Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Location: United States

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shopping Adventures

I know it’s a bit old-fashioned, but I actually got in my vehicle and left the house today. I needed something decent to wear for author photos, and while it might be practical to buy books and canned tuna and printer cartridges (just to name a few daily staples) online, clothing is a different matter.

For me, anyway.

I do order my work scrubs from an internet source, but with most clothes I feel the need to actually see them on my body before shelling out the dough.

So I went out.

I drove to the mall, and parked near Books-A-Million. Now, I have to say, most of my trips to the mall start and end at this store. Normally, I do not feel the urge to venture into the vast mallevolent wilderness, with untamed predators pacing in front of their kiosk cages, hawking everything from “free” cell phones (just sign on the dotted line) to five-dollar scoops of ice cream.

“I don’t know if it’s worth five dollars, but it’s pretty fucking good.”

Today I was on a mission, though, so I only allowed myself a few minutes of browsing while making my way from the street side of BAM to the mall side.

I forced myself through the anti-theft portal (feeling rather violated as it magnetically frisked me with an audible click) and soon found myself in a different world.

“Welcome to The Suck.”

I briskly made my way toward the nearest department store, hands in pockets and eyes focused firmly on the terrazzo.

It was touch and go for awhile, but my shields must have been effective; I made it through unscathed.

I squinted and held my breath through a pocket of tear gas (i.e. the perfume aisle), finally finding my footing on the escalator to the second floor.

And there it was. The Men’s Department.

“We’ve been expecting you.”

I gravitated toward a rack of t-shirts (nice shiny ones woven from space-age polymers), and was practically gagging at the thought of paying thirty bucks for one when a stout middle-aged woman with an eastern European accent said, “Are you finding everything okay?”

I just got here, Hulga. Give me a chance.

“Yes,” I said, and sauntered toward the suits.

Hulga followed me. She had obviously been trained by Americans.

“If you need help with anything, just let me know.”

“Okay. I will.”

Hulga shut up for a while and marched back to her station, but I felt her eyes drilling holes through me from the register.

I fingered through some fairly boring blazers with fairly exorbitant price tags, and then, all alone on the clearance rack amidst a sea of rejected trousers, hung the perfect jacket.

Ralph Lauren.

The color and texture of soft suede.

Fit as though it had been tailored for me.

It had been discounted twice, making it 75% off the original price. Bingo. It was mine.

Now I needed a shirt. I thought about going back to the slick futuristic Ts, but then I saw some designer label shirt/tie combos also on clearance. I was working on choosing one when Hulga approached and said, “Would you like for me to hold that for you?”

I reluctantly handed her my prized blazer, hoping she wouldn’t neglect it and allow it to be abducted by another customer.

I found one shirt, and was looking at some others, when Hulga once again asked if she could hold what I was carrying.

“Actually, I’m ready to check out,” I said.

Fuck it. I was getting frustrated with all the attention. If she had left me alone, I probably would have bought more.

She rang me up. I swiped my card, and then she said, “Your phone number please?”

It’s an old retail trick. They want you to think you have to give them your phone number just because you didn’t pay in cash. You don’t. They just want to get you on their mailing list. Nice try, Hul.

“Um, I really don’t want to give you my number,” I said.

“It’s only so we can send you coupons and special offers.”

Really? I thought you were going to call and ask me for a date.

“No thanks,” I said, trying to be polite.

She frowned and wrapped my things and sent me on my way with the compulsory, “Have a nice day.”


I trekked back to Books-A-Million, and as soon as I walked through the mall side entrance I noticed a man sitting at a table with a stack of books. He was signing one of them, and chatting with the customer who had bought it.

I stood off to the side, thinking I might like to talk with this author and maybe even buy one of his books. I had never heard of him, but he looked like a nice fellow and seemed to be very approachable.

Then a woman walked up to me, smiled, and thrust a bookmark in my direction.

“Do you read thrillers?” she said.

“Why, yes, I do.”

She went into her spiel, telling me all about the book and its author.

“Actually, I have a to-be-read pile this high, and I’m trying to avoid any book purchases at this time...”

“But you can get it signed if you buy one now!”

I thought about it, but there was just something about the aggressive sales pitch that turned me off. It was Hulga all over again. I was being targeted and accosted.

When I walk into a store, I want to be left alone to browse in my own way and my own time. This is especially true when I walk into a bookstore.

Note to self: when you do a signing, don’t have someone who walks around and annoys the customers with hype about your book. Don’t have someone who does it for you, and don’t do it yourself. You might gain a sale, but you’ll probably lose ten.

“Are you his wife?” I asked.


I glanced at the bookmark.

“I’m not familiar with this publisher,” I said. I wasn’t making any assumptions at that point. There are plenty of legitimate small presses that I’ve never heard of.

“Oh, that’s his company. He’s doing it all himself. We decided to bypass trying to find an agent and submitting to publishers...”

I didn’t tell her that I’m also an author. I didn’t tell her the trials and tribulations I went through to finally get a book deal. I didn’t tell her that every self-published book I had ever read (all or part of) had left me with a sour aftertaste.

I doubt any of it would have made an impact.

I wished her best of luck and hurried toward the exit with my new duds.

At least I had gotten a good deal on the jacket.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The FREE All-You-Can-Read Buffet

Right now eight of the top ten bestsellers on Kindle are listed for $0.00, with Andrew Gross's Dark Tide leading the way.

I'm not sure what kind of conclusion to draw from that, but it's interesting.

If you like Whoppers better than Big Macs, but Big Macs are free today, which one will you choose?

Personally, I believe in paying for what you like, but it seems a lot of people are swayed heavily by the word Free.

Is it even a good promotional tool, giving books away? I would like to see the stats on how many people go on to buy something from the author whose work they first got for nothing. I'm betting many of them just move on to the next free thing and never make any actual purchases.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


Merriam-Webster Online defines the word goal as “the end toward which effort is directed.”

For my purposes here, I would like to modify that definition a bit for writers. My definition, then, would go something like this: The quantifiable end which effort within a writer’s control is directed.

With that definition in mind, would something like I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list ever be considered a valid goal?

Sorry, but it would not.

For one thing, getting your name and the title of your book on that list is far beyond your control as a writer. You can do everything humanly possible, starting with writing what you consider to be a commercially-viable story and ending with promotion out the ying yang, and 99.9% of the time you’re still not going to make the coveted list.


Because it’s not within your control. There are many factors that come into play (timing for the market, co-op placement, orders from major chains and big box stores, reviews, etc.). It’s just not a valid goal. It’s not within your control, and it’s not quantifiable. There’s no way to measure your efforts to insure that it happens.

But...but...but...you might say, if I land a top New York agent, and s/he submits to all the major publishers, and one of them agrees to publish my book...

Hold on thar, Bob-a-looey. Landing a top New York agent is not within your control, either, nor is it quantifiable. It’s the same thing as saying that your goal is to be a NYT bestseller. You can say it all you want, but nothing you do is necessarily going to make it happen.

Try to keep your goals quantifiable, and within your control. Here are a few examples for aspiring authors:

I will write X number of words per day (week, month, or whatever time frame you can manage).

I will improve my craft by reading more, writing more, attending classes and workshops, communicating with online groups and forums, etc.

When my book is finished (that is, when several drafts have been completed, and when comments and suggestions from beta readers and critique group members and possibly even a freelance editor or two have been incorporated to the best of my ability) I will submit X number of queries to agents I have researched, and to whom I feel would be a good match for my project and myself.

I will research and submit to X number of legitimate presses that accept unagented submissions, presses with the resources, memberships in professional trade associations, distribution channels, etc., commensurate with where I see myself as a published author.

While I’m pitching book #1 and hoping for the best, I will start book #2 and give it the attention it deserves, knowing I’m a better writer now than I was when I started book #1...

Those are just a few goals you can start with as an aspiring author. If you start with I want to be a NYT bestseller, you might as well start with a lottery ticket.

Realistic goals depend on quantification and control.

Keep it real, and you’ll be a better and happier writer for it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Call

Your name is Jude Hardin. You graduated from the University of Louisville in 1983 with an English degree, and you’ve been writing in one form or another for a long, long time.

Six-and-a-half years ago, you decided it was time to try the big one--the novel.

It would be easy, you thought. Your idea was a surefire hit, and publishers would line up with their fat wallets open.

You didn’t know what the hell you were doing, but you kept at it. The pages you wrote in longhand started accumulating, and eventually you decided to type them up on an old Olivetti portable you found at a thrift store.

Now this thing, this monster you had painstakingly brought to life, had page numbers and chapter headings and description and dialogue and action and humor and irony and pathos and NO FUCKING PROTAGONIST.

You had written two hundred pages of what essentially amounted to rubbish, and you thought about chucking the whole shebang.

But you didn’t.

You ran across an article in Writer’s Digest by this guy, who had recently signed a six-figure deal for a mystery series.

If he could do it, so could you.

You bought a computer. You started reading more mysteries and thrillers. You took your two hundred pages of rubbish and used them for offstage backstory. You created a protagonist.

A few months later, you were over halfway through and moving right along. Time to start querying agents and publishers!

You didn’t know it at the time, but you were lucky to get form rejections. You were lucky to get any response at all.

You finished the book, and allowed a few friends and family members to read it. They said it was great, and you believed them.

In 2006, you attended a conference where the first chapter of another novel you were working on was chosen to be in a workshop headed by them.

You pitched the first book to an agent at the same conference. She requested a partial, and you thought you were on your way. You sent her the first fifty pages, only to receive a detailed letter in return outlining the reasons the novel was not right for her.

Soon after that, you struck up a conversation with her. She agreed to look at your first fifty pages, and echoed many of the same concerns as the agent. You thought about addressing those concerns and starting a major rewrite, but…

There was that other novel you were working on. The one that had been selected for the workshop.

The hero was a private investigator named Nicholas Colt, and people seemed to respond to him. They liked him. They liked the “voice.”

Eventually you finished the book and landed an agent, only to be disappointed time and again by rejections from major New York publishers. They liked it, but it just wasn’t “big” enough.

You did a rewrite.

And another.

Then came the recession, and for a while it seemed as though publishing was at a standstill. You became frustrated, and decided to part ways with the literary agent you’d worked so hard to get.

Now you were on your own again.

You thought about giving up, but this guy had recently signed with a small-but-well-respected press and you liked the way he spoke of them. You went to their website, found the submission guidelines, and submitted a short synopsis and the first thirty pages of your thriller Pocket-47.

A month or so later you got an email requesting two copies of the full manuscript. You were excited, but you didn’t tell anyone about it because you know rejection is the norm in this business. The publisher promised to get back to you with its level of interest within 90 days.

You wait. And wait. And wait. A month passes, then two. At the end of the third month, you’ve just about given up hope.

It’s Thursday, just past five, and you’re thinking about playing tennis when the phone rings.

Your name is Jude Hardin, and you’re going to be a published author.