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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers #138

Meredith Sue Willis's BOOKS FOR READERS Newsletter # 138 January 21, 2011

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Meredith Sue Willis's
Books for Readers # 138
January 21, 2011

Special Extra -- Article for Writers
On Doing Your Own Publicity

Dear Readers:
This is a special issue with some announcements and a couple of book discussions, but the main article is by writer and artist Carter Taylor Seaton about how she did publicity for her book. It has become a commonplace that whether you publish with a small press, self-publish or even publish with a huge commercial congolomerate, you are now often asked for a "platform" on how you intend to publicize your work– and then you are asked to publicize it, often at your own expense. Grim news for us introverted types-- but Carter has some specific suggestions.
-- MSW

Doing Your Own Publicity
By Carter Taylor Seaton

As the old cliché goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Just so, there's more than one way to market your book. If you've got a big enough name or deep enough pockets, either your publisher or the publicist you pay the big bucks will set up a book tour where folks will flock to see and hear you and, of course, buy piles of books for you to sign.
However, if you are new at the game, or have a small press that recognized your talents and published your book, you are most likely going to be doing the marketing yourself. That's the position in which I found myself several years ago, when Mid-Atlantic Highland Press published my debut novel.
Fortunately, I'd had nearly thirty years of marketing experience by then, and knew a few things that helped. First, I drew up a marketing plan, outlining what the publisher was willing and had the expertise to do, along with what I could do. His role was to create and distribute press kits to retailers and libraries, to secure reviews where he could, and to get the book on the inventory list of the distributors. I positioned myself to speak at every civic and social club, book club, retirement home, or college classroom in the region.
That plan is standard fare, however. My twist? I sent a letter prior to publication to a personal mailing list of over six hundred people offering them an opportunity to buy – at a pre-publication discount price – a numbered and signed copy of the book. These were individuals to whom I could safely address a letter saying, Dear John or Mary – folks I knew personally. Jokingly, I told them as one of my six hundred nearest and dearest friends they alone could take advantage of this golden opportunity. Over 250 people bought the book before a drop of ink had been applied to paper. That's more than a forty percent return on the offer – which in any marketer's book, is remarkable.

Carter Taylor Seaton is a free-lance writer living in Huntington, West Virginia. Her work has appeared in regional and statewide magazines in West Virginia and Kentucky, and in anthologies and literary journals. Her debut novel, FATHER'S TROUBLES, published in 2003 was a finalist for ForeWord Magazines Book of the Year awards in 2003. Her essay on West Virginia's back-to-the-land artisans, "Those Who Came," won a Denny C. Plattner award in 2007. She recently completed a second novel.


Monique Raphel High says, "Katie (Catherine) Gates is the author of a moving novel, THE SOMEBODY WHO, which is available from Amazon. It's a superb depiction of a middle-aged woman dealing with the care of her beloved husband who has been devastated by Alzheimer's. Some of you on this site are struggling with Evelyn's (the character's) dilemma; the book will nurture you. For others, it will be an engrossing read, especially now, by the fire or under the quilt."

Joel Weinberger says of ANIMAL LIBERATION by Peter Singer: " ANIMAL LIBERATION asks, and attempts to answer, several extraordinarily important moral questions that we often take for granted. Namely, should we care about how animals are treated, and if so, to what extent? Singer ultimately believes that human civilization cannot justify suffering caused to animals, for eating, for research, nor any other purpose.
"Singer starts with an argument that our worldview reinforces 'speciesism,' a prejudice akin to racism and sexism. His argument is strong enough, if your moral framework does not explicitly define human relationships with the world. For example, his argument against 'speciesism' falls flat against a Christian or Jewish ethical framework that explicitly defines humans as a separate category from animals, in a moral sense. Singer talks about this explicitly in a later chapter, pretty much admitting that his moral case for 'speciesism' conflicts with at least traditional Christian and Jewish morality. However, even in these cases, his general point about the suffering stands. Even if you don't believe that humans should be completely morally barred from causing animal suffering, his case stands strong that you should at least minimize it.
"While the moral framework Singer provides may be the most radical part of his book, his exposé of animal treatment on factory farms and in research is ... well known and important. Two very large sections of the book discuss how the industrialized and 'civilized' Western world directly lead to inordinate amounts of animal suffering, specifically in research and factory farming. These sections really push home the point that our everyday consumption of food and products directly tie into the tremendous suffering of animals around the world.
"In some sense, Peter Singer is ultimately a utilitarian. He believes that we should feel free to act as we please as long as the utility gained outweighs the utility cost. However, Singer counts the suffering of animals as a much greater utility cost than humanity traditionally has. Thus, while he believes an experiment on animals that causes suffering can, in fact, be justified, it would have to be one hell of a result, and should only be done if there wasn't an alternative that would have been pain free. Moreover, he believes that if you are willing to test on a monkey, for example, you should also be willing to test on a retarded, orphaned, infant, as he sees the potential suffering to that child equal to, if not less than, the monkey's suffering. Ultimately, the practical ramification of this outlook is that these types of evaluations are much too difficult, and we just should not cause suffering to animals of any sort.
"There are numerous holes in Singer's presentation. For example, in his presentation of animal experiments, he constantly asserts that the results from the experiments he presents are useless. However, he provides virtually no evidence of this. Furthermore, he fails to show that generally the results from animal experiments are not useful or could be replicated in other ways. In some sense, this really isn't important to his argument; Singer says we basically shouldn't be doing these experiments even if there is a benefit to us. But then again, he is trying to make the utilitarian argument that our experiments are not worth the cost.
"Perhaps most surprisingly, and most gratifyingly, is that Singer ultimately proposes a practical 'do what you can' approach. He certainly calls for a vegetarian diet (it turns out to really be a vegan diet), but he also makes it clear that anything you can do to reduce animal suffering is certainly better than the status quo.
"Overall, however, Singer's book is a radical departure from our standard thought in the most positive sense. He makes us question our unflinching belief that we, as humans, have the 'right' to cause animal suffering for our benefit and gratification. Singer's book is incredibly thought out and well researched. If you have ever doubted your consumption of meat or how our civilization treats animals, this is a must read. At the very least, if you can defend your meat consumption after reading this book, you are in very good shape. I certainly have begun to question my own habits deeply."

(Also see Joel Weinberger's piece in Issue #137 on Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals.)


Need a laugh? Try BO's Café Life at

Poems Newly Online by Barbara Crooker:


JUANITA TORRENCE-THOMPSON, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher/Owner of the Internationally acclaimed MOBIUS, THE POETRY MAGAZINE is seeking a GROUP of poets and/or editors or a COLLEGE or individual to purchase and publish her 28-year old print magazine. Contact her at:


Some friends of mine in the South Orange/Maplewood, New Jersey area have a reading group called "Women Reading Women." They celebrated their 16th anniversary in December, 2010. They sometimes have theme parties, and always make interesting choices (okay, they've chosen my books at least three times!). Here are their choices for 2011, including a play in February, which they'll see as well as read:

January: YOUR BLUES AIN'T LIKE MINE by Bebe Moore Campbell
March: CLEOPATRA: A LIFE by Stacy Schiff
April: OUT OF THE MOUNTAINS by Meredith Sue Willis
June: HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss
July: THE BELL by Iris Murdoch
August: GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
September: EVIDENCE OF LIFE UNSEEN by Marianne Wiggins
October: JUST KIDS by Patti Smith
November: PASSING by Nella Larsen


Holly Iglesias's new collection of poetry ANGLES OF APPROACH is just out from White Pine Press.

2011 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize Submission deadline: April 30, 2011 See Submit a manuscript of 48-84pages of original poetry in any style in English. The manuscript must not have been published previously in book form, although individual poems appearing in print or on the web are permitted. Entries may consist of individual poems, a book-length poem, or any combination of long or short poems. Collaborations are welcome. Alicia Ostriker to Judge 8th Annual Contest

Make sure to read the exciting Winter Issue of Persimmon Tree at You'll find a thought-provoking conversation with Maxine Hong Kingston and Susan Griffin, fiction by Carol Bergman and Deborah Shouse, poetry by Sandra Gilbert, and much more. We're accepting submissions now for our next SHORT TAKES contest. (Check out the guidelines by clicking here and scrolling down.) This section has proven to be one of our most popular, so consider sending us a short piece; winners will be published in the upcoming Summer '11 Issue. The subject this time is "Taking a Stand."

Thad Rutkowski's new book HAYWIRE: A NOVEL is available from Starcherone Press at .

Victor Depta's new book is BROTHER AND SISTER: A MEMOIR from Blair Mountain Press, which has a new website: http://www.


Phyllis Moore recommends a couple of good books set in West Virginia:

The MOUSE HUNTER, by Gaynelle Malesky. "This is a charming memoir about growing up in Marion County."
THE LEGEND OF MAMMY JANE by Sibyl Jarvis Pischke. "A grad student at WVU suggested this title to me and I found it to be full of interesting facts about the era surrounding the Civil War. I enjoyed it. The Jarvis family still lives in this [West Virginia] area, but Ms. Pischke lives in Florida now."
THE CHIMNEY SISTERS by Joyce Williams & Saundra Ours: " These two authors are from Harrison County and it is a fun novel to read."


The largest unionized bookstore in America is Powell's Books ( Some people prefer shopping there to shopping at An alternative way to reach their site and support the union is via Prices are the same but 10% of your purchase will go directly to the [Powell's bookstore] union's benefit fund. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues #98 (bfrarchive96-100.html#97) and #97 (bfrarchive96-100.html#98).


If a book discussed in this newsletter has no source mentioned, try your public library or your local independent bookstore. To buy books online, I often use Bookfinder at or Alibis at Bookfinder has a feature that tells you the book price WITH shipping and handling, so you can compare what you're really going to have to pay. A lot of people whose political instincts I respect prefer to deal with the unionized bricks-and-mortar bookstore Powells online at .

Other good sources for used and out-of-print books include Advanced Book Exchange at and All Book Stores at

My latest way to get used books is through Paperback Book Swap at, a low cost (postage only) way to get rid of books and get new ones.

Please send responses and suggestions to Meredith Sue Willis at Unless you instruct otherwise, your responses may be edited silently for length, polished for grammar and spelling, and published in this newsletter.

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