Sunday, March 8, 2009

Will Blog 4 Food

When I first started writing this blog back in January I had previously written four blog post about my experience in the publishing program at PSU and my experiences in marketing at Ooligan Press. I liked doing that. I felt good to have something I had written published again, even if it was only on one lowly blog read by a few people at most. When I was doing that it was only once a week and that was hard enough, for this class it's twice a week. It's hard. But the thing that I enjoy about it is that it forces me to write, period. I have always been someone that does better when I have a writing deadline or assignment. I've always been a better employee than a student and I always struggle with writing for myself day-to-day. But when there is a deadline, well it's got to be done, right?

I don't know if I will continue to blog after I finish this class and graduate. But, I have started to think about creative ways to blog and more importantly, I've discovered food blogs. I can't believe it took so long for me to find them, but now that I have I am thrilled. There are blogs from home cooks trying out recipes, and writers giving their "food sense", to industry insiders sharing their own informed opinions. Then of course there are the food reviewers. Not all of these are good and there is a little part of me that thinks: who do these people think they are? Who cares what they have to say about a restaurant? Who made them experts? But then I think of all of the possibilities that blogs present to me. I doubt that I can make any money with a blog about food, but I would love doing it nonetheless.

I've always struggled to figure out how to do what I love (cooking) and making a living. I considered becoming a chef (even got accepted to culinary school) but in the end I came to the conclusion that restaurant kitchens aren't the place that I want to cook. I like cooking at home for my friends. I like making what I want and then having those that I love give me feedback. For awhile I thought that I would open a restaurant but then I decided I really didn't want to turn into a complete jerk (as some restaurant owners are prone to.) So, now I am graduating with a degree in writing and book publishing and my eyes have been open to the possibilities of food writing simply for pleasure and the practice of writing and then we will see where that takes me.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Era Un/grid Micropub Sustainability

" I welcome Brent Lank, a very successful writer and publisher. So, Brent in the midst of the collapse of the publishing industry over the last decade why do you think you have been so successful?" I don't really care for these types of dated interviews, but it was Amazon after all and they were the only oldmedia still in business.

"A lot has to do with marketing and using the newest technologies to connect to readers and as a way to market myself. Taking advantage of the opportunity the demise of the old publishing model offers is also a part of it."

"What do you mean by 'taking advantage'?"

"What I'm saying is that when New York was still the hub of publishing, when the conglomerates were making the deals and decisions, and of course, because of the advent of the new integrated un/grid technology, I could not have become the successful publishing author that I am today." As soon as I finished speaking the blogcaster from Amazon Media lobbed another one my way.

"So, what's your take on the impact of the 2016 100mile law and how it limits the hard copy production of books." asked the blogcaster.

"Well, by the time the price of gas finally came down to $14 a gallon and most of the media conglomerates and traditional means of publishing, distribution, and book selling collapsed, it made sense for us to make some drastic changes. The Supreme Court said that hard copies must be printed within 100 miles of where they are bought and sold. Additionally, that number of oldbooks can be printed is now dictated by the number of electronic sales for any given market. Ninety-eight percent of all people now read newmedia or newbooks."

"So, in your local market only two percent of books are oldbooks? Doesn't that make them more expensive? Something only collectors can afford?" the blogcaster leaned in as if she would be able to better hear me though her monitor.

"I love a great physical book as much as the next person. But now that newmedia and newbooks are so inexpensive and since almost everyone is connected to the un/grid, surely this localized, micropub culture we have instituted in the wake of Depression2 is far more sustainable than that bloated bygone model that made oldbooks so cheap."

"But what about those that aren't connected, are there no books for them at all?" she asked me?

"There are programs in place to help those people and you must take into consider all of the jobs that micropresses have created because of the 100mile law. And just think about how many people are writing and publishing these days. Look at all of the collaboration that goes into projects like my own Brainstorms."

"Isn't a lot of this just vanity publishing?" her eyes gave away the subtle sarcasm in her voice.

"Not with the project that I am working on. With the aid of aiEditor 3.0 (vastly improved in its subtle comprehension of language) I can get chapters and other pieces of writing out in hours or days. You have to spend some time working with the software before you go live but once you feel comfortable it opens up great opportunities for reader feedback and collaboration. I can't tell you what a great response I am getting from my subscribers and..."

The blogcaster spoke just loud enough to cut me off in the middle of my sentence. "Well, thank you for coming on and sharing your view with me. Good luck with endeavors. And with that I'll say farewell. Please join me tomorrow for my interview with Governor Cruise. We will talk about his plan to make intergalactic history a part of high school curriculum."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Niche Market

I have done a little bit of exploring when it comes to publishing companies. What I have found is that there is no “one” company that I would absolutely “kill” to work for. So, instead of writing about a particular company I think I will write about what kind of company I would like to work for or better yet what kind of company I’d like to help create.

In the spring of 2007 I took a capstone class at Portland State University called, Youth Gender and Sexuality Minorities. I was not new to these topics or the issues that go along with them. I am a gay man myself and so have a certain amount experience and empathy for these issues. Yet, the aspect of this class that I was most taken with were the issues of gender identity. I feel that I am very comfortable in my own gender, but for some reason the issue of gender identity resonated with me a great deal. At the end of the term the instructor asked us all what we would take from the class into our future. After thinking on this a bit my response was—I want to be able to produce books—educational, fiction, poetry, text, manuals, picture books, young adult, etc—which speak to the experience of transsexual and transgendered people, their families, the medical profession, policy makers, and the public in general.

There are several publishers that speak to and print books marketed to the LGBT community, but it seems there is still a lack of books that speak directly to the trans community and individuals. Alyson Books is one of those companies. In the fall of 2007 I took Denis Stovall’s class, Introduction to Publishing. One of the most important aspects of this class is that you and there rest of the members of a small group develop a mock press. One of the first things that must be done is a discussion of what kind of press the group is interested in developing. I saw this as a chance to begin my desire to produce and publishing books for this relatively small and very specific audience. To my surprise my group overwhelmingly supported my idea and so, Open Door Press was conceived. Open Door Books will deliberately help to create and cultivate books and other information which members of the trans community will be able to read about themselves and others like them who much of society is unable to embrace. So, I hope to work for a publishing company like this—or even to create it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ah, Now he's Spoiled

When I was sixteen I moved to southern California to live with my mom and step-dad. My parents divorced when I was very young and Douglas(the step-dad) came into our lives not too long after. To make a long story short, there were custody issues, court battles, and a kidnapping (not as dramatic as it sounds.) Suffice to say sometimes I lived in Kansas and sometimes I lived in California.

Shortly after I arrived in California I went out and looked for a part-time job. I found one the Sporting Goods and Toy Department at Sears. It was a great job, I made both an hourly wage and commission on the sales. Like many people, on my breaks I would go wonder around in the mall.

One day while browsing the aisles of Waldenbooks I found myself in the Self-Help or Psychology section. I came across a book that struck my interest. I was called The Best Little Boy in the World by Andrew Tobias. I looked through it, and then, I stole it.

I stole it because it was a memoir about a young man coming out of the closet. I stole it because I didn't think that the cashier would sell it to a sixteen year old. I stole it because I didn't want anyone to know that I too might be gay.

When I got home I went to my room and read the book. It changed my life. I suppose I had been dealing with my sexuality for most of my life, but Tobias's book revealed a new world to me. I had always understood that I had a physical attraction to males. I had even had some sexual experiences with other boys. But I had no idea that this could actually impact how I may live my life. I had always thought that I would still marry a woman and have kids. I never understood that men could have relationships with each other. The concept of being a homosexual or gay was very different to me than being a fag--something that other kids had called me since fourth grade.

I knew that I should throw the book away, but I didn't. Since it revealed so much to me I wanted to hold on to it. I locked it my suitcase and stuck it back in the closet. About a week or so later I came home after school and work to find my mother in a really bad mood. She had found the book. I was caught. My secret was out of the closet and after that day things would never be the same as they were before.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A New Writing & Publishing Education Model

At the University of Baltimore the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts masters program not only incorporates publishing oriented classes into the curriculum but culminates in a publication of, “poetry, fiction, essay, or memoir, that the [students] not only write[s], but also design, and produce. “ The stated goal of the program is to produce graduates that can live a life of writing but are also “strong candidates for careers in teaching and publishing.” At the University of Melbourne the stated goal of the Masters in Creative Writing, Publishing, and Editing, is to, “demonstrate[s] the links and shared skills between writer, editor and publisher as well as between fiction and non-fiction writing.”
Both of these schools have created programs that fundamentally benefit writers. Over the course of a career a writer is likely going to learn many important facts about the publishing industry, but how much easier would it be to get started if a writer to had a more all-encompassing understanding of the business to begin with? At universities that have both a creative writing program and publishing program it makes sense for them to start working closer together. Writers should take several publishing classes; have the opportunity to participate in any publishing labs, and to intern at local presses. At universities that have creative writing programs but no publishing programs it would benefit the student if the school began to incorporate publishing oriented classes in to the program of study. For a writer to have the chance to study book publishing gives that writer a better understanding of the industry that he is trying to enter and a better understanding of his role in that industry.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Buy Buy Buy Buy Buy Buy Buy Buy

I have bought because of an marketing e-mail campaign. Specifically through Amazon and Zappos, two of my favorite online retailers. Usually it has to do with a "free shipping" promotion or some kind of great discount. It doesn't happen very often but I am certainly willing to admit that these campaigns work for me. I love shopping online. Zappos is especially close to my heart. I think it's amazing that I can order a pair of shoes at noon on one day and then have them at my door the next day. And to top it off, if I don't like the shoes or they don't fit, I can just mail them back for free. I calculated my the amount that I spent in '08 and I spent more than $200 at Zappos. I'm sure that if I looked into it I would find I had spent a similar amount at Amazon.

All in all I have to say that at least with online store that I like e-mail marketing works for me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Writer, publisher, writing, publishing

As I quickly approach the end of my time in the publishing program at Portland State University I have just a few more hurdles before I can call myself a graduate. First, I need to pass the two classes that I am taking this term. Second, write a final essay and finally, defend my portfolio in front of my graduate committee. The topic that I have been assigned for my graduate essay is: What can publishing programs do that creative programs can't? Discuss the value to creative writers of an education in publishing.

Like many people who end up in the publishing industry, I am a writer. I discovered the program and was immediately attracted to the idea of going into publishing (or at least studying it) because I believed that as I continue to find myself as a writer it could only benefit me to understand the business of publishing. Like many outside of the publishing industry I didn't know a whole lot about the book biz. The extent of my knowledge began an ended with the notion of an editor. "Of course I would be a great editor," I thought. Yet, I had no real understanding of what that meant. And I certainly had no concept of the process of acquisitions, marketing, design, or publicity.

It is because of the time that I have spent in the publishing program that I now have a real understanding of how the industry works as a whole (at least in theory.) I have a sense of the of publishing history dating back to Gutenberg's printing press in the 13th century. I've learned how t he internet is changing the industry today as much as the printing press did over five hundred years ago. I have learned about the many different stages that go into the publishing of a book and hopefully I have learned how I can better market and present myself and my writing to both publishers and the public at large.

What do you writer's in publishing think?