Monday, November 30, 2009

Tardis Library?

From the BBC, "A traditional red phone box has been recycled into one of the country's smallest lending libraries - stocking 100 books." Of course it's bigger inside than it looks from the outside, but still not sure sure all those people will get in...Still, it's an efficient use of space, and the more libraries, the better. The full piece is here:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Poet Travels Sharp Edge of Science

REPULSION THRUST is on sale at Amazon now (just in time for Black Friday)! The book is less than $10 and makes a wonderful gift for poetry lovers, scientists, futurists, literary folk, and anyone who enjoys a bit of uniquely framed introspection. The beautiful cover is by NSW artist Scott Jackson, and I'd love to send you an autographed bookplate, customised to suit your recipient. Drop by:
Amazon to pick up your copy now. Thank you for your wonderful support!

Following is the official press release:

Award-winning poet Magdalena Ball has released a new book of poetry that moves across a terrain not often the fodder of poetry. Following up on her chapbook Quark Soup, Ball combines her pursuit for scientific meaning with the steely-eyed observations of a poet, seeking answers to the human condition through Quantum Physics, and measuring human aging against technological singularity, or the loss of love against ecological destruction. It’s an extraordinary and original collection that author, inventor and futurist visionary Ray Kurzweil calls “wonderful … singularity-aware art with a poetic sensibility”.

Magdalena Ball was born in New York City and holds a BA from City College, an MA from Charles Sturt University, and has written a Masters thesis on James Joyce and Virginia Woolf at Oxford University. She now lives in Australia where she works in research and development for Orica, a large multinational corporation, a job that often provides inspiration for her work. She also runs the highly respected review site. Her novel Sleep Before Evening, published in 2007, was a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist.

"In poetry the thin line that divides the hermetic from the obvious is dangerous ground and not all poets can tread there without destruction. Magdalena is comfortable here and not only treads but dances." Bob Williams

"Precise and exciting. Words sizzle on the page. Images steeped in the physical world work beautifully to illuminate complex emotions and states of mind. Magdalena Ball is an important poet." Joan Schweighardt, author of Gudrun's Tapestry, Virtual Silence and other novels.

"This is a book of poetry for anyone who has been in love and knows what it is to live in the twenty-first century, but who is more than a little scared of what might happen if all the lights went out. Take these poems seriously. They may just have some of the answers you require." Catherine Edmunds, author wormwood, earth and honey

"Magdalena Ball creates a stunning impression with her first full-length collection, Repulsion Thrust. Her poems speak of experience, wisdom, and curiosity and welcome the reader to embrace a voyeuristic ride. Beautiful, haunting, and honest, Repulsion Thrust is a powerful collection with a refreshing voice and an open heart." Lori A. May, author of Stains

"Poems of clarity, epiphany and stark existential awareness. A bracing, imaginative collection of poetry that rewards repeated reading." Sue Bond, The Wordy Gecko

Repulsion Thrust by Magdalena Ball
ISBN: 978-1-904492-96-2
Bewrite Books
Publication Date: 2 December, 2009 *yeah, I know, but I bought a copy for my mother, so I know you can get it now!
Paperback, also available in digital e-book version, 110 pp

Available through Ingram, Bertram Books, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, Ingrams, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and good bookstores everywhere. Available through Ingram, Bertram Books, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, Ingrams, Amazon, and good bookstores everywhere.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blog tour Guest Kristin Bair O'Keeffe

I'm very pleased to have a visit today from Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, who talks about her novel Thirsty.

Talk to me about Thirsty. What gave rise to the book?

Thirsty is the story of one woman’s rather unusual journey through an abusive marriage, set against the backdrop of a Pittsburgh steel town at the turn of the twentieth century. Because I have a history of domestic violence in my family, I’ve done a good bit of thinking about it over the years, both personally and as a writer.

As I’ve moved through the world, I’ve witnessed how being a victim of domestic violence often is passed from mother to daughter…like pearls or a wedding dress. This cycle of abuse—along with the idea of genetic memory—tweaked my storytelling curiosity early on. In writing Thirsty, I wanted to explore the mother-daughter dynamic, how a young woman gets involved in an abusive relationship in the first place, why some women manage to leave abusive relationships behind, and why others simply cannot. The more I wrote and discovered, the more I realized how tender and complicated these situations are. As I wrote Klara’s story, I kept coming to the question of courage: “What is it? Who has it? Who can get it? What does it look like? And finally, can Klara ever find the courage to leave Drago?”

In addition, I’ve got a bit of an obsession with steel. I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, and my maternal grandparents lived just down the road a bit in Clairton, one of Pittsburgh’s most dynamic steel communities. In the 1960s and 1970s, I spent a lot of time at their house with the smokestacks of the mills bearing down and barges hauling steel along the Monongahela River. My grandfather and great uncles worked in the steel mills so it was a big part of our family story. When the steel industry collapsed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so did Pittsburgh’s steel communities. At that point, the storyteller in me jumped up and said, “Ooohh, there’s something to be told here.”

Somewhere along the line, these two inspirations merged and Thirsty was born.

Did you write the book after moving to China? Was it inspired by your travels?

Actually I wrote the first scene of Thirsty in 1992 when I was a grad student at Columbia College in Chicago…long before I moved to China. Once I dug in, I was hooked. I became obsessed with steel mills, steel making, the life of women in Pittsburgh at the turn of the twentieth century, the psychology behind a woman’s reason for staying in an abusive marriage, and the journey of the main character, Klara Bozic.

Since moving to China in March 2006, I’ve actually discovered that Shanghai today is in some ways strangely similar to steel communities in Pittsburgh at the turn of the twentieth century. For example, the streets of Shanghai are filled with cart-pulling entrepreneurs who specialize in various goods and services; there’s a guy selling oranges, a woman collecting wood to recycle, a man selling stockings and nylon socks, a knife sharpener, and lots more. There were cart-pulling entrepreneurs all over the place in Pittsburgh steel communities at the turn of the twentieth century; you’ll see them when you read Thirsty. Who would have thought? (To get a glimpse into my writing life in Shanghai, check out the video interview with me at YouTube.

Tell me a little about your life in China - why did you migrate?

In 2005, my husband (who was then my boyfriend) said to me, “How would you feel about living in China?”

“China?” I said.

“Mmmhhm,” he said, “my company wants me to go there for a couple of years.”

Until that moment, I hadn’t ever considered living in China. Italy? Sure. Greece? Absolutely. But China?

It didn’t take me long to make a decision. I was an adventurous writer and a woman in love. Why not move to China? After a few short seconds, I said, “Sure, let’s go.”

Five months later we were married and living in Shanghai. I didn’t speak a word of Mandarin, didn’t know a soul, and honestly, knew very little about Chinese culture (other than what I’d gleaned during our three-day cultural training class). But I was fascinated. I grabbed my Mac and my camera and set off. I’ve been exploring ever since. (My second book is about China.)

How did you find Swallow Press (or did they find you)?

For the publication of Thirsty, I owe a big fat thanks to my good friend and writing colleague Christina Katz (a.k.a. the Writer Mama). She has been one of Thirsty’s greatest cheerleaders since we were in grad school together at Columbia. (She was also one of Thirsty’s first readers.)

In early 2008, Christina was at a writers’ conference in the United States. As always, she was talking up Thirsty to fiction folks, and on this particular day, the timing was right. She said something like, “My friend Kristin has written this amazing novel called…..” Someone looked up and said, “Ooh, Kristin should send the manuscript to Swallow Press. Sounds like a good fit.”

I did. And voilĂ ! A short time later I had a book deal.

Talk to me about some of the promotional complexities that you've got. Is most of your promotion via Internet? Are you able to tap into ex-pat writing groups/communities or do you really feel like your day to day life is in one location and your 'book life' is in another?

Promoting a debut novel in the U.S. while living halfway around the world in Shanghai, China, is, well, a little nuts. After all, I live in a country that “manages” access to the Internet. I’m blocked from all social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.—as well as many blogs and lots of writer-related sites. (I’m even blocked from my own blog!)

Thankfully I’m a creative soul and a determined author. And because I’m also the reigning queen of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), I manage to get to blocked websites on a fairly regular basis and therefore connect quite often with readers and writers.

In late September, I flew home to the U.S. for the launch of Thirsty. (October 1 was the official release date.) And from the time the airplane touched down, I was the (very exhausted, but very happy) marketing maven. I did an author’s feast at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association convention in Cleveland, a flurry of radio interviews, a webcast interview with the books editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and a bunch more things that have become a blur. I also read and signed books at a number of bookstores in Pittsburgh, Massachusetts, and Maine, went back to my high school alma mater to yak with students in the creative writing classes, and talked to anyone anywhere who looked like they might be a reader. (I was the one in the international terminal at the airport calling, “Hey, hey, you! Yes, you! Do you read? Have you seen my debut novel Thirsty?”?)

We also have a terrific reading/writing community in Shanghai, and folks are very supportive of fellow expats. In the coming months, I’ll be doing as many events in Asia as possible. Right now I’m scheduled to speak to a handful of reading groups and give a talk at the most amazing Shanghai International Literary Festival (March 2010).

Living in China and publishing in the U.S. has forced me to think outside of the box. There’s lots more creative marketing ahead. Stay tuned!

You're a real juggler aren't you? (I know what it's like!) Tell me about some of the things you're juggling right now, and some of the balls you hope to add into the juggling mix in the future.

Yep, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out, I’m sending my resume to Cirque du Soleil.

Seriously though, in addition to being a new author, I’m mom to a brilliant, energetic, chatty 22-month-old. I blog, run a reading series in Shanghai for local writers, teach writing, and write a monthly column for Writers on the Rise. [link =] I’m close to completing my second novel and a memoir (that’s the book about China). Since my husband is from Ireland and I’m from the U.S., we do a good bit of international travel. Therefore I spend a good bit of each year recovering from jetlag.

All in all, it’s a pretty cool life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Talking Poetry and Science on 2NUR

Next Tues, 24th Nov at 10am (Sydney time), I'll be chatting about poetry and science on the 2nd stop of my book tour (and book isn't even out until the 2nd of Dec! How keen am I?) at The Starlight Zone on Radio 2NUR, with Col Maybury. This is real radio, but will also be recorded as a podcast, so if you miss the show, stay tuned for a podcast link.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Virtual Reality Interview at Terric Coffeeshop

Netera Landar talks to "me" (that's Poet Ozigard - whether it's me or not is the subject of poetry) at the Terric Coffeeshop in Second Life (whether or not that's a place is a subject for Philosophers). This is kind of ground breaking (whether or not it is is something I'm open to discussing), and new (for me at least...), and I'd love for you to join us. Second Life is free, and you can join in and interact with us in the session. Please come along, even if you find it creepy, and help support "me" as I muddle my way through virtual reality. Refreshments available (whether or not they're refreshments...). That's 7pm Central US time on the 10th (12 midday on the 11th if you're in Sydney).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Book's Lifecycle

As I prepare for another book launch, I thought it might be fun to do a little tongue-in-cheek look at the product life cycle stages of a book (also needed to do it for the marketing degree), an area where serendipity often rules, and where formal marketing is often not applied well. This will obviously vary depending on the genre and fame of the author (it’s definitely a brand game…the brand being the author or even the author’s pseudonym, such as Lemony Snicket). Prior to introduction is the pre-publication stage, which works through all the standard New Product Development elements of idea/concept/analysis/product dev’t (the 'writing’)/test marketing (call it the editing and submission – it often leads to re-writing or even back to the idea stage), and finally commercialisation, which includes such things as choosing a final title, size, layout, printing, and cover design.


The book has been launched. Most earnings at this stage are used to pay for the printing and editing costs and are therefore negligible (in many cases, they tend to stay negligable). At this point, low-cost activities like press releases, publicity events, review garnering (through sending out review copies), entering competitions, social networking, and media events on radio are combined with advertising and hand selling, in order to generate interest and reach prospective, targeted customers (taken from market plan and segmentation list) and motivate them to purchase the book. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll have done a lot of promotional work throughout the late pre-publication phase as part of commercialisation, so that reviews will be flowing in now, and people will have been anticipating your upcoming poetry book even more hotly than they're anticipating the new Matthew Riley novel (then you woke up).

Growth Stage

Online promotion is particularly important here as virtual book tours remain online permanently, and if people are talking about you, then it is at this stage that the word begins to spread. So doing really good promotional work in the introductory phase will start to pay off in this stage. At this point, a prize win would really come in handy. There are quite a few good prizes available, but of course many applicants, and winning is never guaranteed. Still, if you’ve produced a high quality product and entered competitions during the introduction phase, you might hit it big at the growth phase, and then Riley and Dan Brown had better watch out. Failing that, a few innovative readings (gimmicks like pole dancing while reading your poetry or having a launch in Second Life for example) can also help generate buzz in the right places. Once you’ve reached the break even point and profits are starting to be generated, you can invest a bit in promotion and try to get into trade shows, great book trailers, some small scale touring, and advertisements to sustain the growth. Of course, no party lasts forever, and Dan Brown is taking up all the shelf space in the bookstores and no one buys poetry (except your relatives, and neighbours and work colleagues and they’ve now all got copies), so sales slow down and the product enters the maturity phase. You’re onto your next book in any case, so you’ve stopped investing and are just raking in the residual profits (at 10% of the publisher’s wholesale price, that’s about $1 per book, so you should get a few cups of coffee). The cash cow is nourished and you can just milk it for as long as possible until sales peter out altogether. Or…you could shift your strategy and try looking at alternative pricing strategies, like heavy discounts or freebies ('buy a copy of my poetry book and I'll give you Angels and Demons for nothing'). You could do an Amazon ‘bestseller’ campaign. Or put the book on Kindle and do a new launch of the e-book. This might just create you new markets (especially if the ebook is really inexpensive or has pretty pictures you couldn't afford to put in the print version). You could find new users in a fringe market – for example, you could try being the first person ever to create a totally virtual poetry book with an avatar reading each poem outloud. If you got a good soundtrack and did the whole thing ‘live’, then it might just be novel enough to give your book a second life (2 puns in one sentence) and get you onto Today Tonight. You could have the book translated into different languages and capture the growing Madagascarian demand for scientific poetry. You could teach classes and make your book the required text. Or you could just let your book move on to the next phase (which will probably happen anyway).


Since you’ve got a day job and don’t have time to do any of these clever gimmick ideas, your sales eventually vanish and any books still on bookstore shelves are returned for a full credit. Readers are onto the next big thing and your name is history. So it’s time to ease off the promotion and move on to the next project. If you’ve got a few boxes of books in your wardrobe, you can donate them to a charity or library (literacy club/auctions, etc) to create goodwill, or you can give them to friends for birthday presents for the next 5 years, which should also give you more time to write since you'll no longer get invited to birthday parties. In this phase, your marketing will probably be reduced to minimal levels, but there may still be opportunities for sales in the future as other titles come out and more buzz is generated. Online promotional efforts tend to stay in place permanently, so that book trailer is still being checked out on YouTube, and your blogs are all still around. A few sales here and there may just get you the odd cup of coffee. Unlike corporate products, books don't have to maintained, unless you're with a big house that pulps you and erases your name from history (for more on that, read Carlos Ruiz Safron's The Angel's Game). If that happens, well, just write another book and start over. You probably weren't making much anyway.

Obviously the strategies needed for each stage have to be different as the market is continually changing around your product. Competition in this arena is fierce, and there's always someone else looking to create buzz (turn your head for a minute and your Twitter is deeply submerged). Some of the natural impetus around each phase will help keep things moving (keep Twittering) but as the product moves from introduction to growth to maturity to decline, it is important to change your strategy so as to take advantage of natural interests and investment opportunities and to help ease the transition as the market peters off. Like any business, you've got to balance the creation of new products (when is your next book coming out?) with the exploitation of existing ones and if you don't maintain the balance then your business will falter. The evidence generally comes in the form of sales or lack of them, and overall interest/responsiveness to campaigns so it's quite clear when you're transitioning from one phase to the next. It tends to happen organically. The one thing you can generally influence is how long you remain in each phase, but there's still a point when you know you've got to move on.