Archive for October, 2008

Welcome Back, Scott


Why Working for a “Media” Company Rocks

As October rattles its chains of farewell to another year (and still no Great Pumpkin in sight!), I find myself facing a very, very, very, very, very, very busy November. This should not be confused with the very, very, very, very, very, very busy October I’ve nearly completed–or the very, very, very, very, very, very busy April I pushed through earlier this year. No, it’s a completely new very, very, very, very, very, very busy month; and it’s all my fault, which is why I love working for a media company. Confused?

Well, one of my new projects for November is to write a prompt and poem each day over at my Poetic Asides blog. I’m calling it the November PAD Challenge, and it’s meant to give poets something to do as their NaNoWriMo friends write first drafts of novels. The November PAD Challenge promises to be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, and I’d only be in a position to do it and still call it work if I were working for a media company.

Another of my recent projects was to get a community area added on to Once I saw that our Interactive Media team were looking at community as an option, I signed up my site to be a guinea pig the very first day. And though it took a while to become reality, the community is now up and running–and receiving raves from users so far. The best part for me is that I now have a more direct way to talk to my readers, and they are able to talk to each other (after more than 85 years of isolation). This would only be possible at a media company.

From e-mail newsletters to CD versions of the Market Books (coming soon!), having the ability to realize my vision and be an advocate for my audience is often just a matter of persistence, patience and constant communication. While I know not every idea will get approved immediately, I feel like I’ve always got a voice and that people are listening. And there are few things more rewarding than that.

Oprah Endorses the Kindle

Jeff Bezos, the Kindle, and Oprah

Jeff Bezos, the Kindle, and Oprah

So, after a few days of teasers on, we discovered that Oprah’s new favorite gadget is indeed the Kindle. I was able to watch part of the episode on Friday and she raved about the Kindle. “It’s absolutely my new favorite favorite thing in the world,” she said. In fact, she had Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, on the show, but instead of talking to him, she just kept pointing out features of the Kindle to the audience. I found this statement on

Meet the Amazon Kindle™, a wireless portable reading device with instant access to more than 190,000 books, blogs, newspapers and magazines. Whether you’re in bed or on the train, Kindle lets you think of a book and get it in less than a minute.

Although the Amazon Kindle costs $359, Oprah looks at it as an environmentally friendly investment. “I know it’s expensive in these times, but it’s not frivolous because it will pay for itself,” she says. “The books are much cheaper, and you’re saving paper.”

What do you think about Oprah endorsing the Kindle? We all know that most everything Oprah touches turns to gold (In fact, we once tried to title a book Sleeping with Oprah. Her people didn’t like it, and we had to change the title. It’s now called Fondling Your Muse), but what do you think her endorsement will do for the industry of digital book products? Will most people be able to afford a $359 gadget? Will they want to add another product to their arsenal of cell phones, PDAs, mp3 players, etc? Will the Kindle become the new must-have status symbol of progressive thinkers? Is Oprah in bed with Amazon? Food for thought. Let us know what you think.

Why Editors Make Good Friends

When I first started working here at F+W, I was terrified by the idea of sending emails to editors on a regular basis. I’d spend half an hour composing an email to ask a simple question, imagining the whole time that the editor on the receiving end would be judging my writing. What if I used the wrong tense or misspelled a word? She’d probably call all the other editors over to her computer to laugh at how stupid the new designer was!

It didn’t take me too long to get over my phobia. The truth is, editors are not superhuman. But they are pretty nice to have around. It’s true that they sometimes dwell on topics like serial commas in everyday conversation, but I’m fairly positive that my talk of bad kerning doesn’t excite them either. So I think we’re even there. Editors really do come in handy though.

Editors are tremendously helpful in their knowledge of correct spelling and capitalization. I rarely have to use a dictionary or thesaurus anymore. Now I just yell across the aisle, “Hey, editors, is ‘website’ one word or two? Do I capitalize ‘sales’ when I’m talking about the sales department? What’s a less offensive way to say, ‘this looks like crap’?” They can be a real time-saver.

The reason I most enjoy having editors around though is their mad Google skillz. (Yes, I know that’s misspelled, but in my lexicon, there reaches a point where your skills are so impressive, they then become “skillz.”) Editors can find anything online. ANYTHING. There have been many times I have spent countless minutes trying to find some trivial bit of information on the internet, only to come up empty-handed. I will then ask one of the editors if they know this information, and seconds later, they have an answer. To give you a recent example:

Editor: “Pat Sajak has been around for a really long time.”

Me: “I wonder how many hosts Family Feud has had in the time that Pat Sajak has been hosting Wheel of Fortune?”

Editor: “Just a minute…” (three seconds pass) “… there have been six hosts on Family Feud since Wheel of Fortune started.”

Me: (speechless)

For awhile I thought they must be using some secret program I didn’t know about. But I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. All it takes is an editor, a computer and an internet connection to Google. Instant information! It’s really very convenient.

I only wish I would have known more editors back when I was in school writing research papers.

Books by the Banks

Cincinnati’s very own book festival, Books by the Banks, is coming up next Saturday, November 1. There will be book signings and panel discussions with local and regional authors. The full program details are on the site. They also have a cool poster for the festival that you can see online and buy at the festival.

I think this is the second year they’ve had this festival. I went last year and perused a wide variety of books and heard Sharon Draper speak. She’s one of my favorite writers for young adults and was a long time teacher at Walnut Hills. Her book, Tears of a Tiger, facilitated one of my most rewarding teaching experiences (a good, uplifting story for another day).

This year I’m hoping to go to at least one of these panels while I’m there:

  • Staycation Ohio: The Local Travel Scene—Sandra Gurvis, Ohio Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff; Randy McNutt, Ghosts: Ohio’s Haunted Landscapes, Lost Arts & Forgotten Places; and Felix Winternitz, Insider’s Guide to Cincinnati
    Because, as much as I like to make fun of the term staycation, I can always use a nearby, cheap trip.
  • Cincinnati Revealed: Arcadia Authors Uncover Local History—Christine Mersch, Price Hill; Sue Korn Wilson and Kathleen Mulloy Tamarkin, Images of America: Mt. Healthy
    The longer I live in this city, the more I’m interested in the history.
  • “Let me begin by saying…”: Debut Novels—James Braziel, Birmingham, 35 Miles and Alan Drew, Gardens of Water
    One of these days maybe I’ll get around to writing a debut novel.
  • The Short Story: Dead or Alive (We’d Like to Know)—Moira Crone, What Gets Into Us and Donald Ray
    Pollock, Knockemstiff

    I love to read and write short stories. They’re a tough market, but I don’t want them to die!

She’ll Take What You Give Her, As Long As It’s Free

Yesterday morning I got a free cookie from a box that an anonymous benefactor left on the counter at work. It made my morning because, like most people, I like free stuff. Free is one of those catch-words that immediately grabs my attention. Free food, free books, free concerts, free anything: I’m there. (Well maybe not anything. I’m not a fan of free water torture or free poisonous snakes. Though I did get excited the other week because I got a free flu shot, which is probably a little sad.)

I’m an editor not a marketer, but it would seem to me that in these times of economic lockdown, free is one of the first things we’d have to say goodbye to. How can anybody make money by giving stuff away for free? It might be time to fully embrace the old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Not everyone thinks so.

Last week I read about the profits for Radiohead’s last album, In Rainbows. Before it came out in stores, they allowed people to name their price and download it from their website. It turns out that even though more people downloaded for free than paid, Radiohead made more money before the album officially hit stores than they did on their whole previous album, Hail to the Thief.

It’s not a foolproof business plan for a lot of reasons. Books aren’t the same as music, nor are their buyers. And, come on, Radiohead is enormously famous, and F+W is well… we’re the Midwest Publishing Empire! Nevertheless, some authors and publishers are using free merchandise in their marketing strategy, and proving that free and marketing strategy just might belong in the same sentence. Publishers have always given review copies to the media for reviews, but now some are bypassing the media and going straight to readers. Will it work?

We’ve done it here with some TOW Books, offering free downloads to warm people up to the imprint. John Warner takes a look at publishing’s dark times and gives his reasons for the free promotion in his tongue-in-cheek press release.

This week M. J. Rose is giving away digital copies of her new book, The Reincarnationist. In a crowded market she believes “reading my whole book for free as a way of discovering me as an author.” She also attests that this method has worked for her and several others in the past.

I have no idea how this trend will turn out for books. But I do know that people like free stuff, tell their friends about free stuff, and try stuff for free that they’d never pay for—and end up getting hooked.

Creating a Monster

The effect that autumn has never fails to astound me. Every season has its moments of inspiration, but the hot, lazy days of summer, the new growth of spring, and the cold, shivery winter nights don’t seem to hold quite the same magic as a crisp fall day.

Fall has always seemed a much more appropriate “beginning” of the year than New Year’s. There’s back-to-school sales and new school supplies, sweaters and football season to look forward to (or dread, I suppose). For me, two years ago it was a plane ride to England; last year it was a plane ride back. Each beginning comes with a reinvention of myself; foreigner and ex-pat, and prodigal daughter.

That reinvention is what I love about Halloween. Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said, “It’s come as you aren’t” night but I think it’s also a chance to explore other traits and aspects of our personality. Feeling grouchy? Dress up as a monster. It’s less about performance than it is about having fun and letting down one’s hair, so to speak (I don’t recommend anyone dress up as Lady Godiva, it’s a bit too cold for those kinds of shenanigans).

I haven’t decided on my costume yet, but I better get crackin’. It’s just around the corner. I’ll give it some thought tonight, when sipping hot tea and curling up with a blanket and a good book. I’m thinking Frankenstein.

October 2008
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