Sunday, February 25, 2007

Art Edwards's Plan for 2007-Part I

Hi, folks. Here are my musical plans for the next few months.

Stuck Outside of Phoenix Song Comes to Life

You know the song in Stuck Outside of Phoenix, right? The one the guys play in the gig scene at the end the book? Ever wonder what it sounds like?

The song's called "Nickel," and it happens to be a song by the Solemines, a band from my Phoenix days. Jim Gerke, singer/songwriter extraordinaire and former singer of the Solemines; Tim Anthonise, singer/songwriter of Gloritone and former guitarist of the Solemines; and Scott Hessel, drummer of Gloritone, have agreed to record this song with me. It's going down at Tony Robinson's Wahalla Music, and I hope to have the whole thing mixed and up on my MySpace Music Page by the end of March. All members of my mailing list and blog will be able to get a copy of the mp3 for free! Details will follow on my MySpace Music Page, this blog, and elsewhere. Keep checking back.

The Laying Down the Law Show-2007

Randy Anderson, of Chicagoland's Buck Daddy and formerly of Wookie Luv, and I are teaming up to bring you a night of new and classic music. The date of the show is June 9th, a Saturday, at Martyrs' in Chicago, and events will include a solo acoustic set by yours truly, some Buck Daddy originals, and a set of Refreshments material featuring Randy, myself on bass, and a cast of musicians. This is sure to be a fun night of music and memories, so if you'll be in the Chicago area, mark June 9th on your calendar and start looking forward to it. Details are still forming, so be sure to keep an eye on my Web site for the latest.

And that's just the beginning for me in 2007. I have some potentially bigger news coming down the pipe, which I hope to announce at the Martyrs' show.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Ghost Notes

The process of submitting your work to an agent usually starts with a query, which is a short statement about your book meant to give the agent an idea of what it's about, with some hint of your writing style and credentials. Your query is at least as important as the book itself; you can write The Great American Novel, but if your query doesn’t hook the agent, good luck getting anyone to read it.

Below is my query for Ghost Notes, the result of an intense writing process meant to distill my novel down to the most enticing three (or so) paragraphs. I post it to give those of you unfamiliar with the process some idea of what a query reads like, and for those patiently waiting for more Ghost Notes. Here it is. Enjoy.

A bass player ready to jump ship from his mega-band, a drifter who hasn’t seen his son for twenty years, a sixteen-year-old high school dropout who’s going to rock the world come hell or high water, what melodies will pour forth from these rock ‘n’ roll hearts?

Josh “Hote” Hotle should have no complaints. He’s a founding member of Fun Yung Moon, a band that’s sold 2.6 million copies of its debut record. He’s seen his face on MTV mixed in with the biggest music names of the day, tours the country in an airbrushed bus, plays stages other musicians would kill just to stand on.

But all is not well. It’s 1995, and while the tidal wave of grunge rolls on, Fun Yung Moon’s sophomore record is dead in the water, with a single no one plays, a failing tour, and band members with their own agendas. Back home, his wife Celia is oddly distant, and perhaps worst of all, Hote can’t find the magic in the music anymore, that special pulse that propelled him through the songs and made the course of his life clear.

One day on the road, Celia reveals to Hote she’s been unfaithful, which sends Hote on a three-day odyssey through Orange County, culminating in an encounter with a father he’s never known. He meets many others along the way, but none as captivating as Betty, a sixteen-year-old singer/songwriter who wants more from Hote than an autograph on her ticket stub. Will Hote find renewed hope through Betty, or is his spirit as doomed as his dead heroes, haunting the rock ‘n’ roll afterworld, learning too late the cruel backlash of rock music immortality?

Come on. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Next week, learn my plans for the first half of 2007. I hear music in the air.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Publishing Game-Part II

Self-publishing Stuck was the right decision for me. It allowed me to reintroduce myself to the people who knew me only as musician. I hit the pavement in search of my audience. I scheduled readings, got my Web site up, sent out press releases and posted online at bulletin boards. I picked up the guitar again, which I hadn’t played in years. I tried all kinds of crazy stuff to get attention for my book, like incorporating live music and sound effects into my readings.

To date, I’ve sold about 500 copies of Stuck, which puts me in the top five percent of all print-on-demand titles. Stuck was nominated for iUniverse’s Star Program, which is a program offered to select titles that show promise in the market.

Still, self-publishing didn’t solve every problem for me. By and large, I didn’t get the kind of attention usually granted to a traditionally published book. I didn’t get any mainstream press. Stuck wasn’t in most bookstores, and it wasn’t reviewed in any of the important places.

But I went into it knowing this would be the case. Despite how proud I was of Stuck, I knew it was a small book, only 42,000 words, which by today’s traditional publishing standards plants it firmly in the novella category. It's also "off-genre," meaning it doesn't fall into any easily definable marketing niche. Finally, Stuck is topical; its greatest appeal is to people who have spent time in Tempe, AZ, especially those familiar with the Tempe music scene of the early 1990s.

I didn’t intend for this sort of specific appeal. I included aspects of that time and place purely for the sake of rendering a believable world; I wanted my fiction to seem real, and at the time of writing Stuck, the best way I could do that was to include elements of people and things I knew. This helped create my milieu, helped my characters cast shadows.

In retrospect, Stuck wound up being like a minor leagues of authorship for me, where I got a sense of how the publishing industry worked before taking the big plunge. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Next week, a quick peak at Ghost Notes.


Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Publishing Game-Part I

Some people have asked about Ghost Notes. Here's an update.

Right now, I’m in the shopping phase, which means I’m sending Ghost Notes to literary agents, seeing if any of them are interested in representing it. It’s the literary agent’s job to take the manuscript to editors--who work for publishing companies--and try to encourage them to buy it. If one does, the author gets an advance and a cut of future royalties. It’s a long process, and stressful; nobody likes it.

The last time I did it, in 2003 for Stuck Outside of Phoenix, I’d already decided I wanted to self-publish, but I wanted to test the waters of traditional publishing first. More than anything, I was curious; I wanted to know what people in the business thought of my novel.

I queried 25 agents and one editor. (At the time this seemed like a lot, but I found out later 100 is more the norm--if there is a norm for such a thing.) Of those 26 queries, I received four requests for pages, anything from a few chapters of Stuck to the whole book. One agent asked to see the book immediately, via email. From that agent I heard back within a week. He was complimentary, but in the end he felt he wouldn’t be able to sell it and turned it down. Other agents took longer but came to the same conclusion. The last one to request pages, an editor, I still haven’t heard back from. (Maybe today!)

So my half-hearted attempt to get Stuck published the traditional way ended, and I moved on to self-publishing, which is where I suspected I'd end up anyway. There were many reasons why I wanted to pursue self-publishing, but here are three. First, I knew I already had some kind of built-in audience. Second, I was intrigued by the possibility of print-on-demand technology, namely the fact that I wouldn’t have to invest thousands of dollars up front to see my book in print. Third, I had a desire to do it all myself, from book cover and Web design to stocking bookstores, requesting reviews and scheduling events. This all sounded like great fun to me (I’m sick, I know), and I took it seriously. (Remember, I hadn’t been associated with any product since The Bottle and Fresh Horses, six years previous, and I didn’t want to give up the reigns of my new creative endeavor right off the bat.) Put simply, I wanted to be proud of Stuck, and the only way I knew I’d proud of it was to do it myself.

It’s different with Ghost Notes. I don’t feel the need to control every aspect of its published existence. Frankly, there are a few tasks I’d love to pass on. And getting a check this time, as opposed to writing one, to see my book in print would be nice.

More on the publishing game next week.