Print vs Ebook

BooksIt always fascinates me how hard people want to argue about things that haven’t happened.  They may not remember where they left their keys, their spouse’s phone number or what their partner likes on their pizza, but if they have anything to do with publishing they have an opinion on print vs ebooks.

Recently, the Huffington Post published a story about a recent Los Angeles School District order of 31,000 iPads.  The plan is to eventually buy iPads for all 640,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.  The cost?  The first year alone, the cost is $30 million.  Methinks their school board has never seen a back pack go sailing down the side walk only to be kicked again and again and again.  Yep.  I hope they got breakage warranties as part of this deal.  

But what cracks me up is that people are holding this up as PROOF that print books are on their way out.  The print sky is falling!

Then a PEW study reveals that teens and young adults (ages 16-29) may be more tech savvy than older adults but they are also more likely to have read a print book in the last year (75% as compared to 64%).  That said, these same teens and young adults are also more likely to make use of a library’s computers and databases of various kinds but don’t want books cleared out to make room for more techno-gadgets.

What does all of this mean?  It means that information is found in more formats than ever before.   Will e-books replace print books?  I doubt it seriously.  Recorded music has not replaced live music.  But there will be change.  I don’t know exactly what it will be, but I’m going to shake my head and smile whenever someone seems to certain that they know.

Take a deep breath, quit speculating and go write.  Then find a market for your work although it may not be the one that you expect.





Free courses

Perhaps you are writing a book about genetics and there are a few key points that you are having problems wrapping your brain around.  Or you might be writing an article about the science of food.  These topics and many more can be tricky for writers who first have to understand the basics before explaining them to our readers.
Fortunately, Coursera makes over 300 courses available online.  The institutions offering these classes range from the American Museum of Natural History to The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.  The courses are free, although some do have a “for credit” option that, not surprisingly, comes with a bill.
I did a quick search on some of my own interests and found the following classes:
  • Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences (Rutgers)
  • Human Evolution: Past and Future (University of Wisconsin – Madison)
  • Latin American Culture (Technologico de Monterrey)
  • Maps and the Geospatial Revolution (Penn State)
  • The Ancient Greeks (Wesleyan University)
Special thanks to writing pal Chris Eboch who brought Coursera and their writing courses to my attention.  I’ve already enrolled in a course on Evolution through the American Museum of Natural History.  It isn’t really like I needed something to do but I am looking forward to taking a variety of courses.

Barbara Robinson

The Best Christmas Pageant EverSad, sad news in the publishing world.  Barbara Robinson passed away last week.

I first encountered Robinson’s work when Vicki Grove gave my newborn son a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Wow.  One read and I immediately knew why Vicki considered her work a must.

Robinson’s books include:

The Best Halloween Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best School Year Ever 

My Brother Louis Measures Worms

If you aren’t familiar with her work, pick up one of her books this week.  You’ll be glad that you did.

For those of you who already know her work which book is your favorite?




Platform: Making Sure Potential Readers Can Find You

The listing on a Google search for my name is my site.
The fist item that  comes up with you  Google  my name is my site.

How easy is it for potential readers to find you?

Don’t assume.  Go Google your name.  You may be surprised at what you find.  Or what you don’t.

My bread-and-butter consists of writing how-tos and market articles for other writers.  Much of what I write is based on interviews with writers, editors and various other publishing professionals.

Early in the process for each article, I make a list of people I want to interview.  I go down the list and Google name after name.  Although I only need about 6 interviews per article, I generally have to Google two dozen names.  Part of this is because a number of people won’t respond when I try to contact them.  But there are also a frightening number of authors who have no web presence.  None.

Sometimes a GoodReads listing on one of their books comes up but that will be it.  Or I find their listing on their publisher’s site.  But that’s it.  No website.  No blog.  Nothing.

If I can’t find you, neither can your readers.  Isn’t that a problem you should address?


Dialogue: Test It Out

dialogueDialogue is one of the trickiest bits of writing.  It has to sound realistic without being 100% real.

We are tempted to write dialogue exactly as it would be spoken.  This is especially true when writing a character who would have an accent or speak a dialect.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work.  Instead of sounding realistic, it tends to sound overdone or mocking.

Whether you are writing a regional character or not, you have to learn to write dialogue that sounds real but isn’t written the way we speak.  For one thing, dialogue is streamlined.  Take out the ums and uhs and false starts.  Readers get bored when characters ramble or take two or three tries to get started telling their story.

How do you tell if you’ve got it right?  One of the best tests for dialogue, or any writing, it to read it out loud and see how it sounds.  This gives you the opportunity to adjust anything that sounds awkward or stiff.  Listen for vocabulary your character would never use as well as word choices that seem too educated or mature or simply outlandish.

That said, there is a time and place for everything.  When you are writing nonfiction, dialogue must be written exactly the way it was spoken.  To find out more about how to write dialogue in nonfiction, check out today’s blog post at the Muffin.


How to Connect with Reader

lindbergh2“If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.”
–Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Translated into writer speak, this quote might read “writer, know thyself.”

As writers, we want to hook our readers.  This is especially difficult if, like myself, you are an adult writing for non-adults.  Why?  Because in our society we often think of children as different from us.  While they are different in experience, they are the same in many ways.

Children and adults both want things.  Sometimes they want things so badly that it makes them just a little crazy and they do something that they truly know better than to do.  Sure, what a five year-old wants more than anything may be different than what a forty-five year-old wants, but the wanting will be the same.

Children and adults both fear things.  Sometimes it is the fear of being found out or caught.  Sometimes it is the fear of some natural force that they cannot control.  Fear motivates both children and adults.  Fortunately, fear isn’t the only motivator.

Children and adults both want to be loved and accepted . . .

So, do you get my point?  If you want to write for children, connect with something that they will understand.  Don’t look down on the things they want, fear  or love.  Instead, think about how you feel in a situation that scares you, that drives you to excel, that makes you want to show how much someone else means to you.  Once you’ve connected with your own feelings, you can bring them into the story where your young reader will encounter it and think, “Wow.  This grown up really understands.”


Penguin and Random: The Merger has Happened

With all government approvals in, the powers-that-be have swiftly moved ahead to complete the merger of Random House and the Penguin Group.  The deal was completed on  July 1 and a lot of details remain to be worked out.  

As things stand, Penguin Random House (or PRH) will have 10,000+ employees worldwide.  PRH will publish more than 15,000 new titles annually throughout 250 imprints.
How many imprints was that?  250.  Two hundred and fifty.  Three hundred minus fifty.  
No, I can’t quite wrap my brain around it either.  
Only time will tell how this will play out but, if nothing else, it should be interesting.  

Call for Submissions

Call for SubmissionsThis is actually an agent’s wish list but what better reason to take a good hard look at the manuscripts you have available.  Molly Ker Hawn, of the Bent Agency, recently put out her updated Wish List.  Among other things she is looking for the following:

In Middle Grade Fiction:

  • Contemporary humor
  • Stories that highlight the sibling relationship
  • Adventure
  • Voice

Young Adult Fiction: 

  • Romance
  • Contemporary humor
  • Historic fiction backed by plenty of research
  • Both thrillers and gothic stories
  • Stories with war time settings
  • Stories that involve cults and various religious sects

Nonfiction — both middle grade and young adult

New Adult Fiction:

  • Romance
  • Thriller

Be sure to check out Molly’s blog posting because she gives a lot more details and she also has a solid list of things that she never, every wants to see.  Never.  Don’t send ’em.  But do check your files for things on her dream list because she is definitely on my dream agent list.



Blog Hop

Last week, I was invited by my friend, Cynthia Reeg, to participate in this “blog hop interview.” The idea is this: She sent me some interview questions, which I answer, and at the end I tag 3 other writers who will in turn answer the same questions on their blogs next week. Please check out Cynthia’s answers to the questions at her blog, What’s New With Cynthia Reeg. Feel free to leave a comment and tell her it’s from me.

1. What are you working on right now?
I’ve been collecting interviews for another pair of how-tos.  One of these is about interviewing expert sources to use as primary sources and the other is on what you need to learn from teen blockbuster novels.  I’ve also been creating some new writing exercises to help build better characters.  That’s been a lot of fun because they aren’t all directly about the character.  Some involve her environment.  Here and there I’ve been messing around with a preschool picture book manuscript that started life as an early reader.  I’m really enjoying this new version, playing with refrains and developing the characters and the story line.  As soon as I get some of this done, it will be back to a nonfiction picture book and a middle grade novel.  I never work on one thing at a time.
3. What experiences have influenced you?
 I was a kid who always wanted to know WHY.  My father, a teacher, encouraged this so writing nonfiction was a natural fit for me.  I want to encourage young readers to ask why and expect an answer.  Why do we do this?  Why do they do something similar/different?  Who first came up with this idea?  My nonfiction and fiction both are influenced by my academic background.  I have degrees in anthropology and history.  My fiction explores how we interact with our environment and with the other people we encounter.
4. Why do you write what you do?
I want to encourage kids to:
  • explore the world around them.
  • be themselves.
  • laugh (even if no one else gets the joke)
5. How does your writing process work?
I sit.  I write.  I rewrite.  I am a firm believer in absolutely frightening first drafts and have no qualms about sharing these dreadful drafts with my poor critique buddies.  Writing involves a lot of rewriting but I love seeing a project change and grow.  But as much as I love to write, I believe in getting away from my work periodically.  When I’m not working, I try not to even turn on my computer.  This means that if you e-mail my on Saturday, you might not hear from me until Monday.  When you work from home, it is hard to say that you are “off work” and make it stick but I think it is vital if you are going to recharge.
8. Who are the authors you most admire?
Rae Carson is an amazing writer.  She has a way of pulling you in and forcing you to keep reading even when you have other things that need to be accomplished.
Kelly Milner Halls does such a wide variety of nonfiction work.  I love the even handed approach that she brings to even an offbeat topic.

Please check out Cindy’s answers to the questions at her blog, What’s New with Cynthia Reeg.  Feel free to leave a comment and tell her it’s from me.
In addition, I am tagging the following authors:

Posting July  7 – Sharon Mayhew  at S. K. Mayhew Kid Lit Writer
Posting July 9 – Charlotte Mielziner  at her blog 
Also posting next week — Leslie Wyatt at Journey with Honor.  
Please stop by these blogs next week for glimpses into three authors’ worlds.