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 “March, 2010”

Amazon.com announces…

Unwanted Heroes moved into the last 250 entries (Quarter Final) of the 2010 Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award.

You can download the excerpt through Kindle (you can download straight to a PC or Mac) and leave comments or a brief review. Apparently the reviewers (chosen by Penguin Books) do look at what people are writing about the entry.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/B003CV7T9O/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&n=283155&s=books

I’m so excited!

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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Stephen King just told me off!

Stephen King just told me off!

He did! There I was sitting in my car, coffee perched next to me as I negotiated the commute from SF State back to the East Bay, and Stephen said there are only two things a serious writer needs to concern himself with: writing and reading.

He then went on to tell me that if I succumb to watching TV every night, in my case, Star Trek or Seinfeld reruns, or The Daily Show, instead of either refining my own craft by writing or learning from those who have mastered it by reading, I am not being serious about being a writer.

He dismissed my claims that I don’t have time (hey, I get up at 6am to hit the gym and get to the office by 9am … and, and the kids go to bed at 9pm … and, and I need to sleep a good six hours … and, and, and …)

He then embarrassed me by discussing a number of great novels that all fiction writers should read. I hadn’t read any of them, and I couldn’t even write them down as I was driving.

I should have seen it coming. I know Stephen King very well, though I’ve never met him. I listen to On Writing every year. I’ve read the paper version, though nothing beats hearing the master telling it in his own uncompromising dialect.

Worst of all is that I know he is right. I know that I need to read. Whenever I share my work with others, they often ask if I’ve read such and such, and I invariably haven’t.

But I will. In fact, last night I went to bed at 11pm and read for half an hour. At least, I think I did. I fell asleep at some point … and when I woke in the morning and got back in the car, Stephen King was waiting for me. He talked about other things, but somehow, I am sure he knew.

Oh by the way, if you haven’t already read it and wanna be a writer, do check out On Writing by Stephen King, book or audio. And yes, I’ve read it, a couple of times!

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

Kindle Ebook News

Found this blog entry that I hadn’t posted.

Oilspill dotcom on Amazon’s Kindle has seen its price reduced. It is now about $8 – keeps changing. Since signing up for Smashwords, I haven’t sold an ebook on Amazon. I was rather hoping that with all those people who received a Kindle for Christmas that I would see a spike.

I hope to have another ebook announcement in the next week.

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

"How to Sell a Million Copies of Your Book."

Of course I clicked! What do you expect! I assume I would be offered a book or audio tape with all the wisdom needed. I wasn’t. Instead I clicked into a blog post by R.W. Ridley (http://rwridley.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/one-million-books-text/). The part that really got me thinking was as follows:

If you want to sell a million copies of your novel, all you have to do is rewire culture. Easy, right? Here’s the rub. In large part, readers don’t buy books, they buy authors. In order to give yourself the greatest opportunity to make your book a cultural phenomenon, the author has to become a cultural phenomenon first.
Your personal brand has to ignite the same kind of passion you expect your art to ignite. That’s where web 2.0 and your online persona come in. This medium – blogging, social media, web videos, etc. – this is where the reader in 2010 and beyond is going to get to know you. This is where the cultural shift begins.
Your personal brand has to be bold, be consistent, and be authentic. And as the builder of your personal brand, you have to carry on in the face of self-doubt and outside ridicule. Not everyone is going to connect with you. Accept it. Embrace it. Move on. Not everyone who connects with you is going to buy your book, but they will do something more important. They will spread the word about your personal brand. Over time more and more people will be exposed to you and your book, and – we’re back to the golf analogy – with persistence, practice and luck – the cultural shift will take place, and you will sell a million copies of your book. By the way, for those of you who are disappointed to still see luck as part of the equation, I happen to believe that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so you can make your own luck.
Remember, your book won’t sell a million copies. You will sell a million copies of your book.

The fact that Mr. Ridley posted a picture of a mean-looking gorilla as his profile picture, certainly suggests that he is not an author to mess with!

But I think he is right. I’ve made most of my sales of Oilspill dotcom in the first few months when I was extremely active – out there marketing myself like crazy. When I met people and told my story, when I looked them in the eye and shook their hand – I sold my book. Sales on Amazon.com, Smashwords and iScribd all tend to follow some public exposure.

So in the next few months I will try to get out there more, expose myself (you know what I mean), shake hands and tell my story.

Here’s to selling the one millionth copy!

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

A Moment of Appreciation

Wade Mayer, who manages an excellent blog called Inviting Conversations: Intelligent Dialog Connecting Thoughtful People, posted a question on our LinkedIn Writer’s group. He asked whether we put our family events on our business calenders. In sharing my response, I realized how strongly I feel about the challenges facing achieving excellence in my work, my writing and my parenting.

My response:
Always! The challenge of maintaining a work:life balance is the most difficult juggling act I face. I love my job and my writing life, both hopefully impact others to create a better world. Raising two young boys that they might become a positive force for change and sharing quality time with a life-partner who makes me a better person, demands just as much attention.

I am learning to live with the fact that I cannot promote my novels that are already published, edit the current completed manuscript, and write the next novel. All this while holding down a full-time (and wonderful) job, and being a meaningful influence as my children develop, as well as being a supportive life-partner.

But it’s hard. I’ve been struggling with the usual winter coughs and colds for too long. No time to slow down and let the body recuperate. In the words of Jack Kerouac:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh…”
On the Road, Jack Kerouac

And I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Final word: I am speaking at the Californian Writer’s Club on Sunday (March 21), at 2.15 p.m. in the West Auditorium of the Oakland Main Library at 125 14th Street near the Lake Merritt BART station. Enter directly from Madison Street between 13th & 14th Streets.

Love to see you there.

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

With Respect to the Classics

I have just read A Catcher in the Rye, and finished listening to the third Lord of the Rings on audio book during my daily commute. At the same time, I am editing Unwanted Heroes and making some changes for the next printing of Oilspill dotcom. To help me with the latter, I am consulting various guides to self-editing, receiving invaluable feedback from the Berkeley Writer’s Group, and drinking a lot of wine (when someone tells me that a passage is lucid and flowing, I silently thank the Grape Goddess).

But reading my own work and trying to fit it in to the rules: plot-driven, show-don’t-tell, no repeating words, no adverbs etc. etc… I can’t help wondering what were the rules for Salinger, Tolkien, Dickens, or Hardy?

Let’s face it. These guys have made it. They are the immortals, the literary gods, forever a part of history. We admire and envy them.

Most authors want to write bestsellers and make lots of money (okay, at least I’m being honest) and we all want our books to be read after our deaths and in centuries to come, enabling us to join the immortals. The question thus stands: do we write for today or forever? Do we sacrifice quality (if indeed that’s what it is) to become a hit today?

Kill your babies! Another golden rule of self-editing. But I love my babies. I see their worth, a rich tapestry woven of detail, a clear memory engraved forever. What fantasy reader doesn’t have a clear succinct picture of Middle Earth engraved in his/her mind? That comes from reading (and sometimes toiling) through pages of rich description. Some die-hard fantasy followers have even written Elven as a second language on their resumes .

Still, I am no Tolkien, but every time I press on the delete button, I feel I have left behind a friend, a painful step forward of a yet unfulfilled journey.

Good Writing,
Alon

http://www.alonshalev.com/

What’s in a Name?

A flurry of activity: the Amazon Breakthrough contest success, some public readings and exposure, has led me to an exciting junction. A small publisher is interested in republishing Oilspill dotcom. I am excited. I will benefit from their experience, their “legitimacy,” and open a recognized channel to placing my book in bookstores through their distribution. I am also stoked – happy to receive ‘recognition’.

However, there are two issues that I need to deal with.

1) The Title
They want me to change the title, to find something that gives a clearer picture of what the book is about and also that is easier to remember by association.

I have to admit that after I thought about it, I realized that my loyalty to the title is based upon the myriad of marketing tools that I have invested in: bookmarks, magnets, postcards, my website, magnetic signs on our cars. The title of the novel came to me naturally while I was writing Oilspill dotcom and it stuck.

So I’m reaching out to you. Please make suggestions for a new title. In particular if you have read my novel. If you haven’t, here is my pitch:

Oilspill dotcom is a political courtroom confrontation wherein a multinational corporation tries to silence two young activists, who level the playing field using a new emerging tool: the Internet.

It is a fictional drama that closely parallels the McDonalds libel case, which captivated England through the 1990’s.

The world can be changed, one pixel at a time.

If we choose your suggested title, you will receive an autographed copy of the new (titled) book, and my gratitude.

2) The Cover
I struggled with the cover for Oilspill dotcom. The publisher, Booksurge, had sent me several mock-ups of a cover that I had (passionately) not liked. By the time we settled on the current cover, I was quite attached to it.

But it needs to change. I am looking for a graphic artist to work with. If you know anyone, I would appreciate the referral.

Good Writing,

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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