October 2008

I like to think that as a designer my color acuity is fairly accurately attuned. Well, it is pretty close. I got a 16 with zero being a perfect score. Try it! click the link to Test Your Color I.Q. My results are shown below. What’s yours?

My guest is Carolyn Hayes Uber, who is president of Stephens Press, LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada. Stephens Press is a small regional publisher and has been in existence since 2002. They have published about 100 titles since the company’s inception.

SC: As an acquisitions editor what do you absolutely hate to see and what do you love to see, in terms of the query/proposal?
CHU: We’re a small publisher so I think we’re easier to submit to, but as hard as anywhere to get a “yes” unless the author has a good platform, something amazingly unique, a good FIT for us, connections or money attached (a sponsor).


  • Submissions reeking of smoke or cats.
  • Misspellings, typos – is this the BEST you can do?
  • Something totally unsuited to us – clearly sent to dozens if not hundreds of publishers with no consideration for what we publish.
  • No cover letter, or one with no personality.
  • Arrogance.
  • Ignorance of the pub world, such as saying “EVERYONE will love this book, the entire world is my target audience” or my marketing plan is for the publisher to post billboards across the country and book me on Oprah.


  • Neat, readable, clean package (you’d be surprised what messy packages arrive)
  • Cover letter with some personality that suggests they know something about Stephens Press.
  • An incredible platform – creds, contacts, media, speaker etc.
  • Writing that sucks me in without my noticing (I’m always resisting, I have too much to do, so if I find I’m actually READING, not skimming, I must be hooked.)
  • A really unique hook, angle or subject.

SC: Please explain further what you mean by “platform” does this mean a following? Or does it mean something else?


If you’re old enough you’ve probably heard stories of how this or that writer got their start writing articles, or poetry, or humor for Reader’s Digest. Well, those days are apparently long ago memories. I recently checked out the Reader’s Digest submissions page, and found that almost every category starts with “We’re sorry,” or “Unfortunately…” It seems that most of their articles are written by staff, they don’t want your poetry,  or artwork, or fiction. That’s not to say that ALL avenues of getting published in RD are closed, though it sort of looks that way. They aren’t very encouraging in their submissions guidlelines, which pretty much say, go away.

You can however still submit your jokes. They even provide an online form to do just that, and if yours is one of the millions submitted that actually make it into the magazine, they’ll pay you a hundred dollars. So, this Catholic Priest, a Rabbi and a starving writer walk into a bar…

This has absolutely nothing to do writing, or design, or books, or publishing. I was interviewed by a fellow writer in my writer’s group about my “relationaship with food” for his blog The Reluctant Eater. So go there, it’s an interesting blog.

My girls and I had a lovely evening at the Neil Gaiman event last night in Boulder. I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan since reading (well really listening) to American Gods, and then seeing Mirrormask, so perhaps I came about my fan-girliness sort of backwards. By the time I became a fan, Neilhimself was already a seasoned and mature author. And while I had seen and marveled at (no pun intended) his graphic novels in the Sandman series, I’d never purchased or really read one. But apparently I’ve been misled.

When we arrived at the event a half-hour early, there was already a line of folks 2-3 abreast snaking all way round a rather large church building. As we passed by on our quest to find the end of the queue, I noticed that the first half consisted mainly of younger (under 40ish) people dressed all in black, gothic style. I expect that I was among those in the minority looking quite midwestern and matronly by contrast. I didn’t even know we had that many goths in Boulder. Perhaps they normally only come out at night.

Our position in the line was as it turned out was only about three-quarters back and later-comers (looking even more parochial than me) uncoiled out further into the back parking lot. But it was fortuitess in that Mr. Neil arrived and walked right through the line by us to enter the back door, slowing briefly to exclaim that we’d be let in directly after the sound check. And yes, he’s just as handsome in his way as his pictures.

Anyway at some point during the intro the Sandman books were mentioned at which point the goths cheered loudly, so that explained that. There were in this large church auditorium I’d guess around 600 people, perhaps more.

Neil began the reading by giving a brief “story so far” recap of The Graveyard Book because he is reading in a nine city tour all eight chapters of the book in order. I’ve never heard of this being done before. It’s quite ingenious—and he is video recording each chapter and posting them to Mousecircus where you can watch and listen to the entire novel for free! (For a limited time of course.) You can also purchase the audio or print version of the book there. If you’re going to buy it online, do it there rather than at Amazon, the author and publisher will get more of the profits that way. But back to the reading…

Neil explained that because chapter seven was so long that folks in L.A. got the first half and we’d be getting the second half. He explained that he’d ended in L.A. on a bit of a cliff-hanger and to appreciate this you really need to listen to the recording. Let’s just say that at the end the hero of the story was about to be very, very dead. Neil claimed that this was not planned, but the exact middle of the chapter ended with these words: He straightened up. The hand that had been in the hole in the floor was holding a large, sharp knife. “Now,” said the man Jack. “Now, boy. Time to finish this.” The response of the crowd was a resounding, Nooooo! And then Neil read to us for the better part of an hour more. The reading was very enjoyable, Gaiman reads with wonderful characterization and one can imagine him sitting his little writing gazebo staging his characters in spoken dialogue as much for his own enjoyment as for facilitating the writing.

After the reading, we were treated to excerpts from the new movie Coraline based on Gaiman’s book. The movie is being done by the people who did Nightmare Before Christmas and all in claymation. It looks like it will be very good—and fun to look at. Following that he answered a stack of audience questions. Mine was, “How do you find time to work on new work when you are out on tour?” To that he answered that he often finds snippets of time and it’s best for him to write on airplanes, because they do not as yet, have Internet service. Apparently the web is quite the distraction for Mr. Neil. I can relate. Another question that elicited lots of audience titters was “Do your fans creep you out?” He related a charming story about one particularly creepy, but so not scary fan at Comic Con…but over all says that no, you lot are quite nice, actually.

And after that, we were among the first to hear him read a new children’s book, Blueberry Girl, a poem he wrote for friend Tori Amos’ baby girl a few years back. The book was in page proofs not even bound yet! It is illustrated  by reknowned artist Charles Vess of Stardust and Sandman fame. The book is due out in February 2009.

So ended an evening’s entertainment that went on for three hours! Much more than I ever expected. Neil reads the last chapter and wraps up his tour in Minneapolis, his home city tonight.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of The Graveyard Book I picked up at BEA. My review will be posted later in my reviews section of this blog.

Here’s project I’m working on. This book Sun, Sin & Suburbia: An Essential  History of Modern Las Vegas by Geoff Schumacher has done well. It’s in its third printing and is now going to go into paperback. This is the time a book often gets a new cover. Why? Well in this case, the book has been revised and expanded so it’s almost like a new edition. But often books released in different formats simultaneously are given different cover in each iteration.

The reasoning is that the cover functions as the billboard for the book, and as such it attracts the chosen audience. A paperback might have a little bit different demographic to appeal to than a hardbound book. Books released in different countries also have completely different covers—to appeal to the cultural idiosyncracies of the country of release. Some books have been released for both adult and children’s markets, Harry Potter for instance. In that case, in Britain the covers for the adult version were different from the children’s versions. Though, in the US there was only one version of the books—which bore a different cover than either of the British versions.

Our book Sun, Sin & Suburbia is now going on five years old. Aside from the new material and format it was time for a freshening up.

Here are the old version (on the left) and the new version of the covers. I welcome comments on the change!

Words are wonderful, and etymology strikes me as one of the most fascinating subjects. Here is a new book from Roy Blount: Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, Tinctures, Tonics, and Essences; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory.

(And I thought some of our titles were long and unwieldly!) Blount writes:

To me, letters have always been a robust medium of sublimation. …
We’re in the midst of a bunch of letters, and if you’re like me, you
feel like a pig in mud. What a great word mud is. And muddle, and
muffle, and mumble. … You know the expression “Mum’s the word.” The word mum is a representation of lips pressed together. … The great majority of languages start the word for “mother” with an m sound. The word mammal comes from the mammary gland. Which comes from baby talk: mama. To sound like a grownup, we refine mama into mother; the Romans made it mater, from which: matter. And matrix. Our word for the kind of animal we are, and our word for the stuff that everything is made of, and our word for a big cult movie all derive from baby talk.

What are we saying when we say mmmm? We are saying yummy. In the pronunciation of which we move our lips the way nursing babies move theirs. The fact that we can spell something that fundamental, and
connect it however tenuously to mellifluous and manna and milk and me (see M), strikes me as marvelous.

Wow! I love this stuff. This book comes out Oct. 14th. I’m going to have to get this one.

And I really like this cover—striking, simple, clean (despite the splashed juice), and a good way to deal with the long subtitle. So what do you think that is? Welches, or Pom?

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