Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summertime Slow Down

It's that wonderful time of year when school is officially out and your children are once again firmly under foot, tripping you at every turn, demanding food, attention, and entertainment. Yes, Summer... when I have zero time to write or be creative. I manage Medusa's Muse five minutes at a time, in between the cries of "I'm bored" and "I'm hungry" from Queen Teen. It makes creating new and interesting posts for my blog a little difficult.

Quick updates: Had a wonderful time visiting my author Tama in her "Den of Chaos" with Queen Teen (and for those who are wondering when her book will be ready, I'm happy to report she is working on it and so far it's fabulous!). I was a little worried the noise and travel would be too much for my daughter, but she jumped right into the din and had a blast. It helps that the Denizens are friendly, outgoing, and patient, giving Queen Teen the time she needed to join in the fun. Eldest even said she was "cool." High praise from regal Eldest.

Laura Fogg will be at the Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference next weekend, taking a memoir workshop and chatting with fellow writers. She's not scheduled to read or speak, but if you run into her, say hello. I'm sure she'd love to talk to you about writing.

The first draft of the Business Book is complete and I'm now revising it, making sure my resources and facts are indeed correct. Next, one of my business teachers from Mendocino College has volunteered to read it and make sure I haven't missed anything important. The book should launch as scheduled this fall (as long as I can stay awake past my daughter's bedtime to get the work done!).

One more University Special Education Program has added "Traveling Blind; Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers," to their curriculum this Fall. We're all doing the happy dance.

And the Punk book is almost ready as well. I have enough stories collected and can start boasting about the excellent writing and suprising tales. I could use more artwork, so if anyone reading this would like to submit a Punk image (photo, drawing, tattoo, etc), send it to in the body of the email. The book is on schedule and final edits should be complete by this October.

That's the quick version. My posts will be sporadic for the next few weeks, but if you have a question about publishing or Medusa's Muse specifically, please send it to me and I'll do my best to answer.

I'm off to draw an Arthur story with Queen Teen. Although keeping up with my girl full time makes it hard to get work done, I'm having fun hanging out with her. Besides, now that she's thirteen, I count myself lucky she even wants me in the same room.

Happy Summer everyone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Have you paid your Sales Tax yet?

Yep, it's that time of year again, the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of a new one, the time when all businesses, large and small, write a big-fat check to their State's Board of Equalization for all the sales tax they've collected on the States behalf.

Since my local tax board seems to understand that start-up micro presses won't have very many sales in their first year, which means there will be very little tax to actually collect, they sent me the Short Form: BOE 401-EZ. Happily this form was easy to fill out and the entire process took about an hour to complete. The form even had my local sales tax printed on it so I didn't have to hunt for that number to do the math. 7.75% x taxable amount = tax owed.

The only tricky part was figuring out exactly what the taxable amount was. Not every sale is taxable. Some of my sales went to bookstores who have their own resale license and collect their own sales tax. A few more were via the website to other States. I did some research and discovered that you only pay sales tax to the State where you have an actual, physical office or distribution center. That could change though because as States are struggling with budget deficits, they are eyeing internet commerce as a source for new tax revenue. is battling New York State right now over that issue. But for now, interstate sales through my website are not taxable (but don't take my word as gospel. Double check for yourself and let me know if I'm wrong).

Sales tax must be paid by July 31st or you can get hit hard with penalties and late fees. Don't fool around with your taxes: pay them! You can even pay electronically with a credit card. I know people who got behind and lost their business because they never paid sales tax, and another person who is still paying tax from 2006. If you're having trouble, talk to your local office of the State Board of Equalization.

The links I've posted here are for the State of California. Be sure to find the appropriate websites for your own State if your business is not in California because every State creates their own Sales tax rules, and some States, like Oregon, don't collect Sales tax at all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't be alarmed by the sudden drop in Book Sales

This quarter saw a BIG drop in overall sales, which isn't surprising,actually. Laura's book launched on Nov. 1, 7 months ago, and it's had a long run of steady sales, mostly to other Orientation and Mobility and Special Education instructors. Most books sell their copies in the first 3-4 months and then those sales drop precipitously. "Traveling Blind" continues to sell well, but the average sales per month have slowly declined through May and June.

Since I don't have the total number of books sold in the second quarter from Lightning Source yet, I can't say exactly by how much book sales have declined. Lightning Source reports and pays 90 days after the end of that month, so I received my last Quarter One report for the month of March in June. I won't know the exact sales numbers for this Second Quarter until September. My author also doesn't get paid her royalties until 90 days after the close of the quarter, so she receives her royalty check for Quarter One now.

I know our sales have dropped overall though because our direct sales have declined. We sell the most books through events and to our local bookstore. We tapped out our local market by April and Laura hasn't had the time to do many more events. The initial marketing efforts to University Instructors and other Professionals in Laura's field was very helpful, but again, that market has been saturated.

Now it's time to think about who else might benefit from her book and how we let them know it exists.

The biggest problem right now is cash flow, which is seriously hampering my ability to do that second wave of marketing. Between Book Expo expenses, low book sales, and Sales Tax time (I'll write about that in my next post) I don't have any cash to pay for marketing materials. Plus, I have a new book to launch this fall. That means Laura will either need to do more marketing on her own, or I'm going to have to get extremely creative.

Don't be alarmed if your book sales decline. Book sales rise and fall, depending on the market, season, and efforts of the author. Everyone who would want the book has probably bought a copy already, so it's natural to see a decline. The goal is to get those sales back up by finding potential readers who will enjoy the book, but that fact hadn't occurred to them. Yet.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hunter S Thompson Documentary - "Gonzo"

I found my Muse in San Francisco sitting in the movie theatre with a big bag of over-buttered popcorn. I sat beside her and said, "I thought you were in the Caribbean."

"Not this time of year. Too hot." She shook the popcorn. "Want some?"

"Thanks." I took a big hand full because I knew once the bag was half eaten she wouldn't offer me any more. We watched the documentary "Gonzo - The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S Thompson" together with Jane, the Medusa's Muse copy-editor who is also my dear friend. It felt like a sort of pilgrimage because Jane and I had driven to San Francisco, two hours from home, to sit in that theatre and pay homage to the genius that is Hunter.

I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was a freshman in college. My first taste of Hunter. The wildness of the story held together with precise prose and blunt truths made an impact on my own writing and life. This was also the time I had discovered Dead Kennedies and was exploring punk. I was shaking off my small town immaturity and ideals, expanding my world view, and embracing that part of me that howled at the moon. My inner need for chaos was strummed by the writing of Hunter.

Since then, I've read most of his books and much of his writing, and his energy has stayed with me, imprinting on my concepts of art and politics. However, I have no illusions about him. My admiration is not romantic; he was a drug-addict, alcoholic, manic-depressive prone to violent outbursts and when he killed himself I was angry. It felt like a betrayal of everything he wrote. If only he'd had the courage to face the era of George Bush! What wondrous words he would have thrown at the White House!

The movie helped me understand a little better why he felt like he had to die. I saw the human behind the art, the troubled boy behind the angry man. I saw his goodness and compassion and I understood what drove him to ride that edge for so long. He lived his life peering over it until he finally lost the energy to hang on. Over he went, leaving behind his words and his ideas which will resonate forever.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The State of Small Presses

While browsing blogs about book publishing, I discovered this very interesting article written by Seth Abramson on his blog "The Suburban Ecstasies." The article is called 2008 State of Small Presses. In his post, he mathematically breaks down the submission requirements of 100 poetry presses to determine if it really is as impossible for a poet to be published as believed. Here is an excerpt from that post:

Recently I've been thinking about how best to help a colleague of mine whose first manuscript is probably the best first collection I've ever read.

As always, my mathematically-inclined way of thinking has been pushing me to determine the best course of action in this situation through research, rather than intuition or rumor. Specifically, I found myself wondering whether, in fact, the old complaints about the book-publishing industry are true: that is, whether or not a young poet in America with no connections amongst the editor set stands a snowball's chance in hell of getting a first book published outside the contest system (taking into account the continued irony that small-press publishers are just as likely as the rest of us to bemoan the shortcomings of that system, particularly the fact that so many young poets lack the financial resources to enter into it).

I decided, in the spirit of this blog--which has always been highly conversant with numerical analysis, despite the fact that I'm a poet--to do [what I imagine is] the first-ever assessment of the openness of American small presses to unsolicited work. Given the absolute inviolability of the large trade houses to first-book authors, and the admirably democratic--but for too many twenty-somethings, essentially unaffordable--contest system (much of which is connected to an excellent second category of publishing ventures, the university press system), it would seem that the small independent press is one of the last bastions of hope for a young, talented writer like the colleague I mentioned above who's looking to publish a first manuscript.

[NB: And no, this isn't one of those "I have this friend..." gambits; I truly and actually am trying to think about how to help another poet I've recently met, and this has nothing to do with my own work whatsoever. I was lucky enough, myself, to last September find a publisher for my first book that I couldn't possibly be happier with].

What I did was visit the websites of fully one hundred independent presses, drawing their names from the best-seller lists for the past year at the Poetry Foundation and Small Press Distribution websites. Incredibly (and fortuitously, given my limited mathematical skills), adding up the data from every single press listed in a year's worth of SPD best-seller lists, as well as the current Poetry Foundation best-seller list, got me to exactly 100 independent poetry presses.

Here's what I found:

Go to Seth's blog to read the rest. His process of analyzing the statistics and what he concludes is fascinating. Medusa's Muse is not a poetry press, but I wonder how close these statistics are to that of fiction publishers? Even though there are thousands of small, independent publishers in the industry, is it still just as hard to get published as it always has been? I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

We interrupt our smoke reports with this message from John Oat's mustache

from Billboard:

John Oates wants people to know that he is nothing like what he was when he had a mustache. The Hall & Oates principal is firm about the distinction, because if things go as planned, his mustachioed image could appear on TV in cartoon form kicking ass, rocking out and wearing tight pink pants.

Independent publisher Primary Wave Music Publishing, which owns a majority stake in most of the biggest hits in the Hall & Oates catalog, is shopping a cartoon titled "J-Stache" that further illustrates the dichotomy. As laid out in a two-minute trailer, Oates is portrayed as a modern-day family man and finds himself enticed back to the rock star life by his mustache, which is voiced by comedian Dave Attell.

"In a cartoon setting, the mustache has its own personality," Oates says from Aspen, Colo., where he's finishing his latest solo album. "Just as I'm represented as the John Oates of today, the mustache is the John Oates of yesterday. The focus of the music will be on the back catalog, but it's an open-ended situation. There's even talk of the mustache trying to bring new bands into the picture."

When I was a 7th grader, I was a HUGE Hall and Oats fan, with a HUGE crush on John Oats. Those dark eyes and that mustache! Oy! Made my 12 year old bony knees knock.The idea of his mustache having its own show is just hysterical, and I'll have to check this out.

I know, what the heck does this have to do with publishing? Not much directly, but it does show how far a wild idea can go. Don't throw out those crazy story ideas because you think people will laugh or think you're a moron. Sometimes, it's the crazy ideas that make the most sense.