Monday, September 28, 2009

September Links & Things

I'm posting my September links a couple days early, so that I can get this out of the way in order to work on my next blog post. I've completed some major deadlines (though I have more to come the beginning of October), but I have just enough breathing room over the next day or two to work on a new blog post. This new essay has been an on-again/off-again project for months now; I've actually started it twice but got interrupted with other projects and deadlines -- you know, the ones that inevitably pay the bills! But more on all that later.

So, here are my links and such for the month of September. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her online Freelancer's Survival Guide with "Setbacks (Part One)." Kris writes: "The real key with setbacks isn't preventing them; it's surviving them when they happen. Over the years, I've become a connoisseur of setbacks. I'm not interested in other people's misfortunes (except as grist for my own fiction), but I am interested in how other people survive those misfortunes.... There are four categories of setbacks and probably a million subcategories. The four major categories are: 1. Financial; 2. Mechanical / technical / production; 3. Physical; 4. Emotional." The author covers the first two categories in great detail in Part One, and I'll be looking forward to Part Two, since the "Emotional" category is one I'm particularly interested in reading.

    Update: Actually,
    Part Two deals with "Physical Setbacks." Guess I'll have to wait for Part Three to read what Kris has to say on "Emotional Setbacks." And finally, "Setbacks (Part 3)" which deals with five types of emotional setbacks: Fear, Anger, Betrayal, Failure, and... Success.

    Here's a link to the
    Table of Contents for the Freelancer's Survival Guide. If you have found the information useful and informative that Kris has been providing in this weekly series, please subscribe to her blog and/or its RSS feed, or follow Kris (@KristineRusch) and/or me on Twitter. I love what Kris is doing, and have been happy to share this with my blog readers, but due to time constraints I won't be maintaining ongoing series in this monthly Links update.

  • M. J. Rose is the best-selling author of numerous novels, most recently The Memorist. She recently published an Op-ed piece on entitled "Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid." Her gripe is that authors are more and more responsible for promoting their work; in fact, many publishers now require it of authors! So the author invests his/her time -- and money -- and yet there has been no change whatsoever in how the author gets paid by the publisher for their work; the same old royalty schedules still apply. Rose writes: "It used to be that the author wrote and the publisher published. Publishing meant everything from editing to distribution to marketing. Now, more and more books are not being published, but instead are merely being printed. No one walks into a bookstore and says to the clerk — 'I'd like to buy a book that I never heard of and that you never heard of.' Someone has to do the marketing and get the word out. And if that's going to be a shared responsibility, so be it. We all have the same goal in the end. But our contracts and the way we get paid can't remain the same. It's time to start a new chapter."

    In response to Rose's Op-ed piece, Robert Miller, President and Publisher of HarperStudio, wrote a follow-up piece entitled: "
    Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership." I think "partnership" is the key word here. His concern is: "What amount of marketing effort should be expected of the author before their royalty changes?" He feels that both parties should be doing everything possible to promote the book; but what if the book doesn't make money? Who takes the loss? So Miller believes that "publishers and authors should be equal partners, sharing profits fifty-fifty, as we are doing in all of our deals at HarperStudio.... This financial structure requires both parties to think responsibly about costs, since both parties will be charged for those costs at the end of the day."

  • A new collective of self-published authors -- Backword Books -- has launched, initiated by the efforts of Henry Baum, of Self-Publishing Review, which I have referenced quite a lot in my Links & Things postings. The 9/3/2009 issue of Publishers Weekly featured an article on Backword Books: "Baum is convinced that literary self-publishing will eventually achieve the same sales results as those of traditional presses. 'The vetting system is out of whack in the publishing industry' said Baum…. 'It's literary writers who are having a tougher time of it in today's climate, not just reaching an audience, but getting published in the first place. With Backwords, the hook is the writing itself. That's our strength.'"

  • Author Dean Wesley Smith kills another sacred cow in his ongoing blog series "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing." The latest entry is on "Rewriting": Dean states: "Robert Heinlein's business rules have worked for many, many of us for decades and decades, and his rules go simply: 1) You must write. 2) You must finish what you write. 3) You must not rewrite unless to editorial demand. 4) You must mail your work to someone who can buy it. 5) You must keep the work in the mail until someone buys it. Those rules do seem so simple, and yet are so hard to follow at times. They set out a simple practice schedule and a clear process of what to do with your practice sessions when finished. But for this chapter, note rule #3. Harlan Ellison added to rule #3. 'And then only if you agree.'" Dean goes on to explain how rewriting can make stories worse than better. I'll leave you to read his words and decide for yourself; as for me, I'm not in total agreement, as I'm on the receiving end of those manuscripts.

    Dean has added the next chapter to his "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing," this one on "
    Agents." He lists 12 bulleted points that he defines as "standards of this industry and you can infer what you want from these standards to help your own writing and your own fight against this myth." For point #7, Dean writes: "Editors never know what they want to buy until they see it. An agent who tells you he or she knows exactly what an editor wants is just full of crap."

    And yet a third chapter has been added to Dean's "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing" -- "
    Workshops." Big Workshop Myth #1: "A WORKSHOP WILL HELP YOU FIX A MANUSCRIPT." Dean goes on to explain why a writers' workshop will NOT help you fix your manuscript, but he does give some insight into what a workshop WILL help you with, and he concludes by stating: "...there's nothing a workshop can do to help you fix a story without killing it. But you can learn stuff from a workshop that will help you make your next story better. Your focus always has to be forward, toward learning and writing the next story.

    This will be my last entry on Dean Wesley Smith's "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing." You can learn when a new chapter is posted by following @DeanWesleySmith and/or me on Twitter. Or you can subscribe to Dean's blog.

  • The Editor Unleashed website, subtitled: "Writing, Publishing, Social Media and Community," has published a list of the Top 25 Best Writing Blogs of 2009. Writing blogs were first nominated by readers, the list was then culled to the top 50, I believe, which were then voted upon. I wish I had had the time to check out the initial 50 but, alas, I don't even have time to write my own blog entries! Anyhow, the Top 25 are broken down into categories "Publishing Trends," "Marketing and Social Media," "Creativity," "Fiction Writing," and "Freelance Writing." Lots of kudos in the Comments, as well. If you're a serious blogger on writing and/or a serious writer, you should check out these 25 blogs.

  • Have you ever searched the web for a particular book review? Ever wondered if the hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of Book Blogs out there have reviewed a particular title? Fyrefly's Book Blog has compiled a list of a thousand (as of this writing) Book Blogs, and then designed a custom Google search engine to specifically search these sites. You can view the compiled list and then give the custom Google Book Blogs search engine a whirl. And, if you know of a book blog that's not included in the list, then just leave a comment with your recommendation. Great stuff!

  • The chair of the judging panel for the Man Booker Prize has criticized a number of the submissions for their "sloppy editing." Read James Naughtie's full comments and also see what titles made the Man Booker Prize shortlist.

  • So, you've forgotten about an upcoming novel deadline because you've taken on too many projects. Or, your agent/publisher doesn't want the novel you've just submitted, but because of your contractual obligations, they want to see another novel NOW! What to do... What to do... Author Holly Lisle (@hollylisle) has developed a technique for just such emergencies and she describes the process on her blog in a post entitled: "Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure." Lisle writes: "No matter what your situation, don't panic. This workshop will teach you how to create plots out of thin air, with nothing but work, and more work, and maybe a bit of work after that. Sound fun? Well, actually, it is." Sounds like work to me! (via @inkyelbows)

  • Author Luke T. Bergeron's blog is entitled "Mispeled" (great title!) and in a series of five blog posts he covers the subject of "Self-Publishing, E-books, and Legitimacy." In addition to his own thoughts and ideas, he shares commentary from Levi Montgomery, a self-published writer who also blogs at The Write Rants, as well as commentary from a New York publishing house insider (who requests anonymity for fear of backlash from his/her publisher). Bergeron tackles "the idea of creating a 'substantial publishing record' through self-published e-books"; the "substantial publishing record" is necessary to become a Creative Writing teacher. He also states the need for legitimacy through numbers: "When a record sells a million copies, it 'goes platinum.' A million is pretty high, but along the same idea, perhaps a target number could be set for a self-published e-book that, when reached, established "legitimacy." This isn't a bad method, since it shows that the work is popular." And lastly, Levi Montgomery gives voice to the New York publishing biz itself: "the industry performs a valuable service, acting as a gatekeeper to the public square, keeping trashy novels, misinformation, and radical error from being published" -- or so the New York publishing houses and agents argue. But Montgomery goes on to state: "But who is it that decides? Who decides that a book isn't good enough for me to read, if not me? How do I decide, unless the book can reach me?"

    The link here is to the final entry in the series, but once there, you'll find links at the top of the page to the previous four parts.

  • Scott Edelstein (@EdelsteinScott) at has some insight on what to do when an editor asks for a rewrite, i.e. the editor likes your submission but... Scott reviews the standard four options on how a writer should respond, and then suggests another alternative. "In the end, you get everything you want: publication in a form that pleases you, and a satisfied editor who considers you easy to work with."

  • Author John Scalzi won a 2007 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer; his blog is entitled "Whatever" and probably has one of the largest reader bases among contemporary SF writers. Scalzi is known for his rants and diatribes -- but in a good way; he knows what needs to be said, and says it in a straight up, no-holds-barred, matter-of-fact way -- and that's why his blog has so many readers. One of his recent posts, "On the Asking of Favors from Established Writers," spells out for the unpublished/newbie writer why established "pro" writers are under no obligation to help you in any way/shape/form, and also why, in the majority of cases, it is to their own best interest to NOT help you. Good reading, especially if you are/were thinking of imposing on an established writer (or even an editor!) for just a wee favor, since you aren't like all those others, right?

  • Author and self-proclaimed bookaholic Scott Cupp has joined the staff of SF Signal, with a new column entitled "Geek with (Lots of) Books." The kick-off column was a hoot, subtitled: "The First Step Is To Admit You Have a Problem" -- the problem being the [extreme] habit of acquiring far more books than one will ever be able to read in his/her lifetime. Guess what? I have a problem! But back to Scott Cupp. Check this column out, especially if you are a book collector/acquirer -- in other words, a bookaholic. Scott talks about selling off nearly his entire library, and then gradually reacquiring a number of the titles yet again. Alas...

    The second column is entitled "
    Let's Get OCD." "OCD" for those not in the know, stands for "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" -- and Scott is referring to the "completist" that tends to lurk in most bookaholics. The completist will purchase books in order to have a complete run of a publisher, or a publisher's imprint, or a series of books, or every title of a particular author. Examples from my own library would be the complete run of the Ace Science Fiction Specials, or the complete run of the Laser Books. Completists don't necessarily read every book; in fact, there are titles that they intend never to read, but they still must have the complete set nonetheless. Scott's column is great fun, even if the finger is pointing back at the reader!

    In Scott's latest column -- "
    Super Special Secret Origin" (September 15) -- he talks about the origins of his new column, his first autographed book, his most interesting autograph, his most unusual autograph, and the autograph that got away.

  • As I've previously stated, I'm co-editing a theme anthology on the Fermi Paradox, to be published next year by DAW Books. One of my contributing authors, Paul Di Filippo, has sent me a link to an article in Cosmos magazine about a new equation that would complement the "Drake equation" by developing "a single index for habitability based on the presence of energy, solvents such as water, raw materials like carbon and whether or not there are benign environmental conditions." The draft of this equation was presented on Thursday, September 17, at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany. The equation is under development by planetary scientists at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England. Some scientists, however, are critical of the work, going so far as to state that it is a "pointless exercise."

  • Andrew Fox's novel The Good Humor Man, Or, Calorie 3501 was reviewed on the What Book Is That? blog: "50 words or less: In 2041, fat is out and emaciated is in whether you like it or not. Vigilantes burn junk food in the street, nobody wants to get pregnant because then they'll be fat, and twelve pounds of liposuctioned Elvis might be the key to saving all life on the planet.... My favorite book in the entire world is Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. I fell in love with that book the first time I read it years ago, and I keep revisiting it over and over again. Every time I read it, though, I take something new away from it, whether it's the musical language of the book, the hilarity of the storyline, the incredibly serious themes, the outrageous characters, or just the overall experience of reading it. I had exactly the same experience reading The Good Humor Man." [Note: I introduced The Good Humor Man to Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications; he purchased the book, and I was fortunate enough to edit it!]

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