Sunday, 22 April 2012

Semi-Annual Vinyl Extravaganza

Today was a day off for me, so I took advantage by driving into Ottawa this morning to attend the semi-annual Ottawa Record Show at St. Anthony's Hall on Preston Street in Little Italy. It was absolutely packed today as collectors fought for elbow room to flip through the LPs offered for sale by a very good assortment of dealers from Ottawa, Kingston, and Montreal. I probably have a nice collection of bruises on my ribs and arms from being jostled and banged, and my feet got stepped on more than once, but it was a great time.

I'm always surprised by the number of young collectors that come out to these shows, and how interested they are in vintage vinyl. When you figure that digital audio technology revolutionized the way we buy and listen to music in the early 1980s with the advent of the compact disc, thirty years ago, many of the young collectors I saw this morning were still but a gleam in their mama's eye. How energizing it is to have to compete with them for that hard-to-find copy of Jade Warrior or Bill Evans!

Nice as well to see people sitting in the outdoor cafes along Preston Street afterwards, despite the very chilly weather, sharing their finds with each other. Vinyl record albums have a power over us to bring out smiles of pleasure that newer formats just can't match. Part of it is the cover art, which has plenty of room to work with on a 12.25-inch surface, part of it is in the liner notes, which you can read without a magnifying glass, and part of it is finding a pristine copy of a vintage gem with absolutely no scratches or scuffs, despite the fact it was sold forty years ago.

For many people it's also a social event, as collectors have a chance to talk about their hobby with the folks on the other side of the table who scour the woodwork for their stock. I had a chance to shoot the breeze for a while with Charles de Lint, the well-known urban fantasy author who is also a musician and vinyl vendor. He was selling all his records for $3 a pop, a phenomenal price given that they were all in perfect condition and covered all the genres I was looking for. We chatted as I raided his bins, ending up with 12 great finds, including a couple of early Bonnie Raitt albums (1973 and 1974) missing from my shelves.

It was that kind of day.

When all the fun was done, I'd bought a total of 35 albums for a total outlay of 85 bucks. Not a bad day's work, as far as I'm concerned. Now I'm going to flip over to Pinterest and post some jpgs of covers of some of my best finds. Come on over and check them out! Just click on the "Follow me on Pinterest" button at the top of the blog.

See you there!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Marcie's Murder Now Moving into the Bookstores

Now that Marcie's Murder, the second Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, is available in print, I've begun the process of getting it into the bookstores here in the Ottawa area. It's now on the shelves of Collected Works, a spunky independent bookstore on Wellington Street in Ottawa, Chapters Pinecrest, and Chapters Kanata. Blood Passage is also available in these three stores.

If you don't live in the Ottawa area, or even in Canada, but would like to get your own paperback copies from your local bookstore, all you need to do is go in and ask them to order it. The books are available to stores through the catalogs of distributors such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and your favorite store should be able to find it for you. In Canada, Chapters is an exception to the rule, which is why I have to go in and place the books with them individually on a consignment basis, but independent bookstores march to the beat of a different drummer and should be able to find Donaghue and Stainer for you if they have online access to the aforementioned catalogs.

One more local note: I have scheduled book signing events in these three stores to take place in late May and early June. Stay tuned for more information!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Thanks to Sandra Nikolai for Liebster Blog Award

Thanks go out to Sandra Nikolia, author of the Megan Scott and Michael Elliott mystery series, for mentioning The Overnight Bestseller as a nominee for the Liebster Blog Award.

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, beloved, or favorite. The origin remains unknown, but the Liebster Blog Award is a chain award passed on to promote the blogs you enjoy. It is given as a form of appreciation and support to bloggers. As Sandra mentions, peer recognition is important in our line of work, and I acknowledge this award in that spirit. She most kindly wrote that my "inspiring posts provide keen insights into his writing world and other remarkable adventures," and I thank her very much for following The Overnight Bestseller and for finding it worthy of note!

To accept the award, I must now:
1. Thank the person who nominated me on my blog and link back to them;
2. Nominate up to five other bloggers for the award and link back to their blogs; and
3. Let them know by commenting on their blog.
In this spirit, the five people I’m nominating for a Liebster Blog Award are:

1. Hey Rube Circus, written by the incomparable Ballyhoo Betty, a fire eater and side show devotee who writes a fascinating blog on all things related to circuses and side shows;

2. Girard Portfolio, the blog written by Linda Girard, a local artist in my community who deserves a large audience for her remarkable work;

3. The Write Obsession, written by Lan Chan, a young aspiring author who wears her heart on her sleeve and represents the best of the human spirit;

4. Forensics 4 Fiction, a terrific source for technical information for crime writers maintained by Tom Adair, a retired criminologist; and,

5. Celtic Lady's Reviews, written by Kathleen Kelly, a lovely person in Wisconsin who not only represents everything I cherish in book bloggers but also cares deeply about her family.

There are other bloggers I would love to have mentioned, including Martha Bourke, whose blog is called The Leaky Quill, and several others. Please visit these blogs and show them your appreciation for their fine work!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Glenrothes Vintage Maker 2012 Contest

Every year The Glenrothes Distillery in Speyside, Scotland holds a contest in which they invite entrants to describe a "vintage moment" in their life, some special event that remains in the memory forever afterwards and carries a significance that can be equated to the special qualities of a vintage single-malt scotch: "a perfect combination of time, place, people and even occasion, when everything comes together to create a moment that will stay in the memory forever." The grand prize in their Global contest, to be awarded to four people from around the world, is a chance to visit the distillery in May and participate in the preparation of this year's vintage.

I came across this contest in January while looking for ideas to promote Blood Passage and decided to post an entry in which I described receiving the proof copy of my novel from the printer. Holding the end result of two years' worth of hard work was very much a "vintage moment" for me, and I thought it equated well to the feeling a distiller would enjoy when the work on a new vintage was finally complete.

Imagine my shock when I was informed that my entry has been selected from thousands of worldwide submissions as one of the four Global winners! View the announcement here.

As a bourbon enthusiast, I can't remember ever having tasted a single malt scotch, as it has always been a little above my pay scale, but as you can imagine, I'm going to savor this opportunity!

Stay tuned for more blog posts as I get ready to set forth on what will be a remarkable adventure!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Thank You to My 1,000th Twitter Follower

I've been active on Twitter, the social networking site for people who can express themselves in 140 characters or less, since last October. I find it a very good medium to promote the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, and a great place to meet new people from around the world.

This week I was pleased to receive my 1,000th follow from Marty Marise Semira, who can be found on Twitter as @Darkstargoddess. You can see Marty's Twitter avatar displayed on the left. Marty, from Southern California, is an aspiring author working on her first book, an action/adventure/paranormal novel.

For being my 1,000th Twitter follower, Marty receives a free e-book copy of Blood Passage, the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel.

Thanks again, Marty. I hope you enjoy the story. And thanks as well to all my other Twitter followers.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Celebrating One Year of Independence

Every morning while I'm standing in the shower I take a minute to go over the things I need to do during the day. When I'm writing, I remind myself where I am in the story, which chapter is next, and what I want to do with it. Today, however, I realized it was the first day of April and there was something special I needed to do.

I'm taking a moment today to celebrate my first year as an independent author.

Exactly one year ago today I stood in the same shower, rinsing soap out of my eyes, and decided to honor a commitment I'd made to myself four months before. I was tired, frustrated, and fiesty. It was time to take control of the bus.

It's a story familiar to most independents. In May 2009 I published my first novel, The Ghost Man, with a small publisher in Alberta. At that time, being a writer and not a published author, I didn't understand the responsibilities that would fall to me with regard to marketing and promoting my book. I thought the publisher would handle that sort of stuff, but was sadly mistaken. In addition, the publisher was going through a turbulent time and was unresponsive to many of my questions. In addition, they refused to deal with the major book chain that might carry my novel. It was a failure.

At the beginning of 2009 I completed my next manuscript, which would become Blood Passage, and began the search for a different publisher. I quickly realized that publishers no longer entertained over-the-transom, unsolicited submissions, and shifted my sights to agents. From the spring of 2009 to the winter of 2010 I hunted for an agent. I struggled to master the art of the e-mail pitch. I kept a chart of all the agents and agencies I'd queried, dates of submission, and dates of response. I learned that every literary agent on the planet was swamped with queries. Many, for this reason, didn't respond to mine. I stopped taking it personally very early and simply persisted, fine-tuning my pitch as I went.

By Christmas 2010 I realized it wasn't going to happen. I always use the holiday period between Christmas and New Year's Day as a time of stock-taking, and I now understood I would need a better plan if Blood Passage were going to see the light of day. I decided to continue sending out queries into the new year but also to begin researching self-publishing. I knew the industry was changing and that hundreds of people were taking a chance on publishing independently, but I was also very aware of the "vanity press" stigma attached to Print on Demand and e-book self-publishing. I gave myself the first quarter of the calendar year to become fully informed and to make a decision. If, by April 1, 2011, I didn't have an agent willing to represent Blood Passage, I'd either publish the book myself or find something else to do with the rest of my life.

I must say, the next few months were a lot of fun. The search for independent publishing models on which I could base my own decisions led me to the obvious success stories: Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, John Locke, Scott Nicholson. I also studied authors such as Andrew Smith, who had independently published his own literary fiction after having been told by a prospective agent he was "too old." Each author provided a piece of the puzzle, either in the way they structured their website, used their blog, marketed through Facebook, or something else that worked for them that might work for me as well. My own model began to take shape in my head.

Before I knew it, I was standing in the shower, eyes stinging, hot water pounding on the top of my head on April Fool's Day, and I had to decide whether or not to play the fool.

Truth was, I'd already made up my mind.

It was too much fun to pass up on, and I don't mind saying that although it has been by turns stressful, worrisome, embarrassing, exhausting, and occasionally pricey, it has also been enormously enjoyable. I can't imagine a more rewarding way to have spent a year. The new things I've learned, the people I've met, whether locally in Ottawa or online throughout the world, the experiences I've had as an independent publisher and author have been entirely worth the endless hours of work I've put into it all.

And now, today, I begin the second year of the three-year plan I put together when The Plaid Raccoon was born. This morning the printer received the production files for my next book, Marcie's Murder. The following one, The Fregoli Delusion, is well on its way to being ready for publication this fall. I can't wait.

I'm proud of what I've done in the past year. I'm proud of what I've learned so far as a published author responsible for my own marketing and promotion. I'm proud of the quality of the books I've produced. I'm proud of the work I've done to build my own website, run my own blog, attract almost a thousand Twitter followers, get up and running on Pinterest and Facebook and Goodreads and all the other accounts I've set up to help market the books. And I'm proud to be independent, to have done all this work myself, without any help, teaching myself as I go.

This year I'm going to bring on a publicist to help me with the aspects of marketing and promotion I can't do myself. The Raccoon has room in the budget for it, and I think it's a wise investment. One of the questions the publicist asked me during our first meeting gave me pause to consider. If a publisher were to show an interest in picking up the Donaghue and Stainer series, given the positive reception Blood Passage has received and the imminent publication of the next two novels in the series, would I sign a contract with them?

I don't know, I replied. I've done a lot of work to get to where I am right now, and as it stands I keep 100% of whatever revenue is generated by my sales. I'd still have to work just as hard even if I switched from the Raccoon to a legacy publisher, and for a lesser cut. On the other hand, the books would probably get into the bricks-and-mortar bookstores more easily and would be easier to pitch to the major newspapers and magazines for review.

It would depend on what their offer would be, I said. They could make an offer. I'd have to see what it is.

The truth of the matter is that it would have to be a great offer, and it would have to include creative control over Donaghue and Stainer and where I take them as the series progresses. Right now I enjoy full control, and you know what?

I love having full control. That’s what being an independent is all about.

And anyway, I've got Year Two to get busy with. So let's get going!

As Karen Stainer would say: time's a-wastin.'