Friday, March 29, 2013

Switching Routes

You know I've been long considering taking the traditional route to publishing, aiming to go through a traditional publisher for a variety of reasons. Some of these have to do with distribution, broad fan bases, my preference for hybrid publishing and the difficulty in going self-to-traditional, and the initial investment required for self-publishing.

However, some of the circumstances have recently changed. For one thing, I've been saving up for a professional edit, and with a few more months (let's face it, the problem with being under 30 is the "you're-still-young" salary), and a little shopping around, I think I'll be able to get one.

I also invested $20 to take an online cover design class offered by my chapter of the RWA, and, well, it was a great class. I think I'll be able to make professional-looking covers on my own now with the help of stock photos, which will hopefully bring down the cost (hopefully, assuming I can fall in love with stock photos that aren't enormously expensive!).

Those two costs are the initial investment every self-publisher needs to put in. No excuses: a professional edit and a professional-looking cover design are essential to sales. Marketing often falls on writers anyway, so that's not a cost you wouldn't have to assume anyway; the difference between traditional and self-publishing is maybe the traditional publisher's advance providing the money up front instead of the as-you-go income from self-publishing. But not all publishers offer advances, and advances have lately been diminishing. While the starting capital would be nice, I can sacrifice and cooperate with other writers and stick to using free forms of publicity until I start making sufficient income for reinvestment.

Another factor in the switch is, admittedly, a degraded confidence in the product offered by traditional publishers. I still think traditional publishers offer worthwhile services, but, in the current market (and as my goal is to go to market by the end of the year), I don't want to get caught in the crossfire between, say, Simon & Schuster and Barnes and Noble, or Random House and Penguin's merge, or Amazon and virtually every other publisher and retailer in existence. Self-publishing puts me in neutral territory until the giants stop fighting. Then, hopefully, I'll be well enough established to appeal to traditional publishers for publishing one or two series through them, enough to broaden my audiences and take advantage of their services.

Yeah, it's still tougher to go from self-publishing to traditional publishing. You know what? I'll risk it: after two years of Publishing Industry News posts, I think I know the industry well enough to succeed. I know I'm a career author, and I've made connections to other authors through writing groups, G+, and conferences, so if I get lost I can ask for help. There's tons of resources for self-publishing authors, and now, I know where to look for them.

What will I need when I start looking for a traditional publisher? I'll need either an agent or a lawyer; I'll need sales figures (good ones); I'll need to refresh my query- and synopsis-writing skills. I'll need to know what publisher I want, and why. Which means I'll need a business plan, and up-to-date market research. And I will absolutely need to know what terms I will not accept (like nothing that prevents me from continuing to self-publish, such as certain non-compete clauses). Oh, and the confidence to insist that any contract I sign be on my terms, and beneficial to me.

In any case, that's why I'm now aiming for self-publishing first. I've always believed that every person must choose which path will be most beneficial to her--and in my case, beginning on the self-publishing path will now be more beneficial to me than beginning on the traditional. My situation, in essence, has changed over the past couple of years, and that means my plan must be changed, too.

Has your situation also changed in the past couple of years? How have your life plans changed to accommodate?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good news and bad news

I read it--it's good!
(And historical romances
usually aren't my cup of tea!)
So, great news, and bad news. Great news: Congratulations to my fellow chapter members Jennifer Delamere and Sabrina Jeffries for finaling in the RITAs, the most prestigious of the romance writers' awards, presented each year by the RWA! We'll find out if they win or not later, but to have made it thus far, yay! This is Jennifer's debut novel, by the by, which just makes this twice the accomplishment. If you like historical romances, you can read up about Jennifer's book here, on her blog, and Sabrina's book here, on her site.

Not-so-great news: the (assumed) demise of another computer. I'll try to keep current on blog posts, but if posts are sporadic for a couple of weeks, that's why. Thank goodness it happened now, at least, so I can put my tax refund towards it (and yay for having filed taxes this past weekend, meaning the refund should be it on its way).

Also, remember to back up your work. Triple thank-goodness I'd just made a recent backup of my manuscript, and hadn't made any changes since sending it off for another beta! Phew! Lost some photos, but the manuscript's safe.
Okay, I haven't read this
one yet. TBR pile!

Cross your fingers and wish me luck in getting a good deal on a new computer?

Oh, and go make a backup copy of your manuscript on a thumb drive or something, right now. Trust me on this. You might be glad you did.

Edit: The computer is not so dead as assumed! Hurrah! We'll see if I can't clean it and get it back up to 100%. At the very least, I managed to transfer over the photos into the dropbox, and got the most recent editions of the WIPs extra-backed-up just in case. This is good, because it means I haven't lost about 10.5K of the rough draft of the fantasy romance (sounds like a lot, but the rough draft is very, very rough anywho and will need much editing/rewriting before seeing the light of day).

If the comp is salvageable, I can use the tax refund towards a professional edit and purchasing photos for my cover, or the RWA conference, as originally intended. Speaking of... Nah, I'll talk about that on Friday. ;)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Writing's a community, not a competition

Are authors in direct competition with one another?

In many professions, people who do the same job are competing. TV shows vie for the same audience during a limited time slot; car salesmen vie for a limited number of consumers who are actually buying cars. Politicians have to fight for votes, and dentists can't make new toothaches just by wishing for them. It makes sense for competitors to want each other to do poorly. It doesn't make sense for direct competitors to protect each other, or help advertise one another, or share ideas on best marketing strategies. Can you imagine a politician saying, "The other guy running for my job is great, and you should vote for him"?

How you view other authors, as competitors or coworkers, will affect how you interact with them. Make no mistake: writing is a cooperative pursuit. Each writer's success helps all others who write similar books.

I say this because of how people read. The more someone reads, the more he or she tends to want to read. No, one book won't necessarily create a lifetime reader. But, every book read is practice in reading fluency--which means people who read a lot, read faster, and thus it's easier to excuse picking up a new book, so they read more.

And when you find a book you love, what do you do when you finish it? Read more. GoodReads and Amazon both use the "similar books" algorithm to suggest other books that you might like. These are books in the same genre, and often books with similar topics.

So, assume another author writes an urban fantasy at the same time as you. That other author finishes first and sells her story before you do. Is it reasonable to be angry? No. Because if a reader comes across that book and becomes hooked on the genre, your book--in the same genre, with a similar tone--could be next on the reader's list. In essence, another author's success helps build your own, by bringing readers to your genre.

That's why it's so important for authors to support one another. Helping one another not only creates a professional community where you can learn about potential problems before they reach you, but also expands sales for everyone involved. Yes, there are only so many books any person can read at any given time. But every fantastic book shared to someone who wasn't a reader creates a larger audience. And maybe that new reader will pick up your book, because the first person introduced them to another writer.

Should authors pander to one another? No, of course not. An author's target audience is readers, not authors. But it benefits every author to look out, in a general way, for all others. That's why authors create professional communities, and share marketing ideas, and write blurbs for books they themselves love. Writing isn't a competition: it's a profession, and a community.

So if you hear about a scam, share it with others. Share ideas, and offer encouraging words to other writers. Focus first on your own audience, but don't be afraid to recommend books to readers if you really think those readers will like them (always be honest, though).

And if someone asks you why you're helping "the competition," don't be afraid to explain that there is no competition. Not every profession will understand this (your uncle in sales? He might not ever get it), but then, only writers have to. In writing, it's okay to say, "This other urban fantasy writer is great. Read them!"

Do you work in a profession that's a community instead of a competition? How does helping others out help you?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Publishing News

Publishing News for 3/08-3/22/13.

Publishing News

Do you remember last edition, when we talked about Random House's awful terms for the Loveswept, Alibi, Hydra, and Flirt lines? How SFWA and RWA warned their members to avoid/be careful with these lines, and John Scalzi and Victoria Strauss talked about what was wrong with those terms? Well, Random House has been listening to writers, and officially changed their contract terms. Victoria Strauss explains the changes. John Scalzi gives first his immediate thoughts (generally, happy that RH listened and made these changes, but still hesitant over the profit share model); and then reminds readers that the change was a community effort by all writers and writer organizations who stood up for each other, plus RH listening to the community; and suggests we check out agent Evan Gregory's take on royalty-only contracts for a more balanced and informed view on the subject.

(Didn't I say I was going to got popcorn if there were further updates? Yes, I did. Time for more popcorn. Be back in a sec.)

The New York Times talks about the possibility of the resale of digital books, and what it means for the  authors and publishers, and how it would benefit e-retailers, especially Amazon. (I do notice they don't mention anything about natural book degradation, which is usually brought up in conversations: that for a physical used book, there is a noticeable difference in quality between a newer item and an older one; while for an e-book, it's always in "like-new" condition.)

Meanwhile, that Supreme Court lawsuit a while back, where a publisher sued for copyright violation a student who bought books cheap overseas, brought them back to America and sold them for a profit? The judges ruled on the student's side, based on the Right of First Sale Doctrine.

Hardcover sales for 2012 were down as compared to 2011 (surprise?), and Publishers Weekly puts the reason squarely on e-books. They list the best-sellers and how many of each book sold in hardcover. Paperback best-seller sales were also lower (again, thank e-books). Meanwhile, the e-book high-selling list is growing (shocking, in light of previous comments, isn't it?). If you want further proof that people are reading e-books, BookBoon releases a study saying only 15% of American readers don't intend to read at least one e-book in the next 3 years. Only 4.5%, however, intend to read only e-books. This does, however, explain why chain bookstore sales were down 13% in 2012.

And Publishers Weekly did some investigation to estimate how many books it takes to make an Amazon best seller. By their calculations, the top five books sell approximately 1050 books a day across all channels, or about 315 books on just Amazon each day.

Amazon is working to pay its authors more efficiently, speeding up the royalty payment system. Payments for each month should come within 60 days of the end of the month.

A judge denies a delay in the lawsuit against major publishers and Amazon by indie publishers. Indie booksellers assert that Amazon and the publishers created a deal locking books into Kindle devices without making a similar deal with indie booksellers. The goal of the suit is to rid e-books of device-specific DRM so as not to cut the indie booksellers out of the market.

Harcourt and Hachette partner internationally, with Hachette handling sales and orders, and Harcourt filling the orders (this deal does include the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, India, New Zealand, or Australia).

The Random House/Penguin merger has been approved in Australia.

Simon & Schuster will be sharing piracy stats with their authors, so authors can learn how much their books are being pirated.

If blog readers are in a hurry, they can now send a blog to their Kindle to take with them. GalleyCat offers links for creating and adding this button to your blog.

Google's planning on ditching its popular RSS feed (Google Reader). Digg promises to create something to fill the gap.

And Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware warns us about some of the clauses in "e-publisher" Autharium's contract, a "glorified self-publishing service" that takes rights for life-of-copyright like a traditional publishing company, with no reversion clause, no author termination clause (you can take yours stuff down, but they still keep the rights), and including print books and other non-digital sales formats.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker for 3/15 and 3/22.

Rachelle Gardner talks about the biggest mistake authors make when it comes to making a living off writing: writing just one book.It's writing more books that makes it possible to survive as a writer, with each book bringing in money. She also names 4 reasons an agent might give up on trying to sell a manuscript, such as a lack of current market, or the same fundamental flaws pointed out by several editors.

Kristen Nelson shares the two main reasons she passes on sample pages: no plot catalyst, and no stakes for the main character. She also offers advice for doing first person POV well: don't let the character just sit back and observe; make the character interact with the scene. And she explains what it means for an author to be a "hybrid" author and an agent to be a "hybrid" agent.

The Editors Blog describes the basics of writing a query.

Janet Reid at the Question Emporium answers the question, "Should I mention in the query the manuscript has been professionally edited?" No. No, you should not. She also mentions some query pet peeves, such as writers querying works too short or too long, writers lauding their works as "the best" or "laugh-out-loud," and writers not including titles in the query. And she explains nonfiction queries with a hilarious example of Mallomars bars as studied by far-future civilizations: a nonfiction book must make a new assertion, and the query must state the relevance of this assertion, for it to appeal to an agent.

At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss lauds the new class action lawsuit against PublishAmerica, another noted vanity publisher. Some of the charges included are fraud, breach of contract, unfair business practices, and deceptive business acts.

She also shows the sort of e-mail PublishAmerica clients get, which should explain exactly why there's an investigation for a class-action lawsuit against them. What's wrong with this e-mail? Let's start here: You're already published, but PublishAmerica promises to shop your books to around 15 traditional publishers who won't want your book because it's already published; while they offer to shop the books, there's no mention of any having ever been placed; the statement that they'll start working with "ALL your books in earnest" (only after you sign up, which publishing companies should do and still pay you royalties); the dubious math of the "ten times what they'd receive elsewhere" of the so-called discount (really? how'd they calculate that doozy?); most publishing houses work on returnable basis anyway; and if all that weren't enough, the over-the-top bright colors, all caps, random bolding, imperfect grammar, and other obvious marketing ploys should be sufficient to turn you off on their own. (Did I miss anything? No, really, feel free to throw in your own red flags from this ad.)

Stina Lindenblatt talks about copyright laws on QueryTracker. For example, when using a photo in your blog, just citing your source isn't enough to stop you from being sued, and did you know that you can only include up to a line from a song before you're skirting copyright violation territory?

Writers Write offers a list of the jobs with the most psychopaths (+) and fewest psychopaths (-) in them. And it gives us a cheat-sheet timeline on how human bodies decompose, just in case you need to know.

GalleyCat explains how authors should use Tumblr and what writers need to know about Tumblr.

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Cute & Fluffy

Life's full of little surprises. Some of them are cute and fluffy. Your protagonist opens the door one morning to find a kitten, lost and alone, on the doorstep. What does he or she do?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Update! Moved to a new domain

Every new home should be a
love story, right?

Take a quick look up at the address bar, and you'll see a change: my domain has changed!

It doesn't make sense for me to use an alias when I now plan to publish under my real name instead of a pen name. So, to simplify things, I've changed the domain name to match. Don't worry, your links will automatically forward to the new domain.

You're now looking at, if there are any links you want to change. Sorry for the inconvenience, but it's one of those housekeeping things that just has to be done at some point (like cleaning the bathroom)--better now than later.

Thanks for bearing with me, and welcome to the new site!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Writing a Business Plan

I love my local chapter of the HCRW. For many, many reasons, but this time, the love spouts from our fantastic programming and our members (whom I am beginning to think are possibly psychic).

We just recently had a panel on self-publishing, by several of our best-selling self-published authors: Sarra Cannon, Ava Stone, Marquita Valentine, and Catherine Gayle. They've all got different strategies for how they sell, and all took different paths to get where they are, and all chose self-publishing for different reasons. And they know other self-published authors who came into fame by completely different methods.

They discussed the benefits of self-publishing, and audience members offered comparisons with their experiences traditionally publishing. One thing was consistent: everyone suggested having a business plan.

In the past, I've been certain that I wanted to begin with traditional publishing, because it fit my situation. But my life's been changing, and I'm no longer positive that traditional publishing would be the better place for me to begin. I won't say it isn't for others--I stand firm in that each author's situation is different, and only she or he can decide which is best for her--but I've been putting more and more thought into beginning through self-publishing. I have not made up mind yet either way; I'm still evaluating the resources I have at hand before making a final decision. And thanks to the group, I've got more resources at my fingertips than I could have imagined, and peers to offer advice on how to make the best use of them.

But I do need to make a business plan. A writer in the FF&P, an online chapter of the RWA aimed at futuristic, fantasy, and paranormal romances (thus the name), shared a set of links she'd found to another author's discussion on how she made her business plans:

Business plans for self-published authors, part 1
Business plans for self-published authors, part 2
Business plans for self-published authors, part 3

My plan won't be 26 pages long (I don't think...), and it may not look like hers. I will make my first one as if I had decided to self publish, because it's easier to not factor publishers and agents' time tables into mine. If need be, I'll create another to fit a hybrid model to include traditional publishing. But every writer, regardless of publishing path, needs a plan.

I think it's about darn time to make mine.

Do you have a business plan? What's one thing you decided you absolutely needed to include in it?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

School of Thrones

This would probably be funnier if I'd read the books or watched the show, but it's funny enough as-is:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Re-reading the Wheel of Time

Having just gotten a signed version of In Memory of Light, the last Wheel of Time book, at Quail Ridge Books, it should come as no surprise that I am now beginning an endeavor to reread the entire Wheel of Time series. Yes, all 14 books. Yes, the first one was 2068 pages on my Nook, and they don't get shorter.

Yes, I read finished the first one over a weekend. And no, I didn't get anything productive done in that time period.

So I don't usually do book reviews on this blog (that's what GoodReads is for, right?), but because this was an old favorite series of mine for a while, I'm suspending that rule for a little while. Mostly nostalgia, but because there are some things I like about this series.

First of all, the first book was published in 1990 (I did not read it when it first came out. I was, in fact, still learning to spell words like "cat" and "dog" and "has" at that point.) But this is important, because that time period rather marks the end of the Good Ol' Boys Club of literature. In other words, while there were some bestselling novels being written that didn't treat women as objects or side characters, they were still considered somewhat innovative for not doing so, and the majority of books were still centered around male characters who collected females like pokémon. Epic fantasy was ahead of the game, and had been for a while, in that while many of the epic stories had male protagonists, women were given actual roles in the stories, and weren't always treated like collectibles, walking enigmas, or villains-because-boobs. It was, what I call, just the beginning of the Golden Age of fantasy (in which we still reside).

So that's the historical turning point that saw the Wheel of Time step into the scene. And one of the first things I noticed when picking up the books, both the first time and now, is that the female characters do stuff. I know, that seems weird to be the first thing I notice. After all, lots of books published in the 90s had female characters that did stuff.

But in these books, the main character is male. In fact, there are 3 central male characters whom I would argue are the primary protagonists. Despite this, numerous female characters have POV parts and are integral to the story--even have their own plotlines. You see, they have their own motivations. When they get in trouble (and they do), it's usually because of something they did themselves, and not because they happened to know the guys. And they don't wait for the guys to come rescue them, either--when the guys do happen to rescue them (which does happen a couple of times), they're angry as all about it. Usually they manage to get out of the trouble themselves, or by helping each other.

Also worth noting is that, for the first three books at least, none of the lead female characters are fighters. Can they fight? Yeah. Do they fight? Heck yeah. But they're not "butt-kicking, trained from birth" warriors. They're farm girls and a princess. Yes, a pretty-pretty princess. Who spends half her time doing the dishes, the other half caring more about becoming an Aes Sedai than queen, and most of both those halves channeling her way into trouble.

Having strong gender roles in a story sometimes ends up with the women being weak. But in this epic fantasy series, that's anything but the truth. Women have different roles in the different cultures, meaning Jordan gets to play with what position they have in society depending on where they're from. Nor are any of the positions portrayed as purely subservient, even in the least egalitarian societies--his female characters help determine how their worlds are run, regardless of whether or not men think they do.

What Jordan does so well is to make strong female characters who aren't necessarily strong. That's something that a lot of authors struggle with: as if making a woman a warrior makes her a strong character, and never mind that half the women warriors are flat as a pancake when it comes to characterization. Is he the best author at it? Not by a long shot. In many cases, for example, he portrays women as constantly manipulative, and even the female characters POVs are obviously written through the filter of a man's head. But he does a lot better than many of his contemporaries in making women real characters instead of plot points, and as a female reader, I notice that.

I enjoy re-reading the series, and as I'm about to begin #4 (of the 14-book series), I find myself falling in love with this world all over again.

Have you read the Wheel of Time? What's one thing that stuck out to you about the series?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Publishing Industry News

This post covers 2/22-3/8/13. Get comfortable, and prepare yourself: things have been stirring like crazy these past couple of weeks!

Industry News

A law firm begins to investigate vanity publisher Author Solutions Inc., alleging ASI has engaged in deceptive practices. If you think you may have been affected, go to the link to learn more and submit your own story--they're looking at going the class action route, but still gathering evidence.

Although Penguin settled with the DOJ in the antitrust e-book lawsuit last year, they're still headed to court beside Apple, as of June 3. Penguin had asked to be exempted from the trial, but the request was denied.

If you heard that Barnes & Nobles was planning to close 1/3 of its stores within 10 years, Barnes and Nobles marketing department would like to point out that this is not an accelerated schedule as compared to historical rate of store closings. The company closes 12-20 "underperforming" stores annually, and has done so for the past 10 years, leaving the profitable stores open. Meanwhile, the B&N chairman has put in a request to purchase the retail portion of the company himself, including all brick-and-mortar stores.

Twitter discontinues support and development of Tweetdeck AIR, Tweetdeck for iPhones, and Tweetdeck for Androids to focus on newer models. The apps will soon no longer be available for purchase.

There are more male reviewers than female reviewers at major literary publications (uh, surprise?). VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts points this out with a comparison chart.

The Association of American Publishers isn't thrilled about Amazon making a bid for the .book domain ending. Nine different agencies are applying for control over and/or use thereof. The AAP does not believe any one group should be allowed sole control over this particular domain.

Apple opens iBookstore in Japan.

Evernote deflected a hacking attempt, but is now asking all 50 million users to reset their passwords. The hackers did manage to see user names, e-mail addresses, and passwords, but not payment data or stored data. Evernote does not believe that the thieves would be able to decrypt the passwords, but says better safe than sorry. (CNN, Evernote's blog, Wired)

Have an iPhone or iPad? Don't install Kindle update 3.6.1, says Amazon.

Amazon's changing a couple of their download and linking policies. For websites that link to free e-books, if more than 20,000 free e-books are purchased from the link and more at least 80% of the e-books attributed to the linking from your website are free, you won't get paid advertising fees. Amazon's official statement.

When Victoria Strauss speculated about the Random House Hydra, Flirt, and other e-publishing lines, she wondered if the contract was established to lure in self-publishers, and if it's really a good deal. Hint: She says no, she doesn't think so. And so does author and current SFWA president John Scalzi, calling them "appallingly bad contract terms." To add injury to insult, SFWA then delisted the Hydra line--in other words, authors publishing with Hydra cannot not qualify for SFWA membership based solely on the Hydra publication, as the Hydra does not pay authors an advance against royalties ("Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable."). Note that all other Random House lines are fine--it's just the relatively new Hydra, Flirt, and Alibi that have been excluded.

Random House, of course, took offense and published a letter in response. They call the terms a "profit-share" and say it's actually an okay deal after all. They also express disappointment at Strauss, Scalzi, and the SFWA for publicly expressing anger at these terms instead of coming to them and giving the company a chance to convince them otherwise, and disappointment at SFWA's move to delist them without giving them a chance to rebut the criticism.

Scalzi was not impressed, restating that the "profit-sharing" is not actually a good for authors, and followed up by saying the Alibi line has just as horrible contract terms. He then goes into detail as to why it is such a bad deal--which is useful, if you're looking at contracts, because it gives an idea of what to avoid at all costs from absolutely anyone. Scalzi is an already successful author published through Tor, a division of Macmillan, and is retiring from SFWA presidency this year.

Strauss, meanwhile, responds in less scathing words, reiterating that she does not like the terms listed. But she does make sure to point out that some authors have successfully negotiated better terms, and that she does not think life-of-copyright terms are necessarily awful, if negotiated to give clear limits. She also mentions being willing to meet with the Random House folks.

(If there are any more updates on the RH Flirt/Hydra/Alibi vs industry watchdogs debacle, I'll be needing popcorn! What do I think of the issue? Well, I'll say this: if that were the contract a publisher tried to make me sign, I'd walk away and self-publish, and never look back. Thank goodness there's other lines and imprints out there, and groups like the SFWA that bring things like this to our attention. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be off making popcorn in the kitchen while you move on to the blog section. ;)

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 3/1 and 3/8.

Nathan Bransford's The Last Few Weeks in books.

GoodReads looks at how readers read e-books.

PaidContent speculates on Amazon's changes to their promotional program. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but websites that make connecting to free e-books their primary spiel, such as, BookBub, and Free Kindle Books and Tips will be having to rethink their business model. The emphasis on paid Kindle books will probably also change how authors use sites and price reduction to advertise their books.

Rachelle Gardner informs authors of their rights as writers, and their responsibilities. Mostly, you've got the right to be treated fairly and kept informed, but you've got the responsibility to know what "fair" is and to understand that information. She also gives us advice on getting a great headshot. If you want your profile picture to look good, remember, you get what you pay for, and you need to own the images yourself. And here's how to look good on your webcam: make sure you have an area set up ahead of time, and spruce your visible parts up as you usually would for business.

Oh, and are you worried about that typo you found on p.213 of the manuscript you just submitted, and want to send the agent you're querying a new version? Don't sweat the details quite so much. Agents understand. (Also, how did Gardner get a picture of me? I thought I said no one was allowed near me with cameras while I write...)

Kristen Nelson at Pub Rants encourages all self-publishing authors who think they may one day want an agent to keep an Excel spreadsheet to analyze and keep track of their sales numbers.

And keep in mind that agents can't accept cupons for free e-books, or most other kinds of gifts. Just send the query. Anything else makes them worry about business ethics. Also, one of Nelson's clients became a digital best-sellar--six years after publishing. Want to repeat that act? Have you considered forming a village?

Tuesday tea, Saturday brunch, and more at Janet Reid's the Question Emporium. Should you personalize your query to your agent with non-essential details from the book that research indicates the agent might find interesting? Reid prefers not, because it's too easy to come off sounding stalkerish or get the interest incorrect. And if you write two different genres, should you seek an agent who represents both of them? Don't worry about the second book until the first is sold. If the agent doesn't rep your second genre, they might have a fellow agent at the agency who does. Also, make sure your contract has an audit clause. That way, you have a vehicle for checking in to make sure your publisher is sending you the correct numbers. Checking up doesn't mean you suspect them of deliberate wrong-doing, either: with all the hundreds of books publishers put out, it's easy to make clerical errors. So there's nothing wrong with taking a look at the numbers every so often to verify everything's correct.

Publisher's Weekly looks at what works in book promotion and what doesn't, as discussed and analyzed by the American Book Producers Association's monthly meeting. Gradual reveals and GoodReads? Yes. Video responses or promoted Tweets? Not so much.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware talks about why it's not necessary to register a copyright for an unpublished work.

Ash Krafton on QueryTracker talks about choosing a stand-out title in your genre.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


There is nothing beautiful that does not become more so when shared.

Sure, there are things best not shared (toothbrushes, restroom habits, the flu), but when it comes to joy, giving begets more. Vacations are better with someone to share the experience. Books are best when, having read an excellent one, I can find someone with whom to theorize and speculate and dally over all the lurid details. (What's next? Oh, but I don't think she'll put up with him. No, they can't break up in the sequel! I bet that was foreshadowing a new villain who'll destroy the kingdom.)

I walk through a gallery and think how fantastic it is that everyone can enjoy art. I write a story and share it because I think about how much better it will become when others read it, filter it through their minds, and find things within it I never even dreamed of. Or when they find the things I hid that I never expected anyone would see--that's a joy and a satisfaction of a deep and special kind.

Some things I do for myself, and they are sufficient to be shared with only me. Owning my warrior fairies, which are mine and only mine, and decorating my walls with beautiful Nene Thomas prints (that's the one in my hallway right now). They're lovely, and it gives me a little bit of joy each time they catch my eye.

But the moments that are the essence of life--tea tastes best when I can share it with friends. I never drink mead alone, for a bottle split among the ladies of girls' night or shared over a game night feast is richer, sweeter, and more invigorating than a glass sipped in an empty room. Twenty minutes reading a book read with a cat in a lap is more restful than an hour reading in at a deserted desk (even when said cat tries to nibble on the book or push it aside for petting).

Perhaps that may sound odd for someone who is a self-described introvert. Too much social time wears me out, especially in winter when the cold and dark sap my energy like poison saps HP. But it's true, nonetheless, and when I seek to do something, I prefer to do it with someone at my side. I go home afterwards and read a book in feline-accompanied solitude to recover afterwards, because life is richer shared. And if it means that I rest up before and after doing something awesome, and must dole out evening plans carefully when I'm already tired, well, I do very much like to read, so it's a small price to pay.

Because the only thing that smells sweeter than a cup of jasmine tea, is a teapot brewed to share.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tea Time: Wild Sweet Orange

Wild Sweet Orange (Tazo Tea)

Reviewed by: BecTea
Type of tea
Herbal, sachet
Flavor aspects and Aroma
Flavor Aspects: Fruity, Spicy
Aroma: Sweet, slightly dark citrus
Where I got it
4.99 box of 20 teabags
How I brewed it
Just boiling water over tea bag, steeped for about 5 minutes.
Rebrewing notes
Brewed same, slightly less rich flavor. I think it was better the second time. Strong enough to make a third cup.
Rich and flavorful, almost over powering in orange. If it was brewed quickly on the first brew, I think it would have been softer and easier to drink. This is more of a pick me up, energizing tea than a comfort, tea time tea.

I found it at, but Tazo brand is in most stores.

Reviewed by:

No second review yet.
Type of tea Aroma
Where I got it Cost
How I brewed it Rebrewing notes

(Learning to Like Tea Part 1Part 2Part 3, Guest Post: Types of Tea, Guest post: Getting the Best Cup of Tea)

Tea Time: Rooibos Cream Caramel

Rooibos Cream Caramel

Reviewed by: Juturna F.
Type of tea
Rooibos, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects and Aroma
Flavor Aspects: Natural
Aroma: Hot caramel
Where I got it
Tin Roof Teas
How I brewed it
3 teaspoons in a tea strainer in a cast iron pot. Water boiled in kettle until just whistling, then poured over leaves. Brewed 2-3 minutes, not timed.
Rebrewing notes
Haven't rebrewed.

It brews a beautiful caramel color.
I've always found rooibos to be interesting teas. They taste vaguely fruity to me without tasting fruity (yes, I know that makes no sense!). This red tea brews a rich caramel color, and smells like caramel heated to the point of almost but not quite burnt (I think that's the "creme"), but doesn't taste like caramel. It's not dissimilar to black tea in taste, but lacks the bite of the tannins that give black tea the black tea taste, and is just a tad tangier. And that's the best I can describe it.

I feel like this tea would do very well with sugar, maybe a touch of milk or cream. It practically begs to be blended with other teas. I'd add it to an early grey, I think, to enhance the black tea scent, or a maybe a "sweet" tea like a chai or Teavana's Slimful Chocolate Decadence. On its own, I don't find it particularly extraordinary in terms of rooibos teas. It smells amazing, but the caramel flavor is almost unnoticeable as compared to regular rooibos tea.

Not quite as caramel-colored with
milk and sugar... But tastier!
I did add milk and sugar my second cup, and it much improved the flavor. Normally I dislike sweetening my tea, but in this tea it really balances it out. I highly recommend having milk and sugar at hand if you plan to drink this tea without blending it with something else.

Not my favorite tea, despite the smell. The scent sets up high expectations for the flavor, but the flavor falls short of the promise without sweetening it, and I like a tea that can stand on its own. On the other hand, sweetened it's actually quite good. I'd say it's best for blending with other teas. If you like fruity teas and black teas, but want to cut out the caffeine, rooibos might be a good match for you. Also, if you like Indian tea such as served at authentic Indian restaurants, you'll like this one.

Reviewed by:

No second review yet.
Type of tea Aroma
Where I got it Cost
How I brewed it Rebrewing notes

Ack! Technical difficulties!

(Learning to Like Tea Part 1Part 2Part 3, Guest Post: Types of Tea, Guest post: Getting the Best Cup of Tea)

Getting a good picture of a teapot
is harder than you'd think.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Social issues in the details

One of the joys of publication is the expectation that people will read what I've written. It's the chance to be heard.

It's a chance to make a difference.

When I write, the first thing I write is the story. The basics, the blocks, the stones that are the foundation. That's the rough draft, and also the philosophy: the story comes first.

By the end of the rough draft, I know what I'm missing. The characters need more of this, and the story needs more of that, and I could use a little more detail here, here, and here. So I can go back and fill in the blanks. Which sometimes leaves me a choice: what detail should I put in?

Stories have overarching themes, messages hidden in the subtext that apply throughout. But in the crevices, there's room for different messages. When I'm going back to flesh out a story, I try to choose details that draw attention to things needing attention.

For example, when choosing a backstory for a character who at various points referenced a particularly dark period of his life, I wanted to give him an unspecified eating disorder. I could very easily have gone with drugs, or alcohol, or driving too fast on too-curvy roads. All of those are things that are a call for help, and that need addressing, and stereotypically masculine. But I could choose anything, and I wanted to bring attention to real problem that doesn't get much attention: men are also subject to eating disorders, and because of the cultural associations of the problem with women, are more likely to die from them because they're less likely to seek help.

Let's say this here and now: Men do get eating disorders. It was once estimated that 10-15% of people with anorexia and bulimia are male, but revised estimations say "that the ratio between male and female eating disorders respectively is 1:3" (, which means 25%, a full one-quarter, of American eating disorders occur in men. Eating disorders have a relatively high rate of fatality, so getting help is very important. And many of the men affected do it for reasons such as excelling in sports or maintaining a profession where weight is a key factor in performance (wrestlers, runners, etc).

The nuances of life are in the details. By giving a gym-owning, very masculine male character this problem, I acknowledge men get eating disorders, too. Maybe it doesn't make much of a difference. But humans are good at picking up details like that, and the more times they hear it, the more normal--thus, the less shameful, and thus, the more okay it is to seek help--it seems. So maybe the difference is that a man seeks help when he otherwise wouldn't. If it helps one person, it's a difference worth making.

Not every added detail is chosen for its social implications, and no detail is chosen that doesn't fit the story. Most are simply things foreshadowing the end of the story, or details brought in from the beginning of the story to give the novel a rounded effect. Nor am I certain every detail I add will make it into the final draft. This is a detail I would like to remain, but it's the difference between selling the novel and not, it might not make the cut.

Nor is every detail perfectly realistic. The character reached near-death in less than month due to the way his magic manifests. And because of magic, he suffers no long-term physical symptoms. Neither reflects the way the eating disorders and their effects manifest in reality. But story comes first, which means figuring out how the issue would look in this world, in this character.

It's the details that enrich the story. And when I can choose an implication that might address a real problem needing attention, I try to do so. Maybe it won't ever make a difference--but maybe it will.

Do you notice social issues addressed in the details of the stories you read? Do you add social issues to the details of your own stories?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ruins and Daydreams of the Future

What's so fascinating about ruins?

I think it's the hidden possibilities. The questions that lay unanswered, the desire to meet the people who once stood where you do now, these things buzz through my mind when I look at ruins.

And I think it's also the curiosity. In a thousand years, or two thousand, what if our society is in ruins? Many of the ruins uncovered today weren't suddenly and horrifically destroyed: they were buried through time, through building over the past.

These are ruins in Cozumel. They would have been abandoned in the 15-1600s. I find myself wondering what, in four or five hundred years, my home will look like. (Being an apartment, probably mulch, but still.) What will my city look like in 500 years? Will it even be recognizable?

One of the greatest joys of science fiction is to imagine what the far-flung future will be like, but it's not just science fiction writers who do so. Given our technology now, and the advances we're making on a day-to-day basis, will our rate of growth increase exponentially with the population? Or will we hit another 'dark ages,' in which innovation slows down? Maybe in 2513, people will still be driving cars (powered by salt water instead of oil, but still cars). Or maybe we'll be riding bioengineered, photosynthetic horses that can gallop at the speed of sound.

But I think people will still be people. Teenagers will still be seen as crazy and irresponsible; parents will be considered tyrants; pets will still be coddled and working animals will still be doing work. People will still read, and still imagine; but maybe reading will involve as much listening as tracing words on a page, and daydreams might be shared through screen projection at will.

What will people still be doing in 2513? How will they be doing it differently?