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 “October, 2009”

Two Worlds Converge

Tomorrow I will be selling my book, Oilspill dotcom, at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center Book Festival. I am excited. The festival is about Jewish literature, and not Jewish authors, and since Oilspill dotcom doesn’t have any Jewish content, I count myself lucky to be there.

I have been allowed in through the back door because my full-time job is as the head of a Jewish non-profit which is seen as a vital component in the Jewish Community – The San Francisco Hillel provides educational opportunities and support for Jewish students in a part of the US where it isn’t always easy to be openly Jewish on campus.

My claim with the bookseller at the festival is that I am a recognizable figure and plan to hang out by the book table.

This is true. But it also brings up another issue. I have never exploited this circle of influence to market myself as an author of political fiction. When I launched the book, I certainly told everyone and have received varying degrees of support from students, fellow staff and stakeholders. I could have pushed for more coverage, for readings, and included more plugs in my correspondents and updates.

But generally I have kept the worlds apart. I’m not sure why. I doubt that even those who might take issue with my view of multinational corporations would hold it against me in my work at SF Hillel.

I do believe that part of my drive to write novels that spotlight and challenge social injustices comes from the emphasis that Judaism puts on Tikkun Olam – fixing the world.

So on Sunday I will wear my smarter work clothes to ensure I am recognized and will discuss political literature alongside Jewish identity, look for common ground, and hopefully sell a few books in the process.

Good Writing,

Authors Helping Authors

Yesterday I participated in the first marketing meeting for members of the California Writers Club, Berkeley Branch. At the end of the meeting, we all passed around bookmarks, postcards and other such promotional materials. The idea, based upon the Business Network & Referrals (BNI) model, was for each of us to get acquainted with each other’s work, and pass on the literature to someone we think might be interested.

During the meeting, many of us had to fight the urge not to promote our own work or share pitches. It was quite challenging. After all, we were all there because we are highly motivated to promote our books.

I hope we can create a culture within the group of giving time to helping other authors within the group. This sounds obvious, but we never seem to have enough time in the day to promote ourselves, let alone others.

There are, however, a number of ways in which to do this. If every member of the group did one small thing each day to help promote another group member, then we would discover we are each receiving a lot of help.

Authors generally, if they are not on the A-list, need help from others. So let’s try and create a culture of helping each other. Here is a list of 10 ways we can do this.

1. Post a review of someone’s book on Amazon.
2. Buy their book, if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend’s birthday, or instead of a bottle of wine next time you’re invited for dinner.
3. Mention their website or blog on whatever social networking site you are active.
4. Go to the public library. If their book isn’t there, request it.
5. Mention their book on Goodreads.
6. Again on Amazon – add some helpful tags or add them to your listamania.
7. Spotlight them on your blog.
8. Attend their book readings. Ask questions that make them look good and/or authoritative. Answering questions from someone you know helps the author relax and build confidence.
9. Link your website and their website.
10. Enter their book into a fundraising raffle as a prize.

This list took me less than 10 minutes (and it’s almost midnight – not when I am thinking clearest). If you can think of additional ways, please let me know and I will add them to the list. This is all about win:win. In the middle of a recession, and a ruthless industry that is in involuntary transformation, win:win is something we could all do with.

Good Writing,


On The Cutting Edge

I’m feeling good, stoked in fact, on the cutting edge. This week I filled out my forms and uploaded my publishers’ Oilspill dotcom files to Kindle. Today I entered the Star Trek dimension – beam me up Scotty!

Only a few weeks ago, I saw a Star Trek Next Generation episode in which (Lt. Commander) Geordi La Forge, the engineer, was preparing to travel to a convention on Reiser (surpassed Hawaii back in the 22nd Century for most popular business convention destination). He told Data (the android) that he planned a few days vacation and recounted the books he had uploaded as he tapped his pad (a Staff Fleet-issued 24th century Kindle).

So I am stoked. It is not often that a Trekkie can reach out where no person has gone before (well, a few hundred thousand perhaps) and enter into that technological plane.

I believe in the e-book. There is no justification for us to cut down forests and then wonder about global warming. The transportation of books, the warehouse, the garbage generated from paper and ink, and all the other related resources that could be saved if we all went wireless.

I do, however, have to admit that I don’t own a Kindle. Furthermore, even if I did (and the male techno-envy part of my ego wants one), I think I would have a hard time completely relinquishing the written book. Touch, smell, even looking at the collections on my shelf as they passively collect dust, these sensory experiences are all part of an overall experience beyond the screen.

But I am excited, even if slightly hypocritically so, that Oilspill dotcom is now available from Kindle. It’s nice to be a part of the future. Now I’m going home to curl up with a good hardback book, The Accidental Billionaires, which I’ve just purchased. I can’t wait to hear that virgin book spine crack!

By the way: did you know that the iPhone has Kindle accessibility too? Not only that, but let’s say you were reading a book on Kindle, for the sake of argument – Oilspill dotcom – and had stopped on a specific page. Then later on that day you had decided to access it via your iPhone, the phone would ask if you wanted to pick up where you left while reading on the Kindle. Cool – Capt. Kirk never had that kind of accessibility!

Good Writing,


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