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The Independent Bookstore

26 May
Street Magic is now at Atomic Books for $12!  

If you’re an indie publisher or self-published author, the independent bookstore should be your best friend. Unlike the “super chain bookstores” such as Barnes and Noble and Borders, authors and publishers can approach the bookstore owner about carrying his/her books usually through a consignment agreement. With a consignment agreement, you receive a percentage of the book sales–the books aren’t bought alright. For example, Street Magic: Stories and Tales now available at Atomic Books (see photograph at left), located in the Hampden area of Baltimore. When I saw Street Magic on the table with the other fiction books, I felt so proud…but just because your book is in a bookstore, you still need to promote your book, which is very challenging and arduous. Your book is competing with bestselling authors who are signed with major publishing conglomerates (Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penquin, HarperCollins, and Random House) who can shell out the big bucks to market their products. Even though you might not have thousands of dollars to spend on advertising, publicity is free. Contact editors of your local magazines and newspapers. Get the word out about your book, before it is officially released. Most publications such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Review want to receive galleys or manuscripts. However, I noticed that most of the national trade publications do not accept work from self-published authors, but don’t let that stop you. If you want to self-publish your book, make sure you hire an editor to ensure your writing is grammatical and error-free. Hire a book designer to typeset your book interior and design your book cover. If you have an unappealing, poorly design book cover, the average person will skip over your book. The road of an independent author is a long one, but it can be worth it–only if you strategize and know the rules of the publishing game. And don’t throw in the towel, even if the fat lady is singing.    

A Mini-Interview with the Author of Street Magic

4 May

Mary B. Banks holding her book, Street Magic: Stories and Tales.

La Muse Press caught up with Mary B. Banks, author of Street Magic: Stories and Tales (2011). The 26-year-old, who is also the co-owner of La Muse Press, answered the following questions about her gritty debut collection, which is now available at Atomic Books for $12.

1. What inspired you to write Street Magic

When I wrote Street Magic, I didn’t write the stories with the idea that they would eventually become a short story collection. They were stories I wrote while attending the University of Baltimore to earn a MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts.   

2. How would you describe your writing?

I like to write stories that have an aural quality to them. I want the characters to speak directly to the reader without having the distance that a third-person narration usually brings. Sometimes my writing can be humorous, other times it can be sad. For example, “Lost and Found” is about two inner-city girls who find a discarded baby in the trash, and one of the girls, Janie, views the discarded baby as “one of those expensive babies that I wish I had.” There is “Number Blues” which is set in Chicago’s South Side during the 50s and the protagonist, Angela Thompson, is a domestic worker who yearns for her illegal number to hit. Then there is “Love Dust” that is about a young girl, the daughter of Pastor Crawford, who casts love spells on her next door neighbor, Leroy.  

3. How did you choose the stories in Street Magic?

I chose the stories that spoke to me the most, the ones that had a strong emotional overtone. I also chose stories that had magical, surreal elements in them. My classmates and professors at UB also were pivotal in helping to shape the collection. When I turned in my first draft of the collection for workshop, my classmates gave me useful feedback on which stories didn’t quite fit and others that they wanted to see included. For example, I had a story entitled, “Country Boys,” about two escapees from the mental ward which didn’t really fit with the other stories. “Lost and Found” and “Number Blues” were added to the collection with the suggestion of my classmates.

4. What advice would you give emerging writers?

Write, write, and write. Join a writing workshop. Read as much as possible. I also recommend that emerging writers began to create an online presence such as blogging and use social media to network. Stay up-to-date on what is happening in publishing.

For more information about Mary B. Banks, visit her website, The Writing Zone, and follow her on Twitter (mbanks6).

A New Release–Street Magic: Stories and Tales

25 Apr

$12 paperback

La Muse Press has just published its debut book, Street Magic: Stories and Tales (2011). It is a collection of nine stories that are gritty and unusual. Here is the table of contents to whet your appetite:

Testimony: Eve re-tells her version of the events that took place in the Garden of Eden. 

The Watchers: A deceased grandmother narrates her grandson’s tragic love triangle.

The Baltimoreans: A Case Study: A fabricated historical account of segregation in Baltimore.

Elvis: An African-American prophet who hears a voice that foreshadows his death.

Lost and Found: Two African-American girls discover a white baby in the trashcan.

Number Blues: In order to escape Chicago’s Southside, a young woman yearns for her number to hit.

Love Dust: A church girl, who is obsessed with her new neighbor, casts love spells.

Crazy Witchy: Two narratives about an outcast in a small Southern town.

The Inhabitants of a Peculiar Community: A Qualitative Report, July 9, 1975: An adolescent girl chronicles the outrageous behavior of the “characters” in her neighborhood.

Mary B. Banks, the author of Street Magic: Stories and Tales, will read a selection from her book during the MFA student reading held at the University of Baltimore, Student Center, 5th Floor on Friday May 6th at 7:30 pm located on 21 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201. She will sell the paperback books for $12 at the event. If you are unable to attend, but would like to order a book, click here.

Market yourself!

14 Apr

At the beginning of April, I attended the Maryland Writers Association at the University of Baltimore. I found Mary Shafer’s presentation to be informative. Shafer is the president of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA) and publisher of Word Forge Books. One thing that she said stuck out to me. She mentioned when you purchase an ISBN, an indie press should purchase a block of ten ISBNs for $250. She said that when an indie press purchases one ISBN at a time, it signals that you are a self-published author. The panel about publishing was also useful. Literary agent Jason Ashlock of Movable Type Literary Group made the suggestion that writers should spend three years building a platform before publishing a book–that way when the writer has something to sell, he has established his audience. So for all aspiring writers, I advise that you develop a web presence. Create a blog. Post regularly on Facebook about your writing projects. Tweet. Don’t expect huge book sales if you haven’t marketed yourself. In this new publishing industry, the author has to do a lot of his own publicity. I encourage authors to visit local independent bookstores and sell their books on consignment. Inquire about using the space to have a small reading. Pitch your book to local editors of the arts and entertainment sections. Get book reviewers to review your book. But most importantly, write a book that people want to read!

Do you want to be published?

30 Mar

If you’re an aspiring writer, you’re probably asking yourself what are the major differences between a large publishing house and an indie press? Well, two of the major differences are distribution and marketing. A large publishing house has the money to market books on a national level; whereas, an indie press tends to market its products regionally. One of the advantages to working with an indie press is that there is usually more collaboration between the writer and publisher. Instead of being dictated what your book will be, indie presses tend to involve their writers in the publishing and production process. For example, at La Muse Press we value our writers. We want your input. It is a team effort, not a dictatorship. Another incentive to being publish at an indie press is the writer’s royalty rates are typically higher than a large publishing house in lieu of a hefty advance. Also, at an indie press you can contact the editor directly; whereas, in a major publishing house you need a literary agent, which cuts into your royalties, because an agent takes 15% of your revenue. With that said, if you’re an emerging writer who wants a collaborative publishing experience, La Muse Press is your publisher (read our submission guidelines here).   

Finding a Book Distributor

28 Mar

One of the biggest challenges facing an indie press is distribution. Before starting La Muse Press, I researched potential book distributors, and boy, is it challenging to find one willing to take on an emerging publisher. In order to have a major book distributor,  usually the publisher needs to have publish a decent amount of titles. Ingram, which is the leading distributor in the trade book industry, states on its website that a publisher seeking its distribution has to have at least ten titles. On its website, they list the following companies as being potential distributors for emerging publishers: Lighting Source Inc, Greenleaf Book Group LLC, and Atlas Distribution Services. I contacted Greenleaf Book Group in February 2011 to see how its distribution works. I was told that fiction is an extremely competitive market, and for that reason the company tends to publish and distribute  mainly non-fiction. Either way, I am still in the process of seeking a book distributor in order for La Muse publications to be found in the brick-and-mortar bookstore chains. But after reading about the success of Amanda Hocking, it appears that electronic publishing is the new wave of publishing. If that is the case, it is not that important to have one’s books sold in traditional bookstores. So in a way, technology is making it possible for emerging publishers to compete in the market. And I want to win, baby.

E-Publishing: The Wave of the Future

25 Mar

If you haven’t heard of Amanda Hocking, you must have been living under a rock. I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have heard of Hocking if it weren’t for the publishing newsletters I receive in my inbox. According to The New York Times, the self-published young adult writer who sold more than 1 million books, was offered a  four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. Hocking’s advance reached beyond $2 million! Can I say, damn that’s a lot of money! And do you know how she started her career? Selling her e-books on Amazon’s Kindle. When I read Hocking’s blog describing her “big break,” I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that writers could make money utilizing Amazon’s e-publishing platform. After reading about Hocking, I read an interview where Barry Eisler stated that his electronic short story, The Lost Coast, has netted him $1000. I never thought about selling my short stories on Amazon. But after reading about the success of Hocking and Eisler, I can’t knock the new wave of e-publishing. And for those who aren’t aboard the e-publishing train, they need to jump on it.