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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

Books News : part 19

Several months have gone by without an update on book projects. During those months I have received several emails from writers who read these updates and want me to wave a magic wand over their book projects and hope for good sales. Allow me to shed some light on the success of the essayist behind the two titles.

The essayist of the two book titles I've developed has written consistently (for nine years) for a national magazine that reaches an average weekly readership of 400,000. Reading the letters sent to the editor suggest a very loyal fan base. I say an opportunity to keep my job and earn some money for the writer and publisher.

If you are a writer reading this, please find an agent or audience or both. I can't make your manuscript a small press success. Only you can do that. Search for a niche market magazine, earn a nine-year gig consistently supplying great editorial content and then email me.

Essay Collection: A has sold more than 6500 copies in ten months! The author has been a featured guest at a couple events and done a couple book signings. The essayist has promoted the title quite nicely and did a great interview with a West coast radio station.

Essay Collection: B, as of last night, has sold over 2500 copies. This title was released November 2006 and sold over 1000 copies during the Christmas gift-giving season. However, sales have not been as exciting as the first book. This is something I predicted would happen based on what I've read about the American publishing industry.

There's an odd phenomena in the publishing industry--a first book will sell well, second book sells half as well as the first title, and the third book sells half as well as the second. I attempted to include previously "unpublished material" in the B collection in order to increase what I expected to be mediocre sales, but management was in short-term goal strategy and earned short-term financial rewards. Currently the A collection if out-performing the B collection. Both titles have sold over 9000 copies in a ten month period. That's still a good track record.

PART: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

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Business books, schmisiness books: crushing the competition with a pile of books

Due to a change in my career path, I've taken to withdrawing volumes of books from the Pack Library on the topic of business, management, new/progressive business growth, and strategic planning. [wow, look at that, just like a business memo: four, alphabetically arranged bullet points--sans the actual bullets and missing a motivational poem. OK, how's this for a poem?]

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there."
--William Carlos Williams


One thing I have observed is that management books are dryly written (and printed in 14 pt. or 16 pt. body copy) and clearly established as a cottage industry for the American business class.

I switched reading material due to the fact that business books offer the same bullet point platitudes followed by motivational poems/quotes directing the reader to true success in business. But what is true success? Can it really be defined in four bullet points or a four hundred-word, single-sheet memo? The issue is that most of these group-think writers operate on 20-year old maxims (possibly older). The marketplace has changed dramatically and dynamically. The new rules are:
1) implement
2) adapt
3) adjust or
4) rue
How's that for business book table of contents? I know. It lacks the catchy strategic planning acronym (or maybe anacronym) of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) that was devised by someone from an Ivy League school back in the 1960's.

Like I stated, I've changed my reading material to military biographies or histories for two reasons:
1) Military leaders win or lose--success is clearly defined.
2) Military leaders, despite training and resources, must implement, adapt, and adjust to a changing environment the moment they take to the battlefield or they will die.

Instead of reading books about notable military leaders like Charlemagne, Turenne, or Napoleon, I chose to read about the tragic failures. General George Armstrong Custer has had more books and opinions written about him than I care to count. But Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett has very few books written about him and the infamous charge at Gettysburg during the War Between the States.

It is from Leader of the Charge that I learn what management books don't tell you. One needs to follow orders from his/her superiors. One may protest the executive's orders and present logical reasons as to why those actions should be avoided, but ultimately one is to implement the command of the superior officer for fair or foul. I am not advocating that one follows orders and does something unethical or criminal as in the case of Enron. However, it is a very difficult truth that is notably excluded from a lot of business books--how to submit to one's superior.

I am almost done reading the book. It appears to me that Pickett was a good soldier in that he followed orders. He was responsible for the charge as General Lee was responsible for the order. The story of Pickett has many business applications. I'll detail them after I finish the book. And maybe I'll present it in a four-point presentation. In Pickett's case, one might consider the charge toward Cemetery Ridge a bad management decision--Lee's.

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Strange Familiar Place comic series

It has been awhile since mentioning a comic strip I've written and illustrated. The Indie has published the series since December. It is called Strange Familiar Place and features a magazine A & E editor (at least in the first two strips) and the main character Hudson Stillwater, a graphic designer.






Strange Familiar Place also features Heather (Hudson's wife) and presents a slice-of-life drama of living and working (and losing a job) in a cultural creative urban mountain city (or at least a city that looks a lot like Asheville).

Published in The Indie, March 1, 2007

Published in The Indie, March 16, 2007

Beginning in mid to late April, Strange Familiar Place will be illustrated by someone else. I'll still be the principal writer, but I hired an illustrator that I am confident will present the visual narrative with a higher quality of art.

Previous posts on this topic: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

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The Cinematics open for Mute Math this weekend

Got tickets to the The Orange Peel show tonight...



Mute Math plus the Glasgow band The Cinematics and the Midwest group Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin


My oldest child wants to know if Paul Meany (vocalist of Mute Math) will get paint tossed at him like in the music video of "Typical." Should be a good show tonight. See ya there!

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Write Stuff : The Economics of Writing

For some reason the term "economics" really spooks writers into silence. Why?

Weekly I post something on Write Stuff about writing or the craft of writing or anything relating to the writing process. I began a series on why writing contests are bad business for both writers and publishers. Here's part one, two, and three.

The premise is this: economics is the study of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Poets and writers produce literature that is distributed via publishers and booksellers to readers, book buyers, librarians.

I began the series of posts as a way to study what I do and why I am continually disappointed in writing contests and the works that win writing contests. For example, the Walt Whitman Award, presented by the Academy of American Poets (of which I am a member), is considered a prestigious contest. The Academy has published many fine poets. However, much of what wins and is published is considered informal personal narrative. That's fine. It is a dominant form in America. But, as I discussed with a fellow poet at the Flood Fine Art Center poetry reading last week, it isn't new--it's the same tired narrative lyric every other professional poet is turning out. It's like poetry in America is stuck in a rut and it can't get out. Tony Tost's Invisible Bride is one Walt Whitman Award winner that I recall in recent times that really pushed the vehicle of poetry in a new direction. But I'll explore that more in this week's Write Stuff post.

I'm not sure (because I've received minimal comments on the topic) if I've either struck a nerve with the folks at Write Stuff (they run a writing contest) or I'm being completely obtuse. What do you think?

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Two Toots

I've been told I do a poor job tooting my own horn (i.e. promoting my graphic design work). So, here's two toots.

Client:Vanessa Boyd
Art/Photography: mix media by Elena Ray, artist portrait by Ian Roberts







Original web site design:



Client/design changes:



Here's the final redesigned website: Tracy Banks Saab.

Yes, I am seeking graphic design work. Send me an email me and let's do business.

(Literary) Weekend photo essay (with some comments)

The Flood Fine Art Center poetry reading series Friday night inspired me. Four talented poets read their work to a very supportive audience.


Stephen Kirbach


Shad Marsh


Jennifer Callahan


Lynette James



Sunday afternoon offered a Writers at Home Series at Malaprop's Cafe & Bookstore. Patrick Finn and Michael McFee read from their work.


Michael McFee

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Small Press Month

It's Small Press Month. Have you supported a small press publisher? Here's 13 interesting factoids about American small presses.

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I don't understand this poster



A local burlesque group, The Rebelles, promotes a "peep show" for "all ages." Does that mean I can bring the kids? Or is this a show were the "burlesque" portion of the show is performed by members of "all ages?" Go Granny!

Flood Fine Art Center Poetry Reading Tonight

Flood Fine Art Center

FRI Mar. 16, 8:30pm

Poetry reading series features:

Stephen Kirbach, Shad Marsh, Jennifer Callahan & Lynette James.

Flood Fine Art Center located in the
Phil Mechanic Studios

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Does traffic matter?

Which blog receives more traffic:
a) these blogs,
b)
this blog
c) this blog?

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Confessions : : 04


General George E. Pickett, C.S.A.
01. The neighborhood is haunted by a family of large, loud crows.
02. I had a flat tire on the way to work this morning. Providentially (or serendipitously), I noticed it within an mile of Expert Tires (an establishment that I frequent for car maintenance) where they had me back on the road in under 45 minutes with a new, free tire (because the one that blew had a warranty).
03. For bedtime stories, I read T.S. Eliot to my children.
04. I am reading a biography General George E. Pickett and noticed the other day, as I looked into a mirror, that with my hair parted on the left there is a curious resemblance. This is amusing for I've been told I resemble the actor Matthew Broderick when he starred in the film Glory.

Press Release : Writers at Home

Writers at Home Series Continues March 18
Patrick Finn & Michael McFee



UNC Asheville's 2006-07 Writers at Home Series continues with readings by local writers Patrick Finn and Michael McFee at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 18, at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., downtown Asheville. Writers at Home is part of the Great Smokies Writing Program, a consortium of Western North Carolina writers and UNC Asheville. The event is free and open to the public.

Finn's fiction has appeared in many literary publications, including "Quarterly West," "Ploughshares," "The Richmond Review," "Third Coast," "Punk Planet" and the Houghton Mifflin collection "Best American Mystery Stories 2004." He received a Distinguished Story Citation in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and is currently working on a novel set in a bowling alley in the California desert. Finn teaches writing at UNC Asheville.

McFee has published nine volumes of poetry, most recently "Shinemaster" and "The Smallest Talk," a collection of one-line poems. His first book of prose, "The Napkin Manuscripts," was released in 2006. Finn is editor of "The Language They Speak is Things to Eat" and "This is Where We Live," both anthologies of contemporary North Carolina poems and short stories. He has received numerous awards, including the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award from the Western North Carolina Historical Association, the UNC Chapel Hill Students' Undergraduate Teaching Award and Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. An Asheville native, McFee teaches poetry writing and North Carolina literature at UNC Chapel Hill.

Please call Elaine Fox@828/ 232-5122 with any questions you may have.

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I am so weary of...

...narrow-minded Asheville hippies!

OK, now that I got that off my chest, I feel better.

Back to work everyone. Nothing to see here.

CS3 launching soon

For those graphic designers in the audience, CS3 is just around the corner: March 27, 2007.

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Poetry : Press Release

Flood Gallery Fine Arts Center, Asheville, North Carolina

On March 16, 2007, Flood Fine Arts Gallery will host its monthly poetry reading at 8:30pm, featuring the following poets:

Stephen Kirbach’s work can be found in Apocryphal Text, Shampoo, and Word for Word. He teaches Humanities at UNC--Asheville, and organizes the web-based writers’ forum, Wire Sandwich. Kirbach also hosts “Stunt-Cipher-Mayhem,” a radio show on WPVM that explores experimental music and sound.

Shad Marsh has published fiction in the flash fiction anthology Blink, and his poetry has appeared in Artvoice, Ghoti, Light, The Muse, The Pebble Lake Review, Vox, and Wire Sandwich. Marsh serves as the poetry editor for the E-zine Edifice Wrecked. He lives in Asheville, NC with his wife and son.

Jennifer Callahan studied creative writing at Austin Peay State University, and attended graduate school at Washington University. Her poetry has been printed in Zone 3. In 2004, Callahan participated in Words of War, an exhibit featuring writers’ and artists’ works about their personal experiences with war. Her photography has been displayed at Maryville College of Art and Design, Studio 101, and Untitled Nashville. Callahan currently lives in WNC, and works as a wedding photographer.

Lynette James will be the fourth poet. Her bio was unavailable at the time of this release.

Flood Gallery Fine Arts Center is located at 109 Roberts Street in the River Arts District of Asheville North Carolina. For more information, please contact Mark Prudowsky at info@floodgallery.org or call 828-776-8438.

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We Generous reading

Yesterday afternoon I heard Sebastian Matthews read from his new collection of poems, We Generous. The first time I heard him read was from his memoir, In My Father's Footsteps.

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Reading meditations

One blogger recently wrote about the need to read. In order to survive and succeed in business and in a career path I have taken to reading a list of books to better myself in business and for personal growth. I referenced two of the titles here and another title here and commented briefly on another book here. When I read I have a pen or pencil and a notebook near by to write a passage the speaks to me or contains useful information.

Reviewing my notes this afternoon I came across some interesting passages.
From Stephen C. Harper's book The Forward-Focused Organization:
"What worked well yesterday will be less effective today, ineffective tomorrow, and obsolete the day after tomorrow.... companies need to have visionary leaders at all levels and in every unit. Every person has the potential to make a difference..."
From A Passion for Success, by Kazuo Inamori:
"When you encounter obstacles in you life or career, you will need some type of value system to guide your decision making.... Such a pursuit of happiness will be futile... An 'easy' lifestyle may initially seem carefree and pleasurable, but sooner or later, we all crave a higher purpose in life."
From How to Become CEO by Jeffrey J. Fox:
"Leave the office and take one workday a month, or even three weeks, and go to a local public or university library.... and organize all your 'to do' projects."
From the Proverbs of Solomon, [ESV]:
"Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars.... She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, 'Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!' To him who lacks sense she says, 'Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.'"

From The Burial at Thebes: A version of Sophocles' Antigone, by Seamus Heaney:
"The land of the living, sister
Is neither here nor there.
We enter it and we leave it.
The dead in the land of the dead
Are the ones you'll be with longest.
And how are you going to face them,
Ismene, if you dishonour
Their laws and the gods' laws?"

Daily I take notes on what I read and try to review them once a week. What are your reading habits?

This is embarrassing, but could be amusing

My involvement with the failed D'licious magazine still haunts me. Awhile back I made an unofficial announcement of the expiration of D'licious magazine. Another local blogger offered some observations that I addressed. And then yesterday, Mountain Xpress A&E reporter Steve Shanafelt posed the question, does WNC Magazine have what it takes to make it in Asheville (and uses the failure of D'licious as an example). Comparing D'licious magazine to WNC Magazine is like comparing a peanut to a squirrel. I can't go into all the details as to why D'licious failed. Maybe one day I'll write a memoir about it and pimp the book on Oprah. But until then, all I will say is that I was the art director of D'licious for two issues (one published, one aborted).

Based on the D'licious magazine release party (attracting over 400 ticket-paying attendees), Asheville residents want a glossy magazine. Undeniably, Asheville is a progressive, green city that ironically has a Super Wal-Mart store, a Target store, a couple Lowe's stores, a Barnes & Noble bookstore, multiple Starbucks locations and [add your mainstream cultural corporate icon here].

Personally, I think the local independent free magazines feel threatened by a new glossy magazine in town, because of potential ad revenue loss--if, that is, WNC Magazine succeeds where D'licious failed. A little competition in the local magazine arena would make for interesting opportunities (not to mention blogging). Most of the local publications have been churning out the same old tired designs and need a challenge.

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Writing about winter in summer

From today's The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1923, Robert Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was published in The New Republic magazine. It was Frost's favorite of his own poems. Though it's a poem about winter, Frost wrote the first draft on a warm morning in the middle of June. The night before he had stayed up working at his kitchen table on a long, difficult poem called "New Hampshire" (1923). He wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" in just a few minutes, almost without lifting his pen off the page. He said, "It was as if I'd had a hallucination."

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Write Stuff : The Economics of Writing : 1

As stated last week, this is a bit controversial: writing contests are bad business for both writers and publishers... why is this bad business for publishers? read more »

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Confessions : : 03

01. I totally blew it; regarding giving up beer and coffee for Lent.
02. But that last bottle of beer looked really lonely...
03. so I drank it down on the first day of Lent...
04. and followed it by a cup of coffee the next morning (second day of Lent).
05. For almost an entire week no ale nor coffee was consumed...
06. then last Thursday I had a coffee before a meeting...
07. and three cups of coffee the following Saturday morning with friends I hadn't seen in almost three years...
08. and I stopped half way through a second cup of coffee this afternoon.
09. Oh, bother, Lent reminds me of how weak I really am.
10. I guess that's the point.

Mark your calendars now

Looks like a new River District Artists ad will be featured in this new magazine! Inside sources says WNC Magazine will be in magazine racks within the week.

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How far does your $10 go?

I came across this article in the NYT about traveling magazine sales crews. The story itself is interesting but I got distracted by one detail at the beginning of the piece:
[C]rew members... survived some days on less than $10 in food money...
It must be a big city $10, because that is just a couple dollars less that what I have to feed my entire household on a daily basis and no one goes hungry around my table. Then again, $10 goes a long way when I shop at Amazing Savings. As one traveler from Berkeley put it:
Amazing Savings... not just a cheesy marketing ploy, they really do mean it. It’s full of the whole-grain, soy-rich, flax seed, organic and interesting products you’ll find in the bougie markets of the San Francisco Bay Area, but they’re all either a bit past the sell-by date or in boxes that are a bit too beat up to sell in typical venues, so everything is between 50 and 75 percent off its original price. Amazing Savings indeed. We go home with boxes upon boxes of cookies, granola, soy milk, pasta, vegetables, juice, and energy bars.

Okay, that's it. I have no idea why I thought this might be interesting.

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