Water, water everywhere and more to come

I swear I am growing webbing between my fingers and toes. After a couple of years of the government in the form of the water districts telling us that we have to conserve water because we are in “the drought of the century”, we’ve had enough rain in the past week to fill the lakes. We’ve had so much rain that some lakes are actually releasing water to prevent flooding. What all the rain means for me is that I’ve spent the better part of a week cleaning up and drying out after three floods of the house — nothing major but nothing dries when we keep getting more and more rain — and now they are forecasting more rain for today and tomorrow. The result is that I’m tired — exhausted, really — and half-sick. Worse, my mother is sick and that amps my stress meter up even further.

All of this is a way of saying that I don’t have the brain cells left today to do a real blog post. Sorry, guys. However, I do have a couple of articles/posts that are of interest and that I’d like to hear your comments on. I will be back in a couple of hours — after I’ve gotten some sleep — and will answer comments and maybe be able to put up a real post. In the meantime, what do you think of the following?

The Top Five Dumbest Business Practices in Publishing by Dean Wesley Smith

Dean pretty much sums it up with this quote: “From the real world perspective, publishing is really, really, really known for its head-shakingly stupid business practices. But inside of publishing, these practices have become so common and set in “the way things are done” as to be defended by otherwise sane business people.” Go read the rest of the post and let me know your thoughts.

Inside Traditional Publishing: A Tale of Two Authors (A Cautionary Tale)

I know. I don’t often link to HuffPo without having much snark and laughter involved. But this article actually has some good information in it and does bring up several things every author should think long and hard about. “In a perfect world, every literary agent would be a fearless negotiator, working tirelessly to get the best possible book deals for his or her clients. . . But the world isn’t perfect. And sometimes an author’s career goes off the rails because their agent doesn’t have the knowledge, skills, or tenacity necessary to negotiate well on the author’s behalf.”

Then, finally, there is this article, Authors Debate Digital-First Publication.

Publishing digitally first can help authors to learn about the publishing process, make writers more critical of their own work and help reinvent an author. However, the author Stark Holborn warned that the format should only be used in the right context as there is “a difficulty in marketing something that has no physical presence”.

So, what are your thoughts? I’ll be back after a nap to see what you have to day.

29 Comments

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29 responses to “Water, water everywhere and more to come

  1. Difficulty in marketing something with no physical presence? Has this guy ever heard of music? And get some rest. Hope things dry out soon.

    • I know. That was my first thought when I saw the article. Still, there are a number of readers who don’t think a book is “real” unless there is a print version available, even if they won’t buy anything but digital. Sigh.

  2. I’m sitting in Georgia with a soggy front foyer because of rain. I think my roof figured out how to leak.
    I think the primary thing keeping traditional publishing in business is inertia, followed by lack of knowledge on the part of (new) authors.
    Millions of people are used to buying books, because that’s all they’ve ever bought. Kenneth (10) and Alicia (8), had a book fair at their school recently, and they each hit me up for a check in the sub $20 range. I know it’s a funding source for the school, but when is going to occur to school systems to demand e-books as a part of the deal? Maybe that’s not do-able with small kids, but Kenneth has a tablet and the school encourages that with “Bring Your Learning Device To School” days. There’s is a generation that will likely have a different vector for their inertia, favoring ebooks.
    The (new) author lack of knowledge is another matter. Shortly after we were married, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, brought me home this huge paperback book listing sources for getting published. It was freaken overwhelming. I spent HOURS on that book, trying to find out who would be interested in what I wrote. I then did more hours searching the net for agents. I got two or three rejection emails, and in no case did they demonstrate that they had even READ what I sent them.
    My writing has gone in a different direction now, and I’m pretty content with it. But, Had I Known Then What I Know Now, I would have just self-published, and used that to find out whether or not there was a market for my stuff. (I may do that yet.)
    Today, more and more authors KNOW. And while they may put up with the hassle of trying for a trad pub for a while, I think that the days of pounding the sidewalk with a manuscript are OVER.

    • Laura M

      I do hope you explore that marketability issue, Pat, even though a lot of us love what you are doing now. 🙂

    • Timid1

      Book Fairs are typically provided by a distributor that carries books mostly by a single publisher, such as Scholastic. Back in the day it used to be monthly fliers where you could order books. Now it’s actual books on shelves, along with trinkets like pencil sharpeners and novelty pens, which kids love and gets some to drop by who wouldn’t normally look at a book.

      A generational thing? Not yet. Despite the growing presence of hand-held electronics, a significant number, particularly kids, do not have them. This is especially true in economically depressed areas. And the kids love these fairs, to see the books, to pick them up and leaf through them. That the kids buy these books tells us the day of paper publishing is not yet past, and may not be for another generation.

      Certainly traditional publishing isn’t the 800 pound gorilla it used to be. But even if the gorilla is feeling puny, it’s still there. Traditional publishing is still a market, just these days it’s not the only one.

      • And some schools are having to put serious restrictions on the use of iThings/smart-phones/tablets because they are so easily used for non-academic applications. Sure, “Sally” just uses her phone to read books she’s downloaded at home, but “Ted” is playing Minecraft (or a shoot-em-up) and “Molly” is on FaceSpace and Pinterest.

      • I remember the Scholastic Catalogs, and the one book I wanted from one catalog that I never got. (Something about magical brownies that made you understand animals, and worse.) Don’t know where all the books I DID end up with ended up.

        • I think my parents spent a small fortune on books from those catalogs. I still have a few of those books but many of them were read and re-read so many times they fell apart. Others made their way to friends who were younger than me or to the library.

    • Pat, it still amazes me the number of authors — some new and some still clinging to the old model — who believe the Writers Digest List of. . . is the only place to find out about publishers and agents. Thank goodness for the internet that lets us look directly at agent and publisher websites and their “wish lists” and then compare that with what we can do on our own.

  3. Laura M

    Smith’s comment about using book doctors who have never written a book provides food for thought. Even non-writers can provide good feedback because they are readers, and may have been for decades. If your beta reader/book doctor/editor tells you something that makes you sit up and say, “ah, hah! you are right” then you’ve found a good one, even if he or she isn’t a writer. Other writers could just have a pet theory or be pushing the things they’ve been criticized on (in karate they say you teach your own corrections). I am firmly of the view that you’ve got to have that “ah,hah” moment before you go with what someone else suggests. Conversely, you’ve got to have it in you to have “ah,hah” moments. If everyone else is always wrong, some re-thinking of one’s responses may be required.

    • As Dave’s posting yesterday showed, readers are indeed good at telling you what they like, and even why. A properly educated reader is also good with spelling and grammar. Add a good memory, (Like Cedar names a cat god Gareth, and then goes back to Spot in volume 2) and you have a good reviewer/tester. They can even tell you things like ‘that chapter is slow or confusing’. To me a book ‘Doctor’ is supposed to fix the wounded passages, and that IMHO takes talent.

      • Laura M

        Agreed. I went through this experience recently, and my beta reader told me I had created an impression that was the complete opposite of what I meant to convey (that being something I was taking for granted as obvious). I, however, had to fix it.

    • Absolutely. I’ve found that a lot of “writers” beta read with their writer’s cap on and wind up giving you feedback about how they would have written this chapter or that, not necessarily whether the chapter or scene or entire book works as written. That said, several of my alpha and beta readers are writers who can turn off their author side and who are my best sounding boards before something goes live. The problem is they are as busy as I am, so getting them at a time when they can read is becoming more and more difficult.

  4. Laura M

    …and, C4C

  5. I had a co-worker who loved some of the stories about military women that I wrote when I first retired – she loved the characters, identified with the situation and since she was a big name in local theater, she talked me into doing the stories as a short play. She wasn’t in the least a writer herself, but she had such insight, and very often had wonderful suggestions. I didn’t follow many of them, because they gave me marvelous new ideas for where to carry the story.
    That kind of feedback is without price.

  6. Uncle Lar

    I’ll go out on a limb and take a wild guess that Smith does not particularly care for agents. I can understand his point about taking writing advice from people who have never sold a story, guess that depends on exactly what kind of advice you’re looking for.
    Once upon a time an agent could get you past the slush pile and at least as far as the publishing house gate keepers. While they may still be out there it seems that they have become gatekeepers in their own right. I am suspicious that as publishing houses have trimmed the fat some of those folks let go have become agents simply to squeeze that 15% out of any writers they can sucker into a contract. They do know the industry, but aren’t so much selling their client’s books as hoping one somehow catches a publisher’s interest so they can ride on the gravy train.

    A book I just did beta for came in classic edit format, wide margins and double line spacing, so I jumped in with my editor hat firmly affixed and generated a list of spelling, grammar, and usage errors. Basically did a human oversight to MS Word grammar checker. I have since reformatted that story into a more reader friendly form and will pick it back up in a day or so to read for overall impressions and story flow and consistency.
    My point is that I did all that in reverse order. What the author wants is an overall critique of the story, not the fiddly nits of english mistakes. Were this going indie it would need that of course, but as a final polish once the book is right. As this one will be going to Baen they will take care of that final scrub, so I mostly wasted a couple days on the wrong thing.

    • Smith also doesn’t know much about carpentry. If you are already building a house, you don’t need an architect, unless he is a miracle worker too. Architects are in the planning part of “plan your work and work your plan”.

      • Timid1

        I used to work construction in the summer. One of the things my boss often did was to closely go over the plans looking for mistakes. For occasionally an architect would do things like have one slope on the the roof on one side of the house, and a different one on the other side. Needless to say, he had a low opinion of architects, particularly with designs that multiplied construction costs and wasted space.

        • Some of it might be style. The most efficient house would be 24’x24′ three story with finished basement. A generous 2,300 sq ft residence no one would want to live in. Here in Tidewater VA, in the shadow of Colonial Williamsburg, the ‘colonial’ style of house is always in style. Front door in center and windows on front evenly spaced. It is why my Uncle had a house with a window in his closet. Not practical, but pretty.

          • Timid1

            Have seen a 24′ x 24′ three story home, sans basement. It was a converted tobacco barn. Wasn’t the best quality work. Could have been, but it wasn’t.

            Basements are dependent on geography. In some places the ground water is too high to allow them. For instance, one 19th Century home locally managed a basement by the elaborate use of drain tile draining several hundred yards under a field to a creek. It worked, but was a bit pricey.

            I have never liked false windows. This was common in carports on circa 1970s homes. When I took drafting in HS, I either put a utility room on that side of the home, or lattice brickwork, depending on the required lay-out. The teacher would give us projects where a hypothetical couple wanted such-and-such general floor plans, and we’d have to make it work – which is very similar to what I saw happen on those summer jobs.

            One of the most efficient designs is the home with an unbroken roof line. Dormers take an incredible amount of time and lumber. It’s a good solution for rooms in the attic space, but fake dormers are a huge waste. We often worked with cross gabled roofs, since it had the advantage of not dumping water on the front stoop. That added to cost, but also allowed increased floor space.

            I never did figure what the attraction was for fancy bathrooms. We had very few of those, but bathrooms grew all out of proportion right about the time I was out of college, and it was always at the expense of the rest of the floor space. No one lives in the bathroom, for crying out loud.

            As it is, I need to convert the bar in my home to cabinet space. It was constructed as a solid unit instead of putting it to practical use. Really need to do it before I get older.

            It’s interesting to see how home styles have changed. In the 18th and much of the 19th Centuries, there was often no closet space, that role taken by furniture. Then you had to heat the things efficiently, and content with hot summers without air conditioning. Nearby is an early 19th Century chimney, judging by the bricks, and it has a fireplace on all four sides. Would dearly love to know the history behind that one.

  7. Amanda, the good news is that this year and next will be wet. The bad news is that the three years or so after will be back into the 1950s pattern. Not that it makes dealing with wet carpet and suspiciously bulgy sheetrock any better.

    As I commented over at PG’s place, I don’t do print books yet. I probably will for the WWI stories, but since I can’t market in person, having print copies is a cost I just can’t justify at the moment. That means the visibility of print is a null for me. (Plus the bookstores in my area won’t stock indie books or any title with a print run of less than X thousand, where X is a rather high single-digit number.)

    • Uncle Lar

      Their loss, and if they insist on maintaining that policy it will eventually put them out of business.

    • Holly

      Do want to know how you figure this. Everyone around here figures someone’s rolling d20s to determine the day’s weather. The last week they’ve rolled April temps and August storms. We had 70s when we should’ve had -20s back in February (followed the next week by hard freezes). It’s been brutal on the trees–we’ve lost a dozen young (3-5 year old) fruit trees, and it’s a miracle we didn’t loose the other two little trees or any of the big trees back in February.

      • I follow Joe Bastardi and WeatherBell.com. He’s a commercial forecaster who uses long term historical patterns as well as the latest in software and observations to develop forecasts for agriculture and for energy companies (among others). The pattern we are currently in also matches what I’ve seen in my historical research for the High Plains and Southern Plains, notably for the 1890s (in which case, G-d preserve us) and the 1950s. We’ve got a nice El Nino to neutral phase this year, and very likely will continue into a neutral phase next year. Then a La Nina and colder pattern kick in. That shifts storms north. it’s not an exact match because instead of warming, we are cooling, and cooler climates tend to be drier on the High Plains and Southern Plains, with a weaker summer monsoon. Bastardi has a free “Saturday Summary” where he explains his general forecast and gives an overall outlook. You can also get an individual private or commercial subscription.

        We’re in the mid 60s at the moment, expecting the next wave of plain rain tomorrow and then storms east of here for the weekend. Ah, living on the dryline.

    • I do print — and have to get another couple prepped and in the pipeline over the next week — but only to make the Amazon listings look more “legit”. It is amazing the number of readers who still look at a digital only listing and who will say it isn’t worth their time or money because it isn’t a real book.Sigh. So, Createspace is my friend there.

  8. Arwen

    We had rain all last week but this week it is supposed to be sunny and dry. Everyone talks about the weather but no one ever does anything about it.

  9. I finally gave up on w2w carpet. Striped it all out, stained the concrete and threw out a bunch of smaller rugs. No doubt declasse, but my sinuses approve.

    • Pam, I’m starting to broach the subject with Mom about doing away with the carpet. Not sure that is a fight I’ll win. However, if I have to pull carpet up in her room many more times, I’ll pull it up and leave it out and that will solve the problem, like it or not. 😉