This week in writing 1/13/14

613px-Happy_new_year_01_svgIt’s two weeks into the new year. You’ve made your resolutions. You’ve probably already broken one or two. Hey, I only had one (write every day), and that went bye-bye for a night at a Korean karaoke bar. Look, I can’t write drunk. I’m not Hemingway. But besides falling off the writing wagon, there are many other things that went on in the writing world this week.

Did you have a good Christmas? Good. Know who didn’t? Nook. B&N’s ereader had very poor sales this holiday season, and the new CEO, William Lynch, is blaming his predecessors and the fact that they didn’t come out with a shiny new device in time to pitch it to Santa. Well it’s all on you now, Lynch. See you next Christmas.

In case you didn’t get all the book love you wanted this Christmas, here’s a final best-of list from the New York Times. Top 10!

If you love books AND fashion, you might like this bag. I can probably drop that kind of cash on a first edition. But this has no actual words inside. Seems like a waste. However, it has inspired me to put some cash in the pages of a book and pretend it’s a purse! It was the best of bags…

peregrineAfter the holidays’ lag, you might be having a hard time finding that momentum you need to keep going, so here’s Ransom Riggs on what inspired him to write Miss Peregrine. (I bought it for myself, and my daughter immediately took it. She just returned it to me, so I’ll get to it after I finish Kathy Erskine’s Seeing Red.)

Nathan Bransford also has a post on starting new projects, which you might be doing being that it’s a new year and all.

If Nook’s figures are any indication, looks like ebook numbers might be dropping. I own a Nook and I only bought three books on it last year (none of which I read, according to my Goodreads list. Those were all hardcopy.) But ebook numbers really did decline in the U.S. in 2013, though not worldwide.

Speaking of e-stuff, something I’m struggling with lately is social media. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to it, and yet, I’m supposed to be selling my books through social media using handy tips like these! (Which are actually handy despite my inability to use them.)

Wanna see what a whole day of being happy looks like? Well, here you go. (Warning: very addicting.)

This week in writing… poetry & letters edition

It’s National Poetry Month! Spring is in the air, and everyone’s inspired. I wish I could put a poem here, but I suck at that, so let’s just dig in…

Jane Yolen has tips on writing poetry over at Katie Davis’ blog.

On April 21st, the Postal Service will honor 20th century poets with their own stamps!

The 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award winner and honoree has been announced.

Maybe you’re just looking for the best prose out there… Bank Street has you covered with the best books of 2012 from infant to YA.

Over in the UK, the Roald Dahl museum has now opened up an exhibit that includes his writing hut. Man, I want one of those!

Have you seen this letter from Kurt Vonnegut to the head of a school board who ordered his books to be burned in the school furnace?

In news of nicer letters, there’s this book of letters C.S. Lewis wrote to children.

There are a couple of new ventures to report. The people behind One Story have now launched a new magazine, One Teen Story for older readers. They are now accepting short stories for their first year of publication. Also, author Marissa Moss is launching her own publishing company, Creston Books.

Dahl in his Writing Hut

Just as the DOJ, Apple and the big 6 start making decisions about their suit, Amazon cuts ebook prices. This will further separate them from the pack, and put them firmly ahead of their competition. I wonder what Barnes & Noble’s response will be, if any. (Oh wait. They’ve updated their Simple Touch with a GlowLight. OK, that’s a handy feature, but is that enough?) Meanwhile, in the Department of Justice suit, three are settling while three more are standing up to fight, saying that there was no collusion on their part to set the prices of ebooks. And on the other end of the spectrum, the ebook version of J.K. Rowling’s new adult novel will be priced at about $20. What the muggle?

With all the fur and feathers flying, some publishers are trying to squeeze out Amazon by not signing contracts with them. (How do we feel about this, authors?)

If you think that ebook pricing doesn’t affect you because you’re only a reader, you’re mistaken.  A consumer advocate group has calculated that the pricing fix will actually cost each of us about $200 more this year. I know what you’re thinking. You’re just going to get your ebooks from the library. Well hold that thought. Libraries and publishers are still fighting. In fact a group of 25 libraries in Connecticut recently voted to boycott Random House.

Bah humbug, you say? Who cares about ereaders and ebooks you say? Well, it seems that people who use electronic devices to read, read more than those who only read on print. I bet the divide will keep growing.

[Roald Dahl image from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/walesarts/2011/09/roald_dahl_day_events.html]

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.

Monday Mashup

I’m beginning to notice that my news skews toward the juvenile, which isn’t a bad thing considering how the juvenile market has been booming lately. In YA: Then vs. Now, Sarah La Polla breaks down what’s changed: “For being such an important part of the industry, YA is practically a baby. It’s a genre that keeps growing, not only in numbers (though that is true too), but in definition. Novels for teens used to be its own category, relegated to the back of the bookstore with a simple sign above it reading “Teen Literature.” Today, there are as many sub-genres in YA as there are in adult fiction.”

Speaking of sub-genres, Amy H. Sturgis lists the YA Dystopian novels that have cropped up since 1960, and the list is just going to keep on growing. She describes dystopian as, “those that imply a warning by describing a world gone wrong: utopias that took a bad turn, worst-case scenario post-apocalyptic societies, post-disaster tales that focus more on the undesirable communities that develop after the disasters than on the disasters themselves, etc. ”

If you’re still writing, agent Janet Reid wonders if you’ve set any summer goals this year, because “setting goals will get you farther than not setting goals– even if you don’t reach the actual goal itself.” Know what that means? Set some goals right now! And here’s Camp NaNoWriMo to help you accomplish those goals! But while you’re setting goals and working to reach them, be very careful that you don’t overdo the solitude that you’ll need for writing. As R.L. LaFevers says, there’s a big difference between solitude and isolation. “At first glance, these would appear to be non-issues for the introverted writer, who thrives in solitude. Yet introverts need human connection as well. We are not immune from loneliness; we are not invulnerable to solitude’s darker twin, isolation.”

When you’re done writing, you need to look for an agent. And here’s one that’s the best of the best. Andrew Wylie talks about not just literature, but the new rules in publishing as presented by ebooks. While his colleagues seem to be afraid, “Wylie remains a rare optimist in publishing circles, fueled perhaps by the healthy backlists and literary estates he represents. Information technology may be upending business models, but he believes the global interconnection these advancements permit provides immense opportunities for his authors.”

And after you’ve landed that dream agent, you might want to know what the submission process is. It’s different from the query process you used to find that agent, by the way. “Going on sub varies greatly based on your agent. In all likelihood, any certain approach is perfectly normal and acceptable. Some agents will have their authors write the cover letter that will be sent to editors with the manuscript. Some prefer to do that themselves. Some will call editors to pitch, others will email. Some will send out very few initial submissions, others might send out a little larger group.”

And if you’re looking for that magic formula that will propel your book into superstar status, this blog breaks down the possibilities. “To become a bestseller in the e-format I’d say it takes hard work, writing skill, and the development and maintenance of loyal fans, with a generous pinch of luck and good timing.”

Past the writing process and ready for a presentation? Here’s how to get rid of the jitters. I’m going to need that on Sunday at the BooksNJ 2011 event, where I’ll be presenting on two panels: non-fiction children’s books, and ebooks.

There was some talk over on LinkedIn last week about whether or not book trailers for novels was worth it, or a giant money suck. Results are inconclusive. You have to be a part of the Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books and Digital Content Group to see the conversation. I think.

In tech news, word on the street is that the new Nook kicks the Kindle’s ass. Hooah!

And finally, the Wall Street Journal article that’s causing a big stir among the YA crowd: Darkness Too Visible, in which YA is perceived as “a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.” Of course, the YA authors who write this “dark, dark stuff” and those who don’t, and especially the ones who love those books, fired back. Laurie Halse Anderson said in a post, “I know how ridiculous and harmful the statements are. Books don’t turn kids into murderers, or rapists, or alcoholics. (Not even the Bible, which features all of these acts.) Books open hearts and minds, and help teenagers make sense of a dark and confusing world. YA literature saves lives. Every. Single. Day.” And on Jay Asher‘s Facebook page, he commented, “The Wall Street Journal should be ashamed for printing such a disgustingly one-sided piece of nonsensical crap.”

My two cents is: if you don’t like the literature you see, keep looking until you find something you do like, or better yet, write your own.

Nook vs. Nook

Last year for my birthday, my husband bought me a Nook. I didn’t want him to buy it because I thought it was just too expensive. But he did anyway. And I loved it. Even though I still read a good chunk of my literature in real-live paper form, I used the Nook a lot. So when the Nook Color came out, I told him not to buy one because I already had the regular Nook and I felt it was sufficient. He made it past Christmas, but then for my birthday earlier this month, he bought me the Nook Color, and promptly found someone to buy my old Nook to offset the cost. Of course I love this one better!

Yes, the glare in sunlight is kind of a pain, but I don’t read much out in bright sunlight anyway. I have read at the playground, and a shady tree was sufficient to cut the glare issues. I love the ability to browse the web on this thing, and the touch screen. It’s really great. Already I’m using it more than I used the regular Nook. And both devices have fed my reading habit because I will literally buy something in the middle of the night and start reading a minute later.

Mini office dino wants to hang out on the Nook, but he can't. He'd scratch it!

I’m not sure why there aren’t more 7″ tablets out there. I can’t imagine using one of the larger iPad-sized ones when this one is so small and easy to hold in one hand. My husband has an iPad and recently upgraded to the smaller iPad 2, but what he really wants is the XOOM, or the Microsoft surface table, which he checked out right after he bought the iPad 2 and it made him feel like the iPad was a mere toy. Of course we will never be able to afford that table in a million years, but it’s nice to dream. I still prefer the smaller platform. Maybe it’s the cuteness factor. Maybe it’s the fact that it fits in all of my purses. Plus, the kids love it. (They love the iPad too.)

I’ve got to say, I’m really glad my husband doesn’t listen to me sometimes. But don’t you dare tell him I said so.

The eBook round-up

I read a blog post this morning about the 100 best tech out this year. Google and Apple top the list with Android products and iPad. The 3rd generation Kindle was in the top 5. (Nook didn’t make the list.)  Now Google’s throwing their hat in the ePublishing scene, making it possible for those buying Google Editions eBooks to have more control over them than Amazon’s Kindle or B&N’s Nook currently allows. Google’s angle is that if you buy a digital edition from them, you can read it off any device you have. If you buy from Amazon or B&N, you can only read it on their devices, unless you get a program like Calibre to convert your documents.

As it is, Nook Color is going to give Kindle some trouble, and Google Editions will be another thorn for Amazon. Google has the ability to turn your search into a purchase by taking you to an article you’re looking for as well as a Google Editions book on the same subject that you might like to buy with one convenient click.

Google hasn’t taken on their own eReader device, but it’s probably not far off. Nook is Android-based. It’s only a matter of time before Google launches their own, or builds more capability into the Nook. And since Amazon and B&N have opened up as ePublishers, it’s probably not long before Google turns readers into authors too. And since they won’t restrict what kind of device people will be able to download their digital texts to, guess, who everyone’s going to go to when they need to publish or buy a book?

It’s kind of exciting. Like the Wild West. Everyone goes to the ranch owner who can deliver the best steer and the fastest horses. They watch the rodeo to see who puts on the best show. And the one with the fastest draw wins.

[Image: http://www.cowboytroy.com]

Borrowing eBooks

On Saturday I downloaded my first ebook from the public library. And by I,  I mean my husband, who does all the technical heavy-lifting in my house. (I swear if he wasn’t around, I’d have the Geek Squad on permanent retainer for everything from downloading updates to unplugging cables. “It’s called an i-what? Here’s my credit card. Just do whatever you need to.”)

So here’s how it went: I ordered the book from my library. Then they sent me an email to let me know it was avaialble for download. I downloaded it to my laptop. Then I had to install a new adobe program and plug my nook into my laptop so I could drag and drop the library book into my nook folder. Well, that didn’t work so smoothly. It took a little wrangling at which time I (and this time I actually mean me) went to the help section (because what man ever asks for help?) and found out that my adobe registration and my nook have to have the same user name and password. Then (finally!) we were able to transfer The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind to my nook.

Whew!

In a few days it disappears from my device… unless I e-renew it…if there is such a e-thing. Egad!

the good news is that next time I order a book, all I have to do is connect my nook, drag and drop. All the wrangling has been done. Which is good. I don’t wrangle with technology. Technology always beats me.

(Oh! An update to my nook post of last week: there was a recent update which now allows me to use my nook as a web browser, and it’s faster, AND has games, AND I CAN READ eBOOKS FOR FREE IF I’M SITTING IN ANY B&N! I’m a little excited. Just a touch.)

Nookie

So I’m going to attribute the end-of-last-week grumpiness to exhaustion. I had been going at full steam for a while, and something was bound to snap. But then my husband came home from a week-long business trip with my birthday present in tow. It was a nook.

I’ve been coveting it for a while, but I begged him not to buy it, fearing the hefty price-tag. He got it anyway. It’s super duper cool. And I cannot put it down, which makes me a nookie? nook-o-phile? nookarian? Whatever I am, I’m not grouchy. That disappeared, poof! with one look at the fancy Alice in Wonderland cover he got to go with my lovely  nook. He’s a keeper, my husband. Not a good listener, but definitely a keeper.

So I’ve become one of those people who is going to bring about the book-pocalypse because I am using, and loving, an e-reader. I’ve already figured out how to borrow library books, and I’m looking forward to reading my manuscripts, as well as my kids’ stories on it. I feel that my nook (which I’ve named Alice, btw) will give the kids’ work much-deserved respect.

As for those who still believe that e-readers are the end of books as we know it, you’re right. But here’s some interesting commentary on the phenomenon.

As for me… this thing’s got me… hook, line and sinker.

Plug in your book

Last night I got an email from B&N advertising the Nook. It’s due to come out in November, so loyal B&N customers got a preview. Um, that thing is hot. I never once considered getting an e-reader, but I definitely considered it after getting a look at the Nook. While I’m sure Wired magazine will have a comprehensive and exhaustive comparison of all the e-readers out there, here’s my less-comprehensive one.

THE LOWDOWN

1) Cost: Nook $259, Kindle $259 (reduced from $359 earlier this year), Sony Reader $299.

2) Pretty: Nook, Kindle and Sony Reader below, in that order.

nookkindleSony reader

 

 

 

 

 

3) Visuals: The Nook is advertised as an easy-to read screen. Some Kindle 2 owners downgraded to Kindle because the K2’s screen gave them headaches. I’m not sure about the Sony Reader. Both Kindle and the Sony Reader are grayscale screens, while Nook has a color touch screen. Color!

4) Nook has a variety of covers to choose from, some from fancy designers like Kate Spade. You can also switch out the back of your Nook for 4 different back cover options. Sony has 3 color options: silver, black and red. Kindle has none. On Nook, you can also upload pictures to use as a screensaver.

5) Sony Reader owners can get expandable memory through a Sony memory stick. The Kindle has no card slots or expandable memory. Nook comes with less built-in memory than Kindle, but with a card slot, the memory far outlasts both the Kindle and the Sony Reader.

6) Sony Reader and Kindle will last 14 days on a single charge. Nook lasts 10.

7) You can sync your Kindle with your iPhone and iPod Touch. You can sync your nook with your iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, PC, or Mac OS computer.

8) You can mark pages and make notes on your Nook. You can even loan your books to friends.

9) Kindle has Digital Text Platform which allows authors to upload their books directly to Kindle and set their own price for purchase. Authors get 35% of their list price for every book sold. As far as I can tell, neither Sony Reader nor Nook have this capability. However, I don’t think you need to own a Kindle to be able to do this, but anyone you’re planning to sell your book to needs to have one.

EBOOK READERS FOR SCHOOLS

All that is fine and well, but they’re all missing the obvious: a school application. Every day my daughter struggles home with several textbooks, workbooks, etc. How great would it be if all her textbooks could be on one reader? Then she’d have a lighter load, and all her work would be in one place. Smaller and lighter than a laptop (which has become de rigeur in cutting-edge education) and possibly much cheaper if it’s only limited to a few titles. Students can borrow the Readers at the beginning of the school year, use them, and return them at the end of the year for the next class. Even if I had to pay to rent one at the beginning of the year for my kid, I would. Happily. In any case, many textbook companies are trying to embrace online content so that they can update textbooks, especially Social Studies/History and Science books with the latest information. Wouldn’t it be great for kids to get the news every day? The news! Imagine! Right in their classrooms!

So let’s get on that, guys! Corner the educational market and make parents happy and students’ backs less strained.

It makes me want to get back in the educational publishing game. Whoops. Nope. The feeling’s gone.

Oh well.