Archive for June, 2006

Grievances Author Talks Writing Process in Charleston Post-Courier

Thursday, June 29th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

The Charleston Post-Courier reviewed Mark Ethridge’s Grievances earlier this month, talking with Ethridge both about the book, and about the challenges facing a first-time novelist.

“Ethridge began ‘Grievances’ in 2001, completing the manuscript in 2003, then invested the next year trying to market the book. He garnered a few rejections in the process, none of which offered the same reasons for taking a pass. The author persisted with, naturally, a newsman’s tenacity. …

[Ethridge said,] ‘I tried to write a work of fiction about 20 years ago. In retrospect, it was lacking. Not only did the publishing world find it lacking, but so did I. I understand now that good stories are really not so much about what happens as they are about what happens to people. It’s about how the characters you like are challenged and what they do. I thought about what novels do and why I like them. Clearly, you want them to be entertaining, captivating if possible. For me, relaxation is being enthralled with something.’ …

‘If you can write a story so well and so detailed that you achieve credibility, you’ve accomplished your goal. Accurate facts are vital, but you’re also telling it in such a way that people will say, “That guy really knows what he’s talking about.” That’s what I wanted to do.’

In real life, as in novels, Ethridge believes truth will out. Occasionally, it just needs some impetus. Or as one character says to Harper, ‘In the long run, truth doesn’t need help. But in the short run, sometimes it uses people like you and me to speed itself along.’

‘I spent a lot of time with that line,’ Ethridge says. ‘I have to believe that truth ultimately comes out. It’s what we all work to do. Some truths may not be told until decades after their time. I figure that sometime we’ll know what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. I’m an idealist. You have to hope there’s some higher power in charge of truth and justice.'”

Ethridge will sign Grievances tomorrow, June 30, from 3-5 pm at the Waldenbooks at Sumter Mall. For more information, call (803) 775-6275. For a complete tour schedule, click here. Grievances is available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Research is Key for Querying Authors

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

I’ve been a bit circumspect on the whole BookBlast question; I figure, it doesn’t work when authors send me a query via Bookblaster, but who’s to say it doesn’t work for another editor? But just today Matt Wagner of Fresh Books posted his own frustration with Bookblaster, so apparently it’s not just me.

One key piece of advice I always give new authors is to research a publishing company before you send a query or manuscript. I had an occasion once where I received a query for a cosmic sci-fi adventure. This is generally not NewSouth’s genre, so I readied a rejection letter, and as I went to send it, in the mail arrived four professionally printed-and-bound copies of the book, sent to us by Express Mail. This was nearly $20 of the author’s money, completely wasted, because the author didn’t research us first to find out of theirs was the kind of book we accept.

After you’ve researched a publishing company and you know that what you’ve written is what they publish, a great strategy is to mention that company’s work in your cover letter. If you compare your work to the latest bestseller, it’s hard to know if an editor has read that book; if you compare your work to one the company published, you have a much better chance of starting out with the editor on commmon ground.

Applications like Bookblaster, while perhaps expedient, are the antithesis of this strategy; they’re queries void of common ground. And when your Bookblaster query is mixed in with fourteen inapplicable ones, the chances are better it’s just going to get deleted instead of receieving the attention it deserves.

Self-Publishing and the Querying Author

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

A recent Xlibris press release outlines an important distinction when considering self-publishing, an issue for many first-time authors. According to the Xlibris release, author David Mills has signed a contract with Ulysses Press to publish the second edition of his book Atheist Universe, originally self-published. What a querying author should note here, however, is that Ulysses contracted Mills original self-published book only after Mills had success with three other books.

On occasion, we’ll receieve queries from authors who have self-published their first novel, sold a few hundred local copies, and tout the book’s success as a benefit to republishing it. What these authors don’t realize is that, once newspapers and local media run stories about a book’s initial publication, they’ll be hesitant to run stories again when the book is released by a traditional publisher–and customers who already own the book are less likely to buy the book again. In some cases, re-publishing a self-published book can be tougher–and less attractive–for a traditional publisher than publishing a queried manuscript.

In the case of Mills, self-publishing his book and then continuing to write ended up netting him a book contract. To self-publish a book, however, solely with the intention of re-querying the book to a publisher based on the self-published book’s success can sometimes hurt the author’s chances, not help them. Occasional success stories do abound, but it’s also worth noting the risks involved.

Have you had success or difficulty marketing a self-published book to a traditional publisher? Have a question for our editors? Leave a comment and let us know!

Tubby Meets Katrina “Ushers in the Era of Hurricane Katrina Fiction”

Monday, June 26th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

Kirkus Reviews has published a glowing review of NewSouth’s Tubby Meets Katrina, the first New Orleans novel set during the Hurricane Katrina. Tubby Meets Katrina is the latest in New Orleans author Tony Dunbar’s Tubby Dubonnet mystery series, and an important book for anyone gripped by the Gulf Coast tragedy. From the review:

Dunbar ushers in the era of Hurricane Katrina fiction. Just back from the uncertain charms of Bolivia, New Orleans attorney Tubby Dubonnet, who can hardly wait to sleep in his own bed, shrugs off the news of a looming storm: “Good luck? For what? Oh, right. The hurricane.” As the sky darkens and his neighborhood empties, he welcomes the cool breeze and the license to jaywalk. But his attitude changes when the storm downs the trees in his yard, punches holes in his windows and soaks his carpets. Little does Tubby (Shelter from the Storm, 1998, etc.) know that the worst is yet to come. Bonner Rivette, an escaped convict with a long criminal history capped by double murder, has lucked onto the address of Tubby’s law office, where he hunkers down and plots a way to get Tubby’s daughter Christine, a Tulane sophomore, to come to him. Bonner, a connoisseur of chaos who maintains that “I am Katrina,” resembles the hurricane mainly in his frighteningly hit-or-miss propensity for violence. Dunbar scores an even more decisive bull’s eye in his account of the disaster after the disaster-the sad carnival atmosphere in which residents of the Big Easy fight to reclaim their neighborhoods with little help from the government and plenty from casual employees sliding from one essential job to the next. The most unconvincing note is the suggestion that settling Bonner Rivette’s hash will straighten things out. If only.

Tubby Meets Katrina is available directly from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your local or online book retailer.

More on Book Signings, with John Pritchard

Friday, June 23rd, 2006 by Brian Seidman

NewSouth author John Pritchard, author of the hilarious Junior Ray (which Barnes & called a Best of 2005 Sensational Debut) added these inimitable words of wisdom on book signings:

Having been born without any inhibitions at all, I simply pick up the telephone and dial off a call — to information if I don’t know the number of the store — and then, when I get what I imagine to be a shy, pale, unaggressive and bookish person on the phone I speak very, very rapidly and tell them almost everything that has been said or written about the book, dropping important names — NewSouth, Publisher’s Weekly, The Mobile Register, Barnes and Noble — to which my overwhelmed listener often responds with the solid beginnings of an invitation.

My other tactic is the store invasion. I walk in, make an estimate of the terrain, and (1) immediately begin to shuck and jive, brandishing up a copy of Junior Ray, or (2) I tread softly across the carpeted floor and politely ask who the “events” person is. Normally that individual is extremely busy or in a meeting — which can last for days — but, like a determined butterfly fluttering by every so often, just to say Hi, I eventually connect, and things take a turn for the positive.

Sometimes there is no deal, but I have never forgotten what I learned as a Fuller Brush Man, back around 1968: You make a sale, large or small, about every ten doors you knock on, and of course the key to it all is … you have to knock. There are no self-knocking doors.

What I enjoy most about book signings is being the center of attentiion. I love that — even when, upon occasion, I am the only one, other than the owner of the store, in the room. At those times my narcissism is in high gear, and I always remember a singer/songwriter I knew in Nashville who would — and could — play to an empty room. He’d give it all he had, as though the hall were packed. His character was his craft. That was the beat he never missed. And I think, for those who were born in quest of the Grail, that is the way to be.

Junior Ray is available directly from NewSouth Books, at, or from your local book retailer.

'Still Hungry in America' revisits the South

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 by Brian Seidman

NPR had an important story on poverty in America yesterday, focused around Robert Coles and Al Clayton’s book Still Hungry in America, which published photographs of the poor and hungry in the 1960s South. For their program, NPR reporter Michele Norris goes with Clayton back to Belzoni, Mississipi, “one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in the United States,” to see how conditions have improved — or not — since Clayton was there. As Clayton says in the NPR transcript, “It was so graphic with the small folks. The face of a hungry child or their demeanor just really prints on me. It’s unforgettable.”

Still Hungry in America is out of print, but a very few used copies are available from the NewSouth Bookstore, toll free (866) 639-7688.

New Strategies for Book Signings

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006 by Brian Seidman

As market challenges increase for both independent publishers and the authors who love them, more and more emphasis is placed on book signings and the book tour–that is, getting the author out there promoting their book, both to customers and to booksellers. I’m still struck by The New York Times article ���Publishers Assess the Fall Season’s Winners and Losers��� from late last year that talked about how WarnerBooks arranged dinners with booksellers and Widow of the South author Robert Hicks just as they released the book, so that the book would be fresh in booksellers’ minds. But it’s not just authors and publishers doing the hard work; NewSouth author Mark Ethridge noted while signing Grievances that ���one of the big realizations I’ve had in this is seeing the challenge booksellers face. A lot of books are hand-sold��� and it’s the booksellers who have to do it.

���At the same time��� Mark said, ���an individual salesperson can only be aware of a small percentage of the product he or she is representing. I’ve found it’s important to educate as many of the location’s sales people as possible about Grievances, and to give them as many memorable selling points as I can (“It’s a great Father’s Day book because…”), to make the job of selling Grievances as easy as possible.” This is a notion shared by author J.A. Konrath; in a recent Wired article, he talked about how he used his car’s GPS to turn his eleven-bookstore tour for his book Bloody Mary into a 106-bookstore tour. It’s that kind of creative thinking that sells books, and that kind of effort that prospective authors have to consider undertaking if they want their book to be successful in today’s market.

Over at the Book Promotion Blog, Stacey Miller suggests authors group together for signings, to sweeten the deal for booksellers and increase the number of customers who might visit. She references an article that talks about three authors who held a joint signing at a used bookstore, which is an ingenious idea, as “used” can sometimes also mean “independent” and “locally owned,” the bookstores which are often very supportive of independent publishers, and the bookstores that sometimes need the most help.

If you have a bookselling strategy that worked for you, let us know and we’ll post it here.

SIBA Book Award Winners Announced

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced the 2006 SIBA Book Award winners. The award celebrates the best of southern literature, as picked by independent booksellers throughout the South (like the NewSouth Bookstore).

The winners are:

FICTION: Gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson

���Gods in Alabama is an intriguing, multi-layered mystery wrapped up in a Southern package. Don’t miss this one!��� Tammy R. Lynn, The Book Basket, Wetumpka, AL

POETRY: What Travels With Us, by Darnell Arnoult

���Darnell Arnoult gathers the nourishment for the soul in her poetry. She echoes the past into our future so we know “the place” that we are part of. Immerse yourself in this poetry and wash away all that belongs not to you.��� Emoke B’Racz, Malaprops Bookstore & Cafe, Asheville, NC

COOKBOOK: Being Dead is No Excuse, by Gayden Metcalfe & Charlotte Hays

“Oh. My. God. If a funeral isn’t the time for some good solid southern humor, I don’t know what is. These two women have written a funny and smart book about how we act down South when we know the neighbors are watching. Plus recipes! It’s to die for!” Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, Windows a bookshop, Monroe, LA

NONFICTION: Marley & Me, by John Grogan

���An incredible tale of canine connection. Grogan will make you laugh, make you cry, and help you to understand that “man’s best friend”, like all good friends, needs to be appreciated — warts and all. Even though you know how the book must end, you are in for an incredible journey.��� Janet Bollum, The Muse Bookshop, Deland, FL

CHILDRENS: Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni

���The wonderful Nikki Giovanni brings to life the story of Rosa Parks, an ordinary woman who made a decision that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and accelerated the struggle for Civil Rights in America. Bryan Collier’s realistic yet luminous art lends a dream quality to this beautiful book.��� Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, Windows a bookshop, Monroe LA

All of these books are available for order from the NewSouth Bookstore, toll-free (866) 639-7688. For more information about SIBA, go to

Library Journal praises The Scar of David

Monday, June 19th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

Library Journal has published a glowing review of NewSouth’s forthcoming book, The Scar of David.

Every now and again a literary work changes the way people think. Abulhawa, 2003 winner of the Edna Andrade Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Award, has crafted a brilliant first novel about Palestine. The book opens in the 1940s, in the small village of Ein Hod, before the forced relocation of residents to the Jenin refugee camp. Once in the settlement, a young girl named Amal Abulhawa becomes the story’s focus. Through Amal’s eyes, readers see the daily routines of generations of refugees and glimpse the indignities imposed on Palestinians by the Israeli army; they’ll also see people fall in love, have babies, and develop an appreciation for poetry and scholarship. While some readers might see this novel as anti-Semitic, it is not. Indeed, Abulhawa goes to great lengths to highlight the universal desire of all people for a homeland. Furthermore, Abulhawa’s compassion for American victims of 9/11 and for those who suffered in the Holocaust illuminates what it means to be humane and spiritually generous. The Pennsylvania-based Abulhawa, herself Palestinian, has crafted an intensely beautiful fictionalized history that should be read by both politicians and those interested in contemporary politics. Highly recommended.

The Scar of David is currently available for pre-order from NewSouth Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, as well as your local book retailer.

Civil Rights class visits the NewSouth Bookstore

Friday, June 16th, 2006 by Brian Seidman

The NewSouth Bookstore was pleased to greet college students from author and professor Raymond Arsenault’s civil rights class on Wednesday. The students are on a tour of civil rights landmarks, with stops in Albany, Georgia; Nashville, Birmingham, and Montgomery.

In Montgomery, the students travelled with historian Dr. J. Mills Thornton and NewSouth’s own Randall Williams, visiting such sights as the Greyhound station where the Freedom Riders arrived, and the spot where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, before stopping at the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University, and dining with civil rights leader (and NewSouth author) Reverend Robert Graetz and his wife, Jeannie.

At the NewSouth Bookstore, the students beat the heat with cold drinks and perused our wide used books selection, purchasing a variety of titles, from Representative John Lewis’s civil rights memoir Walking with the Wind to the collected stories of Jack London. Ray Arsenault was nice enough to sign copies of his new book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, now available from our store.