This blog has moved to Cheryl Murphy Writes: Chronicles of an Ink Slinger. It became too hard to mirror to this site. Lots of glitches and such. I don't do much to maintain this site anymore so if you're wondering why things might look a bit wonky, that would be it.

If you've navigated here and discovered this dead blog, using the "Subscribe via email" feature in the sidebar will subscribe you to the new site feed, so that's a plus. ;)

An RSS feed of the new site is embedded below.

I hope you'll join me at my new home!

RSS Feed of the new site: Cheryl Murphy Writes: Chronicles of an Ink Slinger

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More procrastination?

I decided today I was going to write, write, write.  I have some time and I can try to catch my word count up for NaNoWriMo.

It's 9:48 AM and I've been reading blogs and now writing my own. Figures.

Amazingly, it's a good day. I'm in a fantastic mood. The coffee is running through my veins and honestly, it's prolly too much and that's why I'm blogging instead of writing. But I woke up happy this morning. Not that I'm depressed or unhappy with my life, I'm just a mom, a wife and many other things that make me too tired/busy to think about my mood or to indulge in it. And let's face it, my word count deficit is enough to rain on anyone's parade. Thank goodness it's not doing so today. Today I indulge. I'm happy. Cheerful, even.  And if I can whip up some focus and attention, I might even be able to write some.

Maybe it all has to do with my boys.  My boys started music lessons in school and last night we picked up a digital piano for my youngest and a violin for my oldest.  It excited me to know they are excited about music and learning how to play these instruments.  And getting a $1500 digital piano for $250 is definitely not a mood killer, it's a mood enhancer, by golly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fan based Neil Gaiman project

I have to post about this because I really think it's just too cool and it involves one of my all time favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

A filmmaker named Christopher Salmon wants to animate Neil Gaiman's short, "The Price." He is using Kickstarter to fund it and the link to him on Kickstarter is here. It's an awesome thing to fund and Neil Gaiman is awesome for allowing someone to do this. Making a movie is hard, costs a lot of money and making one of someone else's work is even more work as it generally involves lots of legal documents, licensing, etc. I don't know how much of that happened here but Mr. Gaiman is not taking any money for this project. As a matter of fact, he's helping to fund it on Kickstarter.

Christopher Salmon has 20 days left to fund $150k. Please, pledge a few bucks and help this happen.  It's just too cool to let die.

Here's what Neil Gaiman had to say.

Hope you can donate a few bucks. When you pledge money, no money will be charged to you unless he reaches his entire funding request of $150k. Help him get there and get this project off the ground!  Check it out below!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's NaNoWriMo time!

So who's in with me?

This year's NaNoWriMo is going to be especially tough on me. My husband is leaving the country for six months in eleven days time so I won't get much writing done until then (I'll get some done, but most of my time will be spent in much needed quality family time).  I'll have to play catch up and the only thing I've got going for me is that I'm rewriting work I've already started. Cheating?  Maybe.  But it's the same thing I've been working on these last few months and I'm starting over as I wasn't happy with the tone.  It was too girly and I wanted more dark and gritty. But it is useful and will likely be the only reason I manage to make 50k words by the end of the month.

My goal is not to complete the WIP. My goal is to get back to writing like I was only a short couple months ago.  And having something like NaNoWriMo to get me over the hump is just what I need. Massive amounts of people working towards the same 50k goal is quite motivating.

Now if only I could live without the distraction of internet and e-mail.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So the rewriting is going well...

If you call only writing a new chapter and rewriting chapter 1 in two months going well. I just can't seem to get motivated. I think about it.  I think of scenes and lines and everything that goes into it but I simply can't seem to sit my butt down and do it. I'm easily distracted lately. Talk about frustrating. If you have tips, I'm all ears!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What famous author do you write like?

James Joyce

This is a fun little link. Not very accurate but fun, nonetheless! I posted several of my chapters in it and they all came up James Joyce.

I can't be too shabby, I guess!  :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

What software do you use?

I have StoryMill and I just got Scrivener.  I used to use Word.

Word:  Yes, it's easy to use but I couldn't help but wonder if the other, more specific, programs were better.

StoryMill:  I was so happy to switch to StoryMill!  The features were just too useful.  You can write by scenes, drag and drop them wherever you want, check your timeline, keep notes, and so much more. It will also give you a count of how many times you've used words and check for cliches (although it's limited in its capabilities in this area). You can keep track of all your characters' info.  Cons I've found:  Exporting kind of sucks with it.  Formatting gets all kinds of screwy when you export and you have to fix it all.  No just plain old highlight feature.  You can annotate but you can't just highlight?  It's not incredibly user friendly - using it requires quite a learning curve because it's not very streamlined.  For instance, in order to export, you must first go to "Chapters," highlight the chapter you want to export and then click export.  Why can't you just go to export and pick and choose from there?

Scrivener:  I'll be completely honest and say, I haven't played with it yet.  I've taken a peek at it, though and I'll tell you my initial feelings.  After that, tonight I will be setting it up for my current WIP and I'll update this post with a full review.

So here's the initial thoughts:  Holy cow!  The corkboard and index cards look awesome!  Great for putting together research and keeping it all in one place and looks easy to get to.  From other reviews, I'm hearing that it's not as good as StoryMill for fiction writers but I have to wonder if it just depends on what type of fiction you are writing.  Mine has a *ton* of research and notes.  One thing that it looks like you can do with Scrivener that you can't with StoryMill is have the webpage/file/picture actually embedded into your notes so it won't take you out and into your web browser to see it.  Nice.  I'll find out for sure tonight.  LOVE that it has just a plain old highlight feature.  How could something so basic have been missed in StoryMill?  Cons:  Looks like this takes even more time to set up and get with the program.

UPDATE:  So I have to say, I love Scrivener.  The corkboard is too awesome.  The embedded websites are so easy, I can't say enough good stuff.  I can even embed files like my mind maps.  I do miss a few features of StoryMill and it looks like I'll probably just cut and paste chapters into it for the few features I'm missing - word usage count especially.  But as a fiction writer, I have to say that Scrivener is far better for me than StoryMill.

Do you have a particular program you like to use?

Scrivener is coming to Windows!  So for all those that haven't yet seen the light and gotten a Mac, Scivener is coming to you.  Check it out:  Scrivener for Windows

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stilted Language

You've heard it said before, I'm sure.  "The dialogue seems stilted."

You may have asked yourself what that means.  It's pretty simple and if you don't know, grab a dictionary. But I'll save you the trouble.

stilt·ed  (stltd)
1. Stiffly or artificially formal; stiff.
2. Architecture Having some vertical length between the impost and the beginning of the curve. Used of an arch.

So now you know the definition.  What does that mean to you?  If you are getting comments on your stilted dialogue, it means it just doesn't sound believable.  Dialogue should flow.  It should sound like real speech but with all the boring parts taken out.  No one wants to read every comment of every conversation.  It should be normal conversation but better.

Take for instance:

Person 1: Do you have any milk?  I had to dump my last cup when I added the wrong thing from my recipe to it.

Person 2: No, sorry, but hey, what's the number to your plumber?

P1: Oh, hang on a sec, I'll get it for you. Um, yeah. Wait, I know where it is.   I think it's somewhere in my junk drawer.

P2: You know, if you just know the name, I'll google him.

P1: Tsk, oh, um, I can't remember.  It's something like, um--

P2: Wait, wasn't it something like, um, Crane something or other?

P1:  Yeah, I, uh, think so.  I'm pretty sure it was something like that.

I could go on with useless drivel that we all do but I think it's unnecessary.  This is an example of normal, every day conversation that we all do.  Okay, so maybe not exactly like this but close enough.  But it's boring to read.  The only important thing in here for someone reading would be the question and the answer.  Do you have any milk?  No, sorry I don't.  Just ran out.  All the other boring stuff is taken out.

Here's the same language in stilted dialogue:

P1: Would you happen to have any milk in your refrigerator?  I ruined my last cup when I added the wrong spice and now my carton is empty.

P2: No, I'm afraid I have no milk.  But whilst your here, would you mind, what is the name of your plumbing specialist?

P1: Let me excogitate on that for a moment. I believe it referenced a Crane of some sort.

P2: I believe you are correct.  I recall the sign on the van said something similar to such.

Completely over the top, yes, I know.  Note the thesaurus moment.  These happen amazingly often.  But this is language that is much too formal.  People don't really talk like that.

So when you are writing your dialogue, read it out loud.  Does it sound right?  Does it sound like something a person would actually say?  If you have characters that are not native to English (aliens and whatnot) try to keep it real.  Yes, the language may be more formal but it would fit the character so long as you don't go digging around the thesaurus too much.

So many writers think that using big words somehow gives them credibility as a writer.  It doesn't.  People want to read.  They want a good story.  They want it to flow.  They want to feel.  They don't want to feel like the author is trying to prove some kind of superiority.  Use big words if it makes sense and fits the character and the plot.  But usually you can get away with just using a simple word that conveys a heck of a lot more than "I grabbed a thesaurus."

I realize this post was not very well planned.  It's a bit all over the place.  But I'm trying to do this while cooking dinner.  Shoot me.  Kids have to eat.  :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Making Your Setting a Character

No.  I didn't scrap my wip and start over.  I tried but decided I was going to stick with what I have and keep pushing on.  I like it as is and when it's finished, I'll worry about those details and see what needs to be changed.

My wip is set in L.A. and I want the city to feel like a character in itself.  As I've been doing this, it got me thinking.  What do others do to create a life in the setting?  Sometimes setting aren't that important but sometimes the setting is just as important as the plot.  I especially see that in steampunk and high fantasy.  Without that setting, it falls flat.  Harry Potter would not be the same without Hogwarts.

L.A. obviously has a lot to work with in making it a character but what if you didn't have an L.A.? What do other writers of the world do?  How do you make your setting a distinct character that if you removed it, your work wouldn't work?  What are some of your favorite works that encompass setting in such a way?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back to Square One! Woo Hoo!

Seriously, folks, if you've never rewritten something you're either a complete literary genius or not interested if it doesn't work out the first time around.

I got up to chapter 7 of my WIP and now, well, I've restarted and I'm back on chapter 1. I liked my original version. I haven't deleted it and I haven't totally abandoned it but I'm going to see how my new version goes before I do anything else.

What prompted this? I had a few people tell me that they thought the original was a romance. Ack! So not where I was going. Yes, there's a bit of romance in it but it is far from the main story. And that got me thinking that maybe I'm just taking too long to get to the main story.

So I cut the first 3 chapters and restarted with chapter 4 and changed the POV.  

I already think it's at least a better start. I think it's more likely to garner attention from someone I might be querying since it cuts right into the action.  We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So I'm not much of a blogger...

I never claimed to be a great blogger.  I guess, by manner of having one, I am claiming to try, though. I have another blog on autism that gets neglected, too.

Since I don't have a particular topic, I just saw some more info on the Google Tablet.  I will admit, I want an iPad. My husband asked me if I wanted to cancel my Nook order in December and get one but I have an iPod so it wasn't a big priority to me.  I also have a MacBook Pro.  Getting an iPad really didn't seem to be offering me much of anything new so I stuck with my order.  Let's face it, my main purpose for it is to read. The rest of the features are just toys.

I'm sure I'll get an iPad at some point but this Tablet sounds interesting, too.  I'm glad I waited so I can see how fierce the competition gets.  But I won't buy either one until there's a built in camera.  Who was the genius that left that off the iPad?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

@#$! Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.  You know that sound.  It's the sound of panic.  The sound of uncertainty.  Self doubt creeping into your mind as you move along with your WIP and you've suddenly found yourself staring at your first page.  Again.  Wondering if it's good enough to attract an agent.  You've read too many agent blogs and now you think your first 250 words are not hooky enough, bold enough, or white-knuckle enough.

Oh my God.  Time to rewrite the first page.  Again.

Okay, so maybe you're over-reacting.  You've read yourself into a mess of insecurity.  So much so that you just can't move on to your next chapter until you've gone back over your first page.  Just one more time.  You promise yourself this will be the last time.  Until you head over to Nathan Bransford's blog on a Monday and find his latest First 250 crit.  Or maybe Author! Author!:: Anne Mini's Blog and found her slashings of first pages.

It's enough to make anyone crumble in fear and run their MS through shredder.

I find myself in constant fear that my first page sucks.  I already never think my writing is good enough but now I'm terrified at the prospect of querying.  I'm too busy being worried about what kind of reaction I'm going to get and wishing I had a literary agent as a friend that would help me to know when I've done enough, when I've gotten it right because I may have already and blew past it on rewrite 20 because I was too frenzied, too caught up in the "first page has to grab me" mantra of agents.  I get so worried that it's just not enough so I rework it and then I think it's trying too hard.  And then I rework it to bring it back down and the cycle just continues.  

Reading agent blogs is enough to shake the confidence right out of you. Sometimes you just have to let it go and be proud of what you have and hope that others will like it, too.

How do you keep from second-guessing yourself right out of something that is perfect the way it is?  Where is the balancing point and where is the tipping point?  How do you know?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ad hoc at home

Thomas Keller's
family-style goodness!
Yummy! My husband brought home another thing to keep me from writing... We both love to cook.  He likes to cook more than I do, though.  Granted, I have way too much to do than cook (hello, Twitter anyone?) but when I have the time and the inclination, it's on.

And now it's going to be on this weekend as I flip through this book of recipes, searching for the next gourmet family meal to prepare.  Mm-mmm.

Stuff to endlessly distract you...

Time keeps on slippin,
slippin, slippin...
I finished some cleaning up of my first 6 chapters this past weekend and told myself I would finish chapter 7 this week.

It's Tuesday.  I've written maybe 5 sentences in 3 days.  I keep getting distracted by blogs and lets not forget the time-thief, Twitter.

And now I'm here.

What sucks your time away from you before you even notice it's gone? What keeps your WIP from getting finished when you know perfectly well you have the time to do it and it should be further along?

And what do you do about it?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Dreaded Preposition

...isn't so dreaded anymore.

When did that happen?  When did it become okay to end a sentence with a preposition?  And I don't mean in dialogue.  Someone please tell me, I really want to know.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Your Inner Bard Sentient?

Yup, it sure is -- for me, at least.

Anne's comment got me thinking and I'd like to pose yet another question:  How do you write?

For me, my bard is sentient.  Let's call him Little Tolstoy.  I have conversations with Little Tolstoy and we argue regularly.  We discuss how we want it to read and we rarely agree.  It usually looks something like this.

Me:  We need to get more action happening.

LT:  No, the journey to the action is just as important and powerful.

Me:  Yes, this may be quite true but do you really think we need to devote three pages to something that can be said in one?

LT:  Yes, of course.  We need to fill the reader with the emotions of the scene, make them feel it themselves.

Me:  Yes, but this particular part isn't all that exciting, she's just ordering dinner.

LT:  I don't care!  The reader should feel her anxiety over her dilemma, relate to it and be just as unsure of what to order!

Me:  It's just dinner and it's boring.

LT:  No, it not just dinner, it's an exploration of her character.  How decisive is she?  Does she order what everyone else gets?  Does she enjoy food so much that she can't decide where to start?  Or does food just provide sustenance and that's why she is indecisive?  So many things to explore here, really.

Me:  You're crazy.  We need to cut it down.

LT:  Never.

Me:  Seriously.  You need to learn how to edit.

If I were to let my inner bard loose, I would write tomes that could anchor the QEII.  As it is, I have to edit down while I'm writing only to have to edit down more after I'm done.  Cut, cut, cut and cut some more.  I know some people can start jabbing away at the keys and come up with the perfect novel without hardly any editing and I sometimes envy those people.  But then I think about how little I would get to know my characters and my plot.  Knowing these things allows me to believe in my world just as much as a reader needs to believe.

So this method may be a bit inefficient but it works for me.  I'm on my 5th incarnation of my first chapter (I'm up to chapter 6, though) and I'm still paring it down.

What about you?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Smoke free and writing again!

Butt it's just smoke.. 3Ashtray with cigarette butts on a white background   Objects / Household
Altoids are better for you.
Excellent!  I've quite smoking but I'm still on imperfect ground.  Good enough to write again, though and living on altoids.  The struggle to not run to the gas station to put myself in a nicotine induced coma is ongoing but under control.

Now that I'm feeling able to write, here's what's been on my mind while I was detoxing:

I have to wonder, how many writers start out loving their idea, then get into a spot where it's not working out so well, but keep going only to discover that it's picked back up again?  I'm sure it happens a lot but what do you do about the part that floundered?  Especially if it's integral to the story. Or maybe you think it's more integral than it really is and you just need a little shove to cut?

Rough patches are hard, how do you get through them?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books:

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books:

In the weeks before, the book industry had been full of unaccustomed optimism; in some publishing circles, the device had been referred to as “the Jesus tablet.” The industry was desperate for a savior. Between 2002 and 2008, annual sales had grown just 1.6 per cent, and profit margins were shrinking. Like other struggling businesses, publishers had slashed expenditures, laying off editors and publicists and taking fewer chances on unknown writers.

The industry’s great hope was that the iPad would bring electronic books to the masses—and help make them profitable. E-books are booming. Although they account for only an estimated three to five per cent of the market, their sales increased a hundred and seventy-seven per cent in 2009, and it was projected that they would eventually account for between twenty-five and fifty per cent of all books sold. But publishers were concerned that lower prices would decimate their profits. Amazon had been buying many e-books from publishers for about thirteen dollars and selling them for $9.99, taking a loss on each book in order to gain market share and encourage sales of its electronic reading device, the Kindle. By the end of last year, Amazon accounted for an estimated eighty per cent of all electronic-book sales, and $9.99 seemed to be established as the price of an e-book. Publishers were panicked. David Young, the chairman and C.E.O. of Hachette Book Group USA, said, “The big concern—and it’s a massive concern—is the $9.99 pricing point. If it’s allowed to take hold in the consumer’s mind that a book is worth ten bucks, to my mind it’s game over for this business.”

At the Yerba Buena Center, it took a while for Jobs to mention books, and when he did he said that “Amazon has done a great job” with its Kindle. “We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little bit farther.” It would probably have been more accurate to say that Jobs planned to stand on Amazon’s neck and press down hard, with publishers applauding. The decision to enter publishing was a reversal for Jobs, who two years ago said that the book business was unsalvageable. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty per cent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.” But if reading books was low on the list of things that the iPad could do, it was nonetheless on the list, which meant that Amazon had become a competitor. “There’s a lot of heat between Apple and Amazon and Google,” an adviser to Jobs said. “Steve expresses contempt for everyone—unless he’s controlling them.” An Apple insider said, “He thinks Amazon is stupid, and made a terrible mistake insisting that books should be priced at $9.99.”

Onstage, Jobs made it clear that he would present Amazon and its C.E.O., Jeff Bezos, with a serious challenge. He told the crowd that five of the “big six” publishers had agreed to sell their e-books through Apple’s iBooks store, which would open in April. And he said that Apple, through its iTunes and Apple stores, had access to a hundred and twenty-five million credit cards, which would make it easy for consumers to buy books on impulse. The iPad was clearly a more versatile device: it would provide color and full audio and video, while the Kindle could display only black-and-white text.

After Jobs’s presentation, guests were ushered into an adjoining building to test the iPad. Among them was Carolyn Reidy, the president and C.E.O. of Simon & Schuster. Smiling broadly, Reidy said, “It’s fabulous! I want one!” The new device, she hoped, would “put digital books in front of one hundred and twenty-five million people.” It would also “create a competitor” for Amazon, she said—and provide publishers with leverage as they tried to raise the price of books above ten dollars.

Jobs, circling the room, stopped at one of several tables piled with iPads to talk with Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal’s personal-technology columnist. Onstage, Jobs, demonstrating how Apple would sell books, had selected Edward Kennedy’s “True Compass” and clicked on a “buy” icon with the price $14.99 next to it. Why, Mossberg asked, should consumers “pay Apple $14.99 when they can buy the same book from Amazon for $9.99?”

“That won’t be the case,” Jobs said, seeming implacably confident. “The price will be the same.” Mossberg asked him to explain. Why would Amazon increase prices, when consumers were buying so many books? “Publishers may withhold their books from Amazon,” Jobs said. “They’re unhappy.”

he next day, a Friday, John Sargent, the C.E.O. of Macmillan, a publishing conglomerate that includes Farrar, Straus & Giroux and St. Martin’s Press, flew from New York to Seattle to meet with Amazon. Macmillan is the smallest of the big-six publishers, which produce sixty per cent of all books sold in the U.S. Like its peers, Macmillan relies heavily on Amazon, which sells about fourteen per cent of its trade books and the vast majority of its e-books. But Sargent was determined to force Amazon to change the way it does business.

Traditionally, publishers have sold books to stores, with the wholesale price for hardcovers set at fifty per cent of the cover price. Authors are paid royalties at a rate of about fifteen per cent of the cover price. A simplified version of a publisher’s costs might run as follows. On a new, twenty-six-dollar hardcover, the publisher typically receives thirteen dollars. Authors are paid royalties at a rate of about fifteen per cent of the cover price; this accounts for $3.90. Perhaps $1.80 goes to the costs of paper, printing, and binding, a dollar to marketing, and $1.70 to distribution. The remaining $4.60 must pay for rent, editors, a sales force, and any write-offs of unearned author advances. Bookstores return about thirty-five per cent of the hardcovers they buy, and publishers write off the cost of producing those books. Profit margins are slim .*

Though this situation is less than ideal, it has persisted, more or less unchanged, for decades. E-books called the whole system into question. If there was no physical book, what would determine the price? Most publishers agreed, with some uncertainty, to give authors a royalty of twenty-five per cent, and began a long series of negotiations with Amazon over pricing. For months before Sargent’s visit, the publishers had talked about imposing an “agency model” for e-books. Under such a model, the publisher would be considered the seller, and an online vender like Amazon would act as an “agent,” in exchange for a thirty-per-cent fee. Yet none of the publishers seemed to think that they could act alone, and if they presented a unified demand to Amazon they risked being charged with price-fixing and collusion.

In Seattle, Sargent met with Russ Grandinetti, the vice-president in charge of Kindle Content, and told him that if Amazon would not accept the agency model Macmillan would restrict the publication of its e-books. Sargent was giving an ultimatum: Amazon had built its business on comprehensiveness, and if Macmillan withdrew its books it could no longer claim to be the world’s best-stocked bookstore.

Amazon did not react as Sargent had hoped. Before he stepped off the plane, back in New York, that Friday evening, it had stopped selling all of Macmillan’s titles. But, as Jobs hinted, four other major publishers—Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin, and Hachette—were quietly planning to follow Sargent’s lead. On Sunday afternoon, Amazon reversed course and announced on its Web site, “We will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.”

This was a somewhat cryptic statement—doesn’t every company have a monopoly over its own products?—and publishers interpreted it in various ways. One executive said that Amazon capitulated in order to show that “pricing is out of its control”—that is, to blame publishers for higher prices. The head of another house said, “Amazon was incandescent with rage. They switched because they figured out that if all publishers withdrew their books Amazon’s business was dead.” Whatever the explanation, Amazon’s announcement was good news for publishers. John Sargent had called negotiations with Amazon a “chess game,” and he seemed to have won the opening gambit.

Even though Sargent’s tactics had worked, publishers seemed uncertain that they were sustainable. “I’m not sure the ‘agency model’ is best,” the head of one major publishing house told me. Publishers would collect less money this way, about nine dollars a book, rather than thirteen; the unattractive tradeoff was to cede some profit in order to set a minimum price. “Amazon forced us,” one publisher said. “They chose to do something irrational—lose money—in order to gain a monopoly. That was destructive to publishers and retailers and authors. They brought this on themselves.”

Publishing exists in a continual state of forecasting its own demise; at one major house, there is a running joke that the second book published on the Gutenberg press was about the death of the publishing business. And publishers’ concerns about Amazon are reminiscent of their worries about Barnes & Noble, which in the eighties began producing its own books, causing publishers a great deal of anxiety without much affecting their business. Unlike Barnes & Noble, though, Amazon generates more than half of its revenues—which total about twenty-five billion dollars a year—from products other than books. Many publishers believe that Amazon looks upon books as just another commodity to sell as cheaply as possible, and that it sees publishers as dispensable. “Don’t forget,” the chief of a publishing house said, “Bezos has declared that the physical book and bookstores are dead.” opened for business in Seattle in July, 1995. Although sales were brisk, it took seven years to generate a profit, and analysts made a sport of predicting its collapse. Bezos was unmoved by criticism. When Charlie Rose, in 2009, asked him to describe his outstanding talent, he said it was his focus on the long term and a “willingness to be misunderstood.” Like other successful Internet companies, Amazon emphasized winning the trust of consumers. “Our vision,” Bezos has said many times, is to be “the world’s most customer-centric company.” Part of the appeal to consumers was low prices; Amazon sold many books, particularly best-sellers, for little more than the wholesale price, or even at a loss. In the long term, Bezos believed, lower prices would expand Amazon’s market share, its stock price, and its profits.

Amazon had a profound effect on publishers’ business, creating a place where customers could reliably find books that were no longer being promoted in stores. Backlist books—those which sell reliably over time—are vital to publishing houses. At Random House, more than fifty per cent of revenue is generated from books like “The Prophet” and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” which provide steady profits that allow editors to make more adventurous gambles on new books. With Amazon, “people could find backlists,” David Young, of Hachette, said. “You were no longer hoping and praying that you would find that spine on a shelf.” Carolyn Reidy said that in a three-month period online venders typically sell copies of twenty-five hundred Simon & Schuster titles that bookstores don’t stock.

Bezos had devised a more efficient way to buy books. And, with the arrival of electronic books, he began to think of ways to replace paper entirely. E-books had undeniable advantages for publishers. There would be no more returns, warehouse fees, printing expenses, or shipping costs. The obstacle was that no one knew how e-books should be read. Computer screens weren’t portable enough, and for many readers cell phones were too small. E-books remained a niche market, mostly neglected by large trade publishers.

Late in 2007, Amazon released the Kindle, which presented a decent simulacrum of printed pages and could wirelessly download a book in sixty seconds. Arthur Klebanoff, the co-founder and C.E.O. of the e-books publisher RosettaBooks, said that, once the Kindle became available, “it took Amazon ninety days from launch to generate more revenue from my hundred-book backlist than I was getting from all my other distribution platforms combined.” There are now an estimated three million Kindles in use, and Amazon lists more than four hundred and fifty thousand e-books. If the same book is available in paper and paperless form, Amazon says, forty per cent of its customers order the electronic version. Russ Grandinetti, the Amazon vice-president, says the Kindle has boosted book sales over all. “On average,” he says, Kindle users “buy 3.1 times as many books as they did twelve months ago.”

But publishers also recognize the similarity between Amazon’s strategy and that of iTunes. One publisher said, “Get market share, and when you get far ahead it is hard to catch up. Bezos’s game, like Jobs’s before him, is to get the device and get eighty-to-ninety-per-cent distribution on the device, and you own the game.”

he analogy of the music business goes only so far. What iTunes did was to replace the CD as the basic unit of commerce; rather than being forced to buy an entire album to get the song you really wanted, you could buy just the single track. But no one, with the possible exception of students, will want to buy a single chapter of most books. Publishers’ real concern is that the low price of digital books will destroy bookstores, which are their primary customers. Burdened with rent and electricity and other costs, bricks-and-mortar stores are unlikely to offer prices that can compete with those of online venders. Roxanne Coady, who owns R. J. Julia Booksellers, an independent bookstore in Madison, Connecticut, said, “Bookselling is an eight-inch pie that keeps getting more forks coming into it. For us, the first fork was the chains. The second fork was people reading less. The third fork was Amazon. Now it’s digital downloads.”

According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent booksellers has declined from 3,250 to 1,400 since 1999; independents now represent just ten per cent of store sales. Chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders account for about thirty per cent of the market, and superstores like Target and Wal-Mart, along with clubs like Costco, account for forty-five per cent, though they typically carry far fewer titles. As a result, publishers, like the Hollywood studios, are under enormous pressure to create more hits—more books like “Twilight”—and fewer quiet domestic novels or worthy books about poverty or trade policy.

Bookstores, particularly independent bookstores, help resist this trend by championing authors the employees believe in. “In a bookstore, there’s a serendipitous element involved in browsing,” Jonathan Burnham, the senior vice-president and publisher of HarperCollins, says. “Independent bookstores are like a community center. We walk in and know the people who work there and like to hear their reading recommendations.”

But the cost of maintaining knowledgeable staff and browsable store space contributes to higher prices, which many consumers are unwilling to pay. A best-selling hardcover that is seventeen dollars at commonly sells for as much as twenty-eight dollars at a bookstore. The Apple adviser said, “The Internet makes everything available and cheaper. I compare bookstores to video stores ten years ago. Now I use Netflix or I download movies.” Book buyers understandably want both the convenience of the Web site and the intimacy of the store. But this obliges publishers to essentially run two businesses at once: a traditional publisher that sells bound books to stores and an electronic business that sells e-books online. “I think consumers, like publishers, are living in parallel universes,” Burnham says. “Consumers are educated to have a multiplicity of choices. They still like to go to a bookstore, while they also want everything available online.”

Tim O’Reilly, the founder and C.E.O. of O’Reilly Media, which publishes about two hundred e-books per year, thinks that the old publishers’ model is fundamentally flawed. “They think their customer is the bookstore,” he says. “Publishers never built the infrastructure to respond to customers.” Without bookstores, it would take years for publishers to learn how to sell books directly to consumers. They do no market research, have little data on their customers, and have no experience in direct retailing. With the possible exception of Harlequin Romance and Penguin paperbacks, readers have no particular association with any given publisher; in books, the author is the brand name. To attract consumers, publishers would have to build a single, collaborative Web site to sell e-books, an idea that Jason Epstein, the former editorial director of Random House, pushed for years without success. But, even setting aside the difficulties of learning how to run a retail business, such a site would face problems of protocol worthy of the U.N. Security Council—if Amazon didn’t accuse publishers of price-fixing first.

he iBooks store seemed to provide a solution, which helps explain why five of the big-six publishers signed up without much apparent hesitation. The only holdout was Random House, the largest of the big six. Markus Dohle, the chairman and C.E.O., said that he shared the concern about the price of e-books but believed that publishers are being hasty in making agency-model deals with Apple or Amazon. “The digital transition will take five to seven years,” he said. “For me it’s not a question of a week, or a hundred days.”

Dohle, who is forty-one years old, rose as an executive on the printing side of Bertelsmann A.G., the parent company of Random House, and moved to the U.S. in 2008. He believes that as an outsider he sees the challenges to the industry more clearly. “If you want to make the right decision for the future, fear is not a very good consultant,” he said. Before accepting “a significant change in the business model,” he wants to take time “to talk to all our stakeholders,” including authors, agents, and booksellers. “For us in the publishing industry,” he said, “Amazon has been the fastest-growing customer. I think it’s a great company.” He welcomes Apple’s entrance into e-publishing, but says, “If you do a deal with Apple on the agency model, then it means that you have to do agency deals with all other e-booksellers.”

Michael Shatzkin, the C.E.O. of Idea Logical, a media-consulting firm, believes that Random House is holding out for a better deal. So do many of Dohle’s peers. But Shatzkin, who writes a publishing blog, also noted on the blog that by maintaining the status quo—selling e-books to Amazon at hardcover prices and letting Amazon take a loss—Random House will be making the most of its short-term sales and profits. “Random House will collect more money for each e-book sold than their competitors do while the public will pay less for each Random House e-book,” he wrote.

Dohle has also resisted “windowing,” the practice of delaying the release of e-books, which has become common among other publishers. Windowing isn’t a new idea; publishers have long withheld paperbacks to encourage hardcover sales, and in the movie business DVDs often appear a year after theatrical releases. But with e-books windowing can act against the best interests of publishers and authors. On January 11th, HarperCollins released the hardcover edition of “Game Change,” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin; the e-book didn’t go on sale until February 23rd. The hardcover’s first print run, seventy thousand copies, sold out soon after it was released, and for nearly three weeks bookstores around the country had no copies in stock. The authors and the publisher were deprived of income, as potential readers found other books to buy.

Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti thinks that windowing is a mistake. “It won’t work,” he says. “Over time, people will read what they want. When a book comes out, authors need all the publicity they can get. To put up an arbitrary barrier and keep it out of the hands of someone who might evangelize that work is a bad business decision for the author. Not to mention frustrating for the customer.”

According to Grandinetti, publishers are asking the wrong questions. “The real competition here is not, in our view, between the hardcover book and the e-book,” he says. “TV, movies, Web browsing, video games are all competing for people’s valuable time. And if the book doesn’t compete we think that over time the industry will suffer. Look at the price points of digital goods in other media. I read a newspaper this morning online, and it didn’t cost me anything. Look at the price of rental movies. Look at the price of music. In a lot of respects, teaching a customer to pay ten dollars for a digital book is a great accomplishment.”

In Grandinetti’s view, book publishers—like executives in other media—are making the same mistake the railroad companies made more than a century ago: thinking they were in the train business rather than the transportation business. To thrive, he believes, publishers have to reimagine the book as multimedia entertainment. David Rosenthal, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, says that his company is racing “to embed audio and video and other value-added features in e-books. It could be an author discussing his book, or a clip from a movie that touches on the book’s topic.” The other major publishers are working on similar projects, experimenting with music, video from news clips, and animation. Publishers hope that consumers will be willing to pay more for the added features. The iPad, Rosenthal says, “has opened up the possibility that we are no longer dealing with a static book. You have tremendous possibilities.”

It remains an open question whether consumers accustomed to paying $9.99 for an e-book will be willing to pay $13.99, or more, regardless of extras. Tim O’Reilly, the e-books publisher, has found that the lower the price the more books he sells. O’Reilly’s company sells e-books as apps for the iPhone for $4.95, and he says that they generate “a lot more volume” and profit than his company loses in hardcover sales.

Jason Epstein believes that publishers have been handed a golden opportunity. The agency model, he says, is really another form of the consortium he proposed a decade ago: “Publishers will be selling digital books directly to the iPad. They are using the iPad as a kind of universal warehouse.” By doing so, they create opportunities to cut payroll and overhead costs. Epstein said that e-books could also restore editorial autonomy. “When I went to work for Random House, ten editors ran it,” he said. “We had a sales manager and sales reps. We had a bookkeeper and a publicist and a president. It was hugely successful. We didn’t need eighteen layers of executives. Digitization makes that possible again, and inevitable.”

mazon seems to believe that in the digital world it might not need publishers at all. In December, the Simon & Schuster author Stephen Covey sold Amazon the exclusive digital rights to two of his best-sellers, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.” The books were sold on Amazon by RosettaBooks, and Covey got more than half the net proceeds. One publisher said, “What it did for us was confirm that Amazon sees itself as much as a competitor as a retailer. They have aspirations to be a publisher.”

A close associate of Bezos puts it more starkly: “What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.” Last year, according to several literary agents, a senior Amazon executive asked for suggestions about whom Amazon might hire as an acquisitions editor. Its Encore program has begun to publish books by self-published authors whose work attracts good reviews on And in January it offered authors who sold electronic rights directly to Amazon a royalty of seventy per cent, provided they agreed to prices of between $2.99 and $9.99. The offer, one irate publisher said, was meant “to pit authors against publishers.”

Grandinetti concedes that Amazon has tried to make more direct deals with authors: “We’re constantly looking for ways we can do something more efficiently.” He suggested that this was nothing new. “There’s a long history of booksellers in the publishing business,” he said, mentioning Barnes & Noble. Major publishers, he points out, all sell books directly to consumers on their Web sites. “It seems like they’re in our business, so it’s a strange argument to worry about this in the other direction,” he said. But publishers’ sales through their own Web sites are negligible, and though Barnes & Noble’s publishing program antagonized publishers, it did not threaten a wholesale devaluation of their products. O’Reilly believes that publishers have good reason to be anxious. “Amazon is a particularly farsighted, powerful, and ruthless competitor,” he says. “I don’t think we’ve seen a business this competitive in the tech space since Microsoft.”

For the time being, Apple’s entrance into the book market has given publishers a reprieve. A close associate of Bezos said, “Amazon was thinking of direct publishing—until the Apple thing happened. For now, it was enough of a threat that Amazon was forced to negotiate with publishers.”

sked to describe her foremost concern, Carolyn Reidy, of Simon & Schuster, said, “In the digital world, it is possible for authors to publish without publishers. It is therefore incumbent on us to prove our worth to authors every day.” But publishers have been slow to take up new technologies that might help authors. Andrew Savikas, O’Reilly Media’s vice-president for digital initiatives, is shocked that publishers have done so little to create digital applications for their books. “Nothing is stopping publishers from putting apps for books on iPhones,” he said. “There are fifty million iPhones in the world. That’s a great customer base.” Budget-conscious publishers have also reduced the editing and marketing and other services they provide to authors, which has left a vacuum for others to fill. Author Solutions, a self-publishing company in Bloomington, Indiana, has ninety thousand client-authors. For books that attract commercial interest, the company has partnered with publishers like Harlequin to release them through traditional channels, but with more generous royalties.

Jane Friedman, who served as president and C.E.O. of HarperCollins, left in 2008 and established Open Road Integrated Media, an e-book venture. She plans to acquire electronic rights to backlists, sign up new authors (with fifty-per-cent profit-sharing), and form a self-publishing division. “The publishers are afraid of a retailer that can replace them,” Friedman said. “An author needs a publisher for nurturing, editing, distributing, and marketing. If the publishers are cutting back on marketing, which is the biggest complaint authors have, and Amazon stays at eighty per cent of the e-book market, why do you need the publisher?”

Publishers maintain that digital companies don’t understand the creative process of books. A major publisher said of Amazon, “They don’t know how authors think. It’s not in their DNA.” Neither Amazon, Apple, nor Google has experience in recruiting, nurturing, editing, and marketing writers. The acknowledgments pages of books are an efficiency expert’s nightmare; authors routinely thank editors and publishers for granting an extra year to complete a manuscript, for taking late-night phone calls, for the loan of a summer house. These kinds of gestures are unlikely to be welcomed in cultures built around engineering efficiencies.

Good publishers find and cultivate writers, some of whom do not initially have much commercial promise. They also give advances on royalties, without which most writers of nonfiction could not afford to research new books. The industry produces more than a hundred thousand books a year, seventy per cent of which will not earn back the money that their authors have been advanced; aside from returns, royalty advances are by far publishers’ biggest expense. Although critics argue that traditional book publishing takes too much money from authors, in reality the profits earned by the relatively small percentage of authors whose books make money essentially go to subsidizing less commercially successful writers. The system is inefficient, but it supports a class of professional writers, which might not otherwise exist.

Madeline McIntosh, who is Random House’s president for sales, operations, and digital, has worked for both Amazon and book publishers, and finds the two strikingly different. “I think we, as an industry, do a lot of talking,” she said of publishers. “We expect to have open dialogue. It’s a culture of lunches. Amazon doesn’t play in that culture.” It has “an incredible discipline of answering questions by looking at the math, looking at the numbers, looking at the data. . . . That’s a pretty big culture clash with the word-and-persuasion-driven lunch culture, the author-oriented culture.”

Most publishers mistrust Amazon and think it is unnecessarily secretive. It won’t tell them details about customer habits, or the number of Kindles sold, or what it costs to make a Kindle. It won’t even disclose the percentage of revenues its book sales represent, saying only that “media”—movies, music, and books—accounted for fifty-two per cent of sales in 2009.

Publishers say that the negotiations with Apple were less contentious. There were arguments over the price of e-books, with publishers wanting the top price set at seventeen dollars and Apple insisting on fifteen. “Once Apple had determined that they were going to accept the agency model,” a publisher said, “they were very tough: Take it or leave it.” But the Apple people “had a much more agreeable feel than Amazon did. They said they would share some consumer data about buying e-books. We have no such data from Amazon.”

ublishers have another recently converted ally: Google, which not long ago they saw as a mortal threat. In October, 2004, without the permission of publishers and authors, Google announced that, through its Google Books program, it would scan every book ever published, and make portions of the scans available through its search engine. The publishing community was outraged, claiming that Google was stealing authors’ work. A consortium of publishers, along with the Authors Guild, filed a lawsuit, which was resolved only in the fall of 2008, when Google agreed to pay a hundred and twenty-five million dollars to authors and publishers for the use of their copyrighted material. John Sargent, who was part of the publishers’ negotiating team, said the agreement is a huge accomplishment. “The largest player in the Internet game agreed that in order to have content you have to have a license for it and pay for it, and that the rights holder shall control the content,” he said. Whether or not the settlement is ultimately approved by the U.S. courts, Google will open an online e-books store, called Google Editions, by the middle of the year, Dan Clancy, the engineer who directs Google Books, and who will also be in charge of Google Editions, said.

Clancy said that the store’s e-books, unlike those from Amazon or Apple, will be accessible to users on any device. Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books, he said, and will accept the agency model. Having already digitized twelve million books, including out-of-print titles, Google will have a far greater selection than Amazon or Apple. It will also make e-books available for bookstores to sell, giving “the vast majority” of revenues to the store, Clancy said. He suggested that in trying to dominate the market Amazon and Apple were taking the wrong approach to business online. “It’s much more of an open ecosystem, where you find a way for bricks-and-mortar stores to participate in the future digital world of books,” he said. “We’re quite comfortable having a diverse range of physical retailers, whereas most of the other players would like to have a less competitive space, because they’d like to dominate.”

or now, many publishers believe that they have won the chess match that Sargent started. “We have three behemoths now competing,” the C.E.O. of one house said. “So one of them can’t force us to do anything unless the others go along.” Early sales of the iPad are promising: Apple said that more than three hundred thousand sold the first day, and analysts have guessed that between five and seven million will be sold this year. And a dozen other digital reading devices were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, in January, providing more competition for the Kindle.

Publishers have another reason to hope. The recession has changed the thinking of Silicon Valley companies, shaking their faith in advertising as their only source of revenue. YouTube has begun charging for some independent movies, in an effort to compete with Netflix, and its managers know that to succeed it must have professionally produced content that advertisers—and consumers—will pay for. As digital companies begin charging for content, they are met in the middle by old-media companies looking for ways to charge for what they produce. The incentives for old and new media to form partnerships seem to converge.

“Ultimately, Apple is in the device—not the content—business,” the Apple insider said. “Steve Jobs wants to make sure content people are his partner. Steve is in the I win/you win school. Jeff Bezos is in the I win/you lose school.” Jobs recently met separately with New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time Inc. executives to demonstrate the iPad’s potential to make money for newspapers and magazines. Jobs, who had a liver transplant last year and has battled pancreatic cancer, has begun to think about his legacy, the insider said. “He’s in a hurry to create in the next two years what he may have been thinking about in the next ten years. What keeps him going is his vision. Nothing is going to stop him, except death.” The insider said that Jobs was pleased with his advocacy of publishers: “He feels like he’s their champion.”

For the moment, Jobs is the publishers’ best ally. “Steve is very proud that Macmillan put a gun to Amazon’s head,” the insider said. But in the long term Apple and Google will not necessarily be better partners than Amazon. One day, they, too, will complain about the cumbersome publishing process, or excessive prices. Just days before the iPad went on sale, on April 3rd, there were rumors that Apple might list best-sellers for as little as $9.99. Apple agreed to the agency model for just one year, and, as publishers are acutely aware, Jobs has a history, with music and television companies, of fighting to reduce prices. One publisher said, “Maybe Apple will want to come back in a year and bite our heads off.” The iPad may even make it possible for Amazon to reach new consumers. Apple now offers about sixty thousand e-books, far fewer than Kindle does, and Amazon has launched an app that allows it to sell e-books on the iPad. No matter where consumers buy books, their belief that electronic media should cost less—that something you can’t hold simply isn’t worth as much money—will exert a powerful force. Asked about publishers’ efforts to raise prices, a skeptical literary agent said, “You can try to put on wings and defy gravity, but eventually you will be pulled down.”

*The original piece described publishers’ costs incorrectly.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Autism Awareness Month

Being the mom of a son with autism, this is very near and dear to my heart.  Don't worry, I'm not going to cry my sorrows on your screen (I have another blog for that), but I am going to ask that you take a look at TACA Now.  It's an organization that really helped me along with thousands of other parents.  Without it, I don't know where my son would be today.  Take a look, if you find it worthy, please contribute what you can.

Now I must get back to writing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Off to See the Tax Man

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Tax day.  I dread this day.  It never really turns out bad but that doesn't stop me from despising it just in case.  A few times it hasn't gone as well as I would have liked and today was definitely one of them.  Not horrible, but most certainly not great.  So today's despising was appropriate.  It certainly wasn't worth the lack of sleep to prepare for the appointment.

It might not have gone so bad if I actually got paid to write.  Those deductions would have helped greatly.  Maybe someday...

Yesterday's determination to not be distracted worked out okay.  As everything else lately, not great but not horrible.  I did manage to finish the first draft of chapter 3 so that was nice.  However, today will be nothing but distractions and I'm a bit thankful.  I'm tired and who writes well when tired?

I'm going to the Wiltern tonight with my husband and a friend (we'll call him "Ike") to see Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin.  Very exciting.  Ike happens to be a vegan so we will be going to Real Food Daily beforehand for dinner and I'm rather excited about that, too.  I'm not vegan and to be honest, I've never been to a vegan restaurant.   Shocking, I know.   I think I may be the only resident of SoCal never to have been to a vegan eatery.  But that changes tonight.  Real Food Daily is going to pop that cherry.

Reading this post over again, I realize how unimaginative it is and quite frankly boring and disjointed but hey, I'm not going to change it because it's a nice little snapshot of just how bad it can get when I haven't had enough sleep in a week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Today, I'm determined to write more than a couple paragraphs.  No distractions today.  I'll post later to see how that went for me.  So far, it's apparently not going well...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Don't Abuse the Writing Group

Here's what I haven't told you about my writing group:  I pretty much do it entirely online.  I have two kids, one with autism, and a husband that works long hours. The very few writing groups here meet in the evening during the week so that's pretty much out for me. I contacted someone about a posting of a local writing group and they agreed to allow me to do it by e-mail.

So today I met one of the writers, the one that posted the listing.  I'd tell you her name but she might not like that so we're going to call her Scribe.

Of course, it was a spur of the moment thing and it's spring break here so I had to take my two unruly children to Barnes & Noble. All in all, it went well. When I could actually sit down and talk with Scribe instead of constantly going to the Starbucks counter for something, that is. Or when something wasn't getting spilled.  Or someone didn't need to go to the potty. You get the idea, I'm sure.

Why is this something that is blog worthy, you ask? Because she's the only one in the group (other than me, of course) that can write. Let me mention this again lest you think I'm tooting my own horn, here: I'm no Tolstoy.

But I don't think I can't write, either. If I did, I wouldn't be writing. Obviously not everyone holds my view and really, some people just shouldn't write.

Currently there are four of us.  Two that are at the point where it's decent (whether it's good or not is another blog), one that is just very green and the other that thinks he's just awesome (we'll just call him Awesome, not to be confused with Captain Awesome from Chuck).

Now you may think that I'm going to say the green writer should be the one to quit writing. Absolutely not. Greenie is eager, loves it and wants to be better. Awesome, on the other hand, not so much.  And truth be told, I don't think anyone should quit writing.  Continue and strive for better.  Now you may ask what makes me thinking I can write any different from Awesome thinking he can write? Let me explain. If you've been told over and over about the ginormous technical problems with your writing and you can't or won't fix them, then you should be aware that you can't write. It's not a bad thing to hear you have problems in your writing, you learn from it and get better. Painful, yes; bad, no. Use the group to figure out how to be better, that's how it works.  Critiques, although difficult to go through, are not personal attacks.  If you can't separate yourself from that, then don't join a writing group and don't ask someone to critique your writing.

In writing groups, you expect to have writers of different levels and talents. You hope to have more on the upper end than the lower but again, that's another blog. You don't expect to be abused.  Don't ask me to sit there and put my time and energy into critiquing your work if you never change a single word.  Obviously you don't want to be critiqued.  Please, please, I beg of you, submit work that is ready for critique!  I don't want to read the roughest draft you have, it's a waste of time for everyone.  And don't blow smoke up my pooper and tell me my work is "nicely polished" to avoid having to do any work. I know better. I know because I continued to make changes even after I sent it in for comments. Oh, and the comments from other members, the ones that actually use the group for it's intended purpose. Yeah, that's how I know.

It's one thing to join a writing group to perfect your craft; to become the writer you think you are or could be. It's an entirely different thing to join a writing group and do absolutely nothing with the comments given and give none in return. A writing group is nice to have on your query letter but honestly, it isn't that big a deal. No agent will knock you points for not being in one and no agent is going to jump up and down with joy because you are, either. If the writing stinks, it really isn't going to matter.

Needless to say, Scribe and I discussed Awesome. It might not be a bad idea to start a new group, sans Awesome.

Now that would be awesome.