Next Tuesday, September 4 on Amazon.com!
You can also download the 70+ page reader's guide (which is also a traveler's guide through the Goodnight-Loving Trail) for free. Download it at marymccray.com.
Next Tuesday, September 4 on Amazon.com!
You can also download the 70+ page reader's guide (which is also a traveler's guide through the Goodnight-Loving Trail) for free. Download it at marymccray.com.
....so then we found out we had to move. On top of everything else. Criminy! The fact that this book is coming out this year is a miracle. It's been rough. The last few months have been packing and planning a move. Not what I had in mind for this year at all.
But we've had a lot of help from friends and family and I'm grateful for that because it's kept things with this book on track, but barely.
But I would not advise putting out a book of any sort in the same year you have to move. It's financially and physically not a good idea. Had I known.
Anyway, I also want to point out how many edit drafts this process went through. If you don't love editing, don't self-publish. End of story.
This manuscript was originally written in 2014 and went through two (2) drafts of editing by myself and Monsieur Big Bang way back then.
This year the manuscript was professionally edited (probably the most expensive part of the venture apart from cover design). That was edit number three (3). Then I edited the manuscript one final time as I was laying it out for proofs. That was the fourth (4) edit.
You can see from the post-it notes above, proofs needed many edits too. As of today there have been six (6) rounds of proof editing.
We're at a total of twelve (12) rounds of edits. In the very last versions, you're often only editing one or two things, but it's time consuming. And you have to enjoy making small changes over and over again. Which I actually do. I really enjoy editing. I find it relaxing and productive. You wouldn't know if from all the typos in this blog but if I had the time I would take every post through 4-5 rounds of editing. But it's a free blog, so you get what you pay for.
This book isn't free and it needs to be error-free.
Things have been cray-cray in the land of McCrayCray. The project to publish the new book of poems started in January, but since then I've been swooped off into another, more demanding, job. I've been to Ohio and back to bring a truck load of furniture to Albuquerque from Cleveland, where my parents live now. Then we found out we have to move in two months so we're trying to find new digs. Then our car breaks. Then there's a family reunion to get organized for. Actually two. I've been a big grumps 24/7. And of course no problems happen sequentially. They happen concurrently. So while I'm losing my mind, I'm finding some thread of sanity in the lessons of Cowboy Meditation Primer. Not that I'm great at it, mind you, but it's a practice and you just get tons more practice during the hard times.
But the book....is still...on schedule...for September.
It's been rough though. To make matters worse, I decided to write a Traveling Guide/Reader's Companion for the book, a map for traveling along the Goodnight Loving Trail with the characters of the book. The guide is also packed with New Mexico history and Zen Buddhist ideas referenced in the book, as well as where to stop along the way. It will all be a free and downloadable in September when the book goes on sale.
I might not get the eBook done, but...you can't have everything. Anyway, despite my complaining, a lot of great stuff has come together in the past few months.
Artist Emi Villavicencio did the cover for my last book of poems (see right) and I had such a good time working with her for that I decided to see if she was available for the new book. Lucky for me she was. We worked on this project from about late February to the end of June.
I told her we needed some kind of mashup between cowboys and Buddhists. So she sent me some pictures of belt designs and tattoos just so we could brainstorm off them. By April, she sent me the following drawings to see what would work.
I loved the Zen sand garden imagery and I also loved the simplicity of the rope, except it looked too much like a cattle brand. Ouch. So then Emi came up with the following two variations based on that feedback: the first based off of a style of Buddhist guidebooks and the second based off an idea we had for spurs dragging lines across the sand. I loved both of them and it was hard to choose which direction to go in.
From there it was working on variations of the boot idea, which we picked because the book has so references to taking care of your feet and feet being a focus of meditation. We could also focus on the iron-rich, red quality of New Mexico dirt. I was worried the New Mexico sky was the only element missing from the design, it's vibrant white and blues. So we decided the title might be a way to fit that element in.
In the first draft, Emi sketched everything out loosely. Then we tried a translucent boot and a more Zen font for the second version. The final draft returns to the more stylized cowboy boot, richer dirt, and the blue sky font coloring.
What a fun process. Meanwhile, I needed to get an author photo shot. Stephanie Howard did the photography in Marina Del Ray, California, for the last book. But she has since moved to Atlanta. Finding new people for this part of the project proved difficult. People I contacted weren't available at the same time, strangers wanted money up front. Shoots got planned and cancelled. Finally, my co-worker in Media Production here at CNM, Pat Vasquez-Cunningham, suggested some simple shots with his tintype app. We went down to Old Town Albuquerque one evening and took some great shots.
His app does crazy things to make your eyes look ghostly like a tin-type photo. I call the last one my country-music-album cover.
The shirt I'm wearing I just bought from my new favorite story, Soft Surroundings. It's called, (I kid you not), a poet's blouse, I suppose due to its ruffled sleeves, as if it were a shirt Lord Byron would wear.
Pat also took some shots that didn't turn out for some awesome reasons, including a series where his camera would only focus on my hands. I liked that since my hands did all the work (or a lot of it) typing out the book. In this photo you can also see my great-grandfather's cowboy boots on my feet.
Here he is wearing his own boots with my Dad and Uncle.
Check out the lit journal El Portal for two poems from the new Cowboy/Zen book, (estimated publication sometime in late 2017), from the Fall 2016 issue under the moniker Emmy McCray (just trying something new).
Here are some step-by-step guidelines for you.
Step 1: Take a look at your poems and classify them by:
Different poetry journals cater to a variety of these possibilities.
Step 2: Research poetry journals to find ones that match these poetry styles. There are two ways to go about this:
The best way is to visit the periodical section of your local libraries or bookstores (if you have any) and read some of their poetry journals. If you don't see any that match your work, don't worry about it. Your poems might fit a niche journal the library doesn't carry. But this will give you a good idea about current popular poetry journals, the top tier to aim for someday.
The old school way was to buy a copy of Poet’s Market but you’ll have to do this every year or two to get current listings (things change fast out there in poetry land). I found this was not a feasible option for me long term. Plus, what to do with all the old issues? Your library might have an up-to-date copy.
Create a list of possible journals from this research.
Step 3: Create your cover letter. You can list previous publications here or note that this would be your first publication. Different journals aim for different kinds of writers. Some want established writers and some want to find the next new discovery.
Everyone has differing ideas on the details needed in a cover letter. Feel free to experiment but keep this in mind: journals have seen it all. Literally, they’ve already read thousands upon thousands of “creative” cover letters. Don’t pour all your creativity into this. It’s a functional document.
Step 5: Submit
When you find journals to submit to, peruse their websites for submission information. Sometimes I search Google for "[journal name] + submissions" to get a link directly to the submission information page (because some journals hide the stinker pretty far into their site).
Pay special attention to how they want submissions submitted. They're all different. Determine what format they want the submission to be sent: printed and mailed, attached as a word or PDF or Word doc, or included in the body of an email. And note the maximum number of poems they will accept.
Many journals these days only take submissions through an online service called Submittable (http://www.submittable.com/) so go ahead and sign up for an account there. It's free and the site helps you keep track of every place you've submitted poems and what the result was so you don't have to create an XLS Spreadsheet or other document to keep all that straight, although maybe you should create a spreadsheet or notebook anyway for the few email and mailed submissions you might also send out.
More information on submissions:
"The influence of narcissism on today's pop culture has warped the way people interact. The author's commentary was smart and relevant. It caused me to think about the way I treat other people. Even as I criticize vapid, self-aware narcissism, I'm sure I still act that way out of a desire for validation. Like they say, "everybody wants to be special." If I was a college professor, I'd have my students read this book. It provides a good lesson in humility."
“A verbal poet merely; empty of thought, empty of sympathy, empty of love for any real thing…he was not human and manly.”
John Burroughs, The Dial
“A village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.”
Gertrude Stein (she was probably biased a bit)
from Rotten Reviews compiled by Bill Henderson
Happy New Year! This very blog and all my sites were just given responsive re-vampings over the holiday break so they should be more accessible on mobile devices. This makes it a good time to revisit what this blog’s mission really is. I’ve been looking at it lately like a poetry toolbox, lots of little ideas being fashioned as tools poets can take forward into poetry projects.
I read quite a few stories toward the end of 2015 about how eBook sales have stabilized and experts surmise that they may have found their permanent sweet spot. It’s too early to tell as techno-babies continue being born. It also contradicts other reports, such as this one about “slightly fewer Americans are reading print books, new survey finds.” Smashwords also did its annual survey of the previous year's eBook sales.
And here’s a smattering of other content I came across before the end of 2015:
Monsieur Big Bang and I went to see Life of a Dog in December. This is the new movie by Laurie Anderson, a beautiful visual poem reflecting on the nature of life and death, a project that had been inspired by the recent deaths of her husband, Lou Reed, her dog and her mother. I was so enraptured by the movie I immediately went online afterwards to get "the book" on Laurie Anderson, the coffee table book, the biography, anything! But there was none to be found. Five or six books exist on Lou Reed however. WTF?
Anyway, all I managed to find was an article here from The New York Times on her projects during the 1980s! I also found another good piece on Laurie Anderson that’s more current from NPR. It had some great life advice:
"One of the things that I had to do when I inducted Lou into - or gave a speech when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few months ago was first of all, that's a very boring ceremony. It's - just goes on for, like, so many hours. And I was trying to shorten the speech because it was getting so dull. So I tried to shorten it, shorten it. And then I thought I'm just going to mention these three rules that Lou and I had. We made them up, and they had to do with how to live with your life 'cause, you know, life goes by so fast. It's really - and a lot of times things happen so fast you don't know - how should I react? What should I do? I'm in a panic, you know. So we came up with these, and they're time-tested rules. And I'll tell you what they are. So the first one is don't be afraid of anyone. Imagine your life if you're not afraid of anyone. Two, get a really good BS detector and learn how to use it. Who's faking it and who is not? Three, be really tender. And with those three, you're set."
At the end of the movie Life of a Dog Anderson invokes the old Huck Finn quote about "lighting out for the territories." I thought about that for a long time. The new year is, after all, a time to begin anew. It’s something we say when we’re in need of a life change, light out for the territories. We’ve been in that mindset now for over 100 years. But where does one go anymore? Where can you go to start over? California is pricing out even its natives. Portland is the new “it” but is it crowding up, too? Are cities the right answer anymore? Do we start to question ownership now? Should we just start going inside? Where are the territories? Does starting a garden count? It’s also true that all of humanity didn’t, in fact, all light out. This was an idea sold to us as hip and adventurous, which is was. But is it still?
There’s an old marketing adage that you can“frame or be framed” meaning if you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you and you might be framed in a negative sense or literally framed for the crime.
My friend and fellow poet Christopher and I have been having good conversation about the trend of writers trying to develop their brands. He sent me an article about Diana Vreeland's heirs who have branded perfumes (and other things) under her name. With the new documentary about her (Diana Vreeland, The Eye Has to Travel) it felt the family was attempting to turn her life story into a brand.
Christopher commented that branding humans feels, well, very inhuman: "I don't think I have sufficient words to express how much I detest the prevalence of all these people fretting over their brands. It's such an un-repentantly cynical approach to furthering one's reach in the world, a mission largely predicated on realizing greater profits, whether it be of the individual or corporate variety. Indeed, that is what is so troubling to me about it; people have become so inured to the heartless devices and practices of the corporate hegemony, they are now gladly adopting the same in order to best capitalize their own sense of self-importance, or more bluntly put, their product. Self as Product. Yes, we try to "sell" ourselves everyday--to prospective employers, to colleges to which we're seeking admission, to potential mates...the list goes on and on--but this concept of purposely disembodying/distilling oneself into an aspirational brand for others to follow, covet or purchase--it smacks of such inflated self-regard."
I submitted to him that writer brands are all the rage these days on book marketing sites. The rumor out there is you can't get a non-fiction publishing deal unless "you already have a viable brand." I did a short search today and came up with these sites about the need to develop your writer brand:
What bothers me about it is how commodified we have let our art become. Instead of art being a moment making a connection between people over a painting or a book, it's full-blown capitalism from intellectuals who profess to know better and want better. You really get a sense of their attitude toward you: you're just an email address, a body to market to. I think this is partly a reflection of how cut-throat authorship is out there and, yes, part narcissistic self-regard. But it's what the "experts" are pushing in order to solve the problem of low demand and a plethora of product.
Full disclosure: I’ve been dutifully working on my brand but, to be honest, it feels ridiculous. But then is that now part my brand?
These days there is great pressure for websites to be mobile compliant and have good SEO or search engine optimization. This means content should be organized effectively with key words and headers in order for search engines to properly "spider" and catalog them in search engine results.
The Internet's a big place. You need to be found.
Sites that can be viewed easily on desktops and mobile devises are called "responsive" and Google is now ranking those sites higher than ones that don't display as well for mobile users. I am now in the process of converting my website into mobile friendly templates.
Many writers debate whether or not they should mount separate sites for each of their books. The benefit of this is to attract readers by subject areas. The more your website is dedicated to one subject area, the more likely that page will be found in search results from readers looking for information on your topic.
However, I find this amount of work full of headaches, and headaches that won't even scale. In other words, can you really maintain 30 websites if you end up publishing 30 books? Do you only maintain sites for new books? It can get messy.
If there's a publisher willing to develop, host and maintain your book sites for you, swell! Go for it. It can't hurt. I'm just not convinced from the marketing data that readers are using book sites to buy books, even Harry Potter books, whose fans probably have the most expensive and elaborate book sites on the planet.
All author sites are a work in progress. Try some of these suggestions. Try something experimental. But keep tinkering and try to measure the results.
There are two components involved in creating an author website:
I’m going to skip the technical launch. This can be very easy (a free Word Press site) or very involved (paying a web designer to launch your site). What you choose will depend upon your finances and your willingness to do-it-yourself. There are copious resources online and in bookstores for learning how to create and launch a website.
But what kinds of information should you provide? Here is a list of content buckets you might want to include on your site.
The Home Page should include nice visuals of your book or books. You can provide separate pages for each book or include them all on the home page. You can include your biography here or create a dedicated page for that. Whatever you do, keep the navigation on the page short and simple. Include:
Keep the tone and visuals geared to your audience or genre.
You should provide book details including the following:
Your biography should connect directly to your books and what you write about. Don’t include biographical details unrelated to your books unless they are really outstanding or intriguing. Don’t list all your other hobbies and interests.
You should provide media sell sheets for each book and links or copies of full reviews.
To read more information advice on creating author websites,visit:
Jane Friedman just published the "State of Publishing in 5 Charts." She asks us to note that "the decline in nonfiction print book sales pre-dates ebooks. Meaning: The Internet has slowly been eating away at the market for information delivered through the print book, particularly reference and travel."
She goes on to say:
"Ebooks have affected the print sales market for all fiction categories. The genres most severely affected: fantasy, general fiction, mystery/detective.
However, Nowell took time to point out that—across three of the biggest bestselling authors from 2008–2014—ebook sales have increased their overall sales, rather than cannibalizing sales."
This serves to remind us it's not all about the eReader. And if you simply must hate some technology, hate the iPhone (which aint goin anywhere, by the way). This Wall Street Journal articles talks about "The Rise of Phone Reading: It’s not the e-reader that will be driving future books sales, it’s the phone; how publishers are rethinking books for the small screen."
My latest frustration is trying to track down ebooks of poetry, the latest being Valerie Bandura's book "Freak Show". Black Lawrence Press has not released an ebook version. This is sadly typical.
I was inspired to buy her book based on excerpts from APR. And this is what usually happens: I read poetry in a journal that I like; I grab my Kindle and I search for the ebook.
There have been great strides made in formatting poetry for ebooks (Billy Collins' statements notwithstanding). Indents and special layouts can be accommodated. Also, an ebook is basically an HTML document. It's so easy, I've done one. I'm a customer ready to buy. I'm a customer that doesn't want piles of poetry books crowding up my house. I'm a poet willing to take many more chances with unknown poets at a lower price point. But 90% of the time, poetry publishers don't issue ebooks. I started a LinkedIn group discussion on this topic. Here were the results:
One publisher said, “I know that our press will never release eBooks. They are a pain to format, and we like print.”
Sylvia said, “I don't know anything about ebook publishing, but I prefer them now because I've no more room in my house for bookshelves, or nightstands, or plastic bins filled with books. However, if I really want the book, I will buy it if it's only available in print.”
Kevin said, “Formatting is indeed a pain. Granted, I don't code, but getting an intended line/stanza to render properly is practically impossible.”
To that, I responded that I’ve loved and have published printed books as well. I’m practically living like a book hoarder. I’ve also paid movers many times to move my books from house to house. A printed book is a work of art at its best and, for this reason, they aren’t going anywhere.
But…I've also formatted indented lines and stanzas for ebook publications. There are books out there now about how to format more complicated poems in simple HTML. Two good examples of existing poetry ebooks: Patricia Smith’s award-winning book Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah works with various formatting that comes across flawlessly in the ebook version and Kenneth Koch’s New Addresses. Copper Canyon is now issuing their back catalog in ebook editions.
You can also find technical help at a similar price to web design (if you don’t like working in markup code). Shortly someone will probably develop WSYWG software just for laying out ebooks. But as publishers, we seem more willing to pay for web page design, (the same HTML work), than for similar assistance with our ebooks, and realistically our books are our most valuable commodity.
When the business of selling poetry seems to be in decline, (due to lack of mainstream interest and poets themselves buying more anthologies, used Amazon copies, or just borrowing library copies), how many people like me are out there willing to buy new poetry books? I agree with Sylvia, if I really, really want it, I’ll buy the printed book. But I’d be willing to buy so many more new books of poetry (that I kinda want but don’t really need) if there were ebook versions.
It takes effort to frustrate a willing customer. Publishing is more than about doing what you love. Like selling any product or service, it’s a negotiation between what you love and what your customers love and need.
Then Richard said, “Well, it may be convenient when on a trip or vacation to have a reader. But, to me, nothing like a book in hand. Have more often than not been highly unhappy with ebook formatting, changing lines around if they don't fit their format page. Even was included in an anthology by the Kansas Writers Association and about had a fit when ALL the poems were screwed in some way or another; nobody could bother to "edit" it correctly, or question each poet with "proofs" before being published, just to be sure. Nice to have the publishing credit, but then you never want to refer people to the book, if it ends up NOT what you wrote in the first place..."
I replied to Richard that it does take knowledge of HTML to format ebooks. It's not simply a dump-it-in and publish affair, which unfortunately some publishers try to get away with. You wouldn't want to buy a printed book that was simply a photocopy of someone's handwritten novel. Different formats need different tasks to be applied. But plenty of poetry houses are doing it: Copper Canyon, Coffeehouse, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It's just a matter of the publisher committing itself to learning how to do it.
Here's a New York Times article on the issue from 2014, "Line by Line, E-Books Turn Poet-Friendly."
Luke said, “Mary I understand your frustration. I too, wish there were more poetry offered in an e format. I'm old fashioned (no smart phone, etc) but have grown fond of the kindle. I'm a believer. I just read a great article about how the kindle and the tablet has encouraged reading and as a result more people are keen to try out things like poetry. Poetry sales are up as a result, bettering publishing houses and authors!"
Marie said, “Two presses that release ebooks simultaneously with print versions:
And yet it seems there are many publishers who just aren’t interested in listening to their customers. Imagine if Apple or your local restaurant felt this way. Experts estimate that about 80 percent of new products fail upon introduction and another 10 percent disappear within five years. See “Organization Theory and Design” by Richard Daft (a book available in eBook, by the way) and this article from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericwagner/2013/09/12/five-reasons-8-out-of-10-businesses-fail/ !
Writers need to come to terms with a few things: one, that they are not their work and two, that their writing is not necessarily its format. Also, they need to come to terms with a new generation and their very different needs. Although I don’t agree with newness for it’s own sake, I like this comment by Seth Godin, a marketing and business guru:
"Change is the point. It's what we seek to do to the world around us. Change, actual change, is hard work. And changing our own minds is the most difficult place to start. It's also the only place to start. It's hard to find the leverage to change the way you see the world, hard to pull on your thought-straps. But it's urgent."
Another great quote:
"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." William James
If you think outside the box, if you use poetry as research, if you read poetry explanatorily and don’t purchase every book of poems as collectibles, eBooks are the clear choice for format.
Here is a great conversation explaining why Amazon may not be the predictor of doom.
In a Jane Friendman's interview with Bo Sacks, he says, “print used to be the least expensive, easiest way to reach a mass audience. It was easy to print, and many people did. And there was lots of junk printed.”
Jane asks, "There’s all this conversation about print versus digital in publishing. How much is that a distraction?" He responds, "It’s a terrible distraction. Everything is as it was; only the substrate has changed. And I believe the substrate is irrelevant to the message. We as publishers are agnostic or should be agnostic to the substrate. We just want to sell you good words. I’m indifferent to how you choose to read those words. And that’s what’s happening, despite our fears and worries. Reading is not going to go away. And we should be respectful of the individual’s right to read on whatever substrate she wants."
Bo Sacks says we’re in the “Information Distribution Industry" (formerly known as "Publishing").
In other related news, here is an article on Self publishing scams: http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-scams-2/
And peaking of Amazon, strangely I see many questionable copies of my book for sale on Amazon from independent sellers, possibly more books than I’ve actually sold or given out. And one seller from Arizona claims that the dust cover is missing. The only problem being my book didn’t have one.
Which reminds me that my two Goodreads giveaways (resulting in 10 books given away) produced zero reviews so I wouldn’t recommend bothering with those. I think they end up on Amazon! :-)