Friday, June 28, 2013

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry blogs for 6/15-6/28/2013. The Apple vs. the DOJ lawsuit wraps up, a new DRM system aims to make piracy easier to track and therefore stop, self-publishers should to be realistic about which media sources they plan to contact, and more!

Publishing News

Barnes and Noble is sitting uncomfortably after a poor fourth quarter, amending its credit agreements with banks to reflect this. To help prevent further loss, they're planning to adopt a "partner-centric" model for the Nook side of the business.

In the Apple vs the DOJ lawsuit, Nook Media VP Theresa Horner took the stand. Also called up was economists Ben Klein and Michele Burtis. The trial then stalled for a while as judge Cote and the Apple and DOJ lawyers began a debate on the definition of profitability and its role in the trial, eventually ending with Cote deciding that the profitability of the e-book business as a whole, rather than just the companies involved, should not be a factor in the trial. Apple VP Eddy Cue then followed to the stand the next day.

Next in the suit, the government followed up by trying to paint Apple as a copycat, instead of an innovator in the field as Apple claimed. Judge Denise Cote, after several days of trial, said that her views on the subject had somewhat shifted (but did not at the time explain how), and thanked everyone for helping her understand many of the issues underlying the case. Closing arguments finished up the trial on Thursday, June 20, and Cote is now deliberating. (Andrew Albanese on PW offers an opinion on how Cote might rule and why.)

Author Solutions Inc. and Penguin Group file a motion to dismiss the class-action lawsuit against them.

Crimson Romance, digital publisher, is in some trouble over putting its authors in a subscription service program that pays not according to customer downloads but by seniority. The company's contracts for many of their clients hadn't specifically covered this possibility, as it hadn't been yet conceived, and while authors will now have the chance to opt-out at the end of June, many who might otherwise stay are unsatisfied with the payment plan the service offers, and future contracts may specifically require authors to participate.

What do you think about a program that slightly changes some of the words of your manuscript? A new DRM program aims to make piracy easier to track by changing a few words in a manuscript to similar words, so that each copy is unique, and investigators can trace pirated works back to the copy in which those particular changes began. But "slight changes" could involve things like changing "life and death" to "death and life," "not planned" to "unplanned," "eReader" to "e-reader,"unhyphenated" to "un-hyphenated" (loose equivalents to the changes shown in the German-written examples provided here; "very disturbing" to "not disturbing" [as in first link] appears to be an evaluation of the degree of change and not the actual changes that were made)--and when your craft is about words, well, do little changes can make a big difference?

Publishers are gaining fewer new followers on Twitter per year than before, but part of this is due to how they're using Twitter, switching from publisher-based title announcements to more author-centric tweets that focus customers on the authors, instead.

Amazon's fanfiction section has licensed new series for which fan writers can create salable works. (In cased you missed it, yes, Amazon now has a division selling fanfiction.)

Kobo's offering deals on the Kobo Touch and the Kobo Mini, the latter of which is all the way down to $39.99.

And a plagiarist gets caught, thanks to attentive readers on Dear Author.

Kickstarter bans seduction guides, in response to a project whose author had posted content on Reddit that many feel promoted violence against women, where the Kickstarter approval committee would not see it. Kickstarter also apologized that the project got funded and that they could not cancel it, decrying the content and what it represented.

NaNoWriMo comes to July at Camp NaNoWriMo.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 6/21 and 6/28.

Rachelle Gardner talks about creative pitching--your goal is to make an impact, so don't hold back, and don't be afraid of bringing props! She also talks about the pros and cons of blogging your rough draft: among which, immediate feedback is both a good thing and a bad thing, and once it's blogged, it counts as published, but you've got some accountability that will at least force you to finish.

On the Business Rusch, Kristine Rusch points out a few cold, hard threats to writers' financial well-being. If you're in America, can you imagine trying to raise the few hundred thousand dollars for actual treatment if you don't have health insurance? Does your high-deductible, low-premium insurance actually cover what it should? David Farland, well-known writer, has paid and is now paying once more the price of not having adequate insurance, and not because he didn't try. In the U.S. and some other countries, declaring bankruptcy (yes, even medical bankruptcy) means you lose your copyrights to your work, so it may not be an option if royalties are your income. What sort of living will do you have? Make sure you can trust the person who gains power of attorney over you should you be in a serious accident that leaves you unable to function for any period of time. Do you have savings to tide you over if you're in an accident and unable to write for part of year? Be prepared--many of these things can be handled now.

The RWA (Romance Writers of America) national convention is coming up, and if you're going--or attending some other writing conference in the near future--Angela Quarles has advice on getting the most out of your conference.

Gruff Davies shares his own personal experience with self-publishing. Beware the hype and know what you're getting into: although there are many benefits to self-publishing, there are significant downsides, too, and it's an enormous amount of work. Know the business before you take the leap.

At Writer Unboxed, the Do's and Don'ts of self-publishing PR revolve around contacting media that is willing to connect to self-published authors, and not wasting time with those who won't.

At GalleyCat, resources and a how-to on making a book cover with public domain images.

Have you ever heard the advice that the inciting incident should be about a quarter of the way through a book? How does that reconcile with starting the plot early enough to hook the reader? At Writers Write, "plot" and "journey" are defined as two separate ideas. The plot--characters' goals and motivations, the groundwork for the inciting incident, background conflict--should begin immediately, even if the characters' journey, which starts at the inciting incident, doesn't. On the Editors Blog, "inciting incident" has two meanings: the first something that happens in the first few pages, and the actual, technical inciting incident that writers learn about in class.

First Book makes an infographic that confronts the lack of diversity in kids' books.

And Writers Digest speculates on how self-publishers can make the most money.

What publishing news have you encountered in the last couple of weeks?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morning MIA? Whoops...

Seems I went missing this morning, doesn't it?


Forgot to schedule today's post!

In interesting news, scientists have discovered a sun with three planets within the habitable-zone. Could one of them support life? Could one someday support human life?

Excuse me while I contemplate and rub my hands together with glee over questions I'll not live long enough to see answered.

Monday, June 24, 2013

NC summers

Early summer is the time for flowers.

Yes, in North Carolina, early summer sometimes starts in April, or even March in the years we "skip spring." That's only to be expected. Usually, though, early summer is May and early June.

By June, the summer lilies are everywhere, blooming and fresh and alive. You walk outside and it's a wonderland, a humid and sticky-aired wonderland averaging about 80 to 90 degrees F. Some people appreciate this more than others (I like hot weather.)

From May to September, you don't go outside without getting dewy (that's a Southern euphemism for "sweaty," FYI). And if you make it to the heat of the afternoon, in April through mid July you're likely to see heat-storms roll through, those flash thunderstorms that are lightning-filled and frequently laden with a good, drenching rain. By late July through August these become less frequent, more often than not sans the rain when they do hit, and filled thick with heat lightning that doesn't always hit the ground.

Technically a Florida storm, but the
NC ones are quite similar.
That's partly because the water gets cooked out of the sky. By late July through August and up to mid September, the weather hovers in the mid-90s (32-37 C), and in late August and early September hits the occasional 100 degree mark (or about 37.78 C). Even heat-lovers like me take refuge into the air conditioned indoors during the heat of the day. Of course, in NC it's still humid and sticky, because that's how we roll in these parts, but the summer storms aren't enough to alleviate the usual August drought.

Taking pictures in low light is fun.

We've got a saying for those long, dreary months of rainy spring: "We'll be glad for this come August." Because everyone remembers a drought. Everyone who has grown up here can tell you about the months where ponds wither into puddles, and the springtime hip-deep section of this lake or that lake is naught but a muddy, silty wish.

Then comes September, October, November. The time of storms, and hurricanes. Mid-September is when the first hint of not-hot reappears in the morning air, when sometimes the slightly spicy scent of soon-to-turn leaves plays calendar peek-a-boo. This game usually continues into October, sometimes right through Halloween into the wee hours of November (around here, those extra-long summers are what we call an Indian summer), but other years just dipping its feet into the pumpkin month, dropping the first actual chill into the air right on time for the State Fair.

In the hottest years, all those lilies are gone by late May. Usually we expect them to stay through June and into July, with the blight of heat killing green from late July through early September. But once September crawls back around, the golden wheat-relatives that sway in the place of grass beside the highways become dotted again with green, and pansies and mums begin taking over the flower beds.

What is summer in your region like?

Friday, June 21, 2013

So that's where that meme came from...

I never knew where the meme "Do not want!" started. Now I do, and I'm ashamed of myself for not finding it earlier.

If you do not yet know, here's your morning laugh. Warning: Do not drink whilst reading. Also, language inappropriate for workplaces.

The Backstroke of the West?


Daddy issues for the big?

Do not want!

What's your favorite meme, and where did it start?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Underwater Photography

The Rosenstiel school of Marine & Atmospheric science has an annual underwater photo contest.
Just under the surface is another world.

The results are pretty amazing, and worth a browse.

Life underwater is a myriad of unearthly creatures in fluorescent and brilliant color. It's a whole other world cohabiting with our own, beautiful and elegant and terrifying.

Looking at underwater photography never fails to inspire my imagination. There's just so much possibility. Maybe I should take up scuba one day.

If you haven't taken a look at the winners, go check them out now. They're worth seeing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mochi vs. the Sofa Cushions

We've got a foster kitten who likes to play with her favorite string on the sofa. Only, we forgot to feed the sofa before play time...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Publishing Industry News

Publishing news and industry blogs for 6/1-6/14. This week, it seems like the moral of the story is to quite simply don't be a jerk. Good advice no matter what you're doing.

Publishing News

The SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) has been on the social media airways for all the wrong reasons: after their bulletin came out with a cover a woman in a chainmail bikini and an article written by a couple of members referencing women as "lady writers" and "lady editors" instead of "writers" and "editors," members and many, many others began speaking out about the inappropriateness of allowing such to be printed on a bulletin meant to represent a professional organization. The president of the SFWA, John Scalzi, took responsibility for the issue and apologized for allowing these to appear, agreed they were inappropriate, and appointed an organization to investigate sexism in the organization, and the editor of said bulletin resigned. Author Jim Hines has a nice collection of links about the outcry here. (Edit: added late) Nor was that all... one of the members who had run for president (and thankfully lost by a landslide) took to the group's Twitter account to run off on a racist spiel. His posting privileges were subsequently revoked and the tweets deleted, but the account is open to all members (who don't abuse it). Hines offers a run-down on that event here, with his personal opinion on the issue (disappointment, disgust, and dislike). (I'm sure there will be an official news article written about it soon, although I haven't seen one quite yet--but I haven't looked too hard yet, either, so there may already be one out there.)

Skyhorse & Start Publishing acquires Night Shade Books.

The Apple vs. the DOJ e-book price-fixing lawsuit, which claims that Apple and 5 major publishers conspired to fix e-book prices in a method detrimental to competition, began on June 3. Brought to the stand as witnesses are Macmillan's CEO and an Apple executive, the HarperCollins CEO, the Simon & Schuster CEO, and the Penguin CEO . The Random House COO was not called to the stand, which upset Apple's lawyer. Three Amazon executives also testify, as does the Google Director of Content Partnerships, the Apple senior vice president, and (the very first witness called to the stand) Apple's associate general consul. (Each link goes to a summary of the witness's interview, summarized by Publishers Weekly.) Meanwhile, the government calls on Steve Jobs' paper trail as a "witness."

In an eight-year-old antitrust lawsuit versus Mastercard and Visa, whom are being sued on grounds of price-fixing and fees, booksellers are opting out of a settlement that would grant $7.25 billion (USD) but that booksellers feel does not actually address the issue, and that would deny those accepting the settlement the right to future litigation.

The Penguin-Random House merger is now okay'd by China.

Now that NewsCorp has split into two distinct entities (or will be split, as of June 28), HarperCollins CEO testifies to investors the continued value and profitability of publishing.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 6/7 and 6/14.

Writer Angela Quarles offers the inside scoop on how to get into independent book stores, based on her experience working in one. Hint: Don't be a jerk.

Rachelle Gardner talks about how to create a style sheet for your manuscript. Style sheets are basically instructions on the details, used to create consistency--does one character always speak a certain way? How? What color is that's character's eyes? How does x work? (As a copyeditor, I use these all the time to keep formatting consistent on each project. They are invaluable.)

Crista McHugh drops by the FF&P blog to talk about love triangles, and how to deal with them. Remember: having an obvious good-choice, bad-choice destroys the tension.

Does it seem like nobody likes working with your agent? That could be a bad sign, Kristine Kathryn Rusch says: if your agent is a jerk, it could very well work against you. And you might not even know you have bad "help" that's actually hurting you until it's too late--ask questions and do your research. She also notices a pattern that's going on worldwide, as the publishing world transitions to being indie-publishing friendly and writers switch to being indie-writers.

On QueryTracker, Rosie Genova talks about whether or not to use real-life tragedies in books. She eventually decided not to, but mentioned the tragedy and why she left it out in an afterward.

Former editor and current chair member of the Association of Authors Representatives Brian DeFiore shares how much authors make from sales compared to how much net profit publishers make from sales, and says authors should make more, especially in e-book royalties.

Free e-book formatting and marketing guides gathered at GalleyCat.

SocialTimes editor Devon Glenn gets interviewed by GalleyCat about Pinterest, and offers some interesting factoids about pins, such as that 70% of clicks happen within the first 2 days of a pin.

What major publishing news have you encountered in the past couple of weeks?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Critique Groups and the power of structure

You may have heard that I'm part of two local groups, one of which is the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, a chapter of the national group Romance Writers of America. But I'm also a member of a science fiction writing group that I met through Meetup, one that's a subgroup of the Durham Writers Group.

These organizations are very different. The HCRW is very business-of-writing oriented, great for networking and learning about the publishing business. Through this group you can also meet critique partners and learn about the role of editing in what you do, ask others for recommendations on good editors, and other editing-related business, but the group focuses on the business as a whole, not just feedback.

The science fiction group acts as an actual critique group, focused on helping its members improve through personal feedback. Several of its members have published one or more short stories professionally, and can give recommendations on where to publish and how to publish, but the main focus of the group is providing quality feedback for one another, four readers per session.

Usually I talk more about the HCRW and RWA, because they're national and, well, bigger. But today's a shout-out to the Meetup group, which has 25 members and still manages to provide meaningful feedback to almost each and every one.

The place we meet is a whimsical
indoor-outdoor cafe.

If you get the chance and want to meet some up-and-coming science fiction and fantasy writers, take a look at some of their blogs:

Rich Matrunick

Heather Frederick (And don't forget to visit the blog of Timber Howligan, Secret Agent Cat!)

Allegra Gulino

Travis Smith

Bill Ferris

Fraser Sherman

That's only a few, but it gives you an idea of the spectrum of writers within: From middle grade to adult, from pre-published to multi-published, and from short stories to novels, we've got someone writing just about everything.

Another secret is to choose a
place that makes you want to write.
One of the major secrets to keeping this group productive despite being so large is a firm schedule. Once we start, the first reader reads for up to 15 minutes, limited by a timer. Once the timer goes off, finish that sentence and you're done! Then each listener has exactly 1 minute (again, someone with a cell phone timer keeps track, usually one of the group's designated leaders) to give feedback. Anything more than that, and they have to write it down and e-mail it to the reader, or just hand the paper over. At the end of the round of minute-feedbacks, and only then, there's a two-minute free for all, usually begun by the reader giving some clarification based on comments, or extra information to make the story make more sense.

When that time runs out, the next reader gets 15 minutes, followed by feedback, and then the next and then the next, for a total of four readers.

Behold the "path of writers,"
which leads to "the usual spot."
After the last free-for-all, we take a moment to choose four readers for the next week. And, because life happens, we also choose two to four "back-up" readers, who will read if one of the original readers can't make it. These backup readers automatically become the next session's designated readers, should they not be called on to read. We do provide an exception for new members: new group members are given priority to read at the next session, and if there are too many back-up readers, one will volunteer to be bumped down to back-up reader again.

The group's full of awesome people, so there's always been a volunteer willing to step down and wait.

Keeping everyone focused is hard work, and our group leaders do a truly awesome job of getting us back on task. It does help that after the meetings, anyone who wants to chew the fat heads down to a local restaurant for evening snacks and late-night gab. So there's a place to chat and follow up.

 Having a successful critique group, be it four friends who send reviews over e-mail or twenty-five who sit down together in person, is one of the greatest boons a writer can have. What I've learned from this group is the value of structure: have a plan and stick to it, and you'll accomplish what you planned.

Does it work? Well, quite a few of our writers entered this group having never published anything, or thought of writing as more than a hobby, and ended up with short stories in pro-rate magazines, and others are published novelists or on the track to being so. So ask them.

How big is your critique group? What kind of procedure do you follow to make sure you accomplish everything you plan?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Creating Custom AutoCorrect Settings

 Jonathon Jou, in a doctoral program at Duke University, drops by to teach us how to create custom AutoCorrect settings. These help us format our manuscripts as we type, catching common errors and creating the correct punctuation when we ask for it.
1. Once you've opened Microsoft word, left click on the "File" button on the top left corner of your window. For those of you with Office 2007, that's the fancy Office Coin in the same place.
2. The resulting menu will contain a column on the left, with "Options" as a choice. Left click on that choice.
3. This brings up (yet another!) menu, of which "Proofing" will be in the left column. Left click on that choice. 

4. As you can see, the "AutoCorrect Options" button is now in plain sight! Left click on the big shiny button.
5. This brings us to the actual window where we can add new AutoCorrect choices. Type "--" into the left side...

6. ....and an em dash into the right. 
7. The "Add" button has become available for clicking! Add your new AutoCorrect text replacement to the table by clicking that button.
8. Hit OK as many times as it takes to get back to your marvelous wordsmithery. 
It's worth noting that you could change anything to anything automatically! Auto-censoring or office pranks are a very real possibility. (Lock your computers when you leave them; I highly recommend not getting pranked.)

Let's say you replaced every word in "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" to an equally wordy pangram, "Pack my red box with five quality jugs." I've color-coded the replacements to make it especially clear!

The possibilities are endless. And probably not productive. But it was fun making this, and I hope it helped!
What AutoCorrect options will you create?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Never judge a book...

Writers, readers, and members of the publishing community, in general, are some of the most open-minded and accepting people I know. Almost of those I have met have been people who stand for equality and a peaceful, accepting, always-bettering-itself world.

Compared to all those who do, there are relatively few do not fall into this category. Relatively.

As a child, your parents may have told you the old saying, "Never judge a book by its cover." Good advice.

But far sillier, far shallower, is to judge a book by the cover of its author.

Nationality, gender, age--none of these are worthy standards of judgement. A book should be judged by its content, not by the exterior of its writer; a writer's ability should be judged by what he or she writes, and not by his or her physical features.

never judge a book by its author

Because a book should be valued for what's within, not without.

Because, while most people believe this, there are still a few who do not. Who speak loudly and promote hate and inequality.

I'd like to remind everyone that, for every unkind person out there, there are thousands who believe in love and equity. To be a thousand voices, a million voices, a billion voices worldwide drowning out the voices of those who hold on to inequality. To remind the world how many people stand for equality, and to ask those who do not to lay down the hatred, and join those who do.

We cannot stop those who speak for hate. We cannot change cruel or shallow words. But we can speak back, and we can tell them that we disagree with what they say.

I invite you to find a mask, put it on, take a picture, and share it with this phrase. Or hold up a piece of paper with these words, and take a picture of that.

I invite you to to use this image if you don't have a mask of your own, or don't want to use your own image. To link here, or re-blog this; to copy it word-for-word or put it in your own words, with credit or without.

There are blogs, feeds, twitter accounts for which statements such as this do not fit with the tone or mood or content. If it fits in yours, I invite you to join in. I invite you to post or tweet, to add your mask as a writer or a reader with the hashtag #maskedwriters or whatever else you choose.

But most of all, I invite you to simply share your voice, and to say you're one of the majority who believe that it's not okay to promote superficial judgments.

That you are among those who believe what is inside a book is far, far more important than the physical features of the writer. That writing ability, not race, not gender, not beauty nor lack thereof, should be how a writer is evaluated. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wednesday Writing Exercise

Trolls: they live under bridges, on the internet, or in attics with neon hair and sparkly belly buttons. Sometimes they're nasty in-laws, and sometimes they're actually helpful--for the right price.

Metaphorically, any creature that stands in the way of your characters and their goals could be a "troll," an obstacle to be overcome. But in most stories, the troll is not the main villain (unless your characters are billy goats). It's one of the many obstacles that thwart the characters while the action ramps up, something that adds tension to a scene and to the plot as a whole.

What kind of troll would your characters be most likely to encounter? How does this "troll" get between them and their goals? And how do they get past?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Using the Replace function for common manuscript formatting fixes

Formatting a manuscript for submission? Here's some quick tips for solving common manuscript mistakes, using the replace function:

Need to remove an extra space between sentences? Ctrl+H is the replace function. Type two spaces in the "find" bar and one space in the "replace with" bar.

Need to change from web formatting (single-spaced with a space between paragraphs) to standard submission format (double-spaced with indents and no extra spaces between paragraphs)?
  • To get rid of extra paragraph breaks, ctrl+H, and fill in ^p^p in the "find" bar. Put ^p in the "replace" bar. (^p stands for "paragraph" as you cannot hit "enter" in this menu function). You can now highlight the entire section, go to format->paragraph, and double space.
  • To get rid of tabs, ^t goes in the "find" bar, and nothing goes in the "replace" bar. It will delete all manual tabs. You can now highlight the work, got to format->paragraph, and select "first line" under "indentation". (^t stands for "tab" as the tab button has a different function in this menu)
  • Check your page margins to be sure they're set to 1 inch.
  • Check your font to be sure it's Courier or New Times Roman.
Sometimes, when copyediting, I've encountered documents that have manual spaces at the end of each line, single-spaced, with double spaces between paragraphs. This usually happens because either the page settings are not working correctly, or the document was initially written in a webpage, or a project requires unusual margin formats.

If you need to get rid of extra spacing and the project has double spacing between paragraphs, one trick I've found that works efficiently is to Ctrl+H, put ^p in the "find" bar, and put a single space in the "replace with" bar. Then Ctrl+H again, put two spaces in the "find" bar, and ^p in the replace bar. Now you will no spaces within paragraphs, and a single space for each new paragraph. You then can select and change to double-spacing, and add automatic indentation.

Want to change -- into an em dash, when moving from a program that does not create em dashes to Word? Type an em dash into Word (hyphen hyphen space should automatically create one), highlight it, copy (Ctrl+C), and call up your Replace menu. Type two hypens into your "find" bar and paste (Ctrl+V) the em dash into your "replace with" bar.

Need to remove smart quotes? First, find your AutoCorrect options and make sure your settings have "auto smart quotes" deselected. Copy a non-smart quote. Highlight a smart quote, Ctrl+H (which should automatically put the smart quote in the "find" bar), and paste the straight quote in the "replace with" bar.

Want to add smart quotes? Find your AutoCorrect options and make sure you settings have "auto smart quotes" turned on. Put a quote in the "find" bar, and another quote in the "replace with" bar. All quotes of this kind should automatically become smart quotes.

What computer functions help you quickly format your manuscript?