Monthly Archives: December 2014

My 2015 Writing and Publishing Wishlist

31 December 2014

From author Chuck Wendig:

DEAR AMAZON:

Yes, Amazon, you know I have to start with you, first. How can I not? You’ve dominated the 2014 news-cycle, haven’t you? Amazon is increasingly the Wonka Factory of publishing: calliope music drifting from its colorful chimneys as great burping tubes upchuck new programs and initiatives and algorithms into the river. Sometimes we stare in wonder at your multiplying glories, basking in the power you’ve given us. Other times we regard you with alien horror, and we whisper to one another, I think they make Kindles out of little dead girls. We know you do amazing things. And we’re also really worried about the things you might do.

So, here’s my 2015 wishlist for you.

1.) Drop the exclusivity on Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited. Here’s how you keep people publishing with you: just be awesome. Do no evil and be continuously aggressive in being better than everyone else. But forcing exclusivity — and worse, doing so by making the authors (effectively) pay a cost — is really weird, and sounds like you’re hoping folks will buy in without realizing what they’re doing. It’s corrosive and erosive and, ennh.

. . . .

4.) Your pricing window is artificial. Stop forcing it. $2.99 to $9.99 is fine, but you don’t need to restrictively force that pricing window — just give the 70% on everything. The price of e-books will shake out fine because buyers and publishers will wibble-wobble until they find What E-Books Should Cost At This Moment. And besides, you muddy your own pricing waters with Kindle Unlimited. “Keep the price between $2.99 and $9.99,” you say, “unless of course you’re in Kindle Unlimited, in which case do the opposite because that’s the only way you earn well per download.”

. . . .

DEAR BIG PUBLISHERS:

. . . .

1.) Quit the sly wink-wink vanity publishing. That time has come and it reeks of sinister mustache-twirling authorial sweat-shops. I’m not saying there’s not a place for you in the interstitial author-publisher realm, but charging exorbitant fees for essentially nothing is Not How Publishing Should Work. You know it, and you’d never tell an actual author friend to do it, so stop doing it. Stop it! Bad Author Solutions! Bad.

2.) Okay, the 25% e-book royalty thing? Gotta change. Someone, please please please, take the move to to change this. Up it. You’ll be heroes. We’ll carry you around the city square — ticker tape and flung candy and consensual sexual favors, ahoy. You make more money on e-books while we, the author, make less. Either up the rate or make it based on list price rather then net price (“net” meaning, on the money after lots of other little fees and percentages whittle it down). If you want to counter self-publishing, and polish your own apple a little: make this one change. We will sing paeans to you. You have my sword. And my axe. And my sweet kisses.

. . . .

4.) It’s time to talk about non-compete clauses. I understand why they exist. I do! You’re still beholden to physical print books and the bookstores that sell them. I understand that if your author, Damien Caine, releases one supernatural thriller with you and a different supernatural thriller with a separate publisher — and these releases happen fairly close to one another — that someone like Barnes & Noble may make the difficult call of stocking one book over another. Still, a lot of your non-competes are overly restrictive — they’re like, YOU CAN’T PUBLISH A TWEET WITHOUT CHECKING WITH US FIRST and it’s like, hey, whoa, ease off the stick, hoss. Writers these days need to make a living and that sometimes means writing diversely across genres, age ranges, publishers, and formats.

Link to the rest at Terrible Minds and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Here’s a link to Chuck Wendig’s books

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What any of us know

31 December 2014
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What any of us know of our births, we learn from others. It is a beginning we ourselves cannot recall, so we commit the story to memory. We claim it and incorporate it into our story of ourselves. We thus begin the story of our lives with an intimate event that we can only know second hand. And so the confusion of history and memory begins.

Richard White

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Things I Learned (Or Relearned) in 2014

31 December 2014

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

2014 was one of those years where frustration seemed to be the dominant emotion for me. Some of the lessons I learned twenty years ago got refined for the new age, and some of the new things I learned took more time than I anticipated. I also learned a few things about other people in general, some of which I did not want to know. The good things about other people though, came through strong, and that was truly wonderful.

One of those good things happened in the last few weeks. It’s been great to come back to the blog, and to find so many of you still reading, still waiting, and still supporting. You’ve touched me with your kindness and your good words. Thank you.

. . . .

Big Projects Suck All of The Air Out of The Room

When people are working on a massive project, they can’t do anything else. So even important stuff goes by the wayside.

I finished the big Retrieval Artist project in the fall and have been cleaning up ever since. Lots of projects left undone, lots of people waiting for things, lots of little details missed.

I should have expected that, but I stumbled into this big project. I truly thought it was going to be smaller—three books instead of six. Jeez. It kept growing and growing, and I kept triaging.

I doubt I’ll ever plan something that big—I didn’t plan this one!—but next time I won’t be surprised by the way it took time from everything else.

. . . .

I’ll Probably Never Stop Working

When most people say that phrase, they’re whining. Me, I simply don’t understand retirement or relaxing. I tried to relax in a traditional fashion when I finished the massive Retrieval Artist project. I took a small trip, I saw a bunch of movies, I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve tried to stay away from my desk. I keep wandering back to it.

I guess when play is the same as work, time off isn’t necessary.

. . . .

Success Costs Money

Those investments I mentioned above, those wrong roads? Sometimes they happen because people like me try many roads and experiment and take chances. Those chances cost money too, but they always have a good return on the investment. So…the lessons are mixed here.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kathryn Rusch’s books

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The Henry Ford of Books

31 December 2014

From Vanity Fair:

The planet’s best-selling author since 2001, James Patterson has more than 300 million copies of his books in print, an army of co-writers, several TV deals in the works, and an estimated income of $90 million last year alone. But where’s the respect?

. . . .

It seems somehow fitting that James Patterson, the advertising Mad Man turned impresario of the global thriller industry, spends his summers perched high above the Hudson River in Westchester County, halfway between Don Draper’s Ossining and Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, where the Headless Horseman once roamed the roads by night. Perhaps no author in literary history has more seamlessly melded commerce and creepiness to create an international brand, one that has transformed a wide swath of the publishing industry and given Patterson not only a Rockefeller’s river view but a Rockefeller’s bank account to boot.

With 305 million copies of his books in print worldwide, Patterson is the great white shark of novelists, a relentless writing machine who has to keep swimming forward in order to feed, and who, together with his army of about two dozen credited co-writers, has been the planet’s best-selling author since 2001 (ahead of J. K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Dr. Seuss, and John Grisham). Of all the hardcover fiction sold in the U.S. in 2013, books by Patterson accounted for one out of every 26. Altogether, he has produced more than 130 separate works—the “books by” page in his latest novels actually takes up three full pages. Forbes estimates his income for the year ending last June at $90 million. When I had a chance to ask Patterson about that figure, he at first said, “I don’t know,” and then followed up with “Yeah, probably.”

. . . .

“I’m sure there’s no publishing relationship like it,” Michael Pietsch—Patterson’s former editor who is now C.E.O. of Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown’s parent company)—told me recently. “Jim is the smartest person I’ve ever worked with, across a vast landscape of things you can be brilliant about—suspense, emotions, and readers’ expectations and how to work them.” Pietsch said Patterson had built “a kind of studio system in which he can imagine these stories into being, then work with co-authors so that these stories come into the world.”

Indeed, Patterson is to publishing what Thomas Kinkade was to painting, or the television producer John Wells was to a series like E.R. He is not a tortured artist in a garret but rather presides over an atelier that produces mass popular entertainment on an astonishing scale. He once said of his work, in a profile a decade ago, “I look at it the way Henry Ford would look at it.” The remark has gained currency. Patterson today is busier than ever, in the midst of his current 24-book contract, preparing to launch a TV series based on his thriller Zoo, and campaigning with personal appearances and his deep pockets in support of young-adult literacy and independent bookstores. He has also been outspoken, loudly and prominently, on the subject of the long dispute—settled in November—between Amazon and Hachette Book Group, in the course of which the online retailer had penalized Hachette writers. Because Patterson is a Little, Brown author, many of his own books felt the pinch—they were often not in stock, or were unavailable for pre-order. (Books of Patterson’s on Amazon’s Top 100 list, like anyone else’s on that list, tended not to be affected.) Speaking to BookExpo America last spring, Patterson told the audience of publishers and booksellers, “If Amazon is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed.”

Link to the rest at Vanity Fair and thanks to Karen for the tip.

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Pennyroyal Academy

31 December 2014

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Why The Best Fantasy Stories Include Mundane Everyday Life

31 December 2014

From io9:

When Ursula K. Le Guin’s fourth Earthsea novel, Tehanu, came out, I read it and was underwhelmed. I wanted lots of magic and spells and glorious heroes, and instead I got a farmer’s widow and a used-up mage. There was a lot more about goats than there was about dragons. It just didn’t seem very much like fantasy to me. At the time I was fairly fresh out of college, renting a room and commuting back and forth to my job at a D.C. law library. I wanted magic and adventure in my hum-drum life, damn it!

Now Tehanu is one of my all-time favorite books. I did my first reread after a few years of writing and literature classes in grad school and fell in love. I don’t know exactly what changed in the interim – perhaps it was maturity, perhaps it was having been exposed to a lot of different ideas about literature, perhaps it was knowing more of Le Guin’s ideas about women and writing. At any rate, what I love about the novel now (besides the excellent craft of it) is exactly those things I initially did not like: domestic life, ordinary characters, lack of pageantry, lack of violence. I like that a fantasy novel can feature a middle-aged woman and that descriptions of shelling peas, weaving baskets, keeping up a farm, taking care of goats, and other quiet activities are the center of the story.

I still really like epic fantasy, and especially the world-building part. What I’ve come to realize, though, is that for me world-building is necessary but not sufficient to suck me into the story; for the epic to be epic, it needs to be set against the mundane. By “mundane” I mean “worldly as opposed to spiritual,” rather than the more colloquial usage implying boredom and dullness. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz wrote about “exoticizing the domestic,” and I think that concept is what makes for really good fantasy and speculative fiction. The writer takes the ordinary and twists it, or puts it into a different context.

Link to the rest at io9

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A Weapon for Readers

30 December 2014

From The New York Review of Books:

Imagine you are asked what single alteration in people’s behavior might best improve the lot of mankind. How foolish would you have to be to reply: have them learn to read with a pen in their hands? But I firmly believe such a simple development would bring huge benefits.

We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us. We allow worlds to be conjured up for us with very little concern for the implications. We overlook glaring incongruities. We are suckers for alliteration, assonance, and rhythm. We rejoice over stories, whether fiction or “documentary,” whose outcomes are flagrantly manipulative, self-serving, or both. Usually both. If a piece of writing manifests the stigmata of literature—symbols, metaphors, unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, structural ambiguities—we afford it unlimited credit. With occasional exceptions, the only “criticism” brought to such writing is the kind that seeks to elaborate its brilliance, its cleverness, its creativity. What surprised me most when I first began publishing fiction myself was how much at every level a novelist canget away with.

This extravagant regard, which seemed to reach a peak in the second half of the twentieth century as the modernists of a generation before were canonized as performers of the ever more arduous miracle of conferring a little meaning on life, is reflected in the treatment of the book itself. The spine must not be bent back and broken, the pages must not be marked with dog ears, there must be no underlining, no writing in the margins. Obviously, for those of us brought up on library books and school-owned textbooks (my copy of Browning bore the name of a dozen pupils who had used the text before me), there were simple and sensible reasons supporting this behavior. But the reverence went beyond a proper respect for those who would be reading the pages after you. Even when I bought a book myself, if my parents caught me breaking its spine so that it would lay open on the desk, they were shocked. Writing was sacred. In the beginning was the Word. The word written down, hopefully on quality paper. Much of the resistance to e-books, notably from the literati, has to do with a loss of this sense of sacredness, of a vulnerable paper vessel that can thrive on our protective devotion.

. . . .

Aside from simply insisting, as I already had for years, that they be more alert, I began to wonder what was the most practical way I could lead my students to a greater attentiveness, teach them to protect themselves from all those underlying messages that can shift one’s attitude without one’s being aware of it? I began to think about the way I read myself, about the activity of reading, what you put into it rather than what was simply on the page. Try this experiment, I eventually told them: from now on always read with a pen in your hands, not beside you on the table, but actually in your hand, ready, armed. And always make three or four comments on every page, at least one critical, even aggressive. Put a question mark by everything you find suspect. Underline anything you really appreciate. Feel free to write “splendid,” but also, “I don’t believe a word of it.” And even “bullshit.”

A pen is not a magic wand. The critical faculty is not conjured from nothing. But it was remarkable how many students improved their performance with this simple stratagem. There is something predatory, cruel even, about a pen suspended over a text. Like a hawk over a field, it is on the lookout for something vulnerable. Then it is a pleasure to swoop and skewer the victim with the nib’s sharp point. The mere fact of holding the hand poised for action changes our attitude to the text. We are no longer passive consumers of a monologue but active participants in a dialogue. Students would report that their reading slowed down when they had a pen in their hand, but at the same time the text became more dense, more interesting, if only because a certain pleasure could now be taken in their own response to the writing when they didn’t feel it was up to scratch, or worthy only of being scratched.

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

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Invention

30 December 2014

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of a void, but out of chaos; the materials must in the first place be afforded; it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself.

Mary Shelley

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Barnes & Noble Buys Back Nook Stake From Pearson

30 December 2014

From The New York Times:

Barnes & Noble said on Tuesday that it had reached an agreementto buy back Pearson’s stake in the booksellers’s struggling e-book business, Nook Media, for nearly $28 million.

The company said that it would pay $13.75 million in cash and 602,927 shares of Barnes & Noble’s common stock. The move follows an exit by Microsoft from Nook earlier this month. Barnes & Noble bought out the software giant’s stake for about $120 million.

. . . .

 The company is planning to split into companies, one with Nook and its college bookstores and another consisting of the retail stores and website, by the end of August.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

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Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real…

30 December 2014

From Dear Author:

Books have long been my refuge from the crazy, ugly real world. Now parts of the online reading community are eroding that safe place.  2014 was not a very good  year for the reader. Readers were stalked and the stalking was celebrated in a major newspaper. There were dozens of smaller skirmishes  and many vocal rallying cries for uncritical support of books and authors. There was a drumbeat, particularly from self-published authors, that readers exist to support the author.

It was also a year in which women were under attack. From being referred to as “binders full of women” to the horrific display of misogyny toward female gamers and gaming developers, the online community seemed especially vile. And it spilled over into the book community with regular ad hominem attacks being lobbed at readers for their reading choices, which had little to do with the books themselves for many times the critics hadn’t even read the books in question. Instead the ad hominem attacks had more to do with the fact that the online discussion wasn’t about the books they felt were stronger, better, worthier than these lesser ones being elevated and praised. Or it was authors who felt that readers didn’t appreciate or understand their work OR worse, assumed that the reader who didn’t like their work had a secret, evil agenda to bring that author down.

. . . .

Dear Author is coming up on nine years of existence. It was established in April 2006 by Jayne and I, because we wanted to talk about books, and specifically we wanted to talk about books with other readers. That it has grown into what it is now pretty much astounds the both of us. Over the years I’ve made mistakes, mostly because I felt like I was still talking to my five friends about books.

And as Dear Author has grown, so have the headaches (and I’m not even talking about the lawsuit), to the extent that I’ve privately told individuals that I’m ready to throw in the towel and walk away from the blog. I’m not going to but I have those feelings. I’m sure many of you have those feelings, because you’ve shared with me your frustration and discontent with the online community, with social media, with the constant negativity in countless emails.

Internally, DA has had discussions about making a safe place for readers where we can talk without fear of reprisal. After weeks of thinking about this, I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be afraid to speak about books. It’s books. How did discussions about books become so fraught and dangerous that we have to hide away? I mean, that’s a bit ridiculous and a lot tragic, right?

Ultimately I understand that we want to talk about the books we love and those we don’t without judgment of us as people. From what I hear from others, we want to be able to share our feelings–both love and hate–without pissing people off. And I guess the question is whether that’s a reasonable expectation.

. . . .

There are authors who write books that I do not like. I really need to work hard separating the book from the author and understand that even if the author should choose to write something that I find personally offensive, it does not mean the author is personally offensive. Similarly, because the reader doesn’t like the book doesn’t mean that she is dumb or offensive or doesn’t get it.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

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