I did an interview with ShelfAwareness that came out well, I think (I wrote this a long while ago and it's just coming out now, so I have the necessary distance to say that). I particularly like my answer to "Name your five favorite authors": "My favorite authors are the ones living, dead, read and unread, published and unpublished, who write because they can't stop and because something inside them burns to be outside. That doesn't necessarily mean that I want to read their books, but they are all and every one my favorites."
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Science fiction writer Michael Swanwick is a class act. His latest post, "On My Refusal To Mock My Brothers And Sisters," explains why he didn't give the name of the author when he remarked on social media that he'd had to put a book down and quit reading it. He eloquently makes the case that casually slagging other writers' work is bad form. I don't think he's saying that literary criticism and review are ugly, but rather why he doesn't go around warning people off of the books he didn't like.
I have a pretty similar approach to my reviews here on Boing Boing; the space of books that I don't think is worth reading is so large that there's no point trying to map it -- especially since such a list is a lot less useful than a list of books that I do rate as the good stuff.
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Letters of Note has a 1952 letter from EB White to his editor, Ursula Nordstrom, occasioned by the impending Harper & Row publication of Charlotte's Web. Asked to explain why he wrote the book, he describes, beautifully, the circumstances of how he came to write it. But when he gets to the end, he says, "I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." That guy -- he should think of taking up writing.
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Earlier this summer, I worked with the American Library Association on their Authors for Library Ebooks project -- which is asking authors to call on their publishers to offer ebooks to libraries at a fair price. Right now, libraries pay several times more for ebooks than people off the street -- up to six times more! I recorded this video explaining why libraries and authors are natural allies.
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Hey, San Diego! I'm in town, teaching the Clarion Writing Workshop, and tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7PM, I'll be appearing at Mysterious Galaxy
as part of Clarion's speaker series. And if you're coming to Comic-Con, you can catch me on Thursday
Hugh Howey, author of the runaway self-published best-seller Wool, has a very well-argued, thoughtful, and fascinating look at the relative merits of self-publishing for a median kind of writer, who is not a bestseller and only looks for a supplement to a regular income:
There are two possibilities. Your book might be in the top 1 percent of what readers are looking for — whether by the magic of your plot or the grace of your prose — in which case you are far better off self-publishing. You’ll make more money sooner, and you’ll own the rights when it comes time to negotiate with publishers (if you even care to). If, on the other hand, your work isn’t in the top 1 percent, it won’t escape the clutches of the slush pile. Your only hope in this case is to self-publish. Which means there isn’t a scenario in which I would recommend an author begin his or her career with a traditional publisher. Not a one. Even Jim Carrey is going the self-pub route with his children’s book, and he’ll make a mint because of it. The new top-down approach is to self-publish and retain ownership. The course of last resort would be to sign away your rights for the rest of your life.
Louis C.K. proved this for comedy. The better you are, the better it pays to produce and own your own work. If you’re not on that level, producing it yourself is the only option. Only option or best option. It’s that simple.
“But I only want to write,” you might say. “I don’t want to be a publisher.” Well, good luck. Even if you land with a major publishing house, the success of your work will depend on you knowing this business and embracing all the challenges that a self-published author faces. There are only a handful of authors in the world who can make a living writing and passing along those words to someone else and not doing a single other thing. Most people who attempt this method teach creative writing for a living, and not because they want to. Promotion will be up to you. Your publisher will want to see your social media presence before they offer you a book deal. Learning the ins and outs of self-publishing before signing with a major house is the best training imaginable. Not doing so would be like a hopeful race car driver not caring what’s under the hood. I’ve been shocked to discover, having worked with major publishers, that many of my self-published friends know more about the current publishing landscape than industry veterans with decades of experience. The more you learn and the more you keep an open mind, the better your chances for success.
Hugh Howey: Self-publishing is the future — and great for writers
I've just signed up for the Clarion Write-a-Thon, an annual fundraiser that brings in money to run the non-profit Clarion Writers Workshop, a kind of bootcamp for science fiction writers held every year at UCSD's La Jolla Campus. I'm a Clarion grad, volunteer board-member, and I'm back teaching the program this year, so I guess you could say I believe in it pretty strongly. Here's my profile on the Write-a-Thon, should you wish to sponsor the story I'm working on (it's a short called "The Man Who Sold the Moon," about robotic 3D printers that sinter lunar regolith), and if you're working on something of your own, you can sign up and get your friends to sponsor you, too!
Brad sez, "Fifteen high school students from the Bronx. Five dedicated teachers. A summer of learning that could change their lives -- and change the way kids learn all across America. This summer Paul Allison, (English teacher in the Bronx and co-founder of Youth Voices
. the New York City Writing Project (NYCWP) at Lehman College, CUNY plan to host a free Youth Voices Summer Program. We need help to make this happen.
We are nearly half way to a goal of $15K."
A reminder that you've got 3 weeks left
to apply for the excellent Viable Paradise science fiction writing workshop on Martha's Vineyard -- a week-long, very intensive course taught by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Debra Doyle, James D McDonald, Steven Brust, Sherwood Smith, Steven Gould, Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch. I've taught it several times and recommend it unconditionally.
Update: Here's Mark's first post of this, from 2009
Here's literary critic Edmund Wilson's form-letter for turning down requests from strangers. As Tim Ferriss notes, Wilson wasn't a hermit or antisocial, but he maximized the time he spent socializing with the people he liked by not letting strangers gobble up his time:
Edmund Wilson regrets that it is impossible for him without compensation to:
contribute to books or periodicals
do editorial work
judge literary contests
make after-dinner speeches
Under any circumstances to:
contribute to or take part in symposiums
take part in chain-poems or other collective compositions
contribute manuscripts for sales
donate copies of his books to libraries
autograph books for strangers
supply personal information about himself
supply photographs of himself
allow his name to be used on letter-heads
receive unknown persons who have no apparent business with him.
The Best Decline Letter of All-Time: Edmund Wilson
(via Making Light)
SF/thriller writer Iain Banks has weighed in to quash a rumor that he only wrote his amazing SF novels to pay the bills because the (also amazing) high-brow literary thrillers didn't bring in enough:
I wish I did have the time to reply to everybody individually but I don’t. I think I’ll only comment on any of the posts if there’s something factually wrong mentioned in them, and so far the only point I can remember is one where an ex-neighbour of ours recalled (in an otherwise entirely kind and welcome comment) me telling him, years ago, that my SF novels effectively subsidised the mainstream works. I think he’s just misremembered, as this has never been the case. Until the last few years or so, when the SF novels started to achieve something approaching parity in sales, the mainstream always out-sold the SF – on average, if my memory isn’t letting me down, by a ratio of about three or four to one. I think a lot of people have assumed that the SF was the trashy but high-selling stuff I had to churn out in order to keep a roof over my head while I wrote the important, serious, non-genre literary novels. Never been the case, and I can’t imagine that I’d have lied about this sort of thing, least of all as some sort of joke. The SF novels have always mattered deeply to me – the Culture series in particular – and while it might not be what people want to hear (academics especially), the mainstream subsidised the SF, not the other way round. And… rant over.
Banks is dying of cancer, and it's an awful shame.
20 May Update from Iain
Jaime sez, "In honor of Children's Book Week, I'm sharing a link about a book written by 8-year old Griffin Hehmeyer. His mom tells the story of how Griffin wrote a book, enlisted his friends and classmates for help editing and illustrating it, and eventually published it. The book serves as a model for children interested in creating literature of their own, practicing skills like story-telling, writing, empathy, collaboration, and persistence in the process."
The story was inspired by a make-believe game Griffin had been playing for several years with a good friend of his named Maya. In the game he was the king of the wolves, just like Makamom is in the book. Griffin says of the writing process, “When I first started this book, I had a hard time thinking of ideas. As I got closer to the ending it was easier to think of what to say.”
At the end of each chapter Griffin would read what he had written to his classmates and incorporate their feedback into the draft. When the draft was complete, Griffin and his teacher then spent another month reading through the book and correcting any errors before sending it to me. I think the editing process was the most frustrating part for Griffin, since he was impatient to be done. I had told him we’d print it out and get it bound, so he was excited to have a real book-like copy to enjoy.
By April I knew of the book's existence, but I hadn’t yet read any of it. When I received the completed draft, I was somewhat hesitant to undertake the reading such a large chunk of text written by an 8 year old – even if that 8 year old was my own son. To my surprise, however, the book turned out to be really good. As a colleague said when I shared a draft with him, “The book kept me reading it until the end, in one pass. It is a very interesting, clever, and engrossing story.” I also enjoyed watching my husband read the book to our other three children each night before bed. They laughed and gasped at all the right places, and begged their dada to continue reading well after lights out.
Making the Marakon Ways
Tony from StarShipSofa sez, "StarShipSofa is hosting a live writers workshop all in video with SF writers Mike Resnick and Paul Di Filippo
StarShipSofa built its reputation by featuring science fiction from the best authors of our time, from living legends whose works have inspired generations to the rising stars of the genre. StarShipSofa's focus on quality science fiction has brought it an enthusiastic worldwide audience as well as the honor of being the first podcast in history to receive the Hugo Award. Who better to host a workshop for aspiring science fiction writers? If you wish to raise your fiction to the next level, join StarShipSofa and its special guests at this exciting workshop."
Warren Ellis answers one of the questions most frequently asked of authors: "When will your book/comic/whatever be turned into a TV show or movie?"
FAQ: I don’t get to decide what gets made into a tv series or film. I cannot, I’m afraid, cause people to give me money for things by magic or force of will. Because, let’s face it, if I could, you’d be part of the slave army building my hundred-mile-high golden revolving statue right now.
I’m glad we got that straightened out.
Thank you, Uncle Warren. As always, you've phrased it perfectly.
FAQ: I Don’t Get To Decide What Gets Made Into A Movie Or TV Show
Last week, I wrote about Random House's new all-digital imprints, which offered terrible contractual terms. After a week of bad publicity, Random House has significantly improved its contract, as you can see from this announcement. On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss has a good summary:
- Authors will now be offered their choice of two options: a re-worked profit-sharing arrangement and a traditional advance-and-royalties deal.
For the profit-sharing arrangement, there's still no advance. But Random House has eliminated all chargebacks for digital editions, so the split between author and publisher is 50/50 of net revenue (actual sales income) from the first copy sold. In other words: no setup costs, no 10% deduction for sales and marketing. For print editions, if they are produced (and this won't be frequent; these are primarily ebook imprints), there will still be a chargeback for actual production and shipping costs (these costs will be fully broken out for the author ahead of time if a print edition is planned). Random House will cover general publicity costs for the imprint, and up to $10,000 of book-specific publicity. Any book-specific PR above that amount will be borne by the author and deducted from net revenue before the profit split--but such expenditures will be optional.
For the advance-and-royalty deal, authors will receive a traditional publishing contract, with the publisher covering 100% of costs. There will be an advance, and royalties will be paid at Random House's standard ebook royalty rate of 25% of net.
- The contract will still be life-of-copyright, but the reversion clause has been improved. As I've explained on this blog and elsewhere, I don't have a problem with life-of-copyright, as long as it's balanced by precise reversion language. That is now the case. Three years after publication, the author can demand reversion if sales fall below 300 copies over the 12 months preceding the demand.
- Random House will still take both primary publishing rights and subsidiary rights, but performance rights and transformative digital edition rights are no longer included. If Random House wants to acquire these, it will negotiate separately. Random House is also open to negotiation on other subrights.