Evenson’s post #2

Without further ado… Brian, take it away.


Last Days, my novel that just appeared, has had a varied and complicated life.

It started when Paul Miller of Earthling Press approached me about doing a limited edition chapbook.  At the time I was reading a lot of noir and hard-boiled fiction.  The writer who really stuck with me was Dashiell Hammett—not his two best known books, The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man which I’m not wildly impressed by—but his first novel Red Harvest.  The thing I loved about that book was how it felt like Hammett was working without a net, creating the genre out of thin air.  I’d also been reading or rereading a lot of things that combined elements of different genres, books that blended the detective genre to horror or to SF, books that refused to stay neatly within genre lines.  As a result, “The Brotherhood of Mutilation,” drawing on noir, horror, and literature, seemed almost to write itself.

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Evenson’s Post #1

This is Brian Evenson: I’m a writer with a few past books out and with a novel, Last Days that’s just come back from the printers.   I’m hijacking Jeff’s blog for a post or two…

Probably because I have a novel just coming out, I’ve been thinking a lot about how you put a novel together.  When I wrote The Open Curtain I had a plan going in:  I would trick myself into writing a novel by writing three novellas and then putting them together.  That worked flawlessly for the first two novellas, but then I got to the third novella and realized it had to be not only a novella but had to complete everything.  So, I spent years writing and rewriting that third section and throwing it away until finally I got it right. Then, when I wrote Aliens: No Exit, I had to write a fifteen-page summary of the book so that I could get it approved by Dark Horse and by Fox.  Result:  everything came together pretty smoothly.

In October I spent two weeks at an artist colony and thought:  “Doing an outline worked pretty well, maybe I should do that again.”  So I did. Only problem is that I ended up with a 95-page outline of the first third of a projected novel.  Maybe a case of too much time on my hands.  It’s pretty specific and filled out, but it’s still only a third of the book, and if the outline is 95 pages, how long is the book itself going to be?  And when do I find time to sit down to write the 95-page outlines of the other section.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to write the book without an outline?  But if I do that will I run into the same problem that I ran into with The Open Curtain?

You’d think I’d have written enough by this point to have this figured out, but I think each book has asked for something a little different from me, which is part of what keeps it interesting.  There are certain things that get easier and certain things that I have to keep re-teaching myself every time.

Tools of Change

Hi Ya’ll

I’m in New York now. The occasion? The Tools of Change confrence. I’m hoping that it gets better than it was today. Today, I learned that authors should have blogs, and that editors should XML code their books.

I’ll write more tomorrow or the next day with highlights. For now, though, I’m putting you in the capable hands of Brian Evenson, author of Last Days, Altman’s Tongue, The Open Curtain, among others… He’s pulling back the curtain on the writing of the book, and writing in general.

You can read an excerpt here.

Brian, take it away.

Coulthart Cover Art

Quick question: John Coulthart’s cover art for Jeff’s upcoming Finch is so beautiful we were thinking of making a limited run poster out of it.

If we do, would some of you be interested in buying?

This is just a feeler. I haven’t done cover art posters for sale, but it seems to make sense in this case.


Brian’s readings

Here’s Brian Evenson’s reading schedule:

St. Mark’s, NYC — Feb. 19

Elliott Bay, Seattle — March 7

Powell’s, Portland — March 8

Village Books, Bellingham, WA — March 9

Newtonville Books, Boston area — March 15

And here’s that excerpt again, if you want.

And here’s a great review, recently posted by Blake Butler.

And here’s a picture of the man himself…

Brian Evenson

Brian Evenson


Oh, and for those who ordered from Amazon… The book shipped from the PGW warehouse in Jacksonville yesterday. We weren’t late on the printing, but the Amzon listing should have said Feb. 15, not Feb. 1.

You should get yours soon. Don’t panic.

Dub Dub Dub

Somebody asked in a comment how I was planning to monetize the wovel. The idea is to keep bringing readers back to the Underland site, with the hope that some of them (a lot of them) will buy direct from Underland. Each book I sell direct from my web site nets more than books sold in the bookstore. So if you want Last Days or The Pilo Family Circus, or Finch, when it comes around, buy it from me!

To hook you, here’s a free sample of Brian Evenson’s Last Days.

And here’s one for The Pilo Family Circus.

Somebody else brought up the sorry state of publisher’s web sites. I’m trying to make Underland a go-to destination for fans. I’m trying to constantly update the information, and to provide free extras, like short stories and podcasts, etc. I’m in the content business. It’s my job to provide content to interested, intelligent, and might I say damn attractive readers, like yourselves…


When we talk about on-screen reading, we tend to conflate two very different ideas, the first the book as book presented in digital format (ie, ebooks), and the second everything else that’s happening online (ie, the wovel, author’s blogs, publisher’s sites, etc).

I’m going to ignore the online world for a moment and concentrate on the thorny world of ebooks, ereaders, and edistribuors. (I HATE all those e’s!).

The Kindle was released about a year ago. I was curious enough to follow the release and marketing online, but not curious enough to buy one for myself. It took me nine months to find somebody who had one. When I held it in my hand, I thought two things: 1) This feels like an old Unix machine, and 2) This is going to get much, much better.

We’re in a period of flux. We have been for a while. Two dynamics are effecting that flux now in a way they haven’t before, and in a way that none of us can predict: 1) the rise of the technology native generation, those beings who we all refer to as “young people,” and 2) the changing business models of publishing itself.

It’s the business models that most concern me, from the publisher’s chair. I’m bound on all sides by confidentiality agreements, but, in the most general terms, even if ebook sales were off the charts (which they’re not), the split with the digital distributor (Kindle, Sony eReader, etc.) isn’t all that favorable to the publisher. The publisher pays the author a split of whatever money they get in, meaning that the author’s take isn’t all that high, either. It’s difficult for me to see how this all makes sense for the authors (who, I swear, would be better served by doing their own e-conversions), or the publisher. Put these things together, and you have publishers dragging their feet to do try something that might or might not make sense for their business. That’s sad.

To make matters worse, there are a host of different contracts, different terms, different file types, different platforms. Sadly, what I see happening is that the digital distributors are setting the terms of the next round of changes, not the publishers. Which publisher in their right mind is going to argue with Amazon? Which publisher (not the independents, certainly) have the power? It was with a feeling of dread that I signed my digital distribution agreement. I didn’t feel as if I had any power or any say over the terms or the execution. I didn’t even feel as if I’d see any benefit from the agreement.

But sign I did.

What I think is going to happen (in my gut, not in my brain), is that some fiesty, creative, passionate person is going to come along and shake things up a bit. What this person does might not be legal (think Napster), but it will be successful, or at least successful enough that publishers and authors have to take notice. In the brief and glorious history of the online world, what major developments have been crafted and executed by corporations?

On-screen Reading

Love the comments…

Underland is positioning itself as an in print, online publisher. I’d like for the content Underland publishes in book form to be available in other forms as well: on-screen reading, online reading, podcasts, web serials, etc. On our web site now, we’re doing a project called  a wovel, or web novel. The idea is to combine the creativity of fiction with the pace of print journalism with the interactivity of web 2.0.

Every week an author writes an installment. At the end of every installment is a binary plot branch point, with a vote button at the end: A or B. Is the box empty, or is it filled with bees? Readers vote, the author gets the results. Voting closes on Thursday, the author writes over the weekend, and a new installment is posted on Monday. Every Monday, rain or shine.

Look at the wovel here. Listen to the NPR article about it here.

I can tell you more about Underland’s experience with the wovel–the types of stories (action based), the results (growing readership), how many readers we’re getting (about 16,000 page views a month), and how we’re making it work financially (online sales of print books). But, in response to some of the comments on my previous posts, I’d like to offer some thoughts about on-screen fiction, cause that’s where the interesting creative frontier is, now. [Read more…]

Evidence of publisher’s attitude about web

A quick anecdote:

I was recently at a meeting of publishers, when one publisher said, in all seriousness, that putting the publishing house’s URL at the back of the book wouldn’t do any good, because book readers aren’t internet users.