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The writer yet to commence

11 Dec


At the risk of being a buzz kill, let’s get real.  The reason for doing so is to make you understand just how high the bar is in the publishing world, and just how deeply you must dig to reach that level.  Too many writers with casual affection for writing and an equally soft work ethic still maintain the loftiest of goals.  This violates a law of the universe — you have to scratch and claw your way to the top.

This blog is for people who want their writing dream fulfilled that badly.

The odds of getting your book published by a legit New York house, the kind of contract that gets your work on the shelf at Borders, are about the same as someone setting out to be in the Olympics. In a word, miniscule. More realistically, in 2.5 words, almost non-existent. Roughly, about one in a thousand submissions award themselves a glance from a publishing house, if it’s a bonafide writing career you’re dreaming of.

Are you that one in a thousand? That’s the tough question all of us at a writing workshop, or simply sitting in front of a blank screen with an idea and a dream, need to answer. And with the answer, while daunting, resides our hope: we could be.

All of those professionals who make their craft look so easy, be they artists or athletes, know one thing better than all of us sitting in the next writing workshop. Not to mention that every last one of them was where you are right now, sitting in a writing workshop fantasizing about seeing their name on a dust jacket. They know that writing at a professional level is about more than a killer idea and a knack for whipping out nifty little sentences. It’s all about craft. A craft that is deeper and wider and more challenging than you can imagine (the astute reader will realize that in that sentence lies the key to everything you want). And yet, a craft that can be packaged and taught, and therefore (unlike Olympic athleticism), learned. When practiced, it can even be mastered. Even if you aren’t blessed with athletic ability or the sensibility of an artist.

What you need — the ante-in to this businesss — is a willingness to learn and to work at it, to go deep and wide, and evolve your killer ideas and clever prose into something that becomes a symmetrical, structurally-sound, compelling story.

And that’s what this blog is all about. Not only about packaging and delivering the nuts and bolts of that craft but the gears that turn the machine- “the hutzpah”.  It’s the most precious gift I can bestow: the gift of truth.  And, the gift of hope that the dream is real if, and only if, you’re willing to do the hard work required.

Dreams are just that: they remain in your head. So let’s get real about turning your writing dream into your career reality, or at least (because the career part of the equation is largely out of your hands – more on that later), into the moment in which the book you hold in your hands has your name on it.

That moment is worth every sleepless night, every rejection and every new start, I promise you.

I invite you to stick around. That is, If you have the hutzpah- or your willing to get it- if you really want to navigate the complexities of developing and writing publishable stories to that place on the other side, where simplicity really does reside.


Flex your creative muscles: give Kickstarter a ticket to your gunshow.

10 Dec

Kick starter is all about the newest grassroots movement in launching a project: Crowdfunding.

“Crowdfunding = neo-philanthropic-micro-financing for your project.”

If you have a brilliant idea or project in the works but you don’t know about Kickstarter, read on. It is a grassroots, web based platform connecting patrons to aspiring artists to finance their projects.  This is to your project what sliced bread is to sandwiches: the base. It will make it consumable to the public- tactile.  Yancey, cofounder of Kickstarter gives a brief synopsis of how it works in an interview with Ryan Gerber from Movement & Faith:

“Basically the way it works is that you post a project saying what it is you want to do and how much money you need to raise to do it. Then you offer your community and your audience certain things, incentives, in exchange for helping you. For example, if I am a musician maybe if you give me $10 I can offer a copy of the CD, $50 you can come sing on it and for $200 I will give you a music lesson. Whatever you want to offer its up to you. What it all comes down to is banding people together, getting them behind an idea, and bringing that idea to life.”

Having tried my hand at projects soliciting interaction from the public, I know too well how painstaking it is to get any kind of response. Kickstarter is the antonym to this experience- it thrives on interaction. BUT Wait! Here is the catch- the projects have to capture the imagination of its micropatrons — and offer sufficient incentives to drum up the money needed. The most successful projects tend to share similar qualities. A  GOOD video, one that shows the face of those in the project, a personal plea for involvement. The more interactive and personal you are with your pledgers- the larger response you get. Videos, gifts, letters, a blog documenting your progress etc. This is good news for us idea generators- we have all been waiting for a venue that thrives off of good ideas, right?

Get a better picture- take a few min to watch this interview

So far this is my favorite project… and it’s not too late to fund it either!

Mysterious Letters to Everyone in the World!!!

Interview with author J.Frede on his cleverly titled book American Idle

9 Dec

On Dec 1, 2010, at 11:11 AM, 48HrBooks wrote:

Hey James- here goes.

{inspired by you- I am going to post this email conversation up verbatim on our blog- be sure to put anything off record in these magical sensor end-caps, it will be our metaphorical mute}

We all have seen the stereotypical writer- portrayed in films and such : unshaven, Scotch on the rocks, perpetually red rimmed eyes,  wrestling with his muse and crumpling up paper. But every writer knows that art is about life- and a writer needs lived experience, otherwise how can you know if what you write is authentic? How did you decide to write American Idle  in the log format?  Did you start it with the intention of publishing or did that idea come later?

On Dec 1, 2010, at 11:43 PM, j.frede wrote:

{magical sensor endcaps,,hahahahahaha}

When I decided to start driving a cab I was in the middle of reading a biography on the Beat Hotel and this inspired me to keep keep journals which i posted as a blog from the beginning. I hadn’t planned on publishing the blog but people really responded to the stories and in turn I received a lot of great feedback. After I left the cab business I felt I needed to keep writing and documenting and my new job was 17 miles from my house, which in LA can take about an hour and a half to drive. I started keeping a daily journal about random stuff I saw and my commentary on things that interested or amused me and started posting it as a weekly blog to fill the void of the taxi journals having ended. these “eyespy” my friends and fans of the blog started posting things they would see in their own cities, which over joyed me and I loved that thought that I had encouraged people to take a closer look at the mundane life that often surrounds us.  After publishing WALK by Dave Paco, it seemed like a logical next step to publish both blogs as a single book.

On Dec 2, 2010, at 2:04 PM, 48HrBooks wrote:

You mention Beat Hotel as an influence, it’s funny because I actually was thinking of Brahm Stroker’s Dracula,  which oscillates in format from telegrams, journals, logs and narration in a really convoluted way. But in American Idle you can literally pick up and start reading just about anywhere.  I love it! You tap into the microcosm of life, no real direction for an overarching plot- you can begin each day just about anywhere.

I loved your quick intuitive assessments of each passenger.  I realized it is something we are all doing, just not as consciously.  Is this a practice you are interested in/promoting (via blog,books etc)- forcing yourself to be more aware of what you are aware of?

What was it like when you were making these character assessments about each passenger? Do you feel they were accurate?

Was it enhanced by  cab as a backdrop and you as candid narrator?

My experience-It was extremely voyeuristic with you, as narrator./ faceless chauffeur providing an ambushed observation.

On Dec 3, 2010, at 2:30 AM, j.frede wrote:

I have heard from several people that they love that aspect of American Idle and they keep it on their bedside table or coffee table and will read bits at random, which I really like. Being that its a bits of my life transcribed it makes sense that you can hop in and out, in this way i guess it would be relative to “Lost Highway”, which was meant to be shown on a loop and you can start or stop where ever you like and still experience the movie how Lynch intended. Life is really just a collection of micro-narratives that may or may not have a common thread outside of the fact that its all happening to you. ie: your lunch has not connection to the dramatic text you received during lunch other than the fact that they occurred in parallel.

In regards to my assessments of each passenger, I unfortunately am very good at figuring people out (at least this is my own personal belief, which could be right on or i could just be wildly delusional, but I am hoping its the first) so analyzing people in a snap is not something I really control but humans are generally transparent, for better or worse. I think the cab backdrop didn’t enhanced my assessment, but it did give me greater access to people that I wouldn’t have been around otherwise.

It was indeed extremely voyeuristic as many people tend to ignore their cab drivers, giving me something like a peepshow to view the human condition.

On Dec 3, 2010, at 1:24 PM, 48Hr Books wrote:

Peepshow to the human condition. Your giving me goose bumps.  I just want to mention a few of my favorite entries:

“I rolled up and two heavily cologne’d gay boys get in my cab and asked to go to the Akbar. As we drove I was amazed at listening to them talk to each other as they both sounded like really sassy black women, even more perplexing was that one was Asian and the other was Spanish, It was surreal for sure.”

“older Irish guy, I think he said his name was Doyle. We start chatting and I asked him what he did for a living, he said he did sound for realty television shows.”

“My next call was to a motel in downtown at 5th and Main St. I pull up to a group of hookers and pushers and a beautiful black girl got into my cab, she asked to be taken to Compton. She told me that one of her runners got arrested tonight and she lost $300 on it but that was okay because she had made $250. She was a sweetheart and the cutest drug dealer I have seen yet. When she got out of my cab she looked me in the eyes and said “be careful around here, don’t get lost, just get back on the freeway and back to the city, these freaks will get you.” That statement made me very nervous coming from a drug dealer”

There are so many more but I might as well just say READ IT.

The books published through Fredericks publishing are so indicative of how authors are responding to the new media revolution and its endless permutations. Bloggers are budding in an unceasing digital spring.   Do you have any advice for the would-be-blogging novelist out there?

Would you talk a little bit about David Paco’s book “Walk” and your cellphone photo blog project on the citrus report?

With Frederick Publishing I am interested in taking things that were created in a digital format, then printing them as books. I am attracted to taking something that is inline with all things modern (blogs, emails, digital text) and producing them in a format that is thousands of years old and is against most peoples better judgement in this day and age. Recently I read an article on CNN about an author who had a new book out (ironically) that declared that within 5 years books would no longer be printed. When I read this I smiled and said “This is means I need to publish books for at least the next 10 years”.  I find books wildly romantic and intimate and as long as humans have hands and eyes I feel people will cherish books, how ever large or small the runs are.

I totally understand the ebook movement and I think it has its place and I plan on releasing our books in both formats. But I don’t see only releasing ebooks, they are not nearly as sexy as perfect bound books.

Dave Paco’s “Walk” was the first book we published and came about after about a year of Paco traveling south through Latin America. He had been sending this amazing emails home to friends and family about his travels and adventures and after the first couple of emails I wrote him and told him we had to publish the emails as a book when he finished his trek. He ended up spending two years traveling from Los Angeles down to the furthest point south in the Americas, Tierra Del Fuego. We decided to keep the email headers in as an identifier that this were just emails and were not written after the fact. Dave Paco is a great writer and a wonderful story teller, the first of which I am not sure he was aware of before the book came out.

With both WALK and American Idle, the texts are very raw and fall under the “On The Road” school of thought than say Classic Literature. But both books are extremely accessible and just about anyone can enjoy at least parts of the books, especially anyone that loves to travel or eavesdrop.

My “eyespies” blog that I started recently is an extension of the “eyespy” blog that makes up the last half of American Idle.  The major difference with the new blog is its only photographs, more specifically its only photographs taken with my iphone. I decided to not include captions or explanations so I can leave the images completely open ended for the viewers to enjoy (or hate) which allows people to create their own dialog about what is happening. Sometimes I will present somewhat obvious narratives in the photos and I only present photos of things that are beautiful or interesting (to me at least), I feel there are plenty of people documenting the hard times and ugliness of the world so why not just show things that make people smile or scratch their heads.  My day job is working for the largest Art handling company in California. This puts me all over the city daily packing art and installing art in mansions and museums. And while I would LOVE to be keeping a blog detailing all of the insane stuff I see daily, the confidentiality agreements I signed keep me from doing this (at this time ;). So I document things I come across weekly in this new blog, and I will be happy to tell anyone the secrets of the photos over coffee.

The Citrus Report is nice enough to host such an abstract blog, I have been a contributing writer for them for most of 2010. I write essay style features on up and coming artists leading up to exhibitions they have coming up. My next book will be a collection of the essays from this year titled “The Citrus Reports” and is scheduled to be released early next year.

Thanks J!
Check out the book trailer for American Idle and order any of the books through Frederick Publishing at

So much for judging a book by its cover.

8 Dec

There is a new trend in reading that doesn’t involve reading at all: book trailers. Although book trailers have officially been around since 2003, It seems to be no passing trend. As the world becomes increasingly e-book friendly and hooked on social media, a book trailer seems an obvious step for authors towards engaging their audience. Is it possible that a trailer might even become as important as a book cover? My guess is yes, especially if you plan for your book to have an online presence, which I would say should include all your books.

A book trailer just might be the hook to your viral marketing campaign.

As far as distribution goes, the possibilities for momentum seem endless. Sheila Clover English, CEO of Cosproductions, the leader of book trailer production in the US, crunches the numbers for us.

“There are over 400 social media outlets for video. Some of those are specific to books. There are booksellers and libraries who take them too. Right now we have a list of over 300 booksellers and 5000 libraries. We also do off line placement like TV, movie theaters, etc. Our videos play on buses in 5 major cities and get over 10 million impressions per week per video.”


Check out this small collection of book trailers from the lowest of budgets to the polished and produced.

(Source: http)

Christoph Niemann,illustrator and children’s book author advertises “I LEGO N.Y.” his version of NY life via Legos.

John Wray ( author of Lowboy) “switches places” with comedian Zach Galifianakis for an interview about his book. Yeah, you’ll laugh…

Video trailer inspired by NY Times Bestseller, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, a collection of essays written by Sloane Crosley.

Book trailer, Going West by Maurice Gee, was produced for the NZ Book Council.

This trailer preceded Jami Attenberg’s  novel, The Kept Man. The short film was produced by Milk Products Media.

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