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Category: publishing

Screw you, spell check! Oh wait, that IS how you spell Wednesday…

Tonight I was plugging away at some submissions/future rejections, and I noticed something both disturbing and embarrassing.  It has been over 3 months since I moved, and I got tired of manually typing my new address, and I figured it was probably time to give the query letter templates the once over anyway.

The query letter for The Redheaded Stepchild misspelled protagonist. The query letter for Two Steps Forward misspelled Forward. Twice. And it’s in the title. It also referenced The Other Dentenia Zickafoose when it should not have. It’s no wonder these magazines have dismissed without a second thought. That, and “I’m not what they’re looking for.”

There are few things I hate worse than writing query letters. I’m sure many of my fellow writers feel the same pain. We’re writers; we want our work to speak for itself. I have part of marketing degree, and I still hate marketing myself. So I spend some time trying to say what I want to say, and save it to a template so I don’t have to think about it every time. Apparently, I’ve been too lazy with this as of late, and as much as I hate, I know that a good query letter is important and a necessarily evil on the route to being a novelist. I encourage all you writers out there to spend 15 minutes to take a look at your query letters, just to make sure they are in tip-top shape. And that the title of your piece is not misspelled.

I am equally annoyed when I see outdated or incorrect information on a publisher’s website, or worse, a 404 or a bounced email.  Since most literary journals are run by colleges, I know they don’t accept submissions during the summer.  News flash – it’s back to school time, so you’re probably accepting submissions again. And if your submission banner reads “We are currently not accepting submissions. We will begin accepting submissions in July 2010” and it is now September 2010, there is something wrong with that.  If you say your next edition is coming April 2010, it should be posted by April 30, not still hanging around as a “coming soon” in November. You want me to not be lazy, do my due diligence, see what kind of work you typically publish and then craft my query letters accordingly? Do yours. Update your goddamn website.

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I Write Like: I caught the virus

The “I Write Like” phenomenon has been certified viral on the interwebs this month. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a site where you post a few paragraphs of your writing, click a button, and then it tells you which famous writer your writing is most like. It claims to analyze your word choice and your writing style and compare it to that of famous writers.

I am typically far behind the curve when it comes to trying a fad. Case in point: I only recently discovered what sticky bands are. Case in point: a TV show usually has to be on for about 3 seasons before I will watch the first episode. So in internet time, I am just about in the third season of I Write Like, and this is what it said about me…

First, I uploaded the first 3 paragraphs of Two Steps Forward.

I write like
Raymond Chandler

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I’d never heard of Raymond Chandler, so I Write Like took me somewhere that I could become familiar. Once I read his title list, I realized some of the titles sounded familiar and I was sure I’d seen some of the covers before, but when I went to read the first pages of a couple of his major titles, I didn’t see the resemblance to Two Steps Forward whatsoever. Maybe it’s just me.

Still, they recommended trying it a few times, so then, I tried it with the first 3 paragraphs of The Other Dentenia Zickafoose.

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Well, I certainly know Stephen King, but I don’t think I have read anything of his besides On Writing since I was in junior high, and what I remember of Steven King most is the terrible movies like Cujo and Pet Sematary that used to frighten the hell out of me when I was a kid and later disappointed me as an adult. So I sought out the first few pages of The Gunslinger, one of his later works, and sure enough, it was pretty similar in both structure, syntax, and word choice to The Other Dentenia Zickafoose. Maybe I should put that in my query letters.

Finally, I analyzed the first three paragraphs of my novel, The Redheaded Stepchild:

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

=I’d never heard of Cory Doctorow, so I searched the Amazons (the site, not the geographical region) for a book that I could search inside to see if I Write Like was full of shit, or if it was accurate enough to pass. I landed on Little Brother, and perused the first couple pages. Lo0 and behold, it sounded a lot like the beginning to The Redheaded Stepchild, but from a male perspective. If only “teh suck” had been a known phrase when I first starting writing this thing in the before time.

I still find myself thinking: Really? 3 different people? A friend of mine tried 4 different works of hers and got the same result 3 of the 4 times. Of the people that I have compared my work to, none of these three has been one of them. Maybe I just adapt my writing style to the type of story I am crafting. Then again, I could just be a random spaz. Also, I apparently write like a dude. Maybe someday some dude will find out he writes like Kelly Hitchcock.

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Findings from 2011 Writer’s Market: the economy sucks.

I’ve been deeply entrenched in the process of moving, and had an adventure on moving day that is definitely short story-worthy, but slightly before that I received the 2011 edition of the Writer’s Market for my birthday. I have only perused it a couple of times since I took it out of the Amazon box, but two things in particular struck me about what I have seen:

  1. There were a lot more markets last year. Sure, there are a few new ones, but it’s pretty obvious that the shitty economy has hit publications hard, even the ones who don’t pay, which is almost all of them. Which brings me to two…
  2. Some of the markets that were paying last year (as indicated by the $ icon) are not paying this year. The interesting question to ask here is – are they not paying because they can’t afford to, or are they not paying because they don’t have to?

Let’s face it, the editors of these publications know they are not going to be financing anyone’s lifestyle by paying for their work. Sure, your New Yorkers and Atlantic Monthlies are going to keep paying writers because they want the gourmet stuff and because they have the readership and subscriptions to pay for it. But your Northern Oregon Literary Reviews know that writers have options. They can post their stuff for free anywhere. It’s the prestige of being an author published in an actual literary journal that writers are really seeking, not the money. So why pay for it? Here’s a short list of jobs at which you could make more money than poet submitting to literary magazines:

  • Lemonade stand attendant
  • NFL cheerleader
  • 10-year old receiving allowance
  • Street beggar

But the ways writers get noticed and make money is changing fast, and these journals are starting to pay attention, which means some of them are running scared, while others are rising to the challenge. Anyone want to take bets on whether there will be a Writer’s Market in 2021?

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Smashwormazonapple

Lately my RSS feed has been completely overwhelming with information about how the world of publishing is changing for new authors and how the world of traditional publishing and book printing is slowly going the way of the buffalo. So much so, in fact, that I am befuddled by what road I should take in the publishing of my book.

I read about Smashwords some time ago and thought it was the most innovative thing to happen to publishing since the online submission manager. As a geek in my day job and a fan of open source software, I liked Smashwords’ willingness to use open file formats and shun DRM. In a different way, I also respected their position that they would let anyone (yes, anyone) publish using their services, because they believed that good writing has a way of standing on its own and rising to the top. As writers, we always want to let our work speak for itself on the basis of its merit, but end up having to market ourselves as a circle that fits into a square peg. I even liked the founders’ story of how they tried and tried, and failed and failed, to get published the traditional way. And the best thing, Smashwords is free. Pretty cool, huh?

But then the more I looked around, the more I realized it’s not the only service of its kind out there.  There are loads. Now more than ever, authors have a chance to call their own shots instead of hoping for a deal, any deal, even a shitty one, from a traditional publisher. Amazon has its own service for self-publishing, and just last week, even Apple (yes, THE Apple) announced they would be offering similar services. Granted, you have to have a new Mac, an iTunes account, some spare cash laying around for an ISBN, and be okay with having your work laced with DRM; but hey, it’s a service for authors, and you’ve got the giant that is iTunes out there pimping your stuff.

The more I learn about all the different options available to me, the less sure I am of which direction I want to go next:

  1. Do I keep stuffing envelopes and spending a small fortune on postage trying to get a traditional book deal?
  2. Do I give the middle finger to the traditional publishing industry and jump on the new self-e-publishing wave?
  3. Do I strike some kind of middle ground?
  4. Do I follow another direction I haven’t even looked into yet?

I don’t really know. Awhile back when I was writing the post about SASEs, I came across this blog ran by a midlist horror author who has seen a great deal of success being at the forefront of ebook publishing, both through traditional and nontraditional means. His insight has astounded me, and made me wish I had more time to keep up with the changing face of the industry, although with the rate at which things are changing my guess is not even the absence of a full-time job could help me do that (plus, I kind of need my full-time job).

About the only things I know for sure – One, I should probably get an agent. I really need someone whose full time job DOES entail keeping up with industry trends. Two, when hell freezes over and I finally do get someone willing to take a chance on my book, they’ll have to pry my digital rights from my dead fingers. Three, I should write a marketing plan for my book. More and more, authors have the onus of marketing and promotion, and I should probably know how to answer when someone asks me how I plan to help market my work. Besides, I haven’t written a marketing plan since college and the practice couldn’t hurt. I also happen to be friends with the Kansas City area marketer of the year who I can probably rope into helping me. Four, I need to keep editing. My book is never as ready as I think it is.

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Confatigue hits me at SXSW

After an insanely full day, we were more than happy yesterday that the alarm didn’t go off when it was supposed to. Honestly, we were glad it didn’t go off at all. It gave us a chance to recharge in the morning and get some extra, much needed sleep. We finally willed ourselves out of the hotel room and into the rain in time to hit up the 2 pm session. It saw us in the Spotify CEO’s keynote address, which was really cool.

After that for me, it was How to Save Journalism. Citizen journalism is apparently the new hotness. Getting people on the street to share what they’re already doing via blogs and such instead of paying a journalist a salary to write cover stories. The idea of having a model in the US like the UK has with the publicly funded BBC went over with mixed reviews. Let’s face it, everyone wants news and no one wants to pay for it, especially through a pay wall on the newspaper’s website.

The IDEA of payment isn’t the question. I think people are coming around to the idea that the news isn’t free, but the METHOD of payment is what publications are still trying to figure out. There was also great talk about long form news being treated as more of a public service, funded by philanthropists, instead of a conglomerate.

The idea that being small a big asset, and that big papers are trying to find out how to create smaller models was mirrored in the second session I attended, Web-First Publishing: How Alt Weeklies Can Survive. They also spoke about the blending of job duties in today’s environment. Citizens are becoming the journalists, the journalists are becoming the editors, and editors are becoming the web developers. I guess it’s a good thing I can do some basic HTML and CSS.

This was the end of the interactive conference, and if there were three things I would say were impressed on me in every panel I attended, it is this:

  • You have to find a way to involve your community (whether it’s your readers or an actual physical community) in the development of your work. The idea of creating something, pushing it out, and then hoping someone picks it up is over.
  • Technology may be getting bigger, but the models are getting smaller. No one wants to read a 500-word cover story, escpecially on an iPhone.
  • Keep working, and don’t give up. Whether it’s getting that novel published, developing that complex application, and finding that perfect job, keep at it, and your persistence will pay off. But you’ve gotta do the work.

I am coming away from the interactive with lots of great ideas for the future, so stay tuned to be part of it! Music fest starts today.

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An incredibly full day at SXSW

Yesterday, I finally made it to a 9:30 session, and the lack of energy and sparse crowd in the room at the Digitally Rebranding the Republican Party session. Still, I love politics and even though I am not a republican, I do know they need to get with the program, technologically speaking, so it was still good to see.

I then hit up a session called Making Content Relevant To Me, Here And Now. It spoke mostly to making searching for information better, and improving suggestion engines. I learned about a site called Hunch that helps people make decisions based on interesting questions. To keep the political trend, I learned Republicans prefer iceberg lettuce and Democrats like arugula. I’m too poor for arugula, and find iceberg bland, which might give more insight into my political views than I think.

The panel I really came here to see was A Brave New Future for Book Publishing, and it did not disappoint, except that it left a taste in my mouth that publishers are relying heavily on the advent of the iPad and winning the ebook pricing war to solve a lot of their problems. They reiterated some of the problems publishers (especially big ones) are having, since 80% of books that get published never make back the money invested in them.

But I was challenged to think of the book in a different way, by separating the stuff in the book from the book itself, separating the content from the container. Anymore, the book is no longer the mothership for readers; it’s the content. And even the representatives from the big publishers (Macmillan, HarperCollins) admitted they are built for a world that does not exist anymore.

Instead, the publisher is becoming more of a service-oriented model instead of a dry goods manufacturer. This allows the authors to have the connection with the audience (since they are the ones the readers want to hear from). For instance, HarperStudio, the digital wing of HarperCollins, is profit-sharing with its authors.

They asked the question of what the new players in the book publishing game look like compared to the hardback world:

  • The author of the future: engages its audiences and makes the readers part of the writing process, and gets a following and a community in place before engaging the publisher.
  • The publisher of the future: uses multimedia to reach new audiences, like vook.com who includes video books with author interviews and much more, competes with individual writers, and sees themselves as providing a service instead of owning writers and their works.
  • The editor of the future: looks more like a movie director or producer, who does the line-by-line editing second and decides the best vessel and medium for the delivering the work first.
  • The book of the future: may be delivered in any format, for example, the same novel could be delivered as a $1.99 ebook, a $5.99 paperback, and a $23.00 hardcover, each of which offers something a little different.

I could say more about it, but I would just be reiterating things I’ve already said in some way. You can see my tweets from the session at #futurebook also. The thing that I will say bothered me was that the session seemed to be suggesting writers to write to the market instead of writing what they are passionate about. Even the screenwriting panel I was in advised against that, and they’re Hollywood.

I finished the day watching a podcast recorded with writers from the Onion, College Humor and the Obama Girl, about cashing in on humor, and began the night with some kick-ass parties, most notably with the creators of Found Footage Festival, which was freaking awesome.

This morning, I’ve got a Texas-sized headache and have yet to leave the hotel. And I have no idea how these girls are walking all over Austin in heels.

A Brave New Future for Book Publishing
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