Short Saturday: More Military Slang

I wrote my post on the language of military men and their families some time ago, and had been saving it for an appropriate moment—like Memorial Day. (When I was younger, my birthday—30 May—was always Memorial Day, and Memorial Day was always the day the neighborhood pool opened: a great time for a California kid’s birthday.) While I waited, other articles of interest continued to come across my desk; here’s a good one.

Writing at the Oxford University Press blog, history professor Jennine Hurl-Eamon discusses the deep roots of military culture and how it is expressed in language:

It should not be surprising that the expression “hot stuff” had its origin in military circles. Britain’s common soldiers were immersed in a counter-culture of which language was an important signifier. Men in uniform have long been known for having a greater propensity to swear, for example. This is borne out by the literature of the time. As early as 1749, Samuel Richardson referred to the popular expression of swearing “like a trooper” in his novel Clarissa. Characters in Robert Bage’s 1796 novel, Hermsprong, held profanity to be “as natural to a soldier as praying to a parson,” and worried that “if soldiers and sailors were forbidden it, their courage would droop.” It transcended the boundaries of rank and gender.

Lots of interesting info here—check it out.

Note: Speaking of birthdays, this is the date I’d set to send out my subscription reward … but I’m going to miss the deadline. I’ve started it, I’m just not happy with it yet. Your exclusive rant is coming (to an in-box near you). Just not yet. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for being a subscriber.

 

Tweet: “Hot stuff” and the British Army.
Tweet: The deep roots of military culture and how it is expressed in language.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Why/How/What We Should Read

If reading books is to survive as a leisure activity—and there are statistics which show that this is by no means assured—then we have to promote the joys of reading rather than the (dubious) benefits. I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. But please, if you’re reading a book that’s killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren’t enjoying a TV program. Your failure to enjoy a highly rated novel doesn’t mean you’re dim—you may find that Graham Greene is more to your taste, or Stephen Hawking, or Iris Murdoch, or Ian Rankin. Dickens, Stephen King, whoever. It doesn’t matter. All I know is that you can get very little from a book that is making you weep with the effort of reading it. You won’t remember it, you’ll learn nothing from it, and you’ll be less likely to choose a book over Big Brother next time you have a choice. …

And please, please stop patronizing those who are reading a book—The Da Vinci Code, maybe—because they are enjoying it. For a start, none of us knows what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing. I don’t mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that’s what you want to read, it’s fine by me, because here’s something else no one will ever tell you: if you don’t read the classics, or the novel that won this year’s Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud. The whole purpose of books is that we read them, and if you find you can’t, it might not be your inadequacy that’s to blame. “Good” books can be pretty awful sometimes.

Nick Hornby

Transcribed by me from the preface to Housekeeping vs. the Dirt, © 2006, Believer Books, pages 15 to 17.

 

Tweet: Nick Hornby on why, how, and what we should read.
Tweet: It’s up to us to remind others of the joy of reading, friends.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Authors & Other Writers, Books You Might Like | Tagged as: ,

Teach Your Children Well

My parents, as I’ve noted before, were verbal people who liked to talk, liked to (ahem) exercise the language. As a career pilot in the air force, my father exercised a very different language—often acronymical (I made that up) in nature, much of it profane, all of it evocative and sometimes humorous.

Thus we had ASAP (which meant immediately in our military family), and when Daddy went TDY (on a temporary duty assignment) he stayed in the BOQ (bachelor officers’ quarters), even though we kids knew that bachelors were unmarried men. When things were messed up they were FUBAR (an adjective) or we’d created a SNAFU (noun); we were much older before we knew all the words in those. Something that occurred a long time ago happened “when Christ was a cadet”; one of my most special birthday parties was at the “officer’s club” (back, you know, when Christ was a cadet). Military families either lived “on base” or “off base” (we always lived off). If we went shopping we went to the commissary (for groceries) or the BX (for everything else). Daddy was in SAC (the Strategic Air Command) and was “on alert” (“7 on 7 off”). He did two tours of duty in Vietnam. We kids were, of course, air force brats.*

There was pilot talk—like stalls (you really don’t want to know), chopper, touch and go (practice landing), flight suit—and we knew the phonetic alphabet too: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu. Gosh, just typing those brings my dad’s voice to my ears. :)

That was my family’s personal lexicon—words we used every day. But the military life is a wondrous source of slang, and though much of it is lost (What phrases did soldiers use at Concord? I wonder), we do know that men in the trenches of World War 1 spawned fed up, trench coat, and pushing up daisies, among many others. Because troops from different countries fought side by side, the French word souvenir came to replace memento, and Canadian troops introduced swipe to describe acquiring something by unofficial means. This Daily Mail article says historians Peter Doyle and Julian Walker analyzed thousands of documents—letters from the front, newspapers, diaries—from the period to trace language development:

Mr Walker, who works at the British Library, said: ‘The war was a melting pot of classes and nationalities, with people thrown together under conditions of stress.

‘It was a very creative time for language. Soldiers have always had a genius for slang and coming up with terms.

‘This was a citizen army—and also the first really literate army—and at the end of the war, those that survived took their new terms back to the general population.’

This example is a case of many wartime armies serving together and influencing each other, but soldiers who served far from home—British troops in India, say—picked up local words (pyjamas, bangles, shampoo, veranda, calico, for example).

World War 2 troops introduced big wheel, gremlins, and for the birds—as well as the aforementioned SNAFU and all variants of FUBAR. Vietnam gave us Charlie (Viet Cong = VC = Victor Charlie), in country (on the ground in South Vietnam), klick (for kilometer), friendly fire, and on and on. You’ve heard them in movies, I’m sure.

Slang and jargon serve to draw a people group together; military slang often develops in stressful situations and is used to diffuse or buffer fear. Interestingly, while the military situation is similar from generation to generation, the words to describe it change. For example, the condition we now call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been variously called nostalgia (American Civil War), combat hysteria, war neurosis (Russo-Japanese war), shell-shock (World War 1), combat fatigue, battle fatigue, combat exhaustion (all World War 2 and Korean War); finally Vietnam gave us post-Vietnam syndrome, which has since become defined as PTSD, though that wasn’t coined until 1980. (Here’s an interesting article about that.) What we now call Gulf War syndrome—a physical reaction rather than the psychological reaction called PTSD—has an equally interesting lexicon: from DaCosta’s syndrome (Civil War) to soldier’s heart (WW1), effort syndrome (WW2), and in-country effect (Vietnam).

I bring all this up not just because I am fascinated by words and language (and particularly slang), but also because today is Memorial Day here in the United States—the day during which we honor the servicemen and -women who have died in the service of our country. Thank you for your service; we will not forget.

* Interestingly, this phrase hails from Great Britain, and was originally an acronym. Wikipedia tells us, “When a member of the British Army was assigned abroad and could take his family, the soldier was listed as BRAT status, which stood for: British Regiment Attached Traveler.”

 

Tweet: Slang and jargon serve to draw a people group together—like soldiers.
Tweet: Military vocabulary: acronymical, profane, all of it evocative & sometimes humorous.
Tweet: We kids were, of course, acronyms—that is, air force brats.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Short Saturday: Readers Advising Writers

I read this short article—“A reader’s advice to writers”—a while back and thought it was an interesting twist: a reader advises writers of fiction on what makes a good book.

Here one I like a lot:

2. Make your main character do something. For the reasons stated above, many writers gravitate toward characters to whom things happen, as opposed to characters who cause things to happen. It’s not impossible to write a compelling novel or story in which the main character is entirely the victim of circumstances and events, but it’s really, really hard, and chances are that readers will still find the character irritatingly passive. When you hear someone complain that “nothing happens” in a work of fiction, it’s often because the central character doesn’t drive the action.

That last point struck a nerve: I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to remind an author that his declared protagonist was not driving the action. Yes, but … isn’t the right answer to that critique, either. :)

Every writer wants readers—right? So give this short read some serious thought. It may reorder your writing priorities.

Tweet: A reader advises writers about what makes a good book.
Tweet: Check out these 5 points for writing a readable novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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And You Thought the Current Situation Was Somehow New?

That 1983 Labor Day weekend was a little drama … announcing the next era of publishing.* I was to be one of many authors caught in the tumult while it thrashed about in search of a new business model.

Of course publishing had begun to change when I was admitted to its inner sanctum in 1970. Publishing as a family business, as a literate, gentlemanly occupation, had already taken on the sepia hues of nostalgia, but the new publishing, whatever that creature would turn out to be, hadn’t reared its head yet. In the meantime, “the industry,” as John Hawkins [her agent] referred to it in his acerbic moods, went through some ungainly and ruthless stages. It still hasn’t finished deciding what kind of creature it is supposed to be, and is now circling its wagons to fend off its monster predator, the Internet. Not one of the seven houses that wanted to publish A Mother and Two Daughters [her best-selling book to that date]—eight, counting Knopf, who reserved the right to match the final bidder—stands by itself today. Six of those bidders are now subsumed into two of the “big five” publishing corporations.

[She returns to dance as a metaphor for publishing.] Let’s say there has been an intermission, and when we publishing partners (authors, editors, and publishers) return to the dance we notice things are different. A proliferation of nondancers has taken to the floor, wearing in their lapels tiny logos that have nothing to do with publishing. They don’t dance but just monitor our movements, like bodyguards with earpieces and dark glasses, only it isn’t our bodies they are protecting, it is an unseen corporate body. A mood of foreboding has blighted the air of camaraderie and grace. We sense we are expected to dance faster or more gainfully, and our uncertainty makes us tense. Any one of us could trip, or fall behind, and be tapped on the shoulder by one of the corporate nondancers and asked to leave the floor. Even the floor feels wobbly beneath our feet, and the traditional old building that has supported us has sprung holes in its roof, through which we glimpse patches of an indefinite space in which communications zip back and forth in ways not entirely imaginable to the most far-seeing among us.

Ever since that Labor Day lunch when [a friend at the gathering] confided to me that Peter had not yet had his Penguin contract renewed, I’ve been uncomfortably aware of what a large role the fear element plays in current publishing. Unless you own your own publishing company, however far up you are on the ladder, there’s always going to be someone further up who can make you clean out your desk by the end of the workday and sign an agreement not to bad-mouth your evictors if you want to receive your severance package. …

It’s hard to maintain your equilibrium when your dance partners keep getting dragged off the floor.

Gail Godwin, in Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir

*This follows a description of what Godwin calls a bloodbath at Viking (what today would be called … a reorganization).

Transcribed by me from my hardback copy (Bloomsbury, 2015), pages 73–75.

 

Tweet: What Godwin calls a bloodbath would today be called … a reorganization.
Tweet: And you thought the current publishing climate was a new thing? Oh no. :)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Authors & Other Writers, The Book Biz | Tagged as: ,

Just Say No to an NDA

Here’s a little word problem for you (ahem):

Janie is a reasonably successful freelance editor of fiction and nonfiction. She works with both publishers and independent clients, and has done so for eleven years. By day Johnny is an accountant but in his spare time he has been carefully crafting a first novel; it will be, of course, an award-winning, international best seller. If only he can get it edited. Janie requires a sample of the work—a couple chapters and a synopsis—and a word count in order to quote a fee and make a decision about whether to take the project. Instead of emailing the chapters and the synopsis, however, Johnny sends Janie a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). What does Janie do?

Well, I’ll tell you what I do.*

First, I remind myself that this person has just revealed how little he knows about how the publishing industry works, so I should try to be gentle. I swallow what I want to say—feel free to use your imagination—and politely decline. I say, “The nature of my work is such that if I talked about my projects, I wouldn’t have any projects to talk about.”

Often, that is enough. Enough for the inexperienced author to step back, have a little think, and realize he has just insulted me by implying I am a thief. But if the author is not that insightful and insists, I again decline, and suggest he look elsewhere. After I press send, I have my own little think, and it goes something like this: Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Here’s the thing—you can’t copyright an idea. Brian Klems at Writer’s Digest has a good illustration of how the law works:

No one directly copied William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet word-for-word and slapped their name on it, but they have used his idea—a love story about two young people from rival families—over and over again. West Side Story fits the bill (two lovers from rival gangs). Even Disney’s High School Musical has the same plot (rival high school cliques).

And since we all know there are only seven basic plots, you would have a heck of a time proving your idea was completely new.

You can’t copyright a title, either. (Once you’ve put your ideas down in the form of a manuscript, though, the law assumes your copyright. So what are you worried about, exactly?)

Furthermore, no agent or publisher is going to sign a nondisclosure agreement because, again, no one wants to start a potential relationship from a position of distrust. Talk to anyone reading manuscripts at a literary agency or publishing house and they’ll tell you that similar—sometimes identical—ideas come in all the time. (This is why agents often state what they are not looking for, in addition to what sort of manuscript they’d like to see. Because they are inundated with stories about, say, friendly vampires.)

How does that happen? Jane Friedman calls this “cultural zeitgeist.” It’s more prevalent than you think. There is a well-known experiment by British illusionist Derren Brown showing how environmental stimuli subconsciously affect our mental processes. Watch this little six-minute video and you will never again assume your idea about friendly vampires is unique in all the land. Pop culture is as pop culture does.

So why do perfectly nice people ask me to sign an NDA? I’ll tell you that too. It’s because of people writing articles like this: “Non-Disclosure [sic] Agreements—Three Great Reasons You Should Use One.” It sounds reasonable, maybe, if you don’t know anything about publishing or copyright law. This person is presenting herself as an expert, but within the first ten lines she reveals her inexpertise. Before you start believing everything you read on the interwebs, kids, check the author’s credentials. Or lack of them.

So put that nondisclosure (see? this is how it’s really spelled) agreement back in your pocket, please. I already spend more time than I’d like just trying to prize out—from folks who haven’t bothered to read my FAQs—what your word count is. I seriously do not have time for your silly NDA.

*I’ve discussed this before, albeit briefly, here and here.

 

Tweet: No one wants to start a potential relationship from a position of distrust.
Tweet: Put that NDA back in your pocket before you insult me.
Tweet: Just say no to an NDA. Really.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in The Book Biz | Tagged as: ,

Short Saturday: Grumbletonians, Unite!

Earlier this year I stumbled upon this lovely article—lovely to me because I freely acknowledge the fact that I’m a champion-level grumbler—and wanted to share it with you, not least because of the fabulous words.

counter-grumbling
grumblebrag
grumblebraggy
grumblecore
grumble-friends
grumblepact
grumbler
grumble-respect
grumblesome
Grumbletonians
grumbling (as both verb and noun)
grumblous
Grumblr
grumbly
meta-grumbling

I think perhaps we should stage a grumble-off.

But writer Joshua Rothman has a lot more to say:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary—and grumblers, of course, will note that far too much cultural criticism begins with the O.E.D.—the word “grumble” derives, in part, from the French verb grommeler, to mutter to oneself. But grommeler also applies to animals: it means murmuring, snuffling, growling between your teeth. There’s something animalistic about grumbling. It differs from arguing, which is disembodied, rational, and Enlightened. Grumbling is bodily: in the eighteenth century, you could describe yourself as “grumblous”—full of grumbles—in roughly the same way you might describe yourself as “bilious.” In the nineteenth century, you could have “the grumbles.” (Bonus fact: in the late sixteen-hundreds, members of England’s Court Party lampooned their enemies, the Country Party, by calling them “Grumbletonians.”)

You know I get excited about anyone who enjoys a good dictionary. Grumbletonians? I just love that. And, oh, the language in this article!

Tweet: Grumbletonians, unite! Perhaps we should stage a grumble-off.
Tweet: Oh, the language in this article! I get excited by anyone who enjoys a dictionary.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Look Inward, Writer

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you ) I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple, ‘I must,’ then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Transcribed by me from a paperback edition of Letters to a Young Poet, © 1934 by W. W. Norton & Company, revised in 1954, renewed in 1962, and reissued in 2004, page 16.

 

Tweet: “Search for the reason that bids you write …” —Rainer Maria Rilke
Tweet: Wisdom for a young writer … from Rainer Maria Rilke

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized |

Not Until They Pry My Cold, Dead Fingers … (How to Let Go)

The final copyedit is not the time for you to do a rewrite, sugar. And this is the third so-called final. Stop it. You should have done all this rethinking before now! Your Editor is losing her patience.

It’s time for us to talk about how to let go. And why you should. So let’s go over the steps in this writing-to-published dance.

1 Work in progress: Write as many drafts as it takesI don’t want to see any of them.
2 Final manuscript: Send this one to your publisher (or to me).
3 Developmental (content) edit: Rewrite and/or make revisions based on editorial notes.
4 Copyedit: Fix any writing awkwardness and make the manuscript consistent with U.S. publishing standards.
5 Typesetting: A designer makes it look like a book.
6 Proof: Checking for errors introduced by the typesetting process.
7 Print: Book’s done!

That’s the short version.

One of my experienced authors wrote to say she was reviewing her final manuscript. “I’ll send it to you in the morning,” she said. “I must un-pry my fingers from it.” I find this reassuring. It’s perfectly healthy to acknowledge that you want this to be your very best effort. I’ll wait as long as you need to feel good about it. Setting a deadline for yourself is smart, though. And then … you let it go.

Another author who is readying her final manuscript for the developmental stage—her first time to work with an editor—sent me this email:

I looked back over the rewrite, and now I want to rewrite the rewrite. I realize this is good, because it’s a reflection of improvement in my writing. But where does this end? No doubt I would rewrite the rewrite and then want to rewrite the rewrite of the rewrite and so on ad infinitum. What should I do?

Oh, I do understand! (If you only knew how many times I’ve rewritten this post …) Try not to get caught up in this endless loop of uncertainty. But how?

Generally I tell people to set it aside. (This happens, of course, when you send it to me—you have to stop because there can only be one official manuscript, and it’s either in your court or in mine.) But you should definitely set it aside after you’ve finished an entire rewrite. Work on something else. Start sketching notes for the next novel, or whatever. Something that will make your mind let go of this one. Then you can go back to it days or weeks later and read it with refreshed eyes.

If you’ve read this article about the creative process (or this one), you’ll see that the work-in-progress phase is what we call preparation and setting it aside would be incubation. Notice the suggestion to focus on other things. In our daily lives, of course, we’re forced to set our hearts’ projects aside all the time: dinner has to be cooked, kids have to be bathed. Sometimes that’s enough for incubation. I think the most important thing is to not fret about it. I do want you to be at peace when you send me your final draft for the content edit. Work through it, and then let it go.

When we’re working on a content edit, the first pass will be the most work (for both of us). After that we may hand the manuscript back and forth a few times (depending on what I’ve been hired to do), but on each pass the amount of change to the manuscript should diminish. At the end, we have a final, author- and editor-approved manuscript for the publisher’s copyeditor. (Whether the publisher is you or a traditional publishing house.)

Last year I sent what I thought might have been the final pass back to the author, but she tinkered with it a little more—a word here, a line there. “I think one more pass should do it,” she wrote. “Mostly everything’s ready, I just need a little more time standing at the edge of the high dive.”

I love that. Let’s do take a moment and appreciate this good work we’ve done together. I’ve learned so much by watching your process. (For real.) So by all means, take a deep breath. And then … take the plunge. Let it go. Your Editor’s happy with this one.

Notice, then, that copyediting follows developmental editing. You’ve had plenty of time to tweak and tweak again during the content edit (because, remember, the manuscript has already been through several of your own passes). So when you see the manuscript again in the copyedit phase, remember that you’ve already approved the content and the way it’s presented. So your job, at this point, is to trust the copyeditor. (There are exceptions.) If you see a word or phrase or even a sentence that’s wrong, by all means, change it. But this should be a rare thing, not an every-other-page thing. And you should definitely not be adding new material. (There are always exceptions, yes. But it should be an extraordinary circumstance that requires new material in the copyedit phase.)

I’ve seen authors change a line and then change it back in the next pass. When you get to this point, you need to tell yourself to let go. Don’t be one of “those authors” who are never, ever done. How will you ever move on to the next project if you can’t let go of this one?

This goes double for the proofing stage. When you get your advance copy, celebrate! Read it over, yes. Look for those things the proofers will be looking for, and if you see something you and the copyeditor missed, definitely point it out. Everyone involved in this process wants this book to be great. And if you’ve done your work in the other phases of the process, it will be. Let it go!

Tweet: How to let go: the final copyedit is not the time for you to rewrite!
Tweet: How to let go: you should have done all this rethinking before now!
Tweet: How will you ever move on to the next project if you can’t let go of this one?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , ,

Short Saturday: Keep an Eye on Mike

There’s so much in this article I almost don’t know where to start. Mike Shatzkin, according to his bio, is

a widely-acknowledged thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry. In his nearly 50 years in publishing, he has played almost all the roles: bookseller, author, agent, production director, sales and marketing director, and, for the past 30 years, consultant.

And if you’re not following him, you should consider it. He’s not on either “side,” he has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, and he doesn’t rant. He sticks to facts.

He’ll fasten on one topic, one piece of industry news, and start talking about that … and by the time you get to the bottom of the page—his posts are long—you’ll have more than just an overview.

In this case he starts with the survey done by Jane Friedman and Harry Bingham, which asked authors what they think of their publishers. From there, Shatzkin went here:

At the end of last week, we conducted a survey of our own among agents and editors, trying to discern whether self-publishing is a useful tool to get a deal. Much to my surprise, the consensus is that it is not useful. We got far more answers from agents than we did from editors, but the clear prevailing opinion is that publishers don’t know how to interpret independent publishing efforts and, most of the time, trying it does an author’s chances of selling that book to a publisher much more harm than good. Most agents responding said they really don’t want to try to peddle a book that has already been self-published unless it has achieved pretty extraordinary success.

This article follows on the heels of a few Shatzkin-penned articles about marketing—what publishers are doing, what authors are doing, and the twain, apparently, not meeting—and you should have a look at those in the archives (here, here, and here).

What Shatzkin does best, though, is pull it all together for you at the end, highlighting the salient points in his conclusions. If you are a part of the publishing industry and want to know what’s going on, you should pay serious attention to what Mike Shatzkin has to say.

Tweet: Keep calm and carry on with Mike Shatzkin.
Tweet: There’s so much in this Mike Shatzkin article I almost don’t know where to start.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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