Grant Young Novelists Coming to Seattle May 2011: Barba, Montes, Olmos

The young Granta novelists Andres Barba, Javier Montes, and Alberto Olmos will be coming to Seattle in May. It looks like they’ll be having some sort of conversation since David Guterson is going to be hosting. All I know so far is below:

May 15; Granta 113 The Best of Young Spanish Novelists with ANDRÉS BARBA, JAVIER MONTES, and ALBERTO OLMOS of Spain, hosted by DAVID GUTERSON,

The Best Time for Writers – Alan Rinzler at Elliott Bay 1/23/10

I went down to Elliott Bay Books on the other day (1/23/10) to see a presentation from Alan Rinzler, an editor at Jossey-Bass, about getting published. Naturally, an interesting topic for any writer:

The topic of his talk today is “Why There’s Never Been a Better Time for Writers Who Want to Get Published.” He’ll speak about book publishing from the inside, dispelling myths, confronting realities, and explaining what current changes mean for writers wanting to be published in this volatile business. He will also speak about presenting proposals and manuscripts in an effective manner, finding an agent, knowing what acquiring editors are looking for.

It was quite interesting to hear the state of publishing from an insider who is more cheerleader than defeatist. As the title of his talk suggests, he believes this is the best time for writers. While there were some contradictory elements in his presentation he does have a point. He started off by noting that the number of book sales is up in certain genres, specifically young adult, graphic novel and literary fiction. Certainly encouraging news. However, as he would do throughout the presentation he then notes that publishers either don’t know what they are doing or botch the sales job. In his opinion, the only way to sell a book is have buzz via social media. Book tours are a thing of the past (I often wondered how they could make money with them when so few come to readings; it’s at best a break even proposition). Interestingly, he really didn’t see much room for the book stores. He noted that they usually send back all the copies of a book with in a few weeks of receiving them so that there is not time for the slow build, which is es specially important in fiction. only 10% of books make money. He didn’t answer how publishers can justify big advances with those odds. His final, comment of note on the publishing business was that all the job cuts were just cutting away the fat and that staff now are more lean and do more with less. The take away is if you are going to write, be social media ready.

He then went on to talk about what writer should do to get published. Most of it is common advice, but he did break it down into quick bites. Finding an agent, for example, isn’t a book length topic.

Find an agent – You need one to protect you from “people like me.”

  • To find one go to writers conferences. It is relaxed atmosphere and they are on their best behavior.
  • Be aggressive: go to their office and wait them out; send an email submission even though they say no because they can be tempted by something good (and they ignore query letters).
  • The best if you know someone who has an agent.
  • Self publish and show them the book.
  • Read Publisher’s Weekly and Publisher’s Market Place weekly emails. It will tell you the deals with the agent’s names.

Writing a Proposal

  • Should be 25 pages.
  • Have a 2 to 3 paragraph hook. How you are going to say this book has to be published.
  • Out line of no more than 10 pages
  • Platform: where are you in the public. Have you written anything else, been on TV, etc.?
  • DVD of you talking.

Elliott Bay Books in Financial Trouble

It looks like Elliott Bay Books is in financial trouble. The Seattle Times is reporting they many need to move or close. This is a great bookstore and it would be a shame if it went out of business, if for no other reason than the number of author readings it hosts just could not be duplicated anywhere else. Hopefully, they can weather the storm and maybe move somewhere else.

Michael Chabon at Elliott Bay Books – A Quick Report

Michael Chabon was at Elliot Bay Book Company on Friday for those occasional superstar appearances at the bookstore, where it is standing room only and the fans spill out into the cafe which is normally separated fro the reading area. I would imagine most of the crowd has read one or all of his books. I, naturally, haven’t ready any because I never get around to reading American authors (something I hope to remedy soon). In the great tradition of salesmanship, I went to be sold on his writing. Right now he is touring his new book Manhood for Amateurs and he read a couple peaces about the joys and disappointments of comic book loving geekdom. While parts were entertaining, I can’t say I’m going to rush out to read the book, because the points he ultimately raise about the joy of the geek life and sharing it with your children were not particularly compelling—nice, but not compelling.

The questions he took, though, led to a great quote and underscores the truth that sometimes what an author writes isn’t as interesting as what they talk about. I am still curious to read one of his novels. Perhaps in a few more months.

In talking about how the comic book and genre geeks create new ideas by taking what an author has created and extending it in new ways he said,

The Talmud is fan fiction of the Torah. The New Testament is fan fiction on the Old Testament.

Larry Wilmore at Elliott Bay Books

Larry Wilmore from the Daily Show was at Elliott Bay Books yesterday evening. He is on a book tour for his new book I’d Rather We Got Casinos, and Other Black Thoughts. The book is a collection of fake interviews, essays, radio shows that he wrote over the last year. He was inspired to write by Woody Allen’s early books, which Wilmore thinks are funny. It is an interesting influence and one I might not have guessed, I suppose because Allen is so unfunny now, but Take the Money and Run and Love and Death are quite funny.

Since Wilmore is a comedian the evening was very funny. You never know how an author who doesn’t primarily work through books will address a crowd in a bookstore. The last writer I saw like that was Johan Bruneel, the author of a book on bike racing, but usually I see novelists. Wilmore gave a short run down of his history as a writer and comedian, which most people probably don’t know, but is extensive and makes for some good stories. He then talked about his book and read through the table of contents finding titles he liked and explaining what the bit was about. I’ve never seen an author do that and if he wasn’t funny it would have painful. Eventually he read (and like a good reader, used voices for each character) and answered questions.

It was refreshing to see someone break the conventions of the reading a bit and do something a little different, even if it wouldn’t work for anyone else.

Amitav Ghosh at Elliott Bay Books

Last night I had the opportunity to go to a reading by Amitav Ghosh at Elliot Bay Books where he read from his new book, Sea of Poppies. He read a long and funny passage from the book the that was part political discussion about the rightness of the opium trade and part comedy of manners which ended in a hilarious description of oral sex. It sounds well worth the read.

When he took questions he made a couple of interesting points. One, unlike the maritime history of the United States, Britain, and other western countries, the maritime history of Asia doesn’t exist. Sure there are histories from the western officer class that manned the ships, but there is nothing like Two Years Before the Mast or Red Beard. There is not even an oral tradition. It is a big hole in the history. Second, he compared Indians of the 19th century to the Africans of the 17th and 18th century. Each was taken from their homeland and put into a condition of enslavement or indenturement. But unlike the slave narratives like Olaudah Equiano’s early account to the more famous by Frederick Douglas, there are no narratives of the Asian sailors. Ghosh sees part of what he is doing is to rediscover the missing history, not as a historian who has to focus on one little section, but as a novelist who can create a broader portrait of the time.

You can also hear a interview with him on NPR.