Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Business and the Art: Or the Love/Hate Relationship Between Writers and Publishers

(Disclaimer: This post isn't to focus on any particular publisher and/or author. It's just how things often play out when creative types and business types work closely together.)

Writers want to have their manuscripts accepted for publication. Yesterday would be fine. Publishers are too busy to acknowledge an email submission, or to answer queries, or to make a decision anytime before next year.

Writers want to get the book out as soon as possible. Publishers want to make sure the timing is right, the editing is done, the cover works, the promotion plan makes sense.

Writers want creative control to realize their vision. Publishers know what sells.

Writers like to name characters according to their own personal reasons. Publishers don't want too many names beginning with the same letter or sounding alike. Publishers will change character names with a heartless stroke of the find and replace key. Writers will have heart failure when they see their beloved Anna turned into Justine.

Writers get attached to the particular name they gave their baby manuscript. Publishers say, "No, that title doesn't work. We are changing it."

Writers tend to fall in love with their own words. Publishers are more than happy to kill their darlings.

Writers know this book will be a bestseller, if only the publisher will get off his butt and promote. Publishers know this book will be a bestseller, if only the writer will get off his butt and promote.

Writers need publishers to edit, design, print and promote, while financing the entire process. Publishers need writers to create, rewrite, revise some more, refine, keep revising, and promote, while worrying that their investment in this project may never be recovered.

Publishers want to release something that people will pay money to read, then tell others about it so they can pay money to read it, too. Writers want to write something that people will pay money to read, then tell others about it so they can pay money to read it, too.

The artist head and the business head simply tend to approach goals from different directions. A bit of tolerance and understanding go a long way to create a positive, productive working relationship. And remember, when things get stressed and don't seem to be working out-- communication is the best policy. Communication with the party involved, that is, not with the rest of the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ten Tips for a Better Blog

So after a major move, no internet (except my Blackberry), and a forced hiatus from visiting and commenting on blogs, I have been on a blogger binge this week.

Which brings me to reflect on ten tips for a better blog-- from someone who has a lot of blogs to choose from and limited time to read them (which is probably all of us who have been here longer than 3 weeks)--

1. Don't start your post with "Sorry I've been too busy to post here lately." That's boring. Also, hearing about your cold or your kids' or your coworkers' colds is boring. Descriptions of common colds and flu symptoms always send me running to the next blog down the line.

2. If you are involved in a blogfest that I'm involved in, I'll click to see what you're doing. If not, I'll move on. No offense, it's just about connecting with common interests.

3. I know the general advice is "keep posts short" but sometimes longer is better. Sometimes short is too short. Like, What? That's it? I wrote a post about homeschooling on my other blog that was one paragraph-- total cop out, I still feel bad about that one. I totally checked it in. Some topics need more treatment. My homeschooling experience was definitely one that did.

4. Edit posts and take out the wordy phrases and boring bits. A writer's blog should be well put together. I'm all for relaxing the strict rules of grammar and punctuation when blogging, but edit out those unnecessary words that make a post a hard- to- read time suck.

5.Then there's the captcha phrases, word verif, and comment verification. We all have our reasons for doing what we do, and there's a couple blogs I will always follow even with comment verif (Hello Old Kitty, I heart you), but it creates a distance. And captcha slows everyone down and also eats comments that may be lost forever. Want more comments? Then get rid of anything that slows down your potential commenters! Blogger catches spam really well now, so why worry?

6. I don't want to hear music. Not on a blog. Not at all. Unless it's Robert Smith and the Cure singing Piggy in the Mirror.

7. Too busy is bad for business. Too many gimmicks on the sidebar take time to load, are distracting and look cluttered. They direct attention away from the important part, which is your post, your writing, who you are. Do those swimming fish say anything about you personally, or are they there just to hypnotize me and make me sleepy? And Google ads are just plain annoying.

8. Wallpaper. Really? Wallpaper is outdated everywhere people, even in houses. Especially the flowery, busy stuff that looks like it was taken from a class on scrapbooking. No, your blog is NOT the cutest blog on the block.

9. Anyone who wants more traffic should search Copyblogger or Problogger for tips. Or find a blog you like that fits your audience and do what that person does. Only still be you.

10. Be yourself. Have fun and enjoy the experience without stressing over numbers (stats, followers, comments, views). Work on content, visit other blogs, put yourself out there and like-minded people will find you.

So those are my Ten Tips, anything you want to add? And while we're on the topic, what is your biggest pet peeve with blogs? Go on, I'm listening.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Special Day for One Very Special Lady

I had a different post scheduled for today then realized that it was a big day for a little lady. And I would be very lame if I didn't recognize Ann Best and her new release, In the Mirror, available today from WiDo Publishing.

Ann is so supportive of authors. She buys copies of their books out of her fixed income and reads and reviews them. Her review of my novel, Uncut Diamonds, is one of the best, most insightful reviews I've gotten, and definitely one of my favorites. Thank you, Ann!

Ann's memoir is an amazing story. I got an ARC to preview and could barely put it down.

Her writing style is intense in its simplicity, ideal for this story. I got drawn right in and read it straight through in a day and a half. It is about a family in trouble-- a couple whose lives get turned upside down by the repercussions of a shocking revelation. It is also the story of choices, and how one's choices affect those closest to them for years to come. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I knew this family. Ann doesn't write herself as the perfect, long suffering, injured wife. On the contrary, she has her flaws and makes her mistakes right along with Larry. They are two people who were once in love, now wanting to be good parents to their four children, but they're on different roads going opposite directions. In the beginning, it is a tale of  shattered dreams and betrayal. In the end, a story of hope and determination and survival and love.

Congratulations to Ann on the release of In the Mirror! 

I along with all of your blogging friends wish you much success!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blogging: On its way out? Or just hitting its stride?

Before April I was hearing rumors of the death of blogging. I noticed obvious signs of blogger fatigue here and there. Nathan Bransford wrote a post Have Blogs Peaked? with nearly 150 comments saying yay or nay. Most expressed the feeling of "Yes, it's slowing down."

As a host of the A to Z Challenge, I went through the over 1200 participants and followed as many as I could, visiting and commenting along the way. Many of them are new, with under 50 followers. If you ask them if blogging is on its way out, I imagine the response  would be, "I hope not! I'm just getting started here!"

From participating in the Challenge, I not only discovered some great new blogs, but I discovered the answer to the question "Has Blogging Peaked?" No, I'm not going to tell you my complete opinion, because it would add another three paragraphs to this post.  But when you see 1283 bloggers sign up for a month-long blogfest that requires you to post for 26 days in April, using each letter of the alphabet-- well, what do you think?