Feeding Time

One of the most important steps in publishing is feedback, whether it’s from an editor or another trusted “expert” type source, which means it’s also important for an author to be able to graciously accept constructive criticism.

Sometimes that’s really difficult.

It’s natural for a writer to develop an emotional attachment to a creative work, and it’s hard to listen to anyone criticize your baby.

Still, in the end, the result is a better story. And that’s why I’m happy I have an honest person reading my own projects.

Seeing our work through the eyes of others is how we grow.

We Are Borg

At first I thought it might be an April Fool’s joke, but it turns out that Amazon.com really is asking print-on-demand publishers to use their BookSurge POD facilities in order to sell their print-on-demand products at Amazon.com.

Until this, print-on-demand publishers were using their own facilities or able to outsource their printing needs for whatever cost was effective for them. Now, in order to sell on the world’s largest Internet bookstore, POD publishers must agree to use the Amazon facilities at Amazon’s prices.

Amazon says POD publishers are free to continue to use their own facilities to print their books, but they must provide a minimum number of books to Amazon to warehouse if they do it that way. POD publishers outside of BookSurge are also free to use Amazon’s printing only for PODs sold on Amazon.com, but use their own for PODs sold anywhere else.

What will the fallout of all this be? A few uninformed guesses/predictions that I do hope are wrong:

1. Print-on-demand services will up their printing prices for the inconvenience of having to split their production methods in order to sell products on Amazon.com.

2. BookSurge will build a larger POD customer base because it can afford to charge POD authors less than other publishers to sell an author’s POD work at Amazon.com.

3. Within five years, someone younger, fresher, and with innovative new ideas will find a way to break Amazon’s stranglehold, selling POD books faster, cheaper, and to a wider audience.

Well, No. 3 could just be fanciful optimism on my part.

Publisher Bloomsbury sees life after Harry Potter

Publisher Bloomsbury sees life after Harry Potter

“We have a clutch of strong titles coming out this year, including … a new Margaret Atwood novel, and the Deathly Hallows coming out in paperback”

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc’s 2007 profits more than doubled, boosted by the release of the final Harry Potter book, and it was confident a post-Hogwarts pipeline of new titles would keep readers buying. via The Boston Globe

[Topix Publishing News]

A Life of Their Own

If you’ve spent any time at all exploring the technique of creative writing, you’ve no doubt heard some writers say that they start out with a certain story in mind, and then, as characters are invented and fleshed out, the piece takes on a life of its own. The story that the author started out writing, in turn, potentially comes out as a different tale altogether.

There are others who say the “characters developing a life of their own” is foolishness, and that a “good writer” develops an outline for a piece long before sitting down at the keyboard to pound out the details.

I am not here to say who is right.

I will say, though, that I’m not very good at outlining a story before the story has unfolded in my word processor. Rather, I tend to write segments of a story, and then outline those segments on paper or index card. It’s mainly a process I use to keep up with what has happened to who so far (as well as the detail of my characters themselves). In short, I use outlines more for preventing inconsistencies than as a guide for developing my tale.

Is it the “right” way to write creatively?

Is there a right way?

I prefer to think there isn’t.

Teach Your Children Well

When I was a kid I went through a variety of creative “phases.”

I wrote short stories. I wrote poetry (yes, poetry, even before I was an angsty teen) and songs. I even drew a comic strip (“Bugland Bugs,” which was a simple black-and-white featuring a variety of bugs with strong personalities). 

Now, most people look at that type of imagination and creativity in childhood and simply see a kid at play, or a phase that the child will outgrow as he enters his teens and then on into adulthood. I daresay most people outside of my parents saw my written work, my comics, and my poetry as simple attempts to relieve my own childhood boredom and nothing more.

To me, though, those creations were important work. And I worked tirelessly on perfecting the funny in my comics, as well as the depth of the characters and their images on the page. On my stories and poetry, I wrote and wrote and wrote until my right wrist and my fingers on that hand ached so much I could write no more.

I was fortunate enough to have one adult besides my parents in my life at the time who encouraged such pasttimes, and who actually made an effort to help me see some fruits of my labor. One of my Fourth and Fifth Grade teachers actually submitted some of my work (written and comic) to the school newspaper, whereupon I received my first byline/credit ever in a mass-distributed work.

I won’t say those works won me any awards or accolades or friends. They didn’t. But they were a significant boost to my self-esteem and an encouragement to keep up my hard work.

The greatest encouragement I ever received, though, came not from my family, nor my friends, nor my teachers, nor any other individual with whom I can associate a face in my memory.

One day, out of the blue, I decided to submit “Bugland Bugs” to DC Comics for possible publication as… what? I didn’t really know. I was too young to commit to a complete monthly comic book, and I had no idea whether DC syndicated comic strips in newspapers. All I knew was that they published Superman, my personal comic book hero, and I thought that might make them a great place to submit my own comic.

I put my cover letter and a sample of my work in an envelope and shipped it off to the address printed in the front of a recent issue of Superman I had lying around. I was hopeful, but not really expecting a reply.
 Although I was an optimistic child, I knew full well that the world of comic book publishing was run by adults, and that kids weren’t typically hired on for anything beyond their own Lemonade stands or selling mail-order greeting cards and Grit.

I also submitted my work to EC Comics (then-owner of Mad Magazine) and Marvel, just to hedge my bets.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later I received in the mail what would become my very, very first (of many) rejection letter… from an editor at DC Comics.

I remember holding the envelope in my hands, gawking at the big DC logo on the front of it, and turning it over and over, both excited and trepiditious of its contents.

Finally, I ripped it open. On the back of the letter was an image of all my favorite DC characters, standing on each other’s shoulders from bottom of the page to top (Superman was at the very bottom, of course, supporting them all). On the front was a neatly typed letter from a DC editor whose name I do not remember, although I do remember most of his words: “Your characters aren’t yet developed enough for publication at DC,” he wrote. “But it’s a good start. Keep working at it.”

That letter made my day.

Sure, I got rejected, but my work had been noticed by someone at a powerhouse publication like DC Comics (and I was only about 10 years old). And that editor, whoever he was, was not required by any law or sense of decency to bother writing back to me. He could’ve just tossed “some kid’s” work in the trash and forgotten it, but he didn’t.

I was honored to be officially rejected by DC Comics, and I still am to this day.

I wish I had kept that letter, though. I do not know what happened to it.

New Look

Thanks to the brilliant efforts of my graphic designer fiancée, TimeTides has a brand new logo and theme that better “reflects” (heh heh) its content and name.

There’s also a new “subscriptions” feature for those who sign up for a free account here at TimeTides. You can be automatically notified of new content here by creating an account and then subscribing to my blog, product posts, or posts in any number of publishing categories.

Just click the link to the right to register, login, visit your “My Account” page and click “Subscriptions” to get started.

Nature or Nurture?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Journalism Net Effect Defies Expectation

“The afternoon newspaper is in a sense being reborn online”

The Internet has profoundly changed journalism, but not necessarily in ways that were predicted even a few years ago, a study on the industry released Sunday found.

It was believed at one point that the Net would democratize the media, offering many new voices, stories and perspectives. Yet the news agenda actually seems to be narrowing, with many Web sites primarily packaging news that is produced elsewhere, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual State of the News Media report. Read more

[Topix Publishing News]

To Publish or Self-Publish

Recently, while thinking about some work I’d done on a new
project I’m working on, I happened upon an article about writing a
novel in 100 days or less.

There’s a great amount of good advice in there, especially for the
first-time novelist. But along about the last 10 days of his process, I
started wondering how long ago the article was written, and why there’s
no mention of on-demand printing and self-publishing as options for the
first-timer.

In a little less than a decade, the Internet changed the world, in both the way we communicate and the way we conduct business, especially in the world of publishing.

Newspapers (particularly their classifieds) are struggling with the
freedom websites like CraigsList provide. People no longer have to pay
a person on the phone, who may or may not be able to spell, money to
print their ad for a single time in a product fewer and fewer people
are bothering to pick up.

Likewise, there once was a time when a writer could spend months or
even years of his life working on his craft, his masterpiece, and it
was up to an editor or an agent to determine whether the book was
“worth” the risk and cost of printing to the publisher, to try in
advance to guess how well it would sell.

The article above goes so far as to even suggest what type of bag to
carry around your printed manuscript in and things to do and think
about while you’re struggling to get your work represented by an agent
or accepted by a publisher.

These days, though, we have lulu.com, createspace.com, booksurge.com,
eBook/PDF-creation tools, and gigabytes upon gigabytes of cheap Web
space. Indeed, these days if you want to get your words out there for
the world to read, it’s much easier than relying on an agent or an
editor to decide for you whether the public will ever get the
opportunity.

Of course, easier opportunity still does not guarantee that the public will bite and read your work, and there is the expense of actually marketing your work to consider, which traditional publishers perform well.

Still, if you’re like me, you’re writing because it’s something you
like to do, and you’re publishing just because you want to get your
work out there, and not necessarily to make a living off it.

Back to work.