Monday, July 11, 2005

A few days ago, I blogged about MJ Rose's fabulous Good Books/Good Causes campaign (based around the Vidlit of her latest spine-and-loin-tingling novel, The Halo Effect.) Today, it's my great pleasure to have MJ as my guest during her GCC tour.

MJ Rose is a real force of nature. Not only is she a sensual, suspenseful, Anthony Award-nominated, international best-selling novelist, she is also a tireless advocate for all writers, and a much-needed whistleblower within the publishing industry. Her blog Buzz, Balls and Hype exposes the follies and triumphs of the publishing world, and explores how we can transform the business to benefit writers, publishers, and the reading public. Her other blog, Backstory, is a fascinating compendium of writers talking about the genesis of their novels.

I had the chance to ask MJ a few questions. Here is our exchange:

--Thank you for being such a fierce and generous advocate for writers. Could
you talk about how you came to want to empower writers (and, in the process,
revolutionize the publishing industry)?

Well, I'm flattered, but I certainly don't think of myself as being a revolutionary. Though the longer I'm in this business the more it's clear it needs a big revolution.

I never set out to do anything but get published and have a few people read my work.

At first, for three long years, I had every door slammed in my face and had to deal with a huge amount of rejection. And then when I decided that I wanted to "test market" my novel by way of self publishing it and getting reader reactions, I was met with outright hostility. From booksellers to published authors, I was treated pretty much as a no-talent non-entity. In fact, I was told over and over from the industry at large that if I was any good, I would have been published the "normal" way and I was destroying any chance I had at a career.

I can't tell you how much anger and resentment I felt towards this business I so badly wanted to get involved with. I knew quite a few indy filmmakers and couldn't understand why they got applause and their own film festival and writers who struck out on their own got the metaphorical finger.

It made me furious. But also more determined. And it did eventually lead to me getting published.

And then, there I was with a book coming out and all those negative feelings.

At the same time, I was doing a lot of reading about Buddhism for research for
a new novel and I realized how I needed to deal with all my pent up feelings.

I was going help other writers as much as I could so that no one else would have to go through what I'd gone through. That would dilute the anger. Every time I wanted to scream, I'd try to do something that was positive. It was all about karmic energy not about changing anything.

At about the same time, I got a job as a columnist covering the publishing industry for and really got to understand the business inside out. The more I learned, the more I saw this huge disconnect between how authors and publishers dealt with each other and how authors were so disenfranchised from their own books once they turned them in.

Without planning to, I started focusing more and more of my journalism on that schism and trying to come up with solutions for how to erase it.

--I love your Good Books/Good Cause campaign. How did you come up with the idea?

I keep trying to up the ante when it comes to how authors can help promote their own work but at the same time I'm very conscious of how obnoxious self promotion can be and how much most of us - including me - really hate to do it.

To that end, I keep trying to come up with stuff and then be the guinea pig. In 1998, I used banner ads to get the word out about the self pubbed book before other authors did that. Then in 2000, I was the first author to do a virtual book tour, which got written up in Salon and was tons of fun. Every time I had a new book out, I tried to come up with something else. Some stuff has failed miserably, some succeeded. (Backstory - which was the first glog - group blog - for authors worked really well.)

Getting attention for any one book is harder than ever.

The problem that we're facing is 3000-5000 marketing messages a day, a dropping readership in newspapers and magazine - where readers find out about books, 25% -50% fewer book reviews across all media, and so much competition for readers' time from the Internet, iPod's, cable TV, cell phones, etc.

But blogs are getting a lot of attention, and in a way that I think can have some real meaning. Each blogger gets his or her following, has a voice, can seriously connect. So I wanted to come up with a really good reason that bloggers would be willing to link to a book and mention an author.

About a year ago, I started working on an idea that eventually led to Good Books/Good Cause. The jury is still out, but I hope it works. I'd like to do
one book a month, and then one a week, and get a lot of exposure for a lot of
authors and do something positive for a few charities in the process.

--What are you working on now?

I'm working on a novel that will be out in January of 2007. Yikes, that sounds far away. I never talk about books in progress, though.

--I always ask GCC visitors a fruit-related question. Because your writing
is so sexy and full of mystery, I was wondering--which fruit do you find the
sexiest, or most mysterious (or both!) and why?

Pomegranate. It's so complicated with all those chambers inside, like rooms in an underground cavern. The seeds are covered with such a thin layer of jewel like meat. You can barely scrape off enough with your teeth to actually feel like you are eating anything. But you are. Your whole mouth reacts. And then there is the mysterious story connected to this fruit which goes back as long as we have storytellers. As if all that isn't enough, the fruit leaves your fingers and your mouth stained. Marked. It can never be a secret that you ate one, the evidence shows itself.

Thanks Gayle, this was fun. You're books are wonderful and so are you to do

--Thank you so much, MJ; it was wonderful to have you here! Thank you all you continue to do on the behalf of writers everywhere. May the Good Books/Good Causes campaign be a resounding success for The Halo Effect and beyond!

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