Friday, October 2, 2009

Unfunny Jokes to Kill a Bookstore Dead

This one comes from Roy Pickering, the author of Patches of Grey and Feeding the Squirrels, via the Twitter feed, #shelooksgood.

"She looks good, but the last book she read was Harry Potter - Cliff Notes edition."

Book News, In Brief

Elmore Leonard, author of 43 novels and my favorite fiction writer, is going to be presented with the PEN USA lifetime achievement award -- his second lifetime achievement award this year!

The Independent takes the road less traveled, covering a current pop culture phenomenon in an honest-to-goodness interesting way: Understanding Swedish society through Stieg Larsson's popular fiction. Via.

Over on the #NEIBA Twitter thread, sales rep Ann Kingman has passed on the following depressing factoid from Bloomsbury publisher George Gibson: Most $27 hardcovers w/ $50,000 advance will lose money. (Note: She's got good news, too!)

A small ray of sunlight for fans of the recently deceased author, E. Lynn Harris: St. Martin’s Press has decided to publish Harris' last novel, In My Father’s House: The Chronicle of Bentley L. Dean, next July, despite the fact that it was book one in a proposed three book series.

Did you ever wonder why Amazon was so apologetic about the disappearing Orwell e-books fiasco, but not apologetic at all over their anti-gay "glitch"? Cuz they knew that they were gonna be vulnerable to lawsuits like this. As with Biggie, when it comes to Bezos, it's all about the Benjamins.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cool Covers from Spider Man Comics
(frankly, I'm as surprised as the rest of you)

Amazing Spider Man #616
Cover by Paolo Maunel Rivera
Amazing Spider Man #605
Cover by Mike Mayhew

Amazing Spider Man #611
Cover by Skottie Young
Amazing Spider Man #574
Cover by Barry Kitson

Amazing Spider Man #578
Cover by John Romita Jr.
Amazing Spider Man #600
Cover by Alex Ross

Amazing Spider Man #560
Cover by Marcos Martin
Amazing Spider Man #555
Cover by Chris Bachalo

Question: Exactly when did the covers to Amazing Spider Man get so good?

Adaptation News
(permanently perverting the way you'd pictured it in your mind)

If Clive Owen is to be believed, production on Sin City 2 should start next year. MTV has the interview.

Ron Howard is preparing to adapt The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft, a comic book by Mac Carter with Adam Byrne. Guess what it's about?

To help hype the Martin Scorsese film of Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island, Tokyopop is planning on putting out a manga version of the mental hospital thriller.

Nothing gives me more joy than new Where The Wild Things Are news items. On the opposite end of the special-feeling spectrum, there's Twilight: New Moon news bits.

This last one isn't a film adaptation, a manga adaptation, a video game adaptation, or even a cake adaptation. Nope, it's a comedic adaptation of the opening chapters of The Hobbit -- done in the style of one of those Nigerian 419 fraudulent emails.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letterman's 9/29 Top Ten List:
Top Ten Sarah Palin Tips for Writing a Book

#4 - When in doubt, just type "wink."

Banned Book Tees Banned in KY High School

According to Mad Woman In The Forest, "teachers at Montgomery High School in Mt. Sterling, KY have been banned from wearing Banned Books Week tee-shirts that feature a quote from To Kill A Mockingbird."
The reason? Because wearing them constituted what the school board described as "political activity." Well, obviously. But isn't pledging allegiance to the flag a "political activity"? And taking a holiday on Presidents Day and Memorial Day? And taking an active stance against "political activities"?
Oh, well. At least those played-out Che shirts are still kosher.

Related: April Vacation's Anti-Education Quotes

Book News, In Brief

Require a retail pick-me-up? Check out John McMurtrie's lengthy list of star authors' pre-holiday release dates -- then consider the cash rewards they'll bring.

Lest a day go by without a new Sarah Palin press release, Alaska's spectacled spectacle has announced that her memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, will be published on November 17 -- a mere four months after her HarperCollins book deal was announced.

While we're discussing the actions of America's Far Right, former G.W. Bush speechwriter, Matt Latimer, claims in his new book, Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor, that J.K. Rowling was denied a presidential medal of freedom on the grounds that the Harry Potter books "encouraged witchcraft."

I'm gonna try and cram Tuesday's many, many e-book headlines into one long and rambling sentence. Here goes: With new rumors about Apple's Tablet stoking expectations that e-readers will be this holiday season's go-to gift (unless you're buying gifts for a Princeton grad, that is), yesterday saw new e-book sites launched by Disney, The Daily Beast and Sony.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writers on Writing

"Real seriousness in regard to writing is one of two absolute necessities. The other, unfortunately, is talent."
Ernest Hemingway

Query Letter Mad Libs Designed to Melt the Hearts of Heartless Agents

Ah, query letters! They're the bane of every would-be writer. It doesn't make sense that a one page meet-the-author/story summation should be harder to write than a complete, six book, urban fantasy epic, yet somehow it is. Perhaps it's the delicate blend of hubris and humility that is required when setting oneself up as an author to effed with. Or maybe it's the bizarre blend of detailed description and almost poetic brevity that most agents ask for in these twisted, three or four paragraph pleas for representation. Or maybe it's just that most authors are wallflowers, when what's really needed in a query letter is confidence, coolness, and a bit of what The Game author Neil Strauss describes as, well, "game."

After all, a successful query letter should effect the agent being queried in much the same way as a successful opening line in a singles bar effects its tipsy target. It ought to alert them to this new and interesting person, to their sharp wit, to their winning way with words....and make them want more. Try to think of the query letter not as a formal introduction, but as a seductive tease of what's to come -- if only they'd ask you for your manuscript. It's a high-wire act of modern mating rituals and social graces, the majority of which -- let's face it -- you as reclusive writers are wholly inexperienced in and/or woefully ill-equipped to enact.

But do not despair. For I am here, like Moses from the mountaintop, with a couple of free, field-tested query letters that are guaranteed to get you the attention of that agent you've been stalking on Twitter. Hell, I've even gone so far as to write them in the For Dummies-approved, Mad Libs format, just to make it that much easier for all of you future Michael Crichtons (the success part, not the death part) and Stephenie Meyers (the success part, not the Mormon part).

First up, the basic, no frills query letter:

Dear (agent's name),

I am seeking representation for (the title of your as-yet-undiscovered magnum opus) a (page number) word (genre type) aimed at the (target audience/gender/age group) market.

(Title, again) is the story of (In the second paragraph, you'll want to jump right in with a four or five sentence description of the characters, plot, themes, etc. As this is basically the paragraph you hope to one day see on the back cover of your professionally published work, you may want to take a look at the backs of a few of your favorite books to see how their authors/publishers/marketing staff constructed those. Remember to keep your sentences short and succinct. Four or five sentences crafted from ten or twelve sentences and a sh*tload of commas is not four or five sentences.).

As you’re active in the (genre listed above) field, having previously represented (the name of an author in that genre that this agent has repped), I believe this would be a good match for your list. I have (Here, you'll want to briefly list any stories or books you've had published professionally, as well as any writing awards you may have won. Note: Do not list self-published works! They don't count for sh*t in the real world!). Per your website, I have attached (whatever it is the agent's website's asks you to attach...and nothing more). Thank you for your time.


(Duh -- your name.)

Okay, so that was the basic, run-of-the-mill query letter template, a favorite among dullards, dimwits and schmucks. Sure, it's the sort of 'just the facts' query that'll keep you off of this year's #queryFAIL, but it won't do much to make you memorable to the agent reading it. And -- going back to my Neil Strauss/singles bar metaphor mentioned above -- if you wanna get laid (i.e. land an agent), you gotta have game (i.e. a query letter that'll set you apart from the pack).

Here's one such query letter:

Dear (color of agent's eyes)-eyes,

Put a big red heart around today's date on your calendar, cuz from this moment on, today will be known as your lucky day. That's because I'm offering you the once in a lifetime chance to rep my new book, (book's title), a tour de force of unbridled brilliance and eloquence that my (family member's title and/or encouraging teacher's honorific) is calling, "The next (title of current bestseller and/or established classic)." Clocking in at around (page number) words, this (genre type) is aimed at the (target audience/gender/age group), but would probably also do well with (the polar opposite or the aforementioned target audience/gender/age group) if I had a good group of ad men and publicity people in my corner.

The story? Well, it's pretty complicated stuff, maybe too much so for a simple four or five sentence synopsis. Instead, howzabout I throw a few adjectives at you that'll help you to feel the power of the piece. Mood words. Verbal brushstrokes. Are you ready?





And that's just the Bs! (Note: If you feel bad about cribbing this list whole, simply open your thesaurus to the words 'great,' 'grand,' or 'totally awesome' and copy the synonyms listed.)

While scanning one of those books that lists every agent desperate enough to list themselves in one of those types of books, I saw that you repped (the name of an author they represent -- any ol' author will do). Take it from me, my sh*t is (number greater than 9) times better than (same author's name)'s, and I'm a helluva lot handsomer. (Attach your author photo here. Note: Make sure it's a photo from before you started writing, back when you still exercised occasionally.) While your website says that you only want writers to send (whatever it is that the agent's website requested), I thought I'd better go ahead and send my entire manuscript. In my opinion, my story doesn't really get going until the halfway mark, so only sending a few (pages/chapters/whatever the agent's website requested) just didn't seem to do the book justice. I'm sure you'll agree. I have self-published over a dozen books of erotic poetry and a pop-up book documenting my repeated rape at the hands of a well-meaning neighbor. I figure I can give you a month to decide whether you want to earn 15% of my future millions. After that, I'm going to have to move on to another agent. This is the moment you will look back on for the rest of you life. If you choose to take me on as a client, you will get (If it's a male agent, write "a total boner." If it's a female agent, "mega-moist.") every time you think of it. If you make the stupid, career-killing mistake of turning me down and losing me to a smarter, hipper agent, you will do so with crocodile tears of eternal regret.

Hope to hear from you soon,

(Your name)

a.k.a. (your pen name)

a.k.a. (your hip hop name)

a.k.a. (your porn star name)

And there you have it. Two pre-fab query letters just waiting for your applicable insertions. But remember -- if you should use one of them (*cough-cough* the second one *cough-cough*), and you manage to land yourself an agent...and then a publishing contract...and then an actual release date, you'd better include my name in the dedication section. Preferably before God's.

Tuesday's Tips for Flailing Writers

Shack's Comings & Goings has many lots od good tips fr Proof Reading Your Manuscript. Via. has some sneaky yet sensible solutions for When An Editor Wants A Rewrite. Via.

3000 Messages fails to live up to their lofty name, offering only 3 Grammar Rules that are Okay to Break. (Still, they're good ones.)

He turned middle-aged White angst into millions of dollars. Now Chuck Palahniuk wants to show you how to do the same with his 13 Writing Tips.

If bookstores were people, The Inkwell would owe Aaron's Books dinner and a handjob for writing this post: Some suggestions of how not to and how to approach the indie bookstore with your book.

Quips & Tips for Successful Writers (a much more positive name than 'Tuesday's Tips for Flailing Writers,' don't ya think?) has 5 Tips to Make Your Sentences Flow. (A sixth: cut out the long and unnecessary parentheticals.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Go, Look:
Vroman's Interesting Take on Bob Stein's Sorta Interesting Take on the Publishing Industry's Hypothetical Future

The title of this 'Go, Look' is a Mick Jagger-sized mouthful, yet it doesn't even begin to hint at the cool ideas Vroman's "internet guy," Patrick, presents in his piece, Branding: The Future of Publishing? You want to read about Amazon's efforts to disconnect books from their publishers? It's in there. Howzabout a Criterion-esque approach to bookstore shelving? That, too. And then there's the three things that publishers do that no author can do no his or her own. What, you think I'd tease you with something like that if it wasn't in there? Just how little do you think of me as a link-blogger?
This is a must-read for bookstore owners and the over-educated minions they underpay.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Go, look!

The Monday Menagerie:
Artsy-Fartsy Book Binding

Shown above are six samples of the lavish and imaginative book bindings on display at The Morgan Library & Museum's website. What's more, these are only small fragments of the actual bindings. Viewed whole and enlarged, the OCD-level craftsmanship on display is staggering.
Click here to feel artistically inferior.

Book News, In Brief

"Could Barnes & Noble really be threatening not to order books from writers who don't add B& links to their websites?" GalleyCat says yes.

Goooooood morning fight fans! Today's book-based battle is brought to you by The Millions Book Blog. The topic: The Best Books of the Millennium! In this corner, the readers. In that corner, the pros. Ding!

The Awl courts controversy (and wins me as a fan) with their post, "That's So Gay" Is So Lame. I Mean, Dumb. I Mean, Retarded. Oh God!" If there's one thing I've learned while doing this blog, it's that words are tricky, prickly, malleable, and mangle-able buggers. I mean bastards. I mean...oh, forget I said anything.

Quick question for all you blue sky e-book boosters and fast adopting tech-heads: What happens to your digital library if your Kindle is lost or stolen? The answer, according to the podcasting people at Litopia, is that you completely lose your library, but the thieves are flush with fiction.
(For a talk-free take on this, click here.)

A week ago, The Guardian UK took Truman Capote to task for 'borrowing heavily' from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for his Breakfast At Tiffany's. Now, having acquired a taste for blood, the British daily pounces on Raymond Carver, asking, "Was Carver's razor-sharp style created by his editor?"