Promote or Perish: 3 services publishers used to offer.

Publisher. Publication. Publicity.

traveling_salesman

Hit the bricks and sell those novels!

See the similarity in those words? It’s not a coincidence. Those who hang out the “Publisher” shingle on their little shack are promising, by their very title, to create publicity for the works they print.

And yet, authors, how many times have you been preparing to submit a manuscript, and been deflated by a statement like this?

Over the past ten years, the publishing industry has changed drastically. These changes now mean that authors carry the responsibilities of promotion, marketing, and publicity for their works. Many authors fail at this difficult task, meaning their contract is cancelled, and any future contracts are at risk. It’s a cold, hard fact that an author’s books must become popular for the industry to be able to keep publishing.

This is an excerpt from the submissions page of a small, independent press. I have changed (and, I must say, corrected) some of the vocabulary and sentence structure, in order to keep search engines from locating the exact source. I would credit this publisher, but it might seem I am picking on them. I am not. Such clauses, to some degree or another, are fixtures in most small publishers’ disclaimers these days. That “cold, hard fact” is one that has affected us all.

Here’s the thing, though, about facts: people with power are the ones who create them. I think most of us would agree that, even now, publishers hold much more power than authors.  Continue reading

Snowdance

As the temperature rises to the point of causing slow insanity in the town where I live, people often ask me if I wish I’d stayed in a cooler climate. Sometimes I have to think about it, but my answer is always ‘no.’

Here’s why.

Snowy

Snowdance

It was her dance with this northern land that had kept him here.

He would have sought warmer climates if just for himself, but could not imagine life without her delight over the glittering flakes and various snow-beings: men, angels, and bunnies. She would advance each day into the spiritual winter, then return to him with stories that overflowed him, for that evening, with perfect understanding.

He could not imagine her dance without the winter as her partner. Continue reading

Robbed by the Girl Who Played Kimberly

Diff'rent Strokes

So many drums…

Remember Kimberly? She was the girl who moved to the beat of that other drum. While her adopted brother from Harlem was asking everyone what they were talkin’ ’bout, Kimberly was attending private school, deciding whether to go on ski trips with boys, and even grappling (for twenty-two minutes) with Bulimia.

Kimberly was also my very first crush.

Kimberly

Finding a way to shine…

I’m not convinced that I can entirely credit my crush to the lovely Dana Plato, who quietly played Kimberly behind her much louder costar. It was more that I had grown up just enough to notice the first age-appropriate girl who appeared on my TV screen. Nevertheless, there are some ‘firsts’ a boy never forgets—his first big TV, his first belly-laugh, and his first crush—so Kimberly lives on, to this day, in my affections.

The Girl Who Played Kimberly did rob me of something, though. She robbed me of the illusion that notoriety brings everlasting success. Continue reading

Viewpoint Variation

Recently, I was struggling to distinguish the characters in one of my first-person novels. Every character in the story had their own personality, which I had clearly planned and defined, but I was starting to see that they all behaved too much like the narrator. As an exercise, I recalled an incident that happened to me as a very young boy, then forced myself to rewrite it as it might have happened from the perspective of a teenager—who, at the time, seemed to me like a man—I had encountered.

This is the result. Time will tell if it helps with my novel, but sourcing and rewriting an event from a writer’s own experience can be a valuable strategy. It might even be the best definition of the irritating old adage, “Write What You Know.”

 

Manly Pursuits

By K. Alan

beetleIn summertime, songs would reach Stanley through the fruit vines as he fought to remove an old tree. Every morning, he would arrive to Mr. Greenberger’s ranch-house, wanting to wrangle. He wanted his calluses to come from reins and saddles, not from a shovel. He wanted to be a man for just a few minutes.

Instead, Greenberger would send him in the rusted VW to hack at this stump as its roots clawed the soil. The old oak would have blocked some proposed grapevines; it had to go. Stanley put a sleeve to his brow, and stared along the imaginary line of vines up the hill.

Continue reading