Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the month “February, 2009”

It’s A Business!

I have many lists that are merging together into a business, or rather a marketing plan. Right now I am focused on the book cover, the interior design, reviews, the blog and soon-to-be-launched website.

But there is another list: Business Operations. On this list are such items as:

– Receipt book for books bought in cash
– New bank account
– Thank You cards
– Cash box
– Ledger

And suddenly it hits me – this is a business. Ironically, I have not been too concerned with break even numbers, how to spend the first million (okay, I have that meticulously planned), or very much on the fiscal side.

There is a budget in place to ensure that I don’t invest beyond the amount agreed with my wife, but this has rarely been a focus. The novel is finished, I want to tell my story to the world, and I am ready to put in some time to market it and seriously explore its potential.

Next weekend I will file my family’s taxes. They are very simple: a single income, a few bank accounts, my wife’s studies – all easily handled by Turbo Tax. Next year there will be an additional income stream, a home business and who knows what.

Next year it won’t be so simple … I hope.

Good Writing,


Why I Write

Al Levenson, President of the Berkeley Branch of the California Writer’s Club, asked some of the members to write a short piece about why they wrote. I pondered the question for a couple of days and wrote nothing. Then it just came out:

I write, first and foremost, for myself. I love the rush when the story flows, when I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the thought process, when the characters leave the computer and shadow me at work, in the gym, at home.

I write because I hope to help create change in the world. I strive through my writings to highlight social and political injustice, and to inspire personal activism. My novels have included characters who have transformed themselves, taken on multinational corporations, overcome great personal challenges, and stood up for the homeless and war veterans. At a writing workshop I heard the facilitator try to launch the term – transformational fiction. It never caught on in the writing world, but it spoke to me.

And if I’m truly honest, I write to stand out. I want people to see me as a person with something to say, to be enthusiastic about my stories, and for my sons to show their teachers and friends my book and say proudly: “My Dad’s an author.”

Good Writing,


Looks Are Everything

Never judge a book by its cover.

We’ve all heard it before, possibly said it ourselves, but in the context of book promotion, people do judge a book by its cover. Usually it is a subconscious response, but we seem to make some pretty conclusive decisions in a matter of seconds.

Picture yourself perusing along the shelves at your favorite independent bookstore. A book catches your eye, probably from the title as it is revealed on the spine of the book. You pick up the book, glance at the cover and then, hopefully, turn it over to read the blurbs and synopsis on the back cover.

What happens in that glance at the front cover that either prompts the reader to turn to the back cover or return the book to the shelf? Is there a magic formula that we need to consider when designing our book cover?

I believe that the cursory glance needs to take in enough symbolism to understand the genre, the right color to set the mood, and then just maybe something that triggers a sense of inquiry, whether based on past experience or present interests.

This week I received the first designs for my book cover. While undoubtedly a complex work of art, I felt terribly alienated from what the artist was trying to convey. The colors were dark and sinister, with a daunting oil rig and other smart ideas such as seashells in bedrock. The idea was clearly taken from the title of the book, Oilspill dotcom, and the artist was trying to convey the malevolent nature of multinational corporations. Even the title, written in a thick black font had drops of oil falling from it.

But I want the book to convey inspiration and hope, the true message of my novel. I want a light color and clear images of a computer screen and either a gavel or scales of justice to show that this is a courtroom drama.

What really worries me is: what do I know? I am an author, with no expertise in art or marketing. The cover designer is no doubt a professional, but can s/he understand the message I, as the author, am trying to convey?

I believe in professionalism and earlier made up my mind that I would accept the changes suggested when my manuscript was being professionally edited. But there is something about the cover design that seems so personal, so fateful. In the end I need to be able to hold up the book – whether to a consumer, to a group I’m addressing, or on Oprah (let me dream) and say: This is my book.

Good Writing,


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