Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Part Three, The Year in Publishing

Continuing my overview of what has happened in recent months.

EBOOKS

Ebooks are as much a part of the publishing scene these days as paper books. Most genre publishers offer the ebook version at the same time as the paper book, and backlist is being converted to ebooks at an incredible rate.

Ebooks continue to be the primary route of distribution for smaller publishers.

Most of the major book distributors have their own ebook distribution system, and Amazon is using its ebook reader, the Kindle, to make it as much a leader in ebook distribution as paper book distribution.

Ebooks are the primary growth area right now for most publishers, but the so-called "tipping point" in their popularity hasn't been reached according to most pundits.

USED BOOKS

Used book sales are a profit hemorrhage in the publishing industry.

The publisher and the author make nothing on used books so the industry is being starved by used book sales. This is a particular hardship for authors who don't have as diversified a number of titles as the publisher does.

This means that the author makes little money, the publisher loses sales on that author, and the author is less likely to sell another book to that publisher.

In other words, the big publisher and name authors with lots of backlist like Nora Roberts are hurt by used book sales, but the smaller authors and small publishers can be killed because they lose more than they gain.

Publishing is like investing, the more diversified you are, the better the chance for survival and profit.

The Internet has made used books an even greater problem because so many books can be found used.

The old belief that a buyer will choose new after discovering a new author through a used book is less true because it is so easy to find a used book within hours or less of the book hitting the physical shelves. Some books, courtesy of book clubs and advanced review copies, can be found used weeks or months before they hit the shelves.

~*~

Tomorrow, I'll continue my overview by talking about Amazon's less than stellar behavior toward authors and publishers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Part Two

Continuing my overview of what has happened in recent months.

ONLINE MARKETS

Amazon remains the Godzilla of online book sales in both new and used books while Barnes & Noble online, etc., eat the crumbs.

Amazon gives readers an incredible selection of books not found in brick and mortar stores so they are the place to go for serious readers. A month's entire line of books by most publishers is available at Amazon, and their search functions as well as their Listmania and "if you like this book, you'll like that book" features, and reader blogs help readers find books and authors they won't find elsewhere.

Used book sites like Alibris are a major force in book buying as readers search for bargains, and Amazon displays the used book right beside the new book in their search results.

PRINT ON DEMAND BOOKS

Most major publishers do large print runs of their titles and store the books to sell through bookstores, etc.

A large print run requires a large expense up front in the printing followed by the cost of storing and moving inventory. For massmarket (standard-sized paperbacks), books not sold at the bookstore have their cover ripped off and returned while the book itself goes into the landfill. The publisher pays for the shipping in both directions.

Obviously, this is a serious waste of money and resources, but the bookstores and publishers seem addicted to this model.

In recent years, print on demand books (POD) are becoming an important part of the paper book process.

POD books are printed, one at a time, to order and shipped to the store or the buyer. Large publishers use POD for backlist, and small publishers and individuals who can't afford large print runs also use it.

Recently, a major publisher used POD to catch up on unexpectedly high demand of a nonfiction title.

Most of the major book distributors have their own POD company as does Amazon.

~*~

Tomorrow, I'll continue my overview by discussing ebooks and used books.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year in Publishing, Part 1

This is a series of blogs I wrote in June on the current state of publishing and bookselling and how that affects writers and readers. I focused on genre novels.

Sources for the information I used include "Publishers Weekly," "Shelf Awareness," "Publisher's Lunch," and various professional trade blogs.

My credentials: I'm a publishing news junkie of over thirty years, and a published author of over ten years.

I will post the whole series of eight, a day at a time, then I’ll update you on what has happened since.

First, an overview of what's happening in the business.

THE ECONOMY

Not surprisingly, the problems with the economy are hurting the sale of books. If it's a choice between food and gas or books, books are almost always the loser.

Even romance, which has always been considered an economy-proof genre, has struggled recently although it remains healthy with steady growth.

Readers are borrowing books at the library and buying used books. Neither venue is good for the author bottom line.

If a reader has a choice between a "name" favorite author and another author for a new book purchase, she will buy the name author. New authors' books tend to be bought used.

THE BOOKSTORES, CHAINS, AND BIG BOX STORES

The current trends in bookstores and other physical locations is more books by just a few authors.

Target and Walmart which sell large numbers of books have cut down the amount of books by around fifty percent in the last few years. The books added to the shelves each month are almost always that month's list leader -- the publisher's lead title for that month, and it's usually a name author.

They believe they make money by having more space taken up by more books by a few bestsellers than with a wider range of authors and books.

Meanwhile, the chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders are putting out more authors and titles, but they, too, no longer carry most of that month's books by the major publishers.

Borders has started a series of concept stores which display books cover forward. So far, they've seen an increase in sales although they have cut the number of titles displayed by thirty percent.

Independent stores are dying at an alarming rate, and those which remain often keep themselves afloat by selling used books.

Still, a vast majority of all books sold are in brick and mortar stores.

In the next days, I'll cover online markets, print on demand, ebooks, and the problems with Amazon, then I'll discuss options for authors as well as the near and far future as publishing changes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Publishing, Market, and Agent News

THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS IN THE NEWS


A happier version of book sale numbers, particularly romance and fantasy from the publisher of Juno Books.

http://juno-books.com/blog/?p=592


HarperStudio and Borders has started an experiment in book distribution which moves away from the returnable book model. http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/12/harperstudio-and-borders-no-returns.html


Is having your book come out in hard cover or paper (massmarket/trade) better for your career. The answer may surprise you.

http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2008/12/to-cloth-or-not-to-cloth-or-age-old.html


CRAFT SITE

A blog on writing written by copy editors. Much more entertaining than you'd expect. http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/


MARKET NEWS

St. Martin's Editor Michael Homler is interviewed. He works with crime fiction, literary fiction, literary and commercial biography, pop culture, narrative nonfiction, popular science, graphic novels and memoirs.
http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-editor-michael-homler

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Name Game

Finding the right name for characters involves a number of variables.

*The period the story is set in. Names must be authentic for the period. A number of websites are available for different historical periods as well as recent years. Do your research, and don't have a Medieval heroine named Tiffany.

Here are a few sites to look at
First names: http://www.behindthename.com/
Surnames: http://surnames.behindthename.com/
Popular first names in recent years: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html

*The location of the story and ethnic background of your characters.
Popular first name by state: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html

*The current impression the name gives. Years ago, for example, men were named Leslie, but it has become a woman's name. Naming your hero Leslie might be authentic for the period, but it will give your reader the wrong impression.

*How hard the name is to type. I avoid some names because I can't type them. If you must use a name that's hard to type, pick a simple nonsense string of letters then do a universal search and replace. Be absolutely sure the letters are nonsense so you don't insert the name in the middle of words that have that string within them.

THE MAIN CHARACTERS' NAMES

The right name for your hero or heroine is one of your most important decisions.

For major characters, I don't just pick a name I like. Instead, I wait until I see a name, and a frission goes through me to tell me I've hit the name for my character. Most of my character names have been gifts of that sort. Sometimes, the character will tell me his name at a certain point in the creation process.

The name, in other words, is as much a part of making the character real for the writer as it is for the reader.

SECONDARY CHARACTERS' NAMES

Try to avoid a secondary character's name that is similar to your major characters' names. That includes names that begin with the same letter or look similar (Al, Sal, and Sally).

Before I start writing and after I have my main characters' names, I make a list of other names I can use in the book which fit the period, etc., as well as being different from the major characters' names. This allows me to pick a name for that waitress who has a few scenes without having to stop my writing while I think up a name.

USING SIMILAR NAMES

I have used similar names deliberately in my writing. In TIME AFTER TIME, my hero remembers all his past lives, and he's trying to convince the heroine they have been reincarnated lovers in each of those lives. He restages and retells their past lives and their loves so I needed different names for them in each time period.

I decided that I'd use the same first letter or letters of their current names for each past name so that the reader would recognize instantly when I mentioned a name even if they couldn't recall the period that name was from. Each name would have to fit the historical period as well as the personality of the character.

Justin was earthy Jed in the Old West, and Alexa was Annie. In the 1940s, Justin was sophisticated Jared and Alexa was Alicia. Their other names also reflected character and period.

THE GOOGLE TEST

For main characters, particularly villains, it's a good idea to put the name into a search engine to see if someone out there shares the name. Put the first and last name into quotation marks so you will only receive results with both those words close together. If you find someone with that name, you may want to consider a different name.

This is also a good idea for book names.

THE NAME GAME

As you develop characters and names, you'll discover a new fascination with names and their power, and you'll probably find yourself scanning obituaries and phone books for that unusual name to add to your name list. Enjoy this. It's part of the fun of creating characters.

MARKET AND PUBLISHING LINKS

What Makes Moguls Believe They Belong In the Book Business? An interesting article on why big business in publishing is such a flawed idea.
http://www.observer.com/mobile/article/79647

A reply to that article which says that the midlist, not the big names, is where publishers lose money.
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2008/12/the-death-of-th.html

An interesting article on book cover designs in big publishing that talks about who has impute and what the author can do to help. http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2008/12/09/designing-the-perfect-book-cover-turf-battles-over-art-fonts-money/

The Organized Writer. How to create a storage system for ideas, etc. Part one of a new series. http://jeffabbott.com/blog/2008/12/the_organized_writer_your_trus.html

A list of sf and fantasy reviewers. If you review, you can add your name.
http://otter.covblogs.com/archives/2008/12/a-book-reviewers-link-up-meme.html

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Links to Market, Agent, and Promotion Information, PUBLISHING

PUBLISHING AND MARKETS LINKS:

Information that will be useful in the planning and writing stages of a novel.
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/12/author-questionnaire.html

Finding the right agent for your kind of book.
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/12/identifying-right-agent-for-your-work.html

Should you submit your book during this bad time for publishers? http://rejecter.blogspot.com/2008/12/harcourt-and-submissions.html

Agent Lori Perkins gives her take on the current dire times in publishing. http://agentinthemiddle.blogspot.com/2008_11_30_archive.html#5527547087107195142

An interview with the editor of INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW, a sf and fantasy magazine.
http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-editor-edmund-shubert

Interview in two parts with Angela James, Executive Editor of Samhain Publishing, one of the most successful epublishers in the business, on what they are looking for.
Part One
http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2008/12/nobody-does-it-better-samhain.html
Part Two
http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2008/12/interview-with-angela-james-executive.html

Jessica Faust talks about what editors in NY are looking for. Unfortunately, she's coy about who these editors are.
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/12/publisher-updates.html

PROMOTING

Marketing expert Penny C. Sansevieri offers advice on promoting your book.
http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-book-marketing-expert-penny-c-sansevieri


AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

The classic MONTY PYTHON parody of bad science fiction movies is now available at YouTube. If you've never seen this comedy about aliens turning Englishmen into Scots, you are in for a treat. For those of us who have, it's a comedy sketch that remains as funny now as then.

It's in three parts and runs almost 30 minutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMCNltgrs1U&eurl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljCQeqFouVU&eurl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMCNltgrs1U&eur

Monday, December 8, 2008

Overusing Pronouns, CRAFT

QUESTION: It's recently been pointed out to me that I sometimes overuse "he" and "she" when referring to my characters in narrative as well as action. I also use direct referral by calling my characters by their names, and their general persons -- ie, "Bob," "Jill," "the man," "the young woman," etc. -- but I find that these phrases soon become old too. What should I do?

Show what the viewpoint character is feeling and seeing. For example, Tom remembers giving flowers to Jane.


Tom recalled how Jane's face lit up, her cheeks equaling the pink of the roses she clutched to her breast. She had smiled shyly at him, and he'd fallen in love at that instant.
OR

Her face had lit up, her cheeks equaling the pink of the roses she clutched to her breast. Her shy smile had won his heart in that instant.

The second version is a more intimate viewpoint, and I've varied the sentence structure a bit.


As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't use a character's name as designation more than once a page unless it's a scene with a number of characters.


It's better to be a bit boring using the character's name, which the reader will skim, rather than to confuse the reader as to who is doing what action. This stops the reading process completely which is the one thing a writer should avoid at all costs.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Vicious Reviews 'R Us

QUESTION: Why are some book discussions and reviews so mean? Some of the so-called reviews at Amazon are horrible.

Humans have always needed to belong to a group -- some tribe that will offer protection as well as feed the primal need to be accepted.

That's why tribes were formed by early man, why kids join gangs or fraternities, and why normally sane people paint themselves with their team colors and scream like morons at sporting events.

This tribal mentality makes those who are on the other side enemies and idiots.

The Internet has allowed this mentality to splinter in so many directions that we now have a vast culture of micro-niche tribalism. Books are just another example.

Some authors have bands of groupies who trash other authors, normally against the desires of the favorite author.

These people seem to have lost the ability to separate themselves from the author because they tie so much of themselves into the author's works.

There's also the problem of intellectual dialogue versus emotional monologue. People are no longer taught how to think, as opposed to what to think, they don't know how to use reason to express ideas, and they seem incapable of doing so. Instead, it's all about emotion and being led by that emotion.

We see that in what is laughing called political discourse as well as every other form of discourse.

That book discussions have reached this name-calling low shows how intellectually bankrupt even readers have become.

MARKETS:

Agent Jessica Faust discusses Harlequin's more mainstream and non-romance lines in her blog.
http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/11/market-news.html

WORD OF THE YEAR WINNER: OVERSHARE

Webster’s New World Editor-in-Chief Mike Agnes explains his reasoning for selecting “overshare.” .
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMcVd6h8iQI

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Reader and Writer Agreement

Any form of fiction is really an agreement between the writer and the reader. The writer says, I will tell you a story, and you will believe it while you are reading it.

The reader agrees that, as long as the story remains true to its own telling and is interesting, he will keep reading and believe what he is reading. This is often called suspension of disbelief.

The writer can create the most bizarre rules imaginable for the way his world works and have creatures that aren't possible in the real world, but there are two rules he can't break. He must have his humans behave as humans should, and he must not break his own rules. To do either ruins the story.

AGENT INTERVIEWS: Interview with Penguin editor Kristen Weber who oversees Obsidian, their mystery line.
http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-senior-editor-kristen-weber


Kristin Nelson blogs about what NY editors are looking for in children's fiction. No specific editors or lines are mentioned, unfortunately.
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ November 20th.

PUBLISHER CLOSED TO SUBMISSIONS: Double Dragon Press, the largest ebook publisher of science fiction and fantasy, has closed submissions for the year. I'm not certain if this includes their erotica line.

THE WORD OF THE YEAR:

Oxford University Press' Word of the Year Awards http://blog.oup.com/2008/11/hypermiling/

THE WORD OF THE YEAR:

Oxford University Press' Word of the Year Awards http://blog.oup.com/2008/11/hypermiling/

WEBSTER'S NEW WORD OF THE YEAR

FINALISTS:

leisure sickness
overshare
cyberchondriac
selective ignorance
youthanasia

To see them defined and to vote on your favorite, see the youtube presentation here. http://newworldword.com/

*~*

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone who celebrates this day of food, family, and football!

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Publishing Should Do, PUBLISHING

Last week on his blog, agent Nathan Bransford asked his readers what they'd like to see the big publishers do to help the ailing publishing industry.

Not being shy, I offered these solutions.

EBOOKS

Publishers have failed to look toward the future of book distribution which is ebooks.

Like it or not, ebooks are the future. They are simply too efficient a delivery system, and with the price of paper and transportation skyrocketing as well as the slow death of the bookstore industry, they will soon be the only way many books will reach readers' hands.

Already, they are the growth industry within publishing. In September according to the AAP, they rose 77.8% in sales. To see the kind of growth ebooks are experiencing, go to the International Digital Publishing Forum ( idpf.org) and click on the industry statistics.

The publishers need to rethink their distribution deals with ebook providers, particularly Amazon which demands 66% of the cover price. This is utterly ridiculous since this covers computer storage and automated sales, not warehouses, human labor, and shipping.

Agents and authors with clout need to fight back against the 15% ebook royalty which in an insult, particularly for books that are going into paper where a vast majority of the book costs -- acquisition, editing, and cover -- are factored into the book's costs. If authors can't make a living in the system, the system will fail.

Ebooks may also be the solution to the shrinking midlist. The surviving bookstores and box stores are increasingly focusing on the bestsellers and list leaders, and the midlist has very few sales outlets.

The midlist is where the new authors and the next superstars come from so the publishers simply can't abandon it. They should move many of these books into ebooks or use the small ebook publishers as a farm system similar to what professional baseball teams use. This method has already been used by wily romance editors when they saw the immense success of erotica.

I cover this topic as well as the POD situation in more detail and give an overview of the current state of publishing in an article available on my website, marilynnbyerly.com . Click on the short story and article icon to find it.

POD

Amazon is in the process of trying to take over the POD market. Currently, they are only going after the small publishers, but, as its history shows, the major publishers will be next.

Right now, a few small publishers are fighting back with lawsuits, but the conglomerates are ignoring the situation. They are fools not to become involved.

Sure, Amazon is only a small percentage of the POD market right now, but with bookstores disappearing, Amazon is setting itself up to be the major player in this form of distribution, as well.

COSTS

The conglomerates need to move their offices out of NYC to cut costs. Baen Books moved to Wake Forest, NC, a tiny town outside of Raleigh, and they are doing just fine courtesy of the Internet, etc.

The money saved should be invested in better pay for editors and for reinvigorating the midlist by finding new talent.

***
PUBLISHING AND MARKET NEWS

CONTEST: Amazon and Penguin are holding a second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in early February. For more information, go here:

http://amazon.com/abna .

MARKET NEWS: Agent Kristin Nelson blogs about what some NY editors are looking for in Young Adult fiction on November the 11th.

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/

AGENT: Emmanuelle Alspaugh is interviewed at Novelists, Inc. blog

http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-agent-emmanuelle-alspaugh

Be sure to check out the related post section for links to other agents interviewed.

QUESTIONS? I take writing and publishing questions. Contact me via this blog or at marilynnbyerly at aol.com .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ebook Prices, PUBLISHING

In an interview, (link below), nonfiction author Seth Godin talks about ebooks and publishing. He's a proponent of free ebooks to sell paper books, but in this interview he suggests that ebooks be priced between one and two dollars each.

As someone who's watched the ebook industry for a number of years, here's my reply to his impractical suggestion.

Cheap ebooks are a lovely thought, but if a publisher wants to sell their books through the major book venues like Fictionwise and Amazon/Kindle, they must price the book with that in mind.

The vast majority of buyers only buy through the big venues instead of through the publisher website so most publishers can't break even if they don't have their books at places like Fictionwise.

I know that for every book I sell through one of my publishers' sites, I sell 50 or more at the big venues.

Here's why books have to be priced more expensively if they are to be sold through the big venues.

Fictionwise makes 50% on each ebook sold so even if the publisher prices the book near cost, he would have to increase the price by 50% just to break even. Amazon/Kindle takes 66% of the cover price. The same problem.

What's left is usually divided evenly between the publisher and the writer if it's an epublisher, 15% for the author for major publishers.

And if the publisher doesn't put the book's price high enough, the middleman venues where a majority of ebooks are sold aren't interested in the product because they can't come out even after they do their usual price markdown.

If the publisher wishes to keep his books at the big venues, he can't undersell the books at his own site so he can't lower the price there, either.

In the best of all possible worlds, the reader would pay a few bucks, but readers want the simplicity of buying at one site, not many, so the prices go up. Sad, but true.

LINK TO GOLDIN'S INTERVIEW:
http://www.26thstory.com/blog/2008/11/1-we-have-a-fresh-slate-at-harperstudio-whats-your-advice---the-huge-opportunity-for-book-publishers-is-to-get-unstuck-yo.html

EDITOR INTERVIEWED: On November 6th, Novelists, Inc., interviewed Peter Senftleben, an editorial assistant at Kensington. He talks about what he's looking for.

http://www.ninc.com/blog/

NETWORKING SITES PROMOTIONAL VALUE: Author Courtney Summers discusses the value of various networking sites for book promotion.

http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/11/guest-blogger-courtney-summers-on.html

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ebook Royalties, PUBLISHING

Random House has just announced that it is lowering its ebook royalty rate from 25 percent of the retail price of the ebook to 25 percent of the net price (book price minus the distributor's percentage equals net) . Since most distributors take 50% or more as their distributor percentage, this is a hefty cut.

Other major publishers give a 15 percent royalty on the book price.

In comparison, most epublishers give between 35 to 50 percent of the book price. They must also pay for the cost of editing, covers, Internet infrastructure, etc., which the major publishers have already paid for when they create the paper books.

Is there anything wrong with this picture?

The big publishers keep saying that ebooks are expensive to produce, but most epublishers will tell you that all that is needed is a digital copy of the book in a specific format like PDF which the distributors will format themselves for a fee.

The big publishers, so far, have been no more willing to sell ebooks on their sites than they will sell paper copies of their books so all their talk about expenses is smoke and mirrors to hide their grab for a cheap royalty on what will become the major method of book distribution in the years to come.

Some agents have said that the publishers promise to raise the royalty rates when ebooks become more profitable, but that's a lie that has been used a number of times.

For example, during the paper shortages and rapid rise in price of paper, some years back, the publishers asked for a rate cut from authors and promised that the rate would go back up after the crisis. As you can guess, the rates have never risen.

All of this gives me such a glorious, yet painful, sense of irony about the situation. When ebook publishers started becoming successful, many traditionally published authors screamed like virgins at an orgy because they thought epublishing would harm their careers and incomes. By accepting 15% as "standard," they may be harming the epublished if epublishers follow suite and accept this new standard.


BLOGS OF INTEREST
MJ Rose talked about book promotion at agent Nathan Bransford's blog on Thursday, October 23rd. She's a genius at marketing so it's more than worth the read. http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/

She also continues on the subject at http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype/2008/03/which-brings-us.html .

On Tuesday and Wednesday the 22nd and 23rd, on Nathan's blog, Michelle Moran also discussed promotion.

QUESTIONS, YOU HAVE QUESTIONS? Send me your questions about publishing and craft at marilynnbyerly @ aol.com. (Remove spaces in address.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Writing Telepaths' Thoughts and Conversation, CRAFT

QUESTION: I have a character who is a telepath. Should I italicize what she picks up from others' minds?

If the characters are "speaking" mentally, I've often seen authors italicize the conversation.

Mary thought to Matt, What happened to my son?

He fell into the river but grabbed a log.


If, however, Mary is picking up the images from Matt's head, I'd do something like this--

Mary tilted her head and concentrated harder on what Matt was trying to show her with his thoughts.

Darkness. A river surging past. A hand reaching out of the water and grasping a log. Then her son's head coming up out of the water as he pulls himself up onto the floating log.

"He's not dead," Mary sobbed and rubbed away her tears. "Billy's not dead."


I’ve also seen writers use colonss for mental dialogue in the same way as you would use quotation marks.

Mary thought to Matt, :What happened to my son?:

:He fell into the river but grabbed a log.:

The advantage of using the colon is that there will be no confusion about when speakers change.

The most important thing to remember is to choose one method and use it consistently.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why Women Love Romance

QUESTION FROM A GUY: Can you give me the deep reason for the romance novel's appeal to women? I can't ask my mother -- that would be too weird.


There is no ONE deep reason. Here is one of them--

I've never had time to watch football or learn much about the game so all I see are a bunch of big guys pounding each other and chasing a ball across a field, but if you are a football fan, you understand the subtle tactics, the skills, and the rules of the game.

In the same way, many women understand the subtle tactics, the skills, and the rules of the game of love. The romance novel offers them a front row seat at the most fascinating and important game of all -- love and marriage. Many nonromance readers sneer at how all these books are the same, but they are no more the same than every football game is the same.

Romances also offer a more important payback because they are teaching women more about the emotional dynamics of men and women so they can play the game and win for themselves and society by creating a monogamous, stable relationship for themselves and for the successful rearing of children which takes two committed parents.

And, yes, there is usually sex in these novels, but romances aren't about sex. If they were, they'd have more than the 10 to 20 pages of love scenes in the average 400 page novel. The love scenes are there because they are another part of the emotional dynamics, and how the man acts afterward usually defines the problems and the possibilities of the relationship.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Moral Core of Genre, CRAFT

One of the primary hallmarks of genre fiction is its moral core. The characters and their choices may be morally gray rather than the white and black of good and evil, but the reader expects that good will eventually triumph. The good guys will gain some victory, and the darkness will be banished.

If the author fails to deliver on this promise of light over darkness, she fails a fundamental promise to the reader.

In the same way, the major character or characters must have a moral core that helps them recognize the right choices and gives them the strength to follow through, whatever the cost, to reach that triumph over darkness.

Happiness can never be gained without a struggle against the forces of darkness. The darkness may be a black-hearted villain, but its most important manifestation is within the main character who must fight her inner darkness with that moral core.

Sometimes, if the main character is an antihero or shallow chick-lit heroine, the struggle will involve a great deal of protests, whining, and foot-dragging to reach that point, but that point is reached.

Betsy, the Queen of the Vampires, in the MaryJanice Davidson series, is a perfect example of this kind of character. Shallow, shoe-absorbed, and selfish, she whines her way through each book, but her inner moral core always leads her to do the right thing in the end.

If Betsy never did the right thing, this series wouldn't be the success it is because shallowness won't hold a reader's attention or their emotions for very long.

Sometimes, in a series, a character will change from evil to good, or good to evil, but that change must be foreshadowed in earlier choices and decisions. Bart the Bad may be up to no good through the early novels, but the reader should see that he chooses not to ambush the hero because a child is nearby. This not only adds moral complexity to Bart, but also makes his move toward the light more believable.

In the same way, a good guy's pragmatic or selfish choices will foreshadow the coming darkness.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things I've Learned about Publishing

Publishing is a profession. Always act in a professional manner. This includes any situation where you are in public as a writer.

Spelling, grammar, and clarity are part of that professional manner. Don't send emails filled with errors because it reflects back on your craft.

Your editor/publisher/agent may be your friend, but she is first and foremost a businessperson. If it is a choice between making money and being your friend, she will choose the money almost every time.

Learn the business so you will understand what is happening in your career. No one cares as much about it as you do.

Some publishers use the same kind of controlling behavior as abusive spouses. They convince you that you write crap and no one but them will want it, and they pay you accordingly. If you don't escape this abusive cycle, you will either self-destruct as a writer, or other publishers in the know will not touch you because victims in this situation usually lose their confidence to push their writing to the next level.

Publishing is a small world. If you p*ss off one editor, every editor in the business will know about it. Editors also move from publisher to publisher. The editor you annoy today may be your new editor tomorrow.

Promote yourself, not your publisher, ebooks, or the type of books you write.

If you create bookmarks or any other expensive promotion, use them to promote yourself, not your current title because it won't be your current title forever.

Brand yourself as a certain type of writer and produce all your books to reflect that brand. Make certain that the same readers will be as happy with your next book.

Strive to improve with each book. Strive to surprise with each book. Don't write yourself into a rut.

If you don't enjoy the writing, find another profession. The publishing business is brutal and often the only joy is in the writing.

No amount of promotion will make up for a lack of distribution.

It's easy to be seduced away from the hard aspects of writing by other creative things. Working on your website and book trailers is much more fun because they aren't part of that bottom line.

There is no such thing as privacy on the Internet and on group listservs. Be discrete. The comment you make today will come back to haunt you later.

If an agent or publisher lies about one thing, you shouldn't believe anything they say.

The advantage of a small press/epublisher is personal attention. The disadvantage is the owner's life crisis will shut down operations.

If the publisher believes that the contract terms only bind you, not him, run for your life.

If an agent or publisher says they are in the business to help writers, run for you life. They are almost always crooks.

Don't be ditzy and proud of it. No publisher wants a business partner who is an idiot.

Writing is physically taxing. Take care of yourself by exercising and eating wisely. You may have an extra hour to write by avoiding the gym or that walk, but you'll pay for it long term by having your body fail when you need it most.

Take care of your computer. Keep your virus software up to date and run repair utilities once a week.

Back up your hard drive! Back up on a regular schedule.

Back up your books and keep a copy or copies elsewhere. Most banks offer a free safety deposit box to regular customers. Keep a digital copy of your books there. A flash drive is perfect for this.

Keep a paper copy of your book. If your computer crashes taking everything with it, the paper copy is the very best back up. Paper copies never become an outdated format.

Keep adequate business records. Save receipts for business supplies, etc., so you can use them as business expenses on your taxes.

Keep all your promotion information in one spot. (See Marilynn's article on organizing promotions at her website marilynnbyerly.com .)

Read as much as you can about the business. If you don't understand something, ask questions.

The writing craft is like athletic skill. Even a natural talent needs practice to improve, and you are always learning something new about yourself and the craft.

A good teacher and a good critique partner are worth their weight in gold.

A writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. A winner keeps going for the long haul.

Writing is a hobby, an avocation, or a career, but it is not a life. Real life is what matters most. You will regret it if you look up from your keyboard one day to discover life has passed you by, and the writing wasn't worth the cost.

WRITING QUOTES:
"I'm just starting [a new book] and the battle has already begun. I don't think they ever go smoothly. It's work. It should be work. It should be hard work. I think if you sort of sit around and wait to be inspired, you're probably going to be sitting there a long time. My process is more about crafting, working an idea through my head to see if it's a good concept." Nora Roberts in an interview with the "Hagerstown Herald-Mail."

“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life.There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. Never forget your Personal Legend. Never forget your dreams. Your silent heart will guide you. Be silent now. It is the possibility of a dream that makes life interesting. You can choose between being a victim of destiny or an adventurer who is fighting for something important.” THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho


FREE BOOK ON PUBLISHING: Donald Maass, super agent, has a free PDF download of his book, THE CAREER NOVELIST: WINNING ADVICE FROM A TOP AGENT AND HIS BESTSELLING CLIENTS. I have a copy, and it's full of excellent advice. Some is a touch out-of-date, though. You'll find it here: http://www.maassagency.com/books.html

Monday, September 29, 2008

Squandering the Reader's Trust

I fell in love with the TV show HEROES during the first season. It was different and clever. The writing was smart, the worldbuilding interesting, and the plot worked.

Rarely did the series fail on most levels through that first season. The fans were fierce, the buzz was good, and HEROES appeared to be a major hit.

Then the second season came. The plots went nowhere, many of the characters we cared about were tossed aside for new annoying characters, the worldbuilding faltered, the whole series went to heck, and many of the watchers went elsewhere.

I only stayed around because, from a writer's point of view, it was a bad accident I couldn't take my eyes off. My weekly show autopsy was a class on how lazy writing and a smug certainty of keeping the fans no matter what could destroy a good show.

The third season started last Monday, and I watched. Frankly, I don't know if the show's writers will redeem themselves, but three appears to do be a regurgitation of the first season with exploding cities, premonitions, and Sylar and the other characters returning to their old ways.

I also realized that I really didn't care that much about the show anymore, and I may not find the time for it in my brutal schedule.

As I was thinking about my reaction to the show, I realized that the first season taught me to trust the writers to give me the kind of show I'd enjoy, and the second season squandered that trust until little remained.

Novel writers can do that, too. Each book builds trust between the reader and the writer, and the writer has to be faithful to that trust for the reader to stay.

Common ways to betray that trust are writing by rote with few surprises, worldbuilding changes for the writer's convenience, and simple boredom on the writer's part which most readers can sense.

That series you are writing may be a major success, but unless you are willing to keep stretching yourself and to keep pouring your creative energy into it, you are better off starting something new before all your readers go away.

AGENT: Jessica Faust of Bookends has a September 24th blog post on what she's looking for right now. Her blog is at http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 22, 2008

How You Describe, CRAFT

I've written several blogs on how viewpoint affects what you description in a scene. For example, a character who is analytical will view a room differently from a creative person, and a cop walking into a room looking for a gunman will see it differently from an interior decorator.

The type of viewpoint character also affects how you describe what the character sees. In one of my novels, the main character is a professional landscape artist. I kept a list of paint colors beside me as I wrote her viewpoint because she'd be precise about color variations. She'd see another character's eyes as cerulean blue, not blue.

If that viewpoint character had been an expert on antiques, the other person's eyes might be the color of Delft blue china.

Using this kind of description also makes writing love scene description, particularly evoking the intense emotions of sexual pleasure, a bit easier and less cliche-ridden. I've used space imagery for a heroine who was an astrophysicist, shapes and forms for an architect, and colors and textures for that landscape painter.

An expert will also see something differently than the rest of us. Imagine a mechanic looking at a car engine, now imagine someone who knows nothing about engines looking at it. The terms used to describe the engine in viewpoint will be as precise or imprecise as the character's knowledge.

Always remember that description is as much about the viewpoint character as it is about creating a picture in the reader's head.

ARTICLE ON VOICE: Jennifer R. Hubbard talks about creating a voice for a novel.

http://writerjenn.livejournal.com/53715.html

MONSTER MASH: Do you need to create a scene involving a large creature or large creatures fighting or being chased? The History Channel has a new series called JURASSIC FIGHT CLUB which shows CGI recreations of various dinosaurs preying on each other.

A new series which uses the same CGI dinosaur models is PRIMEVAL on BBC-America.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bad Weather and Other Computer Disasters

Are you, as a writer, ready for bad weather or emergencies?

Preparing for bad weather can be as simple as having a storm alert radio that will cut on, if dangerous weather approaches, so you can shut down that computer before lightning fries it, then you can seek shelter. The storm alert radio also doesn't interfere with writing like a regular radio for those of us who like to work in quiet.

Is your computer plugged into an alternate power source (APS) so it won't be damaged or your current work lost if the power goes out?

Most alternate power source makers claim an APS with a surge protector will protect your computer and peripherals from lightning, but nothing will protect electronics from a close lightning hit. A good friend lost everything when lightning hit a transformer over a block away, and he had high-end surge protectors and an APS system.

The safest thing to do is unplug everything, including the APS.

Also remember to unplug your modem from the electricity and your computer. Dial-up modems are particularly prone to lightning. A cable modem is supposed to be much safer, but I err on the side of paranoia and unplug mine.

If you have a laptop as well as a desktop, you need to keep it charged then unplug it, as well, when a storm comes. If you want to keep working through bad weather, remember to save a copy of your work to a flash disk, floppy, or whatever to move your work to your laptop so you can continue to work.

Weather preparation isn't just for a short summer or winter storm. It's for major disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. Always have a back-up copy of all your works in another location, or, better yet, several locations.

In the days before I wrote by computer, I had paper copies of my books at my home, my mom's beach house and my brother's house near Charlotte. Despite being in different parts of the state, all three homes were damaged by Hurricane Hugo, but the manuscripts stayed safe. That experience has reaffirmed my determination to keep copies of my manuscripts and important papers elsewhere.

These days, I also keep a flash disk copy of my books in my safety deposit box at the bank so I can keep my updates recent. A flash disk or drive, if you're not familiar with the term, is one of those storage units you plug directly into your USB or Firewire connection on your computer or iPod.

It's always a good idea to have an emergency bag or briefcase for your writing partially packed and ready to go in case you need to get out fast because of an approaching hurricane or wild fire. Things to keep in this bag include a power plug for your laptop and an updated flash drive. Also include copies of current book contracts as well as notes, etc., of what you are working with at the time.

This bag is also a good place to store that copy of your house and car insurance, pictures of your valuables, etc., in case disaster strikes. Also include a CD with copies of your favorite family pictures, etc., in case the worst happens, and there's no home to return to.

Make a list of the last minute things you will need to pack and stick that in the front of the bag. When emergencies happen, we tend to forget the most basic things so that list will be well worth the time.

NOTE: Do you have emergency suggestions for other writers? Please let us know.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Making a Long Story Short, CRAFT

QUESTION: My novel is way too long. Someone suggested I cut four lines off every page instead of trying to cut whole chapters, etc.

Anyone who can do that needs to work on their writing skills because they are writing weak, bloated prose.

There are other ways to cut length.

From working with writers over the years, I'd say that the primary thing most writers need to cut is writer information. We sometimes do our thinking on the page before we write down what the reader needs to see, and we fail to cut that out.

Writers also tend toward too much introspection. If all a character is doing in a scene is thinking about other things, get rid of that scene and insert that information into dialogue.

The great Phyllis Whitney once said that the only reason a character should be folding laundry and thinking is so an ax murderer can sneak up on her, and the reader knows this through subtle clues.

There's also the rule of three. If a scene doesn't contain at least one or two plot points (information or events which move the plot forward), and one or two character points (important character information) so that you have at least three points total, then it should be tossed, and whatever points included in that scene should be added to another scene.

For major cuts, you can also consolidate several secondary characters into one character, or a subplot can be simplified or removed if it doesn't influence the major plot or the influence can be moved to another subplot.

Happy cutting!


PROMOTION LINKS
Here are a series of blogs on book promotion from agent and former book publicist, Colleen Lindsay.

http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/09/pimpin-your-book-what-is-publicity.html

http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/09/pimpin-your-book-how-to-work.html

http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/09/pimpin-your-book-economics-of-galley-or.html

http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/09/pimpin-your-book-what-is-publicity.html

http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/09/pimpin-your-book-more-of-your-questions.html

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Writer Scam

Congratulations, you're Pulitzer Prize finalist, and it will only cost you 1800 Euro dollars to finish the registration process. Please send the money to Nigeria.

Yeah, right.

There's a new email scam aimed at writers that claims to be from Paul Tash of the Pulitzer Prize board.

I received an email last night and did some research. Here's a good article on the scam.

http://www.brantfordexpositor.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1165637

Feel free to past along this warning to any writer or group you like.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dissed Writers Fight Back

QUESTION: I am so tired of being sneered at when I tell people I write. How should I handle this?

Artists have always been met with idiocy and blank looks. It's our lot. We ARE different, after all, but different is good! Without the artists and other creative people, the world would be a bleak place.

For some reason, especially in America, writers and other people with brains are treated with contempt. It's the dumb jocks who are the norm. Painting yourself blue in midwinter and rooting for your football team in an open stadium is normal, but you are weird if you write or read books, or go to sf conventions, or belong to the SCA. Personally, I beg to differ.

I've discovered that my enthusiasm can win over those blank stares. The trick is to believe in what you are doing and who you are. If you give those people with sneers or blank stares the power to define who you are, then you've lost, and you are nothing.

Instead, believe in yourself and what you are doing. Writing is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and if you succeed only a little, be that success a finished short story or a few chapters of a novel, then you are a success. Glow with it, and no one can belittle you.

ASK ME QUESTIONS! Email me at marilynnbyerly@aol.com if you'd like me to answer your question about writing, publishing, or the writing life.

WHY YOU NEED AN AGENT Here's an interesting article by an agent on why you need an agent.

http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2008/09/why-you-should-never-submit-unagented.html

I don't totally agree with him, category romance is one exception to his comments that I can think of immediately, but he does have many valid points.

HAVE THE CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG EMAILED TO YOU Join my Yahoogroups by sending a blank email to ByerlyWriting-subscribe@yahoogroups.com It has no chitchat or spam.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Suddenly, a pirate ship loomed over the horizon, CRAFT

QUESTION: In action scenes, I use the phrases "suddenly" or "all of a sudden" a ridiculous amount of times when describing fast paced action scenes. What other words or phrases can I use?



If you write the scene correctly, you don't need "suddenly" or any other synonym or phrase. The reader is usually smart enough to know the fighters in a physical battle are moving fast so everything is "suddenly" unless we say otherwise.

The trick is to get into the head of one of the characters and stay there. Let the reader see what the character sees and feel what the character feels.

You don't say,

Suddenly, the other fighter pulled out his knife and jabbed at him.
You say,

Sam dodged the other man's fist. The hand that should have been blocking his next blow moved downward toward the man's knife sheath.

A flash of steel.

Throwing himself backward away from the other man's knife, Sam slammed into the ground on his back.


Or, if you are describing a battle of many men, you don't say

Suddenly, a line of cavalry surged over the top of the hill toward them.

You say,

On the hill just above the soldiers, the drumming of many horse hooves and the Rebel yell of hundreds of men warned them.

The Yankees spun around as the Confederate cavalry charged toward them.



ARTICLE ON ROYALTIES Fiction Factor has a useful article on how royalties are figures. <"http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/royaltiescalculated.html ">http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/royaltiescalculated.html

While you're there, check out their article archives and sign up for Fiction Factor ezine which is always full of great articles on writing craft and the writing profession.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Industry News Links

Lots of useful articles and interviews have appeared online in the last week. Here are some of the best.

AGENTS:

An article on some agents' pet peeves in the opening pages of a novel.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Agents+Chapter+1+Pet+Peeves.aspx

Agent Laura Bradford is interviewed here on Wednesday, August 20th.

http://ninc.com/blog/index.php



A NEW CRITIQUE PARTNER MATCH SITE

Crit Partner Match, all genres

http://critpartnermatch.ning.com


PUBLISHING TERMS

The Bookends Agency blog defines publishing terms, Thursday, August 21st

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/


ON THE SILLY SIDE

The Bulwer-Lytton Winners of 2008

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.

See the winners here:
http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/scott.rice/blfc2008.htm

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sex and the Single Space Alien, WORLDBUILDING

Alien love interests are a tricky business, especially if the author wants to have sf readers enjoy her book instead of tossing it across the room. You also have to deal with those of us with logical minds.

Aliens, according to many scientists, probably won't look like humans. You can create a reason why aliens do look like humans if you want to. I did for my race, the N'Videri in THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN.

In my worldbuilding, the N'Videri protected and nurtured those races who looked like them and pushed evolution for bipeds on certain planets so that they would have living camouflage for their own secretive presence in space. Humans, unlike many space races, were protected from conquest or self-destruction so they went safely into space.

It is extremely unlikely that a human and alien could produce a child. Human DNA has more in common with Earth grass DNA than it would have with any alien.

Alien differences would also make breeding unattractive. For example, find two old pennies that are made of real copper. Wash them really well then put them in your mouth for five minutes. The seriously nasty taste is what kissing Spock with his copper-based blood would taste like.

Aliens that are essentially humanoid forms of Earth animals have their own problems. Fish reproduce outside of the body. (The female lays the eggs, and the male dumps his sperm on them then.) That's not exactly wild or possible sex for a human female. Lizards and snakes have a much cooler body temperature than we do. Part of the sexual excitement of the act involves heat. A cold-blooded male in a hot-blooded female would be uncomfortable for both parties.

Aliens based on mammals have the danger of bestiality to be considered. Most of us are repelled rather than excited by reading about a human sexual encounter with a dog, cat, horse, or whatever. Werewolves and other were-animals also have this problem unless they change into human form for sex.

I'm sure some people get their sexual buzz from all the above, especially in erotica which has little to do with logic or scientific accuracy and probably shouldn't have, but any writer who wants their books read outside of a narrow category of readers has to consider such things.

ASK ME QUESTIONS Do you have a writing question? Please email it to marilynnbyerly@aol.com, and I'll answer it on this blog.

JOIN MARILYNN'S YAHOOGROUPS: Receive the contents of this blog by joining Marilynn's Yahoogroup. To join, send a blank email to
ByerlyWriting-subscribe@yahoogroups.com .

Monday, August 11, 2008

Killing Off Characters

In romance a writer shouldn't kill off a favorite secondary character unless it's absolutely necessary. Romance is essentially the fantasy of happily ever after, and death of a loved character jars the reader's expectations.

If a nice character dies, it should be a noble death to save someone else's life, not a senseless death. The finest example of this is Sidney Carton in Dickens' TALE OF TWO CITIES.

Science fiction, fantasy, and mystery have a harder edge, and readers are more willing to accept a character's death. In fact, if no one dies, many sf and fantasy readers consider that a flaw in believability.

I must admit to an intense dislike of having the major character's longtime love interest killed, not only because I become attached to the character, but also because this is often writer laziness at its worst.

Usually, the love interest softens the major character, and the writer doesn't want any softness or mushy stuff. (Oh dear, someone might think I write those stupid romances so I'd better kill the love interest!) To bring the main character back to the way he or she was at the beginning of the series, the writer kills the love interest.

Of course, the most suicidal thing a writer can do in any genre novel is kill a beloved fictional pet or child. That will definitely drive readers away in droves.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Market news and updates

I've been reading many of the blogs about RWA National which was held in San Francisco. Few have been more than "my feet hurt" and "I met this person or did this," but I have found this interesting comment on the paranormal market courtesy of agent Kristin Nelson. You'll find it here: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ It's the July 31st blog.

In a blog last week, Jessica Faust of Bookends talks about her views of what is happening in the romance market. It's well worth a read. You'll find it here: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/

If I find more market news in blogs, I'll pass it along.

A science fiction and fantasy editor for Del Rey, Liz Scheier, is interviewed here: http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-senior-editor-liz-scheier

PAST POSTS UPDATES:

As luck would have it, PSYCHIC KIDS disappeared off the A&E schedule right after I talked about it as a research source for psychic characters. I've learned that it will be back August 9th. It is also available at iTunes. You can find information here: http://www.aetv.com/psychic-kids/ Click on the schedule button for more showings.

If you'd like to read an author who gets it right with a Southern setting, read Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series. Every element of Sookie's upbringing and the Southern life and its "rules" is pitch perfect. This author obviously writes what she knows.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Write Where You Know. CRAFT

Recently, my mom found three glaring errors in the first page of a novel she was reading. The first scene in the book was at a beach we've visited a number of times, and the author obviously hadn't because most of her physical details were completely wrong.

I've spotted innumerable place mistakes in books, as well. Civil War slaves hid in kudzu that wouldn't be introduced to America until the Twentieth Century, locals in the North Carolina mountains were called crackers, trees bloomed in the wrong month, and so forth.

Errors like this make me paranoid about setting my books in places I've never been, and I research like crazy to make certain I get it right. I also try to get someone familiar with the territory to read through my descriptions.

Even worse than errors, however, is the danger of being patronizing. I've read novels where the author's contempt for an area was obvious in the stereotypes and misinformation. In other words, don't write about rural Georgia if all you know about the area is a few episodes of THE DUKES OF HAZARD you held your nose through.

If you're not willing to get it right, set your novel where you know.

REMINDER: August 1st is the final day to register for my “The Big Question: How to Create a Powerful Novel from a Few Ideas and One Big Question" workshop. To learn more go to

http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/thebigquestionwr.html

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing a Psychic Character, CRAFT

Are you psychic? Do you see ghosts?

Me neither. But I write these characters.

One of the ways I try to get into the head of characters like this is research.

Right now, I'm watching a nonfiction series on A&E called PSYCHIC KIDS. Real life kids with psychic abilities are brought together with an adult psychic and a child psychologist who specializes in psychic kids, and they are helped to come to terms with their gifts.

The parents are also helped.

Most of the kids are terrified by spirits who have harassed them for years, and they are afraid to sleep. Some are physically ill from anxiety and stress. Yet they have nowhere to turn except for parents. They are afraid to talk to friends because they will be ostracized, and parents warn them not to talk to other adults. They tend to be loners.

The parents are terrified, as well. They are unable to protect their kids from the ghosts, and the normal routes to help -- doctors, teachers, and ministers -- are closed to them because they fear their children will be labeled as mentally ill and medicated into zombies. They fear that their children could be taken from them by social services who won't believe the child's true problem.

The psychic helps the kids come to terms with their gifts and teaches them to take away the fear, and the psychologist teaches the parents how to cope with their psychic children. The children also develop relationships with the other psychic kids so they no longer feel alone or like freaks.

How would I use this information? A child character is easy enough to create after watching these children. So would a parent of a psychic child.

Now let's extrapolate this information and imagine an adult who had a childhood like this. Fear of discovery would often be a major influence on an adult. She wouldn't trust easily because most people who find out about her gift consider her a freak. Authority figures would automatically be distrusted. Trust and the need to be accepted for what she is would be the central emotional issues in a romantic relationship.

But what if the child grew up being totally open about her gift or if she "came out" as a psychic as an adult?

This character would be very comfortable in her own skin. She'd know herself very well. Her sense of being apart from others would manifest itself in a certain flamboyance -- a look at me I'm different and I don't care what you think attitude.

She would probably see her abilities as a gift rather than a curse, and she would use that gift to help others.

In a romance, she would have problems thinking of changing to help the relationship work because she's worked so hard to be who she is. "Me" has always been more important than "us."

This extrapolation isn't the only way to see adult psychic characters, but it does give you a start on writing a character different from yourself.

If you have no reality source for your character's background, you will have to find a real world analogy.

For example, a child who knows he's gay at an early age would be an analogy of a psychic character. Many is society view both with alarm, and secrecy is often the choice made. A writer would research the problems and emotional toll of being a gay child then use that information to understand a psychic child.

No matter how unusual or magical a character is, the author must use her knowledge of what makes a certain kind of person tick to make that character believable to the reader.

Monday, July 21, 2008

For intrique writers

This is courtesy of a good friend who writes for Harlequin Intrigue. Feel free to clip it and pass it along to anyone going to RWA National who may be interested.



"Sat., Aug. 2nd, there's going to be an Intrigue Meet & Greet in the
Harlequin hospitality suite (Sierra E), from 3:30-4:30 pm.   This will
be an open session inviting unpublished writers to meet with the editors
and, we're hoping, the authors who've made Intrigue so popular.  So, if
you can please stop by and say hello as well as spread the word to your
chapters, friends, critique partners, etc. about our session and that
we're actively looking for new authors, I'd truly appreciate it.  This
is a great opportunity to generate buzz and excitement for the line. 
Plus, there will be cupcakes and cookies!" -- Allison Lyons, Editor

REMINDER: Marilynn's online course in August is “The Big Question: How to Create a Powerful Novel from a Few Ideas and One Big Question." To learn more, go here
http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/thebigquestionwr.html

Monday, July 7, 2008

Authors and Wills

Your writing may live forever, but you won't. Have you included instructions about your writing in your will? Or have you filled out an addenda to your will containing details about your writing?

Some things you may want to consider are

What do you want to happen to your books and "name" after you die. Do you want others to write books using your name? Do you want someone to finish whatever books you didn't finish?

Do you want books you wrote years ago to be pulled out and sold?

Do you want your notes and drafts sold or given to a university or a collector?

Do you want someone to maintain your promotions (website, etc.) while your books are in print?

Do you want a special executor just for your writing. Most established authors name their literary agent or literary lawyer as special executor to their writing estate because writing is so specialized that people not in the business haven't a clue.

Here's a really excellent blog on the subject by Neil Gaiman which includes a PDF form that writers can use to explain their wishes on their works.

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2006/10/important-and-pass-it-on.html



REMINDER: Marilynn's online course in August is “The Big Question: How to Create a Powerful Novel from a Few Ideas and One Big Question." To learn more, go here
http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/thebigquestionwr.html

Monday, June 30, 2008

Yet another view on the future of publishing, Jonathan Karp

Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor-in-chief of Twelve-- an imprint within the Hachette Book Group, gives his own take on the future of publishing in "Turning the Page on The Disposable Book."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/27/AR2008062702868.html

His essential premise is that too much junk is published and that publishers should concentrate on books of lasting worth.

Unfortunately, the major flaw in this premise for fiction is that publishers can't really tell what is and isn't of lasting worth because only time is the true indicator.

Many of the books we now consider of lasting value were either popular fiction or poorly reviewed. Dickens and Melville are perfect examples of this.

Nor does the amount of time spent writing the book or intensive editorial presence in the writing process equate to quality or lack, thereof.

Moonrat, a blogger on the publishing industry, also talks about Karp's take on editing and the publishing industry here:

http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2008/05/less-is-more.html


REMINDER: I'll be teaching a course on taking one idea and turning it into a novel in August. To learn more, go here:

http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/thebigquestionwr.html

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Whither Publishing? Another opinion.

Sara Nelson of "Publishers Weekly" talks about the state of publishing in this article.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6570313.html

She has very few answers but lots of questions.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Amazon, the 64 Stone Gorilla

Amazon UK is currently using its clout to force British publishers into unfavorable contracts. One major publisher is fighting back.

Among authors affected are Stephen King and James Patterson.

Here's a link to the story.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2123221/Amazon-could-face-strike-by-authors-and-publishers.html

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A book publisher’s manifesto for the 21st century

As I discussed what's happening in genre publishing, Sara Lloyd has a series on articles on what's happening in nonfiction publishing.

In many ways, nonfiction writers have it much worse than we do because writing a novel tends to be a one-person job creating a single vision. Nonfiction can be a hodgepodge of knowledge and individuals.

For nonfiction, Google seems to be the villain as Amazon is the villain for fiction.

To read the blogs, go here
http://thedigitalist.net/?p=137

To receive a complete Adobe Acrobat download of the entire article, go here
http://thedigitalist.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/a-book-publishers-manifesto-for-the-21st-century.pdf

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Part Eight of Eight

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 8

THE NEAR AND FAR FUTURE OF PUBLISHING

Here's my forecast on the future of publishing.

Essentially, most publishing professionals are worried about the wrong things and not paying attention to the real dangers as the publishing world changes.

It's not about too many titles, it's not about the change from paper to ebook, it's not about what bookstores are doing.

It's about the fight for the conduits of media, both paper and digital, to the consumer, and it's a fight that may already be lost to Amazon.

Amazon is doing everything right. They are bleeding publishing through used books and pricing control while doing almost everything better than brick and mortar stores, and now they are making a dramatic move to take over a major chunk of the digital arena with the Kindle.

Big publishing, meanwhile, is looking the other way as small publishers are fighting Amazon about POD and even greater price controls because the big guys don't think Amazon will go after them next.

Paper, ink, and bookstores are still here and will be here for some time, but they can't survive long term because digital books are simply too dang efficient in every sense.

The bookstores will go first because people are more stressed for time than for money, and online is easier. Before the bookstores go, they will effectively kill what is left of midlist fiction in their ongoing effort to stock bestsellers and list leaders to the exclusion of midlist.

Meanwhile, the used book industry will suck away even more of the profit from paper publishing until it collapses in a sea of red ink.

Books will move into digital format, but new books and new writers will continue to be buried under a sea of backlist moving into digital format.

Platforms will continue to be the means of success for most authors, and other authors will be relegated to niche markets and scrambling for readers.

A long story short. Sell all your stock in bookstores and publishers, and buy Amazon stock. It's probably the only way any of us will make much money in the coming climate of change.

THE FUTURE FOR WRITERS?

It's been many years since most authors have supported themselves through their words, and this will not improve.

Publishing in its usual heedless manner will use the authors' profits as a means to bolster its own bottom line as the distributors suck the publisher dry.

As history has proven, most readers will be more concerned with their own time and money than the future of writers and publishing so they will continue to frequent Amazon, one stop online digital providers, and the box stores for their reading.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Write if it's a joy, work hard toward whatever goal you have for success in your writing career, educate yourself on the business, and plan for your future as if you won't see much income coming from that writing.

Don't trade your life for writing dreams. It will be a bitter and uneven trade even if you succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

And do dream. It's what makes you the unique writer and person you are.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Part Seven

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 7

HOW DO THE READER AND THE WRITER FIGHT BACK?

The reader is the writer's best friend. If the writer educates her readers about the publishing business, the reader will help the writer fight back.

Here is the "Book Biz 101" fact sheet, I share with readers.


•Thank the bookstore manager for carrying the kinds of books you like.

•If you can't find a book, ask the bookstore to special order it for you. If enough people do this, they'll order the author's next book.

•Don't pass around new books to friends. A bookstore and the publisher can only tell how popular a book is by the number of copies sold. If you share your one book with six friends, the publisher and the bookstore won't know this. Get those six friends to buy the book themselves. And give good books good word of mouth so others will buy it!

•Buy the book new, not used. If you buy the book used, you won't be counted as a reader. It costs more money, but you will insure that more books like it will be printed.

In the days before the paranormal romance became popular, a used bookstore owner told me that the average paranormal romance was traded at least 10 times before it disintegrated. It rarely stayed in the store more than a few hours because readers were on waiting lists for these books. The readers said they couldn't find the books anywhere but at the used bookstore, and the regular bookstore said no one wanted to buy these books so fewer books were sold new, and fewer books were published. A very vicious cycle.

•Don't take a book to the used bookstore until it is no longer on the bookstore shelves. Two to three months from the time you buy it is a good rule of thumb.

•Paperback books without their covers are stolen books. Tell the person at the flea market or used bookstore that it's illegal to sell and show them the legal note to this effect at the front of the book. If you continue to see books like this sold, send a letter to the publisher and tell them.

•If you absolutely must choose two books, one new and one used, buy the "name" author used and the unknown author new. The name author can survive a few used books, the new author may never sell another story because her first book sold poorly.

•If you see an electronic version of a copyrighted novel available for free at some website or on a newsgroup, contact the publisher or author immediately and tell them. Not only is this illegal, but it is the financial murder of your favorite authors and the end of the kind of books you love.

•If you like a book or a publisher's line, write the publisher and tell them. (The publisher's address is in the front of the book.) The people who usually write are the ones who don't like that kind of book. In your letter, tell the publisher how many books a month you buy. If you are a younger reader, tell the publisher that you'll want to read these books for a long time, and you recommend them to your friends.

A fan letter to the author also works.

Authors remember to send copies of these letters to your editor and agent!

•If you hear a line is closing, write the publisher and complain. Don't let that vampire or sf romance go gently into the good night without a hardy complaint or indignant werewolf howl of unhappiness.

•Buy books from the small presses and e-publishers who are publishing the kinds of books you like. Continue to buy from these small publishers when the major publishers move into this market to keep the small publisher alive. Major publishers are notoriously fickle about remaining in certain markets.

•It may be simpler to buy all your books at Amazon or Fictionwise, but you can often save money by buying directly from the publisher's site. At most epublisher sites, the author makes a higher percentage of the sale.

Amazon is trashing the publishing industry and its authors because the buyers have given them that power. Take it away by spending your money elsewhere.

•Buy from local independent bookstores.

~*~

Tomorrow, I'll finish this series with some educated guesses about what the near and far future will bring to publishing and bookselling.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Part Six

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 6

WHAT ABOUT EPUBLISHING?

Right now, few authors can make a living at epublishing. Even erotica, the growth industry of epublishing, no longer pays the bills as it once did.

The market has become glutted with books from other small publishers, and the major publishers have moved into the market in ebook and paper formats.

Venues for ebooks like Fictionwise are currently being glutted with backlist from major publishers so that unknown authors can sink in a sea of books quite fast. Romance is particularly prone to this.

The authors who are successful in epublishing are prolific, produce quality books of one kind so they build their sales through backlist and loyal readers, and they market constantly to sell that first book to new readers.

Of course, this is the primary survival means in paper book publishing for most authors right now.

~*~

Tomorrow, I'll suggest ways that readers and writers can fight to save the books they love.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Part Five

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 5

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

For authors, in the short term, all the news is bad unless you are already a "name" author. Midlist paper books are disappearing in bookstores and box stores.

According to my writing friends, a novel at Walmart accounted for almost thirty percent of all their books sold. Now, their books aren't available there. Their publishers are also losing out on those extra sales.

With bookstores also taking fewer titles in a publisher's line each month, some titles are available nowhere but a few independent booksellers and online.

If already established bestselling authors are the only ones sold at the major venues, where and how can an author build an audience big enough to join this exclusive club?

With most of the time and expense of promotion falling on the author's shoulders, how will the author manage financially? How will the author be able to produce the number of books needed yearly to grow their audience?

For publishers, if they can't find many places to sell that month's entire line of books, what can they do?

Do they drop most of their authors and only print "names?"

Where do they grow their talent to add to that list of names?

Do they start a farm system similar to major league baseball where new authors rise up through the ranks via ebooks?

Do they only recruit authors already building a name with small publishers?

I imagine we'll see a number of different "solutions" to these questions as authors and publishers try to survive this new hostile environment to selling books.

WHITHER READERS?

Any solution to this problem depends on what the readers will do.

Will readers be willing to only buy the name authors they see at Walmart and other places where they usually shop, or will they start depending on physical bookstores?

Will they be willing to buy online?

If they can't get paper books, will they move to ebooks?

If history is any indication, a majority will stop buying paper books. When science fiction disappeared from those dimestore racks years ago, the market plummeted, and the market has been rebuilding ever since.

On the other hand, when readers discovered erotica which was almost exclusively available as ebooks, the market expanded to the point that publishers like Ellora's Cave became multimillion dollar companies, and authors made money envied by their paper-published contemporaries.

Readers of erotica and romance are voracious readers, though, and smaller markets like science fiction haven't had the same online success even proportional to the number of readers of paper books.

Those of us who love to read and write can hope others will follow us online and into digital format, and I imagine some will, but will the numbers be enough to support the publishers and the authors?

No one can guess.

~*~

In Part Six of this series, I'll discuss the role of epublishing in publishing.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Part Four

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 4

AMAZON, THE 900 POUND GORILLA

Some writers see Amazon as the writer's and reader's friend, but, increasingly, Amazon is showing its ugly profit-is-everything nature.

The used book shown with the new book in search results is one example of this. Amazon makes more profit by acting as middleman for used booksellers than it does by selling new books.

Amazon's current attempt to force publishers to use their POD provider is an even more frightening example of its methods.

In recent years, as bookstores have carried fewer books from big publishers and almost none of the small publishers, Amazon has been seen as the even playing field by many writers and publishers. If you had a book to sell, Amazon was there to sell it.

A few years back, Amazon made it much harder for small press to sell on Amazon, and some publishers went out of business.

Now, Amazon is tightening their grip on the smaller publishers by telling them they have to use Amazon-owned Booksurge for POD.

Amazon's contract says that Amazon will control the price of the book sold, its price cannot be lowered at any other venue including the publisher's site, and it will control the look of the book and its quality.

For the right to have a "buy now" on their books, publishers will be at the whim of Amazon in most aspects of their product.

With Amazon moving aggressively into epublishing with the Kindle, publishers may lose all control of their product if they knuckle under to these tactics.

Amazon justifies all this as a means to make it simpler for them to ship books all at once, but they don't say that POD books printed through Ingram's Lightning Source and other POD providers are shipped the same day with the Amazon label attached so the buyer can't tell who has printed it or shipped it.

For complete details on this situation and the class action lawsuit by some small publishers against Amazon, go here http://antitrust.booklocker.com/

Only small press is the victim of this current Amazon contract stipulation right now, but, if the publishing industry doesn't stand firm against it, the Amazon gorilla will squash the rest of the publishing industry.

Now, on to my guesses on what all this means.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Part Three

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 3

Continuing my overview of what has happened in recent months.

EBOOKS

Ebooks are as much a part of the publishing scene these days as paper books. Most genre publishers offer the ebook version at the same time as the paper book, and backlist is being converted to ebooks at an incredible rate.

Ebooks continue to be the primary route of distribution for smaller publishers.

Most of the major book distributors have their own ebook distribution system, and Amazon is using its ebook reader, the Kindle, to make it as much a leader in ebook distribution as paper book distribution.

Ebooks are the primary growth area right now for most publishers, but the so-called "tipping point" in their popularity hasn't been reached according to most pundits.

USED BOOKS

Used book sales are a profit hemorrhage in the publishing industry.

The publisher and the author make nothing on used books so the industry is being starved by used book sales. This is a particular hardship for authors who don't have as diversified a number of titles as the publisher does.

This means that the author makes little money, the publisher loses sales on that author, and the author is less likely to sell another book to that publisher.

In other words, the big publisher and name authors with lots of backlist like Nora Roberts are hurt by used book sales, but the smaller authors and small publishers can be killed because they lose more than they gain.

Publishing is like investing, the more diversified you are, the better the chance for survival and profit.

The Internet has made used books an even greater problem because so many books can be found used.

The old belief that a buyer will choose new after discovering a new author through a used book is less true because it is so easy to find a used book within hours or less of the book hitting the physical shelves. Some books, courtesy of book clubs and advanced review copies, can be found used weeks or months before they hit the shelves.
~*~

Tomorrow, I'll continue my overview by talking about Amazon's less than stellar behavior toward authors and publishers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 2

Continuing my overview of what has happened in recent months.

ONLINE MARKETS

Amazon remains the Godzilla of online book sales in both new and used books while Barnes & Noble online, etc., eat the crumbs.

Amazon gives readers an incredible selection of books not found in brick and mortar stores so they are the place to go for serious readers. A month's entire line of books by most publishers is available at Amazon, and their search functions as well as their Listmania and "if you like this book, you'll like that book" features, and reader blogs help readers find books and authors they won't find elsewhere.

Used book sites like Alibris are a major force in book buying as readers search for bargains, and Amazon displays the used book right beside the new book in their search results.


PRINT ON DEMAND BOOKS

Most major publishers do large print runs of their titles and store the books to sell through bookstores, etc.

A large print run requires a large expense up front in the printing followed by the cost of storing and moving inventory. For massmarket (standard-sized paperbacks), books not sold at the bookstore have their cover ripped off and returned while the book itself goes into the landfill. The publisher pays for the shipping in both directions.

Obviously, this is a serious waste of money and resources, but the bookstores and publishers seem addicted to this model.

In recent years, print on demand books (POD) are becoming an important part of the paper book process.

POD books are printed, one at a time, to order and shipped to the store or the buyer. Large publishers use POD for backlist, and small publishers and individuals who can't afford large print runs also use it.

Recently, a major publisher used POD to catch up on unexpectedly high demand of a nonfiction title.

Most of the major book distributors have their own POD company as does Amazon.

~*~

Tomorrow, I'll continue my overview by discussing ebooks and used books.

REMINDER: If you'd like to receive a copy of my blog via email, join my yahoogroup newsletter by sending a blank email to ByerlyWriting-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 1

Today, I'm starting a short series of blogs on the state of publishing and bookselling and how that affects writers and readers. I'm focusing on genre novels.

Sources for the information I'm using include "Publishers Weekly," "Shelf Awareness," "Publisher's Lunch," and various professional trade blogs.

My credentials: I'm a publishing news junkie of over thirty years, and a published author of over ten years.

First, an overview of what's happening in the business.

THE ECONOMY

Not surprisingly, the problems with the economy are hurting the sale of books. If it's a choice between food and gas or books, books are almost always the loser.

Even romance, which has always been considered an economy-proof genre, has struggled recently although it remains healthy with steady growth.

Readers are borrowing books at the library and buying used books. Neither venue is good for the author bottom line.

If a reader has a choice between a "name" favorite author and another author for a new book purchase, she will buy the name author. New authors' books tend to be bought used.

THE BOOKSTORES, CHAINS, AND BIG BOX STORES

The current trends in bookstores and other physical locations is more books by just a few authors.

Target and Walmart which sell large numbers of books have cut down the amount of books by around fifty percent in the last few years. The books added to the shelves each month are almost always that month's list leader -- the publisher's lead title for that month, and it's usually a name author.

They believe they make money by having more space taken up by more books by a few bestsellers than with a wider range of authors and books.

Meanwhile, the chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders are putting out more authors and titles, but they, too, no longer carry most of that month's books by the major publishers.

Borders has started a series of concept stores which display books cover forward. So far, they've seen an increase in sales although they have cut the number of titles displayed by thirty percent.

Independent stores are dying at an alarming rate, and those which remain often keep themselves afloat by selling used books.

Still, a vast majority of all books sold are in brick and mortar stores.

In the next days, I'll cover online markets, print on demand, ebooks, and the problems with Amazon, then I'll discuss options for authors as well as the near and far future as publishing changes.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Too Stupid to Live?

Readers of romance use the term "too stupid to live" (TSTL) to describe
a character, usually the heroine, who does incredibly dumb things to
further the plot.  


These characters are equivalent to the scantily clad bimbo in a horror
movie who leaves a perfectly good locked house to wander around outside
bellowing, "Is anyone there?"


You're not sure if the heroine is too stupid to live?  Here are
some examples.


A heroine may be too-stupid-to-live if she




  • Doesn't change her locks or improve security after a serial
    killer breaks in her home and leaves a threatening note.  Nor does
    she consider staying elsewhere.

  • Sends her guards home after the so-far inept police decide they
    have captured the serial killer.

  • The heroine gets hot for the hero and does something about it
    when the bad guys are near.

  • The trained assassin is sneaking up on her professional bodyguard
    so the heroine, with no fighting training, attacks him herself rather
    than yelling a warning.

  • The "Full Moon Killer" is savaging locals.  The creepy guy
    next door reeks of Nair, wears flea collars, and buys large boxes of
    Milk Bones although he doesn't own a dog, but the heroine isn't
    suspicious because "werewolves don't exist."

  • The heroine has an entire troop of bad guys after her, but she
    doesn't call in reinforcements, seek help from the police, or tell the
    hero she's in trouble.  

  • She has the only copy of some incriminating documents, and she
    doesn't make copies, or put them in a safety deposit box in her
    bank.  Instead, she leaves them in her apartment.

  • The heroine's blind date drinks really red Bloody Marys, has a
    bad overbite, and stares at her jugular vein instead of her large
    boobs, but she isn't suspicious because "vampires don't exist."

  • The bad guy asks her to meet him to exchange the documents for
    the hero, and she goes without back up or a weapon.

  • Bad guys are after the heroine so she picks high heels instead of
    running shoes because she'd rather die than be unfashionable.

  • The heroine starts a verbal battle with the hero while they are
    trying to sneak up on the bad guys.



Do you have a great example of a TSTL heroine?  Please tell us.




REMINDER: Marilynn's Writing Course in August--

The Big Question: How to Create a Powerful Novel from a Few Ideas and One Big Question

Have you ever read a story then felt dissatisfied by it as you put it down? All the story elements--plot, characters, romance, and suspense--were there, but something was missing. That something is often called depth or resonance, and it’s that element that turns an ordinary story into one you couldn’t put down.

How do you create a story like that? It starts with the creation of the story. I’ll show you how to take a simple plot idea, premise, or character and turn it into a novel with resonance. For more information http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/thebigquestionwr.html

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mysteries and Thrillers, the state of the MARKET

The Sisters in Crime blog has an interesting four-part series on the state of the mystery/thriller market. The writers visited a number of major publishers, agents, and publicists and asked questions about the markets and how to promote and build a career.

Most of the information is about the mystery/thriller market, but the blogs are well worth any writer's reading for the information about promotion and building careers.

The entries are in the final days of May.

Here's the link:

http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 19, 2008

Writers and Bad Weather

Are you, as a writer, ready for bad weather?

Preparing for bad weather can be as simple as having a storm alert radio that will cut on, if dangerous weather approaches, so you can shut down that computer before lightning fries it, then you can seek shelter. The storm alert radio also doesn't interfere with writing like a regular radio for those of us who like to work in quiet.

Is your computer plugged into an alternate power source (APS) so it won't be damaged or your current work lost if the power goes out?

Most alternate power source makers claim an APS with a surge protector will protect your computer and peripherals from lightning, but nothing will protect electronics from a close lightning hit. A good friend lost everything when lightning hit a transformer over a block away, and he had high-end surge protectors and an APS system.

The safest thing to do is unplug everything, including the APS.

Also remember to unplug your modem from the electricity and your computer. Dial-up modems are particularly prone to lightning. A cable modem is supposed to be much safer, but I err on the side of paranoia and unplug mine.

If you have a laptop as well as a desktop, you need to keep it charged then unplug it, as well, when a storm comes. If you want to keep working through bad weather, remember to save a copy of your work to a flash disk, floppy, or whatever to move your work to your laptop so you can continue to work.

Weather preparation isn't just for a short summer or winter storm. It's for major disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and wild fires. Always have a back-up copy of all your works in another location, or, better yet, several locations.

In the days before I wrote by computer, I had paper copies of my books at my home, my mom's beach house and my brother's house near Charlotte. Despite being in different parts of the state, all three homes were damaged by Hurricane Hugo, but the manuscripts stayed safe. That experience has reaffirmed my determination to keep copies of my manuscripts and important papers elsewhere.

These days, I also keep a flash disk copy of my books in my safety deposit box at the bank so I can keep my updates recent. A flash disk or drive, if you're not familiar with the term, is one of those storage units you plug directly into your USB or Firewire connection on your computer or iPod.

It's always a good idea to have an emergency bag or briefcase for your writing partially packed and ready to go in case you need to get out fast because of an approaching hurricane or wild fire. Things to keep in this bag include a power plug for your laptop and an updated flash drive. Also include copies of current book contracts as well as notes, etc., of what you are working with at the time.

This bag is also a good place to store that copy of your house and car insurance, pictures of your valuables, etc., in case disaster strikes. Also include a CD with copies of your favorite family pictures, etc., in case the worst happens, and there's no home to return to.

Make a list of the last minute things you will need to pack and stick that in the front of the bag. When emergencies happen, we tend to forget the most basic things so that list will be well worth the time.

NOTE: Do you have emergency suggestions for other writers? Please let us know.