Monday, July 15, 2013

3 books in 3 ways

The multitude of possible paths to publishing fiction is an ongoing preoccupation of mine. In the past few weeks I've been encouraged to see two writers, talented friends of mine, each make their work available to a growing readership. 

First, at StoryStudio Chicago, writer Jan Deal celebrated the launch of her story collection, The Decline of Pigeons. With characteristic enthusiasm, Jan read about a repo man forced to confront a past he's tried to set aside. Apt and poetic details, and careful rhythmic language help to lead the listeners through a narrative that explores regret, self-reinvention and potential yet elusive salvation. The young, naive narrator bares tender witness to the bleak circumstances and makes the dark, emotional content approachable, even charming. 
A number of the stories in the collection were published previously in journals such as StoryQuarterly and New Letters. The book is published and distributed by Queen's Ferry Press, a great regional press with an interest in supporting strong short fiction. A noble goal that too few publishers are willing or able to maintain. 

Jason E. Hodges of Gainesville, Florida has been punching keys for quite some time. He's a consummate craftsman, a prolific writer and an honest, by god participant in the long tradition of American Southern writers. We share many literary influences; the writings of William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and Harry Crews. He was fortunate to have spent time with, and to have interviewed the now deceased, but ever present Crews, who encouraged Jason in his writing. Jason's work has appeared previously in The Fringe Magazine, Camel Saloon, Indigo Rising Magazine, Raven Images, Dead Snakes and on his blog, The Dirt Worker's Journal. 

Recently Jason made an Amazon, kindle edition of his novella length book The Mailbox available to readers. It has been gaining slow traction and getting good reviews. I am a believer that fiction is a powerful tool for artistic expression, that it comes in all shapes and sizes, and that it can be distributed in a myriad of ways. As I read The Mailbox on my phone, while on vacation, I was struck by how perfectly it demonstrates that great, powerful fiction finds its own audience. In The Mailbox a fledgling writer's life unfolds cinematically from a compelling trailer park melodrama into full-blown nightmare. Jason's gift for description places the narrative squarely in North Central Florida, as if the story could  live nowhere else. 

And then there's my novel, Good For Nothing, and it's slow march toward finding a readership. A lot has happened since I summarized the situation in my last post. On the heels of the sale of the UK rights to Skyscraper, I've met several members of the publishing team, finished initial edits and am waiting on line edits. We've been corresponding a lot about cover design and marketing strategies. A hardbound edition should be available in September with paperback to follow in January. 

My industrious agents are gearing up to present the manuscript to North American publishers again starting in August. I've been introduced to a member of the agencies staff I've not worked with before, Beatriz.  She is putting together new materials in a visual dossier intended as a marketing tool specifically for the film industry.  

I was speaking with a well known novelist (if you follow the FictionDoldrums you can guess who I'm referring to) and she mentioned how much more difficult it has become to follow the traditional publishing path, the one that I am currently on. Despite the availability of digital books, significantly fewer titles are being sold now than a decade ago. Commercial publishers are in a circumstance that forces them to focus more and more on sales and less on supporting, nurturing and grooming talented writers. The only antidote, it seems to me, is an active consumer class willing to seek out good work in whatever form it takes. 

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