Monthly Archives: March 2011

Roadrunner in the Backyard

Roadrunner in backyard One of the roadrunners in the neighborhood decided to jump over our wall and explore our backyard back in January.  I actually got a couple of pictures, and one turned out okay.  It’ll be harder to get pictures of the coyotes since they’re only out at night and prefer to stay in the arroyos.

I am NOT a Literary Agent

I am NOT a literary agent or editor at a publishing house.  Don’t query me or send me copies of unpublished manuscripts.  I will have to destroy them unread.  I hate doing that, but it has to be done for privacy reasons–sending stuff to me is like sending your medical records to a complete stranger out of the phone book.  Don’t do it!

It’s Not Indie VS. Traditional, It’s Indie AND Traditional

As fiction writers, we live in an exciting era right now due to the new distribution opportunities available through Kindle, PubIt, and Smashwords. But to hear some writers talk, it’s Indie vs. Traditional, and one has to choose sides.

Well, a lot of neo-pros and old (20+ years) pros I’ve been talking to are excited about being able to do both indie publishing and traditional publishing at the same time.  Having more revenue streams as a writer makes it easier to pay the bills each month. And as long as one is careful about reading and negotiating away any excessively broad non-compete clauses in a traditional publishing book contract, doing so should not be a big deal.

Short stories still need to go to traditional markets first if you want to sell them to a place like The New Yorker.  But if you write a novelette or novella that can’t find a traditional home, it is now possible to indie publish it instead of just letting it sit around unpublished. And once the exclusive time frame on a traditionally published story expires (and if you didn’t sign an all rights contract), you can republish it as an indie reprint to generate more income.

But one thing I want to emphasize is the importance of thinking twice before giving away a royalty cut to an e-packager for an indie story.  Dean Wesley Smith and J. A. Konrath and Barry Eisler debate the pros and cons at length in a post put up today.

We’re all in for a wild run over the next few years in publishing. Since I used to work in the software industry–which makes publishing look glacial by comparison–I confess I’ve welcomed the publishing technology breakthroughs that are bringing on a faster business pace.

Helpful Links on Media Insurance

I’ve been having to do research on what media insurance is available for writers and small publishers, and realized I ought to share what links and resources I’ve found so far since other writers may want to know about them.  What follows is a long list of links.

The best discussion of the legal issues involved with online publishing (including insurance needs) is still the Citizen Media’s Law Project guide at Harvard University. This guide provides a terrific discussion on what to look for in a GOOD insurance policy for media & libel & etc.

I have discovered that NYC lawyer Mark Fowler has been blogging about writers and law for a few months.  He had a terrific thoughtful post on Libel Insurance.

The Author’s Guild offers a media liability policy to its members.

The Media Blogger’s Association also offers media liability policy to members.

The National Writer’s Union does not currently have a media insurance policy for members.  They do offer contracts and grievance assistance to members through their committees.  They recently helped a member who had to deal with a threatened libel suit in Pakistan. A writer does not have to be published to join the NWU, just has to provide evidence that he or she is actively pursuing a career as a writer.  Dues are on a sliding scale, depending on writing income, and start at $120/year, and go up to $340/year if making over $45,000/year in writing income.

Through Mark Fowler’s website Rights of Writers, I found out about the media insurance policy benefit for members of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association:
Yearly membership dues start at about $129/year to join the IBPA.   A writer who is self-publishing through his/her own tiny press can join the IBPA.

There is an online insurance broker that will work with individuals to get a policy from AXIS PRO.   I don’t know what the pricing difference is (i.e. if money is saved by going through IBPA instead), and I don’t know the broker and have not done a policy with them.

Dealing With a Mental Jam When Writing

Here’s a neat trick I learned from a pro that can help to figure out what’s going on when a story jams (I’m pretty sure it was David Morrell’s trick, but it might have been Lawrence Block).

1.) Open up Notepad or TextFile on the computer.

2.) Call a meeting of the characters. Imagine sitting down with them.

3.) Now type in “What’s wrong? Why are things jamming up?”

4.) Write everyone’s responses down, including your own. Keep going until the characters and you run out of things to say.

5.) Now type in “What do I need to do to get this story moving again? What do you need?”

6.) Write down everyone’s responses.

I’ve been surprised at how well it works. Sometimes the problem turns out to be a missing scene, or that I need to throw the entire draft out and start over, or that the story isn’t ready to be written, or that I’ve simply got a bad case of self-doubt and need to plow onwards.

It’s weird to have imaginary characters bitching at me in my head during the “meeting” as I transcribe stuff down, but so far it’s always been a help to do the exercise (if only to nail down what the problem is).