Saturday, June 27. 2009
The last article was about how some terms get thrown around carelessly when authors, publishers and booksellers get together, and those terms become confusing. The article covered “traditional publishing,” a misnomer; commercial publishing; and print-on-demand (POD) which is actually a printing technology that has spawned a new business model, rather than a form of publishing.
Today, you’ll learn about two more forms of publishing.
Vanity publishing. Vanity publishing is often described by simply reciting a litany of some of the most egregious vanity publishers. While naming a few of those is not a bad thing, it doesn’t define a vanity publisher.
For the rest of the article, click HERE.
Monday, June 1. 2009
On one of the discussion lists I frequent, we have been talking about book sales, and conversation migrated to who (large publishing houses or smaller publishing houses) sold the most books in aggregate. Now I KNOW that Simon & Schuster sell more books than my two imprints, so that's not the point. It's about whether or not the small and independent presses are encroaching on the money that the large presses make, which in turn makes the Six Sisters nervous.
To avoid rewriting a long post, I'm going to post (almost!) the exact same information here that I put on that discussion list.
Why do I think that the midsize, small and independent publishers are producing the largest part of book sales in the U.S.?
The Book Industry Study Group has issued a report that says book sales have been seriously underreported. The study, “Under the Radar,” says that approximately 63,000 publishers with annual sales of less than $50 million generate aggregate sales of $14.2 billion.
Now, if anyone has their collective finger on the pulse of book sales in the U.S., I would say it is the BISG. They are devoted to studying the industry and reporting the facts, no matter how distasteful those facts may be to some members of the industry.
Secondly, the number of small and independent publishers in the U.S. is increasing astronomically, thus further diluting the market share of the Six Sisters (Bertelsmann, CBS Corporation, Hachette, News Corporation, Pearson and Verlagsgruppe.) According to www.ISBN.org, between 8,000 and 11,000 new publishers are now being established each year. That includes self-publishing authors who purchase their own ISBNs and create new imprints, as well as small presses.
By the way, regarding the "big houses" in NYC: who exactly gets listed depends on how you view that. Do you want to list managing groups, i.e. the big companies that own the presses and who own other presses in other countries too, or do you want to list presses by the names we see on the spines of books? The way I have it listed above is by owner groups. The top six publisher imprints you see are Random House, Inc., Penguin Putnam Inc., HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings, Time Warner, and Simon & Schuster, Inc.
DISCLAIMER: The figures I have in this post are as accurate as I could find based on currently available data. Exact book sales data are notoriously hard to come by, and even the use of such statistics as I have here is akin to an educated guess.
Monday, May 4. 2009
Probably many of the people who read this blog have read medical thrillers. Stephen King's THE STAND is one such, as are FOREIGN BODY by Robin Cook and HARVEST by Tess Gerritsen. I don't read these very often--not because they're not gripping or well-written, but because they scare the bejeebers out of me. I get enough doses of scary reality to want to avoid such books. If you like them, that's great! Go ahead and read 'em--I'm not saying don't do it.
How's this for a thriller concept? Doctors discover an antibiotic-resistant infection that spreads easily and is very, very deadly.
"Ha!" you may say. "That's been done, and besides, it's a reality. They call it MRSA, or 'mersa' in the nurse's lingo."
True. All too true. So, let's put a kink in it. Classic MRSA typically is transferred through a wound and/or mucous membrane, by exposure to a person sick with MRSA or his/her body fluids. It is contracted over ninety percent of the time when a person is in a hospital, nursing home, dialysis center or other such place.
So let's make it more suspenseful: the new "bug" is spread through casual contact with physical objects that other infected persons have touched. Remember wa-a-a-ay back when people worried about catching AIDS or VD from a doorknob? Well, would it up the suspense ante if the new bug could literally be caught from a doorknob... or by touching the handle of the shopping cart at WalMart... or from the toilet in the public restroom... or by picking up the hymnal at church?
And would it make it even more horrifying if this new version of the bug often causes necrotization of the tissue (necrotizing fascitis)? (That means that the skin and underlying flesh starts to die and rot--similarly to what happens from the bite of a brown recluse. (Warning: NASTY pictures after that jump!)
Guess what: it is not fiction. This relatively new version of MRSA is called Community Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphyloccus Aureus. CA-MRSA, for short.
The nurses at the hospital were warned about this a few months ago, but the warning was emphasized again in today's training. Here's a kicker, too: Purell and other alcohol-based "hand sanitizers" don't do squat to fight this. You know those little dispensers you may have seen near the entrance of your local grocery store (ours have them, anyway) that have what look like baby wipes in them? Those things have a mild form of bleach in them, and that's the only thing that kills the CA-MRSA on surfaces. Standard germicidal wipes with alcohol are useless against CA-MRSA.
Now, for some reason people are worried silly over H1N1 influenza.
Why? Because the pharmaceutical companies have pushed this as a big risk.
Why did they do this? Because they have HUGE stockpiles of influenza vaccine and TamiFlu that they need to sell before it goes out of date.
There are about 290 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza in the U.S. right now. There has been one death: a Mexican toddler whose immune system was compromised. To me, this is not a pandemic, as sad as the death of a child may be. One death in 286 is a mortality rate of about one-third of one percent
Here are some facts on deaths from MRSA: "In 2005 in the United States alone, 368,600 hospital admissions for MRSA—including 94,000 invasive infections—resulted in 18,650 deaths. The number of MRSA fatalities in 2005 surpassed the number of fatalities from hurricane Katrina and AIDS combined and is substantially higher than fatalities at the peak of the U. S. polio epidemic." (Taken from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons News.) That is a FIVE percent mortality rate in 2005. The CA-MRSA has developed since that time, so the infection rate is increasing because people are contracting CA-MRSA outside the hospital.
By this point you're probably wondering why in the WORLD I am blogging about this. Well, it does tie to writing and fiction in a number of ways.
Oh, and make sure you use one of those antibacterial wipes the grocery stores have to wipe down that shopping cart handle. Believe me, you don't want to catch CA-MRSA.
Later addition, 5/4/09, 11:43 PM: Government says swine flu is no worse than regular flu.
Sunday, March 29. 2009
FOR SALE - Crime and Suspense ezine (http://www.crimeandsuspense.com/). Established 2005.
Contact me for details! email@example.com
Yep, it's true. Other things in my life have become much more pressing, and I decided to give up the Crime and Suspense ezine. It's not because I don't like the ezine--heck, many of my friends and business contacts are because of the ezine. But sometimes, when there are a lot of things on the table, something has to be sent back. "Sorry... I'm full, really. Nope, can't eat another bite, seriously!" <belch> "Oh, pardon me."
The Crime and Suspense ezine has been around since October 2005, and was established then almost as a lark. "Hey, why don't I do my own online magazine?? Cool!" And behold, it was cool. But it also is time-consuming. Stories have to be read, selected or rejected, edited, formatted and placed on the site. Interviews have to be made. Appropriate graphics have to be selected and/or created to illustrate the stories. Reviews have to be coordinated. The ezine has grown. We even had Warner Brothers contact us twice, out of the blue, to help with promoting two of their new movie releases. And we are a paying market, unlike many online magazines.
Now, it's not that this is a terrible lot of work on its own, but when you couple it with a growing book publishing business, trying to write my OWN stuff, and building our new home, it has become more than I can easily handle.
I really like to do a GOOD job at what I do, not a slipshod job, and when I don't have the time to focus on the ezine or on the publishing business, it bothers me.
In the past, one of the things I have decried is the dwindling of the markets for short fiction. (See this post.) And as I have begun to talk about the possible impending demise of Crime and Suspense, I've received many emails and contacts from people saying, "Don't do it! We need the short story markets!"
Well, they're right--we DO need them. But we also need someone who has time to do it right. I have to make choices about what is the best investment of my time and right now, the new home, my own writing, and my book publishing business take precedence. So, I asked some of these people who begged me not to let it die, whether they might be interested in running the ezine.
"Oh. No, no, I don't have time."
"I don't have the background/experience/knowledge to do that!"
"No, no... I just couldn't!"
Now, I will confess that a couple of people have volunteered to take on the screening of stories for me, and that does give me some breathing room. In fact, that's probably the only thing that will allow me to keep the ezine going for a few more months this year. But what I'd really like to do is to find someone who is willing to take the helm, to use a nautical turn of phrase, and steer the Crime and Suspense ezine into new waters.
One thing, though: I'm not going to give it away. The ezine comes with a background and history, with subscribers, with a domain name! And from past experience, I've found that giving something away often carries with it the notion that the gift is worth exactly what was paid for it: NOTHING. The cost will not be exorbitant, but just enough to assure that the buyer will appreciate what they now have.
So, if you have an interest in taking over the editorship of an established short crime fiction ezine, drop by the Crime and Suspense site and take a look around. If it still interests you after that, contact me for more details. (See the email address above.)
Tuesday, March 24. 2009
My honey (Lara) and I are in the middle of building a home, as you know if you have read a few entries in my blog. When I say "we are building," I mean that in a very literal sense. If we can physically accomplish the constructional task, we generally do it. So, we are laying block (both CMU and AAC) in a drystacked mode, pouring our own door lintels, etc. Later on I'll be installing the steel framing, wiring things and running water supply lines, too. In a couple of weeks I'll begin applying surface-bonding cement to hold everything together and make it as watertight as a frog's butt. Lara has even requested that I build a couple of the doors myself!
Now, at this point it's not very pretty. (Well, most people wouldn't think it's very pretty. To the two of us, who have put a lot of sweat equity into this project not to mention a lot of coinage, it's getting more gorgeous every day!) But we know it's coming together. And the beauty of doing it ourselves, other than saving a fair amount of money, is that we can make some decisions as we go along. For example, we were looking at windows the other day and since we had not yet laid the AAC for the wall that surrounds the windows, we were able to make the executive decision to change the planned window size. We also decided at the last minute to include a doggie door for faithful Buddy the World Champion Napdog just before we constructed that portion of the garage wall. And we decided to tweak the size of the recording studio that will be part of the house, to make things work out just a little bit better.
I have to admit, everything is not changeable. The foundation is what it is, and won't grow longer or shorter. The back wall, which will be backfilled with earth, is constructed of a few tons of poured concrete and can't be modified with windows or anything like that. But we do have some flexibility! Even with that flexibility, though, we MUST stay within the legal boundaries of the local and state building codes for Georgia.
When you are writing your story, whether it's flash, short, novella or The Great American Novel, you have a lot of flexibility as you build the story. You create the world and the characters. You build their personalities and create the crises that motivate the characters to do whatever they do. In short, you are the architect and builder of your story, all in one. You have much more flexibility in building the miniature world your characters inhabit than we have in creating our home.
Your characters may be human, animal or... perhaps something else? Talking vegetables? The setting may be present day, future or past, on this planet or somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. It's all up to you, and you can change it as you go, if you like.
But if you are submitting your story (whatever its length) for publication, you also have the parameters of the publisher's guidelines that establish your boundaries, just as the building codes establish what can and what cannot be done with our home.
We may think it would be absolutely brilliant to recycle our bathwater and use it to irrigate our lawn, but unless the law allows it we are stuck with putting it into the septic system with all the other wastewater.
You may think it's the most avant-garde thing in the world to use the Ringbearer typeface to create the names of your characters in the manuscript, but if the editor says "Submit manuscripts only in Courier or Times New Roman," you won't pass muster. You may feel that you really MUST use 7,000 words to tell the story of Bob and Diane and their encounter with the evil demon-possessed State Patrolman, but if the magazine editor says "No more than 6,000 words," that story won't fly.
By the way, we were able to create a graywater system for our home by designing it and submitting our plans to the regional health authority for approval. There was a procedure in place for this, and though it took a while, we followed the procedure and were successful after a few minor modifications. But! We didn't go ahead and dig the trenches, bury the tank and so forth. We waited until we got our approval so we wouldn't waste our time and money. We did this because we have seen people just go ahead and do things without having any approval--and they ended up having to tear those things out when the building inspector came around, wasting lots of effort.
So, maybe your 7,000 word short story submission could be accepted even if the guidelines say a maximim of 6,000 words--but before you devote the time and energy to writing it, why not query the editor and see if it's even possible? The editor may say you can give it a shot and she might accept it... or the editor may say that it's absolutely out of the question because of space considerations! But either way, at least you will know enough to make the decision as to whether or not it's worth it to take the chance.Some of this has to do with the "whys and wherefores" of your writing, just as it does with building. If I'm just building something on my property for the exercise of being creative, hey, I can let it all go! I can experiment with creating towers made of ferrocrete and made in the shape of hyperbolic paraboloids! But if I want to have the building accepted by the county as a dwelling, I have to play by their rules.
If you are writing for your own pleasure and amusement, of course there ARE no rules!
To be successful at getting published, learn to build your story within the rules as given to you.
Tuesday, March 17. 2009
Today I received this exciting email! (Actually, it's exciting in the way that having a dog lift his leg on your shoe is exciting, but sometimes any sort of excitement is good.)
Continue reading "Dear Anonymous Author--We LOVE your book!"
Saturday, March 14. 2009
The last couple of days have been wet... in fact, the entire late winter has been pretty wet here in NW Georgia. But the daffodils and jonquils are blooming, and the Bradford pears are glorious displays of white blossoms. (Just don't try sniffing them--YUK!!)
Today, dear wife Lara and I went up onto the property where we are building our new house, and we spent some time putting pepper seeds into starting trays. Sometimes I think she is a little bit TOO scavengey, but I have to admit her saved toilet-tissue and paper towel rollers cut into short pieces, make great starters for seeds when filled with potting soil. They protect the little plants from cutworms and eventually the cardboard just becomes part of the soil!
While there, I took a few pics of the flowering young peach and pear trees we have. A nectarine tree is just starting to flower, too, but I didn't get pics of it. Here are a couple of pics of the peach and pear tree blossoms.
The pink ones are peach blossoms, if you are not into flowering fruit trees.
Why am I telling you about flowering fruit trees and such?
Well, first of all, they are just too beautiful to ignore. You should never go through life ignoring such beauties as these, presented to you by Nature. But there is more.
When you start your story, sometimes you don't have the whole story in your mind. Sometimes, all you have is the seed of the story, or perhaps the sapling. People who are not writers sometimes think that stories spring into life fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. Maybe you are lucky enough for that to happen, but more often (for most of us, anyway) writing a story is more like gardening.
We get that idea and we plant it in our fertile imagination. We water it, we watch it grow. Sometimes it branches out in ways we simply don't expect. And sadly, sometimes it fails to bear fruit at all.
Often, the idea takes a bit of stormy weather and rain to grow to full stature. Not every plant likes full sun--some require shade or partial sun. Some take a lot of water and some very little. Some fruit require days of frost before they can fully ripen.
I have had days where I was so happy that I could not focus on my writing. Things were too joyous. But a few days later, when things seemed gloomy and dark, I was able to settle down and live in the world of my story for a while, and finish it.
Forgive my philosophizing. It happens to me when I get out in nature, sometimes. My muse gets a little drunk on fresh air because she is unaccustomed to it!
Monday, March 9. 2009
We all have them, I guess. But boy, this was frustrating.
I've been working on a short-story submission for a fairly prestigious anthology. I've sweated over it, and got a talented writer friend of mine to look it over... made some edits... and it came down to the wire. That story has to be there THIS WEEK!
So, I printed out the requisite six copies (of a fifteen-page story!), got them all collated, and popped them into the biggest manila envelope I had. It was a tight fit!
I was about to put postage on the envelope and slap it into the mailbox when my eyes fell upon a detail in the submission guidelines. Double-spacing absolutely required. I couldn't remember--did I use double spacing, or as I usually do, did I make the story spacing at 1.5 lines instead? As the competition will be fierce, I checked my document and there it was: 1.5 spacing instead of double-spacing.
I changed the line spacing and re-printed the story. Now, instead of 90 pages, it's 120 pages of submission! I toss the previous printout into the recycling bin and search for another envelope. But no-o-o-o.... Even though I had plenty of manila envelopes, none of them were big enough to hold my now-bloated submission!
A frantic search finally turned up a sturdy-enough box (previously holding Avery labels) that would hold the manuscript. I taped the box shut, weighed it and printed out the online priority mail label. I made the happy trip to the mailbox very early this morning and relaxed.
But... as I sat with a cup of hot tea, I realized something. The stories are all blind-judged, and the only identification of the author is to be on a cover sheet included with the submission. As I mulled over the process, it occurred to me that, even though I had put the title to the story on every page of every copy that went into the package, I didn't put the title of the story on the cover sheet. Arrrrgggghh!
So, it's another hike to the mailbox before the postal carrier comes around, careful opening of the package, retyping of the cover sheet, replacing the existing cover sheet with the new one, resealing the package, and putting it back into the mailbox.
Please, Lord, don't let me have screwed up something ELSE in that submission packet, but if I did, please let me find it before the mail carrier comes around!
Friday, February 20. 2009
Well, folks, you probably know that I am the Chief Editor/Manager/Janitor for Wolfmont Press. (I've mentioned it often enough here.)
I just found out tonight that DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND made the Top Ten Softcover Bestsellers list for the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, for 2008! (Go here to see the list at their site.)
Now, while I have had a book to make a bestseller list twice before—my first novel, BLINDED BY DARKNESS, made the Birmingham, Alabama newspaper's top ten bestseller list two weeks running in 2007— but this is for a whole doggone YEAR, and it's not at the end of the list, either. Here's the list:
1 – Lisa Lutz, The Spellman Files, Simon & Schuster
Note that there are two books from a big, big publishing house that came after Wolfmont's book on the list. It's really exciting to have one of our books listed in the same Top Ten with books from Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Berkley, St. Martins, Bantam, Flying Dolphin and Picador.
I am excited, but I can't take the credit for this. The authors who were part of this book worked their tails off to promote the book, and they deserve most of the credit. The rest of the credit goes to those great people who went to their local bookseller and purchased a copy of the book.
Monday, February 9. 2009
On one of the discussion lists I follow, the question of "What constitutes a cozy mystery?" recently arose. It's interesting to see what some people classify as a cozy mystery, but sometimes I have to shake my head about the responses. (By the way, if you are a Brit, I realize you spell it "cosy"... and for that matter "realise.")
Now, I KNOW that there is nothing as mutable as a genre, except perhaps for the shape of a cloud in a brisk wind. I also know putting labels on things can be bothersome, but as annoying as such labels may be, they can be useful to those of us who (1) read, (2) write or (3) publish books.
I write cozies, among other things, and have read them since my teen years. (Don't ask how long that has been. It's depressing.) For a story to be a cozy, here are my own parameters:
Simply because there have been certain elements that appear in many, many cozy mysteries, it doesn't mean most or all of them must appear in a story for it to be classified as a cozy. These may or may NOT be in the story:
Now, these are my own thoughts on the matter, but they come from over thirty-five years of reading such books, among many others. If you disagree with me, fine! Leave a comment here and tell me where you think I'm off-base. But if you do disagree, please leave an example to illustrate your point if you can.
And understand that ONE story that steps outside the above guidelines doesn't make them of no value. There are usually exceptions to just about everything. I look forward to reading your comments, whether you agree with me or not.
But right now, I'm going to go and have a cup of hot Rooibos tea and sit with my dog at my feet while I try to figure out who killed the unidentified young man whose body was recently discovered behind the local church.
jenny milchman about Excuses, excuses!
Thu, 11.06.2009 17:56
I wonder what he was in (or ou t) for...?
agnes dee about Death of a Thousand Cuts: Big Presses, Small Presses, and Sales
Mon, 01.06.2009 14:43
A wonderful argument you've ma de here. I would hope readers continue this trend - I think it could lead to a great [...]
Mary Saums about Dire warning, indeed!
Sun, 26.04.2009 10:51
HAHA! Love it. You had me scar ed there for a minute. Thanks for sharing.
Dennis Leppanen about Dire warning, indeed!
Sun, 26.04.2009 10:05
Tony, Loved your tale. And yes, that is a beautiful drive . Dennis
Chris Speakman about The Unexpected
Sat, 11.04.2009 18:40
Thank you. Hugs Chris
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