Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Am Not a Grownup.

One of my favorite people-watching games is to imagine what folks were like as kids. What were their favorite toys? What scared them? What were their favorite foods? Did they realize that they would one day have a really creepy mustache?

I think about this a lot because I also play the mirror image of this game with my own kids -- what will they be like as adults? 

But there's another reason I wonder about this --  although it's been twenty years since I graduated from high school, at no time in these two decades have I ever felt like a grownup.

I have done many grownup things since 1991, like get a law degree, drink scotch (on purpose), and sire children (on purpose), but for the most part, I still feel like I'm about fifteen years old. I like quoting movies and watching sports and eating junk food, and, now that I've got kids, doing kid stuff with them. I don't watch Meet the Press and I feel like a complete and total fraud when I'm wearing a tie. If there is a way to turn a snippet of conversation into inappropriate innuendo, rest assured that it's being done inside my head.

What's particularly funny is that in becoming a lawyer, I chose a profession that puts a premium on acting grownup. Probably not as big a premium as a job as a nuclear-missile-silo commander puts on acting grownup, but a premium nonetheless. 

But this hasn't made me feel more grownup. It just makes me feel like I'm pretending extra hard to act grownup. 

I'm fairly sure I'm not alone in thinking this. 

One might say that it's because most of us look back on childhood relatively fondly, and that nothing in adulthood can quite compare to the starry-eyed idealism of one's childhood. Put another way, we wish we were still kids.

But that's not entirely accurate. Because like Andy Dufresne clawing his way to freedom through Shawshank's sewer pipe, everyone goes through their own river of crap when they are kids, stuff that they would just as soon not repeat. For me, I was quite short (still am) and let's just say my mom had to buy my pants in the Husky size. This is the sort of delightful combination that gets you targeted like an al Qaeda bunker. I'm sure you've got your own childhood/adolescence horror story. 

And although there are days I wish I could shuffle off to summer camp like my son, I'm not sure I want to be a young kid again.

But like many of you, I follow Journey's advice, and I hold on to that feeeeeeee-ling. Which I guess is the point. You may not want to BE a kid again, but you always want to FEEL like a kid.

In fact, my worldview is deeply rooted in this general inability to accept the fact that I have grown up. For one, I've committed myself to a profession in which my two primary goals are to:

(1) Make shit up (I must say, cussing whenever I want is a pretty good perk of adulthood, although if I let one slip in front of the kids, they get a free shot at smacking my hand as hard as they want).

(2) Make you laugh. I'm talking about writing. Although I suppose this could apply to practicing law. Because that can be funny.

Making shit up and making people laugh is the same philosophy of life espoused by my five-year-old.

I know that this whole "wanting to stay young" thing is a relatively cliched topic, and I'm probably not adding anything earth-shattering to the body of work with this blog post.

All I know is that when I was a kid, I always assumed that I would one day feel grownup, and it never happened.

As proof of my failure to mature past the ninth grade, let's go live inside my brain right now.

INT. - DAY - DAVID'S BRAIN

Hears the word 'poop'.

Giggles hysterically.

END SCENE

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Jackpot: Now 99 Cents. (And Help Me Beat Tony)

It's that time of year when folks blow out of town like there's a warrant out for their arrest.

That means many of these summer fugitives are going to (hopefully) be loading up their e-readers with books to read in cars, in jail cells, by the ocean, and on the backs of unicorns.

And I want The Jackpot to be one of those books. 

So, effective immediately, I've cut the book's price to 99 cents for all eBook platforms.

Here are your buy links.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords 

My reason for doing this? I want to get this book out to as many people as possible.

And there are a lot of good books out there priced at 99 cents. So if you're looking at my book at $2.99, and some other awesome-sounding book at 99 cents, which one ya gonna buy? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Remember: You can still read my book on your iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Windows Phone 7, Android phone, Mac, PC -- no dedicated e-reader required. You just need the Kindle app, Nook app, or Stanza app (which works with Smashwords).

And not only can you get a tasty summer read about a stolen lottery ticket for less than the cost of a non-purloined lottery ticket, you can help me spread the word about this thing.

See, there's this friend of mine -- let's call him "Tony" -- who is decidedly unimpressed with my efforts to date. He said for me to call him "when [my] scout cookie sales go global - or even national!"

So help me do just that. Here are some ideas for Operation: Beat Tony

1. Please click on that Share link at the bottom of the FB post on The Corner's Facebook page or on my regular Facebook page.

2. Please consider leaving a review on Amazon.com or BN.com. It will only take a few minutes, but it is a sacrifice demanded by the almighty search algorithms of the online retailers.

3. Tweet the link to this page. If you're especially daring, toss in the following tag (also called a hashtag in Twitter parlance) at the end of your Tweet: #TheJackpot

Thanks for all your support. None of this would be possible without you. 

Hope everyone has a great start to summer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Sell Biscuits and Gravy All Over the Southland.

Today's blog title comes from Grosse Pointe Blank, one of my favorite movies, and it seemed especially appropriate for today's post about my recently concluded 20-year high school reunion.

I went to a very small private school, and so there were only 48 people in my graduating class. About a dozen came to the reunion. I recognized almost everyone instantly. My classmates have aged well. As one of my classmates joked, in five years, we will all look a little worse, and then in 10 years, we will look better again, thanks to the magic of cosmetic surgery.

Even though Facebook has largely removed much of the mystery of school reunions, which I imagine was once their primary draw, I was very happy to see all of these people in person. I heard fascinating stories about my classmates opening restaurants, serving in the military, appearing on reality TV shows, having children, getting married, getting divorced, and getting married again. I also heard about one of my old teachers, whom I long suspected might be immortal, cheating death time and time again in the last 20 years.

I know that the 20-year reunion is supposed to be one of those milestones in life, sort of like losing your virginity or watching the pilot episode of Lost for the first time, but it didn't really feel like it. It just felt like a group of old friends getting together and looking back on a ridiculous time in our lives, because what is high school other than the ridiculous time in your life to which all the other ridiculous times in your life are compared? Plus, I used to wear these kick-ass big-framed glasses that you often see in mug shots of someone who's been charged with something really creepy, so it was awesome seeing the old pictures.

People often say that they wish they knew in high school what they know, and yes, that is a tempting proposition. For one, I might have a had a little more success with the ladies. And by "a little more," I mean, of course, "any." But that, of course, would be cheating. Any good lesson in life is worth learning painfully.

That said, if I could talk to the 1991 version of myself, I would tell him the following things:

1. Do not be alarmed by the fact that two of the stars of the movie Predator will become governors. 

2. Your beloved Cleveland Indians will blow Game 7 of the 1997 World Series despite holding the lead in the bottom of the 9th inning. The team they lose to doesn't exist yet. Enjoy that one.

3. You're not getting any taller. Or better looking. Start being funny and start writing.

4. On one occasion, your Spidey sense is going to buzz so loudly that you're going to think you're insane. Ignore it at your peril. Let me know how that works out for you.

5. You will owe all your success in writing to an animated pig-bear-puppy hybrid.

So, on this Sunday afternoon, I take a sip of my Diet Pepsi and pour a little on the floor in honor of my fellow members of the Class of 1991.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Corner Turns 1.

If I could, I'd put a cake in front of The Corner and smear icing all over its face.

But alas, I cannot.

It's been quite a year. I'm not sure what I expected was going to come of all of this when I posted this little number on June 7, 2010, other than it would get me back in the habit of rounding up words like cattle and depositing them into the word pen.

Needless to say, things have gone better than I ever imagined. I made a bunch of new friends, I got a bunch of new readers, I signed with a literary agent, and I published a book. And for a short time in October, I was probably the most famous lawyer that no one had ever heard of.

I do love the statistics, so I'm going to stick a few in my trusty stat cannon and shoot them across the bow of the Internet.

Posts: 58 (including this one)

Blog Hits: 51,442

Number of Times My Videos Have Been Viewed: 1,952,737

Number of Times My Videos Have Been Viewed by My Mom: 1,952,716

Number of U.S. Presidents I Stayed in Same Hotel With: 1

Number of First Dogs I Scratched Behind the Ears: 1

Number of Copies of Wall Street Journal Article Featuring Me That I Purchased: 6

Number of Copies of Aforementioned WSJ Article I Know The Current Location Of: 0

Number of Tweets I've Sent: 950

Number of Books Published: 1

Number of Times I've Checked My Amazon Sales Rankings: Infinity + 1

So there you go. A little taste of the number-crunching that goes on here at The Corner.

And last but not least, I'm going to do that cheesy "it's my birthday, but I'm giving away the gifts" thing that you always see the cheap furniture discounters doing on television.

Ten random commenters who post a comment before midnight tonight, will get a coupon code for use at Smashwords.com to download their very own copy of The Jackpot for free. Smashwords carries formats compatible with all e-readers. Your comment can be about anything at all, but you must include the best book you've read or best movie you've seen in the last year. Please -- don't let me look all sad-faced and leave me hanging with fewer than ten comments. All my blogging friends will make fun of me.

OK, so that's all for now. It's been an amazing ride, thanks to all of you guys, and I hope you'll stick around for the year ahead.

David

Saturday, June 4, 2011

9 Rules for Not Sucking at Self-Publishing

To my fellow self-publishing writer peeps:

There's a publishing person out on the Inter-tubes who doesn’t think too much of the self-publishing revolution. Actually, there are probably a shit-ton of people who think this, but I'm thinking about one in particular. Not to put too fine a point on it -- he thinks self-published books suck. Obviously, he hasn’t read every single self-published book out there, so my guess is that he's seen enough to conclude that it’s not worth trying to find the diamonds in the morass of suckiness.

Often, I want to respond snarkily to him, but I do not.

Because in far too many cases, he is right.

The only thing we, as self-published writers, can and should do is this: Make damn sure our self-published books don't suck.

But making sure your self-published book doesn’t suck is hard work.

You must keep in mind that as soon as your book goes live, it will be competing against regularly-published books AND self-published books that have been professionally edited and formatted. You are in the big leagues whether you like it or not, and you will be eaten alive if you’re not bringing your very, very best game. 

And having lived and breathed it for the last two months, here are some things that I think it takes to not suck at self-publishing.

1. If you've queried a book (and if you're still reading this post, there's about a 1 million percent chance you've sent a query letter, will send one, or have thought about sending one) and gotten nothing but form rejections, don’t self-publish it. Somewhere along the line, you really need to have gotten some positive professional feedback, even if the agent (or publisher) ultimately passed. Feedback from someone who knows the business and has no reason to blow smoke up your nether regions other than for your writing's praiseworthiness. If you haven't, go on and write something else. 

My first manuscript, written in 2002, was an aromatic and steaming pile of crap, and I had the form rejections to prove it. If this self-publishing revolution had been around back then, I probably would’ve rushed it into an eBook format, and it would have been a gigantic mistake. Every writer matures at their own rate -- it took me three manuscripts to write something I believed was worthy of publication. 

2. If you haven’t read your manuscript at least 30 times with the cold-blooded eye of your worst enemy, don’t self-publish it. You must be beyond merciless with your work. Because if you’re not, someone else will be.

3. If you haven’t hired a freelance editor to thoroughly review your book, don’t self-publish it. I fancy myself a grammar ninja, slashing through the tender torso of you/you’re and its/it’s with my sword. I was amazed by some of the stuff I had missed.

4. If you haven’t hired a professional cover designer, don’t self-publish it. Look at the Kindle bestseller list, especially at the books priced at $2.99 or less. See any homemade-looking covers there?

5. If you haven’t hired an e-book formatter, don’t self-publish it. You trust Amazon’s formatting servers? Upload a Word document to your Kindle. Let me know how that goes for you. Your book's formatting had better look exactly like every book Random House publishes. 

6. If you haven’t read and carefully studied a book on the craft of writing, don’t self-publish it.  Before it becomes art, writing is a craft, and there are rules. Every single person in every single profession learns their craft before they try to compete with the professionals. The fact that you don't have to go through the query process anymore makes this no less true for writers pursuing self-publication. 

7. If you haven’t read dozens of novels in your chosen genre, don’t self-publish it. How can you write a good book if you don't know what came before? 

8. If you think anyone is going to cut you slack because you’re pricing your book at 99 cents, don’t self-publish it. Readers are going to expect your book to be as professionally done as the New York Times bestsellers. They're not just giving you 99 cents. They're giving you a couple dozen very valuable hours of their lives.  And you may get them the first time -- but if you let them down with some amateur work, it will be the last 99 cents you see from them. 

9. If your villain is a corrupt U.S. Senator, don’t self-publish it. Aw, shit. I just revealed the villain in my first book. Lucky for me, it sucks so exquisitely no one will ever see it. I didn't even tell you the best part! About 250 pages into the manuscript, I was running out of shit to write, so I introduced a secret group of CIA guys. 

The reason I think these guidelines are important is because they let you focus on putting out the very best product possible. 

Oh, and here’s a little secret. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO INVEST SOME MONEY IN THIS. There is something you need to do for your book that you CANNOT do by yourself, be it line-editing, content editing, cover design, formatting, something. You will need to pay someone to do it so it looks professional.

This is a business, just like selling rubber bands is a business or cleaning houses is a business. Guess what? Rubber-band sellers and housecleaners invest money in their businesses. They spend money in the hope of making more money.

Why do writers often think they’re somehow exempt from this reality of business? Because they're artists? I hate to burst your delicate little bubble, but you stopped being an artist the moment you decided you wanted someone to pay you for your work. Your book might be the most lyrical thing since Ini Kamoze’s Lyrical Gangsta, but you’re still trying to hawk it like a plastic bottle of Bud Light at a minor-league baseball stadium. Would you buy the bottle if it was leaky, warm, and sporting a giant yellow-green boogie on the side? As I prepared to self-publish, I downloaded a bunch of self-pubbed stuff to see what was out there, and that’s EXACTLY what many of those samples are – leaky, warm, and boogin’ out.

And I’m not talking a huge outlay of cash here. I spent $400 on a cover, content editing, and eBook formatting. This is a drop in the bucket of money I hope to make.

But I am talking about a huge outlay of work. When I fired up the self-publishing engines in March, I had a pretty complete manuscript on my hands. No major plot holes, no continuity issues, no real typos. And I still spent another 200 hours on it. Several hours a day for two months. Because I knew it was all on me. If I want to take on J.A. Konrath and John Grisham and Brad Meltzer and Lisa Scottoline and the other thriller writers, I had damn well be better than them. Not as good as them. Better.

If you’re willing to do these things, then you may find the experience as rewarding as I did. And who knows, maybe you'll be the next Kindle bestseller. At the very least, your book will not suck. And we can give this doubting Thomas -- all these doubting Thomases -- the big ole' middle finger of awesomeness. 

Good luck. Work hard. And if you've got other rules for Not Sucking at Self-Publishing, leave them in the comments. http://wahoocorner.blogspot.com/p/my-debut-novel.html