Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Better Know A Conference: BEA


This week in Better Know a Conference: BEA, or Book Expo America.

BEA is the premier American trade show for commercial book publishers. I've been to the last four conferences, and honestly, it's overwhelming: thousands of industry professionals, publishers, librarians, and members of the media congregate to network, meet authors, sign books/have books signed, attend panels, buy/trade finshed books/advance copies, and get a look at the forthcoming titles from trade publishers all across the spectrum (and country).

Everyone from the Big Six publishers to small literary houses to academic presses will be present, so there's quite literally something for everyone. This year's conference is taking place from Monday, May 23rd to Thursday, May 26th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

The Pros

· BEA is the event for trade publishers in the United States, so everyone who's anyone is usually there. (Think of it as our version of the London or Frankfurt Book Fairs.) Fancy publishers, famous authors, and members of the media (now including bloggers—see below!) will be milling about, so the opportunities to meet celebrities and/or network are pretty much endless.

· This year the BlogWorld and New Media Expo will be co-locating with BEA, so attendees will be able to learn about everything from monetization to social media marketing techniques. Welcome to the publishing world of tomorrow!

· A number of concurrent events—including a day-long "DIY" panel on publishing and self-publishing for aspiring authors on Saturday, May 21st and a book blogger convention on Friday, May 27th—will round out the Expo. Will I be at said book blogger convention? You'll have to go to find out!

· For those of you writing children's books, BEA will be featuring programming by children's book professionals, including the ABA's ABC Children's Book Group and the Children's Book Council.

The Cons

· The major con: you have to have some connection to the industry to attend. BEA uses a system of badge categories—ranging in price from $80 to $310 for three-day passes—for everyone from authors to retailers. If you don't have a direct connection to the industry, you can register as a friend or family member of an attendee, so long as they've already registered and you accompany them to the conference.

· Unlike other conferences I've profiled, BEA isn't focused on up-and-coming authors or the public, but is more centered around established authors and industry insiders. This means that there are no one-on-ones with agents, no conferences with editors, and virtually no chance of showcasing your work. You might get lucky and meet an agent or editor willing to look at your mss, but the chances are pretty much zero. Leave your most recent book at home.

· As is the case with all conferences (and New York City conferences in particular), BEA is expensive. Travel, lodging, conference fees, and souvenirs could easily set you back over $1,000, even if you only stick around for the three main days of the conference (Tuesday, May 24th; Wednesday, May 25th; and Thursday, May 26th).

· BEA is enormous, extraordinarily busy, and can easily overwhelm even the stoutest heart. This is definitely not a conference for rookies (as I quickly learned at my first BEA, which was also my first book conference ever).

Some DOs and DON'Ts

· DO wear comfortable clothes, including shoes. The Javits Center is enormous (which means a lot of walking) and is relatively far from subway stations (which means a lot of walking). For a break from walking, try the author signing pavilion for a lot of standing.

Also, the end of May in New York City is usually hot and humid. Pack accordingly!

· DON'T bring manuscripts to the conference. Don't even do this at conferences that are aimed at connecting writers with agents and editors. Which BEA is not. So don't do it.

PS: Really.

· DO bring a couple of canvas or collapsible nylon bags. They'll have them at the conference, but you're going to be taking home a lot of books (even as we progress further and further into the Digital Future of Publishing). Also buttons. Oh, and bookmarks. And pens. You get the idea.

· DON'T be intimidated. Sure, there are a lot of people. Sure, none of them are going to be interested in your writing right off the bat. So what? Chat up people manning the publisher booths, befriend librarians, make small talk with a couple of authors. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you never know when a connection might come in handy.

· Lastly, DO have a game plan. There's way too much to see and do for you to see and do it all, so make sure you review the schedule of events. You don't want to miss getting a book signed by Your Favorite Author or hearing a panel presentation on That Topic You've Had Questions About Forever.

That's it for this installment, folks. Questions and suggestions in the comments!

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Book a Reading

A few of you have asked me about this, mes auteurs, and since I recognize many of you are working with reduced marketing dollars/publicity attention (or are perhaps even tackling the publication process solo), I thought I'd offer a few pointers.

First of all, make sure you're really ready to read your work in front of friends, family, and strangers, and be sure you've got something to offer that will encourage various venues to host you as a reader. I think it goes without saying, but the more of an "in" you have with the owner, staff, reading organizer, &c, the less well-published or well-known you really need to be.

If, on the other hand, you want to read at Fancy New York City Lounge and you don't know any of the staff there, you'll need an impressive publishing credit or two (or a well-connected friend) to help get your foot in the door.

Next, I'd make a list of the following three types of venues:

1. Places that host readers/reading series where you have a connection with the owner(s) or staff;
2. Places that don't necessarily host readers/reading series but where you have a connection with the owner(s) or staff;
3. Places that host readers/reading series that you admire (but you have no connection with the staff).

In that order! As I've said before: after a certain point, who you know becomes much more important than what you know.

Don't limit yourself to bookstores, either (though they're a great option); cafés, bars, and community centers (your local YMCA, synagogue, community college, library, school auditorium, you name it) are also excellent options.

Once you have your list of potential venues, get in touch with them about a possible reading. A few tips on this:

· If you know the person who runs the readings/venue, give them a call! No-brainer.

· If the venue has a dedicated person who arranges these kinds of events and you're not already best bros with them, call or send a Very Professional E-mail to that person. Call during business hours; shoot an e-mail if it's very early or very late.

· If there's no dedicated contact person, call or e-mail the venue's general number/e-mail address. If you call, be prepared to be handed off to a couple of different people, especially if the place you're calling doesn't usually do readings. Don't lose heart! Or your patience.

· Be professional! If you call, be prepared to talk a little bit about yourself (assuming they ask). If you e-mail, feel free to include a short bio or a link to your website. Remember: the less well you know the venue and its staff, the more established you'll need to be to get a positive response.

· I wouldn't include any kind of sample material with the initial e-mail; most places that are interested in hosting you will ask for it, either as an electronic file (poems, short stories) or in the form of your most recent book.

And that's pretty much it! Once you've cast your net, all you need to do is wait for a response. If you don't receive one, I think it's fair to follow up in a week or two to check in.

If they say no: try again elsewhere.

If they say yes: congratulations! You're doing a reading! Here are some tips for that, courtesy of Brad Phillips.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April Showers Bring May Round Ups

Friday round up with Laura:

Most important things first, friends and foes: HBO has already renewed Game of Thrones. After one episode. Nice work there, HBO. I thought it looked amazing, and I love the cast, but I just wasn't very involved in the story. Maybe because I know how it ends up? Probably because I don't think they can do it justice in a ten episode season. Speaking of not doing justice, did anyone else not like the trailer for The Help? I'm a big Emma Stone fan and I still didn't like it. It just seemed like a rom-com trailer for a decided not rom-com book. But that's just me? Either way, it's got to be better than these terrible literary adaptations.

Abrupt subject change: did you know that, statistically, you're never going to read all the stuff you should? This is a response to Roger Ebert's plea for more well-read folks, and I think it's a fair point. Instead of trying to read boring things we should all spend more time doing all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, and living the Wilder life. Or watching more TV, because James Frey is going back to Oprah, which I think is just to keep him from being sad that he's not one of the six authors on Time's 100 most influential list, and he doesn't have a new HBO series like Jennifer Egan (or, while we're at it, a Pulitzer like Jennifer Egan). He doesn't even have a play like The Shack. Sad face!

I'm off to do Friday things—have a holly, jolly weekend, and see you next week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Now You Can a Borrower and a Lender Be

In case you haven't yet heard, dear readers, the Kindle has caught up with the Nook in one important regard: later this year, you'll be able to borrow Amazon's e-books from public libraries. Odds of me getting a Kindle: slightly improved.

Amazon will be teaming up with OverDrive, a leading provider of digital content for thousands of libraries across the country, to enable a borrowing system analogous to that available with Barnes & Noble's Nook. As far as I know, there are no details yet on exactly when this feature will be ready, but I expect it will be well in advance of the holiday season (to help persuade yours truly, among others, to buy one).

So! This leads me to a two-part Prithee, Inform Me:

1. If you own a Nook, how often do you use the library lending feature? Do you enjoy it?

2. Does Amazon's announcement impact your desire to own a Kindle in any significant way? If you don't yet own an e-reader (but would like one), would this cause you to purchase a Kindle over a Nook?

I realize the devices differ in a number of ways apart from the question of lendability (I've played with a lot of e-readers for "work"), but I think the question is interesting and useful regardless, especially as libraries scramble to figure out what role they'll play in the publishing world of tomorrow.

Thoughts? Theories? Tholiloquies?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Cups of Baloney

That title actually grossed me out a little more than I expected. My apologies.

In case you haven't heard, mes auteurs, it's looking like Greg Mortenson may have made up a lot of stuff in his books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, and now Jon Krakauer is calling him out on it. (You can download Krakauer's .pdf book, Three Cups of Deceit, for free for a limited time.)

The problem of partially fabricated memoirs isn't new to the industry; you probably remember Margaret B. Jones' Love and Consequences, which was found to be totally fraudulent not long after it was published, as well as the much more infamous "memoir" by James Frey, A Million Little Pieces, which was also (much) less than honest (the Daily Beast mentions both here).

Now, the allegations of fiscal misappropriation against Mortenson aside—as I think that's a very different, and far more serious, question—do you think it matters if the/a story is true or not? Does "memoir" mean "fact," or does it mean "how I remember it, which may or may not be super true"?

If this seriously offends/bothers you (it seriously offends/bothers me), what do you think publishers can do to remedy the situation (besides the easy and vague answer of "do a better job of fact-checking")? What actions should be taken against house and author, and should/how can we differentiate between memoirs that are "mostly true," "somewhat true," "fraudulent," &c &c?

Theories, questions, and diatribes in the comments!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rounding Up is Half the Battle

Friday round up with Laura:

Today is a day of learning, friends and foes. Perhaps we should all read up on some Shakespeare first, so we can be smarter for all the learnings we're going to do. Or we can listen to Shakespeare with Audible's half off sale (why yes, I am a sucker for discounts, thank you for noticing). First we're going to learn about the secret history of ads in books from this New York Times link, which I think is a response to Amazon's discounted, ad supported Kindle. As a side note, I'm trying to wean myself off of NYTimes articles, because there is no way I'm paying my money to read something Gawker is just going to digest and spit back up for me later. So apologies in advance to those of you who have, like me, hit your free article limit from home, your phone, and your office, and refuse to pay. As another side note, Amazon: drop the Kindle to $85 and I'll take as many ads as you want to dish out.

Anywho. We can also learn how a book makes history, and also how publishing has changed since 1984 (the answer is "computers and smaller expense accounts"). We can learn even more about Twilight from the Twilight official illustrated guide. Yes, such a thing exists. And it's educational. Also educational is this treatise on why writers should embrace social media, as well as addiction. It turns out that Borders employees are hilarious, you can win a speaking role in the audiobook of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and puns, like Alf, are back.

In Laura-related news, the most important of news, I found out I've been using nonplussed incorrectly forever, and that my favorite kid's book proves that I am a boyfriend stealer. Shame on you, Little Women, and your loose morals. I should have stuck with Green Eggs and Ham, read by President Obama, or with the bit of Roald Dahl I can read on a cereal box.

We'll, I'm off to take a nap in a giant book. Until next week!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The New Bibliophiles

Many people describe themselves as bibliophiles—book lovers—and I think many of you would count yourselves among them. Why would you be here if you didn't love books? Books: the bomb diggity. I think we all agree.

However! I ask myself (and, by extension, you): will the meaning of the word change over the next couple of years? That is, I wonder whether bibliophiles will become analogous to and as niche as, say, audiophiles.

Everyone listens to music; not everyone is an audiophile. And not everyone who loves music is an audiophile! These are the people who invest a lot in speaker equipment, often prefer analog to digital music, and spend time in small communities of like-minded individuals. They own a lot of stuff on vinyl. They know a lot of jargon that no one outside their subculture understands.

Just as audiophiles comprise their own niche community/market, I wonder whether tomorrow's bibliophiles will read and buy books similarly, what with their "eccentric" attachment to print and the experience of reading a physical book, their willingness to spend a lot of disposable income on rare books, and their predisposition toward (irony of ironies!) spending time on-line talking to people who also prefer to read physical books rather than electronic ones.

Record companies recognize the existence of the audiophile/enthusiast market and continue to release a small number of vinyl albums, regardless of the fact that most people listen to music electronically. Which is exactly the point! Vinyl is not aimed at most people, while electronic music is. I think that over the next couple of years, we'll see the same change in the book market. Most people will read electronically, and bibliophiles will read and supply the niche market for paper books.

This isn't to say that bibliophiles won't read electronically—I expect many will. The distinction I'm trying to get at is that consumers will do what they do best—consume—in the least expensive and least inconvenient way possible, which is to say, electronically. Enthusiasts, aficionados, collectors, connoisseurs—bibliophiles—will buy and read physical books and will maintain physical libraries.

For this reason, mes auteurs, I think there will always be a market for physical books—particularly coffee table books or collector's editions, which don't translate as well to the electronic medium—but that market will surely become much smaller, while the overall market for books will increase. The e-book is the future of publishing; the book buff is the future of the physical book.

What do you think?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, mes auteurs, then you're familiar with my opinion that, even beyond talent and luck, a writer needs discipline in order to succeed. John Gardner once wrote: "Most of the people I've known who wanted to become writers, knowing what it meant, did become writers" (bold emphasis mine). So: what does it mean to be a writer?

· You need to create and keep a schedule. If you can only write from 6:00 am to 6:45 am on Tuesdays, guess when you're writing? Bingo: 6:00 am to 6:45 am, every Tuesday.

It can be difficult to dedicate time to writing when you feel you have very little of it, since the payoff takes so long to realize. Even writing forty-five minutes a day, however, will get you a first draft of a short novel in about a year (assuming a modest 250 words in 45 minutes x five days per week x 52 weeks per year = 65,000 words).

· You need to be disciplined. Not only do you have to carve out the time to put your butt in the chair, you have to use that time wisely. No checking e-mail, no reading webcomics, no on-line shopping. Write longhand, go somewhere without wi-fi, turn off your router if you have to. When you're writing, you're writing. Period.

This can be difficult if you work long hours or have kids to take care of, but remember: there must be some time in the day, if even only a few minutes, during which you can write. Find it, set it aside, and use it regularly.

· You need to be willing to revise. Virtually nothing comes out perfectly the first time. While it can be frustrating to write that final sentence of a first draft and realize you're not even remotely done, you can't quit and decide your first effort will have to be good enough. Find some trusted readers and get busy cutting, recasting, and expanding.

· You can't give up easily. Every writer's life is full of rejection; I don't need to bust out the tired clichés and examples for you. Your short stories will get rejected, your novels will get rejected, you may have to try a dozen times to find an agent. If you're self-publishing, you may find your first half-dozen attempts sell as many copies before settling to the bottom of Amazon's title list. If you're thin-skinned, build some calluses. If you're prone to giving up easily, this isn't the business for you.

· Maintain your relationships with other writers. If people you know are writing, submitting, and publishing, it'll keep the pressure on you to stay on top of your game. Ultimately, your own expectations and motivations will determine your success, but it helps to have other people pushing you forward, intentionally or not. Plus, as I've said, it never hurts to network. Recommendations and referrals jump-start literary careers all the time.

But! You tell me, folks: what do you do to keep yourselves motivated?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday is the New Friday

Saturday round up with Laura:

So, yea, it's a little late. My bad, friends and foes. But, as a consolation, the first twelves minutes of HBO's A Game of Thrones is online. Please feel free to ignore the rest of this round up and watch, because it's way worth it. Winter is coming, folks. Winter is coming!

If you can't really justify a quarter hour of watching awesomeness, you can check out this New Yorker profile of George R.R. Martin. If you have a subscription. Which I don't. But it could be great? Martin sure makes it hard to read his stuff, although he's not the worst offender. There's also this new J.J. Abrams book deal, which should be awesome, some wonderful Tina Fey on her book, and, oh hey, a Harry Potter exhibition in NY.

But seriously. Watch the Game of Thrones clip. All I have left is the probation of the pedophile guide writer, the profane version of From Here to Eternity, and instructions for disposing of holy books without pissing anyone off. Oh, and of course, the Stephen King and John Mellencamp musical. It makes sense if you don't think too hard.

So enjoy your weekend—maybe find love in a book store, or have a literary smackdown. Until next week!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Better Know A Conference: SCBWI


This week in Better Know a Conference: the SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators).

The 2011 winter conference just occurred in New York City (January 28th through 30th), but never fear! There's a summer conference being held in Los Angeles August 5th through 8th of this year, and it's never too early to gear up for SCBWI Winter 2012 (to be held January 27th through 29th in New York City).

The Pros

· As mentioned above, there are two SCBWI national conferences per year, which means twice the number of opportunities to attend—regardless of your preferred season or coastal affiliation! (Unless you love fall and are from Kansas, in which case you can pick either one.)

While I think it's probably overkill to attend both conferences in a given year, I think it's a really good idea to switch up your choice from year to year (if you can). You'll likely meet different folks and form a more comprehensive view of the children's book market, which will help you both in terms of networking and developing new projects.

· This conference has an additional audience! Not only do you get to hang out with writers, authors, agents, editors, publishing professionals, &c, but you also get to meet and network with illustrators.

Now: I'm no expert on children's books, but from what I understand, it's the editor—not the author—who ultimately selects the illustrator(s) who will work on any given children's book project. Keep in mind, then, that you're not going to this conference to "pick" an illustrator, but it never hurts to network with them. Not only can you make some new friends, but it can help you immensely to have connections in your field (think recommendations, referrals, opportunities for collaboration, &c &c).

· There are a variety of regional events throughout the year in case you missed the last national conference or can't afford to go to the next one. With dozens of events being held in April alone and over 70 chapters in the United States (there are also international chapters!), there's bound to be something to interest you that's 1.) close to home and 2.) coming up soon.

The Cons

· As is virtually universally the case, national conferences cost a pretty penny. Registration for the winter 2011 conference ranged from $350 – $415 (depending on whether you were a member and whether you registered early), with optional pre-conference programming running an additional $200 – $225. Add to that the cost of travel and three nights' stay in New York City (over $200 per night, even with the SCBWI discounted room rate) and the whole shebang could easily set you back over $1,000.

· As mentioned above, the conference provides a great forum for authors and illustrators to meet and network. As also mentioned above, since editors generally pair authors and illustrators, it's unlikely you'll be able to use the conference as a way to find yourself an illustrator. By all means, if you really hit it off with an author/illustrator and want to pursue a side collaboration, go nuts, but don't expect to be able to sell the project to an agent or editor unless the two of you are already pretty well-known.

While I'm on the topic: for those of you who have experiences in this area, please post in the comments! I don't know as much about children's book publishing as I do about the adult side of the business.

· Because there are two conferences per year, most people will only attend one of them. Moreover, information about the subsequent conference (attending agents/editors, keynote speakers, and so on) probably won't be available while you're planning for the current one, so you'll invariably miss out on some events you'd like to attend/folks you'd like to meet. Again, switching up your venue (East Coast/West Coast) from year to year might be your best option (unless, of course, you've got the time and the cash to attend both each year).

Some DOs and DON'Ts

· DO network. It's why you're there! Don't be afraid to exchange contact information with other authors/illustrators, interested industry professionals, &c, &c.

· DON'T interrupt. Again, if you have a clear shot to briefly chat up an agent or editor, do go ahead, but don't interrupt them while they're engaged with someone else or while they're eating/otherwise occupied. It feels like a missed opportunity, I know, but trust me: it's much better to remain (temporarily) unknown than to make a bad impression.

· DO your homework. Read the SCBWI "Just Getting Started?" page, including their FAQ, as well as their official conference blog, which has invaluable information about past conferences. You can also look up the #NY11SCBWI hashtag on Twitter to review all the comments people made while they were actually in attendance.

· Finally, DON'T worry if you can't make/afford the national conference this year or next—as mentioned above, there are literally hundreds of regional events offered by the SCBWI year-round that you can take advantage of until you can go to nationals.

That's it for this installment, folks—questions and suggestions in the comments!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Prithee, Inform Me: E-Self-Publishing

Following hot on the heels of Nathan's Author Monetization Week—and if you haven't read these posts, go read them right now—is yet another poll (o joy! O rapture!) to gauge just how many of you are considering electronically self-publishing your titles over taking the traditional route to publication.


And on Wednesday: Better Know A(nother) Conference!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools' Day Round Up

Yet another Friday round up with Laura:

Today's round up is going to be a drive-by, boys and girls—quick, violent, and super lame. If you're into long, drawn-out things, there's a Game of Thrones book club to prep for both the HBO series and the new book coming out. Be excited, folks! And join in if you haven't already read these. You can make your own Etsy book cover, if that makes you happier. Or you can make a dress from the book! Or from Golden Books, if you prefer. Maybe use these fifty books you can live without reading. I would add to that list Perez Hilton's book for kiddies, since it'll probably suck, he's a terrible role model for not bullying people, and also, what year is this? Does anyone read his blog anymore?

Also terrible looking: the 3D trailer for The Three Musketeers. And if you're looking for depressing, please see the change, or lack thereof, in bestseller lists over a decade. And as long as we're going back in time, yes, typewriters, the girls from Sweet Valley, and David Foster Wallace are all back.

That's it for today, folks—see you next week, with more shenanigans.