This prize award is dedicated to all bloggers, both big and small, who toil and labor over their precious piece of web space, regardless to whether they attract a million viewers or just one or two. Much praise goes out to those who find success and riches through their internet activity, but a special thanks is in store for those who do this on a daily, weekly or monthly basis just to communicate and throw in their two cents worth.
Best Piece of Writing Advice Yet (from the venerable Mark Twain) “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Nothing could be more simple, right?
Today’s look around the internet includes more on Amazon-Hatchette, words from a black screenwriter and a bunch of Tom Swifties.
Does Anybody remember Boyz in the Hood?
“Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.” Oscar-nominated writer/director John Singleton(Boyz in the Hood
The title definitely caught my eye when the film first came out in 1991, but I never got around to watching the movie (on DVD) till a few years ago. I must say I enjoyed the show immensely. It’s a great coming of age story about a tight-knit group of black teenagers trying to cope with the urban, drug-infested neighborhood that they find themselves thrust into.
The amazing thing about this film is that Singleton wrote the screenplay and landed the director’s spot just a year or two after he graduated from UCLA film school. I can’t imagine anything like this happening today, even though they are more opportunities out there and internet sites like the Black List have made Hollywood more accessible. Do it yourself is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
This Hatchette-Amazon Thing Drags On
“Consider the French Revolution. A bunch of blue bloods really thought they were born to rule, and the peasants couldn’t live without them to govern. They were wrong.” Joe Konrath
Mr. Konrath continues his defense of ebook publishing and self-publishing with this timely rage against Author’s United. His assertion that the ebooks are radically changing the publishing world has been around for several years. Now that the Amazon-Hatchette feud dominates the literary conversation, Joe has gained more notoriety as the great defender of Amazon and the new reality of cheap ebooks. No different than the rise of paperbacks right after WWII or the emergence of DVD discs and the consequent demise of VHS tapes, ebooks are here to stay. Check out his blog…….even if don’t agree his opinions you may the argument compelling.
Today, and especially the last month in particular, has been a news junkie’s delight. With major historical events occurring in Iraq, Syria, West Africa, the Ukraine, the U.S. and most recently the British Isles, there is a lot of conflict in the world, capable of fueling the various news outlets for a long time. This situation is great for journalists, newscasters, filmmakers, commentators and political pundits. It is also a rich resource for novelists, comedians, short story writers, screenwriters and playwrights…….. but in a different way. The following quotes mostly ignores all the world troubles and instead is drawn from the rich world of writers commenting on their craft. Hope you enjoy this Sunday’s selection.
P.S. Each quote is supplied with a link to the appropriate blog.
1. “A lot of people think I had such a rosy career, but I wanted to identify that one of the things that helps you have a long career is learning how to deal with adversity, how to get past it.” 19-time All-Star baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr.
6. “but if you can find the time to write a number of days or nights a week, even if it’s just five hundred words – that process will help free up your subconscious. And that’s where so many good ideas come from, so many good characters, so many good connections between characters, so many great plot ideas.”writing advice from Thomas Keneally
7. “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.“ by Flannery O’Connor
8. “Simple words can become clever phrases
And chapters could turn into books
If I could just get in on paper
But it’s harder that it ever looks If I could Just Get It on Paper Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett
And as an extra bonus here is a simple outline on how to write a good ghost story. With all the killing and dying that is going on these days, this might be especially good advice for aspiring writers.
Well, the basic plot of a ghost story goes something like this:
As the Amazon-Hachette stand-off continues, it appears the party most being hurt are the authors. Amazon and Hachette aren’t doing too well either, yet still there is no clear signal as to how long this dispute will last or how things will turn out, when the issues finally get resolved. From my viewpoint, which definitely, leans towards Amazon, it looks like ebook sales will continue to grow and that more authors will pursue the ebook as the primary venue for their creative literary efforts. This will include newbie authors as well as writers previously published with both small and large print presses. High profile best-selling authors will continue to see most of their sales come through the retailing of paperback books, which probably predisposes these guys and gals away from the growing ebook market.
How It Used To Be
The conclusion of World War II and the return of the American G.I. to the U.S., lead to many books being published by authors, who in the past may have found a harder road to publication. War seen through the first person had always been prevalent in literature (i.e. The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet On the Western Front ), but there seemed to an outpouring of books about the “Big One.” The war experience launched such notable writers as Norman Mailer, James Michener, Elie Wiesel, Kurt Vonnegut and Ernest Hemingway (Spanish Civil War). Unfortunately, the publicationof war stories has not been discontinued as we roll into the 21st century, for armed conflict around the world has not abated by any means. In fact, it is quite possible that they have increased. However, the point here is that in the 40s and 50s, editors and publishers were not overwhelmed by large numbers of ambitious and talented writers, like they are today.
Manchild In the Promised Land
In 1965 Macmillan & Co. published Claude Brown’s street-tough classic, Manchild In the Promised Land. Though Claude Brown grew up among Harlem hoodlums, he was able to turn his life around and complete a memoir about his troubled NYC youth in upper Manhattan. The book was discovered in the slush pile by an astute NYC editor and eventually went on to sell four million copies and was also translated into 14 languages. At time of publication Mr. Brown was working as a mail carrier, but would begin a lecturing career that lasted a lifetime once the book became successful. Claude Brown also introduced Toni Morrison to his editor, who also became a major catalyst with her literary success.
Trying To Get A Handle On Today’s Literary Scene
Things are definitely changing today. Books are still being printed and read, but the onset of ebooks has definitely leveled the playing field somewhat. Many of the old authors despise the new format. One of the most notables was the late Ray Bradbury, who recently said this about ebooks:
“Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell.”
Despite these words, Mr. Bradbury succumbed to the evils of ebooks before he passed away. However, writers facing the challenge of first-time publication are presented with a whole set of different problems than Ray Bradbury, when he first came of age as a author at the end of WWII. Since mainline publishers are more and more interested in mass market genre titles and less so in literary fiction, contemporary authors cannot necessarily rely on the proverbial slush pile for their success, even though it is still a viable option for some. Instead networking, visibility on social networks, blogging, self-publishing and plain old perseverance all play an important part in getting the story out.
P.S. Thanks goes out to Alan Rinzler at The Book Deal for the inspiration for this blog. Alan is the editor who discovered Claude Brown and was consequently introduced to Toni Morrison, who went on to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Overview In the very near future a group of writers, calling themselves Authors United, will place an ad in the NY Times addressing the dispute between Amazon and Hachette, Beware folks, for this little episode is about to get a whole bunch bigger. I’m not quite sure when the ad will appear, but you can bet your bottom dollar, that when it does, stakes will be raised dramatically on both sides. In the mean time here’s a short list of literary personalities and author organizations that are sounding off on the issue in question.
Amazon is the giant online retailer that sells anything from computers and cell phones to baby dolls. Currently, they are locked in a debate with Hachette over the prices of ebooks that are published by Hachette and sold by Amazon. Basically, Amazon wants lower retail prices, while Hachette doesn’t.
Douglas Preston is a popular horror and techno-thriller author, who has organized writers in support of Hachette in their feud with Amazon.
Stephen Colbert Stephen Colbert is the host of the Colbert Report, a popular program of political satire on Comedy Central (and successful Hachette author). Stephen has also been selected by CBS to replace Dave Letterman as host of the Late Show, when David retires next year. Colbert jumped into this debate big time, (aided by Native American author Sherman Alexie) by symbolically giving Amazon the finger, not once, but twice on the Colbert Report.
Authors United is an offshoot from an effort by Douglas Preston to get Amazon.com to help out authors during Amazon’s dispute with Hachette. In June (2014) Preston circulated a letter that was signed by several hundred writers that demanded that Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) stop hurting authors during the company’s economic feud with the Big Five Publisher. Literary luminaries who have signed on with this group include James Patterson, Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros, J.K. Rowling and Lee Child. About 80 of these writers have come together and purchased a NY Times full page ad, supporting their position. The ad will probably appear in late July or early August of 2014. Just a run-through of the signees will show who is making big bucks in today’s literary world.
J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, may be the one author, who has been most damaged by the literary stand-off. That is because her new Hachette release, Silkworm, has fallen right in the middle of this debate, causing a serious decline in online sales and orders.
The Authors Guild is a literary organization with 18,000 members that tends to support Big Five or Legacy published authors. This group along with SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), The Tony Hillerman’s Writers Conference and the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust have supported the Hatchette position.
Not everyone in the writing community supports the Big Five publisher, Hachette. In fact, most writers, who have had any kind of online success with ebooks tend to favor Amazon. That’s because Amazon sell ebooks (lots of them in fact) and pays its authors a high royalty. Highly visible among this group is JA Konrath a mystery and crime writer, who has seen his sales soar, as an ebook writer. Interested parties can follow the debate through Joe’s eyes at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.
Hugh Howey If you haven’t heard of Hugh Howey, then the best way to describe this writer might be as the James Patterson of electronic authorship. And not surprisingly he has been a staunch defender of self-publishing ebooks with Amazon or other online venues. Recently, Hugh wrote and self-published a short story called Wool. This sci-fi tale has morphed into a successful screenplay, online book and series, making the writer a very wealthy man in the process.
If you think the financially affluent writing community is really sticking it to the struggling, under-published author (like I do), you might want to hang onto your horses for a minute or two. For Amazon has just released another publishing bombshell on the literary world. This juggernaut is called Kindle Unlimited and though it’s a bit too soon to know for sure, this Amazon project could turn into the “Netflix” for ebooks…….not a great scenario for mid-list and low-list authors.
The issue is not exactly a new one, for the debate between Amazon and Hachette has been around for a while. There was even a Department of Justice settlement recently awarded to Amazon, after they determined that Apple, along with four book publishers (including Hatchette) were found guilty of colluding with Apple to set ebook prices. Incidentally, this was one of the biggest anti-trust lawsuits ever brought by US federal authorities. Since that decision, Amazon and Hatchetet are now undergoing negotiations to work out ebook prices for books sold by Amazon. At issue here is who determines the price of the ebook, Hatchette, Amazon or some combination of the two. During negotiations Amazon has removed pre-order buttons from all soon-to-be-released Hatchette books and is reportedly delaying shipment of all hard copy books published by Hatchette.
Everybody who’s anybody in the publishing world has been sounding off on this feud, which may be destined to determine how much readers will pay for ebooks at Amazon.com. James Patterson, a Hatchette author and one of the most most successful authors in the world, is down on Amazon, as is Steve Colbert, another large-selling Hatchette author, who also stars in the Comedy Central hit, the Colbert report. On a recent episode of the award-winning show, Colbert joined forces with Sherman Alexie to totally trash Amazon’s dispute with Hatchette. Mr. Colbert even goes as far as to call for a boycott of Amazon. Others supporting Hatchette include John Green, JK Rowling and the AAR (Association of Author’s Representatives).
The Battle of Fingers
When I first read about the ensuing conflict on JA Konrath’s popular blog ( A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing) I was a bit dismayed by his visual display of his middle finger. At the time it just seemed like a lot of arrogance, displayed by a successful Amazon author, who makes over a thousand dollars a day. That was until I viewed an online video of the Colbert Report, where a distraught Mr. Colbert uses the middle appendage of his right hand to stick it to Amazon. I guess dueling it out with middle fingers is a lot better than using pistols at twenty paces, but still, there seems to be a lot of room for improving how one expresses themselve.
Not everybody is jumping to the defense of Hatchette. One of the most adamant Amazon supporters is JA Konrath. You can read his rant and check out his middle finger to Colbert, here. Other interesting opinions have been expressed at the Huffington Post, the Washington Post (also owned by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos,) and the Slate.
Not Yet Ready For Prime Time
One of the most surprising and disgusting outcomes of this whole episode is the veracity with which Steve Colbert has defended his own publisher. It is hard for me to believe that soon this guy will have be hosting one of the major night talk shows at CBS. This not bode well for the health of our national TV industry or our political discourse.
Unfortunately, most of Hatchette’s biggest defenders have been those who make the most money with their writing. Sometimes it seems like the 1% analogy that permeates our current political discussion has trickled down to the literary world. In recent years, breaking into paper publishing has gotten more difficult, even though the Big Five are finding it more difficult to make money or just survive. For mid-list and low-list writers who depend on ebook sales for this livelihood this dispute is most unwelcome. Despite its size and aggressive business practices, Amazon provides much-needed income to writers, who would receive next to nil, if ebook sales didn’t exist. Presently, I see the various ebook markets as a way in which unrecognized writers can find a voice in the world.
One much-needed beneficiary of this running debate are the independent booksellers, who are presently seeing a surge in their tree book sales.
I thought I was not having a very good day until I saw the mug shot of Greg Jarrett, the Fox news anchor, who got arrested in the Twin Cities airport. His picture wasn’t so bad, but Huffington Post decided to add a little insult with a slide show of Bad Mug Shots. Sad as some of them were, I did manage a robust chuckle, at viewing other peoples’ misery. Maybe Mr. Jarrett should check out some of these mug shots. It might make him feel a little bit better, but I bet he’s got a hell of a hangover this morning and most likely doesn’t feel like doing too much. I guess this whole story is a little bit like reading the newspaper to see if your name is in the obituary.
The other day I visited one of the more popular writer/bloggers, Jeff Goins. And to my surprise Mr. Goins had transcribed his post to an audio podcast. I clicked on it and about five minutes later I heard a strange voice come trailing out of my computer, describing the three steps to launching a writing career and also extolling the virtues of being a writer.
What this little episode underscores…… is that it just got a whole lot easier to convert your short story or novella to an audio podcast and then market the recording along with your ebook and /or tree book. The company that is spearheading this movement is called ACX. To learn more about creating your own audiobook, you can visit Joanna Penn’s informative post.
Another option for budding and energetic authors is to create a slide show describing and detailing your book. Nowadays online slide shows are routinely employed by large, popular websites such as Huntington Post, Yahoo and CNN. Now there is a startup company (it’s called Slideshare) that can help you put together your own slide show. Fortunately they also have a large website where you can post you series of pictures and hopefully direct visitors to your ebook or whatever. This site is called Slideshare and if you want more info, again go to one of Joanna’s posts to learn more.
It’s Still All About the Writing
If you’re serious about your writing, who has the time to deal with all alternative ways of promoting and selling your story. Both Slideshare and ACX seem like they could be of great benefit to the indie writer/self-publisher. The only problem is that each venue requires a learning curve and a level of involvement that would exhaust the average writer. The only solution here is to recruit a small circle of talented artisans who can help you get your story out……..Writing just ain’t what it used to be.
What’s Up With Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select Program?
Kindle’s Direct Publishing Select seems to be gaining popularity with a growing number of authors and more importantly…..also with readers. However, it should be noted that various publishing companies and some literary agents do not share the same opinions. Following is a quick glimpse at a few writers who have opted for participation in the Amazon e-book program and how they have done with their literary titles.
Submitting to Curtis Brown
As a literary agent for Curtis Brown LTD, Nathan Bransford developed one of the most widely read literary blogs around. Large numbers of prospective authors followed followed his timely remarks and comments, hoping to obtain the right piece of advice that would propel them into the fast lane of literary success. I was one of those people and I even went as far as to submit a query letter concerning a completed manuscript. All I got was a “Not For Me” rejection, but the general insight on the submission process that he provided was most helpful. This was information published on his blog that could be read by everybody.
From Literary Agent To Sub-published Author
While a literary agent, Nathan began publishing his Jacob Wonderbar series of sci-fi space travels aimed for younger readers. Not long after Mr. Bransford left the West Coast agency and took a job writing for CNET. He still writes the Wonderbar books and blogs as an author instead of an literary agent. As a result his posts are less frequent but still very informative. The development that has caught my eye was a recent announcement that he is writing a novel which will be self-published in the near future. This is a most interesting turn of events that illustrates how quickly digital self-publishing is making inroads into the mainstream publishing world. This is just one example, but I think it shows how important digital e-publishing is becoming to authors.
Kickstarter is a recent innovation on the internet that allows individuals and groups to raise funds online for a variety of artistic projects, that includes books, short films, movies, art exhibitions, magazines, installations and none of the above. Once described as the people’s NEA, Kickstarter was started in 2009 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler. Kickstarter begins when a particular project is approved by the site. Then a fundraising period is allowed, usually 30 days, where the proposal is displayed online so individuals can give to the project. If the project reaches its goals, then the money is turned over to the artist. If not the funds go back to those that gave the money. Kick starter’s success rate is very impressive as is the annual total amount raised for the various projects. In 2011, approximately 46% of Kickstarter’s projects were approved, generating just over 99 million dollars in the process.
One Writer’s Experience
In March 2011 one writer, Nathan Bransford, wrote a lengthy blog about his successful Kickstarter experience. Nathan is a published author, who at one time was also an active literary agent. His blog is one of the most widely read in the online writing/publishing community. Nonetheless, he decided to publish a series of five novellas on his own as e-books. Instead of doing the work himself, he would farm out the book conversion, covers and editing. For this he allowed 2,000 dollars. After approval he made a video about the project and listed awards for various levels of donations. Once the project went public on the internet, Nathan quickly raised over $5,000 dollars. The project was financed and Mr. Bransford was allowed to keep the extra, minus the Kickstarter 5% commission. Not bad for a small project, but it is very important to note that Nathan Bransford has a huge online following.
One Very Innovative Idea
Since I have applied for Kickstarter funding, (my project was approved but never submitted for funding) I often receive e-mails from the organization concerning approved projects that the kickstarter staff really likes. Recently one such project really caught my eye. It was a design for a low cost wind-powered mine detonator. Inspired by a news story about ten Afghani girls who died in one mine explosion, while gathering firewood, the inventor, a man named Massoud Hassani invented a mine detonator that moves across the desert landscape of Afghanistan using wind power as an energy source. Here is a link to his project page on kickstarter and an image of his invention in a desert setting. So far Moussoud has raised over half of the 100,000 Euros that he has requested. Hopefully. he will realize his goal before the time expires.
The above quotation comes from John Adams in the play entitled,1776. This ear-catching quote appeared on Michael Larsen’s blog, yesterday in regards to the Fourth of July. If you have not heard of Michael Larsen, he is a highly regarded literary agent with the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. I am particularly fond of this small organization because one of the agents asked for a partial on my novel. Unfortunately, all I got was a form letter rejection after I sent the written material, but that was enough to endear me to the agency.
In case you haven’t heard of 1776, it is a Broadway musical that ran for over a thousand performances beginning in 1969. The show also received a few Tony nominations and awards. Today, it is kind of hard to imagine guys like Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson singing in unison, but perhaps forty years ago this made more sense. Also of note the quotation seems so 20th century and in fact upon doing some preliminary research, I could not find any such collection of words attributed to the famous patriot. Still, the words make for interesting banter on this summertime holiday.
Quotes From Movies, Plays and Musicals
Still, the quote from the New York show got me looking around to see what other quotes I could gather up from the make-believe world of theatrical performances. Following are some of my favorites.
“I’m the only “cause” I’m interested in.” Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca
“I once asked a literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said, “Ransom notes.” – Gene Hackman as Harry Zimm in Get Shorty
“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “ Yoda in Star Wars
“I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.” Marlo Brando, as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront
And here’s another one from Rick in Casablanca, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Hope you enjoyed these and have a great Fourth of July weekend, which doesn’t really get started until Friday.