It’s been a cool and rainy summer this year. I got the tomatoes in a little bit late, but not enough to warrant growth retardation. But that’s what we have – it is August 19, and this is the sum of my harvest (out of 12 plants) to date:
Three cherry tomatoes.
Even back in the 1970s, when the ISBN was invented, bookselling happened person-to-person. People had to walk into stores and find books, and chances are a bookseller helped them.
The ISBN was invented to handle issues that arose from the installation of mainframe computers – in warehouses, bookstores, and publishing offices. These communications were pretty simplistic. “Is this book available?” “Yes.” “I would like to order 20.”
By 1998, when development on ONIX started, communications had gotten more complex because computers were interacting over networks, and the book information was ultimately being viewed (and used) by the consumer. ISBNs were critical then, even though Amazon did not require them, because of the rapid changes in the market – an ISO standard gave publishers a number on which to hang ONIX data, and they could be reasonably assured that because it was attached to a standard, that data would be accepted anywhere.
15 years later, communications amongst computers and networks have not gotten any simpler. They are more reliant on identifiers and metadata than ever before. In 1998, we had 900,000 books to communicate about. In 2013, we have 28 or 32 million (depending on how you count them, and I’m only supposed to use the 28 million number publicly) that we know of, and many more that we don’t know of. And when was the last time you walked into a bookstore and a bookseller helped you? (When was the last time you walked into a bookstore?)
Dozens of millions of books, over many many networks, are ultimately viewed by more consumers than ever before. And yet there is a vocal group arguing that standardization of information (and the ISBN in particular) is antiquated. “Print-related.”
The ISBN was invented because of digitization. To argue its demise due to ebooks is short-sighted. The media environment – books, newspapers, movies, television, radio and the music industry – is volatile right now. Companies are merging, and strange, inexplicable acquisitions are being made.
A movement away from standards – particularly standards that were created to deal with digitization – may be bucking the system. But the system isn’t always going to look like it does now. Standards at least give some continuity in a shifting market.
The Place Where I Come From is available from the Kindle Store at Amazon – and each of the stories in the cycle is available separately as well! So plenty of Delaware to immerse oneself in. Probably more than any sane person would want.
I’ve also set up an author page on Amazon.
This has been a tedious process – Guy Kawasaki is right when he states that using Word is the way to go. It proofs and spellchecks, to a degree – I’d missed a lot of typos due to scanning. I pasted the cleaned-up stories into Pressbooks, and then exported mobi and epub files.
Now on to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. It’s hard work, and boring, but ultimately rewarding. I think. Meanwhile, here’s a taste from the first story in the cycle:
We drove through New Jersey, through Philadelphia and Wilmington. The land got flatter and flatter, more and more sandy. As we headed south on Route 13, the houses and shopping malls gave way to fields of soybeans and corn. We were almost out of Delaware when the fan belt broke.
“You had to make this trip,” Stephen said, as we pulled into a gas station near a sign that said, “Milton: If you lived here, you’d be home now.”
“It’s an old car,” I said. “We’re lucky it didn’t break down completely.”
“Then at least we could’ve gone home.”
“You can still go,” I told him. I went over to the gas station attendant.
“Is there a hotel here?” I said.
He pointed to a sandy lot across the highway, behind which was a very unimpressive weatherbeaten one-story building with a dingy sign next to it: “Milton’s Sunrise Hotel.”
I picked up my bag and started over. A few steps behind me, Stephen was snarling to himself. When we checked in, I took a shower and put on a dress. “I’m going to get something to eat,” I said. “You coming?”
He shook his head. I shrugged, slammed the door as I went out.
I walked downtown, past three churches and a factory, to a place called the Red Rail Lounge. The parking lot was filled with pickup trucks, and inside the restaurant were men in tee-shirts and dirty jeans, most of whom leered at me when I came in. I frowned back at them and got myself a burger and a Bud. A couple of guys tried to get me to dance, but they were greasy and sweaty, soaking through their tee-shirts, and most of them hadn’t shaved in about three weeks. I left before anything terrible could happen, and it was only ten o’clock whenI got back to the motel. I took another shower and got in my bed.
After decades of giving advice to both publishers and authors, I’m eating the dog food. My book, “The Place Where I Come From,” will be released shortly. Here’s its description:
‘We drove through New Jersey, through Philadelphia and Wilmington. The land got flatter and flatter, more and more sandy. As we headed south on Route 13, the houses and shopping malls gave way to fields of soybeans and corn. We were almost out of Delaware when the fan belt broke.’
Milton, Delaware – a town at the Southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula – is very flat, very sandy, and very small. “The Place Where I Come From” portrays the lives of small-town inhabitants just before the Internet became prevalent, in the 1970s and 1980s.
Influenced by Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg Ohio“, “The Place Where I Come From” is a precise depiction of a particular place in a particular time – when isolation and stillness haunted the lives of a small, rural town.
I wrote it many years ago, originally, as my college honors thesis. I added stories to it in the years after I graduated. And it’s just been sitting around – part of it in the Mount Holyoke College archives, the rest in various literary magazines.
To answer the obvious questions:
1. Yes, it has an ISBN for the epub version.
2. I am not publishing it in paper form quite yet – just digitally.
3. I used Pressbooks.
4. I received my thesis back as an image PDF from the college archives; I enrolled in a trial for Adobe Acrobat and OCR’d the file, and then edited it. I scanned the additional stories myself, OCR’d the files, and edited those. No part of this book has ever seen a Word document – that was not on purpose, but only because Word was never necessary.
5. Cover design by Vook, except for the Amazon version, where I used their cover generator.
6. I’m doing KDP, Nook Press, iBookstore, iTunes, and Kobo. I enrolled today and am working out the kinks on the vendor side.
7. None of this was hard, but that’s only because I understand the book industry from the inside out and knew exactly how to make a book.
8. If you are from Delmarva, or associated with it in any way, you might like this book. If you like Shirley Jackson, Alice Munro, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Sherwood Anderson, Stephen King, or William Carlos Williams, you might like this book (only because those are the book’s influences, not because this compares to ANYTHING they’ve ever done). If you are a teenager or college student, you might like this book.
9. Yes, I am experimenting with metadata. WE SHALL SEE.
UPDATE – the Kindle version has gone live here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E3EO8I4
So, this blog has been sort of fallow these last 2 months because I’ve been working like crazy on another one. As part of my product management duties at Bowker, I’m heading up this new website: SelfPublishedAuthor.com. I’ve been writing like crazy for it – you’ll notice that, so far, all the content is mine. So this poor blog has been neglected.
It’s a cool project because it’s meant to be informational/educational, and just genuinely helpful. I’ve been talking with a lot of other organizations about ways we can work together, and the possibilities seem sort of endless at this point. At any rate, head on over there and let me know what you think! Comments on the site are not enabled, because…it’s a corporate site. But you can comment here. I’m building pieces of it every day, and it’s pretty exciting.
Bernardo accuses me of causing more bad, wintry weather by declaring it Spring (damn the torpedos! full speed ahead!). But he is wrong, wrong, wrong because Gerardi’s is officially open for the season! Scamp took this photo from the car on Friday evening; Bernardo was just there today picking up produce.
And I’ve been knitting like a maniac. Finished my shrug made with Tess Kitten, and launched a hat and a very sparkly blue cable sock.
A word, then, about Ravelry. Even if you are not into knitting (or fiber arts in general), I urge you to set up a user ID and look around. Ravelry is an amazing universe of metadata. Yarns are tagged and taxonomized. Patterns are linked. The faceted search is a wonder – I could spend (and have spent) DAYS constructing complicated faceted searches to pinpoint the exact right pattern for some obscure yarn that I picked up at a fiber festival. If you are a metadata geek or a design geek, Ravelry is amazing.
I spent Palm Sunday logging all my yarns, and choosing potential projects for each one. I have 105 yarns. I reserve the right to change my mind, but damn, the fact that this is even possible, down to the METER, is amazing to me. I have loads of great projects lined up for Spring knitting.