I just finished reading a novel by a “global bestselling author.” It was published by an imprint of a major publisher. Since it was a mystery/crime novel rather than a satire, I wonder why the publisher’s editors didn’t catch the fact that the author kept using the word “curtly” over and over again, as in, “It’s not my fault,” she said, curtly.
The first time I saw the adverb, it worked even though writing teachers generally don’t like adverbs because they tell the reader something rather than show the reader something. However, in a fast-paced dialogue sequence made up of short sentences, the adverb seemed justified. The second time I saw “curtly,” it was used appropriately, but I wondered why the author didn’t use something else rather than re-using “curtly.”
I didn’t count how many times he used this word. However, its use was excessive, noticeable, distracting, and lazy. His editor should have caught it.
Sometimes when I use a word, I think it’s the first time I’ve used it in a story. But then I notice it a few more times. In Word, I can see how often I’ve written it and where with the “find” function. It tells me how many times I chosen the word and highlights its occurrences. This makes it easy to change some instances of the word with synonyms or to rewrite the passages.
Now, perhaps the author in question is powerful enough to overrule his editor. Okay, the editor’s off the hook. But in this case, the author appeared to take the lazy way out.
According to the social media, people are impatient for Spring. Booker Talk (Item 2), one of my favorite blogs, wishes all of us Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus i chi! (Happy St. David’s Day to You All) with a fine list of Welsh books to consider during inclement weather. It’s raining hard here in Northwest Georgia, so in between furtive trips into the yard to see what the bulbs are doing, I’m doing a lot of reading. If you’ve got stormy weather and don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky, here are a few links to help you wait for Spring.
News: Sherman Alexie’s Response to Harassment Accusations – “After a month of online charges that he has been abusive to many women, particularly Native American women, author Sherman Alexie issued a statement yesterday. It’s a mix of admission and denial and, as with to much of the matter, it’s somewhat vague.” Shelf Awareness
Lists:Books to mark Wales’ special day – March 1 is St David’s Day in Wales — “St David being our patron saint — so usually a day for celebration of all things Welsh. The celebrations will be very muted this year however with schools closed and concerts cancelled because of Storm Emma, so I thought I would mark the occasion by highlighting some new books from authors and publishers based in Wales.” BookerTalk
New Title: Garden Metamorphosis: New and Collected Poems of Change and Growth, by Smoky Zeidel (Thomas-Jacob, March 1) – “In the midst of a confusing and frightening world, Smoky Zeidel remains true to form with her poetry, gently reminding us to close out the superfluous and remember that which is sacred. Garden Metamorphosis is both a love song to Mother Earth, and a celebration of the cycle of life Read the complete poems, plus Zeidel’s short story, ‘Transformed.'” Thomas-Jacob Publishing
Feature: Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry, by Anne Ursu – “These are the sort of events we’re told to brush off — they’re jokes, they’re flattering, no big deal. But when you believe you are a professional and someone informs you they see you as a sex object, it can shatter your sense of self and your sense of safety.” Medium
Quotation: “The future of publishing lies with the small and medium-sized presses, because the big publishers in New York are all part of huge conglomerates.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Review: Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi, reviewed by Tariro Mzezewa – “In her remarkable and daring debut novel, “Freshwater,” Akwaeke Emezi draws in part from her own life to tell the story of Ada, a young Igbo and Tamil woman haunted by the ogbanje — the ‘godly parasite with many heads, roaring inside the marble room of her mind.’” New York Times
Feature: Meet the Designers behind Your Favorite Book Covers, by Alexxa Gotthardt – “We talk with five designers whose book jackets are routinely hailed as crowd favorites. Their designs blanket young adult bestsellers like John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down (2017), literary classics like Vladimir Nabokov’s The Eye (1930), and tomes that rethink the form of a book (one comes with a remote control, and drives like a toy car).” Artsy
Interview: Amy Tan on Writing and the Secrets of Her Past, with Nicole Chung – “In ‘Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir,’ Amy Tan recalls the time a relative told her mother that she shouldn’t fill her daughter’s head with ‘all these useless stories.’ Why should Amy know so much, visit her mother’s painful memories, when it was beyond her power to change the past? Her mother replied: ‘I tell her so she can tell everyone, tell the whole world . . . That’s how it can be changed.’ As she writes in her memoir, ‘My mother gave me permission to tell the truth.’” Shondaland
“I was recently tasked with putting together a publishing workshop for my local library. As I researched and gathered information, I realized everything they needed to know was available right here, on IndiesUnlimited.com.”
As author Melinda Clayton says, there’s a wealth of information stashed under the Knowledge Base and Resource Pages menu selections on the Indies Unlimited main screen. Sometimes I think we become so accustomed to the menu selections on blog-oriented sites, we forget they’re there and miss out on the links and other information they lead to. We read the posts of the day and move on.
Thomas-Jacob Publishing is starting a newsletter to help its adoring readers keep up with upcoming books and events. Since this is my publisher, I hope the readers are adoring. I’m proud of our catalogue, featuring books by:
Okay, moving onto the Kindle Fire Tablet. Click on the graphic below to go to the newsletter signup page. Just a few fields to fill out and then you’re done.
The first place winner of the tablet and the two second place winners of a free paperback from Thomas-Jacob’s list will be selected in a random drawing August 17th.
After all, with the promotion, glitz, buzz and hoopla behind a book with a million bucks behind it, we could skip all the years of being anonymous, of writing novels many people like but that still don’t have the clout to get editorial reviews, of being asked what we’ve written and then getting a blank stare when we list a few of our novels.
As Jennifer Maloney writes in the Wall Street Journal article about betting big, “Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads have contributed to a culture in which everyone reads—and tells their friends about—the same handful of books a year. It’s increasingly a winner-take-all economy, publishing executives say. ”
That’s the why behind our despair when we read about such huge advances. If your book is not one of these books, or if you’re not already a big name author, you book basically doesn’t exist in spite of all the blog tours, Amazon sales days, and GoodRead giveaways.
Our argument–as the writers down in the steerage section of the publishing ocean liner–has always been that literature would be better served if that million bucks were dedicated to the promotion of, say, ten books for one hundred grand each, or maybe twenty books at fifty grand each rather than being lavished in an advance to one person. That million doesn’t include the advertising budget.
Sometimes BIG BOOKS turn out to be really good, even wonderful. But they’re bad for literature because–like black holes–they suck all of publishing’s efforts into a small minority of what’s out there. We understand, of course, that publishers claim that the profits from big books help fund little books. Maybe, but I never see any evidence of it.
The authors who write the books that jump into the stratosphere like this worked just as hard as the authors who didn’t. But their work is being turned into a fabricated event. Big advance = lots of buzz = justified large promotional and advertising budget = high sales and many articles and book reviews. The publisher has paid to put the book on top from the starting gate.
Yes, I read these books when the critics have good things to say about them. I’m tempted like everyone else to the books I hear about. Unfortunately, like everyone else, I miss the books I don’t hear about because no advertising or promotional budget brought them to my attention.
At this very moment, an editor is going over the manuscript for Thomas-Jacobs Publishing’s re-release of my contemporary fantasy Sarabande. I’m glad she is. She sees what I cannot see along with inconsistencies and goofs I wouldn’t recognize if I did see them.
I could blame my cataract surgery for making my right eye see so much better than I need new glasses to read the words on the screen. (My old glasses are now too strong.)
However, if my editor sees this post, she can remind me (and all of you) that I was overlooking a lot of typos before the surgery.
Sometimes my wife reads over things I’ve written that I think are error free. Nope. She was a newspaper editor so she catches a lot of stuff.
So does my publisher, but she likes to check and double-check, so an editor reads my stuff after she reads my stuff. It must be a fact of life that a writer can go over his or her work a hundred times and guess what? It’s still waiting for the editor’s red pen.
Unfortunately, the red pen is gone. My wife and I are old school: we grew up editing copy (news copy) on a double spaced printout. I find more errors this way than I do when looking for typos and missing punctuation on the screen. I have to admit that Word’s Revision/Markup makes it easy for publishers and editors and writers to communicate over time about manuscript corrections.
But I still prefer edits on paper. My eyes are attuned to the page rather than the screen. Even so, I miss a lot. You probably do, too, whether you edit on the screen or print out a hard copy and look for your favorite pencil.
That’s why I firmly believe everything should go through an editor even though it’s not always easy to arrange this in today’s Kindle Direct Publishing world. If your spouse didn’t work for a newspaper, at least get your pets to review everything before you hit the “Save and Publish” button.
Thanks Lesa (wife), Smoky (editor) and Melinda (publisher).
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” a contemporary fantasy that is currently on sale on Kindle.
The trouble with dreams is that the defy logic. Last night, I dreamt I was at a Shriners convention. When I woke up, I knew it wasn’t true.
When a fast-talking, dirt bag of a publisher says they’ll give you the moon, the sun and the stars, waking up often takes longer. Sure, there can be misunderstandings about contract standards and terms as well as what a new author can reasonably expect. But fraud and almost-fraud are something else.
If you have a book and think it’s ready to publish, do some Google searches (if you think you’ve found a publisher) and see if anything negative turns up. In fact, do a search on “publishing scams” as well. I did a search on that phrase and got 850,000 hits. That alone suggests there’s enough badness out there to curl your hair even if you don’t want it curled.
If you’re unsure about publishing practices and terminology, check Writers Write. They’re a good resource.
If you think you’ve found a publisher, check Writer Beware. In addition to positive resources, the site features a solid list of publishers and problems. Or, as they put it: Writer Beware’s mission is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry. They do a good job keeping their data updated. Looking here might save you a lot of time, money and heartache, while keeping your dream of track.
Another site with good writing resources is Indies Unlimited. They have a staff of seasoned experts who have been there, done that, and survived to tell the tale–and offer some advice as a bonus.
But there’s more. IU is currently running a series of blog posts called FOULED! written by people have been scammed. Dream-wise, these are sob stories. In many cases, fraud was involved. Unfortunately, fraud is hard to prove and most beginning writers don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, much less travel to the state where the publisher is headquartered and initiate a court action.
Nightmare on Editing Street
Today’s post by Brenda Perlin tells a nightmare story about the author’s experience with an online editing company. The company promised a beautiful manuscript and delivered, well, pond scum (my term for it).
Such companies can take advantage of a problem most writers face: if the publisher doesn’t hire in-house editors to clean up a manuscript, then the writer has to do it. Unfortunately, the cost for editing, say, a 70,000-word book might well be more than most of us can afford; and, statistically, it also may be more than most debut, small-press or self-published novels are likely to earn. This is a sensitive area for writers because they get dinged by reviewers for typos.
Most of us are the last people to copy edit or proofread out own work.
Previously, on Fouled
If you want to read these in the order that they appeared, start at the bottom of the list and work up.
Writing is hard work. Finding the right publisher and then promoting the book is almost harder work. In Blue Highways, one of my favorite books, the author William Least Heat-Moon talks to many people along the road, asking one of them: “Dreams take up a lot of space?”
“All you can give them,” was the reply.
This is how dreams are. How dreams are makes them dangerous because logic and good intentions don’t always mesh well with our journey to make dreams come true. So, as the site says, Writer Beware.
Otherwise, how dreams are is also their magic and wonderment.
Writers like keeping up with contests, tips and techniques, publishers and magazines where they can submit their stories and articles, and advice on how to market their work once it’s published.
Readers like keeping up with their favorite writers, upcoming books in the genres they read the most, and information about authors’ future book signings and other appearances.
Book Bitsbrings you the links to this kind of information six days a week. Quite simply, Book Bits is a blog in which every post is a list of links covering the latest reviews, books and author features, contests, marketing and social networking advice, “writer’s how to” posts, and essays and features about authors, books and publishing.
Book Bits Titles
Book Bits is numbered from the first issue onward toward infinity. The higher the number, the more recent the post. The titles are designed to attract attention, so they include the names of authors/events most likely to lure people into the post. For example, the title for this morning’s post looked like this:
Book Bits #117 – Hedy Lamarr, Roberto Bolaño, Elmore Leonard and more writing news
So now you know I’ve made 117 posts. This one included a review of Roberto Bolaño’s latest novel, a biography about Hedy Lamarr, and an article about author Elmore Leonard who, says “why not,” when asked why (at age 86) he’s still writing.
This morning’s Book Bits had 24 links. In addition to those attention-getting names in the title, the other offerings featured a link to a blog hop where you might win a Kindle, a story about the return of the Lit Fest to Haiti, and the names and novels of the ten finalists in Georgia’s Townsend Prize for Fiction.
Naturally, some posts will bore you. My top picks on those days will be authors you’ve never heard of or genres you never read. I try to include a variety, though, in hopes that every time you stop by, you’ll find at least one link you want to click on.
Some posts will take over you’re entire day because, heck, you’ll want to click on every feature, news story and review. The reviews will tempt you to read books. The contest announcements will tempt you to write books, or maybe short stories or poems.
This morning, you might have followed the link to this review:
Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – “With characters that will inspire the imagination, a plot that nods to history while defying accuracy, and a love story that promises more in the second book, this is sure to attract feminist readers and romantics alike.” – Booklist
Or the link to this advice:
Lists: 10 Ways to Get Paid for Online Writing, with Lior Levin – “Selling words for dollars is easy, if you are aware of two things: -How to put down the words together. -How to sell your piece in the right market.”
I invite you to surf over to Book Bits, read a few posts and see what you think. That’s sort of like kicking the tires on the car you just might want to buy. Unlike the car, Book Bitsis free.
Sure, you’ll see some banners at the ends of the post with links to my author’s site and my novels. Maybe those banners will tempt you. If not, have fun. Goodness knows, I have a lot of fun every day finding the news and rev iews for each post. I tell me wife I’m working, but I think she suspects I’m just surfing the net for the heck of it.
Coming in tomorrow’sBook Bits, a link for a wonderful piece of satire that pokes good-natured fun at the Antiques Road Show (imagine people bringing in crime evidence rather than antiques) and some pithy advice for authors planning to self publish their books. Oh, and reviews, too. There are always reviews.
Today’s guest post by author Smoky Trudeau Zeidel (On the Choptank Shores – A Love Story) offers tough-love advice for aspiring writers who have become frustrated with the road to publication. Zeidel is the author of two novels, two non-fiction writing books, and a book of prose, poetry and photographs about the natural world (Observations of an Earth Mage). A book reviewer and a former writing instructor, Zeidel is also a professional editor.
KNOCK IT OFF: How to Be Treated Like the Writing Professional You Aspire to Be
Smoky Trudeau Zeidel
Recently, I’ve done a little bit of Web surfing, checking out places writers and aspiring writers hang out. You know the places: water coolers at Websites, Facebook pages, Yahoo groups. As I surfed, I found a disturbing trend.
There is a lot of whining going on among unpublished writers about the fact they are unpublished. Some of that whining is aimed at those of us who are published. Not only whining, but some very unpleasant name-calling.
I have a bit of advice for any of you who may be in that category of frustrated, unpublished writer, that advice being: KNOCK IT OFF!
You heard me right. But before you brand me a heartless meanie with no compassion for the little guy, let me assure you that isn’t the case. I taught fiction writing for many, many years. I’ve taught and coached literally thousands of unpublished authors, helping them learn their craft, polish their manuscripts, giving them guidance. Heartless meanie is not the right modifier here.
Let’s look at a handful of problems I’ve seen this past week:
Writers who want others to do their legwork for them. I’ve seen at least ten writers post comments to the effect that they’ve written a book, but don’t know what to do next. They beg “someone who’s been there” to tell them what to do next.
Writers who have an over-inflated opinion of themselves and their writing. I’ve seen people swear their book is as good as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or that it is a guaranteed best seller. I’ve heard them say they write like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
Writers who cannot spell, yet complain they cannot get a publisher or agent to look at their book. The word “your” is spelled Y-O-U-R, not Y-E-R. It’s “for sure,” not “fer sher.”
Writers who complain that those of us who are published have written books that aren’t as good as theirs, or, worse still, they bash another writer’s blog, or Goodreads book reviews, or other online writing—or bash the author personally. This, perhaps, is the most dangerous thing of all I see on the Internet—writers complaining about—and sometimes downright bashing—other, currently more successful, writers. Bad karma, bad karma! If I see those posts where you trash talk someone else, publishers can see them, too. Don’t think for a minute they won’t find out you said unkind things. All they have to do is plug your name into a Google search and they can come up with who said what and where, and yes, they do Google writers. There is no anonymity on the Internet. If you can’t say something kind, it is best not to say anything at all.
If you are guilty of even one of these transgressions, you need to shape up! Here’s where that bit about me not being a heartless meanie comes into play: I’m going to give you some suggestions for doing exactly that.
Do your research
Do a Google search with the words “How to Get Published” in the search box. When I did that, I came up with 165 million results! If you can’t figure out what you need to do with that wealth of information at your fingertips, you perhaps need to find a different avocation.
I’m not suggesting you can’t ask for tips on your Facebook pages. Asking politely for tips is completely acceptable. But complaining that published writers won’t tell you what to do next is whining. No one likes a whiner.
Along the same lines, if you do happen to find an author who is receptive to giving your some hints, don’t abuse their good graces. It is fine to ask if they have any tips for you. It is not fine to ask them to critique for free your book, or to introduce them to your publisher. It is not fine to email or message them ten times a day.
Control your ego
Of course you think your novel is wonderful, and you should! Writing a novel is hard work; just completing the task is worthy of a congratulations. But don’t brag about how great it is. It’s up to readers and reviewers, not you, the writer, to say if your book is as good as some other book, or if your writing style is like a famous author’s.
Learn to spell, and learn proper punctuation, grammar, and syntax rules
I can’t emphasize this enough. If spelling is not your strong suit, look up words you are unsure of, and have someone who can spell well proofread your manuscript. Buy a Chicago Manual of Style, the industry-wide standard for all things word related, and study the chapters on punctuation. Learn how to use a comma. Never, ever have I seen so many books where the writer didn’t have a clue how to use a comma than I have in the past few months. It’s enough to make this editor pull her hair out. And watch your syntax. “This morning I saw a deer driving Rachel to work” is bad syntax—unless you have very talented deer in your neighborhood.
Be polite – Everywhere
That means on Facebook, in chat rooms, on Yahoo Groups, and when you comment on blogs. If you cannot be polite, do not say anything. I know my publisher lurks on Facebook, and I know of at least two other publishers who do the same. If I see your post, they will, too. One snarky comment could cost you dearly. You don’t hurt the author or publisher you are snarking about, because serious authors (and publishers) don’t take these snarks seriously—except when it comes to judging the person who is being snarky.
Bottom line is, if you want to be treated like an author, and not just a wannabe writer, you need to act the consummate professional. It’s no different from being a doctor, lawyer, or barista at Starbucks. Do your job well and be kind, and you will be treated accordingly. Whine and whimper about how unfair the world of publishing is, and expect to live with the consequences.
Smoky’s writing combo book containing both her books, Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out and Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises is available at both Amazon and Smashwords.
New York City, January 4, 2009–Conglomo House announced this morning “with substantial remorse” that it has canceled the scheduled February 1st release of Mack Hooper’s novel Stiffs Scattered Down a Lonely Road because the book was found to have been based on actual events.
While police in Hooper’s hometown of Junction City, Texas, have long questioned the synchronicity of the plot line with local events, Conglomo House editors steadfastly defended the novel as “a pack of lies” since last summer even though the first-time author failed the standard pre-contract polygraph test when he claimed he wasn’t telling the truth.
According to uninformed sources, the discovery of truth in a novel is evidence per se of breach of contract.
“Ignoring the results of the polygraph test was a bad judgement call on our point,” said former acquisitions editor Nell Quickly. “We were in too much of a rush to get Hooper’s shocking, sharply written thriller about the horrifying demise of a minister’s five former trophy wives out to the public.”
Junction City police chief Hank Kruller told reporters at a County Line Road news conference that gossip columnist Monique Starnes, writing about the novel in the local Star-Gazer, caught his attention when she said, “This story is so real, readers will smell fresh blood on the page. You just can’t make stuff like this up.”
“While I thought Starnes was just another fru-fru reporter out there making it up, I began to suspect Hooper wasn’t,” Kruller said.
According to Conglomo House editor in chief Fred Smith, publishers often find it necessary to cancel memoirs that turn out to have been faked, but withdrawing a novel based on claims of veracity is unusual.
“Speaking off the record,” said Smith, “I’m a busy man trying to reduce the amount of red ink around here, so don’t expect me to run for the border when some small town Barney Fife leaves me a voice mail asking if I know that all five of Hooper’s ex-wives have come up missing.”
Hooper’s agent Lucy Lake, his greatest fan ever since the manuscript for Stiffs Scattered Down a Lonely Road arrived in an old gun case three years ago, said she not only saw the novel as the best crime fiction to come across her desk in years, but one that would bring “hen-pecked male readers” a substantial amount of vicarious pleasure.
“Mack told me the stains on the manuscript were ketchup,” she said.
When confronted with the shallow unmarked graves scatted down County Line Road three miles from his parsonage, Hooper confessed to having based his novel on the unsolved crime. He was subsequently taken into custody for obstruction of justice and improper use of poetic license.
“If he’d come forward when he began writing the novel and told us who his protagonist Jack Cooper really is,” said Kruller, “we might have been able to close this case before all of Hooper’s wives were dead and buried. What a great memoir that might have made for the bean counters at Conglomo House.”