Monday, October 15, 2012

We Are Archived!

For now!

If you've arrived here looking for insight into the publishing landscape, digital platform, how to get an agent, self-publishing, or anything like that, please enjoy perusing.

The contact information, bio, and freelance information are all up to date and will stay that way.

Other resources whose authors are not rogues prone to archiving their blogs can be found at: (With many grains of salt! This is all self-reported by authors like yourself.)

Easier said than done?

Whenever a big book deal is announced, especially when the beneficiary is a celebrity, there's always blogosphere strife. People arguing that they were paid too much. That they can't really write. That publishing is a nepotistic, taste-bereft land of the quick dollar.

Here's a very nice video responding to that.

But, is this suggestion easier given than received? After months, sometimes years, of rejection, can one just forget about the book deal and write?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Show, Not Tell

Yesterday, the Anna Karenina movie people released eight new posters for the film and I immediately clicked over to check them out. And I was so, so bummed.

At first, I couldn't figure out why--the sumptuous costuming and overall aesthetic are right up my romantic alley and JUDE LAW. The posters are ostensibly "exploring love" in all its types but...something about it felt cheesy to me.

Then it hit me. On each poster, you've got a caption over top that's all "ADJECTIVE Love." The problem is that the images themselves say so much more than any single adjective ever could. If they'd just put LOVE on each one, it would have been so much more sophisticated.

Is there a lesson here for writers?

And here are a series of UNCAPTIONED pictures of the cast that I think say a lot more than these tell-y posters.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Social Media RipOff

I hereby declare this the biggest social media conference ripoff ever. Ok, maybe not ever. But I don't waste my time researching bogus social media conferences (and you shouldn't either). So there.

$1,000. One day. No confirmed attendee list. I don't see any one-on-one time...AND they're promising you you can learn "best practices." Which you can learn here, here, or here. And many, many other places.

The truth is "best practices" of anything are going to be fairly basic--don't spam, don't overuse the hashtag, etc. You can't talk about best practices of the higher level stuff: crafting a campaign or talking to your specific audience, because there are too many variables. You have to be, at a minimum, familiar with the basics to get anything out of a panel or conference.

Guys, panels are hard. As someone who's been on them and listened to them, it's rare that I come out of a panel discussion with much more than one or two insights to ruminate on (which is usually worth it, actually).

This is because you've got 3 - 5 people, all with different agendas, none of whom want to give too much away, plus an agenda-ed moderator, PLUS a crowd that runs the gamut from someone who knows a lot about the topic to those who just heard about it. And, worse, those who just heard about it who think they're in a tutorial on, say, best practices of social media.

This last group is, unfortunately, the most likely to get suckered in to paying a GRAND to go listen to the head of McDonald's talk about their Twitter strategy. Because obviously what works for them, what's even FEASIBLE for them, should be on your radar, too? No.

Here's the thing about panels and conferences: you have to be really well versed in the topic long before you go there. Ideally, you should have dabbled a little in it, too, so you know what the glitches are for your specific situation. That's why we encourage so much research into agents and publishing before just showing up at a writer's conference thinking you'll get an agent or a book deal. If you don't know what you don't know, how are you going to glean the information that will help answer those questions?

For all of you who've walked out of a panel or a whole conference feeling like you just listened to people talk about totally company specific, personally inapplicable things, that's what happened to you.

So as for these social media conferences? Put your cash into a reputable freelancer who works in your industry and can speak to you particular strategy.

Have you been to a conference before? Did you leave filling fulfilled and knowledgeable or confused and downtrodden?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Escaping the Slush Pile

The Slush Pile. Duhn Duhn DUHHHN!

That dreaded place from which it may feel impossible to escape. Particularly after 10 years.

Over at The Atlantic, Dan Josefson talks to my friend and wonderful writer of many types, D.B. Grady, about Dan's debut novel, That's Not A Feeling, which came out yesterday.

Even with a blurb from effing DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, it took ten years for the book to be published.

How long have you been on sub?

Also: watch Dan's book trailer.

Friday, September 28, 2012

When to Tweet and Post

Do you use scheduling software to manage your professional social media? You should! My favorite is the exceedingly user friendly Hootsuite. It's free and takes a lot of the burden off of you to get to your Twitter account three times a day.

With Hootsuite and its ilk (another is the notoriously buggy TweetDeck), you can schedule Twitter and Facebook (and even blog, if you have Wordpress) posts out into the future. So you can maintain a presence without interrupting a busy work day every 3 hours.

But when should you schedule? You want to find that sweet spot where your audience's eyeballs are actually on their own social media--otherwise you'll just end up too far down the Timeline. Hootsuite has an auto schedule feature that claims to monitor when you get the most interaction and help schedule posts at those times.

I'm skeptical of automating to that extent. The goal isn't to completely check out from your audience, just to take some of the pressure off. You should know when your audience is active because you're evaluating what gets a response and when. Still, it's something to try out.

Also look at this cool infographic, about when social media as a whole tends to be most active. I was very surprised...anything surprise you?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Twitter Followers!

Everyone wants that magic bullet. The right Things To Do to make people click the "Follow" button on Twitter. And lots of people have advice, me included. But there's nothing like show and tell.

Here are some people who are doing it right!

Sean Ferrell (author of NUMB and MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT, which is out next year!)

Emma Straub (author of Laura Lamont's Life In Pictures)

Maureen Johnson (author of many books for young adults)

Lydia Netzer (author of Shine Shine Shine)

And more over at Bookriot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Adult

I was having this very lively discussion about the category (which refers to demographic, as opposed to genre, which refers to content) of "New Adult."

New Adult is supposedly (more on why that qualifier in a sec) a category that would cater to the 19 - 30 category (ish). So filling a gap between the experiences of the mostly high school characters of YA and the largely 30+ protags of "Adult" fiction. Sort of like the Chick Lit of the 90s did--these books would be about "finding one's way" or whatever. But with some other stuff thrown in with the stilettos.

That's not to say that there isn't or wouldn't be a lot of crossover between all of those categories, or that 19 - 30 year old people aren't "adults." It's just an acknowledgement that most people in those age groups have different concerns and life stuff than most 30+. That's what I think, at least.

Now, for that "supposedly," above. New Adult didn't exist as a term until about 5 years ago, when someone in the Biz literally made it up. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Every other category had to be made up at some point. But this is a new one, and it's had a hard time getting any traction.


Well, the biggest reason is that the categories used by agents and editors to describe something correspond directly to the categories in bookstores and libraries (yes, those are standardized!). This is because the hundreds of bookstores and libraries across the country (and digital retailers, too) order books based on codes called BISACs. They look like this:

FIC009050FICTION / Fantasy / Paranormal  


FIC043000FICTION / Coming of Age   

There are a lot of those. But there can't be too many, because if every subgenre and every potential age group delineation was coded, the codes would stop being useful. If everything got its own unique code...well, that's called an ISBN. And it's unique to each title. And there are millions of individual titles published each year. The whole point of grouping them is to make that number more manageable.

Adding a new category means that this entire system has to change--from how the bookstores arrange their shelves to how the publisher registers copyright. That, my friends, is not simple.

So the term "New Adult" hasn't really captured the hearts and minds of agents and editors because it doesn't exist in the Real World. Definitely the wholesalers and retailers don't use it. Readers don't know what it is, for the most part. Many view it as a cumbersome addition, fraught with the implication that 20-somethings "can't" read adult fiction for some reason (there's a reason Chick Lit is dead--it was boring and condescending after a while. Not all 20-something ladies are Carrie Bradshaw).

So, for now at least, calling a submission "New Adult" to an editor would be like calling it...Elephant In The Corner Fiction (it's, like, suspenseful, but for people who don't like surprises!). It means something, but it doesn't mean anything, really. It can't be sold in to retailers as what you're calling it. And that is a no-no!

All valid points, although I tend to think New Adult could be a real thing...BUT not without a huge shift in a huge system. It might seem like an update in a computer system, but it actually affects every link of the chain.

Questions? Comments?

Friday, September 14, 2012


Soho Teen is now running the #FridayWrites hashtag, an unofficial counterpart to the awesome #FridayReads. Every Friday, we'll post a visual, auditory, or written writing prompt for you!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

If you haven't already...

OK, so there's only one thing that could make me take a hiatus from le blog, which I le love. And that's something 1. I'm really, really excited about and 2. I've been working HARD on!

That something is Soho Teen, a brand new young adult imprint coming January 2013 from Soho Press. Find out more about Soho Teen here and go like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

It would make me so glad. If you like and follow us, email me at mbarnes {at} (yes, you just got my real life work email) and I'll send you a surprise. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Workers Are Really For

Yesterday, I was reading "What Work Is Really For," in my beloved New York Times. I love articles on this topic, and there have been a few lately. They always seem to say something along the lines of "We should work less!" or at least that we should feel less guilty about not working.

Or something like that.

This one takes the "Work is a means to an end, there to give you time to smell the roses" conceit somewhere else though. The premise of "What Work Is Really For" is that we are controlled by the market, as opposed to the other way around (which Capitalims would have us believe). So it is hard for us to tell what would be life-improving for us; we just buy crap because it's there and we can (Snuggie!).

The author concludes by turning his attention to Education, which he says must "aim to produce self-determining agents who can see through the blandishments of the market and insist that the market provide what they themselves have decided they need to lead fulfilling lives."

This assumes that consumers would buy only what they "need to lead fulfilling lives." But whose life are we fulfilling? You might be fulfilled by the purchase of a Snuggie, while I would choose, say, chocolate. Improvement in subjective in all (debatable?) cases.

This is interesting in light of the recent discussion of genre vs Lit-rature. To be sure, there is a "market" for books. And many, many good-ish things don't get published because the market says they shouldn't (with editors and agents being the interpreters of the market which, swallow the bile! they are qualified to do).

But isn't it great that such a wide breadth of fiction gets published? it's not perfect, but the mix of what's available is astonishing. With the rise of indies and self-publishing, that mix only stands to get richer and more complex.

Who says there's any standard (or teachable) way to "lead a fulfilling life," no matter what good or service we're talking about (ChatRoulette!). I say put it out there and let the market decide (you just might not have a publicist).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Write and WIN $1,000, a critique, and more!

Soho Teen is getting so close to launch I can TASTE it (and, to tell you the truth, it's not all donuts and honey--but after all this is a mystery and thriller imprint and well...sometimes that don't taste good. But I digress).

To celebrate Soho Teen as well as our many great friends, we've launched a contest with Figment (a great writer/reader community, if you don't know!) linked to our February 2013 title, WHO DONE IT, an anthology featuring John Green, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson...everyone! And edited by the wonderful Jon Scieszka (author of The Stinky Cheese Man!).

In the anthology, authors are suspected of killing the odious editor Herman Mildew and they must provide (hilarious) alibis absolving themselves to our editor/investigator Mr. Scieszka. To enter the contest, you have to do the same!

Here are the deets:

In 500 to 1,000 words, following the guidelines on Figment's site, write your alibi in Herman Mildew’s murder. You must be between 13 and 18 years old to enter.

And HERE are the amazing prizes!
  • $1,000
  • A one-page editorial letter from literary agent Suzie Townsend (New Leaf Literary Agency) who will read up to 8,000 words of your original work. Any form of writing will be accepted: short stories, excerpt from a novel, poems, essays, etc. Both published and unpublished work will be accepted for review.
  • An invitation for the winner and a parent or guardian to the SohoTeen launch party in New York City on November 29, 2012, where the winner will get a personal half-hour chat with Jon Scieszka. (If the winner cannot attend, he or she will win a half-hour phone conversation with Jon.)
  • Eight runners-up will each receive a copy of Who Done It?.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

What IS This Captcha Thing??

This evening, brilliant author of FALSE MEMORY Dan Krokos cried out into the Twitterverse "WHY ME, CAPTCHA???" And I couldn't agree more. Captchas are the most frustrating thing, and they always pop up when you're doing something really important and time sensitive, which makes them even more annoying. I've abandoned transactions over Captchas. For SHOES!!

I thought no one could ever tell me a redeeming thing about Captchas. But I was wrong. The Amazing Emma Trevayne, author of the fantastic book CODA (coming Spring 2013, and it's sequel, CHORUS, just announced!), just told me that Captchas are actually real words from hard-to-read, faded, out-of-print texts. So, when you type them in, you're digitizing some old copy of the New York Times!

I quote Emma here: "over something like 3 months, internet users digitized something like 20 years worth of NYT back issues or something" Whoa!!

This is real:
Real on
Real on Cracked

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July Soho Press Book Club Pick: THE DETOUR

Why, why does it always come back to Hitler? 

And it's not just me asking. I've read a lot of WWII novels. Doubtless you have, too. Over on the Soho Blog, we're discussing WWII novel THE DETOUR--which is like no other WWII novel you've ever read.

Head over, comment, and be entered to win 10 copies of THE DETOUR for your book club!

Here's a synopsis of the book. Read an excerpt here!

A variously failed 24-year-old, Ernst is hired to work as a part of the Third Reich’s Sonderprojekt, carrying out the F├╝hrer’s dream to collect Europe’s great art in Berlin. At first this seems like a dream come true to laconic, apolitical Ernst, who just wants to catalog art with his mentor, his closest confidant after a horrible incident alienates Ernst from his father. But then his mentor disappears. 

Immediately thereafter, Ernst is sent on his first major assignment: go to Rome and collect the Classical marble masterpiece The Discus Thrower and return it to the German border. It should be a straightforward assignment, but something isn’t right about Ernst’s German counterpart in Rome. Many things are not right about the Italian brothers charged with getting Ernst and the statue to the border. One lovesick, both quarreling, the brothers embark on a dangerous detour, taking Ernst and his invaluable cargo along for the bumpy ride. Is it simply a case of trivial personal agendas interfering with the Reich’s will, of small compromises? Or is something more sinister going on?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ebooks vs Pbooks

GalleyCat (which is a part of the wonderful daily media newsletter from MediaBistro) had an interesting article today about ebook and pbook sales for the first quarter of 2012.

Apparently ebook sales for the adult category (as opposed to the erotic and BSDM genre, mind you :)) have outpaced the sales of adult pbooks by about 23% (which I think is pretty significant). Ebook sales were at $282.3 mil, hardcovers at $229.6 mil

But if you take a look at the YA and children's market, ebooks are still way behind. Hardcover sales for YA/children's were $187.7 mil, while ebooks there were $64.3 mil (even though that relatively small # accounted for an amazing 233% growth over 2011. Which should give you reason for caution when hearing about the death of print books using only percentages and no real numbers for reference, or vice versa).

Why do you think this is? Are teens and adults reading YA just more interested in physical package, things like covers? Are they more sentimental? Adult readers, which side of the line are you on?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Speaking of Kickstarter...

Yesterday, I plugged Kickstarter, a crowdsourced funding platform that I think is great. What could be better than a crowdsourced funding site? Two of 'em!

Enter USA Projects, which is like Kickstarter, but specifically for the arts. One of our brilliant authors, Andromeda Romano-Lax (also writer of the wonderfully researched, surprising WWII (art) novel, THE DETOUR), is using USA Projects to fund research and writing of her next novel, THE EXPERT.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kickstarter Projects: Good or Bad Idea?

I saw today in my newsfeed an article saying that a whopping 40% of Kickstarter projects don't meet their funding goals. And I thought...actually, that's pretty fantastic. So, you're telling me that 60% of projects on Kickstarter do get funded?

Well, not quite, as you can see in this infographic from AppsBlogger:


For those of you who don't know (scorn redacted), Kickstarter is a crowdsourcing network where ingenious people like Chuck Wendig post ideas for projects and propose a funding goal and dictate levels of monetary giving with perks attached. And it works a lot of the time. 

Is this a new chapter to the self-publishing story? Even traditional publishing story, a la Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, which was Kickstarter funded? It's pretty cool, in any event.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Soho Press at BEA!

Tomorrow, it begins. The crazy, hectic, stressful, amazing three days that is BEA. Soho has a lot going on--and you can check out all of our staff tips and what we're looking forward to this year here, on the Soho Blog.

If you're going to be around, swing by booth 3949 (sort of easy to remember, huh?) and check out all the cool stuff we're featuring! We'd love to meet you. You can also keep track of us using the #BEA2012 and #SohoSwag hashtags.

Monday 6/4
9:40 - 11 am: Juliet Grames will be on a panel for Library Journal's Day of Dialog talking about her picks as editor of the Soho Crime imprint.

Tuesday, 6/5
11:30 - 12:30: James Benn, author of the Billy Boyle WWII mystery series will be signing his latest, DEATH'S DOOR, at table 19! He'll also be signing at 1:15 at the Mystery Writers of America table.

2 - 3: Dan Josefson signs his forthcoming (amazing) debut, THAT'S NOT A FEELING, at the Soho booth. Trust me, you don't want to miss it.

All Day: We'll be giving away galleys of Thomas Maltman’s Little Wolves (January 2013) & Stuart Neville’s Ratlines (June 2013).

Wednesday 6/6
 9 - 10:20: Book Group Speed Dating! We will be giving away Juliann Garey's TOO BRIGHT TO HEAR, TOO LOUD TO SEE and INVISIBLE MURDER, the sequel to last year's New York Times bestselling BOY IN THE SUITCASE.

10:30 - 11:30: Joy Preble signs THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, coming in 2013 from Soho Teen at the Soho Press booth.

11 - 12: Soho Publisher Bronwen Hruska will be on a panel called Reader Centric Publishing.

2 - 3pm: Juliann Garey, author of Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See (December 2012), will sign at the Soho booth.

All Day: We'll be giving away galleys of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s What We Saw at Night — the first book to publish in Soho Teen (January 2013)

Thursday 6/7
 9am-10am: Sean Ferrell will sign The Man in the Empty Suit (February 2013) at the Soho booth.

11am-12pm: Ross Angelella, author of Zombie (June 2012) will sign at the Soho booth

2-3pm: Paula Bomer will sign 9 Months (August 2012) at the Soho booth.

*And* the official Soho Press BEA Party will take place at Housing Works 8-10 pm on Thursday (open bar, food, and prizes!)You're welcome to come! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

ZOMBIE Galore, Oh My!

Last night, we launched the amazing literary debut from J.R. Angelella, ZOMBIE. It comes out on Tuesday, June 5 (that's in 5 days!) and you can preorder it everywhere BUT RIGHT NOW, you can read the first 50 pages here. Many people more important than I already really like this book:

“J.R. Angelella has created a bracing tale of a fractured mind. Zombie will make you laugh, shake your head in recognition, and go for the aluminum bat in your basement.” – Ned Vizzini

“Wow!  A crazy, wicked, knock-out of a book!  Zombie is an energetic, hilarious romp through Jeremy’s world, which is full of dangers and perils both real and imagined (or are they imagined?).  A word of advice…grab the aluminum bat.  Trust me.” – Garth Stein

And last night we got to hang out with J.R. and a bunch of other very important people that like the book. Plus, J.R. told a very funny story about brainstorming starting a cult with John Waters, which I think is wonderful. Some photographic evidence!

First: could there be a more perfect chair for a reading of a book called ZOMBIE?

The swag:
The bar!

More swag:



A great night was had by all!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why I Didn't Respond To Your LinkedIn Invite

It's weird when I get random friend requests on Facebook. If I don't know you well...and/or haven't talked to you in person or via phone in the last year, I don't want you creeping on my photos. I just don't. My Facebook profile is presumed personal--because I don't have a professional presence there.

BTW: that pro presence on FB is called a page, not a profile, and if you're thinking of starting an author page do it here. No, you can't just convert your personal profile to a professional Facebook presence by cleaning up your act going forward. If people "friend" you it's personal. "Like" you, professional. But I digress.

I get all sorts of LinkedIn requests via email, which is even weirder to me than the rando FB requests. Because, as Dana Kaye so eloquently puts it, is primarily a B2B (business to business) network. So companies do their recruiting there, for instance. It can get you a job. But no one gets to know you there. Name me one person that even logs in to their LI account more than once a week (as opposed to several times a day to Twitter and FB). To quote Dana, "Skip LinkedIn and focus on the communities that matter."

Plus, requesting to be my contact on LI has the connotation that I'm somehow endorsing you to professionally. Which is weird to ask when I've never met you or read any of your work (even if I have, honestly). But, again, digressing.

In short, stoppit. I'm not connecting to you on Linked In.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


You may know Joy Preble as the author of the fantastic Anastasia series from Sourcebooks. But boy have we got good news for you!

Joy's THE SWEET DEAD LIFE will be out from Soho Teen in Spring 2013! 

It's a fantastic book set in my home town of Houston, TX with a heroine that you (might!) literally die for. You just never know. And that's one of the things that makes this contemporary YA mystery such a treat. Here's the amazing cover. Click here to read a description on Joy's website! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm Back From Australia!

I did a lot of things:

I saw koalas:

I fed a kangaroo:
 I went to the beach:
I brooded over landscape:

All in all, very successful! Now to my crowded inbox and regularly scheduled blogging.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cory Doctorow Does What I Said He Would!

Now, Cory Doctorow has written an excellent article about how great for readers, writers, and publishers the demise of DRMs would be.

Don't know what a DRM is? Read this. And this, for my analysis.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Perfect Ebook Price

It seems sometimes that no one is talking about anything except ebook pricing. Whether it relates to owning vs. leasing content because of DRM, or piracy, or costs to publishers (always misrepresented, but that's another post). Now, Paulo Coelho posits that the best way is the iTunes way: $0.99 ebooks.

His logic? Making an ebook that cheap prevents piracy because it's easier to buy an ebook legally than go through even well-lit back channels to get a free version, and at $0.99, the price isn't enough of a barrier to divert people into piracy (though you'll note that this is a "sale." Because this price point is unsustainable).

But piracy is not completely a bad thing, nor is it something we can stop. Ever. Cory Doctrow will tell you that. People will pirate if they want to, and they won't if they don't. Making content more accessible by removing DRMs is going to be more effective than low-pricing publishing out of business. Piracy doesn't put industries out of business. Monopolies and bully-pricing do.

Looking to the music industry as a model of how we want book publishing to end up is a mistake.

They, too, were obsessed with piracy, 15 years ago. They did not stop piracy. Now, in most cases, music sales don't even make the profits. It's the tours, the merchandise, the endorsements. And do you know of any authors who can create enough of a spectacle to fill Madison Square Garden??

Popular (read, money-making) music is produced through a few hyper-consolidated means (the same producers and song-writers work on pretty much every song you hear by Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Rhianna) and distributed, essentially, through ONE channel. That would be Apple, ladies and gents. Book publishing has our own Big A looking to achieve this status.

Music's obsession with preventing piracy, rather than improving content and innovating sales mechanisms, is part of why they're where they are. When they realized that fighting piracy is like fighting a flood with a thimble, it was too late.

Music's evolution, a reactionary rather than proactive one, should serve not as our model but as our warning.

What do you think? What would you pay for an ebook? If we've all agreed that $0.99 is the right price for a song, does that transfer to a book?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Orange vs Banana, The Verdict

The winner of yesterday's fruit rumble is, unexpectedly, Joyce Tremel, for redirecting our attention to what really matters:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Orange Is The Perfect Fruit

In response to the outrageous claim of one rapscallion @DbGrady on Twitter, that the banana* is the perfect fruit, I submit that the orange is the perfect fruit. Here's why:

  1. The orange quenches your thirst and sates hunger.
  2. The orange comes wrapped in a hearty, sanitary rind that is still easily peeled away.**
  3. The orange comes PRE-DIVIDED into sections for easy eating on the go or sharing.
  4. The orange has a fantastic texture. Not too squishy.
  5. The orange has the perfect flavor: tangy, tart, sweet.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me here or tell @DBGrady on Twitter.

*In point of fact, the banana is actually the SLUT of the food world. It's in everything. Buh Duh Cha!

**Unlike the banana, which bruises easily and is hard to peel--that top nobby thing always bends, but doesn't snap!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ebook Pricing and DRM

Much has been made about Digital Rights Management (DRM), particularly in light of TOR Books' decision to go DRM-free in the future. It's a particularly salient conversation, too, because of the ongoing litigation between the DOJ, Apple, and the Big Six (although some have settled and Random House has escaped accusations of collusion all together--for now).

For a definition of DRM, take a look here. Basically, it's intended to prevent piracy. It doesn't. What is does prevent is the exchange of ebook software between the online retailers' proprietary ereader hardware (Amazon's Kindle, B&N's Nook).

From my perspective, DRM has indeed always seemed a little, well, silly because it's so easy to crack--to strip off the coding that makes a Kindle book readable only on a Kindle so that you can read it on, say, a Nook. I'm not posting any links here, but let's just say if you Google the most intuitive keywords you can think of on this topic, you'll find dozens of resources. Honestly, if any set of people is likely to know how to crack DRM, it's the pirates themselves, who tend to be tech savvy and determined.

Publishers invest in DRM, near as I can tell, because it's something of a security blanket ("We're doing what we can about piracy!") and a Cover-Your-Ass measure in case an author ever discovered their books out there on the Interwebz...but if you Google any of your favorite authors and "PDF," you'll find that DRM hasn't slowed piracy in the slightest. 

Where DRM is effective is in complying with the preferences of the big online retailers, one of which in particular (ahem, it starts with an A) has an extremely vested interest in their ebooks being read on only their own hardware. And as this article points out, limiting the ways that an ebook can be read affects its price (enter DOJ litigation).

We'll be seeing the aftermath of TOR's very bold move to strip off DRM shortly and I'm really interested to see what the reaction of the rest of the industry will be--and in particular that one begins-with-an-A behemoth, which has been known to strip publishers' books out of its stores over all sorts of disagreements. 

One thing's for sure: abandoning DRM will mean a big shift in the way retailers obtain market share of ebook buyers and shift the balance of power somewhat away from proprietary hardware (ereading devices) and back to the software (ebooks) that should be at the center of all this anyway.

What do you think about this? Would you want your ebooks DRM-protected? Have you used it if you've self-published?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Houston Writer's Conference Countdown: How to Follow Up

You did it! You made it through a conference...mostly unscathed. You got requests from agents and editors and definitely lots to think about. What next?

  • Prioritize your notes. 
First things first: don't forget all the thought-provoking things you heard at the conference. Don't forget the new insights you gained about agent/editor/publisher psychology. Type them up. Keep your notebook (you brought a notebook, right? Right) and reference it often. 

So many people go to conferences to get an agent (which we all now know is not the point, right?) that they completely blank after they get home on everything but the agents. Agents are phenomenal, true. But the real take-away is the insight into the industry as a whole. 

Follow up by reading blogs, and add the agents' blogs to your Google reader who really resonated with what they said. Make it easy for you to keep up with what's going on. Follow people on Twitter. Read.
  • Send the materials!
If you walk away from the conference with requests from agents and editors, send your materials immediately. (By the way, this gives you the added responsibility of having a manuscript that's ready to go/finished before you start pitching it. Because sending your novel 4 months after it was requested because "you had to do some last minute edits" is no bueno). It's astounding how often people don't.
  • Make a spreadsheet.
It's a really good idea to keep a spreadsheet of the agents you query, just in general. It should include name of the agent, his or her agency, his or her website, the date you query, and then a column to mark your six week mark follow up (many agents' end of their response window), then one for eight weeks, as well as indicating for which agents "No answer means no." 

You should make a separate one for the conference requests, because you'll have a different intro to that query (we met at the ________ conference), you'll send different materials, and you'll probably have editors mixed in there too. It's no good to not know how long it's been since you sent the queries/materials. With nerves it'll feel like it's been forever by day three.
  • Keep querying.
This conference was a learning experience, and hopefully you've come out with a lot of good industry info and new insights into your premise, the pitch, and your query. But don't sit around waiting for the conference agents and editors to get back to you before you start implementing all that knowledge. You're a hot commodity! Get out there!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Houston Writer's Conference Countdown: How to Pitch

Yesterday we talked about working the room. How to strike up conversation with agents and editors at conferences you attend. How to do that, first and foremost, without ever, EVER pitching. Just don't. Trust me.

Today, let's talk about when you will be pitching: a pitch session (see how that works?). The only other pitchable scenario being a query letter. Want more on why those are the only two pitch moments? Check out this post here.

You've signed up for a pitch session. How do you make this a productive session, wherein you charm the agent or editor, get your premise across, and maybe get a request? Well, first, a little secret:

Agents (not to mention editors, who rarely deal directly with author queries) are most comfortable evaluating projects via a query or requested manuscript. Why? Most verbal pitches are HORRIBLE. There. I said it.

You're a writer, not (necessarily) a public speaker! You're unlikely to EVER give a better verbal pitch than you will with a query letter. And agents and editors are primed to prefer written pitches. But then what's the point of a live pitch session? Well, face time, as with all things at a conference. But it should also be educational. Here's what you should do.***

  •  Be Quiet. Soon. When you sit down, say hello and then give your one-sentence log line, which everyone should concoct for their book. It should include the wordcount, category and genre (eg: adult fantasy, YA paranormal), main character's name, and what the main conflict is. Tell the agent or editor what happens. Then stop talking. No "themes." No "tones." No "styles." Let the agent/editor ask questions about your sentence, or get really excited. Either way, let this be a conversation. 
  • Bring your hard copy query letter. At some point, when conversation lulls (note that if the agent is just really excited, just keep chatting with him or her), mention that you've got your query and would they like to look at it with you. Don't consider this step failure (ie the agent isn't gushing). We've already covered that verbal pitching is really hard. Loglines are even harder. So, let the conference be the learning opportunity that it is, and don't judge yourself. I guarantee that showing the agent your query will mean you leave with a permanently improved query.
  • Ask Questions If the agent is not loving what you're pitching, ask why. If they say it's not right for them, that's really true. Some stories just don't hit the right spot, even if the agent or editor "works on" that genre. But beyond that, you could glean some candid market info--maybe a slew of other books like yours were just announced, which means that your book is behind the trend (no one's fault). Follow up question? Ask what the agent/editor thinks the next trend is. Maybe you can tailor your query that direction. If they love the book, ask more about why--trends are always good topics.
***The other thing about pitches is that you have almost NO time. 2 minutes. 5. Some are 10, which is better. But basically you should go in with a very specific agenda (while leaving room for this to be a conversation): log line, agent response, query letter, planned question or two. If you walk in just planning to pitch and...pitch, you'll leave with zero new information.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Houston Writer's Conference Countdown: How to Talk to Agents

This weekend, I'll be at the Houston Writer's Conference with the Houston Writer's Guild! This conference is especially close to my heart because, while I've never been to the conference before, I did grow up in Houston. So, in preparation for the big weekend, let's do a conference series!

Today through Friday, I'll be blogging about the ins and outs of some of the trickiest conference moments. 

For today? The Face-to-Face.

There you are, lurking sipping a cocktail near the bar after a fun-filled day of conference-ness. Across the room, you spot your Dream Agent chatting with Other Industry People, the group standing in what can only be described as a phalanx.

But with cocktails.

You want to go introduce yourself--after all, that's what you're here for, right? Some face time? Yes. You are. And this post is not about how to walk over there and politely break into the conversation. Because for that, you probably need this blog. Basically, walking over and incorporating yourself into a group of book industry people is just like incorporating yourself into any group. Watch for a lull in the conversation, approach from an angle that will put you next to the person with whom you want to chat, etc.

BUT. Once you get there, then what? What do agents like to talk about? Your latest book idea, right? Wrong. Don't pitch an agent at a cocktail party. Or in a bathroom or at lunch. Or anywhere except for a pitch session (which we'll discuss tomorrow).

You are at this conference for face time. You already admitted this to me. Face time is not pitch time. Pitches happen in one of two places: a query letter or a pitch session. Face time is about befriending, in some small way, the agent or editor you like. You should break the ice by mentioning something topical: a client's book release, perhaps. Or something he/she said on the panel you watched that you really agreed with or made you think or about which you've got a question (probs not the time to pick something you strongly disagreed with).

So, it'll go something like this:

You: "Um, Excuse me, Super Agent? Hi. I'm __________."
SA: "Oh, Hi ______. Nice to meet you."
You: "Yeah, I'm sorry to interrupt your chat, but I just wanted to tell you [TOPICAL THING]." (What you said about ____ today really got me thinking _________. or "I LOVED So-and-So's new/last book.)

You probably need some sort of immediate follow up: a question or comment of your own, because Super Agent's response may very well be "Thanks!" which gives you NOTHING to go on. Safest is to go with asking a question because then there is sort of a logical place for the conversation to go.

Do some chatting but don't overstay. Agents and Editors are (almost) all very friendly. If they're not engaging you in your purposefully un-pitchy conversation, it may be because something is happening that it would be impossible for you to gauge. Like, maybe they're doing their own sensitive networking with their Super Editor. Or something. So follow his or her lead. If you've got a card, offer it. Then say something charming in parting like "See you on Twitter!" (But only if they're active on Twitter! Don't show a lack of research!)

Questions? Lemme know!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Percocet, PTSD, and Multiplayer RPGs...what's not to like?

The incredibly talented Lisa Brackman's ROCK PAPER TIGER is the Nook Daily Find and the Kindle Daily Deal today. So everybody can win!

And Lisa's fantastic second novel, GETAWAY comes out on May 1. Want a copy? Email your proof of purchase for ROCK PAPER TIGER to proseblog at gmail dot com!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Lucky 7 Game

A fun game for writers, published and non, from my friend Liz Norris, author of UNRAVELING (out this month! Go preorder!). Here's the game:

1. Go to the seventh or seventy-seventh page of WIP.
2. Count down seven lines.
3. Copy the seven sentences that follow and post them on your blog.
4. Tag seven other authors (on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr--up to you!).


Friday, March 23, 2012

Being "Booksy"

There is still a lot of debate surrounding the effect that the ebook has, both on our industry as well as on those who keep us being able to call ourselves an "industry": the readers. Some say it's a travesty, that writing can never be experienced the same way on a touchscreen as it can on a deckle-edged page. Some say otherwise (typically in large groups, conspicuously): that anything that gets more people reading is OK by them.

In all of this, though, I've always had the feeling that something is missing from the discussion. That, really, ebooks aren't a bad thing. That they're not infringing on your right to have a bookshelf full of first edition hardcovers with pages whose smell fills you with joy--but eventually you will have to pay more to fill that bookshelf, just as all those vinyl-philes do to keep their turntables turnin'.

The missing thing is reading. Love of the stories contained in books, rather than their packaging...when did we forget that binding is just a vehicle for getting you the story in a convenient, albeit well-designed way?

I read this (sort of pretentious and college-y feeling, unfortunately) article this morning, about the difference between loving to read and loving to fetish-ize reading (page sniffers!). The author says the following, among other very true things: "Booksing tends to show up as a gushy, shared celebration of the idea of books, rather than of the experience of reading any given one." You can read more here:


Friday, March 16, 2012

Very Cool, Very Crowdsourced

I love this idea: Four regular guys on a mission to complete a list of '100 Things To Do Before You Die' and to help and encourage others to go after their own lists.

The guys crowdsourced an ultimate bucket list on Facebook and now it's going to be a book! You can check out the trailer here. And join the conversation on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Books Crossing Borders

Well, it seems AZ can't seem to stop itself from continuing to lose it.:

"The Unified School District (TUSD) board ordered the books removed after State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal threatened to withhold state funding pursuant to a recently enacted Arizona law, which prohibits public schools from teaching anything that promotes racial or ethnic “resentment,” or that is designed “primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or advocates “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”  That law is being challenged in court.
Among the titles being removed from classrooms are Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez; Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuna; Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire; andRethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow."

Fortunately, there is no shortage of completely earnest, but still tongue-in-cheek protest to this latest news.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Learn to Blog in 90 Minutes!

Courtesy of yours truly and Writer's Digest. I'll be teaching a webinar about all the essentials and best practices for author blogs, including shedding some light on how agents use the blog to troll for potential clients. Then, I'll take a look at your own blog to tell you how to optimize for the most traffic, getting readers to come back and, of course, how to tailor the blog to help you get noticed by an agent.

I've got my talking points, but I wonder: what are the most pressing questions for you? You can get as specific as you'd like.

Let me know in the comments! And, of course, you should also sign up for the webinar to learn the answers!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

THE MARIA PARADOX Contest Winners!

A few weeks ago, we ran this contest, and a whole bunch of you entered, helping my clients (THANK YOU!) and, well, yourselves!

Our Winners Are:

Liz Parker:
Liz took social media active by doing research into some of the most prominent Latina influencers are...and getting their help! She was retweeted, mentioned, and even contacted directly by these targeted mavens, resulting in a new PR lead for me! This, my friends, is how you "do" social media. It takes some thought, but the results are just more than worth it. Want to see Liz in action? Check her out on Twitter, @LizParkerWrites.

KT Hanna:
KT impressed me by bringing her own large platform to bear--which means she's been doing her homework way before this contest came along building a following for herself and, most importantly, by keeping that audience engaged. Her tweets and posts were shared and retweeted more than any other entrant's and she also branched out into non-Twitter, non-Facebook media. Follow her on Twitter: @KTHanna.

Charlee Vale:
Charlee took "casting a wide net" to another level. She posted everywhere from the go to's (Twitter and Facebook) to Tumblr and Nathan Bransford's Forums. The creativity was so exciting to me! Sure, there's no telling how many people from Nathan's huge forums actually clicked through, but the best thing about online publicity like this is that it's there forever. And those forums are a priceless place to be forever. Not to mention she went the extra mile and liked/followed the clients' Facebook and Twitter feeds. Which I'm not sure anyone else did, but is one of the best ways to help! Find Charlee on Twitter here: @CharleeVale.

All of these participants brings a very good illustration of how to really succeed using social media. Following their examples and strategies is a sure-fire way to grow your own following and become a superpower of publicity for your and your friends' books.

Winners! Let's set up calls and deadlines for the critiques! Email me at proseblog [@] gmail [dot] com.

Of course, I'm not paid to wear my agent hat anymore, but it's still bright and shiny and has lots of friends. :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Maria Paradox Contest

Thank you SO much to all the entrants who blogged/tweeted/Facebooked for THE MARIA PARADOX, my (former - tear!) clients' wonderful self-help book focused on Latina and bi-cultural empowerment.

I'll be choosing winners this week, and I'll post them here ASAP!

It would still be really awesome if you followed on Twitter and liked them on Facebook!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Starting Tuesday, I will be leaving Lowenstein Associates--and agenting all together--at least for the time being.

It's bittersweet to announce that I will now be heading up marketing for Soho Press' forthcoming Young Adult line of books as well as their Literary Fiction. Bitter, because of course I have a huge heart for agenting and it was hard to part with my wonderful clients. But heavy on the sweet, because Soho is an ideal place for me--they've offered me my dream job.

Soho is an independent publisher of international crime, mystery, and literary fiction. Their Young Adult mystery line (and, Oh My Gosh, I've seen these titles and I cannot WAIT to be working on them) launches in 2013. They combine the best of a small company's ability to adapt and innovate (and, above all, intense dedication to their authors) with a large publisher's resources and industry contacts. They also consider unsolicited work, which of course feels very familiar to me. :)

In short, I'm embarking on what, at first glance, seem like a very different career path. But ultimately I expect things not to change in a few very important ways: authors and their books are still going to be number one priority. I'll still be working to get those authors' work into every hand I can. I'll still be working with people who, I can vouch, feel every bit as strongly about author advocacy as any agent.

In very short, I can't wait.

And what does that mean for you, People of The Blog? Well, not a lot. After all, what else did we talk about here than marketing of various types? If anything, the focus will shift even more to author platform and digital marketing. I'll still be at the Houston Writer's Conference and the Dallas Fort Worth conferences as well.

Any questions?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Avoiding Misogyny In Your Query Letter

If you're presenting me with a piece of fiction that you've written, I expect that there will be a certain level of intentionality there. You made it up, after all. All the choices are made the characters who and how they are for a reason. Right? Please?

For the most part, un-intentioned characters--characters who feel like afterthoughts--are problematic simply because, well I expect that there won't be anything in there that feels like an afterthought. A tight, well-written novel is inherently thought-out.

But then there are times where character feels a bit random and flat, and the problem is bigger, at least for me. This character is the woman who sort of inexplicably loves some guy...a deadbeat or even a former abuser, who also tends to be the main character. And she just makes me go...What? Seriously? Why is this girl such a moron?

Same goes for a main character who just can't BEAT the women off of him. Really? Can't you get across his badassness in a more original, non-80s way?

This is not to say that this isn't something that happens. All the time. Women (and Men) love people who aren't good for them. Men (and women) are irresistible. But if you're putting these things into a novel, they better serve a purpose and feel intentional. Because otherwise I'm just going to think you're some creep misogynist. And no one wants that.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is an Agent Worth It? Doing the Math

Full Disclosure: There will be no math in this post, or on this blog, ever, if I can help it (except for that one P&L post).

It's the holy grail, right? You bypass that ol' agent game and go straight to the source! Simon! Or Random! Or Harper...ahem.

Makin' Facebook Fancy

DO YOU KNOW how hard it is to integrate custom code into a Facebook page? VERY. Particularly if you're sort of making up/Googling the code as you go along. Which, most of the time, I am/do. But pretty well, I must say.

Working to customize Facebook is like that rule with chefs: you know that they're leaving at least one ingredient out if they agree to tell you a recipe--the most important one, usually. Yeah. That's what Facebook's instructions are like for coding on their platform.

But, just to prove that stubbornness and several sleeves of Ritz crackers will get you just about anywhere, behold. My custom Exclusive Excerpt tab for THE MARIA PARADOX

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Great Overview of How To Use Twitter...and Have a Job

I hope this sheds light on the fact that, while a lot of tweets from me and mine are organic, many are also posted ahead of time so that the pressure's off me during the busy work day.  I'm not slacking. I'm maximizing.

Which means you can't use "no time" as an excuse not to self-promote anymore. :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Viva Maria Contest!

You've probably noticed that I've been feeling very sassy and Latina lately here on ze blog. That'e because our authors, Carmen Vazquez and Rosa Gil, have a new ebook out: THE MARIA PARADOX (confetti!)

We had such a great time with this other contest that I thought I'd repeat for our friend Maria. But the stakes are going to be much, much higher.

The prize: Query critique, first 30 page critique, and a 20 minute Skype call. 
Tha's right.

Here's how to get it: 
Keep track of where you post/tweet/blog about the book--please help these authors promote their Facebook and Twitter pages. 

There will be THREE WINNERS. How do you win? Well, you do the best job. That means posting/reposting the most amount of times, and in the largest variety of ways or places. Maybe reaching out to friends' blogs to reblog your blog post or...I dunno. Up to you. :) I've pasted a Press Release at the bottom of this post that you can copy and paste/send to friends for blog posts.

To Enter:
  1. Do your posting. Remember, you have SEVEN days. Pace yourself.
  2. Send an email with ONLY the following in the subject line: Ebook Celebration to assistant[AT]bookhaven[DOT]com No punctuation, no project title, no nothing except those two words with that exact capitalization. 
  3. Paste your links to the places you've posted these links and/or where you've had others reblog, repost, or retweet.
The contest will be open for one full week, from tomorrow, February 2 - February 9.
Any posts/reposts will be counted between those days. But remember, variety and number of people reached is more important than volume! Retweeting yourself seven times won't get you a win.

Sound hard? Well, it's a competition! :)

I'll look over the entries, decide on the winners, and get back in touch about sending your materials and scheduling your call by March 31.

Thanks in advance for your help!!

*****PRESS RELEASE FOR BLOG POSTS (feel free to copy)*****

THE MARIA PARADOX, written by Drs. Rosa Gil and Carmen Vazquez, is a unique self-help guide for Hispanic women and the men who love them.

The authors challenge the machismo-reinforcing idea of “marianismo,” a centuries-old belief system that in effect tells Latinas: "Don't forget a woman's subservient place; never put your own needs first; sex is for making babies.”

Filled with self-help exercises, this clearly written manual offers practical advice on how to build support networks, overcome passivity, forge career paths, change or get out of abusive relationships and increase sexual fulfillment.

Filled with real-life success stories and wise, compassionate advice, THE MARIA PARADOX details how Latinas can enjoy the best of both worlds.

The book can be purchased from all major online retailers. The authors can also be found on Twitter and on Facebook

Monday, January 30, 2012

Latinas Unite

Er...can I join too? Not Latina but...nevermind. 

Our authors Rosa Gil and Carmen Vazquez have written a FANTASTIC book called THE MARIA PARADOX, now available as an ebook for the first time.

It's a unique self-help guide for Hispanic women aimed at finding ways to reconcile traditions from Latin heritage with the sometimes-very-different culture here in the States. And it's filled with self-help exercises and practical advice, so basically you can't lose.

Like it?? Well Click it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Author Promo Idea

Use your Twitter bios as a "flash" query. You know how Flash Fiction is a full story in about 50 - 200 words (which, by the way, is a great writing exercise)?

Yeah. Do that, but a query, in your bio. It's like the ultimate log line challenge, and it just might get you noticed.

Some log line theory and examples:

Monday, January 23, 2012


Questions are open from Noon EST until 3pm EST. Ask away in the comments!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'm looking for a few good novella-ists

I know this sounds crazy. But please query me your novellas.

What exactly is a novella, you ask?
  • It's a complete story with a full plot and a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • It's between 25,000 and 50,000 words.
  • It's any genre, any category, although many tend to be literary in nature. Either that or genre like horror, fantasy, or sci-fi.
What is it not? 
  • Half a book or some sort of serialization.
  • Less demanding than a novel in terms of craft and character development. Or query writing, for that matter.
If you do query a novella, following EXACTLY my guidelines for submitting fiction (including how you format your subject line). But before the word "Query" in your subject line, write the word Novella. I'll see it faster that way.