Here's to a new year (with hopes that my regimen of antibiotics helps me feel a bit more human in a few days)! And to catch up, following are my links and such for the month of December. 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.
- Ah, the dream of spaceflight... Virgin Galactic has unveiled its SpaceShipTwo (SS2) -- "the world's first commercial manned spaceship.... Thousands of private astronauts will be heading to space once the testing and licensing is finished, with up to six passenger astronauts on each trip." Some great photos of this unique spacecraft. [Note: Well, there used to be some great photos on the Virgin site, but the original link I have no longer works, and the one link that I did find under "Press Releases" shows only one photo. The Virgin website sucks anyhow, since a search of the entire site for "Virgin Galactic" or "SpaceShipTwo" yields a "404" error page. Evidently their webmaster doesn't know how to code a search! Note the visible code at the end of the press release, too.]
- I mentioned in my last Links & Things post that every month there appears to be some type of blow up/controversy in the writing and publishing world, and this month is no exception. Canadian science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts (2007 Hugo Award finalist for novel Blindsight) was accosted, pepper sprayed, beaten, and jailed by US border guards on Tuesday, December 8, when he passed through the US-Canadian border on his way home from visiting friends in Nebraska. You can read the BoingBoing.net article, which is where I first heard of it, which links to Peter's own words on the incident. I met Peter at past ReaderCons and I cannot picture this man inflicting bodily harm on a uniformed border guard. Peter's assault charge on a federal officer is undoubtedly to cover their asses. A legal defense fund has been set up, because a) Peter is not a best-selling author, and b) such a defense, to avoid the potential of spending two years in prison, is going to be very costly. If you want to support Peter's efforts to fight these heinous charges, then please donate. If you're not personally into the legal issues and/or politics, then read Peter's Hugo Award-nominated Blindsight) -- available for free download on his website -- and then donate what you feel the novel is worth. Please donate via PayPal to this ID: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In other sad publishing news, PoynterOnline reported the demise of publications Kirkus Reviews and Editor & Publisher, by reprinting a letter from Greg Farrar, President of Nielsen Business Media, owners of the two periodicals. Kirkus has always been a tough nut to crack, so to speak; when my co-edited anthology Witpunk was reviewed in Kirkus I was absolutely thrilled; and to have the review end with the words "ringingly brilliant" made all the hassles I had to deal with while putting that anthology together seem inconsequential at best. Mediabistro.com's eBookNewser reported that the Twitterverse was all abuzz with the demise of these two publications: "Ron Charles (@roncharles) of The Washington Post sounded a note of regret for the loss of Kirkus's critical eye: 'Everytime we lose a rare independent voice we grow more dependent on publicists, authors' friends clogging blogs w praise'"
- I had to send out two story rejections on Monday, November 30 -- and it is not a pleasant process. In fact, I doubt most agents, editors, and publishers enjoy sending out such rejections. It's painful -- for myself as well as the author on the receiving end -- especially when I know the author personally. Erica Friedman (@Yuricon), President and Founder of Yuricon & ALC Publishing, has posted an excellent blog entry entitled "Why Your Story Was Rejected -- The Query Letter Conundrum," in which she provides a half-dozen reasons "Why": a question that all authors inevitably ask upon receiving a rejection letter. In the preface to her post, Erica writes: "It won't make you feel better, probably. It might even make you feel worse. But here's what it looks like from my end."
- Self-published author Levi Montgomery (@LeviMontgomery) -- whose blog is appropriately titled The Write Rants -- posts a three-part rant on "Misconceptions About Self-Publishing." Part I deals with these two misconceptions: Self-published books were not subjected to the query process, which keeps garbage off the streets; and self-published books are not professionally edited, and are therefore garbage. Part II covers the misconception: You should not self-publish, because self-publishing is not a stepping-stone to real publication. And lastly, Part III: Money always flows TO the author, never FROM the author. [Really? Then why do I have so many expenses?] Levi concluded the Part III entry by recommending another blog: "Ditchwalk is henceforth to be considered required reading for all writers."
- And speaking of ranting: It's interesting to read tweets and blog posts in which authors rant and rage against editors and publishers and magazines who do not accept electronic submissions. In fact, one well-known author has posted on numerous occasions that s/he will not submit to a particular editor/magazine because said publication will not accept electronic submissions. And then it's interesting to read tweets and blog posts from some of these same authors, who constantly gripe and complain because agents, editors, publishers, magazines, etc. do not respond in a timely fashion -- if at all -- to their electronic queries or submissions. Let's see, how's that old saying go? You reap what you sow? Get a clue, dudes and dudettes: electronic queries, electronic submissions, and email have simply overwhelmed the system: the recipients! That's why some editors and publishers and magazines will not accept electronic submissions!
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner), in a recent post on her blog Rants & Ramblings, asks authors to "Stop the Griping!" Rachelle writes: "Whine about the system if you want. Lament the difficult economy that is forcing agents to work harder and faster than ever before. Gripe about the publishing industry in which it's getting more difficult to sell a book. Bellyache that there are far more writers querying than ever before, yet agents still have the same amount of time in a day and it's quickly becoming darn near impossible to keep up with it and still sustain a business. Vent about your frustrations, but please, please, please: Refrain from making every complaint a criticism of agents." There are already over 165 comments to this post.
- Literary agent (and author) Nathan Bransford has some excellent words of advice to authors on "How to Respond to a Manuscript Critique/Editorial Letter." I'm partial to point #5: "If you find yourself getting mad it's probably because your editor/critique partner is right. Great suggestions are easy to accept: you usually smack your head and think, 'Why didn't I think of that?' Bad suggestions are easy to reject: you just think, naw, I'm not doing that. I've found that when the suggestions make you mad, it's probably because they're right. Your brain is just having trouble admitting it." This blog post is of particular interest to me because I just completed a developmental review of a manuscript, wrote tons of notes throughout the hardcopy, plus I sent a three-page editorial letter with the returned manuscript.
- And now that I've referred you to the agents' blogs in the above links, here's some words of advice from author Dean Wesley Smith on the subject of agents: "In two weeks, I have heard exactly five horror stories about how agents have hurt a writer's career. So my question yet again: How did we, as writers, get here?" If you want to know the answer to that question, you'll have to read Dean's blog post. He posits five things that an agent does, and four things that an agent does not do.
- Kid-lit author Diana R. Jenkins, in a guest blog post, writes about "7 Things I've Learned So Far" -- "things they've learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning." 1) If you're not sick of what you're writing, then it's not finished; 2) Revise, again; 3) Procrastinate tomorrow; 4) Don't waste a word; 5) Read your work aloud; 6) In writing, you must kill all your darlings; and 7) We're on a journey. You'll need to read the blog post, to learn the details behind each one of these points.
- Tracy Williams (@NakedBlonde) has begun her journey down "The self-publishing road": "I'm confident I will be published soon and am sure my writing, as well as my bank account, will benefit from working with professionals in the industry. In the meantime, however, I want to make my writing available to a growing base of readers and have, after much soul-searching, decided to experiment with self-publishing." In this, the first of a series of blog posts, she takes us through the research, i.e. the retail sales price of a book, broken down in both the traditional and self-publishing model. She also looks at the various roles people play in keeping that retail money from the author. In the next blog post, Tracy promises to discuss the self-publishing approach she'll be taking.
- Patricia Fry, author of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, guest blogs on the Book Marketing Network with a post entitled "8 Ways to Build Your Author Platform." Fry writes: "...you've heard/read the term platform. You may even know what it means. It's your way of attracting readers for your book. It's your following, your level of notoriety and the power of your personal and professional contacts. The extent of your platform can be the defining factor in landing a publisher for your memoir, novel or self-help book. But the scope of your platform will also determine your book's ultimate success.... I maintain that hopeful authors should start building a platform before they write the book. Here's how:" -- and she goes on to detail those 8 specific ways.
- Author and electronic rights proponent Cory Doctorow shares with his readers the transcript of his presentation -- "How to Destroy the Book" -- to the Canadian National Reading Summit: "...Copyright recognizes this. It says that when you buy a book, you own the book. It's yours to give away, yours to keep, yours to license or to borrow, to inherit or to be included in your safe for your children. For centuries, copyright has acknowledged that sacred connection between readers and their books...."
- Author Lucius Shepard -- if anyone has NOT read Lucius's short fiction, shame on you! -- shares with us "10 Christmases" past. There's enough grist in these 10 anecdotes for an equal number of stories! In fact, commenters to the blog post are asking Lucius to write his memoirs! And here, every Christmas for the past 27 years, I've been in this house, opening gifts and sharing the day with family (though a little less family these days, alas). I'm sure there are parts of this "normal" Christmas that Lucius may envy, but Whew! to be on an Irish freighter during a storm in the middle of the North Atlantic; or in a small village in Tibet; or at The Foreign Press Club bar in Phnom Penh. Sort of makes my "home for the holidays" seem pretty shabby! Enjoy Lucius's past Christmases, and Happy Holidays, everyone!