Table of Contents
- The monsters we create
- The app: Modern, Promethean
- Sourcebooks: Not at first sight, no
- Women in the biz: Covers-up
- Readers: Your audience just changed channels
- ‘Social’ media: Facebook eats Instagram
- ‘Social’ media: Google+ makeover. Already?
- Writing craft: One Vidalia onion
- More writing craft: Edits and paragraphs
- Careers: Real and unrealized
- Last gas: ↬ JimHanas.com
What other industries permit agency pricing? In what other sector do you find manufacturers setting the prices and retailers having to, essentially, like it or lump it at a certain percentage?
Dawson answered her own question at what my Google Reader says was 4:49 p.m.: Two other industries know agency pricing — Apple products are withheld from retailers who discount them, she writes, and the price of milk in New York and New Jersey is controlled by a dairy board.
I’m particularly glad to have inkle studios’ advance artwork for the Ether from Dave Morris’ forthcoming Frankenstein app from Profile Books. Mary Shelley is said to have come up with her idea from a bad dream about a scientist who didn’t like the results of his experiment.
And now here we are, waking up with three of the “Big Five” publishers in the Department of Justice investigation — HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette — hustling right over to settle the antitrust lawsuit out of court. They admit to no wrongdoing, mind you (which is hardly unusual in settlements). Macmillan and Penguin have not settled, nor has Apple.
For the basics, I’ll do is point you toward a couple of strong summations of the action, rather than crawling back through the nittier grit here.
- Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent has posted Everything you need to know about today’s e-book lawsuit in one post.
- And Julie Bosman put together, and has updated, Justice Dept. Sues Apple and Publishers Over E-Book Pricing; 3 Publishers Settle at the Times.
More interesting, from the Ethernautical perspective, is the arc of the noise Wednesday as the core publishing community jockeyed on Twitter and in too many me-too blog posts to count. The challenge was to gain the snark advantage for a few seconds, maybe with a crack about publishing CEOs meeting at a restaurant the name of which the DoJ misspelled. Or how much it looked as if Amazon had written the allegations. #hahaha
A lot of this palaver was unnecessarily loose, sometimes irresponsible, probably none too impressive to anyone following from outside the industry.
There were fist-pump messages moving around in response to A Message from John Sargent, the Macmillan chief announcing, “We have decided to fight this in court.” Sargent asserted that he decided “to move MacMillan to the agency model…on January 22nd, 2010, a little after 4:00 AM on an exercise bike in my basement.”
On reading the statement from Sargent, one angry observer tweeted that just because some publishers were settling, they weren’t necessarily guilty of the DoJ’s charges of collusion.
And that’s true.
But of course no one tweeted the converse: just because Macmillan and/or Penguin and/or Apple go to court fight the DoJ’s lawsuit?–doesn’t mean that one or all of them is innocent of the allegations, either.
Unless you’re one of the chiefs of a company named in the suit, you don’t actually know.
The Amazon-bashing was typically high. Actual readings of the DoJ’s brief — widely available online — seemed unfortunately low.
And when Jeff John Roberts at paidContent wrote that 16 states had filed their own antitrust lawsuits — States pile on, claim Apple e-book conspiracy cost consumers $100 million — some took it as a signal to bemoan a “black day for publishing,” the industry cast as a victim. They might be forgiven based on Roberts’ headline, toned as it was with that phrase “states pile on” — something short of neutral, isn’t it?
To be clear, I’m a consistent supporter of paidContent’s folks’ work. Since some of them at times report and at other times comment, I’d like them to make it clearer when they’re in which mode. Commentary is great, especially from people as astute as Roberts and his associates — just slug it as such, and do it faithfully.
Wednesday lunch at the foot of the gallows found some of our colleagues in New York one-upping each other with jokes about how they’d best not gather in groups at restaurants for fear of being charged by the DoJ with collusion. #haha
Wiser wonks got quieter, hanging back at noon to test the gravity of Attorney General Eric Holder’s news conference statement on CNBC and other news networks’ live coverage:
We believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles.
Hold onto that language about consumers. We’ll be back to it shortly.
The phrasing of the court filing was catching up with the morning’s giddiness. Here are a few quick excerpts from United States of America vs. Apple, Inc.; Hachette Book Group, Inc.; HarperCollins Publishers, LLC; Verlagsgruppe Georg von Hotlzbrinck Publishers, LLC, dba Macmillan; the Penguin Group, a division of Pearson, PLC, Penguin Group (USA), Inc.; and Simon & Schuster, Inc.:
The Publisher Defendants regularly communicated with each other in private conversations, both in person and on the telephone, and in emails to each other to exchange sensitive information and assurances of solidarity to advance the ends of the conspiracy…directly discussed, agreed to, and encouraged each other to collective action to force Amazon to raise its retail ebook prices…took steps to conceal their communications with one another, including instructions to “double delete” email and taking other measures to avoid leaving a paper trail…
The attorney general thanked those piled-on states’ attorneys general and “our partners at the European Commission for their hard work and close cooperation.” Oh yeah. The EC is across this, too.
By mid-afternoon, what had just hours earlier looked like a conga line of defiance had kinked up…tighter smiles, weaker laughs. #ha
We were ready for Mathew Ingram, whose timing often seems as canny as his analysis. Writing at GigaOM, he got in one of the most clarifying passages of the day. Here’s Ingram in The e-book wars: Who is less evil, Amazon or book publishers? and the emphasis is mine:
The purpose of antitrust law isn’t necessarily to protect smaller companies from larger companies, or even to prevent monopolies per se — the purpose is to protect consumers from the impact of a monopoly or collusive behavior.
Ingram goes on to answer some who have asserted with much more gusto than guile that it’s Amazon the Justice Department should sue:
A case against Amazon wouldn’t make any sense unless it could be shown that Amazon’s behavior was causing higher prices — but the reality is that the publishers are the ones whose behavior is leading to higher prices (the publishers who settled get two years of “modified” agency pricing).
And by evening, Eastern time, a late-night posting in London came rustling across to us on Sam Missingham’s TheFutureBook’s blogs from journo Philip Jones. He’d kept tabs on the incremental progress of the news all day. In Fallen agents – how everything just changed, Jones not only comes to the desk with plenty of wit and experience, but he also has the blessing of that ocean’s distance from our pageant.
Penguin and Macmillan, deciding to stand and fight, seem full of fine bravado, writes Jones, but:
Both companies are taking an enormous risk in seeing the DoJ in court. The evidence against them looks substantial, notwithstanding Makinson’s view that the DoJ filing “contains a number of material misstatements and omissions.” The costs will be huge, the implications if they lose enormous, and the potential for further reputational damage, even if they do pull off a win, clear.
Then Jones gets at something potentially even darker. During the afternoon, he and I discussed it briefly on Twitter as “the stain” — too many gorgeous ex-Shelley illustrations. But the nut of what we were saying is here, better parsed by Jones, again with my emphasis:
The bigger worry is that publishers have not just lost this battle, they will also now lose the peace. Even if collusion did not take place, the suggestion of it is now indelible.
Any blackness to the 11th of April for publishers, you see, likely was — with whatever intent — assembled in the labs of those publishers’ own commercial experimentation. Our publishers and their entourages are dancing with the creatures they made. Jones:
Publishers now need to focus on the next step: adjusting to a world where ebooks become the dominant format…where they have little control over whether their audience chooses to read in e or p, and where they cannot create barriers to ebook adoption by using price.
An interesting line in Dave Morris’ Shelley-ing: “Yes, the creature’s skeletal frame has continued to grow inside the tank. I didn’t expect it to become so misshapen.”
Who did? “All men mean well,” Shaw told us in “The Revolutionist’s Handbook” that follows Man and Superman. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
I’m struggling to see any winners here, except of course Amazon, which has already said that it looks forward to extending discounts across more ebooks. Oh, and book readers who will enjoy cheap ebooks from a dwindling range of publishers and retailers.
Frankenstein — from which our Ether-eal artwork is drawn this week — is a new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic.
It’s written by London author Dave Morris and developed by him with the assistance of Jon Ingold, a former Sony Playstation designer, and his people at Cambridge’s inkle, a transmedia storytelling studio.
Morris graduated from the other place, Oxford. He read physics, which he has brought to bear on his 2011 graphic novel with Leo Hartas, Mirabilis: Year of Wonders, and, now, on leveraging the darkest corners of Shelley’s imaginings — “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!”
Here, Morris tells me, Victor Frankenstein still is from Geneva, but rather than being at Bavaria’s Ingolstadt (where the Illuminati were established, incidentally), he’s at university in Paris. In 1792. Which would seem to be an inconvenient place and time for a DIY project about cobbling together a guy on a slab. But what do I know? — no shortage of anatomical raw material, one assumes.
Dashing ahead of the usual gamification grumbling, Morris says in his pre-launch statement:
Frankenstein isn’t a game. It’s not about winning or losing or solving puzzles. It’s a literary experience where the reader can explore the text, creating a unique and personal experience of this rightly world-famous work. As the plot unfolds, you develop a personal relationship with the main characters. That’s why we’re describing it as interactive literature — it’s a truly new kind of novel for the digital age.
Touted by Profile Books as “the first literary, interactive book app,” this Frankenstein goes on sale in two weeks, on April 26, for £2.99 (US$4.76) — only for iPads and iPhones.
Your Android/Kindle money apparently has no allure for Profile Books, nothing seems planned for the huddled millions of us on tablets and phones beyond Apple’s reach.
Special thanks to Profile’s PR folks for getting these images to me.
And here’s a trailer, if you’d like to get the tone of the app, with some Beethoven (from the Fifth, the opening of the Allegro) handsomely efforted by the Fulda Symphonic Orchestra, Simon Schindler conducting. I’m able to identify the artists for you because the music is graciously credited on the video’s page, bravo.
About two years ago, I came to the conclusion that we needed to have a decidedly more direct relationship with our readers. I was especially intrigued by watching some of the smart ways publishers in other spaces (most notably O’Reilly and Baen) were engaging with their readers. It also came from watching how e-tailers like Amazon.com repeatedly used their customer information to build products, services and user engagement. Having a direct, ongoing relationship with our readers could not only make solid business sense, it could also help create enormous impact for our authors.
Sourcebooks’ articulate publisher Dominique Raccah has been talking up her new Discover A New Love program around the Chicago Mini-TOC event from O’Reilly Media (another great-looking entry in Kat Meyer and Joe Wikert’s series of one-day regional events).
She also was in Chicago because the RT Booklovers Convention is. And her Discover a New Love thing is for romance. Let’s have a description here from USA Today, Joyce Lamb (herself a paranormal romance suspense writer) in Sourcebooks launches readers book club: Discover a New Love:
Membership at Discover a New Love provides access to monthly selections in favorite genres, author chats, members-only deals and sneak peeks of upcoming titles. Readers can connect with rising stars and debut authors as well as nationally best-selling authors such as Georgette Heyer, Grace Burrowes, Catherine Mann and Carolyn Brown.
Let me be clear about my regard for Raccah. Among publishers, she’s one of the few who will speak up about the bad experiences authors tend to have in so many traditional settings. That’s one of the reasons she’s been working with the “agile” approach and talking about it at conferences, I’ve heard her do this. Raccah is a friend of writers and I want to be on record as appreciating this.
I have to say, though, that when I heard that Sourcebooks’ new thing is for romance, I found it disappointing.
Consider that romance, the large umbrella under which erotica is broadly classified, is a nearly $1.4 billion, recession-proof industry and the top-selling genre of fiction in the U.S., beating mystery and sci-fi combined. And if the bondage in Shades isn’t your thing, there’s probably a subgenre that is: More than just the classic historical bodice ripper, the spectrum of romantic fiction now includes everything from sex-free books starring Amish lovers to racier ones involving werewolves and vampires to the burgeoning sub-sub-category of erotic paranormal cowboy-ménage romance.
Let me show you one chart from Grose’s story. And please note, it’s Grose and her magazine referring to romance as “smut,” not me. They probably feel this is a more salable term. They’re probably right. In the header on this chart, it’s “the smut-book business.” On the column that shows the sector’s dominance, it’s “romance.”
The green column on the left is romance, doing its $1.4 billion. To the far right? That smaller, much smaller column in the bad yellow? Doing $455 million? “Classic literary fiction.”
Grose’s story has many more intriguing statistics to offer, if the Clarins pop-up ad doesn’t eat you alive. Ninety-one percent of romance is bought by women. Thirty-eight percent of them are in the South.
In many cases romance is DRM-free and doing fine (as we learned at DBW). It’s the trail-blazing poster child for digital-first. And it’s booming with community. We’ve talked about this off and on all season, ever since Mike Shatzkin started torching (rightly) for the good lessons romance offers everyone else.
Here’s more Raccah, about her new romance-books vertical:
If you’re a romance reader, it’s one more platform for discovery (with loads of neat pluses). The data we’ve seen shows that romance readers are heavy users and that they buy from many different outlets. We see this is an expansion and addition to the current space.
My point exactly. One more platform. For those readers who are already “heavy users,” as she tells us, in that part of the business that’s already beaten out all the rest, even Christian/inspirational, even sci-fi.
Romance is probably the one indestructible sector of the industry, the survivor.
We all know the reason for romance’s success lies closer to New York Magazine’s term for it than ours — plus some admirable audience savvy, production efficiency, distribution partnerships, and clever readership-cultivating marketing over a lot of years by many, many hard-working people.
“This is just the beginning,” Raccah says at the end of her post. Sounds a tad plaintive. She probably knew some irritating critic like me would stand up to say this might have been something more helpful to an area of literature that actually needs her smart work.
Whoa, did somebody say “literary fiction?” I must be hearing things again.
Raccah wanted to create a coal-fired vertical. She’s just the one to do it, too, an energetic and talented leader in our community. All I regret is that she took it to the Newcastle of romance.
I think this is an interesting debate among women.
Here we go:
Look at some of the jackets of novels by women. Laundry hanging on a line. A little girl in a field of wildflowers. A pair of shoes on a beach. An empty swing on the porch of an old yellow house. Compare these with the typeface-only jacket of Chad Harbach’s novel, “The Art of Fielding,” or the jumbo lettering on “The Corrections.” Such covers, according to a book publicist I spoke to, tell the readers, “This book is an event.”
That’s Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling and other books, in her Times essay The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women.
Next, read Ruth Franklin, senior editor at The New Republic (TNR), in Why the Literary Landscape Continues to Disadvantage Women:
The place of women in the literary world is still as urgent an issue as it has ever been. I worry that other women of my generation, having taken their admission to this world as a natural right, have grown as complacent as I have been. But admission is not the same thing as acceptance…
Wolitzer was reacting to the latest statistics from VIDA, an advocacy organization that for the past two years has published a tally of the number of male and female bylines in major book reviews to demonstrate that men publish the majority of the reviews in American literary publications, and (not coincidentally) women’s books are reviewed far less often than men’s. The problem in fact goes deeper: as I demonstrated last year, part of the reason books by women are being reviewed in lower numbers is that they are being published in lower numbers.
That emphasis just above is mine. Franklin goes on in her concise assessment of the situation to join Wolitzer in finding the face of the problem right on the industry’s sleeve:
Publishers perpetuate this bias in ways large and small, including packaging that primes readers to regard women’s books as less important: Big novels by men often have text-only covers, while novels by women tend to be illustrated by domestic images. The underlying problem is that while women read books by male writers about male characters, men tend not to do the reverse. Men’s novels about suburbia (Franzen) are about society; women’s novels about suburbia (Wolitzer) are about women.
I recognize that Wolitzer and Franklin aren’t dismissing the idea of women’s literature entirely…But the substance of their distinctions strike me as arbitrary, and arbitrary rules don’t aid the effort to expose real inequality. Laundry, swings, sandals—bad; text—good. Where did that come from? Are women bound by their sandals along with their bras? Are both now fodder for the fire?
I applaud serious consideration of the statistics that outline the deplorable scarcity of women’s written work. Numbers are useful and important in the fight for sexual equality. The fact that there is much less serious written work by women out there in the world strikes me as important in a macro sense—the same way that it strikes me as extremely important that women are paid less, on average, than men, for the same work.
This is an important debate, and it’s good to see Schama press it beyond those surface points, however valid they are — and even beyond VIDA’s helpful annual numbers.
As she concludes, “You can only judge so much by a book’s cover.”
I’d already noticed an Advertising Age article — Brian Steinberg’s piece, Study: Young Consumers Switch Media 27 Times An Hour. It confirms the sort of challenge to content purveyors that can make you tired in a hurry:
It’s every advertiser’s worst nightmare: consumers so distracted by a dizzying array of media choices that they no longer notice the commercials supporting them. And its time might be closer than you think. A recent study found that consumers in their 20s (“digital natives”) switch media venues about 27 times per nonworking hour—the equivalent of more than 13 times during a standard half-hour TV show.
O’Leary looks back at Clay Johnson’s work in his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, and concludes Johnson is right that we’re all “battling a storm of distractions…too much junk information can lead to cluelessness.”
With his usual thoughtful economy in the field of magazine publishing, O’Leary concludes :
The first time I heard Clay Johnson speak, I hesitated a bit because he is fighting on the consumer side of the equation. After reading his book and listening a couple of more times, I have to say I was wrong. There’s no saving media companies whose management is relieved to be in “the relaxation business.” It’s time to look elsewhere for change.
Facebook was scared shitless and knew that for first time in its life it arguably had a competitor that could not only eat its lunch, but also destroy its future prospects. Why? Because Facebook is essentially about photos, and Instagram had found and attacked Facebook’s achilles heel — mobile photo sharing.
That’s Om Malik – Giga’s OM, himself – placing his not inconsiderable perspective on the news that made Monday such an upchucker for so many. It’s this fracas about Facebook buying Instagram for that upsetting amount of American money. Not since the Vatican’s hostile takeover of Oscar Mayer.
Malik’s post is headlined with elegant logic Here is why Facebook bought Instagram. And short of sharing your chocolate milk with Mark Zuckerberg, himself, this is likely the closest you’ll get to the beaten heart of the matter:
In other words, if there was any competitor that could give Zuckerberg heartburn, it was [Kevin] Systrom’s posse. They are growing like mad on mobile, and Facebook’s mobile platform (including its app) is mediocre at best. Why? Facebook is not a mobile-first company and they don’t think from the mobile-first perspective. Facebook’s internal ideology is that of a desktop-centric Internet company.
Instagram is the exact opposite. It has created a platform built on emotion. It created not a social network, but instead built a beautiful social platform of shared experiences.
For a little higher view of the whole business of these tech-tank feeding frenzies, check out Courtney Boyd Myers’ Every time you love a service, it gets closer to being acquired at The Next Web:
“I just lost one of my favorite networks, because it was acquired by a network that I heavily dislike. It sucks,” said TNW Editor Brad McCarty. So it seems we are more upset that two brands — one that we have affection for and the other, not so much — are now essentially the same company than about losing any functionality within the app.
My own mother described it quite beautifully the other day. “It feels like Facebook is one big bulletin board where people are just slapping up notifications and advertisements left and right. I don’t like it anymore. I want a platform that will dance with me,” she said.
And as for that bargain rate FB got on its picture thingie for, we can stick with TNW and let Alex Wilhelm talk us off the ceiling in $1 billion, photo filters, and what the hell Facebook is doing:
There are two things that Instagram has that Facebook needs: total user-engagement acceleration, and iOS power. As you know, Instagram never even tried to make money, so the valuation of it as a ‘company’ is strictly non-financial, to a point…Facebook has the ad power to do what Instagram couldn’t: make a cent. ..
Instagram is not worth $1,000,000,000 of cash to any company, but in this exact moment, Facebook doesn’t mind spending a pile of stock on something that had the potential to slow it down. Oh, technology, you are too funny. I’m seeing reports on Twitter that Facebook paid north of $30 per user for Instagram. You have to chuckle at that…
I could pay $500 for a single Easter egg, but that wouldn’t change the value of the egg. I would just be an idiot. Just for perspective, Yahoo paid $35 million for Flickr.
The perennial question of Silicon Valley: Is this more evidence, convincing evidence, that the tech industry is again on the verge of another bubble popping? Today’s acquisitions and valuations not only echo the dot-com bubble of the late 90s, but now completely dwarf the money that was passing hands then.
If you’re not fighting back nausea at that thought, you’re simply too young to have had any skin in the game during the last big popping o’ the tech bubble, not to be re-experienced if we can help it.
So check in with the ever-diacritical Frédéric Filloux, whom I assume didn’t even have the Instagram news dampening his croissant when he wrote his Monday Note about the big IPO, Facebook’s Bet on Privacy. An interesting use of the term “rhizome” awaits:
What could go wrong for the ultra-dominant digital rhizome? Two things: its contempt of privacy and Wall Street frothy expectations.
The headline on Barbara Ortutay’s Associated Press piece asks the right question as the story runs in the Christian Science Monitor: Instagram: Zero sales. $1 billion price tag. Worth it?
And from the Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman, a couple of helpful thoughts in What journalists should know about Instagram, bought by Facebook as we wait to see if Instagram can survive Facebook ownership:
What separates Instagram from other social networks is that people share photos not just of a thing but of an abstract idea — like “how I’m watching news of bin Laden’s death or “what spring’s arrival looks like to me.”
It seems Instagram will never be a place for sharing article links and breaking news headlines. And that’s fine. Twitter or Facebook may be where you get the news; but Instagram is where you feel the news.
Overall, this is a very large change that should make the Google+ experience better for users.
Greg Finn seems pretty high on the new look — even more white space — in Google+ Gets A New Look With Interactive Navigation & “Timeline-esque” Profiles.
Since I’m starting to work with Google Hangouts On Air quite a bit, I’m glad to learn from Finn that Hangouts are being given their own space.
With the new layout, Hangouts are becoming a bit easier to manage. Instead of working directly into the stream, a set page will be implemented.
And when Finn writes, “One of the most unique layout changes has to be the improved, customizable navigation ribbon,” he’s not joking. The new nav bar runs down the left side and it’s roughly the size of Idaho.
See what you think, as these “improvements” roll out over the next few days and report back to me, please, Ethernaut.
I use layering and lists as tools to make sure I round out my story later. I write my books straight through (without pausing for chapter breaks) and end up with about 55,000 words. This is the bare-bones story. Then I start layering in other elements. This is what I’m doing right now to put the finishing touches on a book I’m turning in at the end of this month.
In the passage above, she’s talking Lists and Layers as her means of grappling with “275 pages, editing it, submitting it to my editor, and worried waiting for reviews.”
Craig is one of the most prolific and professional, authentic and personable craft bloggers writing.
You know how we all love to say that what makes great art universal is its specificity? I’m going to let Craig prove it to you right now. In the following passage from Constructing and Weaving in Subplots she tells us how she creates and installs subplots in her mysteries:
I write them as complete stories, then chop them up into scenes and intersperse them through the main story…I create scenes with each installment of the subplot story, to create what will end up being a running serial throughout the main plot. For me, it could even be on the level of a running joke that suddenly has more significance at the end of the book.
I’m betting this isn’t a technique a lot of us are using. But such structural ingenuity is so intriguing that you get it as if it were common to us all. This is how Craig gets to you. By being herself.
And here are two other key elements of her blog work I particularly appreciate:
- She’s not a Suffering Parent on Parade. This is a writing mother who never rallies her readers to sing “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” with her. You understand what she’s up against as she tells you about grabbing ten minutes in the car to write while waiting at school for the afternoon pickup. You get it when she tells you that she gets up at 4:50 each morning (not 4:45, not 4:55) to write four or five pages before getting those kids up. Mother-daughter trips to the park and dodging college kids at the horse track? All in stride, all on schedule, and hey, here’s another page done.
- She’s not making it up as she goes along. I’m sure I’m the only person in the world who feels this, so forgive me, but I’m sick of the bloggers whose shtick is that they’re on the Great Amateur Adventure because, of course, they have no experience, no expertise, and no credentials whatsoever to be instructing you on anything. They’re the blind yelling “Follow me!” at you. “Over here, I think! A little to your left maybe!” Not Craig — she’s paid her dues, and she’s got two new books in the works right now so keep it moving.
Don’t let the groaning-barbecue puns of her cozy titles fool you. Craig is running a mean shop in the South and she knows her clientele better than you or I want to. I’ll bet they’re Ms. Raccah’s customers, too — 38 percent of those readers who long for romance, was it, in the South?
The specifics of Craig’s never-showy, gracious commentary is closer to the reality of a producing author’s lifestyle than what you’ll get in the font-flipping flashier blogs. Here she is signing off, essential Craig:
Hope this helps instead of being completely confusing.
While editing, it is inevitable that you will be struck by ideas about how someone else’s book could be better: What if he had feathers instead of hair?! What if this vampire twinkled rather than sparkled?! No. It’s okay to offer up some illustrative directions the writer could go to fix something that isn’t working, but ultimately the writer is the best equipped to come up with ideas for new directions. Your job is to spot what’s not working, not to rewrite.
This is an interesting post from Nathan Bransford, the Ten Commandments for Editing Someone’s Work, especially because it’s about editing. As when someone asks you to edit them. He’s right, it happens. And he’s right, there are lots of ways to screw up such an occasion. Go over these points before you even answer your friend who wants an edit.
If you’ve already signaled your reader that a new paragraph is about to start because you’ve indented the first line, what’s the point of adding an extra line space? Avoid this problem by simply choosing one or the other. For most books, use the indented first line of each paragraph as your signal to the reader.
Joel Friedlander writes Book Design: Choosing Your Paragraphing Style about how many do-it-yourselfers trying to design their own books show their amateurism by mixing the two key paragraph delineators (the indentation and the extra line space). As Friedlander points out, if you have a quick look at what’s on your shelf, “You’ll find that virtually all of them use the indented paragraph style, no matter who published them or when they were published” — clearly the majority choice.
But the point, as Friedlander tells us, is to be consistent. Choose one paragraph style and stick with it.
Your readers will thank you.
The path that was there to being a writer as recently as 15 years ago just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s all torn up. I have no idea what’s coming, I have no idea what a viable path for a young writer really even is today. I struggled with that constantly talking to my students; I just didn’t know what to tell them they should do.
This is Tom Bissell interviewed by Katie Ryder for Salon. The author talks about recent questions of handling factual info in nonfiction (Daisey, D’Agato):
When you can sort of play faster and looser with facts is a very different question depending on your relationship to the person you’re writing about. Personal essayists have a much, much wider range of veracity to play around in, because they’re writing about their own experience, their own memories. The way you remember your own life is often not the way other people would say it really happened, but those memories are yours, and there’s a difference between lying about yourself and representing yourself in a way that feels true to you.
Alessandrelli conflates himself, the speaker of his poems, and Erik Satie in such a manner that all three personalities become intimately entwined.
The result, writes Ware, is that the poems form “a meeting between two artists, similar to the meeting that occurs between two men in the first iteration” of the title poem:
the silence after each note passes
represents the agreement reached
between them that afternoon,
explains why we know
the nothing about them
that we do.
Just that two men met one day
beneath the awning of an apple orchard,
and the dull smack of their lips
moving was the languageless sound
of their satisfaction with each other
If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men—you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.
And, as always, here’s the Q2 Music player for you. Q2 is an NPR-affiliated free 24/7 stream of music– living composers, many of whom write for Hollywood as well as for the international concert stage. Writerly music, via this player or in the Radio section of iTunes.
Key imagery: iStockphoto / Abinormal