Monday, October 28, 2019

The meme "Smart Authors Don't Spend Their Own Money to Publish"

Author Incubator looks at the meme “Smart Authors Don’t Spend their Own Money to Publish”.
Economically the trick is to understand that, at least with new authors, traditional publishers succeed in with home runs with about one in ten books.  It’s like swinging for home runs against Garrett Cole?
When a traditional book fails, the author has often gotten an advance “of his own money” and the publisher eats the loss.  (Author’s Guild makes a lot about being able to get advances to make a living.)
I had always thought that most books published with advances are from established authors, or from people who have become celebrities in some specific niche. That might well include politicians.
If a book succeeds, a self-published book will usually make much more money for an author than a trade-published book.  (It’s less clear with POD, where royalty is intermediate.  Typically you might invest about $3000 for a book, and get about 20%.  Still, you could make a profit if you could sell 1000 books this way.  But it’s unlikely to happen until a new author is already “known” from a previous book or some other business, charitable, or political niche.
Her video has two “training slides” doing the math, and they are quite instructive.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Self-publishers need to be wary of scams that can steal their "rights"

Here is a quick video:  “Publishing Scams to Avoid”.  This video is intended for people who have self-published, either with their own print runs or with POD companies. 

Beware of the phone call that claims you have been “discovered” and of offers for services literary agents don’t do – and asking for money.

I get a lot of these calls. 

There are problems with people losing their “rights” too.  It’s a little hard to see how this can work if the author didn’t get any “consideration”.
On Youtube, the Author Incubator channel seems to have some anti-self-publishing videos, and I’ll look into what these say soon.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Harper's presents forum "Constitution in Crisis"

I can remember in junior English, 1959-1960 in high school with “Miss Nelson” (who reverse commuted to Arlington VA from Washington DC, where at the time she had few voting rights – and she did not have a television set) – when she introduced the idea of periodical literature as being worthy of citation in term papers – especially high quality ones like Harper’s and Atlantic.

So that’s mainstream media today, oh, so privileged for monetization.

But the October 2019 issue has an important discussion, “Do we need the Constitution?”  Think about it, the British “constitution” is informal, and Canada’s has a grossly complicated history as to what is really in it.  The United States, with its articles and amendments, seems straightforward in a way.

The Forum in the Atlanta includes Donna Edwards (former US House member), Mary Ann Franks (University of Miami School of Law), David Law (University of Hong Kong), Lawrence Lessig (Harvard Law school and well known for many articles on Internet law), and Louis Michael Seidman, Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.
The basic link is here.

There is a summary article (Jan 2019) by Kevin Baker. 
The most startling point in the discussion is the most startling, and maybe Seidman said it most bluntly, that the Constitution may be illegal, and arbitrary, in the way that it overrode the Articles of Confederation. And it was set up by privileged white males, as we know from history.  It’s pretty easy to imagine the rationalizations to stop secessions.

I still remember a clandestine meeting in Newark NJ of the People’s Party where they talked about getting everybody to riot so we would have call for a “constitutional convention”.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pros and cons of self-publishing, in 2019

Meg LaTorre, of the iWriterly channel, discusses the pros and cons of self-publishing your own book.

Off the bat, one common strategy for some fantasy and sci-fi authors is to give away your first book if you plan a long series.
There is a lot of emphasis on freedom of control of creative content and schedule.
On the con side, the lack of “external validation”.  And you have to “fit the bill”.
She said the average self-published book sells less than one hundred copies in its lifetime. Self-published authors (usually) don’t have much scale.
She also says that publishing houses offer much larger royalty percentages on e-books than print.
Legitimate marketing events (bookstore appearances) are your responsibility.  When writers are introverts.
In a later installment she will describe her own self-publishing process for a major sci-fi novel. 

She did not discuss self-publishing facilitators (starting with Author Solutions) and they work in very different ways.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

"If I Don't Make It, I Love You": collection of essays by survivors of gun violence (preview) with a surprising observation

Today the Washington Post published (p. S3, style) a book review of a collection of pieces by people who lived through mass shootings, titled “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You”, from Skyhosre, link, edited by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman, 492 pages. 

The book is in reverse time order, with a piece by Fred Guttenberg from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and goes all the way back to the University of Texas at Austin in 1966. 

The reviewer (Katherine Coldiron) points out that mass shootings were uncommon until after 1997, when in December the high school shooting at Heath High School in Paducah Kentucky happened. Columbine would follow in April 1999.  It’s true that Waco and OKC had happened in April in previous years.  But with the new culture of the Internet, it seemed that some people found provocation they wouldn’t have experienced earlier. 
We don’t have much of an answer for the victims of this, like we do for men lost in combat in war.  It sounds like it has become a matter of sacrifice.  There is a tremendous asymmetry in the risks people have to take.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Judge Jeanine's "Radicals, Resistance, and Revenge": where are the book reviews?

After paying a visit to an Apple store to look into my next Macbook purchase, I went into a Barnes and Noble to buy something and get a parking garage ticket validated – that gives you an idea of how to sell books, doesn’t it.
On the display stand in the entranceway, there was a vertical of Judge Jeanine Pirro’s “Radicals, Resistance and Revenge: The Left’s Plot to Remake America”, from Center Streets in Nashville.

OK, this is a “conservative book”.  The strange thing is that I can’t find legitimate reviews of it online. Here is a stab at it on PJMedia.  Some of the comments suggest that the author has no shame in supporting Donald Trump and resisting impeachment calls.

The title is certainly suggestive.  The “cancel culture” of the past couple of years from the radical Left suggests group “revenge” for past group oppression. That includes calling even moderate people as implicit “white supremacists”.  And it includes the mainstream media’s almost refusing to cover Antifa groups’ thuggist violence and threats to venues of events with even moderate speakers.
The “resistance” might well refer to a call for people to join organized movements rather think and speak for themselves.  But sometimes oppression requires joining up and solidarity.  The trouble is that the Left's moralizing requires them to set up their own authoritarian structure to control the people they think they have liberated. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

New Zealand publisher withdraws publishing James Flynn's book on free speech out of fear that it extra-contextually would violate hate speech laws

Sky News Australia interviews James Flynn, New Zealand author of a manuscript “In Defense of Free Speech”.  The publisher in New Zealand balked at publishing it at the last moment out of fear of offending hate speech laws in New Zealand and Australia and Europe.  

Flynn had discussed Charles Murray’s “Bell Curve” and even disagreed with the possible interpretation that there are genetic factors in race v. IQ differences.  Flynn argues that it is in the final analysis environmental (and about colonialism in the past). But the mere fact that he had restated Murray’s argument meant that it could be taken out of context and incite violence (???)
Flynn says that societies have reached the point where political or social power to enforce norms trumps the ability to look for deeper truths.  But that is how it was in the Middle Ages.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

"Making Your Home Among Strangers": Latina author's novel burned at a Georgia college because she isn't "minority" enough

Students at Georgia Southern University (Statesboro) actually burned (Fahrenheit-451 style) copies of lecturer Jennine Capo Criucet’s novel “Making Your Home Among Strangers”, 2015, St. Martins Press. The book had been assigned reading in some classes.  (Have my books ever been assigned reading?  Maybe once or twice in Minnesota, where I gave two college lectures in 1998-1999). 

Amir Vera and Natalie Johnson have the incident story on CNN. 
Activists seemed to believe the author did not have the authority to write or speak about minority experiences. But she has spoken at thirty other colleges and nothing like this has happened.
Patch has a story about “banned books week”. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Dr. Seuss children's book gets parodied, and the fair use doctrine gets a real test

There is a case before the Ninth Circuit, where “Dr. Seuss Enterprises” sued the authors of a parody book, “Oh the Places You’ll Boldly Go”, created by ComicMix, a parody which maps some Dr. Seuss characters to Star Trek characters with an interplanetary setting, with a title that seems to mock the original “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

I couldn’t find the derivative book on Amazon.

The idea sounds tempting enough in the world of children’s books, but I had always thought there wasn’t much question that derivative or parody books are fair use.  People who “have to make a living” with writing might well consider something like this.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an amicus brief and explanation here

There is a Burning Man parody of the book being read, on YouTube. 

Picture: Burning Man exhibit at Renwick Exhibit in Washington DC, 2018 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Preview of Rothwell's manifesto "A Republic of Equals"

I received a complimentary copy of “Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society” by Jonathan Rockwell, Princeton University Press, 2019, 384 pages, with index and endnotes, very long appendix, the ten chapters run 294 pages.  Rockwell is a principle economist at Gallup and a visiting scholar at the George Washington University in Washington DC.

I suppose using the word “manifesto” in a book title has become a bad thing by now!

The author explains pervasive inequality (as in the Piketty book, July 20, 2014) in terms of unequal access to markets, which has built up over time particularly with respect to race in the United States because of the long tail of slavery and segregation, with practices, for example, like real estate redlining or unequal access to credit, which tends to reinforce itself with circularity. Obviously unequal public schools figures in.  I can recall when I was living in Dallas in the 1980s how many families would move to the areas north of I-635 to have access to “Richardson schools” (or Plano). 

Here is a summary on Kirkus Reviews.
Here’s a typical recent piece by the author in the New York Times, “the social effects of television”, which obviously would extend to social media.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

What do literary agents look for in new fiction today? Also, beware of self-publishing "clones"

“iWriterly”, Meg La Torre explains “why literary agents and editors reject a book after the first page”.

She goes over seven red flags.

First, there is no conflict on the first page (she says readers today are not as patient as to layered plots as were readers in the 80s and 90s). You need to give the reader a reason to want the protagonist to succeed.

Second, you need to show rather than tell (although there is an issue with backstories – perhaps the character has a reason to relive his own backstory).  Use strong verbs and nouns with fewer adverbs and adjectives.

Third, too much backstory early (“information dumps”)

Four, not a clear sense of place and time.

Five – the adverb and adjective problem.

Six – purposeless scenes in the beginning.

Seven – misuse of observer point of view.  Consider whether the author is an omniscient observer, or a “limited omniscient observer” with a close connection to one of the characters.

I have to admit that in my manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I have “information dumps” in chapters 2 and 3.  I think my opening (with a visit to Auschwitz) is OK.  One solution:  Have the character doing something as the second (“Randy”) or third (“Sal”) chapter starts.  For example, in Chap 2, make it more apparent (in a phone call) that Randy’s relationship with his wife is stressed (maybe by his homosexuality). In Chap 3 have Sal (maybe a future boyfriend) hacking Randy with some sort of Edward Snowden technique, then go into Sal’s own backstory for clues as to how the hacking works.  I’ll cover more of this soon on my Wordpress blogs.

She has another video on proper behavior by writers, and at the end she gives a warning about publishing scams, without naming names, and says there is a difference between self-publishing arrangements (where you pay to publish but keep the rights and should have higher royalties) and vanity publishers (where you surrender the rights).  I am not sure today who would fit her definition of vanity publisher.  She also talks a little about book series trademarks and the #cockygate problem, which I'll cover in more detail at another time. 

I wanted to provide a link to a blog post by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware on “copycat clones” of Author Solutions, because I get calls from these companies (voicemails which I don’t answer) all the time. 

Cameron Kasky (March for our Lives) has authored a lot of interesting tweets about writing in the past few days.  Just as John Fish makes videos about reading. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

"Nurturing our Humanity" from Riane Eisler and Douglas P. Fry; fending off authoritarianism with cooperation

I received a free review copy of a new text from Oxford University Press, “Nurturing our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future”, by Riane Eisler and Douglas P. Fry. The copy came from the Center for Partnership Studies, where JD Riane Eisler is president; Fry is a professor in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at UNC in Greensboro.

The book runs 370 pages, comprises twelve chapters and offers endnotes at the end of each chapter.

The book challenges the position that human beings are hardwired for selfishness or narrow forms of tribalism, and that partnership and cooperation, instead of populism and strong-man rule, should develop naturally.  The book also looks at where various societies fall on the “partnership – domination” scale.  This idea sounds conceptually related to the Nolan chart, particularly the line between authoritarian and libertarian.

There are not a lot of review previews out there, but here is one from the Netherlands.
It sounds as if some of this has to do with the problem of whether people will do (for others) what they ought to do because they are “free to do so” or because there is a formal expectation that everyone else has to.

Friday, October 04, 2019

"The Seven Symphonies: A Finnish Murder Mystery" maps a novel plot to a composer's lifetime output

While I was at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock MI on Monday morning, I visited the bookstore next door, and (besides Sept 30 posting) a very intriguing book I picked up is “The Seven Symphonies: A Finnish Murder Mystery”, by Simon Boswell, by Booklocker publishing, 2005, 450 pages, paper.

The story considers the serial murder of musicians in modern day Helsinki.  The chapters of the book are named after the seven symphonies of Jean Sibelius, and the subchapters are named after the movement tempi.  The most triumphant of the set is #2 (which I got to know as a senior in high school, as I did the First, and then the Fifth).  The sixth is like Vaughn Williams, and the Seventh is famous for its one movement.

There is an eighth chapter based on a hypothetical eighth symphony, and the coda for the novel is the quiet “Tapiola”, Op. 112.

I guess Jan Sibelius's lifelong compositional output became a "process piece" that in his own mind became progressively "less bad" (famous 2015 twitter gem).

The book also appears to represent a genre of "Nordic murder mysteries", like the Danish "Smila's Sense of Snow" which became a 1997 film which ends in Greenland (climate change?) with alien overtones.
The book might have relevance because a mysterious assassination of journalists in a small town of Imatra, Finland, on the Russian border in Dec. 2016, about 140 miles north of St. Petersburg.
I had named chapters of my handwritten apocalyptic novel “The Proles” after music tempi in 1969.
I did visit the museum (morning of Monday Sept. 30) as an unattended walkthrough.  Inside the main work room, people were doing crafts and a teenager was sewing the seams of his own shorts, an odd sight.