30 September 2007

When are you...

When are you a writer? When do you get to use the title? When are you published?

These questions get asked a lot, and sadly, many of the answers I can give to them involve that amorphous "eye of the beholder" thing.

When are you a writer? Do you write? I don't mean shopping lists and e-mails to your buddies here. I mean, do you sit down and write, for some reason outside of necessity? Do you enjoy writing it? It doesn't matter if it's an essay on world peace, a poem, an article, a short story or a novel. Do you want to write? Do you want people to read it, whether or not you want to be paid for it? If you've answered 'yes' to all the questions in this paragraph, you have every right to call yourself a writer. That doesn't make you a professional writer, but it means you have the passion for writing. Having a passionate person that will never publish call herself a writer in no way diminishes me as a writer. Why would it?

When are you a professional writer? Ah...I brought it up. I should answer it. A professional writer sees writing as a career, at least as a professional pursuit, even if it's one that might never pay the rent. A professional writer learns about the market, hones his/her craft, learns the expectations and what the terms mean and applies them correctly. A professional writer has a professional bearing: doesn't submit in IM-speak, doesn't throw temper tantrums and...dare I say it...doesn't play the prima donna with publishers. A professional author accepts reasonable edits and is knowledgeable enough to know when the suggested edits are wrong and why they are.

When are you a published author? This one is more difficult. Whether or not something is published varies, depending on who you are talking to and what his/her mindset is. For instance, for the purpose of "publishing credits," this blog post is not published. If I wanted to pitch this same post as an article to a magazine, I have "published it," in that I have offered it for consumption in a public forum, and as such, I have extinguished my first rights on it. It's now a reprint.

So, what can you use as a publishing credit?

If you have published with a paying magazine or anthology, even if the payment is a small stipend and a copy or two, it's a publishing credit. If it's a well-known magazine and/or semi-pro or pro rates, that steps the credit up a notch.

If you've had work published (and paid for) in a newspaper, it's a publishing credit. If you've worked for the paper as a regular correspondent, step it up a notch.

If you've had work published with a royalty-paying press (not self/subsidy/vanity here, but we'll get back to that one), it's a publishing credit. If you've won awards, reviewed well and/or sold well, move that credit up a notch. Some people move it up a notch, if you've published with a NY conglomerate. Some will take any reputable royalty-paying press at about equal value. (NOTE: This includes indie/e-publishing.)

If you've had a work published self/subsidy/vanity, you've hit a sticky point. According to Dee Power's yearly interview with agents and editors, many do not consider self/subsidy/vanity a valid credit. Caveat... If the book is an award-winner, has won the jackpot for sales in self/subsidy/vanity or otherwise distinguishes itself as outstanding (and not just by being a good book, unfortunately), it is a publishing credit.

You see, some things people will tell you are not publishing credits will BECOME publishing credits, if they serve the purpose. Examples?

If you've written tech manuals for a company that were not "published" in the larger sense, and you go on to write a fiction book that depends on that machine or computer program to swing the plot line...or you write a non-fiction book on the same subject, those tech manuals are a writing credit, since they establish you as knowledgeable in the field you are writing about.

If you maintain a blog or newsletter (online or in print) on a subject that you're writing about, it can also show you as a consummate researcher and expert/recognized in your field.

Hoping you all get to the point where you have so many publishing credits you can pick and choose which to bother telling people about!

BTW, my latest credit of note... Fairy Dreams is currently #3 in Fantasy at Fictionwise!

23 September 2007

Why do they...

This is another series of questions about NY that I get asked a lot. Why do some publishers put out the same old thing? Why do they resist breakout books? Why aren't books from established houses being edited? Why do they resist change that would make them more profitable and reduce the waste and at least a portion of the losses of the industry, today? This post is an amalgam of the answers I've given to these questions and a few more.

IMO, you've missed the interference of the money men in creative endeavors. Now...mind you, NONE of these things are meant to be generalizations. Not all NY publishers are doing these things. There are some publishers avoiding parts of this and some striding headlong in, but these are the trends of what I'm hearing is happening...and some of it, I'm seeing.

Years ago, the editors chose what books to sign. Now, the editors are overridden by the bean counters (no offense...I am a bean counter by training), who are trying to run numbers on what's worked for them before and accepting weaker books with elements that have worked in stronger books OVER fresh books without those elements. It comes out to the rule of diminishing returns, like you see in movies. The worst part is, they report to the press that they don't understand why their figures just aren't calling the bestsellers. Hand up. I think I know.

Worse, they are overplaying what works, until people are sick of it. Glutting the market on a handful of things isn't going to help, IMO. And, it's certainly not going to help, when you've got misrepresentative and carbon copy covers and blurbs, because they've worked well before. NO! For pities sake, you speed the readers' boredom factor along, when you aren't telling them what's new.

Worse, they adopt what's working in indie/e, with the announcement that they want to cash in...then they try to fit what was working in indie/e into their own cookie cutter version, which doesn't work. Why? Because... DING... You've just changed what worked in indie/e. If you want what works, don't screw around with it. Now, some are loosening the reins and allowing it to simply work. That's good. I wish they'd do it more often.

Years ago, the publishers took pride in making sure a book came out well-edited. Now, they are pressed for production on a schedule by the money men that leaves the editors short-handed and swamped, fighting for time to do it all...and sometimes without the ability to push the schedule back, if a book just isn't ready yet. In short, the editors are expected to toe a line that works fairly well in mass production, but it doesn't work well for a creative project being polished. Holding them to 4 books from that line a month (or whatever) isn't always a good thing. I'd rather see 3 one month and 5 the next, if the book pushed back comes out edited well. But, the editors are not given that leeway.

And, they allow big names to slide in edits, because they figure they are going to sell anyway. Or...the big names are sick of editing, and they don't want to lose what they see as their "cash cow" author over edits, so the author is allowed to negotiate edits out of the contract. Anytime they allow this, they compromise their company name, to some extent. Knowingly allowing quality to dip, ESPECIALLY on the cash cow, isn't good for the goodwill with readers.

Years ago, as long as there was an existing genre or subgenre to market a book to, the publishers marked them correctly. Now, you have some that don't LIKE the way they should be marketing what they've got, so they are playing bait and switch on readers and mismarking books ON PURPOSE to try and force cross-readership, upset readers be damned. For instance, erotic romance sells well, so let's market this straight erotica or this dark romance genre book (with no HEA and lacking a few other essentials of a romance genre book) as erotic romance/romance. No one will mind... Yeah, right.

All said and done, they are following the numbers into territory that is not effective in producing quality then wondering why there are quality complaints.

And the one time they aren't following the numbers, they are still following what used to work for them, sticking in the rut they have dug over years of circling the same territory. The companies are afraid of change. That's their problem, all the way around. For that reason, they aren't willing to crash the behemoth of a system that has stood for so long, a system they still doggedly insist works, despite their own complaints in the media that it's not working.

Eventually, the waste will become too much, and the industry will have to make a move to a POD system. The affordability of POD machines will make this move less painful, as time goes on. The big boys will be able to have several of these units in-house. NY already DOES use POD for backlist, in some cases, so they see the value in it, but they stick to the old system of offset printing, warehousing, stripping and such for new releases.

Basically, while I understand that corporations live and die by the bottom line, putting the money men in charge of an "art" business isn't going to get them what they want. The industry was in a lot better shape when editors had more say in what happened, IMO.

18 September 2007

New Art

I always love getting new art in, but this one goes beyond the usual! Alessia Brio just delivered this fantastic art for WE SHALL LIVE AGAIN, coming Oct 22nd from Phaze. I think you'll agree that it's mouth-watering good.

Blurb: Amunmaruku visits her in her dreams, a long-dead Egyptian prince, whose tomb Anna is excavating. He haunts her in her waking moments, making her question her sanity. Is it her psychometry or something more sinister? When the past, present and future collide, it's up to Anna to close the door connecting them.

17 September 2007

Major happy dancing!

Not only is Fairy Dreams officially out (on the Mundania site, on Amazon, on Fictionwise, on Books-A-Million...), but Phaze in Verse has just released (on the Phaze site and on Fictionwise). Both are available in print and in e-book.

In addition, my dear hubbie has been doing some upgrades for me, so my system is smooth and fast. I've gotten my old office cleared out, so my son can have a room of his own again, and my new office is almost ready for me to move into it. I can't wait for that, and I'll post a few pictures when I manage to move into my new (to quote Rowan West) "muse salon."

Happy reading and enjoy this wonderful fall weather!

11 September 2007

NEWS of the week!

What a wonderful week! Okay, it's raining outside, but I happen to like dancing in the rain, and it's a good week for dancing.

What's up with me?

Fairy Dreams has officially released, in both e-book and print. You can find it on the Mundania site, Books A Million online and Amazon. Of course, it's coming to more outlets soon, like Fictionwise and Barnes and Noble.

Phaze has signed another reprint and a new work from me this week. The reprint is The Color of Love, my novelette portion of the 2006 EPPIE finalist ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (which also included Kally Jo Surbeck and Elaine Charton). The new work is a novelette entitled WE SHALL LIVE AGAIN. It has a tentative release of October 22nd...a mummy story, just in time for Halloween, which brings me back up to (at minimum) 7 more releases before January 2008.

Mundania Press, LLC. has been named Publisher of the Week by the Independent Book Report Blog. I'm having a lot of fun with this one. I agree with them, though. Mundania is a stellar company to work for.

I received my print copies of Phaze in Verse, which officially releases in e-book from Phaze on Sept 27th. She is gorgeous. If you haven't seen the cover art yet, you may want to check out my site. Alessia Brio did a fabulous job on that one, in my opinion.

Of course, the launch of Forbidden Love: Sacred Bands should happen any time now. There was an art hold-up on the last issue, but now that it's been settled... Can't wait to see that one. The cover and internal art I've seen so far is beautiful, but that is no surprise with UTM/FSP.

And, I should be receiving my certificate for the Spinetingler's Book of the Year 2007 any day now. Four of the authors have received theirs in the last few days, so it's just a matter of time, until mine arrives. I can't wait. I may actually take that one to RT with me. From what I hear, it's gorgeous.

10 September 2007

03 September 2007

01 September 2007

Which is right?

Yet again, the rules of writing rear their ugly heads. Yet again, I have to give a reply that is sure to aggravate some people.

Which is right? ... or . . .? Should there be an extra space before and/or after the ellipsis? What about em dash? What about the final comma on a serial list?

The frustrating part about this is that most of these things are dictated by house style and not by a single right/wrong answer.

Some houses want three periods for ellipsis. Some want no extra spaces. Some want spaces between, before and/or after the ellipsis. Some want you to place the coded ellipsis into the mss, by way of WORD auto-format.

Some houses want you to submit with the em dash already in place. Some want you to submit with -- in place, instead, and they want to make the final find/replace to make them em dashes. Some want spaces before and after an em dash. Some want no extra spaces.

The serial comma is even more confusing. Dropping the final "serial comma" (or Oxford comma, as it's sometimes called) is a holdover from journalism, where space is a big issue. It's less common to find fiction editors who want it dropped, but that does seem to be on the upswing. In fact, several of my fiction editors, quite recently, have told me to drop the final serial comma.

I highly suggest checking the style sheet and/or guidelines for an individual publisher/editor/agent, before submitting and making these things match what is required by that individual. As in all things, do not ignore the diretions given; if you do, you risk rejection and you make a bad impression (sloppy, unprofessional and hard to work with).

If there is no direction given on these items, I would say to err on the side of three periods with no extra spaces at all and to denote an ellipsis as -- with a space before and after (when used in the middle of a sentence to set off a clause), with only the space after (when used as a hard break that leads into another sentence starting) or with no extra spaces (when used as a hard break at the end of a quote). As for the serial comma, I would err on the side of not using it, but as long as you are consistent throughout your mss, it's not going to be the deal-breaker.

Happy submitting.