This week in writing… show me some love edition

Fuzzy love

Agent Rachelle Gardner asks if you know what business you’re in, with good points about businesses like Kodak failing because they didn’t  respond to changes in their industry. Take note, publishers.

If you’re interested in illustrating, here’s a look at what a real illustrator does for a living. And she doesn’t even have an agent yet! For more on how illustrations make it into books, Harold Underdown has a great excerpt from his Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Publishing.

Brian Selznick talks about how his Caldecott-winning book became Scorscese’s Hugo.

Maybe it’s not Scorscese you’re after. But do you know what it takes to launch a book? Tips from publicist Arielle Ford.

So you’re done with the book, but nobody knows about it. Where oh where do you promote? Here’s a list of websites to help you.

If you’re having trouble with your story ending, or you wonder what other authors have done that works, you don’t need to go searching through the library stacks. Literary consultant, Constance Fowland has made a list of picture books by their unique endings, like twist endings, or surprise endings. The list itself almost has no end…

Despite all the sturm und drang over Amazon, there are a lot of authors who want to use their publishing arm. Of course, whether or not that’s a good thing depends on what you want out of it. One of my online writer pals had to pull copies of her book from Nook and other sources because she’s an Amazon Kindle Select author. Because she chose to release the book as a serial, she has to send the next installments to her non-Kindle customers for free. So she’s losing money there. Another author, Derek Haines did a KDP Select Experiment, and everybody’s chiming in on whether it’s a good deal or not. So head on over and check it out for yourself.

Royal love

Shelf Awareness is showing some love to one of the greats in children’s book editing: Ursula Nordstrom. The brief reminder includes my favorite quote in all of publishing: “I had to get back to my desk to publish some more good books for bad children.” I wish I could have met her.

Also via Shelf Awareness: bookstore sales fell in December last year. Is that because of all the Borders closings? Probably.

The Atlantic Wire rounds out some publishing news here. Among them, the surprising news that Barnes & Noble has a new backer: Fidelity Investments. I’m sure lots of people love that news. And while it is good news for B&N, it’s still not enough to concern Amazon. Another interesting piece in there: how to rock a pseudonym.

Are you ready to show some books a little love? World Read Aloud Day is coming on March 7th (which also happens to be my birthday).
They’re getting ready for it at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, and you can find out more about the event here.

And the always fabulous SCBWI is showing midlist authors some love with a new grant. Man, I’d love to be nominated. Not hinting. Just saying.

UPDATE: I neglected to add last week’s event in celebration of the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle In Time, one of the greatest YA books ever written, which very nearly did not get published. Talk about love. How much do people love Wrinkle and L’Engle? Loads.

And though I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day (my husband’s a lucky guy), I could not resist the photos I pasted in this post. But the best valentine ever? The video below. It’s nominated for an Oscar in the best animated short category, and it’s spectacular. Enjoy!

This week in writing… bully edition

Amazon continues to be the 300lb gorilla this week as everyone is worried about how they might crush the publishing industry. And once the bane of the industry, especially independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble is coming out looking like the New Hope, a potential David to Amazon’s Goliath.

Publishers are cheering the fact that Barnes and Noble have refused to carry any books published by Amazon in their stores. While publishers are thrilled that B&N is standing up to Amazon, at least one writer thinks that B&N would be wise to play nice.

Publishers also aren’t making any friends with librarians. Their insistence on restricting library access to ebooks has irked the mild-mannered bibliophines enough to issue a statement saying basically, enough of that crap.

Publishers’ fear of ebooks and what they mean to the print business isn’t unique. Jonathan Franzen shared his own fear of ebooks saying, “The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing — that’s reassuring.” So… ebooks change text every time you pick them up? Wow! Oh wait. They don’t.

Ebooks are kicking up even more dust as some publishing houses try a new delivery format: novels by committee in which the author releases a book, and readers give input on what should happen next, that the author then writes to satisfy. There, there, Franzen, don’t weep. Some people think this is great. Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary said this on her twitter feed in response to a reporter’s dismay: “Oh, please. All this shows is how clueless the reporter is… Like god forbid anyone get any entertainment out of reading. Or try something new.”

Maybe it doesn’t work for storytelling, but it might be good for information-gathering. UK publisher And Other Stories gets readers together for a report on which books to take on for translation, rather than using a traditional written report. What a good idea!

Where are all the good books anyway? Here’s what some of our best writers think are the greatest books of all time.

And finally, Jacqueline Woodson, author of one of my favorite picture books, The Other Side, talks about her new novel in this video.

Thursday Mashup

Yeah. I know. Let’s just get to it, shall we?

The biggest publishing shocker for me last week was the news that Umberto Eco isn’t well read, and says that you don’t need to be either. Who’s worried about book sales? Not him, apparently.

And I bet his writing space doesn’t look like this either. (That’s super cute, right? via @MisaBuckley.)

But if you do like reading, and you want to do it on an eReader, the big news was Kobo’s new eInk display with touch screen and not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble released yet another eReader called the Simple Touch Reader that has the same capabilities. While Kindle is still maintaining their lead in the eReader industry, I don’t think they’ll have that hold for long, and the news is that they’re now looking to make Android devices to keep up  with everyone else. Let me just say now that whoever makes a color eInk display is going to CLEAN UP.

In more Barnes & Noble news, they’ve now moved into craft sales, which is good news for this blog, as I can now get my knitting supplies and my books in one cart. Yay!

And in more eReader news, at least one university is opting for eReader texts instead of all those bulky textbooks, which is the best application for this technology.

If you want to know how much an eBook should cost, you gotta go to Mike, who breaks down the economics and the dilemma on both sides: “obviously many readers feel that the prices [of eBooks] are outrageous and unjustified. How do greedy authors sleep at night? To be honest, having unhappy readers causes us some sleepless nights. Worrying about paying the rent if ebooks were priced as low as readers want causes even more sleepless nights. So, the gentle reader may rest assured that authors are, indeed, losing sleep!”

If you’re wondering how to create a writing platform, YA Fantasy Guide has the answers because as they say, “You need to get yourself out there in your field before you submit your work. Great writing, original stories, and platforms are sure fire ways to create a successful writing career for yourself. ”

And speaking of careers, two full-time writers reveal how they do it. And yes, those fantasy advances are hysterical. Though if you can’t decide if you should jump in, you need to ask yourself if writing is a calling or a career. Your mindset may have more to do with your success or failure than you think. Author Edward Nawotka says that for writers, “The sense that writing as a calling can sustain them, but thinking of writing as a career can armor you against the vagaries of this unpredictable business.”

Finally in the writing as profession category is this Writer Unboxed post about what you can expect as a professional writer and how to separate the fantasy from the reality. “How does it look when you project the image of your professional writer self into the future five years, or ten?”

For those of us who are well on our way to super stardom, you need to beware of the contract. J.D. Sawyer ( who is not a lawyer) wants you to think about your rights over the long term on dodgy clauses. “It’s situations like this that underline the unequal bargaining muscle that publishers (of all media) bring to the table. But there is something you can do to equalize that balance: When faced with a clause like this, say “no.” Period.”

There’s a new “boyz” magazine in town. And that’s great. Unless mis-spellings bother you.

See if you live in one of the most well-read cities in the U.S. (I don’t.)

Books are still being banned. Seriously? Yes. Sadly.

What some of us think of self-published books, and how to overcome that prejudice.

Last week was also BEA, so there’s some news on that front. Like Google abandoning their ebook store. Why? Read here. And the American Booksellers Association on the fate of indie bookstores: “There is nothing like browsing in a physical bookstore. That is something you can’t replace.”

And finally, we lose the divine Ms O. and all her lovely influence on the world of books, and also, libraries. Bye Oprah!

Midlist Rocks!

Since I was a kid I wanted to be a writer. I hardly knew what it meant then, and even after being first published 4 years ago, I’m just beginning to realize what being a writer really means.

The truth is, very few writers are superstars of the J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown sort. And in today’s publishing industry, the vast majority of the money is made by a handful of titles by bestseller writers, so the majority of the marketing money is spent there.

According to Bowker, nearly 300,000 titles are being published in the U.S. every year. If only a handful are being extensively marketed, that leaves several hundred thousand titles every year in the midlist, treading water.

Of course, with online stores like bn and Amazon, there is a lot that writers can do to boost their exposure on their own. There’s the whole “long tail” effect for one, and most writers now have a blog where readers can find them and their work and with working links to purchase their books. While it doesn’t compare to a publisher’s marketing dollars, it’s more than writers had in their arsenal a scant few years ago.  Additionally, writers can book themselves at conferences and bookstores for signings, and do school visits.

The writing life is completely different than I’d imagined when I was a kid looking through my favorite picture books, or even just a few years ago when my debut novel hit the shelves. In a given day, I’m may be doing some amount of  actual story writing; composing emails/blog posts; networking; researching for stories, both fiction and non-fiction; reading other writer’s blogs; responding to email, blog posts and chat on social networking sites; reading.

I used to think it was bleak, but I’ve found a great community of writers out there, happily building their careers. It’s the usual kind of career building in a seemingly unusual career. And while being a literary superstar is awesome, being a midlist doesn’t suck at all. In fact, the midlist is where I’m getting my legs along with thousands of other hardworking writers.

The midlist does indeed rock.