The Secrets Behind Buried Dialogue

20 November 2014

From editor Lynnette Labelle:

Buried or hidden dialogue, both terms mean the same thing, but what is that exactly? Buried dialogue happens when you bury the dialogue between the narratives. The paragraph will look like this: narrative, dialogue, narrative. Still don’t know what I mean? Don’t worry. Some examples are coming up.

. . . .

While buried dialogue isn’t a technical term nor is there a rule that says you can’t use it, editors often suggest you eliminate as much of it as possible. There are two basic reasons behind this.

1) Buried dialogue slows the pace.
2) Dialogue can lose its oomph when squished between two narratives.

. . . .

With Buried Dialogue:

Toni opened the door. “What are you doing here?” She crossed her arms, determined to show him she meant business. “I told you to stay away.” Why was he there anyway? Didn’t he know what was good for him?

Without Buried Dialogue:

Toni opened the door.

“What are you doing here?” She crossed her arms, determined to show him she meant business. “I told you to stay away.”

Why was he there anyway? Didn’t he know what was good for him?

Link to the rest at Lynnette Labelle


Why Amazon will never lose the book war

19 November 2014

From Quartz:

If you were looking for a simile to describe Amazon’s relationship with authors, you couldn’t do better than picturing Amazon as King Kong and the authors it desperately and clumsily wants to court as Fay Wray. One compelling reason for this analogy is that the courtship between brute and beauty was destined to leave a lot of collateral damage in its wake. The pointless, brutal fight between Amazon and Hachettte that ended somewhat abruptly late last week illustrates the point.

Amazon has been trying to get around publishers and win the affections of authors for some time. There were several strategic moves. Launching the Kindle—which coincidentally took place seven years ago today—was one. The ill-fated hiring of a voluble New York publisher in the hopes that his brash, big advances would entice authors to publish directly at “the world’s largest bookstore” was another. And the purchase of the Good Reads social network for book readers was the third prong in the company’s attempts to build a Platonically ideal publishing platform.

Looking at Amazon’s actions from the outside, the thinking seems to be that the company can rationalize the deeply fickle and irrational book business.

The problem isn’t that Amazon’s strategic thinking is wrong. On paper, authors get a lousy deal from their publishers and Amazon is in a unique position to improve the economics for authors, as it has done with the many genre writers who now publish on the Kindle platform. If you’re an unknown, or write in an unfashionable but popular genre, no New York publisher populated by hipsters is going to get excited and give you a big advance. You’re better off showing your moxie and reaping the rewards of a 70% Kindle royalty rate.

. . . .

Although the transformation is not taking place fast enough for Amazon, the retailer continues to expand its influence over the book market. Lower ebook prices—exactly what Amazon wanted and what Amazon has said they will incentivize the publisher to provide—will only accelerate that trend.

As much as Hachette wants to defend its prerogatives and shore up its physical books business, its profit margins lie not in the choice of format (ebooks are of course much more profitable for publishers because the authors receive a lower royalty and there’s no incremental cost for each additional book sold) but in the publishing house’s ability to generate hits.

. . . .

 Amazon thinks its over-sized royalties should be more than enough to attract authors. (And King Kong thought he and Fay Wray had a future together.) Those royalties are an extension of Amazon’s overall low working capital approach to business. But what authors get from publisher’s advances is more than money. It’s validation, encouragement and support. Those are the human emotions Amazon has to satisfy in order to woo authors into its new version of the publishing business.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Michael for the tip.

So emotionally-needy authors should go with traditional publishing and self-confident authors should indie pub. PG says the best validation is earning good money from your books and writing what you want and when you want with nobody bossing you around.

Jess drew the way some people drank whiskey

19 November 2014

Jess drew the way some people drank whiskey. The peace would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body. Lord, he loved to draw. Animals, mostly. Not regular animals like Miss Bessie and the chickens, but crazy animals with problems—for some reason he liked to put his beasts into impossible fixes…

He would like to show his drawings to his dad, but he didn’t dare. When he was in first grade, he told his father than he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He’d thought he would be pleased. He wasn’t. ‘What are they teaching in that damn school?’ he had asked. ‘Bunch of old ladies turning my son into some kind of a—’ He had stopped on the word, but Jess had gotten the message. It was one you didn’t forget, even after four years.

Katherine Paterson

Royal Mail shares fall sharply on concerns over competition

19 November 2014

From the BBC:

Shares in Royal Mail have fallen by more than 8% after the firm warned that rivals – including Amazon – were eating into its parcel delivery business.

Royal Mail said the rise of delivery firm Whistl could wipe £200m off sales.

It also said competition was endangering its government-mandated Universal Service, which guarantees a single price postal service that delivers to all UK addresses.

. . . .

The company also said it faced increased parcel competition and that Amazon’s recently-launched delivery service could singlehandedly dent its business by as much as 2%, in the short term.

In the past six months, Royal Mail’s UK parcel delivery division saw revenues fall by 1%.

Link to the rest at the BBC and thanks to Lexi (who says Royal Mail service is terrible in her part of London) for the tip.

Publishers don’t take ‘disproportionate profit’

19 November 2014

From The Bookseller:

Publishers are not taking a disproportionate amount of profit from book sales, Little, Brown’s c.e.o. Ursula Mackenzie has said, and it is important that they remain healthy.

Speaking at a Society of Authors (SoA) panel on hybrid authors, Mackenzie defended publishers from criticism by audience members that they now only take on books that will make money.

“Every book can’t make money,” she said. “There are careers we support for years…there are many books we publish lovingly where we don’t make money.”

. . . .

Little, Brown has a “fair rate for our e-books”, said Mackenzie, although fellow panellist Lizzy Kremer, literary agent and head of the books department at David Higham Associates, said that e-book royalty rates were not satisfactory.

“We don’t think the royalty rate is high enough, but we fought tooth and nail to get it that high,” said Kremer.

. . . .

The panel, which included author Ed James, who has self-published and has now signed a deal with Amazon Publishing imprint Thomas and Mercer, and was chaired by The Bookseller’s editor Philip Jones, also discussed e-book prices.

Kremer said one of the benefits of self-publishing was the access to data, which means that self-published authors could easily change the prices of their books to boost sales.

. . . .

Mackenzie said the increase in self-publishing had resulted in publishers having to justify and explain their roles, echoing a speech she gave to the Society of Young Publishers (SYP), and said that one of the results was that publishers were “all developing author portals” to provide writers and agents with data.

On pay, traditionally published authors are “accustomed” to being paid royalties twice a year, said Kremer, which is the “pay off” of being paid an advance. James said one of the benefits of self-publishing was the regular royalty payments.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Amazon has too much control over what books get published

19 November 2014

From Salon:

On Nov. 19, at the annual National Book Awards gala, Neil Gaiman will present the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Ursula K. Le Guin. At 85, Le Guin could be resting on her well-earned laurels, but she continues to write, mostly short stories, and to explore new fictional terrain, particularly in Earthsea, the imaginary archipelago where some of her most memorable fiction is set.

. . . .

Not bad for a writer who, wearied by rejections, started sending stories to science-fiction magazines because she thought she might have a better shot there.

. . . .

 The first question I have is about genre, since you’ve written in so many. “Lavinia” is historical fiction and made me think you could easily have had a whole alternate career writing books like those of, oh, Mary Renault. There are some strong similarities between science fiction and historical fiction, but you also write fantasy, poetry, etc. How do you decide which genre to write in — is that part of the plan from the beginning (“I feel like writing a fantasy novel next”) or does it emerge in some other way?

Ah, genre. A word only a Frenchman could love. Well, you ask how I decide which genre to write in, and I have to answer, mostly I don’t. My mind doesn’t work that way.

Way back, around 1960, I did make a conscious decision to see if I could write for the science fiction magazines, because editors in other fields kept telling me they didn’t understand my stories, and I thought maybe sf editors might. I got my first two acceptances in one week. One story sold to a science fiction magazine, and another, not aimed at any market, was accepted by a small literary magazine.  The fact that the sf magazine paid encouraged me to go on learning how to write fantasy and sf. Thirty bucks was welcome back then.

I didn’t follow the sf rules and conventions unless I felt like it; essentially I went on writing what I wanted to write, and they could call it what they liked. To publish genre fiction of course branded me as a sub-literary writer in the eyes of the literary establishment, critics, award-givers, etc., but the great potentialities of the field itself, the open-mindedness of its editors and critics, the intelligence of its readers, compensated for that. Genre fiction was looked at as a ghetto, but I wonder now if realist fiction, sealing itself off in the glum suburbs of a dysfunctional society, denying the uses of imagination, was the ghetto.

A degree of recognition, a fearless agent, several loyal editors, and fiscal solvency allowed me to go on writing what I felt like writing, overstepping boundaries.

. . . .

You’ve been outspoken on both the Google Books settlement and, more recently, on Amazon. And you’re a founder of Book View Cafe, an alternative publishing operation, but you also still publish with small and large presses. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what today’s authors need to know or understand about publishing.

Book View Cafe is a professional authors’ co-operative, relying on member volunteer work. It fills a largely blank place in the publishing field. I do publish when I can with small presses that continue to regard and sell books as books, not as products indistinguishable from other commodities. I think corporate ownership and management of the big commercial publishers has grown steadily more misguided, to the point of allowing commodity marketers such as Amazon control over what they publish, which means what writers write and what people read. Dictatorship/censorship by the market or by government is equally dangerous, and crippling to any art.

There’s still a whole range of options for professional writers — between the poet who has no “market” at all, yet writes and publishes for love of the art, through the ordinary novelist who tries to balance artistic standards and conscience with demands for easy salability, to writers eager to sell themselves and their product to the highest bidder. E-publication has changed the rules, and made self-publication temptingly easy. It’s not easy to know how to be an author these days! I’m way too old to give any advice on the matter to anyone. All I can do is keep on going as I always did, in the direction that seems to promise the most freedom.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Small Empires: can Wattpad’s DIY writing empire survive an invasion by Amazon?

19 November 2014

From The Verge:

When venture capitalists are considering whether or not to invest in a startup, there’s a stock question many will ask the founder: What would you do if Google decided to enter your business? You could swap the name of any tech titan — Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon — into that query. The bigger picture is figuring out whether the thing you’re building is a unique and defensible business or just a cool feature these companies haven’t bothered to focus on yet.

This hypothetical challenge has just become a reality for Wattpad, a Toronto startup that has built a community of writers and readers creating millions of new stories each month. Amazon jumped into the game last month with the debut of WriteOn, a service offering the same mix of author tools and a readership composed of the huge audience already using Amazon for ebooks.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Steve Albini on the surprisingly sturdy state of the music industry

18 November 2014

PG received a tip from Evan for an article about the evolution of the music industry. Evan suggests there are a lot of similarities between the development of the market for indie musicians and indie authors.

From The Guardian:

I’m going to first explain a few things about myself. I’m 52 years old, I have been in bands continuously, and active in the music scene in one way or another since about 1978. At the moment I’m in a band, I also work as a recording engineer and I own a recording studio in Chicago. In the past I have also been a fanzine writer, radio club DJ, concert promoter and I ran a small record label. I was not terribly successful at any of those things, but I have done them, so they qualify as part of my CV.

I work every day with music and with bands and I have for more than 30 years. I’ve made a couple thousand records for independent bands and rock stars, for big labels and small ones. I made a record two days ago and I’ll be making one on Monday when I get off the plane. So I believe this puts me in a pretty good position to evaluate the state of the music scene today, as it relates to how it used to be and how it has been.

. . . .

I hear from some of my colleagues that these are rough times: that the internet has cut the legs off the music scene and that pretty soon nobody will be making music anymore because there’s no money in it. Virtually every place where music is written about, there is some version of this troubling perspective. People who used to make a nice income from royalties, they’ve seen the royalties dry up. And people who used to make a living selling records are having trouble selling downloads as substitute for records, and they no longer make records.

So there is a tacit assumption that this money, lost money, needs to be replaced and a lot of energy has been spent arguing from where that money will come. Bitchiness about this abounds, with everybody insisting that somebody else should be paying him, but that he shouldn’t have to pay for anybody else. I would like to see an end to this dissatisfaction.

It’s worthwhile to remember from where we’ve come. From where this bitchiness originates. In the 1970s through the 1990s, the period in which I was most active in bands in the music scene – let’s call this the pre-internet era. The music industry was essentially the record industry, in that records and radio were the venues through which people learned of music and principally experienced it. They were joined by MTV and videos in the 80s and 90s, but the principle relationship people had with music was as sound recordings. There was a booming band scene and all bands aspired to getting recorded, as a mark of legitimacy.

But recording was a rare and expensive enterprise, so it wasn’t common. Even your demo tape required considerable investment. So when I started playing in bands in the 70s and 80s most bands went through their entire lifecycle without so much as a note of their music ever being recorded.

. . . .

As a yardstick for the economics of the day or for the era, in 1979 you could buy a 45rpm single for a buck, a new album for $5, go see a club gig for $1 or a stadium gig for $7. I know these things because I still have some old ticket stubs and price stickers on my records. Note the relative parity between the live show costs and the recorded music costs. A gradual inflation of prices remained under way through the 90s, making recorded music more expensive, though it remained the principal means of experience.

The whole industry depended on these sales, and sales depended on exposure. Bands on big labels toured, essentially to promote their recordings. And the labels provided promotional and logistical support to keep the bands on the road. This supported a network of agents and managers and roadies and promotional staff, so the expense was considerable.

Retail outlets also offered special placements and promotion: displays, posters, mentions in print ads, giveaways, trinkets and what were called end cap displays. Record labels paid handsomely for these promotions and the stores used the sale of these promotions as additional income. Chain stores especially relied on corporate chain-wide promotions, regardless what the stores might think their local clientele might like. It wasn’t uncommon to see big displays of hair metal bands in urban outlets where they couldn’t sell a single stick but the labels had paid for their utility, so up they went.

. . . .

So it was a leaky system, riddled with inefficiencies, but a lot of people made a living through it. Record store owners, buyers, employees, ad agencies, designers, club owners, label reps, A&R, producers, recording studios, publicists, lawyers, journalists, program directors, distributors, tour managers, booking agents, band managers, and all the ancillary services they required: banking, shipping, printing, photography, travel agencies, limos, spandex wardrobe, cocaine dealers, prostitutes. Because of this great bulk of the industry needed to sustain itself. Every facet of the industry was tailored to this need.

The most significant bit of tailoring was an accounting trick called recouping costs. The costs of making a record wasn’t borne by the record label, except initially. Those costs were recouped or taken out of the income the band might otherwise run as royalties. The same was true of all those promo copies, posters, radio pluggers and payola men, producers, publicists, tour support, 8×10 glossies, shipping, freight – basically anything that could be associated with a specific band or record was ultimately paid for by the band, not by the record label.

. . . .

In the end the bands operating under this system earned very little from their record sales, unless they were monumental stars. Often enough bands would conduct their entire careers with a label and never reach the point where they had sufficiently recouped to get paid anything at all. Now the label made its per-piece profit on every record sold. And could recoup the cost of any records unsold. And all those other people got paid using the money that would have otherwise gone to the bands as royalties. Unsurprisingly, those other people also got paid pretty well. It stands to reason that if the label is paying you with someone else’s money, the label doesn’t need to care how much you charge.

. . . .

Now bands existed outside that label spectrum. The working bands of the type I’ve always been in, and for those bands everything was always smaller and simpler. Promotion was usually down to flyers posted on poles, occasional mentions on college radio and fanzines. If you had booked a gig at a venue that didn’t advertise, then you faced a very real prospect of playing to an empty room. Local media didn’t take bands seriously until there was a national headline about them so you could basically forget about press coverage. And commercial radio was absolutely locked up by the payola-driven system of the pluggers and program directors.

. . . .

So these independent bands had to be resourceful. They’d built their own infrastructure of independent clubs, promoters, fanzines and DJs. They had their own channels of promotion, including the beginnings of the internet culture that is so prevalent today – that being bulletin boards, and newsgroups. These independent bands even made their own record label. Some were collectives and those that weren’t were likely to operate on a profit-sharing basis that encouraged efficiency, rather than a recoupable patronage system that encouraged indulgence.

That’s where I cut my teeth, in that independent scene full of punks and noise freaks and drag queens and experimental composers and jabbering street poets. You can thank punk rock for all of that. That’s where most of us learned that it was possible to make your own records, to conduct your own business and keep control of your own career. If a bunch of pimply glue sniffers could do it, we reasoned, then anybody could.

The number of records released this way was incredible. Thousands of small releases made their way into the “mom and pop” independent speciality stores, which then provided a market for independent distribution. It was the beginnings of an alternative to the label paradigm. It was cumbersome and slow but it was more efficient than a shotgun approach with the big labels, whose answer to every problem was to spend more of the band’s money on it.

. . . .

It was the beginning of what we would call the peer network. By mid-90s there were independent labels and distributors moving millions of dollars of records and CDs. And there was a healthy underground economy of bands making a reasonable income owing to the superior efficiencies of the independent methods. My band, as an example, was returned 50% of the net profit on every title that we released through our record label. I worked it out and that earned us a better per-piece royalty than Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Madonna or any other superstar operating concurrently. And we were only one of thousands of such bands.

. . . .

You may have noticed that in my description of the mass market music scene and the industry as it was pre-internet I made little mention of the audience or the bands. Those two ends of the spectrum were hardly considered by the rest of the business. Fans were expected to listen to the radio and buy records and bands were expected to make records and tour to promote them. And that was about all the thought either were given. But the audience was where all the money came from and the bands were where all the music came from.

. . . .

This audience-driven music distribution has other benefits. Long-forgotten music has been given a second life. And bands whose music that was ahead of its time has been allowed to reach a niche audience that the old mass distribution failed to find for them, as one enthusiast turns on the next and this forgotten music finally gets it due. There’s a terrific documentary about one such case, the Detroit band Death whose sole album was released in a perfunctory edition in, I believe, 1975 and disappeared until a copy of it was digitised and made public on the internet. Gradually the band found an audience, their music got lovingly reissued, and the band has resurrected, complete with tours playing to packed houses. And the band are now being allowed the career that the old star system had denied them. There are hundreds of such stories and there are speciality labels that do nothing but reissue lost classics like that once they surface.

Now look at the conditions from a band’s perspective, the conditions faced by a band. In contrast to back in the day, recording equipment and technology has simplified and become readily available. Computers now come pre-loaded with enough software to make a decent demo recording and guitar stores sell microphones and other equipment inexpensively that previously was only available at a premium from arcane speciality sources. Essentially every band now has the opportunity to make recordings.

And they can do things with those recordings. They can post them online in any number of places: Bandcamp, YouTube, SoundCloud, their own websites. They can link to them on message boards, Reddit, Instagram, Twitter and even in the comment streams of other music. “LOL,” “this sucks,” “much better,” “death to false metal,” “LOL”. Instead of spending a fortune on international phone calls trying to find someone in each territory to listen to your music, every band on the planet now has free, instant access to the world at its fingertips.

I cannot overstate how important a development that is. Previously, in the top-down paradigm allowed local industry to dictate what music was available in isolated or remote markets, markets isolated by location or language. It was inconceivable that a smaller or independent band could have market penetration into, say, Greece or Turkey, Japan or China, South America, Africa or the Balkans.

. . . .

In short, the internet has made it much easier to conduct the day-to-day business of being in a band and has increased the efficiency. Everything from scheduling rehearsals using online calendars, to booking tours by email, to selling merchandise and records from online stores, down to raising the funds to make a record is a new simplicity that bands of the pre-internet era would salivate over. The old system was built by the industry to serve the players inside the industry. The new system where music is shared informally and the bands have a direct relationship to the fans was built by the bands and the fans in the manner of the old underground. It skips all the intermediary steps.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Evan for the tip.

In Europe, Slower Growth for e-Books

18 November 2014

From The New York Times:

E-books have made impressive inroads into the English-reading world, but their success in Europe — even among wealthy, tech-savvy countries with robust publishing industries — remains spotty at best. In the United States and Britain, sales of e-books represent between a quarter and a third of the consumer book market and, by 2018, will edge out printed and audio books as the most lucrative segment, according to projections by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. But the picture is radically different in continental Europe. Last year, digital books made up 8 percent of the consumer book market in France, less than 4 percent in Germany and Italy, and 1 percent in Sweden and Norway.

. . . .

The reasons for Europe’s slow embrace of e-books vary from country to country, said Rüdiger Wischenbart, a publishing analyst based in Vienna who studies emerging e-book markets. In the case of Sweden, he said, e-books are popular, but are mostly lent out for free through the library system. In France and many other European countries, Mr. Wischenbart said, there is a cultural attachment to print that’s hard for readers and publishers to shake. “When you read a book, you define yourself as being part of a cultural elite, and that elite is very conservative,” he said. “They don’t want their high status to be undermined by some new gadget.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

For you and me

18 November 2014

For you and me, life out here is nothing; but there may be others so constructed that they don’t fit into this life at all; and yet they are finer and better souls than either one of us. She is a better soul than any I’ve ever met. It’s only lately that I have begun to realize all she suffered since we came out here.

O.E. Rölvaag, Giants in the Earth: a saga of the prairie

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