Interview, Len Vlahos (BISG)



[Image from Booksellers NZ]

* Interview #72, with Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) Executive Director, Len Vlahos!

* Note from Jess: BISG is the leading book trade association for standardized best practices, research and education. I noticed Mr. Vlahos’ “very interesting and unique bio” on GoodReads — so I decided to send a quick Q&A on career and life vision!

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Hi Len! Describe yourself in 5 words:


Caffeine free since August 2012.

What do you find most exciting and/or challenging with being the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)?

I love BISG because we represent every corner of the supply chain. Our members include Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, the American Library Assn, digital only companies, indie bookstores, small publishers, printers. the Author’s Guild, wholesalers, and on and on and on…

We are at the very center of the book industry. We exist to build consensus, and to help trading partners work more efficiently together. It’s a broad mission, and it provides real value to the entire publishing ecosystem. And it’s fun. :-)

You dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar for Woofing Cookies (a punk-pop band that had a full-length LP on Midnight Records), before working in the book industry and writing novels — what a unique bio! Do you approach music the same way as you approach writing?

Dang the Internet! My cover is, apparently, blown. The bio is true. I took a circuitous route to this point in my life, not always an easy route, but one I wouldn’t change for anything.

My prose writing is more methodical than my songwriting. With music, I pick up the guitar and futz around until inspiration comes or it doesn’t. With prose, I try to stick to a fairly rigid schedule of writing everyday, which forces a more deliberate, measured approach, if that makes sense.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your debut novel, The Scar Boys (10-100 words):

scar boys

Excerpt: An older and much larger boy stood over me, blotting out the sun. “You weren’t goddam here when we chose up the goddam sides.” He was trying on curse words the way a little girl tries on her mother’s shoes.

Blurb: The Scar Boys is the story of Harbinger “Harry” Jones. His journey from outcast to guitar hero takes center stage in this rock and roll coming of age novel. There’s love (conditional and not), sex (imagined and not), drugs (prescribed and not), and a whole lot of music.

(For the record, I’m not as good at blurbs as I am at fiction.)

Share a short excerpt of one of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

At the far end of town, where the grickle grass grows
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows
And no birds ever sing, excepting old crows
Is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

(The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss)

Do you personally prefer print books or eBooks?

When e- first started getting going (2008), I read quite a lot on my iPhone (using a variety of different apps). I would I say 50% of all my reading over the next two + years was on the iPhone.

But over the last 18 months, I’ve migrated back entirely to print. I’m not sure I can explain why, other than I think I suffer from screen fatigue. While I know that e-ink devices are supposed to be the antidote, they still haven’t really replicated the visual experience of ink on paper. Printed books are just easier on the eyes. That said, I have nothing against e-, and wouldn’t be surprised if I wind up reading e- and p more interchangeably in the future.

Please share your #1 tip for balancing work and family life:


Please share your #1 tip for publishers and writers to keep up with the ever-evolving book publishing industry:

The transformation that has engulfed the book industry is not about technology; it’s about human behavior. People want to access content in myriad ways, and want to consume and share it in ways not previously imagined. Our industry should be focused on the customer and her needs and desires, and shouldn’t obsess over the technology. And don’t be afraid to fail. (That might be more than one tip.)

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Website | Twitter

Email: lenATlenvlahosDOTcom

(Man, that’s a lot of “Len Vlahos” for one paragraph.)

Much thanks to the gracious and very cool Len Vlahos for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Check out his bio at GoodReads, along with his bio at Book Industry Study Group (BISG).

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Dave Baksh



* Pic 1 (Dave Baksh) from here; Pic 2 (Sum 41) from here.


I remember it was exactly 10 years ago that I first heard Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” (the year the song was released).

I was 15 or 16 years old at the time. I really liked that song because the tune was very catchy and the chorus had great lyrics:

“I don’t want to waste my time
become another casualty of society
I’ll never fall in line
Become another victim of your conformity
And back down”
— Sum 41, Fat Lip lyrics

There was a happy pop/punk sound which was exactly what I needed at that age.

Fast forward 10 years and I just happened to be thinking of this song, so I looked for a live vid on YouTube.

The above is a Tokyo live clip of Sum 41 performing “Fat Lip”…and omg, the guitar playing by Dave Baksh is totally insane!

Around the time while viewing the vid, I also read an MTV article (dated 2006) about how Dave found the mainstream music business to be too much of a competition, etc.

Dave Baksh is now with The Organ Thieves (a band whose sound/genre is “LYRICAL-EXPERIMENTAL-SOUL-ROCK”).

I always admire the passion people have for their art/music. The practical survival/money stuff is important, but so is  staying true to yourself and making the most of your talent(s). To me, I’ve always felt that when something (especially music) is too commercial, the soul is gone and it’s just not the same. So this is a quick blog post that reflects my admiration for people with the guts/passion to do things differently :)

After you’ve viewed the above video, you can check out these other links!

(1) Dave ‘Brownsound’ Baksh Says Sum 41 Got ‘Too Dark For The Public’ (MTV article)

(2) The Organ Thieves (Official FB Page)

(3) (Organ Thieves’ music)

Author Interview, Susan Helene Gottfried


Author Interview #34, with rock & roll writer, Susan Helene Gottfried!

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Hi Susan! Please describe yourself in 5 words:

Almost as cool as Trevor.

Nice! Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):


The four (and counting) books in the Trevolution are Rock and Roll in a book. They follow the story of Trevor Wolff, bass player for ShapeShifter and not nearly as big a jerk as you’ll think when you first meet him.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

Oh, yikes. You want me to narrow my favorites down to one? Do you know how many people I’ll anger?

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience *while Jess tries to think of a number re: the previous answer…*:

It’s all tough: writing, editing, crafting. The publication process is another tough nut on top of that. This isn’t an industry for anyone who’s not brave, that’s for certain. However, the flip side is one of the best experiences a person can have in their lifetime. It’s filled with great fellow authors and readers who are outstanding people. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Even those days when I’m grumpier than Mitchell.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

Something that lifts you up and transports you somewhere else.

Yes, I like that type of effect too :P (sounds very much like “good music”!). Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Hire a good editor. Like me.

Oh, wait. You want something serious.

Learn as much as possible. Including rules of grammar. Your editor will thank you for it later on.

Please let us know your websites/blogs/etc:



Twitter: @WestofMars


In other words: if it’s West of Mars, it’s probably me.

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Much thanks to Susan for stopping by — be sure to check out her website to learn more about the author and the multiple projects/websites she manages!

P.S. Susan is a member of the vibrant BestsellerBound writing community [as am I :)…].

Author Interview, Alex Austin


I’ve decided to do random short interviews with fellow authors (it’ll be a new addition to this blog). Without further ado, here’s Mr. Alex Austin!

Describe yourself in 5 words:
Alex: Relentless, droll, skeptical, restive, furtive.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):
Excerpt from The Red Album of Asbury Park Remixed, the story of a young musician trying to make the best of his life in the tumultuous 60s/70s Asbury music scene:

I pushed myself off the bench and started walking. I looked up at the Casino, the letters of the word were split into frames: CA/SI/NO.

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