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!).