Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

With apologies to Sarah McLachlan for stealing the title of one of her best albums, I want to say a few words about this new book slated for release 11/17/09. Going Rouge is the first release from the new O/R Books, a company formed earlier this year by two very experienced New York publishing icons, John Oakes and Colin Robinson. This new book of essays is edited by Richard Kim and Betsy Reed. The writers include Jim Hightower, Naomi Klein, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Max Blumenthal, Matt Taibbi, Jane Hamsher, and many other recognizable names, all justly famous for sitting next to the windows on the left side of the airplane.

There is a reason why I chose the McLachlan title for this post. This is a book that deserves to be read by millions, but will it be? You currently cannot order it from either Amazon or B&, so where can you get it? Today, absolutely nowhere, because the ordering system is down at the O/R website, and you cannot get the book from any source other than directly from the publisher! Why should you care? Go look at the ranking number of this book, and it is at least available through Amazon, if not directly from their warehouses with free shipping. Going Rouge: An American Nightmare is nowhere to be seen at Amazon; nor is it at B&N. The publishers have done a good job of bringing publicity attention to the book; however, most of it is negative, not positive! Check out this poll at NPR, of all places.

The price of Going Rouge is $16 from the publisher's website. Can you imagine how many sales are being missed right now because this book is not paired with Going Rogue at Amazon with free shipping? Sure, the Palinbots would go crazy in the reviews of either book, even before the books are available for anyone to read. They would also toss their cookies in the Amazon discussion pages at the bottom of both books' Amazon listings. What we have right now is the 'bots going crazy at NPR while no sales of the book are even happening! In the meantime, sales of Going (Pack of Lies) Rogue are putting that book in the #2 spot at Amazon.

Quit fumbling the ball, people! Going Rouge is written by a gang of very experienced writers. Going Rogue is written by a ghostwriter and an idiot. Why must we continue to let the opposing team win? By the time An American Nightmare is even available to order, An American Pack of Lies will already have sold thousands, if not millions. What's the matter with this picture? If you think you are going to waltz into your local B&N and see the two Goings side by side on a table just inside the front door, I am afraid you are sadly mistaken. Harper Collins will have paid thousands for whatever prime store placement they have secured for Going Rogue. Unless O/R Books is a lot richer than I expect, then the best they can ever hope for are a few copies of Going Rouge placed on an alphabetized shelf somewhere in the store. If they are lucky, they may find a few B&N managers who will put copies in the close vicinity of the Harper Collins book, but can you imagine the hissy-fit an HC representative would throw if he saw even a single copy of the O/R book actually sitting on his bought-and-paid-for Harper Collins shelf? All this is not even taking into account the returnable policy so beloved by the Barnes & Noble store chain. Without a return policy, as is the case with the great majority of POD books, the most O/R can hope for are a few books ordered by a few B&N stores, not the stacks and stacks of the HC book that will blanket the B&N's all across America!

The new publishers of Going Rouge obviously know a lot more about traditional publishing than I do. They obviously have everyday contact with many writers I would love to meet, if only once to shake their hands. My expertise comes from the school of hard knocks. I got involved in the POD industry a decade ago. If you have not yet watched the video put together by John Oakes and Colin Robinson, take a look at it. These two nice guys act as if they just discovered POD! If you have not been following my other blog at PODBRAM, go check out this article. Here is another one you may wish to read. If you want to get seriously deep into the subject of marketing a POD book, go to PODBRAM and start reading the articles listed down the left column under The POD Experience. Allow me to cut to the chase: 90% (or more) of all POD books are sold through Amazon. B&N online and all the rest add up to less than 10%! I know that sounds shocking, but it's true.

A similar situation applies to Kindle. The great majority of e-books sold are currently sold through Amazon for the Kindle format. Yes, Smashwords is another good source of e-book reading material, along with a number of others, and yes, I know the B&N Nook has just been released. We'll see where that goes. The O/R website states that Going Rouge will be available in e-book form, too. Where? The publishers will probably discover that $9.99 for the electronic version might hurt sales a bit, too. Put it on Kindle and halve the price: then you'll have a mover.

I have already been in contact with Mr. Oakes concerning these issues, and can only hope that he has taken my advice to heart. He may know all about the publishing and marketing processes involved in the traditional marketplace. I know what it takes to successfully market an unknown POD or Kindle book at Amazon. Do not look at my own pitiful sales numbers and judge my knowledge accordingly. I have been trying to sell books in various genres by an unknown author, all of which are particularly difficult to market successfully. I can't help it if I'm hard headed: I write what I know, not what I know will sell. An American Nightmare is a totally different story, one that millions of Americans should read, and written by authors already familiar to millions of Americans.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The American Concert Tour

Boys and girls, I have a plan to help some of the American citizens that need help the most. This is a plan that would boost President Obama's popularity, help solidify some of our current, rampant divisiveness, and inject an economic boost right where it's needed most. The American Concert Tour (TACT) is nothing if not an old idea. Even though I thought it up, I would like to see it developed into a far more original theme and layout. As a concert promoter from the early '70's and an Austin resident since 1980, I have had an up close and personal look at this proposition. Here is more or less what I propose.

TACT will be somewhat like Farm Aid and Live Aid, but it should be developed into something at least a little more akin to Austin's South by Southwest (SXSW). First of all, it should not be a direct charity event like the former two, but an overall, commercialized economic boost to the cities in which it would be held. SXSW is not one big concert event at all: it is a plethora of small music events, all combined under the SXSW umbrella. The City of Austin and many of its businesses make more money during the week of the events than at any other time of the year. Most importantly, the money is not concentrated into a few hands, or even the local music industry. The whole city benefits, as do small, unknown bands from all over the USA (and the world).

The photo shows the most obvious choice to be the ringleader underneath the concert big top, but many others are obvious shoo-ins to be major players, too. The secret of the event's success would not be to create one big, mega-concert, but one main event surrounded by a whole week of lesser events. You get the picture: the nobody bands begin playing all over the city at the opening of the week and the superstars play the big finale on Saturday. The more successful you make the overall festival, the more those lesser bands will want to start playing during the previous weekend.

Here is one of the most important components of this idea. TACT will only be scheduled in key, major American cities that most desperately need an economic shot in the arm. These might include Detroit, San Diego, Phoenix, Sacramento, Las Vegas, New Orleans, the most deserving city in Ohio, and a city in Florida. These events could be scattered in time, with the northern cities hosting during the heat of the summer and the warmer cities hosting during the cooler months. Depending on how long it would take for the long-range planning issues, these should begin as early as next spring and continue through 2010 and 2011.

Local color, both musically and otherwise, would be encouraged so that each week-long festival has its own unique flavor, from the Motown sound to the Latin influence of San Diego. However much appropriate non-musical entertainment could be added in each location would also determine the overall flavor of the event.

If these cities are economic cripples in the first place, how are they going to pay for all this fun? The federal government will guarantee much of the cost upfront. Yeah, that's just what we need right now, yet another government bailout! No, what we need is to put Americans to work. Of course a large percentage of the jobs created will be temporary, but many of them will not, and temporary is a whole lot better than no jobs at all. How will the government recoup its costs? Remember Woodstock? The theatrical release, the LP, cassette tape, CD, VHS, DVD, and probably even the Beta and 8-track paid for it. The live concert itself lost a ton of money. That does tend to happen when you let your audience crash the gate. Thanks to having corporations in charge, that doesn't happen anymore, so the main concert event itself stands to net at least some of the cost. I would call this idea an indirect charity event. The government will back the main expenses, just like the major record labels and beer and soft drink companies have always done. Most of the week's lesser events will be created by small and large businesses within each locale.

The magic that will make this thing work is the inclusion of a variety of draws for the crowds. Famous and local authors can do book signings for all the nerds. Local and rival sports teams could do exhibition games for the jockstrap crowd. Some localities may find movie screenings to be a big draw. Others might impress with the local cuisine. There might be well established local events that have already found themselves in deep financial poop and would love the opportunity for a health revival by becoming a part of TACT. Some locales are going to vary widely from others in their basic infrastructure available and necessary to host a TACT event, and this could broadly influence the flavors of various TACT weeks. Some city layouts and weather patterns will drive most of the activity indoors while others are held all but totally outside.

In case you have never thought of it this way, events such as this build a need for jobs long before and long after these single exciting weeks. The week itself is just the climax of the economic boost. Every city loves tourism and wants more of it. What I am proposing is a big week-long blast of it for the locations in the USA that need it most.