Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Off Doing What Writers Do

I've been, and continue to be, holed up in a Los Angeles cafe editing the final draft of my second book.

I'll be back soon.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
2 Comments Online

Monday, October 08, 2007


'You Have A Big Head!'

I recently discovered the Overheard in New York blog and have come to consider it a brilliant demonstration of the difference between New York City and Los Angeles.

Today there was an entry with a literary tie so I thought it worth passing along. It was overheard in the Queens Library:
Little girl: "Can I have a job here?"

Clerk: "How old are you?"

Little girl: "Nine."

Clerk: "Well, you have to be at least 14 to work at the library."

Little girl: "Oh, yeah? Well, you have a big head!"

The only time I hear people talk in the library in LA is when they're shouting into a cell phone, so this one was good for a grin.

Much of the New York commentary contributed to the site is not for the faint of heart (a.k.a. people in LA who consider it an abomination to actually use a car horn), so don't blame me if you don't think it's funny. If you can't tolerate Overheard in New York then you definitely better stay out of the subway if you ever visit.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Friday, October 05, 2007


Malibu Makes The Pie Higher

My good friend and fellow writer Veronique de Turenne points out on her LA Observed blog Here in Malibu that this Saturday is the annual Malibu Pie Festival, from 11-3 at the Malibu Country Mart. (Veronique baked a blue ribbon pie her first time out of the oven last year, but her delightful dog Maisie ate it ... the ribbon, I mean.)

Anyone who knows me knows I like pie, which is reason enough to note Saturday's festival here. It's also as good a reason as any to run a poem titled for a George W. Bush quote, 'Make The Pie Higher.' The entire piece is composed of quotes uttered by Pres. George W. Bush.

Snopes.com says the arrangement is "generally credited to Washington Post writer Richard Thompson, a satirist and illustrator who produces the 'Richard's Poor Almanac' feature appearing in the Post's Sunday edition:"
Make the Pie Higher
I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
1 Comments Online

Thursday, October 04, 2007


UPDATE: A Local In The Window?

Photo By TJ Sullivan
A post on my blog yesterday noted the encouraging success of writer, editor and publisher Colleen Dunn Bates of Pasadena, whose book Hometown Pasadena was the subject of a story this week in the LA Times.

I was disappointed with the story, which I thought could have been much more fun and informative. But, Bates saw the blog post and was kind enough to write a note that filled in some of my blanks.

Most important to writers of unpublished books (that would be me) was how Bates managed to get the gatekeepers of a Pasadena Barnes & Noble to stock her book, let alone put it in the window.

The answer: A good book (well written and attractively packaged) really does sell itself, if you talk to the right person.

Once contacted about the product, the chain's regional buyer realized the value of what they were looking at and gave it front-window display space.

To understand how significant that is, it helps to know a bit about the industry. Display placement doesn't just happen. Most authors never see the light of a center table in a bookstore (bargain bins excluded), let alone the front window. The displays shoppers see just inside the front door of corporate bookstores, those tables with copies of the latest book artfully arranged, are often purchased, which means they have nothing to do with what the wise employees of the store think about the book.

Publishers pay fees for prime placement, often what's called a "co-op" (I think the grocery industry calls them "endcaps"). Only the biggest names, or those expected to become big names, can count on a publisher to invest in this kind of play, so for a local writer to make it into the front window on merit is a very big deal.

There's a lot more to the marketing stragegy employed by Bates. She obviously did not go into this effort blindly. As a veteran of the New York publishing machine, she knows her way around the engine. That aside, anyone can do what she did. This success wasn't the product of a complicated rebuild, nor was it the result of name dropping, or calling in favors to do the heavy lifting. Rather, it looks to be proof of the benefits of smart and deliberate planning.

Also encouraging was Bates' experience with Borders, yet another chain that signed up to stock her book. Say what you will about the corporate monsters (and I've said a few things about them lately), but Borders provides a budget to buy and sell the work of local authors. They don't get credit for many socially responsible acts, but this one is worthy of it (also worthy of note is the fact that I'm unaware of how big, or small, this local book budget may be).

As for the fun part ... how many copies of Hometown Pasadena were able to fit in the Subaru Outback that Bates used to deliver them ... the answer was 17 cases, or 544 books per haul. (Pssst, Subaru: The literary demographic buys cars too, not just that call-of-the-wild segment of the market. With a little encouragement, I bet you could even persuade Bates to run through couple mud puddles on her way to selling the next 10,000 copies of Hometown Pasadena.)

[CROSS POSTED at Native Intelligence.]

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Rat Runner!

A new post written by yours truly at Native Intelligence:
This morning I found myself in need of a term that defined the stereotypical Los Angeles motorist at rush hour, that driver who becomes so frustrated with the stop-and-go that he stomps down on the accelerator, rips up a dusty shoulder and squeals into some quiet neighborhood.

When nothing came to mind I Googled and found not only a term, but an entire Wikipedia definition complete with details of an ethical debate about such behavior ...

It's "rat runner," which would be what you'd call someone who goes on a "rat run," which is the practice of "rat running."

There's just one problem ...

Read the full post at Native Intelligence.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online


Self-Published, Self-Marketed, Self-Distributed

Writers of unpublished books might be encouraged by a story in Tuesday's edition of the Los Angeles Times about Pasadena writer Colleen Dunn Bates, a former editor for Simon & Schuster and former writing partner of LA Times deputy food editor Susan LaTempa.

Bates, who worked in the publishing industry in the 1980s, decided last year to write, market and distribute a Pasadena travel guide, "Hometown Pasadena," and has already sold 10,000 copies.

It's unfortunate that the writer [or perhaps an editor] of the LA Times story appears to have forgotten [or perhaps was so overworked that it didn't come to mind] that this should be an informative and fun read — for example, the story fails to tells us how many copies of the book Bates is able to fit in her Subaru in one haul (that would be a fun part), nor does the story offer so much as a hint about what Bates did to persuade the gatekeepers of a Pasadena Barnes & Noble to stock her book (that would be an informative part). The story proclaims the venture "a small empire" and reads as though it's an introduction to the magical, new trend of self-publishing (more fodder for New York's criticism of the LA literary scene). Except for a mention of Internet sales attributed to the president of the Publishers Association of Los Angeles, the story doesn't even talk about whether Bates mounted an online marketing effort through booksellers like Amazon.com.

Bates' approach sounds smart, it's just too bad readers didn't get to learn more about the mechanics of how she broke through some of these barriers.

From the story:
Almost a year later, "Hometown Pasadena" has not only sold 10,000 copies, it has also turned into a small empire: Local bookstores, both chain and independent, Costco and even a hair salon now carry it, and Bates is branching out to other cities. Next week, "Hometown Santa Monica" will appear in stores there, and Santa Barbara and Berkeley will have their turn next year.

Bates' formula for the books is simple: "It's about how to really live in a place, and be in a place, and understand a place, even if you've lived there for 20 years," she said recently. "I've never seen anything like it. My model was to not have it look like a Fodor's guide."

Her insistence on staying local and forgoing major publishers' backing makes sense, said Michael Cader, a book packager and founder of the Publishers Lunch website. "That's how the Zagat guide started," Cader said. "You can go to cities that have 'underground driver's guides' that tell you the back-street tips to get you from one place to another. There's certainly a tradition of very local, very focused books that usually aren't suited to larger enterprises."

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


LA Times' Bloodletting

A new post written by yours truly at Native Intelligence:
"Some lessons take longer to learn than others. It took mankind ages to figure out that the medical practice of bloodletting was actually a bad idea. So maybe newspapers like the Los Angeles Times deserve a little slack as they fumble about in search of a cure for reader disengagement.

Still, it spurs the eyes to roll when stories like this come up.

Last week, LA Times Publisher David Hiller suggested that his venerable broadsheet might publish a free tabloid styled after Times parent Tribune Co.'s RedEye, a commuter daily aimed at young readers and produced by the Chicago Tribune.

The names of good editors, reporters, photographers, copy editors, page designers and support staffers continue to be scratched from the Times' employee directory, yet the suits still look for new ways to lose money, rather than focus on the improvement of what's fast becoming the dullest read in its circulation class.

Has no one whispered ..."

Read the complete post at Native Intelligence.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online

Monday, October 01, 2007



A new post written by yours truly at Native Intelligence:
ForSaleByOwner.com, one of many for-sale-by-owner Web sites, released some statistics today that suggested New York City home sellers may be braver than their Los Angeles counterparts when it comes to going FSBO, a move that can save a potential $60,000 in sales commission on a million-dollar home.

ForSaleByOwner.com, a subsidiary of Los Angeles Times corporate parent Tribune Co., said listings located in the New York City metropolitan region accounted for 12.7 percent of all homes for sale on the Web site during the first half of 2007. Tribune Co.'s hometown of Chicago ranked second with less than half the New York total, 5.1 percent. But Los Angeles, trendsetter or no, didn't appear until ...

Read the full post at Native Intelligence.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
Bookmark and Share
0 Comments Online