Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: The “E” Word

Here’s one question you never used to hear authors asked at their readings and signings:

“There’s an ebook version, right?”

The times, they have a-changed! Despite the fact that I’m pretty up-to-date on publishing and bookselling trends and by no means a stranger to the news that ebooks are becoming increasingly popular, I’ve been surprised by how often I’m asked if/when my new story collection, Quiet Americans, will be available as an ebook. The question came up again (and again) on my recent trip to D.C. for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference and reading/signing at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. But for someone as tech-challenged as I am (I still haven’t dared to buy an ebook reader of my own), the conversion process is a bit…intimidating.

So I was grateful to see Joel Friedlander (“The Book Designer”)’s February 10 post:

Every author I’ve talked to recently has questions about ebooks and how to go about getting their book ready to go on sale in the Kindle store, the iBookstore and all the other venues where people are buying ebooks to fill up their new Kindles, iPads, Nooks, Kobos and other ebook readers.

Since most of these books start off life as print books, getting your book ready for life as an ebook is a matter of converting the print files to ebook formats like Mobi and ePub.

So the answer to this question of how to move to ebooks involves finding someone to make these file conversions. People who create ebooks need to have skill at understanding how books are constructed, and how best to interpret them in the ebook environment.

Joel’s post goes on to provide some excellent guidance and a new resource: a directory of companies offering ebook conversion services.

Since I’ve worked with Joel before (he is indeed The Book Designer behind Quiet Americans), I trust his recommendations, and I’m waiting to hear back from someone he referred me to. Remember that I am working with a new micropress; my publisher can manage getting a book listed on Amazon for the Kindle, but I’d like to explore some other options and see what we can do to get Quiet Americans available as an ebook for multiple platforms.

I’ll conclude with another blast from the past: In the “old days”–and it still happens–publishers planned hardcover releases with paperback releases to follow many months later. And with the paperback release came another round of publicity and promotional opportunities. But it’s a new day. Quiet Americans was released last month–as a paperback. And, if all goes well, it will indeed be available as an ebook–for your summer reading. In case anyone asks.

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: A Reading at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History

When you’re a debut author from a tiny new press, not everyone will be willing to take a chance on you for a reading. At least, that’s what I figured. Which explains why, as soon as I knew that I’d be heading to Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs in early February, I didn’t bother to query the Library of Congress or Politics & Prose (even if I’d once lived a block away from the latter, and spent many happy hours–not to mention significant chunks of my first-year-after-college-paychecks–on its premises).

I don’t recall exactly where or how I discovered the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH), but as soon as I saw its listing, I knew I was on to something very special. And I suspected that this relatively small museum might be receptive to hearing from me.

I am a granddaughter of an American Jewish army veteran. More to the point, one of the stories in my new collection, Quiet Americans, is inspired by my grandfather’s military experience. That story, “Lebensraum,” is set primarily in Clarinda, Iowa, the site of a World War II prisoner-of-war camp. My German-born, Jewish grandfather–who was drafted into the army well before his naturalization was complete–supervised German prisoners in a camp kitchen. That unusual circumstance is the kernel that sparked “Lebensraum.”

Several months ago, I sent my first email to the NMAJMH. Then, I gladly supplied the review copy that was requested. After that, a series of e-mail exchanges and a phone call with Assistant Administrator Mary Westley finalized the plan: I’d read from Quiet Americans on Sunday, February 6. I’d be able to sell and sign books at the museum, too.

I arrived at the museum–located just off Dupont Circle–early enough to tour the building and its exhibitions. My mother had already alerted me to the fact that one of our fellow congregants had a special connection with the place: The NMAJMH has mounted a poignant exhibition honoring the memory of our co-congregant’s brother, Sanford (“Sandy”) Kahn, who was killed in Normandy in July 1944. He was nineteen years old. (I was especially moved to see a copy of Sandy Kahn’s Confirmation Class photo from 1938, as I know that back in our Temple, the wall that holds the original also includes pictures of my own Confirmation Class, and my sister’s.)

Ms. Westley had arranged a number of comfortable chairs in one of the museum’s cozy rooms, and she’d also set out refreshments for the reading’s attendees. As delighted as I was to see my cousins Dennis and Sherry and my college buddy Brian among the audience, I was also very pleased to see plenty of unfamiliar faces.

I read “Lebensraum” in its entirety, which took about a half-hour, and then I answered a number of questions. (One question came from a young woman who was seeking advice about where she might try to publish some Jewish-themed writing, and I was glad to be able to point her to a resource right here on this site.)

Books were sold and signed, refreshments were consumed, and a good afternoon was had by all. (At least, that’s my impression!)

Dennis and Sherry gave me a ride to Union Station, and as my train rolled back toward New York City, I thought about what a wonderful afternoon it had been. And I knew I’d have to post about it, not only because my hours there had added another segment to my post-publication journey, but also because I hope that the next time some of you find yourselves in Washington, you’ll pay a visit to the NMAJMH, too.

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post: Do You Know What Today Is?

Today, eight days after the official publication of my debut story collection, Quiet Americans, I’m not going to blog (or link to) my book’s latest reviews, the virtual tour, or anything along those lines. Instead, focusing on the history behind my book, I want to take this opportunity remind us all about today’s significance: Today is the annual International Day of Commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust.

In my Jewish education as a child and young adult, I learned about (and now routinely remember) Yom Hashoah. As My Jewish Learning explains:

The full name of the day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust is “Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah” –literally the “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is marked on the 27th day in the month of Nisan–a week after the seventh day of Passover, and a week before Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers).

The date was selected by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) on April 12, 1951. The full name became formal in a law that was enacted by the Knesset on August 19, 1953. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated by Jewish communities and individuals worldwide.

(In 2011, Yom Hashoah will begin at sundown on Sunday, May 1.)

Recently, however, I’ve learned about a second commemorative day. In 2005, the United Nations designated “27 January–the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp–as an annual International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust.”

So today, too, we remember. And since I’m not pointing you to any links concerning my book, I humbly ask that you take just a few moments out of your day to click over to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day mini-site curated by Yad Vashem, “the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust” in Israel.

Thursday’s Post-Publication Post

Yesterday was a great day, and I thank all of you who posted congratulations here, on Twitter, and/or on Facebook for helping to make it a very special pub date, indeed, for my short-story collection, Quiet Americans.

Another highlight: Quiet Americans received a sage and sensitive review from Jonathan Kirsch, Books Editor for The Jewish Journal (of Greater Los Angeles).

Here’s a snippet—one of my favorites—from the review:

Dreifus does not confine herself to the kind of character studies and slice-of-life sketches that are the stock-in-trade of so many short-story writers. Rather, she cares deeply about history — her own family history and the larger history that we all inhabit — and that’s what makes her stories both engaging and consequential.

“Engaging” and “consequential.” Two adjectives any writer would be delighted to see applied to her work.

You can read the entire review here.