sartorias: (desk)
Off to Texas for ConDFW in a few hours. Looking forward to some relaxing time on the train with books, writing, and scenery.

Over at Charles Stross's blog, [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija talks about indies and erotica.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
I am on the beautiful island, and as I have done all my workshop reading, I'd thought today I'd rent a bike and go off exploring. Alas, there is rain with intermittent hail, and while it is novel and charming to look at, though I brought winter clothes, these are SoCal winter clothes--not even remotely adequate for the temperature here.

So I am curled up reading Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman; I had avoided this book, having stupidly judged it by the title, but my friend Greg Feeley gave me this copy before I left yesterday, and I crammed it into my bag.

I had assumed from the title it would be burble and squee about Jane fans and fan sequels, all of which I've seen I have intensely disliked as sequels to Austen, whereas if the writers had fashioned their own silver fork novel or romance, I might have liked it just fine. (But I'm sure they laughed all the way to the bank!)

ANNNNyway, it's not that at all, at least at the front end. What we're getting is a picture of Austen's family, who were all not only indefatigable readers, but many of them were writers as well. So at one point, a connection of the family found Madame d'Arblay (AKA Fanney Burney) living across the street. She was by then famous all over Europe for the publication of Evelina (which she sold to her publisher, or bookseller as they said then, for thirty pounds) and her second novel, Cecelia, which she'd sold for 250 pounds, the first having done so well.

Austen's relation, a Mrs. Cooke, passed on to Madame d'Arblay that a relation of hers who was an insider with booksellers revealed that the very first year of Cecelia's publication, they had made 1,500 profit.

Mrs. Cooke talked Madame d'Arblay into publishing her third novel by subscription, at which time she promptly made a thousand pounds--after which she sold the copyright for another thousand.

Publishing today in so very many ways reflects publishing at Austen's time. It was changing rapidly, different models being tried. Some were successful, some not; one of Austen's aunts wrote novels that apparently the family enjoyed but sold so poorly there is no trace of them now, not even a title. Jane Austen's brother James, while at college, published a magazine that for a time was distributed through several counties--now he a lifetime writer is unknown except as a footnote in Jane Austen biographies.

Subscription is a dicey model, one we now call crowdsourcing, usually through Kickstarter or one of those outfits. It can work for those who already have an audience, as Madame d'Arblay had. When she first sold Evelina, she was an unknown twenty-something, still living at home with her dad, who wrote about music. Though she was part of Samuel Johnson's select coterie, if I remember right, she didn't tell him about the book until it was already out. So the bookseller took the risk, for thirty pounds, and reaped a spanking profit.

Nobody knows what's going to take off or sink: authors can work tirelessly to get the word out about their work, and it may or may not pay off. Notoriety will often do the job for you, but that can be like playing with lightning. Publishers might give your book a massive budget for publicity, which I guess usually garners at least a certain level of order numbers (never been in that situation, so have no idea), or very little publicity, as [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija and I have had for our book coming out next month from Viking. It's almost a stealth release, other than their having duly sent ARCs to the main reviewers.

Who decides what gets gigantic publicity budgets and why (other than notoriety, authors being male, or likely film prospect?) is a mystery, as much a mystery as why books take off--or don't. One can raise the Q word, except one person's quality is another's trash. Trying to suss out likely trends in popularity and interest seems to be about as scientifically predictable as it was two hundred years ago, in spite of sophisticated statistical studies and newly-emerging patterns hoovered out of social media by sekrit means. But human behavior has always been as changeable as the weather.

Anyway, it's interesting reading this book, and thinking of Jane Austen as a young writer watching the mysteries of publishing playing out among her elders before she finally decided it was time to ride the wave herself.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
This is not about trashing traditional publishers. Some of us are perfectly happy with our editors/houses . . . but some are not, for various reasons, many of which have to do with "How do we market this? It doesn't fit the regular slots."

How to make a publisher with no boss, and no budget.

I've been asked about how Book View Cafe works, so here is a way into how it came about, how it works. If people are interested, next, the nitty gritty of setting up an online bookstore when you have a minuscule budget, and in future, the hassle that is PR, and other aspects.

Come talk about today's publishing!
sartorias: (Fan)
Returned from ConDor in San Diego last night. I think it was the best one ever, so many fast and interesting exchanges my arthritic fingers couldn't keep up with notes. Steampunk overlay, which meant lots of discussion of history, history of literature, blending with genre--my favorite thing ever.

So, home again, and into a new week! I was thinking of beginning an occasional series focusing specifically on indie discoveries. This one is about Andrea K. Höst.

I invite you to talk about her books, about other indie discoveries, and about indie publishing. If you like this sort of thing, let me know, and I'll definitely talk about more indies I'm reading and loving.

Publishing

Sep. 5th, 2013 08:30 am
sartorias: (handwritten books)
I was talking to a friend who summarized her Worldcon experience, and one thing she overheard was discussion about how the future of publishing is trending more toward direct-to-consumer. Is the day of the big publisher over? Well, not yet it isn't! The big bookstores are hanging on, and they are supplied by the big publishers.

But all these other venues are mushrooming. From my limited view, there are two things to consider. One, getting the word out (the problem everyone faces) but there is as big an issue, hidden from view: who does the labor? Anyway, Book View Cafe keeps evolving and is now legally a cooperative.
sartorias: (Fan)
Chris Dolley talks about the evolution of the Book View Cafe co-op, which I thought a pretty good rundown.

Watching how the co-op has evolved over the past three years sometimes seems like a microcosmic representation of how indie publishing is evolving.

What Chris Dolley didn't mention is his dynamism--he's the one behind getting the word to libraries, who seem to be buying more and more e-books. He was also the point man behind the big audio recording deal that happened this summer.

The co-op has evolved completely away from the "dowry" promotion of four years ago, and the site posting free stories to try to hook people in to buying backlist books. The teams producing new books are getting better at it. The biggest bottleneck, unsurprisingly, is the one faced by everybody: how, if you have no promotional budget, do you match reader to book?

Different people put tremendous energy into Twitter and Facebook and sending notices to a bazillion review blogs. I don't know how successful this stuff is as I would never sign up for Twitter, Facebook makes my dyslexia bleep, and I tune out promotional bow-wow the way I avoid listening to commercial yammer on TV. But somebody must be listening, right?

Editing

Jul. 30th, 2013 08:31 am
sartorias: (Fan)
Deborah Ross posted her thoughts on editing vs. critiquing.

Outside of a buying editor having final authority, I don't see any real difference between editing and critiquing. But I guess that depends on how one defines either of those.

Editing in the modern sense is, um, modern. Reading the letters and memoirs of writers in days gone by, I discovered that they didn't have editors. In fact, publishing in the eighteenth century maps more closely on the evolving world of self-publishing today than onto traditional publishing. The world we think of as traditional publishing isn't much more than a century old, settling into recognizable forms toward the latter nineteenth century. (And there have been some significant changes, like the appearance and disappearance of magazines, and then the mass market book rise and fall.)

Charles Dickens had an editor in the sense that Jane Austen or Sir Walter Scott didn't, but his editor was mainly a facilitator for publication. Today, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves editors. Some even get paid for it. Are they good at it? Well, that's not as easy to define as it first appears. First answer would be, do their projects sell? Do reviews reflect satisfaction?

I was talking to someone last summer who said that you can always tell small press editing because the book reads as if it was unedited. Someone else exclaimed, wait a minute. Small Beer is considered a small press, and their projects do not read like raw draft. Then went on to name small presses that have gone on to win awards and stellar reviews.

Going back to those other small presses, the readership for any given niche might be happy with what they are reading. So this book that you or I thought unedited might read as polished and perfect to a third person. In fact, I would go so far as to say that most readers wouldn't know an edited book from a raw draft. Related, the book full of howlers that reviewers claim must have gone completely unedited might actually have had two or three drafts, but neither writer, editor, or proofer is very good at spelling and grammar, so that sort of error slid right past them.

I put over there what I think editing is all about, but I bet that there are going to be as many definitions are there are people responding.
sartorias: (Fan)
Judith Tarr raises some questions and also talks about ways for authors to take some of the power back. Disturbing, how many of the dumpees are women. But it's interesting how many female authors are saying, in effect, "Roger that. I'll find another way, then." And doing it.

Meanwhile, related, [livejournal.com profile] janni is running a series on long-term writers and why they do it and how they keep at it.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
The only way self-published writers get any traction is by word of mouth, so I'm saving the regular Wednesday Reading post for next week (also, yesterday didn't seem a great day to post, too much anxiety-making news). Today is about the self-published works I've enjoyed, and feel free to recommend discoveries in the comments.

Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos. The bio stuff says that he's a Viable Paradise grad. I wonder if he learned some of the tight and vivid action description and stylish transitions from Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald, who wrote one of my favorite space operas of all time, beginning with the killer The Price of the Stars.

If you enjoy the subgenre of military SF in which a loser enlists and makes his way into a career, give Terms of Enlistment a try. Engagingly written, super fast paced, sympathetic characters, and believable military, right down to the cadences and the cursing. I meant to read a chapter or two before bed, and ended up reading half the night.


Medair Duology by Andrea K Höst. Like most of her books, a female is thrown into an utterly new situation, in this case there is a nifty Sleeping Beauty spin - Medair emerges from her version of an enchanted sleep 500 years after the war in which she was sent to get the Magical Doodad That Will Fix Everything. The world is much changed and the battles and Medair herself are part of history, but for her, it was only yesterday.

The storyline weaves back and forth in time, through memory and the present . . . and just when she's got everything wired, all changes yet again. The second half could easily have been two books, there was so much packed into it. There is an elegiac feel to it all, the questions are big and personal both, even the romance. Especially the romance.

Ordinarily I don't get into the whole awards thing, as there is such a strong social component in their choices that tends to run orthogonal to my tastes, but the fact that a self-published book made it to the Aurealis Award finalists is pretty impressive.

A Cup of Smoke is Rachel Manija Brown's collection. These stories and poems feature a steampunk Wild West, in whichwomen with nothing left to lose walk into the desert, and emerge soul-bonded to giant robots... (I love this one),a pair of bickering angels try to re-create Heaven in a Tokyo subway station, and a female warrior matches swords and wits with a demon in mythic India. Among the poems are her Rhysling Award-winning poem "Nine Views of the Oracle."

(And hey, since it's my blog, I will throw in a mention of mine. Even if you don't have any interest in my stuff, check out the other BVC authors! New works added every Tuesday.)
sartorias: (Fan)
I wasn't going to say anything about the latest foofoo with a self published author going neener neener in regretfully sexist language, but Andrea K. Hoest has an interesting self-publisher's take on that and dealing with the image of the emerging self-published author.

Everybody wants credibility and respect--and as the publishing world goes through its ructions, authors as usual are ground between the gears. Add in our human tendency toward making hierarchies, and, well, you know what goes on.

Anyway, I found her post interesting and wondered if others would like to discuss it.
sartorias: (Fan)
What the header says. I like talking about self-published books that I enjoyed, in case someone else wants to give them a try. Today, there's the book and the wider subject, in particular the last question.

Editors

Oct. 21st, 2012 07:46 am
sartorias: (Default)
While I was visiting [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume we had a small but excellent writing workshop. I came away all excited about what people had seen in my first chapter of a thing--the bad and the good. All during my travels I tinkered with that chapter, addressing issues that people saw, then I woke up the night before last and realized I have to scrap the entire thing except for the opening scene.

Writing is such a weird thing--we write for ourselves, but we also have an eye to the potential audience. We have things to say, but we often have to hide them. We are accused of saying things we didn't actually put into the text, because each book is different for each reader. And yet there is the shared sigh of satisfaction at this bit--or a general shudder for the horror reader at that incident, binding us together, those of us who read and reacted to the same book. One of the most powerful magics of fiction is the shared reaction.

The e-book revolution has returned the power of publication to the writer, as it was in the eighteenth century, when there were printers and booksellers, but no editors in the way we know them now. A New York agent was telling me a day or so ago, during a phone conversation, about attending a meeting of head librarians who were trying to address the problem of ebook purchase, and the agent reported heartfelt cries of "We need gatekeepers! Why won't these writers get editors?"

Well, just like in the eighteenth century, the self-published writer will either find her audience or won't, the audience will either like the book or turn away in indifference. Nobody has the formula for success, with or without an editor.

But for those who are sticking to the established publication route, what do you do when the editors (or agents) say, "Yes, but . . ."

Editors

Oct. 21st, 2012 07:46 am
sartorias: (Default)
While I was visiting [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume we had a small but excellent writing workshop. I came away all excited about what people had seen in my first chapter of a thing--the bad and the good. All during my travels I tinkered with that chapter, addressing issues that people saw, then I woke up the night before last and realized I have to scrap the entire thing except for the opening scene.

Writing is such a weird thing--we write for ourselves, but we also have an eye to the potential audience. We have things to say, but we often have to hide them. We are accused of saying things we didn't actually put into the text, because each book is different for each reader. And yet there is the shared sigh of satisfaction at this bit--or a general shudder for the horror reader at that incident, binding us together, those of us who read and reacted to the same book. One of the most powerful magics of fiction is the shared reaction.

The e-book revolution has returned the power of publication to the writer, as it was in the eighteenth century, when there were printers and booksellers, but no editors in the way we know them now. A New York agent was telling me a day or so ago, during a phone conversation, about attending a meeting of head librarians who were trying to address the problem of ebook purchase, and the agent reported heartfelt cries of "We need gatekeepers! Why won't these writers get editors?"

Well, just like in the eighteenth century, the self-published writer will either find her audience or won't, the audience will either like the book or turn away in indifference. Nobody has the formula for success, with or without an editor.

But for those who are sticking to the established publication route, what do you do when the editors (or agents) say, "Yes, but . . ."
sartorias: (Default)
The authoress has bestowed wonderful pains upon its composition [Shirley], and she has been rewarded accordingly. It has been slowly written, carefully digested, touched and retouched, reviewed and revised, corrected in manuscript and in proof, and in this respect it is a pattern to our modern novelists, who gives their scribblings to the press with all their imperfections, as they flow from their gold pen, scarcely troubling themselves to amend defects in grammar or remedy tautologies.

I took that from a review of Charlotte Bronte's Shirley in 1849. I think it is easy to forget how new the novel is (as we understand it), and how much newer the concept of editors, copy-editors, proof-readers and the like.

The book I was reading was The Brontes: The Critical Heritage, edited by Miriam Allott. Not only reviews but discussions in private letters, both by Charlotte and others, such as Thackeray. This snapshot of early and mid-Victorian readers and reviewers as they try to deal with the question of the 'Bells' gender (some thought that line of inquiry totally irrelevant), morals, ethics, the purpose of books, and especially, what to make of that masterpiece of id-vortex, Wuthering Heights, makes absorbing reading.

But stepping out from the Brontes and taking a look at publishing, which that passage quoted above inspired me to do, caused me to think about the purpose of the editor--and how that purpose has been bypassed by much of the flood of e-book publishing appearing now.

It's too simplistic to say that self-edited e-books are automatically trash. In any discussion I've sat in, the first hands to start waving belong to those who are quick to point out that there is plenty of balderdash out there that has been edited to a fair-thee-well, and the second wave of hands want to make sure everyone knows that editors nowadays either don't have the time to edit, or don't know how to--were hired straight out of business school for their marketing training, and boo-ha boo-ha.

Then there are those who say, in effect, "Who cares about proofing and copyediting? Most Americans are so badly educated they wouldn't know a grammatical mistake, and can't spell." Anyone who has listened to some of the jaw-droppingly awful dangling modifiers tripped out by first-at-the-site newsvamps, richly caparisoned by grammatical vagaries ("Appalled and horrified, the bodies of the dead laying around . . .") might nod judiciously.

Whatevs, as a teen I was talking to the other day said. "I read what I like."

And what I have been liking lately is the work of the self-published Andrea K. Host (there should be an umlaut over the o in her last name, but I have no idea how to make one outside of Word). Her latest is And All the Stars , which I simply devoured while on the train and bus this past couple of days, and even while standing at red lights as I strolled along Broadway in New York City.

It's a YA apocalypse, very different from some of the familiar patterns appearing of late. Do I think she would benefit from an editor and copyeditor? Yes, but only in the sense of making a smashing good read even better. The best editors are able to see what the writer can't always, due to living inside the story; the danger of turning to other writers for editing is that they might assume they are editing but in fact they are trying to make the story theirs. Well, that's collaboration--and a whole nother topic, but I just got the phone call and it's time to flit to another state.

Will catch up again when I reach Martha's Vineyard. I have some nifty photos to share.
sartorias: (Default)
The authoress has bestowed wonderful pains upon its composition [Shirley], and she has been rewarded accordingly. It has been slowly written, carefully digested, touched and retouched, reviewed and revised, corrected in manuscript and in proof, and in this respect it is a pattern to our modern novelists, who gives their scribblings to the press with all their imperfections, as they flow from their gold pen, scarcely troubling themselves to amend defects in grammar or remedy tautologies.

I took that from a review of Charlotte Bronte's Shirley in 1849. I think it is easy to forget how new the novel is (as we understand it), and how much newer the concept of editors, copy-editors, proof-readers and the like.

The book I was reading was The Brontes: The Critical Heritage, edited by Miriam Allott. Not only reviews but discussions in private letters, both by Charlotte and others, such as Thackeray. This snapshot of early and mid-Victorian readers and reviewers as they try to deal with the question of the 'Bells' gender (some thought that line of inquiry totally irrelevant), morals, ethics, the purpose of books, and especially, what to make of that masterpiece of id-vortex, Wuthering Heights, makes absorbing reading.

But stepping out from the Brontes and taking a look at publishing, which that passage quoted above inspired me to do, caused me to think about the purpose of the editor--and how that purpose has been bypassed by much of the flood of e-book publishing appearing now.

It's too simplistic to say that self-edited e-books are automatically trash. In any discussion I've sat in, the first hands to start waving belong to those who are quick to point out that there is plenty of balderdash out there that has been edited to a fair-thee-well, and the second wave of hands want to make sure everyone knows that editors nowadays either don't have the time to edit, or don't know how to--were hired straight out of business school for their marketing training, and boo-ha boo-ha.

Then there are those who say, in effect, "Who cares about proofing and copyediting? Most Americans are so badly educated they wouldn't know a grammatical mistake, and can't spell." Anyone who has listened to some of the jaw-droppingly awful dangling modifiers tripped out by first-at-the-site newsvamps, richly caparisoned by grammatical vagaries ("Appalled and horrified, the bodies of the dead laying around . . .") might nod judiciously.

Whatevs, as a teen I was talking to the other day said. "I read what I like."

And what I have been liking lately is the work of the self-published Andrea K. Host (there should be an umlaut over the o in her last name, but I have no idea how to make one outside of Word). Her latest is And All the Stars , which I simply devoured while on the train and bus this past couple of days, and even while standing at red lights as I strolled along Broadway in New York City.

It's a YA apocalypse, very different from some of the familiar patterns appearing of late. Do I think she would benefit from an editor and copyeditor? Yes, but only in the sense of making a smashing good read even better. The best editors are able to see what the writer can't always, due to living inside the story; the danger of turning to other writers for editing is that they might assume they are editing but in fact they are trying to make the story theirs. Well, that's collaboration--and a whole nother topic, but I just got the phone call and it's time to flit to another state.

Will catch up again when I reach Martha's Vineyard. I have some nifty photos to share.

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