Archive for the ‘publishing’ Category

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Self-publishing and ebooks

February 24, 2011

Going into the Austin SCBWI chapter’s annual conference this weekend — it was great, by the way — I was curious to find out how middle-grade novels are selling in ebooks, as that’s what I write. I’ve seen lots of articles in the Publishers Lunch enewsletter saying that ebook sales are rocketing in adult books and even taking off in young adult, but I suspected that middle-grade was behind. According to Egmont‘s Elizabeth Law, I was right. She said they’re not seeing noticeable ebook sales in middle grade.

Anathema book cover

Megg Jensen's self-published YA novel Anathema

Even though MG is slower to this technology, it’s great to see ebooks being embraced so quickly. As I wrote in January, sales of ereaders were stellar for the Christmas season, with many places selling out. Although I still love — LOVE — physical books, whether a book is printed on paper or eink, it’s still a story. And if this new technology is enticing more readers to stories, that can only be good.

The new technology also is changing the publishing landscape. With ebooks, it’s easier than ever — and less expensive — to self-publish books. Author J.A. Konrath has written about this extensively on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog. He had gone the traditional route before he started publishing his books on his own as ebooks, but he gives good arguments of why that doesn’t matter. YA author Amanda Hocking is an example, selling more than 185,000 ebook copies of her self-published novels.

Now, I’m not saying all writers should stop submitting to agents and editors of traditional publishing houses and go it alone. There are definite advantages to being signed by an agent and getting your work published by someone else. Let’s face it, most writers are not so great at the business end. And throwing an ebook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever doesn’t automatically mean it will sell; there’s marketing, publicity … oh, and the book should be good (editors are invaluable) or repeat sales won’t be much.

But the advent of ebooks has made it easier for writers to take the publishing of their work into their own hands, and blogs and social networking make it easier to build publicity.

YA author Megg Jensen is trying just that with her novel Anathema. And so far, it looks like she’s off to a great start. The book launched on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday, she had already sold 50 copies. She’s hosting a contest right now where people can guess how many books she will have sold by March 11, and the main prize? An ereader. Now that’s what I call promoting future business.

What do you think? Would you be willing to read a book if it’s self-published, either in print or as an ebook?

Write On!

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Save our libraries

March 23, 2010

Revision update: Still on chapter 21 of 30 because yesterday, I spent the day working on my synopsis so I could take it to our critique group last night. Then our critique group was canceled. Oh, well. At least I’ve got the synopsis done. Back on the book today.

With the economic crunch all around, libraries are being hit hard all over. In the last few days, I’ve seen so many posts about this, I wanted to share them.

Libraries are the way that many of us fell in love with books. I still love going into a library and seeing all those shelves after shelves of books. They support the publishing industry not only by buying books, but also by creating readers who go on to buy their own books. And, librarians are a wealth of knowledge. I recently wrote about how one local librarian helped me in my search for a book with beautiful language. So, check out these links below, and if there’s anything you can do to help these libraries, or any other libraries, please do.

On her blog, author Tina Nichols Coury has an editorial about saving the Los Angeles Public Library from former librarian turned award-winning writer Susan Patron. And this SaveTheLibrary.org website details the problems that library is having.

Writer Beverley BevenFlorez also has been blogging about the Los Angeles Public Library.

And writer Carl Schwanke wrote about the problems hitting his local public library system in Charlotte, N.C.

Writer Jennifer R. Hubbard is doing something about the problem, and we can too. Jennifer is running a blogger challenge today through March 27 where bloggers donate money to libraries for every comment they receive on their blog. So click over to Jennifer’s blog post here, write a comment, and then click over to the participating blogs (the list is on Jennifer’s post) and write a comment on their blogs too. Each comment will help raise money for needy libraries.

Get commenting!

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Dreams do come true

March 16, 2010

Manuscript update: Started my new final round of revision yesterday. The last round was the make-every-word-great round, after going through plot and scene revision rounds earlier. So this is the polish, the I-want-to-make-sure-every-word-is-still-great-and-I-didn’t-type-something-weird-last-time round. I’m excited, and plan to be finished in a week or so. Fingers crossed.

With the economy the way it is and all the bad news that has been coming of the publishing industry the last few years, it’s great to see all the deals still being reported by Publisher’s Marketplace. But when it’s a deal for a debut writer, it’s even more wonderful, it’s inspirational.

As I was shutting down my computer last night, I saw fellow blogger Beth Revis had posted the news that her book, Deep Freeze, has been picked up by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin, for a spring 2011 release. According to Publishers Weekly, Razorbill editor Bill Shrank “said he thinks the book will do for popular sci-fi what The Hunger Games did for postapocalyptic fiction.” Wow!

Beth also scored a three-book deal, which shows the confidence Razorbill has in her writing.

This is fantastic news for Beth, and I’m so excited for her. I also can’t wait to read the book, because it sounds wonderful.

But it’s also exciting news for all unpublished writers. It shows us that despite the layoffs and low financial quarters at publishing houses, editors are buying books, and they are buying books from unpublished writers.

Sure, I’ve heard over and over that manuscripts need to be really polished before they’ll even attract an agent nowadays — hence my new polish round — but if you put in the work, the rewards will come.

Go on, dare to dream, then get to work on making that dream a reality. It will take work, a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it in the end.

Write On!

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Young adult still strong and other links

March 10, 2010

After my vow to stop whining and start doing yesterday, I finished my taxes (even though I did do some more whining about having to do them. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) So, I’m so excited today to be back on writing. This afternoon, I plan to work on my query letter. Exciting!

But I digress.

I’m catching up with some blog/email reading and found some interesting newsy tidbits I wanted to share.

First up, a lovely Los Angeles Times story about the strenth of YA. The paper reports that adults are reading YA now — no news to us regulars in this sector — and that Harry Potter started this, followed up by the Percy Jackson series, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief — again, nothing new to us — but here’s the nice part:

Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children’s/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.

Yay! That’s worthy of a celebration, I think. Now, I write middle-grade, but the way I see it, is any good news in the children’s section is good.

And why are all these adults choosing YA over fare written for older folks?

Well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects.

Exactly what we’re striving for.

And here’s a great quote from Lizzie Skurnick, author of the Shelf Discovery collection of essays about YA literature:

“YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun, and they’re less confined by this idea of themselves as Very Important Artists. That paradoxically leads them to create far better work than people who are trying to win awards.”

๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, I agree. We have much more fun.

Another sign of the strength of YA: Lerner Publishing is starting a new YA imprint called Carolrhoda Lab. According to Publisher’s Weekly, the Lab’s launch line will have four fiction titles.

In more news, an independent publishing line focusing on middle grade and YA fantasy and science-fiction that features characters of color, Tu Publishing, garnered $10,000 in donations to launch, and, thanks to the haul, attracted the attention of bigger publisher Lee & Low Books. Recognizing that something great was going on here, Lee & Low has acquired Tu Publishing, and here’s the cherry on top — the donation money is going to be returned to the donators. Nice to see a corporation doing the right thing.

Got any other news to share?

Write On!

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John Green says it’s ok to suck, and other links

March 5, 2010

Catching up on some of my blog reading today, I found a great YouTube video (I can’t display it on here, but check it out at Beth Revis’ Writing It Out blog, it’s worth it) with Looking For Alaska author John Green telling us what NaNoWriMo does:

  1. teaches us discipline because you need that if you’re going to write 50,000 words in a month (Note from me, especially in November. Seriously, NaNoWriMo creators, why did you choose November, which has Thanksgiving and the beginning of holiday shopping?), and
  2. it’s ok to suck in the first draft.

And for all writers who hate to revise, Green says that in all his books, he has cut 90% of the first draft in revisions, and some of the best parts of his book were written in revision. I saw Green talk at the SCBWI summer conference a few years ago, and, funnily enough, he was talking about revision then. So, he obviously really believes in it. And hey, if it works for him and he’s so successful, might be something in that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now for some other cool links:

This one is from January but for some strange reason popped up in my Google Reader today. Publishers Weekly has an article on Penguin’s hopes for the U.S. debut of Catherine Fisher‘s Incarceron, and it looks like it’s one of those books children’s book writers should put on their must-read list. I’ve added it to mine.

Guide to Literary Agents has an interview with Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency, and Tamar takes books from middle-grade older and she really likes fantasy. She looks like a good one to check out.

And here’s a nice bit of economic news, with a great showing of how wonderful the children’s book world is. Amid all the reports of bookstores closing, Publishers Weekly reports that Michelle Witte, an associate editor with Gibbs Smith is planning to OPEN a children’s book store in Centerville, Utah. Fire Petal Books is set to open its doors next month thanks to some help from HarperCollins Children’s Books editor Molly O’Neill and author Neil Gaiman, who have both provided items for a fundraising auction. The auction ends on March 20, so go to the Fire Petal Books page and check it out to show your support, because we can never have too many children’s bookstores. Good luck, Michelle!

Write On!

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Editor Nancy Feresten on the future of publishing

February 27, 2010

Revision update: Still on chapter 22 of 30, thanks to a car that needed an alignment and wheel balancing (why do these things take so long), laundry and some others. Don’t you hate the way the nitty gritty of life gets in the way of your writing? ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve got eight chapters to do this weekend to keep my goal, and I’m thinking I won’t make it. But I’m going to try.

In my fourth report from the Houston SCBWI conference, National Geographic Children’s Books editor-in-chief Nancy Feresten talks about the future of publishing.

If you missed my earlier reports, Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Cooper talks about submitting to an editor, including herself; Scholastic editor and author Lisa Ann Sandell talked about making your query letter package stand out; and Balzer & Bray editor Ruta Rimas talked about what makes a great book.

First off, Nancy said that National Geographic has become one of the few major publishing houses to reverse its policy of not accepting unsolicited queries from writers. She said she wants to hear from writers, which is why they’ve opened their doors again. But, she said their team is too small to respond to every query, so they have instituted a policy that they will only respond if they’re interested in your work.

Nancy tackled the subject of the publishing itself, and she had some interesting things to say. Quoting a Kaiser Family Foundation study, Nancy gave these stats:

  • Kids spend 7.5 hours a day with some kind of media, up from 6.5 hours a year ago.
  • They spend 38 minutes a day out of school time with some sort of print media (books, magazines, comics).
  • Most of their time is spent with TV, over videogames, music and movies.
  • Over the past five years, time spent reading books is up, whereas magazines is down.
  • Girls read more than books, which has been a constant in the study for years.
  • If a child watches a lot of TV, that does not correlate with a drop in reading unless the child has a TV in his or her bedroom.

This shows that kids are busy, but as Nancy said, “Our big challenge is to figure out what they want to read.”

She said that studies show that being smart is now more important to children than being popular, a switch from past years.

In non-fiction, children want facts, photos, true unexpected stories and to laugh and have fun.

To that end, National Geographic is looking to publish:

  • Serious reference books that are fun and educational. They’re looking for writers and illustrators for this on a work for hire basis;
  • Innovative narrative non-fiction that are smaller stories, potential award winners. They’re accepting proposals for this, but again, will only respond if they’re interested;
  • Fun reference books, which offer photos, facts and fun at a low price. These will be written on a work for hire basis.

With all the new technology available now, with ebooks, etc., Nancy said the market is changing, but challenges bring opportunities.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both print and digital, but she sees a future when the best of both will be combined for a different kind of market than one we know now. Children will have their own ereader, which will be big enough to accommodate the beautiful pictures in children’s books. Families will go to libraries and see print-on-demand version of books, choose the ones they like best and download them to the child’s ereader. These type of ereaders also will be useful in classrooms, with children having less to carry, and teachers being able to make changes to textbooks as they go along.

No matter how technology changes, however, Nancy emphasized that it will be up to writers to create the future. Children will always want good stories, information and fun. Writers will be the ones experimenting with the best ways to use the new technology to tell these stories in the best ways possible.

Sounds like a great future. What do you think about the future with ebooks?

Check in tomorrow for my final report from the Houston SCBWI conference, with literary agent Sara Crowe.

Write On!

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Editor Alexandra Cooper on submitting to an editor

February 25, 2010

Revision update: On chapter 18 of 30. Getting a little behind my goal, so tomorrow, I’ve got to step up my game.

Alexander Cooper headshot

Alexandra Cooper

In my third report from the Houston SCBWI conference, Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Cooper talks about submitting to an editor, including herself.

If you missed my earlier reports, Scholastic editor and author Lisa Ann Sandell talked about making your query letter package stand out, and Balzer & Bray editor Ruta Rimas talked about what makes a great book.

Alexandra said she works with picture books, middle-grade and young adult fiction, but not easy readers or non-fiction. The exceptions are a few non-fiction picture books that came out of an idea she had and she assigned to a writer and illustrator.

When considering manuscripts, she takes into account the balance of her list as well as the list of her imprint. She said editors are responsible for bringing in books to add to the company’s bottom line, so they can’t always publish everything they’re passionate about. They will turn down good books if the imprint already has similar books, for example. However, she said, outstanding books won’t be turned down.

Editors want a balance between backlist authors and new authors (looking for writers she can work with again), as well as a balance between commercial and literary books.

Right now, she’s signing more novels than picture books, but it’s cyclical, she said. One of the reasons publishing companies are more cautious on picture books right now is the cost and economy. Color picture books are printed in China, and the weak dollar is making printing costs rise.

Finding an editor is like dating, she said, and as such, writers should want someone as committed to the book as the writer is.

The Internet and conferences such as the SCBWI ones are good places to find out about editors, she said. (And I fully agree. These conferences are great!)

As for the issue of most publishing houses not accepting unsolicited manuscripts except through conferences, Alexandra said a lot of the time it’s because of legal reasons. The company doesn’t want to open itself to a lawsuit if they turn down a book that’s similar to one they’re already working on.

However, she said the first book she acquired was from a query, so they do work.

Check back tomorrow for notes from National Geographic‘s Nancy Feresten.