Monthly Archives: February 2011

Why do people fail to make a living as writers?

9 February 2011
Comments Off on Why do people fail to make a living as writers?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is in the process of performing a great service for writers, beginning and experienced.  In a series of articles (I think they’re too comprehensive to be called blog posts), she lays out her view of the current publishing world, including major upheavals, all with a goal of educating writers on the business side of the industry with which they’ve chosen to involve themselves.

A lot of authors say they just want to write, but that’s not usually what they mean.  You can write and write very well without being published.  What most authors mean by that statement is they just want to write and have their writing be published and have enough money to be able to keep on writing.  Absent a large trust fund or a partner providing financial support, this means earning money from writing.  If you want to earn money from writing, you are an entrepreneur as well as an artist and understanding the business you are in, if not a necessity, is a very good idea.

Excerpts from Changing Times – Part Seven:

People fail to make a living in the arts for two main reasons:

1.  They don’t try to make a living. They get another profession and spend their time at that profession, treating their art as a hobby.  The folks who eventually make a living as artists (whether that’s as a writer, musician, filmmaker or painter) get jobs that enable them to put food on the table while they pursue their passion.  Often those jobs are part-time. Certainly those jobs are the kind that you do not take home with you—no papers to grade, no post-shift phone calls or e-mails, and no 60+ hour weeks.  These jobs are not professions. These artists understand that their profession—even if they’re not currently being paid for it—is their art; their day job is what makes sure they have a roof over their heads.

2. They fail at the business side of their profession.  Succeeding as an artist is all about knowing how to thrive in a business environment—at least in capitalistic societies.  Yes, those societies often have art grant programs, and honestly, the artists who manage to get grants repeatedly—enough so that they never need “real” jobs—are just pursuing a different business model than the commercial model I discuss in my blogs.  There is a system to the noncommercial side of the art world, one that has its own rules and regulations, and some artists learn how to operate effectively in that world.

But that’s not my world.  My world is commercial, and that’s what I’m dealing with here. Again, I’m using “artist” here to refer to someone whose profession is in the arts, because this holds not just for the writer, but for the dramatic, musical, and visual artists as well.

. . . .

Why aren’t more successful writers giving out public information?  First, some don’t have the teaching gene.  Second, many of these writers don’t have the time.  Third, a few of them don’t understand how the industry works any more than the aspiring writer does.  But the real reason is this one, the fourth reason:

Successful writers get attacked a lot from within our own profession for our success.  We are repeatedly told that we “don’t understand the problems of new writers.”  We “know the secret.” We’re “unbelievably lucky” We’re “hacks.” We have “no respect for art.”  We’ve “sold out.”

. . . .

When Scott Turow said on the Charlie Rose television show that the coming e-book revolution will harm writers, Turow is absolutely right—for the kind of writer that he is. When J.A. Konrath says on his blog that the e-book revolution will be the best thing that has happened to writers, he’s exactly right—for the kind of writer that he is.

Link to the rest at The Business Rusch: Writers-The Overview (Changing Times Part Seven)

The Death of the Slush Pile

8 February 2011
Comments Off on The Death of the Slush Pile

This January 22, 2010, article in the Wall Street Journal caused a great many online discussions and disputes among agents, publishers and publishing observers.  Oh, and Stephenie Meyer?  She was a mistake.


In 1991, a book editor at Random House pulled from the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts a novel about a murder that roils a Baltimore suburb. Written by a first-time author and mother named Mary Cahill, “Carpool” was published to fanfare. Ms. Cahill was interviewed on the “Today” show. “Carpool” was a best seller.

That was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material.

. . . .

Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won’t read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

. . . .

As writers try to find an agent—a feat harder than ever to accomplish in the wake of agency consolidations and layoffs—the slush pile has been transferred from the floor of the editor’s office to the attaché cases of representatives who can broker introductions to publishing, TV and film executives. The result is a shift in taste-making power onto such agents, managers and attorneys. Theirs are now often the first eyes to make a call on what material will land on bookshelves, television sets and movie screen.

Still, discoveries do happen at agencies, including the biggest publishing franchise since “Harry Potter”—even though it basically took a mistake to come together. In 2003, an unknown writer named Stephenie Meyer sent a letter to the Writers House agency asking if someone might be interested in reading a 130,000-word manuscript about teenage vampires. The letter should have been thrown out: an assistant whose job, in part, was to weed through the more than 100 such letters each month, didn’t realize that agents mostly expected young adult fiction to weigh in at 40,000 to 60,000 words. She contacted Ms. Meyer and ultimately asked that she send her manuscript.

. . . .

Book publishers say it is now too expensive to pay employees to read slush that rarely is worthy of publication. At Simon & Schuster, an automated telephone greeting instructs aspiring writers: “Simon & Schuster requires submissions to come to us via a literary agent due to the large volume of submissions we receive each day. Agents are listed in ‘Literary Marketplace,’ a reference work published by R.R. Bowker that can be found in most libraries.” Company spokesman Adam Rothberg says the death of the publisher’s slush pile accelerated after the terror attacks of 9/11 by fear of anthrax in the mail room.

A primary aim of the slush pile used to be to discover unpublished voices. But today, writing talent isn’t necessarily enough. It helps to have a big-media affiliation, or be effective on TV. “We are being more selective in taking on clients because the publishers are demanding much more from the authors than ever before,” says Laurence J. Kirshbaum, former CEO of Time Warner Book Group and now an agent. “From a publisher’s standpoint, the marketing considerations, especially on non-fiction, now often outweigh the editorial ones.”

Link to The Wall Street Journal (Note: This link may expire at some future time)

How To Deal With Bad Reviews On Amazon

7 February 2011
Comments Off on How To Deal With Bad Reviews On Amazon

In keeping with today’s theme of bad reviews (I didn’t plan the day that way.  It’s either serendipity or cosmic alignment.  You decide.)  Starting over, in keeping with today’s theme of bad reviews, a war story about how one self-pubbed author dealt with a bad Amazon review.


If you do get a bad review, it’s worth taking a good look at it. If Amazon feels that a review is ‘spiteful or malicious’ they will remove it! All you have to do is to contact Customer Services and explain why you think the review is unfair. Obviously you can’t just ask for a review to be removed simply because a reader didn’t enjoy the book. But there’s no doubt that there are some people who go around posting malicious one-star reviews! If I do get a one-star review I always look to see what else they have reviewed, and more often than not I find that my book is the only one.

Link to How to Make a Million Dollars Writing eBooks (or How I Learned to Love The Kindle)

On Bad Reviews

7 February 2011
Comments Off on On Bad Reviews

This writer makes an interesting point about some reviewers being much more equal than others on Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages.  This raises an interesting possibility that an author might prefer to have no review at all from Publishers Weekly rather than a poor one.


Publishers Weekly doesn’t like my work very much. Before you roll your eyes and/or get all excited at the prospect of a classic “I can’t believe I got a bad review!” hypersensitive-author meltdown, let me hasten to add that I have absolutely no interest in refuting anything they’ve ever written about my books. I mean, I believe in my work, and “reads like a barely-dressed-up B movie screenplay” does strike me as being a bit on the harsh side, but I’m hardly an objective party here. (Also, I kind of like B-movie screenplays.) There’s no such thing as a book that every reader will like.

. . . .

A negative review is never pleasant, but PW reviews have a particularly heart-stopping quality for purely financial reasons: there’s a moment when it dawns on you, as you’re reading all about how your book’s clumsy, lukewarm, bland, awkwardly constructed, and stocked with characters who resemble cardboard cutouts, that this thing’s going to appear on your Amazon, Powells, and Barnes & Noble pages. Which is, practically speaking, frankly kind of a drag when you’re trying to move units.

Link to The Millions

The 4 Most Common Mistakes Fiction Editors See

6 February 2011
Comments Off on The 4 Most Common Mistakes Fiction Editors See


1. Unfocused structure

This is the biggest reason manuscripts get rejected. You’re telling a wonderful, powerful, gripping, complex story… but you’re the only person who actually knows that. Everyone else sees a long, rambling, uneven tale of various events happening to various characters. Why? What makes these things happen? And, most important to your reader, why are you telling us this?

Every novel needs a focus. What’s your point? What is it that you want the reader to know? That focus is your Climax, the one part your story simply could not do without. “I died of romanticism.” “I almost got et by a whale.” “I pretty nearly wrecked my life being a selfish grinch.”

At the same time, every novel needs a really good reason for the reader to care. That’s your Hook. The reader may have picked your book up for its snazzy cover, but you desperately need them not to put it down.

And every novel needs a series of intriguing, hair-raising, addictive events carrying the reader from the Hook to the Climax. You could just tell us the Climax. “The butler did it.” But long fiction is all about the wonderful, rollicking adventure building upon why that matters.

The hardest thing for aspiring writers to believe is that all this is holographic: what’s essential for the novel is also essential for the chapter, episode, even scene. Every single one of them needs a Climax, Hook, and some type of events leading from one to the other.

Read that again. Every single one.

Link to WordPlay

The Dan Brown Syndrome: How to Untangle a Plot

6 February 2011
Comments Off on The Dan Brown Syndrome: How to Untangle a Plot


Q: An agent said my novel was “dense, over-plotted and difficult to follow.” I’m not sure what to do.

A: You might have too much action and not enough content. If that’s the problem, you need to punctuate any rapid fire twists and turns with dialogue, description, and the kind of pacing that’s easier to understand and more meaningful.

Link to The Book Deal

How Writing Careers are like Snowflakes

5 February 2011
Comments Off on How Writing Careers are like Snowflakes

Shrinking Violet Promotions has one of the most unique voices in the publishing blogosphere and I love their tagline: Marketing for Introverts.

Excerpt:  The fear of failure nips at our heels no matter what stage of our career we’re in. It is so, so easy to sit from the outside looking in and be certain–absolutely certain–that Author A is a raging success and has it all and their books are selling like hotcakes. But the truth is rarely that simple. The really hilarious thing is I’ve had people say that of me, and I can never hold back a snort of wild disbelief.

. . . .

So as introverts, we need to really pay attention to the fact that there are SO MANY different paths to success. We need to question the pressure we’re feeling to be online and involved in social media and understand who is pressuring us and why. If it is just because other people are doing it and think you should do it, too, or it’s because Online Guru #43 says you should, then ppfffft. Ignore that. If it’s because your publisher is pressuring you, well that’s a little different. Perhaps a heart to heart conversation with your editor is in order so you can understand precisely what they are hoping your social media presence to achieve, then you can see if there is another way to achieve that.

Link: Shrinking Violet Promotions

Publishing An E-Book: A Checklist

5 February 2011
Comments Off on Publishing An E-Book: A Checklist

A step-by-step description of how to self-publish your own ebook.  I might do a couple of things slightly differently, but I tend to be a little more techy than some people.  This list will work and doesn’t require anything more technical than learning how to save a Word document as an RTF file.

Excerpt:  Get your manuscript reviewed by a professional. Depending on where you are with it, you might want to get your book overhauled – a full, structural edit – or just proofread (a copyedit). This is the one place where you’ll have to spend money. And it’s cliché o’clock at Catherine, Caffeinated, because I’m going to say that you have to spend money to make money. So spend it here.

At the very least, have a few trusted individuals read over it to check for errors. People tend to be more angry about typos when they’ve paid $2.99 for the privilege of finding them.

Link to Catherine, Caffeinated

« Previous PageNext Page »