Tuesday Tantrum: Tipping Point in Publishing?

Agent Ginger Clark tweeted today about an article posted at the Publishing Perspectives website. The article piles on more kindling (pun absolutely intended) to the ever-growing bonfire of controversy about Self e-publishing vs. Traditional publishing models.

You've probably been enticed by the superstars we've all heard of (*** cough ***Amanda Hocking), but they actually point out a more compelling reason for a debut author to consider the self e-pub route: the midlist author. I mean, it's been a bit of a false argument up till now. Often, the unlikelihood that a writer will earn notice -- not to mention income -- from self-publishing is highlighted, while the equally low probability that this will be achieved through traditional publishing is not. What's interesting here is that for those writers destined to run in the middle of the pack, the e-pub route is the better one financially.

Another argument sometimes made is about the limitations this path presents, most notably in the foreign rights territory. Turns out, that's becoming less true as well.

There remains one compelling reason to go the traditional route, in my mind: libraries. I'd like to see my novel available for checkout, in material form, from public and school libraries. If Amazon can help solve that roadblock, I'd be most obliged to consider jumping on the fast track that self-publishing offers to potential success.

What do you think? Have we truly reached a tipping point?

Another Perspective on Publishing Odds (Or, what's the likelihood I'll earn enough to eat?)

I returned home last night from several days at the beach, one of which involved an awesome writing conference on the Oregon coast called Summer in Words. Amazing insights were ripe for picking. Now I'm pumped and raring to go again. Nothing like a boatload of inspiration to get me back on track. I highly recommend hanging out at a conference if you need to amp up your energy. What writer doesn't now and again? Face it, this can be a lonely and discouraging occupation.

Especially if you get hung up on the bleak stats, like those I posted in my Tuesday Tantrum about Stats that Suck.

Now, here's an antidote. Kristin Lamb blogs about all things writerly and kindly posted a lovely article about how not to drown in those odds. She notes that probably three quarters of Americans want to write a book. Hundreds of thousands will pick up a pen or open a blank word doc and start writing that novel. How many will finish? Maybe 5%. And the field narrows from there. Only 5% of people who finish a novel will go to a conference. And only a few will do other things to better their odds: read some books on craft; revise, revise, REVISE; write another book; keep querying when rejected; build a platform . . . (insert any number of other steps a writer can take to increase the chances of success).

So, keep this in mind when you're on the ledge, about to scrap your dreams, ready to quit and go back to the real world.

Or, as author Randall Platt challenged the attendees at her Summer in Words workshop: How long are you planning on living?

This is the dream. It's hard work to manifest that dream. And that makes success all the tastier.

Critters and Other Hazards of the Writing Life

After testing the waters at the 99th Page and finding them somewhat hostile, Lesser Apricots perfectly captured the issue with crits. They're soooo frustrating. I mean, you knock yourself out to write this stuff, right? And then, ever so gingerly, you put it out there for the world to view. Naturally, you want to hear major atta girls and "wow, fabulous, best thing I've ever read, pure genius!" Instead, you get a grab bag of opinions, some more qualified than others. One person adores it, another says it's crapola. "Too many adjectives," "not enough description," yada yada yada. Not a drop of consistency to go with. What's a writer to do with all this? 

As an example of how frustrating this kind of feedback can be, enter exhibit A: reviews from my ABNA excerpt. I'll spare you the uploads. Suffice it to say, two people reviewed. One loved, one did not. Very little agreement between the two. Took the advice, revised ferociously, and then comes exhibit B: reviews from my PNWA contest entry. Again, no need to subject you to the sordid details  But again: one reviewed liked it (85 out of 100, not bad for an early draft); the other did not (68 out of 100 -- what were you smoking??). And again, essentially no agreement in suggested edits. Finally, exhibit C: the multiple crits from online and face-to-face critique groups. Contradictory recommendations abound. I do look for recurring themes and obvious errors. If the crit fits, I wear it. Otherwise, it's all just helping to thicken my skin. And when I get those form rejections that say, "this remains a subjective business," I know they're telling the truth. 

Here's my advice: Write and revise until you love what you've written. Look for areas of agreement among your crits. Decide what makes good sense for you. And then save any further changes for those recommended by your professional editor or agent. Happy writing.

Finding Beauty in the Muck

The INTERN posts a brilliant reminder that we must not lose our creative joy while we are engaged in the tough work of revision. Just what I needed on this Friday. It is so easy to strangle the muse by forgetting that it's about creating. Yes, there's a ton of work. Words to cut, polish, and shine. But at the end, it's art.

Tuesday Tantrum: Query Weary

It's Tuesday again, which means I get to throw another snit fit. Today's Tuesday Tantrum is all about the Query.

Even the word alone is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the bravest authors. Myself included. Otherwise, why lurk around the shadows of agent blogs, seeking some tidbit of inside info that will pave the golden path to instant full manuscript requests? Yes, yes -- I know. Agents are like the key to the executive washroom when you really, really have to pee. Sure, I could dash down three flights of stairs and find a semi-private corner on the street. Not the same, is it? No comparison: marble floors, shiny stainless steel sinks, plush towels -- vs. cement sidewalk with my butt hanging out. Not a pretty picture.

So, you want to get published by the big time boys, you gotta have an agent who knows the secret handshake. And to get that agent, you must Query. More than that, you must now devote the better part of your waking hours to researching agents, what they like (dark chocolate or salt covered caramels), which phase of the moon to send your email so as to have the best possible chance of actually getting beyond the recipient's delete key, and drafting (um, make that revising for the millionth time) that anxiety-inducing Query.

All of which renders your ability to actually write anything new during those measly hours between sunrise and sunset as likely as getting struck by lightening while holding the winning ticket to Megaball in your fried little hand.

Sympathizing with my plight is the crazy successful Tahereh. Her blog about The 5 Signs That Say You Must be Querying had me in stitches. Badly needed stitches. Thanks Tahereh!

Tuesday Tantrum: Stats that Suck

Time for a Tuesday Tantrum.  

Michelle White posted a blog today that is downright depressing: 

A typical agent gets 32,000 query letters a year, asks for 2500 partials, and then 98 fulls. She'll offer to rep 9. And only 5 will sell to a publisher.

Wow. I'm feeling pretty hyped about that full request I got. What kind of odds are these? Yeah, I know, they say it's not odds really, because not all manuscripts are equal. Granted. But let's say that you worked your tail off and applied to graduate school with those kinds of numbers. How optimistic would you feel about the likelihood you'd be accepted? 

Now, let's assume that your book -- or mine -- is soooo amazing that said agent takes it on and actually sells it to a publisher. Pop the cork!! Book that trip to Hawaii!! 

Oh, wait.

Now here's another set of crummy stats.

The book gets published. Oh, it takes a couple of years, but finally it's out there for the world to buy. How may copies will it sell? 

On average, 250 copies. 

Seriously. Hot damn.

Drill down a bit deeper and here's what it looks like:
"in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies."

But wait, then there's Twilight.

Good luck, ya'll. I'm going to have a drink now. And then get back to my WIP. 
One can dream, after all.

Nothing Cannot Happen Today: What WSJ Could've Said About YA Without Getting Cr...

Nothing Cannot Happen Today: What WSJ Could've Said About YA Without Getting Cr...: "Wall Street Journal laid a melon last night. And they got crushed by the entire Twitterverse of passionate YA readers and writers that kno..."

The War Has Begun: @wsj vs. #YAsaves (Or, the Awesome Power of Twitter)

If you ever doubted the power of the people, head on over to check out the Twitter feed. #YAsaves is on fire. Apparently, Wall Street Journal published a scathing (and unwarranted) attack on some of the current YA offerings, decrying the graphic violence and depiction of such gritty topics as self-mutilation, rape, suicide, bullying, homelessness, and, yes, vampires. All of these are fantasy, right? Don't happen in the real world. Shouldn't expose our vulnerable youth to such issues. Well, they may have a point about the vampires. But the rest? Get real! And to follow up on their misguided article, WSJ suggested a list of novel titles as recommended reads, even separating these out by gender (books for young women, books for young men). Wow. So 2011. Especially A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Now, I'm not a hater, but I don't see teens busting through the doors at the mall on a Saturday afternoon jonesing to buy a classic like Tree.

So all this got me thinking about what I read as a teen. After my love of reading was stoked by A Girl of the Limberlost (yes, I do love classics) and A Wrinkle in Time, I became a heavy reader of such uplifting teen lit as produced by Harold Robbins and Erica Jong. Yeah, I know -- I'm dating myself here. But the point is that Ayn Rand and Stephen King were among the best offerings. Great reads, yes. Teen lit, no. Now, the market is full of fresh, fierce stuff that draws teens into literature and speaks to their own anxieties and concerns. And if you don't think that the topics listed above (maybe with the exception of the vamps) are of concern to young people, it's time you get real.

Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

Thank you Jenna for the lovely blog award! http://findingthewriteway.blogspot.com/2011/06/irresistibly-sweet-blog-award.html

So, here are the rules: The Rules:

Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
Share 7 random facts about yourself.
Pass the word along to 15 deserving blog buddies.
Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

What?? Just 7 random facts? I'm totally random. Well, I'll restrain myself and give you all just a taste of my sheer randomness:

1. I love lavender ice cream. And candy. And martinis. I can't say why, but that is one tasty little flower.

2. Speaking of flowers, my first major in college was Botany.

3. Speaking of Botany, I spent a month traipsing around the rain forest in Costa Rica. Ya'll would not believe the stuff that grows there.

4. When I was in fifth grade, I wanted to become the first woman to land on mars. Seriously. I read every book the library had on the subject.

5. Plus I wanted to save the planet. Still do.

6. I've spent time on four continents. Not did time, spent time. As in touristy time. Or ex-pat time.

7. One more random fact? Just one? Okay: I started writing my first novel when I was eight, and didn't start another until umpteen (***insert fantastical number here***)later.

Whew. Now, 15 bloggers to select to pay it forward:

1. The Contemps http://www.thecontemps.com
2. It's All Fun and Games until someone gets an agent http://marewolf.blogspot.com/
3. Indie Author http://aprillhamilton.blogspot.com/
4. Writer, Writer Pants on Fire http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/
5. Mother. Write. (Repeat) http://motherwrite.blogspot.com/
6. Just Your Typical Book Blog http://justyourtypicalbookblog.blogspot.com/
7. Ready. Write. Go. http://readywritego.blogspot.com/
8. Rebbeca Knight, Writer in Progress http://rebeccaknightbooks.blogspot.com/
9. YA Fresh http://yafresh.blogspot.com/
10. We Love YA http://weloveya.wordpress.com
11. YA Books Central http://yabookscentral.com/
12. Juvenescence http://raedeke.blogspot.com/
13. A Still and Quiet Madness http://authoraghoward.blogspot.com/
14. Teen Fiction Cafe http://teenfictioncafe.blogspot.com
15. Sara Zarr (my hero!) http://www.sarazarr.com