Friday Links

It has become abundantly clear to me that everyone who has made publishing-related resolutions for 2014 is well on their way to keeping them. A steady avalanche of work began pouring onto my desk and into my inbox the first week of January, and it shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down. New projects, revised projects, updated projects; queries and partials; brilliant epiphanies; contracts; paperwork; problems, solutions, and random requests; new plans and old business. It’s insane. I have, easily, three times as much work as hours in the day, and I’m on a permanent caffeine high.

Now that I’ve shared that… I offer you some links for your entertainment and edification. I hope you all have lovely weekends planned. You can probably guess where I’ll be. Enjoy!

Judging Books by their Covers 2014: US vs UK – Always fun to compare cover art for different markets.

Russian Man Stabbed to Death in Poetry-Over-Prose Dispute – Because genre wars are happening all over.

Writing Diverse Fiction: A Practical Guide – In keeping with my post earlier this week on diversity in publishing.

This Six-Second Animation Short Is Better than Most Studio Movies – Prove that bigger isn’t always better. Very cute and creative.

Writer of a Certain Age – Fay Weldon on becoming an “older” writer (because ageism is an issue, up there with all the other forms of discrimination).

Random Public Service Announcement

I’m over on Tumblr now, here. It’s not work related. If you’re only interested in hearing me babble about books and publishing, you’re fine just hanging out here and on Twitter. But if you’re wondering what makes me go “ooh, shiny!” or smile or growl, well… you should check the Tumblr out. There will be far more pretty pictures than words, but there will still be words, because I’m me. And some of the pictures and words will still be book related because, again. Me.

That is all. Go back to whatever you were reading or writing.

On Diversity in Publishing

Discrimination — or unequal representation — in publishing has been a hot topic for the past few years. The discussion has centered, in part, around the Vida Count, a report provided by the US-based group for women in the arts, which has determined what percentage of contributions came from women or centered on women’s writing in a number of major literary periodicals over the course of the previous year. In turn, The Rumpus‘s Roxane Gay began a similar look at how writers of color were being represented. The results — sad but unsurprising — have shown that women writers and writers of color make up a minority of the contributions to the major literary magazines and reviews. They provide fewer works of fiction and nonfiction, write fewer reviews, and their books in turn are reviewed less frequently. Writers of color fare no better, and often worse.

Reactions to these reports have been mixed. Some editors blinked at the results, genuinely surprised to see the figures in black and white, and apologized for not make a more concerted effort to be fair and balanced. Others argued that they weren’t purposefully discriminating; rather they had a commitment to quality and were taking the best of what was submitted, or, in the case of choosing books to review, a cross section of the types of titles that merited attention, and if more of those happened to come from men or white writers, well, it wasn’t their doing. But one thing has been clear: Even among editors willing to change, not a lot has been done to improve the situation.

Enter a few determined souls who are anxious to do their part. Daniel Pritchard, the editor of Critical Flame, has declared that he will focus solely on women and writers of color this year. A growing number of readers have declared they will read only women and writers of color in 2014, buoyed by writer and artist Joanna Walsh, whose hashtag #readwomen2014 has been spreading across Twitter. Alison Flood, writing for The Guardian, gives a more complete rundown, and Cassandra Neace at BookRiot talks about reading writers of color. The idea behind the reading campaign is that the market will follow the money; if more people purchase books by women writers and writers of color, reviewers will be forced to take more notice.

This is, of course, a much more widespread problem than these articles indicate, focusing as they do on literary publications and ignoring genre writing. The SFF community has spent years analyzing the lack of characters within the genre that break out of the Anglo-European mold. Women writers dominate the romance genre and comprise the majority of its audience, but the romance world is still polarizing in its treatment of race. The reality is that books and publishing are a microcosm of the larger world around us, and humanity still has a long way to go in its fair and equitable treatment of all its members. Throw in a perception of “what sells,” and things get even more complicated. Ultimately, companies are motivated by profits.

So what do we do? Shedding light on the problem and spreading the word is a great first step. But so is adopting a personal philosophy. I was curious about my own reading habits. For work, I read a lot of things written by women; it’s the nature of the sorts of books I represent. Whatever else is going on in the publishing world, there are a lot of women writing romance, women’s fiction, young adult fiction… But in my personal reading, my interests run a much broader spectrum. I read all the genres I rep, plus classics, mysteries, memoir, and other nonfiction. However, it turns out I still read predominantly women writers. Not by conscious choice; that’s just how it seems to have turned out. Over the last ten years, approximately 80% of the titles I read were written by women. It varies a little, but that’s where it shakes out. When it comes to writers of color, my percentage is much more all over the place, but at the end of the day, allowing for overlap, I read more works by authors of color than by men.

There are many, many books by men on my shelves, and I certainly studied plenty of male-centric literature in school and university. But working in a female-centric area of the industry, I suspect I’ve simply heard more about women’s books than men’s in recent years. The mainstream publications might be touting primarily books by men, but my friends and colleagues have other recommendations for me. Goes to show you the power of word of mouth.

Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes. Not everyone cares about the problem. But I believe that those who do care are the vast majority, and that raising awareness can go a long way toward making people pay just a bit more attention to their choices. I’ve heard from a number of people that they plan to read only books by women or books by people of color over the next year, and I think that’s admirable. But even making a conscious effort to read more within a certain demographic is a step in the right direction. No one is discounting the works written by white men. Rather, we are saying that people should open their eyes and welcome all points of view and different worlds and cultures. Reading should be an adventure in addition to a comfort. For every book that’s cozy and familiar, try something new and walk a mile in a different pair of shoes.

I plan to look at different aspects of this effort to increase awareness and broaden people’s reading choices as the year progresses. I’m curious to see if this is one of the new year’s resolutions that gets forgotten or the sort that becomes a wonderful new habit. So be on the lookout for more posts on the topic, including what I hope will be interactive discussions where you bring me your thoughts and book recommendations to share with everyone reading this blog.

And on that note, go read a good book.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! What has your week brought you? What are you hoping for this weekend? I suspect a good number of you are hoping for warmer weather, given what’s been going on on the east coast. I’m wishing you all sunshine and milder temperatures, or at the very least some time to burrow under a cozy quilt with a mug of your favorite hot beverage and an excellent book.

To kick the weekend off right, I’ve got a nice assortment of links today. I hope you find them inspiring and/or helpful. I feel like they lean strongly toward the self-help aura of January, but a couple address important issues that can hit you any time of year. Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend!

Navigating Stuckness – One artist’s dissection of the stages of his career and the path he’s taken, both the high points and the low.

Year of ‘Reading Women’ Declared for 2014 – An article on the wave of people dedicating themselves to making sure women writers and writers of color get more attention. I’m going to have more to say about this next week.

Staff 5s 2013 – Powell’s Bookstore’s annual lists of the year’s top five books from their booksellers. Always fun because the range of tastes practically guarantees you’ll find something intriguing you hadn’t heard of before.

On One Writer and Depression, AKA Life in the Black Pit of Hell – Bestselling author Alyssa Day talks candidly about her fight with depression. A really important read.

Things They Do Not Teach You in Writer School, #17 – Author Marie Brennan on figuring out how much story you have, or how long your book might end up being.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I hope this week has been treating you well, and that you have some terrific plans for your weekend. In the meantime, I’ve got a handful of fun and interesting links to share. If you have a few moments free, or are looking to while away the hours until your weekend officially starts, you should check them out. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Dismantling the Echo Chamber: On Africa SF – An interesting look at SF from a non-Anglo perspective.

The Listicle as Literary Form – How the internet has contributed to the traditional literary formats.

4 Copy Editors Killed in Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence – So funny.

I’m a Big Failure and I’m Proud – One author shares her publishing journey, proving that persistence is truly the name of the game.

YA Stuff to Avoid from Now On – Writer Adam Selzer on some of the things he plans to leave out of his future young adult projects. All the more amusing when you realize how overdone a few of these things really are.

Quick Query Advice

Today I bring you a few quick tips on writing and sending out queries. This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing how-to post. Rather, this is me looking at some of the things sitting in my inbox, shaking my head, and plopping down in front of my keyboard to throw out some key points.

  • Follow submission guidelines. I’ve said it before and I will no doubt have to say it again. Go to the website of the agency you’re interested in submitting to and READ THE GUIDELINES. Then follow them. Do not follow guidelines on some aggregator site that is “helpfully” providing information for multiple agencies. Chances are they have at least some of them wrong.
  • Make the bulk of your query about your book. If you’re writing fiction, this means your very short story synopsis/blurb about the story should take up the most real estate in your query letter. Probably one or two paragraphs. Yes, feel free to include something about you — any publishing history or whatever. But remember that the purpose of the query is to get someone to ask to read the manuscript. So talk about the story. I see more query letters with two paragraphs about how the author has self-published the book and had twelve sales, while only including two sentences about the story…. Don’t do that. Sell me on the story. Everything else is icing.
  • Query more than one person at a time. Be clear that you are doing so. Then let agents with your query/material know if someone has offered you representation. In other words, don’t waste anyone’s time — yours or the agent’s. Nothing makes me sadder than an email checking on the status of a submission that’s been in my box for two months, which casually informs me that I (unbeknownst to me) have it exclusively. Except perhaps reading a project and getting excited about it, only to learn the author signed with another agent three weeks prior and never let me know the project was no longer available. Please communicate. It’s far better than the alternative.

Now, go forth and submit your little hearts out. Happy writing!


Friday Links

Happy Friday! How’s 2014 treating you so far? Getting things off to a good start? Personally, I’ve been working on getting back up to full speed. Coming off a longish holiday break is always difficult, but it’s good to stretch all my various muscles — mental and physical — and get back on track.

I’ve a pretty diverse assortment of links for you this week, including book lists, some business information, and beautiful book-related artwork. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, filled with reading and writing and whatever else is on your to-do list for the next few days. Enjoy!

2014 YA Fiction Preview – A list of upcoming titles for the first half of the year.

15 Fantastically Artistic Alternate Covers for Famous Books – Some interesting new looks.

When Books Enter Public Domain Around the World – A handy map proving copyright limits around the world.

28 Beautiful Quotes about Libraries – Along with some gorgeous library photographs. Makes me yearn to go on a pilgrimage.

Gorgeous Jane Austen Novel Illustrations from the Time before Adaptations – Recently released into the public domain, these illustrations date back to 19th century editions of Austen’s famous works.

Happy Book Day!

OneRogueTooManyBig congratulations to Samantha Grace, whose latest book, ONE ROGUE TOO MANY — the first in her new Rival Rogues Regency series — hits stores today! This fun, romantic, sexy title received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Be sure to check it out! (Seems like they might have a rogue to spare…)

From the Betting Book at Brook’s Gentleman’s Club:
 Wager: £2,000 that Lord Ellis will throw the first punch when he discovers Lord Throne is wooing a certain duke’s sister.

All Bets Are Off When the Game is Love

Lady Gabrielle is thrilled when Anthony Keaton, earl of Ellis, asks for her hand in marriage. She’s not so pleased when he then leaves the country and four months pass without a word. Clearly, the scoundrel has changed his mind and is too cowardly to tell her. There’s nothing to do but go back on the marriage mart…

When Anthony returns to town and finds his ultimate rival has set sights on Gabby, his continual battle of one-upmanship with Sebastian Thorne ceases to be a game. Anthony is determined to win back the woman who holds his heart — but he’s not expecting Gabby herself to up the stakes…


The New Year in Reading

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Now that 2013 is truly behind us, with its numerous end-of-year book lists, we can get down to the important stuff — Most Anticipated: The Great 2014 Book Preview. Every year, The Millions publishes this list at the start of the year and again at roughly the halfway point, giving a round up of anticipated titles — primarily literary fiction, with a few nonfiction volumes thrown in — set to be published in the next six-to-eight months. I look forward to and dread the arrival of this list in equal measures.

It’s no secret around here that I never feel like I have enough time to read. In part that’s a hazard of the job; much of my reading time is devoted to client manuscripts and submissions, which aren’t quite the same thing as curling up with a published novel. But the truth is I would wish for more reading time no matter what I did for a living. I just love books and there will never be sufficient hours in my day, days in my lifetime, for me to read all the books that interest me. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, however.

I like to have a plan. I’m the sort of bookworm who has always kept track of what she reads. That used to mean a fresh sheet of notebook paper tucked into the front of my diary every January, where I’d keep a running list of the titles and authors of the books I read, along with the date I finished reading them. At the end of the year I’d examine the list (generally stretched to a second, and sometimes third, sheet of paper) to see if I’d read more books than the previous year, and what sorts of books I read the most. Then I’d set a goal for the next year that generally went along the lines of “read more books, and read more good books.”

Then I got older and the reading list shifted to an Excel spreadsheet. (Yes, I realize I’m a geek.) The new format allowed me room to rate the books, and also track number of pages — which became a balm of sorts in the first years I worked as a literary agent when I felt terrible at the drop in the number of non-work books I was reading; at least I could comfort myself that they were long books. My reading goals also shifted away from quantities, since I rarely have control over how much time I can devote to personal reading, and more toward titles. Now at the start of the year I will look at the new books scheduled to come out and pick a couple that I really want to read. Those get prioritized and I plan around them. Generally they’re something by a favorite author, or something that’s gotten an unusual amount of buzz that has me curious.

I don’t make up my reading plan just from The Millions‘ list, obviously, since I read more broadly than their focus would allow. I scour websites and publisher catalogs for genre and young adult titles, as well. Last year was difficult because my list of want-to-reads was extremely long; it felt like a really strong year for good books, whatever else the industry might be doing. This year, I’ll admit I’m a little relieved that I’ve only got a few titles tugging at me so far. Because, unsurprisingly, I have a backlog of books from previous years I really want to read.

How about you? Do you plan ahead at all when it comes to your year’s reading? Are there a couple of authors you anticipate months in advance? Or do you just play it by ear, let your mood sway you, see what friends recommend?