twitter almost doubled, growing from 6.96% to 11.86% deployment. Social media widgets include tools used for social networking, micro-blogging, bookmarking, and photo sharing.As part of the research project, Lijit surveyed 735,834 websites to collect data on referring traffic and on-site widget deployment. Sites analyzed include all 15,000 sites in the Lijit Network as well as their extended network, which incorporates blogrolls and other linked sites. Of the sites surveyed, 84.8% have widgets installed. A widget is defined as, “any regularly-occurring functionality on a website powered by an external service, voluntarily installed by the site owner, and powered by Flash or Javascript.”

Referring traffic goes social

Three main categories of referring traffic data were analyzed: 1) search engine traffic, which comprised 44.42% of referring traffic; 2) organic traffic (defined by sites linking to each other), which comprised 35.89% of referring traffic; and 3) social media traffic, which comprised 19.68% of referring traffic. Of referring traffic from social media sources, 44% came from Facebook, 41% came from StumbleUpon, 6.7% came from Digg, 5.13% came from Twitter, and 2% came from Reddit. The data verifies that both social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter as well as social sharing tools such as StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit are being used to drive traffic to publisher websites.

“Online publishing has become a two-way street and those who are most successful have learned to use social media to build highly engaged, conversational communities of readers,” said Todd Vernon, CEO and founder of Lijit Networks. “Social media tools should not only be used to attract new readers but also to engage and retain them by allowing people to post comments, receive feedback, and share relevant information.”

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