The Moveable Writer

New technology and old comforts for today's writer.


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The Publishing Revolution at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference

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What an exciting conference this year! It is an interesting time in the publishing industry and the rifts between independent publishers and traditional publishers could not be more apparent. Add to this the common enemy of them both: Amazon. Tensions were high at the conference this year, opinions were voiced, and sides were taken.

Beneath this layer of the publishing revolution were great talks and wonderful writers from all over the country. Some highlights were Laurie McLean speaking on pitching your idea to agents or publishers, agent/author speed-dating, meeting fiction agents and publishers, Constance Hale’s Crafting Prose like the Pros, anything that Kevin Smokler was involved with especially his talk on Reading to Inform your Writing, Mark Coker’s Secrets of Indie Bestsellers, and Sheldon Siegel and Rhys Bowen on Keeping Up the Pace. BTW, Rhys Bowen is simply lovely!

There were three main columns at the conference and they were the Craft of Writing, Independent Publishers, and Traditional Publishers. Depending on where you spent your time, you walked away with a different view of the writing/publishing world with the craft seminars being the most neutral. There were some inspiring things spoken by the traditional publishers, but overall the mountain that editors need to climb to get a book published is daunting – and not only to authors. In this traditional model, you first need an agent because editors at the big six publishing houses will not allow you to talk directly to them. This model already sets in motion a lack of communication between authors and publishers. Next, after you get an agent, you need to catch the editor on a day that they are interested in your topic and it is marketable to mass readers. Editors take the books they love to giant committees of lawyers, salespeople, marketers, and the publishing executives. If they can’t all agree that it will sell a million copies then tough luck.

On the independent publishing side, what can I say: everyone has access and it’s free. The issue is how can you get your book into your market’s hands and beyond your own friends and family? Check out Mark Coker’s free ebook The Secrets to eBook Publishing Success. However, the lower prices on eBooks and the rising costs of paper make it harder for traditional print publishing to compete and pay their employees and authors as they try to compete with independent publishers online booksellers.

But back to the heat. The conference exploded with Barry Eisler‘s keynote speech – wow. He took the opportunity to address fellow authors and champion the choices that were available to them to get their work out to the public. He called out traditional publishers who were in the audience calling them “legacy publishers” and telling them that they perpetuated an “antiquated system”. He revealed/complained that they take too much money from authors in revenues and only pay them twice a year. He likened this to “medieval times.” But the biggest revelation was when traditional publishing argued that they were the gatekeepers to good literature. Someone in the audience asked how do we keep the quality of books if there are no gatekeepers and everyone is allowed to publish their work. They said it shouldn’t be allowed. It was clear that Barry Eisler has thought about this a lot, is passionate on the topic, and is very intelligent. He used the Internet as an example. He said, “I think 99.999% of what is on the Internet is crap, but do you use the Internet? Do you get pleasure from it?” And there are no gatekeepers there. Choice is always better. Mark Coker had a similar answer on this point when he said that he believes the readers should be the deciders on what is good literature.

Riveting!

I am all for choice and strive to be a hybrid author: both traditionally published and self published. If I can reach readers – it’s all good:) I am looking forward to the future of publishing and hopefully for traditional and independent publishers to be innovative together and find solutions that make both print and ebooks available and accessible to everyone who wants them.

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Book Agent Info

From the Writer’s Resource Blog: Attention middle grade and YA writers!

Writer's Resource Blog

Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Lit Agency is looking for middle grade works in contemporary, fantasy, action/adventure, or historical. In YA, she’s open to any genre but is looking especially for YA with a strong romantic element. In New Adult, she seeks romance and adult romance but is open to any genre.

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Uploading to Smashwords

In a previous post, We Can All Be Published, I compared uploading my ebook to Kindle Direct and Barnes and Noble publishing websites. I concluded that Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press was much more intuitive than the Kindle Direct Publishing site.

Recently I was shocked to learn that Barnes and Noble and Amazon do not have a coupon program where authors can create a sales promotion for their book and offer certain people a free copy using a coupon code. I have a marketing idea involving a coupon and was disappointed that I would not be able to launch it yet.

Enter Smashwords. Smashwords is another great internet company hailing from the Silicon Valley. They are an ebook publishing and distributing company that does offer a great coupon program. They also offer other promotional programs and will distribute your book in every format to most ebook retailers including Apple and Kobo. Their author percentage is also higher than Kindle Direct and Barnes and Noble. And when you first publish to their site, your book is featured on their new ebook page.

There were a couple of things about uploading to their system that I didn’t like. After you use their 140 page ebook to format your ebook for their system, you fill out the usual information and upload your materials. If you make a mistake and check off a box on their form that comes back as something you need to correct, then you have to upload your cover and manuscript again. You have to upload your materials for as many times as it takes you to get the form right. This is not the biggest deal, but still annoying.

The bigger issue for me was that you are published and featured on their website as soon as you hit the publish button. BUT, there is no way to know if you formatted your ebook correctly. There is NO preview section like in Kindle Direct and Nook Press. You don’t get to correct your book before it goes live. Since I like my books to look as profession as possible, this was a problem for me.

Next your book goes through a computer system that flags any immediate problems for you to change. You receive an email and then must consult the 140 page manual again to figure out how to fix the issues. Luckily they suggest where your problem may be found. When you are finished, you upload your revised manuscript. It goes through their system again and flags other problems that you may have. If no new problems are found, it goes into a cue to be reviewed by humans. All this while it is still live and featured. By the time the review is done, you are no longer a featured book and the only way you know how your book looks before this is to download it yourself in all of the formats to see what it looks like, which they suggest for you to do.

I did this and found that it did not look right in epub and looked great in mobi and others. I was able to make corrections and it turned out to look good in all formats, but I lost that window of being featured at my best. I am sure that across the industry the uploading systems will greatly improve over the next year, and still, Smashwords is an innovative company in this space.

 


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Excerpt from The Underground League

Angelina Marche pressed her hand against the cool thick glass and gaped at Anthony Delano through streams of water. He was standing under the moody Cambridge sky just outside of the Andala Café where her frienImageds were ordering hummus, warm pita, and steamy chicken shawarma sandwiches for lunch. She watched the rain kiss him and force him to squint with his deep brown eyes. Two girls ran in front of him under a magenta umbrella and he smiled with an ease that she couldn’t comprehend. He walked across the street, indifferent to the water soaking through his clothes, and weaved around the parked car where Angie sat in the back seat with her brother.

“You know, you’re not invisible. You might want to stop drooling like an eager puppy.” Ashton tapped his sister on the shoulder.

“I’m invisible to him.” Angie sighed. She couldn’t look away just in case Anthony glanced in her direction. Thunder sounded in the distance as the rain started to pelt the top of the car, a drum matching the beat of Angie’s charging heart.

“Have you tried talking to him?” Ashton kidded.

Angie laughed. “I’ve tried a lot more than that. Do you remember when we all had the flu? Mom rented those eighties movies and we laughed at the sappy things the kids did to get attention?”

Ashton started to laugh with her. “Yeah?”

“I did all of those things. I sat on top of a car in front of the school with a candle lit birthday cake on Anthony’s birthday just like Jake in Sixteen Candles and he walked right by me. I held up dad’s old boom box, like in Say Anything, playing Anthony’s baseball song outside of Starbucks as he was leaving with his coffee and he didn’t even notice me. I won’t even tell you the last one.”

Ashton tried to catch his breath. “Did you call his name or did you just expect him to walk over to you and ask you out?”

“Stop laughing!” She backhanded his arm playfully.

“Tell me the last thing. I gotta know.” He howled as tears poured from his eyes.

Before she could tell him, their eardrums were assaulted with a voluminous crack that burst the glass around them. In that last second, eyes wide, they stopped laughing.

2

Firemen worked silently, methodically, bending the metal with care. They grunted softly as the crowd, held back by barricades, leaned forward despite the now heavy rain that pricked their faces like shrapnel. The tragedy took precedent over their comfort and their responsibilities. As traffic froze, a backlog of cars lengthened the evening commute for a hundred people just because they were curious. They wanted to know how serious the accident was and to imagine the lives that had been affected by it. The result was a soft appreciation for life that fell like a quick fickle snow only to melt by the next morning.

Angie and Ashton’s parents huddled on the corner of River and Franklin Streets clutching at each other. Beverly and Alex were as close to the scene as the police would allow. They talked quietly with Olivia and Todd who were Angie’s and Ashton’s best friends, also siblings, and the owners of the wrecked car, until a police officer informed them that the kids were being taken to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston instead of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, which was ten miles closer. Quickly the officer explained to them, before they could question him, that it was the best hospital for this type of trauma in the area. He seemed to have a little speech prepared in advance.

As the officer urged them to leave for the hospital, the firemen completed their last cut and lifted the mangled roof. Sections of wood from the telephone pole that crushed the car were stacked neatly on the sidewalk. The firemen looked down into the backseat and shook their heads. Some of the men turned away. One of them gasped before paramedics swooped in. They placed the kids’ limp bodies on backboards and fastened their necks into extrication collars.

Beverly ran into the cop’s outstretched arms and, after a pause, he let her go through the barricade to her son and daughter. Beverly gasped when she saw them. Angie’s face was swollen, livid from bruising, her left shoulder hung loosely by her ribs, and her legs were flattened. Ashton’s spine wound unnaturally as if he were squirming in his seat. His face was lumpy. She stumbled back into Alex’s arms and they let others move them away from the scene.

Once the kids were safely on the ambulance, Beverly and Alex rushed to the hospital, hoping to get there at the same time. Olivia and Todd were in the backseat.

“I remember when Angie was two and Ashton was three.” Beverly told them. “They would sit in the playroom together. There were so many toys in that room, but they would just look at each other, start giggling, and play some game I couldn’t even understand. They were so cute. Their tiny faces…” Beverly’s voice trailed off.

“It’s going to be okay.” Alex assured them all. He had known Olivia and Todd their entire lives. The four kids had been friends since kindergarten. They were all so young; Angie and Olivia would be juniors at Cambridge Preparatory School in the fall. Ashton and Todd would be seniors.

After several wrong turns they reached the hospital. Angie and Ashton were already behind the moss colored doors and all anyone could do was wait.

3

Angie was in between waking and the deep groggy state that so often confuses the mind into thinking that the inanimate can be animated and that the darkness is filled with light. She felt like she was floating in water inside a remote cave with her body slowly bobbing and heaving. She wasn’t sure if she was dreaming the shadows that filled the cavernous hollow above her or if this was a real experience. Faint sounds reverberated in the distance. Somewhere ahead a rhythmic drummer kept a soft beat while grave voices trembled and fell before becoming thrilled and frenzied.

The air was muggy and plump with a pungent aroma of roses mixed with patchouli and something else she couldn’t recognize. She felt cool lumps of weighted wetness being placed on her body, taken away, and replaced again. This strangely comforting sensation made her shiver periodically until suddenly warmth crawled from her toes upward and worked its way up her body. It heated her so completely that she felt as if she were being dipped into soup. Short stretches of silence wove in between throbs of chanting and drumming. Next she felt a jolt and heard emphatic voices arguing. They seemed to get closer and for the first time she was able to open her eyes.

A man in his fifties with a grey goatee and bright hazel eyes held his hand up to a younger man. Both men wore white jackets.

“How do you think their parents feel now after I told them their kids had little to absolutely no chance of lasting through the night and you swooped in ten minutes later and said the kids will be fine? Don’t you think that’s suspicious? These are my patients, MacAvoy.” The younger doctor was saying.

“They are in my domain. You can’t mess with Society business.” MacAvoy said.

“Society business has nothing to do with me.” The younger doctor huffed.

“It affects everyone, Josh. Or, would you rather just let them die?” MacAvoy said with his head held high.

“If all medical measures fail, yes.” He yelled.

When MacAvoy noticed Angie watching them, he forcefully pushed the young doctor out of the room. Then Angie’s eyes were pricked by light. As soon as she shut them she lost track of time again.

The next brief thing she heard was the tinkling sound of her mother crying. It was joined by her father’s sobs and she knew that something was horribly wrong. She had never heard her father cry. Not even when his brother, much younger than her dad and only seventeen at the time, had died in a freak boating accident ten years before.

“What is in these bags? Feathers, twigs, tea?” Angie heard her father ask.

Angie felt heaviness and moistness over her torso and legs. In some places sharp points poked at her flesh, which now felt raw. She never imagined that bags were the cause. She tried to open her eyes and move her arms, but she couldn’t. She struggled to lift her fingers, to shift her legs, and rouse her vocal chords. Nothing. It was a dream, she thought. It had to be.

“Their faces are so pale, except for their pink cheeks. It’s like when they napped when they were babies. It always seemed like they were wearing blush. They’re laying so still, Alex. It doesn’t even look like they’re breathing.” She sobbed.

“MacAvoy said they’d be fine.” He reminded her.

“That’s after the first doctor said they were going to die.” She said crying harder now.

“He was confused. Doctors work long hours in the hospital. They get confused sometimes.” Alex said unconvincingly. Angie could picture his eyebrows rising as he made his point.

Angie tried hard to wake up. She wanted to know who her parents were talking about.

“Let’s let them rest.” Alex said. She heard the door close and then there was just silence and fear. She thought that maybe she wasn’t dreaming, not in the sense that she was used to. She thought that maybe she was dead.

— You can read more on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Email me for a free copy!


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Data Driven Art?

Recent articles in The New York Times, NPR, and WSJ have reported on ereaders collecting data from readers while they read. The data collected includes noting at what point a reader stops reading a book. It also notes which parts of a book – action scenes, sex scenes, or romantic scenes, for instance – that the reader stays engaged in.

The chief executive of Scribd, a company that sells subscriptions for unlimited ebooks, stated that, “We’re going to be pretty open about sharing this data so people can use it to publish better books.”

But what does this mean for the future of literature? What would writer’s like Hemingway say about altering your writing to suit readers? I think we know what he would say and I am not going to write the profanity that would come out if his mouth in protest of this approach.

First, let me acknowledge that readers are individuals and that one book may appeal to many readers for different reasons. People may fall in love with different aspects of a character, but still love that character. Second, I acknowledge that certain stories and characters that do appeal to many readers have specific qualities that many people will like. These are two contradicting statements. Sort of.

If the data does come up with a certain combination of events that when written are more likely to become best sellers, should we alter our writing to ensure that our books meet that criteria? I must say that I would very much be interested to find out what readers think about my writing. As previously mentioned in this blog, I like the idea of readers being able to give me feedback about how and when my manuscript moves them. Readers matter to me. That being said, I think it is naïve to assume that we, as a group of writers, can “write better books” just by following this data. I agree that there are data that could be helpful, but we should not take over our writing.

Even if in the short term people did buy more books that fit a certain storyline, the market would be saturated by it very quickly. Nobody wants to read the same thing over and over again. Then, the data would see a shifting trend and writers would have to alter their writing to suit the new trend. We would lose the value of literature. One point I want to highlight is that many great books are like time capsules of a day or year or decade and capture a distinct atmosphere. We record this in detail and it is preserved for future generations to experience. Books written about life in our time may not be in trend in our time. What does that mean for future generations?

That is just one example. For me, I want to connect with a reader by telling a story that is meaningful and entertaining whether it makes a reader uncomfortable at times or takes them on an adventure they might not have known they wanted to go on. I believe that writing is telling a story through the unique perspective of the writer and that the truer you can be to human emotion and motivation the better. For this, there is no formula other than perception and practicing your craft. For these reasons I think we can gather data, understand it, and use it, but we should not let it make our writing untrue.


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Technology Friend or Foe? Friend, of course!

You finished polishing your manuscript and it is available on several websites. Now you need to connect with your readers. And not just any readers, how do you connect with the readers that you wrote your manuscript for?

New technology makes the writing process both easier and harder. Laptops, printers, and – although I don’t use it, I hear – writing software programs make recording your ideas easy. However, the fact that technology exists has thrown a wrench in many of the plot choices I sometimes crave. Come on! Not only are we always connected to everyone by multiple devices, but also our characters are always connected! That means that unless you are writing a period piece, it is very hard for your characters to go off the grid. Even planes today have low cost Internet services that keep your characters connected. Not very long ago, a mere twenty years, when you left your house you were untouchable. Crisis could happen and people could be searching for you all day before you got word that anything was amiss. That is tension. Love could be lost from a missed phone call. Ah, the suspense.

That being said, what our characters suffer from enhances our opportunity. We have Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and various outlets to shout out, but what about the good old-fashioned letter. Okay, speaking in techno-lingo, the email. If you are not a famous author, why not write your readers a letter at the end of your eBook, ask them a question, and invite them to email you their thoughts? Why not interact with those who most enjoyed your story? You can learn a lot from these interactions and make your readers excited about having read your book. Why not try to find out about book clubs in your genre. Write book club questions for your book and leave an email. There is nothing better than being able to solve a disagreement about why a character chose to do something than to have access to the author herself. Once your readers find you they will want to share you with others that they know who could like your book also and they can use all of their social media outlets to help you reach more readers.

Will this help? Let’s find out together!