Down the Research Rabbit Hole

26 February 2017

From author Robin Storey:

Most novels require some sort of research. If you’re writing a novel set in a different historical period, obviously you need to do a lot of research. But regardless of what genre of novel you’re writing, things come up that you need to investigate (with perhaps the exception of fantasy, because you can make everything up).

. . . .

For example, your protagonist may be making a soufflé, so you need to find out how to make one so it sounds authentic, or you’ve decided that one of your characters will be a snake milker, and as you know very little about how to milk snakes (yes, there is such a profession) you google ‘snake milking.’

From there, you find an interesting article on the history of snake milking and the story of Sam the Snake Milker who’s been bitten thousands of times while milking snakes and has the scars to prove it. This then leads to an article about which drugs are made from snake venom, which then directs you to a story about a farmer who was rushed to hospital by helicopter after being bitten by a snake, and was saved in the nick of time by an injection of anti-venom.

All very fascinating and will no doubt make you a hit at your next dinner party, but you probably only need a quarter of that information to write your character convincingly. We writers call it going down the research rabbit-hole.

Link to the rest at Robin Storey

Here’s a link to Robin Storey’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

In fiction

26 February 2017

In fiction, when you paint yourself into a corner, you can write a pair of suction cups onto the bottoms of your shoes and walk up the wall and out the skylight and see the sun breaking through the clouds. In nonfiction, you don’t have that luxury.

Tom Robbins

Bite Me on the Barcode: More on Pricing and POD for the Aussie Author

26 February 2017

From Annette Hamilton’s Writing Zone:

I published my children’s book The Priceless Princess with Kindle and Createspace just a couple of months ago. I had already purchased my own ISBNs which I used correctly, one on each version. Book came out, very cute, set a low price for the print version thinking of my Australian readers who would have to pay the US dollar price. Dumb me only then realised that Amazon in Australia does not sell any print versions. Australian readers would have to go to the US site, purchase in US$ and then pay a fortune to have the book posted to Australia. Or buy copies from my website. So I order a bunch of copies from Createspace and lo! I am paying  dollars per copy just to have them posted to me in Australia by the only postage option available through Createspace.

Don’t want to do that again, so I would have to do what everybody recommended and get the print version onto Ingram Spark, who do print in Australia. I download their nifty Cover Generator and it asks do I want to set a price in the barcode. What? So I go back to my Createspace version and notice for the first time that there is a code adjacent to the ISBN, and it is Code 90000. For a minute or three I am diverted by the idea that this could be a great title for a thriller, although Code 9000 would be better. But back to matters at hand! This code turns out to mean that no price has been set. Should I set a price? What price should it be – the same as the Createspace one on the Amazon site? But that is in US$ and obviously for people who are in the US.  I need these books asap, so to save time I decide to use the Amazon price in the barcode so I send the  Cover Generator to my illustrator who is putting the files together. But I am uneasy about it, and go into research mode. Should I have put the price in the barcode, or not?

Of course there is no clear answer. I email Ingram Spark, they email back almost immediately (great service by the way) to recommend that no price be put in the barcode because if you ever change your price then you have to reprint the cover and upload the new one, decommissioning the previous one. But other sources say bookshops won’t stock books that don’t have prices in the barcode. Codes begin with a number indicating where the book is published and priced. 5 is for the US. 3 is for Australia. If for some reason a store outside Australia wants to stock your book it won’t be able to sell it if the code starts with 3 because its stock system won’t be able to read it.

Some say it is another covert way to tell whether or not a book comes from a “real” publisher as against one of those pretend publishers who are really just some idiot typing something up in Word and using wicked Amazon to hide behind, people like me.

Link to the rest at Annette Hamilton’s Writing Zone

Here’s a link to Annette Hamilton’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Self-publishing, in an instant

26 February 2017

From The Hindu:

How visitors to a Kerala book fair walked out with their writing in a publication
‘Publish yourself’ recently assumed a different meaning, when visitors to a street book fair in Thiruvananthapuram turned contributors, their impromptu writings were turned into books as the event concluded.

Ninety-year-old Balakrishna Kurup never expected his jottings to become part of the book, which opened with a print run of 1,000 copies.

He found himself in the company of 80 others, most of them casual visitors, including school students and amateur writers. The group got published in Theruvu (‘Street’) which was conceived, written, designed, published and released on Manaveeyam Street, the cultural corridor of Kerala’s capital and a regular venue for folk art and street plays.

The entire publication happened over the course of four days, during the Street Book Fair organised by the city Corporation.

At one end, after all the book stalls, was a small stall with just a book and a pen on a table, and a laptop on another. Visitors were invited to write down their contributions — stories, poems, drawings or articles. The idea was to create a book from the street. The only condition was that the work should be spontaneous.

. . . .

As the visitors penned their thoughts, standing on the street, youth quickly worked on the layouts and designs for each page. The editing work was also taken up. The cover image by artist Sajitha Sankar is also street-inspired.

Link to the rest at The Hindu and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

So you want to write a nonfiction book

26 February 2017

From The Washington Post:

One of the interesting things about specialization is how we often take for granted the things we do well. I am insanely impressed by the Europeans I encounter who can speak at least five languages and are likely adding a sixth, but they usually just shrug their shoulders and think it’s no big deal. Truck drivers who can back up a 16-wheeler into a loading dock with little margin for error? That looks more complicated than brain surgery, but to them it’s no big whoop.

I’m just a small-town political scientist, so I don’t think of myself as possessing any special skills. But from recent conversations, I’ve learned that there is one thing that seems impressive to other folks but is nothing extraordinary to me: I write nonfiction books. My sixth book will be out in less than two months, and I’m spending a lot of this month pondering how to write my seventh book. People keep publishing them, so I guess my books aren’t awful.

. . . .

2) Know your audience. Another thing that you need to put in your book prospectus is your targeted audience. Who do you want to read your book? Why, everyone, of course, and they should each buy 10 copies just to be safe. The better question to ask is: Who do you think needs to read your book? Business leaders? College students? Stay-at-home parents? Retirees? Make sure you have the answer to this question in your head — and then, when you’re crafting the prose, imagine that reader.

. . . .

5) When you get on a good writing jag, tune everything else out. There are days of writing a book when you can concentrate all you want and you will only produce a few hundred words. But then there are the days when you are in the zone, when all you are really doing is transcribing the elegant turns of phrase from your brain to the computer. It’s like a baseball pitcher who finally tweaks his throwing mechanics and goes on a streak.

. . . .

If you’re writing thousands of words a day, then don’t check your phone, don’t clean up your office, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time on food, and sleep only when you must.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Depth of Growth is More Important than Rate of Growth

25 February 2017

From Fine Art Views:

Attracting one new deeply committed fan is worth far, far more than attracting 100 mildly interested visitors to your website.

Consider what Jonathan Mead wrote in this blog post:

I’ve learned that there’s no guarantee that growth will make a difference in your business. You can have more people on your list, and no one actually buying. You can have more traffic, and only crickets in your comments section. There’s a big difference between growth that’s meaningful and growth that’s hollow. The difference is depth….People that buy everything you create…They comment on every post. They tell everyone they can about what you do. – From: The Secret to Attracting 1,000 True Fans 

The problem is, if you do what most articles tell you to do, you’re mostly doing the wrong things or, at best, you’re simply doing what everyone else is doing:  You’re optimizing for hundreds of mildly interested people instead of a few deeply committed people.

Here are the type of articles I generally see that pass as “art marketing advice” these days:

– “Facebook for artists: 20 ways to get more fans”

– “How to use Pinterest to Promote your art”

–  “Instagram for Artists – 5 Ways to Promote and Sell Art on Instagram”

– “Use pop-up forms to increase engagement with your art email newsletter list”

– “SEO for Artists: 7 Website Tips to Help you Rank Higher”

These articles . . . and thousands like them . . . all focus on quantity over quality.

Link to the rest at Fine Art Views and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Between stimulus and response

25 February 2017

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl

The Hardest Thing About Writing a Book

25 February 2017

From Medium:

All my life I wanted to write a book. At first I wrote four books that agents and publishers all rejected.

I thought the hard part was getting a book accepted. Having someone like me.

But this wasn’t the hard part at all. Anyone who is persistent will get that part done.

These were the hard parts. So hard it’s probably cost me years of my life and definitely much happiness.

But I survived. And you can also. Awareness is the key.


Writing is boring. It’s unnatural. It’s basically sitting and staring at a scream and typing into a keyboard.

Three activities that our ancient ancestors for hundreds of thousands of years never did. We did not evolve in order to write books.

. . . .


Because of the above, I always had to create an environment of zero distractions.

For my very first book, my family went to stay with my in-laws and I spent two weeks locked in my house and did nothing but write.

I turned off Internet, no TV, nothing. Just wrote. This was very hard. I’m too used to being distracted. It’s natural to be distracted.

Link to the rest at Medium

Remembering Nüshu, the 19th-Century Chinese Script Only Women Could Write

25 February 2017

From Atlas Obscura:

In 1988, Yi Nianhua, a woman in her 80s, spent many evenings scribbling elegant characters at a table in her kitchen in a small rice-farming village in Shangjiangxu, China. With only a blunt writing brush, the elongated script came out fat and blotchy on the newsprint she used for paper. But Cathy Silber, a professor at Skidmore College in New York, worked alongside Yi in her kitchen, diligently deciphering and studying the written language.

“Out of the thousands of scripts that are gender-specific to men, here we have one that we know is gender-specific to women,” says Silber, who has been researching Nüshu since 1985. Yi was one of the last remaining writers of Nüshu, a fading script that only women knew how to write and read.

Stemming from the southwestern Hunan Province county of Jiangyong, a small group of women in the 19th and 20th centuries practiced this special script that no man could read or write. The writing system allowed these women to keep autobiographies, write poetry and stories, and communicate with “sworn sisters,” bonds between women who were not biologically related. The tradition of Nüshu is slowly vanishing, but at one time gave the women of Shanjiangxu freedom to express themselves.

. . . .

 As of 2012, there were approximately 500 known texts written in Nüshu, ranging from four-line poems to long autobiographical narratives. Today, the texts that have survived give researchers such as Silber the opportunity to peer into the daily lives of Chinese women throughout this period of history.

. . . .

The first definite record of Nüshu dates to 1931, but Silber and most academics reason women likely began writing it in the early years of the 19th century. The script is syllabic, each sign standing for a distinct unit of sound in the local dialect. More than 1,000 signs have been counted thus far, according to Idema.

“It’s more efficient than Chinese because it’s phonetic,” says Silber. “A single symbol would represent every syllable with the same sound. So you get more bang for your buck with each character.”

Additionally, Nüshu’s elegant, elongated lines contrast the stocky, squat blocks of Chinese characters. The visual beauty of Nüshu is distinguished by fine wisps and thin strokes, flanked by diamond shapes and precise dots. Some people even called it ‘mosquito writing’ because the characters looked like they were drawn by the legs of an insect, says Silber.

Link to the rest at Atlas Obscura

Elko’s only bookstore to close Saturday

25 February 2017

From the Elko (Nevada) Daily Free Press:

Loyal customers to the Bookstore are making one more trip to find a book before the store closes Saturday after 26 years in business.

The going-out-of-business sale this week includes a 35 percent discount on new books, and all used books at $1 for paperbacks and $2 for hardbacks, along with store fixtures and shelves also priced to sell.

Bought by Sandy Wilson in 1991, the Bookstore located in the Rancho Plaza sold new and used books and developed longtime relationships with customers who also took part in the used book exchange.

Tammi Santistevan bought the store from her mother in 2006, but recent trends in brick-and-mortar retail and reading habits are causing her to close the store.

“We cannot compete with Amazon and the Internet,” said Santistevan, who noted that people were coming in to take pictures of books to order a cheaper copy online.

. . . .

“They’re just not reading physical books as much,” Santistevan said of the younger generation of readers.

“Our elderly customers are really upset,” she said. “They came in all the time and traded used books; the younger generation not so much. They read on their phones and tablets.”

Link to the rest at Elko Daily Free Press and thanks to Dave for the tip.

From his memories of the last time he drove through Elko, PG suspects, after the Bookstore closes, the nearest physical bookstore is going to over 200 miles away.

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