Category Archives: Publishing

In the Weeds

In the WeedsHi all, sorry I haven’t been posting lately (I find myself saying this a lot, huh?), but I’m under deadline for several projects right now:

  • I’m conducting another BooksActually workshop tomorrow, and I just this afternoon finished preparing for it;
  • I’m writing an article for POSKOD which is due on the 30th, and I need to wrangle my research notes (taken just this past Wednesday) into a form that approximates creative nonfiction (25% finished);
  • I’m looking at the final submissions for Fish Eats Lion (only four days left to submit!), and trying to shape it all into a coherent anthology;
  • I need to read and critique the stories of my mentees in the Ceriph Mentorship Programme for when we next meet on 6 May;
  • I’m writing a story for the Eastern Heathens anthology, and have thankfully been given an extension, as it’s looking right now that it’ll be around 8-10K words long (40-50% finished);
  • I’m writing a 45-minute plenary talk for this year’s Creative Arts Seminar run by the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Education Branch at the end of May, and will pitch it later to Math Paper Press as part of the Babette’s Feast chapbook series (60% finished);
  • I’m conducting two workshops again at the CAS, and will need to change them a bit from last year, both to accomodate this year’s theme and to differentiate them enough in case students took a similar workshop from me in a previous GEB Literature Seminar; and
  • I’ve pledged to write a 500-1,000-word story for The Ayam Curtain, and I haven’t even started thinking about what I might do for this.

I also have a big announcement coming up in about a week, which will lead to more work for the rest of this year; it’s something that I’m very excited about, and it’s taking quite a lot of willpower not to just spill the beans right now, but y’all will have to wait. (I’m such a tease.) 😉

So yeah, I probably won’t be updating much here for the time being. But feel free to catch me at Facebook and Twitter, where I’m slightly more active. Hopefully, by beginning of June, I’ll be out of the weeds and able to get back on the Tower novel again; I really want to finish it by August if possible.


Filed under Publishing, Singapore, Writing

Amazon Again

Now is the Spring of my continued bodily suffrage …

Books and MoneyJust when I thought I was getting better, I got slammed with a massively inconvenient and excruciatingly painful sinus infection last week. I think the worst is over, but man alive, that was the worst I’ve felt since … since my previous sinus infection when I visited my sister in New York for Christmas in 2008. It hit five days ago, and laid me low for the entire day; I only emerged from bed to beg for precious, precious pharmaceuticals from my neighborhood doctor, to forage for food in the apartment, and to occasionally pee. I don’t normally like to take antibiotics, because of the tendency to create resistant super-bacteria, but I was pleading for them this time, that’s how much pain I was in. I felt so bad that I couldn’t even stand to stare passively at the television.

Thankfully, I’m feeling much better now, although since my fever broke on Day 2, I’ve been sweating like my body has decided it just doesn’t want any water in there anymore (I can’t count how many tee shirts I’ve gone through). And yes, this past weekend when I was taking care of Anya so that Janet could participate in minimART at the Substation, I was still recovering, which made those days extra exhausting.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging, folks. Just trying to keep the fluids inside my leaky boat of corporeality.

Anyway, to completely change the subject, I came across an incredible article from Salon today, called “Amazon’s $1 Million Secret” by Alexander Zaitchik, which dovetails quite nicely with my recent posts about Amazon here and here. Apparently, Amazon has been quietly dispensing grants of around $25,000 to independent presses, translation prizes, book festivals, and literary organizations.

Those bastards! you may scream. How dare they! This just proves once again that … wait. What? Hey, they’re giving out money gratis to worthy literary ventures. Hooray for Amazon!

Well, maybe.

Over the course of the article, Zaitchik makes a compelling case that this move by Amazon may not be just about philanthropy. It’s true that the beneficiaries of Amazon’s beneficence need the money, and such a generous infusion of cash will do them wonders. Especially the publishers, who are just scraping by right now, who have had to downsize their editorial staff, who have resorted to inferior paper because it’s cheaper, who have had to pay their authors less, who have had to cut down on the number of titles they publish each year, who have done all of these things because of the contractual bullying and strong-arm tactics of the biggest bookseller in the world …


So on the one hand you have Amazon crippling these publishers and taking away their will to live, and on the other hand you have Amazon graciously donating grants to these same publishers and giving them financial relief from the dire straits that Amazon actually caused in the first place. There are two effects here:

  1. Amazon gets to keep their prices low on books by these indie presses, and
  2. These publishers are less likely to speak out about Amazon’s general assholery because they don’t want to jeopardize their chances at getting another sweet, sweet grant from Amazon during the next donation cycle.

Sneaky? Yes. Surprising? Sadly, no.

Now, to be fair, Zaitchik isn’t definitively saying that this is what Amazon is up to, but the evidence is strongly suggestive that this is the case. And based on Amazon’s past behavior, it seems highly unlikely that they would have a sudden change of heart and honestly want to help the same people they’re already gouging with their ruthless greed.

But hey, read the whole article (it’s on the longish side, but well worth the effort) and decide for yourself.


Filed under Books, Publishing

Why I Won’t Do Business With Amazon

Amazon Is Nigh a MonopolyIf you’ve poked around this site, you’ll find ordering information for my collection RED DOT IRREAL on the main page. Some folks have asked why the e-version is available at so many outlets (Smashwords, Studio Circle Six, Weightless Books, iBookstore, Nook Store, Goodreads, Kobo, Diesel), but not at the Amazon Kindle e-book store (even though the MOBI file is available directly from Smashwords). Amazon* is the biggest seller of e-books on the planet, so it only makes sense to have my book listed there, right? The big outlying success stories with e-books (Amanda Hocking, J.A. Konrath, Michael Prescott, etc.) were only made possible because of exposure at the Kindle Store, and because my book is a story collection (a format that is generally not popular with book buyers), it could use all the help it could in terms of exposure, right? Am I just a doubleplusmoron for deciding against selling my book there?

The answer is no. Well, at least, I hope not (although if I was a doubleplusmoron, I wouldn’t have the cognitive capacity to recognize that I was in the first place). It’s true that Amazon is the biggest game in town, and I understand this quite well. When I still lived in the States, I frequently ordered from them in addition to supporting my local indie bookstores; it’s hard to say no to their aggressively low prices and prompt deliveries. However, I now refuse to do business with them anymore, as a consumer, an author, or a publisher. Here’s why.

1. Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the Internet.

Wal-Mart gained their reputation by having the lowest prices on the products they carry, lower than anywhere else. They accomplished this by pressuring their suppliers to give them increasingly deep discounts so that they could keep prices low. An effect of this is that the manufacturers of those products, very often found in China and India, were pressured by the suppliers to also reduce costs. This in turn has led to many unfair labor practices in those countries, such as inconsistent pay periods, mandatory overtime (with no extra pay), lax safety conditions, lack of worker’s compensation, militant anti-unionism, and zero job security. Another effect is seen at the consumer level, where Wal-Mart has pushed many independent businesses into bankruptcy because they just couldn’t discount as deeply.

Wal-Mart has an online e-commerce store, but the vast majority of their sales still come from their plethora of gigantic superstores that blanket the USA. They depend on the physical presence of these storefronts to drive their sales. Amazon has no need for actual physical shops, and they never have. All of their sales come from online. Amazon is also well-known for deep-discounting the many items on their site, and their tactics are very similar to Wal-Mart’s in being able to force those prices down. Yet in terms of e-commerce, they’ve actually out-Wal-Marted Wal-Mart.

As an increasingly ethical consumer, I want to support companies with fair business practices, who treat the people who work both for them and with them in a moral and ethical way. Amazon has repeatedly shown that their bottom line is the bottom line, and while customers get to reap these low prices and become brand-loyal to Amazon, every one else up the supply chain is hurting.

2. Amazon Treats Its Own Employees Like Shit

Taking a page from its suppliers in China, Amazon treats its own factory workers as dispensable and beneath the concern of basic human rights. They have to store all the stuff that they import in giant warehouses with either little or no ventilation, and where the temperatures rise to intolerable levels inside; during summer heat waves, workers pass out so routinely that “Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat workers.” Is this really the way to treat the people who physically store and ship the items you sell?

Amazon pushes these workers beyond their limits, then reprimands them for their “low” levels of productivity and threatenes to fire them if they don’t do better. “The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse.” If a worker is genuinely lazy and not pulling their weight, that’s one thing, but to systematically treat all its employees as discardable interchangeable exploitable robots is quite another. It’s horrible enough that theses practice are happening in China, but it’s abominable that they’re also taking place in the USA in the 21st Century.

3. Amazon Hates Brick-and-Mortar Shops

This past Christmas, Amazon launched a “Price Check” app on both the iPhone and Android stores, and encouraged people to walk into their neighborhood shops, scan the prices of the items they wanted, then walk out of the store and order them on Amazon instead. This deal didn’t apply to bookstores, but almost any other independent or chain store could be targeted. This was a despicable way for Amazon to get free labor in determining prices from their competitors, and further encouraged the idea that “cheaper is better,” no matter the impact to the businesses being infiltrated by this behavior.

As part of its “Wal-Mart Attitude,” Amazon wants to be all things to all people, the virtual analog to Buy N Large. It’s true that companies will send employees to visit their competitors in order to keep updated on selection and pricing; this is a legal practice and it encourages openness in competition. However, sending your customers to get this information, with the compensation being a tiny discount on an Amazon order, leaves a terrible taste in the mouth. I get the sense that if Amazon obliterated all physical storefronts everywhere, its stockholders would not be able to stop orgasming long enough to spend their massive stacks of money.

Note that this tactic was aimed both at chain stores and at independent shops, but the indies would have been hit particularly hard by this. Indie stores provide a sense of neighborhood and local import that chains do not, and the money earned by these shops tends to stay within the community; taxes from these local stores go toward improving infrastructure, maintaining public parks, keeping public libraries open, etc. Chain stores and e-commerce sites like Amazon owe nothing to any community, and the profits earned go directly into the stockholders’ pockets. Which leads to my next point.

4. Amazon Refuses to Collect Sales Taxes

Amazon only grudgingly collects sales tax in five US states, and has fought vigorously to avoid collecting taxes in the others, even “where Amazon has a clear physical presence via distribution centers and wholly owned subsidiaries.” This gives it an unfair advantage over other brick-and-mortar and online stores, and denies that tax money to the state governments. Their logic seems to be that because they do not have a physical storefront presence, the laws that apply to physical businesses do not apply to them, especially because there is no federal sales tax. Each state must negotiate with Amazon on its own, even though Amazon may own a warehouse or distribution center in that state, or the trucks delivering Amazon’s products must drive on roads that run through that state, or their employees must rely on public services such as police or firefighters to remain safe in that state, or the customers who buy Amazon’s products pay for them from that state.

Because Amazon refuses to collect these taxes, they can keep their prices low, and continue to cement their market superiority. And when state governments do indeed pursue sales taxes from Amazon, such as in California, Amazon “threatened to cut ties with more than 10,000 California-based websites that get revenue through the Internet giant’s affiliate program if California passes a law to tax online sales.” In Texas, Amazon closed “its suburban Dallas distribution center amid a dispute with the state over millions in state sales taxes.” Instead of working with these state governments, Amazon is content to bully them into a free ride, and then cut and run if they don’t get their way.

5. Amazon Wants To Be the Only E-book Retailer Anywhere

Ever since the Kindle was launched in 2007, Amazon has hawkishly pushed e-books as the next stage in consumer literature. The argument for e-books has been around since I was in high school (when my dad first showed me an article about e-ink technology), but it wasn’t until the last couple of years when e-readers, and Kindles in particular, became affordable to much larger groups of people. Amazon now sells its Kindle and Kindle Fire at a loss, because it knows it can make back its money by providing inexpensive content wrapped in DRM through its devices. Amazon also does this to drive out the competition, essentially forming a monopoly, at which time they are free to raise prices again because no one will have anywhere else to go.

As you might imagine, book publishers aren’t too happy about this. Already, for years they’ve had to sell their books at massive discounts to be listed on Amazon’s site at all, and then, they’re being told that Amazon will be the only retailer to sell their e-books. Thankfully, EPUB became the e-book format standard rather than Amazon’s proprietary MOBI format, and pretty much any e-reader out there now can read it, including the Barnes & Noble NOOK, which seems to be the only major competition for the Kindle right now**.

Two years ago, Apple developed the iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone, and the big publishing conglomerates (often called “The Big Six”) leapt at the chance to make their titles available on such widespread and loved devices. Buy this action, Apple could take enough business away from Amazon that it would definitely impact their bottom line. So, in retaliation for this move, Amazon pulled most or all of the listed books from publisher Macmillan (including all paper editions, not just electronic) from their online store. The listings remained on the site, but the “Buy” buttons were removed.

This hit quite close to home. I’m not published by Macmillan, but many of my writer friends are (at publishers like FSG, Henry Holt, Picador, St. Martin’s Press, and Tor). They never asked to get caught up in this fight, but by delisting these books, Amazon denied them money from royalties that would have been made had the “Buy” buttons remained up during this time. Amazon purposefully took money away from my friends, and this pissed me off. Thankfully, Amazon backed off, and relisted the books, but there was nothing to stop them from doing so again.

And again they have. Just last week, Amazon pulled more than 4,000 books from its site in order to pressure the Independent Publishers Group, one of the USA’s largest book distributors, into renegotiating their contractual terms to move things more toward Amazon’s favor. The books by the publishers distributed by IPG are now delisted from the Kindle e-book store, and the situation remains unresolved at this point. In response, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) are now redirecting all links on their site, and replacing them with links to IndieBound, Powells, and B&N; I’ve had my criticisms of SFWA over the years, but I’ve been more and more impressed with them during John Scalzi’s recent tenure as President, and this action made me respect them so much that I finally, just yesterday, applied for active membership.

6. Amazon is All About Locking You Into Your Content

As I mentioned above, the default file format for Kindle e-books is MOBI, and these are designed to be read either on a Kindle device or in a Kindle app on the iPad (for example). If you buy a book in the Kindle store, you cannot read that book on a NOOK or a Samsung Galaxy Tab or a Sony Reader. That book has been restricted with Digital Rights Management (DRM), one of the most euphemistically insidious concepts to come out of the late 20th. DRM locks you into one device or one format, and it is non-transferable. Cory Doctorow, speaking at a writers festival in Melbourne, put it this way: “It’s as if every time you bought a book at Borders, you were locked into only shelving it in an IKEA bookcase. If you wanted to sell your books through the local independent bookseller down the road, your readers would have to throw away all the books they had bought and buy new copies to shelve on their new bookcases.”

DRM was ostensibly created to thwart piracy of electronic movies, books, and music, but any DRM can be (and has been) broken by a barely interested hacker with a free weekend, which means DRM has proven to be utterly useless in this regard. What it does instead is lock ordinary people into one device or format, and then punish them if they go outside of it. As Charles Stross mentions in “Cutting Their Own Throats“: “If you buy a book that you can only read on the Kindle, you’re naturally going to be reluctant to move to other ebook platforms that can’t read those locked Kindle ebooks — and even more reluctant to buy ebooks from rival stores that use incompatible DRM.”

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I got a NOOK Simple Touch from my parents for Christmas, and I’ve really enjoyed it in the two months I’ve used it thus far; however, I’m always aware that I don’t really own the books that I’ve bought for it, I’m only licensing them. As opposed to paper books that I can display on my bookshelves, or loan to a friend, or sell to a secondhand bookshop, the books I’ve bought for the NOOK exist only on my device and in my NOOK Library; I can’t actually access these files so as to, say, transfer them to my MacBook and read them with Adobe Digital Editions, so my philosophy is to only buy books through the NOOK e-book store that I wouldn’t have normally paid for, or may have only checked out from the library. That way, if I “lose” them for whatever reason I won’t be too terribly put out. For the e-books for which I would like to keep the files, I head to Weightless Books or Smashwords.

Now, as I say, DRM is by no means exclusive to Amazon, but because they are so singularly proprietary about their formats and devices, they are perhaps one of the most perfidious perpetrators of the concept. Amazon’s ideal situation is this: an author publishes her work through Amazon (either through the Kindle Direct Publishing program or through their new publishing arm), Amazon distributes the work through their website alone, and then readers read the work on their Kindles, with Amazon becoming a one-stop shop for everything related to the bookselling process.

This doesn’t even get into the fact that Amazon can reach into any Kindle anywhere and remotely delete its content, nor does it address the stranglehold Amazon wants to have on its book data so it can dictate that third-party sites like Goodreads can only provide links to the Amazon store and no others (to which Goodreads said buh-bye to Amazon), nor does it bring up the many many companies that utilize Amazon Web Services (like Wikileaks before Cablegate) and Amazon Payments (like Kickstarter) who are beholden in their content and payment methods to Amazon’s increasingly restrictive and bureaucratically complicated terms of service.

One company should not have so much commercial power, because, to paraphrase Lord Acton (and not Shakespeare, to whom this is usually attributed), it has been absolutely corrupted by it. Amazon is the biggest bully on the block, and is able to dictate its unfair terms to the world, and so I will no longer have anything to do with them if I can possibly help it. As stated before, I’m not interested in punishing Kindle-users, and so if you would like to buy RED DOT IRREAL to read on the Kindle, you can find it in that format and in many others, DRM-free, at Smashwords.

POSTSCRIPT: An Anti-Amazon Addendum

* You may notice that I personify Amazon quite a bit in this blog post, although I am firmly against the belief that corporations have personhood. So when I refer to “Amazon” here, I’m typically talking about CEO Jeff Bezos and the company’s board of directors.

** In terms of devices, it’s hard to say that the Apple iPad is a competitor for the Kindle, as it was always intended to be a tablet first and an e-reader later, although with the recent release of the Kindle Fire and NOOK Tablet, these distinctions are slowly evaporating.


Filed under Books, Publishing, Red Dot Irreal, Writing

Call for Submissions: FISH EATS LION



Math Paper Press and editor Jason Erik Lundberg are looking for new and innovative short fiction for an original anthology of speculative fiction (which includes science fiction and fantasy, as well as any associated subgenres, such as magic realism, space opera, steampunk, post-apocalypse, etc.) with a Singaporean flavor.

Anchor contributors for this groundbreaking anthology include Cyril Wong, Isa Kamari, Alvin Pang, Dave Chua, Jeffrey Lim, and Stephanie Ye.

In terms of what makes a “Singaporean” speculative short story, we’d like to see at least one of the following:

  • Your protagonist is Singaporean (i.e. born in Singapore)
  • Your protagonist (Singaporean or not) is living in Singapore at the time of your story (i.e. Singapore is the setting)
  • Your story’s themes are inspired by life in Singapore

As long as your narrative contains at least one of the above elements, you’re encouraged to write whatever story you choose. Please do not limit yourself to just writing about our current era; challenge yourself to write a story set in Singapore’s recent or distant past, or in the near or far future. The fantastical or science-fictional element must also be integral to your story (i.e. the story wouldn’t make any sense if you took it out). A good list of clichéd SF story premises to avoid can be found at online magazine Strange Horizons’ guidelines for “Stories We’ve Seen Too Often.”

We are hoping to have a print-on-demand version of the book available outside of Singapore in addition to the paperback being published here, so please consider that you are writing for an international audience. If the story is too all-inclusive, you risk alienating a reader unfamiliar with Singaporean culture. It’s a fine line to walk, with authenticity on one side and accessibility on the other, but it is quite possible to do both.

You need not be a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident to submit to this anthology, but you should have intimate, first-hand knowledge of life in Singapore; if your details ring false or shallow, we will be able to tell.


Stories are recommended to be between 2,000 and 5,000 words; we may consider stories that go above the upper word limit provided that they’re not egregious in length. Also, the keyword here is “new.” Even if you have previously published fiction that might fit this theme, Math Paper Press wants to emphasize that these are new stories, not reprints. You don’t have to write a story especially for the anthology (although we hope you’ll take up that challenge), but your submission must be previously unpublished in any form.


In terms of compensation, we are offering five (5) contributor copies of the published anthology, and a 40% author discount on further copies, as well as the pride of contributing to Singapore’s first anthology of original speculative fiction! In return, we’re buying First Worldwide Print rights to your story.

You may notice that we’re unable to offer monetary payment this time around. Sorry about that. We’re hoping that for future speculative fiction projects we’ll be able to pay in something other than copies, but right now, that’s all we have to offer (plus the author discount). So if we buy your piece, and if you’re hoping to sell your story to another venue afterward, it’ll count as a reprint, which means the pay rate will be less than it would have been if the venue was buying “first rights” to your story. If you understand this and are cool with it, we’d love to see your fiction.


The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2012. Please consult William Shunn’s article on Proper Manuscript Format. Send your story in RTF format as an attachment, along with cover letter, to; submissions sent in other formats, or in the body of the email, will be deleted unread.


Filed under Books, Publishing, Singapore, Writing


It’s late, and I’m tired, and somehow I blew all my writing motivation for the day after getting 1400 words written in the novel this afternoon (which, all things being said, I don’t mind at all, since novel progress is terribly important), but I’ll throw some word juice at y’all for a bit.

It’s this word “indie.”

You see, it used to have cachet. If you were an indie musician, it meant you were making and distributing your music yourself, either because you hadn’t yet been signed to a label, or because you were giving all labels the finger. If you were an indie publisher, it meant you had looked at the major NYC-based conglomerates and found something lacking there, and decided to fill that niche with your own good taste by curating your own set of books and authors. If you were an indie bookseller, it meant you were either tired of the big box bookstores (many of which aren’t around now) with impersonal service and price slashing, or you wanted to sell books where they weren’t previously being sold, both reasons pointing to a love of community.

If you were an indie author, it typically meant that you purposefully eschewed the major NYC-based conglomerates and either went through an indie publisher, or you got in there, did the hard job, and published your own work. If you were smart enough to avoid the vanity presses, it also usually meant having boxes of your own books stuffed in your closet, to be hauled out at book fairs or meet-the-author sessions, or what have you, and you were doubly motivated to sell those suckers, firstly because you were proud of your writing, and secondly because they were expensive to produce and you wanted to recoup some of your costs.

And as you sat there looking at the boxes and boxes of printed paper with stories you wrote down from your own head inscribed on them in ink or toner, you might have wondered why they weren’t selling so well. Maybe it was because you skimped on the cover art and snagged a public domain piece that didn’t really fit. Maybe it was because you couldn’t be bothered to find someone to edit the text, because who really cares about typos anyway? Maybe it was throwing together the internal design because you figured people just want the text and it doesn’t matter how it’s presented. But then, as you sat there, you maybe started thinking that those things are important, that maybe you should improve the quality of your books next time. Maybe then, the next book might sell better, although it may not.

But now, “indie,” at least in terms of referring to writers, has come to mean anyone with Microsoft Word who feels the urge to vomit a sludgy trail of words, and then slap it up onto the Internets for sale. Creating e-books has never been easier (I went through Smashwords for Red Dot Irreal, because of their quality control, their automatic format conversion, and their distribution to multiple outlets, but it’s just as easy to go through B&N’s PubIt program, or Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program), and because of this, the online stores have gotten flooded with e-books that look as if a lower-than-average third grader had put them together.

And because of this, “indie” has now lots its cachet, its sense of cool rebellion. Now “indie” = “anyone,” which has completely sucked all meaning out of the term.

I am proud to be an independent author, but I have only self-published twice in my career. In 2003, Janet and I put together Four Seasons in One Day, and the main reasons to do so were to showcase both of us and to get in a “trial run” (so to speak) on forming our own indie press. Every other one of my publications has been published by someone else (most of the pieces in 4Si1D were also reprinted, by the way). (I’m not counting The Curragh of Kildaire here, as I never intended to sell it, but yes, if you want to get pedantic, that was self-published too.) Even the ebook of Red Dot Irreal went through a rigorous editing process with Kenny and Karen at Math Paper Press first, and it wasn’t until the final print version was ready that I felt comfortable converting it to digital.

So please, can I ask for some common sense, and ask folks to stop using “indie” when you mean “self-published”? The terms are not interchangeable, not even semantically similar. My blood pressure thanks you in advance.


Filed under Publishing, Red Dot Irreal, Writing

Publicity and the Introvert*

For the “Nabokov in Two Years” Goodreads Group, I’m currently reading Despair, which so far is highly enjoyable and the first book since King, Queen, Knave that I’ve gotten excited about. (Although Lolita is still the current all-time Nabokov favorite.) Once I finish Despair, the next book on my list is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This is a book that I’ve been anticipating since I heard about its publication. I’m an introvert big-time; in every instance in which I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, since the first time in high school, I’ve always fallen heavily toward I and away from E.

When I’m in the writing phase, I’m happiest, deep inside my own head, pushing the rest of the world away for that small amount of time in which people I’ve created from my own brain walk around and talk to other invented people and get into trouble and fall in love. When the writing is flowing, it’s almost like I’ve entered a meditative space and the world falls away. Entering that space recharges me (and apparently, my dopamine levels), just as reading a good book does, or sitting in a darkened movie theatre, or leaning against a tree gazing up at the clouds.

Banksy PublicityBut, when one is lucky and talented and perseverant enough to have one’s writing published and then scrutinized by the reading public, one must publicize the work. And this is a problem for introverts. The whole interacting-with-other-people bit is exhausting for us, and especially so when trying to promote our own creative endeavors. It would be so much easier to just make an announcement on Facebook and/or Twitter about the new book, just one, and then huge masses of people will know about it, and buy it, and enjoy it, and recommend it to their friends, and push it on their coworkers, and then Jason can sit back and eat Tim Tams all day. But the world doesn’t work like that (especially the part about the Tim Tams; they’re delicious but wow, the calories!), and most working writers today, whether they’re published by a large house or a small press, have to take on a considerable portion of publicity for their book.

Dora Goss tackled this subject about a week ago, and it’s gotten me thinking a lot about how to handle publicity. Dora is also a proud introvert (if such a description exists), but she has several things going for her book The Thorn and the Blossom:
The Thorn and the Blossom

  1. The book has an interesting gimmick; subtitled “A Two-Side Love Story,” it’s published accordion-style, so that, read one way, you get one character’s POV, and read the other way, you get the second character’s POV. The whole story can’t be gained by just reading one side, and the narratives interlock in interesting ways. The design aspect is highly appealing and unusual here, and requires the strong command of the writer to pull it off.
  2. Dora is an amazing writer. She’s in the top-five of my favorite writers working in Fantasy today. Her background in poetry lends her prose a mythic resonance, and I fall in love with each of her stories whenever I read them. She’s won the World Fantasy and Rhysling Awards, and been nominated for countless others, and has steadily been building a fan base since she’s started publishing.
  3. She’s also a thoughtful and prolific blogger. She devoted herself to blogging nearly every day in 2011, and has covered a wide range of topics with both keen observation and openness toward discussion with her commenters. This has built an overlapping audience who value her accessibility and her regularity.
  4. Have you seriously not bought The Thorn and the Blossom yet? What are you waiting for?

So what about me? Red Dot Irreal was published in October 2011, so the shiny newness is starting to fade. (And according to a publicist commenting at Dora’s site, I should have been coming up with a publicity plan at least six months to a year before publication.) I gave readings at the Singapore Writers Festival and at BooksActually, but my accessibility outside of Singapore is limited. I blitzed Twitter and Facebook, but in my eagerness may have overdone it a tad. I’ve sent the book to reviewers, and am hoping to see some press soon. But I should have been doing far more.

Contest giveaways are a big way to promote, but before the POD edition was available through Lulu, I had to worry about nigh-prohibitive shipping costs from Singapore. I could have organized interviews, or blog-tours, but again, until the book was available in the US, many people who might have wanted to get the book wouldn’t have been likely to front the money to have the book shipped from overseas. The e-book launched at the same time as the Singapore publication, but the response there has been fairly quiet too.

These are all things that I’m dealing with in retrospect, and will improve for next time (granted there is a next time), but here are some things that you, my intelligent and beautiful readers, can do to help right now:

  1. Consider rating the book at Goodreads, and posting a short review. Goodreads is probably the most influential book-related social network right now, and if a book page shows a good number of reader reactions, it can help to gauge interest and possibly nudge a passer-by into trying the book for herself. Whether you own the paperback or the e-book, reader reviews are important there.
  2. If you’ve read the e-book, you can cross-post your review to whichever site you downloaded it from: Smashwords, Studio Circle Six, Weightless Books, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook, Kobo, or Diesel. (You can also buy the e-book from Goodreads.) E-books are a growing juggernaut, and the more people aware of the book through these various outlets, the better.
  3. If you were scared off by the price of ordering the book from Singapore, think about ordering it from Hand to heart, the POD paperback edition looks fantastic, almost indistinguishable from the original offset-printed book, and at a much cheaper price for folks outside Singapore. Then, if you dig it, you can write a short review for the book page there (and then cross-post it to Goodreads).
  4. If you run or write for a book-review blog, email me and I’ll send you a code to download the DRM-free e-book gratis. If your blog is highly trafficked or if you write for a newspaper or magazine, I can also mail you a review copy of the POD edition. If you’re so inclined, you can link to your review on Facebook or Twitter, and if you email me the link, I’ll give a thankful signal boost in those places, and also here at the blog.
  5. If you really dug the book and want to go that extra mile to help others also find it, you can recommend the book personally to your friends, loved ones, book club, etc. Nothing piques a person’s interest in a book like an enthusiastic devotee! (And if your book club wants to read the book and then invite me to talk about it, there may be ways to do so involving Skype or Google+ Hangouts.)

Any and all pimpage efforts will be greatly appreciated. The goal here is to enable as many people as possible to enjoy the book. And please, if you have any other tips or learned experience, share it in the comments and spread the wealth of knowledge!

* Blog title and publicity suggestion list lovingly pinched from Dora. Apologies!


Filed under Introversion, Publishing

RED DOT IRREAL Now Available To Order (Updated)

RED DOT IRREAL at GoodreadsIf you live in Singapore, Red Dot Irreal is available for purchase at BooksActually and, by next week, at Kinokuniya. Since the awesome folks who published the book through Math Paper Press also run BooksActually, if you buy the book there until 31 December, you’ll also get a coupon code for the free e-book version of the book.

For those of you outside of Singapore, the book is now available for ordering!

The paperback can be ordered from the main book page. The shipping zones are set by Singapore Post, although it’s a good bet that many of you who may want to order are in Zone 3; if you’re not sure, just read the description for each PayPal button on the page. I’m happy to sign and personalize your copies. Prices are in Singapore dollars (SGD), with the book at $25.00 SGD plus variable shipping (Z1 = $5.00 SGD, Z2 = $7.50 SGD, Z3 = $10.00 SGD); currency will automatically be converted by PayPal upon transaction. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.

The e-book edition can be purchased and downloaded from Smashwords for only $3.99 USD. I’ve just been informed that it has been accepted into the Premium Catalogue, which means it’ll be available at the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble NOOK bookstore, Kindle ebook store, and several others in a couple of weeks; I’ll update here once this is the case.

In the meantime, you can buy the DRM-free multi-format e-book directly from Smashwords. You only need buy it once and you can download it as a PDF, ePub (for Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others), mobi (for Kindle devices & apps), Palm Doc, RTF, and Plain Text. Then, all you have to do is upload it to your preferred e-reader(s). Since there’s no DRM, you’re free to move the e-book between devices. Easy!

I’m going to be getting the word out on the book soon, so if you’re interested in reviewing a copy for a print publication or high-profile blog, please let me know.

Update: The paperback has now been confirmed as stocked at Books Kinokuniya on Orchard Road, and the e-book is now available at the Apple iBookstore, the Barnes & Noble NOOK Book Store, and the Diesel eBook Store.

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RED DOT IRREAL and the Power of Fiction

RED DOT IRREALThis past Saturday night, Red Dot Irreal, my debut short story collection, was launched at the Singapore Writers Festival as part of their “Brand New Books” programming track. About 30 people showed up, only half of whom I actually knew, and I spent an hour reading selections from the book, talking about the publishing journey, and answering questions from the audience. On stage with me were Karen Wai and Kenny Leck, my awesome publishers at Math Paper Press, as well as Jasmine Tan of You & Me Creative, who designed the cover and formatted the interiors. Afterward, to my surprise, a signing queue actually formed, and I happily chatted with those who’d attended the launch and decided to buy the book. (And after that, I got the chance to reconnect with Mario Sismondo (@mingolbacon) and Juria Toromae (@JuriaTRM ), two good friends that I really need to do a better job keeping in touch with.)

It’s been about a year from submission to publication, and at this point, it seems very strange to think that the book is now out there in the world, having to survive on its own, not completely “mine” anymore. I’m simultaneously excited that people are now able to read and (hopefully) enjoy the stories, and also terrified that those readers might instead demand their money back, decry me as a fraud and charlatan, and tell all their friends to boycott my writing from now on.

And it’s an entirely different feeling from publishing a singular story in an anthology or magazine. The fact that it’s a book, that it’s a collective artistic statement about the strange experience of living in Singapore, that it represents years of hard work and an incredible amount of faith from Karen and Kenny — it’s as if somehow things have gotten much more serious, that my writing (and therefore I myself) is being intensely scrutinized for what I have to say.

Scott McCloud, in one of his amazing books of sequential art analysis starting with Understanding Comics (I forget exactly which one), details the different stages of an artist’s development, starting with the imitation of other artists, all the way up to a profound self-examination of one’s motives in creating art. I’d like to think that I’ve passed into that upper stage in the last decade, and that the choices I make as a writer have become much more considered and deliberate, to use fiction as the most apt vehicle for what I have to say, not only as a form of entertainment (although the entertainment cannot be divorced from the text either; if the reader isn’t entertained on some level, she’s not going to keep turning the pages).

In my story “Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)” (the second piece in Red Dot Irreal), there’s a passage where I briefly lay out my philosophical justification for both writing and reading fiction. The protagonist, Mrs Singh, has complained to her son Vishal that fiction just isn’t practical, like reading a medical or law text. This is his response:

He’d tried to explain how experiencing life through someone else’s eyes would make him a more empathetic and understanding person, less likely to be closed-minded or judgmental, more willing to think for himself rather than blindly follow a given ideology. But she wasn’t sure she accepted his argument.

Karen re-read this passage during the book launch in order to talk about why she and Kenny decided to publish the book in the first place, in that they feel much the same way about the power of fiction. BooksActually is a physical manifestation of this same mindset, in the carefully curated literary stock that they sell to the willing Singaporean public. She also talked about the effect of my writing style, that my decision to work within the tropes of slipstream consequentially result in the feeling of passing through or within a dreamscape, with all the wisdom and weirdness that come from dreams.

I hope that this level of profundity exists within my fiction, but on the surface, I also just hope that people enjoy the writing, and come out of the experience of reading my fiction with a slightly expanded sense of how strange and wonderful our own world can be.

I’m very proud of this book. I’m glad that it’s only 160-odd pages long, so as to be a pleasant and brief introduction to my work. I’m ecstatic about the design and production of it as a physical object; it’s just damn beautiful to look at, and the layering effect of the translucent dustcover adds to the multi-layered motif of the writing inside. Here I am unwrapping a hot-off-the-press copy about a week and a half ago, after the copies were finished printing and delivered to BooksActually:

As of right now, the original paperback version of the book is only available in Singapore, at BooksActually and (starting tomorrow) Kinokuniya. I’ll put up a link soon for anyone to buy a signed copy via PayPal, and will be officially releasing the e-book in the next week or two. I’m also looking into possibly having a POD version available for folks outside of Singapore to be able to order. More on this later. If anyone has any suggestions for distribution (especially in the US), please let me know.

These are exciting times.

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Filed under Books, Publishing, Red Dot Irreal

Big Publishing News: Book Book Book! (Updated)

I’ve been sitting on some pretty cool publishing news for the last several months, but have been waiting until details were ironed out before I felt I could announce it here. Tonight, before the launch/reading for Ceriph issue no. 2 (which contains my story “Air is Water is Air,” the first part of which I read to this packed audience at BooksActually), finalized contracts were signed, and so now it all feels official and very very real.

In June September 2011 (only five eight months from now), Math Paper Press, the independent press run by BooksActually’s amazing proprieters Kenny Leck and Karen Wai, will publish my debut collection of short stories, Red Dot Irreal!!! Yay and W00T!

The book collects many of my fantastical short stories set in Singapore, and one in Bali (just for shiggles), what I’m calling Equatorial Fantastika. With Math Paper Press, Karen & Kenny have begun branching out into publishing, and will be bringing their considerable talent for design and presentation (not to mention bookselling) to my little volume. I actually sold the book back in September, and have shown an unbelievable amount of restraint not to blab it all over the internets before now.

This isn’t a full collection, it’s only about 36,000 words and has a fairly tight focus, but I’m really jazzed about it. We’re currently discussing whether the budget will handle interior illustrations, which I think would be really cool. I’m also talking with Karen & Kenny about possibly having copies available to be distributed in North America, so my USian peeps could also have access to it, but nothing’s concrete yet.

Here’s the proposed table of contents for Red Dot Irreal (subject to change):

01. Bogeymen
02. Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)
03. Hero Worship, or How I Met the Dream King
04. Lion City Daikaiju
05. Dragging the Frame
06. Kopi Luwak
07. Paper Cow
08. Taxi Ride
09. Coast
10. In Jurong

Dragging the Frame” and “Ikan Berbudi” have been drastically expanded from their original flash format into fully-fledged short stories; I wrote like mad during the holidays in November and December so that I could get them done before the school year started again last week. “Bogeymen” sold to Bill Schafer for Subterranean Magazine nearly four years ago now, but I don’t know if it’ll show up there before the story gets published in the book.

So anyway: eeeee! Book book book! Happy happy happy!

N.B. This entry has been updated with the new release date; the book will now be published in September rather than June. Things were pushed back a bit by Math Paper Press’ ambitious publishing schedule, and the many many other events and activities being organized by Kenny and Karen. Still, all told, a three-month delay is hardly anything, and is still in time to launch for the 2011 Singapore Writers Festival.

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The Immersion Book of SF

I’ve been meaning to post about this since last month, but just haven’t gotten the chance before now. It’s been about three months since my last blog entry, which should come as an indication of just how damn busy I’ve been, both as a teacher and a daddy.

Immersion SFAnyway, this is just to let you all know that an anthology that I’m lucky to be a contributor for is now available. The Immersion Book of SF [Publisher | Amazon], edited by Carmelo Rafala, also boasts stories from Tanith Lee, Lavie Tidhar, Aliette de Bodard, Gareth Owens, Chris Butler, Gord Sellar, and others.

My story in the antho, “The Time Traveler’s Son,” was originally published as a tiny extremely-limited-edition book from Papaveria Press in December 2008, which has since sold out. So I’m glad that the story will be getting a wider audience with the release of The Immersion Book of SF. It’s attracting some nice early attention:

“What I’m really interested in are stories like ‘The Time Traveler’s Son’ by Jason Erik Lundberg. Ironically, this is the least ‘speculative’ of the bunch as it could be interpreted as either ‘realistic’ or science fictional, giving it that extra layer of engagement. What made ‘The Time Traveler’s Son’ work for me is the emotional investment it gives the reader, even when the narrative is told in short chunks.”
–Charles Tan, World SF blog

“‘The Time Traveller’s Son’ from Jason Erik Lundberg is another shorter piece, and another very good story. It tells a story across a lifetime, of an absentee father and the lie (perhaps) he told to his son, to lessen the heartbreak of his absence. It does well creating an air of uncertainty about what the real truth is, and paints a rather moving piece of fiction.”
–Matthew Dent, reader

The Immersion Book of SF contains stories by many whose names will be familiar to fans of speculative fiction, with Aliette de Bodard’s ‘Father’s Last Ride’ and Jason Erik Lundberg’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Son’ vying for position as my favourite in the volume. Maybe I have father issues. Anyway, the first offers a ride that is as emotional as it is exhilarating, with lightskimmers providing a way into a story that’s as beautiful as the auroras a daughter travels through. It’s a satisfying read with characters to care for, just like Lundberg’s which provides more than you think you’re getting, resonating in a way that puts me in mind of an Auden poem. To say more is to diminish the story.”
–Ray Cluley, reader

Which, naturally, puts a smile on my face.

It was Wade’s seventh birthday. There were cake and ice cream and presents in the backyard, and a colorful piñata shaped like a donkey, and twenty of Wade’s friends from school, and his mom had even hired a clown, a lazy clown, and Wade could smell alcohol when the clown bent down and breathed, “Happy birthday.” Crap at balloon animals, he was winded after blowing one up, and upon failing to twist or turn or knot it into a dog or giraffe or something, he would present the sausage of air and latex with a weak flourish, “It’s a snake!”

Upstairs, in the house, Wade’s dad finished packing. The lame clown forgotten and left to wheeze on a lawn chair and nip from a cheap silver flask, Wade asked his dad where he was going, why he wasn’t down at the party.

“Important business, kiddo,” said his dad. “Time traveling business. My first mission.” He closed the suitcase and pointed out the window to the ‘84 Chevy Celebrity, bandage brown, rusted through, the fabric inside the roof coming unglued, hanging down, a drapery of obscuration.

“That’s our car,” Wade said.

“Oh no, kiddo, it’s my time machine. I can chat with Marie Curie, or punch Hitler in the face, or have tea with an archaeopteryx. I can go anywhere I want, and anywhen.”

“All your stuff is packed inside.”

“It’s a long trip. I may be gone for a while.”

Immersion SF full cover

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There and Back Again

My latest contribution to The Daily Cabal went up Friday, called There and Back Again, my none-too-subtle nod to Tolkien.

This installment concludes the series of YA flash pieces collectively called Looking Downward. If you would like to read the entire series, you can do so at the following links:

01: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
02: The World, Under
03: Androcles Again
04: Look Into My Eyes, You’re Under
05: Shiftless, Hopeless
06: Cricetinae’s Paroxysm
07: Wind and Harmony
08: Dragons at Dawn
09: Goodnight Nobody
10: There and Back Again

At some point, I will be gathering all these separate pieces into one story, filling in the blank spots, smoothing out the transitions, and then sending it off into the world. If you enjoyed Anya’s adventures in the Land of the Grey Dusk, please do let me know.

My next project for The Daily Cabal is another series of short shorts, but less sequentially connected than Looking Downward. It will be a 23-part linked narrative called Fragile, which will take a liberal interpretation of the song titles (but not the lyrics) of the masterful Nine Inch Nails double album The Fragile (which still remains my favorite NIN album). This is a concept I’ve been thinking about for a long time, although I previously thought it would take the form of a mosaic novel or collection of linked stories; I still may expand the project into such a form, but for right now, I want to get the ideas down, even if in such terse form as flash fiction. I hope you’ll tune in.

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Filed under Nine Inch Nails, Publishing, Writing