ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Used to be, publishers understood that writing is a skill which takes time to develop.  Now they expect instant bestsellers.  You know who does that?  One-hit wonders.  Also the publishers don't want to keep expert editors around long enough to help new authors hone their skills.  And then the publishers cry and whine because they don't have a good set of talented writers.

Ah, fuck 'em.  I'll be over here coaching my favorite crowdfunding writers.  I just watched [personal profile] magistrate sit down and create more new, original, utterly awesome settings in one prompt session than I could find on a whole bookshelf in a store these days.  I've watched [personal profile] kajones_writing build up another huge bundle of settings, several of which have become favorites of mine such as Donor House, Pagans, Afterlife, and World Walkers: Quiar.  [personal profile] dialecticdreamer is a recent addition and already on my fave list.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
 ... is business as usual.  But this essay takes a wonderful look at why publishers often suck and why people are less interested in buying their books these days.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Well, this is irritating.  Gittip is a platform that enables small weekly payments, explicitly aimed at helping people pay bills because bills are regular and thus benefit from regular income.  Trouble is, the folks behind the platform are unsupportive in ways that make it hostile to women and minorities.  *headdesk*
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
The Tesla company, a leading manufacturer of electric cars, has just ditched their patents in favor of placing that information into open source access.  The goal is to encourage more people to use the designs to create more and better zero-emission cars.  

Like copyright, patents began as a way of protecting intellectual property so that people could profit from their work and would thereby be encouraged to invent more things, thus benefitting everyone.  Currently patents have become a morass of legal mayhem that stifles innovation as much as copyright does.  The current trend toward open-source work shows how sharing instead of hoarding can also result in more goodies for everyone.  

The challenge we have here is making sure that our creators -- whatever their field -- have some reliable way of making a living so that they can make the goodies we all enjoy.  Crowdfunding is great for individual projects.  Some people have done really well at it.  I'm one of them; although it's not enough for a secure living, it's a stupendous success in light of poetry's marginal position in this society.  But crowdfunding doesn't tend to produce a steady  income stream.  Some other things that have been proposed include a Basic Income and a Reverse Income Tax, both of which would ensure that everyone has enough to meet basic needs.  We need to do something, because it's clear that corporations no longer want to employ people at a living wage, so we can't rely on them to keep the economy running anymore.  Somebody else needs to step in and make sure that citizens have a way to meet their needs, so that they can do things like invent stuff, write stuff, raise the next generation, and pay bills.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
The short "A Robot Walks into a Bar" takes a fascinating look at Asimov's first law as it applies to economic survival.  Far more thought went into this than most Hollywood movies with huge budgets.  MOAR, PLZ.
ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)

This poem came out of the May 6, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from [livejournal.com profile] ng_moonmoth and [livejournal.com profile] technoshaman.  It has been sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] ng_moonmoth.  This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


Read more... )
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's a detailed article about novel lengths and why they are the way they are.

The FIRST consideration should be story need.  Write the length that the plot requires.  A novel can be anywhere from 40,000 words to well above 120,000 these days.  

Publisher demands have depended partly on popular format, so as prices went up, people made fatter books.  The problem is, most of that is bloat; it degrades the product quality.  I hate  bloated novels.  A fat book makes me suspicious unless I know the author is good for it.  If you give someone a target in advance, though, at least they know where to aim.

But the worst problem is when people take a story that's already written and cut it down without regard to its infrastructure.  This is butchery, and the result is often illegible.  You can write a book and subdivide it into serial chapters if you know what you're doing.  But to take, say, 800 pages and divide that into thirds when it wasn't meant to be?  Chances are it will suck mightily.

Never, ever do anything which degrades the base product quality.  Movies are having a big problem with this currently where the fulminating mess that is copyright has interfered with the ability to tell a good story.  Fuck you, my money can stay in my pocket.  People are reading fewer books today.  Part of that is changing culture, but part may be because of really stupid publisher decisions like these.

On the bright side, electronic publication removes the size constraints.  You can write and publish whatever size your story needs to be.  Your readers can buy whatever size they want.  This is an advantage that paper will never be able to compete with, and it's bringing back gutter-length fiction: stuff in the 10-30,000 range that's all but impossible to sell in print.  I'm not into ebooks but I am very happy with the impact on size diversity.  There's much less temptation to hack or bloat in an electronic environment.
ysabetwordsmith: (gold star)
The Speculative Literature Foundation has two new grants. One is for new writers from underprivileged groups, and the other focuses on new works that portray diversity in constructive ways.  $500 each, reading period is May 1-June 1 annually.

THIS is the kind of work I like to see from a professional organization.  Writers, start your engines.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's an interesting essay about low diversity in Young Adult books.  Buried within is an observation new to me: as library funding was cut, librarians bought fewer books about black characters, and publishers released fewer.  So cutting library funding can impact what books even get published for anyone to read.   This is how cuts to library funding hurt everyone.  A leak anywhere in the pipeline will reduce the flow at the far end, and there are a lot of leaks. 

But the cool part of that is that you can apply yourself to fixing any part of the pipeline within reach.  This includes:
* Encourage children of color to read.
* Give them diverse YA books.
* Encourage adolescents of color to write or illustrate books.
* If you're an editor or publisher, hustle contributors of color to submit to your market.  Buy the best manuscripts from them.
* If you're an editor, professional OR HOBBY, coach people of color to tell their own stories and share them.
* If you're a reader, buy books by and about people of color.
* Support alternative publishing -- small press, micropress, self-published, crowdfunded, etc. -- because these venues are more welcoming of diverse contributors.
* Support sales.  This includes promoting books to a wide audience, and making sure libraries, teen centers, and schools have enough money to buy diverse books.
* Review!  Anybody can write a review now and post it to their blog or a major bookseller's site or a reader hubsite.
* Make and share lists of books by and about people of color.
* Analyze the problem and talk about how to fix it.  Every bit of information is valuable.  Maybe it will give someone else an idea on a new solution.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's a great essay about diversity in publishing, especially young adult books. My favorite quote: “The publishing industry looks a lot like these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive.” Wowch, nailed it.

There's a problem when an industry lacks diversity: “None of these agents look like me,” she said, “and they don’t represent anyone that looks like me.” ... “What if they don’t get what I’m doing?” While it's possible for people to reach understanding across cultural lines, it is much easier for people to understand each other when they share a lot of common ground. Lack of diversity among gatekeepers (agents and editors) therefore undermines access and representation.

Now here are two quotes from advantaged people in the industry: "I think the change is going to have to come from within those who are affected,” and Another agent, when asked why less than 1% of her submissions were from people of color, captured what seems to be the publishing industry’s general attitude in just 10 words: “This seems like a question for an author to answer.” Both of those are right. In order to work, social change must incorporate the views and needs of the people affected; top-down solutions tend to be offensive and ineffective.

However, that doesn't mean everyone else can just abdicate all responsibility. You have to look for the part of the problem that lies within YOUR reach. In this case, it means engaging a conversation about unmet needs. The industry should be asking, "If people of color don't read or buy books, why not?" (They have less access to education, fewer books starring characters like them, less disposable income, etc.) And then ask, "What would help fix that?" If a question is for authors to answer, then agents and editors should in fact be asking authors that question, and listening to the answers.

And here it is in the essay: The question industry professionals need to ask themselves is: “How can I use my position to help create a literary world that is diverse, equitable, and doesn’t just represent the same segment of society it always has since its inception? What concrete actions can I take to make actual change and move beyond the tired conversation we’ve been having for decades?”

Of course, there are many issues in publishing, as in society. Most people will pick one or two favorites to focus on. Maybe they want to deal with sexism or classism rather than racism. Maybe they want to focus on books that will hook people who rarely read. Everybody doesn't have to deal with every problem, but every problem should have somebody working on it.

Me, I'm weird as usual; I'm the one waving a broom and shouting, "Fight ALL the oppressions!"  What am I doing?  Sure, I write characters from all different cultures, because I'm a mix.  But I also promote  projects by a wide range of creators.  Word of mouth advertising is really, really important.  I may not have a lot of money but I make one hell of a barker.

This is an area where crowdfunding can help.  You can support creative people of color.  You can ask for ethnic characters or plot structures.  You can look for projects to fund a book for distribution.  Yes, there's a filter, but we don't have to go through that bottleneck anymore.  We can go somewhere else.  The market is a lot more diverse than the dinosaurs believe.  They're standing in the breach?  Fine.  Let them have it.  Go somewhere else, go where there are people, and get their attention.  There are niches with almost no representation and therefore minimal competition.  Go fill them.  People are starving for stories about characters similar to themselves.  Feed a cat, gain a cat.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's an article about how you don't really own ebooks

The problem is that this is fraud.  People think if they are clicking a "buy" button online, what they pay for belongs to them.  If someone then takes it away, they feel robbed, and rightly so.  Saying "buy" implies ownership of the product; it's a contract term.  If the fine print says "you don't really own this" then that deceives people, causing them to make different decisions, and the results can be negative.  This does not just harm Amazon's reputation; it damages the reputation of ebooks in general.  It makes customers feel that ebooks are unreliable, perhaps even undesirable; and that makes people less willing to pay for them.  This is an incentive to copy them from unofficial sources, because the authorities can't burgle what they don't even know you have.  It also makes life difficult for anyone who really IS selling ebooks on a "you pay me, and this thing belongs to you" basis.

Just in case you're wondering, that's me.  You pay me for an ebook, and that copy is yours, just as if you pay me for a paper book that I mail to you.  Robbing people's libraries is an abomination before the Lady.

And this is one of many reasons why I dislike ebooks, but even if I liked them for every other reason, such behavior would kill my interest dead, at least for anyone doing business on this basis.  It can be hard to tell who's playing straight and who's fraudulent, though, so a few bad experiences and the whole product line gets crossed off.  The risk isn't worth the reward.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
Here's a detailed essay on tipping.  

The four factors are time, effort, salary, and service.  Of those, I prioritize service, followed by effort and time.  I am easily charmed by discreet yet attentive service and a sweet personality.  I also have one hell of a competence kink.  I will tip accordingly.  Conversely, I feel entitled to lower or omit a tip for shabby service.  If you diss my fat friend, or insult my queer friends, or whinge about my dietary requirements, I will leave two pennies on the table so you know  I didn't just forget, I am actively penalizing you for acting like a dick.  And I won't go back to a place with lousy service or quality or a tendency to jerk people around.

I really resent the salary factor.  It is the employer's responsibility to pay every employee a living wage.  Not doing that abuses both the employees and the customers.  A tip is supposed to be extra for a job well done.  It is not supposed to be anyone's livelihood.  I won't discount salary entirely, because we're stuck with a society that allows employers to abuse people like this; but I rank it last, because it shouldn't be my  responsibility to take care of some moocher's employees.  If you can't be arsed to take care of your people, then you shouldn't have any, you should be in a business that doesn't require that.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
See a map distinguishing more from less developed areas of America, graded in the same way as countries in Africa.  Notice the huge swath of squalor across the South.  That comes from a combination of racism, classism, and foolish policy making.  Those problems then become everybody's problems when the people who make them go to Washington.
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
More and more online booksellers are practicing censorship.   This directly harms writers by preventing them from selling their work; it directly harms readers by preventing people from spending their money as they see fit.  

Some people say that this doesn't count as "real" censorship because it's done by corporations rather than government.  But it has exactly the same effect on your ability to write, read, sell, and buy what you choose.  Look around.  Corporations are doing a lot of destructive things that the government was forbidden to do because those cause problems, only nobody forbade corporations because nobody thought that businesses would ever have  the power to do government-type things.  Now they do, and it's a disaster.  

When a small business makes personalized decisions, it has a small impact; but when a megacorp does, it has a government-sized impact.  That makes it not okay anymore.  If you're going to function in an area where you control most or all of the market, then you have an obligation to serve ALL of that market, not cherry-pick just the customers you personally like and freeze out everyone else.

If you think this is only happening to erotica, it's not.  That's just a genre where it's relatively easy to catch people censoring content.  People who think that censorship is okay will manipulate everything according to their -- usually awful -- worldviews.  So there's probably censorship in other areas such as politics, religion, sexual health information, current events, etc.  It's a new bottleneck between creators and customers.

This is becoming a huge issue in books, videos, music, all kinds of cultural entertainment.  It's a problem with online money handlers who think that they have a right to tell you how you can spend your money.  Shopping in niche markets can be fun, but it's less efficient and effective than shopping in a few large places.  It wastes your time and causes you to miss some stuff that is available but out of easy reach.  

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