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Sep 30, 2010

Cyclops 2

I love you Kindle, Text-to-Speech!

Cyclops

I bruised my eye, and I'm supposed to rest it by not looking at glowing rectangles. Or reading. Or writing. Or painting. Or watching tv.

That eliminates every single one of the my normal activities, both for work and for play.

This sucks. And I should stop writing this. :(

Sep 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The times are such that one should think carefully before writing books."

- Antonio de Araoz,
Spain, 1559
(during the Spanish Inquisition)

Sep 28, 2010

How to Introduce Stories in an Anthology

I decided to write introductions to each story in the anthology, because the anthologies I like best include the author's behind-the-scenes comments. However, I had a problem because in some cases what I wanted to say risked spoiling the story.

I moved the "introductions" to the end of the story and made them "comments." Some of the comments are fairly neutral, discussing the techniques and inspiration for the story; others speak a little more personally.

Although I've kept the Comments short, my word count for the anthology as a whole is a little longer than expected: 47,000 words.

A Virus Walks Into a Bar...

This is Why You Should Keep Your Notes

Argh. I am down to writing the last introduction to a story in the anthology. I saved it for last because it's a hard sf story, and probably the least accessible in the anthology. It takes place in the fraction of a second after the Big Bang before the hadronization of quarks took place.

What is driving me crazy is that I did a TON of research for this novella. I read physics papers, pop science books on the Big Bang, philosophical musings by scientists on the nature of the cosmological constant, and on and on. Most of that, I left out of the story, of course, but I wanted to talk about it in my comments. But, because I was writing fiction instead of an academic paper, I just tossed all good academic instincts out the window and did not keep a bibliography. In fact, I can't even find my notes. I know that I have -- or should have -- many of the papers I read on my computer, but lord knows where.

I am so mad at myself for not keeping better notes. I am tempted to yank the story, but I've already mentioned it will be in the anthology to numerous people, so.... *sound of me kicking myself*

Sep 27, 2010

Humble Assistance


Dear Friend,

As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday. My name is William Makai,a business merchant in Europe,I have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer.

It has defiled all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts.I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone (not even myself) but my business. Though I am very rich, I was never generous,I was always hostile to people and only focused on my business as that was the only thing I cared for.

But now i regret all this as i now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money inthe world.I believe when God gives me a second chance to come to this world i would live my life a different way from how i have lived it.

Now that God has called me, I have willed and given most of my property and assets to my immediate and extended family members as well as a few close friends. I want God to be merciful to me and accept my soul so, I have decided to give alms to charity organizations, as I want this to be one of the last good deeds I do on earth. So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations Abroad. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, i cannot do this myself anymore. I once asked members of my family to close one of my accounts and distribute the money which I have there to charity organizations; they refused and kept the money to themselves.

Hence, I do not trust them anymore, as they seem not to be contended with what i have left for them,the last of my money which no one knows of is the huge cash deposit of Eighteen Million United States Dollars that which i will want you to help me collect this deposit and dispatched it to charity organizations.

Please note we will need the services of an attorney so once you have reached me by my private mail i will strongly advise that you do not share my email with anyone because of the rate of unscrupulus mails i get from people on the internet. I have set aside 30% for you and for your time.

God be with you.

Regards

William Makai

* * *

Dear Willy,

I was saddened and appalled to hear how you have been defiled by all forms of medical treatment. It shocks me that your relatives are such profligates. What a pity they have not been touched by God's grace, as you have! No wonder you have been compelled to turn to me, a complete stranger, to trust with your enormous amounts of money.

Of course I would be glad to help you distribute your ill-gotten gains to charities to help you atone for your life of grubbing, capitalistic self-aggrandisement.

Unfortunately, I'm extremely busy right now. It happens that I was recently contacted by a Syrian businessman who, in the final days of the Iraqi war in 2003, was given a huge cash deposit of Eighteen Million United States Dollars to hide in a secret Swiss account. His widow now requests my discreet help in assisting her to distribute the money, also to charities.

By coincidence, I also just won a lottery of a huge cash deposit of Eighteen Million United States Dollars from a drawing of random email addresses. The FCC wishes to impose an unreasonable tax on that money, however, so in order to keep the amount, to donate to charity, of course, I cannot disclose the name of the organization running the lottery.

Being awash in all this money, most of which I must keep secret, the better to distribute it to likely charities, according to God's will, without impositions from undue authorities, is quite stressful for me. However, by the grace of God, who is all knowing, I shall find the time to help you with your problem as soon as I am able.

Yours Truly

Dyatink Imanidiot

Ingram and the Sea Change in Publishing

Ingram wants to lead the sea change in publishing:

While digital is growing rapidly, Ingram continues to invest in print technology to maintain its leadership position in a segment it all but invented: print-on-demand. Its Lightning Source division now has 4.4 million titles and has added more titles this year than at any time in its history. "We've seen an explosion of titles," Prichard said, attributing that to a number of factors: traditional publishers doing shorter first printings and reprinting using POD; the growth of aggregators that print public domain titles; more self-publishing; and greater use of POD by academic presses.

...

"We expect to take over more publishers' back-end operations as they move from print to digital, and business models change like never before," Prichard said. As digital publishing commands more resources, publishers will want to move the management of slow-moving titles to Ingram, freeing warehouse space and "turning fixed costs into variable costs," Prichard believes. Serving as the back end for publishers as well as Ingram's still rapidly growing direct-to-consumer business centered around fulfilling Internet book orders is why Prichard predicted that Ingram's print sales will increase in the years ahead.

...Blending Ingram's print and digital capabilities was one reason Prichard led the reorganization of the company 15 months ago, a process that combined three businesses—Ingram Book Company, Ingram Digital, and Lightning Source—into the Ingram Content Group. The move centralized all of the departments of the three separate businesses and has made it easier for customers to work with Ingram, whether for print, digital, or a mix of services.


Oh, and this is both funny and sobering.

Writer: Nine months.

Editor: What?

Writer: Nine months, working 60 hour weeks. That's how long it took me to write my novel. That seems a bit longer and more labor-intensive than your three weeks. Yet I'm only getting 17.5% of the price that you set. Do you know what your percentage is?

Editor: Off the top of my head, no.

Writer: You get 52.5%.

Editor: Really? Huh.

Writer: To me, that doesn't seem fair.

Editor: You don't seem to understand that you need us. Without editing or cover art...

Writer: (interrupting) Let's say the ebook sells ten thousand copies. Which, at your inflated price of $9.99, seems unlikely. But let's say it does. That means I earn $17,500...

Editor: A respectable figure...

Writer: ...and you earn $52,500. Even though you only worked on it for three weeks.

Editor: But you gotta admit, we made a terrific cover for it.

Writer: True. But for fifty thousand dollars, I bet I could buy some pretty nice cover art on my own. I bet I could pay a doctor to raise Pablo Picasso from the dead and have him do the cover.

Editor: Don't forget editing.

Writer: How long does it take to edit a manuscript?

Editor: Excuse me?

Writer: In hours. How many are we talking? Ten? Twenty?

Editor: It might go as high as fifty hours, with multiple read-throughs and the line edit.

Writer: How much do editors earn an hour?

Editor: Excuse me?

Writer: Let's say fifty bucks an hour. I think that's high, and I also think your fifty hour estimate is high, but even if we go with both, that's only $2500. And according to the Artist & Graphic Designer's Market, book cover art should cost around $2000.

Editor: Don't forget formatting and uploading.

Writer: I can pay a guy $200 to format and upload the book. In fact, I can also pay a guy $300 to create a cover, and an editor $500 to do both content and copy editing. But you're not charging me $1000, or even $4500. You're taking $52,500. And that number can get even bigger. If I hire my own editor and artist, those costs are fixed. You continue to take your 52.5% forever.

Editor: You don't seem to understand. Do you know how much it costs to rent this office? We're paying $25k a month, and that doesn't even include utilities. I've got three assistants. We all have health insurance and 401k. Expense accounts. Do you have any idea what it costs to take agents out to lunch?

Writer: My agent didn't broker this deal.

Editor: You're missing the point!

(Assistant enters, with coffee)

Assistant: Here's your cappuccino, Editor.

Editor: There's another cost! We paid five grand for this cappuccino machine! How are we supposed to stay in business unless we take 52.5%?

Writer: (standing up) I think we're done here.

Editor: Wait a second! You need us! Without us to validate your work, you'll never be considered legitimate! You'll just be some unknown, satisfied rich guy!


There's more. You should read the whole thing. Hilarious and yet quite... thought-provoking.

That Boy Girl Thing

So why don't boys read more books, and girls do more math?

Just kidding. I'm not going to attempt to answer that here, because I would inevitably just piss everybody off.

Pub Rants joined the fray, which is where I caught some amusing contribuions to the debate, such as My Writer Bloggy Woggy: The Anti-Penis Bias in Pubbying!

I'm somewhat sympathetic, except for one thing. Some study somewhere, which I should cite, but I'm too lazy, and honestly, I have other things I should be doing now than writing this blog post, have found that female readers will read books by male authors and aimed at male readers, but not the reverse. Which makes me feel just a bit less sorry for the male readers who are complaining.

It is also why, despite this evidence about females dominating both the professional and readership sides of publishing, I have had cause to regret not choosing a gender-neutral or even masculine pen name. Because I write sf, and even hard sf, and I wonder if male readers will read it.

Ted Cross brought up a related point, about "romantasy" book covers. If you don't know the ones he means, take a look at his site.

Which brings me to the real point of this post, namely, do you think certain covers appeal more to female or male readers? And what elements appeal more to one gender or the other?

One might think that a book with a sexy female on the cover is meant to appeal to a man, and a book with a sexy man on the cover is to appeal to a woman. I don't think it's that simple.

I think the covers with the hunks and babes are BOTH geared to appeal to women. Books with sexy women meant to appeal to men usually show the women in a slightly different way. Kneeling at a man's feet in a bikini, for example. (Just sayin'.)

But I also have this theory, and feel free to disagree, that books oriented more toward female readers have a close-up shot of a face or torso (person focused), whereas books oriented more toward male readers have a wider shot, showing an action scene, or gadgets (spaceship, swords, boats, cars, castles, armor, etc.)

When pre-verbal babies are show toys, girls respond better to people/faces and boys to objects trucks or balls. Unless the baby in question has William's Syndrome, in which case, whether a he or she, that baby will fixate on a human face. Which is neither here nor there, but pretty interesting in and of itself.

Any thoughts?

Sep 26, 2010

Bollywood Goes Sci Fi

If you were wondering, why the Terminators sent back in time never succeeded in killing John Connor, we now know. Turns out, because most of them skipped town in order to start a new career as Bollywood dancers. And that army of iMac-styled robots from iRobot, the ridiculous Will Smith adaptation of Azimov's I, Robot? Ditto.

I guess Wall-E is not the only robot with a secret love for musicals.



No civilization can advance without science fiction. Seriously. Look at the countries that produce science fiction and then look at the countries that produce new science. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Glad to see Bollywood going sci-fi; it bodes well for India's journey towards superpower. And that gun is totally what Shiva would be totin' if he packed heat, you know it.

I guess my question is whether we'll really see sci fi take off in Bollywood or if this is just another anomaly, like this classic, which features A FIGHT UNTO DEATH between flying saucers and hippies with guitars.



And while we're on the subject of anomalies, I'll bet you didn't know (or knew, but were desparately trying to forget) that Tarzan went to Delhi.



Incidentally, Edgar Rice Burroughs was so disgusted with the way Hollywood portrayed Tarzan, that he decided to start a movie studio to produce his own Tarzan films. I can only imagine what he would have thought of the Bollywood Tarzan.

Reverend Feelgood - Book Trailer of the Day


Not my usual genre, but Lutishia Lovely and her film crew caught my attention with this one. The scenes are simple, and the cuts are standard, but what carries is it is the sound track and voice over. The actual trailer is one minute, with the rest showing the name of the book and scrolling the credits, so it's not too long.

Eugene Long, sweetheart, you have a hell of a sexy voice. I hope you aren't really a preacher. ;)

I had to post this one on a Sunday.

Weekends Are A Lot of Work

I used to be a normal person. I used to look forward to weekends.

Now, I see weekends differently. They always come too soon and I always give a little sigh of relief when they are over. That's because Monday through Friday, I work: do research, read books, write stuff. Whether it's for school or for my fiction, it's enjoyable. On weekends, I do a lot of things I don't particularly enjoy. Clean the house. Drive all over the place. Shop at Costco. Drive all over the place. Try to fight the crowds at Fun Places we are taking the kids.

Don't get me wrong, the part I enjoy is spending time with the kids. But if we "do something" with them, beyond just crashing at my brother's house for the day, it's exhausting. For instance, yesterday we took them to a birthday party and to an aquarium and it took us FORTY MINUTES just to find a place to park the car. Circling and circling three levels of parking lot, with three crying kids in the car.

Can I just say: Oy.

I ranted in a previous post about deadlines, and I'm still a struggling to meet mine. So I'm up a 4 am this morning, at work again. I've reluctantly removed one story I had planned to include in the anthology, because I realized it needed to be re-written, not just edited. Too bad, because it was space opera and a had a happy ending. I've noticed that a lot of the short stories I write are kind of tragic. Or at least melancholy. That's funny, because my novels are usually upbeat, and I don't want the people who love tragedy to read my stories and then feel annoyed with my novels because they wanted more gloom, or people who are turned off by the sad endings of a few stories to not read the novels because they want HEAs.

I replaced the removed story with another story, that also has a happy ending, but it's not space opera. But it was already published somewhere so it doesn't need a lot of editing. The previous publisher seems to have gone out of business, so I am happy to bring this story back into print.

I'm also writing introductions to all of the stories. I like anthologies where the author shares a bit of the story behind the story; it's like reading fiction with a side of autobiography. In some of the introductions, I've shared rather personal stuff, and now it's making me nervous. I'm afraid maybe it's TMI. After all, it's NOT an autobiography. Maybe no one really wants to hear about how I was homeless that one time, or about how I tried and failed since I was nineteen to make it as a professional writer, or why I wasn't accepted into college, or all the other ways in which I've managed to screw up my life.

I've read some other introductions to stories in anthologies, and sometimes they are impersonal and upbeat, other times they are more autobiographical and mention more serious things.

Hmmmm. *deep thought* Gotta decide by Monday. I need to send this baby to the editor.

Sep 24, 2010

Ann Brandt's Journey to Publication

An interesting journey to publication that starts with self-publishing, travels through mainstream publishing with HarperCollins and ends as an ebook. Ann Brandt tells how she published Crowfoot Ridge"
Of the eight agent responses from my submissions, seven were encouraging, but rejections none-the-less. One was a request to send fifty pages of "Crowfoot Ridge" to Jillian Manus. Three months later her rejection arrived. I did a lot of rewriting after the conference, then proceeded with a small press in NC and self-published. The jacket photo they wanted to use belonged on a Mad Magazine cover. I contacted DeWitt Jones, a photographer/speaker at Maui and asked for a mountain scene. He provided one for four hundred dollars. When the book came out I sent a few copies to him as a thank you.

He sent one to his good friend, Jillian Manus, who read it and called to ask if she could represent me. She had no memory of our previous encounter. I signed her contract and she put the book out on auction giving the publishers eight hours to respond. HarperCollins won the auction. They put me through months of rewriting with editors from many disciplines: story, dialog, grammar, and legal. Jillian asked once how I'd gotten a DeWitt Jones photo and went on to tell me he can receive $10,000 for one. In fact HarperCollins said they could not afford one of his photos and provided an in-house painting for the jacket they published in 1999. "Crowfoot Ridge" was sold in several countries, translated into German and French, and we had a few nibbles from the film industry. The e-book debuts on Kindle this month.

Jane and the Damned - Book Trailer of the Day



Three minutes plus -- on the long side. I didn't watch it all the way through the first time. But I did come back to it, because it's well done.

This uses a technique of "pseudo-animation": A series of cartoons or illustrations that accompany the text, or, in this case, voice over, at a sentence-by-sentence pace. Unlike a random jumble of stock images, the succession of cartoons gives the trailer a unified motif, holding it together with greater style. A few stock photos are thrown in, for instance, a shot of Bath. It works okay. The color scheme is simple but striking. The cartoonish b&w drawings are highlighted by red. A nice way to quietly shout: Hey! Vampires!

The voice over and sound effects really carry this trailer, even when the cuts could use a brisker pace. I laughed my head off when the ridiculous French accents began at 1:39. "Those English bastards! They cut of my...!"

The premise of the book is also a riot. Here we have the Jane Austen and the Undead craze joined with the Use Famous Writers as characters craze, and hell, a little Alt Hist thrown in for jolly fun. At least, when I last took my Survey of Modern European History Since the French Revolution, I don't remember the French invading England twice. That alone made me want to read this book.

Jane of the Damned, by Janet Mullany.

Dumb But Hilarious Writing

"I did it with my last baby and it wasn't totally accurate."

-- referring to a test that predicts the gender of a baby

Hm. It wasn't "totally" accurate? Either it was accurate or it wasn't, riiiiiight? Unless what you really mean is, "Well it predicted a male, but my baby boy is suspiciously fond of Tinky Winky."

(The real answer, in case you were wondering? The test is a scam.)

Sep 23, 2010

Harry Potter Trailer



There are some people who assume that just because a book is popular, it is well written. There are other people who assume that just because a book is popular it is poorly written.

Don't make assumptions.

Facebook Down!

"OPB BREAKING NEWS: Facebook is down," read a message on Oregon Public Broadcasting's feed. "Worker productivity rises. U.S. climbs out of recession."

But not really, because Twitter and Blogger are still working. ;)

Twelfth Planet Press

Whenever I find a new small publisher, I'm going to just toss it up on the 'ole blog, mostly so I don't forget it.

So here's Twelfth Planet Press, "an Australian indie publishing company focussing on publishing innovative, fresh and exciting speculative fiction projects."

Books:

Anthologies
2012 edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne
New Ceres Nights edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely
Sprawl edited by Alisa Krasnostein (September 2010)
Speakeasy edited by Alisa Krasnostein (April 2011)

Collections
A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti
Glitter Rose by Marianne de Pierres (September 2010)
Twelve Planets (starting January 2011)

Novella Series
Angel Rising by Dirk Flinthart
Horn by Peter M Ball
Bleed by Peter M Ball (September 2010)

Doubles Series
Roadkill/Siren Beat by Robert Shearman/Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Company Articles of Edward Teach/Angaelian Apocalypse by Thoraiya Dyer/Matthew Chrulew (October 2010)
Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi/Ben Peek (November 2010)

Novels
Robot War Espresso by Robert Hood (April 2011)

Submissions:

Right now they're looking for novelettes and novellas. And fantasy short stories set in the Roaring Twenties. Cool beans.

Self-Imposed Deadlines Are Real Deadlines



>rant<

I work from a home office with a large whiteboard. I put all my deadlines for the next three months on this board, with little boxes to check them off when I finish each item. I put my classes for graduate school up there, and also my writing projects.

I was speaking with a friend on the phone the other day and stressing a little because I was behind on one of my writing goals, which meant that the due date for another writing goal would be pushed up to coincide with a school goal. I didn't want that to happen, so I dedicated a few nights to stay up until three or four in the morning to put in the extra work to meet the deadline. I still have to get up in the night to nurse, and then rise early to send the hubby and toddlers off to work/preschool, so that meant I didn't get much sleep.

This had consequences. I was tired and grumpy, which annoyed my friend.

"You keep talking about writing deadlines, but you don't have any real deadlines," she said. "So why would you do that to yourself?"

Right. I can't have real writing deadlines because writing isn't real work.

No, no, she said. "But you can do it whenever you want and it doesn't matter if you really do it right away or not."

Look, I understand her point. One reason I want to be a writer is exactly so I can write whenever I want -- but this means imposing my own deadlines, not escaping them.

The distinction may be fine, but it's important.

It was especially frustrating because around the same time, a relative chided me for not being "focused" enough, and I should "get a real job." You know, because being a stay-at-home mom with a three month old infant AND going to school AND publishing a book -- not one of those counts as a "real" job.

I don't say this often, but... screw you. I work damn hard. At real work. With real deadlines. And maybe the world doesn't particularly value mothering, academic research or writing fiction, but that doesn't mean the things I do have no value.

>/rant<

Ok, on a more positive note, I was tagged with a Prolific Blogger award by Jai at Jai Joshi's Tulsi Tree, and now I have to figure out who among the many awesome blogs I read am going to tag myself. I have to admit, I always worry a bit when I get one of these awards, because of the chain-letter/ponzi scheme pyramid structure of the meme. But I also feel really happy that someone thought of me, and no money or cursing is involved ;) so I will pass it on. But first I have to think about who to choose! Argh! There are so many good blogs.... I'm thinking I might tag some of the blogs where I read but never comment, because I feel bad I never comment. Check here later for updates.

Sep 22, 2010

King Rolen's Kin and Death Most Definte - Book Trailers of the Day



This is interesting because it uses computer animation, very well executed. This trailer was produced by Daryl Lindquist of R&D Studios. I especially like the way the trailer leads into the dramatic framing = book cover. Then the covers of the trilogy pop up in tempo to the ringing bells while snow continues on the black background. Nice.

This trailer has only one problem; it's a problem with the cover too.

Who is the author?! The name is so small I couldn't read it after several replays. I don't want to have to expand the video to full screen just to know who wrote this book, it should be splashed across the screen for my Lazy Reader convenience.

Ok, ok! I expanded the video to full screen.

It's Rowena Cory Daniels. Her Facebook slogan is, "Pour your heart and soul into your books in the hope that other people will want to read them!"

Amen.

* * *

R&D Studios does some classy work. Here's another one, for Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson.



Looks good, Trent!

Sep 21, 2010

If Ghengis Khan Had Written Fiction...

Check Out My New Website!

I HAZ NEW WEBSITE!

I've owned Tara Maya's Tales for a while, but until now, it was just a sad, broken page. Now it jumps you to a flashy flash site for my new book! Yay!

Check it out.

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor - Book Trailer of the Day



This is another book trailer that is driven by the premise. There are words and one picture. That's it. But the words appear at the right pace -- on the screen long enough to read, but not so long that it drags -- and they lead up to a surprise. Bam! The picture is just frosting. Indeed, the picture could not have appeared any earlier without give away the cake.

It's a shame the book cover is not quite up to professional standards. The cover picture is fine; its the placement of the font that is subtly wrong. Nonetheless, the fascinating premise means I will definitely be adding this book to my Wanted list.

Sep 20, 2010

Who Are The 10 Richest (and Poorest) Writers?


James Patterson - $70 million

Stephenie Meyer - $40 million

Stephen King - $34 million

Danielle Steel - $32 million

Ken Follett - $20 million

Dean Koontz - $18 million

Janet Evanovich - $16 million

John Grisham - $15 million

Nicholas Sparks - $14 million

J.K. Rowling - $10 million


Via Forbes.

I was surprised J.K. Rowling was so low on the list, but remember, this was just the income for last year, not over the author's whole career.

For comparison, Bruce Springsteen made $70 million and Kobe Bryant makes $30 million a year.

* * *

Who are the 10 Poorest Writers? In reverse order, here they are:

Ama Sweetey - made more money last year knitting doilies than writing

That Dude in Front of My Supermarket Who Handsells His Books - paid more in fines than made selling books, but this is part of the very conspiracy he is warning us about and just PROVE HE IS RITE, CANT YOU SEE THAT

U.W. Taken - Spent way too much money on Publish America, first publishing with them, then on lawyers to sue them

Eager Beaver - Still paying off $60,000 English degree on poet's salary

Luv Suufrin - Has filled five hundred fifty three inch notebooks with morse code pencil dots and dashes while pan-handling in subway, raising money for kidney surgery after sold own kidney to buy notebooks; $70,000 in debt

Slam Piiddy - Another poet, what can I say, $80,000 in debt (includes Master's Degree)

Travling Ill - Spent more than six digits last year attending writing conferences and conventions

Mortgaged Todahilt - Trying to pay off a house on a writer's income, yeah, that ain't happening

Royalty Roulette - Spent large advance for first novel investing in a new apartment building; book didn't earn out and real estate market crashed, apartment building is still half-built, ten million in debt

Mj Pubshur - Hasn't adjusted to digital revolution, thinks ebooks should cost $15, going bankrupt, in debt seven hundred million

How to write a novel

How to write a novel.

Examples of Indie Publishers Who Inspire Me

Domey responded to my Growing Up in Public post with a blog post of his own. Appropriately, in public. I'm going to respond to his post with another one. He's struggling with the same questions about self-publishing as I am.

Last week, Tara Maya had a great post on Growing Up In Public. It hit on some ideas that I've been thinking about as well over the last few months. I've been so scared to publish my books because of the dreaded "record" in which bad sales of one book supposedly destroys all of your chances of ever publishing anything else. I'm wondering, what if that actually isn't true? What if I can get away with publishing my little runt Rooster just for the sake of bringing to life the results of seven year's hard work?

I guess you could call this, mulling over decisions in public... (which, I have to admit, as a historian, I can only commend).

Today I'd like to compare two very different indie publishers who make indie publishing look pretty damn good. In very different ways. One is Amanda Hocking. She writes YA vampire romances, so I think of her as an example of someone succeeding self-publishing with popular, genre novels.

The other is writer is Wanda Shapiro. She writes literary fiction that's strange and deep and indescribable. So I think of her as an example of someone succeeding at self-publishing who puts craft before commercialism and creates sophisticated literature.

It's often said that -- and I've always believed -- that if a writer is good, and persistent, eventually some agent somewhere, and then some editor, will recognize this and sign on. But how long is that going to take and is it really worth the wait when what the writer wants to do is write, not query year after frickin' year? Is the fact that the query process takes so long a reflection that the work is "not good enough" yet? These two examples suggest otherwise.

* * *

Amanda:

Go to Yahoo


So here I was. February 2010. I'd been determined to make 2009 the year I would get published. And I hadn't. I said to my roommate, "I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think I'm ever going to get published. I don't know what more I can do. I've worked like a factory putting out the best books I possibly can. I've studied trends, the industry, business models."

...

So I had no money, and I said to my roommate, "I'm going to sell books on Amazon through Kindle, and I bet I can make at least a couple hundred bucks by the end of the summer to go to Chicago." My roommate (who has heard my make lots of plans that I never follow-through with) said, "Yeah. Okay. I'll see that when it happens. Have you finished the Carrie book yet?"

In March, I made My Blood Approves available in paperback on Amazon through Lulu. In April, I published it to Kindle. About a week or so later, I published the second book in the series Fate.

Here's where the story picks up. The two books combined, I sold 45 books in about 2 weeks. I thought to myself, "Not too shabby. Let's add another book to the mix."

I put out Flutter at the end of May. I distinctly remember one day in May before it came out, I sold 38 books in one day. I took a screen shot. I emailed my mom and my roommate, and I knew there was no way I was ever gonna do that. I mean, I was just a me, publishing books on the internet. There's no way I could ever really be successful with this.

In May, I sold 624 books and made $362.

Then in June, something truly magical happened. I discovered book bloggers. I had no idea such people existed. They just read books and write about them. And I don't mean "just." These people take times out of their busy lives to talk about books and have contests and connect with followers and writers and other readers.

These guys are honestly my heroes. I'm a little in love with all of them.

I asked several if they would be interested in reviewing my books, and most of them said yes, even if they didn't generally review self-published work.

Then something surreal started happening. My books were selling. Like, really selling.

So, thanks in large part to book bloggers, June turned into a very good month. I sold 4258 copes of all three books combined, and I made a total of $3180.

...Also in July, I finally found an editor and sent her my books. I contacted a cover artist about doing the covers for future books. And I put in notice at my dayjob.

For those of you reading this, you'll realize that leaving my job seems a bit premature. Probably. I am still on-call at work, but I wanted to really focus on writing. I wanted the chance to be a full-time author for awhile, even if it only ended up being a few weeks.

In July, I sold 3532 books and made $6527.

In the beginning of August, a publishing house in Hungary approached me about foreign rights for their book. I emailed 5 agents then, telling them about my book, my sales (I'd just sold over 10,000 books at the time), and that I had people asking about foreign rights.

Two agents asked me to email them a manuscript almost right away, and I sent it out, but I haven't heard back from them. On Monday, a third agent emailed me asking for the book, and he emailed me Thursday, asking me to call to talk about things.

Also on Monday, I released the fourth book in my vampire series. It peaked #25 in the entire Kindle store. If you''re wondering how many sales it took the book to get that high: 150 in a two hour period. Also on Monday - in one 24-hour period - I made $1200. Working at my day job full time, the most I'd ever made in a month is $1000. I just made more in a day than I used to make in a month.


Um, I read this and kinda fell off of my chair. Granted, my husband will still tell me I could have earned more as an engineer, but face it, that ain't gonna happen, honey.

What's truly amazing about this story is not that she could sell vampire books. Vampire romance is hot right now, YA is hot, so what's the mystery? But notice that she was still turned down. And if she had waited and waited for a yes, maybe vampire YA wouldn't have been so hot, or she would have outgrown the books and felt too impatient with them to even want them published anymore.

However, we don't all write super-popular topic of YA paranormal romance. Is success still possible?

Here's what Wanda Shapiro has to say:

I’m Wanda Shapiro. I write literary fiction and I’m going indie. Musicians and film makers went indie a long time ago and it’s time for writers to follow suit. With a quality manuscript, a lot of hard work, and the technology available today – I believe fiction writers can also break free from the industry that binds them.

According to this interview, she spent a year and a half and $2000 publishing her book. What really shines though, is the writing itself. I find it impossible to believe this book couldn't have found a traditional publisher. Eventually. But that's the catch, isn't it?

Since February, onegirlonenovel.com has had almost 2000 unique visitors and people are calling me a one-woman Random House. I’ve had four events in three cities and I’ve had people look at me and say, “Right, why don’t we have indie literature…?” I have 850 followers on twitter and Chicken has its own fan created facebook group. People are passionate about indie literature, even though many of them have never heard those two words used together, and my grassroots publicity campaign has gotten great traction.

I’ve had two newspaper articles written about me and one very insightful newspaper review of Chicken. I’ve been interviewed on lots of blogs, had two online articles published about my startup experiences, and I’ve gotten numerous mentions in blog posts and event calendars. I even had a live interview on an award winning radio show. But none of the publicity listed in my newsroom compares to the feedback I’ve received from readers.

Remember, my plan for selling Chicken without a publisher was all about readers, like you, and all your friends.

Chicken has seven five-star reviews on Amazon and on my site there are twenty-three reviews left by readers, twenty-two of which are positive. One reader said, “Sometimes That Happens With Chicken…blazes beyond what we have come to expect from modern fiction,” and at one of my events this summer a fan told me Chicken has cult-classic potential. Since February I have been compared to Hemingway, Salinger, Burroughs, Hitchcock, Calvino, and Marquez (which is a bit surreal) but, it’s this kind of feedback from readers that now bolsters my faith and keeps me tirelessly walking down the indie literature path.

And I don’t just have readers. I actually have fans. Talk about surreal!

Sep 19, 2010

Dear Jill - Book Trailer of the Day

The premise of this book and execution of this book trailer struck me as really original and intriguing.



You read the first three chapters of Lauren McLaughlin's book for free.

Sep 18, 2010

"The castle is burning. Prithee, let us away."



“Your sciences could lead to a world where earthly kings, and even God Himself, is of less import than a bear.”

“My lord, I am as fond of bears as any. The castle is burning. Prithee, let us away.”

I can't wait for this book to come out. The draft is done, so hopefully it won't be long.

Night of the Living Trekkies - Book Trailer of the Day

Hat tip to Athena Stephenson for the link.



Okay, this is just cheating.

This is not a book trailer. This is a frickin' full on MOVIE. And it is AWESOME.

I mean, what can I say? It is funny, has great acting, hilarious costumes, setting, special effects, a huge production cast and Cthulhu only knows what size budget... Am I jealous?

Hell yes. Also in awe.

I expect a real movie to follow shortly.

Full Disclosure: I dressed as a Green Orion Slave Dancer to a Trek convention once. I won first prize in the costume contest and was asked out on a date. A pity I was only eleven.

Sep 17, 2010

Rigor Amortis - Book Trailer of the Day

hat tip to Anthony Pacheco for this one!



It's done with Animoto, and it looks pretty slick, doesn't it! The music and the pace makes this 1:24 seconds fly by. I love the cartoons. I wonder if they are in the book? I wasn't quite clear if this was a graphic novel, an illustrated anthology. I'm assuming its a short story collection because of the editors.

The premise of this anthology made me snarf.

Growing Up In Public



If you skim through You Tube, you'll notice a lot of videos of kids doing cute, crazy stuff. Like this adorable French girl, who is "publishing" her first story -- it happens to be Winnie the Pooh fan fic, and I dare say, it is the most awesome Winnie the Pooh fan fic ever.

New technology shifts paradigms. One worry I have always had about self-publishing is the fear that I would publish something too soon. When I read the first books I wrote, including fan fic, back when I was 12, 16, 22, I am horrified at how juvenile it was. My first thought was, "Thank goodness it wasn't as easy to self-publish back in those days, because I would have probably done so and this crap would be haunting me."

But maybe that was the old paradigm speaking.

In the old paradigm, a writer toiled in secret for years, crumbling up paper from the typewriter, hiding manuscripts under the bed, slowly accumulating a million words of dreck in desk drawers and trashcans, until finally a gatekeeper, an agent or publisher, said, "This is polished enough to show to the public."

Today's kids grow up in public. You don't wait until something is perfect before you put it in front of an audience. You throw it out there, saying, "This is what I'm trying to do. Tell me if it works." And people respond. They praise, they mock. But it's out there. You keep trying, and you do it in public, in a community that gives you ongoing feedback. You don't hide your million words of dreck. You post it on your blog. You share it in fan fic forums. You publish it on Lulu.

There's still a sense among established industry people that if a writer gives away one's writing "virginity" to anything less than a major publisher, one is as tainted a Fallen Woman of Victorian England. Seriously? Does the You Tube generation care if your first book was a thinly veiled Twilight pastiche published through iUniverse? I suspect behaving like a troll on websites is far more likely to hurt you than having self-published something.

Would it have been so bad if I had self-published my early works? Maybe not. Not if it encouraged me to improve, rather than stay still. Not if it connected me to a small, but possibly growing fan base. Not if it were accepted practice to grow as a writer in print, in public.

It's a completely different model than the publishing industry has been used to. It goes along with cloud sourcing the slush pile. Although, C.J. Cherryh pointed out (on Facebook), this model is not entirely new to the genre of sff. Science fiction fans created fanzines, filk and fanfic long before the internet. They circulated their early stories on mimeographed pages, self-published tiny magazines, passed around stories, met in people's homes to share songs, gathered at conventions. When it works best, I think growing up in public also means growing up in a community. I think that form of sharing art is at least as old as the human race. Possibly older. (Australopithecus, I'm raising my inquiring brow at you....)

I, for one, if I could, would pre-order on Amazon now any book Miss Capucine publishes in twenty years.

Sep 16, 2010

Agent Beauty Contests

Power comes from having choices. When writers query an agent, the agent usually has all the choices: hundreds of other queries to choose from.

But very quickly, that situation can be reversed. If a half-dozen agents all court the same author, then the author is the one who has to make the choice, and the agent is the one who has to live with it.

I’ve been in this situation a handful times in the last six months or so. I recently saw two of the books I’d offered on announced as sales in Publisher’s Marketplace, under other agents’ names. I was happy for the authors and I love the books, obviously, but gosh darn, I sure wish I could’ve been the happy agent listing those deals. I’m not whining about losing out on these manuscripts at all, and it’s not sour grapes. The author went with the best fit for them and that, at the end of the day, is the best possible thing for everyone involved. The clients I get and the books I sell all happen for a reason. And I do genuinely mean it when I tell the authors who go elsewhere that I look forward to reading about a huge sale in PM.

But for me, there are other issues at play here, other than, “Gee, I wish I’d gotten that one!” Being the first to offer (usually) and being myself and losing makes me wonder what types of things the other agents are saying that tip the scales in their favor. The last thing I want to do is to disparage any of my brilliant and hard-working agent colleagues, at my agency and outside of it. But there are different agenting styles, and I wonder if my particular agenting style isn’t serving me in this regard....

There’s also, of course, the issue of track record. I’m a newer agent. I have six sales listed on Publisher’s Marketplace. Though that’s not a comprehensive view of my sales, that’s the only thing writers can check. The first books I sold won’t be out for another nine months or so. I don’t have years of track record or bestseller clients to woo with… yet. And I’m very conscious that in a “beauty contest” (as we call these competitive situations), these things really do weigh in. (See my pro’s and con’s of newer vs. more established agents post for more on this.)

What’s the reason for this recent trend of multiple offers, then? Or for those times when it didn’t go my way? (Luckily, I’ve offered and won many, many more times than this, and I’m thrilled for the clients I do have.) I don’t know. But I’m really curious. As the comments on Kristin’s post mention, it could be an issue of agents hopping on the bandwagon when they hear about an offer. I have to admit, when someone comes to me and says they have an offer of representation, my interest is definitely piqued and I read fast to see if I want to throw my hat into the ring. I want a chance at the fantastic manuscript, too! But it seems like every offer has competition these days. I wonder why that is and, I have to admit, I’d love to be a fly on the wall and see how other agents are offering representation.

What would you all prefer in your offer of representation (other than, you know, getting that offer in the first place)? Big, exciting promises or my preferred brand of “cautious optimism”? Is the offer phone call the time to really rip out all the stops and get the writer hyped up or is it a frank chat about the business, the market, and how this manuscript will into the big picture?

These are the questions asked by agent Mary Kole, an associate agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

I think this is a good reminder that power is a ladder. It goes both up and down, and you should be careful not to step on anyone along the way. Don't criticize agents for being superficial, shallow, mean, etc. because one day you might be in the position to have to make a choice. And when you do have the power to make choices, be polite, be professional.

More importantly, realize that we always have the power to make choices. Nor do we ever have to compromise ourselves to win "beauty contests," whether we are writers, agents or just human beings.

Sep 15, 2010

Advances in Romance - How Much Money Do Authors Make?

An interesting list of advances for various imprints in the Romance genre.

http://www.brendahiatt.com/id2.html

The first three publishers already give you an idea of the range:

Asylett (4 titles)
Average advance: $0
Standard royalty percentage: 40% of net (digital)
Average earn-out: $100 Median: $70

Avalon (20 titles)
Average advance: $1030 Median: $1000
Advance range: $1000 - $1200
Standard royalty percentage: 10%
Average earn-out: $1250 Median: $1000 Range: $1000 - $2400

Avon/HarperCollins (53 titles)
Average advance (first book): $19,700 Median: $8000
Average advance (subsequent books): $28,000 Median: $15,000
Advance range: $5000 - $100,000
Standard royalty percentage: 8%
Average earn-out: $23,000 Median: $26,500 Range: $12,000 - $35,000

Sep 14, 2010

In Advance You Pay


"But the great choices, the long-term aims that mean high character, high intelligence, great service -- the bills for all that come first. In advance you pay for that with devotion, concentration, self-discipline."

-- Harry Emerson Fosdick


I have two friends who have good novels out on submission. One book involves butterflies, the others cerebral food cravings. Did I miss anyone? I'm pulling for you, guys! I want to see those books in print. :D

Editing Giveaway Contest

C.A. Marshall is giving away a Substantial Edit of a mss on her blog! She is a Freelance editor, YA writer and literary agent intern. I seriously need this service. I've been going over the numbers for the book I'm publishing, and it looks like it will put me in the red, mostly because of the cost of editing. Oh, to have a free edit... *grin*

By substantial, she means plot, characterization, etc. up to 100,000 words. My anthology is rather less, and Dindi is bit more, but I still think it's a pretty cool prize.

And you know what, beta readers? Thinking about this contest made me realize how much this is worth. I LOVE YOU.

Okay. Enough with the mushy stuff. Resume work.

ADDENDUM

She used Google Forms to make this cool form thingy. I want to learn how to do that.

You Tube Version of Book Trailer ...and Animoto



I have class today, so I'm a bit rushed this morning. Here's my booktrailer from You Tube, and here's the url. Feel free to repost. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHfM-zdPw2g

UPDATE: I wanted to talk a bit about making the booktrailer. I used Animoto and I wanted to talk a little about it.

I mentioned before it was easy, although it still took me four trys to get it right. Then I accidently uploaded to my You Tube channel titled, "Conmergence.4" which wasn't a good name. Also, I made a few mistakes. Instead of "Coming Soon," I should have put a date, like "October 2010," so that in a year, when the video will still be floating around You Tube, it still makes sense and people can tell it is already available.

Of course, I could have had more pictures, not just thrown the book cover in your face over and over. This was my fault, not Animoto's. I couldn't upload pictures directly from my computer. Animoto would only take them from another site, like Smugmug or Flickr. So I created a Flickr site, uploaded my picture to that, and then told Animoto to grab the picture from Flickr. It wasn't hard.

I picked the template of smoky blue from Animoto's palette. (It's called "Water.") I also chose music from their collection. I could have uploaded music from my computer. I think. I didn't try it.

Their trick is that they have some algorithm that bounces the picture around to the music. You choose the order of the pictures (and if you want any to be sideways or upside down). If you don't like the way it turns out the first time, you can "remix" it. The first time I tried it, I had different music and a different template and I didn't like the result as much.

For $3 a pop or $5 a month, you can go Pro, have a longer vid and remove their logo. I wanted to try it out first. I was happy with the experience. I could see how this could get addictive. It would be fun to do with photos of the kids on a regular basis.

There are some down sides.

Right now, they don't have that many different templates. Even if you go Pro, there's only 20 options max. Therefore, if a lot of people use it, or even if you alone use it more than a couple times, all the videos are going to start to look alike. The slick, professional booktrailer is going to look like just another knock-off. Not good. They need at least a hundred templates to keep it from get old. They seem to be still adding, so maybe they are working up to it.

The same criticism applies to their selection of stock footage and music. It could grow stale fast. And there's nothing even remotely helpful for most book trailers in the stock footage. Okay, maybe if you have a nonfiction book or a contemporary, but nothing suitable for romance, fantasy, sf, mystery or even literary literature. It's just not geared to that. However, the pictures and the music can be changed to your own, so this isn't as big a problem as the limited templates.

I haven't exhausted their selection yet, and maybe one of these days, I'll do a Pro vid. We'll see. I do hope they keep expanding their style selection.

Sep 13, 2010

Speculative Fiction Anthology Announcement, With Cover



Here it is, my official announcement. I'm going to independently publish a novella-length anthology of my short stories. It will be called Conmergence, and you can see my design for the front cover above.

I've given a lot of thought to this. I have, in fact, been considering publishing my epic fantasy (Dindi) series independently, but I'm not sure yet, and I don't want to screw it up. Certainly, I don't want to do a shoddy job, so I decided I needed a trial run first. (I may have mentioned this before, here, on Facebook, on Twitter, in an email...I have basically been thinking in public for the past several days, a habit which is a disturbing by-product of imbibing social media too frequently. I apologize if I became boring or tiresome or tried to bully you into beta reading... I was drunk on a new idea.)

One reason I decided to try independent publishing is that several people I respect have tried it and done well with it. I don't necessarily mean financially, but even more importantly, they've created something lovely and worth reading, not just unreadable slush, such as one traditionally associates with self-publishing.

Here are some small, online presses that sell the backlists, and sometimes new works, of established, and, dare I say, utterly kickass authors.

Closed Circle --> Lynn Abbey, C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher.

Parsina Press --> Stephen Goldin

Yard Dog Press --> Selina Rosen

And I can't tell if Jeffrey Carver has an actual store, but you can buy books through links to Amazon on his blog.

Book View Cafe --> C.L. Anderson, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Chaz Brenchley, Jay Caselberg, Brenda Clough, Kate Daniel, Marissa Day, Lori Devoti, Chris Dolley, Laura Anne Gilman, Sylvia Kelso, Katharine Kerr, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Sue Lange, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rebecca Lickiss, Seanan McGuire, Vonda N. McIntyre, Nancy Jane Moore, Pati Nagle, Steven Harper Piziks, Steven Popkes, Phyllis Irene Radford, Patricia Rice, Madeleine Robins, Deborah J. Ross, Sarah Smith, Sherwood Smith, Amy Sterling Casil, Jennifer Stevenson, Judith Tarr, Gerald M. Weinberg, Susan Wright, Sarah Zettel.

Of course, all these authors had a platform, an audience, and the proven ability to write engagingly before they turned to epublishing and/or POD. Book View Cafe, for instance, is a cooperative only for previous published authors. Previously published in print, by royalty paying publishers. (It advertises things like Margaret Atwood in conversation with Ursula K. Le Guin, which, wow, makes me wish I lived in Portland.) It's not for those of us still trying to break in. (Piers Anthony's press, Mundania, does accept and publish new authors, although last I checked they were closed to submissions for a while).

How Publishing Really Works discusses the usual (and perfectly true) reasons most self-published books sell under 200 copies and also reports one agent who is not interested in a self-published book that sells less than 10,000 copies.

I don't expect to sell 10,000 copies; I'm not even sure I can sell 200. If response is favorable, I'll take it as a sign that selling my fantasy series myself is viable. This does not follow, logically, but... *shrug.* If sales are poor, I'll take it as evidence that my writing still needs improvement. Actually, one's writing always needs improvement. If you stop trying to better yourself, what's the point?

What I shall do is document each step of the way, as others have done, to my benefit. Michelle is still running her series on self-publishing on The Literary Lab, and I am following it closely. She was brave enough to post her numbers, and I will too. If they are small, so be it. So far, by the way, I've spent $15 on stock photos for the cover. It took me approximately 16 hours of work, about four hours a day for the last four days. If I were better at Photoshop, it might have been faster.

And guess what...

I also made my first book trailer!

I'm planning another one, but for this, I used Animoto. It couldn't have been simpler. I had one image, a few lines of text, and chose from their templates of movement and music. Voila.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.



What goes around comes around, so feel free to critique the book trailer. I guess you may consider this the book trailer of the day. I'll discuss the making of the book trailer/s in depth more later.

Sep 12, 2010

Domey's Booksigning

Earlier this evening, I had the delightful opportunity to pop over to Skylight Books for the booksigning of Strange Cargo, an anthology of the PEN Center USA's Emerging Voices, including Davin Malasarn, my friend from The Literary Lab.

They even had wine. It was classy.

Sadly, I missed the readings, but even though I arrived quite late, the bookstore was packed. You have to understand, Domey and I met in cyberspace; this was our first meeting in person. I had a feeling I knew which one Domey was, but the crowd kind of freaked me out, and I hid in the children's section, hiding behind my toddlers (they're pretty short, so this is less effective than I'd like) until the mob thinned. Then I edged near the person I thought was Domey. He was talking to someone else, so I did that obnoxious cocktail party trick, where you loiter just close enough to a conversation that you're no part of that eventually one of the participants nods uncertainly in your direction.

The longer I loitered the more I wondered what I would say if this was some other guy completely.

Fortunately, it was indeed the illustrious Mr. Malasarn, and it was worth all my introvert-angst to attend the soirée and meet him. I now have an autographed copy. Thanks, Domey!

"Are you being sarcastic?" - Zoe Who?



These are made with Xtranormal. I've signed up for it and played around with it a bit. It's a fun service to use. Unfortunately, I have not been able to think of anything nearly half so funny as the Zoe Winters series about self-publishing. Each episode stands alone, but they are all worth watching, and it doesn't hurt to watch them in order. If you haven't seen the rest of the series, check it out.
Of all the problems I worry about digital books, them being too clear and easy to read is not the most pressing issue for me. But I still found this interesting.

Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscientist at the College de France in Paris, has helped illuminate the neural anatomy of reading. It turns out that the literate brain contains two distinct pathways for making sense of words, which are activated in different contexts. One pathway is known as the ventral route, and it’s direct and efficient, accounting for the vast majority of our reading. The process goes like this: We see a group of letters, convert those letters into a word, and then directly grasp the word’s semantic meaning. According to Dehaene, this ventral pathway is turned on by “routinized, familiar passages” of prose, and relies on a bit of cortex known as visual word form area (VWFA). When you are a reading a straightforward sentence, or a paragraph full of tropes and cliches, you’re almost certainly relying on this ventral neural highway. As a result, the act of reading seems effortless and easy. We don’t have to think about the words on the page.

But the ventral route is not the only way to read. The second reading pathway – it’s known as the dorsal stream – is turned on whenever we’re forced to pay conscious attention to a sentence, perhaps because of an obscure word, or an awkward subclause, or bad handwriting. (In his experiments, Dehaene activates this pathway in a variety of ways, such as rotating the letters or filling the prose with errant punctuation.) Although scientists had previously assumed that the dorsal route ceased to be active once we became literate, Deheane’s research demonstrates that even fluent adults are still forced to occasionally make sense of texts. We’re suddenly conscious of the words on the page; the automatic act has lost its automaticity.

This suggests that the act of reading observes a gradient of awareness. Familiar sentences printed in Helvetica and rendered on lucid e-ink screens are read quickly and effortlessly. Meanwhile, unusual sentences with complex clauses and smudged ink tend to require more conscious effort, which leads to more activation in the dorsal pathway. All the extra work – the slight cognitive frisson of having to decipher the words – wakes us up.

Dark Symphony - Book Trailer of the Day



This is a pretty upscale book trailer for a paranormal romance, Dark Symphony by Christine Feehan. I have no idea how much it cost, but I'd guess, $5000 or more. It has elaborate video, of reasonable quality -- both the acting and the cinematography -- a voiceover, and a good soundtrack. The song was created just for the video.

It's done by the wonderful folk at Circle of Seven, or "cosproductions."

They even do wire work I think! Notice the floating at 1:37. On the other hand, the voice over for this should have been low and sexy, whereas this voice as a dead ringer for my gay camp counselor. (He was an actor/waiter, so it's possible! *waves*) When he said the line (1:47) "But a darkness followed them... something ... EVIL!" I snorted my drink. Oh, you were serious. Sorry.

It's four minutes long. Aiya! But there is an advantage to accumulating a lot of video book trailers (this is just one of many)... fans can do their own remixes:



Sweet.

Sep 11, 2010

9-11 Ruminations



On September 11, 2001, I was living overseas. I remember that a local newspaper carried the headline, the next day, "Superman Cries." I very much wanted to buy a copy, but I had other priorities at the time. My mom was scheduled to be on an airplane on that day, and I was trying to track her down, make sure she was safe (she was), and then I spent a lot of time on the phone or trying to get online to talk it over with her and other loved ones. By the time I tried to pick up a copy of the newspaper, they were sold out.

It's interesting that at a moment like that, people would turn to a fictional character to try to make sense of the tragedy. They could have used the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam, the more usual allegorical figures of nationhood, but instead featured the comicbook Superman, with a single tear.

* * *

Via, Mind Hacks, An emotional timeline of 9-11.

UPDATE: See my thoughts 2011 reflections on 9/11 here.

Sep 10, 2010

New Agent - Denise Little



There's a new agent who handles science fiction and fantasy, among other genres: Denise Little.

As you can see, she's already up to her ears in slush. She seems quite nice, and experienced in the publishing world.

I’m excited to be trying something new, after over thirty years in the book business. I’ve sat on every side of the table in this field, from bookseller to chain book buyer to editor to book packager, and now–I’m an agent.

I’ve got a head full of industry knowlege that’s uncommon for anyone in publishing, simply because I’ve worn so many hats in the the book field. Lots of agents have publishing experience, for example, but I don’t think too many other agents have first-hand inside knowlege of what goes on at the world’s largest bookseller, Barnes & Noble.

I think it gives me an edge in figuring out what will sell that few other agents have.

In addition, I’ve been an author myself. I know exactly what it feels like to submit, then wait for an answer with my heart in my throat for what feels like forever–and sometimes is.

I love working with new writers, but I’m very blunt. If I don’t like something, I’m likely to tell you straight out that I don’t. But if I love something–I’ll tell you that, too, and work my heart out for you.

I would love to jump on the dogpile -- who doesn't love the chance to write a query letter? -- but I'm going resist the urge. :)

Towers of Midnight - Book Trailer

Just to be completely unfair, I'm going to contrast the video in the book trailer of the previous post with this one.



See? That's how video and voice over should be, if you are going include them. Of course, the budget for this was probably larger than the budget for my wedding, because we are talking Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Tor could afford to make this look good. It's pretty hard to compete with the flagship title for a major publisher. Still, it gives all of us little guys something to aspire to.

Oh, and I have this theory that the sweet spot, length wise, for a trailer, is 70 seconds, or one minute, ten seconds. Notice the length on this one.

China Doll - Book Trailer of the Day



This video tackles two of the problems we've seen before: (1) trying to make video look professional, (2) combining what seems to be a documentary with the trailer for a novel. I feel the same way I do about Druids and Ghost Horse Hollow. Folks, I love that you tried, I really do. The acting and cinematography in this is surprisingly good. But it still just doesn't look professional. If you compare this video to the quality of a lot of book trailers out there, it stands head and shoulder above the rest, but if you compare it to standard Hollywood output, it comes up short. The problem is that the viewer subconsciously thinks if the video quality is not top notch, the writing won't be either. This is a fallacy, of course; writers are good at writing, not necessarily video production. But subconsciously the thought is there.

Finally, length. Very, very seldom does a book trailer need to be long. I would target 100 seconds as the upper limit. This book trailer could have ended at 49 seconds and packed a punch.

Sep 9, 2010

Cinders - Book Trailer of the Day



This trailer is by Michelle Davidson Argyle, my friend, for her recently published literary fantasy, Cinders. Read my interview in an earlier post, if you haven't had a chance yet. I believe she did it herself. It's simple, and low-budget, but the pace is good, the stock footage is well-integrated and doesn't feel like modern pictures just slapped into the trailer of a story sent in a medieval kingdom.

One thing she did which makes this trailer stand out is that you will notice several shots of the title character, in appropriate attire, in different positions. This helps give the whole thing a unified feel. How did she do that? Well, she designed the dress, had it sewn and then took the pictures of the model herself. Michelle is also a photographer.

One question I asked myself is whether video would have worked better. She had the model and the dress -- she could have done video easily. But I'm not sure it would have improved it. Unless you have a professional set-up, it's harder than most people think to make video quality look good. And bad video is worse than good still shots moving across the screen with music. There is enough sense of movement here with the twirly-swirls and the pans to create a sense of action. The teaser lines don't try to tell you the whole plot, they say just enough to give a feel for the book. And the trailer doesn't go over one minute.

I am hoping Michelle will talk about making the trailer on The Literary Lab as part of her series on self-publishing.

Sep 8, 2010

How Much Money Should You Spend to Self-Publish?

The comments in the Gizmodo article by FastPencil are quite lively. I'd like to respond to a few of the points brought up:

Banana Fish Today wrote:

Fastpencil is a scam. This is not real publishing. This is a combo vanity publisher/editing service. A real publisher approves only the best writing, then handles the publishing at no cost to the author. Fastpencil here charges $200 to put your book on Amazon. And the link at the bottom of this post is their full pricing page. Cover design starts at $400. Illustrations are $140-$240 apiece. Line editing costs $.029 a word. A novel is generally 80,000 to 140,000 words. So the top-end would run about $4000. And that's just to fix typos; if you'd like advice on your ideas, just triple that number. They also claim to offer marketing, but they give out quotes for that. I get the feeling the price is pretty steep.

Real publishers do all this for free. A publisher's business model is "sell books to readers." They filter the best writing from the slush and spend tons of money on editing, marketing, and distribution in the hopes they'll sell thousands of copies of the book. But Fastpencil's business model is "sell services to authors." They don't give a shit how bad your book is, they're not trying to sell it to people, they're trying to sell shit to you. The author, not the reader, is their customer.

...Publishers are a necessary filter. They spend millions of dollars to ensure the few books they do select can turn a profit. And vanity services aren't a way out of the slush pile and into the hands of readers either. The pile just moves from an intern's desk to Amazon's long tail. .... A handful might end up as success stories. The rest just end up with a book and no one to read it.

I disagree. FastPencil, like Amazon CreateSpace, is not a "scam." These services do not, like PublishAmerica, pretend to be traditional publishers. It is perfectly clear, to anyone with a brain, that they are selling services to the author and it is the author's job to sell to the reader. I feel sorry for naive writers taken in by vanity presses like PublishAmerica, which do prey on writers like carnivorous unicorns on sweet young virgins. But I don't feel sorry for anyone using CreateSpace or FastPencil, and I very glad these services exist now. These services do for books what a service like animoto or xtranormal does for videos. You pay them to help assemble the product.

It's also important to remember that traditional publishers do not provide their services to authors for "free." Hello, welcome to capitalism 101, look up the chapter "Free Lunch, Lack Of."

Facilitated self-publishing, whether POD or ebooks, is simply a different business model. The whole issue about gate-keepers is actually a red herring. Both models throw up hurdles to the aspiring author and neither guarantees success with readers. Here are the differences:

Facilitated self-publishing:

* Author is entrepreneur
* Author purchases service from other providers (editors, artists, publicists, distributors etc.) for a flat fee
* Author must invest capital up front

Traditional publishing:

* Author is a business partner with other service providers (the publishers)
* Author shares royalties from sales with partner/s
* Author does not need up front capital but shares profit dividends (royalties) with partner/s


The main difference is who pays whom when. Nothin' is free, however. Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice. And there's no question of doing away with gatekeepers. Money is always the gatekeeper. Writing is exactly like another other business. It requires time+work. Which =money. So you either need enough time to both write your book, print it and sell it door to door; or you, the writer, in order to spend most of your time writing, need to hire someone else to do the boring stuff.

In fact, most publishing ventures involve some mix of these options (up front vs dividends). Publishers usually pay artists a flat fee and editors a salary, while agents get a percentage of the royalties. Authors receive only 10-15% from the sales of their product because they pay the rest to their business partners. And just so you know, this is not a scam or a cheat or the exploitation of artists. The services the author is paying for really do eat up that much of the profits.

As far as I have been able to determine, high end service prices look like this (jump in if you know more):

Cover Art - $4000
Editing for 80,000 word novel - $4,000
Printing - not sure
Distribution - I have no effing clue
Publicity - Sky is the Limit, but see the list on my previous post for an idea; for a fancy book trailer, add another $4000; and you can also get a nice website for, oh, let's just say, $4000. I like that number.

So, self-publishers, at a minimum, $16,000 would be a good figure to invest in your book. And those of you who are trying to interest an agent or traditional publisher in your book, add a minimum of $4000 for your own advance, and realize you are trying to sell you book to someone for $20,000, so they can resell it for more. Someone has to believe your book is worth that much. No wonder it is hard to break into publishing.

I don't know about you, but I am reluctant to take out a business loan for $16,000.

Of course, you can fall back on doing it yourself or finding someone to do it who is not in the top-quality/high price range.

But suppose you had the money. Would that still not be equivalent to going to a traditional publisher?

Phwoar says:

Being able to select your own editors is dangerous. They're there to mould your work into something that's worth reading, that will sell and that will appeal, which is an inherently painful experience for an author. Whether they can take that criticism or not depends on their success, but judging by a large proportion of self-published authors I've met who have skins that are millimetres thick, I don't suspect there are.

There are high-end self-publishing facilitators who will do just about everything for you, even ghost-write the book, if you have the cash. Are these scams? Not if you understand you are making a business investment. The majority of new businesses fail. It's not surprising that the majority of self-published books fail as well. But is moving the slush pile to Amazon a bad thing? I really don't think so.

And here's the best part. Although there's no such thing as a free lunch, there is such a thing as a new opportunity. When things change quickly, it is an opportunity for smaller mammals to out-evolve the larger dinosaurs. Technology makes some middlemen unnecessary, and some services cheaper. The costs of books are dropping in all areas -- art, printing, distribution. Large publishing houses have a harder time than small houses, new companies and authorial entrepreneurs in taking advantage because of the inertia of size. However, the gap won't last forever. Soon, the big players will enter the arena, or, more likely, new big players (think how fast companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter have popped up out of nothing) will dominate the field. I'm thinking -- move fast, or get squashed.

About the only things that are not cheaper are writing and editing the book. I'm still waiting for the iBrain, that device that transcribes the stories directly from my mind, comes out. C'mon, get on it, tech wizards!

For this reason, when I publish my short story anthology, I am going to pay for editing, and do everything else myself, except distribution, which I will do through Amazon. I will pay them by giving them 30% of my profits on each book. Since I won't have invested $20,000 in the book, I won't expect it to make $20,000 either. It's possible that if I take my own time into account, as writer, cover artist and book trailer producer, that at the end of the day, I will make less, per hour, for my work than a factory worker in China. So in that sense, the book might be a "failure." But hey, at least it won't be a $16,000 failure; and it might even turn a small profit. I can be an entrepreneur, without risking my mortgage, and still spend most of my time doing the part of the business I love best, the writing.

* * *

Today's discussion at the Literary Lab is relevant. Michelle invested $1200 worth of capital in her business venture, an order of magnitude less than the high-end minimum, yet she created an extremely beautiful product. Furthermore, she has almost broken even after a mere six weeks. In my opinion, this is very good and I would be happy to do as well as she has.

* * *

As always, most of this blog post consists of OMAFs [Out Of My A$$ Facts] so feel free to jump in if you have actual information.

5 Reasons Bestselling Authors Are Going Direct

Gizmodo looks at pupblishing:

Just recently the Association of American Publishers reported that ebook sales have increased by 176 percent in 2009, while print-book sales continues to decrease. The list of benefits for ebook writers is endless, but one major upside is that the authors are taking home more of the book sale profits. Not to mention that the editing process is simplified and that ebooks are produced much, much quicker. It also helps that authors have more control during the entire book production process and access to a whole new audience.

The article is by Michael Ashley (a.k.a. "Mash") the founder of FastPencil, Inc. "which helps authors connect, write, publish and distribute books with just a few clicks."

For the other side of the argument ("but this isn't an argument!"), check out Behler Blog, both her entry and the discussion in the comments.