Monthly Archives: August 2011

How to Thicken a Plot

28 August 2011

Passive Guy has neglected publishing pro and acquisitions editor Alan Rinzler for too long.

Alan provides some valuable tips for keeping your readers awake:

Here’s a situation that editors encounter frequently: manuscripts with a large cast of potentially interesting characters, sparkling dialogue, and the glimmer of ideas churning just beneath the surface.

But after a little while the scenes become repetitious, the characters and their machinations turn formulaic — and reading becomes a chore.

. . . .

If your manuscript has been receiving rejections accompanied by vacant stares and long yawns, check out these red flags and solutions.

Remember:  Readers need plot!  Or they doze off.

. . . .

Red flag #1: No compelling leading character

You need characters with whom the reader can get involved. Don’t give readers only big losers or unattractive predators. They need to feel either joy or empathic sorrow at what happens to the person they carry around in their head for days.

Take care not to introduce too many characters. Diluting the reader’s focus of engagement is one of the biggest problems I see in early drafts. Pick a couple of core characters to expand and reduce the rest to essential supporting roles.

. . . .

Red flag #3: No change

The main characters should develop dramatically for better or worse, winding up in quite a different situation than they were at the beginning regarding their identities, relationship, thoughts and feelings. This substantial transformation is what the story is about. It’s the promise, the takeaway for your reader.

Be ready to add substantial new scenes that introduce difficult challenges that alter the characters’ lives, and provoke their evolution.

Link to the rest at The Book Deal

If Anybody Discovers Exactly What the Universe Is For

28 August 2011

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Douglas Adams

How to Misunderstand a Contract

28 August 2011

Passive Guy was going to allow a wildly misleading blog post about CreateSpace float by, but he’s seen various authors repeat some of the erroneous information contained therein, so he’ll talk about a few of many problems.

The post is by Kristin Eckstein, former (and maybe current) vanity publisher and “Ultimate Book Coach.” PG could be wrong about the current vanity publisher thing (Kristin’s website is less than a model of clarity), but when he clicked around, all the ways Kristin talked about helping authors get their books published were closely associated with logos for Mastercard and Visa so he concluded she’s looking for upfront money in the tradition of vanity publishing.

As you might expect, Kristin doesn’t look kindly on CreateSpace, which does at least some of what Kristin does. Instead of receiving checks from authors, CreateSpace sends checks to authors. This is a shocking change from vanity publishing.

What drew PG’s particular interest is Kristin’s interpretations, complete with lots of bold type, of the CreateSpace contract.

The headline? The Ultimate Book Coach is no lawyer and does not do a convincing job of portraying one on her blog.

Excerpts:

Red Flag #2:
The first line of “4.2 Pricing; Legal Title” reads, “We or our affiliate will be the seller of record for each physical product of your Title” which means you are NOT the publisher of record, even if you supply your own ISBN.This also means they take your distribution rights, and if you sell your book to a traditional publisher, they will have to fight CreateSpace for the distribution rights, which traditional publishers are usually not willing to do. By using CreateSpace, you essentially give up your rights to be traditionally published in the future. CreateSpace has touted itself as an “independent publishing” solution, but taking control of your distribution rights and slapping their name on your book is everything but independent.

Let’s see, “seller of record”, you mean, like Barnes & Noble? A seller of record is not a publisher of record.

The statement that CreateSpace will be the publisher of record if you supply your own ISBN is simply, totally inaccurate. All you have to do is check a CreateSpace book on Amazon, like the one recently published by Mrs. PG, to see who shows up as the publisher. (Hint: Whoever bought the ISBN from Bowker.)

“Publisher of record” means nothing with respect to an author’s rights to a book. If you choose a free ISBN from CreateSpace, you can always publish a new edition and use your own ISBN or one provided by another publisher in the future. CreateSpace clearly lays out your ISBN options with costs and conditions.

they take your distribution rights, and if you sell your book to a traditional publisher, they will have to fight CreateSpace for the distribution rights

You grant Createspace non-exclusive rights to publish, distribute and sell your book (Paragraph 6.1 of the Createspace Services Agreement) and you can terminate your contract with CreateSpace at any time (Paragraph 10).

By using CreateSpace, you essentially give up your rights to be traditionally published in the future.

Nuts. See your termination rights under Paragraph 10. See the indie authors who have used CreateSpace in the past signing up with traditional publishers. Flat wrong.

Red Flag #7:
Nowhere in the entire contract do they say the exact percentage in “royalties” you will be paid. They do link to their royalty schedule, but unless it is written in the actual contract you sign, they are free to change that royalty whenever they feel like it. This means you have no control over the amount you will be getting paid.

How much royalty will you be paid? Because you are the publisher (see earlier in this post) and not a helpless author under a long-term contract to a publisher, you decide on how to price your book and how much money you want to make from each sale. With detailed royalty calculators, you can find out exactly what your royalty will be and if you’re dissatisfied, you can either change your price or terminate your contract. At the bottom of this page you will find a royalty calculator.

The twaddle about the “unless it is written in the actual contract you sign” is more idiocy.

In the first place, you don’t sign. It’s a unilateral contract accepted via click.

In the second place, anything referenced in the Services Agreement, like the Price List, is part of the contract between an author and CreateSpace.

If you want your book printed for a fixed price, go to a printer, write a big check and wait for cartons of books to arrive. Whether you sell them or not is your problem. The printer doesn’t care and neither does the bookstore. If you order more books, the printer will give you a new price. It may be more or less than the old price because the printer is free to change its prices, just like CreateSpace is.

CreateSpace only prints your book after someone has purchased it. CreateSpace can change its prices and you can change your prices. If you don’t like CreateSpace’s prices, you can always terminate your agreement and take your business somewhere else. You won’t, however, have a garage full of unsold CreateSpace books.

PG was tempted to continue his discussion because Kristin’s errors are many and varied, but he’s tired of shooting fish in a barrel. At least publishing and agency contracts provide a little sport.

With many regrets, in the interest of fairness, he will link to the rest at The Ultimate Book Coach

Under Development – A Computer Program That Automatically Writes Fiction

28 August 2011

OK, there is a little Twitterbait in the blog title, but this is interesting stuff.

Passive Guy recently blogged about Philip M. Parker, professor of management science at Insead, who has over 600,000 books up on Amazon, written with substantial assistance from sophisticated computer programs.

Professor Parker was kind enough to provide a comment to that post clarifying what he has done and discussing some of what he is currently working on. PG is persuaded that the good professor doesn’t produce spam books.

He has actually written over 1 million titles, but not all are on Amazon because some are out of print.

Professor Parker explained that his comment quoted in the NY Times piece about “romance novels generated by new algorithms” was really about fiction in general, not necessarily only romance. Any romance authors whose feathers were ruffled will either find themselves placated or joined by ruffle-featherd fantasy and scifi authors.

He included a link to a video demonstrating his fiction prototype and invited comments. The video is about 12 minutes long, but PG thinks many of you will find the elements of fiction included in the prototype interesting.

Since PG wrote and sold a computer program (“Splitsville”) to replace a divorce lawyer several years ago, he was intrigued by the video. Actually, the program didn’t entirely replace a divorce lawyer, but did produce all the documents a divorce lawyer was likely to produce much faster and more accurately than some lawyers did.

Here’s a link to Professor Parker’s detailed comment.

It Is No Coincidence

27 August 2011

It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase ‘As pretty as an Airport’ appear.

Douglas Adams

How to Start a Mystery/Thriller

27 August 2011

Following are the first pages of the top three bestsellers in the Mystery/Thriller section of the Kindle Store:

The books are:

1. Blind Faith by C.J. Lyons

2. The Abbey by Chris Culver

3. Second Son by Lee Child

The first two books are 99 cents each. #3 is a Kindle Single selling for $1.99. Passive Guy would note that two Kindle books in the top ten of this genre sell for $12.99 and the rest are $1.99 or less.

Since we’ve had discussions about ebook formatting recently, PG will note that Blind Faith is pretty messy.

What to do if Your Copyright is Infringed

27 August 2011

Attorney and professional photographer Carolyn E. Wright has a blog called Photo Attorney®. While some of her posts relate specifically to photographers, many apply equally to authors.

Excerpts from a post about what you should/might do if you discover someone is infringing your copyright:

You’re sitting in your easy chair and surfing the web. You’re not paying much attention, until you see it. It’s your photo, but you did not post it there. You can’t believe they used your photo without your permission. Now what do you do? The steps you take may limit your ultimate remedies so be sure to first understand what your options are.

Make Copies of the Infringement
If you think that the use is likely an infringement, make copies of it – both in electronic and print forms. Once the infringer realizes that she is caught, she will do what she can to get rid of the evidence of the infringement. You may need that evidence later.

If the infringement is in print, then take a photograph of it, scan it, photocopy it, and/or show it to another person who would be willing to testify about it. If the infringement is on the Internet and/or in electronic form, make a paper print of it and/or copy a screen capture of it; both are better!

. . . .

Research the Infringer
Next, find out what you can about the infringer. Research the infringer’s website to find his name and contact information. If the infringer is a corporation based in the United States, you can find information about it on the website of the Secretary of State for the state where the infringer is based. To find the Secretary of State’s website using an Internet search engine such as Google, search the corporation’s state’s name (such as “Georgia”) and the words “secretary of state.” The extension of the URL will be “.gov” or “.us.” Be careful – some sites attempt to appear to be the state’s website so that they can charge you for the information. Once on the proper Secretary of State’s website, look for “corporations search,” “business search” or similar language. You then will find the company’s registered or resident agent, officers, and/or official address.

You also may be able to find a contact name by searching the website’s “who is” information.

. . . .

Option #1 – Do Nothing
Now that you’ve documented the infringement and have some information about the infringer, you always have the option of doing nothing. If the infringer is in a foreign country where infringements are rampant and difficult to enforce or is a small website with little traffic, you may decide that it’s not worth your time and effort to fight the infringement.

. . . .

Option #4 – Prepare a Cease and Desist/Demand Letter Yourself
When you don’t want to alienate the infringer (the infringer is a potential client and/or appears to be an innocent infringer), you may want to contact the infringer to explain that the use is not authorized and either request payment of an appropriate license fee, a photo credit with a link to your website (as discussed above), or that the infringer cease use of the image. It’s best to do this in writing – a letter by surface mail seems to have more clout than email correspondence.

Link to the rest at Photo Attorney® There are lots of useful copyright posts plus Carolyn also has some great photos on her site.

$99 Tablet from Amazon?

27 August 2011

The latest rumor is the Amazon tablet will appear in late September or October, in perfect timing for another gonzo ereader Christmas.

Excerpts from the New York Post:

Amazon is poised to enter the tablet fray with an Android-powered tablet in late September or October, a source with knowledge of the plans said yesterday.

The device will sell for hundreds less than the entry-point $499 iPad, a feat few tablet makers have accomplished, the source said.

Amazon is considered one of the few credible threats to Apple and has been willing to sell its electronics at a loss in hopes of generating more digital media purchases.

“If Amazon is particularly aggressive on pricing, that could be a trigger for many players to rethink the sales price of tablets,” said Charles King, the lead analyst at Pund-IT.

. . . .

ITG Investment Research said that tablets running Google’s Android are starting to chip away at Apple’s iPad marketshare, and price will be key to further erosion.

“We expect to see more and more lower-end, more-affordable Android devices enter the marketplace, which should further allow Android to increase its share,” said Tony Berkman, CEO of ITG.

The pressure is on to build cheaper handheld devices, not just tablets but smartphones.

Link to the rest at The New York Post

How to tell nothing but the truth in a way that always allows for telling more than the truth

26 August 2011

Hemingway entered serious fiction by way of the short story. It was a natural way to begin. His esthetic aims called for a rigorous self-discipline in the presentation of episodes drawn, though always made over, from life. Because he believed, firmly as his own Abruzzian priest, that “you cannot know about it unless you have it,” a number of the stories were based on personal experience, though here again invention of a symbolic kind nearly always entered into the act of composition.

The early discipline in the short story, and it was rarely anything but the hardest kind of discipline, taught Hemingway his craft. He learned how to get the most from the least, how to prune language and avoid waste motion, how to multiply intensities, and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that always allowed for telling more than the truth.

From the short story he learned wonderfully precise lessons in the use of dialogue for the purposes of exposition. Even the simpler stories showed this power. In the struggle with his materials he learned to keep the poker face of the true artist. Or, if you changed the image to another game, he learned the art of relaying important hints to his partner the reader without revealing all at once the full content of his holdings.

From the short story he gained a skill in the economical transfer of impressions – without special rhetoric or apparent trickery. His deepest trust was placed in the cumulative effect of ostensibly simple, carefully selective statement, with occasional reiteration of key phrases for thematic emphasis.

Like James, he has been rightly called an architect rather than a manipulator, and he himself has said that prose is architecture rather than interior decoration – an esthetic fact which the short story taught him.

Carlos Baker, Hemingway, The Writer as Artist

(Paragraph breaks added to enhance online readability.)

He Attacked Everything in Life

26 August 2011

He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.

Douglas Adams

Next Page »