Tor.Com Explains Why Novellas are the Future of Publishing

This was from a few weeks ago, but it makes for an interesting insight into what some of the big players of the publishing world are doing:

When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It's just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation.

Read the article here: http://io9.com/tor-com-explains-why-novellas-are-the-future-of-publish-1685440234

News: Landing Page Updated

SampleSiteSo as we lead up to our wider closed beta, we've just updated the Literarium landing page with screenshots and exciting things about the system. We have a handful of alpha users poking around in it, and I'm personally using it for all my submission management and tracking. It's a little embarassing to be shamed into sending out stories for submission, but it's hard to ignore a big green label 'Available to Submit'. It's like the web server is tapping me on the shoulder whispering, 'Hey dude, this story is completed and just sitting here at home, you really should submit it, why not just click that big submit button, I'll find you some juicy markets'. It's an odd relationship but it's working out for me.

Click through to have a look at www.literarium.net and sign up to the Newsletter bit at the bottom to get on our early invites list.


LiterariumSo this is just a quick update for you all. Literarium is now sitting on our production server, and we are ironing out some last minute teeny bugs. Our first step is to shoot invites to some close associates who will forgive us our trespasses (this is happening now), and then we will FINALLY send closed beta invites to the people who've signed up to our beta list.

Yes, it's finally happening. Yes, Lucas and I both know we've taken years to get this far. The reality is, we've been developing in different directions and throwing out approaches that aren't going to work in the long run. It's better to avoid the sunk cost fallacy in the early days of development, when it's still possible to overhaul large chunks of the system. It hurt to revert so much of the front end (back in April 2013 I was in Canberra doing up the final page styling for a demonstration!) but it was all worth it. It's much snappier and usable now. I'm quite excited, and it's fun (and rewarding) to start keying in my own submissions only to see on the Literarium timeline that I need to start chasing some of them up in the next few days.

More news soon! Onwards and upwards!

Visual Anthology of Mythical Creatures (via @designtaxi)

This is actually pretty cool. Someone over at Design Taxi sourced a poster of mythical creatures by region. What I'd really like to see someday, though, is a chart like this with historical connections. My daughter once challenged me by saying every culture has 'dragons' (implying some commonality and thus proving dragons were real). It would be cool to see where common mythological creatures spread and adapted with cultures, and where mythological creatures are undeniably 'local'.

Check it out here: http://designtaxi.com/news/371079/Infographic-An-Anthology-Of-Mythical-Creatures/

Pelican Books reimagines cover art for eBooks (HT: @ellenforsyth)

Interesting and cool:

As part of their recent relaunch, Pelican Books—the non-fiction arm of Penguin Books, which originally ran from 1937 to 1984—wanted to make covers just as important for e-books as they are for physical books. Their solution was to make the cover a recurring element throughout a text: the central thematic element that ties together a volume's design, whether physical or digital.

Check out the whole thing here: http://www.fastcodesign.com/3038698/how-pelican-books-is-reimagining-the-cover-in-the-age-of-e-books

Building the Ultimate Solar System

This is some fun science fictional projection from a few month ago, a super-advanced engineering project (but probably still less advanced than building a dyson sphere). Presenting: the ultimate star system!

Despite the challenges Sean Raymond, an astrophysicist from Bordeaux Observatory in France, set out to build our ultimate solar system as a computer game he called Fantasy Star System. Because he's a physicist, this solar system with 60 habitable Earth-like planets had to follow the laws of physics. So his arrangement of planets had to be both scientifically plausible in the short term, and gravitationally stable over the long term of billions of years. After all, he wanted life to be able to evolve.


Library Book Dumping Signals a New Dark Age (OH NOES! - Ed) (via @smh)

Well of course it doesn't, but it is interesting:

In May, Sydney University announced its library "restructure".  This magnificent library, among the country's finest, had already, a decade earlier, deacquisitioned some 60,000 books and theses. More recently there were further, unquantified and undeclared cloak-and-dagger dumpings to make space for the wifi and lounge-chairs that have given the once magical Fisher stack the look and feel of a church playgroup.

I'm posting this more as a thinking/discussion piece. I don't necessarily agree with the doom-and-gloom of this piece, because the notion of a place where you go to pick up an deposit paper books is a little old and impractical, and notions like having a 'who's who' is ridiculous in the age of the Internet.

Which is true? And what exactly is a library with no books, beside a website, a database, a cloud? Why, in the age of mobile mini-tech and ubiquitous wifi does such a library even exist? Couldn't it just be a basement server with a million e-books on remote access?

With all due respect, I think the author is missing the point. A modern library is not a place where you go to get books. It's a communal space celebrating books, art and the literary community. I go to libraries to be in the space, not to get books. Just like I go to a bookstore for the community, not for books I could buy cheaper online. Just like I go to a pub to be in a social space, not to buy overpriced beer.

Nonetheless, this article is worthy of a read, as an insight into how the idea of a library is transforming in the modern age. Maybe it will spark a story idea?

Read it all here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/library-book-dumping-signals-a-new-dark-age-20140903-10bspm.html

The Truth About Publishing (via @ianirvineauthor, HT: @rachelhills)

This is an old article by Ian Irvine (2005! How the industry has changed!) but still a solid read in 2014. It flew past my twitter feed. It really is super long. I've only included the section headers below so you get a taste for it. Note, I don't really agree with the final lesson so much, although I do understand the sentiment: Writing isn't a pathway to fame and wealth, do it because you can't not do.

  • Part 1: Getting There
  • Lesson 1: Got Expectations? Lower Them
  • Lesson 2: Anyone can do it, hah!
  • Lesson 3: Skiing across the slush pile
  • Lesson 4: What to do when you're rejected
  • Lesson 4a: Why most writers will never get published
  • Lesson 5: Wow, you've actually been offered a contract
  • Lesson 6: Understanding your advance
  • Lesson 7: Why you don't want a huge advance
  • Lesson 8. Why you don't want a tiny advance either
  • Lesson 9: Your editor is wise and you are foolish
  • Lesson 10: The book production line
  • Lesson 10A: You're not published until you're in print (and sometimes not even then)
  • Lesson 10B: Putting your money where your manuscript is
  • Part 2: Surviving Publication
  • Lesson 11: Is that all you're printing?
  • Lesson 12: It's just been printed and you can't bear to look at it
  • Lesson 13. But I thought you were going to promote my book?
  • Lesson 14. Do it yourself promotion
  • Lesson 15: How come my books never get reviewed?
  • Lesson 16: What's a good sale, anyway?
  • Lesson 17: I have to wait how long for the money?
  • Lesson 18: Sales you don't get much for
  • Lesson 19: Check your royalty statements against your contract
  • Lesson 20: Other income from your books
  • Lesson 21: Help, I won an award and now I'm being remaindered
  • Part 3: Coping with Success
  • Lesson 22: It takes years to become an overnight success
  • Lesson 23: The perils of success 1 - being typecast
  • Lesson 24: The perils of success 2 - staying successful
  • Lesson 25: What's a bestseller anyway?
  • Lesson 26: Foreign Rights
  • Lesson 27: Sold some foreign rights and think you've struck it rich? Oh dear
  • Lesson 28: Movie rights and other fantasies
  • Lesson 29: Other subsidiary rights
  • Lesson 30: Is that all I get?
  • Lesson 30A: Writing as a business?
  • Lesson 31: Changing publishers
  • Lesson 32: Foreign and Local Taxes
  • Final lesson: Anyone who can be discouraged from writing should be

Read the whole thing here: http://www.ian-irvine.com/publishing.html

Become a Better Storyteller Through Dungeons and Dragons (via @lifehackerau)

I've been a proud player of Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop role playing games since 1990, and I insist to doubters that running a communal storytelling game like this is good for all sorts of real-world skills, from conflict management to brainstorming to improvisation and more. It's also good for—surprise!—story telling:

As a storyteller of any kind, the way you weave your narrative determines whether people stay engaged. The classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons can teach you how to construct strong stories and how to collaborate with others in a way that’s fun.

There are a few links to other stories in that article, too. They delve deeper into both the phenomenon of the Dungeons and Dragons product and the benefits of storytelling.

Read more here: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2014/08/become-a-better-storyteller-through-dungeons-dragons/

Writers Festivals are a Place to Connect (via @antloewenstein)

I'm at the Brisbane Writers Festival doing crazy things (scroll down to Sunday) on the first weekend of September. Come say hi and ask me why Literarium isn't live yet (it's looking good, does that help?)

The growth of literary festivals in Australia and globally is a cultural phenomenon that deserves more discussion. India’s annual Jaipur literary event attracts over 100,000 people in a frenzy of debate, colour and energy. When I spoke in Jaipur in 2011, there were “only” around 50,000 visitors. The event’s reputation and stature has grown exponentially since then.

Writing Festivals are a really great place to connect with your colleagues and discover new friends, or even meet online friends in meatspace!

Why do we love these annual institutions? Founder of The Hoopla, Wendy Harmer, launching the Newcastle writers’ festival in April characteristic style, argued that a communal need for spiritual and intellectual nourishment, along with disillusionment with the political process and its media followers, draws populations to discover new places to share ideas.

Worth a read if you're going (or thinking about going) to any events: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/07/writers-festivals-are-a-place-to-connect-during-a-time-of-global-insecurity

Writer reveals details of subtle censorship (via: @lalarkinauthor, HT: @colvinius)

Very interesting development of what happened when Reader's Digest used a Chinese company to print a volume that included L.A. Larkin's thriller Thirst:

LOUISA LARKIN: This… yes. And they had been told by the Chinese printers that the presses had been stopped and that they wouldn't continue to print the condensed version of Thirst until the words 'Falun Gong' had been removed, and reference to 'torture' - the word 'torture' - of a character, a practitioner of Falun Gong, was either deleted or changed to a satisfactory level.

Read the full transcript here (or listen to the interview) to find out how Louisa and her publisher handled this. I'd like to think that most authors (including myself) have her level of conviction, but the lure of getting into print can be pretty strong: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s3976190.htm

Michelle Dean on YA: A Response (via @fozmeadows, HT: @nkjemisin)

Moral panic about our yoof reading the wrong stuff? Guaranteed eyeballs on the internet. Fox Meadows delivers a lengthy smackdown of Michelle Dean's piece:

I’m a bit late to the party on Michelle Dean’s Our Young-Adult Dystopia, which article appeared in the New York Times in mid-February; nonetheless,  I can’t quite see my way to letting it pass without comment. Unlike the vast majority of people who end up wringing their hands in mainstream publications about how YA Novels Will Doom Us All, Dean appears to actually have read the books she’s talking about, rather than merely criticising them from afar. This has not, however, stopped her from writing one of the most pompous and irritating opening paragraphs of our times.

In summary, Michelle Dean lamented the quality of reading today compared to 'When I was Younger' or the golden age of 'Before I was born'. Humorously, I'm currently reading Orlando, in which a contemporary of Shakespeare complains about the terrible mess of pop art that is the Elizabethan Age, compared to the quality of literature produced by the Ancient World. So Virginia Woolf was making the same joke back in 1920 about 'modern' vs 'good' art. Nothing much changes when it comes to articles about 'How Art is Destroying The Next Generation', it seems.

Foz treats Michelle's screed with the faux outrage it deserves:

How dare new authors be inspired to write successful books in popular genres! Never mind that, owing to the long lead times in publishing, Roth’s Divergent was picked up by Harper Collins in July 2010, a month before the final Hunger Games book, Mockingjay, was even on shelves – of course Roth is a latecomer! And how dare the third book of a successful trilogy be printed in huge numbers, apparently! Down with big print runs!

Read the lengthy smackdown here: http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/michelle-dean-on-ya-a-response/

Some Thoughts on Author Earnings (via @courtneymilan, HT: @tobiasbuckell)

Courtney Milan applies her mathematical eye to the earnings report website Hugh Howey released (link here):

Lots of people have written about this, and I will sum up what they say: The study has convinced almost everyone who already believed what Howey said in the report, and convinced almost nobody who did not already believe it.

This is an ambitious project that is likely taking a lot of work on the part of Howey and his mystery coder. They’ve aggregated a bunch of information that people have discussed only anecdotally up until now. That’s pretty cool. That being said, it’s pretty obvious to me that they desperately need someone with some kind of background in science and statistics and data collection, because right now they’re spending a ton of time sifting through data without any sense of how to properly quantify things.

It's worth looking at, as a balancing act to the raw figures coming out of the report.

Original link here: http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2014/02/16/some-thoughts-on-author-earnings/

Linguist Explains Doge Meme Grammar (via @thetoast)

This popped around in my social media feeds enough that I finally read it, and I do love a good analysis of evolving grammar. It even includes a tumblr-sourced translation of Romeo and Juliet:

But what really interests me as a linguist is that doge speak is recognizably doge even when it’s not on an image at all. Let’s take a look at a particularly brilliant example from tumblr, although there are many shorter ones (check out this twitter or this subreddit):

What light. So breaks. Such east. Very sun. Wow, Juliet. What Romeo. Such why. Very rose. Still rose. Very balcony. Such climb. Much love. So Propose. Wow, marriage. Very Tybalt. Much stab. What do? Such exile. Very Mantua. Much sad. So, priest? Much sleeping. Wow, tomb. Such poison. What dagger. Very dead. Wow, end.

If you are interested in language (and you should be, writer!), then this kind of analysis should whet your appetite for more:

The first factor is the kind of “baby talk” that we do towards our pets, known in the literature as pet-directed speech (yes, there are actual studies on this). It tends to involve speaking with exaggerated pitch and using simplified sentence structure. By comparison, the “baby talk” that we do towards actual children involves these two factors plus extra-precise articulation of sounds and is known as infant-directed speech (formerly motherese until some genius realized that it’s not only mothers who talk to babies).

The thing, of course, is that there is a grammar to the ungrammatical speech-that-is-Doge.

Read the whole thing here: http://the-toast.net/2014/02/06/linguist-explains-grammar-doge-wow/

Oh Dear: SFWA Bulletin Petition

It's important not to walk past behaviours that are unacceptable, even if there is political fallout. So let me just say shortly, sweetly: the petition begging to let the SFWA be discriminatory because free speech wah is a load of sexist bullshit and if this is generally indicative of the author's opinions then David Truesdale is a dickhead. I will concede I don't know the fellow and he may be very nice in person, but we work with the material we have. See, when you hear a man argue that it's ok to have women treated as sex objects on magazine covers because men are also sometimes treated as sex objects on magazine covers, you have a nice window into the kind of world where the privileged think that swapping gender roles magically inverts the cultural power imbalance too, and if they (invariable men) don't feel upset being objectified by strangers on the street then women shouldn't either.

I'd take my feminist cap off now and stop being so ranty except, oh wait, it's actually a non-removable cap.

As Natalie Luhrs explains, regarding the cover in question:

It would be one thing if this cover had any sort of relationship to the contents of the Bulletin, but it didn’t. It’s a badly done painting of a not that sexy, mostly naked warrior at severe risk of frostbite. And the Resnick/Malzberg column was about how hot some lady editors were in their bathing suits and nary a mention of their facility with a red pen.  Objectifying and dehumanizing. No wonder people objected.

Just as watching politicians' voting records is important to get a read on their character, I suggest that seeing who is actually signing this petition is important too.

There, that's Literarium's colours nailed to the fucking mast.

Read and shake your head here: http://radishreviews.com/2014/02/10/oh-dear-sfwa-bulletin-petition/

Expanding Diversity in Children's Literature (via @firstbook)

Just a quick post today, via 'First Book', which attended a conference in order to shine light on the lack of diversity in children's literature, and highlighting their own goal in this space:

To expand diversity in children’s literature we are pioneering a market-driven solution. The First Book Marketplace is an online store available only to educators and program leaders serving kids in need.

There's an infographic contrasting actual racial groups of low-income children (US-centric) and matching that to their representation in children's books, and it doesn't look great (and yes I myself am guilty of this, having a white female protag in my own children's book).

Check it out here: http://blog.firstbook.org/2013/07/01/expanding_diversity_in_childrens_books/

What Happens After Medicine Finds a Way to Fight the Zombie Outbreak (via @io9)

It's Friday, so the rules on what to post are a little looser. Hell, since I make the rules myself I suppose they are always precisely as loose as I like them. I'm basically Gandalf, folks. This post is more of an idea-generating thing, a 'let's think about [in this case, zombies] from a different perspective'. I think it's helpful from time to time to grab a well-worn idea and just hold it up in a new light to see if any new facets have been worn in.

In this case, it's a little prequel trailer for a new movie. It asks 'how do we deal with rebuilding the world after a zombie apocalypse?'

Watch it here: http://io9.com/what-happens-after-medicine-finds-a-way-to-fight-the-zo-1507654586

The Bookshelf That Becomes Your Coffin (via @bookriot)

It's halloween! A Dutch funeral products company designed a coffin that doubles as a bookshelf while you're still alive:

‘Death has to be understood, just like birth, as an important part of life,’ says Rademaker. ‘I made the coffin because it must become easier to discuss death and integrate it with life. Death does not come after life, death belongs to life. You should be able to discuss death in an unforced, natural way, just as you talk to people about expecting a baby, bringing up children, or your relationships.’

Check it out here: http://bookriot.com/2012/10/29/a-bookshelf-that-becomes-gulp-your-coffin/

Earnings from Self-Publishing (via @pattyjansen)

Patty Jansen posted her self-publishing earnings from Sept 2012 to 2013. I love these detailed posts, as there is so much misinformation flying around about  how lucrative (or not) self-publishing can be.

Inspired by others on the web who have done so, I’m going to do a numbers post. Mainly for reference, but also to show people what the income of a no-name self-publishing writer with moderate success looks like. Just to give some datapoints other than the millions reportedly made by others.

No spoilers here though, you'll have to click through to read for yourself if you enjoy these kinds of things as much as I do: http://pattyjansen.com/blog/my-earnings-from-self-publishing-sept-2012-sept-2013/

Thanks Patty!

GenreCon, or the smartest impulse buy I ever made (via @incognitiously)

I mentioned earlier this week that I had attended GenreCon in my hometown on the weekend. One of the attendees, Lois Spangler, impulse-bought her ticket as a fan of genre fiction, without realising it was a writing conference. Nonetheless, she describes what an amazing time she had, and how it encouraged her to start writing (more). It's an origin story, then, of sorts:

Now, here’s the thing: I thought GenreCon was a fan convention. There’s nothing on the site to clue you otherwise, or maybe there is and I’m just obtuse which I’m absolutely willing to accept. No no, this thing’s a writer’s convention. Industry.

GenreCon was a lot of fun, and the attendees were universally supportive and excited about their craft. There was a real buzz at the event, and it infected Lois:

We build an idea of ourselves over time. I’ve been making stuff up since I had any real capacity with words, and putting that stuff to paper or phosphor not long after. I was one of those folks who wrote. Sure, I’d done an occasional short work published here and there, but not a “real writer.” I always figured that door was sort of closed to me, partly by circumstance, but mostly due to my own inaction.

I was full of shit.

Read her full post here, it's pretty inspiring: http://www.storytrade.net/personal/genrecon-or-the-smartest-impulse-buy-i-ever-made/