Downstairs in my kitchen

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book reviews, sales and other confusions

Float Street Press has been experimenting with things, trying to figure out how to reach readers. We'd like our books to be read (seeing as that is the point of publishing them) and especially find readers who like a particular author. Javaid Qazi writes strange and wonderful short stories, but his two collections (UNLIKELY STORIES and THE JEWELED WEB) have not sent tremors through the publishing world. Still, when UNLIKELY STORIES came out, it got good reviews. Someone giving it a five star review wrote:
 
Excellent stories from Pakistan to Silicon Valley 
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Javaid Qazi's first collection of short stories is notable both for their insightful nature and amazing variety. A country-western barfly, Silicon Valley office workers, a doctor and his family in Pakistan, a lustful maid in Portugal, and a German 'stripteuse' populate these tales. Throughout the world Qazi finds interesting people in interesting dilemmas. His language is as original as it too is varied. A highly recommended first book by an upcoming writer who measures up internationally.
 
 That was lovely, but it doesn't seem that it encouraged shoppers to avail themselves of the book.
 
Okay, I get it that short story collections, especially when they lurk in a strange limbo between experimental and mainstream fiction, sometimes encroaching on one, sometimes the other, isn't the easiest sell. How do you tell people what it is? Our thought was to publish some stories individually and let people know they were from a large collection of such stories.

So we published two stories and made them available at 99cents and used the Kindle free days to let the world know.


 
 Both received an encouraging number of downloads, both free and paid. And one reviewer (the only reviewer) of President Sahib's Blue Period gave it:

5.0 out of 5 stars Wise, metaphorical, entertaining May 16, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
This short story contains many allegories and metaphors for our age, at the same time containing irony and humor. The writing style reminds me of Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude." 
 
We've seen no reviews for Berlin Danse Macabre yet, but it is a challenging story.
 
Understanding what this anecdotal evidence means is difficult. I don't know what inspires people to write reviews, or how other people relate to reviews. I take them along with salt tablets myself, as single grains are usually inadequate, but the reviews of Javaid's books suggest that they struck a lovely chord with some readers.Now we are hoping that the interest this generated is enough to get readers to go for the collections. We could publish all of the stories individually and we will if that is what readers prefer. Given that the least we can charge for a story is 99 cents and the collection of 11 stories in UNLIKELY STORIES is $3.99 and THE JEWELED WEB has 18 for $4,99, I am not sure why readers would prefer single stories, but I know that I am not a typical reader. (We have both in paperback as well, for those who are not addicted to ereaders and like the touch and feel of books.)

It's a fun experiment and the results are sketchy. If you have any thoughts on the idea or value of individual stories versus collections, or how to let people taste a collection in another way, I'd love to hear them.
 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Music From the Story



My good friend Edward Null, who is a wonderful songwriter and folksinger, took the time to read a draft of my new novel, UNDER LOW SKIES and claimed he enjoyed it. When I asked him if he liked it well enough to write some songs based on it, he said yes. I think he actually said "Hell yes" but then that is what I wanted to hear, and I think I'll stick to that version of the history.

Things never go exactly as intended, and of course, the album that got finished isn't exactly about the story I wrote. The story is a murder mystery/suspense story that takes place in Venezuela, where I lived for seven years. As things developed, we wound up with songs were inspired by the kind of life of the main character Martin Billings, who captains an inter-island freighter in the Caribbean, leads. As we worked on it, I decided that was probably a better result (more fun, more interesting), as it doesn't contain any spoilers or any contrived lyrics stuffed in to sell the book. It's just good music that relates to life on a boat in the Caribbean. Hey, what more could you want?

In putting together the material, Ed decided to re-rerecord a couple of my tunes that fit the theme, as well as write some new ones of his own, including the title song. I got to tweak the lyrics a bit, even enough to get a co-writing credit in one case, and play a harp fill on one song. I couldn't talk him into using another song of his that is excellent as he didn't think it fit.

It was a fun collaboration and seeing as Ed is in Missouri and I am in Cambodia, we were tickled with how well it came together. I am trying to get enough photos and video material to do a trailer for the book that will feature the song UNDER LOW SKIES. Don't hold your breath though. When it comes to visual stuff, I work kinda slow (and painfully).

I've posted the album cover below. The music should be available for download soon, if not already, at Edward Null's CD Baby site. If it isn't there yet, well Hurricane Rosie is a damn good listen too.

Under Low Skies Now those of you with a nautical bent  are going to notice that the boat in the graphic to port isn't an inter-island freighter, but a sailboat. Yes, sharp eyes there, mate. But then, as a I said, the songs are the right feeling for the book, not actually the story, and well, the sailboat wound up fitting the songs better than a freighter would.
Below is a little another graphic I did that pushes the album and book into one space. That is sort of an advertising gimmick--inserting gratuitously and then pointing it out provides a convenient excuse for me to stick a link to Amazon where you can buy the book (print or kindle) online. But it is also available from iTunes Bookstore, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

So this is the latest push from Float Street Press. We have some other exciting books and miscellany in the works and I will be talking a bit about our intention to publish our first romance novel. If things stay more or less on what passes for schedules around here, we will be releasing it in November of this year. But it is a rather large book, so there is much to do.