Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Tim Hall

When we say small press what exactly are we calling small? As I am finding out, it is not the drive, it is not the quality, it is not the creativity, it is not the quantity of authors searching for an ear, and it is especially not the costs. Everything has a price, the ISBN, the copyeditor, the proofreader, the legal advice, the printing costs, consignment deals, distributors, for an independent writer these costs pile up quickly. What can a writer do to offset these costs? What can a fan or friend do to help these writers achieve their dreams and share their stories? Some writers find backers, or find friends to help publish, and some ask for blind donations. However, now Chicago writer Tim Hall feels he has created a way to defer some of the cost, while allowing the reader to becoming literally invested, as opposed to figuratively invested, in their favorite writers.

AuthorShares is an inventive new program that allows the family, friends, and fans to invest in the future potential of their favorite writer, publisher, etc. This concept was created by writer Tim Hall (author of Half Empty and Triumph of the Won't), in hopes of finding a transferable solution to help the struggle author and press. As a writer, Tim is widely published, and working on his next novel, Full Of It: The Birth, Death, and Life of an Underground Newspaper. Recently, Tim was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): You recently announced a new and inventive concept that could help not only yourself but many other small press/independent writers. What can you tell us about AuthorShares?
Tim Hall (TH): AuthorShares is a way for independent authors and small publishers to raise funds to finance their projects by issuing stock certificates. In my case, I'm asking people to invest one dollar to help me reduce some of the upfront costs of publishing, which can be very high even using the most conservative methods. It's like a stock market for literature, although with differences. I wanted to create something that could complement books, and not compete with them in the marketplace. The stock certificates are basically limited edition, collectible art prints that I hope people will purchase and enjoy for their own intrinsic value. My own shares are $1 each, and that's all I'm asking people to invest; anything above that is gravy, so I'm offering a few specials, like a free copy of my new book when it comes out if you purchase 20 shares.

OA: You also announced your latest project, what can you tell us about Full Of It: The Birth, Death, and Life of an Underground Newspaper?
TH: Full Of It is a "non-fiction novel" about my time as writer, editor, and eventually creative director of a wild, anarchic East Village underground newspaper in the mid- to late 1990s. It's based on a true story, but I've changed the names and places to give it what I hope is a more timeless feel. It's very character-driven, lots of extreme personalities like you'd expect to find in such a venue. There's friendship, betrayal, sex, death, fights, cops, junkies--it's a madhouse. Very funny and kind of sad. All our worlds are constantly disappearing, and this is a slice of mine that is also gone, swept away by market forces, the Internet, and the like. (Check out a sneak peak video of Tim reading from Full Of It here.

OA: How far do you feel is too far in self-promotion?
TH: Well, as long as you're asking the question, then I haven't gone too far yet (types "laughs"). Let me see--I don't think there are any real limits to self-promotion, per se. It's a noisy, competitive world out there, everybody is always promoting themselves all the time: as business mavens, health gurus, fitness masters, good parents, desirable sexual partners, great artists. Take your pick. Self-promotion only crosses the line when it becomes outright deception, like the fake memoirs that have been coming to light. Publishers increasingly measure the value of a story by its most lurid and exceptional details, so opportunists are taking advantage of that and giving them what they want. But other than that I don't know what the limits are.

OA: Do feel that a writer's needs a community or network to gain an audience? Writing, itself, is a solitary art, but publishing is a completely different world.
TH: I think this is basically the new "what is art?" question of our day. Is a tree better than a field of wildflowers? I don't know. I'd say it all depends on the personality-manufacturing device the writer employs, and how well he or she does it. Sometimes the group concept works for a while, then it doesn't. The phrase "Brooklyn writer" has become a bone-chilling cliche now, but 5 years ago it was so glamorous. The letters "MFA" are also losing their glamor as personality-manufacturing devices, they've become the SUVs of the literary world. The overpriced "luxury goods" industry has basically run its course for now, and I think that includes the high-end consumer education racket as well.

OA: As a self publisher, what are your thoughts on the growing movement towards print-on-demand vs. traditional printing? Are we sacrificing quality for convenience and affordability?
TH: Not any more, no. But it's only just recently changed. I've been following POD for more than 10 years, so I've seen the technology progress from day 1. The first POD books I bought were really expensive, and they would snap and fall apart the first time you opened the cover. Now they are virtually indistinguishable from offset books. We passed the tipping point about 2-3 years ago, in terms of it becoming affordable and good enough quality for authors to pursue seriously.

OA: What's next for Tim Hall?
TH: I'm trying to sign up writers and publishers for the AuthorShares program, plus I'm recording an audio book version of Full Of It that I will be releasing on sometime over the summer. Then I will be releasing the print version of Full Of It, sometime in the late fall or early winter.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
TH: Yes! My favorite place to drink coffee is at home, and I buy whatever is on sale--usually those big tubs of Folger's. It's awful but it's cheap. For mass-market coffee, Caribou. For small, indie coffeehouses, just drop me anywhere in San Francisco. Everything tastes better in San Francisco, and the coffee shops are the absolute best.

OA: What brought you to Chicago and how has your experience been thus far?
TH: I attended the University of Chicago, so I already had a history with the place. But my wife, who I met in New York, is from Dundee, in the Fox River Valley, and over the years of coming out here with her I fell in love with the area. After we learned she was pregnant we decided to move out of New York for a while, because it was just too expensive and difficult for us, and we started looking for a good place to raise a child. I wanted to be near a big city, with good transportation, good airport, and so one day it hit me that this might be the perfect place for us. I called her at work and said, "Are you sitting down?" (Yes, it was actually my idea to move closer to my mother-in-law.) It's been absolutely wonderful so far. I've written three books in 18 months, I'm completely at ease and creating every day. My wife's family is amazing and a tremendous source of support and joy for us. I get wistful about city living and miss the diversity, energy, and distractions of urban life, but I've honestly never been happier. I'm shocked at how happy I am, actually.

For more information on Tim Hall please visit his website, and to invest in a share of his stock visit his Prospectus Page.


Local Resident said...

Thanks so much for this, Jason, I'm so honored to be a part of this site. For anybody interested, the full site should be launching next week (4/21-25) sometime. Just have to wait for both the Sun and Mercury to enter Taurus, naturally. Uhhh...actually just finishing the site now.

kwohlrob said...

I resent the insinuation that being a Brooklyn writer has become "a bone-chilling cliche." Gut-wrenching would be more apt. At least that's what my MFA advisor wrote on my Bukowski-esque memoir of love and angst on the hard scrabble streets of Park Slope.

Local Resident said...

gut-wrenching is still better than my first thought, which was "bung-diddling".

kwohlrob said...

That's my next book.

Ben said...

I am just seeking some clarification - is "bung-diddling" the focus of your book or the title, because I totally called that title ages ago.

Local Resident said...

I always thought Bung Diddling was overrated, actually. I mean, he had that cool square guitar, and "Can't Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover" was pretty great, overall he was pretty lame.

kwohlrob said...

Yeah but I thought George Thorogood's covers of Bung Diddling's songs were much better.

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