... of this sketch.
Display Comments Add a Comment
I wrote this on my other blog but I thought I'd post it here too. It's something that I think is important to discuss:
Sorry for the silence. I've been traveling quite a bit. But back to business. I've seen some great books that I'd like to share but first I want to briefly talk about the situation with B&N and S&S. This really bothers me. B&N is asking that S&S pay more money to display its titles and it wants a higher discount for S&S books. S&S doesn't want to give in to BN's demands... so... BN has limited its stock on S&S titles in its stores. This, to me, seems like a monopoly. BN doesn't have any competitors any more (not brick and motor stores anyway) and now has decided to make these demands because it can get away with it. Why not? Borders isn't around any more to say, hey: we'll take your books for the standard deal.
I read an article that pitied BN, saying that Amazon was a big competitor so now BN needs to get its money in other ways. I have a different perspective and this is coming from experience. Trust me. BN is making TOO MANY MISTAKES and this is its own fault. Because BN is making these mistakes, publishers shouldn't be punished.
1) Amazon has a far superior search engine. Books are easy to look up. You can misspell things and still find what you're looking for. Go to BN and try to look up something when you get the title slight wrong or you misspell the author's name wrong. Ooops! Nothing comes up. This has been like this for years! BN has had PLENTY of time to hire the right people to fix this. They haven't. Mistake number one.
2) Trying to compete with the likes of Apple. Apple has been around for a good long time and makes amazing products. It's unclear to me as to why BN thought it could come along and produce a product in a few years and think it could compete with that. Loss of market share there.
3) BN has no competitors and sells books yet it instead has decided to focus on toys, soap, dumb gift items, and so on. The one thing BN has that Amazon and other online retailers do not have is BOOKSELLERS. People who are there to recommend great new titles and HANDSELL. But instead of advertising that key element... instead of making sure that the good and knowledgable stick around, they treat the employees like inconsequential elements: people who are there to stock shelves and pick books up off the floor. BN could be a force to recon with if they got the right employees and advertised as such. Heck, they even HAVE some but don't care to use them properly. Example: having a trained opera singer working with the literature books even though she asked to be put with the music. Having a school teacher working with travel books. Huh? The stores aren't run right. It's sad. It could be game over faster than it has to be.
I'm siding with S&S on this one. Sorry BN.
I work both as an editor and an author.....in fact, more of my income comes from editing than writing writing.
But I do work as an author, too, and when I got my last ms. back from its publisher -- NOT Little, Brown -- felt the editing process all too vividly from the author's point of view. This led to a new understanding of why editors hate talking to authors at times. In fact, I've heard editors -- NOT ALVINA -- describe authors as crazy, difficult, irrational etc etc etc.
"It's much easier when the author is dead," one editor once said in a moment of candor. Then she caught herself: "I didn't mean it like that! It's just that...."
I forget how she phrased that, and I knew what she meant: to authors, our mss. are SO important. Every word is important. We care. And when we care too much, we can argue too much, or in ways that really alienate others.
Anyhow, here's what happened.
The publisher had not just changed words here and there, but added new text to the book: a spread with completely new content that contradicted the message of the book, a different ending, a new title -- all without asking me!
I saw the next text only when it was in pages, with the art. At that point, the publisher asked me to review it and assured me that I could make changes, as long as I didn't change the art. She even agreed to ask the artist to make one small change to that, so my ending could be put back.
I spent way too much time on my rewrites -- I wanted them to be as perfect as I could make them, and then even more time composing what I hoped was a polite letter to the publisher, a letter that demonstrated how easy to work with I am, etc.
No reply to said letter.
A couple of weeks passed, and the publisher then emailed me asking for a letter from an expert I had promised to get--he, too, had seen the pages, and didn't want to give them the letter until they made his changes. They made HIS changes, but not any of mine, and then asked again for the letter, this time suggesting that it be sent directly to them (i.e., bypassing the author, me).
At that point, I started to get mad -- and frustrated, and anxious, to the point of not sleeping.
THAT -- the anxiety -- is surely what must be most alienating to editors and what must make them dread talking to some authors. Defensiveness is boring and difficult to deal with, too, but I've learned not to bore editors with that (something I wish the authors I work with would learn to do!).
But anxiety, I know, is one of my demons and I winced after the first phone call with the expert -- and resolved (and resolve again writing this post) NEVER to make a work phone call again while in its grip.
The expert was good, though. We worked together years ago when he hired me to write something for him, and he had the good sense to keep that first phone call really brief. And none of this was his fault, poor guy!
He said, in a kind voice:
"I can hear the anxiety in your voice"
&"WHy don't you think it over and call me back in half an hour?"
GOOD ADVICE. I did -- So I calmed myself down before we talked again.
The upshot was that we got the letter done, to our mutual satisfaction, and sent it off to the publisher.....none of my changes were ever made, though I did get a rude letter from an editor at the company explaining what terrible ideas they were, that "we have gone as far as we can" (this was I guess because they had made two small changes for the expert) and that the book was going to the printer's the next day.
WHY AUTHORS SOMETIMES HATE WORKING WITH PUBLISHERS
So this is what the Publisher did to the ms. (the book hasn't come out yet -- when it does, I may find more but this is what I know so far!):
I am in Scotland & this post has many topics.
THE BRITS IN SCHOOLMISTRESS MODE
I had Oban all planned:
-get off train
-put luggage in locker (they still have those here)
-walk to hotel
- fun etc.
-next morning early get on ferry for island (only one ferry per day)
So step 1 & 2 worked; but then I noticed a sign saying that the train station wouldn't be open until 10.45, two hours after my ferry had left. I asked if I could have my money back -- no, impossible.
I secured a taxi, asked him if he would wait while I collected my luggage, and then scratched off the black strip on the front of the locker ticket which, I assumed, would reveal the code that would open the locker. It didn't. So I went back to the window. The man behind it was outraged.
In trying to come to terms with what happened in Boston, I find myself remembering Ann Frank:
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
I used to think this was a question lots of people could answer accurately -- about a finished ms. or even an idea.
But the more time I've spent in publishing, the more strongly I believe that the only person who can REALLY answer that question is an editor in a position to offer you a contract. And even she can only say,
"Yes, we'll publish this"
"If you_________, then ....."
"No, we won't."
If she doesn't say yes, the reasons she gives or the editorial suggestions she makes may or may not apply to other publishers.
(I am not talking here about polite but fairly standard rejection letters. For how to interpret them, see Alvina's wonderful post, Decline Letters 101.)
Writing a novel takes a long time and huge amount work; it would be nice if there were a way to tell before it's finished if anyone will ever publish it. But I think the only way to find out is to finish it, send it out, and see what happens.
Recently, the pursuit of filthy lucre has been on my mind.
Perhaps it's because of my decision to have an original art trunk sale. Even though I am starting to feel stressed as I watch my expenses rise as my income (due to limited work time) lowers, I also feel guilty and confused about how to price my art. People are weird about art--what is expensive to one person is a bargain to another. What I consider deeply discounted, others might think is still too much. And, if I discount the art too much will it devalue it? In art school, I remember vividly teachers telling students never to sell their art or skill cheaply. "If you don't value your own art, how do you expect others to?" they said.
But, what I want most is that the art ends up with people who love it, regardless of how much they paid. In a way, I'd almost rather just give it away--especially after I watched this Ted Talk by Amanda Palmer:
But I'm not sure how it would work. So, I guess right now, unless something better comes to mind, I'll stick with the trunk sale and just try to muddle through (by the way, there's still time to sign up to be on the trunk sale list; I'm aiming for the first batch of art to go on sale the first week in April).
And related to my path of money-grubbing thoughts, I also read this interview of Neal Pollack which contained this quote:
I spent a lot of years trying to turn myself into a brand because they told us self-branding is a way to success. And I kind of believed the hype. It’s just not true. To this day, I see writers publishing their first book or their second book and I can just see them going overboard with the marketing and getting all hyped up about it. You just have to write.
Even though he is an adult author, I thought it was an extremely interesting. The article indicates that the coveted hype around a book just might not be that valuable after all. Which I found both hopeful and disheartening. Hopeful because I think it just shows that the only real success one can can have being an author is writing something you truly love. But disheartening because that success may never pay the bills.
I've asked the other Blue Rose Girls, and the contest now has a prize and lasts longer:
In Scotland every month they have a contest: write a story in fifty words. They always give you something to get you started -- this month, the story had to somehow include the Hebridean symphony.
I found out about the contest from a friend, after the deadline -- she suggested that we do it and email each other our 50 words, just for fun.
We did -- and it WAS fun. Would you like to join us and post your story in the Comments? I will cut and paste them all into one post next week -- with or without real names, as each author prefers.
My Scottish friend wants to remain anonymous. I will tell whose is whose when I post all the stories next week....if no one sends any, I'll still say which is mine--or maybe you know me well enough by now to guess?
And for the non-Scots (I am considering myself McLibby these days): these notes may make our stories more comprehensible. "Island bred" could mean ANY island, but Staffa (a well-known beauty spot) makes it one of the Hebrides....."turbine" means wind turbine. These provide much of the country's electricity and are a source of bitter controversy (and complaining) on many of the islands. Anyhow, here are our stories.
The more I travel the more I learn about schools lesson plans, librarians' likes and dislikes, and what schools won't accept.
When I was in Georgia last week I was surprised when the librarian explained that she'd ordered a series of nonfiction books on animals... and pointed to one on seahorses. She explained that the seahorse book was going back to the publisher.
Because of the page on mating.
It had a very similar photo to the one below:
I've made an annual visit to a local Wellesley school and it's always lovely (I hope I can continue to visit even after the move!). The students never fail to impress me with their beautiful storyboards of their favorite "small story" from Year of the Dog. This year, I was particularly touched by how many of them chose "Uncle Shin and the Special Cake."
One of the reasons we are moving is that we've outgrown the condo. What used to be the studio is now overrun with baby things--now I work in the living room.
This has become problematic because at night, when the baby is sleeping, I like to keep/start working and the Sasquatch wants to unwind by watching a movie. He likes to watch in the dark. I like to work in the light. After many nights of a well-exercised light switch, the Sasquatch came up with this solution:
As I mentioned a couple of time earlier, I am the creator the 2013 Children's Book Week Bookmark. I can't tell even begin to tell you how excited I was when I was offered this opportunity. One of my life long pipe dreams is to be the illustrator of a Children's Book Week poster--this is pretty close!
So, I really wanted to do a good job on this. The Children's Book Week people asked that the bookmark include an activity of some kind-- other artists had made their bookmarks into door hangers, even paper dolls!
I racked my brain for a long time trying to think of something as creative. Paper fortune cookie instructions inspired by Fortune Cookie Fortunes? I didn't think it would work out of context (so many people don't realize that fortune cookies are not Chinese and the subtlety of Chinese-American pride might be lost in the misunderstanding). Origami inspired by Lissy's Friends? I thought that might be hard to follow. How to write the Chinese character for "Book" or "Read?" Maybe... but then at the dentist's office (had to get an old filling replaced!) I saw a Highlight's Magazine:
|can you see the letters?|
|adding the color in! Trying to make the letters not too obvious, but still not too hard to find.|
Writers spend a lot of time waiting -- at least I do: waiting for comments, waiting for contracts, and (during the first draft) waiting for ideas. For me it's one of the hardest things about writing.
Waiting makes me really uncomfortable -- but I've learned that trying to force answers from myself is no more helpful than trying to force them from other people. When I'm writing, I just have to sit and stare at the blank screen -- or go for a walk or do something mindless. Then, sometimes, the solution comes. Or sometimes I write something I know is bad, hoping that when I sit down again the next day I'll know how to make it better.
Raold Dahl said NEVER to stop when you do'nt know what to do next or you'll never start again! I think he's right--even if the solution doesn't come, I still need to sit there, trying: the next day, too.
What do you do when you're stuck in your writing?
These days, I don't allow waiting to hear from an agent or editor to be an activity (it used to be!) -- I just start something else. But I do sometimes wait for comments. And once I send this novel out, even though I will be starting something else, I don't know if I will wait patiently or passively to hear about IT past a certain point....but I might.
When I sent out my last published novel (a long time ago) I made a vow to just put it out of my mind, and (somewhat amazingly) I was able to do that. I really felt that I had done all I could and it was out of my hands....maybe that's the secret. Anyhow, when I did hear, it came as a surprise: a good surprise.
What do you do when you're waiting to hear from an editor or agent, and haven't? How long do you wait before saying something?
Editors and agents (if any are reading this)! Does it annoy you if authors email you asking? Can you remember any particularly annoying-- or UNannoying -- questions?
As you know, I'm moving! One of the things I've been thinking about is lightening my flat files. They are just stuffed with art and I can't fit anything else in. It's time to make an art purge!
But what to do? At first I thought I'd just give it all to an archive like the Dodd Center but it does seem a little sad to think of all of it just sitting in a vault (not that it's doing much more in my flat files). I'd love the art to be seen and enjoyed.
Then, my good friend Janet Wong suggested that I have special online "trunk sale" of my artwork for schools and librarians. I could offer them the opportunity to purchase my art at a discounted price, it would be displayed instead of put in a vault AND I it would be financial aid for our move!
The first 12 pieces will go on sale in a couple of weeks and I'm making a special list for it. If you are a teacher or librarian* and would be interested in purchasing my art, please sign up to be on the list HERE. There will be a choice to be on my newsletter list or the trunk sale list---make sure you click "Original Art Trunk Sale" to be on the list but feel free to sign up for both (I have special giveaways on my newsletters, too).
Please spread the word! If you are a PTO member, please let your teachers and librarian know and have them get on the list! Tell your public librarians. I'd love for my art to be at your library!
*if you are a collector yourself, you are welcome to put yourself on the list, too.
A few weeks ago, while waiting for comments on my book, I got addicted (not too strong a word) to a Swedish detective series, so addicted that it got in the way of my own writing and life. I even found myself hurrying through phone calls from beloved cousins and friends so I could watch the show (something I didn't allow myself to do until after dinner, so if the phone call came then....).
When I reached the end of the 2 tv series, I started the books, which weren't nearly as good -- not only because of the great acting on the show. The tv series was based on story ideas from the author, and it seemed to me that he had lightened up and allowed his hero to have things -- friends, jokes, fun, even a possible romance -- he had been denied in the books.
An interview in the Guardian said the author sounded "irritated" when he talked about his main character. When asked about this, he said he was irritated by him -- he didn't like him at all and said why.
Maybe the actor playing the part in the tv series changed the author's feelings about the character, because it was in the second series that good things started to happen for him. He laughed and smiled quite a lot, he gave a party, his colleagues were fond of him and he of them, he really loved his dog, he had lots of friends and a promising potential partner.
The author DID like his hero's daughter Linda: when she grew up, he made her a detective, too, and planned to write three books about her. Shortly after they finished filming the first tv series, and with only the first book written, the actress playing her committed suicide.
Linda never appeared in the second series. I did wonder about that -- I only read the interview after I finished watching. In that, the author said he was so sad about the actress's suicide that he couldn't write any more books about the character.
She did appear in the most recent book, published here in 2011 -- not as a detective solving mysteries, but as her father's daughter. Their relationship was my favorite part of the book: they were always arguing (as they were very alike) but you could tell that they really loved each other, and that having a grandchild was one of the best things in Wallander's life. That was a good gift from the author, and one NOT in the tv series.
So I thought the author's feelings about his hero had changed -- it happens! -- and was shocked and horrified by the ending of this book and an even worse Epilogue saying that this was absolutely the end of the story, that the last ten or fiftteen years of Wallander and Linda's lives were their business and no one else's.
Maybe he will relent -- a third Swedish series which I THINK takes place in time after the other two will air sometime this year. Conan Doyle did after all kill off Sherlock Holmes -- and then write more stories about him(I've never been a huge SH fan so I don't remember the details: I think one story ended with him going over a waterfall, presumably fatally; the next story explained how he had survived).
Final or not, and sadly, I think it IS final (some people don't like to be possessed by characters!), the horrible ending and Epilog of the Swedish book had two good results for me. It ended my addiction -- and my own novel will be finished by the time the third Swedish tv series airs. Or by the time I allow myself to watch it, if I'm not done by then. But I think I will be.
The ending also clarified my ideas what I'm doing with MY book and made me like mine better than his (something I would NEVER have thought while so enthralled by his world!). It made me think about what *I* like in books and something someone (was it you, Alvina?) said once about the difference -- or at least, one of the big differences -- between children's books and adult books. It was that children's books always have hope.
To me, that doesn't mean denying problems or danger, but rather, acknowledging them and including as part of them the things that enable us to get through them......not all light, but not all darkness either, and brightness at the end, even if it's sad too. That's what the second Swedish tv series had that the last book didn't and that is, I hope, what my book will have too.....even if I haven't created a character with the life of her own, outside the books, that Poirot and Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes and Wallander all have, whether their authors liked them or not.