4 posts

The Good-Reading Prince Discovers Royalties


HAMLET: To-read or not to-read? That is the question.

OPHELIA: Don’t tell me. Goodreads member, right?

HAMLET: How did you know? Art thou a mind reader?

OPHELIA: A profile reader, you great, fool Dane. 87 books “read” and 8,777 books “to-read,” I see.

HAMLET: Uh, what are you doing here, anyway? Do you not understand the “sol” in “soliloquy”?

OPHELIA: Yea, verily. And the “dia” in “dialogue,” too.

HAMLET: Perhaps you should exit, stage left, instead of hectoring a man?

OPHELIA: Perhaps you should stop clicking “to-read” on books instead of teasing their authors most obscenely?

HAMLET: But I really want to read this 8,777th  book!

OPHELIA: Don’t tell me. Some day.

HAMLET: OK, I won’t tell you the day then.

OPHELIA: Why haven’t you read Numbers 1 through 8,776, pray tell? Didn’t you want to read them, too? Or is this like a New Year’s resolution ha-ha? Good until January 5th, ha-ha.

HAMLET: “The road to not-reading is paved with good intentions.” Shakespeare, I’ll wager!

OPHELIA: Impossible. Pavement isn’t even invented yet.

HAMLET: Is Goodreads?

OPHELIA: Don’t mess with me, or I’ll twist you like an underbaked Danish.

HAMLET: What’s your deal, anyway? Aren’t women supposed to be seen but not heard?

OPHELIA: Children, Ham. Children. My advice is to clear it out. All of it. Make like Marie Kondo and spark some joy by blowing up your “to-read” shelf completely. Here’s the fuse.

HAMLET: But… it took so long to build! And all those pretty spines for my friends and followers to see! They look so… Goodreads!

OPHELIA: Replace it. Tabula rasa. No more clicking “to-read.”

HAMLET: Will (sic) I suffer withdrawal symptoms?

OPHELIA: No. Instead of clicking “to-read,” click “Amazon,” then “Add to Cart,” then “Place Order.” Be a Dane of conviction. Then get plenty of rest and see me in the morning.

HAMLET: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Dost thou not realize that placing an order would actually mean reading my “to-reads”?

OPHELIA: And supporting your “to-reads” authors who have spent a year or more crafting a product every bit as worthy as that fine coat you’re wearing and that distinguished artisanal goblet you’re drinking from. Have you not heard of royalties? Now make like QE I and produce some! After all, what do you think is supporting this Globe Theater stage we’re standing on?

HAMLET: Atlas?


HAMLET: Timber, maybe?

OPHELIA: Royalties, you fool Dane! Queen Elizabeth’s sizable assets, to start! And a percentage of the groundlings’ gate, to gild some lily. Where there’s a Will, there’s some pay!

HAMLET: Lower your voice before you raise the dead! I just coaxed my father off the ramparts last week! Now let me think on this. (Shuts eyes.) OK, I’m thinking like so: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

OPHELIA: Right church, wrong play.

HAMLET: Can I buy a few hours, then, with a, “Hey nonny, nonny?”

OPHELIA: Stop it and grow up. I’m serious. Back to zero with this “to-read” stuff. Using it only inflates all these authors’ “to-read” stocks. Hundreds upon hundreds of non-promissory notes. Much Ado About Nothing. Empty as the wind. Is that who you really are?

HAMLET: I need extra time for such questions! I’m still on “to be or not to be”! Don’t you have a nunnery to get thee to or something?

OPHELIA: (Eyes looking like grenades — which are not invented yet) You tax my patience like an exchequer, British for the tax man. Is my point made? Can we move on to Act V already?

HAMLET: OK, OK. But first, you doing anything tonight?

OPHELIA: Reading. Books from my cart. Delivered in two days thanks to Hippolyta Prime. Now let’s exeunt while the exeunting is good….


“Ophelia’s Poetry Tip-of-the-Day” Jar (Artisanal, Hand-Crafted Poems)


Amazon, Again. Still.


Ah, Amazon dot all-is-never-calm. Because it’s true what they say: The more you eat, the hungrier you get. With people, eating begets eating (thus the obesity epidemic). With corporations, jonesing money begets jonesing money (thus, in Amazon’s case, the something-silly profits).

I’ve already complained about Amazon’s insatiable appetite on these pages, especially as seen through its recent acquisition of Goodreads, a place I’ve been hanging out in since shortly after its inception, but I won’t let that stop me.

This week I received an e-mail from Amazon stating that its Prime program was going up $2 a month (apparently their profits had dropped from “ridiculous” to merely “spectacular”).

This on the heels of Goodreads’ “Giveaway” program going pay-to-play, meaning authors like me would have to pony up $119 for the right to post one of my books in the “Giveaway” program.

Ah, no. No on both counts. I’m done with “Giveaways,” both in entering my books from a writer’s perspective and in entering my name to win from a reader’s perspective. I’m also done with Prime.

But enough with using up real estate HERE on the matter. I decided instead to post my argument and raison d’être (French for “raisins forever”) over at my other blog, New England States, where I haven’t posted anything since the Rutherford B. Hayes Administration, seems. Why? Because I’ve been so busy living, breathing, writing, and reading poetry over here.

Amazing, isn’t it? Dot and calm, too.

The Six Stages of First-Time Authorship

book sales

PROLOGUE: I wrote this way back in the late spring of 2016, after my first book released. For some reason, I decided against publishing it because it cut too close to the bone. Today, with two books to my credit, I better appreciate the humor in it. If you can’t laugh at yourself and the crazy pursuit of poetry writing, what can you laugh at? Ha-ha. Enjoy. Especially if you’re a poet or a would-be poet. A reader of poetry, you say? A little insight for you. And hopefully a chuckle or two.


Everything happens in stages. I learned this in the Self-Help aisle. I couldn’t help myself. And now I’ve discovered it is true of first-time authors who publish first books. Not just via my own lens, but by studying other authors of first-time books. And though I call it “The Six Stages of First-Time Authorship,” I might as well call it “The Sick Stages of First-Time Authorship.”

Admittedly, results are skewed. Mostly, I examine first-time poetry books, meaning it’s a special subset of authors whose works, in 99.7% of all cases, never see the light of a bookstore bookshelf. Instead, the books sit on a dark, unchecked (except by the author–every day) shelf of Amazon. A dot all-is-not-calm bookstore.

Stage One: Euphoria

Holy Toledo Ohio, my book is out! And no, Ma, it’s not from some cheesy vanity publisher. It’s the merit system. Go-o-od stuff. Told you so, doubters! Confucius would be proud! Must tell everyone I know! No, no. That’s too obvious. Must tell everyone I don’t know, too! How do I spread the word without seeming to spread the word? Show me the way. I’m there. I’m a worker bee. I’ll do the social media scene, even. I’ll send you a copy if you write me a review. What’s more, I have this feeling that some big reviewer from some major paper is going to stumble upon this book (God works in mysterious ways–and, part-time, for me!) and decide to write it up. The darkest of dark horses, this book! It’s only a question of who (The New York Times Book Review?), where (page 37? I’ll take it!), when (give it three weeks, tops!), and how (Kismet)! Woot!

Stage Two: Happiness

I’ve sent copies to every relative I know (one, “Aunt Irene,” I made up). And friends (some “acquaintances,” really, but whatever). They, in turn, will suggest this book to people THEY know. And on Goodreads, many of my friends (whom I’ve never met) have marked it as “To Read.” YES! All of these “To Reads” will soon convert to 5-star reviews once they’ve read it, I’m sure. OK, OK. I’ll be a big boy about a few 4-star reviews because that’s how I am. Magnanimous. Give it a week. Or two tops. The book is only 72 pages, after all. So that’s around 32 reviews right there. In the bank! Right out of the gate! And everyone knows reviews beget reviews like Biblical people begat Biblical babies. Can you say  “catalyst”? Can you say “momentum”? Can you say “royalties”? Ka-ching!

Stage Three: Reasonable Hope

I’ve been checking those Amazon sales stats every few hours and hey, not bad, especially in the category of POETRY>CONTEMPORARY>REGIONAL>LIVING(MARGINALLY)WHITE MALES>STAGE 3. (Surely it can’t just be the 3 out of 87 people at the office who said they bought it after I group e-mailed the entire company. Twice.) And all 32 of those “To-Reads” on Damn-Good-Reads? I got one review out of them so far. But it’s just the beginning, I’m sure. Almost sure. Even tsunamis start somewhere. As is true with them, a little lift would do me good…

Stage Four: Reality

Holy sinking Amazon jungle mud! I’ve never seen sales stats sink so fast. By the day, even! And the number of “To Reads” on Goodreads has held steady. OK, to be honest, it’s down one. And the number of reviews has held steady, too: one (Cue Three Dog Night: “ONE is the loneliest number that you’ll ever see…”). And the number of “Currently Readings” is steady, too (Zero Mostel would understand). I sent reviewer copies weeks ago and followed up with “Did you get it…?” e-mails just like I’m supposed to. Marketing Man! That’s me. The guy listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence”! Is this all there is? Doesn’t a man get rewarded for his hard work (marketing) and brilliant ideas (writing)? Or is that a Horatio Alger myth or something?

Stage Five: Despair

Well, THAT was fun (not). Back in Stage Two some party crasher said the only money poets make is at readings where, if they’re lucky, two people might buy their books. Might. “Yeah,” I thought. “But my book is different because it’s by ME and, last I checked, I’m special.” Or so I thought. (OK, I don’t want to think. Too much. Because it’s getting me down. And yes, the Buddha would be very disappointed in me. Too much self. Just a hyphen away from -ish, he’d say. Or something clever like that, damn him.)

Stage Six: Enlightenment

All this time dreaming. All this time beating the hollow drum. A couple of months lost! A couple of months I could’ve been writing! You know: Book Two. As in “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” As in “Do it again, only better.” It’s what writers do. And the second time around (one hopes), no more stages. Just back on the saddle and writing again. It’s all that matters. Writing. Every day. In the words of another poet — one of Biblical proportions — “All the rest is vanity, a striving after wind….”


Nota Bene: After Book Two, I’ve learned. I started writing right away. I am no longer a self-deluded man. Of course, every poem hungers readers just like you hunger for chocolate chip cookies, but reality is a good teacher and writing is a good habit and joyful challenges are the stuff of our workaday lives. On to #3!

Tracking My Book Frontiersman-Like

davy crockett

Today I bumped into an excited colleague. “Hey, I got your book yesterday. So exciting! I’m just bummed I forgot to bring it in for you to sign!”

“My book? You held a copy of my book? In your hands?”

Her smile shifted a little. “Ye-e-es,” she said slowly. “You know: The Indifferent World? Some 80 poems or so?”

I had to shake my head to clear it. “Uh, no. Not to worry. It’s just… I haven’t seen my book. Er. Other than pretty online pictures, I mean.”

“What? How?” She reached out and touched my sleeve. My sleeve appreciated it.

“You see, my wife got carried away and ordered a gross of the things. Maybe she thinks our families are bigger than they are. Maybe she thinks we’re Mormon or good Catholics or something. So I’m afraid the size of this delivery is slowing it down. You know how delivery services are allergic to bulk.”

She laughed. “Ah, well, maybe this weekend.” The bell rang. Kids streamed into the hallway. “Gotta go!” she said. “Maybe I’ll read a few this weekend!”

So cool and casual. So happy. So has-my-book-harbored-in-her-house-and-shows-it.

I decided then and there. I’m going Natty Bumppo. Or Dan’l Boone, maybe. I put on my coonskin hat (wait… Davy Crockett, is it?) and decided to track this baby down, frontiersman-like. It’s unfair, after all, that people are holding my book before I get to. It’s like having a baby, seeing it whisked away, then hearing stories of nurses passing it around to coo at. Surely this is against the Geneva Convention or something! The Articles of Confederation? How about the Federalist Papers? I was against them when I was in school.

I got to work: On the computer, I saw that my book delivery had cleared Amish Country. As you’ll recall from yesterday, it was last seen there with a big GODOT stamp on it. Some twisted Amish-type thought it’d be funny to give it the horse and buggy treatment or something.

But now it was in Knickerbocker, NY. That’s one state away from Massachusetts! I had half a mind to drive the Mass Pike myself, Boston to Stockbridge (a reverse James Taylor). But no… deep breaths…stay calm. I already know what’s in this book. Every blessed poem. So what’s the big deal? What’s the rush?

Bottom line: I’m distracting myself. And as UPS hasn’t swung by yet, wondering maybe if Big Brown will put me out of my misery. This is Friday, after all! Genesis of the weekend! Give me reason to celebrate, people! Stop being so… INDIFFERENT!

(Stay tuned.)