We’re Indie Bound … Or Are We?

So today is sort of a beef/vent/getting out of my own head post.

Right now in my little town book shop I’ve seen this emergence of these brightly colored red/white/black posters screaming Indie Bound.  I figured since I’m Indie, with an organic interest, I wanted to know more.  I mean, anything Indie I get get behind.

In case you’re unfamiliar … Indie Bound is this: A small organization that moves consumers to find small, local shops and encourages a person to opt to spend their money there as opposed to big box stores (a la your local bookstore over B&N).  And the kicker is, the movement is truly geared towards books.  While Indie Bound does list shops from clothes to bikes and nearly everything niche market in-between, Indie Bound appears to have a sweet spot for books.

I then found what is called Indie Next … a list of best selling Indie Books.

PERFECT.

I was really juiced up over this for all the obvious reasons.  That was, until I started playing around on the site …

While Indie Bound is still all about small Ma & Pa shops, the books they have on their “Indie Next” list are … um … anything but Indie.  Here is the list:

WILD (published by Knopf)

THE COVE: A NOVEL (published by Ecco)

THE BOOK OF JONAS (published by Blue Rider Press)

SACRE BLEU (published by William Morrow)

ANGELMAKER (published by Knopf)

THE GODS OF GOTHEM (published by Putnam)

Are you catching a reoccurring theme happening here?  None of these novels … not a single one … is the work of an Indie Author.

These books, touted as Best Selling works of Indies are actually just another best selling list from publishers.  Bah!

When I took this to the Kindleboards, I was told by another writer that “Indie was once how “small publishers” referred to themselves” … and I suppose, maybe if this was 10 years ago, I could agree.

But is that was Indie is anymore?  I don’t necessarily agree.

In my mind, Indie means “DYI” … it means you’re the one who does the work, makes 70% of your sales and there is no publisher giving you an advance or sharing in your royalties.  To me, big 6 or small press, you’re trade published.

My question is … do you agree?

 

 

I went to bed at 9!

Obviously, lightning doesn’t strike twice since, yeah, it’s 9 and I’m blogging … but last night, a miracle, I was asleep at 9 o’clock.  Not falling asleep … not watching TV and trying to sleep … actually, full blown, dead ass out like a light.

The last time I went to bed at 9, it was probably 2010, it was before I had a book-baby, before I decided to become one of those people who can casually mention they trained themselves to go on four hours of sleep a night.  In 2011, bedtime was always around the witching hour and for the most part, I’m always up before the sun.  So, you can imagine my joy when I literally passed out so early … then, a real miracle, I woke up before the alarm.

All day I thought about the things I’ve given up over the past year, sleep being one of the many things.  And it’s almost amazing how little I miss those things until, like a full nights REM sleep, I rediscover them.

Okay … now I need to go back to writing In The After … just thought I’d share a very random thought with ya’ll.

Complete Ridiculousness

Maybe you’re a bibliophile.  Maybe you love the idea of rare, incredibly expensive novels lining the wooden shelves of your library.  Maybe you have money to burn.  Or, maybe you’re just ridiculous.

Yesterday I was cruising around on Amazon, checking out my book, my ranking, my reviews when I noticed a few online vendors had picked up The Milestone Tapes for their stores.  Amazing!  I was excited, so I clicked on the list.  99% were normal, prices were average for print.  Then … I came upon Invise.

Apparently Invise (with it’s 92% satisfaction rating) has decided my book is worth … make sure you’re sitting down when you read this … $888.00 + tax + shipping.  I had to laugh. If you buy a book for damn near $900.00 you can’t even get free shipping?  COME ON!

But in all seriousness … I think this is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of stupid in my day!).  NO ONE should ever pay that much for my book … and I’m almost embarrassed a seller has the balls to ask for that price.

I don’t know how Invise came up with this price … but however they did, they should really, really consider figuring out another method.

A Little Something for Your Easter Basket

So, there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny.  I figured this out when my mom told me the same was true about Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  Bummer.  I mean … who doesn’t love the idea of a giant rabbit running around leaving candy?  But, it’s true … he doesn’t exist.

However, in the spirit of getting goodies I’ve decided to do something I haven’t done thus far … for one day only I am making The Milestone Tapes free for my readers and followers.  I’m the Easter Bunny this year!

From today (4/8) through tomorrow (4/9) The Milestone Tapes will cost you nada via Smashwords if you use the coupon code YR98A to make your purchase.

Enjoy your holiday and snag a copy currently ranking in at a full 5 stars on Amazon and a respectable 4.8 stars on Goodreads!

XX,

Ashley

World News, Quite A Happy Birthday!

I’ve been, maybe, the worst blogger in the history of the world.  I apologize (it feel’s like I’m always saying “sorry” here … sorry for that!) …

I just returned from a trip out west, the place where it all started for me.  365 days I stood on Rialto Beach and said “it’s time to figure my life out and live it authentically.”  I knew what that meant, where I needed to go and what I needed to do … now, I’m published.  It was a crazy year, but the accumulation of it couldn’t have been more justified … I needed to stand there again and feel the completion, the accomplishment.

Today, I turn 29.  The first year of writing has come and gone so quickly, I don’t really know whether to celebrate or cry because it was an amazing year, and I know I’ll never go back.  I’ll be that innocent again, or at things so simply.  It feels like I grew into this so quickly.

But here’s what’s crazy.

The day I turned 28, I decided to write a novel … the day I turn 29, I have an article about that novel feeding out of World News.  I don’t know if it gets better than that … it was a fluke of timing or the natural unfolding of things.  But either way, it’s amazing.

World News Article About The Milestone Tapes

Kony 2012

Today I was all set to write a post on the importance of publicity … of how to get your name out there, organized …

Then, I saw a video.  And my plans, like plans sometimes do, changed.

Sometimes there are forces you cannot ignore … and this, for me, was one of them.  Grateful am I to have this little platform to raise awareness about the book publishing and writing … but even more than that, I am blessed to have the way into your lives to put a spotlight on bigger issues.  Today, I’m taking full advantage.

Joseph Kony.  You may have heard of him … or, maybe not.  I certainly hadn’t until a link to a very long YouTube video slipped into my in-box.

Who is he?  The one word answer?  A terrorist.  The long answer?  A soulless warlord who is fighting for nothing but power. His crimes?  Are against humanity.  His army?  A band of kidnapped children.  Girls become sex slaves.  Boys become murders.  And he becomes more powerful for the lives he snatches up and takes away.

This link below will answer all the questions you may have:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-vcqLnxcPA 

If you’re reading this … chances are you have a blog, a Facebook page, followers … what I’m asking is simple.  Stand on your soapbox and SCREAM.  We’re all in an interesting position, one we’ve created for ourselves … we have voices, we are not invisible.

What’s happen in Uganda is wrong … and now, it’s spreading.  I encourage you all to post the above link on your pages, tweet it, drive others to look, to watch, to see and ultimately to care.  At the end of the day, these are just children and they need help.

 

Back To The Days Of Brick & Mortar?

For the past few years something has plagued Amazon … that something would be sales tax and the battle surrounding it.

If you’ve ever shopped with the online retail giant, you know, part of the glory and the low price structure of the site at large is the absence of sales tax.  This goes for nearly everything in stock.  The reason Amazon could pull off such a thing when other stores can’t is simple … the entire practice of no-taxes hinges on the little law that states without a physical presence in a state, the retailer is under no obligation to charge sales tax. Hooray!

This has perhaps been part of Amazon’s appeal … especially when it comes to big ticket items like the 50 inch LCD television right down to the $200 Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the Prime free shipping … customers on the site really do pay retail and not penny above.  May shoppers, myself included, will scope out items at physical stores only to return home and order them online … Chicago has a crippling 10% tax structure in place … as you can imagine, this has saved me many a dollar over the years.

But, in the past few days this tax-free model has changed and changed drastically.  Amazon has inked a deal with California (the biggest bitcher about the tax-free stance of Amazon) as well as a handful of other states.  By fall of 2012 expect to spend a bit more on your purchases via Amazon.com if you live in one of the taxable states. So what does this potentially mean for Amazon and the consumer?

It means that Amazon may very well be taking itself offline exclusively and branching out into the trade of brick and mortar store fronts.  With no more incentives to remain captive behind your computer screen, the online retail giant may just end up taking it to the streets.

No, you won’t be able to find that obscure sock for your golf club in store if this ends up coming to fruition … Amazon is said to be exploring the idea of selling their wildly popular Kindle family as well as exclusive books in brick and mortar store fronts, and the plan is to start with their home base, Seattle.  So … yeah … in a way Amazon is going back to their roots while simultaneously exploring uncharted territory.

Lets go back to the beginning, shall we?

Amazon originally was a book store  (back in the dark ages it seems now) … and all started in the garage of Jeff Bazo’s home where he attacked the internet by offering below-retail books online.  And then, it grew.  It quickly became the Amazon we know today, offering the consumer vitamins to vacations and nearly everything in between.  But Amazon has always been, and will always be, a book retailer first and foremost, it was their bread and butter and remains steadfast in their role (don’t believe me?  Visit the site, tell me what shows up on the welcome screen) … so it seems almost natural that if they were going to break a proven, successful business model … it would be for the love of books.

The peanut gallery seems divided on this venture of Amazon’s.  Some outspoken individuals are questioning the sanity of Bezos as his plans come to light … wondering aloud why, in the dawn of brick and mortars going under at a neck-breaking pace, Bezos would gamble with a venture that seems and feels slightly ancient.  Others are just excited … and by others, I mean the independent authors who stand to have some shelf space in a store that, by all intents, could be as big (if not bigger) than Barnes & Noble where shelf space if typically reserved for the trade published.

But, why … that seems to be the million-dollar question on everyone’s lips.  Why would Amazon tinker with their success when book stores are going the way of dinosaur?  For me, the answer can be found in the behind-the-scenes antics of it all.

Last week, Barnes & Noble broke the news that they were drawing a line in sand — any book that was exclusively sold through Amazon (aka Select) wouldn’t be welcome in their stores.  And on the heels of that, Books-A-Million made a strikingly similar announcement.  Now, it’s pretty common knowledge that B&N isn’t the most Indie-friendly ground and for what it’s worth, it was exceptionally rare for an Indie to secure space in their store anyway.  In my opinion, it was no great loss for us but a tremendous loss for them.  They essentially were telling the customers, we don’t care what you want to read … we only care about having the upper hand.  This announcement was cloaked under the “fair trade” moniker … we saw the same thing with DC Comics this past Holiday season.  But, B&N is doing little more than whittling away at their own nose, since they hardly practice what they preach signing an exclusive with REAL SIMPLE and announcing it proudly mere hours after chastising Amazon for doing practically the same thing.

Whatever.

My suspicions is this: While there is a revolution in play for us writers … there is an all out war for the bookstores, one that could use the muscle and aptitude of a business like Amazon.

Amazon has always been keen on fleshing out fresh talent and growing itself as a business to include imprint publishing and a self-publishing imprint.  They are forward thinkers, always evolving to meet the needs of consumers as the consumers needs grows and changes.  And while the day of the book store may be slipping away, the era of Amazon is on the cusp of breaking free.

Amazon is creating rules as easily as they are breaking them.  They don’t look at PUBLISHING as an old-boys club where the “do-no-wrong” mantra is chanted throughout the empty halls … they look at it honestly and see the flaws … and then, they work tirelessly to correct them.  Now, they’ll do the same with BOOK STORES.  I can see them spinning B&N like a top … recreating the consumers idea of a “book store” by putting their own twist on things.  And for that, I’m excited!

 

 

 

 

Human Interest Piece

It’s not often, if ever, I’m truly angry enough to write a human interest piece, but this blog has become a platform for me, so please, bear with me My blood is boiling and I simply can’t sit by and nothing.  I have to scream this from the top of my lungs, and beg of you all to do something from my knees.  I’m going share with you a story and my appeal is that you please, at whatever the cost, boycott Office Max.

I’m posting this now … nearly the middle of the night … because I can’t sleep with it on my mind.  I keep asking myself if that were my child how would I feel … and I implore you to ask yourselves the same question after the reading …

In the area where I live there is a program for special needs children.  These children aren’t really children anymore, they’re adults — young adults living with disabilities.  Thought they have the bodies and abilities of other grown adults, the majority have autism, and live within the confines of their own minds with very few verbal or social skills. In this program, they are given the opportunity to learn life skills hands on.  They get up in the mornings, pick out their clothes, go to school (which is a form of continuing education after they have graduated out of traditional high school), board a bus and off to their “jobs” they go.  Companies open their offices and in return, they are provided with free labor.  It’s a trade.  The young adults are learning about working in big business setting in support roles, the companies are getting services at gratis for allowing this.

One of these companies is Office Max.

This post is about one student.  He will go into their building and clean all the conference rooms.  This means, he will vacuum, wipe down surfaces, empty trash and restock what needs restocking … it’s not glamorous work to say the least, but it’s honest work — and that’s matters more. He, like all the other students with their various jobs, is paid nothing for his time and effort, but he does it willingly each week without a complaint.

The incident occurred a few days back.  The young man cleaned everything required of him and he was thirsty when he finished.  The aide said to him … lets go ask the receptionist if there is a drinking fountain.  There wasn’t.  But, there was a water cooler in the break room that he could get something to drink from.  The aide accompanied the young man into the room, where he helped himself to a small cup and poured himself some water.  It was then that he caught the eye of some of the paid employees.  They, thinking it would be funny — knowing he was disabled — decided they would charge him for the free water.  The young man didn’t have any money … but the employees refused to let him drink until he paid, so his aide stepped up and covered the cost unsure of what else to do.  Speaking up could have jeopardized the students job and the schools ability to place students there.

He may be disabled, but he is a thinking, feeling individual.  He was terribly embarrassed, singled out for the amusement of others who had nothing better to do that harass a young man trying to better himself by going to school and doing a job for the sake of experience.  He was thirsty and they preyed on him.

THIS is unacceptable.  THIS is discrimination.  THIS is disgusting.

It’s unfortunate but true … we live in a world where we divide ourselves by our differences more often that we come together because of similarities.  The out-and-out humiliation of this human being only stands to highlight that fact.  And what consequences are there for such actions?  None that I’m aware of.

Why did this happen?  Because these employees didn’t see him as peer or as a fellow worker, despite the job he does so that they can comfortably conference in a clean and orderly place in order to effectively do their job.  He was nothing more than a target … and an easy one at that.

So, you’re probably wondering … why am I blogging about this?  Because the aide, whom I happen to know very well, begged me not to address corporate directly … though I’m all but gnawing off my fingers to keep myself from slamming them for such antics and allow such vitriol to take place in their local headquarters.  I’ve decided, as a compromise, I’d publicly shame them instead.  Embarrassment for embarrassment, if you will.

I writing to you as someone who works a job where I consume office resources.  Paper, ink, pens, this, that and the other … I know you all do too.  So, I’m asking you … when you need to restock, do it anywhere but Office Max.  You have options, use them.  Don’t give this company a penny of your hard-earned money.  Reblog this posting with the nifty little “reblog” button.

This man, he doesn’t have the means to speak up for himself … so speak up for him by taking firm and serious action on his behalf.

Please … and thank you.

 

THIS Is What’s Wrong With Publishing … And It’s A ‘Shore’ Thing …

And here we can see our best selling author, Snookie, hard at work!

::Insert eye-rolling, grumblings, nausea, and a little bit of wondering what the hell is wrong with this world::

Yesterday … The Kindleboards were down … we’re talking 16.5 hours of silence on the home front.  In between doing some beta reading and review reading (of two fabulous forthcoming releases, by the way, … yea for sneak peaks!) I started mulling around the internet for bookish news I could eventually spin into a blog.

Than I found it, and I almost died … Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi … is … a … best … selling … author … ranked … on … the … New … York … Times … Holy Grail … List.  And, apparently, this is ‘old’ news.  Well people, this is ‘new’ news to me … and I’m just not having it.

Before I launch into a total tailspin and mock the world of publishing at large, let me share with you some choice quotes from our “New York Times” best selling author:

*Word of the day: sympathetic. That’s a big word. (Really, NYT best selling author … sympathetic is a “big word”?)

*I’m not sure what lobsters eat, but I think they eat like insects or something… so I was gonna feed them worms. (Good God, lady)

*[Vinny]’s like my big brother, I love him … but usually you don’t have sex with your big brother. (No, Snookie, you shouldn’t ever have sex with your big brother … and if he just feels like a big brother, you probably shouldn’t have sex with him either.  That’s good advice, girl … you can take it to the bank.)

*I wanna go on a boat, an island.. filled with gorillas. (High aspirations, I see … way to dream big girl, way to dream)

Oh, sweet Jesus.

I’ve watched The Jersey Shore … I own the fact that I do like trashy reality television and the train wrecks that join up, ironically, I view it as a break in reality — because no one really acts like that … right?   But, they do, and that’s the hook … kind of like animal’s in a zoo … you watch them from behind glass, because it’s safe there … and you laugh because sometimes they do cutely hysterical things.  But that’s where they belong, along with their antics … safely away from the public at large.

Snookie’s book, A SHORE THING, topped out as a NYT best seller.  It’s a bubble-gum book, totally YA, a beach read that will probably have zero impact on your life:

It’s a summer to remember . . . at the Jersey Shore.

Giovanna “Gia” Spumanti and her cousin Isabella “Bella” Rizzoli are going to have the sexiest summer ever. While they couldn’t be more different—pint-size Gia is a carefree, outspoken party girl and Bella is a tall, slender athlete who always holds her tongue—for the next month they’re ready to pouf up their hair, put on their stilettos, and soak up all that Seaside Heights, New Jersey, has to offer: hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila.

So far, Gia’s summer is on fire. Between nearly burning down their rented bungalow, inventing the popular “tan-tags” at the Tantastic Salon where she works, and rescuing a shark on the beach, she becomes a local celebrity overnight. Luckily, she meets the perfect guy to help her keep the flames under control. Firefighter Frank Rossi is exactly her type: big, tan, and Italian. But is he tough enough to handle Gia when things really heat up?

Bella is more than ready for some fun in the sun. Finally free of her bonehead ex-boyfriend, she left home in Brooklyn with one goal in mind: hooking up with a sexy gorilla for a no-strings-attached summer fling. In no time, she lands a job leading “Beat Up the Beat” dance classes at a local gym, and is scooped up by Beemer-driving, preppy Bender Newberry. Only problem: Bella can’t get her romantic and ripped boss Tony “Trouble” Troublino out of her head. He’s relationship material. Suddenly, Bella’s not sure what she wants.

The cousins soon realize that for every friend they make on the boardwalk, there are also rivals, slummers, and frenemies who will do anything to ruin their summer—and try their relationship. Before July ends, the bonds of family and friendship will be stretched to the breaking point. Will the haters prevail, or will Gia and Bella find love at the Shore?

For everyone who loves MTV’s hit reality show, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s sweet, funny, and sexy novel perfectly captures the heat, the energy, the fun, andthe drama of Jersey Shore.

So, our lead Gia Spumanti (or as I affectionately call her — Vanilla, Chocolate, Pistachio) and Bella Rizzoli are essentially fluff … slutty, tanned, men-chasing fluff.  Nice, Simon & Schuster … way to shoot for the stars … way to save yourself with literary integrity.

It’s not Snookie’s wild success with A SHORE THING that kills me … I can find value in all sorts of books, and appreciate their shelf value through the eyes of their individual demographics.  What kills me is this:

I remember the Golden Age of books.  For me, I was a senior in high school taking a self-guided reading class.  For an entire semester, we’d go into class with a journal and a book of our choosing, we’d sit at our tiny desks for the expanse of fifty minutes and read.  I have always been a fast reader, and gravitated towards thick, heavy, very wordy books … I made it my goal to read every book on Oprah’s list that semester.  And, I did.  It was there that my eyes really opened up towards the genre of Literary Fiction.  I was captivated by these stories of all different values — some heartbreaking, others hopeful … but I fell in love with reading in a different way in that class as I was asked to navigate a book and lean on my own interpretations.  It’s a love affair that has continued on since.

It was in that class I discovered Tawni O’Dell and her book BACK ROADS.  It was dark, disturbing, and exceptionally graphic … and I ate it up with a spoon.  I swallowed her words and invested myself in story and have been a huge fan of her writing ever since.  That’s the book I relished when I was “of age” to be consuming YA.

Now … in that class, with the teacher I loved so much for her nurturing the written word and her value of the English language, I can image a girl walking in with a copy of A SHORE THING and it makes me feel sort of sick.  Is that what coming generations are going to see as a good, worthy book?

I get it, kind of, that publishers are aching.  Gone are the big advances given to new writers … they want, ironically enough, the sure (shore) thing.  They know the massive fan power behind Snookie, and many of her NYTBSing counterparts. Popularity, in their mind, will flow-chart down into sales numbers. It has become less about the merit of a book and more about the reputation of it’s writer (though, I’d imagine many are Ghosted).

When people talk about the slaughtering of Traditional Publishing aka The Big Six, they think it will be because of the Indie Revolution taking root and then blooming.  I disagree with that stance, always have.

If we were talking strictly Big Six vs. Indie and the battle to the death, I’d say … whoa, wait, there is room of everyone.  If one dies, we all die.  Keeping everyone in play is in the best interest of books in general and at large.  The readers will be the ones who will suffer if one goes under.

But, I think the momentum of the Indie Revolution has less to do with the popular “us vs. them” mentality and more to do with what is in the market place.

If the Big Six are publishing books like A SHORE THING, then they will polarize an entire nest of readers who don’t find that sort of novel remotely valuable.  Those readers will make the decision NOT to spend $16.00 on a copy.  They’ll find a book they would prefer … or several books … from independent authors for a fraction of the price.  And that will be the ultimate undoing the traditional publishing, in my opinion.  It will ultimately boil down to a lack of viable, salable books which will be rooted in the fear of failure on the part of the Big Six.

Snookie is not to blame for this.  She’s just part of the bigger machine.  My guess would be that the publishers approached her … rather than the traditional, other way around.  My guess is that they offered her a Ghost and an advance and all she had to do was agree to sign her name on the dotted line — I find it hard to believe a writer, of anything, would consider sympathetic a big word.  And for that … I’m sympathetic towards her, because she has caught the brunt of people feeling outraged and disgusted — myself included.

I guess the moral of the story is this …

If you want a deal with the Big Six:  Get a reality show, act like a complete asshole on camera, and then wait for the offers to roll in.

2001

2011