Wednesday, August 31, 2011
We covered fiction writing essentials in the morning and business aspects in the afternoon. In between, people met each other and mingled. That’s the best part of conferences, too. You never know who you’ll discover sitting next to you in a seminar or at the bar. You’ll make new writer friends, greet old acquaintances, and learn the industry buzz. Everything I’ve learned about the business of being a professional writer, I have gained from other authors.
This past weekend, I attended a meeting over on Florida’s west coast. The Southwest Florida Romance Writers meets regularly in Estero, located between Naples and Fort Myers. Whoever wants to meet for lunch first gathers in the Bistro downstairs at the Miromar Design Center. The meeting with a speaker begins at 1:00 on the third floor. Member Michael Joy shared some tips he’d learned during a residency in a Master of Fine Arts program. I enjoyed his teaching technique as much as the tools he mentioned on creating realistic dialogue.
Writers are very generous in sharing what we know. Attending local meetings, reading online blogs, going to conferences, and entering writing contests offer a tremendous amount of valuable information and feedback. In Florida, we have branch chapters of RWA, MWA, and Sisters in Crime. This year the Ninc national conference in October will be held here, too. It’s New Rules, New Tools: Writers in Charge, an essential and dynamic topic. And in case you didn’t already know, Sleuthfest will be moving to Orlando next March so you can bring your families along.
Don’t know what all these abbreviations mean? Then jump on the bandwagon and find out. There’s nothing more gratifying than schmoozing with fellow authors and sharing industry news. Join as many different writers organizations as you can afford and attend meetings. Get to know authors in other genres and exchange ideas. Let’s mingle!
If you live in SE Florida, there’s still time to sign up for the remaining classes at the Author’s Academy. All workshops are held at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL. Instructors are multi-published authors. Call 561-279-7790 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. $25 per person per class.
Saturday, September 10, 10am – Noon
How To Get Published. Learn what it takes to get your work published.
Instructor: Joanna Campbell Slan, author of Photo Snap Shot.
Saturday, September 24, 10am - Noon
Finding an Agent. Query Letters, Synopses, and the Pitch!
Instructor: Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mysteries.
And More Local Author Events:
Tuesday, October 11, 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm, Sun, Sand & Suspense Panel, “Three Dangerous Dames,” Nancy Cohen, Elaine Viets, and Deborah Sharp; Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301, 954-357-7444
Saturday, October 29, 2:00 – 3:30pm, Florida Romance Writers Panel Discussion and Signing, Delray Beach Public Library, 100 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
By: Kathleen Pickering http://www.kathleenpickering.com
When turning your research sights on Internet sources for your writing, how can you be certain you’re discovering trusted information?
Those were the days. Drama while researching a story. Nice. Now, who knows from where comes the wellspring of Internet “facts”? How can we be sure the information we pull from the digital ether won’t leave us with egg on our face? Or worse: some reader sending an email proving our information was wrong. Major story killer!
Personally, I prefer on-site research for my stories, and so far have been able to use that tool successfully. However, I do rely on the Internet for facts. Ironic as it sounds, I searched the Internet to find guidelines for researching reliable sources on-line. I found the most reliable tips from websites for university libraries. Since the first tip was to check the authority of a source, I thought colleges would offer the most unbiased tools for determining reliable information.
1. The Authority of the author/publisher of information.
You should be able to identify the author of the work/site, his/her credentials, relevant affiliations, and past writings. The article itself should offer information, or sources like Who’s Who, the author’s home page, or Google search the publishers/author’s name to see what other works support their credentials.
2. The Objectivity of the author.
What is the motive for your source’s article, blog, website? Does your source admit to a particular bias? Offer historical, medical or industry facts and not opinions, or affiliation viewpoints? Can you compare the information to other independent sites/articles to verify facts?
3. The Quality of the information:
Do the facts agree with your own knowledge of the subject? Can you insure information is complete and accurate by comparing with other specialists in the field? Does this author list other sources for his/her information, as well? And, believe it or not, check the site, article or blog for grammatical and spelling errors, typos. These usually indicate a non-professional delivery of information, making the facts suspect.
4. Evaluate Date of information:
When was the information published? Check the date on the web page for publication date and revision dates. Is the information current? Does it update old facts? Substantiate other materials you’ve read?
5. Establish Relevance of the information:
Are these facts popular vs. scholarly? (Huffington Post vs. Wall Street Journal)Does the information use raw data, photographs, first-hand accounts, reviews or research reports? Has the information been analyzed and the resources cited? Are footnotes, endnotes or bibliographies listed?
Remember, Wikipedia is no the end-all of resources, since anyone can edit it. And, a rule of thumb is to ensure you tap at least five different sources to verify your facts before accepting your information as usable.
So far, I’ve been lucky. But, I’ve only just begun my writing career. Has anyone out there put facts in their book they pulled from the Internet only to discover the source was wrong?
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
The world is so connected now that a film taken seconds after a bomb kills civilians in Nigeria is on our computers minutes after the event––perhaps before the bodies have been lifted into ambulances. A purchase can be made in Europe using a credit card stolen in California minutes earlier. It is flat amazing how connected we all are. The faster things happen, the more I want to write about a time when a war could be at full tilt and most of the world be unaware of it for weeks, months or years. Hard to imagine a time when fingerprints were all but useless in connecting people with their actions. I long to put my mind, my writing ability, in a slower world.
I write this blog every other week, and I don’t always write about writing, because my life isn't about "How To-ing." Although connected to authorship, I'm not ruled by writing. Life takes up most of my time, and I can go weeks without writing anything but this fleeting missive.At the moment I am waiting for my daughter-in-law and two of my grandchildren to arrive from Wilmington, NC fleeing from a Hurricane Irene and my dear friend Dr. Phillip Hawley, who wrote STIGMA, a few years back is coming to visit. Phillip is a pediatrician from LA, who had a business degree, before he went to medical school. And he is a talented writer, who writes when he has time. His book is now available on KINDLE, and it’s a great thriller.
I have decided that, with the time I have left, I am going to adhere to a tough schedule and write the books I want to write, and to publish electronically from here out. I ain't at my first rodeo and I can probably sell my books as effectively as a publisher can. I will have to find an editorialista who wants to work with me, and I am going to control my own future to the extent we can control anything. If I chose to write over the top, here and there, I will do it. I won’t care if my characters are not PC, or if they are more graphically violently inclined than someone else thinks is proper for the readers they think I have.
I also want to write my favorite continuing characters, and my publisher didn’t think the number of people who bought the books were adequate to keep the series going. The writing is what I love. The publishing part of the business has often gotten in the way of the creating.If forty thousand people read Winter Massey’s adventures, that is worth the time it’ll take to write. Starting on Monday I’m going to start polishing a standalone novel I completed last year so that it should be available for e-readers in six or eight weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes as it goes.
I think I’ve got time for a dozen books in the next three or four years. Then maybe I’ll take some time off.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
By Joe Moore
First, some breaking news to share--MONTEZUMA'S WRAAK, the Dutch version of my new thriller, THE PHOENIX APOSTLES (co-written with Lynn Sholes) was released on August 18 by my Netherlands publisher Karakter Uitgevers.B.V. Here’s a look at the cover.
And now for today’s post.
According to a recent article in Forbes, the sale of adult hardcover novels was down 23% in the first half of this year. Despite the downturn, some authors are holding their own. Their names may be familiar. Chances are you’ve read a few of their books. So why are these guys doing so well while most of the industry is in a state of funk? Forbes attributes it to the increasing popularity of ebooks, but even more so the diversification of these writers’ personal brands.
James Patterson is a good example. Mr. Patterson signed a 17-book, $150m book deal in 2009 with Hachette. Teaming up with a number of co-authors, he placed 20 titles on Publishers Weekly’s year-end bestseller list. Those titles totaled 10m copies. In addition, he sold 750k ebooks. He’s also expanded into the YA market with great success.
Other examples of authors doing well in tight times is Stephenie Meyer, whose Twilight series at one point accounted for 15% of all books sold in the US; and J.K. Rowling, who is about to jump into the electronic book market by launching Pottermore, her new virtual online bookstore. Pottermore will offer ebook versions of her novels compatible with any e-reader. Other collateral merchandise will be offered as well.
What the numbers don’t show is the quality of the writing. That, of course, is in the eye of the reader. Much criticism has been leveled at James Patterson that his books lack the depth and magic of some of his early works. I see comments on writer forums saying that Patterson has sold out and become an assembly line pouring out books just to make money. The commenters don’t understand why people keep buying his books. It reminds me of what people say about a very popular local restaurant. “No one ever goes there, it’s always too crowded.” The reason James Patterson makes so much money is because bazillions of readers around the world are willing to buy his books. Why? Because they like reading them.
Now for the list of the highest paid authors (May 2010-April 2011). Get out your royalty statements and compare.
James Patterson ($84 million)
Danielle Steel ($35 million)
Stephen King ($28 million)
Janet Evanovich ($22 million)
Stephenie Meyer ($21 million)
Rick Riordan ($21 million)
Dean Koontz ($19 million)
John Grisham ($18 million)
Jeff Kinney ($17 million)
Nicholas Sparks ($16 million)
Ken Follett ($14 million)
Suzanne Collins ($10 million)
J.K. Rowling ($5 million)
What does this mean for writers that make less money that these folks? It means that people still want to buy books and be entertained with good stories. I consider all this to be a very positive sign. How about you? How does this list of mega-authors make you feel? Are you deflated or defiant?
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I'll leave you all with a link to an interesting article in the New York Times. It describes the emerging trend of fake book reviews--positive reviews that are purchased for five bucks a pop. Here's the link:
In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5
Many people don't pay attention to online reviews, but for those that do, do you think that this practice will devalue them? Have you run across any reviews you suspected weren't "real"?
(My thanks to Patricia Smiley for bringing my attention to the NYT article.)
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I was stuck on what to write for this week’s offering but as usual something came up, and it wasn’t that quesadilla I had for lunch. It is a wondrous age we live in, and it seems that for good or for ill, something new is developed every day. So it is that there is a new development that the authors in our audience --- particularly the mid-list folks who, imho, provide the solid backbone of the publishing industry --- might want to be made aware of. Amazon is slowly adding a feature, or element, or whatever you might want to call it, on their book title pages titled “What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item?” and which consists of a list of four or five titles, accompanied by the percentages of buyers who bought another book to the exclusion of the one they were originally looking up. This is to be distinguished from the “Customers who bought this book also bought” (emphasis added) feature. No, the “ultimately buy” feature tells the world what percentage of the audience looked at your book, found it wanting, and bought another book by someone else instead! It’s kind of like sitting in the autograph room at Bouchercon and hoping that someone will come up to your table, and just as someone does, their friend says, “oh, let’s go meet ______ ____________ instead.” It’s not being done with every book by every author, and, at least as far as I can tell, it’s only being utilized by amazon.co.uk. Maybe the Brits have thicker skins, though I don’t think so: I learned of this feature from a British author, whose novel had received the implicitly rough treatment, and the author was, uh, not happy.
I don’t think that this new feature is going to be welcomed with open arms by authors on either side of the Atlantic. Am I wrong, here? What I sense is a suggestion to the effect that if you’re looking for something to read, you might find something you like better elsewhere, and we have a jury of your peers to tell you so. As for the authors themselves, I could see this busting up some friendships. I mean, if you have ten books published, and Amazon is noting with each one that a certain percentage of people would rather buy a book by, say, Author A, that might create a problem. I really don’t see how it helps anything, either. It’s might be intended as a sort of “Recommended If You Like” referral, but it isn‘t, and they have one of those already with their “ People Who Bought this book also bought“ feature. It strikes me as more of a “Why would you want to read this when you could read that?” Or to put it another way, it’s almost like an article in your neighborhood newspaper which states that while your wife might still love you, she would rather be tupped by your next door neighbor, as would seventy per cent of the women on the street. Oh, and your Kindle books aren’t safe from this thing, either.
So what do you think of this? I would include a link to an example of this, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone, even indirectly. But have you seen this? Have you been a --- I hate to use this term, but there is no other --- victim of it? And should Amazon, UK or US or otherwise, get some feedback about it? What say you?
Friday, August 19, 2011
I hate what professional sports has become.
I blame free agency. Yes, I understand that from the players’ point of view free agency is the equivalent of emancipation, but I don’t think of sports from the point of view of the player. I’m a fan—a paying customer—and I miss the days when teams were about, you know, teams. I miss the teaching moment that was built around the pre-free agency notion that the individual was subservient to the team. That’s why we put our kids into sports, right? So that they can learn the lessons of teamwork?
Nowadays, professional sports is all about the money. Okay, it’s always been about the money, but I lament the migration of the prima donna from its former exclusive domain of opera to the gridiron and the baseball diamond.
In a few short weeks, I will once again, for the forty-seventh time, walk into the whirling propeller that defines being a Washington Redskins fan. Yes, Dan Snyder is Satan incarnate, and I won’t recognize eighty percent of the names on the roster, but dammit, this team is the descendant of Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer (yes, and Joe Thiesmann, but decent Washingtonians don’t speak of The Ego). The Redskins will yet again lure me into their web with early season wins, and they will yet again fall apart in mid-October. I’m not a sports stats fan, but I’ll bet bucks to buttons that no team on the planet has given up more fourth-quarter leads than the Redskins.
The disparity that separates real sports from their professional cousins is most widely illustrated this time of year during the Little League World Series, currently being televised on ESPN. It’s refreshing to watch 12-year-old athletes giving their all to win a game simply for the right to proclaim themselves winners. If you haven’t watched any of these six-inning games yet, you really ought to take the opportunity to do so.
First of all, it’s great baseball, complete with breathtaking offense and defense, but also littered with the occasional egregious error. I cannot imagine the thrill these kids must feel when they watch the recordings of themselves, complete with sportscaster commentary and instant replay.
And here’s the heart-wrenching part: Often as not, the losing team cries. These boys have put everything into the game, and while their athletic prowess might have matured, their emotions have not. They’re kids, and they’re all heart. Someday, the best among them will probably join the ranks of free agents, but for this brief slice of time, they’re just athletes, pure and simple.
There's a writing analogy to be made here--those who write for the love of the craft versus those who write because their franchise demands it--but I'll leave it to you, dear Killzoners, to connect those dots.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
There was an interesting post on Slate this week entitled, "Overrated: Authors, critics, and editors on 'great books' that aren't all that great.
The article got me thinking about which stories endure, which eventually fall by the wayside, and why. In a world where people now fit their innermost thoughts into 140 characters or less (counting spaces), lengthy descriptive passages such as those found in TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES probably strike the modern reader as tedious, while back when it was first published, that type of writing was the norm. It's also interesting to see that some of the people quoted cited both GRAVITY'S RAINBOW and Joyce's ULYSSES as being overrated, but for very different reasons.
I've read a decent number of the canonical 'great books,' and enjoyed most of them (including TESS, although I'm not generally a big Hardy fan).
But there's one that has become my own personal white whale: appropriately enough, MOBY DICK. It's one of the few books that I've never finished, despite gritting my teeth and picking it up a half dozen times. I always enjoy the beginning, and sweep through the first twenty chapters.
Then I hit Chapter 32: Cetology, and my eyes glaze over. I have yet to make it through Ishmael's attempts to classify whales scientifically. I read a page or so, then set the book down. One thing leads to another, and MD inevitably ends up back at the bottom of my TBR pile. I suppose I could always just skip the chapter, but I've never done that with a book before and something inside me balks at the thought.
Plus, I honestly have a fairly limited tolerance for sea shanties.
Yet this is supposed to be one of, if not the, "Great American Novels." So am I really missing out by not finishing? Or has Melville passed his expiration date? How relevant are the classics to our contemporary lives now? Are some so outmoded they no longer qualify as great literature? More importantly, are certain books lauded as great simply because they've managed to survive the tests of time?
In the article, Elif Batuman points out that, "the right book has to reach you at the right time, and no person can be reached by every book."
I love that observation. Sometimes I wonder if I'd still enjoy Milan Kundera as much if I read him now, or if Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE would make such an impression. I rarely go back and re-read books- there are simply too many amazing new stories coming out every week.
So today's question is this: which great book let you down?
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Let’s say we’re writing a mystery about a produce grocer who operates a booth at a weekday morning farmer’s market. When one of the other vendors ends up dead, suspects may include mutual customers, rival vendors, conniving relatives, and snarky suppliers. To make it easy for me, we’ll set it in Florida. So what would our keywords be here?
Culinary (especially if vegetarian recipes are included)
I’m sure you can come up with more keywords. Anyone want to pitch in?
Now let’s have a go at the cover copy:
Before he can take a bite out of his organic Gala apple, green grocer Jimmy Octagon notices a commodity not on the menu at the farmer’s market. Normally a beehive of energy, honey seller Aldreshia Meyers is dead as a turnip over by the onion stand. With the mayor threatening to shut down the market and Jimmy’s vendor license on the line, he’d better find the killer fast or else he might become the next victim of the lethal Green Menace.
Okay, I warned you I’m bad at this, didn’t I? Note that I neglected to use a single keyword. Why don’t you give it a try?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
By: Kathleen Pickering www.kathleenpickering.com
Hold on, now! Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never done heroin. And, I can say with an open heart and clean conscience that heroin is slotted nowhere in my life schedule.
However, I do have an addictive personality. So, I’m thinking that if it is irresistibly alluring to be addicted to something others consider awful, I am irresistibly addicted to deadlines!
I have self-published four books that required no deadlines. I had one other novel released by a publisher years ago. So, I’m pretty much a newbie to the workings from an editor’s desk.
Well, last Thursday was my first deadline with Harlequin. (I know. Not a mystery, but hey, love can mislead one, kill another, or solve deep mysteries, no?) So, I am pleased to announced that I main-lined that first deadline directly to my editor’s in-box with time to spare.
What a freakin’ rush!!
That defining moment was capped with a lovely, complimentary email from my editor thanking me for meeting the short notice. She then went on to suggest that I should kick back and relax until the line edits came back.
I thought, “Huh? No way!” I NEED another deadline! That felt soooooo good. Having those characters run through my blood, live in my brain and rush into the keyboard to find a happily-eva-afta! I must, must, must do it again. Gotta have it!
But then, I thought. Hey, that was a lot of work. You don’t want to burn out. So, I took one day. Friday. I consciously wasted time to regroup, detox the adrenaline rush, and just enjoy that I’m a normal kind of gal. Maybe go shopping. Call a friend. Play with dolphins?
I’ve heard this sage advice from all my seasoned author friends: When you’re not BICHOK (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard) be sure to waste your time consciously. Be aware that you have chosen not to write in order to regroup, percolate, smell the roses, drink the coffee and see what’s happening outside that closet in your mind.
Wasting time consciously in itself is healthy, but when you have an addictive personality such as mine, it’s hard to let go of the deadline craving. Without thinking twice, I may think I’m consciously wasting time, but I’m really using these hours to open a vein into which the next story can flow. (I’m sure the sage heads of those who know are nodding.)
The best high about being an author is that everything I do can trigger a story. I could, without trepidation, consciously waste time because the possibilities I might find would simply take me back to my dealer . . . um, I mean, editor. (Coughing into fist with embarrassment.)It’s pretty clear that if I deliver another good story, she’ll give me what I crave most: a DEADLINE. Ahhh. It doesn’t get better than that.
So, I did it. I consciously wasted a day, with great abandon until the tug came back. The tremors began, and that hunger bit deep. I got on the keyboard to my editor and said, “Thanks for the excellent suggestion, but if you don’t mind, ten hours was enough. I’m hammering out my next proposal, immediately. I need another deadline fix. NOW!!
I should be feeling better soon folks. No worries.
So, tell me, my writer, artist, and business-minded friends. How do you consciously waste time between creative processes in order to rejuvenate?
Monday, August 15, 2011
As I am still virtually 'in communicado' after my father's knee replacement surgery (still on 'duty' helping my folks out before I fly back to Australia tomorrow), I haven't got any meaty blog post for today. I do, however, have a question about publicity in the new 'digital age' of publishing. I was musing over it just this morning, wondering whether the traditional 'publicist' is, in many ways, redundant for authors now. With the ever increasing use of online and social media for book publicity, I have to wonder how much value an independent publicist can offer these days.
So what do you think? Would you bother to hire a publicist if you had a book coming out now and, if so, what would you expect them to do for you?
PS: Thank you all for your good wishes. My Dad is doing great!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
When you get a comment like that, one that says you accomplished what you set out to do in a book you've poured your heart into, it makes the whole thing worth it.
Yes, there will be dissenters. We who write professionally know that well. But while there is no sure formula for success, there is one for failure: try to please everybody.