R.I.P. Mass-Market Fiction Paperback

The New York Times has an interesting article on the decline in sales and marketing of the mass-market paperback. The industry experts in the article attribute the largest cause to the recession and e-readers and the release of hardcover titles as reduced price e-books faster than the release of the paperback. They also implicate the discounting of hardcover titles by chain, and now independent, booksellers.

All of these are certainly contributing factors, not the least of which is the recession and the increasing loss of the middle-class and its discretionary income. Add to this the decline in readership period and its clear that the mass-market paperback is becoming less profitable and therefore less viable.

But I think the article misses two key factors: Continue reading

Blake Snyder Save the Cat! Story Plot Development Storyboards

Blake Snyder's Cat series makes it easy to visualize your plot

Blake Snyder’s Cat series makes it easy to visualize your plot

A friend of mine who writes urban fantasy novels turned me on to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!®  The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need and his technique of developing story plots. I was skeptical at first since I’d gone through a screenwriting phase a few years back and thought I’d pretty much read and discovered everything there was to developing plot as if writing a screenplay, but I picked up some new techniques and ideas from Mr. Snyder. I’ve added a quick summary worksheet below that you can download to get a feel for the technique.

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Recommended Reading on Writing a Better Story and Character

The Atlantic Monthly has a terrific article about what makes a good story and characterization. It’s a piece by author Tim O’Brien explaining how each time he sits in a writer’s workshop and manuscript critique the comments usually focus on verisimilitude when the real problem is a failure of imagination. O’Brien uses some excellent fiction writing examples and I highly recommend it to every writer, fiction and non-fiction.

50 Great Websites for Writers – Both Fiction and Non-Fiction

Here's a hidden gem of a site for fiction, nonfiction and fan writers

Here’s a hidden gem of a site for fiction, nonfiction and fan writers

Strangely enough I was first introduced to this site from an internet marketing blog. I’m not certain why I haven’t found it before from either a fiction, nonfiction or fan writing website or one of the education and training websites I frequent. But this site has a huge list of resources, some of which I hadn’t found before, for writers of all kinds. It’s worth a look.

http://educhoices.org/articles/50_of_the_Best_Websites_for_Writers.html

Navigating the Changing Book Industry — what writers should know to sell their book

woman-w-face-n-hands-1000Doris Booth, founder and agent with the Authorlink Literary Group and Authorlink.com, presented a workshop at the DFW Writers Conference, May 2, 2009 entitled:

Navigating the Changing Book Industry

— an insider’s view of what writers should know

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Notes from the DFW Writers Conference Agents' Panel, May 2009

On May 2, 2009, the DFW Writers Conference (sponsored by the DFW Writers’ Workshop) hosted a Question and Answer Session with a panel of literary agents. Agents  on the panel were Doris Booth, Sally Harding, Al Longden and Dr. Uwe Stender. The following are highlights from my notes during the session. It is by no means a complete transcription of the session but there were a number of interesting points brought up that indicated some of the focus of subsequent workshops. I’ve added a few of my own personal comments and observations.

Harding: YA (Young Adult) is over bought. She’s looking for classic epic fantasy with a fresh take for the U.S. and U.K. markets.

Stender: Selling non-fiction today requires “a big platform.” He went on to explain an author needs to be a celebrity, preferrably with his or her own show; a popular blogger; or have a degree from a major university to get his interest in a non-fiction manuscript.

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Marketing for Writers is really phishing for suckers

While I’ve learned to recognize the come-ons by snake oil sales people on the Internet, I sometimes give one a chance to prove me wrong. (I’m actually planning a post on how to recognize at a class an obvious bottom-feeder.) So far, none of them have.

A disappointment this morning was Marketing for Writers (marketingforwriters.com; and it’s not a link for a reason). They come up first in Google if you search on the term, however, don’t waste your time and certainly don’t waste your money there.

The URL takes you to a landing page optimized for Google with Yahoo text ads at the top, a bit of out-of-date copy on the absolute basics (and hardest way to promote your writing) and on the right side promotion for her own e-books and materials including a sign-up for a “Free E-course: How to Earn a 6 Figure Income from Your Writing”. So I signed up (Not with my real email address; this is what email forwarders are for and many blessings on my hosting service for allowing me unlimited forwarders. I make a custom forwarding address for almost everything I sign-up for that might sell my address).

I’m then taken to a funneling page that pitches an incredibly overpriced collection of “web marketing tools and tips” — which are actually free or another MLM/Affiliate scheme — that happens to be on sale right now for a limtied time only (and if you believe that one, I have some lovely beach-front property to sell you in Nebraska). But if you want your “free gifts” scroll to the bottom of the page.Yep, there’s a link for free stuff, but…

When you click on the link you are redirected to another pitch page for “Internet marketing for free” at another URL that informs all of the free gifts have been consolidated on this one page (obviously a more recent WordPress based page), so just scroll down and click below. I had a couple of more minutes before the library opened, so I scrolled down to find the link “marketing for writers” and clicked…

And found myself back at the original pitch page with the same article, the same Yahoo ads, the same product pitch and sign-up box. I had come full-circle.

I can assure you that the primary way this person is earning a six-figure income from writing is getting suckers to pay big money for, at best, a repackaged collection of old, freely-available-online-or-at-your-local-library tips, affiliate sales, ad sales and reselling your email address (among other things there’s absolutely no privacy policy or terms and conditions statement for any of the sign-up forms). She’s not interested in selling your book; she’s interested in selling her “books” to you!

So don’t waste your time or risk your email box.

I hope to have up very soon (finally, getting through my classes and consulting gigs) a resource page of legitimate and recommended guides to marketing for writers. In the meantime, read Ariel Gore’s How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lightsand Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors, Book Publicity through Social Networkingfor starters (and yes, they’re an Amazon Affiliate Link, but to titles I highly recommend and a lot cheaper than a scammer’s self-pubbed drivel).

Nature Writing: the value of journaling for writers

Use specific sense-based words & avoid abstract words like "beautiful" in your descriptions

Use specific sense-based words & avoid abstract words like “beautiful” in your descriptions

Now this is irony (unlike the song “Ironic” by Morissette)! My first post-lunch (a vast hoard of potluck foods and beverages from the Richard Hugo House volunteers and Costco) workshop was canceled, however, the workshop I wanted to attend at the start of the day replaced it. It’s enough to make me believe in being medieval (see the earlier post about Medieval in P.A.).

The Nature Writing workshop was presented by Susan Zwinger, a second generation naturalist, nature writer and avid nature journalist. Her journals are works of art by themselves with not only her lovely handwriting, but sketches, paintings and collage.

She emphasized that nature journals are useful to all types of writers, fiction and non-fiction. The point of a nature journal is a) learning to see deeply, with all the senses and b) collecting observations and details about our natural world that can add texture to our writing.

Here are some of Susan Swinger’s tips for keeping a nature journal:

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Ordinary People: a writing exercise to capture characterization

Try writing Flash Fiction vignettes from different viewpoints and moments in the character's life

Try writing Flash Fiction vignettes from different viewpoints and moments in the character’s life

Writer and teach Margot Case offered a brilliant workshop at he Richard Hugo House Write-O-Rama workshop entitled Ordinary People. We read excerpts from “Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning” by Donald Bartheleme, Sixty Stories.

I’d tried The Dead Father by Bartheleme, but found it at the wrong time and had never tried Donald Bartheleme again. What a mistake! I’m hot footing it to the book store to find more of his short stories.

Essentially, “Robert Kennedy Saved from Drowning” is written as a series of vignettes supposedly from Robert Kennedy’s life by various people’s viewpoints. It’s similar to a collection of Flash Fiction.

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