Lessons and Ideas from NINC

26 September 2016

PG is jammed up with work for clients and will share some thoughts and insights he picked up at the NINC conference when the smoke clears.

However, in the meantime, anyone else who attended the conference is welcome to share.

You can drop a comment into this blog post or, if you’ve written up your thoughts on your own blog, you can send PG a link and he’ll get it up here.

Why the Printed Book Must Survive

26 September 2016

From The Perfect Write:

It’s been my contention for several years that the large, stand-alone, brick-and-mortar bookstores, as well as those that lease space in major malls and strip-malls, will be forced out of existence.  And I’m of the opinion that as copying technology becomes more efficient (read “faster”), less expensive (an Espresso Book Machine approaches six figures), and more user friendly (I’m told this is not a slam dunk, as it takes a few tries to get it right when printing a “personal” work), book-printing kiosks will spring up everywhere.  My prediction is that the B&N/Starbucks model will be reversed, in that Starbucks will be the anchor for the book kiosks, and folks will have the current bestsellers printed before they can slurp down a latte.

I’m rehashing this because I want to make clear that I don’t predict the elimination of the small, independent bookstore; that wonderful institution in which I’m going to guess many who read my detritus routinely laze away an hour or two whenever possible.  In addition to offering used books at ridiculously low prices, it’s in these stores that I’ve been able to purchase long out of print books by Harry Crews and Upton Sinclair and discovered great finds in original covers by Herman Melville (BILLY BUDD) and Agatha Christie (THE SECRET ADVERSARY).

. . . .

The small, independent bookstore is a fixture I never want to see die.  This establishment with a bin of books out front with signs ranging form “fifty cents each” to “take one leave one.”  Upon entering, we’re always greeted by a grotesquely overfed cat or a hound of noble breed that wouldn’t move no matter the strength of what’s attempting to incommode the beast (should it be necessary to reach the bookshelf it’s plopped in front of).  Add to this the indescribable but unmistakable smell of book “mustiness” from pages being kept intact as if protected by this mysterious aroma, which I like refer to as the “scent of knowledge.”  I view the small, independent bookstore the same as patina on a ship’s brass bell or the aging of the frame surrounding a portrait of the matriarch of a founding family.

Link to the rest at The Perfect Write

There’s only one thing certain

26 September 2016

There’s only one thing certain. That is one’s own inadequacy.

Franz Kafka

How Our Internal Critics Enslave Us

26 September 2016

From Brain Pickings:

I have thought and continued to think a great deal about the relationship between critical thinking and cynicism — what is the tipping point past which critical thinking, that centerpiece of reason so vital to human progress and intellectual life, stops mobilizing our constructive impulses and topples over into the destructiveness of impotent complaint and embittered resignation, begetting cynicism?

. . . .

I found myself contemplating anew this fine but firm line between critical thinking and cynical complaint. To cross it is to exile ourselves from the land of active reason and enter a limbo of resigned inaction.

But cross it we do, perhaps nowhere more readily than in our capacity for merciless self-criticism. We tend to go far beyond the self-corrective lucidity necessary for improving our shortcomings, instead berating and belittling ourselves for our foibles with a special kind of masochism.

. . . .

[Author Adam] Phillips — who has written with beguiling nuance about such variousness of our psychic experience as the importance of “fertile solitude,” the value of missing out, and the rewards of being out of balance — examines how “our virulent, predatory self-criticism [has] become one of our greatest pleasures,” reaching across the space-time of culture to both revolt against and pay homage to Susan Sontag’s masterwork Against Interpretation. He writes:

In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism; in which the alternatives of celebration and criticism are seen as a determined narrowing of the repertoire; and in which we praise whatever we can.

Our masochistic impulse for self-criticism, he argues, arises from the fact that ambivalence is the basic condition of our lives. In a passage that builds on his memorable prior reflections on the paradox of why frustration is necessary for satisfaction in romance, Phillips considers Freud’s ideological legacy:

In Freud’s vision of things we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate, we love; wherever we love, we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can also frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us, we always believe that they can satisfy us. We criticize when we are frustrated — or when we are trying to describe our frustration, however obliquely — and praise when we are more satisfied, and vice versa. Ambivalence does not, in the Freudian story, mean mixed feelings, it means opposing feelings.


Love and hate — a too simple, or too familiar, vocabulary, and so never quite the right names for what we might want to say — are the common source, the elemental feelings with which we apprehend the world; and they are interdependent in the sense that you can’t have one without the other, and that they mutually inform each other. The way we hate people depends on the way we love them, and vice versa. And given that these contradictory feelings are our ‘common source’ they enter into everything we do. They are the medium in which we do everything. We are ambivalent, in Freud’s view, about anything and everything that matters to us; indeed, ambivalence is the way we recognize that someone or something has become significant to us… Where there is devotion there is always protest… where there is trust there is suspicion.


We may not be able to imagine a life in which we don’t spend a large amount of our time criticizing ourselves and others; but we should keep in mind the self-love that is always in play.

But we have become so indoctrinated in this conscience of self-criticism, both collectively and individually, that we’ve grown reflexively suspicious of that alternative possibility.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings

Thinking Fiction: Factors That Make a Novel Publishable

26 September 2016

From An American Editor:

A common belief among authors and editors is that any well-written novel will find a publisher. Although that is broadly true, there are other factors at play, such as luck, perseverance, subjectivity, and economics. These factors, in varying combinations, explain why novels get published at different quality levels of writing and storytelling — or not at all.

A saying I heard decades ago puts the equation simply: an author must get the right book onto the right person’s desk on the right day. Published novelists who have submitted a book to multiple parties can affirm the veracity of that statement. Some writers nail the combination on their first attempt; others labor for years before success; some never achieve success. Still, whether they get published depends on somebody’s accepting their book, based on personal or corporate criteria.

. . . .

The right-book/right-desk/right-day combination applies only to traditional publishing. Until recent times, that was an author’s sole path to publication (unless the author wanted to spend thousands of dollars with a vanity press, which carried a stigma most writers didn’t want to bear, even if they could afford it). Authors had to satisfy the gatekeepers of the publishing industry — agents and acquisition editors — who always had to consider a novel’s commercial potential, as well as the author’s potential for long-term output. Some of the larger publishing houses could afford to take risks on unknown or radically different authors, and indeed that’s how many now-household-name, award-winning writers got their break. For the most part, though, a novel’s publishability depended on whether the house thought it could sell the book to enough readers to justify the cost of production and distribution, and generate enough profit to pay the writer and refill the publisher’s coffers.

The same conditions apply today, but novelists now have publishing options that lie between the opposite poles of traditional and vanity publishing: self-publishing. Self-publishing is considered by some to be vanity publishing under a different name, but with the electronic era have come new outlets for distribution, new tools giving authors desktop production and control, and myriad author-service vendors to help at different skill levels. The combination has created a third arena, one that places publishability determination into authors’ hands. The vanity stigma is fading fast as well-known authors reject suffocating corporate contracts and release new novels or reissue their backlists through self-publishing alternatives. A small but growing cadre of new authors is building their names and making great incomes from bypassing the old system. As a result, what makes a novel publishable has changed with the times.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is reader desire for a good story. Many authors have great story ideas, but their narrative technique is weak or sloppy. That’s where hands-on editors (copyeditors, line editors, developmental editors) enter the publishing process. But it’s rare for those editors to have decision-making authority regarding what novels get accepted for publication.

. . . .

The larger the publishing company, the farther away from decision making a hands-on editor sits. Self-employed editors are farthest from that decision, especially if they work with self-publishing authors, who alone decide what to do with their edited books. For hands-on editors, it’s a built-in job frustration to diligently contribute to a novel’s publishability while the outcome is beyond their control. So to be happy in their work, they need to know and manage their personal tolerance for quality deviations, and understand their role in the publishing process. Staff hands-on editors must be in tune with their employer’s overarching policy and criteria so they can either edit what’s handed to them or pass it on with instructions to freelance editors. The self-employed hands-on editor, often the editor a book is being passed to, must establish her own parameters so she can decide what projects to accept and how to handle them. Hands-on editors must always bear in mind that once a manuscript leaves their desks, someone else decides whether the book merits publishing.

Link to the rest at An American Editor

10 things I learned rewriting a 20-year old manuscript

26 September 2016

From author Elizabeth Andre via Women and Words:

More than 20 years ago, I wrote a 65,000 word novel that I was convinced would make me the sweet young darling of literary circles. It didn’t happen. That manuscript was rejected by every English language publisher in the world. The manuscript was then lost to time until I reconnected with an old friend on Facebook. He revealed that he had the manuscript and was willing to give me a copy. I decided to rewrite it, andTested: Sex, love, and friendship in the shadow of HIV will be published October 7.

I learned a several valuable lessons in the rewriting process:

1: If a detail doesn’t move the plot or develop a character, leave it out, no matter how beautiful and poignant it is.

My 65,000 word manuscript was filled with this most common of rookie writing mistakes. Tested is a story of four 20-something friends in 1993 who spend the day getting an HIV test while contemplating the various risks they have taken that may affect the result. As well written as various sections were, nobody cares about my endless descriptions of high school homophobic bullying, the Chicago public transit system, Ethiopian restaurants or newspaper vendors. I had to kill my darlings, as much as it pained me, but I turned my 65,000 word flabby manuscript into a 23,000 word lean piece of fiction that says what it needs to and does it well.

. . . .

5: My work still mattered even though it wasn’t published.

I’m from a family of writers and grew up with the idea that you write something and then you publish it. If you don’t publish it, what’s the point? My old friend kept that manuscript all these years because a character was based on him. That manuscript meant something to him, and that is enough.

6: It’s a good thing it wasn’t published.

Really, it’s a much better book now. If it had been published in 1993, I would probably be apologizing for it today.

Link to the rest at Women and Words

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

St. Pete Beach

26 September 2016

Here are a couple of photos from St. Pete Beach.

In PG’s experience, sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico can be absolutely stunning.

While PG was in Florida for the NINC conference, he didn’t see any really stunning sunsets, but even an average Gulf sunset is spectacular. Click for a ginormous version.

And a more heavily-processed sunset photo and pic of the pool



On the Road

25 September 2016

PG is traveling back from the NINC conference today, so posts will be a bit sporadic.

While PG has attended countless legal and tech conferences, this is his first major conference for authors.

He thinks it was an excellent conference – informative and well-organized (despite the fact that they asked him to speak).

PG was impressed by the sophistication with which many of the authors who attended are using social media, advertising and the various well-known and newly-developed publishing platforms. He’ll be drawing on these insights as he comments on the rapidly-changing art and craft of successful indie publishing.

BookTango is closing their self-publishing business

24 September 2016

From GoodEreader:

Book Tango is a self-publishing company that has been around since 2012. The company simply cannot compete anymore against the Kindle Direct Publishing juggernaut and more direct competition from Book Baby, LULU or Smashwords. Book Tango will be shuttering their doors on September 30th and will no longer be accepting submissions.

When Book Tango first launched in 2012 the company was owned by Author Solutions. This meant that most of the self-publishing options had a myriad of different price points. Authors could pay for editing, cover art design, trademarks, social media consulting, book trailers or even paid reviews from companies like Kirkus.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

Progress is impossible

24 September 2016

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

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