Archive for December, 2009

Choose Your Poison

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

As the Publishing world shrinks (you knew that was happening, right? If not, sorry for the leading spoiler alert) we find that authors are growing increasingly frantic about how to craft their pitches, and how to effectively communicate the nature of their work. The motivating reason for this is completely understandable, how does one accurately convey the project without placing it into an easily defined (and easily recognized) category? The danger here is in beginning to think about your work as if it can only belong in one category. And lately, we’ve seen a lot of authors give themselves either the Commercial badge or the Literary one. We know that authors feel immense pressure to project one identity or the other… but this isn’t “Dirty Harry”, No one is pointing a gun at you and growling, “Well?! Are you an artist or a businessman? Which one is it gonna be, punk?!”

If you’ve been describing yourself as a Commercial Author, be aware that while you are busy trying to hit the note that implies, “My books are easily read by the masses and will therefore be imminent bestsellers”, you are simultaneously sounding alarms for the agent/editor that are along the lines of, “Is this another author churning out crap that they merely consider publishable because it follows a formula? Why did I get into this business if I can’t find any literature worth championing?” Commercial Authors, you chose that term perhaps because you define yourself in opposition to the (sometimes) negative connotation of literary work, wherein “nothing happens” or “it’s indecipherable”. But be careful there—you don’t want to tell us what you are NOT, because to rely on those stereotypes can and will work against you.

If you’ve been describing yourself as a Literary Author, keep it in perspective. Presenting your work with the suggestion that you count Dickens and Dostoevsky among your latterday counterparts is like wearing a red t-shirt with EGOMANIAC printed on the front. You hope that the term “literary” will prepare your reader for the quality of your writing, but remember that these terms are subjective. Yes, you will weed out the agents/editors that are looking for fast-paced, mass-appeal fiction BUT if you raise the expectations you are more likely to disappoint. Let’s not forget that commercial fiction doesn’t sell because it is “crap”, it sells because in some aspect of storytelling, that author has hit a perfect, golden note. That’s something to acknowledge, even if you don’t choose to read their work. There’s a grain of salt in even the most buttery of popcorn literature. Figure out why a book is reaching readers. You don’t (and shouldn’t) have to emulate it, but it’s good for you to understand it.

The title of this post is “Choose Your Poison”, but perhaps what it really boils down to is the simple act of not forcing yourself to remain rooted in one neighborhood. By embracing the best of both poisons, you may find the antidote. More importantly, when you are attempting to interest some publishing professional in your writing—don’t tell us where it should fit, tell us why we will love it!

Indie Next Picks!

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

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We’re ecstatically excited to announce that three of our authors have been chosen as upcoming Indie Next picks! These picks are specially selected by independent booksellers across America, and it’s an honor to be included. The three from our authors are all very different, but each is a treasure and sure to please.

A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS is a debut memoir by Elena Gorokhova, a coming-of-age story of her own childhood in Soviet Russia. Her portrait of Russia is emotionally rich and told in stunning prose.

WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG is a hilarious and brilliant collection of essays by novelist Lisa Scottoline, who gathered together her wildly popular columns from The Philadelphia Inquirer to create this gem. Not to be missed!

THEREBY HANGS A TAIL is the second book in the Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn, which debuted last February and built an instant fan base. Bernie is a down-on-his-luck private investigator, whose dog Chet narrates each novel with an uncannily convincing voice. Hysterical, suspenseful and completely addicting!

Casturbation

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

There’s a word in the publishing industry that describes, more or less, the act of an author fantasizing about which actors and actresses will be starring in the movie that could be adapted from their not-yet-published novel. The term is “Casturbation” (NOT coined by The Friedrich Agency), and here’s why it’s a mindset to avoid.

1.) Because you are writing a novel, not a screenplay. You’re trying to get published, right? So you’ve chosen to tell your story in writing, and you’ve chosen to reach out to an audience of readers for a reason. If your goal is to have your name appear on a screen following “based on the book by” then save yourself the time and emotional exhaustion of publishing.

2.) Because this business doesn’t work like that. If you are fortunate enough to get published, the film deal is yet another hurdle to jump, and even if you get an option (wherein you grant the film rights to a producer, writer, studio, or director temporarily), getting the film made is an even taller, more wobbly hurdle to jump after that. Moreover, book-to-film deals tend to have an element of the “random”– such and such television celebrity loved the book and happens to be looking for a project to help them break into feature films. And like the publishing industry, the film industry is dramatically narrowing the scope of their content. In publishing, everyone wants you to add a vampire to your story. In film, everyone wants you to deliver a non-stop action-packed adrenaline rush (exploding cars are a plus).

3.) Because you will break your own heart. Remember back in third grade, when you had a crush on Jason Jones and so you scribbled “Mrs. Jason Jones” a hundred times in your composition notebook? Bad idea. It’s called getting ahead of yourself. So take it one step at a time– focus on your writing, how can it be stronger? How can you produce more of the (humor, drama, suspense, insight) that you wish for your reader? All else should be calmly placed on your mental back-burner.

*And a note for writers who will soon be querying agents for the first time– for Goodness sake, don’t begin your letter with, “I think Meryl Streep would be a shoe-in for the heroine of my novel…”