Five Thoughts with Renee Miller: Publishing Edition

I already did a five thoughts post, but lately I’ve had a lot of writing/publishing thoughts that I think should be shared. So, as I did the first time, I’m just going to free write the first five that come into my head. Cool? You know it is.

Here we go.

  1. Is ANYTHING fair? Seriously, life isn’t fair. Publishing isn’t fair. The average pay rate isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that every time I want something sugary in this house, someone else has already eaten it. I hate everything. Most of all, I hate that I bust my ass and see just tiny fragments of success while that piece of shit over there doesn’t work half as hard and he’s all “Oooh, look at me on the bestseller list.”

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Fuck that guy.

  1. I think submission guidelines are the publisher’s revenge for all of the shitty writing they have to read in the slush pile. I mean, sometimes the things they ask for are just ridiculous. I get that they have to weed out the lazy fuckers, but damn, guys. Just damn. Sometimes the ones who aren’t lazy are all “I don’t have time for this shit when you’re paying me less than 1 cent per word.” But I’d totally do it for the pro markets. Cut off my left arm? Okay. You got it. Sacrifice a goat on the fifth Saturday after the first quarter moon? Done. Do a triple back flip, followed by the two-step, and end with a downward dog on a bed of knives? Pfft. Hold my beer and make note of my PayPal email.

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I got this shit.

  1. Why am I writing all of these things? I’m just going to have to submit them somewhere or decide whether or not to publish them myself. I’ve got SO MANY THINGS. Should just quit. Take a holiday or something. But if I stop, even for a little while, I might, I don’t know, never start again. And then what? What if I never have another good idea because I stopped using the other ideas? What if I stop and the world keeps going, because we know that’s exactly what will happen and my special bubble will burst and I’ll have to accept I’m not the shit at writing. I’m just another cog in the wheel of publishing that is easily replaced when it breaks.

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  1. I’m exhausted like 85% of the time. Maybe even 90%. Does anyone else roll their eyes when a new writer comes along with his “Ooh! Everything is so shiny and I’m so full of hopes and dreams. Can you help me get started?”

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But seriously, new writers are great You’re wonderful. Just… stop being so… happy all the time. God.

  1. Rejection letters that begin with “We loved the writing and the characters are fantastic” or “your story made it to the final round,” and end with “But it’s just not what we’re looking for at this time.” You know what, editor person?

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Just say no.

Don’t tell me how close I came. Don’t let me know that if I’d just chosen another genre, setting, whatever, I’d have sold that fucking piece of shit I sent to you. Just tell me no. “Sorry. It’s a no.” That’s all. Don’t open the door to ‘what might have been’ with your “you’re just awesome and we almost said yes” nonsense. I can’t take it.

Bonus thought: This industry is great, though. Really, it is. I mean, you get to meet new, fascinating people. You’re always learning, so it almost never gets boring. Sure, it’s hard on the pride. Makes you cry from time to time. It’s sent a few people across the border of Crazy Town. Maybe ended a few relationships. Blew up some families. But all-in-all, it’s pretty awesome.

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Five (More) Thoughts with Katrina Monroe

by Katrina Monroe

  1. I can’t science.

I like science. Science makes things blow up and makes my phone cooler and takes care of animals. I appreciate science. I do. I just can’t do it. I started going back to school this year to finish up an English degree I’ve been drooling over for over a decade, and part of it is taking an environmental science class. I read the chapters and cry when I can’t make them stick in my head. I take quizzes that don’t make sense. But, at the end of it, I’m coming for you climate change denying mother-fuckers, so WATCH OUT.

 

  1. Academic writing bores me to tears.

Okay, yes, more school stuff. If I have to obsess about it, you have to hear about it. My required writing class is led by a professor who thinks stylized writing is “confusing.” (I can’t wait to see what he thinks of my rogue italics and one-word paragraphs in our first paper. *eyeroll*). At the beginning of the semester, he emphasized that we would be reading non-fiction. That’s fine. I read A LOT of great non-fiction. Except, in this class, it’ll be academic essays from the medical field, to appeal to the eleventy-billion nursing students in my class. Gag me.

 

  1. You’d think momming got easier once the kids started becoming independent. Guess what, losers. It doesn’t.

When my kids (now ages 9 and 10) were smaller, it was easy to write off their little eccentricities and forgetfulness as a result of their being little. Of course she won’t remember to pick up after herself, Katrina, she’s a toddler for fuckssakes. Now, they still don’t clean their room; they still forget things at school; they still leave behind little trails of pizza cheese and homemade slime, except NOW it’s willful. I have no point other than I’m losing my god-damned mind. Send help.

 

  1. Get your flu shot.

Otherwise you’ll be stuck chain-sucking sugar-free cough drops so you don’t hack up a lung in the middle of class. Oh, and those cough-drops? They give you the runs. Your PSA for the week, kids.

 

  1. Sometimes strangers will sniff your furniture.

This week, I sold our old recliner on the Facebook market because I figured it’d be safer than throwing it up on Facebook and attracting creepers. Facebook users have pictures, right? And you can totally tell a creeper from a non-creeper by their photo (yeah, I’m laughing too). After dodging a few bullshit offers—“I’ll give you twenty bucks and that’s being generous,” fuck off, bro—a legit offer came through and someone showed up to pick up the recliner. Which he sniffed. Allllllll over it. The seat. The back. He said he was looking for mold, but he paid cash so I didn’t ask questions. The chair’s gone now, and so is the sniffer.

Writer’s Toolbox: The Notebook

by Renee Miller

We decided to challenge ourselves to step outside our usual writing aids, methods, tools, etc., and try something that’s either new, or that’s an often-recommended thing we usually don’t use. We’re going to try said aid/method/tool for 7 days and let you know how it works for us. Does that even make sense? Not really. Let’s move on.

I chose the notebook. Back in the day, like about ten years ago, I used a notebook all the time. I had several, actually, and wrote all of In the Bones, The Legend of Jackson Murphy, Bayou Baby, and my first ever novel that shall not be named here, in a notebook. By hand. Every single one of the 80,000+ words for each was scribbled onto paper before I typed it into our ancient, temperamental desktop computer. That’s about 400,000 words handwritten. Yikes.

And then I got a laptop and I said, screw this notebook shit. Never used one again aside from when I have ideas and I’m not at home (although, I often use my phone instead of pen and paper) or when I’m editing or outlining. However, I know a lot of writers who swear by using pen and paper in early stages, so I decided to give it another go.

Supplies: Notebook (I went with the one below, because they were 47 cents at Walmart), brand new pen

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It says “Mom’s Writing Shit” so that the hooligans don’t use it for their own writing.

Day 1:

This thing is so new and white. Just smell those crisp, clean pages. I LOVE that. Ugh. I don’t want to write in it. I must, though. Got this new pen and everything. Here goes.

First entry: Ideas I’ll never use.

Filled three pages.

Day 2:

Wrote a bit of a story in my nifty notebook. Four pages, front and back. It’s kind of okay. My hand hurts and I’m hungry. Because I don’t want to take up story pages, I made a few notes in the back of the notebook. I think this is going to get confusing.

Also, watched a documentary about haunted places. Mentioned the Cecil Hotel. So, this happened…

Day 3:

Lost the notebook. Edited a finished project instead. Stop judging.

Day 4:

New notebook. Tried to rewrite the shit I wrote in the first notebook, but I know I forgot shit. Spent two hours writing beginnings and endings. Forgot how fun that was. My hand hurts again and there’s a new season of Bones on Netflix. What? I have to let these new prompts marinate.

Day 5:

Lost my new pen. Why does writing in pencil bother me so much? Can’t find a pen in this house. Kids must eat them or something. The pencil is REALLY messing with my head. It’s just not right. Wrote a couple of chapters anyway, but I don’t like any of it. Might be the pencil, though, so I’ll sit on it.

Day 5, part two: Found a pen. Wrote over the pencil stuff. Is that OCD? I don’t know. I feel better about what I wrote now. It’s a comedic horror thing, with witchcraft, creatures, sex (of course) and lots of killing. I think it has potential. I need to research and do some outlining, but I like it.

Day 6:

Found the first notebook. I must’ve put it away, because I found it in the junk cupboard. No way anyone else in this house put it there, because they don’t put anything away. And I clearly used it at some point to make note of vet appointments for the cats…

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Anyway, I did forget a lot of stuff. Day 5’s idea about the witch comedy thing is in it, sort of. I just wrote “witches, comedy, horror.” Also, a grocery list.

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Hmm. Anyway, wrote some more in the second notebook, and I’m itching to get on the laptop and “properly” start this thing. Did some research instead. Time travel is cool. I should add that to the story. I made a note.

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Day 7:

Finally, one more day of writing with my poor, cramped hands and then I can get cracking on the keyboard. I made a feeble attempt at it today. Didn’t get very far. I did list all the names I’ve ever used in my stories/books. I’ve used a lot. Going to have to get creative soon, eh? Yeah. Sigh. Of course, minor character names are recyclable, so it’s not so dire. Right? Right?!

New list: Names I haven’t used.

Conclusion:

The notebook is handy, for ideas. It’s not so handy for someone who writes bits and pieces of story impulsively and rapidly, and it’s not at all organized. I lose things constantly, as we’ve seen. If I were to use a notebook regularly, I’d need several. One for ideas, one for general bullshit like character names, and one for each story I’m working on. I’d probably lose track of one or two, so I’d end up with at least a hundred notebooks lying around. That’s too much paper for this girl.

However, it really does get the creative juices flowing, so I think I’ll save it for those times when I feel like I’ve run out of shit to write.

Any unusual writing tools/aids/tricks you’ve heard of, but haven’t tried? Which ones have you tried and would recommend?

The Great NYT Bestseller List Rip-Off

by C.M. Saunders

It is the dream of many would-be authors to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s the kind of thing that can make or break entire careers. Keep that in mind when you consider the recent furor surrounding a little-known author called Lani Sarem, who allegedly bulk-bought her YA fantasy novel, “Handbook for Mortals” to the top of the famed New York Times bestseller list.

It shouldn’t happen, but it did, and the NYT were justifiably embarrassed about it. So much so, that they pulled the book from the list. Whether as a direct result of all this bad publicity, or just because it sucks, the book itself has been absolutely blasted by critics and reviewers. I thought the first order of business would be to find out more about the mysterious Lani Sarem who is either an exciting new name on the literary scene or a massive fraud.

In amongst all the name-dropping, on her social networks the self-styled rock n’ roll gypsy describes herself as a ‘writer and actress.’ She is indeed on IMBD, but the pinnacle of her acting achievements to date seems to be an uncredited role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Over on Twitter, where she has less than 1600 followers, her bio describes her as a ‘festival expert.’ Checking out the book on Amazon (where it has attained a 2-star rating) the first thing you see is a forward written by one ‘Skye Turner’ praising Sarem and her considerable talents. The suggestion is that Sarem wrote this about herself. There is an active writer using the name Skye Turner who churns out low-brow erotica, but that’s obviously a pseudonym and the only other Skye Turner my search turned up was an Australian heroin addict who died back in June. Stranger and stranger. Finally, $9.96 for the Kindle edition? Really? Maybe I’m wrong, but all this smells a bit fishy to me.

Anyway, enough of the supposition. Let’s move on to some facts. For the record, writers bulk-buying copies of their own book under the pretence of selling them at events and signings is nothing new. It’s common practice for most indie authors, and has the dual-purpose of propelling their book a few places up the Amazon charts. I’m not defending Sarem, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Something that bothered me much more than her being accused of buying bulk copies was learning that the NYT Bestseller lists are, ‘Based on sales figures and editorial judgement. It is thought the team compiles a list of books they believe to be top sellers and asks a confidential group of several thousand retailers to provide sales data on those titles with the option to write in other titles that are selling well.’ (Source: The Times)

Wut?

Wait a minute, so… Some folk who work for the New York Times GUESS which books they think are selling well, then use ‘judgement’ to add extra credit where due? That’s bullshit. Obviously, this ‘judgement’ will encourage them to lean toward their favourite writers, or books put out by more the prestigious publishing houses, or even the ones backed by the most generous PR departments who take influential journalists and critics to the nicest restaurants. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is what’s happening.

Why not base the list on sales alone?

At the very least, the system they currently have in place where so much credence is given to subjective ‘judgement’ gives a biased representation of which books indeed head the charts, and makes it doubly hard for new writers (or old writers with smaller publishers) to penetrate the bubble. Imagine if the Premier League table was decided in the same way as the NYT Bestseller list. You would have a group of journalists, all with their own biases, arguing that the club they support (undoubtedly one of the big guns) is the best in the country. Less fashionable clubs like West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley wouldn’t stand a chance.

Regardless of what Laini Sarem did in order to achieve it, the fact remains that during a specific time period, her book sold more copies than any other. In fact, she sold over 18,000 that week, while the average figure for most books hitting the top spot is more like 5,000. But she has been vilified just because some stuffy industry bigwigs didn’t like the way she sold them.