The Passive Voice https://www.thepassivevoice.com A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Pub and Traditional Publishing Mon, 25 May 2020 20:58:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Small-PV-Icon-150x132.png The Passive Voice https://www.thepassivevoice.com 32 32 Coronavirus Worklife: Kalem Agency’s Şafak Tahmaz in Turkey https://www.thepassivevoice.com/coronavirus-worklife-kalem-agencys-safak-tahmaz-in-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coronavirus-worklife-kalem-agencys-safak-tahmaz-in-turkey https://www.thepassivevoice.com/coronavirus-worklife-kalem-agencys-safak-tahmaz-in-turkey/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 20:58:29 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123938 Read more]]> From Publishing Perspectives:

Ask anyone in world publishing who’d like to be at this year’s canceled spring trade shows, and they’ll tell you that Nermin Mollaoğlu of Turkey’s Kalem Agency is someone they miss most. Her bustling 10-person team—and the exuberant spirit they maintain in one of the world’s most challenging regimes—are favorites in international rights centers.

. . . .

Kalem by 2017 had created more than 2,100 contracts representing Turkish literary rights in at least 53 languages. The agency also produces the annual Istanbul International Literature Festival and works as a sub-agent for agencies and publishers in a huge range of markets. The company is coming up on its 14th anniversary.

As the contagion closed in, Tahmaz says, “Nermin made up her mind very, very fast, which we all appreciated and decided to close our office down on March 11, just after it was declared that the first coronavirus case had been detected in Turkey. We got our laptops, necessary files, backups, and started to work at home the next week.

. . . .

[H]ere’s some news from one of the most aggressive agencies in Europe and the Mediterranean for the international publishing industry to consider: “It’s a funny fact that last month,” Tahmaz says, “our fiction titles doubled. And our nonfiction titles broke their own record. Children’s titles are also doing well.”

. . . .

“Publishers in Turkey haven’t given up on new titles and they haven’t lost their excitement for books. But because of the crisis, the exchange rate started to fluctuate again. Revenue streams decreased when bookstores were shut down. But in audiobooks and ebook sales, the publishers in Turkey finally have comprehended the value of digital publishing and a great many publishers have demanded ebook and audio rights for both old titles and the new deals.

“It’s like a silver lining of these dark days. Especially for me, as I feel really comfortable reading in Kindle and listening to books, as well!”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/coronavirus-worklife-kalem-agencys-safak-tahmaz-in-turkey/feed/ 0
The whole conviction of my life https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-whole-conviction-of-my-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-whole-conviction-of-my-life https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-whole-conviction-of-my-life/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 20:49:53 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123935

The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.

Thomas Wolfe

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-whole-conviction-of-my-life/feed/ 0
All the Lonely People https://www.thepassivevoice.com/all-the-lonely-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=all-the-lonely-people https://www.thepassivevoice.com/all-the-lonely-people/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 20:48:14 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123933 Read more]]> From The Wall Street Journal:

In recent years, surveys have shown that a large percentage of Americans feel lonely or socially isolated. (One such survey, published in January, put the figure at 61%.) The restrictions prompted by Covid-19 have surely triggered even more such feelings. At a time when technology supposedly fosters new levels of interpersonal connectivity, how did we get to this place? What are the broader effects? What should we do?

Those are some of the questions that Vivek Murthy, a doctor of internal medicine and a former surgeon general (2014-17), addresses in “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.” Though written before “coronavirus” entered our lexicon, the book is a timely and well-reported meditation on a critical aspect of the American mind.

Dr. Murthy begins by highlighting research showing that isolation is not our natural state: We evolved as social beings. “Humans have survived as a species,” he writes, “not because we have physical advantages like size, strength, or speed, but because of our ability to connect in social groups. We exchange ideas. We coordinate goals. We share information and emotions.”

It follows that when we’re not routinely socializing, we feel that something is amiss. Researchers have found three “dimensions” of loneliness, Dr. Murthy reports: “intimate” (wanting a spouse or confidant), “relational” (seeking close friendships) and “collective” (desiring a community with common interests). To thrive, we need to find the right approach to each of them, and loneliness can result if even one is left unfulfilled.

Dr. Murthy draws a distinction between loneliness and solitude. While solitude “is a state of peaceful aloneness or voluntary isolation,” loneliness is “burdened with shame.” He describes his own battle with loneliness as a child, saying that he didn’t want to tell his parents about it because doing so would have conveyed more than an absence of friends: “It would feel like admitting I wasn’t likable or worthy of being loved.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/all-the-lonely-people/feed/ 0
Most Difficult Accents for Actors https://www.thepassivevoice.com/most-difficult-accents-for-actors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=most-difficult-accents-for-actors https://www.thepassivevoice.com/most-difficult-accents-for-actors/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 20:39:46 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123930 A particularly slow week in the book world – everyone who isn’t enjoying a long weekend seems to be laid off.

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/most-difficult-accents-for-actors/feed/ 0
The English towers and landmarks that inspired Tolkien’s hobbit sagas https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-english-towers-and-landmarks-that-inspired-tolkiens-hobbit-sagas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-english-towers-and-landmarks-that-inspired-tolkiens-hobbit-sagas https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-english-towers-and-landmarks-that-inspired-tolkiens-hobbit-sagas/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 00:22:09 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123928 Read more]]> From The Guardian:

Readers of The Lord of the Rings must surely imagine lifting their eyes in terror before Saruman’s dark tower, known as Orthanc. Over the years, many admirers of the Middle-earth sagas have guessed at the inspiration for this and other striking features of the landscape created by JRR Tolkien.

Now an extensive new study of the author’s work is to reveal the likely sources of key scenes. The idea for Saruman’s nightmarish tower, argues leading Tolkien expert John Garth, was prompted by Faringdon Folly in Berkshire.

“I have concentrated on the places that inspired Tolkien and though that may seem a trivial subject, I hope I have brought some rigour to it,” said Garth this weekend. “I have a fascination for the workings of the creative process and in finding those moments of creative epiphany for a genius like Tolkien.”

A close study of the author’s life, his travels and his teaching papers has led Garth to a fresh understanding of an allegory that Tolkien regularly called upon while giving lectures in Old English poetry at Oxford in the 1930s.

Comparing mysteries of bygone poetry to an ancient tower, the don would talk of the impossibility of understanding exactly why something was once built. “I have found an interesting connection in his work with the folly in Berkshire, a nonsensical tower that caused a big planning row,” Garth explains. While researching his book he realised the controversy raging outside the university city over the building would have been familiar to Tolkien.

Tolkien began to work this story into his developing Middle-earth fiction, finally planting rival edifices on the Tower Hills on the west of his imaginary “Shire” and also drawing on memories of other real towers that stand in the Cotswolds and above Bath. “Faringdon Folly isn’t a complete physical model for Orthanc,” said Garth. “It’s the controversy surrounding its building that filtered into Tolkien’s writings and can be traced all the way to echoes in the scene where Gandalf is held captive in Saruman’s tower.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-english-towers-and-landmarks-that-inspired-tolkiens-hobbit-sagas/feed/ 0
Canada’s publishers face deluge of returns as bookstores re-open after eight weeks lockdown and a 63% drop in sales https://www.thepassivevoice.com/canadas-publishers-face-deluge-of-returns-as-bookstores-re-open-after-eight-weeks-lockdown-and-a-63-drop-in-sales/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=canadas-publishers-face-deluge-of-returns-as-bookstores-re-open-after-eight-weeks-lockdown-and-a-63-drop-in-sales https://www.thepassivevoice.com/canadas-publishers-face-deluge-of-returns-as-bookstores-re-open-after-eight-weeks-lockdown-and-a-63-drop-in-sales/#comments Mon, 25 May 2020 00:13:00 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123925 Read more]]> From The New Publishing Standard:

Canada’s book publishing trade association Booknet is warning that as bookstores open their doors there will be even more books than usual being sent back unsold and unwanted.

While some bookstores have managed to maintain curbside sales, overall bricks & mortar sales are down about 63% and bookstores are sitting on case after case of unsold books that there is unlikely to be sufficient demand for as high street trade gradually resumes.

Canada’s The Star quotes Booknet Canada’s Noah Genner as saying:

If we just look at physical bookstores, so not online retailers, but mostly physical bookstores, they’re down almost 63 per cent year over year for the period. So 63 per cent in unit sales. That is hugely significant.

. . . .

The returns model, introduced last century to give bookstores flexibility to stock more books than they needed at no risk, is not just a Canadian problem but a model used around the world, and in normal circumstances the expectation of returns is factored into the production costs, so would not be a heavy drain on publisher profits.

But now publishers face not only the loss of sales for the lockdown duration (and however long it takes for some degree of normal trading to resume) but also an exceptional excess of unsold titles that will end up being pulped or more likely sold off to remaindered operations for re-sale.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

PG says that the book returns system is a twist on vendor financing, which, outside of the book business, typically happens when the retailer can’t qualify for conventional financing in order to pay for its purchases from a bank or other financial institution.

In the reality-based business world, vendor financing is often regarded as an indication that the customer isn’t in very good financial shape and doesn’t have enough working capital to operate its business. It can also be regarded as an indication that the vendor has a hard time selling its inventory unless it becomes what is, in effect, a bank or finance company for its customers.

Vendors often offer a price discount if the purchaser pays within X time period. This may be structured as follows: The Seller offers a 2% discount on an invoice due in 30 days if the buyer pays within the first 10 days of receiving the invoice. This usually doesn’t carry the same taint as vendor financing over a much longer period of time.

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/canadas-publishers-face-deluge-of-returns-as-bookstores-re-open-after-eight-weeks-lockdown-and-a-63-drop-in-sales/feed/ 1
5 Ways to Improve the Action in your Story https://www.thepassivevoice.com/5-ways-to-improve-the-action-in-your-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=5-ways-to-improve-the-action-in-your-story https://www.thepassivevoice.com/5-ways-to-improve-the-action-in-your-story/#respond Sun, 24 May 2020 23:44:13 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123921 Read more]]> From author Megan Ward via Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Page-turners aren’t the only books that employ action. In every story the characters’ actions drive the narrative forward. Without action, a book would be a series of scenes full of dialogue and description, a literary Dinner with Andre that would put the reader straight to sleep.

. . . .

1) Evocative Verbs Improve the Action

The easiest way to improve the action in your story is through verb selection. Forget is and does and seems and feels. How about rattles and shakes and leaps and destroys? Forget was and did and appears and smells. How about hobbles and shimmers and carouses and spins?

You can even make verbs up, like “He drawered the manuscript,” “Her hair waterfalled across her face,” and “I watched the sand delta by the shore.”

We all know that active verbs are better than passive verbs, so try replacing “The book was passed down the row” with something like “The book jumped down the row from hand to hand.” Replace “The package was delivered to her house” with “The delivery man jettisoned her package from the truck before careening back down the street.”

Start by making a list of your favorite verbs. Think jitterspewfesterswagger, glimmer, squawk…if you run out of ideas try your thesaurus.

. . . .

3) Engage the Senses

Don’t confuse static “sensing verbs” (I feel sad, It smells good, You sound angry, She looks tired) with their dynamic counterparts (I feel the scalding water on my feet, I smell the loamy earth, The siren sounded throughout the town). And don’t confuse the use of sensing verbs with the use of sensory details in your writing. You should always aim to engage the senses in your writing.

Note how Sonali Deraniyagala uses dynamic verbs like hissed and rustled to engage the sense of sound in this passage from her memoir Wave:

“I moved on to make sinister noises when the phone was answered. I hissed, I rustled, I made ghostly sounds. The Dutch man spoke with more urgency now. ‘What is it you want?’ he said time and again. ‘Tell me, please. What is it you want?’”

Here’s a line from an LA Times article by Philip Caputo that engages the sense of smell. Note the use of the dynamic verbs overwhelmed and burned to convey the putrid odor of war:

“Their putrefying flesh overwhelmed the odors of smoke and diesel fuel and burned tanks, trucks and armored personnel carriers.”

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Meghan is one of the authors of Writing Action

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/5-ways-to-improve-the-action-in-your-story/feed/ 0
What a good thing https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-a-good-thing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-a-good-thing https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-a-good-thing/#respond Sun, 24 May 2020 17:29:51 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123828

What a good thing Adam had. When he said a good thing he knew nobody had said it before.

Mark Twain

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-a-good-thing/feed/ 0
Can There Be Book Deals Without Meals? https://www.thepassivevoice.com/can-there-be-book-deals-without-meals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-there-be-book-deals-without-meals https://www.thepassivevoice.com/can-there-be-book-deals-without-meals/#comments Sat, 23 May 2020 18:03:25 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123916 Read more]]> From Publishers Weekly:

It was week four of coronavirus shelter-in-place. Going on 2 p.m.; I’m at my desk at home, answering emails, filtering submissions, contemplating a forthcoming edit. But wait, what’s that sound? Oh, right, it’s my stomach growling. I’m hungry. Must be time for a can of that chicken noodle soup I’ve been hoarding.

What a difference a couple of weeks makes. Before the lockdown orders came down in New York City, no self-respecting publishing person could forget about lunch. We all knew the drill. At 12:30 or 1 p.m.—occasionally as early as 12:15 or as late as 1:15—the office exodus would begin. We’d gather our coats and bags and wits and head out to meet with agents and authors at restaurants where reservations had been scheduled two, three, six, or eight weeks in advance. The mission: start or continue relationships that might lead to new submissions from said agents and authors, which in turn would lead to new acquisitions to be announced at future in-house editorial meetings.

While we might have shared sushi at Nobu, everybody knew lunch wasn’t really about food. No, it was about gossip, shop talk, and bringing brand new projects to fruition. Lunch, in other words, literally meant business.

So it should come as no surprise that among the questions, and there were many, that a lot of us asked when this whole work-from-home thing started was what would happen to the publishing lunch. 

. . . .

We have now had 10 weeks of sheltering in place, and I am happy to report that while I haven’t met anyone in a restaurant for what feels like forever, I, and most of my colleagues, are still making and publishing books and signing up titles for forthcoming seasons. I’m on the phone constantly, checking in with agents and authors about how they’re doing with kids at home and a bunch of new worries—but also about the projects they’re shepherding. I’ve been in a couple of major auctions and have won and lost several books, both fiction and non.

Will those books “work”? Who knows? Determining what the future reading world will embrace… well, that’s been a problem endemic to our industry forever; we’ve asked the question before (most recently during the 2008 recession, and before that after 9/11) and we’ve always survived. Sorry to paraphrase the over-paraphrased Mark Twain, but despite bookstore consolidation, the rise of e-books and audiobooks, and the explosion of interest in streaming TV, publishing’s death has been greatly exaggerated—many times. So what if now we’re talking books over Zoom, or WhatsApp, or maybe just in a plain old-fashioned phone call instead of across a two-top? We’re still publishing.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

While PG believes and ardently hopes there will always be an England, he can’t say the same thing about the traditional publishing business.

There will always be books, albeit in evolving forms, and books require authors (AI is lurking, but PG needs a bit more convincing that AI is capable of creating good fiction.) but printers used to do much of what publishers do today.

Publishers are an example of a classic middleman (or middleperson if you prefer, agents are as well) receiving products created by somebody else and funneling them to the organization or person who will actually sell those books to readers.

PG concedes that editors (whether they are called agents or not) can and do add value to the end product. However, this function can be outsourced to nice people working from their home office in Kansas where (for the benefit of those New Yorkers who have never visited), the costs of a comfortable life are much, much lower than on that skinny island hanging off the eastern part of the United States. The restaurants may be of a different type than Manhattan’s were before the plague, but with all the newly rich indie Kansas authors, Nobu may find greener pastures in Wichita.

If authors and booksellers (online or off) can work without the middlepersons, they both will probably make more money from their respective businesses.

From whatever New York restaurants survive the current disruption, the decline and fall of traditional publishing may cause an occasional tear to be shed, but there will be more-prosperous authors and booksellers who may make up the difference.

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/can-there-be-book-deals-without-meals/feed/ 26
What now for authors? https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-now-for-authors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-now-for-authors https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-now-for-authors/#comments Sat, 23 May 2020 17:40:04 +0000 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/?p=123910 Read more]]> From The Bookseller:

Sanjana Varghese had been working as a freelance journalist in London for around a year when the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

As countries around the world went into lockdown, many organisations froze their commissioning budgets, while others halted business entirely. Several of the pieces Varghese had been working on were cut as a result, having a “huge impact” on both her finances and her level of stress. As both a migrant and someone relatively new to freelancing, she was ineligible for support from the British government. 

“It was really stressful for a while – and it still is,” she says. “I’m increasingly uncertain that freelancing as we know it now will still exist in the same way in a couple of months. That’s something I spiral about when I’m left without something to do for too long.” 

One of the publications Varghese regularly wrote for has already shut down, again leading to increased anxiety about the future: “Basically, I try not to look at my emails too much because I’m anxious I’ll get one with, ‘Sorry, we’re shutting down’ in the subject line.” 

As a freelance writer, she is far from alone. Many currently working across journalism and publishing are facing similar anxieties when it comes to a shared uncertain future. But as a community used to going it alone, it’s a crisis that predates coronavirus. 

In many ways, freelance writers are prepared for periods of isolation. Hours are spent reading, researching or writing alone, while working from home away from the presence of colleagues is an everyday reality. For some it is liberating; for others, the total opposite.

Several of the issues people have faced since being confined to their homes are nothing new to freelancers. Epson research found that a quarter of freelancers had experienced depression, while almost half admitted to finding the experience lonely. On top of this, the publishing and media industries are also deeply unequal: 51 per cent of journalists and 80 per cent of editors are privately educated. For those without newspaper columns, cushy media jobs, family connections or six-figure book deals, lockdown – and its repercussions – have only heightened such disparity.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Regular visitors to TPV know what’s coming now.

As with hundreds of other indie authors, Mrs. PG has been working on her next book every day. The artist who creates her covers has been doing just about the same thing and did another great job on the cover for this next book.

As PG has mentioned in earlier comments, almost every indie author he’s communicated with since the lockdown happened has noticed Amazon sales going through the roof. Mrs. PG is expecting another nice royalty check in a few days and yet another next month.

When you freelance for a person who reports to another person who needs approval from a third person to offer you an advance and you sign a publishing contract promptly and send it back to your contact, time passes before you get anything in the email. How much time depends on a bunch of people who boss around the person with whom you have dealings.

Freelance journalists and photographers are all familiar with receiving messages from the person they’ve been working with saying there won’t be a contract after all. If the publication hasn’t signed the contract (and sometimes even if it has), there won’t even be a kill fee.

]]>
https://www.thepassivevoice.com/what-now-for-authors/feed/ 1