Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lit Night Tonight!

Last Wednesday of every month, we hold Lit Night in La Honda.  Tonight Terry Adams will join me in a voice duet, as we enact a scene or two from my novel Danny Ain't.  Terry will summon the voice of his old Kentucky moonshining shotgun-toting chicken-stealing ancestors, and I'll give voice to a 12-year-old boy who is living alone in a trailer with couple of coyotes as surrogate parents.

Literature is a spoken art, as old as language itself.  Ink on pages is a modern reduction and a mere imitation of the real thing.

Come on down.  Give a listen.  Or give us your voice.  We'd love to hear you.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to lie with statistics

When you talk about book sales, you don't say "I've sold a million chapters of my novel."  You say, "I've sold twenty thousand books," (which each contain 50 chapters).  That seems pretty obvious. 

Last week a newspaper article about one podcast author stated that "his fans have downloaded more than 15 million episodes."  Recently I stated that my podcasts have reached about 60,000 listeners.  Now I feel puny.

Size matters.

But journalists are easily fooled.  That podcast author with his 15 million downloads has about a dozen serialized novels that contain anywhere from 20 to 40 episodes, so a listener who wants to hear one complete novel has to download 20 to 40 separate times.  Thus, 40 downloads might equal one listener.  15 million downloads amounts to, at most, 500,000 listeners — which in the subculture of serialized audiobook podcasting is still a goodly sum.

Downloads, listeners.  Apples, oranges.  Chapters, books.  Episodes, podcast novels.

For the record, my podcast novels contain anywhere from 11 episodes (Boone Barnaby) to 32 (Clear Heart).  I'm approaching my first million downloads.  From that, I calculate I've had about 60,000 listeners*.

There.  Now I don't feel quite so puny. 

*Listeners, of course, are only an approximation.  Some people download the first episode, don't like it, and then never download the remaining episodes.  Do they count as "listeners"?  After all, they listened to one episode, even if they hated it.  Others download all the episodes, then share them with several friends and family so that each download has several listeners.  And others may download several episodes but bail out before listening to all of them.  And if somebody listens to every episode of each of my 5 podcast novels, should that count as one listener or five?  How do you adjust for all this?  You can only speculate.  Which gives some justification for citing the number of downloads — at least, it's a solid figure.  But let's be clear about what it does — and does not — mean. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Writer's Almanac, supplemented

One of my favorite radio shows is The Writer's Almanac, in which among other things Garrison Keillor celebrates well-known authors on their birthdays.  Today he highlights Gene Roddenberry and Frank McCourt, two fine writers.  And I salute them.

I'm not well-known, at least not in Minnesota and not on public radio, but August 19 is my 65th birthday. Here is my addendum to Writer's Almanac:

One of my favorites.

Today is the birthday of the novelist and podcaster Joe Cottonwood (books by this author), born in Washington D.C. (1947).  His father was a chemist who loved the cheap paperbacks of the 1950s — detective stories and soft core porn — with their immodest cover art and equally immodest prose.  To the son, from grade school through high school these books were like wallpaper: normal, comfy, home.  Inadvertently they also served as sex education and literary training, some of which had to be unlearned.

Another fave
As a young man in the 1960s, Cottonwood took extended hitchhikes without money, backpack, or plan around the USA.  Later these experiences found their way into his first successful novel, Famous Potatoes, about a young man hitchhiking around the USA without money, backpack, or plan.  The book is often referred to as an underground novel due to its countercultural readership and its title.

After working 30 years in the building trades, Cottonwood wrote a novel, Clear Heart, about a crew of carpenters.  He recorded the novel as a serialized audiobook and released it as a free podcast.  Reading aloud came as a revelation: a rediscovery of literature as an oral tradition.  He says, "I realized that I have been writing podcast novels for the last 30 years, just waiting for podcasts to be invented." 

Cottonwood now has 5 podcast audiobooks available (free on iTunes), and is working on a sixth.  He lives in La Honda, California where he is the founder and emcee of what has become a fixture in the town: Lit Night, a monthly meeting in a bar where people read at an open mic to celebrate local writing and the oral tradition — and have a good time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Practice Kindness

Readers, I urge you, if you enjoy an author who is not a big seller, send him or her an appreciative email.  It's the only reward most authors receive these days.  We certainly aren't in it for the money.

Here's an email that arrived this morning from a stranger who is located in Tampa, two thousand eight hundred ninety-six point one miles from my home in La Honda.  I've never met her, but her words gave me a glow that will last all week:

Thank you.  For writing and doing the fabulous podcasts of your work your books quite simply make me smile.  I love the characters who seem so real and down-to-earth, not just two dimensional or the usual caricatures, but complex, flawed and for the most part, so well intentioned. Kind of like your readers I imagine. Certainly this one. I sit down with an episode or two with a cup of coffee and the kind of sweet anticipation that these days passes for quiet excitement - from one old hippie to another, we really did/do have a lot of things right.
Bravo, please don't stop sharing your work.
I got mine.  Now try this.  Nurture some other obscure author (and these days, most of us are obscure).  With a few keystrokes you, dear reader, have the power to warm some writer's world.

I'm embarrassed

I'm horribly embarrassed.  Due to a software glitch, two of my ebooks have displayed wild changes in type size and fonts, often several sizes on a single page. 

It's fixed now.  If you downloaded Famous Potatoes or Clear Heart from Smashwords, you can re-download them now and get a non-glitch version.  The words are the same, but the viewability is much better.

You should be able to re-download for free, if you've already downloaded them before.  If you have problems, send me an email and I'll solve it.