Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A varied topic mixture of writing opportunities, insights, and changes in publishing

There are a few things that have either come into my inbox or across my proverbial radar screen that I think others would benefit from and hence this post.

My friends Jordan Rosenfeld and Becca Lawton are sponsoring "playshops" to help inspire the creative spark in writers. It is a philosophy where enjoyment of the writing process with a sense of play is emphasized over the traditional terminology of "workshops." Plus you do not have to turn anything in, it is simply to help inspire your innate creative energy.

Here is their description:

Month-Long Write Free Playshops: Playing toward Publication
Join us each month for Write Free Month-Long Playshops in which you exercise your creative chops and aim for your publishing dreams. These month-long, self-paced Write Free Playshops begin on the first Monday of every month. Every weekday for four weeks (20 days) the following activities will be sent to you in a daily e-mail (except for the Weekly Message, which will come once a week):

  • Write Free Writing Prompt to jumpstart your own personal freewrite for the day
  • Quote on Attraction to inspire and align you with your best creative life
  • Word of the Day to spark your imagination
  • Exercises to work new writing muscles
  • Weekly Message from Jordan and Becca on writing craft, practice, and community.

All this for $19.95-less than $1/day for the whole month!


There was a nice write up about the program in a column recently in my local paper.

To sign up for the playshop, click here.

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For those who live in Northern California, the San Francisco chapter of the Women's National Book Association is sponsoring a "Meet the Agents and Publishers" event this Saturday, March 28th. There are eight publishing professionals who are confirmed to be there ready to hear your pitches. Both fiction and nonfiction are covered.

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My friend Lee Lofland has an incredibly useful blog for those who have any aspect of police procedurals in their writing. It is not my genre, but I still find the posts fascinating.

Yesterday, Lee's post showed that he can be just as nitpicky as I am. He dissected a television episode into ten separate segments for analysis. He judged the veracity of various details à la American Idol style. Simon Cowell features prominently.

I have never watched the show in question, but I found Lee's take (and/or spit take) on the show to be highly entertaining.

On the same day, Lee showed a different side when he did a guest post "It's Not All Donuts and Paperwork" on Terry Odell's blog. Lee starts out calmly describing how he started in law enforcement, but his story gets harrowing when he describes how he handled a crisis situation which could have easily gone horribly wrong.

I hadn't known that story before, and it increased my admiration of him.

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I haven't seen much discussion about this recent publishing news and was wondering if any academics reading this blog might chime in with their thoughts.

According to the online Publisher's Weekly:

The University of Michigan Press sent shock waves through the academic publishing field Monday when it announced it is switching to a primarily digital format to publish scholarly monographs. The press expects that within two years, most of the 60 monographs it publishes each year out of a total 140 new releases will be published only in digital editions. A POD option, however, will be made available for all digital books, said University of Michigan Press director Phil Pochoda. He said the press’s regional titles and its ESL list will continue to be released primarily in print editions, though select frontlist, as well as backlist, will be made available in digital formats as well as print. Print runs consequently will be more conservative, to cut down on returns. “We’re going to try to keep [initial] print runs close to orders,” Pochoda said, with more of a reliance on offset printing for smaller print runs.


My question is: How will this impact university libraries? Will they start purchasing PDF files of those academic monographs and will they be easily accessed by professors and students?

Or will the libraries wind up using the print-on-demand (POD) option?

These types of cost cutting changes can have far ranging consequences and I wonder if everything has been thought through prior to "going digital" and abandoning the printed page.

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And that brings me to a recent blog post by Tess Gerritsen.

She wrote about what might be a similar trend by publishers in regard to galleys.

Tess is a New York Times bestselling author who will write blurbs to help up and coming writers. (Lee Lofland is one of her grateful recipients of her Karmic generosity.)

However, there is a limit to anyone's generosity. Recently she received an email from a publisher who announced they were no longer going to produce printed galleys.

She understands that it is cheaper and greener, but she doesn't want to read a novel at her computer nor does she want a handheld reader.

Tess loves being able to read galleys in bed, on a beach, on vacation, etc.

She feels so strongly about this that she wrote:

I think that printed galleys are part of the cost of doing business as a publisher. If you don’t print galleys, you shouldn’t expect to get any cover blurbs.


Wow.

And this email came after a novelist had approached Tess and she agreed she would consider giving him a blurb. No promises, but she would try. She never guarantees blurbs because she has a lot of demands on her time and has to find some kind of work/life balance.

Now because of the change of policy by the publisher, that author's forthcoming book will absolutely not have a blurb by Tess Gerritsen.

That makes me wonder how much discussion was generated in the board rooms as to what side-effects they would have by this change in their business practices. Did they think about how it might deter their ability to generate blurbs from established authors. And subsequently how that might impact future book sales?

Did those considerations of the "human element" even factor into their debates or was this a decision based solely on the bottom line of postage and printing costs?

What makes matters worse is that email message went on to suggest recipients of printed galleys attempt to profit by the sale of ARCs on Ebay and other such sites. As if recouping a few bucks on Ebay would be worth Tess Gerritsen's time.

They also wanted her guarantee she would read the PDF galley before they would send her the file.

In one impolitic email message they not only insulted her integrity and professionalism, but they made it unlikely that she would ever provide their authors blurbs in the future.

Nice job!

It would have been far better if they had asked her if she preferred a printed galley or a digital copy because there are many people who love their Kindles and Sony Readers. She doesn't happen to be one of them.

What does the future of publishing hold if choice is not an option?





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