Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Round-Up

I love this time of year. The trees are green. The grass is starting to grow. Wild flowers line the roadways. It's not so hot the kids in the neighborhood have taken refuge inside with their video games. However, there is a downside to it as well. My allergies are running rampant and that means my brain has taken a vacation and left my body behind. So, no serious blog this morning. Instead, let's take a quick trip across the blog-o-sphere and see what's been going on.

If anyone doubts that e-books and e-readers such as the Kindle and iPad aren't here to stay, this week should have convinced you otherwise. First, the Kindle showed up in the Crankshaft comic strip. Beginning on the 25th and running for several days, it showed the resident curmudgeon receiving and learning to use -- and enjoy -- his Kindle. The Kindle also shows up in the movie Date Night. Then there is this post from agent Kristen Nelson where she decides the tipping point for ebooks is very near, if not already here:

When I’ve got an older grandmother expressing unabashed enthusiasm in owning an eReader, I can’t help but think the tipping point is near—even if current electronic sales only equal about 2% of the market right now (statistic via a recent PW article). I think a lot of us assumed the older generation would be the luddites where this new technology is concerned but through my anecdotal experiences, I’m not finding that to be true…

So, what do you think? Are we reaching the tipping point? I have to think Agent Kristen is probably right and we are based on the interest I get whenever I have my Kindle out in public as well as the number of "sightings in the wild" of e-readers of all shapes and sizes and makes and models.

At Bookends, agent Jessica Faust posted that -- gasp -- agents want to represent books that will make money. "I’m in the business of selling books for my clients to make us all money. I agent because it’s my career. Sure, it has the added bonus of being something I love, but I also need to feed myself and keep a roof over my head. So criticize all you want, but the truth is that good agents will only represent books they think will make them money. That’s called a job." You'd think that would be a given and be understood by everyone, especially writers. But no, all too often she -- and other agents as well -- receive responses to their rejections, accusing the agent of being in the business only to make money. My question is this, would you really want an agent who is in the business of representing authors who write books that will never sell, either to a publisher or to the buying public?

Caveat here: In the current market, agents are in as big a state of flux as writers are. Because no one knows what is going to happen in the industry over the next few years, fewer and fewer agents are taking on new projects. That includes projects being sent from current clients. As a result, it is even harder than it used to be to get an agent. That doesn't necessarily mean your project is no good and won't sell -- and I keep telling myself this on a daily basis. What it means is that, right now, agents are taking fewer risks than they used to. If you doubt it, look at the number of agencies that have cut staff and the number of small agencies that have closed their doors the last two years.

Caveat #2: Just to show there are agents out there with a great attitude despite the gloom of the industry, check out this post from Lucienne Diver: [M] my process with this new work I’m so excited about went something like this:

“Darn, it’s really good. The writing is fabulous. Maybe just a few pages more.”

“I mean really, really good. Love the concept, love the characters. So intriguing.”

“Well, crap, I’m more than halfway though, I might as well finish. Yes, yes, I have a policy of not taking manuscripts with me on vacation, but I HAVE to finish this one.”

“What, the ending’s brilliant too? Okay, I’m screwed.” . . . I present this, in all its absolute honesty to say that no matter what gloom and doom you hear about the industry (and there’s been a lot within the past year or more), this is what happens when we love something. Oh, sure, some of us you don’t have to drag kicking and screaming to the alter. But when we really love something, there’s just no talking ourselves out of it. There will always be room for fantastic works.

What does that mean? Simple, if you get a rejection, look at what you sent and see if you made any glaring errors. See if there is something you need to do to make it that something special an agent is looking for. Then send it out again. Just because one agent, editor, whomever, didn't like it, it doesn't mean every one will. We're writers. Rejection is part of the job. That's why we have to be stubborn, persistent and always working to hone our craft.

Finally, here's an interesting article about four danger signs to search for before sending out your manuscript. Go take a look and let me know what you think. The post is similar to others we've discussed in the past. What rules do you try to keep in mind when writing? Or, more importantly, what do you keep an eye out for in the editing process?

18 comments:

Kate said...

Oh lord. I suffer from adverbial slurry. I write with one eye on the adverbs and whether I can kill them.

Of course, all those rules go out the window if you're writing in first person and it fits the voice (and the voice isn't deadly dull - which is really the one sin no book should ever commit. Thou shalt not bore thy reader. Anything else is negotiable.)

Jonathan D. Beer said...

I still have yet to form an opinion about e-readers and ebooks; I suspect I will have to gain one (probably favourably) just for the sake of my career. We shall see :-/

On that list of four, those are very good pointers. First-readers may not necessarily pick up on it, but searching quickly through for those is something I will certainly do to pick up on poorly constructed sentences and straight bad use of voice. Cheers for the flag :)

matapam said...

We all have quirks. I overuse well and few others. Always search for it's and make sure the apostrophe belongs there.

On e-readers, they're still a little too expensive for people who don't use computers enough to realize the possibilities, as to font sizes and so forth. But as the eyes start going, the e-readers will start getting more popular.

And then there the inevitable drop in prices as the tech ages a bit, which will make people a bit more ready to experiment.

C Kelsey said...

I tend to repeat myself as if I'm on a never-ending quest to restate everything with bigger words.

As for ereaders, I'd like to get one but the price is going to have to come down. I'm not going to pay 300 dollars for a device on which to read books when I can just buy a book and use the money I saved to buy a Playstation 3 or something.

heteromeles said...

Me, I keep thinking about the power grid in this country (which, not to insult the brilliant people who keep it running, is an antiquated, kludged-up, piece of crap that's overdue for massive breakdowns), and thinking about how we're going to have to switch to using less energy (and going renewable), and wondering why the heck I want an electronic reader.

In the short run, yes, I think they're going to be big. In the 5-10 year range, I hope our publishers hang onto their printing presses, because I think that eBooks will be too expensive to keep in the long run, especially if we get serious about combating global warming and building a sustainable society. If we don't get serious, then we'll need books anyway, for the other reason.

Additionally, if the manufacturers keep monkeying with the formats and DRM, they're going to lose a lot of readers. I've got paperbacks from the 60's that are perfectly readable (and I've handled a book from the 1460s), and I have trouble reading computer files from ten years ago. E-readers are better for short-term content only.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, I think most of us suffer from one form of adverbial slurry or another. After all, we want to write quickly and prettily and verily have the bestest of prose available ;-p

You are right about the rules going out the window in first person, imo. And, yes, the worst sin you can commit when writing in 1st person is to have a dull voice, much less a deadly dull one.

Amanda Green said...

Jonathan, whether we like it or not, e-books are here to stay. The only real issues are how we're going to read them and in what format. In my opinion, at the moment more people are reading e-books on their smart phones and computers than they are on e-book readers. Whether that will change with prices lowering or whether dedicated readers will morph into something similar to the iPad remains to be seen.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, you've just named one of my pet peeves -- and something I have to look out for: it's v. its. Then there is there v. their. All things spellcheck won't catch.

Price is the biggest problem, imo, facing ebook readers right now. Which is why so many people read on their old PDAs, on their phones and on their computers. But it is amazing the number of folks who are going to a Kindle or Sony Reader or Nook for the convenience of being able to carry around hundreds of books, not to mention the thousands of classics you can download for free.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, I see where your priorities are [VBEG]. Of course, I'm also the one who pulled out the N64 the other day to play some old-school games. As for the price of e-readers, it will come down. All tech does eventually. But let's not forget that e-books can be read on most cell phones, PDAs, computers and even certain handheld gaming devices. Ebooks are, whether the publishers want to admit it or not, here to stay.

Amanda Green said...

heteromeles, I'm not going to get into the politics nor the scientific arguments about global warming. This is not the forum for that. However, what you might want to consider is that it will take less power and less natural resources to produce, ship, "store" an ebook than it will a dead tree version of the same book. Okay, I got into the issue a little but am dropping it now.

Whether the major publishers learn their lesson quickly about DRM and non-standard formats or not is open to debate. The truth of the matter is, it doesn't matter. There are more than enough small publishers and authors who make their material available in a wide variety of electronic formats, all DRM-free. Beyond that, if you have an ebook that does have DRM, it takes maybe five minutes on google to discover how to crack the DRM. (Disclaimer: no one here at MGC recommends you do so nor will we point you in the direction of a site telling you how to do so.)

Regarding your final point about having a hard time reading old computer files, that is easily dealt with with ebooks. Buy them in .rtf format or use Calibre to convert non-DRMed files to .rtf. Since .rtf is a standard in word publishing, it isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

Kate said...

Hi Heteromeles,

Welcome to the hangout of the mad genius writers. Or possibly the mad writing geniuses. Or something, anyway.

I'm going to be nice tonight and save the lecture for later (if you've read any of the history, you'll see a few choice lectures). It looks kind of like you think we're all doomy-doom-doom-doomed.

Of course, eReaders are probably the most sustainable gadgets you can get. Months of use on a single battery charge? That's pretty darn sustainable - there's not a lot of power being used there.

As for the files from 10 years ago being difficult to open, that's what the assorted open formats are for. A lot of devices are moving that way, too. Even Amazon allows authors/publishers to choose no DRM. Heck, I have music files I encoded over 10 years ago that I still listen to.

Try to avoid being on the "Betamax" side of the VHS/Betamax war's latest iteration, have a good quality converter, and avoid DRM, and you're sweet.

Oh, and doomy-doom-doomed is reserved for anyone who tries to deprive me of my internet access.

Mike said...

Here's a blue-sky thought -- assuming that American digital TV can do some of what I've seen our Japanese digital TV do -- what if one of the popular shows (Twilight? Is that a show?) made the media tie-in books (fan fiction by any other name) available on the underlying channels. Click on the "data" button, then select red, then page, page, page... I can imagine fans suddenly spending hours reading on their TVs. And other shows putting up their books in competition. Wouldn't that be fun?

Amanda Green said...

Mike, actually with the ability to read email and surf the web on TV now -- as long as you have the proper hardware and provider -- you can read ebooks on TV. Your suggestion is simply one or two steps beyond what Apple is proposing with its "enhanced" ebooks on the iPad. Of course, if they did as you propose, they'd probably have a "click here" for the video of the passage, etc. That might be for some folks, but not for me. I like an ebook reader that is just an ebook reader. If I wanted more, I'd read on my netbook.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Heteromeles,

Your point about the format of e-books (and all data saved to electronic format) is really good.

Unless you keep updating all your saved files, they will be unreadable in 10 years.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Or save them in a basic format like RTF. But I have some old floppy disks, remember them? And I found some of the disks that replaced them. Can't remember the name for the life of me. Can't access them either, because my computer only reads from DVDs.

I have about thirty DVDs of saves from my computer files, dating back about 7 years. How long will they be accessible?

Mike said...

Hi, Amanda. I wasn't thinking so much of the people who read now, but of the ones who aren't readers. It seems to me that having reading material "pushed" by their favorite TV show might very well be what is needed to get them into "that stuff." Don't tell them it's a book or an ebook, just extra background for that show you love... and movies and TV shows seem to have more money than the publishing industry to put into such "promotions." Incidentally, I agree -- I'm heavily text-oriented. A picture may be worth a 1000 words, but I'll take the words, please?

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, your issue with floppies is one I've faced. Of course, I'm a geek so I have been known to scavenge parts from one computer and add them to the next just to avoid problems like unreadable media. Now, however, while I do back up to DVDs, I also do my main back ups to usb powered external hard drives and usb jump drives.the joy of that method is, as I'm sure you know, the ability to carry all my research with me, as well as anything I happen to be working on, on my keychain (jump drive). External hds are small enough to slip into a pocket or carry in my purse or backpack without any problem.

Your advice about translating documents into .rtf is good as well. It is one of the "universal" formats, whether you are using windows, mac or linux. As for e-book formats, imo if you have your books saved in either .rtf, epub or mobi formats, you'll be fine. Epub and mobi are already well-known and with Amazon now owning mobi, it isn't going to go anywhere anytime soon.

Amanda Green said...

Mike, in a way we already have that if you look at the websites devoted to some of the shows/movies that are popular. The issue will always be, imo, the fact that too many schools aren't equipped to make students realize that reading can be fun. The schools are too oriented to making sure students score high on state or federal tests -- from which a lot of their funding is determined -- so everything is keyed to them. My concern with your suggestion -- and this is coming from someone who is a reader -- is that if your idea were to be implemented, there would still be too much temptation to turn to something else or to simply dvr the program and then fast forward through the reading part. Welcome to the world of decreasing attention spans. Still, the iPad's "enhanced" books might prove me wrong -- I'm not sure I want that or not.