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>Writers and their Web Pages

Every writer knows they need a web presence. They need a blog, a web page (behind the blog). They need to Tweet and drop by Facebook, maybe do Live-journal. They need to organise blog tours and chase up reviewers.

Honestly, it’s enough to make your head spin. Promotional Web Personal Assistant, anyone?

I’ve noticed some posts recently by reviewers on what they want from author web pages. Here on Dreams and Speculations, they talk about what they want from an author’s web page. Most important for a reviewer seems to be a list of previous books and easy navigation is important, which is fair enough.

And here, Rebecca from Dirty Sexy Books talks about the biggest mistakes authors make. She uses the term link-bait to draw people to the site. Basically free stuff and fun stuff. Then she updates it here, with some more mistakes.

Now we are all time strapped authors. We’re juggling real lives, work, family and writing. And now we have to become PR Web Gurus. I’m trying, I really am. But just as soon as I learn a new skill, I find I need to learn another new skill. (What? Now I need to Twitter?)

I’m asking you as aspiring writers and readers, what do you like to find on author’s webpages? And what cheeses you off on author’s web pages?

>Iffen ah don’ laff…

>Well iffen ah don’ laff I sure as hail gonna cry, so let’s look at some cheerful bits. This u-tube look at the illusions of getting published has all the elements of reality 🙂

On the othe positive news my collection THE GOTH SEX KITTEN AND OTHER STORIES is out from NAKED READER which, if means if you decided to buy it for your e-reader — and you buy directly from NR – I get 60% (less credit card fees… the bank-dog always gets its cut) as opposed to the 15-20% I’d be lucky to see elsewhere. Even off Amazon I am still pleased to say that 50% – nearly a dollar fifty – or 2.3 times what I’d earn from a paperback – will return to me to help to provide for those extra little luxuries like a roof over our heads – something I would love to see less authors worried silly about. And to reinforce my attitude about ebooks needing to be CHEAPER than paper books… it is.

I’ve nearly finished one of the books I am working on, and I’m sorely missing what I realise is one of my trademark type characters – the amoral individual who acts as a kind of mirror to the ‘mores’ of modern life. The Rats in RATS, BATS AND VATS are cyber-uplifted, but still remain rats. As that they give me a useful way of poking fun at some of our more sacred holy cows.

He began to adjust his pince-nez again; but, instead, simply took them off and wiped his snout wearily. “It was too late. Without surgery it was always too late. Even with it, too late by hours.”
The group standing around Phylla’s still body were all silent.
Then Nym sighed. “Out, out, brief candle. Well, I suppose I’d better go and fetch some brandy. Or would anyone prefer some wine?”
“You’re going to get drunk?” Siobhan’s voice rose to a squawk of outrage.
Doc nodded. “Of course. The observance of rites for the dead are what set us apart from the animals.”
“But that is to behave like animals, indade!” Eamon sounded genuinely appalled.
“Methinks if we behaved like the animals we came from, we’d eat her,” replied Fal reasonably. “Besides, I thought you’d be in favor of a wake. It is a fine Irish tradition.”
“It is?” This obviously made a strong impression on a bat who felt himself to be, among other things, heir to the mantle of De Valera.
Fal nodded vigorously. “You don’t have to attend, but not to do so is a mark of scanty respect for the dead.”
Even Bronstein was caught half-cocked. “But is not our custom . . .”
“It is ours,” said Pistol with finality. “And our Phylla was first and foremost a rat.”
Virginia sidled up to Chip. “What are they doing to that dead rat?” she whispered, staring in fascinated horror.
“Laying her out. Maybe not the way we humans would understand it, but the way a rat would.” Chip’s tone was very dry. “Phylla would have appreciated it. Sort of a rat joke.”

or in PYRAMID SCHEME/POWER where the Dragons are this foil

In a remote corner of a wildlife reservation, some distance away, a winged dragon sighed gustily and licked his new white little teeth with a long red snaky tongue. They helped his speech as well as his chewing. “I feel as if my life is lacking something.”
His sibling, Bitar, licked his chops too. “Something of the flavor of life.”
“Could be ketchup?” said Smitar, after serious thought, and then concentrated on trying to reach an annoying itch between his shoulder blades.
“Or it could be hot sauce. Who would have thought that American maidens would be in such short supply that they’d have to be protected game?”
“Over hunted,” said Smitar, righteously. “Should have introduced a permit system. Or reservations. Or a minimum size limit.”
Bitar shook his vast armored head at the iniquity. “A bag limit.” He paused. “It wasn’t you, was it?”
“Not unless I’m sleep-eating again,” said Smitar. “If it wasn’t me, was it you? And can you scratch this spot for me?”
“We need Cruz,” said Bitar, obliging. “He can give a decent scratch with an oar. Do you think we’re molting again?”
“Could be. It’s this foreign food. Very greasy. Fattening.” Smitar patted his midriff.
“You haven’t been eating these foreigners again?” demanded Bitar accusingly. “You know Medea told us not to. Anyway, you could have shared!”
“Phttt,” said Smitar. “He was barely a snack. And Cruz said that anyone from the INS was fair game. I still feel something’s missing in my life. I’ve got this sort of inner itch too.”
“Could be indigestion. But I have it as well. And I never even got a bite of the INS official,” Bitar sniffed dolefully. “Could use a good scratch with a pole from Cruz.”
Smitar wrinkled his scaly forehead in thought. “I think it is that time of life when a young dragon’s thoughts turn to love.”
“Could be. What time is that?” asked Bitar, tasting the idea.
“This century, I think.”
“Hmm. In that case I think we need some male advice on how to draw chicks.”
Smitar looked a bit puzzled. “I thought you just grabbed them and dragged?”
“Doesn’t that lack finesse?”
“Probably. It could work though.”
“We need to ask Cruz,” said Bitar, rubbing his back against a rock and shattering it. “It’s time he sat us down and gave us a little talk about the birds and the bees.”
Smitar tasted a piece of the rock. Chewed it thoughtfully and then asked: “Why?”
“I think it’s what you have to talk to girls about,” said Bitar knowledgeably. “Cruz will know.”
Smitar spat out rock fragments. “And he could give us a good scratch.”
As they took off and began searching for thermals, Smitar asked, “So what’s this finesse stuff? Some kind of sauce? Or a lubricant to help with the dragging?”
Bitar nodded. “Both. It’s got chocolate in it, too.”

Of course, in SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS I used Miran (an alien species that changes sex from male to female on reaching a certain age/size) to look at our taboos on sex.

Anyway, I’ll spare you a quote of that.
But this something rather typical of my writing. Any other examples of weird writing traits you can think of in authors you enjoy?
Anything good come up lately? (besides dinner?)

>The Journey to E-Publication

>Some of the comments from Friday’s open thread started me thinking. Yes, yes, that’s dangerous and you can groan all you want. In fact, you probably should since I’m still not completely well. Sarah, quit laughing! I know I’m never “completely” well. At least not like some people…I’m a writer. I’m also an editor. If that isn’t enough to drive one around the bend, I don’t know what it. But I digress.

This past year it has become increasingly “easy” to self-publish an e-book. Amazon started their DTP program. Barnes & Noble has PubIt. Apple started iBooks. Then there was the old standby of Smashwords. With so many easily accessible routes to publication, the number of self-published and small press published e-books has increased a great deal. There have been a lot of very good e-books come out and some very bad ones. The bad ones often suffer as much from poor editing and formatting as they do from bad writing. This increase in accessibility has also increased the vocal support and derision from the buying public.

If you google how to make an e-book, you’ll get thousands of responses. That’s the problem. If you follow any one of them, you can and most likely will wind up having issues if you publish your e-book through more than one outlet. (I’m assuming here you haven’t gone out and invested the big bucks into commercial programs. There really is no need to.) So, what should you do?

My first piece of advice comes as a writer and not as an editor. If at all possible, find a publisher. It is extremely difficult to do an effective job as writer, editor, proofreader, layout artist, etc., on your own work. And all that has to be done before you can upload your book for e-publication. However, if you decide to go the self-publication route — and understand that while there isn’t quite the stigma about being self-pubbed digitally as there has been in the past, that stigma is still present. One way it manifests itself is in a general unwillingness to pay as much for a self-published title as they would for a title from a publisher, no matter how small.

So, you have your completed manuscript and you have it edited as completely as possible. You’ve had someone check it for spelling, punctuation and grammar problems. You’ve decided, for whatever reasons, to self-publish digitally. Now what? Now you decide what outlet or outlets you are going to release your book through.

For quite a while, Smashwords has been the standard for self-publishing. This is probably the easiest venue for uploading your work in that the only format they accept is an MSWord .doc file. However, they are very specific about how that document must be formatted and certain language must be included that makes it clear that Smashwords is the venue you selected to either distribute or publish your book or short story.

Smashwords also has two levels of review you have to go through should you decide to use them to get your e-book into other venues. Among the “stores” they can get you into are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KOBO, iBooks, Sony and Diesel Books. So far, so good, right? Not necessarily. If you decide to go this route — what they call their premium catalog — you have to have cover art and, in some cases, ISBNs for your work. Oh, and you are at their mercy as to when your book will be “shipped” to these other venues. There is also a delay in the review process. Assuming they find nothing wrong in the review, it can still take as much as 2 weeks or more to be approved for the premium catalog. And don’t get all excited and think I’m talking editorial review. I’m not. This is all formatting and, believe me, just because it passes their check, it doesn’t mean there aren’t issues with the formatting. Converting from a Word .doc to the standard e-book formats often causes problems such as losing centering, odd word spacing, loss of bold or italics, etc. Finally, there’s that pesky language saying the book comes from Smashwords, something that screams in a lot of readers’ minds that the book might not be well-written or well-edited as other books might be.

While Smashwords serves its purpose and is the only way some can get into venues such as Sony and iBooks, it does have some potential pitfalls to keep in mind. The first thing to do if you are considering using them to publish your book is to download their how-to guide. If you follow it to the letter, you should have little problem passing their review process.

For publication through Amazon’s DTP program or B&N’s PubIt, it really is much easier, if a bit more time consuming. DTP allows for you to upload your book in a number of different formats. However, I recommend you upload it as a .mobi file. Why? Because that is one of the native formats for the kindle. You will already know how it looks and that way, if there are any issues when they “convert” it, you should be able to see it right away. PubIt requires you to upload with an .epub file, the format used by the nook. Again, this makes sense because you already have an idea of how your final product will look.

That raises the question of how to get from a word processing file to a .mobi or .epub file. You can save as an .html file or you can use a text editor to build your .html file. I recommend the latter, especially if you use MSWord because of all the coding junk MS builds in. If you want a table of contents, be sure to add it. NOTE: don’t add page numbers because they won’t be right once the book is converted. There are a number of very good text editors out there for free or for minimal cost. Komposer is free but slow, imo. NoteTab Pro is a commercial program, but one I like a great deal. Does this mean you need to know html coding? Not necessarily, but some basic knowledge is good, especially once you start converting into .mobi or .epub formats and you find problems you need to edit.

Now you have an .html file that looks right in your browser. (Remember, this is not only you novel or short story, but the title page, legal language, ISBN if you are using one, cover art credits — and yes, you do need to credit the artist unless you are using art they have specifically said does not have to be credited. Also remember, the better the cover, the more likely a potential reader will be to at least download a sample. Art work very well may be the most expensive part of your book.) Your next step is to convert to whatever format you’ll be uploading. Our tech guys at Naked Reader Press usually convert to .mobi here. The reason is the simplicity of being able to edit the html file the .mobi file is built upon if there is a formatting issue. Again, you can go out and spend a lot of money on commercial programs, or you can use MobiPocket Creator or a program such as Calibre. My recommendation is to start with MobiPocket Creator because you can edit the html without ever leaving the program. Also, your preview function is using the mobipocket viewer, so your book looks more like it would on an e-reader than it does in the Calibre preview window.

Once you have your .mobi file and you’ve checked it in the preview window for any errors, you are good to go for uploading to Amazon DTP. You set up your account and then follow their very simple step-by-step process. Once you’ve uploaded your file, you have the opportunity to review it again. Do so. You never know when you’ll find something you missed or when the conversion process might break some of your code. Don’t take anything for granted. Expect to wait approximately 72 hours before your title goes live on the Amazon site. One word of warning here, your book description will almost always show up 24 to 48 hours after your book goes live. For some reason, the description goes through a different review process than the book does.

Your .mobi file can now be used to create the .epub file for B&N’s PubIt program. Calibre is a good program for this. It’s easy to use and quick. It is also updated an a very regular basis. The one caveat I’ll give here is that you shouldn’t rely on their preview function. Download the free Adobe Digital Editions to see who your file looks in a native viewer. Once you’re satisfied with the preview, you simply go to the PubIt site and follow the directions. It’s a bit more detailed than the DTP site, but not by much. So far, it appears that it takes a bit longer for your first book to go live on B&N than it does on Amazon, but that later books appear more quickly.

If you want your book to appear in iBooks, you can publish there using iTunes IF you meet some pretty specific technical requirements. First, you have to have an iTunes account. No biggie there. Then you have to have your book in the .epub format. Again, no biggie. But, you also have to be uploading from an intel-based Apple computer. Oops! That can be a problem. The way around this is to use Smashwords or one of the repackagers approved of by Apple.

There are other outlets available. Some require you to have a certain number of titles available for publication. Others require you to make application to them. My thought is that if you can get into Amazon and B&N, you’ve got most of your potential readers covered, especially if you choose the “no DRM” option. Yes, children, you read that right. You can choose not to engage DRM. So why do the big publishers tell us DRM is a must?

This isn’t a quick process. If you try to do it too quickly, you make mistakes. At least I would. More importantly, this is just the beginning of the process. Once you have the book or short story available, you have to get word out about it. You have to find ways to drive traffic to your book and get folks to buy it. And this is something you have to consider before you put the book up for sale. Just as you have to consider if what you’ve written will set off a firestorm of protest or will look and sound too much like too many other things out there just now and be lost amid all the other titles. If you guys want, we’ll talk promotion next week.

Now, any questions? Have I totally confused you? I’m afraid I only glossed over the surface here. So if there are specifics you’d like to know, ask away. If I don’t know the answer, someone will.

>E-Books & the Black Friday Blues

>For those of you who aren’t familiar with certain American traditions, there’s a fairly new one that’s become part of the Thanksgiving holiday. Black Friday. The day when usually calm, kind and normal people turn into insane, often violent, shoppers with a sense of entitlement that’s big enough to try the patience of a saint.

You may ask what Black Friday has to do with e-books. Normally, it would have little, if anything, to do with them. However, a trip to the kindle boards yesterday sent my blood boiling. (Okay, I’ll admit, it probably was boiling a little with fever yesterday anyway. Still, the insanity was enough to get to me.). Basically, what happened is that one of Amazon’s “lightning deals” — specials that are for a very limited number of an item at great prices — was an $89 K2. Unlike a number of other lightning deals, this one had gotten national coverage ahead of time. And, like all those folks who camped out at Best Buy and Target, waiting for the doors to open so they could run for the discounted [insert item here] and who were more than willing to get into fist fights and shouting matches, all those cyber-shoppers were lined up, watching the clock count down to the moment the K2s would be available.

Yep, you guessed it. They sold out within minutes, maybe even seconds. And that’s when the howling started. There were claims of bait and switch, threats to never darken Amazon’s cyber-doors again unless they found a Kindle for this person or that. Never mind the disclaimer that it was a limited offer was in anything BUT fine print. These people wanted one. They DEMANDED one and screw anyone who didn’t agree.

I don’t know what it is about certain topics that turns normally sane folks into whiny, demanding toddlers wanting that new toy NOW. But there is a lot of this same mentality when it comes to e-books. You see it when people complain about the prices of an e-book because, gee, it doesn’t cost as much because there are no printing or storage prices, nor shipping prices. You see it regarding piracy — and, as far as I’m concerned, that whining goes on on both sides of the issue. You see it from the publishers who won’t or can’t see that the market is changing and that they need to change with it in order to survive. The one group you don’t see it from, on a whole, is the one group who should be whining — the writers.

Tomorrow, I’ll go into the actual steps required to produce an e-book. But today, let’s continue discussing this sense of entitlement that has permeated into the e-book market.

Years ago, the music industry went through a period where they put DRM on everything, worried that the new digital age would mean the death knoll of the business. Yes, it did change the way music was purchased. Most is now purchased online. Gone are most of the music stores we used to go to and browse through the rows of CDs. There were a number of different formats as well, preventing the buyer from listening to their downloads on multiple gadgets. Piracy abounded.

Did it kill the industry? Nope. The industry adapted. A standard format evolved and DRM did as well. Oh, sure, there are still certain companies that load the evil stuff into their music. But, on the whole, if you buy and download a song or album. you can play it on any MP3 player, no matter what the brand.

It is up to the publishing industry to do the same. If I buy an e-book from Amazon, chances are it will be locked with DRM. There will be a limit on the number of authorized devices I can read it on. And, guys, it isn’t Amazon putting these limitations on. It’s the publishers. Why? Because they are worried about piracy. At least that’s what they say.

In yesterday’s comments, Rowena noted that she can find her novels on certain pirate sites. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. There are those folks out there who take exception to DRM and will work to find the code to break it and then offer it to others out in cyberspace as a way to thumb their noses at the publishers. They don’t think about how this might affect an author’s sales. They aren’t even doing it to thumb their noses at the author — well, if the author is a best seller and has publicly come out against e-books….that’s a different story. There will always be someone out there who will post any e-book they can for free download. Same with music and video. They feel like they can do anything they want with it once they’ve bought it. Gee, there’s that sense of entitlement again.

There’s another form of piracy – although, to be honest, it really isn’t piracy. At least not in my mind – that comes from DRM as well. But a bit of background, a number of publishers AND authors don’t look at e-books as “books”. They believe that you aren’t buying the “book” but a license to read the words. That’s why there is DRM. On the other hand, you have the buyers who have paid good money for the e-book and who believe they own it just as they would own a hard copy of the book. They don’t see this as merely a license or a “rental”. So they look for ways to break the DRM on the book so they can read it on different e-readers and make backup copies.

Why, you may ask, is this important? Say you spend $9.99 for an e-book (which is going rate for a big publisher’s e-book from a best seller) this year. Next year, the e-reader you purchased it for dies and you buy a new one. If you purchased that e-book from certain sellers, you may not be able to download it again. Yes, there are download limits at a number of places. Of, you decided to go with a different brand of e-reader. That could mean the digital edition you purchased earlier won’t work with your new e-reader because of DRM. Your only solutions are to either buy a new digital copy or find a way around DRM. So, you have those who are good with programming coming up with scripts that let you extract the digital copy, free from DRM. Sense of entitlement? Sure. Justified? In my opinion, yes.

The only group who is being hurt by both sides of this argument are the authors. They do lose some sales because their publishers either won’t release their backlist in digital format — leading folks to scan in their books and then post them online — or by overpricing their books in digital format. Again, this leads to piracy. Those who pirate the books also hurt the authors because they are taking money from the authors’ pockets. However, I would propose one more level here that most folks don’t take into consideration. Actually, I have to give Kate credit here. She reminded me that while a number of us might look for a pirated e-book for whatever reason, we do tend to make up for that lost sale later — either by purchasing that e-book when it finally becomes available through legitimate channels or buy purchasing other e-books (or dead tree books) from that author based on what we’ve read.

So what’s the solution? The only one that will work long term is for the industry to accept the fact that e-books are here to stay. The more DRM that is attached to a book, the more programming folks will work to find and make available the scripts to break it. Either set up e-books as “rentals”, where you get to download and read them for a discounted price for a set period of time, or accept the fact that someone who “purchases” an e-book owns it just as much as the purchaser of a hard copy owns that version of the book. Most of all, make e-books available at the same time as the hard copy comes out.

Okay, I just heard the howls going up on that last one, but hear me out. Probably the most famous – or infamous – series of books not released digitally is the Harry Potter series. Think about the number of sales that have been missed because Rowling won’t sell the digital rights to her books. Now think about this: digital versions of the last few books were available BEFORE the books came out. That means, imo, someone from the publishing house leaked the files. Why? Because people felt they were entitled to get the book in digital form. Gee, entitlement again.

Okay, this is a long way of saying something very simple — the only ones entitled to being upset over piracy are the authors. But they need to educate themselves to the realities of the situation and put themselves in the place of their readers. There’s a growing number of people who read only digitally. Some because they like the convenience of having hundreds of books with them at all times. Some for ecological reasons — they aren’t killing trees by buying an e-book. Others for medical reasons — they simply can’t hold a book any longer but they can an e-reader. Now, both sides need to talk with one another, learn how their actions impact the other. Somehow, the publishers need to be brought into it as well. I’m just not sure how — until the publishers are willing to adapt to changing times, things are unlikely to change.

See, this is what happens when something ticks me off when I’m sick. I get all wound up about things. Any way, what are your thoughts? Is e-book piracy really an issue that should be gone after the way the music industry has gone after music pirates? Or is it an anomaly that will go away if DRM is done away with?

>Open Thread:


Hi, everyone. I have been in Jury Duty all week (trial finished today), so I don’t have a post prepared. Please feel free to post anything you like on an open thread.
All the Best!!
Chris McMahon

>What was that?

>I figure most people here who haven’t actually watched any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies at least know who Jack Sparrow is. So… did the people who made the movies intend to include the Trickster archetype?

My money’s on “no”. Possibly even, “Hell, no”. Very few creative types think about the archetypes before or during the process: they just write it, then realize what they’ve done when they re-read. Sometimes not even then – when we’re up to our necks in story, we often can’t pull far enough back to realize what else we’ve tapped into.

In the Pirates movies, the writers and cast collectively tapped into a whole lot of mythic archetypes. You have the not-always-friendly wise older man who is also something of a father-figure (Barbossa) – and that’s a relationship with more than a few echoes with Loki/Odin or Loki/Thor, especially in the third movie. There’s the “crone” who is also a powerful sorceress (thingy/Calypso), the good man who turned to evil when his love was – he thought – spurned (Davy Jones), and of course, the Young Lovers (Elizabeth and Will, both of them so painfully earnest it’s a good thing they have Jack Sparrow around to make fun of them).

Not a bad lineup for a series of films that never tried to be anything more than a whole lot of fun.

So, for your Thanksgiving fun today, let’s have some “name the movie, character and archetype”.

p.s Bonus points to the first person to name the movie quoted in the title!

>The A’tist and the Businessman

Periodically people – on facebook, via email, through my site – try to get me to read their manuscripts. Unless they are friends or I know that what they really want is an honest critique, I do not give it. This is difficult, because some of these people are quite, quite, quite persistent and keep coming back with “but I’m sure you’ll love it if you just read it.”

I’m not saying that they’re wrong. For all I know, most of them or a significant portion of them are right and their manuscripts would absolutely knock my socks off, set my world afire or rock my aesthetic perceptions.

I’ve long ago learned not to judge how good someone’s work will be by whether or not they’re published. Being published involves all sorts of other qualities/events than being a very good writer. For example, one of my best friends was writing much better than I was – or probably ever will – when she was completely unpublished and is still doing so now, when she’s only published short stories and I’ve published several novels. Her novels keep getting rejected, though. Another of my best friends writes so much like me that my own husband can’t tell our work apart. She’s published almost nothing compared to me.

So these strangers who absolutely want me to read their novel might be amazing writers, much better than what I can buy off the shelf. I’m still not going to read their work, because it wouldn’t do either of us any good. Note my examples above. These are people I like very much and on whom I depend as though they were family. They are still largely unpublished. Why? Because writers don’t have that kind of power. We can’t do the editor’s job for them. It’s not OUR job. We can at most – if we love something – recommend it to an editor/publisher/agent. I’ve now recommended my two friends a couple of times. They’ve been rejected. Mind you, they got the up close and personal rejection which means my view of their work is correct – they’re very good and publishable. But something about the work, something about the timing, something about the editor’s/agent’s taste keeps them from breaking in.

It might seem to you getting an author’s recommend, or a personal introduction gets you closer to the goal, at least, let me disabuse you of that notion. I have a lot of friends, many more – much, much more – successful than I am. Their attempts to give me a hand up have been about as successful as my attempts to get my friends published. Oh, it happens, once in a blue moon, that an author friend – and almost always these are close friends – will recommend you to his/her editor/agent/publisher and you’ll get a contract. However, just on percentage, it’s easier for you to go through the normal channels of submission. Discovery sounds glamorous, but it’s harder than normal acceptance.

Of course, some more creative souls do stranger things, like post samples of their work on my blog comments, my facebook wall or – and this is very creative indeed – send it to my agent/editor with a note that I recommended it.

The first two are at best annoyances. Look, yeah, I have a few editors/agents who, sporadically, read my postings. They do this because we’re friends outside of “work” and like to joke or tease me about stuff I post. They do not do this to find “the next best thing.” To be blunt, most of them get quite enough submissions to read during their normal work time. In fact, reading submissions is the chore that never ends. They get submissions through the normal channels, they get work from writers they met at cons and social occasions, and they get submissions from people (not always writers) who recommend friends and co-workers. And this is work for them. No matter how much they love reading, no matter how much they tell you, in interviews, that they love “discovering” new work, when they read submissions it’s in a different frame of mind than when blogging or reading blogs/facebook/twitter. TRUST me on this. I’ve edited in the past. When I read with an eye to what might be publishable/needed, it’s not the same as reading say Austen fandom, which I often do read.

I’m not saying they might not look at your work. I’m saying that after catching on it’s a “sneaky submission” slipped into their leisure time, they’re likely to be mad at you and, if I don’t take steps to delete it or dissociate myself from it, at me for ambushing them with work during their fun. Ambushing them in that way is as impolite as ambushing a doctor at a party and asking for a diagnosis. I don’t have numbers, but I’d bet you a lot of money that you stand a better chance of being ambushed by a meteor in a back alley than you have of selling a book this way.

In fact, some writers will block you/defriend you/shut you out for this sort of thing. I won’t, because I can understand where you’re coming from. (More on that later, as well.)

The third method – to send something to my editor or agent and telling them I recommended it when I didn’t – will get you defriended/blocked/shut out if I ever find out it happened, because frankly it could potentially affect my professional relationship. POTENTIALLY – as in, unlikely, but it could happen. The reason it’s unlikely to damage my professional credit is the same reason why this fraudulent action manages to be both dishonest and stupid.

The person who comes up with this brilliant idea doesn’t realize that there have been several people to try it before him/her and that therefore there are procedures in place to circumvent it. For instance, unless I send my agent or editor a letter asking “Would you like to see my friend’s…” and the editor or agent answers with “sure” any over the transom submission saying “Sarah A. Hoyt loves this” will be seen as a fraud. MOST of the time (exceptions made for writers’ group members I HAVE introduced to the editor and even those just in short stories, frankly) such letters from me to editor and answers are followed by MY sending the manuscript I’m recommending to the editor/agent, with a copy to the author, with whom future correspondence will take place.

What all three of these methods will do, in any case, is cause untold damage to YOUR reputation and your chances of publication – if they’re noticed. You should pray they aren’t. This is because the one thing the publishers fear is “the crazy”. “The crazy” might have been a perfectly normal person driven insane by the process of getting published and their fundamental misunderstanding of that process. Or they might be – and very often are – people who think of themselves as artists and tortured souls: people whose work doesn’t depend on excellent craft and practice, but on the bolt of lightening of inspiration or the touch of a god of some description. These people just KNOW they’re good. (A surprising number of them have ‘something’ – usually smothered under layers and layers of twitdom and lack of craft.)

For the Touched By The Gods Artist it’s hard to endure the fact that they have to go through the same selection process as common mugs. This is reinforced – for practically everyone – by

a) the fact our society’s method of educating the young gives everyone, even adults this bizarre idea everything is a class and has an exam/grade. So when your work is good enough and you’re still not getting bought it’s an “injustice”.

b) Stories of strange methods of discovering writers circulated around and highly publicized. I’ve heard these stories the same as everyone else has and I can tell you nine times out of then when you dig into them you find that they just ain’t so. There’s always something that’s not told, like that the new, amazing star happens to be the best friend of the editor’s boyfriend/girlfriend and that’s why their blog post got read. Or they went to school with the agent or the agent’s best friend. Or…

The stories of sudden discovery are just that – stories, which make for d*mn good publicity. But again, you stand a better chance of being snatched up by aliens to be their king.

The Artist doesn’t know this, or if he does, he thinks he deserves that almost-impossible chance. And that means, he tries creative methods. The other things that lie in his path should he not wise up are what will get him blacklisted at the first sign of “artistic temperament” – a lot of these tortured souls will make threats to published writers/agents/editors; they will act unhinged/aggressive at cons; they will at best be nuisances and at worst dangerous.

Worse yet, even if they don’t do any of those things, and manage to get published, they’re unlikely to be able to bear up under the slings and arrows of publishing fortunes. And if you want to know what I mean by that, let me just say I thought I was uniquely unlucky until – while siting with about twenty other writers, some of them bestsellers – we started comparing horror stories. And then I realized I’d practically been treated with kid gloves by lady luck.

As into every life a little rain must fall, into every writing career – even of those who will end up being bestsellers – a little sh*t happens must fall. And the sh*t includes but is not limited to: horrible covers, dropped publicity campaigns, completely failed early books, disaster doom and lack of sales. The people who go on to be bestsellers end up shouldering these issues, and forging ahead – not matter how much more difficult the road has become.

This is why the best and fastest way to get published is to play by the rules. This shows an even temperament, understanding of the field, and taking a realistic attitude towards the BUSINESS of publishing. It means you have a better chance of persevering, working hard and not causing trouble – all excellent qualities in a contractor, which is what the publisher/editor is looking for.

Nowadays, I agree the process of submission is a mess. I’m not going to advise you on that beyond the barest level: find editors/agents who take slush submissions, or find an agent and leave the process to them. Or if you’re absolutely sure you’re not a twit but a real writer, publish your own work, publicize heaven out of it and sell enough to then submit to a real house. All of these methods have been proven to work, as has climbing the ranks from small press to major publisher.

Things that will help your path will be attending cons and both making personal acquaintances in publishing (always showing yourself polite and professional, of course), reading in the field to know what people are looking for/like, and – needless to say – work at perfecting your craft, because the great idea must be married to great execution to work.

And then… keep at it. In my experience, a good publishing career depends on – preparation, persistence and professionalism. Luck helps, but it’s neither indispensable nor all important. And notice that the “p” of potential or the “g” of genius are not mentioned. Most bestsellers or even mega bestsellers didn’t make it on either but on sheer slogging and persistence.

Questions? Protests? Worries? Let me know and I’ll answer as I can.

>A Ramble on Point of View …


Point of View (POV or PV) is something a lot of beginning writers don’t understand. As a manuscript appraiser and editorial consultant, it is one of the most common newbie writer mistakes – I think, because until you start writing, you don’t even realise that there is such a thing as POV.

I used to do Editorial Consultancies for our state writers centre. These were 1.5 hour long sessions, where I read the person’s work beforehand and then talked them through writing craft issues, made suggestions as to groups they could join, answered their questions about the industry etc. One person I worked with had 11 POV changes between 3 characters in 4 pages. And some of these POV changes were within a single paragraph. (Warning, extreme Head Hopping). So I spent the hour and a half explaining about:

When to change POV – when you want to reveal something specific.
How to change POV – preferably at a scene or chapter break. But if you do it mid scene, telegraph it by saying Character B felt … As soon as you use a verb like ‘felt’ the reader knows you are in that character’s POV.
How many POVs to use – Not too many or you dilute the narrative drive. (Of course if you are George RR Martin, it doesn’t seem to matter. LOL).

When I wrote the King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, I stuck to three POVs because I wanted the narrative to revolve tightly around those three characters. But there are many well known writers who don’t follow these guidelines. Nora Roberts (a best seller) head hops all over the place and her readers love her. Either they don’t notice, or it doesn’t worry them, or the trade off is that they feel connected to the characters and swept along by the narrative.

What triggered this post was a Bernard Cornwall (another best seller) book set in the fourteenth century. I enjoy Cornwall’s books. But I could not switch off the internal editor because he was head hopping all over the place. Again, I think his reader’s don’t mind because he delivers a ripping yarn. The character went from one confrontation to the next at break neck speed. The good guys are good (but not too good) and the bad guys are really bad, even if they believed they were doing the right thing.

That’s the thing about POV, it can take you right into the mind of the villain and reveal not only his motivation, but his justification. I like to write what I call Deep POV. Imagine writing in first person, that immediacy and intimacy, but doing it from third person. That’s what I try to achieve.

Currently, I’m working on book two of The Outcast Chronicles. I have four POVs. I needed the four character POVs because I needed to interweave four narrative threads. Because each book is around 150,000 words I need to keep track of what has happened in each scene, whose POV the scene is in and what page numbers it covers. So this is what I do, I colour code each POV.

This way I can see at a glance, how much time each character is getting on centre stage. Since I am slightly obssessive and suffer from synaesthesia, I colour code according to personality, because colours have personalities for me. (If the colour I choose for the character isn’t quite right, it feels like a badly fitted coat).

By writing a quick line about the scene, I jog my memory. Then, if I get a sudden inspiration to add one sentence that plants a clue for a revelation 400 pages later, I can go to exactly the right scene in the right book and slip the clue in, without trawling through scene after scene trying to find the right spot.

Colour coding POVs also helps because, before I hand in the books, I do a read-through, following each indvidual character’s narrative, to make sure that their story arc is satisfying. By colour coding their POV scenes, I can spot them at a glance. Being naturally lazy, this is very satisfying.

These are my little tricks when writing. What are your little quirks?

>Food for thought

I love food, and if I like you, I’ll feed you. If I love you dearly, I’ll probably make your little waistcoat buttons suffer, because if you don’t eat I’ll assume that terribly hurt look. It’s easier to eat until you explode than to suffer that, most people tell me. Even if it something I merely think you should like and really you’d kill for a MickyD burger instead of mysterious tentacly bits snurgling out of vicious red soup or things that have entirely too many legs. Ask Kate. I subjected her to a couple of kilos of spiny lobster which she found… um, yes, well. You thought the evil bits in Impaler were from a tortured mind, not indigestion?

So: naturally food finds its way into my books. Yes, I know, terrible habit. Sticks the pages together. But I love my books so I must feed them. This becomes particularly interesting when you’re doing historically accurate as possible writing, which, being me I try to do. And of course much of what we think of stereotypical regional food… wasn’t once Italian food… pre tomato?(Heirs books) Greek food – pre lemons? What color were carrots in the sixteenth century? (answer – not orange. White or purple.)

As someone who reads recipe books for fun I pick up a lot of this and add it into my mine of useless information, but of course there is also a fair amount of research. Food – particularly in historical books tells you such a lot about the people and the setting. Besides it gets me stimulated to go and cook something. Seriously, food is second only to sex (and the relationships that weave around that)in the interests of most people. No we will NOT discuss combining them or whether sushi should be served off naked human platters. (Sushi is wonderful. If you take it home and fry it it tastes just like fish.) But there are deep psycological and anthropological reasons why men take potential partners out to dinner.

Anyway, that’s just my mileage – that good books have good food descriptions. Of course I love food and love cooking it, so there is bias. (I’ve always thought men who worried about food and cooking being too feminine, may have reason to worry about being percieved as feminine. I’m hairy-faced enough for you to tell the difference.) And like the other tedious bits (technical descriptions of sf weapons that this practical scientist sees large flaws with in concept, let alone calibre) – one can always skip it. Food writing is of course quite demanding on the visual and other sensory inputs being translated into words…

The waiter appeared from the smoky kitchen after a spell that didn’t even try Benito’s empty stomach’s patience too far. The man seemed bent on proving that, besides being a waiter in a sky-high priced taverna, he had all the skills of a juggler, or could at least do the balancing act at the local fair too. He carried a carafe of wine, a bowl of bread-rings, a platter of chargrilled baby octopus redolent of thyme and garlic with just a hint of bayleaf, a jug of extra sauce, and some olive oil and vinegar. He brought a plate of Melanzane alla finitese next, the crumbed aubergine slices bursting with hot melted cheese. “Eat up. The cook gets upset if you aren’t ready for the swordfish the minute it arrives. And do you need more wine?”

(This Rough Magic)

Anyway. Food? Or Micky D?
And does it add to your readng pleasure?

>Thoughts on Inspiration

>Last March I made a trip to Wichita, KS for my cousin’s 90th birthday. On the way home, I was struck by the number of trees in the fields lining I-35 through Oklahoma that had been broken by the heavy snows the region suffered that winter. These limbs were scattered and strewn, sometimes almost as if by pattern and other times as if tossed into the wind by a giant hand. Tops of trees were lopped off, looking like an artificial Christmas tree without the tip third. There was a stretch that had my imagination running to thoughts of giants — or giant alien machines — walking through the area, smashing the trees like insignificant bugs.

I made the trip to Wichita again Friday, returning home last night. This time it was for my cousin’s funeral. She fell at home last week and broke her hip. Of course, being my cousin and an ever practical person, after she fell, she lay there for awhile. Then, knowing she might not be back to the house for awhile, she managed to get to the bathroom where she put on lipstick, brushed her hair and then “did a little pick up” of the house — all before calling for help.

As I sat in church yesterday morning listening to her priest give one of the most personal eulogies I’ve heard in a long time, I couldn’t help but think about how much Clarice inspired me. I blogged about it some earlier this week at the Naked Truth, but it goes so much further. Clarice was a woman who always seemed to know what your deepest desire was and encouraged you — either to have the strength to pursue it or the discipline to give it up if it was something you shouldn’t be doing. When she realized I wanted to write, and she did so long before I really knew it, I was told about my great-great-grandfather who edited newspapers in Colorado and Kansas. There was my great-uncle Jack who was the youngest linotype operator in the country. And it went on from there. When I finally admitted I was writing, Clarice dug out one of her most prized possessions and gave it to me — her father’s play, typed painstakingly on an old standard typewriter in the 1930’s. She never let me give it back, telling me to keep it and pass it on when it would help someone else.

So, coming home down I-35 yesterday, seeing some of those same trees I’d blogged about here back in March, I once more started thinking about those who have been there for us, encouraging us even when we’ve been afraid to tell people we’re — gasp — writers. Clarice was always my first cheerleader, always there to listen and encourage. But there have been others over the years. Mrs. Winslow, my seventh grade English teacher who, much to my horror, not only realized I was writing fanfic but read it and encouraged me to keep writing, but to find something better to write about than that “awful Dark Shadows“. There was the neighbor up the street who walked in one day to find me on day three of a week-long writing jag and demanded to see what I was doing. Then she demanded to read pages as soon as they came off the printer. All I can say is she was either desperate for something to read or a very good friend or both because the so-called novels she read are forever destined to under my bed…they’d be destined for the bonfire except Sarah has threatened to hurt me if I burn anything else I’ve written. Sigh.

There are others, of course. Poor Kate who gets to read stuff as it is written, mistakes and all, and who hasn’t run screaming into the night. At least, if she has, she hasn’t told me. There’s Dave who is always there with an ear to listen and an encouraging word. I try not to bother him because, well, in my mind it is more important for him to write and feed my need for his books than to spend time holding my hand when I start doubting myself.

I can’t end this post without mentioning Sarah who, with her pointy boots and threats to employ them to certain parts of my anatomy, won’t let me quit writing even when I most want to. Not that it happens often or last long. It’s Sarah who prods me into submitting and who will always tell me the truth, no matter how much it hurts, about my writing.

Okay, this turned into more of an emo post than I meant. Sorry. I promise to return to my prickly self next week. In the meantime, who has served as inspiration and support for you as you’ve gone down the path to becoming a writer? Have you had the opportunity to return the favor to someone?