Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Get a Little Advice

Today I'm going to step aside and let someone else give you a piece of their mind...

Emily Temple of Flavorwire just put together a compilation of 12 Great Videos of Famous Authors Giving Advice to Aspring Writers. Sometimes it's good to get advice from someone who is currently on the road and can tell you what the last few miles look like. But it's good to weigh that advice also with the stories and ideas of the people who have already gotten to the rest house.

Which is your favorite author, and which do you think gives the best advice?


“Whatever it is — writing, painting, music — whatever creative endeavor, lots of people want to do it. The odds are against you. But, luckily, very few of them are sane.”

John Hodgman

“You have to sit down and you have to write the book of your dreams.”

Anne Rice

“Do what you love and love what you do.”

Ray Bradbury

“The reading has to be done. If you don’t read, as a novelist, you’re liable to be hugely influenced by the writers you haven’t read.”
Ian McEwan

“It’s very important to not censor yourself.”

Sandra Cisneros

“Do it again. Or next time, next time you write a story, try and make it a little bit better.”

Alan Moore

“Writing is like a sport, it’s like athletics. If you don’t practice, you don’t get any better.”

Rick Riordan

“Go get your heart broken.”

Neil Gaiman

“If you want to write, it must be the thing not that you want to do, or would like to do. It must be the thing you feel you have to do. It must be that without which you could not live. If you’ve got that, then it’ll be all right.”

Christopher Hitchens

“Don’t worry about what your mother thinks of your language.”

Elmore Leonard

“What cliché is, is heard writing, heard thinking, heard feeling. And the writer, you’ve got to look for weight of voice and freshness, and make it your own.”

Martin Amis

“Learn when to shut up.”

Warren Ellis

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do We Have the Time to Read?

According to an article featured in The Guardian, four million UK adults never read books for pleasure.
"Survey finds that a quarter of British adults seldom pick up a book for their own enjoyment, citing a lack of time for reading"
Now if you're a book lover like me, this statistic is rather disturbing. According to new research discussed in an article by Alison Flood, 4 million adults in the United Kingdom never find the time to read for pleasure.

Reading is one of the great ways to productively spend time. It stretches the brain, increases vocabulary, expands the imagination. It's just plain fun. But we find so many other ways to occupy the hours, either productively or not, that often reading for fun gets pushed out of the way.

I understand this dilemma. As a college student and an English major at a private Fine Arts university, I've spent the last three years scrounging for time to read on my own. Moments in between classes, tiny pockets when I don't have a literal ton (as in 2,000 pounds) of homework sitting on my desk, that half hour before my shift at work, or forcing my exhausted eyes to stay open just another fifteen minutes before I collapse into bed. It took me a year and a half to re-read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy this way, a series that once upon a time when I had all the hours in the day at my disposal, took me maybe a couple of weeks to pour through.

"almost 4 million adults never read books for pleasure, according to new research, with lack of time one of the most-cited reasons for not reading . . . The UK figures, however, compare favourably with recent statistics from the US, where Pew Internet found 25% of Americans over the age of 16 had not read a book in the last year."

The fact of the matter is, adults simply begin to run out of time. When you're younger, you have so much free time that you can do your chores, do your homework, play outside, and read for fun with little difficulty cramming it all in between the hours of the day. I used to spend hours upon hours reading, and I still do when I get the chance. I love nothing more than to be truly gluttonous when it comes to a book and immerse myself in one for a good 7 hours straight. Give me a bag of chips and some diet Dr. Pepper and I'm good.

But is this problem addressable? I think it is. We spend so much time doing other things-- Facebook, Youtube, Twitter. We have to go grocery shopping, we have errands to run, job searches to conduct, homework to do, thesis' to write, trips to take, friends to see, chores and cleaning to do. But how many of these things that we 'must' do from day to day could really be trimmed down and spent in a more productive form of entertainment? I could spend quite a bit less time on Facebook, personally. I could also stop checking my email 8+ times a day and do a little bit of detoxing in my favorite book or whatever novel I have in progress at the moment. I have a stack of what must be over 30 novels at the moment beside my desk and on my shelf at home that I have not read. Now, this is a delightful problem as long as you have time to address it. When I have no time to go through these books, it's like being a child stuck on the outside of a locked candy store with money to burn.

So here's my proposition. Let's spend less time wasting our time. Cut those corners of floating between websites because you're bored. Go outside. Read a book. In fact, go outside with a book. Open your window, or at least the blinds. And read a little. Tolkien, Lewis, McKinley, Le Guin, Asimov, Gabaldon, Bujold. Find your novelist, whether fiction or non, and go read a little. Poetry. Prose. It doesn't matter. Escape into another world for a little while.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hyrule and How-To's

Yet again geeks prove the power of their ferocious passion and their need to acquire anything and everything surrounding the topics they love. No, I didn't just hang up my new Lord of the Rings movie poster. What are you saying? Middle-Earth Dictionary? Tolkien Bestiary? Art books? Multiple copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Every book Middle-Earth related that Tolkien wrote? Pah, to own such frivolity. Stop laughing.

According to Publisher's Weekly, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia was the #1 bestseller for Nielsen BookScan's week ending February 3rd, selling almost 60,000 copies in that first week alone. Published by Dark Horse,
"Hyrule Historia is a guide and history of The Legend of Zelda series, which has been around for over 20 years. Outlets reporting to BookScan account for about 80% of print sales."
60,000 in the first week, and that only 80% of proposed print sales. Well, if I do say so myself, that's not bad at all. Danielle Steel, reportedly, came in 2nd and 3rd bestseller by half at around 34,000 for each novel. Who says video games are no way to make a living?

I'm an old, die-hard Zelda fan. I played "Link's Awakening" on ye olde Gameboy Pocket when there was no such thing as color or 3D in the screen. Pixels, baby, pixels. So I can definitely understand they  hype surrounding a book with the entire history of the land in which the video games take place. A classic warrior/puzzle game, the Zelda universe is definitely not for the weak minded-- those fortresses are hard to beat!!

Next on the news line, Gabe Habash reports on Author (R)evolution Day, a convention
"designed to give authors, content creators, agents, and indie author service providers a full day of panels and breakout sessions." 
The theme revolved around What Should Authors Do in the Digital Age? The most talked about point? Discovery, and how the digital era affects that. Amanda Havard, author and creative director, pointed out the complexity and flexibility that one needs as an author in an electronic age:
"you have to be able to plan and commit to different methods of discovery, but (somewhat contradictorily) you also have to be able to abandon those methods and move on if you find something better. The takeaway: the digital world both allows and forces you to adapt."
As I've mentioned before, you have to do your research and be willing to change your mind. My own opinion of going the traditional method could very well change in the coming years, depending on what we see the electronic means of publishing doing and how it adapts with print publishing. We'll see. But read the article-- one of the  most important aspects of research is keeping up to date on the opinions, methods, and ideas of the times.

Further ideas discussed at the convention included excerpts, how to keep from being overwhelmed by options and opportunities, achievement, Internet connectivity with ebooks, and social media.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Self-Publishers to Get Recognition

So we've heard and talked about and analyzed and weighed the idea of self-publishing. Everyone who wants to be published comes up against this idea sooner or later, and you have to decide: to self-publish or not?
There are many pros and cons for either side. Traditional publishing is, well, traditional. You can research how it works and know what should happen. The publishing company takes on the majority of the work for you, so that you can stick to writing books. If you can land a deal, at least the main payout is basically guaranteed, and if you do well enough, you can really get boosted up there.

Self-publishing you take into your own hands. You get to keep more of your profit. You can decide where and when and how. But you also have to sacrifice more time. You keep your rights, but you may not be able to sell them to another publisher who insists on having 'first-rights' to your book in order to publish it. So if you get really big, your choices may be limited later on if you want to turn your self-published book in to a publishing house. Then again, if you get really big, will you care about going to a publishing house afterwards? Difficult to say. Self-publishing is also time consuming and not 100% proven.

Then again, publishing houses aren't either. Not everyone gets put on the New York Times Bestseller list just because they get picked up by an 'official' publisher.

So what do you do? Well, you have to do the research and work with your own bias and your own evaluation of what is important to you. For me, my time is important. I can't spend a lot of time advertising and working on selling my book. I need to be writing my book, and also finishing my degree and getting a full-time job. Not many spare hours in there to spend social networking a potential novel. I'm also more traditional at heart and want to have a publisher's stamp on my novel. It's just the way I am.

You'll be pleased to know, however, that self-publishing is starting to make its way into the noticeable news. Leslie Kaufman wrote an article featuring "Apple to Highlight Self-Published Books". Apple along with it's i-products is going to feature up-and-coming authors on their iBookstore, essentially giving them prime advertising for their popularity. How's that for a reward for your success?

Kaufman explains,
"On Tuesday Apple will include a feature that organizes a group of popular self-published e-books together and then gives them prominent display on iBookstore...This kind of display, known as 'front-of–the store' attention, is greatly coveted by publishers because it helps books get discovered, driving sales."
Essentially, the prime placement that publishing houses pay extra for or crave is going to be rewarded to the books that get the most 'hits' and rise in the scales of popularity. The books will then remain on the front of iBookstore for two weeks, and will also remain on the top list after that, though not so prominently displayed.

So if self-publishing is something that you're interested in, perhaps you should look into Apple as a means of doing so. If you get enough rave reviews, you could be boosted into prime placement and up your sales.

Some tricks to self-publishing that have worked in the past? Sell it to friends and family; try serializing your book online, releasing a single chapter or two to get readers hooked, and then offer them the full book for sale; make a facebook page and get followers there all the while updating information on the book, the publishing, the process, and any potential sequels that may arise; use twitter, email, make a blog, use social media to get your book up and running. has a publishing platform, as does Apple, as seen above. Who else can you research to weigh one against the other in the self-publishing industry?