Friday, February 27, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 2/14-2/27/15.

Publishing News

We knew Nook is splitting off from the rest of Barnes and Noble, and we thought it was taking the college textbook division with it. It isn't--textbooks are splitting off on their own.

The first ten titles from Amazon's Kindle Scout have been selected for publication.

Blogger updates its policies, the upcoming policy change that will make all "adult content" blogs private (starting March 23). This will affect blogs with nudity and sexually explicit material, and many erotica and romance authors and reviewers expect to be affected. Also asking if they will be affected are LGTB bloggers, sex education bloggers, and other bloggers whose blogs have been labeled as "adult content." EDIT: As of 5pm 2/27, Blogger has reversed this decision. (Well, that didn't last long...)

Industry Blogs

On QueryTracker, a couple of writing productivity tips: make a mini-outline, avoid multitasking when writing, and have measurable goals.

Author Nathan Bransford offers 4 tips for handling multiple points of view in 3rd person fiction. He also shares a link digest of several weeks' worth of recent publishing news.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware explains editing clauses, what you should look for, and what a good editing clause versus a bad editing clause looks like.

Agent Kristin Nelson explains why Deal Lunch (link to Deal Lunch) should probably be taken with a grain of salt, despite being a very valuable contribution to the publishing landscape. Also, she offers an example of the power of a Kindle Daily Deal.

Agent Nephele Tempest with an assortment of writing links. Plus some more links. I particularly recommend the opportunities for writers for March and April.

Agent Jessica Faust gives advice. Planning on co-authoring? She says the first thing to do is have a written contract, before any work begins. Her fellow agent, Kim Lionetti, posts her goals and wishlist for 2015.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and gives advice as well. When is it okay to ask questions in a query? (When they're not rhetorical questions.) If you get so much help with your query that it's no longer in your own voice, is that okay? (No. Your voice is one of your selling points, and if the query and sample don't match, it's a bad thing.) What if you're a pantser, but the publisher asks for an outline of your next work? (Don't sweat it; lots of pantsers sell on premise with no outline.)

Reid answers more questions. An agent misses two scheduled calls from an author; is it time to assume they're no longer interested, and find another? (Not necessarily; the agent may be super-busy. But if it really bothers you, personally, probably.) Why do agents sometimes represent genres they say they don't represent? (Because sometimes books fall into more than one genre, and a publisher picks it up as something different from what the agent expected. Let the publisher/agent determine the genre.) When if a book has poor sales when published by a small publisher due to lack of marketing, is it okay to re-shop it to agents/publishers under a different title? (NO. You must tell them it's been previously published.) An agent rejects one work but asks you query with later works. Is it okay to query someone else instead? (Yes; she was just saying she liked your work. It's perfectly acceptable not to go straight to her.)

The Editor's Blog explains how to use lyrics and poetry in text, including what's covered by fair use clauses and where authors can get into trouble.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, Nancy Lee Badger explains how to be a good guest blogger. Maureen Bonatch explains how to use details well to show a character's quirks but not be overbearing in description. And Sophia Kimble explains how "write what you know" applies to paranormal, when "what you know" isn't the paranormal.

On the Books & Such blog, agent Wendy Lawton explains if you've made fatal submission mistake or not with several common "oops" moments. Agent Janet Grant explains what happens when a bookstore files a Chapter 11 bankruptcy (as the Family Christian Store recently has) and how it affects the industry as a whole, even when no stores close.

Pop Chart Labs makes an infographic demonstrating the various genres and all their subgenres.

The Visual Communication Guy crafts another infograpic on designing with various fonts: "Type-ology 101"

Poets & Writers debuts a tool to hook writers up with readers, helping readers find poetry slams, author signings, etc.

And this might not be exciting news to anyone else, but Pathfinder novels are in the works, with Tor and Piazo working together to make them happen.

How much like Twilight is the infamous 50 Shades of Grey? An infographic compares them.

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tea Review: Strawberry Cream

Strawberry Cream

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

White, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Where I got it


$12.98/ 2oz
How I brewed it

3 tsp in a 32 oz teapot, brewed with boiling water cooled for 2-3 minutes and steeped for... uh... five minutes? Six?
Rebrewing notes

Haven't rebrewed yet.

Strawberries. It's strawberry tea.

It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect. The "cream" part of Strawberry Cream is more noticeable in the scent than in the taste, though I can taste it. The tea doesn't actually taste completely like off-the-vine whole strawberries, but it's to strawberries what Celestial Seasoning's Raspberry Zinger is to raspberries. It's strawberry-flavored hot water, tart in flavor, brews strong, and is overall quite good. If you like strawberries, you'll like this one.

It's resilient in brewing--I definitely used water that was too hot and steeped it a bit too long, with no sad results (though white teas do tend to get bitter when steeped much too hot or much too long, so don't go overboard). I've also brewed it at the correct time and temp and it's good there, too. Haven't brewed it in small enough quantities to try a rebrew yet. It's good both hot and room temp (probably iced, too, if you're into that).

I can taste a hint of cream in the tea, but mostly it's tart. I haven't tried it yet, but add a little sugar and it'd probably be almost candy-like. It's a white tea, so good antioxidants. I'd recommend it for anyone who likes fruit-flavored teas. Experienced tea drinkers will appreciate that it does have a white tea as a base (it's a subtle flavor and hard to pick up on if you don't know what to look for), but mostly the white tea flavor is overpowered by the fruitiness.

Strong fruit flavors tend to be a great intro to tea, and if you like strawberry, this is a good starting point. Then again, considering the price, new-to-tea drinkers might want to just grab a Raspberry Zinger/Lemon Zinger herbal tea. You'd save a ton of money and those teas are good, especially since it takes a while and a lot of tea-trying to be able to really appreciate the differences between a loose-leaf tea and a bagged tea. Otherwise, if you want to start with premium teas, or you want the antioxidants of white tea but aren't in love with tea in general, this is a great tea.

Long story short: Tastes like strawberries. Very good, but you can get similar flavors from Celestial Seasonings at a lower price, so unless you want the antioxidants or just love loose-leaf, you might not find it worth it.

Nice ruby red color (slightly redder than this picture makes
it look, due to lighting).

Friday, February 20, 2015

Using the scene to set the tone

I expect movies to have some kind of credits before the movie starts, and the way the credits go set up expectations. For example, if I saw this (just pretend there's music instead of random background noise):

I'd be thinking the movie had something to do with the ocean. It's dark and mysterious, so maybe a thriller or an adventure. Possibly a sci-fi adventure. Depending on the music, I'd probably have a confirmation. It sets a scene even before the movie begins.

If the next scene is this, an old burnt-out church ruin?

Probably a disaster or horror movie.

If it's this, an aquarium scene with a tank in evidence:

Anything from a romantic drama to a spy movie, but I know for sure at least one character is a marine biologist.

If the credits have all three images, I'm thinking it's a ghost story set in a seaside town, with a sunken boat and characters who work in the aquarium. Pretty specific from just three shots, huh?

Books don't present opening scenes in quite the same way, but they do set the mood. They set the mood through word choice, action choice, placement. Instead of flashing to dark and mysterious scene with haunting music, the descriptions of the setting choose dark words, or words that have mildly disturbing connotations. Verbs are dark and adjectives and nouns are chosen for their meaning.
The jellyfish floated like a ghost in the tank, glowing tentacles dangling into the dark water. In the blacklight, the skull and crossbones on Jeff's rock band T-shirt mocked the jellyfish's confinement. "What a life," Jeff muttered, squeezing the hand in his.
Jellyfish, ghost, tentacles, blacklight, skull and crossbones, mocked, confinement. You could start at any fish in the aquarium, but the jellyfish set a certain tone. Jeff could be wearing anything, but an outfit that both defines him (his love of rock music) and the setting (skull and crossbones) creates a very particular image. Consider this same scene:
The angelfish darted among the coral-covered rocks, her bright scales flashing and her fins trailing behind her. In the crystal water of the giant tank, she raced past a school of fish and flitted through a garden of anemones, disappearing into the reflection of the rose-strung guitar on Jeff's rock band T-shirt. "What a life," Jeff murmured, squeezing the hand in his.
Angelfish, coral, bright, flashing, trailing, crystal, raced, flitted, garden, rose. This is an entirely different scene, despite the similar setting. That's the importance of word choice, and of choosing your scenes carefully.

Even in a limited setting you have options. Let's go with a kitchen at breakfast time with a teenage girl main character. Is she character standing by the window or the garbage disposal? Is the water running from the tap drowning out your character's words, or is she shouting to be heard? Maybe she's eating her dad's home-cooked pancakes, or stealing through the kitchen so her parents won't notice her in their argument. Or perhaps she's nose-deep in a book while her mother tries to usher her towards the door. Perhaps she's struggling to hold back tears as she grabs a packet of Pop Tarts that she knows she won't eat, so her mom won't worry, and crashes out the door before she loses control.

Limited scene, but each option is a different story, and tells about your character. The words you choose set the scene and determine both her personality and the mood of the story.

Think about the opening credits of a movie you've seen recently. How might a book version of the movie have set the same tone without the opening credits?

Monday, February 16, 2015

6 Things Writers Should Never Wear

The truth is, there are some things authors should not wear, ever, because those things just don't look good on anyone. Those things just are not clothes. What are they?
Not your typical "catsuit," but you could
still rock it with the right book. Better than
any of these looks, by far!

6. Jealousy
Enjoy your own. Nobody's grass is really perfectly green, and staring at their sparkling emerald-tipped blades is just going to make you too depressed to write or work on your own. If you don't work, yours will never grow, never flower. Instead, try celebrating with them, and rejoicing that someone you admire has achieved success. Who knows. Maybe some of their good habits, or just good luck, will rub off on you, and help you find success of your own. But it sure won't if you give up, or worse, hate them for doing well.
5.  Claiming to know what's best for everyone
You don't. You probably know what's best for you. You probably even know, or are in the process of figuring out, what works well (for you). But publishing and writing isn't a one-size-fits-all career, and others will have different experiences.
4. Perfectionism in drafting
Of course your work should be as perfect and polished as you can make it. When it's ready to publish, it should gleam. But perfectionism in drafting will slow you down. Finish the book first, fixing only what you absolutely must in the process, and then go back and fix and polish at the end, when you know what really needs to be cut. Carpenters don't stain their tables or bookshelves while still cutting the pieces.
3. Signing without reading
Exploration and adventure:
virtues you should wear!
Not just bad-looking, but downright dangerous: the author who signs a contract without reading it. Read the fine print. Know what it means, or hire someone who does. A literary attorney or a professional agent can keep you from being ripped off, and seriously save your career. Not signing a traditional contract? Make sure you know the limits of what you can and cannot contractually do with the retailers you are using. 
2. Not editing
Edit! Your career depends on it. Nothing destroys your career faster than posting your 200K NaNoWriMo fantasy murder mystery with gratuitous scene repetition and explicit chapters of introspection. Revise, polish, fix your characterization. Even a well-written first draft needs some revision and typo fixing.
1. Being rude
Don't turn your nose up at anyone
(unless there's a cheese straw on it). 
Everyone makes mistakes, and giving others the benefit of the doubt is to your own advantage. Meanwhile, cutting out on check and insulting someone else's shoes while telling your (former) friends you're too good for them now is a great way to end up as the body in someone else's suspense book... and the laughingstock of real life, too. And those people you cut off at the elevator? Maybe you didn't know it, but she's the acquiring editor of the publishing house you wanted, and he's on the committee for choosing Bookbub ads.

Whatever your style is,
The good news is that these are all common sense. The bad news? Somehow, people still occasionally wear each of these hats.

As for what clothes you should wear? Whatever you love. Personally, I'm a fan of Leanna Renee Heiber's Gothic Victorian style, though I tend to more of a casual business look myself (and, uh, the occasional headlamp or Santa hat). Seriously, your books, your brand. Build the image that fits for you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 1/31-2/13.

Publishing News

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America now accepts self-published authors and small press authors.

The Anderson family, Books-A-Million shareholders, makes an offer to purchase all outstanding shares to make the business privately owned. The Board of Directors considers.

Author Harper Lee, who also wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, prepares to publish her second book and is by all accounts very happy to do so, negating any concerns that she might have been hoodwinked or coerced due to declining health.

Industry Blogs

Writer Beware offers a couple of warnings. You know I'm all about my awesome writers' groups, but while most are an amazing tool for writers, there are also writing groups out there that practically wave red flags: Strauss finds a few that are sponsored by vanity publishers. And watch out for editing clauses in contracts; some are fine and some are, uh, not so fine. Strauss explains how to protect yourself. Also some good news, the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy has revised some questionable contract clauses based on feedback from members.

Agent Janet Reid answers questions and offers advice. What do you do if your dream agent is closed to queries? (Why do you have a single "dream agent"? And might as well query anyway.) She explains what a good working relationship between an author and an agent looks like. And don't write your query in any POV than your own.

QueryTracker offers a couple of tips to increase writer productivity, including staying focused with internet blockers and increasing your word count by learning to avoid "helpful" distractions.

Agent Kristin Nelson explains what "uneven writing" (often found in rejection letters) actually means. She also posts another pair of installments in the "How to know if an agent is a good agent" series: Part 1 and Part 2.

Author Kristin Kathryn Rusch muses about how following trends has negative long-term effects on a writer (such as making you no longer enthusiastic about writing). And she also muses about some of the weird misinformation writers collect, in part due to reading older books on writing (don't bother asking a reputable agent if they charge photocopying fees; snail mail manuscripts aren't even a part of the industry anymore).

Agent Jessica Faust reminds you to leave Track Changes on when editing. She also shares her thoughts on cozy mystery vs amateur sleuth vs traditional mystery novels, and the line between them--it's sometimes quite hazy.

On the Books & Such Literary Agency blog, what to do if one of your blog posts goes viral.

On the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal blog, how Pinterest fits into your social media campaign.

The Visual Communications Guy creates an infographic on How to Use Text (great if you're designing a cover and thinking about fonts!)

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tea Review: Caramel Almond Amarettti

Caramel Almond Amaretti

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

Herbal, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects

Nutty, spicy, fruity
Where I got it


$7.98/ 2oz
How I brewed it

3 tsp in a 32 oz teapot, brewed with boiling water for 5 minutes. Drunk with a tsp of milk and a drop of honey.
Rebrewing notes

Few herbals make a good rebrew. Didn't rebrew this one, though I don't see this one holding up well.

I enjoy this one. It's got a rich nutty scent, and tastes nutty, too. A bit reminiscent of hazelnut, despite not actually containing any. It's one of those teas that I do prefer with milk and lightly sweetened, but it's also tasty plain, just a bit more tart. Rich, with the sweetness of caramel. Although it's vaguely fruity, and has apple in it, I don't really taste a distinct flavor of apple. More like a hint of a subtle, generic fruit flavor. I also don't taste the coconut; it disappears the moment you add milk, and is subtle anyway. Really the coconut just brings out more of the nutty flavor, probably why I think I taste hazelnut in addition to almond.

It's made with beetroot, which is part of what makes it sweet-tasting, so it brews to a bright red (or pink with milk). You don't taste beets, I promise. It just makes for a nice natural sweetener. So if you want some tea for Valentines, it'd be a cute choice.

Because it's herbal and doesn't have yerba root, no caffeine, which makes it a good tea for drinking in the evening. The sweetness makes it a good dessert tea if you want something sweet but don't want to ruin your diet.

The price point isn't unreasonable for a nice tea, even one that only gets brewed once. I like this herbal enough that I'd buy it despite the single use (though it came as part of the holiday set, I've bought it on its own before). What can I say? It smells fantastic, tastes good, won't keep me up at night. When I want to sleep, it's an easy win.

Friday, February 6, 2015

If You Could Visit Fantasy Locations

A fantasy location lovingly handcrafted by Disney.
What kinds of settings from books do you want to see in real life?

I read a lot of fantasy, and some of the landscapes are places I'd like to see in person. And the wonders that are described, the castles spoken about. Who wouldn't want to wander the castle in the Enchanted Forest in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede), or walk through Hogwarts a time or two?

I'd love to step foot in Lothlorien, or talk to the elves in Rivendell, or visit Moria before it became orc-infested.

And how cool it would be to check out Pern, and see the weyrs. Or visit Harper Hall!

Same with movies, with their exotic locales, and even more so cartoons. Have you noticed how much improbably geography occurs in cartoons? It seems like every non-city cartoon features at least one wind-sculpted, gravity-defying tower somewhere. And then there are the video games.

On my imaginary bucket list would be Haven in Valdemar, and the Hawksbrothers' villages. I'd want to see Opassa Beach in Chrono Cross, and the Zora Domain in Ocarina of Time would be swimmingly fun. Of course I'd have to drop by Gravity Falls and pretend not to see the tiny pie-stealing men, and if I could swing by the Tri-state Area, well, I'd have to go during summer, but it would be worth going.

So what fictional places would you like to see in real life?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Publishing for a Living: The Self-pub process

Publishing for a Living, Part 2b: The process

In December 2010, I decided to follow my dream of being a writer. I knew nothing about how to publish, or about the industry itself. All I had was the ability to write, a dream, and the feeling that I wasn’t happy with where my life currently was. Then, in January 2014, I self-published my first novel.
I now know how common publishing terms are defined, the general process of traditional publishing, the general process of self publishing, and what expectations are reasonable. So, for anyone else who is trying to become an author, I decided to share. Consider this a short guide for beginners: If you've no idea what the self publishing process looks like, welcome to Publishing for a Living 102. It's a constantly changing world, so much as I'd love to say this will always be accurate... well, it's more or less accurate now.
Part 2b, The Publishing Process (for self publishing fiction while following the best practices):
Step 1: Write a manuscript. Finish it.
Step 2: Edit for plot, voice, pace, and other non-typographical problems.
Step 3: Edit again.
Step 4: Ask someone to help you edit again (a beta reader). Make the edits that were suggested. Or at least most of them.
Step 5: Edit again.
Steps 6-13: Repeat steps 2-5 as often as needed. Then go back, fix your math, and edit again.
Step 14: Fix all grammar and typographical errors that you can find. This will save you money and help in finding a willing professional for Step 16.
Step 15: Research for a good editor. The better what you have now, the better price you can get, and/or the more willing others will be to trade services with you. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Also, don't expect it to be cheap. Do your research and find someone who comes well recommended who is a professional who has worked with your genre. Figure out what you'll have to pay, and what services, exactly, are included in your edit.
Step 16: Hire (or arrange a trade of equivalent services with) a professional editor.
Step 17: Start writing manuscript #2.
Step 18: Receive your edits from your professional editor. Begin revisions.

Step 19: Begin building your platform if you haven't already. (Note: This is probably the latest you should wait.) Build a website. Start connecting to readers on Twitter, Pinterest, FB, blogs, and every other social media you're willing to invest time in. This process should be about making contacts, not about blatantly marketing yourself.

Step 20: Send your manuscript back for another round of edits. Revise again.

Step 21: Create a good blurb. Create several. Get feedback, get proofing. Decide which is best for marketing.

Step 22: Research good cover designers. Look at their current work and see if the current covers are professional quality.

Step 23: Hire a cover designer (or arrange for an equitable trade of services). Again, this is not cheap. $250 is generally considered a good rate, although there is a wide range of prices. Include cover sizes for the major retailers (Smashwords, Amazon, Kobo, etc) and for print cover.

Step 24: If you think your manuscript is publishable at this point, determine a date for publication. Recommended is 3-6 months from this time period. Release your cover.

Step 25: Convert your file to be compatible with all major formats, e-book and print. (The Smashwords guide is a great place to start for e-editions).

Step 26: Upload files to e-retailers. Select the appropriate release date. Add good blurbs. Decide if you want to go with the auto-ISBNs, or purchase your own. Select your price point.

Step 27: Register your copyright with the US government. Don't hire someone else to do this for you. It costs $35. Total.

Step 28: Continue building your social media platform, updating your website, and doing various pre-publication marketing you want.

Step 29: You're published!

Step 30: The road doesn't stop now. Keep marketing, keep publishing, keep track of your sales, learn how to interpret sales figures, play with your blurbs, figure out what the best new practices are...

Congratulations, you’re published!
(Step 31: Hopefully manuscript #2 is now ready to begin the publishing process. One-hit wonders are rare. You probably won't make profit off your first book in your first year... though there are exceptions.)
Optional steps: Join writing groups, enter contests, take writing classes, attend conferences, write a career plan, bribe friends and family into putting up with your rants, decide traditional publishing is easier and go that route, take up belly-dancing, form support groups, join a critique group, join a blog group, create an anthology with writers of similar books, print bookmarks
Suggested steps to not take: Start Twitter-spamming with ads, be rude to anyone, take up streaking with the name of your manuscript painted over your body, sacrifice a goat on the alter of a made-up book god, condescend to readers or other authors, refuse to revise, lock yourself in a tower and make your family feed you by a system of complicated pulleys, publish before revising, publish without editing, tell everyone they're doing publishing wrong because they're taking another path, expect to be an instant millionaire, spend more than you can afford, hire a vanity publisher...