Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June-End Links & Things

The time I would have normally spent last week writing a new blog entry went into responding to interview questions from Charles Tan -- a 3,300-word interview to be more specific. The interview will appear on Bibliophile Stalker on August 25. I'll send out a link tweet when the interview appears. If you want to know what's happening in the genre, and if you enjoy reading interviews with authors, editors, and publishers, then Bibliophile Stalker, Charles Tan's blog, is a must read.

The new blog post I've been working on for this week has morphed from my original idea, and if you are a writer, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, then you know that a morphed idea can get away from you and it becomes more difficult to pull the idea together once again. I'm still working the idea.

For now, and since the end of June has passed, I'll go ahead and post my links and such from the past two weeks. There are quite a lot of them, to be sure, and hopefully everyone who reads this will find something of interest. These links are from my previous tweets. 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.

  • I'll begin this post with one entry on singer, songwriter, and performer Michael Jackson: This is the one MJ video that everyone should watch; go ahead, it's only one minute and twenty-one seconds long. Enjoy.

  • Okay, okay, just one more... Music critic Roger Ebert's eulogy, if you will, entitled "The boy who never grew up: Michael Jackson, 1958-2009": Roger writes: "He lost happiness somewhere in his childhood, and spent his life trying to go back there and find it. When he played the Scarecrow in 'The Wiz' (1978), I think that is how he felt, and Oz was where he wanted to live. It was his most truly autobiographical role. He could understand a character who felt stuffed with straw, but could wonderfully sing and dance, and could cheer up the little girl Dorothy."

  • David Halpert on Scifi Watch (@ScifiWatch) gives us "15 Ways Publishers Can Increase Sales, Save Money, and Promote Publicity." I personally like point #11: Highlight Editors Blogs: "If there's something I love more than reading the blogs of my favorite science fiction authors, it's reading the blogs of their editors. Editors are largely the face of a publishing house, working hard behind the scenes to bring you the literature on the market today. They're also very knowledgeable and at times candid about what goes on in their daily lives....If you don't already highlight an editor's blog on your publishing website, DO SO IMMEDIATELY! It will easily increase traffic to your publishing house, and with any luck increase sales as well."

  • As promised on June 15, award-winning author Catherynne M. Valente posted online Chapter One of her new novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Design. She'll be posting one new chapter every week on Mondays, and estimates that she should finish the novel in time for the holidays. Each chapter will also be available as an audio download. In her current adult novel Palimpsest (Bantam Books; the main theme is a sexually transmitted dream), one of the characters referred to a children's book that she had loved; at the time, the book -- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland -- was completely nonexistent. Not any longer. Chapters Two and Three have now been posted as well. And check out the wyvern icon at the end of Chapter Three (and future chapters) for a link to the author's audio commentary. There's a PayPal tip-jar, so to speak, on the site, and Cat is asking for your help to support her writing.

    Here's a
    background post from Cat Valente on The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Design.

  • And another writer is in financial need: Tim Pratt, author of the Hugo Award-winning short story "Impossible Dreams" (Asimov's, July 2006), plans to write and publish (every Monday) an online novella series, entitled "Bone Shop." He's hoping to support his efforts through reader donations. On Tim's Live Journal, he posts some background information on his character Marla Mason, who appears in his novels Blood Engines, Poison Sleep, Dead Reign, and Spell Games. His LJ entry also links to the Bone Shop and Marla Mason websites. And here's a link to Chapter One, posted as promised on June 29; at the end of the chapter is a link to the author's notes.

  • In a thoughtful essay aimed at e-book publishers, JA Konrath, author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series, reveals his Kindle sales figures for a number of his books -- a rare disclosure from a published author. He also offers some helpful hints for those uploading books to Kindle. Konrath writes: "With 1.5 million Kindles sold, I could sell 200 books per day, for 720 days, and still only reach 10% of all Kindle buyers. If we include all of the iPhone and iPod Touch owners who can download a Kindle ap, along with continued Kindle sales, I should be able to sell quite a few books before coming close to saturating this market. If the $90 per day trend keeps up, that's $32,850 a year. Not a huge amount, but not chump change either." (via GalleyCat) $32,850 not a huge amount just from e-book sales? Of course, you gotta have a book – or books – that folks are willing to pay to download!

  • If you're a fan of the television series Fringe, and especially of actor John Noble (Denethor in The Lord of the Rings movies), you'll enjoy reading what the actor has to say of his portrayal of mad scientist Walter Bishop, via Variety: "I admire the pure part of his mind and that, fundamentally, he's a kind man. It must be terribly hard for someone of his intelligence and abilities to actually relate to anyone, but he still tries in his own Walter way."

  • Are you a collector of autographed books? Afraid of what the digital era will do to such autograph collecting? The New York Times reports that an increasing number of readers are showing up at book signings and asking the authors to sign the back of their Kindles! One author states that she will only do so if the reader can show that they have downloaded a paid edition of one her books. Now, Kindles are pretty small... Do you buy a Kindle for each author's autograph? (Hmmm, at $300?) Or, do you only "collect" your one very fave author's autograph? (And what about the reader who has many very favorite authors?) (via GalleyCat)

  • From The Onion ("America's Finest News Source"), in "Science & Technology": "Archeologists Discover First Guy Named Marty." "University of Toronto archaeologists excavating a prehistoric settlement near the Serbian border announced Tuesday that they had unearthed the remains of the earliest known Marty, dating back nearly 9,000 years....In 1998, researchers thought they had discovered the first Marty in Azerbaijan, but carbon-dating test results later revealed they had in fact discovered an early Eddie who just looked like a Marty." (via Paul Di Filippo)

  • From Self-Publishing Review: Author Bonnie Kozek shares with us a personal essay entitled "Finishing the Hat: A Writer's Pursuit of Lonliness." The "hat" in the title pertains to entering that artistic state that allows the artist to create something new. Kozek writes: "As a writer, aloneness and I are close and constant companions. Yet, I know it's a double-edged sword -- and as such I am both devoted to it and disquieted by it. So disquieted, in fact, that I spent many years trying to escape it. During those years I chose compromise. I wrote at home; I wrote in an office not far from home. I worked 9 to 5, more or less -- going to and coming from work in sync with the majority....But, frankly, it never worked well. Because once that door -- the door leading into the world of the hat... once that door is cracked, the whole raucous outside world comes jangling in."

  • Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch posts entry "Money (Part Two)" in her online Freelancer's Survival Guide: "Question: Is my business going to fail? Be realistic. The answer is probably yes. If it is, cut your losses immediately. The last thing you want is all the debt incurred by the continued monthly expenses. Shut the doors, turn off the lights, and search for a day job." And "Money (Part Three)" follows.

  • The Daily Beast features an op-ed piece by Peter Osnos, a senior fellow for media at The Century Foundation, suggesting that publishers start selling physical (ie. paper) and digital books together, so readers can enjoy the best of both worlds: "For readers, the ideal development would be to make books portable. In this scenario, you would buy a printed hardcover or paperback book for, say, $25 and could then activate it as a digital file or downloadable audio from an embedded password. Ergo, the book becomes a multiplatform object transferable wherever the reader wants to go." Osnos is the founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs Books. He is vice chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, a former publisher at Random House, and was a correspondent and editor at The Washington Post. In other words, his credentials ain't too shabby.

  • The first issue of Electric Literature, a new online anthology that is published bi-monthly, is now available, and features "five great stories that grab you....We select stories charged with wit and emotional gravity right from the first sentence. You choose how you want to read them. We deliver content in every viable medium." Be sure to read the "About" and "Submit" sections if you are a writer: "Electric Literature accepts fiction only. Length should be between 500 and 7,000 words. Submissions are welcome all year long." Payment is $1,000 per story. (via @roncharles)

  • Author Dean Wesley Smith continues his series of blog posts that imitate the History Channel's Life After People series. This time around is Part Two of his "Life After Agents" series. As Dean states in this entry: "Agents are not regulated in any fashion and are not required in any way to take any training, including learning publishing contracts or money management. Yet young writers who want someone to 'take care of them' put all their faith and complete income into agents' hands. As we all discovered recently in the financial world, having an unregulated group of people control money is always a route to disaster. Agents are unregulated and have no required training. Just keep that in mind."

  • Writer Michael A. Burstein discusses on his blog "The Value of Our Work." Part One deals with getting paid for one's work; Part Two follows from the comments that were posted to part one; Part Three discusses "Free Options"; and Part Four deals with "Donations." I suspect additional entries will be forthcoming; also, please be sure to review the comments that follow each part as well. Michael writes in Part One: "...when he asked if he could reprint the story, his first words were to tell me that he wouldn't pay anything, but he could offer me 'exposure.' It rankled me to hear that. He wouldn't consider not paying the costs of printing the booklets or distributing them, but when it came to the content, he didn't seem to grasp why it was so wrong to offer no compensation at all. The irony here is that in this particular case I really didn't want a reprint fee, just respect. Had the guy approached me and asked what the reprint fee would have been -- or even if he had said something like we don't have a large budget for this project but I can give you $10 -- I would have replied thank you for asking, but for your cause I'm willing to let you have it for free."

  • Back in 2002 I sold an anthology, entitled Witpunk, co-edited with Claude Lalumière, to independent publisher Four Walls Eight Windows; the book was published in 2003. There's an interesting story behind Witpunk, and one of these days I just might talk about it. [Note: The "Part Two" blog entry I did on George Alec Effinger briefly mentions Witpunk.] The anthology was composed of half original and half reprint stories; Ernest Hogan was one of the authors who contributed an original story. Ernest just emailed me to check out his latest blog entry, which has to do with Witpunk and his original story "Coyote Goes Hollywood" as well as Russian mobile phone ringtones!

  • In an announcement in the Guardian, my friend, author Alastair Reynolds, has signed an unprecedented contract with publisher Gollancz in the United Kingdom: the contract calls for ten books over a span of ten years for 1-million pounds sterling [$1,648,681 and change, as of this writing]. Good things do happen, boys and girls, even in a piss-poor economy! And it couldn't happen to a nicer, harder working person. I acquired and edited Al's novella Turquoise Days, which was originally published as a signed and numbered limited edition chapbook by Golden Gryphon Press in 2002. I had also contacted Al about a short fiction collection, but was about a month late as he had already promised a collection to Night Shade Books. But to my joy, a year later I got to edit that collection -- Zima Blue and Other Stories -- for Night Shade. From the Guardian: "Reynolds himself was unconcerned by any pressure the new contract might bring. 'I just let that wash over me,' he said. With its first three books already mapped out -- an African-inflected trilogy charting how humanity might go on to conquer the solar system and the galaxy -- he's also confident that he'll be able to come up with the goods. 'Hopefully over the last ten years I've demonstrated an ability to deliver books on time,' he said."

    And check out this original
    Guardian Books Podcast in which Alastair Reynolds reads his new story "Scales," his first military SF story, which "considers the ways in which the pressures of war shape those who fight them."

  • Author Lilith Saintcrow (@lilithsaintcrow) explains why "A Good Book Ain't All You Need": "I am constantly amazed at people who think turning in a manuscript is like shooting off an email. (Or even a blog post. Ha.) It isn't. I would bet that most of these were first drafts, and that none of them had been spell-checked; the authors thought they could speak English just fine, so what did they need to study sentence structure or punctuation for?" In this blog post, Lilith discusses: a) dealing with agents and editors; b) following directions; c) being professional; d) being patient; and e) not being precious. And don't get me started on these either...

  • Publishing Trends web site shares with its readers a "groundbreaking report": "Last summer, [The Codex Group] undertook a massive author website impact study that surveyed nearly 21,000 book shoppers. Its objective was to understand the relative effectiveness of author sites among shoppers and to determine the elements that will keep them coming back to the site." And what did the study reveal? Among other things, that "Book shoppers who had visited an author website in the past week bought 38% more books, from a wider range of retailers, than those who had not visited an author site." This article also provides specifics on how to keep a website "sticky," that is, to keep readers coming back for more.

  • A reader asks author John Scalzi the age-old question (pun intended): "Whenever I hear about a 'new' novelist, they turn out to be in their 30s. Why is that? It seems like you hear about new musicians and actors and other creative people when they are in their 20s." John concludes his lengthy response with: "...the combination of writing skill development and the mechanics of contemporary publishing conspires to drive the age of most debut novelists into the thirties. It doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon." John looks at the novel-publishing process from the time an author learns the skills of writing professionally to getting that first novel published; he then looks at his own writing career from this perspective. And, at this time, 144 comments have already been posted. (via @sfsignal @jasonsanford)

  • UK author Patrick Ness, who won the UK Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize for his young adult novel The Knife of Never Letting Go, has published a prequel story entitled "The New World." The Knife is book one in the "Chaos Walking" trilogy; book two, The Ask and the Answer, was released earlier this year, and volume three is due out in 2010. "The New World" tells the dramatic story of Viola's arrival on Todd's home planet. The story is available online or as a downloadable PDF. The sponsoring website is Booktrust, "an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books and the written word."

  • And finally, author Jeremiah Tolbert, who is now the managing editor of Escape Pod, the Science Fiction Podcast Magazine, shares with readers "An Editor's Perspective on Rejection." Tolbert explains his standard form responses, such as "didn't grab me," to the more positive "I liked it, but I didn't love it," to the you-almost-sold-me "doesn't fit my needs at this time." He states: "It's not the (short fiction) editor's job, especially not today, to cultivate the writer's talent. We support your talent, but we don't have the time to fertilize it. You need to turn to other sources for advice." That is so very true, but I constantly find myself critiquing and providing feedback on author submissions. Call it "paying forward" if you will. And just maybe when those authors finely tune their craft, they'll think of me and send me another submission.

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