Friday 30 October 2009

Hold Me to Account: Month two stats of a self-publisher


Smashwords: (this month has been much flatter and more consistent - and I've been on holiday so I can't be exact - so I won't give the day by days) 266

My website: 2

Year Zero Website: 1

e-mail requests:

Scribd: 3

Total: 272 (target 300)


Direct from Lulu: 1

My orders from Lulu: 15

Sold through bookshops: 13

Direct sold by me:

Ordered online from me: 1

Total sold: 15 (target 25)

Significant events:

There were no significant events plugging the smashwords downlaod, as I noted last month. This month I have been gearing my energies to the book launch in Oxford (specific blog on that coming in the week), and launching the blog of the Year Zero website.

At the start of the month, I joined operation ebook drop, a project launched by ex-serviceman Ed Patterson in which authors offer servicemena nd servicewomen free ecopies of their book to put on Kindles so they have something to read on their tours of duty. My involvement is not something I've publicised because it's not designed to promote the book but to help peopel who need books to make a terrible situation more bearable, but it may be relevant. I have had two personal e-mailed responses, so this accounts for at least two downloads.

I have had 3 reviews this month (links from here):
3 October from Scott Pack of 5th Estate who used the phrase "Some moments of genuine promise in this debut novel suggest that Holloway could have a future outside of the world of peer review sites and print on demand"

6 October from DJ Young, who was using the book as an example of "the quality of what can be: ebooks or print-to-order offerings from independent or self-publishers are often maligned as the ghetto of the publishing world. With so many economical changes happening, the idea of the author/entrepreneur who provides direct commerce with his readers is no longer a bad joke publishers and agents can tell themselves anymore."

28 October from Erica Friedman, CEO of Yurikon, the lesbian manga publisgher who said "Songs From the Other Side of the Wall is a *very* good book"

October 10: the Year Zero blog goes live. We have had new fiction there almost every day since, in additionto articles on the craft and nature of writing and a weekly advice column. This has improved our visibility across the web. We are by no means anything other than minnows, but we have gone from around 50-60 hits a day to over 200, and yesterday we had 356

A number of articles came out aboutYear Zero this month, where my name has been mentioned, at Emprise Review, Editor Unleashed, Moxie Mezcal, and Fake Plastic Souks. And on 29 October Digital Book World referred to this monthly column. (All the links are available here)

29 October was the launch for the book in Oxford. It was held at the Albion Beatnik bookstore in Oxford, in conjunction with the album launch for singer-songwriter Jessie Grace, whom I chose because she sings like the main character in my book (she is also brilliant)

On 6 October the book was featured on the Aspiring Mangaka and Writers Club book tour

I was on holiday and utterly inactive on the web from 15-22 October (not pre-announced for security reasons)

I missed both of my targets this month. That despite a successful launch (all 13 bookstore copies were sold there, and aroudn 60 people were there on the night) and some favourable reviews.

I am still not Amazon listed after the Published by You debacle on Lulu. I have not been able to afford my ISBNs through Nielsen (more pricey than through Lulu) and have chosen to wait rather than get a free Lulu one. I believe this will hold back sales considerably online.

Nonetheless, I am upbeat about the possibilities raised by the launch and the progress on the Year Zero site. I am planning another event in London in December. Now that I know I can both organise such an event and coordinate with musicians successfully, I will be uch more proactive in seeking regular media coverage. My naming names policy means thatI must point out that my local paper, The Oxford Mail, refused to cover this event, which I find both surprising and highly disappointing, as they have covered previous things I've done (maybe that's why!!). I hope they will be supportive in future, but I also hope my "I don't change policy" means I stick to my guns - I am the same now as I will be if I ever get successful, and my book is the same. I hope I am polite and courteous always when I approach people, and I hope I offer interesting content. If, therefore, I DO ever get successful, media who give me the brush-off now will get the very minimum cooperation from me then.

Coming next month:
My university alumni office has arranged a big event in Berlin celebrating the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As this ties in with the book so well, I decided it would be daft not to do something with them. They have agreed to promote the book and I will give them £1.50 from each book sold from Lulu in November and December. This money will be donated to the Student Counsellnig services. If this works and sells some copies, I would like to extend it to causes I care about much more next year,and to whom I can present figures.

I believe a couple more reviews will come out next month.

I will be focusing my efforts on organising and promoting the main Year Zero launch in London, and Free-e-day, and will have little time to promote my own book. On the ther hand, the Year Zero press material wil be much more organised from this month, and will be more targeted, and the book will be included in the "our books" part of the press pack. Nonetheless, in the light of this, and the ongoing ISBN dilemma, I expect November to be a fallow month. So my predictions are:

Downloads: 200

Books: 5

Thursday 29 October 2009

Going Bananas

A while ago, I interviewed Banana the Poet for my View From the Shoe column. It was, and still is, the most popular edition of that column I've had. You fell in love with Banana and her take on the world. So when she told me that The Alternative Poetry Book was now available on Amazon, I wanted first to give everyone the chance to buy it, and second to use it as an excuse for another interview. So here she is, the wonderful Banana:

1. Your poetry brightens many people's days on twitter and elsewhere. Do you get frustrated when people see you as a "happy poet"? And is that part of why you've deliberately written this book in two styles?
I try not to get frustrated by anything. Being seen as a "happy poet" is lovely! I'd rather be seen as a beautiful sylph-like figure with the intellect of a mega genius, but anything positive is good and at least "happy poet" is attainable as an image.
As for deliberately writing anything :) I wish! I just spout poetry day after day after day ad infinitum. I had no idea of a book when I wrote them - let alone a series of seven books. But when I did decide to package them up into a book form I already had two poetry blogs - one for funny/silly poems and one for serious poems.
This wasn't a purposeful thing either. I just started off posting my funny poems because I thought they would be most interesting for people and I felt less timid about them because it is always easier to share jokes than deeper feelings especially with strangers who might not be sympathetic or kind.

As time went on I gained confidence and realised that most people I encounter online are indeed very sympathetic, kind and supportive so I was encouraged to share my more 'raw' poetry. It didn't fit in my silly/happy poetry blog so I began poems-2-share.

I wanted to include both aspects of my poetry in my books and alternating 'serious' with 'funny' just felt the obvious way to go.

2. I love the any which way you can of the book. Which way is reading it back to front, and which is reading it the right way?

There is no right way and there is no wrong way. Any way that gets you through it is a good way. Upside down and in a mirror might be tricky - but hey if you fancy trying it - why not? I wonder if I should bring out a cloth book version for under water?

3. I'm not as versed in poetry as I'd like to be, but my limited knowledge of poetry makes me think, when I think of your book, of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. Is there anything in that?
You've guessed it! I am in fact Blake reincarnated only with more talent (that's a joke) and large bazooms (not a joke). I sing a lot higher these days, am both more innocent and experienced than in my previous incarnation and avoid tygers/tigers like the plague!
4. Why red and yellow?
Red is for the ketchup in my fried egg,
Yellow for the caterpillar crawling up my leg.

Together they make a bright, loud cover for my book,
They grab the eye and visually shout "come and take a look!"

Yellow is for butter, dandelions and sun.
Red is for the blood and danger deep in everyone.

The balance that is found in having Yin and Yang,
the colour and the life and the noise of fizz and bang!

5. You live in a gorgeous part of the world. Does that make writing poetry easier or harder?
Much much easier.

6. Can you remember anything about the first poem you wrote?
In this lifetime you mean? Not when I used to be Blakey?

I recently found while tidying out a drawer - a fragment of paper. It was very thin - almost toilet papery and carried the old familiar clonky blue typewriting that I used to bash out of my first plastic Petite typewriter. I must have been between 7 and 9 when I wrote it. My teenage son said on reading this "you were one seriously disturbed little doodie!" It's hard to argue with that on the facts :) Here's a facsimile of it:

TWERE night where winter dwelttt,
TWAS day when summer was felt ,
YOU n ever new when it would stop ,twirling , hurling , winter leaves whirling towards
you . Never, never whould they stop .
Till baby birds fall plop from their nests .
falling , falling from their nests . .

THE END-------------------------------------

7. Is there a poem inside you you feel you have to write - one day - but just can't bring out?
Goodness me no. I haven't got that sort of organisation or patience. I suffer more from poetic diarrhoea than poetic constipation. As soon as it begins to solidify - it's out there!

8. What reaction from a reader would please you the most?
The ultimate would be for a reader to read my work online and then feel so attached that they buy it in book form to re-read and share with others. Even better if they buy lots of copies for their friends, relatives etc or one for every room in the house because they couldn't bear to suddenly want to read one of the poems and not have the work to hand immediately!
But just reading it online and having an "Ah! I liked that," moment - for whatever reason - is absolutely all I ever really hoped for and more than I expected.
I'm writing to please readers, they don't need to please me.

9. Do you think poetry should be taken more seriously by people? Or less?
I don't "do" should - if I can avoid it. As long as people choose to take poetry at all they can take it anyway they want. I like my poetry in a certain way and that is the way I produce it. But if others have other ideas - that's fine - as long as nothing is imposed on either me or them we can all swim along together in the same sea without getting in each other's way.
10. What next?
I have no idea at all. That's what is so exciting about life - you never know what will happen and there's always something new and surprising to explore.
Thank you so much!

Monday 26 October 2009

The View From the Shoe: Lilian Wu

Lilian Wu ( is the driving force behind the wonderful Aspiring Mangaka and Writers' Club. Hi, Lilian:

Hi everyone~! It's a great pleasure to be here, thanks to Dan. I go by many names on the WWW but you can just call me moon, which is short for moontique. =3 Ever since I discovered the internet, my online presence has been growing steadily as I create blogs to satisfy my craving for writing. It's almost like an addiction and one that I'm happy to indulge. My most successful blog to date is the Aspiring Mangaka & Writers Club ( where I blog writing/mangaka-ing related posts to encourage people to step closer to their dream of being published. It takes up a great deal of time and it doesn't earn me revenue but at the end of the day, I'm happy I'm helping people fulfill their dearest dreams. =3
Hope you guys enjoy the interview and oh, you can also catch me on these other blogs:

Thank you so much for your time. So, Louboutin or Converse?
Actually, I'm not much of a brand person. LOL. As long as the shoes look pretty, fit comfortably (no high heels!) and fall within my price comfort zone, I don't mind buying it.

Why is there no one in the world who does it quite like you?
For some reason, I have the ability to make people enthusiastic about my projects. Maybe it's the very excited way I talk about them. =x

What do you really, really love about it?
I get to write about my passion, have people hang on my every word and meet lots of interesting folks from all over the world~!

A bit more time in the day, or a bit more money in the bank?
I don't mind a bit more money in the bank. =x It's not fun to be living from hand to mouth every month.

Imagine you “make it”. You wake up, and imagine the day ahead. Tell us about breakfast.Two words.
MacDonald's pancakes. =3

What’s your Jimmy Choo? And what’s just cobblers?
As weird as it sounds, I'm not much of a shoes woman. =x I don't really collect shoes and I don't go crazy over shoe sales. Only when I have spare cash to spend, do I really go crazy over them.

Tell us about the last time a fan made you feel 100 feet tall.
I once wrote a post about being a writer in Singapore. To my surprise, I found many readers agreeing with me through their comments on the blog. It may sound like a very simple thing but when you get a comment on your post, you stop feeling like you're blogging for nothing and you start to feel loved.

Independent and poor, or under contract and rich?
Under contract and rich. Like I said, you can't be creative when you constantly have to worry about your financial status.

Do you remember that bit on Play Away where Brian Cant stood behind people and did the actions whilst they spoke? If you could choose anyone to stand behind you and do the actions to your sales pitch, who would it be and why?
My boyfriend. He does deadpan very well and I'm always for deadpan humour. Although it might take some persuading (and bribing) to get moving. =x

Frocks or socks?
Frocks...especially those that flatters my figure. LOL.

Thanks!! Lilian

Saturday 24 October 2009

Dealing with the Dark Places: Writing and Self-Doubt

This post is a culmination of several things that have happened in the last couple of days. First, I read an amazing post by my friend Eric Robertson over at The Indie Handbook about his battle for his identity. Then Larry put me onto a thought-provoking piece by Jeanette Winterson on how creative people take the wounded substance of their souls and try and remake it into something alive. Finally, yesterday Sabina England, whom many of you will remember from my interview with her, removed her coruscating masterpiece Brown Trash from Authonomy again. All that, and I've just uploaded the first two portions of SKIN BOOK, a piece of writing that's left me almost hollow.

A year or so ago I made a comment on a writing forum that every author at some point, if not all the time, believes, deep down, their work is worthless. I was told by a writer I still respect a huge amount not to be so ridiculous. No real writers thought like that. This post is about why he's both utterly wrong, yet somehow right. It's about the dark places. It's about Self-doubt with a capital "S", the kind of dount that penetrates us in the night, latches itself to every part of our soul we ever values, and sucks the colour and the worth from us until all that's left is the dank, grey nothing of shame - shame that we could ever have considered ourselves anything but worthless; shame that we could have imagined someone would have wanted to read our work; shame that we stuck our head so stupidly above the parapet; shame, and embarrassment, and fear at hat the world will say when the darkness recedes and dawn brings into sight the chorus of laughing, mocking faces that surround our bed.

Being bipolar, I am aware I have a strange relationship with doubt. Some of the time, in my hypomanic highs, I am convinced within a week I will be feted the world over. Some of the time, in the black dog lows, I know the whole world sees my worthlessness.

It's that second feeling that stays with me in the "well" phases, when the rest of my life is balanced. Like many in the arts, I am great at hiding it, even from myself. I guess I could teach others to do the same, call it NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and charge a fortune for the privilege.

But I don't want to. When I'm blogging, and when I'm mingling, or networking or whatever you want to call it, that kind of learned self-deception is actually rather useful. But when I'm writing - even when I'm speaking, or reading, things I genuinely love doing, it's not. Winterson made a wonderful point, about the way art doesn't come from the surface. It wells up out of our wounds (her phrase), it's a pressure that bursts through our fragile surface like magma (mine).

And that's the point with writing. It HAS to come from the dark places of doubt. It has to come from hurt and pain and unconfidence. Because writing for readers is like being with a wild animal - if you act it, they'll sniff you out and kill you.

[A philosophical aside - why am I equating pain, hurt, and self-doubt? Because, at a fundamental level, they are the same. Existential pain is the consequence of recognising that one is not self-sufficient. It's about coming face to face with your brokenness - and THAT means acknowledging how far short of perfection we fall. And how can we meet that recognition with anything but the most crippling self-doubt?]

So, all real writers experience self-doubt in a base, tautological sense (because if they don't their writing is of little value). I tend to think they also FEEL it, much of the time. And it is, like I said, crippling. Literally.

The key moment comes when we realise that our imperfection is the result of nothing other than being human. It is our common bond with every other person. And what's more, it is our acknowledgement of that imperfection - it is the fact of self-doubt - that means we, more than the 90% of "I'm all right Jack"s out there, have the possibility, however remote, of creating something of value.


So my good friend the well-respected writer was, in a way, correct. Real writers don't - at a level deeper than the existential - at the level, Heidegger would say, of being itself - have doubt. But only because real writers know that it is only their doubt that gives their writing value.

Rita Hayworth famously said that she could always failed at relationships because they went to bed with Gilda, and woke up with Rita Hayworth. What she failed to realise, of course, was that it was only Rita Hayworth who made Gilda Gilda. And failing to realise it destroyed her.

And that's the trouble with being an artist or a writer or a musician, or anyone in the arts. The very thing that has the potential to set your work above the mass is something that could, literally, kill you. It did for Rita Hayworth; it did for Kurt Cobain; it has the potential to do for any of us who take that step and admit we want to be more than average. Because the one thing that keeps 90% of people safe is that practised self-deception. And when you're an artist, you make a pact to practice that as little as possible. It's why many creative people with mental health problems refuse to take medication to take the edge off their lows. It's a pact with the devil.

But the devil has the best tunes. And the best books. That's why.

Friday 23 October 2009

Crystal Kindles: what does 2010 hold in store in the literary world?

It feels like I've been away for an age. In reality it's been a week in Northern France eating rillettes and thinking about all things literary.

Which has given me time to think about the future - more important to get my foot in the door and be the first to ask what 2010 holds for the literary world. It wouldn't be a proper one of my blog posts if I just said "This and this and this will happen" so I'm putting a bit of a spin on things. First up, a few predictions about what I think the mainstream will be touting as the hot topics of 2010. Then a little something about the hot hot topics, the nascent waves they haven't seen coming. Not too much on the why and wherefore or I'll be here all night - just enough to get the conversation going; and maybe make some of it self-fulfilling...

Don't forget: when January 1, 2011 comes and I was wrong on every count, you can all have a good old laugh at my expense.


Read the blogs, visit the websites, read the trade papers, flick through the magazines, and what will you see in 2010 (the bandwagons it's too late to jump on though many will try)

1. Google Wave, Apple Tablet, Wiki-software as my TECH no-brainers (and yes, sadly I DO think some people will still think the Kindle's news in 2010)

2. PUBLISHERS will be talking steampunk (yes, STILL - you only think it's passe already because you're ahead of the game) and post-recession (thrillers, dramas of the Full Monty ilk, and lifestyle books - both how-to and "how I survived"). They will lock horns with writers over advances and publicity (or, at least, the more foresighted ones will). They'll also suddenly catch on to serialisation - Victoria Barnsley got there this year, when it was still almost newsworthy, but very few have followed.

3. The LITERATI will probably, courtesy of Neil Gaiman and the fact literature always lags behind art and Gormley got there this year, be talking crowdsourcing

4. PUNDITS will be banging on about the success or failure of Richard Nash's Cursor. The freemium debate will, inevitably, linger on like a stale odour, and some people will still think the price of ebooks is a debate because ebook sales will rise apace, masking the facts that 1 - talking about ebook pricing will be by then a category error in terms of obsolescent business models, and 2 - ebooks will, by early 2011, already be on the way out (despite continued rise in numbers). Note - this is a dead topic for pundits, but very much not for writers - the year and a half the ebook boom has left is very much worth riding.

5. WRITERS be trying to ride the steampunk wave once they've sucked vampires dry. They will also be engaging in full-scale war over Creative Commons, ebook pricing, and how to make a living from content provision. We will see some real disgruntlement at publishers, too, over decreasing advances and increased marketing demands - with particular objection to the demand for authors to do webcasts and YouTube trailers. More writers will catch on to the value fo chapbooks and special editions - expect to see beautiful one-offs and companion pieces.

And here's where the action's really at in 2010 - the waves that are still way out at sea with plenty of time to catch them before they break:

1. in TECH, intelligent paper is a long way from being viable as a mass commodity, but for those who love the book, it's where the smart money is. And for those who like reading on the run, the iPhone is old news but it's still the only news in town, but expect a raft of new apps from serialisations to interactive reading to exciting blue-tooth functionality like random read-shares and collaborative reading (blue-tooth-operated collaborative writing harnessing flashmob appeal is the future of wiki-software, but I'm not sure even the good people of Silicon Valley have figured that out yet - the potential for creating geo-specific novels this way, meshing geocaching, LAN gaming, extreme tourism, flashmobbing, and wiki-creativity IS THE MOST EXCITING DEVELOPMENT I SEE COMING, but it may be for 2011). The only Tablet worth speaking of is the one for the massive hangover B & N and Waterstone's will catch when their e-readers go belly-up. I like ether-pad and the kind of stuff MCM did with 3D1D, involving the reader in the writer's real-time editing.

2. The smart book trends for PUBLISHERS next year are world fiction (come on, we have so much access to so much incredible global talent - we need imprints backed by quality translation teams to tap it); and post-environmentalism: in particular books focused on individualism and existentialism (fiction AND non-fiction) - yet another reprint fo Epicurus would fly off teh shelves, and anything else that debunks the delayed gratification model of environmentalism as people realise 1. we're screwed anyway 2. there are more immediate dangers than climate change and 3. saving things for the future is a philosophy that has serious emotional as well as logical flaws. On a related note, look towards historical fiction that captures the same spirit - the 1920s, fin de siecle, early 1960s and early/mid 1980s are hot for this reason (in particuar the hedonism of the period - Punk is passe, New Romanticism will be, for a very brief window, cutting edge).

3.The LITERATI to watch will be playing cross-genre games - fed up of Bunny Munro and Punk Fictin, writers will want a piece of the music/film/art pie - and they'll want to bend them in literary ways. Collaborations are out (sorry, Mr Gaiman, you're passe in very many ways in 2010, albeit still successful), and DIY is in. And, dare I say it, as people start playing around with form and genre - Modernism is back.

4. PUNDITS may finally sit up and start asking ethical questions about the global implications of the future face of publishing - in particular, how to embrace, expose but not exploit emerging talent.

5. WRITERS should stop locking horns with publishers over advances and push and embrace new contractual models like ebook only contracts and zero advance contracts. They should also consider direct outsourcing - and in particular look to start creaming top music industry PRs into the literary sphere.

Can't make up my mind:

I want to say something about self-publishing and print-on-demand espresso machines, but I really can't make up my mind where to put them. My personal feeling is self-publishing is just a non-topic now - it's about how not whether it's acceptable. Espresso machines are tricky. I thought 9 months ago they were the saviour of the Long Tail. I still think they have a role to play, but I didn't realise just how quickly intelligent paper would progress.

And the "hot topics" that are just stone cold

I think Indie will be a buzzword in 2010 - bookstores and collectives in particular - but I also think these are battles that have been won already. There may even be people who tout niche as hot - it's not. It wasn't this year when I was talking about it. It certainly won't be next year. Collective likewise. I'm afraid anyone who is going to succeed with any of these has already started.

PLAY THE GAME AT HOME by ticking them off one at a time as they headline - or rather, watch as the bingo card stays blank. Happy predicting :-)

Thursday 15 October 2009

The View From the Shoe: Bee Drunken

Today's View From the Shoe is being posted on a Thursday because I am taking an internet break for a week in the (probably vain) hope that it will enale me to finish The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's shoes, and my next project, which I'm unveiling over at Year Zero. I'll be back online next Friday

I met the author of the marvellous Bee Drunken blog quite by chance whilst looking for a website for my favourite bookshop, Oxford's Albion Beatnik, and fell instantly in love with its exquisite accounts of culture and travel. Bee is also co-author of the unctuous, amazizing food blog, Domestic Sensualists.

So here's Bee, in her own words:

· Thank you so much for your time. So, Louboutin or Converse?
Honestly? I would have to say wellies and slippers. I would like to attribute this lack of shoe-cool to being over 40, but the sad truth is that my life in England is all about warmth and comfort. (When I lived in Texas, I wore lots of cute sandals, but essentially I am not a very style-driven person and I’ve been quite happy to lapse into countryside pragmatism and slobbery.)

· What do you do?
Well, I’m pretty much a grab-bag of hobbies and enthusiasms – and I do a lot, but in another sense, quite little. I’m a mom/teacher/wife/eternal student who makes a home-cooked meal every night. I’m a city person who lives in the countryside. I’m an extroverted loner. I’m the girl next door with a wide eccentric streak. I’m the person who will unexpectedly send you a card – just because it reminded me of you. I’m a very good talker, but I hate phones. I’m prone to tangents. I take my writing seriously, but I’m not very ambitious. I love it when people are passionate (and not afraid to show it) about their enthusiasms. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t found my true calling yet, but even if I never do, it will still have been a rich and satisfying life.

· Why is there no one in the world who does it quite like you?
I am an impractical and idealistic dreamer, but also a good plain cook who can multi-task. I have an English vocabulary combined with a Texan drawl.

· What do you really, really love about it?
I love that my personal circumstances allow me to travel a lot and be a bit of a dilettante. I love that blogging has enabled me to form friendships all over the world. I love that I am capable of “great gusts of joy.”

· A bit more time in the day, or a bit more money in the bank?
I would like to have more hours between dinner and bedtime. This is my favourite time of the day, and it always goes so quickly . . .

· Imagine you “make it”. You wake up, and imagine the day ahead. Tell us about breakfast.
Well, I expect that I will be in a self-indulgent mood; thus I would order room-service from some fancy London hotel that does extremely high thread-count sheets. There would be a big pot of tea and some cake. I would read all morning, from a choice selection of books, newspapers and magazines, and then perhaps venture into Town sometime after elevenses.

· What’s your Jimmy Choo? And what’s just cobblers?
My Jimmy Choo in life is a wondrous independent bookstore that also sells good coffee, tempting baked goods and beautiful cards and is located, ideally, next to an equally wonderful grocery store or market. My idea of cobblers is that frozen-food shop Iceland.

· Tell us about the last time a fan made you feel 100 feet tall.
Any time I get a comment . . . because I’m easy that way.

· Independent and poor, or under contract and rich?
(How poor am I?) I hate deadlines and fine print . . .

· Do you remember that bit on Play Away where Brian Cant stood behind people and did the actions whilst they spoke? If you could choose anyone to stand behind you and do the actions to your sales pitch, who would it be and why?
Since Banana already took Oprah, I’m going to opt for Michelle Obama. So many reasons for the because, starting with her husband: but also because she has a great smile; she is smart and stylish; and she is much tougher and taller than I am.

· Frocks or socks?
Socks, for 360 days of the year. Very occasionally, a frock.

Monday 12 October 2009

The View From the Shoe: Roland Denning

I "met" Roland well over a year ago on the writers' site Youwriteon. Since then I have met him for real. Twice. He's not only the hugely talented author of The Beach Beneath the Pavement, but not a little creative with the camera. Which is one reason I wanted to speak to him. You must. must. must watch his films - oh, and read the book.

So, in his own words:

The Beach Beneath The Pavement, ‘a satirical novel of conspiracy and paranoia in London’s dark corners’ came out earlier this year under the auspices of Type Of Thing press, coincidentally the imprint of the author, Roland Denning. A brief and unsuccessful flurry of activity with a literary agent earlier this year impelled Roland to author a series of short animation films featuring a robot called Roland and his dealings with the world of publishing. Roland the Robot bears no relation to the character of Roland the author, so it was probably a poor choice of name. These films are, quite possibly, much better than the book.

Thank you for inviting me into the Year Zero for this interview, Dan. Also particularly nice that you sent a car for me. Been even better if you had paid the driver, but you can’t have everything.

Thank you so much for your time. So, Louboutin or Converse?
I’ve always favoured a Saint-Emilion if red, a Pouilly-Fuissé if white. Not much time for this New World stuff. Am I being too facetious? Sorry, interviews always make me nervous.

Why is there no one in the world who does it quite like you?
I wrote the formula down in my own hand writing. No one else can read it. Even I have trouble at times.
By the way, there doesn’t seem to be anybody else in the room. Apart from the camera. And the man with the gun. Where are you hiding, Dan?

What do you really, really love about it?
I suppose when I write something that makes people laugh. Actual, spontaneous hearty laughter. You can’t fake that, and you can’t deny it’s happened. That is, as long as it is meant to be funny. (If they do laugh, I always say it was. This has ruined several relationships).

A bit more time in the day, or a bit more money in the bank?
The older I get, the more aware I become that our lives are finite and incredibly short. It seems like only this morning you asked me to do this interview. Oh, it was. Sorry, to answer the question, of course the former. You can always steal money.
By the way, any chance of the bus fare back to Camden?

Imagine you “make it”. You wake up, and imagine the day ahead. Tell us about breakfast.
My breakfast has always been, as long as I can remember, one slice of toast with vintage Oxford marmalade, one slice of toast with Marmite. I don’t see why I should change that now I am rich and famous. Maybe it could be served by, or possibly on, beautiful naked young women.

What’s your Jimmy Choo? And what’s just cobblers?
i) A ripe Alphonso mango, some Thai grass, and Trout Mask Replica on a very good sound system.
ii) A Golden Delicious, warm lager and Trout Mask Replica on a broken Dansette. Which is how I heard it first. Some things have got better.

Tell us about the last time a fan made you feel 100 feet tall.
When I had a girlfriend who was only 3 inches high.

Independent and poor, or under contract and rich?
Is this an offer? I think if there’s a contract out on me, money isn’t going to help. Do you know something I don’t know?

Do you remember that bit on Play Away where Brian Cant stood behind people and did the actions whilst they spoke? If you could choose anyone to stand behind you and do the actions to your sales pitch, who would it be and why?
Do you remember in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad, where Sinbad fights the six-armed Kali idol? She would be good, although you might say that’s an unfair advantage.

Frocks or socks?
It would have to be frocks. Standing naked in just your socks you feel so stupid. As I do now. You never told me why I had to undress for this interview.
Can I go now? I don’t like the way the guy with the gun is looking at me.
Have I got the job?

Sunday 11 October 2009

Year Zero Writers has a blog. God help us all

This is an announcement as well as a post. Year Zero Writers now has a blog on its site. So now you can finaly get to know us all individually, and get a flavour of all our styles and projects and concerns. Just look us up by name in the categories heading to find our individual posts. I would dearly dearly love it ofyou joined us from time to time - but for one post only I'll reproduce what I wrote there over here as well.

Welcome to Year Zero Writers.
I’m Dan. I’m the one who blogs all over the place about the future of publishing like the long lost love child of Wittgenstein, Cassandra and the authors formerly known as Homer. Bear with me. The medication takes time to work.

Just so you know, all my posts here are Creative Commons. You can reproduce them and do what the hell you like with them except make money and forget to tell people I wrote them. If you want me to come over and take part in any debates on your blog, just holler. I’m listening most of the time. Or maybe that’s just the voices.

When I started writing The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes, one of my favourite authors, Patti DeLois, told me what I was doing was like creating a virtual campfire. I liked the phrase. And I’ve been thinking about what it means ever since. This ramble about What.Year.Zero.Means.To.Me. is a result of those musings.

Two years ago I spent a week in Marrakech. It’s not only a magical place in its own right. It’s hugely important in the world of storytelling. At the heart of the city is the Djemma el Fnaa, a giant square leading into the labyrinthine souks where you can sample everything from sheep’s head to snake charming. But at the heart of its heart, as the sun crawls down the sky and the fires light to warm against the cold desert nights, are the storytellers. True, most of what they rehash are third hand versions of popular legends, but this place is significant because it’s the only place in the world recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for something intangible – its oral storytelling.

So whilst global groups campaign to save the whale, the tiger, the ozone layer, or the rainforest, we have allowed one of the most important aspects of human life to come within an ace of extinction.

How? Because, in part, of the book. And the industry built on its fragile spine. When words were put on the page, and then set in type, and bound between covers, something happened to the story. It got “fixed” – like a pastel drawing, or a photograph. And as more and more stories got fixed, and faithfully reproduced in edition on edition, our attitude towards them changed. We saw “books” as precious. We saw the form of words they contained as sacrosanct. We forgot that a book, that words themselves, are no more or less than vehicles for stories – the most basic means communities have of sharing amongst themselves, of thinking about and deciding upon their values, of expressing themselves, of uniting, of understanding and combating their fears.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books. But I love books because I love stories. I love stories because they speak to me. But many of the stories I find in books don’t speak to me. They’re written by people unlike me about situations unlike mine. And when I have a question, they refuse to answer.

Year Zero Writers produce books. But we are, first and foremost, storytellers. This site is the square at the entrance to the labyrinthine souks of our weird subconsciouses. For me, a story isn’t fixed on the page. It breathes, as the person who wrote it, and the person who reads it, breathe. I DO believe there are storytellers, and people who listen and question. Culture isn’t a free-for-all. It’s a conversation. And the stories that emerge are the product of that conversation – articulations of answers to questions, attempts to convey the choices people face and the decisions they might make, efforts to deepen understanding, to ward off fear, to overcome prejudice, to reflect the reader back, but in a way that’s somehow transformed and that offers not new knowledge but greater self-knowledge.

Pick up your plateful of dinner. Imagine the sun setting over the sand, and pull your clothes tight around you. Let your face feel the gentle heat of the fire. Come with your questions, sense the security of the hands of others holding yours, and enter the cold desert night with us. It WILL be morning. The sun WILL rise, and you WILL leave. Different from how you came. You can cry. You can scream. You can reach down into yourself, take out your heart and lay it bare. It’s OK. It’s dark here, and no one can see your face save in the deep, cavernous shadows cast by the fire. Whatever you left outside can’t get in. You’re safe. You could be a fuck-up or a freakshow, we don’t care. As long as you’re here you’re one of us.

Now that you’re sitting comfortably, shall we begin?

Saturday 10 October 2009

When Dan met Sabina

I used to work in a luxury flooring showroom in a fairly affluent part of the country, so I've met a fair few people who are allegedly "celebs" but I can honestly say I've never been starstruck - or not until last week. I was really rather nervous as I skipped down the steps beneath a twenty foot tall plastic Freddie Mercury and into Tottenham Court Road tube station, because I was about to meet the best writer I've ever come across. Like, ever.

Sabina England is better know to some of us by her online monikers lie DeafBrownTrashPunk (authonomy) Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist (blogger) and DeafMuslim (twitter). It was on Authonomy I first found her, and her coruscating novel, a brutal, brilliant twist on the post-slacker 'burbs, Brown Trash. Online she's blunt, in your face, pretty much as brutal as her writing if she thinks you're an idiot, and (which some people have been unable to get their head around) hyper-sensitive and insecure about her work. She's also known for her mohawk hair.

Which is why the first thing I remember thinking was "What happened to your hair?" Rather embarrassingly, instead of "hello" or "how's the play going?" (she was in England for a fortnight, promoting the iopening of her play, How the Rapist was Born, at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden - running till October 17), I think that was the first thing I said as well.

"I died my hair so many colours it started falling out," she said. "So I cut it all off." She made a sweeping, cutting action with her arms. When Sabina talks, she does it with her whole body. She does everything like that. Tiny, nuanced details just aren't part of the way she works - she puts every bit of her body and soul into everything she does. Only I soon realised the nuances ARE there. Her mind, like her body, is never still. It's always rushing ten steps ahead, playing tricks, branching off and waiting for the world to catch up. The result is I felt like I'd spent a week with her, talking and hanging out and exploring and getting to know her. But in reality it was just an hour and a quarter.

We started with coffee. Standing outside Starbucks at the start of new Oxford Street, I suggested we go in.

"Fuck Starbucks!" she said, turning and giivng the finger to the building. So we went for a great little place under Centrepoint called "First Out", where Sabina enthused about the walls filled with stsr portraits painted in glitter.

We sat outside, me drinking an espresso, she smoking and taking in ("Am I drinking the soup?" she asked, slurping from the spoon, "Or am I eating it?", taking a great gulp) a broccoli and stilton soup with lashings of cress ("What the fuck's this? It's gree, so I guess it must be healthy"). She told me about her week. About her session watching the cast rehearse - eyeballing them through the whole play until they were terrified from what I can gather (although she then broke into one of her wonderful, toothy, expansive smiles that melt her features entirely, and told me "I was so happy with them". It felt like the experience had meant the world to her - everything seems to mean the world to her. Which is why her work's so brilliant; and why she's such an exciting person to be around. And why she comes across as so vulnerable); about her afternoon in a school encouraging young Muslim girls to be creative - "they kept looking at me and asking 'are you a Muslim?' 'Yeah I'm a Muslim;'" about the Americans who started texting their mates druing a performance "theat's so rude!" she says. She looks genuinely hurt, and I realise the Sabina who took people's criticism and, it has to be said, utter rudeness to heart on Authonomy, is 100% genuine. "It's my play!" she continues. "MY PLAY. How dare they?" And for the first, but not the last, time, I'm reminded of Tracey Emin, and I find myself thinking I hope the world's nice to her and she's OK.
Then we walk up Charing Cross Road. We head into Foyle's where I learn she loves graphic novels, and her favourite author is Aravind Adiga. She picks books off shelves and opens them all with a sense of delight - "have you read this one?" she asks. "And this one?" "What about this one?" We head into a guitar shop on the corner of Tin Pan Alley, and dive into the labyrinth of Covent Garden, where she takes me to the Tristan Bates Theatre and shows me the posters for her play. I ask her to sign a flyer and she goes bright red.
We turn off Shaftesbury Avenue (she hates the anodyne, imported musicals. I ask her why she doesn't stand outside teh doors and shove flyers for How the Rapist Was Born into people's hands "Yeah!" she says, and her eyes light up), and she tells me anecdotes from her time in London. There's one about the famous playwright who came to see the play, and how she didn't know who he was till someone told her afterwards. "I was so RUDE to him," she says. "I wrote him an e-mail saying how sorry I was. I wasn't meaning to be rude but I get so nervous when I'm with lots of people." There's the story of a cabbie who wound down his window and shouted abuse at her. "I didn't know what he said" (Sabina has been deaf since she was a baby) "so I turned to the woman standing next to me and she said 'he said open your legs and I'll give you some pleasure - that's disgusting' but I didn't mind because he was hot" - people ahve problems coming to terms with Sabina's sexual frankness; it's something else that reminds me of Tracey Emin. Bloody hell, I think, when she tells me about the people who take offence at her play, have we really amde so little progress we still find it scary when a woman says what she thinks.
And she tells me about the lovely old Christian lady she's staying with she found on Craigslist. I picture their evenings together and I think it would make a lovely scene in a film. It reminds me of the scenes between Dot and Mary in Eastenders back in the mid 80s.
We head into Chinatown, where she stops and closes her eyes and takes in the smells. As we walk, her head is never still. "I love London," she says, and she gives the impression she's stuffing as many memories into her head as she can before she goes back to midtown, USA. We end up in an amusement arcade, where she plays a rally game and tells me how she used to hang out in the malls playing games as a teenager.
Finally we say goodbye. She smiles and says thank you for coming to see her, and I sense she's genuinely as grateful for every tiny compliment someone pays her as she is upset at every criticism.
I descedn into the underground at Picadilly Circus just 75 minutes after I sank myself into Tottenham Court Road, but I get on the train feeling changed. There are very few people you meet, and come away feeling life's different from how it was before you met. Sabina is a bright, traffic-stoppingly beautiful, brutal, brilliant person, the kind of person whose talent changes the world rather than being changed by it. It's certainly changed me.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Eastern European Blockbuster Auction

Herta Muller has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Eastern Europe is now HOT. Especially quality literary fiction about Eastern Europe.

So for one week only I am officially selling out and offering publishers the chance to bid for the hottest literary novel set in Eastern Europe that's currently unsigned, Songs from the Other Side of the Wall.

If you wish to check the quality of the novel, you may download it in full from here.

TO PUBLISHERS: e-mail me BY 12 NOON GMT THURSDAY OCTOBER 15 2009 at with the subject title "interest in Songs", and state your interest or your offer. I will open all e-mails with that title only when the auction has closed.

TO EVERYONE: If you would like to see Songs from the Other Side of the Wall cash in on the new craze for all literature anout Eastern Europe, leave a comment here; tweet this page to publishers; stumble this page; digg this page, and otherwise bring this opportunity to publishers' attention.


The day the Berlin Wall came down, Jennifer returned to England, abandoning her week-old daughter, Szandi, to grow up on a Hungarian vineyard with 300 years of history. Now 18, Szandi is part of Budapest’s cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. She has finally found her place in the world. Then a letter arrives that threatens everything, and forces her to choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover.

Songs from the Other Side of the Wall was a number 1 book in 2008 on both Authonomy and Youwriteon.

Scott Pack of The Friday Project said last weekend "Some moments of genuine promise in this debut novel suggest that Holloway could have a future outside of the world of peer review sites and print on demand"

US blogger DJ Young said two days ago: "Like Sputnik Sweetheart, Holloway’s prose gives shape to his characters and delivers us to a time and place, from the end of the Cold War in east Europe to the dead-end enclosures of modern Oxford, the world inside and out, the interior mechanisms and escapements that tick and tock, leading to the next hour or the next half-empty station. Songs, in a sense, reads like the inner life of 21st century bloggers and artists piecing together whatever has been left behind by the last generation.

"Like K in Sputnik, Sandrine is searching for something frustratingly vague and all the clues left behind only bring her to a kind of self-knowledge, though not the kind she was seeking. Interconnectedness is another theme of Songs, so, unlike Sputnik, we are given a narrative resolve to Sandrine’s journey, one that takes up the loose ends of these relationships – parent and child, lover and other and the wanting nature of love – and sets them adrift, free."

Random House, critiquing the book for Youwriteon, said: “Your voice is very fresh and original…Sandrine is an engaging, intriguing narrator…Your writing is extremely good, very lyrical but always with the aim of moving the story on.”

Harper Collins, critiquing the book for Authonomy, said: “An artful style, with some very striking moments…The parallelism of a person and a country coming of age; the past’s haunting of the present in both; the hopes and fears of different generations: all these are rich veins that you exploit well, and provide a fascinating core to the book”

I am a self-publisher. I am a happy self-publisher. But for one week I will, with respect to my own work, but whilst carrying on blowing the trumpet for my fellow Year Zero Writers, forget that. FOR ONE WEEK. And then it will be too late. Any cashing in to be done on Mueller's success will be done by me, and by Year Zero, and us alone.


Monday 5 October 2009

The View From the Shoe: Awkward

Today, I speak to someone who goes only by the name of Awkward. Or, to anyone who knows them on Twitter, Very Awkward. Awkward makes themost exquisite hand-knitted accessories, with a texture so ine they could be the oldest lace.

Thank you so much for your time. So, Louboutin or Converse?
Converse, as a matter of fact, coffee-and-cream ones. Louboutins look nice, but given the means, I would skip them and have a whole selection of John Fluevog’s boots and shoes instead.

What do you do?
I make things. Currently, all my efforts are almost exclusively focused on my etsy shop, where I’m trying to stock up small winter things in hopes of being able to expand and start offering other clothing as well.

Why is there no one in the world who does it quite like you?
I think most other people manage their time more effectively. I like to use complicated, slightly archaic design aesthetics, thin string, small needles, and old buttons, and I like to design as I work. It’s hard to imagine anyone else working this seriously and having such a ridiculously circuitous approach.

What do you really, really love about it?
The textures, colors, and potentials in a new box of yarn are amazing; it’s like being immersed in some sort of synesthetic paint box. The entire process--being able to turn what is essentially just nice string into something warm and cozy and wearable, something you imagined in your head or at best sketched out in skeleton design notes, and then having someone else whom you’ve never even met fall in love with the result--is kind of indescribably joyful for me most of the time. I really really love the tactile pleasantness of it, the usefulness hidden beneath the tactile and visual appeal, and the way most knitting and needlework builds on itself in a way that often reminds me of simplified fractals.

A bit more time in the day, or a bit more money in the bank?
I’ve already kind of given up having more money in the bank in favor of having time to work on things I’m most passionate about, so embarrassingly I’d prefer the second at the moment.

Imagine you “make it”. You wake up, and imagine the day ahead. Tell us about breakfast.
Breakfast is slightly non-existent for me, and I don’t imagine that will change--but I do imagine I’d have many more varieties of tea and coffee on hand. Upon waking, I’d laze in for a while before giving up my spot in a warm bed, then get up to go to the kitchen and stand indecisive in front of the tea cupboard. After briefly fantasizing about my potential to starve to death in indecision before lunchtime, I’d make two mugs of tea--one for me and one for my favorite-person-at-first-sight, who is possibly the only human being I’ve ever met who is sleepier in the mornings than I am, and even less interested in breakfast. It would be really good tea.

What’s your Jimmy Choo? And what’s just cobblers?
As far as independent designers go, I am really smitten with Gibbous Fashions, and their blog, which is I think they’re brilliant and strange, and I really like their designs--all of which seem to be one-of-a-kind, elaborate concoctions that I wish I could have for my own. The website’s also beautifully designed with typewritten scraps of text, buttons, and frayed strands of sequins. I am really the opposite of smitten with the fetishization of the artist, particularly lately--it annoys me when I find myself getting caught up in it, and I also think that it plays into the problems creative people face in finding ways to be paid for their work, since you’re supposed to be unconcerned with mundane things and able to exist without benefit of sandwiches apparently.

Tell us about the last time a fan made you feel 100 feet tall.
I’m not sure I have any fans, per se, but recently someone let me know that they were very thrilled with a neo-Victorian-style button cuff I had made and it had me floating around with an idiotic smile all day. I really really liked it, and was strangely concerned about sending it off; it’s completely exciting to me that the new owner likes it at least as much, if not more.

Independent and poor, or under contract and rich?
Both! Wait. It depends on the contract, and whether as an independent I would have so little money that I’d be almost imprisoned by my own independence. It’s a tricky question; a non-restrictive, lucrative contract could fund independent work.

Do you remember that bit on Play Away where Brian Cant stood behind people and did the actions whilst they spoke? If you could choose anyone to stand behind you and do the actions to your sales pitch, who would it be and why?
If I ever got to be really very famous, I would like to hire at least one stunt double to play me whenever I had to do any kind of sales pitch or PR. Preferably the double wouldn’t really look like me, and would be taller, and when people pointed out that they suspected we were two different people we’d both act completely shocked and aggrieved that anyone would say such a thing, especially when we were spotted together. An old friend of mine who’s much more extroverted than I am would be the ideal for this, but he’d get mad at me if I praised his acting talents here, and rightfully so--it would give the scheme away. It is possible that I don’t remember the bit you’re talking about at all. I hope no one notices.
Frocks or socks?
Socks! Usually very tall ones. Curiously, I’m much better at choosing socks or stockings and then finding a frock to fit them, rather than the other way around.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Pirates Ahoy! Why the media just DOESN'T GET the ebook piracy issue

OK, not ALL the media necessarily, but I came across this terribly written article yesterday, and it's representative of most I've seen on the issue of the ills of Ebook piracy

Let me outline the gist (but please don't take it from me - I AM biased, I may have distorted it) of Randall Stross' article "Will books be Napsterised". As a result of file-sharing the music industry lost vast revenue streams. As Ebooks take an increasing share of the book market, the same will happen there. The problem lies with file-sharing sites like Rapidshare. Sites like RapidShare allow anyone to upload files and then post the URL for others to download them. Whilst they will remove copyright-infinging files on the request of the copyright owner, these files are not policed upon upload. RapidShare talked to Mr Stross, urging publishers and authors to learn from rent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails and use free downloads as part of their business model. Stross ends with a retort to this suggestion:

"I will forward the suggestion along, as soon as authors can pack arenas full and pirated e-books can serve as concert fliers."

Now, there is so little analysis and so much fabulation in this article I couldn't deal with it all (apparently e-book hardware is "on the verge of going mainstream", for example, whatever that means (I didn't see a single reference to the Kindle or the Tablet, and nary a mention of teh phone vs reader debate, by the way)).

OK, it's time for my disclaimer. I hate plagiarism. It sucks, and sucks major. In fact, any form of copyright violation sucks. And it's NOT a victimless crime. But. But, but. But, but BUT. The way to beat pirating is, I'm afraid, as RapidShare's spokesperson say, to incorporate free downloads into your business plan. That's not giving in, it's not kowtowing. It's the way it is.

The obvious way to do that is, as suggested, to study the successful musicians. I've been talking about gigging and merching for authors ever since I got into the blogging business, and I stand by what I've always said. Culture is culture. It inspires communal events, it inspires fans to desire souvenirs, to desire contact. These things aren't unique to music. And as an advocate of the "freemium" model, I'd have to say I think content itself can be charged for in different formats - the special edition, the regular paperback even.

What we need, as authors, is to work - collectively and individually - on ways to adapt to the file-sharing world. I DO have a problem with exploiting fans. I don't like the idea that some people pay for my stuff and others don't pay for the same thing - so for me, ebooks have to be either free or not free (or it jas to be transparent which is which). I DO think, though, that we need to loko for soemthing slightly more exciting than "free".

Part of the thing about file-sharing is the fact that it creates communities - where has the industry's sense of history gone? Do they not REMEMBER the Warehouse and Rave scene? The buzz of these things is that they're outside the usual channels - an anonymmous URL on a bulletin board, a phone box on the M25. It's the same thing. These are communities that exist and get their energy from being on the outside. Bring them inside and they instantly use their energy. So "free" isn't the only answer - that would be like having your parents sit down to watch Debbie Does Dallas with you on your 18th birthday.

As authors we DO need to use free, but we also need to be clever how we do so (but not, as I say, so clever we pretend our ebokos are for sale to try and make it seem a thrill to pirate them - that just exploits our fans). I'm not 100% sure what all the answers are (but Kevin Kelly's 1,000 true fans is part of the answer). But THAT's the interesting debate - not whingeing when we left the sweet shop open that someone took our candy canes. And I never thought I'd say this, but the places we need to be looking are those semi-legal communities that use bulletin boards and chatrooms - the modern equivalent of rave culture - be it the BDSM scene, or the dogging networks, or the secretive supper clubs I saw on the news the other day. Come on, guys - we're meant to be creatives, aren't we?!

A further piece of logic that niggles at me. Until now, when I've talked about authors following the music model, and "doing a Trent", I've been told - as Stross concludes - that the two types of fan are fundamentally different, so it won't work. If they're so diffeernt, why worry about "Napsterisation" (other than for the rather unprofessional sake of using an emotive word)? Surely if books ARE "Napsterised", that's just one more piece of evidence for those of us who maintan culture is, fundamentally, culture; and fans are, fundamentally, fans. And if they download stuff, they'll pay for things they like.

A final point, Mr Stross. You complain that the group the file-sharing sites never mention are authors and publishers. And HERE, I'm afraid, you give yourself away. Stop speaking on my behalf, please. As a writer, I'm more than happy to embrace file-sharing. It's not the people who file-share my work I lose sleep over. It's the people who DON'T. The people who will lose out in the new landscape are the publishers. Please stop bundling our fate as writers in with theirs.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Be Part of Something Amazing

You may remember that several months ago I mentioned a hair-brained scheme for an online festival called Free-e-day, the idea for which was that a whole bunch of independednt creative people would offer something of their work for people to keep, for free, on December 1st.

Like me you probably thought that was the last you'd hear of it. But what has actually happened since then is that 58 writers, artists, bands, musicians, magazines and indie organisations gave so far got together to offer something and support the event. 24 of them have sent me pages with fantastic creative stuff on. These, along with a bit about the event, and a directory full of weblinks to where the free downloads will be available (many are available now), comprise the first brochure for the event, the cover for which you can see here.

You can download the brochure in full from the Free-e-day website, or you can read it on your screen by clicking "read now" on the bookbuzzr on teh sidebar of this blog (or at the bookbuzzr site).

There are also loads of workshops and webchats going on on the day to encourage debate as well as to offer practical help to independednt creative people. It's also looking more and more likely there will be a real-life concert on the day.

Now there's something tangible for you to see, I hope more and more of you will want to join up and get involved. Remember, you're giving something away for free for one day. But the next time fans out there have money to spend on a CD or a book or a picture, maybe, because of Free-e-day, they'll look beyond the usual places to get it.

So drop me a note here if you want to take part, share the bookbuzzr, tell people about the event and the site, and get as many people as you can to sign up to the Facebook group (there are 200 members so far - the more we get the more creative types we can get on board). And you could be part of the next brochure.


Free-e-day is 1 December 2009

Free-e-day 2009 is a celebration of the independent creative spirit.

Free-e-day is for every singer, writer, artist, artisan, photographer, film-maker, whatever who believes that the most important part of culture is the fans. And it’s for everyone who loves culture and wants to experience the very best of it, or just try out something new, for free.

Free-e-day is the chance for everyone and anyone to give some of their work away for free, as a thank you to their current fans, and a present for their new ones.

Free-e-day is the world’s biggest showcase for the massive, indomitable, indestructible, joyful, independent creative spirit of the human race.

Free-e-day is the chance for everyone to discover the most exciting culture the whole world has to offer.

Free-e-day is a 48 hour (because we recognise that a day starts one side of the date line and doesn’t finish till it reaches the other side) carnival with online events like webchats and debates; and workshops to offer advice to anyone who wants to do it for themselves.

Free-e-day is not a directory. It’s not exhaustive. It’s not a list of stuff that’s available for free. It’s a celebration of a group of amazing people who’ve all endorsed the principle of being fabulous in their own way. It is, in other words, a community.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Hold me to account: Month one accounts of a self-publisher

OK, time for the first month’s report. This was always going to be the most exciting one, because the first always is. So let’s see first what it says; second what happened this month; and third what that means.


1. The stats


(I’m going to break these down day by day because they tell a tale:
3,9,5,17,14,11,8,14,10,10,11,6,15,12,64,25,19,64,14,12,50,25,20,18,22,8,13,9, 14

My website: 2

Year Zero Website: 1

e-mail requests:

Scribd: 9

Total 544


Direct from Lulu: 3

My orders from Lulu: 25

Sold through bookshops: 1

Direct sold by me: 5

Ordered online from me: 1

2. The calendar (what I’ve done, where I got a mention)

Sep 1 – Farm Lane Books gave me a mention and announced she’d bought a copy from Lulu
Both Jaffe and Neale in Chipping Norton and Albion Beatnik in Oxford agree to stock the book
Sep 2 – One in Four magazine are going to run an ad for Year Zero
Emprise magazine offer to do an interview about Year Zero
Sep 4 Barnes & Noble deal announced by Smashwords
Sep 9 into stock at Albion Beatnik, and a date (29 October) fixed for a reading
Sep 10 3 copies sold to conference participants
Sep 14 invited to guest blog on the Aspiring Mangaka and Writers Club website (and the book will be featured there on 6 October)
Sep 16 listing on Finding Free e-fiction
Sep 21 e-mails form two media figures interested in review copies (names omitted until reviews published, if published)
Camden Lock Books, in Old St Station, stocks the book
Sep 22 ebooks Just Published lists the book
I take part in Operation ebook drop
Benny Platonov is offered free, meaning all 3 Year Zero titles are free ebooks, and we can begin presenting a unified platform
Sep 27 My college alumni office offer me a promotional opportunity (more if/when it happens)
Sep 28 Smashwords is down for about 12 hours
Sep 29 I receive requests to guest blog on 2 writing sites about Year Zero
Smashwords announces a deal with Sony.

3. Analysis

Downloads: The smashwords stats tell some interesting stories. I didn’t think there would be such apparently obvious correlations between downloads and events, but there are. Viz:
- The figures jumped from single figures (before Sep they were also 3-10 in general) to regular double figures ON THE DAY the deal to list with Barnes & Noble went live
- Listings on the web fiction guide and novels online did not meaningfully affect figures (it seems). The listings on Finding Free Efiction and Ebooks Just Published most definitely did – AND had a residual effect.
- When smashwords went down for most of the day, there was – unsurprisingly – a big effect on downloads

Books: These are lower than predicted. I can offer the following analysis.
- I predicted a spike from friends and family sales – largely because this is what “established wisdom” tells us happens with self-published books. This hasn’t happened. With family the reason has been “we’re waiting till we do our Christmas shopping”. Friends – well, I try not to “sell” to friends because it’s distasteful, and most of them haven’t gone and ordered the book anyway.
- Things move slowly. I have had progress in terms of getting agreements to do reviews, but they take a long time coming. The first will be out this weekend.
- I’ve managed to arrange some great book readings. I’ll be at the Book Club Boutique on October 5th, and will have a music and wine and reading night in Oxford on 29th. In other words – these are all in the future.
- I haven’t mentioned above because it has been ongoing, but there have been serious issues with my ISBN and subsequent Amazon listing (several people citing “I’m waiting till it’s on Amazon”). I purchased a “Published by You” package with Lulu, which comes with 10 ISBNs. This was in July. Then, at the start of August, Lulu changed their offer without informing people who’d already bought it that it was no longer available. Customer service refused to answer e-mails. There was no help on the forums. FINALLY this month I found a post on the Lulu blog. I had an e-mail and a refund within 48 hours. Impressive, and worth remembering for people – go to the blog not the usual help channels, BUT leaving me still without an ISBN

Next Month:
Downloads: I will struggle to match this month’s because I’ve had the initial spike from listing on the main efiction sites, and I don’t think enough time has elapsed for people to have read what they’ve downloaded and start spreading word of mouth. I’m saying 300
Books: I am hopeful of 25, based on bookshop sales.