megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Seeing another Twilight search/replace fic get a seven figure deal from a big name U.S. publishing house suddenly just made me feel proud of what I've written and of my own novel (City of the Hand)


Because I haven't made a lot of money off of it. Medical bills still loom, as does rent and all the other costs of living - but hey. Every tiny little bit is a gift a wonderful gift and I treasure it. I'm not complaining, because it's still more than zero, and it's still something.

It's still work I did that people out there loved enough to say "here's some money, precious money, that you can have because of this tale you told me". It's basically just a text file. It doesn't even have cover art, though I'd love to have something to show what the main character looks like.

It sure isn't the perfect book. Maybe the plot slows in the middle or the characters read flat or there's a load of cliches or the antagonist comes off as shallow and unbelievable or the ending's predictable.

Maybe all those things.

But I didn't search and fucking replace the names of anyone else's characters. I didn't window dress someone else's story and say that I did this great thing. I had influences, I had things I drew on, authors who inspired me with their works, certainly. Nothing is ever 100% original. I'm sure you can see bits and pieces of them in there, but I didn't play Ken-and-Barbie with their characters and repackage them to sell to the world.

I did my best. I reached for new things (or new-to-me things) and I put it out there for others to have. For free, even. Because I don't think there should be a sign on literature that says "you must be this wealthy to ride the ride".

I probably won't make seven figures (or hell, three). Probably won't get suddenly famous for this. Or the next book or short story. I'm okay with that. I'm not owed fame and riches just because I showed up, privileged as hell in a society that skews the field in my favor in so many ways.

I just know that I'm proud to say that I didn't have to rename any damn thing in my novel because it was already copyrighted to someone else's name.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
I post this mostly as a cautionary tale to any eager beaver new authors who want to get into the self-publishing game and also as a warning, in general, of how not to approach people.

Three days ago, a person I didn't know came up to me, held out three one dollar bills (US) and wanted to pay me to download his self published books from Amazon.

The tale of the most awkward attempt to shill a book I've ever seen in my life. )
megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (WTF?)
So, the agency that was being referred to in the article that started #YesGayYA has said that the authors (Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown) were lying about their article and that (direct quote): "these authors have exploited the topic."

I've read both, and while I can't know the precise words said in these conversations, I can say that I'm more than a little suspicious and unconvinced by anyone who's defense is this statement:

Our second bit of editorial feedback was that at least two POVs, possibly three, needed to be cut. Did one of these POVs include the gay character in question? Yes. Is it because he was gay? No. It’s because we felt there were too many POVs that didn’t contribute to the actual plot.

The thing is, it's not enough to say "oh, but we also wanted these straight characters reduced/cut out/etc" and then think that it's enough. Because it feels a lot like the intention argument and the "but I did this to a [insert privileged group] person, too!" arguments I am beyond weary of.

There was a damn good point made, and it's obviously been missed.

In which I alternate between analysis and rage on the issue. )

ETA: For the sake of accuracy and fairness, it should be noted (as is stated here) that the agent who made the defensive post, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, is not the agent in question who had the discussion with authors Sherwood and Brown. Rather, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe was merely an agent speaking on behalf of the agency.
megwrites: Dualla from BSG. Dualla > EVERYONE ELSE.  (dualla)
Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith.

You need to read all the words in this, and you need to think very carefully about it. Especially if you work with or want to work with the big names in the U.S. publishing industry.

The money quote?

The overwhelming white straightness of the YA sf and fantasy sections may have little to do with what authors are writing, or even with what editors accept. Perhaps solid manuscripts with LGBTQ protagonists rarely get into mainstream editors’ hands at all, because they are been rejected by agents before the editors see them. How many published novels with a straight white heroine and a lesbian or black or disabled best friend once had those roles reversed, before an agent demanded a change?

This does not make for better novels. Nor does it make for a better world.

Let’s make a better world.

I have no doubt (and by no doubt, I mean I've heard the stories) of the same happening in adult genres as well in the NYC-centric U.S. publishing industry.

This is what I mean when I get angry about what's on the shelves, when I talk about the lack of diversity in the genres of fiction that I read. This is also why I get really furious in discussions about agents and submissions when agents want to claim that it is "just business" and don't want to have the discussions about how they, as a group, are engaging in these shenanigans either by asking people to straight/whiten/etc their characters or just by rejecting things out of hand.

This is why I laugh when people pretend like editors and agents are always acting as benevolent gatekeepers who only let the best manuscripts get through, and that people who don't get published obviously just weren't good enough. This is why my opinion and the way I look at self-published works has really changed in the last few years.

This is why I can open a book and see certain specific genre agents' names in the acknowledgements and know better than to bother because I can actually, physically track the books that I've hated, the books that have been chock full of racist, sexist, queer hating ickiness and see that a lot of those books were all handled by the same agent.

This is part of the reason why I've very much stopped believing that getting a mainstream publishing contract is actually even anything to strive for and have largely shelved the idea that my writing career should center around such hopes.

Because in the last few years, I've really had my eyes opened to the fact that it doesn't just take a good book to get a deal and some sales - because things aren't that fair. Because there are a lot of people - agents, editors, etc - who are literally weeding out diversity because they only care about straight, white readers, who don't think that the queer/POC/disabled/etc reader even count.

If you ever wondered why I'm perpetually angry, or why when people talk about e-book prices, book sales, and piracy that I feel like ripping furniture to shreds because there are so many layers of fuckery going on that it can never just be a simple case of anything - you know why now. Because of things like this.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
I had something of an illuminating experience at the Borders "going out of business" sale this weekend.

For those who don't know, Borders is (was) one of the major brick and mortar retailers here in the U.S. They've been fighting bankruptcy and financial woes for years, but it's finally caught up to them. They're going under and individual locations are going out like light bulbs.

Here have a link about it from the Wall Street Journal.

This is very bad for the employees who are losing jobs. I feel genuine and deep sympathy for them, especially with the way job markets are right now.

But as a person who buys books and is deeply interested in book retail and the publishing industry, it was something of an instructive experience.

Discussion of book buying habits, stores, economies and other things that might not be interesting. Also, very U.S.-centric, with my apologies! )
megwrites: Dualla from BSG. Dualla > EVERYONE ELSE.  (dualla)
1. Dear Hollywood, How's that Bigotry Working Out for You? from the ever awesome, ever righteous, ever asskicking N.K. Jemisin. I kind of want to quote the entire thing, but since that would be redundant and a little sketchy, I'll excerpt the sweet justice for you:

But I have a question. How's that whole bigotry thing working out for you? Financially, I mean.

'Cause, y'know, from where I'm sitting, it doesn't look like this strategy has been especially effective lately. Last year, one of your biggest flops was a beloved children’s TV show that in its original form was chock full of brown people — which you whitewashed. People are still making fun of the monstrosity that resulted. This weekend past, your “female empowerment action fantasy” got the crap beaten out of it by a wimpy kid, in part because it wasn’t empowering at all, and was actually pretty damn misogynistic. Wow, not even your usual demographic, the straight white guys you’re trying so hard to appeal to, liked that one. And I’m already seeing storm warnings on the horizon re a few new projects coming down the pipe.

I can't nod my head enough to show how much I agree with this, with the entire post. How much I want to point to it every time people want to come to me with the argument that whitewashing or manwashing or any other kind of [insert thing]-washing is just good business sense, that well, it's not that moviemakers don't want POC and women (or women of color) or PWD or GLBT folks on screen (or those characters that are all of the above), it's that audiences just prefer white, straight, cis, thin, conventionally attractive folks, that's all. It's just business.

And for that matter, I want to ask the same of the U.S. book industry, especially the genres I read. I want to ask if those stacks and stacks of nearly identical books is really netting them the big bucks (and judging by the recent state of both publishers, presses, and brick'n mortar bookstores in this country, I'm thinking the answer is "Not really"). Is the "let's not scare the nice privileged folks with scary brown queer disabled fat women-type people" policy doing all that they'd hope, are the profit margins getting that much bigger and better?

I've had this fight/discussion/endless go-round before, with people who have worked in the business who try to justify why they need a cover to have a white face when it's not about a white person, or why it's totally okay for an anthology that's 50% women authors to have only men's names on the cover, or why they can't let a gay romance in a YA anthology even when the author has conformed to all the other standards for sexual content.

And yet, I see a book industry in the U.S. that is not doing all that well. I see a book industry where prices keep getting hiked, where bookstores are closing, where authors are testifying about their diminishing returns and the rise of illegal/unpaid e-book downloading.

And I really want to ask the same question: Is it working out for you the way you'd hoped?

2. Semi-related: HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations (link via @tinytempest on Twitter).

I think K. Tempest said it very aptly on Twitter: "this kind of thing is exactly why people pirate eBooks...and I can't say I blame them.".

As both a reader (and lover of libraries) and a writer this makes me give HarperCollins some serious side-eye.
megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (beauty&thebeast)
S.E. Smith has a really, really fantastic post up at FWD about Coming Out In A Dangerous World, talking about mental health, ablism, and the publishing industry.

Ou mentions me by my LJ name ([profile] fiction_theory), and I think I should explain a bit that a few days ago I posted on Twitter about being quite fed up with the ablism in the publishing industry, particularly when I see things like this: 10 Lies Agents and Editors Tell You, if you look at the URL (though not the blog title) there is the addition: To Protect Themselves From Crazies.

To quote:
Which is why you’re going to be able to take it when I tell you that agents and publishing editors lie to you routinely. And it is beholden upon all you non-crazies out there to take it graciously, because if the crazies were allowed to run riot there’d be no agents or publishing editors out there to work with the rest of us, at all.

This kind of language, this use of that word, this way of using "crazy, "insane", "nutso", conflating mental illness with acting unprofessionally or rudely, or just in a way that certain people don't like is very common - and it's taken to be somehow clever or delightfully snarky. I can't begin to count the number of blogs from professionals in this industry that have done this, or have said someone is "off their meds".

The irony being that this kind of language is often used by someone lecturing others to act professionally.

Then there are posts like this one from Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm: "This is Your Brain on Drugs", saying things like this:

And maybe the difference is that I’ve never let her use the brain drugs that so many of her fellow students use. From second or third grade on, many of her friends have been on drugs for ADD, ADHD, and whatever other initials apply. The most common one seems to be Ritalin.


Here is my reasoning. You have to be who you genetically are. Part of my scattered focus is related to my artistic temperment. (Artistic temperment is sometimes spelled ‘t e n d e n c y t o m a n i c d e p r e s s i o n.’) It means that I can end up with two cups of warm coffee on my desk (and who drank one of them already?) or with twenty pages of good text after a wild and exuberant evening of just talking to myself and playing the stereo too loud. I think it is just how I am wired and a part of who I am. I gave up fighting it years ago, and instead I’ve enjoyed it. There are devastating lows and breath-taking highs to my moods and through it all, I keep writing. Life’s a roller coaster for me. I’ve come to accept that. In retrospect, I’m glad it was never medicated away, even though my recollections of my twenties are tinged with a lot of darkness.

Do you see how judgmental, dismissive, and hurtful that is?

ADD and ADHD are, apparently, not actual disorders. They're just initials. And these children didn't have ADD or ADHD, they were just "on drugs for ADD or ADHD".

If you're a person who has these conditions, you don't really have anything according to this article. You're just quirky and scatter brained. Medication is just looking for an easy way out, looking to take "brain drugs", altering yourself, cheating at life.

When you (or a child you make decisions for) have a mental illness and make it known that you're being treated for it, others sit in judgment. Because in our society, we still think it's okay. It's all right to speculate, to demean, to make it our business. It's all right to judge the decisions made, in this case, these families and their children about their own well being.

It is not okay. It is never okay.

It is not okay to talk about your own experiences and expect that everyone else's are just the same, and to shame them and brag about your own LUCK in not needing them to function. It is not okay to tell people that if they seek medications to help them live the life they want, that they are cheating by altering themselves, because to alter yourself in a way that gives you more function is unacceptable

Also? Such a statement is absurd and offensive to not only the disabled, but to transpeople, to recovering addicts with family histories of addiction.

Psychiatric medications (not "brain drugs", thank you very much) are often just as life saving as insulin for diabetics. To shame someone about taking medication to save their life and improve the quality of it is inexcusable.

If you're a person who doesn't need them to function, that makes you lucky. Not better, not more honest, not more real, not more "natural", not harder working - just lucky.

I know there are plenty who would accuse me of looking to be offended, except I don't have to search for these things. Every time I click on a link to "advice from an agent" or "tips for dealing with editors" or "my opinions about life by Big Name Author" - there's a good chance it'll be right there waiting for me.

It'll be there when someone encounters a person who is socially awkward or rude and labels them as having Asperger's or Autism, stereotyping that social difficulties are the only symptoms of these disorders and that to have them is automatically to be unpleasant to be around.

It'll be there when someone conflates being fastidious or nitpicky with having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, trivializing it, when this disorder can make daily life miserable for those going untreated.

I've posted before about why the use of the word "crazy" can be hurtful and offensive, and why it reinforces the attitudes and stereotypes that oppress people with mental disorders or disabilities. There's also a great series on Feminists With Disabilities called the Ableist Word Profile and I highly recommend going and reading every single post and really, really thinking about it.

It makes me tired and angry very often when I see these things from people in the business I want to be in, people that I may one day find myself working with. It worries me that if they find out about my own history with mental illness, if I should need medication in the future, that this will mean they won't work with me because I'm "one of those crazies", no matter how professionally and respectfully I act.

I'm tired because there are better words for what actually is being said. If someone is rude, call them rude or inconsiderate, insulting, impertinent, disrespectful. If someone is being unprofessional, say that.

There's no reason to bring the language of mental health into these discussions this way. There's no reason to call someone "crazy" if they send you a nasty response to a query rejection or don't follow guidelines or post something you don't like. Calling them "crazy" or "off their meds" is wrong, and it is just as unprofessional and rude as anything that person might do.

ETA: Changed pronouns referring to S.E. Smith, as I wrongly gendered ou. My deepest apologies. I obviously made a wrong assumption (cisprivilege fail!) and am deeply sorry and will not be making it again. I obviously have cisprivilege issues that need working on.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Good on the SFWA for coming out with this statement denouncing Harlequin's self publishing imprint. And while we're at it, a pat on the back to the RWA for also not tolerating these shenanigans, either.

My hats off to both organizations and those that made the decisions. Especially the RWA. I can only imagine that it was not an easily reached decision on their part, but they acted correctly. Proving that the romance genre does, in fact, possess some of the most awesome people on God's green earth.

Frankly, I'm appalled that Harlequin would do this. It's so clearly a grab for money meant to prey on naive and desperate writers. It's little more than a confidence scheme. The name change tells me that Harlequin knows this and there is some sense of corporate guilt in knowing that they're basically trying to line their pockets on the desperation of the unpublished.

I'm reminded of the guiding principle of the con from Hu$tle, "Find someone who wants something for nothing and give them nothing for something."

[ profile] arcaedia also known as Jennifer Jackson, has a pretty good write up on it as well, and I echo her sentiments entirely.

There is a time and a place for self publishing, and it's for people who want to stay strictly amateur and have no interest in profits or distribution or recognition. Want to put out a cook book for your church bake sale? Self publish! Want to distribute some family stories and memories amongst relatives and loved ones? Self publish! Want to give a book of your short stories to a few friends who've asked to see them time and again? Self publish!

Yes, some have gotten extraordinarily lucky, but so have some people who buy lotto tickets. All the other millions who buy tickets just blow their money and have nothing to show for it.

When you want significant money and distribution to enter the equation, you need to work with other people on professional terms that ensure that you get compensated for your work.

Unfortunately, the self-publishing con doesn't want you to know this. They want you to think that you're cleverly by-passing those stodgy, elitist publishers and agents and editors who sit around cackling like the witches of endor while breaking the dreams of innocent, unpublished writers who are delicate, special little snowflakes that just need someone to recognize their snowflakeyness.

Those editors and agents and publishers are not some big scheme to break your heart that someone put there just to be mean. It's a system and an industry that functions the way it does because that's, more or less, what works best.

Yes, there are kinks in the system - but the fact that enough people make money (including writers) for it to be an industry should tell you that something.

Even if the industry went paperless and electronic tomorrow, agents, editors, and publishing companies would still exist in some form. The business of getting a lot of people to read this Really Great Book Over here still requires the same steps. Someone has to write the book, someone has to check that the book is actually good, someone has to distribute the book to places (virtual or real) where readers can acquire the book, and someone has to tell lots of people about the book so they will go to that place and buy it.

Which means that companies will still need to exist who profit from marketing and distributing books by having a wider network than a single author could muster on their own, and go-between agents will still exist to mediate between writers and those companies.

And that means that anyone who tells you that you, too, can be a famous author in a few easy steps just by paying a small free is still going to be giant crook. Even a big company like Harlequin.
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
This piece on GalleyCat asking Agents? Who needs 'em? sparked off a lot of controversy across the publishing sphere. The article posed the question about whether agents are becoming obsolete (or already are) with the advent of things like eBooks and Kindle.

I have to admit there was something of an anti-agent tone running through the piece, and there have been a lot of rebuttals:

Author Stacia Kane said: Yes, Virginia, you need an agent

Author Jeaniene Frost had some words to say as well

Miriam Goderich of the Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency responded that she also thinks agents are necessary an not going anywere

My thoughts on the subject, let me show them to you. Or, the answer is not a Yes/No dichotomy. )
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!) takes back e-Books that customers paid for because screwed the copyright pooch. Or: why I am never, ever buying a Kindle and am going to start thinking about getting books online from another source.

What's even sadder? took back a book that's available for free online in several sources. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the state of eBooks and eBook readers.

Let do some explaining for you on how being heavy handed about copyrights only strengthens and enhances piracy. Because like the strip says: Remember, if you pirate something, it's yours for life. You can take it anywhere and it will always work.

Or in this case if you'd downloaded a free or pirated copy, you'd still have it.

So, I say again to you folks who are authors, editors, or otherwise working in the publishing industry, if you want to stop book piracy, don't go after the pirates. Go after the publishing companies (and their conglomerate owners), the eBook reader companies, sellers, and all the other supposed businesspeople who are making piracy easier than just legally and easily paying a fair price to download a book. Demand that they get their acts together, because it's the authors, editors, and other folks on the ground that feel the hit when it comes to piracy.

I can promise you if someone took this eBook stuff by the scruff of the neck and came out with an affordable reader that can read a wide variety of formats and deals reasonably with copyrights and makes finding and downloading books easy and fairly priced, you'd see piracy take a nosedive and you'd see authors benefitting as well.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
A story about an author who "faked" a publicist in order to get published..

The opinions regarding this story on my f-list have ranged from outrage to "wow, that's clever!".

Sorry to say it (well, actually I'm not but I'm being polite here), I fall squarely with the people who think it's clever and aren't that outraged about it. I get why people would be outraged, but frankly I don't agree.

The fact is that while the publicist may have been fake, the book, the author, and the quality therein were not. No one was deprived of anything substantive. Okay, so he changed his name and pretended to be someone he wasn't. But the book was real. The quality of the book was real.

It's like saying you're mad because the guy who sold you your vacuum cleaner at a really good price said he was Steve from Pittsburgh when he was really Fred from Knoxville. You still have your vacuum cleaner at the price you desired, so what does it matter? The vacuum cleaner and the money you paid for it were genuine. And if he said he was from Pittsburgh because he saw you were a Steelers fan and knew it it would make you more inclined to listen to him, that's just good salesmanship.

So long as his product, his price, and his promises were genuine, I have no issue with it.

And I think getting freaked out over the sock puppetry is actually a bit disingenuous, really, especially for writers.

The history of writing is storied with people who have assumed names and put on personas so that they could get past an obstacle and allow their stories to be heard by people who would other wise be unwilling. People have switched genders and race and all sorts of thing for the sake of their stories. They just did it on the other side of the line. Do I need to begin with how many women authors have had pen their works under male names just to have someone even consider them worth reading, much less publishing? I didn't think so.

My real reason for not being at all outraged is a little less poetic, however. When someone finds a way to beat The System at it's own game, I cheer.

The fact is that you can be the most brilliant writer ever and never see print. You can do everything right and fail miserably. So, obviously doing right isn't the point of this industry or business. So long as publishing is based on business rather than merit, I don't see where anyone has room to bitch when someone plays the game better than they do.

The fact is, publishing is a business and this guy found a better way to place his product. Now, given, he was good at it and it was a triple lundy off the high dive which few (if any) should attempt to mimic, but he did it.

He knew what he was doing and he wasn't trying to run a scheme. Nobody was defrauded.

The facts are these (as they say on Pushing Daises): The publishing industry isn't going to be nice to you. They aren't going to be fair. They aren't going to hand you anything. They are not going to look out for you. Writers face everything from agents who really are just running scams to publishers who don't pay them fairly.

So, yeah, you have to look out for yourself. The publishing industry gets theirs, so you gotta get yours - to put it crudely. This is the business world, baby. Dog will eat dog.

Publishers and agents have bent more than a few writers over a chair, so I have no problem with a writer very skillfully making them grab *their* ankles for once.

As for me, I have no intention of trying to execute this kind of smooth move. I don't know a damn thing about marketing and I know that I just don't have the right kind of sensibilities for it. I already know that I need to have an expert (an agent). But if I really thought I had a grip on what to do and how to do it? I might give this a whirl.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
It’s amazing how much writing you can get done when you have a very limited time and a singular determination.

In less than an hour I carved out 1600 more words on the Tower!Guy novel, and that’s including the time I took out to call people, check on the status of my passport, do dishes, and pack for Connecticut.

The grand total now comes to:

Zokutou word meter
102,016 / 100,000

I saw an interesting link to an article about why publishers miss good books. It’s over here.

thoughts about the article and other facts of life concerning publishers )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Firstly, I hope the first three days of 2007 have been terrific for everyone, and that 2007 will prove to be a year of great luck, great growth, great fortune, and great happiness for you all.

I keep getting reminded that "firstly" is not actually a word. But given that I just typed it up and used it in a sentence - it's a word.

Hey, "googling" isn't a word either, but I don't see people correcting the pants off people who use that.

Secondly, I need a little help from my peeps.

Let's say that a person wants to start scraping together a synopsis of a novel, so that they can have this synopsis to send out when agents/publishers ask for "sample chapters and synopsis".

What, exactly, should this synopsis look like? What's the format? I know manuscript format pretty well, but is there synopsis or outline format? How should I handle that?

Since I know a lot of you out there have submitted, are submitting, or will submit I thought you might have some pointers. Or possibly a handy dandy little example so that I can see what it's supposed to look like.

And for those who didn't get the subtext, yes. This does mean that given some more editing/tweaking/rewriting I am going to - *gulp* - start sending Revenant Blues out.

Not that I don't fully expect, anticipate, and count on catastrophic failure or anything. But, still. I've heard that your chances of getting published rise dramatically when the manuscript is somewhere *besides* your harddrive.

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags