Saturday, July 29, 2006

All About Vanity

Having read a lot about publishing during the two decades I have been trying to get my own fiction published, I always dismissed vanity presses as wastes of money at best and scams at worst, but I'm wondering with the new forces at work if things are changing just a bit. Case in point: Lulu, which apparently allows authors to publish books more affordably (no set-up fees, no minimum orders). It also allows authors to retain rights of their books. Lulu does take a commission cut of any books sold, but authors get royalties as well on any books sold.

I don't know too much about the service, although I did notice it seems as if the books get sold through Lulu -- I would only imagine that's the case if Lulu takes a commission. It had occurred to me it would be nice to be able to get the added exposure through, for example, but I'm not sure if that's the way it works.

Anyway, it's just food for thought (and I'd be curious if anyone out there has used Lulu and can give more information about how useful it is to authors). I'd imagine that anybody who decided to use it would have to make a real grassroots effort to market their own work, but that's not very difficult in these days of blogging and word-of-mouth marketing that's happening on the Internet.

Another thought I've had is the publishing industry kind of deserves it if talent is starting to become more self directed. It seems to me that the publishing industry has become a marketing machine more than a literary one, eager to churn out blockbusters with little literary value (case in point: The Da Vinci Code). Then there's the story that infuriated me a few months ago: that of the Harvard student who got the book deal (without a book!) -- with an alleged half-million dollar advance from Little, Brown to write it. I'm not sure which was more insulting, the fact that her completed work turned up many instances of plagiarism, or the fact that a major publisher would give a half-million dollar advance to an untried teenager. It kind of disgusted me as a writer who has worked for years to hone my craft and has never made a red cent. Meanwhile, it made it obvious that in many cases, publishers are putting "marketability" ahead of talent and have every intention on throwing money into a huge marketing campaign -- that's the marketing machine element I mentioned above. The big, corporate publishers aren't doing literature any favors with stunts like that one. It makes you want to look at any "blockbuster" novel with a jaundiced eye.

Rant, anyone? I guess the good news is, big publishing houses aren't the only way to go these days. It's sort of sad, though, because us writers had also steered clear of self publishing because we sort of wanted to prove to ourselves that we had "talent" according to someone else's standards, I guess. Now that technology is changing the way that distribution (and marketing) works, I guess the new question might be: Who decides what is "good"? Maybe soon, the actual readers will hold exponentially more power, rather than the big publishers or ivory tower critics.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Time to Rant

All right, I guess this wouldn't be the same blog it used to be if I didn't rant a little about daily, monthly, yearly irritations of being an aspiring fiction writer. In my anal-retentive spreadsheet of submissions that I've been keeping for years now (okay, so it's not a spreadsheet, it's a Word document with columns and rows, I can't use Excel to save my life), I have a few no responders highlighted in red. Sending a fiction submission out, having it sit at a magazine or e-zine or what have you for months, and then never get the common decency of a reply... well, it's irritating.

Among the naughty is a magazine I ran across in Poets & Writers magazine, called Bucks County Review. Apparently at some point it was a "new venture" according to the editors' notes, but apparently it's also a slow venture or a "oh, never mind" venture. I submitted in November 2005 and still have received no response, and emailed queries about the status of my submission are bounced back. Oh, joy.

Another market I happened across in Poets & Writers was Lorraine & James. I had never heard of them until I saw their call for submissions in Poets & Writers in February. As of May, the magazine's Web site said it is already on hiatus. Easy come, easy go. (I'm sure there's a sad story behind this -- it said not only might this be a hiatus but they might call it a wrap -- but it's still a bit frustrating when you wait three months and never receive a reply and then come to find out the magazine's just gone.)

Well over a year ago I sent a story to storySouth. Don't ask me what's up with them, but I never got a response even with a few follow-up emails (that actually didn't get bounced back) so I say, um, get with it people. I was a little surprised because storySouth is behind the Million Writers Award every year, so I would have expected a bit more professionalism there.

And I do have one last question: does anyone know what's up with The Paumanok Review? I sent a submission there and got bouncebacks to my followup emails. However I have dealt with Katherine Arline before and she is very professional. So... I'm curious if anyone knows if that publication is on hiatus or what.

Okay, there are a few other rant-worthy publications out there when it comes to non-responders, but I guess I can save that for another day. This is getting a little long.

Ah, the writing life. It can be... awfully quiet sometimes. Truth is, I'd rather have somebody respond that they hate and despite a short story of mine (which has happened, well they didn't say that in that many words, but that was the gist), than just get silence. And of course, the dreaded email bounceback does make me worry whether everybody's okay over there, wherever they are.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing...


Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Prodigal Blogger

I was very touched to see that Maktaaq had posted about my return on her blog -- one of the best and most well written blogs out there. If you haven't already, be sure to check out her site -- here lately it has featured a very charming cutie named Lucian among many other interesting and fun posts.

I have had two short stories published in e-zines during my blogging hiatus. However I've started to think that my goal needs to go to the next level: to get published in a print publication or at least a publication that pays; many aspiring writers know that's easier said than done. I do appreciate any exposure my stories get through e-zines -- after all, when you've got a day job, you can write as a labor of love as opposed to just plain labor -- but with my roommate having moved to India and money being tight since I've decided to live alone, things are going to be a little bit sparse around here.

Of course, my new goals are subject to a lot of flexibility. After all, this summer it seems like everywhere I turn when I'm researching markets finds magazines that have gone on hiatus or aren't accepting new submissions until, say, October (which of course is getting closer all the time, come to think of it).

Then there are the non-responders -- magazines you submit to that never respond, nor do they respond to queries. That is a frequent subject of my rants because it really wastes a writer's time. But that's another post for another time.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,


Thursday, July 20, 2006

A New Chapter

Well what has gone on in the last year? Quite a lot. I had that videogame addiction that did take up a whole lot of time. (I'm lucky nobody did an intervention, quite frankly -- it was so easy to lose time that I saw a few sunrises while I was playing it!) It was good because I met a really great person in there, and did have a lot of fun for many many months, but it got a little harrowing because I suddenly felt like I had a second job in this strange virtual world. I suppose there's a story in there somewhere for sure. I quit in November but have had lots of writing deadlines for work, so it was harder and harder to blog, but I think my time might be freeing up just a tad soon.

In other news, my roommate of about 8 years is moving to India for 2 years. That's going to be a pretty drastic shift in lifestyle, and it's sad although now I can definitely be the writer in a garret (haha). And since expenses will increase, well, what better excuse to sit around and read and write in my off hours! I certainly won't be out spending money. And I will convert her bedroom to an office/study/library, so that's really good news. Being crammed in my bedroom was at times a little bit like a garret.

Most of the reading I've been doing has been work-related, but one really excellent novel (given to me by the really great person mentioned above) was And the Ass Saw the Angel, by Nick Cave (of the Bad Seeds and Birthday Party). It's by no means easy fare -- it's a very dark novel with what I would describe as seriously southern Gothic overtones -- but it's got some beauty in some of the most amazing imagery I've ever encountered. He can make something ugly or frightening seem absolutely beautiful with his prose. I'm glad that I read it -- it inspired me to whip out the highlighter pen to highlight interesting passages -- and therefore, I am glad to be able to recommend it since I think it's probably fairly obscure. (I also recently saw the movie The Proposition -- he wrote the screenplay for that, and I also highly recommend that one, again, though, it's pretty heavy fare and certainly not comfortable, but I know many of you who have visited this blog in the past are not faint of heart!)

On that note I'll close for now. I do have plenty of ranting to do about literary markets -- I guess I've stored a lot of angst up in the last year, so I will try to post again soon. Thanks for reading and keep on writing!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Library Thing

All right, so I haven't blogged in more than a year. That's really sad. Time is so short and while I have been reading, I haven't been blogging. (I have been plugging away writing short fiction though and still trying to get it published!).

Anyway the reason I was struck to blog once again is this really cool site called Library Thing, which allows folks to put their library books/reading lists online and rate them, tag them, and review them, as well as see what people with similar reading tastes have been reading. Cool stuff! I just had to share.

Maybe I will start blogging again a little bit more regularly -- sorry to all the folks in the literary blogosphere that I neglected. I will say I did ditch my terrible video game habit, which really did kind of get in the way. I hope all's well out there and everybody's reading some great stuff for the summer!