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 “September, 2009”

Independent Bookstores.

In a past blog, I shared my frustration with an unnamed independent bookstore not willing to order my book when a customer requested it. My frustration came from a deep desire to support the uphill battle that the small bookstore wages against the online mega stores and the two big chain stores that dominate our streets. As I said in that blog, the corner coffee shop and independent bookstore are an integral part of the community and hold a special place.

This week I had a healing experience. I emailed various independent bookstores around the Bay and was invited to visit a couple. The conversations were positive and supportive, and I left copies of Oilspill dotcom at both stores. I felt in.

Not that I should promote one store over another, but…

The Bird & Beckett is at 653 Chenery St., San Francisco. Glen Park is a neat neighborhood, with cool coffee shops, diners and local businesses. What I like in particular about the store, apart from the obvious grassroots political environment, are the regular jazz performances. There is something…organic, synergistic, about jazz and political novels…I’m not sure what, but it seems kind of Beat.

The Green Apple, 566 Clement Street, is an icon in the City. When my wife, Ariela, and I would visit friends in SF every three years, we made a pilgrimage to The Green Apple. We would leave a few hours later with enough books to seriously challenge our baggage limit as we flew home.

So, with my faith restored, I am back on the road, visiting the independent bookstores, plugging my book and myself. If you haven’t yet bought my book, perhaps consider supporting one of these unique establishments.

And if you have already bought my book, perhaps consider patronizing these stores for your next literary purchase.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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Promotional Materials – What Works?

To promote my book, Oilspill dotcom, I have designed business cards, fridge magnets, postcards, a big magnet on the door of my car, and now T-shirts. It is not clear to me what works and what does not, but I’m sure having a lot of fun with them.

I believe I can attribute at least one sale to each of these promotional tools, but my favorite so far happened on Labor Day. A dear couple that lives around the corner has kindly taken it upon themselves to create a neighborhood community. We get together every few months and celebrate living in Berkeley. In a world of intense social networking, of full calendars and work deadlines, it is refreshing to get together with people with whom you share nothing other than geography, and with whom there is no particular agenda.

So come Labor Day, this wonderful couple invites the neighborhood to a potluck in their garden. Armed with a salad of locally grown vegetables, my family and I stroll to our hosts’ house.

I just so happen (well, strategically planned a week beforehand) to wear my Oilspill dotcom T-shirt. One of the guests asks me what I am wearing and I begin to explain. Our host, upon hearing our conversation, promptly returns inside his house and brings out his copy, which he then makes sure everyone sees, while exhorting my novel.

For 10 minutes or so, I am the main attraction: me, Alon Shalev, the author. And best of all, someone walks us back home when we leave, to purchase a copy.

Now I devour marketing books, especially those ‘guerrilla’ or ‘grassroots’ marketing books. But if I learned anything that Labor Day weekend, it is that there is nothing as powerful as word-of-mouth, and no asset like a friend who believes in you.

In these days of detachment, when the mass media and Internet control so much of our social connections, all transpiring through a screen, the question I have is how can we facilitate more face-to-face opportunities to pass on the message we want to share? Or to change the world? Or even to promote something that we believe in…like a struggling author’s work?

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Writing: The Solitary Path?

Picture the author: He (or she) is quiet, brooding, drinks and smokes too much, sits in a dark attic and pounds the keyboard. His hair is wild, uncombed, his razor unused, and his clothes ill-fitting and ill-matched. When forced out of his lair, he is socially awkward and impatient.

We’ve seen it in a dozen movies, read it in a hundred novels. Right?

But it’s wrong! It is a stereotype, possibly based upon someone, but I don’t believe it is the norm. True my social life mostly revolves around family, work, neighborhood, the boy’s school friends, synagogue, but I seem to have married or stumbled into these relationships, dictated by wife, children and geography. Let me stress that I love these people and value their friendship.

But there is something special when writers get together, something different. Whether this occurs at a chance meeting by the park playground, or by semi-chance while at a book signing, an author’s appearance or lecture.

Or whether it is organized – at my Writer’s group, at a California Writers Club meeting, a conference. Perhaps it is not even in person and happens online through a forum on LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo Groups or a dozen others

I love it when someone says: “Hey, I’ve just read your book.” I hope that thrill never disappears. But it’s an even greater thrill when a fellow writer tells me approvingly that they’ve read it. To hear someone praise your work when they truly appreciate, not just the plot, but the work that went into creating and finishing, and polishing, and putting it out there, and publishing, and marketing and…and…and…

I assume it is like this for all artists. When I tell a painter that I like her painting, or a musician that I like his music, does it matter that I can’t draw stick people without inflicting upon them unintentional deformity? Or that my tone deaf flat voice has been known to empty rooms before I even reach the chorus? Surely they appreciate the compliment more from a fellow artist or musician?

And then there is the critique, the honest suggestions from fellow writers who are investing some of their time and energy to help you craft a better story. And they are there for support – like when only two people attend a book reading that you painstakingly prepared for (and one of them is your mother).

I could never imagine writing collaboratively: my work is my own. But I could never imagine living as a writer in isolation. I would never survive the setbacks and would feel lonely even in my successes.

So here’s a Labor Day toast: to friends, to the rich literary scene and the Internet that helps bring us together.

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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