Friday, September 28, 2007

Where have we been?

The summer months swamped us for a while. Between staff vacations, printing two books, and securing distribution, we have neglected our website. Now, with our head above water, we'll try to regain our focus here and provide an overview of what has been going on.

Printing is complete for Angels Fall and Anatomy Lesson. The books are actually in the warehouse! We used Malloy Inc. ( as our printer. We drove our typesetter, cover designer, and Malloy rep crazy, but we are really happy with the result. Lots of lessons learned about not rushing and about getting each step exactly right before proceeding. At least we only had one round of changes in the proofs. You'll see the finished covers on the website soon.

Our third book, Borrowed Lives, was put on hold so we could finish the first two. Just too much to do at once. It is going to be released with our fourth book, In The Face (our contest winner).

We signed a distribution contract with IPG in early September. Although we looked at several options, the PMA distribution program with IPG seemed to be our best bet. Unfortunately, our release dates are now tied to those of IPG. In short, they need about eight months lead time. So, our first two books will be released in April, 2008. They're gonna sit in that warehouse for nearly nine months. Our second two books will be release later in 2008. There is still some possibility that we'll be able to add a third book to the second pair. In any case, we'll have another group of books for early 2009.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Website Domain Move

That was exciting. It took us nearly 72 hours to accomplish what was to be a ten-minute change to our web site. We still don't know what went wrong, but the engineers at the ISP had to get involved twice to unravel it. We apologize for having the website down for so long, but it was out of our hands. As we grow, backup and redundant systems will have to come into consideration.

Meanwhile, we are working with the manuscripts of our contest finalists to hone their work into publishable form. We've been considering a second writing contest in the fall. We think this one would be less restrictive about the geographic connection. If you'd like to see such a contest, please email us or post a comment here. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Writing Contest Finalist Profiles

Our writing contest finalists now have brief profiles on our web page. We hope you'll give them a look (see Author Profiles). They have three very different tales. We hope to make a few pages available on our website so you can see a sample of what they wrote. The announcement of our winner is expected on Friday, June 8th.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Writing Contest Thoughts

With the announcement of our writing contest finalists, it’s time to reflect on the contest itself. The website was our most difficult challenge with the contest. Without some patience on the part of the submitting authors, we’d still be wresting with problems. We certainly appreciate your assistance in working out the kinks. Next year, we’ll probably expand the geographic ‘limits.’ We had lots of complaints from those who didn’t meet our geography criterion.

About the submissions: An estimated seventy percent of the submissions read our submission guidelines and followed them. The other thirty percent went their own way, to one degree or another. There’s nothing that discourages a manuscript evaluation reader more than getting a manuscript in some fancy font, single spaced in a PDF file. We can’t even reformat it so it is readable. Margins and double spacing seemed foreign to these authors. You also must spell-check your manuscript. One submitter even asked that we forgive the numerous spelling errors in the submitted manuscript! If the author doesn’t take the effort to fix his/her own spelling, punctuation, and grammar then we likely won’t take the effort to read the manuscript.

We also received several short stories, a smattering of non-fiction and off-genre submissions. It’s not clear why these authors pay the ten dollar submission fee when they know they’ll be rejected.

There were also two non-finalist submissions that were routed to our regular submission readers for publishing consideration.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Writing Contest Finalists

We'll be announcing the three finalists on the web page this weekend. The details for announding the winning manuscript will be forthcoming shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Writing Contest Status and Fallout

We've identified two candidate manuscripts as finalist in our contests. There are about a dozen that have not yet been reviewed. It would be really nice if we had a staff of twenty to read all the manuscripts, but we don't. We're getting through them as fast as possible. Should be complete in ten days and off to the judges for selection.

We've also been getting some negative email and web posts for no apparent reason (at least that we know of). Fifty rejections are bound to annoy a few authors. On the other hand, we are inching along, slower than we anticipated, but still moving forward. We hope to be able to post the covers for the first two books, maybe even a third, in a few weeks. Copy editing, cover development, and life in general seems to thwart our best efforts to hurry up.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Writing Contest Comments

Some of you who have submitted to the novel writing contest might be intersted in how it is going. So far, we have about twenty manuscripts that seem to be worth a full read. In our estimation, that's a lot out of 100 or so that were submitted. We're a little swamped with all of the reading so our planned website update is on hold for the moment until we catch up. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Running a Writing Contest

Whew! That was a challenge. Our Novel Writing Contest is now closed so maybe our website issues will subside. We had no idea how many ways users would try to access the web pages. And here's an interesting one we still haven't figure out -- when non-US users enter data, they have their own computers with local keyboards and language-specific local characters. How do we search a database from our US-English keyboards where the user's name has an oomlat? We also learned that authors are terrible readers. Many don't, won't, or can't read the instructions. Of course, we learned a lot about writing clear instruction (and we'll do better at this next year). It was an interesting experience and we got some excellent manuscripts. We got some stinker's, too. We're still curious as to why some registered and paid their entry fee, but never submitted their manuscripts. And why do people register with email addresses that can't receive email from us?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Deadly Spam Filter - Why You Can't Get Published

With electronic submissions for our writing contest, we've discovered some frustrating use of spam filters. So far, we've had a half-dozen authors register with an email address that bounces our registration confirmation back to us. We don't know how many other emails ended up in junk folders. In one case (our most frustrating), an author registered and submitted a manuscript using an email address that rejected all of our replies. The rejection email simply said that we were not on the user's accepted list and the email would not be delivered. After a few days, this author sent additional emails to us wanting to know why we had not contacted him/her as we stated on our website. A few days later we get an outraged email from the author about how we don't respond, followed by a pledge to 'expose' us to the writing world. This particular author didn't supply a phone number, even if we'd wanted to take the time to call. We have a snail mail address, but do we take the time to send a personal note to this author advising him/her of his problem? We chose not to, perhaps because the submitted manuscript was rejected in the first page.

So please check your spam filters and junk mail folders, particularly if you'd like to receive email from others. Also, we're running our emails through a spam check filter now so we try avoid the bulk of spam trigger issues in what we send.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Worth Reading

Check out Daivd Isaak's blog, Tomorrowville He's unpublished (at least in fiction) for a few more months until Macmillan New Writing launches his Smite The Water. He's irreverant, witty, and informative. And one of our main sounding boards.

Cover Design

We've made eighteen trips to the local B&N to check out book covers. Agreement has been reached on two points. First, some cover choices are truly bizarre. We asked "What were they thinking?" and we agreed on dozens of bad choices. Second, different things catch the eye of different people. Just because you think it's great doesn't mean the next person will even notice. It seems we've evolved a process here that is ultimately dictatorial - the owner makes the selects the cover from choices that are acceptable to many, including the author. We can't find total agreement.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Where is book selling going?

With the forthcoming closure of Book Soup in Orange County, we ponder the closure of other brick and mortar booksellers. Where is book selling going? For our fiction market, with new authors and a small, unknown house, what are the chances of getting a book on the shelf at B&N in Tustin? Small. Mighty small, me thinks. Does it matter? Even if we were a huge house and could muscle our way onto a shelf, would we get 80% returns in unsellable condition? Our better strategy seems to be maximizing our online selling ability and finding new niches into which we can cost-effectively insert our desktop book kiosks. Starbucks would have been a great outlet. Time for a brain storm. Please share if you have any special insight. Is there an opportunity for a new distribution model in here somewhere?

More on Obstfed and Kareem

Here's an update on a local appearance. Los Angeles City Councilmember Bernard C. Parks is going to honor Lakers' legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with a City Council presentation
in City Hall! Councilmember Parks will declare the date of the presentation (February 22, 2007) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar- "On the Shoulders of Giants" Day in Los Angeles. He will also permanently hang Mr. Abdul-Jabbar's jerseys from the Lakers and from UCLA in City Hall. Mr. Abdul Jabbar's presentation will be the culmination of the city's Black History Month events for the year. Book signing immediately after the event.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Book unites professor, hoops legend

Article in the Daily Pilot about the new book by Raymond Obstfeld and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They will be at Orange Coast College on Feb 28 at 2:00. Kareem will speak, then do book signings.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

Raymond Obstfeld, author of our debut novel, published his latest non-fiction, On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance . It is available now. Raymond and Kareem are doing regional book signings in February. We'll list them here when we get the dates.

Getting a writing contest launched

The mechanics of launching a writing contest seemed to be pretty first. Due to circumstances beyond our control, the contest announcement was pushed up two weeks. That crash project pretty much drained our spare cycles, but we got the press release out on January 21 for release on January 24th. The time consuming part was working out the rules of the contest, finding judges who are willing and available, and getting the website updated to accept both the fee and the electronic submissions. Given the paper flow in the office, we will soon be going to electronic submission for all subs. Our current challenge is figuring out how to get the contest announced at the various writing conferences.

Meanwhile, we're wrapped up in cover design and copyediting for the first two books. We hope those will go to press in March.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Greetings to the blog world

Here's where we'll post information about the development of Iota Publishing, a start-up commercial publishing company. We expect to provide a glimpse inside the publishing world, and perhaps even entertain a little. We also expect to hear from you and learn a thing or two ourselves.