Table of Contents
- Archway: Vanity Pressed
- Backlists: Pardon Me, Those Are Now My Rights
- Social Media: ‘Gamification is bullshit. Stop it.’
- FutureBook 2012: Sticking One’s Head in the Substrate
- More Confabs: Best Prices Going…Going…
- Fresh Roguery: Now Taking Submissions
- Cutesy Name Alert: booxl
- Craft: Controlling Your Brand
- Craft: Don’t Sell the Garret Just Yet
- Books: Reading on the Ether
- Last Gas: Agent Me, My Love
It’s not an exaggeration to say that, right now, Author Solutions (ASI) is the most hated name in the self-publishing services world… ASI is the only self-pub service provider about which we get regular complaints.
Just when you thought we were putting that old term “vanity” to rest.
First, a question for Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy: Is it conceivable that you didn’t know what literary-scam watchdog Victoria Strauss is saying?
Strauss’ headline is not a screamer. Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division.
But louder fare is certainly available:
Part of the insult, of course, is that the author community protested in July when Penguin bought Author Solutions Inc. (ASI).
But less than six months after the announcement of that $116 million deal, it appears that another Big Six-Soon-To-Be-Five-Maybe-Four publisher either remembers none of that or simply doesn’t care what writers think or say. And while talking about “help” for writers.
As Strauss’ post opens:
Well, it’s happened again. Another traditional publisher has added a pay-to-play “division.”
Second question for Reidy: Might it not be better to anticipate the creative community’s predictable unhappy surprise and frustration at this latest deal and prepare some comments that recognize and respond to your critics’ points?
This seeming disregard for the sentiments of the people on whom Simon & Schuster and other publishers are dependent — the authors — is easily one of the ugliest elements of the story. As Strauss asks:
Could S&S…not have chosen a more complaint-free service provider–or, even, created the service themselves? You’ve got to at least give the much-reviled Book Country props for that.
— Jon Slack (@JonSlack) November 29, 2012
Strauss’ podium, Writer Beware, is the “public face,” as the blog site phrases it, “of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams,” with additional sponsorship from the Mystery Writers of America.
This is a legitimate, reputable effort dedicated to the protection of authors from scams, and there are many. What’s more, Strauss and Writer Beware aren’t blindly aligned to the self-publishing world by any means. In an aside, Strauss writes:
I can’t help but roll my eyes when self-publishing advocates condemn traditional publishers for an outdated business model, yet get morally outraged when they actually change the model.
— Janna Shay (@JannaShay) November 29, 2012
And yet there seems little hope that Reidy or other S&S figures might respond even to the measured, rational concerns of Writer Beware, let alone to those of the wider community. As is all too damningly usual, the major-publisher silence descends over the event, a crushing curtain of apparent disdain seems to prevail at Simon & Schuster for earnest, sensible, meaningful questions.
S&S, of course, is weathering uncertainty about its own status amid merger explorations with HarperCollins. Mike Shatzkin has produced a new piece on mergers, Peering into the future and seeing more value in the Random Penguin merger.
The world of publishing we’re going to see five or ten years from now will probably look quite different. Even if store sales only decline 10% a year against the industry total, what is a 60% share today will be about a third after five years have passed and below 20% in ten. Those are sales well worth having, of course, but they’ll be a lot more expensive to get. And if I were predicting rather than just speculating, I’d expect the erosion of retail sales to be a bit faster than that.
Shatzkin doesn’t deal with publisher-author relations around the merger issues in his piece. Perhaps he can do so in a forthcoming write. The ground has surely become either more fertile for such considerations by this S&S move — or salted by it.
But, as Laura Hazard Owen writes in Simon & Schuster launches self-publishing art with Author Solutions (emphasis mine):
Laura Hazard Owen
Archway is offering services like a “concierge” — “a dedicated publishing guide who will coordinate each step of the book production process” — and access to a speakers bureau. Archway titles will be included in the booksellers’ catalog Edelweiss. And Archway authors “will have the opportunity to create high-quality videos and book trailers for distribution” to the online video networks that Simon & Schuster works with, like Roku and Blinkx. Simon & Schuster is not hiring any staff; services like the “concierge” will be provided by Author Solutions.
Owen goes on to detail some comparison of this type of white-label setup to other self-publishing platforms.
Free self-publishing services, like Smashwords and Amazon’s KDP, focus on ebooks, while Author Solutions emphasizes print and retail distribution and has higher prices and lower ebook royalties. Archway’s “fiction” publishing package, for example, ranges in price from $1,999 to $14,999. That includes ebook distribution, but Archway authors can’t choose an ebook-only publishing option for now, though the company may add one later. Archway will pay an ebook royalty of 50 percent of net sales, so if an ebook is distributed to Kindle, for example, an Archway author would receive 50 percent of the sale minus Amazon’s 30 percent fee.
Wow. Another publisher reinforces the meme that they simply don’t understand the opportunity with self publishing. Now is the time that publishers need to show authors how they can add value to an author’s career. Becoming yet another blood sucking parasite is not the path forward for publishers. It runs completely counter to what the best publishers have always represented. Great publishers invest in authors, not exploit them. Money should flow from publisher to author, from book sales, and not from author to publisher. S&S will damage its brand with this.
Carolyn Reidy/Simon and Schuster have sold their souls to make a quick buck. Is it any wonder people are heartily…
— Jessica (@FutureGuardian) November 27, 2012
Should Coker be right that Simon & Schuster damages its brand with this move, the damage will have been done in an attempt to make Archway as non-S&S as possible.
The logo’s tagline “From Simon & Schuster” is potentially misleading. Archway is hired by Simon & Schuster and wholly operated by Author Solutions.
Which gives us a third question for Reidy: Do you not think it appears that S&S has bought a Penguin wing and left it in the Author Solutions kitchen?
— Sachka Sandra Duval (@RadioSachka) November 27, 2012
The S&S statement quotes Reidy saying:
“Through Archway Publishing, Simon & Schuster is pleased to be part of the rapidly expanding self-publishing segment of our industry…. We’re excited that we’ll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing.”
Simon & Schuster a “part of” self-publishing? Can this move possibly look like excitement about helping authors when the company is at pains to make it clear that S&S staff isn’t involved?
“While Simon & Schuster has provided guidance and helped develop the publishing packages and programs available through Archway Publishing, the actual services are provided by Author Solutions.”
That’s from Michael Cader’s writeup at Publishers Lunch.
He tells us in Simon & Schuster Pairs with Penguin’s Author Solutions for Archway Self-Publishing Service that the Archway name “was an S&S line of young adult paperbacks, which published lines including Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.”
So the Archway brand has been hauled out of mothballs, and even the pricing — which has struck many authors as unbelievably high — isn’t new, either. These are typical Author Solutions (ASI) prices. Cader:
Like the other publisher co-branded ASI offerings, Archway Publishing offers self-published authors premium-priced packages that start at $1,999 (and $1,599 for children’s book authors) and reach up to $25,000…(Nelson’s West Bow Press packages start at $999; Harlequin’s Dellarte’s services start at $599. Other publishing partners include Hay House, Writer’s Digest, and Guideposts.)
@rgay I love that "social media" is only available at that top tier. I mean, haha
— Sarah Weinman (@sarahw) November 27, 2012
Writers who are struggling to pay for the professional edits we all tell them they must invest in their self-published work are aghast at such country-club-memoir prices.
Gaughran in his “Rip Off Writers” post argues that “That price tag doesn’t include any real editing, just an assessment which – according to their own website – is ‘not a replacement’ for editorial services but ‘a preliminary diagnostic tool.’” Gaughran goes on:
But what if you need proper editing? Fear not! Simon & Schuster is here to help. For just $0.035 a word, you can have a thorough edit of your book. Which sounds cheap until you realize that a standard 80,000 word novel would cost you $2,800. So, in actual fact, the cheapest package, plus their edit, will set you back $4,799 for a standard length book.
Of course, when Gaughran writes “Simon & Schuster is here to help,” he’s being sarcastic. It’s neither Simon nor Schuster. It’s Author Solutions, as we know. And if you’d like to verify what Gaughran is saying about that $0.035 price per word on a line edit, here is the page for it on the Archway site.
- For content editing? $0.042 per word, and here is the page for that bit, ready for you to drop into your online “services cart.”
- For “content editing plus” — which is “ideal for manuscripts that need more work on sentence structure and grammar than basic Content Editing can provide,” ahem — the price jumps to $0.05 per word. A nickel a word. Gaughran’s 80,000-word book just added $4,000 to its “service cart.” Here’s that page.
- For “developmental editing plus” — let’s go the whole hog, shall we? — $0.085 per word. For our 80,000-word example? $6,800. Is it a novel? The copy on this page (I wonder how much they paid someone to edit it) informs us:
The editor will determine whether the content relates appropriately to the readership and genre. Plot, pace, characterization and dialog are also considered.
For $6,800, the editor should come to your home, cook your breakfast, walk your children, get your dog dressed for school, and operate your television’s remote control for you while doing that edit.
But this brings us to another question from the writing community, probably another query for Reidy: Who are the supposed writers who respond to such offers and pay so much for them?
S&S goes into self-publishing. I agree with most commentors that it may not be a good idea for them, reputatin wise: http://t.co/q3ozghd4
— jurgen snoeren (@jsnoeren) November 29, 2012
Obviously, not Ethernauts. In fact, customers of such offers, it seems safe to presume, are not people of the networked writing community, not authors whose days and nights are punctuated with online exchanges about the craft and the business, not readers of Strauss’ committee’s warnings, not conference-goers, not workshop wonks, not even readers of the bottomless pit of how-to writing guides.
No, the fear is that this is a “service” for ignorant dupes, hobbyists lured by the luster a name like Simon & Schuster might still hold outside this badly tarnished industry — and the company’s hints that it one’s Archwaylaid book might be snapped up by S&S for “real” publication. Strauss writes, referring to Author Solutions Inc. as ASI:
My problem is with how S&S and others have chosen to dabble in self-publishing–by choosing to work with a company that exploits authors through deceptive PR tactics, misleading rhetoric, and terrible customer service. ASI’s poor reputation is not a secret–it’s all over the Internet.
And in an interesting twist, the whole affair appears to be reviving a term that many in the self-publishing industry have worked hard to retire: vanity press.
In Why Simon & Schuster’s Archway Publishing Is Bad for Authors, romance and urban-fantasy author Nadia Lee re-invigorates the term “vanity publishing” as a category distinct from self-publishing. She writes, emphasis hers:
No matter how S&S tries its best to package it as “self-publishing” it is a vanity publishing venture, designed specifically to make profit by taking money from authors, not selling books to readers.
And she puts together this simple chart, questions and answers — no need for Reidy on these — to demonstrate what she now breaks out as three classifications: traditional publishing, vanity publishing, and self-publishing.
Cader at Publishers Lunch again, referring to Author Solutions Inc. as ASI:
As with the other publisher-affiliated lines, Archway dangles the prospect that ASI “will alert Simon & Schuster to Archway Publishing titles that perform well in the market.” S&S spokesman Adam Rothberg says they elected to work with ASI since “we thought they were the biggest and the best and have the most experience in offering this kind of hands-on publishing experience for authors.”
Awesome – Simon & Schuster set up a self-pub arm, and get themselves listed on Writers Beware. Smooth moves. http://t.co/r9C2slQj
— Steam Press (@steampress) November 29, 2012
The digitally enabled self-publishing movement is no longer “new” enough for anyone to say they didn’t know that thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of working writers would see a move like Archway as a slap in the face. And I mean no disrespect to Reidy or to Rothberg, whose statements of Simon & Schuster’s intent may be entirely earnest and and heartfelt.
But it’s impossible to imagine that the national writing community’s reactions to this couldn’t be foretold within minutes of easy research online. Nor is it easy to understand why, at a time when we need publishers and authors to find new accommodation for each other, a major like S&S would feel that this development was correct.
Three last questions for Reidy:
- Can there be so many customers at such prices that Archway can generate profits worth such hostility?
- Can S&S be so out of touch with its own industry as to have made such a move in good faith and without foreseeing backlash?
- And if you were an author watching all this unfold — if you were as-yet unpublished and trying to make sense of the industry’s upheavals — how would the Archway development look to you?
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In related reading: Kathleen Schmidt breaks down some of the publicity offerings of the Archway program in Buyer Beware. For example, there’s an add-on offered for $479. It’s a press release. Schmidt writes: In my experience, a pitch letter/e-mail is far more important than a printed press release. Why? Hardly anyone reads press materials. If you want a pitch letter written, shop around. Freelance publicists will give you a better price.
@Porter_Anderson The comments are all true.
— Kathleen Schmidt (@Bookgirl96) November 28, 2012
Starting in January, publishers face the loss of their backlists as authors begin using the Copyright Act to reclaim works they assigned years ago.
Jeff John Roberts at paidContent, seemingly the hardest working man not in show business, got this one out the other day, rather quietly. And in fact, that’s how most publishers seem to like it, he reports:
Publishers contacted for this story were reluctant to discuss termination rights and several sources said they want to deflect attention from it. That may not be possible for much longer.
It turns out that a lot of big authors may be able to reclaim their rights as the 1978 Copyright Act, Roberts writes, “allows authors to cut away any contract after 35 years. Congress put it in place to protect young artists who signed away future best sellers for a pittance.”
And in a disappointing note, Roberts reports that he found agents in disarray on this issue:
Several literary agents contacted for this story appeared to be unaware of how they worked or even of their existence. This is not true of copyright lawyers, some of whom are rubbing their hands at the prospect of a legal train wreck.
— Scholastic (@Scholastic) November 28, 2012
The reader is at the center of everything, and everyone is a reader.
A publisher’s organizational structure must support its business goals. If digital is where the growth is, that’s where the investments have to be made, and that’s where the skillsets need to be upgraded.
Being smarter than the average among us, Gonzalez knows that posting one’s slides from a good presentation can be more frustrating than helpful to someone trying to piece together what he had to say.
Understand biases, dig deeper, and take all pundits’ proclamations with a grain of salt.
So he has created a post, You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure: On Social Media & Publishing, to pull it together coherently.
Customer service is a critical aspect of social media; if you’re there, people expect a response and the “vocal minority” will take full advantage of your silence and/or corporate PR-speak. The “vocal minority” has an audience, too, sometimes bigger than yours.
It’s a quick and worthwhile read.
Publishing is based on relationships; always has been, always will. As such, everyone is a marketer.
All content should have a purpose, and there should always be more than one purpose for it.
Gonzalez maintains that “there’s a community for everything somewhere on the Internet” — something that should warm the tired soul of any author, publisher, editor, or agent trying to find a receptive crowd. “Any book worth publishing has an opportunity to find its audience.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
“Gamification” is bullshit. Stop it.
I have got to look into getting some kind of pomegranate fellowship.
— Charlie Loyd (@vruba) November 28, 2012
In London on Monday, the fifth annual doing of The Bookseller’s digital conferences, FutureBook 2012 is expected to be attended by some 700 people, according to its organizer, Sam Missingham, a gain over last year of some 150.
In a recent phone conversation, Missingham and I speculated that the conference’s steady growth annually, even during tightening economic times, is an indication of the increasingly unsettling realities of what is now a post-digital dynamic.
No one heads to Broad Sanctuary across from Westminster on Monday morning to join a gathering of this level of sophistication, thinking they’ll see a nice panel titled “Shall We Now Be Digital?”
I was impressed with author Nick Harkaway’s essay at TheFutureBook — a property of The Bookseller — because he’s picking up with his usual sensitivity on a certain factor of denial, almost remarkable for its resilience, about where we are in the transition that so long has roiled the industry! the industry! Harkaway writes:
It seems to me that there is a residual perception in publishing that digital is just another market, that it can be contained and dealt with by specialists without greatly affecting the way the game is played.
There might have been meetings at S&S in which someone said, “We have to get into this self-publishing thing somehow.” And it was also said, “Don’t even think of our making our own service for self-publishers, we’ll just order in.” And so it was said, “Call whoever does that stuff.” And a call was made to Bloomington. Silo intact. Firewall in place.
Whether this was the intent or interest in the S&S case, in Free Fall and Substrate, Harkaway points out that “publishing websites remain ghastly experiences and very few brands have any kind of strong connection with the readership.”
In truth, Harkaway asserts, the digital dynamic now is the “substrate,” the very medium on which all must and will grow in publishing. Of digital technology, he writes:
It replaces or adds to the what beneath the foundations of how life has been lived and business done until the advent of digital. Any decision you make is based, ultimately, on the substrate. And our substrate is now digital.
And the pace of change will only accelerate. There is no “settle down” period. There’s only this.
And the ground rushing up at you? Is digital.
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Follow hashtag #fbook12 Monday. Wi-fi willing, we’ll be using it to live-tweet the doings of the conference. A favorite colleague, Alastair Horne ( @PressFuturist ), should be on hand to tweet-storm with me, our first such session in the same room. First comments on the daylong agenda are at 0930 GMT, and that’s a bleary-eyed 4:30aET and an insomniac’s 1:30aPT. Join us when you can.
I would like to sell my share in our Government jet. #rtefl
— Philip O'Rourke. (@PiperHawk) November 26, 2012
The best prices available on registration for Digital Book World (#DBW13) (January 15-17) — and the associated Children’s Publishing Goes Digital (January 15) and Authors Launch (January 18) — ends on December 7.
There are savings of up to $200 available until then. You’re welcome to use my affiliate code PORTER.
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Immediately following Digital Book World (January 18), Authors Launch — from the Publishers Launch team of Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader — is a daylong series of specialized presentations from a roster including Peter McCarthy, Dan Blank, MJ Rose, Randy Susan Meyers, Jason Ashlock, Meryl Moss, Ether host Jane Friedman, David Wilk and more.
Areas of coverage during the day include SEO strategy for authors; hiring marketing and publicity help; audience engagement; and media training issues.
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Author (R)evolution Day (#TOCAuthors) (February 12) from O’Reilly Tools of Change and Publishers Weekly has special early pricing ending December 20. Among featured presenters: Cory Doctorow, Eve Bridburg, Laura Dawson, Allen Lau, Jesse Potash, Dana Newman, Kristen McLean, Peter Armstrong, Tim Sanders, Michael Tamblyn, Rob Eagar, Kate Pullinger, Kat Meyer, and Joe Wikert.
Use my affiliate code AFFILIATEPA for an immediate discount of $300 on your registration.
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O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change (#TOCcon) Conference (February 12-14) has a December 20 cutoff date for early pricing, and includes a major brace of workshops for industry professionals during Author (R)evolution Day (your pass must include Tuesday), plus two more days of multi-tracked offerings.
Use my affiliate code AFFILIATEPA for an immediate discount of $300 on any registration package.
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— K.M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) November 26, 2012
We’re expanding now to welcome submissions from writers–for novels, short stories, essays, reviews, etc, in the suspense category. Selected pieces will be featured on TheRogueReader.com and in the Weekly Rogue, our e-mail to several thousand subscribers. And yes, we actually pay our chosen contributors. And it’s possible we’ll find the next Rogue author from those who submit.
Jason Allen Ashlock, who heads The Rogue Reader with Adam Chromy of Movable Type, is interviewed by Grub Street’s Eve Bridburg. In the conversation, he announces that the new assisted-publishing effort is prepping a holidays anthology of “chilling stories,” as well as producing its weekly material on its authors and suspense catalog.
In Publish it Forward: Q & A with Rogue Reader, Ashlock describes the editorial process that’s part of this self-publishing program of authors selected by his literary agency.
Author Michael Hogan, whose Sistine and Dog Hills are featured this month, for example:
…wanted artwork to accompany each chapter and section of Sistine. So we made that happen. When it comes to matters of pricing or retail strategy, we talk to our authors as we make decisions.
What we want is for them to be as involved as they want in the nuts and bolts, but to also set them free to write great books and talk to their audience–that’s where their time’s best spent.
I’ll just repeat that last bit because it sounds so good, I know, to any platform-weary author near the Ether:
Set them free to write great books and talk to their audience–that’s where their time’s best spent.
Ashlock describes for Bridburg what The Rogue Reader program is looking for in terms of submission and authorial stance. too:
What we’re looking for most in our authors is that they be rogue storytellers. That they really know their genre, enough to know how to effectively break the rules. We don’t want to offer the expected or the predictable. We also want them to be advanced in their craft, gutsy in their storytelling.
And we want publishing insurgents: writers who dare to do it differently, who are willing to directly engage with their audience and are already doing that.
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Winter conference goers will note that Ashlock is on the roster for Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader’s Authors Launch daylong program, January 18, in association with Digital Book World. And I’m looking forward to doing an onstage conversation with Bridburg at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Author (R)evolution Day conference on February 12.
Details on these events and more are in our conferences section (above) in this Ether edition.
— Colleen Lindsay (@ColleenLindsay) November 29, 2012
Ebook and book app developer, SkyInk Studios, has announced a plan to launch a new ebook subscription service, booxl.
That’s from a news release carried by Digital Book World’s Jeremy Greenfield, booxl, Another Spotify for Ebooks Slated to Launch in Beta This February. Don’t blame DBW, they’re just the messenger of this news.
Have I ever mentioned how annoying I think these cutesy names for publishing related startups are?
Oh, I have? And how I think they make the industry! the industry! look like even more of a basket case than it really is?
Oh, good, I’ve told you all that. Great. We’ll just move on, then.
Just found out my so-called "family" and "childhood" were an elaborate viral marketing scheme for the incredibly versatile Swiffer® WetJet®.
— stefan (@boring_as_heck) November 25, 2012
You don’t want your brand to be created willy-nilly by everybody in their own mind. You want to control it.
In Authors as marketers, his podcast with Rob Eagar – marketer and author of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire – O’Reilly Media’s Joe Wikert has an interesting parallel to offer, the kind of thing that makes these podcasts a pleasure to hear. They become a conversation.
Eagar is talking about an author-client of his Wildfire Marketing (based in Atlanta) and they get into one of Eagar’s major themes, the idea of not telling people what your book is about.
Successful authors tell people the value their book offers them — by answering the reader’s ultimate question, which is “What’s in it for me?”…Unsuccessful authors tend to tell people what’s inside the book.
Wikert comes back with an interesting anecdote, a near-parable about a drill salesman whose numbers were always out ahead of his associates. Nobody else could move as many units as this guy could. So the other salesman finally cornered him and asked him just what he was doing to sell so many drills. And, as Wikert tells it:
He said, “You guys are so busy talking about the features and selling what the drill is — and I’m selling the hole.”
Meaning that the top salesman was focusing not on the product he had to sell but on what the customer’s need was. This is what Eagar calls the “what’s in it for me?” question that a reader will have about an author’s book — and the author’s need to be ready for it.
The average American is exposed to 3,500 advertising impressions every single day…As an author, we’re lost in all that mix, and out-of-sight-out-of-mind can easily cause an author to become obscure (to the degree that) even that author’s own audience can forget you exist.
An author’s brand, then, has to function to remind readers not only of who an author is but of what value he or she brings to readers.
Your name is always your most important brand.
The audio podcast has some notes with it on the conversation and runs about 21 minutes. It previews Eagar’s appearance at Tools of Change’s Author (R)evolution Day, February 12. There’s more info on that, and a $300 saving with my code AFFILIATEPA, in our conferences section above.
TODDLER MELTDOWN SAVE YOURSELVES #bdub
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) November 25, 2012
Creativity requires letting go, and you can’t let go if you imagine a thousand sets of eyes on you. Once you let go, you can create anything.
Here in the Age of Open Sorcery, of course, we’re all supposed to be happy composing great things while-u-wait.
“Writing community” programs urge you to hurl your latest scratchings onto the big pile so your peers can crawl all over them, make their comments, counsel you and confound you and (sometimes because they’re envious) condemn you.
There’s a lie I often hear: nurturing your creative gifts is self-serving. We see artists locked up in their lofts or poets crammed at their tiny writing desks as they scribble away, and we wonder why they don’t get out more. Shouldn’t they do something a bit more… practical?
I was glad when our Ether-eal host here, Jane Friedman, featured Ed Cyzewski’s new quick read — a single, really, represented by his blog post, Quality Writing Projects Require Safe Places—And Here Are Five.
Distractions, entertainment, and hectic schedules are the enemies of creativity. If you’re committed to your creative calling, then you need to ask yourself tough questions about how you use your time.
These quotes I’m pulling are not from Cyzewski’s post but from his new book. I’ve looked into it because it seems so rare these days that anyone recommends we withdraw to work. So much community. Too much community.
You need to dive into your work without fear of what others will say. Burn your dinner, write horrendous dialogue, screw up your color combinations, rip apart your loose rows, sing off key, and let the pottery wheel spin out of control.
An interesting parallel turned up this week when readers at Writer Unboxed started commenting — with willing, smart good humor — on ‘Sharing’ our Narcissism. With help from Alex Miller Jr., Jeff Bercovici, and Steven Pressfield, we all hunted down what might be — or might not be — ways our social media exposure can lead us to do a lot of showboating around the web.
From Vaughn Roycroft: “Funny, the one blog post that I never shared anywhere on the grid still holds the highest pageviews.”
From Malena Lott: “I’m strongly considering taking a picture of my red snowflake coffee cup. It’s so darn cute.”
“Face down at the Me-Pond” became a little mantra for some of us as we exchanged rueful notes on Instagrammed food and word-count boasts.
On my To Do List: a 4,000 word essay on the anomic aphasia and precession of simulacra during Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake's WWF period.
— Edward Champion (@drmabuse) November 24, 2012
But none of us, as I recall, was thinking about how out-and-about we’re expected to be. We grappled with being out-and-about to interact, “share,” “reach out,” show up, maybe without identifying the post-digital pressure driving us. Always showtime, folks.
Underneath it all, the quiet current running so damned fast below the mirrored surface of these reflections, might well be just that exposure, unprecedented in our society, the perpetual demand for performance, the relentless visibility that the online world requires — not only in platforming but simply in communicating. How many of your friends seem disappointed if you get onto Skype with just audio and don’t feel like turning on your camera?
We may need more, not less, solitude; more, not less, of Cyzewski’s creative space; more, not less, of the industry’s lurching evolution; more privacy — to write, think, work. So we don’t turn into a springtime flower with a headachy-sweet fragrance.
Note to self: last night's dream : six chimpanzees had to be used for a long, very important switch. But why?
— Red Lemonade (@red_lemonade) November 24, 2012
I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. And, needless to say, we lead our list weekly with our fine Writing on the Ether Sponsors, in gratitude for their support.
Writing on the Ether Sponsors:
- The Indie Author Revolution: An Insider’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Dara Beevas
- The Stars Fell Sideways by Cassandra Marshall
- Handmade Memories: Poems and Essays, 1997-2011 by Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
- Seasons in Love by Dave Malone
- My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of a Girl Who Yearns to Box by Deirdre Gogarty with Darrelyn Saloom (Glasnevin)
- My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris (Red Season)
- Prophecy, An ARKANE Thriller by J.F. Penn (The Creative Penn)
- The Prodigal Hour by Will Entrekin (Exciting Press)
- Perfect Skin by Nick Earls (Exciting Press)
- Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing by L.L. Barkat (T.S. Poetry Press)
- Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
- Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto edited by Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary
- Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity by Ed Cyzewski
- Dog Hills by Michael Hogan
- Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up by Caren Osten Gerszberg & Leah Odze Epstein
- The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss
- Imago Chronicles: A Warrior’s Tale by Lorna Suzuki
- De Indesign CS 5. 5 a EPUB y Kindle by Liz Castro
- The Last Man by Vince Flynn
- Merchants of Culture by John Thompson
- Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
- Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris
- Pentecost by J.F. Penn
- Quilt or Innocence: A Southern Quilting Mystery by Elizabeth S. Craig
- Sell Your Book Like Wildfire by Rob Eagar
- Sistine by Michael Hogan
- A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant
Good to see that The Hobbit movie has partnered with Denny's on ads. Bilbo's Grand Slam Breakfast anyone?
— Don Linn (@DonLinn) November 24, 2012
When you have your first manuscript in your arms and are querying agents, you aren’t particularly picky. The focus is on the end result — getting the book to a publisher.
So you rush the agent “dating” process. I was guilty of that. I viewed finding an agent as yet another hurdle on my way to the printing press.
No one who reads the Ether would ever do this, of course. It’s just here for you to use in warning your friends. Those impetuous, author-friends. Those “I’ll-take-anybody-with-’agent’-on-their-card” friends.
I welcomed every agent suitor. Sure, I scanned credentials, but querying from El Paso, Texas, everyone in New York City looked flashy and impressive.
Your agent relationship is akin to a marriage. Emotions, finances, and trust are all tangled up and can be easily wounded if you aren’t careful. Similarly, that agent can be one of your most loyal and cherished people on earth. Your literary spouse of sorts.
And then she gets out to the wider wedding party (now I’m doing it), a group of author friends whose input she requested on three elements of a good agent-author match:
On this one, author Matthew Dicks minces no words:
My agent falls only below my wife in terms of important women in my life (when my mother-in-law is in the room, I assign her the #2 spot, but it’s a lie). She is one of my most honest critics and also my biggest fan… In short, my agent is my friend above all else.
I’ll choose Christina Haag’s comment here:
Guidance, honesty, expertise, and chutzpah… She brings an excellent mix of instinct and business smarts to the table; she’s able to nurture a project, as well as fight for it.
And I like how Laura Harrington puts it, too:
Key to a great relationship: Respect, honesty, loyalty… I want someone romantic enough to be in this crazy book world and hard-nosed enough to help me survive it.
Marilyn Brant is good on this one:
Find someone you can trust professionally, communicate with effectively, and feel confident loves and respects your writing style. You want an agent who knows how to steer you well in both strengthening your manuscripts without changing your voice and in matching each of your novels with an editor who will also appreciate it and champion it within the publishing house.
Like matrimony, your literary representation must be your better half in the publishing community. Never settle for mediocre.
But I have a question. Why do we hear such glowing things about McCoy’s new agent and at least a dozen additional writers, each praising in very specific terms the work of a good agent….and yet we never are told the name of a single agent in the group?
As many as 14 fine literary agents might have been held up for special thanks here. Unless they asked not to be named (too many submissions?), why should they not be openly thanked?
I find it odd and I find it thankless.
There may be some old traditions of client-first in play, of course, and those aren’t necessarily wrong — the client is, after all, the personality being sold, “the talent” or even “the product” in unkind terms.
But the agent, especially one who lives up to the kind of grateful commentary these authors are making, deserves to be recognized without what tends to look like a coy wink where a name should be.
Nothing divides us like politics. Nothing brings us together like powerball.
— Jason Allen Ashlock (@jasonashlock) November 29, 2012
For God’s sake, if you have a good one, say so — say so by name, and hang onto her or him. I’d suggest a fourth criterion for both parts of the relationship: fidelity.
This ride is far from over, the stability of long-term representation is something to be had, and we’re all going to be better off if we get where we’re going with the agent who brung us.
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First day back on f train in a month. Sort of missed it.
— Ginger Clark (@Ginger_Clark) November 27, 2012