Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Round-up

I have to start by telling Dave he owes me a keyboard. Not only did I spew coffee all over it when I saw the pictures of poor bald Roly with his ugg boots, but Rocky (my rocks for brains but very loving collie mix) tried to jump into the laptop to see his new friend. For those of you who haven't seen the before and after hair cut pics of Roly, check them out here.

This weekend has been a busy one between Sarah's writers workshop and the author event last night at the library. I feel like the walking dead this morning and my brain still hasn't kicked in even though coffee has flowed in copious amounts into my body. So, that witty yet deep post I know I would have done is still imprisoned somewhere deep in my brain. Instead of trying to pull it out kicking and screaming, I thought I'd throw out some links of interest and see what sort of comments they stir up.

For those following the soap opera in the boardroom at Barnes & Noble, the New York Times has this article detailing the fight. It's a good article on the motives -- or potential motives -- of the parties involved. The question here is, do you believe Burkle is in a shadow fight to take over the B&N board or not? More than that, if there is a change in the board, is it too little too late?

One of the best pieces of advice I've seen in the blogs in a long time comes from agent Kristen Nelson. In her blog, she recounts how, at a recent conference, she recounted the stats on how many queries they get, how many sample pages they request and from that how many clients they actually sign. It is, in her own words, "daunting" for new writers to hear these stats. But her advice is unique and something I agree with whole-heartedly:

Then I tell them to cover their ears and say, “la, la, la I’m not listening” because what it boils down to is that these stats should be white noise to you aspiring writers. You can hear it, but it’s in the background. Know the stats so you have a keen understanding of the reality behind the business of publishing but then don’t let it stop you.

If you love writing, if you are passionate about it as your dream, then you are going to write no matter what. Publication is one possible end result but whether that happens are not should not be the only determiner of why you write. You write because you have to. It’s like breathing. Absolutely necessary.

Besides, you never know when toughness and persistence will finally pay off so don’t lose sight of that!

On the e-book front, the Association of American Publishers has posted the sales figures for July

The Adult Hardcover category was down 15.2 percent in July with sales of $74.1 million, although sales for the year-to-date are up by 10.2 percent. Adult Paperback sales decreased 10.1 percent for the month ($111.1 million) but increased by 8.6 percent for the year. Adult Mass Market sales decreased 11.0 percent for July with sales totaling $60.6 million; sales were down by 13.1 percent year to date."

E-book sales continue to grow, with a 150.2 percent increase over July 2009 ($40.8 million); year-to-date E-book sales are up 191.0 percent.

Does anyone else see a trend here?

Finally, Laini Taylor has a great post about writers needing cheerleaders. She comments that, " Before editing. Before almost anything else but snack-making, we need to be convinced and reminded that we are GOOD." Check out her post and see if you agree.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you pay attention to agent and publisher stats? Do you have a cheerleader and how important is it that you have someone who pushes and prod and cheers as needed? And what about B&N, bookstores in general and e-books? The floor is now yours.

20 comments:

Stephen Simmons said...

The only attention I have paid to industry statistics was to face the bleak picture that Pam painted of Baen's reality (one newbie slot per month, on average, being pursued by up to 2,000 monthly slush injections ...) and decide to try pursuing an agent for my first tilt at the windmill. If that fails twice, then I'll say a prayer and toss it in Pam's inbox, with the hope that "third time's a charm" ... although I also think I *really* want an agent right now, with the sand shifting as fast as it is in the ream of e-rights and back-list management. I know a whole lot about the things *I* know, but very little about the things agents are paid to know.

T.M. Lunsford said...

I try to ignore stats, but they catch me in weak moments and terrify me. Still, I'm young enough to willfully ignore them and continue on in spite of the rejections and statistics in front of me.
As for a cheerleader, I recently found two in my wonderful roommates. Writing in London has proved extremely difficult because it is a VERY distracting city. So much to do and see. BUT I had a story due by this Friday and wasn't even close to finished with it. So, my wonderful roommates have cheered me on, encouraged me, and smacked me when necessary to get me to finish (which I did, less than half an hour ago). They've also distracted me from rejections when necessary and refused to let me wallow. It's weird to have cheerleaders who live with me, but I must say, they've proved quite awesome this weekend.

Kate said...

Stats are for consoling yourself after a rejection. You pay no attention to them at any other time, because they really are meaningless. Those 2000 monthly submissions are like every item of stock in a Best Buy. There's stuff you'd never consider, stuff you loathe, and a tiny handful of stuff you're interested in. It's not like you're battling against 2k really good, publishable stories all on the same theme.

Of course, those numbers make for consolation - "oh, well, there must have just been so much the slush reader was totally bummed out by the time they got to me and looking for something to ding it on. I'll try somewhere else."

EvMick said...

It's been said that "writer's have to write....no matter what".

Conversely...."Reader's have to read".

I read books. Mostly a narrow range of SF(blush...some fantasy) I don't watch TV, go to movies, or listen to radio. (much). Before E-books I'd "land" (...I drive a big truck) at a Barnes and Nobles one or twice a month. (this was exciting for all concerned) Very rarely would I leave with out spending a hundred dollars.

In those days, when done, I would then deposit said books at either my son's house, or later, in Austin. (lack of room in the truck)

Things changed....tech marches on.

I haven't been to a book store in years. E-books have filled the need, totally and then some. I have maybe a thousand on my laptop and fifty or sixty on my blackberry.

Readers WILL read.

It's easier now.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Stephen,

Sigh. If you think Baen is bleak, you haven't looked at other houses, where they have maybe one newbie slot A YEAR. Seriously.

C Kelsey said...

I ignore stats. They're immaterial to me. I bang on the keyboard like a monke-- err, cat walking on the keyboard, regardless.

Amanda Green said...

Stephen, my advice is not to limit yourself too much. Give the agent you've submitted to time to respond. But, in the meantime, do your homework. Check Ralan.com and duotrope.com for possible markets. Check the blogs and market reports to see who is buying what. I'm going to be honest with you right now. As far as I can tell it is as hard, if not harder, to find an agent right now than it is to find a publisher.

Good luck and good hunting.

Amanda Green said...

Taylor, sounds like you have a very good approach to it. And you are very lucky with your roommates. There's nothing like having your cheerleaders not only nearby but knowing they will kick you when you need it and console you when necessary. Now, instead of thinking of London as distracting -- and yes, it is. I love London and could wander the streets for hours and hours, and days and days -- use it for inspiration. Not only for your historical and contemporary fic, but for fantasy as well. Yes, I'm evil...I did just suggest you write some fantasy. Bwahahahahaha!

Amanda Green said...

Kate, I'll agree with you about stats up to a point. There are some agents who put their weekly stats up on their blogs. They'll say how many queries they received, how many they asked for pages on, how many they asked for fulls on and how many they signed. They will also, most of the time, say what the genres/fields were of those they accepted. That's a great way to get a feel for what that agent is looking for. But, other than that, the only stats that any of us should be following are those tracking response times from an agent or editor or those showing the stats of actual responses from said agent or editor.

Amanda Green said...

Ev, you are the sort of reader we all hope for as writers. You may read mainly in one general genre, but you will branch out if a book intrigues you or the author is someone you like. You also are a pretty good image of what the reader of tomorrow - as well as today -- will be. You may not follow the mandates of the traditional business plan of bookstores and publishers, but you buy. In fact, I'd lay odds you buy more books now than you used to. Now, if you could only figure out how to convince the traditional publishers to adapt to new tastes and new tech.

Amanda Green said...

Sarah, you're absolutely right. As a new author, it is getting harder and harder to break into the big houses. It hasn't helped that there have been several very high profile books come out where the publishers paid big bucks for this "new" author with this "wonderful new voice and stirring, heart-rending tale" only to find out the so-called new author didn't write the book or outright plagiarized it.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, keep banging, but come up for air long enough from time to time to see what the stats are. You need to be aware of them if for no other reason that to realize when you get a rejection you aren't the only one in that boat.

C Kelsey said...

Amanda,

I'm not in a boat at all! I wish I were though. This writer-trapping quicksand is problematical.

T.M. Lunsford said...

Amanda, you've already got me to write one fantasy piece. I don't know how much more I have in me. That one was a butt whoopin' :)

MataPam said...

Actually I've quit reading slush. See the gray goo oozing out of my ears? Yep, brainz. I now know where zombies originate.

No matter how many books are in the slush pile, most of it is quickly disposed of ... well, gray goo making.

It's the one percent I send to Toni _and_ agented manuscripts that you are competeing against. Still probably 20 manuscripts to each available slot, but the odds are a heck of a lot better sounding.

Just keep telling yourself that the industry is also in hard times and hasn't felt the end of the recession yet. Nor figured out how to use E-books.

In the long run, not getting published until we're well into a recovery, with a realistic approach to e-books might be a Good Thing.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Amanda. Interesting post. The stats are always fascinating. The more people I talk to, the more I pick up the trend that people are reading more ebooks. And not necessarily just a subsitute, just in other gaps - like on the iPhone as they commute etc.

I haven't had cheerleaders so much as people with spiked baseball bats who try to get as many hits in as possible. Note to self: Must find myself new group.

Cheeleaders would be nice, but even if I could find people who didn't have spikes in the bats . . . that would be sheer bliss.

Amanda Green said...

Chris K, if your luck runs like mine, the boat would find a whirlpool that is related to your quicksand and then where would you be?

Amanda Green said...

Taylor, I'm evil. I thought you'd figured that out already ;-p

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, I'd wondered why you occasionally broke out into chants of "Braiz...Brianz...Brainz...." during the workshop. Now I know. And I am so glad we have a slush reader for NR. I don't want my few brain cells turning into gray ooze, especially since gray isn't my color ;-p

Amanda Green said...

Chris Mc, I think you guys in OZ are starting to see what we did here a couple of years ago with regard to e-books. And you've hit on what is going to be the real selling point for them. Everyone carries a cell phone or iPod or some sort of personal computing device. Most of us don't want to carry anything more than we need to. So the convenience of being able to carry books or magazines or newspapers without having another physical item to carry is very appealing.

As for your group, remember, if they carry spiked bats so can you. Those bats are good on occasion, but cheerleaders are necessary as well. So apply thy bat upside their heads until they realize it ;-)