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Meet Jim Hanas

abstract:Almost everyone these days has a Facebook page to keep in touch with friends. Some people stop in once a day, others check their wall obsessively through out. But how many of you notice the advertisements on the side bar, and how many of you are compelled to click on them? As a book reviewer the Facebook marketing department got my attention when they served me an ad about a book with an intriguing cover written by Jim Hanas titled, Why They Cried.(Kindle version $7.95) I clicked on the ad, got to his website and saw that the book is a collection of short stories published in every digital format currently available— Kindle, iPad, iPhone Ap, and iTunes. Between the review, the cover and the savvy of marketing and distribution I decided it was time to contact Jim Hanas to ask, "How's it going with that?"


BB: Hi Jim. Thanks for taking this interview. Your book advert came up on my Facebook page and I was intrigued by both the cover and the concept of self promotion using social networking. Everyone says it works - what's your experience?

Jim Hanas: Whether or not social networks "work" depends, I suppose, on what work you want them to do. I've been a blogger for years, so there was never a moment when I calculated that using social networks could help me sell books. That would be like wondering if a telephone or e-mail would help me sell books. They might, but that's not their exclusive purpose.


May 06, 2011
I can say that my book was published largely because of connections I made via social networks, and that social networks put me in direct touch with readers and fellow writers—not just at events, but always—and being in touch with readers and writers is one of the best things about being a writer, for me anyway. Frankly, I'm suspicious of writers who are horrified by the prospect of interacting with readers directly, and who complain that it somehow violates their natures as lone, isolated artists. I don't get that at all.

As for the ads you saw, I'm always experimenting, and I have found Facebook ads to be a relatively cheap way to get on people's radar. Having a great, intriguing cover—like mine, by Toronto-based designer David Gee—certainly helps. And the ads brought me to your attention, which I'd say is a pretty great return on investment.

BB: Tell us a bit about yourself and Why They Cried.JH:My first published short story appeared in McSweeney's in 1999. I'm not particularly prolific, but over the years—while working by day at magazines like Advertising Age, Print Magazine, and Radar—my stories have appeared in small, respected journals like One Story and Fence. In 2006, I saw what science fiction writers like Cory Doctorow were doing with e-book distribution, and it occurred to me that e-books might be a good way to keep some of my previously published stories in circulation.

That year, I self-published my first e-book, a free two story collection called Single, which I designed to look like the indie-rock 7-inches I accumulated as a music critic in the 90s. I released another, Cassingle, in 2009, and when Toronto's ECW Press joined with literary site Joyland to launch an e-book imprint, they came to me because I was already out there doing it. So Why They Cried is really the culmination of more than ten years of writing—it contains ten stories, some old and some new—and a string of happy accidents.

BB: Who is your agent and how did he/she describe the electronic rights for this property? Some books have been launched on itunes, others on Kindle and now that Kobo uses all the formats from one sales location I'm curious as to whether all of those are negotiated separately or via one-stop-shopping via your publisher?

JH:I've never had an agent. I was not even actively shopping a collection when Joyland and ECW approached me. It was just one of those things. One interesting aspect of the deal, however, is that ECW only purchased digital rights, and for a limited time. I hold the print rights, should anyone become interested in them, although ECW has the right to match all offers.

As for all the formats out there, that's one place where ECW really earned their money. As a self-publisher, I had to make sure my books were available on various platforms, which was becoming increasingly difficult as the e-book marketplace really took off. But for Why They Cried, ECW handled all the production—the formatting, like the cover, is beautiful--and the distribution to the major e-book retailers. I didn't have to deal with that at all.

BB: I see you participated in the One Story Literary Debutante Ball. Tell us about that.

JH:One Story is both a great magazine and a great concept. They send out a single story in the mail every three weeks for a total of 18 issues per year. It launched in 2002 and my story, "The Cryerer," appeared that same year as issue #8. (The most recent issue was #148.) The magazine does a great job of championing the short story—as a form—and of supporting its contributors. At the One Story Literary Debutante Ball—an annual fundraiser in Brooklyn—they honor contributors who have published their first books in the previous year, and I was among this year's five honorees. It was a fun event, and I really think it helped generate some great attention for my book.

BB: What recommendations do you have for writers concerning today's new electronic media?

JH:The good news is that connecting with readers has never been easier or cheaper. The bad news is that it's so easy and cheap, everyone will be doing it and it will become increasingly difficult to get your work noticed. The writer's problem used to be getting published. Now it's getting noticed—and this is true whether you self-publish or go with a traditional publisher. My advice is to remember it's about finding readers—not agents, not editors, not publishers. All of these might be effective partners for finding readers, depending on the circumstances, but it's first and foremost about connecting with readers. If you can connect with enough readers, your other problems will solve themselves.

For more details on JH's e-pub experience go to his blog post: DIY-e-books by the numbers, a case study.

Why They Cried
Stories by Jim Hanas, now available from Joyland and ECW Press.



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