Posts tagged with "publishing" - Faerye Net 2011-03-04T22:29:41+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Find n 2011-03-04T22:29:41+00:00 2011-03-04T23:50:44+00:00 <p>Here&#8217;s one of those things that I can&#8217;t believe I&#8217;ve never blogged about before (though I hinted about it when I chronicled <a href="" target="links">my first rejection letter</a> in 2004). Writing folks who know me in real life have probably heard me say this, but I want it up here, for two reasons. One, so I can drop a link when I refer to it in future; two, in case this way of thinking about rejections helps someone as it helped me.</p> <p>When I started sending out stories, I knew I would be hearing a lot of &#8220;NO.&#8221; We all know that. We all find some way to deal with it: this is mine.</p> <p><strong>There is a finite, unknown number <em>n</em> of noes between you and yes. The only way to determine <em>n</em> is experimentally.</strong></p> <p>That may actually make me sound a lot more logical than I usually feel, but it helped me. It helped me take those thin, thin envelopes out of the mailbox and open them and keep sending stories out, in the dark days before <a href=""><em>n</em> made itself known</a>. A friend of a friend is reported to open responses from poetry journals exclaiming, &#8220;Aha! The rejection slips I sent away for have arrived!&#8221; but this, while cheerful, is not sufficiently optimistic for my worldview.</p> <p>The truth is, every rejection is a sort of accomplishment, provided you&#8217;re improving your work and trying your best. Without throwing yourself in the way of rejection, you&#8217;re never going to stumble into acceptance. There are ways you can learn to improve your writing, which will probably make <em>n</em> smaller. There are ways &#8212; not researching markets, scattershot submissions, not revising and not being honest about your work &#8212; to make <em>n</em> almost certainly larger. But there&#8217;s only one way to determine the value of <em>n</em>. There is no equation, only experiment. You have to do it the hard way. Send out more stories. Count your losses. Send out more stories.</p> <p>It&#8217;s true for stories, for academic articles, for grad school applications. Every rejection is one fewer between you and acceptance. Get out there and find <em>n</em>.</p> Life stories 2011-02-28T15:01:29+00:00 2011-02-28T15:02:40+00:00 <p>I hate writing biographical statements for myself. It makes me feel almost as clueless and awkward as writing business letters. I feel like I&#8217;m wearing some sort of Victorian costume, a very formal cage: who is this person? And can she move in any natural fashion?</p> <p>Ah yes, &#8220;she&#8221;. Most bios are in the third person, so some of the odd formality comes from stating your life&#8217;s facts and achievements from a false seat somewhere over your left shoulder. &#8220;Felicity Shoulders was born within sight of Mt. St. Helens, nine months to the day after its eruption,&#8221; I write. &#8220;Felicity Shoulders lives in the wooded hills of Portland, Oregon, with an engineer, a cat, and more computers than she can count.&#8221; Somehow it feels as if the narrator from <em>Am&eacute;lie</em> is trying to sum me up and finding my life insufficiently whimsical. &#8220;Felicity Shoulders pourrait &ecirc;tre un peu plus interessante.&#8221;</p> <p>However, bio-blurb I must, and so I&#8217;ve worked at it, on the theory that practice should improve the muscle. I think it has. I&#8217;d estimate that when I write a new bio now, I feel only 20% the desire to writhe out of my own skin from embarrassment that used to strike me. Of course, being able to write toward the words <a href="" target="links">&#8220;nominated for a Nebula&#8221;</a> helps. My skin does have some advantages, after all.</p> <p>But now, as a consequence of that happy pair of n-words, I have to write a new blurb, and the first person is specified (hooray for specificity!) The first person should be natural. No invisible floating perspective, no avuncular French voice. Just me, telling you about how I and my little story got here. And somehow, now, that feels almost as bad. I can&#8217;t sum anything up. I can&#8217;t tell you who I am or why you should care. When I find a potentially fruitful track, I find myself wandering down it far too long, until I&#8217;ve spent all my allotted words just telling you about reading my dad&#8217;s Science Fiction Book Club hardbacks as I grew up. Even in my own skin, it seems, I lack an overarching perspective.</p> Fame-o-meter Malfunction 2011-02-25T13:33:34+00:00 2011-02-25T13:34:16+00:00 <p>So, I haven&#8217;t had much to blog since the <a href="" target="links">big news</a>. It was probably the strain of keeping that news a secret that has left me so curiously untalkative. I have a volcano metaphor here involving andesitic lava, pressure buildup and pyroclastic flows, but I&#8217;ll spare you.</p> <p>At any rate, the other day Ryan asked me how this nomination affects the reading on my <a href="" target="links">Fame-o-meter</a>. So I went and dug up the trusty old device (now actually the <a href="" target="links">Fame-o-meter Mark 2</a>) and discovered how this nomination affects it: it shows that once again it is completely miscalibrated and must be replaced. Because how the heck is it supposed to register something way up there without hitting any of the intervening marks? How am I to suspend the (figurative) colored sand up there? Waste of anti-grav.</p> <center><a href="" title="Fame-o-Meter Mark 2 has failed by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="380" height="500" alt="Fame-o-Meter Mark 2 has failed" border="0" /></a></center> <p>Time to design the Mark 3, I suppose.</p> <p>I feel a little silly posting the thing here, but perhaps I shouldn&#8217;t. I&#8217;ve remarked before that it&#8217;s very easy to focus on the next thing &#8211; in any part of life, but particularly in writing. You get your first story accepted and after the euphoria fades, you start worrying that you&#8217;re going to be a one-hit wonder. You get another story accepted, and you find something new to worry about. What if I never get any fantasy published? Shouldn&#8217;t I have finished a novel by now?</p> <p>It&#8217;s good to keep moving, keep writing, keep sending out, but it&#8217;s also good not to jettison today&#8217;s accomplishment and today&#8217;s happiness. The life of a writer is hard enough without embracing a continuous cycle of discontent.</p> <p>The Fame-o-Meter exercise also helped me focus on the things that were important to me, from the sublime and unlikely (&#8220;Interviewed on Fresh Air&#8221;) to the picayune but personally significant (&ldquo;Have to change <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">FNAQ</span></a> to FAQ&quot;). There are many things outside the scope of the Fame-o-Meter. Maybe they&#8217;ll make the cut when I formulate a new version, maybe not. But this keeps me focused on the things that <em>are</em> important to me, like getting stories in front of readers, and my lifelong obsession with <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s Books</a>.</p> <p>What&#8217;s on your Fame-o-Meter?</p> Amazon won't sell these books 2010-01-31T14:12:41+00:00 2010-01-31T15:22:23+00:00 <p><a href="" title="These books are not available from Amazon, 1/31/2010 by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="These books are not available from Amazon, 1/31/2010" border="0" /></a></p> <p>I&#8217;m a little disappointed to see only writers and publishing industry folks talking about Amazon&#8217;s dispute with Macmillan. Short version: Amazon has a dispute with Macmillan Books over one small aspect of their business (ebooks) so they pulled <b>all</b> their <b>paper</b> books from sale. They are throwing their weight around in a maneuver straight out of the WalMart Monopolist&#8217;s Handbook.</p> <p>I know the previous #amazonfail furor was over social justice, and this is &#8220;just business&#8221;. A lot of readers also have a personal pocketbook-pug in the ebook-pricing dogfight. But publishing is the business of selling </b>ideas</b>, and that makes it everyone&#8217;s business. I&#8217;m by no means saying everyone needs to delete their Amazon account as a few authors have done. To be honest, I&#8217;m not doing so. I haven&#8217;t bought a book from Amazon in a long time because of their strong-arm tactics toward publishing companies (they did something almost identical to a UK company) and print-on-demand sellers. I intend to continue that policy.</p> <p>All I&#8217;m hoping is that some folks outside the publishing industry &#8212; readers, consumers who are affected by this &#8212; read about this and think about it. Books are the lifeblood of our civilization, the strongest thread connecting past and future. I&#8217;m not gnashing my teeth with anger over this dispute, and I&#8217;m not asking you to do so: I&#8217;m just saying that, given Amazon&#8217;s powerful place in the bookselling industry, this is an important conversation, and one everyone who reads and loves books, paper or digital, should pay attention to.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s some reading:<br /> <ul><br /> <li><a href="" target="links">Just the facts Friday, from the New York Times</a>.</li><br /> <li><a href="" target="links">Macmillan&#8217;s statement</a> yesterday.</li><br /> <li><a href="" target="links">Cory Doctorow&#8217;s BoingBoing post</a>.</li><br /> <li><a href="" target="links">Tobias Buckell on this situation, and e-book pricing in detail</a> (long, quite thorough) (Mirrored on <a href="" target="links">SFWA&#8217;s blog</a>).</li><br /> <li><a href="" target="links">Live feed on the #amazonfail twitter topic</a>. Tweeters who&#8217;ve been voluble include <a href="" target="links">the Science Fiction &amp; Fantasy Writers of America (<span class="caps">SFWA</span>)</a> and <a href="" target="links">Tor author Jay Lake</a>.</li></ul></p> <p>If you decide to do something, here are some ideas:<br /> <ul><br /> <li>Buy a Macmillan book (Tor, Forge, St. Martin&#8217;s, Picador, Farrar Straus &amp; Giroux, et c.) from another retailer, like <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a>, this weekend.</li><br /> <li>Commit to buying all your books from another retailer.</li><br /> <li>When you link books from your blog or website, link to another retailer (I use Powell&#8217;s: their <a href="" target="links">Partner Program</a> is nice.</li><br /> <li>Write an <a href="" target="links">email to Amazon</a>, telling them if you disagree with their actions. If you&#8217;re taking any business elsewhere, you can tell them this way.</li><br /> <li>Blog about this, <a href="" target="links">delicious</a> links about it, whatever comes naturally.</li><br /> <li>If you&#8217;re on <a href="htp://" target="links">Twitter</a>, retweet messages and links about this.</li><br /> <li>If you&#8217;re on <a href="" target="links">Facebook</a>, post links or update your Facebook status so your friends hear about this.</li><br /> <li>If you belong to <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>, take a photo of any number of Macmillan books and contribute it to <a href="" target="links">my new group, &#8220;Amazon won&#8217;t sell these books&#8221;</a>. I love taking photos of books (weird, I know) and I hope this will cause some conversation.</li></ul></p> <p>Thanks for reading!</p> <p><strong>Update, 3:18pm, 1/31/2010:</strong> Amazon has announced they will acquiesce to Macmillan, in a <a href="" target="links">post on their Kindle fora</a>. The tone of the announcement, I feel, is very misleading. It paints Amazon as the victim of Macmillan&#8217;s strong-arm tactics, even while it admits Amazon pulled the books. Choice language: &#8220;&#8230;Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.&#8221; They don&#8217;t mention that Macmillan wanted to charge as little as $5.99 later in the book&#8217;s life cycle.</p> <p>So now that I&#8217;ve read their spin, I have a correction to make to this post: I <em>wasn&#8217;t</em> angry. Now I am.</p> <p>Amazon hasn&#8217;t said when they will restore the books, and I would still love to see your Macmillan books added to the Flickr group &#8220;Amazon won&#8217;t sell these books&#8221;.</p> Why amazonfail matters 2009-04-13T12:16:22+00:00 2009-04-13T13:00:48+00:00 <p>By this point we&#8217;ve reached the existential phase of the <a href="" target="links">amazonfail debacle</a>, where everyone has acknowledged something happened, has vented their anger, and is now asking underlying questions &#8212; how and why did this happen? Who did it? And of course, should we still be concerned?</p> <p>While Amazon&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">&#8220;glitch&#8221; response</a> is inadequate, it does seem to indicate that they&#8217;re planning on fixing it, which seems to me to have caused a certain wave of relaxation in those angered by the removal of <span class="caps">GLBT</span> literature, feminism and <a href="" target="links">disability texts</a>, and more. Yes, it&#8217;s very unlikely that Amazon did this deliberately. Yes, internet outrage at this point does little good (except possibly to <a href="" target="powells">Powell&#8217;s</a> sale numbers). I&#8217;m just not sure people should be standing down yet. Even when it&#8217;s fixed, there are causes for concern. As explored in <a href="" target="links">this Making Light post and comment thread</a>, there are definitely plausible scenarios this occurring because of inadequacies in the meta-data provided by publishers and Amazon. (<a href="" target="links">This post at Dear Author</a> gives great specific meta-data breakdowns that may show why <em>Playboy</em> escaped the purge and <em>Heather has Two Mommies</em> did not.) However, as writer <a href="" target="links">Lawrence Schimel</a> said <a href="" target="links">over at Making Light</a>, somewhere, someone had to decide that &#8220;gay=morally objectionable&#8221; (&#8216;adult&#8217;) in order for this to unfold. And as other commenters, such as albatross, mention there, Amazon didn&#8217;t give consumers a choice of filtered versus non-filtered searches.</p> <p>And that&#8217;s what&#8217;s really troubling to me. Amazon has made an empire on selling everything all the time: KitchenAid mixers to people in pyjamas at 2 am, esoteric camera repair manuals to some dude on his lunch break, three books and a racquetball racket at the same time. They&#8217;re so huge that sales rank on Amazon is a crucial metric for a book&#8217;s performance. They chose to protect consumers from &#8216;potentially offensive content&#8217; in a lazy, slipshod, and reductive way that stigmatized the mention of homosexuality and transgenderedness as much or more than explicit heterosexual acts, not to mention violence. They chose to remove their sales rank, important to publishers and authors, in order to change what consumers see. But before they did it stupidly, they chose to do it at all. They decided that an Amazon consumer didn&#8217;t get any say in whether they saw the plain search results or the Bowdlerized search results. They decided to abridge the full functionality of their website without notifying customers or letting them have a choice. They decided we are all children, and they know what&#8217;s best for us.</p> <p>For a company that made its fortune on selling anything and everything, that&#8217;s a stupid decision. For a company that sells books, it&#8217;s wrong.</p> Fame-o-Meter unveiled 2008-09-24T14:48:55+00:00 2008-09-24T14:50:34+00:00 <p>This gadget has existed in my brain for long eons (you might say the Mark 0 lacked substance.) However, I found myself referring to it the other day, as <a href="">someone I met once attained one of the Fame-o-Meter&#8217;s highest tiers</a>. That was the push I needed to make the thing real as part of the Felicity Self-Encouragement Wall (TM, under construction, buy tickets now).</p> <center><a href="" title="Fame-o-Meter Mark 1 by Eilonwy Anne, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" border="0" alt="Fame-o-Meter Mark 1" /></a></center> <p>I&#8217;m not entirely satisfied that the rankings reflect the importance of the events, and I&#8217;m sure that in my haste to fill in the pre-existing benchmarks (Powell&#8217;s pillar, &#8220;Fresh Air&#8221;) with others, mistakes have been made. By me. However, calling it &#8220;Mark 1&#8221; wiggles me out of that <em>nicely</em>. As you can see, I aim both high and low. I hope to someday get prizes and such, but I have not put movie deals or TV interviews on the scale. What can I say? I try to be ambitious but reasonable.</p> Trade paperback original 2008-04-04T14:45:50+00:00 2008-05-25T19:57:44+00:00 <p>Being the slothful sort of person I am, I&#8217;m still working through a copy of <em><a href="" target="links">Poets &#38; Writers</a> Magazine</em> that my fairy godsister <a href="" target="links">Jeannine</a> gave me way back in December. It&#8217;s the January/February 2008 issue, for the record. I initially began reading it front-to-back (for the thoroughness), but set it aside after finding it to read a little doomy. <span class="caps">USPS</span> rate hikes doom small litmags to early graves! Historical fiction loved only for being nonfiction&#8217;s stepsister! Novel crushed under the wheel of Memoirmobile! At any rate, I closed its pages and planned a less thorough perusal centered on the main article, which promised to unlock the secrets of Literary Agents.</P> <p>Over the last few days, I have read all about Literary Agents, and, as is my wont, continued to turn pages. Soon I found myself reading, with great interest, an article called &#8220;Paperback Writer: Do I want to be one?&#8221; by Steve Almond. It was about the <span class="caps">TPO</span> trend &mdash; the Trade Paperback Original. </p> <p>Those of us who read a lot of comic books tend to think of TPBs as big convenient bindings of delicious CB continuity, unburdened of ads and flimsiness. However, this is only a niche truth. In the greater publishing world, a trade paperback is a fancy paperback, printed on good paper with a larger (and these days, often more texturally intriguing) cover than its &#8220;Mass Market Paperback&#8221; brethren. </p> <p><center><a href="" target="links"> <img src="" alt="A hardback, a mass-market paperback, and two tradepaper titles" title="Figure 1. What we're talking about" border="0"> </a><br /><em>Figure 1. spokesmodel Qubit poses with examples. Left to right: old-school mass market paperback by Roger Zelazny; my first tradepaper novel purchase (memorable by dint of sticker shock); a comic book industry <span class="caps">TPB</span> by the almighty Whedon; and a hardback for comparison. Hardback selected for textural richness.</em> </center></p><p>Thank you, Qubit. For some time it&#8217;s been obvious that tradepaper is getting better play in publishing than it used to. Only the most popular literary titles ever make it to mass-market editions these days, which I thought was a calculated effort to make more money: why put out a $7 edition when you can put out a $12 one? However, I may have been a bit naive.</P> <p>In Almond&#8217;s article, he discusses publishers&#8217; new habit of putting out books in tradepaper <em>first</em>, without recourse to hardcover. Apparently, many authors worry about this, since it does cut costs for the publisher and thus is seen as a vote of no-confidence in the title. However, advantages emerge: many more people buy copies at readings when the book is affordable (some even buy multiple copies; ) bookstores hang onto a paperback &#8220;six months, versus maybe three months for a hardback&#8221; says author Rishi Reddi.</p> <p>And then we got to the line that really prompted this blog post: &#8220;The author of six novels and three story collections, [Jim] Shepard was told by Random House&#8230;his 2004 story collection <em>Love and Hydrogen</em> would be published by Vintage as a <span class="caps">TPO</span> to woo younger readers.&#8221; We then pass onto more negatives, more authors feeling slighted and a probably legendary tendency for big reviewers not to review TPOs. But to me, this line was important. I remember, though I didn&#8217;t understand the larger industry context at the time, arguing with fellow readers over whether hardbacks or TPBs were a more pleasant reading experience. I like TPBs; the increased cover size means a thinner volume, more convenient for my omnipresent messenger bag than a mass-market paperback. They are lighter than hardbacks, and less likely to have embossed letters which show wear. I even like the way they sit on my shelf, the sleek way the Harvest Book editions of Virginia Woolf cozy up to each other in matching harmony. That elegant look may even tempt me to buy a <span class="caps">TPB</span> of a P.K. Dick or a Woolf book when a cheaper edition is available, so that it will match my other volumes.</p> <p>TPBs <em>are</em> cheaper than hardbacks. As a student-author-barista, I&#8217;m not a particularly hardy hybrid; I seldom plunk down hardcover price for a book I need for school, let alone one I want on a whim or at a reading. Mom says she saw a new hardcover for $36 the other day, which is a whole lot of bubble gum any way you chew. There is a possibility that the insertion of TPBs into the cycle is driving or enabling the rise in HB prices, but that doesn&#8217;t change the practicalities on the ground. Even at the more reasonable price point of <a href="" target="links">$22.95 for Murakami&#8217;s <em>After Dark</eM></a> in hardback, I&#8217;m waiting for the $13.95 paperback release in late April. After all, to a struggling grad student with access to the Powell&#8217;s used books inventory, $9 is another book; maybe more than one.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;m the only one for whom this is true, and I think that young people &mdash; more likely to be carrying books around every day, to be students with long reading lists or generally cash-strapped &mdash; deserve more than a line of consideration in this discussion. The author descends at the end of the article into depressing doomsay: &#8220;As Americans become increasingly frantic, impatient and screen-addicted, the printed word becomes that much tougher to sell.&#8221; Auditors who tell him after readings that they really want to buy a book but can&#8217;t afford hardcover &#8220;do have enough money, of course. But they simply don&#8217;t view a book &mdash; even a book by an author they happen to like &mdash; as being worth more than fifteen bucks.&#8221;</p> <p> Young people, college students, artsy Portland hipsters with bad day jobs&#8230;they have many decades of book-buying ahead of them. You want them to buy books. You want them to read more. You want them to read <em>you</em>. TPBs tend to be beautiful; in my experience, as beautiful and sensuously pleasing as hardbacks, if not more. If you want people to keep buying the printed word, this is a good thing to do: make the physical object pleasing. Price it reasonably. We don&#8217;t just want to buy books cheap; we want cheap books so we can buy more books.</p> <p><font color="#333333"><em>I would love to hear others&#8217; feelings as readers (or as writers) about TPBs versus other formats of book. As I&#8217;ve indicated, I have a real fondness for them. How about you?</font></em></p>