Read it and cheer!

Writer’s Blog just announced that a self-published author had made it to the shortlist for the PEN/Ackerley prize for memoir and autobiography. Read all about it here.

More POD

So maybe I’m psychic. This morning in my Google Reader, I found a post from The Writer’s Helper describing the Self Publisher’s Place (click here to read the post). Of course I had to jump over and check out the website (Self Publishers Place). It’s a fledging site with the lofty goal of promoting and selling all self-published works listed on their site. They provide space for the writer to upload a book cover, a summary, and a link to the writer’s personal web page. They are investigating for-fee web hosting services to provide to writers who don’t have their own personal web site, and they also provide a forum for the usual community-building exercises. I plan to register and hang around the site and see how it goes. I’m also excited that there’s a website dedicated to self-publishing so I don’t have to keep surfing for info.

I caught a glimpse of a book reviewer in one of the forums and had an epiphany of sorts. Book reviews can often make or break an author’s reputation; but to be reviewed at all is a kind of acceptance into the publishing world. If an author’s book isn’t reviewed, then does that book exist?

But book reviews also help to filter through the good, the bad, and the ugly in books. I often rely on reviews to help me decide whether or not to purchase a book, although I do so gingerly since reviewers aren’t always an objective bunch. More reviews of self-published books could raise their level of legitimacy in the eyes of the reading public, as well as give that public a greater breath and depth of writing to choose from. One thing that truly annoys me with the current state of publishing is that one new book from one author will take up costly space in several magazines and newspapers, at the expense of any other author with a new book. For example, several weeks ago, I read a New York Times article about a certain author and his latest novel in the Sunday Arts and Leisure section. Then, the following week I believe, the novel was reviewed in the New York Times book section. Shortly after that, it was reviewed in the New York Review of Books, and somewhere amongst all this reviewing, the author was interviewed on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air. Were there no other new novels published around this time?

On the flip side, Rachel Donadio, in her essay in this Sunday’s New York Times (“You’re an Author? Me Too!”), describes one of the short-comings of self-publishing: that today there are more books being published than there are readers to read them. Rather than bemoan this “collective graphomania,” Donadio remarks that among all the noise, there is music. Again, I think that’s where book reviewers could really help, if they can stand the noise.

Of course, the greater challenge to print media, regardless of whether it’s from tried and true publishing houses or upstart PODs, comes from the ubiquitous, big-screen TV. I know I did a lot more reading before I got cable.

Print on Demand

I’ve been following the print-on-demand (or self-publishing) issue for several years, watching as self-publishing has become (more) legitimized, and always with a bit of amusement given that some of the most revered authors in literature were self-published (ex: Virginia Woolf and Walt Whitman). What troubles me is that the “jury” still seems to be out on the value and virtue of self-publishing. For everyone who argues that self-publishing is a legitimate venue (but with the caveat that the author must invest the appropriate resources of editing and marketing), there is another who argues that the only legitimate way to authorship is through the usual line-up: agents, editors, publishing houses. Maria Schneider from Writer’s Digest wrote an interesting and link-worthy column about self-publishing, which you can find here. She recommends that a writer ask herself these questions before going with POD: (1) “What’s your goal?”; (2) “Are you a good self-marketer?”; and (3) “Have you done the research?”

I know that I would not be a good self-marketer. I can barely convince myself that anyone outside my very small and tight circle of friends and family would be interested in my writing (and I’m not always too sure about a few of them). But I do get frustrated with the waiting game: submitting a story and then waiting weeks, maybe months before getting any response. And this is even when I use electronic submissions. Which is probably why I like entering contests, even if I have to pony up a submission (or reading) fee: at least I’ll know by when I should get a response.

I would be really interested in hearing about your experiences with POD, or even just your thoughts on the whole issue. I keep thinking about Woolf and Hogarth Press, the idea of believing in yourself so much that you just go ahead and publish your own work, d**n the publishing house gatekeepers.

An Essential Editing Manual

Editing manuals are like potato chips: You can’t have just one. Not if you’re a writer or editor. One manual may be most effective in explaining the proper use of tenses; another is better at describing the pitfalls of poor punctuation. A third might be the most up-to-date on using web-based references. Very likely, all of your manuals are printed books of various sizes, and they often reside on a shelf or desk in your office or home.

Now add an ebook on editing to your collection: Audrey Owen’s Get Your Writing Fighting Fit (GYWFF). Many of you may already know Audrey Owen through her website, Writer’s Helper, where she offers editing services as well as advice and information on a wealth of writing topics. She has condensed her formidable breath of editing experience and knowledge into a 78-page ebook that you can carry with you everywhere that you take your computer.

I have shelves of editing and writing manuals at my home office, but I don’t always do my writing at home. I lug my 17-inch iBook G4 with me wherever I go, and that’s enough weight to carry in my backpack without adding in books, large or small. I also can’t always access the web when I might need a fast refresher of active voice. So it didn’t take me but a few seconds to decide to purchase Get Your Writing Fighting Fit when I first saw the advert.

I love GYWFF. I love that it is an ebook that I can save to my computer and have with me at all times. I love the entertaining yet authoritative style of Ms. Owens’ prose and how well she emulates her own advice. I love that I now always have an editing safety net, no matter how far I might be from my cherished printed manuals.

To learn more about GYWFF, click here.

Writer Beware Blogs!

Richard White, A. C. Crispin, and Victoria Strauss provide crucial marketing and industry information for writers on their blog, In their own words: “Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, shines a light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls.” Some of their alerts include a copyright scam from the US Copyright Registry (which claims to provide copyright registration of websites through both the Library of Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office–for a sizable fee, of course) and the fine print on a call for submissions to an anthology where the submission fee is $100 per story. You’ll also learned a lot from the blog’s commenters. One post on PODs such as iUniverse elicited responses from folks in the POD industry as well as anecdotes from self-published authors.

New Home

I know I already published a post about moving my blog to, but it seems to have disappear! Well, let’s see if I can make this one stick. Working on the web is always an adventure.

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