Monday, December 31, 2012

Predictions--one more year

The year is wrapping up. Strike that, it's pretty much over. And that leaves me reflecting on what's gone on in the past, and what will happen in the next year.

This year has moved at an astonishing rate. Really. E-sales have exploded and e-books are neck and neck with paper and ink. Barnes and Nobles is looking rather lonely, sitting on a corner across from a dead Borders, and Amazon is twiddling its thumbs and pretending not to be a player in the DOJ lawsuit as every one of the defendants points their fingers that way. The Big Six edge towards the Big Four, dipping into vanity publishing in hopes of raising much-needed cash, and are surprised to find their staunchest defenders drifting away in light of this 'financially sensible' move. Hosts of internet publishers peek over the edge, searching for purchase in the new publishing world, and some begin to rise with heads held high. Self-publishing becomes legitimate and respected, and self-published millionaires rise, shine, and get traditional deals.

It's a war zone in this new publishing world. And we, authors and readers, are the armies.

So what do I expect for 2013?

First off, economics isn't quick. So my predictions aren't as sudden or as dire as most. I think everything we have now will still exist, but will expand: drastic changes will occur on 5, 10, and 50-year bases, not year-to-year.

So what I expect for the next year is this:

1. Amazon, having won the DOJ vs Big Publishers lawsuit through the publishers' settlements (despite being technically not involved, as neither the plaintiff nor the defendant), will lower prices on books to a point that impairs other companies' ability to compete, including both Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores. Apple and Macmillan will fight in court, but the battle won't be resolved by 2014. In any case, Macmillan will still gradually switch to more or less the same tactics the other publishers have been forced to adopt, due to pressure from the consumers. I doubt there will be any "technical glitches" causing Buy Buttons to disappear from Amazon; at this point, Amazon has already won, and anything so obvious would muddy Amazon's name.

2. Barnes and Noble will still be running, and probably profitable, by the end of 2013. They've got a large backlog of money, enough to keep them up and going for a few more years. And, having a lock on the brick-and-mortar stores, they've got some leverage.

3. Amazon will open brick and mortar stores. 

4. Amazon will continue to strongly fund indie book stores, and act as the small-publishing guardian angel by bailing out numerous small publishers. Several authors from small publishing companies will inexplicably become best-sellers as Amazon pushes them hard, making the small publishers more popular and the small publishing market more appealing to new authors.

5. Major publishing houses will still be able find and recruit talented new authors at the same rate as in the past. 

6. More self-published millionaires will rise, and then accept traditional publishing deals.

7. E-book sales will settle down to approximately 50% of all book sales, neither rising nor falling significantly beyond that, as readers continue to cherish physical books even as they enjoy the convenience of e-reading.

Big industry changes will take longer. Obviously, these predictions are pure speculation, but what I expect within the next 10 years:

1. Amazon will purchase Barnes and Noble.

2. Small publishers will dominate the non-Amazon market. The "Big Six" will be the "Big Three" due to multiple mergers, and one of these three will be Macmillan, which will have bought or merged with a few well-established small publishers.

3. There will be a rise in coffee-bookstores, sponsored by online publishers, wherein readers can take a book down from a shelf, read it, but cannot purchase it in the store. Instead, they may scan the title and buy the e-book. Many of the titles will be print-on-demand copies (or copies from extremely small print runs) of e-books. This allows readers the browser experience while lowering the overhead of the store by reducing the amount of stock kept on hand, and the amount of employee time spent caring for the stock, allowing employees to focus on their main duty: making coffee and/or tea. Since the stores will be subsidized by outside sources (Amazon, indie publishers, small publishers, online-only publishers), they won't need to be profitable on their own, but many may become so if they become trendy.

4. Amazon will have faced increasing pressure to remove DRM from their books, but after purchasing B&N and making all future Nooks compatible with Kindle files [and no, I don't think they'll stop the Nook line; it gives customers the appearance of competition], the furor will begin to die down and Amazon will keep their DRM. They will, however, make it even easier for Kindles to upload small publisher and Kobo titles, streamlining the process further to appease the market. Major competitors, such as Apple, will remain incompatible. Apple will continue to have a hand in the market, but will never make the majority of its profits from books or publishing, and will remain a thorn in Amazon's side without ever actually being a threat to Amazon's profits.

5. For a while, Amazon will look like it's about to become the only player on the market, despite the "Big Three" that have emerged and that will continue to be profitable. Then another non-book company (think Google or Target or Facebook) will turn some serious attention to publishing, using the same tactics as Amazon, and become Amazon's next major competitor, preventing Amazon from ever obtaining the true monopoly the industry fears.

I think that's enough predicting for now. Here's to 2013!

What do you see happening in the next year? The next ten years?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Publishing Industry News

Publishing Industry news for 12/14-12/28/12. My searching was slightly less thorough than usual, what with the holidays and house guests and buying a 'new' car and chasing a post-surgery kitty around with antibiotics and pain meds, so if you've come across anything major from the past two weeks that I've missed, please add it to the comments!

Industry News

Penguin settles with the DOJ in terms nearly identical to those in the deals of Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins. The terms apply to Penguin Random House as well, should the merger be approved. This includes giving the DOJ advance notice of all joint e-book projects with other publishers for a period of two years, and regularly reporting all communication with other publishers to the DOJ. They  must sever their relationship with Apple, and may not form another most-favored-nation clause for five years, and may not for 2 years create any agreements that curtail retailers' abilities to implement price-cutting. However, Random House, which was not involved in the DOJ lawsuit, may continue to use the agency model for as long as they are a separate company. Should the merger go through, only Macmillan and Apple will go to court this July to fight the DOJ's charges. Macmillan reaffirms its decision to take a stand against the DOJ's lawsuit.

According to Digital Book World, looks like Simon & Schuster already have a new deal with Amazon. No longer is the "publisher set the price" disclaimer listed on Amazon, and the prices have notably dropped.

The DOJ settlement doesn't exactly prohibit the 'agency' model, but it does change it. Affected publishers are beginning to switch to what's becoming known as the "Agency 2" model. The new agreement allows retailers to offer approximately 30% discount. The concept is that the retailers must not sell books below cost as a whole, but may decide not to make any profit.
(Let's say a retailer contracts to buy 10,000 books at a cost of $7000 from a publisher, with a total retail value of $10,000. The retailer may then sell the books for no less than $7000, [sounds like $7 a book, right?] but may choose to offer Title XYZ, valued at $10, for $5.00, as long as they sell equal numbers Title ABC with a discounted price of $9. They may also choose to earn a small profit by selling every book for $8, or they may choose to earn the entire $10K.) 
Macmillan allows some limited online discounting on certain titles. More specifically, titles $13.99 and above may be discounted up to 10%.

HarperCollins Worldwide takes over HaperCollins India, a move expected to make U.S. titles more easily available in India, and vice versa.

Baen e-books should now be available through Amazon, but promise to continue to remain DRM-free. The sci-fi/fantasy publisher has had to remove many titles from their free online library to establish this deal, but promise that they will continue to add more.

Digital publishing community Wattpad surpasses 10 million uploads, and aims for 129 million in the next three years: that's the "number of unique books that have been published worldwide since the advent of printing."

Macmillan, meanwhile, is leaping onto the crowd-sourcing bandwagon with a new romance imprint for ages 14+. Any subgenre, any type of romance, but make sure it's a romance (and, erm, I'm guessing age-appropriate, since this is the Macmillan Children's Publishing Group that's running the project.) The readers will read and vote, and the highest-rated manuscripts will go out in both print and e-book format.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 12/21.

Have you considered Kickstarter to help you self-publish? That initial investment in editing and high-quality cover design can be hard for many of us to manage, but before you get started, take a look at CNN's discovery of why 84% of Kickstarter's top projects deliver late. And try to avoid making the same mistakes!

Who's reading your e-reader reading habits? Electronic Frontier Foundation breaks it down with an article and a handy chart.

By now we all know that GoodReads members hate self-promo. So where can you go to promote your self-published books? GalleyCat offers a list of places where you can promote your book online for free--and not get chased out the door!

If your agent is submitting manuscripts to publishers and then pulling them just because the publisher is taking more than a couple of months to answer, Janet Reid says it's time to find a new agent.

QueryTracker suggests ways to promote yourself, such as getting on GoodReads, offering swag, and and doing book tours.

Rachelle Gardner answers questions asked by authors, such as when to bring in an editor and how to know if an agent accepts simultaneous submissions. Also, she talks about when it's appropriate, and how, to re-query an agency.

Smashwords founder Mark Coker predicts more money will be made from authors than from readers in the publishing industry in the future, thanks to the rise of self-publishing. Yikes! He offers advice on how not to get swindled out of your money. Hint: you shouldn't pay more than you can make. (Note: He also has, and links to, a book called Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. I wonder if that has anything to do with this prediction?) He also predicts that e-books will rise to up to 45% of the American market, and Amazon's share of the e-book market will decline, and more (21 total predictions, in fact).

What other major industry news and helpful publishing blogs have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Interesting Statistics

So, because I can't think of anything interesting to say today, I'm going to share something I find interesting: the stats behind this blog.

My most popular post of all time: Grammar Brigade: Tense? It's all in the timing.
Most popular with audiences from Russia, but gets views from all over.

This December, everyone wants to know how to tie a bow. The U.S. seems to have the most people searching for bow-making skills, but this is another world-wide popular post. The guide has pictures for every step, which gets rid of the language barrier.

And for the week before Christmas, not surprisingly, bow-making takes a major lead!
The browsers people use to visit, and where they come from. For most of the blog's history, the U.S. and Russia have hosted the largest number of my viewers. In the last year, European viewers have begun to stop by more regularly. And I have at least a few of followers in Australia and Asia. Hello, everyone!
The same worldwide trend continues in this month, with a few people dropping by from the Middle East. I think Google+ may have helped me connect with those viewers; the writing community I joined is very diverse, and some of the members have mentioned finding the publishing news helpful.

And here's a look at the blog over its entire history: I began in February 2010, with 22 hits for the entire month. The spike was in December 2010, I don't remember what for. The dip right before that was in September 2010, when I was gone for half the month.

I know some blogs get 13,000 hits in day, but to me, it's huge. And it's growing: 1800 in a month is a big jump from the 22 I began at. So, hello to everyone, all over the world! Thank you for dropping by and making this blog a success!

I'd love to hear how you found my blog. What brought you here, and what country are you from?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

No real post today. I'm going to go spend some time with the family. Wish you all the best!

Friday, December 21, 2012

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Due to an intra-terrestrial event, all websites originated on planet://Earth/sol.9.3/mundane have been permanently deleted. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Try reloading later or checking your network connections.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Apocalypse Choice

Okay, okay, we've all heard it: The world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, at 11:11 UTC. Never mind the numerous debunkings of this myth, or the prevalent use of the Aztec calendar instead of the Mayan one, or the flashbacks any previous cases of assured world-doom. The world is going to end, darn it, and we're going to throw a party to celebrate!

So here's your writing prompt: The world is ending for your characters.

Metaphorical or literal, doesn't matter: it's your choice of apocalypse. What do they do? How do they feel? To whom do they turn for comfort, or who turns to them for comfort? Do they try to stop it, or just accept it and try to make peace?

We learn the most about ourselves under extreme pressure. Pressure doesn't get more extreme than the end of the world!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Motivation: Don't blame, just fix

I remember an incident when I was a kid, where there was a mess in the family room. Mom walked in and told my brother and me to clean it up. "It's not my fault!" we both cried.

"I don't care whose fault it is. Just clean it up."

Wisdom in a nutshell.

"It's not my fault that I can't write today; my husband forgot his lunch, so I had to take it to him." "My boss won't let me go home early." "The computer is too slow; it drives me crazy and stops me from writing." "My Facebook friends keep messaging me, which distracts me from writing." All of these statements are ways of assigning blame.

But that's a problem, because blame does nothing. Blame is the excuse not to do something. Nothing I do will ever be complete if I focus on figuring out whose fault it is that I've got an obstacle in my path.

Instead, if I want to be productive, I focus on fixing. Is there a problem? What is the problem? Then how can I fix it?

"My husband forgot his lunch and can't eat out, so I'll take him lunch, but he's in charge of dinner so I can make up my writing time." "My boss won't let me go home early, so I'll make time this weekend." "My computer is slow, so I'll run an anti-spyware program." "Facebook is distracting me, so I'll post a status message saying that I'm off to do some writing, and disconnect the Internet."

A huge motivator for me is to never state a problem out loud unless I tack on a solution. It doesn't matter whose fault the problem is--in fact, I try to actively avoid assigning "fault," because it distracts me from my purpose: Fixing the problem. 

(I try to do this in editing, too: if I have a problem with a passage, I state what the problem is and offer a possible solution.)

Because when we focus on fixing, we get things done. It's a completion-oriented thought process, and like most psychological things, how we view the world affects how we interact with it. So when I make a habit of focusing on solutions, I put myself in a can-do state of mind, which means I'm more likely to get things done despite challenges.

So instead of getting mad at someone else for stopping you from writing, try focusing on the problem: You're not writing enough, and you don't have time to do more writing. Then formulate a solution: Ask someone else to watch the kids for an hour three days a week; use a cloud-based writing platform that allows you to write on your work break; rope your Facebook friends into helping you write more by starting a 1k1hr session.

Sometimes it's tempting, when faced with a solution that I cannot fix, to just assign blame and move on. It's an easy way of handling it, because I don't have to stress. But the thing is, it still doesn't accomplish anything, and the problem still exists. 

For example, no agents have requested MANUSCRIPT X.That's a problem. An easy blame would be "traditional publishing is terrible and agents are all evil," or "I'm a bad writer with no talent and I should just give up." Not my fault, nothing I can do. But it doesn't fix anything.

A better way to address this is to address the things I can control. I cannot make an agent like my story. But I can: A) improve my query through thorough editing, B) find other agents to whom my story would appeal more, C) take a query-writing class to get professional advice, D) analyze the market to figure out if my manuscript is a niche product, and if so, make connections in the niche community and then self-publish, E) put the manuscript aside for a few years and focus on writing/selling a second until the first is back in vogue, F) decide I have the resources available to go it on my own, hire an editor and a cover artist, learn how to effectively promote my book, learn the best practices of self-publishing, and then self-publish, or G) realize trying to publish isn't going to make me happy, and take up a hobby instead.

All of those are solutions I can implement. They all solve the problem, and yes, they all require effort from me (except possibly giving up). They all motivate me, because I can accomplish them, because they are things that I can actually do. Whose fault is it that MANUSCRIPT X hasn't been requested: mine, the agents, the editors, the book-buyers, maybe E.L. James for stealing all the customers' book money? I don't care.

What I care about is what I can do.

To me, blame is useless. It doesn't matter whose fault a problem is. The only things that matter are the problem, and the solution. And it's putting myself in that mentality that helps me become more productive. 

Does solution-oriented thinking motivate you? Has blame (or being blamed!) ever stopped you  from accomplishing something you wanted to do?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Publishing Industry News

This week's post covers 12/1-12/14/12. So here's the latest publishing industry news and helpful blogs!

Publishing News

The Albee Agency claims to be a PR company for authors, and while that may be true, their credentials were not: not only is the site, according to Writer Beware, "offering services of dubious value for too much money, with no assurance of professional expertise," they also posted false testimonials from authors who'd never heard of them (which were removed after being called out)! If you've heard of them, steer clear; anyone who would post blatantly false recommendations on the assumption that no one in the industry would check won't do your PR any good, either.

HarperCollins has been accused by the Rainforest Action Network (a conservation group) of contracting companies that create paper using rainforest trees, harvested from areas of critical environmental importance. RAN had some forensic testing done that identified the paper of several children's books as containing components of trees from these areas. HarperCollins is currently challenging RAN's methodology in the tests, pointing out that the paper may produced before switching to using only certified mills in February 2012. They've also pointed out that RAN is not sharing the test results to help them identify the point of the problem, while they're not sharing their sourcing information with RAN.

In Europe, the e-book pricing suit (similar to the DOJ suit against U.S. publishers) has reached a settlement. Participating in the settlement are Apple, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Holtzbrinck (owner of Macmillan), who all agreed to switch to the wholesaler model instead of the agency model (allowing retailers to set the prices instead of publishers).

Hachette and Simon & Schuster (separately, thanks to the DOJ settlement) create new agreements with e-book retailers that allow the sellers to discount the books.

Barnes & Nobles plans to reduce the total number of brick-and-mortar stores, and are also experiencing some negative feedback (i.e. class action lawsuits) from a breach of security in several states this year when criminals tampered with some of their PIN pads, gaining credit card numbers from affected pads. They also close their TikaTok line.

Baker & Taylor aims to make audiobooks available on Apple and Android systems through Acoustik, a new mobile platform.

The Independent Book Sellers Association releases a how-to guide for indie and self-publishers for $2.99.

What do you think about targeting consumers by location? How about if your product is books? HarperCollins Canada gives this a try, targeting location-specific products (such as restaurant guides) to Facebook and social media fans in those areas

Amazon's Breakthrough Novel winners will be published by Amazon Publishing in the future instead of Penguin. (Almost goes without saying, now that Amazon Publishing is up and running, but there's a link for some official confirmation.) Also, Kindle prepares to enter China, creating a Kindle store for Chinese books. When they'll actually get in is yet to be seen.

Random House employees, meanwhile, get a $5,000 bonus after a record-breaking year. All of them. Part of the thanks goes to the success of E.L. James' 50 Shades trilogy, picked up by RH (bet each and every one of them is now a rabid E.L. James fan!).

Now you can lend your ePub files to your friends, with OwnShelf. B&N and Amazon both have lending functions, but it's much harder to loan an ePub bought from another retailer and uploaded onto your Nook or Kindle; OwnShelf, accessible through Facebook, should help change that.

The New York Times now has separate categories for Young Adult and Middle Grades bestseller lists.

Mystery writers: Adventure Publications is looking to start a new line of mystery books, set outdoors/in the wilderness at 68-100K words. Submission details at the bottom of author guidelines page. They did a guest post with Janet Reid, giving a few more details.

Cosmo and Harlequin team up to publish a new line of novellas called "Red Hot Reads" (romance, in case the title and publishers didn't tip you off).

For published authors, your Nielson BookScan data will now include Walmart sales.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 12/7 and 12/14.

Nathan Bransford's The Last Few Weeks in Books (from 11/30).

On Writer Beware, a guest poster talks about how to avoid international writing scams, such as magazines that never pay and contests to which writers give all rights on entering. Mostly, it comes down to do your research and read the fine print--pretty much the same advice anywhere.

If you have more than one book, just pitch one at a time, Rachelle Gardner says. She also provides a list of advice on how to find an agent, based off her Facebook followers' comments on how they landed agents. And how do you know if your book is good? Um, well... Ask people, go with your gut, see if it sells? Sorry, there's no way something as subjective as 'good' has a clear-cut answer. Also, avoid putting these lines in your query. "Facepalm" is not the reaction you want from your dream agent. And do you have a Holiday Plan for writing?

Thursday afternoon, Friday night, and Saturday morning at the Question Emporium, Janet Reid answers questions. If you don't know what genre your manuscript is, don't mention one. Also don't tailor to the agent's gender; that's a stereotype and disaster waiting to happen. If the agent isn't looking for what you write, then this is not the right agent for you. (My two cents: There's a difference between appealing to an agent's interests and misrepresenting your work, so while you can mention things you've discovered the agent likes, don't tailor to what you think the agent is looking for if it's not what your book is.) Also, know your own market. Saying you're the only one out there who's doing something doesn't make friends if bunches of other people are offering exactly what you are.

It's almost another year. What better time to make a business plan? Stina Lindenblatt at QueryTracker offers advice on making one. Carolyn Kaufman answers questions about writing a character who has been through an abusive relationship, on counseling and recovery and where to find further resources.

Sourcebooks editor Leah Hultenschmidt drops by the FF&P blog to give an interview on what her job is like.

Twitter's changed formats, so if you're not up-to-date, here's how to add a header photo. (Me? Of course I'm up to date... No, my name isn't Cyrano. Why do you ask?)

By the way, if you're new to Goodreads, don't use it to self-promote. The community there really doesn't like self-promotion.

3DIssue publishes a nifty graphic on the digital publishing explosion. Here's something to put things into perspective: the Kindle was first launched in 2007, not quite six years ago. Rapid-fire market change, anyone?

What publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tea fangirl!

It's back!

You know I love tea (if you don't know, this is probably your first time here, and you completely missed the "Welcome to Tea" tab above), and you probably have figured out that I mostly drink loose-leaf tea these days. But one of my absolute favorite teas is a bagged tea:

It's naturally sweet, and actually smells like sugar cookies to me. But it only comes into stores during the holidays, so I stock up while I can. (Yes, I have a small pile of boxes sitting in a corner of my room right now.) And, okay, technically it's a tisane, because it has no tea plant in it.

Excuse me while I go drink a calorie-free sugar cookie or two.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fangirling... again!

Three books I'm excited about that have just been released:

Ilona Andrews' Steels Edge:
      Love her Weird series. Can't wait to read this one!

Joanne Bertin's Bard's Oath:
     Ran into the first book in this series, Dragon and Phoenix, last year. Loved it, found the next one online, discovered that there was no third. Given the publication dates of the first two, assumed the series would never be complete, and wailed about the unfairness of the universe. Then I found the new one just came out at the end of November.

Nalini Singh's Archangel's Storm
Bought it as soon as it came out. Love Nalini Singh, with her Guild Hunter Series as my absolute favorites. I'm still waiting for the next in the Psy/Changeling series.

There are many more I can't wait to snatch up as soon as they're available, but I figured I'd limit myself to three, because otherwise I could go on all day. Have you read any of these three yet? What did you think?

What books are you about to buy?

Friday, December 7, 2012

The nature of being introverted

I'm an introvert.

I love people. Seeing my friends makes me happy; knowing they're there to talk to is reassuring. I'm pleasant to talk to, and a good coworker, and great at team projects. I get things done, and can be quite decisive when I need to be. Socializing is fun, and I'll stand around gossiping with people I sort-of-know at parties, sipping soda and munching on snacks and swapping jokes and stories. Late-running D&D marathons are always a blast, with a group of 5-6 close friends, and going over to a friend's house to write is a fantastic way to make progress on my WIP. Going to conventions and spending an entire three-day weekend sharing a hotel room with four other people is the epitome of awesome. And shoulder-to-shoulder fair traffic is a must-see every year I can find time to go. I frequently end up being the leader in small groups (usually by default), and I'm not afraid of speaking in front of groups, even if I'm not great at it. Talking to strangers isn't a problem, and traveling the world is a dream come true.

But I'm still an introvert.

This means, for me, that all these things I enjoy make me tired. Instead of rejuvenating me, they're an energy expenditure. I can only do so many of them each week, and must absolutely have a little time just to myself if I don't want to collapse face-first in the dirt.

Those of you who are deep introverts get this. You understand how being around the people you care about can be exhausting, even though it's something you love. But there's a lot of stereotypes against introverts out there, because, frankly, it's not an easy concept for people who don't feel it to understand. Some of them complain that you don't love them enough, or feel like you're pushing them away when you turn down an opportunity to spend time with them. So instead you wear yourself to the bone, because you don't want to hurt them, and then they're upset at you for being always irritable because you're exhausted.

Being an introvert is not the same thing as liking to read. It's not the same thing as being antisocial. It's not the same thing as enjoying a quiet walk in the woods to get away from the chaos of daily life. Because while all of things are appreciated by introverts, it's not what makes them introverts. In fact, most extroverts like these things, too.

I just can't rest around people. Even going over to a close friend's place and hanging out one-on-one for a while, doing nothing but reading, isn't really resting. To me, that's the base of being an introvert.

Everything else I consider to be side effects. That I can go a week without seeing people and not go nuts, if the situation arises? Side effect. That I enjoy single-person hobbies, such as reading, writing, and playing video games? Great way to rest up without getting bored. Going outside for a hike by myself, spending 1-2 hours out in a state park without listening to music or stopping to talk to the other hikers? It's relaxing. Sitting around thinking in a quiet room, with nothing but a lapcat for company? Everyone should take time for self-reflection.

And if I don't do these things every once in a while, I start to fall apart. So I schedule quiet time for myself. It's not free time. It's sanity time.

It would be a lot harder to be a writer if I weren't an introvert. I would appreciate myself less, and be less resilient to setbacks because I wouldn't have taken the time to understand that a setback isn't a failure. When I am tired, getting myself back together is cheap, easy, and actually fairly quick: a few hours of peace and quiet, and I'm ready to go again. I know when I'm stressing out, and I know how to unwind. I never worry about being bored, and I'm great at learning new things quickly.

Being introverted doesn't make me less talented, or shy, or a bad leader. It doesn't make me incapable of socializing, and it doesn't make me less ambitious; it doesn't stop me from taking vacations to exotic places when the opportunity arises, or keep me from making new friends and expanding my horizons. What it does mean is that I give myself a little space each day to breathe, and don't regret spending time at home instead of going out every single night, and don't get bored easily. Which, I might add, is much healthier for the wallet.

Everyone who's an introvert has a different experience, because hey, we're not all the same. But I thought I would share what being an introvert means to me.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does this affect you?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ever Been 'Almost'?

It's got all the pieces: a spunky seventy-five year old protagonist, her contemporary arch nemesis, corporate politics, zombies, Twinkies, booby traps, and hand grenades. The voices are strong, and the dialogue is funny.

But it's just not there.

I don't usually write short stories--I'm one of those odd people who find novels easier--but I had an idea for one that really appealed to me. The problem is, it's stuck with a horrible case of "almost." Almost funny, almost readable, almost what I'm looking for. Almost.

That's where readers' group comes in.

I read the piece aloud to them last night (the first ten pages anyway), and they nailed it. They saw what I couldn't, and gave me some ideas of how to fix it.

These were things that sounded obvious when they said it, but, for all my trying, I just hadn't caught myself. Now, I can go back and eliminate a couple of scenes, write a new one, and re-stage the opening to be more reflective of the ending to bring it all together. I think I now have what it takes to kick it out of "Almost" and into "It's there!"

This is the value of having critique groups. Never underestimate how important they are.

Have you ever had a piece stuck at "Almost"? How did you get it out? And what's the most useful thing you've gotten from a critique group, if you have one?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Truly Horrible Poetry: Please do your worst!

Everyone needs bad poetry sometimes.

No, not bad. Horrendous. The worst poetry you can imagine. 

For when a relative asks, "Are you busy?" and takes "I'm writing" as a "Sure, I can help." For when door-to-door salesmen come knocking, and won't go away. Just whip it out mid-sentence, interrupting your interruption, and ask them if they'll kindly give you some feedback while they're there. 

For that spectacular play with a character who is a terrible poet; for that teacher who insists on metaphors for the seventeenth week in a row; for that annoying cousin who won't leave you alone.

I bring you All-Purpose Truly Horrible Poetry!


I am a box of tissues
I keep on giving my love
My heart beating for flues
the dripping nostrils of my dove
catches the virus I have spread,
my true love’s nose starts to bleed
into her heart so dead,
and love taketh seed.

Your challenge: Add another stanza of truly horrible poetry. This "poem" is to be public domain, for anyone, anywhere, who needs something truly awful. Do your worst, Internet!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry-related blogs for 11/16-11/30/12.

Industry News

Simon & Schuster opens Archway Solutions, a "self-publishing" division outsourced to Author Solutions Inc. Be warned: Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware! indicates that Archway is still the vanity publisher that Author Solutions was. Don't be fooled. Books will not carry the Simon & Schuster logo or credits. And it's not the same as "being published by Penguin" (who bought Author Solutions earlier this year) when you're paying the company thousands of dollars to publish you. We're talking $1,999-$14,999 for fiction. That's pretty much the definition of vanity publishing, especially when you consider that you can self-publish for free. Editing, by the way, is not included in the 2-15K package (but a "sample edit" and an "editorial assessment" is, so that you'll know what you can plan to drop into the supplementary editorial services). The internet is aflame with warnings.

The Big Six to the Big Five to the Big Four? HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster also contemplate a merge, following in the footsteps of Penguin and Random House. Here's a graphic on the sales of each projected company, based on 2011 sales (Amazon not pictured).

Did you know that if your credit card expires, you might not be able to read your paid-for ebooks? Barnes & Nobles, with the aid of DRM, blocks access to books if the credit card associated with the account has expired until a non-expired one is added.

Amazon Publishing steps up production in Europe. For their self-publishers, authors on KDP Select who participate in month drawings can look forward to extra money in the pot for December.

The rights on some books published after 1978 will soon begin reverting back to authors if the books have been published for more than 35 years.

POD publisher E-reads cuts the costs of print books, hoping to lure readers by narrowing the price gap between the less expensive e-books and the pricier print books.

Want to talk to your readers? Authors Guild teams up with indie bookstores to form Booktalk Nation, where readers can call in to speak with authors.

And HarperCollins launches a digital-first teen imprint called Impulse.

Find out how to submit your manuscript to Random House's new digital lines here.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 11/30.

At Friday Night at the Question Emporium, a writer asks if agents are interested in seeing that a manuscript began as a NaNoWriMo project. Janet Reid's answer? Don't include in your query that it's a NaNoWriMo project. And for heaven's sake, don't query this year's NaNoWriMo yet. There hasn't been time to edit or revise at all. Also asked, if a request for a full didn't originally send, would a follow-up call for the resend be okay to make sure it go through? Answer: No. Send an e-mail if you want to check up on it. Don't call. Also, if you're planning on getting an agent, do not submit to editors. It limits the number of places the agent can market your manuscript if you get rejected, and since your agent is paid to sell your manuscript to editors, they probably know what the editors want to see more than you do and will be therefore more likely of getting a sale.

Nathan Bransford explains the terms Separate vs Joint Accounting as it applies to the publishing world: separate means each book's advance is earned out individually and joint means a single advance for a couple of books must be earned back before money will be seen. It may be the same amount of money overall, but he suggests that separate is best for most authors.

These are the five most common mistakes of beginning writers, according to the Editor's Blog, including not enough dialogue and lacking a plot.

It's easy to feel discouraged when you start writing, and the project isn't turning out like you'd hoped it would. But don't. Sarah Pinneo at QueryTracker explains in Knitting a Book is Like Writing a Sweater (I just love that blog title) that it's part of the process, and it's not going to look like you expected before you started. Rough first drafts are normal.

Jane Lebak at QueryTracker explains why we should never write a first-person query letter, even for a first-person book. It makes the writer sound a little psychotic. And Danyelle Leafty talks about the types of critics, from professionals to not-your-audience to yes-your-audience, and making use of the reviews. Christina Lee gives four pointers for building tension, such as making sure the stakes are high and deleting scenes that slow things down.

Looking for a book on writing? Author Alden has 5 recommendations for you of books on writing that are worth the read.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Missing You

Apparently, the feline word for the phrase "I missed you!" is vomit. My cats missed me a lot while I was gone.

Funnily enough, most book characters don't just say "I missed you" either. There may be sulking, or temper tantrums, or over-attentive cuddling when the heroine gets back from her death-defying adventure.

How does your hero/heroine react when someone he/she cares about is gone for a while? When he/she's worried about someone? Chances are, most tough-as-nails characters won't just admit they were worried. They'll act out in some other way. Assume the love interest has snuck off to engage in some extremely dangerous activity without telling the protagonist. What's your character's method of dealing with worry?

Kelly's of the lock-him-up attitude, where she'll try to throw everyone she loves into safety and go off to the face the danger herself. If she can't do that, she'll at least insist on joining them in the face of danger. And if that's not an option, she'll probably try to occupy herself by getting into equivalent amounts of danger in an attempt to help the hero from far away.

Derik's more the join-'er type, where he'll race to not get left behind. He'd never stop someone from putting herself into the face of danger if she really wanted to. But if he does get left behind, she'll be up to her eyeballs in homemade health food by the time she returns, as Derik goes into a cooking frenzy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seen on Vacation

 Saw this in Myrtle Beach over Thanksgiving Weekend, and had to share the laugh:

Whoops--Don't worry, Heather, I'm sure Watts will let you live this one down someday*! 


 *(Probably in about thirty years or so.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

The American not-technically-a-holiday: Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The day of the fiscal year when many companies go from being "in the red" to being "in the black," go from being in debt to breaking even.

Some Americans storm the stores, geared for battle: purses, keys, midnight shufflers who fight the hordes for the best deals.

Others wander in after the blood has all been shed, when the best sales have sold out but good deals still abound, searching the plentiful leftovers at a lower risk of physical harm.

And yet others stay safely in their homes, avoiding the crowds and the blood-thirsty hunters by shopping online, spending the dollar on shipping instead of dimes gas and parking for the convenience of not being torn apart.

Then there are those who shun the not-holiday all together, who take the day for relaxing and family time, who pass the hours doing chores and watching movies, TV, and football.

There are also those whose jobs can't afford time off, doctors and firemen and policemen, and those whose jobs can't sensibly give the day off, restaurant workers and bankers.

Finally, there are those brave individuals who endure the worst, and work retail on Black Friday. Good luck to them. And I hope none of you reading this had Thanksgiving Day itself stolen from you; my sympathies if you did.

Of course, many of you reading this aren't Americans, and are doing other things, life as normal, today. You probably have similar holidays, at some point in the year, that ask you to think of things for which to be grateful, and that get so commercialized that people lose sight of the meaning of the holiday.
Black Friday reminds me of more things to be grateful for: that I myself have the option of going out and buying things (whether I do or not), that I have sufficient food and resources and safe home to be in, and a computer to blog on. That I have an education and was never banned from school or afraid to attend; that I have a family that supported me through school, and supports my goal of becoming a published author, and allows me to live independently and have a life of my own. That I'm not going hungry, or dying of an easily preventable illness, or living in fear.

It's easy to get lost in problems that other people would think of as blessings. Easy to forget how much I have, and want more.

Oh, I might go out shopping. Maybe. (Need to test my new elbow spikes, of course!) But Black Friday is a second Thanksgiving for me, because it makes me think just how very much I do have to be grateful for, that I have all these chances.

How are you spending Black Friday? How would you like to be spending it?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thank you

Yesterday was all about being grateful. What I am grateful for? Readers.

Blog readers, book readers, Twitter readers, readers of how-to guides and readers of vignettes, readers of every type. Because writing is what I love, and without people who enjoy reading, I wouldn't be able to justify writing.

So thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for being yourselves.

Since you've probably already answered five or ten posts about what you're grateful for this Thanksgiving, let's give it a twist: what is something you grateful that happened, that took place more than 100 years ago?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Here's an interesting blog I wanted to share: What happens when an author gives up?


Also, what numbers have you all seen? There were no sources for the statistics posted; can you find articles to back these numbers up? Is it reasonable to say that less than one-fifth of one percent of self-published writers earn at least $2,000 a month?

I'm putting you all to work. Indie authors, I'd love to hear your personal experience. Traditional authors, what about you?

And what percent of traditional authors earn an average of $2,000 a month--can you find articles on that?

Let's do a little comparison work here. Just curious.

Is there any data on hybrid authors yet, authors who have both traditionally and indie-published books?

If I get enough articles for actual comparison purposes, I'll make a post devoted to looking at the financials, based off the information within.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Google+ Hangout

So I finally got around to trying my first Google+ hangout on Saturday. I joined Word War II, a NaNoWriMo team word-boosting event, where writers strove to out-write one another and get caught up on our NaNoWriMo goals.

Our team lost. I bear part of that responsibility on my measly 400-some words each half hour. (One writer consistently managed 1500+ words every thirty minutes, but I'm fairly sure she has superpowers.)

More importantly, I figured out the Google+ hangout feature, which I now think is just fantastic. You can have several people video-chatting with one another, for free, for as long as you're all online. It also has a type-chat feature that you can see at the same time. And, important for ratta-tatta-tat typing sessions, you can mute your own microphone while still being able to hear things those not on mute say.

Of course there are the slightly awkward moments of everyone trying to talk over one another, and moments when people are getting up and moving around in the background, and the fact that there's a limit to the number of people who can be present in the hangout at a time.

But still, this is a really cool feature, a free feature, and I'm rather disappointed in myself for not making use of it before. Paired with the Google Docs spreadsheet, which we used to record word count scores and which everyone could access at the same time and see real-time updates, we were able to have an excellent team event.

If you can't get out and find a writers' group due to a rural location, find one online and try using this tool. It is video chat, so you probably shouldn't show up in your underwear, even though you're in your own home. You'll also want a decent computer speed, and having headphones really helps, because it prevents getting an annoying echo.

If someone doesn't have video, they can still participate through the chat, and if they have radio, they can do that too. We had a couple of members who were audio-only, but who just showed up on the rolling chat.

With the "Lower Third" function, (it's available in the bar on the left of the Hangout screen), you can add your name and a catchphrase/word count/whatever. There are color options for the bar (great for team playing.) Your own name and catchphrase will show up on your screen as written backwards, but don't worry; everyone else can see it properly. At the top of the screen is a button that will let you mute yourself.

If you haven't tried a Hangout yet, get a few Google friends involved and give it a whirl. Have an online-only critique group? Meet them in person without plane tickets. Trying to brainstorm, but your buddy lives two states away? Same deal. Too lazy to leave the house? Put a shirt on and meet your classmates for that group project you need to get done.

I really like this feature, and I can see how it could be all kinds of useful. Think I'll be trying another one sometime soon.

Have you used Google+ Hangouts? What did you think? Is it something you'd use again, and if so, for what?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and helpful industry blogs for 11/3-11/16.

(You know, every week I think to myself, "I haven't heard much on the blogs about major events, just a thing or two in passing. Must have been a quiet couple of weeks." Then I start researching and usually say, "Okay, wrong again.")

Industry News

National Book Award winners are announced.

How are e-book sales doing? Well, for Hachette Book Group, they're 20% of all sales.

Speaking of publishers, after the Penguin Random House deal, the Authors Guild is asking that the merge takes place under "close scrutiny" from antitrust officials in the Justice Department.

The Authors Guild is appealing the loss in the Hathitrust book scanning case.

Bertelsmann, the German owner of Random House, purchases full ownership of Barcelona's Random House Mandadori (formerly it was owned 50-50 by Random House and an Italian partner).

Avon is looking for those NaNoWriMo manuscripts for their Avon Impulse line ("digital-first line," meaning e-book with an option of print if it sells enough), so if your November project is a romance, here's where to submit (also has a FAQ so you can get more information).

RR Donnelly will now be warehousing all HarperCollins books in the US, doing the packing, shipping, holding, etc.

The most recent development on the Harlequin class action lawsuit is an updated complaint.

Book Expo of America has long been an industry-driven event, aimed at booksellers, libraries, and other "in-crowd" members of the publishing industry... but now it includes readers too, the most important members of the industry.

Both Simon & Schuster and Scholastic pitch in to help schools and libraries restore after Hurricane Sandy by donating books to affected institutions. S&S also offers a few free books to booksellers trying to get back on their feet.

Planning on giving an e-book during the winter holidays, but wish you give something unwrappable? A new company, Livrada, may be able to help, provided you're giving one of the twenty or so titles currently available. The gift allows the recipient to choose which device they'll be reading on, so if you don't know if your friend has a Nook, Kobo, or Kindle, they'll still be able to read the e-book.

On November 8, there was a brief disappearance of "buy" buttons from Amazon to books from several major publishers. As Amazon purposely disabled purchase buttons in the past to influence publishers on deals, there were numerous theories that this might have happened on purpose. However, the buttons were quickly fixed, and Amazon released a statement that it was only a glitch, which has now been addressed.

Amazon has been deleting author reviews of other authors' works. This may reflect a change in policy, or a reinterpretation of an old policy, or just a change of enforcement, or something else entirely. The LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg speculates, based on e-mails from Amazon customer service to one such author whose positive review was deleted, that Amazon is now interpreting all authors to be "direct competitors" of one another.

An interesting concept: an e-book designed to be read in any order, paired with music.

Close to home to me, as a NC author, the well-known Quail Ridge Books & Music is up for sale. This is where I attended a book-signing event by Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game is a long-time favorite for me, one of the earliest "hard" science fictions I fell in love with). According to an interview I heard on the radio Wednesday night (station WRAL 101.5), the current owner is looking to retire, focusing on traveling and family, but she's not planning on abandoning the store entirely: she'll still buy there, and possibly help out on occasion.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker for 11/9 and 11/16.

At Dystel, an agent talks about the inequity between authors and agents, and how e-publishing is balancing things out, and how people are going up in arms over this balancing act.

We're authors. We spend most of our time pitching ourselves in one form or another, either to agents, editors, or hopefully-soon-to-be readers. Sarah Pinneo tells us we need to learn to love the pitch--because if you're going to do something for the rest of your life, you might as well learn to like it.

Janet Reid gives us a list of things to double-check for in every contract we sign. And is your work copyrighted automatically? Yes, in America law, when you write it, it is protected by copyright law. (This has been discussed previously in more detail. Self-publishers will may want to register the copyright; those going the traditional route may want to wait until discussing things with their prospective publisher. However, I am not a lawyer, so I suggest you take a look at it yourself.)

Rachelle Gardner helps us write a one-sentence summary of our manuscripts, and tells us what not to blog about. Don't talk about things such as advance amount, number of author copies, or where your manuscript is being shopped.

On The Editors Blog, we're reminded that we'll get nasty critics, and are offered some suggestions for dealing with them: namely, don't take it personally. It's part of the business, and even the best get awful reviews by people who never read them. You'll also get great reviews, too. (The Oatmeal has a comic similar to this, saying the same thing from a web cartoonist point of view. Creativity + internet = fans + trolls. NSFW.)

Nathan Bransford discusses the having a public Facebook profile vs having an author page. Which is right for you?

GalleyCat jumps to help writers with their NaNoWriMo projects. How writers can use Google Docs, use Kickstarter to fund their books, and much more in a large list of NaNoWriMo tips. (Also: Rachelle Gardner's blog offers advice on using crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter.)

What industry news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks? Have you had a personal encounter with any of these events?